Pixel Scroll 4/26/21 In A Scrolling Way, It’s About That Pixel

(1) INTRODUCING BEST EDITOR. During last night’s telecast: “Harrison Ford uses Oscar soapbox to get some Blade Runner complaints off his chest”.

“I’d like to share some notes, some editorial suggestions that were prepared after the screening of, uh, a movie I was in,” joked Ford. “Opening too choppy. Why is this voice-over track so terrible? He sounds drugged.”

“Were they all on drugs? Dekker at the piano is interminable. Flashback dialogue is confusing. Is he listening to a tape? Why do we need the third cut to the eggs? The synagogue music is awful on the street. We’ve got to use Vangelis. Up to Zora’s death, the movie is deadly dull. This movie gets worse every screening.

(2) TRUST ME, IT DIDN’T WIN. EscYOUnited, in “Eurovision Movie’s ‘Húsavík’ does not win 2021 Oscar for Best Original Song”, admits its fans are disappointed, but notes how many other honors the movie has received – including a Hugo nomination.

…Sadly things did not go in Fire Saga’s favor, as H.E.R., Dernest Emile II, and Tiara Thomas won the award for their song “Fight For You” featured in Judas and the Black Messiah. Even without tonight’s Oscar, the Eurovision movie is still a two time award winning film. Prior to tonight the music editor team won the award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Musical for Feature film and “Húsavík” won the award for Outstanding Original Song for Visual Media….

(3) REMEMBERED. The Oscars 2021 In Memoriam video included Ian Holm, Max Von Sydow, Christopher Plummer, Wilford Brimley, Ron Cobb, Hal Holbrook, Helen McCrory, Carl Reiner, Brian Dennehy, Diana Rigg, Sean Connery, Chadwick Boseman, and others with genre credits.

(4) BONUS MURDERBOT. Tom Becker pointed out Tor.com’s post of “Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory”, by Martha Wells.

Home: Habitat, Range, Niche, Territory was originally given free to readers who pre-ordered Martha’s Murderbot novel, Network Effect. The story is set just after the 4th novella,Exit Strategy.

(5) MARTHA WELLS PROFILE. The Orange County Register’s Erik Pedersen tells “How ‘Murderbot Diaries’ author Martha Wells overcame a career in crisis to create the killer series”.

There was a time before Martha Wells created Murderbot, the character that narrates her award-winning science fiction series “The Murderbot Diaries,” when she thought her career might be dead.

After a successful start in the ‘90s, things had cooled down by the mid-2000s. When the final book in her “Fall of Ile-Rien” trilogy was published without fanfare, the soft-spoken Texan wondered if that was it for her.

“I was kind of at that point in my career where, you know, women writers my age were supposed to quietly fade away. It’s like, ‘Well, you had your shot, and that was it, and now go away.’ So I was not real optimistic about being able to continue to be published,” says the now 56-year-old novelist during a call from her College Station home, which she shares with her husband and three cats.

“I could not sell another book,” says Wells. “I knew my career was in a lot of trouble.”

But she refused to give up. Over the next few years, she got a new agent, started a new series, found a new publisher.

“That kind of got me back going again. I ended up also doing a Star Wars novel and did some work on some stories for Magic the Gathering,” she says, describing herself as plugging away but not soaring during that period. “I thought, ‘Well, this is probably about as high up as I can go,’ you know? It’s like, I’m not gonna win awards, and I’m not gonna be, you know, super popular or anything like that. But if I can keep going at this level, I’ll be okay.

“And then Murderbot just hit big,” she says….

(6) EUROCON. Eurocon 2021 in Fiuggi, Italy will be an in-person con the committee announced.

Just had green light for Eurocon in-person!

All attendees will have to be vaccinated or pre-tested for Covid 19.

If the con were to be held today, we could accommodate a little more than 200 guests. We are confident that it will be possible to increase this number in July. Hope to see you in Italy!!!

(7) B5 WAS THE PROTOTYPE. TechRadar boldly asks “Is Babylon 5 secretly the most influential TV show of the past 25 years?”

… If most TV viewers had no idea what a showrunner was back in the ’90s, even fewer could name one. Only superstar producers such as Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue creator Steven Bochco were big enough to occasionally eclipse their brands. However, the name of J Michael Straczynski was all over Babylon 5, as synonymous with the show as Minbari, Narn and Vorlons – just as much as The West Wing was Aaron Sorkin’s creation or The Sopranos David Chase’s, Babylon 5 was his. Arguably more so, in fact, seeing as he wrote 92 of the show’s 110 episodes, including the entirety of seasons 3 and 4. 

Babylon 5 was an auteur’s vision on an epic scale. On the rare occasions guest writers were brought in, they were often genre legends such as Neil Gaiman, Harlan Ellison and regular Star Trek writer DC Fontana – this show was never scared to embrace the harder edges of science fiction. And just as would later become the norm with showrunners such as Russell T Davies on Doctor Who or Dave Filoni on The Clone Wars, Straczynski was the public face of his show, becoming one of the first writers to talk directly to the fanbase via the internet.

A veteran of ’80s cartoons such as She-Ra: Princess of Power, The Real Ghostbusters, and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Straczynski always had big plans for Babylon 5. He set out to tell a story taking in space battles, political intrigue, epic mythology and more, and wanted to do it over the course of five years. 

That may not feel unusual now, when shows such as Breaking Bad, Lost and even comedies such as Schitt’s Creek make a big thing of spreading their stories over multiple seasons. But in the mid-’90s, the Babylon 5 approach was seriously radical. Most of the TV of the era was built on standalone episodes, with serialization kept to a minimum to ensure episodes could be watched in any order once they ended up in syndication. That Babylon 5 should so brazenly break the mould was a big shock to the system for ’90s viewers…

… It was ‘Westeros in space’ before George RR Martin had even published his first A Song of Ice and Fire novel, a show that rewarded viewers who tuned in for every installment. Babylon 5 was a show purpose-built for streaming and binge-viewing, trapped in the era of broadcast and cable….

(8) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “Strategy Strikes Back: Star Wars And Modern Military Conflict” will be the topic on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on May 1 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register for the Zoom webinar here.

Strategy Strikes Back authors Lt. Col. Matt CavanaughMax BrooksAugust Cole, and Steve Leonard join Gadi and Karen to discuss Star Wars and modern military conflict. In the book, they made understanding strategy fun by the use of a common global language – The love of Star Wars. We’ll be happy to share that love with them.

(9) BILLIONS AND BILLIONS. What Carl Sagan used to say about the number of stars this fellow says about his bank account. SpaceX’s Elon Musk will host Saturday Night Live on May 8 reports NPR.

Saturday Night Live doesn’t usually have business executives host its show, but as pointed out in a story by The Associated Press, Musk is far from a stuffy corporate type. He regularly jokes around on Twitter, where he has nearly 52 million followers and has gotten into legal trouble for making disparaging remarks about critics and hinting that he might lead a buyout of Tesla that resulted him getting fined $20 million by stock market regulators.

… Not counting news interview shows and press conferences, Musk has made guest appearances on the CBS shows Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory. His voice has also been heard on the animated shows South ParkThe Simpsons and Rick and Morty. Plus he made a cameo in the film Iron Man 2.

(10) WOLFE SPEAKS. Colombian author Triunfo Arciniegas reposted Lawrence Person’s 1998 interview with Gene Wolfe yesterday: “DRAGON: Suns New, Long, and Short / An Interview with Gene Wolfe”.

LP: You have literally dozens of characters in The Book of the Long Sun, yet many times you have scenes with a number of characters all speaking in turn, without being identified, and yet their speech patterns are so clearly and cleverly differentiated that we’re never confused about who’s talking. Just how do you do that?

GW: (Laughs) I’m certainly glad that you were never confused! There are two things. Obviously, you have the speech patterns. Spider does not talk like Maytera Mint. And if you understand speech patterns, you should be able to put in any statement Spider makes, certain characteristic phrases or mistakes, or whatever, that will identify him as the speaker. The other thing is, that if you’re doing it right, the speech that, oh, let’s say, Maytera Marble makes under a certain circumstance, is not the speech that Blood would make under that circumstance. When Maytera Marble talks, she is saying something that only Maytera Marble would say. When Blood speaks, he is saying something that only Blood would say. And so the reader, if the reader is intelligent, knows who said that from what was said.

(11) HWA POETRY SHOWCASE. Horror Writers Association is taking submissions from members to its 2021 Poetry Showcase.

The HWA is proud to announce that it will call for submissions from its members for the Poetry Showcase Volume VIII beginning April 1. Stephanie Wytovich will be the editor for the volume. This year’s judges, along with Stephanie, will include Sara Tantlinger and Angela Yuriko Smith.

Only HWA members (of any status) may submit. The reason for this can be found in the word “Showcase.” The HWA is very proud of the tradition of poetry in the horror genre and of the HWA’s support for poetry. This volume is designed to showcase the talents of HWA members which is why it is now limited to members….

(12) WILLIAMS OBIT. Charlie Williams, a long-time Nashville fan, passed away April 25 reports Tom Feller. He had been residing in a nursing home/rehab facility after being hospitalized for pneumonia.  He is survived by his wife Patsy and sister Jennifer.  Funeral arrangements are pending.

[NOTE: He is a different Charlie Williams than the fanartist from Knoxville.]

