Pixel Scroll 4/15/21 Pixel Dawns On MarbleScroll

(1) PAY THE WRITER. Adam Whitehead in “Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties” at The Wertzone brings promising news:

Foster does not go into details, but notes on his webpage.

“The irritating imbroglio with Disney, which you may have read about, is moving towards a mutually agreeable conclusion. A formal statement will be forthcoming.”

Hopefully the matter will now be resolved and Disney will agree to uphold their contractual obligations moving forwards with both Foster and all other impacted authors.

For background, see Cora Buhlert’s post “The #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster and SFWA Joint Press Conference”.

(2) NO, THE REAL WRITER. The Guardian says the proceeds of a literary prize were ripped off by scammers: “Rathbones Folio prize paid £30,000 to scammers posing as the winner”. (Incidentally, they did make it good to the genuine winner.)

… Publishing industry magazine the Bookseller revealed on Wednesday that the Folio, which is awarded to the year’s best work of literature regardless of form, was scammed by “sophisticated cyber-criminals”. The scammers posed as the Mexican author [Valeria] Luiselli, who had won with her novel Lost Children Archive, and requested that the £30,000 payment be made through PayPal.

Minna Fry, the prize’s executive director, confirmed that the funds were lost and that “the police were informed at the time, as were key industry colleagues”.

“Our winner Valeria Luiselli was awarded her prize money in full, and the lost funds were absorbed by cost savings elsewhere,” she added.

The prize is run by a charity and is independent from its sponsor, Rathbone Investment Management. Fry said the investment firm “have supported us through this incident and helped us to put in place additional safeguarding measures”.

This is not the first time a book prize has been targeted by fraudsters. A spokesperson for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction, worth £50,000, confirmed that it was also targeted in November, but no funds were paid.

“Someone emailed pretending to be the 2020 winner Craig Brown and asked us to pay the prize money via PayPal,” a spokesperson for the prize told the Bookseller…

(3) EXIT THE WAYFARER UNIVERSE. On the Imaginary Worlds podcast “Becky Chambers Goes Wayfaring”.

Becky Chambers’ latest novel, “The Galaxy and The Ground Within,” is the final book in her Wayfarer series, which is about aliens, humans and AI trying to make their way through the galaxy and find common ground. Some of the characters in her books may seem fantastical and strange, but the conversations between them often revolve around familiar issues like identity, gender, family structure, and politics. We talk about why she’s closing this chapter in her writing career, even though the Wayfarer series could’ve gone on indefinitely, and what she has planned next.

(4) WEB OF LIES. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee casts an oversized shadow across comic book fandom. But arguments abound about how much credit he deserves for the various works he is purportedly behind. In a new deeply-researched biography True Believer, journalist Abraham Riesman looks at this iconic figure. It’s a terrific book that perhaps people should be considering for Best Related Work on *next year’s* Hugo ballot, and that the Hugo Book Club Blog reviewed this week:  “The Lies That Bind”.

There is a long tradition of fandom idolizing a certain variety of PT Barnum-style self-promoter. This tradition has come under much-needed scrutiny in the past decade thanks to works such as Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farrah Mendelsohn. Abraham Riesman’s True Believer is a welcome addition to this critical reckoning.

(5) SPOTTED IN GOTHAM. Did you know François Truffaut took the robot dog out of his film of Fahrenheit 451 because there was no technology for the dog? Well, that future has just about arrived: “NYPD Deploys ‘Creepy’ New Robot Dog In Manhattan Public Housing Complex” in Gothamist.

… The remote-controlled bot was made by Boston Dynamics, a robotics company famous for its viral videos of machines dancing and running with human-like dexterity. (Versions of “Spot,” as the mechanical dog is known, can open doors, and are strong enough to help tow an 18-wheeler.)

Since October, the NYPD has dispatched the robot to a handful of crime scenes and hostage situations, raising fears of unwanted surveillance and questions about the department’s use of public dollars. The mobile dog, which comes equipped with automated sensors, lights, and cameras capable of collecting “limitless data,” is sold at a starting price of $74,000.

A spokesperson for the NYPD said the robot dog was on standby, but not used, during a domestic dispute at East 28th Street on Monday afternoon. After a man allegedly barricaded himself inside a room with a mother and her baby, officers showed up and convinced him to let them exit. The man was arrested for weapons possession, police said….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 15, 1944 –On this day in 1944, The Monster Maker which was originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by by Sigmund Neufeld which was by Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was almost completely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low five percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 15, 1452 – Leonardo da Vinci.  One of our greatest neighbors.  Among his many drawings were things that could almost be made then; dreaming them up, and depicting them, took imagination very much like SF authors’ and illustrators’.  Here is a 500th-anniversary exhibit I made for Dublin 2019 the 77th Worldcon with high-tech graphics wizard Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink (shown as it appeared at Loscon XLVI later; scroll down past Rotsler Award photos).  (Died 1519) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1908 – Howard Browne.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic; five novels, a dozen shorter stories for us, some under other names; also detective fiction; films, television.  More here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had on every-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1937  Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and  Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1938 – Unipán Helga, age 83.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Designed more than a hundred twenty books, many ours.  Here is The Antics of Robi Robot (in Romanian).  Here is an interior from the Jun 73 Korunk (“Our Age”).   Here is Orthopedic Hat.  Here is The Vicissitudes of a Brave Mouse.  Here is Calendar of Nature.  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1941 – Mal Dean.  Six covers, twoscore interiors for us.  Particularly associated with Michael Moorcock and the graphic-art Jerry Cornelius.  Here is the Jun 69 New Worlds.  Here is “The Duke of Queens duels Lord Shark the Unknown” illustrating MM’s “White Stars”.  Here is the Nov 75 – Jan 76 Other Times.  Outside our field, jazz trumpeter & bandleader, illustrator; cartoonist.  Here is a posthumous artbook.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949 – Tim Bolgeo.  Uncle Timmy chaired LibertyCons 1-25, Chattacons 7-11.  Fan Guest of Honor at Con*Stellation III (not this one), DeepSouthCon 43, StellarCon 33, LibertyCon 32.  Four decades a fixture in fandom.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949  Sharan Newman, 72. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (GuinevereChessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga . They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1966 – Cressida Crowell, age 56.  A dozen novels, particularly about How to Train Your Dragon (eleven million copies sold) and The Wizards of Once.  Illustrates many of her own books.  Blue Peter Book Award.  “Children are surrounded by adults who are VERY BOSSY.  They might not always mean to be bossy, and they have the best of intentions, but still.”  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 47. Winner at Chicon 7 of the Best Fan Writer Hugo. Author of the Goblin Quest series which I’ve read at least two of and enjoyed. Same for his Magic ex Libris series. Yeah more popcorn reading. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 31. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 24. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor who would be back several times more. She was Wolfsbane in the Marvel film New Mutants. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) CLARION CALLS. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, organized by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego, is hosting the Winter Writers Series, a monthly series of conversations between Clarion alumni and instructors about the art of speculative fiction and their writing careers. These conversations, co-hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, are presented via Zoom Webinars and are free and open to the public. Each conversation will include time for Q&A with the audience. The next is —

Speculative Horror

April 21, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

Join us for a conversation about ins and outs of writing modern horror with three astounding writers and Clarion alumni/instructors who terrify and unsettle us.

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The PhysiognomyThe Girl in the GlassThe Portrait of Mrs. CharbuqueThe Shadow YearThe Twilight Pariah, and Ahab’s Return. His story collections are The Fantasy Writer’s AssistantThe Empire of Ice CreamThe Drowned LifeCrackpot Palace, and A Natural History of Hell.

