Pixel Scroll 8/3/21 No One Will Be Watching Us, Why Don’t We Pixel In The Scroll?

(1) NEW CLIMATE IMAGINATION FELLOWSHIPS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has announced a new Climate Imagination Fellowship, which brings together an international team of science fiction authors to craft positive visions of climate futures, grounded in real science and local realities. The inaugural fellows are Libia Brenda, Xia Jia, Hannah Onoguwe, and Vandana Singh. Learn more at climateimagination.org, or check out the full announcement, “Climate Imagination Fellows inspire visions of resilient climate futures”.

The Climate Imagination Fellowship, hosted by the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, seeks to inspire a wave of narratives about what positive climate futures might look like for communities around the world.

The first four climate fellows are talented sff authors from all around the world “will generate hopeful stories about how collective action, aided by scientific insights, culturally responsive technologies, and revolutions in governance and labor, can help us make progress toward inclusive, sustainable futures.”

Hannah Onoguwe, Xia Jia, Vandana Singh, Libia Brenda. (Photo credits: Greatman Shots and Claudia Ruiz Gustafson.)
  • Libia Brenda is a writer, editor and translator based in Mexico City. She is one of the co-founders of the Cúmulo de Tesla collective, a multidisciplinary working group that promotes dialogue between the arts and sciences, with a special focus on science fiction; and Mexicona: Imagination and Future, a series of Spanish-language conversations about the future and speculative literature from Mexico and other planets. She was the first Mexican woman to be nominated for a Hugo Award for the bilingual and bicultural anthology “A Larger Reality/Una realidad más amplia.”
  • Xia Jia is a speculative fiction author and associate professor of Chinese literature at Xi’an Jiaotong University in Xi’an, a city in the Shaanxi province in northwest China. Seven of her short stories have won the Galaxy Award, China’s most prestigious science fiction award. She has published a fantasy novel, “Odyssey of China Fantasy: On the Road” (2009), and four collections of science fiction stories: “The Demon-Enslaving Flask” (2012), “A Time Beyond Your Reach” (2017), “Xi’an City Is Falling Down” (2018), and “A Summer Beyond Your Reach” (2020), her first collection in English. Her stories have appeared in English translation in Nature and Clarkesworld magazine. 
  • Hannah Onoguwe is a writer of fiction and nonfiction based in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State in southern Nigeria, a region famous for its oil industry. Her short stories have been published in the anthologies “Imagine Africa 500” (2016), from Pan African Publishers, and “Strange Lands Short Stories” (2020), from Flame Tree Press. Her work has appeared in publications including Adanna, The Drum Literary Magazine, Omenana, Brittle Paper, The Stockholm Review and Timeworn Literary Journal. In 2014, “Cupid’s Catapult,” her collection of short stories, was one of 10 manuscripts chosen to kick off the Nigerian Writers Series, an imprint of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
  • Vandana Singh is an author of speculative fiction, a professor of physics at Framingham State University and an interdisciplinary researcher on the climate crisis. She is the author of two short story collections, “The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories” (2014) and “Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories” (2018), the second of which was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. Her short fiction has been widely published, including the short story “Widdam,” part of the interdisciplinary climate-themed collection “A Year Without a Winter” (2019). She was born and brought up in New Delhi and now lives near Boston.

Each fellow will write an original piece of short climate fiction, building on local opportunities, challenges, resources and complexities, and drawing on conversations with experts in a variety of fields, ranging from climate science to sociology to energy systems to biodiversity. They will also write a set of shorter “flash-fiction” pieces. These pieces of short fiction will be collected, along with essays, interviews, art and interactive activities, in a Climate Action Almanac, to be published in 2022.

(2) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll is having the young people read old Hugo finalists. And now it is Niven’s turn in the barrel. “Neutron Star”.

“Neutron Star” or at least the collection of which it is the title story enjoys the distinction of being the piece most likely to entice new readers to read more Niven. To quote:

“It seemed to (Spike McPhee) that he should suggest to readers that they try a different Niven book first, as an introduction to Known Space. He tried out his theory: Of a sample set of about 60 or so readers, he got them to first try the Neutron Star collection before attempting Ringworld. Doing so improved the sample set’s desire to continue on to other Known Space books?—?from one-third to approximately two-thirds.”

It certainly worked for me: having encountered the collection, I hoovered up every other Niven work I could find in the mid-1970s. However, if there is one thing this series has taught me in the last five years, it is that material that appealed to people half a century ago does not appeal to young people today. Will this be the exception? 

Oh, you sweet summer child….

(3) WORLDCON MASQUERADE SIGNUPS. DisCon III is taking registrations for both the Virtual and In-Person Worldcon Masquerades. Click on the link for full details: Masquerade.

Virtual Dates

  • Online registration for the Virtual Masquerade is OPEN now. Register here.
  • Online registration for the Virtual Masquerade CLOSES: 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday, September 1, 2021
  • Videos must be SUBMITTED BY: September 1, 2021 via the addresses on the registration forms.

In Person Dates

  • Online registration for the in person Masquerade OPENS: July 1, 2021. Register here.
  • Online registration for the Masquerade CLOSES: 11:59 PM EDT on Wednesday,  December 15 , 2021
  • In-person registration OPENS: 3 PM on Wednesday, December 15, 2021
  • In-person registration CLOSES: Noon on Friday, December 17, 2021

(4) SPACE: THE VINYL FRONTIER. Arun Shastri looks at the reason why some products look familiar: “Read Before Assembly: The Influence Of Sci-Fi On Technology And Design” at Forbes.

In 1966 a television series called “Star Trek” introduced the communicator, a device Captain Kirk flips open to talk to his crew remotely.

Decades later, in the mid-1990s, Motorola released its StarTAC model phone—credited as the first flip phone and clearly inspired by the communicator device from the science fiction series.

… Sci-fi writers have been instrumental in imagining our present and our future—so much so that large tech firms have sponsored lecture series where fiction writers give talks to employees and commissioned “design fiction” projects to develop more sophisticated products and experiences.

For instance, Arizona State University has founded the Center for Science and the Imagination, whose goal is to ignite collective imagination for a better future. The Center created Project Hieroglyph, a web-based project that provides “a space for writers, scientists, artists and engineers to collaborate on creative, ambitious visions of our near future”—and presumably also to steer us away from dystopian futures worsened by irresponsible technology use.

(5) CLOTHES CIRCUIT TELEVISION. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Lisa Hayes found the VHS video tape buried in one of my boxes that had the ConAdian 1994 Worldcon Masquerade video on it, digitized it, and I’ve uploaded it to the Worldcon Events YouTube channel.

Unfortunately, the last part of the credits didn’t make it onto the 2 hour VHS tape. Also, due to YouTube copyright reasons, there is at least one entry that has its sound muted.

(6) SPECIAL BOOKS WILL COMMEMORATE MUSEUM OPENING. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will publish three debut catalogs on the work of legendary moviemakers Hayao Miyazaki , Spike Lee, and Pedro Almodóvar, whose careers will be celebrated when the museum opens its inaugural exhibitions to the public on September 30, 2021.

Bill Kramer, Director and President of the Academy Museum, said, “These first Academy Museum publications are a lasting record of our extraordinary inaugural exhibitions and our dynamic collaborations with Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli and filmmakers Spike Lee and Pedro Almodóvar. Like the exhibitions, these catalogs will bring readers closer to the filmography, art, influences, and careers of these remarkable artists.”

…The richly illustrated catalogue Hayao Miyazaki is published in partnership with Studio Ghibli. It will be available through the Academy Museum Store on September 7, 2021. Marking the museum’s eponymous inaugural temporary exhibition, the publication features hundreds of original production materials, including artworks never seen outside of Studio Ghibli’s archives in Japan. The 288-page hardcover book illuminates Miyazaki’s creative process and animation techniques through imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, and production cels from his early career through all 11 of his feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). The bookfeatures a foreword by producer and Studio Ghibli cofounder Toshio Suzuki along with texts by Pixar Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter, Cologne-based journalist and film critic Daniel Kothenschulte, and Academy Museum Exhibitions Curator Jessica Niebel. Hayao Miyazaki is designed by Jessica Fleischmann/Still Room and copublished with DelMonico Books.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1973 – Forty-eight years ago at Torcon II, Slaughterhouse-Five won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other finalists that year were The PeopleSilent Running and Between Time and Timbuktu (also based on a number of works by Vonnegut). The novel it was based on, Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, had been nominated for a Hugo three years earlier at Heicon ’70. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness would win that year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. [By Paul Weimer.] I first encountered Clifford Simak in the story whose last four lines haunts me to this day, the tale of a man, his dog and Jupiter: “Desertion”.  From this singular story, I discovered the wealth of his work, the rest of the stories besides Desertion in the City cycle, Way StationThe Goblin Reservation, and a host of short stories. Many things strike me about his work, in reading and re-reading his work: his abiding love of dogs, his aliens, funny, amusing, well drawn and yet sometimes inhumanly incomprehensible. (Not Explaining Everything is a feature, not bug, of Simak’s fiction) And time travel. Not in the traditional sense of a Time Patrol, but much of Simak’s fiction sends his protagonists forward and backward in time, or they’ve found they already HAVE done so, and it did not go well. Pastoral is the other note that Simak’s work evokes for me, the rural midwest setting of many of his stories and novels, his backcountry characters vividly and sometimes a bit tetchily deal with the issues they are faced with.  But there is a fundamental sense of themes of independence and autonomy and being true to oneself that inhabits his fiction, including those last four lines:   

“I can’t go back,” said Towser.
“Nor I,” said Fowler.
“They would turn me back into a dog,” said Towser.  
“And me,” said Fowler, “back into a man.”

(Simak died in 1988.)

  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?”. Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. I like authors who can do that. ISFDB lists her as having done a short story called “Murder, 1986” which they say is genre but I’ve not read it. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 81. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie.
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 71. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which is the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. Neat fact: he was the puppeteer for Grover in The Muppet Movie, and he later played Leonard Winsop in The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • Born August 3, 1954 Victor Milán. New Mexico author who specialized in media tie-in fiction. He had work in BattletechForgotten RealmsOutlanders UniverseStar Trek and Dinosaur Lords franchises to name but a few. His universe was The Guardians series. And a lot of stories in the Wild Card Universe. Craig W. Chrissinger has a remembrance here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 49. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish red headed colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender in one episode), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and she had a run in Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes.
  • Born August 3, 1980 Hannah Simone, 41. She was Mera, the lead, in the film remake of The Greatest American Hero. She was also Leena Param  in The H+ series in which humanity is nearly wiped and addicted to the internet, and host for several seasons of the WCG Ultimate Gamer series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro — You wouldn’t think Dr. Frankenstein could make this mistake.

(10) HORSEBLEEP. Although the topic has been in the Scroll before, this June 2020 article may still be fresh for a lot of us — The Atlantic looks at how “’My Little Pony’ Fans Confront Their Nazi Problem”.

… For years, this has been the status quo in the world of My Little Pony. In supposed deference to principles of free speech and openness on the internet, the presence of self-described Nazis within a fandom that idolizes compassion-oriented cartoon characters has become a coolly accepted fact. The community has sorted itself largely into two camps: those who think anything goes as long as someone finds it funny, and those who would rather ignore toxic elements than admit that not everything is perfect.

Until now. Following a new wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the United States, the fandom is in an all-out civil war, forced to either confront or deny what it’s let go on for so long. The abrupt reckoning has raised an existential question for internet spaces large and small: If you’ve gone online to live in a fantasy space, can you avoid taking responsibility when the real world finds its way in?…

… Now the real world and Equestria are colliding. Over the past few weeks, some My Little Pony fans have mocked the protests with racist fan art, most of which was posted to Derpibooru,  then massively upvoted by /mlp/ users. One much-discussed image was a pony version of a white-nationalist meme that circulated after the launch of a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station: a photo of the two white astronauts side by side with a photo of black protesters “rioting.” The artist replaced the black people in the image with cartoon zebras—which are awkwardly coded as African in the real My Little Pony universe, but often referred to on 4chan with a portmanteau of zebra and the N-word. “Beautiful,” one user responded to the image. “Perfect for subtle messaging.”

At the same time, My Little Pony art that was supportive of the Black Lives Matter protests was being hit with hundreds of downvotes—an apparently coordinated action that is against the site’s rules….

(11) FAMILIARS. The Guardian interviews the artist about the project in “Rankin designs covers for Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy”. More covers at the link.

Portraying Marisa Coulter, who has “tortured and killed without regret”, Rankin juxtaposed her with her golden monkey dæmon so that their eyes appear almost superimposed.

He said: “I wanted to create this amalgamation of the dæmon and the person. It’s really trying to embody the darkness of the series.”

The photographer said book covers should be more dramatic: “With classics, there’s a lot of playing safe … because one aesthetic or another might not be liked … What’s great about His Dark Materials is that the publisher and Philip went for the stronger, darker, more mysterious images.”

(12) DEATH WARMED OVER. Ars Technica’s Jennifer Oullette says “Post Mortem is the Norwegian vampire procedural dramedy we need right now”.

… The trailer opens with Live waking up in a hospital. Odd tells her that everyone thought she was dead after her body was found in a field. The responding officers processed the scene and transported her body to the morgue—at which point she woke up on the autopsy table. Officers Judith and Reinert are beside themselves about the mix-up, although Judith adds, “In our defense, you seemed really dead.”

Live soon realizes she isn’t quite herself. There’s the sudden onset of insomnia, and her senses are strangely heightened—so much so that she can hear a person’s pulse. Also, her eyes have changed color to a rich emerald, and she finds that she is significantly stronger. Then there’s her growing thirst for blood, culminating in a shot of Live waking up with her mouth covered in it—hopefully from the local blood bank, but Officer Judith has her suspicions that something stranger is going on. Odd, for his part, is happy to admit that he wishes there were a serial killer on the loose, as at least that would drum up some much-needed business for his funeral home….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Jungle Cruise Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George has, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the producer interrupt the pitch by taking a call from Dwayne Johnson, who says he has to be in every movie with “jungle” in the title and you can’t question Dwayne Johnson because he’ll raise an eyebrow at you!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Joey Eschrich, Paul Weimer, Jennifer Hawthorne, Kevin Standlee, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

A Poet and a Comedian

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1445)

Here’s a poem I wrote for Larry Niven’s birthday last week.

