Pixel Scroll 9/24/21 Scrolling Pixels Give You So Much More

(1) SUES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. The heirs of Steve Ditko filed to reclaim their rights to some well-known Marvel characters – now Marvel is suing to prevent them. The Hollywood Reporter looks over the filings in “Marvel Suing to Keep Rights to ‘Avengers’ Characters”.

Disney’s Marvel unit is suing to hold on to full control of Avengers characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, Thor and others.

The complaints, which The Hollywood Reporter has obtained, come against the heirs of some late comic book geniuses including Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan. The suits seek declaratory relief that these blockbuster characters are ineligible for copyright termination as works made for hire. If Marvel loses, Disney would have to share ownership of characters worth billions.

In August, the administrator of Ditko’s estate filed a notice of termination on Spider-Man, which first appeared in comic book form in 1962. Under the termination provisions of copyright law, authors or their heirs can reclaim rights once granted to publishers after waiting a statutory set period of time. According to the termination notice, Marvel would have to give up Ditko’s rights to its iconic character in June 2023….

If the plaintiffs win, Disney expects to at least hold on to at least a share of character rights as co-owners. The studio would have to share profits with the others. Additionally, the termination provisions of copyright law only apply in the United States, allowing Disney to continue to control and profit from foreign exploitation.

(2) LIKE PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE. Lincoln Michel on why noir blends well with sf, at CrimeReads: “Why Noir and Science Fiction Are Still a Perfect Pairing”.

… I think the answer lies first in the fact that both genres have an inherent critique of the social order. They question the state of the world, refusing to just accept the corruption, inequality, and destruction as “the way things are.” Or at least saying, sure, it’s the way things are, but it’s still screwed up.

While other crime genres are often fundamentally a defense of the status quo—police procedurals focus on petty criminals and heroic cops, spy thrillers defeat threats to the established global order—noir presents the established order as crime. It is the rich and the powerful, and the institutions that serve them, that are the true villains. (Of course this isn’t true of every single noir work, but it is of the ones that influenced SF subgenres like cyberpunk.) Take Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece Red Harvest, in which a rich man and a corrupt police force collaborate with gangs to crush poor workers. Or Chinatown, in which a business tycoon controls government institutions to choke off water supplies. This critique of the social order is why the prototypical hardboiled (anti)hero exists outside of the official law enforcement structure. They’re not a police officer, FBI agent, or government spy. They’re a private investigator, and sometimes even unlicensed as in the case of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins, and realize that the legal system is as corrupt as the organized crime it is fighting…and often in bed with.

(3) RAUM, THE FINAL FRONTIER. Cora Buhlert describes West German TV’s new (in 1966) space adventure show: “[September 24, 1966] Science Fiction TV from West Germany: Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion: Episode 1: Attack From Space” at Galactic Journey.

…The series has the unwieldy title Raumpatrouille – Die Phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion), which viewers have already shortened to Raumpatrouille Orion or just plain Orion.

Like the new US series Star TrekSpace Patrol Orion starts with an opening narration, courtesy of veteran actor Claus Biederstaedt, which promises us a fairy tale from the future. In the year 3000 AD, nation states have been abolished. Humanity has settled the ocean floor and colonised far-flung worlds. Starships, including the titular Orion, hurtle through space at unimaginable speeds.

An impressive title sequence and a spacy and very groovy theme tune follow, courtesy of Peter Thomas, who also supplies the music for the Edgar Wallace and Jerry Cotton movies….

(4) TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. By George, Steve Davidson makes a good point: “Space Force Uniform Controversy” at Amazing Stories.

The Space Force, America’s latest (and completely unnecessary) military branch unveiled its proposed service uniform.

A lot of fans (and fan-adjacent television watchers) have remarked that the proposed dress uniform greatly resembles those created for the entirely fictional space navy depicted in Battlestar Galactica (the completely unnecessary re-boot, to be precise).

Yes, yes it does.  However, those more familiar with real military history would probably be more inclined to think that the new digs for Space Force look more like General George S. Patton’s tanker’s uniform that the general proposed between world wars one and two; about the only difference between uniforms then and uniforms now is Patton’s addition of a football helmet, while it is very unlikely that Space Force will adopt the recommended propeller beanie….

Comparative photos at the link.

(5) COVER SCORES. The public’s choices for best covers in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition have been announced – and the outcome was a lot close than expected.

(6) JO WALTON KICKSTARTER. A funding appeal launched at Kickstarter aims to produce a Lifelode Audiobook by Jo Walton.

Lifelode is a Mythopoeic Award winning fantasy novel by Jo Walton that has never had an audiobook. Jack Larsen is a young man from New Zealand who has a wonderful voice for reading aloud and wants to become an audiobook reader. Together, they could be amazing…

Jo Walton writes:

The main point of this is to try to kickstart the audiobook reading career of young New Zealand fan Jack Larsen, whose wonderful reading voice has been a mainstay of the Scintillation community through the pandemic.

They will have Jack read the book in a professional studio and have it professionally edited (which is the part which costs all the money) and then sell it where all good audiobooks are sold. 

At the Kickstarter site you can listen to Jack read the first chapter — click on the video there (which is just audio). Bear in mind, Jack did this demo on his phone.

As of today’s writing the appeal has raised $2,457 of its $7,891 goal.

(7) FOUNDATION LAYS ITS CORNERSTONE. Camestros Felapton supplies detailed comments about the beginning of the new series: “Review: Foundation Episode 1 (Apple TV)”.

2021 for all its faults, is offering fans of classic science fiction two (potential) treats: a new movie version of Dune and a TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. It’s interesting that of these two highly influential stories that with first you can make a good guess about what specific scenes will appear and in the second I’ve no idea what we will be getting….

Warning, it’s spoilers all the way down from there.

(8) PARTS IS PARTS. In contrast, Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall isn’t a believer. “New Formula for ‘Foundation’ Doesn’t Add Up”.

…Like psycho-history itself, all of these changes make sense in theory. But none of them quite accomplish what the show’s creative team needs them to. This Foundation is, like the clones’ palace on the capitol planet of Trantor, stunning to look at(*) but ultimately cold and sterile. Despite the cast and crew’s best efforts — and what appears to be an unlimited budget, even by Apple’s lavish standards — this Foundation remains an assemblage of concepts in search of a compelling TV show….

(9) LANGDON JONES (1942-2021). Author, editor and musician Langdon Jones, whose short fiction primarily appeared in New Worlds, beginning with “Storm Water Tunnel” in 1964, has died, Michael Moorcock reported on Facebook.

One of my closest, longest and best friendships was with Lang Jones, a talented composer, editor and writer, one of the most modest people I have ever known, with the sweetest nature of almost any human being I’ve met. He was Assistant Editor of New Worlds. He restored Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake to the edition you probably read and wrote the music for The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb.  You can hear his lively piano on The Entropy Tango.  His own collection of stories The Great Clock, remains his only published fiction.  I last saw him about two years ago, at the wonderful wedding of his daughter Isobel to Jason Nickolds, for whom he was extremely happy, and he said he had stopped writing and composing and had never felt better.  He leaves a son, Damon, as well as his daughter.  One of the few people of whom it’s possible to write: Loved by all.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 – Fifty-seven years ago, Mary Poppins had its New York City premiere. (Yes, it’s genre as a flying nanny is surely within our realm.) It was directed by Robert Stevenson from the screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi as based off P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series. It was produced by Walt Disney and starred Julie Andrews in her first screen acting role. Principal other cast were Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. The film was shot entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, using painted London background scenes.  

It won’t surprise you that the film received universal acclaim from film critics, and that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke got lavish praise. Box office wise, it earned some forty five million dollars on an estimated budget of four or so million dollars (Disney never released the budget officially) and it’s had at least another hundred million in box office rentals as well since then.

Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent eighty-eight percent rating. A sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, was recently released and it too rates high among audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes with a sixty five percent rating. Dick Van Dyke has a new role in it. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 — Bert Gordon, 99. Film director most remembered for such SF and horror films as The Amazing Colossal ManVillage of the Giants and The Food of the Gods (based of course on the H.G. Wells’ novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth).  His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” was a reference both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies featuring super-sized creatures. 
  • Born September 24, 1934 — John Brunner. My favorite works by him? The Shockwave RiderStand on Zanzibar which won a Hugo at St. Louiscon and The Sheep Look Up. I’m also fond of The Squares of The City which was nominated for a Hugo at Tricon. That was easy. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 24, 1936 — Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, and I’ve watched every show at least twice, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth, The Witches and The Dark Crystal and the first two Muppets films which are also excellent. Warning note: the three newest takes done on The Muppets suck beyond belief. Disney should be ashamed. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 24, 1945 — David Drake, 76. Writer with his best-known solo work being the Hammer’s Slammers series of military science fiction which are space operas inspired by the Aubrey–Maturin novels. He has also drafted story ideas that were then finished off by co-authors such as Karl Edward Wagner, S.M. Stirling, and Eric Flint. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born September 24, 1945 — Ian Stewart, 76. Mathematician and  writer. He makes the Birthday Honors for the four volumes in The Science of Discworld series he wrote with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett. It was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. Each of the books alternates between the usually absurd Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. (All four volumes are available from the usual suspects.) He would write a number of genre novels, none of which I’m familiar with. Anybody here read his works? 
  • Born September 24, 1951 — David Banks, 70. During the Eighties, he was the Cyberleader on Doctor Who in all the stories featuring the Cybermen — Earthshock (Fifth Doctor story), The Five DoctorsAttack of the Cybermen (Sixth Doctor story), and Silver Nemesis (Seventh Doctor story). In 1989, he played the part of Karl the Mercenary in the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. There were two performances where he appeared as The Doctor as he replaced Jon Pertwee who had fallen ill.
  • Born September 24, 1957 — Brad Bird, 64. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going to praise for directing The Iron Giant (nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000), The Incredibles (winner of Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Interaction), Incredibles 2 and Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films. 
  • Born September 24, 1965 — Richard K. Morgan, 56. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series  which are why I haven’t watched the Netflix series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is on my TBR, well my To Be Listened To pile now. And yes I read Thin Air, the sequel first and it’s quite excellent. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

A meeting with the shrink is the subject of today’s Wulffmorgenthaler-239 at Politiken. Lise Andreasen supplies the translation from Danish:

So … You left him, you killed his aunt and uncle, you blew up his sister’s planet, you chopped his hand off … and NOW you want him to consider you a father figure and join you “on the dark side”. How do you think Luke feels about it?

(13) TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES. Or both… Shat might be on his way to space after all these years — “Beam me up? TMZ says William Shatner will take Blue Origin suborbital space trip”.

The next crewed suborbital spaceflight planned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture — which could launch as early as next month — is due to carry Star Trek captain William Shatner, according to the TMZ celebrity news site.

If the report based on unnamed sources is true, that would make Shatner the oldest person to fly in space at the age of 90, besting the record set by 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk during the first crewed flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft in July….

(14) THE WARMED-UP EQUATIONS. “’Astronauts check our scripts!’: inside the new age of sumptuous sci-fi TV”. The Guardian tells how we got here.

…The current renaissance can be traced to Moore’s groundbreaking 2004 reimagining of hokey 70s space odyssey Battlestar Galactica. Updating the premise for a post-9/11 TV landscape, he turned a niche sci-fi story into mainstream watercooler TV. “Whether you liked sci-fi or not, you found yourself binging all these seasons,” says Ben Nedivi, one of Moore’s co-creators on For All Mankind. 

While Star Trek, too, is thriving in the current sci-fi landscape, with no less than five series currently in production, it seems unlikely to cross the final frontier into the halls of prestige sci-fi. For Nunn, this comes down to one thing: aliens. 

While the golden age shows of the 90s relied heavily on prosthetics – and, in the case of Farscape, puppets – to present characters from other worlds, today’s sombre offerings dwell solely on human problems. “With Battlestar Galactica, you’ve got robots, but you haven’t got aliens,” Nunn points out. “And The Expanse is similar. So they can be read as science fiction but also dystopias, whereas Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Farscape, even Stargate, all had alien life-forms at their core.”…

… For Shankar, a great strength of The Expanse is that it uses space as more than just a backdrop. “This is a show that turns space into a character,” he says. With a PhD in applied physics, he served as Next Generation’s official science adviser. “On Star Trek it was really about maintaining continuity with the fake science, making sure you used the phasers when you were supposed to, and not the photon torpedoes,” he says. “The technical manual [for the Enterprise] was quite detailed, but it wasn’t real. In The Expanse we use real physics to create drama. There’s a sequence in the first season where the ships are turning their engines on and off so you’re shifting from having weight to weightlessness. Two characters suddenly lose gravity and can’t get back to where they need to be, and the solution is conservation of momentum.”

This absolute commitment to accuracy is shared by the team behind For All Mankind. “We have an astronaut who reads our scripts,” explains co-creator Matt Wolpert. “He’ll tell us when we come up with ideas that are against the laws of physics.”…

(15) TED TALK. Ted White has two books out – one fiction, one non-…. Both were designed by John D. Berry, and published with the assistance of Michal Dobson’s Dobson Books. White is former editor of Amazing® and Heavy Metal® magazines and a past Best Fan Writer Hugo winner.

He’d been set up. Someone (and “independent consultant” Ray Phoenix was pretty sure who) had filed a phony stolen car report. When a freak bus accident allows him to escape into the woods, Ray lands in an entirely new world of trouble – small-town cocaine dealing, counterfeit money, and a web of strange and violent relationships that will take all of Ray’s considerable skills to unravel.

In 1986, legendary science fiction writer and editor Ted White went to jail for possession and sale of marijuana. A prolific correspondent, Ted kept up a steady stream of letters during his confinement that vividly and powerfully detail everyday life behind bars, from relationships with other prisoners and guards to living in cells and common rooms – not to mention the fine jailhouse cuisine. (Seriously, don’t mention it.) Ted White’s letters make you feel like you’re really in jail…and really glad you’re not.

(16) DISCONTENT. [Item by David Doering.] I caught this piece on TechDirt today. It appears that Sony’s art department enjoyed this fan artist’s rendering of She-Venom so much they included it in their official poster. Too bad they didn’t acknowledge that or offer to pay for it.  I certainly see more than just coincidence here. Even if Sony/others have the rights to the character, the similarities are too striking to not say the Sony version owes something to the fan artist. The comments debate both sides. “Sony Pictures, Defenders Of The Creative Industry, Appears To Be Using Fan Art Without Giving Credit”

… You can say the images don’t match up precisely if you like, but they’re certainly very damned close. As mentioned about similar past cases, this likely isn’t a copyright infringement issue; the fan artist doesn’t own any rights to the character he drew. But, again, if the copyright industries are going to do their maximalist routine under the guise of protecting those that create content, well, fan art is content…. 

(17) EVADING THE SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s The Digital Human episode “Faceless” notes that it’s becoming harder to hide from facial recognition technology and asks what does this means for people who protest against political systems … So we are SF fans and know all about Orwell’s 1984, William Gibson’s novels etc.  Or do we?  It looks like things are getting worse, but there are ways to fight back…. Digital Human looks at the issues with examples from a non-political English teacher becoming a wanted terrorist on the run in 12 days, to counter-measures.

Johnathan Hirshon works in PR and marketing and describes himself as ‘The Faceless man’ because he’s managed to keep his face off the internet for over twenty years. This may seem extreme but Neda Soltani explains how one online photo of her face, meant she had to leave her family, country and profession. Artist and curator, Bogomir Doringer whose archived and curated thousands of faceless images off the internet talks about how technology is not only choreographing the way we use our faces but persuading us to hand over our biometric data with our use of apps that change the way we look. .

