Pixel Scroll 3/2/21 What Is Pixel, But Scroll Persevering

(1) A PEEK AT APEX. Apex Magazine Issue 122 has been released. The link below takes you to the new issue page where you’ll find fiction by Sam J. Miller, Sheree Renée Thomas, A.C. Wise, Annie Neugebauer, Barton Aikman, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Jason Sanford, and Khaalida Muhammad-Ali, plus essays by ZZ Claybourne and Wendy N. Wagner. The cover art is by Thomas Tan.

(2) ON “READ ACROSS AMERICA DAY” OBJECTIONS TO SEUSS IMAGERY PROMPT WITHDRAWAL OF SIX BOOKS. The National Education Association founded “Read Across America Day” in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Dr. Seuss/Ted Geisel’s birthday, March 2. However, the NEA has been deemphasizing Seuss, and today President Biden’s proclamation for “Read Across America Day” — in contrast to his predecessors Obama and Trump — omitted all mention of Dr. Seuss reports the New York Post.

President Biden removed mentions of Dr. Seuss from Read Across America Day amid accusations of “racial undertones” in the classic, whimsical tales for children.

Read Across America Day, started by the National Educational Association in 1998 as a way to promote children’s reading, is even celebrated on the author’s March 2 birthday.

In his presidential proclamation, Biden noted that “for many Americans, the path to literacy begins with story time in their school classroom,” USA Today reported.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, rightsholder to his books, also picked today to announce they’ll stop licensing six of his books: “Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises”.

Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

We are committed to action.  To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles:  And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.  These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

The New York Times article “6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images” describes two examples of images that have inspired the objections:

…In “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” a character described as “a Chinaman” has lines for eyes, wears a pointed hat, and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. (Editions published in the 1970s changed the reference from “a Chinaman” to “a Chinese man.”) In “If I Ran the Zoo,” two characters from “the African island of Yerka” are depicted as shirtless, shoeless and resembling monkeys. A school district in Virginia said over the weekend that it had advised schools to de-emphasize Dr. Seuss books on “Read Across America Day,” a national literacy program that takes place each year on March 2, the anniversary of Mr. Geisel’s birth….

Loudoun County, Virginia, schools just outside Washington, D.C. have joined the move away from Seuss — and as a result needed to douse rumors last month that they were banning the books entirely. CNN reports: “Dr. Seuss books: This Virginia school district says it isn’t banning his books. On the annual Read Across America Day, it’s just no longer emphasizing them”.

A school district in Virginia recently made headlines for allegedly banning books by Dr. Seuss.

But Loudoun County Public Schools(LCPS), located in Ashburn, said it is not banning books by the famous children’s author. It’s just discouraging a connection between “Read Across America Day,” which was created to get kids excited about reading, and Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Both fall on March 2, and have often been “historically connected” to each other, the district said in a statement.

“Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” LCPS said in its statement, which links to School Library Journal article from 2018 about the National Education Association focusing its Read Across America efforts “on Diversity Not Dr. Seuss.”

…Dr. Seuss had a long history of publishing racist and anti-Semitic work, spanning back to the 1920s when he was a student at Dartmouth College. There, Dr. Seuss once drew Black boxers as gorillas, as well as perpetuating Jewish stereotypes as financially stingy, according to a study published in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature.”

That study, published in 2019, examined 50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism.” The two “African” characters, the study says, both have anti-Black characteristics.

(3) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF is actually Young People Read Old Hugo Finalists this go-round. And he’s asked the panelists what they thing about “The Star” by Arthur C. Clarke

Kit leads off the discussion:

…[It’s] still kind of on that spectrum of ?“Why does a benevolent God do these things?” and so it’s interesting to think about ?“What, exactly, is the point where you’re pushed over the edge in terms of thinking the world is too cruel to have a controlling power?”… 

(4) FASHIONISTA. Suzanne Palmer makes a convincing argument.

(5) THE FUTURE OF THE WARDMAN PARK. In the Washington Post, Paul Schwartzman profiles activists who want to increase affordable housing in the largely white areas west of Rock Creek Park.  He interviews Rebecca Barson, who wants to turn the bankrupt Wardman Park Hotel into “a mix of retail and affordable housing.  She has embraced the cause even as she contemplates the risk to her property value.” The Wardman Park is still listed on the DisCon III website as the venue of this year’s Worldcon.   “D.C. affordable housing push linked to racial justice after George Floyd’s death”.

… As she drives around the city, Rebecca Barson, a health-care advocate, finds herself noticing encampments of people sleeping in tents in Dupont Circle and under highway overpasses.

“It just feels unconscionable that this is happening in a city like ours,” she said.

Barson, 43, joined a grass-roots campaign seeking city support for converting a recently bankrupt hotel near her Woodley Park condominium — the Marriott Wardman Park — into a mix of retail and affordable housing. She has embraced the cause even as she contemplates the potential risk to her property value.

“I’m not saying I’m not grappling with it. There could be a financial cost — personally, my apartment may not be worth as much,” she said. “I also think I have benefited as a White person from systems I didn’t create, and this is an important moment to do what’s right for the greater good.”

(6) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel will livestream readings by Jeffrey Ford and Kaaron Warren on March 17 at 7 p.m. Eastern. The link will be posted later.

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is the author of several novels and novellas including The Physiognomy, Memoranda, The BeyondThe Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque, The Girl in the Glass, The Cosmology of the Wider World, The Shadow Year, The Twilight Pariah, Ahab’s Return, and Out of Body. His short fiction has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies and in six collections. His work has won the World Fantasy, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, Nebula, and other awards. His most recent collection Big Dark Hole will be out from Small Beer Press this July

Kaaron Warren

Shirley Jackson award-winner Kaaron Warren published her first short story in 1993 and has had fiction in print every year since. She has published five multi-award winning novels including The Grief Hole, currently under development, and seven short story collections. Her most recent books are the novella Into Bones Like Oil and the chapbook Tool Tales (with Ellen Datlow!) She was recently given the Peter McNamara Lifetime Achievement Award.

(7) THE GOLDEN AGE, WHEN YODA WAS YOUNG(ER). In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews authors Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older, and Justina Ireland about their forthcoming Star Wars tie-in novels set in the High Republic (formerly the Old Republic). “The future of Star Wars has arrived, and it takes place hundreds of years in the past”.

In the Star Wars universe, the High Republic is the stuff of legend. But someone had to write the story.

It all started with a vague reference from Obi-Wan Kenobi. “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic,” Obi-Wan explained in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope.” “Before the dark times. Before the Empire.”

In the decades since those words were uttered, movies, books and television have explored nearly every imaginable facet of the Star Wars universe. But this particular period in the galaxy’s past remained in the realm of conjecture. Now, that abstract golden age — a time of tranquility but also expansion, hundreds of years before the Skywalker saga — is finally coming into focus. Five writers, all with previous Star Wars books on their résumés, have been tapped to usher in a new era for the franchise by exploring one of the most storied.

In the coming years, Charles Soule, Claudia Gray, Cavan Scott, Daniel José Older and Justina Ireland will release books in the High Republic series, including comics and novels targeting various age groups. They will introduce new heroes — including the inspirational Jedi Avar Kriss — and villains, such as the Nihil, “space marauders,” who threaten the peace of the galaxy.

… Readers with Star Wars knowledge will find at least one familiar face, though: Yoda’s. (Forget you must not that Yoda lived to be 900 years old.) In the new series, he’s younger (kind of) and does a lot more than dispense wisdom, especially in the IDW comic books written by Older, “Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures,” illustrated by Harvey Tolibao.

“We see Yoda really out in the galaxy,” Older said. “He’s not stuck on Coruscant. He’s not in a library somewhere studying. .?.?. We get to see him in action, in the thick of battle doing all these Jedi master Yoda things.”

(8) WOLTMAN OBIT. Pilot and Mercury 13 trainee Rhea Woltman (1928-2021) died on February 15. The family obituary, here, has this to say about her efforts to become an astronaut:

…In 1960, Rhea was invited to participate in the secret Mercury project, where she underwent grueling physical examinations and a battery of tests with 12 other female pilots to become the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATS), now known as the Mercury 13. Rhea passed all of the tests and advanced as one of five to meet the requirements. The U.S. government shut down the women’s program before they were ever allowed to fly a space mission….

The Mercury 13 were thirteen American women who, as part of a privately funded program, successfully underwent the same physiological screening tests as had the astronauts selected by NASA on April 9, 1959, for Project Mercury. (They were not part of NASA‘s astronaut program.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 2, 1984 — On this date in 1984, Repo Man premiered. It was written and directed by Alex Cox. It was produced by Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy with the executive producer being Michael Nesmith. It starred Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez. It is widely considered to be one of the best films of 1984, genre or otherwise. Ebert in his review said that “Repo Man comes out of left field, has no big stars, didn’t cost much, takes chances, dares to be unconventional, is funny, and works. There is a lesson here.” It currently holds a 98% rating among the Rotten Tomatoes audience. You can watch it here. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 2, 1904 Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel. My favorite books by him are Horton Hears a Who!Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat and The Hat. I adored the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas, can’t stand the Jim Carrey one and haven’t seen the most recent version. Oh, and let’s not forget the splendid The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. For which he wrote the story, screenplay and lyrics. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Bon March 2, 1933 – Leo Dillon.   A hundred sixty covers, two hundred twenty interiors, with his wife Diane Dillon, working so fluently and intimately they sometimes called their joint work the product of a third artist; much else outside our field.  Artbook The Art of Leo & Diane Dillon.  Here is Some Will Not Die.  Here is Dangerous Visions.  Here is Fourth Mansions.  Here is The Phoenix and the Mirror.  Here is The Left Hand of Darkness.  Here is Ashanti to Zulu.  Here is the Winter 2002 On Spec.  Here is Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  Here is my note of an exhibit at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon.  Here is an on-line archive.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1939 – jan howard finder.  Known as the Wombat.  Co-founder of Albacon; Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2000, also BYOB-Con 8, Maplecon 3, LepreCon 8, Ad Astra 12, Arisia ’01, Archon 30, ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  One story, one anthology that I know of.  Often a judge of our on-stage costume competition the Masquerade.  Led tours e.g. of New Zealand sites where Tolkien films were shot.  Fanzines The Spang Blah and Il Vombato.  Susan Batho’s reminiscence here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1943 Peter Straub, 78. Horror writer who won the World Fantasy Award for Koko and the August Derleth Award for Floating Dragon. He’s co-authored several novels with Stephen King, The Talisman which itself won a World Fantasy Award, and Black House. Both The Throat and In the Night Room won Bram Stoker Awards as did 5 Stories, a short collection by him. OK, you know not that I’m that impressed by Awards, but this is reallyimpressive! (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1952 – Mark Evanier, age 69.  Writer for comics, television, both: BlackhawkGroo the WandererGarfield and Friends and The Garfield Show (animated); outside our field e.g. Welcome Back, Kotter.  Has attended every San Diego Comic-Con since the first (1970).  Won an Eisner and a Harvey for Kirby: King of Comics.  Three more Eisners; Inkpot; Clampett; Lifetime Achievement Award from Animation Writers’ Caucus, Writers Guild of America West.  Started Fantagraphics’ reprints of Pogo.  Administers the Bill Finger Award.  Weblog NEWS FROM me. [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1960 – Jeff Beeler, age 61.  Hardworking Michigan fan, e.g. on ConFusion, Detcon the 11th NASFiC (N. Amer. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas), Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  Member of the Stilyagi Air Corps.  Having been a librarian, is now a bookseller.  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1960 Peter F. Hamilton, 61. I read and quite enjoyed his Night’s Dawn trilogy when it first came out and I’m fairly sure that I’ve read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained as they sound really familiar. (Too much genre fiction read over the years to remember everything…) What else have y’all read by him? (CE) 
  • Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie, 55. Ancillary Justice won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award, the Kitschies Award Golden Tentacle, Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the BSFA Award. The Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy also won awards and were no less impressive experiences. I’ve not yet read The Raven Tower, so opinions in it are welcome. (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1968 Daniel Craig, 53. Obviously Bond in the present-day series of films which I like a lot, but also  in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as Alex West, Lord Asriel In the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, in SF horror film The Invasion as Ben Driscoll, in the very weird Cowboys & Aliens as Jake Lonergan,voicing Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine / Red Rackham  in The Adventures of Tintin and an uncredited appearence as Stormtrooper FN-1824 In Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (CE)
  • Born March 2, 1974 – Marianne Mancusi, age 47.  Two dozen novels, two shorter stories.  I’ve not yet read A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur’s Court.  Won two Emmys producing television.  Loves pineapple pizza and marshmallow Peeps – she says so herself.  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1982 – Chelsea Campbell, age 39.  Eight novels, three shorter stories.  Fiber artist e.g. knitting & crocheting.  Collects glass grapes.  As a kid & teen, used to read adults’ books; now reads kids’ & teens’.  Degree in Latin & Ancient Greek; “humanity … honestly hasn’t changed that much in the last couple thousand years, and that isn’t useless.  (Plus even when people look at you funny for being ‘useless,’ you know Latin and they don’t.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 2, 1992 Maisie Richardson-Sellers, 29. A most believable Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow for the first three seasons, in my opinion, as I’ve always liked that DC character. (Season four onward, she’s been Clotho.) Prior to that role, she was recurring role as Rebekah Mikaelson / Eva Sinclair on The Originals, andshe had a cameo asKorr Sella in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yesterday, xkcd explained Leap Year 2021.

