Pixel Scroll 12/12/21 To Your Scattered Pixels Go

(1) THE RIGHT PANTS. Sharon Lee assures Facebook readers it can be done. Repeatedly.

So, the question arises on Twitter — Is it possible to pants — i.e. write outline-free — an entire novel?

Er, yes, it is possible to pants an entire novel — or even 34 entire novels. It’s not neat, and there’s a certain amount of waste involved, but, let’s face it, I’m never going to outline a novel. How could you even DO that? Things are gonna change as you go along, anyway.

(2) SHOPPING LIST. In the second part of his Christmas book round up, Michael Dirda reviews The Ray Bradbury Compendium! Also, American Christmas Stories edited by Connie Willis. “Books make the best gifts. Here are seven surprising choices for the readers on your list” in the Washington Post.

Years ago, I was invited to write a letter recommending Ray Bradbury for a special Pulitzer Prize. Anne Farr Hardin helped organize that successful effort, largely out of her affection and admiration for the author who gave us “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” (all, by the way, available in a new Library of America volume edited by our leading Bradbury scholar, Jonathan Eller). Hardin’s own fabulous Bradbury collection — now housed at the University of South Carolina and the basis for this annotated catalogue — features warmly inscribed books, personal letters, rare pulp magazines, manuscripts, photographs, poems, Christmas greetings and all kinds of memorabilia, even Bradbury’s famous bicycle, now painstakingly restored.

(3) FILLING IN THE BLANKETYS. “’They were a bit abrasive’: how kids’ TV Clangers secretly swore” — “The son of Oliver Postgate, creator of the 1970s show, reveals what was in the scripts for the delightful and puzzling swannee-whistle creatures” in the Guardian.

…“People have often wondered whether there was swearing,” said Postgate, who revived the show for a new generation in 2015. He is surprised, he said, by the idea the soundtrack of whistles could ever have been entirely improvised. “Some people don’t realise that the scripts were written in English. And those who do often speculate on whether a certain amount of bad language – swearing, to be blunt – had been slipped into their conversations.”…

(4) UNDERGROUND LITERATURE. Londoners know all about this, but it was news to me – every month they post poetry on the Tube. If you can’t make it there, you can read this month’s Poems on the Underground at the link. (Or the poems from November 2021 here; all of 2021 here; and all of 2020 here.) Some of this month’s selections are of genre interest — beginning with Margaret Atwood.

(5) SECOND REITH LECTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The second of the 2021 Reith Lectures can be heard on BBC Radio 4. The lecture can be downloaded from here for a month. (After that search for it on BBC iSounds.)

AI in warfare – Episode 2 of 4

Skynet is not the problem…

Stuart Russell warns of the dangers of developing autonomous weapon systems – arguing for a system of global control. Weapons that locate, select, and engage human targets without human supervision are already available for use in warfare,. Some argue that AI will reduce collateral damage and civilian casualties. Others believe it could kill on a scale not seen since Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Will future wars be fought entirely by machines, or will one side surrender only when its real losses, military or civilian, become unacceptable? Professor Russell will examine the motivation of major powers developing these types of weapons, the morality of creating algorithms that decide to kill humans, and possible ways forward for the international community as it struggles with these questions.

Stuart Russell is Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley.

There was also an accompanying science programme later that day: “Rutherford and Fry on Living with AI”.

What if a despotic leader could programme a swarm of drones to kill a set of identified targets with just the push of a button? Due to ever expanding AI capabilities this extreme dystopian vision may not be technically unfeasible. In this second of a four part series responding to this year’s BBC Reith lectures from Stuart Russell, Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry unpick the role of AI in warfare.

Joining them to help them navigate the battlefield of information is Ulrike Franke, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who specialises in the future of warfare.

Together they will be investigating ‘lethal autonomous weapons’ – these are weapons that can find, chose and kill human targets without human supervision. We will be discussing how advanced this technology actually is – some think the world may have already experienced the first ever autonomous strike in Libya. What are the repercussions of this technology for safety on the battlefield , and what are the wider geo-political ramifications?

Stuart Russell has deep concerns over the development of these types of weapons and Rutherford and Fry pick apart some of the ethical debates this technology raises. Who would be responsible if a system malfunctioned and killed a civilian? What’s to stop it getting into the wrong hands? Should we even be creating these weapons in the first place – do we instead need a convention banning them? And is that even possible?

(6) ANNE RICE (1941-2021). The author of Interview With the Vampire, Anne Rice, died December 11 at the age of 80 due to complications resulting from a stroke.

Interestingly, Rice’s Interview With the Vampire received many rejections, until Rice attended a writer’s conference conducted by Ray Nelson, where she met her future literary agent, Phyllis Seidel, who sold the book. (Ray Nelson is a writer, and also the fanartist whose cartoons popularized the image of beanie-wearing fans.)

 The Guardian notes:

…Rice wrote a further 12 novels in the Vampire Chronicles series, and was dismissive of the sparkly, vegetarian version of vampires made popular in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, saying she felt “sorry for vampires that sparkle in the sun” and that Lestat “would never hurt immortals who choose to spend eternity going to high school over and over again in a small town”.

…Rice was also known for her erotic fiction Sleeping Beauty series

Her son Christopher eulogized her death on Facebook:

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1971 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Fifty years ago at Noreascon 1 where Robert Silverberg was the Toastmaster, Theodore Sturgeon won the Hugo for the Short Story for his “Slow Sculpture“ story that had been published in the February 1970 of Galaxy. Other nominated works were R. A. Lafferty‘s “Continued on Next Rock”, Gordon R. Dickson‘s “Jean Duprès”, Keith Laumer’s “In The Queue” and Ben Bova and Harlan Ellison‘s “Brillo”. It would also win a Nebula Award, but in the Novella category. Note that the Galaxy cover calls it a Novelette thereby giving us a hat trick.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1891 Malcolm Jameson. His “Blind Alley” novella, first published in the June 1943 issue of Unknown,was used for the Twilight Zone episode “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville”. It was broadcast on April 11, 1963. He only wrote three novels but penned over seventy short stories. Kindle, though not Apple Books, has most of his fiction at very reasonable rates. (Died 1945.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 77. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo in Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3 after five previous nominations. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 – Karl Edward Wagner. Trained as a psychiatrist, Wagner quickly abandoned the medical profession in favour of writing and editing. Nowadays, he is best remembered for the adventures of the immortal warrior Kane (implied to be the Cain from the Bible), who appeared in three novels and twenty short stories and novellas between 1970 and 1994 and even met Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné in one story. The Kane stories rejuvenated the sword and sorcery genre and are considered precursors to today’s grimdark fantasy. Wagner’s Robert E. Howard pastiches, the Conan pastiche The Road of Kings and the Bran Mak Morn pastiche Legion of Shadows, are considered among the best of the many Howard pastiches. Wagner was also an acclaimed horror author and his 1974 story “Sticks” is believed to have inspired the movie The Blair Witch Project. Between 1987 and 1991, Wagner edited three volumes of the heroic fantasy anthology Echoes of Valor and was the first to publish stories like Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stranger” or Fritz Leiber’s “Adept’s Gambit” in their original, unaltered form. Wagner was also the editor of the Year’s Best Horror Storiesanthologies from 1980 to his death in 1994. Together with David Drake, he founded the publishing house Carcosa, which specialised in reprinting pulp era fantasy and horror stories. Wagner won the World Fantasy, Stoker and British Fantasy Award and the special British Fantasy Award for contributions to the genre is named after him. Wagner is the subject of the 2020 documentary The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner, which may be viewed on Vimeo. There is also a podcast about his life and work named The Dark Crusade. (Died 1994)  [By Cora Buhlert.]
  • Born December 12, 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 with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies, and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman.  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is 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 after falling on harsh circumstances. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man some twenty years ago, “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”  (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 72. Yes, he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the known, Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to other blink-and-he’s-gone, as when he played the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther. (Yes, ENT Doctor, not EMT Doctor.) He’s John Kildare in the most excellent The Limehouse Golem.
  • Born December 12, 1956 Noël Sturgeon, 65. Daughter of Theodore Sturgeon. And yes she’s has genre creds though ISFDB doesn’t list them as she has edited Slow Sculpture: Volume XII: The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon and The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume XIII: Case and the Dreamer. She’s a tenured academic who has two published works to date, Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory and Political Action and Environmentalism in Popular Culture: Gender, Race, Sexuality, and the Politics of the Natural. Hardcore stuff that. 
  • Born December 12, 1959 Beth Bernobich, 62. Her novel, A Study in Honor, won for Best Lesbian Mystery at Lambda Literary Awards. (The Hound of Justice novel picked up a second nomination for the same Award.) Her River of Souls series, of which the second book, Queen’s Hunt was longlisted for a David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, is quite good. 
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 60. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children In Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Mädchen Amick, 51. I remember her first as Ariel, the shapeshifter who was Roarke’s second-in-command, on the second Fantasy Island which I had no idea only lasted for only thirteen episodes. But her first genre role was on Next Gen as Young Anya in “The Dauphin” several before she played Shelly Johnson on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, a role she reprised on Twin Peaks and the recent Twin Peaks in which she’s renamed Shelly Briggs. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 45. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine AfflictionBone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which you’ve not tried it you should and I’d recommend Little God as a good place to start. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot’s “The Spice Must Flow” suggests that perhaps nutmeg and  melange are similar. (Hey, melange could almost be read as “allspice”, right?)

(10) MORE SEASONING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] They could call this “Spice: The Final Frontier!”

Dune Spice Wars is an upcoming real-time strategy game with 4X elements and featuring asymmetrical gameplay, as well as multiple playable factions.

(11) YOUR SCI-FI DOCENT. Star Trek writer Marc Scott Zicree takes you on a tour of the “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” exhibit at Skirball Cultural Center in LA.

(12) IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Laura Sheppard Churchley, the daughter of pioneering American astronaut Alan Shepard, was among those on the latest suborbital launch by Blue Origin. And, oh yeah, some famous guy was also in the capsule. Can you guess which one was named in the headline and the lede? “Strahan flies to space with astronaut’s daughter: ‘Wow!’”

Football star and TV celebrity Michael Strahan caught a ride to space with Jeff Bezos’ rocket-launching company Saturday, sharing the trip with the daughter of America’s first astronaut.

“TOUCHDOWN has a new meaning now!!!” he tweeted after landing.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket blasted off from West Texas, sending the capsule on a 10-minute flight with the two VIP guests and four paying customers. Their automated capsule soared to an altitude of 66 miles (106 kilometers), providing a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting into the desert. The booster also came back to land successfully….

(13) GET A LIFE, KEEP A LIFE. Meanwhile, William Shatner is still holding onto that sense of wonder inspired by his Blue Origin trip. He declares, “The Future Is Worth Fighting For, And Fans Will Lead The Way” at SlashFilm.

So. I’m back from space.

I saw just how fragile our home, this spinning blue ball, really is in the depthless darkness with my own eyes and I was moved. It made all the constant static we are surrounded with evaporate and gave a clarity unknown to me.

If only the world could see what I saw — this comforter of blue that surrounds us. When everyone can see how fragile and special life is, we will finally see ourselves as one community, one people.

This past August I was in the green room of a San Jose pop culture convention when I was approached by two men — one dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, the other wearing an Indiana Jones costume complete with bullwhip. They didn’t want a selfie, but instead pitched me on a startup (this was Silicon Valley, after all) – Legion M, an entertainment company built from the ground up to be owned by fans.

It’s a simple but brilliant idea: Harness the wisdom and power of the community. Shorten the distance between creators and consumers. Give people a say in what gets made and a stake in the outcome. Grow that community large enough, and you could potentially change the way entertainment is produced forever. A big idea….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, N., Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 10/29/21 On The Screen My Pixel Files, Streaming, Scrolled And Read

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to feast on kabobs with E. Lily Yu in episode 157 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

E. Lily Yu

[Because Readercon went virtual] the award-winning E. Lily Yu and I each ordered kabob from local restaurants, and nibbled our take-out remotely as I questioned her about how she spins magic out of her words.

E. Lily Yu won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 2012. Her short story “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees” was published in Clarkesworld in 2011, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story and the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction. Her short fiction has appeared in Fantasy and Science FictionUncannyApexLightspeed, and many other venues. Her work has been reprinted in twelve best-of-the-year anthologies, including The Year’s Best Science FictionThe Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the YearThe Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her first novel, On Fragile Waves, was published in February by Erewhon Books.

We discussed why she was glad that when she first came up with the idea for her novel On Fragile Waves she had no idea how long it would take to complete, what she learned through each successive draft of the novel before she was satisfied, why it can be exhausting to see people as they are rather than as you want them to be, the effort required to make the effortful appears effortless, the reasons rejection can be a blessing (especially during the early part of your career), what she learned reading slush for Fantasy magazine, how writing interactive video games helped her write better short stories, and much more.

(2) MONEY TO BURN. GQ invites fans “Inside ‘Wheel of Time,’ Amazon’s Huge Gamble on the Next ‘Game of Thrones’”, where each episode has a $10M budget.

… The town’s inn, an intricately rendered two-story building, is now blackened, its left side plunged into spiky rubble: Smoke machines give the impression that it is still smoldering. There are holes in roofs, artfully destroyed beams. Every house—interior and exterior—has been charred enough so that it shows on camera. The actors who wander the Two Rivers are made up to match. Rosamund Pike, who starred in Gone Girl, is smudged with soot….

…It’s November 2019, and the production—comprising hundreds of, and on some days nearly a thousand, people—is filming the end of the first episode of what everyone hopes will be a television show that runs for, well: six seasons? Eight? A show that will be as epic and sensational and ubiquitous as Game of Thrones once was. On one side of the green, a camera sits on a long dolly track; another camera operator stalks the scene, taking various close-ups. The episode’s veteran television director, Uta Briesewitz, is arranging four of the show’s main cast of relatively unknown young actors in a moment of reckoning: Pike’s character, a woman with mysterious powers, has arrived to awaken them and set them on their way. “Your life isn’t going to be what you thought,” Pike intones, as various cameras circle her. Pike runs through her speech, which is heavy with exposition for both the characters and the audience, a few times. “Can I do one more?” she asks Briesewitz, while apologizing to the extras scattered about. “I think that one got a bit phony.”

Finally, Briesewitz calls “cut.” Pike retreats from the weather into a nearby tent. “It’s not like working with David Fincher,” she says to me, referring to the Gone Girl director’s penchant for shooting 70 takes of a scene. The production is huge and moving at warp speed. Pike has to know things backward and forward. She has to get her lines out as dozens of crew members and background actors get soaked in the cold rain and actual living horses wander around while makeup women with transparent plastic bags dart in and out to touch up extras and guys with smoke canisters paddle mist into the edges of shots. This set they’re on—not just a few hollow façades set up to create the impression of reality, but real buildings, in every direction—is giant, immersive, and won’t last past this episode….

(3) SPACE FOR EVERYONE. UCSD’s article “Making Space Travel Inclusive for All” reports on the initial zero-gravity flight of disabled volunteers.

In a weightless, microgravity environment like space, what do ability and disability look like? How can someone with partial sight or impaired mobility navigate in a confined space like the space station? As scientists and innovators continue to push the boundaries of spaceflight and the possibility of human life on other planets, how can we build space infrastructure that is inclusive of all humans?