Artist Zach Blas is interested in queer culture and has created masks using biometric data from minority groups, to push back on the possibility of people being categorised by biometrics. Zach uses masks to show that facial recognition technology can be disrupted. Stephen has been trying to do just that. Stephen is from Hong Kong and spent the summer protesting against the Extradition bill. He and his fellow protesters wore masks to evade identification from the police and Hong Kong’s smart lamp posts. The remit of the protest grew when the wearing of masks by protesters was banned. Stephen believes that by using facial recognition technology on the streets of Hong Kong the authorities in Hong Kong and China are creating a sense of ‘white terror’. Stephen is now protesting in the UK but still feels this ‘white terror’. While protesting people from mainland China have been taking photos of him and other protesters. He knows that photos can go global and by using facial recognition tech he could be easily identified. Is it becoming impossible to escape recognition even when we would like to hide?

(18) HE BLABBED. Tom Hiddleston tells Loki stories: Untold: Tom Hiddleston.

(19) AN ADVENTURE WITH COMPANIONS. Yes! Another excuse to watch David Tennant! “Around the World in 80 Days” will air on PBS.

David Tennant stars as literature’s greatest explorer Phileas Fogg in a thrilling new adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel coming to MASTERPIECE on PBS. (Air date to be announced.)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/21 You Load Fifteen Pixels, What Do You Get?

(1) NEW FIRST DOCTOR ANIMATION PLANNED. The next classic Doctor Who adventure to be animated using archival fragments is the opening story of the third season, “Galaxy Four”, reports the BBC.

Galaxy 4 (alternatively spelled Galaxy Four) is the mostly-missing first serial of the third season of Doctor Who, which originally aired in four weekly episodes from 11th September to 2nd October 1965.

Audio-only recordings of all four episodes have survived from this classic story, and have been used to create a brand new, fully animated story, filling the gaps alongside the original surviving Episode 3 and over five minutes of original footage from the otherwise lost Episode 4.

The Doctor and his travel companions, Vicki and Steven land the TARDIS on a planet which is on the verge of total annihilation, as it drifts too close to the three suns it orbits. Trapped on the planet with them are the Drahvins, a race of warrior women, and the Reptillian Rills.

The Drahvins want to steal the Rills spacehip to escape the planet’s death throes, and enlist the Doctor’s help, which he is forced to give when Maaga, the cunning Drahvin leader, keeps Vicki and Steven as hostage. Even though the Doctor is determined to broker a peace deal between the two sides, Maaga doesn’t trust him, or the Rills…

This two disc release gives fans the opportunity to enjoy the four new animated episodes of Galaxy Four in either colour or black and white.

(2) FIYAHCON PUBLISHES CONTENT RELEASE FORM. On the eve of FIYAHCON 2021, which begins tomorrow, the convention leadership has addressed a Twitter kerfuffle.

Kim Yoon Mi evidently was dissatisfied with some terms of the release that FIYAHCON is asking panelists to sign and aired some criticisms on Twitter. Initially, the release’s language was not being quoted, but L. D. Lewis subsequently made it available for public review. (See below.)

Here are screencaps of several of Kim Yoon Mi’s points.

Here are excerpts from L.D. Lewis’ replies on Twitter.

This preface precedes the copy of the consent form:

This is the agreement copy for the Consent Release Form sent to all panelists so they may optionally have their programming item included in FIYAHCON’s Archives. As of this writing, it has been signed without complaint by 302 panelists across both of FIYAHCON’s events, and all caveats have been respected. The document was crafted with the assistance of Marguerite Kenner, a legal expert and active participant in the SFF Community. Questions, concerns, and requests for clarity are welcome and encouraged at director@theconvention.fiyahlitmag.com.

(3) 2001 MINUS 71. Fanac.org’s latest additions include a scan of Futurian v3n1 (1940) which contains Arthur C. Clarke’s article, “How To Build A Spaceship.” Clarke thought his rocket would only cost £250,000 to build – a rather surprising bargain when compared with the cost to construct the first Queen Mary passenger ship, £3.5 million in 1934 (says the Wikipedia).

As far as I can remember, no Science Fiction author has ever had the nerve to describe a rocket propelled spaceship as it really must be. Writers such as Manning (“The Wreck of the Asteroid”) and the painstaking German authors have spoken glibly of step rockets, but they have all fallen short of reality. This article will therefore consist largely of a systematic debunking of rocketships. The amount of energy needed for any interplanetary voyage can be accurately calculated, so we know what a spaceship has to be capable of if it is to do its job. We also know the energy content of our best fuels and a simple calculation gives us the quantity of, say, hydrogen and oxygen we need for any particular journey. The result is depressing: so depressing” in fact that Science Fiction has ignored it with the same verve that enabled E.T. Snooks, D.T.G. to repeal the equally inviolable law of inverse squares. To take one ton of matter to the Moon and back requires several hundred tons of the best fuels we possess. Faced with this situation we can do one of two things. We can sit twiddling our thumbs until a better fuel comes along, or we can try and do the job with the materials we have. Course one is not likely to get us very far…

(4) NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS LONGLISTS. The National Book Awards Young People’s Literature longlist includes these titles of genre interest.

  • Home Is Not a Country, Safia Elhillo (Make Me A World)
  • A Snake Falls to Earth, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido)
  • Too Bright to See, Kyle Lukoff (Dial)
  • The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel and Friends)

The judges are Pablo Cartaya (presenter), Traci Chee, Leslie Connor, Cathryn Mercier (chair), and Ibi Aanu Zoboi.

The National Book Awards 2021 Longlist for Translated Literature includes one book of genre interest:

  • On the Origin of Species and Other Stories by Bo-Young Kim. Translated by Joungmin Lee Comfort and Sora Kim-Russell

The complete longlists are at the link. Five finalists in each category will be announced October 5. The winners will be revealed on November 17. Finalists receive a $1,000 prize, a medal, and a judge’s citation. The winners will receive $10,000 and a bronze sculpture.

(5) YA RATINGS SITE DOA. The YAbookratings.com site has been taken down since Foz Meadows unloaded on it the other day. Meadows’ thread, which includes some screencaps of what she reacted to, starts here.

(6) WORRIED ABOUT LIFE ON EARTH. The New York Times profiles the Tennessee author whose novel is on the Booker Prize shortlist: “Richard Powers Speaks For the Trees”. (No relation to the sff artist of the same name.)

…He was hiking in the woods nearby one day when he had the idea for his new novel, “Bewilderment,” which W.W. Norton will release on Sept. 21. Set in the near future, “Bewilderment” is narrated by Theo Byrne, an astrobiologist whose search for life on other planets feels increasingly futile in the face of the coming collapse of life on Earth. As he struggles with the disasters unfolding around him, Theo fears for his 9-year-old son, Robin, who is consumed by grief over the death of his mother and the fate of the planet.

The novel is shaping up to be a literary prize contender and was named to the Booker Prize shortlist on Tuesday. “Bewilderment” marks Powers’s latest and perhaps furthest foray into science fiction, but it has ominous echoes of contemporary America — catastrophic weather, political unrest, a Trump-like president who tweets erratically and spouts conspiracy theories about election fraud, a deadly virus that jumps from cows to humans and spreads rapidly before it gets detected….

(7) ELLISON’S ICONIC HOME. Tim Kirk posted photos of Harlan Ellison and a visitor admiring the “Aztec Martian” facade of Harlan’s home which was designed and sculpted by Tim’s brother Steve Kirk. Also at the link, a shot of Steve and Tim inside Harlan’s study; Steve sculpted the “Robot Deco” totems visible in the foreground.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1965 – On this evening fifty six years ago on CBS, Lost in Space first aired. It was created and produced by Irwin Allen whose previous SF show was Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea. Its main cast was Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright and  Jonathan Harris. Oh, and The Robot was played by Bob May and voiced by Dick Tufeld. It was designed by Robert Kinoshita who did the Robot for Forbidden Planet. It would last three seasons of eighty three episodes. A Lost in Space film with a new cast would later happen, as well as a rebooted series. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 — Agatha Christie, or to give her full name of Dame Agatha Mary Clarissa Christie, Lady Mallowan, DBE (née Miller). ISDB lists her Harley Quin tales as being genre as they think the lead character is supernatural though no reviewers I can find think that he is. Anyone here who has read them? They also list one Hercule Poirot story, “The Big Four”, as genre as it involved apparently the use of atomic explosives in a 1927 story.  I’ll admit that I love her Murder on the Orient Express in all its film incarnations no matter who plays the lead role. (Died 1976.)
  • Born September 15, 1940 — Norman Spinrad, 81. The only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. It was nominated for a Hugo at Baycon. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? He did get nominated for quite a few Hugos, the “Riding the Torch” novella at Aussiecon One, Staying Alive: A Writer’s Guide  at L.A. Con II, Journals of the Plague Years at Noreascon 3 and  Science Fiction in the Real World at Chicon V. 
  • Born September 15, 1942 — Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 79. Best known for her series of historical horror novels about the vampire Count Saint-Germain. She has been honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a Living Legend Award from the International Horror Guild Award and a Bram Stoker Award for Life Time Achievement. Very impressive indeed.
  • Born September 15, 1946 — Oliver Stone, 75. Jeopardy! answer: Oliver Stone. Jeopardy question: Who was the scriptwriter for the Conan the Barbarian? Yeah, isn’t that a kick? He has several genre credits one being the executive producers of the Wild Palms series, and the same for The Hand, a horror film about a comic book artist gone horribly wrong.
  • Born September 15, 1946 — Howard Waldrop, 75. I think that The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him, but I’ve not read Them Bones. His short fiction such as “The Ugly Chickens” which won the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards is most excellent. He just won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. A generous selection of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born September 15, 1952 — Loren D. Estleman, 69. You’ll have noticed that I’ve an expansive definition of genre and so I’m including a trilogy of  novels by this writer who’s better known for his mainstream mysteries featuring Amos Walker which are set in the  Sherlock Holmes Metaverse, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. I think it was Titan Book that maybe a decade ago republished a lot of these Holmesian pastiches of which there are more than I want to think about. ISFDB lists two other novels by him as genre, Journey of the Dead and The Eagle and the Viper.
  • Born September 15, 1946 — Tommy Lee Jones, 75. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s has done other genre, the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s also Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. He most recently appeared as Cliff McBride in Ad Astra.  Oh, and he’s in A Prairie Home Companion as Axeman. 
  • Born September 15, 1962 — Jane Lindskold, 59. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished,  Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much it’s Zelazny is open to debate which we did the last time I posted her Birthday. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows a distant world where the movie theaters are open.

(11) GENESIS STORIES. The Salt Lake Tribune profiles four comics sellers in “How Utah’s independent comic book stores champion fandom, literacy and fantastic storytelling”.

Charles Prows was a Utah State University student in May 2013 when he decided to open a comic book store.

The almost lifelong Utah resident was on a road trip with his brother one weekend, complaining to his brother about the long path ahead: finishing his undergraduate degree and veterinary school, starting his own practice and — eventually — making enough money to retire and open a comic book store.

“That’s a really roundabout, weird way to open a comic book store,” his brother said.

His brother “ended up convincing [him]” that he should drop out of school and chase his real dream, Prows said. And he did just that — jumping in with only a few hundred dollars to his name….

(12) FINAL EXAM. James Gunn’s last book was released this summer: The Reading Protocols of Science Fiction: Discourses on Reading SF.

“The invitation came online, probably an e-mail. I was aware of the existence of SFF.net, a website that specialized in discussions of science fiction issues, often by authors who were too impatient to get their opinions published in the SFWA Bulletin, which got published every two months and was the battleground for some classic debates and sometimes name-calling… The invitation was to join a discussion–in midstream–about the protocols for reading science fiction. One of the exchanges online included a reference to the fact that I had written about the protocols in a recent article… I didn’t read the website regularly, mostly because I didn’t have time; these were busy days for me, both teaching and publishing, and my days as president of SFWA and then of SFRA were long over, and the debates were still raging about mostly the same issues. But the debates about the protocols of reading science fiction were still fresh and the discussion about them, if they existed, was still fresh. And the discussion was brisk and sharp, particularly from Damon Knight, with whom I had an interesting relationship since I had read his fiction and his critical opinions… We had met in a bar at the World Science Fiction Convention…”

And so begins James Gunn’s definitive and fascinating study of the reading protocols of science fiction — the way readers read science fiction differently than other kinds of fiction. (Or, do they?) The journey may seem academically dry, but is anything but, as it involves all sorts of beloved personalities and brawling debates about reading, writing, the very definition of science fiction itself, and what sets it apart from other fiction, and, ultimately, what makes us what we are as humans.

The lively debate involves Damon Knight and many other professional science fiction writers and critcs. The book includes Samuel R. Delany’s key essay on the subject, and several by James Gunn, to thoroughly explore the subject.

This is James Gunn’s last book, finished just before his death, and a most fitting capstone to his incredible career, all carefully put together with his friend and associate, Michael R. Page.

(13) DOROTHY DISAPPEARS. If they only had a heart. Litigation forces a DC-area brewer to rename its best-known beer. The Washington Post tells the story: “Oz forces 7 Locks Brewing beer name change”.

There’s something poignant about the new name for an old beer made by Rockville’s 7 Locks Brewing. What was originally known as “Surrender Dorothy” is now simply called “Surrender.” The Wicked Witch won and 7 Locks had to throw in the bar towel.

In this case, it was Turner Entertainment that was no friend of Surrender Dorothy. Its lawyers dropped a house on 7 Locks Brewing’s effort to trademark the name of their signature beer. (I think I may have mixed metaphors there.) “Basically, Turner owns the rights to ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” said Keith Beutel, co-founder of 7 Locks. “They claimed that we were using the term ‘Surrender Dorothy’ and they didn’t want any confusion with their branding.”…

(14) UNOFFICIAL COMPANION. A Kickstarter appeal has been launched to fund publication of Across Time and Space: An Unofficial Doctor Who Companion by Unbound.

Across Time and Space is a beautifully designed, 800-page paperback containing reviews of every televised Doctor Who story up to the present day. It is based on a blog called The Patient Centurion started by the writer Tony Cross in 2011, which now runs to over 200,000 words. The book includes an introduction from Doctor Who podcast host, Sunday Times bestselling author and all-round good guy Daniel Hardcastle

It is an unofficial book not in any way associated with the BBC – this is a project by a fan for the fan community . We hope it will encourage some fans to follow Tony’s journey and start watching all 852 episodes in order . . .

Everyone that pledges at the standard level will receive a copy of the book and other perks. At this writing they’ve raised $4,815 of the $32,557 goal.

(15) GIVE YOUR ANSWER IN THE FORM OF A HAT. “Helen Mirren to Host ‘Harry Potter’ Quiz Show for WarnerMedia”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The Oscar-winning actress has been tapped to host four-part competition series Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses for WarnerMedia. The previously announced series, which marks the 20th anniversary of the first film in the Harry Potter franchise, will air first on Cartoon Network and TBS before making its debut on HBO Max at a date to be determined.

“I knew someday I’d get a Harry Potter role, and I’m so pleased to take part in the 20-year film celebration,” Mirren said. “The films inspired such enchantment and wonder for so many of us, and it will be such a treat to reignite that magic for the countless fans who continue to revel in this spellbinding world.”

(16) DRAGON, PARTY OF FOUR. The Associated Press says it will happen tonight: “4 will circle Earth on 1st SpaceX private flight”.

