Pixel Scroll 9/21/20 A Sandworm Wearing A Face Mask Walks Into A Bar

(1) TOP TARDIS OWNER DECIDED AT BALLOT BOX. Radio Times counted 50,000 votes and the result was close — “Doctor Who fans vote David Tennant best Doctor, narrowly beating Jodie Whittaker”.

…Both actors took 21 per cent of the overall poll vote with over 10,000 votes apiece, with Tennant squeaking ahead with just 100 extra votes in the final count. At other points, Whittaker had been leading the poll or was just below eventual third place winner Peter Capaldi, Whittaker’s predecessor in the role (playing the Twelfth Doctor from 2013-2017) who claimed 18 per cent in the final count….

You can see a full breakdown of the votes and results below.

  1. David Tennant 10518 / 21%
  2. Jodie Whittaker 10423 / 21%
  3. Peter Capaldi 8897 / 18%
  4. Matt Smith 7637 / 16%
  5. Tom Baker 3977 / 8%
  6. William Hartnell 1983 / 4%
  7. Paul McGann 1427 / 3%
  8. Christopher Eccleston 1144 / 2%
  9. Jon Pertwee 1038 / 2%
  10. Patrick Troughton 915 / 2%
  11. Sylvester McCoy 462 / 1%
  12. Colin Baker 359 / 1%
  13. Peter Davison 351 / 1%

(2) STAR CHOW. Sir Pat Stew and Mark Hamill (as Luke Skywalker) face off in a new commercial for Uber Eats.

(3) A COUPLE OF…WHAT? That’s what they’re trying to figure out. Disney+ dropped a trailer for WandaVision.

Welcome to WandaVision. Coming soon to Disney+. Marvel Studios’ captivating new series “WandaVision” stars Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, and marks the first series from Marvel Studios streaming exclusively on Disney+. The series is a blend of classic television and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which Wanda Maximoff and Vision—two super-powered beings living idealized suburban lives—begin to suspect that everything is not as it seems.

(4) OUTPOST. Skeptoid Media and The Outpost’s title sponsor, Texas Tech, will host a new virtual popular science and entertainment convention, Outpost 2020, from October 23-25, 2020. Yoon Ha Lee will be one of the GoHs.

With an interdisciplinary focus on entertainment, science, literature and education, Outpost 2020 is what happens when a comic con meets a science fair and sets up shop at the intersection of science literacy and science fiction.  In addition to social events, a screening of Science Friction and two full days of panels, The Outpost will feature a track of podcasts recording live, including Everyday Einsten, Grief Burrito, Monster Talk and more. Guests of honor include planetary scientist Tanya Harrison (Tanya of Mars); Locus winner Yoon Ha Lee (Machineries of Empire); actress Susan Egan (Steven Universe), and award-winning composer Brian Tyler (Avengers: Age of Ultron.)

The virtual format enables attendees to tune in from anywhere in the world and the event will be recorded for those who are unable to attend live via Crowdcast. To maximize accessibility, ticket prices are only $25, and a limited number of free tickets are available at registration.

Asteroid Awards. Outpost 2020 features the inaugural Asteroid Awards, recognizing the impact of entertainers, educators and scientists working to further an informed future by inspiring audiences with innovation and the power of narrative. Each award will come with a cash prize sponsored by Texas Tech or Skeptoid Media, and winners will be announced in an awards ceremony on October 24.

(5) BLEAK DEFINITION. Merriam-Webster’s “Words We’re Watching” today discusses “On ‘Doomsurfing’ and ‘Doomscrolling’”]

What to Know

Doomscrolling and doomsurfing are new terms referring to the tendency to continue to surf or scroll through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening, or depressing. Many people are finding themselves reading continuously bad news about COVID-19 without the ability to stop or step back….

(6) DUBLIN DOWNLOAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the September 18 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming writes about To Be A Machine (Version 1.0), a play at the Dublin Theatre Festival (dublintheatrefestival.ie) being performed until October 10 and adapted from Mark O’Connell’s book about people who want to download their brains into computers.

Now the book is a play.  And not only that–it’s a play that mirrors its subject, inviting you to attend in person by sending in your disembodied self via video.  To Be A Machine (Version 1.0), which opens (live-streamed shortly at Dublin Theatre Festival, features actor Jack Gleeson, playing the bemused O’Connell while around him 110 audience members flicker on multiple iPad screens.

The show was originally going to be more conventional, a piece with disembodied actors and a physical audience that explored the friction between the transhumanist desire to free ourselves from our bodies nd the fct live theatre depends on bodies in a room.  Then the pandemic intervened.  The solution seems curiously apt, playing with the idea of what theatre ‘without the hindrance of the body’ actually means.

(7) COBB OBIT. Ron Cobb, a former draughtsman with the Army Corps in Vietnam who became a famous cartoonist for the LA Free Press and went on to a career in Hollywood, died September 21. “Ron Cobb, Designer of the ‘Alien’ Ship and the ‘Back to the Future’ DeLorean, Dies at 83”.

Ron Cobb, the underground cartoonist turned production designer who influenced the making of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and helped shape the worlds of Conan the BarbarianAlien and Back to the Future, has died. He was 83.

Cobb died Monday — his birthday — of Lewy body dementia in Sydney, his wife of 48 years, Robin Love, reported.

Cobb brought to life several cantina creatures for Star Wars (1977) and came up with weaponry and sets for Conan the Barbarian (1982), the exterior and interior of the Nostromo ship in Alien (1978) and the earth colony complex in Aliens (1986) and the DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future (1985).

His prolific design work also included the breathing tanks and helmets in The Abyss (1989), the Omega Sector logo and the H bombs in True Lies (1990)the interior of the Mothership and the stranded tanker in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and the vehicles of The Last Starfighter (1984)….

Rick Sternbach said, “He was amazing to work with on The Last Starfighter. We know of his incredible skills as an artist, and I learned a great deal from him on that single film, but the thing that impressed me the most was his almost giddy enthusiasm for SF and tech.”

Early in his career, Cobb designed some covers for Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters. He even showed up for the first meeting in LASFS’ original clubhouse in 1973.

First meeting at the original LASFS clubhouse in 1973. Photo by Stan Burns. Back row, L to R: Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Jerry Pournelle, A. E. Van Vogt, Forry Ackerman. Middle row, L to R: Unknown, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven, Wendayne Ackerman Front row, L to R: Unknown, Bill Mills, Ron Cobb.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Fourteen years ago, the Worldcon Guest of Honor Speeches as edited by Mike Resnick and Joe Siclari was published by ISFiC Press. It would place second for Best Related Work to James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B Sheldon by Julie Phillips at Nippon 2007.  With an introductory essay by the editors, it collected a number, though not all, of the speeches made by Guests of Honor starting with the one by Frank R. Paul at the first Worldcon up to the one by Christopher Priest at Interaction. Some have been published elsewhere such as Philip José Farmer’s which appeared as “ Reap” first in Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review in November 1968. It had a press run of a thousand copies with a cover by Bob Eggleton who had won a Hugo for Best Professional Artist at L.A. Con III. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 21, 1840 – Thèrése Bentzon.  Essayist, journalist, novelist, translator.  Important in the history of e.g. abolitionism and feminism.  Translated Dickens and Twain.  For us, she tr. (and abridged and rewrote, alas) some of Haggard’s Allan Quatermain in 1888 (and yes, J. Hetzel did it).  (Died 1907) [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1866 – H.G. Wells.  Two dozen novels, a hundred short stories, for us; many others, essays, even this which he illustrated himself.  Hardly kept his opinions out of his fiction; sold his birthright for a pot of message, said Chesterton; but The Time MachineThe War of the WorldsThe Invisible Man, at least, are classic.  (Died 1946) [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1912 – Rod Ruth.  Good at interiors, of which he did nearly two hundred; a few covers, like this for the Dec 41 Amazing.  Here is “Letter to the Editor” (note fictional date 24 Nov 10!) from the Feb 44 Fantastic.  Series, “Romance of the Elements”; here is Hydrogen.  Outside our field, here is a Julian May book; RR also drew The Toodles.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1912 — Chuck JonesLooney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. On regards his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to exact in which he was Nilva, a Ferengi. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born September 21, 1937 – Ron Cobb, 83.  Having worked on Sleeping Beauty he became a political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Free Press and The Mother Earth News.  In our field he did motion picture design work for AlienConan the BarbarianThe Last StarfighterStar Wars; also Rocket Science Games.  Here is his cover for the Jul 59 F&SF.  Here is a ship he designed for Alien.  Artbook, Colorvision.  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1947 Nick Castle, 73. He co-wrote with director John Carpenter the scripts for Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., but he’s best remembered for directing The Last Starfighter. He was Michael Myers in Halloween, a role he’d later reprise in, errr, Halloween.  His other interesting genre cred is performing the title song of Big Trouble in Little China as The Coup De Villes with Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace. (CE) 
  • Born September 21, 1947 Stephen King, 73. I once saw him leaning up against a wall in Bangor outside his favorite breakfast spot nose deep in a paperback novel. I didn’t approach him to see what he was reading so intently. That’s how his native city treats him. Favorite by him? I’m not fond of his novels but I love his novellas and shorter fiction, so Different SeasonsFour Past Midnight and Skeleton Crew are my picks.  (CE)
  • Born September 21, 1950 Bill Murray, 70. Scrooged is my favorite film by him by a long shot followed by the first Ghostbusters film as I remain ambivalent about the second Ghostbusters film. I’m also fond of his voicing of Clive the Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox. (CE)
  • Born September 21, 1964 – Andy Duncan, 56.  Three dozen short stories; a sestina in Asimov’s; essays, reviews in The Cambridge Companion to SFFoundationLocusNova Express (i.e. the fanzine, not the W. Burroughs book), NY Rev SF; interviewed in Intergalactic Medicine ShowLightspeedStrange Horizons.  One Sturgeon, one Nebula, three World Fantasy Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1972 – Laurine Spehner, 48.  A dozen covers, three dozen interiors; a few short stories.  Here is The Year in Québécois SF, 1999 (2004) and here is 1994 (2014); here is Solaris 204 and here is 215 (all in French).  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1983 – Cassandra Rose Clarke, 37.  A dozen novels, a score of shorter stories; a sestina in Liminality, half a dozen more poems.  John Clute says Star’s End has “ethical complexity that marks the tale off from much space opera”.  CRC ranks, low to high, We Have Always Lived in the CastleDeclarePale Fire.  [JH]
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 30. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka called appropriately “Crossing Over”. Her last gig is as Camille Engelson on Stitchers which to my surprise got good ratings. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT. [Item by rcade.] The Sunday installment of the Mutts comic strip brings back a character not seen on the funny pages since the 1950s:

The catchphrase “Nov Schmoz Ka Pop?” identifies the Keebler Elf-looking fellow as the Little Hitchhiker, the creation of Gene Ahern in the Squirrel Cage comic strip that ran from 1936 to 1953. The absurd ride-thumbing character inspired Robert Crumb’s iconic Mr. Natural from the underground comix era.

Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell is a fan of classic strips, sometimes bringing their characters into his own. Before the Little Hitchhiker, there was a 10-strip series in August featuring Popeye, Olive Oil and Sea Hag.

(12) CRAZY-EX NEXT. Rachel Bloom, first introduced to fans by her Hugo-nominated song about Ray Bradbury, has a new project: “Romantic Mystery Drama ‘I’m In Love With The Dancer From My Bat Mitzvah’ in Development at The CW”.

A romantic mystery drama called I’m In Love With The Dancer From My Bat Mitzvah is in development at The CW, according to Deadline. The series comes from CBS Studios.

Ilana Wolpert (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) will serve as creator, writer, and executive producer. Rachel Bloom (Robot Chicken) will also write and executive producer with Debbie Liebling signed on as an EP (PEN15).

The new series follows a young woman right before her college graduation who gets romantically rejected by her best friend. She soon becomes obsessed with a dancer from her bat mitzvah and convinces her friends to join her down a path of criminal conspiracy. The story is inspired by true events and explores the theme of what we tell ourselves in order to prevent dealing with the reality of a situation.

This is the next project for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend alums Wolpert and Bloom. The CW series ended in 2019.

(13) WITH A CAST OF LEGO. The Star Wars Holiday Special, famous for all the wrong reasons, is getting a second chance: “The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special To Premiere On Disney+”

This November, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, — which premieres on Life Day, November 17, 2020 on Disney+, — will reunite Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and all your favorite droids, from R2-D2 to BB-8, for a joyous feast on Life Day, the holiday first introduced in 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special. The new LEGO special is the first to debut on the streaming platform and will continue the rich longtime collaboration between Lucasfilm and the LEGO Group — playful adventures told in an endearingly irreverent way.

Set after the events of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rey leaves her friends to prepare for Life Day as she embarks on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi temple, Rey finds herself hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?  You’ll have to watch to find out!