The Mission: AstroAccess project aims to answer these questions, starting with a historic parabolic flight that took off from Long Beach on Oct. 17, 2021. A group of 12 disabled scientists, veterans, students, athletes and artists launched into a zero-gravity environment as a first step toward understanding what is needed to make space inclusive for all.… The 12 AstroAccess Ambassadors selected for this first microgravity flight included four blind or low-vision Ambassadors; two deaf or hard-of-hearing Ambassadors; and six Ambassadors with mobility disabilities, all carrying out a variety of tasks and challenges in the weightless environment. One of the challenges was seeing whether all crew members could perform basic safety and operational tasks, like navigating to oxygen masks. The crew also tested a procedure to see whether sound beacons can be used for blind members to orient themselves, and the effectiveness of haptic devices in communicating commands. They’re also investigating how American Sign Language will be impacted by microgravity….

(4) NASA ANALYSIS. University of Arizona English professor Christopher Cokinos calls for artists to work with NASA to celebrate spaceflight. “Engineering the arts for space: developing the concept of ‘mission laureates’” at The Space Review.

…In the coming months, I hope to address more aspects of a vigorous, wide, multidisciplinary arts/space effort, including a call for all-artist analogue missions. (I’ve even submitted, and received an enthusiastic reply, for just such a mission proposal to an analogue facility being developed at Biosphere 2.) But here I want to concentrate on one specific suggestion for increased systematic arts engagement in space activities: mission laureates.

Mission laureates

The term “laureate,” of course, refers to someone who receives an honor, deriving from the ancient Greek tradition of placing a laurel wreath on the head of the honoree. The laurel tree was sacred to the god Apollo, patron deity of poets. In more recent history, countries such as Great Britain and the United States have had offices of poet laureates, a tradition that has spread to states, cities, and towns. The poets are asked to engage the public by presenting outward-facing work for non-literary audiences.

Here I want to argue for a new kind of laureate, one attached not to a region but to a mission, specifically missions to space. In brief, mission laureates would create work inspired by missions—robotic and crewed—for wider public engagement.

I am not calling for art that is propaganda—a danger with laureates in the past—but, rather, work that provides new and exciting perspectives that can link a mission to wider currents in human affairs. It’s likely that artists interested in this opportunity will be pro-space but they surely will bring the nuance and complexity that we all need in confronting the paradoxes, promises, and perils of the human endeavor in space….

(5) THEY TOOK A SHINE TO IT. This product is cleaning up in the marketplace: “Apple’s Most Back-Ordered New Product Is Not What You Expect” says the New York Times. “It’s a $19 cloth.”

…Charging $19 for a piece of cloth about the size of two stacked dollar bills is bold even by Apple’s standards, a company whose legions of loyal customers are conditioned to stomach steep prices. An Apple-branded set of four wheels to “improve mobility” for the Mac Pro, the company’s most expensive desktop computer, is priced at $699, for instance.

But the Polishing Cloth stands out because it is far more expensive than widely available alternatives. MagicFiber, a popular brand of microfiber cloth that uses ultrafine fibers to clean glass without scratching the surface, offers a pack of six for $9 on Amazon.

“You have to give them credit for the chutzpah to charge $19,” Walter Gonzalez, president and founder of Goja, the parent company of MagicFiber, said of Apple….

(6) SJW CREDENTIAL OWNERS ALERT. New York Review of Books is marketing On Cats with a Margaret Atwood introduction.

In 2019, Notting Hill Editions published an anthology about canines, On Dogs. Now on its tail comes a companion edition for ailurophiles, On Cats, which includes an introduction by Margaret Atwood and more than two dozen essays, stories, and excerpts about the peculiar, sometimes affectionate, and often fickle character of our feline friends.

(7) FINE-GRAINED SIMULATION. A meteorologist and some climate modelers decided to find out if Frank Herbert’s imagined world was plausible, and for a change were not party poopers: “The climate on the Dune world of Arrakis, simulated” in Popular Science. The accompanying graphics are stellar.

Dune, the epic series of sci-fi books by Frank Herbert, now turned into a movie of the same name, is set in the far future on the desert planet of Arrakis. Herbert outlined a richly-detailed world that, at first glance, seems so real we could imagine ourselves within it.

However, if such a world did exist, what would it actually be like?

We are scientists with specific expertise in climate modelling, so we simulated the climate of Arrakis to find out. We wanted to know if the physics and environment of such a world would stack up against a real climate model.

(9) IMAGINARY FRIENDS. Screen Rant wrote up the “8 Best Fictional Bookstores We Wish Were Real”. There were a couple here that were new to me.

…Be it magical stores with books floating from shelf to shelf, comic book stores owned by supernatural beings, or picturesque but ordinary little shops, fictional bookstores like these make fans and viewers wish that they were real….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 – Twenty-eight years ago, The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered. It was directed by Henry Selick (in his feature directorial debut), and produced by Denise Di Novi and Tim Burton. The screenplay by Caroline Thompson from the poem by Tim Burton. Yes, poem. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. The principal voice cast also includes Ed Ivory, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens and Glenn Shadix. Critics loved it though the NAACP condemned Oogie Boogie as a racist stereotype. The Box Office was excellent for it as it earned over a hundred million on a budget of eighteen million. And it has a stellar ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It was nominated for a Hugo at ConAdian, the year that Jurassic Park won.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 29, 1906 Fredric Brown. Author of Martians, Go Home  which would made into a  movie of the same name. He received compensation and credit from NBC as their Trek episode “Arena” had more than a passing similarity to his novelette which was nominated for Retro Hugo at CoNZealand. Interestingly, a whole lot of his Edgar Award-winning mysteries are being released on the usual suspects in December. (Died 1972.)
  • Born October 29, 1928 Benjamin F. Chapman, Jr. He play the Gill-man in the land takes in Creature from the Black Lagoon. Ricou Browning did the water takes. His only other genre appearance was in Jungle Moon Men, a Johnny Weissmuller film. His entire acting career was only eleven years long and had but eight acting credits. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 29, 1935 Shelia Finch, 86. She is best remembered for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists  which aptly enough are collected in The Guild of Xenolinguists story collection. She first used it her 1986 Triad novel. The term would later be used to describe the character Uhura in the rebooted Trek film. Her Reading the Bones novel, part of the Guild of Xenolinguists series would win a Nebula. 
  • Born October 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 83. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse which I adore. His first major break would be on CBS as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat when should make it genre, yes? Genre wise, I’d say Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and whose final name was Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you know what film. It was nominated for a Hugo at IguanaCon II when Star Wars won. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World
  • Born October 29, 1947 Richard Dreyfuss, 74. Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And The Player in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Not to mention the voice of Mister Centipede in the ever so James and the Giant Peach. And yes, he’s Hooper in Jaws that we declared was genre sometime back. 
  • Born October 29, 1954 Kathleen O’Neal Gear, 67. Archaeologist and writer. I highly recommend the three Anasazi Mysteries that she co-wrote with W. Michael Gear. She’s a historian of note so she’s done a lot of interesting work in that area such as Viking Warrior Women: Did ‘Shieldmaidens’ like Lagertha Really Exist?  And should you decide you want to keep buffalo, she’s the expert on doing so. Really. Truly, she is. 
  • Born October 29, 1954 Paul Di Filippo, 67. Ciphers: a post-Shannon rock-n-roll mystery was his first work. He is, I’d say, an acquired taste. I like him. I’d suggest first reading you don’t know him should be The Steampunk Trilogy and go from there.  His “A Year in the Linear City” novella was nominated at Torcon 3 for Best Novella, and won the 2003 World Fantasy Award and the 2003 Theodore Sturgeon Award. Oh, and he’s one of our stellar reviewers having reviewed at one time or another for Asimov’s Science FictionThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionScience Fiction EyeThe New York Review of Science FictionInterzoneNova Express and Science Fiction Weekly
  • Born October 29, 1971 Winona Ryder, 50. Beetlejuice of course but also Edward Scissorhands and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not to mention Alien Resurrection and Star Trek as Spock’s human mother Amanda Grayson. Which brings me to Being John Malkovich which might be the coolest genre film of all time if not the strangest one. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Questionable Content this week has been guest-starring (or would this be a cameo) a familiar, um, figure (all week, so click some “Next”s). Note, QC already has its share of SF-y characters, namely robots and AIs, along with one character’s mom living in an orbital space station.
  • Over in Dustin, the titular teenager and one of the younger kids — presumably (info via Wikipedia) “Hayden, a precocious seven-year-old kid and next-door neighbor,” have chosen familiar and we-still-miss-’em Halloween costumes this week.
  • Sally Forth hints at another reason to wear Halloween costumes.

(13) WONG TAKES ON IRON FIST. Writer Alyssa Wong and artist Michael YG introduce a new Iron Fist to the Marvel Universe on February 16 when a new hero claims the power of K’un-Lun.

Award winning writer Alyssa Wong, known for her outstanding work on Doctor Aphra, will team up with artist Michael YG, an extraordinary artist making his Marvel Comics debut, in Iron Fist. The five-issue limited series will see the legendary mantle of Iron Fist passed on to a new hero in a revolutionary transformation of one of Marvel’s most fascinating mystical mythologies. 

After giving up his power to save the world earlier this year in IRON FIST: HEART OF THE DRAGON, Danny Rand believes he’s seen the last of the Iron Fist. But when demons begin to attack cities around the world, a new hero appears, hands blazing with the Chi of Shou-Lao the Undying! Who is this new Iron Fist? And does his power really come from the Dragon of K’un-Lun… Or from something far more sinister? Fans will have to wait until the first issue to discover his identity but they can see him now on the stunning cover for IRON FIST #1 showcasing a brand-new costume design by superstar artist Jim Cheung!

Here’s what Wong had to say this upcoming series:

“It’s an incredible honor to introduce a new Iron Fist to the Marvel Universe. I’m excited to delve into the comic’s rich mythos and build on it. What does it mean for someone to take up the mantle of the Iron Fist right now, today? As a newcomer, how does one interact with legacy, and how does one honor it while forging a new path?”

(14) THE GAME’S AFOOT. “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Rickrolls Players With Rick Astley” at Screen Rant.

A new promotional video for Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy sees various streamers getting “rickrolled,” with singer Rick Astley himself joining in on the fun. The recently-released sci-fi superhero title, developed by Eidos-Montreal, seeks to capture the spirit of the team’s live-action films while also embracing the characters’ comic book roots. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy‘s 80’s soundtrack helps to inform the backstory of protagonist Star-Lord while also playing a role in combat.

(15) FOR THE RECORD. The old crew’s sign-off strip is followed by the announcement that “Dick Tracy comic strip to have first female lead artist in 90 years”.

… The latest artist, Joe Staton along with the entire Dick Tracy team has brought innovation to the Dick Tracy world, incorporating a bevy of crossovers such as The Green Hornet, The Spirit and a villain named the Jumbler, who gives Jumble puzzles as clues to the police.

Now Staton has passed his two-way wrist radio, Detective Tracy’s trademark yellow trench coat and fedora over to his long-time Dick Tracy teammate, Shelley Pleger.

For the last 10 years, Pleger has inked and lettered Dick Tracy. Now she takes the helm as the first female lead artist Dick Tracy has ever had….

(16) NOT THE END, MY FRIEND. Netflix dropped this trailer for season 2 of The Witcher today.

(17) SPEAKING OF WITCHES. This Twix commercial has caused major conniptions on the right. RT USA News’ overview of the commercial is followed by a roundup of social media reactions: “The Witch & the Wardrobe change: Twix blasted for ‘woke’ Halloween ad with boy wearing princess dress, but no holiday… or candy”. “‘New Nanny’ is part of a collection of short films created by 18 young filmmakers from various backgrounds, produced by 20th Digital Studio.” 

A Halloween-themed ad from Twix has critics accusing the candy manufacturer of ‘ruining’ the holiday with a woke and confusing message on boys wearing dresses that has little to do with the celebration – or the product advertised.

In the ‘bite-size Halloween’ commercial, a young boy wearing a princess dress is defended from bullies by a witch nanny, who arrives at his house unannounced in a minivan while the child appears to be unattended. The nanny says she was hired by the child’s parents and she goes on to casually threaten two children questioning why the boy is dressed up when it’s not Halloween. In the last scene of the ad, a boy is making fun of the princess-dress-wearing boy at a park – the synopsis for the ad refers to him as ‘non-binary’ – and the witch makes him disappear. She says he will “probably” come back….

(18) DEAR DEPARTED. Cat Eldridge recommends the article’s photo gallery: “Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard” at Gastro Obscura.

BEN & JERRY MIGHT BE a couple of ice cream tycoons, but they’ve remained true to their roots. Case in point: the deliciously somber Flavor Graveyard located on the grounds of their factory in Waterbury, Vermont.

Opened in 1997, the memorial to bygone flavors was originally an online-only affair, until a handful of resin headstones were mocked up and planted on a hill behind the factory….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/2/21 For The File Is Scrollow, And I Have Ticked The Box

(1) CATEGORY CHALLENGED. “’Asian Fantasy’ Is A Popular Category — But Is It A Useful One?”NPR’s Kalyani Saxena poses the question to Rebecca F. Kuang, Cindy Pon, Ken Liu, Fonda Lee, Roshani Chokshi, and Tasha Suri.

…However, not all Asian authors writing fantasy feel at home with the genre label. When I reached out to Rebecca F. Kuang, author of The Poppy War, a Hugo-nominated fantasy trilogy inspired by Chinese history, she said that she finds “Asian fantasy” to be a reductive category.

“I think that Asian doesn’t really make a lot of sense, either as a literary category or as an identity category. Obviously, there are a lot of different things that fall under the subcategory of Asian, including East Asian, including South Asians, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, for example,” she says. “So when we call works just blanket ‘Asian,’ that belies an entire world of difference.”

So while the growing popularity of Asian fantasy marks a positive turn towards a broader and more inclusive range of experiences in fantasy, it also raises important questions: Does it actually make sense to group novels by a geographic region, especially one that encompasses billions of people? Does the label “Asian fantasy” help or hurt Asian authors? Well, the answer depends on who you’re asking….

(2) SOMTOW ON SCREEN. The Maestro – A Symphony of Terror, from Somtow Sucharitkul (in the title role) and filmmaker Paul Spurrier, opens July 14 in Bangkok at Central World SF Cinema (one of the major movie chains in Thailand). From there it will do the festival circuit, maybe book a few weird international gigs, and onto some kind of streaming platform, Somtow predicts.

The Maestro tells the story of a misunderstood genius with profound psychological problems. Rejected by the European musical establishment, he returns to his native Thailand and gets a job teaching music in a youth program. Stalked by an obsessed opera singer, ridiculed by his public, his big premiere preempted by a world-renowned conducting mediocrity, he begins a descent into madness. Accompanied by street busking violinist and a prodigy pianist from a dysfunctional family, he sets out to build a musical utopia in the wilderness to bring his transcendent vision to life … only, inevitably, it all goes horribly wrong.

(3) IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT. Hugo Book Club Blog compared the official list of 1963 Hugo Award nominees with a copy of the ballot and found something was missing. And there unquestionably was. But stay tuned for the rest of the story….

