Pixel Scroll 11/28/20 It’s Instant Scroll, Not Constantly Pixel

(1) GIBSON TOPS THIS LIST. The Times of London’s Simon Ings picked the five “Best sci-fi books of the year 2020” (behind a paywall). He rates William Gibson’s Agency the best of the year. The other four you’ll have to pay to find out.

(2) LOSCON ONLINE. This weekend’s Virtual Loscon 2020 Panel with Guests of Honor video is available, as are many more panels on Loscon’s YouTube channel.

Writer Guest Dr. Gregory Benford, our Artist Guest Jeff Sturgeon, and the Fan Guests of Honor Dennis and Kristine Cherry have all agreed to be there and look forward to next year. Hear from them in our deluxe virtual panel space this year, chatting with Loscon 47 chairman Scott Beckstead and Zoom Elf Susan Fox.

(3) BREEZYCON. Likewise, several of the panels from Breezycon, this year’s online replacement for Windycon, can be found at Windycon’s YouTube channel.

They include: Breezycon Opening Remarks, Software for your Home Rapid Prototyping Technology, 3D Printers and Lasers and CNC Mills, Oh My, Before Hastings, The Worldcon is Coming to Chicago, Ray VanTilburg Studio Tour, Characters Motivations in a Post Scarcity World, and Staying Productive as a Writer Through Lockdown (the last “About the experience of being a writer during the pandemic and its effects on one’s process and work” with panelist: Seanan McGuire and moderator: Evan Reeves.)

(4) WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR IDEAS? This time the author can tell you. “Owl Be Home For Christmas” – Diane Duane had to write it.

Sometimes work and life come at you fast, in tandem.

I was taking a break from work on Tales of the Five 3: The Librarian last week, and (as I do frequently during the day) having a look at Twitter, when something unusual came across my dashboard: this.

So: a status report. I’m well into the body of the story now. My estimate at the moment is that it will run about 20.000 words. (If I need more, I’ll take more: but I refuse to push a story into being longer than it needs to for mere length’s sake.)

My intention is to drop the story on both Amazon and at Ebooks.Direct in the early evening (7PM-ish US/EST) of December 2, 2020, to coincide with the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center. I’ll tweet the Amazon and EBD links then, and I’ll add purchase links / widgets on this blog post/page: so you might want to bookmark it. If you’re a Twitter user, you can also keep an eye on the #OwlBeHomeForChristmas hashtag there—I’ll use it to post the occasional update between now and Wednesday.

(5) AN INSIDE LOOK WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has started a series of video commentaries about his Babylon 5 episodes for subscribers to his Patreon at the $10/mo and above level.

So despite my utter horror at the prospect of appearing on-camera, because there’s always someone, somewhere (usually in Bolivia) who points at the image and screams, “That’s him! That’s the guy that did it!”, I’ve begun doing exclusive video reactions/commentaries to Babylon 5 episodes for my Patrons at Starfury level or above.

The first to have gone up is “The Parliament of Dreams,” which — because I’m doing a commentary on the full episode, and can’t put that online, has to be done as a home-sync, meaning viewers cue up the episode at home — has gone over remarkably well.

The plan is to do commentaries that are not on the DVDs, but in some cases there will be the same episodes because time has lent a new perspective to the show as I look back on it. So they will be either new or very different from what came before.

Patrons get to vote on which episode I do next. The current poll is Infection, And the Sky Full of Stars, and Signs and Portents.

Should these continue to go well and not lead to unwanted visitations by Homeland Security, I will likely also start to do some on Sense8 and some of the movies.

(6) FAN FITNESS. “Stroll With the Stars: Home Edition Fall 2020” is another ingenious virtual workaround of a convention tradition.

We been Strolling With the Stars at Worldcon for over a decade now, giving fans a chance to spend some quiet time with their favorite authors, artists and editors, while getting some fresh air.

We still can’t meet in person right now… but we can do what we did in the spring, a daily series of short strolls-at-home here on Facebook Live. Tune in to see what’s up in the lives of some of your favorite sff creators… how they’re dealing with what has sadly become The New Normal.

Join us at 5PM EDT every day, beginning November 27! (Or if you can’t make it live, watch the video right here afterwards.)

  • Sunday, Nov 29 — Scott Edelman
  • Monday, Nov 30 — Gerald Brandt
  • Tuesday, Dec 1 — Toni Weisskopf
  • Wednesday, Dec 2 — Alex Dawson
  • Thursday, Dec 3 — Tom Doyle
  • Friday, Dec 4 —Jody Lynn Nye
  • Saturday, Dec 5 —John Kessel
  • Sunday, Dec 6 — Ellen Kushner
  • Monday, Dec 7 — Justin Barba
  • Tuesday, Dec 8 — Alma Alexander
  • Wednesday, Dec 9 — Steven H Silver
  • Thursday, Dec 10 — Lee Murray
  • Friday, Dec 11 — Brianna Wu  & Frank Wu
  • Saturday, Dec 12 — Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen
  • Sunday, Dec 13 — Gay & Joe Haldeman
  • Monday, Dec 14 — Kate Baker
  • Tuesday, Dec 15 — Sheila Williams
  • Wednesday, Dec 16 — Troy Carrol Bucher
  • Thursday, Dec 17 — TBD
  • Friday, Dec 18 — Catherynne Valente
  • Saturday, Dec 19 — Valya Dudycz Lupescu & Stephen Segal
  • Sunday, Dec 20 — James Patrick Kelly

(7) PHULISHNESS. ”The Myth and the Phule: Writing with Robert Asprin” – at the Mythaxis Review, Eric Del Carlo recalls the experience of collaborating with a legend.

Everyone in the French Quarter of New Orleans traded in bullshit. Not the tourists. Well, yes the tourists too. But whatever self-aggrandizing malarkey they brought to town was drastically upstaged by their stupidity, usually taking form as epic drinking fails.

But this guy… No. He’d been vouched for. He was who he said he was.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Asprin.” I shook his hand in the Quarter bar. He lived in the Quarter; I did too. Nothing to do at night but hit the bars.

It was a little of that slowed-down awe of a car accident. I had shelved this man’s books in bookstores I’d worked in. Now I was waiting tables in the tourist feeding frenzy of pre-Katrina New Orleans. I also wrote, in his same genres. Science fiction, fantasy. It was all I wanted to do with my life. But you don’t say that, not to a man who didn’t have to trade in the local currency of bullshit to amplify himself, who could just be who he was, indisputably. That I hadn’t read his immensely popular humorous Myth or Phule series didn’t matter. I understood his significance, his stature.

I started calling him Bob because everyone else did. Some Quarter bars were for locals, and my wife and I went to these, and Robert Asprin would be there, inhabiting a stool, dishing out jokes, witty banter, stories. I was most interested in the stories, anecdotes populated by other famous writers in the field. Harry Harrison. Spider Robinson.

It eventually came out to Bob that I wrote, that I had a good number of small press sales under my belt. Well, so what, compared to what he’d accomplished? But he expressed an interest. He himself had been out of the game for some while. Years. Writer’s block, issues with the IRS. Nonetheless we sat side by side at the bar—he with Irish whiskey, rum and Coke for me—and I enthused about the wonder of writing, the pure elation of putting words together….

(8) TWO HUNDED YEARS AGO. The New Yorker launched “A Quest to Discover America’s First Science-Fiction Writer”. Here’s their favorite candidate.

On November 22, 1820, the New York Evening Post ran a perfunctory book ad that was none too particular in its typesetting:

WILEY & HALSTED, No. 3 Wall street, have just received SYMZONIA, or a voyage to the internal world, by capt. Adam Seaborn. Price $1.

As literary landmarks go, it’s not quite Emerson greeting Whitman at the start of a great career. But this humble advert may herald the first American science-fiction novel. Although one might point to the crushingly dull “A Flight to the Moon,” from 1813, that text is more of a philosophical dialogue than a story, and what little story it has proves to be just a dream. “Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery” is boldly and unambiguously sci-fi. The book takes a deeply weird quasi-scientific theory and runs with it—or, more accurately, sails with it, all the way to Antarctica.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1948 – Seventy-two years ago this month, Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke was first published in the short-lived Startling Stories zine which was edited by Sam Merwin, Jr.  Earle Bergey provided the cover illustration for this novel which has been continuously in print ever since in both in hard copy and now from the usual digital suspects, in three editions no less. A sequel novel was done in 1990 by him and Gregory Benford called Beyond the Fall of Night.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 28, 1685 – Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve.  She published La Belle et la Bête in 1740, the oldest known telling of Beauty and the Beast.  During her life she was known for other works, particularly The Gardener of Vincennes (1753).  In fact, you should pardon the expression, it’s complicated, as Brian Stableford discusses in NY Review of SF 338.  (Died 1755) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1757 – William Blake.  Four dozen of his poems are ours; many of his graphics.  Here is The Ancient of Days.  Here is the demiurge Urizen praying.  Here is Jacob’s Ladder.  Here is The Raising of Lazarus.  (Died 1827) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1783 Washington Irving. Best remembered for his short stories “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, both of which appear in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. collection. The latter in particular has been endlessly reworked downed the centuries into genre fiction including the recent Sleepy Hollow series. (Died 1859.) (CE)
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 74. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece even if the second has its moments, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, he’s done but the only one I can say I recall and was impressed was his Legends of Tomorrow’s “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As a Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day.  (CE)
  • Born November 28, 1939 – Walter Velez.  A hundred sixty covers, half a dozen interiors.  Outside our field, album covers, commercial and fine art.  Here is Seetee.  Here is Lord Darcy.  Here is Demon Blues.  Here is How the Ewoks Saved the Trees.  Here is The Dual Nature of Gravity.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 68. Both of her major SF roles involve robots. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse though I can’t remember if the consensus here was that it was genre or genre adjacent. (CE);
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 58. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne Alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder. (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1979 – Sarah Perry, Ph.D., age 41.  For us three novels, one a Waterstones Book of the Year, another an East Anglia Book of the Year; one shorter story.  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  Outside our field, Naipaul Prize for travel writing.  [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 39. Her main SFF film is as the title character of Adèle Blanc-Sec in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec as directed by Luc Besson. Anybody watched the uncensored English version that came out on Blu-ray? She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short. (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 33. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in both of the Guardians of The Galaxy films and in later MCU films, and Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Jumanji: The Next Level. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” at Renovation (2011) and “The Doctor’s Wife” at Chicon 7 (2012). (CE) 
  • Born November 28, 1988 – Daniel Cohen, 32.  Four novels; Coldmaker an Amazon Best-Seller.  Saxophonist. Has read The Old Man and the SeaThe Phantom TollboothThe Stars My Destination.  [JH]
  • Born November 28, 1992 – Shelly Li, 28.  Arriving from China and learning English, she had seven stories published in Nature, nine more, by the time of this interview during her freshman year at Duke.  [JH]

(11) KEEPING THE BLEEP IN TREK. At “Integrated Outtakes”, they “improve” Star Trek episodes by putting back the mistakes. The link is to a playlist. An example is embedded below.

