Pixel Scroll 8/5/21 You’ve Got To Know When To Hodor’em, Know When To Scroll’em, Know When To White Walker Away

(1) BURTON OUT OF JEOPARDY, UNFORTUNATELY. LeVar Burton won’t succeed the late Alex Trebek as host of the game show Jeopardy! According to Deadline, the show’s executive producer Mike Richards will be taking the job.  

LeVar Burton tweeted today:

I have said many times over these past weeks that no matter the outcome, I’ve won. The outpouring of love and support from family, friends, and fans alike has been incredible! If love is the ultimate blessing and I believe that it is, I am truly blessed beyond measure.

Here’s a look-back at a recent show when LeVar Burton presided over “The Science Fiction Category”.

(2) WHO’S ON FIRST. “Doctor Who’s next showrunner is more important than its next Doctor” insists Radio Times.

…But the showrunner is responsible for literally everything – from the tone of the show to its look, its casting, its music… even, to a lesser degree, its format and structure. Yes, making Doctor Who – and indeed, any show like it – is a massive team effort, but the showrunner picks (or is at least involved in the hiring of) their writers, the composer, the production designer, the make-up artists, the casting director… all those talented folk whose hard work goes into putting the show together.

Think how distinct the Russell T Davies era is from the Steven Moffat era, and how different both are to Chibnall’s show. Bar a few cosmetic changes, Doctor Who starring Christopher Eccleston and Doctor Who starring David Tennant are broadly the same series. But there’d be no mistaking Moffat’s Who for Davies’ – yes, they’re ostensibly the same programme, but the visuals are different, the humour is different, certain of the tropes are different… everything has regenerated, far more dramatically than when the show switches out one lead actor for the next. (That lead actor, of course, is also picked by the showrunner – pending BBC approval.)…

(3) HUGO HISTORY UPDATE. [Item by Kevin Standlee.] Ben Yalow located a copy of the 1993 Hugo Awards Nominating & Final Ballot Details report and I have updated the 1993 Hugo Awards entry at the official Hugo Awards site with a copy of it.

Note that the rules in 1993 were different than they are today, and this report included what was required under the rules as they existed at that time.

[Editor’s egoscanning note: I see File 770 came in second, as it was wont to do in the Nineties.]

(4) ON YOUR MARK. Tenth Letter of the Alphabet has combed through the Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office and assembled a vast collection of “Pulp Fiction Trademarks” like these —

(5) ANOTHER CONLANG. “What Language Does Leeloo Speak In The Fifth Element?” – let Looper tell you.

…A lot of time and effort, including the formation of a special language, went into crafting “The Fifth Element,” with Besson working on the project for around 15 years. What some might not know is that the unique language Leeloo speaks in the film is called the Divine Language, and it’s actually a personal creation of Besson’s, made solely for the movie. 

The Divine Language that was developed for “The Fifth Element” only has around 400 words in total, but that’s certainly enough to carry a conversation. According to an interview with i-D, Jovovich gives Besson complete credit for the language’s creation, stating that “He brought me a dictionary of words. We would write each other letters in the language, so I was getting used to communication and speaking it.”… 

(6) UNDERSTANDING SILKPUNK. BookRiot’s Lyndsie Manusos has some definite opinions about “Silkpunk: What It Is And What It Definitely Is Not”. “Silkpunk does NOT apply to every speculative, science fiction, or fantasy book inspired by Asian history or culture. Here’s what it is.”

…In the long history of speculative and SFF genres, silkpunk is pretty new. It was invented by Ken Liu to describe his 2015 novel The Grace of Kings. Liu coined the term, and wrote a post on his website to delve into its definition. Liu’s post begins with: “No, [silkpunk is] not “Asian-flavored steampunk.” No, it’s not “Asian-influenced fantasy.” No, it’s not…

(7) A PAIR OF ACES. Molly Templeton pointed out to Tor.com readers where they can “Watch Martha Wells and Becky Chambers in Conversation”.

… The two discuss outlining (or not); television watching (Wells, like all wise viewers, enjoys Elementary); how much time Chambers thought about tea while writing Psalm; writing with compassion for your characters; and how excellent it is that more voices are telling their stories in SFF….

(8) TOP 10. ScreenRant shared the list of “The American Film Institute’s 10 Best Sci Fi Movies”. Guess what is only number six!!

6. Blade Runner

A cerebral film with lofty existential themes, Blade Runner is a duly highly regarded sci-fi film and often noted as one of the best of the sci-fi genre. Another Ridley Scott film – one of his best science fiction films – Blade Runner follows an officer and blade runner named Deckard that is tasked with tracking down and destroying four replicants, which are sentient robots that were deemed illegal after a replicant uprising on a faraway planet.

On Deckard’s journey to destroy, or retire, the replicants, he is faced with questions of what it means to be human and the accuracy or inaccuracy of perception of reality. Further, the film paints a bleak portrait of a potential future with animals being extinct and a highly polluted atmosphere, connecting to concerns that modern audiences have for the environment.

(9) STONE SOUP. At “Building Beyond: Leaf Me Alone”, Sarah Gailey is joined by Stephen Rider and Amal El-Mohtar to play with this writing prompt:

The global forest community has decided to cut off all economic and trading ties with the outside world. From now on, forest-based resources are for the forest alone.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1970 – Fifty one years at Heicon ’70 where John Brunner was the Toastmaster, Ursula Le Guin wins the Hugo for Best Novel for The Left Hand of Darkness. It was first published in 1969 as Ace SF Special, Series 1.  Other nominated works that year were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony‘s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad‘s Bug Jack Barron. It would also win a Nebula Award and be nominated for a Ditmar Award as well. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 5, 1906 John Huston. Yes, the Huston who directed  and wrote The Maltese Falcon graced our community. He was M in Casino Royale, and The Lawgiver in Battle for the Planet of the Apes. He was in Sherlock Holmes in New York as Professor Moriarty, and voiced Gandalf in The Return of The King. (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best remembered for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien in one episode and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 5, 1935 Wanda Ventham, 86. Mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. She’s been on Who three times, in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story, in “Image of the Fendahl”, a Fourth Doctor story and finally in “Time and the Rani”, a Seventh Doctor story. She also had roles in The Blood Beast TerrorProject U.F.O and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. She was often on British TV series including Danger ManThe SaintThe Avengers and The Prisoner. And yes, she was on his Sherlock series where she played…his mother.
  • Born August 5, 1940 Natalie Trundy, 81. First, she was one of the Underdwellers, named Albina, in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  Next, she played Dr. Stephanie Branton, a specialist studying apes from the future who came into our present day in Escape from the Planet of the Apes.  Then in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes, she played the chimp Lisa.  As far as I can tell, she’s the only performer to play three different roles in the Apes films. 
  • Born August 5, 1947 Élisabeth Vonarburg, 74. Parisian born, she’s been a Quebec resident for four decades. She was the literary director of the French-Canadian SF magazine Solaris. Her first novel, Le Silence de la Cité, was published in 1981. Since then she’s been a prolific writer of novels and short fiction. I’m pleased to say that the usual suspects is deeply stocked in her works. Her website, in French of course, is here. She’s won ten Prix Aurora Awards for the best Canadian science fiction and fantasy works and activities in English and French. Très, très impressionnant! 
  • Born August 5, 1961 Tawny Kitaen. I first remember her in Hercules and the Circle of Fire as Deianeira, a role remarkable only for the minimalist costume she wore. She repeated the role throughout the series. Her first genre acting was actually in low budget horror flick Witchboard. And other than an appearance in a SF comedy series They Came from Outer Space, that’s it for her. (Died 2021.)
  • Born August 5, 1980 JoSelle Vanderhooft, 41. Former Green Man reviewer with a single novel so far, Ebenezer, and several collections, Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories and Steam-Powered II: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories which the former were nominated for a Lambda Award. She also co-edited with Steve Berman, Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction.

(12) COMICS HISTORY. “Let Otto Binder show you how the mid-’60s comic book sausage was made” at Scott Edelman’s blog.

Two more treasures found in my late sister-in-law Ellen Vartanoff’s collection — mid-’60s scripts by the extremely prolific comics writer Otto Binder. Wikipedia claims he wrote 4,400 stories under his own name — and 160 more under the pen-name Eando Binder…

…His [Otto Binder’s] story in Creepy adapted of one of the 10 stories he wrote for Amazing Stories with his brother Earl Binder (under the pen name Eando Binder) about the intelligent robot Adam Link.

Someday I’ll scan and share the entirety of both scripts, but for now, here’s a comparison of the first page of the Mighty Samson one, as well as the published page, with art by Frank Thorne — who’s perhaps best-known for his work on Marvel’s Red Sonja….

(13) DRAWN THAT WAY. Studio co-founder Alvy Ray Smith tells IEEE Spectrum readers “The Real Story of Pixar” – “How a bad hardware company turned itself into a great movie studio.”

…The story… goes back to a time when I and other researchers in computer graphics scattered around the United States began to see the technology as allowing a new art form: the creation of digitally animated movies. A handful of us began talking about when somebody would make the first one—”The Movie,” we called it—and the massive computing power it would take to pull it off. That kind of computing power was not affordable in the mid-1970s. But with Moore’s Law cranking along at a steady pace, there was every reason to think that the cost of computing power would come down sufficiently within a decade or so. In the meantime, we focused on developing the software that would make The Movie possible.

By definition, The Movie could incorporate no hand drawing. The tools to build it emerged piecemeal. First came the software that enabled computers to create two-dimensional images and, later, virtual 3D objects. Then we figured out how to move those objects, shade them, and light them before rendering them as frames of a movie….

…We kept the possibility of The Movie alive during the next five years with a series of short films, including Luxo Jr. (1986), nominated for an Academy Award; Tin Toy (1988) winner of an Academy Award; Red’s Dream (1987); and Knick Knack (1989). These were four of the sparkling jewels that sustained us during these otherwise tough years.

Each one of these pieces represented continued improvements in the underlying in-house technologies. Luxo Jr., for example, incorporated the first articulated objects that self-shadowed themselves from multiple light sources. Red’s Dream showed off our Pixar Image Computer: the principal background for the piece, a bicycle shop, was the most complex computer graphics scene ever rendered at the time….

(14) THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY. “R2-D2 is now a Tamagotchi you’ll forget about” predicts Engadget. (See demos at the company’s own interactive info page: Star Wars R2-D2 Tamagotchi.)

Disney and Bandai have teamed up to bring Artoo to the pockets of fans who don’t mind training, cleaning and looking after a needy, digital version of the droid wherever they are. …As you might expect from a Tamagotchi, you’ll interact with the toy using three physical buttons.

There are 19 skills for Artoo to learn. You’ll need to keep him charged and clean. Unlike with other Tamagotchis, you won’t have to clear up any poop from R2-D2 (he’s a droid, after all). A Lucasfilm spokesperson told Engadget that if R2-D2 sits for too long, he’ll accumulate dust. You can clean that away with the press of a button.

There are nine mini-games you can play with him, including firefighting and Star Wars staple Dejarik (or holochess). If you don’t keep the droid happy, some Jawas might arrive to take him away….

(15) FROM OUTSIDE OF TIME. Episode 37 of Octothorpe 37, a podcast about science fiction and SF fandom from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty, is available here.

 We didn’t record this week so this is the fabled EPISODE X, part of the SUMMER OF FUN (summer of fun). We discuss the Retro Hugo Awards and reading old books from a time when Graham Linehan was still on Twitter. Crazy.

(16) MINUS MEN. Y: The Last Man premieres September 13 — on FX on Hulu.

Based on DC Comics’ acclaimed series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, Y: The Last Man traverses a post-apocalyptic world in which a cataclysmic event decimates every mammal with a Y chromosome but for one cisgender man and his pet monkey. The series follows the survivors in this new world as they struggle with their efforts to restore what was lost and the opportunity to build something better.

(17) THE STARS BYE DESTINATION. Gizmodo knows why “This Blasted Star Is Getting the Hell Out of the Milky Way”.

Careening through the Milky Way at nearly 2 million miles per hour, the star LP 40–365 shows no signs of stopping. A team of astronomers recently figured out that the star was propelled into its current speedrun by a supernova explosion millions of years ago.

LP 40–365 is unusual. It’s a white dwarf, a small, compact star at the end of its life, and it’s very rich in metals. LP 40–365 also has own atmosphere, which is mostly composed of oxygen and neon. But most important to this story is that the star is a runaway from a huge stellar explosion, which set in motion its dash out of the galaxy….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Mario Golf”,  Fandom Games says this Mario Bros. line extension “turns the fusty game of golf into the PGA version of Death Race.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, N., John Coxon, Daniel Dern, Scott Edelman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 6/6/21 The Wee Pun Shoppes Of Ishtar

(1) NETWORK EFFECT. Martha Wells commented about last night’s win in “Nebula Award!”

So a cool thing happened: Network Effect won the Nebula Award for Best Novel!

I was really shocked and floored. I really didn’t think it would win. We had invited some (vaccinated) friends over to watch the ceremony live on YouTube but I also had to be logged in to a zoom “green room” the whole time, so we spent a lot of Friday and Saturday housecleaning, getting party food at the store, and trying to reconfigure our internet to be robust enough to make this work. (Because of the way the live broadcast worked, if I got kicked out of the green room zoom because of a dropped connection, they wouldn’t be able to let me back in.) We ended up directly connecting my laptop to the router, which worked great. And the Tiramisu cake from the HEB bakery was both beautiful and delicious.

There was a Nebula Red Carpet tag on Twitter for outfits, and I wore a dress I’d actually bought for the Dublin WorldCon, but the back wasn’t sewn quite right, so wearing it for an online event was perfect.

(2) O’DONNELL AWARD. And Connie Willis, winner of The Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, posted her acceptance remarks on Facebook.

Thank you, Jim, for that great introduction and thanks to all of you for this lovely award.

I don’t really deserve it. In the first place, if the service was emceeing the Nebulas, that was really fun.

In the second place, if it was teaching at Clarion and Clarion West, I loved doing that, and I’ve been rewarded every day by the wonderful things my students have accomplished and the awards they’ve won. You Clarion people are great!…

(3) LIVE FROM THE VATICAN. Brother Guy is on the NPR’s “Weekend Edition”: “The Vatican’s Space Observatory Wants To See Stars And Faith Align”.

At a time of growing diffidence toward some new scientific discoveries, the one and only Vatican institution that does scientific research recently launched a campaign to promote dialogue between faith and science.

It’s the Vatican Observatory, located on the grounds of the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, a medieval town in Alban Hills 15 miles southeast of Rome.

The director, Brother Guy Consolmagno, is giving this reporter a guided tour of the grounds…. 

…A native of Detroit, Consolmagno studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Africa and taught physics before becoming a Jesuit brother in his 40s. He has been at the Observatory for three decades. His passion for astronomy started with a childhood love of science fiction.\

“I love the kind of science fiction that gives you that sense of wonder, that reminds you at the end of the day why we dream of being able to go into space,” Consolmagno says.

A passionate Star Wars fan, he tells this reporter proudly, “even Obi-Wan Kenobi came to visit” the Observatory, pointing to the signature of actor Alec Guinness, who played the role in the original movie trilogy, in a visitor’s book from 1958….

