Pixel Scroll 9/12/21 The Old File-Hidden-In-The-Pixel-Scroll Trick

(1) THE TROUBLE WITH KIBBLES. With Camestros Felapton 63 chapters into Debarkle, a chronicle of how the Sad/Rabid Puppies were the sff genre’s reflection of broader right-wing movements, John Scalzi shares his own retrospective “Thoughts on the ‘Debarkle’” at Whatever.

1. It really does seem like so long ago now. The nonsense the Sad/Rabid Puppies (henceforth to be referred to as “the Pups”) perpetrated is largely contained in the years of 2014 – 2016, and while that’s not actually all that long ago — a mere five years since MidAmericon II, where new Hugo nomination rules were ratified to minimize slate nominating, and NK Jemisin won the first of her three consecutive Best Novel Hugo Awards — it feels like a distant memory now, a kind of “oh, yeah, that happened,” sort of event.

There are reasons for that, but I think the largest part has to do with the fact that the Pups, simply and bluntly, failed at every level that was important for their movement. The bifurcated goals of the Pups were to champion science fiction with a certain political/cultural point of view (i.e., largely white, largely conservative), and to destroy the Hugos by flooding the nominations with crap. They did neither very well. Toward the former, the material they slated was largely not very good, and with respect to the latter, the Hugos both still persist and remain a premier award in the field.

Their strategy was bad because it was addressing a problem that largely did not exist and was arrived at in a backward fashion, and their tactics were bad because they exploited loopholes and antagonized everyone who was not part of their clique, activating thousands of dormant Hugo voters against them. They were routed through a simple mechanism for which they had not accounted (“No Award”), and once their slating tactic was blunted by a nomination rule change, they flounced entirely.

When your only track record is that of complete failure, it’s not surprising you don’t have much of an impact….

John Lorentz says in a comment there:

As the 2015 Hugo Administrator, I can tell you that five years (or six years since it affected me directly), is not nearly enough to for me to forget it.

I used to enjoy administering the Hugos (I’ve done it four times)–2015 was a shit show that destroyed any joy I had regarding the Hugos. in the long run, the Puppies didn’t affect the field, but they sure affected me.

Also:

It was, however, the only thing I’ve ever been involved with that has show up both as a question on Jeopardy and a song on Doctor Demento.

So there’s that.

(2) WHOSE FAULT? Paul Weimer finds more than he expected, as he explains in his review for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings”.

…Like that original story, and like the other stories in that anthology by other authors, the central characters in the universe that Jennings has constructed here and the central characters are women (and note the name of Velocity’s ship). Given the preponderance of men as leads of a lot of space opera to this day, Jennings’ work is a refreshing rebalancing of that. The novel is a two-hander, with Velocity Wrachant, captain and owner of the Susan Calvin, and Brontë, a young woman who is far more than she first appears.

The story’s point of view focus on both Velocity and Brontë, although we do not see the latter’s point of view until her hijacking, and even then, it is initially months in the past. I didn’t like her at first: after all, she HAD hijacked Velocity’s ship, and I thought at first that the flashbacks from her point of view were merely to flesh her out and give us perspective and point of view to sympathize with her, however grudgingly so. As the back half of the narrative continued to build and events in the present continued, I saw the careful crafting of plot, and the central mystery at the heart of Fault Lines….

(3) HANNA MEMORIES. Joseph Nicholas penned The Guardian’s “Judith Hanna obituary”.

During her 30 years of working for a range of campaigning bodies and NGOs, my wife, Judith Hanna, who has died aged 67 of liver cancer, saw concern about the environment go from a fringe issue for community activists to a mainstream subject with a professionalised career structure.

Her life and career embodied the principle of “being the change you want to see”, through such local activities as organising annual seed swaps, promoting community gardens, calling for traffic calming measures in residential streets and, at national level, working for nuclear disarmament and better public transport. In her final role, as a social evidence principal specialist at Natural England, she promoted the now widely accepted health benefits of everyday contact with the natural world….

(4) BOLTS FROM THE BLUE. In the Future Tense newsletter, Torie Bosch says “We need a Muppet version of Frankenstein”.

On Aug. 30, my heart broke a tiny bit.

That day, the Guardian published a remarkable interview with Frank Oz, Jim Henson’s longtime collaborator and the puppeteer behind Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and other classic Muppets. Oz hasn’t been involved with the Muppets since 2007, three years after Disney purchased the franchise. He tells the Guardian: “I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me, and Sesame Street hasn’t asked me for 10 years. They don’t want me because I won’t follow orders and I won’t do the kind of Muppets they believe in. He added of the post-Disney Muppet movies and TV shows: “The soul’s not there. The soul is what makes things grow and be funny. But I miss them and love them.” As a lifelong Muppets fan, I have to agree: There were delightful moments in the Muppet reboots of recent years, but they were a little too pale, the chaos and the order a little too calculated.

But I think that there’s a way to bring the Muppets back, one that could also—and here comes the Future Tense agenda—help spark smart  discussions about scientific ethics, especially around what it means to be human and how to approach innovation responsibly. We need Frank Oz to helm a Muppet Frankenstein….

(5) I AM THE FIRE. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova discusses “Einstein’s Dreams: Physicist Alan Lightman’s Poetic Exploration of Time and the Antidote to the Anxiety of Aliveness”.

“When you realize you are mortal,” the poet, painter, and philosopher Etel Adnan wrote while regarding a mountain, “you also realize the tremendousness of the future.” A decade earlier, shortly before a heart attack severed her life-time, Hannah Arendt observed in her superb Gifford Lectures lectures on the life of the mind that our finitude, “set in an infinity of time stretching into both past and future, constitutes the infrastructure, as it were, of all mental activities.” While Arendt was composing these thoughts and silent cells were barricading one of her arteries, Ursula K. Le Guin was composing her novelistic inquiry into what it means to live responsibly, observing: “If time and reason are functions of each other, if we are creatures of time, then we had better know it, and try to make the best of it.” A generation before her, Borges had formulated the ultimate declaration of our temporal creatureliness, declaring: “Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”…

(6) SCANNERS IN VAIN. Tony Lewis, reporting on behalf of the NESFA Press in Instant Message #979, told about some problems encountered with their republication of Zenna Henderson’s Ingathering: The Complete People Stories collection.

An Amazon customer who bought our Ingathering ebook reported 58 typos in it. Amazon took down the book, which had been on sale for a year, until we could fix the typos. A number of NESFA Press proofers have spent the past three weeks going over the Ingathering ebook. We have found more than 400 typos, nearly all caused by unproofed OCR used to create the ebook. We also found that approximately 20 of those 400+ typos existed in the original hardcover. This proofing project is expected to be finished the week after the August Business Meeting.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

1976 — Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon where Wilson Tucker was the Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win the the Best Novella Hugo for “Home is The Hangman”. It was published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, the November 1975 issue. The other nominated works were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle, “ARM” by Larry Niven, “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper. It would also win a Nebula Award. It’s in one of the three stories in My Name is Legion which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1897 — Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the main writer of the pulp character The Shadow. He used the pen-name Maxwell Grant, wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 12, 1914 Desmond Llewelyn. He’s best known for playing Q in 17 of the Bond films over thirty-six years. Truly amazing. Live and Let Die is the only one in the period where Q was not in it. He worked with five Bonds, to wit Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Other genre appearances include The Adventures of Robin Hood, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeThe Curse of the Werewolf and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 12, 1921 Stanislaw Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. The latest film made off a work of his is the 2018 His Master’s Voice (Glos Pana In Polish). The usual suspects have generous collections of his translated into English works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.) [Note: In three instances “L” has been substituted because WordPress doesn’t support the correct special character.]
  • Born September 12, 1922 John Chambers. He’s best known for designing Spock’s  pointed ears, and for the prosthetic make-up work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Some of those character creations, including Cornelius and Dr. Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at the Science Fiction Museum. He worked on the MunstersOuter LimitsLost in SpaceMission Impossible, Night Gallery and I-Spy along with uncredited (at the time) prosthetic makeup work on Blade Runner. (Died 2001.)
  • Born September 12, 1940 John Clute, 81. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read in digital form) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) that I use every day for these Birthdays, and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
  • Born September 12, 1942 Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” story garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye novella. It would also be nominated for a Hugo at SunCon. And the “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”.  The usual suspects have an outstanding selection of his works including Nightmare Seasons and Shadows, another excellent  collection. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1952 Kathryn Anne Ptacek Grant, 69. Widow of Charles L. Grant. She has won two Stoker Awards. If you’re into horror. Her Gila! novel is a classic of that genre, and No Birds Sings is an excellent collection of her short stories. Both are available from the usual suspects.  
  • Born September 12, 1962 Mary Kay Adams, 59. She was Na’Toth, a Narn who was the aide to G’Kar in the second season of Babylon 5, and she would show up as the Klingon Grilka in the episodes “The House of Quark” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” in Deep Space Nine. Her first genre role is actually an uncredited role in The Muppets Take Manhattan. No idea what it is. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SHORTS SUBJECT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a piece about the “masterpieces” John Oliver is lending to museums in return for a $10,000 grant.  He talks to the heads of the Judy Garland Museum and the Cartoon Art Museum and how the Garland Museum said they could only accept the paintings if the mousehood of the “vermin-love-watercolor-on-paper” drawing by Brian Swords of nude cartoon mice was covered up. “John Oliver is helping museums through the pandemic — by lending them rat erotica”.

Melanie Jacobson was on the hunt for covid-relief cash in October when she happened to flip to HBO. As fortune would have it, “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver was announcing a contest to offer financial help to museums in need. The catch was, they had to be willing to exhibit his freshly acquired collection of three “masterpiece” paintings: a still-life of ties,a portrait of TV host Wendy Williams eating a lamb chop, plus— his “pièce de résistance” — amorous rats in the buff.Jacobson is a board member for theJudy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn. — right where a star was born. Her catch was, the institutionshares a building with the very G-rated Children’s Discovery Museum, which meant that “I knew we would not be able to show the rat painting with certain private parts,” she said by phone this week.

So with blessing from board leadership, Jacobson submitted a proposal to the “Last Week Tonight” contest with one stipulation, she recalled: “I’m going to have to put pants on the rat.” ….

(11) NOT FOR MUGGLES. Thrillist wants to be sure you’re getting enough genre-related calories. “Dairy Queen Secret Menu: You Can Get a Butterbeer Blizzard Inspired by Harry Potter”.

We’re still flying high off the news of Dairy Queen’s fall Blizzard lineup. After all, the Pumpkin Pie is back, folks. But it’s not the only flavor on our radar as of late. In fact, DQ employee-slash-TikToker @thedairyqueenking shared a secret menu item that’s going to wow Harry Potter fans.

The soft serve insider took to the video-sharing platform with the chain’s hush, hush Butterbeer Blizzard, which boasts vanilla syrup, butterscotch syrup, Butterfinger pieces, and a healthy swirl of whipped cream topping, mirroring the fan-favorite beverage from the books….

(12) A SCRAPBOOK OF CASES. In an article composed of various incidents and testimonies, The Guardian wonders whether it is time to take reports about UFOs and aliens more seriously: “’What I saw that night was real’: is it time to take aliens more seriously?”

…But Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator for the Ministry of Defence, is not convinced and thinks that Godfrey is genuine. “He had a lot to potentially lose by coming out with this and yet stuck to his guns.”

Doesn’t a hallucination explain what he saw? “I get that people do have hallucinations, but they tend to be the result of either mental illness or some sort of hallucinogenic substance, and this guy was on duty and was, by all accounts, rational. And so those explanations don’t seem to apply – I’m stumped when it comes to that particular case. Ask yourself: how many times have you been tired and come to the end of a long day? We’ve all been in that situation, and we don’t suddenly construct bizarre narratives about spacecraft and aliens.”

Is it time to start taking these stories more seriously? “I’m not saying that I believe it’s literally true that these are alien spaceships,” says Pope. “But at the very least, these people who were previously disbelieved and ridiculed should be listened to and given a hearing….

(13) SWORD & SOUL. Flecher Vredenburgh takes “A Look at Milton Davis’ Changa’s Safari and the rest of the series at Goodman Games.

I started my blog, Stuff I Like, nearly eleven years ago with a plan of writing about swords & sorcery. When I reviewed “The City of Madness” by the late and greatly-missed Charles Saunders, I discovered he had co-edited a new story collection called Griots (2011). I bought it and found it to be one of the best batches of fantasy stories I’d read in years. It introduced me to the term sword & soul, as well as some very good writers, such as Carole McDonnell, P. Djeli Clark, and Milton Davis himself….

(14) CLASH OF THE TITANS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says the battle between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos over NASA contracts is getting increasingly personal, with Musk’s SpaceX ahead on technical issues but Bezos fighting back not only on NASA contracts awarded to Space X but also trying to block Space X’s plan to build thousands of small satellites for Internet communications. “Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back”.

For years, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have sparred over the performance of their rockets and space companies in a simmering feud that flared during a fight over who could use a NASA launchpad and which company was the first to successfully land a rocket.

But now the two billionaires, among the world’s richest men, are waging an increasingly bitter battle that pits two enormous business empires in clashes that are playing out in the courts, the Federal Communications Commission and the halls of Congress in what’s become one of the greatest business rivalries in a generation….

(15) THE MEANING OF NONLIFE. The New York Times’ Brian Ng considers, “Could Robots From Boston Dynamics Beat Me in a Fight?”

…Boston Dynamics has uploaded videos like this for more than a decade, cataloging the progress of its creations as they grow more lifelike, and more unsettling. One of its models is a robotic dog called Spot, with four legs and, sometimes, a “neck” topped with a camera “head” — an android’s best friend.

Although the company maintains that its creations are research projects, it does sell Spot and has leased one to the N.Y.P.D. It could have been used to accomplish tasks too risky for a living being, such as delivering food in a hostage situation or checking areas with high amounts of radiation. But its appearance accompanying police officers during an arrest in public housing sparked enough public backlash for its trial to be prematurely terminated. People found the robodog both wasteful and chilling, especially in the possession of the institution most likely to use force against them. It surely didn’t help that the robodog looked quite similar to the horrific killer machines in an episode of the show “Black Mirror” called “Metalhead” — probably because the show’s creator Charlie Brooker, who wrote the episode, was inspired by previous Boston Dynamics videos.

We can ask the same question of the Atlas: What is it for? The video only shows us what it can do. For now, the robots don’t want anything; apart from not falling over, they await a reason for being. The company says the goal is to create robots that can perform mundane tasks in all sorts of terrain, but the video contains no such tasks; we see only feats of agility, not the routine functions these robots would be back-flipping toward. Through this gap enter the tendrils of sinister speculation…..

(16) BOOKS IN SIGHT. Marie Powell’s adventures in castle-hopping across North Wales resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series, Last of the Gifted. Spirit Sight (Book 1) and Water Sight (Book 2). An omnibus volume of the two books is coming out in October. And the audiobook of Spirit Sight is available from Kindle, Amazon.ca, Audible, and Apple.

Two siblings pledge their magic to protect their people from the invading English, with the help of the last true Prince of Wales—after his murder.

Welsh warrior-in-training Hyw can control the minds of birds and animals.

His sister Catrin can see the future in a drop of water.

Now Hyw and Catrin must stretch their gifts to stand between their people and the ruthless army of Edward I (a.k.a. Longshanks). When the prince is slain, Hyw’s gift allows him to meld with the prince’s spirit, to guide them in fighting back against the English invaders.

