The title is longer than today’s Scroll!
(1) REGRESS REPORT. Michael Dirda says his heaps are still sparking joy: “Clutter, says who? College essays, letters from Stephen King and Tucker Carlson: I’m keeping (almost) all of it” in the Washington Post.
As we close out the last week of turbulent 2020, there are 15 boxes stacked precariously on a couch in the small living room of this house. There are another 20 or so identical boxes crammed floor-to-ceiling in a dark corner of the basement. All of them contain what I refer to grandiosely as “my papers.”By that I mean a lifetime’s accumulation of letters, newspaper clippings, reporter’s notebooks, photocopied articles, three-ring binders, file folders, photographs, ID cards and driver’s licenses, magazines and journals (Gramophone, The Armchair Detective, Studies in Bibliography), drafts of short stories and poems — and even a few elementary school compositions and college essays. Everything has been stashed away higgledy-piggledy, a system that I’ve been known to rationalize by murmuring a line from poet Wallace Stevens: “A great disorder is an order.”
But I’m done with that. Having devoted chunks of this plague year to sorting and culling my books, I now face the more daunting task of weeding through all this memorabilia and paper clutter….
(2) REAL STINKERS. In The Guardian, columnist Louise Candlish has a particular character type in mind as she lists her “Top 10 most dislikable characters in fiction“ (literary fiction, that is). One genre work makes the cut for a group of characters (counted as a single entry for the author’s purpose)—Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Top 10 most dislikable characters in fiction”.
3. The other children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
One way of signalling who your hero is in a children’s book is to make every other child deeply detestable. The Oompa Loompas explain far better than I can the vices of Charlie’s rivals: Veruca Salt is “the little brute”; Augustus Gloop is “unutterably vile”; and Violet Beauregarde is “some repulsive little bum”. Square-eyed Mike Teavee is the least offensive, so we’ll be kind and spare him.
(3) DOOM OBIT. “Rapper MF Doom dies at 49, wife says”. He styled himself after Doctor Doom and was a noted fan of comic books. The Chicago Tribune pays homage:
… Now calling himself MF Doom and wearing a metal mask inspired by the Marvel Comics villain Dr. Doom, Dumile released “Operation: Doomsday” in 1999. Produced by Dumile himself under the pseudonym Metal Fingers, the album couldn’t have been more out of step with hip-hop’s mainstream; featuring Dumile’s signature plainspoken flow and head-spinning volleys of intricate internal rhymes, off-the-wall cultural references and non-sequiturs, the album gained him a sizable cult following.
(4) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- December 31, 1987 — On this day in India, Superman premiered. It produced and directed by B. Gupta. The film stars Dharam Singh Deol more commonly known as Dharmendra, Puneet Issar, Sonia Sahni and Ranjeeta Kaur. Puneet Issar plays the role of Superman. It was not sanctioned by Warner Brothers., nor did they sue. It was unbelievably bad according to the critics who reviewed it, and yes you can watch it here as Warner Brothers doesn’t seem to care.
(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- December 31, 1995: The last new Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip was published.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born December 31, 1872 – Edith Olivier. The first Lady Mayor of Wilton. Decorated for her service during World War II. A novel and three shorter stories for us, four other novels, nonfiction, memoirs, journals. In a chapter “Things Past Explaining” she recounts waking one summer night to hear a thud on the floor by her bed – an oldfashioned tennis racket. Her windows and door were closed. “If it was an apport by a passing spirit, I can only say that the sense of humour of those in another world is very different from ours.” (Died 1948) [JH]
- Born December 31, 1890 – Joe Sewell. Seventy interiors for “Riddles of Science” and “Scientific Mysteries” in Amazing. Those also serve who only sit and draw. (Died 1967) [JH]
- Born December 31, 1931 – Bob Shaw. One of the Wheels of IF i.e. Irish Fandom. Two Hugos, three FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards, as Best Fanwriter. Toastmaster at Seacon ’79 the 37th Worldcon and ConFederation the 44th. Brought to Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon by the BoSh Fund; to Aussiecon Two the 43rd Worldcon by the Shaw Fund. Co-author of The Enchanted Duplicator which you can see here. You can also see “Fansmanship”. Rebel Award – lived variously in the U.K. and U.S. Doc Weir Award (U.K.; service). In fact this is all BoSh as you can see. (Died 1996) [JH]
- Born December 31, 1943 — Ben Kingsley, 77. Speaking of Kipling, he voiced Bagherra in the live action adaptation that Disney did of The Jungle Book. He was also in Iron Man 3 as Trevor Slattery, a casting not well received. He’s The Hood in Thunderbirds (directed by Frakes btw), Charles Hatton in A Sound of Thunder and Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, the third of three great popcorn films. (CE)
- Born December 31, 1945 — Connie Willis, 75. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses even me, someone who isn’t generally impressed as you know by Awards! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the Dog, Doomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there. (CE)
- Born December 31, 1949 — Ellen Datlow, 71. Let’s get start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which yes , I know it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories for them from time to time. If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site. Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor there, something she’s also done at Nightmare Magazine, Omni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzineandSubterranean Magazine. (CE)
- Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz, Ph.D., age 71. A score of novels, threescore shorter stories. Half a dozen anthologies. Essays, introductions and afterwords, letters, reviews in Analog, Ares, SF Review, SFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America), Thrust. Interviewed by Darrell Schweitzer and Lesley McBain. Unable to resist writing “A Neopro’s Guide to Fandom and Con-Dom” for the Noreascon Three Souvenir Book (47th Worldcon) but made up for it with “Appreciating Esther Friesner” for Millennium Philcon the 59th, hello Susan. [JH]