Laughter and science
Are the left and the right hand
Reaching for the new,
Realizing the touch of truth
Yet unknown – what a great joke!

It’s an acrostic (read down the first letter of each line) in unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines, like Japanese tanka.

Once our field of speculative fiction seemed to have lots of science fiction and little fantasy; today we seem to have lots of fantasy and little science fiction.  Niven has written both.

Also in The Flying Sorcerers (with David Gerrold) the characters – most of them – think they’re in fantasy, but they’re actually in science fiction; in Rainbow Mars the characters think they’re in science fiction, but they’re actually in fantasy.

Even I have collaborated with Niven; we interviewed the Rainbow Mars character Hanville Svetz, which you can see in Argentus 4 (PDF); we had fun with it, but you have to have read the book.

The most recent solo Niven work I know is “By the Red Giant’s Light”, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction Nov-Dec 2017, which I recommend.

He’s a poet, and a comedian.

Another Well-Titled Book

By John Hertz: In one of Forry Ackerman’s more inspired puns, he called us the Imagi-Nation.

We make things up.

Of course all art does.  Maybe all life does.

I knew people with a bookshop that had two names, “Bookfellows” and “Mystery and Imagination”.  I told them I liked “Bookfellows” better because all books were mystery and imagination.

SF is particularly hard.  If it’s just like what we already know, it’s only mainstream.  If it’s too unlike what we know, how are we going to engage with it?

I’ve mentioned C.S. Lewis’ advice I call the One Strange rule: ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, or extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances.

Ambitious SF authors may try both.

Glorious, the Greg Benford – Larry Niven novel appearing last year, is one of the more ambitious SF stories.  It’s third in a series.  I didn’t re-read the first two before reading it.  I don’t think you’ll have to.

It’s an interstellar-travel book. To manage that, some authors make up a way to go faster than light.  So far as present-day science knows, it can’t be done (yes, I’ve heard of the Alcubierre drive; even if it’s possible we can’t build it now).  There’s no faster-than-light drive in Glorious.  There are no generation ships.  There’s suspended animation – “cold sleep”.  The authors don’t suppose that will be easy or simple.  There’s a lot of high-power computing machinery – artificial intelligence.

I don’t know if AI, cold sleep, or FTL will prove achievable.  A century or a millennium from now any might have been demonstrated to be fantasy.  Meanwhile a story treating any well is science fiction.

Some of Glorious might contradict some people’s religious faith. That faith might be right and Glorious wrong.  But faith – I have some – isn’t science.  It isn’t less valid – or so I believe – just different.  Science is based on things that can be detected and measured in certain ways.  Faith doesn’t have those limitations – so it has other limitations.  I happen to believe some of Glorious is wrong.  But I don’t read books to be agreed with.

Colonists in Glorious think they’re high-tech.  They’ve left Earth, and found what looks like a suitable place far enough away.  It would be only a short hop in an E.E. Smith book, or a Larry Niven Known Space book, but this isn’t one of those.

Colonists try to prepare for surprises. History shows and SF tells they’re surprised anyway.

People in Glorious get downloaded – if I were writing a few decades ago I’d have had to explain that – into bodies and even machines.  That’s almost trivial – I did say almost – compared to what these colonists have to face.

They also have to find how to perceive what they’re facing.

We’ve had stories like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court with protagonists on the high-tech side.  Oh, look at those benighted creatures over there.  In Glorious the sucker is on another tentacle.

There’s some reason to believe the Glorious protagonists are being played for suckers.

Benford is known for imagining physics.  Niven is known for imagining aliens.  Plenty of both in Glorious.  There’s poetic writing too.  It isn’t quite like either of them.  This is a collaboration.

The landing team arrives.  We’re a quarter of the way into the book.

The long meadow before them lay quiet and placid.

No greeting party.

No sign of any reception at all.

Not what any of them had planned.

…. a forest that seemed a writhing mass of wide, hollow limbs.  Every living thing seemed endowed with light, airy mechanics. Translucent spiked leaves wove in an easy breeze, and diaphanous flowers of a shiny blue and golden yellow…. Beth knew that this plain was underpinned by struts, and so was clinging to a silvery tether trellis [p. 119].

Things will get more beautiful and more strange.

In another ambitious feature of this book, it has illustrations.  The graphic artists are Don Davis and Brenda Cox Giguere.  That hasn’t been an ordinary part of novels for adults in quite a while.  The pictures are monochrome.  They aren’t captioned.  Like the words, they result from and invite imagination.  I thought this had better not go without saying.  Getting there took me a while.

Much farther along an alien being says,

“You have encountered our transmitter, which distorts space-time.  You correctly deduce that we use this channel to speak with distant minds that carry out large, powerful experiments.”

“Look,” Viviane said, “we came here to communicate and colonize, if you will be so kind.  Not about physics and such, at least not right away.”

Redwing whispered to her… “Let Twisto go on.  It wants something from us [p. 354].”

If the space – land-space – or something – isn’t unoccupied, and if the people (“Science fiction is about people.  Some of the people are aliens”) are higher-tech than our protagonists, how can colonization be possible – if they will be so kind?  Must our protagonists, or anyone, be careless, arrogant, or worse?

There’s glory for you.

Pixel Scroll 2/12/21 A Series Of Unfortunate Event Horizons

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to “Nibble hors d’oeuvres with Mary Robinette Kowal” in Episode 138 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut series — which so far includes the novels The Calculating StarsThe Fated Sky, and The Relentless Moon — as well as the historical fantasy novels in The Glamourist Histories series plus Ghost Talkers. Her short stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsAsimov’s, and other magazines and anthologies, and her collections include Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.

She’s currently the President of SFWA, a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Her novel The Calculating Stars is one of only 18 novels to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in a single year. She’s also a professional puppeteer and voice actor, and has won two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.

We discussed the temporal differences between puppetry and science fiction conventions, how she transitioned from writing magical Regency novels to the Lady Astronaut series, why unlike many writers, she reads her reviews (albeit selectively), the reason she’s able to write relationships between reasonable people so well, how she constructs a science fiction mystery, why it’s so important she likes her characters’ clothing when she picks a project, the meaning of science fiction itself within her science fiction universe, the way she uses sensitivity readers to make her work better, how a novel is like a clear glass pitcher, and much more.

(2) TUTTLE BEGINS. Lisa Tuttle’s inaugural column for The Guardian has posted: “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup”.

… Adam Roberts is one of the most intellectually daring British science fiction writers, trying something different in every book. Purgatory Mount (Gollancz, £16.99) starts off like classic space opera, on board a spaceship crewed by five quasi-immortal superhumans. On an empty planet they discover an enormous tower-like structure, possibly the remains of a space elevator, in which they perceive a resemblance to Dante’s mountain of Purgatory. However, this is not the real story….

(3) STURGEON AWARD CONSIDERATION. Nominations are open for the 2021 Sturgeon Award through March 15. Eligible works are science fiction short stories, novelettes, or novellas originally published in English during 2020, in a magazine, anthology, website, or other format.

If you are a reader/reviewer/critic:

If you are interested in participating, please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) your list of up to ten (10) nominations for what you consider to be the top science-fiction short works of the year, ranked from 1 to 10, with 1 being your top pick. If possible, please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON NOMINATIONS LIST.  

If you are an editor:

Please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) a list of the three (3) best science fiction stories from your year’s editorial work. You do not need to rank these. Please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON EDITORIAL NOMINATIONS.  

This year’s Sturgeon Award Jury members are Sarah Pinsker, Elizabeth Bear, Taryne Taylor, and Kij Johnson, and they will also involve Noel Sturgeon in the selection process. Noel is Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust and one of Theodore Sturgeon’s children. 

(4) SF POETRY PODCAST. Outskirts Poetry has launched The Outskirts Poetry Podcast, a “bi-weekly podcast beaming straight out of an underground bunker that perfectly marries SF Poetry/Fiction and the counterculture.”

The podcast is geared toward writers and readers of speculative genre poetry and fiction “who enjoy art that thrives at the fringes of society.” Season 1 guests include interviews with Catherynne M. Valente, space poet; Josh Pearce, Afrosurrealist; D. Scot Miller; and Augur Magazine Editor, Terese Mason Pierre. Outskirts Poetry is a creative media collaboration between Post-apocalyptic poet, Jake Tringali, who hosts the podcast, and fellow SFPA spec-fic writer and media specialist, Melanie Stormm.

Go to the link above to listen, or access the podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Outskirts Poetry Podcast covers the margins: science fiction, fantasy, weird, the things listeners should be in on, but might not be yet. Our main exports are badly behaved.

(5) FINANCIAL HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe has been started to “Help Alma Alexander With The Loss of her Husband”. The reason for the appeal —  

Alma Alexander, fantasy writer and all-around good egg, is facing the devastating loss of her husband, coupled with medical and funeral expenses, and the possible loss of her home.

We are trying to raise some funds to give her husband, Deck, a proper send-off, and ease the burden on Alma.  The campaign is being organized by Tim Dunn of Nerdy Origami, and all monies raised will go directly to Alma.

Alexander was interviewed by File 770’s Carl Slaughter in 2017.

(6) GRRM APPEARS FOR CHARITY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Saturday night: “Food for Love – Join us Valentine’s Eve for a STAR-STUDDED VIRTUAL CONCERT to end hunger in New Mexico”. There’s some serious talent on the bill, and between George R.R. Martin and David Byrne, its genre-relevance hops the bar, in my opinion.

(7) NIVEN’S WORLDBUILDING. Dominic Noble devotes a video to “The Absolutely Crazy Worlds And Aliens Of Known Space”.

…Pearson’s Puppeteers — the name makes sense in the book — are a fascinating non-humanoid race known for several unusual physical and psychological characteristics. For starters they have three legs and two heads, neither of which contain their brain, which is located in their torso. Their heads serve as multi-function limbs encompassing all the usual activities of seeing, eating, breathing, and speaking, while also being their primary manipulators. They’re also known for being incredibly intelligent and almost comically cowardly — everything scares the heck out of these creatures no matter how unlikely the threats. So their entire culture is based around making things as safe as possible for themselves. It’s such a part of their core being that any Puppeteer who shows even a little courage is considered certifiably insane. The absolute best example of this is the reason that no human has seen a Puppeteer for centuries at the start of the story. “We need to evacuate this entire section of the galaxy! The galactic core has exploded!” “What? When?” “10 000 years ago.” “Um, okay, and when is the blast wave going to reach us?” “20 000 years. We’re wasting time talking. Run!”

Yeah, they evacuated their entire species and started a mass exodus out of the galaxy 20 000 years in advance just to be safe. This conveniently leads up to the setup for the plot of this book…

(8) DATLOW ON EDITING. Tor Nightfire’s Tonia Ransom supplies the questions in “Interviewing Ellen Datlow, the Doyenne of Short Horror Fiction”.

TR: What advice would you give aspiring editors?

ED: The key to good editing is asking questions and not imposing your own bias/style (if you’re also a writer) on someone else’s story. If you like a story and think you might want to acquire and edit it but believe it needs work, don’t be afraid to make suggestions, and if something isn’t clear, you might ask the writer to tell you what they think is going on––and if their vision is not coming through on the page, tell them that. But always remember: it’s not your story. It’s the writer’s. If you can’t agree on revisions, let it go. Learn to say “no.” Never feel obliged to buy stories by friends or big names if you don’t like the story or don’t think it works for the venue for which you’re editing.

(9) GET THE POINT? James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where to find “Blades for Hire: Five Fictional Duellists”. This first one should be familiar —

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)

Inigo Montoya trained to become a master swordsman for one driving purpose: to slay the six-fingered man who murdered Inigo’s father. Once he had become a master swordsman, Inigo discovered that his plan was flawed: Inigo had no idea who the six-fingered man might be or where he might be found. Years of searching turned into decades. A penniless Inigo had no choice but to hire himself out as a duellist. Alas, this meant he must work for evil men like master criminal Vizinni. Will he ever find the six-fingered man?

(10) INA SHORROCK OBIT. Liverpool fan Ina Shorrock (1928-2021) has died of a heart attack at the age of 92. She discovered fandom in 1950, was a member of the Liverpool Group, and generally acted as a social director for Liverpool fandom. Eric Bentcliffe in 1959 called her “British fandom’s ‘Hostess with the mostess’. Ina has superabundant energy, and a gift for making people both ‘at home’ and happy.” She belonged to the BSFA (which she chaired). She was married to fellow fan Norman Shorrock.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, The Adventures Of Superman radio program began with the airing on New York City’s WOR of its first episode, “The Baby from Krypton”. The story is what you expect it to be. It would air until March 1951 with 2,088 original episodes of the program airing. It starred Bud Collyer as Clark Kent / Superman and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 – Russell Chauvenet.  Had he only coined the word fanzine (in his zine Detours; also generally credited with prozine) it would have been enough for us.  He co-founded the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; with Damon Knight and Art Widner) and served a term as President.  Another zine Sardonyx was originally mimeographed but I feel sure I had in my hand a later multi-color issue, produced by spirit duplicator, in the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  Next door to us he was rated Expert at chess; also built his own Windmill-class sailboat, and was a medal-winning runner.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1929 Donald Kingsbury, 92. He’s written three novels (Courtship RiteThe Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1933 – Juanita Coulson, age 88.  Co-edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Yandro with husband Buck Coulson; you can see a lot of issues here; you can go directly to her cover for Y92 here.  First-rate filker; won a Pegasus; Filk Hall of Fame.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  She and Buck were Fan Guests of Honor at L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle fan fund sent them to Seacon ’79, the 37th; after Buck left, she was Fan Guest of Honor at Reconstruction the 10th NASFiC (North America SF Con; since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 79. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire”, which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His  genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of  Galaxy Quest into novel form. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The AvengersStar MaidensHammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock HolmesTales of the UnexpectedRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Maud Adams, 76. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 – David Friedman, Ph.D., age 76.  Two novels from this man schooled as a physicist who taught law a dozen years at Santa Clara Univ. (now emeritus) and earned the rank of Duke in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism); it is said he while king of the Middle Kingdom challenged the East, later as king of the East accepted the challenge and lost (to himself).  He is an incrementalist consequentialist anarcho-capitalist, and yes, I think all those terms are needed.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 71. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The SeriesseaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson which I really liked, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1954 – Stu Shiffman.  Long-time fanartist; won a Hugo; was given the Rotsler Award.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at WisCon 12, Minicon 20, Lunacon 43.  Four stories.  Here are covers for Chunga 1 and 19.  Here is Taral Wayne’s tributezine The Slan of Baker Street (alluding to Van Vogt’s novel Slan and SS’ Sherlock Holmes hobby).  One of my favorite photos of him is here.  Randy Byers’ appreciation is here.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1962 – Katherine Roberts, age 59.  Welsh and Spanish.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories.  First class degree in mathematics.  Boase Award.  Correspondent of Vector.  Contributed a “Top 10 SF Novels” to The Zone and Premonitions 6.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1981 – Lucy Christopher, age 40.  Australian now in England.  Five novels, one shorter story.  Boase Award.  Gold Inky.  Teacher, horsewoman.  “We are all storytellers….  Thinking about this is my life’s work.”  [JH]

(13) TOMORROW’S MEREDITH MOMENT. The ebook edition of Return to Nevèrÿon, a four-volume “postmodern sword-and-sorcery” epic from Samuel R. Delany will be downpriced to $1.99 across all US and Canadian retailers on February 13 the author announced on Facebook. He provided this Amazon link.

