Pixel Scroll 8/21/21 Marvel’s Pixels Of S.C.R.O.L.L.

(1) NEW SOLUTION FOR X. Louisiana convention CONtraflow X has been cancelled for 2021 due to the pandemic, and been rescheduled to 2022.

Some unfortunate news to pass on- CONtraflow Faithful, Friends, and Fen- with the recent Delta-Variant COVID-19 surge not yet peaking in our region and after working with/looking at all of our options with our host hotel and city/parish/state leadership, the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion. We must once again postpone/reschedule CONtraflow X. Pandemic conditions and restrictions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future, make it next to impossible to host the convention in even a close approximation to what you all expect from a CONtraflow. Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow X….

(2) UK PROZINE LAUNCHES. ParSec Digital Magazine – Issue 1 has been released by PS Publishing, which announced plans for the new title after failing to acquire Interzone. See the table of contents at the link.

(3) FOURTH DOCTOR CONFESSES. “Tom Baker: ‘I didn’t know what to do with Doctor Who’” he tells Radio Times.

Tom Baker first played the Doctor almost 50 years ago – and to hear the acting legend tell it, he’s never really stopped.

“I got it right out of the blue,” he tells RadioTimes.com of his 1974 casting as Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who replacement. “There we were, and I thought… I didn’t know what to do with it. And I still don’t know what to do with it! Because of course, the problem is it’s not really an acting part. In fact, I don’t really do acting parts, because they just embarrass me.

“I try to inhabit these kind of crackpot people who I play, and find a crackpot niche in my crackpot brain… I slot them in and off we go!”

…From storytelling structure to music and sound design, these new stories – adapted from Hinchcliffe’s initial ideas by writer Marc Platt – seek to recapture the flavour and feel of Doctor Who’s Hammer Horror-influenced TV outings from the 1970s. Recapturing his performance wasn’t a problem for Baker, chiefly because he claims playing the Doctor wasn’t for him a performance at all.

(4) HORROR POET. “Life Between This World and the Next: An Interview with Poet Corrine De Winter” at the Horror Writers Association Blog.

On the latest HWA Horror Poetry Blog, Bram Stoker winning author Corrine De Winter shares thoughts on the craft of poetry, being mentored by William Packard and discusses an upcoming new volume of verse “Awakening Persephone.”

(5) ON THE RADIO. A short audio SF play that filers might like, recommended by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie: BBC Radio 4 – Angst!, Gaia

Gaia.  It’s a job, cleaning the fusty man’s laboratory.
But a job that could hold the fate of humanity in the balance….

In today’s ‘zeit’, the ‘geist’ is everywhere – environmental catastrophe, conspiracy theories, populism, fake news, the age of the algorithm, nationalism, racism, social exclusion. Not to mention pandemics.

As the world teeters on the edge of various self-made apocalypses, Angst! takes a satirical sideways look at our own naked fears. Five separate but connected half-hour ‘what if?’ stories all told under the watchful eye of the enigmatic Timor Greer.

What if the planet is, in reality, a single sentient organism, intent on ridding itself of the poisonous human parasites living on its surface? And what if a way is found to communicate with this ‘intelligence’? And what if the person put in charge of negotiations is a refugee cleaner from Darfur?

(6) TORRID TOURISM. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] Clearly an SF poster, and should have been a book cover! This really was produced by NASA, but I had no idea they had an “Exoplanet Travel Bureau”. “55 Cancri e: Skies Sparkle Above a Never-Ending Ocean of Lava”. This poster from the NASA Exoplanets Exploration Program’s Exoplanet Travel Bureau was recently Wikipedia’s Picture of the Day.

A global ocean of lava under sparkling, silicate skies reflecting the lava below: what better choice for an extreme vacation? Planet Janssen, or 55 Cancri e, orbits a star called Copernicus only 41 light years away. The molten surface is completely uninhabitable, but you’ll ride safely above, taking in breathtaking views: the burning horizon, Janssen’s sister planet Galileo hanging in a dark sky, and curtains of glowing particles as you glide across the terminator to Janssen’s dark side. Book your travel now to the hottest vacation spot in the galaxy, 55 Cancri e.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, the animated film Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All premiered on NBC as produced by Filmation who did The New Adventures of Superman and Star Trek: The Animated Series. It was written by Samuel A. Peeples whose first season script, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, was actually the one that sold Paramount on that series. It was produced by Don R. Christensen who did illustrations for such comic book titles as Donald Duck, MagnusRobot Fighter, and Uncle Scrooge. Critics consider this movie one of the most faithful adaptations of the original Flash Gordon material. IMDB reviewers give an excellent seventy seven percent rating. Oddly there’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bear one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.)
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Almost all of her genre fiction was published at Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under the editorship of Anthony Boucher. It can be found in two collections, Xenogenesis and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow. Her “A Death in the Family” story was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Other than scattered short stories, nothing’s available at the usual suspects. (Died 1975.)
  • Born August 21, 1911 Anthony Boucher. Rocket to the Morgue is of course a really great read. If you can find a copy, The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher is a most excellent read. Fortunately The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction is available at the usual suspects and it’s quite delicious. Award-wise, he would win Hugos at Solacon (1958) and the next year at Detention for Best Professional Magazine for his editing of F&SF. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Astounding Award for a Best New Writer winner of 1985. His Life During Wartime  is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 21, 1953 Rev Ivan Stang, 68. Best known as the author and publisher of the first writings of the Church of the SubGenius. He’s credited with founding the Church with friend Philo Drummond in 1979. ISFDB only lists “The Scepter of Praetorious” as genre but really isn’t the entire Church genre? (Ducks really quickly to avoid anything thrown at him.)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 65. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 53. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. She later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe, most notably Jessica Jones. She reprising her Trinity role in the forthcoming Matrix 4 film.
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 46. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. She next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild in the animated Gen¹³ film which I’ve not seen but want to. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryThe MentalistWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. She had a recurring role in The Exorcist series as Nikki Kim.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE CAPTAIN WHO FELL TO EARTH. “Capt. Janeway” is joining the cast of the remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth.  No, she will not be playing the David Bowie role. Gizmodo has the story.

…Mulgrew is just the latest in an increasingly impressive list of additions to the cast of the adaptation of Walter Tevis novel and inspired by the iconic 1976 film adaptation by Nicolas Roeg. The movie starred the legendary and dearly missed David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien being who comes to Earth from his devastated homeworld, Anthea, in search of water supplies that could save the planet from a deadly drought. Mulgrew joins Chiwetel Ejiofor, who will play the new alien being who has fallen to earth in a time of great upheaval for humanity, and Naomie Harris in the main cast, alongside Sonya CassidyClarke Peters, and Jimmi Simpson. All this goes a long way to saying we’re not quite sure it can live up to Bowie’s turn, but even then, it’s clear Showtime’s taking a big swing at attempting to follow up on Roeg’s and the music icon’s take on Tevis’ work….

(11) METAVERSE TRAITOR! Alexandra Petri thinks it’s a bad idea to tell office workers they’re characters in the metaverse! “Do you ever think … that Facebook’s virtual-reality office is stupid?” in the Washington Post.

… “Do you ever think …” a voice said from what sounded like Greg’s right. Greg turned his cartoon avatar to look in the direction of the voice, “ … that maybe the Metaverse is a stupid waste of everyone’s time?

The voice was coming from a cartoon avatar of a bald man in small, 2000s-era sunglasses and a trench coat, although the trench coat only extended to his waist because everyone’s avatars stopped there, so it looked more like a trench jacket….

(12) ‘SHIPS AHOY. Sarah Z does a very thorough investigation of the “Proshippers” and “Antishippers” in a wide variety of fandoms:

…All of these is an undercurrent of something… more. Something beyond just the basic aspect of pairing two characters together. Because no matter how simple a fictional character pairing may seem, the truth is that it is almost never that simple. There is almost always going to be discourse of some kind, be it because people find the ship offensive, because they find it unappealing, or because they don’t like the people doing  the ship itself. And soon what happens is that the very basic concept of shipping two characters becomes the breeding ground for something deeper and darker and messier. It brings you into the world of proshippers and antis….

(13) BOMBADIL AWAY! And an older vid of Dominic Noble’s:”The coolest character in LOTR that didn’t make it into the movies” — and it’s not Tom Bombadil.

The Lord of the Rings adaptations were amazing, but no film can include EVERY character from the book. In this video we take a look at five creations of J. R. R. Tolkien that didn’t make the cut, including the coolest one of all.

(14) TIME DILATION. “Vacation Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu!” “Let’s Get the Hell Out of Here!” In “Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation” we revisit a 2013 Brain Pickings post. (Just how old does that feel to you?)

…Among the most intriguing illustrations of “mind time” is the incredible elasticity of how we experience time. (“Where is it, this present?,” William James famously wondered“It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.”) For instance, Hammond points out, we slow time down when gripped by mortal fear — the cliche about the slow-motion car crash is, in fact, a cognitive reality. This plays out even in situations that aren’t life-or-death per se but are still associated with strong feelings of fear. Hammond points to a study in which people with arachnophobia were asked to look at spiders — the very object of their intense fear — for 45 seconds and they overestimated the elapsed time. The same pattern was observed in novice skydivers, who estimated the duration of their peers’ falls as short, whereas their own, from the same altitude, were deemed longer.

Inversely, time seems to speed up as we get older — a phenomenon of which competing theories have attempted to make light. One, known as the “proportionality theory,” uses pure mathematics, holding that a year feels faster when you’re 40 than when you’re 8 because it only constitutes one fortieth of your life rather than a whole eighth. Among its famous proponents are Vladimir Nabokov and William James. But Hammond remains unconvinced…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Stunt Man Tutorial” at Screen Rant, written by Ryan George. Samuel Brisson plays stunt man Chuck Fluster, who’s trying to be Tom Cruise’s stunt double and knows he’ll hear from Tom soon because whoever runs tomcruise at gmail.com asked for his Social Security number!  And if you need a stunt man to wrestle in a Planet of the Apes movie, Chuck’s ready!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, Darrah Chavey, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/21 WandangerousVisions

(1) VOX DAY MOVES AGAIN. Three days after being shut down by Blogger Vox Day has migrated his blog to a second URL — “voxday.net”. The mirror blog he opened at “milosbookclub.com” was temporary and hasn’t been updated since August 12. 

The new site isn’t accepting comments, a deficiency Vox covered with a blustery attack on a critic at Anonymous Conservative [Internet Archive link] — “Comments Gone, Gammas Hardest Hit” [Internet Archive link]. Here are the first two of his four progressively more remarkable justifications:

…First, I have made it perfectly clear since 2003 that I don’t care about the comments. I permitted them as a courtesy, nothing more.

Second, it is a distinct pleasure to no longer have to spend any time moderating the hundreds of spam and troll and wise and insightful comments. I had no idea how much time I was wasting on it until I suddenly didn’t have to think about it anymore…

(2) CONVERGENCE COVID WARNING. The CONvergence 2021 committee announced on Twitter they received a report that someone who attended the con a week ago on Thursday and Friday has tested positive for COVID-19. Thread starts here.

(3) MIDDLE-EARTH FALLOUT. New Zealand is rocked by Amazon’s decision to move Lord of the Rings production to the UK reports Variety: “New Zealand Reacts to Shame of Losing ‘Lord of the Rings’ Mega-Series”.

