Pixel Scroll 2/4/21 It Is Too Late For The Pixels To Vote, The Scroll Has Already Begun

(1) OSCAR CHANCES. “Is Chadwick Boseman Headed for a Posthumous Best-Actor Oscar Win?” asks Vogue. Fans remember him as the Black Panther, King of Wakanda, and there may be other pages still to be added to his memory book:

With rave reviews for his performance as Levee, a blues trumpeter in 1920s Chicago, in the film adaptation of the August Wilson play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—and now with a Screen Actors Guild nomination to go along with the Golden Globes nod he received on Wednesday—Chadwick Boseman may be inching ahead of his competitors in this year’s Oscars race for best actor.

Many award prognosticators are already predicting that Boseman, who died of cancer in August at the age of 43, could become the third actor—following Peter Finch in Network and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight—to win a posthumous Oscar for his performance. (At this point, his chief rival appears to be Riz Ahmed, who plays a punk-metal drummer beginning to go deaf in Sound of Metal. Ahmed has won several critics’ awards as well as the best-actor citation from the National Board of Review.)…

(2) MURDER, HE WROTE. Mark Lawrence took a poll. The result, he says, is that “7.4% of you are monsters”.

(3) O TEMPORAO MORES! How the classics are neglected. The Washington Post needed to add this correction to the end of an article today —

Correction: A previous version of this story implied that a planet blows up in “The Empire Strikes Back.” No planets blow up in that particular Star Wars film. This story has been updated.

(From the article “Kroger closes Ralphs, Food 4 Less stores over pandemic pay mandate”.)

(4) ARGUMENT CLINIC. David Gerrold offered a new service on Facebook. This could be the coming thing.

At the suggestion of a friend, I am now charging $50 for 30 minutes of online argument.

Subject must be agreed on beforehand. (I reserve the right to decline.) Sources of data must also be agreed on before. (Fox News and other farce right sources will not be accepted. In return, I will forego CNN, NYT, Huffpost, Washington Post, and MSNBC)

No personal attacks aloud or allowed.

Only one argument per week please.

(5) ALPHABET SOUP IS BLUE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] YInMn has now been approved for commercial use: “Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries” at Hyperallergic.

Cerulean, azure, navy, royal … Much has been written about the color blue, the first human-made pigment. “Because blue contracts, retreats, it is the color of transcendence, leading us away in pursuit of the infinite,” wrote William Gass in his book On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry. Wassily Kandinsky once mused: “The power of profound meaning is found in blue, and first in its physical movements of retreat from the spectator, of turning in upon its own center […] Blue is the typical heavenly color.”

And now, for the first time in two centuries, a new chemically-made pigment of the celebrated color is available for artists — YInMn Blue. It’s named after its components — Yttrium, Indium, and Manganese — and its luminous, vivid pigment never fades, even if mixed with oil and water.

Like all good discoveries, the new inorganic pigment was identified by coincidence….

(6) THE GAME’S AFOOT. The Guardian covers the many reimaginations of Sherlock Holmes, including a few that are clearly genre, as well as the ongoing conflicts with the litigious Arthur Conan Doyle estate: “’I think I’ve written more Sherlock Holmes than even Conan Doyle’: the ongoing fight to reimagine Holmes”.

…. “My step-grandmother, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, tried hard to stop the world doing what it liked with her father’s fictional characters. In the end she realised this was a fruitless exercise,” says Richard Pooley, director of the Conan Doyle estate and step- great-grandson of the author. “Instead she focused on giving her approval to those Holmes pastiches which were well-written and did not stray too far from Doyle’s characterisation. We have tried to do the same.”

The estate has authorised Horowitz’s sequels and Lane’s stories, but most Holmes adaptations come without the estate’s stamp of approval – not that that appears to put readers off. Pooley says that its approval comes down to the quality of the writing, and if the writer stays “true to Doyle’s depiction of Holmes’s and Watson’s characters” – meaning they don’t mind if Cumberbatch’s Holmes lives in modern London, or if Holmes and Watson are women, as in HBO Asia’s Miss Sherlock….

(7) CREATIVITY BY THE HANDFUL. Another opportunity to hear from Octavia Butler researcher Lynelle George “about how a writer looks, listens, and breathes—how to be in the world.” “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler: A Conversation with Author Lynell George”. Register here.

George will be in conversation with Los Angeles artist Connie Samaras, an avid admirer of Butler’s prose which served as the inspiration for her 2019 project “The Past is Another Planet”, an illustrious depiction of the Huntington Library, home to Butler’s archive. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 4, 1983 Videodrome premiered. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg, with a cast of James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry. It was the first film by Cronenberg to get Hollywood backing and it bombed earning back only two million dollars of its nearly six million budget. In spite of that, critics and audience goers alike found it to a good film. Today it is considered his best film by many, and it holds a sterling seventy-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 4, 1889 – Dorothea Faulkner.  Two short stories, half a dozen poems, in If and Slant (there’s a range for you) and like that, under variations of “Rory Faulkner”, “Rory Magill”, “Dorothea M. Faulkner”.  Active in the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society), serving a term as Secretary, and the Outlanders, also the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  Often seen in Now & Then.  With that and Slant you won’t be surprised to hear she attended Loncon I the 15th Worldcon (at age 68) and was made a Knight of St. Fantony.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1915 – Harry Whittington.  For us, one Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel and four novellas, and an essay on Fredric Brown for this collection; outside our field, note first HW’s One Deadly Dawn was published as an Ace Double with Tucker’s Hired Target; HW wrote two hundred novels – fourscore in one twelve-year span – under a score of names; quite possibly King of the Pulps; see here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1938 – Ted White, age 83.  Perhaps our most been-everywhere-done-everything fan alive.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories; assistant editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, then edited Amazing and Fantastic (concurrently!), Stardate; columnist for Algol and Thrust; “Uffish Thots” and “The Trenchant Bludgeon” in SF Review; active beyond measure there, in IzzardNew FrontiersRaucous CaucusRiverside QuarterlyYandro, and indeed File 770.  Interviewed by Schweitzer in SF Voices.  One Hugo (as Best Fanwriter; often a finalist as a pro), three FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Chaired Lunacon 11-13.  Organized FanHistoricon 9 but couldn’t attend.  Variously Pro and Fan Guest of Honor at Bubonicon 4, DeepSouthCon 18, RavenCon 11, Aussiecon Two the 43rd Worldcon.  Also musician and music critic (plays keyboards, saxophone).  British Fantasy Award for Heavy Metal.  Acidulous, enthusiastic, skeptical, strong; it would be a miracle not to think him sometimes wrong.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 81. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn In “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George A. Romero. Is horror genre or genre adjacent? Either way, he’s got an impressive listing form the Dead films, I count seven of them, to Knightriders, which is truly genre adjacent at best, and one of my favorites of him, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Oh, and he wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Stan Lee, but he did show up in at least seven of his films. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of, but you can see the premiere episode here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 62. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters),  voicing a role in The Cat in The Hat short, Night GallerySealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO. She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 60. I’m been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I last listened to The Line War and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of hundred thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again).  (CE)
  • Born February 4, 1962 Thomas Scott Winnett. Locus magazine editorial assistant and reviewer from 1989 to 1994. He worked on Locus looks at books and Books received as well. In addition, he wrote well over a hundred review reviews for Locus. He died of AIDS related pneumonia. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1968 – Neve Maslakovic, Ph.D., age 53.  From Belgrade to Stanford’s STAR Lab (Space, Telecommunications, And Radioscience) to writing fiction.  Four novels, another due next month.  Likes the Twin Cities winters.  Has read Time and AgainA History of [Greek letter “pi”], Three Men in a Boat, nine by Wodehouse, five by Sayers, a Complete Sherlock HolmesA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1968 – David Speakman, age 53.  Until recently very active in the N3F, serving as Chair of the Directorate, editor of The Nat’l Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam; two Franson Awards, Kaymar Award, awarded a Life Membership.  As to “recently”, he explains here.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1990 – Zach King, age 31.  Actor, author, digital-video illusionist.  Three novels for us.  Two London Film Festival first-place awards.  A video of him apparently flying on a broomstick had two billion views in four days.  “They rejected my application to Hogwarts but I still found a way to be a wizard.”  Does he do it all with mirrors?  Website. [JH]

