Pixel Scroll 1/3/21 Short Pixels Have No Reason To Scroll

(1) DAVID WEBER UPDATES. His fans are keeping each other abreast of the progress of David Weber’s COVID treatment.

  • Ralston Stahler quoted Weber’s update about the first day in the hospital:
David Weber

From David Weber

Well, they just admitted me to the hospital Covid floor. O2 level had fallen to about 83%. Got it back up to 88 or so, but still not good and the fever was spiking again. So our lovely daughter Morgan Rice-Weber drove her dads butt to the ER, where they told me there was a 95% chance they’d keep me. I sent her on home, they hooked me up to an IV, and told me they are going to pretty much blast me with everything they’ve got, including steroids, plasma, and all that other stuff. Got here about 3:30, I think, but it was closing in on 7 before they could find me a bed. SUPER nurses, and everyone is taking really good care of me.

Fever has broken, O2 level is up to 95%, but they don’t like the chest X-rays, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be keeping me for a bit.

I am feeling a LOT better, and the girls are keeping an eye on Sharon Rice-Weber to make sure she’s watching HER O2.

Update: copied from Mr Weber’s post: Therapy proceeding. We’re on top of the fever; the high blood pressure looks like it’s under control; hydration levels look good. Still having trouble keeping the O2 up. They’ve got me on a pressure setting of 6, and I’m still dropping into the upper 80s whenever I move around. Takes a minute or two to get back up to the 90s once I’m back off my feet. Problem seems to be getting the lung function up to speed again. I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s gonna take however long it takes.

(2) INSTANT WINNER. Nghi Vo on Twitter:

(3) THE RULE OF THREE. Fansided’s Daniel DeVita reports on an opinionated Patrick Rothfuss livestream: “Kingkiller author Patrick Rothfuss decries ‘the George R.R. Martin effect’”.

Kingkiller Chronicle author Patrick Rothfuss can’t get into The Wheel of Time, praises George R.R. Martin but not his imitators, and HATES The Witcher….

…At one point, someone in the stream notes that fantasy authors seem to be in a competition with each other to have as many characters as possible, which is true. Rothfuss thinks he knows how this trend got started:

“I think of that as the George Martin effect. Where Martin is an author who has a ton of craft under his belt — he’s been writing for ages in many different ways — and he started Game of Thrones, and all of those books had multiple point-of-view characters to achieve a specific effect in this huge world-spanning story he was telling, and he had the craft to pull it off. And then everyone’s like, ‘I wanna do a Game of Thrones, too.’ And I’m like, ‘No, you can’t, it’s too many characters, you’re not that good.’ And you certainly don’t get that many point-of-view characters. Here’s the rule: if you’re starting a novel, you can have three point-of-view characters, and that’s it. And you probably shouldn’t have that many.”

Rothfuss also talks about Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series (he enjoyed the first two books but eventually dropped it) and touched on the work of Brandon Sanderson, who finished off The Wheel of Time after Robert Jordan died and has several long multi-volume fantasy stories of his own. “I’d read a lot of Brandon Sanderson’s books, for a while I’d read most of them. But now, he’s got so many, he just writes so much, I’m far behind.”

(4) LOOKING AHEAD. Paul Eisenberg interviews members of the Chicago Worldcon 2022 committee: “Landmarks: With an eye toward the future, new year a good time to consider the literature of ideas — especially those of science fiction” in the Chicago Tribune.

…While other gatherings of fans, such as Chicago’s C2E2, are run by businesses and are profit-driven enterprises (albeit still very fun, Levy said), events such as Chicago’s Worldcon, specifically called Chicon 8, are run by volunteers and financed solely by attendees, known as members.

Chicago’s bid, which overwhelmingly won over a bid from Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, was awarded at the virtual 2020 Worldcon, which had been slated to be in Wellington, New Zealand. The 2021 event had previously been awarded to Washington, D.C. There’s no word as of yet if the 2021 event will be an in-person gathering.

The pandemic permeates all things these days, and even events rooted firmly in the imagination are not immune. But being immersed in a style of literature that offers ideas and different perspectives is a plus when it comes to dealing with the mundane and often depressing details of life in the time of the novel coronavirus….

(5) NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT. Just stuff a person reading the Wikipedia could come across on any random day, don’t ya think? 

(6) VASTER THAN TOMES. Listchallenges confronts readers with a checklist of “100 ‘Big Fat Books Worth the Effort’”. Cliff, who sent the link, scored 19 on this one. I scored 20/100.

(7) RING IN THE NEW YEAR. Yahoo! Entertainment ups your trivia IQ with “JRR Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’: 15 Facts About ‘Fellowship of the Ring’”. Here are two —

…Christopher Lee is the only member of the cast or crew to have met Tolkien. In fact, Lee mentioned in the extended cut commentary for “Fellowship” that Tolkien had given him his blessing to play Gandalf in any potential film adaptation of “LOTR.” But when Lee auditioned for Gandalf, he was asked to play Saruman instead, as it was believed he was too old to play Gandalf. Lee accepted the role, but agreed that Ian McKellen was right for Gandalf.

Viggo Mortensen initially didn’t have much interest in playing Aragorn, but took the role after his Tolkien-loving son, Henry, pleaded for him to accept the role. After learning more about Aragorn, Mortensen viewed the character’s sword as the key element to his character and carried it with him at all times during filming, even when he was not on set….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 3, 1993  — Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in syndication. The fourth spin-off of the original series (counting the animated run) was the first developed after the death of Roddenberry, created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It starred Avery Brooks, René Auberjonois, Terry Farrell, Cirroc Lofton, Colm Meaney, Armin Shimerman, Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor and Michael Dorn. It would run for seven seasons and one hundred and seventy-six episodes. It would be nominated for two Hugo Awards but wouldn’t win either. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 3, 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ll admit that to this day I much prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of The Rings. There’s a joy, a pleasure in that novel that I just don’t get in the trilogy. I’m currently listening to the Andy Serkis narration of The Hobbit which I highly recommend. (Died 1973.) (CE) 
  • Born January 3, 1898 – Doris Buck.  A score of short stories, including “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” long announced as part of The Last Dangerous Visions so not yet published; as many poems.  Mostly in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Founding member of SFWA (now Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and on the first Nebula ballot.  Anthologized by Knight, Silverberg, Biggle.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born January 3, 1930 – Stephen Fabian, age 91.  Radio & radar in the Air Force, then twenty years’ electronics engineering while active as a fanartist, then pro career (self-taught) while continuing fanart.  Here is Progress Report 3 for Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon.  Here is SF Review 29.  Here is SF, a Teacher’s Guide & Resource Book.  Here is the Dec 74 Galaxy.  Here is Refugees from an Imaginary Country, hello Darrell Schweitzer.  Several artbooks e.g. Women & Wonders (using his cover for The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate).  Three hundred forty covers, fourteen hundred twenty interiors.  Dungeons & Dragons artwork 1986-1995.  World Fantasy Award for life achievement.  [JH]
  • Born January 3, 1937 Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar GalacticaGalactica 1980The Six Million Dollar Man, Manimal (no, really don’t ask), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure anyway to claim that’s even genre adjacent thought I think one of you will figure a way. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born January 3, 1940 Kinuko Y. Craft, 81.  She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here?  Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover of mine she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work which Green Man reviews here. (CE)
  • Born January 3, 1945 – Mark Owings.  Bibliographer.  Index to the Science-Fantasy Publishers (with Jack Chalker) 1966, rev. 1991 then thirteen supplements.  Blish, Heinlein, Lovecraft, Pohl, Russell, Schmitz, Simak, Williamson.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born January 3, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I, it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily having died over and over. Highly recommended. James Cameron purchased the movie rights to  her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born January 3, 1951 – Rosa Montero, age 70.  Daughter of a bullfighter, active in protests that eliminated killing of the bull, however traditional, in the centuries-old Toro de la Vega at Tordesillas.  Thirty books, two for us in English.  Spring Novel prize, Cavour Prize, two Qué Leer prizes.  [JH]
  • Born January 3, 1974 – Arwen Dayton, age 47.  Six novels for us.  Resurrection an Amazon Kindle Best-Seller.  Stronger, Faster, More Beautiful won Kirkus Best Young Adult SF, Wall Street Journal Best SF.  Has read The Sirens of Titan, Bleak HouseThe Door Into SummerThe Illustrated ManSense and Sensibility.  [JH]
  • Born January 3, 1975 Danica McKellar, 46. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in the Young Justice series. It’s just completed its fourth season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. (CE)
  • Born January 3, 1976 Charles Yu, 45. Taiwanese American writer. Author of the most excellent How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. (CE) 
  • Born January 3, 1978 – Dominic Wood, age 43.  Magician (the theatrical-art kind) and author.  Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians’ Shield for Sleight of Hand.  Co-presenter of Brainiac’s Test-Tube Baby.  Three BAFTA (Brit. Acad. Film & Television Arts) awards.  Dom and the Magic Topper is ours; the protagonist although named Dominic is a child, and although a theatrical-art magician has a top hat that really is magic; see here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today I discovered R.E. Parrish:

(11) CIRQUE DE SOUL. Leonard Maltin reviewed Soul and thought it was a provocative film but one he wished he could like more than he did. “’Soul’ Tackles The Big Questions”.

…I feel like an ingrate as I complain about a mainstream Disney release that doesn’t talk down to its audience, a Trojan horse of philosophizing packaged as shiny entertainment. But as much as I was intrigued by Soul, I didn’t actually enjoy the experience. I watched it with my family and we all had different reactions.

I would be foolish and narrow-minded if I didn’t applaud the effort and artistry that went into this film. How lucky we are that a studio like Pixar exists, unafraid to tackle complex and challenging ideas within the mainstream movie industry. I just wish I liked their new movie better. 

(12) REVERSING HIS POLARITY. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Pedro Pascal about his twin roles as villain Maxwell Lord in Wonder Woman 1984 and as the lead in The Mandalorian. “For Pedro Pascal, this is the way to play a ‘Wonder Woman’ villain when you’re also the coolest hero in the galaxy”.

…[In WW84] To help match his antenna-transmitted ambition, Pascal was asked to shave off his trademark swashbuckling mustache that has followed him through roles in “Game of Thrones,” “Narcos” and the Star Wars universe in the rare moments he can take off his Mandalorian helmet (which he did for the second time in the series in the episode that aired on Dec. 11). Pascal is adamant the facial hair removal was real and not the digital disaster that was Henry Cavill’s lip service in the widely panned “Justice League.”…

(13) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. A New York Times Magazine writer offers “A New Theory About the Monolith: We’re the Aliens”.

…The mystery of who created the monolith may never be solved. If we accept that it was a guerrilla art intervention, it was clearly successful, seizing public attention in ways a commissioned work never could. Weeks after the structure vanished, monolith fever has not abated, with copycats springing up across the U.S. and around the globe, from Romania to Morocco to Paraguay. Their spread so captivated social media that many wondered whether the world was falling for a viral marketing campaign.

But the appeal of the monolith touches deeper depths than the usual dopamine hits of the viral internet. In an age of GPS mapping and Google Earth, we may feel that the planet has been demystified, down to the centimeter — that there is no more unsurveilled terrain. The appearance of a monolith in a hinterland is a satisfying reminder that the world remains very large. It is still possible for an artist, or a prankster, or an artist-prankster, to slip undetected into the backcountry and leave something weird and alluring behind. Online detectives studying Google Earth figure the pillar was installed around 2016, which would mean that it’s possible for a weird, alluring thing to remain hidden for years, a secret shared only with passing bighorn sheep.

(14) WILL MINDS BE CHANGED? Essence of Wonder takes up the question “What Would Convince You a Miracle Is Real?” hosted by Alan Lightman with Rebecca Goldstein and Edward Hall. On Saturday, January 9, at 3:00 PM US Eastern Time. Register here.

In this discussion with philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher of science Edward Hall (Harvard), and physicist and novelist Alan Lightman (MIT), we will consider the question of the role of experiment in science and how that feature separates science from the humanities. We will also discuss the strong commitment of scientists to a completely lawful universe.

This latter issue could be framed as a question: What would it take to convince a scientist that some phenomenon was a miracle — that is, could not be explained, even in principle, to lie within the laws of nature?

For most scientists, the answer is NOTHING. Yet surveys repeatedly show that 75% of the American public believes in miracles. Why this marked discrepancy between the beliefs of scientists and nonscientists?

(15) A DUNE GRAPHIC NOVEL. BBC Science Focus Magazine has a substantial excerpt of art pages from the “Brian Herbert Dune graphic novel, An extract from the new retelling”.

The original Dune, penned by science fiction writer Frank Herbert, was published in 1965, and it quickly became one of the best-selling sci-fi novels of all time. Countless writers have cited his series as inspiration, including his son, Brian Herbert.

The story has been adapted for several films over the years, as well as games, comic books and spin-off books.

Ahead of its return to the big screen (again) next year, we’re taking a look into the recently published Dune: The Graphic Novel.

Created by Herbert’s son, Brian, and science fiction writer Kevin J Anderson, Dune: The Graphic Novel depicts the epic adventure that unfolds on the desert planet Arrakis in stunning illustrations.

What follows is an extract from the new book, where we take flight across the desert with the Duke, his son, and planetologist Dr Kynes…

[Thanks to Jim Meadows, Cliff, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27/20 The Right To Scroll Pixels Is The Right To Be Filed

(1) EVADING DUTIES. Richard Garriott’s announcement that he secretly hid some of James Doohan’s ashes on the ISS inspired Steven H Silver’s post “A Brief History of Space Smuggling” for Amazing Stories.

…The first mission to orbit the moon was the Apollo 8 mission on December 24 and 25, 1968. Knowing that the crew would be in orbit around the Moon on Christmas, NASA wanted to make sure that they had an appropriate Christmas dinner and provided dehydrated versions of the appropriate foods. Deke Slayton went a step further, and despite an official no-alcohol policy, he slipped in three mini bottles of Coronet Brandy for the crew to enjoy. William Borman, however, confiscated the bottles explaining that if there was any subsequent problem with the space craft, it would be blamed on the men drinking the brandy. In a 2019 article, space writer Jeffrey Kluger claimed that all three men (it is the only Apollo crew with all its members still alive) still have their unopened bottle of brandy….

(2) JP: COLLECT ‘EM ALL. [Item by James Bacon.] Journey Planet: Collector’s Edition is all about collectors, collections, and collecting! Our contributors share their treasure troves, which range from Prince records to nerdy paintings to Leia merchandise. What makes their collections special to them? Why did they start collecting them in the first place? Where do they keep all that stuff?

There’s also a very special interview with Seanan McGuire, My Little Pony collector extraordinaire! Take a tour of her “Pony Room”, meet her favorite Ponies, and hear why collecting them brings her so much joy. We hope that reading her story and the others breathes new life into your enjoyment of your own collection, whatever that may be.”

Co-edited by Sarah Gulde the issue can be found free to download here.

(3) THE NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND BOOKS. “Library of 1000 Believes You’ve Read Less Than 10 of These Books”. The Library may have a thousand, but there are only 150 titles in this challenge. Cliff submitted the link along with a confession: “I scored two. I could maybe give myself half a point for Raymond Feist’s Magician, but it was so terrible I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.” Whereas I scored 5 — big whoopee!

(4) WW BUT WHAT YEAR? “’Wonder Woman 3′ in the Works With Director Patty Jenkins” SAYS Variety. It would be a wonder if it wasn’t, right?

(5) ACROSS THE POND. The UK bookstore chain Waterstones has listed its favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2020: “The Best Books of 2020: Science Fiction & Fantasy”.

The Science Fiction universe saw the return of two seminal modern series this year, as Ernest Cline finally followed up his pop-culture packed cult favourite Ready Player One and Suzanne Collins took us all back to Panem and the backstory of the future President Snow in her prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. Meanwhile, the realms of Fantasy saw the contemporary fiction debuts of Young Adult titans, Sarah J. Maas and Veronica Roth. Elsewhere, we defended a future New York with N.K. Jemisin, traded our souls for immortality with V.E. Schwab and learned to live side by side with bunnies thanks to Jasper Fforde. Where will we boldly go in 2021?

(6) ROADS LESS TRAVELLED. Book Riot’s Margaret Kingsbury writes interesting takes about her picks in “10 of the Best 2020 Under the Radar SFF Books”.