This award-winning medieval fantasy combines magic, mythology, and historical legends with the realities of 13th Century Wales.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Joyce Scrivner, Cora Buhlert, Ruth Berman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The audience went wild.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The topics include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

A population made stupid by advertising

A brash president who used to be a wrestler

Crocs dominating the footwear landscape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 8/30/21 Riding Out On A Scroll In A Pixel-Spangled Rodeo

(1) DRAGON AWARDS DEADLINE. The deadline for requesting a ballot for the Dragon Awards is Friday. Their website says: “You may register to receive a ballot until 11:59 (EDT) on the Friday of Dragon Con”, which is September 3. Voting ends September 4.  The finalists are listed here.

(2) GET THE POINT. At the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Revel Grove, which is running weekends through October 24, the Anne Arundel County Department of Health is encouraging people to get Covid vaccinations by offering a souvenir pin.

HEAR YE! HERE YE! #LimitedEdition#VACCINATED for the Good of the Realm” pins when you get a #COVID19 shot at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in #Crownsville. #GoVAXMaryland

Revelers age12+ can get a #COVIDvaccine at the #Renaissance Festival weekends (through Oct. 24) 10am–6pm. No appointment required. For more vaccination locations, visit: covidvax.maryland.gov

(3) VARLEY HEALTH NEWS. Meanwhile, John Varley told readers of his blog that he and his partner Lee Emmett have contracted COVID-19. (Varley already had another major health issue earlier this year when he was hospitalized for heart bypass surgery.)

You do everything right, and still things go wrong. We are both double vaccinated and we’ve been masking up and social distancing since the pandemic began. Then last week after having lunch at a restaurant here in Vancouver where the vaccination rate is 54 percent we both started feeling very bad. Almost too weak to walk. I’ve been coughing horribly. Lee not so much, but neither of us have hardly been out of bed for almost week.

Went in to get tested, and sure enough. I’m positive for COVID-19. A so-called breakthrough case. They say symptoms will usually be milder. If this is milder, it’s easy to see why people are dying, unable to breathe. This is fucking terrible.

I don’t expect this is likely to kill us, but you never know. This short note is all the energy I have right now. You may not be hearing from us for a while. Wish us luck.

Stay safe and get vaccinated!!

(4) THINGS A CORPORATION CAN’T UNDERSTAND. Hadley Freeman interviews legendary puppeteer Frank Oz for the Guardian. Unsurprisingly, he, too, has issues with Disney: “Frank Oz on life as Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy and Yoda: ‘I’d love to do the Muppets again but Disney doesn’t want me’”.

…Oz, 77, is talking to me by video from his apartment. It is impossible to talk to him without frequent reference to Henson. When I ask if he lives in New York he says yes, and adds that he’s lived there since he was 19, “ever since Jim [Henson] asked me to come here to work with him on the Muppets”. He talks about himself as Henson’s No2 – the Fozzie Bear to Henson’s Kermit.

Yet is it possible that Oz has made more of an imprint on more people’s imaginations than Henson and the Beatles combined. Even aside from the Muppets and Sesame Street, where he brought to life characters including Cookie Monster, Grover, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle and Bert, he is also the voice of Yoda, and yes, he coined Yoda’s formal yet convoluted syntax, all “Speak like me, you must not” and so on. “It’s funny you ask about that because I was just looking at the original script of The Empire Strikes Back the other day and there was a bit of that odd syntax in it, but also it had Yoda speaking very colloquially. So I said to George [Lucas]: ‘Can I do the whole thing like this?’ And he said: ‘Sure!’ It just felt so right,” says Oz….

(5) MIGHTY IN THE ANTIPODES. The Guardian spotlights obscure Australian superhero movies: “From Captain Invincible to Cleverman: the weird and wild history of Australian superheroes”.

… The phrase “nobody makes superhero movies like Australia” has, I dare say, never before been written. Our humble government-subsidised film and TV industry is no more than a lemonade stand in the shadow of Hollywood’s arena spectacular, unable to compete budget-wise with the deep pockets of Tinseltown or produce bombast on the scale of American studios.

But scratch the surface of Australian film and TV history and you will find a small but rich vein of super strange locally made superhero productions with their own – forgive me – true blue je ne sais quoi. Their eclecticism and off-kilter energy provides a refreshing counterpoint to the risk-averse kind falling off the Hollywood assembly line.

The first port of call is the riotously entertaining 1983 action-comedy The Return of Captain Invincible, a stupendously odd and original movie that proved ahead of the curve in many respects. From Mad Dog Morgan director Philippe Mora, and co-writer Steven E. de Souza (who co-wrote Die Hard) the film stars Alan Arkin as the eponymous, ridiculous, frequently sozzled hero, drawn out of retirement to combat his nefarious super-villain nemesis (the great Christopher Lee) who has stolen a “hypno-ray” with which he can take over the world….

(6) TRILOGY CELEBRATED. Howard Andrew Jones continues his When The Goddess Wakes online book tour on Oliver Brackenbury’s So I’m Writing A Novel podcast (which Cora Buhlert recently featured in her Fancast Spotlight) — “Interview with Howard Andrew Jones”.

Author of the recently concluded Ring-Sworn trilogy, editor of the most excellent sword & sorcery magazine Tales of the Magician’s Skull, and teacher of a heroic fantasy writing class Oliver recently attended (the next session just opened to registration), Howard Andrew Jones has been a source of inspiration, knowledge, and encouragement for Oliver while our earnest podcast host has worked on his book.

(7) AGAINST ALL BOOKS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Works About Preserving or Destroying Books”. First on the list: Fahrenheit 451.

Recently, news went out that the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association is determined to reallocate the room currently occupied by the Clubs Library. Among the collections housed there: WatSFiC’s extensive science fiction and fantasy library, portions of which date back to the 1970s. One hopes that the library will find another home, or that other accommodations can be made before the collection is broken up or lost.

…Here are five works about books and libraries, their friends, and their bitter enemies.

This hits close to home because, says James, “I was watsfic treasurer for six terms.”

(8) HE DREW FROM THE WELL. Jack Chalker is remembered in this article at the Southern Maryland News: “Chalker literary career provided sci-fi fun”.

Sample reading list: “Well of Souls” series including “Midnight at the Well of Souls,” “Exiles at the Well of Souls,” “Quest for the Well of Souls,” “The Return of Nathan Brazil” and “Changewinds” books including “When the Changewinds Blow,” “Riders of the Winds” and “War of the Maelstrom.”

…His work won several Sci-Fi awards beginning with the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award in 1979, a Skylark Award (1980), a Daedalus Award (1983), and The Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books (1984).

While Chalker loved Sci-Fi, he also had a great interest in ferryboats; so much so that he was married on the Roaring Bull boat, part of the Millersburg Ferry, in the middle of the Susquehanna River and then after his death had his ashes scattered off a ferry near Hong Kong, a ferry in Vietnam, and White’s Ferry on the Potomac River. His fans follow each other www.facebook.com/JackLChalker.

(9) GETTING READY. You could hardly ask for a more prepared Guest of Honor!

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, Raiders of The Lost Ark wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon IV where Marta Randall was Toastmaster.  It was, I think, a great year for Hugo nominated films as the other nominations were Dragonslayer, Excalibur, Outland and Time Bandits.  It would be the first of the two films in the franchise to win a Hugo as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would also win at ConFiction. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 30, 1797 – Mary Shelley. Author of Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818), her first novel. Another of Shelley’s novels, The Last Man (1826), concerns Europe in the late 21st century, ravaged by a mysterious pandemic illness that rapidly sweeps across the entire globe, ultimately resulting in the near-extinction of humanity. Scholars call it one of the first pieces of dystopian fiction published. (Died 1851) (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1896 Raymond Massey. In 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own novel The Shape of Things to Come. Other than several appearances on Night Gallery forty years later, that’s it for genre appearances. (Died 1983.)
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 78. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II. Asimov wrote an introduction for her book Pennterra and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series. Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on EarthTime, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects.
  • Born August 30, 1943 Robert Crumb, 78. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as genre but that’s a very generous definition of genre.
  • Born August 30, 1955 Mark Kelly. He maintains the indispensable Science Fiction Awards Database, which we consult almost daily. He wrote reviews for Locus in the Nineties, then founded the Locus Online website in 1997 and ran it single-handedly for 20 years, along the way winning the Best Website Hugo (2002). Recently he’s devised a way to use his awards data to rank the all-time “Top SF/F/H Short Stories” and “Top SF/F/H Novelettes”. Kelly’s explanation of how the numbers are crunched is here. (OGH)
  • Born August 30, 1955 Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Threads magazine. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 30, 1963 Michael Chiklis, 58. He was The Thing in two first Fantastic Four films, and Jim Powell on the the No Ordinary Family series which I’ve never heard of.  He was on American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show as Dell Toledo. The following year he was cast as Nathaniel Barnes, in the second season of Gotham, in a recurring role. And he voiced Lt. Jan Agusta in Heavy Gear: The Animated Series
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 56. She was an executive producer of the short-lived Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like. 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 49. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she was cast as an uncredited Bus passenger in Minority Report. (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1980 Angel Coulby, 41. She is best remembered for her recurring role as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived animated Thunderbirds Are Go series.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) DEADLY CONSEQUENCES. “Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future, and 2021’s extreme heat”, Rebecca Onion’s Q&A with the author starts with his book’s intense beginning.

“I feel like my circles have divided between those who’ve read the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future and those who haven’t,” wrote novelist Monica Byrne on Twitter earlier this month. This book, by beloved science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson, came out in 2020, and has haunted my summer in 2021. Ministry opens in a small city in Uttar Pradesh, India, where the character Frank May, an American who works for an unidentified NGO, just barely survives an extreme heat wave that kills millions of people in the country. This opening is so viscerally upsetting that, for days after reading it, I worried at it in my mind, turning it over, trying—and failing—to get it to go away.

Rebecca Onion: This opening brutalized me. (And I know I’m not alone.) I read it without any preparation—I hadn’t been warned—and it gave me insomnia, dominated my thoughts, and led me to put the book down for a few months. Then I picked it back up and found that the remainder of it is actually quite optimistic, for a book about a rolling series of disasters! What were you aiming for, when it comes to readerly emotional response, in starting the book this way?

Kim Stanley Robinson: I wanted pretty much the response you described. Fiction can put people through powerful imaginative experiences; it generates real feelings. So I knew the opening scene would be hard to read, and it was hard to write. It wasn’t a casual decision to try it. I felt that this kind of catastrophe is all too likely to happen in the near future. That prospect frightens me, and I wanted people to understand the danger….

Robinson also tried a different approach, the carrot instead of the stick, in this TED Talk in July: “Kim Stanley Robinson: Remembering climate change … a message from the year 2071”.

Coming to us from 50 years in the future, legendary sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson tells the “history” of how humanity ended the climate crisis and restored the damage done to Earth’s biosphere. A rousing vision of how we might unite to overcome the greatest challenge of our time.

(14) SAND, NOT DUNE. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer checks out “6 Books with John Appel”, author of Assassin’s Orbit.

4. A book that you love and wish that you yourself had written.

I’d give up a redundant organ to have written Roger Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand, about a young man named Fred Cassidy whose uncle left him a generous stipend as long as he pursues a college degree – a process which Fred has stretched out for over a decade. Fred gets caught up in the disappearance of an alien artifact on loan to Earth as part of a cultural exchange and hijinks ensue. Fred’s narration of events is done with incredibly deadpan hilariousness and at times a Douglas Adams-esque absurdity, and Zelazny’s usual brilliant touch with language and imagery. 

(15) MANIFEST’S DESTINY. Whacked by NBC, the show will get to finish its story elsewhere reports USA Today. “’Manifest’: Netflix revives drama for fourth and final season”.

We haven’t heard the last of the passengers of Flight 828. 

Netflix announced the popular TV series “Manifest” will return for its fourth and final season. The news came Saturday (8/28) in a nod at the show’s plot which centers around the mysterious Montego Air Flight 828. 

The drama follows a group of passengers who land on what seems like a routine flight from Jamaica back to the states. However, once the wheels touch the tarmac the travelers deplane into a world that has aged five years since when they first boarded. 

(16) CHINA CUTS DOWN VIDEO GAMING. Not quite a Prohibition yet: “Three hours a week: Play time’s over for China’s young video gamers”Reuters has the story.

China has forbidden under-18s from playing video games for more than three hours a week, a stringent social intervention that it said was needed to pull the plug on a growing addiction to what it once described as “spiritual opium”.

The new rules, published on Monday, are part of a major shift by Beijing to strengthen control over its society and key sectors of its economy, including tech, education and property, after years of runaway growth.

The restrictions, which apply to any devices including phones, are a body blow to a global gaming industry that caters to tens of millions of young players in the world’s most lucrative market….

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Dann, Mlex, Red Panda Fraction, Michael J. Walsh, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Dann.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/21 The Scrolls Are Lovely, Dark And Deep, But I Have Pixels To Keep

(1) SANDBAGGING GOODREADS FOR RANSOM. TIME probes “Goodreads’ Problem With Extortion Scams and Review Bombing”.

A few months after posting a message on Goodreads about the imminent release of a new book, Indie author Beth Black woke up to an all-caps ransom email from an anonymous server, demanding that she either pay for good reviews or have her books inundated with negative ones: “EITHER YOU TAKE CARE OF OUR NEEDS AND REQUIREMENTS WITH YOUR WALLET OR WE’LL RUIN YOUR AUTHOR CAREER,” the email, shared with TIME, read. “PAY US OR DISAPPEAR FROM GOODREADS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.”

Black, who has self-published both a romance novel and a collection of short stories in the past year, didn’t pay the ransom. “I reported it to Goodreads and then a couple hours later, I started noticing the stars dropping on my books as I started getting all these 1-star reviews,” she says. “It was quite threatening.”

Scammers and cyberstalkers are increasingly using the Goodreads platform to extort authors with threats of “review bombing” their work–and they are frequently targeting authors from marginalized communities who have spoken out on topics ranging from controversies within the industry to larger social issues on social media.

… Goodreads remains one of the primary tools on the internet for book discovery, meaning lesser-known authors often have to rely on the site to get their work noticed. But at this point, some feel that Goodreads’ ratings and reviews system is causing more harm than good.

In a July 29 statement to TIME, a spokesperson for Goodreads said that the company is actively working to resolve many of these review bombing problems.

“We take swift action to remove users when we determine that they violate our guidelines, and are actively assessing all available options to take further action against the small number of bad actors who have attempted extortion scams,” the statement read. “We have clear guidelines for reviews and participation in our community, and we remove reviews and/or accounts that violate these guidelines… We also continue to invest in making technology improvements to prevent bad actor behavior and inauthentic reviews in order to better safeguard our community.”

Review bombing, ransom emails and extortion

As author Rin Chupeco told TIME, Goodreads is a “good idea that slowly became unmanageable over the years due to lack of adequate moderation and general indifference.”

One emerging issue is review bombing: when a coordinated group, or a few people with multiple accounts, intentionally tank a book’s aggregate rating with a flurry of one-star ratings and negative reviews….

.. But Black isn’t the only author to be targeted. There are many threads on Goodreads discussing similar issues, with posts from writers who’ve been targeted….

(2) MAKING RULES DIFFERENTLY. Eleanor Konik shows colleagues a way to expand their horizons in “Unusual Governments to Take Inspiration From” at the SFWA Blog.

Often, speculative fiction relies on common government types, like monarchies and republics, because they’re familiar to readers. History, however, offers other examples of sociopolitical systems. They can be a gold mine for worldbuilding ideas that stretch beyond the mainstream.