(12) THERE WAS SCIENCE BEHIND KING KONG? March 2, 1933 is the date of the world premiere of King Kong. And Mental Floss assures us “’King Kong’ Was Inspired By a Komodo Dragon-Hunting Expedition”.

…According to Slate, a 1926 expedition to the East Indies funded by the American Museum of Natural History planted the seeds for King Kong. The party, led by museum trustee William Douglas Burden, set off with the goal of recording footage of Komodo dragons and bringing specimens back to the U.S. for the first time.

In addition to the many lizards that were hunted and shot, the expedition brought back two live Komodo dragons that ended up at the Bronx Zoo. Tens of thousands of spectators went to see the living dinosaurs in person. In a pre-King Kong world, the exhibit was the closest people could get to seeing a monster with their own eyes….

(13) DEADLIER THAN. CrimeReads knows you think you know who’s number one on this list — “The Most Murderous Mammals: Adventures From the Dark Side of Science”.

Picture the most murderous mammal in the world. Not the best predator, taking down prey with a single swipe of a great talon or claw, but the one that excels in slaying its own kind.

Are you picturing a human being? Well, you would be wrong. But you might be surprised to know Homo sapiens actually falls at number 30 out of more than a thousand species on the list of animals that most often kill members of their own kind. Humans, it turns out, are just average members of a particularly violent lot, the primates. And the most prolific murderers* in the animal world are a different species altogether.

Which, you might ask? Believe it or not, it’s the meerkat, a cute little African mammal belonging to the mongoose family and immortalized in the wisecracking character Timon in The Lion King

(14) GRRM STORY IN DEVELOPMENT. Director Paul W.S. Anderson is teaming with Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich and Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) for the movie In the Lost Lands, based on the short story by George R.R. Martin, Deadline reported. Anderson has written the script. “’Resident Evil’ Duo Set For George R.R. Martin Adaptation ‘Lost Lands’” at Deadline.

…The movie will follow a queen, desperate to obtain the gift of shape shifting, who makes a daring play: She hires the sorceress Gray Alys (Jovovich), a woman as feared as she is powerful. Sent to the ghostly wilderness of the “Lost Lands,” Alys and her guide, the drifter Boyce (Bautista), must outwit and outfight man and demon in a fable that explores the nature of good and evil, debt and fulfillment, love and loss.

(15) THE HECK YOU SAY. Gizmodo’s eye-catching headline declares: “A 1990s iMac Processor Powers NASA’s Perseverance Rover”.

…However, there’s a major difference between the iMac’s CPU and the one inside the Perseverance rover. BAE Systems manufactures the radiation-hardened version of the PowerPC 750, dubbed RAD750, which can withstand 200,000 to 1,000,000 Rads and temperatures between ?55 and 125 degrees Celsius (-67 and 257 degrees Fahrenheit). Mars doesn’t have the same type of atmosphere as Earth, which protects us from the the sun’s rays, so one flash of sunlight and it’s all over for the Mars rover before its adventure can begin. Each one costs more than $200,000, so some extra protection is necessary.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter continues to monitor Jeopardy! contestants’ struggles with genre topics. From tonight’s episode —

Category: Alternate History Novels

Answer: In “Ruled Britannia”, the Spanish Armada was victorious & this Spaniard rules England alongside Bloody Mary Tudor.

Wrong question: Who is Francis Drake?

No one got, Who is Phillip II?

All the other questions, including Philip K. Dick, and Charles Lindbergh, were correct.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Little Nightmares II” on YouTube, Fandom Games says Little Nightmares II portrays “a disgusting, but adorable world” where “twee Tim Burton knockoffs try to kill you.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/21 Trillogoogies

(1) DON’T MISS OUT. DisCon III reminds eligible voters they have until March 19 to nominate for the 2021 Hugo Awards.

Members of DisCon III, who registered before 11:59 p.m. PST December 31 2020, and CoNZealand have nominating rights for this year’s Hugos. Check now at https://members.discon3.org/ to make sure that you are in our system. If for some reason you aren’t, we can put that right quickly.

381 people have submitted The Hugo Awards nominations. Are you one of them?

(2) AN EQUATION WHERE 1138 IS 50. The Fanbase Weekly podcast is devoted to a “50th Anniversary Retrospective on ‘THX 1138’ (1971)”.

In this Fanbase Feature, The Fanbase Weekly co-hosts Bryant Dillon and Phillip Kelly (writer, filmmaker, and Fanbase Press Contributor) are joined by special guests Craig Miller (Star Wars Memories, Former Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm) and Gavin Hignight (writer – Star Wars: Resistance, Transformers: War for Cybertron) to participate in a thorough discussion regarding THX 1138 (1971) in light of the film’s 50th anniversary, with topics including the timely nature of the film’s themes, what the film reveals about filmmaker George Lucas and his pre-Star Wars ambitions and interests, and more. (Beware: SPOILERS for THX 1138 abound in this panel discussion!)

(3) COULD THERE BE A SEVENTH FOR NUMBER ONE? A.V. Club tells how the late actress could keep a streak alive: “The late Majel Barrett might still voice the computer on Star Trek: Discovery”.

…Earlier this week, the Roddenberry family Twitter account announced that Barrett’s voice had been recorded phonetically before she died, and that the family—including her son, Eugene Roddenberry Jr., an executive producer on CBS’s forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery—was working to synthesize it for potential use on a number of upcoming projects. According to the tweet, those include Apple’s Siri, and possibly even the voice of the Discovery computer.

It’s worth noting, though, that neither CBS, nor showrunner Byran Fuller, have confirmed that there are any plans to use Barrett’s phonemes for the computer’s voice. (Meanwhile, Discovery might already have a nod to Barrett in the form of lead character “Number One,” whose nickname probably references an otherwise-unnamed character Barrett played in the original Star Trek pilot “The Cage.”)

(4) LETTER FROM THE EDITOR. Nightmare Magazine’s Wendy N. Wagner sends a message:

(5) AFROFUTURISM. In “Afrofuturism gaining in popularity as nation wrestles with race” on Axios, Russell Contreras gives an overview of Afrofuturism, including interviews with Sheree Renee Thomas and Maurice Broaddus.

More Black writers and artists are turning to science fiction — and an artistic movement known as Afrofuturism — to tackle issues around race and inequality and give fans an escape from the harsh realities on Earth.

The big picture: Afrofuturism was long an underground movement. Its roots date back to W.E.B. Du Bois, though its name wasn’t coined til the 1990s. But it has been gaining a bigger mainstream profile in recent years with the blockbuster movie “Black Panther” and the HBO series “Lovecraft Country” and a national racial reckoning….  

(6) LEE OR DITKO? OR ALL OF THE ABOVE? “Roy Thomas, Former Marvel Editor, Pushes Back on New Stan Lee Biography” in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter.

Something like 95 percent of the time, Abraham Riesman’s True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee is a very good biography. However, the remaining (and crucial) 5 percent of its content, scattered amid all that painstaking research and well-written prose, renders it often untrustworthy… i.e., a very bad biography. Because the author often insists, visibly and intrusively, on putting his verbal thumb on the scales, in a dispute he seems ill-equipped to judge.

As Marvel Comics visionary Stan Lee’s longtime employee and de facto protégé, and as a known student of the history of comic books, I suppose I would be expected to denounce Riesman’s book as scurrilous, a pack of lies.

But it’s both better — and worse — than that.

… That Stan Lee was the co-creator, and not the sole creator, of the key Marvel heroes from the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man through Daredevil and the Silver Surfer can hardly be in dispute at this late stage. I myself, back in the ’80s when I wasn’t working for him, had a friendly argument with him on that score over lunch. I soon realized that, as much as he respected the talents and contributions of artists (Riesman would say “artist/writers” and he’s right, at least in one sense) such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to the characters introduced in the 1960s, he could never really bring himself, in his own mind, to think of them as “co-creators.” The two of us had to agree to disagree, and I never saw any use in bringing it up again.

If I can judge from Riesman’s writings, and from other sources over the years, I’m sure I’d have encountered the same kind of blinders-on stubbornness in Jack Kirby (oft-quoted in this book), who saw Stan as little more than the guy who scribbled a few words of dialogue and rode to unearned glory on his back.

