Pixel Scroll 9/2/20 He’s Just A Poor Scroll From A Poor Pixelry, Spare Him Comments From This File 770

(1) MARGINALIZED BY STAR WARS. “John Boyega: ‘I’m the only cast member whose experience of Star Wars was based on their race'” – a British GQ interview.

With the Lucasfilm-branded elephant in the room acknowledged, it is even harder to ignore. This is Boyega’s first substantial interview since finishing the franchise – his first since last year’s The Rise Of Skywalker tied a highly contentious, hurried ribbon on the 43-year-old space saga. How does he reflect on his involvement and the way the newest trilogy was concluded?

“It’s so difficult to manoeuvre,” he says, exhaling deeply, visibly calibrating the level of professional diplomacy to display. “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.” He is talking about himself here – about the character of Finn, the former Stormtrooper who wielded a lightsaber in the first film before being somewhat nudged to the periphery. But he is also talking about other people of colour in the cast – Naomi Ackie and Kelly Marie Tran and even Oscar Isaac (“a brother from Guatemala”) – who he feels suffered the same treatment; he is acknowledging that some people will say he’s “crazy” or “making it up”, but the reordered character hierarchy of The Last Jedi was particularly hard to take.

“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

(2) IN PLAIN SIGHT. On June 25 Gollancz (the SF/Fantasy/Horror imprint of Orion Books) released the first three books in McCaffery’s Dragonflight series as audiobooks. Artist Allison Mann noticed something about the art that was used. Thread begins here.

Someone else tweeted a possible source for the art on their Dragonflight audiobook as well.

(3) JETPACK CROSSING. The Los Angeles Times reports an incident near the airport: “A jet pack at LAX? Maybe. Jet packs are very real”.

It sounds like something out of a movie: An American Airlines pilot calls the control tower at Los Angeles International Airport to warn that his plane just flew past someone in midair — a person wearing a jet pack.

But the pilot really did give that warning Sunday night, and it wasn’t laughed off. The FBI is investigating….

JetPack Aviation Corp., based in Van Nuys, says it’s the only one to have developed a jet pack that can be worn like a backpack. The technology is real: Chief Executive David Mayman demonstrated it five years ago by flying around the Statue of Liberty, and his company has created five of them.

So it’s not out of the question that someone could have been soaring above the airport last weekend, giving pilots a scare.

Mayman was quick to say that if a jet pack was involved, it wasn’t one of his. JetPack Aviation keeps its five packs locked down, he said, and they’re not for sale. The company does offer flying lessons at $4,950 a pop, but he said students are attached to a wire and can’t stray too far.

None of the company’s competitors sell their products to consumers either, Mayman said.

The weekend incident “got us all wondering whether there’s been someone working in skunkworks on this,” he said, using a term for a secret project. Or maybe, he mused, the airline pilot saw some kind of electric-powered drone with a mannequin attached.

CNN reports the exchanges wth the tower went like this:

“Tower. American 1997. We just passed a guy on a jetpack,” the first plane called in. “Off the left side maybe 300 — 30 yards or so. About our altitude.”

About 10 minutes later, another plane spotted the man.

“We just saw the guy fly by us on the jetpack,” the crew told the traffic controller.

According to the communications, air traffic control warned a JetBlue flight to “use caution… person on a jetpack reported 300 yards south.”

After the plane acknowledged the instruction, the controller concluded with: “Only in LA.”

(4) YOUR OVERDUE FUTURE. The Irish Times constructed their checklist with the help of a 1974 sf collection: “Promises, promises: What is 2020 not delivering?” Everything besides jetpacks, I guess.

2020 is one of those years. No, not in that sense (well, obviously in that sense but that’s not what we’re talking about here…). No, 2020 is one of those years that tends to crop up in 20th century science fiction as a key year, a momentous one. A year by which time certain prophecies will have come true.

Back in the seventies, publisher Jerry Pournelle published an anthology book called 2020 Vision, for which he sought contributions from such noted sci-fi authors as Harlan EllisonLarry Niven, and Ben Bova. While some of the predictions, such as robot chefs, deep-space exploration by humans, and, erm, “An adult playground where law is enforced by remote control” haven’t come to pass (unless I’m missing something…) a few did. Several of the stories have mentions of mobile communication technology, while Prognosis: Terminal by David McDaniel posits a future where there is “a gigantic world brain to which everyone is infinitely connected.” Sounds like the internet to me…

(5) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. At the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Philissa Cramer asks “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ contains a plot point that resembles an age-old anti-Semitic lie. Why?”

Hiram Epstein, the episode reveals, was a University of Chicago scientist who conducted gruesome experiments on Black children and adults in the basement of the Winthrop House, a decrepit mansion in a white neighborhood that a main character, Leti Lewis, purchases and renovates. His spirit haunts the home, making it unsafe for Leti and her tenants and friends, until an exorcism summons the mutilated bodies of his victims and restores psychic order.

Epstein’s story calls to mind the way that Jews have been accused for centuries of stealing the blood of non-Jewish children to use in religious rituals, often to make matzah for Passover, in what is known as a “blood libel.” The blood libel charge was leveled routinely at Jews beginning in the Middle Ages, and it was used to justify countless deadly pogroms and vigilante actions. A blood libel charge tore apart an upstate New York town in 1928, and the trope featured prominently in Nazi propaganda.

Could “Lovecraft Country,” which deals so elegantly with the Black American experience, really have a blood libel embedded in its plot? On Twitter, I found a single reaction to Hiram Epstein’s name — one that matched my own.

Scholars who study anti-Semitism had more to say. The plot point “falls right into the category of a new version of the blood libel,” Elissa Bemporad, a scholar of Jewish history at Queens College who recently published a book about blood libels in the Soviet Union, told me. “The name Epstein gives it away. This clearly builds on the blood libel trope and narrative — the question of children as victims of the alleged crime, and the fact that the perpetrator is a man. Anti-Semitism, like racism, is so often gendered.”

The Epstein name isn’t present in the original novel on which the series is based, “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff. There, the ghost that haunts the house Leti buys is named Hiram Winthrop — explaining the mansion’s name — and he isn’t a doctor. (He also isn’t nearly as scary.) The series adds a more recent owner who colluded with local police to facilitate abductions and experimentation.

…But intention is only part of the picture when assessing stereotypes in popular culture, according to Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“I don’t want to say you can never have a villain in a movie or TV show have a stereotypically Jewish name,” Tuchman said. “But you need to educate yourself. When you’re dealing with a topic that is so fraught as allegations of ritual murder, then to know that these allegations have been leveled against Jews for thousands of years is something you need to pay attention to.”

(6) BEST PRACTICE? John Scalzi delivered “A Quick Note on the Malleting of Comments” to Whatever readers today.

I’ve recently begun to see an upswing in comments which begin with some variation of “I expect this comment to be deleted/malleted/otherwise expunged, but…” I think this is done for two reasons. About five percent of the time it’s someone genuinely not knowing whether what they’re about to write is going to cross the line with regard to my moderation policies. The rest of the time it’s a warding spell and/or pre-emptive smugness at transgression; either “not in the face!” or “see, I told you.”

Either way I find it passive-aggressive and annoying, so here’s a new guideline I’ve begun implementing: When I see some variation of “I expect this comment to get the Mallet,” I’m going to stop reading the comment there, and will most likely then Mallet the comment — not necessarily because the comment was in itself mallet-worthy (although it might have been, who knows), but simply because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to disappoint the person making the comment….

(7) BLACK SUN. “Rebecca Roanhorse’s Genre-bending New Novel” – a Publishers Weekly profile by Dhonielle Clayton.

…She encountered many half-Native characters in popular urban fantasy series, but noticed how those characters were divorced from their heritages. “They didn’t interact with the heroes and gods and monsters of Native cultures,” she explains. She says she started thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a story where a character was very Native? Very attached to her culture and surrounded by brown people, and in a world that I knew?”

She’d been practicing Indian law and living in the Navajo nation with her husband and daughter when she started thinking about writing more seriously. It was at this point that she began working on what would become her debut fantasy, the Locus-winning and Hugo-nominated novel Trail of Lightning (Saga Press), which was published in 2018, when Roanhorse was in her 40s.

“So I just decided to write it. I wrote it purely for myself and for the joy of writing, and to keep myself sane while being a lawyer,” she says. “I didn’t even know people like me could be writers. An editor asked me why I waited so long to start writing, and I said ‘I didn’t know that I could be a science fiction and fantasy writer.’ I didn’t come to see people like Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin until later, so I didn’t see anyone writing this genre that looked like me. So I didn’t even know it was an option.”

(8) WOMEN IN COMICS. When The Society of Illustrators in New York reopens on September 9, one of its exhibits will be “Women in Comics: Looking Forward and Back”. Afua Richardson, a Dublin 2019 Feautured Artist, is one of the many who will have work on display.

Over 50 women cartoonists from vintage comic strips to cutting edge graphic novels explore themes common to the female experience such as love, sexuality, motherhood, creativity, discrimination, and independence. 75 works drawn from the collection of the author and herstorian Trina Robbins show a progression of witty women from the Flapper era to the psychedelic women’s comix of the 1970s…

Building on this foundation, 20 contemporary women cartoonists will be showing work from new or upcoming publications…

By Afua Richardson.

(9) EX CATHEDRA. In Episode 35 of their Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss say a sad farewell to John Bangsund, and discuss three quirky films of Terry Gilliam: Time Bandits, Brazil and 12 Monkeys: ?“The gifted grotesqueries of Gilliam”.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2013 – NESFA Press published The Road to Amber: Volume 6: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. It reprinted the first of the Francis Sandow series, “Dismal Light”, published in the May 1986 issue of If, where this character first appears. The story comes before Isle Of Dead, the prequel to To Die in Italbar. (Zelazny would narrate the audiobook version of this as he did Isle of Dead and Home is The Hangman but they were never digitized.) It would also include the not-previously-collected piece in the series, “Sandow’s Shadow (Outline)”. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo.” He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger ManDepartment SThe Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number Fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral”. The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen Way. She shows up on Doctor Who twice, first as Old Mother in the First Doctor story, “The Forest of Fear,” and later in a major role as Karela in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Creature from the Pit”. She’d also shows up on the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as simply Old Woman at the age of fifty-five. Other genre appearances i think is limited to an appearance on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. Well unless you count The Saint which is at best genre adjacent. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1918 – Allen Drury.  I came to Advise and Consent long after its years as a NY Times Best Seller; it’s first-rate; it’s moved by 1950s values – what else would people write in 1959? and I don’t read books to be agreed with.  Five SF sequels (Advise isn’t SF), a novel about a Mars mission, two about ancient Egypt, a dozen others outside our field, five nonfiction books. Two of the Advise sequels are mutually incompatible, each supposing a different assassination.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1925 Peter Hunt. He was the Editor, yes Editor, on five of the better Bond films (Dr. NoFrom Russia with LoveGoldfingerThunderball and You Only Live Twice), and also the much lesser On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was also responsible for a Gulliver’s Travels and, I’m not kidding about the title, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star which I’ve never heard of but gets a stellar 75% rating from audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. He directed the title sequence of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1942 – Demi, 78.  Born in Massachusetts, M.A. from Univ. Baroda.  Seventy books she illustrated herself, e.g. Liang and the Magic PaintbrushDragon Kites and DragonfliesThe Magic BoatOne Grain of RiceThe Firebird; illustrated for others, e.g. Yolen’s Dragon Night, James’ Eucalyptus Wings.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1944 – Roland Green, 76.  Seventy novels, thirty shorter stories, some with co-authors e.g. wife Frieda Murray.  Three dozen reviews in Far Frontiers including Bridge of Birds and Heart of the Comet.  One anthology with Bujold, another with Turtledove.  Inconsequential SF Tales for the Worldcon bid that won and hosted Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon).  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1946 Walter Simonson, 74. Comic writer and artist who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well. His artwork on the RoboCop Versus The Terminator that Dark Horse did is amazing. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1951 Mark Harmon, 69. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, but he’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan. (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1953 – Gary Lippincott, 67.  Thirty covers, a score of interiors.  Here is the Jan 95 F&SF.  Here is Little, Big.  Here is “Tori and Friends”.  Here is The Prince and the Pauper (M. Mayer adaptation).  Artbook Making Magic.  Three Chesleys.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1955 Steve Berry, 65. Author of the Cotton Malone series which is either genre or genre adjacent depending on where your personal boundaries fall. There’s five in the series now with the first being The Templar Legacy. He also self-published a Captain America novel, Never Forgotten, and a Star Wars story as well, “Crash Landing”, which makes him a fanfic writer as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1972 – Justine Musk, 48.  In a highly various life she’s written three novels for us, three shorter stories.  Taught English as a Second Language in Japan.  “Love without power is anemic, as Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out, and power without love is tyranny….  We *cannot* … dismiss the subject altogether because it is distasteful to us.  The point is not to play the same old game, whether we’re buying into it or rebelling against it.”  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1977 – Fuminori Nakamura, 43.  Kenzaburô Ôe Prize for The Thief, called a chilling philosophical novel.  Evil and the Mask is ours.  A dozen more novels (five translated into English so far), four collections of shorter stories.  David Goodis Award.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • At The Far Side, all the mathematicians go: oh, the horror. 

