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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

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

— Julie Langsdorf, author of “White Elephant”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindy Kaling has gone missing from the library.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Included:

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

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

Catholic Questions in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Tim Powers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/21 Sacred Locomotive Files

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEMORY LANE.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/21 (I’m Picking Up) Good Vibraniums

(1) A CELEBRATION. N. K. Jemisin and Walter Mosley will be among the participants in “A Celebration of Octavia E. Butler”, a live virtual event at Symphony Space on February 24 starting at 7 p.m. (Eastern). Tickets sold at the link.

Actors and authors come together for an evening of readings and conversation to celebrate the work of the visionary author whose Afrofuturistic feminist novels and short fiction have become even more poignant since her death. Her award-winning novels, including Parable of the SowerKindredDawn, and Wild Seed, have influenced a generation of writers. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon) will lead a discussion with authors N. K. Jemisin (How Long ’til Black Future Month?), Walter Mosley (The Awkward Black Man), and Imani Perry (Breathe: A Letter to My Sons); and actors Yetide Badaki (American Gods) and Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) will read selections from Butler’s prolific body of work.

Audience members will be invited to join the conversation with questions for the panelists.

(2) RED PLANET CLOSEUP. EiderFox Documentaries takes the NASA footage and gives you “Mars In 4K”.

A world first. New footage from Mars rendered in stunning 4K resolution. We also talk about the cameras on board the Martian rovers and how we made the video. The cameras on board the rovers were the height of technology when the respective missions launched. A question often asked is: ‘Why don’t we actually have live video from Mars?’ Although the cameras are high quality, the rate at which the rovers can send data back to earth is the biggest challenge. Curiosity can only send data directly back to earth at 32 kilo-bits per second. Instead, when the rover can connect to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, we get more favourable speeds of 2 Megabytes per second. However, this link is only available for about 8 minutes each Sol, or Martian day. As you would expect, sending HD video at these speeds would take a long long time. As nothing really moves on Mars, it makes more sense to take and send back images.

(3) WORLDCON FOLKS. Ty Schalter says he doesn’t know anything about the Worldcon, but his questions are good: “Worldcon vs. The World”. (Just the same it brings to mind a line from Field of Dreams: “Oh! You’re from the Sixties! There’s no room for you here in the future!”)

…How many of the people reading, writing, editing and publishing the state of the art in genre fiction also fly out to Worldcon every year? How many of the people who go to Worldcon every year are reading, say, FIYAH Magazine— the kind of bold, original, cutting-edge fantastic literature that’s currently earning Hugo Award nominations and wins?

I’m genuinely asking, because remember: I don’t know what I’m talking about. But from the outside, it sure looks like The SFF Community and Worldcon Folks are two pretty disparate groups of people, who don’t necessarily care for or value each other a whole lot.

I see it when SFF Twitter explodes with shock and outrage every time Worldcon steps on another rake— how did it happen again?! I see it every time Worldcon Folks are mystified that doing things the way they’ve always done them is now not just insufficient but immoral— and who are these people yelling at us, anyway?!

I see it every time I go to church.

Wait, church? Yes, at church — and in family businesses, and on non-profit boards. In Chambers of Commerce and Kiwanis clubs. In all the gray-haired, tuxedoed, former cultural revolutionaries of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame harrumphing about letting N.W.A. in their storied institution. In every walk of life, everywhere, there are cultural and social organizations caught in an existential battle of whether to preserve their traditions or their values.

As a white guy turning 40 this year, I have an appreciation for the SFF of the 20th century and its associated Baby Boomer fans, slans, SMOFs, etc. In many ways, they’re who I grew up aspiring to be. But now that I’m grown, I can see the cultural blind spots and moral holes in the kind of let’s-just-us-smart-people-get-on-a-rocket-and-let-all-the-dumb-people-die Visions of A Better Future that still entice prominent members of the middle-aged-and-up set….

(4) HUGO DYNAMICS. Eric Flint’s Facebook comments in a discussion about Baen’s Bar include his views about the Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppies slates.

(5) AURORA AWARDS ELIGIBILITY. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association is compiling its eligibility lists. Do you know of  work that belongs there? More information at their website.

Just a quick reminder that the Aurora Award Eligibility Lists for works done by Canadians in 2020 are open and awaiting your submissions. The Eligibility Lists will close on February 28th at 11:59 EST.  If you have created, published, read, or know of works or activities that should be on our lists please assist us and submit them. Help us find all the fantastic work done by Canadians in 2020! All works should be submitted to the eligibility lists on our website at www.prixaurorawards.ca 

(6) BE LARRY’S GOOGLE MONKEY. Larry Correia is crowdsourcing the next step in his retaliation against the Worldcon for DisCon III disinviting Toni Weisskopf as a guest of honor. Camestros Felapton has the screencap in his post “More Larry Nonsense”. Correia’s public call says in part —

… I need examples of writers/editors/fans who WorldCon is perfectly comfortable with, and their shitty posts, tweets, memes, of things that aren’t “inclusive”. (advocating violence, shooting cops, killing Trump, celebrating Rush’s death, putting us in reeducation camps, whatever. If it makes you feel not included, I’d like to know)
If you don’t have a screen cap but are going from memory, that’s fine…. 

(7) HORRIBLE FAN BEHAVIOR. Examples of bad behavior in the sff community aren’t hard to come by. Harlan Ellison’s recitation of fannish awfulness, “Xenogenesis,” was probably written off the top of his head. It originated as his 1984 Westercon GoH speech. The Internet Archive has a copy in the transcript of an Asimov’s issue — https://archive.org/stream/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08_djvu.txt

Ellison precedes his dossier of criminal acts and psychopathic behavior with this introduction:

… In biology there is a phenomenon known as xenogenesis. It is a pathological state in which the child does not resemble the parent. You may remember a fairly grisly 1975 film by my pal Larry Cohen titled It’s Alive! in which a fanged and taloned baby gnaws its way out of its mother’s womb and slaughters the attending nurses and gynecologist in the delivery room and then leaps straight up through a skylight, smashes out, and for the duration of the film crawls in and out of the frame ripping people’s throats.

Its natural father is a CPA or something similar. Most CPA’s do not, other than symbolically, have fangs and talons. Xenogenesis.

In the subculture of science fiction literature and its umbilically attached aficionados, we have the manifestation of a symbiotic relationship in which the behavior of the children, that is, the fans, does not resemble the noble ideals set forth in the writings and pronouncements of the parents, the writers. For all its apocalyptic doomsaying, its frequent pointing with alarm, its gardyloos of caution, the literature of imagination has ever and always promoted an ethic of good manners and kindness via its viewpoint characters.

The ones we are asked to relate to, in sf and fantasy, the ones we are urged to see as the Good Folks, are usually the ones who say excuse me and thank you, ma’am.

The most efficient narrative shorthand to explain why a particular character is the one struck by cosmic lightning or masticated by some nameless Lovecraftian horror is to paint that character as rude, insensitive, paralogical or slovenly.

Through this free-floating auctorial trope, the canon has promulgated as salutary an image of mannerliness, rectitude and humanism. The smart alecks, slugs, slimeworts and snipers of the universe in these fables unfailingly reap a terrible comeuppance.

That is the attitude of the parents, for the most part.

Yet the children of this ongoing education, the fans who incorporate the canon as a significant part of their world-view, frequently demonstrate a cruelty that would, in the fiction, bring them a reward of Job-like awfulness….

(8) WHO KNEW? Science Sensei regales fans with “40 Times Science Fiction Was Wrong About Predicted Future Events”. Connie Willis’ emcee routines about sf predictions are much funnier, admittedly.

… No matter how accurate some writers are about the future, they are victims of the time they live in. It’s not Verne’s fault that he wrote his books in the 1800s and lacked the knowledge we have today. Yet this is what happens when you write about the future. Those future people can look back to see how accurate you were. Verne is one of many amazing writers who were both right and wrong about his future predictions. Yet some were completely wrong, and this involves far more than books. That is what our article is about, the science fiction out there that ended up getting the future very wrong. Enjoy!

25. Back to the Future Part II (Food Hydrators In 2015)

The original Back to the Future, starring Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox came out in 1985. The movies were all released within 5 years in real-time but they had to always return to the year of the original film, 1985. Instead of the past, the second film focused on the future

In this film, we see a Future 2015, where they have an entire world we almost wish was real. One of the impressive futuristic inventions in the film was a Food Hydrator by Black & Decker. Any food you wanted could be made with it, cooked quickly and ready to go in seconds. We never saw this in 2015, and we’re still upset about it!

(9) THAT JOB IS HELLA HARD. David Gerrold comments on “What Would It Take to Actually Settle an Alien World?” and his writing generally in a new installment of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast at WIRED.

David Gerrold is the author of dozens of science fiction books, including The Martian Child and The Man Who Folded Himself. His new novel Hella, about a low-gravity planet inhabited by dinosaur-like aliens, was inspired by the 2011 TV series Terra Nova.

“The worldbuilding that they did was very interesting, very exciting, but because I was frustrated that they didn’t go in the direction I wanted to go, I was thinking, ‘Let me do a story where I can actually tackle the worldbuilding problems,’” Gerrold says in Episode 454 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Hella goes into enormous detail about the logistics of settling an alien world, and grapples with questions like: Would it be safe for us to eat alien proteins? Would it be safe for us to breathe alien germs? What effect would plants and animals from Earth have on an alien ecology? It’s a far cry from many science fiction stories which assume that alien planets would be pretty much like Earth. “My theory is that there are no Earthlike planets, there’s just lazy writers,” Gerrold says….

(10) THE WORLD SF MAKES. Sherryl Vint’s Science Fiction is being released by MIT Press this month.

Summary

How science fiction has been a tool for understanding and living through rapid technological change.

