In Conversation with Dirk Maggs, Producer of The Sandman

Neil Gaiman (L) and Dirk Maggs (R)

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

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

James McAvoy

Partial Transcript:

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

Dirk Maggs:  Do I prepare?

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

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

Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arthur Darvill

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

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


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

[Based on an AudioFile Magazine blog post.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CNN reports the exchanges wth the tower went like this:

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

About 10 minutes later, another plane spotted the man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Afua Richardson.

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

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the greatest movie ever made.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08 Blade Runner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz]

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

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bradbury Centennial Weekend
Is Here at Last

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/20 When There’s Evil On The Hat Rack, You Can Rest Knowing They Got Your Back

(1) AND INTRODUCING GUY FLEEGMAN. Looper chimes in about “Sci-fi shows ruined by terrible endings”. (Wait a minute – as far as I’m concerned ALF started out ruined!)

These sci-fi series are perfectly awful examples of this lamentable phenomenon. For some, the finale retcons fans’ understanding of everything the show did up until that point. For others, the finale serves as a sad reminder of what could have been, had the show been given another chance. Some leave dozens of loose ends dangling. Some attempt to wrap things up too neatly. Some are tonally inconsistent. All of them are disappointing — and all of them loom large in fans’ understanding of the show as a whole. We’re here to examine the worst finales in sci-fi television, no matter how much it makes us shudder. Spoiler warning: We’re going to reveal every last detail of these shows’ endings, in an effort to fully explain why they’re so darn detestable.

Here’s one of the shows they named:

Quantum Leap leaves Sam in limbo

… Despite its poor time slots, Quantum Leap’s blend of humor and social commentary garnered a fanbase. But due to declining viewership, it ended after five seasons. In the series finale, “Mirror Image,” we learn that Sam can return home if he chooses — but instead, he decides to go back in time and save his friend Al’s marriage. In doing so, Sam willingly makes it so he and Al never met, trapping himself in a paradox and giving up the life he so desperately wished to return to throughout the duration of the series. Sam’s fate is finally revealed in the show’s last frame: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” 

This ending changes the mood of the show entirely. Instead of being wacky misadventures, each episode is reframed as one man’s fruitless quest to return home. He will, apparently, just keep going through these motions… forever. That’s not just bleak — it’s horrifying.

(2) FLESHLESS THINGS. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick reports that a fellow NPR contributor’s “Pitch-Perfect ‘Mexican Gothic’ Ratchets Up The Dread”.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic is a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking novel. I want to discuss it around tea, preferably while in the mountains, preferably somewhere well-lit. I remember placing my bookmark in the book and thinking, I should not have read this before bed.

I was afraid of what I might dream.

Noémi’s cousin Catalina writes a strange letter begging for help. She claims her new husband Virgil Doyle is poisoning her, that “fleshless things” and ghosts trouble her, that “they will not let me go.” Noémi — self-assured, chic and stubborn — leaves the glamor of 1950s Mexico City for the countryside, still depressed after a mining bust and fecund with secrets, to determine whether Catalina needs rescue.

Reader, she does. The situation is more complicated and sinister than the initial fear of just a con artist husband isolating his new wife and convincing the world she’s mad so he can steal her money.

(3) REPRESENTATION IN GAMING. BBC follows as a “Trailblazing Muslim superhero goes gaming”.

“It’s the representation in gaming I’ve waited for my whole life.”

Marvel’s Avengers are assembling once again, not on the big screen, but for a blockbuster video game.

It features many of the superheroes you might expect, including Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America. But they are joined by a new addition: Kamala Khan.

The Muslim-American teenager of Pakistani heritage, who has shape-shifting abilities, is the latest character to adopt the Ms Marvel moniker.

When the game’s publisher Square Enix announced that Marvel Avengers would include Kamala Khan as one of its main playable characters and make her central to the plot, it garnered praise from both fans and industry insiders.

“I first heard of Ms Marvel from the comics a few years ago,” says Maria Afsar, a 25-year-old gamer.

“I immediately thought it was so cool when read her background was like mine, being Pakistani, Muslim and a girl.

“When I saw the announcement she is going to be in the game and one of the main characters, I just thought I’ve literally been waiting for something like this my whole life. I saw nothing like this when I was younger.”

(4) CONZEALAND INITIATIVE. The 2020 Worldcon boosted the signal for the “CoNZealand Chairs’ Colonised, Marginalised and Historically Underrepresented People Inclusion Initiative”.

The Chairs of CoNZealand are pleased to be able to offer a Membership upgrade initiative to support inclusion of colonised, marginalised and historically underrepresented people in at Worldcon.

With the pandemic affecting job security, the financial ability to participate in conventions and the fan community is becoming increasingly difficult for many fans. 

Marginalised communities are overrepresented in the group suffering the greatest fallout from this pandemic, and as such, we want to ensure that our community does not suffer a loss of its hard-won diversity. We want to lower the barriers for participation for those from underrepresented communities. 

…The initiative upgrades eligible members from supporting to attending memberships. There Is no requirement for the supporting membership to be purchased before grantees are notified. 

Eligible members who are already fully paid, but would like some income relief are also invited to apply. 

In return, we ask that successful applicants willingly participate in our community. Whether that be through programme, art show, or volunteering is up to the individual and how they enjoy participating in this community. 

Applications can be made on this google form: https://forms.gle/4odYVgwvuvL8naLy5

Grantees will be chosen by the chairs. As long as there is a good plan for participation, we expect to grant applications. The grantees will be notified as soon as practical, and we will continue to announce grantees at least weekly as long as upgrades last.

Questions about this initiative can be mailed to inclusion@conzealand.nz.

(5) GLASS BELL. The winner of Goldsboro Books 2020 Glass Bell Award was not one of the genre works on the shortlist, but the tale of a fictional ’70s rock band, Daisy Jones and the Six.

(6) DOOMED. Here’s a promising subject – James Davis Nicoll lists “Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction” at Tor.com.

…Armies sacrificed for no obvious purpose and meaningless wars are not entirely unknown in speculative fiction. Here are five examples from that golden age of such stories, the Vietnam War era, and its literary aftermath.

(7) LIBERTARIAN FUTURIST SOCIETY AT NASFIC AND WORLDCON. The LFS told members about their plans to participate in two of the summer’s virtual sff cons.