(13) BUSIEK, AHMED HAVE STORIES IN SPIDER-MAN MILESTONE ISSUE. Spider-Man reaches another milestone this month with Amazing Spider-Man #850, the latest issue in writer Nick Spencer’s run on the title. The issue features the return of Spider-Man’s greatest villain, the Green Goblin. There’s a trailer for it here.

There will also be a trio of back-up stories by “Spidey legends of past, present and future to drive home that Spider-Man is the greatest character in all of fiction!”

Those back-up tales are by Kurt Busiek, Chris Bachalo, Tradd Moore, Saladin Ahmed, and Aaron Kuder. Amazing Spider-Man #850 hits stands September 30.

(14) SAVING THROW. “Neil Gaiman Endorses Petition To Save Constantine Comic”ScreenRant has the story.

The effort to save the Constantine comic book from cancellation just won a welcome ally; author Neil Gaiman. Not only has Gaiman shared a Change.Org petition regarding the endangered book on his social media, but he has allowed his name to be officially tied to the fan-driven effort to save John Constantine: Hellblazer.

The recent acquisition of Warner Bros. by AT&T has led to widespread turmoil across the entertainment industry. This is particularly true at DC Entertainment, which lost one-third of its staff in the wake of the latest round of lay-offs. This coincided with the cancellation of a number of low-selling titles, including John Constantine: Hellblazer, which had only seen eight issues hit the stands since its premiere in 2019

Despite not having a lengthy run on the original Hellblazer series, Gaiman is still closely associated with the character of John Constantine. Gaiman wrote a one-off story for Hellblazer, “Hold Me,” which was printed in Hellblazer #27 and centered around Constantine trying to put the spirit of a homeless man who froze to death to rest. “Hold Me” is widely considered to be one of the best one-shot stories to feature John Constantine ever written. Gaiman also gave Constantine a prominent role in the first Sandman graphic novel, Preludes and Nocturnes, with Dream of the Endless turning to Constantine for assistance in recovering his magical bag of sand, which Constantine had owned at one time.

(15) DISCOVERING DRESDEN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Similar to my belatedly recentish reading of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series (only one more to go now, I think, waiting for library loan request to be fulfilled), I’d seen references to The Dresden Files — Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books — I hadn’t investigated (read) any until a year or two ago, when a friend recommended them, and lent me one, to prime the pump.

I enjoy this kind of thing in a limited amount, but enjoyed ’em enough to add Dresden to my reading list.

As of yesterday, having finished Peace Talks, the newest, I’m caught up —  until the end of this month, when Battle Ground comes out. (I’m like 30th in line on my library’s request queue, so hopefully I’ll get my loan fulfilled by Halloween.)

Harry’s a wizard. Not to be confused with that British kid, either. Dresden is a wizard operating as a PI in Chicago, in a world where there’s magic beings and stuff — fae, vamps, spirits, etc — although most of the world remains unaware of such. Like any PI, Dresden’s cases and other events means that he takes a lot of lumps, to say the least. Like Spenser (and, to be fair, >75% of PIs, it would seem), Dresden is a wise-cracking hard-ass, and he does it well.

If you’re already a Dresden fan, you’ve probably already read this newest book. If you haven’t, you’ll enjoy it. One non-spoiler note, Peace Talks doesn’t wrap up its events, so it’s a good thing Battle Ground is coming out soon.

If you like this kind of stuff, consider ’em. (Start in order, with Storm Front.)

BTW, here’s the video trailer from March 2020 announcement.

(16) REFERENCE DROPPED — FROM A GREAT HEIGHT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 29 Financial Times, Guy Chazan interviews Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti, who was aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

The expedition her crew joined was number 42 — the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything in Douglas Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Christoforetti describes the coincidence as ‘awesome.’  An avid Adams fan, she made sure the poster for Expedition 42 was modelled after the one for the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, while her last tweet from the ISS said ‘So long and thanks for all the fish” — a reference to the message left by the dolphins in Adams’s book when they abandoned a shortly-to-be-demolished Planet Earth.

(17) FUTURE TENSE. The August 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary,” by Tochi Onyebuchi, a story about artificial intelligence, systemic racism, and reparations.

It was published along with a response essay by Charlton McIlvain, a historian of race and technology,  “Racism Cannot Be Reduced to Mere Computation” which begins –

Tochi Onyebuchi’s “How to Pay Reparations” spoke to me. Its themes rang virtually every note of my twentysomething-year-long career. In 1998, I made my first digital footprint with a signed online petition in support of reparations for the Tulsa race riots. I endured countless run-ins with Oklahoma good ol’ boys while crisscrossing the state, working for candidates representing a perpetually losing political party. As an academic, I researched Black politicians and white racial resentment, and testified as an expert in federal court about cases of reverse redlining and housing discrimination. And as a historian of technology, I’ve chronicled—like Onyebuchi—the stories of hope and despair wrought by computing technology on Blackness and Black people, in the service of an ever-triumphant white racial order.

(18) WHAT VASICEK STANDS FOR. Joe Vasicek’s title “White Science Fiction and Fantasy Doesn’t Matter” [Internet Archive] is far from the most hallucinatory claim uttered in his post, which conflates the Worldcon’s awards with the state of the sff field, and adds to a Lost Cause mythology that ignores Vox Day’s central (and Sad Puppy-sanctioned)  role in what happened in 2015.

The United States of America is currently engaged in a violent struggle that will determine whether this hyper-racist intersectional ideology will defeat the populist uprising that has its champion in Trump, or whether the country will reject this new form of Marxism and come back from the brink of insanity. But in science fiction and fantasy, the war is already over, and the intersectionalists have won. It is now only a matter of time before they purge the field of everything—and everyone—that is white.

The last chance for the SF&F community to come back from the brink was probably in 2015. The intersectionalists were ascendant, but they hadn’t yet taken over the field. (That happened in 2016, when N.K. Jemisin, an avowed social justice warrior and outspoken champion for anti-white identity politics, won the Hugo Award for best new novel for the next three consecutive years.) A populist uprising within fandom known as the Puppies attempted to push back, and were smeared as racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes, and Nazis. Whatever your opinion of the Puppies (and there were some bad eggs among them, to be sure), they did not deserve to be silenced, ridiculed, shouted down, and threatened with all manner of violence and death threats for their grievances. After the Puppies were purged, the intersectionalists took over and began to reshape the field in their image.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer wasn’t renamed the Astounding Award because Campbell was a racist (even though he was). His name was stripped from the award because the people who renamed it are racists—not in the bullshit way the intersectionalists have redefined it, but in the true sense of the word: discrimination based based on race….

(19) SECOND LIFE LIMITS VIRTUAL CAMPAIGNS. After yesterday’s story about Biden-Harris yard signs in Animal Crossing it’s interesting to read New World Notes reporting “Second Life Bans Political Billboards From Public Lands After Pro-Trump & Anti-Trump Signs Choke The Virtual Sky”.

Another US Presidential election year, another clash of ideas in Second Life. As has been the case since 2004, the virtual world has recently been festooned with political billboards, much or most of them pro-Trump or anti-Trump — though as with Facebook, it seems like the pro-Trump forces have had the upper hand.

“There was a couple of people setting up lots of mini ad farms for Trump and some places had been plastered in far right slogans and adverts,” SL veteran “0xc0ffea” tells me. 

Some commonly trafficked areas in Second Life have devolved into a veritable battle of billboards, with “Re-elect Trump” and other Trump friendly signs such as “Police Lives Matter” having to share the same space with snarky rejoinders like: “Trump/Putin – Make America Hate Again”. 

This time, however, Second Life owner Linden Lab responded, updating its policy on virtual world advertising to prohibit ad content that are “political in nature” from the SL mainland, which the company maintains. (This policy does not apply to privately-owned regions and continents.)

(20) GHOSTS IN AMERICA. Brett Riley is “Searching For Haunted Fiction In American Literature” at CrimeReads.

Back in college, one of my American Literature professors once argued that the problem with trying to write American gothic fiction is that the country isn’t old enough to have any ruined castles or ancient bloodlines. She had a point, but with ghost stories, you don’t necessarily need ancient history or locales that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. You just need “unfinished business.” A character might die under mysterious circumstances. Foul play is suspected, but the perpetrators are never brought to justice. Or maybe an untimely death stops a character from completing a crucial task or realizing a lifelong goal. In general, something terrible or tragic happens, and the victim of these circumstances suffers so much pain, despair, or outrage that their essence cannot “move on.” A piece of themselves remains—sometimes benign, sometimes dangerous or even murderous.

When a work is labeled a “ghost story,” the reader likely assumes a certain set of tropes—the spectral figure floating through a darkened room or across a foggy landscape; a crumbling, moldy, dank, littered building set on a hill, or on the outskirts of town, or behind a rotting fence; a quirky harbinger of doom who tries to warn the protagonists of the dangers they will soon face; moonlit graveyards; and, perhaps most crucially, a particular history that weighs down the characters with specifically emotional tonnage….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The other day we introduced some ambience recordings. On Facebook John DeChancie pointed out another one — an hour’s worth of “Spaceship Nostromo Sounds.” Yeah, that will put me perfectly at ease!

In this video you can experience the digital recreation of the USCSS Nostromo from the game Alien Isolation. The main story of Alien Isolation is about Amanda Ripley who is searching for her missing mother Ellen. It takes place 15 years after the first Alien movie and the disappearance of the Nostromo. In the main story you don’t really come in contact with the ship but the DLC “Expandable Crew” lets you play an iconic scene from the first movie which takes place on the Nostromo. This video showcases the interior of that ship including space ship ambience sounds. So try to relax on a ship that might have a Xenomorph on board 🙂

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Rose Embolism, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/17/20 Unlikely To Not Have Been Used Before

(1) BUSIEK LIVE. Filer Kurt Busiek will be interviewed by Mark Evanier. The livestream starts August 18 at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.

Just two comic book writers sitting around, hundreds of miles apart, talking about comics. Mark Evanier chats with his pal Kurt Busiek about the comic book field and what some people don’t understand about it.

