Pixel Scroll 12/27/21 The Force That Through The Green Pixel Drives The Scroll

(1) NEW YEAR’S WHO. “Doctor Who’s special time loop trailer teases huge Dalek moment”Digital Spy introduces the clip. BEWARE SPOILERS.

The New Year’s Day special ‘Eve of the Daleks’ will see Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor getting stuck in a time loop with Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), Dan Lewis (John Bishop) and a group of deadly Daleks.

The episode also features Aisling Bea and Adjani Salmon in the roles of Sarah and Nick as they get ready to celebrate the start of the new year….

(2) TRANSPORT OF DELIGHT. Julian Yap and Fran Wilde begin weekly publication of The Sunday Morning Transport in January, delivering speculative fiction using a newsletter platform. Subscribe for one free story a month, or become a paid subscriber and get a story every week.

Subscribing to Sunday Morning Transport means bringing a a new speculative short story connection to your inbox every week, fifty weeks a year.

Sunday Morning Transport readers are makers, thinkers, scientists, artists, authors, dreamers. With a single speculative short story each Sunday, we connect across space and time. We deliver, right to your inbox: a moment of whimsy; a deep dive into an unknown world; a single illuminating transformation; a vibrant community of readers and writers built around the best new speculative stories each week.

Free subscribers receive one story a month. Paid subscribers receive one story each week, fifty weeks a year.  For paid subscribers, there’s more: the opportunity to join in a conversation about story, to ask questions, and to help build a year’s worth of moments with authors including Max Gladstone, Karen Lord, Elwin Cotman, Kij Johnson, Kat Howard, Elsa Sjunnesson, Kathleen Jennings, Katherine Addison, Juan Martinez, E.C. Myers, Maureen McHugh, Tessa Gratton, Sarah Pinsker, Michael Swanwick, Brian Slattery, Malka Older, and many more. 

Subscribe now, and get ready for your Sunday Morning Transport starting in January 2022.

(3) BUILDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Ira Alexandre has launched a discussion on Twitter by asking: For purposes of a Game Hugo, what does it mean for a game to be “in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, or related subjects”? Thread starts here.

(4) A BAD WORD. Frell from Farscape is my favorite genre swear word, says Cat Eldridge. “Smeg and the art of sci-fi swearing” at Kerrang!

…For a long old time, the quickest way to get taken out of libraries or complained about by parents was to include swearing. This led sci-fi creators to come up with new alternatives to the usual suspects, both to evade censorship and emphasise the ‘otherness’ of the worlds in which their tales took place (if a movie was set 10,000 years in the future and started with someone calling someone else a shithead, that would just seem plain silly).

Bill The Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison is a terrific book, a laugh-out-loud funny anti-war satire with a hidden gut-punch of an ending. A bleakly hilarious look at the futility of war and the cruelty with which people can treat one another, it’s a book that should be read by as many people as possible – ideally when they are about 12. During the title character’s ascension through the ranks of the Space Troopers, there’s plenty of effing and jeffing, except Harry opts for his own coinage, ‘bowb’, instead of the curses we all know and love.

As with a lot of made-up swear words, ‘bowb’ is kind of all-purpose – the phrases “Don’t give me any of your bowb!”, “Get over here, you stupid bowb!” and “What is this, “Bowb Your Buddy Week?” suggest it can be substituted in easily enough for ‘shit’, ‘bastard’, ’asshole’ and ‘fuck’….

(5) IN TIMES TO COME NEXT WEEK. Nicholas Whyte tries the thought experiment of anticipating next year with the help of films and stories that treat 2022 as history: “2022 according to science fiction, in novels and films” at From the Heart of Europe. Some of these sources aren’t very helpful!

Time Runner (1993)

What’s it about? Mark Hamill, unsuccessfully attempting to fight off an alien invasion of Earth in 2022, somehow gets sent thirty years back in time to try and prevent it all from happening. He tangles with a corrupt politician who is destined to become the collaborationist president of the world, and ends up assisting at his own birth.

Is 2022 really going to be like that? Actually most of the film is set in 1992, apart from the very beginning and occasional flashforwards. As of now, we don’t (yet) have a President of Earth; as for the alien invasion, we will have to wait and see….

(6) FANZINES IN THE FAMILY TREE. Andrew Porter tells why the Gothamist report is sff-related: “Patti Smith Receives Key To New York City: ‘I Wish I Could Give NYC The Key To Me’”. It has to do with the photo accompanying the article.

In his last weeks as mayor, Bill de Blasio has been bestowing Keys to New York City to a number of figures, including legendary music producer Clive Davis (who helped stage the ultimately Mother Nature-interrupted “Homecoming” concert in Central Park), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his indefatigable support for the city. On his last Monday in office, de Blasio honored one of his favorite artists, the “punk rock laureate,” Patti Smith….

Note Lenny Kaye in the photo behind her. Lenny was a teenage science fiction fan, active in science fiction fandom and publishing a fanzine, Here’s an article about his SF fanzine collection: “The Tattooed Dragon Meets The Wolfman: Lenny Kaye’s Science Fiction Fanzines”, a 2014 Thought Catalog post.

(7) TAKE BIXELSTRASSE TO I-95. Gwen C. Katz tweeted her interpretation of the history that shaped Worldcon’s administrative culture. Thread starts here.

(8) THE PRESTIGE. Catherine Lundoff followed-up the Katz thread with her thoughts about the Hugo Awards. Thread starts here. Lundoff evidently is focused on book-length work, since publishers of finalists like Uncanny, Clarkesworld, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, for example, aren’t operating with “deep pockets.”

(9) END OF WATCH. At Vox: “NASA will let the ISS disintegrate into the atmosphere. Here’s why”. When hasn’t been specified, but “NASA has only technically certified the station’s hardware until 2028.”

The International Space Station brings together astronauts from around the world to collaborate on cutting-edge research, and some have called it humanity’s greatest achievement. But after two decades in orbit, the ISS will shut down, and a crop of several new space stations will take its place. While these new stations will make it easier for more humans to visit space, they’re also bound to create new political and economic tensions.

NASA is scaling back its presence in low-Earth orbit as the government focuses on sending humans back to the moon and, eventually, to Mars. As part of that transition, the space agency wants to rent out facilities for its astronauts on new space stations run by private companies. When these stations are ready, NASA will guide the ISS into the atmosphere, where it will burn up and disintegrate. At that point, anyone hoping to work in space will have to choose among several different outposts. That means countries won’t just be using these new stations to strengthen their own national space programs, but as lucrative business ventures, too….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1893 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] One hundred twenty-eight years ago, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes was first published by G. Newnes Ltd. sometime late in 1893 with an actual publication date listed as 1894. It was the second collection following The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and like the first it was illustrated by Sidney Paget. This hardcover edition has two hundred seventy-nine pages comprising twelve stories. The stories were previously published in the Strand Magazine

Doyle had determined that these would be the last Holmes stories, and intended to kill off the character in “The Final Problem”, but a decade later a new series, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, would begin in the aftermath of “The Final Problem”, in which it is revealed that Holmes actually survived. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 27, 1938 Jean Hale. If you’ve watched Sixties genre television, you’ve likely seen her as she showed up on My Favorite MartianIn Like Flint (at least genre adjacent), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, My Brother the AngelWild, Wild WestBatman and Tarzan. (Died 2021.)
  • Born December 27, 1951 Robbie Bourget, 70. She started out as an Ottawa-area fan, where she became involved in a local Who club and the OSFS before moving to LA and becoming deeply involved in LASFS. She’s been a key member of many a Worldcon and Who convention over the years. She was the co-DUFF winner with Marty Cantor for Aussiecon 2. She moved to London in the late Nineties.
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 61. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book series? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role, in it.
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 44. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The End of Time” as Addams but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time.
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 34. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another one now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The  Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed.
  • Born December 27, 1995 Timothée Chalamet, 26. First SF role was as the young Tom Cooper in the well received Interstellar. His only other genre role was Zac in One & Two before he played Paul Atreides in Director Denis Villeneuve’s Dune.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side shows something by the side of the road – a little too big for a hubcap, I’m thinking.
  • The Argyle Sweater spots the moment an undercover operator’s cover is blown.

(13) IS SF ABOUT THE PRESENT OR FUTURE? Star Trek shouldn’t be gloomy insists Reason Magazine’s Eric Studer: “Even if Modern Star Trek Doesn’t Think So, the World Is Getting Better”.

For decades, various incarnations of Star Trek have offered mostly positive visions for the future of humanity—one in which we’ve set aside petty, earthbound squabbles in favor of boldly seeking out new worlds (and, of course, finding the occasional conflict). 

But the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery (Paramount+), the seventh television series in the long-running franchise, have too often seemed tied down by storylines that might have more in common with real-world politics of the 21st century rather than the unbridled optimism that was such an important part of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s original conception for the show. Discovery is highly serialized, more focused on a single calamity than a larger sense of exploration, and with far more internally focused characters who care more about their own interests than in a larger plan for society.

As a result, Star Trek now seeks to reinforce the trepidation and existential doubt that is a hallmark of our modern culture. Instead of showing the potential of what humanity can become, Discovery seems to reflect more on what the feelings of the human condition are today…

(14) INVADER FROM MARS. Space.com celebrates an anniversary: “On This Day in Space! Dec. 27, 1984: Famed Allan Hills Mars meteorite found in Antarctica”.

On Dec. 27, 1984, one of the most famous Mars meteorites was found in Antarctica. 

…Weighing in at just over 4 lbs., this space rock is considered to be one of the oldest Martian meteorites ever found on Earth. Scientists estimate that it crystallized from molten rock more than 4 billion years ago, when Mars still had liquid water on its surface. It also has been the source of controversy about the search for life on Mars that continues to this day.

(15) NOT JUST ANY KIND OF HORROR. The new episode of the Rite Gud podcast features an interview with John Langan on cosmic horror. And also about the horror of dealing with the publishing industry.

Bram Stoker Award-winning author John Langan joins us to talk about cosmic horror, his novel The Fisherman, upstate New York, how much money writers make (none), and how hard it is to get published when you’re a little too literary for the genre crowd but a little too genre for the literary crowd. Special appearance by Langan’s wiener dog/beagle.

(16) OPENING OUT OF TOWN. “Terry Gilliam’s Disputed Sondheim Show Finds a Home” – the New York Times knows its address.

For weeks, a question hung over London theater: What would happen to Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods”?

On Nov. 1, the Old Vic theater canceled a revival of the musical, co-directed by Terry Gilliam, after a dispute in which the renowned director was accused of endorsing transphobic views and playing down the MeToo movement. That left the production in limbo and London’s theater world wondering if anyone would dare to take it on.

Now, there is an answer. On Aug. 19, 2022, Gilliam’s “Into the Woods” will debut at the Theater Royal in Bath, 115 miles from London. The show will run through Sep. 10, 2022, the theater said in a statement….

(17) CRITICAL COMPONENT. DUST presents a short film about a young robot with a defective part, trying to find their way in the world.

(18) A BETTER PLAN. “Tesla agrees to stop letting drivers play video games in moving cars”  says the New York Times.

Tesla has agreed to modify software in its cars to prevent drivers and passengers from playing video games on the dashboard screens while vehicle are in motion, a federal safety regulator said on Thursday.

The agreement came a day after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal investigation of the game feature, which is known as Passenger Play. The investigation was announced after The New York Times reported this month on the potential safety risks the games posed….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Alasdair Beckett-King’s parodies are news to me but not to his quarter of a million YouTube subscribers. Here’s a sample.

As the first person ever to spoof Doctor Who, I decided not to bother doing an impression of 13 different actors, and just wore a jaunty hat instead.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, N., Bill, Raquel S. Benedict, Jeffrey Smith, Nicholas Whyte, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/21 Pixeland Is The Scrolliest Place On Earth

(1) LET US REMEMBER THE TWENTY-FIRST OF DECEMBER. It’s already dark out! Oh, wait – today’s the Winter Solstice! No wonder. Let NASA Ames Research Center tell you all about it.

(2) RAYTHEON. Social media criticism for DisCon III’s acceptance of Raytheon sponsorship money splashed onto some of the Hugo ceremony participants. The committee issued this statement:

Cora Buhlert commented:

(3) WORLDCON ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES. Mari Ness, who navigates convention space in a wheelchair, summarizes her experiences with DisCon III, which she ultimately decided against attending: “Are we really doing this again? Discon III, accessibility, and genre cons” at Blogging with Dragons.

Discon III turned out to be my worst Worldcon ever – one of my worst genre events, ever.

And I didn’t even go….

(4) THE GAME’S AFOOT. Congratulations to James Nicoll Reviews on posting their 2000th review today: “Just Lots of Little Frames”, about Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, and Jason Durall’s 2021 The Runequest Starter Set, which is a starter set for Runequest: Roleplaying in Glorantha . As always, the footnotes are great!

(5) FIFTY THOUSAND BEBOP FANS CAN’T BE WRONG. Yahoo!‘s Jeff Yeung has an updated report about the ongoing Cowboy Bebop petition:

Netflix’s recent cancellation of the live-action Cowboy Bebop has left many fans disappointed, and now more than 50,000 of them have signed a petition to bring the show back for a second season.”

“I truly loved working on this,” the show’s co-executive producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach said on Twitter after Netflix’s decision. “It came from a real and pure place of respect and affection. I wish we could make what we planned for a second season, but you know what they say, men plan, God laughs.” He added that the team “had so much cool sh*t planned” for Cowboy Bebop’s second season.”

(6) SUITE MEMORIES. Covert J. Beach gives a full rundown on the party suite he used for his “loosely invitational” parties at DisCon III (which also ended up being the location for the Chengdu Victory Party when “it turned out that the suite that had been earmarked for Chengdu had been given away.”)  

….At over 1800 sqft the Suite was bigger than my Condo, complete with full kitchen (I even baked something) and a full washer-dryer. To do it justice I brought three bags of booze rather than just two, discovering in the process that the Briggs and Riley Baseline Carryon is a fantastic piece of luggage to carry booze. It is the perfect width for most long whisky tins. It took two full trips of the car to move the party kit to the hotel, and two back (the 2nd return load which totally packed the car is picured), with a third supplementary trip each way. I caused a lot of bemusement with the valets.

The Convention had a bartender on tap over zoom so people could get advice on what drinks to make. I hear a number of calls were made from the room in the suite called “The Library” where the bartender was amazed at the variety the Capclave/Balticon Scotch Cabal put together (I don’t bring it all.) Much was drunk….

(7) TOP SHELF. Polygon offers its picks of “The best fantasy and sci-fi books of 2021”. In alphabetical order by author’s last name, so no definitive number one ranking.

…If you love books then you know: They aren’t just escapism, they also inspire introspection, making us think harder about the world we live in. This is precisely the promise of great science fiction and fantasy — categories we’ve chosen to consider in a list together, as fantastic books continue to blur the line between the two speculative genres (and besides, we love to read them all). These 20 books span genres and perspectives — from space operas, to Norse mythology retellings, to romances with a dash of time travel. But all of them gave us something new to consider.

In a year with so many incredible choices, it was hard to narrow down the list. So we’ve also included some of our favorite runners up….

(8) WOMEN OF MARVEL. In March, Women Of Marvel #1 will continue highlighting Marvel’s female heroes in an all-new collection of tales. 

  • A Squirrel Girl and Black Widow team-up against a maniacal villain in a story that explores the complexities of super hero identities by Hugo award winning writer Charlie Jane Anders
  • An action-packed Shanna the She-Devil and Silver Sable short sees the jungle ladies battle against wild animal poachers by award winning video game script writer Rhianna Pratchett
  • A dark Jessica Jones tale of compulsion and redemption from celebrated creator Jordie Bellaire and drawn by rising star Zoe Thorogood
  • A fun-filled page-flipper of Black Cat’s greatest failures and latest triumphes by novelist Preeti Chhibber and superstar artists Jen Bartel, Marguerite Sauvage and more!
  • The Marvel Comics writing debut of artist Mirka Andolfo and much more!

(9) MILAN MEMBER OF JURY IN HIGHLY-PUBLICIZED CASE. [Item by rcade.] The romance novelist Courtney Milan revealed on Twitter that she was a juror in the trial that led to truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos being sentenced to 110 years in prison for the 29-vehicle crash in Colorado that killed four people in 2019. The brakes on his truck failed while he was descending mountains on Interstate 70, leading to the accident after he didn’t veer off into a runaway truck lane.

Milan wrote this on December 14 in tweets she subsequently deleted (Archive.today copy below):

I’m going to write something longer about this, but I just have to say this right now: 110 years is unjust. I feel sick with how unjust this is.

I don’t feel like I can say much right now because my brain keeps stuttering out on this, but my brain will come back online at some point.

I was on the jury in this case and if I had known this was the mandatory minimum for a kid who made some really bad decisions at exactly the wrong time, I would absolutely have engaged in jury nullification.

The severity of the sentence, which must be served consecutively, has brought international attention to the case. A Change.org petition asking Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to grant clemency or a commutation to Aguilera-Mederos has received over 4.5 million signatures.

Before becoming a full-time romance writer, Milan was a law professor at Seattle University School of Law and clerk to Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, according to the Washington Post.

A male juror in the case told Fox 31 the sentence was “100-fold of what it should have been” and had this reaction when it was handed down: “I cried my eyes out.”