Both men were, I think, wrong, and that’s why Riesman is so ill-advised to use nearly every opportunity he gets to weight things in Jack’s favor and against Stan. (By the way, if someone objects to my referring to Jack Kirby as well by his first name, it’s because the two of us were on a first-name basis from 1965 till the last time we met, sometime in the 1980s. I considered him then, and I consider him now, to be by far the greatest superhero artist in the history of the medium, and, along with Stan, one of its preeminent pop-culture geniuses.)

You think I’m exaggerating when I suggest that Riesman finds gratuitous excuses to favor Jack’s version of things over Stan’s? I’m not….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 23, 1886 – Ganpat.  This Anglo-Indian so wrote because “Ganpat” – as it happens, another name for the elephant god Ganesh – was as nearly as locals could approximate his surname Gompertz.  Eight novels for us, much other work.  Retired with the rank of Brigadier, went home and indulged his other love, fishing.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for Doctor Who, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation who created the Daleks made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1944 – John Sandford, age 77.  Hugely successful outside our field, he’s written one SF novel, Saturn Run with Ctein.  I thought it Hugo-worthy. You can see my interview with Ctein here (PDF; starts p. 17).  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1955 – Francesca Simon, age 66.  Six novels, one shorter story for us – I think; opinions differ about work called “children’s”.  Fifty books all told.  Children’s Book of the Year (U.K.) Award for Horrible Henry and the Abominable Snowman; first U.S. author to win this; at least it wasn’t about Henry VIII.  Libretto for a Gavin Higgins opera based on FS’ book The Monstrous Child in which Hel, Norse god of the dead, is an angry teenager.  Hey, it’s opera – [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 56. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading. He also wrote some early genre fiction — no I’ve not read it. (CE) 
  • Born February 23, 1968 – Sonya Hartnett, age 53.  Six novels for us.  Lindgren Award.  Guardian Prize.  Much more work, many more awards, and controversy, outside our field; maybe you’d better look here.  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1975 – Nova Ren Suma, age 46.  Four novels, two shorter stories for us; three other novels, half a dozen other shorter stories.  Another Antiochian (as I am); people note her B.A. was self-designed, but we all do that: not saying it’s easy, Antioch isn’t for everyone.  The Walls Around Us NY Times Best-Seller, Cybils Award for it too.  Worked at Marvel on X-Men.  Went to the Launch Pad Workshop, NASA-funded astronomy for writers.  [JH]
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 38. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind she’s been in quite a  number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s TravelsGnomeo & JulietThe MuppetsLooperEdge of TomorrowInto the WoodsThe Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns. (CE)
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 19. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. (CE)
  • Born February 23, 1989 – Almijara Barbero Carvajal, age 32.  Two short stories in Spanish; two Spanish poems with translations in Strange Horizons, whose bio for her notes she was born in Motril, Granada, Spain, “and is still trying to figure out how to become real.”  But, as a teacher of mine once said, why not escape?  [JH]

(8) ALT-HIST. Sylvain Neuvel recommends “10 Mind-Bending Alternate Histories” at Publishers Weekly.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Speaking of Gettysburg, what if all the dead didn’t stay that way? After the zombie apocalypse puts a stop to the Civil War, Black and Indigenous people are sent to fight the undead. Ireland uses imagined horror to explore a very real one in this provocative YA novel about racism, resilience, and one badass woman fighting for her life.

(9) DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE. Heroes & Icons remembers: “Star Trek paid this subtle tribute to M*A*S*H when David Ogden Stiers appeared on The Next Generation”.

…It happens about 13 minutes into the episode when Stiers, who played a Kaelon named Timicin, is aboard the ship for a special mission. His character is portrayed as a brilliant scientist who believes he has figured out a way to save his planet’s dying sun. While he and Captain Picard’s crew experiment with Timicin’s theory, we watch Stiers coordinating with LeVar Burton’s Geordi La Forge. At a dramatic point, Geordi calls Timicin over to monitor his screen, and that’s when the M*A*S*H reference flashes, “Composite Sensor Analysis 4077.” 

(10) HOLO? HOLO? In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says ARHT Media has created HoloPod, which enables companies to beam holograms of people into meetings, thus enabling “people to engage with life-size, three-dimensional representations of people” in office or corporate settings. “Lifelike holograms may be the future of remote work”.

… Holograms might not be the next big thing, but start-ups in the 3-D space are positioning their offerings just in case.

The three-dimensional light projections have primarily been seen re-creating musicians onstage in recent years. Companies have wanted to bring them into homes, but the projection hardware is still too expensive for most people to afford. Companies, on the other hand, have larger budgets. And now software advancements are unlocking ways to use laptops, computers and smartphones to engage with and stream holograms emitted elsewhere.

In December, ARHT media showed what a hologram-enabled conference could look like as it beamed an executive from Los Angeles to Singapore to speak at an innovation summit. The event brought together a “small group” of attendees and was broadcast live to a larger audience online….

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter adjusted the rabbit ears and received tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where the contestants didn’t know these legendary blades. 

Category: Swords.

Answer: In a fantasy saga by Michael Moorcock, this emperor of Melnibone wields a sword called Stormbringer.

No one got: Who is Elric?

Another answer: Glamdring is this wizard’s sword of choice.

No one got: Who is Gandalf?

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Simpsons Movie,” the Screen Junkies note the movie came out a decade after “anyone over the age of 12 stopped caring” about the show, and that Homer Simpson evolved into “An irredeemable jerk crossed with Wiley Coyote.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce D. Arthurs who is right when he calls it a “fine-looking word.”]

Pixel Scroll 5/28/20 When There Is No Pixel Tossed, Nor Wind To Scroll.

(1) PETAL PUSHERS. The latest story in ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Fourth and Most Important,” a story about coded messages, clandestine drone deliveries, and surprising alliances by Nisi Shawl.

The fourth of the Five Petals of the New Bedford Rose, Integration, is called by some its most important. Primacy of place goes to the first petal, Thought, of course—but linear primacy is deemed by practitioners of the Five Petals to be overrated.

—From “A Thousand Flowers of Thought: Schisms within the New Bedford Rose”

On Monday, June 1 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Nisi Shawl in conversation with Ayana Jamieson, founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network.  

(2) FIRST FIFTH. Happy blogoversary Camestros! “Happy Five Years Today”. How could we have gotten through those puppy days without you?

…The very last post of May was the other thing I needed a blog to explain: how to vote in an era of trolls https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/hugo-voting-strategy-high-bar-no-award/ What I was anticipating was more spoilery/trolling tactics in the future. The idea was that we might end up with slates every year and on the slates there would be some stuff that actually was good put there to mess with our heads — what we would later call ‘hostages’.

(3) WHAT’S ON THE MENU? Scott Edelman invites listeners to join New York Times best-selling novelist Justina Ireland in Episode 122 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Justina Ireland

Once upon a time, I had a wonderful Persian lunch with Justina Ireland at Orchard Market & Cafe outside of Baltimore. The food was delicious, and the conversation on which you were meant to eavesdrop was delightful. Unfortunately, after that, things did not go as planned.

If you want to know what I mean by that, check out our chat on the latest episode of Eating the Fantastic.

Justina Ireland is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel Dread Nation, as well as the recently published sequel Dark Divide. She’s a World Fantasy Award-winner for her former role as the co-editor in chief of FIYAH Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction. She also written Star Wars: Flight of the Falcon: Lando’s Luck, several novels in the middle grade fantasy series Devils’ Pass, including Evie Allen vs. the Quiz Bowl Zombies and Zach Lopez vs. the Unicorns of Doom, and many more. Vulture has called her “the most controversial figure in young-adult literature.”

We discussed whether having written zombie novels has helped her deal with the pandemic, her biggest pet peeve when she hears other writers talk about writing, where she falls in the fast vs. slow zombies debate (and how she’s managed to have the best of both worlds), our very different reasons for not having read Harry Potter, the way she avoided sequelitis in Dark Divide, what it was like playing in the Star Wars sandbox, why it’s easier to lie when writing from a first person point of view, the franchise character she most wishes she could write a novel about, the main difference between science fiction and YA communities, how Law & Order gives comfort during these trying times, and much more.

(4) WHAT THE WELL-DRESSED BIRD WILL BE READING. The Bookseller applauds as “Penguin Classics boldly goes into science fiction”.

Penguin Classics is to launch a new series of science fiction—with livery designed by Penguin art director Jim Stoddart—which will aim “to challenge stereotypes about the genre and celebrate science fiction as the essential genre of modern times”. 

Penguin Classics Science Fiction will kick off with 10 titles in August, with a further 10 to follow in November. The launch list will include two books by giants of world SF who have not often been published in English: Andreas Eschbach’s The Hair Carpet Weavers (translated by Doryl Jensen) and Angélica Gorodischer’s Trafalgar (Amelia Gladhart). German superstar Eschbach has only had three of his more than 40 novels translated into English; The Hair Carpet Weavers is his 1995 space opera debut. The 91-year-old Argentine Gorodischer is arguably Latin America’s best-known SF writer and Trafalgar follows the titular roguish intergalatic trader through a series of adventures. 

… Other titles on the August launch are Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, Edwin Abbott’s Flatland and Ten Thousand Light-years from Home by James Tiptree Jr, the pseudonym of pioneering American feminist SF writer Alice Bradley Sheldon.

(5) WHERE ELSE CAN SHE SEARCH? [Item by Cmm.]  I recently read the story “A Witch in Time” by Herb Williams for a Librivox short SF collection. It appears to be his only publication, from If magazine, February 1955. He’s new to our catalog so I’ve been trying to find any birth or death date. He is not in Wikipedia or the Science Fiction encyclopedia, and I’m not sure his Goodreads listing is accurate — I think he may be lumped under another Herb Williams there. HIs name is too common to have much luck with searching obituaries or Find A Grave, which is another of my go-tos when I’m trying to track down info on an obscure author.

I’m wondering if the name might ring a bell with you or some of the elders in the fan community as one of those authors who was mainly known as a fan but who published professionally once or twice? Anything that might give me a thread to pull, like a guy with that name who was in Chicago or something, would help.

Also if you or any of the other fandom and older-SF knowledgeable folks know of additional resources that I could try to see if I could figure out anymore would be really helpful, like maybe where If magazine’s archives are collected (if there is such a thing) or a person to reach out to who has done bibliographies or has a great memory for 50s SF authors or something?

The other possibility is if “Herb Williams” was a pseudonym used one time — sometimes taht seems to have happened in the 30s-50s era magazines when an author had two stories in the same issue. I tried searching on just the story title to see if it connects to any other author but no luck there.

(6) WOTW IS ON THE AIR. The LA Times’ Justin Chang calls “‘The Vast of Night’ is an ingenious, beautifully crafted ode to 1950s sci-fi paranoia”.

The first thing you see in “The Vast of Night,” Andrew Patterson’s ingenious and surprising debut feature, is an old 1950s-style TV set broadcasting a show called “Paradox Theater.” It’s clearly modeled on classic anthology series like “The Twilight Zone,” complete with portentous Rod Serling-esque narration that ushers us into “a realm between clandestine and forgotten,” then goes on to rattle off nearly half a dozen charmingly overwrought synonyms, including “a frequency caught between logic and myth.”

