AudioFile’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks
of 2020

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2020 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks.

They are listed below with links to the AudioFile review.

AudioFile will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators from Best Audiobooks 2020 across all the categories on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

2019 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks

Whether they are brought to life by an all-star cast or narrated by actors with the skills to bring vibrant characters to life, these 2020 Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror audiobooks will sweep you up in stories both familiar and highly original. Join an old friend on an unforgettable journey, witness the birth of a new city, or explore an isolated mansion in the Mexican countryside. Once you start listening to this year’s best audiobooks, you won’t want to put them down.


THE SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, and a Full Cast


THE HAUNTING OF H.G. WELLS by Robert Masello | Read by Steve West


THE CITY WE BECAME by N.K. Jemisin | Read by Robin Miles


MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Read by Frankie Corzo


THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien | Read by Andy Serkis

Gaiman Wins 2020 Forry Award

Neil Gaiman was voted the 2020 Forrest J Ackerman Award for Lifetime Achievement by the members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society at their October 22 meeting.

The Forrest J Ackerman or Forry Award has been given by the LASFS annually since 1966 for lifetime achievement in the SF field. Usually, it is presented at Loscon, the convention hosted each Thanksgiving Weekend by the club, although the con has been postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic. Ackerman joined LASFS in the year the club was founded, 1934.

Gaiman’s many works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels StardustAmerican GodsCoraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has previously won the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. In 2013, his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.

The names of all previous Forry Award winners can be seen here.

Pixel Scroll 10/21/20 The Haunting Of Mount TBR House

(1) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Nov/Dec 2020 cover art by David A. Hardy is for “Skipping Stones in the Dark” by Amman Sabet.

(2) SOME TRICKS, SOME TREATS. A new trailer — Season 2 of The Mandalorian streams October 30 on Disney+.

(3) WATCH THE CHESLEYS. Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists President Sara Felix reminds everyone, “The Chesley award ceremony is this weekend on line in conjunction with IX Arts, Saturday October 24th at 7 pm EST.”

It will be streaming on the ASFA website here.

(4) EARLY WARNER SYSTEM. SYFY Wire frames another new trailer: “The Animaniacs Catch Up On The 21st Century In Full, ‘Insany’ Trailer For Hulu Reboot”.

The Warner siblings are back and better than ever in the official trailer for Hulu‘s Animaniacs reboot. True to form, Yakko (Rob Paulsen), Wackko (Jess Harnell), and Dot (Tress MacNeille) are very much aware of how much time has passed since the original series was canceled in the late 1990s.

They’re right at home in a post-Deadpool world and have a lot to catch up on, like mobile tablets, quinoa wraps, and, most importantly, Queen Bae. Meanwhile, Pinky (also voiced by Paulsen) and the Brain (Maurice LaMarche) are still trying to take over the world, but must adapt to the modern woes of catfishing and Instagram likes.

(5) SCHOLARSHIP IN 2020. Livia Gershon’s article “The Self-Styled Sci-Fi Supermen of the 1940s” at JSTOR Daily is filed with the tagline: “Way before there were stans, there were slans. Too bad about their fascist utopian daydreams!” The author is eager to slap the fascist label on fans – and seems ignorant of the fact that that some of the people who lived in the Michigan “Slan Shack” were gay, and that their idea of a utopia free of persecution might not really match up with the author’s fascist stereotype. And treating Claude Degler as a representative of mainstream fandom is an idea as nutty as Degler was.

Science fiction is often a vehicle for social and political ideas, from celebrations of high-tech space colonialism to warnings about the misuse of technology. In the 1940s, English and technology scholar Andrew Pilsch writes, a utopian strain in science fiction fandom brought readers uncomfortably close to an alignment with fascism.

Pilsch writes that science fiction experienced a “superman boom” starting around 1939. This was driven largely by John W. Campbell Jr., editor of Astounding Stories. Campbell editorialized about the real-world possibilities of human enhancement. He also published many stories about super-human beings. Most notable among these was Slan, a novel by A.E. van Vogt. Amazing Stories serialized Slan in 1940—two years after Superman himself had debuted in Action Comics. In van Vogt’s story, the regular people of Earth persecute “slans,” genetically advanced humans.

The book gave the science fiction–reading community a new slogan: “fans are slans.”

Pilsch writes that some fans took this concept very seriously, imagining themselves as a group distinct from the rest of humanity. Among them were Al and Abby Lu Ashley, who proposed creating a “Slan Center”—a settlement as big as a city block, with homes, a library, and a space for publishing fanzines. Describing the concept, the Ashleys wrote that “Intellectually, fans far exceed the ordinary person.”

Dal Coger, a fan who was involved in the initial planning, explained later that “everyone had experienced the raised eyebrows of mundanes when you tried to discuss science fictional ideas with them. Slan Center would make it possible to be openly fannish any time we were away from work.”

While the Slan Center never became reality, the Ashleys did found an eight-room fan house in 1943. Those who moved into the Ashleys’ “Slan Shack” included fan artist Jack Wiedenbeck, fanzine publisher Walt Liebscher, and science fiction writer E.E. “Doc” Smith. Other fan houses popped up, including Tendril House in Los Angeles, the Ivory Birdbath in Massachusetts, and the Futurian Fortress in New York….

(6) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2000 — Twenty years ago at Chicon 2000, Vernor Vinge‘s A Deepness in the Sky won the Hugo for Best Novel.  The novel is a loose prequel (set twenty thousand years earlier) to A Fire Upon the Deep. Published by Tor Books in 1999, it decidedly beat out Lois McMaster Bujold’s A Civil Campaign with the rest of the final ballot being Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, Greg Bear‘s Darwin’s Radio and J. K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Prometheus Award along with being nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke, Nebula, Locus, BFA and HOMer awards. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 21, 1772 – Samuel Coleridge.  This complicated genius wrote, among much else, in 54 lines of poetry, “Kubla Khan”, one of the finest fantasies.  See also the Raymond F. Jones story “The Person From Porlock”; C’s title may lie behind the Theodore Sturgeon story “The Skills of Xanadu”.  Poet, critic, philosopher.  Coined the expression “suspension of disbelief”.  (Died 1834) [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1904 – Edmond Hamilton.  Seven novels of the Interstellar Patrol; two of Star Kings; three of Starwolf; a score of Captain Future; a dozen more.  Two hundred fifty shorter stories; see The Best of Edmond Hamilton edited posthumously by his widow Leigh Brackett.  For DC Comics he particularly wrote Batman and Superman; co-created Batwoman (1956).  He reached far.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered  the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each at least once and she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, one of a few women writers to take the top honor in the genre. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)  (CE) 
  • Born October 21, 1936 – Ken Cheslin.  Famously published Fables of Irish Fandom (with John Berry); The Bleary Eyes (about the Goon Defective Agency; JB was Goon Bleary); a second ed’n of Vincent Clarke’s tributezine Atom, and one of his own, Atom 2000 – to this day we still quarrel over writing the fanartist Arthur Thomson’s signature and nickname as “ATom” or “Atom”.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 75. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and on Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes! (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1955 – Nancy Wirsig McClure, 65.  Revived, ran, and was Master of Ceremonies for the Masquerade costume competition at ICON (Iowa City); Fan Guest of Honor (with husband Martin McClure), ICON 18.  Originated, ran, and MC’d Masquerades at Demicon (Des Moines).  Con committees at Minicon, edited the Bozo Bus Tribune at Minicon 30.  Moved to Portland; OryCon committees.  Runs a design & illustration business; designed e.g. this OryCon flier, this Bruce Schneier book; see here.  [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force AwakensStar Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the MoonThe Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1958 – Julie Bell, 62.  Graphic artist in her own right and with husband Boris Vallejo.  Three Chesleys (one with him).  Three artbooks and eight with BV.  A hundred covers, four hundred interiors.  Here is Stonehenge.  Here is Falling Stars.  Here is Beguilement.  Here is Soft as Steel.  Also horses and other wildlife.  [JH]
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 47. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on the excellent Grimm series but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds. (CE)
  • Born October 21, 1974 – Chris Garcia, 46.  Fanziner and immeasurable being.  Edited Tightbeam and The National Fantasy Fan, served as President of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Federation).  Hugo for The Drink Tank.  Nova for Journey Planet (with James Bacon).  Also Claims DepartmentExhibition Hall.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, his report Rockets Across the Waters.  Fan Guest of Honor at SFContario 3, ConQuest 44, Westercon 67, Baycon 2018.  He and I were separated at birth; he got the hair.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home shows how one witch is adapting to the latest technology.

(9) IN DYING COLOR. On Bruce Sterling’s Tumblr today he has a number of crayon Lovecraftian illustrations “by a young Robert Bloch”.

Lovecraftian illustrations by a young Robert Bloch, (original Cthulhu Mythos fanboy, later famous as the author of Psycho) doodled in crayon on various notebooks and pieces of cardboard between 1933 and 1937.

Here’s one —

(10) CHOW CALL. Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman and Illustrated by Chris Riddell goes on sale December 1.

Meet LONG JOHN McRON, SHIP’S COOK . . . and the most unusual babysitter you’ve ever seen.

Long John has a whole crew of wild pirates in tow, and—for one boy and his sister—he’s about to transform a perfectly ordinary evening into a riotous adventure beneath a pirate moon. It’s time to make some PIRATE STEW.

Marvelously silly and gloriously entertaining, this tale of pirates, flying ships, doughnut feasts and some rather magical stew is perfect for all pirates, both young and old.

(11) REVOKE THE VOTE? Camestros Felapton addresses the question: “Should John C Wright be allowed to vote?” It doesn’t take long.

Today’s politico-ethical question is easily answered. Yes, science fiction author John C Wright should be allowed to vote in whatever nation he chooses to live in, because people who are held accountable to laws should have a say in those laws AND also the legitimacy of government should derive from the broad consent of the governed….

But why is this a question? Because John C. Wright posed it himself in “It is Time to Reconsider”, although it’s not his own franchise but that of women, that he has doubts about:

Is it time to reconsider the 19th Amendment?

The argument for female suffrage is that women are not more prone to bouts of emotionalism than men, and hence is it equally worthwhile, as the whole, to consult with them over the conduct and control of public business.

Unfortunately, it is evident that there are but rare and few men in the current generation show any particular manly or masculine virtues which would entitle them to a say in the public business, if stoicism, reason, and virtue were preconditions for the franchise.

The argument against female suffrage is that voting is a peaceful substitute for revolution, wherein the less numerous party, seeing himself outnumbered, agreed without bloodshed to abide by the vote of the more numerous. Women, being largely less ready, willing, or able to take up arms than men, have no place in these military questions.….

Yes, if only the legislators who ratified the 19th Amendment – virtually all of whom were men, by the way – had been aided by the prophetic vision of that six-time Hugo nominee and Grand Inquisitor of the Evil Legion of Evil, John C. Wright.

(12) PKD’S POLITICAL ADVICE. Meanwhile, back in 1952, Philip K. Dick wrote to the editors of the Oakland Tribune naming his candidate to save the country:

Editor:  Unless we elect Justice William O. Douglas President this country will surely continue to drift toward militarism and uniformity of thought.  Only Justice Douglas seems to realize that our military outlook is fast destroying our liberty and economy.  We must see that he is nominated and elected, or America may become another Spain.  Governments all over the world are gaining in diabolical powers; with a great liberal President this trend might be reversed. . . .

— PHILIP K. DICK

Berkeley.

[Feb 21, 1952]

Thanks to Bill for the clipping.

(13) SAVING THROW. Whereas this author’s advice was posted by Polygon just yesterday. “We asked Kim Stanley Robinson: Can science fiction save us?”