…“It’s a shame and I feel for everyone who has put their hearts into this production. Season two was expected to begin later in 2022, so our role now is to work hard to keep the Kiwi screen sector employed,” said David Strong, CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission. He said that the series’ departure “opens the door wider to others to come in” and that the NZFC will continue to work closely with government on assisting these productions to shoot in the country.

New Zealand offers one of the most generous location incentive schemes in the world. This includes a 20% rebate scheme and, for especially large productions that deliver an infrastructure or other long-lasting benefit to the country, there is a discretionary additional subsidy known as an “uplift” equivalent to a further 5% of location spending.

According to government documents published in April this year, Amazon was estimated to be spending about NZ$650 million ($455 million) filming the first season of the show. It would have been eligible for a rebate of about NZ$162 million ($114 million), the government said, though it later reduced that figure.

Amazon’s statement makes it clear that it will walk away from the NZ$33 million ($23.1 million) of uplift that was agreed in April, when the company indicated, but did not commit to, shooting the second season in the country….

(4) UK CLUB REUNITES. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] After 17 months the Northumberland Heath SF group had its first meeting. The event, held August 12 at the Heath’s Duchess of Kent in the Beer Garden, took place at the height of the Perseid meteor shower and an observation duly took place.

There was also a free SF/F book giveaway courtesy of a sponsor.

In addition to over a year’s worth of catch-up there was the usual wide-ranging SFnal chat with topics including —

Whether or not regular (the 2nd Thursday of the month) meetings will resume depends on whether CoVID cases reduce. Fingers crossed.

Attached picture of group and the books member’s chose for their free book give-away (courtesy of a group sponsor).

(5) TOON TUNES. SYFY Wire shares the music: “Animaniacs: Watch exclusive lyric videos from Hulu reboot”.

…Both musical numbers come from the reboot premiere and revolve around how much has changed since Animaniacs left the airwaves more than 20 years ago. Presidents and cultural norms may have shifted, but the core creative team behind the iconic property — save for creator Tom Ruegger — has not. Steven Spielberg is still an executive producer, while Yakko, Wakko, and Dot continue to be voiced by the trio of Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille. Maurice LaMarche rounds out the OG crew as the voice of Brain, the megalomaniacal lab mouse who is always trying to take over the world with the dim-witted Pinky (also Paulsen).

(6) STEVE PERRIN (1946-2021). Legendary game designer Steve Perrin died August 13 at the age of 75. Perrin helped create RuneQuest, published in 1978. While working at Chaosium he contributed to Thieves’ World (1981), Worlds of Wonder (1982), and Superworld.

Steve Perrin

George R.R. Martin notified all the Wild Cards writers of Perrin’s death because Superworld was the inspiration for the Wild Cards universe and Perrin just had his first Wild Cards story published in the latest volume, Joker Moon, which came out last month.

Chaosium posted a tribute: “Vale and farewell, Steve Perrin”.

…To sum up all that Steve was to the Chaosium family cannot be typed up in a few sentences. 

He is one of our Great Old Ones. An innovative genius who helped pave the way for us to exist today, delighting gamers while they sit around a table, in person or online, exploring stories and adventures together, weaving new tales of derring-do. RuneQuest and Superworld were his children, and his imprint on so many of our other games is indelibly present.

Many of us grew up playing his games. He was the uncle we admired, envied, and listened to for his wise counsel. In the last few years, as a new edition of RuneQuest was born he was there, his wisdom and experience reminding us of the simple, pure, and wondrous origins of the magic of roleplaying. How can you say thank you for that?…

The other projects he worked on during his career can be seen in his Wikipedia article.

Perrin also was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism in Berkeley in 1966. The SCA is where he met his wife, Luise, who survives him. Unfortunately, Luise is in ill health, and last month Steve opened a GoFundMe to help pay for her care,

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2009 – Twelve years ago, District 9 premiered. It was produced by Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, and directed by Neill Blomkamp in his feature film debut. Written by Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell. Adapted from Blomkamp’s Alive in Joburg short film. It starred Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, Vanessa Haywood, Mandla Gaduka, Kenneth Nkosi and David James. Critics including Ebert loved it, the box office for it was fantastic as it earned over two hundred million against a thirty million budget and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a most excellent eighty-two percent rating. The screenplay was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 but the Moon screenplay won. Why were the screenplays nominated instead of the films? 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 14, 1910 Herta Herzog. At the Radio Project, she was part of the team of that conducted the groundbreaking research on Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds in the study The Invasion from Mars. The Radio Research Project was founded in 1937 as a social research project and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 14, 1932 Lee Hoffman. In the early Fifties, she edited and published the Quandry fanzine. At the same time, she began publication of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly which appeared regularly until ‘til 2006. It won a Hugo at Nippon 2007 which she shared with Geri Sullivan and Randy Byers. It was awarded after her death. She wrote four novels and a handful of short fiction, none of which are in the usual suspects. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 81. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis.
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 71. Setting aside long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB notes a SF link  that deserve noting. The Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association’s clubzine Warp ran his cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor” in the March 1991 issue.
  • Born August 14, 1951 Carl Lumbly, 70. I first encountered him voicing the Martian Manhunter on the Justice League series and he later played M’yrnn J’onzz, the father of the Martian Manhunter on the first Supergirl series.  His first major genre role was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Parker, and he later had a number of voice roles in such films as Justice League: Doom and Justice League: Gods and Monsters. He of course was the lead in the short lived M.A.N.T.I.S. as Miles Hawkins. 
  • Born August 14, 1956 Joan Slonczewski, 65, Their novel A Door into Ocean won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. They won a second John W. Campbell Memorial Award for their Highest Frontier novel. They were nominated for an Otherwise Award for The Children Star novel.
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga 56. Writer, producer and creator for the Next GenVoyagerEnterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes in the Trek franchise than anyone else with one hundred nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo (1995), along with Ronald D. Moore.
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 55. Her first role genre was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchiseand Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) RUN. Atlanta Magazine did a feature about Rep. John Lewis’s posthumous graphic novel. “The next chapter of John Lewis’s legacy”.

Back in 2013, the debut of a memoir in comic-book form by civil rights figure and longtime Atlanta congressman John Lewis seemed an unlikely format for a legendary activist with gravitas to spare. But Lewis’s March trilogy—co-authored with aide Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell—proved to be a juggernaut, landing on bestseller lists, securing a place on high-school and college curricula, and ultimately earning a National Book Award.

The March trilogy chronicles Lewis’s early life and involvement in the civil rights movement, ending with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Lewis had planned to continue the work, and before the congressman’s death in July 2020, he and Aydin had drafted the script for the Run series. The first volume of Runpublished in August by Abrams ComicArts, covers the tumultuous events of 1965-1966, including schisms between established civil rights leaders and Black Power activists, the history-making election of Julian Bond to the Georgia Legislature. Just in March, the book does not shy away from unvarnished accounts of history. It opens with a fearsome scene of Klan intimidation and closes with Lewis’s departure from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Today, with political storms swirling around both the issues of expanding voter access and teaching the country’s racist history, Run feels more timely than ever. “The fight that’s happening today is a direct continuation of the fight that began on August 7, 1965, immediately after the signing of the Voting Rights Act,” Aydin said….

(11) REMEMBERING. JJ admires the Dedication from Matt Wallace’s new book, Savage Bounty, released July 20:

(12) REACHING OUT. And I love this title:

(13) SPEAK, MEMORY. MSN.com tells how “AI recreates actor Val Kilmer’s voice that was lost to throat cancer”.

A British artificial intelligence (AI) company has recreated Hollywood actor Val Kilmer’s voice – with amazingly realistic results. 

London-based firm Sonantic used the actor’s voice recordings from throughout his career, which were fed to their AI to create the lifelike yet artificial mock-up.  

Film producers could potentially use the tool – described as ‘Photoshop for voice’ – for voiceovers if they have a role in mind that would be suited to Kilmer’s tones. 

Kilmer, whose career has spanned nearly four decades, has starred in blockbusters such as Top Gun, Willow, The Doors, Tombstone and Batman Forever. 

But after undergoing a tracheotomy in 2014 as part of his treatment for throat cancer, Kilmer’s voice is now barely recognisable. 

Luckily, Kilmer himself is also able to use the AI tool in his personal life, to help him communicate, rather than relying on a voice box to speak.

Somatic, the company that did it, has its own article about “Helping actor Val Kilmer reclaim his voice”. And there’s a video where you can listen to a demonstration of the result:

(14) TROUBLESHOOTING REQUIRED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Boeing is having trouble fixing a valve issue on their Starliner space capsule which was due for an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station. They’re now planning to remove the craft from its booster to continue troubleshooting. This will ground the Boeing program for an indefinite time. The Crew Dragon from SpaceX will continue for now to be the only US spacecraft cleared for crewed trips to the ISS. Ars Technica reports: “Boeing to ground Starliner indefinitely until valve issue solved”.

Boeing said Friday that its Starliner spacecraft will be grounded indefinitely while it continues to investigate problems with the valves in the propulsion system.

In the 10 days since Boeing and NASA scrubbed the launch in Florida, technicians and engineers have sought to open 13 valves that control the flow of dinitrogen tetroxide (NTO) oxidizer through the service module of the spacecraft. There are 24 oxidizer valves in the propulsion system, which is critical both for in-space travel as well as launch emergency escapes.

Boeing has been able to open nine of the valves, said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. The other four remain stuck. As a result, the company plans to de-stack the Starliner spacecraft from its Atlas V rocket and move it to the nearby Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility for deeper troubleshooting…

(15) MARS RETURN TO SENDER. Science details the probe that will be “Searching for life on Mars and its moons”.

Sample-return missions will look for extraterrestrial life and biomarkers on Mars and Phobos

The planned Mars Sample-Return (MSR) mission of NASA and the European Space Agency should reveal more about the habitability of Mars by helping to determine the geologic evolution of Jezero crater and its surrounding areas, which are believed to be the site of an ancient lake… The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will attempt to collect samples that will allow scientists to explore the evolution of Jezero crater and its habitability over time, as well as samples that may contain evidence of biosignatures. A high-priority science objective for MSR returned-sample science is to understand the habitability of Mars and look for potential signs of both extinct and extant life.

(16) TRAILER PARK. Doom Patrol Season 3 begins streaming September 23 on HBO Max.

Go through the looking glass with a super-powered gang of outcasts (including Matt Bomer as Negative Man, Joivan Wade as Cyborg, Brendan Fraser as Robotman, and more). Last seen at a decrepit amusement park where Chief (Timothy Dalton) witnessed his metahuman daughter, Dorothy (Abigail Shapiro) engaged in a fiery face-off with “The Candlemaker,” an ancient evil deity who will stop at nothing to fulfill his world-ending destiny, join the #DoomPatrol for an action-packed third season.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Lee Gold, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/13/21 The Green Hornet + MurderBot = Green Murder Hornet Bots

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour donuts with Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara — who all recently had their second novels published — in episode 151 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karen Osborne, Sarah Pinsker, and K. M. Szpara

What are the joys and challenges of writing and publishing a second book? Writers can take their entire lives to get their first novels published, after which creating another novel in a year — or sometimes less — can be major pressure. After giving everything they had to the first novel — how does a writer decide what’s worth writing next? Do they fear they won’t live up to the promise of their debut, and might disappoint readers? I had a wonderful time listening to this trio of second novelists opening up about their experiences, and I hope you will too.