PHOENIX EXTRAVAGANT BY YOON HA LEE

This unique standalone is set in a fantasy world reminiscent of Korea during the Japanese occupation of the early 1900s. The Ministry of Armour hires nonbinary artist Jebi to paint magic sigils onto masks for the government’s automata. Their sister hates the conquering government, but Jebi, who doesn’t consider themself political, needs the cash and doesn’t see another way of acquiring it. Jebi is oblivious to anything that isn’t art. At the armory, Jebi befriends a pacifist dragon automata, and their political reluctance slowly begins to shift. As their friendship strengthens and Jebi sees more of the inner workings of The Ministry of Armour, they decide they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the dragon from becoming a weapon. I loved the way queerness is normalized in the social structure of the world Yoon Ha Lee builds, as well as the focus on art and pacifism, and Jebi’s slow character arc. Phoenix Extravagant is a fantastic standalone.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 27, 1904 —  J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan ; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up premiered at the Duke of York’s Theatre, London. Nina Boucicault, daughter of playwright Dion Boucicault, was the title role. Barrie continued to revise the play for years after its debut until publication of the play script in 1928.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 27, 1888 Thea von Harbou. She penned the novel Metropolis based upon her uncredited screenplay for husband Fritz Lang on that film.  She also collaborated with him on other projects, none of which save her Phantom and Dr. Mabuse the Gambler screenplays appear to be genre. (Died 1954.) (CE)
  • Born December 27, 1917 – Ken Slater.  Fan and bookseller.  Ran Operation Fantast, then eventually Fantast (Medway) Ltd.  “Something to Read” six years in Nebula.  Founding member of BSFA (British SF Ass’n).  Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 10; with wife Joyce, at Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon.  Co-founded OMPA; in FAPA too.  When Forry Ackerman won the “No. 1 Fan Personality” Hugo – the only time we’ve given it – he left it onstage saying it should have gone to KS.  Doc Weir Award (U.K., service), Big Heart (our highest service award).  Note by Our Gracious Host here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1931 – Perdita Boardman.  Long-time hostess of the Lunarians (New York); ran the Hospitality Suite at their annual Lunacon; Fan Guest of Honor with husband John Boardman at Lunacon 41.  Made a WSFS banner (but not this one).  Earlier married to Ray Nelson inspiring poetry, hello Ray.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1943 – Diane Stanley, age 77.  A dozen novels, three covers for us; sixty books all told; particularly applauded for children’s biographies, many illustrated by herself, e.g. CleopatraCharles Dickens, the Man Who Had Great Expectations (CD wrote Great Expectations and was a social reformer); Joan of ArcMozart the Wonder Child, a Puppet Play in Three ActsSaladin, Noble Prince of IslamShaka, King of the Zulus.  With an M.A. in medical illustration she has done that too; graphic designer for Dell; art director for Putnam’s.  Shaka was a NY Times Best Illustrated Book.  Orbis Pictus Award.  Boston Globe – Hornbook Award and Golden Kite Award, twice each.  Washington Post – Children’s Book Guild Award for body of work.  Here is her cover for the May 88 Cricket.  Here is Lost Magic.  Here is The Silver Bowl.  Here is an interior for Cleopatra.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1945 – Fred Lerner, Ph.D., age 75.  Doctorate in library science, Modern SF and the American Literary Community based on his dissertation.  Co-founded the Beaker People Libation Front.  NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press published A Bookman’s Fantasy, essays; put his “Silverlock” Companion in its ed’n of Silverlock; also for NESFA Press he edited Jack Speer’s memoir Fancestral Voices.  Special Guest at Boskone 32 (which has no Fan Guest of Honor).  His Lofgeornost (last word of Beowulf, “desirous of fame or renown”) for FAPA circulates widely, won a FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Award last year.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 69. Exploitation film maker whose here because some of his source material is SFF in origin. Arena was scripted off the Fredric Brown “Arena” short story which first ran in the June 1944 Astounding, and From Beyond which was based on H P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name which was first published in June 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan. (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 60. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role in it. (CE)
  • Born December 27, 1969 Sarah Jane Vowell, 51. She’s a author, journalist, essayist, historian, podcaster,  social commentator and actress. Impressive, isn’t she? Ahhh but she gets Birthday Honors for being the voice of Violet Parr in the Incredibles franchise. I say franchise as I’ve no doubt that a third film is already bring scripted given how successful the first two were.  (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1972 – Igor Posavec, age 48.  Covers for Perry Rhodan 2436-39: here is The Immaterial City (in German); here is People for Stardust (in German).  Note that P Rhodan, co-created by our own Walter Ernsting, has appeared weekly since 1961; its first billion of worldwide sales came in 1986.  More recently IP has been doing digitals; here is Do Machines Dream of Electric Sheep? (with Sven Sauer; I haven’t seen the untranslated title so don’t know if this is a deliberate variation on P.K. Dick’s Do Androids…).  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 42. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The End of Time” as Addams but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time. (CE) 
  • Born December 27, 1986 – Mirelle Ortega, age 34.  As she says, “Illustrator for kidlit and animation”.  Animation! prize at Ideatoon.  Three covers for Linda Chapman’s Mermaids Rock stories; here is The Ice Giant.  Here is A Dash of Trouble from Love Sugar Magic.  MO’s Website is full of swell images; someone better with Electronicland than I may be able to tell which have been used and which merely proposed.  [JH]
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 33. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another one now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed. (CE)

(9) FEAST FOR THE EYES. Artnet News says “A New Book Makes the Case That Fantasy Art Is America’s Least Understood Fine-Art Form—See the Wild Images Here” See sixteen great and vividly-colored examples from Masterpieces of Fantasy Art at the link.

Dragons, sexy maidens, and epic sword fights are getting the fine-art treatment in Masterpieces of Fantasy Art, Taschen’s new 532-page illustrated tome celebrating the genre.

Lest you think fantasy art is nothing more than a lightweight endeavor, the massive volume weighs a hefty 16 pounds. Tracing the evolution of the genre from 1400 to the present, it showcases the works of Old Masters Jan Van Eyck and Hieronymus Bosch as well as contemporary heavy-hitters like H.R. GigerFrank Frazetta, and Boris Vallejo.

“Since fantasy art is largely created as work for hire, no matter how talented the artist,” author Dian Hanson writes, “it has always been accessible, displayed prominently on the newsstand, to its advantage and curse.” The genre’s predilection for provocative, sexualized scenes has also hurt its credibility among the art-world cognoscenti—not to mention that the mass-produced fantasy books were literally printed on cheap pulp paper in the 20th century.

Hanson amassed more than 100 superlative examples of this oft-misunderstood form for the book. The compilation speaks to the genre’s considerable appeal—which has also translated into impressive art-market success. Original Frazetta oil paintings have sold for as much as $5.4 million. The book’s cover image, Frazetta’s Princess of Mars (197), fetched $1.2 million at Dallas’s Heritage Auctions in September….

(10) MEME MUTATION. Forget about stainless steel — “Ephemeral edible: gingerbread monolith appears on San Francisco hilltop, then collapses” – photos in The Guardian.

Like the other monoliths that have mysteriously appeared across America and the world in the waning weeks of 2020, the one that popped up on a California hilltop on Christmas Day seemed to come out of nowhere.

Also like the others, it was tall, three-sided and it rapidly attracted crowds of curious visitors before an untimely destruction.

Unlike the others, this monolith was made of … gingerbread.

(11) 2020 ENVISIONED. NASA’s video shows that in space the year was not wasted – “NASA Discoveries, R&D, Moon to Mars Exploration Persevere in 2020”.

In 2020, NASA made significant progress on America’s Moon to Mars exploration strategy, met mission objectives for the Artemis program, achieved significant scientific advancements to benefit humanity, and returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States, all while agency teams acted quickly to assist the national COVID-19 response.

(12) SKY’S THE LIMIT. Leonard Maltin reviewed George Clooney’s sf film The Midnight Sky. He didn’t like it. “The Midnight Sky: Been There, Done That”.

George Clooney stars in this space parable that starts out well, then goes adrift. Set in the stereotypically bleak near-future, the story focuses on a defeated scientist who chooses to stay behind in the Antarctic, knowing his days are numbered, while his colleagues get the hell out of there. But when he discovers that he has company—a silent 7-year-old girl—his priorities shift completely…

(13) HUSTLING TO EARTH. The New York Times fills in the late arrivers to Tevis fandom: “Walter Tevis Was a Novelist. You Might Know His Books (Much) Better as Movies”.

The wildly popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” has done for chess what Julia Child once did for French cooking. Chess set sales have skyrocketed; enrollment in online chess classes has surged. The series has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews. The novel that inspired the show, first published in 1983, has been on The New York Times’s trade paperback best-seller list for five weeks.

Yet little attention has been paid to Walter Tevis, the author whose creation has stirred all the commotion.

…Born in 1928, Tevis wrote six novels, a surprising number of which made high-profile leaps to the screen: “The Hustler,” about a young pool shark played by Paul Newman; “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” starring David Bowie as a lonesome alien; and “The Color of Money,” a follow-up to “The Hustler,” which won Mr. Newman his first Oscar. Tevis’s 1980 science fiction book, “Mockingbird,” a commentary on humanity’s dwindling interest in reading, has long had a modest cult following.

(14) BODY OF KNOWLEDGE. “The next The Crown or The Queen’s Gambit? Netflix’s Chinese sci-fi series The Three-Body Problem is sparking hype – and controversy – already”: a roundup of what is known, in the South China Morning Post.

The show’s release date is still unconfirmed

Despite the hype – good and bad – surrounding Netflix’s announced adaptation and the impressive list of names who will feature on the creative team, the production of The Three-Body Problem is still in its early days. Writers and producers might be signed up, but there have been no casting reveals yet and, crucially, no release date announced. The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly delayed progress, but fans of the books might expect further details next year.

(15) DROPPING THE OTHER. Mental Floss coached viewers about “’A Christmas Story’: Fun Mistakes, Anachronisms, and Other Things to Look For”. It’s only poetic justice that a movie featuring a leg lamp would have missing footage.

25. FLASH GORDON GETS CREDIT, TOO.

Keep watching the end credits roll and you’ll see Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless among the names that scroll by. Though it never made the final cut, the credits for an additional fantasy sequence in which Ralphie and his trusty firearm help Flash Gordon face off against Ming remain.

Michael Toman sent the link with this enthusiastic intro: “Am sure that I’m not the only Filer who would appreciate the opportunity to see ‘an additional sequence in which Ralphie and his trusty firearm help Flash Gordon face off against Ming.’ Has anyone considered adapting this movie as a Graphic Novel?”

(16) HO HO IO. Io9’s Julie Muncyinvites everyone to “Relax With This Classic Addams Family Christmas Short” posted on YouTube by MGM.

…And of course, even they adore Santa Claus. I love it. What a perfect family.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/25/20 We Wish You A Merry Pixel And A Happy
Scroll File

(1) JEMISIN’S LATEST MILESTONE. [Item by Rob Thornton.] N.K. Jemisin received an interesting present for Christmas when she learned that The City We Became was chosen as a Book Of The Month.

(2) AWARDED SFF BY POC. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank’s  annual Outstanding SF/F by People of Color 2019, with 67 stories by 60 authors that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(3) CALL FOR REVIEWERS. If you’re interested in reviewing PDFs of either of these for File 770, contact me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com.

FIREFLY: THE ARTBOOK
An original glossy coffee table book bursting with brand new and exclusive art, includes over 120 pieces by professional artists, illustrators, concept artists, comics artists and graphic designers.

RIVERS OF LONDON BODY WORKS DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION
CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series! Presents the full script of the graphic novel along with the unlettered, full-color artwork, allowing the reader to read the original script and see the artwork side-by-side.

(4) EXTRA SPACE FOR DOOHAN’S ASHES. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Richard Garriott smuggled James Doohan’s ashes onto the International Space Station during his 2012 and is revealing it now.“Ashes of Star Trek’s Scotty smuggled on to International Space Station” in The Times (UK).

As one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott spent a lifetime exploring the galaxy on the USS Enterprise, boldly going beyond the final frontier.

Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station.

A note.  In 2012, it was also announced that some of James Doohan’s ashes were being launched into space on a Falcon 9 flight that would put them in orbit for about two years.  That was known, but not the same as Richard Garriott carrying his ashes aboard a Soyuz to place them on the ISS, which was not previously known.

(5) WW84 REVIEW. Here’s Leonard Maltin’s take on “WW84 (WONDER WOMAN 1984)”  — BEWARE SPOILERS.

WW84 starts on a promising note, taking a page from the Superman playbook: Wonder Woman sweeps into a shopping mall and dispatches a gang of crooks while saving imperiled children, even sharing a knowing wink with one of them. It’s a moment of pure fun that leaves you with a smile on your face and shows our heroine actually enjoying her superpowers.

From that point on, the movie struggles to be relevant and serious, but in a superficial, cartoony way. It drones on for two and a half hours but it hasn’t got a lot to say, and sputters whenever it’s trying to convey a message. A prologue on Paradise Island only makes one wish they made more use of that setting and its strong female characters….

(6) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Complex sets the scene in “Mark Hamill Clowns Space Force for Copying Marvel, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek'”.

…Responding to a tweet from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, Hamill laid out the full extent of the Space Force’s thievery.

(7) BIG GAME HUNTER. Camestros Felapton continues to assist Hugo voters with a new compilation of possible nominees: “Thirteen Notable Video Games of 2020 (maybe?)”

The other week I linked to a few “best of…” lists for 2020. On Twitter, Hampus also suggested another round-up source here https://www.cbr.com/best-video-games-2020/ I’ve since collated those lists along with the video games already listed on the Hugo Sheet of Doom. I’ll confess that I have taken a scattershot approach to deciding whether games are SFF or not. It isn’t always easy! Does a historical game count as alternate-history if you can reshape events (eg Crusader Kings III)? Is Call of Duty SFF because there is a zombie option? I don’t know! 

(8) GUNN OBIT. SFWA Grand Master James Gunn died December 23. Colleague Kij Johnson has a tribute: “With great sadness”.

This morning, James Gunn passed on at the age of 97. We’re not sure of what, but it probably was congestive heart failure. He went into the ER on Saturday morning, where they were not able to regulate his heartbeat. There will be official announcements and eventually a memorial.

One of many Gunn profiles is here at The Hollywood Reporter.

Gunn’s leadership in the field of sff studies at the University of Kansas is commemorated by the Center there that bears his name. His academic work included a series of filmed interviews with leading creators in 1970, including Rod Serling.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • In 1958 at Solacon held at South Gate, California, Fritz Leiber would win the first of ten Hugos that he would garner to date (counting Retros), for The Big TimeThe Big Time was published originally in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues as illustrated by Virgil Finlay who has multiple Retro Hugos as an artist. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 25, 1890 – Robert Ripley.  Dropping out of high school to help his family after his father’s death, he worked as a cartoonist, invented Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and became world-famous.  Said he documented everything.  Invited readers’ contributions, was read by eighty million, may have received more mail than the U.S. President.  Short cinema features, radio, television, visited 200 countries.  When R noted that in fact the U.S. had no national anthem, John Philip Sousa applauded “The Star-Spangled Banner” – which everyone had been singing – and it was finally adopted.  Also NY State handball champion.  Not in touch with us during his life (though he did interview Maud Baum) – he didn’t want fiction; the continuing R enterprise runs museums, publishes books: in RBI (R’s Bu. of Investigation) #2 The Dragon’s Teeth teen agents have special gifts.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1915 – Dora Pantell.  Teacher, author of textbooks and manuals (many on English as a second language), she continued the Miss Pickerell books of Ellen MacGregor (1906-1954) about a New England spinster (as such were known until quite recently) with a good mind who takes technological adventures and applies science.  EM left copious notes, DP wrote a dozen Pickerell books (MP on the MoonMP and the Weather Satellite) and as many shorter stories.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1924 Rod Serling. Best remembered for the original and certainly superior Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeA Town Has Turned to Dust, UFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes. ISDB lists a lot of published scripts and stories by him. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1928 Dick Miller. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Joe Dante. You’ve seen him in both GremlinsThe Little Shop of HorrorsTerminatorThe HowlingSmall SoldiersTwilight Zone: The Movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol and Oberon in the excellent  “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1939 Royce D. Applegate. His best known role was that of Chief Petty Officer Manilow Crocker on the first season of seaQuest DSV. He’s got appearances in Quantum LeapTwin Peaks (where he played Rev. Clarence Brocklehurst), Tales of the Unexpected  and Supertrain. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1945 Rick Berman, 75. Loved and loathed in equal measures, he’s known for his work as the executive producer of Next GenDeep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise which he co-created with Brannon Braga. He’d be lead producer on the four Next Generation films: GenerationsFirst Contact (which I like), Insurrection  and Nemesis. (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1947 – Bill Fesselmeyer.  Active U.S. Midwest fan, worked on MidAmeriCon I the 34th Worldcon, satirized our Worldcon Business Meetings – so hard that we don’t always do them well – in “How the Grinch Stole Worldcon”, as you can read here, thanks again to Leah Zeldes Smith.  Earned a barony in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  With wife Sherry, Fan Guests of Honor at BYOB-Con 7.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1948 –Kathleen Meyer.  Chaired Windycon XI-XII and XV; Fan Guest of Honor at Capricon 8.  Ran Membership Services at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; chaired Chicon V the 49th; survived to run  Events at Chicon 2000 the 58th.  Twenty-five years Treasurer of parent ISFiC (Illinois SF in Chicago).  I knew her, Horatio.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born December 25, 1952 CCH Pounder, 68. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well.  She’s also been in X-Files, Quantum Leap, White Dwarf (horrid series), GargoylesMillenniumHouse of Frankenstein and Outer Limits.  Film-wise, she shows up in Robocop 3Tales from the Crypt presents Demon KnightThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films. (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Holly Phillips, age 51.  Reared in Trail and other small towns in British Columbia.  Sunburst Award for collection In the Palace of Repose.  Anthology Tesseracts 11 with Cory Doctorow.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories, half a dozen poems.  “As weird as I try to make my fiction, it’s never as weird as the real world.”  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Christopher Rowe, age 51.  Three novels, thirty shorter stories.  Co-author of Wild Cards 25, entitled Low Chicago.  Extended chapbook  Say…. into a small-press magazine for five years.  Has read The Last Great WalkLolita, two Jane Austen novels, one Dickens and one Dumas, The Hunt for “Red October”, one Shakespeare.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1984 Georgia Moffett, 36.  She’s  the daughter of actor Peter Davison, the man who was Fifth Doctor and she’s married to David Tennant who was the Tenth Doctor.  She played opposite the Tenth Doctor as Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and in she voiced ‘Cassie’ in the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland which is now on iTunes and Amazon. And yes she’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as herself. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UNDERSTANDING THE CRIMINAL MIND. Amanda Weaver finds the motive lacking for two recent newsmaking capers.

(13) GOLDEN GLOBES CHALLENGED. Although the specific film at issue is not genre, File 770 does follow the Golden Globes, and this eligibility question is of interest. “Golden Globes: What the HFPA Needs to Do to Fix the ‘Minari’ Debacle” in Variety.

The Hollywood Foreign Press has come under fire again for the rule that disallows “Minari,” the story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to build a better life in Arkansas, from competing in the Golden Globes race for best drama or musical/comedy. As the entertainment industry faces pressure to become more diverse and inclusive, both in the stories it tells and in terms of the actors and filmmakers it champions, the HFPA should have foreseen the outcry from Hollywood.

The rules around Golden Globes eligibility for best picture categories are outdated and need to be overhauled — fast.

