Pixel Scroll 9/15/20 The Six Million Pixel Scroll

(1) IT’S SF2 CONCATENATION TIME. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s Autumnal edition is now up. Principal contents include:

Plus there are many standalone SF/FH book and non-fiction SF & science book reviews.

Full details at SF2 Concatenation’s What’s New page.

Looking ahead, in SF² Concatenation will (hopefully, depending on its lock-down) have its spring (northern hemisphere) edition. Before that, hopefully we will have a pre-Christmas one-page ‘Best of’ Nature Futures short stories. But if we have a second UK lockdown then that will get rolled into our January edition.

(2) CANON CONSIDERED. In a guest post at Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons, Alasdair Stuart recalls the years when Warren Ellis’ work used to weave way through his life, and why he now doubts it can even sit on his shelves.

…So I start buying comics from the store I used to manage before being laid off.

That last one becomes a solace, a tiny spark against the black backdrop of sleeping on my parents’ camper bed. But it reminds me of the medium that brought me joy as joy slowly returns. This time it’s Ellis’ Secret Avengers[6] run — Fortean and weird, kind and bleak. The team are barely in control, reacting as much as leading. But they’re still trying. Beast – large, smart, kind Beast – makes an appearance.

I buy the book three times. In singles. In trade. The last time I buy it digitally, in California with my new partner, and realize that, at last, I’m home.

*

When we move back to the UK a panel from Transmetropolitan heads my new Facebook page. It’s Spider Jerusalem, sitting on a window ledge. The text box reads:

AND SO, FREED, I BEGIN TO WRITE.

I know how he feels. It’s good to be outside at last.

*

I am rounding the corner towards forty-four and I’m reading a different kind of Ellis’ work. Somanyofus.com collects testimony from over sixty of the countless women who he’s harassed, or groomed, or manipulated over the last twenty years. Careers made or denied, glimpsed briefly from my own track but now laid out with courageous, horrifying context. Were it simply that, it would be damning. But damning is a zero-sum game. Damning is something Spider Jerusalem would do.

The writers of this site are better than that. Better than him.

There are tools here. Questions to ask, behavior to search for. Things to know as you travel the complex and protean landscape of parasocial relationships.

This corpus is not just a collection of testimony but a statement of intent, a course bearing for an industry from the very people that industry — through Ellis — has ground up and thrown aside. Those damaged the most by the toxic business they loved, hauling on the tiller and trying to steer it away from more rocks, more damage, more careers broken against the shore of this single man….

(3) ROWLING IGNITES SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN. “J.K. Rowling’s New Book—About A Cross-Dressing Serial Killer—Draws Outrage” Forbes’ Lisette Voytko has a rundown:

The revelation that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s latest book hinges on a male serial killer who dresses like a woman infuriated social media users Monday, after Rowling kicked up controversy in recent months over her views on transgender people, which critics denounced as transphobic.

Rowling’s new book, written under her pen name Robert Galbraith, is titled Troubled Blood and is the latest installment of a fictional crime series following private detective Cormoran Strike.

Troubled Blood’s villain is a “psychopathic serial killer,” according to the book’s Amazon page, and turns out to be a man who dresses as a woman.

Reaction on social media was swift, with #RIPJKRowling trending on Twitter by early Monday afternoon, as critics and former fans argued that Troubled Blood’s villain is another example of the author’s alleged transphobia….

(4) THE COMMERCIAL MARCHES ON. “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will go on, but only in TV land”. Well, it’s always been more of a televised variety show anyway, to be honest.

This year’s parade will still have the giant balloons, colorful floats and, of course, Santa Claus, but it will “shift to a television-only special presentation,” Macy’s and New York City announced on Monday.

The parade will still air across the country on NBC on Thanksgiving morning, but the pandemic forced Macy’s to “reimagine” the event. It will forgo the traditional 2.5-mile route and reduce by 75% the number of parade participants, who will be socially distanced during performances and required to wear face coverings.

…All parade participants will be at least 18 years old, with previously selected high school and college bands’ performances deferred to the 2021 event and local professional marching and musical ensembles taking over this year.

Meanwhile, the 80 to 100 handlers that normally walk the balloons throughout the city will be replaced by specialty vehicles.

(5) LEM IN PLAY. GamesRadar+ honors the source material of a forthcoming game: “The Invincible is a sci-fi thriller coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X from a new studio of former CD Projekt Red and Techland developers”.

In fact, if you’ve read any of Stanislaw Lem’s novels, then you’re probably surprised that it’s taken this long for a studio to directly adapt one of his stories into a video game, which feel like the perfect medium for his pulpy ruminations on AI, futurology, and space exploration. 

The studio that’s breaking that pattern is Starward Industries, a new team based out in Cracow, Poland, made up of 12 veteran developers who hail from CD Projekt Red, Techland Games, and other household names from around the rest of the country. 

(6) WHAT VERNE GOT RIGHT. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s AirSpace podcast presents “Voyages To Mars”.

In this first installment of Voyages to Mars, we hear launch stories from two famous science fiction novels written long before the invention of modern rockets. From Percy Greg’s 1880 novel, Across the Zodiac, we get a detailed account of one of the first imaginary ships ever to travel from the Earth to Mars in literature. In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel, From the Earth to the Moon, we find one of the first descriptions ever written of what it might be like to witness a launch. Strap yourself in and come along for the ride.

(7) BOOKSTORE DESPERATION. There must be a lot of this happening by now: “Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore launches a GoFundMe as more stores struggle through pandemic” in the Los Angeles Times.

Next to a bottle of hand sanitizer, on a table at an entrance to Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore, is a message to customers describing an existential crisis induced by a pandemic. It says, in essence: We need your help.

“We have tried to weather this storm, with creative reinvention, hard work, and perseverance, as we always have,” reads the note from Diesel owners Alison Reid and John Evans. “We’ve managed to keep our booksellers afloat financially and with the necessary health care. But at this point, our stores are foundering.

”… So we are asking for your support to restore us to a sustainable level, to make it through this taxing time… We have resisted this appeal to our wider community, but now we are running out of time. It is either this, or ending our run as a quality independent bookstore.”

Online orders, gift card purchases and the recent return of indoor shopping by appointment only have helped keep afloat the charming bookstore tucked inside the Brentwood Country Mart. But as Reid and Evans alerted some 3,500 people via email, “it is not enough, given our rent, operating expenses and our publisher debt, to sustain us.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 15, 1965 — The Lost In Space series premiered on CBS. It was created and produced by Irwin Allen who was also responsible for Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. It starred Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Jonathan Harris and Bob May. Dick Trufeld was the voice of The Robot.   It would three seasons and eight three episodes, fifty-four In color. It would get two reboots — the Lost in Space film (withThe Robinsons: Lost in Space short) and the Lost in Space series. A sixty-minute animated film aired in the early Seventies as part of the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. Only Jonathan Harris from the series was part of the voice cast. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 15, 1894 – Rachel Field.  Hitty, her First Hundred Years won a Newbery Award (the first given to a woman) and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, memoir of a mountain-ash-wood doll.  The Magic PawnshopEliza and the Elves also ours.  English lyrics to Schubert’s Ave Maria for Disney’s Fantasia.  A dozen other books, three best-sellers.  (Died 1952) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1898 – Jan Slauerhoff.  Poet and novelist, an important Dutch author.  The Forbidden Kingdom (1932; Irishman haunted by and maybe transferring identities with Luís de Camões 1524-1580) recently in English (2012); sequel The Life on Earth (1934; tr. as Adrift in the Middle Kingdom 2019) yet stranger.  I haven’t found his poetry (Van der Hoogt Prize, 1933) in English.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1914 – Aldolfo Bioy Caseras.  Friend of and collaborator with Borges, who called C’s Invention of Morel “reasoned imagination”, ha ha.  For us, one more novel, eight shorter stories, tr. into English; much else.  Legion of Honor, Cervantes Prize, Diamond Konex Award. (Died 1999)  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 80. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942  Charles L. Grant. A writer of whom it’s said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror.” Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. And “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. Both iBooks and Kindle have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1942 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 78. Best known for her series of historical horror novels about the vampire Count Saint-Germain. She has been honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a Living Legend Award from the International Horror Guild Award and a Bram Stoker Award for Life Time Achievement. (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942 – John Faucette.  Five novels, a few shorter stories; collection, Black SF.  Half a dozen novels unfinished at his death.  Of Black SF a reviewer said “warning label on the cover … should be heeded….  adult themes….  no one can argue that the author does not have a strong imagination.”  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 74. I think that The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him. His short fiction such as “The Ugly Chickens” which won The World Fantasy and Nebula Awards are most excellent. A generous selection of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 74. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s done other genre work with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s also Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1960 — Kevin Roche, 59. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also is the editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 58. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much it’s Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1971 – Laura Martin, 49.  Colorist for CrossGen, DC, Image, Marvel.  Four times Comics Buyer’s Guide Favorite Colorist; six Eagles, two Eisners, a Harvey; Inkwell Awards Ambassador.  Special Guest at Comic-Con Int’l, 2015.  Here is a watercolor (portrait of Butch Guice).  Here is another.  She donated the original of this to the Baltimore Comic-Con art auction.  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1977 – Sophie Dahl, 43.  Author and former fashion model.  Contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, to be seen (I mean, after her modeling career) in The GuardianThe ObserverVogue (won a Jasmine Award).  Books and cookboks.  Children’s picture book Madame Badoebdah.  Puffin Classics 2008 ed’n of The Secret Garden has her introduction.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield agrees with aliens about what makes life on Earth worthwhile. (“These aliens were redirected to Denmark, I presume,” says Lise Andreasen.)

(11) CHOOSING BETWEEN HORROR AND CATS. You don’t actually have to, as we learn in James Whitbrook Q&A at io9, “Manga Legend Junji Ito Talks Making Horror, Adapting It, and Cats”. Here’s the part about cats:

io9: Your autobiographical manga series Yon & Mu is quite a step out from what people typically know you for. What drove you to make the switch from horror to a slice of life about living with cats?

Junji Ito: I had drawn some short autobiographical comics in the past, and I enjoy working on them because of how easy they are to make. When I got married, I started living with the cats that my wife brought with her, but prior to that I had never been around cats much and honestly got the impression they were a bit creepy. At some point, I realized that a manga about learning how to deal with these new circumstances could be interesting. Not long after, my editor somehow caught onto the fact that I was now living with cats, and proposed the idea of drawing the manga. I was between projects at the time, so it was perfect timing.

(12) ARRIVAL. James Davis Nicoll shows off his newly-arrived Hugo finalist pins at his Dreamwidth blog.

(13) TRAILBLAZER. There’s not much left of summer, so be prepared to read fast! James Davis Nicoll prepared “A Late-Summer SFF Reading List” to save you some time at Tor.com.

What have I read recently? I am so happy to have imagined someone asking me that conveniently leading question.

I should note that I have embraced the concept of comparative advantage by focusing on activities at which I am acceptably competent (reading, reviewing, encountering wild animals), freeing people who are not me up for other activities at which they are superior (anything social). The end result is more productivity all round! Plus, it turns out that, at the moment, a simple handshake can be akin to French-kissing Death herself, so all in all, this anti-social, work-focused lifestyle is working out pretty well! For me, anyway. Without further ado, here’s a survey of what I’ve been reading over the last month…

(14) MUTATING SARS-COV-2 VIRUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Most people (deniers excepted) have an interest in the SARS-CoV-2 /CoVID-19 pandemic, but SF folk perhaps a little more as pandemics are something of an SF trope and commonly evoked as the backdrop to a ‘Quiet Earth’ story.

The latest Nature journal has a feature, by Nature staffer Ewen Callaway, that explores how the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which can result inCoVID-19 disease) is mutating.

The feature may be a little hard to digest for those Filers not rooted in science or biology, so here’s a condensed summary.

SARS-CoV-2 is mutating (as was previously much anticipated even as a short-term concern). Fortunately it is mutating at less than half the rate of influenza viruses and a quarter that of HIV. The virus genome has nearly 30,000 letters and if you were today to sequence a virus from two patients anywhere in the world you’d probably see an average of 10 RNA letters difference. So far, some 90,000 patients have had their virus genomically sequenced and this has revealed over 12,000 mutations doing the rounds. Luckily, nearly all these do not affect the way the virus spreads, or the resulting disease.

The bad news is that a new dominant strain has emerged. Way back, it infected an estimated less than 10% of patients by early-to-mid-February but nearly 100% by mid-June (of a sample size of over 50,000 patients globally). This strain, D614G (with a genome mutation at the coding for the 614th amino acid position) is unlike most other strains that do not affect the CoVID-19 disease. Instead, this new strain is
more infective than the original SARS-CoV-2! This is because this mutation alters the spike protein on the virus’ surface that it uses to latch on to human cells. It makes the spike more open and so easier to latch onto human cell membrane proteins.

The good news is that in COVID-19 patient impact terms this strain is no better or worse to contract than the original virus.

More good news, is that though this new strain is more infective, it responds just as well to vaccines. This is likely because what makes it more infective (an open spike) also exposes the receptor binding domain (RBD) used to lock onto human cells but the mutation has not changed the RBD itself. So this new mutation is unlikely to affect the prognosis for a vaccine from the potential vaccines now being trialled.

Interestingly, there is a second mutation doing the rounds which is a big mutation involving nearly 400 RNA nucleotides! This strain is linked to a milder form of CoVID-19.

Where does all this leave us?

Well, it could be that slow mutation will lead to vaccine-resistant strains. With vaccination, these strains may only generate mild symptoms (vaccines to related strains may confer partial protection) and also we may develop new vaccines for the new significant mutations. One possibility, the Nature feature contemplates (which the SF²; Concatenation briefing also considered way back in March), is that vaccines will immunise us making us less susceptible to mutations, so that subsequent COVID-19-related disease will have less impact. In short, that we will eventually get by with annual SARS-CoV jabs and that in the long-term it will be a bit like living with flu.

(15) TOS CONTINUES. Fansided makes sure viewers know “A new fan film called Star Trek: First Frontier has debuted online”.

Star Trek: First Frontier is an entirely new, original, and self-funded fan film that takes place in the time of the original show. Set in the same time-frame, with sets and uniforms dedicated to that era of Star Trek. It was directed by Kenneth Smith, with the entire film being self-funded by the director. It was released on Star Trek Day 2020 to add to the festivities.

Despite its production budget being very high for a Star Trek fan-film, there are issues that the director himself admits to. He attempted to fix everything but funds became scarce after Covid-19 hit, and the subsequent quarantining caused a financial issue in fixing some of the minor issues with the audio. Smith promises that the issues will be fixed in a special edition.

(16) HONEST TRAILER PARK. In “Mulan (2020) Honest Trailer” the Screen Junkies explain the Mulan remake has “vibrant colors and sumptuous landscapes that will be totally wasted on your crappy TV.”

(17) ONLY ONE HAS A RACING STRIPE. Ranker asks readers to vote on “The 19 Coolest Starships In The ‘Star Trek’ Universe”.

Throughout the many complicated iterations of the Star Trek universe, there are entire cultures dedicated to exploration, subjugation, and assimilation. Whether they’re looking to map uncharted territories or obliterate neighboring races, the right starship makes all the difference.

Here’s a look at some of the greatest Starfleet cruisers, Klingon fighter ships, and bizarre sentient space vessels that the Star Trek universe has to offer.

Now in fourth place —

4. USS ENTERPRISE (NCC-1701)

Where It’s From: Star Trek: The Original Series

Who It Belongs To: Starfleet

Why It’s Awesome: This Constitution-class heavy cruiser was built in San Francisco, assembled in space, and has one of the most storied histories of any vessel in Starfleet. It has visited more than 70 different worlds over its multiple five-year missions, and is the flagship of the Federation fleet.

(18) NOT YOUR AVERAGE BEAR. Looks like he couldn’t find a pic-a-nic basket in time. “Perfectly preserved Ice Age cave bear found in Arctic Russia”.

Reindeer herders in a Russian Arctic archipelago have found an immaculately preserved carcass of an Ice Age cave bear, researchers said Monday.

The find, revealed by the melting permafrost, was discovered on the Lyakhovsky Islands with its teeth and even its nose intact. Previously scientists only had been able to discover the bones of cave bears that became extinct 15,000 years ago.

Scientists of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, the premier center for research into woolly mammoths and other prehistoric species, hailed the find as groundbreaking.

In a statement issued by the university, researcher Lena Grigorieva emphasized that “this is the first and only find of its kind — a whole bear carcass with soft tissues.”

“It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place, including even its nose,” Grigorieva said. “This find is of great importance for the whole world.”

A preliminary analysis indicated that the adult bear lived 22,000 to 39,500 years ago.

(19) PITCH MEETING. In “Twilight: New Moon Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the sequel to Twilight reveals that werewolves run around shirtless to save themselves from ripping off their shirts, but asking what happens to werewolf pants is too much information.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From 2014.

The Doctor and Clara have been called to the National Portrait Gallery to investigate some very strange paintings, but instead the Doctor runs into, well, himself.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/6/20 Pfiltriggi Longstocking

(1) NEVER GIVE UP HOPE. That’s Sultana Raza’s advice in an “Essay on writing life” at Facebook.

If people see someone giggling away on a bus for no apparent reason, they tend to back away, wondering how crazy that person might be. Unless that person happens to be typing away on their tiny mobile. Depending on the flow of words coming, I can type my stories in buses, trams or trains. Sometimes even in crowded cafes where no one knows me, which is the case right now, with a 90s song blaring away in the background. Usually though, I tend to type away at night, when I have the impression I have unlimited time, and no interruptions. However, as soon as I go on the internet to research something, it’s easily an hour or so before I notice I’ve been page surfing, reading up related trivia. So I wait till I have a few points to research before I jump in the whirlpool of research.

Though I’ve been writing from school days, my very first note-book got lost when I moved away from India….

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Craig Laurance Gidney in a YouTube livestream event on Wednesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over 80 anthologies and magazines. Her collections, Engines of Desire and Furnace have both received Shirley Jackson Award nominations for Best Collection, and her short story “One of These Nights” won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story. She lives in Jersey City.

