Pixel Scroll 12/5/21 Pixelo And Scrolliet, A Play In 3 Acts By Filiam Scollspeare

(1) NO CHANGE ON DISCON III / WECHAT STATUS. DisCon III announced on November 29 they had to remove WeChat as a payment option. “Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time.” Their tech team was trying to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. Today File 770 checked in with Tim Szczesuil, DisCon III’s Site Selection Administrator, and asked if they’d had success. He said no:

Our Tech person has been working with WeChat to resolve the situation, but our WeChat Pay account is still locked. The lockout is on their end, not ours. We haven’t given up hope that this will be resolved, but time is running out.

Many people in China are buying memberships and paying for the voting fee via credit card. Currently, there is nothing much we can do.

(2) AROUND THE BLOCK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik notes that “language development” software GPT-3 has become open source which has led Sudowrite to develop a tool that could help blocked writers complete their articles.  So Zeitchik interviews Gay Talese about his famous article “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” (which, remember, has an appearance by Harlan Ellison) and film critic Katie Walsh, and has Sudowrite come up with synthetic completions of their articles which he asks Talese and Walsh to grade.  He concludes that software can help writers but not yet replace them. “Sudowrite and GPT-3 imitate Gay Talese in this test of artificial intelligence”.

…I asked Walsh what she made of the fact that a computer program could, with her raw material, come up with something that sounded like a professional review.

She replied: “This is way better than I expected from it! It’s pretty good! I can see this now not as ‘taking my job’ (because the machine can’t watch the movie … yet), but as a tool for a writer/editor to evade writers block.” She continued, “I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility to take the AI paragraph and rework it, because it did successfully guess where I was going most times.”

Oddly, Gupta hasn’t optimized Sudowrite yet for nonfiction; it’s more for novelists. But he saw GPT-3 as very adaptive to journalism.

“Ultimately, it’s a tool that will move things up the chain,” he said. “As a writer, you may not need to crank out words anymore. You’re more of an editor, choosing the best versions.”

This seemed pretty scary to me, and I spent the rest of the day wondering if it was too late to enroll in trade school….

(3) TRIFFID TALK. A BBC Radio 3 panel discusses John Wyndham’s classic: “Free Thinking, The Day of the Triffids”. Listen at the link.

Killer plants, a blinding meteor shower, the spread of an unknown disease: John Wyndham’s 1951 story explores ideas about the hazards of bioengineering and what happens when society breaks down. Matthew Sweet is joined by writers Amy Binns and Tanvir Bush, broadcaster Peter White and New Generation Thinker Sarah Dillon to look at the novel which spawned film, TV and radio adaptations and discuss what resonance it has today.

Amy Binns has written a biography of John Wyndham – ‘Hidden Wyndham: Love, Life, Letters’. Tanvir Bush is a writer and photographer whose most recent novel is ‘Cull’. Peter White is the BBC’s Disability Affairs Correspondent and presents You and Yours on Radio 4.  Sarah Dillon is Professor of English at Cambridge University and a Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. Her most recent book is ‘Storylistening: Narrative Evidence and Public Reasoning’.

(4) BLINDNESS IN SFF. Meanwhile, you can still hear a Triffid-referencing episode of BBC Radio 4’s program Seriously… about “Sci-Fi Blindness”:

From Victorian novels to the latest Hollywood blockbusters, sci-fi regularly returns to the theme of blindness.

Peter White, who was heavily influenced as a child by one of the classics, sets out to explore the impact of these explorations of sight on blind and visually impaired people.

He believes a scene in The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham imbued him with a strange confidence – and he considers the power of science fiction to present an alternative reality for blind readers precisely at a time when lockdown and social distancing has seen visually impaired people marginalised.

He talks to technology producer Dave Williams about Star Trek The Next Generation’s Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge, Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen talks about Birdbox and world-building from a blind point of view in James L Cambias’s A Darkling Sea. Professor Hannah Thompson of Royal Holloway University of London takes us back to 1910 to consider The Blue Peril – a novel which in some ways is more forward thinking in its depiction of blindness than Hollywood now.

And Doctor Who actor Ellie Wallwork gives us her take on why blindness is so fascinating to the creators of science fiction.

(5) HOT WINGS. The Penguin will celebrate 80 years as a Batman villain in an uncharacteristic way: “Unmasked: the Penguin saves world from Covid in Danny DeVito’s Batman story” in the Guardian.

Batman’s least intimidating foe the Penguin, usually seen plotting the heist of Gotham City’s priciest jewels, has a somewhat less dastardly plan up his sleeve in his latest outing: he’s out to vaccinate the world.

The feathered supervillain’s latest storyline was dreamed up by the actor Danny DeVito, who played the character in the 1992 film Batman Returns. Working with artist Dan Mora, DeVito has written the story Bird Cat Love for an anthology celebrating Batman’s enemies, Gotham City Villains, published on Tuesday by DC Comics to celebrate the 80th anniversary year of the character’s creation.

Rather than depicting the Penguin up to his usual tricks, however, DeVito has him stealing all the world’s vaccines from the pharmaceutical companies who are hoarding them, according to an early report from comics site Bleeding Cool News – and then forcibly vaccinating everyone on the planet.

(6) A STAKE IN FUTURE WHO. “Sony officially acquires Doctor Who series 14 producer Bad Wolf” reports Radio Times.

Sony Pictures Television has officially bought Bad Wolf, the company set to produce Doctor Who series 14.

Sony purchased a majority stake in the indie production company, which is behind shows such as His Dark Materials and I Hate Suzie, while the deal also includes the Wolf Studios Wales facility in Cardiff and a minority stake in Bad Wolf America.

Russell T Davies, who will return as showrunner for Doctor Who’s 60th year, will be enlisting the help of Bad Wolf to produce the next season, set to air on BBC One in 2023 with a brand new Doctor.

The company was founded by former BBC executives Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter back in 2015 and while Sky, HBO and Access Entertainment did hold stakes in it, Sony has now taken them over….

(7) NOT OF THIS MIDDLE-EARTH. Yahoo! says “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Show Will (Majorly) Break From Tolkien’s Canon”. Well, how could it not, when did showrunners ever follow the books? But if you’re interested in speculations about the exact departures from the books, read on. Here are two short excerpts:

What’s young Aragorn got to do with anything?

Turns out, nothing. Early reports about the series speculated that it would follow the adventures of young Aragorn, whose path prior to his introduction in The Fellowship of the Ring was long and winding. However, when Amazon tweeted, “Welcome to the Second Age,” which took place thousands of years before Aragorn’s birth, speculation was debunked….

Who’s attached to the series?

Three lead actors have been announced: Robert Aramayo (Game of Thrones) will star as Beldor, an “experienced fighter”; Markella Kavengeh (Picnic at Hanging Rock) will play Tyra, an “empathetic” individual who’s likely an elf; and Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones‘ Uncle Benjen) will star as Oren, the lead villain. It’s worth noting that none of these characters are Tolkien characters—all are new, original characters. Moryfdd Clark will follow in Cate Blanchett’s footsteps as Galadriel, suggesting that other familiar roles, like Elrond, may be recast….

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1977 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-four years ago on CBC, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas first aired. It would premiere a year later in the States on HBO.  It was based off of the children’s book of the same name by Russell Hoban and his wife Lillian Hoban. Russell Hoban you’ll no doubt recognize as the author of Riddley Walker which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award. It was directed and produced by Jim Henson off the script by Jerry Juhl who was known for his work on The Muppet ShowFraggle Rock and Sesame Street.

The Muppets voice cast was Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Marilyn Sokol and Eren Ozker. Paul Williams, who I was surprised to learn wrote Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” among quite a few other songs, composed the music and several songs here. This would not be his last such Muppets work as he would be involved in The Muppet Movie several years later among other of his Muppets projects. 

Reception was very positive with the New York Times comparing it to The Wind in The Willows saying and “These really are the nicest folk on the river.” And AV Critic said that “it was “The kind of Christmas special you could wrap in tissue when the season’s over and store carefully in a box in the attic.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-four percent rating. 