(4) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. From writer/director/producer Lisa Joy (Westworld) comes Warner Bros. action picture Reminiscence, starring Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson and Thandiwe Newton. Scheduled for release on August 20.

Nick Bannister (Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed when he takes on a new client, Mae (Ferguson). A simple matter of lost and found becomes a dangerous obsession. As Bannister fights to find the truth about Mae’s disappearance, he uncovers a violent conspiracy, and must ultimately answer the question: how far would you go to hold on to the ones you love?

(5) FOREIGN MARKETS. Fonda Lee comments on trad publishers’ varied handling of translated editions of books. Thread starts here.

(6) DEEPER DIVE INTO POE. In the Washington Post, Michael Dirda reviews The Reason for the Darkness of the Night by John Tresch, a book that shows that Edgar Allan Poe was well-informed about the science of his day and a look at how science played a role in Poe’s thought, including his fiction. “Is Poe the most influential American writer? A new book offers evidence”.

…That morose view of Poe, still widespread, isn’t precisely accurate. As Tresch reminds us, Edgar grew up coddled by the wealth and status of his Richmond stepparents, excelled in many of his courses at the University of Virginia and, during his time at West Point, was well liked by his fellow cadets (over half of whom helped underwrite a volume of his poems). While it’s hard to imagine him in any uniform but a severe black suit, Poe actually served in the Army for four years, rising to the rank of sergeant major.

…As a lifelong “Magazinist,” Poe could write anything: humorous squibs, book reviews, parodies, articles about the latest scientific discoveries, exposés of quackery (most notably of Maelzel’s chess-playing automaton), critical essays on “the philosophy of composition,” an almost unreadable cosmological prose-poem called “Eureka” and, of course, those unforgettable stories of self-justifying murderers and shrill psychopaths: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” . . . “True — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

In “The Reason for the Darkness of the Night” (available June 15), Tresch emphasizes how much Poe infuses scientific discourse into his most fantastical imaginings. For example, in “A Descent Into the Maelstrom,” a sailor, whose boat has been sucked into a gigantic whirlpool, rather improbably saves himself by thinking like a physicist: He observes that cylindrical objects fell more slowly into the whirling vortex than other objects of the same size, so he quickly lashes himself to a barrel to escape from a watery grave. In another story, “The Man That Was Used Up,” Poe describes a highly decorated army officer who, because his body parts have been replaced by various prostheses, is actually a steampunk cyborg….

(7) KRAMER PAROLE VIOLATION ALLEGED. Seems like it’s barely news anymore when Ed Kramer gets arrested. Just found out this happened in January: “Ed Kramer — who was tied to Gwinnett courthouse computer trespassing drama — was arrested this week” – the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post has the story.

Gwinnett County jail records show Ed Kramer was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on Wednesday and released the following day. The only charge was the probation violation, for which a judge set a $22,200 bond.

“There was an alleged probation violation where it was alleged that Mr. Kramer texted an alleged image of an unclothed adolescent,” District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson said. “He has been released and the matter is pending investigation.”…

(8) GRAND OPENING. Deadline says the “2021-22 NBC Schedule” features a show that’ll go even deeper underground than LA’s Red Line.

TUESDAY

9-10 PM – LA BREA

LA BREA – An epic adventure begins when a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, pulling hundreds of people and buildings into its depths. Those who fell in find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous primeval land, where they have no choice but to band together to survive. Meanwhile, the rest of the world desperately seeks to understand what happened. In the search for answers, one family torn apart by this disaster will have to unlock the secrets of this inexplicable event to find a way back to each other.

The cast includes Natalie Zea, Eoin Macken, Jon Seda, Nicholas Gonzalez, Chiké Okonkwo, Karina Logue, Zyra Gorecki, Jack Martin, Veronica St. Clair, Rohan Mirchandaney, Lily Santiago, Josh McKenzie and Chloe De Los Santos. Writer David Appelbaum executive produces with Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott, Rachel Kaplan, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt, Ken Woodruff, Arika Lisanne Mittman and Adam Davidson. “La Brea” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, in association with Keshet Studios.

(9) WILLIAMS III OBIT. Actor Clarence Williams III died June 4 of colon cancer at the age of 81. Best known for his work on Sixties police series The Mod Squad, his genre roles included three episodes of Twin Peaks (1990) as FBI Agent Roger Hardy, who informed Dale Cooper of his suspension from the FBI. He also was in TV episodes of Tales from the Crypt (1992), Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (1996), and Millennium (1997).

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

June 6, 1998 – On this date in 1998, The Truman Show premiered. It was directed by Peter Weir, and produced by Scott Rudin, Andrew Niccol, Edward S. Feldman, and Adam Schroeder. It was written by Andrew Niccol off the 198 The Twilight Zone episode “Special Service” (as written by J. Michael Straczynski). It starred Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Natascha McElhone, Holland Taylor and Ed Harris.  Critics loved it, it did great at the box office and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-nine percent rating. Did I mention it won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Aussiecon Three? 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 6, 1799 – Alexander Pushkin.  Sometimes after a surprise you re-examine and think “Oh.  Of course.”  When Ravi Shankar first visited Russia, people cried “Pushkin!  Pushkin!”  They loved Pushkin and there is a resemblance.  I’d like to call Mozart and Salieri a fantasy but, as my father used to say, not within the normal meaning of that term.  Anyway, we get Ruslan and Lyudmila and “The Queen of Spades” and The Bronze Horseman and “The Golden Cockerel” and The Stone Guest and “The Shot”.  Speaking of which –  (Died 1837) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1918 — Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully-titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. (Died 1969.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1921 – Milton Charles.  Artist and art director in and out of our field; Art Director for Jaguar (New York), later for Pocket Books; five hundred awards from Amer. Inst. Graphic Arts (AIGA), Society of Illustrators, Amer. Book Publishers, and like that.  Here is his cover for Tucker’s Wild Talenthere is Vonnegut’s Mother Nighthere is a study of his V.C. Andrews covers.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1924 — Robert Abernathy. Writer during the 1940s and 1950s. He’s remembered mostly for his short stories which were published in many of the pulp magazines that existed during the Golden Age of Science Fiction such as Planet StoriesGalaxyF&SFAstounding and Fantastic Universe. He did around forty stories in total, and apparently wrote no novels that I can locate. There’s no collection of his works currently available in digital form but many of his stories are up at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1945 – Vivian French, age 76.  Libraries in the United Kingdom say she is borrowed – that’s a metaphor, folks – shall we call it a Thing Contained for the Container? – half a million times a year; the Tiara Club books have sold three million copies.  Three dozen novels for us, some shorter stories, not least “I Wish I Were an Alien” in which the extraterrestrial boy, for his part, wishes –  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1947 — Robert Englund, 74. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in just six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried  and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD  to Strippers vs Werewolves. (Really. Truly.)  Versatile man, our Robert.  (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1951 – Geraldine McCaughrean, age 70.  (Pronounced “muh-cork-run”.)  For us, a dozen novels, including the authorized sequel Peter Pan in Scarlet, retellings of The Odyssey and 1,001 Nights; as many shorter stories; recent collection, Sky Ship; a hundred seventy books all told; five dozen plays; two Carnegie Medals; Printz Award.  “Do not write about what you know, write about what you want to know.”  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1957 – Max Bertolini, age 64.  Thirty covers, a few interiors; artbooks The Art of Max Bertolini and Revelations; comics.  Here is the Jun 04 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is the Oct-Nov 08.  Here is the Apr 11 Fantasy.  Here is his Silver Surfer.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1964 — Jay Lake. Another one who died far too young. If you read nothing else by him, read his brilliant Mainspring Universe series. Though his Green Universe is also entertaining and I see Wiki, not necessarily known for its accuracy, claims an entire Sunspin Universe series is still forthcoming from him. Anyone know about these novels? (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1973 — Guy Haley, 48. British author of the Richards & Klein Investigations series, a cyberpunk noir series where the partners are an android and an AI. His regular pay check comes from his Warhammer 40,000 work where he’s written a baker’s dozen novels so far. Not surprisingly, he’s got a novel coming out in the their just announced Warhammer Crime imprint which, though I’ve read no other Warhammer 40.000 fiction, I’m interested in seeing how they do it. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1973 — Patrick Rothfuss, 48. He is best known for the Kingkiller Chronicle series, which won him several awards, including the 2007 Quill Award for his first novel, The Name of the Wind. He also won the Gemmell Award for The Wise Man’s Fear. Before The Name of the Wind was released, an excerpt from the novel was released as a short story titled “The Road to Levinshir” and it won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1973 – Anne Ursu, age 48.  Teaches at Hamline, first university in Minnesota.  She’s given us eight novels, for children, adults, both.  The Lost Girl is told from the viewpoint of a crow.  In The Cronus Chronicles – three so far – two cousins find they’re in Greek myths; the first cousin we meet is Charlotte Mielswetzki, and if I say so myself it’s about time we did.  Breadcrumbs retells The Snow Queen; creatures from Hans Andersen’s tales keep showing up; and Jack, Hazel’s only friend in 5th Grade, may not want to be saved.   [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur comments on that advanced alien technology we’re always on the lookout for.
  • Heathcliff leaves something to the imagination – barely.
  • Comics Kingdom draws an unexpected parallel between Robin and the Seven Hoods and Star Wars.

(13) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Kameron Hurley says her career arc taught her to put things in perspective. Thread starts here.

(14) LISTEN TO MY STORY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Shipworm calls itself “the first feature-length audio movie” which means it s a 115-minute drama that has a script that reads more like a screenplay and less like a radio drama.  A doctor and Iraq War veteran wakes up and finds a voice in his head who calls herself “The Conductor” and tells him he has to do bad things or his wife and children will die.  I’m not going to explain what The Conductor is and what the shipworms are, but this story is borderline sf and slightly on the sf side of the border but only slightly..  It’s a professional production (SAG-AFTRA is acknowledged in the credits) and I listened to it and it’s OK, but the writers studied their screenwriting books too closely because the characters seem like plot cliches and not human beings.  I think this is Two Up Productions’s first entry into this sort of production, and I’d like to hear their fifth.  Shipworm is promising, but there’s room for improvement. Shipworm: Podcast”.

(15) STRANGE NEW EGGS. “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Star Teases Original Series Easter Eggs” at Comicbook.com.

,,, Rebecca Romijn plays Number One, the Enterprise‘s first officer, in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, alongside Anson Mount as Captain Christopher Pike and Ethan Peck as Mr. Spock. She tells Looper that production is now deep into the show’s first season.

“We are currently in production on the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” Romijn said. “My lips are sealed, but I am in Toronto and we are on episode seven of 10 — and we are not allowed to say anything about what we’re doing. This is the story of the 10 years on the Enterprise — this is the 10 years leading up to Captain Kirk on the Enterprise. So, this is Captain Pike and Number One, and Spock is a science officer. We outrank him, which is really fun, because when does anybody ever outrank Spock?'”

While Romijn might not be spilling plot details, she did indicate that there will be references to Captain Kirk’s adventures charting the final frontier. “I can’t say anything else because there are so many Easter eggs on this show, but we are very, very, very excited to introduce this show,” she said. “It’s in keeping with the original series — they’re standalone episodes. It’s a little bit lighter. We are visiting planets. We are visiting colonies, and we are so proud of our work so far.”

(16) AND EGGS AGAIN. SYFY Wire took the tour: “The MCU Easter Eggs You Need to Look for at Avengers Campus”, a new attraction at Disney California Adventure. Here are the first two of 15 identified in the article.

Here are some of our favorites you can see in our exclusive slideshow below:

1) The Pym Menus boards are actually Scott and Hope’s phones, and if you watch the screens, you’ll see them get texts and messages from some of their famous friends like Tony Stark.

2) Near the front of the Stark Industries building (now WEB Workshop), there’s a special parking spot for a close friend of both Howard Stark and Peggy Carter.

(17) DOUBLE DRAGONS. There are now two Dragons at the ISS: “SpaceX Dragon docks at space station to deliver new solar arrays and tons of supplies”Space.com has the story.

SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station today (June 5) to deliver new solar arrays along with tons of fresh research experiments and NASA supplies as part of the company’s 22nd cargo resupply mission.

The uncrewed Dragon autonomously linked up with the orbiting laboratory at 5:09 a.m. EDT (0909 GMT), parking at the zenith, or space-facing, side of the station’s Harmony module. Docking occurred approximately 40 hours after the Dragon’s launch on a Falcon 9 rocket Thursday (June 3) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At the time of docking, both spacecraft were sailing about 258 miles (415  kilometers) over the South Pacific Ocean.  …

(18) STAND ON MANHATTAN. Jason Sacks reviews one of the famous Malthusian sf novels for Galactic Journey: “[June 6, 1966] The World is Ending (Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison)”.

In this world we follow police officer Andrew Rusch as he tries to track down the murderer of a rich man who lives in one of those spacious apartments. We watch Rusch fight through his wretched world to find the killer, find a new love, lose an old companion, and fight like hell to acquire even the most basic things he needs to survive. Even the source of food remains a mystery in this book. We never find out what the mysterious and prized substance soylent is made of, and that enigma is typical of the way Harrison creates his world. Harrison puts us in the well-worn shoes of his characters, forcing us to understand their privations and pain on a personal level….

“We never find out”? Of course we do in the movie, but what about in the book, which I read when it first came out? Unfortunately, I don’t remember for myself how Harrison left things – I’ll have to trust Jason on that.

(19) BUGS, MR. RICO! The “Cicadas Have Arrived” in Mister Scalzi’s neighborhood. Listen to them on his video at the link.

(20) IT’S A BIRD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This video from Accented Cinema’s Yang Zhang has as its premise that South Korea, with Parasite and Minari, is now a global power in films.  But to get there South Korean filmmakers turned out a lot of sci-fi and fantasy cheese.  Zhang shows us the cheese, including knockoff anime, knockoff Godzilla, knockoff Batman and Wonder Woman, and lots of other bits of cheesy goodness, including a knockoff King Kong (released in the U.S. as A*P*E that does something that Kong has thankfully never done.

(21) WISHES. Once again, a chance to watch The Genie (A Unicorn Production) made by LA fans in the 1950s. With Forry Ackerman, Fritz Leiber., Jr, and Bjo Trimble.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A sff short film “It’s Okay” presented by DUST.

In this Black Mirror-esque tale, a couple revisit key moments of their past, only for their memories to take an unexpected turn. … Cam and Alex are a simple couple living an un-extraordinary life, when strange things suddenly start happening to them. Will they uncover the truth before they lose one other?

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Paul Weimer, Nancy Collins, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

SFWA Announces the 56th Annual Nebula Award Winners

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA) announced the 56th Annual Nebula Awards® winners in an online ceremony on June 5 hosted by Toastmaster Aydrea Walden.

These awards are given to the writers of the best speculative fiction works released in 2020, as voted on by Full, Associate, and Senior SFWA members.