Forced to supply my own description, I’d say that “The Vast of Night” exists somewhere at the intersection of radio, television and cinema, and that it excavates some of our fondest old-timey memories of all three in order to build something playfully, strikingly new…. 

…There are lengthy passages in “The Vast of Night” when you could close your eyes with little loss of dramatic impact. And Patterson, perhaps eager to test the limits of his experiment, sometimes cuts to a black screen mid-dialogue, an audacious touch that allows the dialogue to carry the story. Elsewhere, however, the director gives you a lot to look at. Adam Dietrich’s production design is a marvel of vintage automobiles and analog recording equipment. The gifted cinematographer Miguel I. Littin-Menz pulls off a handful of arresting transitional moments, his camera showily traversing the New Mexico nightscape in sinuous extended tracking shots.

(7) DIAGNOSIS GENRE. Rob Latham surveys a specialized field in “Zones of Possibility: Science Fiction and the Coronavirus” in LA Review of Books.

…   In any case, no form of literature has more boldly confronted the possibility of global crisis and catastrophe than SF has, from its outset in the 19th century. Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel The Last Man is the quintessential tale of a worldwide pandemic — an outbreak of plague that gradually kills off the entire population, leaving at the end a single, lonely survivor. A recent essay on the novel in TLS shows how its conception emerged, in part, from a massive cholera outbreak that was exacerbated by incompetent public health measures, leading Shelley to conclude that “humanity is the author of its own disasters, even those that seem purely natural or beyond our control.” With its geographic sweep, attention to the interplay of science and politics, and vivid rendering of deserted cities and depopulated landscapes, The Last Man established a template that has been followed by most subsequent narratives of apocalyptic pandemics, in and outside the SF genre, from Stephen King’s The Stand (1978) to Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003) to Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014).

(8) NOVIK NEWS. Deadline reports another popular sff author’s work may get adapted into a motion picture: “Universal & Mandeville Films Partner On Naomi Novik’s ‘Scholomance’ Series”.

Universal has won the film rights for Naomi Novik’s YA novel Scholomance Random House series, putting the first novel A Deadly Education into development with Mandeville Films’ Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman.

The first book takes us into a dangerous school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death. There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal. Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die. 

(9) SAVED FROM KRYPTON’S CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. We Got This Covered says there’s yet another bonus in the director’s cut: “Justice League Snyder Cut Will Reportedly Feature Supergirl”.

Given that he recently claimed up to 75% of the movie will be footage that we’ve never seen before, Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League already looks to have enough plot threads to resolve without the possibility of introducing any more. However, the filmmaker’s time at the helm of the DCEU wasn’t exactly characterized by light and breezy narratives, with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in particular packed with enough content to fill three movies, and now that he’s finally got the chance to realize his original vision, he may as well go for broke.

In a recent watch party for Man of Steel, Snyder confirmed that a glimpse of an open pod on the Kryptonian ship was a deliberate nod towards his plans to expand the mythology and eventually introduce Supergirl into the shared universe, even though he’d already denied the very same thing two years previously….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 28, 1847 – Bithia Croker.  Irish horsewoman who hunted with the Kildare; married, moved to British India, wrote for a distraction during the hot season.  Forty-two novels (17 set in India, 1 Burma, 7 Ireland), translated into French, German, Hungarian, Norwegian; we can claim Beyond the Pale and her seven collections of shorter stories. (Died 1920.)  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1908 – Ian Fleming.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about a flying car.  Of IF’s James Bond books, Moonraker is SF, as we discussed at Boskone L, with Peter Weston testifying where the British rocket program was at the time; at the end of the story, Bond and the girl (as she would have been called in 1955) – oh, I won’t spoil it.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1919 — Don Day. A fan active in the 1940s and ’50s In Portland, Oregon, and a member of the local club.  He was editor of The Fanscient (and of its parody, Fan-Scent), and perhaps the greatest of the early bibliographers of sf. He published bibliographies in The Fanscient and also published the Day Index, the Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950.   He ran Perri Press, a small press which produced The Fanscient and the Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950.  He chaired NorWesCon, the 1950 Worldcon, after the resignation of Jack de Courcy. (Died 1979.) (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1923 Natalie Norwick. She had a number of genre roles in the Sixties including being Martha Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a Trek episode, and appearing as Josette duPres Collins on Dark Shadows. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1929 Shane Rimmer. A Canadian actor and voice actor,  best remembered for being the voice of Scott Tracy in puppet based Thunderbirds during the Sixties. Less known was that he was in Dr. Strangelove as Captain “Ace” Owens, and Diamonds Are Forever and Live and Let Die in uncredited roles. He even shows up in Star Wars as a Rebel Fighter Technician, again uncredited. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1930 – Frank Drake, 90.  Astronomer and astrophysicist.  National Academy of Sciences, American Acad. of Arts & Sciences.  Co-designed the Pioneer Plaques; supervised the Voyager Golden Records; thus our next-door neighbor.  Lapidarist.  Raises orchids.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1936 Fred Chappell, 84. Dagon, his first novel, retells a Cthulhu Mythos story as a realistic Southern Gothic tale. His Falco the Shadow Master’s Apprentice series has a handful of excellent stories, uncollected so far as I can tell, plus a novel, A Shadow All of Light, which is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1954 – Kees van Toorn.  Dutch fan, translator, publisher.  Chaired 48th Worldcon, at the Hague.  Served on con committees in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Canada. Two European SF Awards.  This Website https://confiction1990.com is about his Worldcon and a planned reunion.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1954 – Betsy Mitchell.  Long fruitful career at Baen, Bantam, Warner, Del Rey, editing 150 titles, several becoming N.Y. Times Best Sellers; now, Betsy Mitchell Editorial Services.  Guest of Honor at Archon XIV, 4th Street Fantasy Con (1992), Armadillocon XXII, Bosone XLI, Ad Astra XXV, Loscon XL.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1977 – Ursula Vernon.  Oor Wombat has published two dozen novels, as many shorter stories, and as many covers too, sometimes as T. Kingfisher.  Two Hugos, a Nebula, two Mythopoeic and two WSFA (Washington, D.C, SF Ass’n) Small Press awards.  Here’s her Amazon author page.  [JH]
  • Born May 28, 1984 Max Gladstone, 36. His debut novel, Three Parts Dead, is part of the Craft Sequence series, and his shared Bookburners serial is most excellent. This Is How You Lose the Time War (co-written with Amal El-Mohtar) is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Novella this year. (CE)
  • Born May 28, 1985 Carey Mulligan, 35. She’s here because she shows up in a very scary Tenth Doctor story, “Blink”, in which she plays Sally Sparrow. Genre adjacent, she was in Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Sittaford Mystery as Violet Willett. (Christie gets a shout-out in another Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and the Wasp”. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UH, FELLOWSHIP, THAT’S THE WORD. End the month on a high note – Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart brings together the cast of Lord of the Rings on Sunday, May 31 at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET. Here’s a teaser with Sean Astin.

SYFY Wire reports Josh Gad has already delivered a mermaid reunion: “Splash Stars Tom Hanks & Daryl Hannah Dive Into Charity Reunion (And Talk Tail Tales)”

After posting a teaser video in which he demanded Ron Howard — who directed the classic fantasy rom-com back in 1984 — deliver Tom Hanks to viewers, both Gad and Howard made good on their tease Tuesday when they convened for a chat that included Hanks himself, as well as costars Daryl Hannah and Eugene Levy, co-writers Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, and producer Brian Grazer. The chat doubled as a fundraiser for DIGDEEP, a nonprofit working to provide water and sanitation access to more than two million Americans who still don’t have those utilities.

(13) THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS. Bob Madle’s about to celebrate his 100th birthday on June 2. First Fandom Experience turned back the pages to acquaint readers with “Robert A. Madle In 1930s Fandom”. Lots of scans of photos and fanzine items.

… In a 2006 conversation with John L. Coker III, Madle recalled:

“My very first letter appeared in the July 1935 Pirate Stories.  I was a Gernsback fan, and anything he published I picked up.  I read his editorial in the first issue.  He said that they will publish pirate stories of the past, the present, and yes, even of the future.  So, I wrote a letter saying that they ought to publish a novel about a space pirate and they should get Edmond Hamilton to write it.  They printed the letter and I won a year’s subscription to Wonder Stories.  I was fourteen years old and I thought that this was one of the greatest things that ever happened.”

(14) BOK TALK. “Rediscovered: A Letter from Hannes Bok” at Don Herron’s website. The scan of a typewritten letter from 1943.

[Noted] book and pulp (and autograph, and letter, and miscellania) collector Kevin Cook thought some of you might like to peruse a letter the legendary fantasy artist Hannes Bok… 

(15) THEY STAB IT WITH THEIR STEELY KNIVES. James Davis Nicoll “Five SF Stories That Mix Swords and Starships” at Tor.com.

Inspired by an engaging time-filler meme on social media , my thoughts returned to that venerable roleplaying game Travellerprofiled on Tor.com earlier this year. Anyone who has played Traveller (or even just played with online character generation sites like this one) might have noticed that a surprising number of the characters one can generate are skilled with blades. This may see as an odd choice for a game like Traveller that is set in the 57th century CE, or indeed for any game in which swords and starships co-exist. Why do game authors make these choices?

(16) SOMETHING TO DO. “Ministry of Silly Walks comes to Sonning during lockdown”, a BBC video.

The residents of a Berkshire village have been filmed re-enacting one of British comedy’s most famous sketches.

Monty Python fan James Ruffell put up signs outside his house in Sonning informing people they were entering the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

He filmed the results with a motion-controlled webcam and uploaded the subsequent silliness to Facebook.

(17) WEIRD, NOT SILLY. LA’s NBC affiliate recommends you “Walk Haunted Pasadena (While Staying at Home)”.

So you’ve popped by Old Pasadena in the past, to pick up dinner or to find the perfect scarf for your mom or to search for something rosy for that one cousin who is obsessed with what happens along Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day each and every year.

But while strolling through the century-old alleys, on the way to the restaurant or shop, you suddenly feel a chill, a skin prickle, a sense that something vaporous or strange is nearby.

Is it a ghost? Or the knowledge that the historic city is a favorite among phantom fans?

Venture deeper into the strange and chilling tales of the Crown City on Friday evening, May 29.

That’s when Pasadena Walking Tours will lead its “Haunted Pasadena” tour, an at-home adventure that you can enjoy from your couch.

So, for sure: Stay in your slippers for this one and leave the sneakers by the front door.

(18) LOST AND FOUND. “Half the matter in the universe was missing – we found it hiding in the cosmos” reports Yahoo! There were several steps in finding the solution. One of them was —

…In 2007, an entirely unanticipated opportunity appeared. Duncan Lorimer, an astronomer at the University of West Virginia, reported the serendipitous discovery of a cosmological phenomenon known as a fast radio burst (FRB). FRBs are extremely brief, highly energetic pulses of radio emissions. Cosmologists and astronomers still don’t know what creates them, but they seem to come from galaxies far, far away.