Craig Laurance Gidney

Craig Laurance Gidney is the author of the collections Sea, Swallow Me and Skin Deep Magic; the novels Bereft and A Spectral Hue and numerous short stories. Both his collections and A Spectral Hue were finalists for the Lambda Literary Award and Bereft won both the Bronze Moonbeam and Silver IPPY Awards. Hairsbreadth, a fairy tale novel, is currently serialized on Broken Eye Books. Craig is a lifelong resident of Washington, DC.

(3) CURSES. Stephanie Merry and Steven Johnson have a piece in the Washington Post about readers commenting on the books they read this summer: “What the country is reading during the pandemic: Dystopias, social justice and steamy romance” T. Andrew Wahl of Stanwood, Washington read Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers.

“I read this epic pandemic tome when it came out last summer, and it scared the hell out of me.  At the time, it was just a well-crafted sci-fi thriller.  Now it feels prophetic as we’re living through just about every plot twist in the book…Damn you, Chuck Wendig:  It’s time to write a happy book about the world recovering and everything being all right!”

(4) BLACK PANTHER FREE. The Verge spread the word that “Black Panther titles are free right now on Comixology”. (I made this screencap an hour ago.)

Amazon-owned cloud-based comic book platform Comixology appears to be offering a wide selection of Marvel’s Black Panther comics for free this weekend. The unannounced sale was noticed by tweeters and Redditors; many Marvel comics related to the fictional African country Wakanda, where Black Panther is set, are available for free.

It’s not clear how long the “sale” will last, however; there doesn’t appear to have been any official announcement.

(5) TODAY’S DAY.

From memoirs to sci-fi; there are so many different types of books out there today, so use Read a Book Day to find the perfect book for you to really get stuck into. Read on to discover everything that you need to know about Read a Book Day and the different ways that you can celebrate this date…. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • September 6, 1953 — The Hugo awards are first presented in 1953 at the 11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. (According to its Program Book the con had no official nickname, however, The Long List calls it Philcon II.) Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man won Best Novel and Best Professional Magazine  jointly went to  Astounding Science Fiction as edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. and  Galaxy as edited by H. L. Gold.  Best Cover Artist (Hannes Bok and Ed Emshwiller), Best Interior Illustrator (Virgil Finlay), Excellence in Fact Articles (Willy Ley), Best New SF Author or Artist (Philip José Farmer) and  #1 Fan Personality (Forrest J Ackerman) rounded out the Hugos. Toastmaster was Isaac Asimov. The Convention guide is here.
  • September 6 , 1989 — On this day in 1989, Doctor Who began  its twenty-sixth and final season of the original run on BBC. The Seventh Doctor was portrayed by Scottish actor Sylvester McCoy, here in his third season. That was the same time as his two predecessors but not nearly as long as the Fourth Doctor who went seven seasons, the longest to date. It began with Ben Aaronovitch‘s Battlefield“ story and ended with Rona Munro‘s “Survival” story. (She would write the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Eaters of Light”, making her the only writer to date to have worked on the old and new eras of the show.) BBC would not aired another Doctor Who story until the “Rose” aired on the 26th of March, 2005 with actor Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 – Groff Conklin.  One of our first and finest anthologists; also poetry, nonfiction, outside our field.  The Best of SF appeared months before Healy & McComas’ great Adventures in Time and Space; forty more; also the monthly 5-Star Shelf in Galaxy 1950-1955.  Perhaps his best, besides The Best, are A Treasury of SFThe Big Book of SFPossible Worlds of SFOmnibus of SFSF Adventures in Dimension.  Barry Malzberg said “the most important science fiction anthologist through the years [when] its previously magazine-bound masterpieces were being systematically located….  all our postwar history exists in the penumbra of his work.”  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1936 – James Odbert, 84.  Half a dozen covers, a hundred thirty interiors.  Here is Home From the Shore.  Here is the Spring 94 Fractal.  Here is the Minicon 10 Program Book.  Here is an illustration for Sturgeon’s “Talent”.  Here is his Three of Swords in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (each card done by a different artist in that artist’s own manner).  Artist Guest of Honor at Empiricon V, Balticon 46.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 77. Ok, I might well be stretching it in saying that Pink Floyd genre.  The Wallis maybe. And quite possibly also The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger! (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1946 – Halmer Haag.  Chair of Balticon 25, 35; Balticon’s Gaming Czar; Ghost of Honor at Balticon 44.  Instigator of the Baltimore in ’98 Worldcon bid, which succeeded and became BucCONeer (56th Worldcon).  BSFS (Baltimore SF Soc.) Board of Directors.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1951 – Val Lakey Lindahn, 69.  Thirty covers, two hundred ten interiors; two short stories; many with co-artists e.g. Artifact, John Lakey, Ron Lindahn; more outside our field.  Here is the Sep 83 Analog.  Here is The Asimov Chronicles.  Here is “Time On My Hands”.  Here is Fire from the Wine-Dark Sea.  One Gaughan, one Chesley.  [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1953 Elizabeth Massie, 67. Ellen Datlow who’s now doing the most excellent Year’s Best Horror anthology series was the horror editor for Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror where she selected Massie’s “Stephen” for the fourth edition. A horror writer by trade, she’s also dipped deeper into the genre by writing a female Phantom graphic novel, Julie Walker is The Phantom in Race Against Death! and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion novel. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 67. She’s best remembered for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consulted a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but it made for a nice if fictional coda on her story. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1966 – Ellen Key Harris-Braun.  Yale summa cum laude.  Certified professional midwife.  Editor at Del Rey; started DR Internet Newsletter.  After DR, independent On-line Writing Workshop.  “Some of what is great about Ellen … believing in things, making them happen with grace and perseverance”.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born September 6, 1972 — Idris Elba, 48. He was Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise as well. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 48. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City which won a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 is the one I’ve re-read the most followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that theNew Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. Now his writing on the Dial H sort of horror series for DC was fantastic in all ways that word means. (CE)
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 44. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later show up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episiode of Angel. He does the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and he‘s Angelo on Suicide Squad. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1979 – Anna Sheehan, 41.  Young Shakespeare Players of Madison.  Technical degree in commercial goldsmithing.  A Long, Long, Sleep winning a Golden Duck, it and sequel No Life But This, based on Sleeping BeautySpinning Thorns a re-telling.  Ranks Harold and the Purple Crayon above The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.  [JH]

(8) SPIN ME A YARN. The Raksura Colony Tree hosts “The Yarnbomb@CoNZealand Gallery”.

Organized by Jan Bass and Monique Lubberink, CoNZealand had a lovely community craft project planned: Yarnbombing along the routes connecting the different venues in Wellington. I posted about this earlier this year. Then 2020 happened, and CoNZealand had to go virtual. The project pivoted to yarnbombing wherever the contributors lived and sending in pictures and/or video of the results. We certainly could do with a bit more colour in our lives this year!

We ended up with a lovely display of everybody’s contributions in the Virtual Exhibits Hall at CoNZealand. With the kind permission of the contributors involved, I’d like to share the fun with all of you. Click on the pictures to see a close-up and title!

(9) THE DYING OF ART. Eater Los Angeles mourns the loss of another famous place with art on the walls: “Moore’s Deli, Hollywood Animator Hangout and Burbank Staple, Closes After Ten Years”.

Ten-year-old Valley restaurant Moore’s Delicatessen has closed permanently, just shy of its October anniversary. The longtime restaurant was a haven for Hollywood animators in the Burbank area, and featured a ton of hand-drawn artwork on the walls of a back room.

(10) CHECK YOUR DRAWERS. The Guardian asks“Are aliens hiding in plain sight?”

In July, three unmanned missions blasted off to Mars – from China (Tianwen-1), the US (Nasa’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover) and the United Arab Emirates (Hope). The Chinese and American missions have lander craft that will seek signs of current or past life on Mars. Nasa is also planning to send its Europa Clipper probe to survey Jupiter’s moon Europa, and the robotic lander Dragonfly to Saturn’s moon Titan. Both moons are widely thought to be promising hunting grounds for life in our solar system – as are the underground oceans of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.

Meanwhile, we can now glimpse the chemical makeup of atmospheres of planets that orbit other stars (exoplanets), of which more than 4,000 are now known. Some hope these studies might disclose possible signatures of life.

But can any of these searches do their job properly unless we have a clear idea of what “life” is? Nasa’s unofficial working definition is “a self-sustaining chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”. “Nasa needs a definition of life so it knows how to build detectors and what kinds of instruments to use on its missions,” says zoologist Arik Kershenbaum of the University of Cambridge. But not everyone thinks it is using the right one.

Astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild of Nasa’s Ames research centre in California sees a cautionary tale in AA Milne’s story from Winnie-the-Pooh, in which Pooh and Piglet hunt a Woozle without knowing what it looks like and mistake their own footprints for its tracks. “You can’t hunt for something if you have no idea what it is,” she says.

(11) MULAN’S SCREEN HISTORY. In the Washington Post, Martin Tsai gives a backgrounder on non-Disney versions of the Mulan legend, including the fourteen other films about Mulan, with the most recent Chinese version, with the most recent Chinese version being Jingle Ma’s Mulan: Rise Of A Warrior (2009). “The live-action ‘Mulan’ is not the first retelling of the legend. Or the second. Or the sixth.”

…Since her story first graced the big screen in 1926, the folk heroine has, under different interpretations over the course of a century, come to variously emblematize filial piety, patriotism, feminism and, perhaps inadvertently, cultural commodification. Given that Hua Mulan may not be an actual historical figure, faithfulness has seldom been a point of contention in the reworkings of “The Ballad of Mulan” in every form and medium — including literature, music, dance, theater, martial arts and television, as well as film — as expanding on those 330 words necessitates artistic license.

(12) UNPUTDOWNABLE. If Popsugar is right that these are “12 Sci-Fi Books About Pandemics That You Won’t Be Able to Put Down”, you’ll need to learn to do a lot of things with your feet.

For some people, the scariest science-fiction books involve alien attacks, rebellious robots, and malevolent technology. For others, sci-fi is truly at its best when it introduces an unseen killer: a deadly disease. While fictitious, pandemic novels hit a little bit closer to home than tales of time travel and parallel universes because — unlike most anything written by Nnedi Okorafor or Octavia Butler — they reflect a very possible reality, even if the stories are a little more fantastical. Novels about inexplicable viruses and devastating pathogens definitely shouldn’t be overlooked by sci-fi-lovers (or really anyone), and these 12 books about pandemics are some of the best out there….

(13) FACE ART. The worldwide mask industry now boasts two for fans of the Inklings, a Narnia map mask and a Hobbit book cover mask.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/14/20 An Unexpected Afternoon Nap

(1) BIG MONEY IS WATCHING. NPR shows how “Fortnite Uses Apple’s Own ‘1984’ Ad Against It In Dispute Over Payments” — includes both videos for comparison.

Epic Games, the video game developer behind the mega popular online game Fortnite, just posted a video criticizing Apple for removing the game from its App Store. Using imagery directly referencing Apple’s own iconic “1984” ad, Epic Games’s video (titled “Nineteen Eighty-Fortnite”) positions Apple as a soulless corporate entity, shouting from a screen and demanding obedience from a black and white crowd. That is, until a woman in color shows up, and throws a Fortnite axe at the screen and shatters it. The following copy reads, “Epic Games has defied the App Store Monopoly. In retaliation, Apple is blocking Fortnite from a billion devices. Join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming ‘1984.’”

Epic Games (also being a corporate entity themselves) is making this charge over money. The company introduced a direct payment option within Fortnite to bypass Apple’s 30% fee on in-app purchases. In retaliation, Apple pulled the popular game from its app store. Epic Games responded with both this video, as well as an antitrust lawsuit, alleging that Apple takes anti-competitive actions in order to “unlawfully maintain its monopoly.”

In a statement to The Verge, Apple said that Epic had benefited from the App Store’s ecosystem for years.

“The fact that their business interests now lead them to push for a special arrangement does not change the fact that these guidelines create a level playing field for all developers and make the store safe for all users.”

It’s unclear, really, what George Orwell has to do with any of this.

(2) SFF LIMERICKS SOUGHT. Fantasy Literature has opened their “Ninth Annual Speculative Fiction Limerick Contest”.

Your task is to create an original limerick that has something to do with speculative fiction. It could be about a character, a series, an author, or whatever fits the theme. Here are the rules for creating a good limerick (quoting from this source). 

…The author of the limerick we like best wins a book from our stacks or a FanLit T-shirt (sizes avail are S – XL). If you live outside the US, we’ll send a $7 Amazon gift card.

(3) FANS IN THE NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Abha Bhattarai has an article on the online Washington Post titled “Grocery workers say morale is at an all-time low: ‘They don’t even treat us like humans anymore’” in which the title quote comes from Fox Wingate, a 24-year-old who works at Safeway.

I have known Fox since he was a baby.  His parents, Charles Wingate and Melissa Williamson, are long-time members of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society and hosted meetings three times a year until the pandemic.

“At the beginning they valorized what was deemed a dead-end job, but four months later they don’t even treat us like humans anymore,” said Fox Wingate, 24, who works at a Safeway in Maryland.

(4) NEW ZEALAND PUMPS THE BRAKES. Variety explores “What New Zealand’s COVID-19 Curveball Means For Its Booming Hollywood Productions”.

…“Everyone was very gung-ho,” adds the film’s production designer Grant Major of his first day back on set. “We all loved the film, actors and director, so were pumped to get going and do the best job we could.”

That can-do attitude is what will likely tide the industry over despite Tuesday’s late-night announcement that the country will enter a three-day lockdown, which went into effect at midday Wednesday local time. The measures came after Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern confirmed four members of an Auckland family tested positive for COVID-19, acquiring the virus from an unknown source. The cases ended the nation’s 102-day streak of having no new community infections (cases have been limited to the strictly-quarantined border).

While New Zealand dropped to level one — the lowest of a four-level alert system — on June 8, the Auckland region is now on level three restrictions until Friday, meaning residents are asked to work from home, only interact with people in their household “bubble,” and practice social distancing and mask-wearing in public. Filming can continue if strict health and safety protocols are followed.

Several international productions were in pre-production in Auckland at the time of the announcement, including “LOTR,” Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sweet Tooth,” anime adaptation “Cowboy Bebop” and “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” directed by Peter Farrelly. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) tells Variety that the Auckland projects are now continuing with pre-production, but working from home.

The remainder of the country — including Wellington, where the “Avatar” sequels are filming — has been placed in level two, which encourages mask-wearing and social distancing and allows social gatherings of up to 100 people. Large-scale productions such as “Avatar” can continue under level two screen production rules, such as physical distancing among crew and following recommendations for scenes involving intimacy or fighting….

(5) CHANGES ON THE WAY. “Avatar 2 Will Change Movies Forever” on YouTube is a video from ScreenRant that explains one reason why Avatar 2 is taking so long is that James Cameron is working on a way of shooting motion-capture scenes underwater and may also be coming up with a way to see 3D effects without special glasses.

(6) DEFINING SF. Adam Roberts, in “How I Define Science Fiction” on Neotext says that he defines science fiction by showing the bone and a spaceship from 2001 and that much of the sense of wonder from sf can’t be rationally explained in a definition. However, he also supplies the thousand words that a picture is reputed to be worth. Because, as someone said, “This f***ing job is not that f***ing easy!”   

In those occasions when people ask me to define science fiction, I reference the above. Probably the most famous jump-cut in cinema. You already know the context, so I don’t need to spell it out for you: millions of years BC, an apeman throws a bone into the sky. It flies upward. The camera pans with it, following it a little shakily into the blue sky. The bone reaches its apogee and, just as it starts to fall back down, Kubrick cuts to a shot of a spaceship in orbit in AD 2001.

Now, this seems to me an extremely beautiful and affecting thing, a moment both powerful and eloquent even though I’m not sure I could lay out, in consecutive and rational prose, precisely why I find it so powerful or precisely what it loquates. It is, I suppose, something ‘about’ technology, about the way humans use tools, our habit of intrusively (indeed, violently) interacting with our environments, about the splendor but also the limitation of such tools, the way even a spaceship is, at its core, a primitive sort of human prosthesis. But when you start explaining the cut in those terms you become conscious that you are losing something, missing some key aspect to what makes it work so well.

It works, in other words, not by a process of rational extrapolation, but rather metaphorically. I mean something particular when I say that, and I explain what I mean in detail below; but for now, and to be clear—I’m suggesting this moment actualizes the vertical ‘leap’ from the known to the unexpected that is the structure of metaphor, rather than the horizontal connection from element to logically extrapolated element that is the structure of metonymy. Kubrick’s cut is more like a poetic image than a scientific proposition;——and there you have it, in a nutshell, my definition of science fiction. This genre I love is more like a poetic image than it is a scientific proposition.

Now, if my interlocutor needs more, and if the picture doesn’t make my point, I might add something Samuel Delany-ish: about how science fiction is a fundamentally metaphorical literature because it sets out to represent the world without reproducing it….

(7) RICHARD POWERS SET TO MUSIC. Tomorrow night: “Scott Robinson with Richard Powers: Sat 8/15 at Me, Myself & Eye”.

This Saturday August 15 at 8 PM, multi-instrumentalist phenomenon Scott Robinson will be improvising music to the work of one of his heroes, Richard Powers, whose work graces the covers of all of Scott’s ScienSonic Laboratories releases (which can be seen at www.sciensonic.net). Scott will be sharing from his personal collection of Powers’ work, along with other pieces — some unpublished. These paintings are shown with the kind permission of the artist’s estate. In a nod to the series’ name, for this performance Scott has chosen only works containing an eye!

(8) GOOD THING OR BAD? It’ll be inexpensive, anyway: “AMC to offer 15-cent tickets on first day of reopening”AP News has the story.

AMC Theatres, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, will reopen in the U.S. on Aug. 20 with retro ticket prices of 15 cents per movie.

AMC Entertainment, which owns the chain, said Thursday that it expects to open the doors to more than 100 cinemas — or about a sixth of its nationwide locations — on Aug. 20 with throwback pricing for a day.

AMC theaters have reopened in numerous international countries but have remained shuttered in the U.S. since March. The chain touted the reopening as “Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices.”

After several false starts due to a summer rise in coronavirus cases throughout much of the U.S., widespread moviegoing is currently set to resume in late August. Regal Cinemas, the second largest chain, is to reopen some U.S. locations on Aug. 21.