Can science fiction save us in our present political and cultural circumstances? Is it a useful teaching tool to help us think about how to solve our present problems, or model better ways of living?

Well, it’s the latter, for sure. Whether it’s the former depends on whether we pay attention. But let me answer a little more at length.

If you think of science fiction as just a kind of modeling exercise, everybody is a science fiction writer in their own lives. You make plans based on modeling in your mind. When you’re feeling hopeful, you have a kind of utopian plan: if you do these things, you’ll get to a good place. And then when you’re afraid, you have these worries that if you do these things, you’ll get to a bad place. So the fundamental exercise of science fiction is a very natural human thing. And then when it gets written down in long narrative forms, like science fiction novels, everybody recognizes the exercises involved there. Although when I say that, I realize that, actually, lots of people don’t like to read science fiction, so they’re not recognizing the way books are the same as what they do for their own lives. That’s surprising to me, but it happens a lot….

(14) IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTENING. The LA Times takes notes on “What scientists hope to learn from a beetle that can survive being run over by a car”.

It’s a beetle that can withstand bird pecks, animal stomps and even being rolled over by a Toyota Camry. Now scientists are studying what the bug’s crush-resistant shell could teach them about designing stronger airplanes and buildings.

“This beetle is super tough,” said Purdue University civil engineer Pablo Zavattieri, who was among a group of researchers that ran over the insect with a car in the name of science.

So, how does the seemingly indestructible insect do it?

The species — the aptly named diabolical ironclad beetle — owes its might to an unusual armor that is layered and pieced together like a jigsaw, according to the study by Zavattieri and his colleagues published in Nature on Wednesday. Its design, they say, could help inspire more durable structures and vehicles.

(15) THE LAND AND THE DRAGON ARE ONE. Restore peace. Find the last dragon. See the new trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon, in theaters March 2021.

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Star Wars:  Squadrons” on YouTube, Fandom Games says in this game “you can fly an X-Wing and it makes a “pu-pu’ sound.  What more do you want?”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/20 Schrödinger’s Box Remains Both Ticked And Unticked At The Same Time Until You Pixel It

(1) A NOT-SO-LITTLE LIST. BookRiot concocted a way of assessing an interesting question: “How Do Readers Rate The New York Times Best-Selling Books?”

…For their research, the organization pooled all titles on the NYT List from June 22, 2008 to March 29, 2020. They then determined the top 100 titles from the NYT list based on the number of times it appeared on the lists in that time frame, and each of those titles was subtracted from its average ranking on the list. This made for a total of 716 unique titles.

Once those titles were identified, the top 100 reviews on Goodreads—the reader’s view of books—were pulled. The researchers looked at how many times those titles appeared on the NYT List, then subtracted this from the average list ranking. A book’s total score was calculated using this number, as well as the average Goodreads starred rating for the title….

READERS RANK THE BEST BESTSELLERS

Using the methodology laid out above, which books that landed on the NYT List were among the most well-reviewed by readers on Goodreads? The researchers calculated 20 titles among the top.

… The top ranking best seller for readers was Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. The book appeared on the bestseller list over 600 times, ranking at an average of #3, and readers gave it an average rating of 4.1 stars on Goodreads.

Interestingly, 11 of the titles on this list are children’s, middle grade, or YA books, and of the remaining titles, six are self-help/productivity books. Given that the NYT List has primarily featured white authors until more recently—and it’s still primarily white in some categories—it’s not a surprise to see that only a small number of the top 20 books are by authors of color…

(2) HOW HUMANS RELATE TO PROGRAMS. Future Tense ran a piece by Torie Bosch about “Shouting at Alexa”.

… For years now, commentators have reminded us that the gendered dynamics of digital assistants are troubling. In September, Future Tense ran an excerpt from The Smart Wife: Why Siri, Alexa, and Other Smart Home Devices Need a Feminist Reboot by Yolande Strengers and Jenny Kennedy . “Friendly and helpful feminized devices often take a great deal of abuse when their owners swear or yell at them. They are also commonly glitchy, leading to their characterization as ditzy feminized devices by owners and technology commentators—traits that reinforce outdated (and unfounded) gendered stereotypes about essentialized female inferior intellectual ability,” they write.

That’s me, swearing and yelling at my feminized device even though it only wants to be friendly and helpful.

What I tell myself, though, is that I’m really trying to avoid anthropomorphizing the Echo and the rest of the tech in my life. It’s a tendency I’ve had ever since I got to know ELIZA, the chatbot created by an MIT researcher in the 1960s. ELIZA was designed to mimic Rogerian therapy—which basically means that this simple program turns everything you say into a question. For some reason, it was installed on some of the computers in my middle-school library in the ’90s. Most of the time, I tried to get her—I mean it!— to swear, but I also spilled my tweenage heart out occasionally. And I’m not the only one. As a Radiolab episode from 2013 detailed: “At first, ELIZA’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum thought the idea of a computer therapist was funny. But when his students and secretary started talking to it for hours, what had seemed to him to be an amusing idea suddenly felt like an appalling reality.”…

(3) THE WRITER’S CRAFT. Delilah S. Dawson on how to write a synopsis. Thread starts here. (H/t to Cat Rambo.)  

(4) IT’S A NOPE. The Mary Sue checked the social media response from two people whose opinions we’d like to hear: “Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch.  

…Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”

… Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”

(5) VINTAGE DARKNESS. “25 years of His Dark Materials: Philip Pullman on the journey of a lifetime” as told by the author in The Guardian.

It was 1993 when I thought of Lyra and began writing His Dark Materials. John Major was prime minister, the UK was still in the EU, there was no Facebook or Twitter or Google, and although I had a computer and could word-process on it, I didn’t have email. No one I knew had email, so I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. If I wanted to look something up I went to the library; if I wanted to buy a book I went to a bookshop. There were only four terrestrial TV channels, and if you forgot to record a programme you’d wanted to watch, tough luck. Smart phones and iPads and text messaging had never been heard of. The announcers on Radio 3 had not yet started trying to be our warm and chatty friends. The BBC and the National Health Service were as much part of our identity, of our idea of ourselves as a nation, as Stonehenge.

Twenty-seven years later I’m still writing about Lyra, and meanwhile the world has been utterly transformed.

To some extent, my story was protected from awkward change because I set it in a world that was not ours. It was like ours, but different, so I could take account of the real-world changes that helped my story, and ignore those that didn’t. 

(6) SATISFIED CUSTOMER. “One Good Thing: The wonderful sci-fi novel A Memory Called Empire makes diplomacy enthralling” – a review at Vox.

Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire, which recently won the Best Novel award at science fiction’s prestigious Hugo Awards, reads like its author was simultaneously influenced by Game of Thrones, histories of the Cold War, various anti-colonialism writings, and the Star Wars prequels. It’s a grand, galaxy-spanning space opera that is mostly about diplomacy. Or, if you prefer, it’s an impressively wonky novel about galactic geopolitics that just happens to feature spaceships and aliens. I love it.

It’s difficult to talk about A Memory Called Empire without spoiling some of its best surprises because the core of the book sounds impossibly dry. But let me give it a shot anyway, because the best way to read this book is to know almost nothing about what happens after its first few chapters….

(7) AFTERGLOW. The Guardian’s Matt Kamen asks — “Cancel culture: is Netflix killing off series too soon?”

Another day, another cancellation – or at least, that’s how it’s starting to feel when it comes to Netflix. Having culled the likes of Sense8, The OA, Santa Clarita Diet and Altered Carbon in recent years, all after two or three seasons and often leaving viewers on major cliffhangers, the streaming service has turned its bloodlust on to Glow, which had already started filming its fourth season before the pandemic hit, and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance.

The latter, a prequel to the cult-favourite 1983 Jim Henson movie, produced and performed entirely with staggeringly intricate puppets and animatronics, and featuring an all-star cast, premiered on Netflix in August 2019. It garnered near-universal acclaim from critics, and a slate of awards nominations – including, crucially, picking up a 2020 Emmy for outstanding children’s program. Yet even awards success hasn’t spared it the axe, with the executive producer, Lisa Henson, confirming it won’t be returning….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1993 – Twenty-seven years ago, The Flash Girls released their first album, The Return of Pansy Smith and Violet Jones. The Minneapolis based band consisted of Emma Bull and Lorraine Garland, also known as The Fabulous Lorraine. Garland is notable as being Neil Gaiman’s personal assistant. Among the songwriters were Jane Yolen, Alan Moore, and Neil Gaiman. Bull and Garland adopted the names Pansy Smith and Violet Jones as their alternate personas and would become characters in the DC Sovereign Seven series where they run a coffee shop. They would release two more albums, Maurice and I and Play Each Morning Wild Queen. Bull and Shetterly moved to California which broke up the band and Garland formed Folk Underground which also had songs written by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 10, 1895 – Lin Yutang, Ph.D.  Author, editor, translator, gifted popularizer (yes, it’s possible).  One SF novel.  Built a working Chinese typewriter (yes, it’s –) never developed commercially but pivotal in machine-translation research.  My Country, My People a best-seller.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1931 – Jack Jardine.  Writing under another name, four Agent of T.E.R.R.A. novels, three others.  Indeed many other names.  Radio disc jockey, humorist.  See Bill Mills’ appreciation here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1942 – Wojtek Siudmak, 78.  More than seven hundred covers, seventy interiors.  Six artbooks (in French).  Two Chesleys.  Here is Double Star.  Here is a volume of Norman Spinrad.  Here is Dune.  Here is The Return of the King.  Here is Expansion.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1957 – Rumiko Takahashi, 63.  (Names would be reversed in Japanese style.)  Manga artist with 200 million copies of her work in circulation.  Two Shogakukan Awards, two Seiun Awards.  Inkpot.  Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame.  Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, second woman and second Japanese to win.  Scottish rock band named for Urusei Yatsura, her first to be animated.  This cover reprinting vols. 1&2 of Ranma 1/2 shows Ranma’s dad changed into a panda and Ranma into a girl.  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1959 Kerrie Hughes, 61. Anthologist, some of which impressively have had several printings. Favorite titles for me for me include Chicks Kick Butt (co-edited with Rachael Caine), Zombie Raccoons & Killer Bunnies (with Martin H. Greenberg) and Shadowed Souls (with Jim Butcher). She’s written short fiction and essays as well. It looks like almost all of her anthologies are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1968 Mark Bould, 52. British academic whose done a number of interesting genre-related works including Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, co-edited with China Miéville, Parietal Games: Critical Writings by and on M. John Harrison with M. John Harrison and Michelle Reid, and Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction written with Andrew M. Butler and Adam Roberts and Sherryl Vint. (CE) 
  • Born October 10, 1976 Marjan Neshat, 44. Best remembered for her recurring role as Samar Hashmi on Quantico which is at least genre related. She’s also had roles in the Robocop reboot, FringeElementaryNew Amsterdam and Person of Interest. (CE)
  • Born October 10, 1971 – Jeff Miracola, 49.  Magic, the Gathering (over a hundred cards) and Shadowrun; children’s books e.g. The Book of Impossible Objects; Electronic Arts video game Mini-Golf.  In eight issues of Spectrum so far (2-5, 15-16, 19-20); Advanced Photoshop magazine; 30 Years of Adventure (Dungeons & Dragons).  Here is a cover for Tower of Babel.  “Continue to work on your craft.  Draw, paint, and create always.  Consider getting together with other artists…. actually creating and feeding off each other’s energy.”  [JH]
  • Born October 10, 1984 Jenna Lê, 36. Minnesota-born daughter of Vietnam War refugees, her genre poetry is collected in A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora along with other poems. That collection placed second for an Elgin Award. You can find an excellent interview with her here. (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. This weekend, the New York Comic Con managed to run a cosplay competition despite being a virtual event: “Sew And Tell! Virtual Championships Of Cosplay Winners Announced At NYCC 2020” at SYFY Wire.