“Minari,” which stars an American, is directed by an American and produced, financed, and distributed by U.S. companies, is ineligible in the best picture categories and must compete in the foreign language category. The problem was also faced by last year by “The Farewell,” Lulu Wang’s acclaimed dramedy, in 2019, which, like “Minari,” was forced into the foreign language race and excluded from competing for the Globes’ top prizes.

(14) SEEING VS. BELIEVING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 19 Financial Times, Raphael Abraham interviews Soul director Pete Docter about how the Pixar crew filming Soul discussed how to depict a soul.

Having consulted clinical psychologists for Inside Out, which made manifest a teenage girl’s emotional inner workings, this time Docter and his team turned to spiritual advisers for guidance  ‘We did a lot of research, talking with priests and rabbis, looking at Hinduism, Buddhism, all sorts of different traditions to see what they could teach about the nature of the soul,’ he says.  However, when it came to visual representation, they came to a dead end,  ‘Largely, it was not too helpful because it said they’re non-visible. And we thought:  well, great, but we’ve got to film something!’

Looking within themselves instead, the animators devised a solution that has the film flirting with abstraction as the action moves from the temporal world to the ethereal landscapes of ‘The Great Beyond,’ ‘The Great Before,’ and the ‘Counsellors’ who inhabit them.

Here they turned to art history for inspiration.  ‘We looked at a lot of modernist sculpture, Picasso wire sculptures, Alexander Calder.  We thought of the Counsellors as the universe dumbing itself down so that the humans and souls could understand it.’

(15) READ BEFORE YOU WRAP. Have you been influenced by any of these “20 Traditional Gift-Giving Superstitions” listed by Mental Floss?

5. CATS

In Sicily, it’s said you should never give a gift in the shape of a cat to someone who is engaged to be married, as this foretells sudden and violent death. However, in other cultures, if your partner gives you an actual cat as a present, it means you will never be parted.

(16) GHASTLY IMAGININGS OF THE SEASON. Dean Koontz’ holiday newsletter (available to subscribers) begins —

Tis the season to be jolly. That’s better than a season to be angry and mean. However, I find something unsettling about too much jolliness, especially when the jolly one is a snowman that has been brought to life by the magic in “an old black hat.” Whose hat was it? Huh? Did it belong to a serial killer, and did he die wearing it, and is his hideous, corrupted soul in that hat?

Frosty’s button nose is okay, but I’m creeped out by those two eyes made out of coal. We can often read other people’s intentions in their eyes, but NOT IN EYES MADE OUT OF COAL! The teeth in his grin are made of coal, too, and he’s always grinning, which suggests he’s psychotic…

(17) YESTERDAY’S MEDIA BIRTHDAY. This one is too good to skip. On December 24, 1916 the silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, directed and written by Stuart Paton, premiered. Starring Allen Holubar and Jane Gail, Carl Laemmle, later to be founder of what would become Universal Pictures, produced it. Paton used most of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel and elements of Mysterious Island as well. Yes it’s in the National Film Registry as it should be. Indeed it was a box office success as it made eight million on a budget of two hundred thousand. You can watch it here.

(18) A DIY PROJECT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE A ZILLION DOLLAR LAB. Left over from Gizmodo’s 2019 “Fake Week” but news to me — “How to Make a Black Hole in a Science Lab”.

… “Black hole radiation is one of the perhaps most peculiar processes,” Weinfurtner told Gizmodo. Thanks to her experiment, “you can reproduce this process in the lab.”

More complex dumb holes followed; Weinfurtner eventually went on to lead her own group, now at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, which devised a black hole analog from a vortex produced by a draining, rotating fluid. The vortex amplified waves traveling over the liquid that bounced into it, and the experiment became a first observation of a process called superradiance in the lab—an analogy to the Penrose process, where spinning black holes turbocharge the particles in the space around them….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Polar Express Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains the premise of The Polar Express is that when a kid “gets into a stranger’s vehicle in the middle of the night, his life is going to change,” but don’t worry, the vehicle is The Polar Express, so this is supposed to be a fun Christmas movie, even if the motion-capture animation leads to “dead eye characters and uncanny valley vibes.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Eric Wong, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anne Sheller.]

Pixel Scroll 11/15/20 There Was An Old Black Hole Who Swallowed A Jovian Gas Giant, I Don’t Know Why It Swallowed A Jovian Gas Giant, Perhaps It Will Implode

(1) TANTALIZING TITLES. Eric Flint says he and Griff Barber are closing in on finishing 1637: The Peacock Throne, the sequel to 1636: Mission To The Mughals. What next?

…1637: THE PEACOCK THRONE is a hell of a good novel, if I say so myself. All we have left to do is write a few chapters to conclude the story arc. THIS story arc, I should say.

Yes, there will be a sequel. I’m already pondering titles. Possibilities are:

1638: A PREGNANT PAUSE

1638: THE HAJJ IS TRICKIER THAN IT LOOKS

1638: WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO…

1638: GIRL, YOU ARE IN SOOOOOOO MUCH TROUBLE

1638: YOU DID WHAT?????

Muahahahahaha….

(2) ABOUT FACE. “Stranger Than Something That Is Already Strange: A Conversation with Namwali Serpell” at the LA Review of Books.

That leads right into one of my other questions. The central claim of the book is that, rather than being all that interested in the Ideal Face, we actually “love to play with faces, to make them into art.” Why do you think it is so important to emphasize art and play when thinking about the face?

I think that, when you have a very dominant model of something, like the face, you have to undo it not just through examples of things that contravene it — not just through counterexamples — but you have to actually build a positive model. In thinking about what playing with the face gives to us, I needed to present it not just as a kind of denigration or a sacrilegious desecration because we have this deification of the ideal face. So, I started thinking about what playing with faces actually grants us. And I thought, well, it actually starts shifting us to entirely different models of aesthetics and ethics and emotion.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Heather Rose Jones tweeted today —

And later –

Hope she’s getting great care, and our wishes for a speedy return to health.

(4) LEND ME YOUR EARS. Elisabeth Moore pushes the canonical envelope at Sarah Gailey’s site — “Personal Canons: Dragon Rider”.

The idea that a personal literary canon is devised out of only literature has been disproven over and over again in this series of essays. Some people see comics as a key part of their development; others count anime and folktales. The very fact that the personal canon is multifaceted and multi-genre is key to the canon. And so, I want to add a key cornerstone of my canon: the audiobook for Cornelia Funke’s The Dragon Rider, Part 1.

Yes. Only Part 1….

(5) CRAIG MILLER WINS ANIMATION WRITING AWARD. Writers Guild of America gives an award, through its Animation Writers Caucus, that the Guild’s website calls the Animation Writing Award, informally a life-career award. Congratulations to Craig Miller, this year’s winner.

The official description says it’s “given to that member of the Animation Writers Caucus and/or the Guild who, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, has advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television through the years and who has made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer”.

And this year, in an act of madness, they decided the recipient will be me.

I’m truly honored to get this award and hope I have and can continue to live up to it.

(6) TOOT TOOT. Inspired by the Star Trek train set, the O Gauge Railroad Online Forum asks “What kind of bell and horn sounds would be authentic for a Star Ship?”.

“How would you hear it in space? Do you blast the horn 4 times for warp speed? Is the bell for Impulse power?”

(7) A NOISE WITHIN. Meanwhile, “Doctor Who’s sonic pioneers to turn internet into giant musical instrument” says The Guardian. “The performance comes the day before 23 November, the anniversary of the first transmission of Doctor Who in 1963 which is also Delia Derbyshire Day, in honour of the Radiophonic Workshop’s leading light, who created the sound of the show’s famous theme tune.”

The Radiophonic Workshop has always broken new sonic ground, from the Doctor Who theme to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Now they’re at it again – this time using the internet as a musical instrument.

A performance of Latency will take place at a special online event on 22 November using a technique inspired by lockdown Zoom calls. The band includes composers from the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which created soundtracks for most BBC shows from the 60s to the 90s and influenced generations of musicians from Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield to Aphex Twin, Orbital and Mary Epworth.

The idea [of playing the internet] reflected our time,” said workshop member Peter Howell. “We’re all subject to the internet now in a way that we never thought we would be. And Bob and Paddy came up with an idea that is literally using what we’re all relying on for a creative purpose, using something that we’ve all taken for granted but in an artistic way.”

(8) INSIDE STORY. Publishers Weekly, in “How ‘The Only Good Indians’ Got Made—And How It Hopes to Revive Horror”, covers the Authors Guild’s From Manuscript to Marketplace panel with Stephen Graham Jones and his team. including Saga editorial director Joe Monti, marketing and publicity manager Lauren Jackson, and his agent, B.J. Robbins.

The Only Good Indians, which received a starred review from PW and was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 must-read books of 2020, tracks the lives of four young men who, during a hunt, commit a crime against an elk and their own Blackfeet Nation tribe. After walking away from the incident, they find themselves haunted by a mysterious entity bent on revenge, and realize that there are just some things one can’t take back.

What intrigued Monti about Jones’s novel was how it addressed reviving the horror genre. After seeing Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Monti said, he realized that “this is the way we’re gonna be able to talk about race and class and culture with a level of immediacy that other genres can’t”—and he believed Jones’s book nailed it. But Monti wasn’t the only one from Saga who saw the connection. Jackson was hooked from the prologue, going on to read the book in the course of a few days and immediately dubbing it “the Jordan Peele of Horror Literature.”

Johnson argues that Jones’s book is one of a number of recent releases to have proven that the horror genre isn’t as narrow as its reputation. Horror is a “statement about identity” in her view: “there are layers to these tropes, and if you really look deep, it’s saying a lot about who people are and what the world is like,” Johnson said, adding that “the tropes have a function [and] there’s something behind them.”…

(9) DIRECTORIAL DEBUT. Leonard Maltin reviews “Over The Moon: A Beautiful Journey”.

Over the Moon is, like any animated feature, the work of many people but everyone I interviewed took inspiration from its director, master animator Glen Keane.

Glen spent 37 years at the Disney studio and brought to life some of the modern era’s most indelible characters: Ariel in The Little Mermaid, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, the young hero in Aladdin, the title characters in Pocahontas and Tarzan, and Rapunzel in Tangled, among others. Several years ago he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject for Dear Basketball, a collaboration with the late Kobe Bryant.

This is officially his feature directing debut and as you would expect, he chose his team with care. That’s why Over the Moon looks so striking and its characters are so vivid….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1975 — Forty five years ago at Aussiecon One which had John Bangsund as Toastmaster, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin wins the Best Novel Hugo. Runner-ups were Poul Anderson’s Fire Time, Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye andChristopher Priest’s Inverted World. First published by Harper & Row the previous year with cover art by Fred Winkowski, it would also win the Locus and Nebula Awards for Best SF Novel and be nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Ditmar and multiple Prometheus Awards being eventually voted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.) (CE)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 91. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.The InvadersThe Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleShelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & LegendsBatman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while. (CE)
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. So tell me what you think of him. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 81. As we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV. (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1941 – Daniel Pinkwater, 79.  The Golux (in The Thirteen Clocks, J. Thurber 1950) wears an indescribable hat; DP is almost indescribable.  You may know he wrote The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death; seven dozen more; a dozen shorter stories.  Sometimes he draws his own covers.  He deserves fuller treatment – no – more rounded – no – expansive – anyhow, his Website is here (hint: if you want to know about the Semper admirare melongenum eggplant, find out about the talking pineapple: I can say no more).  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1942 – Ruth Berman, 78.  Rhysling Award, Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening” (Asimov’s, Dec 02); Dwarf Stars Award for “Knowledge Of” (repr. 2008 Nebula Awards Showcase).  Minnesota Fantasy Award.  Two novels, thirty shorter stories, a hundred thirty poems.  Nonfiction Patterns of Unification in “Sylvie and Bruno” (Lewis Carroll’s last novel, 1893); Who’s Who in the Borderlands of Oz.  Guest of Honor at Minicon 6, MarsCon 2016.  More here.  Often seen in the letter column of Lofgeornost.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1952 – Catherine Wells, 68.  Five novels, a dozen shorter stories. “Builders of Leaf Houses” won the Analog 2015 AnLab award for Best Novella.  Outside our field a novel Stones of Destiny about Macbeth (re-issued as Macbeatha).  Plays in a jazz trio at church with her husband on drums, rides tandem bicycle with him.  Thirty in her high school (Robinson, North Dakota); she was top in a class of five; when asked “Are you in the top 20% of your class?” she answered “I am the top 20% of my class.”  Guest of Honor at TusCon 27.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1958 – Scott Lefton, 62.  Built the Hugo base for Noreascon 4 (62nd Worldcon).  For the Hugo presentation at Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) by Kjell Lindgren from the Int’l Space Station via videoconference, SL made the Hugo rocket.  SL’s Pitcher-Plant Lamp won Popular Choice – Best 3-Dimensional in the Arisia 2017 Art Show.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1972 – Vadim Panov, 48.  Aircraft radio engineer who started writing.  Losers Launch Wars began an urban-fantasy series “The Secret City”, fourteen so far; Club Moscow began a cyberpunk series “The Enclaves”, five so far.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1972 Jonny Lee Miller, 48. British actor and director who played Sherlock Holmes on the exemplary Elementary series, but his first genre role was as a nine year-old with the Fifth Doctor, “Kinda”. While he’s had a fairly steady stage, film, and TV career across the pond since then, it’s only in the last decade that he’s become well-known in the States – unless, like JJ, you remember that 23 years ago he appeared in a shoddy technothriller called Hackers, with another unknown young actor named Angelina Jolie (to whom he ended up married, until they separated 18 months later). Other genre appearances include a trio of vampire films, Dracula 2000Dark Shadows, and Byzantium, the live-action Æon Flux movie, and the lead in the pseudo-fantasy TV series Eli Stone. (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1977 – Ashley Knight, 43.  Loves horses, has been a Rodeo Queen.  Thereafter she became the Mermaid Lady and properly wrote a Fins trilogy; three more novels.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SHOW TIME. Disney Rewards challenges fans with a “Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Mandalorian?”

Since it premiered in 2019 on Disney+, the first ever live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, has thrilled a galaxy of fans with its action-packed adventures. But how closely did you watch, and how well do you know the bounty of details? Strap on your jetpack and launch into our trivia quiz to test your knowledge and target an expert-level score.

(14) DINO TBR. Pocket’s “The Ultimate Dinosaur Reading List” is a collection of links to articles about dinosaurs.

If you ever want to put things in perspective, consider this: Less time separates human beings in history from Tyrannosaurus rex than T. rex from Stegosaurus. That’s right. While T. rex went extinct about 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the Jurassic Period’s stegosaurus roamed the Earth 83 million years before T. rex had even evolved. All told, dinosaurs ruled the planet for some 180 million years, while homo sapiens emerged a paltry 200,000 years ago.

That’s just one of many reasons our fascination with the terrible lizards is wholly justified. We’ve curated this Brachiosaurus-sized collection of 20 great articles all about dinosaurs and the people who obsess over them, including what dinosaurs looked like, what it’s like to be a paleontologist hunting for dinosaur fossils, and whether Jurassic Park could actually happen.

(15) TIME FOR A SITDOWN. In Episode 40 of Two Chairs Talking, “Lost in the labyrinth of words”, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss their recent reading across a variety of genres and spend quite a bit of time on Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, her first book in 14 years.

(16) CHILD SIZED. Sideshow takes you “Behind the Scenes with The Child Life-Size Figure on ESPN’s Monday Night Football”. Video at the link.

Recently, football audiences, Star Wars™ fans, and Sideshow collectors alike were treated to a surprise special appearance of The Child Life-Size Figure on a themed promotional spot about The Mandalorian™ on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Now take a look at a few adorable behind the scenes shots featuring The Child Life-Size Figure during the filming of the promo. In the charming video narrated by actor Giancarlo Esposito, the Child Life-Size Figure featured alongside a young boy with ambitions of becoming a hero like the Mandalorian.

(17) HOW TO ASTRONAUT. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination offers “How To Astronaut, With Terry Virts”, in a virtual conversation on November 24 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

On November 24 at 6:00 PM PDT join NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander Colonel Terry Virts in conversation with Dr. Erik Viirre of UCSD Departments of Neurosciences, Surgery and Cognitive Science and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. How to Astronaut covers everything from training through launch, orbit, spacewalking, deep space, and re-entry. Colonel Virts and Dr. Viirre will discuss the science, emotions, and philosophies that an off-the-planet perspective can grant.

Colonel Terry Virts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989, and a master of aeronautical science degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Selected by NASA in 2000, he was the pilot of STS-130 mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. In March 2015, Virts assumed command of the International Space Station, and spent over 200 days on it. Virts is one of the stars (and photographers) of the IMAX film, A Beautiful Planet, released in April 2016. He is also the author of View from Above. He lives near Houston.

Dr. Viirre has done research for the National Institutes of Health, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Research, DARPA and NASA. He is a consultant for groups such as the National Academy of Science and a variety of Virtual Reality technology companies.

(18) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Crash Bandicoot 4:  It’s About Time,” Fandom Games says Crash Bandicoot is “gaming’s equivalent of a C-list celebrity” and dusting off this “mutated marsupial” is like having an “HD remake” of a popular ’90s franchise.  The game features a Peter Lorre joke “that was ancient in the ’90s.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/20 Strange Scrolls Lying In Ponds Distributing Pixels Is No Basis For A System Of Filing

(1) TITLE BOUT. Shelf Awareness publicized the release of the six-book shortlist for the 2020 Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year. “Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982.” The finalists are —

  • A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path by Gregory Forth
  • Introducing the Medieval Ass by Kathryn L Smithies
  • Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music by K.F.B. Fletcher and Osman Umurhan
  • How to Make Love to a Despot by Stephen D. Krasner
  • Lawnmowers: An Illus­trated History by Brian Radam
  • The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways to Enhance Animal Welfare by Temple Grandin and Michael Cockram

More details from the award hosts here: “The Bookseller announces the Diagram Prize 2020 shortlist”

The winning title will now be chosen by members of the public via an online vote. The public vote closes on Friday 20th November, with the winning entry to be announced on Friday 27th November. There is no prize for the winning author or publisher, but traditionally a passable bottle of claret is given to the nominator of the winning entry. If a title wins that was nominated by The Bookseller staff, the claret will be given at random to a member of the public who participated in the online voting. 