BEST NOVEL

  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELLA

  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)

BEST NOVELETTE

  • “Two Truths and a Lie”, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com) 

BEST SHORT STORY

  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots)  

THE ANDRE NORTON NEBULA AWARD FOR MIDDLE GRADE AND YOUNG ADULT FICTION

  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll) 

BEST GAME WRITING

  • Hades, Greg Kasavin (Supergiant) 

THE RAY BRADBURY NEBULA AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”, Michael Schur, NBC (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal)  

Additional awards and honors presented:

Nalo Hopkinson

THE SFWA DAMON KNIGHT MEMORIAL GRAND MASTER AWARD

  • Nalo Hopkinson

THE KATE WILHELM SOLSTICE AWARD

  • Jarvis Sheffield
  • Ben Bova (posthumous)
  • Rachel Caine (posthumous)

THE KEVIN J. O’DONNELL, JR. SERVICE TO SFWA AWARD

  • Connie Willis

Presenters joined virtually from around the country, including SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal, SFWA Vice President Tobias S. Buckell, incoming SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy, and writers and creatives Nisi Shawl, Carrie Patel, Mallory O’Meara, Mark Oshiro, Troy L. Wiggins, and Adam Savage. 

The ceremony can be viewed at SFWA’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Four Reviews by Iphinome

By Iphinome: Reading. That’s what I do, I read and I snark things.

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries) By Martha Wells. Space Opera

This story takes place between Exit Strategy and Network Effect.

It all starts with a body of a human–the dead kind–dumped in a hallway. This doesn’t happen often on Preservation station, station security is used to dealing with intoxicated humans not conducting murder investigations. Because they have the same sort of media infused-preconceptions about SecUnits as most other humans and augmented humans, they see Muderbot as, well, a murder bot, a possible suspect. This leaves them less than enthused about accepting help from a dangerous weapon that, even if innocent, presents a far greater danger than any single human or augmented human murderer.

What’s one murderer compared to the threat presented by a murderbot?

Murderbot could leave this one alone, it knows it didn’t kill the human, but not knowing who the killer or the identity-obscured victim is means not knowing if GrayCris is involved or if Dr. Mensah is in more danger. Gotta get that risk assessment down.

Fugitive Telemetry is a classic whodunit wherein Murderbot must work with the humans, augmented humans–even a few “free bots”–collect evidence and eliminate suspects (not that way!) alongside humans who know exactly what a SecUnit is. Humans who wonder if Murderbot did the murder.

Don’t worry, Murderbot still finds time to shoot things with the energy weapons in its arms, attempt a daring rescue, and watch Sanctuary Moon.

All the stuff we know and love is in there.

Let’s look at my notes.

16% Security insists that Murderbot can’t be stealth, it has to be out loud and proud in its feed identifier so people don’t get fooled. Two cycles later, not being satisfied with outing Murderbot as a SecUnit to any passers-by, a photo is published in the planetary newsstream.

Won’t that be fun when the next rogue SecUnit comes through and gets instantly read?

21% Ooooo is this the bot on the cover?

36% Someone else can hack Preservations crappy surveillance

40% Oh, maybe this is the cover bot. So many bots.

70% Time to shine baby. This is a job for Murderbot.

The inclusion of a heroic SecUnit really made this story work, more writers should do it.

I liked it. I always like Murderbot and feel a bit bad about not rating it higher but while Murderbot experiences a bit of personal growth we’ve already seen the results of in Network Effect. There’s a disadvantage in having this released non-chronologically.

Three stars plus a half because Murderbot. Recommended.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers. Space opera.

This story takes place at the truck stop in Little America Wyoming where a group of travelers are trapped by a blizzard. No, wait. I’m being told that this book takes place under a small habitat dome at the Five-Hop One-Stop on the planet Gora, an airless rock that serves as a convenient anchor for five interstellar tunnels. My bad.

The proprietor is Ouloo a Laru, (a quadrupedal mammalian species with long necks and long fur) helped by her adolescent child Tupo. Three ships are scheduled to arrive for short shopping trips. Her deal is to keep the customers happy and coming back. She’s a sort of suburban business owner.

Tupo, Ouloo’s adolescent child. Xe has created a small natural history museum (on a lifeless planet) and otherwise helps out around the One-Stop in a sometimes sulky and sometimes excited way. Xe’s the moody teenager archetype.

Gapei Tem Seri, an Aeluon (fine scales, no natural hearing). Pei’s still dating Ashby from The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, still, despite declarations to the contrary, apprehensive about the potential social stigma her people assign to those in interspecies relationships. She’s just gotten a bit of free time and is en route to Wayfarer for a little waterball. Wink wink nudge nudge.

In some ways, Pei represents the partially closeted homosexual. She’s not quite hiding her relationship as much as controlling who does and doesn’t know but she still fears the very real consequences that come with openness. Some Aeolins might be open and comfortable with interspecies sexuality but staying in the closet keeps her employed. In other respects, she’s just a woman making hard choices in the work/relationship/friends balance. Straight people have to figure it all out too.

Roveg, a Quelin (They have shells and lots of legs) exiled from his people. He makes his living as an artist who designs sims. In video game parlance we’d call his genre walking simulators. No plot, just lots of pretty stuff to walk through and look at. He’s on his way to an important and very time sensitive appointment.

For Pei Roveg represents a cautionary tale. He knowingly violated the taboos of his people, now he’s paying the price far from home, a pariah to other Quelin. To Tupo he’s the wise and understanding adult, to Speaker he’s someone who can empathise and to Ouloo he’s low maintenance.

For himself, he’s apprehensive about his looming appointment and while usually possessed of a healthy outlook regarding his status and some of the opportunities it allows him there’s some melancholy there. You can make the best but can’t always have all the things you want.

Speaker an Akarak. The species made an appearance in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet as the raiders in mech suits who infiltrated Wayfarer and injured Ashby. The Mech suits are necessary to survive in an oxygen atmosphere and thematically exist to create an outsider status, physical separation for a member of a lesser-known and distrusted species.

A life of mistrust and misunderstanding along with an uncountable number of microaggressions leave Speaker’s feather easily ruffled, er, so to speak, but she’s practiced at not showing it. She’s a very kindhearted person and her main concern is getting off Gora and back to her ailing sister who remained in orbit while Speaker made a supply run.

Kyra described this as The most Becky Chambers plot of all time. Soooooooooooo apt.

While our three travelers are making scheduled stops between wormhole tranists an accident happens. The planet’s orbital infrastructure undergoes catastrophic failure, the linkings are down and space is full of junk. It’s not safe to leave, and anyone who tries is going to get so many points on their license that they’ll be walking between planets for the rest of their lives.

Our characters are stranded in Ouloo’s habitat dome with strangers around them and their own problems weighing. Imagine the modder colony visit in Angry Planet but as a whole book. They begin in the overly polite and guarded way as one does when in close confines with strangers. They talk, they hold different opinions, they gain understanding, they bond.

And yeah. There’s a complete lack of humans which makes things a bit more interesting. The characters do a far better job of drawing you in than anyone in Spaceborn Few which seriously dragged. All the themes of the previous books are there. As a worldbuilding bonus, we get some backstory on why the Quelin were such dicks to Corbin in the first book.

It didn’t have the same charm as the first book and didn’t have the same power as the second. On the bright side, it wasn’t as mind numbingly boring as the third and it managed to do what it intended. I cared about these people. It was pretty good.

Recommended if you like Becky Chambers, not recommended if you’re looking for action.

  • Liked The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. 4 stars.
  • Loved, love, will always love A Closed and Common Orbit. 5 stars.
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few bored me, not enough to deduct a star though. 3 stars
  • The Galaxy and the Ground Within. It didn’t bore me, also didn’t quite meet the threshold for a fourth star. 3 stars.

Persephone Station by Stina Leicht. Space opera.

Our protagonist, Angel–introduced in chapter 3–leads a mercenary squad of former corpse soldiers. Their job was to go on suicide missions and then get revived later. They keep doing that till the cumulative physical and psychological damage makes them unfit for military service. Good times. Now she and her team work for Rosie, a local crime boss. Their current assignment is an assassination which goes according to plan until a second team pulls off another assassination–the planet’s corporate owners’ local head honcho–at the same party. Angel’s group along with a woman from the party named Kennedy Liu make their escape.

Knocking off someone for Rosie is something Angel can get away with. Criminal knocks off rival is an old story, but this second death means that not only does Angel have to explain the situation to Rose but being blamed for assassinating a corporate VIP buys a whole load of trouble.

Rosie owns a bar that they use as a base for extra-legal dealings. Don’t get your hopes up, this isn’t space Casablanca. Then again, space Casablanca would be like Barb Wire and that sucks so maybe do raise your hopes a little bit.

Angel makes her way there and Rosie is quite forgiving, she even has a new job that will get Angel and company out of town. Protect a very secret town of Persephone’s native sentients–so secret that Rosie and the Serrao-Orlove corporation plus any number of smugglers know all about it–from an impending invasion by corporate mercs.

It’s another suicide mission and this time no revivification boxes.

The B-plot centers on Kennedy Liu, she’s an AI in a highly illegal human appearing body. People in these stories always get it wrong. Things not to give AIs: Nukes. Things that it’s okay to give AIs: Bodies that appear human, cat pics. She comes to Persephone after receiving a call for help and gets drawn into the Angel/Rosie versus Serrao-Orlove struggle.

Chapter one: This is a prologue, it doesn’t call itself a prologue even though the epilogue calls itself an epilogue. It concerns a people called the Emissaries, a species with some shapeshifting abilities attempting to negotiate with the planet Persephone’s owners, the Serrao-Orlove corporation, and in particular one corporate representative Vissia Corsini who has betrayed the Emissaries in the past. It goes badly for the Emissaries and Vissa commits a war crime.

And it’s completely skippable. Our protagonist learns about the Emissaries and Vissia’s cruel nature as the story progresses.

Chapter two: It’s a couple pages long and mostly serves as a second prologue. Rosie, a local tavern owner (and crime boss) finds a corpse dropped on their doorstep. They know who the person is and after offering a quick prayer for the dead Rosie continues with their day.

Skippable. The death and the identity of the deceased are revealed to Angel in short order.

Chapter 3: Start here because this is where our protagonist steps on stage.

10% Things started flowing and I was afraid to let myself relax into the story. My notes say this book is like a mechanical bull that keeps trying to toss me out.

That was a lie. My actual written note says “10% now it’s going. Mechanical Bull Book!”

Sophisticated and erudite I’m not.

39% Welcome to Emissarytown. No, that’s emISSARy, not emBASsy. China Mieville’s not here.

We’re not human but we have all the human stuff right down to a standard pre-fab landing bay. Shhh, no one knows we exist and if you need anything we’ll order it for the next regularly scheduled smuggling run.

We know you have a choice when it comes to suicide missions, thank you for choosing Emissaries.

43% “Four women, one man, and two non-binary people approached”

I have so many questions the worldbuilding didn’t address. At no point does the narrative explain how a non-binary person might declare themselves such without stating it. There’s very little information about gender presentation or stereotypes. Rosie is non-binary and wears makeup and skirts. Is it color-coded? How the eff were you able to tell at a glance?

Ah well, not today mechanical bull, not today. Gonna press on.

Retroactive bonus point to Winter’s Orbit which did explain the culture-specific gender signifiers.

76% I’m a leaf on the wind.

It took eight days to get through this book, more than once I had a feeling of dread when reaching for the kindle, would I get bounced again? Not so much, it tried once or twice but if not for the bad taste left by the first two chapters then I wouldn’t have spent the rest of the book with a lingering fear about it all going wrong.

The story was fine. The characters are fine. My complaints are–to my everlasting shame–the complaints of a backseat editor. Some worldbuilding lapses some poor authorial choices in the opening chapters.

Leave that aside and you have an average sci-fi adventure story of the mercenaries decide to stand for something variety.

I could drop half a star for the beginning but I round up anyway so what the hell, three stars.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno. Media tie-in, space opera.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

It is a period of civil war. Separatist systems, led by the Sith Lord Count Dooku, use battle droids to fight The Grand Army of the Republic in a never-ending struggle to control the border worlds. After one battle, Republic operators managed to obtain plans for the separatist ultimate weapon, a battle station the size of a small moon. The side that completes the battle station first will have the power to win the war.

Republic engineer Orson Krennic searches for Galen Erso, the researcher who can complete the weapon, save the Republic, and restore peace and security to the galaxy.

Dah dah dah daaaa daaaa dun dun dunt duhhhh duhhh.

Since this is a media tie-in, readers are expected to be familiar with the first six Star Wars films.

Galen Erso–because of course there’s a Galen, as the length of a genre series increases, the probability of there being a Galen approached one–is a deep thinker. He’s the kind of scientist who stops speaking and ignores people to start scribbling. He’s the kind of scientist who forgets to comb his hair because he’s thinking thank you very much. He’s also the kind of scientist who doesn’t want his work used to create weapons despite his specialty being crystals and power generation–exactly what you need to make laser weapons in Star Wars–that’s why he and his wife left Coruscant for the Vallt system where he can sit out the Clone Wars working in the private sector.

The war comes to him in the form of a coup switching the planet to the Separatist cause and the arrest of Erso on fabricated charges with the understanding that if he just transfers his loyalties, he’ll go free. At this point, Galen switches from absent-minded professor to expert in psychology and influence techniques–which totally isn’t going to last–allowing him to hold firm even when his wife Lyra gives birth to their daughter Jyn while he’s in captivity.

Lieutenant Commander Orson Krennic, Republic Corps of Engineers, and ambitious member of the Special Weapons Project sees getting his old school chum Galen involved as the key to his eventual rise. With a combination of money, threats, and plausibly deniable sabotage, smuggler Has Obitt is convinced to work as Krennic’s agent. They rescue Erso who, while thankful to see his old buddy and get a ride out of prison, doesn’t want to work for the government.

Krennic arranges for Erso to both be under suspicion for his time spent with Separatists and thankful for the only crappy non-military job available to him and he finishes out the war-making communication devices.

Despite the Jedi and Dooku being gone, the Galactic Empire still doesn’t know peace. Pockets of resistance remain along with anarchists and criminals, the battle station still needs completion and Krennic finally has the leverage he needs over his old friend. Kyber crystals, hoarded and hidden by the Jedi, now available for research. Perfectly above-board civilian research.

Project Celestial Power, the Emperor’s dream Galen’s told. Renewable energy, unimaginable amounts for developing worlds using Kyber crystals. Will Erso lead the project? He will.

Catalyst was released ahead of Rogue One as a way of building hype and giving bookish fans easter eggs to search for. It’s a tough situation, being unable to spoil the future, being very limited even in how much you can telegraph when the movie’s where the money comes in and the author’s job is to combine storytelling with ad copy. I’m not sure it was a great idea but only the Disney accountants know for sure.

Early chapters might fool the reader into thinking Galen Erso is the protagonist. It’s Krennic. Story events focus on his lies, power grabs, struggles against Tarken,, and the bodies of anyone who stops being useful. His I’m your friend approach to Galen Erso echos Palpatine with Anakin and his trail of bodies echoes Vader with anyone who disappoints him. But the Sith lords embrace evil. Orson Krennic’s actions come off more creep than mustache-twirling.

Call it the banality of darksideism.

A few notes.