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The EcstaticBig MachineThe Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle’s DESTROYER. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the World Fantasy Award, British World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Shirley Jackson Award, American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens. He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a best book of the year for Vulture, The Washington Post, Barnes & Noble, and more – and a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). A recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Sam’s work has been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, John W. Campbell and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. A community organizer by day, he lives in New York City. His latest novel is The Blade Between.

(10) LEEDS LIBRARY ARTICLE ON E.R. EDDISON. The Secret Library / Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog profiles the author in “Novels That Shaped Our World: Life, Death and Other Worlds”.

…In 1922 he published his first and most notable fantasy work, The Worm Ouroboros. The Worm, a serpent or snake, derived from the old Norse, ormr. This he followed with three volumes set in the imaginary world first observed by the Lords Juss and Brandoch Daha as they gaze from the top of great mountain, Koshstra Pevrarcha in The Worm, Zimiamvia, known as The Zimiamvian trilogyMistress of Mistresses (1935), A Fish Dinner in Memison (1941), and The Mezentian Gate (published posthumously in 1958). His Icelandic sagas were: Styrbiorn the Strong (1926) and his much admired translation of Egil’s Saga (1930).

In 1963 almost twenty years after Eddison’s death his late wife, Winifred Grace, and his close friend and literary executor, Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton deposited into the care of the special collections of the Leeds Central Library the vast majority of Eddison’s manuscript works….

(11) LIVE OCTOTHORPE. Big doings by John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty on the Octothorpe podcast.  Listen to Episode 29 here — “Ode to Badger”.

John is not Chris Garcia, Alison is full of beans, and Liz is T. S. Eliot. We handle letters of comment and then spend an hour talking about ConFusion in a BUMPER EPISODE.

You also are invited to join them for Octothorpe Live on 25 April – either join the Facebook group here or email them at octothorpecast@gmail.com for the Zoom link!

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League/Trilogy” on YouTube is HBO Max’s repackaging of Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League into a trilogy.

[Thanks to Edd Vick, Bruce D. Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Steven French, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/18/21 The Zack Pixel Cut

(1) THAT LESSON DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Charlie Jane Anders breaks down the “7 Wrong Lessons That Creators Learned From Game of Thrones” for Tor.com readers.

2. Viewers still love the “smartest guy in the room”

Superficially, Tyrion Lannister might appear to fit in with the “smartest man in the room” archetype, as made famous by HouseSherlock and certain Doctors on Doctor Who. And I think that the widespread love of Peter Dinklage’s fantastic performance as Tyrion helped give this already-popular trope a new lease on life.

Except that when you scratch the surface, Tyrion is lovable because he’s frequently one step behind his enemies, and wrong more often than right. Season one of Thrones features Tyrion blundering from one bad situation to another, without much of a clue, and he survives by luck as much as cunning. His best moments in season one are ones in which he acts recklessly, slapping Prince Joffrey and joking about turtle soup in front of people who already want to execute him.

And when Tyrion sets his mind to playing politics, he’s never particularly good at it. As Hand of the King, he’s mostly a disaster—he doesn’t work well with the king he’s supposed to be serving, and he wastes all his energy feuding with Cersei and trying to figure out whether he can trust the Grand Maester or Varys or Littlefinger. (News flash: he can’t trust any of them.) His big brainwave, sending Myrcella away for her own safety, results in Myrcella’s utterly predictable death. When Tyrion becomes Daenerys’ Hand and starts giving her terrible advice, it’s a continuation of his previous track record.

Nobody loved Tyrion because he was smarter than everybody else, but because he was funny and entertaining and obnoxious in a good way, and he wore his broken heart on his sleeve.

(2) SUBSTACK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Newsletters are proliferating as more writers find them useful for publicity and to create another revenue stream. Substack has been a popular platform for managing and distributing people’s content, but one of their programs has been a source of controversy because the company has been satisfied to let the money rain on the just and unjust alike.

Andrew Liptak provides a concise and lucid explanation of the issues in a recent issue of his Transfer Orbit newsletter (which extends well beyond this excerpt).

…That brings us to this week: Substack recently unveiled an initiative called Substack Pro, which subsidized a group of 30 or so writers by paying them an advance, which would get paid back through a newsletter that’s given the boost to self-sufficiency. In theory, that’s a good idea for both writers and Substack.

But — and there’s a but — in doing so, Substack crosses the line from being a platform that hosts user-generated content, to something that’s actually facilitating its publication. It’s an inherent editorial choice, one that comes with some particular problems. Author Jude Ellison Sady Doyle highlighted some of the issues that this poses: “In Queers We Trust. All Others pay Cash” in which he laid out some systemic issues that they’re seeing with the company, and how Substack Pro is troubling in that some of the authors who seem to be part of the program have engaged in some anti-Trans rhetoric….

… This whole thing has caused a bit of a firestorm amongst folks within the SF/F community. I’ve seen a bunch of folks like Aidan MoherKarin LowacheeAnnalee Newitz, and Maddie Stone depart the platform over this….

Liptak is not leaving Substack at this time, but he is looking for a suitable place to move.

Elizabeth Bear explained to her readers why she’s staying at Substack in “On the Kerfuffles of Capitalism” at Throw Another Bear in the Canoe.

… If I refuse to work with publishers who pay royalties to objectively crappy people, I’m going to have to go get a job as an office manager and frankly I no longer have the wardrobe for that gig. Also I’ve developed a morbid fear of telephones.

Heck, there are a few people in publishing who think I’m an objectively crappy person, for reasons of their own. I haven’t seen any of them refusing to work with my publishers.

I also don’t see why progressives should en-masse abandon a pretty useful tool for outreach and a decent income stream without a much better reason than “capitalism is kind of fucked, internet capitalism doubly so.” It is, but we all have to live here for now.

So for the time being, this content will continue to be available both here and over on Patreon. (If you’re no longer comfortable with Substack feel free to follow me over there. Same content, also delivered to your mailbox, different capitalist overlords.) Much of it free, a percentage of it for paid subscribers only….

Sarah Gailey is moving their Stone Soup newsletter from Substack to another platform: “We Are A Snail”.

I would say it’s time for us to go, but we aren’t really going anywhere. We don’t have to leave the home we’ve built out of each other; we can move through the world without risking the elements.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, our little community is going to travel from Substack to Ghost.io.

If you’re curious about the motivation behind leaving Substack, here’s a good place to start, and here’s a good place to learn more. The short and diplomatic version is that Substack is doing some questionable financial business, and simultaneously isn’t protecting trans people the way it ought to. There’s quite a lot I’d like to say about the situation, but for now I’ll leave it at this: the choice between protecting profit and protecting people feels like a difficult one, but in reality, it is a false choice. It’s easy to make that decision feel complicated, but it’s not. If there can be no profit without investment in exposing trans people to harm, then there should be no profit.

I think we’ll all be very happy at Ghost, and I know my heart will be quite a bit lighter once we’ve made the shift….

(3) ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE. This list of “114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers” from Writer’s Digest should give you plenty to nitpick!

Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorite fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime. Find more than 100 fiction sub-genre descriptions for writers….

(4) MULTIPLE CHOICE. YouTuber Dominic Noble reviews Kiln People by David Brin in “Detective Mystery… BUT WITH CLONES!”.

(5) HABIT NUMBER 5. The Onion’s slideshow “Habits Of Silicon Valley’s Most Powerful Fortune 500 CEOs” includes a bitter joke about the fate of the publishing industry.