(2) FIYAH FOUNDER Q&A. The latest episode of The Imagination Desk, a podcast from the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University, is live now, featuring an interview with speculative fiction author Troy L. Wiggins, who is also one of the founders of FIYAH Literary Magazine. Listen in here.

The next episode will be with science fiction author and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang.

Here is the CSI newsletter on Black Speculative Fiction Month activities, which features this podcast, among other things. And here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

(3) ROCKY HORROR LIVE FUNDRAISER. This invitation was sent in Tim Curry’s name for a Rocky Horror Live virtual event to aid the Wisconsin Democratic party.

Right now, we can almost see blue skies through the tears… of the Trump presidency, of course. But we absolutely must keep the pressure on!

That’s why we’re doing the Rocky Horror Show — LIVE — this Halloween night — to help get out the vote in Wisconsin. RSVP and reserve your spot today!

This is a live, once-in-a-lifetime musical livestream event, featuring cast members both old and new. There will be singing, dancing, laughs and plenty of fun.

Chip in any amount to join us for the Rocky Horror Show Livestream on Halloween with Tim Curry, Wilmer Valderrama, Lance Bass, Rosario Dawson, Jason George, Nell Campbell, Seth Green, Jason Alexander, David Arquette, and more!

Featuring musical performances by The Dresden Dolls, Miss Peppermint, Eiza Gonzalez, Josh Gad, Ben Barnes, Jenna Ushkowitz, Rachel Bloom, Karen Olivo, Marissa Jaret Winkour, Madison Uphoff, Kalen Chase, and Rumer Willis.

This event is only going to be livestreamed once at 9pm CT on Saturday, October 31st.

(4) SANS CLUE. LitHub confirms, “We Have Edgar Allan Poe to Thank for the Detective Story”.

…These are the similarities between the Dupin stories and Sherlock Holmes, and there are many. One writer said that “The only difference between Dupin and Holmes is the English Channel.” Similarity number one: in both stories we have at the heart a highly intelligent but somewhat eccentric and enigmatic detective. The word detective did not actually exist when Poe was writing, which gives you a sense of how novel he was. He might have taken the idea from a series of magazine articles about a French policeman. Otherwise, he was on his own. This was all his….

(5) MAD, YOU KNOW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Our Culture’s Ongoing, Ever-Evolving Fascination With ‘The Mad Scientist’” on CrimeReads, sf novelist Jane Gilmartin explains why “mad scientists” remain popular characters in sf.

… Examples of the mad scientist/evil genius in everything from comic books to classics spring to mind without even breaking a sweat: Dr. No of James Bond fame, whose experiments with atomic energy cost him his hands as well as his conscience; Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, whose unquenchable thirst for knowledge drove him to a deal with the devil; Dr. Henry Wu, who fooled around with genetics and opened a questionable theme park in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, and, my personal favorite, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll, whose work brought to the surface his baser self as Mr. Hyde.

It is the last example, I think, that speaks most clearly to our fears. Scientists are people like the rest of us—multi-faceted, unpredictable and (for the most part) human. Like all of us humans, there’s always that slim chance that they’re going to turn to the proverbial dark side, especially when they get a taste of power….

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Connie Willis for “The Winds of Marble Arch”, a precursor to her Blackout/All Clear novel which would win the Best Hugo Novel eleven years later at Renovation. Runner-ups were Harry Turtledove‘s “Forty, Counting Down”, Adam-Troy Castro and Jerry Oltion‘s “The Astronaut from Wyoming”, Mike Resnick‘s “Hunting the Snark” and Kage Baker‘s “Son, Observe the Time”. It can be found in The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories, the Subterranean Press collection, which is available from the usual digital suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 —  Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might-be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1945 – Jane Chance, Ph.D., D.Litt., 75.  Mellon Distinguished Professor emerita at Rice; first woman appointed to tenure track in English; founder president of the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages; doctorate of letters, Purdue.  For us, six books on Tolkien; a score of others, a hundred articles.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1951 – Melanie Herz, 69.  Hardworking Florida fan.  Many regionals and Worldcons; chaired Traveling Fête 1996, Tropicon 21, OASIS 6. When we’ve been on the same con committee, and particularly when we were on the same DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) ballot, we tried to make sure our mail didn’t get crossed.  Still wasn’t as bad as when I had an office down the hall from a man named Heitz.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 66. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed is her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells the Robin Hood tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 60. He’s Redgick, a Squid,  a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. And he has a recurring role as Larry Your-Waiter, a member of V.F.D. on A Series of Unfortunate Events series. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1960 – David LaRochelle, 60.  A score of children’s books, many with fantasy elements.  Also an amazing astounding stellar thrilling pumpkin carver; see here.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 58. He’s in the ever-so-excellent Princess Bride as Westley / Dread Pirate Roberts / The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1969 – Mary Ting, 51.  A score of novels; taught a score of years, toured with the Magic Johnson Foundation.  Makes Twilight-themed jewelry.  Besides husband, children, has two dogs Mochi and Mocha.  [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 49. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on the most Discovery series . His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, and he showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors. (CE) 
  • Born October 26, 1972 – Zetta Elliott, Ph.D., 48.  Five novels, seven shorter stories for us; poetry; essays; plays; children’s illustrated books under her Rosetta Press.  “I write as much for parents as I do for their children because sometimes adults need the simple instruction a picture book can provide.” [JH]
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 47. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? I’ll must admit that having it described as trying to be a better Trek ain’t helping. (CE)
  • Born October 26, 1975 – David Walton, 45.  Author and engineer.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Baen Memorial Award, Campbell Memorial Award, Philip K. Dick Award.  Plays chess and go.  “Science fiction can show us the viewpoints of people whose lives and experiences are so far away from ours that … our minds are stretched and our vision is expanded.”  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds law enforcement pondering why no pumpkin is safe!
  • Yesterday’s Bizarro recalls that time Sesame Street fought for its independence. (Just when was that, anyway?)
  • Jonathan Muroya’s Greek Quarantology shows how all your favorite mythical figures are dealing with life during COVID-19.
  • After you take a look at this Wulffmorgenthaler cartoon for Denmark’s Politiken you’ll want a translation for the dialog (courtesy of Lise Andreasen):

“The death star is flat.”

“Actually, some of us believe, the death star is flat. That being round business is a conspiracy.”

(9) PIRANESI. Camestros Felapton promises substantial spoilers: “Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (substantial spoilers)”. See, what did I tell you?

This was a charming, thoughtful, often whimsical story full of a deep horror that at times wholly unnerved me. I’ll be discussing many key plot points and revelations….

(10) THE DOOM FROM THE SUN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In a quirky bit of science news, astronomers recorded a large solar flare that happened to look like a prop from an old science fiction TV show… “NASA satellites capture massive ‘Doomsday machine’ solar flare”.

From the article: “The image of the explosion was described by some as the stuff of science fiction, specifically the Doomsday machine from Star Trek. Fortunately, the CME did not hit Earth.”

(11) SILENT GOLD. Leonard Maltin has a roundup of silent film releases — “Rare Silent Films On Blu-Ray And DVD”. One of them is the rediscovered 1916 version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.  The poster for this movie is very cool.

It’s not a typo: Universal produced a feature-length version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1916, and the new DVD/Blu-ray release is a 4K transfer of the surviving material. Luckily for us, silent film historian Anthony Slide delivers a highly informative commentary track that tracks the careers of underwater-photography specialists Ernest and George Williamson. Indeed, it is their work that makes this release so intriguing, not the hackneyed mishmash of Verne’s famous story and The Mysterious Island. Alan Holubar, then a prominent actor about to turn director, and Jane Gail star. The music score is credited to Orlando Perez Rosso.

(12) SOL SEARCHING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A new way has been found to determine which stars are likely to host weird planetary systems and those stars likely to have planetary systems more like our own Solar system.

The following will appear in next season’s SF² Concatenation but they’ve shared it with File 770 now…

How many Solar system type planetary systems are there in our spiral arm? We may soon be finding out from new research.  Some planetary systems around stars are very unlike our Solar system. For example, they will have what are called hot Jupiters with a gas giant close to their star in an orbit similar to that of Mercury about our sun, rather than beyond the asteroid belt where Jupiter is in our system.

It had been thought that the type of planetary system that forms is determined by the star’s protoplanetary disk of gas and dust.  While this may be so, there is also another factor at play – whether the star formed in comparative isolation or along with loads of others in a stellar nursery.

Up to now it has been impossible to address this question as stars disperse (as the Galaxy rotates, spiral arms oscillate, local stellar conditions etc) from when they were born within a billion years of their formation.  However, ESA’s Gaia star mapping has helped British and German astronomers to determine that whether or not a star is born in a stellar nursery or more isolated by itself, is key to the type of planetary system it will host.

You see the Gaia probe not only maps stars positions, it does it so accurately that after a few years and the star is re-mapped, it is possible to discern its movement, velocity and direction.  What the researchers have found is that they can correlate those stars that seem to be moving more or less parallel to, and with a similar velocity, to other stars. These stars can be assumed to have a common birthplace in a stellar nursery. Other stars that have no movement correlation with others, can be assumed to have been born in comparative isolation. With this in mind, the astronomers looked at 600 stars Gaia had mapped.

What the astronomers found was that systems with hot Jupiters tend to be formed in crowded stellar nurseries, while those with gas giants further from their star almost invariably saw the star’s birth in comparative isolation: there were few such systems with hot Jupiters – a hot Jupiter system was roughly ten times more likely in a star born in a stellar nursery.

As the researchers themselves point out, their discovery has “possible implications for planetary habitability and the likelihood of life in the Universe” questions.  (See Winter, A. J., Kruijssen, J. M. D., Longmore S. N & Chevance, M. (2020) Stellar clustering shapes the architecture of planetary systemsNaturevol. 586, p528-532.)

Planetary systems around stars born in stellar nurseries less likely to have Solar System type planetary arrangement, but will be more likely to have hot Jupiters.

(13) MANDO MERCH. “This RC Baby Yoda Waddles Around Your House Like a 50-Year-Old Toddler” io9 writes that like it’s a bad thing!

…Available this fall for $60, the Star Wars: The Mandalorian the Child “Real Moves Plush” stands 11 inches tall, so it’s slightly smaller than the animatronic figure used in the series. Mattel still managed to stuff it full of electronics, including authentic sound effects and motors to bring it to life.

The Child’s head can turn from side to side, and look up and down while it’s giant ears wiggle, and all the mechanisms are hidden under a flexible outer skin, which makes sense when you say it, but out of context feels like a horrifying thing to say about a baby. His tiny, snuggly robes can also be further adorned with an included Mythosaur skull pendant, like the one gifted to him by Din Djarin at the end of the first season.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/8/20 It’s Time For The Retro-Dragon Awards

(1) CATS MEOW, LIZARDS THUNDER, BOOK HAPPENS. Filers Charon Dunn and Sally Smith collaborated on a book that’s newly released! What’s it about? Rhonda Wray’s “favorite boy band is trapped on a dinosaur planet and it’s up to Rhonda to save them!” Let’s eavesdrop on what their cats think about it: “Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler by Charon Dunn and Sally Smith (according to their cats)”.

Charon Dunn (above) and Sally Smith (below)

…T.B. Kahuna: I helped write the Sonny Knight trilogy. She didn’t really give me any credit. She did give me some of the cake with the book cover decoration, and it had whipped cream frosting. 

Naomi: Pardon me, I didn’t mean to talk while you were interrupting. And yes, that was very good frosting. “Charon wanted to write about a girl adventurer going from zero to hero. And about dinosaurs, and boy bands, two things that have fascinated her for at least half a century. Sally wanted to make sure the science was tight and that the hero was truly heroic. They both undertook some serious #dinosaur research and many of their surprising findings are incorporated into the book.

For instance, raptors had feathers. There’s a little controversy over whether tyrannosaurids did, but raptors are basically birds with fangs, and they probably acted a lot more like crows or parrots than a pack of wolves. Which means they could probably communicate.” …

(2) NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE. The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2020 is awarded to the American poet Louise Glück “for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

(3) MINTY FRESH. [Item by Dann.] Minty of Minty Comedic Arts dropped a “10 things” video about Dune recently.  He actually had quite a few things that I hadn’t heard before.  The behind-the-scenes ties to other genre properties were really interesting.

  • 10 Things You Didn’t Know About DUNE

As a result, I also saw this one from August.

  • 10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Matrix

(4) HI TECH, HIGH FEAR. “Thoroughly Modern Hauntings: How Ghost Stories Keep Finding New Ways To Scare Us”: Frazer Lee explains at CrimeReads.

…Modern ghost stories, rather than being exposed as bunkum by technology, have instead utilised that technology to create new sources of terror. Our baby monitors, camera phones, and laptop webcams have of course given us a window on a secure and happy world. But they have also provided the ghosts with a way in. Just in the same way that Shirley Jackson’s paranormal investigators found themselves possessed by the evil in Hill House, our need to connect with each other is now providing fertile ground for the ghosts to emerge. Poltergeist’s entry point for evil was the TV set in the corner of every living room, swiftly followed by Stephen Volk’s Ghostwatch (1992), which made us afraid to watch live TV broadcasts ever again…. 

(5) A TREK FOR NICKELODEON. Ars Technica excites Trek fans with news of “Kate Mulgrew returning as Capt. Janeway in Star Trek: Prodigy.

…Mulgrew popped in to make made the surprise announcement during the end of a Star Trek panel at this year’s all-virtual New York Comic Con. “I have invested every scintilla of my being in Captain Janeway, and I can’t wait to endow her with nuance that I never did before,” Mulgrew said. “How thrilling to be able to introduce to these young minds an idea that has elevated the world for decades. To be at the helm again is going to be deeply gratifying in a new way for me.”

…Prodigy, the first modern* Star Trek series to be explicitly targeted to a young audience, will be coming to Nickelodeon at some point in 2021. According to ViacomCBS, the show “follows a group of lawless teens who discover a derelict Starfleet ship and use it to search for adventure, meaning, and salvation.”

(6) ROCKET STACK RANK. Eric Wong forwarded the link to Rocket Stack Rank’s annual Outstanding SF/F Horror of 2019 with 28 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained by changing the Highlight from Free Online to Podcasts, changing the table View by Publication and Author, and Filtering the table by awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(7) WHO HOLIDAY SPECIAL. There’s going to be a Doctor Who holiday special – but exactly which holiday, they haven’t said. “NYCC 2020: The Gang Has To Fight A Dalek While The Doctor’s Stuck In Space Prison In Holiday Special”.

A lthough the cast of Doctor Who couldn’t reveal much about the upcoming holiday special Revolution of the Daleks, they were able to give fans a taste of what to expect during the virtual Doctor Who Spotlight New York Comic Con panel.

During the panel, series stars Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, and Bradley Walsh explained that Revolution picks up where the Season 12 finale left off, with The Doctor stuck in a maximum security space prison, while her friends were back on Earth, completely unaware of the Time Lord’s incarceration.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Fifty years ago, the British SF Association Award went to John Brunner‘s The Jagged Orbit, and it followed his BSFA Award win in the previous year for Stand on Zanzibar which also won a Hugo at St. Louiscon. It would also be nominated for a Nebula but did not win. It was first published by Doubleday the previous year, but it hasn’t been printed in almost twenty years, though Open Road Integrated Media has it as an ebook available from the usual digital suspects. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 8, 1916 – George Turner.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories; anthology The View from the Edge; memoir In the Heart or in the Head; essays, letters, reviews, in AlgolAmazingAstoundingAustralian SF News, Australian SF ReviewFoundationMetaphysical RevNY Rev SFSF CommentaryVector; Chandler, Clarke Awards; nine Ditmars (three for fiction, six for criticism); more work outside our field.  Named Guest of Honor for Aussiecon Three the 57th Worldcon but died before it was held.  Stern, perhaps waspish, distinguished.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The BBC full cast audio version of Dune is quite amazing. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. Yes, I’ve read much more by him but all that I remember vividly. (Died 1986.) (CE) 
  • Born October 8, 1924 – Suzanne Martel.  Quatre Montréalais en l’an 3000 (tr. as The City Under Ground; rev. as Surréal 3000 and The City Undergound) seems to have been the first SF novel in Quebec (or Québec).  Two dozen novels in and out of our field.  Three ACELF Prizes (Association canadienne d’éducation de langue française), Metcalf Award (for body of work; Canadian Authors’ Ass’n), Canada Council Children’s Literature Award (for Nos Amis robots tr. Robot Alert), Governor General’s Literary Award.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1928 John Bennett. A very long involvement in genre fiction starting with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ending forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1941 – Penny Frierson, 79.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 15, co-chaired ConFederation the 44th Worldcon.  Guest of Honor at Coastcon 1978 with husband Meade; fanzines with him e.g. Friersign Theater PresentsScarfing Humble Pie; play (with MF) Shattered Like a Clockwork Orange.  Rebel Award.  [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1946 – Andrew Stephenson, 74.  Two novels, five shorter stories; a dozen covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Vector 69.  Here is the Aug 75 Galaxy.  Here is an interior for Inferno in its magazine serialization.  [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Richard Hescox, 71.  A hundred fifty covers, fifty interiors; more outside our field.  Artbooks The Fantasy Art of RHThe Deceiving Eye.  Gaughan Award.  Cover designer for DAW Books 1987-1994.  Here is Walkers on the Sky.  Here is Once on a Time.  Here is Dancer of the Sixth.  Here is The Sailor on the Seas of Fate.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 71. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and Lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film Best Dramatic Presentation Award after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. And yes, I know Conspiracy ‘87 gave Aliens a Best Dramatic Presentation Award as well but I’m really not a fan of that franchise. (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1951 Terry Hayes, 69. Screenwriter of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior which he co-wrote with George Miller & Brian Hannant, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Miller, and From Hell (from the Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell novel) which he co-wrote with Rafael Yglesias. He’s also the writer of an unused screenplay, Return of the Apes. (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. Stephen is dead, damn it all. The saddest part of doing these birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. Babylon 5 has had far too many deaths among its cast. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill-prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born October 8, 1983 Molly C. Quinn, 37. Fey / Intern Molly / Melony on the Welcome to Night Night podcast and Pemily Stallwark on the sort of related Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. She’s Jenny in the Authurian Avalon High series, and showed up in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Howard’s date. (CE)
  • Born October 8, 1988 – Charlotte McConaghy, 32.  Author, screenwriter.  Eight novels.  Interested in nature and fierce women.  Migrations just released.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark gives a genre example of a “senior moment.”

