Pixel Scroll 6/27/20 Red Scrolls At Night, Pixel’s Delight

(1) 2022 WORLDCON BIDDER Q&A. Goobergunch posted notes from today’s online question session with the Chicago and Saudi Arabia bids for the 2022 Worldcon: “CoNZealand, Day -30: Nobody Expects the Fannish Inquisition”.

Normally, most people vote for Worldcon site selection on site. Normally, people have the opportunity to hear from the site selection bids in person. But we do not live in normal times, and with all site selection moving to remote this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic CoNZealand arranged a special early question-and-answer panel for the 2022 Worldcon bids about a month before the convention. What follows is a summary of the bid presentations, questions, and answers—while I have tried to stay true to what was said, I do not promise transcription-level accuracy….

Here are a few of the questions and responses:

Q: Chicon 7 had numerous access issues. How have you fixed them?

Chicago: The hotel took the non-ADA accessible areas out of circulation and put new, accessible function rooms in. The big accessibility chokepoint is getting into the exhibit hall, and we’ll have to work this out. But everything else should be ADA-compliant. Also at least with the Hyatt we know what the likely problem points are and can plan for them. If you had specific pain points at Chicon 7, let us know.

Q: What is the availability of assistance for mobility access, including renting mobies?

Jeddah: A lot of the rooms have workarounds but they’re not officially recognized are fully accessible (about 10% are officially recognized as such). Already working with a few companies for chairs on-site but not sure if they’ll be available to be taken offsite.

Chicago: Will have rental options for mobies, wheelchairs, etc. Guessing that there will be a pre-rental period and then we’ll have extras on site.

Q: What online virtual content do you intend to include?

Chicago: Haven’t totally decided yet, but we expect to have a pretty strong virtual component. In 2012 we had coprogramming with Dragon*Con, so we’re used to doing that kind of virtual thing. So it’s on our radar but we don’t have specifics yet.

Jeddah: Want to broadcast everything live for all the members, with at least audio streaming and hopefully video streaming. Our platform for live interpretation incorporates a live feed for sessions in both languages. Everything will be recorded for all members and stay up for as long as the server does. We also plan on having live feeds for all public spaces (e.g. the art show and dealer’s room) so online attendees can interact with in-person attendees….

Much more at the link.

(2) SPACE COMMAND. There will be a Space Command Convention on the Mr Sci-Fi YouTube channel this Sunday, starting at 10 a.m. Marc Scott Zicree says, “We will have live events all day, including interviews, and the premier of Ripple Effect, Space Command’s special episode, written and filmed during the COVID-19 Pandemic!”

(3) HORROR IN THREE PARTS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A History of Horror With Mark Gatiss on YouTube is a three-part series on the history of horror films Gatiss did for the BBC in 2010.  In the first episode, he looks at silent films and sees such rarities as Lon Chaney Sr.’s makeup kit and the shrine of mementoes kept by Boris Karloff’s daughter.  (Did you know Karloff is the only person not a president who has been on three US stamps?)

(4) THE FIFTIES. I discovered that a game I play, Baseball Mogul, has a blog – and it’s latest post is about “The Thanos Button”.

…Clicking this button randomly disintegrates half of the players in the database. It also eliminates half of everyone on earth, with corresponding adjustments to the population  level of each team’s fan base.

I believe they’re not kidding!

The option was added based on reader reaction to an earlier post: “Would There Be Baseball After Thanos?”

At the beginning of Avengers: Endgame, the camera flies over an empty Citi Field, showing us that major league baseball is just one of the casualties of Thanos’ “snap”. If the baseball season can be cancelled for a virus that has killed 100,000 Americans, then surely it would be stopped by a super-villian killing more than 160 million Americans.

Right?

Well, arguments have been made on both sides. But what we do know is that, financially, Major League Baseball would be fine. Eliminating 50% of all major league players would cause team payrolls to drop by 50% — but demand for tickets would only drop by about 30%. At least in the short term, Major League Baseball would actually be more profitable….

(5) D’OH! After only 31 seasons on the air, “‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters” reports the New York Post.

Fox has released a statement on casting for non-white characters on “The Simpsons.”

“Moving forward, ‘The Simpsons’ will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters,” the network said Friday.

The move comes as several television shows have pulled episodes featuring blackface from their streaming platforms, and amid a nation dealing with controversial depictions of race on TV and film.

On “The Simpsons,” Hank Azaria has been the voice of the black cartoon character Carlton Carlson. He also was known for voicing Apu, a character which has long been criticized for portraying a racist depiction of an Indian person. Azaria announced in 2017 he would no longer voice the character.

(6) PAGING TOLKIEN FANS. ScreenRant tries to appease book readers with “Lord Of The Rings: 10 Movie References Only Fans Of The Books Understood”.

[Peter] Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens drew heavily from J.R.R. Tolkien’s rich source material to fashion a living, breathing world, complete with its own history. This also created a lot of confusion for moviegoers who had never read the books, or delved too deeply into Tolkien’s accompanying tales, such as The Silmarillion. Here’s 10 references in the Lord Of The Rings movies that only fans of the books truly understood.

For example:

7. Shelob

Arachnophobes were horrified by the reveal of Shelob in Return Of The King, and for good reason! She’s an eight-legged nightmare who did more to demonize spiders than any other film since Arachnophobia.

What the film didn’t touch upon was her origin story. Far from just a fat, grotesque spider, Shelob is actually a child of Ungoliant, a fearsome arachnid who allied herself with Melkor during the First Age, before the two became bitter enemies. Ungoliant is briefly mentioned by Radagast the Brown in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

(7) GLASER OBIT. Milton Glaser, whose contributions to sff include the DC Comics “bullet logo”, died June 26. The New York Times didn’t mention that – maybe there wasn’t room, with all his other accomplishments to cover: “Milton Glaser, Master Designer of ‘I ? NY’ Logo, Is Dead at 91”.

…Mr. Glaser joined forces with the editor Clay Felker in 1968 to found New York magazine, where he was president and design director until 1977, imposing a visual format that still largely survives. With his friend Jerome Snyder, the art director of Scientific American, he wrote a budget-dining column, “The Underground Gourmet,” for The New York Herald Tribune and, later, New York magazine. The column spawned a guidebook of the same name in 1966 and “The Underground Gourmet Cookbook” in 1975.

Mr. Glaser started his own design firm, Milton Glaser Inc., in 1974. A year later he left Push Pin, just as he was being given his own show at the Museum of Modern Art.

“At a certain point we were accepted, and once that happens, everything becomes less interesting,” he said in an interview for “Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History,” an exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1989.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1953 — “In Hoka Signo Vinces” was published. A Hoka novella, it was written by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson, it was published by Other Worlds Science Stories which ran from 1949 to 1957. It’s currently available in Hoka! Hoka! Hoka!, a Baen Books anthology which also includes the first Hoka story, “The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch”.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 27, 1850 – Lafcadio Hearn.  Greek-Irish author who became a naturalized Japanese citizen and professor at Waseda U., first living in France, Ohio, Louisiana, the West Indies.  Ten dozen short stories for us; collections of legends and ghost tales; translated Flaubert, Gautier, Maupassant, Zola; LH’s Kwaidan was made into the Kobayashi film; a dozen-and-a-half posthumous collections, recently by Princeton and U. Chicago.  (Died 1904) [JH]
  • Born June 27, 1908 – Henry Kiemle, Jr.  Much work for Westerns; fifty interiors for us.  Here is “Elixir” (James Blish).  Here is “The Shadow-Gods” (Vaseleos Garson).  Here is “The Life Detour” (David Keller).  You can read more about HK here.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 27, 1927 – Tibor Csernus.  Hungarian painter living in Paris after 1964.  Among much other work ten dozen covers for us, a few interiors.  Here is The Players of Null-A.  Here is Bug Jack Barron (under French title).  Here is We Have Always Lived in the Castle.  Here is Genocides.  Kossuth Prize.  Knight of the Order of Arts & Letters.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born June 27, 1948 – Esther Rochon, 72.  Grand Prix de la science fiction et du fantastique québecois four times.  Governor-General First Prize at age 16.  A score of novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Co-founded Imagine; two covers for it, here is one.  Has not neglected fanzines, e.g. you can see her in Lofgeornost.  [JH]
  • Born June 27, 1952 – Mary Rosenblum.  Author and cheesemaker.  Mystery fiction too under another name.  Five novels; five dozen shorter stories in AnalogAsimov’s, LightspeedThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Translated into French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  Compton Crook and Sidewise Awards.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 27, 1978 – Bernard Quiriny, 42.  Author, critic, Professor of Public Law at U. Burgundy, literature column for Chronic’art.  One novel so far, five dozen shorter stories.  Recurring character Pierre Gould is “eccentric….  poet, dandy, book-lover, just a bit of a misanthrope”.  Grand Prix de l’ImaginairePrix du StylePrix Victor RosselPrix Robert Duterme.  [JH]
  • Born June 27, 1952 Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice.” Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available digitally. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1959 Stephen Dedman, 61. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it.  He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Apple Books has nothing for him, Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles. (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1972 Christian Kane, 48. You’ll certain recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before become Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1975 Tobey Maguire, 45. Spider-Man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one serious weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film. (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1987 Ed Westwick, 33. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarize), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the  “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF). (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home has an elevator gag that reminds me of Attack the Block.

(11) TO BOLDLY GO BLEEP. Twitter’s Swear Trek is a prolific GIF creator of – you guessed it!

(12) FUNNY GIRL. Or Funny Boy. Though not for Ziegfeld’s Follies — SYFY Wire has a theory about who needs these actors: “Wire Buzz: Amazon’s ‘Funny Looking’ Lord Of The Rings Casting Call”.

How’s this for a commitment to high fantasy realism: Amazon is reportedly seeking visually distinctive actors — or, in its casting agency’s own words, “funny looking” people — who’re believed to be potential candidates for its Lord of the Rings prequel series in New Zealand.

Yahoo! Entertainment reports that BGT Actors Models & Talent — the same Auckland-based agency that helped cast extras for Peter Jackson’s LOTR film trilogy — has put out an open call for “funny looking” New Zealanders who have out-of-the-ordinary facial features and body types.

(13) SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK? “Nasa Astronaut Drops Mirror Into Space During Spacewalk”. Though I suppose the bad luck doesn’t start to run until the mirror is broken – hits something, re-enters the atmosphere, or hangs around until the heat death of the universe (which we know is going to be really bad luck).

An astronaut has dropped a small mirror into space by accident, Nasa has said.

Commander Chris Cassidy lost control of the mirror while leaving the International Space Station for a spacewalk to work on batteries, and it floated away at about a foot per second, the space agency said.

The object is now just one part of the vast amount of space junk that is in orbit around the Earth.

Cassidy had been conducting an otherwise uneventful spacewalk with Bob Behnken, who arrived at the space station on board a SpaceX craft last month.

Mission Control said the mirror somehow became detached from Cassidy’s spacesuit. The lost item posed no risk to the astronauts, spacewalk or the station, Nasa said.

(14) WON’T STAND FOR IT. A petty inconsistency is the hobgoblin of internet comedy.

(15) DON’T TOUCH. Engadget featured a new invention: “NASA made a necklace that reminds you not to touch your face”

NASA has released open-source instructions for a 3D-printed necklace designed to help you stop touching your face. We’ve heard time and time again that we shouldn’t touch our mush with our fingers to limit our chances of contracting COVID-19. However, it’s not always easy to avoid that reflex.

To remind you to keep your mitts at bay, three engineers at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab created Pulse. The necklace has a proximity sensor with a 12-inch range and a coin vibration motor, which activates when you move your hand towards your head. The closer your fingers are, the more intense the vibrations get….

(16) MUPPETS. The Muppets visited The Late Late Show with James Corden:

Although James Corden, Reggie Watts and The Muppets can’t be together in a studio, the group comes together on video chat to sing The Beatles classic “With a Little Help from My Friends.” Sing along with Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Swedish Chef, Animal, Gonzo and so many more.

(17) MUPPETS WITH CAPERS. Olivia Rutligiano, in The Great Muppet Caper Is The Loveliest Crime Movie Ever” on CrimeReads, explains why this is one of the Muppets’ best films.

… Given the choice to feature a crime plot, it is curious how The Great Muppet Caper does not decide to pastiche the many different types of crime films. The film is more interested in emulating splashy, Golden Age of Hollywood musicals. Which is fine. It is also partially a love story, partially a tale of mistaken identity, partially a satire of the high-fashion world. When it does refocus the burglaries that Kermit and Co. are trying to solve, it does not resemble a detective story as much as a journalistic investigation. See, Kermit, Fozzie Bear, and the Great Gonzo are all reporters who fail to break a story about a jewel heist that happens during the opening number, right behind them. Fired from their newspaper, they set off for London, to try to interview the woman, Lady Holiday (Diana Rigg), who has been robbed. While across the pond, they end up on the trail of serial thieves, the ringleader of whom is Lady Holiday’s deadbeat brother Nicky (Charles Grodin, hooray!). But truthfully, most of the movie is about Kermit falling in love with Miss Piggy, an aspiring fashion model who impersonates her boss, Lady Holiday, because she wants to impress Kermit. 

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

Ian Holm (1931-2020)

Yaphet Kotto, Sigourney Weaver, and Ian Holm (as Ash) in Alien (1979).

Actor Ian Holm, an iconic figure in many sff movies and television productions, died June 19. His final illness “was Parkinson’s related” his agent told The Guardian. (The BBC tribute is here, and the New York Times obituary here.)  

He played the whole range of Shakespearean roles, including the fantasies, and gained fame in other non-genre roles.

But after chronic experience with stage fright drove him from live theater, he turned to TV and film work. His role as Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie in the BBC’s production of The Lost Boys (1978) won him a Royal Television Society award and a Bafta nomination.

In 1979 he made his first major Hollywood appearance, as the sinister android Ash in Alien. “It wasn’t a particularly pleasant film to do,” he later recalled. “It was 16 weeks of bloody hard work down at Shepperton Studios.”

Ian Holm as Bilbo, center, in Fellowship of the Ring (2001).

Time Bandits (1981) brought him back as Napoleon, a character he also played on UK television in the previous decade in the Napoleon and Love miniseries.

That was also the year Holm’s performance in non-genre Chariots of Fire won him a Bafta for best supporting actor, and earned him an Oscar nomination.

And in the same auspicious year, he took the part of Frodo Baggins in BBC Radio 4’s 1981 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.

His connection with sff would continue, cast in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), and as Lewis Carroll in Dreamchild (1985), Dennis Potter’s fantasy based on the life of Alice Liddell. He was in the TV miniseries The Borrowers (1992) and Return of the Borrowers (1993) as Pod, one of the fifteen-centimeter-high humans who live in the English hinterland. 