During its opening-day promotion, AMC will show catalog films, including “Ghostbusters,” “Black Panther,” “Back to the Future” and “Grease.” Those older films will continue to play afterward for $5.

AMC confirmed that Disney’s much-delayed “New Mutants” will debut in theaters Aug. 28, with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” to follow Sept. 3. Warner Bros. is planning to release “Tenet” a week earlier internationally, including in Canada. A handful of smaller new releases are also planned for late August, including “Unhinged,” a thriller from Solstice Studios with Russell Crowe; and Armando Iannucci’s “Personal History of David Copperfield,” from Disney’s Fox Searchlight.

AMC said Thursday is expects about two thirds of its theaters will be open in time for “Tenet.” Several states, including California and New York, are yet to allow movie theaters to reopen.

(9) A SHORT HISTORY WITHOUT TIME. Elisa Gabbert, author of The Unreality of Memory and Other Essays, interrogates “The Unreality of Time” in The Paris Review.

…[John] McTaggart does not use “unreality” in the same way I do, to describe a quality of seeming unrealness in some­thing I assume to be real. Instead, his paper sets out to prove that time literally does not exist. “I believe that time is unreal,” he writes. The paper is interesting (“Time only belongs to the existent” … “The only way in which time can be real is by existing”) but not convincing.

McTaggart’s argument hinges in part on his claim that perception is “qualitatively different” from either memory or anticipation—this is the difference between past, pres­ent, and future, the way we apprehend events in time. Direct perceptions are those that fall within the “specious present,” a term coined by E.?R. Clay and further devel­oped by William James (a fan of Bergson’s). “Everything is observed in a specious present,” McTaggart writes, “but nothing, not even the observations themselves, can ever be in a specious present.” It’s illusory—the events are fixed, and there is nothing magically different about “the pres­ent” as a point on a timeline. This leads to an irresolvable contradiction, to his mind.

Bergson, for his part, believed that memory and percep­tion were the same, that they occur simultaneously: “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devour­ing the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.” He thought this explained the phenomenon of déjà vu—when you feel something is happening that you’ve experi­enced before, it’s because a glitch has allowed you to notice the memory forming in real time. The memory—le souvenir du présent—is attached not to a particular moment in the past but to the past in general. It has a past-­like feeling; with that comes an impression one knows the future.

(10) LET THE RECORD REFLECT. This typo is from the Loncon 3 (2014 Worldcon) Souvenir Book.

Nobody’s copyediting (outside of File 770’s own) has ever challenged the record left by the ConDiego NASFiC of 1990. Neither a fine speech by pro GoH Samuel Delany, an excellent Masquerade, a well-stocked Dealer’s Room, a top-quality Press Relations department, nor a successful Regency Dance, could divert the avalanche of sentiment which quickly made ConDiego a byword for haphazard convention-running. Not after fans were handed a typo-riddled Program Book which misspelled the hotel’s name, the guests of honors’ names and even the con’s own name – that in headline type: ConDigeo.

(11) BOOK ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998 — Delia Sherman and Terri Windling released The Essential Bordertown anthology. (The first one, Elsewhere, would garner a World Fantasy Award.)  A follow-up on the three earlier Borderlands anthologies, it featured such writers as Teresa Nielsen Hayden and Terri Windling doing a Rough Guide of sorts to Bordertown along stories from the likes of Patrica McKillip, Micole Sudbeg, Ellen Steiber , Felicity Savage and Charles de Lint. It would be successful enough that Welcome to Bordertown would come a decade later though the publisher would shift from Tor to Random House. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 14, 1929 Richard Carpenter. Responsible for the simply superb Robin of Sherwood series. He also created Catweazle, the children’s series about an unfortunate wizard from the 11th century who is accidentally transported to the present day. And he was an actor who appeared in such shows as the Sixties Sherlock Holmes series, The Terrornauts film and the Out of the Unknown series as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 80. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis. (CE) 
  • Born August 14, 1932 – Lee Hoffman.  Among our finest fanwriters, and a fanartist who showed with her “lil peepul” that in fandom too – although I never asked her about Buckminster Fuller – one can do more with less.  Had she only done her fanzine Quandry (note spelling; she was also responsible for the famous typo poctsarcd) it would, as the saying goes, have been enough for us.  She also brought forth Science Fiction Five-Yearly, published on time for sixty years, in whose last issue I was proud to be, and on the back cover, even.  Also four novels for us, a dozen shorter stories; among much else a superb Western The Valdez Horses, winning a Spur Award.  At first she appeared only by mail; after we eventually learned she was not male, she was sometimes known as Lee Hoffwoman.  Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1940 – Meade Frierson III.  President, Southern Fandom Confederation 1970-1983.  SF on Radio.  Active in Myriad and SFPA (Southern Fandom Press Alliance).  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon IV, Balticon 11, Coastcon 1978 (with wife Penny).  Rebel Award.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born August 13, 1949 – Pat York.  A dozen short stories.  “Moonfuture Incorporated” in the teachers’ guide Explorer (J. Czerneda ed. 2005); “You Wandered Off Like a Foolish Child to Break Your Heart and Mine” in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2002.  Poem “A Faerie’s Tale” in the 1998 Rhysling Anthology.  Cory Doctorow’s appreciation here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1950 Gary Larson, 70. Ok, setting aside long and delightful career in creating the weird for us, ISFDB notes a SF link  that deserve noting. In the March 1991 Warp as published by the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, he had a cartoon “The crew of the Starship Enterprise encounters the floating head of Zsa Zsa Gabor”. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1962 – Tim Earls, 58.  Set and concept designer, visual effects art director, for Babylon 5 and Crusade; then VoyagerMission Impossible IIISerenity.  An Earth Alliance Olympus Class Corvette (B5here.  Design for the Borg Central Plexus in “Unimatrix Zero” (Voyagerhere.  Some Serenity sketches here.  IMDb (Internet Movie Database) bio here.  [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga, 55. Writer, producer and creator for the Next GenVoyagerEnterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes than anyone else with one hundred and nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Hugo Award at Intersection for excellence in SF writing, along with Ronald D. Moore. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 54. Her first genre role was not as I thought Miss Stone in The Flintstones but a minor role in a forgotten SF series called They Came from Outer Space. This was followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchiseand Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as the lead in Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas. (CE)
  • Born August 14, 1973 Jamie Sives, 47. First, he played Captain Reynolds in a Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw” where the Doctor encounters Queen Victoria and saves her from a werewolf. Great tale! Second, he had a recurring role as Jory Cassel on A Games of Thrones. His fate like so many there is tragic. And third, he was was Valhalla Rising which is a decidedly oddDanish financed Viking magic realism film. (CE) 
  • Born August 14, 1974 – Raphael Lacoste, 46.  A score of covers, half a dozen interiors; games, films.  Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed for Ubisoft.  Here is The Windup Girl.  Here is Shadow Run.  Here is “Nanthis City”.  Here is “Wind Towers”.  Artbooks WorldsLignes.  Two VES (Visual Effects Society) Awards.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 14, 1981 – Karen Healey, 39.  Five novels, as many shorter stories; ten essays in Strange Horizons.  “I wanted to be an astronaut, or possibly a dinosaur-hunting cowgirl…. I was a bit vague on the concept of extinction….  we moved to Oamaru, where my mother’s family has lived for five generations … good for white people in New Zealand … ridiculous in comparison to one’s family being there for a thousand years….  I had this vague idea of becoming a lawyer…. it turned out being a lawyer is not a lot of fun arguing with people and shouting OBJECTION but a lot of boring and distressing paperwork….  applied to the JET [Japan Exchange & Teaching] Programme (even though I had failed second-year Japanese) and went to Japan to teach English for two years…. currently training to be a high school teacher… and, of course, being a novelist.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) MAYBE THE MAP IS THE TERRITORY AFTER ALL.  In The Paris Review, Ivan Brunetti considers “Comics as Place”.

Most comics focus on the actions of a figure, and the narrative develops by following that figure as it moves through its environment, or as it is commonly referred to by cartoonists, who have the often tedious, time-consuming task of actually drawing it, the background. One widely used cartoonist’s trick is to draw/establish the setting clearly and then assiduously avoid having to redraw it in subsequent panels, or at least diminish the number of background details as the sequence progresses. After all, once this setting/background has seeped into the reader’s brain, the reader can and will fill in the gaps. Moreover, sometimes drawing the background would only clutter the composition and distract the reader from the emotional core of the narrative, and so the background might judiciously disappear altogether, having outlived its graphic usefulness, until the next shift in scene.

Robert Crumb’s 1979 “A Short History of America” upends all of the above. It is a small miracle of concision and grace, consisting of a mere twelve panels that span across four pages (of three horizontal panels each) and roughly a hundred and fifty years of history….

(15) FIGHTING FOR WHO YOU LOVE. In the Washington Post, Helena Andrews-Dyer interviews Lovecraft Country star Jonathan Majors, who explains how he interpreted the series’ heroic lead and discusses his other work in The Last Black Man In San Francisco and Da 5 Bloods. “Jonathan Majors is your new American hero”.

The hero’s journey is a circuitous one. After setting out into the great unknown, battling monsters and men, our protagonist inevitably winds up at Point A again, ready to slay whatever Big Bad sent them packing in the first place.

That’s a familiar road for Jonathan Majors, the 30-year-old actor who’s quickly becoming that guy — the one you can’t stop seeing in .?.?. well, everything.He started acting because of a fight in middle school; he had a bunch of big emotions and a blocked vent. Now, a decade and a half later, in his first leading role, Majors is playing the kind of hero his younger self (and the boys he used to “cut up with”) could’ve used. Someone who’s learned how to harness his hard-earned rage for good.

(16) ON FIYAH. Stephanie Alford’s “REVIEW: FIYAH LIT MAGAZINE #13 – OZZIE M. GARTRELL” is short, but more than enough to mak you want to read the story.

In 7,900 words Ozzie M. Gartrell’s The Transition of  OSOOSI  gives us a cyberpunk story of an audacious idea to eradicate bigotry.

(17) HEADS WILL ROLL. Camestros Felapton makes it to the finish line — “I finished the Wolf Hall trilogy” – and shares an insightful review.

…The Tudor period looms large in English national mythology of greatness and Henry VIII and his daughter Elizabeth I are two of the most fictionalised and dramatised British monarchs (Queen Victoria being the third but Elizabeth II is getting higher in the charts I’d imagine). Although I often read Booker prize winners, when Wolf Hall won I was originally uninterested. Another book about Henry and Anne Boleyn? Is there seriously anything new to say about all that? Turns out there was a lot of new things to say about it, and by employing a story people know at least in sketch form, Mantel could focus on an aspect that makes the Tudor period fascinating.

(18) SUPERVERSIVE WAKES. The Superversive SF blog will become active again, led by columnists L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright and John C. Wright.

It has been some time since we have had regular posts on this site, but, God willing, that is all about to change!

In the coming months, we hope to have more posts about Superversive Matters, but we also hope to unveil two new regular columns. I will announce the second column separately, but, before we can begin, the first column needs a name!

The column is to be stories, observations, and insights about the meeting of life and our genres—writing with children; writing with cats (a whole subject in itself!); sharing your favorite books, shows, and movies with offspring, parents, friends; and other stories of the intersection of reality and fantasy (or science fiction.)

The purpose is to share light and fun stories, as well as poignant or bittersweet ones, about our life and experience as readers and writers of science fiction and fantasy—stories that remind us of our shared experience as human beings as well as our joy in the wonder of our wonderful genre.

The Superversive Press shut down in January (item 13). Since then the blog has mainly been signal boosting authors’ buy-my-book posts.

(19) PALS WHO BITE. NPR learned “Everyone Needs A Buddy. Even Sharks”.

Sharks are often maligned as Hollywood monsters, the lone wolves lurking in the deep, hunting for prey. (Cue Jaws theme song).

But that caricature of sharks is increasingly out of step with what scientists are learning about the animals. Instead, they say, some species of sharks are social creatures who return day after day to a group of the same fellow sharks.

“They form these spatially structured social groups where they hang out with the same individuals over multiple years,” says Yannis Papastamatiou, who runs the Predator Ecology and Conservation Lab at Florida International University.

Papastamatiou’s team studied gray reef sharks populating the waters off Palmyra Atoll, a sunken island ringed by coral reefs, in the central Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands and Fiji. They attached small location transmitters to 41 sharks, which allowed them to track the animals’ movements around the reef. They also outfitted two sharks with small video cameras on their fins, to get what Papastamatiou calls a shark’s-eye view of their daily lives.

After tracking the sharks for four years, the researchers found that the same groupings of sharks — ranging from a couple up to as many as 20 — frequently returned to the same parts of the reef over and over again. They also found that some of the groups stuck together for the duration of the study — longer than previous studies have observed.

(20) HEY, THAT’S A FALSE COLOR! NASA believes the Red Planet is really quite green when considered in the proper light: “NASA’s MAVEN Observes Martian Night Sky Pulsing in Ultraviolet Light”.

Mars’ nightside atmosphere glows and pulsates in this data animation from MAVEN spacecraft observations. Green-to-white false color shows the enhanced brightenings on Mars’ ultraviolet “nightglow” measured by MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph at about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles) altitude. A simulated view of the Mars globe is added digitally for context, with ice caps visible at the poles. Three nightglow brightenings occur over one Mars rotation, the first much brighter than the other two. All three brightenings occur shortly after sunset, appearing on the left of this view of the night side of the planet. The pulsations are caused by downwards winds which enhance the chemical reaction creating nitric oxide which causes the glow. Months of data were averaged to identify these patterns, indicating they repeat nightly.

(21) IT’S NOT JUST THE PANDEMIC. The Critic sadly anticipates “The demise of the second-hand bookshop” for several reasons.

In 1973, Graham Greene wrote an introduction to a bookselling friend’s memoir. As Greene was one of the most respected writers of his day, this was no small gesture, but the author was also a committed bibliophile. The book dealer and biographer John Baxter’s memoir A Pound of Paper contains treasurable glimpses of Greene deliberately signing obscure copies of his works in far-off locations, in the certain knowledge that these items would become hugely sought-after rarities, and he remains one of the few serious literary figures who also understood the glamour and romance of the bookselling trade. In his introduction, he openly acknowledged this, writing ‘Secondhand booksellers are the most friendly and most eccentric of all the characters I have known. If I had not been a writer, theirs would have been the profession I would most happily have chosen.’

If Greene was alive today, he would look at his beloved second-hand and antiquarian bookshops with an air of sorrow, leavened with a touch of bewilderment. The recent news that one of Charing Cross’s most famous booksellers, Francis Edwards, was to close after 150 years, maintaining only a presence in Hay-on-Wye, was greeted without the anguish that it might have been otherwise….

(22) MOTHRA CHOW. “First-Ever Godzilla Museum Now Open In Japan”ScreenRant checked out everything, including the thematic food.

The first museum dedicated to Godzilla is open in Japan for a limited time. TOHO launched its official English Godzilla website back in May 2019, complete with a “Monsterpedia” for the kaiju’s friends and foes. One can never overstate the pop culture impact of the Godzilla series. Although the King of the Monsters wasn’t the first giant monster on the big screen, he would headline a long-running franchise, the longest of any movie series to date.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect is how the character changed over time. He went from being a grim allegory for the nuclear bomb to a Japan-saving hero, not unlike Ultraman. As a franchise, Godzilla has ventured into multimedia. He has battled the Avengers in a Marvel comic and even received his own version of Jenga. For a limited time, fans can enjoy the franchise in a museum format.

(23) MEET THE PARENTS OF THE YEAR.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Points for sneaking Newton’s third law in there.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cliff, John Hertz, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/20 Can I Scroll There By Pixel-Light? Yes, And Back Again

(1) TAKING NOTES. I’d love to see more panel reports of this kind.

(2) FAN FUNDS AUCTION. Alison Scott announced that today’s CoNZealand Fan Funds auction raised 2190$NZD for GUFF, TAFF, DUFF and FFANZ.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY FICTION! This happened to a CoNZealand panel participant yesterday.

Schluessel also reports getting dinged for having a Black Lives Matter background. Which is pretty bizarre, because there’s a Black Lives Matter banner in CoNZealand’s virtual Exhibit Hall, as seen in the screencap below. However,  Schluessel says “CoNZealand has extended me a full apology, which I have accepted.”

(4) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT. CoNZealand’s virtual exhibit hall includes many things, such as the Rotsler Award exhibit (membership required to access) with artwork from each year’s award winner. Click the link, select “Boldy Go,” select Exhibits, and once there, click on Displays. The Rotsler link is last on the bottom right.

(5) PLEASE UNSIGN THEM. When she saw her sff group’s name listed as a signer of the Open Letter to WSFS about the Saudi Arabia Worldcon bid, Fran Dowd, “Sofa” of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy society posted a denial on the group’s Facebook page.

I’d like to put it on record that I have no idea how this group appeared as a signatory to the Jeddah letter. Whatever our personal feelings might be, I would not expect anyone to sign such a statement on our behalf without consultation at the least. 

I have spent this morning, when I would actually rather be at the current Worldcon, trying to spread the word. Apologies have been given to the NZ Chairs and to Kevin Standlee. Given the spread of social media, getting a retraction would be meaningless. 

I apologise to any members of the group who have been dragged into this. If it is of any help, please point people to this statement. 

Signed by me in my capacity as Chair When We Need One.

(6) RETRO SPLASHDOWN. Cora Buhlert takes stock of yesterday’s awards. Did they stick the landing? “Some Thoughts on the 1945 Retro Hugo Winners”.

Best Novelette

The 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Novelette goes to “City” by Clifford D. Simak. This isn’t a huge surprise, because the City cycle is well regarded, still in print and Clifford D. Simak was one of the best writers of the Golden Age. “City” is a pretty good story, too, though not the best City story of 1944 or even the best City novelette, because “Census”, which didn’t make the ballot, is better.

That said, this was not the category I wanted to see Simak win. In fact, I was hoping that C.L. Moore, either with or without Henry Kuttner, would win Best Novelette, because both “No Woman Born” (which finished second) and “The Children’s Hour” (which finished unfairly in sixth place) are great stories.