(10) FANZINE SPOTLIGHT. The newest installment of Cora Buhlert’s Fanzine Spotlight series is a Q&A with Star Trek Quarterly editor Sarah Gulde: “Fanzine Spotlight: Star Trek Quarterly”.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

I’ve been a Trekkie since TNG started in 1987, so when Chris Garcia and James Bacon asked me to guest edit an issue of Journey Planet, I did a whole Star Trek-themed issue. I reached out to people I know in the Trek community and asked them to write about how Star Trek had impacted their lives. I ended up receiving some really impactful stories, from a friend who had immigrated to the US finding a family, to another friend finding the courage to come out of the closet, all through Star Trek.

It was a game-changing experience for me to edit other people’s stories. Everyone has a story to tell, but everyone is at a different writing level. Some pieces I didn’t have to touch, while I spent hours editing others. I loved helping people tell their stories, and making sure those stories were heard.

I loved it so much I didn’t want to stop with one issue! After some careful thought, I decided to create my own Star Trek-themed fanzine. Monthly was too much for me to take on by myself, so I went with quarterly. I asked Women At Warp, a feminist Trek podcast, to write a regular column. (Since then I’ve joined the show as a co-host.) I passed out flyers at the big annual convention in Las Vegas soliciting submissions for the first issue. And I posted to various Star Trek Facebook groups looking for more….

(11) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. Delish reports “This Chocolate Easter Egg Features A Marshmallow Baby Yoda Inside”. Eat Baby Yoda? And the Galerie Candy site is already sold out! What kind of barbarians are at the gates?

…The Mandalorian Egg-Shaped Magic Hot Chocolate Melt from Galerie Candy is very similar to a hot cocoa bomb—but without the hot chocolate mix. Made of milk chocolate, it’s meant to be dissolved in a cup of hot milk to reveal the green Baby Yoda marshmallow inside. While it’s intended use is to make hot chocolate, you can easily eat the Baby Yoda treat as is.

(12) DEEP WATERS. In Two Chairs Talking podcast Episode 45, “Not Waving but Drowning”

David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about the books they’ve been reading lately, ranging in length from novellas to a nine-volume, almost million-word opus written entirely in the form of letters. And a rather damp theme emerges…

(13) LIGHTEN UP. Frostbeard Studio adds a brand new bookish scent every month to its line of Book Lovers’ Soy Candles and Bookish Goods.

Here’s the description of their scented “Through the Wardrobe” candle:

Follow your nose through the woods to a mysterious lamppost where you’ll embark on a magical adventure into wintry realms. You might be cozied up with blankets and a book, but you’ll feel like you’re being whisked away to a snowy, enchanted forest in another world.

(14) GET IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR. Camestros Felapton recommends this adaptation of a comic: “Review: Sweet Home”.

…The monsters feel like a cross between The Thing and Attack on Titan but that weirdness aside, the story gradually drifts into a more conventional zombie-apocalypse survival narrative. The small number of survivors trapped on the ground floor of the Green Home apartment bloc, must find ways to band together to protect themselves from the surrounding nightmare. In later episodes they have to deal with an intruding human gang, as well as the secret agenda of the army which (as per usual) knows more about the plague than they are letting on. Luckily, by this point the viewer is more invested in the fate of the ensemble of characters who range from shop keepers to an improbable combination of people with bad-ass backstories.

(15) SUICIDE SQUAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Warner Bros. has announced the official plot synopsis for Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Now let the betting begin on who gets Gunned down first. “The Suicide Squad Synopsis Teases a ‘Search and Destroy’ Mission” at CBR.com.

… Some of the DC villains and antiheroes called out in the synopsis include Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and “everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn.” Part of the Suicide Squad’s mission will see them dropped off “on theremote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.”

(16) CONTRAPTIONS WITH PERSONALITY. These imaginative illos are a lot of fun: “Boris Artzybasheff’s living machines / part one” and  “Boris Artzybasheff’s living machines / part two” at PastPrint.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/20 This Irrepixel-Able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-Produced Crime

(1) FRONT AND CENTER. Octavia Butler is on the cover of Huntington Frontiers, published by the Huntington Library in Pasadena. Read the cover article here: “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky” by Lynell George.

When I last encountered Octavia E. Butler, it was 2004 and she was slated to deliver the keynote at the Black to the Future Festival in Seattle, Washington. Time has flattened or obscured some of the details of days spent reporting on panels, lectures, and post-event gatherings. I don’t remember the precise order of events of that opening evening, but I do recall some of Butler’s heartfelt words about finding and making community in this brief but special moment when we were assembled together. I sat, scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook, making shapes of letters in the darkness of the auditorium. Her voice didn’t seem to need amplification—it was warm and deep and burnished with authority, as if she was not just leading things off, but leading a country….

(2) NOT OUT OF LEFT FIELD. First Fandom Experience solves three eofannish mysteries in “V is for Vincent, Vernon, Vytautas”. Learn more about a famous photo taken over the weekend of the First Worldcon in —

V is for Vincent

Below is one of early fandom’s most iconic images. On Independence Day, 1939, this carload of irascible youth from states far and wide ventured forth from the World Science Fiction Convention in New York to Coney Island. It’s a who’s-who of prominent First Fans: Madle and Agnew from Philadelphia, Korshak and Reinsberg from Chicago, Rocklynne from Ohio, and one very tanned Ray Bradbury from Los Angeles.

But among the who’s-who, there’s a “who’s that?” V. Kidwell. …

During the first Worldcon, fans took the opportunity to visit Coney Island where this foto-op took place: Front: Mark Reinsberg, Jack Agnew, Ross Rocklynne Top: V. Kidwell, Robert A. Madle, Erle Korshak, Ray Bradbury Coney Island, July 4, 1939)

(3) JAPANESE BOFFO BOX OFFICE. [Item by N.] “’Demon Slayer’ Overtakes ‘Spirited Away’ to Become Japan’s Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. (Also it’s the fifth highest grossing film of the entire year, surpassing Sonic the Hedgehog, which is a coherent sentence I have just typed.)