Cycling Governments

Age-sets are a sociopolitical system common in East Africa. Among Kenya’s Nandi people, each ibinda (age-set) corresponds to a stage of the life cycle. Boys and girls from each region would be initiated into their age-sets during a series of mass ceremonies.  As an analogy, consider a series of nearby communities gathering children into one centralized boarding school then transitioning them out of school and into the lifestage of young adults marrying and being busy with young children, after which they would return to the workforce before finally amassing the experience to lead the community as political figures. 

In the Ethiopian Highlands, this sort of cycling age-set system, known in some places as gadaa (for men) or siqqee (for women), led to the development of a republic with democratic elections and the peaceful transfer of power, which took roughly eight years to accomplish. It is not the “democratic republic” as described in ancient Greece. Men were bound to their neighbors by the bonds of shared experiences, handling infrastructure projects for the whole region. In some places, this led to peace. In others, expansion of the length of time men spent in the warrior stage meant an increase in raids and conquest. 

(3) SILVERBERG TO BE DISCON III VIRTUAL PARTICIPANT. Robert Silverberg revealed online today: “Apparently I will be at the DC worldcon after all, though only virtually.  Since I am unwilling to travel to the East Coast in wintertime, they have arranged for me to do a virtual conversation with Nancy Kress, with Alvaro Zinos-Amaro acting as moderator.  So my 67-year streak of worldcon attendance will remain intact, if only virtually.”

(4) ENTER THE DRAGONS. Camestros Felapton’s epic has now reached a key moment of 2016: “Debarkle Chapter 55: The Dragon Award Begins”.

…With the devastating final results of the 2015 Hugo Award, some Puppy supporters thought that the right response was to walk away from Worldcon and the Hugo Awards altogether. This was matched by some of the rhetoric from critics of the Puppies, who had suggested that the Puppy leadership should set up their own awards.

So it was both notable and not wholly a surprise when on March 31 2016 Dragon Con announced the first inaugural Dragon Awards with their own new website…

(5) DULCET TONES. Open Culture invites you to listen as “Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088”.

A few years ago we posted Kurt Vonnegut’s letter of advice to humanity, written in 1988 but addressed, a century hence, to the year 2088. Whatever objections you may have felt to reading this missive more than 70 years prematurely, you might have overcome them to find that the author of Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions single-mindedly importuned his fellow man of the late 21st century to protect the natural environment. He issues commandments to “reduce and stabilize your population” to “stop preparing for war and start dealing with your real problems,” and to “stop thinking science can fix anything if you give it a trillion dollars,” among other potentially drastic-sounding measures.

Commandment number seven amounts to the highly Vonnegutian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can easily imagine these words spoken in the writer’s own voice, but with Vonnegut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spoken in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch instead?

(6) END TIMES. Netflix dropped this trailer for the final season of Lucifer today.

Lucifer scored the promotion, but does he really want the job? Plus, Chloe prepares to give up detective work, Amenadiel joins the LAPD, and more.

(7) SOUNDING OFF. The Guardian interviews actors who are better known for their voice than their face. One of them is Doug Jones of Star Trek: Discovery fame: “’They wanted my meerkat to sound like a Russian Alan Sugar’ – meet TV’s secret superstars” in The Guardian.

…[Doug Jones:] When you say yes to playing something that doesn’t look human, you’re saying yes to the entire process. I don’t get to shout: “Get this off me! It’s so hot and sticky.” I need the mindset of a performer, but also the endurance of an athlete, one who can take five or six hours of makeup application, then get through a long day of shooting.

Because of all the parts I’ve played, I often end up skipping the conventional casting process. People in creature effects just say: “It’s a tall skinny alien – we need Doug Jones.” I was playing the amphibian in the Oscar-winning film The Shape of Water when Star Trek: Discovery approached me. I was actually thinking “I’m not sure how much more rubber and glue I want in my life,” but there was no way I could turn it down. For Saru, I wear a four-piece prosthetic over my head that comes down past my collarbones, with gloves to change my hands. It’s all been moulded to my shape and pre-painted so getting it all glued on is only a two-hour process. I wear a Starfleet uniform like everybody else, but I do have special hoofed boots that add five inches to my height. That makes me about 6ft 8ins!…

(8) TRAPPED IN AMBER. Irish/Dutch writer couple Angeline B. Adams and Remco van Straten talk about the future of the sword and sorcery genre — and if it has one: “Fled & Done: Sword & Sorcery” at Turnip Lanterns.

…Modern Sword & Sorcery writers face an uphill battle, if they want to emerge from the shadow of Conan (including, and in particular, his Marvel comics and Schwarzenegger film incarnations). And that indeed sums up our dilemma: is it worth trying to expand the genre, when the general audience’s idea of S&S has calcified in cliché? Especially when a large section of S&S fans (and authors) have very firm ideas of what S&S was, is and always will be?…

(9) INTERNATIONAL TOLKIEN FANDOM. Brazilian podcast Tolkien Talk did a video Q&A with acclaimed Tolkien scholar Douglas Anderson. It’s the fifth in their series of major international interviews. Find the others at their Tolkien Talk YouTube channel.

Meet Douglas A. Anderson, creator of The Annotated Hobbit and one of the most important tolkienists of our time. All the way from his first contact with J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to unveiling misconceptions throughout the time, get an overview on Tolkien’s life and works from one that accessed them directly.

(10) CRIMINAL RECORD. Anthony Horowitz has reached a crime fiction award milestone: “Horowitz becomes Japan’s most-decorated foreign crime author” at The Bookseller.

Author Anthony Horowitz has won the Best Mystery of the Decade award by Honkaku Mystery Writers Club for his first Daniel Hawthorne novel, The Word is Murder, making him the most-decorated foreign crime author in Japanese history.

Horowitz is the first author in Japanese history to win 16 literary awards in total, according to his publisher…. 

(11) WHY THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR. “’I Am Legend’ screenwriter responds to conspiracy theory about vaccines and zombies”Yahoo! has the story.

There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?

New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.

As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.

On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.

“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”…

(12) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2013 – Eight years ago, Futurama ended its run. It had four seasons on FOX, and when cancelled there was revived by Comedy Central and ran another three seasons. In between, reruns aired on Adult Swim.  It was created by Matt Groening of Simpsons fame. Over its seven seasons, it would run for one hundred and seventy episodes. There would be four later films, Bender’s Big Score, The Beast with a Billion Backs, Bender’s Game and Into the Wild Green Yonder. It had a legendary voice cast of Billy West, Katey Sagal, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, David Herman and Frank Welker. It was nominated for a Nebula Award for Best Script for the “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” episode during the last season. It has a ninety-five percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. He won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form at Dublin 2019  for Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and was nominated for six more. ISFDB notes Donovan’s Brain was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available from the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon, and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents — four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World including “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine.“ (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 90. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that? And he won the Rotsler Award for fan art in 2006.  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read, so do tell me about them please. 
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 77. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her?
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 66. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell, written by Alan Moore, and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell.
  • Born August 10, 1960 Antonio Banderas, 61. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in the Puss in Boots and Shrek franchises, appearances in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and the New Mutants. He’s James Mangold in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 56. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six episode series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) UP TO DATE. Entertainment Weekly says Robin is now bi. “Robin becomes a bisexual icon in new Batman comic”. Clearly it doesn’t cut it to keep visualizing Burt Ward/Robin as Adam West/Bruce Wayne’s teenage ward — I missed the part where Robin was dating at all.

The latest issue of Batman: Urban Legends, a monthly anthology series, revealed that the Caped Crusader’s longtime sidekick Robin, specifically the Tim Drake version of him, is bisexual. 

The moment came at the end of part 3 of the Sum of Our Parts story, from writer Meghan Fitzmartin, artist Belén Ortega, colorist Alejandro Sánchez, and letterer Pat Brosseau. 

(16) SUBSTACK GROWING. “Comic Book Writers and Artists Follow Other Creators to Substack” – the New York Times tells how it will work.

… Nick Spencer, a comic book writer best known for his work for Marvel Entertainment, was the liaison between Substack and a group of creators who, starting Monday, will publish new comic book stories, essays and how-to guides on the platform.

He said he approached Chris Best, a Substack founder, with the idea last year, when the pandemic was keeping many fans out of the comic book shops and the creators were looking for new ways to connect with readers.

The initial lineup includes comic-centric newsletters from Saladin AhmedJonathan HickmanMolly OstertagScott Snyder and James Tynion IV, with other writers and artists to be announced.

The creators will be paid by Substack while keeping ownership of their work. The company will take most of the subscription revenue in the first year; after that, it will take a 10 percent cut.

Mr. Tynion, who last month won an Eisner Award, the comic industry’s highest honor, for best writer, said he would break away from writing Batman for DC Entertainment to devote time to his creator-owned series and his Substack newsletter.

(17) KEEPING THE BOOKS. Lazy Rabbit has a set of humorous pictures of librarian jokes on Facebook.

(18) CATS FOR ADOPTION. Let’s signal boost the availability for adoption of a new litter of kittens in Los Angeles. The owner is a friend of Gideon Marcus of Galactic Journey. You can reach her by emailing digginginthewrongplace (at) gmail (dot) com.

The momma cat is approx two years old. We just had her spayed and she had a dental check too. She’s negative for all diseases/fleas/worms, and in great health.

Kitties are 9 weeks old. All in great health. Too young to be neutered yet.

Let me know if anyone’s interested!

(19) CANDLING THE EGGS. SYFY Wire got first dibs on this 90-second video: “Monsters at Work: Explore the Pixar show’s various Easter eggs”.

SYFY WIRE is excited to debut an exclusive featurette that breaks down a number of these subtle — and not-so-subtle — references in the Disney+ series. Series executive producer Bobs Gannaway tells us that all of the Easter eggs “happened naturally and came from anyone on the crew at any phase of production — be it a storyboard artist adding something in the board, or the art director dressing the set.” 

“We focused mostly on world expansion — using the graphics to suggest parts of the world we will never see: like the Laffeteria menu, or advertisements on the back of Roz’s newspaper,” he continues. “We also focused things more inward and on our characters. For example, Duncan’s nameplate changes every episode, and whenever he’s listening to his boom box, the ‘mixtape’ is labeled. You have to really zoom into the frames to see those. Other things aren’t so much Easter eggs as they are just having fun: like changing the theme music every time during the credits to reflect that episode’s story, and doing something different each time with the wind-up teeth in the Mike’s Comedy Class title card. Everyone has a good time adding the details to the world.”

(20) TRICK OR TRICK. “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Halloween Special First Images Revealed” – see the pics at Halloween Daily News. Below is the trailer from May.

On today’s 52nd anniversary of the premiere of the Haunted Mansion dark ride at Disneyland, two first-look images from this October’s new Muppets Haunted Mansion Halloween special have been released, including Kermit and Miss Piggy in costume …as each other.

The special will feature the Muppets cast, along with celebrity cameos, new music, and fittingly seasonal fun for all ages.

Muppets Haunted Mansion will take place on Halloween Night, when Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers, The Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword”, Fandom Games says this is “the motion-control Zelda game no one asked for” where “every fight feels like doing a bunch of morphone before a high-school fencing match.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Cora Buhlert, BravoLimaPoppa, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Flaneur.]

Pixel Scroll 6/9/21 Self: Deaf Ents

(1) WITH THANKS. John Wiswell, Nebula winner for ”Open House on Haunted Hill,” has made his touching “Nebula Awards 2021 Acceptance Speech” a free post on his Patreon.

…Saying that, there’s one other author I cannot end this speech without thanking. It’s a little gauche, but I hope they’re listening.

Because my story, “Open House on Haunted Hill,” was rejected several times before Diabolical Plots gave it a chance. And in my career my various stories were rejected over 800 times before I won this award tonight. And that’s why I hope this author is listening.

You, who think you’re not a good enough writer because you don’t write like someone else.

You, who haven’t finished a draft because your project seems too quirky or too daunting.

You, who are dispirited after eating so many rejection emails.

You, who are going to write the things that will make me glad I’m alive to read them.

What the field needs is for you to be different, and to be true to your imagination….

(2) GOMEZ Q&A. In “A Point of Pride: Interview with Jewelle Gomez”, the Horror Writers Association blog continues its Pride Month series.

Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?

Because my life as a lesbian/feminist of colour is my context I don’t have to remind myself to include Queer material. That’s where I begin. There are, of course, other types of characters in my writing but my experience is centralised. I have a Queer social and political circle and they are easily represented in my work. For so long women, lesbians and people of colour were told our stories weren’t important, other (white) people wouldn’t be interested in them. Now we know that was just another way to dominate our experience. I long for the day that non-Queer writers and non-Black writers feel sensitive enough to do the research and include authentic characters in their work who don’t look like them.

(3) KIRK AT WORK. Thomas Parker revisits the history-making calendar at Black Gate: “First Impressions: Tim Kirk’s 1975 Tolkien Calendar”.

How does the old saying go? “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s often true that the first encounter has an ineradicable effect, whether the meeting is with a person, a work of art, or a world. It’s certainly true in my case; I had my first and, in some ways, most decisive encounter with Middle-earth before I ever read a word of The Lord of the Rings. My first view of that magical place came through the paintings of Tim Kirk, in the 1975 J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar, and that gorgeous, pastel-colored vision of the Shire and its environs is the one that has stayed with me. Almost half a century later, Kirk’s interpretation still lies at the bottom of all my imaginings of Tolkien’s world.

(4) CASTING THE MCU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with casting director Sarah Finn – “Maltin on Movies: Sarah Finn” Finn has cast every role in every film and TV series on Disney+ in the MCU, so she has a lot of inside knowledge.  Among her goals is to find actors who enjoy playing superheroes and like working with each other.  She also discusses why it was a gamble to cast Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and why Vin Diesel was cast as Groot because of his voice work in The Iron Giant.

She also reveals Dwayne Johnson’s secret for success:  he is genuinely a nice guy who even volunteered to do the dishes after a casting call!

Finn also discusses her work as casting director on The Mandalorian and her work for Oliver Stone, including the gamble of having Eli Wallach play a substantial role at age 95 on Wall Street:  Money Never Sleeps.

This was a very informative podcast.

 (5) ONE SHOT. “Elizabeth Olsen Says WandaVision Won’t Have a Second Season: ‘It Is a Limited Series’” reports Yahoo!

Elizabeth Olsen has weighed in on the future of WandaVision – and sadly, fans shouldn’t expect there to be a second season.

“No, that’s easy for me to answer. It is a limited series. It’s a fully beginning, middle, end, and that’s it kind of thing,” she told PEOPLE in January ahead of the Disney+ show’s premiere. 

During a recent virtual chat with Kaley Cuoco for Variety‘s Actors on Actors series, Olsen once again echoed her comments about the series likely not returning for season 2…. 

(6) PRO TIP. Tade Thompson triages his email:

(7) GRANTS AVAILABLE. The Ladies of Horror Fiction review site are offering nine 2021 LOHF Writers Grants. Applications must be submitted by August 31.

Nine recipients will receive the LOHF Writers Grant in the amount of $100. The Ladies of Horror Fiction team will announce the recipients of the LOHF Writers Grant on September 15, 2021.

The LOHF Writers Grant is inclusive to all women (cis and trans) and non-binary femmes who have reasonably demonstrated a commitment to writing in the horror genre. All grant provided funds must be used in a manner that will help develop the applicant’s career.

The grants are funded by Steve Stred, Laurel Hightower, Ben Walker, S.H. Cooper, Sonora Taylor, and several anonymous donors.

(8) TEN FOR THE PRICE OF FIVE. Two entries from James Davis Nicoll from the pages of Tor.com:

“Five SFF Characters You Should Never, Ever Date”.