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 26, 2008 — On this date in 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered on the Cartoon Network. created by George Lucas and produced by Lucasfilm Animation, the series ran for seven seasons. It’s currently airing, as is all things Star Wars, on Disney+. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 26, 1914 – Horace L. Gold.  One novel (with Sprague de Camp), twoscore shorter stories.  Edited Galaxy (insistence on taking SF in a new direction resulted in “You’ll never see it in Galaxy!”) and If; a dozen anthologies.  A Best-Prozine Hugo for Galaxy; Life Achievement Award from Westercon 28; Forry, Milford Awards.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1922 A. E. van Vogt. I admit it’s been so long since I read him that I don’t clearly remember what I liked by him though I know I read Slan and The Weapon Makers.  I am fascinated by the wiki page that noted Damon Knight took a strong dislike to his writing whereas Philip K. Dick and Paul Di Filippo defended him strongly. What do y’all think of him? (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1925 Richard Deming. I think that all of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. novellasor in this case the Girl from U.N.C.L.E. novellas, were listed under the house name of Robert Hart Davis. Deming was only one of a very long list of writers (I know of Richard Curtis, Richard Deming, I. G. Edmonds, John Jakes, Frank Belknap Long, Dennis Lynds, Talmage Powell, Bill Pronzini, Charles Ventura and Harry Whittington) that were writers who penned novels in the twin U.N.C.L.E. series.(Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born April 26, 1939 Rex Miller. Horror writer with a hand in many pies, bloody ones at that. (Sorry couldn’t resist.) The Chaingang series featured Daniel Bunkowski, a half-ton killing-machine. Definitely genre. He contributed to some thirty anthologies including Hotter Blood: More Tales of Erotic HorrorFrankenstein: The Monster WakesDick Tracy: The Secret Files and The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1950 Peter Jurasik, 71. Ambassador Londo Mollari on Babylon 5 who would be Emperor one day and die for his sins. (Yes, spoiler.) He has also very short genre credits other than Babylon 5— Doctor Oberon Geiger for several episodes on Sliders and Crom, the timid and pudgy compound interest program, in the Tron film. (CE)
  • Born April 26, 1943 – Bill Warren.  Three stories, three poems; best known as a student and critic of SF film, see his Keep Watching the Skies!  Fan Guest of Honor at Ambercon 3, VCON 11, Loscon 11, MisCon 6.  Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.), Sampo Award (unsung-hero service).  Edited 15 posthumous issues of Bill Rotsler’s Masque. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here. (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born April 26 [Year unknown] – Miriam Lloyd.  Various fanzines under Goojie Publications as M. Dyches; Klein Bottle and Fanac as M. Carr with first husband Terry Carr; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Poughkeepsie as M. Knight with second husband Jerry Knight; see here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1948 – Marta Randall, age 73.  Eight novels, a score of shorter stories.  Fanzine, Mother Weary.  Edited Nebula Awards 19, New Dimensions 11-13.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Toastmaster at Norwescon VII, Baycon ’87, Windycon XIII, ConFusion 14, Chicon IV & V the 40th and 49th Worldcons.  Master of Ceremonies at Con*Stellation V.  Pro Guest of Honor at ConClave VIII, WisCon 7, Lunacon 29.  First female President of SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1952 Peter Lauritson, 69. Long involved with the Trek franchise starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He became the producer of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and supervising producer for Deep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise. He directed three episodes of those series, including the Hugo Award-winning “The Inner Light”, as well as being second unit director for two Trek films. (CE) 
  • Born April 26, 1955 – Brad W. Foster, age 66.  Widely-applauded fanartist.  Eight Hugos.  Chesley.  Rebel, Neffy (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), Rotsler Awards.  Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 10, Loscon 18, Westercon 49, Norwescon XX, Conestoga 9, ReConStruction the 10th NASFiC (N. Amer. SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Sasquan the 73rd Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1967 – Nicholas Whyte, age 54.  Hugo Administrator twice and still alive; at it again this year and Worldcon Site Selection too.  Dr Who fan which is less nearly unique.  Reads 200-300 books a year (“in non-plague times, I have a long commute”).  Announced as Fan Guest of Honour for Eastercon 72 (April 2022).  Helpful fan with catholic (I know I didn’t capitalize that, go look it up) taste.  [JH]
  • Born April 26, 1969 Gina Torres, 52.  The first thing I remember seeing her in was Cleopatra 2525 where she was Helen ‘Hel’ Carter. Her first genre was in the M.A.N.T.I.S. pilot as Dr. Amy Ellis, and she actually was in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as a character named Cas but I’ll frankly admit I remember almost nothing of those films. She’s had a number of DC voice roles including a recurring Justice League Unlimited run as Vixen / Mari McCabe. And of course Zoe in the Firefly verse. Lastly anyone remember her on the Angel series as Jasmine? (CE) 

(15) I’M JUST DREW THAT WAY. Daniel Dern found the excuse to give this item its title in io9’s production news roundup “Marvel She-Hulk Filming Pictures Sees Tatiana Maslany on Set”:

Tom Swift joins Nancy Drew in the synopsis for “The Celestial Visitor” airing May 12.

TIAN RICHARDS (“BURDEN,” “DUMPLIN”) GUEST STARS AS TOM SWIFT – As things begin to go haywire at The Claw, a striking stranger appears looking for Nancy (Kennedy McMann), and announces himself as the billionaire Tom Swift (guest star Tian Richards).

(16) BIG CHAP. Yahoo! Entertainment’s Ethan Alter discusses a rare find: “’Alien’ Day: The terrifying, long-lost Xenomorph prototype never before seen in public” – photos at the link.

Here’s an #AlienDay reveal that’ll make you happier than a long-haul space tug crew member headed back to Earth: A piece of ultra-rare Alien memorabilia that was blasted out of the airlock four decades ago has been salvaged and is now up for sale. On April 29, Julien’s Auctions is unveiling a long-lost early prototype of H.R. Giger’s classic Xenomorph design as the centerpiece attraction in a genre-themed “Hollywood Legends” auction. Known as “Big Chap,” this version of the franchise’s signature creature features a translucent design that’s distinctly different than the opaque acid-spitting monster we know and love. 

It should be noted that bidding on the Big Chap starts at $40,000. But you can get a closer look at the big guy for free courtesy of our exclusive virtual experience, which allows you to zoom in on Giger’s original vision for the Xenomorph, which evolved out of the Swiss artist’s pioneering “biomechanoid” designs. (Giger died in 2014.)

(17) WARP FACTORY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Here is a ten-minute physics briefing on some recent research of SFnal relevance from the wonderful PBS Space Time: there are “NEW Warp Drive Possibilities”.

That Einstein guy was a real bummer for our hopes of a star-hopping, science-fiction-y future. His whole “nothing travels faster than light” rule seems to ensure that exploration of even the local part of our galaxy will be an excruciating slow. But Einstein also gave us a glimmer of hope. He showed us that space and time can be warped – and so the warp drive was conceived. Just recently, a couple of papers contend that these are not pure science fiction.

This briefing builds on another PBS Space Time video from five years ago that introduces the notion of an FTL warp drive asking “Is The Alcubierre Warp Drive Possible?” Since then it has racked up 2.4 million views.

Inspired by Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, physicist Miguel Alcubierre set out to transform one of the cornerstones of science fiction iconography, the Warp Drive, into reality. But is it even possible? Can we “warp” the fabric of reality so that we can break the speed of light?

(18) THREE’S A CHARM. Ingenuity buzzes Mars again. CNN has the story — “Ingenuity Mars helicopter achieves fastest, farthest flight yet”.

… Ingenuity exceeded speeds and distances beyond what it proved capable of doing during testing on Earth before launching to Mars.

The helicopter flew at 1:31 a.m. ET, or 12:33 p.m. local Mars time. Data and imagery began streaming into the control room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, at 10:16 a.m. ET Sunday. The Perseverance rover captured an image of the helicopter in flight and shared it shortly after.

(19) AND GNAW, THE GNEWS. Another Dern special, inspired by Gizmodo’s article “Beavers Take Down Canada Internet Service After Chewing Cables”.

…Tumbler Ridge, a tiny municipality in northeastern British Columbia with a population of about 2,000 people, lost service for roughly 36 hours in what Telus described as a “uniquely Canadian disruption!”

“Beavers have chewed through our fibre cable at multiple points, causing extensive damage,” said Telus spokesperson Liz Sauvé in an email to Gizmodo. “Our team located a nearby dam, and it appears the beavers dug underground alongside the creek to reach our cable, which is buried about three feet underground and protected by a 4.5-inch thick conduit. The beavers first chewed through the conduit before chewing through the cable in multiple locations.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that one character’s gratuitous dancing was put in the series “because people enjoyed memes of Thantos twerking.” This spoiler-filled video dropped today.

[Thanks to Tom Becker, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Gadi Evron, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/21 Look Out Pixel, ’Cause I’m Scrolling Technology, Ain’t Got Time To File No Apology

Martha Wells. Photo by Igor Kraguljac.

(1) MORE MURDERBOT IN OUR FUTURE. Martha Wells has a new six-book deal with Tordotcom reports Publishers Weekly – three of them in the Murderbot series.

Tordotcom’s Lee Harris took world English rights to six books by Martha Wells. The six-figure acquisition, which the imprint said is its largest to date, was brokered by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Wells is the author of the bestselling Murderbot Diaries series, which is published by Tordotcom; the new deal covers three more books in that series, as well as three unrelated novels. The first book under the agreement, Witch King, is set for fall 2022.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to grab an egg roll and join comics writer/editor Jim Salicrup in Episode 143 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jim Salicrup

I’d planned to take a day trip to New York last year to chat with Jim Salicrup, whom I’d met during the mid-‘70s when we both worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, but (for reasons I’m sure you understand) that couldn’t happen. And as I continue to pretend we’re living in the world we want, rather than the one we’ve been handed, I recently had that meal … albeit remotely.

For the past 15 years, Jim’s been the editor-in-chief at Papercutz, which publishes Nancy DrewThe Hardy BoysSmurfsAsterix, and more, but when I met him, he was at the start of his 20-year Marvel career, where he wrote TransformersSledge HammerThe A-TeamSpidey Super Stories, the infamous Incredible Hulk toilet paper, and much more. He also edited The AvengersThe Uncanny X-MenThe Fantastic Four, and The Amazing Spider-Man. In between those two jobs, he worked at Topps, where edited books such as Bram Stoker’s DraculaX-FilesZorro, and a line of Jack Kirby superhero comics — and also did a stint at Stan Lee Media as well.

We discussed the illustrated postcard which convinced Marvel Comics to hire him at age 15, how John Romita Sr. caused him to change his name the first day on the job, what he did to enrage MAD magazine’s Al Feldstein, his late-night mission to secure Stan Lee’s toupee, what editor Mark Gruenwald had in common with Bill Murray, why the 1970s’ X-Men revival was like Amazing Fantasy #15, how he convinced Todd McFarlane to stick to Spider-Man (which eventually led to a blockbuster new comic), the possible connection between Stan’s love of crossword puzzles and the famed Marvel Method, and much more.

(3) A NAME TO CONJURE WITH. “Unusual Humanism: Five Works by the Great Clifford D. Simak” are extolled by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Clifford Donald Simak was born on August 3, 1904, in Wisconsin. He died in Minnesota on April 25, 1988. That’s thirty-three years ago as of this Sunday….

Unfamiliar with Simak? Here are five of his works you could sample….

Time Is the Simplest Thing (1961)

Having learned the hard way that frail human bodies cannot withstand the rigors of interstellar travel, humanity turned to psychic exploration. Where physical exploration fails, psychic exploration succeeds. Casting astral projections to the stars, paranormals—“parries” in the vernacular—like Shepherd Blaine bring home the Milky Way’s wealth…at least, the riches that can be conveyed by a human mind. A bitterly disappointing result for most humans, but a source of great wealth for the Fishhook Corporation, which controls astral exploration.

Shepherd is too successful. After an encounter with a pink blob (who greets him telepathically with the words “Hi pal, I trade with you my mind…”), Shepherd returns home with an uninvited hitchhiker sharing his brain. Now, explorers who bring home guests vanish into Fishhook’s hospitality, never to be seen again. What happens after that is unclear. Certain that he does not want to find out what Fishhook does with (or to) the explorers, Shepherd goes on the run. He discovers that not only did he acquire a passenger out there in the stars, Shepherd himself has been transformed in…interesting…ways.

