A Visit to Planet Word

By Martin Morse Wooster: Filers coming to DisCon III will want to know about things to do outside of the Shoreham. Well, we now have a free museum devoted to words and language, Planet Word[1] which opened in Washington, DC last October.   I went to the museum yesterday, and here is what it is like.

This museum has big money behind it (the main hall is sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies) and they’ve spent a lot of money on tech.  You begin on the third floor in a room with a wall full of words in three-dimensional letters.  The audience can choose words and the narrator then explains where the words come from.  The fun fact you learn in this presentation is that the number one coiners of new words are teenage girls.

The walls on the third floor have interactive displays with little language lessons.  There is one devoted to constructed languages, with time given to Klingon, Dothraki, Esperanto, and the languages invented by Tolkien.

Speaking Willow Tree

The centerpiece of the third floor is a giant globe with booths where speakers explain their languages.  The ones I heard were the Philippine language Tagalog, Japanese, Arabic, and French.  The speakers give simple lessons (there’s a simpler way to say “good-bye” in Japanese than “sayonara”).  The French speaker assumed that her audience knew something about her language, so we learned how to roll our r’s in “crème brulee” and the secret French language variant Velran, which is the French version of pig-Latin.

Oh, and at least once per lesson the whole globe lights up and displays something like an object in the lesson (ice cream, an apple).

At this point the museum’s planners ran out of ideas.  The second floor has two exhibits.  There’s a library where you can see little animations of books displayed on the shelves.  There’s also a karaoke exhibit with the excuse that they show the rhyme schemes songwriters use.  It wasn’t for me but people were enjoying themselves singing Taylor Swift and Disney power ballads.

The second floor has the free souvenir you need to get.  It’s a photo booth, sponsored by the College Board, where you have your photo displayed next to a word high schoolers are supposed to know for their SATs.  My word was “aristocratic.’  I thought this was a cool idea.

Finally the first floor has an exhibit on how advertisers distort words in their ads.   It’s only worth seeing if you believe ads (and if you do, I have a bridge to sell you).

You should know I’m a guy who feels he has to see everything in a museum.  It took me 1-¾ hours to take in Planet Word.  If I were you, I’d spend 15 minutes more than I did at the giant globe and skip everything on the first and second floors except the photo booth.

If you’re seeing museums in Washington, your first choice is as many Smithsonian museums as you have time for.  Planet Word isn’t a bad second choice.  I’m glad I saw it.


[1] On the subway, take the Red Line south to Metro Center and then the Blue, Orange and Silver Lines one stop west to McPherson Square.  The museum is on the corner of 13th and K (in the subway station, you’re looking for “Franklin School” on the map).

Space Jam: A New Legacy – A Review

Review by Martin Morse Wooster:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW HAS MANY SPOILERS BECAUSE YOU SHOULDN’T SEE THIS FILM.  REALLY, YOU SHOULDN’T!

Space Jam:  A New Legacy is a fun-free synthetic entertainment substitute.  Its many writers (six are credited) created a screenplay from artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, and gas.  

The idea is that LeBron James is taking a meeting with some bigwig at Warner Brothers.[1]  James and his kid are mad at each other because he wants the kid to go to basketball camp and he wants to go to coding camp.

So after the meeting, the kid runs away, gets in the elevator and ends up really really deep in the WB basement, which is full of computers.  He takes a wrong turn, and he and LeBron are in the “serververse” which is run by Al G. Rhythm, played by Don Cheadle.

Rhythm makes a deal.  If James assembles a team of the Looney Tunes characters to play a basketball game against Rhythm’s characters and he wins, he and his son are free.  If they lose, they’re trapped in cyberspace forever.

Now the first question is:  why does this have to be a basketball game?  They’re in cyberspace.  They could play anything—space croquet, space canasta.  But of course if they don’t play basketball, they couldn’t call the movie Space Jam!

So James, using the handwaving drive, ends up in “Tune World” as a cartoon.  He finds Bugs Bunny, and they bring back the old gang.  And here is where the problems start.

You may recall late last year the WB announced that Pepe Le Pew would be retired as a character because all he did was hit on women but Speedy Gonzales would be retained because Mexican-Americans liked his courage and determination.

Well, Speedy Gonzales is in this movie.  Like Yosemite Sam, the Tasmanian Devil, Foghorn Leghorn,[2] Marvin the Martian, and other minor characters, he has about two lines.  The only WB cartoon characters with substantial time are Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Lola Bunny (introduced in the 1996 Space Jam).

 And because apparently all WB intellectual property is in the same universe, Wonder Woman is in this movie (voiced by Rosario Dawson).  There is also one reference to Casablanca and one Harry Potter joke.  Oh, and apparently the audience is full of WB characters, but the only one I recognized was The Mask.

But what the Space Jam cast doesn’t have are Mel Blanc, Chuck Jones, Fritz Freleng, or any of the original creators.  They can get voice actors who sound exactly like Mel Blanc, but all they are are synthetic fun-free shadows of the great originals.

And when they don’t just copy the past, the college of screenwriters makes wrong turns.  Remember Granny, the valued senior citizen who owns Tweety?  Well, here Granny swigs martinis and talks trash.  (I hope you don’t find this transgressive.)

So the game begins and we swiftly learn that this isn’t an ordinary basketball game.  The monsters who make up the “Goon Squad” can get several hundred points on a shot for—well, this isn’t really explained.  But the movie ends the way you think it does.

I should explain the film’s one good joke.  At halftime, Coach Daffy Duck announces that he’s found Michael Jordan!  The cartoon characters are excited until they learn that Daffy has found Michael B. Jordan who I hope was paid handsomely for his cameo.

As an actor, LeBron James is OK, and is 10,000 times better than Shaquille O’Neal[3].  He’s not the problem.  The problem is that Space Jam is a bad idea that spent too long in development hell and was probably rewritten far too many times.   I can’t imagine anyone who would find Space Jam: A New Legacy worth his or her time or money.


[1] Sarah Silverman, who phones it in, plays the bigwig’s personal assistant.

[2] I always liked Foghorn Leghorn because this character is the one surviving legacy of the great radio comedian Fred Allen, who created a character called “Senator Claghorn” that the Warner Brothers cartoonists turned into Foghorn Leghorn.

[3] Trekkers should know that Sonequa Martin-Green plays James’s wife.  She is competent and not a reason to see this movie.

Pixel Scroll 6/25/21 Pixelin’ Files And Feelin’ Scrolly

(1) MORE CONTEXT FOR SFF HISTORY. Niall Harrison’s “Accelerated History: Chinese Short Science Fiction in the Twenty-First Century” at Vector notes that 2021 is the tenth anniversary of the publication of the translated Chinese short story that became the foundation for Clarkesworld’s ongoing collaboration with Storycom. And he has been inspired to work up a chronology of Chinese short sf in English, including a nifty diagram.

…What I hope that looking at the original chronology of stories does do, however, is provide another angle on the portrait of Chinese SF that has been presented to readers in English. To a limited extent it also makes it possible to contrast what was happening in English-language and Chinese-language SF at the same time; to think about the conscious and perhaps less-conscious choices made in the filtering process; and, most optimistically, to notice gaps, and provide a tentative framework within which future translations can be understood. In that spirit, in place of the original collections, I’ve organised my discussion into some rough periods, but I will revisit the books themselves at the end.

2. Liu Cixin Era

There’s nothing Liu Cixin likes more than a big picture, so let’s start there. With two single-author collections in the pile — The Wandering Earth (2013 / 2017 retranslations) and Hold Up The Sky (2020) — it’s not a surprise that he is the most-represented author, accounting for one-third of collected stories. In fact the skew is greater the earlier the period you look at. He accounts for over half of the 49 stories that first appeared before August 2011, and nearly three-quarters of the 28 stories that were first published in 2005 or earlier. In English, the story of Chinese SF in the early twenty-first century is overwhelmingly the story of Liu Cixin….

(2) BACK SPACE. James Davis Nicoll introduces Tor.com readers to “Five SF Travel Methods That Offer an Alternative to Starships”. (Holy cow, there’s a Langford novel on this list!)

Starships are all very nice—who among us has not wanted to own a Type-S Scout with the upgraded life support system?—but not all authors stick with that well-tested method of getting their characters from A to distant B. Ponder these five novels, each of which posits a new way of traversing the gulfs of space.

The Space Eater by David Langford (1982)

Project Hideyhole’s geniuses gave America Anomalous Physics. Anomalous Physics let Americans tweak the laws of physics to their taste. Thus, dimensional gates that facilitated an American colony on Pallas, a world that is many light-years from Earth. Thus, the inadvertent destabilization of six percent of the stars across the Milky Way and beyond. Thus, the inadvertent megamegaton explosion as Hideyhole stumbled across total conversion of matter to energy. Thus, the global thermonuclear exchange that followed thanks to the US assumption the explosion was a Soviet attack.

Having sat out WWIII, the EEC places very sensibly limits the use of AP. The problem is the American colony on Pallas, which has been isolated since WWIII. The Europeans detect that the Pallasians are dabbling in Anomalous Physics. Someone must be dispatched to convince Pallas to drop this research before more stars—stars like the Sun—are destabilized. The problem: a full-scale gate of the width needed for an adult male like unfortunate voluntold Forceman Ken Jacklin could well set off more novas. A smaller gate—1.9 cm, say—may be safe. The first step towards Pallas is going to be very, very hard on poor Forceman Jacklin, but this is a sacrifice his superiors are willing to make.

(3) YOUR TURN. Martin Morse Wooster got a kick out of a flash fiction story “Mozart Made A Tsunami, Most Likely By Accident” by Jeff Ronan at Sci Phi Journal. (Which really is too short to excerpt.)

(4) CUE THE SAND. From Yahoo! we learn that “DUNE Has a New Release Date!” But before that, Eric Diaz recaps the entire history of “cursed” efforts to bring this book to the screen.

When Does Dune Arrive In Theaters?

Dune was scheduled for release on December 18, 2020. And though the film will debut at the Venice Film Festival in September (via Variety), it won’t arrive in theaters until October 22, 2021 (this is delayed from October 1).

(5) UNDERGROUND ART. Two resources with images and histories about the artwork in Lewis Carroll’s books.

The Public Domain Review presents “Lewis Carroll’s Illustrations for ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ (1864)”.

“[W]hat is the use of a book”, asks Alice in the opening scene to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “without pictures or conversations?” This question from Alice is at once a critique of her sister’s pictureless tome, and a paving the way for the delight of words and images to follow. Indeed, John Tenniel’s famous illustrations — for both the first edition of Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass — have become integral to how we experience the story, in both books and film. Tenniel, however, was not the first to illustrate the tale. That honor belongs to Carroll himself, whose original manuscript of the story (then titled “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground”) is littered with thirty-seven of his own sepia-ink drawings. It seems this entwining of word and image — so important to the published version — was there from the beginning….

“John Tenniel and his illustrations” at Alice-in-Wonderland.net.

…Carroll had Tenniel alter his illustrations several times, for example when he was not happy with Alice’s face – even when the woodblocks were already engraved, which meant also the woodblock had to be (partly) re-done.

That doesn’t mean Tenniel’s illustrations were exactly what Carroll described they should be. Tenniel had quite a lot of freedom to give his own interpretation to the illustrations. On several occasions, Carroll was very much willing to accept the artist’s ideas, and in the illustrations the typical style of Tenniel is recognizable. Tenniel had some freedom in selecting the scenes to be illustrated (Hancher), and when Tenniel complained about having to draw a Walrus and a Carpenter, Carroll was willing to change the characters of his poem for him….

(6) WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE EDITOR. E. Catherine Tobler, editor of The Deadlands, found she actually had to spell it out:

(7) JACKIE LANE (1941-2021). Actress Jackie Lane, who played the companion of the First Doctor Who, has died at the age of 79 reports Radio Times.