Oh, and Bret McKenzie is writing the script and songs for a film adaptation of it which will be produced by The Jim Henson Company. You fans of The Hobbit films might recognize him. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond) considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. I saw Metropolis in one of those art cinemas in Seattle in the late Seventies. It’s most excellent I think. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney. With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven DwarfsPinocchioFantasiaDumbo, and BambiCinderella and Mary Poppins, the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT).  I’ll pick Fantasia as my favorite film that he’s responsible for though I’m also very fond of Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And of course there’s “The Three Little Pigs” with the weird note about the father of the little pigs. (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones, A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1951 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 70. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  at Chicon 7 for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1961 Nicholas Jainschigg, 60. Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 48. Her unpleasant fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries of such things of cringe-causing violence. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures

(10) SOMEONE WHO KNOWS ABOUT BANKS. Grimes, a female pop musician who had a two-year relationship and a son with Elon Musk, Tesla baron and Iain M. Banks fan, has released the song “Player of Games” off of her new album Book 1. Observers guess that she is punning off the Banks book of the same name. “What Does Grimes New Song Mean, Player Of Games & Elon Musk” at Kotaku.

Apparently, Musk really loves the game and is the greatest gamer, but not much of a lover or boyfriend, assuming the song is indeed about him. (Which it super, probably is.)

(11) READING RED. Mike Thorpe, a sedimentary geochemist contracted to NASA and a Towson University grad, is interviewed about the analysis of samples gathered by the Mars rovers: “Reading the Story in Red Soil” in Towson University Magazine.

Just because it will take years for the samples taken by Perseverance to return to Earth doesn’t mean Thorpe is idle.

“Right now, I’m busy collecting and curating reference materials from the Mars 2020 rover with the team here at NASA JSC as well as the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), ultimately helping build a history of sample collection through the course of the mission,” he says.

“All this work leading up to Mars sample return is to make sure we know that what’s in these samples is truly Martian. Perseverance was made here on Earth and we want to keep Earth, Earth and Mars, Mars. We need to analyze every step of the way, including every part of making the rover, to understand what sources of contamination there might be.”

Another of his responsibilities requires him to consider things that may not exist yet: what tools are going to be used to analyze the samples when they come back.

“Some of the instruments that we may be analyzing these samples with haven’t even been built yet,” he says. “We may have some newer technology with capabilities that we aren’t even familiar with yet. So it’s understanding what is state of the art now and also projecting what it is going to be in the future and how we can improve that to handle some of the most precious geological samples we’ll ever have in our lifetime.”

But to have materials to handle, they have to be extracted from the surface of Mars first….

(12) FEELINGS. The goal of this technology is to create the sensation of touch for VR users. “Meta haptic glove prototype lets you feel VR objects using air pockets” at The Verge.

You cannot pet a dog in Meta’s new, high-tech virtual reality gloves. But researchers are getting closer.

Meta (formerly Facebook) is known for its high-profile moves into virtual and augmented reality. For seven years, though, it’s been quietly working on one of its most ambitious projects yet: a haptic glove that reproduces sensations like grasping an object or running your hand along a surface. While Meta’s not letting the glove out of its Reality Labs research division, the company is showing it off for the first time today, and it sees the device — alongside other wearable tech — as the future of VR and AR interaction….

(13) KUDOS. A customer who bought LEGO’s Mos Eisley Cantina set, which has over 3,000 pieces and costs $350, was halfway through building it when he realized the box was missing a bag of pieces. Fast Company praises the company’s response email (which you can read at the link): “A Customer Discovered Their $350 Lego Set Was Missing Pieces”.

… I mean, if you’re not a Star Wars fan, the email doesn’t really seem like much, but that’s the point. The person who wrote the email clearly understood that anyone who buys this set isn’t just a loyal LEGO fan, they’re a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Whoever wrote the email clearly knows their audience and took the time to make it fun. With what is arguably very little effort, they turned a disappointing situation into something delightful….

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] If you’re a rat, strange things happen to you in the alchemist’s lab!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was a Buddhist crime fighter whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/21 Now We Know How Many Holes It Takes To Fill A Pixel Scroll

(1) REFUTING FOUNDATION. Who cares if a brutal autocracy is destroyed? Why would anyone want to make another one? The Atlantic’s Zachary D. Carter says “’Foundation’ Has an Imperialism Problem”. Beware spoilers.

Foundation is a grand sci-fi adventure, sure, but it’s better understood as a work of political theory—a young American’s dialogue with the Enlightenment historian Edward Gibbon about the promise and peril of empire. To its credit, Apple’s new series embraces the philosophical ambition of Asimov’s masterpiece. But in updating Foundation for the 21st century, Goyer has produced a near-comprehensive repudiation of his source material. This is a show not about space or science, but rather the limits of liberal politics….

(2) WITH A SENSE OF LOSS. David Drake told his newsletter readers he’s giving up writing new novels, but will keep writing short stories. In his own words: “Newsletter #123 – the last one”.

Karen suggested I title this newsletter last, so I’m doing that. My health problems continue, whatever they are. I can’t concentrate enough to write a novel and I even had to give up my project with Ryan Asleben, (who couldn’t have been nicer).

I just couldn’t keep my texts straight. I’m still able to write stories and I think they’re pretty good. One on military robots is coming out in what’s now called Robosoldiers: Thank you for your Servos, edited by Stephen Lawson (Baen June 2022). The later story I did as a whim has been accepted for Weird world War IIIChina, edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett.

I can’t tell you how much I regret retiring. I’m okay for money and the anger I came back from Nam with has settled down to the point I’m no longer dangerous to other people, but I would certainly be happier if I were able to write….

(3) THE INTERSTELLAR JEWISH DIASPORA. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In his article “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew,” Yair Rosenberg meditates on representation of his culture in SFF, on the relationship between mainstream Christianity and Judaism, and on the life (and death) of a little-known character actor. It’s an interesting bit of research, and a reminder about the importance of cultural details in fiction. “The Incredible True Story Behind TV’s Strangest Space Jew” in The Atlantic.

…But for my money, with apologies to Mel Brooks, the most remarkable and utterly unexpected space Jew is this guy from the cult classic Firefly:

Created by Joss Whedon, Firefly lasted only one season, but it sold so many DVDs after it was canceled that the studio revived it for a full theatrical film. The yarmulke-clad figure is Amnon, the space mailman [played by character actor Al Pugliese] who runs a post office frequented by the show’s heroes. He appears in only one episode, and his Jewishness is so fascinating because it goes entirely unremarked. The show’s characters never discuss it, and it plays no role in the plot. It’s just there.

So how did this happen—and in one of the most celebrated single seasons of television ever created, no less? And what explains the incredible attention to detail? Observant viewers will note that Amnon is even wearing tzitzit, the ritual fringes typically but not exclusively donned by Orthodox Jewish men, an impressively deft touch. Why so much effort for something so seemingly incidental?…

(4) PUGLIESE DEATH NOTICE. Incidentally, Steven H Silver reported today that Al Pugliese (December 24, 1946) died from complications from COVID on July 24, 2021. His genre roles included episodes of Firefly, American Horror Story, and Brisco County, Jr., and the films Annihilator and Philadelphia Experiment II. Pugliese was not, in fact, Jewish, though as he told the writer of The Atlantic article above: “Even some of the Jews on set—actors and crew members—mistook him for a religious authority. ‘I’d say, “Wait a minute guys, I’m not a rabbi, I’m an actor.”’”

(5) PEEVED IN TEXAS. This is the lede of a column by Karen Attiah in the Washington Post about librarians battling book banners. “Texas librarians are on the front lines in a battle for the right to read”.

“Librarians are the secret masters of the world,’ wrote American Canadian author Spider Robinson.  “They control information.  Don’t ever piss one off.”

(6) IN DIALOG. “Explicit Queerness: A Conversation with Charlie Jane Anders by Arley Sorg” is a feature in the November Clarkesworld.

What is the key to writing a coming-of-age story that really speaks to readers?

What I love in a coming-of-age story is a character who is discovering their identity at the same time that they’re learning how the world works. There’s something super powerful and also heartbreaking about realizing that the world wasn’t what you thought, while also claiming your own selfhood and your own power. I sort of think of Empire Strikes Back as the great coming-of-age story, alongside the Earthsea books. And more recently, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.