Their scheduled presence at the Columbus 2020 North American Science Fiction Convention will migrate online with the rest of the virtual con. There will be a back-to-back Prometheus Awards ceremony and Prometheus-Awards-themed panel discussion, free and widely available to watch live.

Novelist F. Paul Wilson, previously confirmed by NASFiC as their and LFS’ Prometheus Awards Guest of Honor, will participate in the awards ceremony by presenting the Best Novel category, which Wilson was the first author to win in 1979. Wilson also will be a panelist in a “Visions of SF, Liberty, Human Rights: The Prometheus Awards Over Four Decades, from F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Today”. So will Sarah Hoyt, the 2011 Prometheus Award Best Novel winner for Darkship Thieves, LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg and newspaper journalist Tom Jackson.

During CoNZeland’s virtual convention, LFS will put on a panel “Freedom in Science Fiction: Four Decades of the Prometheus Awards, From F. Paul Wilson and Robert Heinlein to Ursula LeGuin, Vernor Vinge, Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson and Today.” Tom Jackson will moderate, joined by F. Paul Wilson and others to be announced. The Worldcon online program will initially be accessible that weekend for viewing only by registered Worldcon members.

(8) HISTORY OF SF. It’s Quilette, and if that doesn’t tell you what to expect, the first paragraph of “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” by Jordan Alexander Hill will make everything clear.

When mainstream authors like Eric Flint complain that the science fiction establishment, and its gatekeeper the Hugo Awards, has “drift[ed] away from the opinions and tastes of… mass audience[s],” prioritizing progressive messaging over plot development, the response from the Left is uniform: Science fiction is by its very nature progressive. It’s baked into the cake, they say. This is a superficially plausible claim. With its focus on the future, its embrace of the unfamiliar and other-worldly, and its openness to alternative ways of living, it is hard to see how the genre could be anything but progressive. In fact, studies indicate that interest in SF books and movies is strongly correlated with a Big Five personality trait called openness to experience, which psychologists say is highly predictive of liberal values.

But openness to experience also correlates with libertarianism and libertarian themes and ideas have exercised far greater influence than progressivism over SF since the genre’s inception. From conservatarian voices like Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Poul Anderson, and F. Paul Wilson to those of a more flexible classical liberal bent like Ray Bradbury, David Brin, Charles Stross, Ken McLeod, and Terry Pratchett, libertarian-leaning authors have had an outsized, lasting influence on the field. So much so that The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has deemed “Libertarian SF” its own stand alone “branch,” admitting that “many of libertarianism’s most influential texts have been by SF writers.”

…Although he began his career as a utopian socialist working for Upton Sinclair’s 1934 gubernatorial campaign, Heinlein underwent a political transformation and became known for the rest of his career as a libertarian “guru” of sorts. Scott Timberg at the LA Times describes him as a “nudist with a military-hardware fetish” who “dominated the pulps… and became the first science fictionist to land on the New York Times bestseller list.” A four-time Hugo Award winner, Heinlein is credited with helping to elevate SF from its ray-blaster and tentacled space-monster phase to a more serious, respectable prominence, penning such classics as Stranger in a Strange Land and, Milton Friedman’s favorite, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a book that reads like an anarcho-capitalist blueprint for revolutionary uprising. Friedman even named his 1975 public policy book after the novel’s slogan TANSTAAFL (“There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch”).

…Perhaps this is why so much of SF expresses itself as dystopian fiction, a genre which, by its very nature, cannot but take on a libertarian flavor. Totalitarianism, war, and wide-scale oppression is almost always carried out by state force. Liberation, accordingly, must come in the form of negative rights—that is, “freedom from”—and voluntarism: “[I]n writing your constitution,” Professor de la Paz instructs, “let me invite attention to the wonderful virtues of the negative! Accentuate the negative! Let your document be studded with things the government is forever forbidden to do.”

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

July 2 UFO Day. And “Has E.T. Gone Home?” asks Statista.

There is some controversy as to whether World UFO Day falls on June 26 or July 02 with people seemingly celebrating it on both days. The occasion is an awareness day for UFOs coinciding with the Roswell incident’s anniversary. It is getting increasingly popular as UFOs have been making headlines again lately, notably due to the “Storm Area 51” event which went viral last year. That’s on top of The New York Times running an interesting article about several U.S. Navy fighter pilots encountering mysterious objects near the southeastern coast of the United States. The high-profile story remains unexplained and so do plenty of other UFO sightings reported by members of the public every year like strange lights crossing the night sky or orange disks hovering in the distance.