(2) STAMPING IT OUT. In the Washington Post, retired admiral William H. McRaven, who served as the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011-14, says that the 1997 movie The Postman is a fairly accurate description of the problems America faces in 2020. “Trump is actively working to undermine the Postal Service — and every major U.S. institution”.

In the 1997 film “The Postman,” set in post-apocalyptic America, Kevin Costner plays a drifter trying to restore order to the United States by providing one essential service, mail delivery. In the story, hate crimes, racially motivated attacks and a plague have caused the breakdown of society as we know it. In his quest to restore order and dignity to the nation, the Postman tries to recruit other postal workers to help rebuild the U.S.?government. But Costner’s character is opposed by the evil General Bethlehem, who is fighting to suppress the postal carriers so he can establish a totalitarian government. Fortunately, our hero, gaining inspiration from the motto, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night,” fights on against Bethlehem and saves the country.Not surprisingly, the movie was panned by critics and was a financial disaster. I mean really, racial strife and a plague so bad that it threatened our society? And even if that happened, who would try to destroy the Postal Service? Where do they come up with these crazy plots?

In retrospect, maybe we should give the movie another look. Today, as we struggle with social upheaval, soaring debt, record unemployment, a runaway pandemic, and rising threats from China and Russia, President Trump is actively working to undermine every major institution in this country….

(3) EXTRAS. After Hastings author Steven H Silver, who shared “The Novels I Didn’t Write” with File 770 readers today, has collected this essay, the related ones published at John Scalzi’s and Mary Robinette Kowal’s blogs and Black Gate, as well as the information from his After Hastings website into a chapbook that is available for $3 plus postage (also available as a pdf). Silver says, “People interested can e-mail me.  It runs to about 10,000 words.” Contact him at: shsilver@sfsite.com

(4) TERRY PRATCHETT ON THE EXPENSIVENESS OF POVERTY. [Item by rcade.] A passage from the legendary Terry Pratchett is making the rounds on Twitter as a lesson on why being poor costs a lot of money:

It’s from his 2003 Discworld novel Men at Arms and also turns up in Sarah Skwire’s article for The Library of Economics and Liberty “Buying Boots”

It’s not clear whether Ankh-Morpork has a functioning credit system. (Paper money doesn’t appear in the city until Making Money, the 40th novel in the series, for example). It’s also not clear–given the general rough and tumble aspects of Ankh-Morpork’s “business” community–whether borrowing money is a particularly safe notion.

And here on Moneywise as an illustration of why poor people can’t save money: “Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness”.

Captain Vimes from Discworld knew that he should buy the good boots, but he simply couldn’t afford it. This problem can be delayed by access to credit, but it’s not the solution, nor should it be. Those with less immediate access to money can make their lives easier with proper use of credit, budgeting, personal savings, and frugal purchasing.

(5) STARING AT THE HORIZON. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Miles Surrey at The Ringer pays tribute to one of the classics of dark 1990s science fiction cinema, and tries to explain the enduring appeal of a movie that barely rates a 30 per cent on Metacritic. “One of the key reasons something as wicked as Event Horizon holds rewatch value: As long as you can stomach the gore, Dr. Weir’s (Sam Neil) pivot from sympathetic scientist to full-blown emissary of hell is a campy tour de force.” “’Hell Is Only a Word’: The Enduring Terror of ‘Event Horizon’”.

For films that feature a character descending into madness, it’s all about the look. Jack Torrance, staring out into the endless blizzard outside the Overlook Hotel; Travis Bickle, shaving his head into a Mohawk; Colonel Kurtz, moving out of the shadows of his decaying temple. Sometimes, a striking image tells you everything you need to know. For Sam Neill’s character in a criminally overlooked horror film from 1997, it’s the sight of him sitting in the captain’s chair of a doomed spaceship, having torn out his own eyes.

“Where we’re going,” he says, “we won’t need eyes to see.”

(6) FUTURE AURORA AWARDS. At the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association annual general meeting over the weekend it was decided that the current Short Fiction category would be split into two awards for 2021.  The new categories will be: Short Story for works that have less than 7,500 words and Novelette/Novella for works that have a word counts between 40,000 and 7,500. 

The 2021 award ceremony will be held in Ottawa at Can-Con. It was also decided that the 2022 Auroras would be again be held in Calgary at When Words Collide.

(7) YOU’RE FIRED. “The Week Old Hollywood Finally, Actually Died” – the New York Times ran the obituary.

For decades, the best thing about being a Hollywood executive, really, was how you got fired. Studio executives would be gradually, gently, even lovingly, nudged aside, given months to shape their own narratives and find new work, or even promoted. When Amy Pascal was pushed out of Sony Pictures in 2015, she got an exit package and production deal worth a reported $40 million.

That, of course, was before streaming services arrived, upending everything with a ruthless logic and coldhearted efficiency.

That was never more clear than on Aug. 7, when WarnerMedia abruptly eliminated the jobs of hundreds of employees, emptying the executive suite at the once-great studio that built Hollywood, and is now the subsidiary of AT&T. In a series of brisk video calls, executives who imagined they were studio eminences were reminded that they work — or used to work — at the video division of a phone company. The chairman of WarnerMedia Entertainment, Bob Greenblatt, learned that he’d been fired the morning of the day the news broke, two people he spoke to told me. Jeffrey Schlesinger, a 37-year company veteran who ran the lucrative international licensing business, complained to friends that he had less than an hour’s notice, two other people told me.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 17, 1960  — The Time Machine premiered. The work of legendary director George Pal, it was  based on the H.G. Wells novella of the same name. Pal also handled the production. The screenplay was by David Duncan, noted genre writer. It would lose out at Seacon to the Twilight Zone series for Best Dramatic Presentation. Cast was Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot and Whit Bissell. Some critics liked it, some didn’t, and most thought the love interest angle sucked. It did very, very well at the box office. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent 80% rating.  (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 17, 1920 – Lida Moser.  Six decades as a photographer; pioneer in photojournalism.  This (“Two Workers, Exxon”) I respectfully suggest is more interesting than some she’s famous for.  So is this of Judy Collins.  LM did all four Cities in Flight novels; here is The Triumph of Time.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 17, 1923 Julius Harris. He’s Tee Hee Johnson, the metal armed henchman courtesy of a crocodile in Live and Let Die, the eighth Bond film. Other genre appearances are scant — he’s a gravedigger in Darkman, boat crew in King Kong and he shows up in the horror film Shrunken Heads. He had one-offs in The Incredible Hulk and the Friday the 13th series. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born August 17, 1930 Harve Bennett. The individual who gave us Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Really he did. He would then serve as Producer on the next three Trek films, The Search for SpockThe Voyage Home and The Final Frontier. His only on-scene appearance is in the latter as the Starfleet Chief of Staff. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 17, 1933 Glenn Corbett. He shows up on the original Trek in “Metamorphosis” as the first incarnation of Zefram Cochrane. Other genre one-offs were The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Land of The GiantsThe ImmortalFantasy Island and Night Gallery. He appeared as General Kevin Matthews in City Beneath the Sea, the pilot for the series that was meant to replace Trek after it was cancelled but never got the green light. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 17, 1945 Rachael Pollack, 75. She’s getting a Birthday note for her scripting duties on her run of issues 64–87 (1993-1995) on Doom Patrol. (Jim Lee confirmed this week that DC Universe is going to be a straight comics service like a Marvel Unlimited.) She’s also assisted in the creation of the Vertigo Tarot Deck with McKean and Gaiman, and she wrote a book to go with it. (CE)
  • Born August 17, 1950 – Sutton Breiding, 70.  Five dozen poems; some in Star*Line, even.  Four short stories.  Many of our more poetic writers, like Niven, or William Hope Hodgson, paint it through their prose; SB’s renown rests on it.  [JH]
  • Born August 17, 1952 – Susan Carroll, 68.  Ten novels for us; many others, some under different names.  Three Rita Awards.  Ranks Gargantua and Pantagruel about even with Tristram Shandy.  It seems right that the first and second in one series should be entitled The Bride Finder and The Night Drifter.  [JH]
  • Born August 17, 1959 – SMS, 61.  (Pronounced and sometimes written “smuzz”.)  Two dozen covers, two hundred interiors.  Interview (“Art and Metaphysics at Party-Time”) in Interzone.  Captain Airstrip One comic strip with Chris Brasted and Alan Moore in Mad Dog, reprinted in Journey Planet.  Here is Vector 152.  Here is InterZone 100 featuring SMS.  Here is The Ant-Men of Tibet.  Here is The Derring-Do Club and the Invasion of the Grey.  [JH]
  • Born August 17, 1960 – Fangorn, 60.  Five dozen covers, a dozen interiors; graphic novels, films, games. Two BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards for artwork.  Here is Myth Conceptions.  Here is Outcast of Redwall.  Here is Wourism.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 54 (U.K. nat’l con), NewCon 3, Bristol-Con 2016; scheduled for Novacon 50 (postponed).  [JH]
  • Born August 17, 1962 Laura Resnick, 58. Daughter of Mike Resnick. She is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction for “No Room for the Unicorn”. I’ve not read her Manhattan Magic series so I’m interested to know what y’all think of it. She’s readily available ion iBooks and Kindle. (CE) 
  • Born August 17, 1966 Neil Clarke, 54. Editor in Chief of Clarkesworld Magazine which has won an impressive three Best Semiprozine Hugos. SFWA also gave him a Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. He also edits The Best Science Fiction of the Year series for Night Shade Books.  (CE)
  • Born August 17, 1973 – Rae Carson, 47.  Ten novels, eight shorter stories; some for Star WarsThe Great Zeppelin Heist of Oz (with husband C.C. Finlay).  The Girl of Fire and Thorns NY Times Best Seller.  I found this: “Rae, tomorrow is my last day as mayor of [omitted – jh]…. an almost former executive woman leader…. it was edifying … to read a book that got the perils of leadership and faith *so right*.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FOCUS. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America listed Focus on the Family Clubhouse in its August 2020 Market Report. (The Google cache file to the listing is here while it lasts.) The listing has been withdrawn.

(12) THE END IS HERE.

(13) BUT IS IT EXCELLENT? Parade Magazine interviewed the talent: “Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter Open Up About Their Excellent Adventures in Bill & Ted Face the Music .

Why do you think the first Bill & Ted became an almost instant cult classic?

Reeves: I think there’s an originality to it—the script, the words and the voices of these characters that had a friendship, a sincerity and an indomitable will. They’re clever, there’s a lot of heart to them, they’re funny and unique.

Winter: Even when we first got the script when we were young, it was that dichotomy of the language being very ornate while the characters are kind of childlike. The writers and producers found it funny that we were taking the language so seriously. But then it’s packed with a lot of stuff, a lot of characters. The movie moves like a freight train.

(14) SOME VOLUME AIR CONDITIONING. A departing research group leader leaves a note “To the future occupants of my office at the MIT Media Lab”.

…I’m leaving the note because the previous occupant left me a note of sorts. I was working here late one night. I looked up above my desk and saw a visegrip pliers attached to part of the HVAC system. I climbed up to investigate and found a brief note telling the MIT facilities department that the air conditioning had been disabled (using the vice grips, I presume) as part of a research project and that one should contact him with any questions.

That helped explain one of the peculiarities of the office. When I moved in, attached to the window was a contraption that swallowed the window handle and could be operated with red or green buttons attached to a small circuitboard. Press the green button and the window would open very, very slowly. Red would close it equally slowly. I wondered whether the mysterious researcher might be able to remove it and reattach the window handle. So I emailed him….