SpaceX’s first private flight will be led by a 38-year-old entrepreneur who’s bankrolling the entire trip. He’s taking two sweepstakes winners with him on the three-day, round-the-world trip, along with a health care worker who survived childhood cancer.

They’ll ride alone in a fully automated Dragon capsule, the same kind that SpaceX uses to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA. But the chartered flight won’t be going there.

Set to launch Wednesday night from Kennedy Space Center, the two men and two women will soar 100 miles (160 kilometers) higher than the space station, aiming for an altitude of 357 miles (575 kilometers), just above the current position of the Hubble Space Telescope….

(17) THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. DUST presents “Atropa” Episode 1.

When Off-World Officer Cole Freeman finds the missing research vessel ATROPA, he discovers an inconsistency in the ship logs. He wakes the crew from hypersleep, and they soon find themselves caught up in a much bigger mystery. Series Description: A troubled Off-World cop, running from his past, finds himself slammed directly into it when he boards the mysterious spaceship ATROPA.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Netflix Executive Tutorial” on Screen Rant, Ryan George plays Netflix executive Perry LaCroix, who explains all the advantages of being an executive at Netflix. Your deltoids get a good workout from all the bags of cash you’re carrying around. Everyone is your friend as you throw hundreds at them, “You get very familiar with the anguished cries of former CEOs” who leave pleading voice mails.  But is it possible you could be replaced by an ATM that says “yes” on the front?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, rcade, N., Michael J. Walsh, Rich Lynch, SG Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/21 If It Doesn’t Scroll Naturally, File It

(1) MASSIVE DOCTOR WHO POLL. Herald of Creation today finished releasing the results of its poll of the best Doctor Who episodes, a Twitter marathon that began in July with number 296 “The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos” (a Thirteenth Doctor episode, unfortunately.) Here are the top five, with apologies that WordPress won’t display single tweets. (And since Herald of Creation revealed them in last to first order, that shuffles things up, too.)

(2) ELIZABETH BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. In an open Patreon post, Elizabeth Bear announced she’s been diagnosed with cancer: “The good news is that I’m a writer and I already own 75 pairs of pajamas.” Wishing her the best of care.

This is one of those bad news but not the worst news posts, which is to say that I’ve been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and am in the process of scheduling surgery and radiation for it.

This means that The Folded Sky will probably be a little delayed, because at least two months of my life are going to vanish in a puff of waiting rooms and lasers. The good news on that front is that I’m working on the copy edits for The Origin of Storms right now and those should be handed back very soon. And I think I’ll get the short story I’m working on finished by deadline, too…

Don’t fret about me too much: I’ve got a great care team and a great group of local family and friends, and the odds are in my favor. The survival rate for early detected breast cancer is 99% these days.

I expect to be crushingly bored and annoyed and somewhat terrified for three months or so, and then suffer through biannual mammograms for the rest of my life, however long that is….

(3) MEMORY BOOK. A Kickstarter appeal has been launched to fund a limited edition hardcover book of art by the world famous fantasy and science fiction artist, Rowena — Paintings and Drawings by Rowena by Kim DeMulder.

The magically amazing artwork of Rowena is known to people everywhere in the world. She painted literally hundreds of book covers and illustrations for many different publications. She won many awards during her career, including the British Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1984, and was a four-time Hugo finalist for Best Professional Artist. Her professional peers made her a 1999 Chesley Award nominee. And the World Fantasy Conventions awarded her a lifetime achievement award in 2020.

Sadly, Rowena passed away in February 2021 and the art world experienced a profound loss.

And that means, of course that there will be no more Rowena art produced…ever. However, legends never die and here is the opportunity to keep her legend alive. This new book of her artwork contains many pieces that were never published before. And will also include several pieces that were never published in Rowena’s previous art books. Over 100 pages of paintings and drawings and even some poetry are contained within this hard cover volume.

 This beautiful book is being lovingly designed and edited by Kim DeMulder, who had lived with Rowena for approximately the last 18 years.

(4) DOES YOUR CON NEED HELP? Speculative Literature Foundation is still taking applications for their Convention Support Grants.  It’s a rolling grant – the first recipients were announced last month.

This has been a difficult year for the conventions that have long been the lifeblood of our field. The SLF is pleased to announce a new Convention Support Grant for 2021-2022.

We’ll be giving out $10,000 over the course of the year, in grants of $500 – $1000 each, to science fiction and fantasy conventions. (Literary conventions that have significant speculative literature content are also welcome to apply.)

These grants are intended to support conventions both in developing their online presences (through the purchase of tech, training costs, hosting costs, etc.) and making in-person gathering safer once it’s appropriate, perhaps in the last quarter of 2021 (through purchase of cleaning supplies, masks, renting additional rooms for better spacing, etc.). Non-profit organizations preferred.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Open for submissions: Conventions taking place between January 1 and May 31, 2022, application period: August 15 – September 15, 2021

Please visit our website for more specific information on the application process: https://speculativeliterature.org/convention-support-grant/

(5) L’AUDACE L’AUDACE TOUJOURS L’AUDACE. “The French military’s newest weapon: science fiction writers” says Literary Hub.

…Essentially, reports Le Monde and WorldCrunch, the French Military of Defense is working with the University of Paris Sciences and Lettres to train their military on sci-fi-esque ideas. The science fiction writers, already in the business of thinking of futuristic technology and social innovations, come up with futuristic scenarios that could possibly endanger France between 2030 and 2060. Once the sci-fi writers, called the “Red Team,” fact-check with “The Purple Team,” academics working in AI and tech, and the “Blue Team,” military, the military uses those ideas as practice scenarios.

…A little surprisingly, a fraction of the scenarios are made available for public consumption on the Red Team’s website; the two scenarios currently on the site are “The Sublime Door Opens Again,” a world where hypervelocity missiles have caused armies to design shields that can cover a whole city, and “Chronicle of an Announced Cultural Death,” a world where communities have siloed themselves into “safe spheres”.

The Red Team also has a YouTube channel filled with what are essentially commercials for themselves.

(6) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the August 28 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Lorien Kite discusses a vacation she took with her family in Iceland, organized by Black Tomato “Take me on a Story” based on Jules Verne’s Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.

The action begins almost as soon as we make it through the melee of duty-free shopping and Covid-related bureaucracy at Keflavik arrivals only to be greeted by our guide for the next four days, Arnar Olafsson.  Outside, loading the vehicle, we find an envelope wedged under the windscreen wiper, which opens to reveal a letter with certain words rendered in Scandinavian runes together with part of a runic-to-roman key–though not a big enough part for us to make much headway. Later, after we are dropped off at our base for the first two days, the stylish Hotel Husafell near the Lankjokull glacier, a parcel including the missing section is delivered to our door.

The packages keep coming, all containing puzzles or messages that whet the appetite for the next day’s activities and sustain the narrative of a mysterious uncle with the initials “GH” who has discovered a way to the centre of the Earth and is now on the run:  It’s a kind of treasure hunt, borrowing from the 1959 and 2008 films as well as from the book.

(7) DHALGREN IN DEPTH. On Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, edited by Bill Wood, and put together with a great deal of assistance from Delany himself, will be released by Fantastic Books on September 9.

This book—full of reviews, critical essays, and in-depth analyses of Dhalgren as a novel, and as commentary on life and the world—is an excellent companion to the novel itself. There are also discussions of how to read the novel, and clues to unraveling some of the mysteries hidden therein. Dhalgren is a difficult novel to read—playing with the reader’s perception through the use of circular text, interior echoes, multistable perception, and repeated imagery—but it is a worthwhile read. The book includes nine full-color illustrations (and more spot black-and-white illos), as well as an essay on “The Making of Hogg,” Delany’s infamous and nearly unpublishable novel.

Samuel R. Delany is the winner of two Hugos and four Nebula Awards. He has been honored with lifetime achievement awards, including SFWA’s Grand Master, the Eaton Award, the Lambda Pilgrim Award, and the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Dhalgren, his most popular and most controversial novel, was first published in 1975. It was nominated for the Nebula Award, remains in print to this day, and has sold close to two one million copies in a variety of editions.

Contributors include Douglas Barbour, Mary Kay Bray, Rudi Dornemann, Harlan Ellison, Robert Elliot Fox, Jean Marc Gawron, Kenneth R. James, Gerald Jonas, John Nizalowski, Steven Paley, Darrell Schweitzer, Steven Shaviro, K. Leslie Steiner, Theodore Sturgeon, and Samuel R. Delany himself.

The table of contents is on the publisher’s website.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 2003 – Eighteen years on this date, Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite Television Show was published by BenBella Books. It’s a look by Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel by genre writers who are very obviously fans of those series. I won’t list all of the authors and their essays who are here so I’ll single out just a few such as David Brin who wrote “Buffy vs. the Old-Fashioned ‘Hero'”, Laura Resnick’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ambivalent” and Sherrilyn Kenyon “The Search for Spike’s Balls”. It’s available should you want to read it from the usual suspects for a mere four dollars and ninety nine cents. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1940 — Pauline Collins, 81. She played Queen Victoria in the Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw”, a most excellent tale, but she first showed up on Who over thirty years earlier as Samantha Briggs in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story. She’s appears in Tales of the UnexpectedThe Three Musketeers, Julian Fellowes’ From Time to Time film and the Merlin series. 
  • Born September 3, 1943 — Valerie Perrine, 78. She has an uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick in Diamonds Are Forever, her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Slaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. She showed up as Tins in “The Three Little Pigs” episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, and was April Flowers in “Who’s Who: Part 3” of Ghostwriters.
  • Born September 3, 1943 — Mick Farren. Punk musician who was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants. He also wrote Hawkwind lyrics who several genre writers have included in their novels.  His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. His late Eighties novel The Armageddon Crazy was set in a post-Millennium States dominated by fundamentalists who toss the Constitution away. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 3, 1954 — Stephen Gregg. Editor and publisher of Eternity Science Fiction which  ran 1972 to 1975 and 1979 to 1980. It had early work by Glen Cook, Ed Bryant, Barry N Malzberg, andrew j offutt and Roger Zelazny. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 3, 1959 — Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Died 1989.)
  • Born September 3, 1969 — John Picacio, 52. Illustrator who in 2005 won both the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and the Chesley Award for Best Paperback Cover for James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. He won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist at LoneStarCon 3 and at CoNZealand. He’s nominated this year for the same Award. 
  • Born September 3, 1974 — Clare Kramer, 47. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension, that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls IIIThe GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUSANNA CLARKE Q&A. “Susanna Clarke: ‘Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman taught me to be courageous in writing’” in The Guardian.

The book I wish I’d written
The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. It’s an extraordinary novel, funny and clever. It is subtitled A Nightmare. But it’s an odd sort of nightmare – one where terror keeps dissolving into cheerfulness (which is the opposite way round from most nightmares, and from a lot of contemporary fiction). Chesterton describes scenes and objects and colours with an almost heraldic vividness – or, looked at another way, as if they were pages in a modern graphic novel. He makes London feel like a fairytale, which to him I think it was. I have read The Man Who Was Thursday many, many times, but I still don’t understand it. I’ll keep going.

A word of warning: it is a book of its times. There are no women characters. Well, there might be one, but she says three things and vanishes immediately….

(12) DUELING KAIJU. John Scalzi’s tweet  brings to mind something I saw during the 1986 Worldcon, possibly in the same hotel. (How many downtown Atlanta hotels have these glass-walled elevators?)  Quote follows.

…At other times, the illusion of flight and the view of other elevator cars hurtling past inspired new fannish stunts. Late Friday night the car I was riding stopped at the 38th floor, admitting Jerry Pournelle and Barbara Clifford. Seconds later, another car stopped beside us on the 38th floor. Staring from its window was a 3-foot-tall inflatable Godzilla held upright by two laughing fans. Both elevators left the 38th floor together, and raced downward on a parallel course. Like a tailgunner sighting bogies through his perspex dome, Pournelle jackhammered his arms from the recoil of imaginary twin-.50s and yelled, “Die, monster, die!” Godzilla’s bodyguards imitated Jerry and they shot each other down into the lobby….

(13) MORE NEWS. Petréa Mitchell returns to the con reporting field with the launch of her new Substack newsletter SMOF News. Issue 1 is live here.

SMOF News aims to be a newsletter covering fan conventions and related topics of interest. Please send your press releases, your news tidbits, and your outraged letters to smofnews@gmx.com.

Each issue will have 4 parts:

  1. Discussion of the big news of the week. If there is no big news, the space will be filled by editorializing, helpful tips for congoers, Q&As, or whatever else seems appropriate to the moment. Like this introduction, for instance.
  2. News in brief from around the convention world.
  3. Convention listings for the next five weekends.
  4. One interesting link that may or may not have anything at all to do with geek fandoms.

Newsletters will be published every Wednesday evening, Pacific Time.

(14) OCTOTHORPE. Episode 39 of the Octothorpe podcast is now up.  John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty are at their computers for the first time in ages, and spend awhile catching up on locs before talking about convention COVID-19 policies. Listen here: “Bar Cookies”.

(15) HOME WEET HOME. “Meet The Women Who Live In Real-Life Disney Houses” is an aggregation of Instagrams and Tik-Tok videos with framing comments at The Refinery, if you want to satisfy your curiosity.

On TikTok, the hashtag #disneyhouse currently has over 120 million views. Here, you can see everything from handles shaped like the talking doorknob in Alice In Wonderland to princess beds to Aladdin rugs to doors decaled to look like Boo’s from Monsters, Inc. In recent years, much has been made of ‘Disney adults’ – often childless millennials with an all-consuming love of Walt’s wares. Disney adults subtly dress like Disney characters, they holiday in the parks multiple times a year and they fill their homes with Disney décor. 

(16) TEN PERCENTER. Powell’s Books has picked a list of 50 Books for 50 Years. I’ve read five. (Sometime I’m going to make my own list so for once I can have a good score.)

Which books have foretold the present, lit our paths, warned us back, egged us on? What books stand with us now, reflecting the present?

Read why we picked each of these remarkable volumes of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comics for our anniversary list — and share your favorites with us using the hashtag #50Books50Years.

(Click for larger image.)

(17) MADE OF CHEESE. The moon, maybe, the movie for sure. Moonfall comes to theaters February 4, 2022.

In Moonfall, a mysterious force knocks the Moon from its orbit around Earth and sends it hurtling on a collision course with life as we know it. With mere weeks before impact and the world on the brink of annihilation, NASA executive and former astronaut Jo Fowler (Academy Award® winner Halle Berry) is convinced she has the key to saving us all – but only one astronaut from her past, Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson, “Midway”) and a conspiracy theorist K.C. Houseman (John Bradley, “Game of Thrones”) believes her. These unlikely heroes will mount an impossible last-ditch mission into space, leaving behind everyone they love, only to find out that our Moon is not what we think it is.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark Hamill talks to Star Wars Coffee about his role in The Mandalorian. This is actually quite interesting and only four minutes long.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Ian Randal Strock, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint. Or Kendall. I’m not sure.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/19/21 Like A Mouse Over Troubled Pixels, I Will Scroll The File

(1) KOWAL ON WALLY FUNK. The New York Times has run an essay by Lady Astronaut author (and DisCon III chair) Mary Robinette Kowal on Wally Funk. “Wally Funk’s Launch With Jeff Bezos Defies 60 Years of Exclusion From Space”. (Registration may be required.)

Ms. Funk’s trip to space with Jeff Bezos is reason to celebrate. But the launch this week, decades after she was denied the opportunity, also raises questions about whom space is for.