The National UFO Reporting Center which is based in the U.S. maintains statistics about global UFO sightings. Notably, they are ticking up again….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 2, 1877 – Hermann Hesse.  You’ll expect me to celebrate The Glass Bead Game (also published as Magister Ludi), and I do, subtle, profound, satirical, moving, the first Nobel Prize SF novel, to my surprise and delight reaching the Retrospective Hugo ballot.  Other books of his in or near SF and more in line with the Hesse fad are SteppenwolfSiddharthaJourney to the East.  (Died 1962) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1908 Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Millenium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1914 – Hannes Bok.  Under this name (from Johann S. Bach) and in a short life he was one of our masters.  First Hugo for Best Cover Artist, shared with Emsh (Ed Emshwiller).  A hundred covers, his many monochromes maybe even better.  See how well he could work when he wanted to do without his famous weirdness (he turned down hundreds of commissions he didn’t want): Lest Darkness Fall; the Nolacon I Program Book (9th Worldcon); F & SF under Davidson (yes, I know those are covers).  Author too, novels, two dozen shorter stories, poems published posthumously as Spinner of Silver and Thistle.  See Petaja’s biography and flights of angels, and Ned Brooks’ index.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1935 – Doug Hoylman, Ph.D.  I hope I know when Our Gracious Host has done better than I can.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1946 – Arnie Katz, 74.  He’s done much.  Fundamentally a fanziner, he’s contributed to clubs and cons.  I might not be luxuriating in APA-L (alas, this Fancy 3 article has not caught up with Fred Patten) if AK hadn’t been a forerunner with APA-F.  He owes me a chicken dinner, but he’s quite fair about what I must do to collect.  Anyway, I pray for his prosperity.  And see here.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 – Larry Tucker.  How bodacious July 2nd has been for the birth of nearly unbelievable brothers (sisters too! it just happens I’ve come to another brother).  This Titan took fanzines to video  – took fanzines to video early on, while the tech was still truculentUncle Albert’s Video Fanzine (he had in mind this Uncle Albert; alas, I never asked if he also thought of, less directly or even less fairly, this one (but look who has the cigar).  LT co-founded the Ann Arbor SF Ass’n and the SF Oral History Ass’n; he didn’t start, but always inspired, the Stilyagi Air Corps and the well-named ConFusion.  The photo here is by Mark Olson; speaking of Leah Zeldes Smith (see no. 8 here), I’ve just recommended one of her stories.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 72. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he does show rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1949 Craig Shaw Gardner, 71. Comic fantasy author whose work is, depending on your viewpoint, very good or very bad. For me, he’s always great.  I adore his Ballad of Wuntvor sequence and highly recommend all three novels, A Difficulty with DwarvesAn Excess of Enchantments and A Disagreement with Death. Likewise, his pun filled Arabian Nights sequence will either be to your liking or really not. I think it’s worth it just for Scheherazade’s Night Out. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1950 –Stephen R. Lawhead, 70. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 64. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read his Dark Talents series, so opinions please. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1962 – Laura Benedict, 58.  Nine novels, a few shorter stories; anthologies.  “You don’t look like a person who writes scary stories.  I hear those words often and it makes me laugh every time.”  She put them next to this photo for good reason.  Three anthologies (with Pinckney Benedict, who – never mind, it’s not his birthday notice) are called Surreal South, for good reason.  [JH]
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 50. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe answers a history quiz. Spectacularly wrongly.
  • Two Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(12) UMM, ROBOT LITMUS TEST? This line occurred recently in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson was trying to identify who on a bus might be a time-traveling robot from the future and he came out with this:

(13) THE MARCH OF FUR. Coming July 3, The Fandom is a feature length documentary about the furry community from its origins in sf and anime fandoms up to present day.

The Fandom explores the history of animation fans who brought anime to the western world in the 1970s, Disney animators who faced threats to their careers, sci-fi fans who started the first furry conventions, and why furries became early adopters of the 1980s internet. It contrasts that with the modern fandom covering how it became a haven for the LGBT community as well as a positive economic and artistic impact on major US cities.

The production earned praise from blogger Patch O’Furr: “The Fandom movie: Furry paws seize the media”.

…I keep an eye out for all media about furries, and often call the Furry 101 kind boring. The Fandom raises the bar by giving an intimate tour with quality and heart. It’s 95% positive celebration.

Documentaries can show more drama or criticism or bad sides than this really does. But how much negativity do you need in these times? Not to say that this documentary has no opinion — it’s strong advocacy.

(14) GRRMTM. George R.R. Martin told readers he’s working on his videos for the virtual Worldcon.

The toastmaster wears many hats at worldcon, but probably the single biggest part of the gig is hosting the Hugo Awards ceremony.   I am going to be doing that with a combination of live streaming and pre-recorded videos, which we will (I hope I pray) edit seamlessly together.   This week I have started recording some of those videos.   It has been fun, if a little surreal, to be reading off the names of this year’s Hugo finalists when voting has not actually started yet.   And trying to be amusing (one hopes) while talking into a camera without the feedback of laughter (or moans, boos, or soul-chilling silence) from an actual audience is challenging as well.   But so it goes.

…((And before anyone starts to panic, “oh my god he is making videos in place of writing,” OF COURSE I am still working on WINDS OF WINTER as well.   That really should go without saying, yet somehow I need to say it, or someone might make stupid assumptions.   I am also doing some editorial work on three new Wild Cards books, reading scripts and making notes on a couple of exciting Hollywood projects, texting with agents, editors, and friends about this and that, eating several meals a day, watching television, reading books, and from time to time using the toilet.   Just because I do not mention it in every Not A Blog does not mean it is not happening)).

(15) BE YOUR OWN CTHULHU. This bit of Lovecraftian solipsism has been making the rounds:

(16) ON HOLD. BBC reports “Perseverance launch pushed back again”.

The launch of Nasa’s Mars rover Perseverance has been pushed back again to 30 July at the earliest.

In an update, the US space agency said a technical issue needed to be investigated, prompting the delay.

The robot rover will search for signs of past life on the Red Planet and also carries a drone-like helicopter which will demonstrate powered flight in the Martian atmosphere.

It is scheduled to land in February 2021.

In its statement, Nasa said: “A liquid oxygen sensor line presented off-nominal data during the Wet Dress Rehearsal, and additional time is needed for the team to inspect and evaluate.”

The mission’s original launch window extended from 17 July to 11 August.

But the rover will now get more time to launch.

“Flight analysis teams have expanded the mission launch opportunities to August 15 and are examining if the launch period may be extended further into August,” Nasa said.

(17) EXCERPT. SYFY Wire invites fans to “Read An Excerpt Of Sam Maggs’ Debut, Con Quest!”

Sam Maggs is no stranger to SYFY FANGRRLS. She’s got her hands in some of our absolute favorite properties of all time, from Spider-Man to Star Trek, and we’re so thankful she’s there to represent our, well, fangirling. But now, Maggs is back with something brand new on her plate: original fiction! Her debut novel Con Quest! came out just last week. 

Con Quest! is a comics convention adventure for young readers about fandom, family, and finding your place in the world!

Cat and Alex are excited to be at the world’s most popular comics convention — and they’re even more excited to compete in the Quest, a huge scavenger hunt run by their favorite nerdy celebrity. The big prize: a chance to meet him!

(18) REALLY FAUX GAIMAN. “Neil Gaiman–Bad Gaiman Challenge–Wits” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 2014 episode of the public radio show Wits where Gaiman read the winners of the show’s “Bad Gaiman challenge.”

We asked you guys to submit their worst versions of a Neil Gaiman-style short story. Hundreds responded to the call. Here, read by Neil Gaiman himself, are the worst of the worst.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/20 Nobody Would Have Come If I’d Yelled Chocolate

(1) ON THE DOUBLE. Connie Willis took a much-needed break from the news and devised this recommendation list: “Books And Movies: Doubling Your Pleasure”.