…The sad news was confirmed by Fantom Films on Twitter last night, with a post reading “It is with deep regret that we announce that actress and friend Jackie Lane has sadly passed away. We pass on our sympathies to her family and friends. Jackie was best known to Doctor Who fans as companion Dodo Chaplet. RIP 1941 – 2021″

… Another fan wrote, “Despite appearing on-screen for just 19 weeks in 1966 as a hastily developed & consistently underserved character who exited the series as strangely & suddenly as she arrived, it’s really heartwarming to see all the love for dear Jackie Lane on #DoctorWho Twitter tonight. RIP.”…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2019 — In Dublin 2019, fifty-one years after she got her first Hugo at Heicon ‘70 for The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin (who died in 2018) won her final Hugo for The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition. It was not awarded a Best Novel Hugo but instead was awarded Best Art Book with its illustrations being by Charles Vess who won Best Professional Artist that same year. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 — George Orwell. George Orwell, born Eric Blair in 1903. I’m not sure if Animal Farm counts as fantasy, but 1984 is clearly Science Fiction, and it may hold the record for the most neologisms added to English by a single SF book. Orwell was mostly known as a journalist and essayist, including his spats with H.G. Wells, most notably in “Wells, Hitler and the World State”. (Died 1950.) (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, 96. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 — Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 — Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro! (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. I’m also going to strongly recommend, and it’s not remotely genre, note his Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations: Iceland Special Edition just because it’s so damn fun to watch complete with fermented shark. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 — Ian McDonald, 61. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — the aforementioned Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the India in 2047 series and The Dervish House are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 — Sheridan Smith, 40. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus makes clear why a student is anxious about a visit to the principal.

(11) HELP WANTED. Looking for work in England?“Cambridge to Hire Archivist to Catalog Stephen Hawking Collection” says Mental Floss.

… Last month, it was announced that the University of Cambridge—where Hawking got his Ph.D. and worked for decades—would house the archive in its library. Now, as BBC News reports, Cambridge is looking for an archivist to “arrange, describe, audit the physical condition, rehouse, and review” all 10,000 or so pages. Their main task is to digitize every document so researchers around the world can access them online.

Applicants should have archiving experience; and since they’ll be operating out of Cambridge University’s library, they also need to be allowed to live and work in the UK. The gig is set to last two years, and it’ll pay somewhere between £30,942 and £40,322 (about $43,000 to $56,000). If you’re an avid archivist who’d like to have a hand in preserving Hawking’s legacy, you can apply online here.

(12) HEAD’S UP. The New York Times reports “Discovery of ‘Dragon Man’ Skull in China May Add Species to Human Family Tree” (registration required.) And there’s “A Virtual Reconstruction of a New Homo species, H. longi” at YouTube.

(13) DRUMROLL, PLEASE. “UFO report: US intelligence community releases long-awaited report” at CNN. (And CNN has the full text here.) Don’t they release these things on Friday so nobody will be in the office the next day and have to take questions?

The US intelligence community on Friday released its long-awaited report on what it knows about a series of mysterious flying objects that have been seen moving through restricted military airspace over the last several decades.

In short, the answer, according to Friday’s report, is very little, but the intelligence community’s release of the unclassified document marks one of the first times the US government has publicly acknowledged that these strange aerial sightings by Navy pilots and others are worthy of legitimate scrutiny.

The report examined 144 reports of what the government terms “unidentified aerial phenomenon” — only one of which investigators were able to explain by the end of the study. Investigators found no evidence that the sightings represented either extraterrestrial life or a major technological advancement by a foreign adversary like Russia or China, but acknowledge that is a possible explanation….

(14) HARD TO BELIEVE? Chris Carter tells the New York Times: “I Created ‘The X-Files.’ Here’s Why I’m Skeptical of the New U.F.O. Report.” (Registration probably required.)

…The plot of “The X-Files” was built on a conspiracy theory: The government is lying to you about the existence of U.F.O.s and extraterrestrials. Do I believe the government lies to us? Absolutely. I’m a child of Watergate. Do I believe in conspiracies? Certainly. I believe, for example, that someone is targeting C.I.A. agents and White House officials with microwave radiation, the so-called Havana syndrome, and your government denied it.

Will the new report, or any government report, give us clear answers? I’m as skeptical now as I’ve ever been.

In 1996 I was invited to the clinic of the Harvard psychiatrist John Mack to witness the regression hypnosis of a self-professed alien abductee. I first met Dr. Mack, who studied and ultimately believed in alien abduction, when he came to Fox Studios to discuss his work. I had used a Roper survey he was involved in (a poll of 6000 Americans on their belief in the existence of extraterrestrials) to sell “The X-Files” as a TV show in 1992, and later read his book, “Abduction.” So I knew something about what I was going to see. I went in doubtful, unprepared for the drama of a woman sitting next to me in tears and in terror over the encounter with aliens that she described, on a beach in Mexico. The experience turned out to be powerful and not a little unsettling….

… But the prosecution raises a good question: Where is the Deep Throat of the U.F.O. world? Why no credible deathbed confessions? As Nobelist Enrico Fermi’s famous paradox asked, if aliens are out there, why haven’t we seen them? Could the government actually be telling the truth? That it really doesn’t know what to make of the phenomena? Or is the truth above top secret?…

(15) YOU’D BE INCONSOLABLE. Vice recommends to players of vintage games: “Don’t Piss Off Bradley, the Parts Seller Keeping Atari Machines Alive”.

Every old video game console dies eventually. Moving parts seize-up, circuit boards fail, cables wear out. If a user needs a replacement connector, chip, ribbon, gear, shell—or any of the thousands of other parts that, in time, can break, melt, discolor, delaminate, or explode—they’re usually out of luck, unless they have a spare system to scavenge.

But there is an exception to this depressing law of nature. In San Jose, on a side street next to a highway off-ramp, inside an unmarked warehouse building, is part of the world’s largest remaining collection of factory-original replacement Atari parts — a veritable fountain of youth for aging equipment from the dawn of the home computing and video gaming era. This is the home of Best Electronics, a mail-order business that has been selling Atari goods continuously for almost four decades.

But if you’d like to share in Best’s bounty, as many die-hard Atari fans desperately do, there’s a very important piece of advice you need to keep in mind: whatever you do, don’t piss off Bradley.

Almost everyone who spends enough time loving, collecting, and using Atari products eventually finds their way to the Best Electronics website. And many of them quickly develop strong feelings about Bradley Koda, Best’s proprietor, who, by outlasting most of his competition, has become a sort of one-man Atari-parts powerhouse….

(16) RUH ROH! Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog is a straight-to-video feature.

An original animated feature so exciting it’s scratching at the door! Comedy is unleashed when Scooby-Doo, your favorite mystery-solving mutt, teams up for the first time with Courage the Cowardly Dog. The canine colleagues sniff out a strange object in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, the backwoods hometown of Courage and his owners, Eustace and Muriel Bagge. Soon, the mysterious discovery puts them on the trail of a giant cicada monster and her wacky winged warriors. Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy know that this job is too big for a flyswatter. They’ll need the help of the doggy duo to piece together the puzzle. Can Scooby and Courage overcome their jitters and defeat the insect army before the whole world bugs out? Try not to get scared. We double-dog dare you!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

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.]

Pixel Scroll 12/29/20 A Mime
In A Tesseract Still Has Ways To Get Out

(1) BRADBURY’S CHAMPION. The Los Angeles Review of Books hosts “Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia”.

COMMEMORATING THE CENTENNIAL of the great Ray Bradbury, biographer Sam Weller sat down with former California poet laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia for a wide-ranging conversation on Bradbury’s imprint on arts and culture.

SAM WELLER: The first time I met you was at the White House ceremony for Ray Bradbury in November 2004. You were such a champion for Ray’s legacy — his advocate for both the National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize. As we look at his 100th birthday, I want to ask: Why is Bradbury important in literary terms?

DANA GIOIA: Ray Bradbury is one of the most important American writers of the mid-20th century. He transformed science fiction’s position in American literature during the 1950s. There were other fine sci-fi writers, but Ray was the one who first engaged the mainstream audience. He had a huge impact on both American literature and popular culture. He was also one of the most significant California writers of the last century. When one talks about Bradbury, one needs to choose a perspective. His career looks different from each angle….

(2) TUCKER ON BRADBURY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Beard Mumblings,” a column by Bob Tucker that appears in the recently published Outworlds 71, but which was written in 1986 and is about the 1986 Worldcon.

There were some very pleasant memories of the con.  One of them was when Ray Bradbury recognized me in the huge 10th floor consuite and came over to shake and talk.  Mind you, we had not met each other for 40 years.  Our last meeting was the 1946 Worldcon in Los Angeles, yet he recognized and remembered.  I was very pleased to see him again, and equally pleased to get his autograph across the page of his chapter in Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays.  Judging the way he examined that page and that chapter, he doesn’t have a copy.

(3) WHEN HOKEY RELIGIONS AND ANCIENT WEAPONS ARE A MATCH. Professor Louise A. Hitchcock makes a connection in “The Mandalorian and Ancient Mediterranean Societies: The Way of The Force?” at Neon Kosmos. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…Thus, like both Achilles and Gilgamesh of early epic, baby Grogu has semi-divine aspects paired with Din Djarin’s stoic sense of duty and discipline. The pairing both calls to mind Patroclus who becomes a role model to the younger Achilles as well as Enkidu who becomes humanised through his friendship with Gilgamesh. In each epic tale the pair are changed by their bond of affection which is forged through shared experience. In all of these epics, the friends are also tragically separated, our ancients by death, and Grogu by Din Djarin’s quest to return him to the Jedi to finish his training. An element of danger is added by the fact that the Empire is seeking to capture or buy Grogu to increase its power through acquiring his force sensitive blood.

The weekly quest for survival as Din and Grogu, pursue their goal operates on the basis of pre-monetary economy that is reminiscent of maritime trade in the ancient Mediterranean. Food and drink are sometimes obtained through a shared code of hospitality, exchanging mercenary acts for information or needed supplies, transporting individuals from one port to another, providing Beskar ingots in exchange for ship repairs, and even trading spices. In other words, things haven’t changed a lot since the Silk Road brought needed goods from Asia to Mesopotamia or ships transported copper from Cyprus to Crete.

(4) OWN THOSE LITTLE BLACK BOOKS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Games Designers Workshop is doing two Bundles of Holding that together will contain all of legendary science fiction roleplaying game Traveller’s Little Black Books (LBBs). Currently, “Traveller LBBs 1” and “Traveller LBBs 2” are available. Both bundles together comprise the complete LBB collection.

Traveller! We’ve resurrected both of our 2015 offers of the classic “Little Black Books” from the Golden Age of Traveller, the original science fiction tabletop roleplaying game. Together these two bargain-priced offers give you DRM-free .PDF ebooks of all 50+ rulebooks, supplements, and adventures published as half-size manuals (with elegant black covers) by Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977-1982.

(5) BROKEN HEARTS OF A WRITING LIFE. Stephen R. Donaldson mourns the response to his latest draft.

11/12/20
“The Killing God”: progress report

                I’ve finally finished my first-pass revision of Book Three of THE GREAT GOD’S WAR, “The Killing God” (formerly known as “The Last Repository”). The text is now ready to deliver to my agent and editor. In its current form, it stands at 1100 pages, a bit more than 283,000 words. What happens next? My agent will read the book much faster than my editor will; but I won’t start on the next revision until I’ve received what are politely called “comments” from both of them. At that point, no doubt, Berkley (and Gollancz in the UK) will schedule publication. Sometimes this requires me to do my next revision in a hurry. But not always.

12/6/20 
“The Killing God”: bad news

                My agent has submitted the book to my editor at Berkley. Without reading it (!), my editor informed me that Berkley will not consider publishing the book until I cut 100,000 words. Roughly 35% of the text. On the assumption that I will not do such violence to my own work, Berkley has removed the book from their publication schedule.
Their assumption is correct. At this stage, I routinely prune my manuscripts by 10%. I may conceivably be able to go as far as 15%. But whether or not anyone likes my characters and how I handle them, my stories are very tightly plotted. Each piece relies on–and is implied by–what came before it. I can’t mutilate Book Three without making the entire trilogy incoherent.
My agent believes that where we stand now is not the end of “The Killing God.” (Never mind of my career.) He has persuaded my editor to go ahead and read the book. He hopes that seeing how strongly Book Three caps Books One and Two (which she loved) will persuade her to rethink her position. I have my doubts. I suspect that her position is corporate rather than editorial: my books no longer earn enough to make them worth publishing regardless of their intrinsic merits. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong.