…After a brief overview of the genre’s origins, science fiction authority Sherryl Vint considers how and why contemporary science fiction is changing. She explores anxieties in current science fiction over such key sites of technological innovation as artificial intelligence, genomic research and commodified biomedicine, and climate change. Connecting science fiction with speculative design and futurology in the corporate world, she argues that science fiction does not merely reflect these trends, but has a role in directing them.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 20, 1955  — On this day in 1955, Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty five years later Images was a full-blown horror film. And of course Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he  wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Pierre Boulle.  For us, Planet of the Apes and eight more novels, thirty shorter stories; famous for The Bridge on the River Kwai; a dozen other novels.  Knight of the Legion of Honor, Croix de GuerreMédaille de la Resistance, earned during World War II.   (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Ed Clinton.  A score of short stories (some as Anthony More).  “Idea Man” essay in the Jan 44 Diablerie.  Review & Comments Editor for Rhodomagnetic Digest.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Dan Goodman.  Active fan in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis.  Literate, articulate, wry.  Edited and I believe named the Minn-StF clubzine Einblatt.  For a while in The Cult, to which the Fancyclopedia III article hardly does justice, but see Hamlet Act II scene 2 (Folger Shakespeare line 555).  In Lofgeornost at least as recently as 2014.  A story in Tales of the Unanticipated.  A note by me here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Suford Lewis, F.N., age 78.  Active in the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.); then NESFA (New England SF Ass’n): a Founding Fellow (service; first year’s Fellow of NESFA awards, 1976), President, chaired Boskone 10, co-chaired B44, edited six Bujold books for NESFA Press, also the excellent Noreascon Two Memory Book (post-con; 38th Worldcon).  Ran the Retrospective-Hugo ceremony for L.A.con III (42nd), the Masquerade (our on-stage costume competition) for Noreascon Three (47th).  Co-ordinated and actually brought into being Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck, herself drawing Strength (! – Major Arcana VIII; a dozen-year project; see all the images and BP’s introduction here, PDF), and exhibiting all the original artwork at N2.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon VI (with husband Tony Lewis).  That ain’t the half of it.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 78. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 67. Perhaps best known as as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Operaas Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1964 – Tracey Rolfe, age 57.  Half a dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Clarion South 2004 (see her among other graduates in Andromeda Spaceways 10).  “How do you deal with writer’s block?” ‘I usually take my dog out for a walk.’ [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1989 – Nathália Suellen, age 32.  Digital artist and commercial illustrator.  A score of covers for us, but certainty is elusive at borders.  Here is Above.  Here is Unhinged.  Here is The Gathering Dark (U.K. title).  Here is Henry, the Gaoler.  Here is a self-portrait.  [JH]

(13) EMOTIONAL ROBOTS. On March 10, Writers Bloc presents “Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro with Westworld’s Lisa Joy”. Book purchase required for access to the livestream.

Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, seduces us with his storytelling. His novels (The Remains of the DayNever Let Me Go; and others) draw us in and we are powerless to leave the page. His novels are deceptive–while he lulls us into his gorgeous and straightforward prose, he presents us with profound observations of human behavior, and explorations of love, duty, and identity. In his new novel, Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro introduces us to Klara, an artificial object who watches the world from her perch in a shop. She watches the comings and goings of those who enter the shop, and those who merely pass by. She hopes that someone will choose her. and that she can be loved. Magnificent.

In conversation with Lisa Joy. Lisa Joy is one of the creators and writers of the acclaimed HBO series, Westworld. A dystopic genre-bending series, Westworld explores the fraught relationship between humans and human-looking robots at an amusement park. What happens when artificial intelligence interferes with the people who employ them? What happens when artificial intelligence breaks its own boundaries and those robots start to feel, to love, to cause harm? Westworld has won countless prestigious awards.

(14) ELUSIVE APPOINTMENTS. “How some frustrated COVID-19 vaccine hunters are trying to fix a broken system”The Seattle Times has the story.

That pretty much said it all, the other day, when a 90-year-old remarked in a Seattle Times story that the easy part of navigating our COVID-19 vaccine system was when she had to walk 6 miles through the snow to get the shot.

George Hu is only 52, but he can sympathize. When the former Microsoft developer tried to find appointments online for his 80-year-old in-laws, he was dumbfounded how primitive it all was.

“All tech people who see this setup are horrified,” Hu says.

That was my experience trying to nab a slot for my 91-year-old father. As everyone discovers, there isn’t one or a couple of places to hunt vaccine, but rather … hundreds, many with their own interfaces. I ran into one vaccine provider that was using Doodle for its vaccine appointment scheduling, another using Sign-Up Genius, another with a “don’t call us, we’ll text you back sometime” online form.

Rather than a global health emergency, it felt more like when the PTA is signing parents up for a bake sale.

“It’s whack-a-mole, except there are 300 holes,” Hu says. “And also you have no clue if the mole is ever going to pop up in any of them.”

(15) WHAT A BUNCH OF SCHIST. The headline made me click – “The missing continent it took 375 years to find” at BBC Future. Maybe your power to resist will be greater!

It took scientists 375 years to discover the eighth continent of the world, which has been hiding in plain sight all along. But mysteries still remain….

Zealandia was originally part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which was formed about 550 million years ago and essentially lumped together all the land in the southern hemisphere. It occupied a corner on the eastern side, where it bordered several others, including half of West Antarctica and all of eastern Australia.

Then around 105 million years ago, “due to a process which we don’t completely understand yet, Zealandia started to be pulled away”, says Tulloch.

Continental crust is usually around 40km deep – significantly thicker than oceanic crust, which tends to be around 10km. As it was strained, Zealandia ended up being stretched so much that its crust now only extends 20km (12.4 miles) down. Eventually, the wafter-thin continent sank – though not quite to the level of normal oceanic crust – and disappeared under the sea.

Despite being thin and submerged, geologists know that Zealandia is a continent because of the kinds of rocks found there. Continental crust tends to be made up of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks – like granite, schist and limestone, while the ocean floor is usually just made of igneous ones such as basalt.

But there are still many unknowns. The unusual origins of the eighth continent make it particularly intriguing to geologists, and more than a little baffling. For example, it’s still not clear how Zealandia managed to stay together when it’s so thin and not disintegrate into tiny micro-continents.

Another mystery is exactly when Zealandia ended up underwater – and whether it has ever, in fact, consisted of dry land. The parts that are currently above sea level are ridges that formed as the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates crumpled together. Tulloch says opinion is split as to whether it was always submerged apart from a few small islands, or once entirely dry land….

(16) THE BUZZ. Mental Floss assures us that Wasps Are Ridding Anne Boleyn’s Birthplace of Moth Infestation”.

…Now, however, it’s home to common clothes moths that could wreak havoc on rugs, clothing, and other vulnerable artifacts—including a rare 18th-century canopy bed and a tapestry that Catherine the Great bestowed upon the household in the 1760s. The moths have had much freer rein throughout Blickling Hall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and periodic pest counts have proved that the population has grown considerably over the past year.

“There’s no doubt lockdown suited our resident bugs,” assistant national conservator Hilary Jarvis said in a press release. “The relative quiet, darkness, and absence of disruption from visitors and staff provided perfect conditions for larvae and adults alike from March onwards.”

To curb further spawning, the National Trust has enlisted the help of an unlikely ally: microscopic parasitoid wasps (Trichogramma evanescens). In 11 especially moth-ridden locations within the hall, staff members will plant dispensers that hold around 2400 wasps each, which will destroy moth eggs by laying their own eggs inside them. Though it seems like Blickling Hall will have simply swapped out one infestation for another, the wasps pose no threat to the upholstery or anything else—they’ll eventually die and “disappear inconspicuously into house dust,” if all goes according to plan….

(17) TENET COMMENTARY. CinemaWins tells you “Everything GREAT About Tenet!” There must have been more good stuff in there than I suspected.

  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 0 (Plot Breakdown):
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 1: 
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 2: 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Jim Henson Introduces Kermit The Frog to Dick” on YouTube is a November 1971 clip from The Dick Cavett Show with both Jim Henson and Kermit as guests where you can clearly see how Henson changed his voice to be Kermit.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

(1) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THAT PALANTIR. An insurrectionist wants a federal District Court to force the U.S. to adopt an interim government from the history of Middle-Earth: “Paul Davis Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Lawsuit, Declares ‘Gondor Has No King’” – the case is briefed by Law and Crime.

Paul M. Davis, the Texas lawyer who was fired from his in-house counsel job after he recorded himself among a mob at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6, has filed legal documents which set a new floor for legal embarrassment in U.S. jurisprudence. The documents employ a series of awkward references to — and ideas from — the temporary government of the Kingdom of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Davis’s lawsuit bombastically attempts to assert that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president and that a rightful heir to that office will someday return. Until then, the case foolishly argues that a federal judge might be able to appoint a group of “stewards” from the cabinet of former President Donald Trump to run most of the government from the White House. That should occur, the lawsuit lawlessly speculates, after the Secret Service escorts Biden and his wife out of the executive residence at the order of a federal judge.

…After a few lines of formalities, a six-page Amended Motion filed Thursday argued yet again for a restraining order.

“Gondor has no King,” the document says in its second paragraph, “to invoke a very appropriate quote from the J.R.R. Tolkien epic classic, ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

A footnote explains the analogy:

During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as “Aragorn,” occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.

(2) INAUGURATION DAY PRESENTS. More examples of the Bernie Sanders meme. First, where he’s dropped into fine art: “Bernie Sanders Stars in Art History’s Greatest Works in New Viral Meme” at ARTnews.

…A cascade of similar images soon followed. The art historian Michael Lobel made a version in which Sanders inside a moody café from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks—itself the subject of one of the more memorable Covid-era memes—and others placed the senator within iconic works by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, ASCO, Joseph Beuys, and Georges Seurat. (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte with Bernie, anyone?) There was even a version where Sanders appeared seated atop a stylite column that appeared first in a 5th century Byzantine manuscript.

But no version of the newest Sanders joke proved more memorable than one created by the writer R. Eric Thomas, who inset him facing Marina Abramovi? for one famous performance that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. MoMA picked it up, tweeting, “Bernie is present.” Something about Thomas’s rendition may help explain its charm. In most pictures of The Artist Is Present, Abramovi?’s steely eyes meet her viewer, almost daring anyone who sits before to look away. But in the meme version, Sanders looks away from her, his eyes cast toward the floor. In this meme, there seems to be a willful disregard of something that was construed by many as being great—an anti-establishment spirit that befits Sanders’s own views.

Then, StarTrek.com also ginned up some silly ones: “#BernieBeams into the Captain’s Chair”.

(3) COURT DECIDES AGAINST PARLER. “Amazon can keep Parler offline, judge rules” – the Seattle Times has the story.

… On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said that forcing Amazon to get Parler back online goes against the public interest, given “the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol.”

“That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” she wrote. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.”

Amazon welcomed the judge’s ruling. In a statement, the company issued a rejoinder to critics who have said Amazon infringed on Parler’s First Amendment rights when it suspended Parler’s account.

“This was not a case about free speech,” the statement said. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it).” …

(4) WILL GOOGLE GO? “Google threatens to leave Australia because of new media law” reports the Washington Post.

… The threat is the latest and most intense in a long-running battle that has pitted Australian lawmakers and news organizations against U.S.-based tech giants Google and Facebook. For years, news organizations in Australia have argued they should be paid when Internet companies aggregate news stories on their websites. Google and Facebook say their sites help people find news, and the resulting traffic to news websites is valuable on its own.The proposed media law would force the tech companies to negotiate with media companies on payments for previewing and linking to their content. If they can’t reach a deal, a government regulator would step in to set the rates. That arrangement is untenable, Mel Silva, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand, said in prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing Friday. …The idea that Google should pay for showing news in its search results is not new. In Spain, Google shut down its news aggregation website in 2014 after the country passed a law requiring online platforms that profit off news links to share their revenue with media companies. Just this week, Google agreed to negotiate payments to French publishers.

In the United States, Google is facing multiple federal and state antitrust lawsuits that allege the company has used its domination of online search to benefit its other businesses and push out competitors.

