Pixel Scroll 1/27/21 On The AT-Atkitchson, Twinpeaka, And The Scrollta-Fe

(1) WEIMER IS BACK. The sff community rallied around and helped get Paul Weimer’s Twitter account restored after trolls got it shut down. He tells the full background on his Patreon: “The Trolls and the Twitter Ban (PUBLIC)”. Now Paul has a new honorific:

And Paul took a visual victory lap in a thread that starts here.

And yes, He’s everywhere! He’s everywhere!

(2) LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Two items of non-Patreon-locked news from Ellison executor J. Michael Straczynski —

Three authors who will have a new story in LDV have been named. The first one is

As noted, several high-profile writers have stepped up to show support for TLDV by offering to contribute stories. The first was announced Monday exclusively to those on Patreon, and can now be conveyed here: the amazing NEIL GAIMAN!

And the other two

Also: I’d like to announce another significant contemporary writer who has decided to lend his name to THE LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS by contributing a story: CORY DOCTOROW, who is known as not just an amazing writer but a pioneer in the realm of electronic rights and privacy and a scholar of the internet.

And of the original writers who contributed stories, “Rundown” by the highly regarded SF and fantasy writer John Morressy has been selected to be included in this volume.

Also, one unpublished writer will have a story accepted for LDV – the submission window will be open for one day on March 31:

…That announcement included word that a slot would be open for one previously unpublished writer, one new voice, to see their story included in the book alongside some of the most well-regarded writers working in the field of SF and Fantasy over the last 50 years.

Because it will take time for those interested to come up with something appropriate to TLDV, I wanted to get the word out now that submissions will be taken for only 24 hours on Wednesday, March 31st, and must be no longer than 3,500 words. The email address for submissions will be provided the day beforehand, along with a release form. All submitted stories remain the property of the writers responsible for them, and the one chosen for inclusion will be exclusive for just a two-year period, as with all the other stories in the planned volume.

Harlan believed passionately in helping to bring new voices into the field, and I share that conviction. I think if you have any success at all, you have a moral obligation to send down the elevator for the next person. With luck, this will bring a new voice into the world.

(3) HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF SF  MAKES SPLASH. In addition to File 770’s “Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction Goes Live”, a lot of sites are covering the HD/SF today:

The game gets played between writer and reader, for sure, but also among writers, and between all the writers and all the readers. Some words get used again and again, becoming a meta-canonical corpus as allusive as classical haiku. It’s a game so complicated that it’d be nice to know the rules, maybe see the shape of the pieces. That’s where a lexicographical mad scientist named Jesse Sheidlower comes in. His creation, the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction came to life online this week—1,800 entries dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, with not only definitions but the earliest known uses, links to biographical information about the writers, and links to more than 1,600 scans of the original pages where the words appeared. It’s a wormhole into not just one alternate universe but a lexicographic multiverse, where time-traveling canons overlap in unexpected ways with each other and with whatever universe the reader happens to be sitting in. Cool concepts from your favorite movies turn out to precede those movies by decades; science fiction gets things right before science. It’s a trip, and it might just lead to some answers about what science fiction is and what it means. It’ll definitely start—and finish—some arguments.

… Even without Ewoks, the result is generally both amazing and astonishing. In just a few minutes of reconnaissance, for example, I learned that the first person to pilot a jet car was not, as I hoped, Buckaroo Banzai, but in fact a character in Bryce Walton’s 1946 short story “Prisoner of the Brain Mistress.” I figured that Han Solo wasn’t the first person to make the jump to “hyperspace,” but I didn’t expect the concept to first come up in 1928, in Kirk Meadowcroft’s story “The Invisible Bubble” in the germinal pulp Amazing Stories. Nor did I expect big names like E. E. “Doc” Smith, Isaac Asimov, Samuel Delaney, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and David Brin to have also used the idea. And let’s say you wanted to go back in time and kill the person who came up with the idea of the grandfather paradox. You’d have to assassinate Hugo Gernsback, arguably the coinventor of the modern iteration of the genre, before he published his essay “The Question of Time-Traveling” in Science Wonder Stories in 1929.