Okay, the world continues to go mad, with Covid-19, racism, and social injustice rampant. (Tonight, for instance, they’re tear-gassing people in D.C. again, coronavirus cases in Arizona are spiking, and two megachurch conmen are claiming they’ve invented a new air conditioning that kills 99.9 per cent of the virus. Note: They haven’t.)

I spend most of my days yelling and/or screaming at the TV and obsessing about how nuts everything is and how many things need to be fixed, and today’s no exception, but some of the time, just to keep a tenuous hold on our sanity, my family and I try to think about stuff that has nothing to do with the mayhem around us. To that end, my husband quilts, my daughter does the Getty Art Challenge, I read Agatha Christie mysteries, and together my daughter and I make up lists of favorite books and movies.

We thought you might need to take a mental break occasionally, too, so we’re sharing this, but I don’t want you to think that we’re not still VERY AWARE of how much is wrong and how much we need to do to rescue the world from its current messes.

So, in that spirit…

My daughter Cord and I had so much fun coming up with our lists of books that we reread over and over again, that we decided to put together another list, this one of movies and books that you should definitely read and/or watch….

For example:

5. BOOK: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen
MOVIE: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant)

It’s impossible to improve on Jane Austen, but Emma Thompson almost pulls it off in her brilliant script for the 1995 movie, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. She got rid of a bunch of extraneous characters and equally extraneous scenes and made the younger sister Margaret (a mere cipher in the novel) into a charming and fully-developed character who by the end was my favorite: “He’s kneeling down!”

(2) IGNORE THOSE CLICKBAIT WEBSITES. That’s what George R.R. Martin says. He means the other ones, not mine, I’m sure. Even if I am also linking to his Winds of Winter progress report. Because we all want to know!

…If nothing else, the enforced isolation [of the pandemic] has helped me write.   I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress.   I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week.   But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week.   It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go.   Please do not give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts as if they were papal encyclicals to divine hidden meanings.

… Of late I have been visiting with Cersei, Asha, Tyrion, Ser Barristan, and Areo Hotah.   I will be dropping back into Braavos next week.    I have bad days, which get me down, and good days, which lift me up, but all in all I am pleased with the way things are doing.

I do wish they would go faster, of course.   Way way back in 1999, when I was deep in the writing of A STORM OF SWORDS, I was averaging about 150 pages of manuscript a month.   I fear I shall never recapture that pace again.   Looking back, I am not sure how I did it then.    

George is also preparing to participate in the virtual Worldcon.

…I still plan to host the Hugo Awards and fulfill all the rest of my toastmasterly duties for worldcon, and have started pre-recording some bits for the ceremony (a wise precaution, since I am hopeless with Zoom and Skype and like things), but that is a lot less time-consuming and distracting than flying to the other end of the world.   In between tapings, I return to Westeros.  

(3) DOCTORS IN THE HOUSE. SYFY Wire lets you “Watch Jodie Whittaker & David Tennant Judge Stay-At-Home Doctor Who Cosplay Challenge”.

Some inventive Doctor Who fans — and Nate — showed off their costume-making talents to the world, with The Doctors themselves assessing the results. 

The Late Late Show host and former Who cast member James Corden put out a call to Doctor Who fans to compete in a cosplay challenge where they would have some 24 hours to create a costume from the show “using only objects from around their homes.” This is, in fact, keeping with the tradition of the classic series, which has often been teased for its wobbly sets and very low-budget aesthetic. (Seriously, some of the creatures were clearly made from bubble wrap.)  

James Corden also did an interview segment with the two actors.

(4) A KIND OF REALITY. Leslie Klinger, who has annotated Gaiman’s American Gods, is the subject of a LitHub Q&A. “American Gods has a new annotated version with a Sherlockian twist.”

Aaron Robertson: I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek, poetic quality of the annotations. I wonder if you have any literary influences of your own with those?

Leslie Klinger: The big “literary influence” on me is the best Sherlockian scholarship, written by hundreds of amateur scholars who love the world of Holmes and Doyle. Dorothy Sayers famously explained how Sherlockians approach the stories in their scholarship: “The rule of the game is that it must be played as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord’s; the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere.”

I have carried that approach—the Sherlockian “game”—over to other books that I’ve annotated, pretending (or “pretending”) that the stories are true and analyzing them from a biographical/historical perspective. Could the character have really done that? Are the historical aspects presented true or made up?

Neil—no mean Sherlockian himself—is especially adept at weaving reality into his fiction. I discovered that in detail in the course of annotating Gaiman’s Sandman and so fully expected to find a wealth of historical underpinnings here.

(5) THE LADY IN THE MOON. “‘Over the Moon’ Cast and Filmmakers Debut Trailer, Discuss Animated Musical” in Variety.

…Actors Sandra OhPhillipa SooJohn Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles and newcomer Cathy Ang joined producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, along with director Glen Keane, to discuss the making of the movie, a musical adventure about a young Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Ang), who builds her own rocket ship to travel to the moon in order to prove the existence of the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e (Soo). 

Soo, a Tony Award nominee for her work in “Hamilton,” noted that she has known about the story of Chang’e since childhood, through a children’s book written by Amy Tan. “I remember as a kid, asking my dad to read it over and over and over to me. Because I was just obsessed with this idea of the moon lady,” Soo said. “And when I was asked to play her, I was of course honored because it’s so infrequent that I’m being asked to play specifically Chinese characters. And also even more rare that I get to be in a film with incredible Asian actors who are surrounding me. So when I read the script and they invited me to come join them to create this beautiful story, I was, of course, immediately on board and so excited.”

(6) AGENT DROPS KRUEGER DUE TO ALLEGATIONS. Publishers Lunch reported today:

Agent DongWon Song announced that he was dropping Filipino-American fantasy author Paul Krueger as a client after allegations were made on Twitter that Krueger had harassed multiple women in publishing, although the specifics of the complaints available on that platform were unclear and mostly second-hand. Krueger posted a vague apology but has since deleted his Twitter account, and one person who publicly accused Krueger subsequently made her account private. DongWon said in his tweet, “I have terminated my professional relationship with Paul Krueger. This was a difficult decision to make but it is the right one.” He referred to “new information coming to light” in the past week and said he had “spoken to several people directly impacted by Paul’s behavior,” later adding, “Thank you to those of you who spoke up. That took courage and I am grateful to you all.”