As these bursts of radiation traverse the universe and pass through gasses and the theorized WHIM, they undergo something called dispersion.

The initial mysterious cause of these FRBs lasts for less a thousandth of a second and all the wavelengths start out in a tight clump. If someone was lucky enough – or unlucky enough – to be near the spot where an FRB was produced, all the wavelengths would hit them simultaneously.

But when radio waves pass through matter, they are briefly slowed down. The longer the wavelength, the more a radio wave “feels” the matter. Think of it like wind resistance. A bigger car feels more wind resistance than a smaller car.

The “wind resistance” effect on radio waves is incredibly small, but space is big. By the time an FRB has traveled millions or billions of light-years to reach Earth, dispersion has slowed the longer wavelengths so much that they arrive nearly a second later than the shorter wavelengths.

Therein lay the potential of FRBs to weigh the universe’s baryons, an opportunity we recognized on the spot. By measuring the spread of different wavelengths within one FRB, we could calculate exactly how much matter – how many baryons – the radio waves passed through on their way to Earth…

(19) GETTIING THE POINT. Charles Veley and Anna Elliott, in “Sherlock Holmes And The Womanly Art Of Self-Defense” on CrimeReads, discuss their series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches with Holmes and his daughter, Lucy James, and what sort of self-defense skills Victorian women had.

…A woman’s chief weapon, as the female self-defense movement began to gain traction, was the hat pin. These long (up to 6 inches), frequently jeweled pins were used to secure the elaborate hats of the day to a woman’s hair, but they could also be wielded with dangerous purpose in the event that a woman was attacked or threatened by a “masher.” In 1912, a hatpin was even used to foil an attempted robbery. Elizabeth Foley, an 18-year-old bank employee, was walking home with a male colleague who carried the entire payroll for the bank staff. They were attacked by a robber who knocked the male colleague down. But Elizabeth, undaunted, reached for her hatpin and jabbed at the robber’s face. The attacker ran away.

(20) NOT DESPICABLE THIS TIME. Gru and the Minions have made a PSA.

The World Health Organization, the United Nations Foundation and Illumination have partnered to release a public service announcement featuring the famous Minions characters and Gru, voiced by actor Steve Carrell, to show how people can stay safe from COVID-19

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Jon Ault, Martin Morse Wooster, John King TArpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 1/8/19 Hey, Babe, Take A Scroll On The File Side

(1) PRINT HUGO NOMINATING BALLOT AVAILABLE. The print version of this year’s Hugo nomination form has been released as part of Dublin 2019 Progress Report 3 [PDF File].

(2) CAPTAIN MARVEL. A “special look” at the forthcoming Captain Marvel movie.

Hope begins with a hero. Check out this special look at Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel! In theaters March 8.

(3) FIYAH RESTARTER. Charles Payseur brings news as well as short fiction reviews in “Quick Sips – Fiyah Literary Magazine #9”.

A new year means a new issue from Fiyah Literary Magazine. Which comes with some news. Namely, that co-executive editor Justina Ireland is stepping down and leaving the publication and DaVaun Sanders is stepping up into that role. The issue also steps back from the tradition of centering around a specific theme, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few that sneak in. Namely, a lot of the works look at infection, disease, and affliction. They map the devastation that pandemics create, whether the plagues are medical, magical, or moral. And they find characters who are faced with the sicknesses draining their worlds and have to decide what to do about it. Fight back? Seek a cure? Flee? Or weather the storm as much as possible? It’s an issue full of defiance and strength, though it recognizes that sometimes even that isn’t enough. There’s four short stories, one novelette, and two poems to get to, so let’s dive right into the reviews!

(4) DC IN 2021 WORLDCON BID NEWS. If the (currently unopposed) bid to hold the 2021 Worldcon in Washington DC succeeds, here’s who will chair —

The Baltimore-Washington Area Worldcon Association, Inc. (BWAWA) the sponsoring organization of the DC in 2021 Worldcon bid elected Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard as the co-chairs of the resulting Worldcon should we win site selection.  Bill has been very active in local DC fandom for many years, and was recent co-chair of the World Fantasy Convention in 2018 in Baltimore. Colette has been working and running volunteer-run genre conventions for over 20 years, and was most recently one of the Vice Chairs of Worldcon 75 in Helsinki in 2017.

(5) WORLDBUILDING. At Juliette Wade’s Dive Into Worldbuilding, “Alex White and A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy takes up author White’s second novel. You can see the video interview, and read a summary at the link.

… Alex really likes to explore the practical aspect of magic. They say, for example, that the arsonist’s mark is not very useful. You might get stuck in the military, but even there, it’s not super-useful to throw fireballs. Magic doesn’t get busted out every ten minutes, either. When you’re young, you want to magic up the place. But Alex compares it to how adults typically don’t climb stairs for no reason.

Some forms of magic are inherently unethical. There’s no good way to torture and kill.

Amplification technology can magnify magic power. Suddenly the fireball you can cast becomes huge. They describe the differences between magical marks as creating a caste system. Some marks are worth lots of money. Datamancy, which allows you to instantly correlate and get answers from any database, can get you rich. Even within the group of people who possess the same mark, there is diversity, as in other social groups. There are lots of common, easily recognizable marks. You only get one type of mark, and having no mark (called Arcana dystotia) is vanishingly rare. People are spiritual about their magic, and afraid of losing it….

(6) GAIMAN. Neil Gaiman will be among those honored with the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award at a ceremony on March 7. Poets & Writers has the story:

The Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award celebrates authors who have given generously to other writers or to the broader literary community. The award, which is presented each year at Poets & Writers’ annual dinner, is named for Barnes & Noble in appreciation of its long-standing support.

Recipients of the 2019 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award are Reginald Dwayne Betts (for mentoring individuals involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems and for his efforts to reform these systems); Neil Gaiman (for advocating for freedom of expression worldwide and inspiring countless writers); and Roxana Robinson (for her long-standing, fierce, and outspoken advocacy on behalf of authors).

[Via Locus Online.]

(7) PRISONER ON RADIO. BBC Radio 4 is dramatizing for radio the iconic 1960s television mystery series The Prisoner as a series of audio plays.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor who first appeared when Doctor Who firstaired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.)
  • Born January 8, 1925 Steve Holland. Did you know there was a short lived Flash Gordon series, thirty one episodes in 1954 – 1955 to be precise? I didn’t until I discovered the Birthday for the lead in this show today. Except for four minor roles, this was his entire tv career. Biography in “Flash Gordon: Journey to Greatness” would devote an entire show to him and this series. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 8, 1941  — Boris Vallejo, 78. Illustrator whose artwork has appeared on myriad genre publications. Subjects of his paintings were gods, hideous monsters, well-muscled male swordsmen and scantily clad females. Early illustrations of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and Doc Savage established him as an illustrator.
  • Born January 8, 1942 Stephen Hawking. Y’all know who he is, but did you know that Nimoy was responsible for his appearance as a holographic representation of himself in the “Descent” episode?  He was also guest starred in Futuruma and had  a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. Just before his death, he was the voice of The Book on the new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger, an erotic and kinky film worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. He shows up again in The Hunger later on as The Host. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me  as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, a role which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series.  He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel of the same name. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 8, 1977 Amber Benson, 42. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a truly shitty Sci-fi Channel film called Gryphon, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters. She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too.
  • Born January 8, 1979  — Sarah Polley, 40. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The MovieExistenzNo Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the DeadBeowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody.

(9) RE-RUN. In case you missed it, the winning entry in the 1984 Bulwer-Lytton contest was –

‘The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarian tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, ‘Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you’ll feel my steel through your last meal.”

(10) TESS DISCOVERY. “NASA spacecraft spots gaseous planet 23 times the size of Earth”  — The Guardian has the story.

Three new planets and six supernovae outside our solar system have been observed by Nasa’s planet-hunting Tess mission in its first three months.

Since it started surveying the sky in July, the MIT-led Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite project has identified Pi Mensae b, a “super-Earth” that travels around its star every six days, and LHS 3844b, a rocky world with an orbit of only 11 hours.

The most recent discovery, an exoplanet named HD 21749b, has the longest orbital period at 36 days. It orbits a bright, nearby dwarf star about 53 light years away in the Reticulum constellation, and is thought to have a surface temperature of about 1,650C (3,000F). This is relatively cool considering its proximity to its star.

(11) ICONIC LITTLE LIBRARY. The Bookshelf blog has a photo of a cute-as-the-dickens “Tardis Little Library”. Click to see.

(12) PORTALS. Joe Sherry has some great insights as part of “Microreview [book]: In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The genius of Seanan McGuire is how tightly she is able to wrap barbed spikes around the narrative so that as the reader is pulled in closer and closer that those barbs pierce our hearts and we don’t mind one bit. McGuire so perfectly captures the painful alienation of children….

(13) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS MOCCA ARTS FESTIVAL. The featured artists for this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival have produced a keynote artwork for the event:

Peter and Maria Hoey are brother and sister artists. Their illustrations appear in newspapers and magazines, commercials, and advertising worldwide. Since 2007 they have independently published their comics under the name COIN-OP. The first hardcover collection of their work: Coin-Op Comics Anthology 1997-2017, published by Top Shelf Productions / IDW Publishing, is out now. Their early comics appeared in many issues of the legendary BLAB! Magazine. They are currently hard at work on their first full length graphic novel. Peter and Maria Hoey are represented by Rapp | Art.

The Hoeys will be attending the Fest as Featured Artists. Further scheduling information about their attendance will be available in future announcements. The MoCCA Arts Festival will take place April 6 – 7th, 2019 from 11AM – 7PM on Saturday and 11AM – 6PM on Sunday. Mere steps from the Hudson River Greenway and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, MoCCA’s host venue, Metropolitan West, will encompass two floors of exhibitor tables, demo lounges, a gallery of original art showcasing the work of special guests, and a café providing beverages, snacks, and entrées. To learn more about this year’s MoCCA Arts Festival click here.

The MoCCA Arts Festival is a 2-day multimedia event, Manhattan’s largest independent comics, cartoon and animation festival, drawing over 7,000 attendees each year. With 400 exhibiting artists displaying their work, award-winning honorees speaking about their careers and artistic processes and other featured artists conducting workshops, lectures and film screenings, our Festival mission accelerates the advancement of the Society’s broader mission to serve as Manhattan’s singular cultural institution promoting all genres of illustration through exhibitions, programs and art education.

The 2019 MoCCA Arts Festival will take place April 6-7th, 2019 at Metropolitan West in New York City with programming mere steps away at Ink48 (653 11th Ave).  Applications to exhibit at the Fest will be available during the month of December. 

(14) EVOLUTION IN ACTION. NPR invites you to “Meet The Granary Weevil, The Pantry Monster Of Our Own Creation”.