(6) THE BIG STFNAL SLEEP. James Davis Nicoll rounds up five examples of “Classic SF About Extremely Long Naps”.

Sleep! How precious, how precarious! Many of us struggle with insomnia. Perhaps we have apnea. Perhaps we own a cat who believes motionless humans are food. Perhaps we are simply aware that up to forty thousand redback spiders can fit into the volume of the average pillow. But sleep can be overdone. Imagine waking to discover that decades or centuries have passed…

This is a convenient way for an author to arrange for a protagonist not unlike the reader to tour an alien setting. Unsurprisingly, a lot of authors have taken advantage of the plot possibilities of the long sleep…

(7) MORISSEY OBIT. Artist Dean Morrissey  (1951-2021), a four-time Chesley Award winner, died March 4. The family obituary is here. Morrissey was a self-taught artist who was inspired to become an illustrator through his admiration for the work of painters ranging from Rembrandt to N.C. Wyeth.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 18, 1981 — On this day in 1981, The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”). You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 18, 1909 – C. Walter Hodges.  Author-illustrator, theatrical costume & scenery designer, student of the Elizabethan stage; Shakespeare’s Theatre won the Greenaway Medal.  Here is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Here is a Chronicles of Robin Hood.  Here is The Little White Horse (a unicorn).  Here is Make-Believe.  Here is Enter the Whole Army.  Here is The Wouldbegoods.  After a Wayne State Univ. plan to reconstruct the Globe Theatre collapsed, CWH sold nearly a thousand drawings to the Folger Lib’y; they can now be browsed electronically.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it before. He wrote a number of other genre-friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born March 18, 1936 – M. Thomas Inge, Ph.D., age 85.  Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, Virginia), where he teaches, among much else, American humor and comic art, film & animation.  Edited A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for Oxford World Classics; James Branch Cabell, Centennial Essays (with E. MacDonald; JBC said “Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”); Comics as Culture; wrote The Incredible Mr. Poe on comic-book adaptations of EAP works; Anything Can Happen in A Comic Strip; threescore books.  Faulkner scholar.  Davis Award for Lifetime Contributions to Southern Letters. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1947 – Drew Struzan, age 74.  Seventy covers, a few interiors; movie posters.  Here is Blade Runner.  Here is Back to the Future.  Here is Rebel Dawn.  Here is The Art of Drew Struzan. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1949 – Tullio Proni, age 72.  Master machinist and electronics expert, co-founded General Technics.  Leading concocter of the blinkies which seemed to appear everywhere in the 1970s under the name Isher Enterprises.  This led to annual house parties called Ishercon.  Mad Scientist Guest of Honor at DucKon IV.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 71. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, CharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 62. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 60. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1973 – Max Barry, age 48.  Six novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Invented electronic game NationStates.  Aurealis Award, Western Australian Premier’s Book Award.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1993 – Samantha Hoffman, age 28.   Fourteen novels.  Says of herself, “Her favorite genre to write is paranormal romance, but she also likes to dabble in fantasy and horror, as well as having a new love of science fiction.”  [JH]

(10) A SPECIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY. The International Carnivorous Plant Society recently announced that the first-ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, a worldwide event dedicated to spotlighting carnivorous plant public awareness and education, starts on May 5, 2021.

The ICPS is proud to promote the first ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, to be held on the first Wednesday of May (May 5th, 2021). In lieu of the international conference in Himeji, Japan, World Carnivorous Plant Day 2021 will serve as the preeminent carnivorous plant event of the year. This day-long web event will stand in for the delayed ICPS conference. The conference has been rescheduled to occur in Japan in 2022.

To assist with these efforts, events involving the Richardson-based carnivorous plant gallery The Texas Triffid Ranch (Dallas’s Pretty Much Only Carnivorous Plant Gallery) run through May 5, 2021, and continue through the end of 2021.

(11) KING’S CHOICE. “Ten Pulp Crime Authors Recommended By Stephen King” at CrimeReads. And guess who’s on the list!

RAY BRADBURY

In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, Hard Case Crime published Killer, Come Back to Me, a brand new collection of the master’s crime fiction—less well known than his trademark fantasy, but just as unforgettable. At the time of his death, King wrote, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”

(12) WEEP WAIL. In the latest episode of Octothorpe. “John is excited, Alison is oh boy oh boy oh boy, and Liz… isn’t.” Listen here: “Eeyore of Eastercon”.

 We celebrate our anniversary with a myriad of letters of comment, we discuss Eastercon’s platform news, and then we talk excitedly about fanzines and that new Douglas Adams book.

(13) LEVERS OF CHANGE. Mental Floss extols a documentary that shows “How ‘Star Trek’ and Nichelle Nichols Changed the Face of NASA”.

Nichelle Nichols is best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series. But the 88-year-old actor also carries with her a lesser-known legacy: Playing a foundational role in the formation of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and inspiring generations of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) leaders.

A new documentary titled Woman In Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek, and the Remaking of NASA details the powerful, revealing, and uplifting story of Nichols’s advocacy and the crucial part she played in not just bringing diversity to NASA’s astronaut classes but in shaping the American space program we know today….

(14) PUT A LID ON IT. “New analysis shows potential for ‘solar canals’ in California”Tech Xplore has the story.

UC Santa Cruz researchers published a new study—in collaboration with UC Water and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced—that suggests covering California’s 6,350 km network of public water delivery canals with solar panels could be an economically feasible means of advancing both renewable energy and water conservation.

The concept of “solar canals” has been gaining momentum around the world as climate change increases the risk of drought in many regions. Solar panels can shade canals to help prevent water loss through evaporation, and some types of solar panels also work better over canals, because the cooler environment keeps them from overheating….

(15) FULL OF STARS. “A photographer spent 12 years capturing this Milky Way image – and it’s breathtaking”Microsoft News has the story, and a link to the picture.

What have you been working on for the past 12 years? Whatever it was, I bet it’s not as awesome as this ridiculously awesome Milky Way image by J-P Metsavainio. His work on the composite photo began in 2009 and a dozen years later he has one of the most spectacular works of astronomy art you’ll ever lay eyes on. The image is huge both in its pixel resolution and its ambition, as the photographer had to collect a whopping 234 photos in order to piece together the final product.

As PetaPixel reports, Metsavainio began capturing specific features of the Milky Way with his high-end camera equipment and astronomy accessories. Those images are works of art in their own right, but the composite image that they helped to produce is even more spectacular.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the latest Mario release reintroduces gamers to “the strangely proportioned fictional plumber you love more than your own parents” with a bonus feature where Mario enters a “strange cat-centric alternate dimension” where he fights giant cats.

[Thanks to Ruth Sachter, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Frank Olynyk, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Moshe Feder, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lise Andreasen.]

Pixel Scroll 3/4/21 And All The Scrolls Are Full Of Pix

(1) SPACE OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY. The virtual Tucson Festival of Books will include a panel “Galactic Empires, Murderbots and More!” with Tochi Onyebuchi, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells on Saturday March 6 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain time. Registration info here.

(2) GUEST WHO? “Star Trek: The Next Generation Almost Featured Robin Williams” at CBR.com.

…One actor the show never snagged, however, was Robin Williams, despite the fact that an episode was written specifically for him and the actor’s passion for the series.

The episode written for Robin Williams was Season 5, Episode 9, “A Matter of Time.” The episode focuses on the time-traveler Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a 26th century historian who traveled back in time to observe Picard and the crew of the Enterprise during a crucial moment. Except Rasmussen didn’t come from the future — he came from the past. He had stolen his time machine and was visiting The Next Generation‘s 24th century in order to steal as much technology as he could and become rich back in his own time….