(11) BEA MOVIE. Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest podcast is “Howard Ashman Documentary” which is a double-length episode centering around Don Hahn’s documentary Howard:  The Howard Ashman Story, currently streaming on Disney+. Director Hahn, who the Maltins had interviewed before, is interviewed along with Ashman’s life partner, Bill Lauch; his sister, Sarah Gillespie;, composer Alan Menken; and Little Mermaid writer/director John Musker.

Fun fact:  the producers of The Little Mermaid modeled villain Ursula after Bea Arthur but Arthur never read for the part because her agent refused to send her the script because he didn’t want her playing a witch.

(12) GEORGE CARLIN. Matthew Berry’s ESPN fantasy football column begins with a reminiscence about his first boss, George Carlin, which some of you who don’t hang around sports sites might like to read just the same.

…To be specific, I was the stage PA (production assistant) for “The George Carlin Show,” a 1994 sitcom that ran on Fox, so technically I was the assistant to George and the rest of the cast. But George was the star and, you know, his name was in the title, so it was made clear to me by my bosses that my primary and even my secondary duty was taking care of George and anything he needed, any time he needed it.

I answered the stage phone for him (George didn’t have a cellphone back then). I got meals for him. I would drive scripts to his house, and then I would drive George’s handwritten notes on scripts (George preferred to write things out longhand, and if he used email back then I never saw it) and bring them back to the writers room, among many other various tasks, all of them with the sole purpose of making George’s life easier.

I absolutely loved working for him.

As kind and gentle a guy as you’d ever want to meet, someone if you didn’t know who he was you’d never guess was a living legend. The exact opposite of his on-stage persona, he was always positive, not angry. Soft-spoken and unassuming, he was the first guy on the set every morning and the last guy to leave….

(13) JEOPARDY! Rich Lynch says tonight’s Jeopardy! has a whole category on science fiction novels.

Andrew Porter found contestants had trouble with this item —

Category: The World is Not Enough

Answer: In a Larry Niven novel, a motley crew of explorers travel to this ribbon-like “world” that encircles a star.

Wrong question: What is Discworld?

(14) PEGG’S PARANORMAL PROJECT. SYFY Wire eavesdrops on the New York Comic Con program: “Truth Seekers: Nick Frost And His Co-Stars Share Their Own Ghost Stories At Nycc 2020”.

When the Ghostbusters are busy and can’t catch a last-minute flight to England, who ya gonna call? Truth Seekers! Before the new paranormal comedy series hits Amazon later this month, Nick Frost and most of the core cast stopped by New York Comic Con to discuss the project, which Frost co-created with Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz, and Nat Saunders. The panel kicked off with the actors recounting some of their personal experiences with the otherworldly.

After breaking up with a former girlfriend years ago, Frost came home to find all of his possessions (save for a single mattress) had been taken by his ex. With her gone, strange things started to happen.

“Me and Simon Pegg ended up sleeping on this single mattress and just watching The X-Files on this weird, TV-video player combo,” said the Shaun of the Dead actor, who plays Gus, a paranormal investigator posing as an internet technician. “But we’d hear the door banging all the time and this bell would ring. And then one day I was laying there, watching TV, and I felt a woman kiss my forehead. As I span ’round, thinking it was Simon mucking about, I was just there in the house on my own.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Daniel Craig was on Jimmy Fallon’s show on Monday and said that he had never had a martini until he was chosen as James Bond, so the first thing he did was to go to Whole Foods, get a bottle of vermouth and a bottle of vodka and learned how to make one.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/25/20 The Scrollwave Pixel

(1) GUIDING LIGHTS. “Personal Canons: Young Wizards” is Erin Maier’s guest post in a series at Sarah Gailey’s blog.

…Here Young Wizards says: it’s never too late to change. Diane Duane comes back to this idea again and again throughout the series. Wizardry is always about choosing to change or not, in one way or another. Of course, change is never without a price: wizardry gives only so much as it is given. But if you are willing, if you choose, you can change more than you ever dreamed.

“This is a business for saints, not children!” Nita’s father exclaims to Tom and Carl in High Wizardry, upon learning Nita’s younger sister Dairine has also become a wizard. “Even saints have to start somewhere,” they tell him. The youngest wizards have the most power, because they aren’t yet so confined by the idea of “possible.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman says “Uh-oh! It’s Spider-Man SpaghettiOs with comics writer/editor/historian Danny Fingeroth” in Episode 128 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Danny Fingeroth

I’ve known that guest, Danny Fingeroth, for more than 40 years. A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee, his biography of “The Man,” has just been released in paperback. That’s but the latest of his many accomplishments since he started in comics back in the ’70s as an assistant at Marvel to previous guest Larry Lieber.

Danny went on to become group editor for all the Spider-Man titles, and writer of the Deadly Foes of Spider-Man and Lethal Foes of Spider-Man mini-series, plus long runs on Dazzler and Darkhawk. His other books in addition to that Stan Lee bio include Superman On The Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Society and Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero.

As for dinner … our multi-course meal was made up of nothing but Marvel-branded food — which clearly should be ingested for their novelty value only — about which you’ll hear us kibitz during our conversation.

We discussed his start (like mine) in the Marvel British reprint department, what was wrong with the early letters he wrote to comics as a kid, his admittedly over-generalized theory that there were only two kinds of people on staff at Marvel, our differing reactions to the same first comic book convention in 1970, our somewhat similar regrets about the old-timers we worked beside during our early days in comics, the reason working in comics was wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time, why he wanted to be not only Stan Lee, but both Stan and Jack Kirby, how he was able to interview “The Man” and get him to say things he’d never said before, why comics was the perfect medium for Stan Lee, and much more.

(3) IT’S NO SECRET. Mythaxis casts their “Editor Spotlight on Ellen Datlow”.

DSW: What’s your secret to being so successful as an editor of anthologies?

ED: It depends on what one means by success. I’ve been lucky to continue to propose anthologies that are of interest to enough publishers and readers that they sell OK (usually, but not always).

But basically I only edit anthologies on themes that are broad enough that I can get the writers I solicit stories from to push the envelope of that theme. I’ll be living with the “theme” for at least two years from conception to publication so I have to love it.

I’d very much like to edit more non-themed anthologies but they’re a very hard sell.

(4) THE BOMB PICTURE BOOM OF 1947. Leonard Maltin rolls out his list of “New And Notable Film Books  September 2020”.

THE BEGINNING OR THE END: HOW HOLLYWOOD—AND AMERICA—LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB by Greg Mitchell (The New Press)

A letter to Donna Reed from a former schoolteacher led to MGM making the first film about the development of the atomic bomb. That’s the first nugget in this scrupulously researched tale of The Beginning or the End (1947), a film that tried to keep everyone from J. Robert Oppenheimer and President Harry S. Truman happy and wound up pleasing almost no one. Author Greg Mitchell appears shocked—shocked!—that Washington exerted such power over a movie studio, but threads his story with documentation that is beyond dispute. An experienced author and researcher (whose earlier book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair’s Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics is a longtime favorite of mine) he reveals his ignorance of old movies when he badly summarizes the career of Brian Donlevy—who was chosen to play General Leslie Groves in this film—but stays on solid ground when he details the endless negotiations that won the government’s approval of the finished picture. It’s an interesting saga that has particular relevance as we reevaluate the consequences of the bombs that dropped on Japan 75 years ago.

(5) HOSTS OF GHOSTS. Amy Shearn analyzes “How Literary Ghosts Can Help Us All Be a Little More Human” at LitHub.

…Or, okay, at the very least, we can all agree that hauntings are a very useful metaphor. “Whether or not ghosts are real,” writes Erica Wright, “their stories give us inspiration, a way to live more alert to possibilities.” A ghost in a story can deliver information living characters lack access to, so it’s no wonder spirits have apparated throughout Western literature, from Hamlet’s truth-telling father to the psychological spirits of Henry James’s The Turn of the ScrewA literary ghost can also be a neat way to link a story’s present with the past, a seductive trick for the expansively-minded novelist. The contemporary American ghost tends to be a little more complicated, however, than a Dickensian Ghost of Christmas Past rattling around in a nightgown. As Parul Sehgal writes in the New York Times, “The ghost story shape-shifts because ghosts themselves are so protean—they emanate from specific cultural fears and fantasies… They are social critiques camouflaged with cobwebs; the past clamoring for redress.” She notes that America is a haunted country, despite, or maybe because of, our “energetic amnesia.”

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago, Greg Bear’s Moving Mars, the third novel in his Quantum Logic series, won the Nebula Award beating out works by Octavia E. Butler, Jonathan Lethem, James K. Morrow, Rachel Pollack, Kim Stanley Robinson and Roger Zelazny. It would also be nominated for the Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. It would lose in the Hugo race for Best Novel at ConAdian to Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars.  (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine.  With husband Ian (1916-1995) established Bantam Books, then Ballantine Books which they led to a fine SF publishing history: Blish, Bradbury, Clarke, Kornbluth, Leiber, Niven, Pohl, Tolkien; a hundred covers by Richard Powers, a distinctive genius.  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) President’s Award; Special Committee Award from the 64th Worldcon; World Fantasy Award for life achievement; SF Hall of Fame (Betty & Ian jointly).  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein.  Cartoonist, journalist, poet, songster.  Introduced to most by the Ballantines.  Here is one of his collections.  Here is another.  Is he jolly, or melancholy?  Have you sung “The Boa Constrictor”, by golly?  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1932 J. Carol Holly. Her various book dedications showed she had a strong love of cats. I’ve not encountered her novels but she wrote a fair number of them including ten genre novel plus The Assassination Affair, a novel in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. franchise. Only The Flying Eyes novel by her is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1946 – John D. Owen, 74.  Fanziner noted particularly for Crystal Ship, which you can see here, and Shipyard Blues, which you can see here (both in archived copies).  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 69. I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1957 – Christine Morton-Shaw, 63.  Two novels for us; a half dozen picture books for young children which have been found fun.  You may already know her teen fantasy The Riddles of Epsilon.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1960 – Kristin Hannah, 60. Lawyer and fictionist.  Two novels for us; a score of others (historical fiction The Nightingale sold 2 million copies).  “The mall?  I live on an island.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 25, 1961 Heather Locklear, 59. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the UnexpectedFantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clark “Prophecy of Doom” on Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 58. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, the very short-lived Nightmare CafeMann & MachineProject Shadowchaser IILegend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry. (CE)
  • Born September 25, 1964 Maria Doyle Kennedy, 56. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in the soon to be filmed The Wheel of Time series. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1969Catherine Zeta-Jones, 51. Her first role ever was as Scheherazade in the French short 1001 Nights. The Daily Telegraph noted it’s remembered only for its “enjoyable nude scenes”.  Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off of The Haunting of Hill House. And finally she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. (CE) 
  • Born September 25, 1989 – Élodie Serrano, 31.  Two novels, collection The Die Is Cast, twenty more stories (e.g. “Muse for Sale, Accepts Souls”, “The Word Thief”, “At the Heart of Plants”), in French.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TAKING FLIGHT. Lyles Movie Files reports “Aldis Hodge joins Black Adam cast to play Hawkman”.

If you’ve been reading my comic book reviews, you know Hawkman is one of my favorite comics out right now. Robert Venditti has written an excellent take on the character and he’s reached new heights (sorry) of what’s possible with him.

It was kind of fitting then that I saw the news about Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) being cast as Hawkman in the Black Adam movie from Venditti’s Twitter feed….

Hodge joins Dwayne Johnson, who plays the title character Black Adam, and Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before) who will be Atom Smasher. The Black Adam version of the JSA is small with only Doctor Fate and Cyclone revealed although their casting have yet to be announced.

(10) LEARN WHILE YOU BURN. James Davis Nicoll pulled from the shelf “Five Fantasy Novels Starring Self-Taught Protagonists” at Tor.com. One of them is –

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher (2020)

Riverbraid prides itself on its toleration of magickers, even minor ones like Mona, whose talents are limited to baked goods. Because Mona is poor and her magic has no obvious military applications, she’s left to work in her aunt’s bakery. It’s not a bad life, really. Everything changes the morning that Mona finds a corpse sprawled on the floor of the bakery.

The victim is a another magicker. It soon becomes apparent that someone is hunting down the magically talented. Mona’s attempts to unravel the mystery involve her in a desperate resistance against high-level scheming and barbarian invasion. Only a baker can save the day.

(11) ROAMING CHARGES. LitHub reports “$3.2 million worth of rare stolen books have been found under a house in rural Romania.”

When a group of thieves stole $3.2 million worth of rare books from a London warehouse in 2017, including seminal scientific texts by Isaac Newton and Galileo, they shocked the antiquarian book world and inspired a number of theories about what had happened. Who would target such rare titles—including a 1566 edition of On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by Nicolaus Copernicus, worth $268,000—that they would be essentially impossible to sell on the black market?

An anonymous source told The Guardian that the heist “must be for some one specialist. There must be a collector behind it.” One source, in Smithsonian, said that “a wealthy collector known as ‘The Astronomer’ may have hired the thieves to steal the books for him.” Other texts in the collection included those by Leonardo da Vinci and a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy from 1569.

Now, British, Romanian, and Italian investigators working together have found them: they were “in a concealed space under a house in rural Romania,” the Associated Press reports. The main suspects are members of a Romanian organized crime group, and police have already arrested 13 people in connection with this heist and a string of other high-profile burglaries.

(12) RUSSIAN VACCINE DATA SUSPICIOUS SAY RESEARCHERS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Putin is rushing out a vaccine – Sputnik V – against SARS-CoV-2 / CoVID-9 but it has not had mass testing, though it has had a small trial on 76 volunteers. The immune response of this small trial has been reported in The Lancet.

This rushed approval (by Russia only – as the approval does not meet international standards) has previously been criticised.  However, now, the Russian paper in The Lancet reporting the trial has also been criticised in an open letter by 40 biomedical research scientists.

The Lancet paper does not include in the on-line version the underlying data. Conversely, the Oxford University and Astra Zeneca vaccine paper previously published in The Lancet had the underlying data included.  Without it, it is impossible to check the headline data in the paper.

Further, in the headline data that was included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper in The Lancet, there were seeming repetitions. While these repetitions could be purely coincidence, they are unlikely.

The journal Nature became intrigued and their news team investigated. The Russian researchers  are standing by their paper and have not responded to Nature’s news team’s queries.  Nor has The Lancet commented why it failed to insist that the underlying data be included in the Sputnik V vaccine paper as it was for the British vaccine.

The news article in Nature is open access and can be found here: “Researchers Question Russian Covid Vaccination Trial Reults”.

(13) ANTARCTICA IS CLOSE TO THE POINT WHERE FURTHER WARMING WILL SEE A COMMITMENT TO ICE SHEET COLLAPSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Researchers have looked at how the Antarctic has responded in the past and compared this with an ice sheet model that includes a number of feedbacks.  For example, with ice surface melt, the surface becomes less reflective and so absorbs more sunlight. So enhancing future warming. Also with surface melt, the melted ice drains away lowering the surface and low altitude surfaces are warmer.  There are other feedbacks, both positive and negative.

We have already warmed the planet by 1.25°C above pre-industrial era temperatures. The researchers have found that up to 2°C above pre-industrial  there is some stability in both the West and East Antarctic ice sheets.  However, above 2°C warming (which we are currently on track to reach before the mid-21st century) the West Antarctic ice sheet becomes committed to partial collapse. Also, above 2°C warming sea level rise from Antarctic melt almost doubles to 2.4 metres per degree of warming.  Above 6°C, melt soars to 10 metres per degree of warming up to 9°C above pre-industrial.

Worse, once each threshold level is reached, it is harder to reverse.  That is to say cooling to temperatures back to the threshold point will not reverse matters: still further cooling is required.

The paper’s abstract is here. (The full paper is behind a pay wall.)

(14) SHIP AHOY. Gizmodo effuses that “The Mandalorian’s Razor Crest Is Hasbro’s Next Magnificent Crowdfunding Toy”.

With a handful of successfully funded projects under its belt, including a towering X-Men Sentinel robot, Hasbro’s HasLab crowdfunding platform is returning to its Star Wars roots with another Vintage Collection spaceship: an incredibly detailed, 30-inch long replica of the Razor Crest from The Mandalorian. Now this is the way.

Designed to be perfectly scaled to Hasbro’s 3.75-inch action figures, the Star Wars: The Vintage Collection Razor Crest also measures in at an impressive 20-inches wide and 10.5-inches tall when perched on its functional retractable landing gear…. 

(15) OVER THE RIVER. A comedy mini-series earns raves from The Guardian: “Zomboat! A surprisingly clever and refreshingly upbeat zombie apocalypse”.

If you’re craving a zombie series that ditches the cynicism and has some good old-fashioned fun with the idea, then allow me to introduce you to Zomboat!, a short, six-episode British comedy with a silly title but a surprisingly clever premise.

The series follows sisters Kat and Jo (Leah Brotherhead and Crazyhead’s Cara Theobold) after they wake up one Sunday to find Birmingham under attack by zombies. As a gamer nerd who knows her zombie lore, Kat already has a plan for this scenario – steal a canal boat and escape to Eel Pie Island in London, because zombies can’t swim. And, as Kat puts it, “The Walking Dead would have been over in one season if Rick Grimes had gone to the Everglades.”