Though I’m glad that “Arena” by Fredric Brown was its “Genocide is good” message didn’t win, because I feared that it might.

(7) MORE OR LESS RETRO-HUGOS? Charles Stross thinks pausing the Retro-Hugos for about a quarter century might address some of the competing values now in conflict. Thread starts here.

Alasdair Stuart laments the Campbell and Lovecraft Retro wins. Thread starts here.

(8) PERSERVERANCE IS ON ITS WAY. “Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance robot launches to detect life on Red Plane” – BBC story includes video.

The US space agency’s Perseverance robot has left Earth on a mission to try to detect life on Mars.

The one-tonne, six-wheeled rover was launched out of Florida by an Atlas rocket on a path to intercept the Red Planet in February next year.

When it lands, the Nasa robot will also gather rock and soil samples to be sent home later this decade.

Perseverance is the third mission despatched to Mars inside 11 days, after launches by the UAE and China.

Lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 07:50 local time (12:50 BST; 11:50 GMT).

Nasa made this mission one of its absolute priorities when the coronavirus crisis struck, establishing special work practices to ensure Perseverance met its launch deadline.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s a challenge, it’s very stressful, but look – the teams made it happen and I’ll tell you, we could not be more proud of what this integrated team was able to pull off here, so it’s very, very exciting,” Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters.

(9) SPEAK UP, MARS. NPR tells how “Microphone Aboard NASA’s Rover Aims To Pick Up Sounds From Mars”.

…BRENDAN BYRNE, BYLINE: When the Perseverance rover lands on Mars in February, it will unpack a suite of scientific experiments to help uncover ancient signs of life on the red planet – high-tech cameras, spectrometers, sensors and…

ROGER WIENS: This is the voice of Roger Wiens speaking to you through the Mars microphone on SuperCam.

BYRNE: Roger Wiens is the principal investigator of the rover SuperCam, a slew of instruments, including a camera, laser and spectrometer, that will examine the rocks and soil of Mars for organic compounds, a hint that there might be further evidence of past life. Tucked away inside the SuperCam is the Mars microphone.

WIENS: And so it is there to listen to anything interesting, first of all, on Mars. And so we should hear wind sounds. We should hear sounds of the rover. We might hear things that we never expected to hear. And so that’s going to be interesting to find out.

BYRNE: The mic will also listen as Perseverance’s onboard laser blasts nearby rocks.

ADDIE DOVE: You might think we’re going to hear, like, pew pew, but we probably won’t.

BYRNE: University of Central Florida planetary scientist Addie Dove says the sounds of Martian rock blasts will help scientists determine if they might contain organic material, evidence of life on Mars. But it will actually sound more like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCK BLASTS)

(10) JOSE SARAMAGO NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming discusses a new adaptation of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s sf novel Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse in London (donmarwarehouse.com).  Donmar’s director, Michael Longhurst says the production will be a hybrid of theatre and “sound installation” that will let the theatre hold four shows a day.  I can’t tell from the review how much actual theatre there is in the production.  The only Donmar production I’ve seen was an all-female Julius Caesar on PBS that had an impressive performance by Dame Harriet Walter as Brutus.

Lockdown has emphasised the importance of sound for many of us from that early experience of hearing birdsong in unusually quiet city centres, to a keener awareness, prompted by physical separation, of the way we listen.  And several online drama offerings, such as Simon McBurney’s The Encounter and Sound&Fury’s wartime meditation Charlie Ward At Home, have used sophisticated recording to steep their homebound audiences in other worlds and prompt reflection. 

Blindness, in a sense, builds on that (there will be a digital download for those unable to get to the theatre).  So why attend in person?  Longhurst suggests the very act of being in a space will change the quality of listening–and reflect the way we have all had individual journeys through the collective experience of lockdown.  And while this is a one-off piece about a society in an epidemic, created for an industry in a pandemic, that physical presence marks a move towards full performance.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1987 — Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of Minneapolis fandom. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 30, 1800 – Aleksandr Veltman.  Order of St. Vladimir (bravery) while in the Russian army, eventually Director of the Museum of Armaments.  Poetry praised by Pushkin, second wife’s novel praised by Gorky.  The Wanderer in an imaginary journey parodies travel notes.  Koshchei the Deathless parodies historical adventures.  The Year 3448 is supposedly by Martin Zadek (who also finds his way into Pushkin and Zamyatin).  The Forebears of Kalimeros has time-travel (by riding a hippogriff; “Kalimeros”, a nudge at Napoleon, is the Greek equivalent of Buonaparte) to meet Alexander and Aristotle.  Tolstoy and Dostoevskyapplauded AV too.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1873 – Curtis Senf.  Four dozen covers and hundreds of interiors for Weird Tales, after which what the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists modestly calls “a more lucrative career as a commercial artist in the Chicago advertising industry”.  Here is the Oct 27 WT; here is the Jan 30; here is the Mar 32.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1911 Reginald Bretnor. Author of many genre short stories involving Ferdinand Feghoot, a comical figure indeed. It looks like all of these are available in digital form on iBooks and Kindle. He was a consummate SJW. He translated Les Chats, the first known book about cats which was written by Augustin Paradis de Moncrif in 1727. He also wrote myriad articles about cats, was of course a companion to cats, and considered himself to have a psychic connection to cats. Of course most of us do. (Did 1992.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode  of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1947 – John Stith, 73.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian.  Wrote about John Kennedy (i.e. our JK; indeed John R.; 1945-2009) in 1992 (for the limited ed’n of “Nova in a Bottle” bound with “Encore”), interviewed by him in 1993 (SF Chronicle 164).  Did his own cover for a reprinting of Death Tolls.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 72. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen… (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1961 Laurence Fishburne, 59. In The Matrix films. His voice work as Thrax in Osmosis Jones on the other hand is outstanding as is his role as Bill Foster in Ant-Man. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 54. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. I didn’t know he was an author ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1967 – Ann Brashares, 53. Famous for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (that’s the U.S. meaning of “pants”, in this case a magical pair of blue jeans), a NY Times Best-Seller, and its sequels, films, companions.  Two more novels for us, one other.  Indies Choice Book Award, Quill Award.  Philosophy major (yay!) at Barnard, 1989.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1971 – Kristie Cook, 49.  Nine novels, a dozen shorter stories (some with co-authors; publishes Havenwood Falls shared-world stories, some wholly by others).  Loves cheese, chocolate, coffee, husband, sons, motorcycle.  “No, I’m not crazy.  I’m just a writer.”  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1974 – Jacek Dukaj, 46.  Ten novels, half a dozen shorter stories, translated into Bulgarian, Czech, English (he’s a Pole), German, Hungarian, Italian, Macedonian, Russian, Slovak.  Six Zajdel Awards.  EU Prize for Literature.  Another writer with a Philosophy degree, from Jagiellonian University even.  His Culture.pl page (in English) is here.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 45. Her southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how they are. Anyone read these? (CE)

(13) NOW WITH MORE MASK. Ray’s playing it safe, I see. Incidentally, the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum is accepting RSVP’s here for entry during RBEM’s Ray Bradbury Centennial Celebration on August 22, 2020.

(14) OOPS. Marc Zicree has issued a video “Apology to the Science Fiction Writers of America,” for using their membership list to publicize Space Command.

(15) A DISSATISFIED CUSTOMER. And not only that, we line up for the opportunity!

(16) BACURAU. The Criterior Channel’s August lineup includes Bacurau on August 20, an exclusive streaming premiere, featuring an interview with directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.

(17) SHELFISHNESS. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda finds it’s not that easy: “In turbulent times, culling my book collection gave me the illusion of control. Then the dilemmas began multiplying.”

… After all, who doesn’t periodically yearn to flee the nightmarish world we now live in? A persistent feeling of helplessness, frustration, anger and mild despair has emerged as the “New Normal” — which is one reason my recent reviews and essays tend to emphasize escapism, often into books from the past. A similar impulse lies behind the pruning of my basement hoard. Going through my many boxes, I am no longer the plaything of forces beyond my control. I have, to use a vogue term, agency. I alone decide which books to keep, which to let go.

However, making these decisions has turned out to be harder than I expected.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I’m fond of a slightly overwritten travel book called “A Time of Gifts” by English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. It recounts in striking detail a walk across half of Europe undertaken by the young Leigh Fermor in 1933. Somehow, I possess four copies of this minor classic: a Penguin paperback that I read and marked up, an elegant Folio Society edition bought at the Friends of the Montgomery County Library bookstore, a later issue of the original John Murray hardback, and a first American edition in a very good dust jacket acquired for a bargain price at the Second Story Books warehouse. Given the space-saving principle of eliminating duplicates, I should keep just one copy. Which one?

(18) WIZARDS OF THE COST. NPR finds that “In The Pandemic Era, This ‘Gathering’ Has Lost Some Of Its Magic”.

You draw seven cards. You look at your hand. It would be perfect if you had that one card.

Too bad it costs $50. And your local game store is closed anyway.

Depending on where you lie on the nerd spectrum, you may or may not have heard of Magic: The Gathering. It’s a trading card game that’s been in production for almost three decades. Even if you haven’t heard of it or played it, you probably know someone who has. It’s one of the most popular trading card games of all time, and that isn’t an exaggeration; there are millions of Magic: The Gathering players worldwide.

…Before COVID-19 hit the Magic community, players packed into local game stores to sling spells and blow off steam. Now, as players move toward the online versions, there are additional financial hurdles to clear.

There’s a reason it’s called Magic: The Gathering. Most of the fun comes from squaring off against other players, catching the clandestine tells of your opponent as they draw powerful spells. Game stores across the country offer opportunities to play; they host tournaments, stock up on new cards and teach new wizards how to play.

But even if veteran players and shop owners welcome new Planeswalkers with open arms, how accessible is Magic: The Gathering?

Players can craft a variety of decks, and if they’re playing the more common formats of the game, a deck can cost anywhere from about $275 to $834 or more. Not only are full decks expensive, but so are individual cards. The card Thoughtseize, for instance, has a current value of around $25 per copy. If a deck contains four copies of a single card (the maximum), just that one card would bring the price of a deck up by $100. And there are much more expensive cards on the market.

…There is an online version of the game, but Magic Online isn’t cheap either. And while it isn’t as expensive as its cardboard counterpart, a player still has to buy new digital versions of physical cards they already own. On top of that, a Magic Online account costs $10 just to set up. And while a Magic veteran might jump at the opportunity to play online, a new player may feel less inclined to pay the fee when there are other online deck-building games, like Hearthstone, that are free to try.

In 2018, Magic’s publisher Wizards of the Coast released a free, digital version of the game called Magic: The Gathering Arena. It’s a more kid-friendly online option for new Planeswalkers, but it still has the same Magic charm for older players. Arena does include in-game purchases, but players can obtain better cards by grinding out a lot of games instead of spending extra money. And while Arena can be a great way to introduce a new player to the online format, if they don’t want to empty their wallets, they’ll have to get used to losing for a while.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/29/20 It Appears To Be Some Sort Of Pixel Scroll

(1) RED HOT RETRO-HUGOS. The 1945 Retro-Hugos were presented at CoNZealand today – see the winners here.

The full voting stats are online, and Deputy Hugo Awards Administrator Nicholas Whyte also has done a quick analysis of the results.

(2) PETITIONS AND PUBLISHING. Seanan McGuire has a quite interesting series of tweets inspired by social media petitions flogging certain authors to produce their next book now, in which she tries to open readers’ eyes about the traditional publishing process. Thread starts here.

(3) ABOUT THE GUARDIAN’S “OPEN LETTER” COVERAGE. Chris Barkley posted his letter of complaint sent to The Guardian’s Reader Service about their article.

Hello,

I am writing to complain about Alison Flood’s article on the Saudi Arabian bid to hold the 2022 World Science Fiction Convention.

While Ms. Flood’s reporting was informative, it did lack ANY reaction directly from the current co-chairs of the current Worldcon in New Zealand (Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates) or any member of the Worldcon who could explain the function of the Constitution of the World Science Fiction Convention and how it relates to the multi-year bidding process works.

Nor had she any quotes or commentary from any other fans who could have offered additional information or insights about sf fandom.

It would be very much appreciated if she were to update this important story with more of these elements rather than the somewhat sensationalized version that was posted.

Chris M. Barkley
Cincinnati, Ohio
USA

I have worked in Worldcon Press Offices since 1983. In this day and age there is NO EXCUSE for sloppy reporting…

(4) TOASTMASTER WARMS UP THE AUDIENCE. George R.R. Martin previews the CoNZealand Hugo Ceremony in “Worldcon… Virtually” at Not A Blog.

…Anyway, here is how the Hugos are going to work…  I have already pre-recorded all of my opening remarks, introductions of the guest presenters (we will have several), amusing (one hopes) anecdotes and bits of history, discussions of each category, and readings of the names of the finalists (in the cases where I am presenting myself, rather than throwing the ball to a guest presenter).  ConNZealand has all those videos.  The rest of it will be live streamed from my theatre in Santa Fe, the Jean Cocteau, where a member of worldcon’s tech team will be helping me Zoom.   I will have the envelopes with the names of the winners sealed therein.  I may actually have a Hugo to wave about.

So the drill will go like this: for each category, you will get a pre-recorded video of me as a lead-in.  Then I will either read the finalists, so throw it to another presenter who will do the same.  Most of their remarks are pre-recorded as well.  Then back to me, this time live at the JCC, where I will rip open the envelope and announce the winner.  Then we cut to the happy winner, somewhere in the world…  assuming they are in front of their computers and know how to Zoom and all.  (No, unlike the other major awards shows, we have no plans to show the fake smiles on the faces of the sad losers).  The happy winner will make an acceptance speech, long or short as may be, that is entirely up to them.  Then back to me… either live me at the JCC, or pre-recorded me for the next category.

And on and on, starting with the Lodestar and ending with Best Novel….

(5) CONZEALAND DAILY NEWZINE. Cruise Log has found a substitute for the Worldcon daily zine’s usual “warm body count” —

1400 people have logged into the CoNZealand discord server as of 09:00 Thursday morning!

(6) POCKET CHANGE FOR NEVERNEVERLAND. “New Peter Pan and Tinkerbell 50p coins launch – and they look magical” in the Mirror.

The new collection of Peter Pan British Isles 50p coins have been developed in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital to celebrate 90 years since author, J.M. Barrie, gifted all future rights of the book to them.

The new set will be the first ever collection of its kind in the UK – but won’t be released by the Royal Mint and therefore won’t be entering circulation.

Prices start at £6.25, and for every coin sold, a donation will go directly to GOSH Charity to support the hospital’s most urgent needs: fund support services, pioneering research, equipment and refurbishment.

(7) DREAM FOUNDRY WRITING CONTEST. The Dream Foundry Writing Contest will be open for submissions from August 10 to October 11, 2020. Full guidelines here.

We’re looking for complete and finalized stories of speculative fiction of up to 10,000 words. This year, we’re proud to announce monetary prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places.

1st: $1000; 2nd: $500; 3rd: $200

There is no submission fee. All rights remain with the creators.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 29, 1953 — George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds premiered in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It was directed by Byron Haskin from the screenplay by Barré Lyndon. It starred Gene Barry and Anne Robinson. It was narrated by Cedric Hardwicke. The film was both a critical and box office success earning back its budget in its first release. And it would win an Academy Award for Special Effects. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 71% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 29, 1876 Maria Ouspenskaya. In the Forties, she did a run of pulp films, to wit The Wolf ManFrankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and Tarzan and the Amazons. A decade or so earlier, she was in Beyond Tomorrow. (Died 1949.) (CE) 
  • Born July 29, 1878 – Don Marquis.  (name pronounced “mar-kwis”)  At The Sun, New York, a column “The Sun Dial” 1912-1922; at The Herald Tribune, “The Tower” (later “The Lantern”); three novels; plays, poems, essays, sketches.  Introduced, famously and of interest to us, a cockroach whose writings DM found in the typewriter next morning; the cockroach wrote by diving onto the keys, could not get capitals, and so is known as archy; in turn archy knew a cat, mehitabel; they, illustrated by George Herriman who meanwhile drew Krazy Kat, outcreated everything.  (Died 1937) [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1888 Farnsworth Wright. Editor of Weird Tales. editing an amazing 179 issues from November 1924–March 1940. Mike Ashley in EoSF says, “Wright developed WT from a relatively routine horror pulp magazine to create what has become a legend.”  His own genre fiction is generally considered undistinguished. He also edited during the Thirties, Oriental Stories and The Magic Carpet. The work available digitally is a poem, “After Two Nights of the Ear-ache”. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born July 29, 1907 Melvin Belli. Sole genre role is that of Gorgan (also known as the “Friendly Angel”) in the Star Trek “And the Children Shall Lead” episode. Koenig objected to his playing this role believing the role should have gone to someone who was an actor. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. She founded Atheneum Children’s Books, and she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea sequence and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising sequence. As an author, she wrote three genre novels, Strange Tomorrow Beloved Benjamin Is Waiting and But We Are Not of Earth, and a reasonable amount of short fiction, all of which is In the Clordian Sweep series. Nine of those stories are in The Turning Point collection. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born July 29, 1939 Curtis C. Smith, 81. Editor of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, plus two genre biographies, Olaf Stapledon: A Bibliography with co-author Harvey J. Satty, and Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. Not active since the mid-Eighties as near as I can tell. (CE)
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner, 79. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. (CE)
  • Born July 29, 1945 – Sharon Creech, 74.  First person to win both the Newbery & Carnegie Medals.  Three novels for us, many more (two, for adults, under another name).  Some verse, some prose.  “While teaching literature I learned so much about writing”; Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1948 – John Harris, 72.  Two hundred covers, as many interiors.  Two artbooks.  Chesley for Lifetime Achievement.  Commissions for NASA, Royal Caribbean cruise ships, Philips, Shell.  Here is Stand on Zanzibar.  Here is The Ringworld Throne.  Here is Ancillary Mercy.  Here is The Best of Gregory Benford.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1953 – David Lee Anderson, 67.  A score of covers, half that many interiors.  Lately Oklahoma landmarks and landscapes.  Here is the Oct 93 Tomorrow.  Here is A Glimpse of Splendor (collection).  Here is ISS Repairs (Int’l Space Station).  Here is Rioghain (“ree-ann”) from Afterwalker (D. Glaser dir.; in post-production as of Mar 2020).  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1956 – Chitra Divakaruni, Ph.D., 64.  Five novels for us; much more.  The Palace of Illusions, her re-telling of the Mahabharata from Drapaudi’s perspective, was an India best-seller for a year; here (Web archive) is an India Reads review whose author confesses having known the Mahabharata only from television.  American Book Award, Light of India Award, Pushcart Prize, Ginsberg Poetry Prize.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 29, 1969 – Forrest Aguirre, 51.  Two novels, five dozen shorter stories in ApexAsimov’sVasterien.  Edited two Leviathan anthologies (one with Jeff Vandermeer; World Fantasy Award).  Speaks Swahili.  Collections, The Butterfly ArtistFugue XXIX.  Ranks Thank You, Jeeves above Gorky Park (agreed).  Interview at SF Site here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) POPULARITY CONTEST. Camestros Felapton produced a highly scientific graph that confirms “Martians are more popular than Venusians”.