My spell-check already knew the word Coruscant. That tells you all you need to know about Star Wars and popular culture.

Dropping a beast of a word like somnambulantly into the middle of a sentence is a good way to bounce a reader out of the text, at least momentarily.

There’s an odd spate of excess scenery detail for a couple chapters around 70% of the way through. There hadn’t been as much earlier in the book so it came out of nowhere.

Tarkin makes a dad joke, Tarkin should not make dad jokes. My brain hurts.

Catalyst ends at 87% on my kindle. Any readers keeping track of how much story is left be aware that the last 10% is the preview for another Star Wars book.

As a stand-alone novel, I’d give it two stars, much is left unexplained. As a media tie-in where you’re expected to know and judging by the standards of other media tie-ins, three stars.

Pixel Scroll 4/26/21 In A Scrolling Way, It’s About That Pixel

(1) INTRODUCING BEST EDITOR. During last night’s telecast: “Harrison Ford uses Oscar soapbox to get some Blade Runner complaints off his chest”.

“I’d like to share some notes, some editorial suggestions that were prepared after the screening of, uh, a movie I was in,” joked Ford. “Opening too choppy. Why is this voice-over track so terrible? He sounds drugged.”

“Were they all on drugs? Dekker at the piano is interminable. Flashback dialogue is confusing. Is he listening to a tape? Why do we need the third cut to the eggs? The synagogue music is awful on the street. We’ve got to use Vangelis. Up to Zora’s death, the movie is deadly dull. This movie gets worse every screening.

(2) TRUST ME, IT DIDN’T WIN. EscYOUnited, in “Eurovision Movie’s ‘Húsavík’ does not win 2021 Oscar for Best Original Song”, admits its fans are disappointed, but notes how many other honors the movie has received – including a Hugo nomination.

…Sadly things did not go in Fire Saga’s favor, as H.E.R., Dernest Emile II, and Tiara Thomas won the award for their song “Fight For You” featured in Judas and the Black Messiah. Even without tonight’s Oscar, the Eurovision movie is still a two time award winning film. Prior to tonight the music editor team won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Musical for Feature film and “Húsavík” won the award for Outstanding Original Song for Visual Media….

(3) REMEMBERED. The Oscars 2021 In Memoriam video included Ian Holm, Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Wilford Brimley, Ron Cobb, Hal Holbrook, Helen McCrory, Carl Reiner, Brian Dennehy, Diana Rigg, Sean Connery, Chadwick Boseman, and others with genre credits.

(4) BONUS MURDERBOT. Tom Becker pointed out Tor.com’s post of “Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory”, by Martha Wells.

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory was originally given free to readers who pre-ordered Martha’s Murderbot novel, Network Effect. The story is set just after the 4th novella,Exit Strategy.

(5) MARTHA WELLS PROFILE. The Orange County Register’s Erik Pedersen tells “How ‘Murderbot Diaries’ author Martha Wells overcame a career in crisis to create the killer series”.

There was a time before Martha Wells created Murderbot, the character that narrates her award-winning science fiction series “The Murderbot Diaries,” when she thought her career might be dead.

After a successful start in the ‘90s, things had cooled down by the mid-2000s. When the final book in her “Fall of Ile-Rien” trilogy was published without fanfare, the soft-spoken Texan wondered if that was it for her.

“I was kind of at that point in my career where, you know, women writers my age were supposed to quietly fade away. It’s like, ‘Well, you had your shot, and that was it, and now go away.’ So I was not real optimistic about being able to continue to be published,” says the now 56-year-old novelist during a call from her College Station home, which she shares with her husband and three cats.

“I could not sell another book,” says Wells. “I knew my career was in a lot of trouble.”

But she refused to give up. Over the next few years, she got a new agent, started a new series, found a new publisher.

“That kind of got me back going again. I ended up also doing a Star Wars novel and did some work on some stories for Magic the Gathering,” she says, describing herself as plugging away but not soaring during that period. “I thought, ‘Well, this is probably about as high up as I can go,’ you know? It’s like, I’m not gonna win awards, and I’m not gonna be, you know, super popular or anything like that. But if I can keep going at this level, I’ll be okay.

“And then Murderbot just hit big,” she says….

(6) EUROCON. Eurocon 2021 in Fiuggi, Italy will be an in-person con the committee announced.

Just had green light for Eurocon in-person!

All attendees will have to be vaccinated or pre-tested for Covid 19.

If the con were to be held today, we could accommodate a little more than 200 guests. We are confident that it will be possible to increase this number in July. Hope to see you in Italy!!!

(7) B5 WAS THE PROTOTYPE. TechRadar boldly asks “Is Babylon 5 secretly the most influential TV show of the past 25 years?”

… If most TV viewers had no idea what a showrunner was back in the ’90s, even fewer could name one. Only superstar producers such as Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue creator Steven Bochco were big enough to occasionally eclipse their brands. However, the name of J Michael Straczynski was all over Babylon 5, as synonymous with the show as Minbari, Narn and Vorlons – just as much as The West Wing was Aaron Sorkin’s creation or The Sopranos David Chase’s, Babylon 5 was his. Arguably more so, in fact, seeing as he wrote 92 of the show’s 110 episodes, including the entirety of seasons 3 and 4. 

Babylon 5 was an auteur’s vision on an epic scale. On the rare occasions guest writers were brought in, they were often genre legends such as Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and regular Star Trek writer DC Fontana – this show was never scared to embrace the harder edges of science fiction. And just as would later become the norm with showrunners such as Russell T Davies on Doctor Who or Dave Filoni on The Clone Wars, Straczynski was the public face of his show, becoming one of the first writers to talk directly to the fanbase via the internet.

A veteran of ’80s cartoons such as She-Ra: Princess of Power, The Real Ghostbusters, and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Straczynski always had big plans for Babylon 5. He set out to tell a story taking in space battles, political intrigue, epic mythology and more, and wanted to do it over the course of five years. 

That may not feel unusual now, when shows such as Breaking Bad, Lost and even comedies such as Schitt’s Creek make a big thing of spreading their stories over multiple seasons. But in the mid-’90s, the Babylon 5 approach was seriously radical. Most of the TV of the era was built on standalone episodes, with serialization kept to a minimum to ensure episodes could be watched in any order once they ended up in syndication. That Babylon 5 should so brazenly break the mould was a big shock to the system for ’90s viewers…

… It was ‘Westeros in space’ before George RR Martin had even published his first A Song of Ice and Fire novel, a show that rewarded viewers who tuned in for every installment. Babylon 5 was a show purpose-built for streaming and binge-viewing, trapped in the era of broadcast and cable….

(8) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “Strategy Strikes Back: Star Wars And Modern Military Conflict” will be the topic on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on May 1 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register for the Zoom webinar here.

Strategy Strikes Back authors Lt. Col. Matt CavanaughMax BrooksAugust Cole, and Steve Leonard join Gadi and Karen to discuss Star Wars and modern military conflict. In the book, they made understanding strategy fun by the use of a common global language – The love of Star Wars. We’ll be happy to share that love with them.

(9) BILLIONS AND BILLIONS. What Carl Sagan used to say about the number of stars this fellow says about his bank account. SpaceX’s Elon Musk will host Saturday Night Live on May 8 reports NPR.

Saturday Night Live doesn’t usually have business executives host its show, but as pointed out in a story by The Associated Press, Musk is far from a stuffy corporate type. He regularly jokes around on Twitter, where he has nearly 52 million followers and has gotten into legal trouble for making disparaging remarks about critics and hinting that he might lead a buyout of Tesla that resulted him getting fined $20 million by stock market regulators.

… Not counting news interview shows and press conferences, Musk has made guest appearances on the CBS shows Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory. His voice has also been heard on the animated shows South ParkThe Simpsons and Rick and Morty. Plus he made a cameo in the film Iron Man 2.

(10) WOLFE SPEAKS. Colombian author Triunfo Arciniegas reposted Lawrence Person’s 1998 interview with Gene Wolfe yesterday: “DRAGON: Suns New, Long, and Short / An Interview with Gene Wolfe”.

LP: You have literally dozens of characters in The Book of the Long Sun, yet many times you have scenes with a number of characters all speaking in turn, without being identified, and yet their speech patterns are so clearly and cleverly differentiated that we’re never confused about who’s talking. Just how do you do that?

GW: (Laughs) I’m certainly glad that you were never confused! There are two things. Obviously, you have the speech patterns. Spider does not talk like Maytera Mint. And if you understand speech patterns, you should be able to put in any statement Spider makes, certain characteristic phrases or mistakes, or whatever, that will identify him as the speaker. The other thing is, that if you’re doing it right, the speech that, oh, let’s say, Maytera Marble makes under a certain circumstance, is not the speech that Blood would make under that circumstance. When Maytera Marble talks, she is saying something that only Maytera Marble would say. When Blood speaks, he is saying something that only Blood would say. And so the reader, if the reader is intelligent, knows who said that from what was said.

(11) HWA POETRY SHOWCASE. Horror Writers Association is taking submissions from members to its 2021 Poetry Showcase.

The HWA is proud to announce that it will call for submissions from its members for the Poetry Showcase Volume VIII beginning April 1. Stephanie Wytovich will be the editor for the volume. This year’s judges, along with Stephanie, will include Sara Tantlinger and Angela Yuriko Smith.

Only HWA members (of any status) may submit. The reason for this can be found in the word “Showcase.” The HWA is very proud of the tradition of poetry in the horror genre and of the HWA’s support for poetry. This volume is designed to showcase the talents of HWA members which is why it is now limited to members….

(12) WILLIAMS OBIT. Charlie Williams, a long-time Nashville fan, passed away April 25 reports Tom Feller. He had been residing in a nursing home/rehab facility after being hospitalized for pneumonia.  He is survived by his wife Patsy and sister Jennifer.  Funeral arrangements are pending.

[NOTE: He is a different Charlie Williams than the fanartist from Knoxville.]

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 26, 2008 — On this date in 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered on the Cartoon Network. created by George Lucas and produced by Lucasfilm Animation, the series ran for seven seasons. It’s currently airing, as is all things Star Wars, on Disney+. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 26, 1914 – Horace L. Gold.  One novel (with Sprague de Camp), twoscore shorter stories.  Edited Galaxy (insistence on taking SF in a new direction resulted in “You’ll never see it in Galaxy!”) and If; a dozen anthologies.  A Best-Prozine Hugo for Galaxy; Life Achievement Award from Westercon 28; Forry, Milford Awards.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1922 A. E. van Vogt. I admit it’s been so long since I read him that I don’t clearly remember what I liked by him though I know I read Slan and The Weapon Makers.  I am fascinated by the wiki page that noted Damon Knight took a strong dislike to his writing whereas Philip K. Dick and Paul Di Filippo defended him strongly. What do y’all think of him? (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1925 Richard Deming. I think that all of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. novellasor in this case the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. novellas, were listed under the house name of Robert Hart Davis. Deming was only one of a very long list of writers (I know of Richard Curtis, Richard Deming, I. G. Edmonds, John Jakes, Frank Belknap Long, Dennis Lynds, Talmage Powell, Bill Pronzini, Charles Ventura and Harry Whittington) that were writers who penned novels in the twin U.N.C.L.E. series.(Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born April 26, 1939 Rex Miller. Horror writer with a hand in many pies, bloody ones at that. (Sorry couldn’t resist.) The Chaingang series featured Daniel Bunkowski, a half-ton killing-machine. Definitely genre. He contributed to some thirty anthologies including Hotter Blood: More Tales of Erotic HorrorFrankenstein: The Monster WakesDick Tracy: The Secret Files and The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1950 Peter Jurasik, 71. Ambassador Londo Mollari on Babylon 5 who would be Emperor one day and die for his sins. (Yes, spoiler.) He has also very short genre credits other than Babylon 5— Doctor Oberon Geiger for several episodes on Sliders and Crom, the timid and pudgy compound interest program, in the Tron film. (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1943 – Bill Warren.  Three stories, three poems; best known as a student and critic of SF film, see his Keep Watching the Skies!  Fan Guest of Honor at Ambercon 3, VCON 11, Loscon 11, MisCon 6.  Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.), Sampo Award (unsung-hero service).  Edited 15 posthumous issues of Bill Rotsler’s Masque. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here. (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born April 26 [Year unknown] – Miriam Lloyd.  Various fanzines under Goojie Publications as M. Dyches; Klein Bottle and Fanac as M. Carr with first husband Terry Carr; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Poughkeepsie as M. Knight with second husband Jerry Knight; see here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1948 – Marta Randall, age 73.  Eight novels, a score of shorter stories.  Fanzine, Mother Weary.  Edited Nebula Awards 19, New Dimensions 11-13.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Toastmaster at Norwescon VII, Baycon ’87, Windycon XIII, ConFusion 14, Chicon IV & V the 40th and 49th Worldcons.  Master of Ceremonies at Con*Stellation V.  Pro Guest of Honor at ConClave VIII, WisCon 7, Lunacon 29.  First female President of SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1952 Peter Lauritson, 69. Long involved with the Trek franchise starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He became the producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and supervising producer for Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. He directed three episodes of those series, including the Hugo Award-winning “The Inner Light”, as well as being second unit director for two Trek films. (CE) 
  • Born April 26, 1955 – Brad W. Foster, age 66.  Widely-applauded fanartist.  Eight Hugos.  Chesley.  Rebel, Neffy (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), Rotsler Awards.  Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 10, Loscon 18, Westercon 49, Norwescon XX, Conestoga 9, ReConStruction the 10th NASFiC (N. Amer. SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Sasquan the 73rd Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1967 – Nicholas Whyte, age 54.  Hugo Administrator twice and still alive; at it again this year and Worldcon Site Selection too.  Dr Who fan which is less nearly unique.  Reads 200-300 books a year (“in non-plague times, I have a long commute”).  Announced as Fan Guest of Honour for Eastercon 72 (April 2022).  Helpful fan with catholic (I know I didn’t capitalize that, go look it up) taste.  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1969 Gina Torres, 52.  The first thing I remember seeing her in was Cleopatra 2525 where she was Helen ‘Hel’ Carter. Her first genre was in the M.A.N.T.I.S. pilot as Dr. Amy Ellis, and she actually was in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as a character named Cas but I’ll frankly admit I remember almost nothing of those films. She’s had a number of DC voice roles including a recurring Justice League Unlimited run as Vixen / Mari McCabe. And of course Zoe in the Firefly verse. Lastly anyone remember her on the Angel series as Jasmine? (CE) 

(15) I’M JUST DREW THAT WAY. Daniel Dern found the excuse to give this item its title in io9’s production news roundup “Marvel She-Hulk Filming Pictures Sees Tatiana Maslany on Set”:

Tom Swift joins Nancy Drew in the synopsis for “The Celestial Visitor” airing May 12.

TIAN RICHARDS (“BURDEN,” “DUMPLIN”) GUEST STARS AS TOM SWIFT – As things begin to go haywire at The Claw, a striking stranger appears looking for Nancy (Kennedy McMann), and announces himself as the billionaire Tom Swift (guest star Tian Richards).

(16) BIG CHAP. Yahoo! Entertainment’s Ethan Alter discusses a rare find: “’Alien’ Day: The terrifying, long-lost Xenomorph prototype never before seen in public” – photos at the link.

