Pixel Scroll 6/28/20 No One Expects The Fannish Inquisition! Our Chief Weapons Are Filing, Scrolls, And A Fanatical Devotion To The Pixel

(1) IN POOH’S OWN PAW. Pooh may have been a bear of very little brain, but he knew etiquette.

A 1935 letter signed by “Winnie the Pooh” — actually written by illustrator Ernest Howard Shepard — fetched triple its expected amount when it sold for more than $15,000.

The note, which included a drawing of the titular bear from A.A. Milne‘s book series as well as best friend Piglet, apologizes to a young fan named “Buffkins” for missing his birthday party.

(2) COLD DECK. Vox’s Aja Romano asks: “Did Cards Against Humanity’s ironic humor mask a toxic culture all along?” Tagline: “The popular brand built its progressive ethos through a game that encouraged ironic bigotry. Now, it faces a reckoning.”

The company’s own statement begins:

Starting on June 6, several of our former employees posted reports on social media about a toxic work environment in our Chicago office. Many of them centered on one of our eight co-founders, Max Temkin, who led that office. We immediately began an internal investigation, and on June 9, we made the following commitments to our staff:

  • Max Temkin stepped down and no longer has any active role at Cards Against Humanity, effective that day.
  • We’re hiring a specialist firm to review and improve all HR, hiring, and management practices at the company. Our goal is to make these practices more inclusive, transparent, and equitable.
  • An outside organization will lead workplace training for all partners and employees of Cards Against Humanity, focusing on communication and unconscious bias at work.

Romano’s Vox article continues with an explanation of the problematic aspects of the game, and why they were not called out earlier –

…CAH’s namesake card game, a self-proclaimed “party game for terrible people,” is an off-color derivative of the family-friendly Apples to Apples, the Mad Libs-style party game. Players use a small handful of words to fill in blanks within loaded phrases for maximum comedic effect, and the appeal lies in the goal of creating a more shocking, provocative one-liner from your hand of cards than your fellow players in order to be dubbed the funniest player in the group. It’s the kind of wordplay silliness that goes over well among a lot of drunk party-goers.

But detractors have argued for years that CAH’s real appeal is, in a word, racism. A 2016 study published in the academic journal Humanity & Society found that a quarter of the cards in the original deck dealt with race, and nearly all of those cards involving minorities seemed to invite the worst readings possible. Consider, for example, the card about indigenous Rwandans, “Stifling a giggle at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis,” later reportedly changed to “Helplessly giggling at the mention …” The phrase implies that something about the names of indigenous tribes is inherently funny, and that even though we all know it’s wrong, we just can’t help but indulge in our racism just a little bit, for a laugh. (CAH removed this card from circulation in 2015.)…

(3) ANOTHER CUCKOO IN THE SLUSHPILE. [Item by Andrew Porter.]  Okay, which word in the title would you have changed?

(4) PRACTICE YOUR WORLDCON SKILLS. In the CoNZealand 2020 Worldcon Community Group on Facebook, Laurie Mann announced there will be training and practice sessions for the apps they will use to run the virtual Worldcon.

To help people learn about Grenadine, Zoom & Discord & to get practice using these apps leading up to, we will have training sessions & practice sessions over the next few weeks. The schedule, using New Zealand Time, is here: https://conzealand.grenadine.co/en/cnzpreconz/ If you plan to attend any items, don’t forget to log into Grenadine – there’s information about that on the first page of the schedule.

(5) SUMMER SCHOOL. The Clarion West Write-A-Thon has started. The schedule and other nformation is at the links:

The Write-a-thon is on! Five hundred and eight participants have begun guided writing sessions, and on Tuesday, we hosted a livestream video of Andy Duncan’s reading. In the coming weeks, the world can tune in to see and hear Eileen Gunn, Nalo Hopkinson, Tina Connolly, Caroline M. Yoachim, and an editors’ roundtable featuring Scott H. Andrews, Chinelo OnwualuJulia Rios, and Wendy Wagner. These live events include ASL interpreters to help ensure that they are accessible to as many as possible. If you prefer closed captioning, please contact the Seattle Public Library. Please subscribe to our newly revamped YouTube channel for reminders about these events and more!

(6) DYSON SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. From the March 2018 New York Review of Books: “The Big Bang”. Tagline: The following letters to relatives and the accompanying headnotes are adapted from Freeman Dyson’s Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters, published by Liveright. This would be of interest in any case, all the more so to readers of Robert J. Sawyer’s new The Oppenheimer Alternative.

… Yesterday I had a talk with [Hans] Bethe about my future. Bethe told me that unless I raise objections, he will press for me to be given a second year; he said this was “in the interests of science as well as in your own interests.” He said I should spend the second year at Princeton with [J. Robert] Oppenheimer, and that Oppenheimer would be glad to look after me…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1982 — Ursula K, Le Guin’s The Compass Rose was published  by Pendragon Press, the Welsh publisher. This edition was of only 550 copies, and featured cover art by Tom Canty with interior illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert.  It would garner a Best Single Author Collection From the annual Locus Readers Poll. And a Ditmar was also awarded. It’s been in print even since, and has quite a few translations.  Most of the stories here are reprinted from elsewhere but some such as the horrific “The Wife’s Story” which is highly reminiscent of work done by Angela Carter is written for here. (CE)

(8)  TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born June 28, 1948 Kathy Bates, 72. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King derived film. Another genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1954 Deborah Grabien, 66. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1954 Alice Krige, 66. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli  and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1979 Felicia Day, 41. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears  as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1957 Mark Helprin, 73. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it.  (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1926 Mel Brooks, 94. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. And Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights, though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1951 Lalla Ward, 69. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on  Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus. (CE)
  • Born June 27, 1954 Raffaella De Laurentiis, 66. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series. She was the Executive Producer of the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (CE)
  • Born June 28, 1918 – Martin Greenberg.  Co-founded Gnome Press with Dave Kyle (Dave’s logograph is here), publishing ninety books in hard covers including Anderson, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Moore, Norton, Simak.  Edited eight anthologies.  Lost his shirt to Bob Bloch at poker.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1930 – Joe Schaumburger.  Active in our two longest-running apas, the Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA) and Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS).  President of the New Jersey SF Society and the Dickens Fellowship of New York.  Founded Wossname (Pratchett fans).  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1944 – Peggy Rae Sapienza.  Daughter of Jack McKnight who made the first Hugo Award trophies.  Active in FAPA.  With husband Bob Pavlat was given the Big Heart, our highest service award.  Chaired Smofcon 9.  Vice-chair of ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  After BP’s death, married John Sapienza.  Chaired BucConeer the 56th Worldcon, Nebula Awards Weekend 2012 and 2014, World Fantasy Convention 2014.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon.  When Japanese fans bid for and won the right, privilege, or typhoon of holding the 65th Worldcon, she was the North America agent, as probably no one else on the continent could have been.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1945 – Jon Gustafson.  Co-founded Moscon (Moscow, Idaho) and the Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA); ASFA Western Region Director until his death. Wrote “The Gimlet Eye” for Science Fiction Review and Pulphouse.  Edited the Program Books for Westercon 46 and MagiCon the 50th Worldcon; the 1995 SFWA Handbook (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America); Chroma, the Art of Alex Schomburg.  Founded JMG Appraisals, first professional SF art and book appraisal service in North America.  Wouldn’t lead Art Show tours but walked around with me so I could lead them better.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1954 – Darcy Pattison, 66.  Author and quilter; “Houses and Stars” on the cover of Quilting Today (September 1991); Great Arkansas Quilt Show 2002, 2007-2008.  The Wayfinder among a dozen novels for us, a few shorter stories; thirty more books for children and adults.  Leads the Novel-Revision Retreat.  Five Nat’l Science Teaching Ass’n (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books.  Arkansas Governor’s Art Award.  Translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish.  [JH]
  • Born June 28, 1983 – Gina Damico, 37.  CroakWax, and four more novels for us.  Grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York; California now.  Hardcore crocheter and knitter.  Likes Utz cheese balls.  Even she has seized the Iron Throne.  Her Website is here.  [JH]

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

On Mel Brooks’ birthday, let John King Tarpinian tell you about attending the premiere of Blazing Saddles. Not the one in the movie, but the real one at the Pickwick Drive-in in Burbank. 

“Attending on horseback was encouraged,” says John. “It was a block from what was then called the Pickwick Stables, now the Burbank Equestrian Center.  What is now the entrance back then was a grass lawn, which is where George Burns, as God, made his final phone booth call to John Denver.”

(10) A ROSE OF TEXAS BY ANY OTHER NAME. There’s not much to it besides a map of the district and a news clipping: “Lou Antonelli for Congress – Texas 4th District”.

(11) HOW’S FOR DINNER? “Dolphins Learn Foraging Tricks From Each Other, Not Just From Mom”.

Dolphins learn special foraging techniques from their mothers—and it’s now clear that they can learn from their buddies as well. Take the clever trick that some dolphins use to catch fish by trapping them in seashells. It turns out that they learn this skill by watching their pals do the job.

The discovery, reported in the journal Current Biology, helps reveal how groups of wild animals can transmit learned behaviors and develop their own distinct cultures.

“Dolphins are indeed very clever animals. So it makes sense that they are able to learn from others,” says Sonja Wild, a researcher at the University of Konstanz in Germany. She says young dolphins spend years in close association with their mothers and naturally tend to adopt their mothers’ ways, but this study shows that “dolphins are not only capable, but also motivated to learn from their peers.”

The bottlenose dolphins that live in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have been studied for decades, and scientists have identified over a thousand individuals by looking at the unique shape and markings of their dorsal fins. Researchers know what families the dolphins belong to, and keep track of their close associates. These dolphins use a variety ways of finding food—and not every dolphin uses every method.

Some dolphins, for examples, use sponges as tools. The dolphins break a conical sponge off the seafloor, and then wear it almost like a protective cap on their long snout, or beak. This apparently helps them probe into the rough sand of the rocky seafloor and search for buried prey.

(12) WE HAVE ALWAYS PUNKED IN THE CASTLE. “Shirley Jackson Meets Johnny Rotten In ‘Dark Blood Comes From The Feet'”NPR will tell you about it.

Horror isn’t many readers’ first choice during times like these. And while the prospect of wallowing in the murkier end of the emotional spectrum isn’t exactly high on the list of anyone’s self-care regimen right now, there’s a lot to be said for confronting our demons on the printed page as well as in real life. Emma J. Gibbon gets it. The Maine-by-way-of-England author’s debut collection of short stories, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is an assortment of seventeen scalding, acidic tales that eat away at society’s thin veneer of normalcy, convention, and even reality. At the same time, these horrific confections leave a sweet aftertaste of humanity.

As with all great horror, Dark Blood puts its characters first. In “Janine,” a reporter interviews a broken, middle-aged woman whose experience during her prom night in the ’80s shattered lives as well as reality. It’s the doom-laden, small-town fable of rich boy romancing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, as if Stephen King had written Pretty in Pink instead of John Hughes.

“The Tale of Bobby Red Eyes” is more mysterious but no less sympathetic to its titular character. In it, a group of children set out to investigate a local urban legend. The ending isn’t exactly happy. “If you say ‘Bobby Red Eyes’ three times in the mirror on Halloween, he’ll be your reflection,” whispers the story’s narrator, and Gibbon builds that incantatory force until it’s incandescently frightening. And in “The Last Witch in Florida,” Gibbon etches an endearingly weird portrait of an elderly witch who’s retired to the Sunshine State, stirring up magical mischief using pink plastic flamingoes and whatever she can scare up at the corner CVS.

(13) UNRELEASED. An NPR review: “A Painful Past And Ghostly Present Converge In ‘Tokyo Ueno Station'”.

Kazu, the narrator of Tokyo Ueno Station, had hoped that his death would bring him some rest, some sense of closure. The man led a life marked with hard work and intense pain; he spent his final years homeless, living in a makeshift shelter in a Tokyo park. But when he dies, he finds the afterlife — such as it is — is nothing like he expected.

“I thought that once I was dead, I would be reunited with the dead,” he reflects. “I thought something would be resolved by death … But then I realized that I was back in the park. I was not going anywhere, I had not understood anything, I was still stunned by the same numberless doubts, only I was now outside life looking in, as someone who has lost the capacity to exist, now ceaselessly thinking, ceaselessly feeling –“

Kazu’s painful past and ghostly present are the subject of Tokyo Ueno Station, the latest book by Korean-Japanese author Yu Miri to be published in English. It’s a relatively slim novel that packs an enormous emotional punch, thanks to Yu’s gorgeous, haunting writing and Morgan Giles’ wonderful translation.

(14) NOT UNCUT AFTER ALL. Bruce Haring, in the Deadline story, “‘South Park’ Missing Five Episodes From HBO Max Offerings Because Of Prophet Muhammad Depictions”, says that HBO Max is offering 23 seasons of South Park except for five episodes that have the Prophet Muhammad as a character.  Two of the five episodes are on the South Park website.

…The controversial episodes violate a widespread Islamic belief that depictions of Muhammad or any of the other prophets of Islam are forbidden, as they encourage the worship of idols. The prohibitions cover images, drawings, statues and cartoons.

…The episodes not available on HBO Max include season five’s Super Best Friends and season 14’s 200 and 201. Those shows had previously been removed from a streaming deal with Hulu and also were axed on the official South Park website. Also not made available to HBO Max were season 10’s Cartoon Wars Part I and Cartoon Wars Part 2, although those episodes can still be streamed on the South Park website.

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were threatened in 2010 for the prior depictions of Muhammad. That prompted Comedy Central to remove voice and visual references in the episodes, and eventually to pull the entire episodes from streaming.

(15) A SPOONFUL OF NOT-SUGAR. BBC explains “How one teaspoon of Amazon soil teems with fungal life”.