(4) THE BIG QUESTIONS. Blood Knife’s special cosmic horror issue includes these articles of interest:

  • “The Architecture of Woe” — Examines the role that architecture plays in gothic and cosmic horror past and present, and the way abandoned architecture and empty factories can evoke sensations of horror, awe, and inhumanity here in the real world.

…There is a haunting, dead quality to old buildings. They speak to us of lost possibility, of what was once mundane but which has been rendered fantastical by the passage of time—to walk their corridors or trip through their dust- and brickstrewn courtyards is to follow ancient footsteps, of men and women dead for decades and centuries. There is an energy to them, a sense that the past still lingers there. That it might reach out and take your hand, and pull you headlong and irresistibly back beyond your birth into the foreign realm of yesteryear….

  • “Interview: Laird Barron on Cosmic Horror” — Blood Knife’s Kurt Schiller interviews Laird Barron, discussing the current state of the genre, his own history with cosmic horror, and the way horror can be a tool for examining philosophical and cultural questions.  

Blood Knife: Cosmic horror often touches on these vast concepts far beyond human comprehension, but at the same time so much of the genre — as well as your own fiction (The Croning, Lagerstatte, etc.) — seems anchored to individual tragedy or loss. Is this balance between the cosmic and the individual something that you think about when writing?

Barron: The previous question touched on the micro/macro duality of cosmic horror. This is a facet of science fiction as well. Big concept, shallow character development vs. character driven narratives where the big concept is a backdrop. I’ve dabbled in both, but prefer the latter. I grew up telling stories to my brothers by kerosene lamplight. I improved those tales over time by observing their reactions. Invariably, they were most affected by narratives that centered people with problems. The background was just that—background. A trippy cosmic horror revelation works well as a destination. Characters are the vehicle that gets you there.

(5) SHELF CURIOSITY. Nerds of a Feather explores an author’s favorites in “6 Books with David Bowles”.

1. What book are you currently reading? 

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine, the second in her Teixcalaan series. As a scholar of Nahuatl who has written a lot about pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, I really admired how Martine has done her homework for this series, mining Indigenous Mexican culture in such re

(6) BEHIND THE MASK. “New York Comic Con returning for smaller in-person event this fall” says SYFY Wire. And they’ve got events planned for other cities, too.

Manhattan’s Javits Center will *fingers crossed* once again be hustling and bustling with nerd activity between Oct 7-10 come this fall. ReedPop announced today that New York Comic Con (aka the “Metaverse”) is coming back for an in-person event this year, albeit with limited attendance and other safety measures (enforced social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and regular temperature checks) that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Pro tip: make sure you cosplay as a character who is famous for wearing a face covering at all times. Din Djarin, Zamus, Sheik, and Deadpool all come to mind….

…In addition to NYCC, ReedPop will also host Floridia’s Supercon between Sep. 10-12; Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con between Dec. 2-5; and Chicago’s C2E2 between Dec. 10-12. The biggest unknown right now is how many people are going to be allowed to attend these events (the attendance numbers, which are reliant on local and state mandates, can grow or shrink at any time). What’s more: we don’t know if proof of vaccination is going to be required before ticket-buyers start mingling among a throng of their fellow pop culture acolytes.

(7) THESE GROOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKING. The Verge thinks “Disney’s amazing bipedal robot Groot looks like Asimo discovered cosplay”.

Disney’s R&D labs, commonly known as its Imagineering team, does some extremely impressive — and expressive — things with robots. It’s made mechanical stunt doubleslifelike alien Na’vi, and, uh, this skinless weirdo. But the company’s latest creation looks like it quite literally walked out of a Disney movie. It’s a bipedal Groot that can amble about tether-free. As Disney’s Pinocchio would put it: he’s got no strings to hold him down.

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino has the low-down on this robotic milestone for Disney. It’s part of the company’s long-term efforts to develop autonomous robot actors for its parks, says Panzarino, under the codename of “Project Kiwi.” The company’s engineers spent years creating their own free-standing bipedal robotics platform to power Groot, and Panzarino — who got to see the robot in person — came away impressed with their efforts….

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the [Doctor Who] series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada….

Called “The Impossible Astronaut,” the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 23, 1974 — On this day in 1974, Planet Earth premiered. It created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, not surprisingly,  was based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels, like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. There was a 2020 audiobook edition of The Avram Davidson Treasury: A Tribute Collection edited by Robert Silverberg and Grania Davis, first published in 1998, with afterwords by Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison, and intros by many other sff writers.  (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 75. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role I think was Kate Durning on Elementary. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 66. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won an 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 April 23, 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 April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 59. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a meatier role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Though not even remotely genre adjacent, he was Rebus in the one of BBC adaptation in of the Ian Rankin series. (CE) 
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 48. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as was Catfishing on CatNet which won a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book in 2020. A sequel Chaos on Catnet comes out next week. (CE)
  • Born April 23, 1564 – William Shakespeare.  After five centuries a strong candidate for greatest writer in English.  Four plays, one narrative poem for us; much else.  Where his art pointed to fantasy he was as masterly as in the more mundane.  In plays he had to inspire belief by showing his beings’ speech and acts; which he did.  Priceless to read, to perform, despite and because of what has and hasn’t changed since.  (Died 1616) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1879 – Talbot Mundy.  Four divorces, five wives; for years fifty cigarettes a day; failed at business ventures; married money and spent it; ivory poacher; war stories of himself false.  Yet sold a score of novels, half a dozen shorter fictions – in our field, not counting e.g. seven hundred radio scripts for Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy.  Hated fascism and Marxism-Leninism.  Racist anti-colonialist.  Sexist pioneer of strong female characters.  King – of the Khyber Rifles and Tros of Samothrace are on Kindle.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1935 – Tom Doherty, age 86.  From book salesman to publisher of Tempo and Ace, then Tor and Tom Doherty Associates.  Skylark, Solstice, Gallun, World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 23; Balticon 21; Lunacon 33; Fourth Street Fantasy 1991; Minicon 29, 32, 50; ArmadilloCon24, WindyCon XXX; Westercon 58; World Fantasy Con 2008; Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1942 – Amanda Prantera, age 79.  Briton sixty years in Italy.  Translator.  Euhemerist (another fine word that).  A dozen novels.  I don’t see how anything can be “very clear” in Strange Loop; in Conversations with Lord Byron a computer given everything known about B becomes sapient (not “sentient”, Brother Clute, argh) and starts writing poetry, I’d add “naturally” but –  [JH]
  • Born April 23, 1977 – Yasser Bahjatt, age 44.  Computerman, gamer, SF fan, first Sa‘udi in Singularity University’s graduate program and thus worked on Matternet, translator of TED (Technology, Engineering, Design) talks into Arabic, chair of Jeddah for 2026 Worldcon bid.  Wrote Yaqteenya, first Arabic alternative-history novel; it and three more novels (with Ibraheem Abbas) are available in English.  Insists on “a distinct correlation between a culture’s exposure to science fiction and the amount of scientific thought”.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater only looks like it’s in Rot-13 — that’s how these aliens really speak.

(12) BUSTED. In “Meanwhile, in Texas: A McAllen Thief Pilfered $400 Worth of Spider-Man Comic Books”, Texas Monthly tries to explain why these comics were worth stealing – if you are a collector.

What happened?

Kaboom Comics, a comic-book store in McAllen, had proudly built a display of rare comics on its “Wall of Keys,” featuring iconic issues of various titles. On April 14, however, an employee noticed bare spots on the wall where some of the key issues should have been, and, after checking with coworkers, confirmed that no one had purchased them. According to MyRGV.com, the store released on social media the security footage showing the heist taking place and placed a call—a veritable bat signal, if you will—asking the community to help identify the thief. 

What did they steal?

The biggest score in the heist was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man number 252, a key 1984 issue in Spidey’s mythology. A couple of issues of Venom, a spin-off series starring the web-slinger’s more sinister counterpart, as well as a stack of new-release comics were also skimmed off of the shelves.

Who took them?

While there’s yet to be a conviction in the case, the caper seems to be relatively cut and dried: a caller identified the suspect to McAllen police, and then the man she named—Edinburg High School assistant principal Juan Martinez Jr.—turned himself in, along with the comics, to the police department, offering a full confession and waiving his Miranda rights. He was arrested and charged with a Class B misdemeanor for theft of property worth between $100 and $750 (the value of the books was estimated at $409.93)…

(13) DEER NORMAN. That’s not how it’s signed, just how it should be. Nate D. Sanders Auctions currently shows a $5,000 bid for a Walt Disney Signed ”Bambi” Cel, Personally Inscribed to Norman Rockwell. You have until April 29 to top it.

Walt Disney signed display of Bambi and Thumper cels, uniquely inscribed to fellow American icon Norman Rockwell. Disney signs the mat in green wax crayon, ”To Norman / With Best Wishes / Walt”. Large display includes cels of Bambi, Thumper, two quail birds, grass and log, used in the 1942 classic film ”Bambi”, with a hand-painted background measuring approximately 11” x 9”, framed to a size of 19.375” x 17.5”. With ”Original WDP [Walt Disney Productions]” stamp above Disney’s signature. Some foxing and light discoloration to outer portion of mat. Cels remain in beautifully well-preserved condition, with only one hairline crack appearing on Bambi’s leg. With an LOA from Carl Sprague of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell’s town, whose wife Susan Merrill was previously married to Jarvis Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son.

(14) PLEASE RELEASE ME. At Nerds of a Feather, Sean Dowie appreciates a novel’s account of the struggle to be free: “Microreview [Book]: Defekt by Nino Cipri”.  

…Defekt is the most enjoyably bubbly book I’ve read exploring the burden of shackles. Not literal shackles, but ones that can extend to life as a retail worker or a one of self-doubt. Those shackles siphon your time at the expense of empty praise from apathetic bosses, or it hamstrings the growth of your relationships. But Defekt shows that being unshackled and free is a possibility and is only deceptively difficult…

(15) FIRST IN THE FIELD. Also at Nerds of a Feather, Arturo Serrano’s “Review: The Dominion Anthology” leads with the note: “Ours is a time of ever-increasing visibility for African SFF—now it has its first anthology.”

…Edited by Zelda Knight and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, and with a foreword by Tananarive Due, the Dominion anthology collects twelve stories and one poem about imagined futures and reimagined pasts told with deep sincerity and robustness of worldbuilding. This is certainly an exciting time for diversity in speculative fiction….

(16) ASTRONAUTS EN ROUTE TO ISS. SpaceX Crew2 launched and the crew is on its way to the Space Station.

This is a successful re-use of SpaceX craft – Space.com has the storyL “SpaceX launches 4 astronauts to space station, nails rocket landing”.

SpaceX just launched its third astronaut mission in less than a year. 