“It seems very peculiar to me that effectively Google wants to blackmail Australian consumers and policymakers with threats to go ahead and leave this jurisdiction when these discussions are happening all around the world, including in the U.S. itself,” Australian Sen. Andrew Bragg said during the Senate hearing, which was broadcast remotely.

(5) WOTC LITIGATION ENDS. The lawsuit creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed against Wizards of the Coast last fall was settled without trial in December. “Dragonlance Writers End Lawsuit Against Dungeons & Dragons Maker” reported Comicbook.com.

A surprising lawsuit involving the seminal writers of the Dragonlance novels and the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly ended. Last week, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the primary authors behind the popular Dragonlance novels, filed to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit against Wizards of the CoastWeis and Hickman filed the lawsuit in US District Court earlier this year, alleging that Wizards of the Coast breached a licensing contract to write a trilogy of new Dragonlance books by informing the pair’s publisher that they were no longer moving forward with the books without explanation. The duo, who claimed that a Dragonlance novel was already completed and that substantial work had begun on a second book, sought up to $10 million in damages in the initial lawsuit.

The filing noted that Wizards of the Coast had not formally answered their lawsuit, nor had they filed for a summary judgement. As Weis and Hickman filed for a dismissal without prejudice, the duo could hypothetically re-file their lawsuit at a later date.

(6) QUESTION TIME. Octothorpe is a podcast from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty about science fiction and SF fandom. In episode 23, “A Lot of Foreshadowing”, the three “discuss the recent debate over the Hugo Awards and DisCon III’s approach to the same, before touching on some upcoming fannish events.” One segment is provocatively titled, “Are the Hugos a massive cankerous boil on the Worldcon that just needs to be completely purged?”

(7) FURLAN OBIT. Actress Mira Furlan, who gained fame playing Delenn on Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau on Lost, died January 20 at the age of 65. The Variety tribute is here.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave a deeply emotional eulogy:  

… We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.

Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said.

“Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”

“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.

And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.

Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

…We have lost a light in our galaxy, but another has gained one. I will miss our talks, our laughs, our deep discussions about Hollywood and life. I will miss our dinners and trips abroad. I will miss the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. I will miss her captivating voice and contagious laughter. I will miss sharing with her one of the most gratifying experiences of my life: the relationship between Sheridan and Delenn.

(8) SAUNDERS APPRECIATION. The New York Times obituary of the famous fantasy writer has appeared: “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73”. He died last May, and as reported here on January 1, had been buried in an unmarked grave until friends raised money for a headstone. The Times has an extensive obituary with photos and book covers.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf premiered on CBS where it would run for three seasons before moving to USA for a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who also created Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other great genre series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord and Jean Bruce Scott. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.
  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its audience reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 22, 1788 – George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron.  Mad, bad, and dangerous to know; but, as George Szell said of Glenn Gould, “that nut is a genius”.  Wrote fantasy among much else, e.g. “Darkness”The Giaour, Manfred.  It could be said that his rhymes were fantastic – “And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, / Some samples of the finest Orientalism” (Beppo, Stanza LI).  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.) (CE) 
  • Born January 22, 1925 – Katherine MacLean.  Five novels, fifty shorter stories.  One Nebula.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 1. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  Interviewed in NY Review of SF.  (Died 2019) [JH] 
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt.  I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really hurt. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like.  If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down where he voiced Hazel and The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1951 – Donna Ball, age 70.  Eight novels for us as D. Boyd, Rebecca Flanders; ninety all told, with other pen names too.  Award-winning dog trainer.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1962 – Alison Spedding, Ph.D., age 59.  Author and anthropologist.  Three historical-fantasy novels; one science fiction in Spanish; three other novels in Spanish; shorter stories, a play, nonfiction.  While living in Bolivia criticized the government; imprisoned, many fellow academics thinking it political; released on a surety.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1972 – Stephen Graham Jones, Ph.D., age 49.  Nine novels for us (about The Only Good Indians last year, which caught the attention of the NY Times Book Review, note that SGJ is himself Blackfeet), a dozen others; ninety shorter stories for us, two hundred others.  Texas Institute of Letters Award.  Stoker Award.  Professor of English at Univ. Colorado, Boulder.  See this from the ReaderCon 30 Program Book.  Special Guest at World Fantasy Con 2020.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1982 – Janci Patterson, age 39.  A dozen novels for us, a score of others; some with co-authors including Brandon Sanderson.  Customizes Barbie dolls, watches “reality” television.  [JH]

(11) SUPER AUCTION ITEM. You have until January 28 to bid on a “Fantastic 1941 Letter Signed by Jerry Siegel, Thanking Sheldon Mayer for Promoting ’Superman’’’. Current bid is $783.

Excellent letter by Jerry Siegel, creator of ”Superman”, thanking comic pioneer Sheldon Mayer for promoting the comic before it was published in ”Action Comics #1” in 1938. Dated 18 September 1941, letter reads in part, ”Dear Sheldon: I may be coming to New York inside a few weeks and I hope we can get together at that time and curse the comic business to our heart’s content.

Again I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help make SUPERMAN what it is. I’m very much afraid that if it weren’t for a chap named Sheldon Mayer, as far as syndication is concerned SUPERMAN might still be gathering dust, and Joe [Shuster] and I would be working for a living…[signed] Jerry”.

Sheldon Mayer was one of the first employees of the McClure Syndicate, headed by comics pioneer Maxwell Gaines. Although many have taken credit for discovering ”Superman”, this letter serves as ultimate confirmation that it was Mayer’s championing of the comic which led to its inclusion in ”Action Comics #1”.

(12) GUNN APPRECIATION. John Kessel has posted some of his correspondence with the late sf author and scholar James Gunn from 2018 on Facebook: showing the advice he gave about a recently published novella.

In the wake of sf writer James Gunn’s death in December, I’ve been thinking of him and what he meant to me. The publication of my novella “The Dark Ride” in this month’s F&SF reminded me that I had sent him a draft of the story and we had this correspondence about it, which helped me to shape the final version.

I thought I’d post these emails just to show how generous and engaged he was even in his late 90s. I’m so glad that I knew him….

(13) CHUCKED OUT THE AIRLOCK.  [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] “The queen’s rep in Canada calls it quits after probe into toxic workplace” in Politico. If the Queen is not in Canada, the Governor General is our head of state. Not SFnal in itself but what makes this SF-adjacent is Payette is getting the heave ho over permitting a culture of harassment that included —

Allegations [dating] to the earliest days of her tenure when she would reportedly put staff on the spot to quiz them on outer space, demanding they name every planet or correctly state the distance between the sun and the moon….

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

…And last year, CBC News reported that Trudeau’s office failed to check with Payette’s former employees during its vetting process. As it turned out, Payette had resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints of mistreatment of employees, according to the news outlet. She also left the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2017, the year she became governor general, after two internal probes into claims she had verbally harassed staff members.

(14) FINN DE SIECLE. MEL Magazine joins its voice to the continuing uproar: “Finn Deserved Better — And So Did Black ‘Star Wars’ Fans”.

…Later on, in perhaps the most exciting shot of the trailer (at least for me), we see Finn standing in a frozen forest. His eyes are steely, determined. He looks every inch the hero — defiant, ready. He turns on his lightsaber. Its blue glow leaps to life just as we see the villain Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber spitting hot energy from its hilt. All of that tension, all of that conflict, absolutely crackling with dramatic potential. Only for all of it to fizzle away in the three films that followed.

We started with a Black stormtrooper who becomes a conscientious objector, follows his moral compass and joins the rebels to risk his life in order to save the galaxy. Somewhere along the way, though, the filmmakers made that character boring. That’s why Star Wars fans are still so pissed at the great betrayal of Finn. It’s why his name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, a full year after the final film of the newest trilogy was released in theaters.

That last point is key: Finn deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. The “we” in this instance is Black sci-fi fans. We’ve had to live on some thin soup from Hollywood for far too long. (Although we do have to give a shout out to Star Trek for Capt. Sisko.) For Blerds like me, we held out a small hope that it might be different this time. That Star Wars might finally move on from its Victorian-Nazi melodrama past and embrace the diversity of our moment. Specifically, by creating a credible Black hero.

The first time Star Wars added a Black character, we got a space pimp. Lando Calrissian felt like he’d escaped from a Blaxploitation film or a 1970s malt liquor commercial. But at least he was cool — paper thin, but undeniably cool….

(15) DRAGON APATHY. Declan Finn complains that no one wants to talk about the Dragon Awards on his blog, in “Emerging Dragons”.  

…But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.

With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don’t even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list … and they didn’t realize they were already on it.

It was worse last year when I said “We’re not playing this game,” and people made the same request– proving that they didn’t bother to read the post.

(16) BENEFIT FROM EXPERIENCE. More encouragement to get the vaccine from the Governator. Followed on FB by comments from a legion of anti-vaxxers, naturally.  

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The monologue on last night’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, starting around the 10:15 mark, has Colbert telling disillusioned Q-anon conspiracy theorists how to fill the void by taking up his own enthusiasm for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

(18) VIDEO OF A MUCH EARLIER DAY. “Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog In Dueling Banjos” on YouTube is a Funny or Die sketch from 2013, and come on, who doesn’t like Kermit The Frog or Steve Martin?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Rose, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/19/21 Good Gollum Miss Molly

(1) MANDO ABOUT TOWN. Yahoo! Entertainment says people have seen “A Mandalorian and Baby Yoda spotted speeding through Los Angeles streets”.

For several weeks, a masked Mandalorian and his Baby Yoda has been zooming around the streets of Los Angeles, spreading some good cheer during the pandemic.

…The man behind the homemade mask is comedian Tim Brehmer, who told NBC he’s out of work and his goal was simply to make people laugh during a tough time.

“This whole thing got started because I’m a big box of stupid and I love making people laugh,” he told NBC. “…with some people with depression, a pill can help, with some people therapy can help, with me, this is my therapy.”

(2) FANTASY FORERUNNER. In “Why George MacDonald Matters” at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Timothy Larsen gives an introduction to the great Victorian fantasist who was a major influence on the Inklings.

…MacDonald’s grandmother decided that the musical interests of one of her sons were becoming idolatrous and so she threw his violin into the fire.  Likewise, MacDonald’s own father confiscated a copy of a novel by Sir Walter Scott that the future author had managed to get his youthful hands on.

George MacDonald is a central figure in the generation that changed all this. One possible way for children to escape from relentlessly didactic and moralizing literature was to find a portal into fairyland. When MacDonald’s mother died, his father remarried.  The family patriarch also mellowed with age and regretted his Puritanical decision regarding the Waverly novel.  As a young adult, MacDonald insured that his little half-sister, Bella, received a copy of Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

In 1858, George MacDonald published his novel, Phantastes. He called it “a sort of fairy tale for grown people.”  On his twenty-first birthday, Anodos is transported into his fairyland….

(3) RANSOMWARE. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron hosts “Ransomware Negotiators: Professionals Talk” on Saturday, January 23 at 3 p.m. US Eastern. Register for the Zoom session at the link.