A teaspoon of soil from the Amazon contains as many as 1,800 microscopic life forms, of which 400 are fungi.

Largely invisible and hidden underground, the “dark matter” of life on Earth has “amazing properties”, which we’re just starting to explore, say scientists.

The vast majority of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world have yet to be formally classified.

Yet, fungi are surprisingly abundant in soil from Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

To help protect the Amazon rainforest, which is being lost at an ever-faster rate, it is essential to understand the role of fungi, said a team of researchers led by Prof Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

…Fungi in soil from tropical countries are particularly poorly understood. To find out about soil from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, researchers collected samples of soil and leaf litter from four regions.

Genetic analysis revealed hundreds of different fungi, including lichen, fungi living on the roots of plants, and fungal pathogens, most of which are unknown or extremely rare. Most species have yet to be named and investigated.

Areas of naturally open grasslands, known as campinas, were found to be the richest habitat for fungi overall, where they may help the poorer soil take up nutrients.

Understanding soil diversity is critical in conservation actions to preserve the world’s most diverse forest in a changing world, said Dr Camila Ritter of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

(16) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. The Locus Awards virtual ceremony video is now available at YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/20 He Was A Bug-Eyed, Lizard-Gorn, Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) VIRTUAL BALTICON IN-PROGRESS REPORT. The Sunday Edition of the Virtual Balticon 54 Newsletter Rocketmail, which can be downloaded here, says the total unique attendance on Zoom for all of Friday was 1,343 and on Saturday 2,787 people. This does not count the fans participating on other platforms. The newsletter also contains Masquerade participant info, and fundraising totals.

Balticon runs through tomorrow, and you can access it in a variety of ways. Dale S. Arnold explains:

You can of course continue/start enjoying the Virtual Balticon 54 by going to WWW.balticon.org and choosing links off the schedule and or links on the platform page. You can ghost by just watching the YouTube and Twitch feeds which stream the items each hour that the most people signed up for participating on that item in zoom if you prefer not to register on zoom as well…. Programs continue all the way through Monday…

However, they are running a GoFundMe to pay the virtual freight.

For the record as of 5:20 AM on 5/24/20 the total GoFundMe donations are at $11,065.00 gifted by the generous fans that are making Virtual Balticon 54 possible. An additional $495.00 has come into the BSFS paypal account during the GoFundMe campaign by folks who did not want to use GoFundMe using the http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm link. The BSFS treasurer reports that “almost” $2,000.00 has also been received as checks and or people donating their B45 memberships instead of taking a refund.

(2) FANFIC DISPUTE GOES TO COURT. There’s a lawsuit in progress over reuse of fanfic tropes in commercial genre fic. It could have repercussions well beyond hyper-niche erotica. The New York Times devotes a long article to the litigation: “A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question”.

…Then, in 2018, Ms. Cain heard about an up-and-coming fantasy writer with the pen name Zoey Ellis, who had published an erotic fantasy series with a premise that sounded awfully familiar. It featured an Alpha and Omega couple, and lots of lupine sex.

…Ms. Cain urged Blushing Books to do something. The publisher sent copyright violation notices to more than half a dozen online retailers, alleging that Ms. Ellis’s story was “a copy” with scenes that were “almost identical to Addison Cain’s book.” 

… “You have to make sure you use the tropes of Omegaverse in order to be recognized by fans of the genre,” Ms. Ellis said. “Crave to Conquer” and its sequel, “Crave to Capture,” were published in early 2018 by Quill Ink Books, a London company she founded. Readers gave the series glowing reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, calling it “sensational new Omegaverse!” and the “best Omega yet.”

In late April 2018, Ms. Ellis got an email from a reader who had ordered one of her books from Barnes & Noble, then learned that it wasn’t available anymore. She soon discovered that all of her Omegaverse books had disappeared from major stores, all because of a claim of copyright infringement from Ms. Cain and her publisher. Ms. Ellis found it bewildering.

“I couldn’t see how a story I had written using recognized tropes from a shared universe, to tell a story that was quite different than anything else out there commercially, could be targeted in that way,” Ms. Ellis said. “There are moments and scenarios that seem almost identical, but it’s a trope that can be found in hundreds of stories.”

A lawyer for Ms. Ellis and Quill filed counter-notices to websites that had removed her books. Some took weeks to restore the titles; others took months. There was no way to recover the lost sales. “As a new author, I was building momentum, and that momentum was lost,” Ms. Ellis said. And she worried that the “plagiarist” label would permanently mar her reputation.

Ms. Ellis decided to sue. “Everything would have been in question, my integrity would have been questioned, my ability to write and tell stories — all of that would have been under threat if I didn’t challenge these claims,” she said.

In the fall of 2018, Quill Ink filed against Blushing Books and Ms. Cain in federal court in Oklahoma, where Ms. Ellis’s digital distributor is based, seeking $1.25 million in damages for defamation, interfering with Ms. Ellis’s career, and for filing false copyright infringement notices. In the suit, Quill’s lawyers argued that “no one owns the ‘omegaverse’ or the various tropes that define ‘omegaverse.’”

Ms. Ellis’s lawyers thought they had a strong position. But they struggled to find a prior case that addressed whether fan fiction tropes could be protected by copyright….

The biggest development in the case so far is that Blushing Books has left Ms. Cain to contest the matter alone. Last year, the publisher conceded that no plagiarism or copyright infringement had occurred, and a judgment was entered against the company, which paid undisclosed monetary damages to Quill and Ms. Ellis. (Ms. Cain is now self-publishing.)

Ms. Ellis and her publishing company filed a new civil suit against Ms. Cain in her home state of Virginia, arguing that she maliciously directed her publisher to send false copyright infringement notices to retailers. Ms. Cain’s lawyers have denied the claims, and have lined up authors, bloggers and readers as witnesses.

If the judge, or a jury, finds Ms. Cain in the wrong, the case would send a message to overzealous genre writers that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is not to be abused. By the same token, authors of genuinely original stories might find they have one fewer legal lever to protect their work. And a victory by Ms. Cain could encourage a free-for-all, emboldening authors to knock back competitors and formally assert their ownership of swaths of the fan fiction universe and common tropes in genre fiction.

Discovery is ongoing, and a pretrial conference before a judge is scheduled for June. In the meantime, the Omegaverse continues to thrive. This year, more than 200 new books from the genre have been published on Amazon.

The latest batch draws on virtually every genre and trope imaginable: paranormal shifter romances, paranormal Mpreg romances, reverse harem romances, sci-fi alien warrior romances. There are fantastical Alpha-Omega stories featuring witches, unicorns, dragons, vampires, wolf-shifters, bear-shifters, and wolf-shifters versus bear-shifters. There are comparatively pedestrian Omegaverse romances about celebrity chefs, dentists, frat boys, bakers, bodyguards and billionaires. In a teeming multiverse of stories, the tropes are still evolving, inexhaustible.

(3) MEXICANX INITIATIVE REMEMBERED. This San Antonio Current story shows John Picacio, winner of SFWA’s 2020 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, is also a hometown hero: “San Antonio Science Fiction Artist John Picacio Wins Award for Opening Door to Mexicanx Talent”.

… “Many of the folks I selected were rising stars such as David Bowles, Julia Rios and Marcela Davison Aviles,” Picacio said. “The Initiative enhanced their networks, but the vast majority of my picks were much newer talents to the field. The industry badly needs their cultural perspective and their voice right now.”

(4) AFRICAN SFF AT STORYBUNDLE. The “African Speculative Fiction Bundle curated by Ivor W. Hartmann” is available from StoryBundle. Same deal as always – “Support awesome authors by paying however much you think their work is worth!”

This is the most comprehensive collection of African speculative fiction authors ever assembled. With the complete bundle containing nearly 100 authors and over 145 works it stands both as an excellent introduction to the rapidly evolving canon of African SF and a unique one-time collection of their works. From established stars you might know such as Nnedi Okorafor, Tade Thompson, and Sarah Lotz, to upcomers like Wole Talabi, Chinelo Onwualu, Nerine Dorman, Dilman Dila, and so many more.

The road to this bundle has been paved by the work of countless African writers, editors, publishers, and most importantly readers. For too long was the African experience, imagination, and insight, held captive and until relatively recently only glimpsed through the thick lens of other cultures and their inherent biases. In a big way this is what the new wave of African Speculative Fiction is about: telling our own stories, revealing our vibrant cultures from within, sharing our unique perspectives, and writing ourselves into futures that for so long seemed to spell our doom by virtue of our absence.

(5) CLASSIC RETURNING. “Battlestar Galactica Reboot Producer Sam Esmail Teases the New Series” at Comicbook.com.

[Sam] Esmail says he never planned to helm the series himself. “I’m a huge fan of Ronald Moore’s Battlestar, but I don’t know if I’m great at hard sci-fi like that,” he says. “I love it. I’m a fan of it. But I knew early on that we were going to have to bring somebody in to run the room and to write the scripts.”

He went to explain why the job went to Lesslie, who is best known for the miniseries The Little Drummer Girl. “He’s just a fantastic writer,” Esmail says. “I loved his series, Little Drummer Girl, and the one thing that really struck me about him and his take for Battlestar, one of the reasons I even wanted to do Battlestar, was that the way Ron Moore, what he did with his remake in the early 2000s where it was this sort of hard sci-fi series with lots of action set pieces and really this exciting sci-fi adventure but purely grounded in an allegory of what was going on at the time, which was post-9/11. And it wasn’t that subtle, the links, I would say. But because he was also attuned to the sci-fi nature of the show, you didn’t feel it.

“When I was approached to do Battlestar now, it has to have that same sort of dynamic. It can’t be just a retread of what he already did so masterfully back then. What are we saying about today’s world? And Mike just had this great take, and I’m not going to go into it because obviously, I don’t want to spoil it for fans, but you kind of see it a little bit in Little Drummer Girl where politics plays a big part in it but without compromising the entertainment value, because in my opinion, you’ve got to have that….” 

(6) SUPER RESOURCE. There’s always a ton of news at the Superman Supersite about the iconic Kryptonian and those who keep the legend going. It’s where I found out about this new series: “’Superman & Lois’ Detailed Synopsis and Premiere Announced”.

The CW Network has announced that “Superman & Lois” will officially premiere in January, 2021 when the network launches its new season.

…In “Superman & Lois”, after years of facing megalomaniacal supervillains, monsters wreaking havoc on Metropolis, and alien invaders intent on wiping out the human race, the world’s most famous superhero, The Man of Steel aka Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin, “Teen Wolf”) and comic books’ most famous journalist, Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch, “Grimm”), come face to face with one of their greatest challenges ever – dealing with all the stress, pressures and complexities that come with being working parents in today’s society. Complicating the already daunting job of raising two boys, Clark and Lois must also concern themselves with whether or not their sons Jonathan (Jordan Elsass, “Little Fires Everywhere”) and Jordan (Alexander Garfin, “The Peanuts Movie”) could inherit their father’s Kryptonian superpowers as they grow older.

Returning to Smallville to handle some Kent family business, Clark and Lois are reacquainted with Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui, “Entourage”), a local loan officer who also happens to be Clark’s first love, and her Fire Chief husband Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez, “Graceland”). The adults aren’t the only ones rediscovering old friendships in Smallville as the Kent sons are reacquainted with Lana and Kyle’s rebellious daughter, Sarah (Inde Navarrette, “Wander Darkly”). Of course, there’s never a dull moment in the life of a superhero, especially with Lois’ father, General Samuel Lane (Dylan Walsh, “Nip/Tuck”) looking for Superman to vanquish a villain or save the day at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, Superman and Lois’ return to idyllic Smallville is set to be upended when a mysterious stranger (Wolé Parks, “All American”) enters their lives.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 24, 1957 Quatermass 2 premiered In the U.K. It was produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Val Guest. It’s a sequel to The Quatermass Xperiment. Screenplay was by Nigel Kneale and Val Guest.  It stars Brian Donlevy, John Longden, Sid James, Bryan Forbes, Vera Day, and William Franklyn. Like the first film, some critics thought it was a lot of fun, some were less than impressed. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a respectable sixty percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz!]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  Pronounced “hew-ell”.  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1841-1866. Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientistphysicistlinguisticsosmosisionastigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman put him here by anthologizing in Fantasia Mathematica this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – and that’s just some of the prozines we’ve had – translated into French, German, Italian.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s known as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher), Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom hosted the Pinckard Salon; Big Heart Award to both, 1984; the Salon drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad, and like that.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well-known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during Tom Baker’s era as the Fourth Doctor. He’d write a novelization of his story, The Nightmare Fair, developed as a Sixth Doctor story but never filmed when Colin Baker’s contract was terminated. He would die at home of an accident gunshot wound. (Died 1990) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 71. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Michael Chabon, 60. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 60. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s  in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and Commander Saru on Discovery
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Shinichirô Watanabe.  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChamplooSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotus is in the works.  Don’t ask me why my host’s daughter at the Yokohama Worldcon was rehearsing The Magic Flute but I don’t know any of my fellow gaijin rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton – will this man write The Federalist?  [JH]

(9) SUPERERO GENESIS. In the Washington Post, African-American author Tre Johnson discusses how he is using the language and ideas of superheroes to enable him to cope with the pandemic. “The coronavirus has made the waking world into a dreamscape”.

A more perfect origin story would’ve had a superheroic tinge. Maybe I’d be sitting in my apartment, on the couch, contemplating how to move safely about Philadelphia when a clatter of glass would erupt and a ball of coronavirus — the size of a grapefruit with the spiny ridge of a porcupine — would bound through my window, roll to my feet and pulse with exhaustion. I’d stare at it and think Yes, father, that is what I will do, I will become an anti-virus. And that would be the reason to don the mask that I now wear daily when I walk my neighborhood.