He was knighted in 1998 for “services to drama.”

Holm played Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s three-part Lord of the Rings screen adaptation, with filming on The Fellowship of the Ring beginning in 1999. At five-feet five inches he was physically suited to the character, in addition to the acting gifts  he brought to the part. Bilbo did not appear in The Two Towers, but Holm returned for the final movie, The Return of the King, as well as the first and third instalments of the Hobbit trilogy (as “Old Bilbo”), which were released in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The New York Times obituary quoted:

“I’m completely amazed by the reaction that the films have had,” he told the British newspaper The Independent in 2004. “I get a lot of fan mail addressed to Bilbo and sometimes Sir Bilbo,” he said. “It’s hardly ever addressed to Ian Holm.” He made sure to sign replies with his character’s name, he added.

Sadly, unlike Bilbo, Holm could not sail away to the Undying Lands.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Sophie de Stempel; five children; and eight grandchildren.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy for the story, and the next-to-last line.]

Pixel Scroll 5/31/20 All I Want Is A Scroll Somewhere, Filed Away From The Covid Air

(1) THE TOP OF THE WORLD. Rachel S. Cordasco is dedicating June to “Nordic SF in Translation” on her SF in Translation site and on FB and Twitter: “SFT From The Nordic Countries” . She’s looking for on-topic contributions, too.

Speculative fiction in English translation from the Nordic countries has been available as far back as the turn of the twentieth century. Since the beginning of the twenty-first, though, we’ve gotten a lot more, especially horror from Sweden and fantasy from Finland.

During the month of June, I’ll be spotlighting this little-known (in the Anglosphere) but important and often brilliant speculative fiction. Several stories listed here are available for free online.

(2) HONOURS. SFFANZ gets a head start on a royal story: “Elizabeth Knox & Taika Waititi – Queen’s Birthday honours”

Elizabeth Knox has been named a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in the Queen’s Birthday honours list announced today. We note that she describes her books as “literary non-realism”, but if you read them you will recognise science fiction and fantasy when you see it.

Taika Waititi picked up an ONZM in the same awards for services to film. He has been involved in many projects which fit in our genre description, although we note that the Stuff article about the awards fails to mention his role in the creation of what we here at SFFANZ news think is the best of them – Wellington Paranormal.

Stuff fills in Knox’s bibliography:

…The first book in the series, Dreamhunter, won the 2006 Esther Glen Award and the 2007 ALA Best Books for Young Adults award, was shortlisted for the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and awarded a ‘White Raven’ by the International Youth Library in 2006.

Her most recent book, published in 2019, The Absolute Book, won the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.

(3) FELLOWSHIP REUNITED. Josh Gad has posted “One Zoom to Rule Them All | Reunited Apart LORD OF THE RINGS Edition.”

It’s the Return of the KINGS – Josh gathers the Fellowship and then some, to go on a very important mission…. quest…. thing.

FEATURING: Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellan, and many more!

(4) CHECKING IN. CoNZealand Fan Guest of Honour Rose Mitchell stays in touch —

(5) SOUTH GATE IN ’58. Fanac.org is adding folders of photos scanned from the collection of Elinor Busby, including today’s packet from the 1958 Worldcon. (Which, incidentally, was held at the Hotel Alexandria, whose marquee was in a helicopter view I saw of Friday night’s protests in downtown LA.)

Thanks to the scanning of Linda Deneroff, we’re putting up photos from Elinor Busby’s collection. Today, we’ve added the first 16 and these are from the 1958 Solacon, and parties thereafter. Find them at http://fanac.org/Fan_Photo_Album/b03-p00.html . There are more to come. Thanks to Linda for scanning and to Elinor for providing the photos. It’s a real treat to see these.

(6) BEST TRANSLATED BOOK. FYI, Dasa Drndic’s non-genre book EEG is the 2020 Best Translated Book Award Winner. There’s a review in The Guardian.

… The text includes long lists of suicidal chess players, war criminals and notable Latvian celebrities, from Mikhail Baryshnikov to Mark Rothko. There are also accounts of victims of the Nazis, from Ban’s uncle’s young love, a violinist, to Joseph Roth’s mentally ill wife, fatally institutionalised in the euthanasia clinic Schloss Hartheim, “the only killing centre in the second world war from which not a single person emerged alive”.

(7) CONTRACTUAL LANDMINES, At the Writer Beware blog, Victoria Strauss gives tips about “Evaluating Publishing Contracts: Six Ways You May Be Sabotaging Yourself”. Here’s an excerpt.

…These issues are as relevant now as they were years ago, if not more so (see, for instance, the ChiZine scandal, where authors accepted all kinds of abuse, including questionable contract language, because of the publisher’s then-stellar reputation). I hear all the time from writers who’ve been offered seriously problematic contracts and are using various rationalizations to convince themselves (sometimes at the publisher’s urging) that bad language or bad terms are not actually so bad, or are unlikely ever to apply.

Here are my suggestions for changing these damaging ways of thinking.

Don’t assume that every single word of your contract won’t apply to you at some point. You may think “Oh, that will never happen” (for instance, the publisher’s right to refuse to publish your manuscript if it thinks that changes in the market may reduce your sales, or its right to terminate the contract if it believes you’ve violated a non-disparagement clause). Or the publisher may tell you “We never actually do that” (for instance, edit at will without consulting you, or impose a termination fee). But if your contract says it can happen, it may well happen…and if it does happen, can you live with it? That’s the question you need to ask yourself when evaluating a contract….  

(8) CONTINUING A MOVEMENT. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “‘The Empire Strikes Back’ at 40: What the ‘Star Wars’ sequel’s iconic special effects owe to Ray Harryhausen”, interviews Dennis Muren, who handled many of the film’s special effects and discusses how Harryhausen’s stop-motion techniques made Empire stronger.

…Muren’s role also expanded with Empire, as he took point on directing the fleet of miniatures that play a major part of the film’s iconic opening set-piece on the ice planet, Hoth. With the advent of digital technology still many years away, Muren and his team brought the Rebel’s herd of tauntauns and the Empire’s squad of AT-AT walkers to life by hand. And through it all, he followed the example established by Harryhausen.

(9) BOOKSELLER OBIT. The New York Times’ series of tributes to people who died of coronavirus includes: “Steve Hann, Sidewalk Bookseller With a Brainy Following, Dies at 67”.

Even as scores of bookstores came and (mostly) went along the West Side of Manhattan in recent decades, Steve Hann endured.

He could be found through the dead of winter and the muggy heat of summer selling secondhand books on a sidewalk near Columbia University.

He drew a following from Columbia and NASA’s nearby Goddard Institute for Space Studies, with his fold-up tables proffering a well-curated array of mysteries, classics, art books and — his specialty — science fiction.

Mr. Hann began selling books and CDs in stores in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan starting at least in the early 1980s, before settling into his longtime spot on Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets.

To generations of Columbia students, he was part of the streetscape, as much a sidewalk fixture as the parking meter he leaned upon while almost invariably immersed in a sci-fi paperback.

But even when his head was in a galaxy far away, his tennis shoes were planted on New York streets, where life, he would remark, could often be stranger than anything dreamed up by Ray Bradbury or Isaac Asimov….

(10) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The name of the soft serve ice cream cart on the space force military base is named Meal Armstrong 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 31, 1990 — Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall premiered. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, and Michael Ironside. It’s rather loosely based on  Philip K. Dick‘s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” story. Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Goldman Wrote the screenplay. It finished second at Chicon V for Best Dramatic Presentation to Edward Scissorhands.  Most critics liked it well-enough though a number of feminist critics thought it excessively violent towards women. It currently holds a 78% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 31, 1893 – Elizabeth Coatsworth.  Newbery Medal for The Cat Who Went to Heaven (1930).  Four “incredible tales” for adults; four books of poetry; ninety in all; memoir Personal Geography.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1895 George R. Stewart. His 1949 novel Earth Abides won the first International Fantasy Award in 1951. That was a British award and the first one was given at Festivention. Other genre works would include Man, An Autobiography and Storm which is at least genre adjacent. (Died 1980.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1910 – Aubrey MacDermott.  Possibly the first fan.  He always said he was.  Unfortunately, the supporting evidence is thin.  He may well have founded the Eastbay Club in the San Francisco Bay area around 1928.  Anyway, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXXX (Oakland, 1987).  Here is his Origin Story as of 1990.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1921 – Arthur Sellings.  Six novels, fifty shorter stories, in FantasticGalaxyImaginationThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science FictionNebulaNew WorldsNew WritingWorlds of Tomorrow; translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian, Russian.  Born in Kent, died in Sussex.  Antiquarian, book & art dealer.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1930 Gary Brandner. Best remembered for his werewolf trilogy, The Howling of which the first was very loosely made into a film. He wrote the script for Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf.  The fourth film of the Howling series, Howling IV: The Original Nightmare, is actually almost an accurate adaptation of the first novel. He wrote a lot of other horror and penned the novelisation of Cat People. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1942 – Brian Burley.  Active fan in Ohio and New York.  In 1966, co-founder of Marcon.  In 1979 he was in FISTFA (Fannish Insurgent Scientifictional Ass’n); here he is (with S.H. Craig and Pat O’Neill) on “Fandom in New York” for the Lunacon XXII Program Book.  Co-founded (with John Boardman and Fred Lerner) the Beaker People Libation Front, which Fancyclopedia III mildly calls “not entirely serious”; see here.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1950 Gregory Harrison,70. I’m always surprised to discover a series didn’t last as long as I thought It had. He was Logan 5 in Logan’s Run which only lasted fourteen episodes. He was also in Dark Skies, twenty episodes before cancellation, as the voice of Old John Loengard, and had one-offs in Dead Man’s Gun (cursed object), Touched by an AngelOuter Limits and Miracles. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1961 Lea Thompson, 59. She’s obviously best-known for her role as Lorraine Baines in the Back to the Future trilogy though I remember her first as Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck as I saw Back to the Future after I saw Howard the Duck. Not sure why that was. Her first genre role was actually as Kelly Ann Bukowski in Jaws 3-D, a film I most decidedly did not see. If you accept the Scorpion series as genre, she’s got a recurring role as Veronica Dineen on it. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1968 John Connolly, 52. An Irish writer who is best known for his series of novels starring private detective Charlie Parker. According to ISFDB, these novels are well within the genre as some of the assigned tags are “zombies”, “alien invasion”, “supernatural thriller” and “dark fantasy”. So who has read these? (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1977 – Cat Hellisen.  Fantasy for adults and children; free-lance editing; also archery, aikidô, figure skating.  Here is a digital-art sketch of a chaffinch; here in ink are some vines and chrysalides.  First novel, When the Sea is Rising Red; four more; a dozen and a half shorter stories. “The Worme Bridge” won the Short Story Day Africa award.  More recently in Fife she likes the forests and the fields and the Forth.  [JH]
  • Born May 31, 1979Sophia McDougall, 41. She has a very well-crafted alternative history series, the Romanitas series, in which Rome didn’t fall and rules the world today. She has two SF novel — Mars Evacuees is sort of YA alien invasion novel; Space Hostages reminds of a Heinlein YA novel. (CE)
  • Born May 31, 1995 – Jeremy Szal.  Two dozen short stories electronically and on paper, e.g. at Tor.comand in Nature.  Fiction editor at StarShipSofa 2014-2020 (Episodes 360-600).  First novel Stormblood scheduled for release in early June.  See his review of Predestination at Strange Horizons here.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GUESS WHO? Scott Edelman invites Filers who haven’t already seen this in his Twitter and Facebook feeds to identify the swordsman:

(15) TAKE A RIDE ON THE READING. Amal El-Mohtar’s “Otherworldly” column in the New York Times advises: “Visit These Science-Fiction Worlds to Make Sense of Our Own”.

…I experienced Tochi Onyebuchi’s RIOT BABY (Tor.com, 176 pp., $19.99) as one tightly held breath. Moving from South Central Los Angeles to Harlem to Rikers Island to a speculative near-future in short bursts of fierce feeling, “Riot Baby,” Onyebuchi’s first novel for adults, is as much the story of Ella and her brother, Kevin, as it is the story of black pain in America, of the extent and lineage of police brutality, racism and injustice in this country, written in prose as searing and precise as hot diamonds.

Ella has a “Thing,” a power that manifests variably as telepathy, precognition, telekinesis, but isn’t ever described in those terms; she experiences it as overwhelming grief and anger, as explosion and aftermath, and struggles with controlling and deploying it over the course of the book. Kevin, born in 1992 during the Los Angeles riots, grows up in Harlem in the shadow of Ella’s furious, repressed power — but when Ella vanishes after watching reports of the murder of Sean Bell on television, she takes her limited protection of him with her. Kevin’s adolescence consists of being harassed by the police and consistently steered away from education and prospects, before getting arrested on an attempted armed robbery charge and imprisoned on Rikers….

(16) ABOUT LOVE. Brain Picking’s Maria Popova discusses Edward Gorey’s illustrated 1969 poem about the secret of true love: “The Osbick Bird: Edward Gorey’s Tender and Surprising Vintage Illustrated Allegory About the Meaning of True Love”

…. For great love, as the Nobel-winning Polish poet Wis?awa Szymborska observed in her splendid meditation on its mystery, is “never justified” but is rather “like the little tree that springs up in some inexplicable fashion on the side of a cliff: where are its roots, what does it feed on, what miracle produces those green leaves?”

That improbable and inexplicable miracle is what Edward Gorey (February 22, 1925–April 15, 2000) celebrates with his signature faux-terse tenderness and soulful oddness in the vintage gem The Osbick Bird (public library).

(17) THE FULL LID. Aldasair Stuart tells what to expect in the new issue: “The Full Lid 29th May 2020”

This week in The Full Lid, Streets of Rage 4 teaches me how to crystallize my love for a good action scene. Louie Stowell’s wonderful The Dragon in the Library is a big-hearted and witty MG fantasy that has a lot for parents too while Doctor Who audio specialists Big Finish head into new SFnal territory with The Human Frontier. We’ve also got a look at some of the best indie tabletop RPGs on the market and a massive Signal Boost section, including several Hugo finalists and their voter packet material. If you’re a finalist and you have your material hosted online already, please get in touch and I’d be happy to link to that too.

The Full Lid is published every Friday at 5pm BST. You can sign up, and find an archive of the last six months of issues, here.

(18) HELLO, MR. CHIPS. It might not be the cuisine I expect to read about at Food and Wine, but news is where you find it — “Necco Wafers Are Officially Back”.