…However, I realised that the Google n-gram site would provide a neat empirical confirmation of Mars bias in popular culture. I did a search on Martians and Venusians, choosing the inhabitants rather than the planets to avoid hits about astronomy or the gods….

(12) WHAT A CONCEPT. “You can now boot a Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft and play Doom on it” reports The Verge.

If you’ve ever wanted to build a real and working Windows 95 PC inside Minecraft, now is the time. A new VM Computers mod has been created for Minecraft that allows players to order computer parts from a satellite orbiting around a Minecraft world and build a computer that actually boots Windows 95 and a variety of other operating systems.

The mod uses VirtualBox, free and open-source virtual machine software, to run operating systems like Windows 95. Within Minecraft you simply place a PC case block and then use it to create virtual hard drives to install operating systems from ISO files….

(13) SMALL MONSTER STORY. NPR’s Jason Sheehan writes that the ~interstitial “‘Empire Of Wild’ Tells A Small Story — But Not A Slight One”.

I like a small book. I trust a small book. I appreciate a small book for all the things it doesn’t do, for all the stories it does not tell.

Big books? They’re dangerous in their excess. Bloated (often) with words they do not need and larded (often) with detail that no one asked for. You can slip into a big book and lose your way too easily. But a small book is intimate. Close. Every word it says matters. The writer of a small book knows that every page has to count.

Cherie Dimaline wrote a small book called Empire Of Wild. It isn’t small in pages (320, give or take) or in words (it has the normal amount), but it is tiny in consequence. In the scope and reach of the story it tells.

It is about Joan, who has lost her husband. And who means to get him back. That’s all. There are no worlds to be saved, no history to be altered. Joan’s actions, and the reverberations of those actions, are felt only close by. Her family, her community, the barrooms and living rooms and Walmart parking lots of the small towns around Georgian Bay, Ontario are the only places where her footsteps are felt. And that’s enough. That’s more than enough.

…Down in its bones, Empire Of Wild is a monster story. Mythic but not epic, swimming in Indigenous medicine, not magic. Calling it urban fantasy gives it a gloss it doesn’t possess. Magical realism implies something absurdist, asynchronous, and doesn’t speak to the way that the medicine of the Métis elders is woven into every breath and line.

Here, Dimaline uses the Métis legend of the rogarou to square her narrative architecture — to give weight and nightmares to Joan’s private hurt. The rogarou is the bogeyman that scares children home before it gets too dark outside. It makes Métis girls walk home in pairs. It keeps men from doing wrong by women, each other or the community. The rogarou is part man, part dog, a wolfman that makes itself through bad choices. And Joan believes in the rogarou because she’s seen one before. She knows the smell of one when it’s close — and with a cell phone, some salt bone, her aunt Ajean’s medicine and her chubby, mopey nephew Zeus by her side, she knows that she’s going to have to meet one, fight one, slay one to bring Victor back home.

(14) LANDSHIP TROOPERS? Yahoo! News reports “Marines to Test Exoskeleton Suit That Can Do the Work of Up to 10 Troops”. Includes a photo.

The Marine Corps is moving ahead with plans to test a wearable robotic exoskeleton that conjures up images of that power-loader suit Ellen Ripley wore to take down a space monster in the movie “Aliens.”

By the end of the year, the service will have a Guardian XO Alpha full-body robotic exoskeleton that allows one person to do the work of four to 10 people, depending on the task. The wearable suit can do hours of physical labor that would otherwise be impossible for a Marine to do alone, lifting and moving up to 200 pounds of gear repeatedly for eight hours straight.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. NPR declares,“Believe It Or Not, Forests Migrate — But Not Fast Enough For Climate Change”.

We’re all familiar with migration: Wildebeests gallop across Africa, Monarch butterflies flit across the Americas … but did you know that forests migrate, too?

In his new book The Journeys of Trees, science writer Zach St. George explores an agonizingly slow migration, as forests creep inch by inch to more hospitable places.

Individual trees, he writes, are rooted in one spot. But forests? Forests “are restless things.” As old trees die and new ones sprouts up, the forest is — ever so slightly — moving.

“The migration of a forest is just many trees sprouting in the same direction,” St. George writes. “Through the fossils that ancient forests left behind, scientists can track their movement over the eons. They shuffle back and forth across continents, sometimes following the same route more than once, like migrating birds or whales.”

(16) NOT SO FAR. We knew the smaller stones came from Wales, but now the BBC reports “Mystery of origin of Stonehenge megaliths solved”.

The origin of the giant sarsen stones at Stonehenge has finally been discovered with the help of a missing piece of the site which was returned after 60 years.

A test of the metre-long core was matched with a geochemical study of the standing megaliths.

Archaeologists pinpointed the source of the stones to an area 15 miles (25km) north of the site near Marlborough.

English Heritage’s Susan Greaney said the discovery was “a real thrill”.

The seven-metre tall sarsens, which weigh about 20 tonnes, form all fifteen stones of Stonehenge’s central horseshoe, the uprights and lintels of the outer circle, as well as outlying stones.

(17) PERSEVERING THROUGH THE PLAGUE. FastCompany tells how “Even amid COVID-19, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is ready for takeoff”.

…“Putting together a spacecraft to Mars and not making a mistake is hard no matter what,” said NASA deputy project manager Matt Wallace. “Trying to do it during the middle of a pandemic is a lot harder. Everyone told us we could not have come up with a better name than Perseverance.” (Wallace and others in this story spoke during or in videos presented at a virtual June press conference.)

Despite this seismic hurdle, the Mars 2020 rover is on track for a July 30 launch toward its seven-month, 314-million-mile journey to the Red Planet. Its two-year mission is to gather samples suggesting past microscopic life for subsequent retrieval and return to Earth, explore the 4-billion-year-old geology of the Jezero Crater landing site, and demonstrate technologies for future robotic and human exploration. The mission has cost $2.4 billion from development through launch, with another $300 million earmarked for operations and surface science.

(18) MOVING UP. “Airbus to build ‘first interplanetary cargo ship'”.

Airbus-France will build the huge satellite that brings the first Martian rock samples back to Earth.

This material will be drilled on the Red Planet by the US space agency’s next rover, Perseverance, before being blasted into orbit by a rocket.

It’ll be the Airbus satellite’s job to grab the packaged samples and then ship them home.

The joint American-European project is expected to cost billions and take just over a decade to implement.

But scientists say it’s probably the best way to confirm whether life has ever existed on the Red Planet.

Any evidence is likely to be controversial and will need the powerful analytical tools only found in Earth laboratories to convince the doubters, the researchers argue.

(19) SORRY CHARLY. No longer smart, these glasses soon will be mainly useful as paperweights: “Google offers refunds after smart glasses stop working”.

Smart glasses company North has told customers that their $600 (£460) purchases will stop working in a few days’ time.

The Canadian company, recently purchased by Google, says its Focals glasses will cease functioning on Friday.

From then, owners will not be able to use “any features” of the glasses, or connect to the companion app.

But the company has also said it will automatically refund all customers.

It promised to send the purchase price back to the original payment method, and to contact those customers whose refunds it could not process.

At the end of June, North announced it was being acquired by Google, and would not release a planned second-generation device.

It also said it would “wind down” its first generation smart glasses, released last year.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The YouTube algorithm says I should watch “The Secret Every Tolkien Nerd Knows” by Diana Glyer.  What do you think of the algorithm’s judgment?

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/20 We Have Pixelsign The Likes Of Godstalk Has Never Seen!

(1) OPEN DISCUSSION OF OPEN LETTER. Several authors have responded to the challenges raised in the letter posted here: “Writers Circulate Letter of Concern About Saudi Worldcon Bid”.

  • Robert J. Sawyer wrote extensive comments about the Open Letter in this public Facebook post.
  • Seanan McGuire, an author who’s also been a Worldcon runner, has added her insights on Twitter, Thread starts here.
  • Cat Valente’s thread starts here, and the comments are along these lines —

(2) EVANIER ON MALTIN PODCAST. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest podcast is with their long-time friend, Mark Evanier. (Click here.)  Evanier talks about how he began his career as Jack Kirby’s assistant and then goes on to discuss his years at Hanna-Barbera, including what it was like to work with Tex Avery and Mel Blanc and how Jonathan Winters once used some downtime to do some improv in his office.  Also discussed was his six-year run as the writer of Garfield and Friends, and how he gave work to such comedy legends as George O’Hanlon (the original voice of George Jetson) and Rose Marie.  He also discusses his role at Comic-Con, where he is one of six people who has attended every Comic-Con.  As part of his Comic-Con segment, he gives some valuable advice about running panels.  He is also an author, with his edition of the seventh volume of The Complete Pogo about to be sent to the printer.  Evanier’s long-time partner was Carolyn Kelly, daughter of Pogo creator Walt Kelly, and Evanier vows to finish the definitive Pogo collection Carolyn Kelly began.

Ray Bradbury is discussed beginning at minute 56, and Evanier discusses what it was like to interview Bradbury in front of several thousand Comic-Con attendees.  (He routinely asked Harlan Ellison fr advice about what questions to ask Bradbury). He notes that Bradbury always liked to go to the hucksters room to see what was new in comics and how he would always happily sign his works.  Leonard Maltin noted that Bradbury had a youthful spirit throughout his life and “never lost his sense of wonder.”

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The July 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Legal Salvage,” by Holli Mintzer, a story about artificial intelligence, thrifting, and taste.

Twenty, 25 years ago, someone lost a building.

It started as a U-Haul self-storage franchise, and switched allegiance between a few other companies as it changed owners. The last owner had been running it as an independent when he died. His heirs were halfway across the country, and before they could do anything about it, one of them died and the other two spent down the rest of the estate fighting over how to split it….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Can an A.I. Develop Taste?” by Kate Compton, an artificial intelligence coder, artist, and educator.

…As humans, our possessions mean many different things to us. Their value may be practical. We need a blender to make smoothies and a bike to get to work on time. But many objects also have sentimental value and hook into the complex web of human emotions and relationships. We may have aspirational objects that tell us who we want to be (someone who goes camping more, exercises more, would wear those impractical shoes). We also keep nostalgic objects that remind us, through memory or our senses, of people or values that we want to remember. Sometimes our collections simply “spark joy” (in Marie Kondo’s words) in some unknowable way.

In “Legal Salvage,” we meet three collectors: Mika, Ash, and Roz. We also learn about people who abandoned power tools or neon signs or commemorative saltshakers in their storage lockers. We don’t know what these objects meant to the vanished collectors…. 

(4) JACKSON ON SCREEN. “Josephine Decker Releases A New Film About The Horror Writer Shirley Jackson” – transcript of an NPR inetrview.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The new movie “Shirley” starts after the author Shirley Jackson has published her most famous short story. It’s called “The Lottery.” You might have read it in high school.

JOSEPHINE DECKER: The town annually stones to death one of its members because that’s just what’s done. You know, I think there’s a reason that that has stayed in our canon. It’s incredibly intense to talk about institutionalized oppression.

SHAPIRO: That’s the movie’s director Josephine Decker. Her film “Shirley” is a fictional story about a real person. And so I asked Decker how she compares the author, who died in 1965, to the character Shirley Jackson that Elisabeth Moss plays in the movie.

DECKER: It was a tricky challenge I guess you could say. But our MO was really just to prioritize making the audience feel like they were inside of a Shirley Jackson story. We put that above all else. So we were always adventuring into her fiction as the primary source for our inspiration of how to approach the film. We were very clear that we wanted to make a film that wouldn’t be mistaken for a biopic, even though I think it totally (laughter) has. It’s hard – when you call a film “Shirley,” I guess people get confused.

(5) CAMP IN TROUBLE. Huntsville’s Space Camp, and the US Space & Rocket Center museum in general, are in deep financial trouble due to knock-on effects of the pandemic and are seeking donations to help stay open: “U.S. Space & Rocket Center launches ‘Save Space Camp’ Campaign” on WAFF 48.

(6) THAT’S STRANGE! Yahoo! News shares tweeted footage from four years ago in “Benedict Cumberbatch Surprised Fans In Comic Store As Doctor Strange In New Video”.

A behind-the-scenes video of Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange delightfully stopping by a comic bookstore is making the rounds, and it’s exactly a bright spot the internet needed these days.

Scott Derrickson, the director and co-writer of “Doctor Strange,” on Monday night shared a “never before shown moment” of Cumberbatch, in full character regalia, casually walking into. a comic book store in New York City during the filming of the 2016 superhero flick. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 28, 1940 – Bugs Bunny, the iconic cartoon character, made his official debut in the 1940 Oscar nominated short, The Wild Hare. The Looney Tunes standout was first voiced by actor Mel Blanc. NPR “Morning Edition.” “What’s Up, Doc? Bugs Bunny’s Age. Cartoon Rabbit Turns 80”.
  • July 28, 1955 — X Minus One’s “The Embassy” first aired. The story is that a man walks into a detective agency wanting to hire them to find the Martians that he says are here on Earth. It’s based on a story by Donald Wollheim published in Astounding Science Fiction in the March 1942 issue. The script is by George Lefferts. The cast includes Joseph Julian and Barry Kroger. (CE)  

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 28, 1844 – Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Including this original extraordinary poet will startle any Christian.  “What?  That’s not fantasy!”  Be kind, brothers and sisters.  Discovering him was worth all the quarreling with my teacher after high test scores put me in English IV my freshman year in college.  Read this; and yes, it’s a sonnet.  If you didn’t look up “Heraclitean” and you should have, shame on you.  (Died 1889) [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1866 – Beatrix Potter.  Famous for The Tale of Peter Rabbit; two dozen of these.  Prizewinning breeder of Herdwick sheep.  Conservationist.  Careful mycological paintings finally published in W.P.K. Findlay’s Wayside & Woodland Fungi (1967); Linnean Society finally apologized for sexist disregard of her research (1997).  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life here (Died 1943.) (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 92. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1931 – Jay Kay Klein.  For decades he was fandom’s photographer.  He wrote Analog’s Biologfor thirty years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Discon II the 32nd Worldcon.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  At the end he donated some 70,000 photos to the Eaton Collection at U. Cal. Riverside; so far 6,000 digitized and available electronically.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Though primarily a writer of horror fiction, he did write three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard, The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Meta-verse. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1947 – Colin Hay, 73.  Six dozen covers, a few interiors.  Here is The Left Hand of Darkness.  Here is Orbitsville.  Here is Rendezvous with Rama.  Here is Before the Golden Age vol. 2.   [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1955 – Ed Green, 65.  Hard worker at cons within reach, local, regional, world.  Chaired Loscon 24 and 31, co-chaired La-la’s Eleven (9th in a series of relaxacons, named with variations of “La-la Con” i.e. for Los Angeles and La-la Land).  Served as LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) President.  Evans-Freehafer Award for service to LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 54. Husband of Mercedes Lackey, both GoHs of CoNZealand, who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 52. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1980 – Kelly van der Laan, 40.  Four novels, three shorter stories in her Spring (in Dutch, Lentagon) series – first novel came from Nanowrimo; a dozen more short stories. “Pink Water” won first prize in the Fantastic Story contest.  Collection Lost Souls just released in February.  Likes Corey, King, Lynch, Martin, Sanderson, Rothfuss.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is Herman the subject of alien catch-and-release?

(10) FROSTY IN SPACE. Official ice cream of the Space Force TV show, “Ben and Jerry’s Boots on The Mooooo’N.” Here are four minutes of laughs about the ice cream in “Boots on the Moooon:  Space Force R & D Diaries.”

(11) LAST CHANCE TO SEE. BBC reports “Van Gogh: Postcard helps experts ‘find location of final masterpiece'”.

A postcard has helped to find the probable spot where Vincent van Gogh painted what may have been his final masterpiece, art experts say.

The likely location for Tree Roots was found by Wouter van der Veen, the scientific director of the Institut Van Gogh.

He recognised similarities between the painting and a postcard dating from 1900 to 1910.

The postcard shows trees on a bank near the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise.

The site is 150m (492ft) from the Auberge Ravoux, the inn in the village, where Van Gogh stayed for 70 days before taking his own life in 1890.

(12) STEVEN KNOWS BEST. In Yahoo! Entertainment’s “‘Waterworld’ at 25: How Kevin Costner’s choice to ignore Steven Spielberg resulted in one of the most expensive movies ever”, Ethan Alter interviews Waterworld screenwriter Peter Rader, who says that Steven Spielberg’s advice to director Kevin Reynolds and star Kevin Costner to film most of Waterworld in a tank rather than on the water led to colossal cost overruns when the film’s sets were destroyed in a typhoon.

Memo to all aspiring filmmakers: When Steven Spielberg tells you not to do something, you’d be wise to listen. Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds learned that lesson the hard way during the production of their 1995 action epic, Waterworld. Set in a dystopian tomorrow where the polar ice caps have melted, erasing “dryland” and bathing the world in water, the movie was conceived as an ambitious aquatic Western with a science-fiction twist. But when Waterworld washed ashore in theaters 25 years ago this summer, all anyone could talk about was the out-of-control budget and behind-the-scenes creative battles that culminated with Costner replacing Reynolds in the editing room. According to Waterworld screenwriter, Peter Rader, the source of the movie’s many troubles stemmed from one fateful decision: the choice to shoot the entire film on the open water rather than in a controlled environment like a studio water tank….

