Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #54

Crisis Point: The 2020 World Fantasy Convention 

By Chris M. Barkley: On the few occasions that I was privileged to head up the World Science Fiction Convention’s Press Office, I gave my staff members a great deal of latitude in their duties. However, I had only one directive that was absolutely sacred; if they spotted a member, staffer or volunteer that was in need of assistance, they were to stop whatever they were doing and render assistance.   

In my 44-plus years of congoing, volunteering and activism, I have come to believe that fandom is family; we may not all be related on a familial basis and we all may not agree on certain points or get along with each other, but more often than not, we try to be available to each other and when the offer of help is made, it is be heartfelt and genuine. 

So I felt more than a bit of discomfort when I initially heard about the travails of the 2020 World Fantasy Convention. 

The controversy surrounding the Salt Lake City based bid started when the preliminary list of convention programming items were posted online, which is chronicled here. miyuki jane pinckard, an eminent writer and game designer offered her concerns in an open letter that was published on a Google Docs page.

The most immediate reactions to the posting were swift and harsh, charging that the programming staff was elitist, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic and generally tone deaf.

Well known author and editor K. Tempest Bradford has an extensive history of difficulties and criticisms of WFC which she lays out here. Bradford, and others whom she offers evidentiary links to, are spot on about how previous World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors and convention committees have repeatedly failed to address a variety of issues. Mainly of accessibility for disabled members, sexual harassment and a lack of diversity in programming and staffing at conventions among MANY other things.

Ms. Bradford did not pull any punches in her commentary; condemning the Chair, Ginny Smith and WFC’s Board of Directors for not responding sooner to her email entreaties about systemic problems they continually seem to suffer from over a long period of time. In an addendum to her blog post, dated October 10th), Ms. Bradford wrote the following:

It has now been almost 10 years of this. At this point, if you are attending and/or participating in WFC 2020 you are participating in a system that is unsafe for BIPOC and other marginalized attendees and has been for a long time.

And yes, even if they “fix” the many program items with problematic content thanks to help from panelists, I still say: don’t go. Remember, we’ve done this dance before. More than once. And they were offered help and guidance on how not to have this happen. Don’t reward them by accepting last-minute changes that had to be spearheaded by folks who have probably already done too much emotional labor around this.

It should not be on BIPOC and other marginalized folks to clean up after white people who refuse to do right unless Twitter gets mad at them.

I asked folks on Twitter not to help them with programming for these reasons and then I said:

Hey there white, able-bodied, cishet ppl of SFF who constantly claim allyship with marginalized folk: Now’s the time to prove it.

WFC depends on you to come even if BIPOC don’t. Therefore: drop your membership or, at least, rescind participation on panels. Take a stand.

I stand by this ask. Even though I’m apparently being too “extreme“. This hella long post is my testament to why.

So, it appears to me that Ms. Bradford, and many others it seems, have come to the conclusion that the World Fantasy Convention no longer has any value and must be boycotted or ended completely. Doors are to be slammed closed, roads completely destroyed and bridges are to be set alight and burn brightly.

I am going to beg to differ.

But, before I do so, I am going to point out a few things.

I have only attended one and a quarter World Fantasy Conventions in my life. I went to the 1983 convention in Chicago, which featured Gene Wolfe and Manly Wade Wellman as the author guests, Rowwena Morrrill as the Artist GoH and Robert Bloch as the Toastmaster. It was a very relaxed and rather subdued convention in comparison to the six Worldcons I had previously attended. And hey, I got to meet and chat with Fritz Leiber! I had a good time.

As I became more involved with attending and working at Worldcons, I just couldn’t fit the WFC into my schedule, either economically or timewise. I did have the opportunity to go on a day trip to the 2010 Convention in Columbus and hang out in the public areas for a few hours and chat with a few friends, but that was about all. This is the extent of my involvement with the WFC.

Reader, this past Thursday evening, I received an email from Ginny Smith, asking for my help. I got around to reading it Friday morning. 

At this point in time, I was unaware of miyuki jane pinckard’s letter nor had read Ms. Bradford’s or anyone else’s comments on Twitter.

It wouldn’t have made any difference if I had. Ms. Smith, a person who I had never heard of or met before, asked for my help. 

And I, without hesitation said yes. Why?

First, because it is my nature to help. Maybe it’s a remnant of my Catholic grade school upbringing, my Boy Scout training or my unbreakable convention rule. My first instinct is to render assistance, if possible. 

Secondly, I live by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr., whose framed picture hangs prominently on my office wall and features the following quote, “The time is always right to do what is right.”  

I Immediately sought out and found the File 770 post, pinckard’s letter and Ms. Bradford’s comments. Frankly, none of what I found looked good for Ms. Smith or the convention. She explained to me in a follow up email that she was a complete novice at con-running and was in way over her head from the start. She also told me that she had made several apologies about the snafu and that others beside myself were helping out as well.

One of those people is Christine Taylor-Butler, an African-American author who is a graduate of MIT and Art & Design. She is the creator of the The Lost Tribes young adult series and an impressive number of other fiction and non-fiction books (80!) for children whose various subjects range from a biography of Michelle Obama, to the physical sciences, geography and United States History and Civics.

The other person declined to be identified. The reason she specifically stated was that she doesn’t want others to assume that she is available to perform a similar function for dozens of other conventions. Actually, what she was quoted saying, “I’m simply taking the principle of white people helping to clean up the messes white people have created.” So, respect.

Ms. Smith specifically asked me to review a number of the program items that people found objectionable and offer some insights on how they could be revised to be more inclusive and not offensive. 

I spent a majority of my day Saturday writing up critiques of the titles and descriptions of the panels. I also gave her a few pointed comments on how the Board could have been more helpful in her endeavors. Here are two of the examples:


  • Program Item 30: Norse and Germanic Fantasy: The Northern Thing

Original Description: “Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. We find such echoes from the works of William Morris, J.R.R. Tolkein, Paul Anderson From to more recent works like David Drake, Diana Paxson, George R.R. Martin, and Marvel Comics Thor. Let us explore this particular magic…“

Criticism: “The disparity present in compiling the cultural traditions of the entire rest of the world into one panel while devoting an entire panel on Norse and Germanic tales is telling. This is the most highly detailed panel, with specific authors mentioned, a courtesy that was not afforded the other panels. There is also no attempt to address the problematic side of Norse mythology and its co-option by white supremacists and fascists, including the Nazis. This should absolutely be part of any panel about being inspired by Norse mythology. And yet, the panel fails to actually name any Nordic writers and focuses entirely on Anglophone writers.”

Revised Suggestion: “From Beowulf to the Niebelungenlied, Norse and Germanic myth have been one of the major notes sounded by European and Anglophone fantasy and arguably the basis of sword and sorcery as we know it. Let us explore this particular magic.”

My Commentary: It seems to me (at least) that the critics of this description doth protest TOO MUCH. (Climbs onto soapbox). I may be Black, but even I am aware of the Norse and German influences generally in Westen culture. And YES, it is both intriguing, thrilling AND problematic. Do the critics think that the panelists are unaware of those problems or wouldn’t actually discuss them? Do the racist undertones really NEED to be described in the panel description? (Climbs off soapbox). So, what the objection is REALLY about is that this is yet another panel about the subject, which they are probably tired of seeing. Point taken. So, the panelists can either have a discussion about how those writers have influenced modern fantasy or they drill down on the older regional writers of the genre. The new description could be adapted to go either way, in my opinion. By the way, it’s Poul Anderson, not Paul Anderson. You’ll get a ton of side eye from eagle eyed fantasy fans for a mistake like that and deservedly so.


  • Program Item 54: Female Tropes and Archetypes

Original Description: “Women characters for years were mostly helpmates and love interests or the reward for an adventure well done. But changes in society have brought a welcome change to this restrictive way of viewing half the populace. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their female characters?”

Criticism: “Female Tropes and Archetypes” feels like a topic that was covered twenty years ago.

Revised Description: None, with this note: “Again, we’re not sure how to respond to this. Yes, it’s a topic that has been covered but continues to have an impact on the genre. So… we’re inclined to leave this one alone?”

My Commentary: OK, this is an easy fix; the problem here is that the panel is gender specific and not very inclusive to other people. So,my suggestion would be: remove “Women” from the title and description and call it Tropes and Archetypes in Fantasy (Modern or Otherwise): Fantasy  characters of all ages, genders and a spectrum of sexualities populate the landscape of Modern Fantasy. Gradual political and societal changes over the past few decades have brought a welcome change to the restrictive way of viewing others who had not previously been considered in the genre. How are today’s authors pushing past the old, tired tropes to bring a more real and interesting take on their fantasy characters?”


In total, I offered my suggestions for eight other programming items that were point of contention.

After the disastrous fiasco of the 2020 Hugo Awards Ceremony, it would have been very easy to heed Ms. Bradford and others, and just let the WFC crash and burn on the tarmac and left as a stark warning to other con-runners. 

I, for better or worse, am not one of those people. I believe that the Hugo Awards Ceremony could have been saved with some last minute intervention. I also believe the same can be said of this year’s World Fantasy Convention. 

Ginny Smith, her convention committee and, I hope, its Board of Directors, are working night and day to try to put on a convention that is worthy of attending (albeit virtually) and not fall victim to their earlier mistakes.  

If they were truly as racist and insensitive as their critics have claimed, they could have thrown up their hands and said, ‘This is OUR convention, WE run it as we see fit and YOU  can take it or leave it.” That’s not what I have experienced over the past several days.

Earlier today, the World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors released a statement to me, via an email from Ginny Smith:

“The WFC Board is sensitive to the criticisms by members from marginalized communities within the fantasy and horror genres. We acknowledge the minimal representation of these diverse populations on the Board and are taking steps to rectify that lack of perspective. We have voted to add at least one ex officio member to our number to review future WFC programs. We are currently reaching out to proposed candidates to discuss and will release a statement when the new Board member(s) are chosen.” 

– The World Fantasy Convention Board of Directors 

2020 marks the forty-sixth year for the World Fantasy Convention. In spite of its ongoing problems, I still believe that it still is a vital part of our fannish community and should not be canceled or abandoned. 

I HOPE that the calamitous events and harsh, but justifiable criticisms leveled this year’s edition can finally be the tipping point that finally puts this convention on the right path. This will also involve a lot of introspection AND changes by the Board of Directors, which, among other things, being more transparent about the bidding process, staffing, volunteer memberships, programming, the awards and most importantly, how they operate. 

Because it’s always the right time to open the doors of inquiry, build cultural roadways and reconstruct those emotional bridges.

Right here, right now and without delay!

Pixel Scroll 10/9/20 Green Scroll The Pixels O!

(1) A REAL STEMWINDER. BBC America’s Pratchett-inspired series The Watch was teased during today’s virtual New York Comic Con.

Welcome to Ankh-Morpork. Expect dragon sightings. ‘The Watch’, an all-new series inspired by characters created by Sir Terry Pratchett and starring Richard Dormer as Vimes and Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin, premieres January 2021 on BBC America.

(2) DOOMED TO REPEAT. K. Tempest Bradford lists year-by-year the harassment, accessibility, and programming diversity issues that have stalked World Fantasy Con since 2011. She then comments at length about her interactions with the 2020 committee in “World Fantasy, the Convention That Keeps On Failing”. In winding up a detailed 6000-word post Bradford says:

I want people to realize how serious, deep-seated, and currently intractable WFC’s problems are, both with this convention and with the organization as a whole. I want people to understand that this org has been given chance after chance, great piece of advice after great piece of advice, and example after example of how to do well, and this still happened. It is time to stop giving benefits of the doubt, or worrying over the social consequences of speaking up, speaking out, removing yourself from programming, or tossing your membership altogether.

What has kept WFC going all these years is the continued attendance of all those vaunted professionals [2020 chair] Ginny [Smith] mentioned. Luminaries that include writers and editors and agents and publishers. Even as con-goers (mostly women) were harassed without consequence, and people with disabilities were made to feel unwanted or as if they were a burden to accommodate, and as an environment of oppression and bigotry against BIPOC flourished, many people still paid several hundred dollars to attend and be on panels and give readings and network.

