Pixel Scroll 8/31/21 The Pixelscroll Experiment

(1) FINAL GIRLS CONSIDERED. Stephen Graham Jones cheers on the “final girls” of slasher movies at CrimeReads: “Let’s All Be Final Girls”.

…Part of the final girl’s DNA, after all, is the scream queen, typified in Fay Wray’s performance in King Kong. She wasn’t necessarily the first of her kind, but talkies were relatively new in 1933, so her scream was especially loud—loud enough to carry across the whole century.

However, final girls may come from the tradition of scream queens, but that doesn’t mean scream queens are final girls themselves. Yes, scream queens are menaced by horror, and yes, they survive their ordeals, but what their screams tend to do, actually, is bring the men in to deal with this bully. These scream queens are, after all, “white women in peril,” usually from some “dark” monstrosity—a giant gorilla, say. Their main function in the story is to cringe and run, and be abducted. Scream queens are damsels, perpetually in distress.

The final girl is no damsel. She doesn’t scream to call a man in to help her. No, she takes this lumbering beast down herself….

(2) PAGES MISSING. Dean Wesley Smith’s and Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s WMG Publishing told Facebook readers their website is currently having major problems. Their ISP, Bluehost, is to blame – a company that no longer hosts File 770 I’m relieved to say.  

If you’ve tried going to the WMG website the past week or so, you’ll discover that it seems to no longer have any content. This is a result of an issue with our website hosting platform, Bluehost, that we are still trying to get them to resolve. They accidentally deleted it…all 1,500 or so pages of it (we have backups, of course, but they can’t seem to restore the site even using those…it’s a long, frustrating story). At this point, we have no idea how long our website will be down, so in this newsletter, all of the links we direct you to are external. Please send some positive tech vibes our way that Bluehost resolves this issue soon.

(3) HEARING FROM FRIENDS. Cora Buhlert’s Fancast Spotlight introduces listeners to the “Unknown Worlds of the Merril Collection” podcast hosted by Oliver Brackenbury.

Who are the people behind your podcast or channel?

I host, screenwriter Chris Dickie is the producer, and ultimately the Friends of Merril volunteer group are behind the show. The Friends of Merril are dedicated to spreading awareness of, and otherwise supporting, the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy – located on the 3rd floor of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library system. With over 80,000 spec fic texts going back over two hundred years, it’s a tremendous asset for writers, scholars, and readers, one I’ve benefited from greatly.

Why did you decide to start your podcast or channel?

Well, Chris had just joined the Friends and when I asked him if he had anything specific he’d like to try in promoting the Merril, he said he’d been wanting to try podcasting. I’d been wanting to create some kind of shareable promotional content for the Merril, and had plenty of experience with hosting from my old Youtuber days. So, we figured we’d give it a whirl and see if it helped spread awareness of the Merril!

As far as I can tell, it’s certainly helped spread the good word. But we can always do more!

(4) STRONG MUSEUM’S ERIC CARLE EXHIBIT. Eric Carle: A Very Hungry, Quiet, Lonely, Clumsy, Busy Exhibit opens at The Strong Museum in Rochester, NY on Saturday, September 18 and will be on display through January 2.

Step into the pages of beloved author and illustrator Eric Carle’s Very series of picture books—including the iconic Very Hungry Caterpillar… Co-organized by Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, Very Eric Carle is the first North American traveling exhibit for children inspired by the work of Eric Carle.

At this play-and-learn exhibit, visitors step into the pages of Eric Carle’s colorful picture books. His classic “Very” series, all illustrated in his hand-painted tissue paper collage technique, introduces five special insects who take journeys of discovery. Each story is a testament to Eric Carle’s love of nature, his respect for the emotional lives of children, and his recurring themes of friendship, creativity, and the power of imagination….

(5) RAY’S HOMETOWN GETS A CONVENTION. Wauke-Con, Waukegan’s First Comic Book Convention, will be held October 16-17 at the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum, located at lucky 13 N. Genesee, from 12-6 p.m. both days. 

(6) STAR SCRIPTURE. “Star Trek Series Bibles Released Through Official Website” reports Gizmodo. Links to the Bibles themselves are here.

Series bibles are a staple of television production. Part early pitch, part worldbuilding exercise, they form the fundamental basis for the earliest concrete visions for a TV show on the road to production. And now you can get a glimpse at the documents behind decades of Star Trek TV, giving access to some truly fascinating behind-the-scenes materials.

The series bibles for TNGDS9Voyager, and Enterprise have been floating around the internet in various iterations for a while, but in a new piece by Rob Wieland today, the official Star Trek website provided a fresh look at the foundations of the first four major Star Trek TV continuations. Thanks to these documents, fans can see how these iconic shows were first imagined, what changed on the road to the small screen, and what ideas were the ones writers decided were the most-thought provoking and exciting to sell these shows on to networks….

(7) PUPPIES: THE NEXT GENERATION. With Debarkle Chapter 60, Camestros Felapton some significant late arrivals to sf’s culture wars, Nick Cole and Jon Del Arroz: “Dramatis Personae — The Next Generation”.

…In February of 2016 former soldier, actor and writer Nick Cole[5] announced that he had been “banned by the publisher”. Cole had already published a few books with Harper Collins including a trilogy of post-apocalyptic books and a novel Soda Pop Soldier in which gamers fight a virtual reality war for corporations. It was the sequel (or rather prequel) to Soda Pop Soldier that led to the dispute. Cole had planned for the story to feature a Terminator-style AI rebellion and for motivation, he had decided that the AI at the source of the rebellion would deduce that humanity would kill it after watching a reality TV show in which a character has an abortion….

(8) FILE 007. The next James Bond movie, No Time To Die, comes to U.S. theaters on October 8.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this date, Time After Time premiered. (It would lose out to Alien for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon Two.)  It was directed by Nicholas Meyer who wrote the screenplay from a story by Karl Alexander and Steve Hayes, and produced by Herb Jaffe. The primary cast was Malcolm McDowell, David Warner and Mary Steenburgen. Reception by critics was unambiguously positive, the box office was good and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-eight percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 — Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. He showed up on The Island of Dr. Moreau as Sayer of the Law. (Died 1984.)
  • Born August 31, 1933 — Robert Adams. He’s remembered for the Horseclans series, his overall best-known works though he wrote other works. While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 — Richard Gere, 72. He was Lancelot in First Knight, which starred Sean Connery as King Arthur, and he was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it for genre film work. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honors, but he also was in live performances of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in the Sixties. Though definitely not genre, one of my roles by him was as defense attorney Billy Flynn in Chicago
  • Born August 31, 1958 — Julie Brown, 63. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 — Jonathan LaPaglia, 52. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favorite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history as far as I can tell unless you count the Bones series as SF in which he’s in “The Skull in the Sculpture” episode as Anton Deluca.
  • Born August 31, 1971 — Chris Tucker, 50. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man. 
  • Born August 31, 1982 — G. Willow Wilson, 39. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Sasquan Hugo Award-winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list as well. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but should soon. Her Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything is nominated at DisCon III for a Best Graphic Story Hugo.
  • Born August 31, 1992 — Holly Early, 29. She was Lily Arwell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.” She was also Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

(11) HE LOST ON JEOPARDY! “Mike Richards is out as producer of ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘Wheel’”AP News has the story.

Mike Richards is out as executive producer of “Jeopardy!”, days after he exited as the quiz show’s newly appointed host because of past misogynistic and disparaging comments.

Richards is also no longer executive producer of “Wheel of Fortune,” according to a memo to staff that was confirmed by Sony Pictures Television, which produces both of the shows.

“We had hoped that when Mike stepped down from the host position at Jeopardy! it would have minimized the disruption and internal difficulties we have all experienced these last few weeks. That clearly has not happened,” Suzanne Prete, an executive with the game shows, said in the memo.

…In her memo, Prete said she will work with Richards’ interim replacement, Michael Davies, until further notice. Davies produces ABC’s “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.”

(12) STAY FROSTY. James Davis Nicoll helps Tor.com readers find “Five Chilly SF Stories to Help Beat the Summer Heat”, including —

Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster (1974)

Interstellar salesman Ethan Frome Fortune made one small mistake when he traveled to the desolate ice-world of Tran-ky-ky. He boarded the same starship as the fantastically wealthy and eminently kidnappable Hellespont du Kane, and du Kane’s daughter Colette. An attempted kidnapping ensues.

The kidnapping fails. A single kidnapper survives. He and his prospective kidnappee and several innocent bystanders (including Fortune) end up marooned on Tran-ky-ky.

The castaways are a diverse lot; at least one of them, adventurer Skua September, is suited to survival on a backward, frozen world. Other off-worlders could save them…if the stolen shuttle had not crashed on the other side of the world from the trading post.

Providentially, a nearby community of indigenes are willing to assist the odd-looking off-worlders. There is just one minor complication. Even now, a nomad horde is bearing down upon the town. Perhaps the off-worlders can help the desperate townsfolk repel the attack. If not, the humans will die alongside the townsfolk.

(13) PORTAL CREATOR. At The Walrus, Jason Guriel makes the case for “Why William Gibson Is a Literary Genius”.

…It’s been four decades since William Gibson’s short story “Johnny Mnemonic” appeared in the May 1981 issue of Omni magazine. He’d already published a couple of pieces, but “Johnny” was a landmark feat of fiction: in a matter of eight magazine pages, Gibson roughed out the contours of an entire world.

The world Gibson was building was a wormhole away from most science fiction—from space-opera optimism and the sort of intergalactic intrigue that’s settled by laser sword. Gibson’s heroes were hustlers, their turf the congested city. They used substances, skirted the law, and self-edited via surgery (see Molly’s nails). He provided more detail, the following year, in the story “Burning Chrome,” which coined the term cyberspace: a boundless 3-D grid, “an abstract representation of the relationships between data systems”—a kind of web. And then, in 1984, he went even deeper with Neuromancer. His zeitgeist-rattling debut novel was about a hacker for hire who navigated cyberspace using a modem and an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7 deck, a Gibson confection that rests on his hacker’s lap (and sounds a lot like a modern-day laptop)….

(14) DOUBLING DOWN. In “Tales Twice Told”, episode 60 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss recent award winners, the nominees for the Short Story category of this year’s Hugos, and the books they’ve been reading. 

David was particularly impressed by “The End of the World is Bigger Than Love” by Davina Bell, winner of this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers: “Probably the best piece of SF I’ve read all year”.

(15) OLDER THAN YOU THINK. Smithsonian Magazine says archeologists have established “King Arthur’s Stone Is Older Than Stonehenge”.

Arthur’s Stone, an enigmatic rock burial in Herefordshire, England, is one of the United Kingdom’s most famous Stone Age monuments. Now, reports Carly Cassella for Science Alert, excavations carried out near the tomb—named for its supposed ties to King Arthur—have shed light on its beginnings, revealing that Neolithic people built it as part of an intricate ceremonial landscape.

“Although Arthur’s Stone is an iconic … monument of international importance, its origins had been unclear until now,” says dig leader Julian Thomas, an archaeologist at the University of Manchester, in a statement. “Being able to shine a light on this astonishing 5,700-year-old tomb is exciting and helps to tell the story of our origins.”

(16) METAVERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says for a Ready Player One-style metaverse to happen, tech companies not known for cooperation will have to work together and virtual reality headsets will have to be much more popular than they are now (the Entertainment Software Association says only 29 percent of America’s 169 million gamers have a virtual reality system). “What is the metaverse? Microsoft, Facebook want to build next version of the Internet”.

What is the metaverse?

The term was coined by writer Neal Stephenson in the 1992 dystopian novel “Snow Crash.” In it, the metaverse refers to an immersive digital environment where people interact as avatars. The prefix “meta” means beyond and “verse” refers to the universe. Tech companies use the word to describe what comes after the Internet, which may or may not be reliant on VR glasses.

Think of it as an embodied Internet that you’re inside of rather than looking at. This digital realm wouldn’t be limited to devices: Avatars could walk around in cyberspace similar to how people maneuver the physical world, allowing users to interact with people on the other side of the planet as if they’re in the same room.… But for a robust virtual universe, everyone needs to want and afford VR headsets. The technology would need to be stylish and minimal enough to interest more people and sophisticated enough to work seamlessly. That hasn’t happened yet.

Nimble wireless headsets, like Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2, take a hit on image quality, while bulky VR goggles, like the HTC Vive Pro 2, enable more computing power with their wires. Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 is among the most affordable at $299, while the HTC Vive Pro 2 headset starts at $799 plus the cost of controllers.