(2) APEX APPEAL. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to fund Apex Magazine 2022. On the first day people have contributed $5,325 of its $10,000 goal. Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore says:

The last few years of Apex Magazine (including 2021), we’ve produced an incredible run of transformative and diverse fiction. We relaunched with Fargo Tbakhi’s “Root Rot,” a timely tale regarding colonization. “Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow threaded the needle between heartbreaking and hopefulness. Sam J. Miller celebrated the power of music in “A Love That Burns Hot Enough to Last: Deleted Scenes from a Documentary.”

We published back-to-back Hugo Award winners (2018 & 2019) in the category of Best Short Fiction (“Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™” by Rebecca Roanhorse and “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow, respectively) and the 2017 Hugo Award winner in the category of Best Novelette (“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon). Fiction from Apex Magazine has also won the Nebula Award, Locus Award, and numerous others.

In addition to our phenomenal fiction, every issue of Apex Magazine offers evocative cover art, thought-provoking nonfiction, author and  artist interviews, and a professional-quality podcast produced by KT Bryski.

All these wonderful things would exist if not for the community of readers, creators, and staff—the extended Apex family. Thank you so much for your love and continued support!

The Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter also promises: “Should we fund, we will commission new original fiction from five writers who we think embodies the type of bold, diverse work we seek to publish.” Those writers are: Gabino Iglesias, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samit Basu, and Lavie Tidhar.

(3) THE OOPS DIRECTIVE. James Davis Nicoll makes you wonder if there would be a story if people followed the rules. There’s plenty where they don’t, as James shows in “Five SF Stories About Disobeying Non-Interference Directives” at Tor.com.

…For historical reasons—that throughout Earth history, first contact between dissimilar cultures was generally followed by vigorous efforts by whichever culture enjoyed a military advantage to strip-mine the other of goods and services—many science fiction authors (particularly during the mid-century period when various empires were winding down) gave their settings laws encouraging non-interference. One might call this a Prime Directive….

(4) HELP REQUESTED. The“Fundraiser by Adam-Troy Castro : In the Aftermath of Unexpected Death” is a GoFundMe brought on by the sudden death of his wife, Judi. It has raised $26,979 so far.

…She was also, through her own income, the chief support of our family. I am a writer and my money comes in irregularly, sometimes in decent sized chunks (like last week, but delayed for a year by COVID), sometimes in tiny little amounts. I am going to have to restructure my new life as a freshly minted widower, and I will, but in the interim our fragile climb back to solvency has been slammed back to the earth. I am in big, big trouble; destitute with debt still looming.

I damn the whims of fate.

I am not the kind of person who finds this easy. It hurts me to type these words, and I am intensely self-conscious about asking for help this soon after the last time. I can tell you that I did not want the prior worst period of my life to be followed so soon by another loss that is even more primal, even more destructive. I have had no time to think, just arranging the memorial — and I am sure that the bills for her time for the ICU, after insurance, will be coming, inevitable and unswayed by sentiment, even as we run late on bills that would have normally been her duty to pay. (She died in a distant city, in the home of a family we were pet-sitting for, so we are far from our records, from our mailing address, and…this is a pyramid, folks. It gets higher and higher.)

If you knew Judi at all, you loved her. If you know me at all, maybe you have some of that same feeling. I have to jettison pride. She has left me bereft. I will be deeply grateful for any help you can give,

(5) SPACE JAM RULES AT BOX OFFICE. Critical reviews did not keep Space Jam: A New Legacy from overtaking Black Widow in theater ticket sales last weekend.

The Hollywood Reporter starts the ball rolling:

Space Jam: A New Legacy, starring the basketball great [LeBron James], beat holdover Black Widow to top the chart with a better-than-expected domestic debut of $31.7 million from 3,956 theaters.

Marvel and Disney’s Black Widow fell to No. 2 in its second outing with $26.3 million. The superhero pic suffered a steep 67 percent decline, one of the biggest drops ever for a Marvel title, and the worst among the Marvel films released by Disney. The decline underscores that the box office recovery is far from over; also, the tentpole is available in the home via Disney+ Premier Access (piracy is another problem)….

Deadline notes that’s the steepest second-weekend drop ever for a Disney-distributed MCU title, beating Ant-Man and the Wasp (62 percent). They say piracy is a big problem: “’Black Widow’ Post Steep Box Office Drop For MCU Title; Disney Mum On PVOD”.

…Fact: Black Widow was the most-pirated movie last week on Torrent Freak, ahead of The Tomorrow War in the No. 2 spot. I understand from sources that have seen several piracy reports that apparently Black Widow might be the most-pirated title to date during the pandemic, ahead of Wonder Woman 1984.

Studios go to extra lengths to encrypt and watermark their movies before release. Pristine copies of a tentpole spell death at the box office, and they further spell death here on both the box office and Disney+ Premier side.

Many of these piracy sites dress themselves up with images from the film to make it look like they’re legit. One industry analytics source informed me over the weekend that in one study they did for a studio, it showed that these piracy sites were the No. 1 means for those at home to watch movies, not Disney+ or any other streamer….

The LA Times tries to account for this surprising showing: “’Space Jam’ sequel unseats ‘Black Widow’ at the top of the box office”:

…Not many expected “Space Jam: A New Legacy” to pull off this win. The poorly reviewed film was pegged for an opening in the $20-million range. But a sizable number of families and millennials who grew up with the original “Space Jam” left the house and went to a theater to see it, even though it’s currently streaming on HBO Max free for subscribers. Not only that, audiences also gave the film a promising A- CinemaScore, suggesting word of mouth could be strong….

(6) SPEAKING UP. In the Washington Post. Michael Cavna interviews Jeff Bergman, who voices Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, met Mel Blanc once, but only met LeBron James at the premiere when he shouted something to James in his Bugs voice. “’Space Jam: A New Legacy’: The Bugs Bunny voice actor has spent a lifetime perfecting the craft”.

…After the premiere, James was surrounded by layers of fans. What could Bergman do to get the NBA star’s attention despite the distance and din? “I yelled out from about 20 feet away and said in Bugs Bunny’s voice, ‘Hey, Doc, we really are family,'” Bergman said. “He heard and saw me.” Bergman was ushered through the throng to greet him.

“He was holding his daughter and we embraced and thanked each other,” Bergman said. Even amid the crowd, it felt like “a very private congratulatory moment.”

(7) VISION AND REVISION. “At times it’s hard to believe what you see” it says on the cover of Dragons Walk Among Us, source of “The Big Idea: Dan Rice” at Whatever.

Is there a world before our eyes that most people overlook? What are the ramifications for someone who can see the unseeable? This is the big idea behind my debut novel Dragons Walk Among Us.

I first became interested in the world that most people overlook through photography. For example, star trails illuminate landscapes that most people never experience except through photographs taken by others. What really started to fascinate me years ago are water droplets––on blades of grass, flower petals, leaves, windows, etc. Individual little worlds are scattered across the dewy grass, and most people never take the time to appreciate them. Sometimes I imagine each dewdrop is a microcosmos populated by strange creatures. I suppose on the infinitesimal scale of microbes, this is true….

(8) SALLY MILLER GEARHART (1931-2021). Author and academic Sally Miller Gearhart died July 14 at the age of 90. The Advocate has a profile about her activism and work as an educator: “Sally Gearhart, Veteran Activist and Academic, Dead at 90”.

…Gearhart, a Virginia native, taught for many years at San Francisco State University, where in 1973 she became the first out lesbian to be named to a tenure-track position (at the school and, apparently, in the nation). At SF State, she established one of the first women’s and gender studies programs in the nation. She was an author of feminist science fiction as well….

The Wikipedia entry synopsizes her sff career:

…In 1978, her most famous novel, The Wanderground, was published, exploring themes of ecofeminism and lesbian separatism. She wrote two books as part of the Earthkeep trilogy, The Kanshou, published in 2002, and The Magister, published in 2003. Both stories explore a dystopian world where women outnumber men, and humans are the only beings on the planet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago, Roger Zelazny’s “Home is The Hangman” novella wins the Hugo at MidAmeriCon. The other nominated works that year were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys, and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. His Doorways in the Sand would be nominated for Best Novel that year, finishing second to Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 19, 1883 Max Fleischer. Animator, film director and producer. He brought such animated characters as Betty Boop, Popeye and Superman to the screen and was responsible for a number of technological innovations including the Rotoscope and Stereoptical Processes. You can see Betty’s first screen appearance here in the 1930 Cartoon, “Dizzy Dishes”. (Died 1972.)
  • Born July 19, 1924 Pat Hingle. He portrayed Jim Gordon in the Burton Batman film franchise. Genre wise, he had roles in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneCarol for Another ChristmasMission: ImpossibleThe InvadersTarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Amazing Stories and The Land Before Time. He would reprise his Gordon role in the Batman OnStar commercials. (Died 2009.)
  • Born July 19, 1927 Richard E. Geis. I met him at least once when I was living out West. Interesting person.  He won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice; and whose science fiction fanzine Science Fiction Review won Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine four times. The Alien Critic won the Best Fanzine Hugo once (in a tie with Algol), and once by himself. And yes, I enjoyed reading the Science Fiction Review. I’ve not any of his handful of genre novels, and certainly haven’t encountered his softcore porn of which there’s a lot. (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 19, 1938 Jayant Vishnu Narlikar, 82. He and Fred Hoyle developed the Hoyle–Narlikar theory, which Stephen Hawking would prove is incompatible with an expanding universe. He would write two genre novels, The Return of The Vaman (translated from Marathi) and The Message from Aristarchus. His autobiography is My Tale of Four Cities: An Autobiography.
  • Born July 19, 1957 John Pelan. Committed (more or less) the act of opening serial small publishing houses in succession with the first being Axolotl Press in the mid-Eighties where he’d published the likes of de Lint and Powers (before selling it to Pulphouse Publishing) followed by Darkside Press, Silver Salamander Press and finally co-founding Midnight House. All have been inactive for quite awhile now and he’d been editing such anthologies as Tales of Terror and Torment: Stories from the Pulps, Volume 1 for other presses though even that has not happened for some years as near as I can tell. As a writer, he had more than thirty published stories and he had won both a Stoker for The Darker Side: Generations of Horror anthology and an International Horror Guild Award for his Darkside: Horror for the Next Millennium anthology. (Died 2021.)
  • Born July 19, 1963 Garth Nix, 58. Writer of children’s and young adult fantasy novels, to wit the Keys to the KingdomOld Kingdom, and Seventh Tower series. The Ragwitch which I read quite some time ago is quite excellent and being a one-off can give you a good taste of him without committing to a series. 
  • Born July 19, 1969 Kelly Link, 52. First, let me note that along with Ellen Datlow, she and her husband Gavin Grant were responsible for the last five volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. They all did a magnificent job. All of her collections, Pretty MonstersMagic for Beginners and Get in Trouble are astonishingly good. And she’s much honored having won a Hugo Award, three Nebula Awards, a World Fantasy Award, an Otherwise Award, a Sturgeon Award and received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
  • Born July 19, 1976 Benedict Cumberbatch, 45. Confession time: I really didn’t care for him in the Sherlock Holmes series as that series didn’t work for me, nor did I think his Khan In Star Trek Into Darkness was all that interesting but his Stephen Strange In Doctor Strange was quite excellent. He did do a superb job of voicing Smaug in The Hobbit, and his Grinch-voicing in the latter film was also superb. And yes, he’s the voice of Satan in Good Omens.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) GETTING PAID. The Hollywood Reporter discovers that “Marvel, DC Offer ‘Shut Up Money’ As Comic Creators Go Public”.

… Multiple comic creators have publicly stated that DC’s payments for adaptations, in general, is higher. Comic creator Jim Starlin turned heads in 2017 when he publicly noted that Warner Bros. paid him more for a minor character that appeared in DC’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice than he received for Marvel’s major Guardians of the Galaxy characters Thanos, Gamora and Drax combined. After Starlin’s airing of grievances, Disney renegotiated his deal for Thanos, the villain of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Those films went on to gross $4.83 billion globally, and Starlin, while not sharing details of his deal, walked away happy. “The cliche is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Starlin tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The way these agreements are written up, Disney can be more generous if they want. It is written right there that they can change the terms to make it better.”

There’s no legal obligation to make additional payments for adaptations, with companies such as Marvel viewing these payments as thank-you gifts — and
a way to avoid the bad publicity of warring with a creator. “It’s ‘shut-up’ money,” as one Marvel creator who receives such payments, but also declined to share details of compensation, likes to call it. Even if companies have no legal obligation to compensate these writers and artists, paying more is akin to contract renegotiations with an actor. If a TV show or movie is a smash success, studios believe it makes sense to offer an actor more money for the sequel (or the next season of TV) to keep them happy. No one wants a bitter actor on set….

(13) THE SQUAD. DC dropped a Suicide Squad “In On The Action Featurette”. Comes to HBO Max on August 6.

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

(14) WILLIAM F. NOLAN & CO. At the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation website, a 1999 article about the many-named writing group Christopher Conlon likes to call the “Southern California Sorcerers”.

…Group member William F. Nolan, whose film credits include Burnt Offerings and Trilogy of Terror, explains: “We’d talk plot, read stories we’d finished for opinions, talk about markets and what was selling and who was buying, discuss character development and structure, and, yes, we’d argue, but in a constructive way. We all helped each other…and inter-connected on projects.”

“Sometimes, of an evening,” Ray Bradbury has written, “Richard Matheson would toss up there merest dustfleck of a notion, which would bounce off William F. Nolan, knock against George Clayton Johnson, glance off me, and land in [Charles Beaumont’s] lap. ..Sometimes we all loved an idea so much we had to assign it to the writer present who showed the widest grin, the brightest cheeks, the most fiery eyes.”

Direct collaborations between Group members were common. And no wonder. In those early days, most of them, particularly the “inner circle” of Nolan, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and novelist John Tomerlin, were men in their twenties who were just beginning their careers. They found strength, encouragement, and a sense of solidarity in the company of other struggling young writers. Because of the Group, says Nolan, “We were not alone; we had each other to fire us creatively, to bounce ideas around, to solve plot problems. It was the best kind of writing class that could ever be imagined.”…

(15) YOUTH MOVEMENT. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says that Facebook has come up with new software that lets robots walk like toddlers, which might be a good first step in letting robots walk like human adults. Especially if it lets robots learn to do so without falling down all the time, for which they’re less prepared than toddlers. “Facebook reveals AI development to help robots move in uncharted territory”

Facebook developed what it calls a foundational “breakthrough” in the race to create more humanlike robots: software that enables machines to learn to walk like toddlers.

Humans are very efficient at maneuvering. As kids, we figure out how to adjust our stride and cadence to trek through mud, water, and up and down hills with ease. Through trial and error, we adapt, figuring out the best ways to move our feet according to real-time situations. And we can do this while toting a variety of objects, either in our hands or on our backs.It’s tough to program robots to make instantaneous adjustments to their legs and feet to accommodate such a variety of tasks, mainly because it’s hard to train themto deal with corner cases, or objects and environments they’ve never seen before….

(16) CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN. Sure, that’s easy for you to say. According to Gizmodo, “Neutron Stars Have Mountains That Are Less Than a Millimeter Tall” but that would be one big step even for Barlennan.

A team of astrophysicists recently used new models of neutron stars to map the mountains—tiny raised areas—on the stars’ otherwise perfectly spherical structures. They found that the greatest deviations were still extraordinarily small due to the intense gravitational pull, clocking in at less than a millimeter tall.