But they were gonna change it from the inside, doncha know!

(3) IN COMMUNITY. Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko, a Slovenian-born writer and translator currently living in Maine, guests on Sarah Gailey’s Pesonal Canons series with “Personal Canons: Dinotopia”.

…Dinotopia is one of the few books I have read in both Slovenian and English, a fact which speaks to the level of popularity it enjoyed at the peak of the dinosaur renaissance in the early nineties. Like so many other beloved children’s books, Dinotopia is essentially a portal fantasy, in disguise as the journal of Arthur Denison, a scientist from Boston, who is shipwrecked with his twelve-year-old son William in 1862. Rescued by dolphins and delivered to the uncharted continent of Dinotopia, the two are gradually integrated into a society in which dinosaurs live side-by-side with humans.

Classic portal fantasies—Narnia foremost among them—often take the form of white saviour narratives. Dinotopia averts this trope from the start. Gurney’s lavish illustrations spend as much time on minor details of Dinotopian society as they do on the Denisons. Nor are our protagonists especially privileged by virtue of their status as “dolphinbacks”: when Will declares he wants to become a Skybax (pterosaur) rider, his newcomer status is neither boon nor hinderance. He’s warned that no dolphinback has ever been one; then he’s given a course of study, a route by which he might achieve his dream. There are no shortcuts here. It takes a few timeskips to get him to his goal, and when he gets there, when he and his Dinotopian friend Sylvia ask the instructor Oolu for permission to fly as full-fledged Skybax riders, Oolu replies, referring to their pterosaur partners: ‘You don’t need my permission: you have theirs.’

(4) CONGRATULATIONS. [Item by Dann.] Rebecca F. Kuang is graduating from Oxford with distinction.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to cross the pond for pappardelle with Priya Sharma in Episode 129 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Priya Sharma

Priya Sharma has published fiction in InterzoneBlack StaticNightmareThe Dark, and other venues. “Fabulous Beasts” was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and won a British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction. “Ormeshadow,” her first novella, won a Shirley Jackson Award. All the Fabulous Beasts, a collection of some of her work, won both the Shirley Jackson Award and British Fantasy Award. She’s also a Grand Judge for the Aeon Award, an annual writing competition run by Albedo One, Ireland’s magazine of the Fantastic.

We discussed the best decision she made about her debut short story collection All the Fabulous Beasts, how the cover to that book conveys a different message in our COVID-19 world, why we each destroyed much of our early writing, a surprising revelation about the changed ending to one of her stories, who told her as a child “your soul is cracked,” the two of us being both longhand writers and defenders of ambiguity, what it’s like writing (and not writing) for theme anthologies, the most difficult story for her to write, how the pandemic has affected our writing, and much more.

(6) ALAN MOORE SPEAKS. A rare Garbo-like sighting. Tom Grater, in the Deadline story “Alan Moore Gives Rare Interview: ‘Watchmen’ Creator Talks New Project ‘The Show’, How Superhero Movies Have ‘Blighted Culture’ & Why He Wants Nothing To Do With Comics”, says that Moore, promoting his new film The Show, says that he doesn’t care about comics anymore, and the last superhero movie he saw was Tim Burton’s Batman, but he is enjoying calling his grandchildren and reading stories to them.

DEADLINE: You said you feel responsible for how comics have changed, why?

MOORE: It was largely my work that attracted an adult audience, it was the way that was commercialized by the comics industry, there were tons of headlines saying that comics had ‘grown up’. But other than a couple of particular individual comics they really hadn’t.

This thing happened with graphic novels in the 1980s. People wanted to carry on reading comics as they always had, and they could now do it in public and still feel sophisticated because they weren’t reading a children’s comic, it wasn’t seen as subnormal. You didn’t get the huge advances in adult comic books that I was thinking we might have. As witnessed by the endless superhero films…

(7) CHOPPED. The seven-foot-tall bronze sculpture of “Medusa With The Head of Perseus” being installed across the street from 100 Centre St., Manhattan’s criminal courthouse this weekend has been called a commentary on the #MeToo movement (see image here).

Many have tweeted support for the idea. Courtney Milan, however, has voiced a strong dissent. Thread starts here.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1975 — Forty-five years ago, the first World Fantasy Award for Best Novel went to Patricia A. McKillip for The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. It was published by Atheneum Books in 1974 with the cover art by Peter Schaumann. It was her second novel after The House on Parchment Street and was nominated also for a Mythopoeic Society Award but it went to A Midsummer Tempest by Poul Anderson.  Thirty-three years later, she would garner a much deserved World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 9, 1863 – Elaine Eastman.  Superintendent of Indian Education for the Two Dakotas.  Married Dr. Charles Eastman, a Santee Sioux, first American Indian to graduate from medical school and become a physician; with him Wigwam Evenings, Sioux folktales; eight other books by him, a dozen by her.  Her collected poems, The Voice at Eve.  Her memoir Sister to the Sioux published posthumously.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1900 – Harry Bates.  First editor of Astounding.  Under a different name, with D.W. Hall, a novel and five shorter stories of adventurer Hawk Carse; eight more stories with DWH; ten more under HB’s name and others.  Not one but two stories in the great Healy-McComas Adventures in Time & Space.  “Farewell to the Master” unsurpassed.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1935 – Celia Correas de Zapata, 85.  Directed the 1976 Conference of Inter-American Women Writers, one of the earliest.  Edited Short Stories by Latin American Women: the Magic and the Real (2003), also pioneering.  Professor of literature at San Jose State U.  [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1937 – Margo Herr.  Fifty covers for us.  Here is Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?  Here is Analog 9.  Here is Down Here in the Dream Quarter.  Here is Shadows of Doom.  Much more outside our field; Website here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1948 Ciaran Carson. Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist who is here, genre-wise at least, for his translation of the early Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge, which he called simply The Táin. I’m also going to single him out for penning the finest book ever written on Irish traditional music, Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music. It’s every bit as interesting as Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram is. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born October 9, 1952 – Steven Popkes, 68.  Four novels, forty-five shorter stories.  In Caliban Landing humans arrive on a planet, start mapping, told from the viewpoint of a female alien there.  [JH]
  • Born October 9, 1953 Tony Shalhoub, 67. Two great genre roles, the first being Jack Jeebs in Men In Black, the second being I think much more nuanced one, Fred Kwan in Galaxy Quest. Actually, he’s done three great genre roles as he voiced Master Splinter in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. (CE)
  • Born October 9, 1956 Robert Reed, 64. Extremely prolific short story writer with at least two hundred tales so far. And a number of novels as well, such as the superb Marrow series. I see a won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 for his “A Billion Eves” novella. And he was nominated for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer as well. (CE) 
  • Born October 9, 1961 Matt Wagner, 59. The Grendel Tales and Batman / Grendel Are very good as is Grendel vs. The Shadow stories he did a few years back. His run on Madame Xanadu was amazing too. Oh, and I’d suggest both issues of House of Mystery Halloween Annual thathe did for some appropriate Halloween reading. (CE) 
  • Born October 9, 1964 Jacqueline Carey, 56. Author of the long-running mildly BDSM-centered Kushiel’s Legacy Universe which also includes the Moirin Trilogy. (Multiple Green Man reviewers used this phraseology in their approving reviews.) Locus in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”.  She did several stand-alone novels including the intriguingly entitled Miranda and Caliban. (CE)
  • Born October 9, 1964 Guillermo del Toro, 56. Best films? HellboyHellboy II and Pan’s Labyrinth which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Nippon 2007. Hellboy II is watchable over and over just for the Goblin’s Market sequence.  Worst films? The Hobbit films. (CE)
  • Born October 9, 1976 – William Alexander, 44.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  He calls this in Strange Horizons about Le Guin’s Earthsea a revisionist history.  [JH]

(10) SHH! IT’S A SECRET! Let 13th Dimension tell you about “The Goofy Charm of 1950’s ATOM MAN VS. SUPERMAN”.

Atom Man vs. Superman opens with a series of robberies that are plaguing Metropolis. It is, of course, the work of Lex Luthor, who threatens to destroy a nearby bridge if he and his gang don’t receive all the money from the Metropolis Trust Company. He turns a destruction ray on the bridge, but luckily Superman arrives to keep it in place while police rescue some stranded motorists. The Man of Steel then finds Luthor, arrests him, and the arch-criminal is sent off to jail. A year later, everyone is perplexed by a second crime wave, since Luthor is in solitary confinement!

What they don’t know is, Luthor has created a machine that can teleport people short distances, activated by small coins pressed by the user (which sound like the Looney Tunes music starting up). He has been “beaming” in and out of his jail cell, back to his hideout, where he has been masterminding his gang and their numerous robberies.

(11) AND IN THE DARKNESS. Admittedly this story’s from The Sun, but anyway:  “Lord of the Rings TV series slammed for ‘trying to rip off Game of Thrones’ with nudity and sex scenes”. (Incidentally, Stephen Colbert also devoted a couple minutes of his show to the item.)

THE Lord of the Rings TV series has been slammed by fans for ‘trying to rip off Game of Thrones’ with nudity and sex scenes.

Amazon’s new version of the fantasy saga is set to tell the story of Middle Earth before the events of the three Lord of the Rings films.

And according to TheOneRing.net a casting call has been put out for New Zealand-based actors who are “comfortable with nudity.”

The news followers earlier reports that an intimacy coordinator had been brought onto the production team.

Fans of JRR Tolkien’s stories have been quick to express their dismay at the prospect of nudity in the much-loved fantasy stories.

Twitter user Autumn Fox wrote: “Something I’ve always loved about Tolkien is that he portrayed love as containing infinite permutations, none of which depended on sex to be compelling and interesting.”

(12) MINI LTUE. The Life, The Universe, and Everything crew will run a free virtual mini-event on October 10 from 6-9 p.m. MDT. Full information here.

Life, The Universe, and Just a Few Things features all the things you love about LTUE in a mini one-night event. There will be 3 streams running side-by-side for 3 hours, giving you 9 great events to choose from, including panels, presentations, and more! Simply head to our website on the 10th and click the stream you want to join. We will also soon have a Discord for further discussions with attendees. We look forward to having you with us!

(13) BRADBURY’S MARS. Phil Nichols will present “Artsfest Online: Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles at Seventy” on November 10.

…In this illustrated lecture, Phil Nichols recounts the history of The Martian Chronicles, and shows how this short-story collection masquerading as a novel has constantly evolved with our changing times. He considers the long shadow the book has cast over television, radio and film science fiction, and shows how Bradbury’s unscientific book has nevertheless inspired several generations of real-life scientists and astronauts.

(14) FLAME ON. Some Jeopardy! contestants obviously need to sign up for Phil Nichols’ classes. Andrew Porter watched tonight’s panel stumble over the last, Bradbury-themed hurdle. Only the returning champion got it right.

Final Jeopardy: Books of the 1950s.

Answer: A special edition of this 1953 novel came with an asbestos binding.

Wrong questions: What is “Invisible Man?” “What is Brave New World?”

Correct question: “What is Fahrenheit 451?”

(15) SHARP CLAUS. Fatman is coming December 4. Maybe you’ll be lucky and theaters will still be closed when this movie gets released. (Although it looks like Walton Goggins is playing another character of the type he did on Justified, so that could be interesting.)

To save his declining business, Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson), also known as Santa Claus, is forced into a partnership with the U.S. military. Making matters worse, Chris gets locked into a deadly battle of wits against a highly skilled assassin (Walton Goggins), hired by a precocious 12-year-old after receiving a lump of coal in his stocking. ‘Tis the season for Fatman to get even, in the action-comedy that keeps on giving.

(16) KNOT JUST A MODERN PHENOMENON. “The grim reality behind sea-serpents of old”. Nature relates these research highlights – 

‘Sea serpents’ spotted around Great Britain and Ireland in the nineteenth century were probably whales and other marine animals ensnared in fishing gear — long before the advent of the plastic equipment usually blamed for such entanglements.