Sometimes bloopers, when edited back into the finished episodes, can add a bit of humanity to characters. Sometimes they just add a bit of absurdity. Both are good.

(12) UTOPIA CANCELLED. “Amazon’s Utopia Canceled After One Season”. Vulture thinks the show was a little too spot-on.

Between the dark conspiracy theories, violence, global pandemic, and impending apocalypse, it would seem Amazon Prime Video’s Utopia was the wrong show at the exact wrong moment. That, or everyone just had a lot going on this fall. Either way, according to Deadline, the streaming platform has canceled the series, adapted by Gone Girl author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn from the 2013 British series of the same name, after one season. The show premiered on the service on September 25.

(13) YEP, I CLICKED. Jess Nevins shamelessly conflates the ideas of “fandom” and “science fiction fandom” to reassign sf fandom’s origins to the women readers of Wild West pulp magazines. (Thread starts here.) Did Gernsback imitate someone else’s successful magazine marketing idea? That doesn’t mean sf fandom wasn’t started through the efforts of Amazing. Nor should it be overlooked that the idea of “fandom” flows from a whole collection of tributaries (see Teresa Nielsen Hayden, below.)   

And Teresa Nielsen Hayden wades right in:

There’s a lot more to learn in TNH’s 2002 post “Lost fandoms” at Making Light.

(14) TITLE BOUT. What won the Diagram Prize? Let The Guardian be the first to tell you: “A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path wins oddest book title of the year”.

A Dog Pissing at the Edge of a Path has beaten Introducing the Medieval Ass to win the Diagram prize for oddest book title of the year.

Both books are academic studies, with the winning title by University of Alberta anthropologist Gregory Forth. It sees Forth look at how the Nage, an indigenous people primarily living on the islands of Flores and Timor, understand metaphor, and use their knowledge of animals to shape specific expressions. The title itself is an idiom for someone who begins a task but is then distracted by other matters.

Runner-up Introducing the Medieval Ass, sees the University of Melbourne’s medieval historian Kathryn L Smithies explore “the ass’s enormous socio-economic and cultural significance in the middle ages”. Other contenders included Classical Antiquity in Heavy Metal Music, Lawnmowers: An Illustrated History and The Slaughter of Farmed Animals: Practical Ways of Enhancing Animal Welfare.

… “I thought it would be a closer race, but A Dog Pissing is practically a perfect Venn diagram of an ideal winner,” said Tom Tivnan, the prize coordinator and managing editor of the Bookseller. He said it combined “the three most fecund Diagram prize territories: university presses (a tradition dating back to the first champ, 1978’s University of Tokyo-published Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice); animals (like 2012’s Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop or 2003’s The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories); and bodily functions (such as 2013’s How to Poo on a Date and 2011’s Cooking with Poo).”

Founded by Trevor Bounford and the late Bruce Robertson in 1978 ‘as a way to stave off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair,’ the Diagram Prize has had a home at the Bookseller and with legendary diarist Horace Bent since 1982. The winner is decided by a public vote.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Mandalorian” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies note that not only does The Mandalorian have enough comedians in supporting roles to be “the best alternate Saturday Night Live cast ever” but as a bonus you get Werner Herzog playing himself saying, “I see nothing but death and chaos.”

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Kathryn Sullivan, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Steven H Silver, Danny Sichel, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/11/20 How Do You Turn The Duck Off?

(1) COMIC-CON ONLINE. More information has been released about the replacement for the annual San Diego event: “Comic-Con@Home Sets July Dates”. As Greg Weir joked on Facebook, “The virtual lines will be enormous.”

Comic-Con@Home was first teased in early May with a short video announcement and a promise of details to come. Pop culture enthusiasts will note that this initiative joins the Comic-Con Museum’s virtual endeavor, Comic-Con Museum@Home, already ongoing.

Although conditions prevent celebrating in person, the show, as they say, must go on. With Comic-Con@Home, SDCC hopes to deliver the best of the Comic-Con experience and a sense of its community to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in all aspects of pop culture. Plans for Comic-Con@Home include an online Exhibit Hall complete with everyone’s favorite exhibitors offering promotions, specials, and limited-edition products unique to the celebration. As well, Comic-Con@Home promises exclusive panels and presentations about comics, gaming, television, film, and a wide variety of topics from publishers, studios, and more. As if that weren’t enough, Comic-Con@Home will also have a Masquerade, gaming, and many other activities in which fans can participate from their own homes.

Although Comic-Con@Home will provide badges for fans to print and wear proudly, all aspects of the initiative are free and there are no limits to how many can attend…. Comic-Con@Home will be held on the same dates as the previously canceled Comic-Con, July 22-26, 2020, and online attendees are encouraged to use the official #ComicConAtHome hashtag to be included in the virtual activities. …Interested fans are encouraged to check Toucan, the official Comic-Con and WonderCon blog, SDCC’s website and social channels, and the official channels of their favorite pop culture creators in the weeks to come.

Follow us on social media at: Facebook: Facebook.com/comiccon; Twitter: @Comic_Con; Instagram: @comic_con

(2) ORIGINS ONLINE CANCELLED. Kotaku summarized a social media controversy surrounding the Game Manufacturers Association and the Origins Online event that was planned for this month: “Board Gaming’s Industry Body Refuses To Say A Word About Black Lives Mattering”.

An increasing number of prominent board game industry and community members have pulled out of an upcoming show over The Game Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) inability (or refusal) to make a statement about Black Lives Matter.

GAMA owns and operates Origins Online, a big virtual show running later this month that was intended to replace the usual Origins Games Fair (a physical event that has been postponed to October). It was supposed to feature panels, video and support appearances by notable board games people like Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave, Blood Rage creator Eric Lang, Geek & Sundry’s Ruel Gaviola, Boardgamegeek and Man vs Meeple.

Instead those listed, and loads more, have withdrawn from the show over GAMA’s inability, when even the least sanctimonious corporations and sporting leagues on the planet have managed some kind of message, to make even the most basic statement of support for the Black Lives Matter protests that have been sweeping the United States since the beginning of the month.

GAMA now has made a pro-Black Lives Matter statement, but also cancelled the online event.

The Game Manufacturers Association believes that Black Lives Matter. We unequivocally condemn racism and violence against people of color. We have been too late in making that statement with force, and we apologize. The injustices of today demand that every person of good conscience make clear where they stand and we wish we had been more proactive, more strident, and more effective with our voices. Innocent people of color are being killed in the streets of the communities where we live, and it is not acceptable.

We cannot responsibly hold our virtual convention, Origins Online, in this setting. Even if it were possible to hold it, it would not be appropriate to do so. So, we are announcing here that Origins Online is cancelled.

However, GAMA’s apology is flawed say some critics, including Patrick Leder of Leder Games:

Late last night, GAMA made an official statement to cancel Origins Online. Though this statement answered some concerns, it too contains several notable omissions that highlight some of the challenges facing any effort to make the hobby more inclusive. Specifically: 

  1. Their apology has no mention of the BIPOC members of the industry who stood up to them. It also fails to note that those voices were the catalyst for their decision to cancel Origins Online. 
  2. Their plan to make amends by asking attendees and publishers to forfeit their Origins Online payments shows a lack of initiative and imagination. As our industry’s governing body, we expect GAMA to take the lead without waiting for the initiation of others.
  3. There is no actionable statement on how they can work on uplifting the BIPOC community or an attempt to broaden their board or staff, nor does it recognize the board’s failures in this regard.

(3) ROLLING OVER. Loscon 47, which the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society planned to hold this Thanksgiving Weekend, has been postponed to 2021. Chair Scott Beckstead wrote:

With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic being felt in many sectors, we are not immune I’m sorry to say. The fallout of these effects sadly means that we will be postponing Loscon 47 until next year. We are rescheduling Loscon 47 for Thanksgiving weekend (November 26th through November 28th 2021). We will be rolling Guests, members, and dealer room participants over to next yea

Writer Guest Dr. Gregory Benford, our Artist Guest Jeff Sturgeon and Fan Guests of Honor Dennis and Kristine Cherry have all agreed to be there and are looking forward to being there next year. There will be more info as we re-assemble our teams to bring this to fruition in November of 2021. As always you may ask questions at info@loscon.org and I look forward to seeing you all Thanksgiving weekend 2021

(4) RED SOFA LITIGATION. Publishers Lunch reports in “Briefs” that lawyers are getting involved in the Red Sofa Literary meltdown.

Agents Beth Phelan and Kelly Van Sant and author Isabel Sterling received cease & desist letters from an attorney representing agent Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary after speaking out about Frederick’s response to protestors in St. Paul.

The trio’s response, “An Open Letter to Dawn Frederick in Response to Threats of Litigation”, begins –

On June 8, 2020, we received cease and desist letters from a lawyer on behalf of Dawn Frederick, literary agent and founder of Red Sofa Literary. The letters demanded that we delete our respective posts regarding Dawn’s actions and further, publish retractions stating that “she did not make any racist or other improper statements,” validating the behaviors that we had previously condemned. Failing this, we were told Dawn will pursue legal action against us for defamation. We interpret these demands as an attempt to not only silence us, but to compel us to lie for her. We refuse.

After we and others spoke out against her tweets, Dawn posted a public apology on her website owning up to her wrongdoing, but then turned around to privately send threatening letters to people who spoke up. In that apology, Dawn admitted that her actions were “careless,” that “[t]he authors and agents who may now question whether or not we share the same ideals have every right to feel this way,” and that her “actions were tone-deaf and the product of [her] own privilege.” That she is now threatening to sue people for agreeing with her apology makes it impossible to interpret the apology as anything but insincere. So, which is it, Dawn? You said in your apology that you would “work to be better.” Is this what “better” looks like?…

They are  asking for donations to their legal defense fund, which has raised $12,177 as of today.

(5) HE DIDN’T COME BACK TO THE FUTURE. Ranker refreshes our recollection about an old lawsuit with a contemporary vibe: “When ‘Back To The Future II’ Recreated Crispin Glover’s Face, He Took The Studio To Court”.

In 1985, Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, director Robert Zemeckis, and writer/producer Bob Gale gave the world an all-time classic motion picture, Back to the Future. Four years later, they tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Back to the Future Part II had a little secret, one the participants tried to keep from being discovered. It was slightly easier in that pre-internet time. As it turned out, a key actor from the original, Crispin Glover, decided not to return for the sequel. Since the character of George McFly was fairly prominent in the follow-up, that presented a rather large problem. 