(14) EBOOK$. Protocol investigates how an app that assists libraries also poses financial challenges: “Libby is stuck between libraries and e-book publishers”.

On the surface, there couldn’t be a more wholesome story than the meteoric rise of the Libby app. A user-friendly reading app becomes popular during the pandemic, making books cool again for young readers, multiplying e-book circulation and saving public libraries from sudden obsolescence.

But the Libby story is also a parable for how the best-intentioned people can build a beloved technological tool and accidentally create a financial crisis for those who need the tech most. Public librarians depend on Libby, but they also worry that its newfound popularity could seriously strain their budgets.

… Libby downloads increased three times their usual amount beginning in late March. E-book checkout growth and new users on Overdrive both increased more than 50%.

Libby had helped to save libraries.

It had also accelerated a funding crisis. Public library budgets have never been luxe, and book acquisition budgets in particular have always been tight. Though it may seem counterintuitive to readers, e-books cost far more than physical books for libraries, meaning that increased demand for digital editions put libraries in a financial bind….

(15) NO MOSS WAS GATHERED. “Stonehenge may be a rebuilt Welsh stone circle, new research shows”Yahoo! has the story.

…Scholars have known for decades that most of Stonehenge’s bluestones were carried, dragged or rolled to Salisbury Plain from the Preseli Hills. In 2019, Parker Pearson and his team provided evidence of the exact locations of two of the bluestone quarries. And last year, another team of researchers led by David Nash of the University of Brighton revealed that most of Stonehenge’s sarsens hail from a woodland area in Wiltshire, some 15 miles from where they stand on Salisbury Plain.

The bluestones are thought to have been the first to be erected at Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago, centuries before the larger sarsen stones were brought there. The discovery by Parker Pearson and his team that the bluestones had been extracted from two quarries in the Preseli Hills before the first stage of Stonehenge was built in 3000 BC prompted them to reinvestigate the nearby Waun Mawn site to determine whether those monoliths were the remains of a stone circle supplied by the quarries that was then dismantled to build Stonehenge….

(16) THE WEB, ER, WEED OF CRIME BEARS BITTER FRUIT. Talk about “going bad.” Let the Wikipedia tell you the fate of “Saturn (magazine)”.

Saturn was an American magazine published from 1957 to 1965. It was launched as a science fiction magazine, but sales were weak, and after five issues the publisher, Robert C. Sproul, switched the magazine to hardboiled detective fiction that emphasized sex and sadism. Sproul retitled the magazine Saturn Web Detective Story Magazine to support the change, and shortened the title to Web Detective Stories the following year. In 1962, the title was changed yet again, this time to Web Terror Stories, and the contents became mostly weird menace tales—a genre in which apparently supernatural powers are revealed to have a logical explanation at the end of the story.

Donald A. Wollheim was the editor for the first five issues; he published material by several well-known authors, including Robert A. HeinleinH. P. Lovecraft, and Harlan Ellison, but was given a low budget and could not always find good-quality stories. It is not known who edited the magazine after the science fiction issues…

(17) SPAIN RODRIGUEZ DOCUMENTARY. In “A New Film Plumbs the Depths of Spain’s Underground Comix”, Print Magazine interviews documentary filmmaker Susan Stern.

I met Spain and followed “Trashman,” his signature comic, at The East Village Other. He was a groundbreaker. What inspired you to make this film?

I made Bad Attitude because I wanted more people to see Spain’s bold, original pen-and-ink art. Just as the 1960s have a soundtrack, I’ve always thought Spain’s art helped design the “look” of the ’60s. When I began the film in 2012, it was a time of relative political complacency. I also wanted to rouse people with Spain’s fiery—yet self-satirizing—left-wing radicalism. As it turned out, Bad Attitude is perfect for the political ferment of 2021. Spain’s “anti-racist” work with the white working-class bikers of Buffalo in the early 1960s is a revealing part of the film….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/4/21 She’s Got
A Pixel To Scroll, And She Don’t Care

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB virtual reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik on Wednesday, January 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back at their website or social media to get the link when it drops.

Lauren Beukes


Lauren Beukes is a South African novelist, ex-journalist and sometime documentary maker who has written five novels, a pop history, a short story collection and New York Times best-selling comics. Her novel Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award, The Shining Girls is soon to be a tv show for Apple with Elisabeth Moss, and won the University of Johannesburg Prize and the Strands Critics Choice Award among others. Her new book Afterland, about a world (almost) without men, is currently in development. She lives in Cape Town with her daughter.

Usman T. Malik
 

Usman T. Malik is a Pakistani-American writer and doctor. His fiction has been reprinted in several year’s best anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy series, and has won the Bram Stoker Award and the British Fantasy Award. Usman’s debut collection, Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan, will be out in early 2021.

(2) COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER. In search of prospects to nominate for the video game Hugo, Camestros Felapton explores another game he hopes will meet his criteria of “look[ing] like they might be interesting/notable from the perspective of science fiction & fantasy as a broad genre” — “Review: Spiritfarer (Nintendo Switch)”.

…However, the game I will nominate in this category isn’t Hades but a game set in a quite different afterlife: Spiritfarer. The two games couldn’t be more different and yet both borrow Charon the Ferryman and Hades as characters from Greek mythology and both use (different) genres of game play to lead you to interact with a series of characters from whom you learn about their lives (and deaths) and your own characters back story. Spiritfarer has fewer murderous, laser firing crystal things though.

The genre of gameplay is resource management and exploration. You have a ship with a small number of passengers and you sail between islands collecting resources and improving your ship. It’s all presented as 2D animation largely moving horizontally.

(3) ELDRITCH FOR MILLIONS. IGN Southeast Asia tells “How Cosmic Horror Went Mainstream”. (You didn’t know that, did you?)

…Alternately called cosmic horror or Lovecraftian horror, this brand of story is focused on unknowable and ancient terrors. While the genre’s most iconic monster, Cthulhu, slumbers in a lost underwater city, cosmic horror just as often directly lives up to its name and comes from the cold of space or is lurking in isolated areas like Antarctica. The genre has few real heroes, mostly focusing on people who are already deeply flawed or struggling before they confront these horrors. While they may be killed, the protagonists are just as likely to be rendered insane or somehow fundamentally transformed into something as equally unknowable and terrible as the unspeakable creatures they have encountered.

But how did cosmic horror seep into the mainstream of movies, TV, and games? Let’s trace that history from D&D to True Detective to Nicolas Cage and beyond…

(4) ELLISON REFERENCE. In the discussion of other things,Scientific American’s “Hellscapes” column “A Quick Look at Underpaid Female Docs, Unethical Ethicists and Frogs with Intestinal Fortitude” ends with the following:

Speaking of hell, a study in the August 3 issue of the journal Current Biology revealed that the vast majority of members of a species of beetle, Regimbartia attenuata, perform a literally death-defying feat after being swallowed by various species of frogs. The beetle apparently swims its little heart out till it pops out of the frog’s derriere. Because, as another axiom has it, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

To find out whether the insect’s passage was active or passive, researchers immobilized some beetles by coating them with wax before going into the mouth of hell, or rather, frog. None of these beetles survived. To paraphrase science-fiction legend Harlan Ellison (who definitely would have come up with this experimental protocol if he’d lived long enough): they really don’t want to open their mouths, and they must scream.

(5) NO FORWARDING ADDRESS. “Is anybody out there? All the intelligent aliens in our galaxy could be dead…”SYFY Wire distills a scientific article about the chances.

…The Milky Way has been around for billions of years. In that time, life has not only had had plenty of time to evolve to an advanced level and achieve heights of technology even our wildest sci-fi dreams couldn’t fathom, but also to destroy itself.

“We found [self-annihilation of complex life] to be the most influential parameter determining the quantity and age of galactic intelligent life,” the physicists said in a study recently published in Astrophysics of Galaxies.

There were three types of limitations for the existence of aliens that the team studied. They considered the possibilities of abiogenesis, how long it might have taken (or be taking) for an intelligent civilization to evolve, and chances of such a civilization crushing itself. Abiogenesis is the idea of life spawning from things that are definitely not alive. 

(6) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Here’s someone who’s theorizing is not discouraged by the preceding study: “Harvard Professor Says Alien Technology Visited Earth in 2017”Yahoo! has the story.

…Loeb says there are two big details that suggest Oumuamua wasn’t just a comet, but rather a piece of alien technology. The first detail is the object’s dimensions, as it was determined to be “five to 10 times longer than it was wide.” Loeb argues the cigar-like shape isn’t typical for a natural space object.

But the theoretical physicist says the biggest detail that supports his theory is Oumuamua’s movement.

“The excess push away from the sun, that was the thing that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

Loeb explains that the sun’s gravitational force would cause a natural object to move faster as it approaches, and eventually push the object back, causing it to move slower as it moves away. Loeb points out that this didn’t occur with Oumuamua, which accelerated “slightly, but to a highly statistically significant extent” as it moved further and further away.

“If we are not alone, are we the smartest kids on the block?” Loeb asked. “If there was a species that eliminated itself through war or changing the climate, we can get our act together and behave better. Instead, we are wasting a lot of resources on Earth fighting each other and other negative things that are a big waste.”

(7) HEADLONG RETREAT. R.S. Benedict has posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast.”I talk to writer/artist Sloane Leong about SFF’s retreat into childhood nostalgia, and the beauty of mature fiction.” Listen here.

As the world looks grimmer and grimmer, Millennials and Gen Xers retreat deeper and deeper into childhood nostalgia. Adults dominate fandoms meant for children, like Steven Universe, Young Adult fiction, and My Little Pony. Within SFF, many writers, readers and editors have begun to treat all media as though it were meant for children: It must be didactic and escapist and safe. But there are still some of us who want art to treat us like adults.

In this episode, writer and artist Sloane Leong joins us to talk about the power of embracing your inner grownup.

(8) ROBERTS STILL ALIVE. People sent links to articles reporting the actress death, however, actress Tanya Roberts is still alive at this writing according to TMZ.

(9) JAEL OBIT. Artist Jael died November 17 reports Locus Online Jael (1937-2020). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says Jael did covers for Baen and DAW, as well as magazines. Jael’s work received eight Chesley Award nominations between 1995 and 2002.

(10) SHELLEY OBIT. Hammer Films star Barbara Shelley has died at the age of 88 according to The Sun: ”’Queen of Hammer’ who starred in horror films and Doctor Who dies after surviving Covid”.

She also appeared in the Doctor Who episode Planet Of Fire, starring Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor.

Her agent, Thomas Bowington, said: “She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the technicolour queen of Hammer.

…Shelley was also known for TV roles in series including The Saint, The Avengers, The Borgias, Blake’s 7 and Crown Court, and later played Hester Samuels in EastEnders.

Robert J. Sawyer praised Shelley’s performance in Quatermass and the Pit (1967) on Facebook in which she”played a completely professional scientist, paleontologist Barbara Judd, the female lead, in one of the best science-fiction films ever made.”He also posted a great quote from Shelly:

“I adored science fiction. When I was a very little girl my father used to have all these science fiction magazines and we used to go through them together. My mind had been opened up to science fiction by my father so when I got these scripts it wasn’t `What’s this rubbish?’ It was ‘that’s interesting.'”

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1971 — Fifty years ago,  Larry Niven’s Ringworld would win the Hugo for Best Novel at Noreascon I over Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero, Robert Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, Wilson Tucker‘s The Year of the Quiet Sun and Hal Clement’s Star Light. It would also win the Locus, Nebula and Ditmar Awards, and Locus would later include it on its list of All-Time Best SF Novels before 1990.  It would spawn three sequel novels and a prequel series as well which was co-written with Edward M. Lerner. One film and three series have been announced down the decades but none to date have been produced.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 4, 1882 – P.J. Monahan.  Newspaper cartoonist, illustrator in the “pulp” days (when our and other magazines were printed on cheap pulp paper).  Thirty covers, twenty interiors.  Here is Semi Dual, the Occult Detector.  Here is Thuvia.  Here is the 26 Jun 20 All-Story Weekly – weekly!  How’d you like to be the editor of that?  To show PJM’s range, here is the 1 Sep 12 Leslie’s, and here is a portrait of Pope Pius X.  (Died 1931) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1882 – Violet Van der Elst.  Twoscore short stories, half a dozen collections, for us.  Starting as a scullery maid, she developed cosmetics including the first brushless shaving cream – don’t say we’ve made no progress – and grew rich; fought against the death penalty, threw her money and her mind into it, lost both, barely lived to see it abolished.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book by publishing original material in the early Thirties instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1904 – Dale Ulrey.  Four covers, a dozen interiors.  Also a comic-strip artist, notably Apple Mary, famous during the Depression, still running today as Mary Worth.  Here is her Wizard of Oz.  Here is an interior for Jaglon and the Tiger Fairies.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 94. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1930 – Ruth Kyle.  Founding member of the Lunarians (New York club, famous in song and story).  Hard-working Secretary of NYCon II the 14th Worldcon; married its chairman Dave Kyle; his tale of their honeymoon flight to Loncon I the 15th is here.  Good cook, gracious hostess.  Part of an adventure I had with Dave, see here (bottom of three).  (Died 2011) [JH]  
  • Born January 4, 1933 – Phyllis Naylor, age 88.  A dozen novels for us; a hundred thirty all told; some 2,000 articles.  Newbery Medal.  Sequoyah Children’s Book Award.  Mark Twain Readers Award.  William Allen White Children’s Book Award.  Kerlan Award.  “What spare time?  If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.”  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 75. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 63. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon.  His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out Supergirl,  Honey, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 61. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could argue are genre adjacent such as “Losing My Religion”. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1981 – Sarah Crossan, age 40.  Two books for us, seven others.  Has read four each by Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, two by George Eliot.  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 36. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also played Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012, and she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” episode of Black Mirror. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1985 – Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe, age 36.  A dozen covers.  Here is Desert Stars.  Here is The Sentinel.  Here is Omni.  Here is his page at ArtStation.  [JH]

(13) THE SIGN OF THE Z. In the Washington Post, Michael Sragow notes the centennial of THE MARK OF ZORRO, the first Zorro movie.  He notes that both Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster say that Zorro’s twin identity as the masked crimefighter and the foppish Don Diego as a precursor to Batman and Bruce Wayne and Superman and Clark Kent.  In addition, Sragow sees Zorro’s secret lair as a precursor of the Batcave and Lolita Pulido’s ditching Don Diego for Zorro as Lois Lane favoring Superman over Clark Kent. “On Zorro’s 100th birthday, the father of swashbucklers and superhero movies is still relevant”

…Like Tennyson’s Sir Galahad, Zorro has the strength of 10 because his heart is pure. He’s also irreverent and mischievous. His sparkle exudes hipness: He embraces the New World’s egalitarian ethos while his enemies defend the feudal past.