If you store grains in your pantry, you’ve probably had the unfortunate experience of opening a package or jar to find tiny bugs living inside.

You’re not alone — there are more than 200 species of these pesky grain insects ruining dinner plans around the world on a daily basis. It’s no accident that they’ve made a home in your pantry — they’ve evolved along with humans. In a way, they contain a fascinating natural history of our own domestication.

This is particularly true of the granary weevil. A reddish-brown beetle that turns up in oats, rice, corn, dry pasta and more, it’s the only grain insect that has never been found outside of human food-storage situations.

Most grain insects are equal opportunity pests — feasting on animals’ food supplies in addition to our own. But the granary weevil has outplayed the others with a special adaptation that at first appears to be a disadvantage: It can’t fly. Its wings have fused together, encasing it in a solid exoskeleton. (Imagine getting knocked around by grains the size of your own body — you’d definitely want a protective suit like the granary weevils’.) But that also makes it hard to get anywhere outside its pile of grain.

(15) CONVERTIBLE. “Hyundai shows off ‘walking car’ at CES” — includes short puffy video — looks like animation rather than live-action.

Hyundai has shown off a small model of a car it says can activate robotic legs to walk at 3mph (5km/h) over rough terrain.

Also able to climb a 5ft (1.5m) wall and jump a 5ft gap, the Hyundai Elevate could be useful for emergency rescues following natural disasters, it said.

It was part of a project exploring “beyond the range of wheels”, it added.

The concept has been in development for three years and was unveiled at the CES technology fair in Las Vegas.

“When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot,” said Hyundai vice-president John Suh.

“Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete.”

(16) BOHEMIAN ELEMENTARY. Daniel Dern says, “Although I’m still fond of the Suicide Squad trailer and several other renditions…,” he calls attention to John Lewis & Partners + Waitrose & Partners Ad – Bohemian Rhapsody, adding: “Not to mention the best stage-crew recruitment ad (not its purpose) ever…”

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Juliette Wade, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, Robot Archie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Goodreads Extinguishes FIYAH

FIYAH Executive Editor Justina Ireland discovered Goodreads has deleted the Series entry for her magazine:

FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction is a quarterly literary magazine.

An attempt to discuss the decision in the Goodreads Librarians Group was answered with “a literary magazine is not a series by GR standards,” which apparently is Goodreads’ policy. However, that did not explain why FIYAH’s Series entry was singled out for enforcement while entries for many other genre magazine Series remain undisturbed. Put pretty much any spec fic magazine in the search bar, and they’re all on Goodreads: Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Nightmare, Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, Uncanny, Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Fireside Magazine, Shimmer, Interzone, Forever Magazine, even all four issues of the new Pulphouse and the single issue of the new Amazing Stories.

When someone raised the challenge in the Goodreads Librarians Group that the decision to delete FIYAH might be motivated by racism, a Librarian Moderator closed the thread to further comments.

The FIYAH Series entry can still be seen via a Google cache file (while that lasts.) Here’s a screencap — click for larger image.

The entire Goodreads Librarians Group comment thread is screencapped in this tweet (click through to see all three pages of images).

Justina Ireland is understandably angry —

Pixel Scroll 3/13/18 “Use The Porgs, Luke!”

(1) DON’T PAY TO PLAY. Jason Sanford has a twitter thread about another dodgy publisher – start here:

(2) TERMS AND CONDITIONS. Amanda S. Green has a very sensible take about the disappearing Amazon review kerfuffle: “On Reviews” at Mad Genius Club.

But, before you start all this take a step back and then take a deep breath and ask yourself if you or the reader who left the review might have fallen afoul of the rules. I know how easy it is to tell your other writer friends that you’ll review their work if they review yours. You might not even do it in so many words. The problem is, in this day and age of technology, Amazon’s computers will start seeing patterns and will pull reviews that fit those patterns. Is it fair? Waggles hands. It is, however, in the rules and we agree to those rules when we open our Amazon accounts and when we then open our KDP accounts. This is why you need to be sure you read those ToS agreements before completing your account setup.

Reviews are the best advertising we have for our books. They are a way of telling potential readers we’ve put something out that is worth not only their time but their money as well. Amazon recognizes that. It also recognizes the fact the system is easily gamed and that is what these rules are designed to prevent. The rules aren’t perfect but they are the best we have right now. None of us want to return to the days of rampant sock puppet reviews — or at least we shouldn’t. After all, most readers will look askance at a book by an indie author with hundreds of reviews and not a one under 4-star. You need those lower level reviews to give legitimacy to your work.

So, if you are one of those authors who found reviews suddenly missing, contact Amazon and ask what happened. Review the ToS about reviews and move forward. Yes, it’s hard losing reviews but you’ll do yourself more good writing your next book than spending hours on the internet whinging about how evil Amazon is.

(3) DEMISE OF STEAMPUNK WORLD’S FAIR. Airship Ambassador reports “Steampunk World’s Fair – Cancelled”.  The former management was deposed after sexual abuse allegations, but the group trying to pull off  rescue has decided the task is impossible

After several weeks of discussions, and publicized business changes, following posts in late January revealing sexual abuse allegations,

Sexual abuse allegations crawling out of steampunk community (TW)

Time to Name Drop and Protect Newbies

the Silver Phoenix Society announced On February 20,2018, it was taking over the production of Steampunk World’s Fair.

…However, it was announced tonight, March 13, 2018, on the Steampunk World’s Fair Facebook page that Silver Phoenix Society’s involvement in the event was ending, effectively cancelling the May 2018 festival.

Screencaps of relevant Facebook posts and links to background articles can be found at Airship Ambassador.

(4) THOR FX. A BBC video about “The visual effects behind Thor 3” relates the fun of having to be able to redo everything at the last minute, and the skinny on mixes of CGI and live action — sometimes keeping just the face so the body could interact with (e.g.) lightning.

Al Moloney talks to Alexis Wajsbrot, the visual effects supervisor for Thor: Ragnarok. He explains how characters like the Hulk and Korg were brought to life.

(5) HAWKING OBIT. Dr. Stephen Hawking died March 14. The New York Times reports: “Stephen Hawking, Who Examined the Universe and Explained Black Holes, Dies at 76”.

…“Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world,” Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at the City University of New York, said in an interview.

Dr. Hawking did that largely through his book “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” published in 1988. It has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film by Errol Morris. The 2014 film about his life, “The Theory of Everything,” was nominated for several Academy Awards and Eddie Redmayne, who played Dr. Hawking, won the best-actor Oscar.

Scientifically, Dr. Hawking will be best remembered for a discovery so strange that it might be expressed in the form of a Zen koan: When is a black hole not black? When it explodes.

What is equally amazing is that he had a career at all. As a graduate student in 1963, he learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neuromuscular wasting disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was given only a few years to live.

The disease reduced his bodily control to the flexing of a finger and voluntary eye movements but left his mental faculties untouched.

(6) DOWN TO THE WIRE. With the Hugo nominating deadline upon us, Doctor Science shares a longlist: “Brainstorming my Hugo nominations: Best Novel and Best Series”.

Hugo nominations have to be in by Friday, so I’m going to put up my longlist and hope the process of writing helps me make up my mind. I’m resurrecting my goodreads account to better keep track of what I’ve read (and what I started but did not finish, and why).

I thought I had already written and posted reviews of most of these, but apparently I wrote many only in my head….

(7) ISHER AND TRANTOR. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club tackles “Retro Hugos 1943 — Short Stories” and tries to put the contenders in the context of the time.

If there had never been another story published in the Foundation universe, The Encyclopedists would

have stood on its own – it encapsulates essentially all of the big ideas of the series: the mathematics of history, the decline and fall of an empire, and the ennobling positivist view of the ability of humanity to alter its destiny. While later stories built on this foundational story, everything that makes the Foundation series great was right there in this initial blueprint.

In this story, Asimov offers us the series’ most unforgettable – and quotable – protagonist Salvor Hardin, the mayor of Trantor. In the context of when this story was published, just five months after Pearl Harbor, his famous quote “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent,” might be seen as an surprising anti-war exhortation.

(8) WHEN NO MAN PURSUETH. Just to make sure there’d be some drama, before he went to FOGcon, Jon Del Arroz ran this twitter poll:

Broadcasting what, you might ask? You weren’t the only one. Jon gives his version in: “Someone Tried To Get Me Kicked Out Of A Sci-Fi Convention… And You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!” [Internet Archive]

…The man proceeded to grill me, rattling off questions in a challenging manner. “What are you doing here? Why? Are you intending on broadcasting here? Are you going to be bothering anyone?” They came in rapid succession, challenging…. I finally told him “this tone is getting pretty hostile,” as I wasn’t sure what he was getting at at all.

This is where things changed. His eyes widened a little and he said, “Oh!” The man dropped to his knees and smiled. “I’m 6’8? I guess that can be a little intimidating. Is this better?” His tone changed to something a little more humorous. Almost expertly, this man diffused the situation and the tension that had been escalating evaporated.

We started talking at length, and I learned this man was from the convention security, and that someone had complained about my presence there…

JDA was allowed to stay, and even buy a membership the next day after being vetted by the chair:

I showed up the next morning, migrated down stairs and asked to buy a ticket for the day. …I was just about to wrap up paying, when convention chairman Steven Schwartz asked me to step aside and chat with him.

It was frightening again. What was going to happen? Was this the “you need to vacate the premises” I was afraid of?

Just like the security fellow from the night before, Schwartz asked a couple of questions, his tone was pleasant, he had genuine concern — not only for the safety of others, but what blew me away was he was concerned for my safety as well. He asked some questions based on the absurd rumors propagated by Worldcon that I was some boogeyman, I let him know I never intended anything of the sort at any con nor even implied it — for FOGCon or Worldcon, and Schwartz took me as a man of my word (which I am), and told me if anyone tried to attack or harm me, he would defend me as surely as anyone else.

(9) WHEN REALITY MOVES FASTER THAN FICTION. Justina Ireland tweeted —

(10) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Bug Gaits for Animators” on Vimeo, Stephen Cunnane provides tips animators need to make sure bugs crawl properly.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/17 Your Mother Was A Scroller And Your Father Smelt Of Pixelberries

(1) CLARIFICATION. In my report about Sunil Patel the other day I conflated two separate social media comments that were each about two different newly-published Patel stories that came out very recently.

Just before Twitter started circulating angry anti-Diabolical Plots tweets (because of the story published there), there had been a complaint about Patel’s story “The Tragedy of the Dead Is They Cannot Cry” in Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, view-able from the front page.

Whether or not Galaxy’s Edge can accurately be called “sad-puppy-adjacent,” it makes more sense that somebody might apply the label there than to David Steffen, who published the Long List anthologies as a very deliberate middle finger to the Puppies.

(2) MORE THAN HEY YOU. Steven Brust on “Fantasy Writing and Titles of Nobility”.