… The Beginners victor was Commander Poptart, a U.S. entrant who dressed as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “This was an incredible build for a beginner. Well, done, Commander Poptart,” said JediManda, who was dressed as Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian

No runner-up was announced.

The runner-up in Needlework was Demorafairy from the U.K., who dressed as Little Red Ashe from Overwatch. “We loved this costume, the letterwork is so impressive on it. All her engineering, like the vest, was done in three different layers, so every piece would lay correctly,” said Yaya Han. “I thought that was just really genius and it just has such a great balance of different techniques used. All her sewing was very clean and the skirt was the right length and everything was finished.”

Sewcialist Revolution from the U.S. nabbed the top honor for the Needlework category with her Claire Fraser costume inspired by Outlander. She spent five years learning how to make 18th-century clothing and then hunkered down for an extra six months putting the dress together. “This is needlework in its best representation,” Han added. “She used period-accurate methods, so much of it was hand-done … We really appreciated all of the efforts that she went into.”…

And more.

(12) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY EFFECTS. “Making the Monsters of ‘Lovecraft Country’” is discussed in the New York Times.

…Consider the monstrous, man-eating Shoggoths of HBO’s “Lovecraft Country,” last seen decimating a squad of racist police officers on Sunday night. They may not be the mind-bending series’s most terrifying menace — that title goes to vintage, 1950s white supremacy — but it isn’t for lack of trying.

Shoggoths are hideous to look at — pale, bulbous, covered in scabby, asymmetric eyes — and deadly to encounter, with concentric rows of gnarled teeth that turn trespassers into tartare. H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about blob-like creatures called Shoggoths in the late ’20s in a series of sonnets, and they appeared in his 1936 novella “At the Mountains of Madness.”

But the original Shoggoths, described by Lovecraft as “normally shapeless entities composed of a viscous jelly which looked like an agglutination of bubbles,” bear little resemblance to the fast-moving, gorilla-like beasts that first terrorized Tic, Leti and co. in the series premiere.

(13) IN SPACE THEY CAN HEAR YOU SING. Earlier this year NPR’s “Science-Fiction Music: Monsters, Aliens In ‘Filk'” covered all pop music, including work by fans.

As science fiction spread within music, fans began to share songs with one another, and the movement became known as Filk. It took its name from a 1950s article about these unusual songs, which misspelled “Folk” as “Filk.” Bill Sutton is the president of Interfilk, an organization that helps fans and musicians attend Filk conventions. Sutton says otherworldly ideas in popular music, combined with excitement about the space program, made people believe that technology could save everything.

(14) 007, MUNSTER, AND RIPLEY, OH MY! Want to buy the Green Hornet’s car? At Profiles in History’s “The Icons & Legends of Hollywood Auction” on November 12-13, many extraordinary costumes, props and relics are going under the hammer. 

Following is just a glimpse of the items awaiting you in these pages that left indelible marks in Hollywood history: 

  • John Travolta “Tony Manero” screen worn signature leather jacket from Saturday Night Fever.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio “Jack Dawson” poker game/boarding costume from Titanic.
  • Roger Moore “James Bond” Royal Navy uniform jacket from The Spy Who Loved Me.
  • Jane Seymour “Solitaire” psychic medium cape and headdress from Live and Let Die.
  • Orson Welles “Charles Foster Kane” coat from Citizen Kane.
  • Marilyn Monroe “The Girl” fantasy tiger gown from The Seven Year Itch.
  • Gene Kelly “Don Lockwood” legendary rain suit from the Singin’ in the Rain.
  • Gary Cooper “Lou Gehrig” Yankee uniform from The Pride of the Yankees.
  • James Dean “Jett Rink” tuxedo from Giant.
  • Elizabeth Taylor “Leslie Benedict” arrival to Reata ensemble from Giant.
  • Vivien Leigh “Scarlett O’Hara” traveling dress from Gone With the Wind.
  • Fred Gwynne “Herman Munster” signature costume from The Munsters.
  • Tina Louise “Ginger” signature glamor dress from Gilligan’s Island.
  • Sir Richard Attenborough “John Hammond” signature cane from Jurassic Park
  • Sigourney Weaver “Ripley” signature Nostromo jumpsuit from Alien.
  • Hero “ramming” Chestburster with articulating jaw and “whiplash” tail from Alien
  • Hero “Ra” Cheops class Pyramid Warship filming miniature from Stargate.
  • Hero X-71 Shuttle “Independence” filming miniature from Armageddon.
  • Zed’s “Grace” Harley chopper ridden by Bruce Willis “Butch Coolidge” in Pulp Fiction

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

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Autumn 2020

Six suggestions from AudioFile Magazine of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to enjoy this fall.

DON’T PANIC: Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • by Neil Gaiman | Read by Simon Jones, Neil Gaiman [Intro.]
  • [Harper Audio]

If you’re a superfan of Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, you’ve likely already encountered this book, first written in 1987 (and revised several times since) by young journalist Neil Gaiman. However, with the narration of Simon Jones—who starred in the original Hitchhiker’s radio drama—this audio version offers something new. The real joy comes when Jones gets the chance to perform script excerpts from various incarnations of Hitchhiker’s—and play all of the parts.

ALLIANCE: Devotion Duology

  • by E.B. Bridenstine | Read by Kirby Heyborne
  • [Bridenstine Books] Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Kirby Heyborne narrates a captivating fantasy romance centered on an unlikely place: a magical circus in which creatures are forced to perform for humans. Elven Ranamayve, who stands out even among her kind, finds herself thrust into a world of brutality. But she finds solace in the warm heart of a half-orc named Bozek. Heyborne commands listeners’ attention with a careful tone that captures the ear before unleashing a bevy of strange and wondrous accents, including the thundering voice of Bozek.

THE DEVIL IN AMERICA

  • by Kai Ashante Wilson | Read by Janina Edwards
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrator Janina Edwards’s compelling tone draws listeners into Wilson’s searing narrative as a family reckons with a supernatural legacy. Chilling events and mythology are interspersed with descriptions of historical events. As Easter and her family wield old magic against sinister forces, these elements illustrate how the evils of this story persevere into today’s world. Immersive world-building heightens skilled characterizations of Easter’s loving, courageous family and friends, the fervently whispering Angels, and the slippery, unyielding Devil.

MALORIE

  • by Josh Malerman | Read by Cassandra Campbell
  • [Random House Audio]  Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Cassandra Campbell exquisitely evokes the existential dread that permeates Malerman’s well-wrought follow-up to his popular sci-fi suspense novel, BIRD BOX. America remains rife with creatures that drive viewers insane. Blindfolded and hooded, Malorie has kept her now-teenage children safe for 16 frightening years. Campbell’s vivid audio portraits of fierce Malorie, rebellious Tom, and conflicted Olympia heighten the drama and draw listeners into a story that takes place as much inside the protagonists’ heads as in the action.

THE SANDMAN

  • by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, and a Full Cast
  • [Audible, Inc.]   Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

James McAvoy leads an all-star cast in narrating this magnificent audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novel series, The Sandman. McAvoy, who portrays Morpheus, the King of Dreams, leans hard on his polished English accent, the embodiment of the Brits’ determination to keep calm and carry on—no matter what. As listeners are swept up in a saga, special mention goes to the production staff. The sound effects are immersive, and there is a wonderful cinematic score. Listeners won’t be able to pause once they hit play.

TROUBLE THE SAINTS

  • by Alaya Dawn Johnson | Read by Shayna Small, Neil Shah
  • [Macmillan Audio]

Narrators Shayna Small and Neil Shah transport listeners to 1940s New York in this dark fantasy set against a backdrop of racial tension and brewing war. In a world in which people of color are sometimes born with magical powers that manifest through their hands, three characters struggle to survive in the city’s seedy underbelly. Small portrays Phyllis, a Black woman whose hands make her a master assassin. Shah is equally outstanding as her lover, Dev, an Indian man whose hands sense threats. His tone is lighter and often tinged with longing and humor. This audiobook is a fully immersive experience.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

Pixel Scroll 9/20/20 I Have Come Here To Chew Bubblegum And Scroll Pixels… And I’m All Out Of Bubblegum

(1) UP AND COMERS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport surveys the new class of astronauts (chosen from 18,000 applicants) and says while some traditions haven’t changed (the process of picking an astronaut remains mysterious) the new astronauts will now have the option of going to the International Space Station via two commercial spacecraft and possibly may fly back to the Moon in a few years. “As the possibility of going to space grows, U.S. astronauts still don’t know how they get picked to fly”.

…Now there is an array of flying options coming to fruition, all launching from Cape Canaveral, that could provide astronauts a variety of flight opportunities not seen in decades. There’s SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which in May became the first spacecraft to launch NASA astronauts from United States soil in nearly a decade. Boeing is also working to get its Starliner capsule ready, with a first crewed flight set for sometime next year. And NASA hopes Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft will fly astronauts on a trip around the moon by 2023.

All of which means it’s an exciting time to be an astronaut, especially as the highly coveted assignments for the 48-member NASA astronaut corps in Houston are being handed out. It’s also a chance for NASA to showcase its astronauts and attempt to rekindle the national enthusiasm they once inspired. In the decades since Apollo, when astronauts were household names and revered as heroes, they are now largely anonymous.

(2) IN THE NEXT ROW. At LitHub: “Walter Mosley: When I’m Telling a Story I Imagine the Eavesdropper Over My Shoulder”.

Who do you most wish would read your book?
I once explained my audience by saying that I imagined being on a train or a bus sitting side by side with my favorite older cousin, Alberta Jackson. I’d be telling her stories about Easy Rawlins or his murderous friend Mouse. She’d be all excited and worried about Easy.

Sitting behind us is some person we don’t know and aren’t thinking about. That unknown person is my audience. They’re eavesdropping on my story and responding in ways I have no idea of. That way my writing, storytelling cannot be swayed by opinions external to the world I’m talking about.

(3) COMPARING VIRTUAL CONS ACROSS GENRES. Cora Buhlert has written a con report about the virtual Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival and how different it was from the SFF cons she’s attended: “Notes on the Virtual Bloody Scotland Festival and the Differences Between SFF and Crime Fiction Cons”

… Part of the reason for the lack of Discord chats, kaffeeklatsches and a dealers room may be that crime fiction festivals seem to be more focussed on listening to well-known writers speak and read than on interacting with fellow members. And indeed, there were fewer themed panels and a lot more of “See these cool authors talking about their writing and life”. It reminds more of literary festivals than SFF cons. Crime fiction cons also seem to be geared towards writers – the various British ones are often called “crime writing festivals”, hence the masterclasses. It’s simply a different con culture.

(4) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. Publishers Weekly examines how industry giant ReedPop is overcoming the learning curve to present virtual events in “New York Comic Con Goes Metaverse”.

…ReedPop has been “pivoting into what all of this stuff will look like digitally,” Armstrong says. “The Metaverse was our attempt to bring some content to fans, but also to figure this whole thing out a little bit. I don’t think anybody has perfected it.”

ReedPop event director and NYCC Metaverse showrunner Kristina Rogers agrees. She says the August event was a chance to see what worked and what would allow fans to get the most out of the event. “We said, ‘Let’s figure out how to get our content out there and see what the fans are really passionate about.’ It feels like needs are all changing constantly, because everything moves very quickly.”

One of the most popular features of the August Metaverse was live chat, Rogers says, noting that some of the panels were presented with live feedback on YouTube. “Fans told us they love being able to catch up with each other, and talking about a panel as it’s happening and right after.” Metaverse even included a “professional online con,” an online meeting between publishers and retailers, which was hailed as a huge success by participants.