(14) CANON, CAN OFF. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This “Walk’n’Cut” can opener from Tanga looks (to me) like Ultron’s nephew, or something.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the producers of the Hobbit movies turned one normal-sized book into three very long movies by padding the hell out of it and throwing in stuff that’s completely unnecessary.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/20 You Scrollious Scatterbrained Primitive Phile of Pixelated Pistons

(1) DC “TRANSFORMS” ITS DIGITAL COMIC PLATFORM/OFFERING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “DC UNIVERSE Transforms Into DC UNIVERSE INFINITE!” I’ve been a happy-enough subscriber to DC Universe since its launch a year or so ago. My main motivation was the live action Doom Patrol (which I’ve loved) and to a lesser extent, l-a Titans (medium well done, though often fuzzy which plotlines were in motion, and canon-quirky, but they got Krypto, even), and for streamed comics, though not as satisfying a selection or as well organized as Marvel’s offering. But definitely worth the modest price. “New release comics are now available 6 months after they hit stores” — that’s sooner, for DC, although Marvel has already been doing this (for some issues/titles).

It looks like the price is staying the same for now, $7.99 a month or $74.99 a year.

io9’s post “The Excellent DC Universe Is Dead, and a Comics-Only Service Is Taking Its Place” helps clarify that the video content is jumping over to HBO Max.

Today DC Entertainment announced that as of January 21, 2021 DC Universe will “evolve” into DC Universe Infinite, a comics only service. It’s a shame, because DC Universe has lowkey been one of the best streaming services you could drop cash on every month—if you’re a giant nerd like myself.

The combination of old superhero TV shows, endless reams of comics, and solid original monthly programming like Doom Patrol and Harley Quinn made it a good deal…

(2) WHAT’S THAT SOUND. Cory Doctorow, in “We Need to Talk About Audible” at Publishers Weekly, is making a move against the dominant audiobook seller.

…A few months after its move in the music business, Amazon completed its acquisition of a scrappy upstart audiobook company called Audible. At the time of the acquistion, Amazon publicly announced it would remove Audible’s DRM. After all, why would a company with a self-proclaimed “relentless customer focus” impose such restrictions on audiobook users?

Fast-forward 12 years, and Audible has accomplished remarkable things. The company has helped grow the audiobook market to the point where it is a vital revenue stream for publishers. And Audible commands a huge share of the digital audiobook market—as much 90% of the market in some verticals.

But, they never removed the DRM.

…Last week, I launched a Kickstarter for presales of the audiobook. Because I am set up to act as an e-book retailer for my publishers (including both Tor and Attack Surface UK publisher, Head of Zeus) I was able to list both the series backlist and the Attack Surface audiobook on the crowdfunding campaign. As of this writing, we have raised more than $207,000.

Look, $207,000 is a lot of money. And my family’s finances have taken a severe beating since the Covid-19 crisis hit—I’m sure you can sympathize. We need this. Thank you.

But I’m not doing this for the money. Rather, my not-so-secret plan is to fundamentally shift how publishers relate to authors who are willing to stand up against Audible’s exclusive non-negotiable DRM-enforced exclusive market strategy. Giving authors leverage over Audible isn’t just about getting it to back down on its DRM policy. It also empowers us work with libraries, against whom Audible maintains a total blackout, refusing to license any of its exclusive audio content at all, forcing America’s library users to buy subscriptions through Amazon’s data-hungry, monopoly-reinforcing app.

My belief is that once more authors and publishers find they can succeed outside of the Audible funnel, Amazon will have to give Audible customers and the authors and publishers who supply the content the technical means and legal right to take their business elsewhere if they choose. And once that happens, publishers and authors will finally regain some of the leverage needed to negotiate fair deals from Audible.

I recognize that not every author can do what I’ve done with Attack Surface. That said, there are plenty of writers with platforms who can—I mean, if I can do it they can do it too….

(3) CELEBRATE AVRAM DAVIDSON. In the premiere episode of the “The Avram Davidson Universe” podcast, which debuted September 16, Seth Davis sits down with Ethan Davidson, to discuss growing up with Avram Davidson as his father and to listen to a reading of “Or All The Seas With Oysters.”

In each episode of the podcast and video series, they will perform a reading, and discuss Davidson’s works with a special guest. Podcast is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify.

(4) SECOND AGE. Someone blabbed about Amazon’s production where Bleeding Cool could overhear them: “The Lord of the Rings: Morfydd Clark Talks “Massive” Prequel Series”.

… Writers JD Payne and Patrick McKay are developing the series and serving as showrunner, with Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) serving as a consultant. Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is set to direct the first two episodes. Amazon Studios produces, in conjunction with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins, and New Line Cinema. The prequel series stars Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Tom Budge, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Joseph Mawle, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Daniel Weyman, and Maxim Baldry.

The new stories will take place prior to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” and look to focus on the “Second Age” – a time when the Rings of Power were first revealed. “J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honor and a joy to join this amazing team. I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story,” explained Bayona at the time the news was announced.

(5) SPACE, THE FINAL AUDITION. A new reality show wants to send one of you to the International Space Station in 2023. Assuming “you” means the kind of person who can win in the cutthroat world of reality TV. Deadline reports “Space Travel Reality Show Set To Send Contestant To ISS In 2023; Space Hero Company & Propagate Producing”.

Following the success of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon mission, which marked the return of the U.S.’ capability for manned flights and the first private company to get people into orbit, a reality series wants to send a civilian into space.

Space Hero Inc., a U.S.-based production company founded by Thomas Reemer and Deborah Sass and led by former News Corp Europe chief Marty Pompadur, has secured a seat on a 2023 mission to the International Space Station. It will go to a contestant chosen through an unscripted show titled Space Hero. Produced by Ben Silverman and Howard Owens’ Propagate, the series will launch a global search for everyday people from any background who share a deep love for space exploration. They will be vying for the biggest prize ever awarded on TV.

The selected group of contestants will undergo extensive training and face challenges testing their physical, mental and emotional strength, qualities that are essential for an astronaut in space. I hear the idea is for the culmination of the competition to be in a an episode broadcast live around the world where viewers from different countries can vote for the contestant they want to see going to space. 

(6) DUNE PREQUEL? ScreenRant’s “Dune Will Be Different Than Any Other Book Adaptation” on YouTube suggests that the indications are that the new movie will be faithful to Frank Herbert’s novel and reveals that a prequel series, with Denis Villeneuve directing the first episode, is in development at HBO Max.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2005 Snake Agent,  the first of Liz Williams’  Detective Inspector Chen novels, was published on the now defunct Night Shade Books. Set in the near future city of Singapore Three where Heaven and Hell were very real and far too close, the series would reach six novels and two short stories before concluding for now according to the author with Morningstar.  Jon Foster provided the cover art for the first four which are all on Night Shade. The first five novels are available from the usual digital suspects. Do read them in order as they do have a story that develops with each novel. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 18, 1824 – Richard Doyle.  His cover for Punch 6 was used for the P masthead nearly a hundred years.  Master illustrator of elves and fairies as Victorians imagined them; see herehere (“The Elf-King Asleep”), hereherehere.  Here is his cover for Jack and the Giants.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1937 – Ed Cagle.  Fanwriter until his early death (age 43).  His fanzines were Kwalhioqua and (with Dave Locke) Shambles.  Eric Mayer said, “Kwalhioqua was such an amazing zine I even remember how to spell it.  No one before or since has written like Ed.  His humor was outrageous, warped, rude, but never cruel.  He found weird perspectives on things.”  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 – Joan Johnston, 72.  Lawyer with a master’s degree in theater; became a best-selling author, forty contemporary and historical romances.   Five Romantic Times awards.  Well into her Hawk’s Way series of Westerns she wrote a prequel with a Texas Ranger pulling a 19th Century woman into the 20th Century (A Little Time in Texas), expectable (by us) issues for the author, reactions from readers – some applauding, I hasten to add.  Success resumed; 15 million books in print; no blame from me.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 72. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (whom she was married to for awhile) the quite superb Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her latter work, so y’all will need to tell me how it is. Most of the Thieves’ World Series is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1952 Dee Dee Ramone. Yes, the Ramones drummer. He penned Chelsea Horror Hotel, a novel in which he and his wife move into New York City’s Hotel Chelsea where the story goes that they are staying in the same room where Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Many predictable ghosts visit them. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born September 18, 1953 – Michael Nelson, 67.  Local club, WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n).  Chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 (successor to Disclaves).  Helpful and reliable at other tasks too, e.g. Hugo co-administrator (with K. Bloom) at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon.  Currently Publications Division head for DisCon III the 79th Worldcon scheduled for August 2021.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1961 – Chris O’Halloran, 59.  Fan Guest of Honor (with husband John) at Baycon 2013.  Often found working in the Masquerade (onstage costume competition at SF cons); e.g. at the 77th Worldcon (Dublin) chief of the running crew we for some reason call ninja (instead of the existing Kabukiterm kuroko); sometimes competes, e.g. speaking of Torcon 3 she was part of the Best in Show “Trumps of Amber from Zelazny’s books.  She helped an outreach program bring six thousand free books to the 18th WonderCon.  Master’s degree in Library Science.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1980 – Kristine Ong Muslim, 40.  Fifty short stories, two hundred twenty poems; recent collection, The Drone Outside; recent introduction, The Immeasurable Corpse of Nature.  Co-editor Lontar 1-10 (journal of SE Asian SF; 2013-2018); Lightspeed special issue “People of Colo(u)r Destroy SF”.  Translator, particularly of Mesándel Virtusio Arguelles.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 36. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels which I’d not heard of before this, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics, and she wrote the excellent Coffin Hill series for Vertigo. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has the sequel EB never finished.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider is “Against Despair.”

(10) MOVIE FANS REMAIN AWOL. “Movie Theaters Returned. Audiences Didn’t. Now What?” asks the New York Times.

“Tenet” was supposed to mark the return of the movie theater business in the United States. Instead, it has shown just how much trouble the industry is in.

After five months of pandemic-forced closure, the big movie theater chains reopened in roughly 68 percent of the United States by Labor Day weekend, in large part so they could show the $200 million film, which Warner Bros. promoted as “a global tent pole of jaw-dropping size, scope and scale.” But “Tenet,” directed by the box office heavyweight Christopher Nolan, instead arrived with a whimper: It collected $9.4 million in its first weekend in North America and just $29.5 million over its first two weeks.

Theaters remain closed in New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest markets in the United States and the center of Mr. Nolan’s fan base. In the areas where “Tenet” did play, audience concern about safety — even with theater capacity limited to 50 percent or less in most locations — likely hurt ticket sales. Box office analysts also noted that “Tenet” is a complicated, cerebral movie with little star power; a frothier, more escapist offering may have had an easier time coaxing people back to cinemas….

(11) THE WRITER’S EDGE. Brad Parks, in “How Will Crime Fiction Authors Hold Up In The Coming Zombie Apocalypse?” on CrimeReads, asks several crime writers what they would do if faced with a horde of ravenously hungry zombies. Tagline: “Crime fiction writers will survive the zombie apocalypse, but only the women.”

.. “Of course crime writers will survive. You may think it’s because we have done the exhaustive research on anti-zombie weapons in addition to mastering techniques for martial arts and amazing feats of self-defense in the face of a rising zombie population. Alas, the true reason for our survival will stem from our keen ability to avoid public places and hide in dark corners for months at a time.” —Danielle Girard, USA Today and Amazon bestselling author of White Out

(12) DEJA FIVE. James Davis Nicoll remembers “Five Unforgettable Books Involving Amnesia” at Tor.com. First on the list:

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny (1970)

Carl Corey wakes in Greenwood, an unfamiliar hospital. He has no idea how he got there. Indeed, thanks to his amnesia, he has only the staff’s word that he is “Carl Corey” and not, to pick a name entirely at random, Corwin of Amber. Some applied violence later and the curiously untrusting Carl Corey learns the name of the benefactor paying for his stay at the hospital: his sister, Evelyn Flaumel.

Escaping the hospital, he confronts the woman in question, who turns out to be no more Evelyn Flaumel than he is Carl Corey. She is, however, his sister. In fact, Corwin has a number of siblings, a Machiavellian litter imbued with powers unknown on the Earth on which Corwin woke, many of whom are rivals for the otherworldly Crown of Amber and some of whom might, if they knew he had escaped Greenwood’s comfortable oubliette, simply kill him.

(13) SHATNER RARITY. Available for bid through September 24 at Nate D. Sanders Auctions — “William Shatner Shares His Memories of Growing Up Jewish — Signed ‘Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew'”. Image at the link.

William Shatner autograph essay signed ”William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”, with Shatner describing his happy memories of growing up Jewish. Composed on his personal embossed stationery, Shatner writes about ”Some Hanukkah Memories”, in full, ”First of all I’d like to say I recently released a Holiday album – I was going to call it ‘Dreidel Dreidel’ but then I thought better of it. Maybe I should have – maybe.

I was born in the Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood of Montreal Quebec Canada to a Conservative Jewish family – my Paternal Grandfather ‘Wolfe Schattner’ anglicized his family name to Shatner. All four of my grandparents were immigrants – they came from the Austria-Hungary and Russian Empires – location of present day Ukraine and Lithuania.

Third – during my childhood – the menorah stood somewhere on the mantelpiece – it was silver and black from use no matter how often it was polished – it stood there until used and then it was used with great reverence.

Fourth, my mother standing over the frying pan, pouring in a mixture of potatoes – ground-up potatoes into the sizzling fat – the oil – and frying up potato pancakes. The memory of those potato pancakes with applesauce and the family crowding around eating the pancakes is a memory that is indelible. / Happy Chanukah William Shatner / Capt. Kirk Proud Jew”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.5”. Near fine condition.