A slightly sooty Falcon 9 rocket topped with a Crew Dragon capsule took to the skies above NASA’s Kennedy Space Center here at 5:49 a.m. EDT (0949 GMT) today (April 23), lighting up the predawn sky as it lifted off from the historic Pad 39A. The launch kicked off SpaceX’s Crew-2 mission, which will carry four astronauts — NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japanese spaceflyer Akihiko Hoshide — on a 24-hour flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

More here, reported by Reuters: “SpaceX rocketship launches 4 astronauts on NASA mission to space station”.

…The rocket’s first stage, meanwhile, descended back to Earth and touched down safely on a landing platform floating in the Atlantic on a drone ship affectionately named Of Course I Still Love You….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. While Soul may be a Hugo-nominated film, no movie is without sin – Cinema Sins, anyway: “Everything Wrong With Soul in 17 Minutes or Less”,

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6/20 Tell Me About The Rest Of The Robots, Geordi

(1) MACHINE AGAINST THE RAGE. Get your Murderbot fix from Twitter’s MurderBotBot.

(2) KEEP THE ARMOR ON THE SHELF. The Society for Creative Anachronism has extended its suspension to the end of May 2021: “Resolution to Suspend In-Person SCA Activity Updated – December 4, 2020.

At the end of July, the Board of Directors issued a proclamation suspending most inperson SCA activities in North America until January 31, 2021, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In November, we asked the Kingdom Seneschals and Crowns of the known world to give us their counsel on how to proceed in the first part of 2021. We received very thoughtful responses from nearly all Crowns and Kingdom Seneschals as well as many other concerned people. We wish to thank everyone who responded for taking the time to do so, and for putting such effort into your responses. After reading and discussing the feedback received, the Board decided at their conference call meeting on 12/01/2020 to continue the suspension of in-person activities in North America through May 31, 2021….

(3) FILER ASKS YOU OPINION. Cora Buhlert says, “I’m considering starting a Patreon next year and have created a survey to gauge interest.”

Tell Cora what you think here — surveymonkey.de/r/WSDN6DK 

(4) THE ORIGINAL SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. “How to subvert authoritarian regimes? Astrid Bear’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech for Poul Anderson’s ‘Sam Hall’” on the Prometheus Blog.

…Science fiction set in the future is often as much about the time it was written in as it is about prognostications.   Diving into both world and family history, we can tease out some of the threads that came together to make this story of the subversion of an authoritarian regime from within its record-keeping arm, and how that inspired revolution.

In 1953, we were less than 10 years from the end of World War II.  Senator Joe McCarthy was busy investigating citizens for wrongful thoughts and potential treason.   The early main-frame computer, UNIVAC, correctly predicted the winner of the 1952 presidential election. Dad’s brother, my Uncle John, was turned down for the US Foreign Service because of his Danish Communist aunt. And Dad wrote “Sam Hall.”

Computer-savvy folk of today will likely snicker a bit at the electromechanical whirs and buzzes of the government’s Central Records computer, nicknamed Matilda the Machine. Matilda holds detailed information on all citizens, tracking all transactions, travel, education, contacts, relationships.   The “Matildas” of today know a tremendous amount about us and our shopping habits, travel plans, and private emails.

For although Dad did a good job of thinking about the power of computers held by the government as data gathering machines, in 1953 he didn’t seem to have thought much about computers as gatherers of data for private enterprise.

The America of “Sam Hall” has closed its borders to immigration, gives its citizens loyalty ratings, assigns them each a unique ID number and demands that it is tattooed on the shoulder.  There is an underground movement, but, as our protagonist, Thornberg muses,   “It was supported by foreign countries who didn’t like an American-dominated world – at least not one dominated by today’s kind of America, though once ‘USA’ had meant ‘hope.’”…

(5) HAVE YE SEEN THE GREAT FLIGHT WHALE? Sam J. Miller’s new novel The Blade Between gets praised in a review by Gabino Iglesias at NPR.

The are violent ghosts, flying whales, and dead people with mouthfuls of saltwater hundreds of miles from the ocean in Sam J. Miller’s The Blade Between, but it all makes sense. It all makes sense because the story takes place in Hudson, New York, a place built on the remains of slaughtered whales, where their unused parts were buried underground and the scraps were fed to animals later used to feed people. Hudson is full of angry spirits, but now a different monster is destroying it: gentrification.

The Blade Between is a book about broken people. The creepy atmosphere and ghosts make it horror, but the drug abuse, evictions, cheating, and destroyed lives make it noir. Also, Miller’s writing and vivid imagery, especially when describing dreams, make it poetry. The mix of genres, much like the mix of elements, makes no sense, but it works.

(6) ONCE UPON AN ACADEME. Maria Sachiko Cecire asserts that Tolkien and Lewis not only wrote influential fantasy novels, they created the curriculum for Oxford’s English School, in “The rise and fall of the Oxford School of fantasy literature” at Aeon Essays. She doesn’t find this to be a plus.

… What is less known is that Tolkien and Lewis also designed and established the curriculum for Oxford’s developing English School, and through it educated a second generation of important children’s fantasy authors in their own intellectual image. Put in place in 1931, this curriculum focused on the medieval period to the near-exclusion of other eras; it guided students’ reading and examinations until 1970, and some aspects of it remain today. Though there has been relatively little attention paid to the connection until now, these activities – fantasy-writing, often for children, and curricular design in England’s oldest and most prestigious university – were intimately related. Tolkien and Lewis’s fiction regularly alludes to works in the syllabus that they created, and their Oxford-educated successors likewise draw upon these medieval sources when they set out to write their own children’s fantasy in later decades. In this way, Tolkien and Lewis were able to make a two-pronged attack, both within and outside the academy, on the disenchantment, relativism, ambiguity and progressivism that they saw and detested in 20th-century modernity.

…The Oxford School’s medievalist approach radiated outward, influencing many more children’s fantasy authors and readers, and helping to turn Anglophilic fascination with early Britain and its medieval legends into a globally recognisable setting for children’s adventures, world-saving deeds and magical possibility. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 6, 1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It would be the last Trek film to feature the entire original cast from the series, and was released just after Roddenberry passed on. Directed by Nicholas Meyers and produced by Ralph Winter Steven-Charles Jaffe, the screenplay was by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn from a story from Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. It would lose out to Terminator 2: Judgement Day at MagiCon for Best Hugo, Long Form Presentation. The film received a much warmer reception from critics and audiences alike than The Final Frontier did, and it was a box office success. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most exemplary rating of eighty three percent. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 6, 1881 – Helen Knipe.  Illustrator (also rendered stage plays into novels).  Here is The Magical Man of Mirth.  Here is The Land of Never Was.  Here is an interior for The Queen of the City of Mirth.  (Died 1959) [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1909 Arthur K. Barnes. Pulp magazine writer in mostly the Thirties and Forties. He wrote a series of stories about interplanetary hunters Tommy Strike and Gerry Carlyle which are collected in Interplanetary Hunter and Interplanetary Huntress. Some of these were co-written with Henry Kuttner. His Pete Manx, Time Troubler collection featuring Pete Manx is a lot of fun too. Both series are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1911 Ejler Jakobsson. Finnish-born Editor who worked on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories butbriefly as they were shut down due to paper shortages. When Super Science Stories was revived in 1949, Jakobson was named editor until it ceased publication two years later. Twenty years later, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl.  His first credited publications were The Octopus and The Scorpion in 1939, co-edited with his wife, Edith Jakobsson. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 63. A performer with two Who appearances, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of DarknessGenie in the HouseRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and even a genre adjacent Midsomer Murders. (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 58. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories, and was Walter Steele on Arrow. He most recently played General Zod on Krypton He was, alas, Ben in the clunker of films, Mortal Engines. (CE)
  • Born December 6, 1942 – Ted Pauls.  A hundred reviews in LocusSF CommentarySF ReviewThe WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) Journal.  His T-K Graphics was a leading mail-order bookshop.  Fanzine, Kipple.  Co-chaired Balticon 5-8.  Part of the Baltimore SF Forum (hello, Ted White).  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1946 – Ana Lydia Vega, Ph.D., age 74.  Seven collections, one children’s book.  Casa de las Américas prize, Juan Rulfo prize.  Puerto Rico Society of Authors’ Author of the Year.  Professor at Univ. Puerto Rico (retired).  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1960 – Julie Dean Smith, age 60.  Four novels “done with panache and a happy skill” — hey, I’m quoting Clute, it must be St. Nicholas’ Day.  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1962 Janine Turner, 58. Maggie O’Connell on Northern Exposure which we’ve accepted as genre adjacent.  She was also Linda Aikman in Monkey Shines, a horror film not for the squeamish, and had one-offs in Knight-RiderQuantum Leap and Mr. Merlin. (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 51. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in one episode of Stargate SG-1 and the entire Stargate Atlantis series. Her most recent genre roles was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients, and Commander Delaney Truffault in the Dark Matter series. (CE)
  • Born December 6, 1972 – Kevin Brockmeier, age 48.  Fifteen novels for us, thirty shorter stories.  “A Proustian Reverie” in the NY Times Book Review.  Three O. Henry prizes (take that, Arthur Hawke), several others.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1981 – Ben White, age 39.  Confessedly Aotearoan pâkehâ.  Three novels.  Twenty-six games here.  Has read The Sirens of TitanThe Phantom TollboothOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Thirteen Clocks.  [JH]

(9) STINK ‘EM UP JUST RIGHT. ”One-star wonders: how to make a film that’s so bad it’s good” – Catherine Bray shares the formula wih readers of The Guardian.

There is nothing quite like a good-bad movie. Sometimes the title alone is enough to let us know what we’re in for: think Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). Sometimes the good-badness might be about knowing we are guaranteed an over-ripe performance from a particular star: think Nicolas Cage from around 2010 onwards. Sometimes a lurid or ridiculous premise promises a good time all by itself (see: Night of the Lepus, AKA the killer rabbit movie). But whether or not the creative minds behind these kinds of cultural landmarks were in on the joke is sometimes less self-evident.

…The godfather of wonderfully terrible films is Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood’s 1959 effort about aliens attacking the Earth. Hubcaps on strings are pressed into service as interstellar spacecraft, wobbling their way to our planet. When we get our first glimpse of the alien beings within, the hubcaps start to look pretty cosmic by contrast; the aliens bear a resemblance to inexpensive actors sporting off-the-rack medieval fayre costumes. Horror veteran Bela Lugosi, appearing as the villain, passed away before filming; his character’s scenes are constructed from screen-test footage he’d shot with Wood, plus additional material featuring another, far taller guy with a cape draped over his face. Throughout the film, scenery has a habit of wobbling alarmingly, particularly the gravestones.

(10) WWI09. According to io9 “The First Impressions of Wonder Woman 1984 Are In, and It Sounds Like a Fitting Sequel and ’80s Tribute” – a roundup of tweeted comments about the movie.

(11) WHAT’S UP CHUCK? Checking in on the latest wisdom from the Tingleverse.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/20 Some Fun With Death and Fear, Anyone?

