Pixel Scroll 4/7/21 Pixels Who Need Pixels Are The Luckiest Pixels In The Scroll

(1) AN APPEAL. [Item by rcade.] In a series of tweets Tuesday, Astounding Award winner Jeannette Ng asks for more nuanced takes on problematic elements of literary works and less pat conclusions about what they reveal about the author. Thread starts here.

One of the commenters references the literary critic F. R. Leavis.

Leavis was an influential British critic who took the position that a great work must be a demonstration of the author’s intense moral seriousness and that by reading it “the reader would acquire moral sensibility — a sense of what was true and good — which transcended social differences,” according to the Cambridge History of Literary Criticism.

(2) HE HAS THE ANSWER – DO THEY HAVE THE RIGHT QUESTION? “Fans campaign for LeVar Burton to host ‘Jeopardy!’” reports the New York Post.

… “Leaving this here in the event that the powers that be are listening,” Burton, 64, tweeted Monday alongside a petition started by a fan of the beloved “Star Trek” actor. The document boasted over 130,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

The petition comes amid a feverish push on Twitter for the wholesome television icon to host the gameshow.

(3) NEXT ON NETFLIX. Yahoo! assures fans Jupiter’s Legacy Trailer Packs Superpowered Family Drama”.

…We also get brief snippets about the origin of Sheldon (a.k.a. The Utopian) and his cohort’s powers; the trailer ominously teases the long-ago events “on the island” that turned a group of mere mortals into superhuman beings. (This group would then bear the name The Union). More will reveal as the series approaches, and we’re looking forward to unwrapping some of these mysteries once it hits Netflix on May 7.

(4) BUSTED. In “Cracking the Case of London’s Elusive, Acrobatic Rare-Book Thieves”, Marc Wortman tells Vanity Fair readers

Impossible,” said David Ward. The London Metropolitan Police constable looked up. Some 50 feet above him, he saw that someone had carved a gaping hole through a skylight. Standing in the Frontier Forwarding warehouse in Feltham, West London, he could hear the howl of jets from neighboring Heathrow Airport as they roared overhead.

At Ward’s feet lay three open trunks, heavy-duty steel cases. They were empty. A few books lay strewn about. Those trunks had previously been full of books. Not just any books. The missing ones, 240 in all, included early versions of some of the most significant printed works of European history.

Gone was Albert Einstein’s own 1621 copy of astronomer Johannes Kepler’s The Cosmic Mystery, in which he lays out his theory of planetary motion. Also missing was an important 1777 edition of Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, his book describing gravity and the laws of physics. Among other rarities stolen: a 1497 update of the first book written about women, Concerning Famous Women; a 1569 version of Dante’s Divine Comedy; and a sheath with 80 celebrated prints by Goya. The most valuable book in the haul was a 1566 Latin edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, by Copernicus, in which he posits his world-changing theory that Earth and the other planets revolve around the sun. That copy alone had a price tag of $293,000. All together, the missing books—stolen on the night of January 29, 2017, into early the next day—were valued at more than $3.4 million. Given their unique historical significance and the fact that many contained handwritten notes by past owners, most were irreplaceable.

Scotland Yard’s Ward was stunned. He couldn’t recall a burglary like this anywhere. The thieves, as if undertaking a special-ops raid, had climbed up the sheer face of the building. From there, they scaled its pitched metal roof on a cold, wet night, cut open a fiberglass skylight, and descended inside—without tripping alarms or getting picked up by cameras.…

(5) BOOKS FOR PRISONERS ASKED. [Item by rcade.] The shelves of the Appalachian Prison Book Project are running low on science fiction and fantasy, the charity revealed recently in a tweet:

The project sends free books to people imprisoned in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

They seek new and used paperbacks only and have more detailed donation guidelines on their website.

“We receive about 200 letters every week from people incarcerated in our region,” a project coordinator told File 770 in email. “It’s a wide range of requests. Generally, people choose a few genres they are interested in to ask about in their letter. We have sci-fi and fantasy as two separate categories on our genre list, and we don’t include subgenres, so people choose whatever genres they want to read.”

Asked if there are particular preferences within SFF, the coordinator replied, “We occasionally get requests for specific authors, but unless they have a specific title in mind, most people list themes and topics. For example, thay may want to read books about time travel or vampires or wizards or interstellar exploration. It’s our volunteers who search through our donated books to find the best fit for them.”

The charity’s Voices from the Inside page shares testimonials from grateful prisoners about the books they’ve received.

A prisoner in Whiteville, Tennessee, praised a 2002 vampire novel by Simon Clark: “Thank you so much for my copy of Vampyrrhic! I loved it! As I have said before not many people want to fool with us old convicts.”

Donations of books should fill no more than two medium-sized boxes and be sent using the U.S. Postal Service to this address:

Appalachian Prison Book Project
PO Box 601
Morgantown, WV 26507

(6) CALLING 1984. Not that 1984. I mean the year that gave us Ghostbusters and the line “I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft!” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife unleashes a mini Stay Puft army in first clip”SYFY Wire sets the scene.

The iconic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is coming back in Ghostbusters: Afterlife, but he’s a lot smaller and more numerous than you remember. In the first official clip from director Jason Reitman’s long-delayed film, seismologist Mr. Grooberson (Ant-Man‘s Paul Rudd) comes across a army of mini Stay Puft men while shopping for ice cream.

They’re wreaking absolute havoc in the store, riding around on Roombas and roasting each other on BBQs (their chaotic antics bringing to mind Joe Dante’s Gremlins and composer Rob Simonsen subtly pays homage to Elmer Bernstein’s eerie score from 1984). Don’t be fooled by their cuteness, though — Grooberson attempts to poke one of the Stay Puft men in the stomach — à la the Pillsbury Doughboy — with painful results.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 7, 1933 — On this day in 1933, King Kong premiered. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose from an idea by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an astonishing ninety eighty percent approval rating. It has been ranked by Rotten Tomatoes as the fourth greatest horror film of all time.  You can watch it here as it’s very much in the public domain. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 7, 1882 – Ogawa Mimei.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Called the founder of Japanese fairy tales.  The 2018 collection under that name has “The Mermaid and the Red Candles”, five more.  See another story here – I mean that, do see it.  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised his role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they would publish was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. He’s won two Retro Hugos, the first at Worldcon 76 for “The Twonky” short story, the second at Dublin 2019 for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”. (Died 1958.) (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve books and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but I’m certain that it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m equally sure there was other novels down the years. It appears that only a handful of the novels are available from the usual suspects. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1930 – Ronald Mackelworth.  Five novels “usually involving complex but rarely jumbled plotting” (John Clute), a score of shorter stories.  Here is a Barbara Walton cover for Firemantle.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1935 – Marty Cantor, age 86.  Long-time fanziner; self-knowledge entitled his Hugo-finalist (as we must now say) fanzine Holier Than Thou; with another, No Award, I could tell him “You are worthy of No Award, and No Award is worthy of you.”  While he & Robbie Bourget were married they were elected DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates together, publishing two reports, one each, bound head-to-tail like an Ace Double; they were Fan Guests of Honor at Alternacon.  MC later chaired Corflu 34 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable), published Phil Castora’s memoir Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  Arrived among us in his forties, an exception to yet another theory.  Earned LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.; service).  [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 82. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled Rip Van Winkle, Twixt (a horror film that I’m betting almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2. (CE)
  • Born April 7, 1945 – Susan Petrey.  Six novels, nine shorter stories.  Her vampires are non-supernatural.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Good writing and an early death prompted a Clarion scholarship in her name.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. (He also did the Inspector Gadget film which I still haven’t seem.) He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he won an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 70. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single “Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’s A Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000. (CE) 
  • Born April 7, 1981 – Lili Wilkinson, Ph.D., age 40. A novel and two shorter stories for us; many others (I’m not counting e.g. Joan of Arc).  Won a stopwatch in a Readathon.  Established Inky Awards at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria.  [JH]
  • Born April 7, 1982 – Zoë Marriott, age 39.  Nine novels.  Sasakawa Prize.  Two cats, one named Hero after the Shakespearian character (hurrah! she’s so cool! – JH), and the other Echo after the nymph in Greek myth.  Finishes a list of favorite songs with Spem in alium (hurrah! hurrah!).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe’s answer to a science question might qualify as science fantasy.

(10) SO THE ONE THING CAPTAIN AMERICA AND VOX DAY HAVE IN COMMON IS THEY BOTH DISLIKE THIS GUY? The Captain America comic portrays Red Skull as suspiciously close to Jordan Peterson…and Peterson decided to lean into it. Which is kind of hilarious. “Captain America supervillain the Red Skull has been behaving a lot like Jordan Peterson lately, thanks to Ta-Nehisi Coates” at Slate.

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian professor of psychology who was embraced by right-wingers in 2016 after refusing to honor his students’ requests to use their preferred pronouns, then leveraged his YouTube channel and fear of political correctness to build a career as a self-help guru to the alt-right. He also appears to be the basis for the current incarnation of Marvel’s Nazi supervillain the Red Skull, who has returned to the comic book universe courtesy of Between the World and Me writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is currently wrapping up a 2½-year run on Captain America, and in Captain America No. 28, which was released on March 31, the Red Skull has a YouTube channel that looked very familiar to Peterson, except for the red skull part…

If for some inexplicable reason you want a more serious look at the topic, there’s Camestros Felapton’s “A short Twitter diversion on Jordan Peterson” and The Mary Sue’s “Jordan Peterson Mad He Inspired Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Red Skull”.

(11) LATE NIGHT. In Stephen Colbert’s “Quarantinewhile…” segment a University of Illinois gymnast sticks his vault and then brandishes his COVID-19 vaccine certificate, immediately followed by a reference to our favorite AI researcher, Dr. Janelle Shane, who taught AI to generate pickup lines. (For the background, see Vice’s article “A Scientist Taught AI to Generate Pickup Lines. The Results are Chaotic”.

(12) CHINA’S ANSWER TO SPOT? [Item by Mike Kennedy.]  IFL Science introduces a “Video Showing ‘Robot Army’ Released By Chinese Robotics Company”. The story includes two tweets with embedded videos. The one with a large number of robot dogs where they just stand up then lay back down appears to me to be real. The other one, where they do tricks together, is pretty clearly CGI layered over the real world.

Unitree Robotics appears to be China’s answer to Boston Dynamics, designing and manufacturing mobile, autonomous four-legged robots that are able to handle obstacles and right themselves after a stumble.  

Their products are all variants of a similar dog-like design, including BenBen, Aliengo, Laikago, and A1….

(13) A TIDY PROFIT. AP’s story entitled “Man, a steal! Rare Superman comic sells for record $3.25 million” says that Comicconnect.com sold a copy of Action Comics #1 yesterday for $3.25 million, beating the old record of $3.2 million.

One of the few copies of the comic book that introduced Superman to the world has sold for a super-size, record-setting price.

The issue of Action Comics #1 went for $3.25 million in a private sale, ComicConnect.com, an online auction and consignment company, announced Tuesday.

It narrowly bested the previous record for the comic, set in the auction of another copy in 2014 for slightly over $3.2 million.

The comic, published in 1938, “really is the beginning of the superhero genre,” said ComicConnect.com COO Vincent Zurzolo, who brokered the sale.

It told readers about the origins of Superman, how he came to Earth from another planet and went by Clark Kent.

The seller of this particular issue bought the comic in 2018 for slightly more than $2 million.

(14) DISCOVERY’S NEW SEASON. “Star Trek: Discovery Season 4 Trailer Faces an Unknown Threat” promises Coming Soon.

Paramount+ has released the first trailer for the upcoming fourth season of Star Trek: Discovery, which is set to premiere later this year. The video features Sonequa Martin-Green’s Captain Burnham as she leads the crew against an unknown threat that could possibly destroy all of them without any warning.

(15) BURGER COSPLAY. [Item by Daniel Dern. Except for tasteless quote selected by OGH.] Given Kevin Smith’s sf activities, e.g., writing comics like the (wonderful) Green Arrow Quiver series (plot arc?), some involvement with the semi-recent WB “Crisis” episodes (or at least one of the aftershows) and other stuff i can’t remember – let’s mention “Kevin Smith talks fast food ahead of his Boston pop-up restaurant ribbon-cutting”. (I saw this info as an article in today’s Boston Globe, but I know the MSN link isn’t paywalled..)

Boston’s House of Blues will transform into a pop-up Mooby’s, the fictional burger chain that appears in various Kevin Smith movies, April 8-16.

Fans will remember the mascot, Mooby the golden calf, that enrages Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s characters in “Dogma.” Chris Rock’s character eats at a Mooby’s in the same film. Mooby’s also appears in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” and “Clerks II.”…

Q. So why Boston?

A. House of Blues reached out, and said: We’d do that. We never pressure anybody. We just wait for folks to reach out. The good thing about Mooby’s is it’s fake, so [no matter what building you dress up] people can’t say: ‘Well this don’t look like Mooby’s!’ Well what does? How many Mooby’s you been to exactly? Give us a day, and Derek will make it a Mooby’s.

