Pixel Scroll 9/24/21 Scrolling Pixels Give You So Much More

(1) SUES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. The heirs of Steve Ditko filed to reclaim their rights to some well-known Marvel characters – now Marvel is suing to prevent them. The Hollywood Reporter looks over the filings in “Marvel Suing to Keep Rights to ‘Avengers’ Characters”.

Disney’s Marvel unit is suing to hold on to full control of Avengers characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Falcon, Thor and others.

The complaints, which The Hollywood Reporter has obtained, come against the heirs of some late comic book geniuses including Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Gene Colan. The suits seek declaratory relief that these blockbuster characters are ineligible for copyright termination as works made for hire. If Marvel loses, Disney would have to share ownership of characters worth billions.

In August, the administrator of Ditko’s estate filed a notice of termination on Spider-Man, which first appeared in comic book form in 1962. Under the termination provisions of copyright law, authors or their heirs can reclaim rights once granted to publishers after waiting a statutory set period of time. According to the termination notice, Marvel would have to give up Ditko’s rights to its iconic character in June 2023….

If the plaintiffs win, Disney expects to at least hold on to at least a share of character rights as co-owners. The studio would have to share profits with the others. Additionally, the termination provisions of copyright law only apply in the United States, allowing Disney to continue to control and profit from foreign exploitation.

(2) LIKE PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE. Lincoln Michel on why noir blends well with sf, at CrimeReads: “Why Noir and Science Fiction Are Still a Perfect Pairing”.

… I think the answer lies first in the fact that both genres have an inherent critique of the social order. They question the state of the world, refusing to just accept the corruption, inequality, and destruction as “the way things are.” Or at least saying, sure, it’s the way things are, but it’s still screwed up.

While other crime genres are often fundamentally a defense of the status quo—police procedurals focus on petty criminals and heroic cops, spy thrillers defeat threats to the established global order—noir presents the established order as crime. It is the rich and the powerful, and the institutions that serve them, that are the true villains. (Of course this isn’t true of every single noir work, but it is of the ones that influenced SF subgenres like cyberpunk.) Take Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece Red Harvest, in which a rich man and a corrupt police force collaborate with gangs to crush poor workers. Or Chinatown, in which a business tycoon controls government institutions to choke off water supplies. This critique of the social order is why the prototypical hardboiled (anti)hero exists outside of the official law enforcement structure. They’re not a police officer, FBI agent, or government spy. They’re a private investigator, and sometimes even unlicensed as in the case of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins, and realize that the legal system is as corrupt as the organized crime it is fighting…and often in bed with.

(3) RAUM, THE FINAL FRONTIER. Cora Buhlert describes West German TV’s new (in 1966) space adventure show: “[September 24, 1966] Science Fiction TV from West Germany: Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion: Episode 1: Attack From Space” at Galactic Journey.

…The series has the unwieldy title Raumpatrouille – Die Phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion), which viewers have already shortened to Raumpatrouille Orion or just plain Orion.

Like the new US series Star TrekSpace Patrol Orion starts with an opening narration, courtesy of veteran actor Claus Biederstaedt, which promises us a fairy tale from the future. In the year 3000 AD, nation states have been abolished. Humanity has settled the ocean floor and colonised far-flung worlds. Starships, including the titular Orion, hurtle through space at unimaginable speeds.

An impressive title sequence and a spacy and very groovy theme tune follow, courtesy of Peter Thomas, who also supplies the music for the Edgar Wallace and Jerry Cotton movies….

(4) TANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. By George, Steve Davidson makes a good point: “Space Force Uniform Controversy” at Amazing Stories.

The Space Force, America’s latest (and completely unnecessary) military branch unveiled its proposed service uniform.

A lot of fans (and fan-adjacent television watchers) have remarked that the proposed dress uniform greatly resembles those created for the entirely fictional space navy depicted in Battlestar Galactica (the completely unnecessary re-boot, to be precise).

Yes, yes it does.  However, those more familiar with real military history would probably be more inclined to think that the new digs for Space Force look more like General George S. Patton’s tanker’s uniform that the general proposed between world wars one and two; about the only difference between uniforms then and uniforms now is Patton’s addition of a football helmet, while it is very unlikely that Space Force will adopt the recommended propeller beanie….

Comparative photos at the link.

(5) COVER SCORES. The public’s choices for best covers in the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition have been announced – and the outcome was a lot close than expected.

(6) JO WALTON KICKSTARTER. A funding appeal launched at Kickstarter aims to produce a Lifelode Audiobook by Jo Walton.

Lifelode is a Mythopoeic Award winning fantasy novel by Jo Walton that has never had an audiobook. Jack Larsen is a young man from New Zealand who has a wonderful voice for reading aloud and wants to become an audiobook reader. Together, they could be amazing…

Jo Walton writes:

The main point of this is to try to kickstart the audiobook reading career of young New Zealand fan Jack Larsen, whose wonderful reading voice has been a mainstay of the Scintillation community through the pandemic.

They will have Jack read the book in a professional studio and have it professionally edited (which is the part which costs all the money) and then sell it where all good audiobooks are sold. 

At the Kickstarter site you can listen to Jack read the first chapter — click on the video there (which is just audio). Bear in mind, Jack did this demo on his phone.

As of today’s writing the appeal has raised $2,457 of its $7,891 goal.

(7) FOUNDATION LAYS ITS CORNERSTONE. Camestros Felapton supplies detailed comments about the beginning of the new series: “Review: Foundation Episode 1 (Apple TV)”.

2021 for all its faults, is offering fans of classic science fiction two (potential) treats: a new movie version of Dune and a TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. It’s interesting that of these two highly influential stories that with first you can make a good guess about what specific scenes will appear and in the second I’ve no idea what we will be getting….

Warning, it’s spoilers all the way down from there.

(8) PARTS IS PARTS. In contrast, Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall isn’t a believer. “New Formula for ‘Foundation’ Doesn’t Add Up”.

…Like psycho-history itself, all of these changes make sense in theory. But none of them quite accomplish what the show’s creative team needs them to. This Foundation is, like the clones’ palace on the capitol planet of Trantor, stunning to look at(*) but ultimately cold and sterile. Despite the cast and crew’s best efforts — and what appears to be an unlimited budget, even by Apple’s lavish standards — this Foundation remains an assemblage of concepts in search of a compelling TV show….

(9) LANGDON JONES (1942-2021). Author, editor and musician Langdon Jones, whose short fiction primarily appeared in New Worlds, beginning with “Storm Water Tunnel” in 1964, has died, Michael Moorcock reported on Facebook.

One of my closest, longest and best friendships was with Lang Jones, a talented composer, editor and writer, one of the most modest people I have ever known, with the sweetest nature of almost any human being I’ve met. He was Assistant Editor of New Worlds. He restored Titus Alone by Mervyn Peake to the edition you probably read and wrote the music for The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb.  You can hear his lively piano on The Entropy Tango.  His own collection of stories The Great Clock, remains his only published fiction.  I last saw him about two years ago, at the wonderful wedding of his daughter Isobel to Jason Nickolds, for whom he was extremely happy, and he said he had stopped writing and composing and had never felt better.  He leaves a son, Damon, as well as his daughter.  One of the few people of whom it’s possible to write: Loved by all.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1964 – Fifty-seven years ago, Mary Poppins had its New York City premiere. (Yes, it’s genre as a flying nanny is surely within our realm.) It was directed by Robert Stevenson from the screenplay by Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi as based off P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series. It was produced by Walt Disney and starred Julie Andrews in her first screen acting role. Principal other cast were Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson and Glynis Johns. The film was shot entirely at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, using painted London background scenes.  

It won’t surprise you that the film received universal acclaim from film critics, and that Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke got lavish praise. Box office wise, it earned some forty five million dollars on an estimated budget of four or so million dollars (Disney never released the budget officially) and it’s had at least another hundred million in box office rentals as well since then.

Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent eighty-eight percent rating. A sequel, Mary Poppins Returns, was recently released and it too rates high among audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes with a sixty five percent rating. Dick Van Dyke has a new role in it. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 — Bert Gordon, 99. Film director most remembered for such SF and horror films as The Amazing Colossal ManVillage of the Giants and The Food of the Gods (based of course on the H.G. Wells’ novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth).  His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” was a reference both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies featuring super-sized creatures. 
  • Born September 24, 1934 — John Brunner. My favorite works by him? The Shockwave RiderStand on Zanzibar which won a Hugo at St. Louiscon and The Sheep Look Up. I’m also fond of The Squares of The City which was nominated for a Hugo at Tricon. That was easy. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 24, 1936 — Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, and I’ve watched every show at least twice, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth, The Witches and The Dark Crystal and the first two Muppets films which are also excellent. Warning note: the three newest takes done on The Muppets suck beyond belief. Disney should be ashamed. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 24, 1945 — David Drake, 76. Writer with his best-known solo work being the Hammer’s Slammers series of military science fiction which are space operas inspired by the Aubrey–Maturin novels. He has also drafted story ideas that were then finished off by co-authors such as Karl Edward Wagner, S.M. Stirling, and Eric Flint. He’s very, very well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born September 24, 1945 — Ian Stewart, 76. Mathematician and  writer. He makes the Birthday Honors for the four volumes in The Science of Discworld series he wrote with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett. It was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000. Each of the books alternates between the usually absurd Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. (All four volumes are available from the usual suspects.) He would write a number of genre novels, none of which I’m familiar with. Anybody here read his works? 
  • Born September 24, 1951 — David Banks, 70. During the Eighties, he was the Cyberleader on Doctor Who in all the stories featuring the Cybermen — Earthshock (Fifth Doctor story), The Five DoctorsAttack of the Cybermen (Sixth Doctor story), and Silver Nemesis (Seventh Doctor story). In 1989, he played the part of Karl the Mercenary in the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. There were two performances where he appeared as The Doctor as he replaced Jon Pertwee who had fallen ill.
  • Born September 24, 1957 — Brad Bird, 64. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going to praise for directing The Iron Giant (nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000), The Incredibles (winner of Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Interaction), Incredibles 2 and Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films. 
  • Born September 24, 1965 — Richard K. Morgan, 56. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series  which are why I haven’t watched the Netflix series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is on my TBR, well my To Be Listened To pile now. And yes I read Thin Air, the sequel first and it’s quite excellent. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

A meeting with the shrink is the subject of today’s Wulffmorgenthaler-239 at Politiken. Lise Andreasen supplies the translation from Danish:

So … You left him, you killed his aunt and uncle, you blew up his sister’s planet, you chopped his hand off … and NOW you want him to consider you a father figure and join you “on the dark side”. How do you think Luke feels about it?

(13) TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES. Or both… Shat might be on his way to space after all these years — “Beam me up? TMZ says William Shatner will take Blue Origin suborbital space trip”.

The next crewed suborbital spaceflight planned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture — which could launch as early as next month — is due to carry Star Trek captain William Shatner, according to the TMZ celebrity news site.

If the report based on unnamed sources is true, that would make Shatner the oldest person to fly in space at the age of 90, besting the record set by 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk during the first crewed flight of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spacecraft in July….

(14) THE WARMED-UP EQUATIONS. “’Astronauts check our scripts!’: inside the new age of sumptuous sci-fi TV”. The Guardian tells how we got here.

…The current renaissance can be traced to Moore’s groundbreaking 2004 reimagining of hokey 70s space odyssey Battlestar Galactica. Updating the premise for a post-9/11 TV landscape, he turned a niche sci-fi story into mainstream watercooler TV. “Whether you liked sci-fi or not, you found yourself binging all these seasons,” says Ben Nedivi, one of Moore’s co-creators on For All Mankind. 

While Star Trek, too, is thriving in the current sci-fi landscape, with no less than five series currently in production, it seems unlikely to cross the final frontier into the halls of prestige sci-fi. For Nunn, this comes down to one thing: aliens. 

While the golden age shows of the 90s relied heavily on prosthetics – and, in the case of Farscape, puppets – to present characters from other worlds, today’s sombre offerings dwell solely on human problems. “With Battlestar Galactica, you’ve got robots, but you haven’t got aliens,” Nunn points out. “And The Expanse is similar. So they can be read as science fiction but also dystopias, whereas Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Farscape, even Stargate, all had alien life-forms at their core.”…

… For Shankar, a great strength of The Expanse is that it uses space as more than just a backdrop. “This is a show that turns space into a character,” he says. With a PhD in applied physics, he served as Next Generation’s official science adviser. “On Star Trek it was really about maintaining continuity with the fake science, making sure you used the phasers when you were supposed to, and not the photon torpedoes,” he says. “The technical manual [for the Enterprise] was quite detailed, but it wasn’t real. In The Expanse we use real physics to create drama. There’s a sequence in the first season where the ships are turning their engines on and off so you’re shifting from having weight to weightlessness. Two characters suddenly lose gravity and can’t get back to where they need to be, and the solution is conservation of momentum.”

This absolute commitment to accuracy is shared by the team behind For All Mankind. “We have an astronaut who reads our scripts,” explains co-creator Matt Wolpert. “He’ll tell us when we come up with ideas that are against the laws of physics.”…

(15) TED TALK. Ted White has two books out – one fiction, one non-…. Both were designed by John D. Berry, and published with the assistance of Michal Dobson’s Dobson Books. White is former editor of Amazing® and Heavy Metal® magazines and a past Best Fan Writer Hugo winner.

He’d been set up. Someone (and “independent consultant” Ray Phoenix was pretty sure who) had filed a phony stolen car report. When a freak bus accident allows him to escape into the woods, Ray lands in an entirely new world of trouble – small-town cocaine dealing, counterfeit money, and a web of strange and violent relationships that will take all of Ray’s considerable skills to unravel.

In 1986, legendary science fiction writer and editor Ted White went to jail for possession and sale of marijuana. A prolific correspondent, Ted kept up a steady stream of letters during his confinement that vividly and powerfully detail everyday life behind bars, from relationships with other prisoners and guards to living in cells and common rooms – not to mention the fine jailhouse cuisine. (Seriously, don’t mention it.) Ted White’s letters make you feel like you’re really in jail…and really glad you’re not.

(16) DISCONTENT. [Item by David Doering.] I caught this piece on TechDirt today. It appears that Sony’s art department enjoyed this fan artist’s rendering of She-Venom so much they included it in their official poster. Too bad they didn’t acknowledge that or offer to pay for it.  I certainly see more than just coincidence here. Even if Sony/others have the rights to the character, the similarities are too striking to not say the Sony version owes something to the fan artist. The comments debate both sides. “Sony Pictures, Defenders Of The Creative Industry, Appears To Be Using Fan Art Without Giving Credit”

… You can say the images don’t match up precisely if you like, but they’re certainly very damned close. As mentioned about similar past cases, this likely isn’t a copyright infringement issue; the fan artist doesn’t own any rights to the character he drew. But, again, if the copyright industries are going to do their maximalist routine under the guise of protecting those that create content, well, fan art is content…. 

(17) EVADING THE SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4’s The Digital Human episode “Faceless” notes that it’s becoming harder to hide from facial recognition technology and asks what does this means for people who protest against political systems … So we are SF fans and know all about Orwell’s 1984, William Gibson’s novels etc.  Or do we?  It looks like things are getting worse, but there are ways to fight back…. Digital Human looks at the issues with examples from a non-political English teacher becoming a wanted terrorist on the run in 12 days, to counter-measures.

Johnathan Hirshon works in PR and marketing and describes himself as ‘The Faceless man’ because he’s managed to keep his face off the internet for over twenty years. This may seem extreme but Neda Soltani explains how one online photo of her face, meant she had to leave her family, country and profession. Artist and curator, Bogomir Doringer whose archived and curated thousands of faceless images off the internet talks about how technology is not only choreographing the way we use our faces but persuading us to hand over our biometric data with our use of apps that change the way we look. .

Artist Zach Blas is interested in queer culture and has created masks using biometric data from minority groups, to push back on the possibility of people being categorised by biometrics. Zach uses masks to show that facial recognition technology can be disrupted. Stephen has been trying to do just that. Stephen is from Hong Kong and spent the summer protesting against the Extradition bill. He and his fellow protesters wore masks to evade identification from the police and Hong Kong’s smart lamp posts. The remit of the protest grew when the wearing of masks by protesters was banned. Stephen believes that by using facial recognition technology on the streets of Hong Kong the authorities in Hong Kong and China are creating a sense of ‘white terror’. Stephen is now protesting in the UK but still feels this ‘white terror’. While protesting people from mainland China have been taking photos of him and other protesters. He knows that photos can go global and by using facial recognition tech he could be easily identified. Is it becoming impossible to escape recognition even when we would like to hide?

(18) HE BLABBED. Tom Hiddleston tells Loki stories: Untold: Tom Hiddleston.

(19) AN ADVENTURE WITH COMPANIONS. Yes! Another excuse to watch David Tennant! “Around the World in 80 Days” will air on PBS.

David Tennant stars as literature’s greatest explorer Phileas Fogg in a thrilling new adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic adventure novel coming to MASTERPIECE on PBS. (Air date to be announced.)

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/21 Don’t Talk About Scrolldays! You Kidding Me? Scrolldays? I Just Hope We Can Scroll!

(1) SWEET AND SOUR NOTES. Kameron Hurley shares her answer to a professional challenge: “When Should You Compromise? How to Evaluate Editorial Feedback” at Locus Online.

…There is also a huge variance in the quality of editorial and stakeholder feedback. Some­times you get notes that make it clear that the person making them was reading (or wants to read) an entirely different book than the one you’ve written.

So how do you determine which notes to take to heart, and which to ignore?

For me, it all comes back to understanding my novel and the story I want to tell. The feedback I get that gets me closer to refining and communicating that story is the feedback I take. The notes I get that that are clearly moving off into a direction that takes me away from the story I want to tell are the ones I toss….