When I have more news, I’ll post it here. I don’t expect to hear anything until sometime in January.

(6) NEXT NYRSF READING. Sam J. Miller will be featured on the virtual New York Review of Science Fiction reading, Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST.

Now that the Dystopia Year of 2020 is over, we will begin 2021 with the wonderful writer Sam J. Miller to make sure we stay on our toes.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He is the last in a long line of butchers, and he has also been a film critic, a grocery bagger, a community organizer, a secretary, a painter’s assistant and model, and the guitarist in a punk rock band. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com

After the reading general series dogsbody Amy Goldschlager will interview the author, and then we’ll open up the discussion to general questions from our virtual audience. Barbara Krasnoff will be the Audience Wrangler.

Please help us keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf.

(7) EXPANDING THE HONORVERSE. Eric Flint did a title reveal on Facebook today.

Well, it’s official. After much wrangling and soul-searching, we’ve settled on the title To End In Fire for the upcoming Honorverse novel David Weber and I are writing. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in October.

I tried to hold out for the more exciting title of The Cabal In The Luyten 726-8b (UV Ceti) System, but David overruled me. He thinks that title is too obscure. I find that hard to believe, given that the star system is clearly identified in the Gliese Catalog of Nearby Stars, which I’m sure can be found on every literate person’s bookshelves. But, he’s got the final sayso on account of he’s the one who created this whole setting.

Titles are just window dressing, anyway. What matters is the story — which in this case is shaping up to be a dandy. If I say so myself as shouldn’t, if I subscribed to Samwise Gamgee notions of modesty. Which (clears the throat), I don’t, on account of I’m a shameless scribbler and he’s, well, a hobbit when you get right down to it.

(8) MOSS OBIT. Actor Basil Moss (1935-2020) died November 28. There’s an overview of his career in The Guardian.

Basil Moss, who has died aged 85, was a perennial character actor often popping up in popular series as authority figures, but he found his best parts in two BBC soaps.

He became a familiar face on television as the librarian Alan Drew in Compact, set in the offices of a glossy women’s magazine… 

After Compact, Moss’s other TV roles included … a doctor with the hi-tech military agency Shado, defending the Earth against aliens, in UFO (1970-71), the puppet master Gerry Anderson’s first full live-action series; and Robert Atkinson in the political thriller series First Among Equals (1986).

Uncredited, Moss was also seen as a Navy submarine officer in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired as written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney,  with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki  as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” Memory Alpha also notes Heinlein had Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones that were similar to these and Roddenberry called to apologize for these being so similar. Who remembers these?  It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon were Trek episodes written by Jerome Bixby, Norman Spinrad and Theodore Sturgeon.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 29, 1843 – Carmen Sylva.  Keyboardist (piano, organ), singer, graphic artist (painting, illuminating), poet, writer in English, French, German, Romanian, she left us particularly a dozen tales published in English as Pilgrim Sorrow, one in The Ruby Fairy Book and more recently in the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019).  CS was a pen name, she was the Queen of Romania.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1915 – Charles L. Harness.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories; appreciation of Van Vogt in Nebula Awards 31; interview “I Did It for the Money” in Locus (but, as has often been said, fiction-writers are liars).  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Author of Distinction.  Best known for “The Rose” and The Paradox Men.  Three NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press books; here is Jane Dennis’ cover for Cybele, with Bluebonnets.  Patent lawyer.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1916 John D. MacDonald. He wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many of the genre are collected in End of The Tiger which is available from the usual digital suspects (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1924 – Art Rapp.  At his home in Michigan he welcomed fans and published Spacewarp; after two years’ Army service in Korea he married Nancy Share and moved to Pennsylvania.  Two N3F Laureate Awards (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), later a term as N3F President.  To him was revealed the fannish ghod (naturally opinions differ on what this is for; it may indicate the shape of a cheek with a tongue in itRoscoe.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 92. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the Peter Cushing as The Doctor non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film. He would show up in the canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1945 – Sam Long, age 75.  First noted in Fred Hemmings’ Viewpoint reporting Eastercon 23, he notably published (with Ned Brooks) the Mae Strelkov Trip Report (as you can see here; PDF) after friends brought the fine fanartist MS from Argentina.  SL still appears e.g. in The MT Void (pronounce it M-T, not as an abbreviation for mountain).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1950 – Gitte Spee, age 70.  This Dutch artist born in (on?) Java has done lots of illustrations for us.  Here is Detective Gordon’s first case in English and in Polish.  Here is Rosalinde on the Moon(in French).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1961 – Kenneth Chiacchia, Ph.D., age 59.  Medical science writer at Univ. Pittsburgh, and since he is ours too, member of both SFWA and the Nat’l Ass’n of Science Writers.  A dozen stories; poems (the 2007 Rhysling anthology has this one).  Carnegie Science Center Journalism Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s noels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating  among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 57. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him on and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 51. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 48. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fav role for him being the title role in  Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians. (CE)

(11) KAL-EL AND LL. SYFY Wire is there when “The CW’s Superman & Lois drops first heroic trailer for new DC series”.

… While the teaser isn’t very long (or footage-heavy for that matter), it does give us our first look at the Kent family unit, while Clark talks about how the stress of life can strengthen a person beneath the surface. His use of the phrase “forged liked steel” is a nice little nod to one of Superman’s monickers: the Man of Steel.

(12) SPDIEY’S NEW THREADS. Spider-Man’s hideous new costume that looks like he tore it off a New England Patriots cornerback is revealed in Amazing Spider-Man’ #61.

Over the years, Spider-Man has donned a host of iconic costumes, from his classics digs to the black suit to the Iron Spider. Now in 2021, everyone’s favorite Wall-Crawler will get a brand-new costume to add to his legendary wardrobe! Designed by superstar artist Dustin Weaver, this vibrant new look is unlike any that Peter Parker has worn before. The mysterious look can be seen on Weaver’s incredible variant covers for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 and April’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63.

…  Peter Parker will wear this new suit for his face-off against Kingpin in the next arc of writer Nick Spencer’s hit run. Discover the mystery behind this top-secret costume when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 swing into shops this March!

(13) SUPERHERO LIFTS THEATER CHAINS. Deadline reports “’Wonder Woman 1984’ Opening Boosts Movie Theater Stocks, But AMC Loses More Ground”.

The better-than-expected Christmas-weekend opening of Wonder Woman 1984 is giving most exhibition stocks a welcome boost as the misery of 2020 gives way to hope for a brighter 2021.

Shares in Cinemark, Imax, Marcus Corp. and National CineMedia rose between 3% and 7% apiece after the sequel took in $16.7 million domestically, the best bow by any film during the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC, the world’s largest theater circuit, was a notable exception to the rally. Its stock dropped 5% on ongoing investor concern about its liquidity and a potential bankruptcy filing…. 

(14) BOOGLY WOOGLY STUFF. This is great — Boston Dynamics sets its robots dancing in “Do You Love Me?” on YouTube.

(15) SPLINTERS ARE BETTER. “Japan developing wooden satellites to cut space junk” – BBC News has the story. [Via Slashdot.]

…The partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth.

Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.

Wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth….

Does this train of thought wind up with Captain Harlock’s spaceship?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] “Batman:  The Animated Series/The Heart of Batman” on YouTube is a 2018 documentary, directed by Alexander Gray, on the 1990s “Batman: The Animated Series” which many critics, such as Glen Weldon, say is the best version of Batman.  The film shows that the immediate inspiration for the series was Tim Burton’s Batman and Steven Spielberg’s desire to build an animation at Warner Bros., including giving the budget to have a full orchestra record Shirley Walker’s imaginative score.  Creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski give many influences, including film noir, German expressionist films, Citizen Kane, Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, and the art of Alex Toth.  But Andrea Romano gets a lot of credit for coming up with superb voices, including Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman.  The series also turned Harley Quinn into a full-fledged, interesting character and led to Margot Robbie playing her in three big-budget movies.

As an aside, Batman:  The Animated Series discusses how earlier animated shows of the 1980s had stifling restrictions imposed by network censors.  One writer (who wasn’t identified) worked on Super Friends.  One episode had the Justice League shrunk to midgets leading to Robin fighting a spider.  The censors said the cartoon had to include a scene where the spider is seen crawling away because Robin couldn’t hurt the spider.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/25/20 We Wish You A Merry Pixel And A Happy
Scroll File

(1) JEMISIN’S LATEST MILESTONE. [Item by Rob Thornton.] N.K. Jemisin received an interesting present for Christmas when she learned that The City We Became was chosen as a Book Of The Month.

(2) AWARDED SFF BY POC. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank’s  annual Outstanding SF/F by People of Color 2019, with 67 stories by 60 authors that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(3) CALL FOR REVIEWERS. If you’re interested in reviewing PDFs of either of these for File 770, contact me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com.

FIREFLY: THE ARTBOOK
An original glossy coffee table book bursting with brand new and exclusive art, includes over 120 pieces by professional artists, illustrators, concept artists, comics artists and graphic designers.

RIVERS OF LONDON BODY WORKS DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION
CSI meets Harry Potter in this fantastic DELUXE WRITERS’ EDITION graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch, writer of the bestselling Rivers of London supernatural police procedural crime novel series! Presents the full script of the graphic novel along with the unlettered, full-color artwork, allowing the reader to read the original script and see the artwork side-by-side.

(4) EXTRA SPACE FOR DOOHAN’S ASHES. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Richard Garriott smuggled James Doohan’s ashes onto the International Space Station during his 2012 and is revealing it now.“Ashes of Star Trek’s Scotty smuggled on to International Space Station” in The Times (UK).

As one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters, Montgomery “Scotty” Scott spent a lifetime exploring the galaxy on the USS Enterprise, boldly going beyond the final frontier.

Now it can be revealed that in death the actor who played the starship’s chief engineer has travelled nearly 1.7 billion miles through space, orbiting Earth more than 70,000 times, after his ashes were hidden secretly on the International Space Station.

A note.  In 2012, it was also announced that some of James Doohan’s ashes were being launched into space on a Falcon 9 flight that would put them in orbit for about two years.  That was known, but not the same as Richard Garriott carrying his ashes aboard a Soyuz to place them on the ISS, which was not previously known.

(5) WW84 REVIEW. Here’s Leonard Maltin’s take on “WW84 (WONDER WOMAN 1984)”  — BEWARE SPOILERS.

WW84 starts on a promising note, taking a page from the Superman playbook: Wonder Woman sweeps into a shopping mall and dispatches a gang of crooks while saving imperiled children, even sharing a knowing wink with one of them. It’s a moment of pure fun that leaves you with a smile on your face and shows our heroine actually enjoying her superpowers.

From that point on, the movie struggles to be relevant and serious, but in a superficial, cartoony way. It drones on for two and a half hours but it hasn’t got a lot to say, and sputters whenever it’s trying to convey a message. A prologue on Paradise Island only makes one wish they made more use of that setting and its strong female characters….

(6) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Complex sets the scene in “Mark Hamill Clowns Space Force for Copying Marvel, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek'”.

…Responding to a tweet from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, Hamill laid out the full extent of the Space Force’s thievery.

(7) BIG GAME HUNTER. Camestros Felapton continues to assist Hugo voters with a new compilation of possible nominees: “Thirteen Notable Video Games of 2020 (maybe?)”

The other week I linked to a few “best of…” lists for 2020. On Twitter, Hampus also suggested another round-up source here https://www.cbr.com/best-video-games-2020/ I’ve since collated those lists along with the video games already listed on the Hugo Sheet of Doom. I’ll confess that I have taken a scattershot approach to deciding whether games are SFF or not. It isn’t always easy! Does a historical game count as alternate-history if you can reshape events (eg Crusader Kings III)? Is Call of Duty SFF because there is a zombie option? I don’t know! 