The snaring of sea creatures in fishing equipment is often considered a modern phenomenon, because the hemp and cotton ropes used in the past degraded more quickly than their plastic counterparts. But Robert France at Dalhousie University in Truro, Canada, identified 51 probable entanglements near Great Britain and Ireland dating as far back as 1809.

France analysed 214 accounts of ‘unidentified marine objects’ from the early nineteenth century to 2000, looking for observations of a monster that had impressive length, a series of humps protruding above the sea surface and a fast, undulating movement through the water. France says that such accounts describe not sea serpents but whales, basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) or other marine animals trailing fishing gear such as buoys or other floats.

Such first-hand accounts could help researchers to construct a better picture of historical populations of marine species and the pressures they faced, France says.

(17) NOT THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES, BUT A FEW AT LEAST. Will The Martian Chronicles be followed by the Martian barnacles? All that water must mean something. Nature is keeping tally: “Three buried lakes detected on Mars.”.

Two years ago, planetary scientists reported the discovery of a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole, a finding that was met with excitement and some scepticism. Now, researchers have confirmed the presence of that lake — and found three more.

This adds to the possible detection of a polar subsurface  lake in 2018, covered at the time by SF2 Concatenation.

(18) INDUCTOR PROGRESS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature tells how “Inductors enter the world of quantum magnets” [PDF file]. This may seem a little esoteric for Filers but actually it is quite important.

Inductors are coils of wire that impede changes in current and they are key components of electrical circuits. The problem is that their effectiveness is proportional to their cross-sectional area (size) and this is a pain if the goal is to miniaturise.

Researchers have now managed to create inductance using magnetic moments (spins) in a magnet to create a quantum mechanical inductor or an emergent inductor. In addition to reducing their size – which has obvious integrated circuit benefits – this new inductor can quickly switch between positive and negative which normal inductors cannot.

However, there is one big problem.  These new inductors need to be super cool. Yet if this can be solved then there will be a revolution in electronics.

(19) DUST TO DUST. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature reports the latest ideas about “Early onset of planetary formation” [PDF file].

Several very young stars (only around a million years old) that still have their surrounding dust cloud, have been seen to have planetary formation as the protoplanets sweep out a circular path in the dust about the young star.

It is thought that planets from by dust, clumping into pebbles, then into boulders and so build their way up into planets.

However modelling this process and it seems to take too long.

This problem may have been solved by astronomers who have now seen patterns in a condensing dust cloud that is in the process of becoming a star.  These patterns are rings that could indicate the presence of an orbiting protoplanet.  The key thing is that this star is so young that it has not yet even properly got going.  This means that planet formation may begin even before the star properly ignites (starts fusion).

(20) EARTHSHOT PRIZE. Vanity Fair shares a glimpse as “Prince William Previews His TED Talk: ‘The Shared Goals For Our Generation Are Clear’”.

Prince William has recorded his first TED talk, an 18-minute speech—recorded at Windsor Castle— discussing climate change and his vision of the Earthshot Prize, the ambitious initiative he announced yesterday. The TED Talk will air on Saturday as part of the Countdown Global Launch, the first-ever free TED conference that will be available on YouTube.

The Duke joins a number of high profile people for the event devoted to climate change, including Pope Francis, Al Gore, Chris Hemsworth, Jaden Smith, Jane Fonda, Christiana Figueres, and Don Cheadle.. In the preview clip William says, “The shared goals for our generation are clear — together we must protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, build a waste-free world and fix our climate. And we must strive to do all of this in a decade. If we achieve these goals, by 2030 our lives won’t be worse and we won’t have to sacrifice everything we enjoy. Instead, the way we live will be healthier, cleaner, smarter and better for all of us.”

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. John King Tarpinian says, “If nothing else the closing credits are worth it.” Ray Bradbury’s The Homecoming” Ben Wickey’s 2016 CalArts Film.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Dann, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

World Fantasy Con 2020 Apology for Program Draft Seeks to Stem Participant Attrition

After seeing the complaints voiced about the draft program for World Fantasy Convention 2020 (“Virtual WFC 2020 Program Attracts Criticism”), the WFC 2020 committee directed an apology at several writers on Twitter.

We are sorry that our program caused hurt and concern, thank you to those that commented. We are working with our team and panelists to amend this and will be revising it as an ongoing process.

And they pulled the panel descriptions, explaining on the convention’s Program webpage:

We are excited about the awesome panel discussions scheduled for the 2020 Virtual World Fantasy Convention. We have some terrific conversations planned, and our panelists are amazing.

But some of our original descriptions failed to live up to our members’ expectations. We apologize for offending the very people we hope to include in this year’s convention. We hear you, and we appreciate your feedback. We’re working to revise the descriptions – with the help of some of those amazing panelists! – and will update them here as they’re finalized.

WFC2020 Chair Ginny Smith also responded to File 770’s post in a comment here, saying in part:

We have sponsored 46 people of color to participate in the convention at no cost (so far – more to come I hope), and have worked very hard to ensure that every panel is comprised of people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. The panelist list hasn’t been published yet, but when it is I hope the list demonstrates our commitment to equity and diversity.

But some authors who were going to be on the program have already seen enough to make up their minds.  

David Levine wrote on Facebook and Twitter on October 8.

Very sorry to say this, but I’m going to have to withdraw from World Fantasy Convention 2020. Despite a lot of effort on many people’s part, the recent fiasco with panel descriptions demonstrates that the convention simply doesn’t understand how to operate in a diverse world without stepping on marginalized people. I hope that the World Fantasy Convention ? board recognizes that it has a serious, ongoing problem and takes strong action to change course in 2021 and beyond.

The Writing Excuses podcast hosted by authors Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and author and web cartoonist Howard Tayler will not provide content for use by the virtual convention. (Note: Sanderson is one of WFC 2020’s Author Special Guests.)

Also, this tweet from K. Tempest Bradford was retweeted by Mary Robinette Kowal, a signal boost with extra impact because it was Kowal who led the effort to bail out the 2018 Worldcon program.

Jeff VanderMeer tweeted on October 7 that after being told what panel he was on, he was bowing out.

Yilin Wang dropped out October 6.

One writer who has not dropped out, Kate Heartfield, still has some misgivings:

There are three weeks to go before WFC 2020 begins. When the revised program descriptions and panel assignments come out, the decision of other program participants to stay or go will be revealed if they have not announced it before then.

Update: Kate Heartfield tweeted on October 9 that she has now withdrawn from WFC2020 program and membership.

Cat Rambo has also dropped out.

Pixel Scroll 8/10/20
Ancillary Mustache

(1) ADDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Speculative Fiction in Translation’s Rachel Cordasco renews her appeal that “major Anglophone SFF awards should include a separate translation category” in “SFT And The Awards”.

…Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

….And then there’s the whole set of general arguments opposing, or at least not immediately embracing, a separate translation category. I’ve listed a few below:

  • We already have too many award categories.
  • Not enough Anglophone readers read SFT so how could they vote on it?
  • Creating a separate translation category will send the message that SFT is inferior to Anglophone speculative fiction.
  • SFT can win and has won awards without any “help.”
  • But how can we determine if the translation is any good?
  • Changing award rules is too difficult.

I’m going to address each of these points separately, making sure that I reiterate that I am not involved in any of these awards at the executive level, though I did participate in the most recent Locus Awards voting and was able to bring my knowledge of current SFT to the discussion, which I truly appreciated.

You may also know that I started a “Favorite SFT” poll in 2018, which is open to anyone who would like to vote (once!). This approach has its flaws but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. Just the fact that the poll exists makes me think that more people are becoming aware that SFT does exist.

To the first point that “we already have too many award categories”: so what? And also, is a translated category somehow less important than the “Young Adult” or “First Novel” category? And to the subpoint that some translated work might win in two categories, can’t that happen with other categories? And aren’t there ways to get around that? I freely admit that I’m not cut out for business meetings and deciding rules about rules- which is one of the reasons why I’m not on these committees. This is just me on a website putting forth my opinions, against which everyone is free to argue. (Just be respectful when you rip me to shreds, ok?)….

(2) DAY AFTER DAY. SYFY Wire explores “The Unending Appeal Of Time Loops”. But only once.

…But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg’s Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people’s fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

(3) FIYAHCON. I signed up for FIYAHCON (October 17-18) news in time to receive its August Update naming three more guests:

FIYAHCON tweeted additional information: Rebecca Roanhorse: “We suspect you know @RoanhorseBex from all of that constant award-winning she does as a Black + Indigenous writer of many brilliant things.”; Cassie Hart: “is a Maori writer who’s been working intensely behind the scenes to shine a light on SFF from Aotearoa while grinding out an impressive number of works herself.”; Yasser Bahjatt: “chaired the Worldcon bid for Saudi Arabia. And while that didn’t land, we are thrilled to hear more from him about Arabian SFF and other ways we can uplift and celebrate the spec community there.”

The three newcomers join FIYAHCON’s previously announced guests:

There’s also an educational FIYAH Definition T-Shirt that’s new.

(4) THE NEXT MARTIAN. io9 points to today’s trailer drop: “Hilary Swank Is on a Mission to Mars in the Emotional First Trailer for Netflix’s Away.

She’s boldly going where no one has gone before, but doing so means leaving the people she loves the most. We’ve got the first trailer for Netflix’s Away, a new series that sees Hilary Swank joining the first manned mission to Mars—a three-year journey that will test the limits of its crew, as well as the patience of those who were left behind….

(5) JUST SAYIN’. Jay Blanc tweeted his ideas for improving Hugo administration. Thread starts here. Whether or not he has the solution (and CoNZealand Deputy Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte responded skeptically in the thread), I had to agree with Blanc’s last tweet about what one of the problems is.

He’s not alone in marveling at how many times in the past decade the Hugos have been hamstrung because someone was writing code from scratch. That doesn’t always happen for the same reason. We didn’t always need or want, in the past, a system that integrates all aspects of a member’s digital interaction with the convention. That’s what they’re moving toward, therefore it would make sense for that software to be created and stabilized. Funding it, having the work done and vetted, and working out licensing to the committees (which are entities of their own) would all be part of the mission.

(6) THE EYES HAVE IT. “Looking Forward on Looking Backwards” at The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Because they are voted on primarily by people who were born decades after the original publication dates, the Retro Hugos are less likely to recognize work that has not been reprinted. This means that the average Retro Hugo voter inevitably experiences the works they’re voting on through a filter created by the intervening generations. Other than Erle KorshakCora Buhlert, and Gideon Marcus, we’d be hard-pressed to name a Hugo voter who is likely to have read a 1945-era pulp magazine cover-to-cover and experienced the works in something like their original context….

No need to be so “hard-pressed.” You have not because you ask not.

…For the Retro Hugos to be relevant and worthwhile awards, we as members of the World Science Fiction Society need to wrestle with why the awards need to exist. Is their intent to reproduce the racist tastes of the past or can they help focus a critical lens on the history of the genre and help us discover works that might have been overlooked?