…Back in 2018, Necco—one of America’s oldest candy companies—went out of business, leaving a number of well-known but polarizing products in limbo, including Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, Clark Bars, Mary Janes, and the eponymous Necco Wafers. Nearly all of these brands have been snapped up by someone. For instance, Sweethearts are a Valentine’s Day classic, so Ohio’s Spangler Candy Company has been pushing to get them back into production. The Clark Bar has its roots in Pittsburgh, so Pennsylvania’s Boyer Candy Company decided to bring the bar home. Heck, even Mary Jane—those peanut butter chews that made it easy to decide which houses to T.P. on Halloween—found a new producer, according to CandyIndustry.com.

But what about Necco Wafers? The flavored discs are historically significant, first produced over 150 years ago in 1847, but they are also often unfavorably compared to chalk. Plus, with Necco unable to keep the lights on, was the writing on the wall for the company’s signature wafers?

(19) EXPANDING HORIZONS. NPR’S Samantha Balaban says “This Bedtime Book Helps Kids Find Their Place In The ‘Universe'”.

Imagining your place in the universe can make you feel pretty small and insignificant, and in the midst of a global pandemic? Well, even more so.

“I think this moment that we are living through reminds us how fragile our species is, living on this small rock in the vastness of the cosmos,” says astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana. But he doesn’t think that the universe should necessarily make you feel alone. It’s inspiring, he says, to remember the “intimate and enduring connections that we have with the rest of the cosmos.”

Jayawardhana, a professor at Cornell University, has written a bedtime story called Child of the Universe which helps parents talk with their children about some of those connections.

“The universe conspired to make you …” a dad tells his daughter as they look up at a full moon. “The iron in your blood, the calcium in your bones, are made up of stars that lived long ago.”

Jayawardhana drew from memories of looking up at the night sky with his father, when he was a child growing up in Sri Lanka. “I remember being awed by constellations of twinkling stars and bright planets like Venus and Jupiter in particular” Jayawardhana says. “One night, my father told me that people had been to the moon. I was just amazed. Suddenly, that bright light up above became a place that one could visit. At that moment, my sense of what’s possible expanded dramatically.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Memories from the National Book Festival Blog: “Best of the National Book Festival: John Scalzi, 2019”.

Enormously successful science fiction writer John Scalzi of the Old Man’s War series came to the Genre Fiction stage of the 2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival to discuss “The Consuming Fire,” book 2 of the Interdependency series. Phoebe Connelly, deputy director of video at The Washington Post, introduces Scalzi, who begins at 1:15 by telling the audience that his friend Joe is in the audience. “I actually killed him not once but twice in my books.” Q&A begins at 26:45.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/15/20 Hey, Scrollers! Watch Me Pull a Pixel Out of My Hat!

(1) NEXT TREK. CBS All Access dropped a trailer for Star Trek:  Strange New Worlds, a spinoff from Star Trek; Discovery that stars Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.

Fans spoke, Star Trek listened, and a new series aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is on the horizon! Watch stars Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn excitedly break the big news. Stay tuned for more information on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, coming soon to CBS All Access. In the meantime, stream full episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access.

(2) NOT ENTIRELY A BAD THING. The Romance Writers of America have cancelled the annual gathering planned for San Francisco in August, another consequence of the pandemic. Attendance levels were already in doubt due to the upheaval and disaffection in the group this year, which led to this reaction from Courtney Milan —

(3) DEALING WITH A FAMILIAR MEDIA WEAPON. On Saturday, May 16, professionals in the field of influence operations (“Fake News”) will join Gadi Evron, Sounil Yu, Malka Older, and special guest David Weber to discuss how disinformation can be countered from an operational standpoint, as well as its effects on society and policy. “Countering ‘Fake News’: Professionals Speak” at Essence of Wonder. Registration required

Panel one will cover the effects of “Fake News” on society, and the shaping of policy around the topic. Panel two will dive deeply into methodologies, operational tools, and techniques, for countering “Fake News” attacks.

(4) THINKING ABOUT ADAPTATIONS. The World Fantasy Con 2020 blog featured one of their GoH’s in an “Interview with Charlaine Harris”.

WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?

CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!

(5) HEAR MORE FROM HARRIS. And on May 23, Essence of Wonder will present “Masters of Urban Fantasy: Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Dana Cameron, and Toni L.P. Kelner”. (Registration required.)

Dana Cameron, Toni L.P. Kelner (a.k.a. Leigh Perry), Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris will join us on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron for geeky shenanigans in a panel discussion about Worldbuilding (and maybe pets). Before the panel, Charlaine will interview Patricia on her new Mercy Thompson book, “Smoke Bitten. Join us for this special show with The Leading Ladies of Urban Fantasy on Saturday (23 May).

(6) DON’T MISS OUT. Another WFC 2020 guest of honor, Steve Rasnic Tem, telling about “My First WFC”, includes this wisdom:

…My late friend Ed Bryant and I would sometimes read the glowing tributes to authors who had passed and Ed would say, “Well, I hope they told them these nice things while they were still alive.” Attending a World Fantasy Convention gives you a great opportunity to practice Ed’s advice. The sad fact is you may not have another chance.

(7) IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING. Tor.com is serializing “Never Say You Can’t Survive: How To Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories”:

Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and Tor.com is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.

Below is the Introduction, followed by the first chapter, “How To Make Your Own Imaginary Friends”

New installments will appear every Tuesday at noon EST.

Here’s an excerpt –

….So I’m writing a series of essays called Never Say You Can’t Survive, all about how writing and making up stories can help you to survive a terrifying moment in history. (These essays came out of a talk that I gave at the Willamette Writers Conference and elsewhere. And their title is borrowed from the 1977 album of the same name by Curtis Mayfield, which is a piece of music that has given me so much strength and inspiration over the years.)

Stories of Darkness and Escapism

When I wrote “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue,” I was going to the darkest possible place I could go in a story, and putting my protagonist through the most dehumanizing treatment I could imagine. I needed to face up to the absolute worst that could happen, so I felt like I understood it a little better. I also needed to write about someone facing up to the most nightmarish scenario and still emerging in one piece, surviving, even though it’s a dark ending.

Writing a horrifying story on your own terms means that you can show how someone can survive, or even triumph. And meanwhile, you can cast a light on the injustice of oppressive systems. You can also choose the frame and eliminate some of the ambiguity in some situations, to make things more stark and more clear, or to make juxtapositions that illuminate how the problem started, and how it’ll be in the future.

When you’re telling the story, you get to draw all the lines….

(8) 1990’S GAME MAGAZINE. The Digital Antiquarian presents a bit of video game history in “The Shareware Scene, Part 3: The id Boys”.

…Thus he was receptive on the day in early 1990 when one of his most productive if headstrong programmers, a strapping young metalhead named John Romero, suggested that Softdisk start a new MS-DOS disk magazine, dedicated solely to games — the one place where, what with Apogee’s success being still in its early stages, shareware had not yet clearly cut into Softdisk’s business model. After some back-and-forth, the two agreed to a bi-monthly publication known as Gamer’s Edge, featuring at least one — preferably two — original games in each issue. To make it happen, Romero would be allowed to gather together a few others who were willing to work a staggering number of hours cranking out games at an insane pace with no resources beyond themselves for very little money at all. Who could possibly refuse an offer like that?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 15, 1955X Minus One’s “Universe” first aired. It’s based off Heinlein’s Universe which was first published in Astounding Science Fiction’s May 1941 issue, and George Lefferts wrote the script. The cast includes Donald P. Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour and Ian Martin. Untold generations of people traveling in a giant’s spaceship have lost track of who they are and what they set out to do. They think that their ship is the Universe. You can listen to it here.                    

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum. His Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, selling 3 million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956, applauded by the Library of Congress in 2000; 13 more Ozbooks, 28 others, 83 shorter stories, 200 poems, at least 42 scripts, under his own and half a dozen pen names.  While living in the Dakota Territory, he was Secretary of the Aberdeen Woman’s Suffrage Club, and hosted Susan B. Anthony (Aberdeen is now a city in the State of South Dakota).  He knew French, German, Italian. He said at the start that Wizardaspired to fantasy “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out,” at which he succeeded. Last words, to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1848 – Viktor Vasnetsov.  Co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic-nationalist panting, key figure in Russian Revivalist movement.  Designed churches, mosaics, a revenue stamp, the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery.  Worked on stage designs and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden.  V’s fantasy and epics irritated radicals, who said he undermined realist principles.  Here is a flying carpet.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us; an elaborate strange masterpiece; Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; in fact not published until decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog.  Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15. 1906 – Ellen MacGregor.  Librarian, cataloguer, researcher, editrix of the Illinois Women’s Press Ass’n monthly bulletin Pen Points; also worked in Florida and Hawaii.  For children’s fantasy with accurate science she wrote Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Goes UnderseaGoes to the Arctic published after her death; then 13 more, 16 shorter stories, by Dora Pantell.  Lavinia Pickerell, prim, angular, and devoted to her pet cow, is an inadvertent stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure, but she is unflappable.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1932Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana and is quite horrid. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 72. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series? (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 55. Her book The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Takayuki Tatsumi.  Professor at Keiô University, chair of K.U. SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; 21st Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan.  President, American Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Society of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l American Studies.  In English, for SF ChronicleSF EyeN.Y. Review of SFSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film (2014); The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016).  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. Polygon’s Alan Kistler asserts “Superheroes are scrapping their secret identities, and it’s for the best”. This might sound a little counterintuitive at a time when we’re all supposed to be wearing masks.

In the beginning, nearly every superhero had a secret identity. It protected them from villainous revenge, and created a delicious dramatic tension while interacting with loved ones who had no inkling of their other life. But the strict secret identity is fast becoming an anachronism.

Most heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe operate in the open, while other caped cinema stars, like Supergirl, are perfectly willing to trust close allies with their name. In comics, the X-Men no longer hide who they are or where they live. Even Superman’s identity has been revealed to the entire world twice in the last decade.

And all of this is for the better, delivering not only greater dramatic possibilities, but also a healthier idea of heroism….

(13) FANTASTIC FOUR COMICS. Marvel’s tells fans that Fantastic Four: Antithesis is coming in August, the first full-length Fantastic Four story ever illustrated by industry legend Neal Adams.

Adams is joined by Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four), who jam-packs this tale with a fan-favorite roster of Fantastic Four heroes and villains! Together, this celebrated creative team create a new nemesis for the Fantastic Four guaranteed to send shockwaves throughout all of fandom.  

 …Adams shares [Waid’s] enthusiasm about the project. “I have always had the sense of missing the chance to draw the Fantastic Four. It was a quiet sense, since I’ve had every opportunity to do my favorites. More, I felt Kirby and Buscema had done it all, hadn’t they…?” he begins. “When Marvel’s Tom Brevoort asked if I’d like to do the Fantastic Four, I knew I had to ask for Galactus and the Silver Surfer as well. I am humbled and thankful to Tom for the opportunity.”

Who or what is the Antithesis, and will the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus himself be enough to defeat it?

(14) DC COMICS ARE BIG HITS TOO. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “DC Universe Readership Jumps 35 Percent During Shutdown”.

Two ‘Batman’ titles were atop the most-read list.

With comic book stores closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an open question just what fans would do to get their fix. New figures released from digital service DC Universe suggest that the answer was, simply, “go online.”

(15) ON THE WILDSIDE. John Betancourt has launched a Kickstarter appeal to produce “Staying In Place”, an “anthology of stories to pass the time.” Various support levels also bring additional rewards in the form of reading material.

With so many people staying at home right now, we at Wildside Press and the Black Cat Mystery & Science Fiction Ebook Club are putting together a mammoth anthology of amazing stories for you to read and enjoy. The anthology will feature 20 novels and short stories by iconic authors such as John Gregory Betancourt,  Paul di Filippo, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert E. Howard, G.D. Falksen, and many more to be announced.  But we need your help to make this happen. We are coming to Kickstarter to fund the anthology. In return for your support, you get the anthology itself, some of our fantastic ebooks, and even a subscription to the Black Cat which gives subscribers 7+ free ebooks every week, including new releases of all of the great Wildside Press magazines (WeirdbookBlack Cat Mystery MagazineSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and even the upcoming revival of Startling Stories, the famous pulp magazine).

(16) BORN TO BE DUMPED. “‘Men of Middle-earth as Bad Ex-Boyfriends’ Thread Is Absolutely Perfect” – so says The Mary Sue.

Every now and then, a Twitter act of creation reminds us that good things can still emerge from our hellish Internet stomping grounds. Such is the case with a viral thread from writer Alex Arrelia, in which Arrelia painstakingly—and hilariously—takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters under the heading of “Men of Middle Earth as bad ex boyfriends who ruined your life.”

Thread starts here. Some examples —

(17) THIS CLOSE! And don’t forget Tolkien’s ultimate Bad Boy — “The Lord Of The Rings: 10 Ways Sauron Could Have Won” at ScreenRant.

10. He Could Have Set A Guard On Mount Doom

Most obviously, Sauron could have prevented the destruction of the One Ring–and thus the unraveling of his power–if he’d only done a little more to make sure that Mount Doom was protected from approach and infiltration. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that it is so unguarded–because Sauron couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to destroy the Ring rather than use it – that allows Frodo and Sam to sneak up on it. Sauron is defeated by his own inability to think outside of himself. 

(18) SHE-RA ARRIVES. NPR’s Victoria Whitley-Berry reviews a reboot: “In She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, True Strength Is In Being Yourself”.

Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. As a kid, she loved it all: the epic space battles, the magic, the quests that seemed larger than life.

But there was a problem with her favorite childhood stories, like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings series. “I never quite saw myself reflected in them” Stevenson says, “certainly not at the heart of the story.”

There weren’t a lot of women.

Of course, there’s interstellar rebel Princess Leia and Nazgûl-slaying Éowyn. But Stevenson wanted a female version of Luke Skywalker and a terror-inducing femme Lord Sauron.

So when she started writing stories of her own, she made sure kids like her felt seen, in more ways than one.

…When Netflix and DreamWorks wanted to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power — an epic showdown between magical princesses and an evil alien invader — Stevenson was all in.

She kept much of the original show’s action and adventure — like the original, the rebooted show takes place on the planet Etheria, and one of the princesses who is trying to stop the evil Horde army from taking over is named Adora.

…Stevenson did make one small but important change to the show: Its name. The Netflix and DreamWorks version is She-Ra and the PRINCESSES of Power. All the princesses are important.

She also gathered an all-female writing staff to update this team of powerful women. In the original show, the princesses are white, skinny and presumably straight. The new rebellion includes women of color. They’re women in all different shapes and sizes. And there are women who love other women.