(2) TRUE PRO TRUTH. John Scalzi announced “Dispatcher 3: Finished!” Soon after he tweeted —

(3) STAND BY. Vanity Fair says the LOTR for television is coming out in 2022. “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Unveils a First Image and Release Date”. Someone – not the Vanity Fair writer — pointed out the September 2 release date coincides with the anniversary of Tolkien’s death in 1973. (Actually, the Vanity Fair article names two different September release dates, but the second presumably is a typo.)

Ever since 2017 when Amazon first announced the massively expensive deal that would send TV audiences back into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, fans have been eagerly wondering when their journey might begin. The folks behind the as-yet unnamed series have picked a very auspicious date indeed. Break out the Longbottom Leaf and mark your calendars for September 2, 2022 so you can see what Amazon has had cooking over in New Zealand these last few years.

The date announcement comes with a first image of the series to celebrate the wrap of filming in New Zealand, and fans will be sure to eagerly pore over every pixel. We can confirm that the image is from the first episode though sources close to the production are declining to confirm the identity of the figure seen there. This could be an image of a city in Valinor. The trees in the background, at least, are very interesting. …

(3) DREAMS. Read Aaron Starr’s amazing parable “Feathers or Stones” at Black Gate. Today!

Once, long ago, there was a poor writer who lived in the depths of a forest with his wife. He would spend his evenings putting words to page while his wife rested by the fire. As she did so she would read those stories which were complete, and yet not yet ready for market. Using a special red pencil, she would note occasional errors and put to him questions the writing had left unresolved, in order that his next version of the story might be improved.

During the day she would walk out into the forest and spend her time hewing mighty trees, for she was a woodcutter by trade. He, meanwhile, would tend to the small garden, and every few days journey into the nearby town, riding down the river on a mighty raft formed of entire tree trunks she had stripped, all lashed together, and he would walk back home before sundown. Thus they had a modest supply of silver, and the wife was content they be together every evening.

But the writer was not content….

(4) INTERRUPTED DEBUT. Galactic Journey reviews the latest (in 1966) issue of If, including this story by a brand new author: “[August 2, 1966] Mirages (September 1966 IF)”.

The Empty Man, by Gardner Dozois

Jhon Charlton is a weapon created by the Terran Empire. Nearly invulnerable, incredibly strong and fast, he can even summon tremendous energies. Unfortunately for him, for the last three years, he has shared his mind with a sarcastic entity called Moros, which has appointed itself as his conscience. Now, Jhon has been sent to the planet Apollon to help the local rebels overthrow the dictatorial government.

Gardner Dozois is this month’s new author, and this is quite a debut. It’s a long piece for a novice, but he seems up to it. There’s room for some cuts, but not much. The mix of science fiction and almost fantasy elements is interesting and works. The only place I’d say a lack of experience and polish shows it at the very end. The point is a bit facile and could have been delivered a touch more smoothly, but it’s a fine start to a new career. Mr. Dozois has entered the Army, though, so it may be a while before we see anything else from him.

(5) FROM MASHUPS TO SMASHUPS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 28 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses video game crossovers.

Most crossovers are like this:  Brawlers created solely to let fans collide fictional DNA of their favourite characters against each other,  Their storylines are little more than a set dressing,usually involving a convenient tear in the space-time continuum. Kingdom Hearts, a collaboration between Disney and Final Fantasy developer Square-Enix, took narrative more seriously to offer a role-playing game with original characters and complex lore.  Sending plucky anime heroes out adventuring with Donald Duck to learn the true meaning of friendship may sound like a painfully trite exercise, but the games proved a runaway success. Kingdom Hearts developed into a stranger, darker story than anyone expected.

Today we are at peak crossover. There is The Little Prince- in -Sky:  Children of the Light, Assassin’s Creed in Final Fantasy, DC Comics heroes in Mortal Kombat and dozens of franchises distilled into costumes for party game Fall Guys.  Sometimes these make sense:  Yes, ace attorney Phoenix Wright and kindly Professor Layton could plausibly solve crimes together while Pirates of the Caribbean nestles neatly into the nautical fiction of Den of Thieves.  Others are plain wrongheaded: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing pits the blue hedgehog against other Sega characters in go-karts, blithely ignoring his defining trait–Sonic doesn’t need a vehicle to go anywhere fast. 

(6) MIDSOUTHCON HONORS. Nominations are being taken for the 2022 Darrell Awards through December 1. See complete guidelines at the link.

In order to qualify, the work must either be written by an author who is living in the greater Memphis area (as defined below) when the work is published OR have at least one significant scene set within that area. Broadly defined, the area is west Tennessee, north Mississippi and northeast Arkansas.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 – Thirty years ago, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel wins a HOMer Award. The HOMer Awards were given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe. Locus notes that the winning authors were active there. (The novel was set in Cornwall though the music in it is influenced by Northumberland bagpiper Billy Pigg as the principal character is smallpiper Janey Little.) It was also nominated for the Aurora, Locus, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and World Fantasy Awards as well. It’s just been released as an audiobook, and it is available from the usual suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 2, 1917 Wah Chang. Of interest to us are the props he designed for the original Star Trek seriesincluding the tricorder and communicator. He did a number of other things for the series — the Rabbit you see on the “Shore Leave” episode, the Tribbles,  the Vulcan harp first seen in “Charlie X“ and the Romulan Bird of Prey. Other work included building the title object from The Time Machine, and the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second season Trek episode that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair,”  “The Minus-X Affair,”  and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 2, 1932 Peter O’Toole. I’m tempted to say his first genre role was playing King Henry in A Lion in Winter as it is alternate history. Neat film. Actually before that he’s got an uncredited role in Casino Royale as a Scottish piper. Really he does. His first genre role without dispute is as Zaltar in Supergirl followed by being Dr. Harry Wolverine in Creator. He’s Peter Plunkett in the superb High Spirits, he’s in FairyTale: A True Story as Arthur Conan Doyle, and Stardust as King of Stormhold. Not surprisingly, he played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. Tor, which has the rights to him in the States, has been slow to bring him to the usual suspects. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 2, 1949 Wes Craven. Swamp Thing comes to mind first plus of course the Nightmare on Elm Street franchiseof nine films for which he created Freddy Krueger. Let’s not forget The Serpent and the Rainbow. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 67. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read of a certain author. And so it was of this author. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, just the first two of the Corporation Wars but I’ve got it in my to be finished queue,and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. His Restoration Game is quite chilling. I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available from the usual suspects!
  • Born August 2, 1955 Caleb Carr, 66. Ok, I’ll admit that this is another author that ISFDB lists as genre that I don’t think of as being as genre. ISFDB list all four of his novels as being genre including The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness which are not even genre adjacent by my reading. So is there something in those novels that I missed? 
  • Born August 2, 1976 Emma Newman, 45. Author of quite a few SF novels and and a collection of short fiction. Of interest to us is that she is co-creator along with her husband Peter, of the Worldcon 75 Hugo Award winning podcast Tea and Jeopardy which centers around her hosting another creator for a nice cup of tea and cake, while her scheming butler Latimer (played by Peter) attempts to send them to their deaths at the end of the episode. Her Planetfall series was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows even an animated celebrity’s prosthetics can’t get past TSA.

(10) SOMETIMES THEY DO GROW WEARY. R.H. Lossin revisits “William Morris, Romantic Revolutionary” at the New York Review of Books.

At the end of William Morris’s News from Nowhere, or, An Epoch of Rest (Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance), a woman named Ellen explains to the visitor, William Guest, that he cannot stay in this perfect place of clean air, meaningful work, and satisfying leisure. Not because of any fictional science of time travel, nor because he poses a threat to this particular future’s social harmony, but because his very being has been so thoroughly deformed by the social conditions of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism that he is incapable of experiencing the pleasures and desires of a world freed of competition, exploitation, and suffering. “You belong,” explains Ellen, “so entirely to the unhappiness of the past that our happiness even would weary you.”

…Many aspects of News from Nowhere set it apart from other utopian fiction of the time—it is decidedly socialist, conscious of the environmental costs of industrialization, backward-looking rather than futuristic, and free of prescriptiveness about any particular social arrangements—but Ellen’s melancholy observation on the psychic life of the capitalist subject is singularly important. If no other argument for revolutionary change made within the novel seems persuasive, this line, appearing late in the narrative, should give us reason to consider the insufficiency, even the costs, of a pragmatic reformist mindset. At a moment in history when social reform and conservationist policy have appeared on the political horizon, William Morris offers a reminder of the constitutive limits of our imaginations. He urges us to wish harder, not plan better….

(11) INSIDE HIS STRUGGLE. SFF Book Reviews’ “The State of SFF – August 2021” roundup has an excellent lead-in to Scott Lynch’s recently-made-public newsletter update.

…Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republic of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.

Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

(12) WATCH ALONG WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has made public another Synced Straczynski Commentary for Babylon 5 for the “And the Sky, Full of Stars” episode.

Originally created for Patrons of my page at: https://www.patreon.com/syntheticworlds This is an original full-length commentary/reaction for And the Sky, Full of Stars, one of our most important season one episodes. Sync up at the start of the commentary, and hit play.

(13) UNBREAKABLE. SYFY Wire is astonished: “Coulson (Still) Lives?! Marvel Confirms Clark Gregg Is Back For ‘What If…?’ Series”.

Phil Coulson just can’t be killed! Thanks to a production brief for Marvel’s What If…? (debuting next week), we now have it confirmed that Clark Gregg officially recorded dialogue for the animated anthology series. While the document doesn’t go into specifics about the episode Gregg’s featured in, we’d say it’s not too far-fetched to assume that he’ll reprise the role of the Corvette-loving S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who has a rather impressive talent for sticking around the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Coulson, whose MCU tenure can be traced back to the very beginning in 2008’s Iron Man, was a regular recurring character across the movies until he was murdered by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in 2012’s The Avengers. As Mobius (Owen Wilson) was kind enough to remind us in the season premiere of Loki, the agent’s death was the catalyst for bringing together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

(14) WHY PROVO IS FANNISH PT. 64. [Item by David Doering.] Here at the Provo City Cemetery is another reason why our city is suitably fannish–even Daleks come here to die… 

A Dalek Named Thomas… kids’ book maybe?

(15) REANIMATION. The Huntington knows our day won’t be complete without a timelapse video of the blooming of one of its famous Corpse Flowers.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on Loki in this episode with spoilers. “Villain Pub – Into the Loki-Verse”.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Richard Horton.]

Pixel Scroll 7/28/21 So Put Another File In The Jukebox, Baby

(1) MORE’S HAPPENING THAN WHAT’S ON THE PAGE. Aigner Loren Wilson is “Exploring Nnedi Okorafor’s Africanfuturist Universe” at Tor.com.

…Though not all of the stories take place in Africa, they all speak to the same African future that Okorafor is creating and envisioning. Sometimes this future is at the nexus of American industrialism and the exploitation of Africans like in The Book of Phoenix, in which Okorafor shows the rage and anger of a child used and experimented on. Sometimes her stories show the aftermath of such greed. In Who Fears Death, Okorafor writes of the strife of Sudan and the resilience of its people through the story of Onyesonwu. Readers watch her grow from an infant to a powerful being with the ability to save and heal a whole people. Though the landscapes change, the heart of an Africanfuturist universe is being carved out within these books. Eventually in Binti, Africa reaches the stars by way of the character literally running away so she can be the first of her people to attend a top intergalactic school. Binti is the future of her people, carrying the weight of all the past struggles of them and herself—the histories both told and not….

(2) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. The Booker Prize 2021 longlist includes three books of genre interest, titles shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • Second Place, Rachel Cusk, (Faber)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • The Sweetness of Water, Nathan Harris (Tinder Press, Headline, Hachette Book Group)
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
  • An Island, Karen Jennings (Holland House Books)
  • A Town Called Solace, Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • China Room, Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker, Vintage, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)
  • Light Perpetual, Francis Spufford (Faber)

The shortlist will be announced September 14, and the winner on November 3.

(3) COMPLICATED Q&A. LeVar Burton was interviewed by David Marchese in the July 4 New York Times Magazine.  It’s mostly about his Jeopardy! stint, but he also discusses his 1997 sf novel Aftermath, which has recently been reprinted. “LeVar Burton’s Quest to Succeed Alex Trebek”

…Forgive me for making the subtext of these questions the text, but I’m trying to see if we can complicate the image of you as almost a secular pop-culture saint like Alex Trebek or Fred Rogers. And one of the things that I came across that maybe does complicate things is your novel, “Aftermath.”5

[5 Published in 1997, Burton’s only novel to date is a dystopian story about a United States recovering from a series of catastrophic events, including violent racial conflicts after the assassination of the nation’s first Black president-elect by a white extremist.]

 Wow. I love talking to people who have taken the time to read my book. I’m enormously proud of it. I just recorded a digital version of it with a new author’s note. I threw out the old author’s note about how I came to be a science-fiction fan and instead addressed the time in which we find ourselves now and some of the ways in which the events at the beginning of the novel are kind of prescient.

I don’t really know how well the book sold, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s obscure. Is it possible that the public wasn’t eager to accept the side of your sensibility that it represented? I was surprised by the violence, the allusions to sexual assault — just the darkness in it. 

I would venture to say, based on some encounters that I have had on Twitter, that there is a population of people who aren’t willing to see me displaying an aspect of my character that perhaps goes against their idea of who I am. They feel like they have the right to opine on who I should be, what I should and should not say. That’s an interesting part of this dynamic of fame. However, I spent a lot of time and energy discovering, defining, divining who I am and how I want to live my life. What you do with what I put out there is your business. What I put out there is my business….

(4) AFTER ACTION REPORT. At Green Book of the White Downs, Tim Bolton’s “Thoughts on the release of the Tolkien Society Summer Seminar videos and push-back against the online small-minded backlash around the event” includes links to “an outpouring of writing focused on the reception of Tolkien’s work and finding representation to identify with in Tolkien’s words” plus “numerous blog posts about LGBT+ and Tolkien.”

…A couple of weeks ago, as we headed towards what would be a fantastic and thoughtful Tolkien Society Summer Seminar, it came apparent that a part of the Tolkien fandom were quite vocally angry that diversity should be a topic associated with Tolkien. We saw a rival conference set up (as if other conferences have ever been a bad thing), we saw podcasts and YouTube rants. Social media saw the same people posting angrily about the affront that the Tolkien Society were holding a seminar – not sure where these lot have been, the Tolkien Society have hosted seminars every year for longer than some of them were born….    

This is the Tolkien Society seminar whose announced schedule was used by some bloggers as an excuse to act out – “Seminar’s Focus on Diversity in Tolkien Draws Conservatives’ Ire” – including pitching a dubious rival event: “Purported Event Will Counter-Program the Seminar on Diversity in Tolkien”.

Bolton concludes his post with this affirmation:

…Here’s the thing. No matter how far back these cave trolls want to try and drag us, we (as a fandom and a society) are going to move forward. We are diverse, we are inclusive. Will we make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But I will stand by groups that at their core hold values such empathy, kindness and being welcoming to all.

And at the centre of it all – our love of Tolkien’s works.

(5) DOG AT LARGE. Joseph Tuttle introduces readers to “’Roverandom:’ Tolkien’s little-known children’s story” at Voyage.

Roverandom is the endearing tale of a little dog’s adventures after being turned into a toy by a wizard. Tolkien originally told this story to his children after one of them had lost a toy dog on vacation. After searching for the lost toy unsuccessfully, Tolkien devised Roverandom to help explain what happened to the toy. Years later, he put the story into the book format we now have….

(6) LUMPY LOKI. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Fiona Sturges interviews Richard E Grant about his role on Loki.

Grant hams it up terrifically as Classic Loki, one of several ‘variant’ Lokis marooned in a purgatory known as ‘The Void’ (other variants include Alligator Loki and Kid Loki.)  When he first saw his costume — scoffed-grubby-with clear sagging in the crotch area — he was a little crestfallen.  ‘My first question was, ‘Where are the muscles?’  If you look at Jack Kirby’s original drawings in the comic, the guy had muscles.  But the costume designer was very insistent that I was relying on Loki magic (for strength). So I didn’t get my way.  I thought, ‘Oh well, it’s a withered and old Classic Loki that they’re going to get!’

The role also required Grant to grapple with CGI and green screen technology.  He notes that in 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, in which he played Allegiant General Pryde, ‘ all the doors were functional, all the lights on the consoles worked, and there were stormtroopers’  By contrast, in Loki, his alligator co-star was made of three cushions roughly sewn together. 

(7) METAVERSE MAVEN. The Verge says “Mark Zuckerberg is betting Facebook’s future on the metaverse” – so I guess I’d better start figuring out what that’s supposed to be.

As June came to an end, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees about an ambitious new initiative. The future of the company would go far beyond its current project of building a set of connected social apps and some hardware to support them. Instead, he said, Facebook would strive to build a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences straight out of sci-fi — a world known as the metaverse.

The company’s divisions focused on products for communities, creators, commerce, and virtual reality would increasingly work to realize this vision, he said in a remote address to employees. “What I think is most interesting is how these themes will come together into a bigger idea,” Zuckerberg said. “Our overarching goal across all of these initiatives is to help bring the metaverse to life.”

The metaverse is having a moment. Coined in Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel, the term refers to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality in a shared online space. Earlier this month, The New York Times explored how companies and products including Epic Games’ FortniteRoblox, and even Animal Crossing: New Horizons increasingly had metaverse-like elements. (Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has been discussing his desire to contribute to a metaverse for many months now.)…

(8) SECOND BANANAS WITH MORE APPEAL. James Davis Nicoll points out “Five Supporting Characters Who Outshine the Protagonist” at Tor.com.

Sergeant Sam Anderson from Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein (1953)

Had runaway Max Jones never met Sam Anderson, late of the Imperial Marines, Max’s plans to follow his late uncle Chester into space would have come to nothing. Chester may have been a member in good standing of the Astrogators’ Guild, but he never signed the necessary paperwork nominating Max for membership. As far as the Guild is concerned, that is that.