Q. What’s your favorite menu item?

A. There’s a chicken sandwich in ‘Jay and Silent Bob Reboot’ called ‘Cock Smoker.’ We have that on our menu. It’s awesome to watch people try to order it in person. Generally everything is done on the reservation system in advance, but in LA, toward the end of the run, we opened it up [to walk-ins] and had four older ladies, each of giggling harder than the next when they ordered ‘Cock Smokers.’ I won’t get rich off restaurants, but that is wealth that you can’t measure.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla Vs. Kong” on Honest Trailers, the Screen Junkies say the film has such poor continuity with its two predecessors that it has “characters who forgot to mention they were related,” “characters they forgot to mention entirely” and a major plot point that didn’t appear in the two earlier films.  And watch out for Brian Tyree Henry as an annoying exposition-spouting podcaster! BEWARE SPOILERS.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, John Hertz, Alan Baumler, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/21 You Say Pixels Go, I Say Here We Scroll

(1) IS CLI-FI PART OF THE PROBLEM? BBC World Service’s The Climate Question asks a panel including Ken Liu “Is science fiction holding back climate action?” (23 minute audio.)

For centuries, we’ve been reading, watching and listening to science fiction. And all too often, it’s pretty pessimistic about our future, especially when it touches on the topic of climate change.

This is leading some to ask whether these doom and gloom stories are doing the climate fight more harm than good – causing us to feel so anxious and powerless that we don’t take action.

So for this week’s climate question, we’re asking: Is sci-fi holding us back?

Graihagh Jackson is joined by: 

Amy Brady, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books, where she writes a monthly column called Burning Worlds. In it she explores how fiction addresses climate change.

Cheryl Slean is a playwright, filmmaker and educator working with the National Resource Defense Council’s Re-write the Future campaign to increase accurate climate stories in film and television.

Ken Liu is a futurist and author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards. His debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series.

(2) LAWSUIT EVAPORATES. The case has now been dismissed: “Guillermo del Toro named ‘true creator’ of The Shape of Water as plagiarism suit ends” reports Entertainment Weekly. Del Toro had won the lower court decision, which the plaintiff appealed in the federal Ninth Circuit.

Guillermo del Toro and his Oscar-winning Shape of Water team have emerged unscathed from the depths of a copyright lawsuit claiming that the Best Picture winner plagiarized the work of the late playwright Paul Zindel.

In a statement provided to EW, film distributor and production company Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) indicated that the legal action against del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus had been dismissed after the Zindel estate’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, previously cited 69 points of alleged similarities between the 1969 stage play Let Me Hear You Whisper (about a woman who bonds with a lab dolphin) and del Toro’s movie (about a woman, played by Sally Hawkins, who bonds with a humanoid sea creature, played by Doug Jones, in a research facility).

“David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of Let Me Hear You Whisper, acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded,” the statement said. “He acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of The Shape of Water. Any similarity between the two works is coincidental.”

… Both sides were reportedly slated to present additional information this year, and a trial had been set for July before the case was dropped.

(3) HOMETOWN PAPER SALUTES NEW F&SF EDITOR. The Daily Memphian profiles Sheree Renée Thomas: “Memphis writer emerges as a major player in the sci-fi world”.

… She says her family’s gathering and bonding time was spent watching movies and television, and they were big horror fans. And then she would realize that movies that she watched had sometimes been classic books. Then she would read those.

“That’s what I remember getting really excited about early on,” she said. “And then I started reading more science fiction work. And the writer that stood out the most for me, that I enjoyed consistently, was Ray Bradbury.”

Bradbury told stories in clear, sometimes lyrical prose, she said. And he had a great sense for characterization. 

“People came alive in his writing,” Thomas said.

She can’t pinpoint when she moved from reading to writing, too. “I don’t know if it was a conscious thing. I felt like, ‘I’m consuming these other stories, whether it was a movie or I’m reading it, someone sat down to write those and my head was full of thoughts.’”

Thomas recalls that her interest in science fiction waned for a time because of the way Black people were depicted in the stories: “Either we weren’t in the future, or if we were present in the storytelling it wasn’t in a very complimentary light or wasn’t in a way which characters had agency, or operated or moved in ways that you could recognize as having been a person that is part of the Black community or a community at all.”

So she started reading mostly Black literature, specifically Black women writers, from her mother’s shelves and the public library. Reading work by Alice Walker, Gayle Jones, Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison was formative to her….

(4) SECOND SEASON OF PICARD. Paramount + dropped a trailer for Star Trek: Picard, Season 2 which includes the return of Q.

(5) IS IT A PEARL? In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns his readers loose on “All the Seas with Oysters,” a 1958 story that won a Hugo the same year (because those wacky LA fans running Solacon set the eligibility period from July 1957 to July 1958.)

Avram Davidson (April 23, 1923 – May 8, 1993) was (as so often true for authors of his vintage) prolific across an expanse of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, to name a few. His SFF awards include a World Fantasy Life Achievement award, World Fantasy Awards for The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy, and ?“Naples”, and the Hugo Award for ?“All the Seas with Oysters”, not coincidentally the subject of this month’s Young People Read Old SFF.

… Young readers encountering the tale for the first time do so without the rosy patina of uncritical nostalgia concealing whatever issues the story might have. Still, this is a widely loved classic. What are the odds generations of SF readers overlooked something? Let’s find out! 

(6) SECOND LOKI TRAILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not that I wasn’t already psyched to watch this…

Loki’s time has come. Watch the brand-new trailer for “Loki,” and start streaming the Marvel Studios Original Series June 11 on Disney+.

And the first trailer, I believe.

BTW, the TVA (Time Variance Authority) is an established Marvel Comics organization. My main memories are from Walt Simonson’s fabulous run in Fantastic Four with the TVA. (Simonson also brought us Beta Ray Bill, and Thor as Frog, among many, many other delightful creations)

Wikipedia: The Time Variance Authority

The Time Variance Authority (or TVA) is a fictional organization, a group of timeline monitors appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. They first appeared in Thor vol. 1 #372 (October 1986). Created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, the TVA originally paid homage to long-time Marvel writer/editor, and continuity expert, Mark Gruenwald: the TVA staff were all clones of Gruenwald.

Other resources:

(7) NYRSF READINGS. Ilana C. Myer will read from the third book in her Harp and Ring Sequence, The Poet King, and will talk will host Amy Goldschlager at the next NYRSF Readings on Facebook on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Viewers can ask questions and comment via the chat channel.  Will be available later on YouTube.

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King. A native New Yorker and longtime Jerusalem resident, she now lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

(8) CONFUSION AFTER ACTION REPORT. Farah Mendlesohn’s writeup about last weekend’s virtual Eastercon (UK) — “ConFusion FM’s con report” [PDF file] – covers the positive and negative con experiences, including how it was to use the Gather Town app, and delivers a withering comments about accessibility issues.

… I am not going to pretend here. I felt utterly betrayed. My sneaking feeling at other conventions that ‘only wheelchair users really mattered’, a feeling for which I’d berated myself, was utterly confirmed. Hearing, sight, neurodivergence, hand or co-ordination issues…. None of these things apparently mattered, yet all of them could have been addressed with good design, a careful choice of discussion platforms, and over and above all with conversation.

I didn’t go to the Feedback meetings because for much of the convention I was too angry. What would I have asked after all; “will the convention chair make a full and unqualified apology for the utter disregard of issues of accessibility in the planning and delivery of this convention?”

In future I will not vote for any bid that does not have a clear statement on access and inclusion. I will not go to a convention that does not support access and inclusion (I began declining conferences for this reason some time ago).

(9) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present via livestream Nalo Hopkinson and Bruce McAllister on April 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back for the link here.

Bruce McAllister

Bruce McAllister has been writing science fiction, fantasy and horror for some decades.  He began as an sf writer but these days writes more fantasy of the uncanny kind. His most recent novel is a little thing called The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic. His Hugo-nominee short story “Kin” launched the new podcast Levar Burton Reads.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian author and maker of objects. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Nebula Award, and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. She authored and co-authored the series “House of Whispers” for DC Comics, set in Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” universe. SFWA recently honored her with the “Grand Master” award for lifetime achievement.

(10) SOVIET LOTR VIDEO AVAILABLE. Ars Technica surprises with news that a“30-year-old Soviet TV adaptation of The Lord of the Rings surfaces on YouTube”.

After 30 years, a TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings long thought lost has resurfaced. The 1991 Soviet television adaptation has been uploaded to YouTube in two one-hour videos.

The film focuses on the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and features many elements that were excluded from the popular global theatrical release by director Peter Jackson, including an extended sequence featuring the character Tom Bombadil—one of the biggest omissions by the bigger-budget 2001 film far more of us have seen.

Originally broadcast on TV in 1991 (and then never aired again), the film was thought lost to time by those who had seen it. But as reported in The Guardian, Leningrad Television successor Channel 5 uploaded the film to its YouTube page with little fanfare, surprising fans who had given up on seeing the production again. It is believed to be the only adaptation of these books produced in the Soviet Union….

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 5, 1992 — On this day in 1992, Mann & Machine premiered on 1992. It would last for only nine episodes. Starring David Andrews, Yancy Butler and S. Epatha Merkerson, it was a Dick Wolf production, he of the eventually myriad Law & Order series. Yancy Butler would go on to be the lead a decade late in Witchblade. It has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the critic rating there is 20%.  NBC has the pilot available here for your viewing. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 5, 1526 – Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  More than his work as a court painter, like this, his portraits composed of pertinent objects appeal to our fantasy.  Here is the Emperor Rudolf II portrayed as Vertumnus, the god of plant growth and fruit trees.  Here is a librarian.  Here is a waiter.  (Died 1593) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1867 – Helen Stratton.  Illustrator in monochrome and color.  Three editions of H.C. Andersen, three of The Arabian Nights, three of Grimm, The Princess and the Goblin (G. MacDonald), Marie of Romania’s Lily of Life, many more.  Here is The Wild Swans.  This is from “The Tinderbox”.  This is from “The Snow Queen”.  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki Page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended by me. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him that I’ve read the most. He’s not well represented at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 95. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1931 – Al haLevy, age 90.  Chaired Westercon 16 (2nd appearance of B. Trimble’s Project Art Show! rumor – false – that F. Pohl lost Galaxy to B. Bernard at late-night poker!), co-chaired Pacificon II the 22nd Worldcon.  Revived Rhodomagnetic Digest awhile.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1935 – Helen M. Hoover.  A dozen novels for us, two others.  Golden Duck Award.  Two American Lib’y Ass’n Best Books.  Alas, Children of Morrow and Treasures of Morrow are about a person, not a place, although come to think of it one could still tell people “Go to Morrow.”  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1950 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her own series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1955 – Toriyama Akira, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  So successful in manga and animé that he won not only Shogakukan Publishing’s Manga Award, but also the 40th Anniversary Festival Award at the Angoulême Int’l Comics Festival, and was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  Dragon Ball has sold 300 million copies worldwide, plus animé, video games.  See more here. [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1963 – Arthur Adams, age 58.  Artist and writer for Marvel, Legend (Monkeyman and O’Brien still appears here and there), DC, Wildstorm.  Diana Schutz got him to draw Gumby Summer Fun Special 1, so of course he drew this – and won an Eisner.  Front and back covers for Ron Goulart’s Great Comic Book Artists vol. 2.  Frequently in Spectrum.  Inkpot Award.  Here is Wolverine.  Here is Phoenix.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 56. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1982 Hayley Atwell, 39. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire save the first Iron Man and Avengers films being the ones that I’ve flat out enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin. (CE) 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a different opinion about what really happened to Godzilla. (OK, you’re right. That’s not really what it’s about.)

(15) LIVING UNDER A CLOUD. [Item by rcade.] A Brazilian science fiction film that presciently anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic has won the top prize at the Sofia International Film Festival. “Brazil’s ‘The Pink Cloud’ wins top prize at lockdown-hit Sofia film festival” at Screen Daily.

The Pink Cloud, written and directed by Iuli Gerbase, is about a couple whose one-night stand becomes a permanent arrangement when a killer cloud drifts into cities across the globe and forces people to shut their windows and quarantine at home. A film that seems like a painfully obvious metaphor for the pandemic was written in 2017 and filmed in 2019, according to a disclaimer that precedes the opening credits.

Guy Lodge writes in Variety (“’The Pink Cloud’ Review: Brazil’s Effective, Accidental Lockdown Drama”:

It’s not often one sees a film arguing against its own topicality, but that’s what happens at the outset of The Pink Cloud, a subtly fevered quarantine drama that is so of the moment, you all but wonder how they had time to shoot and cut it just last week. But they didn’t …

 Not even sure they like each other to begin with, Giovana and Yago try things out as platonic roommates, friends with benefits and eventually lovers, never comfortable settling into any of those modes. Early in the lockdown, Giovana jokes that their setup is akin to an arranged marriage: It’s a comparison that seems less amusing as weeks turn to months, and months to years.

Public screenings at the film festival were stopped by a new pandemic lockdown caused by surging cases in Bulgaria.