Their solution was unique, but it also got them entangled in some unpleasant legal action. Essentially, the filmmakers recreated Glover’s face with prosthetics, then put it on another actor. They wanted to make it seem as though Glover was in the sequel when, in fact, he was not. Glover was none too happy about this, so he sued everyone involved. 

That’s the short version. The more detailed version is a fascinating tale of an actor desperate to protect his image, filmmakers desperate to protect their franchise, and the clash these dueling desires created. It’s also an account of a watershed moment in cinema history, when it became clear that modern technology was making it easier to “steal” someone’s likeness. The impact of Crispin Glover’s Back to the Future Part II case continues to reverberate today….

(6) PINSKER STORY POSTED. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Notice,” a story about unexpected mail and the limits of self-reliance by Sarah Pinsker.

Malachi happened to be mowing down by the gates when the mail carrier arrived in her ancient truck. He wasn’t supposed to talk to Outsiders until he turned twenty-five, another six years, but he couldn’t help trying on the rare occasions an opportunity presented itself….

On Monday, 6/15 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Sarah in conversation with Punya Mishra, an expert in integrating arts, creativity, design, and technology into learning. Registration required.

(7) HOMAGE OR FROMAGE? Bloody Disgusting applauds: “These Horror Fans Remade the Key Moments from ‘Alien’ With No Budget During the Quarantine”.

A group of creative horror fans just put together a 5-minute, zero-budget remake of Ridley Scott’s Alien while stuck at home!

Described as a “low-budget, high-cardboard remake of Alien,” the video comes courtesy of YouTube channel Cardboard Movie Co, which specializes in this sort of thing. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982E.T. – The Extraterrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credit was shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was  written by Melissa Mathison and starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 99% rating. 
  • June 11, 1993 — Eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. It’s  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a 91% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  We can claim at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1927 Kit Pedler. In the Sixties, he became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. One of his creation was the Cybermen. He also wrote three scripts —  “The Tenth Planet” (co-writtenwith Gerry Davis),  “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen“. Pedler and Davis went in to create and co-write the Doomwatch Series. He wrote a number of genre novels including Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters (co-written with Gerry Davis) and Doomwatch: The World in Danger. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1929 Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”,  “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available…. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course, he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 Adrienne Barbeau, 75. She’s memorably in Swamp Thing. She’s also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh, and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet, 1984; given the Evans-Freehafer, our service award, 1986; moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is BASFS (Bay Area SF Soc.) sergeant-at-arms, a position they take about as seriously as we take ours.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 Justina Robson, 52. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1971 P. Djèlí Clark, 49. Ok, I want a novel from this brilliant author whose The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is in the running for a Best Novella Hugo this year. (A Dead Djinn in Cairo is set in the same alternate universe.) The Black God’s Drums was a finalist for the same award last year. And yes, he has a novel coming out — Ring Shout, a take on the KKK with a supernatural twist. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann.  Digital illustrator, once of San Francisco, now of Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her May 2018 cover for Apex magazine.  This March 2020 interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEOPARDY! It was a great night on Jeopardy! if you like bad answers. Andrew Porter took notes.

First—

Category: TV Catch-Phrases

Answer: “Nanu-Nanu”

Wrong questions: “What is Star Trek?”; “What is Alf?”

Correct question: “What is Mork & Mindy?”

Second –

Also, no one could link “Bazinga!” to “The Big Bang Theory.”

Third –

Final Jeopardy: Medical History

Answer: One of the first recorded autopsies was performed on this man & revealed 23 puncture marks.

Wrong question: “Who is Bram Stoker?”

Correct question: “Who was Julius Caesar?”

(12) RUBE GOLDBERG WINNER. CBC says “Toronto family ‘thrilled and a little bit surprised’ to win Rube Goldberg Challenge”.

Tony Round says he was “stunned into silence” the first time he watched his family’s elaborate Rube Goldberg machine wind its way through their house and successfully drop a bar of soap into his daughter’s hands.That’s because it took the Toronto family more than 50 failed attempts and three weeks to make the machine work.

(13) FOLLOWING SUIT. “Amazon Halts Police Use Of Its Facial Recognition Technology”

Amazon announced on Wednesday a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology, yielding to pressure from police-reform advocates and civil rights groups.

It is unclear how many law enforcement agencies in the U.S. deploy Amazon’s artificial intelligence tool, but an official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon confirmed that it will be suspending its use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology.

Researchers have long criticized the technology for producing inaccurate results for people with darker skin. Studies have also shown that the technology can be biased against women and younger people.

IBM said earlier this week that it would quit the facial-recognition business altogether. In a letter to Congress, chief executive Arvind Krishna condemned software that is used “for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.”

And Microsoft President Brad Smith told The Washington Post during a livestream Thursday morning that his company has not been selling its technology to law enforcement. Smith said he has no plans to until there is a national law.

(14) RUN TO DINNER. The ancestor of crocodile boots? BBC says they’ve found “Fossil tracks left by an ancient crocodile that ‘ran like an ostrich'”.

Scientists have been stunned to find that some ancient crocodiles might have moved around on two feet.

The evidence comes from beautifully preserved fossil tracks in South Korea.

Nearly a hundred of these 18-24cm-long indentations were left in what were likely the muddy sediments that surrounded a lake in the Early Cretaceous, 110-120 million years ago.

The international team behind the discovery says it will probably challenge our perception of crocodiles.

“People tend to think of crocodiles as animals that don’t do very much; that they just laze around all day on the banks of the Nile or next to rivers in Costa Rica. Nobody automatically thinks I wonder what this [creature] would be like if it was bipedal and could run like an ostrich or a T. rex,” Martin Lockley, an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, US, told BBC News.

The study is sure to provoke a lively debate. Not all researchers will necessarily accept the team’s interpretation.

(15) JOHN ON THE DOTTED LINE. It’s never too late to study a historic document: Phyllis Irene Radford is in the middle of “Blogging the Magna Carta #12” at Book View Café. Today’s section is about administering the estates of the deceased.

…Those catalogs of chattels tell historians a lot about how people lived during the period and what they considered valuable, due to purchase price or import costs, or how labor intense to make.  Historians love these.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the original copies when it was displayed in LA in the Seventies.

(16) LUNAR LIVING. Joe Sherry calls it “hopeful science fiction” in “Microreview [book]: The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal” at Nerds of a Feather.

…There’s a lot going on in The Relentless Moon and Kowal keeps everything moving and flowing together with remarkable deftness and an underlying compassion that smooths the edges off even the harshest aspects of the novel – including Nicole’s eating disorder, racial issues, domestic terrorism, and a desperate fight for survival on the Moon. Everything is handled with sensitivity, though Kowal does not shy away from the emotion of the worst moments – it’s more that Kowal is such a smooth writer that the reader is in safe hands. The novel leans into the pain, but with a light touch.

(17) YOUNG PEOPLE. In the new installment of James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF, the panel encounters “’The Deer Park’ by Maria Russell”.

This is Maria Russell’s only known published story.

… Still, her low profile does mean my Young Readers won’t have heard of her and won’t have expecations going in. What will they make of ?“Deer Park”?

(18) AN AUTHOR OF DRAGONS. Here is the first of “6 Books with Aliette de Bodard”, Paul Weimer’s Q&A with the author at Nerds of a Feather.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently doing comfort reads, which means I’ve embarked again on a reread of Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo--Gothic quest for revenge is the best.

(19) BAIT FOR CLICKS. Clare Spellberg, in the Decider story “‘Paw Patrol’ Under Fire for Depiction of Police: Is ‘Paw Patrol’ Being Canceled?” says there is a Twitter campaign to cancel Paw Patrol for its depiction of cops, but it’s not clear that the campaign is real or satire.

… Have the anti-racism protests come for Paw Patrol? According to Amanda Hess of the New York Times Paw Patrol fans have (albeit jokingly) called for the popular Nickelodeon show to be canceled as protests against police brutality continue to sweep the globe and shows like Cops and Live PD are cancelled by networks. While the Paw Patrol protests may not be totally real, Eric Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz seem to think fans are serious: both tweeted that the protests for Paw Patrol are “truly insane,” and they blasted the left for “targeting” cartoons.

…This is a long story with a short answer: as of now, Paw Patrol is not being cancelled despite the fake “protests” against it. In fact, Nickelodeon just renewed the series for an eighth season in February, and a theatrical film Paw Patrol: The Movie is currently scheduled for an August 2021 release.

(20) STAYING IN PRACTICE. The Screen Junkies, having no new summer blockbusters, decided to take on The Fifth Element in a trailer that’s two days old.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rose Embolism, with an assist by Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pictures at an Exhibition

By John Hertz: Here are Kenn Bates’ photos from Loscon XLVI —

  • The exhibit of Rotsler Award winners through 2018;
  • The exhibit (in the Art Show) of the 2019 winner Alison Scott (follow the link to learn about the Award too);
  • A close-up of her plaque, sent to her later;
  • The exhibit about Leonardo da Vinci which had been at this year’s Worldcon in honor of his 500th centenary, our genius neighbor;
  • And a close-up of the top of the Leonardo exhibit.

Thanks to Kenn for his photos.  Thanks to Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink for her graphics-wizard help with these exhibits. 

My Life at Loscon, Part 3

By John Hertz:  (mostly reprinted from No Direction Home 43)  Saturday 11:30 a.m. at Loscon XLVI, a panel discussion “The Asimov Centenary”.

We were starting early, or maybe right; without birth records, he celebrated 3 Jan 1920 but it could have been in 1919.  Moderator, pro author and interviewer Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, with Fan Guest of Honor Edie Stern, Joe Siclari of FANAC (Florida Association for Nucleation And Conventions, sponsor of the 50th World Science Fiction Convention [which Siclari chaired] at Orlando, Florida, and currently a fanhistory Website <fanac.org>, fanac our long-time slang for fan activity), Matthew Tepper the con chair and Asimov scholar, and me.

The panel was billed as discussing “his growth as a writer, and the impact that his writings have had on real life culture and science”; I thought, as Johnson said, those people have gone to milk the bull.

The work of Asimov the SF author was imagination; of Asimov the science writer – his four hundred science columns for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, his six dozen popular-science books – was explanation.  He said he strove for clarity; at both this was his talent, his skill, perhaps we may say his genius.  Let us not turn away to having an impact (that wretched cant) on real life culture and science.  His growth as a writer – alas, I thought he shrank.  I could not think The Gods Themselves (1972) his best SF; on the contrary.  Nevertheless he was a wonder.

Tepper said Asimov brought sweeping stories up close and personal.  That also applied to his non-fiction.  Stern said, he worked out a premiss (yes, that’s how the logic kind is spelled, plural “premisses”; “premises” is the land kind).  He showed how social forces shaped.  Siclari said he could present complex science simply.  He had a spirit of play; not only in his writing, he was active in Gilbert & Sullivan fandom.  I said he was one of our best what if writers.