- Born December 31, 1953 — Jane Badler, 67. I first encountered her on the Australian-produced Mission Impossible where she played Shannon Reed for the two seasons of that superb series. She’s apparently best known as Diana, the main antagonist on V, but I never saw any of that series being overseas at the time. She shows up in the classic Fantasy Island, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, Bitch, Popcorn & Blood and Virtual Revolution. (CE)
- Born December 31, 1958 — Bebe Neuwirth, 62. Ok she’s had but one television SF credit to her name which is playing a character named Lanel in the “First Contact” episode of the Next Gen series during season four but I found a delightful genre credential for her. From April 2010 to December 2011, she was Morticia Addams in the Broadway production of The Addams Family musical! The show itself is apparently still ongoing. (CE)
- Born December 31, 1959 — Val Kilmer, 61. Lead role in Batman Forever where I thought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the not terribly well conceived reboot of Knight Rider. Best role? Ahhh that’d be Doc Holliday in Tombstone. (CE)
- Born December 31, 1967 – Cynthia Leitich Smith, age 53. This Muskogee Creek Nation author with a Univ. Michigan law degree was just given the first Katherine Paterson Chair at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and the Neustadt Prize. A score of novels, young-adult, and children’s books, some comic, some fantastic (half a dozen for us), some realistic; essays, short stories, poetry, not to omit “A Real-Live Blonde Cherokee and His Equally Annoyed Soul Mate” in L. Carson ed., Moccasin Thunder. [JH]
- Born December 31, 1982 – Remus Simian. (There should be, but the software won’t allow it, a cedilla under the S of Simian, indicating a sound like s in English sure.) One story, and that passably strange, in Paradox, the magazine of the H.G. Wells SF Society of Timisoara (that s should have a cedilla), Banat, Romania, twin club of the U.K. Phoenicians and thus of its successor the Northumberland Heath SF Group, all part of the Science Fact & Science Fiction Conctatenation – they use a superscript, I don’t know if they’d accept SF**2. (Died 2004) [JH]
(7) COMICS SECTION.
- Ziggy has a holiday traveler’s waking nightmare.
(8) TWENTY-TWENTY TV VISION. Thrillist calls these the “Best Fantasy & Sci-Fi TV Shows of 2020: Our Favorite Series This Year”. First on the list:
The Boys (Amazon Prime)
Season 2. 8 episodes.
The Boys, already the savviest show about the state of pop culture, went even darker and harder in its second season. Despite operating in the same genre as Marvel and DC, The Boys is less about world saving and more about greedy corporate entities that trade on public fears in order to sell their product—the product in this case being superheroes. This batch of episodes introduced You’re the Worst‘s Aya Cash as a no-bullshit feminist using the language of women’s rights for her own evil aims, a fucked up narrative not just there for shock value: It gets to the root of something genuinely insidious in the entertainment industry.—Esther Zuckerman
(9) IN A HURRY. “Long-distance quantum teleportation is now possible, meaning quantum internet” says SYFY Wire.
Raise your hand if you ever wanted to get beamed onto the transport deck of the USS Enterprise. Maybe we haven’t reached the point of teleporting entire human beings yet (sorry Scotty), but what we have achieved is a huge breakthrough towards quantum internet.
Led by Caltech, a collaborative team from Fermilab, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Harvard University, the University of Calgary and AT&T have now successfully teleported qubits (basic units of quantum info) across almost 14 miles of fiber optic cables with 90 percent precision. This is because of quantum entanglement, the phenomenon in which quantum particles which are mysteriously “entangled” behave exactly the same even when far away from each other….
(10) SPARE THE CREDENTIAL. “A snake bit my cat. Clearing out my bank accounts to save him was an easy choice” in the Washington Post is a moving article by the author of The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
…Rocky is a great hunter, and for years he brought us gifts: birds (dead and alive), rabbits (dead and alive), lizards (dead) and ground squirrels (alive, always, and so hard to catch). At 19 pounds, Rocky is big enough that a friend once mistook him for a bobcat. Such sightings are not uncommon where we live, on the edge of the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. The danger of that terrain jolted me on a recent Friday, when I got a text from a neighbor accompanied by a picture of a baby Western diamondback rattlesnake. “Rocky thinks this is a toy,” she wrote.
I raced out the door, calling his name, my heart thumping, fearful of losing him in a year already marked by too much loss. Rocky emerged from behind a creosote bush and rushed toward me. As I scanned his body, I saw puncture wounds behind his left digits.
We have human health insurance but not pet insurance. I didn’t hesitate to give my credit card number to the animal hospital’s desk attendant, who asked for it as a condition of admitting him that night, when his left paw was already swollen as big as the head of a golf club. Four doses of antivenin, several blood tests to check his clotting time, three nights at the hospital, plus who-knows-what-else-because-I-lost-track brought the total to $6,200….
(11) CATS AND ELIOT. Before there was music, there were words….
So Cats was a weird movie, huh? Join me, Maggie Mae Fish (and my alternate cat personality), as I explore the weird origins of Cats in the poetry (and warped mind) of TS Eliot.
(12) FIRE WHEN READY. “Amateur Batman Builds His Own Wrist Mounted Grappling Gun” – Gizmodo will show it to you.
A childhood spent obsessing over Batman’s wonderful toys eventually transitions to a disappointing adulthood where you realize those gadgets just can’t exist in real life, even with a billion-dollar budget. That hasn’t stopped many from trying, and JT from YouTube’s Built IRL has come closer than most at recreating Batman’s grappling gun….
(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Camestros Felapton arrived in 2021 almost a whole day ahead of File 770. Not only has he survived the impact (so far), he sent his readers a video from the future:
[Thanks to JJ, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, N., John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Jeff Smith, Todd Mason, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]