Zorro lifted spirits in the 1920s. In the 2020s, his ebullience can generate ecstatic highs.

During Fairbanks’s previous run as the parody hero of contemporary action comedies like “His Picture in the Papers,” fans came to think of him as “Doug,” a tribute to his offhand elegance — like Fred Astaire’s, a triumph of talent and willpower. Doug transports this knockabout grace into “The Mark of Zorro.” With his light heart and “can-do” demeanor — qualities the world embraced as quintessentially American — Zorro soon dominated action-film iconography. Cinema would never be the same.

(14) ZOOMIN’ DOWN THE ROAD. “Movin’ Right Along With Kermit The Frog and Fozzie Bear” on YouTube has Kermit and Fozzie welcoming the new year with dreams of a road trip and showing they know how to use Zoom.

(15) THANKS, MY GOOD COUNTRYMAN. James Davis Nicoll surveys “Canadians in SF as Written by Non-Canadians” at Tor.com. (Is that allowed?)

Canada! Perhaps best known to fans of British soap operas, for whom it serves as that mysterious land to the west to which characters vanish after their purpose on the show has been served. Of course, all that is needed to learn far more about Canada than you would ever need or want to know is to get trapped in a conversation with a Canadian, uninvited exposition concerning their homeland being as natural to the average Canadian as it is any given inhabitant of a fictional utopia confronted by a woken sleeper from the pre-utopian past.

One might reasonably expect that most SF touching on Canada was written by Canadians and the Canadian-adjacent. Perhaps it is. Quite a lot of it is not. Here are five examples of Canada and Canadians in science fiction, as seen by foreign eyes.

First on the list is Bob Shaw, who’s challenging because he lived and worked in Canada for a period.

(16) HOPE HE GETS HIS MD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The first baby of 2021 in one Alabama town has a possibly-unique name, Anakyn Gene Strange. Yeah, they changed the spelling of the first name a bit, but wouldn’t it be lovely if the young lad went into medicine. Think of it  — Dr. Anakyn Strange. “‘The Force is Strong’ with Florence’s first baby in 2021”

Star Wars fans immediately know the reference when hearing the name Anakyn.

While it may not be spelled the same as it was in the series, Hope and Dusty Strange used the name on Florence’s first birth of 2021. Anakyn Gene Strange was born at 1:04 a.m. on January 1 at North Alabama Medical Center.

According to our news partners at the Times Daily, Anakyn was 5 pounds, 12 ounces and was 19 3/4 inches long with brown eyes and curly brown hair.

“There actually was a feeling of relief because 2020 was a horrible and challenging year,” she said. “It was the most pure way to start out the year.”…

(17) RAVENCON ANTHOLOGY KICKSTARTER. Michael D. Pederson, RavenCon 2022 chair, explains:

Being an April convention, we were forced to announce this year’s [2020] cancellation three weeks before the convention. Needless to say, after having spent 11 months buying supplies and paying fees for the con we didn’t have much (read: any) capital left after refunding the vendors. And we still needed to refund about a third of our attendees that wanted money. And now that we’ve had to cancel for 2021 as well, we’re really stuck for funds. So, we created an anthology, with story donations coming from many of our regular programming guests as well as a few of my old Nth Degree contributors. We’re using the anthology to raise funds through Kickstarter. We funded the entire project on our first day and hit our first stretch goal a week later. We’re working on a second stretch goal and expect to announce a third stretch goal later this week.

You can find the fundraiser at: CORVID-19 — Kickstarter. The stories in CORVID-19: A RavenCon Anthology are:

  • “Windows to the Soul” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • “Raven’s Sacrifice” by Heather Ewings
  • “The Cruelest Team Will Win” by Mike Allen
  • “Jenny” by Debbie Manber Kupfer
  • “Daughter of the Birds” by Maya Preisler
  • “Kvetina and the Crows” by Rhys Schrock
  • “Corvus Monitus” by Cass Morris
  • “If the Moon is Real” by Samantha Bryant
  • “Life in a Moment” by James Maxey
  • “Crows’ Feet” by Diana Bastine
  • “A Warning of Crows” by Jennifer R. Povey
  • “Wet Birds” by Elizabeth Massie
  • “Heart Truth” by Jenna Hamrick
  • “Table for One” by Joan Wendland
  • “Dominion” by Margaret Karmazin
  • “The Gore-Crow” by Meryl Yourish
  • “The Song of the Raven” by Toi Thomas
  • “Fledging” by Kathryn Sullivan
  • “Feather Fall” by Kara Dennison

(18) ESCHEW SURPLUS CONSONANTS. A whole collection of tweets from people who seem qualified to join File 770’s crack proofreading staff: “People Who Don’t Know How to Spell ‘Cologne’ Are Hiralous” at Sad and Useless.

Who would have thought that “cologne” is such a complicated word to spell correctly? Or it just might be that many people really are enjoying the smell of large intestine…

(19) LONG PLAYING. And long ago. This interesting discovery is available at Archive.org – “A Child’s Introduction To Outer Space: Jim Timmens” (1959) – with songs performed by The Satellite Singers, and dramatic readings, and a credit on the album cover to Scientific Advisor Willy Ley who won one of the first Hugos in 1953.  

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Wonder Woman 1984 Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the reasons why Steve Trevor appears in Wonder Woman 1984 have really creepy implications and that it’s highly unlikely that Wonder Woman could make an escape from the Smithsonian by stealing a fully fueled airplane from the Air and Space Museum.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/20 May The Luck Of The Seven Pixels Of Gulu Be With You At All Times

(1) COVID-19 VACCINATION. First responder and noted fanzine fan Curt Phillips posted a photo on Facebook of him receiving the injection —

First Covid 19 vaccination accomplished this morning. Fast, simple, easy. No adverse reactions at all. *Everybody* should get one!

Soon as we can, Curt! He’s followed up in the intervening hours with a couple of posts to say there were no complications and there was no more arm soreness than there is with his annual flu shot.

(2) IN OVERTIME. “An earlier universe existed before the Big Bang, and can still be observed today, says Nobel winner”, quoted in Yahoo! News.

…The timescale for the complete evaporation of a black hole is huge, possibly longer than the age of our current universe, making them impossible to detect.

However, Sir Roger believes that ‘dead’ black holes from earlier universes or ‘aeons’ are observable now. If true, it would prove Hawking’s theories were correct.

Sir Roger shared the World Prize in physics with Prof Hawking in 1988 for their work on black holes.

Speaking from his home in Oxford, Sir Roger said: “I claim that there is observation of Hawking radiation.

“The Big Bang was not the beginning. There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future.

“We have a universe that expands and expands, and all mass decays away, and in this crazy theory of mine, that remote future becomes the Big Bang of another aeon. 

“So our Big Bang began with something which was the remote future of a previous aeon and there would have been similar black holes evaporating away, via Hawking evaporation, and they would produce these points in the sky, that I call Hawking Points.

“We are seeing them. These points are about eight times the diameter of the Moon and are slightly warmed up regions. There is pretty good evidence for at least six of these points.”

(3) MULTIPLE CHOICES. The Guardian’s “Can you crack it? The bumper books quiz of 2020” includes a question about Iain Banks which I missed, so to heck with it anyway. (It’s a wide-ranging quiz. There are several more sff-themed entries. I missed almost every one of them, too, so double to heck with it.)

What day job did the Booker winner have while writing his novel? Who was rejected by Mills & Boon before becoming a bestselling author? Test your wits with questions from Bernardine Evaristo, Jonathan Coe, David Nicholls and more

(4) FAN SERVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Isaac Asimov’s In Memory Yet Green.

In The Early Asimov, I included “Big Game” among the list of those stories of mine that disappeared.  Not so.  I had it all these years and, without knowing it, had included the manuscript with papers of mine that I had donated to the Boston University library.  A young science-fiction enthusiast, Matthew Bruce Tepper, who had prepared an accurate and exhaustive bibliography of my science fiction, went through my papers at BU, uncovered the manuscript, and sent me a Xerox copy.  I had the story published in Before The Golden Age (Doubleday, 1974).

(5) IN MEMORY YET BROWN. Scott Edelman asks for help in tracing the history of this DC in 1974 Worldcon bid promotional shopping bag.

I found this among my late sister-in-law Ellen Vartanoff’s collection of science fictional memorabilia — an item I’d never seen before, promoting both Disclave and the 1974 D.C. Worldcon. You, who know all and see all, surely know when and where this might have been handed out — right?

And if not you, perhaps one of your readers.

(6) SOUNDS HAPPY. In “Christopher Eccleston opens up on returning to Doctor Who”, Radio Times interviews the actor about his audio roles for Big Finish.

…Eccleston went on to praise the scripts, which he described as “beautiful” – adding that the care and knowledge that had gone into them had played a huge part in easing him back into the role after such a long time away.

“That’s what made it feel seamless,” he said. “I felt that you [Briggs] understood what he was all those years ago – and so it was like putting on a pair of old shoes. Running shoes!

“Doing the scripts, you do get the sense of somebody who’s completely immersed in the lore of the show. I think what I realised, with all my writers, when I did the 13 episodes – and with this – is basically you’re playing the writer.

“You’re playing Steven Moffat, you’re playing Russell T Davies, you’re playing you [or] Rob Shearman… you’re playing them, their projected self, as the Doctor – and that’s what’s nice, because he has a slightly different voice from episode-to-episode while having continuity, of course. You all wanna be the Doctor!”

(7) GEISER OBIT. Artist David Geiser died in October.  The East Hampton Star  traced his career.

David Geiser, an artist whose career ranged from the underground comics he created in San Francisco in the late 1960s and 1970s to heavily textured mixed-media works he focused on after moving to New York in 1979, died unexpectedly of heart disease in his sleep at home in Springs on Oct. 14. He was 73.

A prolific artist, his work from the underground comics early in his career to recent drawings such as “Snail Ridin’ the Mouse” and “Dog Boy (a Young Cynic)” reflect his not only his wit and the eccentricity of his vision but also his remarkable draftsmanship….

“David left behind scores of underground comics from his early years in San Francisco, and hundreds of drawings and paintings,” as well as sculptures ranging in size from five inches square to 10 feet by 10 feet, according to Mercedes Ruehl, his partner since 1999. “In his spare time he was an avid reader of contemporary fiction from a wide array of cultures and nationalities,” she added….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty five years ago, Elizabeth Hand won the Otherwise Award for Waking the Moon. It would go on to win the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature the next year. And Terri Windling would in her fantasy summation in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Eighth Annual Collection select it as of her best books of the year. The American first edition cuts one hundred pages out of the British first edition. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 20, 1897 – Susanne Langer, Ph.D.  First woman popularly and professionally recognized as an American philosopher.  Fellow of the Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Cellist.  Five short stories for us, in The Cruise of “The Little Dipper”.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1930 – Tom Boardman, Jr.  Son of the founder of UK’s Boardman Books, managing director after it left the family, SF advisor to Gollancz, Four Square, Macdonald, New English Lib’y.  Edited five reprint anthologies 1964-1979.  An ABC of SF got Aldiss to Zelazny if we allow its pseudonymous B.T.H. Xerxes.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best remembered as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 68. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. (The Jason Isaacs fronted series is superb.) The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price in An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all-time fav films which is Darkman, and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1957 – Angela Hunt, Ph.D., age 63.  Two novels, five shorter stories for us; a hundred fifty books, children’s, middle-graders’, adults’; some nonfiction; five million copies sold.  Romantic Times Book Club Lifetime Achievement Award.  A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.  Also Angela Hunt Photography.  One of her dogs was on Live With Regis and Kelly as second largest in America.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 60. Named a SFWA Grand Master this year. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual? (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1967 – Jukka Halme, age 53.  Chaired three Finncons.  Guest of Honor at Eurocon 33 (Stockholm) and 37 (St. Petersburg).  GUFF (Going Under Fan Fund when southbound, Get Up-and-over Fan Fund northbound) delegate, attended the 55th Australian national convention (“natcon”) in Brisbane.  Chaired the 75th Worldcon (called simply “Worldcon 75”; opinions expectably differ on naming these things).  Seen in fanzines e.g. ChungaTwinkThe White Notebooks.  Served on the 2020 Tähtifantasia (“star fantasy”) Award jury.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 50. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine (1998–1999), and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian? (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1981 – Nick Deligaris, age 39.  Digital artist.  Two dozen covers, and much else.  Here is Bypass Gemini.  Here is Skykeep.  Here is Nova Igniter.  He did the cover and is interviewed in this issue of Deep Magic.  He has an interior on p. 5 of this issue of Tightbeam (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1990 – Ashley Dioses, age 30.  Five short stories; a hundred forty poems in The Audient VoidThe Literary HatchetRavenwood QuarterlySpectral RealmsWeirdbook; collection Diary of a Sorceress.  Inspired by Poe.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SEASON’S READINGS. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar suggest “The perfect science fiction, fantasy and genre-bending tales for the chilly days ahead” in their column for the Washington Post.