(13) IN THE QUEUE. “Virgin Galactic set for last key rocket test flights”.

Virgin Galactic is about to start a key series of powered test flights of its passenger rocket plane.

The company’s Unity vehicle has so far conducted only glide flights after moving into its operational base in New Mexico earlier this year.

The powered ascents will see Unity ignite its hybrid rocket motor to climb to the edge of space.

These tests will set the stage for Virgin Galactic to introduce its commercial service.

Six hundred individuals have so far paid deposits to take a ride on Unity, with many of these individuals having put down their money a good number of years ago.

But George Whitesides, the company’s chief space officer, said their wait would soon be over.

“Our next flight will be just purely two pilots in the front to do a systems check,” he told BBC News.

“And then, once we’ve done that – well, we’re in pretty exciting territory because the plan is to start putting [four of our] people in the back. We haven’t shared exactly how many flights that will be because we’ve got to see how it goes. But it could be a fairly small number.”

(14) HAVE A LOOK AROUND. “The interior design of Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane” – BBC video.

Fare-paying passengers will have big windows to view space from the vehicle’s cabin.

(15) PUTTING IT TOGETHER. “Iter: World’s largest nuclear fusion project begins assembly” – BBC has the story.

The world’s biggest nuclear fusion project has entered its five-year assembly phase.

After this is finished, the facility will be able to start generating the super-hot “plasma” required for fusion power.

The £18.2bn (€20bn; $23.5bn) facility has been under construction in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, southern France.

Advocates say fusion could be a source of clean, unlimited power that would help tackle the climate crisis.

Iter is a collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. All members share in the cost of construction.

(16) STUCK IN A GROOVE. At the New York Times, two space journalists say “Too Much Mars? Let’s Discuss Other Worlds”.

Three government space agencies around the world are getting ready to return to Mars this summer. Along with China and the United Arab Emirates, the United States plans to land the fifth NASA rover, Perseverance, on the red planet (along with a small, experimental helicopter, Ingenuity). But the rover’s most important job will be scooping up and caching some samples that humans or robots may eventually retrieve.

The planetary science community will cheer these missions. But many researchers have started asking, more loudly than usual, why we’re going back to Mars yet again. So we invited Rebecca Boyle and David W. Brown, two journalists who have devoted a fair share of their careers to interviewing space researchers at NASA and in academia, to discuss why Mars, a planet that lost its atmosphere long ago, seems to absorb so much of the oxygen — and budgetary resources — in the rooms where explorations of our solar system are decided.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Screen Junkies take on a classic in Honest Trailers:  E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial on YouTube. The junkies spend most of their time bashing the ’80s cheesefest Mac And Me, which they show is almost like E.T. “except for one major difference:  E.T. is good!” (DId you know Jennifer Aniston made her debut in Mac And Me?)

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

Pixel Scroll 7/27/20 Sir! I’ve Isolated The Reverse Pixel Flux Coupling!

(1) CAN VIRTUAL CONS BE MADE BETTER? In “What Lessons Can Future Conventions Learn From Virtual San Diego Comic-Con?”, Io9 staffers Beth Elderkin, Jill Pantozzi, Cheryl Eddy, James Whitbrook, Charles Pulliam-Moore, and Germain Lussier assess what didn’t work about SDCC 2020, “from a lack of support for the artists and vendors who would usually be on the show floor, to the lack of fan involvement, to how to create a sense of energy that the convention’s swath of ‘family Zoom call’ style pre-recorded panels were lacking.” 

(2) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. HBO showed its Lovecraft Country trailer to San Diego Comic-Con’s @Home audience.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Ars Technica offers “An Ars roundup of the many trailers unveiled this weekend during Comic-Con@Home” where you can see all the others.

People might not be able to flock to San Diego Comic Con this year in person, but the virtual convention, Comic-Con@Home, has been running all weekend, with countless panels, sneak peeks, and teasers and trailers for upcoming TV shows—but not many films, because let’s be honest: it’s not looking so good for major theatrical film releases in the fall. On Thursday alone, we got the full trailer for Bill and Ted Face the Music, a teaser for the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost horror comedy Truth Seekers, and the first trailer for S2 of HBO’s His Dark Materials. Rather than continue to cover each individually, we decided to compile the remaining trailers of interest into a single roundup post.

(4) A CAUTIONARY TALE. Linda D. Addison offers her experience with Covid-19 as a warning in this public Facebook post.

I’m sharing what my life has been like since June 8 because I’ve seen too many people not taking Covid-19 serious. This virus is real. If sharing this wakes even one person up, it’s worth it.

I’ve been as safe as possible, going to the supermarket every two weeks for supplies, wearing a mask, sanitizing everything, however, 7 weeks ago I got very sick for 9 days with symptoms of mild coronavirus, talked to my doctor and stayed in self isolation for more than 2 weeks. I was fortunate that my temp never went high enough or my breathing bad enough that I had to go to the hospital. Since then, I’ve lived with continued cough, fatigue, shortness of breath (using inhaler from doctor helps).

This is happening to many people in recovery (look up Covid Long Haulers). So I’m sleeping a lot, healing will come, but this is so new there’s not much the medical field can do at this point. I’m ok. My friend, Jill, lives around the corner and has been helping by dropping off stuff.

PLEASE, wear a mask (if not for yourself, for anyone who crosses your path)!

(5) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Vulture’s Mark Harris, in “The Neverending Story of Those Neverappearing Avatar Sequels”, contends that although James Cameron says Avatar 2 has been delayed because of the coronavirus, the guy is suh a perfectionist that it’s highlyunlikely we will see Avatar 3,4, or 5.

…The wait for more Avatar has become something of a running joke, so much so that a Twitter thread I started when it was already a running joke is now well into its sixth year. The first sequel was originally announced almost a decade ago, in October 2010, with a projected release date of December 2014. Since then, its opening date has, at regular intervals, been moved back one year at a time — except once, in 2017, when it moved back two years. But the film has also morphed from a two-sequel series into a four-sequel series, with a lingering sense that the mountain was being made bigger as a way of justifying the length of the climb. 

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 27, 1997 Stargate SG-1 premiered on Showtime where it would run for its first five seasons. The show which was created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner. It’s based rather loosely off the Stargate film. The initial core cast was Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, Amanda Tapping and Christopher Judge.  It would run for a decade with the last five years being on Sci Fi. Two spinoff series, Stargate Atlantis which would run five seasons, and Stargate Universe which would last two seasons. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a stellar 91% rating. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 27, 1870 – Hilaire Belloc.  Orator, poet,correspondent,sailor, satirist, soldier, activist.  Cautionary Tales for Children includes “Jim, who ran away from his nurse, and was eaten by a lion” and “Rebecca, who slammed doors for fun and perished miserably”; 1907 readers would quickly recognize the parody.  A hundred fifty books; we can claim half a dozen novels (illustrated by G.K.Chesterton!), as many shorter stories.  (Died 1953) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. (Died 1959.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1891 – Ruth Plumly Thompson.  Following Frank Baum’s death, she wrote two dozen Oz books.  Three other novels, six dozen shorter stories, ten dozen poems.  Also wrote for The Smart SetThe Saturday Evening PostLadies Home JournalJack and Jill.  Many regard her as a worthy successor.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1908 – W.I. Van der Poel, Jr.  Art director for Galaxy 1950-1960.  A score of covers – but not, it seems, appearing there.  He is however on this famous 1952 Emshwiller cover – see the key here.  Look at The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1927 – Mel Hunter.  A hundred book and magazine covers, eight dozen interiors.  Here is the May 53 Galaxy.  Here is The End of Eternity.  Here is Double Star – the Great Lorenzo at right.  Here is the Jun 58 If.  Here is the Mar 61 F & SF.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best-known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost-beyond-counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 81. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. For all practice purposes, she’s not available in digital format. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1948 Juliet Marillier, 72. She’s a New Zealand born and Western Australian resident fantasy writer focusing entirely on historical fantasy. She has a number of series including Blackthorn & Grim which at two volumes is a good introduction to her, and Sevenwaters which at seven volumes is a serious reading commitment. She’s a regular contributor to the fiction writing blog, Writer Unboxed.
  • Born July 27, 1949 – Cora Lee Healy, 71.  Fanartist, has done some pro work.  Here is a cover for Algol.  Here is “Starward”.  Here is another astronomical.  She has been in Energumen and Granfalloon; she did the Ace of Cups in the Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck (see this review by a Tarot collector; although the reviewer says the Deck is out of print; copies can still be obtained; if all else fails, ask me, John Hertz, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057).  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1950 Simon Jones, 70. He’s well known for his portrayals of Arthur Dent, protagonist of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He first portrayed the character on radio for the BBC and again on television for BBC Two. Jones also featured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film in a cameo role. He’s in Monty Python’s The Meaning of LifeBrazil and 12 Monkeys as well.  (CE) 
  • Born July 27, 1952 – Bud Webster.  Our Gracious Host has done better than I could.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born July 27, 1958 – Kate Elliott, 62.  Two dozen novels (some under another name), a dozen shorter stories; interviewed in ApexLightspeedLocusMindsparks.  “The Sword of Heaven [in two parts, An Earthly Crown and His Conquering Sword] I call my Mozart novel because of the speed it flowed out of me….  my Beethoven novel The Law of Becoming was like hacking through the jungle into unknown country….  Being a parent has made me a better writer.”  Unconquerable Sun just released this month.  Mills College woman.  [JH]
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 52. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein which I’m reading now, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein which is up for a Hugo next week. Her work Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. (CE)
  • Born July 27, 1979 – Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, 41. Three dozen short stories; poems; essays, reviews, interviews, in AnalogClarkesworldFoundationNY Review of SFStrange Horizons.  Anthology (with Robert Silverberg), When the Blue Shift Comes.  Traveler of Worlds, conversations with Silverberg.  Good moderator of the Asimov centenary panel at Loscon 46.
  • Born July 27, 1984 – Hao Jingfang, Ph.D., 36.  Vagabonds just appeared in English and Spanish this year.  A score of shorter stories; Best-Novelette Hugo for “Folding Beijing”, first won by a Chinese woman.  Translated into English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish.  Interviewed in LightspeedMonde chinois (in French).  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) NEW TUNES TOON. SYFY Wire’s points out you can watch the new cartoon as part of this Comic-Con@Home video panel: “Boo! Looney Tunes Cartoons Debuts New Porky And Daffy Short At Comic-Con@Home”,

“We wanted to tap into the zany energy of the 1940s stuff,” added supervising producer Alex Kirwan. “That was our favorite era of the shorts and we just wanted more of that. We didn’t want to set out to reinvent it and we didn’t want to set out to put new sensibilities on it … What we love about the shorts is that they’re wonderful slapstick humor and we just wanted to get back to [that] and be really true to the way they paired the characters and the way they built comedy dynamics.”

(10) WATCH ALEX ROSS AT WORK. Over the last two months, Marvel has revealed 28 “Timeless” variant covers created by Alex Ross, which will begin to hit local comic shops in September. See Ross craft his iconic painted covers, and see how his timeless imagery was made into a magnificent mural in Marvel’s NYC offices in this video.

(11) FROM BACK STORY TO NO STORY. “Peter Shinkoda says Marvel exec claimed ‘nobody cares’ about Asian people” – BBC has the story.

Daredevil actor Peter Shinkoda says his storyline was cut after a Marvel executive said “nobody cares about” Asian characters.

Shinkoda played Nobu in the Marvel Netflix series, which was cancelled at the end of 2018.

But he says his character’s “back story was dropped” on orders from former Marvel Television head Jeph Loeb.

“I’m kind of reluctant to say this, but… I’m going to take this moment,” Shinkoda said during a virtual talk.

“Jeph Loeb told the writers’ room not to write for Nobu and Gao – and this was reiterated many times by many of the writers and show runners – that nobody cares about Chinese people and Asian people,” he alleged.

The Canadian actor, who was taking part in a #SaveDaredevil roundtable discussion with actors from the show, said a storyline about Nobu’s journey to America ended up being dropped.

(12) THE SUN SHINES ON EVERYBODY. And some take more advantage of that than others:“What the heroin industry can teach us about solar power”

If you have ever doubted whether solar power can be a transformative technology, read on.

This is a story about how it has proved its worth in the toughest environment possible.

The market I’m talking about is perhaps the purest example of capitalism on the planet.

There are no subsidies here. Nobody is thinking about climate change – or any other ethical consideration, for that matter.

This is about small-scale entrepreneurs trying to make a profit.

It is the story of how Afghan opium growers have switched to solar power, and significantly increased the world supply of heroin.

(13) RETURN TO SENDER. “Nasa Mars rover: Meteorite to head home to Red Planet”.

A small chunk of Mars will be heading home when the US space agency launches its latest rover mission on Thursday.

Nasa’s Perseverance robot will carry with it a meteorite that originated on the Red Planet and which, until now, has been lodged in the collection of London’s Natural History Museum (NHM).

The rock’s known properties will act as a calibration target to benchmark the workings of a rover instrument.

It will give added confidence to any discoveries the robot might make.

This will be particularly important if Perseverance stumbles across something that hints at the presence of past life on the planet – one of the mission’s great quests.

“This little rock’s got quite a life story,” explained Prof Caroline Smith, head of Earth sciences collections at the NHM and a member of the Perseverance science team.

“It formed about 450 million years ago, got blasted off Mars by an asteroid or comet roughly 600,000-700,000 years ago, and then landed on Earth; we don’t know precisely when but perhaps 1,000 years ago. And now it’s going back to Mars,” she told BBC News.

(14) I FIND YOUR LACK OF FAITH DISTURBING. NPR reports “Lottery Winner In Jamaica Avoids The Spotlight Dressed As Darth Vader”.

It’s not uncommon for lottery winners to want to avoid the spotlight, right? But showing up dressed as Darth Vader to collect your check is a new one. It happened in a galaxy not so far away, in May Pen, Jamaica, when a man claimed his $95 million prize in a dark lord of the Sith costume. 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that Saruman is spinning Gandalf around, he “forces Gandalf to learn breakdancing against his will.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/21/20 Slexip Was I Ere I Saw Pixels

(1) AN EXPERIMENT. Samuel R. Delany has written a novel called Shoat Rumblin, His Sensations and Ideas. Not sff, but it is Delany.

…At one point, Vladimir Nabakov said that Madame Bovary was really just an extremely well-written fairytale. There’s one sense in which, unlike other of my books, that was what I was hoping to accomplish with Shoat Rumblin. The book was never finished to my satisfaction, although I wrote an ending for it. Through looking over it again, I’m at least contented with what I’ve done—if still uncertain how believable it is. As I’ve said on Twitter, it’s an experiment in gay pornography and realistic storytelling. Parts of it are funny and parts of it, I confess, I think are pretty grim. Overall, I’d call it a comedy rather than a tragedy, if only because it does have a happy ending, however believable or unbelievable you find it. I’m also hoping that this makes it intriguing enough for some of you to take a chance on it.

(2) TOR FOR TWO. “John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal Chat About Sci-Fi, Writing Processes, and More!” at Tor.com. There’s both a video and a transcript at the link.

MRK: One of my favorite things is when I introduce a reader to an author who is, by any metric except to this reader, more famous than I am. And they have never heard of them. And they’re like, “oh, this new author Ursula K. Le Guin, I love her books!” (laughs)

JS: You’re like; I don’t know how to break this one to you, but… But, that actually brings up a really interesting point which is that because science fiction and fantasy is, as a literature, as opposed to every other aspect of media, because it is still sort of niche where you come into the genre matters. Because, if they come in with you, then a lot of your antecedents or people who influenced you will be new to them. And to them, those classics will seem almost derivative or not up to date. I’ve had that happen sometimes where people will read me first, especially people who are under the age of 35. They’ll read me first and then they’ll go backwards into someone like Heinlein and then they’re like—“hmm, I don’t know—his stuff’s OK, but I kind of like yours better.” And I’m like, well—one, thank you, and two, it’s definitely because this is the path that you took into this genre. And, it’s still something that is very possible to do in this genre that I don’t know if in mainstream it will happen as much.

(3) RUSSIAN AROUND. “‘Sputnik’ Trailer: A Cosmonaut Brings an E.T. Invasion Back to Earth in Gory ‘Alien’ Homage”IndieWire sets the frame:

While a space traveler’s greatest fear is typically what’s waiting out there in the great unknown, what they bring back to Earth could be much, much worse. That’s the premise of Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko’s feature debut “Sputnik,” a sci-fi chiller with the stately echoes of Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien.” Set in the 1980s, “Sputnik” blends creature-feature effects with heady extraterrestrial thrills. An official selection of the canceled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, the movie debuts from IFC Midnight in select theaters and on VOD August 14. Watch the trailer for the film below….

Here’s the YouTube intro:

Due to her controversial methods, young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina) is on the precipice of losing her medical license. Her career may not be over, though. After she’s recruited by the military, Tatiana is brought to a secure science research facility to assess a very special case, that of Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov), a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and has returned to Earth with a unique condition: there’s something living inside of him that only shows itself late at night. The military has nefarious plans for it. Tatiana wants to stop it from killing Konstantin. And the creature itself thrives on destruction.

(4) FLAME ON. Entertainment Weekly reports Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon begins casting”.

There are no official casting breakdowns yet available, but many are speculating about the potential lead characters based on Martin’s book. Fire & Blood covers 150 years and includes the rise and fall of many leaders in Westeros so it’s not clear which characters and time period will be the focus of the series. But sources tell EW that the famed Dance of Dragons – the Targaryen Civil War that occasionally referenced in GoT that ripped apart Westeros – will be tackled at some point in the series. What would make sense is if the first season (or two) led up to those events. Some fans have suggested the show could also be an American Horror Story-style anthology series, covering a vastly different time period in each season.

(5) RELATIONSHIPS FOR THE LONG HAUL. In “The Big Idea: Michael R. Underwood” at Whatever, the author argues there’s a sorely neglected big idea.

“Happily Ever After.”

A famous phrase that signals the end of many stories, from faerie tales to action movies to romance novels. Growing up, so many of the tv, film, comics, books, and more that I experienced said – implicitly, if not explicitly – that once a couple overcame whatever big trial happened in act three, the relationship itself was smooth sailing.