(8) GUNN OBIT. SFWA Grand Master James Gunn died December 23. Colleague Kij Johnson has a tribute: “With great sadness”.

This morning, James Gunn passed on at the age of 97. We’re not sure of what, but it probably was congestive heart failure. He went into the ER on Saturday morning, where they were not able to regulate his heartbeat. There will be official announcements and eventually a memorial.

One of many Gunn profiles is here at The Hollywood Reporter.

Gunn’s leadership in the field of sff studies at the University of Kansas is commemorated by the Center there that bears his name. His academic work included a series of filmed interviews with leading creators in 1970, including Rod Serling.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • In 1958 at Solacon held at South Gate, California, Fritz Leiber would win the first of ten Hugos that he would garner to date (counting Retros), for The Big TimeThe Big Time was published originally in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues as illustrated by Virgil Finlay who has multiple Retro Hugos as an artist. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 25, 1890 – Robert Ripley.  Dropping out of high school to help his family after his father’s death, he worked as a cartoonist, invented Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and became world-famous.  Said he documented everything.  Invited readers’ contributions, was read by eighty million, may have received more mail than the U.S. President.  Short cinema features, radio, television, visited 200 countries.  When R noted that in fact the U.S. had no national anthem, John Philip Sousa applauded “The Star-Spangled Banner” – which everyone had been singing – and it was finally adopted.  Also NY State handball champion.  Not in touch with us during his life (though he did interview Maud Baum) – he didn’t want fiction; the continuing R enterprise runs museums, publishes books: in RBI (R’s Bu. of Investigation) #2 The Dragon’s Teeth teen agents have special gifts.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1915 – Dora Pantell.  Teacher, author of textbooks and manuals (many on English as a second language), she continued the Miss Pickerell books of Ellen MacGregor (1906-1954) about a New England spinster (as such were known until quite recently) with a good mind who takes technological adventures and applies science.  EM left copious notes, DP wrote a dozen Pickerell books (MP on the MoonMP and the Weather Satellite) and as many shorter stories.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1924 Rod Serling. Best remembered for the original and certainly superior Twilight Zone and Night Gallery with the former winning an impressive three Hugos. He’s also the screenwriter or a co-screenwriter for Seven Days in May, a very scary film indeed, as well as The New People series, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeA Town Has Turned to Dust, UFOs: Past, Present, and Future and Planet of the Apes. ISDB lists a lot of published scripts and stories by him. (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1928 Dick Miller. He’s appeared in over a hundred films including every film directed by Joe Dante. You’ve seen him in both GremlinsThe Little Shop of HorrorsTerminatorThe HowlingSmall SoldiersTwilight Zone: The Movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm where he voiced the gravelly voiced Chuckie Sol and Oberon in the excellent  “The Ties That Bind” episode of Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1939 Royce D. Applegate. His best known role was that of Chief Petty Officer Manilow Crocker on the first season of seaQuest DSV. He’s got appearances in Quantum LeapTwin Peaks (where he played Rev. Clarence Brocklehurst), Tales of the Unexpected  and Supertrain. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1945 Rick Berman, 75. Loved and loathed in equal measures, he’s known for his work as the executive producer of Next GenDeep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise which he co-created with Brannon Braga. He’d be lead producer on the four Next Generation films: GenerationsFirst Contact (which I like), Insurrection  and Nemesis. (CE) 
  • Born December 25, 1947 – Bill Fesselmeyer.  Active U.S. Midwest fan, worked on MidAmeriCon I the 34th Worldcon, satirized our Worldcon Business Meetings – so hard that we don’t always do them well – in “How the Grinch Stole Worldcon”, as you can read here, thanks again to Leah Zeldes Smith.  Earned a barony in the Society for Creative Anachronism.  With wife Sherry, Fan Guests of Honor at BYOB-Con 7.  (Died 1984) [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1948 –Kathleen Meyer.  Chaired Windycon XI-XII and XV; Fan Guest of Honor at Capricon 8.  Ran Membership Services at Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon; chaired Chicon V the 49th; survived to run  Events at Chicon 2000 the 58th.  Twenty-five years Treasurer of parent ISFiC (Illinois SF in Chicago).  I knew her, Horatio.  (Died 2016) [JH] 
  • Born December 25, 1952 CCH Pounder, 68. She’s had one very juicy voice role running through the DC Universe from since Justice League Unlimited in 2006. If you’ve not heard her do this role, it worth seeing the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which is far superior to the live action Suicide Squad film to hear her character. She also had a recurring role as Mrs. Irene Frederic on Warehouse 13 as well.  She’s also been in X-Files, Quantum Leap, White Dwarf (horrid series), GargoylesMillenniumHouse of Frankenstein and Outer Limits.  Film-wise, she shows up in Robocop 3Tales from the Crypt presents Demon KnightThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and several of the forthcoming Avatar films. (CE)
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Holly Phillips, age 51.  Reared in Trail and other small towns in British Columbia.  Sunburst Award for collection In the Palace of Repose.  Anthology Tesseracts 11 with Cory Doctorow.  Two novels, three dozen shorter stories, half a dozen poems.  “As weird as I try to make my fiction, it’s never as weird as the real world.”  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1969 – Christopher Rowe, age 51.  Three novels, thirty shorter stories.  Co-author of Wild Cards 25, entitled Low Chicago.  Extended chapbook  Say…. into a small-press magazine for five years.  Has read The Last Great WalkLolita, two Jane Austen novels, one Dickens and one Dumas, The Hunt for “Red October”, one Shakespeare.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born December 25, 1984 Georgia Moffett, 36.  She’s  the daughter of actor Peter Davison, the man who was Fifth Doctor and she’s married to David Tennant who was the Tenth Doctor.  She played opposite the Tenth Doctor as Jenny in “The Doctor’s Daughter” and in she voiced ‘Cassie’ in the animated Doctor Who: Dreamland which is now on iTunes and Amazon. And yes she’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as herself. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UNDERSTANDING THE CRIMINAL MIND. Amanda Weaver finds the motive lacking for two recent newsmaking capers.

(13) GOLDEN GLOBES CHALLENGED. Although the specific film at issue is not genre, File 770 does follow the Golden Globes, and this eligibility question is of interest. “Golden Globes: What the HFPA Needs to Do to Fix the ‘Minari’ Debacle” in Variety.

The Hollywood Foreign Press has come under fire again for the rule that disallows “Minari,” the story of a Korean immigrant family struggling to build a better life in Arkansas, from competing in the Golden Globes race for best drama or musical/comedy. As the entertainment industry faces pressure to become more diverse and inclusive, both in the stories it tells and in terms of the actors and filmmakers it champions, the HFPA should have foreseen the outcry from Hollywood.

The rules around Golden Globes eligibility for best picture categories are outdated and need to be overhauled — fast.

“Minari,” which stars an American, is directed by an American and produced, financed, and distributed by U.S. companies, is ineligible in the best picture categories and must compete in the foreign language category. The problem was also faced by last year by “The Farewell,” Lulu Wang’s acclaimed dramedy, in 2019, which, like “Minari,” was forced into the foreign language race and excluded from competing for the Globes’ top prizes.

(14) SEEING VS. BELIEVING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 19 Financial Times, Raphael Abraham interviews Soul director Pete Docter about how the Pixar crew filming Soul discussed how to depict a soul.

Having consulted clinical psychologists for Inside Out, which made manifest a teenage girl’s emotional inner workings, this time Docter and his team turned to spiritual advisers for guidance  ‘We did a lot of research, talking with priests and rabbis, looking at Hinduism, Buddhism, all sorts of different traditions to see what they could teach about the nature of the soul,’ he says.  However, when it came to visual representation, they came to a dead end,  ‘Largely, it was not too helpful because it said they’re non-visible. And we thought:  well, great, but we’ve got to film something!’

Looking within themselves instead, the animators devised a solution that has the film flirting with abstraction as the action moves from the temporal world to the ethereal landscapes of ‘The Great Beyond,’ ‘The Great Before,’ and the ‘Counsellors’ who inhabit them.

Here they turned to art history for inspiration.  ‘We looked at a lot of modernist sculpture, Picasso wire sculptures, Alexander Calder.  We thought of the Counsellors as the universe dumbing itself down so that the humans and souls could understand it.’

(15) READ BEFORE YOU WRAP. Have you been influenced by any of these “20 Traditional Gift-Giving Superstitions” listed by Mental Floss?

5. CATS

In Sicily, it’s said you should never give a gift in the shape of a cat to someone who is engaged to be married, as this foretells sudden and violent death. However, in other cultures, if your partner gives you an actual cat as a present, it means you will never be parted.

(16) GHASTLY IMAGININGS OF THE SEASON. Dean Koontz’ holiday newsletter (available to subscribers) begins —

Tis the season to be jolly. That’s better than a season to be angry and mean. However, I find something unsettling about too much jolliness, especially when the jolly one is a snowman that has been brought to life by the magic in “an old black hat.” Whose hat was it? Huh? Did it belong to a serial killer, and did he die wearing it, and is his hideous, corrupted soul in that hat?

Frosty’s button nose is okay, but I’m creeped out by those two eyes made out of coal. We can often read other people’s intentions in their eyes, but NOT IN EYES MADE OUT OF COAL! The teeth in his grin are made of coal, too, and he’s always grinning, which suggests he’s psychotic…

(17) YESTERDAY’S MEDIA BIRTHDAY. This one is too good to skip. On December 24, 1916 the silent film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, directed and written by Stuart Paton, premiered. Starring Allen Holubar and Jane Gail, Carl Laemmle, later to be founder of what would become Universal Pictures, produced it. Paton used most of Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea novel and elements of Mysterious Island as well. Yes it’s in the National Film Registry as it should be. Indeed it was a box office success as it made eight million on a budget of two hundred thousand. You can watch it here.

(18) A DIY PROJECT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE A ZILLION DOLLAR LAB. Left over from Gizmodo’s 2019 “Fake Week” but news to me — “How to Make a Black Hole in a Science Lab”.

… “Black hole radiation is one of the perhaps most peculiar processes,” Weinfurtner told Gizmodo. Thanks to her experiment, “you can reproduce this process in the lab.”

More complex dumb holes followed; Weinfurtner eventually went on to lead her own group, now at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, which devised a black hole analog from a vortex produced by a draining, rotating fluid. The vortex amplified waves traveling over the liquid that bounced into it, and the experiment became a first observation of a process called superradiance in the lab—an analogy to the Penrose process, where spinning black holes turbocharge the particles in the space around them….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Polar Express Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains the premise of The Polar Express is that when a kid “gets into a stranger’s vehicle in the middle of the night, his life is going to change,” but don’t worry, the vehicle is The Polar Express, so this is supposed to be a fun Christmas movie, even if the motion-capture animation leads to “dead eye characters and uncanny valley vibes.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Eric Wong, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anne Sheller.]

Pixel Scroll 12/24/20 Is That A Scroll of Coal in My File?

Still celebrating the holidays at my brother’s. Took my laptop along to worjk on today but it got fried en route somehow, won’t turn on but gets as hot as an iron. So a big placeholder today, and will resume tomorrow on my backup.

Meantime, roll your own pixels in the comments!