After stealing said canal boat, the sisters find two stowaways in the bathroom: misanthropic Sunny (Hamza Jeetooa) and his sensitive gym bro buddy Amar (Ryan McKen), who are stranded in the city after a stag weekend. Though they clash at first, the group decides to team up for survival, leading to plenty of bickering, bonding and snogs. As a result, the series avoids falling into the same style-over-substance trap that spoiled other recent zombie comedies (like Netflix’s Daybreak); instead, it benefits from the kind of found-family warmth that made Zombieland so charming.

(16) COMPOUND INTEREST. “A Student Just Proved Paradox-Free Time Travel Is Possible” – but why am I learning about this from Yahoo! Finance?

…In a new peer-reviewed paper, a senior honors undergraduate says he has mathematically proven the physical feasibility of a specific kind of time travel. The paper appears in Classical and Quantum Gravity….

The math itself is complex, but it boils down to something fairly simple. Time travel discussion focuses on closed time-like curves (CTCs), something Albert Einstein first posited. And Tobar and Costa say that as long as just two pieces of an entire scenario within a CTC are still in “causal order” when you leave, the rest is subject to local free will.

“Our results show that CTCs are not only compatible with determinism and with the local ‘free choice’ of operations, but also with a rich and diverse range of scenarios and dynamical processes,” their paper concludes….

(17) ATTENTION ELEANOR CAMERON FANS. Lehman College Multimedia Music Theater and Dance department presents Wonderful Flight To The Mushroom Planet. A musical composed by Penny Prince.

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michal Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/10/20 The Pixelways Will Scroll

(1) SOUNDING OFF. John Scalzi’s new novella in The Dispatcher series debuted today as an audiobook narrated by Zachary Quinto. You can hear the two of them discuss it via Whatever: “Here’s Me and Zachary Quinto Interviewing Each Other About ‘Murder By Other Means’”.

(2) THE SOUND AND THE FURRY. Maria Poletta, in the Arizona Republic story “On Cameo, Joe Arpaio welcomed a furry convention to Arizona. Hours later, he learned what it was”, says that Sheriff Joe Arpaio (famously pardoned by President Trump) recorded a message on Cameo welcoming a furry convention to Arizona although it’s not clear he knew what furries were(he pronounced furry “fury.”)

It seems former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has found a new gig after another unsuccessful bid for public office.

Unsurprisingly, it’s in front of the camera. 

For $30.99, users of Cameo — an app where singers, actors and other public figures record custom video messages for a fee — can request a personalized clip of the divisive figure saying whatever they want.

And supporters and critics alike are seizing the opportunity. 

Most of Arpaio’s Cameo videos appear to be standard fare, such as birthday greetings, thank-you messages, congratulatory comments. But one that began circulating on social media on Tuesday evening, an encouraging message for the organizers of an upcoming event, raised eyebrows. 

“Hey, good luck organizing the Arizona Furry convention,” Arpaio begins, though he pronounces it “Fury,” suggesting he’s not totally certain what he’s been asked to talk about. It’s “for animal lovers,” he adds by way of explanation.

“I’ve always loved animals, fought those that abused animals and will continue to do so,” he continues. “In any event, have a great convention.”

…Many members of the subculture have defined it as one dedicated to artistic expression and helping people come out of their shells, but they’ve long had to endure jokes from people who mock “fur-suiting” as a sexual fetish. 

Judging by the requester listed on Arpaio’s Cameo, the person who ordered the video may be one of them. The username: Sir Yiffs A Lot.

“Yiff” refers to furry-related sexual content or activity, which made Arpaio’s sign-off all the more cringeworthy. 

“As far as what animal I would like to be, I’m kind of partial to dogs,” he says after a pause, as if responding to a question included in the video request. “But I love all animals. Thanks.”

(3) LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR MOSLEY. Walter Mosley will be presented the  National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, presented by Edwidge Danticat. Winners of the award receive $10,000 and a solid brass medal.

“Mosley is a master of craft and narrative, and through his incredibly vibrant and diverse body of work, our literary heritage has truly been enriched,” said David Steinberger, chair of the NBA board of directors, in the release. “From mysteries to literary fiction to nonfiction, Mosley’s talent and memorable characters have captivated readers everywhere, and the Foundation is proud to honor such an illustrious voice whose work will be enjoyed for years to come.”

(4) MORE ROCK THAN ROLL. “Lafawndah’s The Fifth Season by Lily Sperry” profiles an album that draws on N.K. Jemisin’s trilogy.

At first glance, what surprises about Lafawndah’s new album, The Fifth Season, is the absence of her image on the cover. Instead of the regal, sometimes confrontational gazes adorning past works, such as Ancestor Boy (2019) and “Tan” (2016), here the listener is greeted with the empty eyes of an amorphous stone figure, kneeling, palms extended, on what seems to be the edge of the Earth. It’s unclear if this character is meant to represent Lafawndah herself, or something else entirely—but upon listening to the album, it almost doesn’t matter. As an artist who self-identifies as a “creative orphan,” shapeshifting is written into Lafawndah’s DNA. It’s only appropriate that her latest release takes it as its central mode.

Its core subject, however, marks a decisive break from past projects. Rather than looking inward, Lafawndah instead extends outward, drawing on the emotionally charged myths of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy to guide her. Set in a far-future Earth rife with conflict and periodic disasters (“Seasons”) that threaten to destroy all human life, Jemisin’s Afrofuturist series tells tales of heartbreak, strife, and conflict from the perspectives of three different women. It’s only at the end the reader realizes that each character is the same person, at different points in her life….

(5) SUGGESTIONS NEEDED. “So what should do I with a half dozen signed limited edition posters by Charles Vess? Can you think of a worthy fan cause?” Cat Eldridge looks to Filers for suggestions.

“No, I don’t know why he sent them.” says Cat. “I think they’re twenty years old now but they’re in excellent shape.”

(6) VIBRANT VAMPIRES. “There Are Real Vampires in Texas. We Interviewed Them.” Fodors has the story.

The best little vampire court in Texas.

Everything’s bigger in Texas—even the vampire scene. Television and film have catapulted vampires into the mainstream, cementing vampirism into pop culture. From the cult classic Interview with the Vampire to FXX series What We Do in the Shadows, there’s no shortage of fictional portrayals of vampire life and the people who crave to be like them. Life can be stranger than fiction, and real-life vampires exist. While they tend to have an affinity for the occult, they’ve sunk their fangs into philanthropy and social good during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas is one of many states that boasts of vibrant vampire communities, known as courts. Self-identifying vampires can apply for membership in their city. To an outsider, these vampire courts may sound eerie. For the vampires, the courts are a place they can find belonging….

(7) ON THE FRONT. Lauren Panepinto examines “Book Cover Trends Thru Time (Via Dune)” at Muddy Colors.

…One of my favorite ways to visualize how much book cover design has changed over the years is to track one classic book that tends to get redesigned every few years and see how the designs have evolved. Honestly the entire Penguin Classics imprint survives on this as an entire business model. There have been entire academic studies and books published on the design history of books like Lolita. But this is a SciFi Fantasy Art blog and it just so happens that the new Dune trailer finally came out today, so we’re going to be looking at the last few decades of book cover design through the lens of Dune by Frank Herbert….

PRE-BOOK HISTORY

The stories that would become Dune were first serialized in Analog Magazine starting in December 1963. John Schoenherr was commissioned on August 7, 1963 (great backstory on the blog kept by his son Ian Schoenherr here) to create images for the covers and interiors for “Dune World” 1, 2, and 3.

(8) PARDUE OBIT. Filker Naomi Pardue took her own life reports Tom Smith who said, “She had been very depressed for awhile now, after the death of a close friend.”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 1990 — The 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Would go to Neil Gaiman’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was published thirty years ago this month in the nineteenth issue of Sandman. It features the beginning of Morpheus’ creative partnership with William Shakespeare, and is the only comic book to date to win a World Fantasy Award. It was drawn by Charles Vess and colored by Steve Oliff. The final issue of Sandman, number seventy five, “The Tempest”,  concerns the second of the two plays commissioned by Morpheus.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 10, 1860 – Margaret Armour.  Novelist, poet, translator.  Translated the Nibelungenlied into English prose (1887), then Wagner’s four Nibelungen operas The Rhine Gold and The ValkyrieSiegfried and Twilight of the Gods, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1912); also Legerlotz’ Gudrun (1932).  Outside our field, tr. Heine with Leland and Brooksbank; and her own works. (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1905 – Jay Jackson.  A hundred interiors for AmazingFantasticGolden FleeceWeird Tales.  Here is Robert Bloch’s “Secret of the Observatory”.  Here is “The Space Pirate”.  Here is “Planet of the Gods”.  Also outside our field: here is an image for World War II bonds.  He appears to have been the first black SF artist.  See this from the Chicago Defender.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1911 – William Crawford.  Published and edited Fantasy Book (as Garret Ford; with wife Margaret Crawford), Marvel TalesUnusualSpaceway (i.e. not Harry Warner’s fanzine Spaceways).  Early LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) member.  Seven anthologies, some uncredited.  Started SF conventions.  Seen in Locus as late as 1981.  Helped many; received the Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1914 Robert Wise. Film director, producer, and editor. Among his accomplishments are directing The Curse of The Cat PeopleThe Day the Earth Stood StillThe HauntingThe Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Though not at all genre, he also directed West Side Story and edited Citizen Kane. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1927 – Betty Levin, 93.  Ten novels for us; several others outside our field e.g. Starshine and Sunglow (“Grace and subtle humor” – Kirkus), Thorn (“Strongly lyrical writing, unusual & provocative themes” – Kirkus).  Judy Lopez Award, Hope Dean Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 68. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 67. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she has co-written with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 65. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised unto high for being founder along with AC Crispin of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. (CE) 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Tara Ward, 61. She played Preston in the “Warriors of the Deep”, a Third Doctor story.  After Doctor Who, she shows up in one-offs in Star Cops and Dark Realm, the Eric Roberts as the Host with vampire teeth horror anthology series,beforehaving a very minor role in the Justice League film. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 61. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues #110 to #138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile. (CE)
  • Born September 10, 1964 – Chip Kidd, 56.  Some say he does 75 covers a year.  “Designing books is no laughing matter.  Okay, it is.”   Here is Jurassic Park.  Here is Was.  Here is The Elephant Vanishes.  Here is Loop.  Infinity Award for Design (Int’l Center of Photography), Nat’l Design Award for Communication, AIGA (Am. Inst. Graphic Arts) Medal.  “I’m very much against the idea that the cover will sell the book.  Marketing departments of publishing houses tend to latch onto this concept and they can’t let go.  But it’s about whether the book itself really connects with the public, and the cover is only a small part of that.”  [JH]
  • Born September 10, 1977 – Emily Snyder, 43.  Directed eleven Shakespeare plays, performed in twenty-five, including Brutus in Julius Caesar and Prospero in The Tempest.  Love and Death trilogy in blank verse Persephone Rises, The Seduction of Adonis and Cupid and Psyche.  Matter of Arthur plays The Table Round and The Siege Perilous.  Novels for us Niamh and the Hermit, Charming the Moon.  Feminist and Catholic.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WONDERBEASTS. [Item by N.] Cartoon Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts premieres its third (three seasons in a single year!!) and as of this writing final season on October 12.

(13) CAN YOU DIG IT? An archeology-inspired adventure is the big idea at Whatever today: “The Big Idea: Dan Hanks”.

“It belongs in a museum.”

That’s the quote we all know and love, uttered as the bad guys try to steal the priceless artifact away from Indiana Jones. And when he says it, the audience is usually cheering him on. He’s the scientist with the archaeological smarts after all. He knows how much these artifacts could benefit the world, so he’s going to risk his life to give us the chance to see them. Pretty damn noble if you ask me.

Except.

That’s not really the whole story, is it? 

Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire, was always meant to be a fast, fun, action-packed adventure in the Indiana Jones style. An entertaining beach read (or, I guess, ‘pandemic read’ now). However, it was also important to me to address some serious archaeological issues, in particular the colonial elements of these types of stories. I wanted to pull that aspect into the torch light and inspect it properly (while hoping it didn’t set off a trap). 

The big idea here is that the famous “it belongs in a museum” line is only half complete. In a world where archaeologists and museums are being nudged to move beyond their colonial past, it deserves a follow-up: 

Whose?

(14) ANGER BENEATH THE WHIMSY. In an essay for the New York Times, James Traub contends “Doctor Dolittle’s Talking Animals Still Have Much to Say”.

…No one could say that the books have grown quaint or stale; just ask my third graders. Nor was Walpole indulging in hyperbole. Doctor Dolittle is a wonderful creation: a Victorian eccentric from the pages of Dickens; a perpetual bachelor who drives conventional humans from his life but is much loved by the poor and the marginal; a gentleman whose exquisite politesse never falters, even before sharks and pirates; a peace-loving naturalist prepared to wage war to defend his friends from evil depredations. Only by the standards of the world of grown-ups does he “do little.”

… Lofting really was a genius of children’s literature. But he was also a product of the British Empire. When Doctor Dolittle goes to Africa to cure the monkeys, he stumbles into the Kingdom of Jolliginki. Prince Bumpo, the heir to the throne, is a mooncalf who mistakes fairy tales for real life, speaks in Elizabethan periphrasis and murmurs to himself: “If only I were a white prince!” In the pencil sketches with which Lofting illustrates his texts, Prince Bumpo looks like the missing link between man and ape. Lofting’s biographer, Gary D. Schmidt, defensively notes that Doctor Dolittle himself rarely utters a bigoted word. But the doctor is only a character; the narrator and the illustrator are none other than our author. While Lofting never fails to give his Africans a measure of nobility, he is also quite certain of their savagery.

… The edition I read was probably published in 1950, three years after Lofting’s death. By the 1970s, he had gone into eclipse. Over the years, new editions appeared that attempted to address the racism, including one in 1988 from which all pictures of Prince Bumpo and his parents had been removed, along with all references to their skin color, not to mention their wish to change it. “If this verbal and visual caution occasionally seems almost craven,” a reviewer for The New York Times Book Review wrote, the blind spots for which it sought to compensate were real.

(15) SET DECORATION BY NATURE. Yeah, this is how San Francisco looked yesterday.

(16) BOOKS ON TAP. Baen Books authors will make two livestreaming appearances Publishers Weekly’s Books on Tap LIVE series in the coming months.  The authors will be interviewed with the opportunity to answer questions at the end of the segment.

The first, featuring Larry Correia, will air on Wednesday, September 23rd at 4:00 PM EDT. Larry Correia is the bestselling author of the Monster Hunter International urban fantasy series, the Grimnoir trilogy, and the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior military epic fantasy series with the latest novel Destroyer of Worlds, on sale September 1st.

David Weber & Jacob Holo will be teaming up for an event on Wednesday, October 7th at 4:00 PM EDT to celebrate the release of The Valkyrie Protocol, the second book in their Gordian Division time travel adventure series. David Weber is a multiple New York Times best-selling author, the creator of the Honor Harrington military science fiction series, as well as Path of the Fury, the Hell’s Gate multiverse series, the Dahak Saga, and many more. The Valkyrie Protocol is on sale October 6th.

The authors are known for lively dialogue, interesting backstories, and enjoying interaction with guests.  These events are free to the public.  To sign up for these special events go here September 23rd at 4:00 for Larry Correia; and a link will be forthcoming for the event on October 7th at 4:00 for David Weber and Jacob Holo.

(17) MALTIN ON MOVIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Lord and Miller met at Dartmouth, where they wrote a comic strip about a chain-smoking squirrel that was turned into a feature in the Dartmouth alumni magazine.  That magazine ended up on Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s corporate jet, which led to a phone call the undergraduates got asking them to come to Hollywood and take a meeting, which they declined because they were doing mid-term exams. 

After they were graduated, Disney hired them but their first great success came with the MTV series “Clone High,” which was banned in India because Gandhi was one of the clones.  Most of the podcast includes discussion of the Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs movies and The Lego Movie.  The podcast was produced before The Lego Movie 2 came out.  There is much discussion about why it’s so much harder to come up with a good script for an animated film than for a feature film, with Leonard Maltin noting that Walt Disney threw out six months’ work on Pinocchio.

There was one question about SOLO, the Star Wars project that Lord and Miller were sacked from.

(18) RICK AND MORTY CUISINE. “Pringles Has Brought Back Its Pickle Rick Chips, and Launched Two New ‘Rick and Morty’ Flavors” – let Yahoo! Life tell you all about it.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to the Pringles and Rick and Morty collaboration that resulted in Pickle Rick pickle-flavored chips. Not only are the chips — which were released in honor of the Super Bowl — available again, but there are two new varieties that were inspired by the Adult Swim series.

The special-edition Pickle Rick flavor is joined by Honey Mustard Morty and Look at Me! I’m Cheddar & Sour Cream. While the flavors are self-explanatory (hello, honey mustard-flavored and cheddar-and-sour-cream-flavored chips!), there’s a reason these three were chosen. Stacking Pringles flavors, which fit so perfectly together, has been gaining popularity over the past couple of years, according to the brand. The idea here is that you take one of each chip and eat them together for an insane flavor combination….

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

Pixel Scroll 9/4/20 When The Scroll Comes A Filing, The Pixel Turn It Back, First From The Circle, Fifth From The Track

(1) FREE WOLVES. The first episode of Raised By Wolves is free on YouTube SYFY Wire has the story:

Those interested in blasting off to a distant world filled with strife and android parents are in luck: HBO Max has put the entire first episode of its new sci-fi show, Raised By Wolves, on YouTube for free.

(2) BUTLER ON BESTSELLER LIST. SYFY Wire celebrates Octavia Butler’s posthumous breakthrough to the NY Times Bestseller List: “Author Octavia Butler Reaches New York Times Best Seller List, 14 Years After Her Death”.

It may have taken more than 44 years since the publication of her first-ever novel, but one of Octavia E. Butler‘s books has finally made it into the New York Times Best Seller List — something the widely-acclaimed science fiction author had envisioned for herself several years ago. 

The novel to reach the list is 1993’s The Parable of the Sower, which offers an uncanny, but no less prescient glimpse at California in the early 2020s, a dystopian future where people are dealing with global climate change, as well as an economic crisis. 