(10) BAKE ME A CAKE AS FAST AS YOUR CAN. And mark it with a “C” – for corona. “Pandemic-Baking Britain Has an ‘Obscene’ Need for Flour” – the New York Times has a full accounting.

A week before Britain came to a standstill in mid-March, the Wessex Mill found itself fielding nearly 600 calls a day requesting one of the country’s hottest commodities: flour.

The mill in Oxfordshire has produced nearly 13,000 small bags of flour each day during the coronavirus pandemic, a fourfold increase. Demand led Emily Munsey, a flour miller who runs the business with her father, to hire more staff and add afternoon and night shifts to keep the mill running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the first time in its 125-year history.

“It’s been very challenging as a company. The amount of work we’ve all had to do has increased a huge amount,” said Ms. Munsey, who has since scaled back to five days a week, though still around the clock, to give employees a weekend break. “Demand remains consistently obscene.”

Commercial mills produce nearly four million tons of flour each year in Britain, according to the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers. With much of the country stuck at home, baking has surged, and retail-size flour bags have become scarce on grocery shelves.

The coronavirus outbreak has flooded social media with #coronavirusbaking and #quarantine cookies. Yeast is in short supply, and butter sales have soared. In April, Google searches for cake, bread and flour skyrocketed….

(12) CURTAIN CALL. [Item by JJ.] Anthropomorphic phone — I’m calling it genre.

(13) READING IN THE NEW CAPTAIN. Ted Anthony, in the Associated Press story “Kirk 2.0:  Capt. Pike of the New ‘Star Trek’ A Welcome New Icon” says he welcomes Christopher Pike as the captain of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds because he sees James T. Kirk as “an interstellar Don Draper–brooding, arrogant, a top-down manager who earned his privilege but often presumed it” and thinks Pike will be a more responsible captain.

…It’s not accidental that Pike is the son of a father who taught science AND comparative religion — an embodiment of the empiricism-faith equation that “Star Trek” and its captains have always espoused. In many ways, in fact — even more so than Chris Pine in the movie reboots — Pike functions as James T. Kirk 2.0.

(14) COSMIC CREEPOUT. “Every ‘I Have A Bad Feeling About This’ In Star Wars Movies”: ScreenRant tries to round up every time someone said they had a bad feeling about something.

…However, George Lucas’ wonderful world of science fiction space opera has also provided the world with a series of timeless movie quotes. “May the Force be with you” has taken on a life of its own and “I am your father” is now a staple of Father’s Day greetings cards. In more recent years, less prominent quotes have come to the fore thanks to the onset of meme culture, “it’s a trap!” being the most famous. Now The Mandalorian is getting in on the act with “this is the way” and “I have spoken.

But undoubtedly one of the most famous utterances in the Star Wars universe is “I have a bad feeling about this,” …

(15) A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME. As reported last month (item 13), Lou Antontelli is running for Congress in Texas. But this week the district’s Republican incumbent John Ratcliffe resigned his seat to accept appointment as director of National Intelligence. With no incumbent to run against, shit just got real! And at least one Texas paper (besides the one owned by the candidate himself) thinks it’s terrific that Lou Antonelli is running: “Libertarians field viable candidate for District 4 seat”. The question is how well these pearls of wisdom will play with the locals:

… Antonelli said his goal running as a third party candidate is to inject original ideas into the discussion, and push for the Libertarian Party to become the second party in the district, displacing the Democrats.

“Can you imagine how much better our political system would be if the two major parties were the Republicans and Libertarians, instead of the Republicans and Democrats?” Antonelli asked. “Libertarians are the loyal opposition, as opposed to the Democrats, who are the disloyal opposition.”

Antonelli said Libertarians stand for hacking away strangling bureaucracy at all levels of government, and returning as much authority as possible to individuals.

“Thanks to the Covid pandemic, we have all gotten a free trial of socialism,” he said. “How do you like it?”

(16) ON YOUR MARK: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Astronauts complete rehearsal for historic mission”

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have completed their dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s flight to the International Space Station.

The mission, the first crewed outing from American soil in nine years, will see the pair ride to orbit in a SpaceX Falcon rocket and Crew Dragon capsule.

It’s a demonstration of the new “taxi” service the US space agency will be buying from the Californian firm.

Lift-off on Wednesday is timed for 16:33 EDT (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST).

The weather around the Kennedy Space Center in Florida may have other ideas, however.

A forecast released on Saturday by the US Space Force 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron predicted just a 40% chance of favourable conditions come launch time.

There is a strong possibility the Kennedy complex could see thick cloud, rain and even thunder.

If controllers are forced to scrub, everyone will come back on Saturday for a second try.

Hurley and Behnken are now all but done with their preparations.

The weekend “Dry Dress” rehearsal saw the pair don their made-to-measure spacesuits, walk out to a Tesla, and then make a 6km drive down to Kennedy’s famous Launch Complex 39A.

(17) GET SET: “Nasa SpaceX launch: Who are the astronauts?”

On 27 May, two US astronauts will achieve a world first when they launch to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a spacecraft built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Here, BBC News profiles the astronauts who will make the historic journey.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are about to break a nine-year hiatus for Nasa, becoming the first astronauts to launch from US soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

…”It’s well past time to be launching an American rocket from the Florida coast to the International Space Station and I am certainly honoured to be a part of it,” Hurley, 53, said earlier this month.

Behnken, 49, added: “On my first flight… I didn’t have a son, so I’m really excited to share the mission with him.”

Nasa has chosen two of its most experienced astronauts to help California-based SpaceX ready the Crew Dragon for launch. The two are also longstanding friends.

“Being lucky enough to fly with your best friend… I think there’s a lot of people who wish they could do that,” says Hurley.

When they blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, their spouses will know exactly what they are going through. That’s because they’re astronauts too.

(18) GO: “Nasa SpaceX launch: What’s the mission plan?”

On Wednesday, the California company SpaceX will launch a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s something the firm has done many times before, taking cargo to the sky-high laboratory. But on this occasion, the firm will be transporting people.

It’s one of those seminal moments in the history of spaceflight.

When Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken lift off atop their Falcon-9 rocket, inside their Crew Dragon capsule, it will mark the first time humans have left US territory to reach low-Earth orbit in almost nine years.

But more than that, it sees a shift to the commercialisation of human space transportation – of companies selling “taxi” rides to government and anyone else who wants to purchase the service.

This page details the key phases in the mission sequence.

Launch will occur from the Kennedy Space Center’s Complex 39A. This is the famous Florida pad from where the Apollo 11 moonwalkers and the very first shuttle, Columbia, also began their missions.

(19) CLASSIC OR STINKER? In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The ‘Lost’ finale at 10: Why viewers loved and hated ‘The End'”, Ethan Alter says even though it was 10 years since Lost ended, controversy continues over whether the ending of the show was brilliant or stupid. UH, SPOILERS, I GUESS?

…What the duo decided to do was to design a finale that emphasizes character over mystery. “The End” plays out in two realities: the mysterious island where mystical forces and weird science live side-by-side, as well as the “Flash sideways” timeline where Jack and the rest of the castaways were back in the real world, albeit leading different lives than what we saw in the flashback sequences that were a major part of previous seasons. The island-based sequences are explicitly devoted to tying up some, though not all of the loose ends: Jack has a final confrontation with the Man in Black, currently housed in the body of John Locke (Terry O’Quinn); Hurley (Jorge Garcia) becomes the new protector of the island, with Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) as his sidekick; and pilot Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) gets everyone else — including Kate (Lilly), Sawyer (Holloway) and Claire (Emilie de Ravin) — the heck out of dodge. As the plane soars away from the island, a mortally wounded Jack watches it depart from his final resting place as his eyes close, a direct nod to the first shot of the first episode….  

(20) WHO SAW IT COMING? Usually we’re filling in this blank with Philip K. Dick’s name. See how bad things have gotten, that PKD isn’t the answer! “2020 Is One Great Big George Saunders Story” says InsideHook.

…But there is one author who predicted these dumb and absurd times: George Saunders. 

The MacArthur “Genius” and Booker Prize-winning Saunders has been publishing darkly hilarious visions of America since the early 1990s. Zadie Smith has said “not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny” while The New York Times noted “no one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.” Perhaps the archetypal Saunders story is “Sea Oak,” which follows a trod-upon worker at an aviation-themed male strip club called Joysticks: “Guests rank us as Knockout, Honeypie, Adequate, or Stinker. Not that I’m complaining. At least I’m working.” At home, his family lives in a dangerous neighborhood and anesthetizes themselves with reality TV shows like How My Child Died Violently while fantasizing about the American dream, summarized by one character as “you start out in a dangerous craphole and work hard so you can someday move up to a somewhat less dangerous craphole. And finally maybe you get a mansion.”

(21) JANELLE MONÁE. On Late Night with Seth Meyers Janelle Monáe talks about David Byrne using one of her songs in his musical American Utopia, a musical she wrote as a child and her efforts to help communities during the pandemic.

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

2020 SFWA Officer Election Results

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have released the outcome of the latest officer elections, however, not the vote counts.

The results as certified by the Elections Committee and the Executive Director are as follows. For the Director-at-Large positions, runner-ups have been listed in alphabetical order.

Vice President: Tobias S. Buckell

Chief Financial Officer: Nathan Lowell 

Director-at-Large thru 2021:

(W) James Beamon

Runners-up:

  • Lou Antonelli
  • Tobias S. Buckell
  • Traci Castleberry
  • N.K. Jemisin
  • Cat Rambo
  • Monica Valentinelli 

Director-at-Large thru 2022: 2 Open Positions (winners and runners-up listed alphabetically)

(W) Phoebe Barton

(W) Monica Valentinelli

Runners-up:

  • Lou Antonelli
  • Lou J. Berger
  • Jonathan P. Brazee
  • Tobias S. Buckell
  • Brenda Clough
  • Arinn Dembo
  • John Forrest
  • Esther Friesner
  • Charles E. Gannon
  • Clayton E. Kroh
  • Craig Martelle
  • Cat Rambo
  • John Scalzi
  • Steven H Silver
  • Chuck Tingle
  • Jeremiah Tolbert
  • William Alan Webb
  • Walter Jon Williams
  • Christie Yant

SFWA’s Board for the 2020-2021 term, starting July 1st, 2020 will consist of: 

President: Mary Robinette Kowal

Vice President: Tobias S. Buckell

CFO: Nathan Lowell

Secretary: Curtis C. Chen

Directors-at-Large (term ending 2021): 

Sarah Pinsker
Jeffe Kennedy
James Beamon

Directors-at-Large (term ending 2022):

Phoebe Barton
Monica Valentinelli 

That one of the directors-at-large seats for the term ending 2022 was filled by a write-in candidate can be inferred from Lou Antonelli’s statement that there had been only one candidate for those two seats and his appeal for SFWAns to write in his name.

Pixel Scroll 4/13/20 Pixels, Get Ready, There’s A Scroll A’comin’

(1) PRESSING IN. Cat Rambo’s video “Why Small Press Books Don’t Almost Always Suck” challenges negativity about small presses with examples from her own career.

Cat talks about some of the small press books she’s appeared in or worked with, and what she likes about them

So far as I can tell she doesn’t identify any particular person as holding this opinion. But it might be more than a coincidence that a few weeks back Nick Mamatas wrote a column for LitReactor titled “Why Are Small Presses Almost Always So Awful?”

(2) IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. [Item by Dann.] Regarding Archive.org, Brian Keene has gone through the process of figuring out how to get his works removed from the National Emergency Library. To make it easier for other authors, he supplied the process in The Horror Show with Brian Keene – episode 259.

  • Authors need to send an email to info@archive.org.
  • The subject line should read “National Emergency Library Removal Request”
  • Authors need to include the URL(s) from within the National Emergency Library so they will know which work(s) they need to remove.

It’s kind of crappy to force authors to jump through hoops to prevent copyright infringement, but I guess it’s better to have hoops available than to just ignore the infringement and drive on as if nothing is wrong.

(3) IMPROVING SHORT FICTION. The Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews guest lecturer Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s.

…You’ve read quite a number of short stories over the years as an editor. For writers looking to improve their understanding of how short stories work, how would you suggest critically reading stories with an eye to improvement and understanding? Are there particular elements critical readers should look for?

This is a great question. Years ago I heard of an author who retyped a famous story to figure out what the author was doing. I don’t think the writer has to go that far, but critical reading is essential. Pick a favorite story that wowed you and read it a few times. Take notes. Look for the foreshadowing. Look for the metaphors and the similes. Pay attention to the arc. Pay attention to every clue. A professional author rarely wastes a word in a work of short fiction. It takes practice to pick up on most of the details the first time through a tale, but it’s a lot easier to see these details once you know what’s coming.

(4) NOT A DESIRABLE CHAPTER. Publishers Weekly reports on the troubles of a major book printer: “LSC Files Chapter 11”

LSC Communications announced this morning that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The filing has been expected for several months as the country’s largest book printer—and one of its largest printers overall—has struggled under the weight of its failed merger with Quad Graphics and the outbreak of the new coronavirus. LSC’s subsidiaries in Mexico and Canada are not included in the filing, and will continue to operate normally.

LSC said it has received commitments for $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing from certain of its revolving lenders, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions. If approved by the bankruptcy court, LSC said, the new financing, combined with cash on hand and generated through its ongoing operations, “is expected to be sufficient to support the company’s operational and restructuring needs.”

Since LSC’s deal with Quad was called off last summer following objections from the Justice Department, the company has worked to streamline its business, a process that has included closing eight facilities and signing new contracts, noted Thomas Quinlan III, LSC chairman, president, and CEO. Quinlan added that a review of its operations determined that the best way forward was to pursue a restructuring of its financial structure.

And Quad, LSC’s would-be merger partner, hit the wall two weeks ago: “Quad Closes Book Printing Operations”.