Science fiction and fantasy are rich in characters who deserve (and sometimes find) rewarding personal relationships. There are also characters that other characters should never, ever date. Ever. Here are five fictional characters from whom all prospective love interests should run screaming…

“Five SF Books About Living in Exile”.

Few calamities sting like being driven from the land one once called home. Exile is therefore a rich source of plots for authors seeking some dramatic event to motivate their characters. You might want to consider the following five books, each of which features protagonists (not all of them human) forced to leave their homes….

(9) CORA ON CONAN. Cora Buhlert’s latest Retro Review is of one of the less known Conan stories that was not published in Howard’s lifetime: “Retro Review: ‘The God in the Bowl’ by Robert E. Howard or Conan Does Agatha Christie”.

…Unlike the two previous stories, “The God in the Bowl” remained unpublished during Howard’s lifetime and appeared for the first time in the September 1952 issue of the short-lived magazine Space Science Fiction. Why on Earth editor Lester del Rey decided that a Conan story was a good fit for a magazine that otherwise published such Astounding stalwarts as George O. Smith, Clifford D. Simak and Murray Leinster will probably forever remain a mystery.

As for why I decided to review this particular Conan story rather than some of the better known adventures of our favourite Cimmerian adventurer (which I may eventually do), part of the reason is that the story just came up in a conversation I had with Bobby Derie on Twitter. Besides, I have been reading my way through the Del Rey Robert E. Howard editions of late and realised that there are a lot of layers to those stories that I missed when I read them the first time around as a teenager.

(10) INSIDER WADING. The next Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron will be abouts “Future of the HUGO, ASTOUNDING and LODESTAR Awards: Worldcon Insiders Discuss the History and Trends”. Register at the link.

Three Worldcon insiders, Tammy Coxen, Nicholas Whyte, and Vincent Docherty will join Gadi and Karen to discuss the Hugo, Astounding, and Lodestar awards, their history, and current trends.

Like last year, we will be interviewing category nominees in the next few months, with this show as the opening segment.

(11)  GAME WRITING ARCHIVE. Eatonverse tweets highlights of the UC Riverside’s Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Today’s rarity is from Marc Laidlaw —

(12) HERE THEY COME AGAIN. Those pesky aliens.Invasion launches on October 22 on Apple TV+.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon 1 which had Robert Silverberg as its Toastmaster, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction won the Hugo for Best Professional Magazine. It was its third such Hugo win in a row, and seventh to that date.  

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 9, 1911 – J. Francis McComas.  With Raymond Healy (1907-1997) edited the pioneering and still excellent anthology Adventures in Time and Space – and got Random House to publish it.  Thus although not having planted the crops, he knew to harvest: they also serve who only sit and edit.  With Anthony Boucher (1911-1969) founded The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the best thing to happen among us since Astounding.  Half a dozen stories of his own.  Afterward his widow Annette (1911-1994) edited The Eureka Years; see it too.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1925 – Leo R. Summers.  Twenty covers for Fantastic, eight for Amazing, six for Analog; six hundred interiors.  Here is a Fantastic cover; here is one for Analoghere is an interior for H.B. Fyfe’s “Star Chamber” from Amazing.  A fruitful career.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1925 — Keith Laumer. I remember his Bolo series fondly and read quite a bit of it. Can’t say which novels at this point though Bolo definitely and Last Command almost certainly. The Imperium and Retief series were also very enjoyable though the latter is the only one I’d re-read at this point. The usual suspects  have decent though not complete ebooks listings for him, heavy on the Imperium and Retief series and they’ve just added a decent Bolo collection too. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1930 — Lin Carter. He is best known for his work in the 1970s as editor of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. As a writer, His first professional publication was the short story “Masters of the Metropolis”, co-written with Randall Garrett, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April 1957. He would be a prolific writer, average as much as six novels a year. In addition, he was influential as a critic of the fantasy genre and an early historian of the genre. He wrote far too much for me to say I’ve sampled everything he did but I’m fond of his CastilloGreat Imperium and Zarkon series. All great popcorn literature! (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born June 9, 1931 – Joanie Winston.  Vital spark of Star Trek fandom; co-founder of the first Trek convention, got Gene Roddenberry to attend; co-organized the next four; became a sought-after guest herself.  Reported in The Making of the Trek Conventions, or How to Throw a Party for 12,000 of Your Most Intimate Friends, got it published by Doubleday and Playboy.  Appreciation by OGH here.  Quite capable of playing poker at a 200-fan relaxacon rather than bask in glory at a Trek megacon the same weekend.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1934 — Donald Duck, 87. He made his first appearance in “The Wise Little Hen” on June 9th, 1934. In this cartoon as voiced by Clarence Nash, Donald and his friend, Peter Pig (also voiced by Nash), lie their way out of helping the titular little hen tend to her corn. Donald Duck was the joint creation of Dick Lundy, Fred Spencer, Carl Barks, Jack King and Jack Hannah though Walt Disney often would like you to forget that. You can watch it here. (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1943 – Joe Haldeman, age 78.  Two dozen novels, eighty shorter stories; ninety published poems.  Seven Hugos, five Nebulas; three Rhyslings; Tiptree (as it then was); Skylark.  Edited Nebula Awards 17.  Pegasus Award for Best Space Opera Song. SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Windycon I and 20, Disclave 21, Beneluxcon 7, ConFiction the 48th Worldcon.  Wide range has its virtues; he’s told how one story sold at a penny a word and five years later was adapted for television at five times as much; also “I don’t have to say Uh-oh, I’d better get back to that novel again; I can always write a poem or something.”  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1954 — Gregory Maguire, 67. He is the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West based off of course the Oz Mythos, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister retelling the tale of Cinderella and Mirror, Mirror, a revisionist retelling of the Snow White tale which is really excellent. Well you get the idea. He’s damn good at this revisionist storytelling. (CE) 
  • Born June 9, 1963 — David Koepp, 58. Screenwriter for some of the most successful SF films ever done: Jurassic  Park (co-written with Michael Crichton), The Lost World: Jurassic Park, War of The Worlds and, yes, it made lots of money, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He won a Hugo for Jurassic Park which won Best Dramatic Presentation at ConAdian. (CE)
  • Born June 9, 1966 – Christian McGuire, age 55.  Co-chaired eight Loscons.  Chaired Westercon 63, Conucopia the 7th NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, held when the Worldcon is overseas), L.A.con IV the 64th Worldcon.  A founder of Gallifrey One; chaired or co-chaired its first 12 years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Baycon 2002, Westercon 51, Capricon 29, Loscon 36.  Evans-Freehafer Award (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.; service).  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1967 – Dave McCarty, age 54.  Chaired three Capricons.  Chaired the 70th Worldcon, Chicon 7, which by our custom means the seventh Worldcon in the same town with continuity from the same community.  No one else has managed this, or come close; the nearest have been Noreascon Four (62nd Worldcon), L.A.con IV (64th), and Aussiecon 4 (68th). Also served as Hugo Awards Administrator, and on the World SF Society’s Mark Protection Committee, two of our least conspicuous and most demanding tasks.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon 28, Capricon 38.  [JH]
  • Born June 9, 1981 — Natalie Portman, 40. Surprisingly her first genre role was as Taffy Dale in Mars Attacks!, not as Padme in The Phantom Menace. She’d repeat that role in Attack of The Clones and Revenge of The Sith. She’d next play Evey in V for Vendetta. And she played Jane Foster twice, first in Thor: The Dark World and then in Avengers: Endgame. She’ll reprise the role in Thor: Love and Thunder in which she’ll play both Jane Foster and Thor. That I’ve got to see. (CE) 

(15) PET SHOP. “’DC League of Super-Pets’ Cast: Kevin Hart, Keanu Reeves, More Join Dwayne Johnson” reports Deadline.

The cast for the upcoming animated movie, DC League of Super-Pets, includes Dwayne Johnson as Krypto and Kevin Hart as Ace. The cast also features Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, and Keanu Reeves. The movie will be released May 20, 2022.

(16) LIGHTS ON LANGFORD. Cora Buhlert continues her Fanzine Spotlight by interviewing David Langford about his famed newzine: “Fanzine Spotlight: Ansible”.

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

In theory it’s just me. In practice I couldn’t keep going without all the correspondents who send obituaries, interesting news snippets, more obituaries, convention news, too many obituaries, and contributions to such regular departments as As Others See Us and Thog’s Masterclass. The first collects notably patronizing or ignorant comments on the SF genre from the mainstream media, with special attention to authors who write science fiction but prefer to pretend they don’t (Margaret Atwood once explained that SF was “talking squids in outer space” and since she didn’t write /that/ she had to be innocent of SF contamination). Thog’s Masterclass is for embarrassingly or comically bad sentences in published fiction, not always SF — as well as the usual genre suspects, the Masterclass has showcased such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Vladimir Nabokov and Sean Penn.

(17) TAKES TWO TO TANGO. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus tells the good and the bad news about the latest (in 1966) US space mission: “[June 8, 1966] Pyrrhic Victory (the flight of Gemini 9) – Galactic Journey”.

…Scheduled for May 17, 1966, Gemini 9 was supposed to be the first real all-up test of the two-seat spacecraft.  Astronauts Tom Stafford (veteran of Gemini 6) and Gene Cernan would dock with an Agena and conduct a spacewalk.  If successful, this would demonstrate all of the techniques and training necessary for a trip to the Moon. 

The first bit of bad luck involved the Agena docking adapter.  Shortly after liftoff on the 17th, one of the booster engines gimballed off center and propelled rocket and Agena into the Atlantic ocean.  The two astronauts, bolted into their Gemini capsule for a launch intended for just a few minutes after, had to abort their mission.

Luckily, NASA had a back-up: the Augmented Target Docking Adapter (ADTA).  The ADTA was basically an Agena without the engine.  A Gemini could practice docking with it, but the ADTA can’t be used as an orbital booster for practice of the manuever that Apollo will employ when it breaks orbit to head for the Moon.

ADTA went up on June 1, no problem.  But just seconds before launch, the Gemini 9 computer refused navigational updates from the Cape.  The launch window was missed, and once again, Tom and Gene were forced to scrub.  Stafford got the nickname “Prince of the Pad.”…

(18) CULINARY FAME IS FLEETING. The New Yorker’s Jason Siegel and Maeve Dunigan take up the tongs as “A Food Critic Reviews the Swedish Chef’s New Restaurant”.

When I heard that the Swedish Chef from “The Muppet Show” was opening a Chelsea location of his celebrated bistro, Dorg Schnorfblorp Horganblorps, I was skeptical. I’m always hesitant to believe the hype surrounding celebrity chefs, especially when they’re made of felt. While the city was abuzz, calling Mr. Muppet the new Jean-Georges Vongerichten, I was certain that this newcomer was nothing more than a passing fad, a Swedish Salt Bae. But, after such a tough year for restaurants, I was curious about how this mustachioed madman’s gimmick had sustained its popularity. Eventually, I decided that I had to go see for myself—could the Swedish Chef’s bites ever live up to his bark, or bork?

Dorg Schnorfblorp Horganblorps has been open for only three months but already has a wait list that extends to the end of the year. I was amazed that anyone could get a reservation at all, considering that the restaurant’s Web site contains no helpful links or information, only a gif of a turkey being chased by the chef wielding a tennis racquet, captioned, “Birdy gerdy floopin.”…

(19) WHO THAWS THERE? Mike Wehner reports “Scientists revived a creature that was frozen in ice for 24,000 years” at Yahoo!

It sounds like the plot from a cheese science fiction movie: Scientists unearth something that’s been buried in the frozen ground of the Arctic for tens of thousands of years and decide to warm it up a bit. The creature stirs as its cells slowly wake up from their long stasis. As time passes, the animal wakes up, having time-traveled 24,000 years thanks to its body’s ability to shut itself down once temperatures reached a certain low. It sounds too incredible to be true, but it is.

In a new paper published in Current Biology, researchers reveal their discovery of a microscopic animal frozen in the Arctic permafrost for an estimated 24,000 years. The creature, which would have lived in water during its previous life, was revived as the soil thawed. The discovery is incredibly important not just for the ongoing study of creatures found frozen in time here on Earth.

The tiny creature is called a bdelloid rotifer. These multicellular animals live in aquatic environments and have a reputation for being particularly hardy when it comes to frigid temperatures. They are obviously capable of surviving the process of being frozen and then thawed, and they’re not the only tiny animal to have this ability….

(20) HAVE AN APPLE, DEARIE. Atlas Obscura would like you to “Meet the Appalachian Apple Hunter Who Rescued 1,000 ‘Lost’ Varieties”. Daniel Dern sent the link with two comments: “1: I don’t know whether any of these are better at keeping doctor away. 2: Have they been tested for ‘putting people to deep-sleep’?”

AS TOM BROWN LEADS A pair of young, aspiring homesteaders through his home apple orchard in Clemmons, North Carolina, he gestures at clusters of maturing trees. A retired chemical engineer, the 79 year old lists varieties and pauses to tell occasional stories. Unfamiliar names such as Black Winesap, Candy Stripe, Royal Lemon, Rabun Bald, Yellow Bellflower, and Night Dropper pair with tales that seem plucked from pomological lore.

Take the Junaluska apple. Legend has it the variety was standardized by Cherokee Indians in the Smoky Mountains more than two centuries ago and named after its greatest patron, an early-19th-century chief. Old-time orchardists say the apple was once a Southern favorite, but disappeared around 1900. Brown started hunting for it in 2001 after discovering references in an Antebellum-era orchard catalog from Franklin, North Carolina….

(21) TEFLON CRUELLA. The New York Times speculates about “The Surprising Evolution of Cruella De Vil”:

From a calm socialite, she morphed into an unhinged puppy kidnapper and then a vindictive glamourpuss. Why don’t we hate her?

And for dessert, here’s a Cruella parody video.

(22) CAN YOU MAKE A WALL OF TEXT? The Lego Typewriter has some moving parts that simulate a real typewriter but, no, you can’t produce copy with it. At the link is a video of the assembled 2000+ piece project.

(23) BREAKING INTO THE MCU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Marvel Character Tutorial” on Screen Rant, Ryan George plays Marvel screenwriter “Richard Lambo,” who says if you are trying to sell a screenplay to Marvel, make sure he or she has plenty of abs (four will do, but a six-pack is best) and leave plenty of room for snark!

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Returnal,” Fandom Games says that Sony’s new game puts you “in a Gigeresque sci-fi setting” where your goal is “to kill all the wildlife” in a game so depressing that Sony should “just throw away the game and have someone come over and kick you in the scrotum” to achieve the same painful effect. (Or “slamming your face into a brick wall” is mentioned at another place, if the first option isn’t available.)

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Gadi Evron, Cora Buhlert, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/21 The Dinosaurs That Fall On You From Nowhere

(1) DESIGNS FOR THE TIMES. Jane Frank reviewed a portfolio project by famed sff artist Richard Powers as a vehicle for studying his career and influence: “Richard Powers: The World of fFlar” at NeoText.

…Powers happily obliged, by portraying the Portfolio as a single story told in 16 (17, if you include the cover) illustrations even though the very first painting reproduced in the portfolio, The Ur-City of fFlar, cropped on the right, began life in 1958 as the cover to the fourth in a popular digest anthology series Star Science Fiction, edited by Frederik Pohl. And the same image served further duty, cropped on the left side this time, as the cover for The Deep by John Crowley, published by Berkley, 1976.