(1) I’M NOT YOUR HERO. A creator who goes by the handle mar has produced an impressive Murderbot tribute video.

I’M NOT YOUR HERO – THE MURDERBOT DIARIES ANIMATIC after over 2 months, 22 sketchbook pages of brainstorming, thumbnails & sketches, and 111 individual panels, my #Murderbot animatic is finally done!!! hope you enjoy

CONTENT WARNINGS: blood, guns, scopophobia, slight body horror and injuries (toned down in comparison to the books)

(2) FINAL WORDS. At LitHub, Emily Temple proposes a list of “The 50 Greatest Apocalypse Novels”. I’ve read a solid 8 of these – I recognize another four as being books I just decided I didn’t want to read. Survey says — I’m not that big a fan of apocalypses.

The end of the world is never really the end of the world—at least not in fiction. After all, someone must survive to tell the tale. And what tales they are. Humans have been pondering the end of existence for as long as we’ve been aware of it (probably, I mean, I wasn’t there), and as a result we have a rich collection of apocalypse and post-apocalypse literature to read during our planet’s senescence.

I’ve done my best to limit this list to books in which there is—or has been—some kind of literal apocalypse, excluding dystopias (like The Handmaid’s Tale) or simply bleak visions of the future.

(3) DON’T BLIND THEM WITH BAD SCIENCE. At CrimeReads, Alice Henderson shows writers “Why Using Accurate Science In Your Fiction Is So Important”.

The marine biologist hauled himself onto the shore, his air tanks spent, the assassin close behind. Immediately the biologist stripped out of his heavy equipment and grabbed his dive knife. He couldn’t believe it. He’d finally cracked the mysterious language of Linear A and found the location of the ancient sunken city. Now he just had to make it back to his team alive.

The sound of scratching beside him caused him to snap his head down, spying a leatherback turtle, the largest amphibian on the island, crawling across the sand to return to the water.

Were you going along with the story until that last bit, and then were pulled out of the narrative?

We can believe that a marine biologist was somehow able to crack Linear A, a language that has utterly confounded scholars. We can believe that he found a lost civilization, and is ready to knife fight an assassin. But a turtle is a reptile, gosh darn it, not an amphibian. We are distracted and pulled out of the narrative.…

The fans who inhabit my comments section would never let him get away with it, that’s for sure.

(4) YEAR’S BEST. The staff at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR have made their picks for “The Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Graphic Novels of 2020”. Since one of the selections is Arkady Martine’s 2020 Hugo winner A Memory of Empire, treated as eligible because there was a trade paperback edition in February of this year, your mileage may vary for how “2020” this list is.

Sometimes we reach for sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and graphic novels because we want to be transported away from the present; never mind that all of these genres use the tropes of technology, magic, history, myth, and the future to scrutinize the present. In a way, 2020 embodies the contradiction inherent in using genre fiction as a form of escapism: More than ever, we need to be confronting the very grave problems of racism, climate change, illness, economic crisis, and anti-democratic politics; and more than ever, we need an occasional rest from the exertion of those confrontations.

(5) DIFFERENT KINDS OF MYSTERIES. In “Elizabeth Hand On Outsiders, Punks, and the Crime Fiction of Subcultures” on CrimeReads, Lisa Levy interviews Hand about her fourth Cass Neary crime novel, The Book Of Lamps And Banners, as Levy talks to Hand about her love of punk music and how the Neary novels are explorations of different cultures, including Scandinavian death metal and the world of ancient Britain.

Levy: What I think is so cool about them and about Cass is her curiosity is not stereotypical crime fiction curiosity. It’s real intellectual curiosity. She’s not just chasing a clue. She’s opening up a whole strange world of Scandinavian death metal or life in ancient Britain. A lot of crime fiction writers really pull back from letting their characters have rich intellectual lives and Cass—for all of her issues, and she has issues—does have a really interesting brain.

Hand: It’s interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way before. I find I read crime fiction, but I don’t read a huge amount. The books I like tend to be ones that explore a mystery other than the mystery involving the actual crime.

Levy: Exactly. … These books show what crime fiction can do in the hands of somebody who’s an intelligent person, who’s not just interested in crime fiction, which is how most crime fiction people are. It’s not a monoculture and every smart crime fiction writer reads voraciously, right? Lots of interests.

Hand: I like to write about topics that I’m learning about, but it’s not just a chance to show off my knowledge. It’s a chance for me to research and learn and get ideas. I find that really exciting. And I try to transfer some of that to what Cass is doing.

Levy: It is exciting. It’s what gives the book another dimension.

Hand: Oh, well, thank you. She always ends up in a world which is unfamiliar to her, so she’s very defensive. She doesn’t quite acclimate cause she never acclimates, but she earns the respect of the people she needs to.

I felt from the outset when I realized that this would be more than one book that she had to stay in motion. She was like a pinball: as long as she was in play it worked, but if she ever settled down anywhere, that would be the end of it.

(6) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Trina Robbins has posted an appeal on Facebook for help in recovering her lost art. (Photos of the art here.)

Dear friends, I need your help! Back before the lockdown, I loaned 5 pieces of my original comic art from the 70s for a planned exhibit at Sacramento State college. Then along came the lockdown and the exhibit never happened. In May, the woman responsible for the exhibit suffered the tragic loss of her daughter to cancer, so I told her to take her time returning my art. Then, this month I ran out of patience and demanded my art back, only to discover she had returned my pages via FedEx back in May! I saw the FedEx receipt — someone had signed for the package, signing my name as “RTRINA” — I have NEVER signed my name like that! The woman from Sacramento, almost as upset as me, is filing a claim with FedEx, but I’m appealing to you: if anyone, at any time since May, has offered any of my art for sale, PLEASE let me know ASAP! (Yes, I’ve already looked on eBay!) I have very little art from the 70s left, because back in the day I was desperately poor and sold my pages for peanuts. My surviving work from those days is no longer for sale, but if I had been willing to sell those pages, they would have been worth about $5,000. I know this is a longshot, but please be on the lookout for any art by me that’s for sale!

(7) SOLO. James Davis Nicoll’s “Not-So-Splendid Isolation: Five SF Works About Being Alone” at Tor.com may be a type of comfort reading for some.

I myself have no problem with lengthy periods of enforced isolation. There are so many things to do: alphabetizing the house spiders, teaching cats to dance, talking with my knives… Still, not everyone deals with isolation well. If that’s you, you might derive some consolation from reading (or watching, or listening to) stories of folks who are even worse off than you are.

(8) THE END GAME. Jacobin titles its interview “Imagining the End of Capitalism With Kim Stanley Robinson”. The occasion is KSR’s new book Ministry for the Future.

I wanted to ask you about the now-famous quote attributed to Jameson, which is actually a bit of a paraphrase: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” It strikes me this book is coming out in a year when it’s become pretty easy to imagine the end of things, and that the real challenge is to imagine the beginnings of some kind of socialist system. As much as The Ministry is about the future, it suggests that those beginnings we need are already here with us now and that it’s really a matter of scaling up some of those alternatives.

I’m a novelist, I’m a literature major. I’m not thinking up these ideas, I’m listening to the world and grasping — sometimes at straws, sometimes just grasping at new ideas and seeing what everybody is seeing.

If we could institute some of these good ideas, we could quickly shift from a capitalism to a post-capitalism that is more sustainable and more socialist, because so many of the obvious solutions are contained in the socialist program. And if we treated the biosphere as part of our extended body that needs to be attended to and taken care of, then things could get better fast, and there are already precursors that demonstrate this possibility.

I don’t think it’s possible to postulate a breakdown, or a revolution, to an entirely different system that would work without mass disruption and perhaps blowback failures, so it’s better to try to imagine a stepwise progression from what we’ve got now to a better system. And by the time we’re done — I mean, “done” is the wrong word — but by the end of the century, we might have a radically different system than the one we’ve got now. And this is kind of necessary if we’re going to survive without disaster. So, since it’s necessary, it might happen. And I’m always looking for the plausible models that already exist and imagining that they get ramped up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 27, 1923 – Takumi Shibano.  (Name Japanese-style would be Shibano Takumi, personal name last.)  Author, editor, translator, fan.  Starting as a high-school math teacher he published SF under the name Kozumi Rei (i.e. “cosmic ray”) and founded the first Japanese fanzine Uchûjin (“cosmic dust” and by a pun also “Space man”).  Translated five dozen books including Smith’s Lensman series and Niven’s Known Space series.  Chaired Federation of SF Fan Groups in Japan.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.con III the 54th Worldcon, and Nippon2007 the 65th which could not have happened without him; here is the story of bringing him to a Worldcon the first time.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born October 27, 1938 —  Lara Parker, 82. Best known for her role as Angelique on Dark Shadows which aired from 1966 to 1971. She also played Laura Banner in The Incredible Hulk pilot, and Madelaine in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker “The Trevi Collection” episode. And she was on Galactica 1980 in “The Night The Cylons Landed” two-parter. (CE)
  • Born October 27, 1939 —  John Cleese, 81. Monty Python of course, but also Time BanditsMary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two Bond films as Q and even two Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick. He’s definitely deep into genre film roles. And let’s not forget he shows up as an art lover on the “City of Death” story, a Fourth Doctor story. (CE)
  • Born October 27, 1940 – Maxine Hong Kingston, 80. National Medal of Arts, Nat’l Humanities Medal, Nat’l Book Award.  Memoir The Woman Warrior.  “On Discovery” from China Men, “Trippers and Askers” from Tripmaster Monkey are ours, maybe more in these and six other books, fantasy and reality interspersing.  [JH]
  • Born October 27, 1940 – Patrick Woodroffe.  For us, four nonfiction books, half a dozen short stories, four dozen poems, ninety covers, a hundred interiors; record jackets, etchings, bronzes, much else.  Not knowing the word was already used in medicine he coined tomograph for photos of actual objects combined with cut-outs from his paintings.  Artbooks MythopœiconHallelujah AnywayA Closer LookThe Forget-Me-Not GardenerPW.  Here is Day Million.  Here is The Green Hills of Earth.  Here is the May 02 Asimov’s.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born October 27, 1943 Les Daniels. Writer of a series concerning the vampire Don Sebastian de Villanueva. During the Seventies, he was the author of Comix: A History of Comic Books in America with illustrations by the Mad Peck — and Living in Fear: A History of Horror in the Mass Media. Later on, he’d write myriad histories of DC and Marvel Comics, both the Houses and individual characters. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson.  Artist who with writer Len Wein is known for co-creating Swamp Thing. He did a lot of illustrations from Cemetery Dance magazine to Stephen King graphic novels to DC and Marvel comics. Tell me what you liked about his work. Some of his horror work at Creepy magazine is now available as Creepy Presents Bernie Wrightson at the usual digital suspects. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born October 27, 1950 – Susan Lowell, 60.  A score of books, many for us with fantasy elements, e.g. The Three Little Javelinas (pronounced “ha-veh-LEE-nas”; lovable wild southwestern cousins of pigs); Josefina Javelina who longing to be a ballerina packs her concertina, leaves her favorite cantina, and goes to Pasadena seeking her cousin Angelina; The Bootmaker and the ElvesThe Boy with Paper Wings.  [JH]
  • Born October 27, 1965 – Roberto de Sousa Causo, 55.  Three novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Regular reporter to Locus of SF in Brazil.  His entry in the SF Encyclopedia (3rd ed., electronic) by Elizabeth Ginway is worth reading.  [JH]
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 50. His djinn-centered Bartimaeus series is most excellent. Though considered children’s novels, I think anyone would enjoy them. I’ve also read the first two in his  Lockwood & Co. series as well — very well done. (CE) 
  • Born October 27, 1984 Emilie Ullerup, 36. Best known for playing Ashley Magnus on Sanctuary. She’s had one-offs in Battlestar GalacticaSupernaturalSmallville and Almost Human. She played Ehren in Witchslayer Gretl, one of those awful Syfy films. (CE) 
  • Born October 27, 1986 – Lauren Cannon, 34.  A dozen covers, half a dozen interiors.  Here is The Song of Darkness (in German; tr. of The Painted Man).  Here is the Spring 13 Subterranean.  Here is When Will You Rise.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MAYDAY CALL ANSWERED IN OCTOBER. An iconic bookstore is feeling the economic heat – readers are coming to the rescue. “When New York’s Strand Bookstores asked for help, 25,000 online orders flooded in” reports the Washington Post.