(15) CALIFORNIA IS SMOKIN’ AGAIN. They could use more A/C here: “‘Highest temperature on Earth’ as Death Valley, US hits 54.4C”. Also a picture of the “firenado” in Northern California.

What could be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth – 130F (54.4C) – may have been reached in Death Valley National Park, California.

The recording is being verified by the US National Weather Service.

It comes amid a heatwave on the US’s west coast, where temperatures are forecast to rise further this week.

The scorching conditions have led to two days of blackouts in California, after a power plant malfunctioned on Saturday.

“It’s an oppressive heat and it’s in your face,” Brandi Stewart, who works at Death Valley National Park, told the BBC.

Ms Stewart has lived and worked at the national park on and off for five years. She spends a lot of her time indoors in August because it’s simply too uncomfortable to be outside.

“When you walk outside it’s like being hit in the face with a bunch of hairdryers,” she said. “You feel the heat and it’s like walking into an oven and the heat is just all around you.”

More in the New York Times about these: “Fire Tornadoes Reported in Northern California Wildfire” (same picture as in the BBC story.)

The National Weather Service said it was planning to investigate reports of a rare occurrence of fire tornadoes arising on Saturday from a 20,000-acre wildfire in Northern California.

Dawn Johnson, a meteorologist with the service in Reno, Nev., said on Sunday that the agency had received reports of fire tornadoes in an area of Lassen County, Calif., about 25 miles northwest of Reno.

“It’s not like a typical tornado where it happens, everything clears out and you safely go and investigate,” Ms. Johnson said. “In this case, there’s a massive wildfire burning in the same location, so the logistics are a lot more complicated.”

Doppler radar showed at least five rotation signatures, but Ms. Johnson said she could not confirm that they would all be classified as fire tornadoes.

(16) PANDEMIC PROTECTION + SECOND AMENDMENT = ? “The Hero We Need Built a Gun That Shoots Masks Onto People’s Faces”Gizmodo introduces him to the world. The GIF at the top of the article is…I admit it, I laughed.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says this film has characters rolling around in hamster balls, and if you lean the wrong way you’ll die!

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

Six Posthumous Recipients to Receive 2020 Bill Finger Award

Six writers who contributed mightily to the history of comics have been selected to receive the 2020 Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. The selection, made by a blue-ribbon committee chaired by writer-historian Mark Evanier, was announced July 15.

“In a year where Comic-Con cannot take place, it seemed wrong to honor, as we usually do, one posthumous writer and one who is still with us,” Evanier explained. “The one who is still with us would be denied the full honors of being brought to the convention and presented with the award onstage. Therefore, after much discussion, we decided to instead present no ‘alive’ award this year, and, assuming there is a convention in 2021, we will present two of those awards then. For 2020, we have selected six writers from the dozens who have been nominated to receive the posthumous award. Each of these six during their time in the industry produced a body of work that the judges deem worthy of more recognition and/or reward than it has received.”

The Bill Finger Award was created in 2005 at the suggestion of the late Jerry Robinson, who worked with Finger, knew him, and was disturbed that Bill had received so little credit and compensation for his work in comics, especially with regard to Batman and that character’s supporting cast and world. As Evanier explains, “Though Bill Finger now receives a lot more recognition than he received in his lifetime, there are still many who do not, and that’s why we keep giving out these awards.”

In addition to Evanier, the Finger Award selection committee consists of Charles Kochman (executive editor at Harry N. Abrams, book publisher), comic book writer Kurt Busiek, artist/historian Jim Amash, cartoonist Scott Shaw!, and writer/editor Marv Wolfman.

This year’s recipients are, in alphabetical order:

Virginia Hubbell Bloch (1914-2006)

The writing of Virginia Hubbell Bloch—almost wholly uncredited, some signed by others—could be found for years in the pages of Lev Gleason Publications, MLJ Comics, and Dell Comics in the forties and fifties. A poet and copywriter before she met her first husband, comic book artist Cari Hubbell, she began writing scripts, some drawn by her husband and some not, in 1941 for MLJ, which would later be known as the Archie company. That was where she met editor-writer Charles Biro, who encouraged her to write comics and who went on to become the most famous comic book writer of his day, often credited on covers. Artists who worked for him at Lev Gleason later told historians that many of the scripts credited to Biro were clearly ghostwritten by Virginia Hubbell, especially for the popular Boy Comics and the Lev Gleason version of Daredevil. On her own, she also wrote for Marvel, St. John, and Western Publishing, where she mainly wrote Little Lulu. She also wrote plays and children’s books, credited (when she was credited) as Virginia Bloch after she divorced Carl and remarried.


Nicola Cuti (1944-2020)

Nick Cuti began his writing (and drawing) career in 1968 with the self-published underground comic book Moonchild, much of which was done while he was serving in the Air Force. After his service, the popularity of Moonchild led to a series of jobs, including working for animator Ralph Bakshi, assisting artist Wally Wood, and serving as an assistant editor and writer at Charlton. Charlton led to Warren Publishing, and Warren led to DC. Along the way, he co-created E-Man and a spinoff comic, Michael Mauser, with artist Joe Staton. Cuti’s writing for those comics won great critical acclaim, especially in bringing a fresh approach and a healthy sense of humor to a superhero title like E-Man. He later worked extensively as an artist in animation, as a writer-producer of short independent films, and an author of both text and graphic novels, some of which revived his beloved Moonchild. Nick left us earlier this year, and we look forward to a representative of his family joining us at the 2021 ceremony for a more formal recognition of his work.


Leo Dorfman (1914-1974)

Leo Dorfman began his comic book writing career in 1950, following years of writing mystery and romance novels under a wide array of pseudonyms. Utterly uncredited for most of his first two decades in comics, he first worked for Fawcett Comics until they cut back in production and sent all their freelancers scurrying for other markets. It wasn’t until 1957 that he connected with Western Publishing, writing westerns based on TV shows such as Cheyenne and Gunsmoke at first, later segueing to The Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and other comics filled with ghost stories. In 1960, he began writing for Mort Weisinger at DC, contributing to the world of Superman with tales not only about the Man of Steel but also Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Superboy, and Supergirl. Among his many contributions to the mythos was that In Superboy, he introduced the character of Pete Ross. He also penned “The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!”, which ran in a 1963 issue and was considered one of the most memorable stories to ever grace the Superman comic book. At the same time, he wrote hundreds of stories for Western under the Dell and Gold Key imprints and hundreds more for DC. In 1971, he launched the comic Ghosts for DC, filling it with allegedly true tales of the unexplainable and quickly becoming the top seller of all the DC titles that offered such stories in anthology format.


Gaylord DuBois (1899-1993)

Gaylord DuBois spent over 30 years writing comic books and children’s books for Western Publishing, the comics appearing under the Dell and Gold Key imprints. His work for them included thousands of scripts for well-known properties including The Lone Ranger, Red Ryder, Bat Masterson, National Velvet, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and Roy Rogers, as well as stories featuring his own co-creations, The Jungle Twins, Brothers of the Spear, and Turok, Son of Stone. Between 1947 and 1971, he wrote an estimated 95 percent of all the comics Western produced of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes. During his run on it, the Tarzan comic book was consistently one of the top-selling comics in America; in the sixties, so was a comic DuBois wrote every issue of except the first: Space Family Robinson. During this time, he also wrote novels, Big Little Books, and other text-based publications for Western, many of them featuring the same characters. In his last years, DuBois—a devout Christian who occasionally taught Sunday school or filled in for a pastor on vacation—authored several Christian-focused comic books and books of inspirational poetry.


Joe Gill (1919-2006)

Suggested by some as the most prolific comic book writer of all time, Joe Gill began his career in the mid-1940s, working for his brother Ray Gill at Funnies, Inc., a company that created content for many comic book publishers. Soon, Joe was working directly for most of those publishers, including a staff job at Timely (now Marvel), where he wrote The Human Torch, Captain America, and, from all reports, every kind of comic they published. Around 1948 when Timely laid off a number of staffers, Gill connected with Charlton Comics, where he wrote a minimum of one comic a week until the firm ceased publishing in 1986. Some who worked with him claimed it was more like one comic per day, which was what it took to make a decent living for a company that paid such low rates. Few Charlton titles during those years did not feature some Joe Gill scripts, but the best remembered books would include Konga, Gorgo, Billy the Kid, Cheyenne Kid, Ghostly Tales, The Many Ghosts of Dr. Graves, The Phantom, Flash Gordon, Popeye, Tales of the Mysterious Traveler, and all the other western, war, romance, and ghostly titles. He was the co-creator of Captain Atom, Peacemaker, The Fightin’ Five, and Sarge Steel, among others. He also worked briefly for DC, Dell, and a few other publishers, but just his astounding output for Charlton earns him a Finger Award.


France Edward Herron (1917-1966)

France “Eddie” Herron was referred to as “the first comic book writer” by some of his contemporaries. The honor is arguable, but he was writing and editing as early as 1937, mainly for the Harry “A” Chesler studio, which produced comic book material for several publishers. He worked for Centaur Comics, then for Victor Fox’s outfit, which is where he met and began a long association with Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Among the other companies he worked for, often simultaneously, were Timely (where he worked with Joe and Jack on Captain America and co-created The Red Skull), Quality Comics, and Fawcett (where he wrote many early stories of the original Captain Marvel and co-created Captain Marvel Jr.). In 1945, he began a long association with DC Comics, where he often wrote Superman and Batman stories, and he was the main writer for long stints on Boy Commandos, Green Arrow, Challengers of the Unknown, and Tomahawk. His scripts appeared in all their war, western, romance, crime, and mystery titles, and he co-created the character, Cave Carson. Among the many newspaper strips he authored were Bat Masterson, Davy Crockett, Rip Tide, and Captain Midnight.


[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/20 We Are The Pixels, My Friend, And We’ll Keep On Scrollin’, To The End

(1) BULLISH ON JOCK. PropStore is holding an auction of alternate movie posters by Jock. In “Poster Boy”, “Mondo artist Jock talks us through five of his most impressive posters, all of which are part of the Prop Store Movie Poster Auction on March 26.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

This was an idea-led design choice. That technique of cutting out the bodies was more common in old ’50s and ’60s American magazine illustration. The goal with doing that was to elevate what would just be a drawing of the characters standing there into something that’s more design-led and more interesting.

There’s also a “Jock Q&A – In conversation with celebrated Mondo poster artist Jock”

How does your poster-design process start?
I think posters often work best if there’s an idea behind them, rather than just being an illustration of the characters in a cool position. For my most recent Star Wars posters, for example, I chose a scene from the films that we all know and love, but tried to present it from an angle that we haven’t seen before. The only thing about trying to come up with an idea is you can’t force it. You’ve just gotta kind of noodle and doodle until you maybe have an idea for something.

(2) A LITTLE NUDGE. The discussion here is an example of one of the social dynamics at work on the Hugo Awards. It begins with this tweet —  

(3) LIU ADAPTATION TO SMALL SCREEN. AMC has given a two-season pickup to Pantheon,  a sff drama from Craig Silverstein. The series is based on short stories by Ken Liu.

Written by Silverstein (Turn: Washington’s Spies, Nikita), Pantheon is set in a world where uploaded consciousness is a reality. The first season centers on Maddie, a bullied teen who receives mysterious help from someone online. The stranger is soon revealed to be her recently deceased father, David, whose consciousness has been uploaded to the Cloud following an experimental destructive brain scan. David is the first of a new kind of being: an “Uploaded Intelligence” or UI, but he will not be the last, as a global conspiracy unfolds that threatens to trigger a new kind of world war.

(4) SFF SHOW AXED. YouTube is moving away from scripted originals, and Impulse is a casualty.