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

Mark Millar, born 1969, age fifty one years Comic book write whose resume is long at both house so I’ll like of his work. The Millar/Quitely era on The Authority was politically edged and often got censored by DC as it commented on the Iraq War — well worth your reading. His run on Swamp Thing from issues 142 to 171 has a lot of other writers including Morrison. He wrote the Ultimates at Marvels and a lot of that superb series ended in the Avengers film. Finally his excellent Civil War was the basis of the Captain America: Civil War film and his not to missed Old Man Logan was the inspiration for Fox’s Logan film. (CE)

Diedrich Bader, born 1966, age fifty four years I know him best as the voice of Batman on The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. No, he’s not Kevin Conroy but his Batman is quite enjoyable and interesting in his own right. He’s best cast as Batman / Bruce Wayne in the new Harley Quinn series on the DC Universe service in the process. (CE)

Mark Valley, born 1964, age fifty six years He made my Birthday list first by being the lead, Christopher Chance, in Human Target, a short lived series created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for DC, that was weirdly well done. He was also John Scott In Fringe as a regular cast member early on. He voiced Clark Kent / Superman in the second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. (CE) 

Nicholas Meyer, born 1945, age seventy five years Superb and funny novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is.  Much better than the film I think. Now his Time After Time film is spot on. And let’s not forget his work on the Trek films,  The Wrath of Khan (much of which went uncredited), The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.  (CE) 

Fritz Leiber, 1910 – 1992 I can say that my fav work by him is The Big Time which I either read or listen to every year. And yes I’ve read the Change War Stories too, difficult to find as they were. Yes I know it won a Hugo — much, much deserved!  I’m also fond of Gather, Darkness!  and Conjure Wife, but otherwise I prefer his short fiction such as the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series to his novels. (CE) 

VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “All I Want For Christmas…” on YouTube, John C. Worsley says that Jean-Luc Picard and Q wish you a Merry Christmas.

Pixel Scroll 12/16/20 She’s Got A Pixel To File

(1) PAY THE WRITER. In “Star Wars novelist Alan Dean Foster’s Disney royalties issue, explained” at Polygon, Andrew Liptak examines the terrain of what is likely to be an uphill struggle, documents the increasing number of writers with the same grievance, and gives an overview of what some have heard from lawyers.

…Still, after the success of Star Wars, Foster found himself a go-to person for movie novelizations. Over the years, he’s penned dozens of novelizations for franchises like AliensStar TrekDark Star, The Black Hole, Clash of the Titans, Outland, The Thing, Krull, The Last Starfighter, Starman, The Chronicles of Riddick, and others. They were all written in addition to his own original novels.

The nature of a work-for-hire contract means an author who’s written a tie-in novel will have little control over where their story ends up; how characters, situations, or details are used after they turn in their manuscript; and even the copyright of the work itself. It’s a tradeoff: Foster might not own the book, but the product may provide a steady revenue stream for years, especially if the franchise is popular with audiences. Write enough of them, and those tributaries will feed a healthy river.

Shortly after Disney acquired 20th Century Fox last year, Foster says that his royalties for his Alien novels stopped coming. He and his agent first attempted to resolve the issue with the book’s publisher, Warner Books. According to Foster’s agent Vaughn Hansen, while Foster and the organization [SFWA] were working to uncover the provenance of those rights, it became clear there were also missing payments for his Star Wars novels….

Unpaid royalties appear to be an issue that affects other writers. Four additional authors have come forward to Polygon to confirm that they haven’t been paid royalties for work now owned by Disney, for works that appear to have been transferred to other publishers: Rob MacGregor, who wrote the tie-in novel for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as several additional tie-in novels; Donald Glut, author of the Empire Strikes Back novelization; James Kahn, author Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom novelizations; and Michael A. Stackpole, author of the X-Wing comics, Star Wars: Union, and Star Wars: Mara Jade — By the Emperor’s Hand. Without seeing contracts or the full details of the nature of the transfer of property from Lucasfilm to Disney, it’s hard to know if each author falls into the same situation as Foster, but the result appears to be the same: They haven’t received money that they feel entitled to for the work that they published….

(2) A NOBEL PURSUIT. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s Into the Impossible podcast has reached its milestone 100th episode: “100: Barry Barish – Black Holes, Nobel Prizes & The Imposter Syndrome”

Barry Barish is an emeritus professor at Caltech, where he has worked since 1963. He became director of the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) project in 1997, which led to his Nobel Prize in 2017. He has many other awards and is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and American Physical Society, of which he was also president.

Barry joins our Nobel Minds playlist on the INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE podcast. He shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics with Rai Weiss and Kip Thorne “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.” We discuss Barry’s long and remarkable career that covers many disciplines within physics. It’s not the standard model, but he has a confidence about himself, and his contributions that make it seem perfectly natural to have been part of such varied, noteworthy projects during his career. Despite that, Barry also admits to feeling like an imposter at times, especially when singing the same Nobel register as Einstein. What a moment!

(3) A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN. Not Pulp Covers is the place to admire Alphonse de Neuville’s engravings for 20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

(4) SCREEN TIME. Kellie Doherty analyzes the experience of “Being a Panelist in a Virtual World” at Fantasy-Faction.

As an author, one key thing I always need to be doing is marketing, and events are wonderful marketing tools. Events allow us authors and other creatives to reach a new audience base, network with fellow creatives, and get our names out there. It allows people to gush about what they love while also opening doors for others who are looking to get into those fields. It even helps to demystify the careers of creatives. Plus, events are great for selling—vendor tables are usually bustling, and panels/workshops are key places to chat about all the creative endeavors.

But what about virtual events? Is it still a great experience for the panelists?…

(5) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. “Stephen King Has Thoughts About Stephen King TV Shows” – and the New York Times takes notes as he shares them. For example —

‘It’

1990

This two-part ABC mini-series, an adaptation of King’s sprawling 1986 novel about a child-murdering monster in small-town Maine, is perhaps best remembered for Tim Curry’s frightening performance as Pennywise the Clown.

“I liked that series a lot, and I thought Tim Curry made a great Pennywise,” King said. “It scared the [expletive] out of a lot of kids at that time.”

In fact, King credits the impact of the series on children with the later success of the film version, which starred Bill Skarsgard as the diabolical clown and was a box-office sensation in 2017. (A 2019 sequel, based on the second half of the novel, was similarly successful.)

“One of the reasons the movie was a big hit was because kids remembered seeing it on TV,” King said. “So they went to see it.”

(6) POINT OF NO RETURN. “‘Heroes’ Was Supposed to Be Leonard Roberts’ Big Break. Instead, It Nearly Broke Him” – the actor tells Variety readers about the end of his time on the once-popular show.

As he details in his account below, he experienced immediate friction with his main co-star Ali Larter — and perceived indifference from creator and showrunner Tim Kring — that led him to feel singled out as a Black actor, a feeling that only grew more intense after he was fired from the show after its first season.

…As the first season played out, I learned two other non-white lead characters would be killed off and I started to wonder whether D.L. would suffer the same fate. His presence on the show kept getting smaller, and by the mid-season finale he had been shot more times than 2Pac. I even had my management inquire about the possibility of me being killed off. While I was initially thankful for the opportunity, the experience had become creatively unfulfilling and I thought moving on might be best for everyone. I was told, however, that the production’s response was “We love Leonard.” And in March 2007, while filming the penultimate episode of the season, a producer told me that I was indeed returning for Season 2. I took it as a positive sign, and looked forward to new possibilities.

One of our last publicity obligations that first season involved a photoshoot for Entertainment Weekly, in which cast members, based on their characters’ relationship on the show, were featured on collector’s edition covers. The release of the covers was to coincide with the network’s upfront presentation for the 2007-2008 season in New York.

Upon arriving backstage at Radio City Music Hall for a rehearsal, I caught my co-star’s eye. “I’m hearing our cover is selling the least of all of them,” she told me. It was the first and only thing she said to me that night and I believed the subtext was clear: I was tarnishing her brand….

(7) ANOTHER REASON TO BEWARE. Longshot Press owner Daniel Scott White, publisher of Unfit and Unreal magazines, doubles down on his unhinged strategy of making enemies of SFWA writers.

Two of his magazines were the subject of complaints last February, covered by File 770’s roundup: “Is This Practice Unreal or Unfit? It’s Both”. Then two weeks ago White called for submissions to the magazines, but added “Tip: SFWA members not eligible” (see here, item #2.)

White’s latest assault is against Benjamin C. Kinney, first person to put his name to the complaints brought out in February. Thread starts here.

And White is also working on a Nixonian enemies list.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2008 — Twelve years ago, Catherynne M. Valente had the unusual honor of winning the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for not one novel but for two novels in the same series, The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden and  its sequel, The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice. It is the only time that this has happened as far as we can determine. An Otherwise Award would also go to The Orphan’s Tales: In The Night Garden

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 16, 1880 – Anna Alice Chapin.  Children’s book from the Victor Herbert operetta Babes in Toyland with its libretticist Glen MacDonough.  Half a dozen more fantasies; ten other books; shorter stories for magazines and newspapers; a play with her husband, and three more stories, made into films.  (Died 1920) [JH]  
  • Born December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. The tea plantations he described therein are very awesome.  I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there and I passed by his residence one day. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read.  I’ve read a lot of short fiction including of course Tales from The White Hart. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born December 16, 1927 Randall Garrett. Randall Garrett. Ahhh, Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. (The later Lord Darcy collection has two previously uncollected stories.) Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett.  I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.) (CE):
  • Born December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley.  He had a number of truly  great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of DragonsThe Ropemaker garnered a well-deserved Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born December 16, 1928 – Philip K. Dick.  Four dozen novels, ten dozen shorter stories, half a dozen poems; letters in The Alien Critic and PsychoticRiverside QuarterlySF Commentary.  A Hugo for The Man in the High Castle; Campbell Memorial Award for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; British SF Ass’n Award for A Scanner Darkly; Kurd Laßwitz Prize for VALIS.  SF Hall of Fame.  See too The Shifting Realities of PKD (L. Sutin ed. 1995).  Curiouser and curiouser.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born December 16, 1937 – Norm Metcalf.  His Index of SF Magazines 1951-1965 followed Day’s Index to the SF Magazines 1926-1950.  His fanzine New Frontiers drew contributions from fannish pros e.g. Poul Anderson, Tony Boucher, Sprague de Camp.  Active in many apas, e.g. FAPA (fifty years), IPSOOMPASAPS (forty years), SFPAThe Cult.  (Died 2019) [JH]  
  • Born December 16, 1948 – Steve Forty, age 72.  Indispensable Vancouver fan.  Served as President of BCSFA (British Columbia SF Ass’n – to bring in a Tom Digby joke, not its real name, which is West Coast SF Ass’n), editor of BCSFAzine, chair of VCON 20, perhaps inevitably Fan Guest of Honour at VCON 40.  BCSFAzine was printed by Gestetner mimeograph until the late 1980s; S.40 had at least six Gestetners, each carrying a different colour ink (note spelling, these are Canadians), so as to manage multi-color covers.  BCSFA’s VCON Ambassador for Life.  Aptly a steel-burnisher by trade.  To us in the States he is the North Forty, but what do we know?  [JH]
  • Born December 16, 1956 – Alexander Bouchard, age 64.  Fanzines Scopus:3007Lightning Round.  Podcaster, costumer, conner (we have filkers, costumers –).  Fanwriting at least as early as “Asimov, the Foundation of SF” in Lan’s Lantern 34.  I’ve heard of but not seen the vegan electric-pressure-cooker recipe book over this name so can’t say if his, but you probably know fans who’re vegan electric pressure cookers.  [JH]
  • Born December 16, 1957 Mel Odom, 63. An author deep into mining franchise universes with work done into the BuffyverseOutlandersTime PoliceRogue Angel (which I’ve listen to a lot as GraphicAudio as produced them as most excellent audioworks) and weirder stuff such as the Left Behind Universe and Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers, both I think game tie-ins. (CE) 
  • Born December 16, 1967 Miranda Otto, 53. She was Éowyn in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film franchise. (I stopped watching after The Fellowship of The Rings.) She‘s Zelda Spellman in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Mary Ann Davis in Spielberg’s version of The War of The Worlds. She also played Wueen Lenore inI, Frankenstein which had an an amazing cast even if the Tomatometer gives it’s 5% rating. (CE)
  • Born December 16, 1971 – Roz Clarke, age 49.  Three anthologies with Joanne Hall (2 vols. of Airship Shape and Bristol FashionFight Like a Girl); four short stories.  “Haunt-Type Experience” reprinted in Stories for Chip (i.e. S.R. Delany; tribute anthology).  [JH]

(10) THE WATCH. A trailer is out for The Watch Season 1. Premieres January 3.