Publishers were dealt an unhappy surprise last week when Quad unexpectedly closed its book printing facilities, sending publishers scrambling to find a replacement. Quad did not respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it had plans to re-open the book plants.

The closure comes at a time when the loss of printing capacity is one of the many concerns publishers are facing because of the new coronavirus outbreak. Overall, most printers are printing, although on different schedules as they adjust to state policies, staffing, and types of books.

Quad put its book printing business up for sale last fall following the collapse of its proposed merger with the country’s largest book printer, LSC Communications, after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit. Quad has yet to respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it has found a buyer, but to date, none has been announced.

LSC, meanwhile, is continuing to operate, though it is dealing with its own financial challenges. 

(5) WORLD FANTASY AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The World Fantasy Convention chairs still plan to hold their con in Salt Lake City from October 29-November 1.

WFC 2020 is still six months away. Every day brings new developments and, we sincerely hope, progress toward controlling and conquering the virus. We have every hope that the current crisis will be over long before 29 October. Besides our own continuing discussions and plans, we’re monitoring the efforts of other conferences and similar gatherings, and will adapt all measures that make sense to keep our membership safe. We know this is a difficult time, and everyone’s plans are in a state of flux. Be assured we have no plans to raise membership rates during this worldwide emergency.

Download Progress Report #2 from the website.

Members of the 2018, 2019, or 2020 World Fantasy Conventions may nominate books, stories, and individuals for the 2020 World Fantasy Award between how and May 31. Voting instructions here.

(6) THE LOOK OF DUNE. Vanity Fair posted on Instagram the first photos of Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s production of Dune.

(7) FERRELL OBIT. Former OMNI editor Henry Keith Ferrell (1953-2020) died of an apparent heart attack while fixing his roof, before the storm currently sweeping up the East Coast. He is survived by his wife, Martha, and son, Alec, who made the announcement on Ferrell’s website.

…Graduating from Raleigh’s Sanderson High in 1971, he attended the Residential College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he met Martha Sparrow — a woman of equal beauty and intellect — at a Halloween party in the basement of Guilford dormitory. His face covered in wax, she overheard him mentioning the name “Lawrence Talbot” and she got the reference, having no idea what Keith looked like. On their first date, they ditched a French play to go see King Kong instead. They fell in love, moved off campus, and started their lives together. They were married on July 20, 1974, and would remain together for almost 47 years.

…Now a family man, Keith set out on his career in publishing, first at Walnut Circle Press as a print salesman, then as editor of trade magazine The Professional Upholsterer, onward to feature writer of COMPUTE! Magazine, where he was at the forefront of reporting on the burgeoning home computing industry throughout its emergence as a household staple. All the while, he raised his son and loved his wife, planted many gardens, and wrote and wrote and wrote.

From 1983 through 1987, Keith published four critically-acclaimed biographies of legendary writers for young adults through M. Evans and Company: H.G. Wells: First Citizen of the Future; Ernest Hemingway: The Search for Courage; George Orwell: The Political Pen; and John Steinbeck: The Voice of the Land. These were the first of many printed works to bear his name in the byline.

In 1990, COMPUTE! was acquired by General Media out of New York City, and Keith was recruited and ultimately served as Editor-in-Chief of OMNI Magazine, the preeminent science and technology publication of the day — a career-defining accomplishment. During his tenure at OMNI, Keith worked with (and edited) many of the heroes of his youth and forged friendships across the fields of anthropology, gaming, evolutionary studies, telecommunications, and writers of all stripes. Keith stewarded OMNI as a vehicle for the vanguard of cutting-edge technology and futurism until its final issue…

He wrote until his dying day, which turned out to be April 11, 2020, at 2:32pm. His heart gave out after fixing a hole in his roof, but finished the job before doing so….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 13, 2012 Lockout premiered. Also known as MS One: Maximum Security, It directed by James Mather and Stephen Saint Leger, and written by Mather, Saint Leger, and Luc Besson. It was both Mather’s and Saint Leger’s feature directorial debuts. The film stars Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, and Peter Stormare. It did poorly at the box and critics were not fond of it either; it holds a 46% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. So why write up here? Because John Carpenter successfully sued the film’s makers in the French courts for the film having plagiarized both Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.., a verdict held upon appeal. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1923 Mari Blanchard. Remembered best as B-movie femme fatale, she did a number of genre films including Abbott and Costello Go to Mars where she was Queen Allura, She Devil where she had the lead role of Kyra Zelas and Twice-Told Tales, a Vincent Price horror film where she had a not major role as Sylvia Ward. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverley Cross. English screenwriter responsible for an amazing trio of films, to wit namely Jason And The ArgonautsSinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger and Clash Of The Titans. He also wrote the screenplay for The Long Ships which is at genre adjacent. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1949 Teddy Harvia, 71. Winner of the Hugo for Fan Artist an amazing four times starting in 1991 at Chicon IV, then in 1995 at Intersection, next in 2001 at the Millennium Philcon and last at in 2002 at ConJosé. He was honored with the Rebel Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation in 1997 at that year’s DeepSouthCon
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 69. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 66. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His TV resume includes notable work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written a number of genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. He was an American science fiction editor, author and anthologist. Founding editor of the Questar Science Fiction line for which he was a Nolacon II Hugo finalist in the Best Professional Editor category. I’ve read and will recommend The American Fantasy Tradition which he did, and likewise Masters of Fantasy which was co-edited with Bill Fawcett. I see he helped Julius Schwartz put together his autobiography,  Man of Two Worlds. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 70. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates as Zeno was followed quickly by the role of Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel  De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it.) At the time, I thought it was the the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1960 Michel Faber, 60. Dutch born author of three genre novels, Under the SkinThe Book of Strange New Things and D: A Tale of Two Worlds. He was a finalist for the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Book of Strange New Things.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THERE’S NOTHING HALFWAY ABOUT THE IOWA WAY. Shaenon K. Garrity tweeted, “The Iowa Digital Library has a collection of sci-fi fanzines from the 1930s and 1940s, and my entertainment needs through the rest of the pandemic are taken care of.” Thread starts here.

(12) SECOND THOUGHTS. Cora Buhlert continues her assessment of this year’s finalists in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2020 Hugo Awards”.

…This year, however, I’m largely happy with the Best Related Work finalists. Joanna Russ by Gwyneth Jones, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, by Farah Mendlesohn are exactly the sort of finalists I want to see in this category. All three were also on my longlist, two of them were on my ballot.

Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski was not on my ballot, but is a highly deserving finalist, since autobiographies of people of genre relevance have always been a part of Best Related Work – see also the recent nominations for Carrie Fisher’s and Zoe Quinn’s respective autobiographies….

(13) LOOKING FOR A JOB IN WASHINGTON. If Lou Antonelli doesn’t get voted in as SFWA director-at-large, he’s got a fallback position. Lou has declared himself a Libertarian candidate for Congress in Texas’ 4th District. Ballotpedia shows he’s up against a Republican incumbent.

Brianna Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in a Boston-area district once again. It would be an interesting coincidence if they were both on the floor of the House to start the 2021 term.

(14) SCARED STRAIGHT. “Indonesian village uses ‘ghosts’ for distancing patrols” according to the BBC.

A village in Indonesia has reportedly taken to using volunteers dressed as ghosts to try to scare people into social distancing over the coronavirus.

Kepuh village, on Java Island, started deploying the patrols at night last month.

In Indonesian folklore, ghostly figures known as “pocong” are said to represent the trapped souls of the dead.

Indonesia so far has about 4,500 cases and 400 confirmed virus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But there are fears, according to experts, that the true scale of the infection across the country is much worse.

According to Reuters news agency staff who travelled to see the pocong in action, the unusual tactic initially had the opposite effect to that intended – with people coming out to try to spot the volunteers.

But locals say matters have improved since the team began deploying unexpectedly.

“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo told Reuters. “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”

(15) FLAT NOTES. Today’s thing to worry about — “Coronavirus: What’s happening to the beer left in pubs?”

Pubs, like other public venues, look set to stay shut for the foreseeable future. But what’s going to happen to the contents of their cellars?

Fifty million pints – give or take.

That’s the amount of beer expected to go unused in barrels if pubs remain closed into the summer because of coronavirus. Publicans are currently unable to sell their lagers, ales and ciders – save for takeaways and home deliveries.

“It’s a very sad waste of all the work and talent that goes into producing great beer,” says Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). “People won’t get to drink it and all those resources have been used up for nothing.”

Mr Stainer estimates the UK’s 39,000 pubs have, on average, 15 barrels in their cellar at any given time. Most are kegs containing 11 gallons (88 pints) each – although many real ales come in nine-gallon (72-pint) casks. The best-before dates on pasteurised beer – including most lagers – are usually three to four months after delivery.

Those for real ales and other unpasteurised beer are usually set at six to nine weeks.

So most stock could go to waste if social distancing measures remain in place for several months.

(16) PLAYING POLITICS. My daughter used to play this game by the hour: “Animal Crossing removed from sale in China amid Hong Kong protests”.

The Nintendo Switch’s current best-selling game has been removed from Chinese online stores after activists used it to criticise the state.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets players customise their own island and invite others to visit.

Some players in Hong Kong have used the platform to stage protests.

Players in mainland China had previously been able to buy foreign editions of the title from online marketplaces.

The country’s censors strictly regulate video games and had yet to approve the title’s formal release in the country.

Now, even local sites which had advertised imported copies have removed the listings.

It is not clear, however, whether this is because there has been an intervention by the authorities or whether the stores are proactively removing the product.

(17) GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray in another Jeep commercial.

Wake up. Wash hands. Miss groundhog. Repeat. Every day is probably starting to seem the same, but the more we all remember to stay inside, the sooner we can get back outside.

(18) HOUSTON, WE USED TO HAVE A PROBLEM. “Apollo 13: Enhanced images reveal life on stricken spacecraft” — many pictures at link.

Image enhancement techniques have been used to reveal life aboard Nasa’s stricken Apollo 13 spacecraft in unprecedented detail.

Fifty years ago, the craft suffered an explosion that jeopardised the lives of the three astronauts aboard.

Unsurprisingly, given they were locked in a fight for survival, relatively few onboard images were taken.

But imaging specialist Andy Saunders created sharp stills from low-quality 16mm film shot by the crew.

One of the techniques used by Mr Saunders is known as “stacking”, in which many frames are assembled on top of each other to improve the image’s detail.

(19) IT’S A GAS. In “‘Pinocchio’ at 80: 5 things you never knew about the Walt Disney classic” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter reports that if Disney followed Carlo Collodi’s story, Jiminy Cricket would have died in the film, and that Mel Blanc was originally cast as Gideon the cat but his lines were cut and replaced by burping.

Eighty years ago, moviegoers discovered exactly what happens when you wish upon a star when Walt Disney’s second animated feature, Pinocchio, premiered in theaters on Feb. 23, 1940. Flush with cash from the enormous success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney gambled his studio’s future on an adaptation of Italian author Corlo Collodi’s 19th century story of a walking, talking marionette who longs to be a real boy. At the time, the gamble didn’t entirely succeed: While Pinocchio received instant critical acclaim, it didn’t attract the same crowds that turned out in droves to see Snow White….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wong Ping’s Fables 2” on Vimeo tells the story of the cow who became rich and the rabbit who wanted to be a judge.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Dann, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Another Would-be SFWA Rival

Craig Martelle, cofounder of the 20Booksto50k® Facebook group with 39,000 members, has launched a website for the Independent Alliance of Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors (IASFA) with the following Mission Statement:

To support the professional development of SFF authors through shared opportunities, camaraderie, and targeted philanthropy. To build an organization with a focus on bringing stories to an SFF loving readership through improved business practices.

To anyone who asks “Isn’t there already a group doing this?” Martelle is ready with an answer:

Why did I start this organization, buying a domain and building a web presence? For the simple reason that in my opinion, professional organizations were hurting their members more than helping them. My idea of a professional is one who sells stories, whether short or long, and that they can repeat that process. I wanted an organization that was focused on helping science fiction and fantasy authors reach more fans. Period. Since one of those didn’t exist, I started my own.

The 20Booksto50k® Facebook group is described as a “Safe place to discuss how to ethically make money as authors.” They run an annual event — this year’s 20Books Vegas Conference will be held in Las Vegas in November. Of interest is that among the first five guest speakers listed are three sff authors, Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, and David Weber.

Jon Del Arroz, who attended the past two 20Booksto50K conferences, publicized the new group in a YouTube video: “INSTANT REGRET: SFWA’s War On Indie Authors Creates New Rival Guild!” While reviewing Martelle’s message JDA said, “Craig’s being very cautious about not pointing fingers here,” a display of subtlety that went over JDA’s head given the title of his video. On the other hand, when Martelle says, “in my opinion, professional organizations were hurting their members more than helping them,” it’s not as if the sff field has many others.

Also, SFWA and 20Booksto50K have had some friction in the recent past. In 2019 Jonathan Brazee stirred up a hornets nest by calling on SFWA members in 20Booksto50K to support a slate of works for the Nebula Awards, for which he subsequently apologized. The intense criticism of the slate rankled Martelle, who said at the time: “It’s hard not take negative comments about 20Booksto50k® personally since I run that group, but taking a step back, we did nothing untoward. Indies read indies. We support each other by reading and buying each other’s stuff, often promoting it as well with our own hard-acquired email lists. The ignorance is appalling about what we do. I think ethically making money isn’t dirty and that’s part of the allusions.” 

At present the IASFA is not a nonprofit organization, as the ”Support the IASFA” page explains. It is controlled by Craig Martelle and funds intended for it will flow through his business LLC.

At present IASFA is completely privately funded, but that limits our reach. If you could make a donation, we can improve our engagement and provide more benefits for our author members to include an expanded reach to touch the lives of more readers.

Funds will be collected by Craig Martelle, LLC who will immediately transfer all donations to the IASFA.