NYCC Metaverse will have much of the traditional content of NYCC’s IRL editions, including media panels from CBS, FX, Hulu, and Star Trek and a significant amount of anime programming via anime distributor Funimation and manga publisher Viz Media. Traditional book publishers will be represented as usual, including Disney, Macmillan and its graphic novel imprint First Second Books, and Penguin Random House, with an emphasis on providing sneak peeks at trailers and covers, exclusive content, and author workshops, which are very popular with fans.

Looking to avoid still more talking heads on a computer screen, Rogers is searching for ways to offer conversations on fresh topics by dynamic participants. “We’ve seen a lot of iterations, and we’re still trying to figure out what’s actually going break through the noise,” she says.

(5) MAN UNDERBOARD. A veteran stunt man and stunt coordinator, “Ernie Orsatti, Stuntman Who Took Quite the Fall in ‘The Poseidon Adventure,’ Dies at 80”. The Hollywood Reporter profiled his most famous stunt.

…Ernie Orsatti portrayed Terry, the boyfriend of Pamela Sue Martin’s character, in The Poseidon Adventure, produced by “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen and directed by Ronald Neame.

On the day before the stunt was scheduled, Orsatti was informed that Allen “wanted him to do the fall. The actor replied, “‘I’m not a stuntman. You want me to do that fall?'” he recalled in the 2006 video short The Poseidon Adventure: Falling Up With Ernie.

The stunt called for someone to cling to the edge of an upside-down table, let go and plunge 32 feet to land on his back onto a skylight in the doomed ocean liner’s inverted ballroom. After some apprehension, Orsatti agreed to do it.

Stunt coordinator Paul Stader told him, “‘Do not lean your head back, you’ll break your neck. Pick a point, look at it and let go,'” he remembered. “I picked my feet up into what you call an ‘L’ so I would be falling straight away from the camera with my hands out — and then it knocked me colder than a cucumber.”

They got the shot in one take. “They wanted me to register terror, and they surely must have gotten it,” he once said. “I was scared to death.

“The actors who were off that day, like Gene Hackman and Ernie Borgnine, showed up with their families to watch the shooting. I asked Gene what he was doing here and he smiled and said, ‘We’ve all come to watch you die.’ He took pictures and everything.”

(6) TODAY’S EASTER EGG.

Go to Google

Search for WIZARD OF OZ

Click on the ruby slippers to the right.

Then click on the tornado.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1996 — The BBC Books edition of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was published. It was based off the BBC Neverwhere series, and it would be nominated for both the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel but would win neither. It would not be on the Hugo ballot for either the series or the novel. It would be the only version of the novel until William Morrow published Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text in 2015. This version was supposed to have been first published by Hill House who did other Gaiman works such as the Good Omens screenplay and American Gods: Author’s Preferred Text  but they went out of business before doing so. Neverwhere has been done in as least two audio dramas, a comic books series, several theater productions and one delightfully illustrated edition of the novel. The Jim Henson Company optioned Neverwhere but never exercised that option.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 20, 1886 – Charles Williams.   His seven novels, many of his plays and poems, having essentially spiritual elements, are in our realm.  David Bratman edited the three Masques of Amen House in 2000.  Note also CW’s two books of Arthurian poetry, Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars.  Moving to Oxford during World War II he became an Inkling.  Dorothy L. Sayers called him the Master of the Images (in Dante’s Divine Comedy).  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1888 – Margery Stocking.  By 1914, writing and illustrating her own feature column in syndicated newspapers; in 1922, first woman to receive the Beaux Arts Medal from the Yale School of Architecture.  Fourteen years illustrating for Blue Book.  One of only four women who did pulp-magazine covers; Margaret Brundage was another.  MS’ forty-five covers for the best-selling Ranch Romances are beyond us, but here is a mermaid; here is hunting a saber-tooth tiger; here are some nymphs, here a satyr; here is “Moonlight Fantasy”.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. I’ve just downloaded his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock, from one of the usual digital suspects where he’s very well stocked.  (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1948 – George R.R. Martin, 72.  First Hugo 1975, four more; two Nebulas; one Stoker; one coveted Balrog (the only kind that can be coveted, aiee); Skylark; two Geffens (Israel), four Ignotuses (Spain); Phantastik Preis (Germany); Seiun (Japan); World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement.  His multi-author, multi-volume Wild Cards, and his Song of Ice and Fire, were well under way when he was Pro Guest of Honour at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon (and there was a fine “Winter is Coming” in the Masquerade), but no one dreamed of Ice and Fire’s fantastic success on television.  Now that he has pleased millions a misdeed looses lightnings.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1955 David Haig, 65. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7  in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the 2006 film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally I should note he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back. (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1950 James Blaylock, 70. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1963 – Elise Broach, 57.  Two E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, two Amer. Lib’y Ass’n Notable Children’s Books.  When Dinosaurs Came With Everything was a Time #1 Children’s Book of the Year; Masterpiece a New York Times Best Seller, five sequels.  Six more novels, nine more picture books. Yale alumna, three degrees including M.Phil. History.  “I can draw most animals, and I can tell the color of an M&M by its taste….  We had to drive a rental truck 3,000 miles across country….  I had an excellent record on greens and browns.”
  • Born September 20, 1974 Owen Sheers, 46. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1978 – Tiphanie Yanique, 42.  Nat’l Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, 2010.  Distinguished Teaching Award at the New School, 2015.  Now at Emory.  Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.  Boston Review Fiction Prize, Kore Press Short Fiction Award, Pushcart Prize, Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (fiction).  Land of Love and Drowning, which is ours, won the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Phyllis Wheatley Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1982 – Emilia Dziubak, 38.  Here is her cover for A Tale Magnolious.  Here is The House of Lost and Found.  Here is Where Are You, Mama? (in Polish).  Here is Gogi’s Gambit.  Here is Two Options (in Polish).  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 34. He played Alec Hardison on the Leverage series. Ok, I know it’s not precisely genre but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with the MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…) (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider offers this advice:

(10) ANIMATION AHOY. “Sailor Moon’s impact on modern American animation remains undeniable” asserts A.V.Club.

Twenty-five years after its U.S. television premiere, the impact of Sailor Moon on Japanese and Western animation remains undeniable. With its distinct visual vocabulary, story structure, and defined character archetypes, the series not only served as the blueprint for the many Japanese magical girl anime series that would follow it, but also established a visual aesthetic so iconic, we see references, parodies, and direct homages to the series throughout various Western television series—including transformation sequences in Teen Titans Go! and Star Vs. The Forces of EvilLisa Simpson dressed as Sailor Moon in The Simpsonsand even an episode of South Park, where Kenny receives a Sailor Moon brooch from the CEO of Sony that turns him into “Princess Kenny,” a play on Princess Serenity. Cartoon Network has even posted a video compiling multiple Sailor Moon references that have appeared across the various series that air on the network. The tropes established by Sailor Moon soon became common features of the magical girl genre: cute, talking guide animals, everyday objects that secretly double as magical transformation amulets, and a tight-knit group of friends represented by different colors and elements….

(11) CAN’T DRAG HIM OUT OF THE DUNGEON. “This game of Dungeons & Dragons has been going on for 38 years” reports CNN.

Stay-at-home orders due to the ongoing pandemic have upended a lot of plans—weddings have been postponed, concerts have been canceled, vacations have been pushed aside. But one thing that can’t be kept down? Robert Wardhaugh’s game of Dungeons & Dragons.

For the past 38 years, Wardhaugh has been playing the same game of Dungeons & Dragons in Canada. Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game that usually involves lots of miniatures, lots of imaginary worlds, and lots of high adventure. Starting in 1982, that might make it the longest continuously running Dungeons & Dragons campaign, ever. Or, at least the longest Wardhaugh has ever heard of….

(12) HE HUFFED AND HE PUFFED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—who has been cast to play DC villain Black Adam—apparently got a little peeved when his front gate wouldn’t open during a power outage. He was late to work, so he did what any super-strong villain would do. He ripped the gate off the brick columns & threw it aside: “The Rock Goes Full ‘Black Adam’ On Gate During Power Outage, ROCK SMASH!”

“I pushed, pulled and ripped the gate completely off myself,” Johnson said.

“Ripped it completely out of the brick wall, severed the steel hydraulics and threw it on the grass.”

“My security team was able to meet the gate technician and welders about an hour later — and they were apparently, ‘in disbelief and equally scared’ as to how I ripped it off”

(13) MAGIC METAL. “Metalhead’s Mulligan: Seven Heavy Records Inspired By ‘Magic: The Gathering” at Bandcamp.

…Of course, like most forms of geekery and high fantasy, the game’s spurred some pretty kick-ass metal, largely thanks to the art, which presents an abundance of aesthetic comfort food: zombies, skeletons, demons, blood sacrifice, and the like. “Fantasy literature, swords and sorcery/barbaric pulp and films, and tabletop/role-playing games have had a strong impact on metal music’s aesthetic direction since the genre’s nascent stages, so it only makes sense that someone fascinated with metal album covers would be interested in immersive gaming experiences that provide a similar art direction, and vice versa,” says Jake Rogers, lead singer of Visigoth and lifelong Magic player. “If you’re someone who grew up playing games such as Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, or Warhammer, and then discover Michael Whelan’s art adorning a Cirith Ungol album, or happen across Omen’s Battle Cry—the art for which looks like it could have been taken from an early Magic: The Gathering set—it only makes sense that your interest in the music would be piqued.” With that in mind, here are seven metal albums that pay homage, both directly and indirectly, to the first and best trading card game ever made.

(14) CATCHING UP WITH THE DINOSAURS. Although this Smasher--made Jurassic World 3: Dominion trailer dropped in June, I don’t seem to have linked to it yet. The film is now scheduled for release in June 2021.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Write Your Story on Vimeo, Willy Hajli and William Kirn explain what happens when an employee rebels against her AI overlords.

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

In Conversation with Dirk Maggs, Producer of The Sandman

Neil Gaiman (L) and Dirk Maggs (R)

The Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine podcast recently featured a conversation between host Jo Reed and producer, director, and writer Dirk Maggs. In a career spanning 30 years, Maggs has won many national and international awards. He first made a name for himself turning DC comics into audio productions, and when Douglas Adams heard those adaptations, he pulled Dirk in to bring his Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy series back to audio. Maggs has also had a longtime collaboration with Neil Gaiman, which most recently has resulted in an audio adaptation of The Sandman, Gaiman’s beloved classic comic book series.

Listen in as they discuss Maggs’ decades of work bringing audio dramas to life.

James McAvoy

Partial Transcript:

Jo Reed:  I’m curious, when you go into the studio, for example, and let’s talk about SANDMAN specifically, do you have a sense of how the narration should sound to you? Are you hearing it already in your head? Do you know what you want from each actor? I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying—

Dirk Maggs:  Do I prepare?

JR:  No. No, I’m sure you do prepare, but how much do you leave open for the actor?

DM:  That’s a good question, Jo. The challenge of making SANDMAN was, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I was also very aware that this is a much loved, much cherished piece of work.  One of the biggest issues with THE SANDMAN is, it’s been in existence for over 30 years now. People know what they want to hear from it. And I realized quite early on that if I was going to be clever and try and reinvent the wheel, I would be in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation. But the thing about SANDMAN was, I don’t think audio, as a medium, need feel inferior to any other medium, because I believe that our medium works just like movies and TV do. The only difference is that the stimulation bypasses the optic nerve. It doesn’t go in through the front door. It sneaks in through the side doors and then it creates the image on your cerebral cortex. Between your ears is the single greatest imaging chip in the computer world, which is the human brain. Your brain will create visions from what you hear. Some people, there are conditions where people don’t have this, but most people have this, which is really what we rely upon in the audio business to tell our stories. You visualize from what you hear.

Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven

JR: OK, so let’s bring it back to SANDMAN.

DM: So I was ready to go with an adaptation of SANDMAN, and I knew this wouldn’t be so much an audio dramatization. It would be an audiobook sort of riding on a dramatization, because we would need to find a way to stick very close to the original. I felt that that was the plow to furrow, because then Neil, as exec. producer with me on this, we could then concentrate and make this as quintessentially SANDMAN as we could.

JR: Well that’s easier said than done. How did you go about making this happen?

DM: I immediately gave up any thought of updating it, making it present day, introducing cell phones or the internet or all of this. It had to stay set in the late ’80s, early ’90s. It had to be something with Neil’s authentic voice in it, and that was the real revelation, because I said to Neil, “The only way I can think of doing this is to see your original scripts, the scripts you wrote for the artists and Todd Klein, who was doing the lettering, and the inkers and the colorists. Those will have the descriptions of what you wanted to see, and if I blend those descriptions with what you actually see in the comics, we will end up with something which will be as quintessentially SANDMAN as you can get. Then if somebody wants to pick the comic book up and look at it alongside, there will be a fair degree of correlation.

Tales in The Sand – Cathy Tyson, John Macmillan, Amaka Okafor, Don Gilet, Joseph Marcell, Inel Tomlinson

So Neil dug out from these ancient hard drives, and I think the first one I got was episode three. I think one and two have disappeared into the ether. I was looking at it, and as soon as I opened this thing, I’m with Neil, I’m standing at his shoulder while he’s writing this in 1987, and he goes into what this episode’s going to be about and the general feel of it. And then he starts describing the panels. Then something wonderful happens: This stuff I’m reading, these descriptions of what he’s seeing in his mind’s eye, it’s poetry. It’s like Dylan Thomas. Suddenly, I can see exactly what this needs to be. This needs to be Neil.  He’d already asked if he could narrate and I said, “Well, of course. Of course, my dear.” But when I saw this, I thought oh, this is it. This is the motherlode, and that was one of the best parts of the job for me.

Arthur Darvill

JR:  He’s a wonderful narrator. He has just such a beautiful voice and intonation. And he can lead you into some dark places, as he does in the book, without being threatening.

DM:  Yes. Neil has a very particular way of reading. If you hear one of Neil’s books read by the author, he has a distinct style. He has a rhythm and he has a way of massaging a sentence which keeps you interested to the very end. Neil reading this stuff, and with the action playing underneath, with the wonderful cast we had and with, you know, I’ve brought every inch of sound designing experience I’ve had over the last 40 years into the sound design. And then James Hannigan’s music, which adds a whole new layer of magic to the thing. When it’s all mixed together, you’re transported, and you’re in this guy’s head. It was so wonderful. About 10pm one night, three or four months ago, while I was doing post-production, I emailed Neil and I said, “Do you know how good you were when you wrote this stuff?” I didn’t expect an answer, but almost immediately came back, Neil saying, “Yes, but I don’t remember doing it. I’m not the person who wrote this. He’s a different person to me.” And I thought, what an interesting answer, because this young man, who’s what? Neil wasn’t yet 30 when he started SANDMAN. He was a library brat. He brought himself up just devouring books, and all of it is in THE SANDMAN. He’s got the poetry. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got all this eclectic stuff that’s just gathered in his brain. It’s just falling out on the page. It’s magical, absolutely magical. It was magical to do it. Some jobs, you know, in the end it’s a job of work, and some jobs are hard work. You think, gosh, I really could have picked a less onerous duty here.  But this was a joy, from start to finish.


AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks. Subscribe to Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine for daily audiobook recommendations from AudioFile editors and contributors, and for bonus interview episodes for a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of favorite audiobooks.

[Based on an AudioFile Magazine blog post.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/20 He’s Just A Poor Scroll From A Poor Pixelry, Spare Him Comments From This File 770

(1) MARGINALIZED BY STAR WARS. “John Boyega: ‘I’m the only cast member whose experience of Star Wars was based on their race'” – a British GQ interview.

With the Lucasfilm-branded elephant in the room acknowledged, it is even harder to ignore. This is Boyega’s first substantial interview since finishing the franchise – his first since last year’s The Rise Of Skywalker tied a highly contentious, hurried ribbon on the 43-year-old space saga. How does he reflect on his involvement and the way the newest trilogy was concluded?

“It’s so difficult to manoeuvre,” he says, exhaling deeply, visibly calibrating the level of professional diplomacy to display. “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.” He is talking about himself here – about the character of Finn, the former Stormtrooper who wielded a lightsaber in the first film before being somewhat nudged to the periphery. But he is also talking about other people of colour in the cast – Naomi Ackie and Kelly Marie Tran and even Oscar Isaac (“a brother from Guatemala”) – who he feels suffered the same treatment; he is acknowledging that some people will say he’s “crazy” or “making it up”, but the reordered character hierarchy of The Last Jedi was particularly hard to take.

“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

(2) IN PLAIN SIGHT. On June 25 Gollancz (the SF/Fantasy/Horror imprint of Orion Books) released the first three books in McCaffery’s Dragonflight series as audiobooks. Artist Allison Mann noticed something about the art that was used. Thread begins here.

Someone else tweeted a possible source for the art on their Dragonflight audiobook as well.

(3) JETPACK CROSSING. The Los Angeles Times reports an incident near the airport: “A jet pack at LAX? Maybe. Jet packs are very real”.

It sounds like something out of a movie: An American Airlines pilot calls the control tower at Los Angeles International Airport to warn that his plane just flew past someone in midair — a person wearing a jet pack.

But the pilot really did give that warning Sunday night, and it wasn’t laughed off. The FBI is investigating….

JetPack Aviation Corp., based in Van Nuys, says it’s the only one to have developed a jet pack that can be worn like a backpack. The technology is real: Chief Executive David Mayman demonstrated it five years ago by flying around the Statue of Liberty, and his company has created five of them.

So it’s not out of the question that someone could have been soaring above the airport last weekend, giving pilots a scare.

Mayman was quick to say that if a jet pack was involved, it wasn’t one of his. JetPack Aviation keeps its five packs locked down, he said, and they’re not for sale. The company does offer flying lessons at $4,950 a pop, but he said students are attached to a wire and can’t stray too far.

None of the company’s competitors sell their products to consumers either, Mayman said.

The weekend incident “got us all wondering whether there’s been someone working in skunkworks on this,” he said, using a term for a secret project. Or maybe, he mused, the airline pilot saw some kind of electric-powered drone with a mannequin attached.

CNN reports the exchanges wth the tower went like this:

“Tower. American 1997. We just passed a guy on a jetpack,” the first plane called in. “Off the left side maybe 300 — 30 yards or so. About our altitude.”

About 10 minutes later, another plane spotted the man.

“We just saw the guy fly by us on the jetpack,” the crew told the traffic controller.

According to the communications, air traffic control warned a JetBlue flight to “use caution… person on a jetpack reported 300 yards south.”

After the plane acknowledged the instruction, the controller concluded with: “Only in LA.”

(4) YOUR OVERDUE FUTURE. The Irish Times constructed their checklist with the help of a 1974 sf collection: “Promises, promises: What is 2020 not delivering?” Everything besides jetpacks, I guess.

2020 is one of those years. No, not in that sense (well, obviously in that sense but that’s not what we’re talking about here…). No, 2020 is one of those years that tends to crop up in 20th century science fiction as a key year, a momentous one. A year by which time certain prophecies will have come true.

Back in the seventies, publisher Jerry Pournelle published an anthology book called 2020 Vision, for which he sought contributions from such noted sci-fi authors as Harlan EllisonLarry Niven, and Ben Bova. While some of the predictions, such as robot chefs, deep-space exploration by humans, and, erm, “An adult playground where law is enforced by remote control” haven’t come to pass (unless I’m missing something…) a few did. Several of the stories have mentions of mobile communication technology, while Prognosis: Terminal by David McDaniel posits a future where there is “a gigantic world brain to which everyone is infinitely connected.” Sounds like the internet to me…

(5) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. At the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Philissa Cramer asks “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ contains a plot point that resembles an age-old anti-Semitic lie. Why?”

Hiram Epstein, the episode reveals, was a University of Chicago scientist who conducted gruesome experiments on Black children and adults in the basement of the Winthrop House, a decrepit mansion in a white neighborhood that a main character, Leti Lewis, purchases and renovates. His spirit haunts the home, making it unsafe for Leti and her tenants and friends, until an exorcism summons the mutilated bodies of his victims and restores psychic order.

Epstein’s story calls to mind the way that Jews have been accused for centuries of stealing the blood of non-Jewish children to use in religious rituals, often to make matzah for Passover, in what is known as a “blood libel.” The blood libel charge was leveled routinely at Jews beginning in the Middle Ages, and it was used to justify countless deadly pogroms and vigilante actions. A blood libel charge tore apart an upstate New York town in 1928, and the trope featured prominently in Nazi propaganda.

Could “Lovecraft Country,” which deals so elegantly with the Black American experience, really have a blood libel embedded in its plot? On Twitter, I found a single reaction to Hiram Epstein’s name — one that matched my own.

Scholars who study anti-Semitism had more to say. The plot point “falls right into the category of a new version of the blood libel,” Elissa Bemporad, a scholar of Jewish history at Queens College who recently published a book about blood libels in the Soviet Union, told me. “The name Epstein gives it away. This clearly builds on the blood libel trope and narrative — the question of children as victims of the alleged crime, and the fact that the perpetrator is a man. Anti-Semitism, like racism, is so often gendered.”

The Epstein name isn’t present in the original novel on which the series is based, “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff. There, the ghost that haunts the house Leti buys is named Hiram Winthrop — explaining the mansion’s name — and he isn’t a doctor. (He also isn’t nearly as scary.) The series adds a more recent owner who colluded with local police to facilitate abductions and experimentation.

…But intention is only part of the picture when assessing stereotypes in popular culture, according to Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“I don’t want to say you can never have a villain in a movie or TV show have a stereotypically Jewish name,” Tuchman said. “But you need to educate yourself. When you’re dealing with a topic that is so fraught as allegations of ritual murder, then to know that these allegations have been leveled against Jews for thousands of years is something you need to pay attention to.”

(6) BEST PRACTICE? John Scalzi delivered “A Quick Note on the Malleting of Comments” to Whatever readers today.

I’ve recently begun to see an upswing in comments which begin with some variation of “I expect this comment to be deleted/malleted/otherwise expunged, but…” I think this is done for two reasons. About five percent of the time it’s someone genuinely not knowing whether what they’re about to write is going to cross the line with regard to my moderation policies. The rest of the time it’s a warding spell and/or pre-emptive smugness at transgression; either “not in the face!” or “see, I told you.”

Either way I find it passive-aggressive and annoying, so here’s a new guideline I’ve begun implementing: When I see some variation of “I expect this comment to get the Mallet,” I’m going to stop reading the comment there, and will most likely then Mallet the comment — not necessarily because the comment was in itself mallet-worthy (although it might have been, who knows), but simply because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to disappoint the person making the comment….

(7) BLACK SUN. “Rebecca Roanhorse’s Genre-bending New Novel” – a Publishers Weekly profile by Dhonielle Clayton.

…She encountered many half-Native characters in popular urban fantasy series, but noticed how those characters were divorced from their heritages. “They didn’t interact with the heroes and gods and monsters of Native cultures,” she explains. She says she started thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a story where a character was very Native? Very attached to her culture and surrounded by brown people, and in a world that I knew?”

She’d been practicing Indian law and living in the Navajo nation with her husband and daughter when she started thinking about writing more seriously. It was at this point that she began working on what would become her debut fantasy, the Locus-winning and Hugo-nominated novel Trail of Lightning (Saga Press), which was published in 2018, when Roanhorse was in her 40s.