(16) THE WAIT IS OVER. A.V. Club introduces readers to a Korean sff author: “I’m Waiting For You by Kim Bo-Young review: Cosmic tales of love, loss”.

In the title story of I’m Waiting For You, the first of Korean science fiction writer Kim Bo-Young’s works to be translated into English, the unnamed protagonist says he felt he was prepared for solo space travel because he’d once spent a few months without leaving his home. After a year in which so much of the world has experienced an even more extreme version of such isolation, that idea might seem trite. But then the character goes on to explain how wrong he was:

That wasn’t actually living alone. I have never once really lived alone. Someone cleared away the trash I left out for collection, and emptied the septic tank… In another place they boiled noodles and put them in a dish and delivered them… I had never lived alone, not once. How would really living alone even be possible?

“I’m Waiting For You” was originally written in 2015 at the request of a fan who wanted Kim to write a story he could use to propose to his girlfriend. The tale of a man journeying through time and space in an increasingly desperate and unlikely attempt to reunite with his fiancée has taken on new power as we look toward the end of more than a year of isolation that has also produced a newfound understanding of how connected we are to the communities around us….

(17) HISTORIC WARNING. “Ghosts of the Future: A Conversation with Larry Achiampong” is a Critierion Channel Q&A with the maker of the Relic film series.

The London-based, British Ghanaian artist and filmmaker Larry Achiampong explores race, class, and history in a multidisciplinary practice that, as described in the biography on his website, seeks to “examine his communal and personal heritage—in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position.” First devised in 2016, partially as a response to the sociopolitical shock of Brexit, Achiampong’s Relic Traveller is an ambitious project that has manifested as performance, sound installation, moving image, prose, and a remarkable public commission in which Achiampong reimagined London Underground’s iconic roundel in Pan-African colors—green, black, and red—that spoke symbolically to various African diasporic identities.

A central pillar of the project is a suite of four science fiction–inflected short films—Relic 0, Relic 1, Relic 2, and Relic 3—now streaming on the Criterion Channel.

… Clearly, these films engage deeply with long, painful histories and would be resonant at any time. But in the past few years, particularly in the UK, there’s been a real resurgence of empire fetishism, and seemingly more reluctance than ever among the media and ruling classes to address the reality of this history. To what extent are the films a reaction to that context?

For me, the films represent a warning to the West about its negligence, ignorance, mythical approach to history, omission of the histories and legacies of empire, slavery and colonization, and how those things affect the way that we live today: the way that Black people are still disenfranchised. They’re a stark warning that the West will undo itself as a result of the lies it has celebrated, taught, and disseminated for a while. It’s almost as if it will eat itself unless an understanding of the truth—or what has not been allowed to be revealed as the truth—is opened up….

(18) CURB APPEAL. SYFY Wire says “We might need to see the Earth like aliens would if we intend to find them”.

Suppose there really are aliens out there who are creeping around on the surface of some faraway planet and have managed to survive everything space has thrown at them so far. How could we find out they exist?

The answer might lie in how they would (hypothetically) see us. We may never know whether there really are intelligent beings who have spotted our planet as it passed by the sun, but observing it from their perspective could help us see through extraterrestrial eyes. This is the objective of the Earth Transit Observer (ETO) mission concept. Led by a research team from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), ETO will watch Earth in transit as if it was a spacecraft sent out here by other intelligent beings.

Researchers Noam Izenberg and Kevin Stevenson, who will be the project leads if this mission becomes reality, and co-led a study recently presented at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and Laura Mayorga, who also co-led the study, believe that observing Earth from the perspective of a being who never knew it existed could give us new insight on how to look for habitable—and possibly inhabited—planets….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla vs. Kong Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George’s screenwriter tells the producer, “We’re just going to keep cutting to monsters punching each other so that no one has time to digest the mumbo-jumbo we use as explanation” for why Godzilla and King Kong fight each other. SPOILER WARNING.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, N., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Daniel Dern, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, John Hertz,John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Nina Shepardson, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Pixel Scroll 4/2/21 Vorkosigan-Wagen, The Flying Car Of The Future

(1) BSFA AWARDS CEREMONY. The British Science Fiction Association will present the BSFA Awards in a live YouTube broadcast on Sunday, April 4 at 5 p.m. (9 a.m. Pacific). View here. (See the finalists on BSFA Awards 2020 Shortlist.)

(2) RETURN TO THOSE THRILLING DAYS OF YESTERYEAR. First Fandom Experience is taking entries for the 2021 Cosmos Prize through July 31 – “Illustration Contest! $500 in Prizes!”

The 2020 Cosmos Prize generated a fair amount of interest and some entertaining results, so we’re re-upping with a very different challenge… a challenge from beyond.

This year’s contest seeks illustrations for the twin collaborative stories, “The Challenge From Beyond,” published in the September 1935 issue of Fantasy Magazine. 

 The prominent early fanzine convinced two sets of professional authors to each develop a story based only on the title — one in the science fiction genre, the other as “weird fantasy.” For the science fiction variant, the contributors were Stanley G. Weinbaum, Donald Wandrei, Edward E. Smith, Ph.D., Harl Vincent and Murray Leinster. The fantasy alternative was penned by C.L. Moore, A. Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Frank Belknap Long, Jr.

 Prizes

  1. One Grand Prize consisting of $300us in cash, as well as copies of FFE’s publications: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s; The Earliest Bradbury; Roy V. Hunt: A Retrospective; and a full facsimile edition of Cosmos.
  2. One Second Prize consisting of $100us in cash, as well as copies of two FFE’s publication: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom: Volume One: The 1930s and a full facsimile edition of Cosmos .
  3. Two Third Prizes, each consisting of $50us in cash, as well as copies of two FFE publications: The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom: Volume One: The 1930s and a full facsimile edition of Cosmos.

All prize winners will also receive an FFE lapel pin. Prize-winning submissions will be published on the FFE website and may also be included in future print and digital publications.

(3) RIVERDALE EPISODE RECAP (BEWARE SPOILERS). [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Riverdale this year, Archie and the gang graduated high school.  The show then jumped eight years, and we found out that Veronica is a venture capitalist, Betty is an FBI agent, and Archie is a veteran who served in combat (but not in any war on our timeline, because the show is set in an alternate-universe 1980s with VHS tapes and no internet).  Jughead Jones went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and became a hip novelist complete with groovy goatee.  But for reasons I’ll skip, he’s back in Riverdale teaching high school.

Jones gets a phone call from his agent, who looks like Dick Vitale.  The agent has placed an excerpt from his new novel with Pop Culture Weekly.  “I’ve taken Stephen King’s spot,” the agent says, “but you’ve got to write more like King and less like Raymond Carver.”  But Jughead hasn’t written anything on his novel because he’s got writer’s block.  What to do?

We learn that Jughead’s first novel was written with the aid of the potent mushrooms grown on Riverdale’s renowned maple trees.  These mushrooms are so potent that Jughead wrote a 500-page manuscript while stonkered on shrooms.  So Jughead decides to take the mushrooms again, but enlists a friend to help him out.

The friend shows up and turns the mushrooms into a sauce, which Jughead uses to garnish “the first psychedelic hamburger.”  So the friend promises to show up and check in on Jughead, but just to make sure he writes, she handcuffs him to his writing chair.  So Jughead starts writing, loaded on mushrooms and…

…Well, stay tuned, because Riverdale is off the air until May!

(4) LASKOWSKI CONNECTION SOUGHT. Guy H. Lillian III needs help getting fanzine reprint permission:

In hopes of reprinting some part of his terrific Ted Sturgeon issue of Lan’s Lantern (1991), I am searching for George “Lan” Laskowski’s survivors and for the contributors to that issue (#36). Any assistance will be met with credits in the next edition of my genzine, Challenger, and my effusive gratitude. Also, any directions towards published articles or anecdotes about Ted will likewise be greatly appreciated — as will your own memories or impressions of Sturgeon and/or his work. Help!

Email Guy at GHLIII@yahoo.com. Or phone: (318) 218-2345. Or write a letter: 1390 Holly Avenue, Merritt Island FL 32952.

(5) WOOKIEEPEDIA WINDUP. Io9’s James Whitbrook gives a detailed look back at the recent controversy: “Star Wars Wiki Wookieepedia Centered in Trans Deadname Debate”.

…Reaction to Eleven-ThirtyEight’s tweet was immediate, at Wookieepedia and in wider Star Wars circles. Votes supporting the decision to change the policy, as well as discussion around the controversial nature of the vote in the first place, flooded the page. Even prominent figures from the world of official Star Wars works began commenting on the vote, including writers Daniel José Older (currently working on Lucasfilm’s The High Republic publishing initiative) and E.K. Johnston (the writer of multiple Star Wars novels, including Ahsoka and the Padmé Amidala trilogy).

…Throughout the backlash, Wookieepedia’s social presence remained as it usually did—tweeting about Star Wars media highlights and fandom jokes, even as fans in their mentions decried the voting process, and other fandom hubs began to formally decry the site’s position. TheForce.Net’s forums temporarily banned links to Wookieepedia content while the vote was ongoing, and even fellow fan sites like the Transformers franchise wiki TFWiki (not operated by Fandom, Inc.) released statements pushing back against the vote and Wookieepedia’s response to the situation.

But silence from Wookieepedia couldn’t stop the controversy reaching the site’s owner, Fandom. The company’s response was swift, a direct intervention that closed the vote and overruled Wookieepedia’s naming policy to protect discrimination against trans and non-binary people, citing a 2020 addition to the company’s own Terms of Use to ban transphobic content.

(6) FINDING THE PATH TO THE FUTURE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna asked four Asian-American cartoonists to recommend graphic novels that “speak well to anti-Asian and anti-AAPI racism.”  Works recommended include books by Thi Bui, Adrian Tomine, and George Takei with three collaborators. “Four graphic novels that illuminate anti-Asian racism through personal experience”.

Gene Luen Yang slept fitfully the night of March 16 — the day that six Asian women were among the eight people killed in the Atlanta spa shootings. The next morning, he saw that #AsiansAreHuman was trending — a hashtag that felt “disturbingly familiar.”

So Yang did what he has devoted much of his career to: writing and drawing art that promotes empathy and understanding.The Bay Area author created a short-form comic, he said this week, because he was “trying to make sense of what’s happening in America right now” amid a national spike in anti-Asian violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the pandemic.

“We’re not jokes to make you laugh. We’re not props for the background of your selfie. We’re not punching bags for when you’re angry about a virus,” says Yang’s comic avatar.

Yang, a two-time National Book Award finalist, for “American Born Chinese” and “Boxers & Saints,” posted the comic to his Instagram and Facebook accounts on March 17, drawing thousands of likes and shares.

“People from all over, of all different backgrounds, reached out to me to express solidarity,” Yang says. “I felt understood and that there is a path leading to the future. It exists — we just have to find it.”….

(7) AUTHOR WITH VISION LOSS. [Item by rcade.] The Fantasy-Faction blog has an interview with indie SF/F author Scott Kaelen in which he discusses the challenges of writing with a visual impairment: “Scott Kaelen Interview – The Nameless and the Fallen”.

…The technical side is a problem on several levels. Thankfully, shortly after I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa back in 2001, I took a touch-typing course (not knowing at the time how much I’d benefit from it years later as a writer). So, the writing part is maybe the least of the visual difficulties. What’s harder is when it comes time to do the full revision of a manuscript, painstakingly battling to focus on each word. …

 The creative difficulties are much more interesting. When describing what something looks like, I often have to put trust in my memory from when I had better eyesight. Nowadays, even people’s facial expressions are usually lost on me. Hell, I haven’t been able to see my own face well enough to recognize it for years. The hardest part isn’t describing what my point-of-view character is seeing, it’s knowing whether they “should” be able to see it, be it in the darkness, bright light, the corner of their eye, at varying distances, and so on. I’m completely night-blind, and I have tunnel vision, daylight sensitivity, colour blindness, blurry central vision, and distortions. That doesn’t make it easy to write a “normal-sighted” character.