The fact that so many of these terms have examples of their use from a dozen different writers across decades of history proves that sometimes writers aren’t neologizing so much as digging into the genre lexicon. Well, newish. “You leverage off of other people’s work, but really you’ve activated decades of associations that other people might or might not be bringing,” [Charles] Yu says. “That’s something really rich about science fiction in general. There’s this overlap, or this tangent point. This dictionary is kind of trying to be placed squarely in that region, the overlap.”

There’s no denying the profound influence that the Star Trek franchise has had on our shared popular culture. But it turns out that some of the best-known terms associated with the series—transporter, warp speed, and the famous Prime Directive—actually predate Star Trek: The Original Series by a decade or more. According to Jesse Sheidlower, a lexicographer and editor of the newly launched online Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction (HDSF), the first mention of those terms appeared in 1956, 1952, and 1940, respectively.

The entry for each word or phrase includes a brief definition followed by a timeline of its occurrences in literature, film, and criticism, with quotations. For instance, if you’re a US Senator who wants to crow about how the cancellation of his book contract is “Orwellian,” you might be interested to note that the word appeared in a 1949 edition of the St. Alban’s Daily Messenger: “Almost all the Orwellian techniques of a future totalitarianism are found here.” Or if you want to give your endless Zoom meetings some historical context, you can note that in the 1944 book Television, R.E. Lee predicted your current misery in his writing about the “videophone”: “We shall undoubtedly see videophones replacing telephones in common usage.”

(4) AWARD-WINNING MERMAID AUTHOR. The Mermaid of Black Conch, an SFF novel, won the 2020 Costa Book Award. The Guardian interviewed author Monique Roffey: “’I’m flabbergasted’: Monique Roffey on women, whiteness and winning the Costa”.

After two decades of splashing around in the shallows of success, Monique Roffey was taking no chances with The Mermaid of Black Conch. The novel, which won the Costa book of the year award on Tuesday, is written in a Creole English and uses a patchwork of forms, from poetry to journal entries and an omniscient narrator, and “employs magical realism to the max”. Even its title was against it, she realised. “You’re either going to read a novel about a mermaid or you aren’t.”

Any one of these, she says, would scare away most publishers….

(5) ANNUAL IN MEMORIAM LIST. Steven H Silver’s 2020: In Memoriam article is now on-line at Amazing Stories.

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • January 27, 1980 — The Saga of a Star World started again when Galactica 1980 aired its very first episode on ABC.  The tale picked up years after the events depicted in the original Battlestar Galactica with Commander Adama still in charge as the lead vessel of the Thirteen Colonies finally found way to Earth. It was created by Glen A. Larson, and starred Lorne Greene, Kent McCord, Barry Van Dyke and Richard Lynch. The series would last for ten episodes before it was cancelled due to extremely poor ratings.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 27, 1756 – Wolfgang Mozart.  When I’ve happened to be teaching on this day, I’ve handed out Mozartkugeln.  Please consider you’ve received one virtually.  Had WM, a good candidate for greatest composer ever, written only Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute, it would have been enough for us.  The relations between WM and Salieri in the film Amadeus are (ahem) highly fictionalized.  WM may be the best part of Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf, but – I’d better stop.  (Died 1791) [JH]
  • Born January 27, 1832 – Lewis Carroll.  Another glorious – differently – illumination of this day.  Had LC written only the two Alice books – and I must add The Hunting of the Snark – it would have been enough for us.  What’s that?? Do you suppose it might be a boo-  [JH]
  • Born January 27, 1950 Michaela Roessner, 71. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer for Walkabout Woman. Her The Stars Dispose duology is quite excellent. Though not genre, her two historical novels, The Stars Dispose and The Stars Compel, about Catherine de Medici are excellent.  ISFDB lists two additional novels of genre status, Walkabout Women and Vanishing Point. None of her fiction is alas available digitally. (CE)
  • Born January 27, 1956 Mimi Rogers, 65. Her best known known SFF role is Professor Maureen Robinson in the Lost in Space film which I did see in a theatre I just realized. She’s also Mrs. Marie Kensington in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and she’s Orianna Volkes in the Penny Dreadful hitchhiker horror film. She’s got one-offs in Tales from The CryptThe X-FilesWhere Are You Scooby Doo? and Ash v. Evil Dead. (CE)
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 64. He’s both an artist and writer so I’m not going to untangle which is which here. What’s good by him? Oh I love The Dark Knight Returns, both the original comic series and the animated film, though the same not so true of Sin City where I prefer the original series much more. Hmmm… What else? His runs on Daredevil and Electra of course. That should do. What’s your favorite? Do tell. (CE) 
  • Born January 27, 1966 Tamlyn Tomita, 55. I’m fairly sure I first saw her in a genre role on  the Babylon 5 film The Gathering as Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima. Or it might have been on The Burning Zone as Dr. Kimberly Shiroma. And she had a recurring late on Eureka in Kate Anderson, and Ishi Nakamura on Heroes.  She’s been in a number of SFF series in one-off roles including HighlanderQuantum LeapThe SentinelSeven Days, FreakyLinks, Stargate SG-1 and a recurring as late as Tamiko Watanabe in The Man in The High Castle. (CE) 
  • Born January 27, 1970 Irene Gallo, 51. Creative Director for Tor.com and Tor Books. She’s won an amazing thirteen Chelsey Awards, and two World Fantasy Awards, for art director of Tor.com and for the Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Tor.com Short Fiction anthology. She also co-wrote  Revolution: The Art of Jon Foster with Jon Foster and Cathy & Arnie Fenner. (CE) 