(10) STEP RIGHT UP. Signal boosting Connie Willis’ appeal for Locus subscriptions and donations. If she were here she’d say click to support Locus today.

(11) ORENSTEIN OBIT. Inventor Henry Orenstein, responsible for many popular toys including Transformers, died December 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Henry Orenstein, 98, Dies; Force Behind Transformers and Poker on TV”.

…He refashioned himself as a toy inventor (he held dozens of patents) and broker. During the Toy Fair in Manhattan in the early 1980s, he saw a Japanese-made toy — a tiny car that could easily change into an airplane — and recognized more elaborate possibilities.

“He started playing with it and said, ‘This is the best thing I’ve seen in at least 10 years,’” recalled Mrs. Orenstein, who, as Carolyn Sue Vankovich, met her future husband in 1967 when she was demonstrating Suzy Homemaker at the Toy Fair. “He had the sparkle he got when he got excited.”

Mr. Orenstein put together a deal between Hasbro and the Japanese manufacturer, Takara, which led to Hasbro’s introduction in 1984 of Transformers, toy robots that could turn into vehicles or beasts. They would become hugely popular, spawning an animated television series and a movie franchise.

“Ideas don’t come in little pieces,” Mr. Orenstein told Newsweek in 2016. “It’s in, it’s out. It’s there or it’s not,” he said. “I was just an inventor. You needed a big company to do what I thought should be done: making real transformations from complex things to other complex things.”…

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1965 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ?Fifty-six years ago one of the best Bond films premiered in the form of Thunderball. Directed by Terence Young, it was the fourth Bond film off a  screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins off yet another Fleming novel. The original screenplay was by Jack Whittingham but it wasn’t used. 

Need I say that Sean Connery plays Bond here? Well this will be only the first time that Connery plays Bond based off this novel as he’ll play him in Never Say Never Again which was executive produced by Kevin McClory, one of the original writers of the Thunderball story. McClory had the filming rights of the novel following a very long legal battle dating from the Sixties.

Reception from critics was decidedly mixed but Dilys Powell of The Sunday Times said that “The cinema was a duller place before 007.”  The box office was fantastic as it earned out one hundred and forty million against a budget of under ten million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather excellent seventy-three percent rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1898 Hubert Rogers. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines. His first freelance work was for Ace-HighAdventureRomance, and West. In ‘42, he started doing covers for Astounding Science Fiction which he would do until ‘53. He did the cover art for the ‘51 edition of The Green Hills of Earth, the ‘50 edition of The Man Who Sold the Moon and the ‘53 edition of Revolt in 2100. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 21, 1928 Frank Hampson. A British illustrator that is best known as the creator and artist of Dan Dare, Pilot of The Future and other characters in the boys’ comic, The Eagle, to which he contributed from 1950 to 1961. There is some dispute over how much his original scripts were altered by his assistants before being printed. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-wrote The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3New Worlds SFScience Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 84. I’m sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella. Her only other genre appearances are apparently voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film.  
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 73. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron ManIron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First AvengerThe AvengersCaptain America: The Winter SoldierAvengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him.
  • Born December 21, 1943 Jack Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s in Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He’s also a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be even genre adjacent. (Died 1996.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 77. Ok he’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings more short fiction that I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Worthy of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 55. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including FlatlinersTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeThe Three Musketeers, voice work in Armitage: Poly-MatrixDark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration, Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn TwilightMirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s alternate history drives the world of a well-known Christmas carol.

(15) SWEDEN ACQUIRES A STEED. “Dark Horse Comics to Be Acquired by Gaming Giant Embracer Group”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Dark Horse Comics properties such as Hellboy and The Umbrella Academy are finding a new home. The indie comics publisher has agreed to be sold to Embracer Group, the Swedish video game conglomerate. The deal is expected to close in early 2022….

(16) THE RAIN IN NEW SPAIN STAYS THE LAUNCH AGAIN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Astronomers have once again been told they must wait a bit to open their Big Present—launch of the James Webb space telescope. The latest, and hopefully the last, delay has pushed the launch until Christmas day. This one-day delay is due to expected advert weather conditions. “Delay pushes NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launch to Christmas morning” at CNN.

The highly anticipated launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed yet again — this time because of interference by Mother Nature.

Now, the telescope is expected to launch on December 25 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

The launch window opens Christmas morning at 7:20 a.m. ET and closes at 7:52 a.m. ET. Live coverage of the launch will stream on NASA’s TV channel and website beginning Saturday at 6 a.m.

The news of adverse weather conditions came shortly after NASA shared that the Launch Readiness Review for the telescope was completed on Tuesday….

(17) ABOUT THE WESTERN SPELLING OF A CHENGDU GOH’S NAME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Given the fuss some make over pronunciation, I am a little reluctant to wade in here (though I have lost count of the number of times my own name has been mispronounced, misspelled and even an alternate used (well, this last is a bit debatable but suffice to say my first name is not the one I am commonly known as – and no it wasn’t my choice).)  There are simply far more important things to get exercised about: human rights, political rights (*cough* Hong Kong) and climate change to name but a few.  Anyway…

How do you spell Sergei Lukyanenko / Lukianenko?  Well, conversions to the Latin alphabet are always problematic. I do not know about the US, but here in Brit Cit William Heinemann published Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series.  If that is his commonly-used publishing name in the West then arguably it would be best to use that so that folk can internet search out his work.

(18) LIFE IMITATES ART. You know the humorous motorcade bits that interrupted the Hugo Awards ceremony? Well, Andrew Porter did not have to leave Washington without seeing the real thing. Here’s his photo of a motorcade taken from his Shoreham Hotel window. 

Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter

(19) IN BEAUTIFUL BURBANK. “The Mystic Museum In Southern California Is Full Of Fascinating Oddities And Vintage Items”Only In Your State’s article includes a photo gallery.

The Mystic Museum is a small museum dedicated to the occult, paranormal, mysticism, and horror. If you find yourself fascinated by the macabre, then consider it the place for you!

(20) HOLIDAY WHO. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist/illustrator Colin Howard did this piece on the 2003 animated Doctor Who serial “Scream of the Shalka”:

(21) THE OTHER GRAND CANYON. Microsoft News for Kids reports: “Orbiter discovers ‘significant amounts of water’ in Grand Canyon-like area of Mars”.

A researcher orbiter circling around Mars has discovered “significant amounts of water” underneath the surface of an area on the red planet similar to the Grand Canyon, according to the European Space Agency.

The orbiter, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, was launched by the European Space Agency along with the Russian Space Agency in 2016 and has been orbiting Mars ever since, with the goal of learning more about the gases and the possibility of life on the planet.

Recently, the orbiter was scanning an area of Mars called Valles Marineris, using the Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector instrument, or FREND, which can detect hydrogen on and up to 3 feet underneath Mars’ soil.

The Valles Marineris is a 2,500-mile-long canyon on Mars with parts that are 4 miles deep. Not only is it 10 times longer and 4 times deeper than the Grand Canyon, but the Valles Marineris’ length is nearly as long as the entire United States.

Data collected from the instrument from May 2018 to Feb. 2021 showed the middle part of the canyon contained a large amount of water, indicating some form of life could possibly be sustained. The findings were published in the solar system journal Icarus on Wednesday…. 

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Spider Man: No Way Home Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the producer watch the five Spider-Man movies before Tom Holland shows up so he can understand the many special guest stars in this one.  “How are we going to market this film without revealing all the crazy stuff?” the producer asks.  “Leaks!” the writer says.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, rcade, Bonnie McDaniel, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/11/21 The Scroll In The High Pixel

(1) REACHING OUT. Kate Elliott distills her sff experience into a Twitter thread, which starts here.

(2) COWBOY BEBOP. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Science fiction author Wesley Chu (The Lives Of TaoThe Walking Dead: Typhoon) posted this “hot take” on Twitter:

He followed it up with a link to the petition “Save the live action Cowboy Bebop” posted in yesterday’s Pixel Scroll: “Make me a prophet, friends! Sign the petition to save Cowboy Bebop.” The petition now has over 2,000 signatures.

(3) IN AND OUT OF FLUX. Camestros Felapton, in “Review: Doctor Who Flux”, assesses how nu-Who’s thirteenth season with the Thirteenth Doctor wrapped up. Beware spoilers!

…So where does that leave Flux and why was it not so terrible despite all that? As I’ve joked before, it was a shaggy-dog story where lots of things happen but most of it doesn’t really matter. Events strung together but without a substantial narrative arc can be entertaining. These kinds of “just a bunch of stuff that happened” plots make millions when they are Fast & Furious movies. I don’t know what the first big example of this approach is but I suspect that is the James Bond film You Only Live Twice which makes not a bit of sense but has so many memorable fragments that it feels like it has a story there. F&F is worse to some degree because that narrative fragmentation splits over multiple films i.e. I can remember lots of scenes from those movies but I have to actively think about elements to work out which film it was from (at least from about F&F5)….

(4) SIGNING OFF. “Nichelle Nichols Appears for Final Comic-Con Events in L.A. amid Conservatorship Battle” reports Yahoo!

…Nichelle Nichols, one of the stars of the original Star Trek series and a pioneering recruiter of women and minorities for America’s space program, made her final convention appearance before her many fans as part of a three-day farewell celebration at L.A. Comic-Con over the weekend.

Best known for playing communications officer Nyota Uhura aboard the starship Enterprise, the iconic actress, singer and dancer — who turns 89 on Dec. 28 — signed autographs, posed for photos and attended an early birthday celebration, where she briefly but joyfully kicked up her heels and danced. Nichols was also the subject of tribute panels throughout the convention, though she did not make any public statements.

An active figure on stage, TV and music since the early 1960s, Nichols’ public and professional life has been slowed since she was diagnosed with dementia in 2018, and she has also been at the center of a conservatorship battle. However, she was all smiles during her many appearances on her retirement tour at Comic-Con LA. Nichols was seen waving, blowing kisses and flashing Star Trek‘s famous Vulcan salute to the many fans who turned out to bid her farewell….

(5) FROM THE ARCHIVES. [Item by Bill.] Metafilter just finished a series of posts over the last week in which highlighted “short speculative fiction stories published by online magazines that are no longer publishing, or that are on hiatus, but whose interesting archives remain online” — Posts tagged with magazinearchives / MetaFilter.

(6) PRAISING WITH FAINT DAMS. Is James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel impressed by this Lafferty Hugo-winner? Please…stop laughing.

This month’s Young People Read Old Hugo Winners presented me with a dilemma. “Eurema’s Dam” by R. A. Lafferty shared the 1973 Hugo for Best Short Story with “The Meeting” by C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl. How to choose between two works the voters found worthy? The answer, it seems, was in having read “The Meeting”, which is about commandeering a developmentally deficient child’s body so the body can house the brain of a superior child. Since I don’t actively dislike my Young People, I went with the story I didn’t remember anything about, a story that only might annoy them, rather than the story I remembered all too well and was absolutely certain would enrage them.

R. A. Lafferty was a beloved author of whimsical fantasies. My brain lacks the proper receptors and I don’t see the appeal. I am aware I am in the minority here. Perhaps my Young People will see the virtues in Lafferty’s writing to which I am blind. Let’s find out! 

(7) TIME AFTER TIME. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree, a series on videogames, worldbuilding, storytelling, and possible futures, is focused on the 2019 game Outer Wilds, about unraveling the mysteries of a solar system caught in a time loop. The guests are game director and designer Randy Smith (Thief series, Waking MarsJETT: The Far Shore) and Luc Riesbeck, a space policy and research analyst at Astroscale U.S.

(8) FUTURE SEASON’S GREETINGS. The Bristol Board has copies of the original space-themed covers by Frank R. Paul for the Christmas issues of Forecast, Hugo Gernsback’s radio and electronics magazine of the Fifties and Sixties. Here’s an example.

(9) THANKS FOR THE MEMORY HOLE. “Feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four approved by Orwell’s estate” – the Guardian has the story.

The estate of George Orwell has approved a feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which reimagines the story from the perspective of Winston Smith’s lover Julia.

… Publisher Granta said that Julia understands the world of Oceania “far better than Winston and is essentially happy with her life”. As Orwell puts it in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “in some ways she was far more acute than Winston, and far less susceptible to Party propaganda … She also stirred a sort of envy in him by telling him that during the Two Minutes Hate her great difficulty was to avoid bursting out laughing. But she only questioned the teachings of the Party when they in some way touched upon her own life. Often she was ready to accept the official mythology, simply because the difference between truth and falsehood did not seem important to her.”

“She has known no other world and, until she meets Winston, never imagined one. She’s opportunistic, believing in nothing and caring not at all about politics. She routinely breaks the rules but also collaborates with the regime whenever necessary. She’s an ideal citizen of Oceania,” said Granta. “But when one day, finding herself walking toward Winston Smith in a long corridor, she impulsively hands him a note – a potentially suicidal gesture – she comes to realise that she’s losing her grip and can no longer safely navigate her world.”

Orwell’s estate said it had been “looking for some time” for an author to tell the story of Smith’s lover, and that Newman, who has previously been longlisted for the Women’s prize and shortlisted for the Guardian first book award, “proved to be the perfect fit”…

(10) WHO DREW. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Colin Howard who did book and VHS covers for Doctor Who in the 1980s-1990s has announced a new art book: Timeslides: The Doctor Who Artwork of Colin Howard.

Colin Howard’s art graced the covers of around thirty VHS releases, and for the first time ever, they’re collected together in Timeslides: The Doctor Who Art of Colin Howard

Join Colin as he opens his personal archive and takes you on a tour of his Doctor Who universe – from iconic videos to book covers, from illustrations to private commissions. Featuring original sketches, unpublished designs, and a fascinating commentary, Timeslides takes you further behind the scenes than ever before.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, The Muppet Christmas Carol premiered as directed by Brian Henson (in his feature film directorial debut) from the screenplay by Jerry Juhl. Based amazingly faithfully off that story, it starred Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge with a multitude of Muppet performers, to wit Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Ed Sanders, Jerry Nelson, Theo Sanders, Kristopher Milnes, Russell Martin, Ray Coulthard  and Frank Oz. I must single out Jessica Fox as the voice of Ghost of Christmas Past. 

Following Jim Henson’s death in May 1990, the talent agent Bill Haber had approached Henson’s son Brian with the idea of filming an adaptation. It was pitched to ABC as a television film, but Disney ended up purchasing it instead. That’s why it’s only available on Disney+ these days. 

Critics in general liked it with Roger Ebert being among them though he added that it “could have done with a few more songs than it has, and the merrymaking at the end might have been carried on a little longer, just to offset the gloom of most of Scrooge’s tour through his lifetime spent spreading misery.” (Those songs were by Paul Williams, another one of his collaborations with the Jim Henson Company after working on The Muppet Movie.) Box office wise, it did just ok as it made twenty-seven million against production costs of twelve million, not counting whatever was spent on marketing. And audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather ungloomy rating of eighty-eight percent.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. He’s best known, or at least best recognized, as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprises in the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing FriendsSpider-WomanThundarr the BarbarianFantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1945 Zienia Merton. She’s best remembered for playing Sandra Benes in Space: 1999. She played Ping-Cho during a series of First Doctor stories. She had roles on Dinotopia, the Sarah Jane Adventures and Wizards vs. Aliens. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 11, 1944 Teri Garr, 77. A long history of genre film roles starting in Young Frankenstein as Inga before next appearing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as Ronnie Neary. Next is the horror film Witches’ Brew where she was Margaret Lightman. She voices Mary McGinnis in Batman Beyond: The Movie, a role she has does on a recurring basis in the series. Series wise, shows up uncredited in the Batman series in the “Instant Freeze” as the Girl Outside the Rink. And of course, she’s Roberta Lincoln in Star Trek’s “Assignment Earth” episode. (I once found a site that the spin-off series had actually been made.) She has a number of other genre roles, none as interesting as that one. 
  • Born December 11, 1954 Richard Paul Russo, 67. Winner of two Philip Dick Awards, first for Subterranean Gallery, and later for Ship of Fools. Subterranean Gallery was also nominated for a Clarke Award. He apparently stopped writing genre fiction quite some time ago. 
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 64. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twenty books and growing. Now I’ve no interest in reading them but Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned the early ones into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. 
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 62. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams which won a World Fantasy Award, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. Her two novels The Little Witch and The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie are most excellent, and are available from the usual digital suspects.  Her collections unfortunately are not. 
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 59. Actor of course best known for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited called “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1”. He’d have an appearance as sheriff in the Eleventh Doctor story, “A Town Called Mercy”, a Weird Western of sorts.
  • Born December 11, 1965 Sherrilyn Kenyon, 56. Best known for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now.  I realize in updating this birthday note that I indeed have read this first several of these and they were damn good. She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor. She has won two World Fantasy Awards, one for her short story, “Journey Into the Kingdom”, and one for her short story collection, Map of Dreams

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) FOR YOUR WISHLIST. Connie Willis wrote a long Facebook post hawking her American Christmas Stories collection.

…Stefanie Peters and David Cloyce Smith and the other editors at Library of America did all the heavy lifting, scouring all sorts of obscure books and magazines, finding thousands of stories for us to choose from, and getting all the necessary permissions and releases. All I did was read a bunch of stories, suggest some stories they’d missed, and write the introduction.)