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 10, 1951 Tales Of Tomorrow first broadcast the “Blunder” in which a scientist is warned his experiment with nuclear fission could destroy the earth. Written by Philip Wylie who wrote the screenplay for When Worlds Collide.  The primary cast is Robert Allen and Ann Loring. It was directed by Leonard Valenta who otherwise did soap,operas. The original commercials are here as well.  You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1931 – Alexis Gilliland, 89.  Seven novels, six shorter stories and a Feghoot; Campbell (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Chaired six Disclaves.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) met at his house for decades.  One of our finest fanartists.  Four Hugos, three FAAn (FAn Activity Achievement) Awards, Rotsler.  Letters, perhaps three hundred cartoons in AlexiadAlgolAmazingAnalogAsimov’sChungaFantasy ReviewFlagJanusLocusMimosaPulphouseSF EyeSF CommentarySF ReviewSFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) BulletinStar*Line, Worldcon Souvenir Books.  Here is a cover for SF Review.  See hereherehere.  Makes good deviled eggs.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 76. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her? (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 65. Best-known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 – Tom Kidd, 65.  Eight Chesleys.  Artbooks KiddographyOtherWorldsHow to Draw & Paint Dragons.  Three hundred eighty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Here is Not This August.  Here is the Oct 83 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is Songs of the Dying Earth.  Here is Overruled.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1962 – Horia Gâbea, Sc.D., 58.  Romanian playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, engineer, popularizer of contract bridge.  University of Bilbao prize for poetry.  The Serpent performed by the British Royal Court Theatre.  Translator of Chekhov, Corneille, John D. MacDonald, Machiavelli.  Accused of being “gratuitously bookish…. a pun more important than a murder…. thin and edgy like a razor…. forgives no one no thing.” Worlds and Beings anthology in English.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 55. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can on Amazon Prime.  (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1971 – Lara Morgan, 49.  Six novels for us.  “Her mission is to rid the world of tea, one cup at a time.  This is going quite well.”  She liked All Our Yesterdays, alas for me not Harry Warner’s but Cristin Terrill’s; ranked Ender’s Game about the same as Lilith’s Brood.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1985 – Andrew Drilon, 35.  A dozen short stories; Philippine Speculative Fiction 9 with Charles Tan; four covers, three dozen interiors; comics.  Here is Heroes, Villains, and Other Women.  Here is WonderLust.  Here is a sequence from his own Whapak! [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOUBLE-OH BRACKETS. Morgan Jeffery, in “Sean Connery named the best James Bond as thousands of 007 fans vote in our poll” in Radio Times, says that 14,000 James Bond fans voted to see who the best Bond of all time was, with Sir Sean Connery first, Timothy Dalton second, and Pierce Brosnan third.  Sam Heughan from Outlander was named the #1 choice to be the new Bond in the survey,

…Round 1 saw Connery knock out current 007 actor Daniel Craig, coming out on top with 56 per cent of the vote compared to Craig’s 43 per cent, while Pierce Brosnan winning Round 2 with 76 per cent against his opponent George Lazenby’s 24 per cent.

Round 3 saw perhaps the most surprising result yet, as Roger Moore was knocked out of the competition – with 41 per cent of the vote, he lost out to his immediate successor Timothy Dalton, who scored 49 per cent of the vote.

(11) TOP TEN. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy”. After all, nobody wants to buy just plain old Trek merchandise. And one item meets a need of Filers who never have enough of these —

4. Next Generation Spoons

At some point, someone decided that Star Trek fans were fanatical about cutlery and all things fine dining, hence the creations of a series of elegant Next Generation spoons.

The high-quality spoons feature the faces of fan-favorite characters such as Captain Picard and Data on the handle of each implement. While nice its almost impossible to imagine anyone actually using these spoons to eat with and the illogical decisions that led to their creation would no doubt befuddle Spock.

(12) APOLLO 1 INVESTIGATION. Dwayne Day continues his exploration of space history with new details about the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 in The Space Review: “After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation”.

As long as there has been spaceflight, there have been conspiracy theories. There were conspiracy theories about Sputnik in the late 1950s (“their Germans are better than our Germans”) and dead cosmonauts in the early 1960s. Even before some people claimed—on the very day that it happened—that the Moon landing was faked, Apollo had its own conspiracy theories. In those days it was difficult for them to propagate and reach a wide audience, unlike today, when they can spread around the world at the speed of light. One of those Apollo conspiracy theories was about a whistleblower named Thomas Baron, who later died under mysterious circumstances.

Baron worked on the Apollo program in Florida for one of the key contractors. After the Apollo 1 fire in early 1967, Baron testified before a congressional fact-finding delegation that went to Florida. He later died under what some people considered to be mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that he was killed to shut him up. The transcript of his testimony also could not be found by later researchers, which fueled the speculation that somebody was covering up damaging information.

In 1999, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, radio station WAMU in Washington, DC, aired a program about the role of Washington politics in the lunar landing. “Washington Goes to the Moon” was written and produced by Richard Paul and featured interviews with a number of key figures in the story. Paul had decided that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent investigations into its cause would be a key focus of the program. In the course of researching the fire, he stumbled upon a document that many believed was long-lost: a transcript of an interview with Thomas Baron, who alleged that there were numerous improper actions taken by his employer, North American Aviation, which was building the spacecraft.

(13) THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. “The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three” – BBC kept count.

From invading animals to a faulty computer chip worth less than a dollar, the alarmingly long list of close calls shows just how easily nuclear war could happen by mistake.

…All told, there have been at least 22 alarmingly narrow misses since nuclear weapons were discovered. So far, we’ve been pushed to the brink of nuclear war by such innocuous events as a group of flying swans, the Moon, minor computer problems and unusual space weather. In 1958, a plane accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb in a family’s back garden; miraculously, no one was killed, though their free-range chickens were vaporised. Mishaps have occurred as recently as 2010, when the United States Air Force temporarily lost the ability to communicate with 50 nuclear missiles, meaning there would have been no way to detect and stop an automatic launch.

(14) BLOCKHOUSE FOR BLOCKHEADS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Schultz, in “For Sale: A Cold War Bunker and Missile Silo in North Dakota” on Atlas Obscura, says that tomorrow auctioneers will sell a 50-acre site in North Dakota that housed a missile base loaded with Sprint missiles that were supposed to be the last line of defense against Soviet ICBM’s.  The missiles are gone but the buildings are still there, and it’s perfect for a slan shack or future Worldcon bid, or would be an ideal place to conduct fan feuds.  What better place to launch verbal missiles than a place that housed real missiles? Plus all the former missile silos are guaranteed to be socially distant from each other!

HALF AN HOUR SOUTH OF the Canadian border, in Fairdale, North Dakota, a hulking concrete structure rises up from the flat fields that surround it. The beige buildings are so prominent on an otherwise pastoral landscape that they could be mistaken for a 20th-century Stonehenge.

It’s a Cold War missile site, and it’s for sale.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. In “The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George promises a film with “a whole lot of walking.  Even the trees walk.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, N., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/21/20 Social Distancing Warriors

(1) UK EASTERCON CANCELLED. Concentric, the 2020 Eastercon, was cancelled today. The con was to have been held April 10-13 in Birmingham, UK. Thread starts here.

(2) SERLING’S BASEBALL DRAMA TO AIR. “Rod Serling’s lost baseball show to make return” – the Fifties show has been re-created by students and Anne Serling will narrate.

If there’s one thing we could all use right now, it’s baseball — in any form. Well, how about a baseball story written by none other than “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling?

On March 25, when we would otherwise be preparing for Opening Day, Cincinnati’s WVXU-FM will be streaming Serling’s radio drama, “O’Toole From Moscow.”

Written in 1955 — four years before “The Twilight Zone” debuted — the show is set during the Cold War and follows a Soviet Embassy worker who loves the Brooklyn Dodgers and skips town with a “comrade who suddenly becomes the greatest slugger ever for the Cincinnati Reds” — no word on if this slugger also ripped off his sleeves the way Ted Kluszewski did.

… The drama, which featured an appearance from Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, only aired once on NBC, and no recordings were ever made. Fortunately, Cincinnati journalist John Kiesewetter managed to hunt down the original script, and then edit it into a radio drama. With help from actors at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Anne Serling — Rod’s daughter — to provide the narration, the show was recorded in November and now awaits its debut.

(3) FILLING THE VACANCY. K. Tempest Bradford and Lou Antonelli have been exchanging barbs over his write-in candidacy to become a SFWA director-at-large. Bradford’s thread starts here.

Antonelli’s comments include —

(4) BOOKSTORE GOFUNDME. Nancy Hanger’s Star Cats Books in Vermont hopes to raise $7,500: “Save Star Cat Books in the time of Covid-19”.

Don’t let Covid-19 kill this bookstore!

Most Vermonters have already decided to shelter at home, and even at mid-day roads are close to empty. Fixed costs continue. The owner of Star Cat Books has a compromised immune system, but fears she must stay open for the few people who are looking for books for their kids or themselves. “Just closing” for two months, which is the shortest period the experts project this to last, guarantees the store will close forever. Even if two months is enough to end the risk, business will not return to normal at once.

(5) ORDER UP. Meanwhile, Jeff VanderMeer is lending a hand to his local Tallahassee bookstore Midtown Reader with sales of signed copies of his books, plus this special offer to receive a unique autographed item —

(6) TIME AGAIN TO POP THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid barrels onward – here a link to the issue for 20th March 2020.

This week, there’s a look at how Netflix often write genre fiction kids very well, focusing on Lost in Space, Locke & Key and October Faction. We’ve also got a look at Marieke Nijkamp, Manuel Preitano, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles’ excellent Barbara Gordon YA graphic novel The Oracle Code. An interview with Marieke is planned for a future issue too (Although it did sneak into the Contents page here. Barbara Gordon folks, best hacker in the business). 

We’re also ramping up Signal Boost as multiple creatives and creative industries struggle under the growing changes to the fabric of modern life. If you have a project you’d like over 500 extra sets of eyes on, do get in touch.

(7) FREE PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Forthcoming issues and a lot of digital archives can be accessed free announced PW’s President, George Slowik.

We will make the digital magazine available to everyone regardless of whether you subscribe starting with the current issue (March 16, 2020).

Everyone can now access the digital edition of PW from www.digitalpw.com or from the PW app on iOS and Android.

Additionally, articles, past bestsellers lists and the reviews database, which includes a search feature and the reviews listed by genre, will be made available to all.

And last, I am very pleased to share access to our recently launched archive database. The archive includes 7,597 past issues, 676,133 pages, 400,000 book reviews, 5,000 author profiles and interviews and, beginning in 1895, bestseller lists.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 21, 1989 Gor II, also known as Outlaw of Gor, premiered. It is a sequel to Gor and is directed this time by John Cardos. It is based on the Gor series by John Norman, but varies quite a bit from the original Outlaw of Gor novel. It starred Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier and, yes, Jack Palance. You can see it here as lovingly critiqued on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 21, 1915 Ian Stuart Black. British screenplay writer best known for scripting two First Doctor stories, “The Savages” and “The War Machines” (with Kit Pedler and Pat Dunlop) and a Third Doctor story, “The Macra Terror”. He wrote thirteen episodes of The Invisible Man as well as episodes of One Step BeyondThe SaintStar Maidens and Danger Man. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 21, 1931 Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 Lorene Yarnell. She was actually part of Shields and Yarnell, a well-known mime team, but you will know her as Dot Matrix on Spaceballs. She had a few previous genre appearances including being a villain named Forimicida on Wonder Women, and Sonia on The Wild Wild West Revisted. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 — Hilary Minster. He appeared twice on Doctor Who, one in a Third Doctor story, “Planet of the Daleks” and before that in a Second Doctor story, “Genesis of the Daleks.” He also was in “Achilles Heel”, an episode of The Tomorrow People, and he had a minor role in The Girl in a Swing film based on the Richard Adams novel. Finally, he was Fritz, a German soldier, in Timeslip, a children’s SF series. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 74. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now!  He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials.
  • Born March 21, 1946 Terry Dowling, 74. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Minnight which I’ve not read. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but Kindle has this plus several story collections. 
  • Born March 21, 1947 Don Markstein. He was the creator and sole maintainer of Don Markstein’s Toonpedia which is subtitled A Vast Repository of Toonological Knowledge. It is an encyclopedia of print cartoons, comic strips and animation started in  2001. He said, “The basic idea is to cover the entire spectrum of American cartoonery.” (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 64. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light superb weblog, Back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delia Sherman and Terri Windling. 
  • Born March 21, 1985 Sonequa Martin-Green, 35. She currently plays Michael Burnham on Discovery which is now I believe in its third series. She had a brief recurring role as Tamara in Once Upon a Time, and a much longer recurring role on The Walking Dead as Sasha Williams but I’ve never seen her there as zombies hold no interest to me. Well Solomon Grundy does…  And she was in the Shockwave, Darkside film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMIC BOOK EVENT POSTPONED. Free Comic Book Day is also a casualty of the coronavirus outbreak — “Free Comic Book Day 2020 Postponed”.