(8) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE GREEN THINGS. Ursula Vernon was briefly tempted by a catalog:

(9) SOMETHING IN THE INK. The Comics Journal reminds fans about “The Strange Case of D. Bruce Berry”, a terrific artist who was once confined to a mental institution, and later in a 38-page rant entitled A Trip To Hell claimed Chicago fan Earl Kemp and science fiction editor and writer Harlan Ellison, wearing masks, had held him up at gunpoint on a Chicago street on Labor Day night, 1958. An extensive history of Berry’s history in SF fandom, with tons of his fanzine and pro artwork.

Bruce Berry is best known as Jack Kirby’s controversial inker, who took over from Mike Royer during Kirby’s ‘70s run at DC. Perhaps Berry suffers in his close proximity to Royer, Kirby’s most faithful and therefore considered by many, his best inker. Conventional wisdom is that Berry worked for decades as an advertising product/mechanical artist before Kirby brought him on board, thus beginning his comics career.

Truth be told, Berry was an often-published pulp and fanzine illustrator, science fiction author and novelist, dating back to the 1940s. He was also a brought to court for threatening others in the science fiction community and had been confined to a mental institution as a result.

…[In] the 1948 Fantasy Annual, published by Forrest J Ackerman, Berry was ranked 3rd in the list of Top Fan Artists.

…Advertising work having dried  up in Chicago, Berry relocated to Southern California in the late 1960s. Richard Kyle helped set him up in an apartment and introduced him to professional cartoonists working in the area, which included Mike Royer. Royer had recently begun inking and lettering Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” series of comics for DC and soon afterward he employed Berry to ink backgrounds to help keep up with the voluminous flow of work. Berry took over the full inking and lettering chores with Kamandi #17 in 1974 and remained as Kirby’s inker for most of the rest of his DC run. According to Berry, “Mike said to me, “You won’t have any problems. Just follow the lines.” Keep in mind I came out of the advertising business. When an art director tells you the way a thing should be done, it’s the rule of the game. Mike said, “follow the lines,” and that is exactly what I did.” (10) Trying to remain faithful to Kirby’s pencils as Royer had been, Berry approached the inks like a schematic, using mechanical pens and tools, which produced a static even line width (unlike Royer who employed brushes for a robust result.) The end result was that he broke Jack’s pencils into shapes and patterns, an earmark of product illustration, to mixed effect. Oddly, none of these techniques are evidenced in Berry’s own artwork.

(10) NAME OFF. “UC Berkeley removes Kroeber Hall name, noting Native Americans” reports the Los Angeles Times. Alfred Louis Kroeber was Ursula K. Le Guin’s father.

A UC Berkeley campus building will be stripped of its name because of the legacy of its namesake, an anthropologist whose work included the “immoral and unethical” collection of Native American remains, the university announced Tuesday.

Kroeber Hall, named after Alfred Louis Kroeber, will be stripped of its name in a year’s time and will temporarily be called the Anthropology and Art Practice Building.