Between us, we found mysteries, horror stories, Westerns, science-fiction stories, ghost stories, police procedurals, and fantasies, stories by famous authors like Bret Harte and John Updike and stories by writers you’ve never heard of, like Pauline Hopkins and John Kendrick Bangs. Stories by African-American authors writing in the post-Civil War South, by Chinese-American authors writing about California’s Chinatown, by authors of vastly different backgrounds writing about Alaskan and Puerto Rican and Nebraska Christmases.

And we found stories written in all different keys, from cynicism to sentimentality, from nostalgia to urban angst. And comedy. So many Christmas collections focus solely on serious or uplifting stories, but humor’s been a staple of the American Christmas story since Mark Twain and William Dean Howells, and I was really happy we were able to include humorous stories by Shirley Jackson, Robert Benchley, Leo Rosten, Joan Didion, and Damon Runyon.

(Especially Damon Runyon. We would have included all his Christmas stories if we’d had room, and all of O. Henry’s, but alas, there were length constraints–and permissions we weren’t able to get. And in addition, we didn’t want this collection to be a carbon copy of every other Christmas anthology we’d ever read. Which is why O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” and the “Christmas won’t be Christmas” piece by Louisa May Alcott aren’t in the book. Sorry. But they’ve been reprinted virtually everywhere, and if we included them, we’d have had to leave out stories by both O. Henry and Alcott that you might not have read before.).

We also included lots of other wonderful stories, like Langston Hughes’ wistful “One Christmas Eve” and Edna Ferber’s “No Room at the Inn” and Ben Hecht’s “Holiday Thoughts” Jacob Riis’s “The Kid Hangs Up His Stocking” and Jack London’s “Klondike Christmas” and Dorothy Parker’s “The Christmas Magazines and the Inevitable Story of the Snowbound Train.”

For you science-fiction, fantasy, and horror fans, there’s Cynthia Felice’s “Track of a Legend,” Mildred Clingerman’s “The Wild Wood,” Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Buzz,” Ray Bradbury’s “The Gift,”and Raymond E. Banks’s “Christmas Trombone.”” (And a story of mine that they chose, “Inn.”)…

And don’t forget to register for the Library of America’s American Christmas Stories conversation with Connie Willis, Nalo Hopkinson, and Penne Restad on December 15 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

(15) I READ YOU FIVE BY FIVE. Two more of James Davis Nicoll’s thematic look-back posts at Tor.com.

… Perhaps some fictional examples are in order, since historical examples would no doubt set the comments on fire (so let’s please avoid that)….

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler (1980)

No person works as hard to find and gather humanity’s psionic adepts as Doro. Doro has invested millennia tracking down, gathering, and breeding mutants to ensure that they survive and flourish. Thanks to Doro’s endless work, the genes for psionic talents have been concentrated and encouraged to flourish.

However, this long-standing project had nothing to do with any particular concern for mutant-kind or a belief in orthogenesis. Doro is a psychic predator. Mutant minds are tasty and their appropriated bodies provide him with comfortable temporary accommodation. Worse, the psychics are quite aware of Doro’s appetites. They simply lack the means to resist him. The best that shape-shifting immortal Anyanwu can do is to play a weak hand as well as she can, using Doro’s desire for a peer to limit the damage he does to her kin.

… But pessimism is nothing new, of course. Olden time SF authors were enormously pessimistic, producing works every bit as sour and gloomy as the most morose works penned by today’s authors. Don’t believe me? Here are five intensely depressing SF novels from the long, long ago. I recommend each and every one of them, if only to cast your current circumstances in a more favourable light….

(16) GALACTIC OPPORTUNITY. Space Cowboy Books will host an online reading and interview with Janice L. Newman, author of “At First Contact,” on December 14. Register here.

Join us for a reading and interview with Janice L. Newman about her new book At First Contact, a touching trio of romances in a speculative vein. From the edge of space, to the shadows of the paranormal, to the marvels of the mystical.

(17) BANK ON IT. Seneca Falls goes all-in on It’s A Wonderful Life. “This New York Town Is Honoring A Beloved Holiday Movie’s 75th Anniversary” at Forbes.

… “We also say that we don’t think that Frank Capra intended Bedford Falls to be one place,” said Law. “It is every place that people hold dear to our hearts.”

Regardless, Law noted that Seneca Falls has welcomed actress Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, since her first visit there in 2002.

“She has introduced us to other cast members, relatives of cast members and others associated with the film,” said Law. Other visiting actors have ranged from Jimmy Hawkins, who played Tommy Bailey, to Jeanine Roose, who played younger Violet Bick.

Grimes also helped to make the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum a reality, after being talked to about the need for a place where film fans can reminisce and honor its meaning….

Here’s the link to The Seneca Falls It’s A Wonderful Life Museum website.

It’s a Wonderful Life was filmed entirely in California, as were most movies at that time.

However, Seneca Falls has long believed itself to be the inspiration for Bedford Falls…

(18) GHASTLY TIMING. The New York Ghost Story Festival started December 11 and continues online. It’s free. Watch live on You Tube, or view any time later.

See the December 11 event with Kathe Koja, Brian Evenson, Rudi Dornemann and Jeff Ford:

Still to come —

  • Tuesday, December 14, 8:00 p.m. Eastern with David Surface, Brenda Tolian, Pat Wehl, and Joshua Rex here
  • Friday, December 17, 8:00 p.m. Eastern with Kevin Lucia, Jo Kaplan, and Eric Guijnard here.
  • Saturday, December 18, 7:00 p.m. Eastern with Sarah Langan, Kevin Brockmeier, John Langan, and Angela Slatter here

(19) W76 WOULD LIKE ITS $4K BACK. Twitter shut down Jon Del Arroz’ account under his own name, but he’s started another. Think about how good his lawyer must be that he was able to defend Jon against allegations of being a racist.

(20) MARTIAN MUD. “China’s Mars Rover Has Amassed Reams Of Geological Data” reports Nature.

 Some surface features, such as possible sedimentary material and mud volcanoes, hint at the past flow of water, so scientists are looking for clues that there was once water or ice below the surface. This is “of great scientific interest” because it might provide evidence of an ancient ocean, says Bo Wu, a planetary scientist at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

(21) ON YOUR HEAD BE IT. “The Sorting Hat Tells All In The Harry Potter Reunion” on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

On another night last week Jennifer Lawrence appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Near the end of their second segment, they discussed genre movies. After the 3:00 mark, Colbert gets a little flustered when Lawrence reveals how little she knows about the Lord of the Rings movies. Nominally, the main topic of the interview is Lawrence’s to-be-released movie Don’t Look Up, which definitely has a genre premise.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Bill, Ben Bird Person, Chris Barkley, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 12/5/21 Pixelo And Scrolliet, A Play In 3 Acts By Filiam Scollspeare

(1) NO CHANGE ON DISCON III / WECHAT STATUS. DisCon III announced on November 29 they had to remove WeChat as a payment option. “Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time.” Their tech team was trying to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. Today File 770 checked in with Tim Szczesuil, DisCon III’s Site Selection Administrator, and asked if they’d had success. He said no:

Our Tech person has been working with WeChat to resolve the situation, but our WeChat Pay account is still locked. The lockout is on their end, not ours. We haven’t given up hope that this will be resolved, but time is running out.

Many people in China are buying memberships and paying for the voting fee via credit card. Currently, there is nothing much we can do.

(2) AROUND THE BLOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik notes that “language development” software GPT-3 has become open source which has led Sudowrite to develop a tool that could help blocked writers complete their articles.  So Zeitchik interviews Gay Talese about his famous article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (which, remember, has an appearance by Harlan Ellison) and film critic Katie Walsh, and has Sudowrite come up with synthetic completions of their articles which he asks Talese and Walsh to grade.  He concludes that software can help writers but not yet replace them. “Sudowrite and GPT-3 imitate Gay Talese in this test of artificial intelligence”.

…I asked Walsh what she made of the fact that a computer program could, with her raw material, come up with something that sounded like a professional review.

She replied: “This is way better than I expected from it! It’s pretty good! I can see this now not as ‘taking my job’ (because the machine can’t watch the movie … yet), but as a tool for a writer/editor to evade writers block.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to take the AI paragraph and rework it, because it did successfully guess where I was going most times.”

Oddly, Gupta hasn’t optimized Sudowrite yet for nonfiction; it’s more for novelists. But he saw GPT-3 as very adaptive to journalism.

“Ultimately, it’s a tool that will move things up the chain,” he said. “As a writer, you may not need to crank out words anymore. You’re more of an editor, choosing the best versions.”

This seemed pretty scary to me, and I spent the rest of the day wondering if it was too late to enroll in trade school….

(3) TRIFFID TALK. A BBC Radio 3 panel discusses John Wyndham’s classic: “Free Thinking, The Day of the Triffids”. Listen at the link.

Killer plants, a blinding meteor shower, the spread of an unknown disease: John Wyndham’s 1951 story explores ideas about the hazards of bioengineering and what happens when society breaks down. Matthew Sweet is joined by writers Amy Binns and Tanvir Bush, broadcaster Peter White and New Generation Thinker Sarah Dillon to look at the novel which spawned film, TV and radio adaptations and discuss what resonance it has today.

Amy Binns has written a biography of John Wyndham – ‘Hidden Wyndham: Love, Life, Letters’. Tanvir Bush is a writer and photographer whose most recent novel is ‘Cull’. Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent and presents You and Yours on Radio 4.  Sarah Dillon is Professor of English at Cambridge University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. Her most recent book is ‘Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning’.

(4) BLINDNESS IN SFF. Meanwhile, you can still hear a Triffid-referencing episode of BBC Radio 4’s program Seriously… about “Sci-Fi Blindness”:

From Victorian novels to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, sci-fi regularly returns to the theme of blindness.

Peter White, who was heavily influenced as a child by one of the classics, sets out to explore the impact of these explorations of sight on blind and visually impaired people.

He believes a scene in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham imbued him with a strange confidence – and he considers the power of science fiction to present an alternative reality for blind readers precisely at a time when lockdown and social distancing has seen visually impaired people marginalised.

He talks to technology producer Dave Williams about Star Trek The Next Generation’s Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen talks about Birdbox and world-building from a blind point of view in James L Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London takes us back to 1910 to consider The Blue Peril – a novel which in some ways is more forward thinking in its depiction of blindness than Hollywood now.

And Doctor Who actor Ellie Wallwork gives us her take on why blindness is so fascinating to the creators of science fiction.

(5) HOT WINGS. The Penguin will celebrate 80 years as a Batman villain in an uncharacteristic way: “Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story” in the Guardian.

Batman’s least intimidating foe the Penguin, usually seen plotting the heist of Gotham City’s priciest jewels, has a somewhat less dastardly plan up his sleeve in his latest outing: he’s out to vaccinate the world.

The feathered supervillain’s latest storyline was dreamed up by the actor Danny DeVito, who played the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Working with artist Dan Mora, DeVito has written the story Bird Cat Love for an anthology celebrating Batman’s enemies, Gotham City Villains, published on Tuesday by DC Comics to celebrate the 80th anniversary year of the character’s creation.

Rather than depicting the Penguin up to his usual tricks, however, DeVito has him stealing all the world’s vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies who are hoarding them, according to an early report from comics site Bleeding Cool News – and then forcibly vaccinating everyone on the planet.

(6) A STAKE IN FUTURE WHO. “Sony officially acquires Doctor Who series 14 producer Bad Wolf” reports Radio Times.

Sony Pictures Television has officially bought Bad Wolf, the company set to produce Doctor Who series 14.

Sony purchased a majority stake in the indie production company, which is behind shows such as His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie, while the deal also includes the Wolf Studios Wales facility in Cardiff and a minority stake in Bad Wolf America.

Russell T Davies, who will return as showrunner for Doctor Who’s 60th year, will be enlisting the help of Bad Wolf to produce the next season, set to air on BBC One in 2023 with a brand new Doctor.

The company was founded by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter back in 2015 and while Sky, HBO and Access Entertainment did hold stakes in it, Sony has now taken them over….

(7) NOT OF THIS MIDDLE-EARTH. Yahoo! says “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show Will (Majorly) Break From Tolkien’s Canon”. Well, how could it not, when did showrunners ever follow the books? But if you’re interested in speculations about the exact departures from the books, read on. Here are two short excerpts:

What’s young Aragorn got to do with anything?

Turns out, nothing. Early reports about the series speculated that it would follow the adventures of young Aragorn, whose path prior to his introduction in The Fellowship of the Ring was long and winding. However, when Amazon tweeted, “Welcome to the Second Age,” which took place thousands of years before Aragorn’s birth, speculation was debunked….

Who’s attached to the series?

Three lead actors have been announced: Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones) will star as Beldor, an “experienced fighter”; Markella Kavengeh (Picnic at Hanging Rock) will play Tyra, an “empathetic” individual who’s likely an elf; and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones‘ Uncle Benjen) will star as Oren, the lead villain. It’s worth noting that none of these characters are Tolkien characters—all are new, original characters. Moryfdd Clark will follow in Cate Blanchett’s footsteps as Galadriel, suggesting that other familiar roles, like Elrond, may be recast….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago on CBC, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas first aired. It would premiere a year later in the States on HBO.  It was based off of the children’s book of the same name by Russell Hoban and his wife Lillian Hoban. Russell Hoban you’ll no doubt recognize as the author of Riddley Walker which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was directed and produced by Jim Henson off the script by Jerry Juhl who was known for his work on The Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and Sesame Street.

The Muppets voice cast was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Marilyn Sokol and Eren Ozker. Paul Williams, who I was surprised to learn wrote Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” among quite a few other songs, composed the music and several songs here. This would not be his last such Muppets work as he would be involved in The Muppet Movie several years later among other of his Muppets projects. 

Reception was very positive with the New York Times comparing it to The Wind in The Willows saying and “These really are the nicest folk on the river.” And AV Critic said that “it was “The kind of Christmas special you could wrap in tissue when the season’s over and store carefully in a box in the attic.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-four percent rating. 

Oh, and Bret McKenzie is writing the script and songs for a film adaptation of it which will be produced by The Jim Henson Company. You fans of The Hobbit films might recognize him. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).  I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And of course there’s “The Three Little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 70. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  at Chicon 7 for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1961 Nicholas Jainschigg, 60. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 48. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(10) SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT BANKS. Grimes, a female pop musician who had a two-year relationship and a son with Elon Musk, Tesla baron and Iain M. Banks fan, has released the song “Player of Games” off of her new album Book 1. Observers guess that she is punning off the Banks book of the same name. “What Does Grimes New Song Mean, Player Of Games & Elon Musk” at Kotaku.

Apparently, Musk really loves the game and is the greatest gamer, but not much of a lover or boyfriend, assuming the song is indeed about him. (Which it super, probably is.)

(11) READING RED. Mike Thorpe, a sedimentary geochemist contracted to NASA and a Towson University grad, is interviewed about the analysis of samples gathered by the Mars rovers: “Reading the Story in Red Soil” in Towson University Magazine.

Just because it will take years for the samples taken by Perseverance to return to Earth doesn’t mean Thorpe is idle.

“Right now, I’m busy collecting and curating reference materials from the Mars 2020 rover with the team here at NASA JSC as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ultimately helping build a history of sample collection through the course of the mission,” he says.

“All this work leading up to Mars sample return is to make sure we know that what’s in these samples is truly Martian. Perseverance was made here on Earth and we want to keep Earth, Earth and Mars, Mars. We need to analyze every step of the way, including every part of making the rover, to understand what sources of contamination there might be.”

Another of his responsibilities requires him to consider things that may not exist yet: what tools are going to be used to analyze the samples when they come back.

“Some of the instruments that we may be analyzing these samples with haven’t even been built yet,” he says. “We may have some newer technology with capabilities that we aren’t even familiar with yet. So it’s understanding what is state of the art now and also projecting what it is going to be in the future and how we can improve that to handle some of the most precious geological samples we’ll ever have in our lifetime.”

But to have materials to handle, they have to be extracted from the surface of Mars first….

(12) FEELINGS. The goal of this technology is to create the sensation of touch for VR users. “Meta haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets” at The Verge.

You cannot pet a dog in Meta’s new, high-tech virtual reality gloves. But researchers are getting closer.

Meta (formerly Facebook) is known for its high-profile moves into virtual and augmented reality. For seven years, though, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. While Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device — alongside other wearable tech — as the future of VR and AR interaction….

(13) KUDOS. A customer who bought LEGO’s Mos Eisley Cantina set, which has over 3,000 pieces and costs $350, was halfway through building it when he realized the box was missing a bag of pieces. Fast Company praises the company’s response email (which you can read at the link): “A Customer Discovered Their $350 Lego Set Was Missing Pieces”.

… I mean, if you’re not a Star Wars fan, the email doesn’t really seem like much, but that’s the point. The person who wrote the email clearly understood that anyone who buys this set isn’t just a loyal LEGO fan, they’re a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Whoever wrote the email clearly knows their audience and took the time to make it fun. With what is arguably very little effort, they turned a disappointing situation into something delightful….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you’re a rat, strange things happen to you in the alchemist’s lab!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/12/21 She Scrolls In Pixels Like The Flight, Of Rocketships In Starry Skies

(1) PLANE CRASH CLAIMS BLUE ORIGIN TRAVELER. Just last month he was part of the foursome with William Shatner who rode Blue Origin to the edge of space: “Blue Origin astronaut Glen de Vries dies in plane crash” reports CNN.