They even convinced The Hugo Awards official site to enter a correction:

Note: We previously listed Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) (alt: Night of the Eagle) ([Anglo-Amalgamated/Independent Artists] Directed by Sidney Hayers; Screenplay by Charles Beaumont & Richard Matheson and George Baxt; based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber) as a finalist for the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation; however, a copy of the 1963 Hugo Award final ballot that we received on June 2, 2021 does not include this work as a finalist.

And yet when you look at a scanned copy of the 1963 Worldcon Program Book Burn, Witch, Burn is included. (Remember – 1962 is the eligibility year.)

In the DRAMATIC PRODUCTION category, the top four for 1962 were:

TV series: Twilight Zone

Movie: Last Year at Marienbad

Movie: The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Movie: Burn, Witch, Burn

Why is there a discrepancy between the Program Book and the official use-no-other, no-write-ins-allowed postcard ballot? Because someone made a mistake while typing the stencil for the 1963 ballot. Chair George Scithers blushingly told what happened in the Worldcon runner’s manual he wrote after the con — DisCon 1 Guide: Introduction:

…To encourage voting, we used printed, return addressed, postage prepaid postcards with the names of the nominees thereon. This of course was expensive; about $16, plus printing. On the other hand, it did improve the number of votes (about 226 people voted in the final poll, not counting late votes) and it did insure against anyone not a member sending in a forged card. For future cons, I’d suggest prepaid postcards for both nominations and final votes. Be careful and proofread these final ballots; we left “Burn, Witch, Burn” off our postcard list (4) [If George wasn’t accepting the principle of Collective Responsibility, this would read properly: “Dick Eney left ‘Burn, Witch, Burn’ off …”], an omission which was very embarrassing indeed.

(4) GOT TO HAVE IT. Julie Nováková inventories “What Technology Can’t SF Writers Live Without?” at the SFWA Blog.

When I started editing an anthology of SF stories centered around alien life, each accompanied by a short essay on the science of the story, naturally I was curious about what sciences or technologies inspire the contributing authors, how their process works and how they rely on technology. Conducting a mini-interview with each author, I asked, among other things, whether there’s any technology they can’t imagine to live without. Think for a moment what it would be for you. Some piece of 21st century technology, or something vital developed thousands of years ago? Something to guide your writing process, or indispensable in your life regardless of the craft?

Many writers (including myself, after all) can’t imagine working without computers. Rich Larson says: “Over half my day is spent on my netbook.” He uses it for around ten hours of writing and other work, and then for recreation and socialization. At night, its USB port powers the small fan that lets him sleep. “It’s basically a vital organ!”

“My Bose QC 35 wireless headphones,” says Tobias S. Buckell. They help him create a focusing space around himself. “The ritual of turning on noise canceling and hearing the world around me drop into background; it’s this trigger for focus that really helps me,” he adds….

(5) PURPLE EATER PEOPLE. Inspired by the park’s chicken dinners and boysenberry pie – and a few less legal substances —  Rolly Crump’s “Legendary theme park ride resurfaces at Knott’s Berry Farm” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair” has been recreated after being out of service for a generation. Crump, the 91-year-old designer, also helped shape It’s a Small World, the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, 

… “Everyone comes together at the fair at the end,” Merritt says. “All the characters you saw in the previous scene make a new appearance, doing something different and fun. It’s a big room. It takes up almost half of the show building.”

Crump’s theme park designs were known for near constant movement. The figures may not have been as advanced as those at Disneyland, but every mechanical creature was moving. Today’s theme park fans may want to picture the grand musical and animal finale of Disneyland’s soon-to-be rethemed Splash Mountain when trying to picture the closing seconds of Bear-y Tales.

Describes Merritt, “In the middle of the room, there’s a big balloon coming from the ceiling where the Bear-y Family are going up and down, and there’s music, there’s Dr. Fox selling his Weird Juice, there’s puppets and there’s a frog jumping contest. There’s musicians, there’s a rabbit who’s walking on wire, there’s jugglers. It’s too much. It’s sensory overload.”

…The more one digs into the scenes of the Bear-y Tales ride, the more detail and uniqueness one uncovers.

One of Crump’s first jobs at Disney was to partner with illusionist Yale Gracey on potential effects for the Haunted Mansion, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Crump wanted a sense of magic throughout Bear-y Tales. The ride was liberal in its use of projections and Pepper’s ghost-like effects. There were floating instruments, hovering candle tips and one neat trick that Merritt recalls involving an adorable mouse suddenly appearing out of a candle holder in midair.

But perhaps the real reason Bear-y Tales had such a grip on those who rode it is because in some ways it represents the kind of ride that doesn’t really exist anymore. Crump’s original had pies — and pie scents — but was little more than a story about a bunch of nomadic, bohemian animals.

“It’s super unique. It was such a snapshot in time,” says Nix. “When you look at the pictures, it wasn’t terribly advanced. The animatronics were simple, but there were a lot of them. You just felt like you were in these scenes and places.”…

(6) VIRTUAL 4TH STREET. Elizabeth Bear has made public an edition of her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter: “What we’ve been doing around here…” After fulminating against the latest “improvement” of Instagram, she alerts readers to her coming appearance at a virtual con:

….Anyway, speaking of things to do on the internet that are actually fun, there will be a Virtual 4th Street Fantasy convention this year. I’ve recorded a panel for it (“Personalizing the Apocalypse”) with a remarkable cast of brilliant people, and we will be doing a live Q&A for attendees on the weekend of June 18th.

If you would like to “attend,” you can register here! Moneys collected go toward paying off hotel expenses, and if you would like to make a donation, the convention is a 401(c) nonprofit organization, which means donations are tax-deductible.

(7) ATWOOD ACQUISITION. “Doubleday to Publish Margaret Atwood Essay Collection”Publishers Weekly has the story.

Doubleday will publish a new collection of Margaret Atwood’s essays, Burning Questions: Essays 2004-2021, on March 1, 2022. U.S. rights were acquired from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.

…The selection of more than 50 essays, the publisher said, “seeks answers to burning questions such as: Why do people everywhere, in all cultures, tell stories? How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating? How can we live on our planet? Is it true? And is it fair? What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism?”…

(8) TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW. John Hertz celebrates Bob Madle’s 101st birthday with this poem:

All our yesterdays
Live on, or some of them do,
In the fannish mind,
Vitally moving new deeds
Even as we joke of them.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 2, 1950 – On this day in 1950, Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of just ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in a higher esteem that audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a mere fifteen percent rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrim meets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana. Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of Silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade. Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 – Bob Madle, age 101.  He may be Oldest of All.  He was at Nycon I the 1st Worldcon; he named the Hugo Awards.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at SunCon the 35th Worldcon.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Moskowitz Award for collecting.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  This post from last year includes photos and a summary in his own words.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1929 — Norton Juster. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, it is said that he met Jules Feiffer who illustrated that work when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth spending an evening reading. (Died 2021.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1921 — Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented  R.A. Lafferty,  Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1937 — Sally Kellerman, 83. Here for her role as Elizabeth Dehner  in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second pilot for Star Trek. Her first genre role was in an episode of the Outer Limits, “The Bellero Shield”.  She shows up in the Invaders in the “Labyrinth” episode. Her last genre appearance was on the Ray Bradbury Theater in the “Exorcism” episode. She also appeared in the Lost Horizon film. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1941 — Stacy Keach, 80. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999, followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really like. More horror, and a really silly title, awaited him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return. Whereas The Hollow has a tasteful title, the Man with the Screaming Brain does not. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds, age 73. Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter. [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney, age 62. Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994.  “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon 34.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1965 — Sean Stewart, 56. Fantastic author whose Galveston novel that won the World Fantasy Award I highly recommend, as well as the Resurrection Man novels. I’ve not read his most recent set of novels, The Cathy’s Book series, but it’s take on augmented reality sounds intriguing. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta, age 48. Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse. Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.  Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1979 — Morena Baccarin, 42. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in the Deadpool franchise; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham. She did an exemplary job of voicing Black Canary in Justice League Unlimited.  (CE) 

(11) ASIAN AMERICAN SUPERHERO Q&A. View “Jim Lee and Asian American Superheroes”, a video interview available at the Library of Congress.

DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee discusses his work in celebration of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. He will appear in conversation with illustrator Bernard Chang (“Generations Forged”) and writers Sarah Kuhn (“Shadow of the Batgirl”) and Minh Lê (“Green Lantern: Legacy”). This event is moderated by former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang (“Superman Smashes the Klan”).

(12) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. This iconic watch has been on stars’ wrists from Elvis to the Men in Black: “Exploring The Hollywood History Of The Hamilton Ventura Watch” at A Blog to Watch.

…The Hamilton Ventura has always been part of the Men in Black movies. Back in 1997, when the first installment (Men in Black) hit the cinema, the choice of Agents J and K was the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (ref. H24411732). Five years later, in 2002’s Men in Black II, the Ventura Chrono Quartz (ref. H24412732) was chosen in the starring role instead. The next decade saw those two watches reunite on-screen for Men in Black III (2012), as well as introducing the Hamilton Ventura XXL.

Men in Black: International will build on the cult following enjoyed by the Ventura since its launch in ’57. The new film focuses on two agents attempting to protect the world from a mole within their own organization, while dressed in their classic suits and armed with their essential neuralyzer pens. Helping Agent M and Agent H on their mission are the classic Hamilton Ventura Quartz (M), and the Hamilton Ventura Automatic with a cut-out dial and brown leather strap (H), respectively….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched a contestant miss this one on last night’s Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy; category: Around the World

Answer: In the 1860s, a zoologist proposed that this island was once part of a lost continent he dubbed Lemuria.

Wrong question: What is Galapagos? 

Correct question: What is Madagascar?

(14) JDA SUSPENDED FROM TWITTER AND FACEBOOK. Straight from the horse’s…mouth.

(15) A HOLE IN THE WRONG ONE. “’Scary stuff’: International Space Station robotic arm struck by space junk” reports The Guardian.

The sudden appearance of a small hole in a robotic arm aboard the international space station (ISS) has brought renewed attention to the danger posed by space junk.

Mission managers discovered the puncture during an inspection of the exterior of the spacecraft on 12 May. The Canadian space agency (CSA), which operates the arm, described it as a “lucky strike” that did not affect operations or endanger the seven astronauts in orbit aboard the station.

It is not known what kind of object struck the space station or when it happened. But analysts say the incident is a reminder of the proliferating amount of junk circling Earth and the risk that poses as launches and satellites in orbit increase.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there traveling at over 17,500mph and obviously it can do a lot of damage,” John Crassidis, SUNY distinguished professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Buffalo, told the Guardian….

(16) SABERKITTENS. These prehistoric credentials probably looked pretty cute as long as you weren’t a mammoth. “Sabercats Raised Their Kittens for Years” affirms Smithsonian Magazine.

…Two new studies published this year have underscored the fact that sabercats required some of the same family ties that today’s big cats rely upon. Some young sabercats may have stayed with their parents for two years or more as they waited for their impressive fangs to come in. Those parents likely played an essential role in teaching their saberkittens how to catch and eat food, including dragging mammoth legs home to chew on. Together, these studies help highlight how sabercat behavior evolved to cope with a world in which many carnivorous species—from dire wolves to giant bears—competed for prey.

(17) WATCH YOUR SIXTH. What’s more dangerous, a sabertooth or the Doctor? Artist JohannesVIII did this piece of Doctor Who‘s Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) as a cat! 

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ben Bird Person, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 9/28/20 I Don’t Want To Scroll The World. I’m Not Looking For New Pixels

(1) GRIND IT OUT. Cat Rambo’s latest Cat Chat is an interview with David Steffen of the Submission Grinder.

If you’re not familiar with the Submission Grinder, it’s a web utility that many genre writers spend a lot of time staring at: https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/ I thought it would be interesting to talk to David about how the Grinder came about and what it does.

(2) THE NARRATIVE. Constance Grady, in “The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained” on Vox, says the rumor that People of Praise, the charismatic Catholic group Amy Coney Barrett belongs to, was the basis for The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t true and Margaret Atwood has not only denied it, but says she can’t currently say which groups were the basis for the “handmaids” because her papers are at the University of Toronto library and she can’t access them because the library is closed because of Covid-19.

…The inaccurate link between the People of Praise and Atwood’s story, perpetuated by a series of confusing coincidences and uneven fact-checking, first emerged in a Newsweek article and was later picked up by Reuters. Both articles have since been corrected, but the right was furious at both. The Washington Examiner called it a “smear that just won’t die.” Fox News noted several other outlets have mentioned Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale in the same story.

To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court occurs — and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid’s Tale carries in American popular culture…

…Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can’t currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she’s on the record as going through her Handmaid’s Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she’s always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.

(3) NEW SFWA BLOG EDITOR.  The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have selected C.L. Clark as the new SFWA Blog Editor. The position of Blog Editor was previously held by Todd Vandermark, who stepped down earlier this past summer.

C. L. Clark

Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now she’s one of the co-editors at PodCastle. The first novel in her upcoming trilogy is The Unbroken (Orbit, 2021).

“Todd Vandermark has done years of wonderful work and is moving on to work on his own projects. SFWA is grateful that he’s been a rock of stability for so long. Going forward, I am very excited to have C.L. Clark coming aboard to edit and curate SFWA’s website content,” SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal said. “Her experience as an editor and writer make her the perfect choice to nurture fresh new voices in the nonfiction side of the genre. I look forward to seeing how she shapes the blog during her tenure.”

The Blog Editor provides oversight and direction regarding articles published on SFWA’s blog. This critical position is responsible for soliciting and publishing online content to support SFWA’s goals of informing, supporting, promoting, defending, and advocating for writers of SF/F.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the SFWA team and so excited to bring the SFFH community helpful articles that reflect the diversity of our community while also addressing the systemic issues within it,” said Clark. “I’m committed to making sure the blog is a great resource for writers at all stages of their career, and is especially welcoming to writers in the early stages. I’m looking forward to seeing new pitches!”

(4) WAIT, WHEN? I was sold at timey-wimey. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Five SF Books Featuring Relativistic Relics and Timey-Wimey Problems” at Tor.com.

Houston, Houston, Do You Read? by James Tiptree, Jr. (1976)

The Sunbird loses contact with Earth while circumnavigating the Sun. Initially, the three men on board assume that a solar flare knocked out their communications. Only after making contact with another space vessel do they learn the truth: whatever happened to them cast their ship across time and space.

The human society of the future arose, as so many societies of the future do, from the ashes of the past. Catastrophe swept away the old order, including all men. Human society is now exclusively female. The crew of the Sunbird are the first men seen since the rise of the current civilization. How can these curious relics be integrated into modern society?

(5) SUNBURST AWARD GOES ON HIATUS. The Sunburst Award Society, which recently announced their 2020 winners, today announced they have put the Sunburst Award on hiatus.

 Like many other organizations, the Sunburst Award has been affected by the Covid-19 shutdown. As a consequence, the Sunburst Award Society is announcing a hiatus in its awards program for the coming year. The Sunburst Awards Society members plan to use this time to re-imagine the most effective means available to them for continuing to highlight the stellar work done by Canadians in the field of speculative literature.