.. Lavie: Let me throw the first snowball here: I’m going with Tove Jannson’s “Moominland Midwinter” (translated from the Swedish by Thomas Warburton), one of the true greats and my favorite moomin book. Moomintroll wakes up alone from hibernation to find the world transformed, and everyone he knows is gone or sleeping (apart from Little My, who’ll never miss the fun). If you don’t cry over “The Squirrel With the Marvelous Tail,” you’re a monster. I reread it a few weeks ago and it’s just as wonderful as ever.

(12) NIVEN’S GENESIS. Fanac.org adds constantly to its online fannish collection. Among the latest gems are the programs from the series of LASFS Fanquets the club used to hold to honor members’ first pro sales. Larry Niven is now a Grand Master, but once upon his time he made his first sale to If. Read about his early career and what Fred Pohl liked about his work in Fanquet 13 edited by Bruce Pelz.

(13) ANOTHER ONE OF THE GREATS. Also deserving of praise is Fanac.org’s success in filling out its online collection of John Bangsund’s zines Australian Science Fiction Review and Scythrop.

Australian Science Fiction Review was nominated for Best Fanzine in 1967 and 1968. In 1968 (in the first year the Ditmars were presented), it won the award for best Australian fanzine. We now have a complete run under that name. The zine changed its name to Scythrop in 1969, and we added 5 issues of Scythrop: #21-24 and #28. We just lost John Bangsund to Covid-19 this year.

(14) PARIS, BUT NOT IN THE SPRINGTIME. Could be news to you, too – J. G. Ballard’s interview in The Paris Review, Winter 1984: “The Art of Fiction No. 85”

BALLARD

I take for granted that for the imaginative writer, the exercise of the imagination is part of the basic process of coping with reality, just as actors need to act all the time to make up for some deficiency in their sense of themselves. Years ago, sitting at the café outside the American Express building in Athens, I watched the British actor Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa) cross the street in the lunchtime crowd, buy Time at a magazine kiosk, indulge in brief banter with the owner, sit down, order a drink, then get up and walk away—every moment of which, every gesture, was clearly acted, that is, stressed and exaggerated in a self-conscious way, although he obviously thought that no one was aware who he was, and he didn’t think that anyone was watching him. I take it that the same process works for the writer, except that the writer is assigning himself his own roles. I have a sense of certain gathering obsessions and roles, certain corners of the field where the next stage of the hunt will be carried on. I know that if I don’t write, say on holiday, I begin to feel unsettled and uneasy, as I gather people do who are not allowed to dream.

(15) GAMING CASUALTY. The curse of 2020 continues.Mashable reports “’Cyberpunk 2077′ has been removed from the PlayStation Store, and Sony is offering refunds”.

Cyberpunk 2077‘s launch has been the kind of disaster we now expect from 2020. Released on Dec. 10, the ridiculously hyped roleplaying game was swiftly and widely derided for having more bugs than the Montreal Insectarium, with flying cars and glitchy penises dominating the discourse. Now, Sony Interactive Entertainment has announced that not only will it offer refunds to anyone who bought the game from its PlayStation Store, it will also stop selling Cyberpunk 2077 altogether….

(16) YOUR COMEDY MILEAGE MAY VARY. From last night’s Saturday Night Live.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/12/20 Petronius Tiberius Tirebiter

(1) ASU CSI PODCAST. The initial episode of the second season of The Imagination Desk podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University is live now, featuring an interview with Ytasha Womack, author of the book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. The next episode will be with sff author and editor Troy L. Wiggins

The Imagination Desk is a series of interviews with authors, scholars, and technologists about how we can harness creativity and imaginative thinking to inspire new work and build better futures. As this long, strange year wanes, we’re launching new set of podcast episodes featuring deep conversations with fascinating collaborators to think about ways we can move forward together.

For the first installment of Season 2, we sat down with Ytasha L. Womack. Ytasha is a Chicago-based filmmaker, dancer, fiction writer, scholar, and the author of the 2013 book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. In this chat, CSI’s Joey Eschrich and Ytasha discuss how culture, art, and storytelling help us to understand the complexity of Black life in the present, as well as transformative prospects for the future.

This conversation with Ytasha is part of our observance of Black Speculative Fiction Month, which takes place every October. Started by authors Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis, Black Speculative Fiction Month honors the role that Black people have played in shaping the culture of speculative fiction and charting the course toward vibrant and equitable futures. We’ll continue to explore these themes in future events and upcoming episodes of The Imagination Desk. Follow along on our website and subscribe to the show on SpotifyApple Podcasts, or RadioPublic.

(2) SHOSHANA EDWARDS Q&A. Conducted by Cat Rambo:

I interviewed Shoshana Edwards, author of Death Lives in the Water: A Harper’s Landing Story from Ring of Fire Press and A Roman Wilderness of Pain. We talk about her writing, neurolinguistics, and current political rhetoric. Shoshana Edwards was born in rural Oregon, attended Portland State University and California State University, Los Angeles. She later earned advanced degrees in English and Rhetoric. Now retired, she lives near Portland, Oregon where she continues to write.

(3) ADA PALMER’S EXOTERRA GAME CRITICIZED. Ashlyn Sparrow’s op-ed “A Game that Threatens Student Intellectual Property”, in the Chicago Maroon, the independent newspaper of the University of Chicago, contends “Ada Palmer’s ExoTerra game has colonial themes and undermines students’ creative freedom.”

During the 2020 fall quarter, Ada Palmer (Associate Professor of History at the University of Chicago) launched ExoTerra. The WordPress website for this project describes ExoTerra as “an online collaborative research role-playing game (RPG) community, in which students from all disciplines, from physics to literature, pool their expertise to design a new world.” The game incorporates students via several university courses, including “Self, Culture, and Society 1,” “America in World Civilization I,” and “Europe’s Intellectual Transformations.” What appears like a well-intentioned pedagogical experiment, however, turns out to make lazy narrative choices and, more importantly, undermines the creative labor and intellectual property of University of Chicago undergraduate students.

ExoTerra is a game where “participating students play the crew of a space colony ship traveling from Earth to a newly-terraformed exoplanet.” Sparrow thinks narratives should focus on improving the Earth.

… But as I looked closer at ExoTerra and began to discuss it with colleagues, I grew increasingly concerned. Some of my initial concerns had to do with a narrative frame that focuses on a colonization narrative at a historical moment when Black and Brown people continue to be exploited in the aftermath of global empire in so many ways. In focusing on the creation of a “new civilization,” this game rests on a colonization and Earth escape fantasy that is being celebrated by tech billionaires such as Elon Musk. Rather than improving the Earth, such a narrative takes us further from facing the ills of climate change, unprecedented income inequality, systemic racism, and global pandemic. This is problematic even at an allegorical level or via the cognitive estrangement characteristic of the science fiction genre. There are so many better narrative arcs and fresher sub-genres from which to choose, especially in our current world.

Sparrow points out that participants sign away to Palmer the rights to what they create in the game.

…Palmer (who is also a published science fiction novelist) reserves the right to take any intellectual property that students might contribute to this allegedly collective storytelling game and use it for her own purposes, including fiction she publishes in the future. To be clear, this is not a video game that students play. It is instead a roleplaying and world building game that they are creating together. Yet the material benefits of this shared effort return to a single person: Ada Palmer.

(4) WHAT SPACE LETS CREATORS DO. Dwayne Day reviews the second season of For All Mankind at The Space Review. “In the paler moonlight: the future’s past in ‘For All Mankind’”.

…Setting a program in the near future restricts the writers and what they can do. In contrast, as Hale noted, setting a science fiction show in the far future (or, alternatively, “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”) can free up the writers from having to reference—and be limited by—historical or current events that the audience is familiar with. Setting a story in a far distant future can be liberating in terms of storytelling. But it also restricts the writers’ ability to use the show to make social commentary, and their ability to use familiar historical and cultural reference points in their storytelling.

“For All Mankind” has a different set of challenges in terms of storytelling—it is both about our past, and our future, while also inevitably being a commentary about the present. The show’s setting in the 1960s and, for season two, the 1980s, represents a time decades in our past, but still within the living memory of many people. Yet the stories depict a space program that never happened, but still might happen in some way. The Jamestown lunar base in the show is not that different from concepts NASA and its contractors are currently studying. Perhaps in the coming decades, NASA could build something that looks a lot like Jamestown….

(5) WALT WILLIS’ TASFIC SPEECH. Fanac.org announced on FB that thanks to the fan history researches of Rob Hansen in Vince Clarke’s papers, they can present the final draft typescript of Walt Willis’s speech at the 1952 Worldcon, which Willis was able to attend because of the “WAW with the Crew in ’52” fan fund started by Shelby Vick. Here is Joe Siclari’s introduction to the speech:

Although Walt Willis was prolific, the quality of his writing remained very high because he was diligent. In several articles, Walt Willis described some of his writing procedures. Despite what so many people thought was his facile and relaxed style, he worried over pieces and rewrote them. See Warhoon 12, p 22.

Walt’s quality writing was why Shelby Vick created the first really successful campaign to bring a foreign fan to a US Worldcon, “WAW with the Crew in ’52”. You can imagine the excitement when this was successful. You might also imagine the stress when Walt realized that he would have to speak at the TASFiC/Chicon II.

So it seems he wrote a speech beforehand. Not only did he work on it in advance and rewrite and edit it, but it seems he sent it to at least one friend. During his research into Vince Clarke’s papers, Rob Hansen discovered this presentation that you are about to read. It’s probably the closest we will get to what Walt Willis said at the TASFiC. As Rob indicated in a note: “What *isn’t* included, obviously, is whatever off-the-cuff thanks he added after he’d finished reading.”

Not seen in close to 70 years, here is what Rob has called: “The Harp Speaks”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1987 — Thirty-three years ago, the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Novel went to Peter Beagle‘s The Folk of the Air which had been published that year by Ballantine Del Rey. The main character is Joe Farrell, who first appeared as the hero of a short story called “Lila the Werewolf”, making a sequel of sorts to that story. The League for Archaic Pleasures, here described as a group dedicated to the pleasures of the medieval period, is very obviously modelled after the SCA. Thirteen years later, Tamsin would garner him a second Mythopoeic Award, and The New Voices of Fantasy anthology three years ago would get him his third. He also received their Lifetime Achievement Award as well. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.) (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1905 – William Kolliker.  Moved from Switzerland to New York at 16.  Illustrated for newspapers e.g. NY AmericanBaltimore News & American.  Art director & editor of The American Weekly 25 years.  Moved to Texas, resigned from business, taught at El Paso Museum of Art; Conquistador Award from El Paso 1963.  A hundred twenty interiors for us.  Here is an interior for “The Weapon Shop” (Astounding, Dec 42).  Here is one for “Mimsy Were the Borogoves”.  Here is one for “The Sorcerer of Rhiannon”.  Here is a 1979 etching “The Graduate”.  Here is a mid-1970s abstract landscape.   (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1943 – Daphne Patai, Ph.D., 77.  Feminist dissenter, see e.g. What Price Utopia? (2008); Oral History, Feminism, and Politics (2010, in Portuguese).  Outstanding to us for discovering that the author of Swastika Night, published under a pseudonym 1930, was Englishwoman Katherine Burdekin.  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1949 – Barclay Shaw, 71.  A hundred twenty covers, thirty interiors.  Here is The Glass Teathere is I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.  Here is The Shockwave Rider.  Here is The Ringworld Throne.  Here is the Mar 01 F&SF.  Chesley for three-dimensional Wonderland.  Artbooks The Art of Barclay ShawElectric Dreams.  Website here (includes 3D animation).  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1951 – Taral Wayne, 69.  Fanartist, pro artist, fanwriter.  Many covers and interiors for fanzines; here is Torus 2; here is File 770 116 (PDF); see more in the cover gallery at his efanzines.com page.  Here is his logograph for IguanaCon II the 36th Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at Anticipation the 67th.  Co-founded Ditto (fanziners’ convention, named for a brand of spirit-duplicator copying machine); Special Guest at Ditto 8.  Toastmaster at Corflu 4 (fanziners’ con, named for mimeograph correction fluid).  CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegate; his CUFF history here.  Numismatist.  Collections Old ToysThe Great White Zine.  Eleven-time Hugo finalist.  FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) award.  Rotsler Award.  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1956 Storm Constantine, 63. Writer with her longest-running series being the Wraeththu Universe which has at least four separate series within all of which are known for their themes of alternative sexuality and gender. She has also written a number of non-fiction (I think they are) works such as Sekhem Heka: A Natural Healing and Self Development System and The Grimoire of Deharan Magick: Kaimana. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1961 – Susan Power, 59.  Enrolled member of the Standing Rock Tribe (Dakota).  Law degree from Harvard.  Hemingway/PEN Award for first novel The Grass Dancer (ours); several more novels; shorter fiction in The Atlantic MonthlyParis ReviewPloughsharesStory, a dozen for us in collection Roofwalker.  Voices from the Gaps interview with her here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 55. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine,  but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Tirchworch universe as great looks at him as a writer. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1966 Sandra McDonald, 54. Author of some sixty genre short stories, some of which are collected in Diana Comet and Other Improbable Stories (which won a Lambda Award for LGBT SF, Fantasy and Horror Works) and Lovely Little Planet: Stories of the Apocalypse.  Outback Stars is her space opera-ish trilogy. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1968 Hugh Jackman, 52. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the World Fantasy Award winning novel written by the real Christopher Priest. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1974 Kate Beahan, 46. Her best remembered role is as Sister Willow Woodward in the remake of The Wicker Man. In the same year, she was Michell in The Return, a horror film. She showed up on Farscape as Hubero in “Fractures”, and on Lucifer as Justine Doble in “All About Her”. (CE) 
  • Born October 12, 1992 – Melanie Vogltanz, 28.  Austrian author and translator.  European SF Society Encouragement Award, 2016; shortlisted for several prizes e.g. Kurd Laßwitz.  Five novels, plus six in a Black Blood series; shorter stories collected in On Dark Wings (in German).  I have not yet found translations into English.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) WHAT CHILD IS THIS. Disney released posters for season 2 of The Mandalorian, including a sad Baby Yoda!