As the impact and spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, Diamond Comic Distributors is aware that Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) will be impacted to varying degrees throughout the world. With that in mind, Diamond Comic Distributors has made the difficult decision to postpone the event to a date later in the Summer.

“The severity and timing of the impact of the COVID-19 virus can’t be predicted with any certainty, but the safety of our retailer partners and comic book fans is too important to risk. As always, we appreciate your enthusiasm for and support of the comic industry’s best event and look forward to celebrating with you later in the Summer,” said Diamond Founder and CEO, Steve Geppi.

Free Comic Book Day 2020 offers a selection of 47 titles available absolutely free at participating local comic shops across the United States and around the world….

(12) TOO LATE THE PHYSICIAN. AP reports: “China exonerates doctor reprimanded for warning of virus”.

China has exonerated a doctor who was officially reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease, a startling admission of error by the ruling Communist Party that generally bodes no challenges to its authority.

The party’s top disciplinary body said the police force in Wuhan had revoked its admonishment of Dr. Li Wenliang that had included a threat of arrest.

It also said a “solemn apology” had been issued to Li’s family and that two police officers, identified only by their surnames, had been issued “disciplinary punishments” for the original handling of the matter.

(13) ESCAPE. Atlas Obscura illustrates “How Soviet Science Magazines Fantasized About Life in Outer Space”.

A tall stele rises from a deeply cratered surface, casting a long, ominous shadow past a row of smaller towers. Straight lines connect the structures to each other, like streets on a map or the projected moves in a game of cosmic chess. The Earth floats serenely in the dark sky, next to the logo that reads Tekhnika—molodezhi, Russian for Technology for the Youth, a Soviet popular science magazine that launched in 1933. The magazine cover, from 1969, illustrated an article highlighting photographs from Luna 9, the Soviet unmanned spacecraft that was the first to survive a landing on the Moon a few years earlier.

This imagined moonscape is one of more than 250 otherworldly images from the upcoming, visually delightful book, Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR, by Alexandra Sankova, director and founder of the Moscow Design Museum, which collaborated on the book with her. 

(14) SEEN YOU SOMEWHERE BEFORE. ScreenRant matches up “10 Pairs of Famous Movies That Used The Same Set”.

5 Blazing Saddles & John Carter – Vasquez Rocks

Key examples of both include Blazing Saddles, which used the rocks to portray the harsh terrain of the Western desert, and John Carter, which used them to convey the harsh terrain of Mars.

Speaking of Star Trek, one of the first uses of this location was in the original series, when Kirk had to go down to an alien planet and battle a lizard-human to death. The episode made the locale a common go-to for Westerns and science fiction films looking to create foreign landscapes.

(15) LAURENTIANS, REASSEMBLE! BBC reports “Diamond samples in Canada reveal size of lost continent”.

Canadian scientists have discovered a fragment of an ancient continent, suggesting that it was 10% larger than previously thought.

They were studying diamond samples from Baffin Island, a glacier-covered land mass near Greenland, when they noticed a remnant of North Atlantic Craton.

Cratons are ancient, stable parts of the Earth’s continental crust.

The North American Craton stretched from present-day Scotland to North America and broke apart 150m years ago.

Scientists chanced on the latest evidence as they examined exploration samples of kimberlite, a rock that often contains diamonds, from Baffin Island.

(16) YIELD OF THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. The outbreak inspired France24’s English-language service to look at the ways genre creators have already thought about the problem in “Dystopia vs reality: Sci-fi movies are helping us gain a critical outlook on society.”

As COVID-19 spreads throughout the world, we take at a look at certain sci-fi movies and dystopian novels that had perhaps predicted certain consequences of such an outbreak. In this edition, we also explore the influence and the critical outlook that TV series can have on science and innovation but also politics and society at large.

(17) NO STATUE OF LIMITATIONS? I don’t feel too broken up about the predicament as stated in the NBC Sports headline, but they did get me to click and find out about the “curse” – maybe you will too. “Coronavirus could prevent Hanshin Tigers from breaking the Curse of the Colonel”.

…The finger-lickin’ curse was placed on the team following their triumph in the 1985 Japan Series over the Seibu Lions. Revelers took to the streets of Osaka in celebration of their favorite team’s first championship, and many of them gathered on Ebisu Bridge for a familiar ritual.

Japanese baseball fans are like soccer fans. They don’t stoically sit in the grandstand and only make noise when prompted to by organ players or jumbotrons. They have chants and songs for all sorts of occasions and for every player, with brass instrumental accompaniments. Japanese baseball, you see, actually encourages fun.

So there upon the bridge, they sang the songs for each of the victorious players and selected a member of the crowd who most looked like each of the players, and gave them the honor of jumping down into the canal below. This was all well and good until they got to Randy Bass, who had just won the series MVP award for the Tigers. There weren’t any Caucasian guys in the crowd, so the revelers purloined a statue of Colonel Sanders from outside of a nearby KFC and tossed it into the canal.

This has since been regarded as a karmically poor decision, as the Tigers proceeded to finish under .500 for the next 18 years.

The idea that the team had been cursed by making the Colonel sleep with the fishes quickly spread. Numerous attempts were made to recover the statue to no avail, and the proprietor of the KFC outlet was apologized to, but nothing could seem to cure the team’s misfortune….

[Thank to Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kenned, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Alan Baumler, Mlex, Alasdair Stuart, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Carl Brandon Society Resumes Parallax and Kindred Awards

The Carl Brandon Society is reinstituting the Carl Brandon Brandon Parallax and Kindred Awards.  These two literary awards are given annually to outstanding works of speculative fiction. Nominations are now open.

  • The Carl Brandon Parallax Award goes to the best speculative fiction created by a person of color in the preceding calendar year. 
  • The Carl Brandon Kindred Award goes to the work of speculative that best explores and expands our understanding of race in the preceding calendar year; its creator may be of any racial or ethnic background. 

Each award includes an award plaque, a check for US$1000, and the opportunity to participate in the award ceremony.

Nominations for works to be considered for the 2019 Parallax and Kindred Awards are open as of March 6, 2020, and they close April 15, 2020.  Nomination forms are electronic only, and are available via a link on the organization’s website or directly at https://forms.gle/rK3nuYspyL3gn2Ur8.

The first Carl Brandon Parallax and Kindred Awards were presented 2006 for Walter Mosley’s novel 47 and Susan Vaught’s novel Stormwitch, respectively.  The Awards continued through 2011; for a complete history, please visit the Society website.

Founded in 1999, the Carl Brandon Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction.  We administer the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund and operate a list serve supporting the growing presence of People of Color in the imaginative genres. 

The Carl Brandon Society Steering Committee members are K. Tempest Bradford, Maurice Broaddus, Candra K. Gill, Jaymee Goh, Victor J. Raymond, Kate Schaefer, and Nisi Shawl.

Pixel Scroll 2/27/20 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) PASSING THE GRAIL. “Steven Spielberg Won’t Direct Indiana Jones 5” reports Vanity Fair.

“Indiana…let it go.”

This was what the adventurer’s father said to him in the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as he hung by one hand from a cliff and reached with the other toward the Holy Grail. Ultimately, the words hit home. As much as he wanted one more treasure, he had gone far enough.

That’s apparently the conclusion Steven Spielberg just reached. The Oscar winner has decided not to direct a planned fifth movie about Harrison Ford’s punch-throwing archaeologist, multiple sources confirmed to Vanity Fair. Instead, James Mangold, director of Ford v Ferrari, Wolverine, and Logan, is in talks to take over the project, which is still set to hit theaters on July 9, 2021.

A source close to Spielberg told Vanity Fair, “The decision to hand over directing duties was entirely Steven’s,” adding that “he felt now was the perfect time to let a new director and a new generation give their perspective to the overall story and this film.”

(2) EGYPT ACROSS THE AGES. Juliette Wade hosts “K. Tempest Bradford” at Dive Into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis, watch the video, or do both!

…She’s been researching Egypt for a long time. She told us about how she’s been attempting to write a novel set in Egypt since college. In fact, it’s a grouping of projects, not one (as is appropriate with a long and thorough research project of this nature!).  

She started with a novel based on the life of Pharaoh Akhenaten with links to Oedipus, and then decided she didn’t have the skills to do it well and put it on the back burner. At that point she started learning a lot about the 18th dynasty. People know a lot about that period, she points out, and she has become very knowledgeable about it. Then she started writing a Steampunk story set in ancient Egypt, pushing boundaries. It started out as a short story and turned into a novel. That, she says, has been common for projects she’s worked on since Clarion West. That piece is set at the start of the beginning of the 18th dynasty….

Tempest says she’s thought about carrying forward the steampunk cultural elements into her other novel. Giant flying scarab beetles run by the heat of the sun for Akhenaten to ride in sounded pretty awesome to us!

(3) FOWL PLAY. In the February 1 Irish Times, Niamh Donnelly interviews Eoin Colfer about his new fantasy Highwire, as Colfer discusses the forthcoming Artemis Fowl movie, how he hopes to slow down after 43 books, and the graphic novels he writes that deal with contemporary political issues: “Eoin Colfer: ‘Humour defines me … I’m obsessed with it’”.

… “As a teacher I always found that telling stories was the best way to teach because you could sneak the information inside an adventure story. So, a lot of the Artemis books, for example, would have a very ecological message. My books tend to be, of late, a mixture of escapism and trying to tackle issues head on. Last year we did the graphic novel, Illegal, which was, just blatantly, a book about how tough it is to migrate from Africa to Europe. But because it was a graphic novel, we got to people who wouldn’t normally get that subject. And we also brought a lot of people who do like that subject into the world of graphic novels. And then the flip side of that is I like to do books like Highfire and Fowl Twins just so people can have a laugh and kids can go to bed smiling.”

(4) ATTENTION STATION ELEVEN FANS. Penguin Random House talks ghost stories and more in a Q&A with Emily St. John Mandel:

Q: Was there a particular event or idea that was the genesis for The Glass Hotel?

A: My original idea was that I wanted to write a ghost story that was also somehow about money. (In fact, one of my early working titles was Ghosts and Money, because titles are hard.) But the event that captured my imagination was the collapse of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The characters in the novel are entirely fictional, but the central crime is essentially Madoff’s.

Q: Station Eleven fans will find some small nods to that beloved novel here. While this novel is different in so many ways how do you see it in relation to Station Eleven? It seems like they are both in many ways about art?

A: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. I also think it’s fair to say that if The Glass Hotel is a departure from Station Eleven, it’s in many ways a return to the themes that preoccupied me in my earlier work. My first three novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were largely concerned with bad decisions, the question of how to live honourably in a damaged world, memory, and questionable morality.

(5) AVOID THE TRAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This anecdote about Bradbury and Matheson is from “The Genre of You” by Jonathan Maberry behind a paywall in the March Writer’s Digest

‘What kind of writer do you want to be?’

That question was asked of me when I was 13.  I’d been dragged along to a party at a penthouse in New York City.  It was 1971 and the person asking the question was the legendary writer Richard Matheson…

…Before I could answer, another of the writers at the party — national treasure Ray Bradbury –touched my shoulder and said, ‘Be careful, young man.  That question’s a trap.”…

…So, what was the trap?  I found out when I did not step into it. ‘I don’t know,’ I said.  ‘A lot of things, I guess.’

Matheson beamed a great smile. ‘Good answer!’ he said, then explained why. ‘A genre is something that matters to the people in marketing.  It doesn’t matter much to me.  It doesn’t matter to Ray. We write what we want to write and then figure out how to sell it.”

Bradbury agreed.  ‘I like science fiction and fantasy, but if an idea for mystery comes and whispers loud enough to my ear, I’ll have to listen.’

The rest of the article includes anecdotes from Matheson, Harlan Ellison, and Joe R. Lansdale.  Here’s one more Bradbury quote:

“Don’t just write what you want to read — everyone does that. Write the story you would go out of your way to hunt down and read.'”