This use, and re-use of imagery, I should add, was common for Powers’ – who excelled in “re-purposing” his art, both to gain monetarily from additional usages, but also to save time. He had no qualms about cutting up and pasting portions of existing artworks in order to fashion “new” illustrations, and publishers either didn’t realize it, or didn’t care. Not only the images themselves, but also certain compositional elements, can be spotted on other covers, as if both publishers and Powers himself enjoyed creating variations on a favored theme . . . and there are fans of Powers’ art who make a sport out of discovering such connections. The humorous caption for The Ur City of fFlar indeed suggests that Powers was well aware of several uses to which one painting could be put:

Jane Frank also did an analysis of the paperback covers and other works of an iconic sff artist in “Paul Lehr: Unexpected Rhythms” at NeoText.

binary comment

…Freed from the need to produce garish imagery designed to lure adolescent readers to buy magazines, Lehr soon developed his own unique voice and palette.

One of Lehr’s studio experiments ended up being his first published cover.

“I constructed spaceships out of wire, cardboard toilet paper tubes, ping pong balls and the like, making strange looking ships. I painted them silver and white, and hung them up as still lifes against dark backgrounds, shining a strong light upon them, embellishing them with stars, bursts of fire, and other bits of painterly cosmic excitement. I also bought model kits and assembled them in crazy ways. A B-17 would become a moonlander or shuttleboat.” (Visions of Never” 2009)…

(2) INCREDIBLE BABEL. Cora Buhlert’s latest contribution to Galactic Journey is a review about the brand-new-in-1966 novel Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany: “[MAY 16, 1966] SPIES, POETS AND LINGUISTS: BABEL-17 BY SAMUEL R. DELANY”

With so much grim news in the real world, you just want to escape into a book. So I was happy to find Babel-17, the latest science fiction novel by Samuel R. Delany, in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore. The blurb promised a mix of space opera and James Bond style spy adventure, which sounded right up my alley….

(3) JOHNNY B BAD. “The Ballad of Russell & Julie”, performed a decade ago, is a hysterical “Musical Tribute to the Creators of the Rebooted ‘Doctor Who’ Series” as Laughing Squid explains. It’s newsworthy for a line that alludes to the kind of behavior which saw John Barrowman back in the headlines this week. (Around the 2:02 mark.)

During a Doctor Who wrap party in 2011, actors David TennantCatherine Tate, and John Barrowman performed “The Ballad of Russell and Julie,” a musical tribute to Russell T. Davies (RTD) and Julie Gardner, the creators of the new version of Doctor Who, which was first broadcast ten years ago today. The tribute pokes gentle fun at RTD’s smoking uncertainty and Gardner’s incredible confidence.

(4) PREDICTING STAR TREK. And there’s still time for you to add your guess to Galactic Journey’s poll about what that soon-to-premiere TV show Star Trek will be like. (Is the second choice below really a title? It looks like a code off my phone bill.)

(5) WELL-MET IN LAKE GENEVA. James Maliszewski, who runs the RPG blog Grognardia, has dug up a 1976 report about GenCon IX by none other than Fritz Leiber:  “Fritz Leiber at GenCon”.

Earlier this month, I posted an image of an article penned by author Fritz Leiber that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on September 5, 1976. Leiber recounts his experiences as guest of honor at GenCon IX and, as one might expect, what he writes is of great interest. He begins by briefly recounting the recent history of wargaming, starting with the publication of Gettysburg by Avalon Hill in 1958. (Why he starts there rather than with Tactics in 1954, I am not sure) 

Moving on from that, he speaks of GenCon, the “oldest gathering of tabletop generals in America,” which is “held at the pleasant Wisconsin resort-town near Chicago.

(6) ESFS AWARDS OPEN. The European Science Fiction Society is gathering nominations for the Next ESFS Awards.

Nominations are now open for the ESFS Awards that will be held at the 2021 Eurocon in Fiuggi, 15th to 18th July. The last day nominations will be accepted is Tuesday 15th June 2021. This is also the last day that bids for future Eurocons will be accepted for discussion in the Business Meeting, and the last day that topics to be raised in the Business Meeting will be accepted.

There should only be a single nomination from each country, as selected by their own rules. In the event of multiple nominations from one country, only matching nominations or nominations without a competing name will be accepted. In the event that all ballots from one country contain different names, there will be no nominees accepted for that country.

Nominations are made for a country by representatives of that country. If you are not familiar with how your country chooses its nominations, the EuroSMOF Facebook group is a good place to connect with other Eurocon attendees from your country.

Before nominating, read the list of current awards and their requirements, and the Awards FAQ.

(7) MONSTROUS FUN FOR TOURISTS. Travel Awaits encourages you to come and look for yourself: “Unicorns, Kelpies, And Wulvers: 7 Of Scotland’s Most Captivating Mythical Creatures”.

You probably know about the Loch Ness Monster, but have you ever heard of kelpies or wulvers?

Scots are legendary storytellers (they even host an International Storytelling Festival), and their culture is rich with imaginary creatures — or, perhaps, creatures not so imaginary… Here are some of my favorites. 

1. Unicorns 

No list of Scottish mythical creatures would be complete without mentioning Scotland’s national animal — the infamous unicorn, which adorns the country’s royal coat of arms. In Celtic mythology, the unicorn represents both purity and power, innocence and dominance. The creature has been part of Scotland’s ethos for centuries….

Pro Tip: Unicorns are ubiquitous in Scotland! The Palace of HolyroodhouseEdinburgh CastleCraigmillar Castle, and St Giles’ Cathedral — all in Edinburgh — sport unicorns. But, really, anywhere you go in Scotland, you can find a unicorn. Consider visiting on National Unicorn Day (celebrated on April 9) to get your unicorn fix. 

(8) FOLLOW THE BOUNCERS. On “The Muppet Show” on Saturday Night Live: “Security! Security!  Statler and Waldorf are causing trouble again!”

(9) RITTENHOUSE OBIT. Juris doctor, conrunner and Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse (1957-2021)  died May 16.

Steven H Silver paid tribute on Facebook.

I woke up to the news that my longtime friend and fellow Sidewise Award judge Jim Rittenhouse has lost his final battle. Jim welcomed me into fandom early and we discovered our shared love for alternate history. While working on my first Windycon under the auspices of the late Ross Pavlac, Ross was listening to Jim and me discuss alternate history and at the next meeting he presented each of us with Captain Midnight decoders, so he would be able to understand what we were talking about in the future.

Eventually Jim founded the Apazine Point of Divergence, which I was a founding member of and stayed with for a while. I later invited Jim to become a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, for which he was one of the longest serving judges.

Jim had a deep and personal interest in Chinese history and last year when I was working on my story “The Prediscovered Country,” we discussed the history of the Ming Dynasty to figure out what a Chinese colony in Australia would look like. In return, I modeled the Dutch character De Bruijn after Jim.

There will probably be a memorial service for Jim at either Windycon or Capricon.

May his memory be for a blessing.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Alfred Bester’s Demolished Man wins a Hugo for Best Novel. It was first serialized in three parts, beginning with the January 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. The novel is dedicated to Galaxy’s editor, H. L. Gold, who made writing ideas to Bester. Bester’s suggested title was Demolition!, but Gold talked him out of it. It would be his only Hugo Award. 

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

National Mimosa Day – They’re celebrating the six-time Hugo-winning fanzine at Fanac.org.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to Magic Realism blurring the real and imaginary.  Here is Union Mixer.  Here is Mindscape.  Here is The Dream.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken; a score of covers, as many interiors.  Here is Black Hearts in Battersea.  Here is A Small Pinch of Weather.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  Author and (under another name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history. In The Empire of Baphomet an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; six dozen novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 —  Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy” on the original Trek. She also one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Judith Clute, age 79.  Two dozen covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Dec 90 Interzone.  Here is Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol.  Here is Pardon This Intrusion.  Here is Stay.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 — Danny Trejo, 77. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously he’s really done a lot of really low-budget horror films. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 — Pierce Brosnan, 68. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of such films. Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man,and he was lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonan in Bag of Bones. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod, age 68.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, for us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1962 — Ulrika O’Brien, 59. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of zines in Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing —  Fringe, Widening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APA memberships include APA-L, LASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. U. O’Brien won Best Fanartist in the 2021 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1968 — Stephen Mangan, 53, Voiced Bigwig, Silverweed and Shale in the 1999 Watership Down series, Green Javelins in the Hyperdrive SF comedy series, and Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1969 — David Boreanaz, 52. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line including of course an Angel puppet. (CE) 
  • Born May 16, 1978 – Marion Poinsot, age 43.  Illustrator of comics, role-playing games.  In the audio series The Keep [«le donjon»of Naheulbeuk by John Lang, here is MP’s Quilt of Oblivionhere is Chaos Under the Mountain.  Here is a poster for her Nina Tonnerre.  Here is Perle the black dragon.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) AUDIO FICTION. The latest episode of the Simultaneous Times podcast from Space Cowboy Books includes Jean-Paul Garnier reading Cora Buhlert’s short story “Little Monsters” and “Hidden Underneath” by Toshiya Kamei.

(15) WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. In the Washington Post, Stuart Miller interviews five actors on The Underground Railroad about their work on the Amazon Prime show. “Filming ‘The Underground Railroad’ was grueling. But the cast grasped ‘the weight of what we were doing.’”

…So while Mbedu always felt well cared for during filming — there was a guidance counselor on set “to bring me back to myself,” she says, and Jenkins himself “was always checking up on me” — the supportive cast and crew understood that putting on the chains and the burdens of being Black in antebellum America naturally took a toll.

“I had to have tricks, like moving through the set with my eyes downcast, so that when I opened my eyes I’d be experiencing everything only as Cora, because otherwise it would be too much for Thuso to take in,” Mbedu says.

The South African actress grew up in the immediate aftermath of apartheid and, like Cora, lost her parents at a young age. But she drew a sharp border between her life and Cora’s, relying on “a whole lot of research” to bring the character’s vocal, physical and psychological journey to life.

“The one time in the past where I made the mistake of trying to draw from my own experience, my brain went, ‘That was too traumatizing, we’re shutting down now.’ I can empathize, but I cannot personalize because it’s too traumatic to relive.”…

(16) IRREPLACEABLE. The Guardian gets Patrick Ness’ reaction to various books he’s read. One genre author stands out: “Patrick Ness: ‘Terry Pratchett makes you feel seen and forgiven’”.

My comfort read
Discworld by Terry Pratchett. I am always at some point through the cycle (I’m currently on The Thief of Time). They’re not only gloriously funny, they’re humane in a way that makes you actually feel seen and forgiven, with all your faults. He was a one-off, Sir Terry. When I finish reading them through, I simply put the last book down and pick the first one up again.

(17) GREATEST OF ALL TIME TRAVEL. Ryan Britt makes a daring claim at Inverse: “The best time-travel show of all time is streaming for free right now”. And that show is? Quantum Leap!

…Trying to figure out the actual sci-fi rules of Quantum Leap is a bad idea. As stated in the voice-over, Sam Beckett “stepped into the quantum leap accelerator and vanished.” The premise of the series is that his consciousness is transferred into various people’s bodies — regardless of gender — throughout time. Once Sam shows up in one of these bodies, a holographic projection from his associate Al (Dean Stockwell) advises him on what he’s supposed to accomplish in whatever historical period he’s found himself in.

Basically, Quantum Leap is a paint-by-numbers science fiction drama. Every episode begins with Sam trying to acclimate to his new body, while Al tells him the stakes. Despite the fact that Al is assisted by a super-computer named “Ziggy,” there’s never a clear path for what Sam is supposed to do. His essential mission — which is ill-defined — is to “set right what once went wrong” — but what that means exactly is relatively opaque until the end of each episode. This makes zero sense. It’s also brilliant.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Andrew (not Werdna), Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/21 And Strange At Ecbatan The File Takes Scroll By Scroll The Pixel Strange

(1) WHO? Gizmodo finds a new star in the constellation of talent around this production of Pratchett’s tale: “Terry Pratchett’s Amazing Maurice Animation Adds David Tennant”.

The animated adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Carnegie Medal-winning 2001 children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents has already commandeered a huge celebrity voice cast, but apparently there’s always room for more. Now Doctor Who’s David Tennant has joined the ranks, alongside Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke and House’s Hugh Laurie, among many others.

The Amazing Maurice novel is a comedic adaptation of the tale of the Pied Piper, who legendarily led the rats out of the town of Hamelin with his magic pipe, only to lead the town’s children away as well after the townsfolk failed to compensate him for his work. Pratchett’s book, which is part of his beloved Discworld series, is vastly different, featuring a sentient cat named Maurice, a pack of equally sentient rats, and a boy named Keith as they try to trick the town of Bad Blintz into hiring Keith to lead a newfound “rat infestation” away. Instead, they run into more malicious ratcatchers, a rat king with psychic powers, and more….

(2) THE ANSWERS. Rich Horton has posted the answers to his “Quiz about SF Aliens” on Strange at Ecbatan.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

Answer: SKRULL 

(3) LONELY PLANET. James Davis Nicoll has read about how cold it is out there on your own: “Far From Any Star: 5 Stories About Rogue Worlds” at Tor.com.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(4) BACKLOG. “Wondering How Much Your Pokemon Cards Are Worth? You May Need To Wait” reports NPR.

There has been a trading card accreditation bonanza that is leading to massive backlogs, hiring shortages, and big money as people seek to determine the worth of their Pokemon cards.

… SIMON: A trading card bonanza. These card-grading businesses are getting more cards over a couple of weekends than they used to get in an entire year. People are sending other cards, too. Baseball cards, of course, Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh. But Pokemon is still the main attraction.

KOEBLER: Many of these companies have been overwhelmed to the point where they’re no longer even accepting the cards because they have wait times of between, like, 10 months and a year for new cards that are mailed to them….

(5) TAKE THE 101 TO THE 451. Bradburymedia’s Phil Nichols has released another episode of his YouTube series Bradbury 101: “Fahrenheit 451”.

We’ve now reached the year 1953, and the release of Ray Bradbury’s first true novel, Fahrenheit 451. Except…

The first appearance of Fahrenheit was actually a collection rather than a novel!

Confused? You will be! Watch and learn below.

(6) MUPPET VISITS OLD HAUNT. SYFY Wire hypes the “’Muppets Haunted Mansion’ special coming to Disney+ this fall”.

…To ring in Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products’ “Halfway to Halloween” campaign, the Mouse House dropped a short teaser for Muppets Haunted Mansion, which arrives on Disney+ sometime this fall. The comedic announcement, made by Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn, was short on details, but the official release promises “a star-studded Muppets cast, celebrity cameos, all-new music, and spooky fun for families to enjoy together.”

In terms of story, the plot revolves around Gonzo being challenged to spend one night in the scariest place on Earth: Disney’s Haunted Mansion….

(7) KITAEN OBIT. [Item by Dann.] Actress Tawny Kitaen died May 7 at age 59.  The cause of death was not revealed.

Her early fame came from appearing in Whitesnake and Ratt videos. Her first genre role came in Witchboard in 1986 and was followed by an appearance in one episode of the short-lived They Came From Outerspace.

Tawny’s most prominent genre role was taht of Deianeira in the Hercules series.  She appeared in all three Hercules movies (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys – Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur) as well as in the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys from 1995 to 1997.