(3) THE WONDER OF THUNDER. Netflix dropped a trailer for Thunder Force, a superhero comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer.

(4) HARD SF LAUGHS. “Weir(d) Science: PW Talks with Andy Weir” is a Q&A at Publishers Weekly about the author’s neaw book Project Hail Mary.

How did you decide on the level of humor?

I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition.

(5) FIRST STEP INTO SPACE. In the “ESA – Parastronaut feasibility project”, the European Space Agency will try to develop people with physical disabilities as astronauts. (Click for larger image.)

For the first time in over a decade, ESA is looking for new astronauts. These recruits will work alongside ESA’s existing astronauts as Europe enters a new era of space exploration.

In a first for ESA and human spaceflight worldwide, ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware.

ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission.

… Because we believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talents we can rely on in order to continue progressing in our endeavour. One effective way of doing this is to include more gifted people of different genders, ages and backgrounds, but also people with special needs, people living with physical disabilities.

Right now we are at step zero. The door is closed to persons with disabilities. With this pilot project we have the ambition to open this door and make a leap, to go from zero to one.

…There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with disability.

(6) AN INCREDIBLE CAREER. Sunday Profile: LeVar Burton on YouTube is an interview of Burton (he’s now a grandfather!) by Mo Rocca that aired on CBS Sunday Morning on February 28.

(7) #ILOOKLIKEANENGINEER . S.B. Divya, in “Hard Science Fiction Is Still Overwhelmingly White—But It’s Getting Better” at CrimeReads, says hard sf is becoming more welcoming to women and people of color as engineering and technology become more diverse professions.

…I didn’t start my adult life as a writer. First, I wanted to be a scientist. I went to Caltech to major in astrophysics, got sideswiped by computational neuroscience, and ended up working in electrical and computer engineering. From the moment I set foot on the Caltech campus, to the most recent tech job I held, I found myself and my fellow female engineers vastly outnumbered by our male cohort. Over almost 25 years in the industry, I have not seen these ratios improve. If anything, they’re getting worse.

The same phenomenon appears in so-called “hard science fiction,” which is another label that people attach to Michael Crichton’s novels. This subgenre encompasses stories whose speculative science and technology elements do not put a strain on credibility. (In contrast, see any fiction involving faster-than-light spacecraft, anti-gravity, or time travel.) Here, too, is a domain whose bestsellers are dominated by white men.

We live in the year 2021, and yet we persist in associating certain jobs—and certain types of stories—with specific groups of people. Engineers are Asian; startup CEOs are white. School teachers are women, and academics are men. Unfortunately, many times the statistics bear these out in reality, too. Why do we struggle to break free of these narratives and associations? Because we have so few counterexamples that are publicized. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they do not permeate our popular consciousness. It takes effort to overcome these associations, whether you fit in the stereotyped demographic or not. Without that struggle, the associations become self-fulling prophecies.

(8) ECHO WIFE NEWS. Sarah Gailey’s new book has been optioned – Deadline has the story: “Annapurna To Adapt Sarah Gailey’s Novel ‘The Echo Wife’ For Film”.

After a competitive situation, Annapurna has successfully optioned the rights to bestselling author Sarah Gailey’s most recent novel The Echo Wife and is adapting the book as a feature film.

Gailey will executive produce the project alongside Annapurna….

Hugo Award-winning and bestselling author Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Gailey’s nonfiction has been published by Mashable and The Boston Globe, and won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Gailey’s fiction credits also include Vice and The Atlantic. The author’s debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, published in 2019.

The Echo Wife was published on Feb. 16 by Tor Books, the science fiction and fantasy division of Macmillan Publishers….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 4, 1977 — On this day in 1977,  Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four TV movies. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1933 – Bernie Zuber.  Original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society.  Early editor of Mythlore.  Founded the Tolkien Fellowships, edited The Westmarch Chronicle.  Guest of Mythcon XIII.  Active in local (Los Angeles) fandom.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1952 – Richard Stevenson, age 69.  College English teacher of Canada, has also taught in Nigeria, musician with Sasquatch and Naked Ear.  A score of poetry books, memoir Riding on a Magpie Riff.  Six dozen poems for us.  Stephansson Award (Writers Guild of Alberta).  Has published haikusenryu (two Japanese short-poetry forms, unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines), tanka (Japanese short-poetry form, unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines).  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1954 Catherine Anne O’Hara, 67. First genre role role was in the most excellent Beetlejuice filmas artist Delia Deetz followed by being Texie Garcia in Dick Tracy, a film I’ll be damn if I know what I think about. She voices most excellently Sally / Shock bringing her fully to, errr, life in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I see she’s in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Justice Strauss. Lastly, and no this is by no means a complete listing of what she has done, she was on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Dr. Georgina Orwell. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 55. Author of the comic strips, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC Comics’ Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1969 – Sarah Bernard, age 52.  Half a dozen books for us.  Did her own cover for this one.  Has read a Complete Sherlock Holmes, three by Julian May, a dozen by Anne McCaffrey.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 – Marco Zaffino, age 48.  Author, filmmaker, musician; some for us e.g. Pure Bred Chihuahua.  Things can be unclear at borders (perhaps why those bookshops closed); see this Website.  These Sentries might be ours.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 48. Producer or Director on the Underworld franchise. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department. Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote pilot as well. Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted. (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Maggie Lehrman, age 39.  One novel for us; another outside our field, reviewed by Kirkus as “An earnest high school romp” which I guess leaves ML feeling as I did when someone – who as I’ve said is still my friend – described me as an earnest man in a propeller beanie, I mean what do you want?  Anyway, Website here. [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Lauren Miller, age 39.  Two novels for us, one other; now working on another as L. McBrayer.  She says “writing and seeing and being.  I have come to believe that there is magic to be found if we can learn to do all three at the same time.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SEUSS ON THE LOOSE. The New York Times’ coverage — “Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts” – includes these interesting sales figures.

…Classic children’s books are perennial best sellers and an important revenue stream for publishers. Last year, more than 338,000 copies of “Green Eggs and Ham” were sold across the United States, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks the sale of physical books at most retailers. “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold more than 311,000 copies, and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — always popular as a high school graduation gift — sold more than 513,000 copies.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” one of the six books pulled by the estate, sold about 5,000 copies last year, according to BookScan. “McElligot’s Pool” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” haven’t sold in years through the retailers BookScan tracks. Putting the merits of the books aside, removing “Green Eggs and Ham” would be a completely different business proposition from doing away with new printings of “McElligot’s Pool.” (Though the news that the books would be pulled caused a burst of demand, and copies of “Mulberry Street” were listed on eBay and Amazon for hundreds or thousands of dollars on Wednesday.)

(13) MISSION UNPOSSIBLE. Science Fiction 101 is a new podcast by Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie: “It’s Alive: Science Fiction 101 first episode!” Their first mission, should they choose to accept it, is to define the term!

In this debut episode, your friendly hosts Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie first attempt to define “science fiction”. If you want to know more about this thorny subject, check out Wikipedia’s attempt to do the very same thing. Or, for a more in-depth discussion, check out what the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has to say on the subject.

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available – “26: I’m Not Even a Single-Tasker”

John [Coxon] is an annoying prick, Alison [Scott] is not sure she’s staying sane, and Liz [Batty] is going to a beach. We discuss all the news from Eastercon, going to Picocon, and then look back on Punctuation before staying sane in the apocalypse.