And from the “Join IASFA” page:

The Indie Alliance may eventually become a 501(c)(3) charity (where donations are tax deductible) but that isn’t for right now. We want to make sure this is a viable alternative to other professional organizations. There will be no Indie Alliance awards, but there could be grants to help offset certain author-related costs to hopefully help the next great science fiction author get their legs beneath them.

Eventually, we hope to have a legal defense fund which is probably the most important thing that a professional organization can provide. Until then, we’ll settle for growing a science fiction and fantasy fan base and interdependent place for professionals to hang out and talk shop – mainly how to sell more books. Nothing other than that belongs in here. No drama. No distractions. Focus.

The internet has many communities where people trade information about markets and promote their books, and there’s more forming all the time. Talk is free. Will IASFA go to bat for writers victimized by copyright violations, raise issues with exploitive companies, or have tools to cope with Amazon’s next idea for squeezing indies?

Others have tried to found the anti-SFWA before. Richard Paolinelli started the “Science Fiction and Fantasy Creators Guild” — its last blog post was dated February 14, 2018, and they never evolved beyond a Facebook discussion group with 270 members (and one that is no longer very active, only 4 posts in the last month).

Lou Antonelli, Michael Burstein, and Brad Torgersen tried to start the Society for the Advancement of Speculative Storytelling (SASS) and reported when they reached 19 dues-paying members in 2013. But there hadn’t been a new post on the SASS blog in six years before Antonelli recently published an appeal there to vote for him as a SFWA director-at-large in the current election.   

A lovely logo only takes you so far.

Pixel Scroll 3/21/20 Social Distancing Warriors

(1) UK EASTERCON CANCELLED. Concentric, the 2020 Eastercon, was cancelled today. The con was to have been held April 10-13 in Birmingham, UK. Thread starts here.

(2) SERLING’S BASEBALL DRAMA TO AIR. “Rod Serling’s lost baseball show to make return” – the Fifties show has been re-created by students and Anne Serling will narrate.

If there’s one thing we could all use right now, it’s baseball — in any form. Well, how about a baseball story written by none other than “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling?

On March 25, when we would otherwise be preparing for Opening Day, Cincinnati’s WVXU-FM will be streaming Serling’s radio drama, “O’Toole From Moscow.”

Written in 1955 — four years before “The Twilight Zone” debuted — the show is set during the Cold War and follows a Soviet Embassy worker who loves the Brooklyn Dodgers and skips town with a “comrade who suddenly becomes the greatest slugger ever for the Cincinnati Reds” — no word on if this slugger also ripped off his sleeves the way Ted Kluszewski did.

… The drama, which featured an appearance from Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, only aired once on NBC, and no recordings were ever made. Fortunately, Cincinnati journalist John Kiesewetter managed to hunt down the original script, and then edit it into a radio drama. With help from actors at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Anne Serling — Rod’s daughter — to provide the narration, the show was recorded in November and now awaits its debut.

(3) FILLING THE VACANCY. K. Tempest Bradford and Lou Antonelli have been exchanging barbs over his write-in candidacy to become a SFWA director-at-large. Bradford’s thread starts here.

Antonelli’s comments include —

(4) BOOKSTORE GOFUNDME. Nancy Hanger’s Star Cats Books in Vermont hopes to raise $7,500: “Save Star Cat Books in the time of Covid-19”.

Don’t let Covid-19 kill this bookstore!

Most Vermonters have already decided to shelter at home, and even at mid-day roads are close to empty. Fixed costs continue. The owner of Star Cat Books has a compromised immune system, but fears she must stay open for the few people who are looking for books for their kids or themselves. “Just closing” for two months, which is the shortest period the experts project this to last, guarantees the store will close forever. Even if two months is enough to end the risk, business will not return to normal at once.

(5) ORDER UP. Meanwhile, Jeff VanderMeer is lending a hand to his local Tallahassee bookstore Midtown Reader with sales of signed copies of his books, plus this special offer to receive a unique autographed item —

(6) TIME AGAIN TO POP THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid barrels onward – here a link to the issue for 20th March 2020.

This week, there’s a look at how Netflix often write genre fiction kids very well, focusing on Lost in Space, Locke & Key and October Faction. We’ve also got a look at Marieke Nijkamp, Manuel Preitano, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles’ excellent Barbara Gordon YA graphic novel The Oracle Code. An interview with Marieke is planned for a future issue too (Although it did sneak into the Contents page here. Barbara Gordon folks, best hacker in the business). 

We’re also ramping up Signal Boost as multiple creatives and creative industries struggle under the growing changes to the fabric of modern life. If you have a project you’d like over 500 extra sets of eyes on, do get in touch.

(7) FREE PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Forthcoming issues and a lot of digital archives can be accessed free announced PW’s President, George Slowik.

We will make the digital magazine available to everyone regardless of whether you subscribe starting with the current issue (March 16, 2020).

Everyone can now access the digital edition of PW from www.digitalpw.com or from the PW app on iOS and Android.

Additionally, articles, past bestsellers lists and the reviews database, which includes a search feature and the reviews listed by genre, will be made available to all.

And last, I am very pleased to share access to our recently launched archive database. The archive includes 7,597 past issues, 676,133 pages, 400,000 book reviews, 5,000 author profiles and interviews and, beginning in 1895, bestseller lists.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 21, 1989 Gor II, also known as Outlaw of Gor, premiered. It is a sequel to Gor and is directed this time by John Cardos. It is based on the Gor series by John Norman, but varies quite a bit from the original Outlaw of Gor novel. It starred Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier and, yes, Jack Palance. You can see it here as lovingly critiqued on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 21, 1915 Ian Stuart Black. British screenplay writer best known for scripting two First Doctor stories, “The Savages” and “The War Machines” (with Kit Pedler and Pat Dunlop) and a Third Doctor story, “The Macra Terror”. He wrote thirteen episodes of The Invisible Man as well as episodes of One Step BeyondThe SaintStar Maidens and Danger Man. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 21, 1931 Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 Lorene Yarnell. She was actually part of Shields and Yarnell, a well-known mime team, but you will know her as Dot Matrix on Spaceballs. She had a few previous genre appearances including being a villain named Forimicida on Wonder Women, and Sonia on The Wild Wild West Revisted. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 — Hilary Minster. He appeared twice on Doctor Who, one in a Third Doctor story, “Planet of the Daleks” and before that in a Second Doctor story, “Genesis of the Daleks.” He also was in “Achilles Heel”, an episode of The Tomorrow People, and he had a minor role in The Girl in a Swing film based on the Richard Adams novel. Finally, he was Fritz, a German soldier, in Timeslip, a children’s SF series. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 74. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now!  He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials.
  • Born March 21, 1946 Terry Dowling, 74. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Minnight which I’ve not read. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but Kindle has this plus several story collections. 
  • Born March 21, 1947 Don Markstein. He was the creator and sole maintainer of Don Markstein’s Toonpedia which is subtitled A Vast Repository of Toonological Knowledge. It is an encyclopedia of print cartoons, comic strips and animation started in  2001. He said, “The basic idea is to cover the entire spectrum of American cartoonery.” (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 64. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light superb weblog, Back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delia Sherman and Terri Windling. 
  • Born March 21, 1985 Sonequa Martin-Green, 35. She currently plays Michael Burnham on Discovery which is now I believe in its third series. She had a brief recurring role as Tamara in Once Upon a Time, and a much longer recurring role on The Walking Dead as Sasha Williams but I’ve never seen her there as zombies hold no interest to me. Well Solomon Grundy does…  And she was in the Shockwave, Darkside film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMIC BOOK EVENT POSTPONED. Free Comic Book Day is also a casualty of the coronavirus outbreak — “Free Comic Book Day 2020 Postponed”.

As the impact and spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, Diamond Comic Distributors is aware that Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) will be impacted to varying degrees throughout the world. With that in mind, Diamond Comic Distributors has made the difficult decision to postpone the event to a date later in the Summer.

“The severity and timing of the impact of the COVID-19 virus can’t be predicted with any certainty, but the safety of our retailer partners and comic book fans is too important to risk. As always, we appreciate your enthusiasm for and support of the comic industry’s best event and look forward to celebrating with you later in the Summer,” said Diamond Founder and CEO, Steve Geppi.

Free Comic Book Day 2020 offers a selection of 47 titles available absolutely free at participating local comic shops across the United States and around the world….

(12) TOO LATE THE PHYSICIAN. AP reports: “China exonerates doctor reprimanded for warning of virus”.

China has exonerated a doctor who was officially reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease, a startling admission of error by the ruling Communist Party that generally bodes no challenges to its authority.

The party’s top disciplinary body said the police force in Wuhan had revoked its admonishment of Dr. Li Wenliang that had included a threat of arrest.

It also said a “solemn apology” had been issued to Li’s family and that two police officers, identified only by their surnames, had been issued “disciplinary punishments” for the original handling of the matter.

(13) ESCAPE. Atlas Obscura illustrates “How Soviet Science Magazines Fantasized About Life in Outer Space”.

A tall stele rises from a deeply cratered surface, casting a long, ominous shadow past a row of smaller towers. Straight lines connect the structures to each other, like streets on a map or the projected moves in a game of cosmic chess. The Earth floats serenely in the dark sky, next to the logo that reads Tekhnika—molodezhi, Russian for Technology for the Youth, a Soviet popular science magazine that launched in 1933. The magazine cover, from 1969, illustrated an article highlighting photographs from Luna 9, the Soviet unmanned spacecraft that was the first to survive a landing on the Moon a few years earlier.

This imagined moonscape is one of more than 250 otherworldly images from the upcoming, visually delightful book, Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR, by Alexandra Sankova, director and founder of the Moscow Design Museum, which collaborated on the book with her. 

(14) SEEN YOU SOMEWHERE BEFORE. ScreenRant matches up “10 Pairs of Famous Movies That Used The Same Set”.

5 Blazing Saddles & John Carter – Vasquez Rocks

Key examples of both include Blazing Saddles, which used the rocks to portray the harsh terrain of the Western desert, and John Carter, which used them to convey the harsh terrain of Mars.

Speaking of Star Trek, one of the first uses of this location was in the original series, when Kirk had to go down to an alien planet and battle a lizard-human to death. The episode made the locale a common go-to for Westerns and science fiction films looking to create foreign landscapes.

(15) LAURENTIANS, REASSEMBLE! BBC reports “Diamond samples in Canada reveal size of lost continent”.

Canadian scientists have discovered a fragment of an ancient continent, suggesting that it was 10% larger than previously thought.

They were studying diamond samples from Baffin Island, a glacier-covered land mass near Greenland, when they noticed a remnant of North Atlantic Craton.

Cratons are ancient, stable parts of the Earth’s continental crust.

The North American Craton stretched from present-day Scotland to North America and broke apart 150m years ago.

Scientists chanced on the latest evidence as they examined exploration samples of kimberlite, a rock that often contains diamonds, from Baffin Island.

(16) YIELD OF THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. The outbreak inspired France24’s English-language service to look at the ways genre creators have already thought about the problem in “Dystopia vs reality: Sci-fi movies are helping us gain a critical outlook on society.”

As COVID-19 spreads throughout the world, we take at a look at certain sci-fi movies and dystopian novels that had perhaps predicted certain consequences of such an outbreak. In this edition, we also explore the influence and the critical outlook that TV series can have on science and innovation but also politics and society at large.

(17) NO STATUE OF LIMITATIONS? I don’t feel too broken up about the predicament as stated in the NBC Sports headline, but they did get me to click and find out about the “curse” – maybe you will too. “Coronavirus could prevent Hanshin Tigers from breaking the Curse of the Colonel”.

…The finger-lickin’ curse was placed on the team following their triumph in the 1985 Japan Series over the Seibu Lions. Revelers took to the streets of Osaka in celebration of their favorite team’s first championship, and many of them gathered on Ebisu Bridge for a familiar ritual.

Japanese baseball fans are like soccer fans. They don’t stoically sit in the grandstand and only make noise when prompted to by organ players or jumbotrons. They have chants and songs for all sorts of occasions and for every player, with brass instrumental accompaniments. Japanese baseball, you see, actually encourages fun.

So there upon the bridge, they sang the songs for each of the victorious players and selected a member of the crowd who most looked like each of the players, and gave them the honor of jumping down into the canal below. This was all well and good until they got to Randy Bass, who had just won the series MVP award for the Tigers. There weren’t any Caucasian guys in the crowd, so the revelers purloined a statue of Colonel Sanders from outside of a nearby KFC and tossed it into the canal.

This has since been regarded as a karmically poor decision, as the Tigers proceeded to finish under .500 for the next 18 years.

The idea that the team had been cursed by making the Colonel sleep with the fishes quickly spread. Numerous attempts were made to recover the statue to no avail, and the proprietor of the KFC outlet was apologized to, but nothing could seem to cure the team’s misfortune….

[Thank to Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kenned, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Alan Baumler, Mlex, Alasdair Stuart, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Lou Antonelli Seeks Write-In Support as SFWA Director-at-Large

When Lou Antonelli looked over the field of candidates running for SFWA office this spring he deduced there might be an unclaimed seat among the Directors-at-Large – and the temptation was too great to resist.

Evidently SFWA members have until April 14 to vote.

(By the way, is Antonelli currently a SFWA member? If so, that news hasn’t caught up with the editors of the Wikipedia, where his entry says: “He was an Active Member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), but has since left the organization as of 2017.”)

Once Lou announced, some people thought his name sounded familiar. They soon remembered why. K. Tempest Bradford has assembled a list of episodes in Antonelli’s “resume” and tweeted it here.  

At the top of the list is “Lou Antonelli’s BOLO Story”. During the peak Puppy hysteria of 2015, Lou Antonelli said he’d written a letter to the Police Department of Spokane, Washington, telling them to be on the lookout for someone who may incite violence — Worldcon guest of honor David Gerrold.