She also provided the voice of Annabelle in the animated series Eek! The Cat.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 8, 1955 — On this night in 1955, X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition”.  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there as well. The cast includes  Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill   Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 8, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  Active fan from 1936; drifted away in the late 1950s, happened across Yandro and returned.  His own fanzine Dynatron.  Bruce Pelz managed to get him nicknamed HORT so we’d be cued to pipe up, when we heard it explained as Horrible Old Roy Tackett, “Oh, I know Roy Tackett.  He’s not that old!”  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 22, MileHiCon 12, LoneStarCon 2 the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter  Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1945 – Stanislaw Fernandes, age 76. Fourscore covers, a dozen interiors for us; much else.  Here is Reach for Tomorrow.  Here is the Feb 87 Omni.  Here is the Mar 88 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wheel of Darkness.  Elsewhere, here is e.g. the 15 Jan 79 Business Week.  I picked these from the past for a sense of scope; don’t think he hasn’t been busy.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1947 – Ron Miller, age 74.  Five novels; a hundred seventy covers, a hundred thirty interiors; a dozen artbooks.  Here is the Apr 74 Amazing.  Here is The Grand Tour.  Here is the Jan 01 Asimov’s.  Here is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Here is The Art of Chesley Bonestell (with F. Durant; cover by CB; Hugo for Best Related Book).  Here is Up the Rainbow.  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. Stephen is dead, damn it all. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill-prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage as the copyright objected according to several sources. It’s available at all the usual digital suspects. (Died 2021.) (CE) 
  • Born May 8, 1957 – Jenny Blackford, age 64.  Co-edited Australian SF Review.  A score of stories, two dozen poems; essays, letters, reviews in FoundationNY Rev SFSF Commentary.  Elsewhere, e.g. 2020 Davitt Award for Best Children’s Crime Novel.  “I have forgotten more Sanskrit than I ever learned, but I still recite Catullus, and my favorite playwright is of course Euripides.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1968 – LeAnn Neal Reilly, age 53.  Five novels.  Has read The SilmarillionIvanhoe, Norwich’s Short History of ByzantiumCrime & PunishmentCatch-22, Chesterton’s St. Augustine and 2 vols. of Father Brown stories, all six Jane Austen novels, The Sound and the FuryThe Little Prince.  She writes, says Kirkus Reviews, “about resilient women caught in magical, otherworldly circumstances.”  [JH]
  • Born May 8, 1982 – Leah Bobet, age 39.  Two novels, twoscore short stories, two dozen poems.  Founding editor of Abyss & Apex; edited Ideomancer.  Aurora, Sunburst, Copper Cylinder Awards.  Makes jam, climbs mulberry trees, plants gardens in back alleys, and contributes to access-to-democracy initiatives. [JH]

(10) HEAR ME ROAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is some cool crap. For the first time ever, one spacecraft has been used to record a “talkie” of another spacecraft.

The Mars rover Perseverance took a video of Ingenuity — the helicopter — during a test flight with sound. The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released the video which can be seen on YouTube. The sound is pretty low frequency (~84 Hz) so it’s recommended you watch the video on something with speakers that have decent base response. 

The AP has the story — “NASA Mars helicopter heard humming through planet’s thin air”.

… NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California released this first-ever audio Friday, just before Ingenuity made its fifth test flight, a short one-way trip to a new airfield.

During the fourth flight a week earlier, the low hum from the helicopter blades spinning at more than 2,500 revolutions per minute is barely audible. It almost sounds like a low-pitched, faraway mosquito or other flying insect.

That’s because the 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) helicopter was more than 260 feet (80 meters) from the microphone on the Perseverance rover. The rumbling wind gusts also obscured the chopper’s sound.

Scientists isolated the sound of the whirring blades and magnified it, making it easier to hear….

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. Kris Vyas-Myall reviews the film adaptation of Modesty Blaise for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 6, 1966] BLAISE-ING WRECKAGE (MODESTY BLAISE).

…After Romeo Brown finished, Peter O’Donnell decided to create a more serious strip where a woman would be a capable hero rather than simply an object of desire or a damsel for the man to rescue. Apparently inspired by an orphan girl he met when stationed in Persia during the war, he teamed up once again with Holdaway to create Modesty Blaise.

Modesty reassures Willie’s girlfriend Marjorie that she has no romantic feelings for him.

Starting in 1963, Blaise feels like a totally new type of hero. Both Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin (her loyal sidekick) are both former criminals neither from privileged backgrounds. Modesty grew up in refugee camps in Persia and other Middle Eastern countries, whilst Willie is very much a working-class character. There is also no suggestion that she has any romantic interaction with Willie, instead they are loyal professional colleagues.

An excellent action sequence where Willie rams a lorry into Gabriel’s mansion

It is not just the initial concept that is fresh, the quality of the strip feels ahead of anything else I could easily pick up. O’Donnell’s plots feel fresh and complex, varying significantly from story to story. One week she will be investigating drug running in the Vietnam war, the next dealing with psychic espionage. These are combined with characters that feel deep and real. O’Donnell’s writing and Holdaway’s art also come together to give a really cinematic presentation with a real eye for direction….

(12) SCIENTIFIC CREDENTIALS. Gizmodo has discovered that “Cats Love to Sit Inside Squares—Even Fake Ones”.

…Cats, like people, can be fooled by optical illusions, nifty new research out this week suggests. The study, based on experiments conducted by pet owners at home, found that cats tend to sit inside 2D shapes that only look like squares about as often as they’ll sit inside a real square. The findings might give us a little more insight into cat cognition.

Whether they’re big tigers or domestic felines, cats just seem to love wedging themselves into boxes, crates, or other four-sided objects. This fascination doesn’t stop at 3D objects either, as the social media hashtag #CatSquare showed a few years ago; even using tape to make the outline of a square on the floor will entice cats ready to plop down at a moment’s notice….

(13) OVER THE WAVES. “UK Sci-Fi Series Intergalactic Gets Trailer and Peacock Release”. Io9 knows:

…The entire eight-episode first season debuted across the pond on April 30 to little fanfare, but streaming services are so hungry for content that was clearly not the issue…. 

The YouTube intro says —

Written by award-winning showrunner, Julie Gearey (“Prisoners’ Wives,” “Cuffs,” “Secret Diary of a Call Girl”), the series tells the story of fearless young cop and galactic pilot, Ash Harper (“Savannah Steyn”), who has her glittering career ripped away from her after being wrongly convicted of a treasonous crime and exiled to a distant prison colony. But on the way there, Ash’s fellow convicts stage a mutiny and seize control of their prison transfer ship. With the flight crew dead, mob leader Tula Quik (“Sharon Duncan-Brewster”), is intent on reaching the free world – Arcadia – with her gang; and Ash is the only pilot who can get them there. Ash is forced to join them on the run towards a distant galaxy and an uncertain future.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/15/21 Over 165 Days Without A Godstalk-Themed Scroll Title – Oops!

(1) ARKHAM ITEMS FOR SALE. John W. Knott, Jr. Bookseller is asking $415,000 for “AN ARKHAM HOUSE ARCHIVE: An important archive of material from the from the files of August Derleth, publisher and editor”.

…The Arkham House Archive contains over 4000 letters and documents related to publications issued by Arkham House, Mycroft & Moran and Stanton & Lee between 1939 and 1971, as well as correspondence and business papers related to Derleth’s activities as writer and editor for other publishers, including his editorial work as an anthologist in the 1940s and 1950s, and as a TV scriptwriter in the 1950s.
 This archive is a highly important collection of letters and documents. The core of the archive is correspondence, often extensive, from several hundred authors whose work Derleth published under his own imprints or in his highly important non-Arkham House anthologies published in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as manuscripts, mostly typewritten (including fair copies and carbons), submitted by Arkham House authors.

… These business papers largely predate the August William Derleth Papers held by the Wisconsin Historical Society, as “most of the pre-1963 materials were destroyed when this collection was originally processed, so substantially complete records survive only for the years between 1963 and 1970.”

(2) ROSWELL JUDGE. Light Bringer Project has introduced S.B. Divya as one of the Finalist Judges for the Roswell Award international short science fiction story competition from writers age 16 and older.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod (anthology), with Mur Lafferty. Divya also co-host of the premier science fiction podcast magazine, Escape Pod

Her short stories have been published at various magazines including Analog, Uncanny, and Tor. Her collection, Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Situations, is out now from Hachette India. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press. She holds degrees in computational neuroscience and signal processing, and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author.

Find out more about her at SBDivya.com or on Twitter as @DivyasTweets.

(3) JUSTICE LEAGUE. HBO Max dropped a second trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

(4) NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 10 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses how video games incorporate museums into their gaming.

In 2020’s Spider-Man:  Miles Morales, the hero is excluded from a science museum as a child but returns later as the titular web-slinger, leaping triumphantly between the wings of rockets suspended from the ceiling.  Here the museum space is shorthand for lost innocence, playing on gamers’ memories of school trips to exhibitions.  This same effect is pulled off more artfully in The Last Of Us Part II, which features a poignant flashback sequence in an abandoned museum of science and history.  In the ruined atrium, flooded with sunlight and overtaken by vines, the complex relationship between protagoinist Ellie and her father-figure Joel is infused with tenderness as they play on dinosaur skeletons and enter the command module of an Apollo spacecraft, forgetting the zombie-infested world outside for a few blissful moments.

In-game museums sometimes serve instead of meta-commentary, spaces where games tell the story of their own creation.  The joyous PS3 platformer Astro’s Playroom is a living exhibition of Sony’s greatest hits, while old Ratchet And Clank games contain secret levels which teach players about how developers created the game’s physics and environments.  Most imaginative is the post-credits museum of Call Of Duty 2:  Modern Warfare, remastered last year, where players can scrutinise character models, environments and weapons from the game.  Looking closely at each diorama–zooming in via the scope on your sniper rifle, naturally–reveals the extraordinary detail put into each component.  A tempting red button causes the exhibits to spring to life and attack.

(5) SMARTEST GUY IN THE ROOM? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt discusses how in 1958 he was approached to be on a quiz show called Brain or Brawn and he declined to appear.  Asimov writes, “I thought of Sprague de Camp, who managed to get on The $64,000 Question and who (for reasons known only to himself and God), chose motion pictures as his category, then muffed the very first question.”

I’d be interested in stories about fans and pros being on quiz shows.  Ray Bradbury appeared on an episode of You Bet Your Life in 1956.

(6) ERRONEOUS ZONE. “Off with their heads! Why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common online?”The Guardian searches for the answer.

… The White Rabbit never says, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” nor does the Mad Hatter say, “I am under no obligation to make sense to you.” The quote attributed to the Queen of Hearts – “That’s enough! Off with their head” – is almost right; she was after “heads”.

Dr Franziska Kohlt, editor of the Lewis Carroll Review, says she’s always spotting Carroll misquotes. “I saw a post about the coins on a collectors’ page, and almost automatically went checking for the quote, thinking, ‘Oh I hope they haven’t – oh no they have,” she said. “Misattributed Alice quotes are absolutely everywhere.”

Kohlt said that the “hurrier I go” and the “I am under no obligation!” quotes are “absolutely not Carroll quotes, as much as the internet insists”. “You wouldn’t believe how often we have to deal with these misquotes. I even find them in academic papers,” she said….

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • Anthony J. Lumsden conceived a design so advanced for the Van Nuys sewage facility that the building stood in for Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy (see it in Star Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).   6100 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys. (See “Scene It Before: The Japanese Garden from Star Trek” in Los Angeles Magazine.)

(8) JAMES FOLLETT OBIT. British writer James Follett (1939-2021) died January 10. Blake’s 7 fans knew him as the scriptwriter for the “Stardrive” and “Dawn of the Gods” episodes. In the Seventies he wrote many genre plays for BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Theatre, Just Before Midnight, and Saturday Night Theatre. In the Eighties he created Radio 4’s acclaimed SF serial Earthsearch, and later wrote three novels based on it. Altogether he wrote 11 sff novels, several computer games, and many radio and TV scripts. (He was the cousin of Ken Folett.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 15, 1981 — On this date in 1981, Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy sixty four percent rating among audience reviewers. The same cannot be said for the sequels which have ratings of seventeen and eighteen percent among those same reviewers. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 – Augusta, Lady Gregory.  Folklorist, playwright, theatre manager.  Vital to Irish Literary Revival.  For us, collected and retold Irish tales e.g. “The Three Sons”, Cuchulain of Muirthemne.  Bernard Shaw called her the greatest living Irishwoman.  (Died 1932) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 78. Not a Director whose tastes are at all squeamish. His best films? I’d pick VideodromeThe FlyNaked Lunch and The Dead Zone.Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which garnered a Bram Stoker Award nominated for A Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1926 – Rosel Brown.  Three novels (one with Keith Laumer), two dozen shorter stories.  Recent reprint collection Earthblood (6 by RB, 3 by KL, 1 by both).  Had an M.A. in Greek, too.  (Died 1967) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1933 – Al Lewis, age 88.  Chaired Westercon 15.  Long active in LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society); first to receive its Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Produced The Genie and The Musquite Kid Rides Again, famous in song and story.  [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1937 – Dan Adkins.  A dozen covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Fanart for e.g. Double:Bill (he has five in this issue – PDF), VegaXero (he’s in The Best of “Xero”), Yandro.  Fanzine, Sata (later by Bill Pearson).  Here is the Nov 66 If.  Here is the Jul 69 Galaxy.  Here is the Sep 71 Amazing.  Later worked with Wally Wood and for DC, Marvel, Dell.  Here is Doctor Strange 169.  Here is an interview by Roy Thomas.  Sinott Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1948 Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other genre creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1965 – James Barclay, age 56.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Guest of Honour at FantasyCon 2008, Master of Ceremonies at FantasyCon 2010.  “Barclay Rambles On” in BFS Journal 10 (British Fantasy Society).  Two children, two dogs – meaning a total of four, not two.  [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1967 Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1980 – Julie Cross, age 41.  Three novels, one shorter story for us; several others.  NY Times and USA Today Best-Seller.  Gymnast and coach.  Has read The OdysseyNative SonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]

(11) PROLIFIC EDITOR. Two-time Hugo winner John Joseph Adams is heard from in Odyssey Podcast #136: John Joseph Adams at the Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog.

John Joseph Adams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, he talks about worldbuilding and what he’d most like to see in submissions.

John is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as the bestselling editor of more than thirty anthologies, including Dead Man’s HandRobot UprisingsOz ReimaginedThe Mad Scientist’s Guide to World DominationOther Worlds Than TheseArmoredUnder the Moons of MarsBrave New WorldsWastelandsThe Living DeadThe Living Dead 2By Blood We LiveFederationsThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard.

Recent books include Cosmic PowersWhat the #@&% Is That?Operation ArcanaPress Start to PlayLoosed Upon the World, and The Apocalypse Triptych.

 John is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare.

(12) THE FIRST. Mental Floss celebrates “11 Facts About Donna Shirley, the First Woman to Manage a NASA Program”.

2. DONNA SHIRLEY WAS INSPIRED BY SCI-FI NOVELISTS RAY BRADBURY AND ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

At age 12, Shirley discovered—and devoured—Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles at the Wynnewood public library. Her earthbound teenage endeavors included editing her high school yearbook and playing cymbals in the marching band, but her space dreams were powered by Jimmy, the protagonist of Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars, who makes a seven-month voyage to the planet. In her 1998 autobiography Managing Martians, Shirley recalled, “Clarke described a world that was my ideal of community and comradeship.”