Since its inception, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic has raised the public’s awareness of works of speculative literature, and rightfully honoured deserving works, through its prestigious awards program. Over two hundred and twenty-five works have been acknowledged for their contribution to the arts in Canada, and thirty-eight truly outstanding authors have also benefited from monetary recognition.

Members of the Sunburst Board extend their thanks to their members, their jurors, the publishing community, authors and readers for their support over the last twenty years.

The Sunburst Award also administers the Copper Cylinder Award, which went on hiatus in 2019 and has yet to resume activity.

(6) IT’S A SECRET. 20020, the sequel to Jon Bois’s 17776, is here. New chapters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Secret Base, September 28 through October 23. Here’s the first installment:

(7) FAIRY TALES. Jennifer Orme discusses “Queer enchantments: Finding fairy tales to suit a rainbow of desires” at Xtra.

…Fairy tales, we are made to believe, are not for queers. Cishet culture’s magic trick of making itself seem natural, inevitable and universal depends in part on the ubiquity and repetition of fairy tales throughout our lives. We are told these stories of compulsory heterosexuality from cradle to grave—and even though everyone knows they are just fantasies, their enchantments are so seductive that it is difficult to resist their charms and not wish we could all live the fairy tale.

And yet.

The fairy tale realm is the perfect place for the shifting, resisting, transformative and hard-to-pin-down cultures of LGBTQ folks. Ignore the happily-ever-after endings that imply a kind of blissful stasis that goes on and on forever. The wonder-filled, strange and surprising worlds of fairy tales have the potential for a kind of queer enchantment. Don’t let all those ever-after weddings fool you: Fairy tales are the perfect environment for LGBTQ folks and queer desires…

(8) CANONS TO THE RIGHT, CANONS TO THE LEFT. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, a critic/voter in the recent Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Etceteras poll has things to say about the idea of canon which might interest Filers: “Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: Say Goodnight to the Rock & Roll Era”.

Rolling Stone asked me to participate in this year’s project, a request I accepted without hesitation. I was happy to be part of a project that stretched back to the original 1987 issue that was so important to me as a teenager. As I began to assemble my ballot of 50 albums, I came to the quick realization that my decades of listening, list-making, and reading have drastically changed how I view lists and canons. I no longer think of them as some definitive word being passed down from on high or some definitive historical document but rather a reflection of how the pop music community views the past. 

Looking at the new Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums, it’s striking to see how the times have changed. The most obvious seismic shock is how Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is no longer the Citizen Kane of pop. It’s been dethroned from the top spot, pushed all the way to number 24, with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On taking its slot. What’s Going On has been floating in Rolling Stone‘s Top 10 since 1987, the same year where it made it into the Top Five on The World Critics List masterminded by Paul Gambaccini. In other words, What’s Going On has been acknowledged as a consensus classic for decades, so it’s not shocking to see it at the top of the list. The shocks arrive within the guts of the poll, where it becomes clear that the rock & roll era has come to an end….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest, a DreamWorks film, would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It would beat out The Matrix (which lost by just three votes), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant. It was directed by Dean Parisot from a screenplay by David Howard and Robert Gordon who worked off the story by David Howard. It’s considered by many Trekkies to the best Trek film ever made. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger.  Edited Famous Fantastic Mysteries and its companions Fantastic and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine.  Conducted “The Readers’ Viewpoint” in FFM and “What Do You Think?” in FN.  May have been a Futurian.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1909 – Al Capp.  His wildly popular comic strip Li’l Abner was made a Broadway musical and a motion picture; it was read by 70 million in the U.S. when the population was 180 million.  It had fantastic elements: Evil Eye Fleegle, the Shmoos, the Bald Iggle.  Capp spoke at NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1913 – Edith Pargeter, O.B.E.  Two novels for us, four shorter stories; other work under this name; perhaps her detective fiction under another name about a medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, is best known.  EP was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to Literature.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1930 – Lívia Rusz.  (Hungarian-style her name would be Rusz Lívia; Rusz is the family name.)  Cartoonist, illustrator, sometimes including fantastic elements e.g. Csipike the dwarf (with Fodor Sándor, or as we’d write, “Sándor Fodor”).  Illustrated The Hobbithere is her cover (in Romanian), here is an interior.  (Died 2020) 
  • Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik.  You can see his fanzine Fanac (with Terry Carr; fanac = fan activity) here; it won a Hugo.  Rick Sneary called him the squirrel for his chatter; he cheerfully adopted it; cartoons appeared.  Lived, among other places, in Los Angeles and Berkeley.  Hitch-hiked from L.A. to New York for NYCon II the 14th Worldcon.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate; his trip report was The Squirrel’s Tale.  Served in the Marines.  Under another name, wrote a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel, The Cross of Gold Affair.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 – William Barton, 70.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Reviews in SF Eye, interviewed there too (with co-author Michael Capobianco).  Acts of Conscience won a special Philip K. Dick Award citation; he later served a term a a judge.  [JH]
  • Born September 28, 1950 John Sayles, 70. I really hadn’t considered him a major player in genre films but he is. He’s writer and director The Brother from Another Planet and The Secret of Roan Inish; andhe wrote the scripts of PiranhaAlligatorBattle Beyond the StarsThe HowlingE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Clan of the Cave Bear and The Spiderwick Chronicles. (CE)
  • Born September 28, 1956 Kiran Shah, 64. A dwarf (and yes that’s relevant) who’s been in SupermanSuperman IIRaiders of the Lost Ark,  The Dark Crystal , Return of the JediLegend , Aliens, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Sign of Four. He stunt doubled for Elijah Wood as Frodo and Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. He’s got two Who appearances, first as Emojibot 1 in “Smile” and as the mysterious unnamed figure In “Listen”, both Twelfth Doctor stories. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1963 Greg Weisman, 57. Writer who’s best remembered for GargoylesSpectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. He also scripted some of Men in Black: The Series and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles. He also wrote children’s novel World of Warcraft: Traveler, followed by a sequel, World of Warcraft: Traveler – The Spiral Path. Children’s novels in the Warcraft universe? Hmmm… (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1982 Tendai Huchu, 38. Zimbabwean author who’s the editor along with Raman Mundair and Noel Chidwick of the Shores of Infinity zine. He’s also written a generous number of African centric stories of which “The Marriage Plot” won an African Speculative Fiction Society Nommo Award for African Speculative Fiction for Best Short Story. The latest issue of Shoreline of Infinity (Issue 18, Summer 2020) is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 28, 1986 Laurie Penny, 34. They are the writer of one genre novella to date, “Everything Belongs to the Future“, published at Tor.com, and a generous number of genre short stories. They were a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer at Worldcon 75 won by Ada Palmer.  “Vector at Nine Worlds: Laurie Penny”, an interview with them by JoWalton is in Vector 288. (CE)

(11) CORFLU CONCORDE. The 2021 fanzine fans’ convention, Corflu Concorde, has posted its first progress report on the official Corflu website. The con is planned for March 26-28 in Bristol, UK. Rob Jackson is the Chair.

The FAAn Awards Administrator will be Nic Farey. (Mothers, shield your children!)

Jackson notes provisions are being made for alternate timings for the con “if — as is very possible indeed — we have to postpone from the original date.” A decision about timing will be in PR2, which will be published before Christmas.

(12) THEY’VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. At LitHub, Dan Rockmore considers “How Storytellers Use Math (Without Scaring People Away)”.

…Writing about mathematics presents some special challenges. All science writing generally amounts to explaining something that most people don’t understand in terms that they do. The farther the science is from daily experience, the tougher the task. When it comes to mathematics, its “objects” of study are hardly objects at all. In his famously heartfelt if somewhat dour memoir A Mathematician’s Apology, the mathematician G. H. Hardy describes mathematicians as “makers of patterns.” While all sciences depend on the ability to articulate patterns, the difference in mathematics is that often it is in the pattern in the patterns, divorced from any context at all, that are in fact the subject.

None other than Winston Churchill was able to tell us how it feels to have tower of mathematical babble transformed to a stairway to understanding: “I had a feeling once about Mathematics—that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me—the Byss and Abyss. I saw—as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show—a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable, but it was after dinner and I let it go.” Let’s assume it wasn’t just the whiskey talking.

(13) WARFARE WITHIN BUDGET. Vanity Fair has an excerpt from a forthcoming book: Game of Thrones: The Chaotic Scramble to Film the Battle of the Blackwater”. Tagline: “George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, and Dan Weiss break down one of the drama’s greatest episodes in this exclusive excerpt from the new Thrones tome Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon.”

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Game of Thrones couldn’t afford to stage a battle. For all its groundbreaking, world-building ambition, the HBO fantasy drama’s 2011 debut season struggled to populate even modest crowd scenes on its $6 million-per-episode budget. Yet going into the show’s sophomore year, GoT producers were faced with the challenge of depicting one of saga author George R.R. Martin’s most colossal events: the Battle of the Blackwater, the climax of his second Song of Ice and Fire novel, A Clash of Kings.

George R.R. Martin: We had a director who kept saying, “Cut this! Cut that! I can’t make the day.” I kept removing elements and it was getting to the point where it was getting as bad as the jousting tournament.

And then, just a few weeks before filming, the director had an unexpected family medical emergency and had to drop out. “I’d done quite a lot of work prepping that episode,” the director said. “Very sadly, I had an illness in the family and I had to leave. I knew I was leaving them with a difficult time, but it was absolutely unavoidable.”

Now the production had another tough problem. After all their pleading and negotiation with HBO for the money and latitude to stage a climactic battle, they were less than a month from shooting and didn’t have a definitive plan or a director.

Bernadette Caulfield (executive producer): That was my first year on the show and probably my first fight with David and Dan. They were like, “Oh, let’s get so-and-so.” I said, “Ninety percent of this is action. We need somebody who really knows action. It’s not easy. We should really look at Neil Marshall.”

David Benioff: Neil did Centurion and Dog Soldiers, movies where the guy is doing an incredible amount of really impressive action on a very thin budget.

Bernadette Caulfield: And other directors kept being mentioned and I kept saying, “I’m telling you, we need an action director!” Then David calls me up. At the time we didn’t know each other that well. And he goes: “Okay, Bernie, we’re going with your idea to hire Neil.”

I swear to God, my stomach dropped. I’m like, “Wait, my idea? This is a community decision!” I hung up the phone and I thought, Shit. Now it’s my idea. I’m responsible for this guy doing our first battle.

Neil Marshall (director): I was aware of Game of Thrones when season one was happening. I thought, This is really my kind of thing, and had my agent contact HBO and say, “If there’s any chance, I’d like to be able to direct an episode.” Their response was like, “We have our directors, thank you very much.”

Then a year or so later on a Saturday morning, I got an emergency call from Bernie to come and fix a situation that, from what I gathered, was a bit out of control. She asked if I would like to direct an episode. I was like, “Absolutely!” I’m thinking this will be in few months’ time. Then she said, “It’s on Monday morning and you’ve got one week to plan.”…

(14) GET STARTED ON YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING. Time Travel Mart offers a Robot Toupee. Know anybody who needs one?

They have lots of amusing novelties. Consider the Pastport:

Whether heading to Pangaea or the future Moon Colony, no time traveler would dare go without their Pastport. Only documentation officially recognized by the Intertemporal Travel Commission.

Travel stamps may be obtained whenever travel to era is approved. Watch social media for era approval stamps.

(15) UNDERGROUND OCEANS OF MARS? The Independent reports “Multiple ‘Water Bodies’ Found Under Surface Of Mars”.

Several liquid bodies have been found under the south pole of Mars, according to a major new study.

The findings give extra credence to previous research that suggested there could be a large saltwater lake underneath the Martian surface, the researchers claim – and also led to them discovering a number of other wet areas.

The findings could be key in the search for alien life on the planet, the researchers note, given life as we know it requires liquid water to survive.

They will also be key to “planetary protection” work that ensures that humanity doesn’t contaminate other planets with life from Earth during missions to explore them.

…The discovery was made using MARSIS, or the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, which is onboard the Mars Express spacecraft sent by the European Space Agency to orbit around Mars.

(16) THAT SOUNDS DANGEROUS. The AP report “New measurements show moon has hazardous radiation levels”.

Future moon explorers will be bombarded with two to three times more radiation than astronauts aboard the International Space Station, a health hazard that will require thick-walled shelters for protection, scientists reported Friday.

China’s lander on the far side of the moon is providing the first full measurements of radiation exposure from the lunar surface, vital information for NASA and others aiming to send astronauts to the moon, the study noted.

A Chinese-German team reported on the radiation data collected by the lander — named Chang’e 4 for the Chinese moon goddess — in the U.S. journal Science Advances.

(17) A DOLLAR SHORT. The Space Review’s Dwayne Day looked at the 12 reality shows that claimed to send the winner into space and explained why they all turned into vaporware. “Reality bites”.

…Of course, this is Hollywood, where production companies announce all kinds of plans, some of them much more solid than others, where often the announcement of a project does not mean that the project is about to happen. The article contained this bit of information: “The series will be taken out soon, with a global streaming platform and a broadcast partner in each country, including the U.S., explored as distribution options.”

“Taken out” is Hollywood jargon for “go looking for somebody to pay us to do this.” And when it comes to space-based reality television, lots of proposals like this have been “taken out” before, giving the term a more ominous meaning. In fact, by one count, this is now the twelfth time that somebody has attempted to create a reality TV show with a spaceflight as the prize.

Around 20 years ago, there was the first of a long string of announced reality television shows that would culminate in a flight into space for a lucky winner. The one, or at least the first one that became public, was “Destination: Mir” proposed in 2000 by Mark Burnett, the producer of numerous successful reality television shows, most notably “Survivor.” Burnett wanted to fly the winner of a reality show competition to the Russian space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft. NBC even announced that the show would be on its 2001 schedule. After the Mir space station was deorbited, Burnett renamed the show “Destination: Space,” featuring a flight to the International Space Station instead. The reputed price tag for the show was $50 million. Burnett’s project never made it to television….

(18) INSATIABLE. Pac-Man, the iconic arcade game from the 1980s, turns 40 this year. To celebrate, the video game now enters the world of virtual reality.

(19) BRACKETT OUT OF CHANDLER. K A Laity, in “Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)”, comes up with a bunch of reasons to make you want to find the movie and watch it – even though I don’t remember it being all that good!

I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “After Earth Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George notes that the 2013 Will Smith film is set in a future Earth where there’s no oxygen even though there are plenty of trees and animals, and how creatures can smell human fear in a world where humans haven’t lived for a thousand years.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 9/23/20 With Credential-Like Tread Upon Our Post We Scroll

(1) SURPRISE ENDING. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan discussing the books on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist: “Clarke Award shortlist 2020 – the reckoning”.

 There’s a bit of irony in that it was written and posted prior to the announcement of the winner, and Nina clearly had no expectation that her favorite book from the shortlist, Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift, would get the award!