Demon Slayer is based on a popular 2016 manga by Japanese artist Koyoharu Gotoge. But the property didn’t become a pop cultural phenomenon until it was adapted into an anime series for television. Produced by Tokyo-based studio Ufotable, the 26-episode series aired on Tokyo MX and other channels in 2019, but later became a sleeper smash hit when it re-aired on Netflix and Fuji TV. The popularity of the series reignited interest in the manga, making it a runaway bestseller. As of December, the Demon Slayer manga series has sold nearly 120 million copies.

When Ufotable’s big-screen adaptation of the series hit Japanese cinemas this fall, conditions were ripe for a box-office bonanza. Japanese cinemas nationwide had fully reopened nationwide after a brief period of COVID-19 shutdown in the spring. Since the Hollywood studios had postponed most of their releases until 2021, Demon Slayer had limited foreign competition and Japanese cinemas were highly motivated to wring as much earnings potential as possible for the local blockbuster. 

(4) WILL POWER. “Brain-controlled gaming exists, though ethical questions loom over the tech” reports the Washington Post.

As the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shut its laboratories following the covid-19 outbreak, Nathan Copeland, a 33-year-old volunteer, collected the equipment that would grant him transformative abilities during lockdown. Paralyzed from the chest down with only limited arm movement, Copeland took home an advanced brain-computer interface, a device that allows him to control on-screen actions using only his mind.Copeland is part of cutting-edge research into brain-computer interfaces at the University of Pittsburgh, recently awarded over $8 million by the National Institutes of Health. The team’s experiments are a peek into a potential transhumanist future more commonly associated with cyberpunk movies “The Matrix” and “Ghost in the Shell.” Since 2015, Copeland has lived with a transistor-like chip, known as a multi-electrode array, surgically implanted directly into his brain. Copeland’s chip records the rapid-firing of cellular neurons — an almost inscrutably complex neurological signal — which is ferried over to a computer for what’s referred to as “decoding.” This signal is subsequently “translated” into the desired, seemingly telekinetic actions of its user.

To date, one of the team’s biggest successes has been decoding the complicated neural signals to allow Copeland to control a nimble robotic arm…. 

(5) JEDI CONSERVATION MOVEMENT. Musings on Mouse analyzes “Star Wars ‘nostalgia fatigue,’ and Marvel’s bankruptcy lesson”. BEWARE SPOILERS. I don’t think I included any below, however, definitely some in the linked article.

…Quality, some may argue, isn’t just representative of one episode or one movie, but the franchise as a whole. Case in point: The Mandalorian finale….

That, many critics argued in the days after the episode aired, is precisely the problem. As Matt Zoller Seitz wrote on Vulture, “the series succumbs to the dark side of parent company Disney’s quarterly earnings statements, which keeps dragging Star Wars back toward nostalgia-sploitation and knee-jerk intellectual-property maintenance.” Other fans rolled their eyes at the criticism, pointing out that Star Wars has always returned to the franchise’s most popular characters, most noticeably in the Expanded Universe’s novels, comics, and video games. 

Sound familiar? It should — it’s the exact same debate that popped up in 2017 after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi hit theaters. What is Star Wars? It’s an argument we’ve come back to with The Mandalorian’s second season finale. I’m not a critic, and this newsletter doesn’t exist to critique art. What I’m more acutely interested in is determining Star Wars’ future business. Let’s be clear: Star Wars is more than fine, but as Star Wars expands under Disney, there’s always room to figure out how to ensure it grows at a healthy rate instead of risking alienating parts of its consumer base every year.

(6) PUTTING THEIR STAMP ON THINGS. JSTOR Daily’s Livia Gershon points to the introduction of a new academic work that overviews “James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals”.

At first glance, the classic science-fiction authors James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ might not seem to have much in common. Behavioral psychologist Alice Bradley Sheldon began writing under “James Tiptree Jr.” in 1968, when she was in her fifties. She used the fictional male name and real knowledge of science and the military to infiltrate male-dominated science-fiction magazines. Russ, two decades younger, was an outspoken radical feminist, English professor, and critic. And yet, as Nicole Nyhan writes, the two writers exchanged hundreds of letters over fifteen years. Nyhan provides the introduction to a selection of writing from Tiptree’s side of the correspondence.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 in Heidelberg, Germany, “Ship of Shadows” by Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella. (It would also be nominated for a Nebula.) It was published in F&SF in July, 1969 which as you can see was billed as a Special Fritz Leiber Issue. This was a bizarre story of Spar, a blind, half-deaf barman at the Bat Rack. We’ll say no more. The other finalists were “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, “We All Die Naked” by James Blish, “Dramatic Mission” by Anne McCaffrey and “To Jorslem” by Robert Silverberg.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in such a way that the company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list.  I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1929 – Janet Lunn.  Three novels, two shorter stories, one anthology for us; much else.  Metcalf Award, Matt Cohen Award, Order of Ontario, Governor General’s Award, Order of Canada.  Quill & Quire obituary here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 88. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon. (CE)
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 86. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 78. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 – George Zebrowski, age 75.  A score of novels (Macrolife particularly applauded), a hundred shorter stories, several with co-authors.  Clarion alumnus.  Edited Nebula Awards 20-22; four Synergy anthologies, half a dozen more e.g. Sentinels with Greg Benford in honor of Sir Arthur Clarke.  Three years editing the SFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) with Pamela Sargent and Ian Watson.  Nonfiction anthologies Beneath the Red Star (studies on international SF), Skylife (with Benford; space habitats), Talks with the Masters (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Gunn).  Book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Campbell Memorial Award.  “Never Forget the Writers Who Helped Build Yesterday’s Tomorrows” in SF Age.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1946 – Sheryl Birkhead, age 74.  Long-time fanartist and (it serves us right) veterinarian.  Here is a cover for Tightbeam.  Here is one for It Goes on the Shelf.  Here is one for Purrsonal Mewsings.  Here is one for The Reluctant Famulus.  Kaymar Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1952 – Ramona Wheeler, age 68.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essay “The Sailor of No Specific Ocean” in the Hal Clement memorial anthology Hal’s Worlds.  Here is her cover for her collection Have Starship, Will Travel.  Here is her cover for her collection Starship for Hire.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1963 – Robert Pasternak, age 57.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us.  Interviewed in On Spec.  Aurora Award.  Here is Leslie Fiedler’s biography of Stapledon. Here is the May 93 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 00 Challenging Destiny.  Here is the Summer 13 On Spec.  Here is a review of a Jun – Jul 07 exhibition.  Here is an image from a Winnipeg Free Press interview.  Here is an ink-drawn face; see here.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1979 – D. Renée Bagby, age 41.  Eight novels for us, five dozen others (some under another name).  Air Force brat, now wife; born in the Netherlands, has also lived in Japan, six of the United States.  Has read The Cat in the HatPersuasionThe Iliad and The OdysseyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  “The voices start talking and I type what they say.” [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 39. The Baroness in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.  (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A DISH BEST SERVED LOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Zachary Pincus-Roth discusses how a bunch of Millennial Disney musical fans came up with “Ratatouille: The Musical,” created songs, cosplayed characters from the imaginary musical (including enlisting their parents to play older characters) and even creating a fake cover of Playbill for the imaginary musical.  Disney Theatrical Productions stated “although we do not have development plans for this title, we love when our fans engage with Disney stories.” — “How TikTok and social media are changing Broadway fandom”.