Here’s an #AlienDay reveal that’ll make you happier than a long-haul space tug crew member headed back to Earth: A piece of ultra-rare Alien memorabilia that was blasted out of the airlock four decades ago has been salvaged and is now up for sale. On April 29, Julien’s Auctions is unveiling a long-lost early prototype of H.R. Giger’s classic Xenomorph design as the centerpiece attraction in a genre-themed “Hollywood Legends” auction. Known as “Big Chap,” this version of the franchise’s signature creature features a translucent design that’s distinctly different than the opaque acid-spitting monster we know and love. 

It should be noted that bidding on the Big Chap starts at $40,000. But you can get a closer look at the big guy for free courtesy of our exclusive virtual experience, which allows you to zoom in on Giger’s original vision for the Xenomorph, which evolved out of the Swiss artist’s pioneering “biomechanoid” designs. (Giger died in 2014.)

(17) WARP FACTORY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Here is a ten-minute physics briefing on some recent research of SFnal relevance from the wonderful PBS Space Time: there are “NEW Warp Drive Possibilities”.

That Einstein guy was a real bummer for our hopes of a star-hopping, science-fiction-y future. His whole “nothing travels faster than light” rule seems to ensure that exploration of even the local part of our galaxy will be an excruciating slow. But Einstein also gave us a glimmer of hope. He showed us that space and time can be warped – and so the warp drive was conceived. Just recently, a couple of papers contend that these are not pure science fiction.

This briefing builds on another PBS Space Time video from five years ago that introduces the notion of an FTL warp drive asking “Is The Alcubierre Warp Drive Possible?” Since then it has racked up 2.4 million views.

Inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, physicist Miguel Alcubierre set out to transform one of the cornerstones of science fiction iconography, the Warp Drive, into reality. But is it even possible? Can we “warp” the fabric of reality so that we can break the speed of light?

(18) THREE’S A CHARM. Ingenuity buzzes Mars again. CNN has the story — “Ingenuity Mars helicopter achieves fastest, farthest flight yet”.

… Ingenuity exceeded speeds and distances beyond what it proved capable of doing during testing on Earth before launching to Mars.

The helicopter flew at 1:31 a.m. ET, or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time. Data and imagery began streaming into the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, at 10:16 a.m. ET Sunday. The Perseverance rover captured an image of the helicopter in flight and shared it shortly after.

(19) AND GNAW, THE GNEWS. Another Dern special, inspired by Gizmodo’s article “Beavers Take Down Canada Internet Service After Chewing Cables”.

…Tumbler Ridge, a tiny municipality in northeastern British Columbia with a population of about 2,000 people, lost service for roughly 36 hours in what Telus described as a “uniquely Canadian disruption!”

“Beavers have chewed through our fibre cable at multiple points, causing extensive damage,” said Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé in an email to Gizmodo. “Our team located a nearby dam, and it appears the beavers dug underground alongside the creek to reach our cable, which is buried about three feet underground and protected by a 4.5-inch thick conduit. The beavers first chewed through the conduit before chewing through the cable in multiple locations.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that one character’s gratuitous dancing was put in the series “because people enjoyed memes of Thantos twerking.” This spoiler-filled video dropped today.

[Thanks to Tom Becker, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Gadi Evron, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/21 Look Out Pixel, ’Cause I’m Scrolling Technology, Ain’t Got Time To File No Apology

Martha Wells. Photo by Igor Kraguljac.

(1) MORE MURDERBOT IN OUR FUTURE. Martha Wells has a new six-book deal with Tordotcom reports Publishers Weekly – three of them in the Murderbot series.

Tordotcom’s Lee Harris took world English rights to six books by Martha Wells. The six-figure acquisition, which the imprint said is its largest to date, was brokered by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Wells is the author of the bestselling Murderbot Diaries series, which is published by Tordotcom; the new deal covers three more books in that series, as well as three unrelated novels. The first book under the agreement, Witch King, is set for fall 2022.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab an egg roll and join comics writer/editor Jim Salicrup in Episode 143 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jim Salicrup

I’d planned to take a day trip to New York last year to chat with Jim Salicrup, whom I’d met during the mid-‘70s when we both worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, but (for reasons I’m sure you understand) that couldn’t happen. And as I continue to pretend we’re living in the world we want, rather than the one we’ve been handed, I recently had that meal … albeit remotely.

For the past 15 years, Jim’s been the editor-in-chief at Papercutz, which publishes Nancy DrewThe Hardy BoysSmurfsAsterix, and more, but when I met him, he was at the start of his 20-year Marvel career, where he wrote TransformersSledge HammerThe A-TeamSpidey Super Stories, the infamous Incredible Hulk toilet paper, and much more. He also edited The AvengersThe Uncanny X-MenThe Fantastic Four, and The Amazing Spider-Man. In between those two jobs, he worked at Topps, where edited books such as Bram Stoker’s DraculaX-FilesZorro, and a line of Jack Kirby superhero comics — and also did a stint at Stan Lee Media as well.

We discussed the illustrated postcard which convinced Marvel Comics to hire him at age 15, how John Romita Sr. caused him to change his name the first day on the job, what he did to enrage MAD magazine’s Al Feldstein, his late-night mission to secure Stan Lee’s toupee, what editor Mark Gruenwald had in common with Bill Murray, why the 1970s’ X-Men revival was like Amazing Fantasy #15, how he convinced Todd McFarlane to stick to Spider-Man (which eventually led to a blockbuster new comic), the possible connection between Stan’s love of crossword puzzles and the famed Marvel Method, and much more.

(3) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. “Unusual Humanism: Five Works by the Great Clifford D. Simak” are extolled by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Clifford Donald Simak was born on August 3, 1904, in Wisconsin. He died in Minnesota on April 25, 1988. That’s thirty-three years ago as of this Sunday….

Unfamiliar with Simak? Here are five of his works you could sample….

Time Is the Simplest Thing (1961)

Having learned the hard way that frail human bodies cannot withstand the rigors of interstellar travel, humanity turned to psychic exploration. Where physical exploration fails, psychic exploration succeeds. Casting astral projections to the stars, paranormals—“parries” in the vernacular—like Shepherd Blaine bring home the Milky Way’s wealth…at least, the riches that can be conveyed by a human mind. A bitterly disappointing result for most humans, but a source of great wealth for the Fishhook Corporation, which controls astral exploration.

Shepherd is too successful. After an encounter with a pink blob (who greets him telepathically with the words “Hi pal, I trade with you my mind…”), Shepherd returns home with an uninvited hitchhiker sharing his brain. Now, explorers who bring home guests vanish into Fishhook’s hospitality, never to be seen again. What happens after that is unclear. Certain that he does not want to find out what Fishhook does with (or to) the explorers, Shepherd goes on the run. He discovers that not only did he acquire a passenger out there in the stars, Shepherd himself has been transformed in…interesting…ways.

(4) THE BIG QUESTIONS. Blood Knife’s special cosmic horror issue includes these articles of interest:

  • “The Architecture of Woe” — Examines the role that architecture plays in gothic and cosmic horror past and present, and the way abandoned architecture and empty factories can evoke sensations of horror, awe, and inhumanity here in the real world.

…There is a haunting, dead quality to old buildings. They speak to us of lost possibility, of what was once mundane but which has been rendered fantastical by the passage of time—to walk their corridors or trip through their dust- and brickstrewn courtyards is to follow ancient footsteps, of men and women dead for decades and centuries. There is an energy to them, a sense that the past still lingers there. That it might reach out and take your hand, and pull you headlong and irresistibly back beyond your birth into the foreign realm of yesteryear….

  • “Interview: Laird Barron on Cosmic Horror” — Blood Knife’s Kurt Schiller interviews Laird Barron, discussing the current state of the genre, his own history with cosmic horror, and the way horror can be a tool for examining philosophical and cultural questions.  

Blood Knife: Cosmic horror often touches on these vast concepts far beyond human comprehension, but at the same time so much of the genre — as well as your own fiction (The Croning, Lagerstatte, etc.) — seems anchored to individual tragedy or loss. Is this balance between the cosmic and the individual something that you think about when writing?

Barron: The previous question touched on the micro/macro duality of cosmic horror. This is a facet of science fiction as well. Big concept, shallow character development vs. character driven narratives where the big concept is a backdrop. I’ve dabbled in both, but prefer the latter. I grew up telling stories to my brothers by kerosene lamplight. I improved those tales over time by observing their reactions. Invariably, they were most affected by narratives that centered people with problems. The background was just that—background. A trippy cosmic horror revelation works well as a destination. Characters are the vehicle that gets you there.

(5) SHELF CURIOSITY. Nerds of a Feather explores an author’s favorites in “6 Books with David Bowles”.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, the second in her Teixcalaan series. As a scholar of Nahuatl who has written a lot about pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, I really admired how Martine has done her homework for this series, mining Indigenous Mexican culture in such re

(6) BEHIND THE MASK. “New York Comic Con returning for smaller in-person event this fall” says SYFY Wire. And they’ve got events planned for other cities, too.

Manhattan’s Javits Center will *fingers crossed* once again be hustling and bustling with nerd activity between Oct 7-10 come this fall. ReedPop announced today that New York Comic Con (aka the “Metaverse”) is coming back for an in-person event this year, albeit with limited attendance and other safety measures (enforced social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and regular temperature checks) that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pro tip: make sure you cosplay as a character who is famous for wearing a face covering at all times. Din Djarin, Zamus, Sheik, and Deadpool all come to mind….

…In addition to NYCC, ReedPop will also host Floridia’s Supercon between Sep. 10-12; Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con between Dec. 2-5; and Chicago’s C2E2 between Dec. 10-12. The biggest unknown right now is how many people are going to be allowed to attend these events (the attendance numbers, which are reliant on local and state mandates, can grow or shrink at any time). What’s more: we don’t know if proof of vaccination is going to be required before ticket-buyers start mingling among a throng of their fellow pop culture acolytes.

(7) THESE GROOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. The Verge thinks “Disney’s amazing bipedal robot Groot looks like Asimo discovered cosplay”.

Disney’s R&D labs, commonly known as its Imagineering team, does some extremely impressive — and expressive — things with robots. It’s made mechanical stunt doubleslifelike alien Na’vi, and, uh, this skinless weirdo. But the company’s latest creation looks like it quite literally walked out of a Disney movie. It’s a bipedal Groot that can amble about tether-free. As Disney’s Pinocchio would put it: he’s got no strings to hold him down.

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino has the low-down on this robotic milestone for Disney. It’s part of the company’s long-term efforts to develop autonomous robot actors for its parks, says Panzarino, under the codename of “Project Kiwi.” The company’s engineers spent years creating their own free-standing bipedal robotics platform to power Groot, and Panzarino — who got to see the robot in person — came away impressed with their efforts….

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels, like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. There was a 2020 audiobook edition of The Avram Davidson Treasury: A Tribute Collection edited by Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis, first published in 1998, with afterwords by Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, and intros by many other sff writers.  (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 75. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role I think was Kate Durning on Elementary. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 66. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won an Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 65. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 59. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a meatier role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Though not even remotely genre adjacent, he was Rebus in the one of BBC adaptation in of the Ian Rankin series. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 48. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which won a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book in 2020. A sequel Chaos on Catnet comes out next week. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1564 – William Shakespeare.  After five centuries a strong candidate for greatest writer in English.  Four plays, one narrative poem for us; much else.  Where his art pointed to fantasy he was as masterly as in the more mundane.  In plays he had to inspire belief by showing his beings’ speech and acts; which he did.  Priceless to read, to perform, despite and because of what has and hasn’t changed since.  (Died 1616) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1879 – Talbot Mundy.  Four divorces, five wives; for years fifty cigarettes a day; failed at business ventures; married money and spent it; ivory poacher; war stories of himself false.  Yet sold a score of novels, half a dozen shorter fictions – in our field, not counting e.g. seven hundred radio scripts for Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy.  Hated fascism and Marxism-Leninism.  Racist anti-colonialist.  Sexist pioneer of strong female characters.  King – of the Khyber Rifles and Tros of Samothrace are on Kindle.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1935 – Tom Doherty, age 86.  From book salesman to publisher of Tempo and Ace, then Tor and Tom Doherty Associates.  Skylark, Solstice, Gallun, World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 23; Balticon 21; Lunacon 33; Fourth Street Fantasy 1991; Minicon 29, 32, 50; ArmadilloCon24, WindyCon XXX; Westercon 58; World Fantasy Con 2008; Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1942 – Amanda Prantera, age 79.  Briton sixty years in Italy.  Translator.  Euhemerist (another fine word that).  A dozen novels.  I don’t see how anything can be “very clear” in Strange Loop; in Conversations with Lord Byron a computer given everything known about B becomes sapient (not “sentient”, Brother Clute, argh) and starts writing poetry, I’d add “naturally” but –  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1977 – Yasser Bahjatt, age 44.  Computerman, gamer, SF fan, first Sa‘udi in Singularity University’s graduate program and thus worked on Matternet, translator of TED (Technology, Engineering, Design) talks into Arabic, chair of Jeddah for 2026 Worldcon bid.  Wrote Yaqteenya, first Arabic alternative-history novel; it and three more novels (with Ibraheem Abbas) are available in English.  Insists on “a distinct correlation between a culture’s exposure to science fiction and the amount of scientific thought”.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater only looks like it’s in Rot-13 — that’s how these aliens really speak.

(12) BUSTED. In “Meanwhile, in Texas: A McAllen Thief Pilfered $400 Worth of Spider-Man Comic Books”, Texas Monthly tries to explain why these comics were worth stealing – if you are a collector.

What happened?

Kaboom Comics, a comic-book store in McAllen, had proudly built a display of rare comics on its “Wall of Keys,” featuring iconic issues of various titles. On April 14, however, an employee noticed bare spots on the wall where some of the key issues should have been, and, after checking with coworkers, confirmed that no one had purchased them. According to MyRGV.com, the store released on social media the security footage showing the heist taking place and placed a call—a veritable bat signal, if you will—asking the community to help identify the thief. 

What did they steal?

The biggest score in the heist was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man number 252, a key 1984 issue in Spidey’s mythology. A couple of issues of Venom, a spin-off series starring the web-slinger’s more sinister counterpart, as well as a stack of new-release comics were also skimmed off of the shelves.

Who took them?

While there’s yet to be a conviction in the case, the caper seems to be relatively cut and dried: a caller identified the suspect to McAllen police, and then the man she named—Edinburg High School assistant principal Juan Martinez Jr.—turned himself in, along with the comics, to the police department, offering a full confession and waiving his Miranda rights. He was arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor for theft of property worth between $100 and $750 (the value of the books was estimated at $409.93)…

(13) DEER NORMAN. That’s not how it’s signed, just how it should be. Nate D. Sanders Auctions currently shows a $5,000 bid for a Walt Disney Signed ”Bambi” Cel, Personally Inscribed to Norman Rockwell. You have until April 29 to top it.