…I was hoping to avoid bringing up the whole anxiety-of-American-influence thing because we’ve been there too many times before but this question of the Clarke/Hugo overlap means I cannot escape it. Part of my disappointment with this year’s shortlist lies in the lack of recognition for British talent. The Clarke is a British award, for novels published in Britain. This is one of the valuable and necessary ways it differs from the Hugos. The submissions list reveals a whole battery of British novels – M. T. Hill’s Zero Bomb, Vicki Jarrett’s Always North, Chris Beckett’s Beneath the World, A Sea, Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two, Jane Rogers’s Body Tourists, Ben Smith’s Doggerland, Will Wiles’s Plume, Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein – the presence of any one of which would have raised the overall quality of the shortlist by a substantial degree.

Which makes it all the more perplexing that the one British entry that was chosen by the judges is a journeyman work of genre fiction with no pretensions to innovation or radicalism whatsoever….

(2) WHOM THE FAIRIES NOTICE. WIRED Magazine adopts the author’s own metaphor: “The Madness of Susanna Clarke, Fairy Princess”.

…The official story was debilitating mental illness—housebound, couldn’t write—but clearly her fairy patrons had come for her, to reclaim their erstwhile princess. Or else they meant to punish Clarke for her betrayal, for spilling their precious secrets, by enfuzzing her beautiful brain. Something like that. The ways and reasons of the Fae are little known to common folk.

If this strikes you as cutesy, tidy, annoying, even a bit disturbing, a romanticization or fancification of what sounds like a period of immense torture for Clarke and her loved ones, consider their own words. “It was as though she’d been captured into the land of Faerie, as if she had been taken away from us,” Clarke’s editor told New York magazine. Clarke herself, in a rare interview, told The New Yorker, “You really shouldn’t annoy fairies, or write about them—they don’t like it very much.” Given that Clarke has now released a second dispatch from Faerie, called Piranesi, which plunges far deeper than Strange & Norrell ever did into those forbidden fortresses from which the un-mad and mortal among us are forever barred, perhaps there’s no better explanation. Clarke has indeed been there and back again….

(3) HELP MICHAEL HOGAN. Actor Michael Hogan, who appeared in the new Battlestar Galactica, The Man in the High Castle, Fargo, Teen Wolf and many others, suffered a serious brain injury due to an accident in January. He and his family need help and friends have started a GoFundMe: “Michael Hogan Fund”. To date they have raised $232,527 of the $300,000 goal.

In the words of his wife, Susan:  

“You probably know Michael as an actor.  Or maybe you know him as a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a father, a grandfather, or a husband. My husband. I am Susan Hogan and I am married to this extraordinary man. We have been each other’s best friend for decades. 

On Feb. 17, 2020, everything changed drastically in our world.  Michael was in Vancouver participating in a Battlestar Galactica convention, and at dinner following his day’s work, he fell and hit his head. Hard. He went to bed that night not realizing that the impact had caused a massive brain bleed.  He was unable to be woken the next morning and was taken to Vancouver General Hospital and emergency surgery performed. It took 57 staples to close the part of his scull they had to remove in order to reach the damage.
 
The accident left him with complete paralysis on his left side, memory loss, cogntivie impairment and an inability to swallow. … 

(4) SE HABLA. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar say “Spanish-speaking writers are producing ambitious science fiction and fantasy. Let these books be your introduction” in their latest Washington Post column.

Spanish is one of the world’s most-spoken languages, with a long, rich literary history extending all the way back to what many regard as the first modern novel, Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.” With authors writing in Spanish from Madrid to Mexico City to Havana, what are we English speakers missing out on? And where do we start exploring?

Lavie: I recently got back from Celsius 232, a science fiction and fantasy festival in Asturias, Spain, which usually attracts hundreds of Spanish genre writers every year. This year, it felt somewhat apocalyptic, with compulsory face masks and authors signing books behind plastic screens while wearing gloves (and disinfecting them after each book). I did get to meet Sofía Rhei, a prolific novelist for both children and adults, who has one collection of stories in English, “Everything Is Made of Letters,” published by Aqueduct Press.

While Spain has a vibrant sci-fi and fantasy scene, it is only in recent years that there has been a push into the English-language market. Two fairly recent anthologies are “Terra Nova” and “Castles in Spain,” both edited by Mariano Villarreal. They showcase some of that talent, including the excellent Elia Barceló and Félix J. Palma, whose books in English translation include the internationally successful “The Map of Time.”…

(5) HE GAVE PEACE A CHANCE. [Item by Olav Rokne.]  In recent years, the DC universe has often had more success with television than with movies. Next year, that is likely to continue with a TV adaptation of Joe Gill’s Silver Age creation Peacemaker. John Cena will play the title character, who was originally written as a pacifist diplomat who uses non-lethal weapons to fight dictators, but eventually became an ultraviolent parody of tough-guy-with-a-gun comics. The Suicide Squad Spinoff Peacemaker, Starring John Cena, Ordered to Series at HBO Max; James Gunn to Write/Direct” at TVLine.

Peacemaker is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag,” Gunn said in a statement. “I’m excited to expand The Suicide Squad and bring this character from the DC film universe to the full breadth of a series. And of course, to be able to work again with John, Peter, and my friends at Warner Bros. is the icing on the cake.”

(6) VERSUS ROWLING. “Judith Butler on the culture wars, JK Rowling and living in ‘anti-intellectual times’”, a Q&A conducted by Alona Ferber at New Statesman.

Thirty years ago, the philosopher Judith Butler*, now 64, published a book that revolutionised popular attitudes on gender. Gender Trouble, the work she is perhaps best known for, introduced ideas of gender as performance. It asked how we define “the category of women” and, as a consequence, who it is that feminism purports to fight for. Today, it is a foundational text on any gender studies reading list, and its arguments have long crossed over from the academy to popular culture. …

Alona Ferber: In Gender Trouble, you wrote that “contemporary feminist debates over the meanings of gender lead time and again to a certain sense of trouble, as if the indeterminacy of gender might eventually culminate in the failure of feminism”. How far do ideas you explored in that book 30 years ago help explain how the trans rights debate has moved into mainstream culture and politics?

Judith Butler: I want to first question whether trans-exclusionary feminists are really the same as mainstream feminists. If you are right to identify the one with the other, then a feminist position opposing transphobia is a marginal position. I think this may be wrong. My wager is that most feminists support trans rights and oppose all forms of transphobia. So I find it worrisome that suddenly the trans-exclusionary radical feminist position is understood as commonly accepted or even mainstream. I think it is actually a fringe movement that is seeking to speak in the name of the mainstream, and that our responsibility is to refuse to let that happen. 

AF: One example of mainstream public discourse on this issue in the UK is the argument about allowing people to self-identify in terms of their gender. In an open letter she published in June, JK Rowling articulated the concern that this would “throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”, potentially putting women at risk of violence.

JB: If we look closely at the example that you characterise as “mainstream” we can see that a domain of fantasy is at work, one which reflects more about the feminist who has such a fear than any actually existing situation in trans life. The feminist who holds such a view presumes that the penis does define the person, and that anyone with a penis would identify as a woman for the purposes of entering such changing rooms and posing a threat to the women inside. It assumes that the penis is the threat, or that any person who has a penis who identifies as a woman is engaging in a base, deceitful, and harmful form of disguise. This is a rich fantasy, and one that comes from powerful fears, but it does not describe a social reality. Trans women are often discriminated against in men’s bathrooms, and their modes of self-identification are ways of describing a lived reality, one that cannot be captured or regulated by the fantasies brought to bear upon them. The fact that such fantasies pass as public argument is itself cause for worry.

(7) ANTHOLOGY CROWDFUNDING. A Kickstarter appeal to raise $4,000 to fund publication of “Vital: The Future of Healthcare (2020)” launched September 22.

The anthology, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and medicine, will include works from notable authors such as Tananarive Due, David Brin, James Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, and others.

Backers will receive exclusive rewards such as advanced copies and other perks for early support of the project.

Proceeds from the book’s sale will be donated to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is a global leader coordinating the worldwide pandemic response.  

The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose who will serve as editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real life challenges during the pandemic and declarations of racism as a public health crisis. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose.  “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.” 

The book will be available for purchase or download at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, and independent bookstores.  Kickstarter backers or supporters will receive advance copies of the book, as well as other rewards for supporting the project.

The Kickstarter campaign will last until October 22, 2020. (A previous attempt in 2019 did not fund.)  

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty years ago, Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents which was published by Seven Stories Press won SFWA’s Nebula Award for Best Novel.  (It would also be a finalist for the Clarke Award for Best Novel and would be nominated for the Otherwise Award too.) It was chosen over novels by Ken MacLeod, George R. R. Martin, Maureen F. McHugh, Sean Stewart and Vernor Vinge. It was the second in a series of two, a sequel to Parable of the Sower. She had planned to write a third Parable novel, tentatively titled Parable of the Trickster, but it never happened as instead she wrote her final novel, Fledgling

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 23, 1783 – Jane Taylor.  Wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (1806).  So near and simple can be immortality.  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1897 Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for being in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea  as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar H. Shiras. Also wrote under the name Jane Howes. Her most famous piece was “In Hiding” (1948), a novella that was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology. It is widely assumed that it is the inspiration for the Uncanny X-Men that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would shortly release. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born September 23, 1920 – Richard Wilson.  A Futurian not barred from NYCon I the first Worldcon by the “Exclusion Act”.  Fanzines, The AtomEscapeScience Fiction News Letter.  Served in the Army Signal Corps; eventually director of the Syracuse Univ. news bureau.  Two novels, a hundred shorter stories; a Nebula; reviews, essays, in AstonishingLocusSF ReviewSuper Science.  Memoir, Adventures in the Space Trade.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1929 – Balbalis.  Forty interiors for Galaxyhere is one from Aug 53.  Illustrator for John Wiley & Sons.  Freehand sketch of the Shroud of Turin image adopted as the logograph of the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado.  American Institute of Graphic Arts award.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1948 Leslie Kay Swigart, 72. Obsessions can be fascinating and hers was detailing the writings of Harlan Ellison. Between 1975 and 1991, she published Harlan Ellison: A Bibliographical Checklist plus wrote shorter works such as  “Harlan Ellison: An F&SF Checklist“, “Harlan Ellison: A Nonfiction Checklist“ and “Harlan Ellison: A Book and Fiction Checklist”. Her George R. R. Martin: A RRetrospective Fiction Checklist can be found in the Dreamsongs: GRRM: A RRetrospective collection. (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 64. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1: The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice. (CE)
  • Born September 23, 1956 – Romas Kukalis, 64.  Two hundred thirty covers.  Some fine-art work.  Here is Wizenbeak.  Here is The Squares of the City.  Here is The White Dragon (Resnick’s, not McCaffrey’s).  [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1959 Elizabeth Peña. Ok, these notes can be depressing to do as I discovered she died of acute alcoholism. Damn it. She was in a number of genre production s including *batteries not includedGhost WhispererThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders and even voiced Mirage in the first Incredibles film. Intriguingly, she voiced a character I don’t recognize, Paran Dul, a Thanagarian warrior, four times in Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce,  61. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek. (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1960 – Stephanie Osborn, 60.  Retired rocket scientist.  Nat’l Weather Service certified storm spotter.  Two dozen novels for us; nonfiction, A New American Space Plan (with Travis Taylor).  Ranks Delany’s About Writing above Gone With the Wind.  [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1974 – Cindy Lynn Speer, 46.  Five novels (The Key to All Things released in July), a few shorter stories.  Practices 16th Century swordfighting. Ranks Persuasion about the same as Nineteen Eighty-four.  [JH]

(10) SIGN UP FOR HORROR PANEL. “StoryFest 2020: Final Cuts – New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles”

StoryFest concludes with a panel dedicated to the nightmares of the silver screen. Legendary genre editor Ellen Datlow leads the discussion on her anthology, Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. She is joined by an all-star lineup of authors included in the anthology.

This is a virtual event. Click here to register and view the event.

Ellen Datlow is joined by a knockout list of panelists: Laird Barron, Christopher Golden, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Josh Malerman, and A.C. Wise. 

(11) WRONG OUT LOUD. Oh, my God! First they pitch canon out the window. Now James Davis Nicoll makes this confession — “On Reading Book Series in the Wrong Order”. Think of the children!

We live in a glorious age when books are a click away. It may now seem incomprehensible that one might be forced to read a series of books out of order. Yet, in a dark age not so long ago, when we (and by we, I mean me) were dependent on the vagaries of book store and library orders, it was very easy to find oneself in a place where the choice was (a) read an intermediate book or (b) read nothing new.

By way of example, here are five F&SF series I began in what most people would say is the wrong place….

(12) ATWOOD. BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week features Margaret Atwood and another poet/author: “Claudia Rankine and Margaret Atwood”.

Claudia Rankine, one of America’s leading literary figures, and the double-Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood look at the world afresh, challenging conventions – with Kirsty Wark.

In her latest book, Just Us: An American Conversation, Claudia Rankine reflects on what it means to experience, and question, everyday racism. Her poems draw on a series of encounters with friends and strangers, as well as historical record. Her work moves beyond the silence, guilt and violence that often surround discussions about whiteness, and dares all of us to confront the world in which we live.

Margaret Atwood recently won the Booker Prize for a second time with The Testaments, her sequel to the 1985 prize-winner The Handmaid’s Tale. Her story of the fictional Gilead’s dark misogyny has retained its relevance after more than three decades. The world of Gilead was originally sparked by an earlier poem, Spelling, and Atwood explores the importance of poetry in firing the imagination.

(13) FALSE AND FALSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Because it is the topic of the year and relevant to us all (especially SF fans as pandemics are something of a genre trope) a little science with BBC’s statistical programme More or Less and false positives in virus testing (especially in the latter half of the show): “Covid curve queried, false positives, and the Queen’s head”.

A scary government graph this week showed what would happen if coronavirus cases doubled every seven days. But is that what’s happening? There’s much confusion about how many Covid test results are false positives – we explain all. Plus, do coffee and pregnancy mix? And the Queen, Mao, and Gandhi go head to head: who is on the most stamps and coins?

Now, I have been told that my (pre-retired) job (of communicating science to non-scientists (often politicians)) is easy.

Though a little dismissive, actually, I take this as something of a compliment as anyone vaguely professional – be they a plumber, engineer. athlete or writer – tends to make their craft seem effortless. So, having listened to the afore programme, let me expand your horizons even further in just a couple of sentences.

Having considered false positives, what of false negatives? And, having pondered that, how does one balance the two? Welcome to the world of Type I and Type II errors. (That’s the real world which makes Johnson and Trump’s pontifications seem more like bluster. Hope I’m not doing them an injustice)

(14) RING DOWN THE CURTAIN. Looper combed through the movies and books to find “The last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain”. Gollum’s, of course, is “Oops!” (Just kidding.)

We wanted to see just how legendary each deceased character’s final moments ended up being, based on the litmus test of what they were talking about when they perished. With that in mind, we decided to round up the last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain to do some comparing and contrasting.

(15) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. “Scientists Determine Explosive New Mass Extinction Event 232 Million Years Ago”SYFY Wire finds another evolutionary memory hole.

Mass extinction events on our planet have only occurred a handful of times in the 540 million years since life began. Most people are familiar with the Cretaceous-tertiary Extinction that occurred some 65 million years ago that led to the demise of the dinosaurs and 50 percent of all plants and animals, as well as the Permian-triassic Extinction 250 million years ago that wiped out 95 percent of all species.