(11) OBI BUT NO OBI-WAN. This happened last year, but it’s news to me… “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars” in The Guardian.

The Star Wars franchise is about to breach the artistic final frontier with a one-off performance of a kabuki adaptation starring one of Japan’s most revered stage actors.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery….

(12) UNFINISHED TOLKIEN. John M. Bowers asks “Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work?” at Literary Hub. The trouble with this headline is that it’s not as if Tolkien didn’t procrastinate about working on his fiction, too.

…Already by 1932 he admitted to Chapman the weight of the Chaucerian incubus upon his conscience. His Gawain edition, “Chaucer as a Philologist,” and “The Monsters and the Critics” had all appeared before the Second World War. Set against this relatively slender résumé were undelivered assignments such as his Pearl edition, the book-length “Beowulf” and the Critics, and his EETS edition of Ancrene Wisse. If his own harsh remarks about George Gordon holding up their Chaucer edition did not quite qualify him as a “slanderer,” these complaints did de?ect blame from his role as an “idler” who failed to reduce his annotations to a publishable length. He would confess during a newspaper interview in 1968, “I have always been incapable of doing the job at hand.”

(13) AROUND AND AROUND. “Animation reveals invisible center of solar system that’s not the sun”Business Insider knows where it is. In a minute, you will too.

It’s common knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system. Around it, the planets orbit — along with a thick belt of asteroids, some meteor fields, and a handful of far-traveling comets.

But that’s not the whole story.

“Instead, everything orbits the solar system center of mass,” James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency, JAXA, recently explained on Twitter. “Even the sun.”

That center of mass, called the barycenter, is the point of an object at which it can be balanced perfectly, with all its mass distributed evenly on all sides. In our solar system, that point rarely lines up with the center of the sun…

(14) THOUGHT OF THE DAY. From Mike Kennedy: “I just realized that the various dings, buzzes, and clicks our phones/watches play to get our attention are clearly intended to train us to understand R2-D2.”

(15) EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC IP LAWYERS. CinemaBlend will explain “Why James Bond’s Studio Once Sent A ‘Very Stern Letter’ To Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Crew”.

Star Trek is a franchise that primarily deals in the world of sci-fi, but it’s not unheard of for the franchise to attempt parody other genres every so often. Such was the case in the Deep Space Nine episode “Our Man Bashir,” in which an accident in the Holosuite traps the crew in Bashir’s spy fantasy program. The episode is a fun nod to the genre of ’60s spy films but apparently was not well-received by James Bond studio MGM.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matters sets the frame for a DUST short in “Sci-Fi Saturday Film: The Robot Tries To Learn About Grief”.

An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do homework and hang Christmas decorations.

It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare!

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, N., Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/20 1,001 Pixel Scroll Nights

(1) PLAYING HARD TO GET. Comicbook.com introduces “Star Trek Actors Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton Feud in Hilarious Omeleto Video”. It really is a hoot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation stars LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner have come together in a new video aimed at poking fun of their public personas and pitting the two against one another in a feud that overruns a fundraiser and causes havoc at an awards show. The short comes from Omeleto, home to a wide variety of different kinds of short films. Spiner takes the central role, lampooning himself as a shallow, pretentious jerk who begins and ends the short with musical numbers that would probably stand on their own as short-short films, given the YouTube (and Star Trek) ecosphere.

The short, titled “Brentwood,” sees Spiner vacillating between wanting to distance himself from his genre past, and wanting the material success and praise that comes with that success….

(2) CONVERSATION ABOUT OCTAVIA BUTLER. Last night journalist Lynell George, author of A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky, was online in dialog with LA Times reporter Julia Wick about the legacy and prolific writing of science fiction legend Octavia E. Butler. Watch the video here on Facebook.

(3) ROLE MODEL. Sarah Gailey wrote this entry in the series on their blog: “Personal Canons: All the Birds in the Sky”.

…If you haven’t already read this book, you absolutely should. It is in many ways a love letter to both science fiction and fantasy; it simultaneously contains a tender critique of the foibles of each. Through two narratives, the novel weaves the two supposedly-distinct genres together into a truly masterful accomplishment of a story.

Reading All the Birds in the Sky was a revelation. I’d never read anything like it before. It engaged with tropes and conventions in ways that revealed a rich understanding of genre, without ever falling into cliché. The narrative was simultaneously sincere and playful, honest and elusive, sly and heartfelt.

Before I lost myself in All the Birds in the Sky, most of my understanding of and enjoyment of contemporary genre fiction and media was defined by brittleness and snark. This isn’t to say that sincere sentiments weren’t out there — but sincere sentiments weren’t what I understood to be successful. They weren’t what I understood to be the mode of the day.

The goal, as I saw it, was to refute the notion that genre fiction was unselfaware. The goal was to be cool and aloof and maybe a little mean to fans. To narratively acknowledge a trope was, by necessity, to make fun of the trope. It was a bullyproofing mechanism: nobody could make fun of us if we made fun of ourselves, first.

As I recall, there was a good amount of this in the first draft of River of Teeth. But as I read All the Birds in the Sky — and as I revised the weird little novella I’d decided to write — something shifted….

(4) MORE MYTHOPEIA. Alison Flood, in “Unseen JRR Tolkien essays on Middle-earth coming in 2021” in The Guardian says The Nature Of Middle-Earth, edited by Carl F. Hostetter, will be published next year.

…The new collection, which is authorised by the Tolkien estate, will be called The Nature of Middle-earth, and will be published in June by HarperCollins, which promised it would “transport readers back to the world of The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and The Lord of the Rings”. 

…Topics include Elvish immortality and reincarnation; the nature of the Valar, the god-like spirits of Middle-earth; the lands and beasts of Númenor; the geography of the kingdom of Gondor; and even who had beards. Whether elves, hobbits and even dwarven women could grow beards has long been subject of debate among fans.

The writings will be edited by Carl F Hostetter, a Tolkien expert and head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship who has been a computer engineer at Nasa since 1985. Hostetter previously worked with Tolkien’s youngest son Christopher, who curated the author’s posthumous output until his death in January, aged 95.

(5) SLIPPED DISC PROVES TERMINAL. Sadly, “NSF to decommission Arecibo radio telescope” reports Space News.

The National Science Foundation announced Nov. 19 it will perform a “controlled decommissioning” of the giant radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, citing recent damage that made it unsafe to operate or even repair.

In a call with reporters, NSF officials said two broken cables used to support a 900-ton platform suspended over the telescope’s 305-meter main dish put the entire structure at risk of collapse. One cable slipped out of its socket in August, falling to the dish below and damaging it, while the second broke Nov. 6

Both cables are attached to the same tower, one of three surrounding the main dish. “The engineers have advised us that the break of one more cable will result in an uncontrolled collapse of the structure,” said Ralph Gaume, director of the NSF’s Division of Astronomical Sciences, referring to cables attached to that same tower. That would result in the platform crashing down to the main dish and potentially toppling one or more of the towers.

… Engineers are working on a plan to carry out that controlled decommissioning, which will take several weeks to complete. “The execution of that controlled decommissioning is unknown at this point,” Gaume said. It could be done “very rapidly” if explosives are used to bring down telescope structures, he speculated….