We chatted while nibbling on takeout from Baltimore’s Zaatar Mediterranean Cuisine, and about two-thirds of the way through, switched up to doughnuts from my favorite such spot in Baltimore — Diablo Doughnuts.

We discussed why “second books are weird,” what (if anything) they learned writing their debuts which made book two easier, why pantsing is a thing of the past, whether book two had them concerned about creating a brand, how writing acknowledgements for second novels can be strange, the way deadlines made taking time off between books impossible, the dangers of being abandoned by debut culture, the fear of fewer pre-publication eyeballs on book two, how the pandemic will affect the creation of future novels, and much more.

(2) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? You know how cranky some fans get when series remain unfinished for years. James Davis Nicoll promises he can deliver “Five Fully Completed SFF Series” to readers at Tor.com.

I stand second to none in my habit of relentless optimism. Still, I am beginning to suspect that Mr. Dickens is never going to deliver a definitive ending to his otherwise promising The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Admittedly, when one purchases a book all one can legitimately expect is the book in hand. Anticipation of further instalments, no matter how heartfelt, does not constitute a legal contract that binds the author to deliver further instalments.

That said, there are some series whose authors have managed to publish—and finish!—entire series. Here are five recent examples that I would recommend….

(3) HORROR VERSE. Stephanie M. Wytovich, editor of HWA Poetry Showcase, Vol. 8, has announced the volume’s table of contents.

…This year is particularly special for me as it will be my last year editing the showcase. After four wonderful, poetry-filled years, I am thankful to the HWA for trusting me with this project, to John Palisano for supporting and encouraging me, and to David E. Cowen for initially recommending me for this position. It has been a journey and a delight, and I’ve learned so much about the market, the genre, and our fantastic community along the way. Thank you for the scares, the nightmares, and the verses, folks. I hope to return the favor someday (insert evil laugh here).

(4) CENSORSHIP IS A PLAGUE TOO. Publishers Weekly stats show “Censorship on the Rise Worldwide”.

Since the start of the Covid pandemic, there’s been a rise in instances of government censorship of books around the world. In October 2020, the International Publishers Association released a 106-page report, “Freedom to Publish: Challenges, Violations and Countries of Concern,” that outlined 847 instances of censorship in a host of countries, including France, Iran, Serbia, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. According to the report, in 55% of those instances, the censorship was undertaken by government authorities. The report is downloadable from the IPA website.

Since that report was issued, efforts to censor books have continued. In July, the Hungarian government imposed an $830 fine on the distributor of the Hungarian translation of Lawrence Schimel’s children’s book What a Family!, citing a law that bans the depiction of homosexuality and gender reassignment in material aimed at minors. The book tells the story of two families with young children—one with two fathers and the other with two mothers.

That incident follows another in Hungary, in October 2020, when a member of parliament put a copy of Meseorszag mindenkie (A Fairy Tale for Everyone), which also features LGBTQ characters, through a shredder. “So the publisher reprinted it as a board book” said Schimel, whose book had the same Hungarian editor.

Schimel, an American living in Madrid, has published dozens of LGBTQ-themed works for children and adults. “It’s important for all families, not just those who are LGBTQ, to see and read these books which show just how normal these families are,” he said. What a Family! is now sold in Hungary with a sticker, warning readers that it depicts families “outside the norm.” It was originally published as two books in Spanish, and Orca Book Publishers is releasing it as two books in the U.S. in September.

Russia led the way in overt European LGBTQ censorship with the passage of its “anti-LGBTQ propaganda” law in 2012. Today, LGBTQ books are routinely suppressed there, and those that make it to market are sold with warning stickers.

“The campaigns by the populist governments in Europe, such as in Hungary and Poland, against the LGBTQ community are in direct violation of the principles of inclusion and the celebration of diversity,” said Michiel Kolman, chair for inclusive publishing at the IPA. He noted that in Poland, several towns have declared themselves LGBTQ-free zones, forcing LGBTQ residents to move, while in Hungary the transgender community was first targeted, and after that the broader LGBTQ community….

(5) THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T HEAR EVERYDAY, EDGAR. Shelf Awareness says Dune’s “Making Of” book will have its own Hans Zimmer score.

The Oscar-winning composer of Dune‘s soundtrack “was so inspired when he looked at the upcoming behind-the-scenes book from Insight Editions, he decided to write some musical accompaniment,” io9 noted. The Art and Soul of Dune by executive producer Tanya Lapointe, which “will be available both in standard and jaw-dropping limited editions,” is going to have a dedicated Zimmer score available to download and stream upon release on October 22, the same date as the film’s debut. 

(6) SWEEPING DISCOVERY REQUEST. Publishers Weekly reports “Internet Archive Seeking 10 Years of Publisher Sales Data for Its Fair Use Defense”. This relates to the lawsuit against the Internet Archive over its program to scan and lend copies of books.

In an August 9 filing, IA attorneys told the court it is seeking monthly sales data for all books in print by the four plaintiff publishers (Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, and Wiley) dating back to 2011. But the publishers, IA lawyers told the court, have balked at the sweeping request reportedly countering that the request is well beyond what the case calls for.

In their pre-motion filing, IA lawyers insist the sales data is crucial to its fair use defense.

“Plaintiffs claim that the Internet Archive’s digital library lending has a negative effect on the market for or value of the works. The Internet Archive disagrees, and wishes to bring forward evidence showing that lending had little or no effect on the commercial performance of the books being lent, compared to books that were not lent,” IA lawyers told the court. “Specifically, in order to show that lending had little or no effect on commercial performance, the Internet Archive wishes to compare the commercial performance of books that were available for digital lending with books that were not available for digital lending.”

IA lawyers also attempt to explain the massive, sweeping scope of their request, conceding that they do not need a decade’s worth of monthly sales data for “each and every book” but only for the 127 works included in the suit as well as “one or more” books that could be deemed “comparable” for each the 127 titles under scrutiny. But since the plaintiffs have “declined to identify books they regard as comparable,” IA attorneys claim, they should be compelled to produce data about all books so that the Internet Archive can “identify books it regards as comparable” and the parties can then “debate, on a level playing field, whether such books are or are not comparable.”…

Read the response from the publishers’ lawyers here: “Publishers Blast Internet Archive’s ‘Extraordinary’ Demand for Sales Data”.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1975 – Forty-six years ago, the first World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement goes to Robert Bloch. (He’d previously won a Hugo at Detention (1959) — where he and Isaac Asimov were toastmasters — for his “Hell-Bound Train” short story.) Nine years later at L.A.con II, He would receive a Special Committee Award for 50 years as an SF professional, and a year after that, he would be voted the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award.
Robert Bloch

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1895 Bert Lahr. Best remembered and certainly beloved as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, as well as his counterpart who was a Kansas farmworker. It’s his only genre role, though In the film Meet the People, he would say “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” which was later popularized by a cartoon character named Snagglepuss. (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done his two Alfred Hitchcock series which for the most part were awesome, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honors. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tristram Coffin, He’s best remembered for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a Forties SF serial, the first of three serials featuring this character. He showed up on the Fifties Superman series in different roles, sometimes on the side of Good, sometimes not. He played The Ambassador twice on Batman in. “When the Rat’s Away the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1922 Willard Sage. He showed up on Trek as Thann, one of the Empaths in “Empath”. He was Dr. Blake in Colossus: The Forbin Project, and had roles in The Land of GiantsInvadersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Outer Limits and The Sixth Sense. (Died 1974.)
  • Born August 13, 1965 Michael De Luca, 56. Producer, second Suicide Squad film, Childhood’s EndGhost Rider and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Dracula Untold, Lost in SpaceBlade and Blade IIPleasantville and Zathura: A Space Adventure which is not a complete listing. Also writer for an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the first Dredd film (oh well), the Freddy’s Nightmares series and the Dark Justice series which though not quite genre was rather fun.
  • Born August 13, 1977 Damian O’Hare, 44. Though you might know him from the Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Curse of the Black Pearl and On Stranger Tides where he played Gillette, I know him as the voice of John Constantine on Justice League Action. He also showed up in Agent Carter. (CE)
  • Born August 13, 1982 Sebastian Stan, 39. Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier in the MCU film franchise; also appeared in Once Upon a Time series, The MartianThe ApparitionAres III, and Kings, a contemporary alternate-history series about a man who rises to become the King of his nation, based on the biblical story of King David.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LEAVIN’ ON A JET PLANE. Viewers who have been conditioned by all those movies to think Middle-Earth is a neighborhood of New Zealand will see one season of the Amazon’s TV adaptation shot there too – then, goodbye! The Guardian says moving day is coming: “Amazon moves production of Lord of the Rings TV series to UK”.

Amazon has made the surprise decision to move production of its $1bn-plus Lord of the Rings series from New Zealand to the UK, rejecting tens of millions of dollars in incentives to shoot the TV show in the same location as the blockbuster films.

Amazon, which four years ago paid $250m to secure the TV rights to JRR Tolkien’s works after founder Jeff Bezos demanded a Game of Thrones-style hit for its streaming service, chose to film the first series in New Zealand after competitive bids from around the world. Scotland, which narrowly missed out to New Zealand, is considered to be the frontrunner for the new shooting location, although Amazon declined to comment on its plans.

It is understood that the Tolkien estate had been keen for the series to be shot in the UK, the land that inspired JRR Tolkien’s original books, although did not have any right to determine the TV production’s location.

(11) SPECIAL DEFECTS. CinemaBlend will be happy to show you these “13 Crazy Behind-The-Scenes Secrets From Classic Horror Movies”.

…Despite being one of the most influential and successful film genres, horror does not always get the appreciation it deserves, especially when you consider the passion, patience, technical mastery, and even suffering the cast and crew endure for the sake of a good scare. You may never look at some of the best horror movies the same way again after learning these shocking behind-the-scenes facts, starting with a clever trick used in one of history’s most iconic shockers.

George Lucas Got Stuck In The Mechanical Shark From Jaws

Steven Spielberg was also not prepared for the hysteria he would face the set of his breakout horror hit Jaws, which was mostly due to the technical difficulties that their mechanical star frequently suffered. Someone who experienced these flaws first-hand, and terrifyingly so, was George Lucas, who got his head stuck in the shark as the result of a prank gone wrong while was visiting the set. Curious about it inner-workings, the future Star Wars movies creator voluntarily put his head inside the shark when Spielberg and John Milius activated the jaw clamp, only to panic when they became temporarily unable to get Lucas out.

(12) PROZINE IS STILL WITH US. The Interzone #290/291 Double Issue Ebook is now available. Fiction (see ToC at the link) plus columns by Aliya Whiteley and David Langford; guest editorial by Lavie Tidhar; book reviews by Maureen Kincaid Speller, Duncan Lawie, Val Nolan, and several others; film reviews by Nick Lowe.

(13) AM I BLUE? “The Smurfs trailer announces Nickelodeon series release date”SYFY Wire has the story.