Princess Weekes is an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, a website that covers the intersection of women and fandom. She’s been writing about the She-Ra reboot since the beginning.

Weekes says that because the team behind She-Ra is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories on the show give genuine representation of queer life for kids.

“You allow queerness for young kids to be just normalized in general,” Weekes says. “What I think Noelle Stevenson and the entire She-Ra team has done is create a society and place where characters can exist, but their biggest problem isn’t that they’re gay.”

(19) THAWED. “Disney Closes ‘Frozen’ on Broadway, Citing Pandemic” – the New York Times has the story.

Even Queen Elsa’s magic is no match for the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.

“Frozen” had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway — the others were “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” — and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.

“This difficult decision was made for several reasons but primarily because we believe that three Disney productions will be one too many titles to run successfully in Broadway’s new landscape,” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a letter to his staff….

(20) LET THE SUN SHINE IN. WIRED found something the military would let them talk about for “A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit”, and it has a connection to the Golden Age of SF.

On Saturday, the US Air Force is expected to launch its secret space plane, X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the Air Force gave some rare details about its cargo.

…[The] real star of the show is a small solar panel developed by the physicists at the Naval Research Lab that will be used to conduct the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.

“This is a major step forward,” says Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab and lead researcher on the project. “This is the first time that any component geared towards a solar-powered satellite system has ever been tested in orbit.”

Space-based solar power is all about getting solar power to Earth no matter the weather or the time of day. The basic idea is to convert the sun’s energy into microwaves and beam it down. Unlike terrestrial solar panels, satellites in a sufficiently high orbit might only experience darkness for a few minutes per day. If this energy could be captured, it could provide an inexhaustible source of power no matter where you are on the planet.

It’s an idea that was cooked up by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the 1940s; since then, beamed power experiments have been successfully tested several times on Earth. But the experiment on X-37B will be the first time the core technologies behind microwave solar power will be tested in orbit.

(21) TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS. Not genre, but one stunning upside to the pandemic: “The Most Beautiful Flower Garden In The World Has No Visitors For The First Time In 71 Years And I Got To Capture It (31 Pics)” at Bored Panda.

Most of you probably know the world-famous Keukenhof, the most beautiful tulip garden in the world. Every year millions of tourists visit this garden. That’s a huge lot considering the garden is only open in spring! Every year, a hard-working crew makes sure the garden looks as good as ever, including this year!

This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on….

(22) UPDATE. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s separation was reported in a recent Pixel Scroll. Gaiman has now made a blog entry about it, which includes an open letter to the world that the couple collaborated on: “Where I Am, What I’m Doing, How I’m Doing And How I Got Here”. Gaiman’s intro says in part —

…Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I’ve seen the newsfeed headlines saying I’ve moved to the UK, and even that we’re divorcing. No, I haven’t moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.) 

Thank you to everyone who’s been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this….

And the couple’s joint letter follows.

(23) NOT THAT SUBTLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kyle Mizokami, in “The Space Force Receives Its ‘Kobayashi Maru’ Space-Tracking System” in Popular Mechanics says it’s no coincidence that Space Force’s warning system is a Star Trek reference; the Space Force also has a Kessel Run, and Mizokami thinks it’s no coincidence that the acronym for the force’s Space Operations Center is SPOC.

The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, David Goldfarb, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/20 You Will Scroll Eternal, Shiny And Chrome

(1) MOOT COURT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Robert Barnes’ Washington Post report of a Supreme Court hearing an argument about whether states have the right to punish “faithless electors” who cast a vote in the Electoral College other than the candidate who won a state’s electoral votes.

“What of the elector who decides after the election ‘I really like Frodo Baggins,’” asked Justice Clarence Thomas, referencing one of the principal protagonists of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings.  That person is free to vote his or her convictions, a lawyer challenging state restrictions said, but not for a hobbit; the candidate must be a real person.

(Link: “Supreme Court considers ‘faithless’ presidential electors and finds more questions than answers”.)

(2) US IN FLUX. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched the latest story in their Us in Flux project today, Tina Connolly’s “Skating Without Streetlights”, a story about virtual reality and friendship, with a bit of a YA spin.

On Monday, May 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Connolly in conversation with VR developer Dennis Bonilla.  

(3) WINDING DOWN NASFIC. Columbus 2020 NASFiC announced today it is cancelled. Their statement “We will not be offering any refunds but, that being said, we still plan on publishing a souvenir book for all attending and supporting members” received some pushback in a public Facebook conrunners’ group. Treasurer Kim Williams has responded with a supplementary statement:

We don’t know what our bills are going to be or what will be left over, And now unfortunately one person has escalated their unhappiness about no refund to PayPal and is encouraging her entire group of friends to do likewise.

So, why did NASFIC say no refunds?

1. We just got to the point of cancellation This Morning. It’s hard to be in the land of “who knows?” so we got the main piece of information out to everyone as soon as possible. We didn’t want people making travel plans and fighting to cancel those too. I treated you with the respect I would have hoped for.

2. We do not have all the information from the hotel or any of our other vendors on what we owe them. We don’t know what is going to be left! I’m negotiating with each vendor doing the best I can.

3. We have to say no refunds at this point because we can’t even begin to know what might be left over.

4. We really would like to do a Souvenir/Program Book because we want to do something for our guests. We put a lot of thought into our choice of guests and feel horrible about not having a convention for them.

5. One of the issues we discussed TODAY is what we should do if any funds are left after that. What we would like to do is participate in the “pass along” program, just like any other WSFS event even though we didn’t receive any.

But if this person continues her claim, it risks all of the above, She wants her refund before anyone else even has a chance.

So, now I really don’t know what is going to happen. .

(4) MORE CONVENTION CANCELLATIONS. Oxonmoot and KublaCon are two more of the many fannish events now off the calendar.

Oxonmoot 2020’s co-chairs Elena Davison and Mike Percival told members the Tolkien Society’s fall event is off for this year.

It is with great sadness that we have reached the decision that it will be impossible to hold a face-to-face Oxonmoot in 2020.

At all times, we have had in mind that we would only run Oxonmoot if we could do so in a way which was safe for our members.

Following the publication on Monday 11th May of the UK Government document “Our Plan to Rebuild”, describing their Covid-19 recovery strategy, it is clear that some level of social distancing will still be required in September, and this has a dramatic impact on the way the spaces in college can be used – for example the capacity of the Hall is reduced by almost 80%. This has led the college to advise that they do not feel able to accommodate our event. In addition, the proposed introduction of a 14-day self-isolation period for overseas travellers would make it difficult for overseas members to attend….

KublaCon’s Executive Producer Mike Eckert says the Oakland, CA gaming convention is cancelled.

…We know this will disappoint many of you, we are disappointed along with you.  We also know there will be questions as to what comes next.

Some of us on Staff, myself included, lost their day job amid this pandemic, many more staff are at home, quarantined; just like you. You may be wondering what happens to your badge fees, ticket fees or booth fees. We want to help answer all of that and we humbly ask for your help too….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman is still “Social Distancing” – which means eating at home and withstanding the sharp cross-examination conducted by fans of his podcast, something the accomplished raconteur is thoroughly prepared to do,.

Two episodes ago, we sheltered in place together as I ate lunch and answered 33 questions from listeners and former guests of Eating the Fantastic. Since it’ll be awhile before the convention circuit starts up again and restaurants are back in business, I decided to once more invite you into my home to join me for a meal.

After all, my original call for questions had yielded 95 of them, and there was no way I was going to let that meat go to waste!

So after having roasted up a pork butt and assorted vegetables, I pulled together a plate and attempted to answer as many as I could while (metaphorically) breaking bread with you.

…I talked about my early days in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, the many things legendary editor Gardner Dozois and I shoved up our noses, when my food and fandom interests began to overlap, what I would have said to Harlan Ellison had he been in Barry Malzberg’s shoes, whether experiencing personal tragedy helps or harms a writer, the cognitive dissonance I feel about comics having taken over the world, which character caused me to start writing (hint: it was Conan the Barbarian), what I wishes I knew less about, who I was the most thrilled to have met in my life, whether I still get a kick out of my favorite childhood treats, what a terrible collaborator I am, and much, much more.

(6) NEWTON OBIT. Barry Newton, past President of the Washington Science Fiction Association (2014), died May 12 of cancer. He was 70. Barry was part of WSFA for nearly 50 years, having joined in June 1970.

He contributed items to the Scroll in years gone by.

He was retired from the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

His daughter, Meridel, said on Facebook  he will be cremated and inurned in Arlington National Cemetery whenever they resume burials. A celebration of life will be held when gatherings become possible again.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 14, 1996 Doctor Who aired on the Fox Television Network in the United States. Starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway and Eric Roberts as The Master. It was directed by Geoffrey Sax off a script by Matthew Jacobs. It was intended as a pilot to American produced and based Who series but internal politics at BBC killed it off. Some critics loved, some hated it; the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave it a decent forty eight percent rating.  He has since reprised the role, briefly in video form and quite extensively in audio form for Big Finish. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 14, 1848 – Albert Robida.  French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist.  Edited and published Caricature magazine 1880-1893; 520 illustrations for Pierre Giffard’s weekly serial The Infernal War (1908); 60,000 during AR’s life.  In The Twentieth Century (1882; set in 1952), War in the Twentieth Century (1887), Electric Life (1890), five more, imagined technological developments integrated with daily living, e.g. the telephonoscope, whose flat-screen display shows news, plays, conferences, 24 hours a day; here’s an aerial rotating house.  Books about Brittany, the Touraine, Normandy, Provence, Paris, The Old Towns of ItalyThe Old Towns of Spain, text, drawings, lithographs.  Illustrated Cyrano de Bergerac, Rabelais, Swift.  Clock of the CenturiesThe End of Books (with Octave Uzanne); The Long-Ago Is With Us TodayIn 1965.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1852 – Henri Julien.  First full-time newspaper editorial cartoonist in Canada.  Interiors for Douglas Erskine’s novel A Bit of Atlantis (1900), reviewed by Everett Bleiler in Science Fiction, the Early Years (1991).  Here’s a flying canoe.  Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917) called him the most original talent in the country.  Posthumous collection, Album Henri Julien (1916).  (Died 1908) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1853 – Sir Hall Caine.  Novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, poet, critic.  Secretary to Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Recollections of Rossetti (rev. 1928).  Son of a Manxman, moved there, elected to its legislature; Bram Stoker dedicated Dracula to him in Manx.  The Christian, first novel in Britain to sell a million copies; The MahdiThe Eternal City (translated into thirteen languages), The ScapegoatThe White ProphetThe Prime Minister (play), fantasy; fifteen more novels, seventeen plays, four films (plus more made from his books); The Supernatural in Shakespere (HC’s spelling), The Supernatural Element in Poetry, eighteen more books of non-fiction; ten million books sold.  Went to Russia, Morocco, Iceland, Egypt.  Sixty thousand people at his funeral.  (Died 1931) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1929 – George Scithers.  His fanzine Amra 1959-1982 won two Hugos.  Chaired three Disclaves and the 21st Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at the 2nd NASFiC (N. Am. Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas) and the 59th Worldcon; frequent chair of the annual WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meeting.  Served as President of WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) and Official Arbiter of The Cult (an apa – amateur press ass’n – famous in song and story).  First editor of Asimov’s; two Hugos as Best Professional Editor.  Perpetrated the Scithers SFL (Science Fiction League) Hoax.  Revived Weird Tales (with John Betancourt).  World Fantasy special award for Weird Tales (with Darrell Schweitzer), 1992.  World Fantasy lifetime-achievement award, 2002.  (Died 2010) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1933 – Ron Bennett.  British fanwriter, collector, publisher, used-book dealer, even while living in Singapore.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, 1958; trip report, Colonial Excursion.  Chaired the 13th Eastercon (United Kingdom natcon, i.e. nat’l convention), ran the Dealers’ Room at the 45th Worldcon.  Member variously of OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n, serving awhile as its Official Editor), FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n), The Cult (see G. Scithers note); best-known fanzines, Skyrack (rhyming with “beer hack” because, as RB well knew, it meant shire oak, but what a name), Ploy.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1935 Peter J. Reed, 85. A Vonnegut specialist with a long history starting with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays that he wrote with Marc Leeds, and Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations with Leeds again. He also wrote a handful of essays such as “Hurting ’til It Laughs: The Painful-Comic Science Fiction Stories of Kurt Vonnegut“ and “Kurt Vonnegut’s Bitter Fool: Kilgore Trout”. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 76. For better and worse I suppose, he created the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine. Several Star Wars films are.) And let’s not forget THX 1138. My fave works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost ArkThe Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Oh, and and The Young Indy Jones series. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1947 Edward James, 73. Winner at Interaction of Best Related Non-Fiction Book for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction which he did with Farah Mendlesohn. A companion volume, The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, was also edited with Mendlesohn. He was the editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction from 1986 to 2001. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1952 – Kathleen Ann Goonan, 68.  Author, Montessori certified teacher, professor at Georgia Tech (Ga. Inst. of Technology).  Three Nebula nominations; John W. Campbell Memorial Award for In War Times; first novel Queen City Jazz, a N.Y. Times Notable Book; six more novels, forty shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish; cover art for her collection Angels and You Dogs.  Reviews in SF EyeN.Y. Rev. SF.  John Clute caught her allusion to Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) and said of her Nanotech Cycle (QC Jazz the first published) that its heavy plotting only partially coats over the intellectual ferment of the whole.  [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1968 Greg Davies, 52. He played King Hydroflaxq In the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Husbands of River Song“. A man who’s just a head. Literally. He’s also the Balloon Man in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. (CE)

(11) SCALZI Q&A. It’s a good interview about a writer’s interaction with literature, but the New York Times’ headline has no relevance to any of his answers that I can see: “The Science Fiction Writer John Scalzi Readily Quits Reading”. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure you’ll let me know!)

Any comfort reads?

I reread James Clavell’s “Shogun” a lot when I travel; I tend to think of it as epic fantasy as I am unsure of its historical and cultural accuracy. Speaking of epic fantasy, Katherine Addison’s “The Goblin Emperor” is always a joy to reread; I leaned on it a lot when creating my own unready imperial ruler for the Interdependency series, the last book of which is out very soon now. And I always have at least one Susan Orlean book on my phone for when I’m stuck in the airport and in the mood for nonfiction; the current one I have at the ready is “The Library Book.” She writes books that are comforting and fascinating at the same time. That’s a good skill to have.

(12) TWO REVIEWS OF SNOWPIERCER. [Item by N.] I’m personally skeptical because the creators seemed to excise all the Bong Joon-ho-isms I enjoyed from the movie but it looks like they kept all the sociological critique. Will be interesting to see. 