(6) THIS TABLET IS HARD TO SWALLOW. The Pittsburgh Current calls it — “Fahrenheit 412: New Rule Bans Allegheny County Jail Inmates From Receiving Books; Reading Limited To 214 Select E-Books”

Christopher West, aka Brother Hush, has been in the Allegheny County Jail for three months To help pass the time, he immersed himself into one of his favorite hobbies, reading.

The jail had a policy, though, that inmates could only receive books directly from Barnes and Noble or the Christian Book Store. Hush took advantage of the policy and has tried to pass his time until trial (for more info on this, read Hush’s story here). But on Nov. 16, things changed.

“Yesterday I woke up in Fahrenheit 451,” says Hush, a musical artist, and activist, by phone Nov. 17 from the Allegheny County Jail. His reference was to the 1953 Ray Bradbury Novel that tells the story about a dystopian future where books are banned and burned.

On Monday, Nov. 16, the ACJ’s incarcerated population received a memo from warden Orlando Harper that read: “Effective Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, the Allegheny County Jail shall no longer accept books from Barnesandnoble.com and Christianbooks.com. Inmates living in our facility now have the ability to read over 214 free books and 49 free religious books through our tablet program. Inmates…also have access to a wide variety of books through the leisure library on each pod.”

The ACJ’s “tablet program” began earlier this year after the county inked a new contract with Global Tel*Link. The new deal provided inmate with tablets that they could use for entertainment purposes, to photos and videos from their families and to have video visits. The problem is, each of these services costs money out of an inmate’s pocket and baked on those fee, Allegheny County receives kickbacks from the telecom company of more than $4 million. Inmates do get roughly an hour-and-a-half of free credits. But after that they are charged anywhere from three-to-five cents per minute….

“I love to read,” Hush says. “I’ve got a box full of books in here. But, now I’m being limited to only certain titles and if I want to read longer than my free credits allow, then I have to pay. With a book, I’m not charged by the minute.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 19, 1931 Frankenstein debuted in Detroit, Michigan.  James Whale directed the motion picture not from an adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel but rather from a 1927 play by Peggy Webling that was based on the novel. The Webling play was adapted by John L. Balderston and the screenplay written by Francis Edward Faragoh and Garrett Fort. The  cast included  Frederick Kerr as Baron Frankenstein, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein , Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Lavenza, and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s Monster. Critics generally loved it and it’s considered one of the best horror films of all time. It currently holds an ever so hundred percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 19, 1911 – Mary Counselman.  Five dozen short stories, two dozen poems.  “The Three Marked Pennies” may have been the second most popular in Weird Tales; readers kept mentioning it for years.  This cover for Half in Shadow is by Tim Kirk.  “The Hallowe’en scariness of the bumbling but kindly Wizard of Oz has always appealed to me more than the gruesome, morbid fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and those later authors who were influenced by their doom philosophies.  My eerie shades bubble with an irrepressible sense of humour, ready to laugh with (never at) those earth-bound mortals whose fears they once shared.”  First Fandom.  Phoenix Award.  More here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 96. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1936 – Wolfgang Jeschke.  Fan, author, editor.  Pioneer of the Science Fiction Club Deutschland (deliberately two-language name).  Guest of Honour at ConFiction the 48th Worldcon (hello, Kees van Toorn); on the Program Book cover he’s second from the top; more about the con here.  WJ’s fanzine Ad Astra.  Five novels, thirty shorter stories; essays, introductions, radio plays.  For the publisher Heyne, edited Science Fiction MagazinScience Fiction Jahresband (we’d say “yearbook”, although der Band isn’t really the same as “book”), Welten der Zukunft (“Worlds of the Future”), Internationale Science Fiction StoriesScience Fiction Story ReaderTitan (with Pohl, Silverberg, Bova), Das Science Fiction Jahr, a score more anthologies (including Der Tod des Dr. Island, (“The Death of Dr. Island” – but alas, so far as I know, not the rest of this).  Harrison Award.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1943 – Allan Cole.  A dozen novels with Chris Bunch (and other novels outside our field), two with Nick Perumov, five alone.  Two shorter stories that I know of.  Appreciation of Tom Kidd for SF Age (hello, Scott Edelman).  A hundred television episodes.  Newspaper reporter.  Learned Shakespeare and Socrates from a Greek on Cyprus.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 – Wendy Orr, 67.  Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other books.  Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers, 1995.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 67. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that’s identify it as Trek related. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. (CE)
  • Born November 19, 1965 Douglas Henshall, 55. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally, he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1974 – Kuroboshi Kôhaku, 46.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Illustrator and character designer.  I’ll let you read here about Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online.  No, I mean it, go ahead.  [JH]
  • Born November 19, 1980 Katherine Kelly, 40. Miss Andrea Quill in Class, the spin-off from Doctor Who that lasted but eight episodes. (I’ve not seen it.) She’d reprise her role for the Big Audio dramas. Other an appearance in Life on Mars, that’s it for her genre work. (CE) 
  • Born November 19, 1983 –  Kallie George, 37.  Four novels, as many shorter stories, for us.  Others inspired by Anne of Green Gables (and who isn’t?).  Teaches reading with a dinosaur – a cute one – no, I mean it – on ice skates.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) STILL PLAYING CAT AND MOUSE. Warner Brothers dropped the Tom and Jerry official trailer, sharing some very amusing moments. Coming out next year.

(10) HUGO NIGHT REMINISCENCE. Battlestar Galactica script writer Anne Cofell Saunders confesses:

(11) GOING HORRIBLY, HILARIOUSLY WRONG. Paste Magazine enthuses “Hulu’s Rebooted Animaniacs Carries Forth the Zaniness and Charm of the Original”.

… It’s not an escape from reality, as the reboot leans into its political commentary, but it’s a much more colorful, joyful version of it, where nearly any problem can be solved with a giant hammer pulled out of one’s pocket. Animaniacs only wants one reaction from audiences of any age, and that’s laughs. It succeeds tremendously.

Hulu’s rebooted series maintains the same core of the original series, bringing back Steven Spielberg as a producer and many of the same voice actors, composers, and writers who created it. Each 24-minute episode block consists of three shorts of varying length, usually two starring the Warner brothers Yakko (Rob Paulsen) and Wakko (Jess Harnell), and the Warner sister, Dot (Tress MacNeille), with the middle segment going to Pinky (Paulsen) and the Brain (Laurice LaMarche). Without any narrative throughline, Animaniacs remains a show you can watch in any order and enjoy….

 (12) ISN’T THAT SPECIAL? Screen Rant decries “10 Recent Movies With Inexcusably Bad Special Effects”. Hey, I actually paid money to see two of these in a theater – and I had no complaints about Black Panther’s effects even if it is number 3 on this list.

For better or worse, special effects have become an increasingly prominent part of Hollywood moviemaking, and this is particularly true for movies in fantasy and science fiction. While some of these effects really do add to the storytelling, and while some of them are gorgeous to look at, it has to be said that quite a few of them are also more than a little ridiculous.

4. Gods Of Egypt (2016)

It’s a little hard to say what, exactly, the makers of this movie were thinking when they pushed it into production. It’s not as if movies set in antiquity, particularly in mythology, have been especially successful or popular. Most are at best decent (and almost always critically derided).