Many more examples of Crazy Uncle Lou’s acting out are described by Aaron Pound in Dreaming About Other Worlds.

Should it really be the case that SFWA has a leadership vacuum, Lou is probably not the fellow to cast in a heroic reenactment of “Gentlemen, Be Seated.” A fact which members have already realized, and has caused support to coalesce around another write-in candidate, Monica Valentinelli.

Pixel Scroll 12/16/19 It’s Not Easy Being Soylent Green

(1) MAKE IT SO AGAIN. Although showrunner Michael Chabon is moving on, Picard is not a one-and-done series judging by this item of state tax news. (However, CBS declined comment). “‘Star Trek: Picard’ Renewed For Season 2 Ahead Of Series Debut On CBS All Access Next Month” at Deadline.

… Like the first season that will premiere on CBS All Access on January 23, Season 2 of the Patrick Stewart-led Picard looks to be a 10-episode order for the streamer. As a part of that second season, the latest venture in the Alex Kurtzman marshaled Trekverse has been allocated over $20.4 million in California tax incentives….

Certainly, the huge reaction that Picard received when the resurrection of the philosopher-captain was first announced in Las Vegas last year and the tax credits made public today were a cold hard cash indication that the CBS Television Studios, Secret Hideout and Roddenberry Entertainment produced series was going to engage further, to paraphrase Jean-Luc himself.

(2) WELL-INFORMED. Joe Haldeman explained to his Facebook readers why he signed a petition to ban assault weapons – and how he became familiar with them.

We got this interesting petition, which Gay asked me to sign, from an outfit called Ban Assault Weapons Now.

I did sign it, but not reflexively. I do know assault weapons.

Unlike most people — unlike almost every American — I have been shot, both as a soldier and as a civilian. But I did carry a gun for most of a year “in country,” in Vietnam, sometimes two guns, and was conventionally glad to be armed.

Because of odd timing, I was never issued an M-16. They were not ubiquitous in Vietnam in 1968. I carried — and preferred, most of the time — the M-14 automatic rifle. We also had a Colt .45 automatic, sealed in a plastic bag, and traded around a Chinese AK-47, which my squad carried on convoy….

(3) ENJOYING THE WRONG FUTURE. In another article that takes off from Gary K. Wolfe’s Sixties sff novel collection for Library of America, Scott Bradfield holds forth on “Science Fiction’s Wonderful Mistakes” in The New Republic. Tagline: “The great novels of the 1960s remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong.”

…The science fiction novels of the 1960s—as this two-volume collection of eight very different sci-fi novels testifies—remain enjoyable because they got everything wrong. They didn’t accurately predict the future of space travel, or what a postnuclear landscape would look like, or how to end intergalactic fascism. They didn’t warn us against the roads we shouldn’t travel, since they probably suspected we were going to take those roads anyway. And they definitely didn’t teach us what a neutrino is. But what ’60s science fiction did do was establish one of the wildest, widest, most stylistically and conceptually various commercial spaces for writing (and reading) fiction in the history of fictional genres. Each book is unpredictable in so many ways as to almost constitute its own genre.

Take, for example, Samuel R. Delany’s influential space opera, Nova (presented here in a newly corrected, author-approved text), which takes the concept of the “cybernetic” fusion of human and machine and runs with it. Nova envisions a universe boiling over with star-hopping spaceships, spine-socketed crew members, weirdly mutated sexual and familial relationships, synesthetic video-art instruments, and at least one character raised on another planet who speaks in a verb-delaying syntax several years before Yoda was a gleam in George Lucas’s eye. (“Not too good going to be is. Out of practice am.”) Delany’s prose was stylistically bright, fizzing with ambitious energy (he began publishing novels in his late teens and won several major awards early) and relentlessly inventive, with flashy new visions of the future in one paragraph after another….

(4) WILL YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?  Alastair Reynolds tells how he admired Niven’s “Tales of Known Space” and that despite recent discoveries a writer can still do wildly creative worldbuilding. Then the question is – how do your space-faring characters navigate your stellar neighborhood?

…In some instances, our observations have begun to put limits on the numbers and properties of planets around familiar, SF-friendly stars such as Epsilon Eridani. It may well turn out that what was perfectly reasonable speculation thirty years ago is now ruled out by current data.

Still, let’s assume for now that our real stars and imagined planets remain viable locations, and we wish to use them in new stories. That’s where an additional wrinkle comes in: it’s very easy to look up how far away these stars are, and on that basis, work out (depending on the mechanics of your imagined space technology) how long it would take to get there from Earth. But sooner or later your story may depend on getting from star A to star B, without stopping off at Earth en-route. How do we work out how far these stars are from each other?

All the information we need is present: for any given star, all we need are its coordinates in the night sky, and a figure for its distance….

(5) KEYS TO THEIR PERSONALITIES. In the Washington Post, Frank Lehman, a music professor at Tufts University, analyzes John Williams’s scores to the Star Wars films and argues the music Williams composed for evil characters such as Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader gives many clues to how we view these characters: “How John Williams’s Star Wars score pulls us to the dark side”.

…It’s said that the Devil gets the best tunes, but Williams has long proved that that maxim applies to Sith lords, too. Within Star Wars’ ever-expanding library of leitmotifs — recurring, malleable musical symbols — much of the most insinuating material belongs to the villains, from Darth Maul to Jabba the Hutt to Supreme Leader Snoke. Listening to these nefarious themes with the ear of a music scholar offers a lesson in the real power of the dark side, showing us how music can repel, deceive and, with the right compositional tricks, even charm.

(6) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COPIER. Daniel Dern’s GrabCAD article unexpectedly predicts “3D Printers Could Be Coming to a Library Near You”.

Public libraries have always been the place where you can go to borrow books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines. And in recent years, it’s now where you can go for 3D printing services.

“Libraries represent the public on-ramp to the world of 3D printing and design,” said Dan Lee, chair of the Advisory Committee for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP).

According to a report from ALA, there are over 428 public library branches in the United States that offer 3D printers to the public….

… Using 3D printers requires education. The Medway library, for example, offers weekly walk-in 3D printer certification sessions.

How libraries charge for use of their 3D printers varies. Some charge per hour of printing time (probably around a dollar), while others will charge based on the amount of printing materials that will be required — typically nickel to a quarter per gram of filament.

(7) KERFUFFLE IS COMING. According to Vanity Fair, “David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s Lovecraft Movie Has a Massive Problem: H.P. Lovecraft”. Laura Bradley’s question is: “The renowned horror writer was also a known racist and anti-Semite. Are the Game of Thrones creators the right people to handle that history?”

… What is known, however, is that Lovecraft, for all his pop-culture influence, was also terribly racist. His letters and literary work overflow with these sentiments, and in some cases it’s not even subtext. In 1912 he penned a poem titled “On the Creation of N—–s,” in which, as Lithub explained in its thorough exploration of Lovecraft’s white supremacy, Gods create black people as a semi-human species somewhere between man and beasts.

Benioff and Weiss, no strangers to online controversy, are seeing some of the same pushback that happened when they first announced the now-defunct series Confederate for HBO: namely, why this story, and why them?

(8) LEFT BRAINED ALIENS. NPR invites us to “‘Imagine Pleasant Nonsense’ With ‘Strange Planet’ Creator Nathan Pyle”.

Nathan Pyle fills the pages of his new book Strange Planet with big eyed, bright blue aliens from a planet that shares a lot in common with Earth. These aliens sunbathe, sneeze and even wish each other sweet dreams like us, but they describe these practices with deadpan technical terminology like “sun damage” and “face fluid explosions.” The lifegiver aliens even implore their offspring to “imagine pleasant nonsense” as they tuck them in for the night.

“One of the points of Strange Planet is that this is all (gestures in every direction) delightfully odd. It’s wonderful how much complexity we [humans] have created,” Pyle tells me in an email conversation — and yes, those parentheticals are his.

Pyle was inspired to create the series one day as he and his wife were preparing to have guests over — and they began hiding their possessions to make their small New York City apartment appear as clean as possible. “I realized this would make an excellent comic. I drew this one based on the experience, and the series was born,” he says. He began posting the comics on social media in February, and in less than a year, the series has amassed over 4.7 million followers on Instagram.

(9) KARINA OBIT. Actress Anna Karina died December 15 at the age of 79. Her work has been saluted by many culture blogs, including Lawyers, Guns and Money. Alphaville is the only SF she did, “a science-fiction tale set in a loveless dystopian future…”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 16, 2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiered. It was directed by Gareth Edwards with the  screenplay by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. It is from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. The film was a box office success, the critics loved it and it’s got an eighty eight percent rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. The Fan Boys…? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome. I never saw him, but he was well-known among the small British community there.   I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s End, Rendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long-form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. Dick has always been a difficult one for me to get a feel for. Mind you Blade Runner is my major touchstone for him but I’ve read the source material as well, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said which won an John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and I’ve read a lot of the shorter works, so I’d say he’s a challenging writer is a Good Thing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley. He had a number of truly  great works, both genre and not genre, including Eva, The Tears of the Salamander and  The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 62. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the Buffyverse, Outlanders, Time Police, Rogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. 
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 52. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an an amazing cast even if the Tomatometer gives it’s 5% rating. 
  • Born December 16, Krysten Ritter, 38. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I grokked. 
  • Born December 16, 1988 Anna Popplewell, 31. She was Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia film franchise, Chyler Silva in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (I saw this — it’s quite well done), she was (at twelve) Anna Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and she’s Frankie in the forthcoming  Fairytale which may be genre or genre adjacent. It might even be titled Fairytale of New York. Or not. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SOUND AND THE FURY. ScienceFiction.com is excited because “Your Alexa Device Can Now Curse You Out With The Samuel L. Jackson Voice Package!”.

To get started, just say, “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson.” Then, choose whether you’d like Sam to use explicit language or not. If you change your mind later, simply go to the settings menu of the Alexa app to toggle between clean and explicit content.

The Bloomberg video is a bit calmer: “Amazon Alexa Now Lets You Make Samuel L. Jackson’s Your Personal Assistant.”

Amazon company kicked off its celebrity voice program for Alexa, giving customers the option to hear some familiar voices—and it’s starting with Samuel L. Jackson. Users can pay $0.99 and have Jackson respond to your Alexa requests for music, the weather forecast, and more. You can also ask questions that are specific to Jackson, including queries about his career, specific roles, or his interests outside Hollywood.

(14) STEPHENSON BOOK TO SMALL SCREEN. The A.V. Club reports that “HBO is taking a crack at adapting Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash for TV”.

Hollywood’s ongoing efforts to adapt every single book that some guy spent way too much time and energy recommending at you at a party in college continues apace today, with Deadline reporting that HBO has put a TV version of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash into development. The series comes courtesy of The Kid Who Would Be King and Attack The Block director Joe Cornish, with 21 Jump Street’s Michael Bacall set to write the script…[Snow Crash] is satirical, fast-paced, and with one of the most kinetic opening sequences ever committed to print, it’s also one of Stephenson’s most readily accessible books. (Which is to say, he keeps the parables about computer programming, cryptography, and 17th century economics to a minimum.)

(15) FREE DOWNLOAD. Free anthology of Tor.com fiction from 3rd quarter — “Download the Fall 2019 Tor.com Short Fiction Newsletter”.

(16) TAKEN TO THEIR LEADER. Lou Antonelli has posted the latest free story at his Sirius Science Fiction site: “’Trump Asks a Feminist Extraterrestrial Leader for a Favor’ by Marleen S. Barr”.

It’s satirical. Whether it’s satirical enough for you remains the question.

(17) RAMBO UNLIMITED. And to complete our free fiction trifecta, Cat Rambo has released a bunch of titles on KU: “Free Fiction: Stories Newly Enrolled in Kindle Unlimited”. Here are a few of them —

Tabat stories include:

  • §  Narrative of a Beast’s Life: Taken from his home village, the centaur Fino is enslaved and shipped to a new land, where he must learn to cope with the trainer determined to break him. This short story originally appeared in Realms of Fantasy.
  • Events at Fort Plentitude: An exiled soldier tries to wait out a winter in a fort beleaguered by fox-spirits and winter demons. Originally appeared in Weird Tales under editor Ann VanderMeer.
  • How Dogs Came to the New Continent is a short story pulled from the events of the novel Hearts of Tabat, told in the form of a meandering historical paper that teases out more behind the oppression of Beasts and their emerging political struggle.

(18) PLUS ONE. ComicBook.com reports “Guardians of the Galaxy Star Karen Gillan Has Completed Her Role on Marvel’s What If…?”

Marvel’s What If…? may be one of the most anticipated offerings coming to Disney+. The animated series, based on the comics of the same name, will explore many significant moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe but from the angle of what would have happened had just one thing gone a little differently. It’s a premise that is set to offer Peggy Carter as Captain Carter instead of Steve Rogers as Captain America among other interesting twists, but while it’s an exciting premise it’s one that fans have to wait for as the series isn’t set to debut until summer 2021. But while we don’t yet have a release date, fans can at least take some comfort in knowing that work is underway and that when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy star Karen Gillan, she’s already completed her voice work on the series….

(19) THE FUTURE OF A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY. Los Angeles Times: “After ‘Rise of Skywalker’ and Baby Yoda, Kathleen Kennedy’s plan for ‘Star Wars’ and beyond”.

 [Rob Bredow [(head of Lucasfilm’s visual effects division Industrial Light & Magic), speaking of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy:]

“She said, ‘There have been a few times in my career where there have been these kinds of moments. Go for it,’” Bredow recalled in the cafeteria of Lucasfilm’s San Francisco headquarters. “She, and we, are looking for those opportunities to break new ground.”