(7) YOU THINK YOU HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS? “12 million books and a cherry-picker: Graduate Trainee visit to the Bodleian Storage Facility” — a Bodleian Libraries weblog invites you to see the BSF lift in action. You’ll wish one would fit in your home library!

… So how do you store 12.5 million books — and not only books, but maps, manuscripts, microfilms, periodicals and newspapers too? By 2009, the New Bodleian (which had 11 floors of space) as well as facilities at Nuneham Courtenay and a salt mine in Cheshire (yes, really) were at capacity. Costing approximately £25 million, and involving the biggest book-move in the Bodleian’s history (6.5 million items!), the BSF needed some serious storage. As we entered the main warehouse, it became clear that they really pulled it off.

… The BSF is huge. Its shelves are 11 metres high and over 70 metres long. Before the automatic lights kick in, the narrow aisles seem to converge into darkness. We wore high-visibility jackets to alert staff driving the book-retrieval vehicles to our presence. A cross between a cherry-picker and a forklift, these vehicles are configured to fit exactly between the shelves, allowing staff to retrieve an impressive average of one book per minute. Although I personally wouldn’t like to be 11 metres up in the air, Boyd assured us it’s a very safe operation!

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie premiered. It was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis who says they conceived it as a cinematic interpretation of the 1959–1964 TV series at created by Rod Serling. The film stars Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan, and John Lithgow, with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the prologue segment. Burgess Meredith took over as Host, the position of Rod Serling, in the series. So how did it fare? Critics were generally lukewarm, although some like as New York Times‘ media critic Vincent Canby, who called the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth” were almost angry. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 54% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 Eileen Gunn, 75. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1946 Ted Shackelford, 74. He’s mostly remembered as Lieutenant Patrick Brogan on Space Precinct which lasted a single season of thirty-four episodes. It was created and produced by Gerry Anderson. It combined live action, full-body prosthetics, puppetry, and Supermacromation techniques. The writing crew likewise was huge — thirty-seven are listed at IMDB. Likewise the cast was immense, Ted Shackelford, Simone Bendix, Lou Hirsch and Richard James who a cast of thirty-seven actors according ISFDB! He had the usual one-offs in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneDeadman’s Gun and The Outer Limits. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1951 Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1953 Russell Mulcahy, 67. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company meddled with production. He would later release this film as Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed several episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1963 Cixin Liu, 57. He won a Hugo Award for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, China’s SFF awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1972 Selma Blair, 48. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 2000 Caitlin Blackwood, 20. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired!  (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1896  – Paul Orban.  His first sale was a watercolor at age 14 for $5 – about $135 in money of 2020.  Fifty years later he had done a dozen covers, some fourteen hundred interiors.  Brian Aldiss said he expressed “perennial things – unending quests, great aspirations, long farewells, and a welcoming pair of arms on the far side of light.”  Here is a cover for Astounding magazine.  Here is a cover for Marooned on Mars.  Here is an interior for The World of Null-A.  Here is an interior for Norman Menasco’s “Trigger Tale”.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1931 – Nancy Share. With her sister Marie-Louise Share produced the fanzine Hodge-Podge for SAPS (the Spectator Amateur Press Society); with Larry Touzinsky, Fan To See (she was Art Director) which had contributions and letters from Robert Bloch, Terry Carr, Harlan Ellison, Juanita Wellons (later J. Coulson).  When Wrai Ballard wrote Non-Poetry that poetry-haters might like, NS countered with Am-So Poetry.  After the revelations of Ghu, Foo (or Foofoo), and Roscoe, NS proclaimed Ignatz.  She married Art Rapp, the first Rosconian.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1937 – Richard Curtis, age 83.  Edited the anthology Future Tense; audio anthology Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy; wrote Squirm, a movie novelization; a few shorter stories.  Best known as a literary agent; contributed “Agent’s Corner” to Locus 1980-1992, collected as Mastering the Business of Writing (rev. 1996).  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1947 – Mark Olson, F.N., age 73 Active Boston fan; has been President and Treasurer of both NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) and MCFI (Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc., which has produced three Worldcons, four Smofcons).  Chaired Boskone 23 and Noreascon 3 (47th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 9, Minicon 34, WindyCon 33. Fellow of NESFA, a service honor.  Active with fanhistory Website fanac.org (fanac fan activity; FANAC = Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions ran the 50th Worldcon, then started the Website); oversees Fancyclopedia 3.  Fanzine, The Typo Machein.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1967– Tommy Ferguson, age 53.  Founded the Queen’s University of Belfast Science Fiction & Fantasy Society.  Lived in Belfast, Toronto, Belfast.  Long-time fanzine Tommyworld – TF beat Claire Brialey, Tom Digby, Mike Glyer, Cheryl Morgan, Ted White, and me for Best Fanwriter in the 1998 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards – now a Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1981 – Ertaç Altinöz, age 39.  Digital artist (his name actually uses a dotless-i character which in Turkish stands for a sound different from i, but the software won’t show it).  Here is a cover for Clarkesworld 49.  Here is Shireen Baratheon teaching Ser Davos to read.  Here is “The Pointy End”, which for me recalls Princess Langwidere in Ozma of Oz.  [JH]

(10) FREE COMIC BOOK SUMMER. The revived event will last the summer, with 45 titles for readers to choose from. “Free Comic Book Day Changed to Weekly Event Lasting All Summer” reports Comicbook.com.

After being officially cancelled earlier this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Free Comic Book Day is back! Though usually scheduled for the first Saturday in May each year, Diamond Comic Distributors have announced the event will take place in comic shops around the country with brand new free comics every week starting in July and running through September. Due to the length of the event now, it’s being rebranded as Free Comic Book Summer for this year. Retailers will receive five to six Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) titles in their weekly shipments during each week of the promotional window, the full slate of which you can find below.