The university’s Building Name Review Committee announced the decision Tuesday after unanimously voting to remove the name last fall. Last year, the university renamed two other buildings over their namesakes’ controversial legacies of promoting racist rhetoric and colonialist ideas…

(11) BONGING TOGETHER. John Scalzi pointed readers at this video in “I Was Gonna Complain About Something Today, But This Video of an Acapella Group Doing Windows Sounds is Much Nicer”.

(12) THE HORROR. In “Pee -wee Park – The Full Horror Trailer” on YouTube, Pixel Riot asks what would happen if all the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park were replaced with Pee Wee Herman!

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/21 The Unpleasant Pixel Of Jonathan Scroll

(1) COSMIC RAY. The Waukegan Public Library is taking submissions to its Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest through January 29. Complete guidelines at the link. The winning submission will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card and will be formally recognized on the library website.

…Venture into the deep expanses of space and the planets it contains. Show off your imagination and creativity by writing an original short story with the theme of space and space travel.

Does your universe have alien life forms or is it slowly being colonized by a vastly expanding human race? If you impress the judges and make Ray Bradbury proud, you will be beamed a $50 Amazon gift card!

Submission Deadline is January 29, 2021. For writers 14 years and older. Submissions limited to 5 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font).

(2) ANOTHER AGE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF reaches the end of its run through Journey Press’ Rediscovery anthology with Pauline Ashwell’s “Unwillingly to School.” 

Ashwell is an author whose work I have read before Rediscovery Vol 1. Less than entirely usefully, the sole work of hers I have read was 1992’s Unwillingly to Earth, which collects the Lizzie Lee stories, of which Unwilling to School is the first. I do not, therefore, have much sense of her skills outside this particular series. Unwillingly to Earth struck me a bit old-fashioned in 1992. Since the first instalment was written in 1958, that’s not terribly surprising.

Still, readers nominated Ashwell’s fiction enough to nominate her for the ?“Best New Author” Hugo. Twice. Not only that but twice in the same year, courtesy of a pen-name and the difficulty fans had discovering that Pauline Ashwell and Paul Ash were the same person. Will my Young People think as highly of her story? Let’s find out.

(3) MAKING CHANGE. Sarah Gailey talks about worldbuilding – building the one we’re in — at Here’s the Thing. “Building Beyond”.

Humans are built to imagine. That, to me, is one of our best qualities: the ability to hypothesize, to wonder, to create whole universes out of nothing at all. Whether or not you think of yourself as a writer, you can generate a world with your mind. Isn’t that just fucking amazing?

Part of why I love this ability we all share is because it can be used to change the shape of reality. When we let ourselves imagine new worlds, we start to realize that the world we live in is just as mutable as the worlds we imagine. When we start to believe that change is possible at all, all the doors fly open, and we start to believe that we can make change happen.

I think we could all use some of that belief right now, in a world where things are different. In a world we can build, together….

(4) READ AGAIN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar signal boost several authors whose novels deserve a new look in “Let’s talk about fantasy and science fiction books that have fallen off the radar” at the Washington Post.

…Tanith Lee was a literary great: She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for a novel. I loved her Secret Books of Paradys, a series of Gothic, interlinked stories set in an alternate Paris, but she worked in all kinds of modes. Alas, she eventually had trouble selling her work. Her titles came out from smaller and smaller presses and were difficult to find. Lee died in 2015 and recently DAW/Penguin began reissuing her catalogue. You can now find titles such as “The Birthgrave,” “Electric Forest” and “Sabella.”

(5) WORLDCON LAWSUIT UPDATE. Jon Del Arroz today reported he gave a deposition in his lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation.

In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action, the case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation. (Not libel.)

(6) STATE HAS EYE ON AMAZON. “Connecticut probes Amazon’s e-book business” according to The Hill.

Connecticut is probing Amazon’s e-book distribution for potential anticompetitive behavior, according to the state’s attorney general. 

“Connecticut has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) said in a statement. 

Tong noted that Connecticut has previously taken action to protect competition in e-book sales. 

When the Justice Department sued Apple in 2012 alleging it conspired with major publishers to raise the price of e-books, Connecticut was among states that filed their own lawsuit against Apple, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Journal was the first to report on Connecticut’s Amazon probe…

(7) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. In “Nine Great Science Fiction Thrillers” on CrimeReads, Nick Petrie recommends novels by Heinlein, Dick, and Leckie that are based on crimes.