Ransomware gangs demand millions, from millions of victims. Then there are specialized negotiators that talk to them on behalf of organizations. In this episode, Gadi and Karen will host two such masters, Christoph Fischer and Moty Cristal, who will share their experience with incident response, negotiation, and communication with criminal organizations.

(4) FIRESIGN THEATRE. In an interview with two surviving members of the troupe, Wisconsin Public Radio recalls “How The Firesign Theatre Predicted The Future”.

…And the Firesigns did not shy away from social commentary. Their work predicted the downfall of the Soviet Union, the undoing of a president, the computer revolution, and a modern-day plague.

Ossman puts it this way: “I think at heart, although we loved mystery, we were really science fiction writers in that big genre, it holds everybody from futurists to fantasists to surrealists. Over the course of our entire career, we developed all kinds of worlds and characters and universes. I mean, it was fantasy combined with science fiction, combined with comments about what was going on at that moment.”

The Firesign Theatre has just released their first new record in 35 years — “Dope Humor of the Seventies.” It’s a two-disc set that includes 83 minutes of freeform radio mayhem, and madness from 1970 to 1972…. 

(5) SOME REALLY SMALL BITES. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s series Science Fiction TV Small Bite presents “short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.” The next one on February 4 features a short sf film about genetically engineered mosquitoes followed by a discussion. Register here.

Our latest Small Bite is Akoota, a science fiction film about genetically engineered mosquitoes and social control written and directed by Dilman Dila. We’ll screen the 20-minute film, and then have a conversation with Dilman, an award-winning filmmaker, speculative fiction author, and storyteller based in Uganda, and Andrew Maynard, director of the Risk Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, professor and associate dean in the College of Global Futures, and author of the books Films from the Future and Future Rising.

We’ll also feature a segment on future cuisine by Corey S. Pressman, an educator, anthropologist, poet, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

This virtual event is free and open to everyone. Register today!

(6) YOU’RE NOT FROM AROUND HERE, ARE YOU. It’s like one of those Ancestry.com DNA searches that finds you a whole new set of parents. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Classic SF in Which Humans Come From ‘Beyond the Stars’”.

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Stories

Ages ago, humans evolved on Hain. The Hainish exuberantly settled a large number of worlds in our galactic neighbourhood before apparently abandoning interstellar travel for long enough that worlds like Earth forgot they were Hainish colonies. When a new era of interstellar contact began, terrestrial humans discovered worlds already occupied by their cousins.

On the plus side, even though time and evolution—or alternatively, an ancient Hainish fad for genetic engineering—led to considerable diversity between the various branches of humanity, the communications gap is still less than that which exists between any group of humans and the truly alien entities found elsewhere, such as on Vaster than Empires and More Slow’s World 4470. On the minus side, human vices manifest in diverse native forms on each world: thus, the interstellar civil disorders seen in Rocannon’s World, the political strife featured in The Dispossessed, and brutal exploitation in The Word for World is Forest.

(7) GODFALLSTALK.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Godfall,” Fandom Games says that Godfall is the sort of low-imagination game for times when “you just want to hit a bunch of guys with a big sword until they fall over” and has characters so generic they look like “sketches from a fifth-grader’s science notebook.”

This episode dropped today.  It is dedicated to Brad Venable, long time voice for Honest Game Trailers, who died on January 7 at 43.

(8) CONSTANTINE (1956-2021). David Barnett has written an excellent appreciation of the late Storm Constantine for The Guardian: “’A force to be reckoned with’– fantasy world pays tribute to Storm Constantine”.

… Constantine was never less than wildly enthusiastic about all her books, including the three of mine that Immanion published. If her imprint had started as a way to get her own work back into print, it quickly evolved into a personal mission to bring books to readers that the mainstream publishers often overlooked.

Donna Scott, now a writer, editor and standup comedian, was assigned by Storm to edit Hinterland. “It’s no exaggeration to say she changed my life. She was so encouraging and supportive to new writers, and fan fiction writers, which is rare among writers held in similar esteem,” said Scott. “The heart of fantasy literature is going to ache from the loss of Storm. Not only was she one of the most powerfully unique and creative voices we had, but also a welcoming friend to new talent.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 19, 1990 Tremors premiered in theaters. It was directed by Ron Underwood, and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, and written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood off the story by Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson and Ron Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. Five direct-to-video sequels followed, plus a series. The first film was well-received by critics for its story, special effects and acting alike, it currently has an eighty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Later films and the series are more varied in their audience ratings. (CE)
  • January 19, 2016 DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the centre for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up. It holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of seventy percent. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 19, 1924 Dean Fredericks. Actor best known for his portrayal of the comic strip character Steve Canyon in the television series of the same name which aired from 1958–1959 on NBC. His first genre role is in Them! followed by appearances in The Disembodied and the lead in The Phantom Planet which you can watch here. (Died 1999.) (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination SpaceThe InvadersTwilight ZoneMission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name but a few of them. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born January 19, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 77. I’ve first got visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearances in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring in her late Forties from acting.  (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The SaintThe Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1956 Geena Davis, 65. Her first genre was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.   She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it?  Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten episode FOX sequel to the film. (CE)
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 59. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio warns us about a new reason for alien abductions.
  • “Spaceman Spiff” (Calvin) learns that evading alien Zarches is much like evading your parents at Calvin & Hobbes.
  •  The Far Side tells how an alien invasion will be stopped.

(12) DC UNIVERSE INFINITE. A.V. Club describes DC’s new plan: “DC launches DC Universe Infinite with massive library of comics”.

With its movies and TV shows moving to HBO Max, DC Comics is taking its remaining assets (the comics, guys, it’s the comics) over to a brand-new platform. DC Universe Infinite launches this Thursday, January 21, and boasts over 25,000 comic books and graphic novels—including several frequently-requested titles that weren’t available on the previous app, like Grant Morrison’s Batman: Arkham Asylum and Brian Azzarello’s Joker. Described as a “premium digital comic book service and community,” DC Universe Infinite will offer a library of the largest collection of DC Comics anywhere, with plans to “continuously add selections from DC’s iconic labels, Vertigo, DC Black Label and Milestone Media.” New comic books will be available on the platform six months after release. The platform is available directly online, as well as on iOS and Android devices. Subscriptions cost $7.99 a month or $74.99 per year, billed annually.

(13) PROVING AUTHENTICITY. The Huntington’s article “Securing Election Results in 1640” shows how it was done old-school, with photos of the kind of specialized document involved.

…The need to ensure accurate reporting of election results is nothing new. In 17th-century England, local officials used documents called “indentures” to report the winning candidate in parliamentary elections.

The earliest use of the word “indenture” dates to the 1300s, when it described a feature of the document itself. Long before the widespread use of paper in the western world, scribes wrote contracts or deeds on parchment (treated animal skins). Then, as now, documents typically were executed by more than one party, so scribes wrote mirroring copies of the agreement on a single piece of parchment.

Using a pen knife, the scribe then sliced the parchment in two with vertical cuts that resulted in a pattern that looked like either jagged jack-o-lantern teeth fitted together or rolling, interlocking, scalloped edges. The word “indenture” derives from the Latin dentatum (toothed) because the cut along the top of each of the documents resembled teeth.

Parties would affix their wax seal to one copy of the indenture. If the contents of the document were ever disputed later, the parties could retrieve their copies and set them together. If the indents along the edges of the documents fit together like puzzle pieces, they knew neither of the halves had been forged. The indents served as a security measure….

(14) TITAN TALK. The American Museum of Natural History will livestream “Toxic Titan: Life on Saturn’s Moon?” on January 27. Ticket purchase information at the link.

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is unique in our solar system: below its thick organic haze layer, rivers of methane carve channels into an icy bedrock and flow into large hydrocarbon seas. Could this moon’s lake-mottled surface and thick, organic rich atmosphere be an ideal setting for life as we do not know it?

Planetary scientist Sarah M. Hörst explores this question and all that’s left to be discovered about our own home from studying a moon worlds away. 

(15) I’LL TAKE DONOVAN’S BRAIN FOR $100. Daniel Dern says he’s reminded of Niven’s story “The Coldest Place.” In “Superconducting Microprocessors? Turns Out They’re Ultra-Efficient”Slashdot reports an IEEE Spectrum news item: 

Computers use a staggering amount of energy today. According to one recent estimate, data centers alone consume two percent of the world’s electricity, a figure that’s expected to climb to eight percent by the end of the decade. To buck that trend, though, perhaps the microprocessor, at the center of the computer universe, could be streamlined in entirely new ways.

One group of researchers in Japan have taken this idea to the limit, creating a superconducting microprocessor — one with zero electrical resistance. The new device, the first of its kind, is described in a study published last month in the IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits 

(16) RAMPANT MUPPETRY. Seems like every day brings a new selling point for Disney+ that I can’t ignore. “Muppet Show coming to Disney Plus in February 2020” reports A.V. Club.

Oh, The Muppet Show15 seconds to curtainThe Muppet Show! Or, make that one month: Disney+ has announced that all of five seasons of Jim Henson’s pioneering variety show will join its library February 19—the show’s streaming debut, if you don’t count all the YouTube rips we’ve been watching while waiting for the show to come to streaming.

And speaking of YouTube rips, how about Gilda Radner doing a G&S Pirates of Penzance bit on the original Muppets series?

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

Pixel Scroll 1/4/21 She’s Got
A Pixel To Scroll, And She Don’t Care

(1) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB virtual reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Lauren Beukes and Usman T. Malik on Wednesday, January 20 at 7 p.m. Eastern. Check back at their website or social media to get the link when it drops.

Lauren Beukes


Lauren Beukes is a South African novelist, ex-journalist and sometime documentary maker who has written five novels, a pop history, a short story collection and New York Times best-selling comics. Her novel Zoo City won the Arthur C Clarke Award, The Shining Girls is soon to be a tv show for Apple with Elisabeth Moss, and won the University of Johannesburg Prize and the Strands Critics Choice Award among others. Her new book Afterland, about a world (almost) without men, is currently in development. She lives in Cape Town with her daughter.

Usman T. Malik
 

Usman T. Malik is a Pakistani-American writer and doctor. His fiction has been reprinted in several year’s best anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy series, and has won the Bram Stoker Award and the British Fantasy Award. Usman’s debut collection, Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan, will be out in early 2021.

(2) COULD HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER. In search of prospects to nominate for the video game Hugo, Camestros Felapton explores another game he hopes will meet his criteria of “look[ing] like they might be interesting/notable from the perspective of science fiction & fantasy as a broad genre” — “Review: Spiritfarer (Nintendo Switch)”.

…However, the game I will nominate in this category isn’t Hades but a game set in a quite different afterlife: Spiritfarer. The two games couldn’t be more different and yet both borrow Charon the Ferryman and Hades as characters from Greek mythology and both use (different) genres of game play to lead you to interact with a series of characters from whom you learn about their lives (and deaths) and your own characters back story. Spiritfarer has fewer murderous, laser firing crystal things though.