Sam, on the other hand, has the ethical flexibility, experience, and connections needed to circumvent onerous regulation. Thanks to Sam’s experienced mentorship, Max acquires all the necessary papers needed to work in space and a position on board the Asgard. Max’s odd talents will prove invaluable when the Asgard is lost in space. Those talents would never have been there to help the Asgard without genially amoral Sam’s corrupting influence.

(9) HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY. Filer Jake says at the Something Awful forums someone has posted a Polaroid picture from 1989 in which a paperback book, believed to be SF, can be seen, and asked “What is that book?”

We’re seriously stumped, to the point where I’ve been trawling a copy of the ISFDB to get titles that might be of the same length as the one in the picture, and am also considering downloading their cover DB so as to do some heavy-duty image analysis.

I’m hoping that you’d be willing to add this as an item in a Pixel Scroll, as in the words of the original asker “Why should we be the only ones to be haunted by this?”

This is the picture. You can see why they’re having so much trouble figuring out the answer. But maybe the pattern of the cover will tickle something in your memory banks?

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 28, 2007 – On this date fourteen years ago, Jekyll, a British series produced as a sequel to The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde novella, finishes airing on BBC One. Steven Moffat wrote all six episodes with Douglas Mackinnon and Matt Lipsey each directing three episodes. Elaine Cameron and Jeffrey Taylor were the producers. It starred James Nesbitt in the lead role with the rest of the cast being Gina Bellman, Paterson Joseph, Denis Lawson, Michelle Ryan, Meera Syal and Fenella Woolgar. Critics loved it with James Jackson of The Times saying Nesbitt’s acting as Hyde was “entertainingly over the top as a dozen Doctor Who villains, with a palpable sense of menace to boot”.  A second season was written by Moffat but the BBC never picked up the option on it. Eight years later, ITV would air Jekyll and Hyde based off the same source material and it too would cancelled after one series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 28, 1866 Beatrix Potter. Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second-to-none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life. Those skills are reflected in her fiction. (Died 1943.)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 93. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. She won a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. You can read Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with her here.
  • Born July 28, 1931 Jay Kay Klein. I’ll direct you to Mike’s excellent look at him here as I can’t add anything to what he says.  I will note that Jay Kay was a published author of three stories, “Century of Progress”, “Mass Communication“ and  “On Conquered Earth”.  The first two in Analog, the latter in If. None of these have been republished since.  (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Primarily a writer of mystery fiction, his extensive bibliography includes three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous LizardThe Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Metaverse. His “Doesn’t Matter Any Matter More” short story won a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History and his “Mike Gonzo and the UFO Terror” won a Golden Duck Award. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 28, 1955 Dey Young, 66. One of those performers who appeared in multiple Trek series. She was in Next Gen’s “The Masterpiece Society” as Hannah Bates, in Deep Space Nine’s “A Simple Investigation” as Arissa and  and in Enterprise’s “Two Days and Two Nights” as Keyla. She’s got minor roles in Running ManStrange Invaders and Spaceballs as well.
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 55. Husband of Mercedes Lackey who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. (They were CoNZealand GoHs last year.) He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 53. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed up as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Born July 28, 1972 Elizabeth Berkley, 49. Her best known role is Verhooven’s Showgirls which is decidedly not genre even if Kyle MacLachan is in it. She’s done some genre work including The Twilight ZonePerversions of Science which appears to be akin to the Tales from The Crypt series, the animated Armitage III: Polymatrix series, and the Threshold series which pops up regularly in these Birthday notes. 

(12) SJW CREDENTIAL BUNDLE. StoryBundle’s 2021 Cattitude Bundle, curated by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is available for three more weeks. Get the full list of books and the rest of the deal at the link.

This bundle thrills me. Often, I curate StoryBundles filled with books I’ve read. Always, I curate with authors whose work I like. But as I curate them, I’m aware that I am a moody reader who rarely wants to read what’s prescribed. So, with the books I have only read parts of or haven’t read at all, I put them in a To-Be-Read pile to finish when the mood strikes.

With cat fiction, though, the mood always strikes me. I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to read a cat story. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ll do whatever I’m doing, unless I’m petting one of my three cats.

Many of the books in this bundle combine cats and magic. It seems a proper combination. Cats can twist themselves into the strangest positions. They have an uncanny way of loving us or torturing us (depending on how they feel about us). They have a mysterious edge, even if they’re the friendliest cat on the planet.

(13) LOCKDOWN WAS GOOD BUSINESS FOR THEM. Game makers are getting an unexpected slice of the pie. The Guardian has the story: “Warhammer maker Games Workshop hands staff £5,000 bonus after lockdown sales surge”.

Warhammer retailer Games Workshop is handing its shop workers, model makers, designers and support staff a £5,000 bonus each after sales and profits benefited from tabletop gamers escaping lockdown by fighting bloodthirsty battles with orcs, elves and alien hordes.

The Nottingham-based company behind the popular fantasygaming equipment and Lord of the Rings figurines said its 2,600 ordinary workers would split a £10.6m special bonus on top of a £2.6m profit share.

Senior managers will share an extra £1.1m bonus pot, up from £300,000 the year before, after sales rose by just over a third to £361m and pretax profits soared almost 70% to £151m….

(14) WITCHER SPINOFF. This trailer for a Witcher anime spinoff dropped on Wednesday. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf premieres August 23 on Netflix.

The world of The Witcher expands in this anime origin story: Before Geralt, there was his mentor Vesemir — a swashbuckling young witcher who escaped a life of poverty to slay monsters for coin. But when a strange new monster begins terrorizing a politically-fraught kingdom, Vesemir finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to confront the demons of his past.

(15) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. Dr. Brian Keating, Co-Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, who also is a member of the Galileo Project’s Advisory Board, is joined by Harvard University Professor Avi Loeb to chat about the Galileo Project in “Extraterrestrial Technology: The Situation Has Changed!” on YouTube.

Huge news out of Harvard: In 2017, the world for the first time observed an interstellar object, called ‘Oumuamua, that was briefly visiting our Solar system. Based on astronomical observations, ‘Oumuamua turned out to have highly anomalous properties that defy well-understood natural explanations. We can only speculate whether ‘Oumuamua may be explained by never seen before natural explanations, or by stretching our imagination to ‘Oumuamua perhaps being an extraterrestrial technological object, similar to a very thin light-sail or communication dish, which fits the astronomical data rather well.

After the release of the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), the scientific community now needs the determination to systematically, scientifically & transparently look for potential evidence of extraterrestrial technological equipment. The impact of any discovery of extraterrestrial technology on science & on our entire worldview would be enormous.

Given the recently discovered abundance of Earth-Sun systems, the Galileo Project is dedicated to the proposition that humans can no longer ignore the possible existence of Extraterrestrial Technological Civilizations (ETCs), and that science should not dogmatically reject potential extraterrestrial explanations because of social stigma or cultural preferences, factors which are not conducive to the scientific method of unbiased, empirical inquiry. We now must look through new telescopes, both literally and figuratively. The Galileo Project aims to identify the nature of UAP and ‘Oumuamua-like interstellar objects using the standard scientific method based on a transparent analysis of open scientific data to be collected using optimized instruments.

The Galileo Project follows three major avenues of research:

1. Obtain High-resolution, Multi-detector UAP Images, Discover their Nature: This goal will be accomplished by searching for UAP with a network of mid-sized, high-resolution telescopes and detector arrays with suitable cameras and computer systems, distributed in select locations. The data will be open to the public and the scientific analysis will be transparent.

We anticipate extensive Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning (AI/DL) and algorithmic approaches to differentiate atmospheric phenomena from birds, balloons, commercial or consumer drones, and from potential technological objects of terrestrial or other origin surveying our planet, such as satellites. For the purpose of high contrast imaging, each telescope will be part of a detector array of orthogonal and complementary capabilities from radar, Doppler radar, and high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to high-resolution, large camera visible range and infrared band telescopes. If an ETC is discovered to be surveying Earth using UAP, then we have to assume that the ETC has mastered passive radar, optical and infrared technologies. In such a case, our systematic study of such detected UAP will be enhanced by means of high-performance, integrated and multi-wavelength detector arrays.

2. Search for and In-Depth Research on ‘Oumuamua-like Interstellar Objects:  

The Galileo Project research group also will utilize existing and future astronomical surveys, such as the Rubin Observatory, to discover and monitor the properties of interstellar visitors to the Solar system. We will conceptualize and design, potentially in collaboration with interested space agencies or space ventures, a launch-ready space mission to image unusual interstellar objects such as ‘Oumuamua by intercepting their trajectories on their approach to the Sun or by using ground-based survey telescopes to discover interstellar meteors.

3. Search for Potential ETC Satellites: Discovering potential 1 meter-scale or smaller satellites that may be exploring Earth, e.g., in polar orbits a few hundred km above Earth, may become feasible with VRO in 2023 and later, but if radar, optical and infrared technologies have been mastered by an ETC, then very sophisticated large telescopes on Earth might be required. We will design advanced algorithmic and AI/DL object recognition and fast filtering methods that the Galileo Project intends to deploy, initially on non-orbiting telescopes. 

(16) PICS OR IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. The Expanse was a Jeopardy! clue. I can prove it. (Do we still call this a screenshot?)

(17) TRAILER FOR A PROMISED FAN FILM. Strap in for a fun Star Wars fan film from writer/director Anthony Ferraro, Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master. “The goal was to make a fan film driven by dramatic performances rather than winks and nods to the franchise. But not to worry, we do some winking and nodding,” Ferraro promises. The video launches August 6 on the Create Sci-Fi YouTube channel.

Hope hinges on two men with no hope.

A forsaken Mandalorian hunts down a Hutt Courier to recover an asset that unexpectedly leads him to team up with an outcast drunken Jedi Master to fulfill his sworn duty.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Jake, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/21 This Pixel Will Self-Destruct In Five Parsecs

(1) SUMMER READING. In “Meet the Authors of Summer’s Biggest Sci-Fi and Fantasy Adventures” Goodreads features Q&As with Shelley Parker-Chan, Nghi Vo, Matt Bell, Tasha Suri, Becky Chambers, Cassandra Khaw, T.J. Klune, and Cadwell Turnbull.

Cadwell Turnbull, author of No Gods, No Monsters

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

CT:  Balancing all the narrative elements. I’m very interested in narratives where individuals and groups of people converge around significant events for very different reasons. I wanted the novel to honor individual and collective action where each person is important. That was hard to do. The other challenge was the cosmology underpinning the story, which requires a few conceptual leaps to make sense. I didn’t want to do too much too fast and undercut the emotional weight of those leaps. I also didn’t want to undermine the very real and very important personal conflicts of the characters with god-level madness. Add to that my love of subtlety and subtext and the writing process became a tug-of-war between all these disparate goals. But I did my very best. Luckily I have two more books in the series to tease out every layer.

(2) BARBARA NEELY REMEMBERED. Mystery Writers of America has established the Barbara Neely Scholarship in honor of the late author, a trailblazing Black crime novelist who was named a Grand Master by MWA in late 2019. “She was named a Grand Master not only for the high quality of the work she produced during her career, but also for being an inspiration to an entire generation of crime writers of color.”

Two scholarships of $2000 each per year will be awarded: “One for an aspiring Black writer who has yet to publish in the crime or mystery field, and another for Black authors who have already published in crime or mystery.”

Applications are being taken from July 1 through September 30. The applications will be reviewed by the Barbara Neely Scholarship committee, including Black crime writers, and the winner will be announced in the late fall. The application form is here

Applicants must be Black, American citizens, and age 18 or older. They must submit a brief biography, competed application form, and 300-500-word statement on their interest in the mystery genre and in general terms (class, conference, equipment, etc.) how they would use the scholarship funds. Prior membership in MWA is not required.

The Barbara Neely Scholarship will be awarded on the basis of writing ability, interest in the crime/mystery genre, and likely benefit from the scholarship funds and MWA membership. 

(3) JUICY IS BETTER. There’s a Kickstarter to fund Juicy Ghosts by Rudy Rucker, the author’s twenty-fourth novel. People have contributed $5,302 of its $7,000 goal with 27 days to go. Rucker tells how the project began:

 Juicy Ghosts is about politics, telepathy, and immortality. I started it in 2019, as a reaction to Donald Trump’s repeated remarks that he planned to be a three-term president. That pushed me over the edge.

I started with a short story called “Juicy Ghosts.” Rebels bring down an insane, evil President who’s stolen an election. They sting him with a lethally tweaked wasp, erase the online backup of his mind, and explode his clone. Too much? It’s hard to stop, when you’re having this much fun! Over the next two years, my story grew into a novel. I had to write it. I had to stand and be counted.

So, yes, Juicy Ghosts is a tale of political struggle—but it’s more than that. It’s hip and literary, with romance and tragedy. Plus gnarly science, and lots of funny scenes. I used a loose, say-anything style. The point-of-view characters are outsiders and slackers. The majority of them are women, and they give the tale a grounded tone.

We’ll see commercial telepathy, or teep, before long. And we’ll want a channel that’s richer than text and images. Users might transmit templates for the neurochemicals that are affecting their current mood. Your friends feel your pheromones! In Juicy Ghosts, people do this with gossip molecules, which are nano-assemblers  with tiny antennas.

I’ve been writing about digital immortality since my early cyberpunk novel Software. The idea is to represent a soul by a digital program and a data-base, calling the construct a lifebox. But in Juicy Ghosts  a lifebox needs to be linked to a physical body.  It’s not enough to be a ghost—you want to be a juicy ghost. The linked body might be an insect or an animal or a biotweaked bot—but high-end users will have tank-grown clones.

Lifeboxes and clones will be expensive, so most people will settle for free lifebox storage provided by tech giants. The catch is that if you accept this free service, you’re obligated to do gig-work for the company—as a bodyguard, a chauffeur, a maid, of a factory worker. Typical of our times!

I like happy endings. I’d rather laugh than cry.  My characters destroy the evil President’s political party, topple the pay-to-play immortality racket, and provide everyone with free lifeboxes and physical bodies. Ta-da!

(4) LET IT GO. Lightspeed Magazine shines its “Author Spotlight” on Rachel Swirsky whose story “Innocent Bird” is in the magazine’s July issue.

[Swirsky:] … I actually initially went into submission with a version of this that was 1,000 words shorter. After getting a couple of very kind rejections, I let it lie for a while, and the next time I looked at it, I felt like the story had a reserved quality to it that didn’t seem appropriate. My graduate training—along with a lot of other aspects of contemporary aesthetics—strongly veers toward keeping emotions subtextual in this very discreet fashion. I went back into the story to let the heartbreak go straight onto the page. Shoko is a teenager; she’s full of these big emotions. She doesn’t express them to other people which only means she’s constantly inflated with love and distress and confusion and uncertainty about her future that she has no escape valve from. I think she tries to distance herself from that internally to some extent—there are moments when she underplays what she’s feeling—but she shouldn’t be written like a middle-aged literary professor wrestling with a midlife crisis….

(5) ROBOCREATORS. “Automated art: threat or menace?” asks James Davis Nicoll. SFF authors’ answer the question in these “Five SF Stories About Automated Art” at Tor.com.

“The Darfsteller” by Walter M. Miller (1955)

Thanks to advances in the field of robotic acting, Ryan Thornier, former star, is now Ryan Thornier, underpaid theatre janitor. True, there are many occupations not yet automated to which the old man could apply his thespian talents—salesman, politician, general—but these are beneath the former star. Only stage acting will do. But his desire to shine onstage cannot erase the fact that robotic mannikins programmed with recorded personality matrices deliver the same services as living actors, but are much cheaper and more reliable.

Ryan is very stubborn. Given even the smallest hope of reclaiming his lost place on stage, he will leap to take advantage of the opportunity…regardless of consequences.

(6) PERFORMATIVE REFORM. Radio Times, not surprisingly given their heavy coverage of The Doctor, favors the Doctor/Missy/Master arcs in this analysis: “What Loki got wrong – and Doctor Who got right”.

… A few times over the course of Loki, viewers had compared it to Doctor Who, mainly because of its general time-travel premise (what are the officious TVA except Time Lords with a dental plan?) and especially after episode three saw Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) trapped on a dying world. In fact, many commented that Loki did ‘Doctor Who’ better than Doctor Who itself, thanks to a higher budget and bigger stars. (Though did Loki have a sonic screwdriver? I think not. Case closed.)

And I actually think Loki could learn something from Doctor Who, more specifically, from a storyline that saw an iconic villain try to change their ways with mixed success….

(7) CLEAR CHANNEL. Here’s a post about the new book its author was trying to draw attention to in that sabotaged Reddit AMA: “The Big Idea: Nicole Kornher-Stace” at Whatever.

NICOLE KORNHER-STACE:

Since approximately five minutes after I started publishing, my mom has been telling me I should write a kids’ book. For a while I was…skeptical. Many of the kind things people have said about my work involve it being dark but ultimately hopeful but before that just. so dark. And many of my rejections have been for being “too dark.” None of which really felt super compatible with, y’know, a children’s book.

It’s not that I thought it was a bad idea, it just felt like an idea that was beyond my skillset or ability to even really conceptualize. So on the back burner it sat for a long time, along with a whole bunch of other stuff I’d talked myself out of writing for various reasons. (Thanks, impostor syndrome. You’re the best.)

And then I had a baby. And then my baby grew up into a kid. And just like that I had an audience to write a kids’ book for. And everything kind of came together from there….

(8) DISABLED PARTICIPANTS SOUGHT. Mission: AstroAccess has put out “A Call For Disabled Explorers to Experience Zero Gravity.” Any disabled adult living in the U.S. can apply – see full guidelines and view the application here. The deadline to apply is August 15.

Outer space is not just humanity’s future: it’s a call to rethink life on Earth right now.