The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch (2018)

The Gone World was recommended to me by my local indie bookseller and I was immediately smitten.  The protagonist is Naval investigator Shannon Moss, who is chasing the killers of a Navy Seal’s family and trying to find his missing teenage daughter. 

The wrinkle is here is a secret Navy program sending astronauts forward in time to solve the riddle of the impending end of the world that gets closer with each attempt to solve the problem. The storytelling is complex, lyrical, and metaphysical without sacrificing intensity—I could not turn the pages fast enough.  Sweterlitsch is very, very good and I can’t wait for his next book.

(8) REACHING THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. The Horn Book has “Five questions for Megan Whalen Turner” who’s wrapping up a series.

Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (with that never-to-be-bettered twist at the end!) was published in 1996. Now, after six books set in that unforgettably detailed world, full of political machinations, double crosses, dubious motivations, and familial obligations, the series comes to a close with Return of the Thief (Greenwillow, 12 years and up).

1. You’ve spent almost twenty-five years in the universe of Attolia. What will you miss most about writing about it?

Megan Whalen Turner: This has been such a bewildering year, I’m not sure of my own feelings anymore, but I think the answer is…nothing? I know that other authors have gotten to the end of their long-running series and felt a sense of loss, but I don’t. Very much to the contrary. I feel like I hooked a whale twenty-five years ago, and after playing the line for so long, I’ve finally landed it — maybe because, for me, finishing this book doesn’t mean shutting the door on the whole world. There’s room left for more storytelling — if I ever want to go back and write about Sophos’s sisters and their mother, or to follow up any number of loose threads left to the imagination. It’s this one narrative arc that has finally reached its conclusion, and that’s just immensely satisfying.

(9) MARVEL PRIMER. Vanity Fair tutors readers in “WandaVision: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the New Marvel Show”. Useful for people like me who mostly know about the kind of comics found on tables at the barber shop. (Need to know anything about Sgt. Rock?)

Who Is Wanda? Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, has a long history in Marvel comics. She officially joined the film franchise in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you may or may not recall, that movie was a Joss Whedon joint—so if you’re a fan of his non-Marvel work, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, it may come as no surprise that his version of Wanda was an angsty, troubled, superpowered teen girl with a tragic backstory. Think of her as Buffy Summers meets River Tam meets Willow Rosenberg. She also sported an outrageous Eastern European accent, which the MCU, in its infinite wisdom, decided to randomly drop without ever really mentioning it again. 

So yes: Wanda hails from a fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia. In much of her time in the comics she’s a mutant, like the X-Men (you know, Wolverine, etc?). But because Marvel Studios did not, at the time of her film debut, own the rights to the X-Men, the films instead called her—vaguely—a “miracle.” (More on that in a bit.) Wanda had a twin brother named Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who could run very fast—but died, tragically, in Ultron…. 

(10) SPREADING THE WORD. E. Everett Evans, for whom the Big Heart Award was originally named, was responsible for what may have been the first appearance of the word “fanzine” in a newspaper, when he was interviewed for this Battle Creek [Mich.] Enquirer article published on October 5, 1941 (p.26) about the “Galactic Roamers” organization. The word had been coined only a year earlier by Louis Russell Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine, Detours