“So I just decided to write it. I wrote it purely for myself and for the joy of writing, and to keep myself sane while being a lawyer,” she says. “I didn’t even know people like me could be writers. An editor asked me why I waited so long to start writing, and I said ‘I didn’t know that I could be a science fiction and fantasy writer.’ I didn’t come to see people like Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin until later, so I didn’t see anyone writing this genre that looked like me. So I didn’t even know it was an option.”

(8) WOMEN IN COMICS. When The Society of Illustrators in New York reopens on September 9, one of its exhibits will be “Women in Comics: Looking Forward and Back”. Afua Richardson, a Dublin 2019 Feautured Artist, is one of the many who will have work on display.

Over 50 women cartoonists from vintage comic strips to cutting edge graphic novels explore themes common to the female experience such as love, sexuality, motherhood, creativity, discrimination, and independence. 75 works drawn from the collection of the author and herstorian Trina Robbins show a progression of witty women from the Flapper era to the psychedelic women’s comix of the 1970s…

Building on this foundation, 20 contemporary women cartoonists will be showing work from new or upcoming publications…

By Afua Richardson.

(9) EX CATHEDRA. In Episode 35 of their Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss say a sad farewell to John Bangsund, and discuss three quirky films of Terry Gilliam: Time Bandits, Brazil and 12 Monkeys: ?“The gifted grotesqueries of Gilliam”.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2013 – NESFA Press published The Road to Amber: Volume 6: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. It reprinted the first of the Francis Sandow series, “Dismal Light”, published in the May 1986 issue of If, where this character first appears. The story comes before Isle Of Dead, the prequel to To Die in Italbar. (Zelazny would narrate the audiobook version of this as he did Isle of Dead and Home is The Hangman but they were never digitized.) It would also include the not-previously-collected piece in the series, “Sandow’s Shadow (Outline)”. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo.” He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger ManDepartment SThe Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number Fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral”. The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen Way. She shows up on Doctor Who twice, first as Old Mother in the First Doctor story, “The Forest of Fear,” and later in a major role as Karela in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Creature from the Pit”. She’d also shows up on the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as simply Old Woman at the age of fifty-five. Other genre appearances i think is limited to an appearance on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. Well unless you count The Saint which is at best genre adjacent. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1918 – Allen Drury.  I came to Advise and Consent long after its years as a NY Times Best Seller; it’s first-rate; it’s moved by 1950s values – what else would people write in 1959? and I don’t read books to be agreed with.  Five SF sequels (Advise isn’t SF), a novel about a Mars mission, two about ancient Egypt, a dozen others outside our field, five nonfiction books. Two of the Advise sequels are mutually incompatible, each supposing a different assassination.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1925 Peter Hunt. He was the Editor, yes Editor, on five of the better Bond films (Dr. NoFrom Russia with LoveGoldfingerThunderball and You Only Live Twice), and also the much lesser On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was also responsible for a Gulliver’s Travels and, I’m not kidding about the title, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star which I’ve never heard of but gets a stellar 75% rating from audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. He directed the title sequence of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1942 – Demi, 78.  Born in Massachusetts, M.A. from Univ. Baroda.  Seventy books she illustrated herself, e.g. Liang and the Magic PaintbrushDragon Kites and DragonfliesThe Magic BoatOne Grain of RiceThe Firebird; illustrated for others, e.g. Yolen’s Dragon Night, James’ Eucalyptus Wings.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1944 – Roland Green, 76.  Seventy novels, thirty shorter stories, some with co-authors e.g. wife Frieda Murray.  Three dozen reviews in Far Frontiers including Bridge of Birds and Heart of the Comet.  One anthology with Bujold, another with Turtledove.  Inconsequential SF Tales for the Worldcon bid that won and hosted Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon).  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1946 Walter Simonson, 74. Comic writer and artist who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well. His artwork on the RoboCop Versus The Terminator that Dark Horse did is amazing. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1951 Mark Harmon, 69. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, but he’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan. (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1953 – Gary Lippincott, 67.  Thirty covers, a score of interiors.  Here is the Jan 95 F&SF.  Here is Little, Big.  Here is “Tori and Friends”.  Here is The Prince and the Pauper (M. Mayer adaptation).  Artbook Making Magic.  Three Chesleys.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1955 Steve Berry, 65. Author of the Cotton Malone series which is either genre or genre adjacent depending on where your personal boundaries fall. There’s five in the series now with the first being The Templar Legacy. He also self-published a Captain America novel, Never Forgotten, and a Star Wars story as well, “Crash Landing”, which makes him a fanfic writer as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1972 – Justine Musk, 48.  In a highly various life she’s written three novels for us, three shorter stories.  Taught English as a Second Language in Japan.  “Love without power is anemic, as Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out, and power without love is tyranny….  We *cannot* … dismiss the subject altogether because it is distasteful to us.  The point is not to play the same old game, whether we’re buying into it or rebelling against it.”  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1977 – Fuminori Nakamura, 43.  Kenzaburô Ôe Prize for The Thief, called a chilling philosophical novel.  Evil and the Mask is ours.  A dozen more novels (five translated into English so far), four collections of shorter stories.  David Goodis Award.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • At The Far Side, all the mathematicians go: oh, the horror. 

(13) BUSIEK, AHMED HAVE STORIES IN SPIDER-MAN MILESTONE ISSUE. Spider-Man reaches another milestone this month with Amazing Spider-Man #850, the latest issue in writer Nick Spencer’s run on the title. The issue features the return of Spider-Man’s greatest villain, the Green Goblin. There’s a trailer for it here.

There will also be a trio of back-up stories by “Spidey legends of past, present and future to drive home that Spider-Man is the greatest character in all of fiction!”

Those back-up tales are by Kurt Busiek, Chris Bachalo, Tradd Moore, Saladin Ahmed, and Aaron Kuder. Amazing Spider-Man #850 hits stands September 30.

(14) SAVING THROW. “Neil Gaiman Endorses Petition To Save Constantine Comic”ScreenRant has the story.

The effort to save the Constantine comic book from cancellation just won a welcome ally; author Neil Gaiman. Not only has Gaiman shared a Change.Org petition regarding the endangered book on his social media, but he has allowed his name to be officially tied to the fan-driven effort to save John Constantine: Hellblazer.

The recent acquisition of Warner Bros. by AT&T has led to widespread turmoil across the entertainment industry. This is particularly true at DC Entertainment, which lost one-third of its staff in the wake of the latest round of lay-offs. This coincided with the cancellation of a number of low-selling titles, including John Constantine: Hellblazer, which had only seen eight issues hit the stands since its premiere in 2019

Despite not having a lengthy run on the original Hellblazer series, Gaiman is still closely associated with the character of John Constantine. Gaiman wrote a one-off story for Hellblazer, “Hold Me,” which was printed in Hellblazer #27 and centered around Constantine trying to put the spirit of a homeless man who froze to death to rest. “Hold Me” is widely considered to be one of the best one-shot stories to feature John Constantine ever written. Gaiman also gave Constantine a prominent role in the first Sandman graphic novel, Preludes and Nocturnes, with Dream of the Endless turning to Constantine for assistance in recovering his magical bag of sand, which Constantine had owned at one time.

(15) DISCOVERING DRESDEN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Similar to my belatedly recentish reading of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series (only one more to go now, I think, waiting for library loan request to be fulfilled), I’d seen references to The Dresden Files — Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books — I hadn’t investigated (read) any until a year or two ago, when a friend recommended them, and lent me one, to prime the pump.

I enjoy this kind of thing in a limited amount, but enjoyed ’em enough to add Dresden to my reading list.

As of yesterday, having finished Peace Talks, the newest, I’m caught up —  until the end of this month, when Battle Ground comes out. (I’m like 30th in line on my library’s request queue, so hopefully I’ll get my loan fulfilled by Halloween.)

Harry’s a wizard. Not to be confused with that British kid, either. Dresden is a wizard operating as a PI in Chicago, in a world where there’s magic beings and stuff — fae, vamps, spirits, etc — although most of the world remains unaware of such. Like any PI, Dresden’s cases and other events means that he takes a lot of lumps, to say the least. Like Spenser (and, to be fair, >75% of PIs, it would seem), Dresden is a wise-cracking hard-ass, and he does it well.

If you’re already a Dresden fan, you’ve probably already read this newest book. If you haven’t, you’ll enjoy it. One non-spoiler note, Peace Talks doesn’t wrap up its events, so it’s a good thing Battle Ground is coming out soon.

If you like this kind of stuff, consider ’em. (Start in order, with Storm Front.)

BTW, here’s the video trailer from March 2020 announcement.

(16) REFERENCE DROPPED — FROM A GREAT HEIGHT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 29 Financial Times, Guy Chazan interviews Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti, who was aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

The expedition her crew joined was number 42 — the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything in Douglas Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Christoforetti describes the coincidence as ‘awesome.’  An avid Adams fan, she made sure the poster for Expedition 42 was modelled after the one for the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, while her last tweet from the ISS said ‘So long and thanks for all the fish” — a reference to the message left by the dolphins in Adams’s book when they abandoned a shortly-to-be-demolished Planet Earth.

(17) FUTURE TENSE. The August 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary,” by Tochi Onyebuchi, a story about artificial intelligence, systemic racism, and reparations.

It was published along with a response essay by Charlton McIlvain, a historian of race and technology,  “Racism Cannot Be Reduced to Mere Computation” which begins –

Tochi Onyebuchi’s “How to Pay Reparations” spoke to me. Its themes rang virtually every note of my twentysomething-year-long career. In 1998, I made my first digital footprint with a signed online petition in support of reparations for the Tulsa race riots. I endured countless run-ins with Oklahoma good ol’ boys while crisscrossing the state, working for candidates representing a perpetually losing political party. As an academic, I researched Black politicians and white racial resentment, and testified as an expert in federal court about cases of reverse redlining and housing discrimination. And as a historian of technology, I’ve chronicled—like Onyebuchi—the stories of hope and despair wrought by computing technology on Blackness and Black people, in the service of an ever-triumphant white racial order.

(18) WHAT VASICEK STANDS FOR. Joe Vasicek’s title “White Science Fiction and Fantasy Doesn’t Matter” [Internet Archive] is far from the most hallucinatory claim uttered in his post, which conflates the Worldcon’s awards with the state of the sff field, and adds to a Lost Cause mythology that ignores Vox Day’s central (and Sad Puppy-sanctioned)  role in what happened in 2015.

The United States of America is currently engaged in a violent struggle that will determine whether this hyper-racist intersectional ideology will defeat the populist uprising that has its champion in Trump, or whether the country will reject this new form of Marxism and come back from the brink of insanity. But in science fiction and fantasy, the war is already over, and the intersectionalists have won. It is now only a matter of time before they purge the field of everything—and everyone—that is white.

The last chance for the SF&F community to come back from the brink was probably in 2015. The intersectionalists were ascendant, but they hadn’t yet taken over the field. (That happened in 2016, when N.K. Jemisin, an avowed social justice warrior and outspoken champion for anti-white identity politics, won the Hugo Award for best new novel for the next three consecutive years.) A populist uprising within fandom known as the Puppies attempted to push back, and were smeared as racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes, and Nazis. Whatever your opinion of the Puppies (and there were some bad eggs among them, to be sure), they did not deserve to be silenced, ridiculed, shouted down, and threatened with all manner of violence and death threats for their grievances. After the Puppies were purged, the intersectionalists took over and began to reshape the field in their image.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer wasn’t renamed the Astounding Award because Campbell was a racist (even though he was). His name was stripped from the award because the people who renamed it are racists—not in the bullshit way the intersectionalists have redefined it, but in the true sense of the word: discrimination based based on race….