In zero gravity, what is standing up? What is lying down? What does it mean to be unable to walk if no one there is walking? How does that shift our understanding of disability?

We are excited to announce the launch of Mission: AstroAccess, a program bringing a diverse group of disabled space enthusiasts on a historic ZERO-G parabolic flight! Participants will complete targeted tasks during the program’s flight to help answer basic questions about how disabled people can live and work in outer space. Mission: AstroAccess’ crew of disabled volunteers will take flight on October 17th, 2021, as the first step in a progression towards increasing diversity in space and the greater STEM field. 

…Mission: AstroAccess serves an additional purpose—while traditional physical barriers are lifted in space, accidents resulting in some form of disability are inevitable during extended missions in space’s dangerous environment. We are dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in space exploration, not just for the benefit of marginalized communities, but for the benefit of all humankind. The tasks conducted during this program will help inform accessible design to make extended space travel safer for everyone.

(9) A GENRE SUCCESS STORY. “Print Book Sales Soar in Year’s First Half”Publishers Weekly ran the numbers, which show graphic novel sales blew up.

…The big story in adult fiction was the strength of the graphic novel format. Unit sales soared 178.5% in the first half of the year, rising to 16.2 million copies sold, making graphic novels the second-largest adult fiction subcategory. Graphic novels made up nearly 20% of adult fiction unit sales in the first six months of 2021, compared to 9.3% last year.

Viz Media was one of the big beneficiaries of the graphic novel boom. Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, Vol. 26 was the top adult graphic novel in the first half of the year, selling more than 90,000 copies. Other volumes in the Academia line also sold well, including volume two (about 82,000 copies sold) and volume one (81,000 copies). Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Taiba, Vol. 1 by Koyoharu Gotouge, also published by Viz, sold more than 82,000 copies. A title published by a company other than Viz, Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 by Hajime Isayama, published by Kodansha, sold nearly 88,000 copies….

(10) SID ALTUS (1949-2021). Detroit fan Sid Altus died July 13, his daughter Shana announced on Facebook. Sid was a member of the Detroit in ’82 Worldcon bid. He worked on AutoClave and ConFusion. He and Alex Berman co-founded a small press, Phantasia Press, which published high-end limited editions of hardcover sf aimed at the collectors’ market. Fancyclopedia 3 has more about his history.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1997 – Twenty-four years ago this week, the Roar series premiered on Fox. It would last but thirteen episodes, five of which initially would go unaired. This sort of Celtic fantasy had Heath Ledger in the lead role, his first genre undertaking. The series also starred Vera Farmiga, Lisa Zane, John Saint Ryan, and Sebastian Roché. The show was created by Shaun Cassidy after the success of of  Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess but it truly bombed. It certainly didn’t help that the series was in the same time slot as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two novels, Roar: A Novel, a prequel, and Roar: The Cauldron, would later be written.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author with definite genre leanings. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group, has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the Civil War. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes, this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women.  As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1947 T. E. D. Klein, 74. Horror writer with two awards to his name, one a BFA for The Ceremonies novel, another a World Fantasy Award for his “Nadelman’s God” novella. He was editor of the Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid Eighties and the Night Cry zine for several around that time.
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 64. His best known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was Host of Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 58. Red Sonja! What’d a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 54. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. His short stories are most excellent thus it’s most fitting his recent The Twisted Book of Shadows collection won a Shirley Jackson Award. 
  • Born July 15, 1951 Jesse Ventura, 70. He’s actually been in far more genre films that I thought. His first film was Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe which audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a rating of nineteen percent. After that, he’s been in PredatorRunning ManDemolition Man and Batman & Robin

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a strange Martian/Wizard of Oz mashup. At least that’s what I think it is.
  • Frank and Ernest meet some innovative cave people.

(14) HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER. At Black Gate, Aaron Starr’s “Long and Winding” is the amusing saga about writing a doorstop-sized novel.

January 12th

Dear Diary,
After Justine’s third encounter with the forces pursuing her, I realized that what this sword-and-sorcery novel needs is some more swords! But Justine has given no hint of any sort of background with weapons. I’ll need to introduce a wise mentor, to teach her the ways of cold steel. Someone grizzled and worldly, cynical and a touch sarcastic.

That’s it! Dear diary, you’re a genius! Her mentor will be her spirit animal! This will kill two birds with one stone, which, I might point out, rules out a bird as her spirit animal, doesn’t it? Tee-hee! Seriously, what sort of animal embodies these qualities? A raccoon springs to mind. They seem sufficiently grizzled and worldly, and are no doubt cynical. But might I be playing into harmful stereotypes? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Later: I have visited the cafe next door, to allow myself a fresh perspective. As I drank a fortifying mug of pressed-almond choco-caf with double-frothed soy, I struck up a conversation with a man who just happens to be a city planner. He confirmed my instincts regarding raccoon-kind, and assured me that, if any urban mammals were to take up arms, they would certainly be among the first to do so….

(15) REINCARNATED IN FANTASYLAND. The tropes come thick and fast in Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 7/15/2021: Work in Progress” at Amazing Stories.

In this week’s viewing: More summer premieres! More terrible light-novel-based summer premieres! Also a couple of fighting shows….

(16) YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES. The Criterion Collection will bring out The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) on October 19.

…Existentialism goes pop in this benchmark of atomic-age science fiction, a superlative adaptation of a novel by the legendary Richard Matheson that has awed and unnerved generations of viewers with the question, What is humanity’s place amid the infinity of the universe? Six months after being exposed to a mysterious radiation cloud, suburban everyman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) finds himself becoming smaller . . . and smaller . . . and smaller—until he’s left to fend for himself in a world in which ordinary cats, mousetraps, and spiders pose a mortal threat, all while grappling with a diminishing sense of himself…. 

(17) CONSISTENCY. Nothing hits the spot in Schmigadoon like a big bowl of good old corn pudding! Here’s another introductory clip from the forthcoming musical series. Available tomorrow on AppleTV+. View on YouTube. (The stinkers won’t let it be embedded here!)

The six-part series follows a couple (Strong, Key) who stumble on a magical town that lives in a 1940s musical. From there, the pair have to try and find true love.

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter found another show in touch with Broadway – tonight’s episode of Jeopardy. A contestant had trouble with this. Though they really shouldn’t have.

Category: Broadway Musicals by Setting

Answer: Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists

Wrong question: What is ‘The Little Barber Shop of Horrors?”

Right question: What is ‘Little Shop of Horrors?”

(19) DICK GRAYSON & CO. Titans Season 3 begins airing on HBO Max on August 12.

Titans follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find where they belong. In season three, circumstances draw our heroes to Gotham City, where they will reunite with old friends and face new threats.

(20) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. Experience the world in Vampire Reality. What We Do in the Shadows returns Sept 2 on FX.

A look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of four vampires who have “lived” together for hundreds and hundreds of years in Staten Island.

(21) HOOKED UP. “Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak” reports The New York Times.

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.”

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

“This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project.

Three years ago, when Pancho, now 38, agreed to work with neuroscience researchers, they were unsure if his brain had even retained the mechanisms for speech.

“That part of his brain might have been dormant, and we just didn’t know if it would ever really wake up in order for him to speak again,” said Dr. Edward Chang, chairman of neurological surgery at University of California, San Francisco, who led the research.

The team implanted a rectangular sheet of 128 electrodes, designed to detect signals from speech-related sensory and motor processes linked to the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue and larynx. In 50 sessions over 81 weeks, they connected the implant to a computer by a cable attached to a port in Pancho’s head, and asked him to try to say words from a list of 50 common ones he helped suggest, including “hungry,” “music” and “computer.”…

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night’s The Late Show: “Welcome back to the cool green hills of Earth,” he said to Sir Richard Branson.

Sir Richard Branson sits down with Stephen after returning from his historic trip to the edge of space, and has some advice for the next billionaire headed to orbit.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/21 Someday We’ll Find It, The Scrolling Convention

(1) CLARION ONLINE EVENTS. Each year Clarion West brings the Write-a-thon to the global community. This is the second year it’s been presented virtually. Check out the free virtual panels and readings coming your way.

Register at the link for “Uncovering Cover Art” featuring Grace P. Fong, Sloane Leong, Aimee Fleck, and John Jennings, on Monday, July 12 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

While books capture our hearts, covers are what call to readers from the shelves. What makes an eye-catching, imagination-sparking cover? What do authors need to know about the process? Come learn the answers from some of the hottest artists and book designers in the industry.

You also can register at this link for “Mental Health & Writing” with Susan Palwick, Chaplain, Cassie Alexander, ICU RN, and Justin C. Key, MD on Monday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

Authors and other artists are often stereotyped as struggling with our mental health. With increased emphasis in media and culture toward understanding and promoting mental health, writers have more resources and self-care tools than ever before. Learn about establishing healthy writing habits and writing about difficult subjects from a panel of authors who are also professionals in fields related to health and wellness.

(2) MEET THE NEW BOSS. James Davis Nicoll, for one, is happy to welcome our “Alien Overlords: Five SF Futures Where Humans Are No Longer in Charge” at Tor.com. (OK, not really, but the line begs to be used here.)

Humans are accustomed to seeing ourselves as the rulers of creation, apex beings with the right to rearrange the world for our convenience. For many people this is a central tenet of faith, little challenged by the occasional pandemic or environmental collapse. SF authors, however, are willing to consider that this just might be wrong. Many works have explored what it would be like if we were one day to discover that superior entities now ruled our world. Humans would be domestic animals, mere puppies of Terra…

Consider the following five works that challenge human supremacy….

(3) MORDOR ON THE RIVIERA. “An Enduring Fellowship” in Deadline Disruptors+Cannes on pages 34-41 can be read magazine-style at Issuu.

In 2001, a lavish Cannes part, and 26 minutes of footage changed the course of film history. As Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings approaches its 20th anniversary, Mike Fleming Jr. gathers key players to look back at a breathtaking gamble.

(4) VIDEO GAME LEGENDS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses urban legends about games that drove users mad (mad, I tell you, mad!)

Much gaming creepypasta revolves around video games for children such as Pokemon and Mario. There is the story of Herobrine, a misty-eyed character who stalks Minecraft, only glimpsed in the distance or through fog.   Another concerns a mod for fantasy adventure Morrowwind named “Jvk1166z.esp’ which causes characters to stare blankly at the sky while a figure with long, spidery limbs haunts the edges of your screen.  Neither myth has been substantiated.

Some popular legends concern haunted games that probably never existed. Polybius was supposedly a 1980s arcade game, created as part of a US government experiment, that induced psychoactive reactions in players.  More recently, a YouTube video emerged called ‘Sad Satan’ that showed a creepy corridor in a mysterious game apparently downloaded on the dark web,  Online commented eager jumped on these, untangling references to serial killers and psy-ops, but both are likely hoaxes dreamt up by horror fans.

(5) TSR’S CHESHIRE CAT IMITATION. En World tries to follow the bouncing brand in the face of a new press release from TSR: “ Just when you thought it was all over…. now there’s a fourth TSR!”

In the story that will never end, after having this week turned itself into Wonderfilled, Inc, and deleted its Twitter account, TSR is BACK AGAIN! Like again, again, again, again. Complete with old-school logo! And Michael appears to actually exist!

Michael K. Hovermale says in a press release that an unnamed individual (I’m guessing Stephen Dinehart) apparently ran all the social media accounts for TSR, Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, Ernie Gygax, Justin LaNasa, and Giantlands. He goes on to say that this person has been replaced, and that all posts on those social media accounts are “invalid”. There’s no mention of Stephen Dinehart’s social media accounts though.

…The existing (TSR3} website still says it’s WONDERFILED (sic), Inc. However there’s now a NEW one at TSR Hobbies. We’ll call that TSR3.5 for now. I’m struggling to distinguish TSRs from tribbles at this point. They just keep on coming!

Here’s the text of the TSR press release at PR.com: “TSR Appoints New Public Relations Officer; Responds to Social Media Mismanagement”.

TSR has replaced the individual that was serving as both social media manager and information technology manager for TSR and The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum. This individual was also the social media manager for Giantlands, Justin LaNasa, and Ernie Gygax.

All posts on all social media accounts for TSR and Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum should be considered invalid.

All posts on all social media accounts of Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax should be considered invalid.

TSR is in the process of recovering the social media accounts of TSR, The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, and the personal Twitter accounts of Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax….

Ernie Gygax:
“I wish to speak directly to the transgender community regarding this incident. The individual who was speaking to you on Twitter does not represent me or TSR in any way. Trans people are always welcome to play with us. Everyone is welcome at our table.”

(6) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Dwayne Day discusses a 1969 proposed NASA Mars rocket that inspired Gordy Dickson, Stephen Baxter and Lego builders today in “Flights to Mars, real and LEGO” in The Space Review.

…Boeing’s design [submitted in 1968] has shown remarkable staying power and still appears in artwork decades later. Now, Boeing’s design has been recreated in LEGO form, in three-dimensional plastic glory that you can build yourself….

The political winds had shifted against expensive human space exploration long before the summer of 1969 and the Mars mission, which was only supposed to be the capstone at the top of NASA’s ambitious plans, never had a chance for approval. NASA officials soon found themselves scrambling to justify any human spaceflight activity at all, let alone the exquisite program they had envisioned.

But by this time, the Mars spaceship design had gone public. Marshall Space Flight Center artists had produced artwork showing the multiple phases of the Mars mission and that artwork was soon published in many places, such as books about future spaceflight. The Apollo-shaped MEM also became iconic and was also illustrated by numerous artists. Although the public knew that a future Mars mission had not been approved, they could reasonably expect that if it eventually happened, this was what it would look like.

In 1978, Canadian-American science fiction author Gordon Dickson published the novel The Far Call, about a mission to Mars which employed a spacecraft similar to the one outlined in 1969. It also appeared in Allen Drury’s heavy-handed 1971 book The Throne of Saturn. In 1996, Stephen Baxter published Voyage, which also used a similar spacecraft, although an accident involving a nuclear propulsion stage has tragic consequences. (See: “Space alternate history before For All Mankind: Stephen Baxter’s NASA trilogy,” The Space Review, June 8, 2020.)

(7) PATTY JENKINS AND STAR WARS. “Patty Jenkins says she’s ‘free’ to create the Star Wars story she wants” notes Fansided. Patty Jenkins, director of two Wonder Woman movies, was announced by Disney in late 2020 to be helming the next Star Wars feature film, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. 

The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner included Star Wars questions in a recent interview: “Patty Jenkins Thinks Streaming’s Day-and-Date Strategy Won’t Last”.

You had one of the best announcements of the pandemic, in my opinion, when you suited up and revealed that you are directing Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. How is development going?

It’s going amazing. I had been on it already for six months before I even announced that, so we’re pretty deep into it. We’re finishing a script, crewing up, and it’s all going wonderful. I’m so excited about the story and excited that we’re the next chapter of Star Wars, which is such a responsibility and such an opportunity to really start some new things. It’s really exciting in that way.

What is the consulting process like with the Star Wars brain trust?

There’s plenty of it. It’s an entirely different way of working. I’m on the phone with all of them and doing Zoom meetings with everybody involved in Star Wars all the time. I’m fairly free to do the story that we want to do, but you really need to know who’s done what, who’s doing what, where it goes and how it works, and what designs have been done before. It’s a whole other way of working that I’m getting up to speed on.

(8) WILLIAM SMITH (1933-2021). Actor William Smith, famous as the opponent of Clint Eastwood’s Philo Beddoe in the climactic bare-knuckle fight that ends  Any Which Way You Can (1980), but whose 274 career credits includes many genre productions, died July 5 at the age of 88. The Hollywood Reporter profile mentioned these sff TV and movie appearances:

An inductee into the Muscle Beach Venice Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, Smith was perfect for the role as Adonis, a henchman for Zsa Zsa Gabor’s evil Minerva on Batman. On the ABC show’s final episode in 1968, he was on the receiving end of a Whamm!!, Zowie!, Splatt!, Crash! and Sock! from Batman, Robin and Batgirl.

…He also played the father of the title character in Conan the Barbarian [1982], writing his own lines for his monologue that opens the film. “No one, no one in this world can you trust … not men, not women, not beasts … this you can trust,” he says pointing to the movie’s iconic steel sword.

…Smith appeared in the cult movies Piranha (1972), where he said his stunt with a very large anaconda almost cost him his life, as an FBI agent in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), and as a drag racer in David Cronenberg’s Fast Company (1979).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 9, 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, Tron premiered. The producer was Donald Kushner. It was written and directed by Steven Lisberger from the story by himself and Bonnie MacBird. The cast was Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan and Barnard Hughes. The film was well received by critics with Ebert in particular loving it. However it did poorly at the Box Office and the studio wrote it off as a loss. (The sequel, Tron: Legacy, was a box office success.) Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a decent rating of sixty-nine percent. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1911 — Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but there novels in the series (Titus GroanGormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series which as now isn’t out. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1938 — Brian Dennehy. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2. He also voiced Django in  Ratatouille. His very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 — Glen Cook, 77. With the exception of the new novel which is still on my To Be Read list, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. 
  • Born July 9, 1945 Dean Koontz, 76. The genres of of mystery. horror, fantasy and  science fiction are all home to him. Author of over a hundred novels, his first novel was SF — it being Star Quest (not in print) published as an Ace Double with with Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. ISFDB claims over half of his output is genre, I’d say that a low estimate. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 — Ellen Klages, 67. Her novelette “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, which published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her 1940 set San Francisco novel, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
  • Born July 9, 1971 — Scott Grimes, 50. He’s Lieutenant Gordon Malloy on The Orville. He did show up once in the Trek verse, playing Eric in the “Evolution“ episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And you might recognize him as Bradley Brown in the first two Critters films. 
  • Born July 9, 1978 — Linda Park, 43. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, and she was Renee Hansen in the Spectres filmwhich Marina Sirtis was also in. Her latest genre role was in For All Mankind as Amy Chang in the “Pathfinder” episode. 
  • Born July 9, 1995 — Georgina Henley, 26. English actress, best remembered  for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen.  She’s listed as having an unspecified role in an untitled Game of Throne prequel series but given the number of those proposed, this may or may not exist. Actually I’d bet on it not happening. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HERE’S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING FOR YA. Texas Monthly checked in with the artists who did the comic book that adorns the lawsuit filing: “Houston Comic Book Store Filed a Lawsuit in Comic Form”. (See the images in the June 30 Pixel Scroll, item #12).