The genre of gameplay is resource management and exploration. You have a ship with a small number of passengers and you sail between islands collecting resources and improving your ship. It’s all presented as 2D animation largely moving horizontally.

(3) ELDRITCH FOR MILLIONS. IGN Southeast Asia tells “How Cosmic Horror Went Mainstream”. (You didn’t know that, did you?)

…Alternately called cosmic horror or Lovecraftian horror, this brand of story is focused on unknowable and ancient terrors. While the genre’s most iconic monster, Cthulhu, slumbers in a lost underwater city, cosmic horror just as often directly lives up to its name and comes from the cold of space or is lurking in isolated areas like Antarctica. The genre has few real heroes, mostly focusing on people who are already deeply flawed or struggling before they confront these horrors. While they may be killed, the protagonists are just as likely to be rendered insane or somehow fundamentally transformed into something as equally unknowable and terrible as the unspeakable creatures they have encountered.

But how did cosmic horror seep into the mainstream of movies, TV, and games? Let’s trace that history from D&D to True Detective to Nicolas Cage and beyond…

(4) ELLISON REFERENCE. In the discussion of other things,Scientific American’s “Hellscapes” column “A Quick Look at Underpaid Female Docs, Unethical Ethicists and Frogs with Intestinal Fortitude” ends with the following:

Speaking of hell, a study in the August 3 issue of the journal Current Biology revealed that the vast majority of members of a species of beetle, Regimbartia attenuata, perform a literally death-defying feat after being swallowed by various species of frogs. The beetle apparently swims its little heart out till it pops out of the frog’s derriere. Because, as another axiom has it, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

To find out whether the insect’s passage was active or passive, researchers immobilized some beetles by coating them with wax before going into the mouth of hell, or rather, frog. None of these beetles survived. To paraphrase science-fiction legend Harlan Ellison (who definitely would have come up with this experimental protocol if he’d lived long enough): they really don’t want to open their mouths, and they must scream.

(5) NO FORWARDING ADDRESS. “Is anybody out there? All the intelligent aliens in our galaxy could be dead…”SYFY Wire distills a scientific article about the chances.

…The Milky Way has been around for billions of years. In that time, life has not only had had plenty of time to evolve to an advanced level and achieve heights of technology even our wildest sci-fi dreams couldn’t fathom, but also to destroy itself.

“We found [self-annihilation of complex life] to be the most influential parameter determining the quantity and age of galactic intelligent life,” the physicists said in a study recently published in Astrophysics of Galaxies.

There were three types of limitations for the existence of aliens that the team studied. They considered the possibilities of abiogenesis, how long it might have taken (or be taking) for an intelligent civilization to evolve, and chances of such a civilization crushing itself. Abiogenesis is the idea of life spawning from things that are definitely not alive. 

(6) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Here’s someone who’s theorizing is not discouraged by the preceding study: “Harvard Professor Says Alien Technology Visited Earth in 2017”Yahoo! has the story.

…Loeb says there are two big details that suggest Oumuamua wasn’t just a comet, but rather a piece of alien technology. The first detail is the object’s dimensions, as it was determined to be “five to 10 times longer than it was wide.” Loeb argues the cigar-like shape isn’t typical for a natural space object.

But the theoretical physicist says the biggest detail that supports his theory is Oumuamua’s movement.

“The excess push away from the sun, that was the thing that broke the camel’s back,” he said.

Loeb explains that the sun’s gravitational force would cause a natural object to move faster as it approaches, and eventually push the object back, causing it to move slower as it moves away. Loeb points out that this didn’t occur with Oumuamua, which accelerated “slightly, but to a highly statistically significant extent” as it moved further and further away.

“If we are not alone, are we the smartest kids on the block?” Loeb asked. “If there was a species that eliminated itself through war or changing the climate, we can get our act together and behave better. Instead, we are wasting a lot of resources on Earth fighting each other and other negative things that are a big waste.”

(7) HEADLONG RETREAT. R.S. Benedict has posted a new episode of the Rite Gud podcast.”I talk to writer/artist Sloane Leong about SFF’s retreat into childhood nostalgia, and the beauty of mature fiction.” Listen here.

As the world looks grimmer and grimmer, Millennials and Gen Xers retreat deeper and deeper into childhood nostalgia. Adults dominate fandoms meant for children, like Steven Universe, Young Adult fiction, and My Little Pony. Within SFF, many writers, readers and editors have begun to treat all media as though it were meant for children: It must be didactic and escapist and safe. But there are still some of us who want art to treat us like adults.

In this episode, writer and artist Sloane Leong joins us to talk about the power of embracing your inner grownup.

(8) ROBERTS STILL ALIVE. People sent links to articles reporting the actress death, however, actress Tanya Roberts is still alive at this writing according to TMZ.

(9) JAEL OBIT. Artist Jael died November 17 reports Locus Online Jael (1937-2020). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says Jael did covers for Baen and DAW, as well as magazines. Jael’s work received eight Chesley Award nominations between 1995 and 2002.

(10) SHELLEY OBIT. Hammer Films star Barbara Shelley has died at the age of 88 according to The Sun: ”’Queen of Hammer’ who starred in horror films and Doctor Who dies after surviving Covid”.

She also appeared in the Doctor Who episode Planet Of Fire, starring Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor.

Her agent, Thomas Bowington, said: “She really was Hammer’s number one leading lady and the technicolour queen of Hammer.

…Shelley was also known for TV roles in series including The Saint, The Avengers, The Borgias, Blake’s 7 and Crown Court, and later played Hester Samuels in EastEnders.

Robert J. Sawyer praised Shelley’s performance in Quatermass and the Pit (1967) on Facebook in which she”played a completely professional scientist, paleontologist Barbara Judd, the female lead, in one of the best science-fiction films ever made.”He also posted a great quote from Shelly:

“I adored science fiction. When I was a very little girl my father used to have all these science fiction magazines and we used to go through them together. My mind had been opened up to science fiction by my father so when I got these scripts it wasn’t `What’s this rubbish?’ It was ‘that’s interesting.'”

(11) MEMORY LANE.

1971 — Fifty years ago,  Larry Niven’s Ringworld would win the Hugo for Best Novel at Noreascon I over Poul Anderson’s Tau Zero, Robert Silverberg’s Tower of Glass, Wilson Tucker‘s The Year of the Quiet Sun and Hal Clement’s Star Light. It would also win the Locus, Nebula and Ditmar Awards, and Locus would later include it on its list of All-Time Best SF Novels before 1990.  It would spawn three sequel novels and a prequel series as well which was co-written with Edward M. Lerner. One film and three series have been announced down the decades but none to date have been produced.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 4, 1882 – P.J. Monahan.  Newspaper cartoonist, illustrator in the “pulp” days (when our and other magazines were printed on cheap pulp paper).  Thirty covers, twenty interiors.  Here is Semi Dual, the Occult Detector.  Here is Thuvia.  Here is the 26 Jun 20 All-Story Weekly – weekly!  How’d you like to be the editor of that?  To show PJM’s range, here is the 1 Sep 12 Leslie’s, and here is a portrait of Pope Pius X.  (Died 1931) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1882 – Violet Van der Elst.  Twoscore short stories, half a dozen collections, for us.  Starting as a scullery maid, she developed cosmetics including the first brushless shaving cream – don’t say we’ve made no progress – and grew rich; fought against the death penalty, threw her money and her mind into it, lost both, barely lived to see it abolished.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book by publishing original material in the early Thirties instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1904 – Dale Ulrey.  Four covers, a dozen interiors.  Also a comic-strip artist, notably Apple Mary, famous during the Depression, still running today as Mary Worth.  Here is her Wizard of Oz.  Here is an interior for Jaglon and the Tiger Fairies.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 94. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer LimitsNight GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1930 – Ruth Kyle.  Founding member of the Lunarians (New York club, famous in song and story).  Hard-working Secretary of NYCon II the 14th Worldcon; married its chairman Dave Kyle; his tale of their honeymoon flight to Loncon I the 15th is here.  Good cook, gracious hostess.  Part of an adventure I had with Dave, see here (bottom of three).  (Died 2011) [JH]  
  • Born January 4, 1933 – Phyllis Naylor, age 88.  A dozen novels for us; a hundred thirty all told; some 2,000 articles.  Newbery Medal.  Sequoyah Children’s Book Award.  Mark Twain Readers Award.  William Allen White Children’s Book Award.  Kerlan Award.  “What spare time?  If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.”  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 75. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 63. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon.  His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out Supergirl,  Honey, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. (CE) 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 61. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could argue are genre adjacent such as “Losing My Religion”. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1981 – Sarah Crossan, age 40.  Two books for us, seven others.  Has read four each by Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf, two by George Eliot.  [JH]
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 36. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also played Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012, and she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” episode of Black Mirror. (CE)
  • Born January 4, 1985 – Lorenz Hideyoshi Ruwwe, age 36.  A dozen covers.  Here is Desert Stars.  Here is The Sentinel.  Here is Omni.  Here is his page at ArtStation.  [JH]

(13) THE SIGN OF THE Z. In the Washington Post, Michael Sragow notes the centennial of THE MARK OF ZORRO, the first Zorro movie.  He notes that both Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster say that Zorro’s twin identity as the masked crimefighter and the foppish Don Diego as a precursor to Batman and Bruce Wayne and Superman and Clark Kent.  In addition, Sragow sees Zorro’s secret lair as a precursor of the Batcave and Lolita Pulido’s ditching Don Diego for Zorro as Lois Lane favoring Superman over Clark Kent. “On Zorro’s 100th birthday, the father of swashbucklers and superhero movies is still relevant”

…Like Tennyson’s Sir Galahad, Zorro has the strength of 10 because his heart is pure. He’s also irreverent and mischievous. His sparkle exudes hipness: He embraces the New World’s egalitarian ethos while his enemies defend the feudal past.

Zorro lifted spirits in the 1920s. In the 2020s, his ebullience can generate ecstatic highs.

During Fairbanks’s previous run as the parody hero of contemporary action comedies like “His Picture in the Papers,” fans came to think of him as “Doug,” a tribute to his offhand elegance — like Fred Astaire’s, a triumph of talent and willpower. Doug transports this knockabout grace into “The Mark of Zorro.” With his light heart and “can-do” demeanor — qualities the world embraced as quintessentially American — Zorro soon dominated action-film iconography. Cinema would never be the same.

(14) ZOOMIN’ DOWN THE ROAD. “Movin’ Right Along With Kermit The Frog and Fozzie Bear” on YouTube has Kermit and Fozzie welcoming the new year with dreams of a road trip and showing they know how to use Zoom.

(15) THANKS, MY GOOD COUNTRYMAN. James Davis Nicoll surveys “Canadians in SF as Written by Non-Canadians” at Tor.com. (Is that allowed?)

Canada! Perhaps best known to fans of British soap operas, for whom it serves as that mysterious land to the west to which characters vanish after their purpose on the show has been served. Of course, all that is needed to learn far more about Canada than you would ever need or want to know is to get trapped in a conversation with a Canadian, uninvited exposition concerning their homeland being as natural to the average Canadian as it is any given inhabitant of a fictional utopia confronted by a woken sleeper from the pre-utopian past.