…YouTube has canceled the sci-fi series Impulse after two seasons, making it the latest casualty in the video platform’s changing strategy for original programming. …

Impulse, developed by Jeffrey Lieber (Lost, NCIS: New Orleans) and with a pilot episode directed by executive producer Doug Liman, premiered in June 2018. It centers on 16-year-old Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Maddie Hasson), who has the ability to teleport but can’t control where she ends up. It’s based on a novel of the same title by Steven Gould.

(5) AND THESE TWO NEVER GOT ON THE AIR. Meanwhile, Disney has changed its mind about a planned Muppets revival, and scrapped a Tron adaptation before anyone even knew they were doing one. The Hollywood Reporter has the story in “Bob Iger’s Next Priority? Streamline Disney+ Development”.

In a sign of the challenges, Disney+ has developed then scrapped three original series in the past year: scripted comedy Muppets Live Another Day from Adam Horowitz, Eddy Kitsis and Josh Gad; Disney villains drama Book of Enchantment from Michael Seitzman; and, per sources, a never-announced Tron adaptation from John Ridley. Two other projects — TV series based on High Fidelity and Love, Simon — were moved to Hulu over their adult thematic content that executives weren’t comfortable showing on the family-friendly Disney+.

(6) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. One doesn’t have to travel too far back in time to run into certain problems: “Old episodes of Doctor Who streaming on BritBox stir up controversy” at Fansided.

Doctor Who is unique among current popular genre series in that it’s technically been around for nearly 60 years, officially kicking off on November 23, 1963….

And that can cause issues, because 1963 was a very different time, for television and the world in general. So was 1977, when Tom Baker was starring as the Fourth Doctor. That’s when the show aired the serial “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” starring John Bennett acting in yellowface as villain Li H’sen Chang, a stage magician aided by Mr. Sin, a cyborg from the 51st century known as the Peking Homunculus.

Yeah, it’s bad. And did we mention that, in the serial, Chinese people are referred to as “inscrutable ch**ks”? It’s very bad.

“It is really hard to watch because yellowface is so unacceptable now,” said Emma Ko, a screenwriter and spokeswoman for British East Asians in Theatre and on Screen. “When you are somebody who was called a “ch**k” in your childhood, as I have been, it is so hard to hear that word and not feel immediately a trigger reaction of how wrong it is.”…

(7) DOING WHAT COMES SUPERNATURALLY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Michael Koryta and Alma Katsu on Horror, Craft, and Reinvention” at CrimeReads, horror novelists Koryta and Katsu interview each other on their new novels, Katsu’s The Deep and Koryta’s The Chill (written as by Scott Carson), as they ask each other about their backgrounds and how they ended up writing horror. Alma Katsu has lived in the Washington D.C. area and has been a guest at Capclave.

Alma Katsu: After establishing yourself in mystery and crime, I have to ask, what drew you to horror for The Chill? What was the appeal? Does everyone secretly—or openly—love horror? 

Michael Koryta: Love of the storytelling world where the past is encroaching on the present. A ghost story invites the past right in and treats it as if it never left. In my experience, that’s really how we live our lives—every move made in the present is shaped by memory, right? On individual and societal levels. The idea of kicking open a door that allows the past to wander in and be active is always appealing to me. For some reason, I’m particularly drawn to this when the natural world is involved in the story. The idea of turning on a faucet in Queens and receiving water that comes from a reservoir in the Catskills where once a town existed is both intriguing to me and fundamentally eerie. Drink up!

I don’t think everyone loves horror, which is a shame, because they should. A little paranoia is good for the soul. It seems so unimaginative to not be afraid of the dark.

What about you? Why are you writing for the warped minds like mine?

Katsu: I lived in a strangely Gothic world as a child. I grew up in a very spooky house in a spooky town in Massachusetts. The house was an old Victorian, long neglected, which meant it had all these period details that, being a Service brat, I’d never seen before. Pocket doors that disappeared into the walls, twisty stairs leading up to an attic filled with old trunks left by previous occupants. Overrun by mice, so the walls talked to you every night. Growing up in a house like that definitely cements the notion that the past is a frightening place.

(8) BLACK WIDOW FINAL TRAILER. Black Widow arrives in theaters May 1.

“At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be and who you are.”

(9) POMERANTZ OBIT. Earl Pomerantz, a two-time Emmy winner who wrote and produced for such comedies as The Mary Tyler Moore ShowThe Cosby ShowTaxi and The Larry Sanders Show, has died. “Earl Pomerantz, Producer and Emmy-Winning Screenwriter, Dies at 75”. He wrote two episodes of Amazing Stories — “Fine Tuning” and “Mummy Daddy”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 10, 1978 Return from Witch Mountain premiered. The sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain, it was written by Malcolm Marmorstein and is based on were characters that created by Alexander Key who also wrote the novelization of the film. Ike Eisenmann, Kim Richards, and Denver Pyle reprise their roles from the first with Bette Davis and. Christopher Lee being the baddies here.  Neither critics (40% rating) or audience (50% rating) at Rotten Tomatoes were particularly fond of it. You can see it here.
  • March 10, 1995VR.5 premiered on Fox. It featured a cast of David McCallum, Anthony Head, Lori Singer and Louise Fletcher. It was created by Jeannine Renshaw. Executive producer Thania St. John stated that in press releases, “VR.5 will try to capture that same, creepy feeling of the X-Files” which was the lead-in to this series. It lasted a total of thirteen episodes with only ten shown in its first run. There is no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critic rating is very high 75%. You can see the pilot here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon  as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still  playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script oddly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydon. He’s here as he was in The Lost World, the 1960 film version, as Prof. Summerlee. He showed up in the same year in The Twilight Zone in “A Thing About Machines” as Bartlet Finchley. And he’d be Solicitor Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M. Miller”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 82. Currently the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award.
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone,  62. Damn, she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being Total Recall where she played the ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. 
  • Born March 10, 1969 Paget Brewster, 51. She was Jenny Spy on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and most of her genre roles have been voice roles: Lana Lang on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Lois Lane on Justice League: Gods and Monsters and Poison Ivy on Batman and Harley Quinn.
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 43. She’s best known for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly.
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 41. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won a World Fantasy Award. Its sequel. Jade War, was published last year. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo is making perfect sense interpreting a Philip Dick title!
  • Today’s Bizarro has everyone’s dream of heaven.

(13) LIVE LONGER, AND PROSPER. An AP newswire article about Congress trying to cope with the coronavirus situation included this interesting sidelight: “Lawmakers race to respond to outbreak; Trump comes to Hill”.

[…] Meanwhile, lawmakers were given new instructions on how to protect themselves at the Capitol, with the House’s attending physician asking them to stop shaking hands or touching people during greetings — he recommended the split-fingers Star Trek greeting instead.

(14) AMAZON’S LOTR ADAPTATION. Don’t let Yahoo! fool you – they don’t know when it’s going to air. They know some other facts, however — “The Lord of the Rings TV show release date, cast, trailer and everything we know so far about the Amazon Prime series”.

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to find out more about the Lord of the Rings TV show. Amazon’s series – the rights for which are rumoured to have cost the streaming service $250 million – may not yet have a release date, but there’s plenty of information out there: cast members, filming location, and news of a second season renewal have all been revealed.

Whether you’re a Tolkien diehard or someone who’s just eager to head back to Middle-Earth after watching the movies, we’ll break down what to expect from the Lord of the Rings TV show below. To Mordor!

(15) GET AN EARFUL. The GraphicAudio trailer makes Wasted Space, Vol. 1 sound pretty appealing.

Billy Bane is a prophet who got it all wrong, and the galaxy has been burning ever since. All he wants is to waste away in the darkest corner of space with his best pal Dust, a supercharged Fuq bot. But when a new prophet comes calling, Billy is summoned to save the galaxy he’s at least partially responsible for destroying.

Too bad he couldn’t care less.

Michael Moreci (Roche Limit, Wonder Woman, Black Star Renegades) and Hayden Sherman (The Few, Cold War, John Carter: The End) have thrown Philip K. Dick in a blender with Preacher. Take a sip and get wasted.

(16) AHMED’S LATEST. Coming from Marvel in June:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1

Written by SALADIN AHMED; Art by RYAN KELLY; Cover by ALEX ROSS

In the heart of the Civil War event, a human story unfolds. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing his best to do the job with honor—but is that even possible? A young, low-level Super Hero, trying to help his neighbors—but that’s not even legal any more. The two come together in a story that’ll test their commitment, ideals, hopes, and dreams.

Featuring Captain America, Giant-Man, Maria Hill, and more, Kurt Busiek recruits Hugo-Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed and all-star Ryan Kelly to uniquely retell this iconic Marvel story.

(17) DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Evidently, speculative fiction is gaining traction within many music communities. William Gibson was asked by Wire Magazine, which is one of the leading underground music magazines (behind a paywall), to take part in the Invisible Jukebox and identify a series of recordings by ear alone.

Invisible Jukebox: William Gibson: Can the visionary science fiction author hack The Wire’s mystery record selection? Tested by Emily Bick…

Steely Dan

Kid Charlemagne

[(from The Royal Scam [ABC 1976]).  

“Kid Charlemagne. I have it on my iPhone.

You’re a real Steely Dan fan, right?

Yeah, I was a Steely Dan fan from the day the 45 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” came out and continue to be this day. Lyrically, it was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and it continues to be. Back in the later  80s I would be in the supermarket shopping. Sometimes I’d be the only male shopper, and “Hey Nineteen” would come on the Muzak. And so I’m listening to this, and looking around me are all these lovely young mothers, and I’m thinking holy shit, does nobody scan the stuff for what the lyrics mean, because this is the most deliberately sexually perverse and shocking material. Sometimes I hear younger people say, “Oh, Steely Dan. Everything’s been sanded off. It’s all smooth, it doesn’t sound like human beings are making it.” And then when you listen to the lyrics….

They got their name from a double-headed dildo, so you really can’t expect much else.

Yeah, that’s true. 

(19) DINO SAVINGS TIME. Gizmodo held a shell up to their ear, and guess what they heard?“Days on Earth Used to Be 30 Minutes Shorter, Ancient Shell Suggests”.

….That days were shorter tens of millions of years ago is hardly a revelation. The new study is important in that it improves the accuracy of pre-existing estimates, while providing a new way of studying the past.

“Previous estimates were based on counting daily laminae [growth layers] similar to the ones we did chemical analyses on,” de Winter told Gizmodo. “This [previous] counting yielded roughly the same number of days per year, but with different countings yielding differences up to 10 days due to human error and the difficulty in recognizing daily layers by eye.”

Key to the research was a single fossil shell belonging to Torreites sanchezi, a rudist clam. Now extinct, rudists were shaped like boxes, tubes, and rings, and they filled an ecological niche currently occupied by coral reefs. T. sanchezi grew very quickly as far as hinged, or bivalve, mollusks are concerned, exhibiting thin layers of daily growth rings.

(20) EVOLUTION IN ACTION. The satellite Pixel’d yesterday for its movie camera also does hot stills: “Anak Krakatau: Finnish radar satellite eyes tsunami volcano”.

Here’s a new view of Anak Krakatau, the collapsed Indonesian volcano that generated the 22 December tsunami that devastated local coastlines.

The picture was assembled from radar images acquired on Wednesday by the ICEYE-X2 satellite.

This is a small innovative spacecraft from Finland that will soon be part of a large orbiting network of sensors.

The volcano continues to evolve, following the cone’s catastrophic failure.

Its original height of 340m was reduced to just 110m in the disaster, but further eruptions have since begun to re-model the remnant structure.