It’s also quite impossible to take this movie seriously, in large part because the special effects are so disastrously overdone and yet also incredibly cheesy. Somehow, one doubts that this was the effect they intended. It certainly doesn’t help that the movie engaged in some truly egregious white-washing.

(13) IMPRINT REVIVED. [Item by Steve Green.] British horror author and anthologist Johnny Mains has dusted off his publishing imprint Noose & Gibbet for next month’s release of Our Lady of Hate, the first collection of short stories by Catherine Lord (1845-1901). It’s a 338pp hardback, limited to 100 copies.

(14) GRITTY UNREALISM. [Item by Andrew Porter.] From “The Classic Novel That Robert Macfarlane Just Couldn’t Finish” in the New York Times Book Review section.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Wild landscapes, weird nature, science fiction — this really should be my jam. But no; the violence came to sicken me by halfway through, as did aspects of the politics. So I junked it.

But he does like M. John Harrison and N.K. Jemisin.

(15) NOW THAT DISNEY OWNS EVERYTHING. Here’s an unexpected way to phrase the new state of affairs —

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Lord Of The RIngs Expert Answers Tolkien Questions From Twitter” on YouTube is a video from WIRED in which Tolkien expert Corey Olsen explains why Sauron was neither a human or an elf and why Tolkien thought the plural of dwarf was “dwarfs” and not “dwarves.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Steve Green, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus (in collaboration with OGH).]

Pixel Scroll 11/14/20 Dangerous Pixels

(1) MORE ABOUT LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Ellison estate executor J. Michael Straczynski announced yesterday that Last Dangerous Visions will be submitted to publishers in 2021. Some of the comments here prompted me to ask him will there be author/story introductions written by Harlan Ellison in the book? Straczynski answered, “More information about specific content will come later.”

(2) FUTURE SHARKS. Andrew Liptak contends “Tech CEOs should stop using Science Fiction as a blueprint for humanity’s future in space”.

… Musk isn’t alone in his love of science fiction. Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos has noted that he’s a particular fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars and Star Trek. In Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race, Tim Fernholz notes that Bezos had long been interested in space exploration, saying in his high school valedictorian speech that we could save humanity “by creating permanent human colonies in orbiting space stations while turning the planet into an enormous nature preserve.” 

… While science fiction makes for fine inspirational material, it needs to be treated with some level of skepticism. Countless writers and artists have imagined what life in space might look like, but the genre they built got its start at a time when rocketry and space travel were in their earliest stages. They took technological leaps beyond our capabilities to imagine interstellar ships, space stations, intelligent robots, and more, which made for fine storytelling material, but which were also several steps away from reality. That was their job: to imagine fantastical, entertaining adventures, rather than write about what they were seeing around them. 

While it’s steeped in a form of realism (depending on how “hard” you want your science fiction), the arts are only a simulacrum for the world around us. Based on what we know now, interstellar empires, travel between star systems, and colonizing other planets are improbable ventures. 

In 2015, author Kim Stanley Robinson sought to tackle the long-standing trope of the Generation Ships — a spaceship designed to take hundreds or thousands of years to reach its destination, the descendants of the original crew carrying on the flag of humanity — with his novel Aurora. The result was a bleak outlook for his crew members: riding a starship that had begun to break down because of unforeseen problems and shortages, and a destination that proved to be habitable, but extremely inhospitable for human habitation. Other authors have drawn on recent scholarship to imagine a more plausible universe in which we might end up. Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time and its sequel Children of Ruin each take the enormous interstellar distances into account and imagine various survivors of humanity’s ambitions as they seek to terraform the universe to better suit them. 

(3) LAT BOOK CLUB FEATURES BUTLER GIVEAWAY. The Los Angeles Times Book Club will host Lynell George, author of A Handful of Dirt, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler on November 18 to discuss Butler’s work and her enduring legacy. The event will be livestreamed on the Times’ Facebook page, YouTube and Twitter. Sign up at Eventbrite — this event is free. And when you register for this event, you can receive a free copy of one of 10 books written by Butler or another sci-fi great — thanks to a generous donation from the author’s estate.

After working as a telemarketer, potato chip inspector and dishwasher, Butler went on to a groundbreaking writing career, publishing 12 novels and several short-story collections. She earned two Nebula and two Hugo awards and became the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur “genius” grant….

Butler’s 1993 “Parable of the Sower” envisioned a Los Angeles ravaged by climate change and economic injustice where people are scraping by just to survive. The author died in 2006 but her novel has surged in popularity in recent months. “Parable of the Sower” landedon both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller lists this fall.

(4) TAKING THE PAIN OUT OF PAINT. North Hollywood’s Iliad Bookshop had its famous murals vandalized and tagged. They’ve started a GoFundMe — Restore The Iliad Bookshop’s Mural – to raise $4,000 and have it redone. See photos of all the authors on the original murals here.

The Iliad Bookshop was founded by Dan Weinstein in 1987, and moved to its current location at the corner of Chandler and Cahuenga Blvds. in North Hollywood in 2006. Besides its vast inventory of used books and its adorable cats, the Iliad has always been known for its beautiful murals. When we moved to our current location, we hired British artist Paul Dilworth to decorate our walls with murals that depicted dozens of famous authors, musicians, mythological characters, and others. Paul has expanded the mural over the years, and we added custom-made giant books as well.

Our mural was more than a source of pride for the Iliad; we believe it was a valuable part of the local community. Travelers from all over the world admired the art; we’ve had visitors, authors, and even newlyweds pose in front of the mural.

If you’d like to see the mural in its entirety, complete with a list of all the authors who appeared on it, please click here .

On October 23, 2020, we arrived to find that much of the Chandler wall had been vandalized by taggers who painted over a number of author portraits, including Shirley Jackson, Philip K. Dick, and Octavia Butler. There is a protective coating on the mural, but when the tag is rendered in thick enamel layers there’s no way to remove it. All you can do is paint over it.

Of course it broke our hearts (as if 2020 wasn’t already hard enough on a small independent bookstore), but more importantly, it left many of our customers and neighbors heartbroken and angry. We painted over the graffiti…

…and were tagged again two days later. Once more we painted over the tag.

It’s now been two weeks and we haven’t been tagged again, so we’re ready to think about fixing the mural. Since the original artist, Paul Dilworth, is on lockdown in the U.K. we can’t hire him, but he has recommended a local artist to restore the mural.

(5) $¢REW REALITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] When it came time for a wrap party, the cast and crew of Matrix 4 decided to abandon reality — the reality of COVID-19 restrictions, that is.TMZ has the story: “‘Matrix 4’ Cast and Crew Throw Secret Wrap Party in Germany”.

The wrap party went down Wednesday in Babelsberg, Germany on a film studio stage, and they reportedly had a cover story — filming a party scene for the movie — and a code name … “Ice Cream Team Event.”

The party included around 200 guests who took rapid COVID tests, and were handed masks. But, as you can see from the pics and vid … most took off their masks once inside. It’s unclear if any of the big stars — Keanu ReevesJada Pinkett Smith or Priyanka Chopra — attended the party.

…”Matrix 4″ production moved to Germany back in March when the pandemic hit and was temporarily forced to pause production there as the global health crisis worsened. The release date was also pushed back from May 2021 to April 2022.