One of New York’s oldest bookstores pleaded for help from customers — and help poured in.

Nancy Bass Wyden, owner of the Strand Bookstores, took to Facebook and Twitter on Friday to say the business was “unsustainable.” Sales had slumped 70 percent since 2019 because of the pandemic, and the company’s cash reserves were running low, she wrote.She asked patrons to “#savethestrand” with some early holiday shopping, noting that “for the first time in The Strand’s 93 year history, we need to mobilize the community to buy from us so we can keep our doors open until there is a vaccine.”

The response was explosive: The store received more than 25,000 online orders over the weekend, causing the website to crash, Wyden told The Washington Post. It normally gets 300 orders a day.

(12) THE WEED OF CRIME. Stephen Spottswood picks out “10 Classic Radio Mysteries Every Crime Fiction Lover Should Know” at CrimeReads. Many are genre.

Inner Sanctum (1941-1952)

An organ plays, a door creaks open, and a man with a baritone voice says, “Oh, hello there. I’m so glad you came tonight” in a way that makes you wonder if it would have been safer to stay home. With one foot in mystery and the other placed firmly in horror, Inner Sanctum was an anthology series of strange and chilling tales that guest starred film greats like Bela Lugosi, Orson Welles, and Claude Rains. 

(13) CAREER PATH. Amy K. Bruni, host of the ghost hunting show Kindred Spirits, insists “Ghost Hunting Is A Hobby” in a post for CrimeReads.

The question I get asked the most is how to get a job like mine, traveling the country in search of haunted experiences, making a living doing what most consider to be a very odd, very expensive weekend hobby.

The answer is: I have no idea.

There isn’t a traditional path to finding a career in the paranormal. It started out as a hobby for me, too….

(14) A HEAD’S UP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The problem with being a (superhero) comics reader, in terms of reading the press release below, is that my immediate image is a panel including (Marvel’s) M.O.D.O.K., Green Lantern foe Hector Hammond, The Leader (from Hulk’s foes), Brainwave (the original JSA comics version)… mmm, and maybe Marvel’s Kree’s Supremor (Supreme Intelligence). Perhaps also (Marvel’s) Ego the Living Planet.

BIG TECH HEADS TO TESTIFY IN FRONT OF CONGRESS, PARLER FREE

SPEECH SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM CEO JOHN MATZE AVAILABLE TO COMMENT  

Washington, DC- Facebook, Twitter and Google CEOs Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Sundar Pichai, respectively, are scheduled to appear before Congressional leaders on Wednesday, October 28th for a hearing regarding free expression on the internet, involving the 1996 Communications Decency Act….

(15) SKY DINOS. “Paleontologists In Mongolia Unearth Striking New Species Of High-Flying Pterosaur”SYFY Wire has the story.

Gliding over the primeval landscape of ancient China like a living jet airliner, pterosaurs were the kings of the airways during the Age of the Dinosaurs and existed in their prime between 210 and 65 million years ago on Earth.

These magnificent airborne reptiles were the planet’s first flying vertebrates, arriving far earlier than bats or birds, and many species, like the giant azhdarchids, were the biggest soaring creatures ever to have existed, with impressive wingspans of more than 30 feet and standing as tall as today’s African bull elephants and even adult male giraffes.

Adding to the awesome aviary of lofty pterosaurs, a freshly identified species officially named Ordosipterus planignathus has just been identified and detailed in a new report recently published in the online journal China Geology. Unearthed in remote Inner Mongolia, Ordosipterus planignathus thrived in the Early Cretaceous period between 120 and 110 million years ago…

(16) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. In Two Chairs Talking Episode 39: Completely zoned out, past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss visit the Eastern Block and discuss Solaris by Stanis?aw Lem, and the two films, one directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and the other by Steven Soderberg, based on that book. They follow up with a discussion of “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, and then the film “Stalker” based loosely on that book.

(17) SLIGHTLY DAMP. “NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon” announced the space agency.

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.

SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface. The results are published in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy.

“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. Despite the small amounts, the discovery raises new questions about how water is created and how it persists on the harsh, airless lunar surface….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that despite many “scenes of excruciating death” including children nearly blowing up, Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory is a children’s movie and not a horror flick.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/3/20 The Filing Sorcerers

(1) ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER. Minneapolis’ DreamHaven Books, boarded up after being vandalized, was  told by the city to get rid of the grafitti on the building. Wendy Comeau told followers:

Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?

I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).

On the store’s website, Wendy Comeau posted their open hours and other updates.

We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.

(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):

(3) BOMBS AWAY. Is this also the right season for the wrong kind of fireworks? Yahoo! reminds reads about “The Biggest Box Office Bombs of the Past Decade”. Plenty of genre here, unfortunately. Right at the top of the list, in fact –

  • Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.

(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.

It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.

Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?

What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.

Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.

(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Open Culture invites readers to “Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self”

…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting LadyhawkeCocoonBrazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating. 

(9) OTHER TOP TIME-TRAVEL MOVIES.

These are Rolling Stone’s nominees for “The 20 Best Time-Travel Movies”. In the middle of the list is:

8. ‘Run Lola Run’ (1998)

The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.

(10) BERNSTEIN OBIT. “Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein, Popular Twitch Streamer, Dies at 31” reports Variety. Bernstein died by suicide.

Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong.  It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating. 
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too.  William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka.  At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed.  Hmm.  Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”.  However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here.  A hundred shorter stories.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82.  Six dozen covers.  Here is Babel-17.  Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships.  Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus.  Here  is The Demolished Man.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.  Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher.  Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt.  Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael.  Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light).  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73.  A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25.  Thirty more books outside our field.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1964 Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“.  (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50.  A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”).  She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?

(14) JEAN-LUC PICCOLO. Variety profiles the sff theme music up for awards: “Yodas, Witchers and Trekkies, Oh My! Sci-Fi and Fantasy Contenders Eye Emmys Music Gold”.

Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….

… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.

(15) CAT DOWN UNDER. Atlas Obscura has photos of a statue that honors an adventurous seafaring cat.

OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.    

The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….

(16) GOLLUM READS THE HOBBIT. GameSpot teed up this piece of Tolkien-related news: “Andy Serkis Records New Audiobook For The Hobbit, And It Sounds Fantastic”.

Book company Harper Collins is making a new audiobook for The Hobbit that is read by none other than Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the movies.

The announcement of this new version comes after Serkis did a marathon reading of The Hobbit for charity back in May. For this new audiobook, Serkis is donating his payment to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and Harper Collins UK is matching it.

You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.

(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.

(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here

This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek,  BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner The Queens of Adventure.  Additionally,  Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”.  Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”.  Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more. 

(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:

…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

(20) LEAKY CAULDRON AND MUGGLENET. “Harry Potter fan sites reject author’s trans comments”:BBC has the story.

Two leading Harry Potter fan sites have publicly distanced themselves from author JK Rowling over her recent comments about transgender people.

The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said they would no longer use photos of Rowling or link to her own website.

Speaking jointly, they said her views on “marginalised people [were] out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment we find in her books”.

The stars of the Potter films have also spoken out against Rowling’s remarks.

…In their statement, the Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said it was “difficult to speak out against someone whose work we have so long admired”.

Yet they said it be “wrong” not to distance themselves from Rowling’s “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A swift completes its appointed rounds…. Gizmodo notes how “Artificial Feathers Let This Robotic Bird Fly With Incredible Agility”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nate, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/12/20 The Scrolling
Of Pixel 123

(1) THE CITY WITH TWO NAMES TWICE. N. K. Jemisin will join W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN series United Shades of America (and her cousin) on June 16 for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel The City We Became. The event is hosted by the New York Public Library. Hyperallergic has the story: “A POC-Centered Vision of NYC From NK Jemisin, Celebrated Sci-Fi Author”.

…Next Tuesday (June 16), Jemisin will join comedian W. Kamau Bell for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel, The City We Became, presented by the New York Public Library. The novel, which brings her unique brand of speculative fiction a little closer to earth, is set in a version of New York City where the future is threatened by an ancient evil that seeks to divide and destroy its community by capitalizing on its differences (sound familiar?). The City We Became imagines cities as living, sentient organisms that take shape as individual human avatars. New York and its five boroughs are embodied as mainly Black and brown folks (Staten Island and the nefarious Enemy that threatens the city are not insignificantly imagined as white women).

At a moment when New York City is slowly beginning to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while simultaneously considering numerous pieces of legislation that could combat pervasive police brutality against Black people, Jemisin’s POC-centered speculations about the future of this city feel especially timely.

Where: Online, via NYPL
When: June 16, 8–9pm EDT

See the NYPL event page for more information.

(2) FREE READS. John Joseph Adams has made three of Lightspeed’s People Of Colo(U)R Destroy Special Issues available as free downloads.

(3) THE HEART OF YOUR WEEKEND. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will host several of the “Hugo Finalists for Best Novella and Best Novelette 2020” on its June 13 program, including Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Sarah Pinsker, Siobhan Carroll, and Amal El-Mohtar. Facilitating the discussions will be Vincent Docherty and Karen Castelletti. 

The episode will also feature a Sara Felix Tiara Giveaway and “Tammy Coxen’s Mixology Show Corner.”

(4) STOKERCON UK: STRIKE TWO. StokerCon UK has postponed again, having decided its new August dates are no longer tenable. New dates forthcoming.