(7) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd recently sat down for Wired‘s online series where celebrities answer the web’s most searched questions.

Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd answer the web’s most searched questions about themselves and ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ What is Dominic Monaghan doing right now? How tall is Billy Boyd? Why is Peregrin Took called Pippin? What kinds of accents do Merry and Pippin have? Dominic and Billy Boyd answer all these questions and much more!

(8) THIS IS NOT FOR YOU, PADAWAN. “Star Wars’ Real Lightsaber Is the Only Thing Without a Price at Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser”Gizmodo has the story.

Hey, you remember that awesome lightsaber Disney revealed that looked like the laser blade was actually igniting and extending? Like a parent to a small child reaching for a pair of sharp scissors, Disney has said, “Only Daddy touch.” Meaning the company is not going to offer them to the public, even if you’re going to the stupid-expensive Galactic Starcruiser Star Wars LARP hotel.

In fact, the only way you’ll ever be able to get your hands on one is to get hired as an actor at the Galaxy’s Edge section of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida—specifically as a Jedi—since they’ll be the only ones allowed to carry them…

(9) OH WHAT FUN. Elves is a Danish horror series picked up by Netflix.

(10) S&S PODCAST. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Rogues in the House podcast interviews Philip Gelatt and Morgan King, creators of the animated sword and sorcery film The Spine of Night. This is exactly the sort of project — both movie and podcast — that deserves more attention.  “’Spine of Night’ with Creators Morgan King and Phil Gelatt”.

 (11) THEY NAMED YOU AFTER THE DOG? Olivia Rutigliano talks about fatherhood as portrayed in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade“’Don’t Call Me Junior’: Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade (1989)” at Bright Wall / Dark Room.

… Furthermore, this man’s whole outfit is the one Indy will later wear on his adventures—the button-down and khakis, the leather jacket and shoulder bag. The grown-up Indy has fashioned himself in the image of this man, emulating the look and even the occupational stylings of this nameless stranger for his whole adult life. That this man means so much to him suggests firmly that he has rejected his own father—the man who sits in such close proximity, yet has no time, patience, or interest to listen to his son and understand what is wrong. This man, this bandit he has just met, offers the young Indy admiration and pride—fond paternal regard which, it is implied, he has long been denied…. 

…Indy’s name is Henry Jones, Jr., but he never goes by it …

For Indiana Jones, everyone is a formative father figure—random criminals, animals—except his own father.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1999 — Twenty-two years ago, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow premiered. You know what’s it’s rather loosely based with the story here being scripted by Kevin Yagher and Andrew Kevin Walker. The former is notable for being known as responsible for Freddy Krueger’s makeup and the Crypt Keeper creature. They met when the Walker was working on the latter series. It starred Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien and Jeffrey Jones. 

Generally critics loved it with Roger Ebert praising both Johnny Depp’s performance and Tim Burton’s visual look.  And Doug Walker said the “clever casting” gave it the feel of a classic Hammer film, high praise indeed.  It was a reasonable box success making two hundred million against the rather high costs of a hundred million. Remember the studio doesn’t get all of a ticket sale. Audience reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it a rather exemplary eighty percent rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike of course has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 68. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation. And it’s shorn of anything that identifies it as Trek related.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 66. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1958 Charles Stewart Kaufman, 63. He wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both definitely genre. The former was nominated for a Hugo at Chicon 2000, the year Galaxy Quest won. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was also a Hugo nominee, losing to The Incredibles at Interaction. 
  • Born November 19, 1962 Jodie Foster, 59. Oscar-winning Actor, Director, and Producer who played the lead in the Hugo-winning film version of Carl Sagan’s Contact, for which she received a Saturn nomination. She has also received Saturn noms for her roles in horror films The Silence of The Lambs, Flightplan, and Panic Room, and she won a well-deserved Saturn trophy for her early horror role at the age of thirteen in The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Other roles include Elysium, the recently-released Hotel Artemis, and voice parts in The X-Files series and the animated Addams Family.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 58. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She, too, shows up as cast on Renegades video Trek fanfic that Beltran is listed as being part of. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf. Anyone seen this? 
  • Born November 19, 1965 Douglas Henshall, 56. Best known for his role as Professor Nick Cutter on Primeval. He played T.E. Lawrence in two stories of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series, and the lead in The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. He showed up on Sea of Souls, a BBC paranormal series. Finally he had a recurring role as Taran MacQuarrie on Outlander.
  • Born November 19, 1975 Alex Shvartsman, 46. Author of the delightfully pulpy H. G. Wells: Secret Agent series. A very proficient short story writer, many of which are collected in Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories and The Golem of Deneb Seven and Other Stories.

(14) FAMOUS TUBES. “The Wonderful World of Disney Neon” will be a Zoom artist talk hosted by the Museum of Neon Art on December 9 – cost $10.

Zoom Artist Talk
Thursday, December 9, 7pm PST

The Museum of Neon Art and Steve Spiegel, Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering will present a one-night-only Zoom event on December 9th at 7pm showcasing the history of luminous tubing in Disney Parks. Disney theme parks are known for their rigorous attention to historic and aesthetic detail and the “Imagineers,” Disney’s team of artists, writers, engineers and technicians use neon and other forms of lighting in multiple ways, from perfectly replicating Golden Age movie houses of Hollywood to transporting audiences into hyper-realistic future worlds. This illustrated lecture draws from the Disney archives as well as Steve’s own photographs. Through images, the presentation details both the history of neon and of Disney. Audiences will learn when neon first appeared in Disney parks, and how the medium influenced park architecture, visitor experience, and storytelling. Audiences will be wowed by the levels of narratives presented through light at Disney theme parks worldwide, such as the dazzling neon collection at Cars Land in Disney California Adventure Park.

Presenter Steve Spiegel is the Story Editor Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering, the theme park design and development division of The Walt Disney Company.

(15) 5-7-5, OR WHATEVER TICKLES YOUR FANCY. Fantasy Literature is taking submissions to its “Eighth Annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. In addition to receiving the glory, “We’ll choose one haiku author to win a book from our stacks or a FanLit t-shirt (depends on size availability). If you’re outside of the U.S.A., we’ll send a $5 Amazon gift card.” Here are two of their “inspirations from previous years.”

We fear the new plague.
Still, we come together at
Station Eleven.


When they realize
that I’m there to rescue them–
I don’t hate that part.

(Murderbot, paraphrased)

(16) PLAY IT AGAIN. “’A Voyage to Arcturus’ may have sold 596 copies in its first printing, but it deserves a wider audience” Michael Dirda advocates for the David Lindsay novel in the Washington Post.

…Of course, fantasy and science fiction have long welcomed and celebrated books that require serious effort from a reader. Samuel R. Delany’s “Dhalgren” is perhaps the most famous recent example, but the locus classicus remains David Lindsay’s “A Voyage to Arcturus.” Its pages are crowded with strangely named beings, most of them bizarre and off-putting; each stage of the hero’s extraterrestrial “Pilgrim’s Progress” generally ends with a murder or two; and the reader closes the book puzzled about what it has all meant.And yet “A Voyage to Arcturus” is deservedly regarded as titanic, the depiction of a spiritual rite of passage that interlaces death and renewal with a quest for transcendence….

(17) SFF ON SIXTIES TELEVISION. Cora Buhlert has reviewed two more episodes of the German TV show Space Patrol Orion at Galactic Journey

…While the streets of West Germany were shaken by anti-war protests, “Deserters”, the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) showed us what warfare might look like in space. Because humanity is fighting the mysterious aliens known only as the Frogs, and that war is not going well: the Frogs have developed a shield that repels energy weapons, rendering them useless….

.. However, West German science fiction fans were a lot more excited about the day after St. Martin’s Day, because the latest episode of Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion) aired.

“Der Kampf um die Sonne” (Battle for the Sun) plunges us right in medias res, when the Orion makes a remarkable discovery. The planetoid N116a has uncommonly high temperatures, a breathable atmosphere and lower forms of plant life, all of which should be impossible, since N116a is supposed to be a dead rock in space….

(18) ADMIRE ALAN WHITE’S NEFFY CERTIFICATE. Lovely!