Germany implemented a 4-week partial nationwide lockdown that went into effect November 2 … with bars, clubs, restaurants and theaters closing. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had urged people to stay home to flatten the curve of a recent COVID spike.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Who received Martian Driver License #1?

Ray Bradbury’s Martian driver license

(7) WALKER OBIT. Colorado conrunner John S. Walker died November 8 reports Anime News Network.

The Colorado Anime Fest event revealed on Wednesday that staff member of the Nan Desu Kan (NDK) convention and former president of Denver Anime International John S. Walker passed away on November 8. He was 45.

Colorado Anime Fest also noted that Walker was a frequent panelist of the event, and that he also worked for the Starfest Convention, MileHiCon, and Denver Pop Culture Con. Colorado Anime Fest added, “His legacy will live on through all of Colorado’s conventions and the countless people he helped. But we will greatly miss him.”

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, the British Fantasy Society gave the August Derleth Fantasy Award for Best Novel to Tanith Lee’s Death’s Master. It’s the second of her Tales of the Flat Earth series which led off with Night’s Master. It was published the previous year as Daws Books’ Daw Collectors #324. Cover art by by David Schleinkofer, interior art is by Jack Gaughan.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i LönnebergaKarlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s 18th most translated author, and the fourth most translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm.  There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter was an animated series in Japan recently. The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature, is named for her. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1932 – Alex Ebel.  Thirty covers, forty interiors for us; other illustration including World Book.  Known for The Left Hand of Darkness.  Did The Dispossessed too.  Here is the Winter 54 Fantastic Story.  Here is an interior from the Mar 53 Fantasy (Sheckley, “The Demons”).  Here is When the Star Kings Die.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1949 – Carol Matas, 71.  A dozen novels for us, half again as many with Perry Nodelman.  Outside our field a dozen more, and another half dozen contributions to Dear Canada and I Am Canada.  Bilson Award, Sydney Taylor Award, Silver Birch.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1951 – Moshe Feder, 69.  Fan and pro.  Co-created the FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Co-author of The Mimeo Man.  Chaired Corflu 7 (corflu = mimeo correction fluid; fanziners’ con), Guest of Honor at Corflu 19 (there’s something I’m not telling you about Corflu Guests of Honor); also Ozymandias 2, Minicon 45, Loscon 46.  Skylark Award.  Consulting editor at Tor.  Likes Komodo Dragons, railroads, Coca-Cola, and New York.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1951 Beth Meacham, 69. In 1984, she became an editor for Tor Books, where she rose to the position of editor-in-chief. After her 1989 move to the west coast, she continued working for Tor as an executive editor which she just retired from.  She does have one novel, co-written with Tappan King, entitled Nightshade Book One: Terror, Inc. and a handful of short fiction. (CE)
  • Born November 14, 1959 Paul McGann, 61. Yes, he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television film, but that role he has reprised in more than eighty audio dramas and the 2013 short film entitled “The Night of the Doctor”. Other genre appearances include The Pit and the Pendulum: A Study in TortureAlien 3, the excellent FairyTale: A True StoryQueen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers. (CE)
  • Born November 14, 1959 – Wolf von Witting, 61.  Born in Finland, lives in Italy, has published fanzines in English, German, and Swedish, currently CounterClock (European SF Award for Best Fanzine), about which Teddy Harva asks: Appeltofft Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1963 – Gail Anderson-Dagatz, 57.  Her first novel The Cure for Death by Lightning unfolds partly through narrative and partly through a collection of recipes and household tips belonging to the narrator’s mother; a Canadian best-seller; Ethel Wilson Prize, Betty Trask Award.  One more for us; three others and a collection of shorter stories.  [JH]
  • Born November 14, 1963 Cat Rambo, 57. All-around great person. Really. Recently finished up a term as SWFA President.  She was editor of Fantasy Magazine for four years which earned her a 2012 World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional nomination. Her story “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain”, was a Nebula Award finalist.  Her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, is the beginning of what I suspect will be an impressive fantasy quartet. Hearts Of Tabat came this year.  She also writes amazing short fiction as well.  The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is her long-standing school for writers that provides her excellent assistance in learning proper writing skills both live and on demand as well. You can get details  here. (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1969 Daniel Abraham, 51. Co-author with Ty Franck of The Expanse series which I really must get back get to having only read the first four volumes. Under the pseudonym M. L. N. Hanover, he is the author of the Black Sun’s Daughter urban fantasy series.  He collaborated with George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois to write the Hunter’s Run. A frequent collaborator of Martin, Abraham adapted several of Martin’s works into comic books and graphic novels, such as A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, and has contributed to several Wild Cards anthologies . (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1976 Christopher Demetral, 44. He also played the title character on the oh so excellent The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne series which still isn’t on DVD or streaming services, damn it. He shows up in the “Future Imperfect” episode of Next Gen, and had the recurring role of Jack on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. (CE) 
  • Born November 14, 1995 – Elizabeth Anne McKinney, 25.  Two novels for us so far.  A Texan (born in Dripping Springs) studying in Virginia who dreams of living in Scotland.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • We might call this Bliss a Star Wars business idea.
  • The Onion marks the passing of “Sir Sean.”

(11) FLORIDA MAN. SYFY Wire interviews him: “A Year After A Heartbreaking Theft, Florida Man Says Goodbye To $2m Batman Collection”.

It took losing his collection of Batman comics to make one collector realize, it was time to say goodbye.

Randy Lawrence has spent the better part of his 60 years putting together a legendary collection of high-grade, ultra-rare Batman comics. The CGC-certified “Alfred Pennyworth” collection is known in collecting circles as being the gold standard for Batman comic book collections. “This collection is so beautiful and it’s such a cool high grade,” Lawrence says. “It’s the number one Batman collection on the [CGC] registry.”

The 1,000+ issues are going up for auction in two separate events by Heritage Auctions, the first one of which will take place on Nov. 19-22…. 

The collection includes gems such as Batman #2, a book that’s sought-after in any condition. But Lawrence’s is a CGC-graded 9.0, an absurdly high-grade copy of a Golden Age book….

Of course, a lot of people learned about the existence of Lawrence’s astonishing collection when it made headlines in January of 2019. Thieves broke into the storage facility in Boca Raton, Florida, where he had kept his collection and stolen nearly 500 of his valuable comics. Being a very careful and organized collector, Lawrence recalls that it was one box that was slightly out of place that made him think something was wrong. “I had only gone there to put some stuff away and inventory some new books that I had gotten. And I didn’t remember touching that box,” he says. “So I pulled the top off the first CGC box and it was empty. And then I ripped off the next one and it was empty and so on. And I remember I let out like, it was a primal scream, like a wounded animal. It was like my whole life had just disappeared.”

…It would take more than a year, but he would recover every single comic that was stolen from the storage facility, except one (and Lawrence says it wasn’t a key book). But after the ordeal, and the fight to get them all back, it made him realize that perhaps it was time to move on from comics. And then, a deal he thought he had to fill one hole in his collection, a high-grade copy of Batman #26, fell through in such a way that soured him on the current state of high-grade collecting. “I said, you know what, between the stress that I went through to get my comics back and now what happened trying to get that Batman issue, I said, ‘it’s time.'”