(10) DISNEY DISAPPOINTS EURO MOVIE HOUSES. Naman Ramachandran, in the Variety story “Disney’s ‘Soul’ Decision Upsets European Cinemas” says the European trade association the International Union of Cinemas is mad at Disney because they say they operate safe cinemas and would love to have exhibited Soul.

…“There is compelling evidence that where audiences have returned, they have found the experience both safe and enjoyable,” the UNIC statement said. “But it is also clear that it is the release of new films that will make all the difference in encouraging people back to the big screen.”

“Indeed, across Europe, many cinemas have — since re-opening successfully — screened countless local releases, underlining that first-run titles are now more important than ever.”

(11) SAINTHOOD FOR J.R.R.? Daniel Cote Davis, a promoter of J.R.R. Tolkien Cause for Canonization, will speak in New Zealand on October 31 reports the Tolkien sainthood Facebook group. (See more information about the movement in “Tolkien: An Unexpected Sainthood”.)

Should J.R.R. Tolkien be made a Saint? In this film we explore the Catholic virtue of one of England’s most renowned authors and look beyond the trolls and goblins at what the Lord of the Rings is really trying to say.

(12) IT ALL GOES AROUND. CrowdScience answers the question “Why do planets spin?” in an episode available at the BBC Sounds archive.

Crowdscience solves a range of listeners’ cosmic mysteries, from the reason we only ever see one side of the moon, to why planets spin, and discover the answer can be found in the formation of the solar system. We talk to astronomer Dr Carolin Crawford to understand how stars are made, and investigate the art of astronomy with journalist Jo Marchant, hearing how the ancient Greeks came up with a zodiac long before the invention of a telescope, revealing an intimate relationship between humans and the night sky.

(13) WOMEN OF SFF IN THE SIXTIES. Fanac.org has posted to its YouTube channel a recording from Boskone 6 in 1969, “The Feminine Viewpoint,” moderated by Hal Clement, with Anne McCaffrey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Larry Niven. NESFA and Rick Kovalcik provided the recording.

Moderated by Hal Clement, this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images) is a 1960s view of feminism and the female viewpoint in SF by two of SF’s most successful women writers of the day. It is uncomfortable in parts by today’s standards, with comments like “you can’t be a feminist if you like being a woman”, and remarks about fanzines that discount female writers solely because of their sex. Hal Clement is the neutral moderator, and Larry Niven provides a male perspective. This panel is dominated by MZB and Anne McCaffrey, who express their views on women in the field, on the differences in fiction written by woman and men, and on the disadvantages attendant on being a female science fiction writer. Remember, Anne McCaffrey was born in 1926 and MZB in 1930. Their opinions were shaped by the times. It’s a fascinating snapshot of the times.

The audio recording is accompanied by contemporary photos, including one of Walter Breen and MZB, just so you know.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/9/20 Pixel The Scroll That Makes You Happy

(1) NEW NINTH DOCTOR STORIES COMING FROM BIG FINISH. Christopher Eccleston has finally come around to playing the Doctor again announces BBC Studios.

Big Finish Productions, in association with BBC Studios announces the long-awaited return of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.

First seen on screen in 2005, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor introduced a whole new generation of fans to Doctor Who.

Now he’s back, with a brand-new series of twelve fantastic full-cast audio adventures in space and time, due to be released across four box sets, starting with volume one in May 2021.

Christopher Eccleston said: “After 15 years it will be exciting to revisit the Ninth Doctor’s world, bringing back to life a character I love playing.”

Big Finish’s own press release hints at how Eccleston was won over (even after turning down Steven Moffat’s attempt to get him for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who).

Big Finish’s Chairman, Jason Haigh-Ellery said: “I first talked to Christopher about returning to the role of the Doctor at the Gallifrey One convention in February this year. Christopher said he was enjoying meeting the fans and was pleased that his Doctor was remembered so fondly.  He indicated he would be open to discussing a project with Big Finish. 

“And then the pandemic happened and time moved both quickly and very slowly. Over recent months, ideas have been exchanged and discussions had. I am so pleased that Christopher has decided to return to the role with us – and I’m excited to welcome him to the Big Finish family as we discover the new adventures of the Ninth Doctor.” 

(2) SCARY GOOD. On the Horror Writers Association blog: “HWA Poetry Showcase Featured Poets” features a Q&A with Sarah Read, K.P. Kulski, and Sarah Tantlinger.

(3) WHERE TO FIND THEM. James W. Harris has been working on analysis and comparison of lists of the “great works” of SFF for several years. This week, while everyone else is busy damning the canon, he posted about the optimal solution for acquiring all the greatest sff stories in as few anthologies as possible. “The SF Anthology Problem – Solved” at Classics of Science Fiction.

Two years ago when we completed version 1 of The Classics of Science Fiction Short Story list I proposed a math challenge. Version 1 came up with 275 stories. I asked if there was any mathematically way to decide what were the fewest anthologies that contained all 275 stories using ISFDB.org as a reference database. Version 1 was generated using .csv files. Since then we updated the process to a database for version 2 of the list, which produced 101 stories — we believe that was a more practical reading list.

A science fiction fan could read the entire list over the summer by reading one story a day, or in a year by reading one story every three days, but where would they get the 101 science fiction short stories?…

(4) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s“The Full Lid for 7th August 2020”processes his experiences with the virtual CoNZealand.

…To all the CoNZealand volunteers: I see you. I see your hard work. Thank you.

The issues being raised by our community this week are with the structure you inherited and were bound by. None of that is the fault of volunteers, acting with minimal resources, time, communication and support.

My intention here is to report my own experiences and do so honestly. There are things that have to be done to make this experience better for everyone. My hope is my experiences can help with that.

It includes a segment evaluating the successes and criticisms of CoNZealand Fringe.

(5) A THING OF BEAUTY. The Astounding Award.

(6) RESTART TREK. All those Star Trek movies you’ve read about being developed in the past couple of years? You might not be hearing about some of them any more. Mike Fleming Jr., in the Deadline story “Emma Watts’ Top Priority At Paramount: Figure Out ‘Star Trek’ Reboot” says that Paramount CEO Watts has shelved all existing scripts for the fourth Star Trek movie, including one with Noah Hawley as writer/director, one with Mark L. Smith as writer and Quentin Tarantino as director, and one with S.J. Clarkson as director that would have had Chris Hemsworth play Chris Pine’s father.  But since Star Trek is a “monster franchise” for Paramount so Star Trek 4 will get made.

…What we’re hearing is that both the [Noah] Hawley pic — which calls for a new cast and might be about a deadly virus which might feel awkward given current circumstance — and the [Mark L.] Smith version — [Quentin] Tarantino dropped out as director, but the project is still viable based on an episode of the classic Star Trek series that takes place largely earthbound in a 30s gangster setting — might serve the franchise best as Logan-like spinoffs when the core franchise has been revitalized. But that the other one might have the cleanest path toward a relaunch, with an emphasis on boosting overseas gross numbers which have never been the franchise’s strong suit. These decisions will take place over the next few weeks.

(7) A GEM IN WAITING. ScreenRant’s Crag Elvy pooh-pooh’s the idea of a Silmarillion adaptation, but doesn’t go so far as to whinny a big horse laugh at it: “Lord of the Rings: Why A Silmarillion Movie Wouldn’t Work”.

But just because The Silmarillion could be turned into a feature-length film, that doesn’t necessary mean it should be. The book offers a fascinating insight into Middle-earth’s long history, adding context to the events of The Lord of the Rings and widening the lore in fascinating and organic ways. Arguably, there are events in The Silmarillion that eclipse anything in Tolkien’s more famous books in terms of importance. However, The Silmarillion is not a conventional novel in the same style as The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. There is no central protagonist, while the narrative spans many eras of time and vast expanses of geography. Moreover, The Silmarillion reads more like a religious text or a history textbook (albeit an infinitely more interesting one) than a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. Telling the same sort of heroic tale movie fans are used to would be a tough ask from The Silmarillion‘s source material, as would constructing one complete start-to-finish narrative suitable for mainstream cinema.

(8) BEYOND THE PANDEMIC. ConTamination2020,  “An online convention using Science Fiction & Science to explore pandemics and the long-term future of humanity,” will be held September 12-13, 2020, between 1p.m.-9p.m. GMT+1. The con is being organized by a small group of volunteers interested in using speculative fiction to explore the future of humanity after COVID-19, led by Vivienne Raper, Kat Kourbeti, and Catrin Osborne. Follow them on Twitter here.  

To avoid stepping on any toes, we’ve narrowed the focus of ConTamination to be a science-meets-speculative-fiction convention. Our aim is to tackle the big questions that many of us are asking about the future, and our place as science fiction and fantasy fans within it.

They’re looking for volunteers – if you’re interested, click on the “ConTamination 2020 Volunteer Interest Form”.

In a time of social distancing and home isolation, how about we all get together to talk books, pandemics, and the social impact this current evolving crisis will have worldwide, in both science and literature?

We still have open slots for panels so if you are interested in speaking and have a topic in mind that relates to any of the theme strands of the convention (science, fiction, or social change – where it relates to pandemics and the way we are dealing with the current pandemic), however remotely, do reach out and let us know your thoughts.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 9, 1996John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. as it was stylized on screen premiered. The sequel to Escape from New York, it was co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter, co-written and produced by Debra Hill and Kurt Russell, with Russell again starring as Snake Plissken. It also co-stars Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, and Pam Grier.  Reception was definitely mixed. With most critics thinking the script was uneven, the film bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 39% rating.  Carpenter has said that, “Escape from L.A. is better than the first movie. Ten times better.” (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 – P.L. Travers.  Four novels, two shorter stories and a cookbook about Mary Poppins; other novels, poetry, nonfiction.  Also had a career as an actress; parents disapproved, thus “Pamela Travers”.  First two MP books unsurpassed, perhaps unequaled.  Translated into Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian.  Never happy with the Disney version though it made her rich; “It’s glamourous and a good film on its own level, but I don’t think it’s very like my books.”  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1908 – Joan Kiddell-Monroe.  Author and illustrator, famous for children’s books.  Oxford Myths & Legends (i.e. Oxf. Univ. Press).  Muriel Levy’s six Adventures of Wonk.  Four of her own In His Little Black Waistcoat about a panda.  Aesop’s Fables.  Arabian Nights.  Here is “The Exploits of Hanuman”.  Here is Queen Amata singing of Turnus and Lavinia from The Aeneid.  Here is a cover for The Magic Bed-Knob.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson. Swedish-speaking Finnish artist wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with Småtrollen och den stora översvämninge (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Over the next decades, there would a total of nineteen books. Currently Moominvalley, the new animated series is playing, on Netflix. And Terry Pratchett in “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” credits her for him becoming a fiction writer. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1920 – Jack Speer.  Pioneer of fanhistory with Up to Now (1939) and what we now know as Fancyclopedia I (1944).  Introduced mailing comments, i.e. on others’ contributions in mailings, or distributions, of amateur publishing associations, thus ancestor of blog postings.  His SF Song Sheet at Chicon I (2nd Worldcon) was the ancestor of filk music; the costume party he and Milt Rothman suggested was the ancestor of the spectacular on-stage contest we call the Masquerade.  Fancestral Voices collects his fanwriting.  When in my fanzine Vanamonde I misspelled the famous typo poctsarcd he promptly wrote back “Nothing is sacrd.”  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1941 – Jamila Gavin, F.R.S.L., 79.  Her Indian father and English mother met in Iran; she calls herself half and half.  The Wheel of Surya, two sequels, follow two generations of Indian Sikhs; The Magic Orange TreeThree Indian Goddesses and Three Indian Princesses are short stories from Indian legends; she is also a patroness of the Shakespeare Schools Festival.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories, for us; twoscore more books (e.g. Coram Boy about the 18th Century foundling hospital established by Thomas Coram; Whitbread Prize).  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 76. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits, Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. (CE) 
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 73. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 71. Author of two novels so far in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1953 – Jim Theis.  To him is attributed The Eye of Argon, said to be from 1970 when the author was 17 (maybe 16 when he wrote it).  For two decades he has been subject to De mortuis nil nisi bonum (Latin, “Of the dead, say nothing but good”, various reasons e.g. they cannot defend themselves), to which the reply may be that we are speaking not of him but of his Eye, or that it’s so bad it’s —  anyway, see here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1956 Adam Nimoy, 64. Son of the Leonard Nimoy and the actress Sandra Zober. His wife is Terry Farrell.  He’s directed episodes of Babylon 5Next GenerationThe Outer Limits (he directed his father in the “I, Robot” episode, and Sliders. He’s responsible for For the Love of Spock, the documentary about his father. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1970 – Thomas Lennon, 50.  Actor, screenwriter, producer-director, guitarist.  Played Eddie the Shipboard Computer in the 2005 film of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mr. Mxyzptlk in Supergirl on CW television this year.  Two novels for us; the first, Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles, was a NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville calls into a Trekkie talk show.
  • Prickly City wonders if Earthmen should stay home.
  • Non Sequitur says these complaints have been valid for a long while.
  • Another Non Sequitur has the “true reason” these species missed Noah’s Ark.

(12) THE UPSIDE OF THE PANDEMIC. Sir Julius Vogel Best Novel winner Sascha Stronach thinks, “One of the few saving graces of this year’s worldcon is that we didn’t end up having to host all these very important writers in TSB Arena, the worst events venue in New Zealand.” Thread starts here.

(13) FIRST THINGS FIRST. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick says “‘The First Sister’ Is Stylish, Substantial — And Very Cool — Space Opera”.

Linden A. Lewis’s debut novel The First Sister (book one in a trilogy of the same name) is a lot of fun, as stylish as it is substantial. Would you like your space opera with the social commentary and swaggery cool of Alexandre Dumas, with a dash of Cowboy Bebop and some awesome queer characters? Are you interested in political maneuverings and space economics, fantastically rich worldbuilding and sneaky spy stories? Read on. First Sister might be just the book you’ve been waiting for.