Kaelen’s first novel, The Blighted City, was a semifinalist in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO). He wrote a personal essay on the Before We Go blog about being discharged from the military when he was diagnosed, going through a “dark decade” and having a surgery 10 years ago that made things much worse:

… I allowed German eye doctors to slice my eyeballs open, take out my lenses and replace them with plastic ones. …

I had comparatively been coping with the night blindness and tunnel vision, but my central vision quickly deteriorated and my depth perception was affected. A room now looked like a faded painting. The smaller details had gone and I could no longer recognise people as easily. I seethed over what the doctors had done to me, how they hadn’t taken into account and told me about the higher chance of complications from such operations for people with my condition. And so, there I was: living in a foreign land, able to converse on a basic level but ultimately unemployable, with extreme difficulties on public transport and in crowded areas, miserable and directionless. I asked myself what I could do to put some purpose into my life. The answer came quickly and stunned me with its apparent simplicity.
I would become a writer…

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 2, 2005 — On this day in 2005, The Quatermass Experiment premiered.  It was a live television event remake of the 1953 television series of the same name by Nigel Kneale. It was written by Richard Fell and directed by Sam Miller. It starred Jason Flemyng was cast as Quatermass, with long-time Kneale admirer Mark Gatiss as Paterson, Andrew Tiernan as Carroon, Indira Varma as his wife Judith, David Tennant as Briscoe, Adrian Bower as Fullalove and Adrian Dunbar as Lomax.  The critics really liked it and it became BBC Four’s fourth-highest-rated program of all time. It’s not that popular at Rotten Tomatoes where the audience reviewers give it only a 47% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 2, 1805 – Hans Christian Andersen. Novels, plays, poems, travelogues. He gave us a hundred fifty fairy tales, e.g. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier”, “Thumbelina”, “The Ugly Duckling”; fantasy for sure, but some amount to science fiction: “The Wicked Prince” (1840) has a ship that can sail through the air, guns that fire a thousand bullets.  (Died 1875) [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1847 – Flora Annie Steel.  Author-collector, lived a score of years in British India.  One novel, fifty shorter stories for us; Tales of the Punjab illustrated by John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard; English Fairy Tales; ten other novels, half a dozen other books of shorter stories, a cookbook, history, memoirs, The Woman Question.  (Died 1929) [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1914 Alec Guinness. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars trilogy. (What? There were more movies after them? No!)  That’s it for filmed genre roles but theatre is another matter altogether. He played Osric first in Hamlet in the early Thirties in what was then the New Theatre, Old Thorney in The Witch of Edmonton at The Old Vic and the title role of Macbeth at Sheffield. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1921 – Redd Boggs.  Minneapolis and Los Angeles fan; big name in the 1940s and 1950s.  Fanzines Discord (and Discard), Sky HookSpirochete.  N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) Laureate Award as Best Fanwriter.  See a 1983 letter from him in Izzard here.  More here.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1933 Murray Tinkelman. Illustrator who provided numerous book covers for paperback of genre novels for Ballantine Books in the Seventies. He’s particularly known for his work on the paperback editions of Brunner novels such as The Shockwave Rider which you can see here and Stand on Zanzibar that you can see over here. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born April 2, 1939 Elliot K. Shorter. He began attending cons in the early Sixties and was a major figure in fandom through the Seventies. Some of the zines he worked on were Engram, the Heicon Flyer and Niekas. He was the TAFF winner at Heicon, the 28th Worldcon, in Heidelberg Germany. And he helped Suncon, the 1977 Worldcon. Mike has a detailed obituary here. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1945 Linda Hunt, 76. Her first film role was Mrs. Holly Oxheart In Popeye. (Anyone here who’s disputing that’s genre?) She goes on to be Shadout Mapes in Lynch’s Dune. (Very weird film.) Next up is Dragonfly, a Kevin Costner fronted horror film as Sister Madeline. And in a quirky role, she voices Lady Proxima, the fearsome Grindalid matriarch of the White Worms, in Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born April 2, 1948 Joan D. Vinge, 73. Best known I think for The Snow Queen which won a well-deserved Hugo at Denvention Two and its sequels, her most excellent series about the young telepath named Cat, and her Heaven’s Chronicles, the latter which I’ve not read. Her first new book in almost a decade after her serious car accident was the 2011 novelization of Cowboys & Aliens. And I find it really neat that she wrote the anime and manga reviews for The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies. (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1948 – Teny Zuber, age 73.  Widow of Bernie Zuber (fanartist and original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society, d. 2005).  Active in and near L.A. in 1970s and 1980s (and BZ much earlier); they promoted the 1978 Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings film.  [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1953 – Anne Mazer, age 68.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; twoscore books all told.  One Booklist Editor’s Choice, one American Lib’y Ass’n Notable book.  Likes Hugh Lofting’s Twilight of Magic, the only HL book illustrated by another (Lois Lenski).  [JH]
  • Born April 2, 1978 Scott Lynch, 41. His only Award to date is a BFA for Best Newcomer. Author of Gentleman Bastard series of novels which is now at three, and he’s stated that it’ll eventually be seven books in length. And I see he was writing Queen of the Iron Sands, an online serial novel for awhile. May I note he’s married to Elizabeth Bear, one of my favorite authors? (CE)
  • Born April 2, 1984 – David Dalglish, age 37.  Two dozen books, a dozen shorter stories.  Has read Sense and SensibilityFahrenheit 451The Great GatsbyFrankensteinFoundation.  Recommends King’s On Writing.  [JH]

(10) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. James Davis Nicoll leads Tor.com readers “In Search of the Classic Hollywood-Style Asteroid Belt”.

If you’re anything like me, you might have enhanced your friends’ enjoyment of space adventure films by pointing out at great length and in fascinating detail just why the crowded asteroid belts backgrounds that appear in so many of these films are implausible and inaccurate! Our solar system asteroids are far from crowded. If you were to find yourself on the surface of a typical asteroid, you probably wouldn’t be able to see your closest rocky neighbour with a naked eye.

Are there situations in which these visuals wouldn’t be misleading? Can we imagine places where we could expect what appears to be an impending Kessler Syndrome on a solar scale?

(11) GOING APE. Camestros Felapton verifies that Greater Sydney is still there and comes home with a movie review: “I Went to an Actual Cinema and Watched Godzilla v King Kong”. It doesn’t seem to me there are any spoilers here, just the same, BEWARE SPOILERS, because how do I know what it takes to spoil your fun?

…It was a big cinema theatre and not very busy. I was the only person I noticed wearing a mask but I had about eight rows to myself. I figured that if I was going to watch a very big ape hit a very big lizard, I should do so in front of a very big screen and as close as possible. This was a wise choice.

Of all the US versions of Godzilla I’ve seen, this one was the most in tune with the Japanese Toho movies. I’ve seen many of the Japanese Godzilla films but only a fraction of the total and often I was drunk or half asleep (because it was late, not because the film was boring), so I won’t claim to be a Godzilla expert. The key for a true Godzilla movie is the plot shouldn’t matter but it should be crammed with weird ideas that flow easily across sci-fi and fantasy tropes. Godzilla v Kong delivers that in sufficient quantity…

(12) TANNED, RESTED, AND READY. “Arnold Schwarzenegger Suited To Deal With Alien Invasion, Per UK Poll” reports Deadline.

Have you ever wondered which public figure would be most fit to lead the world, in the event of an alien invasion? Today, a U.K. poll of 2000 British adults found that the answer is Arnold Schwarzenegger….

On the list of 20 celebrities “who would best deal with an alien invasion,” Independence Day star Will Smith came in second. Interestingly, former President Donald Trump appeared on the list in eighth place, besting current President Joe Biden (in last place) and Vice President Kamala Harris (in 19th). Other celebs that made the list include Sir David Attenborough, Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Gillian Anderson, and others…. 

(13) YOU HAVEN’T COMPLETELY MISSED IT. [Item by Danny Sichel.] SIGBOVIK 2021 was held yesterday and is rewatchable on YouTube.

In science, there are serious questions and silly questions, and serious methods and silly methods. Normal scientific conferences explore serious questions via serious methods. This leaves three whole quadrants of research unexamined. SIGBOVIK, organized by Carnegie Mellon University’s Association for Computational Heresy, fills this much-needed gap.

SIGBOVIK 2021 is the fifteenth edition of this esteemed conference series, which was formed in 2007 to celebrate the inestimable and variegated work of Harry Quarter-dollar Bovik. We especially welcome the three neglected quadrants of research: joke realizations of joke ideas, joke realizations of serious ideas, and serious realizations of joke ideas. (In other words: SIGBOVIK is an evening of tongue-in-cheek academic presentations, a venue for silly ideas and/or executions.)

The proceedings of the past several years of SIGBOVIK are available as free PDFs.

(14) THE NEW NUMBER 2. Jon Del Arroz doesn’t rank anywhere on the poll of public figures who’ll be called on to lead the world in case of alien invasion, so he was understandably pleased with the consolation prize.

(15) NEVER MIND. A NASA press release called “NASA Analysis: Earth Is Safe From Asteroid Apophis for 100-Plus Years” says that NASA, who previously warned that asteroid Apophis could crash into the Earth in 2029, has done recalculations and now says the Earth is safe both in 2029 and in 2068 from an Apophis impact.

Estimated to be about 1,100 feet (340 meters) across, Apophis quickly gained notoriety as an asteroid that could pose a serious threat to Earth when astronomers predicted that it would come uncomfortably close in 2029. Thanks to additional observations of the near-Earth object (NEO), the risk of an impact in 2029 was later ruled out, as was the potential impact risk posed by another close approach in 2036. Until this month, however, a small chance of impact in 2068 still remained.

When Apophis made a distant flyby of Earth around March 5, astronomers took the opportunity to use powerful radar observations to refine the estimate of its orbit around the Sun with extreme precision, enabling them to confidently rule out any impact risk in 2068 and long after.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Watch the pilot episode of Interforce: Seoul, an animated superhero sci-fi actioner with English subtitles

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, rcade, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Danny Sichel, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kit leads off the discussion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffrey Ford

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

Kaaron Warren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yesterday, xkcd explained Leap Year 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Category: Alternate History Novels

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

Wrong question: Who is Francis Drake?

No one got, Who is Phillip II?

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/21 Big Pixel in Little Scroll

(1) CHALLENGER COIN. On January 28, the 35th anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster, the U.S. Mint will release the Christa McAuliffe 2021 Proof Silver Dollar and Christa McAuliffe 2021 Uncirculated Silver Dollar. [H/t to Guy Lillian III.]

 In 2021, the United States Mint will mint silver dollars with proof and uncirculated finishes to commemorate the life of Christa McAuliffe, a social studies teacher selected in 1985 to be the first participant in NASA’s Teacher in Space Program. On January 28, 1986, McAuliffe and six astronauts were tragically killed during the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Her memory and dedication live on.

Surcharges in the amount of $10 for each silver dollar sold are authorized to be paid to the FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics program to engage and inspire young people—through mentor-based programs—to become leaders in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

FIRST is dedicated to carrying on the legacy of Christa McAuliffe by inspiring students and creating a new generation of dreamers and innovators.

Obverse
Features a portrait of Christa McAuliffe with a hopeful gaze. Inscriptions are “CHRISTA McAULIFFE,” “2021,” “LIBERTY,” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.”

Reverse
Depicts Christa McAuliffe as a teacher, smiling as she points forward and upward—symbolizing the future. Three high school-age students look on with wonder. The seven stars above them pay tribute to those who perished in the Challenger tragedy. 

(2) I COULD OF BEEN A CONTENDER. In Radio Times, former Doctor Who showrunner “Russell T Davies pitches MCU-style Doctor Who universe”.

…“I was in the middle of running an empire,” Davies said of his time on Doctor Who. “And my god I did that 10 years too soon, didn’t I?”

The screenwriter is referencing the point at which his run on the show included spin-offs Torchwood and  The Sarah Jane Adventures, which ran alongside – and occasionally crossed over with – the main series.

Notably, this was before Marvel Studios enjoyed its meteoric surge in popularity, normalising the concept of shared universes in film and television.

Davies continued: “There should be a Doctor Who channel now. You look at those Disney announcements, of all those new Star Wars and Marvel shows, you think, we should be sitting here announcing The Nyssa Adventures or The Return of Donna Noble, and you should have the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors together in a 10-part series. Genuinely.”

The most recent Doctor Who spin-offs are 2016’s Class, which was cancelled after one season, and the recent YouTube series Daleks!, consisting of five episodes between 10-15 minutes long.

(3) THE YEAR IN MANGA. ICV2 posted the sales leaders from 2020: “Full Year 2020 NPD BookScan – Top 20 Adult Graphic Novels”. They say COVID-19 lockdown led to more people reading whole manga series, of which My Hero Academia is the popular favorite. Watchmen sneaked onto the list, too.

We can get the long view of the past year from the list of the top 20 adult graphic novels in the book channel, based on NPD BookScan data for 2020 (1/5/20-1/2/21) provided to ICv2.

The top selling title is Volume 1 of My Hero Academia, which isn’t surprising as it has been leading the monthly charts lately.  Nine of the top 20 slots are volumes of this series, and the fact that the first five and the last four volumes are the ones that are selling best indicate two things: New readers continue to come to the series, and they are sticking with it.  It’s not unusual to see the first volume or two of a series sell well enough to make the chart, but these nine volumes suggest this is a series people are sticking with.

The remaining manga are all first volumes (or in the cast of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the first two). 

(4) MONSTER MASH. The Godzilla vs. Kong Official Trailer has dropped. In theaters and streaming exclusively on HBOMax on March 26. SYFY Wire sets the stage.

Directed by Adam Wingard (Death Note), the film sees the return of Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Millie Bobby Brown and Kyle Chandler, along with franchise newcomers Alexander Skarsgard, Brain Tyree Henry, Rebecca Hall, and Demian Bichir, among others. And from what we can gather, they’re in for a seismic shakeup: The story focuses on a young girl named Jia (Kaylee Hottle), who it seems can communicate with Kong. The girl’s gifts may prove essential to a team of experts, led by Skarsgard, who seek the hulking beast. “We need Kong,” Skarsgard’s character, Nathan Lind, implores. “The world needs him, to stop what’s coming.”