(19) VORTEX BLASTERS. “Microwave observations reveal the deep extent and structure of Jupiter’s atmospheric vortices” – an article in Science.

Jupiter’s atmosphere has a system of zones and belts punctuated by small and large vortices, the largest being the Great Red Spot. How these features change with depth is unknown, with theories of their structure ranging from shallow meteorological features to surface expressions of deep-seated convection. Researchers present observations of atmospheric vortices using the Juno spacecraft’s Microwave Radiometer. They found vortex roots that extend deeper than the altitude at which water is expected to condense, and they identified density inversion layers. Their results provide the three-dimensional structure of Jupiter’s vortices and their extension below the top cloud layers. They detected a perturbation in the planet’s gravitational field caused by the storm, finding that it was no more than 300 miles (500 kilometres) deep….

 (20) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. Just how early does this training start?

(21) MY FAIR OMNIVORE. This sketch from The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967, which dropped last week, has Kermit the Frog in a blond wig!  (Thanks to Mark Evanier for the link.)

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Morgan Matyjasik asks, “What if there was a two-lane blacktop you could take your motorcycle to the Moon on?”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Rob Thornton, Olav Rokne, Steven H Silver, Jennifer Hawthorne, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Karl-Johan Norén, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeffrey Jones.]

Pixel Scroll 11/8/21 The Martian Chronocules

(1) A LONG AND WINDING ROAD TO RECOVERY. John Varley had a heart attack followed by a quadruple bypass in February, and later was hospitalized with a post-vaccination breakthrough Covid infection, all of which he’s written about in “What a year this has been” posted October 26. In the midst of that he contracted pneumonia, which fortunately can be fought with antibiotics:

…I don’t have the bottle near me here but to the best of my recollection the ones I’m taking now are Placeboxydrine, Oxyplaceboxicillizole, and Cryptosporidiosicil, which I was already taking. Added to that was my daily dose of Jeremiah Peabody’s Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pill. If those bad boys don’t KO the bacteria, nothing will.

I feel pretty confident that I will survive this. I’m much less certain that I will recover my already-depleted physical faculties. But I try not to worry about that. So in that spirit I’ve devised a little game. Since it’s beyond question (in my mind, at least) that my trials are not over, I asked my old friend Job (not Jobs) what sort of disease I might encounter next as I wend my way through this vale of tears… 

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present C. S. E. Cooney and Robert V.S. Redick in person on Wednesday, November 17 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern at the KGB Bar. (Address here.)

  • C. S. E. Cooney

C. S. E. Cooney lives in Queens, New York. She won the World Fantasy Award for her collection Bone Swans in 2016, and her new collection, Dark Breakers comes out from Mythic Delirium in February 2022. Her forthcoming novel Saint Death’s Daughter will be out with Solaris in April 2022. Currently, she and her husband, author Carlos Hernandez, are co-developing a TTRPG about “Inquisition and Aliens” called Negocios Infernales.

  • Robert V.S. Redick

Robert V.S. Redick is a novelist, teacher, editor, and international development consultant with 30 years experience in the Neotropics and Southeast Asia. He is the author of seven novels, including The Red Wolf Conspiracy and The Fire Sacraments epic fantasy trilogy. His most recent novel Sidewinders, was published in July. He won the New Millennium Writings Award and was a finalist for the Thomas Dunne Novel Award. He lives with his partner, Dr. Kiran Asher, in Western Massachusetts.

(3) BANGED UP PUBLISHER. Wishes for a quick and full recovery to John Gregory Betancourt of Wildside Press and The Black Cat Mystery and Science Fiction Ebooks who injured himself in a fall, as he told his mailing list today in this message titled “Disaster Strikes!”

I’m afraid I tripped and took a bad fall yesterday afternoon, which injured my ankle, knee, right wrist, and some fingers on my left hand. After hours at the emergency room, I was fortunate to learn nothing was actually broken, despite the pain and grotesque swelling of my wrist, but there is a lot of soft tissue damage. I can still type a bit with three fingers on my left hand and two on the right, but it is painful and slow. Our production level is going to be down until I can use at least my hands properly again. I am hoping for under two weeks. At the very least when the wrist brace comes off.

I will be unable to email copies of Black Cat Weekly issue 10 to paid subscribers this week. Please stop by the web site, bcmystery.com, and download your copies from the paid subscribers area.  It is a good issue.

All of the material for issue 11 is here, so it should be done on schedule.

I am going to take advantage of the forced down-time to try to master voice dictation software. I am using Google Voice to write this email, but it is not good enough. It does not support quotation marks, which boggles the mind. It is fine for straight text like an email, however.

(4) GENRE OVERCOMERS. Panelists Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Jherane Patmore of Rebel Women Lit, Onyx Pages, and Alex Brown will be discussing the purpose of sff genre labels and how Black authors use or transcend them in “What’s in a Genre: Black Authors and SFF” which streams on YouTube November 13 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific.

(5) HUGO UP, CLARKE DOWN. Kris V-M published the results of their survey of SF readers on Twitter, which collected 2,033 responses. Who’s read the winners of various awards? Thread starts here. People mostly don’t read Hugo winner They’d Rather Be Right, but there are six Clarke Award winners that fared even worse.

(6) WHO YA GONNA RECALL? The Ghostbusters: Afterlife “final trailer” dropped today. In theaters November 19.

From director Jason Reitman and producer Ivan Reitman, comes the next chapter in the original Ghostbusters universe. In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, when a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind. The film is written by Jason Reitman & Gil Kenan.

(7) EVERYTHING BUT THE OINK. Bad Wolf Archives shared these Christopher Eccleston memories – and it’s hard to get this last image out of my mind now.

(8) ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDALS. The shortlist for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction was unveiled today. The titles that made the finals are at the link. None of the longlisted books of genre interest made the shortlist. The two medal winners will be announced on January 23. The Carnegie Medal winners will each receive $5,000.

(9) JOCULARITY. “Big Money in Dead People” was the title of a news roundup that included this report from The Wrap: “AMC Networks Earnings: ‘Walking Dead’ Return Leads to 22% Rise in US Ad Sales”.

AMC Networks’ U.S. ad sales rose 22% year-over-year during the third quarter of 2021, when AMC’s “The Walking Dead” premiered its 11th and final season, the company reported Friday.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2007 — Fourteen years ago, The New Mel Brooks Musical: Young Frankenstein opened on Broadway. Based rather obviously off the Brooks film, with the music and lyrics, not surprisingly, by Brooks. Who helped wrote the accompanying book. The original Broadway cast was Roger Bart as Frederick Frankenstein, Shuler Hensley  as The Monster, Christopher Fitzgerald as Igor, Megan Mullally as Elizabeth, Sutton Foster as Inga and Fred Applegate as Inspector Kemp / Hermit. It began previews on October 11, 2007, and opened on the date I noted above at the Lyric Theatre (then the Hilton Theatre) and closed on January 4, 2009, after 485 performances. Reception was mixed with the Times calling it a “overblown burlesque revue” but the Post calling it “very good indeed”. A few critics of course compared it unfavorably to The Producers which suggests they weren’t very good critics. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula but did you know that he wrote other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? Of course you do, being you. The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1898 Katharine Mary Briggs. British folklorist and author who wrote A Dictionary of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures , and the four-volume Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, and the excellent Kate Crackernuts novel. Her The Anatomy of Puck: An Examination of Fairy Beliefs among Shakespeare’s Contemporaries and Successors is a fascinating read. (Died 1980.)
  • Born November 8, 1914 Norman Lloyd. Yes, those dates are right. His longest genre role was as Dr. Isaac Mentnor on the most excellent Seven Days series. He’s been on Next GenGet Smart! in the form of the Nude Bomb film and visited The Twilight Zone, and in a fair of horror films from The Dark Secret of Harvest Home to The Scarecrow. (Died 2021.)
  • Born November 8, 1932 Ben Bova. He published more than one hundred twenty books, and as the editor of Analog he won six Hugo Awards. He later worked as editorial director at Omni. Hell he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that though it’s uneven as overall, it’s splendid hard sf, as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes on Baen. What’s your favorite works by him?  (Died 2020.)
  • Born November 8, 1952 Alfre Woodard, 69. I remember her best from Star Trek: First Contact where she was Lily Sloane, Cochrane’s assistant. She was also Grace Cooley in Scrooged, and polishing her SJW creds, she once voiced Maisie the Cat in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to School. And yes, I know she’s portrayed a character in Marvel Universe. I just like the more obscure roles. 
  • Born November 8, 1955 Jeffrey Ford, 66. Winner of a very impressive seven World Fantasy Awards as well every other award given to writers of fantastic literature. Really there’s too many to list here. He’s got two Hugo nominations, one at Torcon 3 for his “Creation” short story, another at Noreascon 4 for ”The Empire of Ice Cream” novelette “.  And yes, his Well-built City trilogy is amazing.
  • Born November 8, 1956 Richard Curtis, 65. One of Britain’s most successful comedy screenwriters, he’s making the Birthday List for writing “Vincent and the Doctor”, a most excellent Eleventh Doctor story. He was also the writer of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot which isn’t really genre but it’s Roald Dahl who’s certainly is one of us some of the time, isn’t he? (Please don’t deconstruct that sentence.) And he directed Blackadder which is most decidedly genre.
  • Born November 8, 1968 Parker Posey, 53. Doctor Smith on the rebooted Lost in Space series. I’ve not seen it, so how is it?  She was in a film based on based Dean Koontz’s version of Frankenstein. And she shows in Blade: Trinity as well which I’ll admit I liked.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) GUITARDIS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Already the only Doctor Who to have earned an Academy Award, Peter Capaldi’s now set his sights on the music charts with his first album of music in 41 years. The Glaswegian actor played in a rock quartet in the 1970s, but put that aside to pursue a (highly successful) acting career. Although numerous sci-fi stars (such as William Shatner, Brent Spiner, and Milla Jojovich) have recorded pop albums in the past, I believe Capaldi will be the first lead actor from Doctor Who to have done so. So far the music critics are generally impressed with the musicianship and lyricism. The linked article includes the first single from Capaldi’s album St. Christopher. “Peter Capaldi on taking centre-stage with first album for 41 years” in The Sunday Post.