(19) SECOND LIFE LIMITS VIRTUAL CAMPAIGNS. After yesterday’s story about Biden-Harris yard signs in Animal Crossing it’s interesting to read New World Notes reporting “Second Life Bans Political Billboards From Public Lands After Pro-Trump & Anti-Trump Signs Choke The Virtual Sky”.

Another US Presidential election year, another clash of ideas in Second Life. As has been the case since 2004, the virtual world has recently been festooned with political billboards, much or most of them pro-Trump or anti-Trump — though as with Facebook, it seems like the pro-Trump forces have had the upper hand.

“There was a couple of people setting up lots of mini ad farms for Trump and some places had been plastered in far right slogans and adverts,” SL veteran “0xc0ffea” tells me. 

Some commonly trafficked areas in Second Life have devolved into a veritable battle of billboards, with “Re-elect Trump” and other Trump friendly signs such as “Police Lives Matter” having to share the same space with snarky rejoinders like: “Trump/Putin – Make America Hate Again”. 

This time, however, Second Life owner Linden Lab responded, updating its policy on virtual world advertising to prohibit ad content that are “political in nature” from the SL mainland, which the company maintains. (This policy does not apply to privately-owned regions and continents.)

(20) GHOSTS IN AMERICA. Brett Riley is “Searching For Haunted Fiction In American Literature” at CrimeReads.

Back in college, one of my American Literature professors once argued that the problem with trying to write American gothic fiction is that the country isn’t old enough to have any ruined castles or ancient bloodlines. She had a point, but with ghost stories, you don’t necessarily need ancient history or locales that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. You just need “unfinished business.” A character might die under mysterious circumstances. Foul play is suspected, but the perpetrators are never brought to justice. Or maybe an untimely death stops a character from completing a crucial task or realizing a lifelong goal. In general, something terrible or tragic happens, and the victim of these circumstances suffers so much pain, despair, or outrage that their essence cannot “move on.” A piece of themselves remains—sometimes benign, sometimes dangerous or even murderous.

When a work is labeled a “ghost story,” the reader likely assumes a certain set of tropes—the spectral figure floating through a darkened room or across a foggy landscape; a crumbling, moldy, dank, littered building set on a hill, or on the outskirts of town, or behind a rotting fence; a quirky harbinger of doom who tries to warn the protagonists of the dangers they will soon face; moonlit graveyards; and, perhaps most crucially, a particular history that weighs down the characters with specifically emotional tonnage….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The other day we introduced some ambience recordings. On Facebook John DeChancie pointed out another one — an hour’s worth of “Spaceship Nostromo Sounds.” Yeah, that will put me perfectly at ease!

In this video you can experience the digital recreation of the USCSS Nostromo from the game Alien Isolation. The main story of Alien Isolation is about Amanda Ripley who is searching for her missing mother Ellen. It takes place 15 years after the first Alien movie and the disappearance of the Nostromo. In the main story you don’t really come in contact with the ship but the DLC “Expandable Crew” lets you play an iconic scene from the first movie which takes place on the Nostromo. This video showcases the interior of that ship including space ship ambience sounds. So try to relax on a ship that might have a Xenomorph on board 🙂

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Rose Embolism, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/30/20 An Eruciform’s Body Is Wonderful Long.
Says Alice.

(1) FILM PRODUCTION RESUMES IN PRAGUE. Czech diplomat Jaroslav Olsa Jr. told Facebook readers, “I am happy that the Czech Republic is back as the powerhouse for Hollywood productions as it became the first country in Central Europe to reopen for filmmakers!” And he linked to this Czech Film Commission post: “Carnival Row completes two weeks of remaining filming in the Czech Republic under strict coronavirus protocols”.

In the Czech Republic, the clapper has just fallen on the most financially beneficial foreign production since the introduction of production incentives. The neo-Victorian fantasy television series Carnival Row starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, a joint venture between the American companies Amazon Studios and Legendary Television, has completed two weeks of remaining production in Prague, after filming was interrupted at the beginning of March due to the spread of Covid-19.

(2) G.O.A.T.? Matthew M. Foster strikes an exceptional note of excitement over “Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)”.

This is the greatest movie ever made.

Am I over praising it? Absolutely. But this is the movie we need now. This is it’s time. If there’s ever been a more perfect fit for a film with reality, I don’t know it. Perhaps it won’t end up as the best film of the year, but it will be THE film of the year.

In this miserable time, filled with hate and doom and surrounded by loneliness, there’s been no cinema for nearly six months. Nothing. A huge gaping void to go with the huge gaping void which has been life, and Bill and Ted come along to fill it…

(3) MARK YOUR CALENDAR. Or whack your porcupine, or whatever it is you do to remember a date. 8-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Scott Edelman will launch a book on September 22. Scott elaborates —

Since this pandemic has made an in-the-flesh book launch for my new short story collection Things That Never Happened impossible, I’m doing as so many have done and holding a virtual one. So I’ll be running it live on September 22 through YouTube.

And you can even click to set yourself a reminder. I’ll briefly interview the cover artist to discuss how she came up with the concept, then I’ll be interviewed, and take questions. And as you can see by the image, the publisher even donated gift cards good in their store for me to give away as prizes.

Attend this live event for a chance to win one of three $50 gift certificates good at the Cemetery Dance store.

(4) VIRTUAL OR-ECON PLANNED. OryCon 42 has been postponed to next year due to the pandemic. It will be held November 13 to 15, 2021.

They will have a free virtual mini-con in 2020 from November 12-14, 2020 which has been dubbed OR-eCon. See updates at the OryCon website.

For now, we’re actively recruiting volunteers interested in making this virtual event happen. Please contact volunteers@orycon.org if you are interested in volunteering for OR-eCon.

If you would like to be notified as our plans progress, you can join our mailing list here.

While this will be a free event, we will be requesting donations both to cover the costs of the virtual event and for use elsewhere in the organization. As always, the various OSFCI charitable funds (Clayton, Petrey) are also open to donations.

(5) WHERE’S THAT OSCAR? ScreenRant is still peeved: “These Fantastic Sci-Fi Movies Were Some Of The Oscars’ Biggest Snubs”.

… These are often genre films, such as sci-fi, which continually fail to receive the recognition they deserve. While things are getting better, the Academy has a long and storied history of ignoring these excellent and influential films. With this in mind, here are 10 fantastic science-fiction films that were snubbed by the Oscars…

08 Blade Runner

Blade Runner presented a vision of the future unlike anything seen before and its influence continues to be felt today, but it was tragically overlooked by the Oscars and only picked up a mere two nominations and failed to win either award.

Harrison Ford’s fantastic portrayal of Rickard Deckard wasn’t enough to earn him a nomination, or any other member of the cast. Blade Runner’s score was also overlooked. However, Bafta showered the film with eight nominations and awarded it three awards. The huge disparity between organizations goes to show how subjective these nominations are.

(6) TELL KIDS ABOUT BOSEMAN DEATH? Actor Chadwick Boseman died of colon cancer on August 28. In the Washington Post, Keith L. Alexander says Black parents with young children who are Black Panther fans are struggling to determine if they should tell their kids that Boseman died: “Parents of young ‘Black Panther’ fans struggle with telling children of actor’s death”.

… Graphic designer Kyle Cox remembers how he struggled to keep his own pain away from his 3-year-old son Lucas when NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, Cox’s idol, was killed in a helicopter crash in January.

“Every time he sees Chadwick on TV or in a movie, he points and says ‘Challa,’ ” said Cox, 34, of Lawrence, Mass. Lucas’s bedroom is covered with Black Panther posters, bedsheets, pillowcases and action figures.

“My wife and I have not decided yet if we are going to tell him. He wants to be like T’Challa when he grows up, a Black king. I don’t know if I want to tell him his hero died. That might crush him,” he said. “He’s still trying to get used to the pandemic and not seeing his friends anymore.”

(7) NEIL KADEN HAS DIED. Fanzine publisher and conrunner Neil Kaden (1954-2020) died August 28 at the age of 66. The family memorial notice is here, where it says a full obituary is coming. He is survived by his wife, Cris. There are some fine photos of the pair here at BostonBaden.com.

In a 2010 letter of comment, Neil told File 770 readers that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease around 2005. He told about his concern that other fans who also suffer from it might lose their connection to fandom and no one would know:

Statistics should show that over 1-in-100 fans are stricken with PD, but neither of us could identify where these fans are. Without a faanish safety net, they fall out of touch. The motion related symptoms, balance problems, bradykinesia, tremors, memory problems, and uncontrollable dystonia, are frequently not very visible, especially in the early stages.

Kaden at one time participated in several amateur publishing associations (APAs), founding DAAPA, and belonging to Taps, Applesauce, Anzapa, Canadapa, Vanapa. His publications included Dopplegangers!; Nekromancy; and Confessions Of A Failed Yuppie.

He co-chaired Ditto 13, a con for fanzine fans, in 2000.

(8) NELSON OBIT. Actress Lori Nelson died August 30. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute.

Lori Nelson, the 1950s starlet who was kidnapped by an amphibious monster in Revenge of the Creature and portrayed Barbara Stanwyck’s daughter in Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire, has died. She was 87.

Nelson had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years and died Sunday at her home in the Porter Ranch section of Los Angeles, her daughter Jennifer Mann said.

…In Revenge of the Creature (1955), the first of two sequels spawned from 1954’s Creature From the Black Lagoon, Nelson played the ichthyology student named Helen who is snatched from a seaside restaurant by a smitten Gill Man (Tom Hennesy and Ricou Browning).

She initially did not want to make the movie but in the end was glad she did.

“I played opposite Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin and Audie Murphy, but who’s the leading man everybody wants to ask me about? The Gill Man!” she said in an interview for Tom Weaver’s book The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy. “It’s so funny, Universal had to twist my arm a little to be in a monster movie. But if I knew then how popular they would remain, I would have twisted their arm to be in a couple more.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 30, 1999 — The animated Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles first aired in syndication from the Bohbot Kids Network. Produced by Co-Executive Producer’s Verhoeven-Marshall Flat Earth Productions (Richard Raynis was the other Co-Executive Producer), it’s loosely based off both Heinlein’s novel and Verhoeven‘s film. Very loosely. Duane Capizzi who later wrote the Superman: Doomsday film was one of the actual producers. The voice cast was rather large and consisted largely of no one you’ll recognise without Googling them. The series would last one season and thirty six thirty minute episodes before being canceled by Columbia TriStar Television and Sony Pictures on a cliff hanger as the last four episodes weren’t produced. You can see the trailer here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