The New York Times: “On Track for the Apocalypse, ‘Snowpiercer’ Comes to Television”.

… But the world that this “Snowpiercer” arrives in is one that has moved incrementally closer to the catastrophe that the series anticipates. Though the themes of the show may be more resonant now, the people who made “Snowpiercer” cannot be sure whether it will be more compelling or more terrifying to audiences as a result.The power of good science fiction, [Daveed] Diggs said, is a universality that extends beyond the moment in which it was created. “No matter what time we’re living in, it allows us to reflect on ourselves through a particular lens,” he said. “We certainly did not know that this would be the lens through which we’d be viewing our own show.”

“In TNT’s Series, Snowpiercer Is No Longer a Dark Prophesy but a Mirror”

… We are now coming up on two full months of quarantine here in the States, and though we are not exactly survivors aboard a 1,001-car high speed train careening around a frozen planet, it’s hard for dialogue like this not to resonate. Or for scenes depicting horrendous displays of classism to not gnaw at our collective conscience as we watch our ugly realities play out on a TV screen.

“Do you remember hugs? Do you remember leaving the house without a mask and gloves at the ready? Do you remember what it was like before?”

What happens when there is less to learn from the allegory than from reality itself? When simile becomes metaphor? It’s not that the society we live in is like the fictional world of Snowpiercer; it’s that the society we live in is Snowpiercer.

(13) LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDERS. The Boston Globe story “Brattle Book Shop is curating bookshelves for Zoom meetings and FaceTime hangouts” is probably paywalled, but this gives the essentials —

Friends and coworkers aren’t the only ones silently taking stock of what’s going on in the backgrounds of people’s daily virtual calls these days.

Staff at the Brattle Book Shop have also been scanning the scenes with a watchful eye. And as experts in the book trade, they’ve come to a conclusion: That shelf just beyond your upper torso? Yes, that one, with the torn edition of “Twilight” that’s next to the lilting fern. Perhaps it could use some touching up if it’s going to be on camera.

“Zoom calls: no one can see your legs,” store employees tweeted recently, “but everyone can see your apartment. We’re here to help, with the bookshelves at least.”

Like many businesses impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, Brattle Book Shop was forced to close its doors to walk-in customers back in early March. But to help fill the downtime while also staying connected to clientele both old and new, the downtown Boston business decided to tap into a niche market — one that’s been propelled by our newfound reliance on teleconferencing services like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime.

In April, bookstore owner Ken Gloss and his team began offering to curate people’s shelves with hand-picked selections of books to display during video meetings. The service, staff says, can help add a pop of character to the otherwise disorganized backdrops being scrutinized by people on the other side of the computer screen.

To Gloss, having some aesthetically-pleasing spines perfectly arranged at eye level, or even a few well-known titles neatly stacked up for show, “offers a lot of prestige.”

“When you look at someone’s books, you can tell a lot about them,” he said. “Put back there the impression that you want to give.”

This concept of cleverly organizing backgrounds specifically for Zoom calls isn’t altogether novel, Gloss explained. It’s more of an inventive take on a familiar practice at the historic family-owned business.

For years, the bookstore has fielded requests from customers looking to decorate their shelves with carefully selected reading materials and antique-looking books, items that create a more homey atmosphere.

(14) GO BOOM FALL DOWN. “Spectacular demolition at German nuclear site” – BBC shares the video taken from multiple viewpoints.

Two cooling towers have been demolished in spectacular controlled explosions at a disused nuclear power plant in south-western Germany.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Alex and Mr Fluffkins” on Vimeo, Adeena Grubb and Andy Biddle discuss what happens to a man and his cat when the lockdown is finally over and they can go out.

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

jan howard finder: Prophet of Tolkien In Budapest?

By Bence Pintér: As a historian and journalist, I always found pleasure in flipping through old newspapers. In these times of lockdown, I happened to be fooling around in Arcanum Digitheca, Hungary’s “largest and continuously expanding” digital periodical database, looking for traces of old Hungarian fandom in the papers.

This is how I found my way to an article from 1973 in Magyar Ifjúság (Hungarian Youth – the official magazine of the Hungarian Young Communist League), about jan howard finder giving a lecture on Tolkien to Hungarian fans. An American fan giving lecture on Tolkien in Budapest long before the fall of communism and long before Tolkien was even published in Hungary?

That is an interesting story, I thought, then googled “jan howard finder file770”, since I never heard about him before, but was sure that I would find something here, and boy, was I right! So I gathered that maybe some of the readers of File770 could be interested in what jan howard finder told to the budding Hungarian fandom about Tolkien. But first let me present you some context with a little the help from Pálma Erdei’s fine dissertation about Hungarian sci-fi and fandom.

In Communist Hungary fannish activities seemingly preceded the official recognition of science fiction: the first Hungarian fanzine was created in 1968 at Berzsenyi Dániel High School, while the first state-approved science fiction collection, Cosmos Fantastic Books started publishing in 1969 at Móra, which was a publisher mainly of children’s fiction. (Of course there were some science fiction books published before this collection in the country, but few.)

The science fiction clubs also preceded Cosmos Fantastic Books: apart from the fanzine-making guys at Berzsenyi High, the first was founded in 1968 mostly by scientists, members of the Society for Dissemination of Scientific Knowledge (TIT is the Hungarian acronym for that one). At the end of 1973, TIT got 600 members, a network of clubs in major cities in Hungary, and a rather good fanzine named Pozitron.

The title of the article is ‘A fantázia új útjai’ (The New Ways of Fantasy), but you should know  that in Hungarian with ‘fantázia’ does not mean the genre, because we call that simply ‘fantasy’. Besides that, science fiction is also called ‘tudományos fantasztikum’, in which the first part means scientific, and ‘fantasztikum’ is a broader term which means sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

The journalist describes jan howard finder (an American chemistry teacher from West Germany, we are told) a ‘sci-fi specialist’ and a Tolkien-expert, then goes on to wonder about why The Lord of the Rings is science fiction. The answer to this question (drawn from finder’s lecture) is a bit confusing, since it do not try to sell LotR as sci-fi, but goes on detailing the plot. I assume that the translation was not really accurate, and/or the journalist was confused by these terms. Fantasy was not a thing in Hungary then, and rather similar ‘fantasztikum’ meant sci-fi as well.

I would not bore you with the plot summary, but it is funny: it’s like if I want to summarize LotR to my four-year-old. “…in the story there is a ring, which has various magical powers, and which was lost by the leading evil magician. The good side find the ring, but if somewone wears it, he is corrupted…” And so on and so forth. Later the journalist quotes finder to say: LotR is the reason why Western universities started to research science fiction, and also LotR is responsible for the rise in quality in science fiction.

In the next part Finder reflects on new wave: “Science fiction, like every genre, is in constant change. Science fiction concerning technology is only written in East Germany nowadays, because there this became the most notable subgenre. The latest development is ‘speculative fiction’. You should be prepared not just to write ‘speculative fiction’, but also to read it. Honestly, first I was really bored by the ‘new wave’, but soon I found that this is just a perfect ‘brain exercise’ Nowadays I am amused by ‘speculative fiction’.”

The he goes on to describe Arrive at Easterwine: The Autobiography of a Ktistec Machine by R. A. Lafferty, The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, and Zone Null by the Austrian Herbert W. Franke, which is wrongly attributed in the article to the German Wolfgang Jeschke. (There is a reason for that: the novel was in one volume with Jeschke’s short story collection.)

The journalist ends the article in this fashion: “One thing is sure: true SF does not mean space mysteries and space pulp anymore. The fans of SF only read sci-fi books sophisticated in style and message nowadays.”

While The Lord of the Rings was already a bestseller in 1973 for years, this is the first article in the Hungarian database which even mentions the massively successful book and its author. The Hobbit was published in 1975 in Hungarian, but until the publication of LotR in 1981, there were a total of six articles mentioning the book briefly. (One bears the title “Who is the Most Boring Writer?”, and is a translation of an article about which author is the most boring according to some students.) So it is no exaggeration to say that jan howard finder was like an evangelist prophesizing about a book that will be massively popular in Hungary also – twenty or thirty years later.

There is a quote from translator of the lecture in the article, who told the journalist that she wants to translate LotR, but it will be hard. In fact she will not be the one to translate the epic: most of the geographical and other names, and the first eleven chapters was translated by noted translator Ádám Réz, while the rest of the book was translated by future president Árpád Göncz (prose) and famous poet Dezso Tandori (poetry).


[Editor’s note: WordPress does not support one of the characters in Tandori’s first name, therefore a Latin character has been used instead. Apologies for the incorrect spelling. Also, finder spelled his name using lower case letters, thus the headline.]

Pixel Scroll 3/10/20 We Are The Pixels, My Friend, And We’ll Keep On Scrollin’, To The End

(1) BULLISH ON JOCK. PropStore is holding an auction of alternate movie posters by Jock. In “Poster Boy”, “Mondo artist Jock talks us through five of his most impressive posters, all of which are part of the Prop Store Movie Poster Auction on March 26.”

Guardians of the Galaxy

This was an idea-led design choice. That technique of cutting out the bodies was more common in old ’50s and ’60s American magazine illustration. The goal with doing that was to elevate what would just be a drawing of the characters standing there into something that’s more design-led and more interesting.

There’s also a “Jock Q&A – In conversation with celebrated Mondo poster artist Jock”

How does your poster-design process start?
I think posters often work best if there’s an idea behind them, rather than just being an illustration of the characters in a cool position. For my most recent Star Wars posters, for example, I chose a scene from the films that we all know and love, but tried to present it from an angle that we haven’t seen before. The only thing about trying to come up with an idea is you can’t force it. You’ve just gotta kind of noodle and doodle until you maybe have an idea for something.

(2) A LITTLE NUDGE. The discussion here is an example of one of the social dynamics at work on the Hugo Awards. It begins with this tweet —  

(3) LIU ADAPTATION TO SMALL SCREEN. AMC has given a two-season pickup to Pantheon,  a sff drama from Craig Silverstein. The series is based on short stories by Ken Liu.

Written by Silverstein (Turn: Washington’s Spies, Nikita), Pantheon is set in a world where uploaded consciousness is a reality. The first season centers on Maddie, a bullied teen who receives mysterious help from someone online. The stranger is soon revealed to be her recently deceased father, David, whose consciousness has been uploaded to the Cloud following an experimental destructive brain scan. David is the first of a new kind of being: an “Uploaded Intelligence” or UI, but he will not be the last, as a global conspiracy unfolds that threatens to trigger a new kind of world war.

(4) SFF SHOW AXED. YouTube is moving away from scripted originals, and Impulse is a casualty.

…YouTube has canceled the sci-fi series Impulse after two seasons, making it the latest casualty in the video platform’s changing strategy for original programming. …

Impulse, developed by Jeffrey Lieber (Lost, NCIS: New Orleans) and with a pilot episode directed by executive producer Doug Liman, premiered in June 2018. It centers on 16-year-old Henrietta “Henry” Coles (Maddie Hasson), who has the ability to teleport but can’t control where she ends up. It’s based on a novel of the same title by Steven Gould.

(5) AND THESE TWO NEVER GOT ON THE AIR. Meanwhile, Disney has changed its mind about a planned Muppets revival, and scrapped a Tron adaptation before anyone even knew they were doing one. The Hollywood Reporter has the story in “Bob Iger’s Next Priority? Streamline Disney+ Development”.

In a sign of the challenges, Disney+ has developed then scrapped three original series in the past year: scripted comedy Muppets Live Another Day from Adam Horowitz, Eddy Kitsis and Josh Gad; Disney villains drama Book of Enchantment from Michael Seitzman; and, per sources, a never-announced Tron adaptation from John Ridley. Two other projects — TV series based on High Fidelity and Love, Simon — were moved to Hulu over their adult thematic content that executives weren’t comfortable showing on the family-friendly Disney+.

(6) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. One doesn’t have to travel too far back in time to run into certain problems: “Old episodes of Doctor Who streaming on BritBox stir up controversy” at Fansided.

Doctor Who is unique among current popular genre series in that it’s technically been around for nearly 60 years, officially kicking off on November 23, 1963….

And that can cause issues, because 1963 was a very different time, for television and the world in general. So was 1977, when Tom Baker was starring as the Fourth Doctor. That’s when the show aired the serial “The Talons of Weng-Chiang,” starring John Bennett acting in yellowface as villain Li H’sen Chang, a stage magician aided by Mr. Sin, a cyborg from the 51st century known as the Peking Homunculus.

Yeah, it’s bad. And did we mention that, in the serial, Chinese people are referred to as “inscrutable ch**ks”? It’s very bad.

“It is really hard to watch because yellowface is so unacceptable now,” said Emma Ko, a screenwriter and spokeswoman for British East Asians in Theatre and on Screen. “When you are somebody who was called a “ch**k” in your childhood, as I have been, it is so hard to hear that word and not feel immediately a trigger reaction of how wrong it is.”…

(7) DOING WHAT COMES SUPERNATURALLY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Michael Koryta and Alma Katsu on Horror, Craft, and Reinvention” at CrimeReads, horror novelists Koryta and Katsu interview each other on their new novels, Katsu’s The Deep and Koryta’s The Chill (written as by Scott Carson), as they ask each other about their backgrounds and how they ended up writing horror. Alma Katsu has lived in the Washington D.C. area and has been a guest at Capclave.

Alma Katsu: After establishing yourself in mystery and crime, I have to ask, what drew you to horror for The Chill? What was the appeal? Does everyone secretly—or openly—love horror? 

Michael Koryta: Love of the storytelling world where the past is encroaching on the present. A ghost story invites the past right in and treats it as if it never left. In my experience, that’s really how we live our lives—every move made in the present is shaped by memory, right? On individual and societal levels. The idea of kicking open a door that allows the past to wander in and be active is always appealing to me. For some reason, I’m particularly drawn to this when the natural world is involved in the story. The idea of turning on a faucet in Queens and receiving water that comes from a reservoir in the Catskills where once a town existed is both intriguing to me and fundamentally eerie. Drink up!

I don’t think everyone loves horror, which is a shame, because they should. A little paranoia is good for the soul. It seems so unimaginative to not be afraid of the dark.

What about you? Why are you writing for the warped minds like mine?

Katsu: I lived in a strangely Gothic world as a child. I grew up in a very spooky house in a spooky town in Massachusetts. The house was an old Victorian, long neglected, which meant it had all these period details that, being a Service brat, I’d never seen before. Pocket doors that disappeared into the walls, twisty stairs leading up to an attic filled with old trunks left by previous occupants. Overrun by mice, so the walls talked to you every night. Growing up in a house like that definitely cements the notion that the past is a frightening place.