Neutron stars are the dead cores of once-huge stars that collapsed in on themselves. They are the densest objects in the Universe aside from black holes. They’re called neutron stars because their gravity is so intense that the electrons in their atoms collapse into the protons, forming neutrons. They’re so compact that they pack a mass greater than that of our Sun into a sphere no wider than a city.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, Creature Features and La-La Land Entertainment present a virtual panel celebrating the 30th anniversary of Arachnophobia with director Frank Marshall and special guests.

Recorded in November 2020, moderator Mike Matessino hosts a lively and informative discussion with ARACHNOPHOBIA’s director / executive producer Frank Marshall, co-producer Richard Vane, actor Peter Jason, production designer James Bissell and entomologist Steve Kutcher.

No stranger to delighting audiences worldwide for decades, Mr. Marshall, producer of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, POLTERGEIST and JURASSIC WORLD, made his directorial debut with ARACHNOPHOBIA in 1990, bringing rapt audiences to the edge of their seats with laughter and shrieks in equal measure. The film has remained a beloved fan favorite to this day and its appreciation continues to grow as it connects with a new generation. Now, Mr. Marshall and special guests take you behind the film, its production, and its astounding spider effects and action!

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, Joel Zakem, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day David Shallcross.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/21 This Pixel Will Self-Destruct In Five Parsecs

(1) SUMMER READING. In “Meet the Authors of Summer’s Biggest Sci-Fi and Fantasy Adventures” Goodreads features Q&As with Shelley Parker-Chan, Nghi Vo, Matt Bell, Tasha Suri, Becky Chambers, Cassandra Khaw, T.J. Klune, and Cadwell Turnbull.

Cadwell Turnbull, author of No Gods, No Monsters

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

CT:  Balancing all the narrative elements. I’m very interested in narratives where individuals and groups of people converge around significant events for very different reasons. I wanted the novel to honor individual and collective action where each person is important. That was hard to do. The other challenge was the cosmology underpinning the story, which requires a few conceptual leaps to make sense. I didn’t want to do too much too fast and undercut the emotional weight of those leaps. I also didn’t want to undermine the very real and very important personal conflicts of the characters with god-level madness. Add to that my love of subtlety and subtext and the writing process became a tug-of-war between all these disparate goals. But I did my very best. Luckily I have two more books in the series to tease out every layer.

(2) BARBARA NEELY REMEMBERED. Mystery Writers of America has established the Barbara Neely Scholarship in honor of the late author, a trailblazing Black crime novelist who was named a Grand Master by MWA in late 2019. “She was named a Grand Master not only for the high quality of the work she produced during her career, but also for being an inspiration to an entire generation of crime writers of color.”

Two scholarships of $2000 each per year will be awarded: “One for an aspiring Black writer who has yet to publish in the crime or mystery field, and another for Black authors who have already published in crime or mystery.”

Applications are being taken from July 1 through September 30. The applications will be reviewed by the Barbara Neely Scholarship committee, including Black crime writers, and the winner will be announced in the late fall. The application form is here

Applicants must be Black, American citizens, and age 18 or older. They must submit a brief biography, competed application form, and 300-500-word statement on their interest in the mystery genre and in general terms (class, conference, equipment, etc.) how they would use the scholarship funds. Prior membership in MWA is not required.

The Barbara Neely Scholarship will be awarded on the basis of writing ability, interest in the crime/mystery genre, and likely benefit from the scholarship funds and MWA membership. 

(3) JUICY IS BETTER. There’s a Kickstarter to fund Juicy Ghosts by Rudy Rucker, the author’s twenty-fourth novel. People have contributed $5,302 of its $7,000 goal with 27 days to go. Rucker tells how the project began:

 Juicy Ghosts is about politics, telepathy, and immortality. I started it in 2019, as a reaction to Donald Trump’s repeated remarks that he planned to be a three-term president. That pushed me over the edge.

I started with a short story called “Juicy Ghosts.” Rebels bring down an insane, evil President who’s stolen an election. They sting him with a lethally tweaked wasp, erase the online backup of his mind, and explode his clone. Too much? It’s hard to stop, when you’re having this much fun! Over the next two years, my story grew into a novel. I had to write it. I had to stand and be counted.

So, yes, Juicy Ghosts is a tale of political struggle—but it’s more than that. It’s hip and literary, with romance and tragedy. Plus gnarly science, and lots of funny scenes. I used a loose, say-anything style. The point-of-view characters are outsiders and slackers. The majority of them are women, and they give the tale a grounded tone.

We’ll see commercial telepathy, or teep, before long. And we’ll want a channel that’s richer than text and images. Users might transmit templates for the neurochemicals that are affecting their current mood. Your friends feel your pheromones! In Juicy Ghosts, people do this with gossip molecules, which are nano-assemblers  with tiny antennas.

I’ve been writing about digital immortality since my early cyberpunk novel Software. The idea is to represent a soul by a digital program and a data-base, calling the construct a lifebox. But in Juicy Ghosts  a lifebox needs to be linked to a physical body.  It’s not enough to be a ghost—you want to be a juicy ghost. The linked body might be an insect or an animal or a biotweaked bot—but high-end users will have tank-grown clones.

Lifeboxes and clones will be expensive, so most people will settle for free lifebox storage provided by tech giants. The catch is that if you accept this free service, you’re obligated to do gig-work for the company—as a bodyguard, a chauffeur, a maid, of a factory worker. Typical of our times!

I like happy endings. I’d rather laugh than cry.  My characters destroy the evil President’s political party, topple the pay-to-play immortality racket, and provide everyone with free lifeboxes and physical bodies. Ta-da!

(4) LET IT GO. Lightspeed Magazine shines its “Author Spotlight” on Rachel Swirsky whose story “Innocent Bird” is in the magazine’s July issue.

[Swirsky:] … I actually initially went into submission with a version of this that was 1,000 words shorter. After getting a couple of very kind rejections, I let it lie for a while, and the next time I looked at it, I felt like the story had a reserved quality to it that didn’t seem appropriate. My graduate training—along with a lot of other aspects of contemporary aesthetics—strongly veers toward keeping emotions subtextual in this very discreet fashion. I went back into the story to let the heartbreak go straight onto the page. Shoko is a teenager; she’s full of these big emotions. She doesn’t express them to other people which only means she’s constantly inflated with love and distress and confusion and uncertainty about her future that she has no escape valve from. I think she tries to distance herself from that internally to some extent—there are moments when she underplays what she’s feeling—but she shouldn’t be written like a middle-aged literary professor wrestling with a midlife crisis….

(5) ROBOCREATORS. “Automated art: threat or menace?” asks James Davis Nicoll. SFF authors’ answer the question in these “Five SF Stories About Automated Art” at Tor.com.

“The Darfsteller” by Walter M. Miller (1955)

Thanks to advances in the field of robotic acting, Ryan Thornier, former star, is now Ryan Thornier, underpaid theatre janitor. True, there are many occupations not yet automated to which the old man could apply his thespian talents—salesman, politician, general—but these are beneath the former star. Only stage acting will do. But his desire to shine onstage cannot erase the fact that robotic mannikins programmed with recorded personality matrices deliver the same services as living actors, but are much cheaper and more reliable.

Ryan is very stubborn. Given even the smallest hope of reclaiming his lost place on stage, he will leap to take advantage of the opportunity…regardless of consequences.

(6) PERFORMATIVE REFORM. Radio Times, not surprisingly given their heavy coverage of The Doctor, favors the Doctor/Missy/Master arcs in this analysis: “What Loki got wrong – and Doctor Who got right”.

… A few times over the course of Loki, viewers had compared it to Doctor Who, mainly because of its general time-travel premise (what are the officious TVA except Time Lords with a dental plan?) and especially after episode three saw Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) trapped on a dying world. In fact, many commented that Loki did ‘Doctor Who’ better than Doctor Who itself, thanks to a higher budget and bigger stars. (Though did Loki have a sonic screwdriver? I think not. Case closed.)

And I actually think Loki could learn something from Doctor Who, more specifically, from a storyline that saw an iconic villain try to change their ways with mixed success….

(7) CLEAR CHANNEL. Here’s a post about the new book its author was trying to draw attention to in that sabotaged Reddit AMA: “The Big Idea: Nicole Kornher-Stace” at Whatever.

NICOLE KORNHER-STACE:

Since approximately five minutes after I started publishing, my mom has been telling me I should write a kids’ book. For a while I was…skeptical. Many of the kind things people have said about my work involve it being dark but ultimately hopeful but before that just. so dark. And many of my rejections have been for being “too dark.” None of which really felt super compatible with, y’know, a children’s book.

It’s not that I thought it was a bad idea, it just felt like an idea that was beyond my skillset or ability to even really conceptualize. So on the back burner it sat for a long time, along with a whole bunch of other stuff I’d talked myself out of writing for various reasons. (Thanks, impostor syndrome. You’re the best.)

And then I had a baby. And then my baby grew up into a kid. And just like that I had an audience to write a kids’ book for. And everything kind of came together from there….

(8) DISABLED PARTICIPANTS SOUGHT. Mission: AstroAccess has put out “A Call For Disabled Explorers to Experience Zero Gravity.” Any disabled adult living in the U.S. can apply – see full guidelines and view the application here. The deadline to apply is August 15.

Outer space is not just humanity’s future: it’s a call to rethink life on Earth right now.

In zero gravity, what is standing up? What is lying down? What does it mean to be unable to walk if no one there is walking? How does that shift our understanding of disability?

We are excited to announce the launch of Mission: AstroAccess, a program bringing a diverse group of disabled space enthusiasts on a historic ZERO-G parabolic flight! Participants will complete targeted tasks during the program’s flight to help answer basic questions about how disabled people can live and work in outer space. Mission: AstroAccess’ crew of disabled volunteers will take flight on October 17th, 2021, as the first step in a progression towards increasing diversity in space and the greater STEM field. 

…Mission: AstroAccess serves an additional purpose—while traditional physical barriers are lifted in space, accidents resulting in some form of disability are inevitable during extended missions in space’s dangerous environment. We are dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in space exploration, not just for the benefit of marginalized communities, but for the benefit of all humankind. The tasks conducted during this program will help inform accessible design to make extended space travel safer for everyone.

(9) A GENRE SUCCESS STORY. “Print Book Sales Soar in Year’s First Half”Publishers Weekly ran the numbers, which show graphic novel sales blew up.

…The big story in adult fiction was the strength of the graphic novel format. Unit sales soared 178.5% in the first half of the year, rising to 16.2 million copies sold, making graphic novels the second-largest adult fiction subcategory. Graphic novels made up nearly 20% of adult fiction unit sales in the first six months of 2021, compared to 9.3% last year.

Viz Media was one of the big beneficiaries of the graphic novel boom. Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, Vol. 26 was the top adult graphic novel in the first half of the year, selling more than 90,000 copies. Other volumes in the Academia line also sold well, including volume two (about 82,000 copies sold) and volume one (81,000 copies). Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Taiba, Vol. 1 by Koyoharu Gotouge, also published by Viz, sold more than 82,000 copies. A title published by a company other than Viz, Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 by Hajime Isayama, published by Kodansha, sold nearly 88,000 copies….

(10) SID ALTUS (1949-2021). Detroit fan Sid Altus died July 13, his daughter Shana announced on Facebook. Sid was a member of the Detroit in ’82 Worldcon bid. He worked on AutoClave and ConFusion. He and Alex Berman co-founded a small press, Phantasia Press, which published high-end limited editions of hardcover sf aimed at the collectors’ market. Fancyclopedia 3 has more about his history.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1997 – Twenty-four years ago this week, the Roar series premiered on Fox. It would last but thirteen episodes, five of which initially would go unaired. This sort of Celtic fantasy had Heath Ledger in the lead role, his first genre undertaking. The series also starred Vera Farmiga, Lisa Zane, John Saint Ryan, and Sebastian Roché. The show was created by Shaun Cassidy after the success of of  Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess but it truly bombed. It certainly didn’t help that the series was in the same time slot as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two novels, Roar: A Novel, a prequel, and Roar: The Cauldron, would later be written.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author with definite genre leanings. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group, has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the Civil War. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes, this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women.  As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1947 T. E. D. Klein, 74. Horror writer with two awards to his name, one a BFA for The Ceremonies novel, another a World Fantasy Award for his “Nadelman’s God” novella. He was editor of the Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid Eighties and the Night Cry zine for several around that time.
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 64. His best known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was Host of Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 58. Red Sonja! What’d a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 54. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. His short stories are most excellent thus it’s most fitting his recent The Twisted Book of Shadows collection won a Shirley Jackson Award. 
  • Born July 15, 1951 Jesse Ventura, 70. He’s actually been in far more genre films that I thought. His first film was Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe which audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a rating of nineteen percent. After that, he’s been in PredatorRunning ManDemolition Man and Batman & Robin

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a strange Martian/Wizard of Oz mashup. At least that’s what I think it is.
  • Frank and Ernest meet some innovative cave people.

(14) HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER. At Black Gate, Aaron Starr’s “Long and Winding” is the amusing saga about writing a doorstop-sized novel.

January 12th

Dear Diary,
After Justine’s third encounter with the forces pursuing her, I realized that what this sword-and-sorcery novel needs is some more swords! But Justine has given no hint of any sort of background with weapons. I’ll need to introduce a wise mentor, to teach her the ways of cold steel. Someone grizzled and worldly, cynical and a touch sarcastic.

That’s it! Dear diary, you’re a genius! Her mentor will be her spirit animal! This will kill two birds with one stone, which, I might point out, rules out a bird as her spirit animal, doesn’t it? Tee-hee! Seriously, what sort of animal embodies these qualities? A raccoon springs to mind. They seem sufficiently grizzled and worldly, and are no doubt cynical. But might I be playing into harmful stereotypes? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Later: I have visited the cafe next door, to allow myself a fresh perspective. As I drank a fortifying mug of pressed-almond choco-caf with double-frothed soy, I struck up a conversation with a man who just happens to be a city planner. He confirmed my instincts regarding raccoon-kind, and assured me that, if any urban mammals were to take up arms, they would certainly be among the first to do so….

(15) REINCARNATED IN FANTASYLAND. The tropes come thick and fast in Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 7/15/2021: Work in Progress” at Amazing Stories.

In this week’s viewing: More summer premieres! More terrible light-novel-based summer premieres! Also a couple of fighting shows….

(16) YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES. The Criterion Collection will bring out The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) on October 19.

…Existentialism goes pop in this benchmark of atomic-age science fiction, a superlative adaptation of a novel by the legendary Richard Matheson that has awed and unnerved generations of viewers with the question, What is humanity’s place amid the infinity of the universe? Six months after being exposed to a mysterious radiation cloud, suburban everyman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) finds himself becoming smaller . . . and smaller . . . and smaller—until he’s left to fend for himself in a world in which ordinary cats, mousetraps, and spiders pose a mortal threat, all while grappling with a diminishing sense of himself…. 

(17) CONSISTENCY. Nothing hits the spot in Schmigadoon like a big bowl of good old corn pudding! Here’s another introductory clip from the forthcoming musical series. Available tomorrow on AppleTV+. View on YouTube. (The stinkers won’t let it be embedded here!)

The six-part series follows a couple (Strong, Key) who stumble on a magical town that lives in a 1940s musical. From there, the pair have to try and find true love.

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter found another show in touch with Broadway – tonight’s episode of Jeopardy. A contestant had trouble with this. Though they really shouldn’t have.

Category: Broadway Musicals by Setting

Answer: Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists

Wrong question: What is ‘The Little Barber Shop of Horrors?”

Right question: What is ‘Little Shop of Horrors?”