(14) BY JOVE. “Hubble Captures Crisp New Portrait of Jupiter’s Storms” — NASA has shared the images.

Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the famous Great Red Spot region gearing up to change color – again.

(15) BOGUS LEGOS. NPR interviews “Lego Fans Tricked By Counterfeit Kits”.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Legos are more than a toy. They’re an investment. The company that makes those little plastic building blocks pulled in more than $5.5 billion in sales last year. They often sell Legos in special kits, sometimes depicting famous movie scenes. And they retire those kits after a while, making them collector’s items for fans and upping their value. But where there’s money to be made, there are also scams. Let’s go into the world of counterfeit Lego sets with Stacey Vanek Smith and Sally Herships from the podcast The Indicator at Planet Money.

SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: Tom Glascoe (ph) lives in Dayton, Ohio. He has three kids, and they all love Lego, which is how he got into trouble. He’d been looking for a Lego X-Wing Resistance Fighter for his son.

TOM GLASCOE: And so perusing Facebook one day, I saw an ad for it for what seemed to be a low but maybe not too low of a price.

HERSHIPS: The X-Wing was half price – just 30 bucks.

GLASCOE: The pieces weren’t the same quality, and they didn’t go together quite as nicely as regular Legos.

(16) PETA CALLS FOR PEEPS PURITY. “PETA Demands That Just Born Make Vegan Peeps Because ‘The World Is In Turmoil’”Delish covers both sides.

Peeps, as it turns out, can’t seem to catch a break. The brand’s production is under fire again this week, albeit for an entirely different reason. Actor James Cromwell sent a letter to the CEO of Just Born demanding that the recipe for Peeps go vegan, because “the world is in turmoil.” ICYMI: One key ingredient in peeps is gelatin, which can be obtained from pork skin and bones.

“We use pork derived gelatin in our Peeps marshmallow to achieve a light, soft texture,” Peeps explains on its website: “Gelatin allows us to incorporate small finely divided bubbles allowing you to bite through the marshmallow cleanly with a creamy mouth feel.”

The demand is oddly-timed because the manufacturer has already said their will be no Halloween or holiday Peeps at all due to the pandemic.

(17) BUTTERFLY EFFECT. In the alternate timeline I now occupy, an author called Chuck Tingle plugs his Hugo nominations on the cover of his recent novel.

In this thrilling tale of The Tingleverse, you decide which path to take. With multiple endings to discover and several consequences to face, the reader is the star of the show as you fight to see your name in lights!

Will you and a punk rock unicorn take over the fine art scene after a battle with giant rats in Venna Beach?

Will you encounter The Valley Girls, a roving band of desert-dwelling barbarians in diesel-powered war machines, and live to tell the tale?

Will you find yourself house-sitting for dinosaur superstar Bob Downer, Jr. in the Tinglewood Hills, only to discover things are not exactly as they seem?

The decision is yours!

(18) WOOKIEE WEAR. Yahoo! News is there when “Adidas and Star Wars Launch Fur-Covered Chewbacca Sneaker”.

Adidas has teamed up with Star Wars once again, this time paying tribute to one of the series’ most iconic characters with an eye-catching sneaker collaboration.

The duo revealed their Rivalry Hi Chewbacca, a fur-covered high-top inspired by the beloved wookiee warrior, earlier this week. It features a neutral-toned color palette to represent the sci-fi desert landscape and hardware embossed with the words “STAR” and “WARS” on each shoelace.

Adidas and Star Wars also gave a nod to the belt Chewbacca wore during Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by adding a strap on the tongue of the show, and an image of the of the big-hearted wookie covers the soles.

Adidas RIVALRY HI STAR WARS SHOES Ode to Chewbacca https://www.adidas.co.uk/rivalry-hi-star-wars-shoes/FX9290.html CR: Adidas Originals

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Jurassic Park for 8 Cellos” on YouTube, Samara Ginsberg accompanies herself seven times playing the theme from Jurassic Park while cosplaying in a furry green dino costume!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll,  JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/11/20 Mrs. Pixel, We’re Needed

(1) FUR STUDIES. The Dogpatch Press published a 2-part interview with a professor at Boston College specializing in classical history who teaches a course called “Beast Literature” which covers talking animal stories and gets into animation and furry fandom.

I gather that classicism is about Greek/Roman tradition and how it carries on in modern culture. How does that merge with research about Disney and similar pop culture, and how did that develop as a focus for you?

That’s right — Classics is a complicated term, but it’s shorthand for the study of the ancient Mediterranean world and its continuing significance.

As for Classics, Disney, and pop culture, I can’t say exactly how it all began merging. I’ve loved animation for as long as I can remember. VHS tapes of Disney’s Robin Hood, Bluth’s American Tail, and Vitello’s Gallavants ran non-stop in my house when I was a kid, and that interest has gotten stronger as time goes by. And I’ve been studying Classics for more than 20 years now. If you spend that long learning and thinking intensively about one area, you just can’t shut off that part of your brain. You develop a sensitivity and notice wherever it pops up, whether that’s at work or vegging out in front of the TV.

The fact that Greece and Rome exert this pervasive presence means it happens all the time, and the more you notice, the more complex and interesting those patterns become, and the deeper you want to dive. So it’s an organic mixing of two things I love and have spent a ton of time trying to learn and understand better.

(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?

(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.

Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:

Another professor at U of South Florida does an animals in antiquity course that has a section on furries. 

Christopher Polt also discusses masks in ancient drama in an interesting thread that starts here.

(2) GAME OF ZONING. Ben Ashford, in the Daily Mail story “‘All it’s missing is Jon Snow and a couple of dragons!’ GoT author George R.R. Martin submits plans to build fantasy castle in his New Mexico backyard – but his neighbors aren’t bending the knee!”, says that Martin submitted plans to build a seven-story library in his backyard that looks like the tower of a castle, but the Santa Fe Historic Review Board turned him down because the keep was six feet higher than what zoning regulations permitted.

The 71-year-old creator of Dragonstone, Winterfell and the Red Keep describes his proposed Gothic-style structure as a free-standing ‘seven-sided library’ in a planning application lodged with the City of Santa Fe.

But locals say the fortress-like building, featuring imposing stone walls, battlements and a 27ft tower, is akin to something from HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones and totally out of place in a suburban neighborhood where it will spoil their views.

Martin’s architects toned down the medieval aspects in revised drawings but still need special permission from the city’s Historic Design Review Board to start work on the ‘Water Garden Keep’ because the turret is several feet higher than zoning codes allow.

(3) SUSANNA CLARKE REVIVAL. The New Yorker visits “Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors”. Tagline: “Fifteen years after an illness rendered her largely housebound, the best-selling writer is releasing a novel that feels like a surreal meditation on life in quarantine.”

… Often while I spoke to Clarke I could hear Greenland in the background, clinking dishes in the kitchen sink. Later, he told me that Clarke gets up much earlier than he does, and tries to write for the few hours when her energy is at its peak. By the afternoon, she needs to rest, and even in the morning her ability to participate in, say, a demanding conversation is limited to about an hour. She is very private about whatever she’s working on; in fact, she can be a little cagey about whether she’s working on anything at all. “She’s on her sofa with her laptop,” Greenland said. “And I don’t know if she’s playing a game, if she’s watching TV, if she’s writing e-mails, or if she’s working. It’s not apparent to me. She’s in her bubble. But what I do know is that, for a long while, she was too ill to write. And then, after that, she was writing fragments.”

Many of these “bits,” as Clarke calls them, have been squirrelled away for possible inclusion in some future work. “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” is partly written in a style reminiscent of John Aubrey, the British scholar best known for his “Brief Lives” series of short biographies. In the novel, these passages come complete with footnoted anecdotes that document the history of English magic with a distinctive combination of whimsy and nineteenth-century punctiliousness. One such story mentions a chick, hatched from an enchanted egg, that “grew up and later started a fire that destroyed most of Grantham.” Clarke writes, “During the conflagration it was observed bathing itself in the flames. From this circumstance, it was presumed to be a phoenix.”

Although the origins of “Piranesi” predate Clarke’s illness, she did not commence intensive work on it until her symptoms abated, a few years ago…. 

 Dan Kois’ review of Piranesi for Slate, “Susanna Clarke’s First Novel in 16 Years Is a Wonder”, begins:

How big is the House? It is limitless. Its towering rooms are the size of two soccer fields or more. Connected by passageways and staircases, the rooms extend in every direction as far as Piranesi can explore. He writes in his journals that he has traveled nearly a thousand rooms from what he believes to be the center of things and has never reached the end. Even the staircases are huge, their steps much taller than a man can comfortably climb, as if, Piranesi writes, “God had originally built the House intending to people it with Giants before inexplicably changing His Mind.”

(4) OLD PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll reread “The Amazing Adventures of Space Cat!” for the first time since 1969. (James may not really be that old, but he is the curator of the Young People Read Old SFF series, so what else could I call it?)

…Convinced the cat is lucky (as opposed to, say, needing more supervision than it is getting), Fred insists that the cat accompany him on humanity’s very first trip to the Moon. Fred’s superiors acquiesce because they would not dream of taking away a man’s good-luck charm. When Fred leaves for the Moon on rocket ship ZQX-1, Flyball accompanies him.

(5) I, FOR ONE. In “Two Books Wonder: How Long Until You Fall in Love With a Robot?”, the New York Times’ Amanda Hess discusses Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny by Debora L. Spar and Sex Robots And Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death by Jenny Kleeman.

“Science fiction is not about the future,” the sci-fi novelist Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984. The future “is only a writerly convention,” he continued, one that “sets up a rich and complex dialogue with the reader’s here and now.” That is a useful way of understanding all the many pop nonfiction books that speculate about the technologies of the future, and attempt to divine their effects on human beings. Their predictions depend on how well they interpret the present.

One such interpreter is Debora L. Spar, the dean of Harvard Business School Online, who writes at the intersection of tech and gender. In her new book, “Work Mate Marry Love,” she considers an emerging wave of innovations that she believes could upend how we experience relationships, reproduction, gender expression and death. “We will fall in love with nonhuman beings,” Spar predicts in the book’s opening pages, “and find ways to extend our human lives into something that begins to approximate forever.” Spar argues that new technologies spark shifts in the most intimate of human affairs, often in unexpected ways. She casts this as a causal relationship, one imbued with a sense of inevitability. The book’s subtitle, “How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny,” gives the machines the agency.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Paul Winchell, the voice of Jerry Mahoney and Disney’s Tigger has the honor of having filed the first patent for an artificial heart: “Paul Winchell: An Amazing Inventor”.

…But what was probably most fascinating about Winchell was the fact that he was a very successful inventor. Over the course of his life, he held patents on over 30 devices, including a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an illuminated ballpoint pen, a retractable fountain pen, an inverted novelty mask, battery-operated heated gloves, an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage, and the first artificial human heart. That’s right, the artificial heart.

This invention was developed through collaboration with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device.

(7) FERRIS-YERXA OBIT. It has been leaned that author Frances Ferris-Yerxa died March 3, 2019 at the age of 101. The family notice said:

She married Le Roy Yerxa. When Le Roy passed away at an early age, she was left with four young children to raise and care for. She later married William Hamling and they had two more children. She was always oriented to the welfare of her family. She loved all her children, all her grandchildren, all her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

The Yerxa website notes that both Leroy (as his name was spelled on magazine covers) and Frances wrote stories for the “pulp” science fiction magazines Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures.

These magazines were published by Ziff-Davis out of Chicago, IL. By the early 1940s, Palmer, the managing editor of these publications, had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vern, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.

Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night,” appeared under his own name in the August 1942 Amazing. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of Fantastic Adventures (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.

Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s (which he often used when his wife Frances published a piece under her own name in the same edition), but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of “house names.” The house names were used by several writers, so that we had the authors using several names and several authors using the same name.