(6) MICHAEL HERTZ OBIT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Michael Hertz, creator of definitive New York City subway map, RIP. Among other things, he found a way to redo the map so it could be done as one rather than 5. Paywalled NYT obit. Non-paywalled Chicago Tribune pickup of NYT article: “He designed one of the most consulted images in modern history: Creator of the NYC subway map dies at 87”

“It was the 1970s,” Arline L. Bronzaft, a psychologist who worked on Hertz’s replacement map, told Newsday in 2004. “People were fearful of going on the subways. We wanted people to use the map to see the sights of New York.”

The map that Hertz’s firm came up with included streets, neighborhoods and other surface reference points. And it depicted the city and its signature elements like Central Park and the waterways in a fashion more reflective of reality — the park wasn’t square, as on the earlier map, and the water wasn’t beige.

It feels like I recently read an article on the evolution of subway maps, as the systems’ complexity grew… but I can’t find or remember it. Ah well.

(Somewhere I still have a few NYT subway tokens of various sizes (= different values over the years). Pretty sure at least one was for a 10cent fare.)

Transit-map-wise, I did buy these two books a year or three ago (but haven’t really looked through them yet): Transit Maps of the World: Expanded and Updated Edition of the World’s First Collection of Every Urban Train Map on Earth

Or, for the train-specific: Railway Maps of the World.

For the sfnal connection, I’ve got a list of transit maps for Middle Earth that I put together a year and a half ago (if the Fellowship had had ’em, those books and movies could have been shorter, methinks), but apparently didn’t offer to OGH… I’ll recheck and update it and send it in.

Meanwhile, there’s the Westeros Metro System map.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 27, 1979 The Curse of Dracula premiered on NBC. Michael Nouri was Count Dracula, who is living undercover as a college teacher in 1979 San Francisco.  It was part of Cliffhangers which attempted to resurrect the genre of film serials. Each hour-long episode was divided into three 20-minute (including commercials) stories featuring different storylines Including this one. The Secret Empire was another genre serial done as part of this show. You can see the first episode of The Curse of Dracula here. Cliffhangers lasted but a single season from the 27th of February to 1st of May 1979. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1902 John Steinbeck. Yes, John Steinbeck. ISFDB lists one novel, The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication, Plus a bevy of short fiction such as “The Wedding of King”, “The Affair at 7 Rue de M—“ and “The Death of Merlin”. I’ll admit that i didn’t know these existed. So, has anyone read these? (Died 1968.)
  • Born February 27, 1915 Donald Curtis. His first genre role was an uncredited one as Ronal in the first twelve chapters of the Forties Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. He’s a German sentry in Invisible Agent, an WW II propaganda film, and Dr. John Carter in It Came from Beneath the Sea, a Fifties SF film. Likewise he’s in another Fifties SF film, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, as Major Huglin. He played five different characters during on Science Fiction Theater, and he’d later have a one-offs on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart!. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 27, 1927 —  Lynn Cartwright. She had a career in genre productions starting with two Fifties pulp films, Queen of Outer Space and Wasp Women. She next shows up in The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood, his Lusty Men and Bawdy Wenches. She has an appearance in the Far Out Space Nuts series, and earlier showed up on Science Fiction TheaterThe Lucifer Complex is her SF role. (Died 2004.)
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. So, what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 60. Creator and illustrator of the most awesome Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 56. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as  Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1970 Michael A. Burstein, 50. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 1997 for “TeleAbsence”. His “Sanctuary” novella was chosen by Analog readers as the best novella published by the magazine in 2005. He has one to date, Remember the Future: The Award-Nominated Stories of Michael A. Burstein, which is available fir the usual digital publishers.
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 44. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5).

(9) NEBULA PLATTER. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy and Joe Sherry hit the highlights of the Nebula ballot in “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The 2019 Nebula Awards”.

Joe: I’d love to see a Nebula Longlist where we can see the even just the three or four books that just missed the ballot because here’s where things get interesting for me – I’m surprised that neither The City in the Middle of the Night nor The Light Brigade made the ballot. There’s no telling how, exactly, the Nebulas will translate to the Hugo Awards except that I think we both agree that A Song for a New Day feels more like a Nebula Book than a Hugo Book for whatever that means and whatever that’s worth.

Adri: I agree. Because the Nebulas don’t release voting statistics, they can feel like a closed box in this regard, albeit one that we collectively put our trust in to be delivering a result accurate to the voting base (and, hey, no 20booksto50k shenanigans this year!). Anders, Hurley and also The Future of Another Timeline feel like books that must have been bubbling just under. I wonder, also, about books like Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and some of the other literary “crossover” titles we were looking at on the Locus list. Are those also in the hidden longlist, or is that not what SFWA voters were looking at when putting this together?

(10) SOME LIKE IT SHORT. Then, Adri Joy reviews five sources of short sff – including collections and magazines – as part of “Questing in Shorts: February 2020” at Nerds of a Feather.

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)

Aliette de Bodard’s Subterranean press collection is as beautiful as you’d expect on the outside, with a Maurizio Manzieri cover and the standard level of Subterranean finishing. It’s also an excellent collection that’s largely comprised of pieces from the Best Series-nominated Xuya universe, which ranges from alternate history Earth stories in which the Western part of North America is colonised by China, and the Aztec empire of Mexica survives into the present day in a loose alliance with the power now called Xuya. The collection contains one piece from this Earthbound continuity “The Jaguar House, in Shadow“, an intriguing political thriller which, along with the opening story “The Shipmaker“, sets up the rest of the intergalactic political, cultural and technological traits of the Xuya universe very nicely. De Bodard’s stories dealing with cultural clashes of some kind are highlights for me: from “The Waiting Stars“, the tale of a young Dai Viet woman who has been taken from her family and raised in the Galactic Empire, to “Scattered Along the River of Heaven“, a story of conflict and war and cultural revolution told two generations after the fact, de Bodard is quietly unflinching in her portrayals of displaced characters and their struggles to find connection with the different cultures they are surrounded by and yet, to some extent, alienated from. The absolute highlight on this front is “Immersion“, a Nebula and Locus winning short story which alternates between Quy and another woman from the Rong people, both of whom wear Galactic (western culture)-made “Immersers” which allow them to communicate with Galactics but at the expense of their own culture and personhood. For Quy, who wears the Immerser briefly to help her family with business transactions, the experience is unpleasant but temporary; for the other narrator, it has become her permanent reality. The story’s sense of isolation, and the various losses which the casual dominance of Galactic culture in this part of space has created, come around into a perfect, heartbreaking, circle by the end as the second narrator finds tentative connection in her isolating, but unique, understanding of both Rong and Galactic culture….

(11) RETURNING TO THE GALACTOSCOPE. And there’s so much sff coming out in 1965 that Galactic Journey ran a second batch of reviews:

(12) DOES IT LIVE UP TO THE HEADLINE? Mike Kennedy passed along this 2016 link because he loves the title: “All 35 Video-Game Movies, Ranked From Least Bad to Absolute Worst”. If you want to save yourself the suspense, here’s the film at the bottom of the barrel —  

1. Postal (2007)

Here it is, a movie that should make you think Warcraft is high art. Postal opens on two terrorists in the cockpit of a plane, fighting about how many virgins greet martyrs when they enter heaven. The argument ends with them deciding to fly to the Bahamas instead, but then the passengers of their hijacked plane revolt and force it to crash into the World Trade Center. Everything hovers around that level of bad and offensive for the rest of the movie, making this an easy call for definitively worst video-game adaptation ever. Uwe Boll, you make it so hard to love you.

(13) FILL ‘ER UP. BBC reports: “Docking gives Intelsat telecoms satellite new lease of life”.

Two American satellites have docked high over the Atlantic in a demonstration of what many commentators expect to be a burgeoning new industry.

One of the platforms is an old telecoms spacecraft low on fuel; the other is an auxiliary unit that will now take over all the former’s manoeuvring functions.

This will allow Intelsat-901 to extend its 19-year mission of relaying TV and other services by another five years.

The event has been described as a major accomplishment by the firms involved.

Northrop Grumman, which produced the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 that grabbed hold of Intelsat-901, said it was the first time two commercial satellites had come together in this way at an altitude of just over 36,000km.

…Northrop Grumman’s vehicle will now control all movement for the pair, including the precise pointing required by IS-901 to map its telecommunication beams on to the right regions of Earth’s surface.

When the Intelsat’s extended mission comes to an end, the MEV-1 will take the telecoms platform to a “graveyard” orbit before then joining up with another “running on empty” customer that needs the same manoeuvring assistance.

Northrop Grumman, which is operating its new servicing business through a subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, said it planned to expand the basic “tug” concept offered by MEV-1 to include vehicles capable of in-orbit repair and assembly.

Already it is working on systems that would feature not just simple docking probes but robotic arms to grab hold of satellites. Another option being developed is fuel pods that can be attached to satellites running low on fuel.

(14) BITTEN TO DEATH BY DUCKS. Daffy and Donald, lunch is served: “China prepares 100,000 ducks to battle Pakistan’s locust swarms”.

China is preparing to deploy 100,000 ducks to neighbouring Pakistan to help tackle swarms of crop-eating locusts.

Chinese agricultural experts say a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts a day and be more effective than pesticides.

Pakistan declared an emergency earlier this month saying locust numbers were the worst in more than two decades.

Millions of the insects have also been devastating crops in parts of East Africa.

The Chinese government announced this week it was sending a team of experts to Pakistan to develop “targeted programmes” against the locusts.

Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, described the ducks as “biological weapons”. He said that while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number.

“Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” he told Chinese media.

(15) NICKELODIOUS. The New York Times takes you “Down on the Farm That Harvests Metal From Plants”.

Some of Earth’s plants have fallen in love with metal. With roots that act practically like magnets, these organisms — about 700 are known — flourish in metal-rich soils that make hundreds of thousands of other plant species flee or die.

Slicing open one of these trees or running the leaves of its bush cousin through a peanut press produces a sap that oozes a neon blue-green. This “juice” is actually one-quarter nickel, far more concentrated than the ore feeding the world’s nickel smelters.

The plants not only collect the soil’s minerals into their bodies but seem to hoard them to “ridiculous” levels, said Alan Baker, a visiting botany professor at the University of Melbourne who has researched the relationship between plants and their soils since the 1970s. This vegetation could be the world’s most efficient, solar-powered mineral smelters. What if, as a partial substitute to traditional, energy-intensive and environmentally costly mining and smelting, the world harvested nickel plants?

(16) PULLING THE WOOL OVER. “This Lady Crochets Her Neighbors and It Is Incredible”Awkward has a photo gallery.

Aritst Liisa Hietanen is one talented lady. Like, incredibly talented. Hietanen takes crocheting to a whole new level when she creates life-like models of her friends and neighbors in her native Finland.

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

Writing The Other’s Financial Aid Program Renamed the “Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship”

 Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford, administrators of Writing the Other online classes, have announced that their scholarship program, initiated in 2016, is being retitled the Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship. The name change, in honor of the award-winning and beloved science fiction and fantasy novelist who passed away in April 2019, comes about not only because Vonda was a friend and mentor to both Shawl and Bradford, but also because without her there would be no scholarship fund.

In 2016 Vonda offered to pay for a registration in an upcoming Writing the Other class so writers who couldn’t afford to take it could benefit. When announced, her donation–which she insisted should be anonymous to the public–inspired others to donate as well, covering all or part of the enrollment fees for two additional students. Enough donations came in afterwards that Writing the Other was able to establish a small scholarship fund. Though Vonda didn’t want public credit, Nisi suggested naming the scholarship “Sentient Squid” in secret honor of a character in her Starfarer book series, the “squidmoth” Nemo.

“Donating anonymously was very Vonda-like,” Nisi Shawl said. “I’ve called her a ‘behind-the-scenes powerhouse’ because those who knew her mainly as the author of five Star Trek novels aren’t automatically aware that she founded the Clarion West Writers Workshop as well as Book View Café. She was generous with her funds and donated money in support of many feminist and other social-justice causes: the James Tiptree Jr. literary awards; the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship Fund; the ACLU; Planned Parenthood.”