(5) ZOOMING WITH TED WHITE. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari says their Fan History Zoom series featuring a Ted White interview by John D. Berry “was very successful with over 50 people signed up for the Zoom. The session was planned for about an hour and went over two hours. And people clamored for more.”

And in fact they’re getting more. Siclari says they have scheduled a continuation session for Saturday February 6 at 4 p.m. Please RSVP at fanac@fanac.org

In the first session Ted told about his fannish Origins and about his early career as a jazz music critic. He covered things like fanzine design and theory, working with 1950s fanzine editors, starting a Worldcon in New York City and other interesting topics. Part one of the first session is now on our YouTube Fan History Channel.

(6) BERNSTEIN OBIT. The New York Times reports “Walter Bernstein, Celebrated Screenwriter, Is Dead at 101”. He died January 23. His movies included Fail Safe, and The Front, based on his own experience of being blacklisted.

…Mr. Bernstein was considered untouchable both in Hollywood and in the fledgling television industry in New York once his name appeared in “Red Channels,” an anti-Communist tract published in 1950 by the right-wing journal Counterattack.

“I was listed right after Lenny Bernstein,” Mr. Bernstein recalled. “There were about eight listings for me, and they were all true.” He had indeed written for the leftist New Masses, been a member of the Communist Party and supported Soviet relief, the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War and civil rights.

Mr. Bernstein and other blacklisted writers were forced to work under assumed names for sympathetic filmmakers like Sidney Lumet, who used Mr. Bernstein, now back in New York, throughout the ’50s on “You Are There,” the CBS program hosted by Walter Cronkite that re-enacted great moments in history.

It was during this period that Mr. Bernstein and his colleagues, notably the writers Abraham Polonsky and Arnold Manoff, began the ruse of protecting their anonymity by sending stand-ins to represent them at meetings with producers, a ploy later dramatized in “The Front.” (In addition to Mr. Allen, the movie starred Zero Mostel, who, like the film’s director, Mr. Ritt, had also been blacklisted.)

“Suddenly, the blacklist had achieved for the writer what he had previously only aspired to,” Mr. Bernstein joked in “Inside Out.” “He was considered necessary.”…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

January 24, 1969 — Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.

“What is it, Jim?”

“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”

– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost

This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventh episode of the final season.  It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 24, 1776 – E.T.A. Hoffmann.  Author of words, music, graphics; jurist; theater manager; critic; three novels, fifty shorter stories for us; source of Offenbach’s opera Tales of Hoffmann, Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker, Delibes’ ballet Coppélia; as A.J. Budrys said in the Jul 68 Galaxy, “a gifted music critic and competent composer…. this man, who was real and who thought some very interesting thoughts, [laid] down the groundwork for some of our most enduring themes,” recommending particularly “The Golden Flower Pot,” “Automata,” and “The Sand-Man” in Bleiler ed. 1968, The Best Tales of Hoffmann, whose cover illustration is by H.  (Died 1822) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1862 – Edith Wharton.  Two dozen short stories for us (alas, “A Bottle of Evian” was republished as “A Bottle of Perrier”, but tastes vary), well known otherwise e.g. for The Age of Innocence (with which she was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature).  Fluent in French, German, Italian.  Active supporter of French World War I efforts; Legion of Honor.  Honorary doctorate from Yale.  Fifteen novels, ninety shorter stories, poetry, design, travel, criticism, memoir A Backward Glance.  (Died 1937) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1911 —  C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written collaboratively resulting in such delightful stories as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of SugarfootMaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind (2010). Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1930 – John Romita, age 91.  Worked for Atlas, DC, eventually transforming Marvel’s Spider-Man from the drawing of Steve Ditko (although “People laugh when I say this, but…. I wanted to stay on Daredevil”), among much else designing Mary Jane Watson, the Rhino, the Kingpin.  Marvel’s Art Director.  Inkpot Award.  Eisner Hall of Fame.  Sinnott Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1936 – Douglas Chaffee.  Fifty covers, forty interiors for us; Dungeons & DragonsMagic, the Gathering.  Head of IBM’s Art Department.  NASA, the Navy, National Geographic (illustrating Carl Sagan on Mars, I mean about Mars), Bible schools.  Artist Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 29, Archon 19, EerieCon 3.  Phoenix Award.  Frank Paul Award.  Here is the Apr 67 Galaxy.  Here is the Dec 72 Fantastic.  Here is the Program Book for ConFederation the 44th Worldcon.  More archived here.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1942 Gary K. Wolf, 78. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film.  (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 77. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series, and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive. (CE) 
  • Born January 24, 1947 – Michio Kaku, Ph.D., age 74.  (Personal name first, U.S. style.)  Physicist and, as it has been called, physics outreach specialist, e.g. HyperspacePhysics of the ImpossiblePhysics of the Future, radio, television, film.  Summa cum laude at Harvard (and indeed won the Hertz Engineering Scholarship, but I ain’t talkin’).  Professor of theoretical physics at City College NY.  String-theory pioneer.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born January 24, 1949 —  John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982) (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 54. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. (CE)
  • Born January 24, 1986 – Aimée Carter, age 35.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories for us; eight other novels.  Tae kwon do first-degree black belt.  Her Univ. Michigan degree in Screen Arts & Cultures is “a fancy way of saying [I] watched a lot of old movies and wrote a lot of bad screenplays”.  [JH]

(9) ROY V. HUNT ART BOOK. First Fandom Experience’s retrospective of the fan, artist and illustrator Roy V. Hunt is available for pre-order.

This 144-page volume offers an extensive collection that covers the full span of Hunt’s career. It includes many exceptionally scarce fanzine illustrations, amazing wood block prints created for the WPA in the 1940s and his professional work for pulps and FPCI. Hunt’s work is put in perspective in a foreword by Martin Mahoney, Director of Operations and Collections at the Norman Rockwell Museum. As you’d expect from FFE, we include lots of historical context and a full index of works.

…Roy Vernon Hunt lived and worked in Denver, Colorado from 1914 until his passing in 1986. His first published art appeared in the fanzine The Alchemist in February 1940. Hunt was a founding member of the Colorado Fantasy Society, a group formed to organize the 1941 World Science Fiction Convention in Denver.

Hunt is obscure, even among ardent science fiction historians. Our interest was first sparked by a remarkable artifact: an illustration included in the Spring 1941 issue of the fanzine Starlight. The image struck us as perhaps the best ever rendering of H.P. Lovecraft’s iconic Elder God, Cthulhu….

(10) IWERKS, THE NEXT GENERATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard a podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Leslie Iwerks,  Iwerks comes from Disney royalty.  Her grandfather, Ub Iwerks, collaborated with Disney on very early cartoons, when he could personally produce 700 drawings a day.  He then was poached by another studio for a few years and returned to Disney as chief technical officer and the first “imagineer,”  Iwerks’ father, Don Iwerks, is, at 91, one of the few people who knew Walt Disney well enough to tell Disney stories.

Iwerks heads Iwerks & Co., and half of her films are environmental (including one on residents of a garbage dump in Guatemala  that was Oscar nominated) that and half are genre-related,   She’s done two films about Pixar and one on the League of Legends video game.  Her most recent achievement is “The Imagineering Story,” a six-part documentary about the technical side of Disney that is the most streamed show on Disney Plus after The Mandalorian.  It took her five years to produce and has a lot of rare archival footage.

Her website is iwerksandco.com. Here is the trailer for “The Imagineering Story.”

(11) YOUNGARTS. In the WASHINGTON POST, Kelsey Ables reports on a program of the National YoungArts program where 19 artists were commissioned to make portraits of birds and the paintings are being turned into a four-minute animated film by Igor + Valentine which will be posted on the YoungArts website tomorrow night.  YoungArts will then sell 1,500 stills from the film for $175 each with proceeds to be split between the foundation and the artists who supplied the paintings. “National YoungArts Foundation releases animated short with work by KAWS and Shepard Fairey”.

… Set to debut on the YoungArts website on Monday at 8 p.m., “Together” features work by 18 artists, who were each commissioned to create a bird. The works — polymer clay, embroidery on canvas, paintings — have been animated by Igor + Valentine. The final product, a four-minute-long short, is a collage of moving images set to meditative music by YoungArts alumna Nora Kroll Rosenbaum.

“Together” boasts contributions from big-name artists like art-market star KAWS and Shepard Fairey — of Barack Obama “Hope” poster fame — both supporters of YoungArts.Fairey’s contribution, a brown thrasher rendered in red ink, has his signature street-inspired wheatpaste look, and KAWS’s bird is immediately recognizable for its X-ed out eyes. But with an eclectic array of contributions — there is a cartoony, triangular bird by Isabela Dos Santos and a more abstract creation from Sheree Hovsepian — the video is less about individual artists standing out than it is about mixing disparate artistic styles. Bringing artists together that you would be unlikely to see congregated in a single gallery — let alone on the same canvas — the video is born of experimentation necessitated by a covid-19 world. YoungArts says it is meant as a message of solidarity and interconnectedness. And at an arts-starved moment, it’s a visual treat….

(12) CYBERDUD. Bloomberg does a deep dive into “Cyberpunk 2077: What Caused the Video Game’s Disastrous Rollout”.

… Interviews with more than 20 current and former CD Projekt staff, most of whom requested anonymity so as not to risk their careers, depict a development process marred by unchecked ambition, poor planning and technical shortcomings.

… Adrian Jakubiak, a former audio programmer for CD Projekt, said one of his colleagues asked during a meeting how the company thought it would be able to pull off a technically more challenging project in the same timeframe as The Witcher. “Someone answered: ‘We’ll figure it out along the way,’” he said.

For years, CD Projekt had thrived on that mentality. But this time, the company wasn’t able to pull it off. “I knew it wasn’t going to go well,” said Jakubiak. “I just didn’t know how disastrous it would be.”

Part of the fans’ disappointment is proportional to the amount of time they spent waiting for the game. Although Cyberpunk was announced in 2012, the company was then still mainly focused on its last title and full development didn’t start until late 2016, employees said. That was when CD Projekt essentially hit the reset button, according to people familiar with the project.

Studio head Adam Badowski took over as director, demanding overhauls to Cyberpunk’s gameplay and story. For the next year, everything was changing, including fundamental elements like the game-play perspective. Top staff who had worked on The Witcher 3 had strong opinions on how Cyberpunk should be made, which clashed with Badowski and lead to the eventual departure of several top developers….

(13) ROCK ‘N ROLL. How’d you like that staring back at you from a geode?

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

Hollywood Icons Go on the Block December 18

Heritage Auction’s next Hollywood Auction on December 18 will feature Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch of the West” screen-worn flying hat from The Wizard of Oz. Among the other goodies you can bid on are —

  • Elizabeth Taylor “Cleopatra” lavender gown and headdress from Cleopatra (1963).
  • Marlon Brando “Fletcher Christian” Royal Navy officer uniform from Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
  • Original Lucasfilm-sanctioned “Darth Vader” promotional costume for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi
  • Frank Darabont personal 3-sheet poster from Planet of the Apes signed by Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and James Whitmore.
  • Ultra-heavy “Thor” Mjölnir hammer used by all the Avengers in the “worthy test” sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Moe Howard’s (70+) page handwritten manuscript for his autobiography Moe Howard and the Three Stooges.
  • Robert Keeshan’s iconic “Captain Kangaroo” jacket from Captain Kangaroo
  • Lou Ferrigno “The Hulk” screen worn costume on custom display from The Incredible Hulk
  • Kevin Costner “Mariner” costume ensemble from Waterworld
  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s annotated shooting script from The Addams Family.

Plus the Michael Keaton original “Batman” cowl and display from Batman Returns.

Also the helmet worn by actor Michael Ansara in the “Soldier” episode of Outer Limits. (Which John King Tarpinian assures me was also worn by Robin Williams in an episode of Mork and Mindy.)

Or maybe you’d like to exchange a pile of dollars for these cubits from Battlestar Galactica.

And I’m sure we all remember Apocalypse Kong – don’t we?

Finally, for your listening pleasure, a recording of a Star Trek score — but which episode? Perhaps “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the third episode which aired two days after the date on the box.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/20 This Machine Scrolls Pixels

(1) MORE SFF EVENTS AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS.

  • The annual L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future awards ceremony, planned for April 3 in Hollywood, has been cancelled.
  • The 2020 Williamson Lectureship, scheduled for April 3 at Eastern New Mexico University has been postponed.

(2) WORLDCON 2020 STILL ON. The CoNZealand chairs gave this status as of March 13 (NZ date): “Covid-19: Update from the Chairs”.

We understand your concerns and that you want as much notice as possible if CoNZealand were to be cancelled. We are extremely keen to see CoNZealand go ahead and bring Worldcon to New Zealand for the first time ever. Our Executive have discussed the situation and unanimously agreed that we are not cancelling the convention.  Please be assured that we are closely monitoring the situation and will make a further statement if the situation changes. We do note that the convention could possibly be cancelled by the New Zealand Government or the venues, but we see no sign of that happening.