Leroy Yerxa died and, after a reasonable length of time, William Hamling, who had been a good friend as well as colleague, proposed to Frances Yerxa. Frances, who had already made a name for herself as a writer with her material appearing all over the place, accepted Hamling’s proposal and Hamling assumed responsibility for Yerxa’s sons Edward and Richard, and began raising them as his own. Then, Bill and Frances had two children, a daughter Debbie and Billy Jr. They lived in Evanston, the north contiguous suburb of Chicago, on Fowler Avenue in a nice, comfortable house.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2010  — At Aussiecon 4 a decade ago this month, China Miéville‘s The City & The City would win the Best Novel Hugo in a tie with The Windup Girl by  Paolo Bacigalupi. It would be his first, and to date only, Hugo Award. It would later win the BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Impressive indeed. It was written as a gift for Miéville’s terminally ill mother, who was a fan of police procedurals. It  would be made into an audiobook narrated by John Lee who also narrates Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect Tom Dreyfus novels. A four-part television adaptation by the BBC was broadcast in 2018.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 11, 1862 – O. Henry.  Master of the short story, often with a surprise ending.  I’ve read the 1926 Complete Works with almost three hundred, poems too; perhaps half a dozen are ours.  When in Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke Jeanne Green compares YH to O. Henry and YH recoils, Wouk who is no dope means us to see YH is wrong and JG is right; YH doesn’t know his own greatness in his fog of yearning for sophistication.  Of course we’d never –  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1889 – Ann Bridge.  Alpinist, archaeologist, gardener.  Novel And Then You Came, four shorter stories, for us; a score of other novels including detective fiction, also travel, memoirs.  Praise: people, history, politics shown with truth and skill.  Blame: snooty.  Decide for yourself.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1940 Brian De Palma, 80. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1941 Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who as the former who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1951 Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh — Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels there and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately, like so many of these guides, it was done once and never updated. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1952 Sharon Lee, 68. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They have won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for for lifetime contributions to science fiction, and they won The Golden Duck (the Hal Clement Young Adult Award) for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born September 11, 1956 – Jefferson Swycaffer, 64.  Ten novels, thirty shorter stories; regular correspondent in Broken Toys; active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation), indeed winning both its Kaymar and Neffy Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1958 Roxann Dawson, 62. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1960 – William Tienken.  This appreciation by Our Gracious Host beats anything I could do.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1961 – Sally Green, 59.  Half Bad and Smoke Thieves trilogies, plus 3½ novella “Half Lies”.  Meanwhile she still runs most days despite several attempts to give it up.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1965 Cat Sparks, 55. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction“.   She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1976 – Lizzy Stevens, 44.  A novel and (with husband Steve Miller) five shorter stories; “A Lost Memory” an Amazon Best Seller.  Some other fellow having written Dharma Bums, LS and SM wrote about karma bums.  That Loki is always right in the way.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WINGING IT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt says that former Marvel Comics editor Christian Cooper, famed as the Black birder accosted by a white woman in Central Park, has come out with a comic called “It’s a Bird!” that is “The first issue of ‘Represent!’ a digital series from DC Comics that will showcase writers and artists from groups underrepresented in the industry.” “Christian Cooper has written a comic book partly inspired by his viral Central Park moment”.

… “It’s a Bird” features Jules, a teenager given a pair of binoculars by his father and told to explore his surroundings. Jules, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, is quickly harassed by those threatened by his presence as an unannounced Black man in an open space.

That and other moments of hostility evoke racial profiling that Cooper and other Black birders have experienced, but the story turns slightly mystical when Jules begins using his binoculars and sees images of Black people who have fallen to police violence, including Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Cooper works as a senior editorial director at Health Science Communications and didn’t think he would wind up back at one of the superhero publishers so quickly, but here he is.

“I really appreciated it when [DC Comics] came to me and said do you want to do this comic, because I did have something to say,” he said in an interview. “It’s interesting how it slips into maybe this space in the DC Universe that isn’t normally occupied. It is a very magical-realist tale. There is something fantastical that happens in the course of the story. But it’s not capes. It’s not superheroes.”

(12) LEGO MY THINGO. The Drum invites readers to “Meet Bygglek: how Ikea and Lego built a creative solution to messy play”. I thought only Dr. Seuss tought up names like that.

Lego is well aware that its product encourages mess. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, as any decent Lego session ends with bricks and figures all over the floor. To make it easier for parents to cope without stifling creativity, Lego looked to the giants of storage, Ikea. Together they created a simple solution, aptly named ’Bygglek.’

…Løgstrup recalls how, while struggling to make the right contact at Ikea, a chance encounter at a school board meeting kickstarted the soon-to-be long-term collaboration between the two beloved Scandinavian brands. “By some coincidence, the leader from our licensing department happened to sit next to someone at Ikea and they started discussing the potential project,“ he explains.

Spurred on by this coincidence, the early courtship saw the Lego team invite Ikea to ‘come play‘ by sending them a stop motion movie to spell out the challenge Lego faced. An attractive offer that few could refuse, Ikea designer Andreas Fredriksson notes. “Of course we wanted to play. It was a yes from the beginning. It‘s the perfect match because we work with small space living at home and Lego is all about play.“

(13) MULAN OPENS QUIETLY IN CHINA. Pei Li, in the Reuters story “Disney’s ‘Mulan’ battles mixed reviews and media muzzle at Chinese launch”, says that Mulan was launched in China with “no major media buildup and no star-studded premier or red-carpet launch” with the film getting mixed reviews in China due in part to its historical anachronisms (buildings exist in the film that were built several hundred years later).

…”Mulan” has provoked a backlash on overseas social media over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments and rights groups.

Chinese authorities told major media outlets not to cover the film’s release in the wake of the uproar, four people familiar with matter told Reuters, further weighing on its chances of success.

(14) MISGUIDED MISSIVE. Early Bird Books, a division of Open Road Media, sends subscribers emails with a list of e-books which are on special for the moment. Yesterday, a now-former subscriber reports they sent her an email with the subject “Message From Our Partner: Relieve Dryness & Make Intimacy Comfortable” with extensive information and endorsements about a product marketed by FemmePharma. The recipient was outraged and copied it to me.

One almost wonders if it was an act of revenge by an employee on their way out the door.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. German Netflix series Dark ended this year; here’s a breakdown on its themes on nihilism and fate from the YouTube channel Wisecrack.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Patch O’Furr, Frank Olynyk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/20 Who Would Open This Can Of Words?

(1) ONE WEEK LEFT TO VOTE FOR HUGOS. CoNZealand today reminded members the deadline is nearing – voting closes Wednesday, July 22 at 23:59 PDT (UTC-7), which in New Zeland is Thursday, July 23 at 18:59 NZST (UTC+12).

(2) PEAKE ARCHIVE PRESERVED. The British Library has acquired the Visual Archive of writer, artist and illustrator Mervyn Peake, best known for his series Gormenghast.

.. Mervyn Peake’s Visual Archive comprises over 300 original illustrations, including drawings from his critically acclaimed Gormenghast series, together with original illustrations for his own books for children Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor and Letters From a Lost Uncle and other classic works of English literature, such as Treasure IslandThe Hunting of the Snark, Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm,and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Also included are unpublished early works, preliminary sketches, and drawings of famous literary, theatrical and artistic figures such as Laurence Olivier and W.H. Auden. This acquisition brings Peake’s archive together in one place, making it fully accessible to the public for the first time.

Mervyn Peake was an English writer, artist and illustrator, best known for creating the fantasy trilogy Gormenghast. A Royal Academy trained artist of great versatility and inventiveness, he has been seen as arguably the finest children’s illustrator of the mid-20th century. Combining technical mastery with an innate ability to evoke fear, delight and wonderment in young readers, he redefined the cosy nature of children’s book illustrations.

Despite his originality, Peake’s fondness and respect for the work of other artists is evident in the archive, from the influence of Hogarth, Doré and Blake to Dickens’ illustrator Phiz and Boys’ Own artist Stanley L. Wood.

The archive is notable for Peake’s exquisite Treasure Island illustrations from 1949, which remain some of his finest work, described by critics as ‘tense, eerie and dramatic’ and ‘one of the few editions which have come near to meeting the demands of the author’s text’. Treasure Island was Peake’s favourite book and his love for the story is evident in the archive from the watercolour illustrations he painted aged 15, to the large number of preliminary sketches and annotated proofs which show his commitment to perfecting the 1949 edition.

(3) STORYBUNDLE. Available for the next three weeks: “The Glitter and Hope Bundle – Curated by Cat Rambo”.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that 2020 has not gone exactly how I expected it to, and this StoryBundle has been no exception. I originally conceived of it as a hopepunk centered bundle, but as I sorted through possibilities, I found less punk than plenty of hopeful stories that reminded me that hope comes in all sorts of forms, not all of them as in your face as hopepunk.

Hope can find its origin in friendship, whether on an alien planet or a New York street corner. It can come from writing, in a myriad shades as multi-colored as the ink in which it’s inscribed. It glitters at the bottom of Pandora’s box, waiting to escape. Waiting to provide comfort and lightand renewed vigor for the fight….

… For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Diamondsong – Escape 01 by E.D.E. Bell
  • The Burglar of Sliceharbor by Jason A. Holt
  • Modern Surprises by Joan Marie Verba
  • The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus by Alanna McFall

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more more books, for a total of eleven.

  • Diamondsong – Capture 02 by E.D.E. Bell
  • Tales of the Captain Duke – Vol. 1-4 by Rebecca Diem
  • The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm
  • Community of Magic Pens by Atthis Arts Anthology
  • Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo
  • Missing Signal by Seb Doubinsky
  • The Legacy Human – Singularity 1 by Susan Kaye Quinn

(4) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. (William Gibson and Margaret Atwood have both said so; the name of the person who actually said it first escapes me at the moment.) Abigail Nussbaum’s “The Political Hugo” discusses “the nominees on this year’s Hugo ballot that feel most relevant to our crazy, confusing political moment, and why I’d like them to win.” She advocates that the Hugo should be appropriated as an award for topical fiction.

….We’re coming off a decade in which the Hugo struggled with its own definition, and with a troupe of interlopers who claimed to want to save it from those who would “politicize” it. It’s a decade in which the award’s diversity has advanced considerably, with more women, POC, and LGBT people being recognized than ever before. And yet at the same time, the Hugo can be inward-looking (some might say that this is inevitable, given its nature and voting system). Its politics are often internal politics–as much as it reflected trends in the broader political discourse, the Puppy debacle was the ultimate in inside baseball. I would like this year’s winners to be more outward-looking, to reflect the upheaval in the world and the simple fact that we are all participating in that upheaval, whether we want to or not. What I want to write about in this post are the works on this year’s Hugo ballot that, besides being excellent examples of their type, speak to some of the issues we’ve been seeing in the real world. 

(5) A VELDT OF THEIR OWN. “Why Exposing Kids To Horror Might Actually Be Good For Them” – that’s what Stephen Graham Jones contends in a post for CrimeReads.

…But, I know: horror? Don’t kids need “safe” programming, not nightmare fuel? My take is . . . no. Childhood already has a lot of the hallmarks of a horror movie, I think. Kids are small in a big place, they have no real power, they don’t know how even the simplest parts of the world work. Doors stretch dauntingly high, shadows can hold anything. Parents say one thing, mean another, and then take it all back anyway, change the rules for no reason other than that they “say so.” And everyone is always telling kids that the minute they’re alone, without tether to a trustworthy adult, that’s when the predators of the world will pounce, spirit them away to a place they never come back from.

Pretty terrifying, right?

My take is that when kids engage horror stories, they kind of . . . recognize that feeling, that terror, that uncertainty, that unfairness, and they maybe even understand that they’re not alone in feeling it. They’re not “weird,” they’re just human. Fear is our default setting. It’s what happens when you evolve on a savanna where everything wants to eat you.

(6) BEATTS AND BORDERLANDS BOOKS UPDATE. “Authors, Customers Demand Borderlands Books Owner Divest from Store”Publishers Weekly does a roundup.

…  Some sponsors have publicly denounced Beatts on Twitter, including several who have reached out privately to PW to confirm that they will not renew their sponsorships.

One of the authors expressing such sentiments was children’s book author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who has cohosted several “lovely” literary events there, including a May fundraiser with Rebecca Roanhorse and N.K. Jemisin that netted $6,000 for the store. In an email to PW, Tokuda-Hall wrote that it is her “dearest hope that Alan will divest from the store, and allow the staff and community to reclaim the space. The staff does not deserve to be associated with these allegations.”…

…Mary Robinette Kowal, who is the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, told PW last week that a Tor representative called her and asked if she wished to cancel a scheduled July 23 virtual event for her new release, Relentless Moon.

“If your publisher comes to you and asks if you still want to do an event…maybe not,” Kowal said, adding that she was not “100% convinced” that she had made the right decision. “I don’t like the ripple effects,” she explained: canceling the event also “punishes” the store’s general manager, Jude Feldman, and its four other employees. “The decision an author has to make is a lot messier than the decision an individual customer has to make,” Kowal added. “It’s the thing we’re doing because it’s the only tool we have.”

Kowal disclosed that she sent an email to Beatts before Tor canceled the event, writing that “I needed him to step back from the store and to address his drinking.” Most of the other sources PW spoke to also referred to Beatts’ drinking habits; a former employee described the store to PW as having a “heavy drinking culture.”

In her capacity as SFWA president, Kowal said that it would be “inappropriate” for the organization to address these specific allegations, but that it has been discussing “the larger problem” of how to report unethical or abusive behavior within the science fiction and fantasy community. SFWA has recently implemented a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, which will, among other tasks, explore ways to deal with such situations in ways that are “sustainable and safe.”