“Every year, Free Comic Book Day is our big event to thank current comics fans, welcome back former fans and invite those new to comics to join the fun,” said Joe Field, originator of FCBD, and owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA. “In this very different year, Free Comic Book Day is more like Free Comic Book Summer… and there’s so much fun to discover in this year’s FCBD comics! So many cool stories are available for this stretched-out Free Comic Book Day 2020. I’m confident long-time fans and newcomers alike are going to find a story that’ll make them want to visit their local comic shop every week! Fans, bring your friends and family and head to your local comic shop every week starting July 15 through September 9 to check out the new, and fantastic, free comics available that week!”

(11) A RECORD NO ONE WANTS TO SURPASS. Rob Hansen has added a section on the 1970 UK Eastercon to his THEN fanhistory website, with photos and links to audiofiles.

SCI-CON the 1970 UK National Science Fiction Convention took place over the weekend of Friday, 27th March to Monday, 30th March. It was held in London at the Royal Hotel, Russell Square (located a hundred yards or so from Russell Square Underground station). It’s widely regarded as being the worst Eastercon ever held.

Well, I guess that’s frank enough!

Bill Burns’ Prologue gives immediate hints about why things didn’t go well.

…At the Oxford Eastercon in 1969, George Hay proposed with his then-usual enthusiasm that the 1970 convention should be held in London – without having done any prep work on finding a hotel (or indeed on anything else). In the absence of any other bids, George was awarded the con. At the time he was also starting something called “The Environmental Consortium” with an office in central London, whose aims were never quite clear to me, but which an on-line reference notes was one of George’s organisations to promote “applied science fiction”.

Despite winning the bid, George had no hotel, no committee, and no idea how to run a con. Derek Stokes and I looked at each other in dismay, and volunteered for the committee in the hope of steering the con at least partially along traditional lines, but George had his own agenda and couldn’t be restrained….

(12) HAMILTON. Some inside baseball about the Disney+ release of Hamilton.

(13) MIND THE GAP. Yahoo! News reports “‘Black neutron star’ discovery changes astronomy”.

Scientists have discovered an astronomical object that has never been observed before.

It is more massive than collapsed stars, known as “neutron stars”, but has less mass than black holes.

Such “black neutron stars” were not thought possible and will mean ideas for how neutron stars and black holes form will need to be rethought.

The discovery was made by an international team using gravitational wave detectors in the US and Italy.

(14) CATCH ‘EM ALL. Peel a Woodrow Wilson from your money roll and this could be yours: “Ultra rare Pokemon card expected to fetch up to $100,000”.

An extremely rare Pokemon card, thought to be one of only seven ever produced, is up for auction online and experts said it could sell for up to $100,000.

The Pokemon Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer card, being sold by Heritage Auctions, is billed by the auction house as the “holy grail” of collectible cards and its condition was rated a perfect 10 by experts at PSA Card.

(15) TURNING OVER NEW ROCKS. Now that a large number of exoplanets are known, NASA is chipping in some bucks toward SETI. From USA Today, via Yahoo! — “Scientists are searching the universe for signs of alien civilizations: ‘Now we know where to look'”.

For the first time in more than three decades, research scientists have received grant money from NASA to search for intelligent life in outer space.

Specifically, the [$278K, 2 year ] grant will provide funding for a project to search for signs of life via “technosignatures.”

Grant recipient Avi Loeb of Harvard is quoted as saying:

“Such signatures might include industrial pollution of atmospheres, city lights, photovoltaic cells (solar panels), megastructures or swarms of satellites.”

Anogher grantee, Adam Frank (University of Rochester) said:

“The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has always faced the challenge of figuring out where to look. Which stars do you point your telescope at and look for signals? Now we know where to look. We have thousands of exoplanets including planets in the habitable zone where life can form. The game has changed.”

(16) TUBULAR. “Nasa Mars rover: Key questions about Perseverance” – BBC has the answers.

On 20 July, Nasa will get its first opportunity to launch the Perseverance rover to Mars. Here, we answer some common questions about the mission.

What will the rover do?

The Perseverance rover will land on Mars to search out signs of past microbial life, if it ever existed. It will be the first Nasa mission to hunt directly for these “biosignatures” since the Viking missions in the 1970s.

The rover will collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in tubes, and leave them on the planet’s surface for return to Earth at a future date. Perseverance will also study Martian geology and test out a way for future astronauts to produce oxygen for breathing and fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere.

In addition, a drone-like helicopter will be deployed to demonstrate the first powered flight on Mars. Perseverance will explore Mars’ Jezero Crater for at least one Martian year (about 687 Earth days).

(17) PETAFLOPSWEAT. The U.S. is nudged out of first place. “Japanese supercomputer, crowned world’s fastest, is fighting coronavirus”.

The newly crowned world’s fastest supercomputer is being deployed in the fight against the coronavirus.

Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer claimed the top spot on Monday, carrying out 2.8 times more calculations per second than an IBM machine in the US.

The US machine, called Summit, came top of the bi-annual Top500 list the previous four times.

Fugaku’s victory broke a long run of US-China dominance, returning Japan to the top for the first time in 11 years.

Top500 ranks the world’s most powerful non-distributed computer systems.

Fugaku has already been put to work on fighting the coronavirus, simulating how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions installed or in packed trains with the windows open.

When it is fully operational next year, experts are hoping the machine will also be able to help narrow down the search for effective treatments for the virus.

The room-sized machine lives in the city of Kobe and was developed over six years by Japanese technology firm Fujitsu and the government-backed Riken Institute. Its name is another way of saying Mount Fuji.

Its performance was measured at 415.53 petaflops, 2.8 times faster than second-place Summit’s 148.6 petaflops. The US machine is housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. A supercomputer is classified by being more than 1,000 times faster than a regular computer.

(18) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Not as attention-grabbing as politics, but with long-term consequences: “Facebook bans ‘loot-to-order’ antiquities trade”.

Facebook has banned users trading in historical artefacts on the site.

It follows a campaign by academic researchers and an investigation by BBC News, exposing how items looted from Iraq and Syria were sold on Facebook.

One expert welcomed the move but said for anything to change, Facebook should invest in “teams of experts to identify and remove networks rather than playing whack-a-mole with individual posts”.

Facebook says all trade in ancient artefacts is banned on its platforms.