“This image indicates the edifice is in a building phase, with the crater no longer connected to the sea as it was in images from a week or so ago,” observed Prof Andy Hooper from Leeds University, UK.

(21) ANOTHER STEP. “Second patient cured of HIV, say doctors”.

A man from London has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV, doctors say.

Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy.

He was not cured by the HIV drugs, however, but by a stem-cell treatment he received for a cancer he also had, the Lancet HIV journal reports.

The donors of those stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Mr Castillejo, protection against HIV.

(22) GENRE L.A. At CrimeReads, Katie Orphan goes to one of the last roadhouses in the L.A. area and visits the house where Mildred Pierce was filmed in“Searching for James M. Cain’s Los Angeles”, an excerpt from her book Read Me, L.A.: Exploring L.A.’s Book Culture.

… In The Postman Always Rings Twice, for example, the fictional Twin Oaks Tavern is at the center of much of the action. The story in Cain’s debut novel revolves around the tavern’s owner, Nick Papadakis (“the Greek”), his younger wife, Cora, and Frank Chambers, a drifter they hire to help out at the place; Cora and Frank get involved and conspire to kill the Greek. The Twin Oaks is a roadhouse in the mountains above L.A., with a gas station and motel joining a restaurant to make Papadakis’s little empire. Places like that were common in the 1930s and ’40s but aren’t today, so the few that are left are treasures. Newcomb’s Ranch is one of them.

Newcomb’s opened in what is now the Angeles National Forest in 1939, only a few years after Cain wrote Postman. It’s a cheery, ranch-style wooden building set among pines, on winding Angeles Crest Highway about an hour north of Glendale, where the Papadakises would travel to do their shopping.

Newcomb’s Ranch is a popular weekend destination for motorcyclists who stop for lunch after roaring up Angeles Crest Highway, and I enjoyed the drive up as much as they do. It’s a gorgeous journey into the San Gabriel Mountains; if you go in winter, you might be fortunate enough to encounter trees flocked with snow and low-hanging clouds settling around the peaks.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/20 Universe Error: Not Enough SF Resources Found. Reboot Universe? Y/N

(1) BUSIEK TALKS ABOUT NEW SERIES, THE MARVELS. “Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.” That’s how acclaimed writer Kurt Busiek describes his new ongoing series, The Marvels. Busiek said in an interview with Marvel.com

The whole idea of The Marvels is to be able to use the whole Marvel Universe — not just all the characters in it, but all the history of it. The sweeping scope of the whole thing. Big stuff can happen in the Marvel Universe, but we usually see it confined largely to the Avengers in Avengers, to the FF in Fantastic Four, and so on. The Marvels is intended as a freewheeling book that can go anywhere, do anything, use anyone. It’s a smorgasbord of Marvel heroes and history. It’s not a team. It’s a concept, or a universe, depending on how you look at it. The Marvels features the marvels — all the many and varied characters of the Marvel Universe. The heroes, the villains, the oddities — all of it. There’ll be popular characters of today, there’ll be obscure characters from long ago — heck, there’ll be story threads that take place in the past, or possibly the future. We’re not limited to just the present. And there’ll be new characters, too, from the street-level to the cosmic. There are three new marvels in the first issue, although a couple of them are only seen for a panel or so. But we’ll get back to them. I’d say “’the sky’s the limit,’ except in the Marvel Universe, there’s a lot going on beyond that sky. And it’s all open to us.

See the full interview and get a first look at the debut issue at the link The first issue hits the stand in May.

THE MARVELS #1. Written by KURT BUSIEK . Art by YILDIRAY CINAR. Cover by ALEX ROSS.

(2) UNCANNY FAVORITE. The winner of the Uncanny Magazine 2019 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll is “Away With the Wolves” by Sarah Gailey!

The rest of the Top Five are:
2- IS A TIE!!!
“The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power” by Karen Osborne!
“A Mindreader’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy” by Jenn Reese!
3- “A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde!
4- “How the Trick Is Done” by A.C. Wise!
5- “This Is Not My Adventure” by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez!

(3) RUSSIAN AROUND. “A US House candidate says she was hacked — now she’s warning others” — Brianna Wu gave the story to TechCrunch.

“I cannot think of a reason not to share this with the public,” Brianna Wu tweeted.

“Two of my non-campaign Google accounts were compromised by someone in Russia,” she said.

Wu isn’t just any other target. As a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Massachusetts’ 8th District, she has a larger target on her back for hackers than the average constituent. And as a former software engineer, she knows all too well the cybersecurity risks that come along with running for political office.

But the breach of two of her non-campaign Google accounts was still a wake-up call.

Wu said she recently discovered that the two accounts had been breached. One of the accounts was connected to her Nest camera system at home, and the other was her Gmail account she used during the Gamergate controversy, during which Wu was a frequent target of vitriol and death threats. TechCrunch agreed to keep the details of the breach off the record as to not give any potential attackers an advantage. Attribution in cyberattacks, however, can be notoriously difficult because hackers can mask their tracks using proxies and other anonymity tools.

“I don’t believe anyone in Russia is targeting me specifically. I think it’s more likely they target everyone running for office,” she tweeted….

(4) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper is writing a three-part overview of all (he hopes) feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. The installments will be available in the February 7, February 14, and February 21 issues of MT VOID. The first is here if you want to check it out.

The full article will be published on Mark’s web page (http://leepers.us) after the last one runs.

And the Leepers are asking for help to find a copy of Ghost Catchers (a.k.a. High Spirits) even if it’s not one of the main contenders.

(5) DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. The Disney Parks Blog watches as “Spider-Man Swings into Action Above Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park”.

Guests visiting Disney California Adventure park prior to the opening of the Avengers Campus this summer can still encounter Spider-Man daily in Hollywood Land between his visits to Avengers Campus. As previously announced, Spider-Man can be seen in his exclusive, new suit designed by Ryan Meinerding, Head of Visual Development at Marvel Studios.

When Avengers Campus opens this summer, guests will be recruited to become the next generation of Super Heroes. The campus will be home to a variety of new experiences giving guests the chance to feel the power, adventure and exhilaration of teaming up with some of their favorite Super Heroes including:

  • The Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as “WEB” – which will house the new Spider-Man attraction where guests can sling webs alongside Spider-Man himself.
  • Pym Test Kitchen, an all-new eatery, where Pym Technologies Researchers are using Ant-Man and the Wasp’s growing and shrinking technology to create super-sized and super small foods.
  • Heroic encounters throughout the campus where guests can team up with some of their favorite Super Heroes including Spider-Man, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and the Dora Milaje, Thor and Loki, Iron Man and for the first time, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
  • Avengers Headquarters where guests may witness Earth’s Mightiest Heroes springing into action at a moment’s notice all over the building.

(6) DAYS BEFORE OUR LIVES. Screenwriting award at Sundance goes to genre film Nine Days.

Keep an eye out for this one. Here’s the plot description from IMDb:

A reclusive man conducts a series of interviews with human souls for a chance to be born.

(7) SON WITH A SWORD. “Mandy Patinkin on ‘The Princess Bride’” – video at Yahoo!

One of actor Mandy Patinkin’s most popular roles was the 1987 fantasy, “The Princess Bride,” in which he played a man bent on revenge (“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”). In this web exclusive he talked with correspondent Holly Williams about the legacy of his character.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 10, 1957 Attack of the Crab Monsters premiered. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman, and it starred Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, and Russell Johnson, the latter much better know for his Gillgan’s Island role. It was written by Charles B. Griffith who would later write The Little Shop of Horrors. It was profitable, the best showing by a Corman film to that date, earned the respect of critics for the way it was produced and scripted but currently has a lousy 30% rating among the 1.625 reviewers who gave an opinion at Rotten Tomatoes. Should you be inclined, you can watch it here.
  • February 10, 1957 Not Of This Earth premiered. It shared a double bill with Attack of the Crab Monsters. It like the other film was produced and directed by Roger Corman,  It stars Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Morgan Jones, William Roerick, and Anna Lee Carroll. The film was written by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna. Critics liked even better than its Attack of the Crab Monsters with one saying that it was “Corman’s most enjoyable science fiction film”.  Notes for this film note that the double bill made back four times what it cost to produce both films in the first week. So how does it currently rate at Rotten Tomatoes? Even worse than Attack of the Crab Monsters as it garners a pitiful 21% rating there from the roughly 400 reviewers. Like Attack of the Crab Monsters, it’s only roughly only an hour long and you can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 10, 1906 Lon Chaney Jr. I certainly best remember him playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man but he has a lot of other roles as well: The Ghost of Frankenstein as The Monster (look, correct billing!), The Mummy’s Tomb as The Mummy Kharis or Son of Dracula as Count Dracula, he played all the great monsters, often multiple times. (Died 1973.)
  • Born February 10, 1910 Douglas Spencer. His most memorable role As an actor was as The Monitor on This Island Earth. As far I can call tell, he only had two other genre roles, one  as the First Martian in the “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” episode of Twilight Zone, two other as Ned Scott on The Thing from Another World, a Fifties horror film. (Died 1960.)
  • Born February 10, 1926 Hazel Court. She did The Devil Girl from Mars which has been noted previously in File 770,  The Curse of Frankenstein, a Hammer Film, and Doctor Blood’s Coffin. She did five different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and had one-offs on The Invisible Man, Danger Man, (at genre adjacent, isn’t it?), Thriller, Twilight Zone and Mission: Impossible. Her final role, uncredited, was in Omen III: The Final Conflict. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 10, 1930 Robert Wagner, 90. He played the lead in the early Fifties Prince Valiant based off the Hal Foster strip. Next up is being George Lytton in The Pink Panther followed by the same in Curse of the Pink Panther. He’s Number Two in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and the same in Austin Powers in Goldmember. He shows up as President James Garfield in Netherbeast Incorporated, a film that rated better at Rotten Tomatoes than I expected. His latest role is as Charles Benning in What Happened to Monday
  • Born February 10, 1958 Rupert Vansittart, 62. He was portrayed General Asquith in the two Ninth Doctor stories, “Aliens of London” and “World War Three”. He was Wyatt in The Saint: The Brazilian Connection, and Brian Babbacombe on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Lastly, he had he recurring role on Game of Thrones as Yohn Royce. 
  • Born February 10, 1970 Robert Shearman, 50. He wrote the episode of Who called “Dalek” which was nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2006 at L.A. Con IV. (There were three Who entries that year and “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” won.) His first book, a collection of short stories called Tiny Deaths was a World Fantasy Award winner. He’s written a lot of short fiction since then, collected helpfully into two collections, displayed. Remember Why You Fear Me: The Best Dark Fiction of Robert Shearman and They Do the Same Things Different There: The Best Weird Fantasy of Robert Shearman.
  • Born February 10, 1976 Keeley Hawes 44. Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos In the most excellent Twelfth Doctor story “Time Heist”.  It wasn’t her first genre role as that would’ve been Tamara in that awful Avengers film. She also played Zoe Reynolds which is at least genre adjacent given where the story went. 
  • Born February 10, 1988 Jade and Nakita Ramsey, 32. Their longest running role was on The House of Anubis series with Jade as Patricia Williamson who in it for the entire run of one hundred and forty five episodes with  Nakita showing up for just six episodes. They’d later both be on A Haunting at Silver Falls: The Return playing Heather and Holly Dahl. They play twins frequently, even appearing once in a film with Cassandra Peterson, All About Evil.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Have a lot of books? Frazz has a question about that.

(11) KEEP PREYING. “Box Office Analyst Explains Why Birds of Prey Disappointed in its Opening Weekend” at Comicbook.com.