As per previous communications, like all of you we have been closely monitoring the NHS and UK Government guidelines as they have evolved over the past weeks and months, and the situation with regard to COVID-19 is still extremely changeable.

We have done everything we can to try to continue with StokerCon UK in August but, unfortunately, this is still a fast-changing situation and, with the worldwide situation and the current government guidelines as they stand now, we are left with no choice but to postpone the convention once again as we feel it would be irresponsible to push ahead and put anyone’s health at risk, apart from the obvious issues with social distancing, travel etc. Safety has to be the paramount concern for all involved.

We will advise new dates in the next week, as we’re currently finalising details of this with the hotels and will advise plans moving forward for everyone who has already signed-up to attend. We understand how disappointing this will be to many of you, and share that disappointment, but we want to make sure our members are safe, and postponing will be the best way to try and achieve that.

(5) THE SUN GIVES ABUSER PAGE ONE. Right after J.K. Rowling published an essay defending her views on gender and sex, in which she revealed she is the survivor of domestic abuse in her first marriage, UK tabloid The Sun tracked down her former husband for a front-page interview. The Guardian covered the response: “JK Rowling: UK domestic abuse adviser writes to Sun editor”.

The government’s lead adviser on domestic abuse has written to the editor of the Sun to condemn the newspaper’s decision to publish a front page interview with JK Rowling’s first husband, under the headline: “I slapped JK and I’m not sorry.”

In the letter seen by the Guardian, Nicole Jacobs, the independent domestic abuse commissioner, said it was “unacceptable that the Sun has chosen to repeat and magnify the voice of someone who openly admits to violence against a partner”.

Jacobs joined a chorus of voices speaking out against the newspaper, which described the remarks by Rowling’s ex as a “sick taunt” against the Harry Potter creator.

“The media can play a vital role in shining a light on this issue and bringing it out of the shadows, but articles such as this one instead feed the shame that so many survivors will feel every day, minimising their experiences and allowing perpetrators to continue to abuse without fear of consequence,” Jacobs wrote to Victoria Newton, who was appointed the Sun’s editor in February.

(6) WRITERS OFFERED INSURANCE PROGRAM. The Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership, a coalition of 10 organizations that includes SFWA, has partnered with Lighthouse Insurance Group Solutions to “provide its members with a choice of health insurance options, including ACA-compliant major medical, Medicare/supplements, short-term policies, vision, dental, critical care, supplemental coverage, as well as small group/Health Reimbursement Arrangements.”

The Authors Guild noted in a recent press release that the coalition also includes the American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., and Western Writers of America.

(7) ANIMATED, BUT NOT REANIMATED. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds light in an apocalypse: “‘Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts’ Returns, Weirder And Warmer Than Ever”.

No, I hear you: Now doesn’t seem the ideal moment to Netflix-and-chill with an animated series about the last vestiges of humanity struggling to survive.

I mean, imagine the pitch meeting:

“The future.

“Cities lie in ruin.

“The surface of the earth is overgrown with plant life — and with overgrown animals: mutated beasts, 300 feet tall, that stomp across the land hunting for prey.

“Which is to say: for humans, who, now firmly at the bottom of the food chain, have retreated to vast underground burrows to protect themselves.”

It all sounds … pretty bleak, I get that. Depressing, even. Like if you mashed up The Walking Dead with the popular anime series Attack on Titan, in which gruesome giants gobble up humanity’s last survivors like so many chocolate-covered cherries.

And I haven’t even mentioned the violent gangs of mutant, human-sized animals who’ve staked out their own territories, making the Earth’s surface a deadly place for the few humans who still live there.

And yet?

Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts, which returns for a second season Friday, June 12, manages to be anything but bleak and depressing. It’s bright and sunny, colorful and funny, and … then, there are those tunes.

(8) O’NEIL OBIT. Comic book writer Denny O’Neil died June 11 at the age of 81. Games Radar’s tribute is  here.

…O’Neil was best known for his work on Batman, which included writing Batman, Detective Comics, and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, as well as editing DC’s Batman titles from 1986 to 2000. He, editor Julius Schwartz, and artist Neal Adams are credited for guiding the Dark Knight back to his darker roots after a period of campiness brought on by the success of the 1960s Batman TV series….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 12, 1956 X Minus One’s “If You Was A Moklin” was aired for the first time. Written by Murray Leinster (published in Galaxy, September 1951) who would win a number of Hugos in his career (L.A. Con III awarded him a Retro Hugo Novelette for “First Contact”, published in Astounding May 1945; NY Con II would give him Best Novelette for “Exploration Team”, published in Astounding March 1956; and he’s up this year for a Retro Hugo Novella  for “Trog”, published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944.) This story is about a planet that has a strange imitative trait it shows in producing its offspring.  Or so it seems.  Adapted as usual by Ernest Kinoy.  The cast was Joe Julian, Patricia Weil, Karl Weber and Ralph Camargo.   You can listen to hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 12, 1856 – Georges Le Faure.  Among a dozen popular swashbuckling novels, War Under Water against Germany; The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist (with Henry de Graffigny, 4 vols.; tr. in 2 vols. 2009) with an explosive that could destroy the world, a Space-ship faster than light, visits to other planets, aliens.  Verne was first but not alone.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1914 – Frank Kelly.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories, from this pioneer.  “Light Bender” was in the June 1931 Wonder Stories – he was 15!  Later a speechwriter for Harry Truman; vice-president, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.  “My Interplanetary Teens” in the June 1947 Atlantic.  Fiction outside our field in The New Yorker and Esquire.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1914 William Lundigan. Col. Edward McCauley in the Fifties serial Men into Space which lasted for thirty-eight episodes. He really didn’t do any other SF acting other than showIng up once on Science Fiction Theater. (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1927 Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel,Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write one hundred sixty short stories of a genre nature, with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955. He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, did SF), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1940 Mary A. Turzillo, 80. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Her first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1945 James Stevens-Arce, 75. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “James Stevens-Arce, is perhaps the first Puerto Rican to publish sf, and the most prolific.“  He has but one novel, Soulsaver which won thePremio UPC de Ciencia Ficción, and a double handful of short stories which do appear to have made to the digital realm.(CE)
  • Born June 12, 1946 – Sue Anderson.  Fannish musicals with Mark Keller, performed at 1970s Boskones: RivetsRivets ReduxMik Ado about Nothing (note Gilbert & Sullivan allusion), The Decomposers.  George Flynn, Anne McCaffrey, Elliot Shorter are gone, but Chip Hitchcock was in some or all and I’m counting on him to explain what really happened.  Three short stories (one posthumously in Dark Horizons 50), and this cover with Stevan Arnold for Vertex.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 – Etienne Sándorfi.  Hungarian hyperrealist painter.  It was said that he painted like an assassin; also that, working at night, he went to bed each day later than the day before, puzzling his daughters.  Ten interiors for Omni.  The Wayback Machine has this interview; see some of his paintings here (Madeleine), here (nature morte organes).  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1955 Stephen Pagel, 65. Editor with Nicola Griffith of the genre anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science FictionBending the Landscape: Fantasy, and Bending the Landscape: Horror. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1963 – Franz Miklis.  Austrian artist active for decades in fanart (see here and here) and otherwise (see here and here).  His Website is here. [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1970 – Claudia Gray.  A score of novels, some in the Star Wars universe; a few shorter stories; translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese.  Her Website is here (“Bianca, Tess, Nadia, Skye, Marguerite, and Noemi aren’t that much like me.  For example, they all have better hair”; also “Read as much as you can….  Read the stuff you love.  Read the stuff you never thought you’d love”).  [JH]

(11) LEND ME YOUR EARS. This item went under the hammer today at Heritage Auctions: “The Mouse Factory ‘The Mystery of Mickey’s Ears Revealed’”. It was bid up to $800 when I looked.

The Mouse Factory “The Mystery of Mickey’s Ears Revealed” Illustration by Ward Kimball Original Art (Walt Disney, c. 1970s). Walt Disney like to say, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Mickey’s trademark ears have been a source of conversation since the famous mouse was born in 1928. Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey is characterized as a cheerful and mischievous “little guy” with ears that move strangely. In the early 1970s, Disney Legend Inductee and one of “Walt’s Nine Old Men”, Ward Kimball (1914 – 2002) attempted to clear up the matter and explain the mystery of Mickey’s ears on the television show, The Mouse Factory. In this lot is a rare illustration by Kimball showing Mickey in front and side views with an explanation on how his ears move independently as he moves his head.

(12) BE SEATED. In “Episode 29: Omphalistic Hugosity” of Two Chairs Talking (no relation to Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson), former Aussiecon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about the shorter fiction nominees for the 2020 Hugo Awards, and then take the Hugo Time Machine back to 1962, when Stranger in a Strange Land won Best Novel.

(13) PIED-À-TERRE. If people don’t feel so much like squeeing over Harry Potter this week, who can blame them? This is still a remarkable place, as the photos show: “You can stay in a massive ‘Harry Potter’-themed Airbnb with 8 bedrooms that’ll transport you right to Hogwarts”.

Loma Homes translated the magic of “Harry Potter” into an epic new rental just 30 minutes away from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

The Wizard’s Way villa has eight themed bedrooms with 10 beds, five bathrooms, and dozens of book and movie Easter eggs that fans of the franchise will love.

(14) AVATAR. [Item by Cliff.] This video demonstrates a digital avatar created by the company founded by an ex-colleague of mine.

This demo showcases a cutting edge end-to-end virtual assistant prototy[e developed by Pinscreen. The entire Avatar runs on the cloud and is streamed directly onto a web browser. This demo highlights a real-time facial AI-synthesis technology based on paGAN II, cutting edge NLP, voice recognition, and speech synthesis. None of the conversation is scripted.

(15) MURDER(BOT) SHE WROTE. Camestros Felapton has many kind (but non-spoilery) words to say about Martha Wells’ new novel: “Murderbot: Network Effect”.

I sort of gave up reviewing Murderbot a few novellas ago. There is a sense that actually the plot really doesn’t matter and the simplest explanation of an instalment is that its a Murderbot story and the reader either knows the formula or doesn’t and if they don’t then see earlier reviews. However, that belies how much I enjoy each and every one of Martha Wells’s brilliant episodes of Murderbot’s continuing adventures.

The essence of the formula is the juxtaposition of this incredibly vulnerable highly competent killing machine. Murderbot has been shot and blasted and zapped but the struggles with their own sense of self and connections with other people pulls you in….