(17) ANOTHER VERSE. When you’re a fan, it’s important to be able to tell your multiverse from your metaverse. “Marvel Comics Reveals 8 New Tentpole Titles”.

In celebration of Marvel’s Birthday today, Marvel Comics revealed its first look at eight new tentpole titles that will shape the future of the Marvel Universe in the months to come.

Here’s one of them —

Marvel Comics’ Avengers Forever pulls together archaeologist Tony Stark aka the Invincible Ant-Man and Avengers from across the multiverse to bring order to timelines where ‘hope’ is a four letter word. Jason Aaron and Aaron Kuder present an all-new series that will redefine the Avengers as…the Multiverse’s Mightiest Heroes.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Brian And Charles is a short film about a lonely farmer who decides to build a robot to be his friend and what happens when the robot starts having issues.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/28/21 The Pixel On The Edge Of Scrollever

(1) HOME ON THE CIMMERIAN RANGE. Horror author Stephen Graham Jones shares his love for the Conan stories and how he identifies both with Conan and with his creator Robert E. Howard in “My Life With Conan the Barbarian” in Texas Monthly.

… But Conan the Barbarian.

Imagine you’re a Blackfeet kid growing up in the windswept pastures twenty miles east of Midland, with no other Blackfeet around. Like Conan the Wanderer, -the Adventurer, -the Outcast, I was out in the trackless wastelands, far from civilization. The way I saw it, we’d come up the same. Conan’s homeland of Cimmeria was high and lonely? From our back porch in West Texas, I couldn’t see a single light. Cimmeria was packed with formative dangers? Every third step I took, I found myself entangled in barbed wire or jumping back from a rattlesnake. And when I mapped Cimmeria—the land Conan spent decades away from—onto my world, it could have been Montana, where the Blackfeet are….

(2) NAMING POLICY. At the FANDOM-run Wookieepedia editors are voting on an “Amendment to naming policy for real-world transgender individuals”.  

For about the last decade or so, the naming policy for real-world people on Wookieepedia has been “Articles for real-world people, such as actors and authors, shall be titled according to their actual credited name in a Star Wars work, whether that be an abbreviation/stage name or pseudonym,” with a handful of exceptions.

In recent years, it’s become apparent that this policy is inadequate for transgender individuals and an additional exception needs to be made so that their articles are titled according to their chosen name, whether or not they return to Star Wars after coming out, as a matter of respect. As our society evolves, so too must Wookieepedia.

To that end, I propose the following addition to the naming policy, to be added alongside the three existing exceptions:

“If a real-world person is transgender and has changed their name since working on Star Wars, their article may be titled by their chosen name and the credited name turned into a redirect.”

For anyone unfamiliar with transgender issues, and how it relates to naming articles, these pages on Wikipedia and GLAAD should help (ctrl+f “name”) Toqgers (talk) 04:35, 16 March 2021 (UTC)

Here’s some of the discussion from supporters.

(3) KRISTINE KATHRYN RUSCH KICKSTARTER ENDING. [Item by rcade.] Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have a current KickStarter project ending on Wednesday to fund Rusch’s first new work in 20 years in the world of The Fey: “The Return of the Fey by Dean Wesley Smith” — Kickstarter.

The project, which has rocketed past its funding goal by raising over $25,000 from 400 backers, is for a new novella of undetermined title. A $30 pledge receives all seven The Fey novels as ebooks along with the new work. A $250 pledge takes home the book Lessons from Writing of The Fey and a class taught by Rusch about  “the writing and publishing of a major epic fantasy series, and all the good stuff and mistakes along the way.”

The Fey series comprises seven books — a five- and two-book series that each tell complete stories. On the Kickstarter funding page, Smith dishes on the frustrating publication history of The Fey:

Bantam put Kris under contract for seven books in total. The first five were called The Fey Series, the next two were the Black King and Black Queen Series. 

They were two separate stories set in the world of The Fey. And the readership continued to grow until the year 1999, with the 5th book just published and the 6th book ready to come out. All four of the first books were in multiple printings. But Bantam Publishing, for reasons no one ever said, let the 4th book go out of print. And kept it out of print, even with an intense demand for it. Not kidding. 

By the time the 7th book came out in late 2000, the 4th book in its original mass market paperback edition was selling for hundreds and hundreds of dollars in collector’s markets because fans just wanted to read it.

Rusch regained the rights from Bantam and the novels are published today by WMG Publishing. They even publish book 4!

(4) THE ASKING PRICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov says in his autobiography In Joy Still Felt that in 1961 he was invited by the MIT Science Fiction Society to give a talk.  They asked what his fee was and he decided to charge them a hundred dollars.  After the talk, they took him to dinner at Joseph’s, “one of Boston’s posh eating places…it was very expensive and I had never eaten there.”

My conscience smote me.  They were being very nice to me after I soaked them for a hundred dollars.

I said, deeply troubled, ‘Where the heck do you kids get the money to pay speakers?’ because I gather my talk was one of four for the year.

I expected them to say they gave up lunches or sold pencils on the corner,  and I was quite prepared to force the hundred dollars back on them.

But one of them said, cheerfully, ‘We show first-run movies and collect lots of proceeds.’

‘Lots of proceeds?’

‘Sure.  Up to five or six thousand dollars for the year.’

I mentally divided that by four and said, ‘That means you must pay some of the speakers more than a hundred dollars.’

‘Of course,’ said the spokesman, apparently unaware of the enormity of what he was saying.  ‘Wernher von Braun, who was the speaker before you, got fourteen hundred dollars.

I stared at him for quite a while, and then he said, ‘Was he fourteen times as good as I was?’

‘No.  You were much better.’

Asimov says he subsequently went to several MITSFS picnics, which concluded with a trip to the school’s observatory, which is at the top of a big hill.  Asimov dutifully climbed the hill every year, even though he didn’t like to exercise.

(5) THE WORLDCON YOU DESERVE. Seanan McGuire shared this dream with Twitter. The commenters took the idea and ran with it. Thread starts here.

(6) REMEMBERING. “A poem by Jane Yolen in remembrance of her friend Norton Juster (1929-2021)”has been posted by The Horn Book: “Norton Passes Go”.

Jane Yolen receives the 2009 Norton Juster Award for Devotion to Literacy, presented by its namesake. Photo: Seth Kaye Photography.

(7) BOOK WITHDRAWN, AUTHOR APOLOGIZES. Publisher Scholastic has made the decision to pull Dav Pilkey’s 2010 graphic novel The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future due to its perpetuation of “passive racism.” “From Scholastic Regarding The Adventures of Ook and Gluk”.

On Monday, March 22, 2021, with the full support of Dav Pilkey, Scholastic halted distribution of the 2010 book The Adventures of Ook and Gluk. Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism. We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake. Scholastic has removed the book from our websites, stopped fulfillment of any orders (domestically or abroad), contacted our retail partners to explain why this book is no longer available, and sought a return of all inventory. We will take steps to inform schools and libraries who may still have this title in circulation of our decision to withdraw it from publication.  

Throughout our 100 year history, we have learned that trust must be won every day by total vigilance. It is our duty and privilege to publish books with powerful and positive representations of our diverse society, and we will continue to strengthen our review processes as we seek to support all young readers.

Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series, shared an apology that was posted on YouTube.

About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using Kung Fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution. But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 28, 2003 — On this day in 2003, Tremors: The Series premiered on Syfy. It followed three Tremors films and starred Michael Gross, Gladise Jimenez, Marcia Strassman and Victor Brown. Created by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson who brought us the entire Tremors franchise, it lasted but thirteen episodes. It was followed by Tremors 4: The Legend Begins whichstars Michael Gross as Hiram Gummer, the great-grandfather of the character Burt Gummer. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 28, 1483 – Raphael.  (In Italian, more fully Rafaello Sanzio da Urbino.)  Painter and architect; with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, one of the masters of the High Renaissance.  Here is his Portrait of a Young Woman with a Unicorn on the cover of the Mar 05 Asimov’s.  Here is The Triumph of Galatea.  Part of The School at Athens is on the cover of The Philosopher Kings.  (Died 1520) [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1918 – Robert Stanley.  A dozen covers for us.  Here is Universe.  Here is our next-door neighbor Rocket to the Morgue.  Here is When Worlds Collide.  Also ArgosyDime DetectiveThrilling Western, publishers e.g. Bantam, Dell, Popular Library, Pyramid.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian-tinged space opera that was the universe of John Grimes was such. A very good starter place is the Baen Books omnibus of To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born March 28, 1930 – Barbara Ninde Byfield.  Wrote and illustrated five novels for us; also The Glass Harmonica – nonfiction; there was one at the Millennium Philcon, 59th Worldcon.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1932 Ron Soble. He played Wyatt Earp in the Trek episode, “ Spectre of The Gun”.  During his career, he showed up on a hunger of genre series that included Mission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar ManShazamPlanet of The ApesFantasy IslandSalvage 1 and Knight Rider. His last genre role, weirdly enough, was playing Pablo Paccasio in Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1944 Ellen R. Weil. Wife of  Gary K. Wolfe. She wrote a number of works with him including the non-fiction study, Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. They wrote a fascinating essay, “The Annihilation of Time: Science Fiction; Consumed by Shadows: Ellison and Hollywood,” which can be found in Harlan Ellison: Critical Insights. (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1946 Julia Jarman, 75. Author of a  children’s book series I like a lot, of which I’ll single out Time-Travelling Cat And The Egyptian GoddessThe Time-Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasure and The Time-Travelling cat and the Viking Terror as the ones I like the best. There’s more in that series but those are my favorites. (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1955 Reba McEntire, 66. Her first film role was playing Heather Gummer in Tremors. Since then, she’s done voice work as Betsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and as Etta in The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave. She also voiced Artemis on the Disney Hercules series. (CE)
  • Born March 28, 1958 – Davey Snyder, F.N., age 63.  Chaired Boskone 34, co-chaired World Fantasy Con 25.  Bibliography for The Neil Gaiman Reader (the 2007 one, “Essays and Explorations”).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1960 Chris Barrie, 61. He’s as Lara Croft’s butler Hillary in the most excellent Tomb Raider franchise films. He also shows up on Red Dwarf for twelve series as Arnold Rimmer, a series I’ve never quite grokked. He’s also one of the principal voice actors on Splitting Image which is not quite genre adjacent but oh so fun. (CE) 
  • Born March 28, 1964 – Gloria Oliver, age 57.  Half a dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Sparked by the Gatchaman apa Bird Scramble, attending ConDFW, and her husband.  [JH]
  • Born March 28, 1983 – Josephine Angelini, age 38.  Half a dozen novels.  Has read The Once and Future KingAs I Lay DyingSiddhartha, two by Jane Austen, Fagles tr. The Iliad and The OdysseyThe Count of Monte CristoFrankenstein.  “Dreams are messy and they don’t make sense, but what works for me is to take the feeling that I have from a dream and try to re-create it on the page.  If I can get one or two images from a dream to work in a story I feel satisfied.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds some stars shouldn’t get wet.
  • Off the Mark reveals a delivery mistake with major fairy tale implications.
  • Non Sequitur transports a babysitter into an unexpected pulp adventure

(11) SERIAL SUPERHERO. Comic book superhero movies made their debut in theaters 80 years ago today. At least this one did: “Adventures of Captain Marvel”.

(12) NEXT SUPERHERO. The Black Adam movie is slated for a July 29, 2022 release.

(13) ALWAYS WINTER, BUT SOMETIMES CHRISTMAS. In the Washington Post, Shannon Liao says that Animal Crossing:  New Horizons was released on March 20, 2020.  She interviews people who have played Animal Crossing for over 1,000 years in a year and how the game provided a lot of comfort during the worst part of the pandemic. “Meet the Animal Crossing users who spent up to 2000 hours in game”.

Snow topped trees, ice sculptures and the sound of rushing waterfalls. Susana Liang built out her “Animal Crossing” island complete with a Christmas dinner, various shops, a wedding reception, an igloo campsite, a picnic, a mini version of the Greek island Santorini, elaborate walkways and a cozy home with plenty of Christmas trees.“Winter makes everything covered in snow and it’s all white, so it makes it feel a bit more ethereal and dreamy. It’s one of my favorite seasons in the game,” said Liang, who works in health science in New York and has spent over 2,300 hours playing Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” since a few weeks after the game’s release. It’s always winter on her island. Every time winter is about to end, she time travels back to the beginning of January to stay in the season…

(14) GETTING WARMER. “A Warmer Superconductor Found” reports New Energy and Fuel.