One of Blue Origin’s newest astronauts, 49-year-old Glen de Vries, survived a ride to space in October alongside actor William Shatner. But less than a month later, he was killed in a small plane crash on Thursday in New Jersey.

…De Vries never disclosed how much he paid for a seat on the New Shepherd spacecraft. But whatever the amount was, after returning to Earth, de Vries told CNN it was worth it.

“We are devastated to hear of the sudden passing of Glen de Vries,” a spokesperson for Blue Origin said. “He brought so much life and energy to the entire Blue Origin team and to his fellow crewmates. His passion for aviation, his charitable work, and his dedication to his craft will long be revered and admired.”

Also on last month’s flight was Chris Boshuizen, a co-founder of satellite company Planet Labs, and Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations.

(2) LITERARY ARTS EMERGENCY FUND. Applicants can apply for funds administered by the American Academy of Poets, National Book Foundation, and Community of Literary Magazines and Presses until January 6, 2022: see the Literary Arts Emergency Fund Submission Manager.

ELIGIBILITY

  • Literary arts organizations and publishers* AND
  • Incorporated nonprofits with 501(c)3 status OR a fiscal agent AND
  • Based in the United States, U.S. territories, or Tribal lands

*Because recent financial losses experienced by nonprofit literary arts organizations and publishers have been substantial and emergency relief is limited, libraries, museums, book arts organizations, humanities councils, centers for the book, residencies, playwriting organizations, author’s homes, and organizations devoted to championing the legacy of an individual writer are ineligible.

(3) COME EXPERIENCE NONVIRTUAL REALITY. “Iceland Skewers Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse With New Tourism Ad”Gizmodo sets the frame for this wonderful send-up:

Iceland released a new tourism ad on Thursday, poking fun at Facebook’s (sorry, Meta’s) recent promises for how we’re all going to live in the future. But Iceland’s version of Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want to sell you on visiting the sci-fi dystopia that we were all warned about for decades. No, Iceland just wants you to see its geysers and stuff.

… Iceland is desperate to get tourists back into the country, with tourism accounting for almost 9% of the nation’s GDP before the pandemic and employing roughly 30,000 people. But covid-19 obviously put the brakes on tourists visiting its scenic vistas—though Iceland is looking to lure those people back with clever ads.

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to Take a break for baklava with Suzanne Palmer in episode 158 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Suzanne Palmer

…Ay last month’s Capclave in Rockville, Maryland. I was able to harvest two con conversations for you there, something I haven’t been able to do in far too long — the first, this episode’s lunch at Mykonos Grill with Suzanne Palmer.

Suzanne Palmer is a multi-award-winning science fiction writer. Her novelette “The Secret Life of Bots” won a Hugo Award in 2018, as well as the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award, plus her story “Waterlines” won the 2020 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. She’s published three novels with DAW Books about an interstellar repo man — her debut novel Finder in 2019, followed by Driving the Deep (2020) and The Scavenger Door (2021).

Her love of narrative science fiction extends beyond the written word, for when she was obtaining her Bachelors degree of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, her thesis exhibition consisted of an entire museum of artifacts from a fictional world, including clothing, coins, furniture, manuscripts — and an 8? tall horned creature covered with fur. I found that part of her background, unknown to me until I started preparing for my conversation, fascinating, since as longtime listeners know from my interview with the team at Submersive Productions in Episode 86, I love immersive theater.

We discussed her recurrent dreams of accidentally impaling someone with her Hugo Award trophy during the ceremony, the Ray Bradbury story she copied out of a library book by hand word for word as a child, the differences between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (and why some readers have difficulties with the latter), the way a friend’s urgings she do NaNoWriMo caused her to take her writing more seriously, the spark that gave birth to her interstellar repo man Fergus Ferguson, how the pandemic affected the writing of her latest novel, and much more.

(5) ON THE MOVE. A new quarterly magazine of speculative fiction by immigrant and diaspora writers has produced its third issue. Click here.

We are dedicated to diversity and elevating the voices of immigrant and diaspora authors.

We publish fiction, genre non-fiction, and art; our stories include fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and any genre in between or around it — as long as there’s a speculative element. We’re especially interested in writing and art that explores migration. Examples include themes of immigration, diaspora, and anti-colonialism, as well as more metaphorical interpretations of the term. 

Any act of migration, whether voluntary or forced, requires a recalibration of self-identity. We are defined, after all, by the environment that surrounds us: people, language, food, smell, sound. To change any one of them may be disorienting; to change them may leave us adrift. What better medium to explore this sensation than speculative fiction, where the author must create a new world for the reader to inhabit?  

(6) GAINING MOMENTUM. Fusion Fragment was relaunched in March 2020 as a semi-pro SF market. Issue #8 is already here, and issue #9 is coming soon.

The publisher tweeted about #9: “Also did I imagine that this is the biggest issue ever? And also that it has a new layout? And also that it has a new short fiction review column? I’m super excited and gonna start proofreading immediately to get this issue out to everyone soon!”

(7) BAYMAX! The trailer for a Disney Plus series in the Big Hero 6 universe dropped today.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1961 — Fifty years ago at Seacon with the Toastmaster being Harlan Ellison, Poul Anderson wins the first of what eventually will be seven Hugos, for “The Longest Voyage.” It was first published in Analog Science Fact -> Fiction in the November 1960 edition. The other nominated works that year were Pauline Ashwell’s “The Lost Kafoozalum”, Philip José Farmer’s “Open to Me, My Sister” and Theodore Sturgeon’’s “Need”. It’s in The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volume Two: The Queen of Air and Darkness that NESFA published.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 12, 1917 Dahlov Ipcar. Though primarily an artist and you really should go visit her website, she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978 which are The Warlock of Night, The Queen of Spells and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1922 Kim Hunter. She portrayed the chimpanzee Zira in the Planet of the Apes films For the first three outings. Her first genre roles was her first film role as Mary Gibson in the early Forties, The Seventh Victim. She’s June in A Matter of Life and Death, and Amanda Hollins in The Kindred. She has one-offs on Project U.F.O.Night GalleryMission Impossible and even appeared on The Evil Touch, an Australian horror anthology series. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende. German author best known for The Neverending Story which is far better than the film which only covers part of the novel.  Momo, or the strange story of the time-thieves is a charming if strange novel worth your time.   The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years. Unlike The Neverending Story and Momo which I’ve delightfully encountered, I’ve not read any of these.  (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943 Wallace Shawn, 78. Probably best remembered as the ferengi Grand Nagus Zek on Deep Space Nine, a role he only played seven times. He was also Vizzini in the beloved Princess Bride, and he played Dr. Elliott Coleye in the My Favorite Martian film. He also was the voice of Rex in the Toy Story franchise. 
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 75. David Pringle included his Who Made Stevie Crye? novel in Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1946-1987, high praise indeed. Though it feels slightly dated now, I’m fond of his Urban Nucleus of Atlanta series. And Philip K. Dick is Dead, Alas is simply amazing. He’s nominated for far too many Hugos to recount here. His major Award is a Nebula for his No Enemy but Time novel. 
  • Born November 12, 1952 Max Grodenchik, 69. He’s best known for his role as Rom, a recurring character on Deep Space Nine. He has a long genre history with appearances in The RocketeerHere Come The MunstersRumpelstiltskinStar Trek: Insurrection (scenes as a Trill were deleted, alas), Tales from The CryptSlidersWienerlandThe Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Bruce Almighty.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 39. She starred as Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in The Dark Knight trilogy. More impressive she was The White Queen In Alice Through the Looking Glass, and she was Agent 99 in the remake of Get Smart! No, not as good as the original but fun nonetheless.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal  “Norms”: The times they are a’changing? Yes? No?

(11) BOOZE WITH A VIEW. Untapped New York takes you to the “7 Best Bars in NYC Where a Drink Is Served with a Work of Art”. Only one or two are in the genre of fantastic art, still, it’s a very interesting article.

7. Marie’s Crisis

Located at 59 Grove Street, Marie’s Crisis is housed in an 1839 building. Its name is derived from Thomas Paine’s essay, The American Crisis, since Paine died on the site in 1809, and from Romany Marie, who was the proprietor of several tearooms in Greenwich Village at the turn of the century. Today, Marie’s Crisis is a piano bar where a showtune is never far away and was a former haunt of Eugene O’Neill and Edward VIII. The ambiance is aided by a WPA mural, whose origins are unknown. The mural  behind  the bar depicts the French and American revolutions and another mural entitled  La Convention depicts Robespeirre, Danton, and Paine.

(12) SECOND WORLDSHAPERS ANTHOLOGY. Edward Willett’s Shapers of World Volume II, a sequel to last year’s Shapers of Worlds, was released November 2, featuring new stories from Kelley Armstrong, Marie Brennan, Garth Nix, Candas Jane Dorsey, Jeremy Szal, Edward Willett, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, Lisa Foiles, Susan Forest, Matthew Hughes, Heli Kennedy, Helen Dale, Adria Laycraft, Edward Savio, Lisa Kessler, Ira Nayman, James Alan Gardner, and Tim Pratt, plus reprints from Jeffrey A. Carver, David D. Levine, Carrie Vaughn, Nancy Kress, Barbara Hambly, and S.M. Stirling. Both books were Kickstarted, with each raising approximately $16,000 CDN in pledges. The book is available from Shadowpaw Press and other retailers.

All of the authors were guests during the second year of Willett’s Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers.

Willett is himself an award-winning author of more than sixty books of fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, including eleven novels for New York’s DAW Books. His twelfth novel for DAW, the humorous space opera The Tangled Stars, will be out in 2022.

(13) IT IS THE END MY FRIEND. The Guardian profiles a band that draws on sff as one of its inspirations: “Placebo: ‘It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of the human species’”.

… While writing the album, Molko returned to the sci-fi films he had loved as a child – psychedelic ruminations on technology and power from the 1970s, such as Fantastic Planet and Silent Running. “I’m very interested in creating, with each song, an alternative universe where the laws of physics don’t necessarily apply,” he says. “Each song really does exist in its little parallel universe. If we’re not tied down to the laws of physics that are generally accepted in the universe we see, then certainly emotion will follow. Certainly anything is possible in another reality. It allows me to speak freely about what bothers me. I try to exaggerate things to increase dramatic effect, to highlight how ridiculous our reality is.”…

(14) INGENUITY INDEED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] It’s Summer on Mars where the Ingenuity helicopter is, and this is an issue. The atmosphere is significantly thinner in the Martian Summer’s relative warmth, which cuts down on the lift the rotors can generate. 

Not wanting to give in to the mere fact of trying to operate a helicopter remotely in conditions it was never designed to accommodate, NASA engineers used a little ingenuity of their own. 

By sharply upping the rotors‘ RPM, then remotely diagnosing a problem with the flight control motors, NASA took Ingenuity for a short test hop then a longer checkout flight. This sets the scene to resume using Ingenuity to scout locations for the Perseverance rover. Ars Technica reassures us that “NASA’s stalwart Mars helicopter is back and better than ever”.

…Cumulatively, Ingenuity has now flown more than 3 km across the surface of Mars—more than five times farther than NASA had hoped to demonstrate with this technology. It’s safe to say that flying on other worlds, with atmospheres, will be more than just a passing fad for future exploratory missions. Rather, it likely represents the future.

(15) INTELLIGENT LIFE – ON EARTH? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature reports on papers that show “Mysterious ‘alien beacon’ was false alarm” — “Radio signal seemed to originate from the star Proxima Centauri, and provided a helpful drill for future searches.”

A radio signal detected by an Australian telescope in 2019, which seemed to be coming from the star closest to the Sun, was not from aliens, researchers report today in two papers in Nature Astronomy [here and here];

“It is human-made radio interference from some technology, probably on the surface of the Earth,” says Sofia Sheikh, an astronomer at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and a co-author of both papers.

But the disturbance, detected by Breakthrough Listen — an ambitious and privately funded US$100-million effort in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) — looked intriguing enough at first that it sent astronomers on a nearly year-long quest to understand its origins. It was the first time that data from Breakthrough Listen triggered a detailed search, and the experience puts scientists in a better position to study future candidate detections.

“It’s really valuable for us to have these dry runs,” says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “We need these candidate signals so we can learn how we will deal with them — how to prove they are extraterrestrial or human-made.”

Mysterious blips

Since 2016, Breakthrough Listen has used telescopes around the world to listen for possible broadcasts from alien civilizations. The programme has picked up millions of radio blips of unknown origin, nearly all of which could be swiftly classified as coming from radio interference on Earth, from sources such as mobile-phone towers or aircraft radar.

The 2019 signal was different. It was detected by the 64-metre Parkes Murriyang radio telescope in southeastern Australia and came from the direction of Proxima Centauri — the nearest star to the Sun, just 1.3 parsecs (4.2 light years) away. Proxima Centauri is of intense interest to SETI researchers, not just because it is nearby. The star has at least two planets, one of which orbits at the right distance for liquid water to be present on its surface — a prerequisite for life as it exists on Earth…

…“The Universe gives us a haystack,” says Ravi Kopparapu, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It is our need to find the needle in it, and make sure that it is actually a needle that we found.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Ryan George’s “James Bond: Skyfall” on Screen Rant, Bond gets shot, falls off a high bridge, and his semi-conscious body plunges down a giant waterfall.  But why didn’t he die?  We don’t know, but there’s a cool opening song by Adele to cover up the handwaving!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, Scott Edelman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 11/10/21 Pixel-Heroes Battle Pixel-Gorillas

(1) THE SIX-BODY PROBLEM. There’s a new trailer out for China company Tencent’s production of The Three-Body Problem, which is fueling comparisons with another adaptation forthcoming from Netflix. Will Netflix’ Benioff and Weiss, veterans of Game of Thrones, overlook Chinese cultural subtleties? Will China’s censors allow Tencent to address all of them? Variety begins with a gloss of the trailer: “Tencent’s First ‘Three-Body Problem’ Trailer Sparks Netflix Rivalry”:

…The new Tencent trailer opens with an exchange between two off-screen male voices.

“Have significant accidents ever happened to you in your life?” one asks. “No,” the other replies. “Then your life is a sort of accident,” the first continues. “But isn’t that the case for most people?” the second voice asks, and the first responds, to a backdrop of ominous music with deep foghorn-type blasts that would feel at home on the “Tenet” soundtrack: “Then most people’s lives are all accidents.”

In a final line, a woman’s voice says: “This is the end of humanity.”

Several companies have been trying to produce adaptations of Liu Cixin’s novel.

Tencent nabbed the rights to adapt the story into a TV series way back in 2008. Now, its version is entering a crowded playing field.

There are at least two other “Three-Body Problem” adaptations in the works in China, including a film backed by IP rights holder Yoozoo Group that may have fallen permanently to the wayside and an animated take from Gen Z- and anime-leaning platform Bilibili.

Netflix struck its own deal with Yoozoo to create an English-language adaptation, announcing the project last September. The American version is being co-created by “Game of Thrones” big shots David Benioff and Dan Weiss alongside Alexander Woo (“True Blood”), and will be directed by Hong Kong’s Derek Tsang (“Better Days”).

Chinese social media is pressuring Tencent to do a good job:

“‘Three-Body’ is a story full of Chinese elements told by we Chinese from our Chinese perspective and ways of thinking …to express Chinese people’s values, worldview and view of the universe. These things are very hard for foreigners to express — only we are able to do it,” wrote one popular comment in response to Tencent’s Weibo recent post about the new trailer.

It was outranked by the top comment, liked 27,000 times. It read: “Buck up — you better not lose to Netflix’s nonsense version.”

While nationalist users maintained that only a Chinese production could capture the essence of the story, the novel is set during the Cultural Revolution, which could pose a problem for censors in a Chinese retelling.

Incidentally, here is the trailer Bilibili released in 2019 for its anime adaptation of The Three-Body Problem.

(2) CHIP IN. M.C.A. Hogarth is closing in on the $10K stretch goal of a Kickstarter launched to fund a collection of MilSF short stories set in her Peltedverse: To Discover and Preserve by M.C.A. Hogarth. Two days left – you might want to get in on this.

Alysha Forrest, my oldest Peltedverse character, needs some love, aletsen. Not only does she need some, she deserves it. Though fewer in number than the books comprising the Eldritch canon, the Stardancer/light milsf books of the Peltedverse sell well and without nearly the advertising the Eldritch canon has. I have a bunch of short stories that belong to this side of the timeline, but they’re all Patreon extras or newsletter gifts… and I get questions about where new readers can find them all the time! That means it’s time to collect them for retail. And while I have five stories (enough to credibly issue a single volume), they’re pretty short and could use some friends. 

Hogarth has given fans this incentive to push the Kickstarter past $10K:

…if we do, rather than continuing to pad the collection indefinitely, I will promise to finish writing the latest Alysha novel. This is the only way to guarantee you see it within the next year, since it’s otherwise indefinitely backburnered…. 

(3) CLI-FI. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today premiered a prerecorded video event, “Cli-Mates: Climate Futures Conversations from Scotland,” in collaboration with the Scottish SF magazine Shoreline of Infinity. The event features the SF authors Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken MacLeod, Xia Jia, Libia Brenda, Gabriela Damián Miravete, Tendai Huchu, and Hannah Onoguwe, along with several scholars and editors.