(8) BLACK WIDOW FINAL TRAILER. Black Widow arrives in theaters May 1.

“At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be and who you are.”

(9) POMERANTZ OBIT. Earl Pomerantz, a two-time Emmy winner who wrote and produced for such comedies as The Mary Tyler Moore ShowThe Cosby ShowTaxi and The Larry Sanders Show, has died. “Earl Pomerantz, Producer and Emmy-Winning Screenwriter, Dies at 75”. He wrote two episodes of Amazing Stories — “Fine Tuning” and “Mummy Daddy”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 10, 1978 Return from Witch Mountain premiered. The sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain, it was written by Malcolm Marmorstein and is based on were characters that created by Alexander Key who also wrote the novelization of the film. Ike Eisenmann, Kim Richards, and Denver Pyle reprise their roles from the first with Bette Davis and. Christopher Lee being the baddies here.  Neither critics (40% rating) or audience (50% rating) at Rotten Tomatoes were particularly fond of it. You can see it here.
  • March 10, 1995VR.5 premiered on Fox. It featured a cast of David McCallum, Anthony Head, Lori Singer and Louise Fletcher. It was created by Jeannine Renshaw. Executive producer Thania St. John stated that in press releases, “VR.5 will try to capture that same, creepy feeling of the X-Files” which was the lead-in to this series. It lasted a total of thirteen episodes with only ten shown in its first run. There is no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critic rating is very high 75%. You can see the pilot here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 10, 1891 Sam Jaffe. His first role was in Lost Horizon  as the High Lama and much later in The Day the Earth Stood Still  playing Professor Jacob Barnhardt. Later on we find him in The Dunwich Horror as Old Whateley, voicing Bookman in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, playing The Old-Man in The Tell-Tale Heart, and in his last film, appearing in Battle Beyond the Stars as Dr. Hephaestus. John Sayles wrote the script oddly enough. (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 10, 1905 Richard Haydon. He’s here as he was in The Lost World, the 1960 film version, as Prof. Summerlee. He showed up in the same year in The Twilight Zone in “A Thing About Machines” as Bartlet Finchley. And he’d be Solicitor Herr Falkstein in Young Frankenstein. (Died 1985.)
  • Born March 10, 1918 Theodore Cogswell. He wrote almost forty science fiction stories, most of them humorous, and was the co-author of a Trek novel, Spock, Messiah!, with Joe Spano Jr. He’s perhaps best remembered as the editor of the Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies in which writers and editors discussed their and each other’s works.  A full collection of which was published during 1993 except, as EoSF notes “for one issue dealing with a particularly ugly controversy involving Walter M. Miller”. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 10, 1938 Marvin Kaye, 82. Currently the editor of Weird Tales, he has also edited magazines such as H. P. Lovecraft’s Magazine of Horror and Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.  The Fair Folk anthology which is most excellent and which he edited won a World Fantasy Award.
  • Born March 10, 1958 Sharon Stone,  62. Damn, she’s the same age I am. She’s been in three genre films, her first being Total Recall where she played the ill-fated Lori Quaid. Her next was Sphere where she was cast as Dr. Elizabeth “Beth” Halperin, and last was in, errr, Catwoman where she was Laurel Hedare, an assassin. 
  • Born March 10, 1969 Paget Brewster, 51. She was Jenny Spy on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and most of her genre roles have been voice roles: Lana Lang on Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Lois Lane on Justice League: Gods and Monsters and Poison Ivy on Batman and Harley Quinn.
  • Born March 10, 1977 Bree Turner, 43. She’s best known for her role as Rosalee on Grimm. She also starred in the pilot episode (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”) of Masters of Horror. She was in Jekyll + Hyde as Martha Utterson. Confession time: I got through maybe three seasons of Grimm before giving up as it became increasingly silly.
  • Born March 10, 1979 Fonda Lee, 41. Her Jade City novel was a finalist for a Nebula Award for Best Novel and won a World Fantasy Award. Its sequel. Jade War, was published last year. And her Cross Fire novel was named Best YA Novel at the 2019 Aurora Awards for best Canadian speculative fiction. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo is making perfect sense interpreting a Philip Dick title!
  • Today’s Bizarro has everyone’s dream of heaven.

(13) LIVE LONGER, AND PROSPER. An AP newswire article about Congress trying to cope with the coronavirus situation included this interesting sidelight: “Lawmakers race to respond to outbreak; Trump comes to Hill”.

[…] Meanwhile, lawmakers were given new instructions on how to protect themselves at the Capitol, with the House’s attending physician asking them to stop shaking hands or touching people during greetings — he recommended the split-fingers Star Trek greeting instead.

(14) AMAZON’S LOTR ADAPTATION. Don’t let Yahoo! fool you – they don’t know when it’s going to air. They know some other facts, however — “The Lord of the Rings TV show release date, cast, trailer and everything we know so far about the Amazon Prime series”.

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to find out more about the Lord of the Rings TV show. Amazon’s series – the rights for which are rumoured to have cost the streaming service $250 million – may not yet have a release date, but there’s plenty of information out there: cast members, filming location, and news of a second season renewal have all been revealed.

Whether you’re a Tolkien diehard or someone who’s just eager to head back to Middle-Earth after watching the movies, we’ll break down what to expect from the Lord of the Rings TV show below. To Mordor!

(15) GET AN EARFUL. The GraphicAudio trailer makes Wasted Space, Vol. 1 sound pretty appealing.

Billy Bane is a prophet who got it all wrong, and the galaxy has been burning ever since. All he wants is to waste away in the darkest corner of space with his best pal Dust, a supercharged Fuq bot. But when a new prophet comes calling, Billy is summoned to save the galaxy he’s at least partially responsible for destroying.

Too bad he couldn’t care less.

Michael Moreci (Roche Limit, Wonder Woman, Black Star Renegades) and Hayden Sherman (The Few, Cold War, John Carter: The End) have thrown Philip K. Dick in a blender with Preacher. Take a sip and get wasted.

(16) AHMED’S LATEST. Coming from Marvel in June:

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1

Written by SALADIN AHMED; Art by RYAN KELLY; Cover by ALEX ROSS

In the heart of the Civil War event, a human story unfolds. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing his best to do the job with honor—but is that even possible? A young, low-level Super Hero, trying to help his neighbors—but that’s not even legal any more. The two come together in a story that’ll test their commitment, ideals, hopes, and dreams.

Featuring Captain America, Giant-Man, Maria Hill, and more, Kurt Busiek recruits Hugo-Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed and all-star Ryan Kelly to uniquely retell this iconic Marvel story.

(17) DON’T LOSE THAT NUMBER. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Evidently, speculative fiction is gaining traction within many music communities. William Gibson was asked by Wire Magazine, which is one of the leading underground music magazines (behind a paywall), to take part in the Invisible Jukebox and identify a series of recordings by ear alone.

Invisible Jukebox: William Gibson: Can the visionary science fiction author hack The Wire’s mystery record selection? Tested by Emily Bick…

Steely Dan

Kid Charlemagne

[(from The Royal Scam [ABC 1976]).  

“Kid Charlemagne. I have it on my iPhone.

You’re a real Steely Dan fan, right?

Yeah, I was a Steely Dan fan from the day the 45 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” came out and continue to be this day. Lyrically, it was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and it continues to be. Back in the later  80s I would be in the supermarket shopping. Sometimes I’d be the only male shopper, and “Hey Nineteen” would come on the Muzak. And so I’m listening to this, and looking around me are all these lovely young mothers, and I’m thinking holy shit, does nobody scan the stuff for what the lyrics mean, because this is the most deliberately sexually perverse and shocking material. Sometimes I hear younger people say, “Oh, Steely Dan. Everything’s been sanded off. It’s all smooth, it doesn’t sound like human beings are making it.” And then when you listen to the lyrics….

They got their name from a double-headed dildo, so you really can’t expect much else.

Yeah, that’s true. 

(19) DINO SAVINGS TIME. Gizmodo held a shell up to their ear, and guess what they heard?“Days on Earth Used to Be 30 Minutes Shorter, Ancient Shell Suggests”.

….That days were shorter tens of millions of years ago is hardly a revelation. The new study is important in that it improves the accuracy of pre-existing estimates, while providing a new way of studying the past.

“Previous estimates were based on counting daily laminae [growth layers] similar to the ones we did chemical analyses on,” de Winter told Gizmodo. “This [previous] counting yielded roughly the same number of days per year, but with different countings yielding differences up to 10 days due to human error and the difficulty in recognizing daily layers by eye.”

Key to the research was a single fossil shell belonging to Torreites sanchezi, a rudist clam. Now extinct, rudists were shaped like boxes, tubes, and rings, and they filled an ecological niche currently occupied by coral reefs. T. sanchezi grew very quickly as far as hinged, or bivalve, mollusks are concerned, exhibiting thin layers of daily growth rings.

(20) EVOLUTION IN ACTION. The satellite Pixel’d yesterday for its movie camera also does hot stills: “Anak Krakatau: Finnish radar satellite eyes tsunami volcano”.

Here’s a new view of Anak Krakatau, the collapsed Indonesian volcano that generated the 22 December tsunami that devastated local coastlines.

The picture was assembled from radar images acquired on Wednesday by the ICEYE-X2 satellite.

This is a small innovative spacecraft from Finland that will soon be part of a large orbiting network of sensors.

The volcano continues to evolve, following the cone’s catastrophic failure.

Its original height of 340m was reduced to just 110m in the disaster, but further eruptions have since begun to re-model the remnant structure.

“This image indicates the edifice is in a building phase, with the crater no longer connected to the sea as it was in images from a week or so ago,” observed Prof Andy Hooper from Leeds University, UK.

(21) ANOTHER STEP. “Second patient cured of HIV, say doctors”.

A man from London has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV, doctors say.

Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy.

He was not cured by the HIV drugs, however, but by a stem-cell treatment he received for a cancer he also had, the Lancet HIV journal reports.

The donors of those stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Mr Castillejo, protection against HIV.

(22) GENRE L.A. At CrimeReads, Katie Orphan goes to one of the last roadhouses in the L.A. area and visits the house where Mildred Pierce was filmed in“Searching for James M. Cain’s Los Angeles”, an excerpt from her book Read Me, L.A.: Exploring L.A.’s Book Culture.

… In The Postman Always Rings Twice, for example, the fictional Twin Oaks Tavern is at the center of much of the action. The story in Cain’s debut novel revolves around the tavern’s owner, Nick Papadakis (“the Greek”), his younger wife, Cora, and Frank Chambers, a drifter they hire to help out at the place; Cora and Frank get involved and conspire to kill the Greek. The Twin Oaks is a roadhouse in the mountains above L.A., with a gas station and motel joining a restaurant to make Papadakis’s little empire. Places like that were common in the 1930s and ’40s but aren’t today, so the few that are left are treasures. Newcomb’s Ranch is one of them.

Newcomb’s opened in what is now the Angeles National Forest in 1939, only a few years after Cain wrote Postman. It’s a cheery, ranch-style wooden building set among pines, on winding Angeles Crest Highway about an hour north of Glendale, where the Papadakises would travel to do their shopping.

Newcomb’s Ranch is a popular weekend destination for motorcyclists who stop for lunch after roaring up Angeles Crest Highway, and I enjoyed the drive up as much as they do. It’s a gorgeous journey into the San Gabriel Mountains; if you go in winter, you might be fortunate enough to encounter trees flocked with snow and low-hanging clouds settling around the peaks.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/16/20 I Scroll. The Pixels Take The Same Shape As A Previous Title. All Scroll. O The Embarrassment

(1) FOR WANT OF A NAIL. A Miss Manners column linked here earlier in the month has now made its appearance in the Washington Post“Miss Manners: ‘Losers’ party’ goes from bad to worse”. The comments have led a few hundred people to File 770’s post “GRRM on the Hugo Losers Party”.

Dear Miss Manners: I was nominated for an award, which I did not win — and that’s fine!

Before the awards ceremony, all nominees were given an invitation to the “losers’ party” after the ceremony. The party was off-site, and we (losing nominees and our plus-ones) were taken there in buses.

I was on the second bus, and when we arrived, we found out that entry into the party venue had been cut off due to capacity concerns. Our bus driver refused to take us back to the original venue, and we were all left standing in the street on a chilly evening, wearing our nice clothes — “we” being at least 50 people….

(2) BACK TO BACK. Nerdbot points out another remarkable example of what you cn do with tech today: “Here’s RDJ & Tom Holland As Doc And Marty In Back To The Future”.

Deepfake videos never cease to amaze me. They do such an amazing job that it’s hard to imagine that they aren’t really performing the part. Now EZRyderX47 on YouTube has created a mash up of Back to the Future with none other than our favorite Marvel dynamic, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland. Check out the film down below.

(3) SWEAR IN THE PANEL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Anti-solar panel can generate electricity at night, researchers say”Inverse has the story.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis explain in a new paper that was just published in the journal ACS Photonics that if you want to create a solar panel that generates electricity at night, then you just have to create one that operates the exact opposite way solar panels work during the day. It’s being referred to as the “anti-solar panel.”

Solar panels are cold compared to the Sun, so they absorb the Sun’s light and turn it into energy. Space is very cold, so if you point a panel on Earth that is comparatively warm toward it, it will radiate heat as invisible infrared light. This allows you to generate electricity by capturing that power. The paper claims such a device could generate about a quarter of the electricity at night that a normal solar panel generates during the day.

Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis who is an author of the paper, tells Inverse that whether it’s a solar panel or this anti-solar panel, these things are essentially just “heat engines.”

(Music to cue up: Flanders and Swann, “…heat can’t pass from the cooler to the hotter” from their “First & Second Law” (of thermodynamics, not robotics.)

And here’s a dramatic (and dramatized) (not sung) version: “First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics”

Finally, here’s a charming version via Oberlin! “First and Second Laws — Scofield, Lemberger, and Owen”

Oberlin College Physics Professors John H. Scofield and Rob Owen along with OC senior physics major Ben Lemberger (piano) perform Flanders and Swann’s “First and Second Laws” for intro physics class on May 7, 2014.

(4) FOLLOWED BY A SECRET PANEL. “13 things you didn’t know about Ray Bradbury” from RayBradbury.com.

2

The Secret Panel

Not only did Bradbury create fantastical worlds with pen and paper, he also lived in a surreal world of his own creation. His Beverly Hills office (just like his home basement office) was filled with items that tickled his imagination: cartoons, figurines, stuffed animals, masks, and magic. In fact, Bradbury was so often lost in his own imaginary world that he would forget the demands of reality. He regularly forgot the keys to his office, but he solved this minor inconvenience by using a secret sliding panel.