The team at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemistry (Mainz, Germany), the University of Chicago (USA), and the Soreq Nuclear Research Center (Yavne, Israel) used a variety of analytical methods to refine the phase diagrams for hydrogen sulfide in the H(3)S form and D(3)S, its deuterium analogue, in relation to pressure and temperature, and to shed additional light on their superconducting properties.

The scientists have now introduced new findings that show the materials become superconducting at the relatively high temperatures of -77 and -107 °C, respectively.

(15) ANDY! ANDY! Yesterday’s photo of Captain Kirk and Edith Keeler on the set in front of an identifiable Mayberry landmark prompted a Filer to point out MeTV’s Star Trek / Andy Griffith Show mash-up commercial.

Kirk and Spock travel to Mayberry! And Barney looks to nip it in the bud. Explore strange new worlds on MeTV!

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mark Evanier hosts a virtual panel on Jack Kirby with Jonathan Ross and Neil Gaiman for WonderCon@Home 2021: “Jack Kirby Panel”.

Mark Evanier (Kirby: King of Comics) talks about the man some call “The King of the Comics” with author Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and TV host and mega-Kirby fan Jonathan Ross. They will attempt to discuss what was special about the work of Jack Kirby and why, long after we lost him, he seems to be more popular than ever.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, N., Cora Buhlert, Bill, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Rich Horton, Andrew (Not Werdna), Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 10/16/20 Hey! HAL! I’m Not Just Sitting Here On The Dock Of The Pod Door Bay For My Health! Open The $^%&$! Door, HAL!

(1) A TAIL OF SPACE. A new Star Trek: Discovery trailer. Complete with a certain feline. 

(2) PARIS CALLING. Halfway through the Constelación Magazine Kickstarter, they are announcing their second special event – “Translation Station” with Aliette de Bodard and Cristina Jurado. Takes place October 23 at 7 p.m. Paris time (10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern)  Register here.

Our very own Cristina Jurado is hosting a chat with multi-award-winning author Aliette de Bodard. They’ll have a fascinating conversation about translations and languages, and whever else happens to come up.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $10,048 of their $18,000 goal.

(3) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH. In “Barnes & Noble Cyberattack” Locus Online signal boosts a warning to B&N customers:

Barnes & Noble CEO Darren Guccione warned customers to be “on high alert” following an October 10 data breach. The company notified customers via email.

While we do not know if any personal information was exposed as a result of the attack, we do retain in the impacted systems your billing and shipping addresses, your email address and your telephone number if you have supplied these… It is possible that your email address was exposed and, as a result, you may receive unsolicited emails… We currently have no evidence of the exposure of any of this data, but we cannot at this stage rule out the possibility….

(4) TOP 100 FANTASY LIST. TIME Magazine has anointed “The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time”

… To develop our list, we began in 2019 by recruiting a panel of leading fantasy authors—Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Marlon James, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin and Sabaa Tahir—to join TIME staff in nominating the top books of the genre (panelists did not nominate their own works). The group then rated 250 nominees on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. Finally, TIME editors considered each finalist based on key factors, including originality, ambition, artistry, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature more broadly.

The result is a list that underscores the imaginative breadth of fantasy fiction—from early roots in the oral storytelling tradition that brought about works like The Arabian Nights, to modern classics like A Wrinkle in Time and groundbreaking recent novels like Black Leopard, Red WolfThe Poppy War and Elatsoe. Together, these titles help us trace our history and understand our reality….

I’ve read 24 of these, which is a disgraceful score – fortunately a few more of them are on my TBR pile.

Rich Horton regaled Facebook readers about the list’s deficiencies:

… Chew on that for a bit. This list doesn’t include Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It doesn’t include Little, Big. I could make a case that those are the two BEST fantasies of the past half-century. But they don’t make this list?…

He also noted that a third of the listed books came out in the past 6 years. Is this a Golden Age of fantasy, or is that another problem?

TIME also ran an article by N.K. Jemisin about the “Timeless Power of Fantasy”

… These are fraught times—but there have always been fraught times for someone in the world, somewhere. And there have always been those whose mastery of the art of storytelling has helped us understand how powerfully stories shape the world. C.S. Lewis sought to comfort children with faith. Philip Pullman disturbed them with warnings of encroaching fascism. There is a preponderance of stories aimed at children on this list, possibly because we’re still openly hungry for stories in the years of our childhood, and thus the stories we absorb then have a lasting effect. Our hunger for stories doesn’t really change when we grow up, however; the need is still there, acknowledged or not—especially if the stories we’ve been given up to that point don’t accurately encapsulate reality. Thus it’s fitting that some of the most powerful storytellers on this list, such as Victor LaValle, engage with adult concerns like parenthood instead of myth.

Is it comforting to see how many of the stories on this list wrestle with the need to reform institutions and change the leadership of society? It could be. Yet the newer storytellers on the list, many of whom hail from colonized cultures and thus have vastly different background stories from those of “classic” fantasy authors, also warn us of the realities of societal strife. The good guys don’t always win, the bad guys don’t always lose, and either way, the ones who suffer most will be the people who were already struggling to get by….

(5) FORGOTTEN DOCTORS. Artist Paul Hanley posted his conceptions for the Doctor Who TARDIS console rooms of “forgotten doctors” or those seen briefly in the Fourth Doctor serial “The Brain of Morbius”. Thread starts here. The first two:

(6) POPULAR FEAR. “Little Bursts of Fright: The Horror Anthology Is Having a Heyday” reports the New York Times.

When Mary Laws set out to create “Monsterland,” her new socially conscious horror anthology series on Hulu, she drew inspiration from the concise, unnerving fables of the British playwright Caryl Churchill.

“She knows how to tell a scary story,” said Laws, who has a playwriting background. “She refuses to give the audience a break.”

But Laws also looked within.

“As a woman, part of why I’m interested in horror is that I’ve been put in horrific situations and have experienced something like real terror,” she said. “My womanness has led me into those action-packed two minutes of tense terror that you feel when you’re facing some kind of dreaded situation. That’s the way that I think horror has to work.”

Accelerated terror in a fleeting time frame: that’s the revved-up engine that drives “Monsterland” and other new horror anthologies out this spooky season. Hulu’s “Books of Blood” assembles three tales inspired by Clive Barker’s short stories. “The Mortuary Collection,” on Shudder, is a compilation of darkly antic narratives. Quibi’s blood-and-guts series “50 States of Fright” recently released several new episodes, each set in a different state.

Sam Raimi, an executive producer of “50 States of Fright,” said the best short-form horror is “designed like a great campfire tale.”

“It’s something you can really get goose bumps from in a brief amount of time,” said Raimi, known to horror fans as the director of the “Evil Dead” movies. “I like the precision that it takes for a filmmaker to hold the audience in its grip.”

(7) IMAGINARY PAPERS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the 4th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. The new issue features writing from SF critic Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Katherine Buse, a scholar of digital media and the environmental humanities.

Buse’s Forgotten Futures segment discusses —

SimEarth (1990)

I like to say that my favorite video game is SimEarth (1990). But this is a joke: as far as I know, SimEarth has never been anyone’s favorite. Attempting to embody the paradox of “fun climate model,” it’s borderline unplayable: it’s baffling, slow, and lacking in what McKenzie Wark calls “satisfying win conditions.” It was created by Will Wright in consultation with James Lovelock as a software implementation of the Gaia Hypothesis, a theory of life at the planetary scale which Lovelock began to develop while working at NASA on astrobiology….

(8) NEUKOM WINNERS PANEL. Neukom Institute Director Dan Rockmore invites you to an “Online Event with 2020 Speculative Fiction Literary Arts Awards Winners” on Wednesday, October 21 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

The panel discussion includes Neukom Award winners for Speculative Fiction (Debut) Cadwell Turnbull, author of The Lesson, Speculative Fiction (Open Category) Ted Chiang, whose stories are collected in Exhalation, and award judge Sam J. Miller.

Use the link below to join the online event:
https://dartmouth.zoom.u/j/93780993554?pwd=am5xQU0xTURIYmVHenhhNm0zdUZYZz09

Passcode: 789407

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1990 — Thirty years ago at ConFiction, the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, would go to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Released the previous year by  Lucasfilm, it was, of course, directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Jeffrey Boam which in turn was based off the story by George Lucas and Menno Meyjes. Need we note that George Lucas created the characters? Runners-up were The Adventures of Baron MunchausenBatmanField of Dreams and The Abyss. It holds a rather spectacular ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He never had a major role but he was in myriad gene shows. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. alone he appeared in twenty-two episodes in twenty-two different minor roles, he was a henchman twice on Batman and had two uncredited appearances on Trek as well. He showed up on Mission ImpossibleGet Smart!The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and even The Invaders. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 95. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the BSFA Award for Best Film and is based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 73. Apparently he’s one of only ten actors to appear in both the Trek and Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”.  And that might place him in very select acting company indeed. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 62. I think his finest role was as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, but his first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in the truly awful War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in the even worse Green Lantern. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 55. He is most noted for his work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three Stargate series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 47. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1827 – Arnold Böcklin.  Symbolist painter.  Here is Self Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle.  Here is Silence of the Forest.  Here is St. Anthony Preaching to the Fish.  Here is Faun Whistling to a Blackbird.  Most famous for five versions of The Isle of the Dead – here is one – which inspired Mahler, Rachmaninoff, and Zelazny: this Dean Ellis cover is an homage.  (Died 1901) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1891 – Frances Comstock.  Illustrator, painter, sculptor.  Here is her cover for Dewey’s Star People.  Here is her frontispiece and an interior for Fairy Frolics.  Here is her cover for La Mothe – Fouqué’s Undine and here is an interior.  Here is an illustration for Crothers’ Ignominy of Being Grown-Up.  (Died 1922) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1926 – Ed Valigursky.  Two hundred covers, six dozen interiors.  Here is the Nov 51 Fantastic.  Here is The Stars Are Ours!, hello Publius – note the really wonderful foreground faces.  Here is The Pawns of Null-A.  Here is City.  Here is The Currents of Space.  Here is an interior illustrating “The Black Tide”.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1947 – Laura Brodian Kelly-Freas Beraha, D.M.E., 73.  Doctorate in Music Education (I heard her play piano two-hands with Somtow Sucharitkul), then San Francisco Bay area fandom.  Moved to L.A., exchanged coats by mistake with Kelly Freas at a party, married him, won a Chesley with him, survived him, married a local teacher whose name means blessed.  No one else outranks me as a Kelly Freas fan.  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1951 – Patrice Kindl, 69.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, Children’s Fiction, for Owl in Love.  Six more novels.  She and husband (son works in Manhattan) have 1 dog, 1 parrot, 1 cat; have raised monkeys, have housed hawks.  “All my characters are made up….  This isn’t an easy profession….  Read a lot and write a lot.”  Do I have to wait until I’m grown up? “No.  You should be reading and writing now.”  Does spelling matter? “Yes.  Yes, yes, yes!”  Grammar isn’t important, is it? “YES!  YES!  YES!”  Hmmmm.  This sounds like work.  “Yes.”  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1973 – Christian Cantrell, 47.  Three novels, half a dozen shorter stories, despite or because of being Director of Design Prototyping at Adobe.  Hulu, TriStar, Fox 21, Random House projects in the works. “You can,” he says, “plant paphiopedilums [Venus’ slippers] in lava rock”, and he shows us.  [JH]

(11) END OF THE LINE. If you have the stomach for it, you can learn a lot about “The Last Days of Stan Lee” on the AARP site. Tagline: “A heartbreaking tragedy about the (alleged) abuse of the Marvel Comics creator by those who swear they loved him.”

…As we approach the second anniversary of Lee’s death, a half-dozen civil suits are pending and a criminal elder-abuse prosecution by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office remains mired in pretrial maneuverings. The courts have yet to shed light on many of the details and the veracity of the elder-abuse charges against several people. Elder-abuse cases are difficult to bring to trial, tough to litigate and hard to win. Was Stan Lee, like 1 in 10 Americans over age 60, a true victim of elder abuse, which can include physical violence, emotional torment, financial exploitation and willful deprivation? Plenty of evidence and testimony suggests that may be true.

But uncomfortable questions will arise along the way: Is it possible that our real-life hero, like many others in his situation, was complicit in his own abuse? And who will be the villain in this story? There will be plenty of suspects to choose from, but in the end, you will be shocked but not surprised.