During the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26 (1-12 November, 2021), the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, Scotland, where nations, civil-society groups and activists are meeting to determine the shape of global action in the face of the climate crisis. At this moment, perhaps more than any other, we need creatively expansive thinking about possible futures—stories that help us chart a path towards a just, equitable, sustainable global civilization.

(4) FOUNDATION FX. Apple TV+ shows how it’s done in Foundation — Bringing Visions To Life Featurette”.

From the start, the world’s most dedicated visual effects artists and costume designers established that Foundation would be a show unlike any other on TV.

(5) ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] I came across this interesting-sounding item on Twitter: On November 18, the Smithsonian Archives department presents Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Visions of the Future on Film, a 1984 film that was part of a NMAH exhibit on “how past visions of the future continue to impact our present and inspire even further futures”, plus commentary from current conservator William Bennett. This is part of the Smithsonian 175th Film Fest, presenting films from the Smithsonian archives.

Due to copyright restrictions, viewers will need to register for a Zoom webinar; the presentation won’t be streamed or saved on YouTube.

(6) FROM AREA 57. “Heinz Debuts ‘Marz Edition’ Ketchup Made With Tomatoes Grown in Mars-Like Conditions” reports Smithsonian Magazine.

On Monday, Heinz revealed its first bottle of “Marz Edition” ketchup, a special recipe made with tomatoes grown in extreme temperature and soil conditions similar to the Red Planet. The team of scientists behind the celestial sauce, which is the product of two years of research and development, says the delicious achievement also advances the possibility of long-term food production on Mars.

“We’re so excited that our team of experts have been able to grow tomatoes in conditions found on another planet and share our creation with the world,” Cristina Kenz of Kraft Heinz said in a statement. “From analyzing the soil from Martian conditions two years ago to harvesting now, it’s been a journey that’s proved wherever we end up, Heinz Tomato Ketchup will still be enjoyed for generations to come.”…

Also note that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night included a “cold open” of Hunt’s trying to one-up Heinz with Uranus catsup—“The best tasting thing to come out of Uranus.” 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966 — Fifty-five years on NBC, Star Trek’s “The Corbomite Maneuver” first aired. It was the tenth episode of the first season, and it was written by Jerry Sohl who had previously written for Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits, The Invaders, and The Twilight Zone. (His other Trek scripts were “Whom Gods Destroy” and “This Side of Paradise”.) It was the first episode that was filmed in which Kelley played Dr. Leonard McCoy, Nichols played Lt. Uhura and Whitney played Yeoman Rand, though we first saw them in “The Man Trap”.  Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, played Balok, and Ted Cassidy, who was Gorn in “Arena” and the android Ruk in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, voiced the Balok puppet here. So did critics like it? No idea as I can’t find any contemporary reviews of it though media critics now love it. Most put it in their top twenty of all the Trek series episodes. It was nominated for a Hugo at NyCon 3, the year that “The Menagerie” won. “The Naked Time” was also nominated that year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 10, 1924 Russell Johnson. Best known in what is surely genre for being Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island. His genre career started off with four Fifties films, It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Space Children. He would later appear in both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. On ALF, he would appear as Professor Roy Hinkley in “Somewhere Over the Rerun”.  (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 10, 1932 Roy Scheider. First genre role was as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. His other major genre performance was as Captain Nathan Bridger in the SeaQuest DSV series. He also has roles in The Curse of the Living Corpse (his first acting role, a very low budget horror film), one of The Punisher films, Dracula III: Legacy and Naked Lunch which may or may not be genre.  I do not consider the Jaws films to be genre, but you may do so. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 10, 1943 Milt Stevens. Today is indeed his Birthday. On the day that OGH announced his unexpected passing did a wonderful post and y’all did splendid commentary about him, so I’ll just send you over there. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 10, 1950 Dean Wesley Smith, 71. Editor of Pulphouse magazine which fortunately Black Gate magazine has provided us with a fascinating history which you can read herePulphouse I first encountered when I collected the works of Charles de Lint who was in issue number eight way back in the summer issue of 1990. As a writer, he is known for his use of licensed properties such as StarTrekSmallvilleAliensMen in Black, and Quantum Leap. He is also known for a number of his original novels, such as the Tenth Planet series written in collaboration with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. 
  • Born November 10, 1955 Roland Emmerich, 66. Usually I don’t touch upon SJW affairs here (well I do when I want to) but he’s very strong campaigner for the LGBT community, and is openly gay so bravo for him!  Now back to his genre credits.  The Noah’s Ark Principle was in ‘84 by him written and directed by him as his thesis after seeing Star Wars at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film MünchenMoon 44 followed which likely most of you haven’t seen but now we get to his Hollywood films, to wit Universal SoldierThe High Crusade (yes, the Poul Anderson novel — who’s seen it?), StargateIndependence Day… no, I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say he’s created a lot of genre film. And oh, he directed Stonewall, the 2015 look at that historic event which I know isn’t genre or genre adjacent but is worth noting. 
  • Born November 10, 1960 Neil Gaiman, 61. Where to start? By far, Neverwhere is my favorite work by him followed by the Sandman series and Stardust. And I sort of liked American GodsCoraline is just creepy. By far, I think his best script is Babylon 5’s “Day of The Dead” though his Doctor Who episodes, “The Doctor’s Wife” and “Nightmare in Silver” are interesting, particularly the former. 
  • Born November 10, 1971 Holly Black, 50. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy.  Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very, very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her. 
  • Born November 10, 1982 Aliette de Bodard, 39. Author of the oh-so-excellent Xuya Universe series. Her Xuya Universe novella “The Tea Master and the Detective” won a Nebula Award and a British Fantasy Award, and was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Award. “The Shipmaker”, also set herein, won a BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction. Her other major series is The Dominion of the Fallen which is equally lauded. She’s nominated for a Hugo this year for her “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” novelette. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TAKE THE CASH AND THE CREDIT, TOO. [Item by David Doering.] I caught a reference on Cracked about writer credits and comics. A fan asserted that comic writers only starting get credit regularly thanks to Marv Wolfman. I thought, hmmm… Really?

What do you know? It’s true. The Comics Code Authority in the 60s banned mention of “wolfman” in comics, BUT  “In DC Comics’ House of Secrets #83, the book’s host said that the story was told to him by ‘a wandering wolfman.’” Comically [pun intended], DC then credited the story to “Marv Wolfman”, making the reference OK by the CCA. 

After that, writers asking and getting credit for their stories. See full details and scans of the comics at CBR.com: “Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #119”.

(11) FALSE GRIT. Joel Haver assures us “You’ll never find a more sandy planet of sand.” So this is a Dune parody, you assume? Hell no, it’s a Star Wars parody – go figure.

(12) TAKING THE MICK OUT. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Blueprints Leaked Online” – and Blog Mickey has a bucket full of what leaked.

A set of blueprints reportedly belonging to the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction have leaked online. The attraction, which has been under construction for more than 4 years, will open sometime in 2022 at EPCOT. The blueprints pull the curtain back a bit on a project that Disney has only slowly revealed information about. It’s unclear how accurate the blueprints are to the final product, but lets take a look….

…As we saw in early construction photos, roller coaster track weaves throughout the building, but the blueprints show just how much track is inside.

It’s unclear how much of the roller coaster track is for the actual attraction, and how much is for the storage, but the majority of the attraction will take place in the large gravity building that was built from scratch for this attraction….

(13) THE GALACTIC HERO BILL. John Scalzi revealed his true net worth today. Don’t you agree that “Billions and billions” is a phrase that suits an sf writer very well?

(14) SHOW NO MERCY. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Young People Read Old SFF introduces the panel to Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.”

“Vaster” takes place in Le Guin’s Hainish setting, where for the most part other worlds are inhabited by variant humans seeded in the ancient past by the Hainish. “Vaster” is an exception: first contact here is not between two branches of humanity but between humans and something very alien. Let’s see what the Young People make of it! 

Sort of like a Beat Bobby Flay episode, the young judges record a split decision.

(15) LOST IN SPACE TRAILER. Official trailer for the third and final season of Lost in Space. All episodes drop December 1 on Netflix.

(16) UNHOBBLING THE HUBBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This latest problem started 23 October. NASA seems cautiously optimistic that the Hubble can make a full recovery. WIRED has the story: “NASA Tries to Save Hubble, Again”.

THE HUBBLE SPACE telescope, one of the most famous telescopes of the 20th and 21st centuries, has faltered once again. After a computer hardware problem arose in late October, NASA engineers put Hubble into a coma, suspending its science operations as they carefully attempt to bring its systems back online.

Engineers managed to revive one of its instruments earlier this week, offering hope that they will end the telescope’s convalescence as they restart its other systems, one at a time. “I think we are on a path to recovery,” says Jim Jeletic, Hubble’s deputy project manager.

The problem began on October 23, when the school bus-sized space probe’s instruments didn’t receive a standard synchronization message generated by its control unit. Two days later, NASA engineers saw that the instruments missed multiple such messages, so they put them in “safe mode,” powering down some systems and shuttering the cameras.

Some problems are fairly easy to fix, like when a random high-energy particle hits the probe and flips a bit on a switch. But when engineers encounter an unknown problem, they’re meticulous. The slow process is designed to protect Hubble’s systems and make sure the spacecraft continues to thrive and enable scientific discovery for as long as possible. “You don’t want to continually put the instruments in and out of safe mode. You’re powering things on and off, you’re changing the temperature of things over and over again, and we try to minimize that,” Jeletic says.

In this case, they successfully brought the Advanced Camera for Surveys back online on November 7. It’s one of the newer cameras, installed in 2002, and it’s designed for imaging large areas of the sky at once and in great detail. Now they’re watching closely as it collects data again this week, checking to see whether the error returns. If the camera continues working smoothly, the engineers will proceed to testing Hubble’s other instruments….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Eternals Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the writer say he has characters including “a speedster, a lady with ancient weapons, and a super-strong guy who shoots beams from his eyes.” The producer asks, “Yeah, yeah, and Batman and Aquaman. Are you sure you’re in the right office?”  The writer also can’t explain why introducing 10 superheroes we’ve never seen before can’t be done in an eight-hour Disney Plus show instead of a single movie.

After Avengers Endgame, Marvel has the massive task of not only continuing their surviving heroes’ stories, but also making audiences care about all new characters and all-new universe-threatening events. Their latest movie Eternals takes on the gargantuan challenge of introducing ten new superheroes AND explaining why they’re only showing up now. This thing’s getting complicated. Eternals definitely raises some questions. Like should this have been a Disney Plus show? Why do the Eternals only have important conversations at Golden Hour? Why is introducing humans to weapons not considered interfering in their affairs? Wouldn’t the Celestials be interested in stopping Thanos if they need a massive population to birth celestials? Why didn’t Kumail have a shirtless scene after all that work!? What have these post-credit scenes become?! To answer all these questions and more, step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Eternals! It’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, Joey Eschrich, Bruce D. Arthurs, M.C. Hogarth, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5/21 If You Wish To Scroll, Turn To Page 18. If You Wish To Pixel, Turn To Page 45

(1) IMAGINARY WORLD INSIDE A GAME. [Item by Soon Lee.]  Ursula Vernon’s been playing Townscaper, an open-ended game/thingy where you build towns on water, and has taken to it so much that, well, would you just look at this gorgeous fan comic that’s come out of Ursula’s wonderful creativity? Thread starts here.

(2) LOCAL STAR. Transforming Edmonton’s series “The Writers’ Block” begins with “Chapter 1: Scientist and rising Edmonton author Premee Mohamed explores dichotomies”.

…Edmonton is a frequent backdrop in Mohamed’s science fiction, which often deals with calamities—whether caused by ancient monsters or climate disasters. 

 “I don’t think it’s realistic to write anything set in the future on Earth and NOT mention climate change,” says the Clareview resident.

Mohamed used to take classes in “BioSci”—she’s a scientist with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science. She currently works for the Alberta government, devising guidelines for the clean-up of industrial activities such as factories, oil and gas wells, gravel pits and fertilizer plants. 

Science was an early passion for Mohamed. While many four-year-olds are obsessed with cars or dolls, she was fascinated with microbes—tiny organisms that you can’t see without a microscope, let alone dress up or play with in a sandbox…. 

(3) DIAGRAM PRIZE SHORTLIST. The Guardian calls “Is Superman Circumcised? favourite to win Oddest book title of the year”.

An examination of the Jewish origins of the Man of Steel, Is Superman Circumcised?, is vying with an up-to-date look at camel milk and related camel goods, Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products, for the dubious honour of the oddest book title of the year….

These six books are in the running for the 43rd Diagram Prize, nominated by members of the book trade:

  • Curves for the Mathematically Curious
  • Handbook of Research on Health and Environmental Benefits of Camel Products
  • Hats: A Very Unnatural History
  • Is Superman Circumcised?
  • The Life Cycle of Russian Things: From Fish Guts to Fabergé
  • Miss, I Don’t Give a Shit: Engaging with Challenging Behaviour in Schools

(4) ETERNALS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the November 2 Financial Times behind a paywall, Danny Leigh interviews Kumail Nanjiani about his role in Eternals.

Nanjiani begins at a pitch of red-carpet enthusiasm.  ‘Honestly,’ he says, ‘it’s easy to talk about the movie because I’m so excited.  I genuinely, genuinely love it.’  He says he is a life-long fan of comic books and Marvel films  His character, Kimgo, is a Bollywood leading man who is also an immortal superhero.  An action figure is available.  At home in Los Angeles, Nanjiani says, he has shelves already filled with models of Batman, Hellboy, and more  His own tiny likeness now stands among them.. ‘They minimised my eyebrows to be sensitive to my feelings, but I’m like, ‘No!  Use more black paint!’…

…’What helped’ him make Eternals ‘was a lifetime watching superheroes.’  But other influences are in play, too.  We meet Kingo in the vivid middle of a Bollywood dance number.  Growing up in Karachi, Nanjiani saw as much Bollywood as Hollywood.  Getting the details and spirit right in Eternals mattered to him.  ‘American audiences might see a Bollywood movie as ironic.  But it’s hyper sincere. That’s the beauty of it.’

Then, in the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday interviews director Chloe Zhao about Eternals and the continuity Zhao sees between her Marvel project and Nomadland. “Chloe Zhao’s ‘Eternals’ is a Marvel movie made her own way”.

… Zhao’s fans will surely recognize some of her signatures in “Eternals,” including a hat-tip to South Dakota, where she filmed her first two films, as well as portions of “Nomadland.” (The state is played by England in “Eternals,” with the help of some subtle visual effects.) Zhao insisted on practical locations when at all possible, giving “Eternals” a more organic, natural feel than most Marvel movies. When she pitched Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige on her concept for the film, she referred to the poem “Auguries of Innocence,” by William Blake.

“?‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand/And Heaven in a Wild Flower/Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand/and Eternity in an hour.’ .?.?. I think of that with ‘Nomadland’ quite a bit,” Zhao said. “And that’s Fern’s journey, in a way — going into nature and a community to be part of something bigger, and therefore heal from that process. With ‘Eternals’ it’s very much a bigger call to that — to humanity, in a way, understanding our place in the universe, our relationship with our planet, and therefore with ourselves. These are the bigger themes Jack Kirby had explored in his comics, and we were fortunate enough to [explore] in this film.”…

The New York Times gives the film a positive review: “‘Eternals’ Review: When Super Franchises Walk the Earth!”

Throughout “Eternals,” the latest — though certainly not the last! — from Marvel Studios, you can see the director Chloé Zhao fighting to cut this industrial-strength spectacle down to human size. Her efforts are mostly evident in the sincerity of the performances, and in the heartfelt moments that punctuate the movie, creating pinpricks of warming light. But it’s a titanic struggle. And as Zhao keeps lubricating the machinery with feeling and tears, her efforts seem to mirror the battle that her likable superheroes are waging against a force seeking to thoroughly control their destinies….

(5) STRANGER THINGS POP UPS. New York and Los Angeles will be the sites of two temporary pop-ups, the Stranger Things: The Official Store. They open tomorrow, for a limited time. It’s a 30-minute experience. Reservations available at the link.

…Embark on an interactive journey filled with photo moments and fun easter eggs, as you explore Hawkins and settings like Joyce’s House, Palace Arcade and Starcourt Mall. You will be able to interact with friends and foes from Hawkins. Get up close to the Russian Guards, hang out with Scoops Ahoy employees, and much more!

(6) LOST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Angela Cartwright and Bill Mumy (Penny and Will Robinson from the original Lost in Space) have issued a revised version of their book about the show: “Lost (and Found) in Space 2: Blast Off into the Expanded Edition”.  

And Heritage Auctions Hollywood & Entertainment Signature® Auction now in progress includes some of the costumes. Amid all this activity, another cast member gave an interview to Fox: “’Lost in Space’ star Marta Kristen recalls moment she heard ‘60s series was ending: ‘No one really knew why’”.

Fox News: How did you cope when the show ended?
Kristen: Oh, I remember that moment vividly. I was at my house and I received a phone call. I learned it was canceled. I was speechless. No one really knew why. Later on, we found out that it was possibly Irwin’s battle with CBS at the time. He wasn’t giving the scripts that CBS demanded. And they wanted six of them, apparently, or something like that.