Previously announced in 2020, the new series comes from Belgian studio Depuis Audiovisuel. All the Smurfs that folks most likely remember from their childhoods, from Papa Smurf and Brainy to Smurfette and Clumsy, are back. The new addition comes in the form of Willow, who leads a tribe of girl Smurfs. Like most of the network’s cartoons, each episode will come in a pair of 13-minute blocks: the premiere episode, “Smurf-Fu,” will be about Brainy wanting to learn “Smurf-Fu” from Smurfette so he can defend himself, and “Diaper Daddy,” which finds Handy inventing a robot to change Baby Smurf’s diapers so no one else has to. 

(14) LEAPIN’ LIZARDS! “Giant, Dragon-Like, Flying Reptile Fossil Discovered in Australia” says Smithsonian Magazine.

In addition to its school-bus-length wingspan, the creature had a three-foot-long skull with a pointed snout and around 40 sharp teeth. This pterosaur likely lived and hunted for fish near the Eromanga Inland Sea, a large inland sea that once occupied much of eastern Australia during the early Cretaceous period.

“It wasn’t built to eat broccoli,” Richards tells Royce Kurmelovs of the Guardian. “It would have been a fearsome sight.”

Though the fossil was found in northwest Queensland over a decade ago, researchers weren’t able to prove it was a new species until now. There are over 200 species of pterosaur, ranging from the 16-foot-tall Quetzalcoatlus to the sparrow-sized Anurognathus. Unlike the feathered birds they shared the sky with, pterosaurs stayed aloft on membrane wings stretched between their fingers….

(15) THEY MADE HISTORY. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – delivers another lesson in “History of Sci-Fi Movies — The Nineties — Part One!”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “The Suicide Squad:  Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that fans of several popular character actors who appear in The Suicide Squad will be disappointed that they die almost immediately after they’re introduced and that Harley Quinn “is better at hand-to-hand combat that a whole squad of military people.”

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

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 7/9/21 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 7/4/21 You Can’t Make Good Omenlets Without Breaking Bad

(1) NATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 2021. The Library of Congress’ “10-Day National Book Festival for 2021” will include appearances by genre figures Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Roxane Gay, Kazuo Ishiguro and more.

The initial lineup of 2021 National Book Festival authors includes Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Roxane Gay, Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael J. Fox (pictured clockwise)

The theme of this year’s festival is “Open a Book, Open the World.” Audiences will be invited to create their own festival experiences from programs in a range of formats and an expanded schedule over 10 days from September 17-26.. “Create Your National Book Festival Experience Over 10 Days in Multiple Formats”.

The lineup includes authors, poets and illustrators from America and around the world:

  • Kacen Callender
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Tana French
  • Roxane Gay
  • Nikki Giovanni
  • Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Adam Grant
  • Yaa Gyasi
  • Maria Hinojosa
  • Mishal Husain
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Chang-rae Lee
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Christopher Paolini
  • Sarah Pearse
  • Mary Roach
  • Marcus Samuelsson
  • Angie Thomas
  • Diane von Fürstenberg
  • Martha Wells
  • Isabel Wilkerson

(2) OR MAYBE OLLY WON’T BE THE DOCTOR. Olly Alexander’s manager dismissed rumors that her client is replacing Jodie Whittaker in a pun-filled Instagram reports Digital Spy. “It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander responds to Doctor Who rumours”.

Tabloid reports claimed over the weekend that the Years & Years singer was taking over the role of the iconic Time Lord, following previous speculation that Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker will be leaving at the end of the next series.

However, it seems like Olly won’t be travelling in the TARDIS anytime soon….

(3) FANS SAY YES, CRITICS SAY NO. Yahoo! has a roundup of the responses to The Tomorrow War: “Chris Pratt’s ‘The Tomorrow War’ Panned as ‘Garbage Pizza’ and ‘Starship Troopers for Dummies’ by Critics”.

… Chris Pratt’s latest ode to his inner “action star,” Amazon Prime’s “The Tomorrow War,” is fighting its own battle with critics, who decry it as everything from “the garbage pizza of science-fiction films” to a “mediocre straight white savior fantasy in which the protagonist is…f—ing stupid.”

“The Tomorrow War” made its debut on Amazon Prime on Friday and is currently sitting at a lukewarm 53% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with the audience review topping off at a more positive 80%. The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz calls it “Starship Troopers for dummies,” adding, “If I had a time machine, I’d punt myself to the past just before ‘The Tomorrow War’ went into production, and save everyone the trouble,” while Brian Lowry of CNN admits the picture has a “certain appeal,” “but strands its star in a pretty uninspired time and place.”…

(4) THE VIRAL CURTAIN. Darius Hupov is the coordinator of the first Eastern European SciFi Anthology. The Viral Curtain is the 2021 edition, and has short stories from 11 countries. All the details about the anthology, including the short stories and authors, are at the Eastern European SFF Anthology project website.

The anthology premiered in June at the  Refesticon Fantasy Festival in Bijelo Pojle, Montenegro. And this month it will also be present at the Eurocon in Fiugi (in printed format) and (so they hope) at the Worldcon (in ebook format).

Here are the countries, authors, and stories represented in the anthology.

Here are Cristian Vicol, cover designer, Darius Hupov, anthology coordinator, Adrian Chifu, graphic designer for the image on the cover, in Union Square, Timisoara, Romania).

(5) THE TEN PERCENTERS. “Why do writers need agents? To keep track of the rejections” author Chris Paling tells The Guardian.

That 10% fee buys a novelist like me more than the chance of a big book deal – from a hand with the DIY to a shoulder to cry on after yet another knockback…

…A few weeks after the sudden death of my agent, Deborah Rogers, in 2014 the colleague deputed to take me on phoned. “I’ve found something in Deborah’s desk.”

“Yes?”

“A letter from you. To you.”

“Ah.”

“It looks like she’d read it. Remember it?”

Of course I remembered it. Frustrated after months of trying to get a response to a novel, I had written a letter to myself, enclosed a self-addressed envelope, and asked her to tick the appropriate response: “Novel read”, “novel needs work”, “novel submitted”, “novel sold for a: £1,000, b: £10,000, c: £100,000”. Petty-minded and, given her support and encouragement over the years, unforgivable. But, being Deborah, she took it well….

(6) YOUTH WILL BE SERVED. The Hollywood Reporter revisits Logan’s Run with Michael York, the actor who played the title character, book co-author William Nolan, and others in “Run, Runner! ‘Logan’s Run’ Star Michael York Shares New Tales on Film’s 45th Anniversary”.

… The then 33-year-old Englishman was cast to play Logan 5 (Yes, he loves the age irony) whose job as a member of the elite police unit called “Sandmen” is to track down and terminate “Runners,” aka those who try to avoid the ritualistic “Carrousel” where they will be euthanized to control the dome-encased population in the year 2274. Logan’s overindulged existence is divine — until through a series of events he is forced to become a Runner.

The Three Musketeers and Cabaret star initially had zero interest in the enormous sci-fi project, recalling that he was in Los Angeles at the time, starring in the play Ring Around the Moon at the Ahmanson Theatre. One day, a script arrived with Anderson attached to direct: Logan’s Run. York assures he had wanted to work with the director again after their collaboration on Conduct Unbecoming (1975). But after one look, York felt he was wrong for the film and was prepared to pass. 

“I was so stupid,” York says, with laughter. “But, fortunately, there was a younger actor in the company who had been delegated to drive me from Beverly Hills to the Ahmanson, and we became friends. He asked if he could read the script and I said, ‘of course.’ The next morning, he turned up — actually wagging a finger at me — and said ‘You’ve got to do this! You don’t understand. It’s pressing all my buttons!’ So I owe that actor a good deal. I went to MGM and suddenly, I was doing it.” 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 4, 1996 — Twenty five years ago in the United Kingdom on this day, Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid seventy five percent rating. It was up for a Hugo at LoneStarCon 2 but that went instead to Babylon 5  for the “Severed Dreams” episode. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 4, 1883 — Rube Goldberg. Not genre, but certainly genre adjacent as I could argue that MacGyver is direct descendent of him. Born Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, he was a sculptor, author, cartoonist, engineer, and inventor who’s certainly best known for his very popular cartoons showing overly complex machines doing simple tasks in terribly convoluted manners hence the phrase “Rube Goldberg machines.” The X-Files episode titled “The Goldberg Variation” involved an apartment rigged as a Goldberg machine. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1901 — Guy Endore. American novelist and screenwriter whose 1933 The Werewolf of Paris novel holds the same position in werewolf literature as does Dracula does for vampire literature. It was filmed as The Curse of The Werewolf for which he wrote the screenplay. Stableford also praises his horror story, “The Day of the Dragon.” He worked on the screenplay for Mark of the Vampire starring Bella Lugosi. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1910 — Gloria Stuart. She was cast as Flora Cranley opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man in 1933, and 68 years later she played Madeline Fawkes in The Invisible Man series. She was in The Old Dark House as Margaret Waverton which is considered horror largely because Boris Karloff was in it. And she was in the time travelling The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 4, 1931 — Stephen Boyd. He only had one genre role that you will remember, that of Grant in Fantastic Voyage. (That’s assuming you’re not watching Raquel Welch.)  He’d later show up in Lady Dracula as Count Dracula. (Died 1977.)
  • Born July 4, 1949 — Peter Crowther, 72. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s really available in digital form for much of short fiction or novels at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born July 4, 1960 — Joyce Agu, 61. Background characters are fascinating. She played Ensign Gates on the Next Generation, a role she did for forty seven episodes! She later showed up as an Excelsior crew member in The Undiscovered Country thought it’s not certain it’s the same character. 
  • Born July 4, 1977 — David Petersen, 44. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations several years back. 
  • Born July 4, 1989 — Emily Coutts, 32. She plays the role of helmsman Keyla Detmer on Discovery. She’s also her mirror universe counterpart, who is the first officer of that universe’s Shenzhou. (I like the series and am definitely looking forward to it when it jump a thousand years into the future next season!) She was in one episode of the SF series Dark Matter and in Crimson Peak, a horror film but that’s it for genre appearances.

(9) VISIONS QUEST. “’Star Wars: Visions’ unveils special look at anime anthology”SYFY Wire has the breakdown.

…Coming to Disney+ this September, Star Wars: Visions is a anthology of anime shorts produced by some of the most preeminent animation studios in Japan like Kamikaze Douga, Geno Studio (Twin Engine), Studio Colorido (Twin Engine), Trigger, Kinema Citrus, Science Saru, and Production IG…. 

(10) HE’S DEAD – ISN’T HE, JIM? The pandemic also complicated the business of freezing the brains of dead people who hope to be revived in the future: “The Cryonics Industry Would Like to Give You the Past Year, and Many More, Back” in the New York Times.

When an 87-year-old Californian man was wheeled into an operating room just outside Phoenix last year, the pandemic was at its height and medical protocols were being upended across the country.

A case like his would normally have required 14 or more bags of fluids to be pumped into him, but now that posed a problem.

Had he been infected with the coronavirus, tiny aerosol droplets could have escaped and infected staff, so the operating team had adopted new procedures that reduced the effectiveness of the treatment but used fewer liquids.

It was an elaborate workaround, especially considering the patient had been declared legally dead more than a day earlier.