Walt Disney signed display of Bambi and Thumper cels, uniquely inscribed to fellow American icon Norman Rockwell. Disney signs the mat in green wax crayon, ”To Norman / With Best Wishes / Walt”. Large display includes cels of Bambi, Thumper, two quail birds, grass and log, used in the 1942 classic film ”Bambi”, with a hand-painted background measuring approximately 11” x 9”, framed to a size of 19.375” x 17.5”. With ”Original WDP [Walt Disney Productions]” stamp above Disney’s signature. Some foxing and light discoloration to outer portion of mat. Cels remain in beautifully well-preserved condition, with only one hairline crack appearing on Bambi’s leg. With an LOA from Carl Sprague of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell’s town, whose wife Susan Merrill was previously married to Jarvis Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son.

(14) PLEASE RELEASE ME. At Nerds of a Feather, Sean Dowie appreciates a novel’s account of the struggle to be free: “Microreview [Book]: Defekt by Nino Cipri”.  

…Defekt is the most enjoyably bubbly book I’ve read exploring the burden of shackles. Not literal shackles, but ones that can extend to life as a retail worker or a one of self-doubt. Those shackles siphon your time at the expense of empty praise from apathetic bosses, or it hamstrings the growth of your relationships. But Defekt shows that being unshackled and free is a possibility and is only deceptively difficult…

(15) FIRST IN THE FIELD. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano’s “Review: The Dominion Anthology” leads with the note: “Ours is a time of ever-increasing visibility for African SFF—now it has its first anthology.”

…Edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and with a foreword by Tananarive Due, the Dominion anthology collects twelve stories and one poem about imagined futures and reimagined pasts told with deep sincerity and robustness of worldbuilding. This is certainly an exciting time for diversity in speculative fiction….

(16) ASTRONAUTS EN ROUTE TO ISS. SpaceX Crew2 launched and the crew is on its way to the Space Station.

This is a successful re-use of SpaceX craft – Space.com has the storyL “SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to space station, nails rocket landing”.

SpaceX just launched its third astronaut mission in less than a year. 

A slightly sooty Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule took to the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT) today (April 23), lighting up the predawn sky as it lifted off from the historic Pad 39A. The launch kicked off SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, which will carry four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide — on a 24-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

More here, reported by Reuters: “SpaceX rocketship launches 4 astronauts on NASA mission to space station”.

…The rocket’s first stage, meanwhile, descended back to Earth and touched down safely on a landing platform floating in the Atlantic on a drone ship affectionately named Of Course I Still Love You….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. While Soul may be a Hugo-nominated film, no movie is without sin – Cinema Sins, anyway: “Everything Wrong With Soul in 17 Minutes or Less”,

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

Pixel Scroll 3/23/21 I Want To Scroll What The Pixel On The Table Number 5 Is Scrolling!

(1) LIGHTS ON. Today, Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination published Cities of Light, a collection of science fiction, art, and essays about “how the transition to solar energy will transform our cities and catalyze revolutions in politics, governance, and culture.” The book is a collaboration between Arizona State University and the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It explores solar futures in four U.S. cities: Chicago, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and San Antonio, Texas.

Cities of Light features fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi, S.B. Divya, Deji Bryce Olukotun, and Andrew Dana Hudson, and essays by experts in fields ranging from electrical engineering and data science to sociology, public policy, and architecture. The book is free in a variety of digital formats. You also can order print-on-demand copies.

(2) WELLS UPDATE. Martha Wells tweeted this morning that she was in a car accident. She’s okay.

(3) WONDERCON VIA TUBE. WonderCon@Home 2021 – the online substitute for the annual Anaheim event – will run March 26-27. The Complete Programming schedule is now available.

WonderCon is returning to your living room for panels, exhibits, contests, and more! Check out www.comic-con.org and subscribe to our YouTube channel to join us @Home March 26-27! Featuring panels by: Netflix, Penguin Random House, IDW, DC Entertainment, Dark Horse, Adult Swim, Warner Bros. TV, Amazon Studios, CBS, Hulu, and more!

(4) TITLE REVEAL. Is there anybody who doesn’t already know the title John Scalzi’s forthcoming book, announced today in this Whatever post? “And Now, the Title of the Novel I Just Completed, Plus a Very Little Amount of Detail About the Book”. Hands, please. One. Two… Bueller? Bueller? Everyone already knows? Well, I’m reporting this anyway: The Kaiju Preservation Society. Because Scalzi’s post was entertaining.

What is it about?

It’s about a society that preserves kaiju! Look, it’s all right there in the title.

Why do kaiju need preserving?

Because otherwise they might spoil.

Is that a serious answer?

Maybe….

(5) THE UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert presented “Justice League: The Colbert Cut” – a takeoff on the post-credits scene from the non-Snyder version of Justice League.

Stephen Colbert is proud to present this sneak peek at his four hour, three minute cut of “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” which expands on the pivotal post-credits conversation between Lex Luthor and Deathstroke.

(6) AERIAL ACROBATICS. Cora Buhlert reviews the latest highly-advertised offering from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “Marvel’s ‘New World Order’ – Some Thoughts on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”. BEWARE SPOILERS!

…Like WandaVisionThe Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set after half of population of the Earth (and the Universe) were snapped back into existence and deals with the aftermath of what has apparently been termed “the Blip” in the Marvel Universe. Our heroes, Sam Wilson a.k.a. the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and James “Bucky” Barnes a.k.a. the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), were among those who were first snapped out of and then back into existence.

…However, Sam is back in action now (quite literally) after five years of non-existence. And indeed, the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier starts off with a thrilling action set piece…. 

(7) THE THING THAT ATE YOU. The Horror Writers Association blog features a Q&A with a poet: “Under The Blade An Interview With Mary Turzillo”. Includes numerous examples of Turzillo’s work including “The Thing That Ate You.”

(8) FOOD FROM THE MCU. And speaking of eating, Marvel Comics: Cooking with Deadpool is a real cookbook! So is that like MCUisine?

Deadpool brings his inimitable style, foul-mouthed humor, and notorious skill with a blade to the kitchen in this hilarious take on a traditional cookbook, featuring classic recipes with a Deadpool spin and a whole lotta chimichangas.

No super hero takes food quite as seriously as Deadpool. In this gorgeously designed cookbook that paid reviewers have described as “glorious” and “the best cookbook I’ve ever read,” Deadpool offers his take on a curated collection of epicurean classics. Narrated by the wisecracking super hero (and sexy master chef) himself, this book also incudes recipes inspired by some of his closest friends/enemies (Here’s lookin’ at you, Spidey) and his favorite meals, including chimichangas, tacos, pancakes, and hamburgers with no pickles.

(9) IRREPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. Ursula Vernon tells about an important turning point in her career in a thread that ends —

(10) WORLDCON RUNNER REMEMEBRED. Steven H Silver reminds fans, “Six years ago [on March 22] we lost Peggy Rae Sapienza. You can help honor her memory with a donation to the Peggy Rae Sapienza Endowment at the Northern Illinois University Library to support the growth, maintenance, and promotion of the science fiction and fantasy collections in Rare Books and Special Collections, including documenting SF/F Fandom.” More information here: Memorial and Endowment Funds – Friends of the NIU Libraries.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 23, 2007 The Last Mimzy premiered. The film was based off the winner of the 2019 Dublin Retro Hugo for Best Novelette “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett (a pseudonym of the writing team of Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore), originally published in the February 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction Magazine. It was directed by Robert Shaye and produced by Michael Phillips from the screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, Toby Emmerich, James V. Hart and Carol Skilken. It has a middling rating among the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of fifty-five percent. The story’s in The Best of C.L. Moore which is available currently from the usual suspects for $2.99.  

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several years later in The Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.) (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.) (CE) 
  • Born March 23, 1921 – Ethel Lindsay.  A Scot who lived in Surrey 1955-1978, serving a term as President of the London Circle, co-founding the SF Club of London and serving as its Chairman (the suffix -man is not masculine) and hosting it, winning the Skyrack poll for Best Fanwriter – the name of this newsletter deriving from shire oak and thus skyr ack (rhymes with beer lack), not sky rack – and being voted TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, see her report here.  Fan Guest of Honour at Eastercon 22.  Fanzines, Scottishe and Haverings.  Doc Weir Award (service).  Went north again, was brought to Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon by a Send a Scot South Fund.  More here.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material which leans towards being rather dry. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born March 23, 1950 – Keith Kato, Ph.D., age 71.  Dissertation student of Greg Benford, thus pursuing, as GB has, interests in and out of fandom.  Served a term as President of the Heinlein Society.  Known for cooking up vats of chili at SF cons, both hot (impressing Robert Silverberg) and mild (edible even by me), therewith hosting parties sometimes open (anyone may walk in), sometimes closed (invitation-only).  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 69. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work!  (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 63. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1959 – Maureen Kincaid Speller, age 62.  Reviews, essays, in fanzines e.g. Banana WingsThe GateMatrixVector, prozines e.g. AmazingAnalogF & SFTomorrow, semiprozines e.g. InterzoneStrange Horizons.  Contributor to apas e.g. AcnestisTurboAPA (more fully Turbo-Charged Party Animal APA).  Served a term as judge of the Rotsler Award.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 47 (with husband Paul Kincaid).  TAFF delegate.  Nova Award as Best Fanwriter.  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1960 – Kimberlee Marks Brown, age 61.  Chaired Loscon 25, SMOFcon 32 (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; con devoted to studying the past of, trying to improve the future of, SF cons and like that).  Fan Guest of Honor at Loscon 37 (with husband Jordan Brown).  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1969 – David Anthony Durham, age 52.  Four novels, eight shorter stories, some with Wild Cards; Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Also historical fiction; two NY Times Notable Books, Legacy Award for Début Fiction, Hurston/Wright Award.  The Shadow Prince to appear September 2021.  Outward Bound instructor, whitewater raft guide.  Teaches at Univ. Nevada (Reno), Univ. Southern Maine.  [JH]
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 44. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think that there’s a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor. (CE)
  • Born March 23, 1983 – Sir Mohamed Farah, age 38.  Three novels (with Kes Gray).  Two Olympic Gold Medals in 5,000 and 10,000 m running; ten global titles; holds four European records, two world records; three-time European Athlete of the Year.  Most decorated in British athletics history.  Memoir Twin Ambitions (twin brother Hassan still lives in Somalia).  More here.  Website here.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has told the story that couldn’t be written at the time. The true story. 

(14) BLACK WRITER NOT RENEWED AT SUPERMAN & LOIS. “Nadria Tucker Interview on Being Let Go From ‘Superman & Lois’”The Root has a Q&A.

Nadria Tucker writes for TV. She also wants to make sure her own personal story and truth are told, as well.

In November 2020, Tucker took to Twitter to announce that her contract as a producer on The CW’s show Superman & Lois had not been extended.

“Some personal news: Wednesday I got word that my contract on Superman & Lois won’t be extended, my services no longer needed, my outline and draft subpar (obviously I disagree with that last bit lol),” Tucker tweeted. “This, after months of me flagging #metoo jokes in dialogue; of me defending the Bechdel test; of me FIGHTING to ensure the only Black faces onscreen aren’t villains; of me pitching stories for female characters (there’s one in the title of the series!) that went ignored. If I sound bitter, it’s because this one stings.”

“I’ve been assured by colleagues that I was great in the room, so I know I’m not nuts. I debated whether to post this but my own mental wellbeing demands that I do. The only way shit changes is to expose it,” she continued.

…“After months of pitching ideas, fighting for diversity and representation and good feedback on my actual writing—I don’t want to leave that part out [about getting good feedback]—I [was] fired seemingly out of nowhere. It made me angry,” Tucker explained to The Root during a phone call earlier this month…

Short pay is also an issue:

… Sources close to the matter told The Root that Tucker was compensated for the first 13 episodes she was contracted to work on and that she did not receive compensation for episodes 14 and 15 because her contract was not extended for those episodes….

(15) ECHO. “’Hawkeye’ Spinoff Series About Deaf Marvel Superhero In Works” reports Deadline.

Deadline has confirmed that a Hawkeye spinoff series centering around that series’ character Echo is in early development with Etan Cohen and Emily Cohen set to write and executive produce. Echo (aka Maya Lopez) is a deaf Native American superhero who has the talent to imitate any opponent’s fighting style. She has also been in the circles of Daredevil, Moon Knight and the Avengers.

Hawkeye is set to debut later this year with Jeremy Renner reprising his Avengers archer.  Hailee Steinfeld stars as Hawkeye’s protege Kate Bishop. Vera Farmiga is her mom Eleanor, Florence Pugh reprises her Black Widow role of assassin Yelena Belova, Fra Fee plays villain clown Kazi, Tony Dalton is Hawkeye’s mentor Jack Duqesne and Zahn McClarnon is William Lopez, Echo’s dad.

(16) THE HOLE TRUTH. I can’t resist Alexandra Petri’s intro to this CBS News story:

CBS reports “Krispy Kreme will give you a free doughnut every day this year”.

Starting Monday, any customer with a valid COVID-19 vaccination card will receive a free Original Glazed doughnut at participating locations nationwide. The iconic doughnut shop specifies that any guests who have received at least one of the two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine qualify for the promotion. 

All you need to show is your vaccination card to redeem your doughnut — a vaccine sticker is not valid.

(17) PERPETUAL EMOTION DEVICE. Entertainment Weekly, in “William Shatner celebrates 90th birthday by creating an AI version of himself for future generations”, says Shat is working with Storyfile to create a Shat bot that you can interact with and ask questions.

…Storyfile is set to launch in June 2021. The technology used to to deliver interactive storytelling includes the patented “Artificially Intelligent Interactive Memories System” on Conversa, which uses natural language processing and other innovative technologies….

(18) NINETY YEARS OF SHAT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The birthday retrospective continues. In “William Shatner For Promise Margarine 1974 TV Commercial” on YouTube, Shat wants people in New Jersey to eat lots of margarine to reduce their “serum cholesterol.”  His claim is based on science because he has a chart!

(19) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. In “Super Cafe:  Snyder Cut” on YouTube, How It Should Have Ended spots Batman and Superman chilling out with a coffee discussing all the exciting things that happened to them in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, and Batman worries what will happen to him when he morphs into The Batman for the Robert Patterson movie.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Daniel Dern, rcade, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer. (It’s not Peer’s complete line, which was great, but this is its own wonderful thing.)]

Pixel Scroll 3/4/21 And All The Scrolls Are Full Of Pix

(1) SPACE OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY. The virtual Tucson Festival of Books will include a panel “Galactic Empires, Murderbots and More!” with Tochi Onyebuchi, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells on Saturday March 6 at 11:00 a.m. Mountain time. Registration info here.

(2) GUEST WHO? “Star Trek: The Next Generation Almost Featured Robin Williams” at CBR.com.

…One actor the show never snagged, however, was Robin Williams, despite the fact that an episode was written specifically for him and the actor’s passion for the series.

The episode written for Robin Williams was Season 5, Episode 9, “A Matter of Time.” The episode focuses on the time-traveler Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a 26th century historian who traveled back in time to observe Picard and the crew of the Enterprise during a crucial moment. Except Rasmussen didn’t come from the future — he came from the past. He had stolen his time machine and was visiting The Next Generation‘s 24th century in order to steal as much technology as he could and become rich back in his own time….