By all accounts, the gamble on “The Mandalorian” has paid off for Lucasfilm since it debuted to an enthusiastic response on streaming service Disney+ in November. Viewers have obsessed online about the show’s introduction of so-called Baby Yoda, an infant from the same species as the green Jedi master…

Kennedy said she plans to make key decisions about the direction of the franchise in the coming weeks. But some things she already knows. While the “Skywalker” saga is ending, the company won’t abandon the characters created in the most recent trilogy. Additionally, she said, the plan is to move beyond trilogies, which can be restricting.

“I think it gives us a more open-ended view of storytelling and doesn’t lock us into this three-act structure,” she said. “We’re not going to have some finite number and fit it into a box. We’re really going to let the story dictate that.” […]

(20) WORKS FOR HER. NPR interviews somebody who had success with the idea — “Researchers Explore A Drug-Free Idea To Relieve Chronic Pain: Green Light”.

Ann Jones tried everything short of surgery for her chronic migraines, which have plagued her since she was a child.

“They’ve actually gotten worse in my old age,” says Jones, who is 70 years old and lives in Tucson, Ariz.

Jones would have as many as two dozen migraines a month.

Over the years, some treatments might work initially, but the effects would prove temporary. Other medications had such severe side effects she couldn’t stay on them.

“It was pretty life-changing and debilitating,” Jones says. “I could either plow through them and sometimes I simply couldn’t.”

In 2018, her doctor mentioned a study that was taking place nearby at the University of Arizona: Researchers were testing if daily exposure to green light could relieve migraines and other kinds of chronic pain.

Jones was skeptical.

“This is going to be one more thing that doesn’t work,” she thought to herself.

But she brushed aside the hesitation and enrolled in the study anyway.

It began with her spending two hours each day in a dark room with only a white light, which served as the control. In the second half of the study, she swapped out the conventional light for a string of green LED lights.

For more than a month, Jones didn’t notice any change in her symptoms. But close to the six-week mark, there was a big shift.

She began going days in a row without migraines. Even when the headaches did come, they weren’t as intense as they had been before the green light therapy.

(21) NOT DARWIN. But a sign of the times: “Driver ‘blows up’ car with ‘excessive’ use of air freshener”. Doesn’t smell so good anymore. (Includes a picture of the destruction.)

A driver caused an explosion in his car when he lit a cigarette after spraying air freshener.

He used “excessive” amounts of the aerosol scent before sparking up, according to firefighters.

Gas from the spray ignited, blew out the windscreen and windows and buckled the doors but the man escaped with only minor injuries.

Police said the incident in Halifax on Saturday “could’ve been worse” and warned people to follow safety advice.

The motorist was in stationary traffic in Fountain Street in the town at about 15:00 GMT on Saturday when the explosion happened.

It was so powerful it caused damage to windows at nearby businesses.

(22) YULE TRADITION. Marcus Errico, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Joker’s still getting away… How ‘Jingle Bells, Batman Smells’ became the ultimate holiday spoof”, looks into the origins of “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” and traces its origins to the Batman TV series of the 1960s.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/19 There’s A Long, Long Scroll A-Winding Into The Land Of My Pixels

(1) LISTEN UP. Here are works of genre interest picked for AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019 beyond the Best Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror category announced at File 770.

YOUNG ADULT

  • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust volume 2) by Philip Pullman

FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

(2) TUNE IN DOCTOR WHO. ScienceFiction.com knows the airtime, and also how to see the two-parter on the big screen via Fathom Events: “New ‘Doctor Who’ Trailer Delivers The Release Date/Time For Season 12”.

The January 1 episode is part one of a two-part story called “Spyfall,” with part two arriving on Sunday, January 5, presumably also at 8 pm.  That will be ‘Doctor Who’s regular time slot going forward.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ superfan, BBC and BBC America are teaming up with Fathom Events for a one-time-only screening of both parts of “Spyfall” on the big screen, followed by a LIVE Q&A with Whittaker, Cole, and Gill from the Paley Center for Media in New York.  These showings will be held at 600 theaters in the US on January 5.  (Tickets go on sale on Friday at FathomEvents.com.)

(3) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. Kevin Standlee promoted the Tonopah 2021 Westercon at this weekend’s Loscon.

Team Tonopah welcomed 19 new attending members while we were at Loscon 46 at the LAX Airport Marriott, and talked to many more people to tell them all about our plans for Westercon in Tonopah, Nevada.

(4) KGB READINGS. TheFantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Paul Tremblay and Nathan Ballingrud on Wednesday, December 18 at the KGB Bar. Event starts at 7 p.m. (KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the WorldA Head Full of Ghosts, and most recently the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. 

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of North American Lake Monsters and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell. He’s twice won the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies. Wounds, a film based on his novella “The Visible Filth,” has recently been released. North American Lake Monsters is in development as an anthology series at Hulu.

(5) RIGOROUS ARTWORK. James Davis Nicoll compliments “Five ’70s SF Cover Artists Who Stay True to the Story” in a post for Tor.com.

The Doppelgänger Gambit by Leigh Killough, 1979, cover by Michael Herring

Herring’s cover captures two key elements of this gripping 21st-century police procedural. The first: the two police officers don’t get along. The second: clothing fashions in this future are somehow even more hideous than real-world 1970s fashions. The cover is true to the work. Detective Janna Brill thinks Maxwell takes unconscionable risks, and these are the clothes described in the novel. (Though I suspect the cops in the novel used holsters.)

(6) MARTIAN FURNITURE. FastCompany reports “Now that Ikea has colonized Earth, it’s going after Mars”.

Two years ago, Ikea sent designers to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), which created a habitat in the Utah desert that mimics the conditions on the Red Planet. Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn stayed in the habitat, ultimately creating an Ikea line for small spaces inspired by her stay. But more recently, she used her experience living in the habitat to help researchers outfit the space. She just returned from redecorating the habitat, which now looks brightly lit and neatly organized. In fact, it looks a lot like what you’d see in an Ikea catalog—which is impressive, because the space is exceptionally small and stark.

Sff writer David Levine did a cycle with the MDRS in 2010 and File 770 ran several posts based on his updates, including “Levine Reaches Mars”.

(7) MORE BLOWBACK. “Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit” – BBC tells how the membership continues to churn.

Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee have quit after criticising the Swedish Academy.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Peter Handke as this year’s winner had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

The choice of Handke was criticised because of his vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Kristoffer Leandoer said he’d left due to Academy reforms taking too long following a sexual assault scandal.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek comics premiered in syndicated form in the U.S. From 1979 to 1983, the Los Angeles Times Mirror Syndicate produced a daily and Sunday comic strip based upon this series. Larry Niven was among the many writers who did scripts for it. IDW has reprinted them in two volumes, The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 and The Newspaper Comics, Volume 2.
  • December 2, 2005 Aeon Flux premiered.  Produced by Gale Hurd, it stars Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s based on the animated Aeon Flux series of the same name created by Peter Chung. It bombed at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and currently has a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 2, 2017 – First pizza party in space took place on the International Space Station.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best known of course for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories,  Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 81. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and  by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon, which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and in collaboration authors such as Mecedes Lackey (A Cast of Corbies), and Laura Anne Gilman (two Buffyverse novels).  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 73. British-born American illustrator and writer. Genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and his latest, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 67. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 51. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-Files, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio tells Santa what he wants.
  • At Existential Comics, leading philosophers brawl over the implications of “I am no man!”

The original intentions or ideas of the author aren’t necessarily more valid than those of any other interpreter.

Gasp!

(11) WRITER’S WRATH. “HG Wells builds time machine so he can punch whoever was responsible for that adaptation of War of the Worlds”NewsThump has the story,

Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.

Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.

“There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

(12) AS OTHERS SEE US. Liberty Island’s Tamara Willhite uncovers a rich vein of fantasy in “An Interview with Author Louis Antonelli”.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Louis Antonelli: Well, kind of following up the previous question, since the Sad Puppies in 2015 there’s been a pretty ironclad blacklist in the major science fiction magazine and publishers against anyone who isn’t an intolerant doctrinaire left-wing asshole. Nobody denies it anymore, because such assertions only gets the horse laugh.

The only major book publisher that judges authors impartially is Baen; Analog is the one major magazine that seems to pick stories based on merit and not the author’s politics and lifestyle….

(13) POACHING SCIENCE. “Dinosaurs: Restoring Mongolia’s fossil heritage”.

Eighty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert was a dinosaur’s paradise of vast valleys, freshwater lakes and a humid climate.

Mammal-eating velociraptors, lizard-hipped sauropods and spike-armoured ankylosaurs could have been spotted roaming in what are now the Martian red sandstone spires of Bayanzag’s Flaming Cliffs.

These prehistorically favourable conditions make the Gobi Desert the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Over almost 100 years of palaeontological research in the Gobi, more than 80 genera have been found. But for many people living there, this scientific heritage remains unknown.

“Putting a fence up is not protection; protection is people’s knowledge,” Mongolian palaeontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin explains as we wind through the Flaming Cliffs in search of signs of fossil poaching.

(14) CAN’T DANCE TO IT. “Amazon’s AI musical keyboard ‘sounds terrible'”.

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles – jazz, classical, rock or pop – and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was “terrible”.

(15) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. BBC follows“India tiger on ‘longest walk ever’ for mate and prey”.

A tiger has undertaken the longest walk ever recorded in India, travelling some 1,300km (807 miles) in five months.

Experts believe the two-and-a-half-year-old male is possibly in search of prey, territory or a mate.

The tiger, which is fitted with a radio collar, left its home in a wildlife sanctuary in the western state of Maharashtra in June.

It was then tracked travelling back and forth over farms, water and highways, and into a neighbouring state.

So far, the tiger has come into conflict with humans only once, when it “accidentally injured” one person who was part of a group that entered a thicket under which it was resting.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! with wrapped attention….

Category: Literary Works of the 1920s.

Answer: “Jane Webb Loudon wrote the 1st novel about one of these creatures, including the line, ‘Weak, feeble worm! Exclaimed Cheops.'”

Wrong question: “What is a Sphinx?”

Correct question: “What is a Mummy?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mushroom Hunters” on YouTube is a poem by Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer, with music by Jherek Bischoff.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton (Felapton Towers, Bortsworth, Bortsworthshire), John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 4/22/19 Ceci N’est Pas Un Pixel Scroll

(1) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Jimmy Kimmel Live plugs the “Game of Thrones Hotline for Confused Fans.”

There is a lot going on in “Game of Thrones,” and it can be difficult to keep track of what’s what and who’s who. But fortunately help is on the way. Cast members Sophie Turner, Lena Headey, John Bradley, Joe Dempsie, Maisie Williams, Kristian Nairn, Iwan Rheon & Liam Cunningham host a new hotline to assist their confused fans.

(2) RONDO SETS RECORD. Never mind the Dragon Awards – voting just closed in the “17th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards” and would you like to guess how many participants they had? The administrator says —

The final votes are still be tallied, but close to 4,500 people voted this year, a new record.

The results will be posted soon, once the vote is finalized and visual material is prepared for the release.

(3) RELATIVELY LITERATURE. Gautham Shenoy contemplates “Ian McEwan and the (re)invention of science fiction: Why contempt for SF only exposes ignorance” at Factor Daily.

…So in this light, in the context of authors who actively avoid a novel of theirs being described as ‘science fiction’, and given the latest instance of Ian McEwan distancing himself from said label, I’d like to humbly offer a way in which one can tell if it’s an SF novel or not. “Whether a novel is science fiction—or not—depends on who the author is and who reviews it”.

As an advertising professional who has spent almost 20 years in the marketing business and who knows a thing or three about positioning and target audiences, this is perhaps the best description that I think we can arrive at. But where does this leave the reader?

It is up to the individual reader to decide whether he/she/they would rather go by convenient labels than follow interests or read what he/she/they would like to. As a reader – and not just of SF – I am in agreement with the author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks, the writer David Mitchell who says that genre snobbery is a bizarre act of self-mutilation because, “It’s convenient to have a science fiction and fantasy section, it’s convenient to have a mainstream literary fiction section, but these should only be guides, they shouldn’t be demarcated territories where one type of reader belongs and another type of reader does not belong…What a shame. All those great books that you’re cutting yourself off from.”

(4) WEIMER DOUBLE-HEADER. Paul Weimer told Facebook readers:

If you thought “Self, I want to hear @PrinceJvstin on a podcast”, today is YOUR day.

You can hear Paul on @SFFAudio talking about @nevalalee’s Astounding – “The SFFaudio Podcast #522 – READALONG: Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee”

-AND-

On @SkiffyandFanty, he talks with their Hugo Finalist crew about Komarr — “Reading Rangers #10: Komarr by Lois McMaster Bujold”.

Hello, Rangers! We’re back with everyone’s favorite Space Nancy Drew in Komarr! This time Stina, Paul, and Trish sit around the campfire to talk about women’s agency, budding relationships, whether or not Miles is “dad” material, how good intentions can go horribly, horribly wrong, the politics of isolationism, and more!

(5) KNOWING CAMPBELL. Stanley Schmidt’s guest editorial for Analog “John and Me” takes off from the “The Astounding John W. Campbell, Jr.” panel at last year’s Worldcon moderated by Alec Nevala-Lee. Schmidt’s views of Campbell’s work are very different than those of fellow panelist Robert Silverberg, and he says in closing —

…As for what kind of editing John was doing in his last years, my experience indicates that he was still doing the kinds of things he was famous for, and still doing them very well. It’s unfortunate that some of his personal idiosyncrasies drove away some of his best writers, but that’s a separate question from the quality of his work. Maybe I was fortunate that I didn’t know him personally before I started writing for him, or I might have found it harder, too—though I hope I wouldn’t have let my disagreements with him, even on big issues, make me reject him entirely as a person. I did disagree with his editorials more often in those years than I had earlier, but as far as I knew he was just doing the professional argument-baiting he had always done. Even if I had known that he really held beliefs that I found highly objectionable, I doubt that I would have found that adequate reason to sever all contact with him and his work. A lot of people hold misguided beliefs, but my experience, I think, is a good example of how it’s possible to work productively with somebody, and respect some of his qualities, even while sharply disagreeing with some of his views. Maybe that’s a lesson that a whole lot of people need to relearn about now.