For Americans there is an element of the romantic and the exotic about titles of nobility, about Baron Soandso, or Count Thisandsuch, that I suspect is missing, or at any rate different, for who were raised in places where a feudal aristocracy was part of history..  In reality, the feudal landlords were vicious bloodsuckers—when not for personal reasons, than simply because of the nature of the property relations that ultimately defined everyone’s life.  What I am not about to do is suggest is that American fantasy writers ignore the exotic and romantic elements—your readers have them in their heads, and unless you see your job is primarily pedagogical (which I do not), what is in the reader’s head is key: it is easier to play with the reader’s head if you work with what you know is rattling around in there.

(3) RACISM TAKES EXTRA WORK. Justina Ireland offers one more reason why “Writing is Hard: Racism in a Fantasy Landscape”. The excerpt covers the first of her four points.

I touched on the idea of dismantling racism within a fantasy setting on twitter earlier this week.  Authors, especially white authors, like to tackle ideas of racism within fantasy settings by creating fake races for the point of view characters to be racist against.  This seems like a good idea in theory, but it is actually harder than just writing fantasy cultures that have a correlation to real world cultures and deconstructing real world racism within a fantasy setting.

Here’s why:

  1. You have to teach a reader about the power structures in your fantasy world. And then deconstruct them.  Part of writing fantasy is about teaching a reader how to read your book.  This involves setting up scenes that illustrate the possible outcomes that can exist in your fantasy world.  Can your characters use magic? Great, now you have to show the reader the price of that magic, or the societal ramifications of that magic.  But you also will have to do that for the racism against the made up races within your book.  So creating a made up race creates more work to be done on the page.

(4) A BETTER TANGLED WEB. Aidan Doyle begins his explanation of the Twine program in “Writer’s Guide to Twine” at the SFWA Blog.

Twine was created by Chris Klimas in 2009 and is “an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.” Simply put, it’s a program that makes it easier for writers to make their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” style fiction. There are a number of tools for writing interactive fiction, but Twine is one of the simplest and most popular.

Interactive Fiction (IF) comes in many forms, including text-based parser games such as Zork where the player types in commands (Go north. Eat chocolate. Talk to green wizard). If you want to make this style of game, then Inform is probably your best option. Ken Liu’s Clockwork Soldier is an example of a traditional story which has IF-like commands embedded within it.

In contrast, stories written in Twine generally present the reader with choices in the form of hypertext links. Although there are many systems available for writing IF, Twine in particular has been celebrated for its ease of use. Twine is more focused on stories as opposed to games and produces HTML files, allowing anyone with a modern browser to read your story.

(5) BERRY OBIT. Rock’n roll legend Chuck Berry passed away today.

(6) THE FORCE IN ARIZONA. Phoenix public radio station KJZZ had a six-minute piece about Jedi-ism’s rise. (Listen at the link.)

The Star Wars universe has been a vital part of popular culture for more than 40 years, and that passion was renewed by the box-office smash “The Force Awakens.”

And thousands of people have decided that they want the force to be with them, even when they’re not watching one of the films.

They have decided to practice Jedi-ism. And here with me to explain its tenets and more is Jodie Vann, an instructor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

(7) MONOPOLY BROKEN. Or improved. It alll depends on how you feel about the change.

The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

More than 4.3 million voters from 146 countries weighed in on which tokens they wanted to see in future versions of the property-acquisition game, which is based on the real-life streets of Atlantic City. Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Hasbro announced the winners Friday morning.

(8) QUANTUM OF STROLLERS. Bruce Arthurs came across some of these “quantum physics for babies” books by Chris Ferrie listed on Goodreads Giveaways and thought they might be quirky enough for a Pixel Scroll mention: Books.

Quantum Physics for Babies is a colorfully simple introduction to the principle which gives quantum physics its name. Baby will find out that energy is “quantized” and the weird world of atoms never comes to a stand still. It is never too early to become a quantum physicist!

The author, Chris Ferrie, is an actual quantum theorist who self-published the original Quantum Physics For Babies; surprise, it took off well enough Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (childrens books division of Sourcebooks) will be coming out with an entire series starting in May.

Ferrie’s recently-started blog is fun too. Here’s an excerpt from “Milking a new theory of physics”:

For the first time, physicists have found a new fundamental state of cow, challenging the current standard model. Coined the cubic cow, the ground-breaking new discovery is already re-writing the rules of physics.

A team of physicists at Stanford and Harvard University have nothing to do with this but you are probably already impressed by the name drop. Dr. Chris Ferrie, who is currently between jobs, together with a team of his own children stumbled upon the discovery, which was recently published in Nature Communications*.

The spherical theory of cow had stood unchallenged for over 50 years—and even longer if a Russian physicist is reading this. The spherical cow theory led to many discoveries also based on O(3) symmetries. However, spherical cows have not proven practically useful from a technological perspective. “Spherical cows are prone to natural environmental errors, whereas our discovery digitizes the symmetry of cow,” Ferrie said.

(9) MORE MARS BUZZ. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the Moon, has launched a virtual reality movie detailing his plan to get humans to Mars. The BBC has the video — Buzz Aldrin takes you to Mars in VR.

The film – Cycling Pathways to Mars – lasts just under 10 minutes and features the astronaut as a hologram narrating the experience.

Mr Aldrin’s plan involves using the moons of Earth and Mars essentially as pitstops for people travelling to and from the Red Planet – a trip that will take about six months each way.

(10) FOR THE ROUND FILE. Chip Hitchcock says, “If you thought the jet-boarder wasn’t extreme enough, somebody pushing circular runways. He says it’s to prevent crosswind landings — but airports that could afford such a mishegoss can certainly afford enough runways to avoid this hazard, and as a former lightplane pilot (who had to learn about heavy ops to get an instrument rating) I see so many things wrong with this idea.”

(11) IN A COMMA. The BBC notices the Oxford-comma case, and provides several other examples of expensive errors in comma use.

(12) FROM BBC TO BB-8. “Droids Interrupt Darth Vader Interview” is a parody of the “Children Interrupt BBC Interview” viral video.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Bruce Arthurs, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Gregory N. Hullender, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Anonymous Group Challenges Statistical Validity of Fireside Report

In a report dropped just after the close of the Hugo nomination deadline last night, the timing chosen purposefully (I’m told by a source) though the reasons are not obvious, “a group of writers and editors” has challenged the statistical basis of the Fireside Report which said last July,” We don’t need the numbers to know that racism is a problem in our field. But we have them.”

Published at Medium under the pseudonym “Lev Bronstein” (Leon Trotsky’s real name), “Bias in Speculative Fiction” counters the Fireside Report by applying additional statistical study methods to the data, or enlarging the field from which relevant data can be drawn.

Fireside Fiction’s July 2016 report “Antiblack Racism in Speculative Fiction” [FR] purports to have found pervasive racism in speculative fiction publishing. With 38 out of 2,039 (1.9%) published works authored by black-identifying authors, there is unquestionable underrepresentation. FR ascribes this disparity to widespread anti-black editorial bias. We share Fireside’s concerns about underrepresentation and commend its authors for raising awareness. At the same time we find the report to be fraught with error.

The article’s many examples include:

The misuse of the binomial distribution in FR is a significant cause for concern. Under the binomial distribution, we treat each publication as an independent random event with some fixed probability of occurrence. FR assumes that each submitted submission should have a 13.2% chance of black authorship. The probability of observing their data subject to this assumption is 3.207×10^–76. They provide no rationale for using population rather than occupational rates. Suppose instead that science fiction slush is submitted from a pool of professional writers uniformly at random. Under these assumptions we assume that there’s a a 4% probability that a story is written by a black author. The data becomes 68 orders of magnitude more likely. Still unlikely, yes, but this demonstrate the impact of our assumptions.

The article can be presumed to serve as a defense of editors in the speculative fiction field. It argues there is bias, but that it is exerted in the culture in ways not directly related to the fate of slushpile manuscripts, such as in the educational system where PoC may or may not take degrees in literature, and other things that discourage black people from becoming authors at all.

The authors of the article defended their choice to remain anonymous in these terms —

Who are you?

We’re a group of writers and editors. We have chosen to publish under a collective pseudonym. Our identities would only serve as a distraction.

It’s puzzling why a group that agrees in their preamble that “There is a race problem in speculative fiction and we need to make an effort to understand its causes” is unwilling to engage under their own names, essentially reducing this to a drive-by correction of somebody else’s homework.

Justina Ireland, an executive editor at FIYAH magazine, has responded at length on Twitter. Here are several of her tweets:

Another comment:

Brandon O’Brien, a poet and writer in Trinidad and Tobago, also has made some observations:

O’Brien has many other comments, though one in particular about “nebulous maths” begs the question:

Bear in mind this quote from the Fireside Report —

To adjust for the methodological flaws, as well as the fact that we don’t have access to submission-rate data concerning race and ethnicity either overall or by individual magazine, we used binomial distributions. The purpose of this was to find the probability that such numbers could be random?—?the chances that numbers like that could exist without biases in play (which could extend to biases that are literary in nature, such as story structure), systemic problems, and/or structural gaps. In the first binomial distribution we ran the data assuming that submission rates of black authors are equal to the proportion of the black population in the United States, which was 13.2% in 2015 (according to Census projections).

The Fireside Report picked U.S. population statistics as the battleground, treated them as a valid tool for analyzing racism, and made arguments based on their own analysis of them. It’s not fair in that context to say the Fireside Report is above criticism because there are PoC writing SFF throughout the world, or that we all know racism is a problem in the publishing industry (as it is elsewhere).

Troy L. Wiggins, the other FIYAH executive editor, questioned the motive behind the new article:

Update: Hours later the authors of the article took it down and left in place the statement, “We’ve been receiving threats. Forget we were ever here.”  

For as long as it lasts, the original post can be read in the Google cache file.

Pixel Scroll 2/13/17 Scroll Me The Pixel Of Alfredo Garcia

(1) DOG DOESN’T BITE MAN. Can you believe it? Someone is not getting sued. His name is Wil Wheaton: “The library for Storytime With Wil just got a little deeper…”

For a few weeks (months?) I’ve been doing this silly and fun thing on Monday nights. I pick a random Choose Your Own Adventure book from my collection, and I read it on my Twitch channel, letting the audience make the choices for me…

So it’s pretty much a regular thing, now, and I seem to have settled upon 6pm Pacific time every Monday, unless there’s a Kings game or I have some other pressing engagement.

Anyway, I always point out that I am not doing this for money, and I don’t mean to infringe on Choose Your Own Adventure’s IP rights or anything like that. I always point out that I’d rather beg forgiveness than ask permission, and I hope that if CYOA ever stumbles upon my thing, they’ll treat it as free marketing and not a thing to throw lawyers at.

So last week, someone from CYOA emailed me … and it turns out a lot of them at the publisher are fans of my work, including my Storytime with Wil thing!! Not only do they not want to sue me to death, she offered to send me a care package, and it arrived today.