… Beatts dismissed the suggestion that he divest himself from the store by transferring ownership to [Jude] Feldman. “I cannot see any way in which Borderlands can possibly operate without me,” he wrote. “I’ve discussed this with Jude and she agrees. That is not an option.” Feldman, in addition to being the store’s general manager for 19 years, has been Beatts’s significant other for about 20 years….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1997 — Christopher Golden’s The Lost Army was released by Dark Horse Comics. The first of seven Hellboy novels that Golden would write for Dark Horse over the next decade, it bore a cover done by Mike Mignola who also provided interior illustrations. It would have French and Spanish editions as well. It was the very first of the twelve original Hellboy novels done by Dark Horse over a twenty year period. If you’re interested all of them are available from the usual digital suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 15, 1606 – Rembrandt van Rijn.  Draftsman, painter, printer.  Among the greatest visual artists.  Master of light, texture, portraiture.  We can claim his mythological pictures; perhaps also his Biblicals, at least when like The Evangelist Matthew and the Angel showing, besides what believers would deem historical, some element that could only be imagined.  Here is The Sacrifice of Isaac.  Here is Pallas Athena.  Here is The Abduction of Persephone.  See what he could do with a few lines.  (Died 1669) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1779 – Clement Moore.  He was a Professor of Biblical Learning.  “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously; for twenty years he did not acknowledge it; some scholarship indicates he was not the author; and it must be said he owned slaves and opposed Abolition.  But consider the poem as an achievement of fantasy – particularly since St. Nicholas was a 4th Century bishop in what is now Turkey.  (Died 1863) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1917 – Robert Conquest, Ph.D.  For us, a novel, a few shorter stories, a few poems; five Spectrum anthologies with Kingsley Amis.  Many other writings.  Politically a conservative, and a brilliant one, which is a pain or a joy depending on your point of view (note that I put pain on the left and joy on the right).  He might not like being remembered most for this, but we do: “SF’s no good, they bellow till we’re deaf.  But this looks good.  Well then, it’s not SF.”  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. iBooks and Kindle have the Colossus trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. ((Died 1981.) CE)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titanic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which somehow I’ve avoided seeing so far. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Don’t ask.) As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 63. His best-known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and Host of Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1958 – Pat Molloy, 62.  Chaired ConCave 1980-1982, Con*Stellation IV & VII, DeepSouthCon 25 (some use Roman numerals, some don’t); Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 27, 52.  After twenty years of the Rebel Award, co-founded and named the Rubble Award; punished by being given the Rebel Award.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with Naomi Fisher), attended the 2001 Australian nat’l convention.  [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 57. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1964 – Elspeth Kovar, 56.  Wrote the Joe Mayhew memorial for the Chicon 6 Souvenir Book (58th Worldcon); see her con report in File 770 137, p. 28 (PDF).  Chaired Capclave 2006.  Active in WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  Not true that one of her cats was in an iron lung and on dialysis. [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 53. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1983 – Tristan Tarwater, 37.  Author of fantasy, comics, and RPG (role-playing games) bits.  Six novels, recently The Marauders’ Island, laced with coconut wine, salt, and magic; a few shorter stories.  Among her books read are the Vinland Saga (i.e. Makoto Yumimura’s), The Fifth SeasonBlake’s Complete Illuminated Books, and The Glass Bead Game.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BILL’S BIOPIC. Will this film be called The Shat Story? “William Shatner Wants Chris Pine To Play Him In Future Biopic” says We Got This Covered.

Shatner recently appeared as a guest via virtual chatroom at this year’s Galaxy Con, and given the prolific career he’s enjoyed in his 89 years, the idea of bringing his story to the big screen was sure to be on the minds of the collective Star Trek fandom.

“I want to play myself. I don’t want to die!,” Shatner said when asked who he’d like to have star in such a feature. “I don’t know. Chris Pine? Why doesn’t he play me? A good looking, talented guy,”

(11) SEEMS LEGIT. Another LEGO collectible.

(12) IT’S DEAD, JIM. LitHub revisits 1965 and “What Our First Close Look at Mars Actually Revealed” – tagline: “The Disappointment of a Blighted Planet.”

…Scarcely anyone had been prepared for what frame seven revealed, much less what they saw in the next dozen images. “My God, it’s the moon,” thought Norm Haynes, one of the systems engineers. There were craters in the image, all perfectly preserved, which meant the planet was in bleak stasis. The crust hadn’t been swallowed by the churn of plate tectonics, but, more important, the surface hadn’t been worn down by the ebb and flow of water. Preserved craters meant there had been no resurfacing, no aqueous weathering of any kind resembling that of the Earth. As with the moon, it appeared there had never been any significant quantity of liquid water on the surface—no rainfall, no oceans, no streams, no ponds.

Stunned, the Mariner 4 team didn’t publicly release the images for days as they tried to understand the implications of what they were seeing.

(13) GREEN CHEESE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  I think the cheesy commercial for this is news

Second only to seeing @TheGreenKnight in theaters: playing The Green Knight RPG at home.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/20 I Know This Defies The Law Of Pixel Scrolling, But I Never Studied Law

(1) CLARKE AWARD GOES GREEN. Well, the reverse idea worked when Lucky Strike went to war… The Clarke Award has unveiled a logo redesign on Twitter via @clarkeaward.

(2) PRATCHETT’S GENESIS. “Final Terry Pratchett stories to be published in September” reports The Guardian. The stories in The Time-travelling Caveman were written for newspapers in the Sixties and Seventies. One of them, “The Tropnecian Invasion of Great Britain,” appears at the end of the article.

The final collection of early stories from the late Terry Pratchett, written while the Discworld creator was a young reporter, will be published in September. The tales in The Time-travelling Caveman, many of them never released in book form before, range from a steam-powered rocket’s flight to Mars to a Welsh shepherd’s discovery of the resting place of King Arthur. “Bedwyr was the handsomest of all the shepherds, and his dog, Bedwetter, the finest sheepdog in all Wales,” writes the young Pratchett, with typical flourish….

(3) SFF NOT QUITE IN TRANSLATION. Ann Leckie wryly announced she is —

(4) THE LID IS UP. Today Camestros Felapton advocates for another finalist in “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Alasdair Stuart”.

… Stuart manages very well to shift the distance in his writing from the observational to the personal. Character is, I’d contend, a underestimated aspect of fan-writing. Yes, fan-writing does cover the kind of community journalism style writing, as well as descriptive reviews (both valuable – I’m not knocking them) but fan-writers are by title fans and it is the personal engagement with fandom and stories that drives the world of fan-writing. You can’t genuinely know people from what they write but good fan-writing should, over the course of many examples, give a sense of a person and a perspective. I think it is something that Alasdair Stuart does very well. I’ve never met him (and it’s unlikely I will anytime soon) but his writing conveys character in a way that is very personally engaging. Yes, yes, that’s an illusion of sorts but that illusion is something I enjoy in good writing.

(5) TWO TOPICS WITH ADA PALMER. In “Uncanny Censorship Essay & Writing POV” on Ex Urbe, Ada Palmer discusses her article in Uncanny Magazine about censorship and summarizes a panel she was on at Balticon about writing point-of-view in fiction.

…Black Lives Matter has momentum now around the world, a call for change that can’t be silenced; the hate it battles also has momentum, and amid their clash another wave is gaining momentum, as it does in every information revolution: the wave of those in power (politicians, corporations, alarmed elites) wanting to silence the uncomfortable voices empowered by the new medium.  We need to fight this battle too, a battle to find a balance between protecting the new ability of radical voices to speak while also protecting against hate speech, misinformation, and other forms of communication toxic to peace and democracy.  As I explain in my essay, genre fiction, we who read it, we who write it, have a lot of power to affect the battle over censorship.  These days are hard; as someone both disabled and immunocompromised I can’t go join the protests in the streets, not without both endangering fellow protesters by getting in their way, and the risk of this one moment of resistance destroying my ability to be here helping with the next one, and the next.  But I can help on the home front as it were, working to protect the tools of free expression which those out on the streets depend on every minute, every protest, every video exposing cruel realities.  Everything we do to strengthen speech and battle censorship protects our best tool, not just for this resistance, but for the next one, and the next….

The second section of the post, about writing POV begins:

Question: What I don’t get is why they tell new writers to not have multiple POVs in a novel. I mean, if the story calls for it, and you’re clear on the change, why not?

Jo Walton: Minimizing POVs is good discipline because it’s very easy to get sloppy. So it’s one of those things that’s good advice when you’re starting out, but not a law.

Ada Palmer: I agree that minimizing POVs is often wise.  Whenever I find myself wanting a scene to be in a different POV I think really hard about it. Sometimes it’s the right answer, but the fail condition is that you have too many POVs and the reader expects each of them to have follow-through and they don’t….

(6) HAVE YOU READ THESE? Goodreads has posted “The 100 Most Popular Sci-Fi Books on Goodreads”. I’ve read 54 of them – much better than I usually do with book lists, but barely over 50% even so.

Dystopias, alien invasions, regenerated dinosaurs, space operas, multiverses, and more, the realm of science fiction takes readers out of this world to tackle all-too-real issues, including oppression, bigotry, censorship, and the horrors of war. To celebrate the most inventive of genres, we’re exploring readers’ 100 most popular science fiction novels of all time on Goodreads.

As all good sci-fi readers know, the science behind the story is half the fun. To create our list, we ran the data to reveal the most reviewed books on our site. Additionally, each title needed at least a 3.5-star rating from your fellow readers to join this list. And, since science fiction is known for its continuing voyages, in the case of multiple titles from the same series, we chose the one with the most reviews.

Here are the top science fiction novels on Goodreads, listed from 1 to 100. We hope you discover a book or two you’ll want to read in this lineup, whether it’s a classic of the genre or one of the newer entries to sci-fi.

The top four books on the list are:

(7) PANTHER’S PRIEST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] One of the most important comic creators you may never have heard interviewed dropped in to Marvel creative director Joe Quesada’s YouTube channel. The somewhat reclusive and iconoclastic Christopher Priest opened up about his creative process with regards to Black Panther, as well as some of the challenges he faced as the first African American to be a full-time writer in mainstream comic books. For the record, there would never have been a Black Panther movie without Christopher Priest’s stellar run on the book. 

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

July 1988 — Bruce Sterling’s Islands in The Net was published by Arbor House, an imprint of William Morrow. This hardcover edition went for $18.95 and was 394 pages in length. It would win the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. It was nominated for Hugo, Ditmar and Locus Awards that same year. It would lose out to C. J. Cherryh’s Cyteen at Noreascon 3. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 7, 1851 – Kate Prichard.  With her son Hesketh, whom she outlived, a dozen pioneering stories of Flaxman Low, possibly the first psychic detective in literature.  Six are at Project Gutenberg Australia (as by E. & H. Heron, pseudonyms used by the authors) here.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert A. Heinlein. I find RAH to be a complicated writer when it comes to assessing him. Is Starship Troopers a fascist novel? Is The Number of The Beast as bad as it seems? (Yes.) What do I really like by him?  The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (though I despise its sequel To Sail Beyond the Sunset), The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and The Rolling Stones. Lots of his short fiction such as as “…All You Zombies“ is just amazing.  And only he knows why he wrote Time Enough for Love. John has an interesting take on him here. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1919 Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four-year run there, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his first roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1926 – Tom Beecham.  Five dozen interiors for Amazing, FantasticFutureGalaxyIfSF Quarterly.  Here is his illustration for “A Saucer of Loneliness”.  Here, “Weak on Square Roots”.  Here is a spaceship cover for Fury magazine.  Later well-known for Westerns, wildlife in landscape; President, Soc. American Historical Artists; 360 paintings.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1948 – Paul Doherty, Ph.D.  Fifty science columns in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with noted student of ’Pataphysics and co-founder of the Tiptree Award (as it then was) Pat Murphy.  Popped corn in David Letterman’s hand with a Van deGraaff generator.  Rock climber who climbed the face of El Capitan.  Taught with the Exploratorium, also the Science Circle which established a Paul Doherty educators’ award.  Named Best Science Demonstrator, World Congress of Museums, 1996.  His Exploratorium Teacher Institute Website is here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 61. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. By the way, IDW published a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures and Amazon has it for a mere twenty bucks! (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1962 Akiva J. Goldsman, 58. Screenwriter whose most notable accomplishment was that he wrote a dozen episodes of Fringe; he also wrote the screenplays for Batman Forever and its sequel Batman & RobinI, RobotI Am LegendPractical MagicWinter’s Tale (his first directing gig) and Lost in Space. (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1964 – Kôsuke Fujishima, 56.  Famous for Oh, My Goddess! manga, with video animation, games, and like that; Kodansha Manga Award.  Of course college sophomore Keiichi Morisato calls a wrong number and reaches the Goddess Help Line.  Of course when a Norn answers and says KM gets one wish, KM thinks it’s a practical joke and tells Verthandi (which Fujishima renders “Belldandy”, not too bad) KM wants her to stay with him forever.  They have to leave KM’s dormitory.  Today is the author’s fourth wedding anniversary; he married the famous 20-year-old cosplayer Nekomu Otogi on July 7, 2016 (or at least that’s when he confirmed it on Twitter).  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1968 – Tricia Sullivan, 52.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Translated into French, German, Portuguese.  Clarke Award for Dreaming Into Smoke.  She says “Occupy Me [2016] … is the work that means the most to me….  I have a B.A. in Music … M.Sc. in Astrophysics…. working on a Ph.D…. machine learning in astronomy, which means coding most days.  I balance out this madness by talking to my vegetable garden, sometimes even as I eat bits of it.”  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1980 – Elena Vizerskaya, 40.  Illustrator; she says “surrealist photographer”, which is true.  Here is her cover for Permeable Borders.  Here is Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille (nominated for a Chesley); Brenda Cooper said “Get it in physical form, the cover is worth having.”  Here is Amaryllis.  Here is “Find new ways to change”.  Try this Website.  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1987 V. E. Schwab, 33. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. Highly recommended. Her Cassidy Blake series is also good provided you’re a Potter fan because she makes a lot of references to that series. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Death takes a holiday in Bizarro.
  • Despite the pandemic, Moderately Confused is off to see the Wizard.
  • Lio shows how to become a proper superhero.
  • And here’s some welcome news –

(11) PROTECTING COPYRIGHT. The SFWA Blog reports “Copyright Registration Rule Change Allows Flat Fee Registration of Short Textual Works Published Online”. (A complete explanation of the rule can be read here in the Federal Register.)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is extremely pleased that the U.S. Copyright Office has issued a new copyright registration rule that will allow authors to register up to fifty short textual works published online for a single flat fee. 