Anyone can be a hero. ‘The Watch’, an all-new series inspired by characters created by Sir Terry Pratchett stars Richard Dormer as Vimes and Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin.

(11) ON THE BOTTOM. John Picacio tweeted photos of his 2020 Hugo which features something I’ve never seen on the trophy before – writing on the bottom of the base. The text explains the design elements.

(12) TIME CONSIDERED. “Christopher Nolan On Why Time Is A Recurring Theme In His Movies”: NPR’s “All Things Considered” interviewed the filmmaker. Audio and a transcript at the link.

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: Time is the most cinematic of subjects because before the movie camera came along, human beings had no way of seeing time backwards, slowed down, sped up. And I think that went some way to sort of explain to me why I’ve been interested in exploring it in movies because I think there’s a really productive relationship. And I had this visual notion of a bullet that’s in a wall, being sucked out of the wall and into the barrel of the gun it was fired from. And I put the image in “Memento,” my early film, as a…

(13) AN EXPANSIVE LETTER TO THE EDITOR. [Item by Daniel P. Dern] “Catching Up to ‘The Expanse,’ the Space Opera You Love” is a review by Mike Hale at the New York Times.

“The undisputed heir to ‘Battlestar Galactica’ begins its fifth (and next to last) season on Amazon Prime Video.”

DPD comments (note, I’m also submitting a shortened-for-length-restrictions version of this to the NYTimes online comments to the review, which already has a modest but informed discussion going):

While this is basically a favorable-enough review of the TV series, I want to pick a few nits, from the perspective who

a) is a life-long sf fan — written, also comics, movies and TV

b) has read all the Expanse books (and some of the novellas/stories) and is current watching the previous seasons

c) Never watched the original Battlestar G; watched maybe 2-3 eps of the 2004 reboot.

1) Hale says, with respect to The Expanse (show), “The series capably fulfills the basic requirement of speculative science-fiction: It keeps you guessing about where the journey’s going to end.”

Huh? This makes me wonder how much Hale knows about science fiction as a genre, as opposed to having watched a bunch. Discuss amongst yourselves.

2) “With regard to the show’s intensely devoted following, a binge only confirms what was obvious from the first few episodes. ‘The Expanse’ is the natural heir to the cult-favorite ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (2004-9); it’s another old-fashioned, hard-core space adventure set within an up-to-date clash-of-civilizations political allegory. It was an easy move for the ‘Galactica’ faithful.”

Since, like I said above, I haven’t watched (enough) B/G, I can’t agree or disagree with the “natural heir” point, nor whether B/G faithful found it an “easy move.” I will challenge “allegory” (and I’m dubious about “civilizations”).

3) “’The Expanse’ operates on a smaller, more intimate scale than ‘Galactica,’ …it doesn’t imagine ships zapping among star clusters. It’s contained within our solar system.” Hello? Venus whack? Galactic gateway? I’m not convinced Hale has watched the most recent two seasons. Or wasn’t paying attention.

4) “’The Expanse’ builds its future world in a schematic way that provides an efficient framework for plot and, I’m guessing, appeals to viewers who like their science-fiction highly diagramed.”

I’m not sure what Hale means by “schematic,” much less “highly diagrammed,” and even if I did, I don’t think I’d agree, assuming I could figure out what he meant. I mean, you could make similar claims about Game of Thrones, no?

5) “Into this setup, the show introduced a golem-like alien substance (called, with a notable lack of imagination, the protomolecule)”

“Notable lack of imagination”? Talk about setting phrasers to “Snark!”

“In its facelessness and inexorability, it was a decent stand-in for the cylons of ‘Galactica.’””

First, isn’t Cylon a proper noun, worth of initial-capping?

Arguably, also, the p-mol isn’t completely faceless, e.g., using the appearance (and perhaps more) of Detective Miller at times, to manifest to James “F***ing” Holden.

Like I said, Hale’s review is basically positive, but the off-notes irk me. Again, my theory is that Hale’s watched his share of TV/movie sf, but hasn’t read a significant amount of it.

Anyhoo, I’m looking forward to the new season.

(14) DRAWN THAT WAY. Publishers Weekly asked critics to name the year’s best graphic novels. Not too much genre on their list, unless you’re coming from a place that all graphic novels check that box: ‘”Kent State’ On Top of PW’s 2020 Graphic Novel Critics Poll”.

Released in September during the 50th anniversary year of the 1970 tragedy, Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio (Abrams ComicArts) by veteran comics journalist Derf Backderf garnered the majority of votes in PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critic’s Poll, receiving eight votes from a panel of 14 comics critics.

The PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll is compiled by asking participating critics to list up to 10 trade book releases they consider the best graphic novel and comics works of the year. The book receiving the most votes wins; and we share the remaining top vote-recipients. Titles listed as Honorable Mentions each received a single vote. Taking part in this year’s poll are PW graphic novel reviewers Gilcy Aquino, Chris Barsanti, Maurice Boyer, Rob Clough, John DiBello, Glen Downey, Shaenon Garrity, Rob Kirby, Cheryl Klein, Maia Kobabe, Sarah Mirk, and Samantha Riedel. Also participating are PW Graphic Novels Reviews editor Meg Lemke and PW senior news editor Calvin Reid.

(15) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. Family Planning (1968) on YouTube is a 1968 Disney cartoon, featuring Donald Duck, done in cooperation with the Population Council.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Shazam!  The History of Shazam!” on YouTube is a 2019 documentary, narrated by Cooper Andrews, about the character originally known as Captain Marvel and, from 2011 onwards, completely known as Shazam.  It’s of course tied in to the 2019 movie Shazam, and we learn that the reason Billy Batson in the movie is part of a foster family was because of a 2012 revision of the character by Geoff Johns.  I think the lawsuits over whether Captain Marvel was a Superman knockoff are more interesting than the character itself.  It’s primarily comics-oriented because the only filmed appearances of the character until 2019 were in a 1940s serial and what looks like a cheezy 1970s Saturday morning series,  I think the most fun facts in the documentary are a visit to the DC archive (known as the Vault) and learning that one of the chief enemies of Captain Marvel, Dr. Sivana, was modeled after co-creator C.C. Beck’s dentist. I did think it was worth an hour.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/20 All These Pixels Are Yours. Except Europa. Attempt No Scrolling There

(1) INTRODUCING BUTLER TO NEW READERS. Elizabeth Connor describes the work of “repackaging the Patternist Series for the Mother of Afrofuturism” in “How to Give Octavia Butler the Covers She Deserves” at Literary Hub.

…After some back and forth—and plenty of discussion with the editor acting as mediator—we determined that by elegant, they likely meant more stylized human forms in more sophisticated poses, as well as a textural or brushy quality to the art (as there had been on the Parable books), that lent an air of being hand-drawn rather than machine-made. As for dynamic, we soon understood that the symmetry of the earliest comps was what the agent and estate were reacting against. By simply breaking the vertical axis and giving each cover a certain degree of asymmetry—even as the figures revolved around a central “moon” shape that remained static—they felt much more alive. The designer came back with revisions and, in relatively quick succession, Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind had approved covers…

(2) DIFFERENT WISDOM. At the SFWA Blog, Sunny Moraine says “Explicit Sex Scenes and the Work of Stories” are far from mutually exclusive.

The origins of this piece lie in an annoyed Twitter thread I posted, in response to a tweet (possibly joking, I don’t know) to the effect of “movies shouldn’t have sex scenes in them, we’re past that now”. 

The origins of my annoyance go back a lot further. 

I’ve been writing explicit sex pretty much since I began writing. Like many of us, I got my start in fanfiction, and while fanfiction’s reputation for being heavily smut-focused isn’t entirely deserved, it isn’t entirely undeserved, either. Which is rather the point, because given that I started out writing a lot of explicit sex, I learned quite early just how much story-work one can do with a well-written sex scene. Especially a very explicit one, without a judicious fade-to-black or Vaseline on the camera lens. 

I want to be clear about something: I am not claiming ultimate authority over what a “good” sex scene consists of. Sex scenes, like sex itself, are highly subjective and personal, and different people will find that different things resonate. 

That said, my opinion is that a good sex scene is usually sexy, and one of the best ways to be sexy is to go deep into not only the physical descriptions of what’s happening, but also what’s going through these characters’ heads as they’re doing the sex. 

Which is one of the places where we get into the work explicit sex can do in a story, and in a way really no other kind of scene can manage in precisely this way….

(3) GETTING THE WORD OUT AND THE DOLLARS IN. James Van Pelt shares “The Frustrations (and the Surprising Successes) of Marketing Your Book” at Black Gate.

…Marketing is easy. Effective marketing that actually sells books, however, is hard. My son works for Facebook, so he helped me with an advertising campaign on the platform. We had a $250 budget for one of my collections, The Experience Arcade and Other Stories. One of the ads reached 1,900 readers. 103 people clicked on it. We did sell books, but not enough to pay back our investment. We found the same pattern to be true on the other books we promoted on Facebook….

(4) ON THE PINNACLE. The Hugo Book Club Blog surveys the top sff awards and why they are in “The Award For Best Award”.

… There are in fact enough award systems to warrant the effort of analysis to help decide which awards are worth paying attention to. Of course, dichotomous and divisive “success or failure” judgments are less useful than comparing how they’re organized and speculating about what might contribute to a robust and respected award. Examining the growing pains of recently created awards and thinking about why several smaller awards have managed to establish long-term relevance can also be helpful….

(5) SFRA. The Fall 2020 issue of the Science Fiction Research Association’s SFRA Review is available to download. Many articles and reviews, including an update from Rachel Cordasco about SF in Translation.

(6) WITH OR WITHOUT CHIPS. “’Scenarios of disruption’: Sci-fi writers asked to help guard France” – Australia’s The Age has the story,

Attacks from floating pirate states and hackers on soldiers with neural implants are just two scenarios dreamed up by a “Red Team” of 10 leading science fiction writers tasked with helping the French army anticipate future threats to national security.

“Astonish us, shake us up, take us out of our habits and comfort zone,” Florence Parly, the French defence minister, told the writers at a Defence Innovation Forum this month.

Many of the “scenarios of disruption” that they have been asked to imagine to challenge military planners are to remain top secret to avoid giving ideas to potential enemies. They were asked to stick to potential threats between 2030 and 2060….

(7) SWATTING A NEW FIREFLY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] One for the “wishful thinking” file. Questionably sourced rumors are bouncing around the internet about a Disney+ Firefly reboot. As much as I would love to believe this, I gotta express significant skepticism.  Adam Whitehead does a pretty good job of analyzing why this rumour likely ain’t true at The Wertzone: “RUMOUR: FIREFLY reboot under consideration for Disney+”.

… I find this rumour dubious for multiple reasons. The first is that Firefly‘s fanbase remains, despite the passage of almost twenty years, both voluble and passionate. Rebooting the show from scratch and dropping the previous actors and continuity would go down very badly. The second is that Firefly‘s universe was designed from scratch to be slightly more morally murky and complex, and that’s part of the show’s appeal. Making it more PG (or PG-13, if you’re in the USA) seems pointless. …

(8) NEW ALLEGATION AGAINST FLEGAL. Artist Sovereign has attached a three-page statement to her tweet: “Trigger warning: Sexual harassment / 1FW. I am speaking up about the harassment I received from Sam Flegal of One Fantastic Week. I’ve been quiet long enough and there are too many that still deserve an apology.”

(9) SEPTEMBER SONG. The date for a Chicago pulp collectors’ event is sliding later in 2021: “Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention Announces Rescheduled 2021 Dates of September 9 – 12, 2021”. Full details at the link. Doug Ellis begins —

As 2020 draws to a close, we’re feeling pretty confident that we will be able to hold our show in 2021.  However, given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic and the timing on the various vaccines, we became increasingly concerned that it would not be feasible or prudent to hold our show as originally scheduled from April 15-18, 2021.