“When she offered to pay for a registration in our classes, she did so unprompted,” K. Tempest Bradford said. “She was part of a conversation on Facebook where I talked about balancing the affordability of our classes with our need to make a living. I had never considered asking others to help out with this, and then Vonda just did it. In doing so she opened up the possibility to me that other people would be willing to contribute as well.”

Over the years Vonda gave to the scholarship fund on multiple occasions, always without wanting credit, and promoted the program whenever there was a fundraising drive. Because of her support and example, Writing the Other has been able to offer scholarship spots in every course and make classes more financially accessible. To date, the Sentient Squid Scholarship has provided over $15,000 in financial aid to a wide range of deserving applicants. Approximately 20% of alumni have benefited directly from scholarship funds. Because of how vital she was to making all this happen, Shawl and Bradford decided that renaming the scholarship was one of the best ways they could honor her memory.

Currently, the Vonda N. McIntyre Sentient Squid Scholarship provides both full and partial scholarships for students in all Writing the Other online courses, including Core Classes, Master Classes, and Workshops. For 2020 offerings, Shawl and Bradford hope to reach $10,000 in direct donations or $1,200 a month in support via Patreon so that they can set aside at least a quarter of spots in their classes for writers who need financial aid. Donors can visit http://writingtheother.com/donate-scholarship/ to contribute, learn more, or to contact Writing the Other for more information.

Student Testimonials:

Receiving the Sentient Squid Scholarship both instilled further confidence in me as a writer and enabled me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have been able to without taking the Description Deep Dive class. Receiving the scholarship has had long-term effects on my writing that I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.

— James Henry Feeman

The Sentient Squid scholarship allowed me to take my first ever writing workshop. I’m an older working mom who’s managing various health challenges–both my own & my kids. Until I won this scholarship, I thought writing workshops were just a dream for me. A “one day” thing. Now I’m aware of accessible options available.

—Dianne McNeill

As a financially struggling trans man, I don’t have the means to attend classes for professional development, despite how much I want to and how much I know it would improve my work. I was lucky enough to receive a Sentient Squid Scholarship which removed that financial burden. The course changed the way I look at world building and the scholarship gave me the space I needed to expand my knowledge and grow as a writer.

— Luke Tolvaj

The Sentient Squid Scholarship was a unique opportunity for me, and I’m thankful for it. I’m from Brazil, and we don’t have many creative writing classes here and classes about “writing the other” are nonexistent. It gave me the chance to learn how to write better and to rethink the way I write, while it also taught me how to tell my own experience better. 

— Jordana

About Writing the Other: Writing the Other offers online and in-person classes that draw on the work of Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, authors of the acclaimed reference Writing the Other: A Practical Approach. Through live courses and on-demand webinars, Shawl and co-administrator author K. Tempest Bradford, along with a deep bench of guest instructors, hope to help writers and creators from all backgrounds develop the skill and sensitivity to portray difference in fiction, games, and other media as well as allay anxieties about getting it wrong.

The impetus for the original book came during Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward’s attendance at the 1992 Clarion West writing workshop, when one of their classmates announced that it is a mistake to write about people of backgrounds different from your own because you might get it wrong, and so it is better to not even try. This opinion, commonplace among published as well as aspiring writers, struck Nisi as taking the easy way out and spurred her to write an essay addressing the problem of how to write about characters marked by racial and ethnic differences. She then collaborated with Ward to develop a workshop to address these problems, which became the basis for the book.

[Based on a press release.]

More About ArmadilloCon 41 Code of Conduct Violation

Yesterday the ArmadilloCon 41 committee published an “ArmadilloCon Incident Report” about their disposition of a code of conduct violation by “a program participant who had gone significantly off-topic on a panel subsequently laid hands on another attendee.”

K. Tempest Bradford, one of the convention’s Regional Guests, today wrote that she was on the panel and witnessed what happened there. Bradford also gives an account of the “laid hands on” part which she gathered secondhand. The thread starts here.

Update 08/09/2019: Bradford subsequently tweeted that her identification of the Twitter URL for Burkheart is wrong:

Pixel Scroll 10/10/18 I Grow Old, I Grow Old, I Shall Wear The Bottoms Of My Pixels Scrolled

(1) SCA DEATH. A longtime member accidentally killed himself while riding at a Society for Creative Anachronism event in Kentucky. SFGate has the story —“Man is impaled, dies in ‘freak accident’ during medieval horseback stunt”.

It happened Saturday during the Society for Creative Anachronism event in Williamstown.

The president of the SCA, John Fulton, said Barclay was trying to spear a paper plate on the ground.

Barclay’s brother posted on Facebook that the metal tip of his brother’s lance hit the ground, flipped and then impaled him under his sternum.

“I’ve never had an injury on the field like this, ever, that led to something like this” said Fulton.

We’re told Barclay was flown to a hospital, but died en route.

The SCA said Barclay was a master within the organization and had practiced medieval sports for more than 30 years.

(2) POLCON GROWING PAINS. Marcin Klak analyzes “The issues of Polcon”, Poland’s national convention.

We can define a few issues with Polcon but the main one is that no one really wants to organize Polcons any more. Of course this is not 100% true but we can see an issue here. In the last few years, there was usually only one group willing to run Polcon. It happens that it was known before that Polcon won’t be good but there was only one group willing to do it so there was no choice (and no one really wanted to cancel Polcon). This year, all in all, we haven’t chosen the place for Polcon 2020 yet – we hope that in December we will know this as there is one group that thinks about applying to run it.

(3) BATTLING THE ODDS. Brianna Wu wrote up her congressional campaign for Marie Claire: “I Ran for Congress. I Lost. I’m Persisting. Quitting Is Not an Option In the Trump Era.”

Here in New England, I got to know almost 100 other women that had decided to run for office, many through the Emerge program for training Democratic women. We were running for mayor, running for state senate, running for Congress. Like me, most of my peers were first-time candidates. We were starting to figure out this alien life of being a political candidate.

And I would love to tell you that we all won. In the movies, the underdog always wins. The Death Star always explodes. Carrie always walks into the sunset with Mr. Big. But reality has somewhat different odds than Hollywood. In a congressional race, the person spending less money wins only 9 percent of the time. You have less than 15 percent chance of beating an incumbent—and those odds are way worse if you’re running for the first time.

…For a first-time candidate who raised under $200,000, I did a fantastic job. I got almost 25 percent of the electorate, with over 17,000 people voting for me. I sometimes try to imagine 1000 people telling me they believe in me enough to be their congresswoman, and it’s overwhelming. 17,000 people believing in you isn’t a loss, it’s an excellent start to a career. The guy I was running against has a 20-year head start…

(4) IMAGINE A WORLD IN WHICH… One way social change is contributing to the boom in sff sales — “How Feminist Dystopian Fiction Is Channeling Women’s Anger and Anxiety” in the New York Times.

On a desolate island, three sisters have been raised in isolation, sequestered from an outbreak that’s causing women to fall ill. To protect themselves from toxins, which men can transmit to women, the sisters undergo cleansing rituals that include simulating drowning, drinking salt water and exposing themselves to extreme heat and cold. Above all, they are taught to avoid contact with men.

That’s the chilling premise of Sophie Mackintosh’s unsettling debut novel “The Water Cure,” a story that feels both futuristic and like an eerily familiar fable. It grew out of a simple, sinister question: What if masculinity were literally toxic?

“The Water Cure,” which comes out in the United States in January and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, joins a growing wave of female-centered dystopian fiction, futuristic works that raise uncomfortable questions about pervasive gender inequality, misogyny and violence against women, the erosion of reproductive rights and the extreme consequences of institutionalized sexism.

…Most of these new dystopian stories take place in the future, but channel the anger and anxieties of the present, when women and men alike are grappling with shifting gender roles and the messy, continuing aftermath of the MeToo movement….

(5) FANSPLAINING, CONTINUED. David Gerrold has been there, too:

I always get a smile out of fans trying to school pros.

The latest is a self-appointed gatekeeper telling Neil Gaiman that he must be a relatively recent fan of Doctor Who.

Oh my.

My own recent experience happened a year or so ago, when one of the sad puppies tried to tell me that my argument was useless. He said, “It is too late for the pebbles to vote, the avalanche has already started.”

I don’t remember my exact words. Something to the effect that those words were spoken by Kosh in the Babylon 5 episode “Believers.” It would have been nice if he’d credited the source — and the author of the episode.

He dropped out of the thread immediately. I don’t remember his name or the thread. I just remember the moment of delicious amusement I experienced….

(6) NEW IN 1963. Natalie Devitt is still undecided whether she’ll keep letting Outer Limits control her set’s vertical and horizontal according to her review at Galactic Journey: “[October 10, 1963] The Outer Limits of television — a first look”.

The Outer Limits may have the power to control transmission, but can the show keep viewers tuning in week after week? The verdict is still out. The show seems to be much more rooted in science fiction than most other anthology shows in recent years, which is a distinguishing point, but the batting average will probably have to improve: this month only gave me one fantastic, one somewhat entertaining and two otherwise okay episodes.

(7) CLARKE CENTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents “Fred Adams: The Degree of Fine-Tuning in our Universe—and Possibly Others” on November 8 at UCSD.

Fred C. Adams, theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Michigan, joins us for an insightful talk about how life in this universe—and potentially others—is possible.

The fundamental constants of nature must fall within a range of values in order for the universe to develop structure and ultimately support life. This talk considers the current constraints on these quantities and assesses the degree of fine-tuning required for the universe to be viable. The first step is to determine what parameters are allowed to vary. In the realm of particle physics, we must specify the strengths of the fundamental forces and the particle masses. The relevant cosmological parameters include the density of the universe, the cosmological constant, the abundance of ordinary matter, the dark matter contribution, and the amplitude of primordial density fluctuations. These quantities are constrained by the requirements that the universe lives for a sufficiently long time, emerges from its early epochs with an acceptable chemical composition, and can successfully produce galaxies. On smaller scales, stars and planets must be able to form and function. The stars must have sufficiently long lifetimes and hot surface temperatures. The planets must be large enough to maintain atmospheres, small enough to remain non-degenerate, and contain enough particles to support a biosphere. We also consider specific fine-tuning issues in stars, including the triple alpha reaction that produces carbon, the case of unstable deuterium, and the possibility of stable diprotons. For all of these issues, the goal of this enterprise is to delineate the range of parameter space for which universes can remain habitable.

November 8, 6:00 p.m. Natural Sciences Building Auditorium, UC San Diego. Free and open to the public; please RSVP here

(8) AT C. James Davis Nicoll continues his new series for Tor.com, “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1980s, Part III”, with writers whose surnames begin with the letter “C”.

Mona A. Clee began publishing short SF works in the 1980s but I know her from her two novels: pessimistic ecological thriller Overshoot, and the somewhat more optimistic Branch Point, in which time travelers try desperately to prevent a 1963 Soviet-American nuclear exchange, only to discover they’ve replaced a horrific atomic war with even more horrific variations. “Oh, dear, we seem to have made a bad situation much worse,” may not sound like it could be more upbeat than any other book, but A) there is a solution, and B: Overshoot is pretty glum.

(9) YARNALL OBIT. Celeste Yarnall, who appeared in a Star Trek episode and in Elvis Presley’s Live a Little, Love a Little, has died at the age of 74 reports Deadline.

In the Star Trek episode titled “The Apple” that aired on October 13, 1967, Yarnall’s red-uniformed Yeoman Landon has a romantic encounter with Walter Koenig’s Chekov. It didn’t last.