…Now, 41 years later, he has returned to his first love. On November 19, Capaldi will release his debut album, St Christopher – more than four decades after The Dreamboys put out their first and only single, Bela Lugosi’s Birthday, on the indie label St Vitus Dance.

The album was produced by his friend Robert Howard, better known as Dr Robert of hit 1980s band The Blow Monkeys and, discussing his passion for music, the former Time Lord spun back through the years to reminisce about the scene that first captured his imagination….

(14) AHH, THE CLASSICS. Iconic Marvel superhero stories are being published in volumes as part of the Penguin Classics Marvel Collection.

Calling all Marvel fans and Classics lovers! We are thrilled to announce that we’ve partnered with Marvel Comics to publish a new series, the Penguin Classics Marvel Collection. This collection of carefully curated comic book anthologies presents the original stories and seminal tales of key Marvel characters, and serves as a testament to Marvel’s transformative impact on the fantasy genre and across popular culture. For the first time, these classic stories of some of the most iconic super heroes in the history of American comics, including The Amazing Spider-ManBlack Panther, and Captain America, are Penguin Classics. Learn more about the action-packed, must-read new series featuring forewords by Jason Reynolds, Nnedi Okorafor, and Gene Luen Yang!

(15) MUPPETS NEWS. Did you know that Big Bird — not the actor playing him, the character — tweeted that he had gotten vaccinated?

(16) LISTEN IN. Cat Rambo will talk about their forthcoming book release, You Sexy Thing and tell about “Three Tools For Plotting That Every Writer Needs” at the Parsec-SFF.org meeting on November 20. Register for the Zoom meeting here. It’s free. Parsec is a club in Pittsburgh, PA.

(17) REPORTING FROM THE FRONT LINES. Writer Jo Lindsay Walton, who Filers may remember as creator of the Sputnik Awards, is also a Research Fellow in Critical and Cultural Theory at the Sussex Humanities Lab, and he participated in a presentation at COP26 – “Communicating climate risk – what works and what doesn’t” – which can be viewed on YouTube.

(18) THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE LANDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You may recall reports last year of a man in a jet pack near LAX — sighted on two occasions by pilots approaching the airport. This was puzzling in no small part because the altitude and duration of the flight seemed to be well beyond known jet pack capabilities.

The FBI has a new theory—call it Jack the unripper. Recent pics in the LA area have surfaced of what seems to be a Jack Skellington balloon floating around. Could the erstwhile jet pack rider have been the same? One supposes it’s possible such a balloon filled with helium could’ve reached a significant altitude without ripping. I can see it now, every Party City and Halloween Express will be asked to comb their invoices for suspicious purchases. “Jet pack sighting: FBI says ‘possible jet pack man’ spotted near Los Angeles International Airport may have been balloon”.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/21 Just Pixel A Name At Random From Your Scrollodex

(1) THE BUZZ. Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear will be released June 17, 2022. Chris Evans voices Buzz. As Variety ‘explains, “Lightyear doesn’t follow the toy-sized, space-faring exploits of Tim Allen’s iconic character. Rather, the 2022 film introduces the ‘real-life’ human astronaut whose adventures inspired the toy line seen in the ‘Toy Story’ franchise.”

The sci-fi action-adventure presents the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear—the hero who inspired the toy—introducing the legendary Space Ranger who would win generations of fans.

(2) SHIRLEY JACKSON CONSIDERED. Ellen Datlow along with Laurence Hyman, Nate King, and Bernice Murphy discuss “Shirley Jackson” in episode 12 of the American Writers Museum podcast.

In this episode, we’ll discuss the life and work of multi-dimensional writer Shirley Jackson, perhaps best known for her horror novels and short stories. We’re joined by three guests whose lives and careers have been influenced greatly by Jackson in different ways.

(3) COME ONE, COME ALL. Ringmaster James Davis Nicoll invites Tor.com readers to “Step Right Up! Five Recent Fantasy Stories Set at a Circus”.

Circuses! They seem like such a safe, wholesome source of communal entertainment. Yet, many who’ve ventured under a circus big top have faced unexpected consequences—some quite dangerous for performers in real life. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the circus provides such a lively—and occasionally treacherous—setting for these five recent fantasies….

(4) GAIA & FRIENDS. Isaac Arthur’s episode on “Sentient Planets & World Consciousnesses” includes examples from films, comics, games and books with authors like Isaac Asimov, Peter Watts and Alastair Reynolds cited.

(5) I’M SORRY I’LL READ THAT AGAIN. Fireside editor Brian J. White found he needed to explain yesterday’s story notification email to recipients:

We’ve gotten a handful of messages about today’s weekly story notification email and wanted to send out a clarification: We made a mistake in not thinking about how that notification for the story “Not Quite What We’re Looking for Right Now” would look in people’s inboxes. The email that went out about and hour and a half ago wasn’t a misdirected story rejection, it’s a short story written in the form of a story rejection, and the blurbs I wrote around it didn’t make that clear. Sorry for the confusion this has caused, and thanks to the folks who let us know about it.

(6) A MODEST GOSPEL-HORROR, UNASKED QUESTION. Virtual convention programmers! Michael Toman has an item to suggest:

It occurred to me ask if anyone out there might be interested in including a “Gospel-Horror” panel and/or performance at a convention this year or maybe sometime safer?

This Interested Listener really enjoyed listening to live choral music from “Game of Thrones” and other shows at the last Loscon I attended.

Sorry, but “names to my mind come there none…”

I would buy a “Zoom Ticket” for something like this to help support fannish musical activity, especially since I’m still “Live Audience Hesitant” about poking my Grizzled, Geezer Guy Snout out of my Own Private, Paper Labyrinth Burrow.

(7) MISSING FIFTH. “Reading with… Cherie Priest” at Shelf Awareness includes this list:

Your top five authors:

In no particular order, Terry Pratchett (especially the Witch novels); Dashiell Hammett (especially the Continental Op stories); Barbara Hambly (her gothics are my comfort reading); Caitlín Kiernan (all of their novels, but Kiernan is also one of the only short story writers I regularly keep up with); and I’m having too much trouble narrowing down another half dozen folks for a fifth. I’d hate to leave anyone out–so let’s call number five a wild card spot, eh?