(12) CAMEO COLLECTION. Last night’s Jeopardy hearkened back to Stan’s brighter days – unknown to the contestants, evidently. Andrew Porter took notes:

Final Jeopardy: Movie Appearances

Not an actor, this man who died in 2018 appeared briefly in some 40 mainly action films with a combined $30 billion worldwide gross,

Wrong question: Who is ?

Correct question: Who is Stan Lee?

(13) THE TWENTIES ARE NOT ROARING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here are a few news stories about the pandemic woes of the British and global cinema industry, mostly from the Guardian

Months after the initial Covid-19 restrictions closed all cinemas, Australian moviegoers are beginning to return for socially distanced screenings across most of the country.

But with most major international releases delayed, the large chains that rely on blockbusters face an uncertain future. And for independent operators, more accustomed to showing reruns of classics and local titles, the outlook is not much clearer….

…But the immediate future for Bollywood in the UK now looks particularly bleak, given that Cineworld venues host more than half of all Bollywood screenings in the UK, presenting between 40 and 50 different films a year. The prospect of reduced takings in the UK is being felt in Mumbai, where the industry relies on the territory for a sizeable chunk of its overseas revenue.

…“But for me the really big success is the BFI restoration of La Haine,” said Wood. “We’ve played it now for four weeks and it’s sold out every single performance.” Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder has also been hugely popular.

“Many of the successes have been foreign language, a number are directed by women, some directed by people of colour,” Wood said.

UK cinema admissions are set to hit their lowest level since records began almost a century ago, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic wiping almost £1bn from box office sales.

…Do you need the same number of cinemas if they’re only showing blockbusters? For some time, many of them have been artificially sustained anyway, the real estate empty for much of the day. There’s also the problem that this is a sector that’s historically been very conservative and reluctant to innovate. I remember when there was a great controversy about the introduction of cup-holders.

…I love the cinema – it truly brings me joy. “Escapism” sells the experience short; I feel alive and engaged when lost in a narrative that is not my own. I used to see about three films a week, but I think I’ve seen about three films since March because watching them at home just doesn’t come close and I haven’t been back since the cinemas reopened as it doesn’t feel like the responsible thing to do. Covid is meant to spread best in an enclosed environment and I’d feel proper shit if I caught it and ended up giving it to my parents and they then died because I just had to see Tenet.

…One of my routes on my morning runs each week takes me past a small independent high-end movie theater, privately owned. It has a full restaurant, a beautiful bar, a space that can be rented for civic events, and six small theaters with extremely comfortable chairs.

In the Before times, as one reporter likes to call everything pre-Covid, the theater had a wait-staff that would take your orders while you sank into those seats to watch your favorite blockbuster. Every Democratic Presidential candidate held an event in that theater in the run-up to February’s caucus. Not a week went by when I didn’t see or get an invitation to a special event held there.

In March, when quarantine set in, the theater’s owners put up huge sheets of plywood over the display windows on all three stories of the building and made the lovely balcony inaccessible should someone get the bright idea to climb up there.

No one has painted the plywood, unlike so many other plywood coverings in the Arts District here. So the high-end theater now looks like an abandoned building. A group of homeless men slept against the plywood until someone moved them out. Occasionally, one of the totally stoned people from the high-end marijuana dispensary across the street will sit on a bench near the plywood, swaying to music only they can hear….

(14) BUTLER DID IT. Having seen the trailer, JJ calls Greenland “like a bad mashup of Deep Impact, Armagedddon, and 2012: We Were Warned.

A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.

(15) DRAMATIC TRACKS. “Prehistoric footprints of woman carrying toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats unearthed” – let Yahoo! News tell you the story.

Prehistoric footprints of a woman carrying a toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats and giant sloths are the longest set of fossilised human prints ever found, scientists have said.  

The prints, which stretch for almost a mile and were discovered in the White Sands National Park in New Mexico, USA, date back 13,000 years.

…Locally known as “ghost tracks” because they can only be seen under certain weather conditions, the adult tracks were first discovered in 2017, followed by the child’s.

The prints tell the remarkable story of a woman and a small child as they made their way across the mudflats with large predators crossing their path.

An analysis found the woman was moving at a rapid pace, intermittently carrying and putting down the child.

On the outward journey, her prints show that she was slipping, suggesting conditions were wet and treacherous. But on her return, following the same path almost exactly, she was alone and no slipping marks were detected.

During the trips, other tracks show a giant sloth, mammoths and sabre-tooth cats crossed their path, and the sloth was startled by their scent.

“As the animal approached the trackway, it appears to have reared up on its hind legs to catch the scent, pausing by turning and trampling the human tracks before dropping to all fours and making off,” Prof Bennett said….

(16) HOT ON THE TRAILER. Amazon Prime introduces Invincible. The series will be online in 2021.

INVINCIBLE is an adult animated superhero series that revolves around 17-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Joey Eschrich, Ben Bird Person, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “I Can Improve On The Classics” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/20 Pretty Pixels In The File, They Twinkle On The Screen, And Then Get Refreshed So That New Ones Are Seen

(1) JUMP ON THE TRUCK. In the Washington Post, Robert Zubrin and Homer Hickam have an opinion piece where they say that SpaceX Dragon’s success should make the preferred launch vehicle for a return to the Moon and NASA should shelve the Orion rocket as too unwieldy. “Send the SpaceX Dragon to the moon”.

In March 2019, Vice President Pence challenged NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 “by any means necessary.” This was a potential breakthrough, because after nearly 50 years of drift, the White House was finally giving NASA’s human spaceflight program a concrete goal with a clear timeline and forceful support — a necessity for any progress and the restoration of the agency’s can-do spirit. The purpose for the mission itself is a blend of economic, scientific and world leadership goals designed to make the investment worthwhile to all Americans.

NASA’s response to Pence’s challenge was to proceed with what it already had in the pipeline: the Orion crewed spacecraft and the massive shuttle-derived Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift expendable booster rocket. SLS has been in slow-walk development since 2006, with more than $18 billion spent, but it is still years away from launch. Considering this track record, we unhappily doubt the SLS/Orion combination will meet the vice president’s challenge.

But now we have an alternative. The contract that resulted in the Dragon crewed spacecraft was issued by NASA in 2014. Six years and $3 billion later, it has flown astronauts into orbit. What SpaceX did was show that a well-led entrepreneurial team can achieve results that were previously thought to require the efforts of superpowers, and in a small fraction of the time and cost, and even — as demonstrated by its reusable Falcon launch vehicles — do things deemed impossible altogether. This is a revolution….

(2) RWA. The Romance Writers of America will hold a virtual RWA Conference from August 28-30. A full list of the RWA 2020 Conference Scholarships are at the link. Some new ones have been added.

RWA also has clarified a recent announcement about Dreamspinner Press to say they are available to advocate for non-members, too. Thread starts here.

(3) FROM THE CANOE. Elizabeth Bear posted “an open letter to my friends and acquaintances in the publishing community who have been outed as serial harassers, and to the ones who still think they’re getting away with something.”

It begins:

Hey there. I know you’re having a rough time right now, and I’m sorry to say you earned it. I wish I had known about your behavior sooner; I wish I had known that you weren’t just making rank jokes among friends, as we all do once in a while, but engaged in serious abuses of your power, engaged in harming people.

I am, needless to say, very very disappointed in you.

I’m saddened for the people you have hurt, and I’m really disappointed that you have turned out not to be the person I thought you were. Even more, I’m wondering if you even have the self-awareness to realize how much you have harmed not just the people you harassed or gaslit or backstabbed, but also the communities you were a part of. How much you have damaged the people who care about you and who have tried to be your friends, as well….

(4) STOKERCON UK. The StokerCon UK committee has announced a new set of dates for the Horror Writers Association event which has been chased around the calendar by the coronavirus. The post is here.

…Secondly, we are grateful to the majority of you who, since our previous announcement, have allowed us to get on with trying to save the convention—or at least a version of it—by rescheduling it.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we have agreed tentative dates for the event with the two convention hotels of 28-31 January 2021. With events and advice changing so quickly, the hotels have agreed to follow UK Government advice and are prepared to reassess or postpone the event once again nearer the time, depending on the spread and hopeful containment of the virus.

(5) YOU ARE HERE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about this moment with empathy and wisdom: “Business Musings: Shock, Survival, and Forgiveness”.

… We now know where we are. We’re in that prolonged change. It’s a transition, and we’ve finally hit it. All of 2020 will be a year of half-measures, making do, and getting through.

Frankly, I find knowing where we are calming. I now know how to proceed day to day. I don’t like it, but I don’t have to like it.

I, you, all of us just have to survive it.

The knowledge of where we’re at, though, took me out of survival mode. I’m no longer obsessively reading the news every day, trying to figure out where we are. I’m donning my mask when I go out. I make that daily calculation—is it worth the risk to my health (and Dean’s health) to do whatever it is I am planning to do?

I can calculate risk now. And, more importantly, Dean and I are agreed. We consult if we’re going to do something outside of our usual schedule, based on the level of risk.

We are more or less staying home, but we did anyway, since we work here.  That sense of ease, that feeling of no longer being on the knife’s edge, has made it easier to focus, although not always easier to work.

I’m one of the few people I know who has made the mental transition out of survival mode. (If one of us gets sick, I know I’ll head right back into it.) Now that I know how we’re going to be living day to day, I’m willing to live day to day. I don’t need to be ever vigilante for another tow truck, coming at us out of the dark.

Because I’ve made this transition, I can see other folks who haven’t. In my various social media feeds, I’m watching writers talk about their process or their lack of one. Writers, discussing how their work has changed or just plain stopped. Writers, who can’t face any of their usual projects, and who are feeling lost and don’t exactly know why.

Everyone knows the changes in their writing habits come from the pandemic, but most don’t understand what to do. And many people are worried that the changes to their writing methods are permanent.

Are those changes permanent? It depends on the change. They seem to fall into two categories…

… We are in a new place. Like any new place, it will take time to learn all its ins and outs. We have to explore it and understand it—and survive the transition into it.

If you’re dealing with actual life and death issues, from someone being very ill in your life to a major loss of income or career, then give yourself time to recover. Take the pressure off your writing. There’s enough pressure in your life….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY,

  • June 24, 1982 Blade Runner premiered. It was directed by Ridley Scott, and was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. It starred Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. It was based very loosely on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It would win the Best Dramatic Presentation at ConStellation, beating out The Wrath of KhanE.T.The Dark Crystal and The Road Warrior. Critics were puzzled by it and t generated little street buzz nearly thirty years ago. It would vastly raise its stature over the years, now being considered one of the Best SF works ever done. It’s worth Warner Bros. released The Final Cut, a 25th-anniversary digitally remastered version; this is the only version over which Scott retained full artistic control.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 – Ambrose Bierce.  Four hundred short pieces, sixty poems.  A pioneer in realistic fiction; a great fantasist; a biting satirist.  When William Dean Howells said AB was among our three greatest writers, AB said “I am sure Mr. Howells is the other two.”  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 1914, maybe) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1915 – Sir Frederick Hoyle.  Coined the expression “Big Bang”, rejected the theory.  Radar research in World War II with more personnel than the Manhattan Project. Mayhew Prize, Balzan Prize, Crafoord Prize.  Founded the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and resigned from it.  A dozen SF novels, two dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors; translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian,  Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1937 – Charles Brown.  Founded Locus (with Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf) as a fanzine; it grew, changed, and “semiprozine” was invented to describe it; 29 Hugos by the time of his death.  You could disagree with him; on panels with him I opposed his “mainstream literature is about the past, science fiction is about the present, nobody can write about the future”; no one has outdone him.  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Award for lifetime achievement.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1947 Peter Weller, 73. Yes it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is it of the Naked Lunch genre? Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise! (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1948 – Kris Neri, age 72.Two novels for us; four more, sixty shorter stories.  After living in San Francisco, and Southern California, moved to Sedona (Arizona); now at home in Silver City (New Mexico).  Teaches writing through the U. Cal. L.A. Extension School.  Says her Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries feature “a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent”.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1950 Mercedes Lackey, 70. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. Lackey and Dixon are GoHs of this year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1950 Nancy Allen, 70. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct-to-video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh, that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1961 Iain Glen, 59. Scots actor who played as Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, he’s also  well known for his roles as Dr. Alexander Isaacs/Tyrant in the Resident Evil franchise; and he played the role of Father Octavian, leader of a sect of clerics who were on a mission against the Weeping Angels in “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1970 – Nicolas Fructus, age 50.  Recently, comics and storyboard art for animated films and video games.  Worked with Moebius, Philippe Druillet; founded Delcourt publishing house.  Here is a cover for Bifrost.  Here is one for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe”.  Here is A Year in the Air.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1982 Lotte Verbeek, 38. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including being Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the now-concluded cross-world Counterpart series. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1988 – Kasey Lansdale, age 32. Country music singer-songwriter who has been writing in our field with her father Joe Lansdale; six short stories with him, two alone; edited two anthologies, recently Impossible Monsters.  “Tremble” with JL was in Pop the Clutch from Dark Moon last year.   Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1994 Nicole Muñoz, 26. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same same. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) STICK WITH IT. USPS announced “New Stamps Celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th Birthday Coming Soon to a Post Office Near You”.