(5) SFF AT BOOKEXPO 2020. Machado and Roanhorse will be there: “Reedpop Announces Annual Adult Book & Author Breakfast Lineup at BookExpo 2020”.

The lineup for BookExpo’s Adult Book & Author Breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, May 28, has been announced. Zerlina Maxwell, radio host and MSNBC political analyst, will host and discuss her new book The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide (Hachette Books), which will hit stores just a few days earlier, on May 26.

Joining Maxwell will be United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, there to present When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, a Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry featuring the work of more than 160 poets from nearly 100 indigenous nations; bestselling author Carmen Maria Machado, who will discuss her upcoming comic book debut, The Low, Low Woods, a new horror comic from Joe Hill’s imprint at DC; U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.), onstage to showcase her forthcoming memoir, This Is What America Looks Like, arriving from HarperCollins on May 26; and fantasy author Rebecca Roanhorse, there to discuss her novel Black Sun, the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy about four warring matriarchies vying for power, to be published by Gallery/Saga Press.

(6) REMINGTON OBIT. Artist Barbara Remington, whose work included iconic covers of paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has died at the age of 90 reports Comicbook.com.

…Remington is best known for illustrating Ballantine Books’ paperback editions of Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which began to be published in 1965 and quickly gained a cult status amongst readers. According to The New York Times, Remington died on January 23rd in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, with her longtime friend John Bromberg citing breast cancer as the cause of death.

As Remington revealed in an interview with Andwerve, her work on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit covers came about on a very tight deadline.

“Ballantine was in a hurry to get these books out right away,” Remington revealed. “When they commissioned me to do the artwork, I didn’t have the chance to see either book, though I tried to get a copy through my friends. So I didn’t know what they were about. I tried finding people that had read them, but the books were not readily available in the states, and so I had sketchy information at best.”

“When Tolkien saw the fruit tree, he asked, ‘What are pumpkins doing in a tree?’ Of course they weren’t pumpkins, but he wasn’t sure what they were,” Remington added. “He was especially perplexed about the lion on the cover because there are no lions in the story. He requested that Ballantine remove the lions from the cover, so they painted them over for later books.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 16, 1939 Chuck Crayne. An important conrunner who died before his time. (I’m quoting Mike there, so please don’t complain.) He was a LASFS member who was most active during the Sixties and Seventies. You can read Mike’s full post on him here. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 16, 1951 William Katt, 69. Ralph Hinkley, the lead of The Greatest American Hero. A series I know I watched and loved at the time.  In December 1975, he auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker But didn’t get the role obviously. 
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 67. Let’s praise the man who’s created the finest online community for SFF fandom that one could possibly hope for. One that entertains and educates us. It’s no wonder that he has won the Best Fan Writer Hugo four times and File 770 Itself has won the Best Fanzine Hugo seven times. Happy Birthday Mike!
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I’m certain I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas, are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 16, 1957 Ardwight Chamberlain, 63. The voice of Kosh on Babylon 5. And that tickles me, as I don’t think they credited it during the series, did they? Most of his other voice work English dubbing versions of Japanese anime including Digimon: Digital Monsters and The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island.
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 56. The Ninth Doctor who’s my third favorite among the new ones. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Thor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre. 
  • Born February 16, 1968 Warren  Ellis, 52. I think Planetary is bloody brilliant as is Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan. His work on The Authority is not to be sniffed at either, nor should we overlook Iron Man: Extremis. He’s got two rather superb novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, that are not genre but which if if you like hard-boiled detective fiction, I’ll strongly recommend both.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KIDS TODAY? Grayson Quay reminds readers about “The Time C.S. Lewis Went Full ‘Get Off My Lawn’” at The American Conservative.

…That essay, “Delinquents in the Snow” [1957] from the collection God in the Dock, begins with Lewis griping about neighborhood kids who constantly bother him by singing terrible renditions of Christmas carols at his door and expecting money in return. Then, with increasing crankiness, he tells the reader that these are probably the same kids who broke into his shed and stole some stuff recently. Other than Lewis’s intuition, there’s no connection between the carolers and the discourse on criminal justice that follows. Like I said, it’s a weird essay.

Basically, Lewis is angry that the kids who robbed his shed were let off easy by the court and will therefore likely grow up to commit “burglary, arson, rape, and murder.” Without any additional evidence, he extrapolates this single event into a nationwide trend and predicts that unless something is done about it, the result will be either an outbreak of vigilante violence or a full-scale revolution.

“Delinquents in the Snow” is full of cringe-inducing moments. Lewis insists on referring to the female judge who gave the delinquents a mere slap on the wrist as “the Elderly Lady,” suggesting a lack of respect for women in positions of authority. He also writes that “when the State ceases to protect me from hooligans I might reasonably, if I could, catch and trash them myself.” The mental image of a 59-year-old university don beating up children would be funny if I weren’t afraid he actually meant it. There’s even a hint of Atlas Shrugged in there when he says that by failing to adequately punish crime, society risks pushing middle-class “bearers of what little moral, intellectual, or economic vitality remains” to the point at which “they will snap.”

(10) CZECH THAT OUT. Glenn Erickson remembers “Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman” at Trailers from Hell

…t first it seemed too good to be true, a movie all about the ‘fabulous’ aventures of one of the two authors I’d read at age nine, Jules Verne. I was visiting my Aunt Virginia (yes, for real) and she dropped me off alone at the theater in Las Vegas. First, I had to sit through a dumb circus movie called Jumbo, probably Bimbo the Great. But then came a movie that looked like a cartoon, but not really. At first I was really disappointed, as were some of the kids in the theater with me. But after just a couple of minutes we were entranced. It wasn’t what we expected from a cartoon, or a movie. It was like vintage book illustrations come to life. Every new scene was a wonderment that went beyond the question, ‘how’d they do that?’   We were transported to the other side of movie reality, into something like a moving dream. Who knew that this movie and the brilliant sci-fi picture Voyage to the End of the Universe came from a Communist country?  All the names were Anglicized. I had heard of Czechoslovakia in 1962 only because somebody said it had been invaded in a war newsreel.

(11) GREEN LANTERN. DC press release: “Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 Arrives May 20, 2020”. Tagline: “Comics’ Brightest Celebrate Eighty Years of Galactic Peacekeeping.”

“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”

Since the first Green Lantern was introduced in All-American Comics #16 in May 1940 by artist Martin Nodell and writer Bill Finger, the Green Lanterns have been fan-favorite characters with millions of comic book fans….

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, DC will be publishing Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 on May 20, 2020. Join us to see tales of all of the universe’s most legendary Green Lanterns: Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, plus appearances from other cosmic favorites!

In addition to a dynamic cover by Liam Sharp, fans and collectors can also look forward to eight variant covers spotlighting Lanterns throughout the decades, drawn by some of comics’ premier artists….

(12) HIGHLANDS AND OUTLANDS. In the Washington Post, Erika Mailman says that many fans of Outlander enjoy visiting the 42 sites in Scotland where filming took place during the first four seasons of the show and gives a guide to where the show films and what fans can see when they visit. “The Outlander Effect: The popular book and TV series is increasing travel to these Scottish sites”.

Best-selling author Diana Gabaldon hadn’t even set foot in Scotland when she began the book that launched the popular Outlander series. But she’s made the country so attractive to readers — and to watchers of the Starz television program, which resumes with Season 5 on Sunday — that the Scottish government’s tourism agency gave her an honorary Thistle Award for generating a flood of visitors to the fens, glens, jagged mountains and soft jade landscapes she so alluringly describes. According to numbers from VisitScotland, Outlander has increased tourism by an average of 67 percent at the sites mentioned in the books or used in filming.

(13) ALL ABOARD. Food & Wine says “‘Harry Potter’ Fans Will Love the Napa Valley Wine Train’s New Murder Mystery Experience”.

…The “Witches and Wizards” theme will take place on Saturday, October 24, and guests are encouraged to wear witch hats and wizard robes. (If you have a wand, you might as well bring that too.) Like the rest of the murder mystery experiences on the train, it includes a ride on the train, “murder mystery dinner theatre,” and a multi-course gourmet meal, which is prepared by executive chef Donald Young…

(14) AN ANTI-SMARTWATCH? That’s one description — “Activate This ‘Bracelet of Silence,’ and Alexa Can’t Eavesdrop” in the New York Times.

Last year, Ben Zhao decided to buy an Alexa-enabled Echo speaker for his Chicago home. Mr. Zhao just wanted a digital assistant to play music, but his wife, Heather Zheng, was not enthused. “She freaked out,” he said.

Ms. Zheng characterized her reaction differently. First she objected to having the device in their house, she said. Then, when Mr. Zhao put the Echo in a work space they shared, she made her position perfectly clear:“I said, ‘I don’t want that in the office. Please unplug it. I know the microphone is constantly on.’”

Mr. Zhao and Ms. Zheng are computer science professors at the University of Chicago, and they decided to channel their disagreement into something productive. With the help of an assistant professor, Pedro Lopes, they designed a piece of digital armor: a “bracelet of silence” that will jam the Echo or any other microphones in the vicinity from listening in on the wearer’s conversations.

The bracelet is like an anti-smartwatch, both in its cyberpunk aesthetic and in its purpose of defeating technology. A large, somewhat ungainly white cuff with spiky transducers, the bracelet has 24 speakers that emit ultrasonic signals when the wearer turns it on. The sound is imperceptible to most ears, with the possible exception of young people and dogs, but nearby microphones will detect the high-frequency sound instead of other noises.

(15) APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAYFLOWERS. “Mudlarks Scour the Thames to Uncover 2,000 Years of Secrets” in the New York Times.

From ribald tokens from London’s Roman past to hints of the Mayflower’s fate, mudlarks discover the story of a constantly changing London — but only at low tide….

“What you are looking for are straight lines and perfect circles,” she said, her eyes scanning the surface of the mud for man-made artifacts. “They sort of stand out from the natural shapes.”

Within minutes she had spotted fragments of a 17th-century jug, the half-face of a bearded man visible in the clay.

The name — mudlark — was first given to the Victorian-era poor who scrounged for items in the river to sell, pulling copper scraps, rope and other valuables from the shore. But more recently the label has stuck to London’s hobbyists, history buffs and treasure hunters who scour the river edge searching for objects from the city’s past.

Mudlarking’s popularity has grown steadily in recent years, driven in part by social media communities where enthusiasts share their finds, and tour groups that offer a trudge through the shards of history’s castoffs.

…“I like just to collect what the river decides it’s going to leave on that day,” Ms. Maiklem said. “It’s that element of luck.”

But sometimes there are more significant finds, like the first “spintria” found in Britain. Spintriae are Roman bronze tokens, with depictions of sexual acts on one face and a Roman numeral on the other, whose purpose remains uncertain.

And every tide reveals some of the city’s varied story: Roman coins, medieval badges worn by religious pilgrims, an elaborate 17th-century watch.

The Thames, the very reason people began settling in the city over 2,000 years ago, is one of the best preservers of London’s history. The river has been used many ways over the millenniums — as a highway, a source of food and, most important to mudlarks, as a dump.

(16) OLD VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kirk Douglas drinks coffee with Ray Bradbury, John Barry and John Frankenheimer in Japanese commercials

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

Pixel Scroll 1/30/20 Gentlemen, You Can’t Scroll In Here! This Is The Pixel Room!

(1) NEGATORY, GOOD BIDDY. Jason Davis of HarlanEllisonBooks.com issued a “Public Service Announcement” —

It has come to the attention of The Kilimanjaro Corporation that Armchair Fiction is marketing a book titled BIDDY AND THE SILVER MAN which is attributed to Harlan Ellison.

Harlan Ellison did not write
BIDDY AND THE SILVER MAN.

The misconception derives from a house pseudonym used by many contributors to Fantastic in the 1950s, and has been repeated in various bibliographies, including Harlan’s own website and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

During the first week of the Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project, I reviewed the story in the February 1957 issue of Fantastic (which Harlan had because it contained his legitimate offering, “World of Women”), and brought the story to his attention. Harlan unequivocally stated the story was not his, and rattled off a list of writers who might have been using that pseudonym at the time, though he didn’t recognize the story’s style.

Do not buy this book in the belief that Harlan Ellison wrote it. The Kilimanjaro Corporation is dealing with the matter now, but Susan Ellison and I don’t want any Ellison readers being duped.

We take this matter very seriously.


(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to join Alfie Award-winning writer Alexandra Erin for waffle fries (but no waffling) on Episode 114 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Hungry for good food and good conversation? Then join me and Alexandra Erin for lunch at The Grille at Runways in Hagerstown, Maryland on the latest episode of Eating the Fantastic.

Alexandra’s an always entertaining writer who was presented with an Alfie Award by George R. R. Martin at the Kansas City Worldcon for her often satirical fan writing, which includes such works such as John Scalzi Is Not A Very Popular Author And I Myself Am Quite Popular: How SJWs Always Lie About Our Comparative Popularity Levels.

Her ongoing fantasy serial, Tales of MU, is up to several million words, though even she’s uncertain of its current length. Her short stories have been collected in The Land of Passing Through (published in 2014) and First Dates, Last Calls (2019). Her Twitter feed has become extremely popular since 2016 for her incisive political commentary.

We discussed the way Mark Twain gave her permission to comment satirically on science fiction, the thoughts which went through her mind the night George R. R. Martin handed her that Alfie Award, her preferred role when playing Dungeons and Dragons, how she knew her Tales of MU saga was meant to go on for several million words, the way in which she’s transformed herself into a cyborg, how she knows when an idea is a poem vs. a short story vs. a serial, the one question I felt I could not ask her, advice for how not to get caught up in social media controversies, and much more.

(3) TALKING REALITY. NPR’s Leah Donnella interviews Tomi Adeyemi about “YA Fantasy Where The Oppression Is Real”.

For a young adult book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is pretty heavy. It’s set in a fantastical Nigeria, and is full of betrayal and loneliness, death and disorder. And, unlike the first volume in the series, this one leaves readers with a sense that there might not be a happy ending in sight.

The story follows teenage Zélie and her best friend (well, more like frenemy) Amari as they navigate disaster after disaster. Watching these characters sink deep into endless conflict is, at times, exhausting. They deal with safe havens being destroyed, the death of friends and family, and the realization that loved ones have lied to them. But in the midst of all the doom and gloom, Children of Virtue and Vengeance forces its young readers to confront real questions about the world: What distinguishes people from their enemies? Can friendships overcome race and class differences? Is the outcome of war ever worth the havoc?