We can now announce that we’ve reached an agreement with our hotel (the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois) to reschedule the convention to September 9-12, 2021. The location of the convention remains the same….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY

1984 — The Winter 1984 issue of the Missouri Review which was undated had Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Trouble with the Cotton People”, the very first of her Kesh stories that would become part of her Always Coming Home novel which was first published by Harper & Row the following year. Nominated for the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award, it would lose out to Barry Hugart’s Bridge of Birds. Library of America published the Always Coming Home: Author’s Expanded Edition last year. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1935 – Alma Jo Williams.  Five dozen reviews in SF Review.  Raised horses; earned a washin-ryu black belt; forty years at Cornell in the Baker Institute for Animal Health.  Of the 1984 Dune movie she said “The photography is gorgeous, the music appropriate, the special effects … well integrated….  The metamorphosed Guild navigators are laughable….  the evil of the Harkonnens was caricatured…. Only Sting, as Feyd, projected … subtle nastiness”.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing as is Tik-Tok which won a BSFA and Bugs as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1944 – Ru Emerson, age 76.  Two dozen novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Under another name she has two recipes in Serve It Forth.  Sings, plays guitar, flies stunt kites, a little Irish hardshoe.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1944 – John Guidry, age 76.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 9 & 11, Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon.  Founded ERB-apa (Edgar Rice Burroughs fans).  Rebel Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 53.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1945 – Steve Vertlieb, age 75.  Often seen here.  Mr. James H. Burns gave him this tribute on his 70th, with photos and links.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. He actually started his career writing out for Perry Rhodan. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story, and he’s continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953  Robert Charles Wilson, 67. He won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award  for the novelette “The Cartesian Theater” and Prix Aurora Awards for the novels Blind Lake and Darwinia. Impressive indeed. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953 – J.M. DeMatteis, age 67.  Like many comics stars, has done substantial work for both DC and Marvel, including television.  Eisner Award.  Wrote Abadazad for CrossGen, then when Disney acquired it, three Abadazad books.  One novel.  One album from his years as a musician.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 66. Ahhh the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And did you know that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam? And as we know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago! (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1958 – Leslie Smith, age 62.  Co-chaired Ditto 7 (fanziners’ con; named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  Fanzine, Duprass (see Cat’s Cradle) with Linda Bushyager.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1981 Krysten Ritter, 39. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I groked.  (CE)
  • Born December 15, 1982 Charlie Cox, 38. He played the role of Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Netflix’s Daredevil and The Defenders, was Tristan Thorn Thorn in Stardust based off the Gaiman novel and Dennis Bridger in the remake of A for Andromeda. (CE)

(12) SF AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS. FutureCon will stream a panel about “Capitalism and workers’ rights on Science Fiction” on Saturday, December 19 at 12 p.m. (noon US Eastern Time). Participants will be Alec Nevala-Lee (USA), Alexey Dodsworth, (Brazil) Fabio Fernandes (Brazil, host), Jorge Baradit (Chile), Marie Vibbert (USA), and Olav Rokne (Canada).

(13) PAWS IN THE ACTION. Sean D talks about a “gorgeous novella” at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [Book]: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo”.

It’s hard to pen a story in which the lines are blurred but the narrative is always clear. Ambiguity and warring perspectives can hurricane into incomprehensible pandemonium. However, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain manages to have characters who not only inhabit both the bodies of animals and humans, but have characters performing oral storytelling that’s just as fluid. What kept me engaged wasn’t rigidity and linearity, but a narrative voice that always had control with a grip greater than any rigidity….

(14) A SFF LOOK AT POLICING. No Police = Know Future edited by James Beamon is available in both print and electronic formats from publisher Amazing Stories and online book outlets.

When the concept of defunding the police (a concept we believe really means re-examining and reforming the concept of policing), arose during this year’s protests, we saw a perfect opportunity to put those beliefs into practice.

James Beamon, our editor, put it this way in his solicitation:

“After the brutal murder of George Floyd by the police, the world responded in righteous protest, with cries of “Black Lives Matter.” The police responded to these calls in large part with even more brutality, with video after video emerging that showed an assault on the public. And more cries came forth, with calls to defund the police.

But what’s that mean?

Science Fiction writers, this is your call to arms. Give us your potential (and hopefully positive) futures that involve alternatives to modern day policing. We want stories that replace the police entirely, dramatically reform them, or create parallel systems to refocus policing. We’re also seeking alternate concepts of rehabilitation and punishment as well, more emphasis on the carrot. In a world where police are perpetually brandishing their batons, I think we’ve all seen enough sticks.”

The stories collected in this volume –

  • Ryan Priest – Pro Bono Detectives
  • Lettie Prell – Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities
  • Jared Oliver Adams – All the Mister Rogerses From Bethel A.M.E.
  • P.T. MacKim – Well Regulated
  • Minister Faust – Freeze Police
  • Stewart C. Baker – Maricourt’s Waters Quiet and Deep
  • Ira Naymen – When the Call Comes In
  • Holly Schofield – One Bad Apple
  • Brontë Christopher Wieland – Apogee, Effigy, Storm
  • Jewelle Gomez – A More Perfect Union
  • Anatoly Belilovsky – Tax Day

(15) IN GENERAL. Paul Weimer finds much to like here: “Microreview [book]: Machine by Elizabeth Bear” at Nerds of a Feather.

… Bear calls out in the acknowledgements the inspiration for Core General that was to me delightfully obvious but perhaps newer readers to SF might not be aware of. James White’s Sector General stories and novels describe the adventures of a hospital in space, and Bear’s Core General is clearly a spiritual successor and heir to White’s ideas. Bear of course brings her own sensibilities and ideas to a Hospital in Space but the bones of the homage are there, and the social mores and ideas of White’s novels are updated for modern sensibilities.  This is also done a bit explicitly within the novel itself, as corpsicles found on Big Rock Candy Mountain have some rather archaic, primitive, frankly offensive and un-Synarchy-like ideas about many things. There is a culture clash and some real conflict between Jens and the rest of the Synarchy with Helen, the AI of Big Rock Candy Mountain, and the crew of the ship that they manage to unfreeze and revive….

(16) THE NEXT RIGHT STUFF. “NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions” – the names and brief bios are at the link.

NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

…The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience. The agency’s modern lunar exploration program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.

NASA will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team. Additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed….

(17) ROCKING THE MARKET. In “Making A Point With Moon Rocks” on National Review Online, Texas Tech economist Alexander William Salter says that NASA’s contracts to acquire moon rocks (or what is technically “lunar regolith”) is “a clever strategy to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction” since the purchases would show that private property can be created on the Moon, a position left ambiguous in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

.. NASA’s purchase of moon dirt is a clever strategic move to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction. The United States government isn’t violating Article II [of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty], because it’s not appropriating real estate. And it’s not violating Article VI, since it’s up to Congress to determine the extent of monitoring and policing duties. What the NASA program does is create a test case for first harvesting, and then selling, outer-space resources. As David Henderson and I have argued, “Given the vagueness of international space law on property rights, the precedents created by national space law will have a decisive role in shaping the future space environment. Hence, NASA’s actions can support a pro-business turn not just for the United States, but also for the international community as a whole.” …

(18) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. From Fast Company: “What toys from the past can tell us about how we predict the future”.

… What if those predictions actually ended up affecting how the future unfolds, like self-fulfilling prophecies? It’s a question plaguing futurists, and now a project is trying to illustrate the problem by showing how things created in the past have colored the present. The simplest examples—items that truly shape the minds of our next generations—come in the form of children’s toys.

The Museum of Future History’s first exhibition, Toying With Tomorrow: Playthings That Anticipated the Here and Now, is curated by experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats and timed to debut at the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) High-Level Futures Literacy Summit.

The idea was sparked by a growing concern among futurists, Keats says, that we have been “colonizing the future” with visions and predictions of what it will bring, and that those visions limit the opportunities or possibilities of those future generations. But this can be an abstract concept to grasp.

“What we needed was some way in which people could recognize the phenomenon in their own lives, and they could use that as a means by which to consider what sorts of predictions they make, what sort of impact those predictions might have going forward—individually as well as collectively in a society,” Keats explains. “Toys have a very direct way in which they influence the future through the children who play with them.”…

(19) WW84. “Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins share Wonder Woman 1984 opening scene at red carpet” and SYFY Wire is there.

It’s one thing to watch Diana grow up slowly — something Wonder Woman fans delighting in witnessing as star Gal Gadot lassoed a new generation of hearts in director Patty Jenkins’ 2017 blockbuster. But it’s something else entirely to watch our Amazon hero surge from past to present at lightning speed — leaping out of her idyllic childhood and into the mean city streets — in the butt-kickin’ romp that welcomes viewers to the opening moments of Wonder Woman 1984….

(20) SPACELANES. [Item by Daniel Dern.]  Via Slashdot: “Astronomers Discover Cosmic ‘Superhighways’ For Fast Travel Through the Solar System”. Not faster than light, more like “a faster lane on the service road” IMHO.

Invisible structures generated by gravitational interactions in the Solar System have created a “space superhighway” network, astronomers have discovered. ScienceAlert reports:By applying analyses to both observational and simulation data, a team of researchers led by Natasa Todorovic of Belgrade Astronomical Observatory in Serbia observed that these superhighways consist of a series of connected arches inside these invisible structures, called space manifolds — and each planet generates its own manifolds, together creating what the researchers have called “a true celestial autobahn.” This network can transport objects from Jupiter to Neptune in a matter of decades, rather than the much longer timescales, on the order of hundreds of thousands to millions of years, normally found in the Solar System….

(21) MORE ABOUT BEN BOVA. The New York Times ran Ben Bova’s obituary. To accompany that note, here are a couple of Andrew Porter’s photos of Bova (sent direct to 770, not from the NYT.)

…Ben Bova was a hard-science guy — and a passionate space program booster — and his visions of the future encompassed a dizzying array of technological advances (and resulting horrors or delights), including cloning, sex in space, climate change, the nuclear arms race, Martian colonies and the search for extraterrestrials. In newspaper articles, short stories and more than 100 books, he explored these and other knotty human problems….

(22) BOVA FINDS. And let Tor.com contributor James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five SFF Authors Discovered by Ben Bova”. The second of these is —

John M. Ford’s first professionally published story was “This, Too, We Reconcile,” published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1976. In it, a telepath is hired to read the mind of a martyr to determine if the dead man saw anything of the afterlife as he died and if so, what that afterlife is like. Rather alarmingly, the telepath is the second person hired for the job, his predecessor having committed suicide immediately after reading the martyr’s mind. This has all the earmarks of a task from which one should flee posthaste, but unluckily for our protagonist, his diligence outweighs his prudence.

This is admittedly a minor Ford, which may explain why it was never collected in either of the two Ford collections, From the End of the Twentieth Century (1997), and Heat of Fusion and Other Stories (2004). Nor has it been included in any anthology of which I am aware. Still, Bova saw enough in the story to help launch a career that lasted until Ford’s untimely death in 2006.

(23) HONESTY IS THE FUNNIEST POLICY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.]In “Honest Game Trailers: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” on YouTube, Fandom Games says even though you’re not playing Peter Parker, you can still fly through a very well-detailed New York City and (virtually) cause billions in property damage!

Also dropping today: In “Honest Trailers: Lost” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies sum up the six-season series by saying the characters asked so many questions in the show “The creators got tired of answering them” and that there was so much psychodrama “the writers room needed therapy.”

Fun fact:  the reason why the flight that crashed in show was Oceanic Airlines Flight 646 was that was the flight in the action film Executive Decision.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, Steve Davidson, Doug Ellis, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 11/5/20 007 Of Nine

(1) TO PATREON, OR NOT TO PATREON. Artist Emily Hare gives creators a lot to think about in “Should You Start A Patreon Page?”

Where To Start

Here are some questions I think would be useful for someone starting their Patreon page to ask themselves: 

Do I have a consistent style or theme?

Do I have a project to share?

Am I comfortable being held accountable for my output?

Have I got an engaged online following (small or large)

Do you want this to be full time or part time?

Are you a good teacher?