This is the book’s first time on the NYTimes Paperback Trade Fiction list, where it currently sits at no. 13, though future weeks could see it rise, if not stay, due to both Butler’s cultural impact as an author, as well as the plot’s renewed relevance, given the current global climate — not unlike the surge in popularity seen by other dystopian novels following the 2016 election, such as Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell‘s 1984. The book is currently a bestseller on Amazon, where it’s also No. 1 in the African American Science Fiction category…. 

(3) ANTHOLOGY ROUNDUP. Mark R. Kelly, whose Science Fiction Awards Database is an incredible resource, told Facebook readers today he has expanded its usefulness in another direction: Anthologies.

Over at my science fiction awards website, sfadb.com, I have — after a year of work — greatly expanded the section about anthologies. There are now 118 pages compiling over 1400 anthologies, grouped by editor or theme and arranged chronologically, with descriptions, photos, tallies of authors and sources, and composite tables of contents. Total descriptive text on the 118 pages: about 30,000 words. There will always be more books to compile, of course, but for now I’m considering this done. Comments, corrections, and suggestions welcome.

(4) WE THE CHARACTERS. If only school had been like this: “The Daily Heller: The U.S. Constitution in Pictures” at Print Magazine.

The Constitution Illustrated (Drawn & Quarterly) is so easy to read (and inexpensive to buy) that even a man-child U.S. President might learn something about the laws, precepts and rights bequeathed to the nation he leads. R. Sikoryak, comics artist, cartoon historian and now Constitutional scholar, has drafted the styles of many of America’s great past and present comic strip artists (of all religions, creeds, genders and social backgrounds) —from Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon” to Hank Ketcham’s “Dennis the Menace” to Alice Bechdel’s “Dykes to Watch Out For” to Nicole Hollander’s “Sylvia” to Frederick Burr Opper’s “Happy Hooligan” to, whew, Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” and many, many others.

(5) GREEN ASTRONAUT TO RED PLANET. The New York Times says now is the time to watch Away, Hilary Swank’s Martian Odyssey.

‘Away’

When to watch: Now, on Netflix.

Where has Hilary Swank been the past few years? En route to Mars. This 10-episode drama stars Swank as Emma Green, the mission commander on the first manned (womanned?) mission to Mars.

In space, disaster lurks around every asteroid. Back on earth, Emma’s husband (Josh Charles) and their daughter (Talitha Bateman) face their own crises. Should Emma complete her mission or return home to care for her family? Working moms have it rough! Swank, backed by a nifty international cast, commits with her usual live-wire intensity. But the vibe remains gloomy and the heart-wringing, like the vast expanse outside the shuttle, goes on and on and on. Guess you can cry in space.

(6) FRODO AND SAM. Quite a thoughtful post by Mary Nikkel from 2019.

…By contrast, Frodo’s obstacles are primarily internal. He endured a lot of those same exterior challenges as Sam, but Sam did much to absorb their impact (see the Cirith Ungol rescue). Frodo’s challenges are the slow, steady erosion of a soul being asked to carry a tremendous internal darkness without being consumed by it. Everything he was became laser-focused on that monolithic spiritual and emotional task.

This is why, at the end, Frodo had to sacrifice far more than Sam. Because Sam’s primary struggle was against external forces, once those external forces were alleviated, he could go home, marry, have children, live as a functional member of his community. For Frodo, the cessation of exterior pressure could do nothing to mend the way his soul had been burning from the inside out….

(7) LIFE AT THE KILNS. First Things, a religious website, hosts a conversation with Douglas Gresham: “C. S. Lewis And His Stepsons”.

…For decades, despite a booming cottage industry of Lewis biographies and endless academic theorizing about the last years of Lewis’s life, Douglas kept to himself the fact that Lewis struggled mightily to help his mentally ill stepson [David]. “We didn’t tell anybody,” he told me. “The only reason I’m releasing it now is because people should know what Jack put up with and what Warnie put up with and how heroic they were to do it at all.” It is time, he added, “that people understand what Jack and Warnie went through. Jack and Warnie didn’t know what the heck to do.”

(8) DON’T BE A LONE ARRANGER. SPECPO, the official blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, tells how to “Publish More Poems” through the support of a critique group.

Here’s a few ways that critique groups help you grow.

1.) Increase your output by reducing revision time.

Revision means re-vision. It’s common knowledge that all writers need distance from their work in order to see it in new ways. We all use tricks to help force along the re-vision process. We change fonts, change reading locations, read it out loud, and these will do in a pinch but there is no replacement for time. 

Oh, wait. Except a literal new set of writerly eyes on your poem. This is where critique groups can help in areas that beta readers cannot: we’re all writers. When a writer sets their eyes on your draft, they are giving you a fresh look without you having to bury your poem in peat for seven months.

(9) DEFINING SPECULATIVE. Also at SPECPO, Melanie Stormm posted a three-panel infographic designed to answer the question “What Counts As Speculative?” Here is the first section –

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 4, 1966  — At Tricon in Cleveland, Ohio, Gene Roddenberry debuted Star Trek‘s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode.  It was so well received that fans there demanded that he show them the black-and-white print he had with him of “The Cage”, the original Star Trek pilot. (Neither would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at NyCon 3 the next year as that would instead go to Trek’s “Menagerie“ episode, a reworking of “The Cage”.) Thus was born the popular legend that credits September 4th, 1966 as the true birth date of the Star Trek franchise.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 4, 1905 Mary Renault. ISFDB only counts her Theseus series work  as  genre novels (The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea) by her. Is that right? I’m not familiar with her full body of work to say if that is or is not correct. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1916 – Robert A.W. “Doc” Lowndes.  (Surname is one syllable, rhymes with astounds.)  Founded the Stamford, Connecticut, chapter of the SF League, 1935.  Edited DynamicFamousFutureSF QuarterlySF Stories; various other prozines outside our field.  Founded Vanguard Records with James Blish.  Four novels, fifty shorter stories, poems, under many different names. Nonfiction Three Faces of SFThe Gernsback Days (with M. Ashley), Bok (with C. Beck, H. Bok, J. Cordes, G. de la Ree, B. Indick).  Guest of Honor at Lunacon 12, Boskone 10.  Best-known fanzine Le Vombiteur; several more.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1998). 
  • Born September 4, 1919 – Evelyn Copelman.  After the Denslow-illustrated 1900 Wizard of Oz fell out of print, EC illustrated a 1944 ed’n showing the influence of the 1939 motion picture; then a 1947 Magical Monarch of Mo, and a further 1956 Wizard.  Outside our field, many illustrations, another career in graphic design.  (Died 2003)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series I don’t think it’s essential reading. (Or very interesting.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I see stocked regularly in my local bookstores. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1928 Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in the police station in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He’d showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on Fantasy Island. He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.) (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1957 Patricia Tallman, 63. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine and two of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on further episodes of the latter as she did on Voyager. H’h to the latter. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. (CE)
  • Born September 4, 1962 – Karl Schroeder, 58.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  With Cory Doctorow, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing SF.  Essays, reviews  in Analog, Bifrost (French), LocusNY Review of SFOn Spec.  Interviewed in Challenging DestinyClarkesworldLightspeed.  Two Prix Aurora awards.  Ventus NY Times Notable Book.  Past President of SF Canada (nat’l ass’n of SF pros).  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1963 – Linda Davies, 57.  Six novels for us; Longbow Girl was the Mal Peet Children’s Book of the Year.  Several others.  Escaped, as she put it, from investment banking to write fiction, naturally including financial thrillers.  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1963 – Mike Scott, 57.  His adventures with the much-loved fanzine PLOKTA, the Journal of Superfluous Technology (= Press Lots Of Keys To Abort), involved him with the PLOKTA Cabal, two Hugos, and notoriety as Dr. Plokta.  Chaired CUSFS (Cambridge Univ. SF Soc.) and led the successful bid to hold Loncon 3 (72nd Worldcon).  Married the horsewoman and fan Flick, another cabalist.  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1972 Françoise Yip, 48. She was a remarkably extensive career in genre productions including Earth: Final ConflictAndromedaCapricaFringeRobocop: Prime DirectivesSeven DaysFlash GordonSmallvilleMillenniumArrow and Sanctuary.  Genre casting directors obviously like her. (CE) 
  • Born September 4, 1973 – Jennifer Povey, 47.  Seven novels, forty shorter stories; role-playing games.  Horsewoman.  Ranks The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress above Level 7, with which I agree.  Collection, The Silent Years.  [JH]
  • Born September 4, 1975 Kai Owen, 45. Best known for portrayal of Rhys Williams in Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off I stopped watching after the first two series. He reprised his character in the Big Audio and BBC audio dramas. (CE) 

(12) BOSEMAN TRIBUTE. Following the passing of Chadwick Boseman last week, the late actor has now been honored with a new piece designed by Ryan Meinerding, Head of Visual Development for Marvel Studios.

(13) THUMB DOWN. Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson pans the remake: “Disney’s New Mulan Is a Dull Reflection of the Original”.

… Having affirmed its place in the firmament of animated classics, Mulan could have enjoyed a nice retirement. But Disney as it exists now is not content to let things rest, and so—after tackling live-action remakes of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Alice in Wonderland—they turned their necromancy to Mulan. Only, certain mores and cultural interests have changed in the last 22 years, meaning Disney didn’t feel quite comfortable simply literalizing the 1998 film, talking dragon and musical numbers and all. Instead, they wanted a big action epic in the style of many huge movies that have come out of the Chinese film industry, only directed by a New Zealander, Niki Caro.

Caro directed the lovely New Zealand coming-of-age tale Whale Rider, which earned its young star, Keisha Castle-Hughes, an Oscar nomination for best actress. In that way, she was a fine pick for Mulan, another coming-of-age story about a headstrong young woman bucking the rigid gender norms of her place and time. In other ways—being that Caro is not from China or of Chinese descent—her hiring rang alarm bells. Disney had to proceed carefully, not wanting to tarnish valuable I.P. or create a cultural blowback that would put its corporate progressiveness under the microscope.

What has resulted from all that needle threading is a movie, out on Disney+ on September 4, that’s been managed to death. The new Mulan is a sweeping action movie with lots of cool fight choreography, and yet it never musters up a sense of awe. Even the loathsome Beauty and the Beast remake was not this bland and perfunctory; that film at least had the darkly electrifying jolt of its awfulness. Mulan is not awful. It’s just inert, a lifeless bit of product that will probably neither satisfy die-hards nor enrapture an entire new generation of fans.

(14) BORNE AGAIN. Nina Shepardson reviews “‘Borne’ by Jeff VanderMeer” at Outside of a Dog.

Although I first encountered Jeff VanderMeer through the excellent anthologies he co-edits with his wife Ann, he’s better known for his fiction. His Southern Reach Trilogy and Ambergris novels are both beloved by fans of weird fiction. Borne is the first in a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic city where people scavenge for biotechnological creations that have escaped into the wild while trying to evade a giant flying bear. No, that was not a typo, there really is a giant flying bear. His name is Mord….

(15) DICELIVING. Camestros Felapton proposes an easy way for sff critics to save themselves the trouble of constantly rearranging those reviewers’ clichés in “Get a free opinion about science in science fiction”.

You’ll need a D20 dice and the table below. Take the sentence “I believe that the science in science fiction should be X and Y” and replace X and Y with entries from the table, rolling the dice twice to get your exciting new take on the discussion….

(16) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Brad Bird (Maltin on Movies  — Brad Bird).  Bird explained that he first visited Disney in 1968, when he was 11.  Three years later, he sent them a 15-minute animated film.  This was a time when character animation was at its low point, where the only studio producing character animation was Disney, who produced one film every three years.  Most of the animators who started working with Disney in the 1930s were still active 30 years later, but they realized they had no successors, so Bird was recruited.  He discusses his apprenticeship with the great animator Milt Kahl and then went on to study at Cal Arts, where the one class for character animators met in the basement in room A113.  Bird has remained friends with many of the students in that class, including Henry Selick, Tim Burton, and John Musker, and sticks “A113” as an Easter egg in all of his films.  Also discussed:  what Bird did for “The Simpsons,” and his surprise at being drawn as the villain Syndrome in The Incredibles.

(17) ASK NASA. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate will hold a community town hall meeting with Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen and his leadership team at 12 p.m. EDT Thursday, Sept. 10, to discuss updates to NASA’s science program and the current status of NASA activities.  

Members of the science community, academia, the media, and the public are invited to participate by joining at the link here. (If prompted, please use event number 199 074 4251, followed by event password Zk4n3G48gbd.)

To ask a question, participants can go here.

Users must provide their first and last name and organization and can submit their own questions or vote up questions submitted by others. The meeting leaders will try to answer as many of the submitted questions as possible.

Presentation materials will be available for download and a recording will be available later that day here.

(18) L. RON HUBBARD, COMMANDING. [Item by Dann.] I came across something interesting via one of my regular YouTube channels; The History Guy. THG is prepared by an actual history professor.

In this case, he was offering a window into the history of WWII vintage anti-submarine ships of the US Navy.

One of those ships, PC-815, reportedly engaged with a pair of Japanese submarines just off the northwestern coast of the United States. The sub-chasers expended all of their depth charges and had called in two blimps in pursuit of the two submarines.

In his lengthy and quite descriptive after-action report, the captain of the PC-815 claimed to have positively sunk one of the submarines and damaged the other. The after-action reports of the other US Navy air and sea vessel commanders involved in the chase did not support that claim.

Shortly thereafter, the PC-815 was diverted from coastal defense duty and was assigned to escort a ship down to San Diego for final outfitting. Upon arrival, the captain of the PC-815 had the ship moored off of some area islands and decided to conduct some nighttime gunnery exercises using those islands as targets. The islands belonged to Mexico and were defended by an installation of Mexican army soldiers.

Shortly thereafter, the captain of the ship, one L. Ron Hubbard, was removed from command and reassigned to other…non-command….duties.

If you want to skip to the part about Hubbard, it’s at the 12:33 mark of the video.

Other links are to the ever-questionable Wikipedia.  Those pages seem to match up well with other sites that aren’t affiliated with the Scientology folks.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/16/20 I Holler As I Overturn Mike’s BBQ And Turn The Pixel Of Scroll Into, Uh, Something Something

(1) THE POSTMAN RINGS FIRST. David Brin can be good at thinking things up – and he’s put his creative powers to work to support the US Postal Service: “Going Postal? And the ‘TOC’ you want… the book no one has read.”

Below, find the TOC you’ll want to tick… the Table of Contents of a book that might help…. but first… yes, there are countless times I’d prefer to be wrong!  Especially when it comes to the predictions made in THE POSTMAN!

TIME Magazines called EARTH one of “8 best predictive novels,” and there have been many other hits. But I always figured that my portrayal of lying-betraying-prepper “Holnists” in THE POSTMAN would prove to be artistic exaggeration — not a how-to manual for evil and treason.

Just as Adolf Hitler described his approach in Mein Kampf — and no one took him at his word — Nathan Holn is recalled having laid it all in the open… but Americans didn’t believe anyone would so baldly offer such a despicable program. The warning went unheeded till it was too late. 

Likewise, Donald Trump has said publicly that his attack on the U.S. Postal Service is intended directly to interfere in the election. Of course crashing USPS also undermines rural America, a major part of the GOP base. So how is this supposed to benefit Republicans? The answer is… it’s not. Chaos and dysfunction are the goal. To Trump’s puppeteers, it doesn’t matter if he loses, so long as America dissolves into bitterness and pain. 

Already it’s clear we need to start a mass movement akin to BLM to support Postal Workers!

(2) NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COMIC-CON. Robert J. Sawyer challenges some assumptions about Canadian sff award voters in a Facebook post.

Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, which was held by Zoom, due to the COVID pandemic.

The first issue the chair raised was what he considered to be a precipitous drop in the number of voters over the years. Years ago, he said, the number was in the mid-two-hundreds and he cited year-by-year figures showing a steady decline down to the current tally of 140 or so. Much discussion ensued about how to beef up the number.

My feeling is two-fold. First, it’s NOT an Aurora-specific issue, and, second, it’s NOT even a problem….

When people talk about bringing in vast new swaths of fans to beef up Aurora voting numbers, they usually mean finding a way to get young fans involved. But young fans, by and large, AREN’T SF&F readers, and have their own fandom traditions — they expect, for instance, their events to be high-cost and run to professional standards (even if mostly staffed by volunteers).

These are the fine folk who enjoy the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; Fan Expo in Toronto; Anime North, also in Toronto; OtakuThon in Montreal; and so-called “comic-cons” across the country. They want to see actors and comic-book artists. Politely, they don’t need us — AND WE DON’T NEED THEM.

If traditional fandom is shrinking — and it IS, mostly through attrition as people get old and finally go on to that great hucksters’ room in the sky — then so be it. But is that hurting the Aurora Awards?

I say no. I had no horse in the race this year — I was not even eligible in any category except for related work (for my bimonthly columns in GALAXY’S EDGE magazine) and wasn’t nominated. But I studied the ballot and, even more important for posterity, the actual winners this year, and my verdict is this: the Auroras are doing just fine.

… In the past, we’ve also seen ballots with conspicuous omissions and even more conspicuous inclusions. When a Canadian work is nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Award, it SHOULD raise eyebrows when it has been squeezed off the Aurora ballot by lesser creations.

This year, though, the best short-form Aurora went to the most-generally-lauded Canadian-authored (or, at least, co-authored) work on the ballot: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which had already won the Hugo AND the Nebula Awards.

In the past, we’ve seen huge numbers of votes of dubious pedigree: people who have no known connection to fandom but a personal connection to one of the nominees nominating and voting en masse, propelling dubious works onto the ballot and sometimes shamefully even winning the award.

Thankfully, those days of hustling seem to have fallen by the wayside….

(3) NASFIC 2020. The virtual Columbus 2020 NASFiC Opening Ceremonies start 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21. Here’s =“How To Attend”:

Attending the North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention will now be easy as everything will be online!