Zinos-Amaro asked, accusations of his mistreating women have emerged: does that complicate what we think of him?  Stern reminded us these things were no news; everyone with a skirt, she said, knew he was grabby.  She told of a woman in a shirt printed with six-finger outlines who retorted “Isaac, if your hands fit these, you can, otherwise no”; he stopped.  Tepper said, we’re faced with even greater creative personalities who were flawed – like Wagner.  We can’t minimize either side.  A woman in the audience said “I ran a convention; he was very professional.”

On yet another side, Stern told of a Boston collating session in the mimeograph days; just as a man declined to pitch in, saying “I’m a published author”, Asimov stuck his head out of the collating room calling “Hey, Tony, we need more of Page 2.” 

Zinos-Amaro asked us each what one book we’d recommend.  Stern said, Pebble in the Sky (1950).  Siclari said, Foundation (1951).  Tepper said, The Caves of Steel (1953).  I said, The End of Eternity (1955).  Look too for the collections of his short stories and of his science essays. With fiction and non-fiction he had published five hundred books – plus anthologies – plus founding Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.

In the Art Show the best for me was Elizabeth Berrien. This extraordinary wire-worker was famous among us for years.  Her animals and other creations are in many of our homes.  At Lonestarcon II, the 55th Worldcon, she won Best in Art Show.  As her career grew, she found herself making things for airports, hotels, museums, offices, restaurants, television advertising, zoos.

Chris Marble said “It’s been 21 years since she exhibited at Loscon.”  In 2019 she was in the Art Show at Spikecon, the combined Westercon (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference) and NASFiC (North America SF Con, held when the Worldcon is overseas), fifty miles from where the Final Spike completed the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years earlier; Marble had carried her work to and from the 77th Worldcon in Ireland.

When she’s present, at a party or a panel discussion, you’ll see her listening or contributing to the conversation, all the while twisting wire.  She must carry the whole in her mind, like Michelangelo saying “I just get a block of marble and chip away anything that isn’t a Madonna and Child.”  If you look at wire sculpture around the world, you’ll see hers is distinctive.  It may be unique.

We have fan tables.  We don’t know any better name for them.  Along the traffic flow are people and displays on behalf of scheduled cons, bids to hold cons, contests, SF clubs, to answer questions and as may seem suitable.

At Loscon, the Orange County SF Club usually has a table.  Their logograph is a Space ship taking off from an orange.  To be friendly there’s usually an orange-colored bowl with orange-flavored candy.  I keep meaning to ask whether OCSFC is in touch with the Netherlands national football team.

Drawing by Tim Kirk.

If you can’t remember whether you have a membership in something or other there may well be someone at a table with a list paper or electronic who might, in case you don’t and want one, offer you a do-it-now discount.  Non-profit organizations have to get along somehow.

I had to go off-site three times for errands that took hours.  Half of one later proved needless.  Another could have been avoided, but Life is a continuing series of adventures in which you learn you’d have done better to think of something else in advance.

I saw I’d be late for the Saturday night Paul Turner memorial panel (1936-2019).  High-tech folk helped me tell Operations.  I arrived after 8:30, but I arrived.  Neola Caveny moderated Greg Benford, Paul’s son now known as the Wizard, Suzanne Vegas, and eventually me.

Paul was given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to the LASFS in 1964.  He was Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon XX.  In our audience Bill Ellern said that while Paul is with some justice credited for inventing the LASFS Building Fund (Jerry Pournelle, “You’re out of your mind”; Paul, “Sure I am”), by which LASFS indeed bought a clubhouse, Betty Knight as Treasurer in the 1950s kept saying we should start one but nobody listened.  Paul held salons with SF authors, Jet Propulsion Lab scientists, and like that, for conversation and nourishment.  His mind ranged wide.

Sunday 2:30 p.m., the second Classics of SF book talk, C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra (1943; reached the Retro-Hugo ballot).  I’ll stay with “audience” although I invite and perhaps some would say drag in participation.  Is it a classic? why?  From the audience: the people – and the other characters – are genuine; I asked, how could we know; a woman said, “If we met them they’d be like that.”  She had hit on what Johnson said of Shakespeare (two geometric figures of the same shape are similar, regardless of differences in size):

He approximates the remote, and familiarizes the wonderful; the event which he represents will not happen, but if it were possible, its effects would probably be such as he has assigned; and it may be said, that he has not only shown human nature as it acts in real exigencies, but as it would be found in trials, to which it cannot be exposed. 

Another said the descriptions of landscape were almost as interesting as the plot.  Another: the portrayal of Ransom’s internal reactions.  Another: Ransom isn’t too perfect.  Sean Smith said he wrestles with his moral dilemma.  He asks “Why me?” and painfully answers.  Father John Blaker said, Lewis takes these questions seriously – but not, ran our consensus, at the expense of his fiction.

Unfortunately sermonizing, which might ideally mean inspiring, has too often proved to mean oppressing; we thought Lewis avoided falling into that pit.  Another said a truly loving person discusses.

If Perelandra had anything in common with our Friday book, Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953) – gosh – it might be the centrality of dialogue.  Look at the nearly impossible task of characterizing Ransom’s adversary – and I don’t mean Weston.

I bought Craig Miller’s “Star Wars” Memories (2019) from his own self.  Later, helping take down the Dealers’ Room; dinner; I got to the Dead Dog Party (until the last dog is –) round about midnight.  As it happens I’d helped to supply it – and the Staff Den; at length I’d been made Chief Hall-Costume Judge (the costumes some people build or assemble for strolling the halls; Marjii Ellers called them daily wear for alternative worlds) after all.

Some of us were still alive.  Karl Lembke, chairman (the suffix -man is not masculine) of the LASFS Board and a refreshments wizard, was still on duty.  A good thing, too.

My Life at Loscon, Part 2

By John Hertz: (mostly reprinted from No Direction Home 42)  On Friday night at Loscon XLVI (local SF convention, sponsored by the L.A. Science Fantasy Society; see here) after Regency dancing (see Mimosa 29; or read Georgette Heyer‘s Regency romances – or both) I changed back to my conventional attire and went to wander the world of parties.

I’ve long felt an in it but not of it quality is elemental to fandom.  More usually interest-groups seem tighter focused on, or entangled with, their topic.  It makes us harder to explain.  People ask me “Are you a writer?” and I have to answer with something like my father’s scrupulous reply when we played Guess What Daddy Had for Lunch, “Not within the normal meaning of that term.”  My best formulation so far is A love of SF is the thread on which the beads of fan activity are strung.  Anyway, it shows in our social life.

At our cons we have open (everybody welcome) and closed (invitation-only) parties.  Some of them have a particular reason for existence.  Some of them.  See what I mean?

Drawing by Tim Kirk

I dropped by the Baycon party.  This is the San Francisco Bay area local con, held over the United States Memorial Day weekend; Baycon XXXVIII will be in 2020 (we’re not always careful terminologists: Westercon XIV – the West Coast Science Fantasy Conference on or near U.S. Independence Day, though not necessarily within the U.S.; Westercon LXXIII will be in 2020 – was “Baycon”, apparently the first SF con [in two senses of “SF”] so called: later the 26th World Science Fiction Convention, combined with Westercon XXI, and famous in song and story, was also “Baycon”).

A calendar conflict keeps me from Baycon, although I have friends there, and am an honorary officer of the Bay Area SF Association (Club motto, also Rule 0, “We do these things not because they are hard, but because we are weird”), which was convenient when the 66th Worldcon was at Yokohama Bay – in a Bay Area, and BASFA wanted a quorum.  So I seek out Baycon parties.

To some extent a Baycon party is an attempt to sell Baycon memberships.  (Among our better acts of terminology we insist we sell not tickets, but memberships: not admittance to a thing others have made, but participation in making it.) Why not?  See, we can host a party: we can host a convention.  But also it’s a contribution to the conviviality (good word to look up) of the time and place where it’s held.  I’m in favor of that.  Also similar parties thrown by other cons, and by bids to hold cons.

Some cons have themes.  I’m not particularly in favor of that; I’d rather they had theremins (seems unfair to ask for the Island of Kalymnos dance Thymariotikos, although I’m fond of it).

The Baycon XXXVIII theme is “The future is now!”, elaborated as “This year’s theme celebrates science fiction’s influence on our present day”.  I found that particularly regrettable.  It seemed to draw in the notion that SF is in the business of predicting the future, one of the nastier poisons to afflict us.  Also the current cant of influence too often operates as a nasty distraction from actually looking, substituting instead what other people think.  So I had the nourishingly demanding task of managing conviviality with my friends, making new friends, and conferring about the health of our field.

Down the hall was Keith Kato’s, combined as happens at Loscon with Carol & Elst Weinstein’s, and Kenn Bates’.

At cons Kato has for years been hosting chili parties, some open, some closed.  He cooks up a vat of hot (“To Everyone Except Bob Silverberg”) and a vat of mild (“To Everyone Except Marion Zimmer Bradley”), recently also a vat of vegetarian and, at Loscon, one of bison.  He has not been hindered by his career as a physicist, his achieving a Black Belt in shõtõkan karate, nor his term as President of the Heinlein Society.  In File 770 159 (PDF) p. 35, his own story to that date, I was in his Gang of Four.  If he’s on the night of Regency dancing he knows I can’t show up soon; nor can I fairly ask him to save me a bowl of mild, I have to take my chances.

The Weinsteins at Loscon have hosted Herbangelist wine and cheese parties (on Herbie Popnecker, see Forbidden Worlds 73; he had his own title 1964-67; zeal lasts); Bates has hosted dessert parties, usually with a chocolate-fondue fountain; that they would co-host was inevitable, and they have.

Brad Lyau had been given the Moskowitz Archive Award at the 77th Worldcon (Dublin, 15-19 Aug 19).  I congratulated him.  The Award, named for Sam Moskowitz, is from First Fandom, for excellence in SF collecting; First Fandom is both a historical fact – those happy few active since at least the first Worldcon, 1939 – and an organization devoted to fanhistory.

Lyau had revealed in Scientifiction 61 (N.S., i.e. New Series) that he has Julie Schwartz’ copy of SaM’s 1954 Immortal Storm, inscribed to Julie by SaM – then when Lyau told them he’d gotten it, inscribed by each of them to him!  Gosh!  Forry Ackerman had helped with Lyau’s Ph.D. dissertation on 1950s French SF.  Lyau has been at it a while. 

I was fascinated to learn he’d studied with Hans Küng (1928-  ).  We spoke of epistemology (good word to look up); I repeated my jest that I’d long been an amateur epistemologist – I was a Philosophy major – and now I’m also a professional epistemologist, although we lawyers don’t like to think of ourselves as philosophers.  We’re engineers, too.