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) opened over the weekend to $33 million, marking the lowest opening for any film set in the DC Extended Universe and the lowest start for any DC film since Jonah Hex in 2010. According to Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock, the R-rated Birds of Prey is a “niche comic book movie” whose failings began with its title: not naming the Cathy Yan-directed film Harley Quinn after its starring character (portrayed by returning Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie) was a “huge misfire” for Warner Bros., who months earlier scored a billion-plus box office with the R-rated Joker.

(12) VALUABLE WILD CARD. Joker has gained acclaim, but also an equal amount of skepticism. YouTuber CinemaWins looks into the aspects of the film done well in his easily digestible format. (Spoilers)

Joker! Another one of those movies where everyone agrees and I can’t even imagine a single person getting upset! Here’s everything right with Joker!

Part I

Part II

(13) NO LONGER ON THE FORCE. Maltin on Movies interviews Peter Weller.

Actor, musician, director, renaissance man: Peter Weller is all of these, but he’s best remembered as the star of RoboCop. He’s also a fascinating conversationalist, as Leonard and Jessie were delighted to learn, with stories about such luminaries as Mike Nichols and Otto Preminger.

(14) TRAILER TIME. The full trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru dropped.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another cheap umbella.

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

Kurt Busiek’s Marvels Snapshots Continue with Captain America and X-Men

[From a press release.] When Marvels Snapshots begins in March, fans will get to see Marvel’s greatest characters from the Golden Age to today, in new legendary tales told through the eyes of ordinary people! As curator of this landmark series, Kurt Busiek has handpicked the creative teams for each standalone, double-sized issue and he’s put together an amazing assemblage of talent to tackle April’s issues focusing on Captain America and the X-Men.

First up, Eisner nominated writer Mark Russell will revisit Jack Kirby’s classic Madbomb storyline from his 1970s run on Captain America.

“Some people, when they call, you gotta pick up the phone. And Kurt Busiek is one of those people,” says Russell. “I was pretty instantly sold on the project once he started describing it to me— stories about the human cost of these famous conflicts in the Marvel Universe. I truly enjoyed working on this with him.”

Known for his work on books like Second Coming and Wonder Twins, Russell says Marvels Snapshot: Captain America will focus on “the Madbomb’s impact in the South Bronx, a community which had already been effectively abandoned by the rest of the nation, that community’s struggle for survival, and of the search for heroes of its own.” He will be joined by acclaimed artist Ramón Pérez (All-New Hawkey).

Next, in X-Men: Marvels Snapshot, readers will see the rise of super heroes from the eyes of a young orphan named Scott Summers, the boy who would grow up to be Cyclops. The future X-Men leader couldn’t be in safer hands. Jay Edition, the co-host of the popular X-Men podcast, Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, makes his Marvel Comics debut with a tale about one of his favorite characters.

“This is a story that’s pretty personal to me—because I’m me, and it’s a Cyclops story; but even more because it’s about the ways that superheroes and the stories around them can become lifelines. If I’m going to be really sappy about it (which I absolutely am), I get to give one of my favorite heroes the same kind of touchstone he’s been to me over the years,” says Edidin. “I’d say it’s a dream come true, but given that I’m the kind of uptight overachiever who overidentifies with Scott Summers in the first place, maybe also a bit of an anxiety dream come true. That said, it’s been a blast to get to sit down and play in a sandbox I’ve spent years cataloguing and analyzing and explaining.”

Teaming up with Edidin will be artist Tom Reilly, a rising star artist known for his recent work on Immortal Hulk.

Kurt Busiek Assembles an
All-Star Team for Fantastic Four Marvels Snapshot

Last week, Marvel announced Marvels Snapshot, a new series from Marvels co-creator Kurt Busiek that brings together incredible creative teams to tell new tales showcasing Marvel’s greatest heroes. The series debuts in March with a golden age romp by Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway before this epic tour through the Marvel Universe continues later that month with Marvels Snapshot: Fantastic Four. This second installment will take readers into the zany silver age, turning the spotlight on the Fantastic Four’s own Human Torch in a story by comic book creators Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer. Known for books like Beasts of Burden as well as writing credits on animated series like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Superman: The Animated Series, this duo feels right at home penning this classic tale rooted in the Marvel mythos.

“I’m still blushing that Kurt chose Sarah Dyer and I to tell one of the Marvels Snapshot stories, especially this one, because the Fantastic Four was my favorite super hero team book as a kid, and Marvels did a great job of showing how the larger-than-life Marvel characters affect the average person on the street,” says Dorkin. “We’re trying to do right by both series, packing the story with as much heart, wonder and fun as we can for both older and newer fans to enjoy.”

Fantastic Four: Marvels Snapshot reunites Dorkin and Dyer with artist Benjamin Dewey who brings this tale to life with the acclaimed art he’s known for from books like The Autumnland and Beasts of Burden.

“Teaming up with Kurt, Evan, and Sarah is delightful, challenging and a real education in the deep-cuts lore of characters I thought I knew! I’ll do my best to bring the same spark of joy and enthusiasm to the art that has clearly gone into the writing process,” says Dewey. “Ultimately we want to offer a story that gives fans a different angle on a beloved comics universe that they might not get from any other project.”

All curated by industry legend Kurt Busiek, this extraordinary series is sure to be a modern classic! Here’s what Busiek had to say about the passion project:

I was thrilled to get the chance to do Marvels Snapshots — to get a look at the Marvel Universe through a variety of eyes, from people who know the super heroes personally to people inspired by them, scared by them…even one who eventually joins them.

In Marvels Snapshot, we range through time, getting a look at the Marvel Universe from the very early days (as in Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway’s Sub-Mariner story), through the dawning days of the Marvel Age, up through events of the 1970s, 80s, all the way up to today. And I went out looking for a wide variety of creators to do a wide variety of perspectives. I wanted lots of different approaches, and I was delighted that so many creators I admire were willing to join in, from longtime pros to relative newcomers, and from Marvel mainstays to those who’ve done very little with Marvel before.

In the second Marvels Snapshot, I asked Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer to write about the Human Torch’s ten-year high-school reunion as seen through the eyes of his ex-girlfriend Dorrie Evans, because they’ve done such warm, human, affecting work on material from Superman: The Animated Series to the awesome Beasts of Burden to Evan’s pop-culture-obsessed Eltingville Club stories, and I knew they’d embrace the crazy minutiae of comics history but bring that sense of heart and emotion to it. And I couldn’t get anyone better to draw it than Benjamin Dewey, bringing his impeccable craftsmanship and rich sense of character to the story.

And this is just the start — we’ve got plenty more to come!

This eight-part series will be released twice per month over the course of four months and will feature new painted covers by the legendary Alex Ross. Be on the lookout for news about upcoming titles in this landmark series. Which of Marvel’s many great moments will readers get to dive into next?

[Based on a Marvel press release.]

Pixel Scroll 12/13/19 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Tsundoku. Attempt No Pixels There

(1) MARVEL SNAPSHOTS. Kurt Busiek is overseeing a Marvel showcase series featuring history-making characters.

This March, prepare to see the greatest moments of Marvel’s 80-year history told like never before! In MARVEL SNAPSHOTS, industry legend Kurt Busiek will bring together incredible creative teams for eight standalone, double sized issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the golden age to today. Like 1994’s critically acclaimed MARVELS series, MARVEL SNAPSHOTS will be tales told through the eyes of ordinary people, offering unique insights on the legendary mythos of the Marvel Universe. MARVELS SNAPSHOTS also reunites Busiek with renowned MARVELS co-creator Alex Ross who will be providing the series with his iconic painted covers.

It all begins with SUB-MARINER: MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1 when best-selling novelist and Emmy Award-winning TV writer Alan Brennert (L.A. LAW, TWILIGHT ZONE) and superstar artist Jerry Ordway (ALL-STAR SQUADRON, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) unite to tell an unforgettable story about Marvel’s original antihero: Prince Namor!

Set circa World War II, things kick off with an action-packed tale featuring Namor, Betty Dean, and the All-Winners Squad–a dream come true for Brennert. “I can honestly say that I enjoyed working on this story more than any comics story I’ve done in years. I grew up reading (and loving) Marvel’s Golden Age heroes in the 1960s, in reprints in FANTASY MASTERPIECES. But I never thought I’d have a shot at writing them–especially the All-Winners Squad!–and I’m grateful to Kurt Busiek and Tom Brevoort for providing me the opportunity, and to Jerry Ordway for bringing it all to glorious life,” Brennert says. “I’m enormously proud of ‘Reunion’ and honored to be the first story published in MARVELS SNAPSHOTS.”

Artist Jerry Ordway is just as passionate about bringing this tale to life. “When I was offered this project, I jumped at it, being a big fan of the original MARVELS book by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Getting to draw a Sub-Mariner story set in the 1940s, with appearances by the All-Winners Squad, lets me connect with Marvel’s World War II era history, and the work of Subby’s creator, Bill Everett,” says Ordway. “I’ve been a Marvel maniac from the age of 10, so this is pretty cool! Alan Brennert wrote a great script which fits neatly into the bigger tapestry that is the Marvel Universe. I’m thrilled to get to play in this sandbox after so many years as an artist.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Listeners are invited to join host Scott Edelman and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for lunch in Little Italy on Episode 111 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My guest this time around is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who was a winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award earlier this year for her work as a Guest Editor of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue. She was also a 2019 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. Her fiction has appeared in such magazines as Fireside and Uncanny, as well the anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. She’s written non-fiction for The Boston Globe, Barnes & Noble, Tor.com, and other venues. She is a feminist scholar and disability rights activist (which I knew), but also a burlesque historian (which I did not know).

We lunched at La Tavola, where I’d previously joined Marv Wolfman during the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con. We discussed her roller coaster of emotions the night she won a Hugo Award earlier this year during the Dublin Worldcon, how that editorial gig increased her empathy, the way writing roleplaying games and being a Sherlock Holmes nerd taught her about world-building and led to her first professional fiction sales, the dinosaur-themed Twitter feed that gave birth to her most recently published short story, the novel she’s working on which she describes as The Conjuring meets The Stand, her expertise in obscenity law and fascination with the history of burlesque, why she felt the Bird Box novel handled blindness better than the movie, her background in competitive improv and the way that helped her within science fiction, advice on how not to let Internet trolls get you down, and much more.

(3) PILE PELION ON OSSA. John Scalzi chronicled the results of his Twitter poll which asks: “Would Baby Yoda eat a porg?” (Is it cannibalism if one cute thing eats another cute thing?) Thread starts here.

(4) JUST PLAIN FOLKS TALES. RS Benedict has released another episode of the Rite Gud podcast, “No More Heroes with JR Dawson”. In this interview with sff short fiction author JR Dawson, they talk about writing fiction that doesn’t focus on Big Important Heroes of Destiny. It’s called No More Heroes.

Much of speculative literature focuses on superheroes and Chosen Ones. But what about ordinary people or flawed people who don’t save the world? Do they matter?

Sci-fi/fantasy author JR Dawson joins us to talk about why she writes about ordinary people, and how privilege and inequality warp our idea of whose story deserves to be told. She also talks about being a Midwestern writer, her favorite literary losers and that time Hans Christian Andersen got really weird with Charles Dickens’ family.

(5) BEST SFF. Andrew Liptak chimes in with “The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” at Polygon. (It’s interesting to see that several of the year’s most-discussed books only made his Honorable Mentions.)

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

Cixin Liu might have become the best-known science fiction writers to come out of China, but he’s far from the only one. Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide is a far cry from Liu’s epic science fiction tales, taking a grim look at the near future of China, where impoverished workers struggle to make a living from the world’s electronic waste.