Kelly Buehler, Norman Cates – CoNZealand Chairs

(3) SFWA ON UNFIT/UNREAL. SFWA has issued a statement on Facebook warning about the practices of Unreal and Unfit magazines posting lists of rejected stories and author names on Thinkerbeat (reported here in February). However, the Thinkerbeat page seems to have been taken down.  

The Board of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is issuing a warning regarding short fiction publisher Thinkerbeat, which publishes the semi-pro magazines “Unfit” and “Unreal.” The publisher publicly posts lists of rejected stories along with the author’s name and a numeric score.

This publisher’s behavior is far outside of industry standards and is contrary to the interests of writers. Humiliating writers, betraying their trust, and violating their privacy is not acceptable.

(4) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr connects with some furry history: “Unearthing a cool fossil — A 1980’s letter shows furry fandom before the net.”

…We arranged mailing to Summercat (news writer, furry historian, and curator of the Furry Library), who received four huge binders. There were copies of parts of 1980’s zines someone liked and kept. A binder of misc anime stuff, a binder of (colloquial) furry anime stuff, and a binder each that looked like a collection of work from artists Jerry Collins and Juan Alfonso. Among the photocopies, there was a hand written artifact.

(5) MY BABY, THE CAR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Gizmodo says “Supernatural Is Crossing Over With Legends of Tomorrow…via Car”. So (ignoring backstory as not essential for this), the March 24 episode of Legends of Tomorrow brings (some of) our intrepid Legends to where the Supernatural TV series is being shot, so (we) get Baby (which is, I gather, a car) from Supernatural, along with a few other elements of Supn’l (tho no characters, I gather).

So it’s not quite a crossover, depending on your definition of things.

There’s some multiverse precedent, at least from the (paper) comic book PoV, IIRC, where, pre-Crisis (on Infinite Earths), Earth-Prime was “our” universe. Per https://dc.fandom.com/wiki/Earth-Prime: “where the readers lived, DC Comics operated as a publisher and all superheroes are fictional. However, Earth-Prime is shown to be an alternate reality when the Flash (Barry Allen) accidentally travels there from Earth-One.”

(I’m still just a teeny bit sad that the recent CW 5-episode crossover didn’t include a Muppets-style montage that included a few seconds also from Riverdale, the Warner Brothers cartooniverse, Nancy Drew, and Penn & Teller. Ah well.)

(6) BOSKONE ON TV. Boston’s WCVB aired a segment shot at Boskone: “The growth in popularity of science fiction literature”. GoHs Holly Black, Kim Stanley Robinson, and artist Eric Wilkerson get extended facetime, but Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari and Mark Olson are onscreen for a split second, too. Video at the link.

L to R: Mark Olson and Joe Siclari

(7) GATE SHOW. The station’s “Chronicle” also ran a video report about the Boston Fan Expo: “Going behind the scenes of the Boston Convention and Expo Center.”

(8) LIU ADAPTATION. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Last night, I saw a screening of a film entitled La Verite (The Truth), directed by Hirokazu Kore-ede and starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke. While it is not a genre film, Deneuve plays an aging actor who is appearing in a  F film entitled “Memories of My Mother,” which is based on the Ken Liu story of the same name. “Memories of My Mother” was initially published on the Daily Science Fiction web site and appears in Liu’s latest collection “The Hiden Girl and Other Stories” (Saga Press, 2020). Liu is also listed as an Associate Producer of La Verite.

A 26-minute short film based on “Memories of My Mother” and entitled Beautiful Dreamer was released in 2016, but I have not seen it.

(9) HERSTORY. CrimeReads’ Jan Eliasberg solves the case — “Dr. Lise Meitner: The Mystery of the Disappearing Physicist”. Tagline: “She split the atom and fled the Nazis. History tried to erase her.”

Otto Hahn remained in Berlin and was named interim head of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute “until a loyal Nazi could be found to take over.” But Hahn was so dependent on Meitner that he continued to collaborate with her, even after she’d fled to Sweden. He met with her in secret and sent her, on postcards via courier, the results of experiments they’d designed together. It was Meitner not Hahn, who analyzed the results and recognized that they had split the atom. The notion that a nucleus can split and be transformed into another element was radical; no one had fathomed it before. Meitner provided the first understanding of how and why this had happened.

Because Meitner was Jewish, the paper Hahn published in Germany did not have her name on it. Hahn might have been motivated by the fact that, if they paper had had borne her name, it would have been discredited as “Jewish Physics,” and he certainly was aware that including a Jewish woman on the paper would cost him his career in Germany.  So, he published without Meitner, falsely claiming that the discovery was based solely on insights gleaned from his own chemical purification work, and that any insight contributed by Meitner played an insignificant role.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 12, 1999Wing Commander premiered. It was based rather loosely based on the Wing Commander series. It was directed by Chris Roberts, who created the video game series. It starred Freddie Prinze, Jr., Saffron Burrows, Jürgen Prochnow, David Suchet, and David Warner. Critical reaction to it  was overwhelmingly negative. It has an audience rating of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. It however spawned at least three sequels. You can see it here.

March 12, 2015 Terry Pratchett dies. Cat Eldridge writes –

We lost Him five years ago today and even though I knew it was coming, it still was a horrible shock. Of all the losses we’ve suffered in the genre, this one and the loss of Iain Banks are the ones I’ve felt the deepest. I’m going to offer up the toast that Hob Gadling gives in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Season of Mists as an expression of my feelings:

  • To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.

To mark the occasion, Steven H Silver sent out links to his 2000 SF SIte interview with Pratchett.

In any event, the Discworld has changed over time as Pratchett honed his skills as a writer. In early books, Pratchett referred to several characters only by their title. The Archchancellor of Unseen University or the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. As time progressed, the characters acquired names and more definable personalities.

“In those days, the Archchancellor would change at least once per book. I’m a little uncertain about [whether the Patrician changed or has always been Lord Vetinari]. Sourcery actually marked the boundary line. The books before that were ‘Old Discworld’; the books after that were ‘New Discworld.” They are the same place, but written by a better writer.

“Because the early ones were written in the fantasy tradition. You populate, apart from your heroes, with rogues, beggars, vagabonds, lords, whores… you don’t think of them as characters. But I find it much more fun to bring them forward as characters.”

Pratchett’s fans are legion and they are very vocal about their favourite novels and characters. This causes slight problems since everyone tells Pratchett which characters to focus on, but the suggestions are usually contradictory. Pratchett has taken to ignoring the advice.

“The problem is that I get requests from people who want more of the witches or don’t like the witches and want more guards. You’ll get what you’re given, but everyone is cheering for the party of choice.

“I get a lot of e-mail on the subject [of combining series]. But the fact is that if you like pickles and you like chocolate, but chocolate pickles may not be a good idea. If you put them all together, its sort of like a super-hero league where Batman can only have adventures because Superman happens to be out of town. What a lot of people want is to see a face-off between Granny and the Patrician. It may happen, but I don’t want to do it just to have the fun of doing it. I almost had Vimes and Lady Sybil meeting Verence and Magrat in The Fifth Elephant, but it got edited out because I was doing it as ‘series glue’ rather than because it was necessary for the book.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 12, 1879 Alfred Abel. His best-known performance was as Joh Fredersen in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It wasn’t his only genre as Phantom, a 1922 German film, was fantasy, and my German is just good enough to see that much of work could be considered genre or genre adjacent. (Died 1937.)
  • Born March 12, 1886 Kay Nielsen. He’s best-known for his work with Disney for whom he did many story sketches and illustrations, not least for Fantasia. He was also the Visual Development Artist on The Little Mermaid. (Died 1957.)
  • Born March 12, 1914 John Symonds. Critic of Alistair Crowley who published four, yes four, books on him over a fifty-year period starting in the Fifties: The Great Beast, The Magic of Aleister Crowley, The King of the Shadow Realm and The Beast 666. Needless to say, the advocates of Crowley aren’t at all happy with him. Lest I leave you with the impression that his only connection to our community, he was a writer of fantasy literature for children including the feline magical fantasy, Isle of Cats  with illustrations by Gerard Hoffnung. (Died 2006.)
  • Born March 12, 1925 Harry Harrison. Best-known first I’d say for his Stainless Steel Rat and Bill, the Galactic Hero series which were just plain fun, plus his novel Make Room! Make Room! which was the genesis of Soylent Green. I just realized I’ve never read the Deathworld series. So how are these? (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 12, 1933 Barbara Feldon, 87. Agent 99 on the Get Smart series. Other genre credits include The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and reprising her character on the short-lived follow-up to this series, Get Smart, done twenty years later. She didn’t have that much of an acting career. 
  • Born March 12, 1933 Myrna Fahey. Though best-known for her recurring role as Maria Crespo in Walt Disney’s Zorro, which I’ll admit is at best genre adjacent, she did have some genre roles in her brief life including playing Blaze in the Batman episodes of “True or False-Face” and “Holy Rat Race”. Her other genre appearances were only on The Time Tunnel and Adventures of Superman.
  • Born March 12, 1952 Julius Carry. His one truly great genre role was as the bounty hunter Lord Bowler in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. oh but what a role it it was! Over the course of the series, he was the perfect companion and foil to Bruce Campbell’s Brisco County, Jr. character. He did have one-offs in The Misfits of Science, Earth 2, Tales from the Crypt and voiced a character on Henson’s Dinosaurs.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alasdair Stuart has refilled from the endless banquet of popular culture: “The Full Lid for 6th March 2020”

This week’s lead story is a look at the startlingly audacious Doctor Who season finale and it’s connections to Moorcock’s The Eternal Champion, the Creative Commons Licensing movement and Wildstorm Comics. Backing that up are my adventures attempting to replicate the breakfast sandwich from Birds of Prey, with a recipe from the always excellent Binging with Babish.

In Signal Boost, we’ve got details of the Null & Void.podcast’s crowdfunding campaign, Find them on Twitter here and have a trailer. We’ve also got the amazing Premee Mohamed‘s longform debut, Julian Jarboe releasing the brilliantly titled Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel  and the magic (literally) of Sarah Gailey. It’s rounded off with a Beth Elderkin piece that’s typically eloquent, perceptive and deeply brave. 

(14) FAMILIAR PLOT. Daniel Fienberg reviews HBO’s production for The Hollywood Reporter: “‘The Plot Against America’: TV Review”.

Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America was a cautionary tale about anti-Semitism in the United States and the dangers of a cult-of-personality presidency in which a politically unseasoned celebrity favored for his “America First!” nationalism forges questionable international alliances and enables the worst instincts of his partners and supporters, setting off a wave of hate crimes further emboldened by “But the economy is booming!” platitudes.

Terrifying fantasy. Right?

So what do you do when speculative fiction no longer feels so speculative? That’s the challenge facing The Wire collaborators David Simon and Ed Burns in their HBO limited-series adaptation of The Plot Against America. Simon and Burns aren’t always able to conquer the challenges of Roth’s text — it’s a great book, if not the most fluidly transferrable story to the small screen — but they’ve certainly crafted a six-hour nightmare with an insidious creep. Some viewers are likely to complain that nothing sufficiently dramatic or awful is happening — and they’ll surely be wrong — before the series twists the narrative knife by the end.

(15) IS LESS BETTER? Sean Kelly finds some internal contradictions in the ways Star Trek’s crews amuse themselves. Thread starts here.

(16) KONG’S INSPIRATION. I didn’t know this. I’m not sure I know it now. “How King Kong came out of a real-life scrapped Komodo dragon vs. gorilla fight” at SYFY Wire.

Ever seen an actual gorilla fighting a Komodo dragon? Well, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about animal cruelty) that fight fell through back in the 1920s, as the Depression sent potential investors running for the jungle. But, hoping to get at least some traction from this defunct battle royale, the hopeful promoter of the epic showdown, Merian C. Cooper, dreamed up King Kong instead — which, thanks to Fathom Events, you’ll be able to catch on the big screen for the first time nationally in more than six decades.

(17) COBBLED TOGETHER. “Ancient rock bears isotopic fingerprints of Earth’s origins”Nature has the story.

Identifying Earth’s building blocks from terrestrial rocks is challenging because these ingredients have become mixed as the planet evolved. Evidence of an unknown building block in ancient rocks provides fresh insight.

The Earth formed from an unknown selection of meteoritic material.  New research finds that the composition of ruthenium isotopes in ancient rocks from southwest Greenland contains evidence of a previously unrecognized building block of Earth. Surprisingly, the inferred isotopic composition of ruthenium in the material does not match known meteorite compositions. The authors’ findings suggest that Earth’s volatile components, such as water and organic compounds, could have arrived during the final stages of the planet’s growth…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Hey, every now and then…]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/17/19 By The Time I Get To Pixel, She’ll Be Scrolling

(1) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. Christopher J. Garcia and Chuck Serface are co-editing an issue of The Drink Tank dedicated to science-fiction comics of the 1950s and 1960s! Any critical articles, fanfic, personal remembrances, artwork, and any media we can publish in a fanzine are welcome.