(12) ON ANY GIVEN SUNDAY. “SpaceX, NASA delay Crew-1 astronaut launch to Sunday due to rocket recovery weather” reports Space.com.

SpaceX’s first four-astronaut launch for NASA is going to have to wait at least an extra day to get off the ground. 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule were slated to launch the astronauts to the International Space Station on Saturday (Nov. 14) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That mission, called Crew-1, will now launch no earlier than Sunday at 7:27 p.m. EST (0027 Nov. 16 GMT) due to weather delays from Tropical Storm Eta that affected SpaceX’s drone ship rocket recovery operations. The launch itself had a promising 70% chance of good weather.

“Fundamentally, this was an issue of getting the drone ship there in time,” Benji Reed, SpaceX’s senior director for human spaceflight programs, told reporters in a Friday press conference. “The weather was such because of this tropical storm, that we couldn’t get the drone ship to leave in time and get there.”

(13) BITES OF HISTORY. The Washington Post tells how “London’s mudlarks find castoff history along the Thames”.

… Beneath our feet are what at first appear to be just tide-washed sand and stone. Maiklem reaches down and picks up a piece of red clay with a thick lip. It’s a bit of Roman roof.

“They were the first to mass-produce this,” she says, following the invasion of A.D. 43, led by Roman Emperor Claudius, whose legions founded the city Londinium along the shores of the Thames.

There’s so much roofing material that the mudlarks rarely keep a piece, but what Maiklem covets are fragments of tile with a story. She’s found pieces with the impression of a child’s fingers, with cat paw prints, left by those long gone who strayed across the drying clay.

Across the river is the Tate Modern museum and London City Hall and the replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. On our side are the ruins of Walbrook Wharf, where a trash barge nests on a pebbly beach.

To Maiklem’s practiced eyes, the foreshore is a midden, filled with Elizabethan pennies from Shakespeare’s day, beads used in Africa as part of the slave trade, and scores of clay pipes. While the pipe bowls are rare, the stems are plentiful, ranging in date from 1580 through the early 1900s. Once Maiklem points out what to look for — short lengths of bone-white stem — I see them all over.

“I love the ones where you can see someone’s teeth marks,” she says….

(14) MAGIC MOUNTAIN’S COVID-PROOF CHRISTMAS. In Santa Clarita, CA —“Six Flags Magic Mountain To Host Drive-Thru Holiday In The Park” beginning at 6 p.m. on select evenings from November 20 to January 3.

…Magic Mountain is set to have guests experience eight distinctly different areas throughout the park with millions of twinkling lights choreographed to festive music, characters “decked out” for the holidays, iconic Holiday in the Park decorations, and a drive-by featuring Santa and his elves.

As one of the largest holiday drive-through events in Southern California and the only one inside a theme park, the Holiday in the Park Drive-Thru Experience will include eight immersive,  distinctly different areas throughout the 125-acre theme park which will be filled with an exquisite palette of colorful twinkling lights, choreographed to festive music….

  • Rockin’ Universe in DC Universe features “dancing” lights customized to  contemporary holiday music favorites in one of the largest light displays of its kind in  Southern California; 
  • Merry Lane, located in Metropolis includes magnificent, larger-than-life 30-foot  brilliantly lit ornaments with thousands of twinkling lights synchronized to holiday music; 
  • The Underground, a newly added section of the park this year, will feature several  rarely-seen show cars from world-famous West Coast Customs’ vast collection, in a  unique setting decked out for the season (car enthusiasts—get your cameras ready!);  
  • Winter Wonderland is the site of beautifully adorned pine trees with red and white lights at Katy’s Kettle, continuing with fanciful “ice” sculptures and tree-filled white lights  simulating winter-like conditions along the hilly path toward Viper; 
  • Holiday Square is a kaleidoscope of breath-taking color, featuring falling “snow” and  hundreds of thousands of lights on trees and buildings throughout the main gate area;  
  • Snowy Nights will delight guests with its high energy vibe and contemporary tunes  while marveling at the magnificent silver and blue décor of the area;  
  • North Pole Plaza located in front of Golden Bear Theatre, is where Mrs. Claus and her  merry, mischievous, and bumbling elves will entertain guests from afar; and 
  • Gleampunk District is the largest area of the event and is a journey back in time to the sights and sounds of the 19th century’s industrial revolution, featuring thousands of lights illuminating the tree-lined streets and the steampunk-inspired mechanical sculptures amid the light-blanketed planters. Santa will bid guests a joyous holiday farewell from the safety of his magnificent over-sized sleigh at the conclusion of the Holiday in the Park  Drive-Thru Experience.

(15) WELCOME TO KAIJULAND.  “New Japanese theme park attraction lets guests zipline into Godzilla’s mouth” – and CNN has photos.

In what could be viewed as a fitting metaphor for 2020, a new theme park ride in Japan lets guests zipline into the gaping mouth of a massive Godzilla statue.

Part of a new attraction called Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji, it officially opened in October at Nijigen no Mori, a theme park located on Awaji Island, southwest of Kobe and Osaka.

The star of the new attraction is the “life-size” Godzilla, which measures 20 meters (65 feet) high, 25 meters (82 feet) wide and 55 meters (180 feet) long and sits in the heart of the park.

Here’s a video taking you through the whole experience:

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

The Huntington Will Host Virtual “Inspired by Octavia E. Butler” Event with Author Lynell George

Lynell George discusses her forthcoming book, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler, and her experience in The Huntington archives, on August 26 from 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Free: register here. The Zoom link will be sent in a registration confirmation email.

George will join in conversation with William Deverell, director of the Huntington-USC Institute for California and the West and professor of history at USC, and Karla Nielsen, curator of literary collections at The Huntington.

Based in San Marino, the Huntington is the home to Butler’s archives, including 386 boxes of drafts, notes, essays, letters and more. 

George is a local journalist and essayist. She is the author of three books of nonfiction including After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame. She began working in the Octavia E. Butler archive at The Huntington soon after it opened for research.

Lynell George’s  A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler is available for pre-order.  

[The book] offers a blueprint for a creative life from the perspective of the award-winning science-fiction writer and “MacArthur Genius” Octavia E. Butler. It is a collection of ideas about how to look, listen, breathe?how to be in the world. This book is about the creative process, but not on the page; its canvas is much larger. Author Lynell George not only engages the world that shaped Octavia E. Butler, she also explores the very specific processes through which Butler shaped herself?her unique process of self-making. It’s about creating a life with what little you have?hand-me-down books, repurposed diaries, journals, stealing time to write in the middle of the night, making a small check stretch?bit by bit by bit. Highly visual and packed with photographs of Butler’s ephemera, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky draws the reader into Butler’s world, creating a sense of unmatched intimacy with the deeply private writer…. It offers a visual album of a creative life?a map that others can follow. Butler once wrote that science fiction was simply “a handful of earth, a handful of sky, and everything in between.” This book offers a slice of the in-between.

Lynell George taught journalism at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, in 2013 was named a USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Fellow, and in 2017 received the Huntington Library’s Alan Jutzi Fellowship for her studies of California writer Octavia E. Butler. Her liner notes for Otis Redding Live at the Whisky a Go Go earned a 2018 GRAMMY award.