One might reasonably expect that most SF touching on Canada was written by Canadians and the Canadian-adjacent. Perhaps it is. Quite a lot of it is not. Here are five examples of Canada and Canadians in science fiction, as seen by foreign eyes.

First on the list is Bob Shaw, who’s challenging because he lived and worked in Canada for a period.

(16) HOPE HE GETS HIS MD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The first baby of 2021 in one Alabama town has a possibly-unique name, Anakyn Gene Strange. Yeah, they changed the spelling of the first name a bit, but wouldn’t it be lovely if the young lad went into medicine. Think of it  — Dr. Anakyn Strange. “‘The Force is Strong’ with Florence’s first baby in 2021”

Star Wars fans immediately know the reference when hearing the name Anakyn.

While it may not be spelled the same as it was in the series, Hope and Dusty Strange used the name on Florence’s first birth of 2021. Anakyn Gene Strange was born at 1:04 a.m. on January 1 at North Alabama Medical Center.

According to our news partners at the Times Daily, Anakyn was 5 pounds, 12 ounces and was 19 3/4 inches long with brown eyes and curly brown hair.

“There actually was a feeling of relief because 2020 was a horrible and challenging year,” she said. “It was the most pure way to start out the year.”…

(17) RAVENCON ANTHOLOGY KICKSTARTER. Michael D. Pederson, RavenCon 2022 chair, explains:

Being an April convention, we were forced to announce this year’s [2020] cancellation three weeks before the convention. Needless to say, after having spent 11 months buying supplies and paying fees for the con we didn’t have much (read: any) capital left after refunding the vendors. And we still needed to refund about a third of our attendees that wanted money. And now that we’ve had to cancel for 2021 as well, we’re really stuck for funds. So, we created an anthology, with story donations coming from many of our regular programming guests as well as a few of my old Nth Degree contributors. We’re using the anthology to raise funds through Kickstarter. We funded the entire project on our first day and hit our first stretch goal a week later. We’re working on a second stretch goal and expect to announce a third stretch goal later this week.

You can find the fundraiser at: CORVID-19 — Kickstarter. The stories in CORVID-19: A RavenCon Anthology are:

  • “Windows to the Soul” by Danielle Ackley-McPhail
  • “Raven’s Sacrifice” by Heather Ewings
  • “The Cruelest Team Will Win” by Mike Allen
  • “Jenny” by Debbie Manber Kupfer
  • “Daughter of the Birds” by Maya Preisler
  • “Kvetina and the Crows” by Rhys Schrock
  • “Corvus Monitus” by Cass Morris
  • “If the Moon is Real” by Samantha Bryant
  • “Life in a Moment” by James Maxey
  • “Crows’ Feet” by Diana Bastine
  • “A Warning of Crows” by Jennifer R. Povey
  • “Wet Birds” by Elizabeth Massie
  • “Heart Truth” by Jenna Hamrick
  • “Table for One” by Joan Wendland
  • “Dominion” by Margaret Karmazin
  • “The Gore-Crow” by Meryl Yourish
  • “The Song of the Raven” by Toi Thomas
  • “Fledging” by Kathryn Sullivan
  • “Feather Fall” by Kara Dennison

(18) ESCHEW SURPLUS CONSONANTS. A whole collection of tweets from people who seem qualified to join File 770’s crack proofreading staff: “People Who Don’t Know How to Spell ‘Cologne’ Are Hiralous” at Sad and Useless.

Who would have thought that “cologne” is such a complicated word to spell correctly? Or it just might be that many people really are enjoying the smell of large intestine…

(19) LONG PLAYING. And long ago. This interesting discovery is available at Archive.org – “A Child’s Introduction To Outer Space: Jim Timmens” (1959) – with songs performed by The Satellite Singers, and dramatic readings, and a credit on the album cover to Scientific Advisor Willy Ley who won one of the first Hugos in 1953.  

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Wonder Woman 1984 Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that the reasons why Steve Trevor appears in Wonder Woman 1984 have really creepy implications and that it’s highly unlikely that Wonder Woman could make an escape from the Smithsonian by stealing a fully fueled airplane from the Air and Space Museum.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/17/20 For He To-Day That Scrolls His Pixel With Me, Shall Be My Sibling; Be He Ne’er So File

(1) INSIDE STORY. In “Why I Write”: Samuel R. Delany scrolls through the reasons. This conversation appears in the Winter 2020 print issue of The Yale Review.

… I remember sitting on the steps of the embalming room at the back of the chapel in my father’s Harlem funeral parlor, watching Freddy, my father’s embalmer, working on the corpse of a tan woman with reddish hair stretched on her back on the white enamel surgical table with its drain and clamps…

“How old is she?” I asked.

“Twenty-­five,” Freddy told me, at work in his rubber gloves with the bottles of pink embalming fluid.

“What did she die from?” I asked.

Freddy picked up the tag on the woman’s wrist. “Sugar diabetes is what it says here.”

“Does everybody have to die?” I asked.

“Eventually.” Freddy smiled. “But you won’t have to worry about that for a long time…”

“But I will have to die, won’t I?”

Freddy laughed. “Not for a long, long time…”

I think his firmness was supposed to be reassuring, but suddenly I felt a dizzying chill. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I stood up and said softly, “I’m going upstairs.” Halfway through the funeral chapel, I began to move quickly, and at the stairwell up to the first floor where we lived, I started running. My mother was in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor. “I’m gonna die!” I burst in, screaming, and threw myself into her arms. “I’m gonna die, Mommy! I’m gonna die!” I think she was bewildered.

“You’re not gonna die,” she said.

“No! No! Not now. But I’m gonna die…!”

She pooh-­poohed my terror, and for almost forty minutes while I screamed and thrashed and hugged her and sobbed, she tried to find out what was wrong. She couldn’t quite believe that, really, this was all it was. I had seen dozens of corpses before, but it never occurred to me to tell her that it was the reality of a dead body that had initiated my panic….

(2) LODESTAR 2020. Naomi Kritzer tweeted a photo of her Lodestar Award trophy.

(3) A SAUCER WITHOUT CREAM. Timothy the Talking Cat says what needs to be said – then, characteristically, keeps on talking: “Tim’s Hot Take: Discworld is Terrible” at Camestros Felapton.

Good evening everybody, it is I, your favourite feline provocateur, raconteur and secateur aka Timothy the Talking Cat. In every community there must be somebody who is brave enough, far-sighted enough and clever enough to speak to mindless herds and lay down the cold, hard truth about their clumsy sheep-like opinions…

(4) SOUND ADVICE. The creation of the Mexican Gothic audiobook is discussed in the AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mic” podcast: “In Conversation with Narrator Frankie Corzo”. There’s also a partial transcript:

Jo Reed: I’m curious, and we can use MEXICAN GOTHIC as an example, because there’s quite a range of characters, I’m curious about what’s your process for determining the voice for any given character?

Frankie Corzo: You know, I think, very early on when I started doing audiobooks, I learned that there were the kind of giants among us who have a preternatural ability, supernatural ability, at being able to make these really distinct, crazy character voices, and I was like, “Okay.  If I go that way, it’s going to feel like a caricature,” and I never wanted anything, even when I do a children’s book, I don’t want it to feel performative. As much as it is a performance, you want it to feel as grounded and as relatable and as in the skin of these people as possible, so with every character, I always go from the entryway of their characteristics.  How are they described as how they carry themselves? 

You know, once we get past accents, once we get past anything that is really concrete that the author has informed us about, what are the characters saying about them, and what do they say about themselves, and how do they carry themselves in the world, and how does that affect their voice? I think going that route for me personally allows me more to play with when we’re in different acts of the book, when we’re in different places in their journey. You know, especially with a younger protagonist, or a lot of the books that I’ve gotten to do this year, like Natalia Sylvester’s RUNNING, our protagonist begins not really sure of her voice yet and figuring out all of these things, and at the end she’s like this revolutionary, and how does that affect your voice? So I always try to go in from the route of character as far as personality and physicality more than I go from a place of purely what they would sound like.

(5) KIND OF LIKE THE OPENING CHALLENGE OF BEAT BOBBY FLAY. What do you do with that odd ingredient? Sarah Gailey assembles the recipes they published earlier in the year to help readers cope with pandemic-limited cupboards: “Year In Review: Stone Soup” at Here’s the Thing.

…In the end, from March all the way through July, I wrote thirty-seven recipes. Some of them are kind of bonkers, because they’re designed to use a particular tricky ingredient. Some of them are pretty straightforward. All of them were written with the express intention of helping people weather a really fucked-up time in their lives, and for that, I’m proud of them.

Here’s the full list:

#1 – Comfort Broccoli
Recipe: Flavorful Roasted Broccoli
What do you do with the vegetables you’d normally cook as a Virtuous Side Dish, when all you want to eat is a really shitty burger? I don’t care how much you love fresh produce: when the thing you want is some garbage-food that’s designed in a lab to please your monkey-brain, broccoli feels like a thing to be endured. That ends today.

(6) SCALING DOWN. Former HWA President Lisa Morton joins in a discussion about Close Encounters Of The Third Kind miniature effects.

David Jones, Greg Jein, Mark Stetson, and Lisa Morton talk about the miniatures made for the original film, and the special edition. Extended segment from my Sense of Scale documentary.

From the transcript:

And you know there was the usual uh dropping stuff on the floor and things breaking little small pieces and and it was always at the most crucial time. I remember requesting that they put carpeting on the floor in our model shop because I think I was prone to dropping stuff a lot

(7) BULLOCH OBIT. “Jeremy Bulloch Dead: Boba Fett Actor in Star Wars Dies at 75”Variety profiled him.

Jeremy Bulloch, the British actor who starred as bounty hunter Boba Fett in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died on Thursday in London of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his representatives. He was 75.