I think everyone has a different version of the story. But at that time, Irwin just had so many projects. And I guess he just thought it wasn’t worth the fight. So it was canceled. And it was unusual because we were doing very well in the ratings. We had a very large fan base even then. But it was an expensive show.

(7) CAMILE SAVIOLA OBIT. Actress Camille Saviola, who had over 40 film and TV roles and is remembered by fans for a short run on Deep Space Nine, died October 28 at the age of 71. The full New York Times obituary is here.

…She endeared herself to a different group of fans when she was cast in “Deep Space Nine” as Kai Opaka, a spiritual leader on the planet Bajor. Though she appeared in only four episodes, from 1993 to 1996, Ms. Saviola was well known to followers of the franchise, many of whom posted about her death on social media.

In a 1995 interview with a “Deep Space Nine” fan magazine that is quoted on the website Memory Alpha, Ms. Saviola talked about how she got the part.

“I went in — every character actress was there — and did a little reading, the real thing,” she said, referring not to a script reading but to a tarot card reading. “My grandmother read cards and tea leaves down in Greenwich Village — she never charged people money — and I have a little bit of that gift.”

(8) BOB BAKER 1939-2021. Bob Baker, who co-wrote several Third and Fourth Doctor Who serials with his writing partner Dave Martin, has died reports Gizmodo. Bob Baker was also known for being a co-writer of the Wallace and Gromit films The Wrong TrousersA Close Shave and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and A Matter of Loaf and Death. 

…But perhaps most famous of all is “The Invisible Enemy,” which introduced the robot dog K-9. Originally intended to be a one-off appearance, K-9 was instead entrusted to the Fourth Doctor at the end of the story and became a regular companion alongside Leela and Romana. After exiting the show four years later, Baker’s legacy in K-9 would continue with K-9 and Company, a planned spinoff with Sladen that didn’t make it past the original pilot, and of course, K-9’s brief return to Doctor Who’s post-2005 era with the episode “School Reunion.” The character also had regular appearances in Sladen’s children-focused BBC spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, until her passing in 2011…. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1993 – Twenty-eight years ago, Robocop 3 premiered. It was the first in the franchise in which Peter Weller did not play the lead role but instead Robert Burke assumed that role. It was directed by Fred Dekker, the third director in the franchise.  The screenplay was written by him and Frank Miller from a story by the latter. Its primary cast was Robert Burke, Nancy Allen, Rip Torn, Jill Hennessy, Remy Ryan and Mako. So what did critics think of it? Well they didn’t like it. Roger Ebert said, “Why do they persist in making these retreads?” And the absence of Peter Weller in the title role really, really annoyed most of the critics. (I didn’t think the change in performers was that noticeable with that costume.) Box office wise it barely broke even doing forty-seven million dollars on a budget of twenty-two million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it currently giving a pathetic fifteen percent rating after Robocop 2 scored a thirty-six percent rating and the original had a most excellent eighty-four percent rating. Ouch. Needless to say there was not a Robocop 4.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1903 H. Warner Munn. Writer and Poet known in genre for his early stories in Weird Tales in the 20s and 30s, his Atlantean/Arthurian fantasy saga, and his later stories about The Werewolf Clan. After making two mistakes in his first published genre story, he compensated by becoming a meticulous researcher and intricate plotter. His work became popular again in the 70s after Donald Wollheim and Lin Carter sought him out to write sequels to the first novel in his Merlin’s Godson series, which had been serialized in Weird Tales in 1939, and they published those novels as part of their Ballantine and Del Rey adult fantasy lines. The third novel in the series received World Fantasy and Mythopoeic Award nominations, he himself was nominated three times for the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and he was Guest of Honor at the 1978 World Fantasy Convention. He won the Balrog Award for Poet twice in the 80s, and received the Clark Ashton Smith Award for Poetry. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 5, 1938 James Steranko, 83. Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Publisher, and Magician who is noted for his work in the comic book and graphic novel industry. His breakthough was the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales, and the subsequent series, in the 60s. His design sensibility would become widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which he created conceptual art and character designs. He also produced several dozen covers and illustrations for genre novels and anthologies in the 60s and 70s. His two-volume history of the birth and early years of comic books established him as a historian of the field. He received and Inkpot Award and Dragon Con’s Julie Award, and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1940 Butch Honeck, 81. Sculptor and Fan who learned mechanics, welding, machining, and metal finishing as a teenager, then went on to build a foundry and teach himself to cast bronze so he could create shapes that were too complex for welding. His bronze fantasy sculptures, which depict dragons, mythical creatures, wizards, and other fantasy-oriented themes, use the lost wax method with ceramic shell molds and are characterized by intricate details, mechanical components, humor, and surprise. He has been Artist Guest of Honor at several conventions, was named to Archon’s Hall of Fame, and won a Chesley Award for Best Three-Dimensional Art.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. The inspiration for characters in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carole Nelson Douglas. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great characters, lovely premise. (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 5, 1960 Tilda Swinton, 61. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I think her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was just frelling strange…
  • Born November 5, 1968 Sam Rockwell, 53. First in our area of interest, he’s the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. And Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest which of course won a Hugo at Chicon 2000. And lastly he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’ve not seen it yet. Worth seeing? The radio series is so damn good.
  • Born November 5, 1971 Rana Dasgupta, 50. British Indian novelist and essayist. Tokyo Cancelled is definitely genre and is most excellent. He’s written a lot on Dehli including “Capital: A Portrait of Twenty-First Century Delhi” which reads like science fiction.

(11) NEXT BIG THING. League of Comic Geeks previews a bestselling author’s work on The Thing #1.

Renowned storyteller Walter Mosley brings his signature style to a sweeping saga of Yancy Street’s favorite son that will range from the urban sprawl of the back alleys of Manhattan to the farthest reaches of the cosmos itself! A lonely evening and a chance encounter (or is it?) sends Ben Grimm embarking on a sojourn that will have him encountering—and battling—figures both old and new. Featuring guest appearances from figures drawn from throughout the Marvel Universe as well as precision artwork by Tom Reilly…

(12) THE CHILLS ARE ALIVE. Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s musical episode “Once More, With Feeling,” a 2002 Hugo nominee, is remembered fondly by the participants in an LA Times roundtable, “’Buffy’s’ musical episode keeps slaying”.

Ashley Lee: I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since this episode first aired! I must confess that, in those 20 years, I had never seen it, or any other episode of “Buffy.” Watching it for the first time the other day — the series is available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video — I was floored. This episode f— slaps. I am low-key pissed that I wasn’t allowed to watch this show as a kid because this would have radicalized me. What was it like for a devout “Buffy” fan to see this back then?

Jevon Phillips: Fans knew that Whedon had wanted to do a musical episode for a while. We knew Anthony Stewart Head, who plays Giles, and James Marsters, who plays Spike, could sing. We had heard glowing reviews of Amber Benson’s voice, so Tara was set too. But what about the rest of the cast?

Dawn Burkes: It really was a capital-E Event for “Buffy” fans. And it came during a time when people were still reeling from the show changing networks and well-loved characters changing too. “Where Do We Go From Here,” indeed. (And now I’m singing the entire soundtrack, of which I own a hard copy.)

Tracy Brown: It’s not hyperbole to say that I’ve probably seen “Once More, With Feeling” more times than any single episode — a tally mostly racked up when DVD boxed sets were the only way to revisit your favorite TV. This was before “Glee” or “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” so the only real frame of reference for “musical episode” I had at the time was, like, “Xena: Warrior Princess.” (“Bitter Suite” remains a favorite.) And itwent on to be shown in theaters for fan-driven, interactive sing-along events, at least for a while….

(13) DICTIONARY DEFINITION. In case you didn’t already know the meaning of this word, Lise Andreasen explains it in a tweet:

(14) USE THE CARD, LUKE. CNET’s Bridget Carey previews the Disney World LARP/”indoor cruise” Galactic Starcruiser, opening in March 2022, and “only” costing $6,000 for a family of four. Disney, says Carey, “puts the hype in hyperspace.”

(15) GOLDEN ARCHES AND A GREEN ALIEN. This place has been around a long time – but it’s news to me. “The World’s Only UFO-Themed McDonald’s is In Roswell”NewMexi.co has the story.

…The space-themed McDonald’s in Roswell was built in the 90’s. The design makes it look like a shiny metal saucer during the day and glow like a red and yellow spaceship in the dark. Dominated by a massive indoor galactic Play Place and fascinating works of art, the Roswell McDonald’s is the only space-themed McDonald’s in the world….

(16) ANTICIPATION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A week or two ago File 770 provided news of a preprint of Martian research from the latest lander.

File 770 is clearly ahead of the game as only now, this week, has the research been formally published in Science where it made the front cover.

(17) BRICK BY BRICK. A new Lego commercial has lots of genre callbacks: “Rebuild the world! Anything is possible with LEGO® sets”.

LEGO® sets take kids to a creative world where no rules apply. A fire-fighting dragon; a car on a carousel; clothes on a cactus; giant bees chasing Star Wars™ Stormtroopers… Anything is possible in the vast and diverse LEGO universe. And, because kids can continuously build, rebuild, reconfigure and combine, the developmental play never stops!

(18) TIME PASSAGES. Another commercial’s extrapolation from today to the Christmases of the future is also a trip from cliché to absurdity. “Lidl GB I Big on a Christmas you can ALWAYS believe in”.

If you’re watching this in 2021, or 2041, then you’ll know that we’re always be BIG on a Christmas you can believe in, to help keep your favourite festive traditions going on and on (and on!)

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Olav Rokne, Lise Andreasen, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/26/21 Gonna Scroll Them Pixels

(1) A COLORADO FAN MARRIAGE. “A Wedding 18 Years in the Making for Colorado Governor”. The Governor of Colorado and his spouse first met at a bookstore in 2003, and a month later went to MileHiCon. They finally wed earlier this month.

Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado gets one question a lot about his Sept. 15 wedding to Marlon Reis. “People say, ‘You know, it took you a while to get married,’” Mr. Polis, a Democrat, said. “But what’s important to remember is that Obergefell v. Hodges wasn’t until 2015. So we really only waited six years.”

Obergefell v. Hodges is the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage. Mr. Polis, 46, and Mr. Reis, 40, met 18 years ago. Back then, neither imagined he would one day be able to have a legal union. Finding others who identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in Boulder was hard enough.

“It was a relatively small community here,” Mr. Polis said. “There was no Tinder.” There were chat sites and forums that helped connect the community, though. Which is how Mr. Polis and Mr. Reis ended up meeting at Boulder Book Store in September 2003. First came a browse through the sci-fi section, then came dinner.

Mr. Reis, a writer whose focus is animal welfare and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, was in his last year of college at the University of Colorado. Mr. Polis was an entrepreneur with political aspirations; before he became governor in 2019, he served for a decade in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the bookstore, “we just really hit it off,” Mr. Polis said.

By the time they attended MileHiCon, a gathering for science fiction and fantasy fans, a month later, they were falling in love. The weekend-long convention in Denver was, for Mr. Polis, a yardstick for compatibility. “I remember Jared being slightly nervous about it, saying, ‘This is the test to see if we can be around each other a few days,’” Mr. Reis said. “I had never seriously dated anybody. To my way of thinking, it was, Of course we’re going to be fine.”…

(2) HOW FANTASTIC WAS SHE? At Galactic Journey, John Boston and Cora Buhlert profile a legendary editor in “[September 26, 1966] All that glitters: in praise of Cele Goldsmith Lalli”.

Boston, the blog’s resident Amazing reviewer, comments on Amazing and Fantastic in general:

…Goldsmith’s most often recognized achievement is the significant number of excellent writers whom she discovered and who went on to considerable success. The list speaks for itself: Keith Laumer, Neal Barrett, Jr., Roger Zelazny, Sonya Dorman, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Phyllis Gotlieb, Piers Anthony. She also provided a home for David R. Bunch, who had been publishing in semi-professional and local markets throughout the ‘50s, but who became a regular in Amazing and Fantastic, albeit to decidedly mixed reception. Similarly, she was the first American editor to publish J.G. Ballard, who had made a substantial reputation in the British SF magazines but had not previously cracked the US magazines. Lalli’s lack of background in SF before she came to Ziff-Davis may have served her well by leaving her more open than other editors to departures from genre business as usual….

Cora Buhlert sets her focus on Cele Goldsmith Lalli’s role in ushering in the sword and sorcery revival of the 1960s: 

…Cele Goldsmith had only just been born during sword and sorcery’s first heyday in the 1930s and certainly did not read Weird Tales in the crib, but she knew a rising genre when she saw one. So she began publishing more sword and sorcery stories by other authors.

Roger Zelazny is one of Cele Goldsmith’s great discoveries. His first professional story “Horseman!”, which appeared in the August 1962 issue of Fantastic, was a sword and sorcery story. It wasn’t even the only sword and sorcery story in that issue. The title story “Sword of Flowers” by Larry M. Harris a.k.a. Laurence M. Janifer as well as “The Titan,” a reprint of a 1934 story by P. Schuyler Miller, were sword and sorcery as well….

(3) PSYCHOHISTORY’S FIRST PAGES. On Cora Buhlert’s own blog, she reviews the first episode of Foundation: “Foundation enjoys “The Emperor’s Peace” and turns out better than expected”.

… But Foundation? Yes, my 16-year-old self would have killed for a Foundation TV show and indeed she is the reason I watched and reviewed it, because she would not forgive me. But my 48-year-old self says, “Ahem, better leave that one alone and film something that’s easier to adapt and also more suited to modern sensibilities.” Because Foundation is less a novel or several, but a series of interconnected short stories from the 1940s, which span a period of 500 years and have no continuing characters except for Hari Seldon’s wisdom dispensing hologram (and Daneel, if you want to include him). Worse, the characters that make up the cast of the individual stories are rather underdeveloped and not particularly memorable. Also, the first five stories, which make up the first book, are a little dull, heavy on the talking and low on action. All the really exciting stuff, which will leave you at the edge of your seat with your jaw dropping open, happens in books 2 and 3. So in short, Foundation is extremely difficult to adapt, probably impossible, if you take Hollywood’s insistence that their audiences are stupid into account.

But no one wants my opinion and so, after decades of trying, Apple has finally adapted Foundation series for its streaming service. …

(4) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. In case it’s the sort of thing you like to keep track of, Screen Rant covers “Foundation Book Differences: All Major Changes The Show Makes”.

… Gaal Dornick isn’t the only one to have been changed significantly. Salvor Hardin has been gender-swapped as well, played by industry newcomer Leah Harvey, and she’s been reinvented as the Warden of Terminus rather than its mayor. This fundamentally alters the dynamics on Trantor, because Salvor’s role is a military one rather than an administrative one. In the books, Hardin was well-known for his many sayings, with the most famous being that “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” But Foundation‘s Salvor Hardin feels like a much more action-oriented character, suggesting her role going forward will be very different….

(5) VISIT TO THE LEIBER ARCHIVE. Michael Curtis gives Goodman Games readers a tour of the Fritz Leiber Papers Archive at the University of Houston: “Michael Curtis Visits Leiber’s Legendary Lankhmar Library in Houston”. This is also where Leiber’s Retro Hugos reside. Not sure about the regular Hugos he won.

…In the meantime, here’s a partial summary of some of the things I examined while in Houston:

The correspondence between Leiber and Harry Otto Fischer, the co-creator of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Amongst many revelations in the letters, I discovered Fischer had plans for another F&GM story he discussed with Leiber but never penned. The story, as Fischer envisioned it, “all ends in a single handed combat with the Mouser unarmed (or so it seems) dressed as a He-whore of Lankhmar against a peculiar foe (axman deluxe).” Am I the only one who wishes I could read a story featuring the Gray Mouser dressed as a gigolo fighting a maniacal axe-wielding warrior empty-handed?…

(6) RETURN TO SENDER OF THE JEDI. An opinion piece published by Scientific American seeks to persuade readers “Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion”.

The acronym “JEDI” has become a popular term for branding academic committees and labeling STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) initiatives focused on social justice issues. Used in this context, JEDI stands for “justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.” In recent years, this acronym has been employed by a growing number of prominent institutions and organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. At first glance, JEDI may simply appear to be an elegant way to explicitly build “justice” into the more common formula of “DEI” (an abbreviation for “diversity, equity and inclusion”), productively shifting our ethical focus in the process. JEDI has these important affordances but also inherits another notable set of meanings: It shares a name with the superheroic protagonists of the science fiction Star Wars franchise, the “Jedi.” Within the narrative world of Star Wars, to be a member of the Jedi is seemingly to be a paragon of goodness, a principled guardian of order and protector of the innocent. This set of pop cultural associations is one that some JEDI initiatives and advocates explicitly allude to.

Whether intentionally or not, the labels we choose for our justice-oriented initiatives open them up to a broader universe of associations, branding them with meaning—and, in the case of JEDI, binding them to consumer brands. Through its connections to Star Wars, the name JEDI can inadvertently associate our justice work with stories and stereotypes that are a galaxy far, far away from the values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. The question we must ask is whether the conversations started by these connections are the ones that we want to have.

As we will argue, our justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely. Below, we outline five reasons why.