(15) NOT ULTRAVIOLENCE BUT HYPERVIOLENCE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Keanu Reeves, who co-created with Matt Kindt and artist Ron Garney BRZRKR, a 12-issue comic published by Boom! Studios. “Keanu Reeves on the joy of writing his first comic book: ‘Why not? That sounds amazing!’”

… To dramatize this “Highlander”-meets-“Logan” fighter during the Boom! introductions, Reeves stood and acted out potential scenes, even flashing some fighting moves — pitch meeting as full-body immersion. The approach was similar to when Reeves first met with Pixar for “Toy Story 4,” striking action poses to play Duke Caboom. “I’ll get in touch with a feeling or thought — or a feeling-thought,” says the bearded Reeves, wearing a black Levi’s jacket and starkly backdropped by a near-white wall — Zoom room as Zen room. “I’ll express it and it tends to come out through the filter of the character.”

“BRZRKR” opens with maximum carnage and minimal verbiage. The creative team promises more textured themes are on the horizon. Discussing the comic’s scope, Reeves riffs until he’s in full mellifluous monologue: “We do want to take on morality, ethics, peacetime, war, violence, whose side, what’s right, what’s wrong, truth, fiction, memory, what do we believe in, who are we, with not only violence but also love — and then our own identities and who we are as humans.” Whoa.

(16) STARSHIP EXPLODES AFTER LANDING. “SpaceX Starship appears to ace touchdown, then explodes in Texas test flight”KTLA has the story.

SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.

The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.

The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.

The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.

But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.

(17) BY THE SEA. You can read the introductory paragraphs to an article about mermaids here — “Splash by Marina Warner – the rest of the article is behind a paywall at the New York Review of Books.

In l819 the French inventor Cagniard de La Tour gave the name sirène to the alarm he had devised to help evacuate factories and mines in case of accident—in those days all too frequent. The siren, or mermaid, came to his mind as a portent, a signal of danger, although it might seem a contradiction, since the sirens’ song was fatal to mortals: in the famous scene in the Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the ship’s mast to hear it, and orders his men to plug their ears with wax and ignore him when he pleads to be set free to join the singers on the shore. Homer does not describe these irresistible singers’ appearance—only their flowery meadow, which is strewn with the rotting corpses of their victims—but he tells us that their song promises omniscience: “We know whatever happens anywhere on earth.” This prescience inspired Cagniard: he inverted the sirens’ connection to fatality to name a device that gives forewarning.

In Greek iconography, the sirens are bird-bodied, and aren’t instantly seductive in appearance but rather, according to the historian Vaughn Scribner in Merpeople, “hideous beasts.” A famous fifth-century-BCE pot in the British Museum shows Odysseus standing stiffly lashed to the mast, head tilted skyward, his crew plying the oars while these bird-women perch around them, as if stalking their prey: one of them is dive-bombing the ship like a sea eagle. An imposing pair of nearly life-size standing terracotta figures from the fourth century BCE, in the collection of the Getty Museum, have birds’ bodies and tails, legs and claws, and women’s faces; they too have been identified as sirens… 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s “FallonVision” with Elizabeth Olsen on The Tonight Show. “Jimmy Fallon’s ‘WandaVision’ spoof with Elizabeth Olsen alters our pandemic reality”.

Jimmy Fallon took viewers on a journey through the decades of talk-show history while spoofing “WandaVision” this week. Because after all, what is “The Tonight Show” if not the tradition of late-night TV persevering?

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/21 I’d Gladly Scroll On Tuesday, For A Pixel Today

(1) MORE REACTIONS TO JASON SANFORD’S REPORT ABOUT BAEN’S BAR AND RELATED ISSUES.

Cat Rambo draws on her decades of experience moderating online forums, including SFWA’s private discussion forum, in “Opinion: On Baen Books, Moderating Discussion Boards, & Political Expression”. Also part of her background –

…In the interest of full disclosure, I’m technically a Baen author. I have a story in a couple of Baen anthologies and another in an upcoming one. I also was the main decider in the choice to give Toni Weisskopf a Kate Wilhelm Solstice award in 2016 in acknowledgment of how much she has shaped the field. I have never been on their discussion boards, as far as I can remember….

She covers a half dozen subtopics before concluding —

…Online harassment is used by a number of folks to silence other people and it includes tactics like SWATting, contacting one’s employer, doxxing, and worse. Jason Sanford is experiencing some of this right now, to the point where he’s had to take his Twitter and Patreon private, but he’s not the first, nor will he be the last. It is shitty and invasive, and it’s something that can constantly ambush you.

Moreover, stochastic terrorism is a thing, and it’s one that some of the “my wishing you were dead wasn’t really a death threat because I didn’t say I’d do it personally” yahoos are hoping for. That hope that someone will be hurt as a result of their rhetoric flickers dimly in the depths of their creepy little souls, even when they claim otherwise, because here in America, it’s a possibility every time they stir up an audience to think of their opponents as NPCs rather than people. And it’s something that is particularly hard on the vulnerable. If you’re a white male experiencing harassment, know that if you were a woman of color, you’d be getting it a hundred times worse, whether you acknowledge that or not.

So… I don’t know what will happen with Baen’s discussion boards. I hope that they’ll do what sometimes happens as a result of these challenges: emerge as something better and more useful, something that creates more community ties than eroding them. Because it’s a time and place when we need more kind, brave words and less hateful, thoughtless rhetoric, and I feel any efforts to establish that is where true heroism lies. Thank you for issuing the challenge, Jason. I hope people rise to meet it.

Sheree Renée Thomas, who is set to co-host the 2021 Hugo ceremony, gives extended commentary about the implications for the Worldcon in a 16-tweet thread. Thread starts here.

Malka Older, the other 2021 Hugo co-host, aired her views in a thread that starts here.

Leona Wisoker does an overview of the Jason Sanford and Eric Flint essays and where they fit into the immediate present day in “Baen’s Bar Fight”.

… The boundaries of free speech and individual liberty in the wild world of genre fiction is, as I’ve said already, not a new battle. However, right here, right now, today, we’re dealing with a new twist on the old situation: the critical flash point of people spreading and believing dangerous lies for years. This started before Trump came into office. Before Obama’s first inauguration. Over the last ten years, the rise of groups like the channers, Gamergate, Reddit, Parler, Fox News, OANN, and QAnon has boosted those lies into explosive territory.

We’re no longer simply talking about malcontents complaining in a chat room. We’re now dealing with a series of connected, systemically based incidents that are driving credulous people into increasingly violent actions, in groups that are steadily expanding in size. We’re talking about bad faith actors — some in government and law enforcement — who are in it for the money and power, who have and will continue to use that misguided passion to their own benefit, and who don’t care who gets hurt along the way. To wave away the bitter speeches and threats of randos in internet forums is to entirely ignore the escalating situation that led to the Capitol insurrection in the first place….

Simon McNeil surveys posts by Jason Sanford and others as a preliminary to his thesis that those who believe there is an overall sff community are mistaken, and that prospects for the 2021 Worldcon have been irreparably damaged.  “The vexatiousness of the culture wars in SFF – Baen’s Bar and the fantasy of total community”.

…And here we return to two central questions that have been at the heart of genre fiction’s long-running culture war, just who is this community and what, if anything are its standards?

We have here a situation where the genre fiction “communty” consists of several disparate actual groups of people. These people have mutually exclusive definitions of the ideal present notwithstanding what they may want to see in fiction about the future, the past or other worlds. The attempts of mass conventions like DisCon III to serve these vastly disparate communities means it’s ultimately impossible to serve any.