… Bulloch took on the role of Boba Fett in 1978 while he was starring in the television comedy series “Agony.” He had previously starred in the BBC soap opera “The Newcomers.” Other credits included the James Bond movie “Octopussy” and the TV series “Doctor Who” and “Robin of Sherwood.” He also had a cameo in 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

In Season 3 Episode 4 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale a tribute is given to Ray Bradbury — at around 41 minutes one of the Handmaids exits a house with the address of 451.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

December 17 – Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers Day on December 17 recognizes the first time Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew their heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled aircraft in 1903.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1999 — In 1999, the very first Endeavour Award for Distinguished Novel or Collection would go to Greg Bear for Dinosaur Summer. The Award is given annually at OryCon for a work written by a Northwest author or authors published in the previous year. Runner-ups that year were John Varley’s The Golden Globe, Kate Wilhelm‘s The Good Children, Steve Barnes’ Iron Shadows and Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. He would win the same Award the next year with Darwin’s Radio. Oddly enough that would be the last Endeavour Award that he would win. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 17, 1702 – Marie-Madeleine de Lubert.  Author of folk tales, or perhaps we should say stories in the style of folk tales, much admired; many fantastic.  Corresponded with Voltaire.  A novella and three shorter stories in Princess Camion (2018, i.e. in English); Cornichon et Toupette tr. as “A Fairy’s Blunder” in The Grey Fairy Book.  (Died 1785) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1873 – Ford Madox Ford.  Among much else, a children’s fantasy The Brown Owl, science fiction co-authored with Joseph Conrad The Inheritors, five more novels and three shorter stories for us.  Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, which FMF said was “what would really happen”, has been called a reverse of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee – but not by me.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1884 – Alison Uttley, D.Litt.  More than a hundred books.  For us A Traveller in Time, later made a BBC TV series; a score of tales collected in Moonshine and Madness; four more magical collections; stories about a fox (half a dozen), a mouse (a dozen), rabbits (twoscore), a pig (a dozen; the pig is named Sam).  Honorary Doctor of Letters from Univ. Manchester.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, she as Barbara Wright was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I’d loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon except one from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 74. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film.  Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including LeviathanShark AttackHood of HorrorDragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1950 – J.R. “Mad Dog” Madden, age 70.  Chemical engineer and Red Cross volunteer.  Hosted Swampcon II at his house.  Letters, con reports in SF ChronicleSF Review, and even File 770 which, who knows, might appear on paper again.  Fan Guest of Honor at Coastcon ’81 and IX, DeepSouthCon 35.  Rebel Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 – Rian Johnson, age 47.  Wrote and directed Looper and The Last Jedi.  “A Paragraph on PKD” in Journey Planet.  Introduction to The Time Traveller’s Almanac.  Plays banjo.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 47. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 45. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. (It has a superb seventy rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is six films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy which I’ve no interest in seeing.(CE)
  • Born December 17, 1985 – Greg James, age 35.  With Chris Smith, three Kid Normal novels and a shorter story; a short story in The Time Collection.  Radio, television; presented I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse.  Cricket and rugby fan.  Powerful charity fund-raiser cycling, climbing mountains, lip-synching “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Duplex shows why bean-counters and Seuss don’t mix.

(13) NEXT BATMAN. “DC Comics Sets The Stage For The First Black Batman” reports Black Information Network.

DC Comics set the stage for a groundbreaking development in their iconic Batman series. This week, the character of Tim “Jace” Fox took on the role of Batman. By doing so, he becomes the first Black character to hold the title.

“Even before the announcement of DC Future State and Future State: The Next Batman by John RidleyNick Derington and Laura Braga, the news that a person of color could be the next to don the cape and cowl as Gotham City’s protector sent tongues wagging inside and outside the comic book community about who it could possibly be,” DC Comics wrote.

Gizmodo has more: “DC Comics Reveals New, Black Batman Tim Fox for Future State”

After teasing that the upcoming Future State event would bring some bold, sweeping changes to a new generation of its legacy heroes, DC has confirmed the identity of the event’s Batman: Tim Fox, the estranged son of longtime Batman ally Lucius Fox, and brother of Batwing himself, Luke.

Tim has had a long, if relatively quiet, history out of the cowl in DC’s Batfamily books, first appearing back in 1979 during a terse dinnertable discussion between him and Lucius over his college grades in the pages of Batman #313. More recently, talk of what he’s been up to has been woven in and out of the Joker War arc in the pages of the Batman ongoing. Meanwhile, the Fox family had been brought “in-house” to help Bruce Wayne through FoxTech—with Lucius deciding that now is the time to attempt to reconnect with his distant son.

(14) SOMETIMES IN GOOD TASTE. But often not. Jennifer Szalai reviews Reid Mitenbuler’s Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation for the New York Times: “‘Fantasia,’ ‘Snow White,’ Betty Boop, Popeye and the First Golden Age of Animation”.

By the time Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” premiered at Manhattan’s Broadway Theater on Nov. 13, 1940, what had started out as an animated short to revive Mickey Mouse’s flagging career had become a feature-length extravaganza. Images in the movie channeled evolutionary theory and abstract art, depicting roaring dinosaurs, vibrating shapes and dancing brooms. Everything was set to classical music and blasted over the new Fantasound system, whose volume could apparently reach 165 decibels — enough, The New Yorker reported at the time, to “kill many elderly members of the audience, knock the others cold and deafen the survivors for life.” The magazine continued: “Don’t worry about it, though. You’re safe with Walt Disney.”

The combination perfectly encapsulated what Disney Studios was becoming: a determined wielder of awesome power, leavened by Disney’s assurances that he was a really nice guy. (This happened to mirror the self-image of the country at large, which assiduously coupled its impending dominance on the world stage with repeated avowals of benign intentions.) According to “Wild Minds,” Reid Mitenbuler’s lively history of the first half-century of animation, “Fantasia” marked a turning point in American culture, an attempt to reconcile the refinement of artistic ambition with the demands of mass consumption. To work on the project, Disney had tapped the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was so proudly pretentious that the studio’s cartoonists wanted to call the movie “Highbrowski by Stokowski.”….

(15) REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS RIGHT NOW. “Stephen Colbert Answers a Series of Revealing Questions (While Drinking Whiskey)” to answer Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. (Plenty of genre references in his answers to #27 and #28.)

Through its origins as a parlor game made popular by Marcel Proust, the 35 questions are designed to reveal the nature of Stephen’s true self. What is his idea of perfect happiness? Who are his favorite writers? What is his biggest regret?

(16) VANISHED WORLD. In his “Graphic Content” column “Into the Crime-Riddled 1980’s Los Angeles of Ethan Reckless” on CrimeReads, Alex Segura interviews Ed Brubaker about his new graphic novel Reckless illustrated by Sean Phillips and “set in the wild world of 1980s Los Angeles.”

[Brubaker] .. The crazy part was realizing that because we had so much lead time, we could put out three of these books in one year. I was reading about how the first three Travis McGee books came out just a few months apart from each other, and I thought… we could do that. Since we’re switching away from monthly comics to graphic novels, lets try and keep them on a tight schedule, so our readers don’t have to wait a year for the next one. So far we’re on track and it hasn’t killed us, but we’re both back in lockdown where we live, so that’s been good for productivity, I guess.

(17) FASTING. “Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review” at Mind Matters.

Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars:

(18) JEOPARDY! Say, those Jeopardy! sff questions are getting tougher! Here’s what Andrew Porter witnessed in tonight’s episode.

Category: First Words

Answer: “A screaming comes across the sky”, begins this 1973 Thomas Pynchon novel.

Wrong question: What is “The Crying of Lot 49”?

Correct question: What is “Gravity’s Rainbow”?

(19) CHARTING THE MUPPETS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 12 Financial Times, Helen Brown discusses the Muppets song “Mah-Na Mah-Na,” which was originally written by “prolific Tuscan jazz composer Piero Umiliani” for “an Italian soft-core exploitation film, Sweden:  Heaven And Hell.”

The puppets first performed the song on the show (Sesame Street) on November 27, 1969, sung by two wool-plated Muppets (voiced by Frank Oz and Loretta Long) and beatnik character Bip Biuppadotta, voiced by (Jim) Henson himself.  The loveable comedy of the scat lay in the way Henson often began his scats with enthusiasm, only to lose his thread.  A follow-up performance on the primetime -The Ed Sullivan Show- took it mainstream.  The female back-up singers were reimagined  as fluorescent twin monsters with massive  eyelashes called Snowths:  a combination of snout and mouth.  The beatnik’s scat odysseys grew increasingly deranged until he literally broke the fourth wall by running into the camera and smashing it…

…The Snowths and Bip Bippadotta performed the song in a 1976 episode of -The Muppet Show-, intoducing it to a new audience.  In 1977, it was released as a single (“Mahna Mahna”) which peaked at number eight in the UK charts, while -The Muppet Show- soundtrack album on which it appeared knocked The Beatles’s -Live At Hollywood Bowl- from the top of the charts.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/5/20 007 Of Nine

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

Where To Start

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

Do I have a consistent style or theme?

Do I have a project to share?

Am I comfortable being held accountable for my output?

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

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

Are you a good teacher?

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

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

William Gibson

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

Cat Rambo

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

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

Kara Swisher

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

Jeff Vandermeer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The county also elected its first Black sheriff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video linked from the article.

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 10/28/20 No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll Pixels!

(1) FRENCH LOCKDOWN. Utopiales, the International Science Fiction Festival of Nantes (France), scheduled for this weekend, was cancelled following today’s announcement by the French president of a new nationwide lockdown.

BBC explains:

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown until at least the end of November.

Mr Macron said that under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.

Mr Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

The Utopiales committee said:

…Maintaining a cultural offering is essential. That’s why we made a commitment to the end and if we had it do over we would do it again. However, everyone’s health is at the moment a top priority we must implement the decisions of the authorities.

(2) EXPLICATE!  Camestros Felapton created a photo gallery of “Some buildings that look like Daleks”

…So is it worth pointing out that the NZ parliament building has a distinct resemblance to a Dalek and surely that tells you a lot about that nation? 

(3) REVERSE THE POLARITY. Fast Company explains how “This incredible Google experiment lets you time travel to your hometown 200 years ago” – always assuming there was a there there two hundred years ago. Quite likely in 1820 there was nothing but bushes in my California neighborhood.

In the 20 years he’d lived in New York, Raimondas Kiveris had seen the city change immensely. “It was a completely different place, a different town,” says Kiveris, a software engineer at Google Research. This got him wondering what his neighborhood looked like even before that—before he’d lived there, before he’d even been born. “There’s really no easy way to find that information in any organized way,” he says. “So I was starting to think, can we somehow enable this kind of virtual time travel?”

Three years later, his attempt at virtual time travel is taking shape as an open-source map that can show, in both a bird’s-eye view and a pedestrian-level view, the changes that happen to city streetscapes over time. With a slider to control the year, the map displays a historically accurate representation of development in almost any U.S. city dating back to 1800. Automatically generated 3D models of buildings rise from the landscape as the slider moves forward through time. It can even show a rough estimation of what a city would have looked like from the pedestrian’s view, like a low-res Google Street View.

… The map was created using historical fire insurance maps, a rich source of information for the built environment that includes precise information about building ages, sizes, heights, roof shapes, and even materials. The map creates simplified 3D models of these buildings, and the time slider allows a user to see, for example, Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle nearly devoid of buildings in the 1870s and almost fully developed in the 1920s….

(4) CAMPAIGNING IN A SWING SHIRE. At McSweeney’s, Keith Rubin serves up a stack of “Political Fundraising Emails From Middle-Earth”.

Hi Bungo,

Have you heard the good news??? Will Whitfoot is SURGING in the latest polls! This is our chance to FINALLY elect a hobbit who TRULY loves banquets as Mayor of the Shire…. 

(5) HORROR TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF THE ELECTION. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda suggests some things to read over the next few days: “For Halloween: a critic’s pick of macabre treats for your library” .