Lyau talked of the “scholastic stranglehold” in the days of the Schoolmen, say 1100-1700.  I said that wasn’t really fair to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) for one.  Lyau said it wasn’t Aristotle’s fault (lived fifteen centuries earlier) that Aristotle’s work became ossified.  I said the poor Buddha (a century before Aristotle), if that expression could be used, told people not to make statues of him. Lyau said the Buddha was a messenger of universal truth.  I had been with a Japanese Buddhist priest during the Bon Festival (rhymes with “hone”; short for a Sanskrit word referring to suffering by the dead in the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, which the Festival hopes to relieve) who said “We don’t worship our ancestors, we just venerate them.”

Saturday 11:30 a.m., “The Asimov Centenary”, Joe Siclari, Fan Guest of Honor Edie Stern, Matthew Tepper, and me, moderated by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro.  Isaac Asimov didn’t know his birthday, no records.  He celebrated January 2, 1920, but it could have been a day in 1919. Anyway, why not start now?

Siclari had chaired the 50th Worldcon (Orlando), has long been a student of SF particularly graphic art, also fanhistory; was the 2005 Down Under Fan Fund delegate; with Stern his wife received the 2016 Big Heart Award; heads (although he and Stern moved back to New York) the Florida Association for Nucleation And Conventions (yes, that spells FANAC, since at least the 1940s short for “fan activity”), sponsor of the 50th Worldcon and these days a fanhistorical Website.

Tepper, the con chair and in fact an Asimov scholar, had been the “Let’s kill him now” boy of Asimov’s anecdote in The Hugo Winners; to be fair, Asimov himself didn’t say that.

Zinos-Amaro has on his Website, along with Lao Tzû and Emily Dickinson, Asimov’s line from I. Asimov “The interplay of thought and imagination is far superior to that of muscle and sinew.”

To be continued.

My Life at Loscon – Part 1

By John Hertz: (mostly reprinted from No Direction Home 41)  Loscon is my local SF convention, sponsored by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society; Loscon XLVI was 29 Nov – 1 Dec 2019 at the L.A. Int’l Airport Marriott Hotel; Author Guest of Honor Howard Waldrop, Fan GoH Edie Stern, Editor GoH Moshe Feder; attendance about 730; Art Show sales about $5,500.

Radiant thanks to Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink for her computer-aided-graphics help with Rotsler Award displays.  The Award is for long-time wonder-working in amateur publications of the science fiction community, the fame of its eponym Bill Rotsler, to honor whom it was begun in 1998; it’s sponsored by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (yes, that spells SCIFI, pronounced “skiffy”), and announced at Loscon.  The judges are Mike Glyer, Sue Mason (since 2015), and me (since 2003).

For years I made Worldcon displays showing work of the winners to date, and Loscon displays showing work of the year’s winner, with photocopies and colored construction paper.  At Denvention III the 66th World Science Fiction Convention they were mounted on handsome black signboard contributed by Spike; otherwise on pegboard with hooks and clips.

Recently Klein-Lebbink with her expertise and equipment has labored with me to do both displays on computer-printed banners, which have looked swell, saved hours of at-con effort, and eased reaching overseas Worldcons I’ve usually been unable to attend. 

The 2019 Worldcon (the 77th) was at Dublin; we also made a display celebrating the 500th year after the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), who touched on SF with his designs for things not yet possible to available technology, and was generally amazing astounding planetary thrilling wondrous.  We mounted it at Loscon XLVI too.  Thanks to Jan Bender for getting it and the Rotsler-winners-to-date display to and from Dublin.

This year’s Rotsler winner is Alison Scott.  Thanks to Mason for helping wrangle Scott images (I mustn’t call them Scottish, she’s English) in time for Loscon.  You can see a note by me, with samples, here.

Photographs of the Loscon XLVI displays have been promised and no doubt will arrive Real Soon Now.  Meanwhile you can see the Dublin winners-to-date display here.

Drawing by Tim Kirk

At cons I’ve been leading Classics of SF discussions, one story (mostly book-length) each.  Once I did two books together – same author, same year.  I’ve been on but don’t recommend “What are the classics?” panels; I find they tend, instead of discussing, to become favorite-fights.

Sometimes a con puts me on, or has me moderate, a panel to discuss a story.  Most often it’s just I and the so-called audience – “so-called” because, from my point of view anyway, the blood of the SF community is participation.  I tell people “You needn’t speak up, but I hope you will.”  Also I believe the price of having strong opinions is recognizing that others can have strong opinions.

Do cons keep naming me alone because I’m so wonderful?  Maybe.  Maybe it’s easier for Programming than juggling the schedules of five people.

Loscon this year asked me to do two classics; I proposed, and when they were accepted I led discussions on, Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953), Friday afternoon at half-past one, and Lewis’ Perelandra (1943), Sunday afternoon at half-past two.

Perelandra had reached the Retrospective Hugo ballot.  It’s one of few books in our field to engage with mainstream religion.  Second Foundation happened to be the first Asimov I ever read.  It’s the third in a trilogy (Foundation 1951, Foundation and Empire 1952; decades later Asimov and others added prequels and sequels); Perelandra is the second (Out of the Silent Planet 1938, That Hideous Strength 1945).

Re-reading each before proposing them to the con I felt each could stand by itself.  Also I elected taking Second Foundation as a single novel, though composed of two shorter works “Now You See It –” (1948), “– And Now You Don’t” (1950; reached the Retro-Hugo ballot).

I try for stories interesting in different ways.  I think Second Foundation and Perelandra are.

Once a con asked me to do only one of these discussions; at another I did five.  Three seems to be about right, thinking of the con as an artform, its rhythm, its balance.  Some years ago when a Programming chief asked me what size rooms I’d need, I said “These discussions usually draw a dozen or two”; she said “That’s about what I thought.  Not huge crowds; but they’re a kind of thing we should be doing.”  I said “That’s what I think too.”

What’s a classic?  I’m still with A classic is a work that survives its time; after the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.

I don’t think we’re very classics-conscious in fandom.  Not just SF classics; any.

Compare Shakespeare (1564-1616): we know his plays drew crowds; we know all kinds of folk went to see them; they’re full of references to Greek and Roman literature of the previous millennium; indeed if you could read and write in his day you could read and write Latin.

Compare Perelandra, which was written for the general reading public, and is full of references to the Bible, The Divine Comedy (1320), Goethe (1749-1832), Greek mythology, Milton (1608-1674), Pope (1688-1744), Renaissance painting and poetry, Roman history, Shakespeare, H.G. Wells – and Lewis Carroll.  A current that’s changed.

On Friday afternoon, no one wishing to amend my proposed definition, we proceeded to Is “Second Foundation” a classic?

David H. Levine (i.e. not David D., whom I don’t expect to see at Loscon) said it towered above other SF.  Many said its characters were distinct – which is largely achieved by dialogue.  We’re given little of how they look; what they wear; their music; their landscapes; but – speaking of Lewis Carroll – if this is a book without pictures, it certainly has conversations (Alice in Wonderland ch. 1, 1865).

It’s complicated; but it presents its complications with clarity.  It has a sense of event.  It has a sense of the telling detail.  It’s neat; indeed, spare.  It’s vivid.  And if, as Asimov later said, he heard from somebody in the late 1940s that no one could write an SF detective story, he didn’t disprove it in 1953 with The Caves of Steel – he already had.

Then Regency dancing.  This fad in fandom – England having had few regencies, we mean the one of 1811-1820, and the years before and after, since a historical period seldom starts of a sudden – is of course very much my fault, but it came about because of Georgette Heyer.

Her historical fiction set then, thirty superb books published until her death in 1972 and much reprinted – yes, they’re romances, yes I a heterosexual man was so dull I had to be introduced to them by a woman – spark with wit appealing to the fannish mind.  I took up the challenge of teaching the dances.  Fuzzy Pink Niven doesn’t make that eggnog anymore.

So on Friday evening I changed clothes to host.  Sometimes a dozen or two come by, in costume or not; at the 42nd Worldcon there were three hundred.  Neola Caveny, whom Greg Benford had found and who the next night would moderate the Paul Turner memorial panel, had come from Hawaii and had made a Regency gown.

To be continued

Rotsler Award to Alison Scott

By John Hertz: Alison Scott has received the 2019 Rotsler Award for long-time wonder-working with graphic art in amateur publications of the science fiction community.

The Award, established at the death of Bill Rotsler, has been given since 1998.  It carries an honorarium of US$300.

Rotsler did everything and knew everyone.  He sculpted with stainless-steel rods and went house-hunting with Marilyn Monroe.  He drew on paper, mimeograph stencils, food, body parts.

The SF community’s highest achievement award is the Hugo Award, named for SF pioneer Hugo Gernsback, voted annually in several categories by members of the World Science Fiction Convention.

Rotsler won the Best-Fanartist Hugo five times, in 1975 and 1979, 1996 (when he also won a Retrospective Hugo for 1946) and 1997, a remarkable span.  His cartoons were deft, his serious drawing fine, his fluency downright breathtaking.

Scott gained renown as layout wizard and cover artist for the much-loved – no, it’s British, better not say that – highly-regarded fanzine PLOKTA, “the journal of superfluous technology”, PLOKTA being an acronym for Press Lots Of Keys To Abort.

PLOKTA won the Best-Fanzine Hugo in 2005 and 2006.  Scott won the United Kingdom’s Nova Award as Best Fanartist in ’05, ’07, and ’08.  The Plokta cabal attended the 67th Worldcon (“Anticipation”, Montreal) and produced its newsletter Voyageur.

Scott chaired her national convention the Eastercon (held Easter weekend) in 1995 (“Confabulation”, 46th Eastercon, London) and 2018 (“Follycon”, 69th Eastercon, Harrogate).  She will be Fan Guest of Honour in 2020 (“Concentric”, 71st Eastercon, Birmingham).

These admirable distinctions are only mentioned as noteworthy.  They do not of course qualify or disqualify her for the Rotsler Award, which is a cat that walks by itself.

Here are front and back covers Scott did for an issue of Beam (then by Nic Farey and Jim Trash, currently by Farey and Ulrika O’Brien), 

and a front cover for PLOKTA.

The Concentric materials so far released say she is irrepressible.  Brits are understated.

The Rotsler winner is announced each year at Loscon, held at Los Angeles during the United States Thanksgiving-holiday weekend.  Loscon XLVI, 29 November – 1 December 2019, will have a display of Scott’s work in the Art Show, and elsewhere of all Rotsler winners to date.  A display of all Rotsler winners can usually be seen at the Worldcon; for “Dublin 2019”, the 77th Worldcon, look here.

Loscon is sponsored by the non-profit L.A. Science Fantasy Society, oldest SF club in the world.  The Rotsler is sponsored by the non-profit Southern California Institute for Fan Interests.  The current Rotsler judges are Mike Glyer, John Hertz (since 2003), and Sue Mason (since 2015).