1. I believe number 1 is an important one. If you have a recognisable look to your work or always choose specific themes (like I nearly always stick with fantasy and fairytale type things) then this will help enormously. People who are paying you regularly will want to be paying for the thing they sign up for. So for instance, if they sign up for cute fluffy bunny art and then when they’re signed up you occasionally post erotic horror for example, then they will not stay a patron unless they happen to be interested in both those things. This is a very silly and extreme example, but you get my meaning! This doesn’t mean that someone doing more than one thing can’t have success with Patreon, but it is going to be much harder. Know your audience and be aware of why they are following you. Humans like the familiar and predictable. We are creatures of habit!…

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present William Gibson and Cat Rambo in a YouTube livestreamed reading on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 7 p.m. Eastern. Link forthcoming.

William Gibson

William Gibson is the author of Neuromancer and other novels, most recently Agency, a sequel to The Peripheral. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo is the author of over two hundred stories and four novels, including upcoming space opera, You Sexy Thing, from Tor Macmillan in 2021. Her novelette Carpe Glitter won a Nebula Award earlier this year. She lives, writes, and teaches in Seattle.

(3) NATURALLY. “‘Some Version of the Apocalypse Is Inevitable’” – Kara Swisher interviews Jeff VanderMeer for an episode of the New York Times’ “Sway.”Transcript available.

Kara Swisher

This is a perfect way to get into your books because you sort of are creating your own Area X there, I guess.

Jeff Vandermeer

Well, people have varying ideas about what Area X is. At the end of the day, Area X is a very natural, nice, beautiful place as long as you don’t stay there too long. But I think what it is that in Area X, at least by the rules of that fictional construct, people who are more attuned to their environment and more already integrated with it have less of an issue. So it’s just like almost a metaphorical or a more direct embodiment of what we see in the real world because what is somebody — like a few streets down, I saw someone the other day doing something very disturbing. They were spraying herbicide across all their dead leaves under their pine trees. Well, they’re also increasing their own possibility of cancer. So by not living in harmony, they’re also killing themselves to some degree. So that’s kind of what I’m getting at in part there, but I also think that it’s important for Area X to have its own ultimately unknowable purpose to the point where, even though I know most of it, there are things I don’t know too.

(4) RECUSAL. Horror Writers Association President sends a message:

(5) SMILING IN THE PUBLIC EYE. Men’sHealth may not be known for its comedy, but they have unfurled “99 Star Wars Jokes That Would Even Make Darth Vader Laugh”. I don’t promise the other 97 are as good as these —

Why didn’t any of Luke Skywalker’s marriages last?
He always followed Obi-Wan’s advice: “Use divorce, Luke.”

What was Lando’s nickname before he became a skilled pilot?
Crashdo.

(6) A BIRD IN THE HAND. Heroes & Icons reminds fans that “The Original Romulan Bird Of Prey Model From Star Trek Was Trashed”.

“Balance of Terror” remains one of the most important episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. After all, this was the tale that first introduced us to the Romulans. In the adventure, a Federation outpost located in the Romulan Neutral Zone comes under attack by a Romulan warship.

When filming began on “Balance of Terror,” producer Bob Justman placed a call to his ace up the sleeve — special effects designer Wah Chang. The uncredited artist was the brilliant creative mind behind the communicator, the Salt Vampire, the Tribbles and other iconic Trek costumes and props. Justman asked Chang to fabricate a new alien ship with a twist. He wanted something like a bird swooping down upon its enemy to wipe them out.

Chang did just that, decorating the underbelly of his Romulan Bird of Prey with a graphic fit for the hood of a vintage Pontiac Firebird. The model was put into action and became a vital part of the standout episode.

However, in a subsequent season, when another script called for the model to be pulled out of mothballs, a tragic fate had taken the bird from us.

Wah Chang was a non-union contractor. The Bird of Prey prop was returned to him after the production of “Balance of Terror.” Thinking it was a one-off use, Chang had disposed of the ship. After much back and forth, producers came to the revelation and determined the budget could not afford to rebuild the prop.

(7) HOLIDAY SPECIAL. Disney+ dropped a trailer for the Lego Star Wars Holiday Special.Begins streaming November 17.

“The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” reunites Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, Rose and the droids for a joyous feast on Life Day. Rey sets off on a new adventure with BB-8 to gain a deeper knowledge of the Force. At a mysterious Jedi Temple, she is hurled into a cross-timeline adventure through beloved moments in Star Wars cinematic history, coming into contact with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda, Obi-Wan and other iconic heroes and villains from all nine Skywalker saga films. But will she make it back in time for the Life Day feast and learn the true meaning of holiday spirit?

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1985 — Thirty-five years ago this month, Robert Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners was first published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. (There’s a limited edition of fifty copies done at the same time.) The cover art for the trade edition is by Michael Whelan. It might be considered a sequel to The Number of the Beast. Or not. David Langford in his White Dwarf review said, “ it’s Heinlein self-indulgence time again.” 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 82. His breakthrough series  was the Sixties’ “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” featured in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry, affecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1940 – Butch Honeck, 80.  Sculptor.  Guest of Honor at Archon 27, Capclave 2004, DucKon 13, Lunacon 48, ConClave XXX.  Archon Hall of Fame.  Magic Mountain bronze (with wife Susan Honeck), 1987 Chesley for Best Three-Dimensional; see here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1942 – Frank Gasperik.  Singer and storyteller.  With Leslie Fish a novella and a short story.  This FG memorial page from a Larry Niven Website produced by LN fans has a note by Jerry Pournelle, a portrait by Kelly Freas, and several links of which some worked when (4 a.m. PST, 5 Nov 20) I tried them; about filk music, see here.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carole Nelson Douglas, 76. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character. Great dearies, lovely premise. (CE) 
  • Born November 5, 1946 – Barry Gold, 74.  Famed among filkers, more widely active in Los Angeles fandom e.g. his 2017 Evans-Freehafer award (for service to LASFS the L.A. Science Fantasy Society, in his case over five decades).  With wife Lee Gold, Along Fantasy Way (Tom Digby Fan Guest of Honor Book for ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon), Alarums and Excursions (role-playing-game apa), Xenofilkia (filkzine).  Both in the Filk Hall of Fame, Interfilk Guests at OVFF 16 (Ohio Valley Filk Fest), Featured Filkers at Boskone 44.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 71. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1952 – Frankie Bailey, Ph.D., 68.  Professor, School of Criminal Justice, State University of NY at Albany.  Two novels for us; next door she has an essay in R. Lupoff’s One Murder at a Time, seven novels, shorter stories, nonfiction.  “The first speech I ever memorized was Patrick Henry’s fiery ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ – which I later recalled with some irony when I learned the truth about the founding fathers and slavery.  However, I am still a proud Virginian.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1958 – Gary Farber, 62.  Indispensable outspoken fan in the 1970s-1990s; fanzine Drift (“Have you got Gary Farber’s Drift?”).  See him as he was then (YouTube; special bonus appearances by other well-known fans of the time).  Today by his own statement largely gafiated although occasionally appearing here.  [JH]
  • Born November 5, 1960 Tilda Swinton, 60. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange… (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 59. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
  • Born November 5, 1966 – Erik V. Olson, 54.  Chaired SMOFcon 21 (SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” as Bruce Pelz said a joke – nonjoke – joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better), Capricon 31.  See him in this story of how the (eventually successful) bid for Aussiecon IV the 68th Worldcon started (and note that the author K. Buehler, in much the same way, later chaired CoNZealand the 78th).  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) ALL IN COLOR FOR ALL THE MARKET WILL BEAR. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Secret Origin: The History Of DC Comics, a 2010 documentary narrated by Ryan Reynolds and directed by Mac Carter.  This is a corporate history celebrating DC’s 75th anniversary.  Like a lot of corporate histories, the best part of it is the documentation. I didn’t realize so much footage of Siegel and Shuster from the 1930s survives.  The role of editors Mort Weisinger and Julie Schwartz is accurately described, including their origins in sf fandom of the 1930s.  There’s even an uncredited photo of L. Sprague de Camp.

Best line:  Neil Gaiman says that he told his high school guidance counselor, “I want to write American comics” and the counselor said, “Have you ever considered accountancy?”

I didn’t really learn anything from this documentary but I thought it was well-made and interesting and a good use of 90 minutes.

(12) PHONE HOME. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Saw it earlier today while there, took a picture of the cover, decided to borrow it… Hope Rides Again (Obama Biden Mysteries, #2)  by Andrew Shaffer:

“In the sequel to the New York Times best-selling novel Hope Never Dies, Obama and Biden reprise their roles as BFFs-turned-detectives as they chase Obama’s stolen cell phone through the mean streets of Chicago–and right into a vast conspiracy.”

(13) TALKING ANIMALS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Beastars Season 2.

Next year, BEASTARS returns with a brand-new season full of mystery, suspense, and never before seen beasts. Are you ready?

(14) KRAMER NEMESIS LOSES ELECTION. The Georgia county District Attorney who prosecuted Ed Kramer on various charges over the past decade, including child molestation, lost his re-election bid this week. (Kramer is a co-founder of Dragon Con, but has not been a co-owner since 2013.)

“After nearly 30 years in office, Danny Porter is out as Gwinnett County elects its first Black DA” reports the Gwinnett (GA) Daily Post.

DA Danny Porter had held the office for nearly 30 years, going back to 1992. His bid to serve one more term in the office came up short on Tuesday, however, after he was defeated by his Democratic challenger Patsy Austin-Gatson.

… Austin-Gatson, who is one of several Democrats and people of color who were ushered into office by voters on Tuesday, will make Gwinnett history as the county’s first Black district attorney.

The county also elected its first Black sheriff.

Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader, a co-defendant with Ed Kramer in a computer trespass case, had already been turned out of office by an election held in August

(15) POWER CHORD. “Great Scott! This Custom BACK TO THE FUTURE Bass Guitar Rocks” says Nerdist.

Back to the Future is, fittingly, quite timeless. It’s a perfect movie with an amazing premise. It also rocks. Not only does Marty bust out an amazing version of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” but the film features two of the best songs in the history of cinema: Alan Silvestri’s theme and Huey Lewis’s “Power of Love.” And we want to hear all three tracks performed with one of the coolest instruments ever made. Because great Scott! This Time Machine Bass guitar inspired by Doc Brown’s DeLorean is heavy.

And it was built to help out Michael J. Fox’s charity.

(16) ARCHEOMUPPETRY. “The Land of Gorch: The Forgotten Muppets Sketch That Ran During SNL’s First Season”. Forgotten is right. I watched that first season when I was in college, and sure don’t remember this.

When NBC executives decided to take a chance on Lorne Michaels’s live sketch comedy show in 1975, they were a little wary about what the budding young producer might actually end up airing. So they worked some safe territory into the contract—namely, Jim Henson and the Muppets.

Henson and Michaels shared a manager (Bernie Brillstein), and the collaboration seemed promising at first. Henson was looking to broaden his work beyond Sesame Street; and Michaels, already a Henson fan, “wanted as many different styles of comedy as [he] could possibly have.”

For his weekly sketch, Henson dreamed up “the Land of Gorch,” a mystical, craggy kingdom populated with creatures that scholar Jennifer Stoessner later described as “scaly, bloated, and licentious.” Among them were: the bombastic King Ploobis; his simpering wife, Queen Peuta, and their ne’er-do-well son, Wisss; a mistress named Vazh; a bumbling henchman named Scred; and the Mighty Favog, an omnipotent god-like oracle. Together, they tackled sex, drugs, and other adult themes.

Video linked from the article.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “STAR WARS Meets INDIANA JONES in Epic Fan Film”Nerdist points the way.

George Lucas drew upon two distinct styles of classic Saturday matinee serials when creating his two epics, Star Wars and Indiana JonesStar Wars’ inspiration is straight from the Flash Gordon outer space adventures, while mostly forgotten films like Secret of the Incas inspired Indy. Now, one fan has found a way to bring those two distinct worlds together. Filmmaker Phil Hawkins has created the most expensive fan film yet, with Star Wars: Origins. Blending the styles and storylines of both worlds, it’s the mashup you never knew you needed until now.

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