(6) SLF READINGS. The Speculative Literature Foundation’s Deep Dish Reading Series in Chicago resumes on May 9.

(7) DOC WEIR AWARD. The Doc Weir Award is voted on by attendees at the Eastercon and is presented to a fan who has worked hard behind the scenes at conventions or in fandom and deserves recognition. As Fandom.com explains —

The award consists of a silver cup (which must be returned the following year) and a certificate (if someone remembers to create one!)

The cup is engraved with the names of the previous winners, and in fine fannish tradition, it is up to each year’s winner to have their own name engraved at their own cost!

Jamie Scott is the 2019 winner.

Bill Burns of eFanzines has more info on the Doc Weir Award, and a list of all winners from 1963 to 2018 here.

(8) 71ST EASTERCON. Next year’s UK Eastercon, called Concentric, will be in Birmingham at the Hilton Metropole (NEC).

(9) ON THE AIR. Eneasz Brodski offers a “Crash Course in Creating a Podcast” at Death Is Bad.

1. Bona fides

I’m Eneasz Brodski. I produce the Methods of Rationality podcast. It began as me, in my bedroom, with a lot of enthusiasm and a handheld mic after a few hours of research. As of this writing it’s been 6.5 years since I started. I’ve spent over 10,000 hours working on this podcast, I’ve produced over ninety hours of audio fiction spread across 185 episodes, totaling almost 4.5 million downloads. I’ve been a finalist for the Parsec Awards three times. I’ve never done professional audio work, but I have some idea of how to get an amateur podcast going.

(10) WOLFE’S MEANING. In a New Republic article, Jeet Heer declares “Gene Wolfe Was the Proust of Science Fiction”.

…News of Wolfe’s passing spread on the internet on Monday morning, as the first images of the fire at Notre-Dame also started circulating. Many Wolfe fans were struck by the coincidence. “Gene Wolfe is dead and Notre-Dame is engulfed in flames,” the writer Michael Swanwick tweeted. “This is the Devil’s own day.” Swanwick’s grief is understandable. Yet Wolfe himself might offer more consoling counsel. Death and life, his work often showed, are not so much opposites but partners, with the passing of the old being the precondition for the birth of the new. Cathedrals can burn but they can also be rebuilt, and in fact all cathedrals are in a constant state of maintenance and repair….

(11) MARTIN BÖTTCHER OBIT. German film composer Martin Böttcher (1927–2019) died April 19. Cora Buhlert pays tribute — “In Memoriam Martin Böttcher”.

…But Böttcher’s most famous film score would be the one he composed for Horst Wendlandt’s other series, the Winnetou movies of the 1960s, based on Karl May’s adventure novels. Ironically, Martin Böttcher himself had never read a single Winnetou novel, which must make him one of the very few Germans of his generation who did not read Karl May. When someone asked him why he didn’t read the novels, Böttcher answered, “I’ve seen every single Winnetou movie dozens of times. I know how the story goes. I don’t need to read it.”

I’ve written about the Winnetou movies and what they meant for several generations of Germans before, so let’s just listen to Martin Böttcher’s iconic Old Shatterhand theme….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 22, 1916 Virginia Heinlein. Editor of Grumbles from the Grave. Also allowed Tramp Royale to be published after her husband’s death. And for some reason allowed longer versions of previously published works Stranger in a Strange Land, The Puppet Masters, and Red Planet to be published. Anyone read these? Used bookstores here frequently had copies of Stranger in a Strange Land so buyers didn’t hold on to it… (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1934 Sheldon Jaffery. Bibliographer who was a fan of Weird Tales, Arkham House books, pulps, and pretty much anything in that area. Among his publications are Collector’s Index to Weird Tales (co-written with Fred Cook), Future and Fantastic Worlds: A Bibliographical Retrospective of DAW Books (1972-1987) and Horrors and Unpleasantries: A Bibliographical History and Collector’s Price Guide to Arkham House. He also edited three anthologies which Bowling Green Press printed, to wit Sensuous Science Fiction from the Weird and Spicy PulpsSelected Tales of Grim and Grue from the Horror Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 82. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (previous three films are Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman. I watched the last one, was not impressed.
  • Born April 22, 1946 John Waters, 73. Yes, he did horror films, lots of them. Shall we list them? There’s Multiple ManiacsSuburban GothicExcision, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat and Seed of Chucky. The latter described as a “supernatural black comedy horror film” on Wiki. He also narrates Of Dolls and Murder, a documentary film about a collection of dollhouse crime scenes created in the Forties and society’s collective fascination with death.
  • Born April 22, 1950 Robert Elswit, 69. Cinematographer. An early short film he worked on was a 1982 TV adaptation of the Ray Bradbury short story “All Summer in a Day.” He began his career as a visual effects camera operator working on films like Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Empire Strikes Back, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He worked on Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
  • Born April 22, 1959 Brian Taves, 60. Author of The Jules Verne Encyclopedia and Hollywood Presents Jules Verne: The Father of Science Fiction on Screen.  He also wrote Talbot Mundy, Philosopher of Adventure: A Critical Biography. Mundy is the author of the Jimgrim / Ramsden stories, a fantasy series. 
  • Born April 22, 1966 Jeffrey Dean Morgan,53. He’s best known for his roles as Dr. Edward Marcase in The Burning Zone, John Winchester on Supernatural, the Comedian in Watchmen, Negan on The Walking Dead  and Harvey Russell in Rampage. He also played Jeb Turnbull in Jonah Hex. And was Thomas Wayne in Batman v. Superman though he was uncredited for it. 
  • Born April 22, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 35. She appeared as the evil sorceress Nimueh in Merlin, and as Lady Christina de Souza in the Doctor Who episode “Planet of the Dead” in the era of the Tenth Doctor. She was also in the comedy film Cockneys vs Zombies as Katy,and played Elanor in Andron. And yes, they rebooted the Bionic Woman series in which she played the lead character Jaime Sommers. It lasted nine episodes. Points to who remembers the original actress without looking her up. 

(13) TV ON THE CHEAP Because Filers may still have time still available for consuming video content – yeah, right — ZDNet points you at the “10 best free video streaming services for cord cutters”.

It’s possible to watch a lot of excellent movies and TV shows for free — if you know how.

When cord-cutting became a thing, it was all about saving money. Today, cord-cutting costs are catching up with cable. Indeed, with Disney Plus coming, with its must-watch package of Marvel Universe, Star Wars, and Disney films, plus internet TV streaming services like AT&T DirecTV Now drastically raising its prices, I can easily see a cord cutter’s total viewing bill crossing the $100-a-month barrier. 

Fortunately, there are some answers.

There’s at least one inexpensive TV-bundling service: Philo TV. At $16 a month for three simultaneous streams of 45 popular channels, it’s a steal. But, if you can live with commercials, there are at least 10 good free streaming services to try.

(14) AFRICAN VOICES. CNN reports “Netflix to launch all girl superhero animation series from Africa”.

As part of its growing acquisition of content from Africa, Netflix has announced its first original African animated series – Mama K’s Team 4.

The series is produced by award-winning South Africa based studio, Triggerfish Animation, and London based kids and family entertainment specialist, CAKE.

Mama K’s Team 4 tells a story of four teenage girls living in a futuristic version of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city. The girls are recruited by an ex-secret agent to save the world.

Designed by Cameroonian artist Malcolm Wope, the animation drew inspiration for the visuals from retro 90s hip hop girl groups, Netflix said in a statement announcing the deal….

(15) BY THE BOOK. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Novel finalist reviews.

(16) COMMEMORATIVES. These BrexitStamps are over a year old – but news to me!

(17) NAVIGATING BY THE PUPPY CONSTELLATION. Lou Antonelli has launched a semiprozine for original sff, Sirius Science Fiction, which offers $25 for each original story upon publication.

WHO WE ARE

Sirius Science Fiction is an on-line web site dedicated to publishing original speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, alternate history and horror. We like stories with a sense of wonder and excitement.

In a time when mainstream speculative fiction has been overrun by political correctness and identity politics, we offer a venue free of pretension and ideological litmus tests.

Sirius Science Fiction publishes one original short story a week, plus occasional reprints. Original stories are posted every Friday.

(18) SPOILER WARNING. Well, beware if you’re a fluent Rot-13 speaker. Here’s the surprise ending to “Beyond the Bounds of Genius: Chapter 8” of Timothy the Talking Cat’s autobiography:

Fbba jr fnj gur Juvgr Pyvssf bs Qbire be ng yrnfg gung’f jung jr nffhzrq gurl jrer ohg rirelobql ryfr jnf fubhgvat “VPR ORET!” Orsber lbh pbhyq fubhg “zna gur yvsr obngf” gur fuvc jnf fvaxvat naq Pryvar Qvba jnf fvatvat naq rirelguvat jnf orpbzvat irel pbashfvat.

(19) YAKETY-YAK. Here’s some art by an Ursula Vernon admirer:

(20) OLD GAME. NPR tells how “For Mongolia’s Ice Shooters, Warmer Winters Mean A Shorter Sports Season”.

On a bright Sunday afternoon in early March, the Tamir River in the steppes of Mongola becomes a bowling alley. Two dozen Mongolian herdsmen have gathered to play musun shagai, known as “ice shooting.” Right now, the ice on the river is perfect. Clear and smooth. The players are cheerful and focused.

Their goal? To send a small copper puck called a zakh down a 93-yard stretch of ice and knock over several cow ankle bones, painted red, none bigger than a golf ball, at the other end. Extra points for hitting the biggest target, made of cow skin.

Together, the targets form a line of tiny red dots that are difficult to see, let alone hit. When that happens, players know because the spectators raise a boisterous cheer.

…This competition, originally scheduled for mid-March, was bumped up by two weeks. “The river was already melting,” Gurvantamir said.

(21) IRON ART. Lots of photos accompany NPR’s feature “The Beauty And The Power Of African Blacksmiths”.

In the fictional world of Marvel’s Black Panther, the Afro-futurist utopia of Wakanda has a secret, almost magical resource: a metal called vibranium. Its mythic ability to store energy elevated vibranium to a central role in the fictional nation’s culture and the metal became part of Wakandan technology, fashion and ceremony.

Of course vibranium isn’t real. But one metal has held a similarly mythic role for over 2,000 years in many cultures across the African continent: iron.

African blacksmiths have been crafting agricultural tools, musical instruments, weapons and symbols of power and prestige out of the raw material for ages. “Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths,” a new exhibit at the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. showcases Africa’s rich history of ironworking through 225 tools, weapons and adornments from over 100 ethnic groups across Africa.

(22) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES. “SpaceX capsule suffers ‘anomaly’ during tests in Florida”.

SpaceX has confirmed that its Crew Dragon capsule suffered an “anomaly” during routine engine tests in Florida.

A US Air Force spokesperson told local press the incident, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, had been contained and no-one had been injured.

An unmanned Crew Dragon successfully flew for the first time last month.

This latest incident, however, could delay plans to launch a manned mission to the International Space Station later this year.

Not since the end of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011 has the US been able to send its own astronauts into orbit. It has had to rely instead on Russia and its Soyuz spacecraft.

(23) A ‘STAN LEE’ MOMENT. Daniel Dern asks:

Wanna get caught up on the Avengers: Endgame related comics… or just overload your eyeballs and brain in general?

Try a month of the Marvel Unlimited streaming comic service for $4.99 (normall $9.99/month, jumps to that if you don’t cancel). ~ 25,000 digitized Marvel comics (ranging from from-the-beginning-of-time through at-least-six-months-old).

Best on, sigh, a tablet that can view a comic full size, like the non-cheap iPad Pro 12.9. (which is why I bought one a year or so ago).

(24) AFTER SHAKESPEARE. This is far beyond what prompted Independence Day’s Wil Smith to demand, “What’s that smell?” “Nathan Lane Cleans Up Broadway’s Biggest Pile of Dead Bodies in ‘Gary: a Sequel to Titus Andronicus’”.

Even before the lushly designed curtain rises on Taylor Mac’s Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, which opens Sunday night on Broadway (at the Booth Theatre, to Aug. 4), the fluids start shooting forth.

A woman appears and begins to spurt blood from her slashed neck. The blood flies out sporadically, and this looks a little precarious if you are in the front two rows. The woman, inevitably raspy of voice given her injury, muses on the nature of sequels and revenge.

Then the curtain rises on one of the great stage designs of this Broadway season. The sight of hundreds of human bodies immediately confronts the audience….

In this banqueting hall turned charnel house, there is the prosaically named Gary (Nathan Lane), a former clown now turned laborer, here to do some tidying up of bodies before the inauguration of a new leader the next day. “Bit more of them than I was expecting,” he says of the bodies. His voice is Cockney. Lane—orbiting in his brilliant way from shy to showman, naughty schoolboy to moral fulcrum—at first seems like a mischief-maker, bored on the job and up for fun.

The fourth wall stays permeable throughout; the actors stare out at us, puzzled at our applause….

(25) DERAILERS. ScreenRant shares “10 Superhero Deleted Scenes That Could Have Changed Everything.”

Deleted scenes in movies are fun to watch but they are even more fun to watch when they are from superhero films. Instead of arguing over which Universe you enjoy more, DC or Marvel, sit back and watch these deleted scenes and let us know what you think in the comments below. Let’s take a look at Screen Rant’s video, ten Superhero Deleted Scenes That Could Have Changed Everything. And we have the plot holes from some of your favorite movies including the X-Men series, Marvel’s Iron Man, the Hugh Jackman film Logan, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice plus many more.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, World Weary, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]