  • Born August 30, 1797 – Mary Shelley.  Frankenstein her first novel; I agree with Brian Aldiss it’s the first science fiction novel.  Alas, it seems one of those books everybody talks about but nobody has read.  It’s an irresponsibility contest between the man and the monster.  Also a feminist tract; I’ve said that of Glory Road but falling on deaf ears.  One more novel, a score of shorter stories, for us; five other novels, travelogues, biographies, editions of Percy Shelley’s work.  (Died 1851) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1887 – Ray Cummings.  Two dozen novels, two hundred thirty shorter stories for us; perhaps seven hundred fifty all told.  He, and not e.g. Feynman or the Flying Karamazov Brothers, wrote “Time is what keeps everything from happening at once” (a character in The Girl in the Golden Atom says it, ch. 5).  (Died 1957) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1896 Raymond Massey. In 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own novel The Shape of Things to Come. Other than several appearances on Night Gallery forty years later, that’s it for genre appearances. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1931 – Jack Swigert.  Licensed private pilot by age 16; attained Second Class Scout, Boy Scouts of America.  At Univ. Colorado, football for the Buffaloes; M.S. (aerospace engineering) from Rensselaer; M.B.A. from Univ. Hartford.  U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, Korea; jet fighter pilot, Air Nat’l Guard; engineering test pilot; 7,200 hrs in flight.  AIAA (Am. Inst. Aeronautics & Astronautics) Chanute Award for demonstrating Rogallo wing.  NASA (Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n) Astronaut; on Apollo 13 mission said “Houston, we’ve had a problem here”; Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Elected to U.S. House of Representatives, developed cancer, died before serving.  Three honorary doctorates.  Int’l Space Hall of Fame.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1940 – Ye Yonglie.  (Written Chinese-style; the family name is Ye, rhymes with Heh heh.)  Chemist, poet, biographer, film director; fifty volumes of various material; proclaimed the leading science popularizer by the Party (thus sometimes “the Chinese Asimov”).  Xiao Lingtong Manyou Weilai (in romanization the Party prefers; “Little Know-it-all Roams the Future”) and sequels still in print, three million copies circulating, many Chinese children’s first contact with Futures Studies.  Half a dozen short stories for adults, three translated into English, see e.g. Science Fiction from ChinaTales from the Planet Earth.  Reports on SF in China for FoundationLocus.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1942 Judith Moffett, 78. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at Nolacon II (1988) for her Pennterra novel. Asimov wrote an introduction for the book and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series. Her Holy Ground series of The Ragged World: A Novel of the Hefn on EarthTime, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream: A Sequel to the Ragged World and The Bird Shaman are her other genre novels. The Bear’s Babys And Other Stories collects her genre short stories. All of her works are surprisingly available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born August 30, 1956 – Lissanne Lake, 64.  A hundred covers, plus interiors, for Feast of LaughterMythic DeliriumStrange Plasma, books, gaming cards.  Here is Lafferty in “Orbit”, i.e. stories published in Orbit.  Here is the Four of Chivs (blades) from her Buckland Romani Tarot Deck.  Of course she has a Facebook page.  [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1963 Michael Chiklis, 57. He was The Thing in two first Fantastic Four films, and Jim Powell on the No Ordinary Family series which I’ve never heard of.  He was on American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show as Dell Toledo. The following year he was cast as Nathaniel Barnes, in the second season of Gotham, in a recurring role. And he voiced Lt. Jan Agusta in Heavy Gear: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1965 Laeta Kalogridis, 55. She was an executive producer of the short-lived not so great Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like. (CE) 
  • Born August 30, 1972 Cameron Diaz, 48. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. (The sequel is bloody awful.)   She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she’s cast as an uncredited Bus passenger in Minority Report. Oh, and she’s Lenore Case in the cringingly awful Green Hornet, a film I gave up on after fifteen or so minutes despite being predisposed to liking it. (CE)
  • Born August 30, 1973 – Echo Chernik, 47.  Commercial artist including science fiction and fantasy images; in four issues of Spectrum.  Here are some cards from her Patrick Rothfuss Name of the Wind Art Deck.  Here is Echo Recoil.  Here is a tote bag for the Uwajimaya shops.  Here is her Four of Blades for the “Shadowrun” Sixth World Tarot.  Here is an Elf for Shadowrun.  [JH]
  • Born August 30, 1980 Angel Coulby, 40. She is best remembered for her recurring role as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived animated Thunderbirds Are Go series. (CE)

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • It’s Fred MacMurray’s birthday. He was used by artist C.C. Beck as the basis for Captain Marvel back in 1939.

(12) LEADERSHIP. “Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

Like Ursula K. Le Guin, Butler straddled the timeless and the prophetic, saturating her fiction with astute philosophical and psychological insight into human nature and the superorganism of society. Also like Le Guin, Butler soared into poetry to frame and punctuate her prose. Each chapter begins with an original verse abstracting its thematic direction. She opens the eleventh chapter of the second Earthseed book with this verse:

Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought.
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen.
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.

(13) POETIC LICENSE. In the latest podcast from Diamond Bay Radio, Lex Berman interviews Sebastian Doubinsky.  Touching on drugs, music, and the need to protect poets as the last bastion of freedom, Seb provides a thoughtful background to his novel The Invisible  (Meerkat Press, 2020):  The Invisible With Seb Doubinsky’.

Take a stroll around New Babylon with the City Commissioner, Ratner, who finesses his way through the subcultures of Synth music, political corruption, and the invisible power of shared delusions. Ratner is out to find the murderer of Jesse Valentino, the former cop and unknown poet, unknown at home, and famous everywhere else.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY.“It’s a Neil Gaiman Universe, We Just Live In It” on YouTube is a clip from a 2014 episode of the NPR game show Ask Me Another where a contestant was asked whether a passage was from Neil Gaiman’s work or was made up by the Ask Me Another staff.

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

Bradbury Centennial Weekend
Is Here at Last

Get ready for Ray Bradbury’s hundred candle blowout on Saturday!

(1) FIRED UP FOR THE READ-A-THON. The “First Annual Ray Bradbury Read-A-Thon” is a national reading of Fahrenheit 451 that begins at 4:30 p.m. Eastern on August 22, 2020 to mark the 100th anniversary of Ray Bradbury’s birth. View the entire reading on: RayBradburyReadAThon.com

Readers young and old from across the nation will gather by their TV sets, computers, tablets, and phones to watch a historic reading of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451 streamed over YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. The Library of Congress, the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, along with other public and university libraries nationwide have joined together to bring Bradbury’s classic novel to today’s audiences.

Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, will introduce each of the three parts of Bradbury’s book, while John Szabo (Los Angeles Public Library), Rachel Bloom (actress), Charles F. Bolden Jr. (12th NASA Administrator), and Ann Druyan (writer/producer/director) will offer additional introductions.

Readers from across the United States will join William Shatner (actor), Neil Gaiman (author), Marlon James (author), Marjorie Liu (author), P. Djèlí Clark (author), Dr. Brenda Greene (author), Alley Mills Bean (actress), James Reynolds (actor), Tananarive Due (author), and Steven Barnes (author) to bring this relevant work to social media. Susan Orlean (author) provides an afterword. 

(2) SEE RAY’S TYPEWRITER. The American Writers Museum in Chicago will admit visitors free on Bradbury’s 100th birthday.

The American Writers Museum (AWM) welcomed visitors back one month ago with new safety measures including providing gloves and styluses to promote safe interaction with museum exhibits. On Saturday, August 22, the AWM will open its doors for free to mark the Centennial of Ray Bradbury’s birth, giving visitors a chance to get an up-close look at Bradbury’s typewriter that is on display in the Tools of the Trade exhibit and learn more about the upcoming exhibit Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable, set to open in early 2021. 

(3) MARTIAN TAPESTRY. The Los Angeles Public Library kicked off the week with this brief biography — “A Week to Remember: Ray Bradbury”.

…Bradbury was trying to get the second volume of stories published in 1949, but every publisher he approached told him they were looking for novels. He met at Doubleday with editor Walter Bradbury (no relation), who asked if his existing stories about the first human colony on Mars could be tied together into a novel; Walter even suggested a name: The Martian Chronicles. Ray wrote an outline for the connective material overnight, and Walter bought what was now a novel the next day.

The novel was a great success, in part because of another lucky accident. Bradbury happened to meet Christopher Isherwood in a bookstore shortly after the book was published. He gave Isherwood a copy, and Isherwood’s glowing review of The Martian Chronicles helped bring the book to the attention of readers who might otherwise have ignored it. The book was so popular that Broadway composers Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe wanted to turn it into a musical. Bradbury declined, but did approve an operatic version several decades later.

(4) MASKED MAN. In the town where Ray was born – Waukegan, IL – the Ray Bradbury Experiene Museum is celebrating.

They’re raising money, too, with RBEM logo masks.

(5) WAUKEGAN ACQUIRES CARNEGIE LIBRARY. And the officials of the City of Waukegan have a few things lined up: “Ray Bradbury Centennial”. For example, they announced on August 13 –

In partnership with the Waukegan Historical Society, the Waukegan Park District is excited to announce that it has officially acquired the historic Carnegie Library from the City of Waukegan. The Carnegie Library, located at 1 N. Sheridan Road, was made famous by Ray Bradbury in a variety of stories, possibly most especially in Something Wicked This Way Comes. Designated as a Waukegan Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Carnegie Library will become the new site for the Waukegan Historical Society’s expanded history programming, archives, collections, exhibits, and research library. The building will also be used by the Waukegan Park District for programs, classes, events, and registrations.

(6) SEEING RED. John Grant, geologist at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, reflects on Bradbury’s impact on his career studying Mars: “Gaining Inspiration from The Martian Chronicles.

That I am a Martian is thanks in no small part to Ray Bradbury. As a child growing up in northern NY, I spent many nights reading and rereading his books. From Fahrenheit 451 to Something Wicked This Way Comes to The Illustrated Man and everything in between. But it was the Martian Chronicles that really captured my attention. After reading it multiple times, I’d play outside and imagine ancient Martian civilizations living on a drying Red Planet long before humans appeared on the Earth. 

This all happened at about the same time I was eagerly waiting for first the Mariner 9 and then Viking missions to reach Mars. Although prior missions had flown by the planet, these missions were the first to go into orbit and, in the case of Viking, successfully land on the surface of Mars. When Mariner 9 arrived at Mars, a global dust storm was largely obscuring the surface from view. As the dust slowly cleared and Mars was unveiled, a diverse landscape was revealed that included not only impact craters, but also giant volcanoes, ice caps, and even ancient water-carved channels. The Viking orbiters followed this up with even better and broader resolution images of surface features and the Viking landers revealed a landscape that to me looked somewhat similar to deserts on the Earth, sans vegetation of course. 

(7) RAY’S OLD HOME BY THE BEACH. The Friends of Venice (CA) Library are “Celebrating Bradbury’s 100th Birthday” online – register at the link. This year’s annual meeting will honor Ray Bradbury’s Centennial with a showing of the classic Twilight Zone episode “I Sing the Body Electric,” written by Bradbury. In addition, a visit by the LA Book Bike, and a joint display with the Venice Heritage Foundation will focus on Bradbury’s life in Venice.

Venice news outlet The Argonaut explores his local roots in “Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury!”

…Many may not be aware that Bradbury’s life as a writer began in Venice. In 1942, he moved to a small house at 670 Venice Boulevard where he sat in a one-car garage and wrote short stories like “The Lake” and “The Wind” as well as the famed “Martian Chronicles.” From “The Fog Horn” inspired by the shattered remains of the Venice Pier roller coaster to the decaying Venice Canals that set the scene for “Death Is a Lonely Business,” Venice had a large influence on the stories he told.

(8) RAY’S FAMILY TREE. An article in Spanish at El Universal’s Confablario“Ray Bradbury, el hijo de Julio Verne” – “hijo” means “son” so you can figure out that part easily enough. It starts out quoting Ray’s whole family tree —

En su prólogo a S is for Space Ray Douglas Bradbury escribió lo siguiente: “Julio Verne fue mi padre. H. G.Wells fue mi tío sabio. Edgar Allan Poe era el primo con alas de murciélago que guardábamos en lo alto del desván. Flash Gordon y Buck Rogers fueron mis hermanos y amigos. Ahí tienen mi linaje. Añadiendo, por supuesto, el hecho de que muy probablemente, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, la autora de Frankenstein, era mi madre”.

(9) HERE’S A HEAD START ON THE BRADBURY READING. In 2018, LeVar Burton Reads gave fans “’The Great Wide World Over There’ by Ray Bradbury”.

A visitor’s arrival delivers both wonder and heartache to a rural community. This story appears in Ray Bradbury’s collection THE GOLDEN APPLES OF THE SUN. 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories.]