…Consider, for example, “British Weird: Selected Short Fiction, 1893-1937,” edited by James Machin, which features not only classic stories — including Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows” and E.F. Benson “Caterpillars”— but also less familiar ones such as Mary Butts’s “Mappa Mundi.” As an extra treat Machin reprints Butts’s four-part 1933 essay, “Ghosties and Ghoulies: Uses of the Supernatural in English Fiction,” likening it to H.P. Lovecraft’s pioneering monograph, “Supernatural Horror in Literature.”

(6) DEATH WILL NOT RELEASE YOU. Despite the title, “Richard Lupoff: A Remembrance”, Ted White’s piece for the Comics Journal is mainly about his own place in fanhistory, and a chance to rehearse his unhealed wounds.

… Dick had typed up the stencils for the first issue of his new fanzine, Xero. At his request, I took the subway to Pacific Avenue in Brooklyn, to a warehouse business called Pace Paper, and bought the required reams of mimeo paper for Xero. The first issue of Xero was thin, compared to subsequent issues, and memory tells me that the Lupoffs wrote most of it. Certainly the centerpiece of the issue was Dick’s piece of comic-book nostalgia about “The Big Red Cheese,” the original Captain Marvel.

No one then realized the subsequent impact of that piece. It didn’t create comics fandom – which already existed – but it helped galvanize it. It sparked a wave of nostalgic interest in comics, mostly as relics of childhood, now fondly remembered, in SF fandom. SF fans had broad interests. Music was one, and comics turned out to be another.

In 1960, some of us had been comics fans for years. My friend Bhob Stewart created EC fandom with his fanzine, The EC Fan Bulletin. Bhob joined forces with Larry Stark and me to publish Potrzebie during the latter days of EC. EC fandom overlapped a lot with SF fandom, with some EC fans like Mike May becoming SF fans. Don and Maggie Thompson were SF fans who became comics fans around 1960.

This was the pot that Dick Lupoff stirred up.

I wrote the comics piece for Xero #2, “The Spawn of M.C. Gaines,” an overly broad overview of the creation of comic books and superheroes. (I totally rewrote it for its book publication, focusing only on Superman and Batman.) The comics pieces in Xero were published under the running head, “All In Color For a Dime” and the series took off, with many fans clamoring to write pieces about their childhood favorite comics. One of them was Harlan Ellison, who was living just up my block at the time.

I mimeographed at least the first three issues of Xero, and had at Dick’s request purchased the paper for the next issue when Dick did something I have never understood. Covertly, secretly, he arranged with friends living on Staten Island to mimeograph that and subsequent issues. I found out only when presented with a copy of the new issue.…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. It’d be a runner-up at Intersection to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s  “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. It was directed by Roland Emmerich and produced by Dean Devlin, Oliver Eberle and Joel B. Michaels. It was written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.  Principal cast was Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson and Viveca Lindfors.  It was a box office success despite the critics generally not being overly fond of it. Currently it holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of an excellent 73%. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge ad John Hertz]

  • Born October 28, 1818 – Ivan Turgenev.  This great Russian master (most noted for Fathers and Sons) left a dozen short stories for us.  Even Tolstoy – who once challenged IT to a duel, but withdrew – left five.  See e.g. The Mysterious Tales of IT (R. Dessaix tr. 1979).  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1903 – Evelyn Waugh.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us, by another author famous otherwise, possibly great.  Here is his own cover for Vile Bodies.  Here is his cover for a chapbook of “Love Among the Ruins”.  Was his best the biographies of Helena (248-330) and Ronald Knox (1888-1957)?  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1939 Jane Alexander, 81. She’s resistance fighter Virginia in Terminator Salvation, and has shown up in a number of genre series including playing C. on Elementary, Nora Morgan in an episode of Forever, and a recurring role as Klara on the intriguing sounding Tales from the Loop web series. She has several horror creds to her name as well, including Dr. Grasnik in The Ring and Sofi Kozma in The Unborn. (CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 69. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, an American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns.  (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1952 Anne Potts, 68. Janine Melnitz in the still best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters Afterlife which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about but which apparently has most of the original cast. (CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 62. Writer of four novels over a decade some twenty years ago including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories edited by Bruce Bethke. (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1962 – Jean-Jacques Chaubin, 58.  Jewelry stylist with Van Cleef & Arpels; then comics, video games (including the 1992 Dune), computer graphics; fifty book covers.  Here is The End of Time, and After.  Here is A Hint of Nothingness.  Here is Galaxies 5.  Here is The Armies of Daylight.  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1967 – Christopher Ecker, 53.  Author, translator, teacher, critic.  For us two novels, ninety shorter stories, a hundred sixty poems.  Friedrich Hebbel Prize, Saarland Art Prize.  His thousand-page novel Fahlmann (not “the pale man”, it’s the protagonist’s name) is “one of the most excessive reading adventures that contemporary German literature has to offer” – the Hebbel jury really said exzessivsten, I can’t help it.  Ulrich Commerçon, Saarland Minister of Education & Culture, said Ecker wonderfully combines fantasy and a philosophical world view, not forgetting wit.  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 53. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think… (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1974 – Ruth Ann Nordin, 46.  Almost a hundred books by now.  “One day, while browsing through the library, it suddenly occurred to me that if I wanted to read the book I had in mind, I was going to have to write it.  I’ve been writing ever since.”  Mostly romances, Western, Regency, modern.  Ann’s Quest to Be Queen and sequels (she becomes queen of the distant planet Raz), and five others, are ours.  When RAN apologized “I did not do as thorough a job of editing as I do today with my editor and three proofreaders.  I can’t go back and edit those books … I lost control of them,” she drew a comment “As always, you underestimate your talent.”  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 38. The Eleventh Doctor, my third favorite of the modern Doctors, and he’s also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. He’s also Jim in the quite excellent Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.(CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1989 – Heather Frost, 31.  Her Seers and two sequels are for us, plus a prequel in her collection Asides.  She owns two typewriters and holds Lord of the Rings movie marathons.  Mansfield Park and Harold and the Purple Crayon are two of her favorite books, so we agree there (not meaning the typewriters).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side witnesses an alien spacecraft’s distress call.

(10) WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT? Leading off AbeBooks’ “Most Expensive Sales from July to September 2020” is a copy of Michael Crichton’s The Lost World – which went for $25,000!

An unread, as new first edition complete with its dust jacket. The book is signed by Steven Spielberg, special effects director Stan Winston, and 10 actors from the film adaption of this novel – Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Richard Schiff, Arliss Howard, Vanessa Chester, and Thomas F. Duffy. Published in 1995, the novel was the sequel to Crichton’s 1990 bestseller Jurassic Park. The Lost World was adapted for cinema in 1997.

(11) WINNING THE PLANET SERIES. I’m a lifelong Dodger fan (I remember hearing “We’re going to Milwaukee!” on TV in 1959) yet I never knew ‘til this morning that pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s Uncle Clyde discovered Pluto: “Clayton Kershaw Still Isn’t As Cool As His Great-Uncle” at Central Track.

…It was a hell of a moment for sure — a coronation fit for a king, and an accomplishment Kershaw’s extended family will surely brag on for generations to come.

On the other hand: Kershaw’s great-uncle Clyde Tombaugh is the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930, so maybe a World Series win isn’t such a huge deal in the great scheme of things for the Kershaw family tree?

For his part, and to his credit, Kershaw is quite proud of his ancestor’s achievement. After Tombaugh passed in 1997, Kershaw has used his considerable platform to celebrate his great-uncle’s discovery — and to keep championing Pluto’s designation as a full-on planet despite its 2006 downgrading to a “dwarf planet.”

Kershaw first publicly touted his familial connection to Pluto — and his dedication to its former status — in a 2009 online fan Q&A with ESPNLosAngeles. Then, in 2015, he discussed it during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, doubling down on his stance and even sharing a little insight into his family’s thoughts on the matter.

“It’s something that’s been a huge problem in the Kershaw/Tombaugh family for a couple of years now,” he said when Kimmel broached the subject. “My great uncle discovered Pluto. I know that sounds like a joke when it comes out, but it’s true. Clyde Tombaugh, [my] great uncle, discovered Pluto. And they took it away from us — said it’s a dwarf planet now. What scientists just decide to just get in a room one day and say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re out with Pluto’?”

(12) AIN’T EASY BEING MRS. GREEN. The Nerdist shows examples as “Artist Turns THE MUPPETS Into Famous Horror Movie Characters”.

The collection includes:

–Gonzo as Jason Voorhees, with Camilla as Mrs. Voorhees
–Fozzie as Freddy Krueger
–Miss Piggy as Carrie White
–Kermit as Norman Bates
–Beaker as Michael Myers, with Dr. Bunson Honeydew as Dr. Loomis
–Swedish Chef as Leatherface
–Animal as Buffalo Bill
–Rowlf as Hannibal Lecter
–Sam the Eagle as Pinhead
–Scooter as Chucky
–Electric Mayhem as Capt. Spaulding and the Firefly Family
–Statler and Waldorf as The Grady Twins

(13) GROAN UPS. Polygon’s Emily Heller knows what these books are about: “A Series of Unfortunate Events and the horror of adults being absolute dummies”.

…A Series of Unfortunate Events is often described as surreal and absurdist. Handler has listed Roald Dahl, another children’s author with a darkly whimsical style, as an influence on his work. But while the novels’ world is certainly weird, it’s important that it makes sense within kid logic.

When I was a kid, there were plenty of things that mattered so much to me, but adults just didn’t get it. There were also things that adults seemed to understand implicitly, but didn’t make any sense to me. I was fortunate to grow up in a comfortable, loving home, so those things were very low stakes, but they were very real — and frustrating and anxiety-inducing — in the moment.

A Series of Unfortunate Events reflects that dichotomy back to its young readers. The Baudelaires don’t understand why Justice Strauss can’t just adopt them and are frustrated when no one else seems to recognize Count Olaf under his obvious disguises. It’s an exaggerated version of the truth that every child eventually starts to suspect: adults may not always know what they’re doing.

Lemony Snicket lets children feel like they’re in on a secret. That allows A Series of Unfortunate Events to do what so much good horror fiction does — explore and validate our deepest fears. It also gives readers the tools to deal with that horrifying reality….

(14) UNSATISFIED CUSTOMER. “Kellogg’s Minecraft Creeper Crunch Cereal, Reviewed” at Serious Eats.

…For today’s video, I tried Kellogg’s Minecraft Creeper Crunch cereal. Not only am I old enough to have never played Minecraft, but I had no idea there was this much Minecraft merchandise and branded content. It appears, however, that kids are still crazy about the property, enough so that they’ll want to have a little Minecraft iconography with their breakfast.

The problem is that this cereal, cinnamon-flavored with marshmallows, is not good. It barely tastes like cinnamon, and the marshmallows are flavorless. If Minecraft is a video game about building with digital blocks, then this cereal is like eating those blocks except, I imagine, far less satisfying. These aren’t good as a snack, and the milk isn’t particularly good either. They are, as far as cereal goes, a total failure.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Michael J. Walsh, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]