The U.S. Postal Service will issue commemorative Forever stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday. The Postal Service and Warner Bros. Consumer Products are excited to dedicate these stamps at a virtual ceremony on July 27, the 80th anniversary of Bugs Bunny’s official screen debut.

Bugs has always been known for his impeccable impersonations and his masterful masquerades, so the soon-to-be-revealed 10 designs on this pane of 20 stamps each showcase a costumed Bugs Bunny in some of his most memorable getups.

(10) A BIG IDEA. Rosamund Lannin is “Searching for Body Positivity in Fantasy” at Tor.com.

I remember the first time I encountered an attractive fat woman in a fantasy novel. My heart flipped a little as I read about a woman was for-real fat. She wasn’t your usual fictional overweight woman, either: there was no zaftig or curvy or voluptuous to be found near the Scientist’s Daughter in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. But she was definitely attractive. The narrator describes her as follows:

“A white scarf swirled around the collar of her chic pink suit. From the fullness of her earlobes dangled square gold earrings, glinting with every step she took. Actually, she moved quite lightly for her weight. She may have strapped herself into a girdle or other paraphernalia for maximum visual effect, but that didn’t alter the fact that her wiggle was tight and cute. In fact, it turned me on. She was my kind of chubby.”

(11) THE NEXT SHIFT. At The Mary Sue, Cree Myles advises: “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors”.

… Society generally views the science fiction genre as one of leisure. You read it because you have time, not because you want to learn something. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While all writers are charged with the task of creating a more empathetic society, science fiction writers have the additional burden of telling us what happens next.

Some of our best thinkers, and certainly our most comprehensive hopers, have been sci-fi writers. N.K. Jemisin has given us black female demigods who, despite their powers, still somehow suffer at the hands of an oppressive society. Octavia Butler has given us shapeshifters, time travelers, and voyagers who all had to react and survive under patriarchy and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin was creating entire non-binary societies … in the 1960s.

(12) IT’S IN THE OH! E. D. Ursula Vernon coins a word:

(13) BACK FROM THE FUTURE. “Segway: End of the road for the much-hyped two-wheeler”

Segway is ending production of its original two-wheeler, which was popular with city tour guides and some police forces – but not the public.

Launched in 2001, the much-hyped self-balancing vehicle promised to revolutionise personal transport.

The Segway, invented by US engineer Dean Kamen, debuted with much fanfare, but struggled to make a profit.

Accidents didn’t help with the Segway’s popularity, and the company was bought by Chinese rival Ninebot in 2015.

Made at a factory in New Hampshire, in the US, production of the Segway Personal Transporter will end on 15 July.

Announcing the news, Segway president Judy Cai said: “Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle.”

However, in the vehicle’s almost two decade-long history it has also been the subject of mockery and high-profile collisions as well as a tragic death.

(14) THE PASSENGER PIGEON OF VIDEO STORES. Atlas Obscura leads readers to something that’s the last of its kind: “Bend Blockbuster Video”.

In early summer of 2018, there were two Blockbusters left in Alaska and one in Oregon. The Alaska stores finally closed that summer, leaving the Bend store as the last one standing. National media attention soon followed and the Bend Blockbuster became a tourist site as well. And after the last Blockbuster Video in Australia closed in 2019, the Bend store became the only one left in the world. 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/26/20 Do Not Ingest Or Inject Pixels

(1) ONE NEBULA VOTER’S PICKS. Sue Burke, author of 2019 Campbell Award finalist Semiosis, evaluates the Nebula short fiction nominees in two categories and tells what she voted for:

Adrian Tchaikovsky, by Oscar Celestini

(2) FEARBUSTERS. Jasmin Gelick’s “PenPower Project” is a series of posts with input from well-known sff authors “designed to debunk the myths of writer’s block and all kinds of other writerly fears.” She’s releasing one a week. As part of the introductory post she commissioned artist Oscar Celestini to depict all the participants as superheroes — Sue Burke, Caitlin Starling, Tim Pratt, Yoon Ha Lee, Thoraiya Dyer, Anna StephensEowyn Ivey, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kat Rocha, Martha Wells, John Langan, and Richard S. Ford. See them all here.

There’s also a post devoted to ”the Villain”, whatever writers worry about when starting a new story, or even when they’re in the middle and things aren’t coming together – the Villain gets a caricature, too.

These are the topics Gelick’s panelists have addressed so far:

In order to answer the question ‘Do you need to write every day?’ and the perhaps even more poignant: ‘If you don’t write every day can you call yourself a writer at all?’ we’ll take a close look at each of the twelve writing superheroes’ writing process below.

About the last one, Yoon Ha Lee says –

YOON: Honestly, the planning is the most fun. Actually writing is kind of a chore because it goes on foreeeeeeever, and then revisions become fun again. Kind of like a sandwich? I like twisty chess plots, which are hard to pull off, so that aspect of Raven Stratagem was particularly satisfying.

(3) CATCHING UP TO SCIENCE FICTION. In the Washington Post, Gene Park looks at efforts by Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) and other video game developers to create the Metaverse, predicted by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash.  Park thinks Roblox and Minecraft are on course “to create a shared, virtual space that’s persistently online and active, even without people logging in” and notes that it’s significant that Reporters Without Borders asked Minecraft to host a database of 12 million publicly censored documents. “Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet. Fortnite might get there first.”

Conversation around a more tangible, actualized Internet seems only more pointed in light of our current shelter-in-place reality in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the past month, office culture has coalesced around video chat platforms like Zoom, while personal cultural milestones like weddings and graduations are being conducted in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Metaverse not only seems realistic — it would probably be pretty useful right about now.

(4) STEEL PALMETTOS. NPR’s Petra Mayer asks about The Southern Club for Vampires in “Getting Some Blood On The Page: Questions For Grady Hendrix”.

Grady Hendrix’s new novel stars a group of determined women who confront a supernatural threat in their community — and while vampires aren’t real (as far as we know), Hendrix says The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has its roots in his own real life.

“Getting some blood on the page is the only way I know how to write, so all my books are really personal,” he tells me in an email interview. “This one’s set in the neighborhood where I grew up, around the time I graduated from high school, and it’s the first time I’ve had to run a book past my family before publication because so many of our stories wound up in it. Fortunately I’ve fictionalized everything pretty heavily so no one had too many problems.”

…The way you depict the women at the center of the book is clearly affectionate, but in places I felt like it was edging a little into mockery … was that your intent? Tell me how you approached building these characters and their world.

I feel bad it seemed to edge into mockery — I take these ladies very seriously. They’re the women I grew up around, and I wanted to write about how I went from knowing them as a kid, when they seemed like a bunch of lightweight nobodies, to how I got to know them as adults, when I learned that they had dealt with all the ugly, difficult stuff so the rest of us wouldn’t have to. The choices these women had to make were hard, and they were never offered the easy option. Southern ladies are not cute and cuddly. They are tough, strong women who will mess you up. On the other hand, I grew up in Charleston and that world can sometimes seem over-the-top, where the condition of your yard or whether you served your guests on paper or china plates were referendums on the state of your soul. It seems silly in retrospect, but at the time it felt deadly serious. But, you know, in 30 years a lot of the things that feel like life or death to me now are going to feel like punchlines. Time tends to turn almost everything into comedy.

(5) UP ALL NIGHT. New York Times reviewer Ruth Franklin, in “Can’t Sleep? Let Stephen King Keep You Company”, touts the virtues of his new collection If It Bleeds.

…King has previously used the novella — that stepchild of literary forms, somehow at once both too much and not enough — for stories that skirt the edge of horror without sinking into it, such as “The Body,” the inspiration for the classic 1980s film “Stand by Me,” in which a group of boys on a camping trip are transformed less by their discovery of a corpse in the woods than by their first taste of autonomy. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” the first story in the new collection, is a prime specimen in this category. It’s 2007, and Craig, on the cusp of adolescence, has a part-time job helping out wealthy, elderly Mr. Harrigan, a formal but kindly man who introduces him to “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and treats him to a scratch-off lottery ticket for his birthday and holidays. When one of those tickets wins a $3,000 jackpot, Craig shows his appreciation by buying Mr. Harrigan a first-model iPhone, the same one he just got for Christmas.

Initially skeptical, Mr. Harrigan is speedily seduced, just like the rest of us. “Are these numbers in real time?” he asks in wonder as Craig demonstrates the Stocks app. (In a line that perfectly characterizes the attachment, King writes that he caresses the phone “the way you might pat a small sleeping animal.”) But even as he grows dependent on the device, he recognizes its dangers: “It’s like a broken water main, one spewing information instead of water.” At Mr. Harrigan’s funeral, only a few months later, Craig tucks the man’s phone into the pocket of his suit jacket, a totem to accompany him into the afterlife. The uncanny events that ensue could be explained — possibly — by a technological glitch. But they are triggered by a human longing that anyone who has lost a loved one can understand: the desire to hear the departed person’s voice again, one of the many dubious consolations that technology now offers.

(6) THE DOMINOS ARE FALLING. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a lot to say about how bad the immediate future looks for the traditional publishing industry in “Business Musings: The Trainwreck”.

I’m sure you’ve all gotten the question lately: How are you going to survive as a writer with the crisis in the publishing industry? Every news outlet —well, at least every news outlet that reports news other than the latest virus statistics—has done at least one story on the decimation of the publishing industry.

And let me be honest here: The traditional publishing industry is in grave danger. Not of the kind of disruption it saw in 2009 with the Kindle and ebook reading, but of actual mergers, closures, consolidations, and complete lack of payment to all of its suppliers.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are shut down, deemed non-essential. Just like libraries, also non-essential. Unlike libraries, which have pivoted to ebooks in a startling and amazing way, many bookstores have no online capability at all.

…There’s a shortage of paper, because it comes from China. The two largest printers of magazines and books in the U.S., Quad/Graphics and LSC Communications were going to merge last summer, but something got in the way. Now, LSC Communications has filed for bankruptcyThe second largest printer, Quad, has shut its book printing facilities entirely.

In some regions, major distributors have shut down or disappeared, while although others, like Ingram, are still operating, although with reduced staff.

Not that it matters, since most bookstores are closed, and not shipping books to their customers. To make matters worse, the books that are being delivered will remain in their boxes, only to be returned for full price credit when this crisis is over. That was a policy established to help bookstores in the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the policy never got changed afterwards.

When bookstores do reopen, they’ll need to send the books back, because they will have the same gap in their cash flow that the rest of us will have—or maybe worse. Many independent bookstores will not survive this crisis, because bookselling has always been a marginal business.

Audiobooks—the brightest light in the traditional publishing firmament—stopped selling when we all sheltered in place. According to Beth Meacham, an editor at Tor who gave an amazing report from the front lines at the beginning of April, commuters account for damn near 100% of audiobook sales, and since no one is driving, no one is listening to audiobooks. The sales didn’t just dry up. They stopped….

The excerpt stops here, however, Rusch is only just getting started on her list of all the industry’s troubles!

(7) DYNARSKI OBIT. Actor Gene Dynarski has died at the age of 86. The Hollywood Reporter’s review of his career mentions many genre roles.

Gene Dynarski, a character actor who appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Duel and Close Encounters of the Third Kind … has died. He was 86.

Dynarski died Feb. 27 in a rehabilitation center in Studio City, playwright Ernest Kearney announced.

The Brooklyn native also worked twice on the original Star Trek, as the miner Ben Childress on the 1966 episode “Mudd’s Women” and as Krodak, who represents a city up for Federation membership, on the 1969 installment “The Mark of Gideon.”

Dynarski was seen as Benedict, one of Egghead’s (Vincent Price) henchmen, on Batman in 1966, and on a 2000 episode of The X-Files, his character fell victim to a monstrous bat creature.