(14) IT’S IN THE CARDS. In The Washington Post Magazine, Gavin Edwards went to the 2019 Magic: The Gathering Mythic Championship in Richmond to profile players able to compete at a level where they can win serious money.  He note that nearly all of the top Magic:  The Gathering players are men, but Jessica Estephan, the first woman to win a Magic Grand Prix tournament, says that rather than two or three women at a big tournament, “I need more than two hands” to count the women competing, “and that just blows my mind and I love it.” “Strange Magic”.

The best Magic players have their games broadcast on Twitch with up to 30,000 people watching at once and up to 750,000 sampling the tournament at some point.

…After Lee gathered his cards and departed, Nettles told me quietly, “He’s a high-profile player, a Hall of Fame guy. I’m a tier below.” (Magic does have an official Hall of Fame, honoring 48 of its greatest competitors.) Nettles had played enough matches against the world’s best Magic players to assess his abilities vs. theirs: “I make a mistake in three percent of the games, they might make a mistake in one percent, and that’s the difference in a tournament.” One minute you’re a hero; the next minute, you’re a goat. Or in this case, an elk.

In 2019, Wizards provided 32 top players with sponsorship contracts worth $75,000 and, almost as important, gave them automatic invitations to major tournaments. Nettles wasn’t in that tier, but he had played well enough at Magic tournaments to get a sponsorship from a company that makes protective card sleeves, allowing him to play the game for a living.

(15) AARGHONOMICS. “The pandemic has put video game equipment in unusually high demand. The gaming chair is ascendant,” declares the New York Times: “This Is Not a Desk Chair”. (It is also not the chair John Scalzi recently bought. I checked.)

In a rented home on a sunny street in Los Angeles, a team of professional gamers sat hunched over in swivel chairs while a pair of ergonomic specialists observed their posture, asked questions and took notes.

The gamers reported pain in their necks, their lower backs, their hips, wrists and shoulders. Carpal tunnel was a common complaint. Most of them were not yet 20.

Over several days in May 2018, specialists who had come from Herman Miller, the modern furniture company, and Logitech, the computer accessory and software manufacturer, watched professional teams practice in their training facilities (often large homes they shared with teammates) and play in a tournament.

They noticed how the gamers gripped their toes on the bases of their chairs to support their bodies, how they would incline forward when they played and how, in their downtime, they would exhibit what Herman Miller personnel dubbed “the teenage slouch.”

“We’re over 50, we don’t know anything about gaming,” said John Aldrich, the vice president of advanced engineering at Herman Miller, which is best known for its Eames lounge chair and mid-century modern furniture. “Watching multimillionaire 19-year-olds playing games was not what I expected to do with my career.”

Perhaps not, but Mr. Aldrich has devoted much of his professional life to ergonomic design, an area of relevance to anyone who sits for extended periods of time, as gamers do. And many players gravitate toward models that resemble chunkier, aggressively colorful office chairs….

(16) DON”T FORGET TO CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a talk given at Boskone 5 (1968): “Larry Niven: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation.” We didn’t have YouTube in Ye Olde Days, so this material was still all new to me when Niven reprised it at a convention I attended a few years later.

In this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images), Larry Niven gives a delightful talk on the effects of teleportation on a society. Five years before his “Flash Crowd” was published, this recording is a grand exposition of what goes on in this author’s mind as he works out the impact of new technology. “The limitations you assume for your teleportation are going to define your society.” Isaac Asimov (and a number of other audience members) challenge Larry with questions and suggestions. There’s even a chalkboard talk (which you can follow from the audio). The program provides a very entertaining and complete logical framework for thinking about the problems and advantages of different implementations of mechanical teleportation, with the eager participation of the engineers in the audience.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/18/20 On And On They Filed Until They Reached The Sea Of Pixelbilities, Where They Could Scroll No Further

(1) GLORIOUS. Benford and Niven’s third and final book in their Bowl of Heaven series is out, and they’ll be doing a Powell’s Books Zoom event on June 30, 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

Written by acclaimed, multi-award-winning authors, Gregory Benford (Timescape) and Larry Niven’s (Ringworld), GLORIOUS (Tor Books) concludes the Bowl of Heaven series praised by Booklist as “a solid adventure and entertaining speculation on the lives of alien creatures.”

In the journey that began with the New York Times bestseller, Bowl of Heaven and its sequel, Shipstar, audacious astronauts encounter bizarre, sometimes deadly life forms, and strange, exotic, cosmic phenomena, including miniature black holes, dense fields of interstellar plasma, powerful gravity-emitters, and spectacularly massive space-based, alien-built labyrinths. The alien civilization is far more advanced than our own, and difficult for our astronauts to comprehend. The astronauts must explore and document this brave, new, highly dangerous world, while also dealing with their own personal triumphs and conflicts — their loves and jealousies, joys and disappointments.

Benford and Niven are masters of the science fiction genre and a sci-fi power duo. Together they have combined their talents and expertise to create an unforgettable series for science-fiction fans everywhere.

(2) MY PRECIOUS. Michael Dirda’s resolve to get rid of some of his books has been sorely tried — as happens to so many of us — “By day, I’ve been trying to cull my book collection. But at night, eBay beckons” in the Washington Post.

… Alas, my plan to sort and cull my thousands of books — described last week in my Zippy Shell column — failed to make allowance for human nature. For even as I was straining my back by carrying boxes up the stairs to donate or sell to the noble used book dealers of Washington, come bedtime I would go online to take a quick peek at the current offerings from L.W. Currey, John W. Knott, Richard Dalby’s Library, Type Punch Matrix, Wonder Book and Video or Capitol Hill Books. It didn’t matter that I ached like a stevedore at the end of a double shift. During daylight hours, the world applauded a crusading Dr. Jekyll energetically focused on discarding and recycling printed matter, but once night fell Mr. Hyde would emerge and, while fiendishly cackling, type arcane titles into the search engines of viaLibri, eBay and Addall. Typically, when a friend recently recommended H.B. Marriott Watson’s “The Adventurers” (1898), there was suddenly nothing I wanted more in the world than a copy of this forgotten piece of swashbuckling Victoriana….

(3) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. UK publication Infinity Magazine subsequently deleted the public post screencapped below.

(4) GENESIS. Although Mark Lawrence takes J.K. Rowling and Ursula Le Guin as texts, more than anything his post “Influence” is a warning to readers who want to infer the source of a writer’s ideas based on similarities to other works.

One of the questions I’m most often asked in the gazillion blog interviews I’ve done is (second only to “Where do you get your ideas?“):

What are your influences?

It’s a question I’ve always had difficulty answering and am saved from mainly by being able to point at two very clear influences for my first two trilogies.

Let’s note that influence comes in many forms, not least: writing style, characters, ideas/topics, and book structure.

(5) COMING IN 2021. HBO Max dropped this sneak peek at Zack Snyder’s Justice League today.

(6) WE WON? The BBC reports “Six movies resuming production after coronavirus”; 5 are genre.

While lockdown may have provided us with the chance to catch up on some old movies, there’s only so many you can watch before you crave something new.

Agreed? Agreed.

Well, fear not, because around the world some of the big-hitters are starting to re-commence production – which was of course halted by Covid-19 – in a variety of socially-distanced ways.

Here are just six of the films to keep your fingers crossed for then in 2021, when the cinemas are hopefully back in business.

Avatar 2

The long-awaited sequel to James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi blockbuster was able to re-start filming in New Zealand this week, because the country is almost coronavirus free.

Cameron and producer Jon Landau told the press Down Under that part two of the planned five-part film series; rumoured to be called The Way of Water (oh yeah, it’s set under water this time, by the way) would bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars back into the country following the pandemic.

Landau shared a photo on Instagram earlier this week as the production got under way.

It will also bring some more big names including Kate Winslet and Vin Diesel to add to returning original stars Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington.

Avatar 2, which is intended to work as a standalone feature (you won’t need to have seen the first one, in other words), will focus on the children of Sully and Neytiri, who are by now leaders of their clan.

The film is now slated for a December 2021 release, with film five in the diary already for 2027 – for those of you who like to plan ahead.

(7) CLOCKING IN. The Root spreads the word: “Tick Tock: Watchmen Will Be Free on HBO for a Few Days Starting on Juneteenth—You Must Watch It”.

…But, you only have a limited time—This offer will only be available Friday June 19 through Sunday June 21. You have 3 days to watch the debut season, which is a total of 9 episodes. Since everyone should be binging experts by now, that’s light work!

…In addition to its groundbreaking portrayal of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Watchmen is a must-watch due to its timely thesis on white supremacy. In fact, it’s worth a revisit or two to truly reflect on its themes in a critical way. I certainly plan to revisit it.

So go ahead and watch Watchmen and discuss the episodes thoroughly. View the show for free online via HBO.com and via On Demand.

(8) HEAR FROM HUGO FINALISTS. Saturday’s episode of Essence of Wonder will have the “Hugo finalists for Short Story and Editors”. June 20 at 3p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Nibedita Sen, Fran Wilde, Alix E. Harrow, SL Huang, and Shiv Ramdas will join Karen Castelletti to discuss their nominations for Best Short Story.

That panel will be followed by “A Mini Show With Lior Manor, Mentalist.”

Then, at 4:40p.m. Eastern will follow a “Panel Discussion With Hugo Awards Finalists in the Best Editor Short Form Category” —

Ellen Datlow, Lynne Thomas, Neil Clarke, Lynne M Thomas, and Michael Thomas will join Gadi to discuss their nomination and work.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1971 — Larry Niven’s All the Myriad Ways, his third collection, was published by Ballantine Books. Costing $.95 and having 181 pages, it included a number of stories of interest such as the first Gil the ARM story, “The Jigsaw Man”, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” and “What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?“. It is currently available from all the usual digital suspects. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 18, 1862 – Carolyn Wells.  A hundred seventy books, many for children, many more mystery fiction, also poetry, plays.For us, Folly in Fairyland – reprinted 2016 – no, not that, “Folly” is a nickname for Florinda; anyway, see here.  And here is A-L of her Animal Alphabet; when you look at the rest of this Ink-Slinger’s Profile you’ll recognize Mark Twain, but you should know Skippy was a popular 1923-1945 comic strip.  There’s more, but I’ll stop now.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1889 – Elisabeth Holding.  More mystery fiction; no less than Tony Boucher applauded its “subtlety, realistic conviction, incredible economy”.  For us, he praised Miss Kelly too, about a cat who learns to speak with humans: “one of those too-rare juvenile fantasies with delightful appeal to the adult connoisseur.”  We can also claim three shorter stories, translated into Dutch, French, Italian.  (Died 1955) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1908 Bud Collyer. So far as genre is concerned, he’s best-remembered from radio, starring in the dual role of Clark Kent and Superman beginning in early 1940 on The Adventures of Superman on the Mutual Broadcasting System, a role he also would do in the later Superman and other cartoons such as Aquaman and the Batman/Superman Hour. He was posthumously named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1917 Richard Boone. He did only two genre roles, one of which — playing Maston Thrust Jr. in The Last Dinosaur — I’m willing to bet you’ve never seen. The other however is one that nearly everyone here has heard, yes, heard, as he voiced Smaug in the Rankin/Bass animated The Hobbit. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1926 – Allan Sandage, Ph.D.  Important next-door neighbor: an astronomer, possibly a great one.  Regarded for thirty years as the pre-eminent observational cosmologist.  Published two atlases of galaxies; five hundred papers.  Warner, Crafoord, Gruber Prizes; Eddington, Cresson, Bruce Medals; Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.  See here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1931 Dick Spelman. A fan and a legendary book dealer who was active at SF conventions from the late Seventies  through the early Nineties. He chaired Windycon IX in 1982. He was a member of the board of directors of Chicon IV, and ran the Dealers’ Room at many Worldcons. In 1991 he sold his book business to Larry Smith and retired to Orlando, where he was active in local fannish affairs. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1942 Roger Ebert. He got his start as a fanzine writer while in high school, publishing the Stymie zine and having his writing appear in Xero, Yandro and many other zines such as KippleParsection and Psi-Phi. In university, he was a member of the Champaign-Urbana Science Fiction Association. His fannish autobiography is How Propellor-Heads, BNFs, Sercon Geeks, Newbies, Recovering GAFIAtors and Kids in Basements Invented the World Wide Web, All Except for the Delivery System. Mike has much to say about him here. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1942 – Redmond Simonsen.  Game designer; indeed credited with coining that phrase, and “physical system design”.  Founding editor of Ares magazine.  Charles Roberts Awards Hall of Fame.  King of Clubs in Flying Buffalo’s 2008 Origins Poker Deck.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1947 Linda Thorson, 73. Though Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was John Steed’s best-known partner on The Avengers, she was not his first nor his last. His last one would be Tara King played by this actress. She was the only one to be a real spy. Interesting that other than an appearance on Tales from The Darkside, her only other genre performance was on The Next Gen as Gul Ocett in “The Chase” episode”. (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1949 Chris Van Allsburg, 71. For some twenty years now, the local Narrow Gauge Railroad has ran a Polar Express every Christmas season compete with cars decorated in high Victorian fashion and steaming cups of hot chocolate. It always sells out for the entire month. Allsburg‘s Polar Express book is just magical for me and I enjoy his Jumanji every bit as much. He illustrated A City in Winter which was written by Mark Helprin — highly recommended. (CE)
  • Born June 18, 1951 – Vivian Vande Velde 69.  Fiction for children and young adults.  Two dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Edgar Award for Never Trust a Dead Man, also School Library Journal Book of the Year.  Anne Spencer Lindbergh Prize.  Paterson Prize. “When our daughter was born, I quit my job….  Since I was home all day, I had to either take housework more seriously or come up with a good excuse why I couldn’t…. Writing turned out to be harder work than I thought…. getting published was even harder…. 32 different publishers … before number 33 said yes.”  [JH]
  • Born June 18, 1971 – Sarah Hines Stephens 49.  Two Wonder Woman stories, here’s one; two about a girl (I mean really a girl, she’s in 6th Grade) whose study of insects grosses out her friends, but then invaders invade and she develops insectile powers (not all insects are bugs, but I can’t help that, the title wouldn’t have been as cool if it had been Bugged Girl); four dozen in all, some with co-authors, some re-tellings, some non-fiction.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TERRAN PRIZE. George R.R. Martin announced that Maurice Haeems will receive the scholarship he funds to bring a writer to the Taos Toolbox:  “Haeems Wins Terran Prize”.