More examples of Alison Scott’s artwork follow the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 11/27/19 Mr. Turtle, How Many Ticks Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Pixel Scroll?

(1) FACEBOOK FLIES OFF THE HANDLE. Canadian sff author Daniel Arenson somehow ran afoul of Facebook’s moderators by sharing images commemorating the Holocaust on his author page. The problem was unresolved for several days, and even now Arenson is concerned that he will be banned, as he explained in a post on his personal FB page. (As of this writing, the commemorative posts can be seen on Daniel Arenson’s author page.)

An update on my Facebook trouble… I might be banned entirely from the site. If I disappear, I want you to know why.

A few days ago, on my Author Page (separate from this account, which is my personal account) I shared a post that commemorated the Holocaust. It was a project created by a Jewish artist, and included some images of Holocaust victims. Facebook removed the photos, claiming they feature “nudity or sexual activity.”

This seemed to be the work of a bot. I figured it was just a bug in the algorithm. So I applied for a human to review this case, and to potentially restore the photos. A human took a look, told me the memorial photos (created by a Jewish artist) are “hate speech,” and that I’m banned from using Facebook for 24 hours.

Three days went by, and my Author Page was still in “Facebook jail.” Meanwhile, Facebook charged my credit card $1,100 for running ads using that page. The same page I’m locked out of.

I contacted Facebook support, and I finally got a hold of a human. I asked why I was banned, and how long the ban would last. They simply threatened to extend the ban. From their tone, it sounded like they might hit me with even more bans, maybe affecting my personal account (this one) too.

They did not provide reasons why this is happening. I explained that the photos were created by a Jewish artist, who wanted to commemorate the Holocaust. Facebook support staff simply threatened further bans against my account(s).

Today, even on my personal account, I’ve had some trouble accessing the website. Maybe it’s just a Facebook-wide issue, though, and unrelated to my troubles.

If I disappear entirely, this is why. I shared photos by a Jewish artist who wanted to commemorate the Holocaust. Since then, Facebook has been smacking my accounts around, and every time I contact them, it gets worse.

(2) VETERAN OF TM BATTLE SPEAKS OUT. Tara Crescent, after seeing news about Christine Feehan’s effort to trademark “Dark” for a series of fiction works, wrote how burdensome it was for her last year to fight someone else’s attempt to trademark “Cocky.” Thread starts here.

(3) THE AXE. Now who will make jokes about these turkeys? “Netflix Cancels ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ Before Your Yearly Thanksgiving Marathon”  reports ScienceFiction.com.

‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ has once again been cancelled. This time by Netflix and right before the show’s anniversary. The series debuted on Thanksgiving in 1988 and would later grow into a yearly marathon. This year, you can still binge on this fan-favorite event but with the sad news that new episodes will not be on the horizon on Netflix.

(4) MIGNOGNA JUDGMENT. Nerd & Tie Trae Dorn reports “Vic Mignogna Ordered to Pay Almost a Quarter of a Million to Defendants in Final Judgement”.

You can read the entire order here, but it boils down to Mignogna being required to pay almost $250k to the defendants. While this is significantly less than the amounts asked for by the defendants (which was a sum roughly around $800k), it’s still a significant chunk of change. Mignogna’s representatives already attempted to file an appeal prematurely, and it is highly likely that they will attempt to do so again. If Mignogna’s potential appeal fails, he will be required to pay significantly more to the defendants as well.

(5) ACCESSIBILITY SUIT AGAINST NY LIBRARY. “Hunters Point Library hit with lawsuit over accessibility issues”Curbed New York has the story.

Disability rights advocates have filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the brand new Hunters Point Library in Queens prevents people with mobility issues from “full and equal access” to the branch.

The lawsuit, filed in Brooklyn federal court by the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY), argues that the Steven Holl Architects-designed library violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After two decades of planning, the $41 million branch opened in Long Island City this September to glowing architectural reviews, but soon came under fire because sections of the library are inaccessible to wheelchair users and others with limited mobility.

Disability Rights Advocates is handling the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs and claims that “inaccessible features pervade” the new branch, and calls out three levels with bookshelves, a reading and small-group space in a children’s section, and a rooftop terrace for featuring accessibility barriers that prevent “full and equal enjoyment” of the library.

“Heralded as a ‘stunning architectural marvel’ and a ‘beacon of learning, literacy and culture,’ the newly-built Hunters Point Library was designed and built with a total disregard for adults and children with mobility disabilities and in flagrant contempt of the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” the 21-page complaint states.

(6) THE DEAR DEPARTED. There will be a special party at this weekend’s Loscon in Los Angeles –

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 27, 1981 Frankenstein Island preimired. Starring John Carradine and Cameron Mitchell, it’s more or less a remake of Teenage Zombies. It was co-produced, written, directed and edited by Jerry Warren who did the latter film as well. The fifteen hundred who have collectively rated it at Rotten Tomatoes give a vote of just seven. 
  • November 27, 2002 — The animated Treasure Planet premiered. It is at least the second telling of Stevenson’s Treasure Island in an SF film setting as there’s an 1987 Italian L’isola del tesoro  (Treasure Island in Outer Space)  series. It went on to be one of the costly box office failures ever as production costs alone were nearly one hundred and fifty million dollars. While it bombed at the theater, it has an impressive 71% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 27, 1907 L. Sprague de Camp. The Tales from Gavagan’s Bar he wrote with Fletcher Pratt are my favorite works by him. Best novel by him? I’d say that’s Lest Darkness Fall. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 27, 1935 Verity Lambert. Founding Producer of Doctor Who. (When she was appointed to Who in 1963, she was BBC Television’s only female drama producer, as well as the youngest.) After leaving BBC, she’d oversee the Quatermass series at Thames. She’d return to BBC to Executive Produce three seasons of So Haunt Me, a supernatural series.  Wiki weirdly has her producing an episode of Doctor Who called “A Happy Ending” in 2006 which doesn’t exist. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 27, 1942 Jimi Hendrix. I wouldn’t be including him but the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has a long and persuasive essay on him actually being influenced by SF. It has comments such as “for example the title of his second single, ‘Purple Haze’ (1967), though taken by many to encode a reference to drugs, is actually from Philip José Farmer’s novel Night of Light…” That essay is here. (Died 1970.)
  • Born November 27, 1940 Bruce Lee. His only genre role was as Kato in The Green Hornet which to my utter surprise lasted for just twenty-six episodes between 1966 and 1967. He also appeared on Batman in three episodes, “The Spell of Tut”, “Batman’s Satisfaction”, and “A Piece of The Action”. (Died 1973.)
  • Born November 27, 1951 Melinda M. Snodgrass, 68. She wrote several episodes of Next Gen while serving as the story editor during its second and third seasons. She also wrote scripts for Sliders, Strange Luck, Beyond RealityOdyssey 5, Outer Limits and SeaQuest DSV. She’s a co-editor of and frequent story contributor to George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards series.
  • Born November 27, 1964 Rebecca Ferratti, 55. Did you know some of the Gor novels were made into films? Well they were. This actress played Takena, the co-lead, in the ones that were made, Gor and The Outlaw of Gor. They may or may not have been the worst films she was in during her film career…
  • Born November 27, 1974 Jennifer O’Dell, 45. Her only meaningful  role to date, genre or otherwise, has been that of Veronica on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. She’s had some minor roles such on Charmed and Bones, and appearances on films such as Alien Battlefield but nothing major to date.
  • Born November 27, 1974 Alec Newman, 45. He played Paul Atreides on the Dune and Children of Dune series. He was Barnabas Collins in the Dark Shadows film, and he had the recurring role of Malik on Enterprise. He was Drogyn, Keeper of the Deeper Well, and an eternally young warrior of good on Angel

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro realized which profession would know how to get the most passengers in a small spacecraft.

(10) PRESENTING BILL. Gallifrey One, the annual Doctor Who convention in LA, announced a coup today — “Pearl Mackie Confirmed for 2020, and More!” 

Ms. Mackie received rave reviews from fans – and critics across the globe – playing the down-to-earth Bill, the series’ first openly gay companion character, including her tour-de-force performances later in the season during the two-part finale and the subsequent Christmas special, both hers and Capaldi’s final adventure “Twice Upon a Time.”

(11) RAPPIN’ REY. On the Tonight Show, Daisy Ridley performed a rap recapping the first eight episodes that make up Star Wars’ trilogy of trilogies. Full lyrics on YouTube here.

(12) RED-HANDED. “Great auk extinction: Humans wiped out giant seabird”.

“The great auk will always hold a place in my heart,” Dr Jessica Thomas says.

The Swansea-based scientist spent years piecing together an ancient DNA puzzle that suggests hunting by humans caused this giant seabird’s demise.

Dr Thomas studied bone and tissue samples from 41 museum specimens during a PhD at both Bangor and Copenhagen University.

The findings paint a picture of how vulnerable even the most common species are to human exploitation.

…About 80cm (2ft 7in) tall, the stubby-winged and bulbous-billed great auks used to be found all across the north Atlantic – from North America through Greenland, Iceland, Scandinavia and the UK.

“Being flightless, they were always targeted by local people for food and for their feathers,” says Dr Thomas.

“But around 1500, when European seamen discovered the rich fishing grounds off Newfoundland, hunting intensified.”

…”We looked for signatures of population decline [before 1500],” Dr Thomas said.

One of these signatures might be a lack of genetic diversity, suggesting individuals were inbreeding and the species, as a whole, was becoming vulnerable to disease or environmental change.

“But their genetic diversity was very high – all but two sequences we found were very different,” Dr Thomas said.

(13) DOOOON’T PANIC. “Russian cows get VR headsets ‘to reduce anxiety'”. Now that you mention it, I remember Carnation used to think it was important for milk to come from contented cows…

A Russian farm has given its dairy cows virtual reality headsets in a bid to reduce their anxiety.

The herd donned VR systems adapted for the “structural features of cow heads” and were shown a “unique summer field simulation program”.

Moscow’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food cited research which they say has shown a link between a cow’s emotional experience and its milk yield.

Initial tests reportedly boosted “the overall emotional mood of the herd”.

(14) GENRE BREW. [Item by Bill.] Inner Space Brewing Company, a Huntsville, AL craft brewery, has some SF themes going on.

The tap handle that looks like a Hugo rocket was fabricated by a local Huntsville woodworking shop

Woodtech on Triana Boulevard makes tap handles for local breweries in addition to specialty items for defense companies, wine crates, puzzles, wooden boxes, business signs, trays with old maps of Huntsville, cornhole-game boards and more.