His résumé also included Earthquake (1974)…, among other TV series.

In the 1971 telefilm Duel, Dynarski was a trucker confronted in a roadside café by Dennis Weaver, who thinks he’s the murderous big-rig driver on his tail, and in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), he played the supervisor who sends out Richard Dreyfuss to investigate those mysterious blackouts. 

Dynarski also portrayed Josef Stalin in the 1996 videogame Command & Conquer: Red Alert...

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Baptized April 26, 1564 William Shakespeare.World’s greatest playwright and perhaps one of our earliest fantasy writers was baptized today. (Died 1616.)
  • Born April 26, 1914 H. L. Gold. Best known for launching Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950, soon followed by its companion fantasy magazine, Beyond Fantasy Fiction which lasted but a few years. He was not a prolific writer having but two novels, None but Lucifer with L. Sprague de Camp and A Matter of Form, plus a generous number of short stories. None but Lucifer didn’t see printing in novel form until 2002. H. L. Gold Resurrected: Selected Science Fiction Stories of H. L. Gold appears to be his only collection avail from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 26, 1916 Vic Perrin. Best remembered for being the Control Voice in the original version of The Outer Limits. He also, genre wise, was the Adventures of SupermanMission: ImpossibleBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyTwilight ZoneBuck Rogers in Twenty-Fifth Century and in three episodes of Star Trek including being the voice of Nomad. (Died 1989.)
  • Born April 26, 1922 A. E. van Vogt. Ok, I admit it’s been so long since I read him that I don’t clearly remember what I liked by him though I know I read Slan and The Weapon Makers.  I am fascinated by the wiki page that noted Damon Knight took a strong dislike to his writing whereas Philip K. Dick and Paul Di Filippo defended him strongly. What do y’all think of him? (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 26, 1943 Bill Warren. American film historian, critic, and one of the leading authorities on science fiction, horror, and fantasy films. He co-wrote the murder mystery Fandom is a Way of Death set at 42nd World Science Fiction Convention which was hosted by many members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and which he and his wife were very much involved in. His 1968 short story “Death Is a Lonely Place” would be printed in the first issue of the magazine Worlds of Fantasy. During the Seventies, he also wrote scripts for Warren Publishing’s black-and-white comic books CreepyEerie, and Vampirella. His film reference guide Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties would be revised and expanded several times. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 26, 1955 Brad W. Foster, 65. A prolific cartoonist and fanzine cover artist, he won an amazing eight Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist! From 1987 to 1991. He was a regular contributing illustrator to the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. In 2008 he began producing illustrations for the newsletter Ansible, creating a full color version for the on-line edition, and a different black-and-white version for the print edition.
  • Born April 26, 1961 Joan Chen, 59. You’ll remember her from Twin Peaks universeas Jocelyn ‘Josie’ Packard, and probably less so as Ilsa Hayden in the first Judge Dredd film. I certainly don’t and I’ve watched that film multiple times She was Madame Ong in Avatar. No, not that film, this is a Singaporean sf film from twenty years back. And she was the very first customer on the quite short-lived Nightmare Cafe series. 

(9) PICK UP YOUR PEN. San Diego Comic-Con’s Toucan encourages fans: “You Can Draw With Katie Cook 071: How to Draw How We’re All Feeling Right Now”.

(10) RADICAL READING ORDER. In the midst of her series of reviews about Kage Baker’s Company series, “Start with the Empress of Mars!” advises the Little Red Reviewer’s Andrea Johnson.

If you’ve been seeing my posts and thinking to yourself “jeez, when is she gonna shut up about this Company series, I don’t even know where to freakin’ start with these damn books”,  you can start with The Empress of Mars!

ok, so I KNOW all the suggested reading orders put Empress of Mars near the end of the series, but you should read it near the beginning!!!

– It functions perfectly as a stand alone. Never read a Kage Baker before? start with Empress of Mars!

– omg it is HILARIOUS,  like Anvil of the World hilarious.  the bad translator scene? I was laughing so hard I drooled on myself.

– If you recognize some characters from elsewhere in the series, that’s ok, and if you don’t, that’s ok too.  the book isn’t about those people anyway.

(11) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman and Sarah Pinsker appertained their own chow when they met virtually to record the Eating the Fantastic podcast’s one hundred twentieth episode.

Sarah Pinsker

Since restaurants began closing down and social distancing became the sensible thing to do for my health, the health of potential podcast guests, and the health of the herd, listeners have been suggesting I consider recording episodes of Eating the Fantastic remotely … and I’ve resisted. Because my purpose here is to share the magical, intimate, relaxed conversations which occur best when people are chatting face-to-face over a table filled with food. That’s why last episode, I ended up letting you ask me the questions.

But then it occurred to me — there’s one person on the planet — and only one — with whom I was willing to record remotely. And that person is Sarah Pinsker, my guest on Episode 1 of this podcast four years and two months ago. I intended to catch up with her in meatspace anyway all these years later, but suddenly it felt right for us to chat in cyberspace.

The reason I felt that way is due to her wonderful debut novel, A Song for A New Day, which was published in September 2019. It’s set in a near future where due to a terrorist attack and an accompanying pandemic, all mass gatherings are banned — no concerts, no sporting events, no ways for people to come together the way people have done since the beginning of time — and we’re instead only allowed to meet in VR. So meeting up with Sarah remotely made artistic and poetic sense — because it would almost be as if we were living in the world of her novel.

Since that first episode, Sarah’s short story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea was published in March of last year by Small Beer Press. It includes many award-nominated and award-winning stories, including her Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” and her Nebula Award winner “Our Lady of the Open Road.” The collection as a whole was recently awarded the Philip K. Dick Award.

Her novel A Song for a New Day is currently a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award. She’s also a Hugo Award finalist for Best Novelette for “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye,” published last year in Uncanny Magazine.

We discussed how relieved she was her pandemic novel A Song for a New Day was published in 2019 rather than 2020, why she originally wrote that book in a song format (and why that had to change), how she loves being surprised by her own characters, why neither of us can bear listening to music while we write, the extremely scientific, color-coded process she came up with for organizing her first short story collection, how one of her favorite fictional tropes led to the creation of the original story she wrote specifically for that collection, why the thing that most interests her is the way people cope with what’s put in front of them rather than why those things happen, the reason she prefers leaving interpretations to readers rather than providing answers, her terrible habit when reading collections and anthologies, how she’s coping with the surreal feeling of living in the world of her novel, and much more.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. [Item by David Doering.] Do cosplays and comic cons violate the law in New York State? I was reading a piece on protests, which led me to see this obscure New York State law forbidding wearing masks:

New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law – PEN § 240.35 Loitering 

 4.?Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; ?except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities;   

I wonder how may concoms read up on whether their city has has “promulgated regulations” regarding “a masquerade party”? Or think to ask permission of the police? And what does this law mean if there are no “promulgated regulations”? Does that make it illegal to “congregate in a public place” at all?

BTW: The history of this provision extends all the way back to 1845 (!!) when it was enacted to prevent protesters from using masks to hide their identities.

(13) BRAND O’LANDO. [Item by rcade.] Twitter is aflutter over Land O Lakes removing the Indian maiden from the packaging. The chatter wouldn’t be skiffy fodder but for a rebranding suggestion that keeps churning up:

(14) CONVINCING CRAFT. Catching up with this 2017 Popular Mechanics post, “The Art and Science of Making a Believable Sci-Fi Spaceship”. Tagline: “How the spaceships of Mass Effect: Andromeda were designed with physics and processing power in mind.”

…It’s an outgrowth of the desire to make a space epic with sci-fi elements based in scientific truth. “Mass Effect has always been grounded by a basis in reality,” says the Mass Effect: Andromeda Creative Director Mac Walters, and nothing in Andromeda exemplifies this more than its spaceship design.

Take the Nexus, for example, a kilometers-long space station engineered to serve as civilization’s base of operation among the unexplored planets. In the game’s lore, the monstrous ship’s kilometers-long design is inspired by “the Citadel,” and ancient alien relic of mysterious origin around which the series’ initial trilogy pivots. But despite its extraordinary inspiration, the ship itself has some surprisingly practical details. Designed to travel half-built, the Nexus is constructed over the course of the game, during which its carefully designed and realistic framework is exposed.

(15) HOBBITVILLE SOLD TO SALT LAKE CITY. Despite the dateline of April 1st, this is not an April Fools joke. “Salt Lake City buys historic ‘Hobbitville’ for $7.5M, sets it aside to become public park”.  

…  Allen Park, which was facing the possibility of being purchased and turned into new development, will soon be a public park. 

…Dr. George Allen and Ruth Larsen Allen purchased the property in 1931 and used a good chunk of the space for their exotic bird collection. Allen Park received the nickname “Hobbitville” because the small houses and log cabins found on the land looked like homes for hobbits.

In addition, it’s filled with signs featuring strange sayings painted on them. It’s considered one of the more unique places in the city. It had come under threat in recent years, though. At least one developer was seeking to purchase the land for future development….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/9/20 I Had Too Much To Stream Last Night

(1) UNDERESTIMATED CRISIS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sounds overwhelmed in “Business Musings: A Crisis Like No Other (A Process Blog)” where she discusses her daily challenges and struggles as a writer.

Well, I was wrong. A month or so ago, I warned that what we’re going through is a black swan event, that it would have an economic impact, and we as business owners needed to be braced. Then, as things got even worse, I decided this was a double black swan—a crisis without good leadership to carry us through to the other side.

And it seems that, in both cases, I underestimated this thing.  On April 3, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called this “a crisis like no other.”

In a speech before the World Health Organization, she added, “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill. It is way worse than the global financial crisis.”

A crisis like no other. Yeah, that was my sense as well over these past two weeks as I tried over and over again to find some kind of historic precedent to guide us forward. I couldn’t find one—not an analogous one, on that hit the global economy all at once, and forced people around the world to behave in the same way.

It’s breathtaking and shocking and hard to fathom. As you can tell from my many blog posts, I’m wrestling with this change. I know we’ll come out the other side, but for the first time—maybe in my adult life—I have no idea what kind of world we will emerge into. Usually I can predict both worst case and best case scenarios….

(2) SETTING THE TONE. Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book is where I first read John Clyn’s famous quote, written in 1349 at the height of the Black Plague:

“So that notable deeds should not perish with time, and be lost from the memory of future generations, I, seeing these many ills, and that the whole world encompassed by evil, waiting among the dead for death to come, have committed to writing what I have truly heard and examined; and so that the writing does not perish with the writer, or the work fail with the workman, I leave parchment for continuing the work, in case anyone should still be alive in the future and any son of Adam can escape this pestilence and continue the work thus begun.”

(3) APOLLO 13. At least the astronauts came out the other side of this disaster all right — “‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’: Remembering Apollo 13 at 50”.

…A half-century later, Apollo 13 is still considered Mission Control’s finest hour.

Lovell calls it “a miraculous recovery.”

Haise, like so many others, regards it as NASA’s most successful failure.

“It was a great mission,” Haise, 86, said. It showed “what can be done if people use their minds and a little ingenuity.”

As the lunar module pilot, Haise would have become the sixth man to walk on the moon, following Lovell onto the dusty gray surface. The oxygen tank explosion robbed them of the moon landing, which would have been NASA’s third, nine months after Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took humanity’s first footsteps on the moon.

Now the coronavirus pandemic has robbed them of their anniversary celebrations. Festivities are on hold, including at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the mission began on April 11, 1970, a Saturday just like this year.

(4) WHO TWO. ScreenRant offers their opinion — “Doctor Who: Every Doctor’s TRUE Companion”. For example:

Fourth Doctor: Sarah Jane Smith

Often considered the best companion of Doctor Who‘s classic run, Elizabeth Sladen made a lasting impression as Sarah Jane Smith, evolving the template set by Jo Grant previously. More so than her predecessors, Sarah Jane naturally grew into a second main character and although she debuted alongside the Third Doctor, her wits were slightly better suited to the eccentric ramblings of Tom Baker’s Time Lord. The Fourth Doctor would struggle to find an equally fitting companion, treating Leela with occasional contempt and burning through several regenerations of Romana.

(5) IMPOSSIBLE TIME. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination’s podcast Into the Impossible has posted Episode 38: “Giving the Devil His Due: a conversation with Michael Shermer & Brian Keating”.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the Science Salon Podcast, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. For 18 years he was a monthly columnist for Scientific American. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, The Moral Arc, and Heavens on Earth. His new book is Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist.