Other credits include appearances on The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, Bonanza, Hogan’s Heroes, It Takes a Thief, Captain Nice, Mannix, Bewitched, Land of the Giants and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and in the films The Nutty Professor, Under the Yum Yum Tree, Eve, The Velvet Vampire, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Scorpio, among others.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 10, 1863 – Vladimir A. Obruchev, Geologist, Writer, and member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR who was one of Russia’s first science fiction authors. In his native country he is best known for two perennially popular science fiction novels, Plutonia and Sannikov Land. Both of these stories are similar to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, but depict with rigorous scientific accuracy the discovery of an isolated world of prehistoric animals in hitherto unexplored large islands north of Alaska or Siberia.
  • Born October 10, 1924 – Ed Wood, Jr., Actor, Writer and Director who created numerous low-budget science fiction, comedy, and horror films and wrote more than 80 pulp novels. He is most famous for the notoriously-bad cult SF film Plan 9 from Outer Space. In 1994 Tim Burton directed and produced an eponymous biographical drama of his life starring Johnny Depp, which won two Oscars.
  • Born October 10, 1947 – Laura Brodian Freas, 71, Classic Music Radio Host, Voiceover Performer, Illustrator and Historical Customer. While married to the artist she published a collection Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It containing art and essays by the two of them. She has also provided a few genre covers, including the cover for the anthology New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow, and numerous pieces of interior art for Weird Tales, Analog, and several Easton Press Signed First Editions. One of her collaborative works with Frank won a Chesley Award; another collaborative work and one of her solo works also received Chesley nominations.
  • Born October 10, 1950 – Nora Roberts, 68, Writer probably best known, and a favorite of Cora Buhlert, for her near-future science fiction In Death (Eve Dallas) series written under the pen name J.D. Robb, which is approaching 50 novels now and features robots, cloning, flying cars, and space habitats; as well as many other fantasy series including the Key Trilogy, the Sign of Seven Trilogy, and the Three Sisters Island Trilogy.
  • Born October 10, 1959 – Kerrie Hughes, 59, Writer and Editor. A prolific anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings, many co-edited with Martin H. Greenberg, and four of the Fiction River series. Favorite titles for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s published more than a dozen short fiction works of her own and essays including “A Travelers’ Guide to Valdemar and the Surrounding Kingdoms” in The Valdemar Companion.
  • Born October 10, 1959 – Bradley Whitford, 59, Actor, Writer, and Producer whose most recent genre role was as the sinister patriarch in the Hugo finalist Get Out; other movie appearances include Bicentennial Man, Kate & Leopold, RoboCop 3, The Cabin in the Woods, The Darkest Minds, The Muse, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters and guest roles in TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, and Cloned.
  • Born October 10, 1967 – Michael Giacchino, 51, Oscar- and Grammy-winning Composer and Musician, who has created the soundtracks for many genre films such as the Hugo-nominated Rogue One and Star Trek 2009 reboot and its sequels, Jupiter Ascending, Tomorrowland, John Carter, Mission: Impossible III and Ghost Protocol, Jurassic World and Fallen Kingdom, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Cloverfield, and the Planet of the Apes reboot movies. His animation soundtrack credits include the Hugo finalists Up and The Incredibles, Incredibles 2, Ratatouille, Cars 2, Inside Out, Zootopia, and Coco. He has also composed music for many TV series such as Lost (for which he received an Emmy), Alias, and Fringe, and video game series including Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. He is also responsible for the soundtrack in the Space Mountain attraction at Disneyland and Disney World.
  • Born October 10, 1968 – Bai Ling, 50, Actor, Writer, and Producer originally from China who has had genre roles in the films League of Superheroes, Andover, Blood Shed, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Gene Generation, Code Hunter, and The Crow, guest roles in episodes of Lost and Jake 2.0, and a main role in the TV miniseries The Monkey King.
  • Born October 10, 1968 – Mark Bould, 50, Writer, Editor, and Critic from England who emigrated to Scotland, who has co-authored several nonfiction works on SF including The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction and The Routledge Concise History of Science Fiction, as well as Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction (with China Miéville). He guest-edited two issues of Science Fiction Studies, one on the British SF Boom and one on Afrofuturism (with Rone Shavers), and an issue of Paradoxa on Africa SF, and contributed numerous essays to other scholarly works on SF. He will be Scholar Guest of Honor at next year’s International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA).

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GET NANOWRIMO SUPPORT. K. Tempest Bradford will host a course in “Daily Writing Exercises – NaNoWriMo Edition” during the November novel-writing marathon, joined at times by four other well-known sff authors.

Practice and warm-ups are fundamental to every artistic discipline, from the musician who practices scales for hours on end to visual artists who cover reams of paper with sketches to dancers and actors who rehearse for months. Practicing craft is important for writers, too. Especially when you’re about to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

Doing one 10 – 20 minute writing exercise every day before diving into your novel can help kick your brain into creative gear without pressure and give you the chance to try out new craft skills.

That’s what this course is all about. Starting November 1, you’ll get a writing exercise via email every day for a month. Each one is designed to get you warmed up and also to help you get to know your characters better, dig into details of your setting, and play around with voice, point of view, and other aspects of craft.

…In addition to the emailed exercises, all writers taking the course can attend live online write-ins four times a week with me + special guests. Each write-in will start with that day’s exercise then move into 45 minutes of writing together via Zoom video conferencing software. These write-ins are optional and times/days will vary to accommodate writers across different time zones.

Four times during the month we’ll be joined by guest writers who will offer a short pep talk and a writing exercise of their own: Tananarive Due, Stina Leicht, Stant Litore, and Monica Valentinelli.

(13) WALLY WORLD WATCHES. Who knew that Big Brother would manifest as Wally World? Apparently Motherboard (part of Vice) is on the job and knew. Um, knows. Um, at least suspects. (“Walmart Patented a Cart That Reads Your Pulse and Temperature”).

You’re moving through Walmart at a quick clip, bookin’ it through the clearance bread aisle. Sweat beads on your forehead, and your hands grip the cart handle. It’s a race against time before you run into an elementary school classmate’s mom or run into that guy you made out with in high school and his three kids. God, get me out of h—

I saw you might need assistance! An employee appears from behind the off-brand tampons and accosts you. He knows this because he’s been monitoring your biometric data and location from a room in the back, from the sensors in your cart handle. The sensors told him you’re clammy and stressed.

Walmart recently applied to patent biometric shopping handles that would track a shopper’s heart rate, palm temperature, grip force, and walking speed. The patent, titled “System And Method For A Biometric Feedback Cart Handle” and published August 23, outlines a system where sensors in the cart send data to a server. That server then notifies a store employee to check on individual customers.

(14) CAREER REVIVED? The director canned by Marvel could be back in the business already: “James Gunn in Talks to Write, Possibly Direct SUICIDE SQUAD 2”ComicsBeat has the story.

James Gunn, the director fired earlier this year from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, is now in talks to write DC’s Suicide Squad 2 with an eye to also direct, according to a report today from The Wrap.

This could be somewhat of a coup for Warner Bros., the studio behind Suicide Squad and other films based on DC superheroes. With Gunn writing and directing, Guardians of the Galaxy grew from a relatively obscure comic book property into a veritable household name after just two high-earning and critically-acclaimed movies.

Gunn was dismissed from writing/directing Guardians of the Galaxy 3 earlier this year after a concentrated online campaigned publicized a series of tasteless jokes he made years ago about rape and pedophilia on Twitter. Gunn had long since apologized for the jokes, and, as such, his firing set off widespread debate over whether it was merited, with members of Guardians’ cast going to bat for him (especially Dave Bautista).

(15) BATWOMAN. I didn’t think it was a compelling news item, but four people have now sent me links to it, so I’m obviously wrong: “Ruby Rose Rises in First Official Look at the CW’s Batwoman”, image online at ComicsBeat and elsewhere.

(16) GOLDEN AND LESS SHINY AGES. Rob Latham reviews Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction for Nature — “Beyond pulp: trailblazers of science fiction’s golden age”.

…Hubbard’s gift for the hard sell was pivotal, and Nevala-Lee’s portrait of him as a paranoid narcissist and skilled manipulator is scathing. However, Campbell is also sharply scrutinized for his role in midwifing and unleashing Dianetics. Heinlein and Asimov were repelled by what they saw as an uncritical embrace of quackery, and took refuge in newer, often more lucrative markets. The book’s final chapters detail the steady decline of the magazine into a second-rank publication, and Campbell (who died in 1971) into a reactionary crackpot with racist views.

Although much of the story outlined in Astounding has been told before, in genre histories and biographies of and memoirs by the principals, Nevala-Lee does an excellent job of drawing the strands together, and braiding them with extensive archival research, such as the correspondence of Campbell and Heinlein. The result is multifaceted and superbly detailed. The author can be derailed by trivia — witness a grisly account of Heinlein’s haemorrhoids — and by his fascination for clandestine love affairs and fractured marriages. He also gives rather short shrift to van Vogt, one of Campbell’s most prominent discoveries and a fan favourite during Astounding’s acme, whose work has never since received the attention it deserves….

(17) INFINITY’S END. At Nerds of a Feather, Joe Sherry weighs in on the closing volume of an anthology series — “Microreview [book]: Infinity’s End, by Jonathan Strahan (editor)”.

I’m sad that Infinity’s End is the purported final volume in Jonathan Strahan’s Infinity Project of anthologies. The theme has always been loose, no matter what Strahan has stated in the introduction (and I’m not sure he’d truly disagree with me here). He’s just looking for science fiction which stretches the bounds of humanity living in the wider universe. The success is that Strahan has a great idea for good stories and each of the Infinity Project anthologies hits the mark for top notch stories. While I hope that Strahan will revisit the Infinity brand again several years from now (and if so, the anthology should maybe be titled Infinity’s Rebirth), Infinity’s End is a fitting and excellent way to close the book on a solid anthology series. Reading each volume and reading Infinity’s End has been a delight.

(18) GOOGLE’S CHINA AMBITIONS. BBC’s Dave Lee tells how “Leak chips away at Google’s secrecy on China”.

…Now, a freshly leaked transcript of Mr Gomes addressing employees suggests he perhaps wasn’t being entirely forthcoming in our interview. Published by The Intercept on Tuesday, his words suggest an enthusiasm and readiness that arguably goes well beyond “exploration”.

‘We are ready for it’

“Overall I just want to thank you guys for all the work you have put in,” reads the transcript, said to be taken from a meeting on 18 July at which Mr Gomes addressed those working on Dragonfly.

…”Of the people who are internet-enabled, a huge fraction of the ones we are missing out are in China […] It’s clearly the biggest opportunity to serve more people that we have. And if you take our mission seriously, that’s where our key focus should be.”

Standing in Google’s way is the uncomfortable reality that many people do not agree with that focus – including the vice-president of the United States, Mike Pence. He has said Google should “immediately end development” on Dragonfly.

Hiding from public scrutiny

I can’t fathom how Google thinks this will end. Recent history shows how executives at the company have chosen to hide from immediate public scrutiny, only to seriously regret it later.

With Dragonfly, the company simply refuses to share details – not even with US lawmakers. In September, Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai did not show up to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing….

(19) HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE. “Seafloor mapping XPRIZE final will be in the Mediterranean” – here’s what BBC says:

The final of the ocean XPRIZE, which will see fleets of robots compete to map the largest area of seafloor inside 24 hours, will take place in deep waters off the coast of Greece.

Teams will be invited in turn to showcase their technologies, starting in early November.

They will have to chart at least 250 sq km at depths down to 4,000m, and image 10 items of interest.

The group that comes out on top will win $4m. Second place earns $1m.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE was launched in 2015 to find systems and approaches that could finally map the world’s ocean basins to an acceptable precision.

Currently, less than 15% of their bathymetry (depth) has been measured in a meaningfully accurate way. It is one of those truisms that the global surfaces of Mars and the Moon – because they have no water covering – are known in greater detail.

(20) TIME FREAK TRAILER. Coming to theaters November 9, Time Freak.

If you could turn back time…could you win back the love of your life? That’s the problem puzzling Stillman (Asa Butterfield, Ender’s Game), a physics genius recently dumped by his stunning girlfriend Debbie (Sophie Turner, “Game of Thrones”). So after creating a timeline of their romance and a machine to rewind the past, he grabs his wingman, Evan (Skyler Gisondo), and sets off to right every wrong he made with Debbie. But as this insane comedy proves, there are some mistakes too perfect for science to fix.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Karl-Johan Norén, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kaboobie.]