SFWA, along with the National Writers Union, Horror Writers Association, and American Society of Journalists and Authors, first requested the creation of such a group registration option in January 2017.  In 2018, a productive round table between authors’ groups and the Copyright Office was held, and subsequent comments from SFWA and other groups were fully integrated into the final rule. 

The rule, which takes effect on August 17, 2020, specifies that each work must be between fifty and 17,500 words in length, must have been published in the same 90-day period, and be written by the same single author or collaboration. For works that qualify, a single fee of $65 will cover the registration of up to fifty individual works…. 

(12) LEGO PORTRAITS. “Lego debuts new sets for the young at heart featuring Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Star Wars and Iron Man”CNN has photos.

Lego announced a new line of “Lego Art” — a higher-end building set geared towards adult fans.

The line, available for purchase September 1st, will launch with four themes: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, Marvel Studios Iron Man, Star Wars “The Sith” and The Beatles.

The pieces, once they are completed, form beautiful mosaics worthy of permanent display.

(13) K/S. “How Slash Fiction Saved Star Trek” has a title with a clickbait claim that tends to overshadow the video’s nuanced account of early Trek fanhistory and about a strong facet of fannish interest in the show’s characters.

Slash fiction and fan fiction in general has always been a derided part of the fandom community. But without the pioneering efforts of many fan fiction and slash fiction writers, we wouldn’t have Star Trek or science fiction as we know it today! So let’s dive into the complex relationship between slash fiction and Star Trek.

(14) SILLY SEASON. “Doncaster baby owl webcam ‘banned by Facebook over sex and nudity rule'”.

Video of nesting baby owls was temporarily removed by Facebook for apparently breaking rules on nudity and sexual activity, the page’s owner said.

The live stream was set up by Graham Moss, who started sharing cute pictures of the owls in his Doncaster garden during the coronavirus lockdown.

He claimed his Brockholes Wildlife Diary’s (sic) page was blocked despite having no inappropriate content.

While the page has been reinstated Mr Moss has yet to receive an explanation.

Facebook has been contacted by the BBC for a comment.

(15) ROYALTY QUESTION. Marissa Doyle inquires “Have You Upped a Swan Lately?” at Book View Café. I must admit I have not. But I learned that because of the pandemic, neither has anybody else.

Swan Upping is the traditional census-taking of Mute Swans on the River Thames, wherein swans are rounded up, checked for bands or banded, and released. The king or queen of England, by ancient law and custom dating back to the middle ages, owns all unmarked swans in England. And since the twelfth century or so, the swans who live on the Thames have been counted and marked by the Royal Swan Upper to enforce that ownership (though two ancient groups, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the equally Worshipful Company of Dyers also have some swan-related rights and participate as well.) Swans were once reckoned something of a delicacy, after all, and having one on your banquet table was something of a status symbol that the Crown thought ought to mostly belong to it.

(16) GET IN LINE. BBC tells how “Esa and Nasa line up satellites to measure Antarctic sea-ice”.

US and European scientists are about to get a unique view of polar ice as their respective space agencies line up two satellites in the sky.

Authorisation was given on Tuesday for Europe’s Cryosat-2 spacecraft to raise its orbit by just under one kilometre.

This will hugely increase the number of coincident observations it can make with the Americans’ Icesat-2 mission.

One outcome from this new strategy will be the first ever reliable maps of Antarctic sea-ice thickness.

Currently, the floes in the far south befuddle efforts to measure their vertical dimension.

Heavy snow can pile on top of the floating ice, hiding its true thickness. Indeed, significant loading can even push Antarctic sea-ice under the water.

But researchers believe the different instruments on the two satellites working in tandem can help them tease apart this complexity.

Nasa’s Icesat-2, which orbits the globe at about 500km in altitude, uses a laser to measure the distance to the Earth’s surface – and hence the height of objects. This light beam reflects directly off the top of the snow.

Esa’s Cryosat-2, on the other hand, at around 720km in altitude, uses radar as its height tool, and this penetrates much more deeply into the snow cover before bouncing back.

(17) ALONG CAME JONES. In “Honest Trailers–Indiana Jones Trilogy” the Screen Junkies look at the first three Indiana Jones movies and conclude that Jones “isn’t just a terrible professor–he’s a terrible archeologist!”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/20 The Pixel Scroll Is Read, Yet There’s Much More To Be Said

(1) DON’T BE THAT AUTHOR. Brenda Clough’s list grows longer: “Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series”.

There are the really obvious ways to torch your career — rudeness to editors, for instance.  And then there are the hidden trap doors.  The one I am going to reveal today is truly obscure.  It could be broadly described as meddling with the publication process. More specifically, you can enrage the publisher’s sales reps.  Kill your book dead in one easy step! …

(2) AND DON’T BE THAT POET. F.J. Bergmann wrote and Melanie Stormm designed “How To Piss Off A Poetry Editor” for readers of SPECPO, the blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Here’s the header —

(3) KGB READINGS ONLINE. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Benjamin Rosenbaum and Mike Allen Wednesday, July 15 in a YouTube livestream event. Starts at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Benjamin Rosenbaum’s short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, BSFA, Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and collected in The Ant King and Other Stories. His first novel, The Unraveling, a far-future comedy of manners and social unrest, comes out this October from Erewhon Books. His tabletop roleplaying game of Jewish historical fantasy in the shtetl, Dream Apart, was nominated for an Ennie Award. He lives near Basel, Switzerland with his family.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. His horror tales are gathered in the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection Unseaming, and in his newest book, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident. His novella The Comforter, sequel to his Nebula Award-nominated story “The Button Bin,” just appeared in the anthology A Sinister Quartet. By day, he writes the arts column for The Roanoke (Va.) Times.

Listen to podcasts of the KGB readings here.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The June 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Last of the Goggled Barskys,” by Joey Siara.

Transmitted herewith are excerpts from statements provided by members of the Barsky family regarding the incident with Hayden Barsky, age 11.

The true origins of KHAOS remain unknown….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Not to Optimize Parenthood” by Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab and author of the book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play When No One Has the Time.

Most parents are well-intentioned. We try to do the right thing, hoping to spare our children at least a measure of the pain or heartache we muddled through, to smooth the rough edges of life and give them every advantage to make it in an uncertain and often cruel world.

That’s at least the hope. In practice, no one really knows how to do that. So, particularly in America, where “winning” and the self-improvement dictate to “beat yesterday” are akin to sacred commandments, we have always turned to the experts for help. What does the science say? What are the neighbors doing? What book or podcast or shiny gadget will instantly make my child’s life easier? More joyful? Miraculous? And, perhaps most importantly, better than your kid’s?…

(5) LOCKDOWN MOVIE. “Quarantine Without Ever Meeting”Vanity Fair profiles the filmmakers. Tagline: “The actors set up lights, did their own makeup, and ran the cameras. The filmmakers advised on Zoom. Somehow…it worked.”

…While Hollywood is struggling to figure out if it’s possible to make a feature-length movie in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, this group of independent filmmakers and actors have already done it. “The whole movie has been written, produced, packaged, shot within quarantine. Now we’re in postproduction, and I had a first cut of the whole film done on Friday,” said director and cowriter Simon. As The Untitled Horror Movie nears completion, its producers are finally announcing the secret project and seeking a distributor. It appears to be the first movie created entirely within the parameters of the lockdown.

The horror comedy is about a group of needy and desperate young stars from a once-popular TV series who learn, via video conference, that their show has just been canceled. Fearing obscurity, they decide to stay in the spotlight by making a quickie horror film—but while shooting it, they perform a ritual that accidentally invokes an actual demonic spirit. Mayhem follows. “We kind of described it going into it as Scream meets For Your Consideration,” Simon said.

(6) OFF THE COAST. In the Washington Post, Rob Wolfe says that Wizards of the Coast has banned seven Magic:  The Gathering cards it says are “racist or culturally offensive” and promises a review of all 20,000 cards to find any other ones it deems questionable. “‘Racist’ and ‘culturally offensive’ images pulled from hugely popular trading card game”

The card had been around since 1994, tagged “Invoke Prejudice” by the world’s most popular trading card game. It showed figures in white robes and pointed hoods — an image that evoked the Ku Klux Klan for many people.This month, the company behind “Magic: The Gathering” permanently banned that card and six others carrying labels like “Jihad” and “Pradesh Gypsies.” Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of toy giant Hasbro, acknowledged the images were “racist or culturally offensive.”

“There’s no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else,” the company said in a statement announcing its action.

With the country roiled by tensions and protests over African Americans’ deaths at the hands of police, the issues entangling Magic and its creators are unlikely to subside soon. The fantasy game of goblins, elves, spells and more boasts some 20 million players, and in pre-pandemic times, thousands flocked to elite international tournaments with hefty prizes. Players of color say they have long felt excluded in the white- and male-dominated community from the game’s top echelons, as well as employment at the company….

(7) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. “A Better World ?” seems to be a kind of text-based game letting players choose among “Uchronies,” a French term that partakes of alternate history but is more fantastic in nature. I racked up a lot of karma in a hurry, sad to say.

The dates you can change are in yellow.

The dates you just changed are in pink.

Click on one of them to change the past!

Your current karma:

0

See the list of Uchronies (cancels the current game)

It didn’t go well, I’d like to start over…

(8) ANOTHER TONGUE. James Davis Nicoll says there are a bundle of “Intriguing SFF Works Awaiting English Translations” at Tor.com.

I am monolingual, which limits me to reading works in English. One of the joys of this modern, interconnected world in which we’re living is that any speculative fiction work written in another language could (in theory) be translated into English. One of my frustrations is that, generally speaking, they haven’t been. Here are five works about which I know enough to know that I’d read them if only they were translated….

(9) I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Olav Rokne says, “Sometimes, you just want to ask the question nobody wants.” He passed along some of the hilarious responses.   

(10) CARL REINER OBIT. The creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” died June 29 at the age of 98. The duo won a Grammy in 1998 for their The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000. (The New York Times eulogy is here.)

He shared the lead in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and appeared in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He directed numerous movies, including several starring Steve Martin. In recent years he voiced characters in several genre animated TV shows — and Carl Reineroceros in Toy Story 4.

John King Tarpinian remembers:

He is not genre but his passing reminds me of the good old days.  Back in the 80s, I was president of the largest Atari club consortium in the US.  One of the members owned the Vine Street Bar & Grill.  It was between Hollywood & Sunset.  The first Wednesday of the month the guest jazz singer was Estelle Reiner.  Ron Berinstein, club member and club owner invited me to come on Estelle’s nights to make sure the club was always full.  The first time I went her husband, Carl, was also there.  I learned that he always came…and that he’d have friends join them.  Over the years everybody from Sid Caesar, Buck Henry, Neil Simon, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks & more.

During Estelle’s break between sets Carl & whomever was also there would get up and entertain.  Carl & Mel would do their 2000 Year Old Man routine but not the Ed Sullivan version but the version they’d do a parties.  My ribs would be sore the next morning from laughing so hard. 