They filed the lawsuit as … a comic book?

Sure enough. Artists Michael Charles, Maurice Terry Jr., Michael Brooks, and Benjamin Carbonero of Bad Cog Studios illustrated the 24-page comic at the request of Third Planet owner T.J. Johnson and his attorney, Cris Feldman. “I was really intrigued by it because, first of all, I got a lawyer calling me to do a creative project,” Charles told the Chronicle. The full-color comic shows the store staff fending off an onslaught of ceramic plates, lit cigarette butts that they allege have twice caused fires, and no fewer than fourteen fire extinguishers tossed from hotel balconies onto the store’s roof. One panel depicts store employees using buckets to collect water as rain leaks through the damaged roof onto the shelves.

Is this legal?

It is, in fact! It’s unconventional, but the law doesn’t require that pleadings in civil cases be black-and-white typed documents formatted in any particular way. Still, there are good reasons why most lawsuits look the same: one judge might be amused by an unusual pleading, while another may consider it beneath the dignity of the court; a gimmicky pleading might undermine the gravity of the case; and, of course, not every suit lends itself to creative storytelling. The pleading from Third Planet is a unique case. It’s a third amended petition, which means that the parties involved are already in the middle of the legal process. The store and its attorneys know who the judge reviewing the claim is, and whether he’s the sort to hold this gimmick against them. Also, according to the pleading, lawyers for the defendant claimed that they didn’t understand the previous petition, which meant that filing it as an easy-to-comprehend comic book fits the time-honored legal tradition of being snarky to opposing counsel.

(13) NONE SO BLIND. The Hollywood Reporter’s kerfuffle coverage, “Dean Cain Lambastes ‘Woke’ Captain America Comic; Gets Roasted on Twitter in Return”, includes Cain’s admission that he didn’t read the issue. (But James Bacon did, and recently reviewed it for File 770: “Captain America of the Railways and Joe Gomez”.)

Dean Cain was still trending Friday on Twitter after criticisms he made about the new Captain America comic series earlier in the week on Fox & Friends.

The former Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman star and Donald Trump supporter, bashed The United States of Captain America comic series due to a line in the first issue in which Cap says the American dream for some “isn’t real.”

Cain took issue with that notion, saying everyone in the country should support the U.S.A.

“I love the concept of Captain America, but I am so tired of this wokeness and anti-Americanism,” Cain said on the Fox News Channel program. “In my opinion, America is the greatest country in history. It’s not perfect. We are constantly striving for a more perfect union, but I believe she’s the most fair, equitable country anyone’s ever seen, and that’s why people are clamoring to get here from all over the globe.”

Calling himself a “revolutionary” for supporting America these days, Cain added, “Do these people ever travel outside of America? Do they go to other countries where they have to deal with governments who aren’t anywhere near as fair as the United States? I don’t think they do. I do it all the time, and I kiss the soil when I get back.”

Needless to say, his comments did not go over well with most, a lion’s share of the reaction on social media blasting Cain for his short-sightedness.

Cain later admitted that he had not actually read the comic, he was just responding to a conservative outlet that reported on one line in the book to which ultra Right-wingers then dug in their claws….

(14) HE’S DEAD, JIM. When Loki visits The Simpsons, Stan Lee won’t be with him: “Marvel Blocks Stan Lee Cameo in ‘The Simpsons’-‘Loki’ Crossover Short”.

The long-standing tradition of Stan Lee appearing in every Marvel Comics film, television show and video game has come to an end – “The Simpsons” showrunner, Al Jean, says Marvel prevented them from adding a cameo appearance of the comic book legend in their new animated short, “The Good, the Bart, and the Loki.”

In the short, Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, makes his debut appearance in “The Simpsons” universe for a cartoon that makes an array of allusions to other MCU prominent characters. But there is no sign of Lee.

Jean told ComicBook.com that he and his team considered inserting a tribute to Lee upon discovering unused audio files of the creative genius from a prior engagement with the show.

“It wasn’t a joke,” Jean said. “We just thought, ‘Oh, we have Stan Lee audio from when he was on our show. Could we cameo him in?’”

However, Marvel summarily nixed the plan due to a new policy they have established concerning the beloved author.

“They said that their policy is he doesn’t cameo now that he’s passed away. Which is a completely understandable policy,” Jean explained. “That was their only note and that was, of course, easily done.”

(15) AGAINST THE GRAINS. “World’s biggest sandcastle constructed in Denmark” reports The Guardian. At 21.16 metres in height, it is more than 3 metres taller than the previous holder, says Guinness World Records.

Its Dutch creator, Wilfred Stijger, was assisted by 30 of the world’s best sand sculptors. He said he wanted the castle to represent the power the coronavirus has had over the world since the beginning of the pandemic. On top of the sandcastle is a model of the virus wearing a crown.

“It’s ruling our lives everywhere,” Stijger said. “It tells you what to do … It tells you to stay away from your family and not go to nice places. Don’t do activities, stay home.”

To make it more cohesive, the sand contains approximately 10% clay and a layer of glue was applied after it was completed so that it could stand up to the chilly and windy conditions of the autumn and winter.

Blokhus residents have been delighted to see local features incorporated into the sandcastle, such as beach houses and lighthouses, as well as depictions of popular activities such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.

The castle is expected to stand until the heavy frost sets in, probably next February or March.

(16) KHAN! Io9 debuted DUST’s “Star Trek Khan William Shatner Scream in Claymation”. The whole thing is 10 seconds long. The lip-quiver preceding the scream is what makes it great.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Danish Road Safety Council reminds people that if you’re going to invade another country you should wear a helmet!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Rich Horton, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/8/21 Dear Pixels, Please Don’t Scroll In The Attic, Thank You

(1) SPECULATIVE LITERATURE FOUNDATION. In the Mohanraj and Rosenbaum Are Humans podcast, episode 15, “An Interview with Farah Mendelsohn”, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s icebreaker question opens the way for an exchange with Farah Mendlesohn about the challenges of coming to a country from somewhere else, and some immediate worries for Mendlesohn about the consequence of Brexit. There follows discussion about international science fiction and Mendlesohn’s book The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein.

(2) HARRYHAUSEN AWARDS CREATED. The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation have announced a new film awards program — The Ray Harryhausen Awards —  “established in honor of the legendary master of stop-motion animation.’ Beginning January 1, 2022 they will be accepting entries under the following categories:

  • Best Feature Film Animation
  • Best Short Film Animation
  • Best Student Film Animation
  • Best Commercial Film Animation
  • Best Online Film Animation
  • Best Television Animation
  • Harryhausen Hall of Fame Award

(3) FREE DOWNLOAD FROM TAFF. Rob Hansen collects the rare and esoteric convention reportage of … Rob Hansen! – in American Trips, the latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at David Langford’s unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.

Following the 1984 TAFF trip described at length in On the TAFF Trail, Rob Hansen attended a number of other US conventions and wrote further reports collected in this ebook – covering multiple Corflus (1986, 1989, 1990, 2013), two Disclaves (1992, 1995) and the 1997 Boskone/Fanhistoricon at which Rob, as Britain’s leading fan historian, was a special guest.

The cover art is by Rob Hansen. 41,000 words.

Here is a brief extract:

The conversation turned to convention reports and I outlined my conreport writing philosophy for them.

“D. West says they should be ‘the truth, the whole truth, and a few lies to make it interesting’. My reports are the truth,” I explained, “but enhanced. I give the truth a little nip and tuck, and maybe a nose job, but I never go as far as breast implants.”

(4) LGBT PUBLISHING CONTROVERSY IN HUNGARY. AP News that Hungarian authorities have issued a fine over a book featuring ‘rainbow families’. The book in question is by Lawrence Schimel, who started out in the sff genre. His work has received the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Associaton’s Rhysling and Dwarf Stars awards, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, and also has twice received the Lambda Literary Award for non-genre work.

Hungarian authorities have fined the distributor of a children’s book that features families headed by same-sex parents, relying on a law prohibiting unfair commercial practices and fueling a debate over recent government steps seen as limiting the rights of LGBT people.

The fine comes as Hungary’s government is already under widespread scrutiny over legislation it passed last month that prohibits the depiction of homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors. The law, which is set to take effect on Thursday, was described by rights groups as an attack on the LGBT community, and rebuked by high-ranking European officials as a violation of the European Union’s values.

Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the law “a disgrace” and warned Hungary that the EU’s executive arm would use all its powers to uphold European law.

It was amid this escalation over Hungary’s policies that a local government fined the distributor of “What a Family” – a combined Hungarian translation of American author Lawrence Schimel’s books “Early One Morning” and “Bedtime, Not Playtime!”— $830. Each of Schimel’s books depicts the daily routines of a child, one with two mothers and one with two fathers.

The fine was imposed by the Pest County Government Office — the local authority responsible for the county surrounding Hungary’s capital, Budapest….

A Pest County official told commercial television station HirTV Tuesday that the book’s Hungarian distributor, the Foundation for Rainbow Families, had violated rules on unfair commercial practices by failing to clearly indicate that “What a Family!” contained “content which deviates from the norm.”

“The book was there among other fairytale books and thus committed a violation,” Pest County Commissioner Richard Tarnai said. “There is no way of knowing that this book is about a family that is different than a normal family.”…

(5) MEMORY LANE.

2009 – Twelve years ago this week the Warehouse 13 series premiered on Syfy. It was produced by Jacks Kenny, David Simkibs and Drew Greenberg. It was created by Jane Espenson, writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Brent Mote who had little genre writing experience at all. The original cast was Eddie McClintock, Joanne Kelly and Saul Rubinek.  It would run for five seasons and sixty four episodes. Almost all critics really liked it although one who didn’t called it, and I quote, “An unholy cross between The X-FilesBones, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.” WTF?!? Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently really like it, giving it a rating of eighty eight percent. You can watch it on the Peacock streaming service where I plan on watching it. (CE)

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 8, 1906 — Walter Sande. He’s best remembered for being on Red Planet MarsThe War of the Worlds and Invaders from Mars, but he also showed up playing a heavy in such serials as The Green Hornets Strikes Again! and Sky Raiders, the latter being at least genre adjacent. He’s had a recurring role as Col. Crockett on The Wild Wild West, and one-offs on Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Lost in Space and Bewitched. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 8, 1944 — Jeffrey Tambor, 77. I first encountered him on Max Headroom as Murray, Edison’s editor.  Later on, he’s Mayor Augustus Maywho in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Finally I’ll note he was in both of the only true Hellboy films that there was playing Tom Manning, director of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. 
  • Born July 8, 1953 Mark Blackman, 68. Mark frequently writes about the Fantastic Fiction at KGB and New York Review of Science Fiction readings series for File 770. He was a member of Lunarians and chaired Lunacon 38 in 1995. He was a member of the New York in 1989 Worldcon bid. (OGH)
  • Born July 8, 1955 — Susan Price, 66. English author of children’s and YA novels. She has won both the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Prize for British children’s books. The Pagan Mars trilogy is her best known work, and The Sterkarm Handshake and its sequel A Sterkarm Kiss, will please Outlander fans.
  • Born July 8, 1970 — Ekaterina Sedia, 51. Her Heart of Iron novel which was nominated for a Sidewise Award for Alternate History is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow as well. It’s worth noting that both the usual suspects list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilful Impropriety. They’re quite superb it turns out as is Paper Cities: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy anthology she edited which won a World Fantasy Award. I note that’s she not published anything for a half decade now. 
  • Born July 8, 1978 — George Mann, 43. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. The Affinity Bridge, the first in the Newbury & Hobbes series, was nominated for a Sidewise Award. 
  • Born July 8, 1988 — Shazad Latif, 33. If you watched Spooks, you’ll remember him as Tariq Masood. (Spooks did become genre.) He was Chief of Security Ash Tyler in Discovery,andDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in Penny Dreadful. He voiced Kyla in The Dark Crystal: Voice of Resistance. And he was in the Black Mirror episode “The National Anthem” as Mehdi Raboud. 

(7) COMIC-CON SCHEDULE. Comic-Con@Home 2021 will run for three days from July 23-25. The online event is free to attend. The Program Schedule dropped today. All panels will be available to stream on the Comic-Con International YouTube page. Most will be pre-recorded.

(8) SWAMP THINGIE. Could Loki made a nice handbag? I don’t mean could he sew it – could he be it? “’Loki’: The Glorious Debut of Alligator Loki” at Marvel. BEWARE SPOILERS. Or so I assume.

…Jokingly calling the stuffed alligator a “real diva” on set, Herron explains that the series’ first AD “actually stuck googly eyes on it. It was like a Muppet character on set.” But Alligator Loki wasn’t all just fun and games, as he was useful for the actors who had to interact with him, especially Jack Veal (Kid Loki), who frequently carries Alligator Loki from location to location.

“You put [the stuffed alligator] in there, and the actors can interact with it and get a sense of how heavy or how large the alligator would be,” notes Herron. “[It was filmed] in the world of imagination with our cast because sometimes they were acting to a blade of grass.”

Like all characters, Alligator Loki also went through a few different looks before settling on the version viewers see on-screen.

“We had some early versions when we were doing visual effects that probably were a bit too cute, in the sense of it was a bit more like a cartoony kind of alligator,” Herron explains. “But it just became funnier and funnier the more it looked like a real alligator that just happened to be wearing the horns. That was the sweet spot. Once we landed in that spot where it felt like a real alligator, but with a kind of slightly jaunty horns on, that’s where we were like, ‘Oh, there he is.’”

However, this doesn’t answer the most pressing question: Is Alligator Loki really a Loki?

(9) WHAT IF? Disney Plus dropped a trailer for “Marvel Studios’ What If…?”, an alternate universe animated anthology.

Enter the multiverse of unlimited possibilities. Watch the exciting trailer for Marvel Studios’ first animated series, What If…? “What If… ?” features fan-favorite characters, including Peggy Carter, T’Challa, Doctor Strange, Killmonger, Thor and more. The new series, directed by Bryan Andrews with AC Bradley as head writer, features signature MCU action with a curious twist. What If…? starts streaming August 11, 2021, with new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.

(10) HIGH DEFINITION. Dwayne Johnson posted on Instagram a photo of how makeup artists are making his muscles “more terrifying” in Black Adam. See the image in this Collider article: “Black Adam: Dwayne Johnson Reveals Training Image”.

“Big week for #BlackAdam shooting my ‘champion’ scenes with my shirt off and showing my body” reads the caption. “Been working extremely hard dieting, training and conditioning unlike any other role of my entire career.” Johnson goes on to explain his training strategy, from manipulating his electrolytes and incorporating more intense cardio to push-and-pull resistance training in order to get the “dense, dry, detailed muscle” definition that he wanted for his role. The new photo comes weeks after Johnson gave fans the tiniest hint of his Black Adam costume in a similar social media post.

(11) PLAY BALL. By invitation, from SYFY Wire: “FX’s American Horror Stories: watch Danny Trejo’s baseball bat wielding Santa”. The new anthology series premieres July 15 on FX on Hulu.

…But as the trailer (below) proves, this version of the beloved holiday figure is anything but jolly, and the only gift he’ll be bringing this year is the baseball bat he seems to be wielding. (No word yet if it makes a difference whether you’re naughty or nice.) 

(12) TRAILERS AND CLIPS. Recently unveiled, a featurette about King’s Man:  Legacy, coming in December, and a trailer for The Addams Family 2, in theaters October 1

As a collection of history’s worst tyrants and criminal masterminds gather to plot a war to wipe out millions, one man must race against time to stop them. Discover the origins of the very first independent intelligence agency in The King’s Man.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Meredith, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, David Langford, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 6/11/21 The Scrolled Grimoire, It Ain’t What It Used To Be

(1) YOUR VIRTUAL VACAY. Paul Weimer has transplanted the famous Mind Meld feature, a roundtable discussion of the tropes, themes, politics, and future of genre fiction that solicits answers from writers, editors, readers and fans, to its new home at Nerds of a Feather. The topic of“Mind Meld : One Spot Holodeck” is —

Congratulations. You have been given a Star Trek style holodeck, fully capable otherwise, you can bring in anyone you want, hold a roomful of people but not an entire Worldcon in it,  but you can only program it to be fixed to one time and place or the verse of one fictional work or series. 

Where/what do you program your holodeck for? (Star Wars and Star Trek are off the table!)

Playing in the virtual sandbox are Fonda Lee, Beverly Bambury, Cora Buhlert, Arturo Serrano, Mikaela Lind, Hannah (H. M.) Long, Claire O’Dell, Catherine Lundoff, Maurice Broaddus, K.B. Wagers, Elizabeth Bear, Camestros Felapton, Andrew Hiller, K. B. Spengler, Nancy Jane Moore, and Shelly Parker-Chan.

(2) THE OTHER SON. Melinda Snodgrass watched the first episode of the new Disney+ series and was inspired to discuss “Loki : Or What Makes A Fascinating Villain”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

… I love the Thor movie because it felt so magnificently Shakespearian in its feel and tone. I often use it when I teach to illustrate theme versus plot. Because really at its base the film Thor is about an abusive father, Odin, who destroys his children and ultimately his entire family by pitting his two sons against each other. Odin’s line in the opening scene to his two young sons sums it all up. “Only one of you can ascend to the throne. But both of you were born to be kings.”

(3) TUTTLE RECOMMENDS. [Item by Meredith.] The Guardian has an article today that people might enjoy agreeing/disagreeing with: Lisa Tuttle’s “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – reviews roundup”.