But now scientists have reconsidered the impact of The Carnian Pluvial Episode, a significant climate change event that took place approximately 234 to 232 million years ago (Late Triassic epoch) that led to the age of the dinosaurs…

…Violent volcanic eruptions in the Wrangellia Province of western Canada are the smoking gun and the most likely cause of the devastation and sudden climatic shift, when abundant volumes of hot volcanic basalt were poured out to form much of what is now the western coast of North America.

“The eruptions peaked in the Carnian,” Dr. Dal Corso said. “I was studying the geochemical signature of the eruptions a few years ago and identified some massive effects on the atmosphere worldwide. The eruptions were so huge, they pumped vast amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and there were spikes of global warming.”

These humid warming periods lasting a total of one million years were accompanied by an intense spike in global rainfall, as discovered back in the ’80s by geologists Mike Simms and Alastair Ruffell. This gradual climate alteration is reflected in the major biodiversity loss in the ocean and on land. 

However, following the extinction event, diverse new groups flourished to produce more modern-like ecosystems. These climate changes were beneficial to the sustained growth of plant life, especially the expansion of conifer forests.

“The new floras probably provided slim pickings for the surviving herbivorous reptiles,”explained Professor Benton. “We now know that dinosaurs originated some 20 million years before this event, but they remained quite rare and unimportant until the Carnian Pluvial Episode hit. It was the sudden arid conditions after the humid episode that gave dinosaurs their chance.”

(16) HEAVY ARMOR. “It’s Alive! 25-Ton Gundam Robot Moves for First Time in Yokohama”Yahoo! News is there.

A 25-ton robot, inspired by the popular 1970s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, has made its first moves in Yokohama, Japan.

Footage tweeted on September 21 shows the giant Gundam robot moving its arms and legs before lunging into an impressive squat at Yamashita Pier.

The robot is set to become the main attraction at Gundam Factory Yokohama, and was supposed to be officially unveiled on October 1, but the event has since been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/14/20 Istanscroll Not Constantipixel

(1) MIYAZAKI EXHIBIT WILL KEYNOTE ACADEMY MUSEUM OPENING. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles announced the work of Hayao Miyazaki will feature in its inaugural temporary exhibition when the museum opens to the public on April 30, 2021. It will be the first North American museum retrospective dedicated to the acclaimed artist and his work.

With more than 300 objects, the exhibition will explore each of Miyazaki’s animated feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and the Academy Award®-winning Spirited Away (2001). Visitors will travel through the filmmaker’s six-decade career through a dynamic presentation of original imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cels, including pieces on public view outside of Japan for the first time, as well as large-scale projections of film clips and immersive environments.

From there, visitors move into the Creating Worlds gallery, a space that evokes Miyazaki’s fantastical worlds. The gallery will capture the contrast between beautiful, natural, and peaceful environments and the industrial settings dominated by labor and technology that are also often featured in Miyazaki’s movies. Visitors can view concept sketches and backgrounds that offer insight into Miyazaki’s imagination, including an original imageboard from his first Ghibli film Castle in the Sky (1986) and artworks from subsequent Ghibli features. Other areas explore Miyazaki’s fascination with complex vertical structures, such as the famous bathhouse in Spirited Away, and the underwater world of Ponyo (2008), as well as Miyazaki’s interest in flying, as seen in Porco Rosso (1992) and The Wind Rises (2013). As a highlight of the exhibition, visitors can enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation in the Sky View installation, addressing another frequent motif in Miyazaki’s films: the desire to slow down, reflect, and dream.

Next, the Transformations gallery affords visitors the opportunity to explore the astonishing metamorphoses often experienced by both characters and settings in Miyazaki’s films. In Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), for example, the protagonists go through physical transformations that reflect their emotional states, while in other films, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki creates mysterious and imaginative ways to visualize the changes that humans impose on the natural world.

Visitors then enter the exhibition’s final gallery Magical Forest through its Mother Tree installation. Standing at the threshold between dream and reality, colossal, mystical trees in many of Miyazaki’s films represent a connection or gateway to another world. After passing through the installation, visitors encounter the spirits of the forest, such as the playful Kodama from Princess Mononoke, through an array of storyboards and mixed media. Visitors exit through another transitional corridor, which guides them from the imaginative worlds of Hayao Miyazaki back into the museum.

(2) ATTEND A VIRTUAL ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE EXPANSE. Register here for the opportunity to hear news about the ninth and final book in the Expanse series on Wednesday at 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT. Authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck will be answering questions following the announcement.

(3) NEW HONOR FOR ATWOOD. Margaret Atwood has won the Dayton literary peace prize reports The Guardian.

Margaret Atwood, whose sweeping body of work includes The Handmaid’s Tale, a depiction of a nightmarish totalitarian future for the US, has won a lifetime achievement award that celebrates literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding.

The Canadian writer will receive the Richard C Holbrooke distinguished achievement award, officials of the Dayton literary peace prize officials announced on Monday. The award is named for the late American diplomat who brokered the 1995 Bosnian peace accords reached in the Ohio city.

Atwood, a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays and comic books , has in recent years drawn a new round of acclaim for her bestselling 1985 novel of a dystopian future in which women are subjugated after a theocratic group overthrow the US government. The television adaptation, starring Elisabeth Moss, saw the book return to bestseller lists around the world, while some readers saw similarities to the leadership of authoritarian Gilead in the rise of US president Donald Trump…

(4) SLF STILL TAKING GULLIVER GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is taking submissions for the Gulliver Travel Research Grant until September 30. Full guidelines on the website.

The SLF Gulliver Travel grants are awarded annually, since 2004, to assist writers of speculative literature (in fiction, poetry, drama, or creative nonfiction) in their research. They are not currently available for academic research, though we hope to offer such funds in the future. We are currently offering one $1000 travel grant annually, to be used to cover airfare, lodging, and/or other travel expenses.

(5) HOME (DELIVERED) COOKING. “Why did it take so long?” you’ll ask. Scott Edelman invites listeners to down dumplings with the legendary Irene Vartanoff in Episode 127 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Vartanoff

This episode, I was able to totally fulfill the mandate of this podcast, and lose myself in a meal as I sat across a table face to face with a creator. That’s because I’ve known this guest for 46 years plus a few months — and have been in constant conversation with her for almost all of that time. She’s been a part of comics and science fiction fandom several years longer than I have, and worked in comics longer than I did, too. When I started at Marvel Comics on June 24, 1974, she’d ready been there for a couple of months. She has many fascinating things to say about her time in comics — and her decades working in the romance field as well.

I’m of course talking about my wife — Irene Vartanoff — or as she was dubbed by Stan Lee — “Impish” Irene Vartanoff. Her novel Hollywood Superheroine — the final book in her comics-inspired Temporary Superheroine trilogy — was recently published, so this is the perfect time to have a chat about it all.

We discussed how she’d never have gotten into comics if not for her father’s cigar habit, what made a comic book reader become a comic book fan become a comic book professional, the “heartbreaking” advice given to her by Julie Schwartz during her teen visit to DC Comics, why her reputation as a famed letterhack meant she didn’t face the same sexism as other women in comics, what it was like working for Roy Thomas at Marvel and Paul Levitz at DC (and why she respected them both), how critiquing romance manuscripts for 25 years was like being at Marvel all over again, the secret origins of her Temporary Superheroine character, how politics changed Hollywood Superheroine, the final novel in her trilogy, why pantsing works better for her than plotting, the reason she decided to go the indie publishing route, and much more.

(6) LE GUIN DISCOVERY. Sean Joyce-Farley finds worlds of meaning in Ursula LeGuin’s revision to a passage The Left Hand of Darkness, as explained in a post for Library of America, “Are You There Ursula? It’s Me, Sean”.

Knight Library lies tucked into the west side of the University of Oregon campus, just by the cemetery: a dark four-story brick building. Inside, sunlight falls into the Paulson Reading Room through the tall windows at my back. Rigged up in a mask, I look like a harbinger of things to come—but it’s the fall of 2019, and I just have a dust allergy.

There are no pens in the Special Collections, and no water. UO students periodically approach the desk only to learn that they need to take a different staircase to get to the other second floor, which is somehow not connected to this second floor. I take in camera, laptop, notebook, pencil. Grey boxes with my name on them—literally, stuck on in post-its—neatly line the shelf behind the librarian’s desk. The first box is number 77; inside, folders three to five house the handwritten manuscript of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). I lift up the lid, and let the light in….

(7) GOT THAT RIGHT. “It’s Not Easy Being a BookTuber” on WIRED is an introduction to an episode of WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy” podcast which has an interview with Daniel Greene, who makes his living reviewing sf and fantasy books on YouTube.  Greene discusses how he gets 20-30 requests from self-published authors to plug their books and how he has to keep reviewing bestsellers to satisfy YouTube’s algorithms.

Daniel Greene makes a full-time living off his YouTube channel, discussing fantasy authors such as Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Jim Butcher. Talking about your favorite books all day might sound like a dream come true, but Greene says that building a successful channel is harder than people think.

“For a few years I was doing a video every day of the week, seven days a week, which was insane, while also being a software engineer,” Greene says in Episode 431 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’m a workaholic.”

(8) MORE SAND. MovieWeb alerted readers to a French-langauge variant of last week’s Dune trailer with some additional shots.

While the majority of the Dune trailer is the same as the one that debuted a few days ago, this version is slightly shorter and has been restructured. The trailer is in French but, while you may not have much idea what they’re saying, there are a few new shots included, giving us a further look at the likes of Gurney Halleck, played by Josh Brolin, who is seen preparing for battle, as well as a little more of Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides enduring the excruciating pain of the Gom Jabbar Test.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — Twenty years ago this month, the online magazine Strange Horizons posted its first issue. It does short stories, poetry and reviews, essays, interviews, and other material as tickles its fancy. It was founded by writer and editor Mary Anne Mohanraj. Susan Marie Groppi who took over in 2004, won the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional in 2010 for her work as the Editor-in-Chief. Other editors have followed; the current one is Vanessa Rose Phin. Several of the stories first published here have been nominated for Hugos, Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” and Benjamin Rosenbaum‘s “The House Beyond Your Sky”. It was a finalist for the Best Website Hugo Award in two years, and for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine every year from 2013 through 2020. You can find it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 14, 1927 – Martin Caidin.  His Cyborg was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.  Thirty novels for us, half a dozen nonfiction books about rockets and Space travel; eighty fiction and nonfiction books all told, a thousand magazine articles; an authority on aviation and aerospace.  Restored to full airworthiness a 1936 Junkers Ju 52, toured extensively with her.  Flew with the Thunderbirds demonstration squadron (U.S. Air Force), honorary member of the Golden Knights parachute demonstration team (Army).  Twice won Aviation/Space Writers Ass’n Award for outstanding aviation author.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1931 – Ivan Klíma, 89.  Kafka Prize and Magnesia Litera award.  A Childhood in Terezin (in German, Theresienstadt; WW II holding ground for deportation to death camps e.g. Auschwitz; few survived) about his own experience.  Biography of Karel Capek (software won’t allow the diacritical mark over the showing it’s pronounced like ch in English church) translated into English, also memoir My Crazy Century.  Penguin Classics ed’n of R.U.R. has his introduction.  Three dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1932 Joyce Taylor, 88. She first shows as Princess Antillia in Atlantis, the Lost Continent. Later genre appearances were The Man from U.N.C.LE., the first English language Beauty and the Beast film, the horror film Twice-Told Tales and the Men into Space SF series. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1936 Walter Koenig, 83. Best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in the original Trek franchise and Alfred Bester (named in homage of that author and a certain novel) on Babylon 5Moontrap, a SF film with him and Bruce Campbell, would garner a 28% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and InAlienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1941 Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them on as Dr. Jeff Brenner.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty-four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1948 – Elizabeth Winthrop, 72.  Five dozen books, mostly children’s fiction.  Fisher Award (after Dorothy Canfield Fisher; adults choose master list, children vote) for The Castle in the Attic; it and two more ours.  Jane Addams Peace Prize for Counting on Grace.  Sarah Lawrence alumna.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 60. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certainly say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. There’s another nineteen novels written there.  And he had other series going as well including being one of the main scriptwriters for the Jago & Litefoot  Big Finish series, the characters being spin-offs from the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Wang Chiang”.  And then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1962 – Leigh Cunningham, 58.  Lawyer with three Master’s degrees.  Her Being Anti-Social (2013) a Best Indie Book.  Two novels for us.  Ranks Nineteen Eighty-four above The Sound and the Fury.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1964 – Lorie Ann Grover, 56.  Firstborn for us (Kirkus starred review); verse novels; board books; The Magic Cup with Howard Behar former president of Starbucks.  Illustrations: “I’m putting these up for fabbity publisher types to see my samples…. copyright…. Just ask me if you’d like to share them.” [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1972 Jenny T. Colgan, 48. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date with several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1989 Jessica Brown Findlay, 31. She appeared as Beverly Penn in the film version of Mark Helprin‘s Winter’s Tale novel. She’s Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein, a modern take on that novel, and plays Lenina Crowne in the current Brave New World series on Peacock. Finally I’ll note she was Abi Khan on Black Mirrior’s “Fifteen Million Merits“ episode. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1986 – Rick Griffin, 44.  Co-authored, and illustrates, the Hayven Celestia universe, where the admirable geroo and various others suffer under the wicked krakun.  Recently Tales of Hayven Celestia (in Gre7g Luterman’s name, the is silent).  Four more covers.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SOMETHING’S IN THE AIR. “Astronomers see possible hints of life in Venus’s clouds” reports Yahoo! News.

Astronomers have found a potential sign of life high in the atmosphere of neighboring Venus: hints there may be bizarre microbes living in the sulfuric acid-laden clouds of the hothouse planet.

Two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted in the thick Venusian clouds the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Astronomy.

Several outside experts — and the study authors themselves — agreed this is tantalizing but said it is far from the first proof of life on another planet. They said it doesn’t satisfy the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” standard established by the late Carl Sagan, who speculated about the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus in 1967.

“It’s not a smoking gun,” said study co-author David Clements, an Imperial College of London astrophysicist. “It’s not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect, but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something.”

(13) VENUS IF YOU WILL. By an interesting coincidence, on a day when a paper has been released indicating the discovery of a biosignature in Venus’ atmosphere, James Davis Nicoll offers “Five Science Fiction Books Featuring Floating Habitats” a Tor.com.

Venus is so inconsiderate. It presents itself as a sister world, one that would seem at first glance to be very Earth-like, but… on closer examination it’s utterly hostile to life as we know it. Surface conditions would be extremely challenging for terrestrial life, what with the toxic atmosphere, crushing pressures, and blast-furnace-like temperatures.

That’s at the surface, however. Just fifty kilometers above the surface, there is a region with terrestrial pressures and temperatures, a veritable garden of Eden where an unprotected human would not be almost immediately incinerated but instead would expire painfully (in just a few minutes) due to the lack of free oxygen and the prevalence of toxic gases….