See what good things happen when, for a random example, you don’t raise half-a-million dollars on Kickstarter to turn a fan thing into a moneymaker?

(2) FIRST TIME. Jodi Meadows has written an addendum to her post Before She Ignites cover reveal” responding to comments like those made by Justina Ireland (reported in yesterday’s Scroll.)

A few people have mentioned they see this as an important cover, because it has a Black girl in a dress. That’s what I want to talk about. I didn’t realize when the cover was being designed (that’s my privilege), but this is the first time a big publisher has this kind of cover.

It shouldn’t be the first time.

The first time a major publisher designed a YA cover with a Black model in a gown, it should have gone to a Black author.

Again, me not realizing that hadn’t happened yet: that was my white privilege at work.

The fact that mine came first is a symptom of the problems in publishing, and who publishing is designed to work for. By the time I knew what was at stake with this cover and the timing, the model had already been hired and her photos taken. At that point, changing the cover would have meant telling a Black model that she couldn’t be on my cover because she’s Black.

I hope it’s obvious why I wouldn’t do that.

Dhonielle Clayton told me I should say all this upfront, but I resisted because I couldn’t think of a way to do that without seeming preemptively defensive or like I wanted a pat on the back. So I just didn’t talk about it. Now I see that was the wrong decision, because this hurts people. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.

Meadows also discusses a soon-to-be-published YA novel by a black author that will feature such a cover.

Some of the names involved in the Meadows story are also sources for Everdeen Mason’s recent Washington Post article, “There’s a new way for novelists to sound authentic. But at what cost?”, which reports how publishers are hiring “sensitivity readers… who, for a nominal fee, will scan a book for racist, sexist, or other offensive content.”  From Mason’s article, it appears these readers are used most often for YA fantasy novels.

For authors looking for sensitivity readers beyond their fan base there is the Writing in the Margins database, a resource of about 125 readers created by Justina Ireland, author of the YA books “Vengeance Bound” and “Promise of Shadows.” Ireland started the directory last year after hearing other authors at a writing retreat discuss the difficulties in finding people of different backgrounds to read a manuscript and give feedback about such, well, sensitive matters.

One reader for hire in Ireland’s database is Dhonielle Clayton, a librarian and writer based in New York. Clayton reviews two manuscripts per month, going line by line to look at diction, dialogue and plot. Clayton says she analyzes the authenticity of the characters and scenes, then points writers to where they can do more research to improve their work.

Clayton, who is black, sees her role as a vital one. “Books for me are supposed to be vehicles for pleasure, they’re supposed to be escapist and fun,” she says. They’re not supposed to be a place where readers “encounter harmful versions” and stereotypes of people like them.

(3) WHO’S SECOND? The “America First, <yourcountry/etc here> Second” meme (explained in this CNN news segment) has inspired at least two fannish responses –

  • Mordor Second

  • Mars Second

(4) HE’S ON THE FRONT. Cool cover by Tom Gauld for the Guardian Review:

(5) ROUNDTABLE REMOVED. Apex Magazine has pulled the “Intersectional SFF Round Table” that Mia Sereno (Likhain) protested in an open letter to the editors quoted in yesterday’s Scroll. Jason Sizemore passed responsibility to those who packaged the roundtable, who also are “Likhain’s publisher” (bolded in the original as shown).

…One correction I need to make regarding Likhain’s email since this is a discussion she chose to take public rather than giving Apex a chance to respond. She says: “It is not your choice to publish RH that I find appalling, but your specific choice to ask her to contribute to a roundtable on, of all things, intersectionality.”

This is not true. Djibril and Rivqa, Likhain’s publisher, invited Benjanun to be on the round table. The round table contains four other people with greater wisdom on what is and is not appropriate when it comes to intersectionality than I will ever possess: Cassandra Khaw, Vajra Chandrasekera, Miguel Flores Uribe, and Rivqa Rafael. Since they participated in the discussion I could only assume they had no issue including Benjanun. Djibril had no issue with Benjanun. Therefore, I felt it was okay to move forward.

In consideration to the concerns expressed by Likhain’s public post, our readers, and the counsel of several friends in the genre community, I have decided to remove the round table from our website….

(6) WHAT WATCH? James Gleick asks Guardian readers “Do we still need Doctor Who? Time travel in the internet age?”

Two generations of TV watchers have been schooled in temporal paradox by Doctor Who, and when one Doctor gives way to the next, as will happen in the next series, the reincarnation generates almost as much speculation as the royal line of succession. Who will follow Peter Capaldi? She will be a Time Lord, after all.

Nor does time travel belong solely to popular culture. The time-travel meme is pervasive. Neuroscientists investigate “mental time travel”, more solemnly known as “chronesthesia”. Scholars can hardly broach the metaphysics of change and causality without discussing time travel and its paradoxes. Time travel forces its way into philosophy and influences modern physics.

How strange, then, to realise that the concept is barely a century old. The term first occurs in English in 1914 – a back-formation from HG Wells’s The Time Machine (1895). Somehow humanity got by for thousands of years without asking, what if I could travel into the future? What would the world be like? What if I could travel into the past – could I change history?

(7) REVISITING AN OLD FAVORITE. Cat Rambo walks the razor’s edge between a fisking and a fond reading of the Doc Savage novel Quest of Qui in her latest blog post.

Cassy, in the process of shedding a box of Doc Savage novels, found out I loved them and passed them along. I remember Doc and his men fondly; while at my grandparents for a Kansas summer when I was twelve or thirteen, I found my uncle’s old books, which included a pretty complete run of the Bantam reprints and reveled in them for years to come.

I’m going back and rereading while making notes because I loved and still love these books; my hope is that I’ll start to notice some patterns as I move through the books and that I’ll be able to talk about pulp tropes, gender assumptions, reading fiction aimed at a gender other than your own, and writerly techniques in an entertaining and (maybe) useful way….

You’d think Doc would train himself out of that tell, but even the Man of Bronze has limits. An alarm clock rings and a knife appears from nowhere and hits Doc in the back. At this point, we discover that he habitually wears a fine chainmail undergarment. The material of the undergarment isn’t specified. Neither Renny nor Doc can figure out where the knife came from; at least, Renny can’t. Doc’s a cagey dude and you’re never really sure what he knows and what he doesn’t. The knife is an ancient Viking relic.

The phone rings; it’s another of Doc’s men, Monk, aka Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett Mayfair (“Only a few inches over five feet tall and yet over 260 pounds. His brutish exterior concealed the mind of a great scientist,” the frontispiece helpfully informs us) What’s new, pussycat, he asks Doc, only not in those words. An alarm clock just rang in my office and then there was a knife out of nowhere, Doc retorts. Of course the phone goes dead at this point….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • February 13, 1923 – Chuck Yeager, the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound. Born in Myra, West Virginia.

(9) AVOID THE KISS OF DEATH. Leading up to Valentine’s Day, the Horror Writers Association blog presents Mac Child’s latest piece of writing advice, “Love is a Disease: Prevent the Romantic Storyline from Strangling the Scary”.

First, a caveat: There’s nothing wrong with paranormal romance; it’s simply a different genre from horror (and the two genres frequently have a substantial overlap in readers). A romantic storyline, in and of itself, is not a terrible thing at all. This argument is by no means a condemnation of love and the readers who love it.

Romantic fiction uses a different kind of tension—will the protagonist suffer heartbreak? Will the couple get together? End up together?—than the frequently external threats and emphasis on surviving found in horror. In a horror, too much ink spilled about love ends up replacing one tension with another, pulling focus away from whatever monster, human or not, is menacing your hapless heroes.

(10) NEXT CONRUNNER PLEASE. Steve Cooper discussed the latest Conrunner on Facebook and announced he and Alice Lawson will be organizing Conrunner 5.

…We even have a provisional theme – “new con-runners” and with that in mind Conrunner 5 will have a Y.A membership category for those who will be under 40. And we hope to provide bursaries to help members who are relatively new to con-running. We’ve already spoken with the chair of INNOMINATE who will try to find some money for this after pass-along to follow on from the generous donation by Satellite 4 to Conrunner 4. We’ll also be following this up with Follycon and the 2019 Eastercon. There will also be a 2nd Pete Weston memorial scholarship – but how that will be targeted has not yet been fixed.

But Alice and I don’t “Run” Conrunner – we provide the back-bone for others to put on a con-running programme. Claire [Brialey] & Mark [Plummer] did a stirling job this year. Now it could be your turn.

…But let me end by thanking the 70 con-runners who came to Nottingham, and participated in the convention especially the two thirds of members we managed to get on panels. (Next time join earlier and we’ll try and get that closer to 100%). We hope you had an enjoyable and instructive weekend and look forward to seeing you all and many others at Conrunner 5

(11) SELECTIVE EXCERPTS. That’s what Dave Freer always calls these representative quotes, but today I’m really doing it. Plucked from his typical stew of complaints against Puppy-kickers, Scalzi, Tor, and David Gerrold (as well as a big plug for Jon Del Arroz based on taking his story at face value) comes this spot-on statement about the movie Starship Troopers – “Truth in Advertising” at Mad Genius Club.

The other relevant aspect is you shouldn’t be just selling once. The key to success as an author is building a customer base, building a name. Now over on Tor.com they were busy displaying how not to understand this. You see –according to the genius on Tor.com (I hope he runs marketing for the company) – Paul Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS was a work of genius satirically parodying that nasty evil Robert A Heinlein that the modern literati of sf love to hate.

(shrug) I don’t care if you agree, or disagree, adore the movie or hate it… the problem is one the writer of the article seems blind to, and yet, when you think about it, is behind almost all the adverse reaction the movie received.

…If Paul Verhoeven had called the movie I HATE HEINLEIN, or HUMAN FASCISTS KILL INNOCENT BUGS the same people now calling it ‘brilliant satire’ would still have loved it… (possibly less, because they enjoyed watching the Heinlein fans get furious), but it would have engendered almost no disparagement. It would also have lost a huge volume of sales to the suckers who believed the advertised name.

(12) LIFE INTERRUPTED. Is it dead or not? There’s a thematically appropriate question for a magazine about ghoulish movies, Fangoria, especially now with there being disputed claims that the magazine has produced its last print issue. Former editor-in-chief Ken W. Hanley announced on Twitter –

Today Fangoria officialdom issued a statement admitting that print publication has been “interrupted” but they hope to make a comeback –

These words are in no way excuses, more the bitter truth about the current circumstances involving our print publication and interruption of production. With time and continued patience from our fans, writers, artists and subscribers we will be working endlessly to make good on any funds owed for magazines and/or articles written. In the meantime, we’ll continue trying to conquer the uphill battle to restore our print issues that our fans urgently long for.

(13) JOCULARITY. Adam Rakunas and Patrick S. Tomlinson have a plan for boosting author revenue – let’s see if this starts trending.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Lex Berman, Daniel Dern, Paul Weimer, John King Tarpinian, and an untipped hat for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]