Sid Caesar would come to Ray Bradbury’s plays.  Imagine somebody being able to upstage Ray…who also would be laughing so hard.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory premiered. Based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory novel, it was directed by Mel Stuart, and produced by Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper. The screenplay was by Roald Dahl and David Seltzer. It featured Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka with a supporting cast of Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone and Denise Nickerson. Some critics truly loved it while others loathed it. It currently holds an 87% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series  for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adamms Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1929 – Anie Linard, 91.  Active from France, herself and with Jean Linard, in the 1950s and 1960s; fanzines Innavigable MouthMeuhVintkatX-trap.  Voted in the 1958 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) campaign.  She was, like many of us, a correspondent of Ned Brooks.  I have not traced her more recently than June 1962.  Anie, if you see this, salut!  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1935 – Jon Stopa, 85.  Active with Advent publishing house, half a dozen covers including In Search of WonderThe Eighth Stage of Fandom, and The Issue at Hand.  Three stories in Astounding.  Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon, and cover for its Proceedings; with wife Joni, Fan Guests of Honor at Chicon V the 49th, where I think they were in some of the Madeira tastings I assembled when I found four or five D’Oliveiras in the hotel bar.  The Stopas were (Joni has left the stage) also great costumers, both as entrants and judges; there’s a YouTube of their work here.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 61. Kingpin in that not terribly good or bad Daredevil film, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 Diane Purkiss, 59. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that  At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 – Nigel Rowe, 59.  Published Timeless Sands history of New Zealand fandom, then moved to Chicago.  Here is a 1994 photo of him with Russell Chauvenet (who coined the word fanzine) at Corflu 11 in Virginia.  A 2019 photo of him is on p. 47 of Random Jottings 20 (PDF), the Proceedings of Corflu 36 in Maryland; he’s also on the cover (back right; you may be able to make out his badge “Nigel”).  Very helpful relaying paper fanzines across the seas.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1961 – carl juarez, 59.  No capital letters in his name.  Co-edited the fanzine Apparatchik with Andy Hooper (from Apak 62), later Chunga with Hooper and Randy Byers.  Here is his cover for Chunga 8.  He’s on the right of the cover for Chunga 17 (PDF).  Chunga credited cj as designer, the results being indeed fine.  He, Byers, and Hooper were such a tripod that with Byers’ death, Chunga tottered; should it fall, may cj find his feet.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1963 Rupert S. Graves, 57. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1966 – Penny Watson, 54.  Degrees in plant taxonomy, horticultural science, biology, and floral design; “there is nothing better than getting up in the morning, heading out to your garden and picking fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and arugula greens for breakfast.”  Obsessed with dachshunds.  Has trained dolphins, coached field hockey and lacrosse.  Nat’l Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.  Eight novels, five of them and a novella for us.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 54. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 48. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1974 – Juli Zeh, 46.  A dozen novels so far, three for us.  Deutscher BücherpreisSolothurner Literaturpreis; doctorate in international law, honorary judge at the Brandenburg constitutional court.  About Schilf (“reed”, name of a character – likewise an English surname), translated into English as Dark Matter (London) and In Free Fall (New York), when a Boston Globe interviewer asked “Are you asking the reader to reconsider the nature of reality?” JZ answered “Yes, I want to take the reader on an intellectual journey”; to “Can a novel of ideas be written today, without irony?” JZ answered “As long as mankind doesn’t lose its curiosity to think about the miracles of being.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows us the first science fiction writer — and true Hard SF, even as to the medium it’s composed on.
  • Today’s Bizarro is not an SF comic, but one with good advice for the privileged rich kid starting a literary career.

(14) DOOMSCROLLING. I learned a useful new word from John Scalzi’s post “Check In, 6/30/20”.

…With that said, there’s another aspect of it, too, which I think I’ve been minimizing: it’s not just time on social media, it’s engagement when I am on it, and how social media is making me feel when I use it. The term “doomscrolling” refers to how people basically suck down fountains of bad news on their social media thanks to friends (and others) posting things they’re outraged about. It’s gotten to the point for me where, particularly on Twitter, it feels like it’s almost all doomscrolling, all the time, whether I want it to be or not.

(15) STANDING UP. David Gerrold’s unlocked Patreon post “I Stand With The Science Fiction Writers of America” may be a reaction to yesterday’s item about the publisher of Cirsova, and certainly gives emphatic support to SFWA’s recent statement about BLM.

…The BLM movement are not terrorists. They are not thugs. They are peaceful protesters, marching against industrial discrimination and system-entrenched bigotry. The demonstrators have actually caught looters and rioters and delivered them to the police.

It doesn’t matter how much the limousine-liberals preach equality if there are no serious efforts to redress the grievances of the disadvantaged. 

If we truly are all in this together, then it behooves all of us to reach out to each other and create partnerships and opportunities. This isn’t preferential treatment. It’s a necessary bit of repair work to a damaged genre. 

If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t take steps, if we don’t address it, then we are guilty of complicity. If the racism of the past was a product of its time, then let our attempts to redress the situation be a product of our time. 

(16) BLOCKED OUT. Missed this in March: “Lego embraces the dark side with three helmet building kits”. And it’s not like I didn’t have time on my hands.

… These sets are up for preorder now from Lego at $59.99 and are set to ship on April 19.

  • Stormtrooper Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • Boba Fett Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • TIE Fighter Pilot Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)

With the Stormtrooper, you’re getting a 647-piece helmet-building set, complete with the blacked-out visor, two nodes on the bottom for speaking and stickers to complete the look. Similarly, the Boba Fett helmet will let you pay homage to the original Mandalorian. This set is 21 centimeters tall (a little over 8 inches) and has 625 pieces. You’ll be constructing each detail of the helmet, including the fold-down viewfinder that lets Boba easily track down his targets. (He is a bounty hunter, after all.)

(17) HAKUNA ERRATA. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In Pixel Scroll 5/27/20 Johnny Mnemonic B. Goode I’d said —

This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.

It turns out that, while I have heard Chris Smither sing this song, he wasn’t the author. That was Paul Geremia, one of Boston/Cambridge’s wonderful acoustic blues musicians.

The song is on his Self Portrait In Blues album. (And on my ~2,800-song Spotify playlist, which is how, when it came around again this morning on the guitar, as it were, I realized my mistake.)

Here’s a so-so performance:

The song (and much of the album) is on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple, and elsewhere. Apple’s got a reasonable sample snippet.

(18) THE STAR VANISHES. The BBC says Alfred Hitchcock isn’t involved in “Mystery over monster star’s vanishing act”.

Astronomers have been baffled by the disappearance of a massive star they had been observing.

They now wonder whether the distant object collapsed to form a black hole without exploding in a supernova.

If correct, it would be the first example of such a huge stellar object coming to the end of its life in this manner.

But there is another possibility, the study in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reports.

The object’s brightness might have dipped because it is partially obscured by dust.

It is located some 75 million light-years away in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, in the constellation of Aquarius.

The giant star belongs – or belonged – to a type known as a luminous blue variable; it is some 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun.

Stars of this kind are unstable, showing occasional dramatic shifts in their spectra – the amount of light emitted at different wavelengths – and brightness.

(19) YOU WILL BELIEVE A…EH, NO YOU WON’T. NPR explains “How Snakes Fly (Hint: It’s Not On A Plane)”

Flying snakes like Chrysopelea paradisi, the paradise tree snake, normally live in the trees of South and Southeast Asia. There, they cruise along tree branches and, sometimes, to get to the ground or another tree, they’ll launch themselves into the air and glide down at an angle.

They undulate their serpentine bodies as they glide through the air, and it turns out that these special movements are what let these limbless creatures make such remarkable flights.

That’s according to some new research in the journal Nature Physics that involved putting motion-capture tags on seven snakes and then filming them with high-speed cameras as the snakes flew across a giant four-story-high theater.

How far they can go really depends on how high up they are when they jump, says Jake Socha at Virginia Tech, who has studied these snakes for almost a quarter-century. He recalls that one time he watched a snake start from about 30 feet up and then land nearly 70 feet away. “It was really a spectacular glide,” Socha recalls.

Part of the way the snakes do this is by flattening out their bodies, he says. But the snakes’ bodies also make wavelike movements. “The snake looks like it’s swimming in the air,” he says. “And when it’s swimming, it’s undulating.”

(20) BLOCKBUSTED. “With Big Summer Films Delayed, AMC Theatres Puts Off U.S. Reopening”.

The nation’s largest movie theater chain is delaying its U.S. reopening until the end of July because film companies have postponed release dates of two anticipated blockbusters.

AMC Theatres announced that a first round of approximately 450 locations will resume operations two weeks later than initially planned, to coincide with the updated August release dates of Warner Brothers’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan.

“Our theatre general managers across the U.S. started working full time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for moviegoers,” CEO Adam Aron said in a June 29 statement. “That happy day, when we can welcome guests back into most of our U.S. theatres, will be Thursday, July 30.”

The company said it expects its more than 600 U.S. theaters to be “essentially to full operation” by early August.

AMC Theatres made headlines earlier this month when it announced patrons will be required to wear masks, reversing course on a controversial reopening plan that had only encouraged them to do so.

(21) ALL THE SMART KIDS ARE DOING IT. “Famous New York Public Library Lions Mask Up To Set An Example”.

For the first time, the familiar marble faces outside the New York Public Library will be obscured by masks.

Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lion sculptures guarding the 42nd Street library, are wearing face coverings to remind New Yorkers to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.

The masks arrived on June 29, and measure three feet wide by two feet tall, according to a library statement.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx emphasized the symbolism of the aptly named lions, and said New Yorkers are similarly strong and resilient.

(22) NEVERENDING SENDUP. The Screen Junkies continue their look at oldies with an “Honest Trailer” for The Neverending Story, where they show that gloomy Germans created “a world of neverending misery.”  They discovered that star Noah Hathaway subsequently played Harry Potter Jr. in Troll (1986) with Michael Moriarty playing Harry Potter Sr.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to wandering minstrel of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/20 I’ve Got A File, You Can Comment If You Like, It’s Got A Pixel, A Scroll That Rhymes

(1) OFF SCRIPT, ON POINT. Cat Rambo was profiled by The Seattle Times today: “Fresh off a Nebula Award and kicking off a book deal, West Seattle writer Cat Rambo speaks about craft, George Floyd protests and more”

… Though her presidency ended last year, the legacy of her work was on full display during a vibrant awards ceremony and conference, a gathering forced online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s the reason that SFWA was able to do this pivot because she put the organization on such firm financial footing,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, SWFA president, during the awards, adding: “She was such an amazing president for five years. Let me say that again. She was president of SFWA for five years. Five.”

Asked to give a speech that Saturday night, the webcast from her delightfully book-cluttered office turned into a toss-the-script moment.

“I had a pretty speech all prepared, but the news this morning convinced me to throw that all away,” she said of the developing clashes around the country between protesters and law enforcement after George Floyd was killed by arresting police in Minneapolis last week.

She noted that the SFWA was started by a small group of writers who wanted to look out for their fellow writers. The need for that mission has only been reinforced in a time of pandemic and pandemonium.

(2) THE NOT RIGHT SPEAKS OUT. Alt-right blog Bounding Into Comics did a roundup of the opinions of writers Jon Del Arroz, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Kit Sun Cheah, Yakov Merkin, and Louie Lozano. who condemned plans SFWA announced yesterday in “A Statement from SFWA on Black Lives Matter and Protests”.

(3) LEGO SOFT-PEDALS COP SETS. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertaiment story “Lego pauses marketing its police-themed playsets ‘in response to events in the U.S.'”, says Lego announced it will still sell, but not market, such kits as “Sky Police Air Base” and “Police Highway Arrest” as well as kits of the White House in response to the protests over George Floyd’s death

…Earlier this week, the Toybook published the copy of an email sent to affiliates by the marketing network Rakuten LinkShare. “In light of recent events, Lego has requested the below products to be removed from sites and any marketing ASAP,” the letter begins. The list of more than 30 products includes such playsets as Sky Police Air Base, Police Highway Arrest, Police Handcuffs & Badge and Police Pursuit, as well as a Lego version of the White House, which has been the site of several clashes between police and protesters.

In a statement provided to Yahoo Entertainment, Lego stresses that these playsets are not being pulled from sale in stores or online, but confirms that they are part of an ongoing marketing pause. No end date was specified as to when the brand would resume marketing. (Read the full statement below.)…

…There is no place for racism in our society. We stand with the black community against racism and inequality. Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, and that includes inspiring them to be tolerant, inclusive and kind. There is more to do and as one small step, we are donating US$4 million to organizations in the U.S. dedicated to organizations that support black children and others that educate all children about tolerance and racial equality. …

(4) TRASH OF THE TITANS. “Elon Musk calls for ‘break up’ of Amazon”

Elon Musk has called for the “break up” of tech giant Amazon, following a dispute about a coronavirus e-book.

The entrepreneur came to the defence of an author after Amazon’s Kindle publishing division rejected his book about the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Musk tagged Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos in a tweet, saying the decision was “insane”, adding: “Time to break up Amazon.”

Amazon said the book had been removed in error and would be reinstated.

The author of the book, Alex Berenson, caught Mr Musk’s attention by tweeting a screenshot from Amazon, which told him that his book about the pandemic did not meet its guidelines.

(5) DC DEALS DIAMOND OUT. ComicsBeat brings news of a seismic upheaval in comics distribution: “DC pulls out of Diamond, will use Lunar and UCS for periodical distribution”.

…DC’s comics will be available through Lunar Distribution and UCS Comics Distributors, the companies that were set up during Diamond’s downtime, as well as Penguin Random House, which has been DC’s book distributor for many years.

…Asked for confirmation, a DC spokesperson sent this statement:

“After 25 years, DC and Diamond Comic Distributors are ending their long-standing relationship. Moving forward, comic book retailers can obtain their DC books from Penguin Random House, or their books and periodicals through Lunar or UCS comic book distributors. DC continues to be committed to providing the Direct Market with best in class service and the fans with the world’s greatest comic books.”

The mailer included this answer to “Why is DC Doing This?”

DC has been analyzing its Direct Market distribution for some time, long before COVID, specifically in light of sustained stagnant market growth. The timing of the decision to move on from Diamond was ultimately dictated by the fact that DC‘s contract with Diamond has expired, but incidentally, the disruption by COVID to the market has required DC to forge ahead with its larger growth strategies that will benefit both the Direct Market and DC.

… Diamond has just released a response from owner Steve Geppi….