Waste Tide follows a series of people who come together in Silicone Isle: Mimi, a worker who heads there for work; Scott Brandle, an American who is trying to arrange a contract; and Chen Kaizong, a translator, all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a greater plot for control. It’s a book that reminded me quite a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, with a pointed commentary on class warfare and the lifecycle of the devices we use.

(6) HAPPY BLANDINGS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll wryly claims “SFF Needs More Incompetent Autocrats”. This turns out to be a Wodehouse tribute as much as anything.

One of SFF’s grand traditions is carefully filing the serial numbers off historical events (the American Revolutionary War, perhaps, or the Napoleonic Wars), or famous and classic works (Lord of the Rings, the Hornblower series, Zulu), and re-purposing the result as SFF. This is usually known as “research” (See Tom Lehrer on this point). Examples abound—my disinclination to deal with crowds of irate authors protesting at my door precludes naming them here….

(7) HOLLYWOOD HISTORY. Profiles in History’s “Hollywood: A Collector’s Ransom Auction” has all kinds of genre movie props, models, and figurines. It even has examples of correspondence between director Sam Peckinpah and Ray Bradbury. “Ray and Sam would lunch (hoist a few pints) at the Formosa Café,” recalls John King Tarpinian.

(8) A PYTHON SPEAKS. Leonard and Jesse interviewed Terry Gilliam for their Maltin on Movies podcast.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for   Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.

(9) MICROLOAN. Rachel Swirsky signal-boosted an “Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library” and so will we.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.

She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

(10) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Alex Woolf advocates “Seven Ways to Grow Your Resilience as a Writer” at the SFWA Blog.

Study the nuances of rejection
In the miserable miasma of reading a fresh rejection, it can be easy to miss the nuggets of positivity and constructive feedback that are often contained in the message too. Some messages are form rejections, but it’s well-known that many venues have form messages that vary according to their take on the writer. A writer a venue wishes to encourage, for example, may get a standard message that’s quite different from the standard message that’s sent to a writer that for whatever reason they are never likely to publish.

So once the initial disappointment has subsided, make a point of going back to the message and seeing what you can learn from it for your next project or submission. Sometimes there is a valuable nugget in there (e.g. Try to use fewer adverbs or We felt we wanted to know more about what was happening from the protagonist’s perspective.) These are valuable insights that you can work with.

However disappointing the message, always send an acknowledgment – stay polite and professional. And if a venue says you should submit again, then do so, once or twice more at least. They didn’t have to say that, after all.

(11) YIKES! Bloomberg confirms “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments”.

Amazon declined interview requests for this story. In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman wrote, “Privacy is foundational to how every team and employee designs and develops Alexa features and Echo devices. All Alexa employees are trained on customer data handling as part of our security training.” The company and its competitors have said computers perform the vast majority of voice requests without human review.

Yet so-called smart devices inarguably depend on thousands of low-paid humans who annotate sound snippets so tech companies can upgrade their electronic ears; our faintest whispers have become one of their most valuable datasets. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News was first to report on the scope of the technology industry’s use of humans to review audio collected from their users without disclosures, including at Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Few executives and engineers who spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek for this story say they anticipated that setting up vast networks of human listeners would be problematic or intrusive. To them, it was and is simply an obvious way to improve their products.

… Several of the big tech companies tweaked their virtual-assistant programs this year after a steady drip of news reports. While Google has paused human transcriptions of Assistant audio, Apple has begun letting users delete their Siri history and opt out of sharing more, made sharing recordings optional, and hired many former contractors directly to increase its control over human listening. Facebook and Microsoft have added clearer disclaimers to their privacy policies. And Amazon has introduced a similar disclosure and started letting Alexa users opt out of manual reviews. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry,” Amazon’s Limp recently said about human transcription teams. “Whether it was well known among press or customers, it’s pretty clear we weren’t good enough there.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Cat Eldridge emailed that he needed urgent care for some physical problems – I hope they are able to get him feeling better soon. Go ahead and mention birthdays you know about in the comments.]

(13) STAR TREK SHIP IN A BOTTLE. So is there a teeny-tiny Kirk and Spock in there somewhere?

On this episode of Ben’s Worx I make a ship in a bottle with epoxy resin and Australian burl.

(14) RABID IN THE NORTHWEST. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, was referenced by the Guardian in a story about a Washington state representative: “Report on far-right Republican Matt Shea in hands of Washington legislators”

Outside investigators have submitted a report to the Washington state house about the activities of the far-right Republican state representative Matt Shea, but legislators on both sides of the aisle remain tight-lipped about its contents.

…Last Monday the independent investigator, the Rampart Group, presented their findings to the chief clerk of the Washington state legislature . He in turn delivered the findings to the executive rules committee, composed of leaders of both parties in the house.

…Shea, meanwhile, was interviewed last week on Infowars’ David Knight Show, where he attacked perceived critics.

Shea then quoted Theodore Beale, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as a “champion of the alt right movement”, and whose blog is described as a home of “misogynistic, white supremacist diatribes”.

“Social justice warriors always lie, they always double down on their lie, and they always try to project on to you how they really are themselves,” Shea said.

(15) HIGH-STAKES COMICS AUCTION. Heritage Auctions brought home the bacon again: “Marvel Comics #1 Brings Record $1.26 Million to Lead Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction Beyond $14.9 Million”.

The finest known copy of Marvel Comics No. 1, sold for $1,260,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ record-setting Comics & Comic Art auction to $14,936,295 Nov. 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The second-largest comic auction of all time, trailing only the $15,121,405 realized in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago Comics & Comic Art Auction in May 2019, this sale included 15 lots that sold for at least $100,000.

…The issue, with famous cover art by Frank R. Paul and interior art by a group of illustrators that included Bill Everett, Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson, was purchased by a Pennsylvania postal carrier who bought every No. 1 issue he could of both comic books and magazines, beginning in the 1940s. It’s grade of 9.4 on a scale of 1-10 makes it the best copy of the issue ever found, according to Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

More than two dozen collectors made bids for Robert Crumb Your Hytone Comix #nn “Stoned Agin!” Inside Back Cover Original Art (Apex Novelties, 1971) before it closed at $690,000, breaking the record for the most ever paid for an interior piece of comic art. Created at the height of the artist’s popularity, the image is instantly recognizable, even by many who don’t know the work of Crumb, who is revered for his contribution to the underground comics movement in the 1960s. This iconic image was reproduced countless times, including on a blacklight poster, on pinback buttons, postcards and t-shirts.

Neal Adams Batman #251 Cover The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973) sold for $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage Auctions for a piece of DC art. The spectacular image of one of the most famous Joker covers of all time debuted a new version of the villain, trumpeting the return of the Joker after a four-year hiatus from Batman comics….

(16) HE CREATED THE UBIQUITOUS MARKS. NPR reports “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94”.

On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code.

The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer.

Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull’s-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.

But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. “I didn’t do what you asked,” he said.

Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull’s-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull’s-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time.

(17) SIMMERING. Kotaku discovered that “Baby Yoda Can Be Bought In The Sims 4”.

Because EA owns The Sims, and because EA also has the rights to Star Wars video games, we finally have a digital tie-in with the new live-action Mandalorian series. It’s not a Carl Weathers outfit. It’s not a “Bounty Hunter” job for your Sim. It’s a Baby Yoda statue you can buy and put in your yard.

(18) IN SEARCH OF REPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. They hope a tool will make them easier to come by. “Can A Research Accelerator Solve The Psychology Replication Crisis?”

In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength. These form the basis of first impressions, which may help people make important social decisions, from whom to vote for to how long a prison sentence should be.

To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations, and several studies have obtained similar findings. But until now, the theory has been replicated successfully only in a handful of settings, making its findings biased toward nations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — or WEIRD, a common acronym used in academic literature.

Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex. An early version was published at PsyArXiv Preprints on Oct. 31. The study is under review at the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries. The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to redo older psychology experiments but on a mass scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.

(19) THEY LIE, YOU KNOW. “How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings” – BBC will explain.

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Ophir Harpaz just wanted to get a good deal on a flight to London. She was on travel website OneTravel, scouring various options for her trip. As she browsed, she noticed a seemingly helpful prompt: “38 people are looking at this flight”. A nudge that implied the flight might soon get booked up, or perhaps that the price of a seat would rise as they became scarcer.

Except it wasn’t a true statement. As Harpaz looked at that number, “38 people”, she began to feel sceptical. Were 38 people really looking at that budget flight to London at the same exact moment?

Being a cyber-security researcher, she was familiar with web code so she decided to examine how OneTravel displayed its web pages. (Anyone can do this by using the “inspect” function on web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.) After a little bit of digging she made a startling discovery – the number wasn’t genuine. The OneTravel web page she was browsing was simply designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people were viewing a flight at any given moment. The exact figure was chosen at random.

Not only that, the website’s innards were surprisingly blatant about what was going on. The bit of code that defined the number shown to users was even labelled “view_notification_random”.

(20) MECHANICAL BULLS***. “General Election 2019: How computers wrote BBC election result stories”.

For the first time, BBC News published a news story for every constituency that declared election results overnight – all written by a computer.

It was the BBC’s biggest test of machine-generated journalism so far.

Each of nearly 700 articles – most in English but 40 of them in Welsh – was checked by a human editor before publication.

The head of the project said the tech was designed to enhance the service provided rather than to replace humans.

“This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment,” said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs.

“Using machine assistance, we generated a story for every single constituency that declared last night with the exception of the one that hasn’t finished counting yet. That would never have been possible.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Quail on Vimeo, Grant Kolton explains that if you want to be a quail, it’s hard work!

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

Marvels Epilogue Sneak Peek

Hitting comic shops this July – an all-new addition to the classic Marvels graphic novel written by Kurt Busiek and fully painted by Alex Ross. And it’s a “Marvels” look at the “all-new, all-different” X-Men of the 1970s!

In this 16-page story, Alex and Kurt bring Marvel’s world to brilliant, realistic life one last time, as the now-retired Phil Sheldon and his daughters, in Manhattan to see the Christmas lights, find themselves in the middle of a clash between the outsider heroes and the deadly Sentinels, giving them a close-up perspective on the mutant experience. Also featuring a behind-the-scenes look at the making of this special story, and other bonus features.

For more information on Marvels Epilogue, visit Marvel.com.

Busiek and Ross Back for 25th Anniversary of MARVELS


Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the series that changed the way fans look at super heroes, the landmark MARVELS is back. In the year 1939, young photojournalist Phil Sheldon attends the sensational unveiling of the fiery android Human Torch — little knowing he is witnessing the dawn of the Age of Marvels.

Prepare to relive Marvel’s Golden Age from a whole new point of view as Phil covers the superhuman sightings of the 1930s and 1940s — from the terror caused by the Human Torch’s epic clash with the Sub-Mariner to the patriotism stirred by the debut of Captain America and more. This unique look back at the MARVELS phenomenon is packed with extras and completely remastered.

Lauded as “a classic and watershed moment for the industry” by IGN and “a landmark” by Publisher’s Weekly, fans are invited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross’ groundbreaking and critically-acclaimed series MARVELS.

In February, MARVELS ANNOTATED kicks off the series with never-before-seen commentary from Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Read the original MARVELS series with new covers and insight from the creators themselves.

Marvel also will release exclusive monthly MARVELS 25th anniversary variant covers, painted by the legendary Alex Ross, starting with FANTASTIC FOUR #6 in January, TONY STARK: IRON MAN #9 in February, and THE IMMORTAL HULK #15 in March. Later in June, 20 artists will come together to pay tribute in a MARVELS 25th anniversary homage variant program across Marvel’s most popular titles.