(16) BOSE-EINSTEIN CONDENSATE, THE NEW CHILL SMOOTHIE. Slashdot reports “Scientists Have Made Bose-Einstein Condensates in Space for the First Time”. And what the heck is that, you ask…

On board the International Space Station since May 2018 is a mini-fridge-size facility called the Cold Atom Lab (CAL), capable of chilling atoms in a vacuum down to temperatures one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero. It is, for all intents and purposes, one of the coldest spots in the known universe. And according to a new study published in Nature, scientists have just used it to create a rare state of matter for the first time ever in space. From a report:

Bose-Einstein condensates, sometimes called the fifth state of matter, are gaseous clouds of atoms that stop behaving like individual atoms and start to behave like a collective. BECs, as they’re often called, were first predicted by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose over 95 years ago, but they were first observed in the lab by scientists just 25 years ago. The general idea when making a BEC is to inject atoms (in the case of CAL, rubidium and potassium) into an ultra-cold chamber to slow them down. A magnetic trap is then created in the chamber with an electrified coil, which is used along with lasers and other tools to move the atoms into a dense cloud. At this point the atoms “kind of blur into one another,” says David Aveline, a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the lead author of the new study.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Creative Writing Advice From Neil Gaiman” on YouTube is a 2015 compiilation by Nicola Monaghan of excerpts from speeches Gaiman has given on writing.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/20 The Diversity Of Pixels Prove That Scrolls Evolved From Files

(1) BEFORE GENESIS. Kim Huett begins a deep dive into Hugo history in “A Different View of the Early Hugo Awards (Part 1.)” at Doctor Strangemind.

…First of all the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention committee called them the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards and not the Hugo Awards. Officially they continued to be called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards for many decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially renamed the Hugo Awards. Exactly when fans began giving the awards the nickname of Hugo I can’t be entirely sure. However, the earliest mention of the practise I’m aware of appeared in the 1955 Clevention’s Progress Report #4. In an article about the physical aspects of the award appears the following comment:

A great deal of hard work, money and time went into the project of making this “Hugo”, as some people have already dubbed the trophy.

Just who was using the term and how widespread the practise was by this point isn’t made clear in this article. It could be that committee members were aware of the nickname being used elsewhere but I suspect such usage was confined to the committee itself. After all, given that at this point the awards had only been given once and then were seemingly discontinued it seems a bit unlikely that fandom at large had decided to give something they couldn’t be certain would ever be seen again a nickname. Moreover, given that the awards are then continually referred as Hugos in the rest of the article I rather suspect some or all of the committee had not only adopted the term but also wanted to push the idea of calling it that as one way to put their stamp on the awards idea. All speculation of course but it does make for an interesting theory.

(2) BEFORE NUMBERS. And Galactic Journey’s Hugo headline deals with news that’s only a tad more recent — “The 1965 Hugo Ballot Is Out!” They also invite fans to join them for an online discussion on May 23.

… Since the Journey has covered virtually everything on the list, we’ve created a little crib sheet so you can vote in an educated fashion.

Also, we’ll be talking about this ballot on May 23rd at 1PM PDT on a special broadcast of KGJ Channel 9 — so please tune in and join us in the discussion!

(3) AN EPISODE RECAP – SPOILERS? I’M NOT SURE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 10 episode of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El and her friends were trying to track down bad guys who called themselves Leviathan.  They went to the “United States Congressional Library” which eerily resembles a Canadian public library to talk to a librarian who was a “symbologist”–you know, like the guy in The Da Vinci Code.  The symbologist explained that he tried to search for “leviathan”–but all of searches were blocked!  Scary! 

So they decided to visit “special collections,” which of course was the vault in the basement where The Good Stuff is kept and can only be seen by people with the secret passcode,  But just as our hero punches the buttons, the bad guys start shooting at them.  How these guntoters managed to get past the security guards is not explained, possibly because the “United States Congressional Library” doesn’t have any security guards.

Any resemblance between the “United States Congressional Library” and the Library of Congress is nonexistent.

(4) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Den of Geek boasts the cover reveal for the next installment in Martha Wells’ series: “The Murderbot Diaries: Fugitive Telemetry Cover Reveal”.

…While Fugitive Telemetry may be the sixth installment in the series, it is something new for this world: a murder mystery. The novella follows Murderbot as it discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, and sets about assisting station security to determine who the body was and how they were killed. Fugitive Telemetry takes place after the events of novella Exit Strategy and before the events of novel Network Effect, and is slated for an April 2021 release.

(5) WHO SUPPORTS THEM. The Doctor Who Companion points fans to a fundraising video: “Peter Capaldi Reads Story By Frank Cottrell Boyce For National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund”.

Actor Peter Capaldi, shows his support for The National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund – set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re raising money for staff on the frontline at The National Hospital – and those patients who are most in need at this time. He reads from The Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

(6) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Katherine A. Powers, who reviews audiobooks in the Washington Post, has a piece about the problems of bad audiobooks. “Don’t let a bad reader ruin your audiobook experience. Here are recordings to savor — and to avoid.”  She writes:

Any devoted audiobook listener can attest:  Spending nine hours (or more) in the company of a terrible reader–a shrieker, mumber, droner, tooth whistler, or overzealous thespian–is an experience that can truly ruin a book.  A narrator’s voice is not merely a delivery system, an element extraneous to the text, but an integral one–fulfilling, enriching, injuring, or sinking a book.”

She explains this is particularly true with books in the public domain.  She notes that Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd comes in a dozen versions. including a superb one by John Lee and readings by Nathaniel Parker and Joe Jameson “are excellent if a little fast.” But “excruciating performers” of hardy’s novel include “a drawling old fogy; a governess on an elocution bender; a sprinter whose words tear along in a blur; and a man who seems to be recording inside a tin can.

This doesn’t have much to do with sf except that she says that Neil Gaiman is a very good reader of his own fiction (I agree).  But I thought she made some good points.

(7) PEOPLE WHO KNEW PKD. “The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick” on YouTube is a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, that includes with Dick’s ex-wives Kleo Mini, Anne Dick, and Tessa Dick, his stepdaughter Tandie Ford, and authors K.W. Jeter, Ray Nelson, and Tim Powers.

(8) WILLARD OBIT. Comedic star Fred Willard, who appears in the forthcoming show Space Force, died May 15 at the age of 86. He gained fame in a long career that included roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. More details at People.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. If you’ve not read it, a decent translation is available at the usual digital sources for less than a cup of coffee. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1917 – Juan Rulfo.  Author, photographer.  In Pedro Páramo a man going to his recently deceased mother’s home town finds it is populated by ghosts; translated into 30 languages, sold a million copies in English.  A score of shorter stories; another dozen outside our field.  Here are some photographs and comment.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to magic realism blurring the real and imaginary. See here (Union Mixer, 1975), here (Mindscape, 1973), here (Computer Cosmology, 1980s), and here (The Dream, 1996).  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken (1924-2004); 21 covers, 18 interiors.  See here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  French SF author and (under his own name; PB is a pen name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history.  In The Empire of Baphomet (translated into Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; 72 novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1928 – Burschi Gruder.  Romanian pioneer and prolific illustrator of children’s books, textbooks, comic books; cover artist; reprinted in East Germany, Moldova, Poland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia.  See here and here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Alf van der Poorten.  Number theorist (180 publications; founded Australian Mathematical Society Gazette; Georges Szekeres Medal, 2002) and active fan.  One of “Sydney’s terrible twins”.  Reviewer for SF Commentary.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 76. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously, he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films. In LA he’s even better known for donuts – i.e., he owns a shop with his name on it. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, among us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 58. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of pubished fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — FringeWidening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-LLASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 52. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode which saw a major reset. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 51. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DISNEY’S NEXT PLANS FOR THE STAGE. The Washington Post’s Peter Marks not only reports the demise of Frozen on Broadway, but that Disney Theatrical Productions president Michael Schumacher announced several musicals in development, including The Princess Bride, Jungle Book, and Hercules. “Citing the pandemic, Disney puts Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ permanently on ice”.

Schumacher also used the letter to detail other projects in the works — notably, a stage musical version of the 1987 cult movie favorite “The Princess Bride,” with a book by Bob Martin and Rick Elice and a score by David Yazbek, and an expanded stage version of the “Hercules” that debuted last summer in Central Park. Book writer Robert Horn, a Tony winner for “Tootsie,” will be added to the songwriting team of Alan Menken and David Zippel.

(12) PRINCEJVSTN’S FINEST. Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer’s “Hugo Packet 2020” is available from an unlocked post on his Patreon page. (I have the right URL here but can’t get it to open from the Scroll, which is why I am also including Paul’s tweet).

(13) WIGTOWN FLIPS. Hey, I read it right here — “Wigtown book festival makes online switch”.

Scotland’s national book town has decided to take its annual festival online.

The Wigtown event will still run from 25 September to 4 October with the themes of resilience and connection.

Creative director Adrian Turpin said a key aim would be to raise the town’s profile while looking forward to a time when the region could welcome visitors.

He said nobody had wanted the situation but it might help the event to reach new audiences.

A number of link-ups with other book towns around the world will feature as part of the festival.

As well as live online speaker events, the 2020 festival will feature its usual mix of art exhibitions, film events, music and performance.

The Magnusson lecture – in honour of Magnus Magnusson – will also go digital for the first time and be delivered by historian Rosemary Goring.

(14) VASCO II. BBC reports “Facebook to build internet cable ‘circumference of Earth'”.

Facebook is teaming up with telecoms companies to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.

Its length – almost equal to the circumference of the Earth – will make it one of the longest, it said.

It is part of a long-running bid by Facebook to take its social media platform to Africa’s young population.

Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving Africa.

“When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa, supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said Facebook in a blog.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with four in 10 people across the continent having access to the web, compared with a global average of six in 10.

(15) NEEDED ONE MORE GHOST. Yahoo! Movies UK quotes the actor from a TV interview: “Bill Murray missed Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis on ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife'”.

Bill Murray really missed working alongside Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis while filming the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The legendary comedian admitted as much during his recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, saying that the pair were “greatly missed for so many reasons,” adding, “They were so much a part of the creation of [Ghostbusters] and the fun of it.”

(16) TOASTS OF THE TOWN. At the #OrbitTavern on Instagram, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto interviews an author about their upcoming book Ann Leckie and Laura Lam in one session) —and teaches viewers how to make the perfect cocktail to pair it with! Replays of their live shows are also available on Orbit’s website.

For example, a couple of days ago they celebrated World Cocktail Day with Alix Harrow.

(17) NESFA PRESS SALE. NESFA Press has announced a 20% discount good through June 14, 2020  on all NESFA Press physical books — with some exceptions. This does not include E-Books, ISFiC books (including the Seanan McGuire Velveteen books), and the following limited-edition books: Stan’s Kitchen by Kim Stanley Robinson and A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (limited, boxed edition).

To take advantage of this discount, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, select the titles you wish to purchase, and during checkout enter “COVID-19” in the coupon text field. The 20% will be automatically deducted from the book price.

(18) LIFESIZED ORRERY. “What It Would Look Like If All The Planets Orbited Between The Earth And The Moon” – this video has been out for awhile but it was news to me – a very exotic view!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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