(3) THE WONDER OF THUNDER. Netflix dropped a trailer for Thunder Force, a superhero comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer.

(4) HARD SF LAUGHS. “Weir(d) Science: PW Talks with Andy Weir” is a Q&A at Publishers Weekly about the author’s neaw book Project Hail Mary.

How did you decide on the level of humor?

I’m a smartass myself, so smartass comments come naturally to me. For me, humor is like the secret weapon of exposition. If you make exposition funny, the reader will forgive any amount of it. And in science fiction—especially with my self-imposed restriction that I want to be as scientifically accurate as possible—you end up spending a lot of time doing exposition.

(5) FIRST STEP INTO SPACE. In the “ESA – Parastronaut feasibility project”, the European Space Agency will try to develop people with physical disabilities as astronauts. (Click for larger image.)

For the first time in over a decade, ESA is looking for new astronauts. These recruits will work alongside ESA’s existing astronauts as Europe enters a new era of space exploration.

In a first for ESA and human spaceflight worldwide, ESA is looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware.

ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as professional crew members on a safe and useful space mission.

… Because we believe that exploration is the matter of a collective effort, we need to extend the pool of talents we can rely on in order to continue progressing in our endeavour. One effective way of doing this is to include more gifted people of different genders, ages and backgrounds, but also people with special needs, people living with physical disabilities.

Right now we are at step zero. The door is closed to persons with disabilities. With this pilot project we have the ambition to open this door and make a leap, to go from zero to one.

…There are many unknowns ahead of us, the only promise we can make today is one of a serious, dedicated and honest attempt to clear the path to space for a professional astronaut with disability.

(6) AN INCREDIBLE CAREER. Sunday Profile: LeVar Burton on YouTube is an interview of Burton (he’s now a grandfather!) by Mo Rocca that aired on CBS Sunday Morning on February 28.

(7) #ILOOKLIKEANENGINEER . S.B. Divya, in “Hard Science Fiction Is Still Overwhelmingly White—But It’s Getting Better” at CrimeReads, says hard sf is becoming more welcoming to women and people of color as engineering and technology become more diverse professions.

…I didn’t start my adult life as a writer. First, I wanted to be a scientist. I went to Caltech to major in astrophysics, got sideswiped by computational neuroscience, and ended up working in electrical and computer engineering. From the moment I set foot on the Caltech campus, to the most recent tech job I held, I found myself and my fellow female engineers vastly outnumbered by our male cohort. Over almost 25 years in the industry, I have not seen these ratios improve. If anything, they’re getting worse.

The same phenomenon appears in so-called “hard science fiction,” which is another label that people attach to Michael Crichton’s novels. This subgenre encompasses stories whose speculative science and technology elements do not put a strain on credibility. (In contrast, see any fiction involving faster-than-light spacecraft, anti-gravity, or time travel.) Here, too, is a domain whose bestsellers are dominated by white men.

We live in the year 2021, and yet we persist in associating certain jobs—and certain types of stories—with specific groups of people. Engineers are Asian; startup CEOs are white. School teachers are women, and academics are men. Unfortunately, many times the statistics bear these out in reality, too. Why do we struggle to break free of these narratives and associations? Because we have so few counterexamples that are publicized. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they do not permeate our popular consciousness. It takes effort to overcome these associations, whether you fit in the stereotyped demographic or not. Without that struggle, the associations become self-fulling prophecies.

(8) ECHO WIFE NEWS. Sarah Gailey’s new book has been optioned – Deadline has the story: “Annapurna To Adapt Sarah Gailey’s Novel ‘The Echo Wife’ For Film”.

After a competitive situation, Annapurna has successfully optioned the rights to bestselling author Sarah Gailey’s most recent novel The Echo Wife and is adapting the book as a feature film.

Gailey will executive produce the project alongside Annapurna….

Hugo Award-winning and bestselling author Gailey is an internationally published writer of fiction and nonfiction. Gailey’s nonfiction has been published by Mashable and The Boston Globe, and won a Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. Gailey’s fiction credits also include Vice and The Atlantic. The author’s debut novella, River of Teeth, was a 2018 finalist for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Their bestselling adult novel debut, Magic For Liars, published in 2019.

The Echo Wife was published on Feb. 16 by Tor Books, the science fiction and fantasy division of Macmillan Publishers….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 4, 1977 — On this day in 1977,  Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four TV movies. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders.” Despite that, he’s here because he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour“. And he was also in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1933 – Bernie Zuber.  Original vice-president of the Mythopoeic Society.  Early editor of Mythlore.  Founded the Tolkien Fellowships, edited The Westmarch Chronicle.  Guest of Mythcon XIII.  Active in local (Los Angeles) fandom.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born March 4, 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, none of which is currently in print. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1952 – Richard Stevenson, age 69.  College English teacher of Canada, has also taught in Nigeria, musician with Sasquatch and Naked Ear.  A score of poetry books, memoir Riding on a Magpie Riff.  Six dozen poems for us.  Stephansson Award (Writers Guild of Alberta).  Has published haikusenryu (two Japanese short-poetry forms, unrhymed 5-7-5-syllable lines), tanka (Japanese short-poetry form, unrhymed 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines).  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1954 Catherine Anne O’Hara, 67. First genre role role was in the most excellent Beetlejuice filmas artist Delia Deetz followed by being Texie Garcia in Dick Tracy, a film I’ll be damn if I know what I think about. She voices most excellently Sally / Shock bringing her fully to, errr, life in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I see she’s in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Justice Strauss. Lastly, and no this is by no means a complete listing of what she has done, she was on Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events as Dr. Georgina Orwell. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event HorizonAlien V. PredatorPandorum and even Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Paul Malmont, 55. Author of the comic strips, The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril and Jack London in Paradise which blends pulp tropes and SF elements including using as protagonists Heinlein and Asimov. He wrote the first four issues of DC Comics’ Doc Savage series with artist Howard Porter. (CE) 
  • Born March 4, 1969 – Sarah Bernard, age 52.  Half a dozen books for us.  Did her own cover for this one.  Has read a Complete Sherlock Holmes, three by Julian May, a dozen by Anne McCaffrey.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 – Marco Zaffino, age 48.  Author, filmmaker, musician; some for us e.g. Pure Bred Chihuahua.  Things can be unclear at borders (perhaps why those bookshops closed); see this Website.  These Sentries might be ours.  [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1973 Len Wiseman, 48. Producer or Director on the Underworld franchise. Also involved in StargateIndependence DayMen in Black and Godzilla in the Property Department. Sleepy Hollow series creator and producer for much of it, wrote pilot as well. Producer for much of the Lucifer seriesas well and is the producer for the entire series of Swamp Thing. Also produced The Gifted. (CE)
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Maggie Lehrman, age 39.  One novel for us; another outside our field, reviewed by Kirkus as “An earnest high school romp” which I guess leaves ML feeling as I did when someone – who as I’ve said is still my friend – described me as an earnest man in a propeller beanie, I mean what do you want?  Anyway, Website here. [JH]
  • Born March 4, 1982 – Lauren Miller, age 39.  Two novels for us, one other; now working on another as L. McBrayer.  She says “writing and seeing and being.  I have come to believe that there is magic to be found if we can learn to do all three at the same time.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SEUSS ON THE LOOSE. The New York Times’ coverage — “Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts” – includes these interesting sales figures.

…Classic children’s books are perennial best sellers and an important revenue stream for publishers. Last year, more than 338,000 copies of “Green Eggs and Ham” were sold across the United States, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks the sale of physical books at most retailers. “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” sold more than 311,000 copies, and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” — always popular as a high school graduation gift — sold more than 513,000 copies.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” one of the six books pulled by the estate, sold about 5,000 copies last year, according to BookScan. “McElligot’s Pool” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” haven’t sold in years through the retailers BookScan tracks. Putting the merits of the books aside, removing “Green Eggs and Ham” would be a completely different business proposition from doing away with new printings of “McElligot’s Pool.” (Though the news that the books would be pulled caused a burst of demand, and copies of “Mulberry Street” were listed on eBay and Amazon for hundreds or thousands of dollars on Wednesday.)

(13) MISSION UNPOSSIBLE. Science Fiction 101 is a new podcast by Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie: “It’s Alive: Science Fiction 101 first episode!” Their first mission, should they choose to accept it, is to define the term!

In this debut episode, your friendly hosts Phil Nichols and Colin Kuskie first attempt to define “science fiction”. If you want to know more about this thorny subject, check out Wikipedia’s attempt to do the very same thing. Or, for a more in-depth discussion, check out what the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has to say on the subject.

(14) PIECES OF EIGHT. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available – “26: I’m Not Even a Single-Tasker”

John [Coxon] is an annoying prick, Alison [Scott] is not sure she’s staying sane, and Liz [Batty] is going to a beach. We discuss all the news from Eastercon, going to Picocon, and then look back on Punctuation before staying sane in the apocalypse.

(15) NOT ULTRAVIOLENCE BUT HYPERVIOLENCE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Keanu Reeves, who co-created with Matt Kindt and artist Ron Garney BRZRKR, a 12-issue comic published by Boom! Studios. “Keanu Reeves on the joy of writing his first comic book: ‘Why not? That sounds amazing!’”

… To dramatize this “Highlander”-meets-“Logan” fighter during the Boom! introductions, Reeves stood and acted out potential scenes, even flashing some fighting moves — pitch meeting as full-body immersion. The approach was similar to when Reeves first met with Pixar for “Toy Story 4,” striking action poses to play Duke Caboom. “I’ll get in touch with a feeling or thought — or a feeling-thought,” says the bearded Reeves, wearing a black Levi’s jacket and starkly backdropped by a near-white wall — Zoom room as Zen room. “I’ll express it and it tends to come out through the filter of the character.”

“BRZRKR” opens with maximum carnage and minimal verbiage. The creative team promises more textured themes are on the horizon. Discussing the comic’s scope, Reeves riffs until he’s in full mellifluous monologue: “We do want to take on morality, ethics, peacetime, war, violence, whose side, what’s right, what’s wrong, truth, fiction, memory, what do we believe in, who are we, with not only violence but also love — and then our own identities and who we are as humans.” Whoa.

(16) STARSHIP EXPLODES AFTER LANDING. “SpaceX Starship appears to ace touchdown, then explodes in Texas test flight”KTLA has the story.

SpaceX’s futuristic Starship looked like it aced a touchdown Wednesday, but then exploded on the landing pad with so much force that it was hurled into the air.

The failure occurred just minutes after SpaceX declared success. Two previous test flights crash-landed in fireballs.

The full-scale prototype of Elon Musk’s envisioned Mars ship soared more than 6 miles after lifting off from the southern tip of Texas on Wednesday. It descended horizontally over the Gulf of Mexico and then flipped upright just in time to land.

The shiny bullet-shaped rocketship remained intact this time at touchdown, prompting SpaceX commentator John Insprucker to declare, “third time’s a charm as the saying goes” before SpaceX ended its webcast of the test.

But then the Starship exploded and was tossed in the air, before slamming down into the ground in flames.

(17) BY THE SEA. You can read the introductory paragraphs to an article about mermaids here — “Splash by Marina Warner – the rest of the article is behind a paywall at the New York Review of Books.

In l819 the French inventor Cagniard de La Tour gave the name sirène to the alarm he had devised to help evacuate factories and mines in case of accident—in those days all too frequent. The siren, or mermaid, came to his mind as a portent, a signal of danger, although it might seem a contradiction, since the sirens’ song was fatal to mortals: in the famous scene in the Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the ship’s mast to hear it, and orders his men to plug their ears with wax and ignore him when he pleads to be set free to join the singers on the shore. Homer does not describe these irresistible singers’ appearance—only their flowery meadow, which is strewn with the rotting corpses of their victims—but he tells us that their song promises omniscience: “We know whatever happens anywhere on earth.” This prescience inspired Cagniard: he inverted the sirens’ connection to fatality to name a device that gives forewarning.

In Greek iconography, the sirens are bird-bodied, and aren’t instantly seductive in appearance but rather, according to the historian Vaughn Scribner in Merpeople, “hideous beasts.” A famous fifth-century-BCE pot in the British Museum shows Odysseus standing stiffly lashed to the mast, head tilted skyward, his crew plying the oars while these bird-women perch around them, as if stalking their prey: one of them is dive-bombing the ship like a sea eagle. An imposing pair of nearly life-size standing terracotta figures from the fourth century BCE, in the collection of the Getty Museum, have birds’ bodies and tails, legs and claws, and women’s faces; they too have been identified as sirens… 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. It’s “FallonVision” with Elizabeth Olsen on The Tonight Show. “Jimmy Fallon’s ‘WandaVision’ spoof with Elizabeth Olsen alters our pandemic reality”.

Jimmy Fallon took viewers on a journey through the decades of talk-show history while spoofing “WandaVision” this week. Because after all, what is “The Tonight Show” if not the tradition of late-night TV persevering?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/8/21 Riverworld Deep, Mount To-Be-Read High

(1) WHATES NEW INTERZONE EDITOR. The PS Publishing newsletter (which I haven’t seen) announces Ian Whates is taking over the editorial reins of Interzone, Jonathan Strahan confirms. Whates follows Andy Cox, who has run the UK zine for years.

(2) WHO WROTE THE BOOK. Joyce Reynolds-Ward in “Writing the Revolution” argues that sff helped fuel the mindset behind yesterday’s debacle in DC.

…For every nuanced, mindful, well-thought-out version of Writing the Revolution, there are at least three or four crudely sketched out wish-fulfillment fantasies that are no more realistic than a first-person-shooter video game or their real-life variant, the run-and-gun tacticool classes that are nothing more than jumped up paintball, that allow the participants to fantasize that they are Real Warriors. Hell, I see several of these books pop up every day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, either through ads or assorted promotional groups. And they’re churned out to fulfill a reader demand for romantic notions about what Rebellion or Revolution really is.

(Dare I mention Star Wars here? Um, maybe not.)

Couple that sort of romanticized view of revolution and warfare with the sort of political polemic dominating social media over the past five years (Um. Longer) and you end up with events like January 6th, 2021.

You end up with an angry mob seeking to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power because they’ve been fed lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 election and who view themselves as akin to their fictional heroes.

And the intersection of the two has created the foundation for that idealized conceptualization of revolution….

(3) FAAN AWARDS BALLOT AVAILABLE. Nic Farey, FAAn (Fanzine Activity Achievement) Awards Administrator, has published The Incompleat Register [PDF file] as a voters’ guide. The nominating ballot is within, and votes must be received before midnight PDT, Friday March 12, 2021. Voting is open to anyone with an interest in fanzines. Farey cautions that the Register —

should not be considered to be a definitive list of what you can and cannot vote for. My sources are primarily efanzines.com, Guy Lillian’s listzine ‘The Zine Dump’ and also paper zines personally received. As I can’t possibly be aware of everything, all votes received will be counted in good faith. A “fanzine”, for our purposes, is defined as an immutable artifact, once published not subject to revision or modification. The fanzine might not exist in a physical form. A pdf, for example, is an artifact.