Tuttle covers Widowland by CJ Carey; Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir; This Fragile Earth by Susannah Wise; Rabbits by Terry Miles; This Eden by Ed O’Loughlin; and The Colours of Death by Patricia Marques.

(4) OTTONE Q&A. In “A Point of Pride: Interview with Robert P. Ottone”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its Pride Month series.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I feel that horror is such an expansive sandbox to play in. I like to say that reading a well-written family drama is fascinating and certainly draws you in, but imagine that same family drama, just with a haunted house thrown in. That’s even better. Horror allows the writer to indulge in the ugliness of the world while doing so in a therapeutic, relatively safe way.

(5) ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter and John King Tarpinian witnessed contestant stumble over these science fictional answers on last night’s Jeopardy! – both in the category of “Book-borne words & phrases.”

Answer: William Gibson coined this term that now refers to the internet in his short story “Burning Chrome.”

Wrong questions: “What is the information superhighway?”; “What is the world-wide web?”

Correct question: What is cyber-space?

Mayim Bialik is this week’s guest host. Her website is called Grok Nation. That wasn’t enough of a clue for last night’s contestants when they saw this answer.

Wrong question: “Who is Huxley?”

Right question: Who is Robert A. Heinlein?

And there was another gap in their knowledge tonight —

Category: 1930s Literature

Answer: After a plane crash in the Himalayas, 4 people end up in Shangri-La in this 1933 novel.

Wrong question: “What is Paradise Regained?”

Right question: What is “Lost Horizon?”

(6) BARRETT OBIT. Actress Claudia Barrett, remembered for her work in Fifties sci-fi movie Monster Robot, died April 30 at the age of 91.   

… In an image remembered on countless “Worst Movies” lists and in the minds of 1950s drive-in theatergoers, a screaming Barrett is carried off, Fay Wray-style, by the title creature of Robot Monster, a big, hairy alien that looks like a stuntman in a cheap gorilla suit with a diving helmet on its head. Which is, more or less, exactly what it was. As portrayed by stuntman George Barrows, the creature was named Ro-Man, and is generally regarded as the ultimate in 1950s low-budget monsterdom.

…Sci-fi immortality came in 1953, when she was cast as Alice, daughter in the last surviving family in 25-year-old producer-director Phil Tucker’s post-apocalyptic Robot Monster. Costarring George Nader and shot in black and white 3-D, Robot Monster was shot mostly in L.A.’s Bronson Canyon over four days with a reported budget of $16,000.

(7) RILEY OBIT. Not genre but still noteworthy: Irish women’s fiction author Lucinda Riley has died of cancer aged only 55. Her historical women’s fiction novels were hugely popular, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Scandinavia: “Lucinda Riley’s family announce that she has died after a four year battle with cancer” at Pan Macmillan.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982 — On this day in 1982, E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credits were shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was written by Melissa Mathison. It starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a seventy-four percent rating. It would finish third to Blade Runner for Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at ConStellation. 
  • June 11, 1993 — In 1993, eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. Its  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel R. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a ninety-one percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  For us at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1929 — Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”, “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films such as Burn, Witch, Burn which was nominated for a Hugo at Discon I (no award was given that year), 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 — Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by the already noted Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast also included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann, age 87.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 — Adrienne Barbeau, 76. She’s in the Swamp Thing, also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair that never got wrapped up properly. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. Anyone here read these? (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp, age 62.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet; given the Evans-Freehafer, LASFS’ service award; moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where he is BASFA (Bay Area Science Fiction Ass’n) sergeant-at-arms, a position BASFA takes about as seriously as LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 — Justina Robson, 53. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. I was surprised that she hasn’t picked up any Hugo nominations so far. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1970 — Jane Goldman, 51. She’s a English screenwriter, author and producer who’s done a lot of work but I’m going to list but a few of her works including the screenplay for the Hugo winning Stardust, the same for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, based on the Ransom Riggs novel, The Limehouse Golem screenplay off Peter Ackroyd’s novel and a screenplay on spec off Bill Willingham’s Fables series that never got financed. She was also a fan of the X-Files as she wrote two volumes of The X-Files Book of the Unexplained. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1971 — P. Djèlí Clark, 50. I’m very much enjoying A Master of Djinn which will make my Hugo nominations list next year. It follows his “The Haunting of Tram Car 015” novella and “The Angel of Khan el-Khalili” and “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”, short stories, all set in his Dead Djinn universe. I’ve not read his “Black Drums” novella, nor the “Ring Shout” novella, so welcome opinions on them. (CE) 
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann, age 28.  Digital illustrator, once in San Francisco, now in Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her cover for the May 2018 Apex.  This interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full shows the moment Superman’s job interview went off the rails.

(11) FREE DOWNLOAD. Whetstone: Amateur Magazine of Pulp Sword and Sorcery Issue dropped today on the 85th anniversary of the death of Robert E. Howard. Download the issue free at the link — 16 tales of modern sword and sorcery, including Cora Buhlert’s story “The Gate of Mist” (page 103). The intro reads –

Buhlert’s uplifting tale of an ancient order of warrior-monks fighting to keep a tenacious evil at bay deploys an uncommon element in sword and sorcery today: a budding romance between two men becoming warriors together. The contemplative mountain setting provides a unique and memorable foe: monstrous forms of living mist.

(12) BUSIEK FAN. Christos Gage, whose writing credits include Daredevil Season 1 and such comics as Buffy and Spider-Man, ranks a familiar name high on this list:

(13) THE CAT WHO CAME BACK FROM NOTHING AT ALL. Caldecott Medal winner Sophie Blackall makes Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s new book sound irresistible in a review for the New York Times: “The Cat Came Back — All the Way From 16th-Century Rome”.

On any normal pre-Covid summer day, as many as 30,000 visitors craned their necks to see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, one of the greatest achievements of Western art. I was not among them when I visited Rome a few years ago with my parents, who had already seen the ceiling and were not enthusiastic about waiting hours in line. I wasn’t among them the time before, with my toddlers, who were even less enthusiastic about lines. Nor did I see it as a backpacker in the late 1980s, when restorers were injecting polyvinylacetate resin into its cracks. From 1710 to 1713 the frescoes were cleaned with sponges dipped in Greek wine. In 1625 a dark patina was removed with damp bread. In 1511 the plaster was still wet and Michelangelo was standing on his scaffolding, painting, which is when “Da Vinci’s Cat,” by the Newbery honoree Catherine Gilbert Murdock (“The Book of Boy”), begins….

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. In Octothorpe episode 33, “Jigsaw Psychoanalysis” “John Coxon can’t cope with any, Alison Scott can cope with one, and Liz Batty has excellent mental health. We have lots of lovely locs, before we discuss fanzines and various conventions’ latest news.”

(15) AVOIDING TOXICITY. Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Addams Family 2 screenwriter Dan Hernandez made an interesting social media decision. Thread starts here.

(16) WEAK SHOWING. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri hosts an op-ed from one of the X-Men: “Magneto: These new ‘magnetic’ vaccine mutants are extremely disappointing”.

… I met the people who were saying that metal objects now stuck to them because of their vaccines and gave them a whole recruitment speech about how they were the next stage in evolution, but once I said the word “evolution,” they looked at me doubtfully. Then I asked them to show off their abilities, and — I hate to say this but, have you ever been at a friend’s amateur magic show, where the magic show is not going quite as was hoped, and there’s a lot of saying “hold on” and “wait, hang on” and “sorry” as they fail several times running to identify your card, and then a dead bird falls unprompted out of someone’s hat? Frankly, that would have been an improvement….

(17) ANCIENT POO REVEALS MODERN GUT BACTERIA CHANGE AND IS SUGGESTIVE OF HUMAN EVOLUTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.]  We humans have changed over thousands of years, and our way of life has altered dramatically the past thousand years.  This is reflected in a number of ways, one of which is the type of bacteria we have in our intestine. 

It is known that the gut microbes in humans today living in industrial countries differs greatly to those living in non-industrial nations. For example, the guts of those living in industrial nations harbour microbes that tend to be more resistant to antibiotics.  The latest news is that a research collaboration has now compared the gut microbial community from modern humans with those that lived between a thousand and two thousand years ago. They managed to extract reasonable microbial genomes from 498 samples of ancient shite and poo found in the US and Mexico. 181 of these the researchers are confident of being of human gut origin. They then compared these with the genome of modern human gut microbial genomes. 

They found that all the ancient human gut microbes differed from those in modern humans living in industrialised countries. Instead, they were all similar to those in the present-day living in non-industrial nations. Further, in looking at the genetic variation in a specific bacterial species, Methanobrevibacter smithii, they were able to back-track and estimate its past evolution. Their limited analysis that it changed markedly between 75,000 years ago and 25,000 years ago. This was during the last glacial (the cold part of our current ice age) during which there was considerable diversity in small populations of our Homo species. This work lays open great potential in a new area of ancient poo science. This is not to be sniffed at.

(See Wibowo, M. C. et al (2021) Reconstruction of ancient microbial genomes from the human gut. Naturevol.594, p234-9 and a review paper Sonnenburg, J. L. & Olm, M. R. (2021) Ancient human faeces and gut microbes of the past. Naturevol.594, p182-3.)

Review article here. Primary research paper here.

(18) SOLAR FLYBY. From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive for June 11:

Image Credit & Copyright: Zev Hoover, Christian A. Lockwood, and Zoe Chakoian. Explanation: On June 10 a New Moon passed in front of the Sun. In silhouette only two days after reaching apogee, the most distant point in its elliptical orbit, the Moon’s small apparent size helped create an annular solar eclipse. The brief but spectacular annular phase of the eclipse shows a bright solar disk as a ring of fire when viewed along its narrow, northerly shadow track across planet Earth. Cloudy early morning skies along the US east coast held gorgeous views of a partially eclipsed Sun though. Rising together Moon and Sun are captured in a sequence of consecutive frames near maximum eclipse in this digital composite, seen from Quincy Beach south of Boston, Massachusetts. The serendipitous sequence follows the undulating path of a bird in flight joining the Moon in silhouette with the rising Sun.

(19) TWO TO BEAM UP. A Despicable Me cast member helps NBC Sports advertise the upcoming Olympics with its own work on the balance beam: “The Minions interrupt Simone Biles’ Olympic Training”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cora Buhlert, John Coxon, Meredith, Nancy Sauer, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/21 Scroll Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE PLAY’S THE THING. “’Game of Thrones’ Broadway show to be written by George R.R. Martin”CNBC has the story. I know there’s an obligatory comment expected here, but personally I’m glad there are things he wants to write.

The author behind the mega-hit “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, which was the basis for HBO’s Emmy Award-winning series “Game of Thrones,” is now writing a script for a play based in the fantasy world of Westeros.

The Hollywood Reporter said Tuesday that the play will center around the Great Tourney at Harrenhal and debut in New York, London and Australia in 2023. Martin will work with playwright Duncan Macmillan (“1984”) and theater director Dominic Cooke on the project.

The Great Tourney at Harrenhal is an important historical event in the world of Westeros. Occurring 16 years before the events of HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” the contest took place over 10 days and included tournaments of jousting, archery and combat. It is also the place where Prince Rhaegar Targaryen created a nationwide scandal for dedicating his victory to Lyanna Stark instead of his wife. This decision led to Robert’s Rebellion and the Targaryens being overthrown….

(2) AUSTRALASIAN HORROR Q&A. The Redback Room is an initiative of the Australasian Horror Writers Association. Every two months, host Kyla Lee Ward will interview two horror writers from Australasia – emerging or established. In Redback Room Episode 1, Kyla talks to Australia’s most awarded horror writer, Kaaron Warren, and award-winning writer and president of the AHWA, Alan Baxter.

(3) POPULAR CREATED LANGUAGES. “League of languages” helps attract attention to what is probably a marketing site for language tutoring with its articles and statistics about fictional languages – for example, Elvish and Klingon:

For decades, fantasy and sci-fi have dominated our screens and books. To fully immerse a viewer into a fictional world, language is one of the commonly used tricks to give a sense of realness.

Typically, most films and TV shows will speak gibberish or simply create just a few words or phrases that are featured in a scene. However, some of these fictional languages have evolved into fully developed languages that can be learnt and used during coherent conversations.

We analysed the top 5 most popular fictional languages and compared speakers, learners, inspirations and word count to find out which fantasy world has the best made-up language.

So whether you’re looking for a new hobby, to feel part of a fandom or simply want to know more about linguistics from your favourite film or TV show, read our guide on the most popular fictional languages.

I wondered if this is really true, though:

Key Facts:

  • More people speak Elvish than Irish.

(4) TRADPUB HORROR. Entertainment Weekly has a conversation with “Zakiya Dalila Harris on her novel The Other Black Girl”.

Three years ago, Zakiya Dalila Harris was an assistant editor at Knopf Doubleday Publishing. Now, she’s the author of a novel that garnered a seven-figure book contract (after a 14-bidder auction) and an adaptation deal at Hulu. The Other Black Girl is best described as The Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out, with a little bit of Black Mirror thrown in. It follows Nella, a book-publishing assistant who clashes with the only other Black employee in her department. As things escalate (like anonymous threatening notes left on Nella’s desk), she begins to suspect there’s something more sinister behind their professional competition. Here, Harris, 28, offers up her process — and it’s anything but beginner’s luck.

Did you feel pressure to write a happy ending?

I definitely didn’t want a happy ending. I was really inspired by Night of the Living Dead; I love endings that are frustrating or nerve-racking. I think I subconsciously wanted to drive home the pressures that Black people are under in corporate America — I didn’t want any of the characters to be able to get out of their situations easily, because that would just reinforce the notion that it’s on Black folks to resist the system, instead of on white folks to change the system.

(5) BOXING MATCH. Io9 is shocked, I tell you, by news of “Loki Charms: Marvel’s Limited Edition Cereal Disney+ Tie-In”.

Loki has done some horrible things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including murdering Phil Coulson and leading an alien invasion of Earth in which countless people died. But now the Norse god of mischief has gained control of Lucky Charms cereal, and this crime is beyond the pale….

(6) DON’T DO THE CRIME IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME. Meanwhile, let Vanity Fair tell you everything they know about the series: “’Loki’: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Marvel’s New Show”.

Where Is Loki? This is where things get a little complicated but also pretty fun. The Loki series is set inside the world of something called the TVA, or Time Variance Authority. Don’t worry even a little bit if you feel confused here; the Loki premiere spends plenty of time explaining the rules and regulations of this place.

Here, though, are the basics: The TVA is a futuristic bureaucratic organization tasked with cleaning up messy timeline shenanigans due to the aforementioned time travel. In the MCU, when a timeline is messed with, that timeline splits off into its own reality. As you might imagine, this makes things complicated. Loki escaping from a 2012 film a full six years before his date with death in 2018? Messy. In other words, Loki enters the show, and the TVA, as a time criminal. (Fun, right?) The TVA was created in the future, but it exists outside of time. But I’m not sure you really need to worry about that yet. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1974 — At DisCon II where the Toastmaster was andrew j. offutt,  Arthur C. Clarke wins a Hugo for Rendezvous With Rama. (It also won a Campbell, Locus and Nebula.) It was published first in Galaxy (the September/ October 1973 issue) and had its first hardcover printing by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973.  Other nominated works that year were Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein, Protector by Larry Niven, The People of the Wind by Poul Anderson and The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 7, 1844 – Robert Milne.  Rediscovered by Sam Moskowitz, who helped collect RM’s stories for Into the Sun.  Eleven there; fifty more not yet reprinted, e.g. “The Great Electric Diaphragm”, “A Dip into the Doings of the Four-Dimensional World”, “What the Great Instrument in the Lick Observatory Observed”.  Even I found the Into the Sun stories and four more here.  (Died 1899) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1932 – Kit Reed.  Sixteen novels for us, a hundred forty shorter stories; fourteen other novels.  First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under Boucher.  Guggenheim Fellow.  Called herself a trans-genred writer.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1946 – Jon White.  Fanziner and bookseller.  Revived Inside in 1962, brought in Leland Sapiro who renamed it Riverside Quarterly (after a famous dwelling in New York).  Here is the front cover by Atom (Arthur Thomson) for vol. 1 no. 2.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1949 – Real Musgrave, age 72.  Graphic artist who has maintained a fannish connection.  Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon XLI (here (PDF) is its Program Book); exhibited at Magicon the 50th Worldcon.  Here is a cover for Fantasy Review.  Pocket Dragons, done as drawings, figurines, animated television series.  Brother of astronaut Story Musgrave.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1952 — Liam Neeson, 69. He first shows up in genre films as Gawain in Excalibur and as Kegan in Krull. He plays Martin Brogan In High Spirits, a film I enjoy immensely. Next up is the title role in Darkman, a film I’ve watched myriad times. He’s Dr. David Marrow In The Haunting which I’d contend is loosely off of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Now we get him as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Followed unfortunately by his horrid take as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and as a cameo in the The Dark Knight RisesNow he voiced Aslan with amazing dignity in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise and I hope voiced Zeus as well in the Titans franchise. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1954 – Louise Erdrich, age 67.  In the first class of women admitted to Dartmouth (A.B., English; later, honorary Litt. D. and Commencement speaker).  Member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; her grandfather was tribal chief.  Nat’l Book Award for Fiction, Lib. Cong. Prize for Amer. Fiction, Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Pushcart Prize.  Love Medicine, only début novel to win the Nat’l Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.  Children’s books; Scott O’Dell Award for The Game of Silence.  World Fantasy Award for The Antelope Wife; three more novels in our field; interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1968 — Sarah Parish, 53, In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. (CE)
  • Born June 7, 1969 — Anthony Simcoe, 52, Ka D’Argo in  Farscape, one of the best SF series ever done. If you don’t watch anything else, just watch the finale, The Peacekeeper Wars as it’s reasonably self-contained. Farscape is the only SF he did. If you can find a copy, Matt Bacon’s No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, it is a wonderful look at the creation of the creatures on the show including D’Argo facial appendages. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1972 — Karl Urban, 49. He’s in the second and third installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy as Éomer. He has was McCoy in the Trek reboot franchise, Cupid on Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, John Kennex on Almost Human, Vaako in the Riddick film franchise, and Judge Dredd in Dredd. For the record, I liked both Dredd films for different reasons. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1974 — David Filoni, 47. Creator and an executive producer on Star Wars Rebels, a most awesome series, for all four seasons, and was supervising director and a writer on another excellent series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (I like the animated series far better than the live action films.) He makes his live acting debut in The Mandalorian playing Trapper Wolf, an X-Wing pilot, in “The Prisoner” episode. It’s also worth noting that he his first job was directing episodes during the first season of animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (CE)  
  • Born June 7, 1979 — Anna Torv, 42. She’s best known for her role as FBI agent Olivia Dunham on Fringe. She also played an ITU nurse in Frankenstein, a modern adaptation of that novel. She voiced the lead of Nariko in the animated Heavenly Sword film based off the game of the same name. (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1990 – Adam Silvera, age 31. Four novels for us, a shorter story; three other novels.  Two NY Times Best-Sellers.  Has read While Mortals SleepAnimal FarmKnow the Past, Find the Future (NY Public Lib’y centennial); The Little PrinceThe Magic Shop (Wells); The Phantom TollboothFahrenheit 451.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider of Incidental Comics depicts his inner critic.