Chuck Serface says, “Consideration of materials from any comic publisher of the time is fair game: Atlas/Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Charlton, Warren, EC, ones I’m forgetting at the moment — all of them.”

The deadline’s October 14, 2019. They’ll have it out by the end of the calendar year. Send submissions to ceserface@gmail.com.  

(2) COLSON WHITEHEAD Q&A. His new book is not sff, but some of his answers are about genre in “Powell’s Interview: Colson Whitehead, Author of ‘The Nickel Boys’”.

Rhianna: You’ve mentioned in other interviews being an avid reader of horror, and your novel Zone One is a zombie horror story. You’re very skilled at depicting violence. I was wondering if the horror genre has stylistically influenced the way that you depict historical atrocities, like those in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys.

Whitehead: Again, I think the story determines how you tell it. The violence in Zone One is gorier. It’s more flamboyant than some of the stuff in The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. In those two books, I think the horrific brutality that they experience speaks for itself. They don’t have to be dramatized.

This kind of language, I borrowed from reading the slave narratives. You don’t have to dramatize or sell to the listener or the reader how terrible everything is that is happening because it speaks for itself. If the violence is speaking for itself, I can concentrate more on the characters and what they’re feeling.

(3) TOLD WITH CONVICTION. LAist tells how “This LA Writer Turned Comic-Con Into A Crime Story”.

San Diego’s Comic-Con International starts Wednesday night, which makes this the perfect time to talk about Bad Weekend, a noir set against the backdrop of a fictionalized version of the now famous comics convention.

Writer Ed Brubaker described the graphic novel — with art by Brubaker’s longtime collaborator Sean Phillips and colors by Phillips’ son Jacob — as a weird love letter to comics, being a fan, and the strangeness of the comic book industry.

Bad Weekend is the product of filing away stories he’s heard around the comic book industry for the past 20 to 30 years, according to Brubaker — stories of who screwed over whom, of success not bringing happiness, and of comic companies getting rich off their work with movies and TV shows without the creators sharing in that wealth.

(4) OP-EDS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] If, like me, you’ve been enjoying the New York Times’ series of science fictional op-eds, they’ve just created a landing page with all the articles in the series now organized in one place:  “Op-Eds From the Future”

It’s worth checking back every second Monday to see the latest installment, as they’ve been excellent so far. 

(5) FILER NAMED FGOH. Chris Barkley shared on Facebook: “I am pleased to report that I was asked and accepted to be the Fan GoH at the 2021 Astronomicon in Rochester, NY along with my good friend (and Identical twin) Robert J. Sawyer.”

(6) TRANSLATED NOVEL HUGO REDUX. Chris Barkley has also addressed criticism of the Best Translated Novel Hugo category in a Facebook post which begins —

I have taken this past week to ponder a response to Neil Clarke and Taiyo Fujii’s objections to the viability of a Hugo Award category for Best Translated Novel. And frankly, their objections puzzle me.

I ask this of Mr. Fujii and to Mr. Clarke; if the three Hugos awarded to translated works are the awakening of fandom to translated literature, why haven’t more of those works been nominated in their wake? In the past three years of nominations; only 2017’s Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu, has been included in the Best Novel category, all of the other nominees in the category have all been decidedly anglocentric.

The truth of the matter we think that the Worldcon and the Hugo Awards have been overwhelmingly perceived for quite a while as an English speakers only party since a majority of the conventions have been held in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Fujii may see the proposed award as either unnecessary, pandering or condescending to authors and fans but all Ms. Cordasco, my co-sponsors and I only want to do is shine a spotlight to fervently call attention to and honor authors and their translators. Speaking for myself, had there been three, four or five nominees on the final ballot since those historic awards, I would not have contemplated initiating and offering this proposal for an open debate…

(7) JUDGE UNCONVINCED. “Marvel Finally Beats a Lawsuit Over the ‘Iron Man 3’ Poster”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. There does seem to be a family resemblance, just the same:

Horizon still could have gotten the case to trial, but it then needed to show an inference of copying through the similarity of the works. Specifically, Horizon argued the two works were “strikingly similar,” with reliance on an expert report discussing anatomical structures, faces and heads, and camera views.

The judge responds that the expert report is “equivocating” on some of the noteworthy similarities by addressing features on careful viewing and not going quite so far to rule out any reasonable possibility of independent creation. Plus, the judge adds, “there remain enough differences between the two works,” nodding to Marvel’s pointing out differences in pose, differing placement of blue lights, and significantly different overall coloring.

(8) SEE READERCON 30. Ellen Datlow has posted 89 photos taken at ReaderCon 30 in a Flickr album.

Catherynne M. Valente, Heath Miller, and Sebastian

(9) ARE YOU WHAT YOU CONSUME? Surprising no one, here’s where The Hollywood Reporter lands on the meaning of “fan” and “fandom” — “Among Fandoms, Marvel May Reign Supreme, Poll Finds”.

A nationally representative sample of 2,200 adults carried out between July 8 and 10 revealed that, when it comes to genre properties, Marvel is far and away the most successful, with 63 percent of those surveyed considering themselves fans. The next most popular property was Marvel’s Disney sibling, Star Wars, with a 60 percent fandom, and DC followed with 59 percent.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1858 Florence Balcombe Stoker. She was the wife and literary executor of Bram Stoker. She’s best remembered for her extended legal dispute with the makers of Nosferatu, an unauthorized film blatantly based on her husband’s novel Dracula. (Died 1937.)
  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best known for the Perry Mason series of detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 75. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column in Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog
  • Born July 17, 1952 Robert R. McCammon, 67. Horror writer whose Michael Gallatin books, The Wolf’s Hour and The Hunter from the Woods, Alllied WWII werewolf agent and his adventures, I strongly recommend. His “Nightcrawlers” short story was adapted into an episode of the Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 65. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of Babylon 5 and its short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the commit sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written Superman, Wonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles.
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 52. I just got done reading her brilliant “Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach”.  Right now, it appears only this plus “A Human Stain” and “Waters of Versailles” are available on iBooks and Kindle for reading as she has no collection out yet. And no novel as far as I can tell. 
  • Born July 17, 1971 Cory Doctorow, 48. I’ll admit that I’ve mixed feelings about his work. I enjoyed Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, his first novel, and thought The Rapture of the Nerds had potential but really failed to live to that potential to great. Everything else is ‘Meh’. His activism is oft times that of an overeager puppy trying to get attention for himself. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 43. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.

(12) IN THE BEGINNING. The San Diego Union-Tribune explores “50 Shades of Comic-Con: What we’ve gained and lost in five decades of pop culture celebrations”.

From its inception, Comic-Con had intergalactic ambitions.

The initial show, then called San Diego’ Golden State Comic Con, featured science fiction writers Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt; Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America, X-Men and other iconic superheroes; vintage films; an art auction; and dozens of dealers peddling mountains of new and used comics.

An unforgettable event — for the 300 attendees. Few others noticed and even they dismissed this as a juvenile jamboree. For instance:

On the show’s first day, Aug. 1, 1970, the author of “Fahrenheit 451″ and “The Martian Chronicles” granted an interview to The San Diego Union. Yet Bradbury’s spirited defense of comics was buried on page B-11, under articles about a flower show, the repainting of the White House East Room and a medical brief with the headline “Fat Men More Tipsy.”

… Neil Kendricks is a writer, filmmaker and teacher who recently led a San Diego State course on comics and sequential art. In the early 1980s, though, he was a high school student at his first Comic-Con. In the dealer’s room, he bumped into a white-haired gentleman flipping through the cardboard boxes full of used comics.

“Mr. Bradbury,” he stammered, “will you be here for awhile?”

When Ray Bradbury nodded yes, Kendricks dashed out of Golden Hall and ran the half-mile to Wahrenbrock’s Book House.

“I went upstairs to the science fiction section and bought as many of his books and I could find. Then I ran all the way back and he signed them. That,” Kendricks said, “could never happen now.”

(13) UP ON CHARGES. Trae Dorn reports at Nerd & Tie that a conrunner is being prosecuted in the Twin Cities: “How to React When a Member of Your Con Staff is Accused of Rape”. Documentation accompanies the post.

On Monday it came to light that long time staffer of Twin Cities based Anime Detour Stephen Gifford has been charged with third-degree sexual assault in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Gifford was head of Convention Communications for Anime Detour’s 2019 event earlier this year, and has previously served as the event’s convention chair.

… Now we’ve seen cons react to situations like this in many ways, but thankfully Anime Detour’s staff has taken the situation seriously.

(14) KNIT ONE, PEARL TWO. While they still can, WIRED lets readers decide for themselves what to think about this coming technology: “Here’s How Elon Musk Plans to Stitch a Computer into Your Brain”.  

…At a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences, hastily announced via Twitter and beginning a half hour late, Musk presented the first product from his company Neuralink. It’s a tiny computer chip attached to ultrafine, electrode-studded wires, stitched into living brains by a clever robot. And depending on which part of the two-hour presentation you caught, it’s either a state-of-the-art tool for understanding the brain, a clinical advance for people with neurological disorders, or the next step in human evolution.

The chip is custom-built to receive and process the electrical action potentials—“spikes”—that signal activity in the interconnected neurons that make up the brain. The wires embed into brain tissue and receive those spikes. And the robotic sewing machine places those wires with enviable precision, a “neural lace” straight out of science fiction that dodges the delicate blood vessels spreading across the brain’s surface like ivy.

…And, sure, there’s more. A public records request from WIRED in April 2019 found that Neuralink is licensed to have hundreds of rats and mice in its research facilities. In a seemingly unplanned moment at the Cal Academy, Musk also acknowledged that Neuralink’s research had progressed beyond rodents to non-human primates. It’s only because of a records request filed by Gizmodo that Neuralink’s affiliation with the primate research center at UC Davis is public knowledge. That affiliation has apparently progressed: “A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI,” Musk said during the Q and A after the presentation.

His team seemed as surprised and discombobulated by the announcement as the audience. “I didn’t know we were running that result today, but there it goes,” said Max Hodak, president of the company, on stage next to Musk. (Monkeys have controlled computers via BCIs before, though presumably this would be the first time one used Neuralink.)

(15) APOLLO 11 AT 50 CLIPPINGS.

One small holograph for man, one giant holograph for the Washington Monument.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a life-size projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The Saturn V rocket is now iconic for carrying the Apollo 11 crew to the moon in 1969. The projection-mapping artwork will occupy 363 of the monument’s 555 vertical feet.

As the 17th century’s most famous Italian astronomer surveyed the heavens, he likely never dreamed a rocket shooting fire would one day power people up among the stars he eyed through his telescope, or that his work would help guide a ship to the moon.

But Galileo Galilei’s observations would become a key link in the chain of scientific research and discovery fundamental to our understanding of the universe and our drive to explore it.

That scientific continuum is at the heart of a new Houghton Library exhibit connecting early celestial calculations to the Apollo 11 mission that put two American astronauts on the lunar surface 50 years ago this July. “Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty” features gems from Harvard’s collection of rare books and manuscripts as well as NASA artifacts from an anonymous lender and Harvard alumnus, many of which were aboard the spaceship that left Earth’s orbit in 1969.

Not all of the equipment carried into space was cutting edge and expensive. Some of the more humble odds and ends even prevented disaster.

…25: Length of duct tape rolls carried to the Moon, in feet

If there’s one saviour time and again of American space missions over the past 50 years, it’s a roll of duct tape. During Apollo missions, it was used for everything from taping down switches and attaching equipment inside the spacecraft, to fixing a tear on a spacesuit and, during Apollo 17, a fender on the lunar rover.

One of the surviving crew members of the first manned mission to the Moon – Apollo 11 – has returned to the site where the mission set off 50 years ago.

Michael Collins, 88, visited Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. He marked theprecise time – 09:32 (13:32 GMT) – when their rocket took off.

Mr Collins had stayed in lunar orbit while his colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon.

…Mr Collins described how he felt during take-off.

“The shockwave from the rocket power hits you,” he told Nasa TV. “Your whole body is shaking. This gives you an entirely… different concept of what power really means.”

Esquire was not expecting much from Neil Armstrong.

“While the space program is poised on the brink of a truly epoch-making triumph of engineering, it is also headed for a rhetorical train wreck,” the story said.

“The principal danger is not that we will lose the life of an astronaut on the Moon, but that the astronauts will murder English up there . . . . That they are likely to litter the intergalactic void with gibberish and twaddle.”

The smugness is rather remarkable, because despite the talent of the people it enlisted, Esquire got not a single decent line from any of them.

It got, in fact, a lot of gibberish and twaddle.

…With that as your benchmark, here’s a sampling of what Esquire’s best and brightest came up with:

John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist: “We will hafta pave the damn thing.”

Ayn Rand, libertarian thinker and novelist: “What hath man wrought!”

…Leonard Nimoy, the actor, then in his third season as Spock on the new TV series Star Trek: “I’d say to Earth, from here you are a peaceful, beautiful ball and I only wish everyone could see it with that perspective and unity.”