(19) DICK GRAYSON & CO. Titans Season 3 begins airing on HBO Max on August 12.

Titans follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find where they belong. In season three, circumstances draw our heroes to Gotham City, where they will reunite with old friends and face new threats.

(20) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. Experience the world in Vampire Reality. What We Do in the Shadows returns Sept 2 on FX.

A look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of four vampires who have “lived” together for hundreds and hundreds of years in Staten Island.

(21) HOOKED UP. “Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak” reports The New York Times.

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.”

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

“This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project.

Three years ago, when Pancho, now 38, agreed to work with neuroscience researchers, they were unsure if his brain had even retained the mechanisms for speech.

“That part of his brain might have been dormant, and we just didn’t know if it would ever really wake up in order for him to speak again,” said Dr. Edward Chang, chairman of neurological surgery at University of California, San Francisco, who led the research.

The team implanted a rectangular sheet of 128 electrodes, designed to detect signals from speech-related sensory and motor processes linked to the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue and larynx. In 50 sessions over 81 weeks, they connected the implant to a computer by a cable attached to a port in Pancho’s head, and asked him to try to say words from a list of 50 common ones he helped suggest, including “hungry,” “music” and “computer.”…

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night’s The Late Show: “Welcome back to the cool green hills of Earth,” he said to Sir Richard Branson.

Sir Richard Branson sits down with Stephen after returning from his historic trip to the edge of space, and has some advice for the next billionaire headed to orbit.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, N., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/21 Scrolled In The Pixel Was – Oh! Oh! Oh!

(1) DELANY’S CARTE BLANCHE. The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan will present movies curated by Samuel R. Delany as part of its Carte Blanche series, in which cinema and art-world luminaries present a selection of films that are of personal or professional significance to them: Carte Blanche: Samuel R. Delany from May 20-June 6.

On the occasion of his 79th year, Samuel R. Delany, multi-time Nebula and Hugo award-winning author and lauded literary critic, taps into a lifetime of cinematic obsessions for MoMA’s Carte Blanche series. Delany’s colorful picks—encompassing the classical avant-garde of Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of a PoetMaya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon, and Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante; masterworks by Michael Powell and Luis Buñuel; and newer treasures like Peter Jackson’s King Kong and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo—honor the expressive power of the fantastic on film. Accompanying his selections are a rare screening of his own experimental science-fiction featurette The Orchid and Fred Barney Taylor’s effervescent portrait of the author, The Polymath, or The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman.

Of his choices Delany writes, “Sometimes I feel like the character in Myra/Myron Breckenridge who announces something to the effect: Between 1938 and 1950, there were no bad films made in the United States of America. That’s kind of how I feel about all films. It’s like Andrew Saris said, ‘There are no amateur films. They’re too expensive to make. If you can afford to make a film, you’re making a film.’”

If you’d like to explore more Delany cinema favorites, he’s recommended some additional films to seek out: Abel Gance’s Napoléon (1927), Jean Delannoy’s The Eternal Return (1943), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948), Ernest B. Schoedsack’s Mighty Joe Young (1949), Jacques Tourner’s The Flame and the Arrow (1950), Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (Orpheus) (1950), Stanley Donen’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Mervyn LeRoy’s Rose Marie (1954), Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander (1982), and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002).

(2) CONVENTION COMEBACK. The Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention announced on Facebook they’re planning an in-person event for September 9-12, 2021 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center, Lombard, Illinois.  

…In IL, the State will be moving to a reopening Bridge Phase on May 14, with Phase 5 to occur on June 11.  Both of these phases would permit conventions like ours to take place, so while we can’t predict what will happen over the summer, at this point it looks very likely that the show will go on!  

It will be a requirement that masks covering the nose and mouth be worn during the convention.  We don’t know yet whether vaccinations will be required by the State, but we encourage all attendees to have been vaccinated and bring proof of vaccination in case that is required.  Obviously, if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, you should not attend the convention and should contact your doctor.  

To help with social distancing, for this year’s show we will not have a con suite.  Attendees arriving on Thursday will be able to pick up their materials outside the dealer room on Thursday evening.  At the moment, this is the only change we anticipate to our programming; we hope to have the con suite back for the 2022 show, which will be held May 5-8, 2022.  

…Our Friday evening auction will feature more rare material from the Estate of Robert Weinberg.   Our Saturday evening auction will contain material from several consignors, including many rare items from the Estate of Glenn Lord as well as few scarce items from the Estate of August Derleth (including perhaps his scarcest book, “Love Letters to Caitlin”).  Other great material includes a copy of the Herbert Jenkins edition of Robert E. Howard’s “A Gent From Bear Creek!”  

Keep checking their website www.windycitypulpandpaper.com and Facebook page for further updates.  

(3) BEST RELATED. James Davis Nicoll got everyone to play along – one way or another – when he tweeted this question:

The thread starts here and continues….

(4) DOCTOR WHO HARASSMENT ISSUES. The Guardian updates an earlier story: “Noel Clarke accused of sexual harassment on Doctor Who set”.

The Noel Clarke sexual harassment controversy threatens to embroil the BBC after several sources came forward to allege they were sexually harassed or inappropriately touched by the actor on a flagship show, Doctor Who.

Another Doctor Who actor, John Barrowman, has also been accused of repeatedly exposing himself to co-workers on two BBC productions, prompting questions about whether the corporation allowed a lax culture on its sets during the mid-2000s.

The developments come a week after ITV, Sky and the BBC announced that they had cut ties with Clarke after the Guardian published testimony from 20 women who variously accused him of groping, sexual harassment and bullying.

… Barrowman, who played the character of Capt Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and its spin-off show Torchwood, is accused of exposing himself repeatedly on both sets, although numerous witnesses described the incidents as inappropriate pranks rather than anything amounting to sexually predatory behaviour….

(5) HISTORY FROM ANOTHER PLANET. The Smithsonian will display a Star Wars X-Wing fighter reports the New York Times: “Coming Soon to a Hallowed Hall of Spaceflight: An X-Wing Fighter”.

The National Air and Space Museum holds some of the most hallowed objects of the aerial age.

Visitors can marvel at the 1903 Wright Flyer that skimmed over Kitty Hawk, N.C., the bright red Lockheed 5B Vega that Amelia Earhart piloted alone across the Atlantic Ocean and the bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule that made John H. Glenn Jr. the first American to orbit the Earth.

Now, the museum said, it will display a spacecraft that has flown only onscreen, in an entirely fictional galaxy where good and evil seem locked in eternal battle.

That’s right: An X-wing Starfighter will grace the museum’s newly renovated building on the National Mall sometime late next year, the museum said on Tuesday, which was celebrated by “Star Wars” fans as a holiday because it was May 4 (May the 4th be with you).

The Hollywood prop, with a wingspan of 37 feet, appeared in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in 2019 and is on long-term loan from Lucasfilm, the movie’s production company.

While air and space purists may grumble about precious exhibition space being turned over to a pretend craft that played no role in advancing actual space travel, the exhibition is not the first time the museum has allied itself with the franchise’s crowd-pleasing power. In the late 1990s, it presented “Star Wars: The Magic of Myth,” a show based on the original “Star Wars” trilogy; that show went on tour across the country.

(6) SELF-SURVEILLANCE. “Aiming for lateral accountability: Cameras will either help… or thwart… Big Brother” says David Brin.

…“Massive camera hack exposes the growing reach and intimacy of American surveillance.” A breach of the camera start-up Verkada ‘should be a wake-up call to the dangers of self-surveillance,’ one expert said: ‘Our desire for some fake sense of security is its own security threat’, reports The Washington Post.

I remain appalled that so many very smart people actually seem to think that each year’s new tech levels – and menaces – will now freeze and stand still long enough for us to ban them. Cameras get smaller, faster, cheaper, better, more mobile and vastly more numerous far faster than Moore’s Law (Brin’s Corollary!

Consider the recent case of San Francisco’s City Council banning facial recognition systems, when keeping them open to public criticism is exactly how we discovered and then corrected many problems like racial and gender bias in the programs.

Anyway Facial Recognition programs won’t be resident in police departments for long, where some city council can ban them, but will be cheap apps in phones and AR glasses, available from a thousand directions. Result? Cops who are banned from using versions that are open to supervision will instead surreptitiously use dark web versions, because it might save their own lives.

We need to focus not on uselessly trying to ban tech that might be abused, but on eliminating the abuses. And that can only happen with more light, aimed at those with power.

Oh, the dangers are very real! These techs will certainly empower agents and masters of despotism, if you already have a despotism. And hence the lesson and priority is to prevent despotism altogether! Because these same techs could instead empower vibrant citizenship, if we see to it they are well-shared and that no elite gets to monopolize them.

Which they will, if we try simplistically and reflexively to ban them.

It’s not that the ACLU and EFF and EU are wrong to fret! They are absolutely correct to point at problems and to worry that surveillance techs could empower Big Brothers and render citizen privacy extinct. It is their prescriptions that almost always are short-sighted and foolish.

Making a tech illegal will not stop elites form having and using it. 

Let me repeat that.

Making a tech illegal will not stop elites form having and using it. 

What it will do is make them arrange to do it secretly, where the methods won’t be appraised and criticized publicly.

(7) MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER KICKSTARTER HITS GOAL. “Joel and the Bots have successfully funded a full new season of MST3K” — 36,581 backers pledged $6,519,019 to bring back the show.

We’ve got movie sign once again, amazingly, as Mystery Science Theater 3000, the TV show that taught us all the true meaning of a Patrick Swayze Christmas, has once again brought home a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund a full new season of the beloved movie-riffing show. The “Let’s Make More MST3K & Build The Gizmoplex!” campaign—the latter referring to a new web portal that series creator Joel Hodgson intends to build as the permanent online home for the show—wrapped up yesterday, hitting all of its funding goals, including milestones for a full 12 episodes, as well as Halloween and Christmas specials….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 9, 1997 — On this day in 1997, Fifth Element premiered in the United States. It was directed by Luc Besson and produced by Patrice Ledoux from the screenplay by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen Whitchurch was based off the story by Luc Besson. It starred Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker and Milla Jovovich. It did exceedingly well at the box office, far beyond returning the investment that the company put into it. It was both praised and damned in equal amounts by critics who either loved it passionately or despised it with all their heart. It finished fourth in the voting for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at BucConeer the next year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent eighty-six percent rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 9, 1867 J.M. Barrie. Scottish novelist and playwright, best remembered as the creator of Peter Pan. Scots by birth and education, he moved to London, where he wrote a number of successful novels and plays. There he met the Llewelyn Davies boys, who inspired him to write about a young boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (first included in Barrie’s 1902 adult novel The Little White Bird), then to write Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. (Died 1937.) (CE) 
  • Born May 9, 1906 – Eleanor Estes.  Three novels for us, a score of others.  Librarian and teacher.  Newbery Medal, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award.  Eleanor Cameron said EE’s stories of fictional Moffats were classic.  As it happens I have known two Moffatts and one Moffat in SF.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1913 – Richard McKenna.  Half a dozen stories for us published while he was alive, a dozen more afterward.  One Nebula, posthumously.  The first and last stories to appear in his lifetime, “Casey Agonistes” and “Hunter, Come Home”, are masterworks and unforgettable.  One novel, The Sand Pebbles, outside our field; made a successful film.  Served a score of years in the Navy.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again that the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the other.  I heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that “From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.” That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born May 9, 1925 – Kris Neville.  Four novels (a fifth still unpublished – in English; a Japanese translation by Yano Tetsu has appeared), six dozen shorter stories.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XVI.  Impassioned remarks by Barry Malzberg here; he edited The SF of KN; recent coll’n Earth Alert!  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1926 – Richard Cowper.  A dozen novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essays, letters in FocusFoundationVector.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 30, Unicon 3, BECCON ’85.  Outside our field, four novels, memoirs, under another name.  More here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born May 9, 1938 – George Schelling, age 83.  A score of covers, two hundred forty interiors.  Here is the May 62 Amazing.  Here is the Oct 64 Galaxy.  Here is the May 65 Worlds of Tomorrow.  Here is an interior, also from Amazing (Jun 64).  Outside our field, animals, aquatics, e.g. for Field and StreamAudubon. [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1951 – Joy Harjo, age 70.  Poet Laureate of the United States (the 23rd; the second to be given a third term; the first Amerind, I believe – she is Creek).  Nine books of poetry; plays; seven albums of music.  Lily Prize, Wallace Stevens Award.  Two short stories for us, one anthology (with Gloria Bird).  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 9, 1979 Rosario Dawson, 42. First shows as Laura Vasquez in MiB II. Appearances thereafter are myriad with my favs including being the voice of Wonder Women in the DC animated films, Persephone in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and her take as Claire Temple across the entire Netflix Marvel universe. No, I don’t consider her or anyone else’s acting on the two Sin City films to a highlight of their acting careers.  (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Rhymes with Orange is what might be called a different take on a T. Kingfisher story.

(11) A GEORGIA READER RECOMMENDS. The New York Times Book Review knows “The One Book Stacey Abrams Would Require the President to Read”. That book isn’t genre, but a lot of others mentioned in the intereview are.

What books are on your night stand?

I read several genres at once, rotating through as the mood strikes me. My long read right now is “The Coldest Winter,” by David Halberstam. My sibling book club picked “Ring Shout,” by P. Djeli Clark, which is paced wonderfully so it will not be over too soon (but luckily before our call). A recent discussion with my niece reminded me how much I love fairy tales of all kinds, so I decided to dive into “Tales of Japan: Traditional Stories of Monsters and Magic.”

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

I had it a few weeks ago. Georgia’s mercurial weather shifted from an unreasonable 48 degrees to a balmy 75 degrees over the weekend. Knowing how soon it could be 25 degrees or 89 degrees, I filled my water bottle, poured myself a glass of Martinelli’s apple juice, and picked up “Black Sun,” by Rebecca Roanhorse. Soon, I was outside on the patio in the springtime, midafternoon, with my feet up on the ottoman and my reading glasses perched on my nose….

(12) TRANSPARENT FANTASY. In the Washington Post, Molly Born profiles West Virginia’s Blenko Glass, which nearly folded because of the pandemic but was saved because they started producing figurines based on “the mythical Flatwoods Monster,” which allegedly terrorizes the residents of Flatwoods, West Virginia.  Liz Pavolvic, who designed the figurine, plans to develop “other sc-fi ideas” for Blenko, beginning with the Mothman, a legend made into the film The Mothman Prophecies. “How a mythical backwoods monster saved a struggling West Virginia glass company”.

… The first alleged sighting of the “green monster” occurred in the town of Flatwoods in 1952, when a group of locals reported seeing a giant floating creature with a spade-shaped head, claw-like hands and a metal “dress,” emitting a toxic mist or odor. In recent years the legend has inspired a museum, festival and tchotchkes sold at the local gas station.

Designer and illustrator Liz Pavlovic visited Blenko’s factory and flipped through old catalogues, looking for inspiration to pair with Pavlovic’s own playful renderings of this and other popular cryptids they sell on prints, stickers and magnets. Pavlovic submitted a sketch that captured the creature’s spooky aesthetic, right down to its beady eyes and the fabric-like swirls of its outfit….

(13) DON’T STAND UNDERNEATH WHEN THEY FLY BY. Space.com reports: “Huge Chinese rocket booster falls to Earth over Arabian Peninsula”.

The Chinese rocket has come down.

The 23-ton core stage of a Long March 5B booster crashed back to Earth Saturday night (May 8), ending 10 controversial days aloft that captured the attention of the world and started a wider conversation about orbital debris and responsible spacefaring….