(8) CASTING CALL. “Bill Murray Has a Role in ‘Ant-Man & the Wasp 3;”. He told a German newspaper that he appears in the upcoming Ant-Man & the Wasp: Quantumania.

I recently made a Marvel movie. I probably can’t tell you about it, but it doesn’t matter. In any case, some people were quite surprised why I decided on such a project of all things. But for me it was very clear: I got to know the director – and I really liked him a lot. He was funny, humble, everything you want from a director. And with the cheerleading story “Bring It On – Girls United” he made a film years ago that I think is damn good. So I accepted, even though I’m not otherwise interested in these huge comic book adaptations as an actor.

(9) BOOK LOVER. In “Why Denis Villeneuve Made ‘Dune’ for Himself”, The Atlantic questions the director about “The Blockbuster That Hollywood Was Afraid to Make.”

When I asked him about his film adaptation of Dune, the writer-director Denis Villeneuve quickly held up his prized copy of Frank Herbert’s book, a French-translation paperback with a particularly striking cover that he’s owned since he was 13. “I keep the book beside me as I’m working,” Villeneuve told me cheerfully over Zoom. “I made this movie for myself. Being a hard-core Dune fan, the first audience member I wanted to please was myself. Everything you receive is there because I love it.”…

(10) HERBERT’S FATHERING ROLE REFLECTED IN DUNE. The New Yorker’s Ed Park seems to have written a more interesting article than the one seen by the headline-writer: “The Enduring Appeal of ‘Dune’ as an Adolescent Power Fantasy”.

…Unlike Lynch or Alejandro Jodorowsky—the Chilean-French filmmaker who planned and failed to make a hallucinogenic twelve-hour version of “Dune” in the seventies—Villeneuve was a “Dune” fan from childhood, having come to the book at age thirteen. His connection to the material shows. The melancholy atmospheres of the alien-contact tale “Arrival” and the dystopian “Blade Runner” sequel are transmuted into a sort of interstellar emo, so that the dreams, fears, and ambitions of Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet) become as central to the film as the special effects and political skulduggery. Chalamet is twenty-five—the same age that Kyle MacLachlan was when Lynch’s “Dune” came out—but slighter, more vulnerable, closer to the “stringy whipcord of a youth” that Herbert describes….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1934 – Eighty-seven years ago this day, Los Angeles got its Science Fiction club. The Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League (No. 4) began meeting in 14-year-old Roy Test Jr.’s family garage on October 27, 1934. At LASFS’ 75 anniversary banquet  Roy joked that his mother, Wanda Test, volunteered to be club secretary as a way to come to the meetings “and see what kind of oddballs I was associating with. Maybe it didn’t occur to her I was the oddest one there.” She was the club’s first secretary and her minutes became known as “Thrilling Wanda Stories.” (The prozine Wonder Stories ran an article about the birth of the club in the February 1935 issue.)

Ten years after first LASFL meeting, Roy Test, Jr. was an Army Air Corps bomber pilot stationed in England. In 2005, at the age of 83, he could still wear his pink and greens from WWll. (SGVN Staff Photo/Sarah Reingewirtz, SVCITY)

Rob Hansen also points out today is the anniversary of the first meeting of the Ilford Science Literary Circle in 1930 – “If British fandom has a birthday, this is it.” 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1937 Steve Sandor. He made his first genre appearance on Trek playing Lars in the second season episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion.” He also did one-offs on Knight RiderFantasy Island and The Six-Million Dollar Man. He did a choice bit of horror in The Ninth Configuration. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1939 John Cleese, 82. Monty Python of course, but also Time BanditsMary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two Bond films as Q and even two Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick. He’s definitely deep into genre film roles. And let’s not forget he shows up as an art lover on the “City of Death” story, a Fourth Doctor story. 
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist who with writer Len Wein is known for co-creating Swamp Thing. He did a lot of illustrations from Cemetery Dance magazine to Stephen King graphic novels to DC and Marvel comics. Tell me what you liked about his work.) Some of his horror work at Creepy magazine  is now available as Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1950 James L. Conway, 71. Director who has worked on all four on the new Trek franchise series: Next GenerationVoyagerDeep Space Nine and Enterprise.  He’s also done work on CharmedSmallville, Supernatural, the most excellent Magicians and Orville
  • Born October 27, 1953 Robert Picardo, 68. He debuted in genre as Eddie Quist, the serial killer werewolf in The Howling. He’d be in Dante’s ExplorersLooney Tunes: Back in ActionGremlins 2: The New BatchSmall Soldiers and Innerspace. And then of course he played the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) on Voyager and on Star Trek: First Contact as well. And he even managed to appear on Stargate SG-1.  Like many Trek performers, he shows up on the Orville series as he played Ildis Kitan in a recurring role.
  • Born October 27, 1963 Deborah Moore, 57. English actress and the daughter of actor Roger Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. She’s an Air Hostess in Die Another Day, a Pierce Brosnan Bond film. And she was a secretary in Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. Her very first role was as Princess Sheela in Warriors of the Apocalypse. She was in Top Line an Italian SF film.  
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 51. His djinn-centered Bartimaeus series is most excellent. Though considered children’s novels, I think anyone would enjoy them. I’ve also read the first two in his Lockwood & Co. series as well — very well done.

(13) COMIC STRIP.

  • Bizarro shows the Roman insurance industry at work.
  • Off the Mark shows Dr. Frankenstein’s heartbreak.

(14) VIRTUAL IRISH CONVENTION. Cora Buhlert spent the first October weekend at Octocon, the Irish National Science Fiction Convention, which was virtual this year “for obvious reasons” as she noted: “Cora’s Adventures at the Virtual 2021 Octocon”.

…On Sunday, I was on the panel about “Uncovering the Hidden Treasures of the Past” with Michael Carroll, who was also the Octocon Guest of Honour, Cheryl Morgan, Deirdre Thornton. Ian Moore was the moderator. This panel was recorded and may be watched along with other great content at the Octocon Twitch channel.

Now everybody who knows me should know that I love talking about old SFF and the many great stories and novels of past decades that are not nearly as well known as they should be, so that was exactly the right panel for me. We agreed that reading and discussing older SFF is valuable, because it shows us where the genre came from and how it got where it is now. Besides, actually reading older SFF and not just the few books anointed classics either is also the best antidote against the common claim that women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, [insert minority here] were not writing SFF before the current time, because women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, etc… were always part of the genre, we have just chosen to forget and ignore many of them, denying the writers who follow role models….

(15) HAPPY 125TH ANNIVERSARY TO THE OTHER, OR AT LEAST ANOTHER, TBR. [Item by Daniel Dern.] TBR is, according to the lead essay in “The Very First Cover of the Book Review” in its Sunday October 24, 2021 edition, stands for “The Book Review” — “not to be confused with “to be read,” as the lead paragraph quickly notes. Its fuller non-acronymic initial name is NYTBR, as in, the New York Times Book Review, or, as I (and, I’m sure many others, including no doubt some of you), the Sunday Book Review section. (Possibly fewer these years because you’re reading it online, and so lacking the physical sectionality.)

This 125th-anniversary issue celebrates itself by reprinting reviews, essays, and a few letters, notable and interesting (and in some cases often amusing) from a mix of the book being reviewed, or the author reviewing it, and, in some cases, the letters.

(Since I’m a print-and-digital subscriber, I don’t know how much is visible through the paywall — or rather, how many articles the Times‘ free account offer permits. There does appear to currently be a buck-a-week-for-a-year digital offer, I see… so, assuming that New York Times digital access isn’t like Pringles potato chips (the process of cooking in their stackable format invented, as I’ve only recently learned, by Gene Wolfe, a name that dagnab better be familiar to 97% or greater of File 770 readers), you can enjoy this anniversary section within a week, for a buck, and then cancel. Or borrow a friend’s copy.)

For example (based on what I’ve read so far plus looking at the table of contents):

  • In Letters, Jack London responding to a review of his prizefighting story, “The Game,” that found fault with its realism:

I doubt if this reviewer has had as much experience in such matters as I have. I doubt if he knows what it is to be knocked out, or to knock out another man. I have had these experiences, and it was out of these experiences, plus a fairly intimate knowledge of prizefighting in general, that I wrote “The Game.”… I have just received a letter from Jimmy Britt, lightweight champion of the world, in which he tells me that he particularly enjoyed “The Game” on “account of its trueness to life.”