Today, DC sent out a retailer communication indicating they are ending their long-standing relationship with Diamond. In April, we were informed that DC was going to begin distributing products through additional partners. At that time, they asked us to submit a proposal for a revised agreement with the understanding that Diamond would continue to be one of their distributors. Which we promptly did. They then requested an extension to June 30 which we also accommodated. Last week, DC requested an additional extension through July. We responded with questions and DC indicated they would reply today, June 5. Instead of receiving a response, today we received a termination notice. While we had anticipated this as a possible outcome, we, like so many others in the industry, are disappointed by their decision to end our partnership so abruptly at this time.

(6) INSIDE THE SERIAL BOX. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson scored an interview with two of the creators behind a new Jessica Jones project: “Interview: Lauren Beukes and Fryda Wolff”.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire launched on Serial Box on May 28th, with new episodes available every Thursday.   Jessica Jones’ dry sense of humor,  her brand of “self care”, and a simple missing person case, what could possibly go wrong? (well, everything of course, and that’s what makes this so addictively entertaining!).

The 16 episode season was written by Lauren Beukes, Vita Ayala, Sam Beckbessinger, Zoe Quinn, and Elsa Sjunneson, and narrated by Fryda Wolff. …

NOAF: How did the team decide who was going to write which episodes?  Any funny stories about how particular scenes were plotted out or designed?

LB: We settled it with an old-fashioned rage-in-the-cage, home-made weapons, anything goes, no backsies. No, that’s not right. We used our words and talked it out. What was interesting was how particular episodes really resonated with different writers. It was very organic and democratic. Elsa was excited to write the Matt Murdock chapters because it’s the first time the blind Daredevil has been written by an actual blind writer. Vita called dibs on the big fight scene, and Zoe wanted to delve into the psychological trauma and head games. I wanted to kick it off, set the tone and then we brought in another wonderful South African writer, Sam Beckbessinger, post-writers room, to write some of the later chapters.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 5, 1956 X Minus One’s “Project Mastodon” first aired. Based  off multiple Hugo Award wining author Clifford D. Simak’s novella from the March 1955 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, Three adventurers return to prehistoric times, found a country called Mastodonia, and try to establish diplomatic relations with the United States with somewhat mixed results. The script is by Ernest Kinoy. The cast members were Floyd Mack, Dick Hamilton, Charles Penman,  Raymond Edward Johnson, Frank Maxwell, Bob Hastings, John Larkin and Joe Julian.  You can listen to it here.                                

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 5, 1844 L. T. Meade. Author of series aimed generally at girls but who wrote several genre series as well, to wit Stories of the Sanctuary ClubThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings and The Sorceress of the Strand. All of these were co-written by Robert Eustace. Meade and Eustace also created the occult detective and palmist Diana Marburg in “The Oracle of Maddox Street” found initially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1902. (Died 1924.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1899 – Boris Artzybasheff.  Prolific graphic artist in and out of our field; 200 covers for Time (one was Craig Rice – pen name of Georgiana Craig – first mystery-fiction writer shown there, 28 Jan 46).  Here is his cover for The Circus of Dr. Lao – he did its interiors too; here is The Incomplete Enchanter.  Here is a commercial illustration, “Steel”; here is Buckminster Fuller.  Don’t miss him in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  Book of his artwork, As I See (rev. 2008).  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1908 – John Fearn.  British author of SF, crime fiction, Westerns; fairground assistant, cinema projectionist; wrote under two dozen names.  Two hundred books in our field, two hundred eighty shorter stories.  Guest of honor at Supermancon (the second Eastercon – British national SF con – to be held at Manchester).  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a Roddenberry series that would have starred him and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as  The Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1931 – Barbara Paul, 89.  She says, “I did not grow up reading science fiction….  I was one of those smug mundanes who thought ‘sci-fi’ was all death-rays and aluminum-foil spacesuits and Robby the Robot.  (Well, maybe sci-fi is, but not SF.)  It wasn’t until my son, eleven at the time, handed me a book f short stories by Robert Sheckley that I began to realize what I’d been missing.”  For us, six novels (I’m counting Liars and Tyrants and People who Turn Blue, which depends upon a psychic character), a dozen and a half shorter stories; more of other kinds e.g. detectives.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 74. Einstein on Farscape (though he was uncredited for most of the series), the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, also a British bodyguard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1949 – Ken Follett, 71.  Five novels, as many shorter stories, in our field, under this and other names; translated into Dutch, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish; dozens more, some international best-sellers; The Pillars of the Earth, about building a 12th Century cathedral, sold 27 million copies as of 2019; film and television adaptations.  Non-fiction On Wings of Eagles about rescuing men from Iranian prison.  Four honorary doctorates.  Bass balalaika with folk group Clog Iron.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1953 Kathleen Kennedy, 67. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say at least half genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1960 – Margo Lanagan 60.  A dozen novels, six dozen shorter stories, in our field; among the two dozen contributors to “Celebrating 50 Years of Locus” in Locu s687.  Two Ditmars, three World Fantasy awards.  Recent collection, Singing My Sister Down.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1964 – P.J. Haarsma 56. Author, photographer.  Co-founder of Kids Need to Read.  Four Rings of Orbis books, two Spectrum comics (with Alan Tudyk, Sarah Stone) in that world, and an electronic role-playing game.  Crowd-funded $3.2 million to start Con Man (television).  Redbear Films commercial production.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1971 Susan Lynch, 49. Northern Irish actress whose career in film started off by being a selkie in The Secret of Roan Inish with her next role being an unnamed Paris Vampire in Interview with a Vampire. Film wise, her last role to date is Aunt Alice in Ready Player One. She’s got one series credit to date playing Angstrom In the Thirteenth Doctor story, “The Ghost Monument”. (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 44. South African writer and scriptwriter. Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel. And The Shining Girls would win her a August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. (CE) 

(9) UNDER THE HOOD. SYFY Wire reports: “Mark Hamill Surprises Star Wars-Loving Nurse In Heartwarming ‘Kimmel’ Segment”.

Do you need a dose of optimism and joy in such uncertain and turbulent times? We’ve got just the thing with a wonderful Jimmy Kimmel Live segment in which Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself!) surprises a California healthcare worker who also happens to be a massive Star Wars fan. That’s Chloé Ducos, a registered nurse who works in a coronavirus testing tent in San Diego.

“I’m a pretend hero, you’re the real hero. Thank you for your service,” Hamill told Ducos, who burst into genuine tears of shock and happiness when the actor appeared on the virtual call and removed his Jedi-like hood. Her heartwarming reaction alone makes the video below worth watching.

Kimmel’s YouTube intro adds:

…We are also giving her $10,000 from our friends at PayPal, who will also be sending PayPal vouchers to all of her coworkers as well.

(10) PRO TIP. Matt Wallace cannot be denied.

(11) MORE THAN CATAPULT FODDER. Paul Weimer is high on the novel and the author: “Microreview [Book] Savage Legion by Matt Wallace” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Savage Legion is most definitely the best work from the pen of an author whose skills, to my eye, are growing by leaps and bounds.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. NPR asks “Are There Zombie Viruses — Like The 1918 Flu — Thawing In The Permafrost?”

Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

The 25-year-old teacher was helping archaeologists excavate an 800-year-old log cabin, high above the Arctic Circle on the northern coast of Alaska.

They had pitched tents right on the beach. Over the course of a month, Peterson watched a gigantic pod of beluga whales swim along the beach, came face-to-face with a hungry polar bear invading their campsite and helped dig out the skull of a rare type of polar bear.

But the most memorable thing happened right at the end of that summer trip.

“I noticed a red spot on the front of my leg,” Peterson says. “It was about the size of a dime. It felt hot and hurt to touch.”

The spot grew quickly. “After a few days, it was the size of a softball,” he says.

Peterson realized he had a rapidly spreading skin infection. And he thought he knew where he might have picked it up: a creature preserved in the permafrost….

(13) JETBOY’S LAST ADVENTURE. “Combat drone to compete against piloted plane”

The US Air Force will pit an advanced autonomous aircraft against a piloted plane in a challenge set for July 2021.

The project could eventually lead to unpiloted fighter aircraft that use artificial intelligence (AI).

Lt Gen Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, called the test a “bold, bold idea”.

Air Force Magazine also described the development of autonomous fighter jets as a “big Moonshot” for the military.

(14) ALFRED’S GHOST. “Crows ‘terrorise’ staff at Essex Police headquarters”. BBC learns a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

Police officers and staff are being “terrorised” by a family of crows that is nesting at its headquarters.

Essex Police Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills warned visitors to the site to “beware” and “keep calm and keep walking” in a tweet about the issue.

She shared a photo of a warning sign which has been put up at Essex Police HQ.

It advises people to “take an alternative route” or “wear a hat or use an umbrella”.

The sign urges people to “not act aggressive as they will feel threatened”.

(15) IT REALLY BUGS THEM. The Harvard Gazette finds the worst problem with a lack of sleep might not center where you’d think: “Sleep, death, and… the gut?”

The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. There’s tiredness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Far fewer people have experienced the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, including disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Total, prolonged sleep deprivation, however, can be fatal. While it has been reported in humans only anecdotally, a widely cited study in rats conducted by Chicago-based researchers in 1989 showed that a total lack of sleep inevitably leads to death. Yet, despite decades of study, a central question has remained unsolved: Why do animals die when they don’t sleep?

Now, Harvard Medical School (HMS) neuroscientists have identified an unexpected, causal link between sleep deprivation and premature death.

In a study on sleep-deprived fruit flies, published in Cell on June 4, researchers found that death is always preceded by the accumulation of molecules known as reactive oxidative species (ROS) in the gut.

When fruit flies were given antioxidant compounds that neutralize and clear ROS from the gut, sleep-deprived flies remained active and had normal lifespans. Additional experiments in mice confirmed that ROS accumulate in the gut when sleep is insufficient.

The findings suggest the possibility that animals can indeed survive without sleep under certain circumstances. The results open new avenues of study to understand the full consequences of insufficient sleep and may someday inform the design of approaches to counteract its detrimental effects in humans, the authors said.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Looking for Mr Bond, 007 at the BBC–James Bond Documentary” on YouTube is a 2015 BBC documentary,, directed by Matthew Thomas, that includes 50 years of behind-the-scenes footage from the BBC of Bond movies, including interviews with Ian Fleming, John le Carre, and Roald Dahl, who wrote the screenplay for From Russia With Love.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/21/20 We Have Always Filed In The Pixel

(1) COOL RUNNING. Pat Cadigan shares the good news: “Yeah, You Just Keep Running, Cancer”.

The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.

Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….

(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who was a civilian investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be lost…” at The Space Review.

…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.

Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.

Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.

It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …

(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing Stories recorded its ”Ten Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)

 My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”.  I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.

(4) CHIANG COMING TO NOTRE DAME. The University of Notre Dame has announced that Ted Chiang will join the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as an Artist in Residence during the 2020-2021 academic year: “Science fiction writer Ted Chiang to join Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study”, [Via Locus Online.]

…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests. 

…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Life will read “Hell is the Absence of God” and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session. 

(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy? “Brian Henson presents Puppet Up. Shows in Hollywood next week.  

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.

Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.

(6) GRANTS. Setsu Uzumé acquaints writers with the basics in “Grant Applications 101: Finding, Troubleshooting, and Completing the Quest for Funding” at the SFWA Blog.

From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.

(7) BUSINESS IS NOT BOOMING. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews the new William Gibson novel — “In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)”.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.

You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.

Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 21, 1991 Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston  and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film.  It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
  • January 21, 2016DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924 Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 21, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World  where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.  
  • Born January 21, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 21, 1950 Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes. 
  • Born January 21, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship. 
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files

(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:

(11) NOT JUST KID STUFF. When Doctor Who arrived in Australia – in 1965 – he ran afoul of the censors. Galactic Journey’s Kaye Dee tells how: “[January 20, 1965] The T.A.R.D.I.S. Lands Down Under and Japan Invades Australia (Doctor Who and The Samurai)”.

…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!

(12) SPIRIT OF DEATH. Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s  January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed Park analyzes the dual themes of  “The Labyrinth and the Plague”.

…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.

Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.

(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. Superversive Press has closed. It stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement said:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.

Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)

Camestros Felapton concisely explains Superversive’s publishing niche:

…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse if you’re dead.  The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.

(15) BRICKS IN SPACE. TechCrunch tells us “Lego made an International Space Station kit, including Space Shuttle and robotic arm”. Photos at the link.

Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants are not insatiable sff TV viewers.

Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.

Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.

No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.

There was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.

Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.

Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.

Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”

Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

(17) SMALL MERCY. Sort of like Barney Fife — “Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot”.

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?

Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.

…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.

Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.

(18) WHO CAN YOU TRUST? “DDoS: Man who sold website defences pleads guilty to attacks” – BBC has the story,.

A man in the US who co-founded a service to protect sites from cyber-attackers has pleaded guilty to launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Tucker Preston is co-founder of BackConnect, a cyber-security firm that claimed to be “the new industry standard in DDoS mitigation”.

However, he was accused of arranging DDoS attacks targeting an unnamed firm.

A court document stated the attacks took place between 2015 and 2016.

News of the guilty plea was published online by Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger.

(19) MARS LIVERS. “Learning how to live like a Mars colonist”: video — dippy intro gradually leads to substance.

Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.

It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.

(20) FROM THE FRINGE? “Future Forward: Thai opposition party cleared over Illuminati claims” reports the BBC.

A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.

A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.

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