(13) SET IN DC. In the Washington Post, Fritz Hahn, Anyang Guo, and Angela Haupt ask various people for their favorite books set in Washington.  Michael Dirda recommends This Shared Dream by Kathleen Ann Goonan, set in an alternate universe 1991 where JFK wasn’t assassinated and Martin Luther King becomes U.N. ambassador. “The best books about Washington D.C.”. One other sff novel is mentioned —

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

I had often passed beautiful Oak Hill Cemetery on my walks around the city, but I didn’t get obsessed with it until I read “Lincoln in the Bardo,” a novel that might be described as a phantasmagoric “Spoon River Anthology” with footnotes. Set at the cemetery, and told by ghosts, it’s hilarious, disturbing and poignant by turn. George Saunders was inspired to write it after hearing about Lincoln’s visits to the cemetery to see his young son Willie, who temporarily lay in the Carroll Family Mausoleum after his death in 1862. The first time I tried to visit Oak Hill it was closing time, but an employee told me I could get a key and enter any time if I bought a plot, an idea I haven’t entirely ruled out. In the meantime I’ll make due with visiting hours.

— Julie Langsdorf, author of “White Elephant”

(14) MUPPET KNOWLEDGE. In “The Muppets Find Out Which Muppet They Are” on YouTube, the Muppets take BuzzFeed’s Muppet quiz to determine which Muppet they are, a process one Muppet called “very meta.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “300 Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says that 300 is set in Sparta, “a Greek city state where shirts have been outlawed” and the film consists of “slow-motion fight scenes with very muscular men wearing very tight thongs.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/11/21 Pixels Are Reactionaries, And The Scrolls Are Missionaries

(1) IT’S TIME. Kristian Macaron analyzes “Why I Love Time Travel Stories” on From the Earth to the Stars, the Asimov’s SF blog.

Time travel is never only about the science, rather, the impossibilities.

The science and whimsy of time travel are infinite, complex, and lovely, but I love time travel stories because the quest of traversing Time can explore how possibilities and probabilities shape the person we are in the Present, the person we become in the Future. Fate is more fluid than it would like us to believe.

There are three reasons I love time travel stories. First, it’s a form of storytelling that transcends genre; next, the rules of the time machine or loop are creative and crucial; finally, no matter the plot, Time as a player forces the character to confront the infinity of their impact….

(2) CUTTING OFF CIRCULATION. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler protests “Amazon’s monopoly is squeezing your public library, too”.

Mindy Kaling has gone missing from the library.

I was looking forward to reading the comedian’s new story collection, “Nothing Like I Imagined.” So I typed Kaling’s name into the Libby app used by my public library to loan e-books. But “The Office” star’s latest was nowhere to be found.

What gives? In 2020, Kaling switched to a new publisher: Amazon. Turns out, the tech giant has also become a publishing powerhouse — and it won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own.

Many Americans now recognize that a few tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. But it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly why that’s a problem. The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens….

(3) BUTLER’S AND OTHERS’ LITERARY ESTATES. The Writers’ Room on NPR discusses “The State Of Literary Estates” with panelists Merrilee Heifetz, literary executor, the Octavia Butler Estate, and former agent for Octavia Butler; Blake Hazard, trustee, F. Scott Fitzgerald Estate and Zelda Fitzgerald Estate; great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald; and Miranda Doyle, intellectual freedom chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries; district librarian, Lake Oswego School District.

Much has been made recently of the literary estate of Dr. Seuss choosing to discontinue printing several of his books due to racist imagery and stereotyping in several titles.

Some right-wing news outlets have decried the decision as an example of cancel culture, despite the estate making the decision independently. Seuss’ story isn’t particularly novel, either. Roald Dahl’s books for children have also been criticized for racist language and the author’s anti-Semitism. At the end of 2020, the Dahl family released a statement in which they apologized for “lasting and understandable hurt” caused by his anti-Semitic comments.

Many online and in the news are continuing to discuss the best way to handle problematic content in significant pieces of art from the past. But others are asking fundamental questions: What’s the purpose of a literary estate? And what’s their role in managing the legacy of an artist or author?

(4) CHINA THEME ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector 293 (Spring 2021) is devoted to the theme of Chinese SF, and is produced in collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu Wang. “Yen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China….” And much more.

One item from the issue is available online: “Chen Qiufan: Why did I Write a Science Fiction Novel about E-waste?” a transcription of a public talk given by the author in 2019.  

 …Many people have asked me why I wrote a science fiction novel instead of discussing the issue of environmental pollution in a documentary literature, if I wanted to talk about it. But for me, science fiction has a metaphorical role that cannot be found elsewhere. It can transcend the limits of the “present” and incorporate literary symbols that are applicable to all cultures in all countries concerning the imagination of the future. Thus, in science fiction, environmental issues can be generalised to a broader social context, and readers are more willing to consider how their personal actions can affect our environment, or the work and lives of garbage workers they have never met….

(5) SPEAKS VOLUMES. Elizabeth Knox’s “Metaliterary Worlds: On Fictional Books Within Books” includes a paragraph about Clifford D. Simak’s Time and Again. The post begins:

I set out to remind myself about fictional books within books and, researching, discovered how much has been said already about the cursed and forbidden ones. The characters of my novel, The Absolute Book, think about some of these in the course of the story—Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or, in Robert Chambers’ short story collection The King in Yellow, the eponymous play said to drive all who encounter it insane. I wanted to suggest that the Firestarter of The Absolute Book—an ancient scroll box which has survived so many library fires that scholars have begun to imagine it starts them—is cursed in some way. I also wanted to suggest the possibility that the Firestarter might in fact be blessed and revelatory….

(6) GRRM, DEVELOPMENT HELLION. George R.R. Martin has what seems like a pretty exhaustive list of all of his current media projects in his most recent post in “Coming…Eventually…Maybe” at Not A Blog. (This excerpt covers only part of them.)

…I am not quite sure why all these stories seem to be breaking now.   The SANDKINGS project has been underway for more than a year (Covid obviously shut things down) and IN THE LOST LANDS for something like six years.   We also have an animated feature of THE ICE DRAGON in development at Warner’s (as it happens I wrote “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” within a couple weeks of each other, during a Christmas break from my job teaching college in Dubuque, Iowa — that was a good break).

And that’s just in the feature sphere.   In television, as seen here, I am working with Kalinda Vazquez on a pilot for Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS, and I am part of the terrific team that is trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH to series on HBO…. 

(7) BAILIE OBIT. South African-born character actor David Bailie died March 5 at the age of 83. On TV he played “Dask” in the 1977 Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death, and also appeared in Blake’s 7. In movies, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. His other film credits include The Creeping Flesh (with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), Son Of Dracula (1973), Legend Of The Werewolf (also with Cushing), The Beyond (2017), The House That Jack Built and In The Trap. Bailie reprised his Doctor Who role as Dask in the Kaldor City audio drama series, and he was in Big Finish Productions audio dramas playing the “Celestial Toymaker”. Bailie also was a professional photographer, specializing in portrait photography. 

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The New York Times article “A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again” focuses on how the artist often used people in his town as models. For most of them it was their main claim to fame, with one exception —  

…The people he painted were real, though. Like Sorenson in “Bright Future,” many lived in or near Stockbridge. William J. Obanhein, the police chief in Stockbridge, posed for Rockwell several times (though he was better known as “Officer Obie” in Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era ballad “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because he had arrested Guthrie for littering)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 11, 1971 — On this day in 1971, THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor.  He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of novels after that decision came into effect. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read the book and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 58. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1967 John  Barrowman, 54. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack,  Aladdin as, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons. (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and  Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1914 – Francis Towner Laney.  Active fan in the late 1940s, he left telling us all why in Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (1948).  He answered FIAWOL (“Fandom is a way of life”) with FIJAGH  (“Fandom is just a [gosh-darned] hobby”); we took things too seriously, he took 130 pages to say; we were a lot of fuggheads, a term he coined, cuttingly, disputably, memorably.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1925 – Christopher Anvil.  Twoscore stories about the Federation of Humanity; another dozen about Pandora’s Planet; another nine about War with the Outs; fourscore others; half a dozen collections; two novels; comical, daredevilish, moving.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1953 – Judith Silverthorne, age 68.  Six novels for us; nonfiction e.g. Ingrained about pioneer Saskatchewan woodworkers 1870-1930.  Two Moonbeam Awards.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1964 – Libba Bray, age 57.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  A Great and Terrible Beauty NY Times Best-Seller.  Printz Award for Going Bovine.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1970 – Nicole Murphy, age 51.  Seven novels, two anthologies, 15 shorter stories.  Wrote up Artist Guest of Honour Shaun Tan for the Aussiecon 4 Programme Book (68th Worldcon).  Chaired Conflux 4, co-chaired 9.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1971 – Jonas Karlsson, age 50.  Actor (Guldbagge Award) and author; three novels so far available in English.  Born in Salem, the one in Stockholm County, Sweden, not the one in Essex County, Massachusetts.  Played Mats, which Swedish-speakers do not rhyme with “Do cats eat bats?”, in Bang Bang Orangutang, a Swedish film which is not SF but who couldn’t love the title? which rhymes in Swedish too.  [JH]

(11) SUING FOR SUPER NON-SUPPORT. Joe George is “Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman’s Supporting Cast” for Tor.com. Did you ever wonder who is the worst Lex Luthor? Here’s George’s candidate:

9. Jesse Eisenberg (DCEU) — Okay, I’m going to lose some of you right away, so let’s get this over with. I dislike all of Zack Snyder’s movies, especially those with Superman in them. But the worst part of his very bad Superman movies is, without question, Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor. There’s potential here to update Lex from an early 20th-century mad scientist to a 21st-century villain like Mark Zuckerberg. But Eisenberg’s jittery, manic take is all irritating style and no substance, coming off as the perfect embodiment of the phrase “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.”

(12) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Mental Floss says these are “14 Things You Might Not Know About ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’”.

3. BEFORE CRITICIZING PROPAGANDA IN NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, GEORGE ORWELL WORKED AS A PROPAGANDIST.

During World War II, Orwell worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His role with the BBC Empire Service involved creating and supervising programming that the nation would feed to Indian networks to encourage a pro-Allies sentiment and spark volunteering.

4. GEORGE ORWELL MODELED ROOM 101 AFTER AN OFFICE AT THE BBC.

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s most horrifying setting is Room 101, the Ministry of Love’s torture chamber in which victims are exposed to their worst nightmares. What readers might not know is that Orwell modeled the chilling locale on an actual room.

As a propagandist, Orwell knew that much of what the BBC said had to be approved by the Ministry of Information, possibly in the BBC’s Room 101. He probably drew the name of his nightmare room from there. Curious about what the dreadful room looked like? The room has since been demolished, but in 2003 artist Rachel Whiteread created a plaster cast of the room.

(13) URB BLURB. Science News reviews Annalee Newitz’ nonfiction book Four Lost Cities: “A tour of ‘Four Lost Cities’ reveals modern ties to ancient people”.

… The section on Cahokia (A.D. 1050 to 1350) — located in what is now Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis — offers an unexpected reason for a city’s emergence. Many people link cities with capitalism and trade. Cahokia’s 30-meter-tall pyramids, 20-hectare plazas and a population (at the time) bigger than Paris suggest that spiritual revival can also build a major metropolis. Cahokia and Angkor, which reached its peak from A.D. 800 to 1431 in what is now Cambodia, also show how cities can form when power gets concentrated in a few influential people. 

Through touring such diverse cities, Newitz shows that the move to urban life isn’t just a setup for a hero of a story. It’s a common setup for many ancient cultures….

(14) E.T. PHONE ROME. In “Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination”, John C. Wright points out he is one of three sff authors who contributed to Cambridge Scholars Publishing’s essay collection Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination: Explorations in Science, Science Fiction and Religion:

Included:

Sciopods, Blemyae, and the Green Children of Woolpit: “Aliens” in the Catholic Imagination, Premodern Era
Michael F. Flynn

What Has Outer Space to Do with Christ?
John C. Wright

Catholic Questions in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Tim Powers

I was honored to be asked to pen an essay titled “What Has Outer Space To Do with Christ?” for this volume. The burning question of whether soulless and dispassionate Vulcans can be baptized is not necessarily addressed, but questions of like magnitude are.

However, as is only to be expected, Mike Flynn’s essay on Sciopods and Blemyae is the more interesting. It is the first I ever heard about the Green Children of Woolpit — and if you have not heard these names before, prepare to be fascinated.

(15) FAIR HEARING. A reconstructed Neanderthal ear adds a new piece to the puzzle of whether the early humans could speak. “Neanderthals Listened to the World Much Like Us” in the New York Times.

…In the new study, the researchers used high-resolution CT scans of ear structures in five Neanderthals, 10 modern Homo sapiens and nine early hominids from Sima de los Huesos, an archaeological site in what is now Spain, who lived before Neanderthals.

The team created 3-D models of these ear structures and ran the measurements through a software model to calculate the sound power transmission, which describes the way sound energy moves from the environment into the ear canal and winds its way toward the cochlea — essentially how much of the sound energy ultimately makes it to your inner ear.

The researchers used this metric to calculate the occupied bandwidth, which reflects the range of frequencies in which at least 90 percent of the sound power reaches the inner ear — the “sweet spot” of hearing, according to Dr. Quam. This sweet spot is the range we hear best in, where our ears are most tuned to sound.

The study found the Neanderthal ear’s sweet spot extended toward frequencies of 3 to 5 kHz, which are specifically dedicated to consonant production. The researchers believe this optimization toward consonants could be a key sign that Neanderthals had verbal language.

“The use of consonants distinguishes human language from mammalian communication, which is almost completely vowels,” Dr. Quam said. “Like grunts, howls, shrieks.”

In fact, the study found Neanderthals’ sweet spot was the same as modern human hearing, whereas the early hominids from Sima de los Huesos had a hearing range somewhere between chimpanzees and modern humans….

(16) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? Here’s a show I knew would produce a Scroll item sooner or later. And the promise was fulfilled by the opening episode of its fifth season: “First reveal of ‘The Masked Singer’ Season 5 is ‘most famous guest ever’”.

This Wednesday, when guest host Niecy Nash removed the Snail’s stovepipe chapeau and Kermit’s adorable little green noggin popped out of a foxhole in the costume’s back, viewers were united in their excitement and delight over this meta, puppet-within-a-puppet, Russian-doll-like moment. (There was a pair of decidedly less adorable actual Russian Dolls who also performed on Wednesday’s premiere, but I’ll get to them later.) Judge Ken Jeong even declared Kermit the “most famous guest ever” to compete on the show, and — sorry Lil Wayne, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Tony Hawk, et al — Ken wasn’t wrong. Kermit is an icon… and, as it turns out, he’s not a bad Daryl Hall impressionist either.

Sadly, while Kermit the Snail gave a charming and not-at-all-sluggish performance, as he told Niecy: “It’s not easy being green, but sometimes it’s even harder being a snail!”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Rich Lynch.] “Right Up Our Alley” — not exactly genre, but it caught the attention of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. The video footage is not CGI.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/21 Sacred Locomotive Files

(1) VARLEY MEDICAL UPDATE. R. Graeme Cameron relayed a report that John Varley’s heart bypass surgery today was successful.

Spider Robinson just dropped quickly in and out of my Monday fannish zoom meet to inform me that “Herb” John Varley’s heart operation went well, no complications, and they’ll be keeping him for five days to monitor recovery, then let him go home. Spider very relieved. Operation successful.

And according to Andrew Porter, “Varley’s partner Lee Emmett reports that he has successfully undergone a quadruple bypass and is in the ICU; he will be in the hospital for the next five days/”

(2) A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS. Mark Lawrence illustrates the limited effectiveness of an endorsement on a bookcover from a bestselling author by showing his own frustrated efforts to get attention from the many people who have already signed up for news about his work: “The Extraordinary Struggle to be Heard”.