Also issued today — “NASA Administrator Statement on Chinese Rocket Debris”.

NASA Administrator Sen. Bill Nelson released the following statement Saturday regarding debris from the Chinese Long March 5B rocket:

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations.

“It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.

“It is critical that China and all spacefaring nations and commercial entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.”

(14) CORPORATE TRICKERY. “Opposition to Net Neutrality Was Faked, New York Says” – the New York Times has the story.

Internet service providers funded an effort that yielded millions of fake comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of so-called net neutrality rules in 2017, the New York attorney general said on Thursday.

Internet providers, working through a group called Broadband for America, spent $4.2 million on the project, Attorney General Letitia James said. The effort generated roughly nine million comments to the agency and letters to Congress backing the rollback, almost all signed by people who had never agreed to the use of their names on such comments, according to the investigation. Some of the names had been obtained earlier, in other marketing efforts, officials said. The agency approved the repeal in late 2017.

Broadband for America’s members include some of America’s most prominent internet providers, like AT&T, Comcast and Charter, as well as several trade groups.

Supporters of the repeal regularly cited the number of comments opposing the rules. Investigators said Broadband for America had “commissioned and publicized a third-party study” of how many comments were being submitted, and then briefed F.C.C. officials on their findings as part of their push.

“Instead of actually looking for real responses from the American people, marketing companies are luring vulnerable individuals to their websites with freebies, co-opting their identities and fabricating responses that giant corporations are then using to influence the policies and laws that govern our lives,” Ms. James said in a statement.

(15) MORE THAN SHELVES. Architectural Digest takes you “Inside the World’s Most Beloved Independent Bookstores”.

Pro qm (Berlin)

In 1999, Katja Reichard, Jesko Fezer, and Axel J. Wieder launched Pro qm, a bookshop and laboratory for ideas on everything from urbanism to climate change. The white space is punctuated by shocking pink ladders and colorful tomes on design, architecture, and pop culture.

(16) LAST NIGHT ON SNL.

  • “Wario” introduces us to the evil brother of Super Mario Bros.’s Mario.
  • “Chad on Mars” has an unlikely hero out to save Elon Musk’s Mars mission.
  • “Weekend Update:  Baby Yoda On Star Wars Day Celebrations” had an interview with Baby Yoda, who said he “smoked weed and took pills” on Star Wars Day, “because I’m not like a nerd, you know.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Kathy Sullivan, StephenfromOttawa, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/21 With Cat-Filled Files, Upon Pixels We Scroll

(1) CROWDSOURCING DURING COVID. Monica Louzon pulled together data about “Kickstarter Anthologies in 2020”, analyzed, and graphed it. Among the things she learned —

…43.94% of the projects I reviewed were granted “Projects We Love” status by Kickstarter. To my surprise, this didn’t actually seem to impact the success of a campaign…

(2) WHAT IS FICTION FOR? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Novelist Eliot Peper (Veil, et al.) and TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton had a conversation (via gmail) recently on what, if anything, speculative fiction can tell us about humanity and this past year: “Can speculative fiction teach us anything in a world this crazy?”

There’s an old saw from Mark Twain about how truth is stranger than fiction, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve lived through a very strange reality this past year. With all the chaos and change, we’re led to a foundational question: what’s the purpose of speculative fiction and its adjacent genres of science fiction and fantasy when so much of our world seems to already embody the fantastical worlds these works depict?

(3) MR. A MEETS MR. B. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, Isaac Asimov discusses how he met Ray Bradbury for the first time on October 8, 1965.

I went to Newark to tape a talk show with David Susskind.  It was my first nationally televised talk show since ‘The Last Word’ with Bergen Evans six years before.

This one was devoted to science fiction, and along with me were Lester del Rey and Ray Bradbury.  It was the first time I had ever met Ray Bradbury, though of course we knew each other from our writings well enough to be on a first-name basis at once. Neither he nor I would fly on airplanes, so since I lived in Newton (Massachusetts) and he in Los Angeles it was clear that we wouldn’t meet often.

The session was not successful.  Lester was in one of his talkative moods and gave neither Ray or myself much to do anything except stare at the ceiling, and Susskind had a list of questions, silly in themselves, from which he lacked the wit to depart.  It meant all the interesting starts we made were muffled or killed when he asked the next silly question.

(4) MOST INFLUENTIAL SF MOVIES. ScreenRant calls these the “10 Most Influential Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time”. John King Tarpinian sent the link with a comment: “I would have rated number six and number seven as number one and number two.” And I personally think their #1 choice is nuts.

… Within the world of movies, the sci-fi genre has given audiences some of the most unforgettable films, some of which are considered among the best ever made.

But behind some of the most popular sci-fi movies are the movies that helped to inspire them. Many of these movies remain classics in their own rights, but fans might not be aware of how influential they have been to the genre. These ambitious projects broke new ground and paved the way for beloved movies that followed….

1/10 The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix is another movie that clearly drew from a lot of different sources, but eventually became something that would in turn inspire future movies. The movie really represented what the sci-fi genre could do, which is to show the audience something they have never seen before.

It has been parodied countless times but also inspired big-budget movies to be bold and original. From the action to the special effects to the ideas of the movie, The Matrix was all about proving the impossible to be possible.

(5) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 2, 2008 — On this day in 2008, the first Iron Man film premiered in the United States. It was directed by Jon Favreau from a screenplay by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. It was produced by Avi Arad and Kevin Feige. The film stars Robert Downey Jr. , Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Shaun Toub, and Gwyneth Paltrow. It was nominated for a Hugo at Anticipation but lost out to WALL-E. Critics in general really loved it, it won a lot of awards other than a Hugo, it did great at the box office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an exceptional rating of ninety-four percent.  

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 – E.E. Smith, Ph.D.  Arrived to great applause for The Skylark of Space (three sequels), likewise Galactic Patrol (two prequels, three sequels).  Four more novels, ten shorter stories; more released posthumously, some with co-authors.  First author named a Worldcon Guest of Honor (Chicon I the 2nd Worldcon).  Helpful to all; first to receive the Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame; SF Hall of Fame; Life Member of N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  In college (Univ. Idaho) president of Chemistry, Chess, Mandolin & Guitar Clubs; sang bass in Gilbert & Sullivan.  Super-science so dramatic in his work, adventure-story tone of his time so resonant, that his literary ability – including characterization – was neglected then and is disregarded now, alas for SF which in seeking to do what he left untried could still learn from him.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. Bengali filmmaker, screenwriter, graphic artist, lyricist, music composer and writer who is here for his genre fiction which fortunately has been translated into English for those like me who don’t read Bengali. Over a decade recently, three collections came in English The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other StoriesClassic Satyajit Ray and The Collected Short Stories) with most of his genre work in the collection. There are nine stories involving Professor Shonku, his most popular SF character. (Died 1992.) (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. I was listening the other evening to him playing Tevye in the Fiddler on the Roof (“Light One Candle” to be specific) and as always was amazed by his singing voice.  He was on Next Generation in order to play the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode playing CPO Sergey Rozhenko, Retired. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Bikel also guest-appeared on The Twilight Zone in the “Four O’Clock” as Oliver Crangle. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in the animated The Return of the King. By the way, Theodore Bikel’s Treasury of Yiddish Folk & Theatre Songs is quite excellent. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favorite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011 (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1938 – Bob Null.  Served twenty terms as LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) vice-president.  Often handled Logistics for Loscons (local convention), local Worldcons.  Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon XXIII.  Three-time recipient of Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS); only one other person (Elayne Pelz) has done this since 1959 when the Award was first given.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1942 Alexis Kanner. His first genre appearance was on The Prisoner where he so impressed McGoohan in the “Living in Harmony” episode that he created a specific role for him in the series finale, “Fall Out” where he stands trial. He also has an uncredited role in “The Girl Who Was Death” in that series. His final known acting role was as Sor in Nightfall based off the Asimov story of the same name. (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1946 David Suchet, 75. Though rather obviously better remembered as Hercule Poirot, he does show up on in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Knock Knock”, simply called Landlord.  Don’t let that deceive you. He’s appeared in some other genre work from time times to time including Greystoke — The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the ApesHarry and the HendersonsDr. No — The Radio PlayWing CommanderTales of the Unexpected and Peter Pan Goes Wrong. (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1948 – Anne Stuart, age 73.  Ten novels, two shorter stories for us; a hundred novels all told.  Three Ritas.  Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award.  Has five sewing machines, that’s not too many.  [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1961 – Tom Arden.  Eight novels, two shorter stories.  Twoscore reviews for Interzone.  Ph.D. under another name, dissertation on Clarissa.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1972 Dwayne Johnson, 49. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a Huh from me. (CE) 
  • Born May 2, 1977 – Jessica Douglas, age 44.  One cover, half a dozen interiors for us.  “I show in galleries and museums around the world….  I primarily work in watercolors with gemstone additions.  Most of my gemstones are bought from fellow rockhounders.”  Here is Double Yule Dragon.  Here is a narwhal.  She made this Oroboros for Conduit 25 where she was a Guest of Honor.  Here is No Place Like London.  Here is The Grain Moon.  [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1980 – Rachel Harris, age 41.  Three novels for us; a dozen others.  Drinks Diet Mountain Dew.  Homeschool mom.  “Bookish people are the best people in the world.”  [JH]
  • Born May 2, 1983 – Jodi Meadows, age 38.  A dozen novels (three with co-authors), half a dozen shorter stories.  “I love crocheting, knitting, and spinning.  In addition to several hand spindles, I share my office with three spinning wheels, named Bob, Rose, and Gideon.”  Has read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, five by Jane Austen, Of Mice and MenThe Martian Chronicles.  [JH]

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) TROTS AND BONNIE. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] She was my favorite of the National Lampoon comic artists. Now her collection is being published by the New York Review of Books! I’m not buying much, but I will buy this: “For 20 years, Shary Flenniken of Seattle lampooned her hometown in hilarious comic ‘Trots and Bonnie’” in the Seattle Times.

As a teenager growing up in the wildest days of the 1960s counterculture, Shary Flenniken bristled at the sleepy Magnolia neighborhood where her family had settled. She dreamed of finding adventure in far-off New York City and San Francisco, and her Seattle upbringing felt like a dreary dead end in comparison.

To while away the time until she could leave Magnolia behind, Flenniken told me over the phone recently, she got lost in her parents’ bookshelves. “They had really nice, big collections of New Yorker cartoons and Superman comics,” Flenniken says, and she’d soak up every line. “I just devoured that stuff. I was a super-reader.” Her father, a Navy admiral, was an amateur cartoonist, but his tolerance for irreverence only went so far. “My dad pretty much ripped up my early MAD magazines,” Flenniken says. “He was like that.”

… “Having a regular character is very important if you want to be successful doing comics, so your work should be character-driven,” she says. Flenniken decided to center her strip on a rebellious teenage girl not unlike herself. “I named her Bonnie, after a dog I had as a child,” she says. But every protagonist needs a sidekick to talk to, and so Flenniken sketched out Bonnie’s sardonic talking dog and named him Trots, “which had something to do with, um, pooping,” she says.

“Trots and Bonnie” ran in National Lampoon for 18 years, and the strip’s juxtaposition of elegant old-fashioned cartooning skill and filthy ultramodern comedy attracted a rabid fan base of cartooning aficionados. Bonnie and her faithful pup represent Flenniken’s raging id, let loose in retrospect on the manicured lawns of Magnolia….

(9) FOUR ON THE FLOOR. CNN reports “SpaceX mission: Four astronauts to return from five-month ISS mission”. In fact, they made it!

… On Saturday evening, the crew climbed aboard their spacecraft, which had remained fixed to the space station’s docking ports since the astronauts arrived in November. They undocked from the ISS at 8:37 pm ET, and will spend the night aboard their capsule as it freeflies through orbit. The spacecraft fire up its on-board engines to start safely descending back into the Earth’s thick atmosphere, and it’ll use a series of parachutes to slow its decent before splashing down off the coast Florida Sunday morning around 2:57 am ET….

In “SpaceX returns four astronauts to Earth in darkness” The Guardian covered their arrival.

…“We welcome you back to planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” mission control radioed moments after splashdown. “For those of you enrolled in our frequent flyer programme, you’ve earned 68m miles on this voyage.”

“We’ll take those miles,” said spacecraft commander Mike Hopkins. “Are they transferrable?” SpaceX replied that the astronauts would have to check with the company’s marketing department….

(10) TO MARS WITH TINKERBELL. The Adventurelandia.tumblr has photos and GIFs from Disneyland’s 1957 Mars and Beyond TV episode.

#my gif from Adventurelandia

(11) THE WAIT IS ALMOST OVER. Wendy Whitman Cobb has a roundup of the coming possibilities at The Conversation: “Space tourism – 20 years in the making – is finally ready for launch”.

For most people, getting to the stars is nothing more than a dream. On April 28, 2001, Dennis Tito achieved that lifelong goal – but he wasn’t a typical astronaut. Tito, a wealthy businessman, paid US$20 million for a seat on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to be the first tourist to visit the International Space Station. Only seven people have followed suit in the 20 years since, but that number is poised to double in the next 12 months alone.

NASA has long been hesitant to play host to space tourists, so Russia – looking for sources of money post-Cold War in the 1990s and 2000s – has been the only option available for those looking for this kind of extreme adventure. However, it seems the rise of private space companies is going to make it easier for regular people to experience space.

From my perspective as a space policy analyst, I see the beginning of an era in which more people can experience space. With companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin hoping to build a future for humanity in space, space tourism is a way to demonstrate both the safety and reliability of space travel to the general public….

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

European Astrobiology Institute Opens Kickstarter to Fund “Life Beyond Us” Anthology

The European Astrobiology Institute and the European Science Foundation are creating Life Beyond Us: An Original Anthology Of Sf Stories And Science Essays with many well-known SF writers to promote the understanding of science through summer schools, workshops, and outreach projects. Each story is accompanied by an essay (by scientists working on the origins of life, habitability, and life detection) to outline the actual science explored in that story. More than just another anthology, it’s a tool for science education.

To fund publication of the anthology, a Kickstarter is running currently and will end on May 12, 2021. The Kickstarter link is here.

When the Kickstarter funds, it will include stories by Eugen Bacon, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Eric Choi, Julie E. Czerneda, Tessa Fisher, Simone Heller, Valentin Ivanov, Mary Robinette Kowal, Geoffrey A. Landis, Rich Larson, Premee Mohamed, G. David Nordley, Malka Older, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Tomáš Petrásek, Arula Ratnakar, DA Xiaolin Spires, Bogi Takács, and Peter Watts. The anthology will be edited by Julie Nováková, Lucas K. Law, and Susan Forest.

Rewards available for project backers include experiences not available elsewhere:

  • A virtual tour of the Very Large Telescope (Atacama Desert, Chile)
  • A virtual tour of an astrobiology lab doing microbe research (Extraterrestrial Oceans Habitability Lab)
  • A music and astrobiology show
  • Helping to design Julie Czerneda’s alien for her next SF novel
  • A fun astrobiology talk for your classroom or club
  • Conversations with some of the big name authors
  • Tuckerizations, swag, Zoom AMAs, and story critiques

European Astrobiology Institute plans to release the book in September 2022: fitting, given that European Space Agency’s rover Rosalind Franklin will be launched to travel to Mars that month.

There are special editions such as the Limited Hardcover (illustrated case-laminated cover, dust jacket, and signed) and Patron Editions (illustrated case-laminated cover, dust jacket, and signed). The Limited Edition and Patron Editions are adorned by interior artwork consisting of 19th century naturalist Ernst Haeckel’s beautiful and mesmerizing illustrations of life on Earth, often stranger than most aliens we can imagine. (Click for larger images.)