(14) STAR WARS MUSICS HELPS CELEBRATE MILESTONE. [Item by David Doering.] Nice to see the Tabernacle Choir chose Star Wars to celebrate their 110 years of recordings:

Legendary film composer John Williams wrote the music for each of the nine Star Wars saga films, spanning more than forty years from 1977 to 2019. For Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Williams composed “Duel of the Fates” for orchestra and chorus, accompanying a climactic lightsaber duel. The words are a fragment of an ancient Welsh poem that Williams had translated into Sanskrit—he then rearranged the syllables himself to make the text essentially meaningless, while still retaining a forceful chant-like power. He intended the choral singing itself to give the scene an explicitly religious feel, as if it were a ceremony of some kind. “Duel of the Fates” went on to become a defining musical feature of the prequel trilogy, a symbol of the saga’s broad focus on the cosmic struggle between darkness and light.

The choir music was also used to demonstrate the first stereophonic recording made back in 1940.

Oh, and BTW, while the media proudly announced that Vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time, this is on revenues, not on units. LPs are still quite a bit more expensive than CDs.

(15) GOING FOR THE JUGULAR, WITH A KICK TO THE GROIN. In a post for This Way To Texas, “Libertarians nominate Lou Antonelli for Congress”, Antonelli spotlighted the political battles he’s been waging.

…The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday, Sept. 5, rejected a Republican attempt to remove 44 Libertarians from the November ballot, according to the Texas Tribune.

Groups affiliated with both major parties have gone to court in recent weeks to remove from the ballot non-major-party candidates perceived to be a threat. In general, Libertarians are believed to peel votes away from Republicans, while the Green Party is thought to siphon votes from Democrats.

The GOP sued because the Libertarians didn’t pay their filing fees. But the state Supreme Court said Republicans missed the deadline to kick them off the ballot.

Antonelli, running in the 4th District, is one of the candidates the Republicans sought to block.

He’s trying to get Republican nominee Pat Fallon to join him in a public forum or debate, meantime trying to score off Fallon for not living in the district he wants to represent.

… Fallon lives in the Denton county portion of Prosper, an outer suburb of Dallas, which is just outside the 4th’s boundaries.

Even Wikipedia, the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web, notes Fallon’s position: “Fallon’s state senate district includes much of the eastern portion of the congressional district.”

However, regarding the 4th Congressional District, Wikipedia continues: “While candidates for the House are only required to live in the state they wish to represent, longstanding convention holds that they live either in or reasonably close to the district they wish to represent.”

The Libertarian Party candidate in the election, Antonelli said “A number of candidates who lost to Fallon in the district convention seem to feel his victory was due to arm-twisting by himself and Senator Ted Cruz, and they resent it and have told me so,”

“The residency requirement for the U.S. House is in the Constitution, so Fallon has done nothing illegal,” said Antonelli. “But Texas deserves congressional leaders who do better than just skirt the law.”

Antonelli is doing his best to leave no stone unthrown.

(16) THE UNSEEN HAND – AND EVERYTHING ELSE. The Cut introduces “The Designer Who Sent Ghost Models Down the Runway”.

While stuck inside during quarantine this past spring, designer Anifa Mvuemba began playing around with 3-D technology. Soon, an idea struck: What if she held a virtual fashion show in which her feminine, curve-friendly designs glided along on invisible models? She’d been working on her line Hanifa for eight years but had never held a runway show — maybe it was time.

On May 22, she premiered the collection, called Pink Label Congo, on Instagram Live. The digital runway show featured ghostlike 3-D figures strutting sinuously down the runway in the collection.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Using Cuts as a Visual Effect” on Vimeo, David F. Sandberg explains how cutting can be just as effective a way to produce special effects as more expensive CGI. WARNING: Many scenes from gory horror movies.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/9/20 Too Strange To Win A Hugo, The Unexploded Book

(1) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “The Wandering City,” a story about temporal anomalies, public spaces, and a new global consciousness by Usman T. Malik.

On Monday, 7/13 at 4pm Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Usman in conversation with James Graham, an architect and historian and director of the great series Columbia Books on Architecture and the City. Register at the link.

(2) AURORA AWARDS VOTING. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association members can now vote online for the Aurora Awards through July 25. You must be logged in with an active CSFFA membership in order to access the voting page.

In addition, our Nominee’s Page is now live

This page provides informatin on this year’s Aurora nominees.  

The Voter Package Downloads also give you access to many of the works up for the awards this year.  Like with voting, you need to be logged in to the website with an active membership to access these downloads.

(3) OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN. [Item by Olav Rokne.]  The Manchester Guardian newspaper pays tribute to Star Trek icon Sir Patrick Stewart on the advent of his 80th birthday today, printing reminiscences from numerous of Stewart’s friends, colleagues, and co-stars. It’s a delightful piece to read,and paints a picture of someone who is not only iconic, but warmly human. My favorite bit is from his X-Men co-star Ian McKellen: “He’s long forgiven me my advice not to risk a solid career on the British stage by falling for an uncertain future in Star Trek.” “‘He’s so strapping and virile’: Patrick Stewart at 80 – by Shatner, McKellen, Tennant and more”  

‘I said: “Wear silk stockings to avoid chafing”’

William Shatner

He’s a love and he is an intellectual in an athlete’s body. We had a long horse scene to do together once, and I recommended him wearing women’s silk stockings to avoid chafing and he nodded his head as a thank you. When he came out of his dressing room, he was wearing the lace stockings outside of his costume. “No, no, Patrick, underneath your costume!” We laughed, as we ordinarily did. I didn’t know he was so old.

(4) BRIDGE PLAYER. In his own way. “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Paul Weimer” – fifth entry in Camestros Felapton’s series.

… It can’t be true that Paul Weimer knows everybody in science fiction but if we were to draw a huge network graph, I think Paul would be at on of those nodes that helps joins multiple groups together. A regular columnist and pod-casting panellist in multiple venues, Paul is an insightful observer of the wider landscape of science fiction and fantasy. Paul is a bridge that links communities and people (exemplified by his revival of the popular mind-meld posts (http://www.nerds-feather.com/2019/09/the-hugo-initiative-mind-meld-favorite.html ).

(5) CHILLING OUT. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina to end with Part 4″ reports Entertainment Weekly.

…On Wednesday, Netflix announced that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will conclude with Part 4 of the series, meaning that the final eight episodes will be the series’ last. Those eight episodes are set to air in late 2020 and will explore what happens when The Eldritch Terrors descend upon Greendale. (Odds are it won’t be good.)

(6) FANTASTIKA (SWECON 2020) NEWS. Even a postponement til October won’t work, so this year’s con is off. Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf told Facebook followers:

We had a committee meeting last Monday. We decided not to have Fantastika in October. We do not know when the restriction about having a max attendance of 50 persons is going to end. What we are thinking of is organising a smaller event for local fans in October with some items that are web based. We are also planning to move Fantastika to spring.

(7) THE PEOPLE SPEAK. Inverse ran a poll: “The Best Netflix Science Fiction Show, According To 1,200 Inverse Readers”. The winner is not a surprise, but I thought #2 was.

In an effort to decide which Netflix sci-fi show is actually the best, Inverse asked our readers to fill out an online poll and over 1,200 of you did (1,234 to be exact). Here are the results, presented from worst (or least popular) to best science fiction series.

In first place —

1. STRANGER THINGS

We always knew it would end this way. Stranger Things is Netflix’s biggest original anything ever, and it gets bigger with each new season. With 377 votes, it’s also the winner of our poll by a huge margin. And with Stranger Things Season 4 delayed indefinitely due to Covid-19, there’s never been a better time to rewatch the entire series, right?

(8) RETIRING, BUT NOT FROM READING. Shelf Awareness’ news item “Nan A. Talese Retiring at End of Year” ends with this quote from a major genre figure:

Margaret Atwood commented: “No editor has seen so many changes and done so much in publishing as the legendary and much beloved Nan Talese, known fondly to some as ‘the Nanster.’ She first came into my life at Simon & Schuster, then dragged me behind her troika as she galloped through the wilderness to Houghton Mifflin–where she acquired The Handmaid’s Tale sight unseen, in a preemptive bid–and then sashayed over to Doubleday. ‘Nanster, what are you doing?’ I cried in dismay. ‘I like a challenge,’ she said calmly, adjusting her white beret and trademark pearls. I can’t imagine her actually ‘retiring.’ It’s a figure of speech. She will continue reading, and reading my work, I hope, and offering commentary: ‘None of these people are very nice.’ “

(9) THE WRONG FUTURE. Megan Garber contends “Americans Are Living in an Alternate History” in The Atlantic.

…So I was unprepared when, watching Sliding Doors again recently, I found myself absolutely wrecked by the viewing. The movie’s perky setup was agonizing; its cheerful toggling between Helen’s two fates felt painful to witness. Because when I watched the movie this time around—in the midst of a global pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 people, with no end in sight—I wasn’t just thinking of Helen’s divergent futures. I was thinking of everyone else’s. To be alive in America right now is to be acutely aware of the paths not taken—to live, essentially, in the Sliding Doors proposition, and in the paradigm of the alternate history. Our news is doubly haunted: by the horror of real loss, and by the shadow of what might have been.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 9, 1926 – Murphy Anderson.  Drew for Planet and Amazing; after his World War II service, also Fantastic Adventures and Buck Rogers.  At DC he drew the AtomBatmanthe FlashGreen LanternHawkmanthe SpectreSuperman; inked Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan; designed the costume of Adam Strange.  Drew Wonder Woman for the first cover of Ms.  Helped me with the L.A.con II Program Book (42nd Worldcon) when we gave the Forry Award to Julie Schwartz.  Seven Alleys; Inkpot; Kirby, Eisner, Sinott Halls of Fame.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1927 – Robert Goldston.  Four novels for us, ten covers for Nebula (as by James Stark), like this (back cover by Ken McIntyre), and this and this (back covers by Atom).  Guggenheim Fellowship.  Histories, juveniles, many more.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1927 Susan Cabot. Her final film appearance was in Roger Corman’s horror feature, The Wasp Woman in which she played the lead role.  She played Sybil Carrington in his earlier SF film, War of the Satellites. And in yet a third Corman film, The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent, she was Enger. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1938 Brian Dennehy. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2. He also voiced Django in Ratatouille. His very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but there novels in the series (Titus GroanGormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that might be part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series. (Died 1968.) (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1945 – Dean Koontz, 75.  A hundred novels, sixty shorter stories; nine pen names; translated into forty languages; 500 million copies sold.  Used to look like Gordon Liddy but tired of it and changed.  Warns that supposed appearances in fanzines after 1968 are suspect, the tale to be told in his memoirs.  His Website is here.  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1946 – Lynne Aronson, 74.  Recruited by Phyllis Eisenstein.  Entered the NyCon 3 Masquerade (25th Worldcon) in a dress made of magazine rejection slips.  With husband Mark co-founded Windycon, chaired the first three, Guests of Honor at Windycon XV and XXX (some use Roman numerals, some don’t).  Organized, if that word may be used in a fanzine, the Noreascon Two One-Shot Chorale (38th Worldcon).  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1957 – Todd Lockwood, 63.  A hundred eighty book and magazine covers, a hundred sixty interiors.  Here is a cover for Analog.  Here is Karavans.  Here is Resurgence.  Known too for Dungeons & Dragons.  Twelve Chesleys, one for Cerberus the Aardvark.  Artbook, Transitions.  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1971 Scott Grimes, 49. He’s Lieutenant Gordon Malloy. on The Orville, a show I’ve not watched and so would very much like to hear what y’all think of it. He did show up once in the Trek verse, playing Eric in the “Evolution“ episode Of Star Trek: The Next Generation. (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1972 – Rachel Hartman, 48.  Three novels; a dozen cartoons in Strange Horizons.  Madrigal choir, the QuasiModals.  Having shown us the Goreddi religion she takes particular interest in its saints and their dogs.  Admits her chief failing as a Canadian is that she is not a hockey person, but she did interview Ngozi Ukazu.  [JH]
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 42. Best-known for her portrayal of communications officer character Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, she was Renee Hansen in Spectres which Marina Sirtis is also in. She was in some called Star Trek: Captain Pike three years back as Captain Grace Shintal. It has to be another one of those fan video fictions. (CE)
  • Born July 9, 1995 Georgina Henley, 25. English actress, best remembered  for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen.  She’s listed as having an unspecified role in an untitled Game of Throne prequel series but given the number of those proposed, this may or may not exist. (CE)

(11) LEFTOVER MATERIALS. “Pullman to Publish New Story Set in World of His Dark Materials”Publishers Weekly has the story.

In time for the 25th anniversary of his beloved fantasy series-starter The Golden Compass, British author Philip Pullman will publish a new standalone short story featuring Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pan. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers announced today the October 15 release of Serpentine in hardcover and ebook format, featuring illustrations by Tom Duxbury. Listening Library will simultaneously release an audiobook, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Olivia Colman (The CrownThe Favourite).

(12) IF THERE WERE AIRBNB REVIEWS OF THESE. Riley Sager, in “Don’t Stay In These Famous Literary Haunted Houses!” on CrimeReads, has Airbnb news of haunted houses where you shouldn’t go on vacation, including the house where The Amityville Horror was set “how can you list a place on this site and NOT MENTION THERE’S A DEMON PIG!” and the Overlook Hotel, setting for The Shining (“I’m not sorry the place was destroyed #sorrynotsorry”.)

(13) ON YOUR MARK. Nate Hoffelder’s good work in registering www.cirsova.com and pointing it at Black Lives Matter caught someone’s attention:

Hmm, a search of the US Patent and Trademark Office shows no dead or live attempts to register Cirsova as a trademark. Maybe Nate could do that next?

(14) THEY’RE SO EASILY CONFUSED. Rich Lynch insists “No, I am not trying to buy the New York Mets!” That’s a look-alike making sports news: “Steve Cohen is reportedly back in the running to buy the Mets”. Sort of twins separated at the age of 60?

(15) ON THE SQUARE. The New York Times says the North American Scrabble Players Association has ”agreed to remove all slurs from their word list for Scrabble tournament play.” “Scrabble Tournaments Move Toward Banning Racial and Ethnic Slurs”.

Josephine Flowers became a ranked, competitive Scrabble player more than a dozen years ago, and to commemorate the moment, she inscribed her custom-built game board with one of her favorite sayings: “Never underestimate the power of words.”

The phrase serves as a constant reminder to her that, even when people say that the words formed on a Scrabble board are supposedly divorced of meaning, they can still inflict pain.

That is why Flowers, who is Black, and several other members of the North American Scrabble Players Association, have called on the organization to ban the use of an anti-Black racial slur, and as many as 225 other offensive terms, from its lexicon.

“You could be sitting there for a 45-minute game just looking at that word,” said Flowers, a mental health worker from West Memphis, Ark. “And if you don’t know the person who played it, then you wonder, was it put down as a slight, or was it the first word that came to their mind?”

Needless to say, the article does not include a list of these 226 terms.

(16) QUICKER FIX. “Cathedral’s spire will be restored to 19th Century design”.

The spire of Notre Dame cathedral, which was destroyed in a fire last April, will be restored according to the original Gothic design.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced the decision, putting an end to speculation that the spire would be rebuilt in a modern style.

Mr Macron had previously hinted he was in favour of a “contemporary gesture”.