The first reason advanced is —

The Jedi are inappropriate mascots for social justice. Although they’re ostensibly heroes within the Star Wars universe, the Jedi are inappropriate symbols for justice work. They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.). The Jedi are also an exclusionary cult, membership to which is partly predicated on the possession of heightened psychic and physical abilities (or “Force-sensitivity”). Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes. So it is that Force potential is framed as a dynastic property of noble bloodlines (for example, the Skywalker dynasty), and Force disparities are rendered innate physical properties, measurable via “midi-chlorian” counts (not unlike a “Force genetics” test) and augmentable via human(oid) engineering. The heroic Jedi are thus emblems for a host of dangerously reactionary values and assumptions. Sending the message that justice work is akin to cosplay is bad enough; dressing up our initiatives in the symbolic garb of the Jedi is worse.

This caution about JEDI can be generalized: We must be intentional about how we name our work and mindful of the associations any name may bring up—perhaps particularly when such names double as existing words with complex histories….

Lela E. Buis’ response was: “Scientific American Tries to Cancel Star Wars”. She concludes:

…So, this article was rated on Twitter and mentioned in a couple of news feeds. It did not fare well. The obvious problem is that they’re dissing the Jedi, so Star Wars fans are derisive. The films are built on important archetypes and have entered the cultural consciousness of our society, which means they’re pretty sacred. The other problem hasn’t been pointed out very clearly, which is that this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. Enforced conformity to an ideal? Who’s the absolute worst for that?

(7) TOLKIEN’S THIRD LIFE. Bradley J. Birzer praises Carl Hostetter’s new book, which continues the revelation of Tolkien’s unpublished material: “Book Review: ‘The Nature of Middle-earth’ Reminds Us of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Greatness” at National Review.

When J. R. R. Tolkien (b. 1892) passed away in 1973, he left an immense amount of unpublished writings — much of which consisted of his own personal Middle-earth mythology, known as the legendarium, begun just prior to World War I. After his father’s death, Tolkien’s youngest son, Christopher (1924–2020), became his literary heir, publishing his father’s The Silmarillion in 1977, Unfinished Tales in 1980, the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth (1983–1996), the three great tales of the First Age, as well as several books on various non-Middle-earth mythologies, such as on the Nibelungenlied, Beowulf, and King Arthur.

Amazingly, however, even with Tolkien’s writings taking two adult professional lives to publish, the corpus of Tolkien’s work is still not completely available to the public in book form. Just this month, a full year and a half after Christopher Tolkien’s death, Houghton Mifflin has released yet another volume of Tolkien’s mythological writings. Titled The Nature of Middle-earth, it is beautifully and expertly compiled and edited by one of our greatest living Tolkien scholars, Carl F. Hostetter….

(8) DOUG BARBOUR (1940-2021). Canadian fan, poet and academic Doug Barbour died of cancer September 25 at the age of 81. His “Patterns of Meaning in the SF Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Samuel R. Delany, 1962-1972,” in 1976 was the first Canadian doctoral dissertation in the field of science fiction.

He also co-edited with Phyllis Gotlieb Tesseracts 2 (1987), one of the Tesseracts series of anthologies containing original Canadian stories.

As a fanwriter he contributed to Ash-Wing and Riverside Quarterly. Also, notes Bruce Gillespie, “He has been a tireless writers of letters of comment and articles for my magazines. We shared many enthusiasms, especially music (classical, jazz, and what is now called Americana), some SF writers, and poetry. Doug was a well-known Canadian poet and writer about poetry. …He did several poetry-reading tours of Australia, during which he met and made friends with far more Australian poets than most Australian poets ever meet.”

 The Canadian Encyclopedia entry about him discusses his accomplishments as a poet.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1987 – Thirty-four years in syndication, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “Encounter at Farpoint” opening episode premiered. It was written by D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry and directed by Corey Allen. The series would run for seven years. It was premiered eighteen years after the original series was cancelled. I’m not going to list the cast as y’all well know who they are. The series would win two Hugos, first at ConFrancisco for the “Inner Light” episode, and then for “All Good Things…” at Intersection. The “Encounter at Farpoint” premier episode was nominated at Nolacon II but lost out to The Princess Bride. It currently holds a ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 26, 1888 — T. S. Eliot. He’s written at least three short poems that are decidedly genre, “Circe’s Palace” “Growltiger’s Last Stand” and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat”. Then there’s his major work,  “The Waste Land” which is genre as well.  It’s worth noting that Lovecraft intensely hated the latter and wrote a parody of it called “Waste Paper: A Poem of Profound Insignificance”. (Died 1965.)
  • Born September 26, 1941 — Martine Beswick, 80. Though she auditioned for Dr. No, she was instead cast in From Russia with Love as Zora. She also appeared as Paula Caplan in Thunderball. She would appear in One Million Years B.C. opposite Raquel Welch.  She made several Hammer Studio films including Prehistoric Women and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde. She showed up on Fantasy Island once. 
  • Born September 26, 1942 — Kent McCord, 79. Several genre roles with his first being an uncredited role as a Presidential aide in Seven Days in May.  His next is in Predator 2 as Captain Pilgrim, then he had a recurring role as Commander Scott Keller on Seaquest DSV, and finally being Jack Crichton on Farscape.  Oh, and if you look very carefully in “The Quadripartite Affair” episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., you’ll spot him as the Man in Hallway. 
  • Born September 26, 1946 — Louise Simonson, 75. Comic editor and writer. She started as editor on the CreepyEerie, and Vampirella titles at Warren Publishing. Working for DC and Marvel, she created a number of characters such as Cable and Doomsday, and written quite a few titles ranging from DoomsdayWonder WomanConan the Barbarian and X-Terminators. She’s written a Star Wars title for Dark Horse. 
  • Born September 26, 1956 — Linda Hamilton, 65. Best known for being Sarah Connor in The Terminator film franchise and Catherine Chandler in the Beauty and the Beast series. (I wonder what the Suck Fairy would do to the latter series. It’s on Paramount+ which I subscribe to.) She is also Vicky Baxter in Children of the Corn, and Doctor Amy Franklin in King Kong Lives. She would be Acacia, a Valkyrie in “Delinquents” of the Lost Girl series, a role she would reprise in two more episodes, “End of a Line” and “Sweet Valkyrie High”. She’s currently playing General Macalliaster in the Resident Alien, the Syfy series based on the comic book series of the same name by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse. 
  • Born September 26, 1957 — Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend.
  • Born September 26, 1959 — Ian Whates, 62. The Noise duology,  The Noise Within and The Noise Revealed, are space opera at its finest. As an editor, he’s put together some forty anthologies of which I’ll note only the most recent, London Centric: Tales of Future London, as it’s a quite amazing collection. 
  • Born September 26, 1968 — Jim Caviezel, 53. John Reese on Person of Interest which CBS describes as a “crime drama”. Huh. He was also Detective John Sullivan in Frequency, and Kainan in Outlander. And yes, he played Number Six in the rather unfortunate reboot of The Prisoner

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SET AND MATCH. Trekonderoga 2021 took place this weekend in Ticonderoga, NY. There’s a reason for the location, as we learn from a Gothamist article: “Interview: The Star Trek Fandom Lives Long & Prospers At Trekonderoga”.

First of all: why does Ticonderoga have this incredible replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise? I suppose the answer is “why not?”, but I’d expect to see something like this in Hollywood. Well, here’s the thing. It’s 13,000 square feet, so it’s massive. And as we all know, real estate in Manhattan and Los Angeles is extremely expensive, and this is a permanent attraction — it doesn’t move from place to place. So you’re literally walking into a one-to-one recreation of the Desilu soundstage from 55 years ago. So you have to plan it out and build it appropriately so that it stays in one place. And Ticonderoga is part of the greater Lake George region. We have a very beautiful tourist area up here in the Adirondacks so it’s a great place for it. A lot of people come through here annually and we expect that just to continue to grow.

There’s also the transporter room. Why was this something that you felt like you had to do? It’s more than the bridge and the transporter room. It’s every set that the actors worked on every day, laid out and recreated exactly the way they were when the actors worked on them. So you’re talking about the transporter room, the sick bay, the lab, Dr. McCoy’s office, Captain Kirk’s quarters, the briefing room, engineering, the entire corridor layout. It’s literally like being an actor on a time trip and going back to work on the show. I grew up with Star Trek. I was just enamored with it and never lost the passion for it. So here we are today still celebrating it.

How accurate is the set? Deadly. We worked from the original blueprints. They were given to me by the original costume designer who had them in his possession. We kept thousands of stills from the original series in high definition. We’ve sourced and located hundreds of antiques and antique furniture. We’ve rebuilt every jelly bean button. Everything is laid out, every color, proportionally. Every surviving actor from the main cast has been here, and many of the guest stars. Bill Shatner loves it so much he’s here twice a year.

(13) A WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOING ON. “Mars probe records a big hour-and-a-half Martian quake” reports Mashable.

NASA recently reported that its InSight lander — sent to observe geologic activity beneath the Martian surface — recorded one of its biggest quakes yet on Sept. 18. The 4.2 temblor, a quake that would have been big enough for people to feel had it happened on Earth, lasted an hour-and-a-half….

(14) DROP EVERYTHING! Hypebeast says this seasonal flavor was recently spotted in a SoCal grocery store. OMG! “Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie-Flavored Wafers Return”.

As summer comes to an end, Kit Kat is bringing back its seasonal Pumpkin Pie creme-covered wafers. Fall is the season for turning leaves, a new NFL season, and a variety of pumpkin-flavored food and drinks such as Nissin’s “Pumpkin Spice” cup noodles and Kraft’s Pumpkin Spice mac and cheese.

While there may be mixed feelings about the flavor of the season, Kit Kat’s Pumpkin Pie is a highly sought-after rendition…. 

Meanwhile, Taste of Home promises “Gingerbread Kit Kat Bars Will Be Here for Christmas 2021”. Makes no difference if you’re naughty or nice.

…The Gingerbread Kit Kat takes your favorite breakable candy bar and jollies it up for the holidays. Instead of the classic chocolate coating, you’ll instead find yourself biting into a blanket of gingerbread-flavored creme. Ooh, yes please! 

(15) EAT ‘EM ALL. A corporation manipulating the marketplace, imagine that. Food & Wine tells why “Pokémon Oreos Are Listed on eBay for Thousands of Dollars”.

…So here’s some news Oreo probably saw coming: Earlier this month, the world’s best known cookie brand launched a collaboration with the game Pokémon, and in true “catch ’em all” fashion, each specially-branded pack was filled at random in what Oreo billed as its “first-ever cookie rarity scheme.”

In total, 16 different Pokémon characters were embossed onto the cookies, with some being harder to find than others. Oreo even stressed that “the hardest to find (Mew) is featured on an extremely limited amount of the total cookies produced!”

As a result, each pack “does not necessarily contain cookies with all 16 embossment designs.” So what’s someone who’s landed a bag full of worthless Pikachus and Bulbasaurs supposed to do? Turn to eBay, of course.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Bruce Gillespie, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jerry Kaufman.]

Pixel Scroll 9/14/21 I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Scroll That

(1) HWA CELEBRATES LATINX HERITAGE MONTH. From September 15 through October 15 the HWA will be celebrating Latinx Heritage month in a series of interviews conducted by social media manager Sumiko Saulson.

The series will begin with an introductory piece from Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo. An excerpt: “Following this month is a celebration of our Latinx horror writers. I want to thank the Horror Writers Association for hosting this celebration of our Latinx horror writers. This is an exciting time to be a horror writer and to be a Latinx horror writer. Our stories are important and I’m happy to see the wonderful support our works are receiving.”
 
Go to Horror.org on September 15 to read the rest.

(2) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Almost 5,000 items – mainly comics — were stolen from Florida State University’s Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection between March 17, 2020 and February 10, 2021. The list of what was taken is here.

The Robert M. Ervin Jr. Collection consists of comic books, serials, and containing and related to superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Publications include those by Marvel Comics, DC Comics, underground comix publishers, foreign language titles, pulp magazines, and Big Little Books. Over 1200 serial titles are represented, predominantly from the 1950s through the 1970s. Other works include monographs and serials related to comic book collecting, history, and criticism as well as posters and prints featuring comic book characters and art.

Unfortunately, most missing items are not marked in any way that distinguishes them from other copies of the same magazines. Some may have mailing labels for Tallahassee, Florida addresses. Missing items may have appeared on the secondary market as early as March 2020.

If you have any information about these materials, please contact FSU Special Collections & Archives: Katie McCormick, Associate Dean of FSU Special Collections & Archives: kmccormick@fsu.edu

(3) THE BOOKER PRIZE. One book of genre interest has survived to join the half dozen on The Booker Prize shortlist. Its title is shown in boldface.

  • A Passage North, Anuk Arudpragasam (Granta Books, Granta Publications)
  • The Promise, Damon Galgut, (Chatto & Windus, Vintage, PRH)
  • No One is Talking About This, Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus, Bloomsbury Publishing)
  • The Fortune Men, Nadifa Mohamed (Viking, Penguin General, PRH)
  • Bewilderment, Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann, PRH)
  • Great Circle, Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday, Transworld Publishers, PRH)

The winner will be announced on November 3.

(4) CORNERING THE MARKET. Horror Writers Association’s monthly Quick Bites tells that British horror author Graham Masterton has been honored for his work in Poland by the unveiling of a bronze dwarf on Kielbasnicza Street in the centre of Wroclaw.

It depicts him holding up a copy of his bestselling horror novel The Manitou, which told the story of a Native American shaman who was reincarnated after 400 years in the body of a white woman to take his revenge on the colonists who decimated his tribe. The Manitou was filmed with Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens and Burgess Meredith.
 
The Manitou was the first Western horror novel published in Poland after the fall of Communism, and was a huge bestseller.  Graham Masterton visits Poland regularly and supports several Polish charities, including an orphanage in Strzelin.
 
Wroclaw boasts nearly 600 dwarves on its streets and they are a huge tourist attraction. 

(5) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. “Lost, stolen, eaten or burned, these are the words that the world will never read,” promises the Lost Manuscripts website, whose research includes a page from “The Eye of Argon” and a David Langford reference: “In which Page 49 goes missing for 34 years”.

.. What made this piece of fiction such a perennial hit? What made the exploits of Grignr, a barbarian, so relentlessly popular? Was it the wooden characters, the hackneyed plot? No. People generally agreed that it was the prose: the prose was spectacularly appalling. The special events at the science-fiction conventions were competitions: who could read the story aloud for the longest before beginning to laugh uncontrollably and thus be unable to continue?…

(6) HWA ONLINE READINGS. The Horror Writers Association “Galactic Terrors” online reading series for September 2021 features readings by Carol Gyzander, Sarah Read, and John Edward Lawson

CAROL GYZANDER writes and edits horror, dark fiction, and sci-fi. She’s Co-Coordinator of the HWA NY Chapter and one of the usual co-hosts of Galactic Terrors. …JOHN EDWARD LAWSON’s novels, short fiction, and poetry have garnered nominations for many awards, including the Stoker and Wonderland Awards. In addition to being a founder of Raw Dog Screaming Press and former editor-in-chief of The Dream People he currently serves as vice president of Diverse Writers and Artists of Speculative Fiction. SARAH READ is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in various places, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year vols 10 and 12. …Her debut novel THE BONE WEAVER’S ORCHARD, [was] nominated for the Bram Stoker, This is Horror, and Ladies of Horror Fiction Awards. Guest host MEGHAN ARCURI writes fiction. Her short stories can be found in various anthologies, including Borderlands 7 (Borderlands Press), Madhouse (Dark Regions Press), Chiral Mad, and Chiral Mad 3 (Written Backwards). She is currently the Vice President of the Horror Writers Association.

(7) SHOULD HAVE STAYED AT HOME. James Davis Nicoll picks out “Five Doomed Attempts at Planetary Colonization” for Tor.com readers.

Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein (1958)

Products of an implausibly successful eugenics project, the long-lived Howard families become the focus of the mayfly masses’ paranoia that the Howards’ lifespan is not thanks to inherent genetic gifts but some secret they will not share. Life on Earth swiftly becomes untenable for the Howards. Those who can flee commandeer a sublight starship and flee to the stars, hoping to find a new world they can call home.

Earthlike worlds prove to be surprisingly common. There is however a small catch: the planet the Howards first encounter is already occupied. The alien Jockaira appear roughly comparable to humans. They are in fact property. The planet’s true masters are godlike, and they have no place for humans. An act of functionally divine will sends the Howards on their way… to a world whose gentle natives prove just as advanced in their way as the gods and even more disquieting to mortal humans.

(8) ROAD LESS TAKEN. Connie Willis told her Facebook followers they have a new book to look forward to. She describes the plot at the link.

Random House has bought my new novel and it will be coming out….well, I don’t actually know when it will be coming out. There’s still the rewrite to do with my editor and then the galleys and stuff, but hopefully soon.

The novel is called THE ROAD TO ROSWELL, and it’s a comedy about UFOs and alien abduction (I mean, what else could it be but a comedy when aliens are involved?)