And depending on how you read those stories, it says something worse. It says that long-term, committed relationships are boring, or that they’re only interesting when they’re falling apart. “Happily Ever After” doesn’t prepare anyone for the lived reality of making a long-term relationship work. Sometimes the best romance works will illustrate those challenges and joys on the way, because romance writers are grand masters of characterization. But getting into my first romantic relationships, I had few fictional models for what it was like to negotiate the higher-level challenges and opportunities posed by a committed partnership. And being a storyteller by trade, that lack of narrative models became especially frustrating.

With Annihilation Aria, I set out to add to the count of works that unpack “Happily Ever After” and show that a committed couple can be exciting protagonists as well…. 

(6) VANDERMEERS’ FANTASY COLLECTION. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer preview The Big Book of Modern Fantasy at LitHub, including the Table of Contents: “On the Biggest Collection of Fantasy Tales Since WWII”. Plenty of names you know here.

…The truth is, a book of modern fantasy is a treasure trove of marvels, a cabinet of curiosities, and, perhaps more importantly, a strong, strong testimony to the importance of imaginative literature, of non-realist literature, and of traditions other than the Anglo Saxon. We, personally, have been enriched by these stories and lifted up by them. We hope readers will find their own favorites and fond memories from reading herein.

(7) CAPCLAVE CHANGES PLANS. Bill Lawhorn, Capclave 2020 Chair, says they’re going virtual. The event will be over the same weekend, but won’t start until Saturday.

Due to the novel coronavirus, the Capclave team has made the decision to be virtual this year. We will be holding Capclave October 17-18. Yes, this is two days, but we will run longer on Sunday than is typical. We will be focused on presentations, panels, and small group activities such as author readings or discussions.

Going virtual does present the opportunity to include people who would likely not be able to participate in a normal year. Keep an eye on our website and social media for news regarding new participants.

We plan to use Zoom for most activities, but we are looking at adding a text chat area via Discord as well. We will be updating our Code of Conduct to reflect the online nature of the convention. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact chair@capclave.org.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 21, 1929 John Woodvine, 91. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.   He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr J. S. Hirsch, but shortly thereafter he’s Master West 468 in The Tripods and Prior Mordrin in the Knights of God children’s SF serial. Finally, he’s Justice Dimkind in A Perfect State which is at least genre adjacent. (CE)
  • Born July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death in a motorcycle accident, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.) (CE)
  • Born July 21, 1944 – David Feintuch.  Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Nine novels, of which seven portray Space navy officer Nick Seafort, translated into Czech, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.  Said he’d completed an eighth, of which no more has emerged.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1950 Asenath Hammond. She was was a fan who was a member of NESFA, New York City and LASFS fandoms. She was married for a time to Rick Sternbach. Mike has a write-up on her here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born July 21, 1950 – Bill Kunkel.  Cartoons (sometimes as “Potshot”) in AlgolCheckpointThe Frozen FrogTrap DoorChunga seemed to energize him, he gave it much (for the end, see here and herecorflu = mimeograph correction fluid, loc = letter of comment).  Comics: DC, Marvel, Harvey; primary scripter for Richie Rich.  Pro wrestling: photographed for, edited, published Main Event magazine, hosted The Main Event radio show, energized Pro Wrestling Torch, cartoons and columns for Wrestling Perspective. Video games: Electronic GamesTips & Tricks magazines; designed a dozen games; memoir, Confessions of the Game Doctor.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & MindyHook which I adore, The Fisher KingBicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born July 21,1952 – Kathy Tyers, 68.  Ten novels, half a dozen shorter stories translated into Dutch and German.  A Star Wars novel was a NY Times Best Seller.  Two CDs of folk music (she plays flute, Irish harp).  Worked with Christopher Parkening on his memoir Grace Like a River.  Lives in Montana.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1956 – Todd Dashoff, 64.  Chaired Philcon 1988 and the Millennium Philcon – what else should we name a Worldcon at Philadelphia in 2001?  Knows Harry Warner upheld the rule that the local con there is Phillycon and only a Worldcon there is Philcon.  Knows this rule has not been followed since 1947 and meanwhile (after HW’s death) a comics con has been calling itself Phillycon.  Has been PSFS’ (Phil. SF Soc.) President and Treasurer.  Stalwart helper from locals to Worldcons.  Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Joni, another shining star) at Lunacon 46.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1960 – John Wardale, 60.  Balloon sculptor, hair braider, costumer, photographer, patiently giving balloon and braid workshops for beginners too.  A pleasure, if that word may be used, to judge “Angels Take Motown” at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) by Janine & John Wardale, Sharon & Hall Bass, which we awarded Best Motown Entry (Journeyman Class).  Has also taught Science: Energy + Time = Change.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1976 – Stephanie Law, 44.  Two dozen covers including books in German and Polish, also cards and other games.  Featured in Spectrum (six times) and Locus.  Best in Art Show, DragonCon 2015.  Art Guest of Honor at BayCon 2015, JordanCon 10, Philcon 2019; was scheduled for the 13th NASFiC this year.  Artbook, Descants and Cadences.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 44. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro reports it was a hard day at the Frankenstein factory.
  • Garfield shows what would be – for these aliens – a fate worse than death.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider calls this “Contemplation.”

(10) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. “An author bought his own book to get higher on bestseller lists. Is that fair?” The Guardian says it doesn’t break the rules of the Sunday Times.

For any author, being able to describe yourself as a bona fide bestseller is key to conferring your career with a certain gravitas – and will often bring you even more sales. In the UK, while most book charts are tallied by Nielsen BookScan, the Sunday Times bestseller list – like the New York Times chart in the US – has become the gold standard. But making the bestseller list isn’t necessarily as straightforward as tallying sales. Not all is fair in romance and war (and other genres) when it comes to getting to the top of the charts.

Take the case of Mark Dawson, a British writer who just over a week ago hit No 8 on the Sunday Times hardback list with his thriller The Cleaner, released by the independent publisher Welbeck at the end of June. This is a great achievement for any author or small publishing house, but Dawson had done something remarkable: he bought 400 copies of his own book, at a cost of £3,600, to push his sales high enough to make the top 10….

(11) LOOKING FOR CHANGE. “More Resignations, but No Sign Yet of a Change in Gaming Culture” – the New York Times surveys the field.

First, a popular esports tournament was canceled. Next, top gaming studio executives stepped down. Then, a prominent talent management agency for video game streamers laid off its employees and closed.

The stream of reports of sexual harassment and assault in the gaming industry that began in June has continued unabated, as more women — and some men — have come forward with accusations of mistreatment.

Despite the actions that companies have taken in response to individual incidents, gaming experts say they are hesitant to call the moment an inflection point for an industry with a long and difficult history of sexist behavior and abuse. This is not the first time women have spoken up. In 2014, in what is known as Gamergate, women faced death threats for criticizing the gaming industry and its culture. Last year, women again came forward with stories of abuse in what was seen as gaming’s #MeToo moment.

So few expect the resignations this time to quickly change a culture that for decades has often been hostile to women.

“You can fire people all day long,” said Kenzie Gordon, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta who studies how games can be used to prevent sexual and domestic violence. But “if only the individual people are held accountable, that doesn’t have any impact on the culture of the organization as a whole, necessarily.”…

(12) THE MARTIAN YAWNICLES. “One Challenge for Future Mars Explorers? Boredom.” So says Kate Greene at LitHub.

… It’s conditions such as these—monotony, idleness, tedium, sensory deprivation, loneliness—that concern NASA psychologists who want to send a crew to Mars. Using existing technologies, a trip to the red planet will take 200 to 300 days of travel. Most of the time will be spent inside a cramped capsule. There will be a communication delay with Earth of up to 24 minutes due to a span of hundreds of millions of miles. Real-time chatting or video calls with friends and family and mission support will be an impossibility—the limitation is the speed of light—that no new technology would be able to overcome.

Mars crews would likely need to operate with a high level of autonomy because of this communication delay. Many people believe autonomy, which implies freedom of choice, can stave off boredom. Indeed, work imbued with personal meaning can be a potential solution, but it can’t fix everything.

In addition to the isolation and sensory deprivation, there will still be repetition of meals and routines and clothing and conversations between crewmembers. The workloads will still likely be full of tedium, with narrow margins for error. In short, a mission to Mars has the perfect ingredient list for boredom and disaster borne of boredom.

(13) WHAT WILL YOU MAKE FROM THIS? “A New Artificial Material Effectively Cannot Be Cut” — which they’ve dubbed Proteus, rather than ‘nocuttium’ or whatever; Slashdot has the story.

Researchers from the University of Stirling, UK, have embedded ceramic spheres in aluminum foam to create a material that couldn’t be cut with angle grinders, power drills or water jet cutters. “They dubbed it Proteus after the shape-shifting Greek god, for the way the material metamorphosed in different ways to defend against attacks,” reports New Scientists

(14) THE SWARM. Could “swarm 3-D printing” become an endless opportunity for unanticipated results?

…What they appear to have developed is a kind of mobile robotic 3D printing concept. As you can see in the video, dual independent 3D printers are temporarily fixed to specific locations on a grid. From these locations the devices will print within a controlled zone (which AMBOTS calls a “Chunk”).

After completing a layer of a chunk, a mobile robot picks up each 3D printer and moves them to another spot on the grid where they can then access another chunk. By moving the 3D printers repeatedly through a series of access points they are able to build the entire structure — without interfering with each other.

(15) IMPERFECT CREATION. Now wait a minute. It was his own show! Yet ScreenRant says there were “10 Things Rod Serling Disliked About The Original Twilight Zone”. Well, here’s one we all disliked for sure.

9. Those Damn Commercials

One beast Serling struggled with during the run of The Twilight Zone continues to be an irritant today. That has to do with lightweight commercials that tended to deflate the intensity of a suspenseful Twilight episode.

“However moving and however probing and incisive the drama,” mused Serling at a UCLA speaking engagement in 1971, “it cannot retain any thread of legitimacy when after 12 or 13 minutes, out comes 12 dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Cowboy Bebop” on YouTube, Screen Junkies takes on the classic anime series, where everyone chain smokes and the gloomy atmosphere is heightened by introspective sax solos.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/20/20 Please, Friend, Could I Have A Pixel For My Uintatherium?

(1) MEET YOUR BEST FAN WRITER FINALISTS. With the deadline imminent, Alasdair Stuart has condensed the overview into a very full lid: “The Full Lid 2020 Hugo Awards Best Fan Writers Spotlight”.

In a special issue produced with the full cooperation and permission of the Fan Writer finalists, I spotlight all of them and give details of the remarkable body of work these six people produce. Special thanks in particular to Sarah Gailey for writing the piece on me.

(2) HUGO VOTING DEADLINE. Hugo voting closes on Wednesday, July 22 at 23:59 PDT (UTC-7). In New Zealand that’s Thursday, July 23 at 18:59 NZST (UTC+12).

(3) PAINT YOUR DRAGON. “Where am I goin’? / I don’t know / Where am I headin’? / I ain’t certain…” Camestros Felapton says it’s “Still not my job to fix the Dragon Awards” but he can’t help himself — the post makes several suggestions for improvement. Even more fascinating is this observation.

Impact: Goodreads Awards get far more votes, Hugos and Nebulas have more impact, even the Locus awards generate more buzz and media coverage, the Clark’s have more critical clout and so on. Four sets of awards in and even Baen Books don’t play up their Dragon Award wins much on books covers or general marketing. For example, here is Brad flippin’ Torgersen’s bio on Amazon…

… Note: Analog AnLab Reader’s Choice, Writers of the Future, Nebula, Campbell and Hugo Awards are all listed but not the Dragons. Brad’s Dragon Award win simply isn’t used to promote Brad either in general or on his books, aside from his personal blogs and Facebook. 

(4) COMIC-CON SOUVENIR BOOK. SDCC let everyone know that “Comic-Con’s 2020 Souvenir Book Available Now” is a free download. Use this link [PDF file – 260 pages]. There’s a tremendous amount of material about Ray Bradbury – don’t miss out!

What’s in this year’s Souvenir Book? Artist William Stout—famed for his illustrations and murals depicting dinosaurs, and his comics and movie poster work—once again graces the Souvenir Book with one of his incredible covers, this one saluting the centennial of famed author Ray Bradbury, one of Comic-Con’s most beloved guests over the years. Stout is also one of the very few people to have attended every Comic-Con, as a special “Cover Story” feature reveals in this year’s book. Learn the “Easter Eggs” Bill worked into this cover, plus his process of creating this amazing illustration, along with his past association with Bradbury.

In addition, the Souvenir Book also celebrates the following anniversaries:
 
• Ray Harryhausen Centennial—The 100th birthday of the stop-motion animation legend
• 75th Anniversary of EC Comics—They brought us Tales from the Crypt and MAD magazine
• 75th Anniversary of Moomin—The world-wide comics sensation for all ages
• 50th Anniversary of Conan in Comics—Robert E. Howard’s barbarian conquered comics starting in 1970
• 50th Anniversary of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World—The King of Comics moved to DC in 1970 and created a whole new world of characters
• 50th Anniversary of Last Gasp—The pioneer underground comix publisher and distributor
• Plus the Proverbial “Much More”—Comic-Con Museum, 2019 Award Winners, and the “In Memoriam” section

(5) ANALOGY. At Tablet, Andrew Fox remembers “How the prolific writer Barry N. Malzberg showed me my passion was just Judaism in a spacesuit” in “My Science Fiction Rabbi”.

Science fiction is just Judaism in a spacesuit.

If the statement strikes you as ridiculous, consider the evidence. Both cultures began life on the margins, the domain of small and mocked minorities who looked at the world from the outside and who survived by adhering to their own intricate traditions. Both cultures are, first and foremost, an exercise in “what if,” Judaism forever looking forward to the coming of the Messiah and having its adherents pray daily for the rebuilding of the Temple, and science fiction imagining the life that lies just at the cusp of the possible. And both cultures stand at risk of being loved out of existence, embraced mightily by the mainstream, sailing precariously between the Scylla of assimilation and the Charybdis of dilution….

(6) SNOOP TREK. Although I missed this in 2018, ScienceFiction.com says the story is coming around again: “‘Unbelievable!!!!!’ Produced By Snoop Dogg Stars 40 Former ‘Star Trek’ Cast Members And A Puppet”.

…‘Unbelievable!!!!!’ is “a Sci-Fi Parody Adventure which follows the crazy exploits of four off-beat astronauts (one is a marionette) who travel to the Moon on a rescue mission to determine the fate of two Space Agency comrades who have not been heard from in several days. The individuals they find at the Lunar Base are not whom they appear to be and nearly succeed in killing our heroes. Soon the astronauts find themselves trying to save the Earth from an invasion of Killer Plant Aliens!!”

Indie Rights CEO Linda Nelson announced via a statement:

“Indie Rights is so excited to be featuring UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! at Virtual Cannes. We’ll be screening the film for international buyers on June 24th. Snoop Dogg and Star Trek fans will love this plant-based, inter-galactic parody.”

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 20, 1952 The Shadow’s “The Curse of the Emerald Scarab” first was broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System with the sponsor being Wildroot Company Inc.  It was written by J.G. Leighton, and starred Bret Morrison as The Shadow / Lamont Cranston, and Gertrude Warner as Margo Lane. The Announcer was Sandy Becker. We would love to tell all about it including where to hear it, but like nearly sixty percent of The Shadow radio broadcasts, they were lost as Mutual thought of these was broadcast once and done. There were 677 episodes aired over 18 seasons, so a lot did survive.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 20, 1906 – Bill Danner.  Arrived in the mid-1940s.  From the mid-1950s his hand-set letterpress fanzine Stefantasy (Hugo Gernsback’s word scientifiction, often shortened to stef, + fantasy) ran 44 years.  Other fanzines A Dangerous ThingLarkPull No Punches.  Active in FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n) and VAPA (Vanguard Am. Pr. Ass’n).  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 20, 1924 Lola Albright. Though she’s best remembered for playing the sultry singer Edie Hart, the girlfriend of private eye Peter Gunn, she did do some genre performances. She’s Cathy Barrett, one of the leads in the Fifties film The Monolith Monsters, and television was her home in the Fifties and Sixties. She was on Tales of Tomorrow as Carol Williams in the “The Miraculous Serum” episode, Nancy Metcalfe on Rocket Squad in “The System” episode, repeated appearances on the various Alfred Hitchcock series, and even on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes released as the feature length film The Helicopter Spies. She was Azalea. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born July 20, 1930 Sally Ann Howes, 90. Best remembered as being Truly Scrumptious on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance in Brigadoon. Though more genre adjacent than genre, I’ll note her playing Anna Leonowens In The King & I as Ricardo Montalbán played the lead role. (CE)
  • Born July 20, 1931 Donald Moffitt. Author of the Baroness thriller series, somewhat akin to Bond and Blaise, but not quite. Great popcorn literature. Some SF, two in his Mechanical Skyseries, Crescent in the Sky and A Gathering of Stars, another two in his Genesis Quest series, Genesis Quest and Second Genesis, plus several one-offs. (Did 2014.) (CE)
  • Born July 20, 1938 Diana Rigg, née Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg, 82. Emma Peel of course in The Avengers beside Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Best pairing ever. Played Sonya Winter in The Assassination Bureau followed by being Contessa Teresa “Tracy” Draco di Vicenzo Bond on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. By the Eighties, she’s doing lighter fare such as being Lady Holiday in The Great Muppet Caper and Miss Hardbroom in The Worst Witch, not to mention The Evil Queen, Snow White’s evil stepmother in Snow White. Now she would get a meaty role in Game of Thrones when she was Olenna Tyrell. Oh, and she showed up recently in Dr. Who during the Era of the Eleventh Doctor as Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower in the “The Crimson Horror” episode. (CE)
  • Born July 20, 1942 Richard Delap. Canadian fanzine writer who wrote for Granfalloon and Yandro. He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twice but lost to Harry Warner, Jr. at St.Louiscon, and Wilson Tucker at Heicon ‘70. Edited Delap’s F&SF Review (1975-1978), published by Fred Patten – both had been prolific reviewers for Geis’ Science Fiction Review, who tried to make a go of their own semiprozine.Delap was a co-editor of The Essential Harlan Ellison. He died of AIDS complications just after it was published. (Died 1987.) (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born July 20, 1943 – Bill Bowers.  Best known for his fanzine Outworlds (three FAAn – Fan Activity Achievement – Awards); also XenolithDouble:Bill with Bill Mallardi.  Won TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) in a tie with Roy Tackett; withdrew.  Chaired Corflu 4 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable).  Fan Guest of Honor at IguanaCon II the 36th Worldcon (some use Roman numerals, some don’t).  Early adopter of offset printing.  Fond of lists.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 20, 1947 – Mike Gilbert.  Two dozen covers, eighty interiors, for books, fanzines, prozines.  Here is Victory on Janus.  Here is the Feb 70 Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Here is the Noreascon Program Book (29th Worldcon).  Here is the Mar 71 Worlds of If.  Here is the Dec 74 Analog.  Here is Breaking Point.  Here is an interior for Granfalloon 7 – part of a Mike Gilbert portfolio.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 20, 1949 – Guy Lillian, 71.  Publications for Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon.  Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 21, Archon 36, Con*Stellation XXII.  Rebel Award and Rubble Award.  Won DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) with wife Rose Marie, trip report The Antipodal Route; thereafter The Panoramic Route (to Anticipation the 67th Worldcon), The Aboriginal Route (to Aussiecon 4 the 68th Worldcon).  Current fanzines ChallengerSpartacus (politics), The Zine Dump (reviews).  [JH]
  • Born July 20, 1955 – Susan Dexter, 65.  Ten novels, six shorter stories; a dozen maps and interiors.  Chalk paintings, see here (at her Website).  Covers for some of her own books, like this (SD did a pastel, Teddy Black finished).  Weaver and hand-spinner, as shown in this photo.  [JH]
  • Born July 20, 1959 – Martha Soukup, 61.  Thirty short stories, translated into Croatian, French, German; Nebula for “A Defense of the Social Contracts”; collection, The Arbitrary Placement of Walls.  Poetry in Asimov’sStar*Line.  Essays, reviews, in AboriginalFantasy ReviewNY Review of SFSF Age.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Where Tinkerbell ended up, clapping will not do her any good. The Far Side.