(6) HOW’S YOUR EYESIGHT? “Smithsonian seeks public’s help with Sally Ride’s astronaut training notes”.

Before she became the first American woman to fly into space, Sally Ride needed to learn how to be an astronaut. Now, 30 years later, the public can help expand access to Ride’s training experience by volunteering to transcribe her extensive handwritten notes.

The National Air and Space Museum has begun the process of converting the 23 cubic feet of material it obtained from Ride’s estate in 2015 to be available for research and study. Archivists have scanned and indexed the entire collection, but more can be done to make the papers fully searchable.

(7) DRUCKER OBIT. MAD Magazine artist Mort Drucker died April 8 at the age of 91. Mark Evanier paid tribute at News From Me: “Mort Drucker, R.I.P.”

He found his way to MAD magazine in 1956 at a precarious moment in that publication’s history. Founding editor Harvey Kurtzman had departed and taken most of the art crew with him. Replacement editor Al Feldstein was assembling a new team and with no idea how valuable the new applicant would be to MAD, he took a shot with Drucker.

Mort had never thought of himself as a caricaturist but when called upon to draw the comedy team of Bob & Ray for some pieces, he displayed a flair that surprised even him. Before long, Mort was the illustrator of movie and TV parodies in every issue of MAD…an association that lasted some 55 years. Big stars would say that you didn’t feel you’d made it in Hollywood until Mort Drucker had drawn you in MAD.

The New York Times obituary is here.

…“No one saw Drucker’s talent,” Mr. Hendrix wrote, until he illustrated “The Night That Perry Masonmint Lost a Case,” a takeoff on the television courtroom drama “Perry Mason,” in 1959. It was then, Mr. Hendrix maintained, that “the basic movie parody format for the next 44 years was born.”

From the early 1960s on, nearly every issue of Mad included a movie parody, and before Mr. Ducker retired he had illustrated 238, more than half of them. The last one, “The Chronic-Ills of Yawnia: Prince Thespian,” appeared in 2008.

Mr. Drucker compared his method to creating a movie storyboard: “I become the ‘camera,’” he once said, “and look for angles, lighting, close-ups, wide angles, long shots — just as a director does to tell the story in the most visually interesting way he can.”

Mr. Hendrix called Mr. Drucker “the cartoonist’s equivalent of an actor’s director” and “a master of drawing hands, faces and body language.” Mr. Friedman praised Mr. Drucker’s restraint: “He wasn’t really hung up on exaggerating. He was far more subtle and nuanced — interested in how people stood and so on.”

(8) WILLNER OBIT. Most recently known as Saturday Night Live’s sketch music producer. Hal Willner died April 7. The LA Times tribute is here. He had a long career in film, and produced several record albums, including these genre-adjacent projects –

…Most striking was Willner’s ode to the music of Walt Disney’s animated films. Called “Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films,” he enlisted artists including cosmic jazz traveler Sun Ra, experimental vocalist Yma Sumac, Los Angeles group Los Lobos and rock band the Replacements to re-imagine such songs as “Cruella De Ville,” “Whistle While You Work” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Tom Waits turned “Heigh Ho (The Dwarves Marching Song)” into a forced-labor dirge.

As the compiler of “The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1936-1958,” Willner resurrected the reputation of the frantic, inventive composer Stalling and his scores for “Bugs Bunny” and “Road Runner” cartoons….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 9, 1953 Invaders From Mars premiered. It was produced by Edward L. Alperson Jr. and directed by William Cameron Menzies. It starred  a large cast of Jimmy Hunt, Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Morris Ankrum, Leif Erickson, and Hillary Brooke. Made a shoestring budget of three hundred thousand, it got amazingly good reviews though a few critics thought it it was too frightening for younger children, did a great box office and currently has a rating of fifty six percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
  • April 9, 1955 Science Fiction Theatre first aired in syndication. It was produced by Ivan Tors and Maurice Ziv.  It ran for seventy-eight episodes over two years and was hosted by Truman Bradley who was the announcer for Red Skelton’s program. The first episode “Beyond” had the story of a test pilot travelling at much faster than the speed of sound who bails out and tells his superiors that another craft was about to collide with his. It starred William Lundigan, Ellen Drew and Bruce Bennett. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 9, 1911 George O. Smith. His early prolific writings on Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s which ended when Campbell’s wife left him for Smith Whom she married. Later stories were on Thrilling Wonder Stories, GalaxySuper Science Stories and Fantastic To name but four such outlets. He was given First Fandom Hall of Fame Award just before he passed on. Interestingly his novels are available from the usual digital sources but his short stories are not. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 9, 1913 George F. Lowther. He was writer, producer, director in the earliest days of radio and television. He wrote scripts for both Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.  You can see the first show “The Birth of The Galaxy” which he scripted here. (Died 1975.)
  • Born April 9, 1921 Frankie Thomas. He was best remembered for his starring role in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet which ran from 1950 to 1955. Though definitely not genre or genre adjacent, he was in the Nancy Drew film franchise that ran in the late Thirties. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 9, 1935 Avery Schreiber. He’s had a long history with genre fiction starting with Get Smart! and going from there to include More Wild Wild West!Fantasy IslandFaerie Tale Theatre: PinocchioShadow ChasersCavemanGalaxinaDracula: Dead and Loving ItAnimainiacs in which he voiced Beanie the Brain-Dead Bisonand, of course, The Muppet Show. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 9, 1937 Marty Krofft, 83. Along with with Sid, a Canadian sibling team of television creators and puppeteers. Through Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, they have made numerous series including the superb H.R. Pufnstuf which I still remember fondly all these years later not to forget Sigmund and the Sea MonstersLand of the Lost and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
  • Born April 9,1949 Stephen Hickman, 71. Illustrator who has done over three hundred and fifty genre covers such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. His most widely known effort is his space fantasy postage stamps done for the U.S. Postal Service which won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at ConAndian in 1994.
  • Born April 9, 1954 Dennis Quaid, 66. I’m reasonably sure that he first genre role was in Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it.
  • Born April 9, 1955 Earl Terry Kemp, 65. Author of The Anthem Series: A Guide to the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Weird Specialty Publishers of the Golden Age and The Anthem Series Companion: A Companion to The Guide to the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Weird Specialty Publishers of the Golden Age. He also maintains several databases devoted to the same including The Golden Age of Pulps: SF Magazine Database: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (1890-2009).
  • Born April 9, 1972 Neve McIntosh, 48. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, she played Alaya and Restac, two Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra, in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter.  She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She reprises her role as Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, form a private investigator team. 
  • Born April 9, 1998 Elle Fanning, 22. Yes she’s from that acting family. And she’s certainly been busy with roles in over forty films! Her first genre film is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button followed by Astro BoySuper 8MaleficentThe BoxtrollsThe Neon Demon, the upcoming Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and a recurring role on The Lost Room, a Cursed Objects miniseries that aired on Syfy. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville encounters a social media slipup.
  • Free Range shows why even superheroes must keep in mind “the right tool for the right job.”

(12) TEMPORARILY FREE COMICS. Dark Horse Comics is releasing the first issue of more than 80 comics series for free, as well as a few volumes of graphics novels, available to read via DARK HORSE DIGITAL from now until April 30. The series include such titles as Umbrella AcademyAmerican Gods, & Disney’s Frozen, as well as graphic novels such as Empowered Vol. 1, and Hellboy Vol. 1.

(13) CAN COMICS RESUSCITATE THE CASH REGISTER? CBR.com investigates “DC vs Marvel: Possible Storylines for a New Big Two Crossover”.

As the effects of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue to reverberate around the world, one of the many industries severely impacted by the global health crisis is the American comic book market. With major publishers refraining from distributing new comics either digitally or in print and comic retailers shuttering normal operations to prevent the virus’ spread, the future of the industry is currently in a state of limbo. Led by acclaimed writer Gail Simone, comic creators have since suggested the possibility of an intercompany crossover between DC and Marvel Comics’ respective superhero universes as a means to revitalize the industry.

(14) PICARD SPECIAL ISSUE. Titan Comics has Star Trek: Picard – The Official Collector’s Edition on sale now.

A behind-the-scenes guide to the smash hit new Star Trek TV Show, showcasing the further adventures of fan-favorite captain of the Enterprise-D, Jean Luc Picard!

A deluxe collector’s edition offering a behind-the-scenes guide to the brand new Star Trek: Picard TV show, featuring interviews with Star Trek legends Sir Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner (Data), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Martin Sirtis (Troi), plus the new cast members Isa Briones (Dahj/Soji), Michelle Herd (Raffi), Harry Treadaway (Narke) and many more. Plus, Showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Michael Chabon, and Director Hanelle Culpepper reveal behind-the-scenes secrets.

(15) OLAF SCENES. “Fun With Snow” | At Home With Olaf on YouTube is the first of 20 micro-sized Olaf stories coming from Disney. Find others as they post on the Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube channel.

(16) MAD AS HELL. In “Suing Hollywood” at CrimeReads, Tess Gerritsen looks at her long series of lawsuits about whether Gravity was stolen from her 1999 space thriller Gravity.

…Most writers who work in the industry understand that suing a studio, no matter how justified their lawsuit, is a losing proposition—and it’s the writer who almost always loses. Knowing this, why would any writer risk everything to charge into battle as David against Goliath? 

I’ll tell you why: because we’re angry and refuse to let them get away with it. I know, because I’ve been there and done that. I’ve seen the dark side of Hollywood.

(17) STATION BREAK. And making a smooth segue between topics, did you know NASA has available a virtual “International Space Station Tour”?

(18) NEXT SPACE STATION SHIFT ARRIVES. And for a news trifecta — “ISS crew blast off after long quarantine”.

Three new crew members have arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) after a launch carried out under tight restrictions due to the coronavirus.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner and Nasa astronaut Chris Cassidy took off from Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Pre-launch protocols were changed to prevent the virus being taken to the ISS.

Only essential personnel were allowed at the launch site for the blast-off.

Support workers wore masks and kept their distance as the crew walked to the bus to take them to the spacecraft.

Earlier, Chris Cassidy said not having their families in Baikonur to cheer them on for the launch had affected the crew, but he added: “We understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis.

(19) WAVE BYE-BYE. “BepiColombo: Mercury mission set to wave goodbye to Earth” – BBC supplies lots of details on the instruments being sent.

The joint European-Japanese mission to Mercury reaches a key milestone on Friday when it swings past the Earth.

The two-in-one BepiColombo space probe is using the gravity of its home world to bend a path towards the inner Solar System.

It will also bleed off some speed.

The mission needs to make sure it isn’t travelling too fast when it arrives at Mercury in 2025 or it won’t be able to go into orbit around the diminutive world.

(20) POTTERING ABOUT. “Harry Potter hospital rooms get JK Rowling approval”.

Doctors dealing with coronavirus said they were “uplifted” to have a message of support from JK Rowling when they named areas of their hospital after Harry Potter school houses.

Meeting rooms at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital were named Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravensclaw.

The hospital said the idea was “a bit of fun amongst all the significant issues”.

The author tweeted to say she had “rarely felt prouder”.

The hospital’s medical team decided to name meeting rooms after the Hogwarts houses when redesigning systems to be better prepared for the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior house officer Alex Maslen said: “The house names are familiar to many junior doctors who grew up with the Harry Potter stories, and the awareness has provided some reassurance during these difficult times.”

(21) YOUNG MAN MULLIGAN ATE HERE. BBC tells us “Crops were cultivated in regions of the Amazon ‘10,000 years ago'”.

Far from being a pristine wilderness, some regions of the Amazon have been profoundly altered by humans dating back 10,000 years, say researchers.

An international team found that during this period, crops were being cultivated in a remote location in what is now northern Bolivia.

The scientists believe that the humans who lived here were planting squash, cassava and maize.

The inhabitants also created thousands of artificial islands in the forest.

FYI, “Young Man Mulligan” is the filk answer to ”The Great Historical Bum” song (“Bum” lyrics here). It opens “I was born about ten thousand years from now.”

(22) BEFORE FABERGÉ. “Mysteries of decorated ostrich eggs in British Museum revealed”.

If you wanted to give an extravagant gift 5,000 years ago, you might have chosen an ostrich egg.

Now some of these beautiful Easter egg-sized objects are in London’s British Museum.

The eggs were found in Italy but their origins have long been a mystery – ostriches are not indigenous to Europe.

Now, research into the museum’s collection by an international team of archaeologists reveals new insights into their history.