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 14, 1981 Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating. 
  • January 14, 2007 — The animated Flatland film was released on DVD.  It was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr., the animated feature was an adaptation of the Edwin A. Abbott novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The screenplay was written by author Tom Whalen with music was composed by Mark Slater.  It starred Chris Carter, Megan Colleen and Ladd Ehlinger Jr.  It was well received by critics snd currently has a rating of seventy percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 14, 1915 – Lou Tabakow.  Founding Secretary-Treasurer of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, then its long-time head (“Dictator”).  Co-founded Midwestcon, chaired many, also Octocon (the Ohio one, not e.g. the Irish one).  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon I, Dubuqon II, Rivercon V.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  At SunCon the 35th Worldcon entered the Masquerade (our costume competition) with Joan Bledig as “TAFF and DUFF, visitors from the planet FIAWOL”, winning Best Aliens and Best Presentation.  Wrote “The Astonishing Adventures of Isaac Intrepid” stories with Mike Resnick; MR’s appreciation here.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Ken Bulmer.  First (honorary) President of British Fantasy Society. Guest of Honor at Eastercon 19, Novacon 3, SfanCon 5, Shoestringcon I, BECCON ’83, Cymrucon 1984.  TAFF delegate.  Fanzines e.g. Steam and the legendary Nirvana.  A hundred novels, as many shorter stories; eighty “Kenneth Johns” science essays with John Newman; historical fiction.  Edited Foundation and New Writings in SF.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Don Ford.  Chaired Cinvention the 7th Worldcon.  Co-founded Midwestcon and chaired the first one.  Collector.  CFG long celebrated the Tabakow-Ford birthday.  TAFF delegate; first U.S. TAFF Administrator.  Ron Bennett’s appreciation here – note, Skyrack the RB fanzine is skyr ack the shire oak.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series.  (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1931 – Joe Green, age 90; hello, Joe.  Guest of Honor at Palm Beach Con, Necronomicon ’97.  Phoenix Award.  Opened his home to pilgrim fans watching the Apollo launches.  Eight novels, five dozen shorter stories (two with Shelby Vick, two with daughter Rosy Lillian a second-generation fan, one in Last Dangerous Visions).  Appreciation of Ray Lafferty in Feast of Laughter 4.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1950 – Arthur Byron Cover, age 71.  Fifteen novels, a score of shorter stories including one for Wild Cards, one in LDV; also television.  Long career with the Dangerous Visions bookshop in Los Angeles.  Interviewed Dick, Ellison, Spinrad for Vertex.  Essays, review, letters in Delap’sNY Rev SFOmniSF Eye.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 57. He’s got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost, followed by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thrones, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow is in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1973 – Jessica Andersen, Ph.D., age 48.  A dozen novels for us, twoscore all told.  Landscaper, horse trainer.  Has read a score of books by L. McMaster Bujold.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd has rules for living in a 1/10,000th scale world. Very helpful for people who are taller than Godzilla.

(14) TINTIN ON THE BLOCK. If the late Fred Patten had a few million Euros to spare he’d have bought this. “Tintin cover art sells for record breaking €3.2m”The Guardian tells why it went for so much.

A rejected Tintin cover illustrated by Hergé that was gifted to a child and kept in a drawer for decades has set a new world record as the most expensive comic book artwork, selling at auction for €3.2m (£2.8m) on Thursday.

Le Lotus Bleu was created in 1936 by the Belgian artist, born Georges Remi, using Indian ink, gouache and watercolour. It had been intended for the eponymous cover of his fifth Tintin title, which sees the boy reporter head to China in order to dismantle an opium trafficking ring.

Hergé was told the painting would be too expensive to mass produce because it featured too many colours, so he painted another version with a black dragon and a blank red background, which became the cover. He then gave the first artwork to Jean-Paul Casterman, the seven-year-old son of his editor, Louis Casterman. It was folded in six and put in a drawer, where it stayed until 1981, when Jean-Paul asked Hergé to sign it….

(15) POWDER MAGE. [Item by Paul Weimer.] I’ve read and really enjoyed these novels, so I do hope this come to fruition. “Joseph Mallozzi To Adapt Fantasy Novel ‘Powder Mage’ As TV Series”Deadline has the details.

…The drama series will take place in the Nine Nations, a fictional world in which magic collides with 18th century technology against the backdrop of political and social revolution. At the heart of the story are Powder Mages, unique individuals who gain magical abilities from common gunpowder.

The series is a fight for survival as mythical gods return to battle for a world that has changed in their absence. It will feature epic battles, gritty magic, heart-stopping duels, cunning political maneuvers, intrepid investigators, and shocking betrayals.

The Powder Mage trilogy was first published in 2013 and has sold over 700,000 copies. Mallozzi will exec produce with No Equal’s J.B. Sugar, Frantic’s Jamie Brown, and McClellan….

(16) DRILL ENDS. Part of NASA’s InSight lander was unable to perform its mission: “RIP: Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet”.

NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.

Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. But the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) device that is part of NASA’s InSight lander couldn’t gain enough friction in the red dirt. It was supposed to bury 16 feet (5 meters) into Mars, but only drilled down a couple of feet (about a half meter).