However he has said he wants the restoration to be completed by 2024, when Paris is hosting the Olympics.

The Elysée said Mr Macron’s main concern was “not delaying the reconstruction and making it complicated – things had to be cleared up quickly”.

It added that the process of designing a modern spire, with an international competition for architects, could have caused unnecessary delays.

(17) RATS LIKE US. “To Come To The Rescue Or Not? Rats, Like People, Take Cues From Bystanders” says NPR.

Rats will enthusiastically work to free a rat caught in a trap — and it turns out that they are especially eager to be a good Samaritan when they’re in the company of other willing helpers.

But that urge to come to the rescue quickly disappears if a potential hero is surrounded by indifferent rat pals that make no move to assist the unfortunate, trapped rodent.

These findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, suggest that rats are similar to people in that they’re usually eager to help, but bystanders can affect whether or not they’ll take action in an emergency.

“We are constantly looking at others to see their reactions. And this is not a human thing. This is a mammalian thing,” says Peggy Mason, a neurobiologist at the University of Chicago, adding that it’s something she watches play out in the daily news.

…”With the addition of more and more bystanders, the likelihood of helping goes progressively lower,” Mason explains. “It’s in every textbook. It’s a pillar of modern psychology.”

Until recently, though, the bystander effect had only been tested in humans. And Mason studies rats.

(18) KEEP COOL. “‘Don’t scream and be serious’ Japan theme park tells rollercoaster riders”

Many people might find it tricky keeping quiet through an entire roller coaster ride, but one Japanese theme park wants you to do that – and more.

Fuji-Q Highland near Tokyo re-opened last month after its virus shutdown.

It asked riders to avoid screaming when they go on its rollercoasters, to minimise spreading droplets, and instead “scream inside your heart”.

And to encourage people to play along, it’s getting riders to put on their most “serious face” for the ride photo.

They can share their photo online in the #KeepASeriousFace challenge, and those who do best will be given free day passes

…The no screaming rule – in addition to the mandatory use of masks – is meant to stop potential virus-carrying droplets from flying out of your mouth at 80mph.

Clearly, it’ll be impossible to enforce this ruling – and according to executives who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, violations will not actually be punished.

But it’s all part of measures being taken by theme parks to give customers the confidence to return after the shutdowns, and assure them their safety is being taken seriously.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Tähtivaeltaja Award 2020

The Tähtivaeltaja (“Star Rover”) Award winner was posted on May 13. The award, given by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society, goes to the best science fiction book published in Finland in the previous year.

  • Margaret Atwood: Testamentit. (Otavan Kirjasto) Translated into Finnish by Hilkka Pekkanen.

The Helsinki Science Fiction Society has been presenting the “Star Rover” award since 1986. This year’s winner was selected by a jury composed of journalist Hannu Blommila, editor Toni Jerrman, critic Elli Leppä, and critic Kaisa Ranta.

ALA Lists the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019

During National Library Week, April 19 – 25, the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2020 State of America’s Libraries report.

The report found that the popularity of libraries in 2019 continues to soar. According to a recent Gallup poll, visiting the library is the “most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” In 2019, US adults reported taking an average of 10.5 trips per year to the library, a frequency that exceeded their participation in other common leisure activities like going to the movies, a museum or the zoo.

Additional report findings illustrate a 17% increase in the number of books targeted for removal or restriction fueling library staff efforts to protect the freedom to read. Hundreds of attempts from the public to remove or restrict materials, cancel programs, and dismantle displays and exhibits took place in public, school and academic libraries. The majority of library materials and services targeted for removal included or addressed LGBTQIA+ content.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Overall, 566 books were targeted.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Here are the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019,” along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

1. “George,” by Alex Gino

Reasons: to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

2. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

3. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

4. “Sex is a Funny Word,” by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

5. “Prince & Knight,” by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Reasons: featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint.

6. “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

7. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood

Reasons: profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

8. “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Reasons: referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

10. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole

Reason: LGBTQIA+ content

Other library trends are available in the full text of the State of America’s Libraries 2020 report, available at here.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/20 Send Me The Pixel That You Scroll On

(1) THE TEN DOCTORS. The BBC’s Big Night In fundraising telethon broadcast April 23 included “The Doctors’ inspiring message to all frontline workers” delivered by regiment of actors who have played Doctor Who — Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, and Jo Martin.

Doctors, past and present, unite together to send a powerful message to all frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus. Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for the first time to deliver a very special night of television during these unprecedented times.The Big Night In brings the nation an evening of unforgettable entertainment in a way we’ve never seen before. More importantly, it will also raise money for and pay tribute to those on the front line fighting Covid-19 and all the unsung heroes going that extra mile to support their communities.

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

…We have all come together together together together together together together together for one important reason to praise salute and give the heartfelt thanks to real-life special doctors nurses and everyone everyone working on the phone lines in our NHS and care homes and hospices what you all do and have done for all of us is amazing it’s crucial phenomenal…

(2) HOLLAND CON DELAYED. Kees Van Toorn’s Reunicon 2020, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Worldcon in The Hague, has been postponed until August 2021.

Due to official regulations enforced by many countries worldwide concerning the covid-19 virus, all public events and travelling restrictions have been scrapped or postponed. That includes REUNICON 2020, alas. However, we have rescheduled the convention in August 20-22 in 2021. We are confident we will be able to host REUNICON next year, making it a good place to come to and share memories of CONFICTION 1990 as well as to remember all those we have lost in the past years and the grim period we now face. In the meantime, be well, stay healthy and take care of each other. And stay tuned for more information!

(3) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Steven Saus found a problem: “Minecraft Bug: Despawning Named Zombie Villagers”.

We discovered what seems to be a bug in Minecraft. Named mobs are not supposed to despawn when the chunk unloads, but named villagers that are turned into (named) zombie villagers end up despawning too.

.. My named villager “Bait” was turned into a named zombie villager all right, but he also immediately despawned when the chunk unloaded.

If you want to spend 90 seconds you can watch it happen – yes, I admit I did…

(4) ACHIEVEMENTS TO UNLOCK. At the SFWA Blog, Cat Rambo begins “Effective Goal Setting for Writers” with this overview:

Something I work on with my coaching clients is goal setting, which is made up of several parts:

  • figuring out where they want to be in six months to a year
  • figuring out what the milestones of that goal are and mapping them against the schedule
  • figuring out the monthly goals they need to hit in order to achieve that schedule
  • figuring out the weekly goals necessary to achieve those monthly goals

(5) US IN FLUX. The third story for Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “When We Call a Place Home,” by Chinelo Onwualu.

On Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Chinelo in conversation with Robert Evans, a conflict journalist and host of the podcasts Behind the Bastards and The Women’s War about the story “When We Call a Place Home” and the real-world community in Northern Syria that inspired the tale.

(6) REASONS REVISITED. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] In a free reprint from 2001, The London Review of Books’ Jenny Turner discusses “Reasons for liking Tolkien” — long, meaty, and balanced.

A writer, born around 1890, is famous for three novels. The first is short, elegant, an instant classic. The second, the masterpiece, has the same characters in it, is much longer and more complicated, and increasingly interested in myth and language games. The third is enormous, mad, unreadable. One answer is Joyce, of course. Another – The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1955), The Silmarillion (1977) – is J.R.R. Tolkien.

A writer, born around 1890, raged against ‘mass-production robot factories and the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic’ and ‘the rawness and ugliness of modern European life’. Instead he loved the trees and hedgerows of the English Midlands he had known as a boy, and the tales of ‘little, ultimate creatures’ he came across in the legends of the North. Clue: it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence.

A writer, born around 1890, worked bits of ancient writings into his own massive masterwork, magnificently misprising them as he went. Clue: it wasn’t Pound.

…A writer, born around 1890, declared himself a monarchist and a Catholic; and no, it wasn’t Eliot. In form, in content, in everything about it, The Lord of the Rings is the most anti-Modernist of novels. It is really very funny to think about how similar it is in so many ways to the works of the great Modernists.

(7) WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO? From The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood’s lockdown diary: life as an eccentric self-isolationist”.

As the first world war dragged on, volunteer women’s groups of all kinds formed in aid of the troops in the trenches: bandage rolling, preserved foods box packing, knitting. My grandmother joined a knitting group in rural Nova Scotia. You started on washcloths, progressed to scarves; then, if you were sufficiently adroit, you moved on to balaclavas and socks, and ultimately – the pinnacle! – to gloves. My grandmother was a terrible knitter. She never got beyond washcloths.

I’ve often wondered about these knitting groups. What were they for, really? Were they providing much-needed knitted items, or were they boosting morale by giving a bunch of otherwise very anxious civilians, whose sons and husbands were in jeopardy, something to do with their hands while waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting? I can see the socks and gloves making it to the frontlines, but the washcloths? Photographs of muddy, cramped, stinky trench life don’t show much washing going on. And my grandmother’s wonky, hole-filled washcloths in particular – were they sent to a secret depot where they were unraveled, and their wool reclaimed for something more functional?

So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s washcloths – not ultimately useful, perhaps, but let’s hope they focused the mind and gave a sense of accomplishment – I present some of my more bizarre self-isolation activities. You can do some of them at home. Though perhaps you won’t wish to.

…Another activity I’ve been doing lately is squirrel foiling. Hear a gnawing sound in the ceiling? These are your choices, in this part of the world: raccoons, possums, rats, squirrels, Google Earth. Probably squirrels, I thought, and so it proved to be. At first I foiled them by playing hot jazz and acid rock right under their gnawing station, but they got used to the wailing and screaming, so I climbed up a stepladder, placed a large steel bowl against the ceiling, and whacked it with a big metal serving spoon. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been doing that alone at night – the Younger Generation will scold when they read this – because people my age fall off ladders and break their necks, especially when not holding on because you need two hands for steel bowl banging. I won’t do it again, promise. (Until next time.)…

(8) MANDALORIAN MAKERS. Here’s a two-minute teaser for the next season of The Mandalorian, with appearances by Jon Favreau (creator/writer/executive producer), Dave Filoni (writer/director/executive producer), Deborah Chow (director), Bryce Dallas Howard (director), Taika Waititi (director/IG-11), Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). Starts starts streaming May the 4th, on Disney+.

(9) MILLER OBIT. Ryder W. Miller (1965-2020)  passed away March 15 after a six-month fight with pancreatic cancer. A critic, poet, writer, and journalist, he was a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, EGJ, and Rain Taxi, and also appeared in Mythlore. He published stories at The Lost Souls website. He is the author of Tales of Suspense and Horror, co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History, and editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (ibooks, 2005).

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.

In concert, Wikipedia has selected as its word of the day unputdownable:

Of a person, etc.: difficult or impossible to put down (in various senses). (specifically) Of a book or other written work: so captivating or engrossing that one cannot bear to stop reading it.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada.

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series that first aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1963. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a time-travelling alien, who travels through time and space in a time machine and spacecraft called Time and Relative Dimension in Space or TARDIS. The TARDIS looks like a London police box from the 1960s.

Called The Impossible Astronaut, the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 23, 1974 Planet Earth premiered. Created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, it was — not surprisingly – also based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a 45% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 85. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 74. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 65. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction, 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 64. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 58. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 47. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a  Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as is her newest novel Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) STILL IN THE DUGOUT. Last year Chris Barkley sent retiring Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman a copy of his “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask” column full of advice about how to improve Major League Baseball, and he was ecstatic to finally receive an answer.

(15) EARTH DAY. Brain Pickings will celebrate Earth Day on April 25 with its The Universe in Verse event, a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry, streaming on Vimeo.

“I don’t think it would have been conceivable to me when I was seventeen that science would ever need defending, let alone by a poet,” the poet Jane Hirshfield says in her beautiful and poignant meditation on her memory of the first Earth Day in 1970, prefacing her reading at the 2020 Universe in Verse, celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. (Tune into the global broadcast at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25, to hear Hirshfield and a constellation of other radiant minds.

…Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna LevinKip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne CashPatti SmithAmanda PalmerZoë KeatingMorley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane HirshfieldRoss GayMarie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca SolnitElizabeth GilbertMasha GessenRoxane GayRobert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie MillmanDustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

(16) ANATOMY OF A BLACK HOLE. “In a photo of a black hole, a possible key to mysteries” from the Harvard Gazette.

So little is known about them and the image hints at a path to a higher-resolution image and more and better data

Billions of people worldwide marveled at the first image ever captured of a black hole. The photo of the glowing, blurry doughnut, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, showed the massive dark region, a monster the size of our solar system, that, like its peers, gobbles up everything — even light — that ventures too close.

“I definitely got shivers down my spine,” said Alexander Lupsasca, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, remembering the moment he saw the photo for the first time. It was thrilling because so very little is known about black holes. And now, Lupsasca and a team of scientists at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative say the image may help provide more answers: Hidden within the glowing ring are an infinite number of sub-rings that offer a way to capture an even higher-resolution image and more precise data on the massive enigmas of the universe.

“They’re paradoxical objects. They’re the epitome of what we don’t understand,” said Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard. “And it’s very exciting to see something that you don’t understand.” Black holes are one of the great puzzles of modern physics — where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics collide. Scientists still know so little about them — their mass, how fast they spin, what’s inside their warped space-time. Until the EHT produced the first actual image, Strominger could only investigate their mysteries with complex mathematics, pencil, and paper. “I cried when I saw their picture,” he said. Then, he asked: “What can we learn from this?”

…“As we peer into these rings, first, second, third, etc., we are looking at light from all over the visible universe; we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe,” said Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, in the Black Hole Initiative’s press release.

(17) A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new project at MIT may allow one to control lucid dreams (those in which you’re aware you’re dreaming)… at least a bit. As one drops into hypnagogia, that liminal state between being awake and being asleep, a wearable in development detects this and triggers a pre-selected one-word audio cue. In theory this may help the wearer to be like David Beckham and bend a lucid dream to follow a desired trajectory.

To say that the Popular Mechanics article’s author, Caroline Delbert, is skeptical of the usefulness of this would be an understatement. “Would You Wear This Glove to Hack Your Dreams?”

(18) DRAWING FOR HEALTH. “The Japanese monster going viral” – BBC has the story.

People across the world are drawing images of a mythical Japanese spirit believed to help ward off plagues.

In Japan, as parts of the country declare a state of emergency, people here have been reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic in a unique way: by sharing images online of a mystical, mermaid-like being believed to ward off plagues.

Largely forgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea.

Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.

(19) HEAL, SPOT HEAL! Spot the Robot Dog is trying out for a job as a telemedicine worker reports Forbes: “Spot The Robot Dog Roams The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Front Lines”.

Spot, the famous robot dog from Boston Dynamics, has been conscripted into service to work on the front lines helping medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers at the company, which was formerly a subsidiary of Google before being purchased by Softbank, have been working for the past six weeks to develop the means for Spot to help reduce the exposure of healthcare workers.

So far Spot has been working with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where robots outfitted with a special payload are deployed in triage tents and parking lots to help staff receive patients suspected to have COVID-19 and perform initial assessments.

“With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply,” explains a release from Boston Dynamics.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A video on YouTube as “vol. 5 Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798/1861)” is an animation by Pasquale D’Amico of works by a 19th-century macabre Japanese artist.

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