People across Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa traded ostrich eggs up to 5,000 years ago, in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Eggs were decorated in many ways – painted, adorned with ivory or precious metals, or covered in small glazed stones or other materials.

The five eggs in the British Museum’s collection are embellished with animals, flowers, geometric patterns, soldiers and chariots.

(23) DON’T STOP. Rebooted – on YouTube.

It’s not easy for a movie-star to age – especially when you’re a stop motion animated skeleton monster. Phil, once a terrifying villain of the silver-screen, struggles to find work in modern Hollywood due to being an out-of-date special effect.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/17/20 Let’s Build Robots With Genuine Pixel Personalities, They Said

(1) SPRNG THAW. Book borrowers cheer as Publishers Weekly reports “Macmillan Abandons Library E-book Embargo”.

In a surprise announcement today, Macmillan abandoned its controversial embargo on new release e-books in libraries, effective this week.

“There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” reads a brief memo from Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed to librarians, authors, illustrators, and agents. “Effective on Friday (or whenever thereafter our wholesalers can effect the change), Macmillan will return to the library e-book pricing model that was in effect on October 31st, 2019. In addition, we will be lowering some e-book prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries collections in these difficult times. Stay safe.”

A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed that the removal of the embargo covers all titles, including new release Tor titles (which were technically still under a “test” embargo on October 31, 2019).

The news comes as libraries across the nation are (or soon will be) closing down their physical locations in an attempt to slow the outbreak of Covid-19….

(2) MORE NON-CORONA NEWS. The South China Morning Post has the story: “Xiao Zhan scandal – why millions of Chinese shoppers boycotted Piaget, Cartier and Estée Lauder because of homoerotic idol fan fiction”.

Things escalated quickly after A03’s takedown. Enraged by Xiao fans’ censorship plot, millions of free speech activists began boycotting the dozens of brands Xiao campaigns for, including Estée Lauder, Piaget and Qeelin. But they’ve gone further than the usual boycott by promoting competitors of Xiao-promoted brands, crashing Xiao-sponsored brands’ customer service lines, and pressuring those brands to end their collaborations with Xiao. So far, the Chinese Weibo hashtag #BoycottXiaoZhan has exceeded 3,450,000 posts and 260 million views.

.. But the idol economy has a sinister side. In the Chinese model of idol adoration, fans are the ones in control of the idol’s reputation and commercial worth – not the idol. And since fan communities are so actively involved in their idol’s brand sponsorships, it also falls on them to attack brands that they perceive to be opposing their idol’s interests.

(3) FUN STORY. A wonderful spin on a beleaguered classic: Cora Buhlert’s “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” begins –

Save the Girl and Save Me From Having to Toss Her Out of the Airlock

Organised by Captain C. Barton

Started on August 4, 2178, 08:48     Category: Accidents and emergencies

My name is Barton and I’m the pilot of an EDS (Emergency Dispatch Ship) currently en route to the frontier world of Woden to deliver some desperately needed medical supplies.

I have a problem, because I just discovered a stowaway aboard my ship, an eighteen-year-old girl named Marilyn Lee Cross. Upon questioning, Marilyn explained that her brother Gerry works on Woden as part of the government survey crew. She wants to visit him and since there is no regular passenger traffic to Woden because of the current medical crisis, she snuck aboard my ship…..

(4) WINDY CITY PULP CON POSTPONED. Chicago’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, originally set for next month, has been rescheduled to September 11-13.

On March 16, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker mandated that social gatherings of 50 or more people be cancelled for the next eight weeks.  Given other recent developments in the Covid-19 crisis, we anticipated that some sort of ban might be imposed that would make it impossible to hold our convention at its scheduled time in April, 2020.  Out of concern for the health of our extended family of attendees, dealers and staff, for the past week we had been working with our hotel — the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois — to attempt to reschedule our convention.  

We can now announce that we’ve just reached an agreement to postpone the convention to September 11-13, 2020. The location of the convention remains the same, and we thank the fine folks at the Westin Lombard for working with us to make this change….

More information about memberships and hotel reservations at the link.

(5) EDGAR AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America have cancelled the Edgar Awards event planned for April 30: “Edgar Week Events – Update”. How the awards will be announced is under discussion.

It is with heavy heart that we have to let you know we are cancelling both the Edgar Awards banquet and the symposium.

All bars and restaurants have been closed in New York City due to the pandemic (other than for delivery and pick-up), and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on Sunday urging people to cancel or postpone all events bringing together 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, including weddings. “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said on their website. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.

This year is the 75th anniversary of MWA; our Edgar week festivities were to be a celebration of that anniversary.

But the health, safety, and well-being of our nominees, guests, members and the hotel staff have to be paramount, and it is not in anyone’s best interest that we go forward with the festivities.

(6) LEPRECON LOSES GOH. At the moment LepreCon 46 is still scheduled for April 10-12 in Chandler, Arizona, however, one of their guests of honor has stepped down. A decision about the con’s future is coming this week.

LepreCon has had some participant cancellations, most notably our Author Guest of Honor, Robert McCammon, who lives in Alabama. He stated: “I’ve gone back and forth on this, and back and forth again, and unfortunately I feel the need to cancel my appearance at LepreCon. I hate to do this because I’d been looking forward to the con and also because never before in my life have I said I would be somewhere and not shown up… but in all honesty I just don’t feel confident in traveling right now and am uncertain of what another month may bring.”

We are restricted in our decision to postpone or cancel Leprecon 46 by our contract with the hotel. We must work in conjunction with them to come up with a solution, since Governor Ducey & ADHS haven’t yet prohibited all public gatherings. We will speak with them Monday to begin the process of determining whether the convention can be postponed or canceled. A decision will be announced by the end of the week.

(7) NO LAST DANCE IN LOUISVILLE. It was going to be the last con in a series that started a decade ago, but now ConGlomeration won’t be taking place. The Louisville, Kentucky fan event was planned for April 10-12.

All good things, as they say, must come to an end. And so it comes to ConGlomeration.

In accordance with current COVID-19 safety recommendations, as well as local, state, and federal mandates, and to ensure the health and well-being of our membership, the Convention Committee has elected to cancel our final ConGlomeration

For those asking why we are cancelling, rather than merely postponing, we simply have no idea if or when a suitable replacement date and venue would become available. We cannot hold our guests, staff, or resources in limbo for an indeterminate amount of time. And, as this was our final convention, we have no “next year” to simply “roll over” this year’s plans and people into.

So, rather than “see you later,” we must instead say “goodbye.”

(8) COMIC RELIEF. Courtesy of George Takei.

(9) BACK TO THE BAD NEWS. Mark George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema closed, too. The Santa Fe, NM theater posted this “Important Announcement”.

To our Jean Cocteau & Beastly Books Supporters:

We like to keep our community as informed as we can. We regret to say that we have decided to close the Jean Cocteau Cinema for a month starting 03/17 and hope to reopen on 04/15. TBD. The Jean Cocteau Cinema is fortunate enough to continue to pay our employees for the interim….

(10) LIBRARIANS’ DAY RECALENDARED. Horror Writers of America have moved HWA Librarians’ Day to November 12, 2020. The Naperville, IL event is another casualty of coronavirus restrictions.

(11) WHITMAN OBIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Actor Stuart Whitman has died at the age of 92. Whitman was probably best known for his work in action, war, and western films, but did have some genre roles, the first being an uncredited appearance in When Worlds Collide (1951).

Perhaps most notable were 10 episodes as Jonathan Kent scattered across 4 seasons of the 80s/90s TV series Superboy Other genre and adjacent TV work included seven episodes of Fantasy Island (as different characters), plus episodes on more than a half-dozen other shows including Night Gallery and Tales from the Dark Side

He appeared in sf and horror movies such as Omega Cop, Deadly Intruder, Vultures, Invaders of the Lost Gold, The Monster Club, Demonoid, The Cat Creature, and City Beneath the Sea.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 17, 1846 Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rosa Mulholland’s Puck and Blossom and Bret Harte’s Pirate Isle. She’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1901.)
  • Born March 17, 1906 Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role as an actress, she played two roles, Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well.  She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and in particular attacking Jewish financial speculators. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 17, 1945 Tania Lemani, 75. She played Kara in the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. She first met Shatner when she was offered her a role in the pilot for Alexander the Great which starred him in the title role (although the pilot failed to be picked up as a series). She had parts in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Bionic Woman and she shows up in the fanfic video Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. I assume as Kara, though IMDb lists her as herself. 
  • Born March 17, 1947 James K. Morrow, 73. I’m very fond of the Godhead trilogy in which God is Dead and very, very present. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a lot of satisfying satirical fun as is The Madonna and the Starship which is also is a wonderful homage to pulp writers.
  • Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 72. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. The works I struggled with are Pattern RecognitionSpook Country and Zero History. I’ve tried all of them, none were appealing. Eh? 
  • Born March 17, 1949 Patrick Duffy, 71. Surely you’ve seen him on Man from Atlantis? No?  Oh, you missed a strange, short-lived show. His other genre credits are a delightfully mixed bag of such things as voicing a Goat on Alice in Wonderland, appearing on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as Duke Angelo Rimini  in the “Rockets of the Dead” episode and voicing  Steve Trevor in the incredibly excellent “The Savage Time” three-parter on Justice League
  • Born March 17, 1951 Kurt Russell, 69. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course, there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • About today’s Wallace the Brave Rich Horton commented, “I’m just surprised he didn’t wear a propeller beanie!”

(14) BEYOND 404. Bleeding Cool tells about a new comedy that’s on the way — “’Upload’: Your Afterlife Depends on Your Wi-Fi Strength in Greg Daniels’ Upcoming Amazon Prime Comedy Series”.

If we’re reading things correctly, Greg Daniels‘ (The Office, Space Force) new comedy series Upload for Amazon Prime Video makes the case that the future of your afterlife may depend on how strong your Wi-Fi signal is. At least that’s the premise vibe were getting from the 10-episode series, which includes an ensemble cast fronted by The Flash alum Robbie Amell and Andy Allo (Pitch Perfect 3, The Hero) and a debut date of May 1 for the streaming service….

(15) SPACE COLLECTIBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Kickstarter: “DeskSpace: Lunar Surface“. Inspired by the Apollo 11 lunar landing, this Kickstarter project is selling a detailed replica landscape of part of the Moon’s surface. 

Made from “jewelry grade concrete,“ they plan to make it available in two sizes — roughly 7” (180 mm) square & roughly 4“ (100 mm) square. Introductory pledge levels – which are about to run out – are about 75 & 99 US dollars respectively. (Actual pledges appear to be in HK$.)

For a bit more, they’ll sell you the entire solar system.

(16) POMP AND MINECRAFT CIRCUMSTANCES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SoraNews24: “Japanese students hold graduation ceremony in Minecraft amid school cancellation”. Tagline: “As usual, kids are way ahead of adults.”

Japanese schools have been closed for over two weeks now due to coronavirus quarantine, and they will remain closed until after spring vacation.

Because the Japanese school year ends in March and begins in April, for many students this closing period means that they will miss their graduation ceremonies. Whether they’re leaving elementary school, middle school, or high school, it’s a sad feeling for them to go out with a whimper instead of a bang.

But some creative elementary school graduates in Japan came up with a great workaround. If they couldn’t have a graduation ceremony at school, then why not have one digitally in a place they all meet often anyway… in Minecraft!

(17) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CRITTER. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr has an animal-centric post about the plague, with a side order of furry con fraud. “Good news! Doggos won’t make you vom-o — and more to know about a zoonotic pandemic.”

Need something wholesome for a time like this?  Investigation found no reason to fear that people might catch COVID-19 from dogs. That’s good for me and my chihuahua child. No more worry about going “aww” for little sneezes!

(18) COMBAT NEWS AFFECTED DISORDER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is running a “March Sadness Special” which includes the offer of a couple free books to people signing up for a newsletter.

The last week has been…well, a year in stress and changes and everything else. I’ve been blogging about it to help people through the changes. Those blogs are currently on Patreon, but will hit here, starting tomorrow night.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that people worldwide are staying home. Inside. With computers and streaming and books to keep them occupied.

Last week, Allyson of WMG, Dean, and I discussed a way to provide weekly content to readers and writers. The Stay At Home And Chill Newsletter will tell you about deals and discounts...and if you sign up now, you’ll get two free books to help you relax through this crisis.

[Thanks to Doug Ellis, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Camestros Felapton, Brian Z., Patch O’Furr, Dann, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

2019 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / pjgon71

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

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