Now I’m honestly quite shocked that there is going to be an in-person WorldCon this year. Between international travel restrictions and the clear and present danger of mass gatherings, it really feels like a live convention in 2021 is unsafe quite regardless of who the editor guest of honour is. With this said, while I do believe that Sandford turning over this particular rock exposed the peril lying under the surface of science fiction I don’t think de-platforming Weiskopf is going to make the convention any less dangerous for anyone unwilling to tow the American conservative line. Frankly, Toni Weiskopf isn’t the problem, she’s merely a symptom of it. Baen, and its stable of Trumpist malcontents is in fact only a symptom of the systemic problem that is the faulty assumption at the core of the SFF communities that there is some overarching and totalizing community for all to contribute to.

It was never true.

All that has changed is that those people who once hadn’t enough power to speak out about John Campbell’s racismOrson Scott Card’s homophobia or Harlan Ellison’s busy hands have achieved enough power through adoption of new technology, changes in social understanding and various civil rights movements to fight back against the people who once kept them silent….

Camestros Felapton saves a thousand words by giving us a picture of his rebuttal to Eric Flint’s defense of Baen’s Bar in “Today’s Infographic: moderating comments”.

Chuck Gannon defended Toni Weisskopf’s statement about the temporary takedown of Baen’s Bar in the midst of a Facebook discussion by dissatisfied Baen supporters. He says in conclusion:

3) Lastly her statement was formulated so that it both showed a willingness to seriously engage the accusations, but without ceding ANY authority or agency over her rights and freedoms as the owner of a business. She did not stonewall the dertractors, did not counterattack, and did not cave, none of which are good strategies NO MATTER what politics are involved. That is smart business. And her tone was so measured and reasonable and *civil* that anyone who takes offense at it is essentially identifying their real motivation: to use this complaint as a weapon in the service of their deeper motive–cripple or kill Baen.

My assessment: she handled this as well as anyone could, and far, far better than most do.

(2) NEW ADDRESS. Perseverance made a successful landing on Mars today. The mission website is here: Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover.

(3) PRO TIP. You’ve been placed on notice!

(4) LET GO OF YOUR AGENDA. Once NPR’s Jason Heller took Sarah Gailey’s latest book on its own terms, he had good things to say about it: “Review: ‘The Echo Wife,’ By Sarah Gailey”.

…I went into Gailey’s new novel, The Echo Wife, with a big expectation for yet another immersive, wonderfully detailed, fictional setting. I was not catered to. There isn’t any real world-building in The Echo Wife because, well, there’s no world to build. It already exists. It’s our own. The book takes place, more or less, in the here and now, and even the rich concept behind its science-fictional premise — namely cloning — keeps a fuzzy distance. Once I got over my initial bout of pouting, though, I gave myself over to Gailey’s latest exercise in character-driven speculation. And I was happy I did…

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 18, 2005 — On this day in 2005, Constantine premiered. Based off DC’s Hellblazer series, it starred dark haired Keanu Reeves as blonder haired John Constantine. It was, to put it  mildly, produced by committee. The screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello off a story by Kevin Brodbin. Its impressive cast included  Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, and Peter Stormare. Over the years, its rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes has steadily climbed now standing at an excellent seventy four percent. Huh. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 18, 1894 – Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Ph.D.  First woman to receive Yale’s Porter Prize (for her dissertation), Cross Medal (as a distinguished alumna).  First woman President of Phi Beta Kappa.  Crawshay Prize (for Newton Demands the Muse).  Voyages to the Moon reviewed by Willy Ley.  Pilgrim Award.  Festschrift in her memory, Zephyr & Boreas (works of Le Guin).  More here.  (Died 1981) [JH]  
  • Born February 18, 1904 – Rafael DeSoto.  A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us; also Westerns, thrillers, adventure.  See R. Lesser ed., Pulp Art; D. Saunders, The Art of Rafael DeSoto.  Here is the Feb 39 Eerie Mysteries.  Here is the Apr 43 Argosy.  Here is the Nov 50 Fantastic Novels.  Yes, descended from Hernando de Soto.  This site says it will be available again soon.  (Died 1992) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as  The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in GalaxinaThe Incredible HulkJason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The RingsAdult FairytalesClonesDracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and He had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 92. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series based off the novel was broadcast several years back.(CE) 
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations which are gathered in a superb two volume collection, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on  A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1931 – Toni Morrison.  A score of novels – Beloved (Pulitzer Prize) and God Help the Child are ours – poetry, two plays (one about Desdemona), libretto for Margaret Garner, nonfiction.  Jefferson Lecture.  PEN/Bellow Award (PEN is Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists).  Medal of Freedom.  Nobel Prize.  Oprah Winfrey: “I say with certainty there would have been no Oprah’s Book Club if this woman had not chosen to share her love of words with the world.”  Today is TM’s 90th birth-anniversary; see this from the Toni Morrison Society.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1933 – Ray Capella.  A score of short stories for us; twoscore covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Star Quest 4.  Here is the Oct 75 Amra.  Here is the Nov 81 Fantasy Newsletter.  Here is the Apr 01 Alien Worlds.  Here is an illustration for John Carter of Mars.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1936 – Jean Auel, age 85.  The Clan of the Cave Bear, five more; 45 million copies sold.  Studied how to make an ice cave, build fire, tan leather, knap stones, with Jim Riggs.  “The Real Fahrenheit 451” in Omni (with Bradbury, Clarke, Ellison).  Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (France).  [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1943 – Jill Bauman, age 78.  One short story, a score of poems, a hundred thirty covers, ninety interiors for us; many others.  An appreciation in Wrzos’ Hannes Bok.  Here is Melancholy Elephants.  Here is the Apr 89 F&SF.  Here is the Aug 92 Amazing.  Here is Thumbprints.  Guest Artist at the 1994 World Fantasy Convention, Philcon 1999, Chattacon XXVI.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 53. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1979 – Shannon Dittemore, age 42.   Four novels.  Blogs for Go Teen Writers.  Website says “Coffee Fangirl”.  Has read The Importance of Being EarnestGreat ExpectationsThe Screwtape LettersLes Misèrables, two by Shakespeare, a Complete Stories & Poems of Poe, Peter PanThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and four by Jane Austen including Pride & Prejudice in the German translation by Karin von Schwab (1892-1940; alas, Stolz & Vorurteil doesn’t alliterate).  [JH] 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark peers over a vampire’s shoulder as he gets shocking news about his online meal order.
  • Randall Munroe got a hold of Perseverance’s schedule.

(8) OVERCOMING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Entrepreneur interviews physicist & author Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein about her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred and about sexism and racism in science. They also ask her about her interest in science fiction and about speaking at conventions, even if their fact checkers did allow the proofreaders to get away with calling them “Khans.” (Khen Moore would have been so proud.) “This Theoretical Physicist Boldly Goes Where Few Black Women Have Gone Before” at Entrepreneur.

Professor Prescod-Weinstein, an important theme running through your book is the sexism and racism inherent in science. Crucially, you take time to namecheck those who — like you — did make it through, such as Dr. Willie Hobbs MooreDr. Edward A. BouchetDr. Elmer ImesProfessor Arlie Oswald PettersDr. Shirley Ann Jackson and Dr. Marcelle Soares-Santos. It is only through seeing people like oneself that one can imagine being up there too, right?
Yes, that’s valuable when you have the opportunity. But I also know that sometimes we don’t get examples like us. As far as I know, none of those people are queer, for example. It’s important then to be the person who is like yourself. I know that sounds silly, but I encourage students to get people to take pictures of themselves doing physics, so that they can see that they are indeed what a physicist looks like….