He had arrived in the operating room of Alcor Life Extension Foundation — located in an industrial park near the airport in Scottsdale, Ariz. — packed in dry ice and ready to be “cryopreserved,” or stored at deep-freeze temperatures, in the hope that one day, perhaps decades or centuries from now, he could be brought back to life.

As it turns out, the pandemic that has affected billions of lives around the world has also had an impact on the nonliving.

From Moscow to Phoenix and from China to rural Australia, the major players in the business of preserving bodies at extremely low temperatures say the pandemic has brought new stresses to an industry that has long faced skepticism or outright hostility from medical and legal establishments that have dismissed it as quack science or fraud.

In some cases, Covid-19 precautions have limited the parts of the body that can be pumped full of protective chemicals to curb the damage caused by freezing.

Alcor, which has been in business since 1972, adopted new rules in its operating room last year that restricted the application of its medical-grade antifreeze solution to only the patient’s brain, leaving everything below the neck unprotected…

(11) LOTR TV PRODUCTION ISSUES. The New Zealand Herald reports “Stunt workers’ fury over Lord of the Rings injuries”.

At least three stunt workers on Amazon Studios’ $1 billion The Lord of the Rings television production being filmed in Auckland have been seriously injured — and one has resulted in a $500,000 payment.

Several sources on the set of the most expensive TV show ever produced say they don’t believe their concerns about safety standards are being treated seriously enough after at least two injuries requiring surgery were not proactively reported to WorkSafe.

The Weekend Herald has spoken to four workers who believe a senior stunt supervisor has created an uneasy environment which has contributed to an unsafe workplace.

However, Amazon Studios insists safety is a “top priority” and the company has fulfilled its responsibilities according to New Zealand’s workplace safety guidelines.

In March, world-class Kiwi stuntwoman Dayna Grant suffered a head injury on The Lord of the Rings set at West Auckland’s Kumeu Studios.

After undergoing scans Grant was diagnosed with an 8mm brain aneurysm and an upper spinal injury.

Grant’s head injury was not reported to WorkSafe NZ by Amazon because the company said it did not meet the threshold for reporting.

The Weekend Herald is also aware of two other stunt workers who have left the LOTR production after an injury on set, and a third who departed for mental health reasons.

WorkSafe also did not learn of a serious injury to Australian stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell in February last year until after it was reported by the Weekend Herald.

It is understood Amazon paid her about $500,000 after her injury. This payment was reportedly in part to help Cadwell get back home and settled in Australia and was not an admission of guilt by Amazon.

Amazon gave a blanket denial to The Wrap in “Amazon Says Allegations of ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series’ ‘Unsafe’ Stunt Conditions Are ‘Completely Inaccurate’” available at Yahoo! The piece, in addition, includes many details about the production of the new series.

…Amazon and production company GSR Productions’ safety protocols for “The Lord of the Rings” series include a safety team of 21 full-time and six-to-eight part-time crew members — made up of safety supervisors, medics, nurses and EMTs — to be on set, the insider tells TheWrap. Additionally, a paramedic team is brought in for activity that has a heightened level of risk, such as horse riding and fires.

Per the individual, “The Lord of the Rings” TV series produces job safety analysis reports for every location and each individual shoot day, and all activities with any higher perceived risk have additional risk analysis reports.

Any injury or suspected injury that occurs on set and is not able to be 100% diagnosed and treated on site is referred to the appropriate medical facility or transported by ambulance, the insider says. Standard operating procedure is that all head injuries, however minor, are transported to the appropriate medical facility.

Per the source, though only “notifiable” injuries are reported to WorkSafe, Amazon records all incidents and “near misses” and these reports are analyzed to look for patterns, repetition, or any similarities at all that may indicate systemic, environmental, equipment or personnel issues contributing to incidents/accidents.

“The Lord of the Rings” TV series’ safety department operates under a confidential and “no fault” system, where any crew, cast, or member of the public can report anything of concern, or any accident, knowing that their identity remains confidential to the safety department, if desired….

(12) PILGRIMAGE DELAYED. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown discusses the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, which left Britain on June 15 in an effort to be the first ship to cross the Atlantic without a crew but whose voyage ended after two days because of mechanical problems. “IBM’s AI robot ship encounters trouble retracing Mayflower’s historic voyage”. Registration required.

There’s also an open article at WANE: “AI-powered Mayflower, beset with glitch, returns to England”.

The Mayflower had a few false starts before its trailblazing sea voyage to America more than 400 years ago. Now, its artificial intelligence-powered namesake is having some glitches of its own.

A sleek robotic trimaran retracing the 1620 journey of the famous English vessel had to turn back Friday to fix a mechanical problem.

Nonprofit marine research organization ProMare, which worked with IBM to build the autonomous ship, said it made the decision to return to base “to investigate and fix a minor mechanical issue” but hopes to be back on the trans-Atlantic journey as soon as possible….

(13) RACING WITH THE MOON. If you’d like to hear somebody’s opinion of the best werewolf movies, YouTube’s Marvelous Videos says these are the 13 best of all time.

The true fans of horror movies will acknowledge that Werewolf movies got an undue criticism and have been looked down upon right from the start. There has been a far greater acceptance for the likes of Zombie-flicks or even Vampire movies. Even amongst filmmakers, there is a general tendency to avoid Werewolf movies as it involves a greater investment in special effects, costumes, and makeup. The overall idea of Werewolves, however, is intriguing and with the right story, these movies can strike gold. Despite being the ignored cousin amongst various horror film genres, there are some Werewolf movies that did make an impact with the audiences.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Weta Workshop Behind the scenes: Our artists at work on Thra” on YouTube.

Tea leaves tree bark, pillow stuffing, succulents… and the world of Thra. We recently showed off a Dark Crystal diorama built by our talented artists, but how exactly did they do it? Daniel Falconer, Chris Menges and Mark Dewes talk us through their process while building this stunning miniature set.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/16/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Pixel’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) CONTRACT GUIDES NOW OPEN ACCESS. The Authors Guild has released its Model Book Contract to the public for the first time. They have also produced a separate Literary Translation Model Contract for U.S. translators and literary agents.

“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. “Wakandans Featurette/Marvel Studio’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube is a trailer from Disney+ that announces that Wakandans have shown up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

(3) SPFBO. Mark Lawrence has announced that he will be starting the next Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off on June 1st.  They need another blogger/reviewer.

(4) FINALS EXAM. Cora Buhlert has 2,000 well-chosen words to share on the subject: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists”.

… When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series….

(5) HAVE YOU RED IT TOO? The Heinlein Society has a good reason for suggesting that you watch this trailer and note what books the kids are reading at about 28 seconds.

(6) IT’S JUST TAKING A KIP. Meanwhile, back at the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight lander is “in crisis”: “NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Hibernate so Batteries Don’t Die” at Business Insider.

… Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers — including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter — powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called “cleaning events,” are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA’s robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it’s struggling to absorb sunlight.InSight’s solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into “hibernation mode,” shutting down all functions that aren’t necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition — it’s even using its robotic arm — but an out-of-season storm could cause a power failure. If the lander’s batteries die, it might never recover.

“We would be hopeful that we’d be able to bring it back to life, especially if it’s not asleep or dead for a long period of time,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator, told Insider. “But that would be a dicey situation.”

(7) THE HOLE NINE YARDS. Let James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes” at Tor.com. First on the list –

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953)

This novel long predates the heyday of wormholes; it doesn’t even use the phrase. But it uses spacetime anomalies, which are just like wormholes. With one exception: they don’t just have an entrance and an exit. They can take you all sorts of interesting places if you enter the anomaly with the wrong approach vector. A small error calculating the vector and a hapless ship could find itself light-millennia off-course, with no clear idea how to get home. No prizes for guessing if this happens to the Asgard, the very ship on which the eponymous Starman Jones is serving. Nor is this worst that will happen to the unfortunate castaways.

(8) MCCRORY OBIT. Actress Helen McCrory, OBE, (1968-2021) died April 16 reports GEEKchocolate.

We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Helen McCrory, known to us as Rosanna Calvierri’s in Doctor Who’s Vampires of Venice, but with a resume which stretched from Interview with the Vampire, Charlotte Gray, The Count of Monte Cristo, Skyfall, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, a recurring role in Harry Potter as Narcissa Malfoy, and a long stint as Polly Grey on Peaky Blinders, as well as two appearances as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

(9) FELIX SILLIA OBIT. The actor who played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, Felix Sillia, has died at the age of 84 reports SYFY Wire.

In addition to playing Cousin Itt, Silla’s other best-known roles include playing the robot Twiki / Odee-x on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and an evil miniature “Hitler” in 1975’s The Black Bird. He also had smaller parts in much-loved movies, such as playing an Ewok on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Dink in Spaceballs. He also worked as a stuntman on E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Temple of DoomHoward the Duck, and Batman Returns.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 16, 1955 –On this day in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 16, 1891 – Dorothy Lathrop.  Illustrator and author.  Historically a lot of good fantasy has been written for children; folks who appreciate fantasy know to look there.  DL illustrated twoscore books, writing nine herself, also nonfiction.  Rachel Field’s Hitty, illustrated by DL, won RF a Newbery Medal; DL’s illustrations for Helen Fish’s Animals of the Bible won DL a Caldecott Medal.  Here is DL’s cover for an ed’n of The Little Mermaid.  Here is a dandelion soldier.  Here is an interior for Mopsa the Fairy.  This is from DL’s Fairy Circus.  Here is Across the Night Sky.  Here is a 2011 appreciation with another score of pictures.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. Genre adjacent (well sort of), he played Hercule Poirot twice. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being some. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both an excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo finishing sixth in the balloting at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1953 – J. Neil Schulman.  Four novels, half a dozen shorter stories; collection Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories (speaking of Hobbes’ Leviathan, I used to joke that the tiger should have been Calvin, and the boy Hobbes because he was nasty, brutish, and short); “Profiles in Silver” for The Twilight Zone; two Prometheus Awards.  I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but I miss him.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. Usually I don’t do a birthday listing for just a few genre appearances but I make an exception for those performers who appeared in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Barking played Penny Priddy in that film and that was her only genre appearance other than playing Kathleen in the Into The West film about Irish Travellers and a very special horse named Tír na nÓg. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 59. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website — Kathryncramer.com. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1970 – Brandon McKinney, age 51.  Here is a fine cover for John Whitman’s novelization Star Wars.  Here is a cover for JW’s Phantom Menace.  Interiors for both.  Here is Batman, here is Robin.  Here is Spider-Man.  Here is Bruce Lee in The Dragon Rises.  Also Elfquest; see here.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 46. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DAC films, to wit  Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin,,Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1978 – Amy Ruttan, age 43.  Four novels for us; two dozen others.  “Half the fun of writing historicals and being swept away in a different time period is the research….  let someone else you trust have a look over your work.  You’ll be surprised what you as an author won’t pick out.”  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1983 – Thomas Olde Heuvelt, age 38.  Too little (say I) of his work has been translated from Dutch into English.  “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was and won a Hugo, which may be some encouragement.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories; one novel, five shorter stories in English so far.  Three Paul Harland prizes.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1990 – Kusano Gengen, age 31.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Only three stories yet translated into English; one is “Last and First Idol” – yes, alluding to Olaf Stapledon – which won a Seiun, and is the lead story in a 2018 collection with the other two.  KG drew a thousand words from Jonathan Clements, of which I’ll quote a few about “Idol”: “Described by one of the Hayakawa Sci-Fi Contest [which “Idol” won – JH] panelists as ‘stupid’, and by an employee of his own publisher as ‘abysmal’, Kusano’s work of recursive SF provocatively combines the breathless, vapid prose of a teenage school story with the portentous, epic concerns of Space Opera, turning each into a wry commentary on the pomposity of the other.”  Meanwhile Kusano-san went off to Hokkaidô University for a Ph.D.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) IMAGINARY PAPERS ON YOUR DOORSTEP. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today published the 6th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.  