…With that in mind, back in 2018 I established THE TERRAN PRIZE,  to bring an aspiring SF writer from abroad to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams runs every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico.  The Prize is given annually and covers all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (but not travel).

…Maurice was born in Mumbai and has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai and an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Over the last 30 years, he has lived in Mumbai, London, Hong Kong, Taipei, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dubai while pursuing professional careers in mechanical engineering, investment banking, and software entrepreneurship.

(13) WILL THIS CHOPPER GET IN THE AIR? In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport discusses the Mars mission to be launched in July and how the Mars rover Perseverance has a helicopter attached, nicknamed “Ingenuity,” which will be the first aircraft to flit on another planet. “NASA rushing to complete Mars launch before planet moves out of range. Mission to include first-ever helicopter exploration.”

… In addition to probing for signs of ancient life on and below the Martian surface, the Perseverance mission would also take to the skies. The Ingenuity helicopter would attempt to fly — an exceedingly difficult task given that the “atmosphere on Mars is only one percent the density that we have here on Earth,” Wallace said. “Trying to control a system like this under those conditions is not easy.”

NASA said it hopes to get at least three flights from the helicopter, but it stressed that it was purely a technology demonstration mission and that it would take each one as they come.

(14) DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT. Count on Jon Del Arroz to bring you yesterday’s 770 content today!

(15) HALLOWEEN TREE. But here’s today’s Bradbury news, via Deadline:“Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Halloween Tree’ In The Works As Movie At Warner Bros With Will Dunn Adapting”.

We have learned that Will Dunn has been tapped by Warner Bros to adapt Ray Bradbury’s 1972 fantasy novel The Halloween Tree

…Bradbury wrote and narrated Hanna-Barbera’s 1993 feature-length animated version of the novel for television, for which he won the 1994 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.

(16) NOT-QUITE-THE-NEXT-GENERATION. On the other hand, here’s some much older Roddenberry news — JDA might like that even better! From TrekMovie in 2018: “Unearthed: Pre-Roddenberry ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Pitch Was A Wildly Different Show”.

…The 8-page concept pitch, entitled “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” was conceived by producer Greg Strangis (War of the Worlds, Falcon Crest) over the summer of 1986 and is set during a 10-year war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It tells the story of the U.S.S. Odyssey, a ship ferrying a group of cadets on their first deep space assignment and tasked with delivering a document to Organia that could ultimately change the course of the war.

While some of the ideas in this concept can be seen in what ultimately became Star Trek: The Next Generation (such as a young Klingon officer as part of the crew), this original pitch bears little resemblance to the show that went on to have seven successful seasons. One of the more creative ideas was how the original captain dies in the pilot, but “continues to ‘live’ in the ship’s computer” as a hologram who can be summoned for advice….

So would this character have turned into the Emergency Holographic Captain?

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, John Hertz, Jeffrey Smith, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Steve Wagner, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/20 Who Is Pixel Scroll? You Are File 770

(1) I’M WALKIN’ HERE. “Facebook: Star Wars’ Mark Hamill deletes account over political ads” – BBC has the story.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill has deleted his Facebook account, lambasting the company’s political ads policy.

In a tweet, the celebrity accused the firm’s chief Mark Zuckerberg of having valued profit over truthfulness.

It followed its decision to let politicians run adverts that contain lies on the social network.

The firm has said that it does not believe decisions about which political ads run should be left to private companies.

(2) MEAT SUIT. It’s only the second week in January and Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn has already written the headline of the year: “Meat Loaf Suing Horror Convention Texas Frightmare Weekend”. Oh, I suppose you want the story, too….

Michael Lee Aday, better known by his stage name “Meat Loaf,” is currently suing horror convention Texas Frightmare Weekend and its venue the Hyatt Regency DFW in Tarrant County, Texas. According to NBC 10:

(3) READ ALL ABOUT IT. SF2 Concatenation’s spring edition is now up. Principal contents include:

Interesting to compare this last with this season’s news page’s SF publishing news.

Plus there are many standalone SF/FH book and non-fiction SF & science book reviews.

Full details at SF2 Concatenation’s What’s New page.

(4) YOU GO, JOHN. A Whatever pop quiz: “Hey, Guess Who Will Be Going to Dragon Con This Year?”

Answer:

Next quiz question: What Dragon Awards category will he be presenting?

(5) TWEETS OF FLAME. “Stephen King slammed for ‘ignorant’ tweet about not considering ‘diversity’ when voting for the Oscars”Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of King’s tweet and the reactions.

Famed writer Stephen King has stirred up controversy after admitting he “would never consider diversity in matters of art,” a remark made in reference to his status as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) voting on Oscar contenders. His remarks come a day after the 2020 Oscar nominations were announced, prompting complaints that women and people of color were largely overlooked. Many critics bemoaned the exclusion of women like Greta Gerwig from the Best Director category, while Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo spoke out about being the only person of color to be nominated across four acting categories.

(6) SIX-PACK. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer discusses “6 Books with Gareth Hanrahan”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?

Jeff Vandermeer’s Shriek: An Afterword. I loved the first Ambergris book, City of Saints and Madmen. I picked up Shriek next, and found it utterly incomprehensible and dull. Years later, I got the third book in the sequence, Finch, and loved it. I then gave Shriek another try, and it felt like a completely different book. I was astounded at myself for hating it the first time, and I’ve no idea why I bounced off it so hard. 

(7) CAROL SERLING OBIT. Carol Serling, widow of Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling and mother of author Anne Serling died January 9 reports the Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin.

After the death of her husband, due to complications after heart surgery, Carol worked to keep Rod’s legacy alive.

In 1981, she launched the monthly “The Twilight Zone Magazine” and served as the publication’s editor from 1981 through 1989. She held the legal rights to Serling’s name and likeness. CBS owns the rights to the television series.

In 1994, two new episodes of the sci-fi television series were aired on CBS based on material found by Carol after Rod’s death and then sold to CBS. They aired in a two-hour special titled “Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics.”

That same year, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror theme park ride opened at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios (then MGM Studio Theme Park) in Orlando, Florida, and Binghamton High School dedicated its arts program as the Rod Serling School of Fine Arts.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 14, 1954 Riders To The Stars premiered. It was directed by Richard Carlson (who also stars) and Herbert L. Strock (who is uncredited for unknown reasons) and has the additional cast of  William Lundigan, Martha Hyer, and Herbert Marshall. Riders to the Stars is the second film in Ivan Tors’ Office of Scientific Investigation trilogy, which was preceded by The Magnetic Monster and followed by Gog. All in all, reviewers considered it a quite unremarkable film. It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes though Amazon reviewers were kind to it. Fortunately you can judge for yourself as the film is here to watch.
  • January 14, 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
  • January 14, 1976 The Bionic Woman aired its first episode. A spin-off from The Six Million Dollar Man, it starred Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks. It run just three seasons, half of what the parent show ran. It on ABC, NBC and finally on CBS. 
  • January 14, 1981 Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Ebert, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series.  (Is it genre? You decide.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 14, 1943 Beverly Zuk. Ardent fan of Trek: TOS who wrote three Trek fanfics, two of them on specific characters: The Honorable Sacrifice (McCoy) and The Third Verdict (Scotty). Let’s just say that based on her artwork that I found I’d not say these are anything less than R rated in places. She was a founding member of the Trek Mafia though I’m not sure what that was. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 72. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly comedy The Sasquatch Gang and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very not SFF.
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 71. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Born January 14, 1957 Suzanne Danielle, 63. A Whovian as she showed up as Agella in “The Destiny if The Daleks,“ a Fourth Doctor story. She was on the Hammer House of Horror series in the Carpathian Eagle” episode, and she’s also in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected multiple times in different roles. To my knowledge, her only other SFF appearance was on the Eighties Flash Gordon film.
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 58. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. 
  • Born January 14, 1963 Steven Soderbergh,  57. Though largely not a SFF person, he’s ventured into our ‘verse on occasion by directing such films as Solaris (which he also wrote), Nightwatch which he was the writer of,  Contagion which he directed and The Hunger Games for which he was Second Unit Director. I’m tempted to call Kafka for which he was Director at least genre adjacent…
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 56. He got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost  followed by by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thornes, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. 
  • Born January 14, 1990 Grant Gustin, 30. The actor, known as Barry Allen aka the Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode on A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well the Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss knows what makes zombies laugh.
  • These folks at Close to Home sound like true introverts to me.

(11) RARE BOOK THIEVES PLEAD. “Men plead guilty in thefts of rare books from Carnegie Library” reports Pittsburgh’s TribLIVE.

The two men accused of stealing and reselling more than $500,000 worth of rare books, maps and other artifacts from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh reached a plea deal Monday with prosecutors who agreed to drop most of the charges they faced.

…Gregory Priore, 63, of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, was the archivist and manager of the library’s William R. Oliver Special Collections Room from 1992 until April 2017.

The room held a collection of rare books, maps and other items worth millions. Priore was accused of stealing the items from the library and selling them to John Schulman, 56, of Squirrel Hill, who owns the Caliban Bookshop in Oakland.

Among the items that were stolen was a 400-year-old Bible printed in London. It was recovered in April 2019 in the Netherlands as part of the criminal investigation.

(12) ATTENTION, FLORIDA MAN. Destiny is calling.

(13) ALIEN DISCOVERY CENTER. [Item by Cliff Ramshaw.] This is giving me a bad case of the VanderMeers…. “Scientists use stem cells from frogs to build first living robots” in The Guardian.

Researchers in the US have created the first living machines by assembling cells from African clawed frogs into tiny robots that move around under their own steam.

One of the most successful creations has two stumpy legs that propel it along on its “chest”. Another has a hole in the middle that researchers turned into a pouch so it could shimmy around with miniature payloads.

“These are entirely new lifeforms. They have never before existed on Earth,” said Michael Levin, the director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “They are living, programmable organisms.”

(14) ELECTION RESULTS. Cosplayer Lai Pin-yu has been elected to the Legislative Yuan of Taiwan. “Taiwanese cosplay candidate, Sunflower Movement activist wins legislative seat”.

When Lai was certain of her win on Saturday, she took to Facebook at 8 p.m. to write: ” Hello friends, I am Lai Pinyu, lawmaker of New Taipei City’s 12th District. Please give me your feedback over the next four years.” In her post, Lai included a photo of herself dressed as Sailor Mars from the “Sailor Moon” Japanese manga series, gaining her 30,000 likes, 2,800 comments, and 2,200 shares within 12 hours.

(15) BACKSTORY. If you think you’ve heard of this book before, there’s a reason why. But now it’s in print and Adri Joy reviews it for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [Book]: Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao”.

I don’t want to talk about Blood Heir without acknowledging the route this book took to publication. Originally scheduled for release the beginning of 2019, the book was delayed after numerous ARC readers identified significant sensitivity issues with an aspect of the plot and characters. Blood Heir deals in some depth with the concept of indenture, with marginalised characters in the place where the book is set at high risk of being forced to sign work contracts which leave them effectively in slavery. In original ARCs, the story’s depictions of race provoked strong concerns about how the story came across in the context of historic Black slavery in the USA. In response, author Amélie Wen Zhao delayed the book, revisited in the context of her original intent – to explore concepts of indenture with real-world parallels in Asian countries – and has now released the book, as of late November, satisfied that it did so. Having never read the original ARC, I don’t know how much changed before publication, and I should be clear that I’m white and, as a non-American, less likely to pick up cues that would read “chattel slavery” to US audiences – so I’m not going make claims about whether Blood Heir is now “fixed”, other than to note I didn’t pick up anything other than the author’s intended parallels in my own reading. However, from where I stand it feels like Blood Heir’s delayed, revised publication is an example of sensitivity reading going right, albeit late in the process and therefore more loudly and messily than might have occurred if concerns had been raised earlier. People were right to raise concerns. Zhao was right to listen and use those concerns to revisit her intended, ownvoices, message. I hope and suspect the book is stronger for it.

(16) YOUTH MOVEMENT. Victoria Silverwolf shares a discovery with Galactic Journey readers: “[January 14, 1965] The Big Picture (March 1965 Worlds of Tomorrow]”.

Science fiction writers often have to deal with things on a very large scale. Whether they take readers across vast reaches of space, or into unimaginably far futures, they frequently look at time and the universe through giant telescopes of imagination, enhancing their vision beyond ordinary concerns of here and now.

(This is not to say anything against more intimate kinds of imaginative fiction, in which the everyday world reveals something extraordinary. A microscope can be a useful tool for examining dreams as well.)

A fine example of the kind of tale that paints a portrait of an enormous universe, with a chronology reaching back for eons, appears in the latest issue of Worlds of Tomorrow, from the pen of a new, young writer.

Can you remember when Larry Niven was a “new, young writer”?

(17) OVER THE COUNTER. “The New York Public Library Has Calculated Its Most Checked-Out Books Of All Time” – there are assorted genre items on the list.

The New York Public Library has been loaning books for a long time — the institution turns 125 this year.

To celebrate, the library dug into its records and calculated a list of the 10 books that have been checked out the most in its history.

The most-wanted book? The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

The Caldecott Medal-winning tale of a young boy’s encounter with snow has been checked out 485,583 times from the NYPL since it was published in 1962.

It shares qualities with many of the other most-borrowed titles: The beautifully illustrated book has been around a long time, it’s well-known and well-loved, and it’s available in numerous languages.

(18) HELLO BOOMER. BBC says “Oldest material on Earth discovered”.

Scientists analysing a meteorite have discovered the oldest material known to exist on Earth.

They found dust grains within the space rock – which fell to Earth in the 1960s – that are as much as 7.5 billion years old.

The oldest of the dust grains were formed in stars that roared to life long before our Solar System was born.

A team of researchers has described the result in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When stars die, particles formed within them are flung out into space. These “pre-solar grains” then get incorporated into new stars, planets, moons and meteorites.

“They’re solid samples of stars, real stardust,” said lead author Philipp Heck, a curator at Chicago’s Field Museum and associate professor at the University of Chicago.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “I Have A Secret:  Another Bite” on Vimeo, Michael Sime introduces us to a guy who DOES have room for dessert in a restaurant.

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