(9) OCTOTHORPE. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available! John Coxon has cats, Alison Scott has a milkman, and Liz Batty has a gecko. They plug Picocon, discuss Boskone and Eastercon, and talk more about their Hugo reading/watching/experiencing. “Ep. 25: Some of the Rocks Are Going to Be More Interesting Than Others”.

(10) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter forwarded his favorite wrong answers from tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Types of Narrative Literature

Answer: You can bet “The Lottery” is a good example of this genre of brief narratives, usually under 10,000 words.

Wrong question: What is a novella?

Right question: What is a short story?

*

Category: All Fairs

Answer: A 1939 New York World’s Fair diorama predicting the look of the city in 1960 was called this, later a long-running animated TV series.

Wrong question: What is The Jetsons?

Right question: What is Futurama?

*

Category: Pulitzer Prizes

Answer: Bruce Catton took the 1954 history prize for his book titled “A Stillness at” this fateful place.

Dumb question: What is the OK Corral?

No one got, What is Appomattox?

(11) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes “A Mel Blanc Discovery”.

Sometimes a gem can be hiding in plain sight—or within hearing distance. A few weeks ago I turned on Turner Classic Movies (my go-to channel) and watched part of Alexander Korda’s 1942 production The Jungle Book, starring Sabu. I hadn’t seen it in a while and it’s very entertaining. But when Mowgli encountered the giant snake Kaa, I listened carefully to the voice and realized it belonged to Mel Blanc. It had never occurred to me before; he’s speaking in a very low register so it isn’t immediately apparent. Then I thought of him performing his parody of a popular radio commercial in a Warner Bros. cartoon, saying, “Beee-Ohhh” and I was certain….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

(1) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THAT PALANTIR. An insurrectionist wants a federal District Court to force the U.S. to adopt an interim government from the history of Middle-Earth: “Paul Davis Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Lawsuit, Declares ‘Gondor Has No King’” – the case is briefed by Law and Crime.

Paul M. Davis, the Texas lawyer who was fired from his in-house counsel job after he recorded himself among a mob at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6, has filed legal documents which set a new floor for legal embarrassment in U.S. jurisprudence. The documents employ a series of awkward references to — and ideas from — the temporary government of the Kingdom of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Davis’s lawsuit bombastically attempts to assert that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president and that a rightful heir to that office will someday return. Until then, the case foolishly argues that a federal judge might be able to appoint a group of “stewards” from the cabinet of former President Donald Trump to run most of the government from the White House. That should occur, the lawsuit lawlessly speculates, after the Secret Service escorts Biden and his wife out of the executive residence at the order of a federal judge.

…After a few lines of formalities, a six-page Amended Motion filed Thursday argued yet again for a restraining order.

“Gondor has no King,” the document says in its second paragraph, “to invoke a very appropriate quote from the J.R.R. Tolkien epic classic, ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

A footnote explains the analogy:

During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as “Aragorn,” occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.

(2) INAUGURATION DAY PRESENTS. More examples of the Bernie Sanders meme. First, where he’s dropped into fine art: “Bernie Sanders Stars in Art History’s Greatest Works in New Viral Meme” at ARTnews.

…A cascade of similar images soon followed. The art historian Michael Lobel made a version in which Sanders inside a moody café from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks—itself the subject of one of the more memorable Covid-era memes—and others placed the senator within iconic works by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, ASCO, Joseph Beuys, and Georges Seurat. (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte with Bernie, anyone?) There was even a version where Sanders appeared seated atop a stylite column that appeared first in a 5th century Byzantine manuscript.

But no version of the newest Sanders joke proved more memorable than one created by the writer R. Eric Thomas, who inset him facing Marina Abramovi? for one famous performance that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. MoMA picked it up, tweeting, “Bernie is present.” Something about Thomas’s rendition may help explain its charm. In most pictures of The Artist Is Present, Abramovi?’s steely eyes meet her viewer, almost daring anyone who sits before to look away. But in the meme version, Sanders looks away from her, his eyes cast toward the floor. In this meme, there seems to be a willful disregard of something that was construed by many as being great—an anti-establishment spirit that befits Sanders’s own views.

Then, StarTrek.com also ginned up some silly ones: “#BernieBeams into the Captain’s Chair”.

(3) COURT DECIDES AGAINST PARLER. “Amazon can keep Parler offline, judge rules” – the Seattle Times has the story.

… On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said that forcing Amazon to get Parler back online goes against the public interest, given “the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol.”

“That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” she wrote. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.”

Amazon welcomed the judge’s ruling. In a statement, the company issued a rejoinder to critics who have said Amazon infringed on Parler’s First Amendment rights when it suspended Parler’s account.

“This was not a case about free speech,” the statement said. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it).” …

(4) WILL GOOGLE GO? “Google threatens to leave Australia because of new media law” reports the Washington Post.

… The threat is the latest and most intense in a long-running battle that has pitted Australian lawmakers and news organizations against U.S.-based tech giants Google and Facebook. For years, news organizations in Australia have argued they should be paid when Internet companies aggregate news stories on their websites. Google and Facebook say their sites help people find news, and the resulting traffic to news websites is valuable on its own.The proposed media law would force the tech companies to negotiate with media companies on payments for previewing and linking to their content. If they can’t reach a deal, a government regulator would step in to set the rates. That arrangement is untenable, Mel Silva, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand, said in prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing Friday. …The idea that Google should pay for showing news in its search results is not new. In Spain, Google shut down its news aggregation website in 2014 after the country passed a law requiring online platforms that profit off news links to share their revenue with media companies. Just this week, Google agreed to negotiate payments to French publishers.

In the United States, Google is facing multiple federal and state antitrust lawsuits that allege the company has used its domination of online search to benefit its other businesses and push out competitors.

“It seems very peculiar to me that effectively Google wants to blackmail Australian consumers and policymakers with threats to go ahead and leave this jurisdiction when these discussions are happening all around the world, including in the U.S. itself,” Australian Sen. Andrew Bragg said during the Senate hearing, which was broadcast remotely.

(5) WOTC LITIGATION ENDS. The lawsuit creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed against Wizards of the Coast last fall was settled without trial in December. “Dragonlance Writers End Lawsuit Against Dungeons & Dragons Maker” reported Comicbook.com.

A surprising lawsuit involving the seminal writers of the Dragonlance novels and the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly ended. Last week, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the primary authors behind the popular Dragonlance novels, filed to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit against Wizards of the CoastWeis and Hickman filed the lawsuit in US District Court earlier this year, alleging that Wizards of the Coast breached a licensing contract to write a trilogy of new Dragonlance books by informing the pair’s publisher that they were no longer moving forward with the books without explanation. The duo, who claimed that a Dragonlance novel was already completed and that substantial work had begun on a second book, sought up to $10 million in damages in the initial lawsuit.

The filing noted that Wizards of the Coast had not formally answered their lawsuit, nor had they filed for a summary judgement. As Weis and Hickman filed for a dismissal without prejudice, the duo could hypothetically re-file their lawsuit at a later date.

(6) QUESTION TIME. Octothorpe is a podcast from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty about science fiction and SF fandom. In episode 23, “A Lot of Foreshadowing”, the three “discuss the recent debate over the Hugo Awards and DisCon III’s approach to the same, before touching on some upcoming fannish events.” One segment is provocatively titled, “Are the Hugos a massive cankerous boil on the Worldcon that just needs to be completely purged?”