This issue features writing from media scholar Lisa Yin Han, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and learning sciences researcher Ruth Wylie.

Here is a link for subscribing to future issues.

 (14) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has scheduled three more FanHistory Project Zoom Sessions. To attend, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org in order to receive a link. 

  • April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  

Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and  Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. 

  • April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. 

Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. 

  • May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. 

Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more. 

(15) BEAMING INTO YOUR HOME. Stay tuned as Galactic Journey boldly goes through 1966!

(16) BIG BUCKS. Smaug’s dead, so they can’t borrow it from him.“Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Costs $465 Million for Just Season 1” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in season one alone,” Stuart Nash, New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, told Morning Report“This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”

The figures were released as part of as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the New Zealand outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed the studio’s plan to film potentially five seasons in New Zealand — as well as possible, as-yet-unannounced spinoff series.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight….

(17) THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE. Mashable’s reviewer Belen Edwards says “’Infinity Train’ Season 4 is a strong end to a show that deserved more”.

… However, part of the beauty of Infinity Train has always been its conciseness. The animated series takes on an anthology format. Each season follows a different passenger on the titular train, where each car holds a new world. Passengers are assigned a glowing green number that goes down as they learn more lessons and work to resolve the problems in their life. When their numbers reach zero, they can exit the train. Each season is only 10 episodes long, and at 11 minutes each they pack in an astounding amount of character development and heart. …

(18) KING OF THE MOVIES. There will be an online “Dollar Baby film festival” hosted by Vancouver’s Baker Street Cinema of unreleased Stephen King movies from April 23-25. Full details at the link.  

Hosted by Canadian film production company Barker Street Cinema, the virtual festival, called STEPHEN KING RULES, will screen 25 submissions by filmmakers from all over the world, many of which have never been seen by a global audience before.

Since 1977, the Master of Horror – Stephen King – has allowed emerging filmmakers to adapt his previously unproduced short stories into films that may help launch their careers through what is called the Dollar Baby Deal. Barker Street’s STEPHEN KING RULES Dollar Baby Film Festival will showcase an exciting line-up of these independent movies, including interviews and panel discussions with the filmmakers themselves….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Dann, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MixMat and Cliff with an assist from Jack Lint and Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 4/5/21 You Say Pixels Go, I Say Here We Scroll

(1) IS CLI-FI PART OF THE PROBLEM? BBC World Service’s The Climate Question asks a panel including Ken Liu “Is science fiction holding back climate action?” (23 minute audio.)

For centuries, we’ve been reading, watching and listening to science fiction. And all too often, it’s pretty pessimistic about our future, especially when it touches on the topic of climate change.

This is leading some to ask whether these doom and gloom stories are doing the climate fight more harm than good – causing us to feel so anxious and powerless that we don’t take action.

So for this week’s climate question, we’re asking: Is sci-fi holding us back?

Graihagh Jackson is joined by: 

Amy Brady, editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books, where she writes a monthly column called Burning Worlds. In it she explores how fiction addresses climate change.

Cheryl Slean is a playwright, filmmaker and educator working with the National Resource Defense Council’s Re-write the Future campaign to increase accurate climate stories in film and television.

Ken Liu is a futurist and author of speculative fiction. He has won the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards. His debut novel, The Grace of Kings, is the first volume in a silkpunk epic fantasy series.

(2) LAWSUIT EVAPORATES. The case has now been dismissed: “Guillermo del Toro named ‘true creator’ of The Shape of Water as plagiarism suit ends” reports Entertainment Weekly. Del Toro had won the lower court decision, which the plaintiff appealed in the federal Ninth Circuit.

Guillermo del Toro and his Oscar-winning Shape of Water team have emerged unscathed from the depths of a copyright lawsuit claiming that the Best Picture winner plagiarized the work of the late playwright Paul Zindel.

In a statement provided to EW, film distributor and production company Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight) indicated that the legal action against del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus had been dismissed after the Zindel estate’s attorney, Marc Toberoff, previously cited 69 points of alleged similarities between the 1969 stage play Let Me Hear You Whisper (about a woman who bonds with a lab dolphin) and del Toro’s movie (about a woman, played by Sally Hawkins, who bonds with a humanoid sea creature, played by Doug Jones, in a research facility).

“David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of Let Me Hear You Whisper, acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded,” the statement said. “He acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of The Shape of Water. Any similarity between the two works is coincidental.”

… Both sides were reportedly slated to present additional information this year, and a trial had been set for July before the case was dropped.

(3) HOMETOWN PAPER SALUTES NEW F&SF EDITOR. The Daily Memphian profiles Sheree Renée Thomas: “Memphis writer emerges as a major player in the sci-fi world”.

… She says her family’s gathering and bonding time was spent watching movies and television, and they were big horror fans. And then she would realize that movies that she watched had sometimes been classic books. Then she would read those.

“That’s what I remember getting really excited about early on,” she said. “And then I started reading more science fiction work. And the writer that stood out the most for me, that I enjoyed consistently, was Ray Bradbury.”

Bradbury told stories in clear, sometimes lyrical prose, she said. And he had a great sense for characterization. 

“People came alive in his writing,” Thomas said.

She can’t pinpoint when she moved from reading to writing, too. “I don’t know if it was a conscious thing. I felt like, ‘I’m consuming these other stories, whether it was a movie or I’m reading it, someone sat down to write those and my head was full of thoughts.’”

Thomas recalls that her interest in science fiction waned for a time because of the way Black people were depicted in the stories: “Either we weren’t in the future, or if we were present in the storytelling it wasn’t in a very complimentary light or wasn’t in a way which characters had agency, or operated or moved in ways that you could recognize as having been a person that is part of the Black community or a community at all.”

So she started reading mostly Black literature, specifically Black women writers, from her mother’s shelves and the public library. Reading work by Alice Walker, Gayle Jones, Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison was formative to her….

(4) SECOND SEASON OF PICARD. Paramount + dropped a trailer for Star Trek: Picard, Season 2 which includes the return of Q.

(5) IS IT A PEARL? In the latest Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll turns his readers loose on “All the Seas with Oysters,” a 1958 story that won a Hugo the same year (because those wacky LA fans running Solacon set the eligibility period from July 1957 to July 1958.)

Avram Davidson (April 23, 1923 – May 8, 1993) was (as so often true for authors of his vintage) prolific across an expanse of genres, including fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, to name a few. His SFF awards include a World Fantasy Life Achievement award, World Fantasy Awards for The Enquiries of Doctor Eszterhazy, and ?“Naples”, and the Hugo Award for ?“All the Seas with Oysters”, not coincidentally the subject of this month’s Young People Read Old SFF.

… Young readers encountering the tale for the first time do so without the rosy patina of uncritical nostalgia concealing whatever issues the story might have. Still, this is a widely loved classic. What are the odds generations of SF readers overlooked something? Let’s find out! 

(6) SECOND LOKI TRAILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not that I wasn’t already psyched to watch this…

Loki’s time has come. Watch the brand-new trailer for “Loki,” and start streaming the Marvel Studios Original Series June 11 on Disney+.

And the first trailer, I believe.

BTW, the TVA (Time Variance Authority) is an established Marvel Comics organization. My main memories are from Walt Simonson’s fabulous run in Fantastic Four with the TVA. (Simonson also brought us Beta Ray Bill, and Thor as Frog, among many, many other delightful creations)

Wikipedia: The Time Variance Authority

The Time Variance Authority (or TVA) is a fictional organization, a group of timeline monitors appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. They first appeared in Thor vol. 1 #372 (October 1986). Created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, the TVA originally paid homage to long-time Marvel writer/editor, and continuity expert, Mark Gruenwald: the TVA staff were all clones of Gruenwald.

Other resources:

(7) NYRSF READINGS. Ilana C. Myer will read from the third book in her Harp and Ring Sequence, The Poet King, and will talk will host Amy Goldschlager at the next NYRSF Readings on Facebook on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Viewers can ask questions and comment via the chat channel.  Will be available later on YouTube.

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King. A native New Yorker and longtime Jerusalem resident, she now lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

(8) CONFUSION AFTER ACTION REPORT. Farah Mendlesohn’s writeup about last weekend’s virtual Eastercon (UK) — “ConFusion FM’s con report” [PDF file] – covers the positive and negative con experiences, including how it was to use the Gather Town app, and delivers a withering comments about accessibility issues.

… I am not going to pretend here. I felt utterly betrayed. My sneaking feeling at other conventions that ‘only wheelchair users really mattered’, a feeling for which I’d berated myself, was utterly confirmed. Hearing, sight, neurodivergence, hand or co-ordination issues…. None of these things apparently mattered, yet all of them could have been addressed with good design, a careful choice of discussion platforms, and over and above all with conversation.

I didn’t go to the Feedback meetings because for much of the convention I was too angry. What would I have asked after all; “will the convention chair make a full and unqualified apology for the utter disregard of issues of accessibility in the planning and delivery of this convention?”

In future I will not vote for any bid that does not have a clear statement on access and inclusion. I will not go to a convention that does not support access and inclusion (I began declining conferences for this reason some time ago).

(9) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present via livestream Nalo Hopkinson and Bruce McAllister on April 21 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back for the link here.

Bruce McAllister

Bruce McAllister has been writing science fiction, fantasy and horror for some decades.  He began as an sf writer but these days writes more fantasy of the uncanny kind. His most recent novel is a little thing called The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic. His Hugo-nominee short story “Kin” launched the new podcast Levar Burton Reads.

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican-born Canadian author and maker of objects. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Andre Norton Nebula Award, and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. She authored and co-authored the series “House of Whispers” for DC Comics, set in Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” universe. SFWA recently honored her with the “Grand Master” award for lifetime achievement.

(10) SOVIET LOTR VIDEO AVAILABLE. Ars Technica surprises with news that a“30-year-old Soviet TV adaptation of The Lord of the Rings surfaces on YouTube”.

After 30 years, a TV adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings long thought lost has resurfaced. The 1991 Soviet television adaptation has been uploaded to YouTube in two one-hour videos.

The film focuses on the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, and features many elements that were excluded from the popular global theatrical release by director Peter Jackson, including an extended sequence featuring the character Tom Bombadil—one of the biggest omissions by the bigger-budget 2001 film far more of us have seen.

Originally broadcast on TV in 1991 (and then never aired again), the film was thought lost to time by those who had seen it. But as reported in The Guardian, Leningrad Television successor Channel 5 uploaded the film to its YouTube page with little fanfare, surprising fans who had given up on seeing the production again. It is believed to be the only adaptation of these books produced in the Soviet Union….