For further information, plus a bonus interview with SF author Dr. Gregory Benford, see this update .

What comes to your mind first when you say “astrobiology”?

Benford: Exoplanets in SF, plus cosmology…

Can you hint at what’s your story going to be about?

Benford: Life in the outer solar system.

Is there any place in the universe you’d love to see – where and why? 

Benford: Galactic center! I’ve written papers about the vast magnetic structures there and the black hole vicinity.

The Life Beyond Us Kickstarter will last until May 12, 2021. The pledges have already passed the 62% level. 

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 4/25/21 Files Runs The Pixel Down

(1) FUTURE UNIONS. “Workers of All Worlds Unite,” a public talk about labor unions in science fiction with Olav Rokne, is a free Zoom event happening Thursday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. Mountain time. Join the Zoom free here. Or you could also support the event by getting tickets here.

Workers Of All Worlds Unite!

Science fiction is filled with depictions of standard capitalist employment relationships, but little thought seems to have been given to how workers in the future will assert their rights. Join Olav Rokne as he explores the troubled history of labour unions in science fiction, and makes an argument as to why this history matters.

(2) ELLISON TRUST VICTORY. Two weeks ago J. Michael Straczynski, Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust, updated fans about a successful action to fight off opportunistic banks.

(3) EXTREMELY HONEST. Ian Moore takes the first step in his Hugo finalist Mt. Tsundoku 12-step program by admitting powerlessness:

(4) HE’LL BE IN SCOTLAND AFORE YE. Recorded April 15, Shoreline of Infinity brings you “Ken MacLeod’s Road Trip”.

Ken MacLeod’s Road Trip takes us from Scotland through the north of England and London to the far side of the Earth. Three talkative passengers – Charles Stross, Justina Robson and Tasha Suri – read from their work, and over the car radio Hannah and Sam Bennett play drive-time music live from the wonderful world of tomorrow. Hosted by Shoreline of Infinity – science fiction magazine and publisher based in Scotland for the world to enjoy.

(5) WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR? People have been trying to answer that question about these familiar names for years.“L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein and the Kamikaze Group Think Tank – Not So ‘Nothing’ After All?” at The McClaughry’s Blog is a 2017 post, but it’s news to me!

… Not that Hubbard was some kind of White Knight or anything, far from it. Even a brief perusal of our work here at the blog would tell you very quickly that we don’t go easy on Mr. Hubbard. But, I don’t think that we need to discredit his actual bad acts by throwing out wrong characterizations and outright lies about him either.

Hubbard has two big holes in his Navy history that none of the so-called ‘experts’ ever noticed that I documented in my post. Either one of which could easily have been this Aleutians business, and I’m guessing it was the second “hole” from November 3 to November 25, 1944.

It actually fits well with then being tasked with Heinlein to deal with anti-Kamikaze tactics. Heinlein details that two assignments came to him from Naval Intelligence, practically back to back. The problem is, people have put wrong times for when these were. Times that don’t fit with KNOWN dates and events.

Heinlein and other science fiction writers were utilized several times for Naval Intelligence projects…

Right on the back of that is when Heinlein formed his Think Tank on Kamikazes with Hubbard etc. which was also called a “crash” project.

In 1944, Heinlein recruited Hubbard, Sturgeon and others for a project: “Op-Nav-23, a brainstorming job on antikamikaze measures.” [46] The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller, p. 12

I had been ordered to round up science fiction writers for this crash project-the wildest brains I could find, so Ted was a welcome recruit. Some of the others were George O. Smith, John W. Campbell Jr., Murray Leinster, L. Ron Hubbard, Sprague de Camp, and Fletcher Pratt…

– Stephen Dedman in May the Armed Forces Be with You

Ok, first question would be when were these kamikaze attacks?

Although there had been spotty “kamikaze” actions by Japanese fighter pilots with engine troubles etc. earlier in WWII, the first inklings of an actual program appears to have been decided upon by August 1944 but not acted upon until Vice-Admiral Takijiro Onishi, took command of the 1st Air Fleet in the Philippines on October 17, 1944. Onishi had initially opposed the idea, but changed his mind when he took command.

Three days later kamikaze attacks – kamikaze means “Divine Wind” – were introduced October 20 of 1944 and on October 25 the first formal (and mass) kamikaze attacks launched in the Phillippines….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Roger Zelazny for “Home Is the Hangman” which was published in Analog, November 1975.  It would also win the Nebula the same year. The other nominated novellas were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle [Analog, May 1975] “ARM” by Larry Niven [Epoch, 1975] “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys [F&SF, Nov 1975] and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper [F&SF, Oct 1975]. It is collected with the other two novellas in this series, “The Eve of RUMOKO“ and “Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k“ in My Name in Legion which is available from the usual suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 25, 1897 Fletcher Pratt. He’s best remembered for his fiction written with L. Sprague de Camp, to wit Land of Unreason, The Carnelian Cube and The Complete Compleat Enchanter. I’m rather fond of The Well of the Unicorn and Double Jeopardy. I see that he and Jack Coggins were nominated for International Fantasy Award for their Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships, a non-fiction work published in 1951. Anyone known about this? (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1915 Mort Weisinger. Comic book editor best known for editing  Superman during in the Silver Age of comic books. He also served as story editor for the Adventures of Superman series,  Before that he was one of the earliest active sf fans, working on fanzines like The Planet (1931) and The Time Traveller (1932) and attending the New York area fan club  known as The Scienceers. (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1915 – Leslie Croutch.  Television & radio repairman.  Half a dozen stories.  Contributor to The AcolyteFuturian War DigestSpacewaysTin TacksVoice of the Imagi-NationLe Zombie.  Various fanzines of his own, notably Light.  See here and Harry Warner’s appreciation here (PDF).  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1920 John Mantley. He wrote but one SF novel, The 27th Day,  but it rated a detailed write-up by Bud Webster in The Magazine of F&SF which you can read here. (He wrote the screenplay for the film version of his novel which gets an abysmal score of twenty-five percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) He also produced a number of episodes of The Wild Wild WestBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and MacGyver. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born April 25, 1925 – Margery Gill.  A dozen covers, as many interiors for us; much else.  Here is Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds.  Here is The Saracen Lamp.  Here is Over Sea, Under Stone.  Here is English Fairy Tales.  Here is an interior from A Little Princess.  See this appreciation in the Illustrators Wiki.  (Died 2008) [JH] 
  • Born April 25, 1929 Robert A. Collins. Edited a number of quite interesting publications including the Fantasy Newsletter in the early Eighties, the IAFA Newsletter in the late Eighties and the early Nineties along with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual with Rob Latham at the latter time. He also wrote Thomas Burnett Swann: A Brief Critical Biography & Annotated Bibliography. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1941 – Stella Nemeth, age 80.  Book reviews and occasional drawings in The DiversifierLan’s LanternSF BooklogZeor Forum; seen in Algol.  More recently in Art With a Needle.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1957 – Deborah Chester, age 64.  Three dozen novels for us (some under different names); several others.  Has a recipe in Anne McCaffrey’s Serve It Forth.  Professor at Univ. Oklahoma.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1961 Gillian Polack, 60. Australian writer and editor. She created the Ceres Universe, a fascinating story setting. And she’s a great short story writer as Datlow demonstrated when she selected “Happy Faces for Happy Families” for her recommended reading section in the ‘04 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She’s reasonably stocked at the usual suspects. (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1975 – Courtney Schafer, age 46.  Three novels, one shorter story.  Electrical engineer, worked in aerospace.  While at Cal Tech (California Inst. of Technology) she also learned rock climbing, skiing, SCUBA diving; later, figure skating.  Favorite series, the Lymond Chronicles; has also read Hidden FiguresThe Little PrinceWatership Down.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1979 – Christopher Hopper, age 42.  Half a dozen novels, a score more with co-authors; one shorter story.  Encouraged by his wife he has two million words published; also plays in her band.  He’s breakfasted with Winnie Mandela, kite-surfed in Hawai’i, photographed white rhinos in South Africa, climbed the Great Wall of China.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1981 Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 40. Canadian of Mexican descent. She’s the publisher of Innmouths Free Press, an imprint devoted to weird fiction. Not surprisingly, she co-edited with Paula R. Stiles for the press, the Historical Lovecraft and Future Lovecraft anthologies. She won a World Fantasy Award for the She Walks in Shadows anthology, also on Innsmouth Free Press. She was a finalist for the Nebula Award 2019 in the Best Novel category for her Gods of Jade and Shadow novel. And finally with Lavie Tidhar, she edits the Jewish Mexican Literary Review. Not genre, but sort of genre adjacent. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds something at the window gently tapping.

(9) X-MEN NEWS. Christian Holub, in the Entertainment Weekly story “Marvel reveals the results of X-Men fan election” says Marvel sent out a bunch of mini-comics before deciding whether Banshee, Strong Guy, Boom-Boom, or other rookies got to join the X-Men team. Those Twitter comics are linked at the end of the article.

…Election season is finally over for the X-Men. Back in January, Marvel conducted a public vote for fans to choose a member of the newest X-Men team that is set to debut at the much-anticipated Hellfire Gala in June’s Planet-Sized X-Men #1. As with any election, there can only be one winner, and unfortunately lots of losers. But at least fans get to see how each of the candidates — Banshee, Polaris, Forge, Boom-Boom, Tempo, Cannonball, Sunspot, Strong Guy, Marrow, and Armor — responded to the results in a new series of mini-comics published to Marvel’s social media accounts over the past week.

Written by Zeb Wells (Hellions) and illustrated by a variety of artists (including Rachelle Rosenberg who colored them all), each installment of these Twitter comics featured two candidates each reckoning with their loss. First up was Strong Guy and Forge, illustrated by Mike Henderson. Despite the fact that Forge has used his mutant affinity with technology to develop all kinds of bio-organic resources for the new mutant nation-state on the living island of Krakoa, Strong Guy points out that they’re equal in defeat….

(10) WHY DID YOU DESIGN? There’s a Kickstarter to fund production of “The Prisoner Retro Style Action Figures by Wandering Planet Toys”, with versions of Number 6 as he was attired in different episodes, a boxed pair with Number 6 and his nemesis Number 2, and even a Rover figure.  

In 1967 the cult classic TV series, THE PRISONER, came bursting onto the screen. The series, about an unnamed British intelligence agent who awakes to find himself trapped in an idyllic seaside village, was not only an instant hit with viewers at the time, it went on to be watched and re-watched obsessively by fans, quickly gaining cult status.

While there have been several collectables released over the decades, THE PRISONER has never received a line of OFFICIALLY LICENSED ACTION FIGURES… and Wandering Planet Toys is working with our licensing partners at ITV Studios to bring to life 4-inch RETRO STYLE ACTION FIGURES that celebrate Patrick McGoohan’s brilliant series. 

… Want to get information about these figures? Good, because by hook or by crook you will!

No discussion of THE PRISONER is complete without mention of the Village’s spherical guardian and menace, ROVER. In order to evoke the iconic moment of NUMBER 6 pushed up against the gelatinous side of the guardian, we’ve created a Limited Edition plastic packaging unit depicting our hero in the belly of the beast. This package is a resealable clamshell so the figure can be removed for display, then reinserted.

(11) SENATOR, YOU’RE NO JACK KENNEDY. But he makes a pretty good John Scalzi.

(12) REDRUM. It’s official! “NASA’s first color photo from the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is… red” reports Mashable. Images at the link.

Mars is often referred to as the “Red Planet” because of the rusty, reddish-orange sandscape blanketing the planet. That comes into sharp focus in our first color photo snapped by the Mars Ingenuity helicopter.

That was taken about 17 feet above the ground. You can clearly see the sandy red-orange Martian surface. And if you look at the bottom of the image, you’ll clearly see Ingenuity’s shadow, with two of its spindly legs visibly jutting out from it’s rectangular body.

Those patterns in the ground that look like tracks are in fact… tracks left by the Perseverance rover, the remote-operated research vehicle that carried Ingenuity safely to Mars. Once it deposited its flying robot friend the Perseverance headed off to a new location, first to monitor the helicopter for a month and then to proceed with its other duties.

Here’s a closer look at those tracks….

(13) JOSH FIGHT. There can be only one… Josh! Wikipedia explains yesterday’s “Josh fight”. Which is sounds a little like a Pennsic Wars where all the combatants have the same first name.

On the chosen day, several hundred people, including many named Josh, congregated at Air Park.[4][6] Attendees came from as far as New YorkHouston,[7] and Washington[8] with some dressed in superhero and Star Wars costumes.[9][10] The gathering also included a fundraising element for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, which raised over $8,000 USD,[3][11] and a food drive that collected over 200 pounds (90 kg) of food for a nearby food bank.[12][13]

Three ‘fights’ were held – one game of rock paper scissors for those named Josh Swain, a second with pool noodles for all attendees named Josh, and a third and final all-in battle for anyone in possession of a pool noodle willing to participate.[14] Only two Josh Swains were in attendance – Josh Swain, the event’s creator, beat a rival Josh Swain from Omaha in the rock paper scissors event.[12] A local four-year-old boy named Josh Vinson Jr., dubbed ‘Little Josh’, who had been treated at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha for seizures when he was two years old, was declared the winner and crowned with a paper crown from Burger King as well as a replica AEW World Championship belt

(14) WHAT IF MY ‘PARTNER’ HAS A JOB AND I DON’T? In “AI ethicist Kate Darling: ‘Robots can be our partners’” – a Guardian interviewer goes for the jugular:

But companies are trying to develop robots to take humans out of the equation – driverless robot cars, package delivery by drone. Doesn’t an animal analogy conceal what, in fact, is a significant threat?

There is a threat to people’s jobs. But that threat is not the robots – it is company decisions that are driven by a broader economic and political system of corporate capitalism. The animal analogy helps illustrate that we have some options. The different ways that we’ve harnessed animals’ skills in the past shows we could choose to design and use this technology as a supplement to human labour, instead of just trying to automate people away.

(15) DOME IMPROVEMENTS. The New Yorker asks “Do Brain Implants Change Your Identity?”

The first thing that Rita Leggett saw when she regained consciousness was a pair of piercing blue eyes peering curiously into hers. “I know you, don’t I?” she said. The man with the blue eyes replied, “Yes, you do.” But he didn’t say anything else, and for a while Leggett just wondered and stared. Then it came to her: “You’re my surgeon!”

It was November, 2010, and Leggett had just undergone neurosurgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She recalled a surge of loneliness as she waited alone in a hotel room the night before the operation and the fear she felt when she entered the operating room. She’d worried about the surgeon cutting off her waist-length hair. What am I doing in here? she’d thought. But just before the anesthetic took hold, she recalled, she had said to herself, “I deserve this.”

Leggett was forty-nine years old and had suffered from epilepsy since she was born. During the operation, her surgeon, Andrew Morokoff, had placed an experimental device inside her skull, part of a brain-computer interface that, it was hoped, would be able to predict when she was about to have a seizure. The device, developed by a Seattle company called NeuroVista, had entered a trial stage known in medical research as “first in human.” A research team drawn from three prominent epilepsy centers based in Melbourne had selected fifteen patients to test the device. Leggett was Patient 14….

(16) ANIMATION INSPIRATION. “David Letterman Interviews Mel Blanc in 1982” from Late Night.

Even in his 70’s, Mel never lost those little voices. It amazes me how he could go from one to another so quickly and effortlessly.

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