(10) STOP THE PRESSES! Or at least slow them down a little: “’Paddington 2’ Loses Top Movie Honor Due to New Bad Review” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Paddington 2 has lost its recently obtained honor as the best movie of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes’ freshness ratings.

You’ll recall the headlines last month when Citizen Kane lost its decades-long 100 percent rating on the critic aggregation site due to a newly discovered negative review from 1941. The disruption caused fans to declare 2018’s much-beloved Paddington 2 as the new best film since it now had the most reviews of any title that also had a 100 percent rating.

Now, there’s been another update that changes all that.

A new review has knocked Paddington down a branch — to a 99 percent scoreThe review was from Film Authority and critic Eddie Harrison, who seemed to know precisely what he was doing, somewhat defensively noting, “I reviewed Paddington 2 negatively for BBC radio on release in 2017, and on multiple occasions after that, and I stand by every word of my criticism.”

(11) CATCHING HELL. Calgary author Marc Watson, who has been published on flash fiction site www.101words.org, as well as comedy site www.thecorrectness.com, begins a new fantasy series with Catching Hell Part 1: Journey.

In the distant future, two young men are thrust into unknown worlds—worlds they were raised to fear.

Aryu, the Boy with Wings, enters a realm where magic rules. Guided by the conflicted phoenix Nixon Ash, a creature sent to kill him, Aryu must confront the powerful, immortal Embracers and the balance of Everything and Nothing they inhabit. Meanwhile, Johan navigates a futuristic world, seeking a means to defeat the robotic Army of the Old destructively marching across their homeland, and reunite with his best friend.

(12) WHEN IN ROME. This vending machine will turn out a pizza in the time it takes to soft-boil an egg:

It is barely a few square meters large, just enough space for three vending machines side by side. In via Catania 2, in Rome, the first store for automatic express pizza was opened. Four flavors to select from: margherita, spicy salami, bacon and four cheeses; three minutes of waiting, which can be [whiled away] by following the different stages of preparation, and that’s it.

(13) LIQUID REFRESHMENT. What could sound more out of this world than a drink called Unicorn Tears– MAD TASTY – and for $30 for a six-pack, it’ll have to do a lot to live up to that name.

Unicorn Tears is an exotic and mysterious blend of natural fruit flavors that is delightful on the nose and refreshing for the brain. Expand your bandwidth to conquer your day with this magical elixir.

Our Hemp-Forward Formulation
At 20 MG broad-spectrum hemp extract and less than 15 calories a can, our clean, restorative, and hydrating beverage was made to fit into any wellness routine. Our Oregon-farmed hemp is sourced and extracted for all the benefits and no earthy aftertaste. There is zero sugar or sweeteners and no complicated additives needed to mask the hemp flavor.

(14) JDA STAGES TRIUMPHAL PARADE ON THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY. Jon Del Arroz threw up a couple more videos today, one of them featuring comments by his lawyer Peter Sean Bradley. He had 42 viewers at peak — that was it. 

If somebody else’s blog was involved it would have been funny, So much of his screentime was meaninglessly devoted to displaying my post about the Nebula winners while he blathered in audio, then lovingly reviewed 770’s comments about his settlement. How did his lawyer get a word in edgewise?

Richard Fox also dropped in to demonstrate his solidarity with JDA’s ideas about racism:

And to horn in on JDA’s publicity by repeating his own lies about this blog (see “Perjury, Not Piracy Is The Problem”).

(15) BEZOS in SPAAAAAAAACE!The Washington Post reports “Jeff Bezos is going to space on Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight in July”.

A couple of weeks after Jeff Bezos officially steps down as CEO of Amazon, he’ll leap into something more mythic: riding to the edge ofspace aboard one of his own rockets, alongside his brother, in a flight that would fulfill a lifelong dream.

The plan is that Bezos, his brother, Mark, and the winner of an online auction for Blue Origin’s nonprofit foundation will be on the New Shepard on July 20 when it lifts off for a suborbital flight, the first time the spacecraft will carry passengers. The date is the anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.The flight will mark a significant milestone for Blue Origin, which lags behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the competition for billions of dollars in NASA and Pentagon contracts and which flies a more powerful rocket capable of taking people and supplies into orbit….

Daniel Dern comments:

One wonders whether nobody in this loop has read the last (third?) of Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold The Moon (and/or the shorter followup, Requiem), where Delos D Harriman is prohibited from flying, due to a mix of health, insurance, (avoiding bad) publicity, etc.

One wonders whether his life insurance premiums are taking a brief spike. Yeah, he can afford them.

If nothing else, I’d love to see him at the launch site buying flight insurance. (I’m sure somebody will do, or already has, a video of this.)

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean shows that, like other fourth films in franchises, the film practices “self-plagiarism, where the film goes through moments” people liked in the first three movies.  There’s also “hyper-specific magic with very vague backgrounds,” so there’s a great deal about the power of fresh mermaids’ tears (old ones won’t work) just to bring mermaids into the movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/19/21 The Duplicated Enchanter

(1) YOU COULD BE HEINLEIN. Once upon a time, in 2011, there was a role playing game called The Big Hoodoo. You might recognize some of the PC’s –

… The Big Hoodoo is Lovecraftian noir in 1950s California with a ripped-from-history plot centered on the explosive death of real-world rocket scientist, science fiction fan, and occultist Jack Parsons in a garage laboratory in 1952. The investigators are iconic figures active in the science fiction scene at the time of Parsons’ death, and their inquiries lead them from the mean streets of Pasadena to the edge of the Mojave Desert and the mountains of southern California as well as the beaches of Los Angeles.

Play sci-fi great Robert Heinlein, his ex-Navy engineer wife Virginia, renowned editor and mystery writer Tony Boucher, or a young Philip K. Dick as they confront the lunatic fringe in La-La Land, and find themselves caught in a charlatan’s web of chicanery, mendacity, and deceit-laced with a strong strand of mythos menace.

The adventure includes brief biographical hooks for the PCs to orient players to their investigators as well as suggestions for alternate and additional investigators. Brief rules for a magic system intended to evoke the Enochian “magick” invented by John Dee and Edward Kelley, adopted by Aleister Crowley, and passed on to Jack Parsons are appended, and are used in the adventure. It can be played as a convention one-shot, or serve as the basis for a slightly longer set of episodes covering two or three evenings of entertainment.…

In 2012, Jasper van der Meer told “Geeklists for The Big Hoodoo” readers a better way to play the game.

Ugh, I didn’t run this game, but I’m glad I didn’t. The Keeper had prepared diligently for a Classic Trail of Cthulhu game. We, as players, shifted this scenario to a Pulp mode of play in pretty short order, then ran it off the road into the desert for a third mode of play: Fiasco.

To start our traffic accident, my pre-generated Robert Heinlein P.C. snatched an autographed copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics from a fan boy, then smacked him in the face with it, asking, “Why are you with this grifter’s cult, son? Nothing good will come from that snake oil salesman. I’m taking his book away from you. You’ll thank me later.”

From there, we swerved a bit between lanes, then launched off the shoulder of the road into insanity. Heinlein’s wife, also a P.C., engaged in a catfight with Heinlein’s ex-wife, flicking a lit cigarette into her eye to get a brawl at a prominent Satanist’s funeral rolling. Phillip K. Dick, another P.C., knocked back a lady cultist’s hip flask of space mead. He was tripping pretty hard, blowing through stability. The silliness didn’t stop. We piled on the antics like we were playing Fiasco Classic.

After five hours of play, three of the four pre-generated P.C.s died and did not die well. The sole survivor would go on to author a large catalogue of science fiction by way of trying to come to terms with what happened to him.

(2) WITH SIX YOU GET INSIGHT. In “6 Books with Adrian Tchaikovsky” at Nerds of a Feather, the author makes substantial and fascinating comments about a half dozen choices to curator Paul Weimer.

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

Gene Wolfe – The Shadow of the Torturer

So I bounced the hell of this when I was about 15. I saw rave reviews and I went in with great expectations and just could not get any of it. The language was opaque and the plots just seemed to go nowhere and basically just what the hell, man?

Fast forward to now: Wolfe is most definitely one of my all-time favourite authors. I just hit him too young, and with all the wrong expectations. He doesn’t write the sort of straightforward narrative I was anticipating, and there are puzzles within puzzles hidden in the story for the reader to disentangle – to the extent that I’m sure that there’s plenty in Book of the New Sun that I haven’t ever clocked, despite reading it multiple times. But that’s fine, because even those strata that I have exposed tell such a remarkably rich story on multiple levels. There is all the complexity of Severian and his own rather suspect take on events (Wolfe is the master of the unreliable narrator), and there is the incredible world built through Severian’s travels and reminiscences and chance mentions. Then again there’s a profound burden of philosophical speculation woven through the text, much of which I suspect has passed me by.

From a pure worldbuilding perspective, the New Sun books are a real education. Because you can build a world through saying too little and you can build a world through saying too much, and both ways can go wrong. Wolfe somehow manages to do both without it going wrong at all. There is a vast, living, breathing world in those books, seen through Severian’s fleeting attention and obsessions, so that we’re dragged hither and yon by his stream of consciousness. The overall impression, once you settle into the way the story is being told, is of a vastness of creation beyond the details on the page. And because, when Severian does want to give us a deep dive into some small aspect of his world, he really goes deep, the implicit assurance is that the same level of detail is waiting invisibly in absolutely everything else, even those aspects that he gives only the briefest mention of. 

(3) DAVIDSON UPDATE. Amazing Stories’ Kermit Woodall gave a progress report about Steve Davidson’s recovery from heart surgery:

Steve is doing well at the hospital, will probably be discharged into a local extended-stay inn until he’s cleared for travel home.

(4) IT’S A FORD. Reviewers ooh-ed and ahhed when they found this book available on Netgalley. Tor Books will release it on September 21.

 (5) NATIONAL THEATRE NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 14 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming discusses After Life, which will open at the National Theatre on June 2.  The play is by Jack Thorne, who wrote Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,

If you had to choose just one memory to live with through the whole of eternity, what would you choose?  That’s the nigh impossible question posed in After Life, the new play that will reopen London’s National Theatre this summer.

Based on Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-ada’s beautiful 1998 film of the same name, After Life is set in a post-life institution, where a group of strangers grapple with this dilemma, sifting through their lives for the moment they want to preserve forever…

…The setting honours the low-key nature of the memories–a moment on a park bench; a cool breeze on a tram journey–and looks like the sort of half-remembered building you visit in dreams.  For stage, the creative team has sought to preserve that quality.  The play–a co-production with Headlong theatre company–is not a straight adaptation of the film but draws on the teams personal memories and a very British version of humdrum bureaucracy.

(6) SHREK. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary of a film franchise: “‘Shrek’ at 20: How a Chaotic Project Became a Beloved Hit”.

… Key to the film’s success was the unforgettable comic voice work delivered by a cast that included Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Cameron Diaz as the princess.

…Casting was still an issue when she [the director] came onboard. Diaz and Murphy were in place, but who would play the title character was up in the air. The former “Saturday Night Live” star Chris Farley was originally cast and had recorded many of his lines when he died at the age of 33 that year.

Jenson said she and her colleagues were big fans of “S.N.L.” and Mike Myers. “It kind of took a little selling to the studio because he was still breaking in, but he wasn’t the huge name that he is now,” she said. 

(7) ANOTHER LOOK AT LOKI. Marvel dropped this teaser for Loki today.

The clock is ticking. Marvel Studios’ “Loki” arrives in three weeks with new episodes every Wednesday starting June 9 on Disney+.

(8) EVIL TRAILER. Netflix will begin streaming Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness on July 8.

The landmark survival horror video game series Resident Evil has shipped over 110 million copies worldwide. Popular characters Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield appear in this CG serialized drama, the first in series history! Don’t miss this new epic entertainment on a scale more spectacular than ever before!

(9) LIVINGSTONE OBIT. Actor and writer Douglas Livingstone died April 19 at the age of 86 reports The Guardian. Their tribute praises his primary genre credit:

His compelling six-part small-screen adaptation of The Day of the Triffids (1981), a rare excursion into sci-fi, remained faithful to John Wyndham’s novel, apart from re-setting the story from the 1950s to the near-future. One critic described it as “the most effective TV realisation of Wyndham’s writing”.

(10) GRODIN EULOGIES. Miss Piggy tweeted an appreciation of Charles Grodin who died yesterday.

Also:

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 19, 1901 – George Pendray.  Early rocketeer; co-founded the American Interplanetary Society (its successor Am. Inst. Aeronautics & Astronautics gives the Pendray Award); invented the time capsule, for the 1939 World’s Fair; coined the word “laundromat”; helped establish Guggenheim Jet Propulsion Center at Cal. Tech., Guggenheim Labs at Princeton Univ., U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n.  Wrote SF as science editor of Literary Digest, e.g. “A Rescue from Jupiter”.  Co-edited The Papers of Robert H. Goddard.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1920 – Walter Popp.  Prolific pulp illustrator for e.g. Amazing, Fantastic, Startling, Thrilling; see here.  Also Gothic-romance fantasy, see here, some becoming limited-edition prints for fine-art galleries, see here.  Outside our field, true-crime and men’s-adventure magazines, paperbacks including Popular Library; toy and sporting-goods manufacturers; greeting cards.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1921 – Pauline Clarke.  Children’s fantasy The Twelve and the Genii won the Carnegie Medal and the Kinderbuchpreis.  The Pekinese Princess has talking animals and trees.  Thirty novels for various readers; Warscape, for adults, “lurches into the future”, says a remarkable 4,300-word Wikipedia entry.  (Died 2013) [JH] 
  • Born May 19, 1937 Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer, then he was Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And of course he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh and he played a very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens, before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of all-time favourite films. Also an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 73. Singer, best known for a song about looking for a parking spot (link here), but also acts. In addition to other genre roles, she was a companion of Conan in Conan the Destroyer and a Bond Girl in View to a Kill.  (AB) (Alan Baumler)
  • Born May 19, 1948 – Paul Williams.  Created Crawdaddy!  Literary executor of Philip K. Dick, co-founder of PKD Society, biography of PKD Only Apparently Real; worked with David Hartwell on Age of Wonders – also The Int’l Bill of Human Rights; edited vols. 1-12, Complete Works of Theodore Sturgeon; also The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits (including Winnie-the-PoohThe Little PrinceGod Bless You, Mr. Rosewater), four on Bob Dylan, twenty more.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1955 – Elise Primavera, age 66.  Author and illustrator of children’s books, some fantasy: The Secret Order of the Gumm Street GirlsFred & Anthony Meet the Heinie Goblins from the Black Lagoon (as Esile Arevamirp), Marigold Star.  Here’s a book cover.  [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 55. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Woman, Volume 3  and  Wonder Woman: Love and Murder).  She also has a most excellent two-volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1981 – Kiera Cass, age 40.  Seven novels, five shorter stories, many about the Selection in Illéa, which in KC’s fiction was once the United States.  Among 100 things she loves: being married; elephants; paper; the sound of water; Japan; dipping her fingers in melted wax; not walking up but looking at a beautiful staircase; small forks; voting; reasons to make wishes.  [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1996 Sarah Grey, 25. Before DC Universe cast the present Stargirl Brec Bassinger for that series, Legends of Tomorrow cast their Stargirl as this actress for a run of three episodes.  The episodes (“Out of Time”, “Justice Society of America” and “Camelot 3000”) are superb. I’ve not see her as Alyssa Drake in The Order but I’ve heard Good Things about that series. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds a mundane moment in a fairy tale courtship.
  • Bliss shows it could matter what lunar explorers don’t find.

(13) AVENGERS SUIT UP. In partnership with Bandai Spirits of Japan, Marvel Comics will release a brand-new Avengers comic series this August: Tech-On Avengers. This collaboration will be a tokusatsu-inspired action-adventure comic series featuring stellar new armor designs for some of Marvel’s most iconic heroes and villains. Tech-On Avengers #1 is out August 11.

When the Red Skull wields a strange new power that strips heroes of their powers and threatens the entire world, the Avengers turn to Tony Stark’s experimental new technology to save us all. Here come the Iron Avengers — TECH ON AVENGERS! Sleek high-tech power suits bristling with energy and amped-up attack power face off against super villains enhanced to match. It’s mechs and mayhem in the Marvel Mighty Manner!

 Check out the cover by famous Japanese manga artist Eiichi Shimizu who contributed new character deigns for the series as well some action-packed interior artwork by Chamba.