Another beer-space Huntsville-local connection is the Straight to Ale craft brewery, makers of Monkeynaut Pale Ale, which was inspired by Miss Baker, who lived out her life at the local U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Miss Baker (1957-1984) was a squirrel monkey who in 1959 became, along with rhesus macaque Miss Able, one of the first two animals launched into space by the United States and safely returned.

(15) OUR ROBOT UNDERLORDS? BBC appears to have scooped the local paper on this story — “Call to probe Boston police tests of ‘dog’ robots”.

Massachusetts State Police has been asked to explain how it is using robot dogs, by a civil liberties group.

The police force has spent the past three months testing “Spot” robot dogs alongside some of its officers.

The robots, made by Boston Dynamics, are believed to have helped with several live incidents as well as training scenarios.

The American Civil Liberties Union wants details about how and where the robots were being used.

…A video captioned with the words “MA State Police” and showing the robots opening doors and entering buildings was shared online by Boston Dynamics earlier this year.

“All too often, the deployment of these technologies happens faster than our social, political, or legal systems react,” said the ACLU in a statement given to Techcrunch.

In its letter, the campaign group said it wanted more “transparency” about the use of the robots, the ways in which they would be used and which officers would be deployed with them.

The ACLU said there was a need for regulations governing the use of the robots to ensure they did not trample on established civil rights and liberties or lead to racial injustice.

(16) KNUCKLING UNDER. According to the BBC, “Apple changes Crimea map to meet Russian demands”.

Apple has complied with Russian demands to show Crimea as part of Russian territory on its apps.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, in a move that was condemned by most of the global community.

The region is now displayed as Russian territory on Apple Maps and Weather, when viewed from inside Russia.

However, Apple Maps and Weather do not show Crimea as part of any country, when viewed outside Russia.

(17) CTHULHU’S KITCHEN. It’s time to remind everyone “How to Brine a Turkey by H.P. Lovecraft”. In his 2016 article, McSweeneys’ Robert Rooney explains the many advantages of this recipe, beginning with –

A turkey may be so prepared and preserved that, according to Artephius’s Key of Wisdom, “an ingenious Man may raise the fine Shape of a Homunculus out of its Ashes at his Pleasure, so he may, without any criminal Necromancy raise the Shape of any dead Ancestor for study and labor.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Well, it’s a commercial. But it’s a cute commercial.

This holiday, follow the magical story of Lucy, a curious 6-year-old with a few questions for her reindeer friends. With the help of her mom’s Surface and Microsoft Translator, she finally gets her chance to ask the most important questions of the season. Microsoft technology empowers and connects everyone on the planet…well, almost everyone.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/13/19 Baby, It’s Fahrenheit 451 Outside

(1) CHIZINE STORY CONTINUES TO UNFOLD. Three more writers announced they have asked ChiZine Publications to revert their rights:

I have spent the past week reading and processing the ongoing revelations and allegations about my publisher ChiZine. I honour the words and experiences and the courage of those who have come forward to speak.

Through my agent, I have requested that ChiZine revert to me the rights to all of my work that they have published.

Re: The current status of my collection Celestial Inventories and Melanie’s final novel The Yellow Wood–I’ve asked for and received a reversion of the rights for these two ChiZine titles. As soon as they are removed from such online booksellers as Amazon they will be re-issued by Crossroads Press as e-books. Hopefully, at some point they will reappear in paperback form, but I can’t be sure if and when.

  • Cat Rambo

Can*Con chairs Dererk Künsken and Marie Bilodeau have offered to use the convention’s platform to support affected authors and staffers:

Statement from Can*Con regarding recent public information about ChiZine:

A large number of detailed allegations of abusive behaviour and non-payment of authors and staff have recently come to light. Friends and members of the Can*Con community have been touched and hurt financially and emotionally. As Co-Chairs of Can*Con, we stand with the victims and offer our support, both as an organization and as Derek and Marie. We do not believe that there is a place in our community for abusive behaviour.

We would also like to offer to use what platform and resources we have to help the affected authors and staffers continue to move their careers forward. We would like to immediately offer to:

***use Can*Con’s social media presence to promote the books that affected authors may have for sale that will put money in their pockets, as well as places where the public can support their art through means such as Patreon, Ko-Fi, Drip, etc;

***waive the registration fee for Can*Con 2020 to affected authors and staffers so as to reduce the burden of participating in the community; and

***we will set aside 1-2 tables for free in the dealer’s room at Can*Con 2020, where affected authors and staffers can sell their author stock, other books, etc. without an additional conference expense. The authors could work together to organize shifts for the table, so that they can enjoy the con and network.

Any staffers or authors who would like to participate in any or all of this, please email canconchairs@gmail.com.

As co-chairs of a public event, we also have additional responsibilities in the face of this new information. We’ll take other appropriate actions to make Can*Con a place free of harassment and abuse, although it is possible that we will not be able to make public statements about that work. However, we hope that people take at face value our commitment to creating a positive, encouraging, energizing, uplifting space for SFFH folk. We are committed to always listen, learn, and act to continue to make Can*Con a space the community can be proud of.

We send our best and much warmth to those directly affected and also those triggered by these events. If we can do anything to help, please feel free to personally reach out to either or both of us.

Derek and Marie (and the whole Can*Con team)

Kerrie Byrne, after reading various posts revealing ChiZine’s finances, wrote another extended thread which begins here.

Bob Boyczuk’s November 7 post “The ChiZine Shitshow” has not previously been linked here.

I’ve been at the shit end of the stick with them ever since our relationship blew up when I withdrew my last book in Jan of 2018. My reasons for doing so were both  personal and professional. Leaving the personal reasons aside, they hadn’t given me a royalty statement or payment in three years, to say nothing of the reserves against returns they withheld, some up to 5 years after they were due. Moreover, their support of my last book was, to say the least, underwhelming. To be fair, however, most of the money owing (as well as questions of rights) has been settled since, although not without a long and frustrating back and forth which included personal attacks on me. In the few years before I severed ties with them, several other authors had complained to me about their late/non-existent royalties and/or the way they’d been treated. When this first started happening, I generally defended Chizine. But, when it became clear this wasn’t just a few isolated cases, I gave up on trying to defend the indefensible, and my advice to other authors became, “They produce a good-looking product, but be aware of what you’re getting into.”

Brian Keene says listen in Thursday –

(2) LIFELINE. “We lived long and prospered! How Star Trek saved fans’ lives “ — Duncan Barrett interviewed fans who credit Star Trek for helping them survive life crises: in The Guardian.

[Letitia Lemon:] I grew up watching Voyager, but it wasn’t until university that I made my way through the whole Star Trek back-catalogue. Studying film and TV production, I could see that the shows were products of their time, but the characters and themes were timeless.

In my final year, I had an accident in the scene-dock where the sets were kept. A huge metal pole fell on to my head, missing my eye by less than an inch. For several weeks I had concussion, with nausea and light sensitivity that made it hard to look at a TV.

Then the nightmares began. In my dreams, the accident had left me with a gaping bloody eye-socket, like something from a horror movie. I would wake gasping for breath and run to check myself in the mirror. Every time I went back into the scene-dock I froze. I didn’t realise it, but I had PTSD.

It was an episode of Discovery that finally made it all click. In a crisis, Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif) was having flashbacks to being tortured by the Klingons, and Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) was trying to calm him down. “You’re safe,” she told him. “What you are experiencing are the effects of past trauma.”

I stared at the screen in silence. I wasn’t watching as a film student now – or even as a fan – but as someone who knew exactly what that character was feeling. The admiral’s words gave me strength. From that day on, the nightmares stopped.

I tracked Jayne down on Twitter and told her my story. When I saw she was appearing at this year’s Las Vegas convention I knew I had to go, even though I was terrified of flying. I got through my first ever flight with Cornwell’s final line scrawled on a piece of paper in my lap: “Whatever your path may be, you can handle it.” When I arrived, she gave me a big hug. I knew it had all been worth it.

(3) OUTER LIMITS. Galactic Journey’s Natalie Devitt’s 4-episode recap includes a classic of SF television: “[November 13, 1964] Beat the Devil (The Outer Limits, Season Two, Episodes 5-8)”

Demon with a Glass Hand marks Robert Culp’s third appearance on The Outer Limits, after his previous roles in The Architects of Fear and Corpus Earthling. The third time is absolutely a charm. In this episode, Culp transforms into Trent, a man who recalls nothing of his past, but in the present is being pursued by human-like extraterrestrials called the Kyben.

The Kyben are after Trent to gain possession of his glass computerized hand, which “holds all knowledge.” His hand speaks, providing guidance to Trent to help him avoid capture. The Kyben already possess three of his fingers, which Trent needs in order to collect more information about his past. Along the way, he meets and is helped by a charming seamstress, Consuelo Biros, played by Arlene Martel of The Twilight Zone episodes Twenty Two and What You Need.

Harlan Ellison has done it again. Just like with The Soldier, Ellison‘s writing has helped The Outer Limits dive much deeper into science fiction. Ellison combines a lot of different things that, in the hands of a less skilled writer, might not work as well as they do here. The episode has an interesting premise, drama, action, and just a little bit of everything. Culp and Martel deliver spectacular performances. Back in the director’s chair is Byron Haskin, director of The War of The Worlds (1953) and this summer’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

(4) WHEN THE MAGIC INGREDIENT – $$ — IS MISSING. Mark Lawrence says this is what happened when studios came knocking on his door: “Hollywood and Hollywouldn’ts – your options as an author.”

…I spent a long time on the phone with very talkative, very enthusiastic, very convincing Hollywoodians. And I HATE phone calls. Hate them.

I was even skyped by the head of the head of a major US TV network’s Hollywood studio (CBS). He talked about how many millions would be spent on the (and here I forget the terminology) short taster that would be used to drum up funding for a full film.

I had small film companies showing me their short-form work and conference calling about scripts for different scenes – filming to start in 3 months.

Here’s the thing though. All of these people wanted the option on my work. Not one of these people was prepared to pay for it.

The option is a legal agreement that for the period of the option (typically 1 or 2 years) the author will not sell the film or TV rights to their work to anyone else. That’s all it is. You haven’t agreed to sell them to the person who holds the option (though sometimes you have – more of that later), just not to sell them to anyone else….