On the day the convention begins, the page you are viewing now will provide you with a virtual “log book”. When you have signed it, this website will provide you access to several more pages, with embedded chat channels and streaming video.

It will be free, but we will still accept donations.

(4) SFF AROUND THE GLOBE. FutureCon, a new virtual international sff convention, will launch September 17-20. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview in “Introducing FutureCon”. (See the schedule here.)

While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.

Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.

… Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.

(5) IN THE ZOOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Cora Buhlert has written up everything else at CoNZealand that was not the Hugo ceremony: “Cora’s Adventures at CoNZealand, the Virtual 2020 Worldcon, and Some Thoughts on Virtual Conventions in General”.

… After the 1960s SF panel, I had only ten minutes to get to my next panel “Translation: The Key to Open Doors to Cultural Diversity in SFF”. I was moderating again and the panelists were Libia Benda from Mexico, Luis F. Silva from Portugal, Wataru Ishigame, speaking from the POV of a publisher publishing translated SFF in Japan, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine as the token American. Though that would be mean, because Neil Clarke has done more than pretty much any other magazine editor to bring translated SFF to English speaking readers.

Again, we had a lively e-mail debate before the panel and just as lively a debate during the panel, complete with an audio zoombombing by a Mexican street vendor. I had also asked all panelists to recommend some SFF books or stories from their country that had been translated into English (and Neil Clarke generally recommended SFF in translation), so there were book recommendations as well.

The translation panel also overran by almost half an hour, because once the Zoom recording  was stopped, the Zoom meeting just remained open. After ascertaining that the audience could still hear us, we just continued talking about SFF in translation for another twenty five minutes or so, until the Zoom host shut down the room.  Now that’s something that could never have happened at a physical con, unless you were the last panel of the day and the room wasn’t needed again…. 

(6) RUNNING THE NUMBERS. Steve Mollman studies the “No Award” tea leaves in “The 2020 Hugo Awards: Interesting Statistics” at Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother. Lots of graphs.

I called my post from last week “Results and Final Thoughts“… but after it went up, I had another thought. So that title was a lie! Many people out there analyze various aspects of the results, but I want to look at two things: how many people vote in each category, and how many people vote No Award.

… Voting No Award in first place usually means one of two things, I would claim. First, it could mean that you find the concept of the category invalid. Every year, I vote No Award for Best Series, Best Editor, and a couple other categories, for example, and leave the rest of my ballot blank. I have some fundamental disagreements with the premises of those categories, and do not think they should be awarded. (Very few Hugo voters agree with me, though, clearly.) It could also mean that you just found everything in that category subpar: this year I voted No Award for Best Short Story, but still ranked finalists below it.

How well does Mollman’s interpretation hold up? And what is there to learn in the voting pattern from Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Campbell Award?

(7) BEYOND THE GREEN BOOK. NPR’s Glen Weldon chimes in: “‘Lovecraft Country’: Facing Monsters—And A Monstrous History”.

Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen’s dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).

3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)

And here is a brief, incomplete list of the things that Lovecraft Country prominently features that Green Book emphatically does not:

1. A story centered on the lives of Black characters.

2. Black characters with agency, absent any White Savior narrative

3. Shoggoths.

Shoggoths, of course, are creatures imagined by writer H.P. Lovecraft — blobs covered with eyes that continuously arise and dissolve back into their putrid, pulsating flesh. (The Shoggoths of Lovecraft Country are shaped more like Pit-bulls than protoplasm, though they’ve got that whole creepy-eyes thing covered.)

Lovecraft Country is only the latest in a series of movies, television series and novels to engage with America’s greatest moral, economic, social and psychological wound — the legacy of slavery — by way of the fantastic. Creators like Jordan Peele, Damon Lindelof, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead didn’t avail themselves of, respectively, body-swapping, superheroes, an angry ghost and an entirely literal subterranean mass-transit system as a means to distract from, or to trivialize, racial injustice. No: They knew that when grappling with a foundational truth so huge and ugly and painful, utilizing the metaphorical imagery of science-fiction and horror offered them a fresh way in — an opportunity to get their audiences to re-examine, to re-feel, the enduring impact of that evil.

…Though it’s sure to be compared to Watchmen, given both its prominent HBO Sunday night berth and its determination to view race in America through the prism of science fiction, Lovecraft Country is lighter in tone, and far pulpier in sensibility, than Lindelof’s comparatively grand, sweeping epic. It’s much more apt to go looser and loopier, sprinkling magic spells, sacred codexes, secret passages and the occasional light tomb-raiding into the mix. It’s also far more eager to serve up the satisfyingly grisly thrills of pulp horror — bad guys getting their bloody, cosmic comeuppance, for example.

But for every fun, if wildly anachronistic, element — needle-drops like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” say, or abdominal muscles like Majors’ — Lovecraft Country is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America. Between every narrow escape and exposition dump about “finding the missing pages from the forbidden tome” or whatever, it gives its characters and their relationships breathing room. Case in point: Letitia’s contentious bond with her sardonic, disapproving sister Ruby (the quietly astonishing Wunmi Mosaku, in a warm, deeply compelling performance) gets a chance to grow and complicate. And in a later episodes (only the first five were screened for press), Ruby happily manages to step off the sidelines and mix it up with the series’ deep, abiding weirdness.

(8) YS REVIEW. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky offers “Feeling Deluged By News? Let ‘The Daughters Of Ys’ Wash Over You”.

Though M. T. Anderson couldn’t possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story’s driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you’ve felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you’ve tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you’ll sympathize with Anderson’s characters.

This book is an excellent read right now for other reasons, too. Trying to keep abreast of your daily news feed may have made you impatient of any pleasure reading that isn’t perfectly absorbing (OK, that’s the last flood pun, I swear). A graphic novel, The Daughters of Ys is fun and easy to read. Anderson’s story, a reinterpretation of a Breton folktale, is effortlessly page-turning and actually feels a bit like a young adult title — not surprisingly, considering YA is Anderson’s preferred genre. But like Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, this book is both accessible to a wide age range and rich with ideas that will intrigue adults. (Note, however, that due to dark themes, some gore and the fact that the characters have sex, it may be best kept away from immature readers.)

Best of all, Daughters of Ys is a terrific respite for eyes weary of scanning headlines. Artist Jo Rioux isn’t as well-known as her coauthor — as is often the fate of illustrators who focus on children’s books — but she should be. Her drawings here aren’t just beautiful, with their deep, layered colors and elegant compositions; they’re also smart. Nodding to the original tale’s 5th-century setting, Rioux uses the style and motifs of Anglo-Saxon art (think of the Bayeux Tapestry and the metalwork of Sutton Hoo). But she doesn’t just replicate the style, she uses it to explore the evocative possibilities of minimalist cartooning. The characters’ faces have flat-looking eyes and minimal features, but they express intense, ambiguous emotions. Rioux also borrows the glowing lights and velvety shadows of Maxfield Parrish’s work for certain scenes, including a wonderful interlude set inside a circle of standing stones. The reader is encouraged to recall Parrish’s turn-of-the-20th-century America, when astonishing and alarming technological advances triggered a yearning for the romantic past, and to compare it with our own time.

(9) CHECK OUT COUNTER. WorldCat’s Library100 – I’ve read 41 of these.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(10) GOLDENBERG OBIT. American music composer, conductor and arranger Billy Goldenberg (William Leon Goldenberg) died on August 3, aged 84 reports Stephen Jones.

His many credits include Fear No Evil, Silent Night Lonely Night, Ritual Of Evil, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973), The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, The Ufo Incident, Metamorphoses, This House Possessed, Massarati And The Brain, Prototype, Frankenstein (1986), 18 Again! and Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady. On TV Goldenberg composed music for the pilots of Night Gallery (again for Spielberg), Future Cop and Gemini Man, plus episodes of The Name Of The Game (Spielberg’s ‘LA 2017’), The Sixth Sense and Circle Of Fear (along with the theme music for both shows), Amazing Stories and the 1989 mini-series Around The World In 80 Days. He also composed one of the themes to the Universal logo.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 16, 1951 Dimension X’s “The Vital Factor” was first broadcast. The story is that a ruthless millionaire is determined to be the first man to conquer space…no matter what the cost. The script was used later on X Minus One. It was written by Nelson Bond who is the holder of a Nebula Author Emeritus award for lifetime achievement. He’s also the recipient of First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. His Meg the Priestess stories gave us one of the first powerful female characters in the genre. Daniel Ocko and Guy Repp are the actors here.  You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazines, Amazing Stories in 1926, and Wonder Stories in 1929. He  also played a key role in creating fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” And of course he’s who the Hugos were named after back in 1953. (Died 1967.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1913 – Will Sykora.  Active at least as early as Jan 30 letter in Science Wonder Stories.  With Sam Moskowitz, thought the true fannish spirit meant promotion of science.  President of ISA (Int’l Scientific Ass’n) which sought to include amateur scientists, maybe the first fan club, unless disqualified in retrospect for insufficient frivolity – or insufficient leftism, which the Futurians were charged with excess of.  Charter member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n).  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Paul Lehr.  Three hundred covers, fifty interiors.  Here is his beginning, Satellite E One.  Here is his famous Nineteen Eighty-four (no mustache on Big Brother!).  Here is Spectrum 4.  Here is The Ringworld Engineers.  Here is the Mar 81 Analog.  Here is the Aug 96 Tomorrow.  What a giant.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in the Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode?  (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1931 – Walt Lee.  Monumental if only for his 20,000-entry Reference Guide to Fantastic Films (with Bill Warren) – which, allowing for differences in scale, is like saying Cheops (or Khnum Khufu if you prefer) is monumental if only for the Great Pyramid of Giza.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 87. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eileen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1952 – Edie Stern, F.N., 68. “Andre Norton’s Diamond Celebration” (with husband Joe Siclari) in Fantasy Review.  “Fancy Jack” (Jack Speer; with Siclari) in Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book, hello Guy Lillian III (62nd Worldcon).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Introduction (with Siclari) to Virgil Finlay Centennial book for 2014 World Fantasy Convention.  “LeeH” (Lee Hoffman, or for some of us, Hoffwoman), Journey Planet 27.  “Wheels of IF” (Irish fandom; with Siclari) for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book.  Noted SF art collector (with Siclari), very helpful with SF con Art Shows.  Fan Guest of Honor, Loscon 46.  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Siclari).  Since 2016, Webmaster of the FANAC Fanhistory Project (fanac = fan activity; Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions was originally formed for MagiCon the 50th Worldcon, Orlando).  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 62. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”,  along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1967 – Betsy Dornbusch, 53. Five novels, fifteen shorter stories. Co-editor Electric Spec 2006-2015.  Essays & interviews there.  Likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, the Denver Broncos, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1969 – Michael Buckley, 51.  A score of novels, some about the Nat’l Espionage, Rescue, & Defense Society (which spells –  ), NY Times Best Sellers; some about the Sisters Grimm (yes).  Robotomy for the Cartoon Network.  Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox just released (April).  Used to be in a punk rock band called Danger, Will Robinson.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MALTINS TALK ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest Maltin on Movies podcast, which dropped on the 14th, is with animation expert Jerry Beck

Beck runs two websites: animationscoop.com for news and cartoonresearch.com for longer articles.  One recent article on cartoonresearch.com by Keith Scott lists all the voice actors on Tex Avery’s cartoons, which did not give credits for voice work.

Beck in the interview discusses many aspects of his career, including his providing the commentary for DVDs of Fritz Freleng cartoons to running a popular panel at Comic-Con called “Worst Cartoons Ever” so that fans can howl at a smorgasbord of stinkers.  Beck also has written several histories of animation.  But he was also one of the first Americans to understand the importance of anime.  He recalled that when Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in the mid-1980s, Roger Corman controlled the rights and released it in a heavily-cut, badly dubbed version.  Beck realized Miyazaki’s importance and was the first to distribute Miyazaki’s films uncut to theaters.

As part of his anime distribution, Beck talked to the producers of Akira, who explained that they were shutting down their studio and offered Beck the contents.  Eight months later, Beck got a call from the Port of Los Angeles (“and I’ve never gotten a call from a port before”) with eight giant containers of cels and other stuff, which Beck sold to the delight of serious collectors.

Also in the podcast, Maltin revealed that he learned Roman numerals from Popeye cartoons, which taught him that MCMXXXVI meant “1936”.

(14) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR. Coming right up! The Nerdist says it will be one of the lots available for bid in a Star Wars prop auction happening August 26-27.

For sci-fi movie prop collectors, items from the Star Wars saga are the Holy Grail. Now, fans who have wanted to get their hands on authentic items from a galaxy far, far away are in for a treat. Several props and costumes from the saga are going up for auction by The Prop Store of Los Angeles and London. Some very coveted pieces are among the items, including a full Darth Vader costume from 1977.

These Star Wars items are part of a much larger sci-fi/horror movie auction, being held on August 26th and 27th. One lucky fan will have a chance to get their hands on one of the great heroes of the Rebel Alliance: this Admiral Ackbar sculpt. Made after Return of the Jedi, from the original mold, it will set you back at least $3,000 to $5,000.

(15) BLESSED EVENT. Queen Elizabeth II has revealed her favourite film and it’s an SF movie, namely the 1980 Flash Gordon – The Guardian has the story: “Brian Blessed: Flash Gordon is the Queen’s favourite film”.

Brian Blessed has claimed that the Queen revealed to him that her favourite film is Flash Gordon, the 1980 sci-fi in which he stars as Prince Vultan.

Speaking about the film’s 40th anniversary to Edith Bowman on Yahoo Movies, the actor said that whenever he goes, people demand he recite his character’s catchphrase.

“Everywhere I go, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’,” said Blessed. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’, it’s their favourite film.”

He continued: “The Queen, it’s her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas.”

The actor then assumed the Queen’s accent, quoting her as saying: “You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying ‘Gordon’s alive’?”

(16) STAR TREK, THE NEXT GAG. ScreenRant is sure they know: “The 10 Funniest Star Trek Episodes, Ranked”.

6. TNG: Qpid

From this fourth season episode of The Next Generation comes one of Worf’s most famous quotes. Transported to Sherwood Forest by Q and adorned in the costume of Will Scarlett, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men,  Worf exclaims, “I am not a merry man.”

“Qpid” has one of the series lightest touches, to the point it feels like an old Errol Flynn film. While Picard plays Robin Hood, the rest of his Merry Men try to get used to their temporary roles. One of the funniest parts is during the fight between Robin’s friends and Nottingham’s guards. Both Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi knock two of the bad guys out by bashing large vases over their heads.

(17) STOP-AND-POP. Ethan Alter, in “How Netflix’s new Black superhero movie ‘Project Power’ addresses real-life policing and ‘how police should be held accountable'” on Yahoo! Entertainment, interviews writer Matthew Tomlin (whose next project is co-writer of The Batman) and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt about Project Power, which dropped on Netflix this week.

When screenwriter Mattson Tomlin sat down to write Project Power in 2016, he knew that he wanted to create a superhero universe that put Black heroes front and center. The film that arrives on Netflix on Aug. 14 stays true to that vision, with Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback portraying the dynamic duo of Art and Robin, who take on a top-secret government agency that’s dispensing ability-enhancing pills on the streets of New Orleans. But there’s also a third superhero in the mix: a white police officer named Frank (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the kind of “plays by his own rules” cop that’s been a popular Hollywood protagonist for decades.

As the film begins, Frank’s personal rules include popping those contraband pills to get a super-powered boost for daring busts. But after Art and Robin awaken him to the sordid story behind those drugs — a story that includes the exploitation of Black research subjects — he opts to join their cause. “Ultimately, the character goes through the movie trying to do the right thing,” Tomlin says. “Sometimes he goes about it in a messy way, but that’s where his heart is.”

(18) ROBOTIC VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. “Robot boat completes three-week Atlantic mission”.

A UK boat has just provided an impressive demonstration of the future of robotic maritime operations.

The 12m Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer has completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic.

SEA-KIT International, which developed the craft, “skippered” the entire outing via satellite from its base in Tollesbury in eastern England.

The mission was part-funded by the European Space Agency.

Robot boats promise a dramatic change in the way we work at sea.

Already, many of the big survey companies that run traditional crewed vessels have started to invest heavily in the new, remotely operated technologies. Freight companies are also acknowledging the cost advantages that will come from running robot ships.

But “over-the-horizon” control has to show it’s practical and safe if it’s to gain wide acceptance. Hence, the demonstration from Maxlimer.

(19) LIKE YOU DO. “How Do You Solve a Moon Mystery? Fire a Laser at It” – the New York Times explains. Tagline: “Researchers have used reflective prisms left on the moon’s surface for decades, but had increasingly seen problems with their effectiveness.”

…One obvious culprit is lunar dust that has built up on the retroreflectors. Dust can be kicked up by meteorites striking the moon’s surface. It coated the astronauts’ moon suits during their visits, and it is expected to be a significant problem if humans ever colonize the moon.

While it has been nearly 50 years since a retroreflector was placed on the moon’s surface, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2009 carries a retroreflector roughly the size of a paperback book. That spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, circles the moon once every two hours, and it has beamed home millions of high-resolution images of the lunar surface.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter “provides a pristine target,” said Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who, along with his colleagues, tested the hypothesis that lunar dust might be affecting the moon’s retroreflectors.

(20) MARGE SIMPSON FIRES BACK. The New York Daily News urges you to “SEE IT: Marge Simpson ‘p—ed off’ at Kamala Harris comparison”.

On Wednesday, senior Trump adviser Jenna Ellis compared Democratic vice presidential contender Kamala Harris to Marge Simpson, who’s voiced by actress Julie Kavner.

“Kamala sounds like Marge Simpson,” [Ellis] tweeted.

Marge responded on “The Simpsons” Twitter account with a 27-second clip in which she says the matter makes her uncomfortable.

“I usually don’t get into politics,” Marge said Friday, adding that her show-daughter Lisa informed her the comparison wasn’t meant as a compliment to either woman.

“As an ordinary suburban housewife I’m starting to feel a little disrespected,” the cartoon mom said. “I teach my children not to name-call, Jenna.”

? [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Cheryl Morgan, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]