(19) PLAIN GOOFY. The Screen Junkies continue their look at older movies with their “Honest Trailer” on A Goofy Movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/20 Come Pixel Round Filers, Wherever You Scroll, And Admit That The Word Counts Around You Have Grown

(1) FOR ALL MANKIND. There’s a lot of information available about Season 2 of Apple TV+’s alternate history of the space race For All Mankind – only I didn’t locate a release date.

Take a guided tour of For All Mankind’s first lunar base. Former Astronaut and technical advisor Garrett Reisman helps show us around Jamestown.

Collider interviewed series creator Ronald D. Moore.

One of my favorite shows on any streaming service is the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind. Created by Ronald D. Moore (who previously developed the Battlestar Galactica reboot), the series takes place in an alternate history where the global space race of the 1960’s never ended. In this alt timeline, the Soviet Union landed on the Moon first and we follow NASA as they try and catch up while also dealing with the changing times. Loaded with fantastic performances, incredible production design, and an honest depiction of the space race, I strongly recommend watching the first season when you get the chance.

(2) BETTING ON RESNICK. Alex Shvartsman did a cover reveal for Mike Resnick’s The Hex Is In: The Fast Life and Fantastic Times of Harry the Book. Cover art by Túlio Brito. See it at the link.

From boxing matches to dragon races to elections, there’s no wager Harry won’t cover—so long as the odds are right.

Harry the Book operates out of a Manhattan bar booth, with his personal wizard and his zombie bodyguard close at hand. He’ll dope out the odds on any sort of contest, even if that gets him into a heap of trouble.

The book will be out in August, but you can order eARCs immediately at the link.

(3) ROTHFUSS TEAMS WITH ONE SHOT PODCAST. Patrick Rothfuss will partner with One Shot Podcast, releasing new episodes every Monday through July 27, for an actual play miniseries set in The Kingkiller Chronicles’ world of Temerant.

One Shot is a weekly actual play podcast that explores different role playing systems with self contained One Shot stories. A rotating cast of improvisers, game designers, and other notable nerds show off the variety and diversity in RPGs run a new game every month.

The multi-performer audio production will feature original music by Arne Parrott and sound design by Casey Toney (NeoScum, Campaign Skyjacks, Hey Riddle Riddle.) Performers include Patrick Rothfuss himself alongside Satine Phoenix (Gilding Light, GMTips) Liz Anderson (Campaign: Skyjacks, Jackbox Games, Contributor at The Onion), Bee Zelda (The Broadswords), and Gamemaster James D’Amato (One Shot, Campaign: Skyjacks). 

While new to his readers, this is not the first time Rothfuss has roleplayed Temerant. In the years before the publication of The Name of the Wind, he fleshed out the world and tested ideas in private games he would run for friends and family.

“Long before I ever tried to write a novel, I made characters and built worlds for roleplaying games,” says Rothfuss. “Telling stories like this will give me a chance to show off corners of my world that don’t appear in my novels, and it’s playful and collaborative in a way that I really miss. Most importantly, these are stories that will let people spend time in my world sooner rather than later, while they’re waiting for the next book to come out.” 

Rothfuss and D’Amato set their first Temerant story at The University, following students who find themselves at loose ends at the end of the term: juggling financial responsibilities, personal relationships, and their hopes for the future. 

“It’s a college road trip movie,” said D’Amato. “For our first adventure, I wanted to look to the left of Kvothe’s rougeish heroics to see what else we can learn about Temerant.”

“I had such fun,” said Rothfuss. “It’s the first time I’ve ever PLAYED a game in my world instead of running it. I got to share details about the culture and magic I’ve never talked about before. I loved making characters and seeing where our shared story took us. I’ll admit, it wasn’t at all what I anticipated….” 

(4) THE SCALZI FENESTRATION. John Scalzi’s “The Hugo Window” takes off from an observation in Camestros Felapton’s recent post “Back to Flint”.

… Camestros Felapton blog, as part of a more general examination about who wins and/or is a finalist for Hugo Awards, and when they win them (and when they stop winning them, if they do indeed ever start winning them). The proprietor of the blog essentially argues that for every writer there is a Hugo window, during which they and their work are both popular enough and new enough to draw attention. But sooner or later that window closes.

I come up because I’m used as an example:

“I am not saying John Scalzi will never win another Hugo Award but I don’t expect him to even though I think he’ll be writing good, entertaining sci-fi for many years. This is not because he’s not sufficiently left-wing for current Hugo voters but because we’ve read lots of John Scalzi now and sort of know what to expect.”

It’s not about me, it’s about my Hugo window.

And do I think this is correct? Sort of, yes! And also sort of not….

And Scalzi goes on to develop the thinking behind his answer.

(5) DO YOU KNOW THE WAY. James Davis Nicoll finds “Five SFF Stories That Prove You Can Never Go Home Again” at Tor.com.

To quote Princess Leia, sometimes you cannot go home again. Why this might be varies from story to story… Perhaps home is unrecognizable, or has vanished entirely. Perhaps you yourself have been changed and can no longer fit in as you did in the past. Whatever the reason behind this particular experience of alienation, it is fodder for engaging stories. You might enjoy these five examples.

(6) DEATHSTAR WARMED OVER. You have until June 25 to bid on “”Star Wars” 20” x 16” Photo Signed by 23 of the Cast — Many With Personal Notes Such as Carrie Fisher Writing ”I know…Did you?” — With Becket COA for All Signatures” at Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

Visually powerful 20” x 16” photo of the second Death Star from ”Star Wars”, signed by 23 of the cast, many of whom write their character name or a playful note such as Carrie Fisher’s, ”I know…Did you?” All autographs are penned in silver felt-tip, showing excellent contrast against the black and silver photo. With Beckett COA for all signatures, including: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Jeremy Bulloch, Dave Prowse, Gary Kurtz, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Paul Blake and Billy Dee Williams. Photo is framed with a ”Star Wars” plaque to a size of 27.625” x 26.75”. Near fine condition.

(7) SCHUMACHER OBIT. Batman Forever director Joel Schumacher died June 22.Variety paid tribute: “Joel Schumacher, Director of Batman Films and ‘Lost Boys,’ Dies at 80”.

Joel Schumacher, costume designer-turned-director of films including “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Lost Boys” and “Falling Down,” as well as two “Batman” films, died in New York City on Monday morning after a year-long battle with cancer. He was 80.