…I’m a fairly popular author. People pay MONEY to read my books. Enough so that I can live off the proceeds. You would think this would mean that, when I offer my writing for free, people would jump on it. At least some of them. I’ve sold nearly two million books and must have hundreds of thousands of readers. So how many do you think would try on my recommendation not somebody they’ve never heard of but me: Marky?

On Wattpad I’ve been putting out chapters of a book I started writing called Jacob’s Ladder. I think it’s good. I’ve been alerting the 9,830 people who follow/friend me on Facebook to each chapter as it’s posted. I’ve also been posting about them to the 7,506 members of the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers group on Facebook where I’m reasonably popular.

I also have 2,815 followers on Wattpad itself who get alerts when I post the chapters. And I’ve tweeted about each chapter to my 28,600 followers on Twitter. And I’ve blogged on Goodreads about it where I have 48,029 followers.

I posted chapter 5 two days ago and it’s had 21 views (which are not necessarily reads) at least one of which was me.

All of which I throw out there to demonstrate how ridiculously hard it is to be heard and to have that audience act.

Now, new authors, consider how much of an impact the weeks this slow reader spends reading your book will have on your sales when condensed into a line on the cover…

(3) NYRSF READINGS THIS WEEK. Charles Yu will be on The New York Review of Books Readings livestream tomorrow, February 23.

CHARLES YU is the author of four books, including his latest, Interior Chinatown, which won the National Book Award for Fiction and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. He has been nominated for two Writers Guild of America awards for his work on the HBO series Westworld, and has also written for shows on FX, AMC, Facebook Watch, and Adult Swim. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in a number of publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, and Harper’s. You can find him on Twitter @charles_yu.

The live event *should* be on https://www.facebook.com/groups/NYRSF.Readings and Jim Freund’s timeline, and you *should* (that word again) be able to join on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/c/JimFreund

(4) YU CREATIVE WRITING AWARD. “Charles Yu establishes prize for young Taiwanese American creative writers” reports TaiwaneseAmerican.org. Submissions may be in any literary genre. Prior to his winning a National Book Award for his literary awork Interior Chinatown, Yu also wrote sff, such as How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010), and served as the Guest Editor for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017.  [Via Locus Online.]

TaiwaneseAmerican.org is pleased to announce the inaugural Betty L. Yu and Jin C. Yu Creative Writing Prizes. Created in collaboration with Taiwanese American author Charles Yu, the Prizes are intended to encourage and recognize creative literary work by Taiwanese American high school and college students, and to foster discussion and community around such work.

Submissions may be in any literary genre including fiction, poetry, personal essays or other creative non-fiction. Submissions must be sent via Google Form and must be received by March 31, 2021 at 11:59PM PT. In order to be eligible, submissions must be from writers of Taiwanese heritage (or writers with other significant connection to Taiwan), or have subject matter otherwise relevant to the Taiwanese or Taiwanese American experience. 

Submissions will be considered in two categories, High School (enrolled in high school as of the deadline) and College (enrolled in community college or as an undergraduate as of the deadline). Winners and finalists will be announced in May 2021. A total of $1500 will be awarded to the winners. In addition, each of the winners and finalists will have their submitted work published online by TaiwaneseAmerican.org and considered for publication in a future edition of Chrysanthemum, and offered the opportunity to participate in an individual mentoring session with one of the judges.

(5) NEBULA CONFERENCE TEASER. The SFWA Blog lists some of the panel program topics being planned for the June event in “2021 Nebula Conference Online Programming Preview”. Two examples are —

Setting Boundaries: A writing career often comes with attention—wanted and unwanted. What kinds of boundaries do you set as an author with your readers, and how do those change throughout your career? Authors across the publishing spectrum discuss how they interact with, acknowledge, and encourage their readers while maintaining personal boundaries.

Writing Speculative Justice:  Many envision a new role and future for the justice system in the United States and across the world—one that is more restorative, more equitable, and more just. As writers build our own worlds, what can and should we be thinking about when it comes to justice? How does our approach to laws, crime, retribution, and restoration impact the rest of our worldbuilding, characters, and plots? How can we craft a more just future?

(6) HOW MUCH ARE THOSE CLICKS IN THE WINDOW? James Pyles (PoweredByRobots) has been doing his darnedest to use the recent kerfuffle to get attention. And he doesn’t much care who that damages.

 …Frankly, the Discon III / Worldcon decision to “uninvite” Weisskopf is looking less and less popular. Of course, I have no idea who Weber, Eggleton, and Gannon are (my understanding of SF/F personalities and their politics is shockingly limited), but on the surface, I can’t see anything awful, horrible, and offensive about their comments (well, maybe some of the language was just a little rough depending on how thin-skinned you are). In fact, they seem pretty reasonable….

Bounding Into Comics, as Doris V. Sutherland observes, belittled Sanford’s coverage, but they couldn’t deny what Jason found in Baen’s Bar.

Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer’s purported explanation of the controversy rapidly deteriorated into gibberish: “Omnibus?”

…Back in the day you’d left right and center views – depending on where you went. His [Jason Sanford’s] ‘expose’ is drivel, out of context, imaginary and generally trivial — in keeping with how he earns his authorly income – but it is seized on as a reason to 1) expel Toni as a GoH from WorldCon (because you know, in omnibus, must chuck her under it – even though any sane definition of the Bar was 99.9999% innocuous by any interpretation. Omnibus see. Even if she had nothing to do with it, and didn’t know – and investigated once she did. Not good enough, Guilty. She turned Jason Sanford into a newt. And she has got a wart… maybe.) 2) The little friends mysteriously and suddenly attack the hosting service and other business connections to demand deplatforming because Baen is ‘hate speech and inciting violence’….

(7) IT’S THEIR RIGHT. Meanwhile, this unexpected announcement was tweeted today by American Conservative Union CPAC 2021. I don’t know who is being banned, either, it’s just a coincidence that’s remarkably timely.

(8) GAMING A ZINE. The Guardian’s Sarah Maria Griffin reviews Zine Maker in “How a game about making zines helped me recapture my creativity in lockdown”.

…Creation games aren’t new; they go way back to the original SimCity and beyond. But in autumn 2019, during a period of intense, life-altering burnout, I came across Nathalie Lawhead’s Electric Zine Maker and it redefined what I thought I knew about play, creation and the art that can emerge from video game interfaces. Zine Maker is a clever, accessible tool in the disguise of a joyful toy. I had become sick from overwork and had resigned myself to transitioning careers, leaving writing fiction entirely to move into a more practical realm. I was convinced that the connection between the part of my brain that makes art and the part that produces joy was fried forever. But this game sparked it again.

… Electric Zine Maker gives us a playful way to design and create real, print zines once more. The software streamlines the creation of a one-page zine: an A4 page folded into an A8 booklet. The tools are simple: text boxes, image pasting, some paint brushes and filters. A folding guide tells you how to turn it from a flat page into a 3D object once you print it off. It’s all laid out in bright, roaring neon, reminiscent of a CD-Rom from the mid-1990s. It feels like a piece of time travel, a return to childhood tinkering in The Simpsons Cartoon Studio in 1996.

(9) GRR REMEMBERS WANDA JUNE. George R.R. Martin paid tribute to the late Wanda June Alexander, whose daughter is almost his neighbor in Santa Fe: “The Amazing Wanda June”.

…Wanda June was a dear dear friend… but more than that, really.   She and Raya have been part of our family, in one sense or another, for decades.  I do not actually recall when and where I first met Wanda.  It was at a con, no doubt, probably in the late 70s or early 80s.   I knew OF Wanda before I actually knew Wanda, however.  She was an East Coast fan when I first began hearing tales of her, from mutual friends.   Gardner Dozois, Jack Dann, David Axler, Dave Kogelmen, Joe and Gay Haldeman… all of them were friends of mine, and friends of the legendary Wanda June.   She was one of Parris’s oldest, dearest friends, from the 70s on to this very day. …

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1961 — Sixty years ago at Seacon in Seattle, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone series wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Wolf Rilla, and written by Stirling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and Ronald Kinnoch. The other nominated works were the films Village of The Damned and The Time Machine

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 22, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born February 22, 1879 – Norman Lindsay.  When a critic said children liked to read about fairies more than about food, NL wrote The Magic Pudding, wherefore we may be grateful.  He was also an artist in watercolour, oils, pencil, etching, bronze, concrete.  A dozen other novels; essays, poetry, memoirs.  Here is a World War I cover for The Bulletin.  Here is Odysseus.  Here is Age of Consent.  Here is Lin Bloomfield’s book about NL’s drawings.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born February 22, 1917 – Reed Crandall.  Early inker for Jack Kirby on Captain America.  Did Blackhawk 1942-1953; Jim Steranko said “where [Chuck] Cuidera made Blackhawk a best-seller, Crandall turned it into a classic, a work of major importance and lasting value”.  Forty interiors and a few covers for us, mostly of E.R. Burroughs.  Here are the Blackhawks fighting a giant robot; here is a more airborne moment.  Here is The Man with a Brain of Gold.  Here is John Carter with the Giant of Mars.  Eisner Hall of Fame.  More here.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born February 22, 1953 – Genny Dazzo, Ph.D., age 68.  Active Los Angeles fan.  Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 31, Loscon 27 (with husband Craig Miller).  Reliable in local, regional, continental, World conventions; for example, Guest of Honor Liaison at L.A.con III the 54th Worldcon, L.A.con IV the 64th.  Collects teapots.  Member of County Fair Table Setting Competition fandom.  Doctorate in Theoretical Chemistry.  [JH]
  • Born February 22, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 66. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction. (CE) 
  • Born February 22, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 65. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family. (CE) 
  • Born February 22, 1965 – Max Frei, age 56.  That age-statement isn’t quite right, because Max Frei was a composite of Svetlana Martynchik (whose birthday I gave) and her husband Igor Steopin (1967-2018) in writing (in Russian) Sir Max’s adventures in the Labyrinths of Echo; a score are available in English.  More here. [JH]
  • Born February 21, 1974 – Michelle Knudsen, age 47.  Six novels (Evil Librarian won a Fleischman Award – two sequels), one shorter story, for us; twoscore other books.  Library Lion was a NY Times Best-Seller.  Julie Andrews on a podcast reads “Marilyn’s Monster” aloud.  Favorite Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, The Pirates of Penzance; has been in Iolanthe.  Read aloud at the 2007 White House Easter Egg Roll.  Taking boxing lessons.  [JH]
  • Born February 22, 1981 – Ryan James, age 40.  Two novels with his mother Syrie James.  Much else in the games industry.  Only a few decades ago, despite chess, bridge, , it would have been SF for there to be a games industry.  [JH]

(12) SOUNDING OUT A FANCAST. Cora Buhlert visits with tabletop RPG fancast creators in “Fancast Spotlight: Appendix N Book Club”.

… I’m pleased to feature the Appendix N Book Club, a fancast has the mission to read and discuss the books and authors listed in Appendix N of the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide with varying guests.

Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jeff Goad and Ngo Vinh-Hoi of the Appendix N Book Club to my blog today:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

We are a podcast about the literature that inspires our tabletop RPGs. Initially, we only focused on the Appendix N: a list of “inspirational reading” located in the back of the 1979 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide. Starting with episode 101, we are expanding the scope of the show to include ALL fiction that inspires our gaming. The first half of each episode focuses on the text from a literary perspective and the second half of each episode discussed the text from a gaming perspective….

(13) MUPPET CONTENT WARNING. Sonaiya Kelley’s Los Angeles Times story ”Muppet Show’ now has content disclaimer warning on Disney+” reports Disney has put warning labels on 18 Muppet Show episodes (not every episode). And they’ve blocked two episodes including one with Brooke Shields.

Jim Henson’s classic series “The Muppet Show” began streaming on Disney+ on Friday, but now comes prefaced with an offensive content disclaimer.

“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures,” the warning reads. “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversations to create a more inclusive future together.”

The show, which ran for five seasons between 1976 and 1981, features the new content warning on 18 episodes, including those guest-hosted by Steve Martin, Peter Sellers, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Debbie Harry and Marty Feldman, among others.

Each episode bears the 12-second disclaimer for a different reason, from Cash’s appearance singing in front of a Confederate flag to negative depictions of Native Americans, Middle Easterners and people from other cultures. Additionally, two episodes from the final season, featuring guest stars Brooke Shields and staff writer Chris Langham, are left out entirely.

(14) PATTY CAKE, PATTY CAKE, BAKER STREET. A new Netflix series “THE IRREGULARS Promises Supernatural Spin on SHERLOCK”.

…In the Sherlock Holmes mythology, the “Baker Street Irregulars” are a group of street urchins in the employ of Holmes. They are his eyes and ears in the seedier parts of Jolly Ol’ Londontown. This version, naturally, will focus on that group. It appears they will have more in the vein of the supernatural to deal with. Various adaptations of Doyle’s stories have included a supernatural tinge, we should note, the original stories were always rooted in Victorian-era science. It’s elementary, really….

(15) YOU ARE, BIG HERO SIX. The DisInsider is my number one source for this story: “Exclusive: Big Hero 6 Characters Coming To The MCU”.

We have exclusively learned that certain characters from Big Hero 6 will be making their live-action debut in the MCU.

We’re not sure on who will be coming but we can at least expect Baymax and Hiro.

Some of the projects we heard about were Secret InvasionAgents of Atlas, and Doctor Strange. However, we couldn’t get confirmation.

There’s also no word on if the actors will reprise their roles in regards to live-action appereances.

Big Hero 6 was loosely based on the comic of the same name. The comic was a three-part miniseries written by Scott Lobdell and artist Gus Vasquez. The series went on to be a very popular title, which spawned the animated film and TV series.

(16) FRANSON AWARD. National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) President George Phillies has picked the recipient of this year’s Franson Award, named for the late Donald Franson, and given as a show of appreciation:

It is my privilege and honor to bestow the Franson Award upon our new Treasurer, Kevin Trainor of Tonopah, Nevada. Being N3F Treasurer is a great responsibility. The Treasurer maintains the club financial records without which we would not know who is a member and who has departed. We spent close to a year during which the former Treasurer made clear he wanted to leave, but no member would volunteer to replace him. Can all be grateful to Kevin for volunteering and taking on the Treasurer’s role.

(17) A BIRD OF A DIFFERENT COLOR. “Wildlife Photographer Captures ‘Never Before Seen’ Yellow Penguin” at PetaPixel. Image at the link.

While unloading some safety equipment and food onto Salisbury Plain, Adams noticed an unusual sight he had never seen before: a penguin with bright yellow plumage.

“I’d never seen or heard of a yellow penguin before,” the photographer tells Kennedy News. “There were 120,000 birds on that beach and this was the only yellow one there.”

… The penguin’s strange coloring is due to a condition called leucism, which results in a loss of pigmentation.

“This is a leucistic penguin,” Adams says. “Its cells don’t create melanin anymore so its black feathers become this yellow and creamy color.”

(18) DOCTOR BUNNY. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] A follow-up to the Pixel Scroll of 10/16/20: Artist Will Quinn did this doodle inspired by Paul Hanley‘s designs for one of the forgotten doctors of Doctor Who (Robert Holmes). Daily bunny no.1309 is of a different time. (Does a bunny timelord run around saying “I’m late! I’m late!”?)

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Transformers Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that Transformers is a “feature-length commercial with sort of a story line, because that’s what movies are these days.”  Also, Megan Fox loves Burger King because, hey, it’s a product placement!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, James Bacon, Ben Bird Person, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, James Davis Nicoll, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge with an assist from Tom Becker and Paul Weimer.]