(9) NORM MACDONALD (1959-2021). A comic best known for his work on Saturday Night Live, Norm Macdonald died September 14 of cancer. McDonald did a lot of voice work for genre animated (and some non-animated) films/TV as well as having a recurring role in the first two seasons of The Orville voicing the blob Yaphit, a Gelatin Lieutenant and Engineer.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1964 – Fifty seven years ago this evening on ABC, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea premiered. It’s based on the 1961 film of the same name. Both were created by Irwin Allen, which enabled the film’s sets, costumes, props, special effects models, and even sometimes the footage of the film to be used in the television series. It was the first of Irwin Allen’s four SF series (the latter series being Lost in SpaceThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants.) It starred as Richard Basehart as Admiral Harriman Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Lee Crane Robert. It would last for four seasons of one hundred and ten episodes. A 39-inch Seaview Moebius Model Kit was sold during the series. You can purchase it on eBay.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14, 1927 — Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one in the Buck Rogers one as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels as well. Marooned was nominated for a Hugo at Heicon ’70 but TV coverage of Apollo XI won that year. he Six Million Dollar Man film was a finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 14, 1936 — Walter Koenig, 85. Best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov on 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 twenty-eight percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Alienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. 
  • 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 as Dr. Jeff Brenner on Dr. Kildare.  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.)
  • Born September 14, 1944 — Rowena Morrill. Well-known  for her genre illustration, she is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (French publication only), Imagination (German publication only), and The Art of Rowena.  Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she never won, but garnered the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. OGH’s obituary for her is here.  (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 14, 1947 — Sam Neill, 74. Best known for role of Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, which he reprised in Jurassic Park III, and will play again in the forthcoming Jurassic World: Dominion. He was also in Omen III: The Final Conflict, Possession, Memoirs of an Invisible ManSnow White: A Tale of Terror, Bicentennial ManLegend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’HooleThe Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas BoxThor: Ragnarok and Peter Rabbit. Busy performer, genre wise. 
  • Born September 14, 1961 — Justin Richards, 60. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certain 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 has 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. Prolific, isn’t he? 
  • Born September 14, 1972 — Jenny T. Colgan, 49. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date, 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.
  • Born September 14, 1989 — Jessica Brown Findlay, 32. 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. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Adam@Home confirms nothing needs doing more than reading.
  • FoxTrot finds another way students are annoyed with their parents.
  • Tom Gauld’s scientists’ attack of conscience is too late to help.

(13) HORROR COOK BOOK COMING. The HWA Cook Book edited by Marge Simon, Robert Payne Cabeen, and Kate Jonez will be available in 2022. The cover art is by Robert Payne Cabeen.

(14) FREE OR YOU NAME IT. Charles Sheffield’s The Cyborg from Earth is the latest ebook in the Publisher’s Pick program, which you may set your own price for. The cart will show the suggested price of $1.99. You may change it to any price including $0.00. (Mobi and Epub editions.)

(15) HARVEST OF SF NEWS. SF² Concatenation has just posted its autumnal edition of news (books, film, TV and science), articles and stand-alone book reviews.

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Autumn2021

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(4) 2021.9.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(16) THICKER THAN WATER. Here’s a ghoulish discovery: “Martian Colonists Could Use Their Own Blood to Produce Concrete” says Gizmodo.

Provocative new research suggests the blood of astronauts, when mixed with Martian soil, can produce a durable concrete-like substance. Incredibly, other human bodily fluids were shown to make this biocomposite even stronger.

The first colonists to arrive on Mars will need to build shelters and spaces for work, but the Red Planet isn’t exactly bustling with hardware stores and material suppliers.

Ideally, the colonists could use some of the stuff that’s right there on Mars, such as regolith (soil), rocks, and water, the latter of which is sparse and hard to reach. Trouble is, these on-site resources don’t magically combine to produce viable construction materials….

(17) KEY INGREDIENTS. Locke & Key Season 2 teaser. The show comes Netflix on October 22, 2021.

Locke & Key follows 3 siblings who, after the murder of their father, move to their ancestral home only to find the house has magical keys that give them a vast array of powers and abilities.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day John M. Cowan.]

Pixel Scroll 9/7/21 I’ve Scrolled Through The Desert In A File With No Name

(1) TROPE THE LIGHT FANTASTIC. The Nerds of Color had the opportunity to interview Denis Villeneuve. Their headline asks “Is ‘Dune’ Truly a White-Savior Story?”, however, there is much more to the interview than the part relating to the title, excerpted here:

There is a storytelling trope called the White Savior where a Caucasian will go into a foreign land and act as a rescuer or messianic figure to the indigenous people there. And Herbert’s work has been criticized for falling into that trope. So how do you contemporize the story to avoid falling into the problematic areas that trope may potentially present?

That’s a very important question. And it’s why I thought Dune was, the way I was reading it, a critique of that [trope]. It’s not a celebration of a savior. It’s a condemnation and criticism of that idea of a savior. Of someone that will come and tell another operation how to be and what to believe… it’s a criticism. That’s the way I feel it’s relevant and can be seen contemporary. And that’s what I’ll say about that. Frankly it’s the opposite [of that trope].

(2) DISCON III RATE HIKE SEPT. 15. DisCon III membership prices go up on September 15. Purchase your Attending, Virtual, or Supporting Worldcon membership now.

(3) NYRSF READINGS. Michael Bishop will feature in the New York Review of Science Fiction readings series on September 9. The program will livestream from the NYRSF Readings Facebook page at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

(4) CAR TUNES. Bob Gale finally got his wish. “In ‘Back to The Future: The Musical,’ the Car Is the Star of the Show” – and the New York Times has the story.

During a recent performance of “Back to the Future: The Musical,” at the Adelphi Theater here, the audience couldn’t stop cheering.

They cheered a preshow announcement asking everyone to turn off their cellphones, “since they weren’t invented in 1985,” the year the original movie was released. They cheered when Marty McFly, the show’s main character (played by Olly Dobson), skateboarded onstage in an orange body warmer. And they cheered, again, when he started singing, surrounded by break dancers and women in aerobics getup to complete the 1980s vibe.

But the loudest applause came about 20 minutes in. After three loud bangs and a flash of light, a DeLorean car seemed to magically appear in the middle of the stage, lights bouncing off its steel bodywork and gull-wing doors.

The audience went wild.

Bob Gale, who co-wrote the original movie with Robert Zemeckis and wrote the musical’s book, said in a telephone interview that he always knew the car would be vital to the show’s success. “We knew if we pulled it off, it was going to make the audience go nuts,” he said.

He added he had been working on making that happen for over 15 years. 

(5) GAME ON. The “Montegrappa Winter Is Here Limited Edition Fountain Pen” is marked down to $4,400! Hmm, shall I buy it, or do my laundry for the next 220 months?

Made under license to HBO, Montegrappa’s new Game of Thrones pen, Winter is Here, pays homage to the mysterious forces from north of The Wall.

Using the ancient jeweller’s art of lost wax casting, Montegrappa has created half pen, half objet d’art.

Three-dimensional effigies of the Night King and White Walker form a sterling silver superstructure that encases a body of shiny lines celluloid. The figure of Viserion wraps around the cap, and the dragon’s head with a tongue of ice coming out of its mouth acts as an innovative pocket clip. Enamelled, crystal blue flames encircle the base of the cap, while semi-precious apatite stones emulate the cold, mysterious eyes unique to beings of the North.

(6) MOUNTAIN CLIMBER. James Davis Nicoll devises “Five Extremely Unscientific Methods for Picking Your Next Book” at Tor.com.

Anyone can apply logic, taste, and methodical research to the problem of selecting which limited subset of the vast number of books available one is to read. Conversely, one can half-ass one’s way through Mt. Tsundoku using methods of dubious reliability. Don’t believe me? Here are five methods I have used, each more ludicrous than the one before….

(7) FREE MARS EVENT. Explore Mars, Inc., is holding a free S2021 Humans to Mars Summit (H2M 2021) on September 13–15. It will be a virtual event, however, Explore Mars plans to also conduct some in-person elements in Washington, D.C. Register here.

The topics include:

  • Planet of Robots: Recent Milestones and Discoveries on Mars
  • Artemis to Mars: Utilizing the Moon to sending Humanity to Mars
  • How Space Exploration Improves Life on Earth
  • Making it on Mars: 3-D Printing and Other Critical Technologies
  • Building a Space Workforce: Inspiring and Motivating Preprofessional     and Early Professionals
  • EVA Suits and Surface Operations
  • Nuclear Propulsion and Surface Power
  • Robotic Support: Prior, During, and After Crewed Missions to Mars
  • How Can Space Exploration Expand Inclusiveness and Diversity?

(8) BEAR MEDICAL UPDATE. A Livejournal post from Elizabeth Bear for public sharing: “if memories were all i sang i’d rather drive a truck”.

Just wanted to let everybody know that my surgical consult is on Thursday afternoon, and I expect to be scheduled rapidly for surgery after that. If that goes well then I can look forward to a month off to heal and then radiation. If it goes poorly, alas, it’s probably straight into chemo but right now that is considered unlikely.

Scott can’t come in to the consult with me because plague. I’m going to ask if I can record it.

Got my You Are A Cancer Patient Now covid booster which was surprisingly emotional. Cue crying in a CVS. Could be worse… so glad I’m not doing this last year….

(9) WALL OF FAME. “Muppets creator Jim Henson’s London home gets blue plaque” reports The Guardian.  

Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, has been honoured with a blue plaque at his former London home.

The US puppeteer, acclaimed for his work on Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock and as director of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, lived at 50 Downshire Hill in Hampstead from 1979….

…His son Brian, who is chairman of the board at The Jim Henson Company, said: “My father moved to London to make The Muppet Show, and then chose to stay because he was so impressed by the UK’s many gifted artists and performers….

(10) TONY SELBY (1938-2021). Actor Tony Selby died September 5 after contracting Covid-19. His genre work included Doctor Who and Ace of Wands.

…In a different vein – and sporting a beard – Selby was one of Doctor Who fans’ favourite guest stars. He played Sabalom Glitz, the selfish mercenary from the planet Salostopus who forms uneasy alliances with Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy’s incarnations of the Time Lord in two adventures, the series-long story The Trial of a Time Lord (1986) and Dragonfire (1987). The unbroadcast back story for the second revealed that Glitz had taken the virginity of the doctor’s young companion Ace (Sophie Aldred).

Alongside guest roles as crooks in various television series, the actor played Sam Maxstead, reformed convict and assistant to the magician who uses his real supernatural powers to fight evildoers, in the first two runs (1970-71) of the children’s fantasy series Ace of Wands….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1974 – Forty-seven years ago this night, the Land of the Lost series premiered on NBC. (It went into syndication for the last two seasons.) It was created by Sid and Marty Krofft and (though uncredited during the series) also by David Gerrold, and produced by the Kroffts who were previously known for H.R. Pufnstuf and Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. (I actually remember the former. Particularly the theme song which is earworming its way into my brain now.) Starring Spencer Milligan, Wesley Eure, Kathy Coleman, Phillip Paley, and Ron Harper, it ran for three seasons and forty-three half hour episodes. A number of SF writers wrote scripts including  Ben Bova, Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon and Norman Spinrad.  The Kroffts continue to claim that they are working on an updated remake to the series and that this time it will be an hour-long series.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7, 1921 — Donald William Heiney. Under the pseudonym of MacDonald Harris, which he used for all of his fiction, wrote one of the better modern set novels using the Minotaur myth, Bull Fever. His time travel novel, Screenplay, where the protagonist ends up in a film noir 1920s Hollywood is also well crafted. Most of his work is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 7, 1924 — Gerry de la Ree. He published fanzines such as Sun Spots ran for 29 issues from the that Thirties through the Forties, and as editor, he published such work as The Book of Virgil FinlayA Hannes Bok Sketchbook, and Clark Ashton Smith – Artist. He was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1993.)
  • Born September 7, 1955 — Mira Furlan. Damn, another early death among that cast. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. (and have absolutely no interest in doing so.) She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in a Canadian SF series called Space Command. (Died 2021.)
  • Born September 7, 1956 — Mark Dawidziak, 65. A Kolchak: Night Stalker fan of the first degree. He has written The Night Stalker Companion: A 30th Anniversary Tribute, Kolchak: The Night Stalker ChroniclesKolchak: The Night Stalker Casebook and The Kolchak Papers: Grave Secret. To my knowledge, he’s not written a word about the rebooted Night Stalker series. Proving he’s a man of discriminating taste. 
  • Born September 7, 1960 — Susan Palwick, 61. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Neighbor’s Wife,” the Crawford Award for best first novel with Her Flying in Place, and the Alex Award for her second novel, The Necessary Beggar. Impressive as she’s not at all prolific. All Worlds are Real, her latest collection, was nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. She was one of the editors of New York Review of Science Fiction which was nominated for the Best Semiprozine Hugo at Noreascon 3. 
  • Born September 7, 1966 — Toby Jones, 55. He appeared in “Amy’s Choice,” an Eleventh  Doctor story, as the Dream Lord. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he voiced Dobby the house elf. And in Finding Neverland, Mr. Smee, Captain Hook’s bo’sun. Guess what work that film was based on. Finally I’ll note that he was using motion capture as Aristides Silk in The Adventures of Tintin. 
  • Born September 7, 1973 — Alex Kurtzman, 48. Ok, a number of sites claim he single-handedly destroyed Trek as the fanboys knew it. So why their hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems him for me. And I’m fascinated that he was Executive Producer on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess!
  • Born September 7, 1974 — Noah Huntley, 47. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days LaterThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (well, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series which I refuse to watch, and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, which gets a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent audience rating. Ouch. Anyone here seen it? 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) IF ONLY IT WAS UNBELIEVABLE. It’s a good thing the writers didn’t wait – reality has already overtaken the future predicted in this 2006 movie: “The oral history of ‘Idiocracy,’ Mike Judge’s time travel triumph” at Inverse.

Mike Judge’s science fiction satire imagined what the United States might look like in the year 2505. From his perspective, that meant:

A population made stupid by advertising

A brash president who used to be a wrestler

Crocs dominating the footwear landscape

Society seems doomed until a 21st-century everyman (Luke Wilson) gets frozen by the military and wakes up 500 years later, making him the smartest person in America and the only man who can save it.

Beset by a low budget and little-to-no-advertising support from 20th Century Fox, Idiocracy almost didn’t happen at all. The fact that it exists is a miracle. The fact that it managed to accurately predict the future is just a bonus, though Judge loves to downplay his prescience….

JUDGE: I started talking to other writers; Etan Cohen was over at my house and I told him about the idea and the next day he said, “I really like that idea. I was thinking there could be a fart museum.” I thought, “Maybe his head’s in the right place for this.”

ETAN COHEN (CO-WRITER): It was great because there wasn’t a rush. It was a luxury to have that much time to generate the idea….

COHEN: One of the great things about the movie was it was very cathartic because you could just drive around and if anything got you angry it could go right in the movie….

(15) ANOTHER BITE OF THE POISONED APPLE. Two more authors think it’s not too late to mock the spirit of the times. Canadian authors Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock have produced a new installment in their cult-classic graphic novel series, The Silent Invasion, coming out from NBM Publishing on October 19.

Dark Matter is the latest installment in the graphic novel series which began 35 years ago. The series originally focused on the paranoia and conspiracy theories in the 1950s including UFOs, alien abductions and invasions — both alien and communist. The current book continues with an emphasis on brainwashing by religious cults that may be in league with a secretive cabal of industrialists, military authorities and scientists, who may have the assistance of alien overseers . 

The Silent Invasion is a visually striking series drawn in a bold and expressionistic European-influenced black and white style . However, Dark Matter is a complex, compelling and sometimes humorous tale filled with numerous twists and turns. 

Referring to the current political atmosphere filled with rampant conspiracy theories, writer Larry Hancock, said, “If there is any time for a good dose of paranoia that doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s now.” 

Co-author and illustrator Michael Cherkas added, “I’ve always been fascinated by the phenomenon of UFO sightings, aliens abductions and conspiracies. It’s interesting that this sort of “magical thinking” is no longer confined to the fringe element. It’s now part of the mainstream.” 

(16) STOLEN AND FOUND. Suggest brings us “The Wild Story Of Nicolas Cage’s Issue Of The First Superman Comic”.

Nicolas Cage’s love of comic books is fairly well known. The star of Ghost Rider and Kick-Ass once owned the legendary Action Comics No. 1, featuring the first appearance of Superman. What happened to this specific issue is quite wild, and the story even features a connection to the hit A&E series Storage Wars. Here’s what happened….

I can’t resist an item that mentions Storage Wars — my friend Elst Weinstein appeared as an expert in the show’s first season.

(17) SCARY LEGO SPECIAL. There can be more terrifying things than stepping on them barefoot — “LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales debuts Disney+ trailer” at SYFY Wire.

Marvel isn’t the only one capable of exploring alternate realities within established canon. The official trailer for the LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales special (coming to Disney+ early next month) teases a trio of stories that put a fresh — and borderline What If…? — twist on beloved characters and storylines.

Set on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, Terrifying Tales follows Poe Dameron (Jake Green), BB-8, and plucky mechanic Dean (Raphael Alejandro) as they’re treated to a hair-raising tour of Vader’s old castle. One of the most foreboding locations in the Star Wars mythos, the castle is being turned into a galactic tourist attraction by Graballa the Hutt (Dana Snyder)….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Shang-chi Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the producer take out the “Marvel Movies checklist” to find that Shang-Chi does have “a big messy CGI Battle,” ‘color-coded energy blasts,” and a hero who takes off his shirt to reveal sic-pack abs.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Alan Baumler, Jeffrey Smith, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]