(10) A GENRE FOR THE TIMES. Mayurika Chakravoty tells how “Science fiction explores the interconnectedness revealed by the coronavirus pandemic” at The Conversation.

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, a theory widely shared on social media suggested that a science fiction text, Dean Koontz’s 1981 science fiction novel, The Eyes of Darknesshad predicted the coronavirus pandemic with uncanny precision. COVID-19 has held the entire world hostage, producing a resemblance to the post-apocalyptic world depicted in many science fiction texts. Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s classic 2003 novel Oryx and Crake refers to a time when “there was a lot of dismay out there, and not enough ambulances” — a prediction of our current predicament.

However, the connection between science fiction and pandemics runs deeper. They are linked by a perception of globality, what sociologist Roland Robertson defines as “the consciousness of the world as a whole.”

Globality in science fiction

In his 1992 survey of the history of telecommunications, How the World Was One, Arthur C. Clarke alludes to the famed historian Alfred Toynbee’s lecture entitled “The Unification of the World.” Delivered at the University of London in 1947, Toynbee envisions a “single planetary society” and notes how “despite all the linguistic, religious and cultural barriers that still sunder nations and divide them into yet smaller tribes, the unification of the world has passed the point of no return.”

Science fiction writers have, indeed, always embraced globality. In interplanetary texts, humans of all nations, races and genders have to come together as one people in the face of alien invasions. Facing an interplanetary encounter, bellicose nations have to reluctantly eschew political rivalries and collaborate on a global scale, as in Denis Villeneuve’s 2018 film, Arrival.

(11) MARTIAN ODYSSEY. “UAE Joins Growing List Of Nations That Have Sent Spacecraft To Mars”.

It seems everyone is interested in Mars these days.

For decades, sending probes to the red planet was the exclusive purview of the United States and the Soviet Union, and later Russia. But in 1998, Japan made an attempt, which ended in failure, followed by the European Space Agency, then China (also unsuccessful) in 2011, and two years later, India.

Now, the United Arab Emirates has sent one, too: an orbiter named Hope. It’s the country’s first interplanetary space shot.

“The UAE is now a member of the club and we will learn more and we will engage more and we’ll continue developing our space exploration program,” UAE Space Agency chief Mohammed Al Ahbabi told a joint online news conference at Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center, where the $200 million mission lifted off at 5:58 p.m. ET Sunday, riding a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries H-IIA rocket after nearly a week of weather delays.

Approximately an hour after launch, Hope, or “Amal” in Arabic, separated from its housing and deployed its solar panels. It will spend the next seven months on its journey to Mars.

…The orbital probe is designed to gather comprehensive data about the thin atmosphere of Mars.

“The purpose was not only to get to Mars by 2021 and have valid scientific data coming out of the mission that is unique in nature and no other mission has captured before,” Sarah Al Amiri, deputy project manager and science lead for the Emirates Mars Mission, said earlier. “But more importantly, it was about developing the capabilities and capacity of engineers in the country.”

(12) HELPING … HAND? “LED for face mask wearers to help lip-readers” – BBC video.

An LED device for face mask wearers to help people lip-read has been created by a disability campaigner.

Dan Watts, from Hull, has created a voice activated LED that responds to the sound of the wearer’s voice.

It was inspired by games designer Tyler Glaiel, who originally came up with the idea.

(13) BEWARE SPOILERS. SYFY Wire calls these “The 10 Most Shocking, Wtf Twilight Zone Twist Endings”. And you know people have had a long time to think about it… Number Eight is –

“The Masks” (Season 5) 

Mardi Gras gets The Twilight Zone treatment, with a dash of Knives Out, as very wealthy, very terminally-ill man invites his greedy family over to settle his affairs. He insists that they all don grotesque masks that match their uniquely terrible personality traits — if they don’t, they won’t see a dime of their inheritance.

You can probably guess where this is going, when the family members take off their masks… One of the most disturbing endings in the history of the show.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/15/20 Who Would Open This Can Of Words?

(1) ONE WEEK LEFT TO VOTE FOR HUGOS. CoNZealand today reminded members the deadline is nearing – voting closes Wednesday, July 22 at 23:59 PDT (UTC-7), which in New Zeland is Thursday, July 23 at 18:59 NZST (UTC+12).

(2) PEAKE ARCHIVE PRESERVED. The British Library has acquired the Visual Archive of writer, artist and illustrator Mervyn Peake, best known for his series Gormenghast.

.. Mervyn Peake’s Visual Archive comprises over 300 original illustrations, including drawings from his critically acclaimed Gormenghast series, together with original illustrations for his own books for children Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor and Letters From a Lost Uncle and other classic works of English literature, such as Treasure IslandThe Hunting of the Snark, Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm,and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Also included are unpublished early works, preliminary sketches, and drawings of famous literary, theatrical and artistic figures such as Laurence Olivier and W.H. Auden. This acquisition brings Peake’s archive together in one place, making it fully accessible to the public for the first time.

Mervyn Peake was an English writer, artist and illustrator, best known for creating the fantasy trilogy Gormenghast. A Royal Academy trained artist of great versatility and inventiveness, he has been seen as arguably the finest children’s illustrator of the mid-20th century. Combining technical mastery with an innate ability to evoke fear, delight and wonderment in young readers, he redefined the cosy nature of children’s book illustrations.

Despite his originality, Peake’s fondness and respect for the work of other artists is evident in the archive, from the influence of Hogarth, Doré and Blake to Dickens’ illustrator Phiz and Boys’ Own artist Stanley L. Wood.

The archive is notable for Peake’s exquisite Treasure Island illustrations from 1949, which remain some of his finest work, described by critics as ‘tense, eerie and dramatic’ and ‘one of the few editions which have come near to meeting the demands of the author’s text’. Treasure Island was Peake’s favourite book and his love for the story is evident in the archive from the watercolour illustrations he painted aged 15, to the large number of preliminary sketches and annotated proofs which show his commitment to perfecting the 1949 edition.

(3) STORYBUNDLE. Available for the next three weeks: “The Glitter and Hope Bundle – Curated by Cat Rambo”.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that 2020 has not gone exactly how I expected it to, and this StoryBundle has been no exception. I originally conceived of it as a hopepunk centered bundle, but as I sorted through possibilities, I found less punk than plenty of hopeful stories that reminded me that hope comes in all sorts of forms, not all of them as in your face as hopepunk.

Hope can find its origin in friendship, whether on an alien planet or a New York street corner. It can come from writing, in a myriad shades as multi-colored as the ink in which it’s inscribed. It glitters at the bottom of Pandora’s box, waiting to escape. Waiting to provide comfort and lightand renewed vigor for the fight….

… For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Diamondsong – Escape 01 by E.D.E. Bell
  • The Burglar of Sliceharbor by Jason A. Holt
  • Modern Surprises by Joan Marie Verba
  • The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus by Alanna McFall

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more more books, for a total of eleven.

  • Diamondsong – Capture 02 by E.D.E. Bell
  • Tales of the Captain Duke – Vol. 1-4 by Rebecca Diem
  • The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm
  • Community of Magic Pens by Atthis Arts Anthology
  • Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo
  • Missing Signal by Seb Doubinsky
  • The Legacy Human – Singularity 1 by Susan Kaye Quinn

(4) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. (William Gibson and Margaret Atwood have both said so; the name of the person who actually said it first escapes me at the moment.) Abigail Nussbaum’s “The Political Hugo” discusses “the nominees on this year’s Hugo ballot that feel most relevant to our crazy, confusing political moment, and why I’d like them to win.” She advocates that the Hugo should be appropriated as an award for topical fiction.

….We’re coming off a decade in which the Hugo struggled with its own definition, and with a troupe of interlopers who claimed to want to save it from those who would “politicize” it. It’s a decade in which the award’s diversity has advanced considerably, with more women, POC, and LGBT people being recognized than ever before. And yet at the same time, the Hugo can be inward-looking (some might say that this is inevitable, given its nature and voting system). Its politics are often internal politics–as much as it reflected trends in the broader political discourse, the Puppy debacle was the ultimate in inside baseball. I would like this year’s winners to be more outward-looking, to reflect the upheaval in the world and the simple fact that we are all participating in that upheaval, whether we want to or not. What I want to write about in this post are the works on this year’s Hugo ballot that, besides being excellent examples of their type, speak to some of the issues we’ve been seeing in the real world. 

(5) A VELDT OF THEIR OWN. “Why Exposing Kids To Horror Might Actually Be Good For Them” – that’s what Stephen Graham Jones contends in a post for CrimeReads.

…But, I know: horror? Don’t kids need “safe” programming, not nightmare fuel? My take is . . . no. Childhood already has a lot of the hallmarks of a horror movie, I think. Kids are small in a big place, they have no real power, they don’t know how even the simplest parts of the world work. Doors stretch dauntingly high, shadows can hold anything. Parents say one thing, mean another, and then take it all back anyway, change the rules for no reason other than that they “say so.” And everyone is always telling kids that the minute they’re alone, without tether to a trustworthy adult, that’s when the predators of the world will pounce, spirit them away to a place they never come back from.

Pretty terrifying, right?

My take is that when kids engage horror stories, they kind of . . . recognize that feeling, that terror, that uncertainty, that unfairness, and they maybe even understand that they’re not alone in feeling it. They’re not “weird,” they’re just human. Fear is our default setting. It’s what happens when you evolve on a savanna where everything wants to eat you.

(6) BEATTS AND BORDERLANDS BOOKS UPDATE. “Authors, Customers Demand Borderlands Books Owner Divest from Store”Publishers Weekly does a roundup.

…  Some sponsors have publicly denounced Beatts on Twitter, including several who have reached out privately to PW to confirm that they will not renew their sponsorships.

One of the authors expressing such sentiments was children’s book author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who has cohosted several “lovely” literary events there, including a May fundraiser with Rebecca Roanhorse and N.K. Jemisin that netted $6,000 for the store. In an email to PW, Tokuda-Hall wrote that it is her “dearest hope that Alan will divest from the store, and allow the staff and community to reclaim the space. The staff does not deserve to be associated with these allegations.”…

…Mary Robinette Kowal, who is the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, told PW last week that a Tor representative called her and asked if she wished to cancel a scheduled July 23 virtual event for her new release, Relentless Moon.

“If your publisher comes to you and asks if you still want to do an event…maybe not,” Kowal said, adding that she was not “100% convinced” that she had made the right decision. “I don’t like the ripple effects,” she explained: canceling the event also “punishes” the store’s general manager, Jude Feldman, and its four other employees. “The decision an author has to make is a lot messier than the decision an individual customer has to make,” Kowal added. “It’s the thing we’re doing because it’s the only tool we have.”

Kowal disclosed that she sent an email to Beatts before Tor canceled the event, writing that “I needed him to step back from the store and to address his drinking.” Most of the other sources PW spoke to also referred to Beatts’ drinking habits; a former employee described the store to PW as having a “heavy drinking culture.”

In her capacity as SFWA president, Kowal said that it would be “inappropriate” for the organization to address these specific allegations, but that it has been discussing “the larger problem” of how to report unethical or abusive behavior within the science fiction and fantasy community. SFWA has recently implemented a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, which will, among other tasks, explore ways to deal with such situations in ways that are “sustainable and safe.”

… Beatts dismissed the suggestion that he divest himself from the store by transferring ownership to [Jude] Feldman. “I cannot see any way in which Borderlands can possibly operate without me,” he wrote. “I’ve discussed this with Jude and she agrees. That is not an option.” Feldman, in addition to being the store’s general manager for 19 years, has been Beatts’s significant other for about 20 years….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1997 — Christopher Golden’s The Lost Army was released by Dark Horse Comics. The first of seven Hellboy novels that Golden would write for Dark Horse over the next decade, it bore a cover done by Mike Mignola who also provided interior illustrations. It would have French and Spanish editions as well. It was the very first of the twelve original Hellboy novels done by Dark Horse over a twenty year period. If you’re interested all of them are available from the usual digital suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 15, 1606 – Rembrandt van Rijn.  Draftsman, painter, printer.  Among the greatest visual artists.  Master of light, texture, portraiture.  We can claim his mythological pictures; perhaps also his Biblicals, at least when like The Evangelist Matthew and the Angel showing, besides what believers would deem historical, some element that could only be imagined.  Here is The Sacrifice of Isaac.  Here is Pallas Athena.  Here is The Abduction of Persephone.  See what he could do with a few lines.  (Died 1669) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1779 – Clement Moore.  He was a Professor of Biblical Learning.  “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously; for twenty years he did not acknowledge it; some scholarship indicates he was not the author; and it must be said he owned slaves and opposed Abolition.  But consider the poem as an achievement of fantasy – particularly since St. Nicholas was a 4th Century bishop in what is now Turkey.  (Died 1863) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1917 – Robert Conquest, Ph.D.  For us, a novel, a few shorter stories, a few poems; five Spectrum anthologies with Kingsley Amis.  Many other writings.  Politically a conservative, and a brilliant one, which is a pain or a joy depending on your point of view (note that I put pain on the left and joy on the right).  He might not like being remembered most for this, but we do: “SF’s no good, they bellow till we’re deaf.  But this looks good.  Well then, it’s not SF.”  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. iBooks and Kindle have the Colossus trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. ((Died 1981.) CE)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titanic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which somehow I’ve avoided seeing so far. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Don’t ask.) As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 63. His best-known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and Host of Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1958 – Pat Molloy, 62.  Chaired ConCave 1980-1982, Con*Stellation IV & VII, DeepSouthCon 25 (some use Roman numerals, some don’t); Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 27, 52.  After twenty years of the Rebel Award, co-founded and named the Rubble Award; punished by being given the Rebel Award.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with Naomi Fisher), attended the 2001 Australian nat’l convention.  [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 57. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1964 – Elspeth Kovar, 56.  Wrote the Joe Mayhew memorial for the Chicon 6 Souvenir Book (58th Worldcon); see her con report in File 770 137, p. 28 (PDF).  Chaired Capclave 2006.  Active in WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  Not true that one of her cats was in an iron lung and on dialysis. [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 53. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1983 – Tristan Tarwater, 37.  Author of fantasy, comics, and RPG (role-playing games) bits.  Six novels, recently The Marauders’ Island, laced with coconut wine, salt, and magic; a few shorter stories.  Among her books read are the Vinland Saga (i.e. Makoto Yumimura’s), The Fifth SeasonBlake’s Complete Illuminated Books, and The Glass Bead Game.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BILL’S BIOPIC. Will this film be called The Shat Story? “William Shatner Wants Chris Pine To Play Him In Future Biopic” says We Got This Covered.

Shatner recently appeared as a guest via virtual chatroom at this year’s Galaxy Con, and given the prolific career he’s enjoyed in his 89 years, the idea of bringing his story to the big screen was sure to be on the minds of the collective Star Trek fandom.

“I want to play myself. I don’t want to die!,” Shatner said when asked who he’d like to have star in such a feature. “I don’t know. Chris Pine? Why doesn’t he play me? A good looking, talented guy,”

(11) SEEMS LEGIT. Another LEGO collectible.

(12) IT’S DEAD, JIM. LitHub revisits 1965 and “What Our First Close Look at Mars Actually Revealed” – tagline: “The Disappointment of a Blighted Planet.”

…Scarcely anyone had been prepared for what frame seven revealed, much less what they saw in the next dozen images. “My God, it’s the moon,” thought Norm Haynes, one of the systems engineers. There were craters in the image, all perfectly preserved, which meant the planet was in bleak stasis. The crust hadn’t been swallowed by the churn of plate tectonics, but, more important, the surface hadn’t been worn down by the ebb and flow of water. Preserved craters meant there had been no resurfacing, no aqueous weathering of any kind resembling that of the Earth. As with the moon, it appeared there had never been any significant quantity of liquid water on the surface—no rainfall, no oceans, no streams, no ponds.

Stunned, the Mariner 4 team didn’t publicly release the images for days as they tried to understand the implications of what they were seeing.

(13) GREEN CHEESE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  I think the cheesy commercial for this is news

Second only to seeing @TheGreenKnight in theaters: playing The Green Knight RPG at home.

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