Following one last unsuccessful attempt to hammer itself down over the weekend with 500 strokes, the team called it quits.

… The mole’s design was based on Martian soil examined by previous spacecraft. That turned out nothing like the clumpy dirt encountered this time.

InSight’s French seismometer, meanwhile, has recorded nearly 500 Marsquakes, while the lander’s weather station is providing daily reports. On Tuesday, the high was 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) and the low was minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 degrees Celsius) at Mars’ Elysium Planitia, an equatorial plain.

The lander recently was granted a two-year extension for scientific work, now lasting until the end of 2022.

(17) NUMBER NINE. Running online from February 13-18, the “I Heart Pluto Festival 2021 – Celebrating the 91st anniversary of Pluto’s discovery” is organized by the Home of Pluto, Lowell Observatory.

The I Heart Pluto Festival is going virtual! Show your love for our frosty ninth planet that was discovered in cold and snowy Flagstaff, Arizona by Clyde Tombaugh 91 years ago on February 18, 1930.

(18) THE NEW NUMBER ONE. In “Video games have replaced music as the most important aspect of youth culture” at The Guardian, Mike Monahan argues that video games are as central to the lives of today’s teenagers as music was to earlier generations.

It would be incorrect to say video games went mainstream in 2020. They’ve been mainstream for decades. But their place in pop culture feels far more central – to gamers and non-gamers alike – than ever before. In part, this is due to desperate marketers hunting for eyeballs in a Covid landscape of cancelled events. Coachella wasn’t happening, but Animal Crossing was open was for business. Politicians eager to “Rock the Vote” looked to video games to reach young voters. (See: Joe and Kamala’s virtual HQ and AOC streaming herself playing Among Us.) The time-honored tradition of older politicians trying to seem young and hip at a music venue has been replaced by older politicians trying to seem young and hip playing a video game. Yes, quarantine was part of this. But, like so many trends during the pandemic, Covid didn’t spark this particular trajectory so much as intensify it. Long before the lockdowns, video games had triumphed as the most popular form of entertainment among young people.

(19) STEP IN TIME. Dick Van Dyke is one of the “2021 Kennedy Center Honorees”NPR has the story.

…Master of pratfalls, goofy facial expressions and other forms of physical humor, 95 year old Dick Van Dyke danced on rooftops in Mary Poppins, tripped over the ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show and wise-cracked with his fellow security guards in the Night At the Museum movies “with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, says Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. To join the “illustrious group” of just over 200 artists who’ve received Kennedy Center Honors, says Van Dyke in a statement, “is the thrill of my life.”

(20) BIT OF A MYSTERY. Keith Thompson, a longtime 770 subscriber, says he got a strange result when he searched for Chuck Tingle’s new book.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In his latest appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Neil Gaiman explained

that a previous appearance’s aphorism that “Writers need to find their way to boredom to inspire creativity,” only applies if you’re not actively terrified at the same time. Calling living under stifling COVID precautions like “being locked in the cellar with a bomb—and several poisonous snakes,” Gaiman said that he’d been talking more about being stuck on the tube when the world isn’t embroiled in self-devouring madness so that your creative mind can wander, happily untroubled that it might be killed at any moment.

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

Audible.com Names
Best Audiobooks of 2020

The editors at Audible.com have selected The Best Audiobooks of 2020. The complete list of winners in all categories is here.

One genre work made the overall Top 10, the top pick in the Fantasy category —

FANTASY

WINNER: The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs
Performed by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen

The four runners-up are:

The City We Became by: N. K. Jemisin

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by: V. E. Schwab

Black Sun by: Rebecca Roanhorse

Rhythm of War (The Stormlight Archive, Book 4) by: Brandon Sanderson

SCIENCE FICTION

WINNER: The Sea in the Sky by Jackson Musker
Performed by Octavia Chavez-Richmond, James Ludwig, Pun Bandhu, Lizan Mitchell, a full cast

The four runners-up are:

Network Effect by: Martha Wells

Axiom’s End: A Novel by: Lindsay Ellis

The Space Between Worlds by: Micaiah Johnson

Riot Baby by: Tochi Onyebuchi

[Via Locus Online.]

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.]