(14) BIG NAME PRODUCERS REBOOT BIG NAME SUPERHEROS. “New Batman and Superman Animated Series Coming to HBO Max”Yahoo! Life has the story.

The two greatest heroes of the DC Universe are coming back to long-form television at last. DC and Warner Bros. Animation, along with HBO Max and Cartoon Network, have announced two brand-new series based on Batman and Superman. And they both have incredible pedigree among their creative teams. A new animated era will soon begin for the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel.

HBO Max and Cartoon Network have greenlit a straight-to-series order for Batman: Caped Crusader. This is an all-new animated series and reimagining of the Batman mythology. It’s told through the visionary lens of executive producers Bruce Timm, J.J. Abrams, and Matt Reeves. The series is jointly produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Bad Robot Productions, and 6th & Idaho….

(15) JUST ONE THING GOT IN THE WAY. Leonard Maltin wrote a tribute to the late actor who recently died at the age of 106: “Remembering Norman Lloyd”.

… He graciously welcomed my daughter Jessie and me into his home in 2018 to record an episode of our podcast. (click HERE to listen.) For Jess and many others her age, his role in Dead Poets Society is the first performance that comes to mind. And while he spoke of possible projects to take on he confessed, “I tell you what blocks me from really finding a property: the ball game every day. The ball game comes on and everything stops. In my ancient age, my trainer says, ‘You’ve got to walk so much every day. You’ve got to do these physical exercises’ and so forth. And I think that’s very good advice… And then the ball game comes on.”

(16) NOT WHO SHE THOUGHT SHE WAS. Paul Weimer gets readers fired up in “Microreview [book]: Floodpath by Emily B Martin” at Nerds of a Feather.

… The other classic Martin touch is to be willing to “blow up Vulcan” and show a ground floor change in the status quo, as Tamsin’s vocal disability leads her to a way to use her voice in a way that is hitherto unknown in this world. If the spread and the use of Tamsin’s clever idea is maybe a little faster than it might be in reality, the power of the story of such a revolutionary change, especially since the consequences and advantages only come to mind with time, feels accurate and right. I suspect that the invention, which delighted me when I realized what Martin was doing (and I desperately do not want to spoil) is going to have permanent and long lasting impacts on her entire world. Martin’s world is not a static one where things remain the same without change for generations–inventions, ideas and the actions of people can and do make a difference and a lasting difference. 

(17) CHEETOS PROSPER. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Licks his wounds, find they’re delicious… The Los Angeles Times reports “Richard Montañez book a go despite Flamin’ Hot investigation”.

The publisher of Richard Montañez’s upcoming memoir, “Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise From Janitor to Top Executive,” is moving ahead with the book after a Los Angeles Times investigation found Montañez was not involved in the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

“During his 40+ years at Frito Lay, Richard Montañez repeated the story of his involvement with this product hundreds of times, in speeches, books, and media interviews,” Adrian Zackheim, president and publisher of Portfolio Books, said in a statement Tuesday. “Only now, just as his book is announced, are we suddenly hearing an alternate narrative about the development of this product, which seeks to diminish Richard’s contribution and to question the details of long-ago events.”

Zackheim says the book’s June 15 release date still holds.

“We are proud to stand with our author,” he continued. “Richard Montañez embodies the entrepreneurial spirit; we salute his dedication to inspiring people to own their own stories no matter what their circumstances.”

Parts of the memoir that recount Montañez’s story about inventing the product do not align with the archival record, which indicates that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos had already entered the market and were distributed to stores before the events Montañez describes. Frito-Lay conducted an internal investigation that concluded Montañez was not involved with the 1990 debut of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay wrote in a statement to The Times. “We have interviewed multiple personnel who were involved in the test market, and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate Richard,” the statement read, “but the facts do not support the urban legend.”

(18) HISTORY THROUGH DVDS. “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree begins a commentary series about “History of Sci-Fi — Movies of the Eighties — Part One!”

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Objects are much smaller than they appear! “Flying Baby Yoda – Building The Hover Pod from The Mandalorian”.

This is my second build from the Mandalorian, which has become one of my favorite bits of Star Wars in a long time. The project is based around figure from the 6 inch scale Black Series line. I used the electronics out of an old Fast Lane quad I had in my parts bin, and some upgraded motors and props. The shell is formed around the pod/egg from the new Mission Fleet line, and everything is packed carefully inside. This build tested my patience, and vision, at times trying to get all the electronics to fit into the tiny shell. I eventually broke out the magnifying gear when it was time to solder up the motors. The completed model weighs less than one ounce and is only about an inch wide!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/17/21 I’m Going To Play Jenga With My Mount-To-Be-Read

(1) HOLMES BOOK BOUND FOR LUNA. Science fiction and fantasy author V.S. Holmes will be one of the authors whose debut novel is getting sent to the moon. The book, appropriately called Travelers, is the first book in Holmes’ archaeological sci-fi series and will be included on the Peregrine Moon Lander as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule launching in the fall of 2021. (See the 125 writers and 8 stowaways on the Manifest.)

Holmes is an archaeologist by day and author by night, They also write with a disability and their works tend to have focus within the LGBTQ community. Despite the challenges, they have become an international bestseller as well as award winner. They also work as an advocate for disabled and queer representation in SFF worlds.

Travelers, first book in the Stars Edge series, tells this story:

No one fights dirtier than an archaeologist. Dr. Nel Bently has barely dug into Chile’s dry earth when her pristine site is vandalized. Her archaeologist’s dream of a ground-breaking project funded by a private patron turns into a nightmare: local activists Los Pobladores take issue with anyone brave–or stubborn–enough to set boots on their land. And foul-mouthed Nel is stubborn as they come. Despite the danger, Nel refuses to surrender her site to vandals. Easier said than done, however, with the greenest crew she’s ever trained, absurd radiocarbon dates, and angry militants who may actually have a point. When Los Pobledores land a blow that turns Nel’s world upside down, she realizes her mysterious benefactor is playing chess with their lives. Grief-stricken and angrier than ever, Nel is ready to fight dirty.

And the fourth novel in Holmes’ Stars Edge series — Heretics – was just released on May 8.

Hot-tempered Dr. Nel Bently is not cut out to save the world. After her last project ended in fire and death, Nel must put aside her distrust of just about everyone and embark on a lo-fi search for a deadly radio transmission.

Earth’s survivors are torn between the austere superpower of IDH and the high-tech grassroots Los Pobledores. At every turn more allies go missing and Nel questions where everyone’s true loyalties lie–and on which side Lin will fall when a line is finally drawn.

They need experts. They need firepower. But it looks like the only thing standing between Earth and devastation is Nel: archaeologist, asshole, and functioning alcoholic with anger issues.

(2) BLACK LITERATURE MATTERS. New York Society Library will host a livestreamed event “Black Literature Matters: 1960-Now” on Thursday, May 20 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Free and open to the public – register at the link.

In this original series of live online events, Black writers from the 1700s to the present are re-examined to inspire understanding of race in our country today.

Black Literature Matters celebrates Black writers in four extraordinary evenings. This final event of the series showcases brief excerpts from the work of writers from 1960 to the present including Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Octavia Butler (shown here), Pearl Cleague, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Angela Davis, Ernest Gaines, Alex Haley, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Haki Madhabuti, Terry McMillan, Toni Morrison, Lynn Nottage, Malcolm X, Sonia Sanchez, Gil Scott-Heron, Ntozake Shange, Danez Smith, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, and August Wilson.

Head Librarian Carolyn Waters and Columbia University’s Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin introduce the writers, their worlds, and their impact, with dramatic readings by actors Shontelle Thrash and Geoffrey D. Williams.

As New York City’s oldest cultural institution, we are honored to do our part to highlight the thousands of stories by African American writers contained within our building and acquired since the 1700s.

(3) PROFESSOR TIDHAR. Lavie Tidhar announced his new appointment as Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond.

It’s official (here’s a short announcement) – I will be a Visiting Professor and Writer in Residence at Richmond, The American International University in London. I look forward to engaging with the university!

(For any Ted Lasso fans out there – yes, it’s that Richmond).

I taught Richmond’s undergraduate British Fantasy Fiction course several times in the past (a steep learning curve! And what led me to eventually write By Force Alone and The Hood) and have been involved in setting up the brand-new MA In Film: Science Fiction and Fantasy, which will run from this year. Depending on demand, I may also run a Creative Writing undergraduate course at some point.

(4) MULTIPLE FUTURES. April Yee’s review article for Salon, “In the latest wave of science fiction, authors of color take space to imagine multiple new societies”, looks at Brenda Peynado’s The Rock Eaters, E.C. Osondu’s Alien Worlds, and Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom.

Today writers are employing speculative fiction to pick apart the system built on racism – contemporary extractive capitalism – as well as the large-scale displacements resulting from imbalances in the safety and wealth of nations, or what we refer to as immigration. In lieu of epic series, many of these new releases come in the form of short story collections, which allow the imagination of a multiplicity of futures in order to reflect a multiplicity of readers. Three recent collections from writers with roots in Nigeria, Japan, and the Dominican Republic direct their slant lenses toward capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy….

(5) AT&T AND DISCOVERY MERGER PLANS. AT&T and Discovery Inc. have made it official, unveiling their plan to merge their media and entertainment assets in a deal that will bring together TV channels like CNN, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network and Discovery Channel, the Warner Bros. film studio, and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+. Details in The Hollywood Reporter: “WarnerMedia-Discovery Merger: AT&T and Discovery Detail Merger Terms”.

(6) A POWELL’S CONVERSATION. Powell’s Books presents Suyi Davies Okungbowa in conversation with S. A. Chakraborty on May 18 at 05:00 p.m. Pacific. Zoom webinar registration at the link.

From Suyi Davies Okungbowa, one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, comes Son of the Storm (Orbit), a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the precolonial empires of West Africa. In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness — only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy. But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire. Okungbowa will be joined in conversation by S. A. Chakraborty, author of The Daevabad Trilogy.

(7) A LOOK AT LOKI. Disney + dropped this excerpt from Loki today: “’Introducing Agent Mobius’ Clip”.

(8) KAYE OBIT. Marvin Kaye (1938-2021), a mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and horror author and editor, died May 13. He was a World Fantasy Award winner and was a past editor of Weird Tales Magazine. His daughter, Terry Kaye, made this statement:

Well, there are really no words that I can put together at this moment in time, so this will be a relatively short post. More later as the memories come and the brain starts functioning again. It may be a while.

My dad, Marvin Kaye, passed away last night about 8:35 pm. He was in hospice care, calm and not suffering, and I will always be grateful that my vaccination date and subsequent cross-country slog got me to New York in time to see him, have him see me, and make a few final memories before his disease completely overtook him and his body shut down.

We will have a small ceremony for close/local friends this Sunday and then a larger, hybrid in-person and zoom memorial in the next several weeks. I will post more info about that as we know more.

I am beyond grateful for the love and support of my family and friends here in NYC, in LA, and everywhere in between. I’m not going to list all the names but you know. It’s like I am surrounded in a huge hug from all sides. I feel it all.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — In 1981 at Devention Two, The Empire Strikes Back which was released the previous year by Lucasfilm won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works were Lathe of Heaven, the Cosmos series, The Martian Chronicles and Flash Gordon.  It was directed by Irvin Kershner from the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan with story by being George Lucas. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson.  Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps).  Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him.  Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; compiled two 1947-1948 indexes, one of authors, one of publications. Member of First Fandom.  Lamont, Phoenix awards.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill. Professor at Brown University.  Two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature. Edited a Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction (2nd ed’n 1997), included Ursula LeGuin, Gabriel García Márquez, other SF. (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 – Lars Gustafsson, Ph.D.  Ahrvid Engholm thinks LG’s novel Bernard Foy’s Third Castling is SF, and AE is often right.  I haven’t found The Strange Animal From the Northin English; half a dozen others, as many books of poetry, are, though not SF.  Prix Int’l Charles Veillon des Essais, Gerard-Bonnier Prize, Goethe Medal, Thomas Mann Prize, Nonino Prize, Zbigniew Herbert Award.  See here.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1936 Dennis Hopper. I think his genre film would be Tarzan and Jane Regained… Sort of, an Andy Warhol film. Queen of Blood, a vampire thinly disguised as SF film, was his next genre film. My Science Project was his next outing before he took part in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. And now we get to the Super Mario Bros. where he played King Koopa. What a weird film that was! Of he followed that by being Deacon on Waterworld… And then doing Space Truckers. Ouch. He’s El Niño in The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a film I barely remember. His final role was voicing one of the animated wolves in Alpha and Omega. He was also in Blue Velvet but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to call that genre. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1946 F. Paul Wilson, 75. I’ve read, let me check, oh, about half I see of the Repairman Jack novels. Anyone finished them off and should I do so? What else by him is worth my time? (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell, age 73.  Professor at Hollins University.  Nine novels for us, about deer dancers, goddesses, horse catchers.  What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1950 Mark Leeper, 71. As Mark says on his site, “In and out of science fiction circles Mark and Evelyn Leeper are one of the best known writing couples on the Internet. Mark became an avid science fiction fan at age six with TV’s “Commando Cody.” Both went to the University of Massachusetts in 1968.” And as OGH says here, their MT VOID fanzine is one of the longest published ones still going. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Bryce Zabel, 67. A producer, director and writer. Genre wise, he’s been involved as a producer or director with M.A.N.T.I.S.Dark SkiesBlackbeardLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. Writing wise, he written for most of these shows plus the Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Atlantis: The Lost Empire screenplays. (CE) 
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 67. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim, age 63.  Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark.  Three short stories, one cover, twenty interiors.  Harvey Award.  Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1974 – Grace Lin, age 47.  Five novels for us, many others, aimed at children, which often happens with fantasy.  GL has helpfully been including Chinese matter – or energy – hmm – in English-language writing.  Graphics are easier – maybe – and you’ll see some at her Website; as it happens she is also a graphic artist.  She’s managed to make her signature block look like Chinese seal-writing; of course there are clouds and a dragon.  [JH]

(10) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Jeopardy!, Andrew Porter saw a contestant have problems with this one:

Category: Essays

Answer: An essay that she wrote about marine life called “World of Waters” was published in 1937 as “Undersea.”

Wrong question: Who is Ursula Le Guin?

Correct question: Who is Rachel Carson?

(11) CHECK IT OUT. “First Look: DC’s Newest Library Is a Stunner” says Washingtonian.

The DC Public Library system has garnered a reputation for creating functional public buildings that are also beautiful spaces. The Southwest Library will join DCPL’s collection of recently revamped facilities, reopening on Saturday, May 15, with an $18 million building.

…Planked ceilings pay homage to the wooden canopy at nearby theater Arena Stage. A massive photo spanning the library’s two floors depicts the Potomac River in 1885, and it’s functional, too: Made of perforated metal with felt backing, the artwork helps absorb sound in the open space.

(12) TRYING TO IDENTIFY. CBS News’ Sunday Morning show did a segment on “UFO studies and the possibility of alien origin”; video at the link.

We’ve always been fascinated by aliens, and that’s putting it mildly. And mathematically speaking, aliens should exist.

“There are two trillion other galaxies we can see, each with a 100 billion Earth-like worlds,” said Seth Shostak , the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. [SETI stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.] “100 billion, OK? It’s hard to believe they’re all sterile.”

Correspondent David Pogue asked, “I happen to know that this is sort of a trick question when people say, ‘Do UFOs exist?'”

“Well, I mean, obviously UFOs exist, ’cause that just means unidentified flying objects,” Shostak said. “But the real issue here is not that you see things in the sky, it’s what you claim they might be.”

Author and investigative journalist Leslie Kean said, “You just can’t assume if you see something in the sky that looks a little weird that it’s some kind of alien thing, which is what a lot of people assume. Most sightings that people have – Oh, I see something in the sky! – those kinds of sightings can usually be explained: The planet Venus, airplanes, comets, shooting stars, birds. Let’s say five to ten percent are the cases that any conventional explanation can be ruled out; those are the cases that are of interest.”

In 2017, Kean coauthored a New York Times story that revealed the existence of, believe it or not, a secret Pentagon program devoted to studying UFO sightings….

60 Minutes also did its own UFO segment: “UFOs regularly spotted in restricted U.S. airspace, report on the phenomena due next month”.

We have tackled many strange stories on 60 Minutes, but perhaps none like this. It’s the story of the U.S. government’s grudging acknowledgment of unidentified aerial phenomena— UAP—more commonly known as UFOs. After decades of public denial the Pentagon now admits there’s something out there, and the U.S. Senate wants to know what it is. The intelligence committee has ordered the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to deliver a report on the mysterious sightings by next month.

Bill Whitaker: So what you are telling me is that UFOs, unidentified flying objects, are real?

Lue Elizondo: Bill, I think we’re beyond that already. The government has already stated for the record that they’re real. I’m not telling you that. The United States government is telling you that. 

Luis Elizondo spent 20 years running military intelligence operations worldwide: in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Guantanamo. He hadn’t given UFOs a second thought until 2008. That’s when he was asked to join something at the Pentagon called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or “AATIP.”…

(13) A QUARTER CENTURY OF POKÉMON. The Week reports “Katy Perry released a new music video starring … Pikachu”.

In January, The Pokémon Company announced that it was teaming up with Universal Music Group artists to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

…On Friday, Katy Perry shared her own contribution to the anniversary celebrations: a video for her new single “Electric,” in which she travels back in time with her Pikachu to make her younger self enter a talent show. Though the song sounds like it belongs on a TJ Maxx playlist (“there’s no reason that this life can’t be electric!”), it’s at least more on-brand for Pokémon than Hootie and the Blowfish.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “In Pirates of the Caribbean At World’s End Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that “physics and probability aren’t the thing” in this Pirates movie because “every time Jack Sparrow gets on a rope, he turns into Spider-Man.”

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