I asked Adeyemi why she chose to get so dark in this sequel, and why she trusts her young readers to handle it. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity (and, heads up, it includes a couple of spoilers for book one.)

Zélie and Amari are both teenagers. And they’re very much written as teenagers. They are also both poised to be two of the most powerful people in their communities. How did you balance the fact that these are very young people dealing with huge social problems like starvation, structural racism and war?

I’ve always written the story I wanted to write. The youth of today isn’t sheltered from anything. They practice school shooting drills. They have the Internet. They see that Australia is on fire. They see that we’re on the brink of war with Iran. They know everything. They see everything. They’re more educated and globalized than probably any society that’s come before them.

Now, whether all that education is positive is like a separate discussion. But they’re dealing with a lot more and they’re exposed to a lot more. So there’s no need to filter that out of the stories. If anything, it makes it even more important to deal with these things in sort of a safe setting that they can pick apart and think about and discuss, because they are facing a lot of these things in their real lives.

(4) THE MUSIC GOES ROUND AND ROUND. WIRED got a look “Inside SpinLaunch, the Space Industry’s Best Kept Secret”. (Behind a paywall, but I was able to read the article, so who knows?)

Last summer, a secretive space company took up residence in a massive warehouse in the sun-soaked industrial neighborhood that surrounds Long Beach Airport. Reflections of turboprop planes flit across the building’s mirrored panes. Across the street a retro McDonnell Douglas sign perches above the aerospace giant’s former factory, and just around the corner Virgin Orbit is developing air-launched rockets.

It’s a fitting headquarters for SpinLaunch, a company breathing new life into the decades-old idea of using giant mechanical slings to hurl rockets into orbit. The man behind this audacious plan is the serial entrepreneur Jonathan Yaney. For years he ran SpinLaunch out of a former microprocessor plant in Silicon Valley, down the road from Google. Now the company is ready to open a proper rocket factory, where it will churn out launch vehicles and, if all goes well, take its first steps into the cosmos….

(5) BE COOL, NOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Nanoparticles are tiny by normal standards, but still pretty darn big in a quantum sense. Scientists claim to have used laser cooling to drop a nanoparticle with about 108 atoms to the lowest temperature allowed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. The article is in the magazine Science from the American Association for the Advancement of Science—the abstract is available on the magazine’s website, with links to buy the issue in print ($15) or get digital access to the single article ($30). Writing the popsci take for ScienceNews, Dr. Emily Conover says:

A tiny nanoparticle has been chilled to the max.

Physicists cooled a nanoparticle to the lowest temperature allowed by quantum mechanics. The particle’s motion reached what’s known as the ground state, or lowest possible energy level.

In a typical material, the amount that its atoms jostle around indicates its temperature. But in the case of the nanoparticle, scientists can define an effective temperature based on the motion of the entire nanoparticle, which is made up of about 100 million atoms. That temperature reached twelve-millionths of a kelvin, scientists report January 30 in Science.

Conover talked to Dr. Markus Aspelmeyer, one of the paper’s authors, & further writes:

Eventually, Aspelmeyer and colleagues aim to use cooled nanoparticles to study how gravity behaves for quantum objects, a poorly understood realm of physics. “This is the really long-term dream,” he says.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 30, 1981 The Incredible Shrinking Woman premiered. It was directed by Joel Schumacher in his first directing effort, and written by Jane Wagner. Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man was the basis of the script. The stellar cast consisted of  Lily Tomlin, Charles Grodin, Ned Beatty, John Glover, and Elizabeth Wilson. It was well-received and it gets a rating of 51% over at Rotten Tomatoes by reviewers.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 30, 1911 Hugh Marlowe. First let me note that he was first to play the title character in the very first radio version of The Adventures of Ellery Queen. No, it’s not even genre adjacent but neat none-the-less. As regards genre roles, he’s Tom Stevens in The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Dr. Russell A. Marvin in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. He was also Harold McPherson in Seven Days in May if you want to count that as genre. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 30, 1920 Michael Anderson. English Director best remembered for Around the World in 80 Days,  Logan’s Run, and perhaps not nearly as much for, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. Yes, I saw it. It was, errrr, interesting. He also directed The Martian Chronicles series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 30, 1924 Lloyd Alexander.  His most well-crafted work is The Chronicles of Prydain. Though drawn off Welsh mythology, they deviate from it in significant ways stripping it of much of its negativity.  To my belief, it is his only genre writing as I don’t hold the Westmark trilogy to actually be fantasy, just an an alternative telling of European history. Splitting cats hairs? Why not. He was also one of the founders of Cricket, an illustrated literary journal for children. The late illustrator Trina Schart Hyman whose art I lust after, errrr, adore was another founder. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 30, 1930 — Gene Hackman, 90. Lex Luthor in Superman: The Movie, Superman II and Superman IV. His first SFF role was in The Invaders series as an alien disguised as Tom Jessup, and that’s it except for the Superman films, and a minor role in Young Frankenstein as Blindman. Unless you count I Spy as genre…
  • Born January 30, 1941 Gregory Benford, 79. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion though I know some of you of have done so.  Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel which was actually was quite excellent. (Yes, I do read Baen Books). 
  • Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 65. I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended.
  • Born January 30, 1963 Daphne Ashbrook, 57. Grace Holloway, Companion to the Eighth Doctor. Need I say more? And yes, she kissed him. She’d show up as the title character in the “Melora” episode of Deep Space Nine, and she was Katherine Granger in the “A Knight in Shining Armor” episode of Knight Rider
  • Born January 30, 1973 Jordan Prentice, 47. Inside every duck, is a self-described person of short stature. In the case of Howard the Duck from the movie of the same name, one of those persons was him. He’s not in a lot of SFF roles after his performing debut there though he shows up next as Fingers Finnian in Wolf Girl, playing Sherrif Shelby in Silent But Deadly, Napoleon in Mirror Mirror and Nigel Thumb in The Night Before the Night Before Christmas.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BOWL ARRIVAL. Here’s Walmart’s excellent genre-laden Super Bowl commercial, a little early. [Via io9.]

Visitors are coming for the Super Bowl.? And they’re stopping by Walmart first, for groceries and beyond.

(10) SECOND THOUGHTS. NPR’s Juanita Giles is “Eating Crow With ‘Miss Peregrine’ — And Enjoying It”.

I’m going to eat a little crow.

You see, creepy things creep me out, and not in a good way.

…SO, several years ago, when Ransom Riggs debuted Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, I bought it, opened it, and shelved it right away. Perhaps if I had opened the book to any of the 352 pages other than page 115, it wouldn’t have languished for lo, these past nine years. But page 115 was all it took for me to put the book away for almost a decade. What’s on page 115 that prompted such a reaction? Cue the Mummenschanz mimes.

BUT, when the I had the opportunity to see Riggs as he kicked off his The Conference of the Birds tour, I had to give my two-year-old self a stern talking-to and get with the program. The Conference of the Birds is the fifth book in the Miss Peregrine series, so not only did I have to face page 115, I had some serious catching up to do. I would love to say I was really grown up about it, but I made sure to start reading in broad daylight.

(And I’m glad I did, because there’s another picture of the creepy clown kids on page 50.)

I was all set to grit my teeth, act my age, and get it over with.

But the STORY.

Boy, can Ransom Riggs tell a story. If he’d been stuck in rainy 1818 Switzerland with Lord Byron, and Mary and Percy Shelley and taken up Byron’s challenge to write a ghost story, Miss Peregrine would have given Frankenstein a run for its money.

I read the first three books in two days….

(11) PROPS TO HER. “Star Wars: The life of a props trainee on set” – a BBC interview.

“One of the wackiest things I made at work would definitely be a ‘space donut’. They were like normal donuts, but looked a bit more futuristic!”

Hanna Brar, a 24-year-old props assistant from Norwich, has only been working in the film industry for four years. But she already has some blockbusters under her belt.

She started out on Solo: A Star Wars Story as a trainee, and has since worked on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker as well as Disney’s upcoming Cruella de Vil movie starring Emma Stone.

“One day to the other, the work is so varied. In the latest Star Wars film, I could be doing anything from creating weapons or armour, to ageing different props.

“Sometimes, you’d be on the stages in the studios actually building the sets. It’s super intense, but I love it.”

(12) STOLEN PROPERTY RECOVERED. “Lord of the Rings police plea prompts Tolkien jibes”.

Police were inundated with Lord of the Rings jokes after posting an appeal looking for the owner of a “precious” piece of jewellery.

North Yorkshire Police seemed unaware of the JRR Tolkien connection when they shared photos of the “distinctive silver ring” on Facebook.

Thousands of people soon responded with gifs and memes referencing the famous fantasy novel and film series.

The force replied: “We obviously need to brush up on our movie knowledge.”

The ring, which features the Elven lettering seen in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, was found with property stolen from a house in York, last February.

Police shared a series of pictures on Facebook in the hope that someone would recognise the markings.

Facebook users responded telling police they needed to follow in the footsteps of Frodo Baggins and destroy the ring.

(13) FACE THE MUSIC. “Facebook settles facial recognition dispute” — Facebook settles but have they reformed?

Facebook has settled a long-running legal dispute about the way it scans and tags people’s photos.

It will pay $550m (£421m) to a group of users in Illinois, who argued that its facial recognition tool was in violation of the state’s privacy laws.

The case has been ongoing since 2015, and the settlement was announced in its quarterly earnings.

It comes as facial recognition use by the police, and in public spaces, comes under intense scrutiny.

The lawsuit against Facebook was given the go-ahead in 2018 when a federal judge ruled it could be heard as a class action (group) case. The appeals court disagreed with Facebook’s attempts to stop this, and in January the Supreme Court also declined to review its appeal.

The social network told the BBC: “We decided to pursue a settlement as it was in the best interests of our community and our shareholders to move past this matter.”

(14) FIRE BURN AND CAULDRON BUBBLE. “Sun’s surface seen in remarkable new detail” – BBC includes short video.

Behold the Sun’s convulsing surface at a level of detail never seen before.

The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope on Hawaii has released pictures that show features as small as 30km across.

This is remarkable when set against the scale of our star, which has a diameter of about 1.4 million km (870,000 miles) and is 149 million km from Earth.

The cell-like structures are roughly the size of the US state of Texas. They are convecting masses of hot, excited gas, or plasma.

The bright centres are where this solar material is rising; the surrounding dark lanes are where plasma is cooling and sinking.

DKIST is a brand new facility positioned atop Haleakal?, a 3,000m-high volcano on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Its 4m (13.1ft) primary mirror is the world’s largest for a solar telescope.

The observatory will be used to study the workings of the Sun. Scientists want fresh insights on its dynamic behaviour in the hope that they can forecast better its energetic outbursts – what is often referred to as “space weather”.

(15) MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH. In case you wondered about the outcome of an item reported here the other day, BBC says — “Two satellites in close shave over US city of Pittsburgh”.

Two satellites hurtling across the sky at nearly 33,000 mph (53,000 km/h) narrowly missed a collision over the US state of Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

The two objects “crossed paths without incident,” a spokesman for US Space Command told the AFP news agency….

(16) BUT WAIT – THERE’S MORE! “Space Traffic Is Surging, And Critics Worry There Could Be A Crash” – satellite 54, where are you?

A rocket from the commercial company SpaceX lifted off on Wednesday morning with some 60 satellites aboard. Once they reached low Earth orbit, the satellites were released and began to fan out like a deck of cards.

They follow predictable paths around the Earth, but along the way those paths can cross with other things in orbit — satellites from other companies, old rocket stages, loose bits of metal — and cause a catastrophic collision.

Some satellite operations experts say that all too often, only one thing stands in the way of disaster: an automated email alert sent to the inboxes of operators on the ground.

“That is crazy,” says Brian Weeden, director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, which promotes sustainability in space. “But that’s currently the status of things.”

Now Weeden and others feel it’s time for a hard look at the system for managing space traffic, which they think is ad hoc and ill-prepared for what’s to come. In just three launches since November, SpaceX has added nearly 200 satellites to a slice of the sky above Earth that’s already pretty congested. It plans to launch hundreds more this year, as does a rival company, OneWeb. Both companies say they are diligently complying with voluntary standards to minimize space debris, but critics say those standards simply aren’t adequate.

…The closest thing the world has to a space traffic control is the U.S. military’s 18th Space Control Squadron. “Currently, we have a catalog of approximately 26,000 objects,” says Diana McKissock, who helps oversee what the military calls “space situational awareness.” (That’s a fancy name for keeping tabs on everything up there that’s bigger than about the size of a softball.)

The military tracks all of it with a global network of radars and telescopes. It takes measurements and then feeds them into an old computer. “It was first designed in 1983, but the version that we currently use was considered operational in 1996,” McKissock says.

…For critics of the current system, the real issues come after possible collisions are identified. Once a warning message is sent, McKissock says, the military has no further role in what happens next. “There is nothing in place after we send those messages to ensure that people are making decisions that benefit the entire space community,” she says.

About six months ago, a SpaceX satellite and a European Space Agency satellite were predicted to have a close pass. SpaceX saw an initial email from the military and felt that the two satellites would probably speed by each other at a safe distance. The problem, says Weeden of the Secure World Foundation, was that there was a second email.

“There was a new email they got that had a much closer approach that somehow got trapped in a spam folder or just didn’t make it to the right people,” he says. “That was a problem.”

(17) MORTAL DIRECT TO VIDEO. Warner Bros. has dropped a trailer for Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge.

One of the most popular videogame franchises in history comes to animated life in “Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge,” an all-new, feature-length film produced by Warner Bros. Animation in coordination with NeatherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The film arrives from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting April 12, 2020, and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on April 28, 2020. Based on the worldwide hit game created by Ed Boon & John Tobias, “Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge” spotlights the once-in-a-generation tournament between the champions of Outworld and Earthrealm – a competition that will ultimately determine the fate of Earth and all its citizens. Lord Raiden, protector of Earthrealm, must gather the greatest fighters of his realm to defend it from the evil Shang Tsung in the battle to end all battles – Mortal Kombat!

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

AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of 2019

AbeBooks has posted a baker’s dozen of the most expensive items sold through their site in 2019. Topping the list is The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, $40,000, but genre works followed close behind.

Published by Bloomsbury, all seven volumes in deluxe bindings. All signed by J.K. Rowling. The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban are signed by artist Cliff Wright.

This was AbeBooks’ most expensive J.K. Rowling sale ever. The previous record was a true first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which sold for $37,000 in August 2005.

A set of unrestored first edition, first printings published by George Allen and Unwin between 1954 and 1955. All three volumes are in near fine condition. Epic high fantasy, the three volumes are The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]