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 5, 1992 — On this day in 1992, Mann & Machine premiered on 1992. It would last for only nine episodes. Starring David Andrews, Yancy Butler and S. Epatha Merkerson, it was a Dick Wolf production, he of the eventually myriad Law & Order series. Yancy Butler would go on to be the lead a decade late in Witchblade. It has no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the critic rating there is 20%.  NBC has the pilot available here for your viewing. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 5, 1526 – Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  More than his work as a court painter, like this, his portraits composed of pertinent objects appeal to our fantasy.  Here is the Emperor Rudolf II portrayed as Vertumnus, the god of plant growth and fruit trees.  Here is a librarian.  Here is a waiter.  (Died 1593) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1867 – Helen Stratton.  Illustrator in monochrome and color.  Three editions of H.C. Andersen, three of The Arabian Nights, three of Grimm, The Princess and the Goblin (G. MacDonald), Marie of Romania’s Lily of Life, many more.  Here is The Wild Swans.  This is from “The Tinderbox”.  This is from “The Snow Queen”.  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1917 Robert Bloch. His Wiki Page says he’s best known as the writer of Psycho, but I’ll guarantee that only film geeks and many of y’all know that. I know him best as the writer of the Trek “Wolf in the Fold” episode. His Night of the Ripper novel is highly recommended by me. And I know that “That Hellbound Train” which won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story is the piece of fiction by him that I’ve read the most. He’s not well represented at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1926 Roger Corman, 95. Ahhhh, popcorn films! (See popcorn literature for I mean.) Monster from the Ocean Floor in the early Fifties was his first such film and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf on Syfy just a few years back was another such film. He’s a man who even produced such a film called, errr, Munchies. A Worldcon guest of honor in 1996. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1931 – Al haLevy, age 90.  Chaired Westercon 16 (2nd appearance of B. Trimble’s Project Art Show! rumor – false – that F. Pohl lost Galaxy to B. Bernard at late-night poker!), co-chaired Pacificon II the 22nd Worldcon.  Revived Rhodomagnetic Digest awhile.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1935 – Helen M. Hoover.  A dozen novels for us, two others.  Golden Duck Award.  Two American Lib’y Ass’n Best Books.  Alas, Children of Morrow and Treasures of Morrow are about a person, not a place, although come to think of it one could still tell people “Go to Morrow.”  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1950 A.C. Crispin. She wrote several Trek and Star Wars novelizations and created her own series called Starbridge which was heavily influenced by Trek. She also co-wrote several Witch World novels, Gryphon’s Eyrie and Songsmith, with Andre Norton.  Pirates of the Caribbean: The Price of Freedom was her last novel prior to her death from bladder cancer while in hospice care. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1955 – Toriyama Akira, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  So successful in manga and animé that he won not only Shogakukan Publishing’s Manga Award, but also the 40th Anniversary Festival Award at the Angoulême Int’l Comics Festival, and was made a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.  Dragon Ball has sold 300 million copies worldwide, plus animé, video games.  See more here. [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1963 – Arthur Adams, age 58.  Artist and writer for Marvel, Legend (Monkeyman and O’Brien still appears here and there), DC, Wildstorm.  Diana Schutz got him to draw Gumby Summer Fun Special 1, so of course he drew this – and won an Eisner.  Front and back covers for Ron Goulart’s Great Comic Book Artists vol. 2.  Frequently in Spectrum.  Inkpot Award.  Here is Wolverine.  Here is Phoenix.  [JH]
  • Born April 5, 1965 Deborah Harkness, 56. She’s the author of the All Souls Trilogy, which consists of A Discovery of Witches and its sequels Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. I listened to the Jennifer Ikeda-narrated audiobooks which are an amazing experience. Highly recommended as Harkness tells a remarkable story here. I’m not even fond ’tall of vampires in any form and hers actually are both appealing and make sense. I’ve not seen the series made from the novels. (CE) 
  • Born April 5, 1982 Hayley Atwell, 39. Agent Carter with her as Peggy Carter I’ll freely admit has been the only series or film in the MCU repertoire save the first Iron Man and Avengers films being the ones that I’ve flat out enjoyed so far. Even the misogyny of the males though irritating in that setting made sense. Oh and I’m interested to see her in Christopher Robin as Evelyn Robin. (CE) 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a different opinion about what really happened to Godzilla. (OK, you’re right. That’s not really what it’s about.)

(15) LIVING UNDER A CLOUD. [Item by rcade.] A Brazilian science fiction film that presciently anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic has won the top prize at the Sofia International Film Festival. “Brazil’s ‘The Pink Cloud’ wins top prize at lockdown-hit Sofia film festival” at Screen Daily.

The Pink Cloud, written and directed by Iuli Gerbase, is about a couple whose one-night stand becomes a permanent arrangement when a killer cloud drifts into cities across the globe and forces people to shut their windows and quarantine at home. A film that seems like a painfully obvious metaphor for the pandemic was written in 2017 and filmed in 2019, according to a disclaimer that precedes the opening credits.

Guy Lodge writes in Variety (“’The Pink Cloud’ Review: Brazil’s Effective, Accidental Lockdown Drama”:

It’s not often one sees a film arguing against its own topicality, but that’s what happens at the outset of The Pink Cloud, a subtly fevered quarantine drama that is so of the moment, you all but wonder how they had time to shoot and cut it just last week. But they didn’t …

 Not even sure they like each other to begin with, Giovana and Yago try things out as platonic roommates, friends with benefits and eventually lovers, never comfortable settling into any of those modes. Early in the lockdown, Giovana jokes that their setup is akin to an arranged marriage: It’s a comparison that seems less amusing as weeks turn to months, and months to years.

Public screenings at the film festival were stopped by a new pandemic lockdown caused by surging cases in Bulgaria.

(16) THE WAIT IS OVER. A.V. Club introduces readers to a Korean sff author: “I’m Waiting For You by Kim Bo-Young review: Cosmic tales of love, loss”.

In the title story of I’m Waiting For You, the first of Korean science fiction writer Kim Bo-Young’s works to be translated into English, the unnamed protagonist says he felt he was prepared for solo space travel because he’d once spent a few months without leaving his home. After a year in which so much of the world has experienced an even more extreme version of such isolation, that idea might seem trite. But then the character goes on to explain how wrong he was:

That wasn’t actually living alone. I have never once really lived alone. Someone cleared away the trash I left out for collection, and emptied the septic tank… In another place they boiled noodles and put them in a dish and delivered them… I had never lived alone, not once. How would really living alone even be possible?

“I’m Waiting For You” was originally written in 2015 at the request of a fan who wanted Kim to write a story he could use to propose to his girlfriend. The tale of a man journeying through time and space in an increasingly desperate and unlikely attempt to reunite with his fiancée has taken on new power as we look toward the end of more than a year of isolation that has also produced a newfound understanding of how connected we are to the communities around us….

(17) HISTORIC WARNING. “Ghosts of the Future: A Conversation with Larry Achiampong” is a Critierion Channel Q&A with the maker of the Relic film series.

The London-based, British Ghanaian artist and filmmaker Larry Achiampong explores race, class, and history in a multidisciplinary practice that, as described in the biography on his website, seeks to “examine his communal and personal heritage—in particular, the intersection between pop culture and the postcolonial position.” First devised in 2016, partially as a response to the sociopolitical shock of Brexit, Achiampong’s Relic Traveller is an ambitious project that has manifested as performance, sound installation, moving image, prose, and a remarkable public commission in which Achiampong reimagined London Underground’s iconic roundel in Pan-African colors—green, black, and red—that spoke symbolically to various African diasporic identities.

A central pillar of the project is a suite of four science fiction–inflected short films—Relic 0, Relic 1, Relic 2, and Relic 3—now streaming on the Criterion Channel.

… Clearly, these films engage deeply with long, painful histories and would be resonant at any time. But in the past few years, particularly in the UK, there’s been a real resurgence of empire fetishism, and seemingly more reluctance than ever among the media and ruling classes to address the reality of this history. To what extent are the films a reaction to that context?

For me, the films represent a warning to the West about its negligence, ignorance, mythical approach to history, omission of the histories and legacies of empire, slavery and colonization, and how those things affect the way that we live today: the way that Black people are still disenfranchised. They’re a stark warning that the West will undo itself as a result of the lies it has celebrated, taught, and disseminated for a while. It’s almost as if it will eat itself unless an understanding of the truth—or what has not been allowed to be revealed as the truth—is opened up….

(18) CURB APPEAL. SYFY Wire says “We might need to see the Earth like aliens would if we intend to find them”.

Suppose there really are aliens out there who are creeping around on the surface of some faraway planet and have managed to survive everything space has thrown at them so far. How could we find out they exist?

The answer might lie in how they would (hypothetically) see us. We may never know whether there really are intelligent beings who have spotted our planet as it passed by the sun, but observing it from their perspective could help us see through extraterrestrial eyes. This is the objective of the Earth Transit Observer (ETO) mission concept. Led by a research team from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), ETO will watch Earth in transit as if it was a spacecraft sent out here by other intelligent beings.

Researchers Noam Izenberg and Kevin Stevenson, who will be the project leads if this mission becomes reality, and co-led a study recently presented at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, and Laura Mayorga, who also co-led the study, believe that observing Earth from the perspective of a being who never knew it existed could give us new insight on how to look for habitable—and possibly inhabited—planets….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Godzilla vs. Kong Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George’s screenwriter tells the producer, “We’re just going to keep cutting to monsters punching each other so that no one has time to digest the mumbo-jumbo we use as explanation” for why Godzilla and King Kong fight each other. SPOILER WARNING.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, N., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Daniel Dern, Nicholas Whyte, Andrew Porter, John Hertz,John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Nina Shepardson, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

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

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

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

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

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

A footnote explains the analogy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/21 The Scroll Is A Harsh Mistress

(1) OVERVIEW OF THE NEW LOTR SERIES. Amazon just unloaded Parler but now they’re bringing back Sauron? What are they thinking? io9 has the story: “Amazon Reveals Lord of the Rings TV Show Details—Sauron Returns”.

…Confirmed via a synopsis provided to TheOneRing.net, Amazon Studios revealed that the series—currently filming in New Zealand with a cast that seems about as large as the population of a small country on top of that—is indeed set in the Second Age, “thousands” of years before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The show will concern itself with characters “both familiar and new” as they reckon with the fact that the Dark Lord Sauron has returned to cast shadow and flame across Middle-earth.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL NEWS. “Owner of DC’s Wardman Park Hotel files for bankruptcy” reports WTOP. The hotel is where DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, would be held if an in-person 2021 Worldcon is possible:

Wardman Hotel Owner LLC, an affiliate of Pacific Life Insurance Co., has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and has ended its management contract with Marriott International.

The 1,152-room Wardman Park, one of the largest hotels in D.C., opened in 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Pacific Life permanently closed the hotel just before filing for bankruptcy protection, and is seeking to sell the property, which could clear the way for the property’s redevelopment.

The Chapter 11 petition was filed Jan. 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

Marriott and Pacific Life have been locked in legal disputes since shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic led to the hotel’s temporary closure in March 2020.

…The owner’s bankruptcy filing Monday came the same day that neighboring historic hotel the Omni Shoreham reopened.