  • James Baldwin’s review of Alex Haley’s book, Roots
  • Rex Stout (creator of the Nero Wolfe books, of course — which include, along with detecting, many discussions of fine cooking, mostly between Wolfe and in-house chef Fritz Brenner) reviews The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book,
  • Sportswriter Roger Angell reviews “Books About Babe Ruth” (four biographies)
  • Vladimir Nabakov reviews Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Nausea” translated into English… spending a good chunk of the review showing and faulting sample translation inaccuracies.
  • A review of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

And with that, I’m going to go back, and finish reading Stout’s review of Toklas’ recipes.

(16) JIM JEFFERIES ON HALLOWEEN. “I Don’t Know About That with Jim Jefferies” devotes an episode to Halloween, discussing the holiday with Lisa Morton, six-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author and host of the “Spine Tinglers with Lisa Morton” podcast.

(17) HAVE SPACE SUITS, NO TRAVELLERS. Futurism.com finds a “Space Tourism Company Cancels Launch Because It Couldn’t Find any Passengers”.

In what could be a serious reality check for the buzz-filled space tourism industry, its most established player says it had to cancel its upcoming launch with SpaceX because it couldn’t find any viable — and sufficiently wealthy — passengers for the journey.

“The mission was marketed to a large number of our prospective customers, but ultimately the mix of price, timing and experience wasn’t right at that particular time and our contract with SpaceX expired,” [Space Adventures] company spokesperson Stacey Tearne told SpaceNews. “We hope to revisit the offering in the future.”…

(18) NOT GONE WITH THE WIND. If, no matter what the mission commander thinks, you want all the “gory details,” the New York Times article supplies them: “SpaceX’s Latest Engineering Challenge: A Leaky Toilet”.

…Jared Isaacman, the Inspiration4 mission commander, told CNN, “Nobody really wants to get into the gory details.”

Crew Dragon has more interior space than a minivan, but less than a studio apartment, and there is no proper bathroom. Instead, it has a device on its ceiling that astronauts use to relieve themselves — remember, there’s no up or down in microgravity. The device creates suction using an internal fan, crucial to ensuring human waste goes in the right direction in the weightlessness of space. Some officials vaguely said the toilet problem involved the fan, prompting even more questions.

A closely held secret no more….

(19) MAJOR EVENT AT THE SEC. Starting this weekend, the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) will be held in Glasgow at the SEC, which is also the proposed site for the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid. A reader asks the question, “Will there be any spin-off benefit from this COP event (new facilities, kit etc)? Are the bid team actively keeping an eye on this?”

(20) BLUE MARBLE. This Muppets video dropped earlier in the week and is part of the forthcoming environmental special Dear Earth.

The Muppets perform the 70’s classic Mr. Blue Sky. It’s all part of the Dear Earth special; an epic global celebration of our planet and what we need to do to slow climate change. Sprinkled with musical performances Dear Earth also contains well-known climate activists, creators, and celebs who will all share ways to make our lives more sustainable.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Halloween Kills” the Screen Junkies say that “extra crispy” Michael Myers is lucky because his foes this time fight with hockey sticks, a cricket bat, and an iron.  “Where are all of your guns, people!” the narrator says.  “I thought this was America.  How drunk are you people?”  Also, how did they get someone to look like Donald Pleasance?

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Andrew (not Werdna), Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jennifer Hawthorne, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Russell Letson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/27/21 A Pixel Scroll Title That Turns Out To Have Been Used Before

(1) B5. Variety reports J. Michael Straczynski is working on bringing back his keynote show: “’Babylon 5′ Reboot in Development at The CW From Original Creator”.

… Original series creator J. Michael Straczynski is onboard to write the project. He will also executive producer under his Studio JMS banner. Warner Bros. Television, which produced the original series, will produce the reboot.

The new iteration of the sci-fi series is described as a “from-the-ground-up reboot.” In the series, John Sheridan, an Earthforce officer with a mysterious background, is assigned to Babylon 5, a five-mile-long space station in neutral space, a port of call for travelers, smugglers, corporate explorers and alien diplomats at a time of uneasy peace and the constant threat of war. His arrival triggers a destiny beyond anything he could have imagined, as an exploratory Earth company accidentally triggers a conflict with a civilization a million years ahead of us, putting Sheridan and the rest of the B5 crew in the line of fire as the last, best hope for the survival of the human race.

Which all makes sense of Straczynski’s cryptic tweet of two weeks ago.

(2) LDV NEWS. Today Straczynski also tweeted a brief update about the status of Last Dangerous Visions.

(3) TWO TO TANGO. James Davis Nicoll is there “When Authors Collide: Five SFF Works of Collaborative Fiction” at Tor.com.

The writing of prose is often depicted as a solitary activity, an occupation suited to hermits sealed into poorly lit garrets, sliding their manuscripts out under their front door, receiving flat food under the same door. Now this can be a perfectly functional approach to writing…but it is not the only one…..

(4) READERCON. The Readercon committee announced the next con will be in 2023. Rose Fox will be interim con chair leading their “year of renovation.” Readercon 32 Moved to July 13–16, 2023.

There will be no Readercon in 2022. But don’t panic! We’re not going anywhere! We just need some time to recharge and get our house in order.

The last two years have been a doozy for everyone. We all need some rest. And Readercon as an organization needs an opportunity to revamp back-end processes, update and streamline old systems, and recruit new volunteers to fill key positions. Just as you can’t fix your car’s brakes while you’re driving, we can’t make all those changes at the same time as putting on a convention. So after much behind-the-scenes discussion, we’re officially taking 2022 as a Renovation Year!…

(5) CORFLU. The convention for fanzine fans, Corflu 39 Pangloss, still aspires to run on its March 18-20, 2022 date – and toward that end has published Progress Report #1 with all the info about venue, membership, and who’s on the committee.

We live in parlous times. There is great confusion under heaven, and the conditions are excellent.  Which is to say, thanks to border closures, travel restrictions, economic wobbles, and ongoing pandemic uncertainty, much of what we can tell you about Corflu 39 is aspirational, provisional, or pending better data with the unfolding of future events.  But we step out in hope, and choose to be optimistic that all our Corflu wishes will come true.  Thus, Corflu Pangloss….

(6) CITY PICKS BUTLER BOOK. The city of South Pasadena (CA) has voted its One City One Story book for 2021 – Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. The South Pasadena Public Library will hold an in-person discussion on October 21 and a Zoom discussion on November 10 – register at the links.

One City One Story is the South Pasadena Public Library’s Citywide Reading Program. Community voting took place for a title from September 1-10. The winning book, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, was announced on September 27. We encourage South Pasadenans to read it to engage with this year’s theme, “Navigating Nature”. Dive even deeper with community discussions and themed programs.

(7) BANKS TV ADAPTATION PLANNED. Producer Matthew James Wilkinson (Yesterday) is teaming up with Poldark and Endeavour exec producer Tom Mullens on a TV adaptation of The Business by Iain Banks – Deadline has the story: “’Poldark’ & ‘Yesterday’ Producers Team For Iain Banks Adaptation”.

The Business follows Kate Telman, a working-class Glaswegian who has risen through the ranks to become a senior executive in a secretive super-corporation, known only as The Business. Telman discovers that The Business is planning to buy a small country in order to secure a seat on the UN and that, despite the benevolent image and democratic structure it presents to the world, the company will stop at nothing to increase its influence. So begins a dangerous personal reckoning as Telman travels the globe from Scotland to the Swiss Alps, the American Midwest, Pakistan and the Himalayas, determined to uncover the conspiracy at the heart of the shady company she works for.

…Mullens and Wilkinson said: “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to adapt Iain Banks’ wickedly satirical The Business for television. As relevant today as when it was first published, we look forward to honouring Iain’s work with a powerful, entertaining thriller.”

(8) THE EFFECTS THAT WON THE AWARDS. This ILM look at season 2 of The Mandalorian dropped last week: “The Emmy-Winning Special Visual Effects Of The Mandalorian: Season 2”.