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man premiered. Produced by Universal Pictures, the film stars Claude Rains, in his first American screen appearance, and Gloria Stuart. The movie was popular at the box office, Universal’s most successful horror film since Frankenstein. The film holds a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 13, 1940 — Walt Disney’s Fantasia premiered at the Broadway Theater in New York; first film to attempt to use stereophonic sound.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 13, 1850 Robert Louis Stevenson. Author of for Treasure Island, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the New Arabian Nights collection of short stories. (Died 1894.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Philip Nowlan working for the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, was contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1930 Adrienne Corri. Mena in “The Leisure Hive”, a Fourth Doctor story. She was also in A Clockwork OrangeDevil Girl from MarsCorridors of BloodThe Tell-Tale HeartLancelot and GuinevereRevenge of the Pink Panther and Moon Zero Two which is not a complete listing by any means. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 13, 1933 James Daris, 86. He played the role of Creature in the deservedly maligned “Spock’s Brain” episode. He’d do one-offs in I Spy, I Dream of Jeannie, Land of the Giants, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible, the latter with Shatter and Nimoy. He retired from acting with a role in Larva, a horror film.
  • Born November 13, 1953 Tracy Scoggins,66. Capt. Elizabeth Lochley on Babylon 5 and its follow-up series, the short-lived Crusade. See Neil Gaiman’s Babylon 5 episode “ Day of the Dead” for all you need to know about her. She was also Cat Grant in the first season of Lois & Clark, and she played Gilora Rejal,  a female Cardassian, in “Destiny” a DS9 episode.
  • Born November 13, 1955 Whoopi Goldberg, 64. Best known as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Next Gen which she reprised in Generations and Nemesis. Other genre appearances include It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to name but a few of her appearances as she’s very busy performer!
  • Born November 13, 1957 Stephen Baxter, 62. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth serieswith Terry Pratchett.  I’ve only read the first three but they are quite great SF!  Ok I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of literary awards as well.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for a. Hugo for best short story. 
  • Born November 13, 1971 Noah Hathaway, 48. Best known as Atreyu in The NeverEnding Story and for being Boxey on the original Battlestar Galactica series. He was also Harry Potter Jr. in Troll, a 1986 comedy horror film which had nothing to do with that series.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pearls Before Swine suggests a near-future story about why we didn’t get coffee this morning.

(8) SHADE OF A DOUBT. Brian Chesky, chief executive of Airbnb, answered a question for the New York Times:

NYT: What’s your craziest Airbnb experience?

…We also have some really weird things. …. One day a customer calls us and says they want a full refund. We say, “Why do you want a full refund?” They said, “Because the house is haunted and there’s a ghost in the house.” And we’re, like, “O.K., well, we have to adjudicate this.”

So we call the host, and all the host has to do is deny it, because there’s no photo evidence of ghosts. Well, unfortunately the host confirms the ghost, says that it’s a friendly ghost named Stanley, and that the ghost Stanley is in the listing description.

We read the listing description, Stanley is mentioned. So we go back to the guest and the guest says, “Yes, we knew about Stanley, that’s why we booked it. But Stanley has been harassing us all night.” How do you adjudicate that? So I guess the point is in this new economy built on trust you can only imagine the kind of issues you deal with. There is no playbook for this stuff.

(9) PRESERVING FANHISTORY. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari sent out an update – he and Edie will see you next at Loscon in LA over Thanksgiving Weekend.

We brought the FANAC scanning station to Philcon last weekend, Nov. 8-10, and  scanned over 1,500 pages. We also received donations of both publications and recordings. The week before, we also received a carton of recordings from NESFA. Those cover Boston fandom going back to at least Boskone 5 in 1968! We haven’t had a chance to inventory them yet but a quick glance includes recordings of Marvin Minsky, Isaac Asimov, Gordon Dickson and many, many others.

Lastly, and MOST IMPORTANT: Edie Stern, our webmaster is going to be a Guest of Honor at Loscon 46 in 2 weeks, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2019, at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel. Come by and say “hello” to her.

To celebrate her Honorship, we will have another FANAC Scanning Station at the con.  Bring your favorite fannish photos and fanzines to Loscon so we can scan them and add them to FANAC.org. If you have old fannish recordings or films you can bring those as well. See you at Loscon.

(10) VAMPIRE BAMBI. “Silver-Backed Chevrotain, With Fangs And Hooves, Photographed In Wild For First Time”.

The silver-backed chevrotain — a mysterious animal that’s the size of a rabbit but looks like a silver-splashed deer — has been photographed in the wild for the first time. The chevrotain is the world’s smallest hoofed mammal, or ungulate.

Scientists say they have rediscovered a type of chevrotain that had been “lost to science” for nearly 30 years.

“They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs,” says Global Wildlife Conservation, which helped back the project that recently tracked down the elusive animals in southern Vietnam.

(11) HOMEWARD BOUND. Returning to sender:“Hayabusa-2: Japan spacecraft leaves asteroid to head home”.

Japan’s Hayabusa-2 spacecraft has departed from a faraway asteroid and begun its yearlong journey back to Earth.

The spacecraft left its orbit around Ryugu on Wednesday with samples of the asteroid in tow.

Hayabusa-2 is expected to return to Earth in late 2020, completing its successful multi-year mission.

Japan’s space agency, Jaxa, said the collected samples could shed light on the origins of the Solar System.

(12) CAT BUNGLER. Caught by social media, “‘Fat cat smuggler’ falls foul of Russian airline”.

Russian carrier Aeroflot has stripped a passenger of his air miles for breaching its rules by sneaking his overweight cat aboard a flight.

Mikhail Galin, 34, took his cat Viktor on board flight SU1702, from Moscow to Vladivostok, Aeroflot said.

Under Aeroflot’s rules, pets weighing more than 8kg (17lb) must be placed in the luggage hold.

Because Viktor was too heavy for the passenger cabin, Mr Galin devised a cunning plan.

He swapped Viktor for a smaller cat during check-in to get around the weight restrictions.

(13) AIR FROM WHERE? Independent reports “Nasa gets inexplicable new data showing unexpected oxygen fluctuations on Mars”.

…During the study, which used an instrument to analyse the air on Mars over the course of three Martian years or just under six Earth years, scientist found that gases like nitrogen and argon behave predictably through the year. The proportion of the gas rises and falls relative to the amount of carbon dioxide, which makes up 95 per cent of Martian air.

They thought that oxygen would see the same changes. But they were shocked to find that it in fact rose through the spring and summer, with a varying amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, which suggests that it is being produced and then removed from the air.

Researchers were so shocked by the findings that their first course of action was to check the accuracy of the instrument used to find the data, but found it was working fine. Other possible explanations based on what we know about the Martian atmosphere were also considered, but rejected.

“We’re struggling to explain this,” said Melissa Trainer, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who led the research. “The fact that the oxygen behavior isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can’t yet account for.”

The similarities between the mystery of Martian methane and Martian oxygen could be more than a coincidence, scientists speculate. It might be possible that they both have the same as yet unidentified cause.

“We’re beginning to see this tantalizing correlation between methane and oxygen for a good part of the Mars year,” Atreya said. “I think there’s something to it. I just don’t have the answers yet. Nobody does.”

(14) STILL TRYING TO GET THE PERFECT SHOT. “Infamous Han-Greedo Showdown Has Been Recut (Again) for Disney+”Tor.com has kept count how many times that’s been done.

This is the fourth version of the scene to appear in an official release: the original 1977, where Han appears to shoot (ahem) solo; the 1997 Special Edition that added in Greedo’s wide shot; the 2004 DVD edition which has Han and Greedo shooting at the same time; and now the 2019 Disney+ version, with Greedo getting in the last, baffling word.

(15) SOUNDS LIKE BATMAN. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Music story “‘Batman’ composer Danny Elfman says turning down Prince was ‘biggest, most stressful gamble’ of his career” says that Elfman recalled that at one point during the production of Batman he quit rather than work on the score of the film with Prince and Michael Jackson.  Eventually producer Jon Peters heard some of Elfman’s score and rehired him to completely produce the soundtrack.  But the film had two soundtracks, one by Elfman and one by Prince.

“The studio was happy,” says Elfman. “Jon Peters, he came up to me when we were scoring it — because there was not even going to be a soundtrack album for the score; it was only for Prince’s songs, and I knew that. And he came up to me, and he said, ‘You know what? This score is so good, we’re going to release a second soundtrack.’ And I go, ‘Yeah, right. You’re just saying that.’ That had never been done. And he did it! Like I said, it was a tough sell, but once he got sold, he was really excited, and he was a huge advocate, and he personally made it a big deal to get that second soundtrack out. So, he became a really fantastic advocate for the score that he was so resistant to in the beginning.”

(16) BEST AT BEING BAD. “Thanos snapped Pennywise to win SYFY WIRE’s Best Villain award “ – which is just one of the categories in SYFY Wire’s amusing “Two-Minute Award Show.”

Although Thanos may know what it’s like to lose, the Mad Titan finally knows what it’s like to win! For the inaugural SYFY WIRE Awards, Thanos has been named the Best Villain of 2019.

But it’s not like Thanos didn’t have stiff competition. His closest competitor was none other than Pennywise the Dancing Clown from It Chapter Two. Pennywise certainly knew how to strike fear into the hearts of children, as well as their impeccably cast adult counterparts. But in the end (or should we say in the Endgame?), Thanos proved to be too much for Stephen King’s fearsome creation.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Classics of SF at Loscon 46

By John Hertz:  We’ll take up two Classics of Science Fiction at Loscon XLVI, one discussion each.  Come to either or both.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

Our working definition is “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Each of our two is famous in a different way.  Each may be more interesting now than when first published.  Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Isaac Asimov, Second Foundation (1953)

Thousands of years in the future humanity has merged into a galactic empire.  One man, Hari Seldon, foresees its collapse.  He establishes a Foundation to preserve knowledge and advance technology so the dark age afterward will be shorter. He hints at a Second Foundation behind.

The almost-secret Seldon Plan succeeds for centuries.  Another man, a powerful mutant known only as the Mule, gains interstellar power and grows impatient.  To re-unite the worlds himself he searches for the Second Foundation.  He can read and control emotion. Who could hide from him?

The Mule has a human lifespan and no heir.  The Foundation itself then becomes distrustful.  The Second Foundation, if it exists, begins to seem dangerous, and anyway needless.  The Foundation’s superior science should be able to find and eliminate it.  A fourteen-year-old girl proves to be the heart of the story.

C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (1943)

We get few authors like this one, who took a triple first (highest honors in three subjects) at Oxford, taught there three decades, then accepted a chair at Cambridge and taught there another decade until his death.  He was a friend of Tolkien’s.

He opens the novel as the narrator.  The first thing he does is leave a railway station and start a three-mile walk: we’re in another world.  It’s 1940s England; so there are blackout curtains, and language (and thought) not quite like the 1940s in the United States.  Far stranger things lie ahead.

The protagonist, a man named Ransom, goes to Venus, given as a world possible at the time of writing, and described poetically.  Indeed this is a highly poetic book.  His journey is not only of sight and sound, but of mind.  He lands in a world-shaking argument.  His opponent is extraordinary.  Watch the author’s characterization.

The argument becomes a fight.  Its climax leads to another climax – which leads to another. There is a passage which has been called hymnlike.  Nor is that the end.

Is the moment near the end of the last chapter – only seven hundred words – comparable to Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937)?

A Netherlander has posted a glossary of allusions and quotations here.