The DisCon III committee hasn’t posted a response to the latest development, but last October they did address their plans for an alternative to the Wardman Park if needed. The chairs wrote in the convention’s newsletter [PDF file]:

As you can imagine, we have uncertainty related to the Coronavirus but planning and activities continue. The status of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is unclear. Litigation between the owners was filed 2 September and settled at the end of September. At the start of October, Marriott filed a lawsuit against one of the entities that owns the hotel. What a mess! The hotel itself does not have an official statement at this time, and we are in close touch. Our Facilities team does have the room blocks for both the Marriott and the Omni Shoreham set up, and our current plan is to release those in January 2021.

(3) BOOM BOOM BOOM. James Davis Nicoll names “Five Books Featuring Space Travel Powered by Atomic Bombs”. Strange that I’ve read four of these but only remembered the nukes from one of them.

Nuclear explosives can be used to address many urgent issues: a shortage of mildly radioactive harbours, for example, or the problem of having too many wealthy, industrialized nations not populated by survivors who envy the dead. The most pressing issue—the need for a fast, affordable space drive—wasn’t solved until the late 1950s. Theodore B. Taylor and others proposed that the Bomb could be used to facilitate rapid space travel across the Solar System. Thus, Project Orion was born….

(4) SOMETHING ELSE THAT’S SURGING. “Online D&D provides relief during the COVID-19 pandemic” – the Los Angeles Times profiled D&D players.

… Players and scholars attribute the game’s resurgent popularity not only to the longueurs of the pandemic, but also to its reemergence in pop culture — on the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” whose main characters play D&D in a basement; on the sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”; or via the host of celebrities who display their love for the game online.

Liz Schuh, head of publishing and licensing for Dungeons & Dragons, isn’t surprised by the game’s reanimated popularity. Revenue was up 35% in 2020 compared with 2019, the seventh consecutive year of growth, she said.

Many newcomers purchase starter kits packed with character sheets, a rule book, a set of dice and a story line. New dungeon masters may buy a foldable screen to hide their rolls and anything else they’d like to keep from the player-characters. Once the introductory journey ends, players pore through other adventure books for sale — or conjure an original odyssey.

“The first few days of news [of the virus] coming out globally, at the top of every hour all the alarms were going off at the company,” said Dean Bigbee, director of operations for Roll20, an online tabletop gaming platform. “The amount of new account requests were so high that the systems thought that we were under a denial-of-service attack. But they were legitimate. They were accounts from Italy, and then France, following the paths of lockdowns across the world.”

(5) FORTIES SF’S POWER COUPLE SPEAKS. G.W. Thomas at Dark Worlds Quarterly put together a fine link compilation: “In Their Own Words: Interviews with Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton”, who married in 1946 and put Kinsman, Ohio on the map.

Here are some interviews given by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton. They range from artsy film magazines to the cheapest of fanzines. My favorite is the audio clip from Youtube when Leigh and Ed were the guests of honor at the 1964 (PacifiCon) WorldCon. It is somehow revealing to hear what their voices sounded like and to glean a little of their personalities beyond the printed page….

Included are Q&A’s conducted by one of fandom’s best interviewers, Paul Walker, such as his Leigh Brackett interview from Luna Monthly #61 [1976] [Internet archive link].

(6) STRAIN OBIT. Actress Julie Strain, whose genre resume is mostly erotic horror movies, has died reports Joblo.com: “R.I.P.: Julie Strain, B-movie legend and Penthouse Pet, has died at age 58”. This is the third time her death has been announced, however, news sources are satisfied this time the news is accurate.

Last January, it was mistakenly announced that B-movie legend and 1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain had passed away. The announcement was quickly retracted – but in a sad twist of fate, friends and family are confirming that Strain has passed away almost one year to the day after that erroneous report. She was 58 years old.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago at Chicon V, Lois McMaster Bujold‘s The Vor Game  as published by Baen Books wins the Hugo for Best Novel. Runners-ups were David Brin‘s Earth, Dan Simmons’ The Fall of Hyperion, Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s The Quiet Pools and Greag Bear’s Queen of Angels. It would nominated for the HOMer as well.  A portion of this novel had appeared in the February 1990 issue of  Analog magazine in slightly different form as the “Weatherman” story.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 – Clark Ashton Smith.  Poetry, prose, graphic art, sculpture.  One novel, two hundred thirty shorter stories, seven hundred poems; a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors; five dozen posthumous collections.  Pillar of Weird Tales with Howard and Lovecraft.  “I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”  (Died 1961) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1933 – Ron Goulart, age 88.  Eighty novels, a hundred fifty shorter stories.  Book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Venture.  Comic-book stories and prose about The Phantom; scripts for Marvel.  Inkpot Award.  Detective fiction, including half a dozen books featuring Groucho Marx.  Nonfiction, e.g. The Great Comic Book ArtistsComic Book Encyclopedia.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1937 – George Barr, age 84.  Decades-long career as a fanartist; here is a cover for Amrahere is one for Trumpet; two Hugos as Best Fanartist; Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXVI, at MidAmeriCon the 34th Worldcon.  Also developed a career as a pro.  Here is The Dying Earth.  Here is the Sep 86 Amazing.  Here is Adventures in Unhistory.  Artist GoH at ConAdian the 52nd Worldcon.  Fifty illustrated limericks for Weird Tales.  Fan and pro, two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors.  Artbook Upon the Winds of Yesterday.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 83. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes, he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer SpaceThe Munsters TodaySlidersThe Incredible HulkWonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 76. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black MountainThe Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes.  Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and  designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends.  I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it? (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1957 – Claudia Emerson.  Five poems for us in Son and Foe.  Eight collections.  Poetry editor for Greensboro Review.  Pulitzer Prize.  Acad. Amer. Poets Prize.  Poet Laureate of Virginia.  Elected to Fellowship of Southern Writers.  Donald Justice Award.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 61. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well. (CE)
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 53. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, is The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “The Wings We Dare Aspire” for METAtropolis: Green Space. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1972 Una McCormack, 49. She’s the author of The Baba Yaga and The Star of the Sea, two novels  in the delightful Weird Space series. She’s also written myriad Trek novels including a Discovery novel, The Way to the Stars, and the first Picard novel, The Last Best Hope. She’s also a writer of Who novels having five so far, plus writing for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1979 – Bree Despain, age 42.  Six novels, a couple of shorter stories.  Took a semester off college to write and direct plays for inner-city teens.  Felt she wasn’t special enough to be a writer, decided to study law.  Hit by a pickup truck.  Thought it out again.  First book sold on 6th anniversary of collision.  [JH]
  • Born January 13, 1980 Beth Cato, 41. Her first series, the Clockwork Dagger sequence beginning with The Clockwork Dagger novel is most excellent popcorn literature. She’s fine a considerable amount of excellent short fiction which has been mostly collected in  Deep Roots and Red Dust and Dancing Horses and Other Stories. Her website features a number of quite tasty cake recipes including Browned Butter Coffee Bundt Cake. Really I kid you not. (CE) 
  • Born January 13, 1981 – Ieva Melgave, age 40.  Her “Siren’s Song” has been translated from Latvian into English.  Interviewed (in English) in Vector 281.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) ALIENS OMNIBUS. Marvel invites fans to jump on the Aliens Omnibus when the volumes arrive in April and August.

Cover by Mahmud Asrar

The classic comic book tales set in the iconic—and terrifying—world of the Alien franchise are being collected in brand-new hardcover collection starting in April with Aliens Omnibus Volume 1. And in August, fans of the iconic franchise can enjoy even more of these thrilling comic book stories with Aliens: The Original Years Omnibus Vol. 2.

A rogue scientist’s genetic experiments create a horrific new alien king! A ragtag unit of Colonial Marines battles a xenomorph infestation on a space station — and the survivors face a pack of bizarre hybrids! An investigator must solve a murder on a deep-space alien-research station! But what dread music will a deranged composer make with an alien’s screams? And can a synthetic xenomorph rebel against its sadistic creator? Plus: Flash back to an alien attack in the 1950s! And witness the fate of England as aliens overrun the Earth! This rare collection includes: Aliens: Rogue #1-4, Aliens: Colonial Marines #1-10, Aliens: Labyrinth #1-4, Aliens: Salvation, Aliens: Music Of The Spears #1-4 and Aliens: Stronghold #1-4 — plus material from Dark Horse Comics #3-5, #11-13 And #15-19; Previews (1993) #1-12; Previews (1994) #1; and Aliens Magazine (1992) #9-20.

Exclusive direct market variant cover by Paul Mendoza

(11) THE REAL SPACE COMMAND. “U.S. Space Command to be headquartered in Huntsville, Ala.” reports station WAFF.

The permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command will be located at Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

According to a statement from the Secretary of the Air Force, Huntsville was confirmed as the preferred location for the U.S. Space Command Headquarters.

The Department of the Air Force conducted both virtual and on-site visits to assess which of six candidate locations would be best suited to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters. The decision was based on factors related to mission, infrastructure capacity, community support and costs to the Department of Defense.

(12) AUDIOBOOK NARRATION. In AudioFile’s latest Behind the Mic, narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt shares her thoughts about recording Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer, on AudioFile’s list of the 2020 Best Young Adult Audiobooks.

Listeners meet Tarisai as a lonely younger girl growing up with a distant mother, and we feel her astonishment when she’s brought to the palace in Aristar and meets the prince — and discovers her new friend is the person her mother cursed her to kill. This vibrant and multilayered fantasy audiobook comes to life with Joniece’s evocative narration.

“You watch her save the world… and that was really cool, to be inside of a story of a young woman that got to stand in her truth and in her power. You watch a princess mature into a queen.”—Narrator Joniece Abbott-Pratt

Read AudioFile Magazine’s review of Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko.

(13) COOK BOOKS. Get stacks of Glen Cook novels via this new Bundle of Holding deal.

Adventurer! This Glen Cook Bundle presents novels by fantasy and science fiction author Glen Cook from Night Shade Books. Best known for his Black Company dark military fantasies, Cook has also written the eight-book Dread Empire epic fantasy series, the Starfishers and Darkwar trilogies, and many free-standing novels. This all-new fiction offer gives you nearly two dozen Glen Cook novels in both ePub and Kindle ebook formats for an unbeatable bargain price.

For just US$7.95 you get all five titles in our Glen Cook Sampler (retail value $69) as DRM-free ePub and Kindle ebooks

… And if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.97, you’ll level up and also get our entire Complete Collection with eight more titles…

(14) ON SECOND THOUGHT. He’s a busy man, you know.

(15) HELICONIA WINTER. Richard Paolinelli handed out the 2021 Helicon Awards [Internet archive link] yesterday, some to bestselling sff writers, two to L. Jagi Lamplighter and Declan Finn, but if you want to know what’s really on Richard’s mind look at this entry on the list:

  • John W. Campbell Diversity in SF/F Award – J.K. Rowling

Paolinelli also presented awards named for Melvil Dewey and Laura Ingalls Wilder, which he created after their names were removed from two American Library Association awards in recent years.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Cyberpunk 2077” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that Cyberpunk 2077 is “the most anticipated release since Cup And Ball 2″ and that it lets gamers wallow in a world which is “not cool, not fun, and everything’s broken.”

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