Join Visual Effects Supervisor, Richard Bluff, as he shares a peek behind the curtain of the effects of The Mandalorian: Season 2, winner of 7 Emmy® Awards including Special Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Prosthetic Makeup, Stunt Coordination, Stunt Performance, and Music Composition. For its sophomore outing, Lucasfilm’s hit Disney+ series built upon the groundbreaking technical and artistic achievements accomplished during season one, combining traditional methodologies, with ever-advancing new technologies. The team also increased the physical size of the ILM StageCraft LED Volume which would again be used for over half of all scenes. This season also marked the debut of ILM’s state-of-the-art real-time cinema render engine called, Helios. The high-resolution, high-fidelity engine was used for all final pixel rendering displayed on the LED screens and offers unmatched performance for the types of complex scenes prevalent in today’s episodic and feature film production. Practical creature effects have been a vital part of the aesthetic and charm of the Star Wars universe since 1977, and for season two, the effects team realized over 100 puppeteered creatures, droids, and animatronic masks, which included the beloved Tatooine Bantha, realized as a ten foot-high puppeteered rideable creature. Practical miniatures and motion control photography were used once again for scale model ships, as well as miniature set extensions built for use in ILM’s StageCraft LED volume. Stop motion animation was also utilized for the Scrap Walker at the Karthon Chop Fields. The greater krayt dragon on Tatooine was realized as a six-hundred-foot computer-generated creature that would swim shark-like through the sand environment by way of a liquefaction effect, wherein the sand would behave like water.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1964 – Fifty-seven years ago this evening on CBS, My Living Doll, a SF comedy, first aired. Another production of the Desilu Studios, My Living Doll was rather unusual in that it was purchased by the network without any pilot at the request of CBS’s president, due to the success of Chertok’s previous series, My Favorite Martian. The series starred Bob Cummings as Dr. Bob McDonald, a psychiatrist who is given care of Rhoda Miller, an android who was played by Julie Newmar who would later be Catwoman on Batman. Unlike My Favorite Martian which ran three seasons and over a hundred episodes, it would last a single season of twenty six episodes. It is available on DVD but not on streaming services. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1927 — Martin Caidin. His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one for the Buck Rogers franchise as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels. The Six Million Dollar Man film was nominated for a Hugo at Discon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won, and Marooned was nominated at Heicon ’70 when TV Coverage of Apollo XI was chosen for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 — Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion.” I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd too. He also had one-offs on I-SpyMunstersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but cannot be confirmed that he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 — Wilford Brimley. His first genre role was as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cocoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. (Died 2020.)
  • Born September 27, 1947 — Meat Loaf, 74. He has a rather tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the CryptThe Outer LimitsMonstersMasters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars. I think one of his songs, particularly the video version, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” qualifies as genre. 
  • Born September 27, 1956 — Sheila Williams, 65. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction, the past fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor at Renovation and Chicon 7. (She’s nominated this year again.) With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing.
  • Born September 27, 1966 — David Bishop, 55. In Nineties, he edited the UK Judge Dredd Megazine (1991–2002) and 2000 AD (1995–2000). He wrote a number of Dredd, Warhammer and Who novels including the Who novel Who Killed Kennedy which is a popular Third Doctor story.  He’s written Big Finish stories in the DreddSarah Jane and Who lines. Dredd audio drams. Huh.
  • Born September 27, 1970 — Tamara Taylor, 51. Best remembered I’d say as Camille Saroyan in Bones which is at least genre adjacent being connect to Sleepy Hollow. Genre wise, she was in season seven of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the primary antagonist, Sibyl. She also appeared in Lost, as the former girlfriend of Michael and mother of Walt, Susan Lloyd. And she has a brief appearance in the Serenity film just listed as Teacher.

(11) TONY AWARDS. The American Theater Wing presented its Tony Awards over the weekend. A Christmas Carol won five of them.  “Tony Awards: The Full List Of Winners”.

(12) DUCK! There’s four days left to bid on the original “Duck with a Pearl Earring” by Omar Rayyan, offered by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver with all proceeds going to benefit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bidding was up to $16,351 last I looked.

This is an original oil on paper painting, commissioned by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

The painting was entered in the 2021 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest, in which the winning entry is turned into a duck stamp and sold to raise funds for conserving the nation’s wetlands and other wildlife habitats. It is a take on a classic painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring. But there is one significant difference between the two works of art: ours is good, because it is a duck.

Shockingly this masterpiece did not win, but you can still help conserve habitats for birds and other wildlife in our National Wildlife Refuge System by bidding on the painting here.

(13) START AGAIN. “New Limits Give Chinese Video Gamers Whiplash” reports the New York Times.

China’s video game industry is booming. But it sure doesn’t feel that way to Stone Shi, a game designer in China.

Mr. Shi, 27, got his first job in 2018, when Beijing temporarily suspended approval of new games. The next year, the government placed new limits on minors’ playing time. A few weeks ago, the rules got stricter still. People under 18 can now play just three hours a week, during prescribed times on weekends.

“We never hear any good news about the gaming industry,” Mr. Shi said. “We have this joke, ‘Each time this happens, people say it’s doomsday for the video game industry.’ So we say, ‘Every day is doomsday.’”

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Mr. Shi remains employed and hundreds of millions of Chinese continue to play games each day. Minors still find ways around government blocks. Chinese tech companies, like Tencent, are cornerstones of the global gaming industry. The country has also been quick to embrace competitive gaming, building e-sports stadiums and enabling college students to major in the topic.

(14) MUSH-A-BOOM. Jaya Saxena takes the opening of the Ratatouille ride at Walt Disney World on October 1 as the excuse for a culinary experiment: “Disney Made Me Do It: The Lightning Mushroom From ‘Ratatouille’” at Eater.

…Remy is, of course, an animated talking rat, and this is a movie that presumes, among other things, that a human body is an elaborate marionette operated by hair. I know the lightning cheese mushroom is not realistic. But it looked so enticing, like a crunchy balloon, or like if Eleven Madison Park made a Cheeto. I would very much like to taste an exploded mushroom. So to that end, I nearly set my house on fire.

…There aren’t many recipes for applying lightning to mushrooms, but some people have tried to approximate what this might taste like. My first attempt at distilling the flavor of a storm came from Disney itself, which published a recipe for “Lightning-y Mushrooms” adapted from Fiction-Food Café. Already I saw a problem, though: This recipe calls for fresh, spreadable chevre, which is whipped with herbs and honey and stuffed into mushroom caps. But in the film, Remy is enthralled to find not fresh chevre, but Tomme de Chevre, a semisoft cheese with a grey rind that’s been aged for at least seven weeks. I opted to follow in Remy’s footsteps, and ad-lib where I could.

…I decided I needed to employ some actual electricity. But short of sticking a mushroomed fork in a socket and hoping I didn’t die, I had no idea what to do. So I called Chris Young, co-author of Modernist Cuisine, hoping he had come across something like this in his experiments.

Young explained what I was trying to do is called ohmic cooking, which is actually quite common, especially in the dairy industry. Picture how a power cord plugged into a wall tends to heat up. That’s because it’s a conductor for the electricity, and because a wire is not a perfect conductor, the resistance begins to generate heat. The same thing can happen with food when you essentially make the food the wire…. 

(15) ACRONYMS. Brought to you by Harvard.edu, “Dumb Or Overly Forced Astronomical Acronyms Site (or DOOFAAS)”. This is the kind of thing we’re talking about:

SMIRFSSub Millimeter InfraRed Fiber-feed System (or something)
SMOGSpitzer Mapping of the Outer Galaxy
SMUDGESSystematic Multiwavelength Unbiased catalog of Dwarf Galaxies and Evolution of Structure 

(16) TRAILER TIME. Netflix dropped a trailer for its animated series Arcane.

From the creators of League of Legends comes a new animated series, Arcane. Set in the utopian region of Piltover and the oppressed underground of Zaun, the story follows the origins of two iconic League champions-and the power that will tear them apart.

And while I’m not that wowed by the trailer for Muppets Haunted Mansion people keep sending me the link, so what do I know?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chris Barkley, Marc Criley, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Jerry Kaufman, Bill Burns, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

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.]