(16) BACK SEAT FLYING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Washington Post: “Airline tweets about where passengers are least likely to die in a crash”. The pic below is cribbed from the WaPo article. Apparently, they got ahold of a screenshot of the since-deleted tweet. The thought process of whoever sent this out must have been, well, let’s just call it astounding.

(17) A KING WILL BE CROWNED. Looper fills us in about The Most Anticipated Sci Fi Movies Of 2020.

2020 might feel far away, but Hollywood’s major studios are already planning ahead with some legit super hits on the horizon. And if you’re a fan of sci-fi flicks, then 2020’s looking like an especially good year for you. These are just a few of the most anticipated sci-fi blockbusters on their way to a big screen near you. Film fans will finally get the answer to an age-old question in 2020, when Godzilla and King Kong face off on the big screen. Director Adam Wingard has already assured fans that his take on the two monsters will crown a definitive winner, unlike the 1962 film that first pit the two characters against each other. This will be the fourth entry in Legendary’s MonsterVerse, first established in 2014’s Godzilla and further explored in Kong: Skull Island.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/27/19 Never Scroll A Filer When Pixels Are On The Line!

(1) DISNEY’S STICKY FINGERS LAND. Brady Macdonald, in “Galaxy’s Edge smugglers make off with anything not nailed down in Disneyland’s new Star Wars land” in the Redlands Daily Facts, says that crooks have been helping themselves to maps of Galaxy’s Edge and menus at Oga’s Cantina and then unloading the swag on eBay, ensuring that Disney is cracking down.

The “free” collectibles in Disneyland’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that didn’t have a price tag and weren’t nailed down have found their way to cyberspace with many of the five-finger discount items showing up on the secondary market.

A simple search for “Galaxy’s Edge” on the eBay online shopping site reveals a slew of purloined items that probably should not have left the Black Spire Outpost village on the Star Wars planet of Batuu, the setting for the new 14-acre land at the Anaheim theme park.

Other resourceful Galaxy’s Edge visitors simply took more of the free Star Wars stuff than Disneyland might have anticipated or expected. As a result, many of the pilfered and hoarded souvenirs are no longer available in the new Star Wars land.

Gone are the Galaxy’s Edge maps and Docking Bay 7 sporks that are likely not to reappear in the park or the land. It’s always possible they were intended as grand opening swag. Or maybe new shipments of the popular keepsakes are bound for Batuu….

…What constitutes thievery? If a Disneyland employee hands you something without a price tag on it are you obligated to give it back? Most people would agree that keeping a theme park map as a souvenir is OK, but taking restaurant silverware is stealing. It appears plenty of Disneyland visitors are stepping over that grey line.

(2) BILL VS. BRIANNA. Bounding Into Comics’ slant on things is self-evident from the first paragraph, but they have rounded up enough tweets to let you navigate to the source material: “Brianna Wu Takes Aim At Star Trek Actor William Shatner, He Fires Back!”

Star Trek actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series, found himself in the middle of an internet argument about autism, and how society should accommodate those with the disorder. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu threw herself into the argument attempting to take a shot at Shatner. The actor quickly shot her down with a firm response about her own past.

One of Shatner’s threads begins here (and includes a couple of comments where Scott Edelman tries to contradict Shatner with a cocktail of Harlan Ellison and George Bernard Shaw quotes).

One of Brianna Wu’s threads starts here.

The mystery question is whether Shatner writes his own tweets or delegates that to someone else?

(3) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERNET. In the aftermath of Ulrika O’Brien’s BEAM #14 editorial, John Scalzi analyzes his role in the past decade of Hugo fanhistory: “On Being Denounced, Again (Again)”

6. So why, over the last decade plus change, have certain people focused on me as the agent of change (and not necessarily a good one) with regard to the Hugos? After all, this latest editorial is not the first jeremiad about me on the subject; people will recall I was a frequent example from the Puppy Camp of Everything That Was Wrong in Science Fiction and Proof the Hugos Were Corrupt, etc.

Here are some of the reasons:

a) professional/personal dislike and/or jealousy;
b)
unhappiness with inevitable change with fandom and the science fiction and fantasy community and genre generally and the need to find a single cause to blame it on;
c) ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the labor of other people (many of them not straight and/or white and/or male) to change the tenor of the SF/F community (and as a consequence, its awards);
d) a general lack of understanding that the SF/F community is a complex system and like most complex systems a single input or actor, in this case me, does not usually precipitate a wide system change on its own;
e)
my privileged position in the community makes me an easy and acceptable target/strawman/scapegoat — no one’s exactly punching down when they go for me.

(4) ABOUT THAT GATE. Darusha Wehm, Escape Pod associate editor and author, has also responded to Ulrika O’Brien’s BEAM 14 editorial. Thread starts here.

(5) HE WANTS GEEZERS TO GET OFF HIS LAWN, TOO. This was S.M. Stirling’s response to Scalzi’s post:

(6) DEVOURING BRADBURY. In “David Morrell: Preparing for Crisis and Finding Inspiration” on Crimereads, Mark Rubinstein interviews David Morrell about his new collection, Time Was.  Morell explains how he started off as a writer “devouring Ray Bradbury” and how his short stories “tend to be in the Serling/Bradbury mold.”  He also offers good advice about a writing career from his teacher, Phil Klass.

David Morrell: …Philip Klass, my writing instructor from years ago, insisted that writers who went the distance and enjoyed long careers, were those who had a definable viewpoint and a unique personality in their prose. That’s been my lifelong goal as a writer.

(7) LONDON CALLING. Britain’s North Heath SF Group has been in touch. Filers are invited!

It is a small group not even three years old and based at the Kent end of London (not far across the Thames from the Excel if ever they hold another Worldcon there).  

While the group is only 15 strong, they are getting a fair bit of social media interest and now have over 100 Facebook followers nearly all from SE London.

If any Filers are based in SE London (apparently the 89 and 229 busses to the Brook St stop is useful if any live on those routes), or have fan friends based in SE London then they’d be welcome at their next meet which is especially for new members. July 11 – see details on Facebook.

The group is a broad church SF group (member’s interests span books, films, TV) with some having specialist interests.

Last weekend a few gathered for a barbecue, and yes, the garden really is bigger on the outside….

NHSF-BBQ-2019

(8) FRIEND OBIT. “Robert J. Friend, Tuskegee Pilot Who Led U.F.O. Project, Is Dead at 99” – the New York Times has the story.

Robert J. Friend, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who defied racism at home and enemy fire over Europe and who later oversaw the federal government’s investigation into U.F.O.s, died on Friday in Long Beach, Calif. He was 99.

… “Do I believe that we have been visited? No, I don’t believe that,” he said. “And the reason I don’t believe it is because I can’t conceive of any of the ways in which we could overcome some of these things: How much food would you have to take with you on a trip for 22 years through space? How much fuel would you need? How much oxygen or other things to sustain life do you have to have?”

But unlike many of his colleagues, he favored further research.

“I, for one, also believe that the probability of there being life elsewhere in this big cosmos is just absolutely out of this world — I think the probability is there,” he said.

(9) WRIGHT OBIT. An actor in theALF series died June 27. BBC has the story —

Actor Max Wright has died aged 75 after a long battle with cancer, his family has confirmed.

He was well known for playing Willie Tanner, the adoptive father of an alien, in the hit 1980s sitcom ALF.

(10) DRAGO OBIT. Actor Billy Drago, known for his work on Charmed, X-Files, and The Untouchables, died June 24. Details at SYFY Wire: “Effortlessly menacing character actor Billy Drago dies at 73”

…As far as his recurring roles, he played the eccentric Barbas, The Demon of Fear on the original Charmedas well as outlaw John Bly in the beloved The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. He also had several one-off roles in series like The X-Files, Masters of Horror, and Supernatural

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1941 James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. I’m sure that I’ve read at lest a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available digitally on what is just called Books and Kindle. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1966 J. J. Abrams, 53. He of the Star Trek and Star Wars films that endlessly cause controversy. I can forgive him any digressions there for helping creating Fringe and Person of Interest, not to mention Alias at times. 
  • Born June 27, 1952 Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice.” Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available digitally. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 Stephen Dedman, 60. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it.  He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Apple Books has nothing for him, Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 Christian Kane, 47. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before become Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 Tobey Maguire, 44. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one serious weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film.
  • Born June 27, 1987 Ed Westwick, 32. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarise), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the  “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF). 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ALA DROPS MELVIL DEWEY NAME FROM AWARD. The decimals remain, but Dewey is gone. Read the resolution here. Publishers Weekly reports:

Citing a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment, the council of the American Library Association on June 23 voted to strip Melvil Dewey’s name from the association’s top professional honor, the Melvil Dewey Medal. The ALA Council approved the measure after a resolution was successfully advanced at the ALA membership meeting, during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC.

Best known by the public for creating the Dewey Decimal Classification System, Dewey was one of the founders of the American Library Association in 1876, and has long been revered as the “father of the modern library,” despite being ostracized from the ALA in 1906 because of his offensive personal behavior.

In an article last June in American Libraries, Anne Ford questioned why the ALA and the library profession still associates its highest honor with a man whose legacy does not align with the profession’s core values. This week, some 88 years after his death, Dewey’s #TimesUp moment appears to have finally come.

(14) HATCHING DRAGONS. Michael Swanwick explains how he wrote “My Accidental Trilogy” at Flogging Babel.

…When I began work on The Dragons of Babel, I had no idea whether it existed in the same universe as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter or not. The two books had no characters or locations in common. Even the names of the gods were different, though at the head of each pantheon was the Goddess. Only she and the dragons were the same. Ultimately, I decided that it did no harm for the books to be in the same world (though, presumably, on different continents) and would please those who had read The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. So I brought Jane back—not from our world but from an earlier period of her life, when she was behaving very badly—for a brief cameo appearance. Just as a small treat, an Easter egg, for those who had read the earlier novel.

To my surprise, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter had been characterized by reviewers as an “anti-fantasy” because it challenged many of the assumptions of genre fantasy. This had never been my intent. But, the idea having been placed into my head, in The Dragons of Babel I set out to upend the standard model of fantasy in as many ways as possible while still delivering its traditional pleasures….

(15) THE KING WILL ABDICATE FROM BROADWAY. The New York Times says no more monkey business after mid-August: “‘King Kong’ and ‘Cher Show’ Musicals Announce Closings”.

“King Kong,” the big-budget musical driven by its massive namesake puppet, will close Aug. 18 after less than a year on Broadway, the show’s producers announced on Tuesday.

… “King Kong” was capitalized for $30 million, according to the production. That sum — enormous by Broadway standards — has not been recouped.

The show eventually opened to stinging reviews, with most of the praise going to the towering title character himself, a colossal marionette clocking in at 20 feet tall and 2,000 pounds. For the week ending June 23, it grossed just shy of $783,000 at the box office, only 53 percent of its potential take.

(16) MARS RUNS OUT OF GAS. Nature updated the search for life on Mars. For one brief, shining moment, it was Camelot: “Record methane level found on Mars”.

NASA’s Curiosity rover last week measured the highest level of methane gas ever found in the atmosphere at Mars’s surface. The reading — 21 parts per billion (p.p.b.) — is three times greater than the previous record, which Curiosity detected back in 2013. Planetary scientists track methane on Mars because its presence could signal life; most of Earth’s methane is made by living things, although the gas can also come from geological sources…

… NASA ran a follow-up experiment last weekend and recorded a methane level less than 1 p.p.b., suggesting that the high reading last week came from a transient gas plume.

(17) GETTING UNSTUCK IN TIME. Camestros Felapton is happy to offer “Some advice for time travellers”. Pay attention — even if he starts with “Don’t Panic!” there’s a lot here you haven’t heard before.

4. Listen to that mysterious stranger you meet early on

Honestly, even if you aren’t currently planning to go time travelling, NOW is the time to carry a notebook. When the uncannily familiar stranger and/or your great aunt starts babbling to you about destiny, or how what has been written can (or cannot) be unwritten, get them to pause a moment and ask them to write it down in your handy notebook.

This encounter may be the point where you are told The Rules (we’ll get to The Rules in a moment). Having them written down will make your life so much easier and will also make it easier for you to explain them to your younger self when you meet them when you are disguised as an uncannily familiar stranger.

(18) SIT ON IT. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is adding a Big Bang Theory exhibit: “BAZINGA! The Sets Are Coming to The Tour”.

Starting June 28th, take a seat in Sheldon’s spot and relive your favorite moments from apartment 4A.  Recreate Sheldon’s signature knock, stroll through the foyer to see the infamous broken elevator or visit the Caltech Physics Department Cafeteria featuring original costumes from Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, Howard, Raj, Bernadette and Amy.

(19) COLBERT ON MEDIA. Steven Colbert starts with the news that Kim Kardashian is offering a new line of makeup that doesn’t go on your face. The Good Omens cancellation petition is his second bit, starting at the 2:00 mark (in case you want to fast-forward past Kim Kardashian’s thighs).

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