(7) FURLAN OBIT. Actress Mira Furlan, who gained fame playing Delenn on Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau on Lost, died January 20 at the age of 65. The Variety tribute is here.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave a deeply emotional eulogy:  

… We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.

Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said.

“Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”

“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.

And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.

Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

…We have lost a light in our galaxy, but another has gained one. I will miss our talks, our laughs, our deep discussions about Hollywood and life. I will miss our dinners and trips abroad. I will miss the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. I will miss her captivating voice and contagious laughter. I will miss sharing with her one of the most gratifying experiences of my life: the relationship between Sheridan and Delenn.

(8) SAUNDERS APPRECIATION. The New York Times obituary of the famous fantasy writer has appeared: “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73”. He died last May, and as reported here on January 1, had been buried in an unmarked grave until friends raised money for a headstone. The Times has an extensive obituary with photos and book covers.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf premiered on CBS where it would run for three seasons before moving to USA for a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who also created Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other great genre series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord and Jean Bruce Scott. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.
  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its audience reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 22, 1788 – George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron.  Mad, bad, and dangerous to know; but, as George Szell said of Glenn Gould, “that nut is a genius”.  Wrote fantasy among much else, e.g. “Darkness”The Giaour, Manfred.  It could be said that his rhymes were fantastic – “And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, / Some samples of the finest Orientalism” (Beppo, Stanza LI).  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.) (CE) 
  • Born January 22, 1925 – Katherine MacLean.  Five novels, fifty shorter stories.  One Nebula.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 1. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  Interviewed in NY Review of SF.  (Died 2019) [JH] 
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt.  I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really hurt. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like.  If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down where he voiced Hazel and The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1951 – Donna Ball, age 70.  Eight novels for us as D. Boyd, Rebecca Flanders; ninety all told, with other pen names too.  Award-winning dog trainer.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1962 – Alison Spedding, Ph.D., age 59.  Author and anthropologist.  Three historical-fantasy novels; one science fiction in Spanish; three other novels in Spanish; shorter stories, a play, nonfiction.  While living in Bolivia criticized the government; imprisoned, many fellow academics thinking it political; released on a surety.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1972 – Stephen Graham Jones, Ph.D., age 49.  Nine novels for us (about The Only Good Indians last year, which caught the attention of the NY Times Book Review, note that SGJ is himself Blackfeet), a dozen others; ninety shorter stories for us, two hundred others.  Texas Institute of Letters Award.  Stoker Award.  Professor of English at Univ. Colorado, Boulder.  See this from the ReaderCon 30 Program Book.  Special Guest at World Fantasy Con 2020.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1982 – Janci Patterson, age 39.  A dozen novels for us, a score of others; some with co-authors including Brandon Sanderson.  Customizes Barbie dolls, watches “reality” television.  [JH]

(11) SUPER AUCTION ITEM. You have until January 28 to bid on a “Fantastic 1941 Letter Signed by Jerry Siegel, Thanking Sheldon Mayer for Promoting ’Superman’’’. Current bid is $783.

Excellent letter by Jerry Siegel, creator of ”Superman”, thanking comic pioneer Sheldon Mayer for promoting the comic before it was published in ”Action Comics #1” in 1938. Dated 18 September 1941, letter reads in part, ”Dear Sheldon: I may be coming to New York inside a few weeks and I hope we can get together at that time and curse the comic business to our heart’s content.

Again I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help make SUPERMAN what it is. I’m very much afraid that if it weren’t for a chap named Sheldon Mayer, as far as syndication is concerned SUPERMAN might still be gathering dust, and Joe [Shuster] and I would be working for a living…[signed] Jerry”.

Sheldon Mayer was one of the first employees of the McClure Syndicate, headed by comics pioneer Maxwell Gaines. Although many have taken credit for discovering ”Superman”, this letter serves as ultimate confirmation that it was Mayer’s championing of the comic which led to its inclusion in ”Action Comics #1”.

(12) GUNN APPRECIATION. John Kessel has posted some of his correspondence with the late sf author and scholar James Gunn from 2018 on Facebook: showing the advice he gave about a recently published novella.

In the wake of sf writer James Gunn’s death in December, I’ve been thinking of him and what he meant to me. The publication of my novella “The Dark Ride” in this month’s F&SF reminded me that I had sent him a draft of the story and we had this correspondence about it, which helped me to shape the final version.

I thought I’d post these emails just to show how generous and engaged he was even in his late 90s. I’m so glad that I knew him….

(13) CHUCKED OUT THE AIRLOCK.  [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] “The queen’s rep in Canada calls it quits after probe into toxic workplace” in Politico. If the Queen is not in Canada, the Governor General is our head of state. Not SFnal in itself but what makes this SF-adjacent is Payette is getting the heave ho over permitting a culture of harassment that included —

Allegations [dating] to the earliest days of her tenure when she would reportedly put staff on the spot to quiz them on outer space, demanding they name every planet or correctly state the distance between the sun and the moon….

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

…And last year, CBC News reported that Trudeau’s office failed to check with Payette’s former employees during its vetting process. As it turned out, Payette had resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints of mistreatment of employees, according to the news outlet. She also left the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2017, the year she became governor general, after two internal probes into claims she had verbally harassed staff members.

(14) FINN DE SIECLE. MEL Magazine joins its voice to the continuing uproar: “Finn Deserved Better — And So Did Black ‘Star Wars’ Fans”.

…Later on, in perhaps the most exciting shot of the trailer (at least for me), we see Finn standing in a frozen forest. His eyes are steely, determined. He looks every inch the hero — defiant, ready. He turns on his lightsaber. Its blue glow leaps to life just as we see the villain Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber spitting hot energy from its hilt. All of that tension, all of that conflict, absolutely crackling with dramatic potential. Only for all of it to fizzle away in the three films that followed.

We started with a Black stormtrooper who becomes a conscientious objector, follows his moral compass and joins the rebels to risk his life in order to save the galaxy. Somewhere along the way, though, the filmmakers made that character boring. That’s why Star Wars fans are still so pissed at the great betrayal of Finn. It’s why his name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, a full year after the final film of the newest trilogy was released in theaters.

That last point is key: Finn deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. The “we” in this instance is Black sci-fi fans. We’ve had to live on some thin soup from Hollywood for far too long. (Although we do have to give a shout out to Star Trek for Capt. Sisko.) For Blerds like me, we held out a small hope that it might be different this time. That Star Wars might finally move on from its Victorian-Nazi melodrama past and embrace the diversity of our moment. Specifically, by creating a credible Black hero.

The first time Star Wars added a Black character, we got a space pimp. Lando Calrissian felt like he’d escaped from a Blaxploitation film or a 1970s malt liquor commercial. But at least he was cool — paper thin, but undeniably cool….

(15) DRAGON APATHY. Declan Finn complains that no one wants to talk about the Dragon Awards on his blog, in “Emerging Dragons”.  

…But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.

With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don’t even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list … and they didn’t realize they were already on it.

It was worse last year when I said “We’re not playing this game,” and people made the same request– proving that they didn’t bother to read the post.

(16) BENEFIT FROM EXPERIENCE. More encouragement to get the vaccine from the Governator. Followed on FB by comments from a legion of anti-vaxxers, naturally.  

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The monologue on last night’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, starting around the 10:15 mark, has Colbert telling disillusioned Q-anon conspiracy theorists how to fill the void by taking up his own enthusiasm for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

(18) VIDEO OF A MUCH EARLIER DAY. “Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog In Dueling Banjos” on YouTube is a Funny or Die sketch from 2013, and come on, who doesn’t like Kermit The Frog or Steve Martin?

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