And he adds —

  • You do NOT have to be a member of Corflu or anything else for that matter.
  • You do NOT have to have read or received any minimum number of fanzines to vote, although of course we encourage you to check out the contenders.

(4) BUTLER’S BEGINNINGS. “7 Surprising Facts About Octavia Butler” at Mental Floss.

2. A BAD SCI-FI MOVIE INSPIRED OCTAVIA BUTLER TO START WRITING.

It was a 1954 movie called Devil Girl from Mars, which Butler saw when she was about 12 years old, that ignited the future author’s interest in science fiction. “As I was watching this film, I had a series of revelations,” Butler said during a 1998 talk at MIT. “The first was that ‘Geez, I can write a better story than that.’ And then I thought, ‘Gee, anybody can write a better story than that.’ And my third thought was the clincher: ‘Somebody got paid for writing that awful story.’ So, I was off and writing, and a year later I was busy submitting terrible pieces of fiction to innocent magazines.”

(5) GIVE THEM YOUR ATTENTION. Alex Acks spotlights “6 of the Best Black Indie SFF Writers You Should Be Reading” at Book Riot. First on the list —

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ

A genre polymath who does crime, horror, and SFF, she brings a delightfully pulpy twist to everything she writes, whether it’s mashing up fantasy or science fiction with mystery or penning weird westerns. (Her website is here.) But if you give one book a shot…

KILL THREE BIRDS BY NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ

First off, I cannot get over this cover. (The cover for the sequel, A Theft Most Fowl, is also gorgeous.) Second, we have winged people following a Phoenix goddess, with a caste system that’s laid out as kind of birds. And our main character, Prentice Tasifa, is a Hawk, gifted with the supernatural ability to see things others can’t. And then it’s a well written procedural mystery where Prentice has to hunt down a serial killer.

(6) HOMESTEADING ON TATTOOINE. “The Force (and a Lenient Disney) Is With ‘Star Wars’ Fan Filmmakers” says the New York Times. It’s definitely more encouraging when you don’t get sued.

…Moviemaking fans of other fantasy franchises have complex relationships with the companies that own them, and “Star Wars” fan films do walk a legal tightrope. Disney asks that they be clearly marked, not raise money through crowdfunding, omit copyrighted media, and not profit from ticket sales or online advertisements. The company doesn’t appear to discriminate between fan films made by professionals and those made by amateurs, provided they follow its rules. “There is a point where you do have to protect your copyright,” Hale said.

Not everybody complies. An Indiegogo campaign to finance “Kenobi” got help from James Arnold Taylor, who has voiced the character in “Star Wars” animated television shows. (He also plays the villain in “Kenobi.”) Others have turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund their work.

And some who try to observe the rules have run into trouble. Warner/Chappell, which shares some “Star Wars” music rights with Lucasfilm, in 2019 claimed copyright over a Darth Vader fan film, “Shards of the Past,” posted on YouTube. A torrent of online criticism followed, accusing the company of seeking to profit from fan work. Lucasfilm ultimately intervened to lift the claim. (Hale said she could not comment about copyright claims.)

As technology stretches the capabilities of fan storytelling, questions of propriety could become even thornier. Several films by Peter Csikasz, a Hungarian university student, combine digital assets from official “Star Wars” video games with original motion-capture animation. Csikasz said the games’ developers were aware of his work, even as fan-made “Star Wars” video games have been repeatedly shut down.

As these films grow technically more artful, they have also grown more expensive. A two-minute animated movie can cost more than $5,000 to produce. The budget for “Kenobi” approached $100,000, Satterlund said. (Costly expectations can be prohibitive: last month, Ortiz indefinitely suspended his project after failing to raise $20,000 through crowdfunding.)

Disney’s rules mean many fan movies are financial losses, but a well-executed production can drive YouTube subscribers, attract sponsors for future work or open doors to professional opportunities. “It greases the wheels,” Satterlund said of his short. “It’s helped get me in the room to talk to somebody.”

(7) PW STAFF PICKS OF 2020. Martha Wells’ Network Effect is one of the few sff works named by Publishers Weekly staff as “The Best Books We Read in 2020”.

Martha Wells’ cranky, TV-binging Murderbot, the star and narrator of four superb novellas before this novel, made for a perfect quarantine companion. Her SecUnit killing machine has favored a solitary existence ever since it hacked its way to sentience. It feels safest hunkered down in a storage bay, mainlining its favorite shows, far removed from the messy emotions and motives of people – a preference that only became more relatable as 2020 stretched on…. 

(8) MODEL CITIZEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In a December 31 piece in the Financial Times about the failures of polling, Christine Zhang and Courtney Weaver note a prediction Isaac Asimov made in 1955.

In a fictional America, elections are decided by Multivac, a supercomputer that requires only the input of one ‘representative’ voter to statistically model the outcomes of thousands of nationa1, state, and local contests.  This is the 2008 that science fiction author Isaac Asimov portrayed i his 1955 short story “Franchise,” published three years after Univac, one of the earliest commercial computers, successfully predicted Dwight Eisenhower’s landslide victory on US television network CBS.

Asimov’s dystopian democracy has not yet materialized.  As it turns out–particularly in the two most recent US presidential races–the electorate is not so easy to reliably predict.  Yet it is not from a lack of trying.

(9) KAPANY OBIT. “Narinder S. Kapany, ‘Father of Fiber Optics,’ Dies at 94” – the New York Times pays tribute.

…When Narinder S. Kapany was in high school in the 1940s in Dehradun, an Indian city in the Himalayan foothills, his science teacher told him that light travels only in straight lines. By then he had already spent years playing around with a box camera, and he knew that light could at least be turned in different directions, through lenses and prisms. Something about the teacher’s attitude, he later said, made him want to go further, to prove him wrong by figuring out how to actually bend light.

By the time he entered graduate school at Imperial College London in 1952, he realized he wasn’t alone. For decades researchers across Europe had been studying ways to transmit light through flexible glass fibers. But a host of technical challenges, not to mention World War II, had set them back.

He persuaded one of those scientists, Harold Hopkins, to hire him as a research assistant, and the two clicked. Professor Hopkins, a formidable theoretician, provided the ideas; Dr. Kapany, more technically minded, figured out the practical side. In 1954 the pair announced a breakthrough in the journal Nature, demonstrating how to bundle thousands of impossibly thin glass fibers together and then connect them end to end.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 8, 1891 – Storm Jameson.  Suffragette, took part in the Women’s Pilgrimage.  World War II led her to recant pacifism.  Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other novels, novellas, criticism, history, memoirs.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor when Doctor Who firstaired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years, leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death.  I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1926 – Bob Pavlat.  Co-founder of WSFA; chaired Disclave 4-5.  Among his fanzines, BobolingsContour.  With Bill Evans, the monumental Evans-Pavlat Fanzine Index.  Had the good taste to marry Peggy Rae McKnight; Big Heart (our highest service award) given to both; after his death she found no one worth remarrying for sixteen years.  Appreciations here.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking, Ph.D., F.R.S.  Physically active in college, coxed a rowing crew; in graduate school contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease, with which he lived, defying all, for fifty years.  Fellow of the Royal Society.  Lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – although an atheist; as Pope John Paul II said, “Both believing scientists and non-believing scientists are involved”.  U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.  A score of other substantial awards.  Masterly communicator of science, e.g. best-seller A Brief History of Time.  Appeared on Star Trek (The Next Generation), FuturamaThe Big Bang Theory; foreword to The Physics of ”Star Trek”; five George’s Secret Key novels with daughter Lucy Hawking.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1945 – Nancy Bond, age 76.  Newbery Honor and Tir na n-Og Award for A String in the Harp.  Two more books for us, five others.  Lived in Boston, Concord, London, and Borth.  “Each of my books has a firm geographical setting.”  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger, an erotic and kinky film worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him.  From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, a role which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what did I am leaving y’all to mention? (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born January 8, 1954 – Sylvie Germain, Ph.D., age 67.  Six novels for us translated into English; two dozen others, biography, a children’s book, essays.  Prix Femina, Moncrieff Prize, Prix Goncourt des LycèensPrix mondial Cino del Duca.  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1977 Amber Benson, 44. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters.  She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too. As an audiobook narrator her credits include works by Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi. (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1979 Sarah Polley, 42. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The MovieExistenzNo Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the DeadBeowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody. (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1983 – Michael Ziegelwagner, age 38.  Fifty short stories, e.g. “On the Unreality of Our Forests”, “Bee, Wasp, Bumblebee, Fish”, “New Rules for the Robot Car”. Mostly in German.  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1965 Michelle Forbes, 56. Best remembered as  Ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation, she also showed up in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor film as Admiral Helena Cain, and the pilot of Warren Ellis scripted Global Frequency as Miranda Zero. She played Maryann Forrester on True Blood as well. (CE)

(11) FREUDIAN SPACE. Stephen Colbert makes a couple of (possibly NSFW) genre references in this installment of “Quarantinewhile…” on The Late Show.

(12) GENRE JIGSAW. Brooks & Wyman offers the  “Vintage Science Fiction Magazine Covers 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle”. That’s pretty cute!

Jigsaw Puzzle 1000 Pieces for Adults: This collage of vintage sci-fi magazine covers is nearly 28? across. Our thick cardboard construction and high-quality paper laminate makes for a durable and beautiful puzzle image. Includes puzzle image insert to help you complete the puzzle without the box image.

(13) FAME ON THE MENU. Here’s another of those food places that gives celebrity names to its fare. The Atomo minimart in Los Angeles:

jean luc batard

made with fresh brewed earl grey, oat milk and a touch of agave. make it so.

peter sprinklage

a moist vanilla cake with almond and rum notes, bedazzled with rainbow sprinkles and frosted with a vanilla butter cream. make everyday your birthday.

(14) HAPPY UNBIRTHDAY. “New Observations Agree That the Universe is 13.77 Billion Years old”Universe Today has the story.

The oldest light in the universe is that of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). This light was formed when the dense matter at the beginning of the universe finally cooled enough to become transparent. It has traveled for billions of years to reach us, stretched from a bright orange glow to cool, invisible microwaves. Naturally, it is an excellent source for understanding the history and expansion of the cosmos.

The CMB is one of the ways we can measure the rate of cosmic expansion. In the early universe, there were small fluctuations of density and temperature within the hot dense sea of the big bang. As the universe expanded, the fluctuations expanded as well. So the scale of fluctuations we see in the cosmic microwave background today tells us how must the universe has grown. On average, the fluctuations are about a billion light-years across, and this gives us a value for the rate (the Hubble parameter) as somewhere between 67.2 and 68.1 km/sec/Mpc….

(15) WHAT MOORCOCK’S WORLDS LOOK LIKE. If you followed Michael Moorcock’s career in the UK, or were impatient enough to buy these paperbacks as imports like I was, you likely know these covers.“The master of Moorcock: The psychedelic sci-fi book covers and art of Bob Haberfield” gets discussed at Dangerous Minds.

Sci-fi author Michael Moorcock has published a dizzying array of books since getting his start editing a Tarzan fanzine when he was still a teenager. In addition to his extensive literary career, Moorcock has also had some pretty praiseworthy experiences in the world of rock and roll including having played banjo for Hawkwind (as well as writing lyrics for the band) and penning three songs for Blue Öyster Cult. However, as excellent as Mr. Moorcock is, this post is about a man whose art adorned countless covers of books by Moorcock and others in the genre of fantasy and sci-fi for years, Bob Haberfield. If you are of a certain age you will very likely remember being in a store (especially in the UK) catching yourself staring right at one of Haberfield’s many contemplative psychedelic book covers that were staring right back at you…

See a whole gallery of these covers here: “20 Bob Haberfield – Moorcock book covers ideas”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Random lessons Learned From Making Films” on Vimeo, director David F. Sandberg offers lessons he’s learned from making his three sf/fantasy films, including the complexity of having multiple actors in a scene (he had 14 in one scene in SHAZAM, and camera angles had to be plotted for all of them) and why good sound is more important in a film than good images. BEWARE SPOILERS.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/3/20 The Filing Sorcerers

(1) ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER. Minneapolis’ DreamHaven Books, boarded up after being vandalized, was  told by the city to get rid of the grafitti on the building. Wendy Comeau told followers:

Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?

I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).

On the store’s website, Wendy Comeau posted their open hours and other updates.

We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.

(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):

(3) BOMBS AWAY. Is this also the right season for the wrong kind of fireworks? Yahoo! reminds reads about “The Biggest Box Office Bombs of the Past Decade”. Plenty of genre here, unfortunately. Right at the top of the list, in fact –

  • Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.

(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.

It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.

Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?

What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.

Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.

(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Open Culture invites readers to “Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self”

…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting LadyhawkeCocoonBrazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating. 

(9) OTHER TOP TIME-TRAVEL MOVIES.

These are Rolling Stone’s nominees for “The 20 Best Time-Travel Movies”. In the middle of the list is:

8. ‘Run Lola Run’ (1998)

The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.

(10) BERNSTEIN OBIT. “Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein, Popular Twitch Streamer, Dies at 31” reports Variety. Bernstein died by suicide.

Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong.  It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating. 
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too.  William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka.  At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed.  Hmm.  Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”.  However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here.  A hundred shorter stories.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82.  Six dozen covers.  Here is Babel-17.  Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships.  Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus.  Here  is The Demolished Man.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.  Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher.  Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt.  Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael.  Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light).  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73.  A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25.  Thirty more books outside our field.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1964 Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“.  (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50.  A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”).  She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?

(14) JEAN-LUC PICCOLO. Variety profiles the sff theme music up for awards: “Yodas, Witchers and Trekkies, Oh My! Sci-Fi and Fantasy Contenders Eye Emmys Music Gold”.

Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….

… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.

(15) CAT DOWN UNDER. Atlas Obscura has photos of a statue that honors an adventurous seafaring cat.

OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.    

The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….

(16) GOLLUM READS THE HOBBIT. GameSpot teed up this piece of Tolkien-related news: “Andy Serkis Records New Audiobook For The Hobbit, And It Sounds Fantastic”.

Book company Harper Collins is making a new audiobook for The Hobbit that is read by none other than Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the movies.

The announcement of this new version comes after Serkis did a marathon reading of The Hobbit for charity back in May. For this new audiobook, Serkis is donating his payment to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and Harper Collins UK is matching it.

You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.

(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.

(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here

This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek,  BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner The Queens of Adventure.  Additionally,  Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”.  Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”.  Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more. 

(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:

…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

(20) LEAKY CAULDRON AND MUGGLENET. “Harry Potter fan sites reject author’s trans comments”:BBC has the story.

Two leading Harry Potter fan sites have publicly distanced themselves from author JK Rowling over her recent comments about transgender people.

The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said they would no longer use photos of Rowling or link to her own website.

Speaking jointly, they said her views on “marginalised people [were] out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment we find in her books”.

The stars of the Potter films have also spoken out against Rowling’s remarks.

…In their statement, the Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said it was “difficult to speak out against someone whose work we have so long admired”.

Yet they said it be “wrong” not to distance themselves from Rowling’s “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A swift completes its appointed rounds…. Gizmodo notes how “Artificial Feathers Let This Robotic Bird Fly With Incredible Agility”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nate, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Daniel Dern.]