… Schumacher’s second and last film in the franchise was 1997’s “Batman and Robin,” with George Clooney as Batman and Arnold Schwarzenegger as villain Mr. Freeze. For “Batman Forever,” the openly gay Schumacher introduced nipples to the costumes worn by Batman and Robin, leaning into the longstanding latent homoeroticism between the two characters. (In 2006, Clooney told Barbara Walters that he had played Batman as gay.)

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 22, 1979 Alien premiered. It would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon Two (which had Robert Silverberg as Toast Master). Released by  20th Century Fox, it was directed by Ridley Scott.  Screenplay was by Dan O’Bannon based on the story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.  It starred Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. The Alien and its accompanying objects were designed by the Swiss artist H. R. Giger, while concept artists Ron Cobb and Chris Foss designed the more mundane settings. Jerry Goldsmith was the composer. Critics loved the film, it did a great box office and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 94% rating. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 – Sir Henry Rider Haggard.  Most famous for King Solomon’s Mines introducing Allan Quatermain, and She introducing Ayesha (yes, that’s She Who Must Be Obeyed); fifty more novels, some about him, her, or both; twenty shorter stories; translated into Dutch, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish.  Had 100 letters in The Times.  (Died 1925) [JH]
  • Born June 22, 1900 – Leo Margulies. Sometimes called the Giant of the Pulps, partly because he was physically short, partly because (it is said) he at one time edited 46 of them, including Captain FutureStartlingStrangeThrilling Wonder; later Fantastic Universe and Satellite.  With Oscar Friend, co-edited My Best SF StoryFrom Off This WorldThe Giant Anthology of SF.  First reviver of Weird Tales, 1973.  By his nephew, Leo Margulies (P. Sherman, 2017).  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born June 22, 1927 – Lima de Freitas.  Ceramicist, illustrator, painter, writer.  Officer of the Order of Merit (France); Order of St. James of the Sword (Portugal).  A hundred eighty covers for us; here is Fahrenheit 451here is The War Against the Rullhere is Foundation and Empire.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born June 22, 1936 Kris Kristofferson, 84. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium, which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly, he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes. (CE)
  • Born June 22, 1947 – Octavia Butler.  Fourteen novels, nine shorter stories, two Hugos.  Translated into Bulgarian, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 4, OryCon V, LTUE 7 (Life, the Universe, and Everything), Eastercon 48, Lunacon 41, Balticon 34, Rustycon 21; Parable of the Sower was Book of Honor at Potlatch 17.  U.S. Air Force Academy Special Achievement Award.  MacArthur Fellowship (first SF author to receive this).  Solstice Award.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born June 22, 1949 – John-Henri Holmberg.  Critic, editor, fan, translator.  Co-edited Science Fiction Forum.  Started first SF bookstore in Sweden.  Co-chaired Stockon 5 & 6.  Reporter for Science Fiction Chronicle.  Published Fandom Harvest.  European SF Award for Nova magazine.  Fan Activity Achievement (FAAn) Award for “Worldcon Kaleidoscope” (Trap Door 34).  Big Heart Award.  Guest of Honor at Swecon 14 (33rd Eurocon), at 75th Worldcon (Helsinki, 2017).  [JH]
  • Born June 22, 1949 Meryl Streep, 71. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that’s it. (CE) 
  • Born June 22, 1953 Cyndi Lauper, 67. Ok, I’m officially old as I’m thinking of her as always young. Genre wise, she played a psychic, Avalon Harmonia, on the Bones series. She also has one-offs in series as diverse as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!Shelley Duvall’s Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Oddly enough she has one serious acting credit, Jenny (Ginny Jenny/Low-Dive Jenny) in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera. (CE)
  • Born June 22, 1958 Bruce Campbell, 62. Where to start? Well, let’s note that Kage loved the old rascal as she described him, so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally liked just as much The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and godawful, often in the same film. Or the same scene. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh, and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. (CE) 
  • Born June 22, 1971 Laila Rouass, 49. She was Sarah Page, an Egyptologist on Primeval, a series I highly recommend if you’ve not seen it. She played Colonel Tia Karim, a traitorous UNIT officer in the two part “Death of The Doctor” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. This story was the last to feature Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor, The Eleventh here, together onscreen. Jo Grant would also show up. (CE)
  • Born June 22, 1973 Ian Tregillis, 47. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a rather good serial fiction anthology (if that’s the proper term) and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I need to check out.  (CE)
  • Born June 22, 1958 – Johanna Sinisalo.  Eight novels; forty shorter stories, two dozen for us; three anthologies, notably The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy (i.e. in English); also comics, television; translated into English, French, German. Tiptree Award (as it then was).  Seven Atorox Awards.  Finlandia Prize. Guest of Honor at Worldcon 75.  [JH]
  • Born June 22, 1984 – Robert Bennett.  Nine novels, four shorter stories; translated into Bulgarian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Turkish.  Interview in Clarkesworld 64.  Two Shirley Jackson awards.  His Website is here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DIFFICULT QUIZ OF THE DAY. A Buzzfeed contributor throws down a challenge: “I Will Be Seriously Impressed If You Can Figure Out Whether These Are “Star Trek” Compounds Or Skincare Ingredients”. I scored 9 out of 20. Which earned me the Picard facepalm. Do better.

(12) MODDING UP. “My Kid Could Do That” by Elvia Wilk on the N Plus One magazine blog is a sf short story about augmented reality.

Today 60 percent of the American population, according to recent reports, possesses a database implant that allows a range of augments to be downloaded directly into the brain. The artificial intelligence can allow a person, for example, with no chiseling experience the ability to create a lifelike wooden sculpture. While there are no reliable statistics within the art world, a recent anonymous survey of working artists in New York City under 40 reported an above-average augmentation rate compared with the general population.

(13) JEMISIN ONLINE. N. K. Jemisin discussed her latest novel, The City We Became, with sociopolitical comedian W. Kamau Bell during a live virtual event held by the New York Public Library earlier this month. The video is now available.

(14) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. “Review: The City We Became by N K Jemisin” at Camestros Felapton.

…If you are immediately thinking of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, then that’s not unreasonable but whereas Gaiman’s London is narrow, weird, convoluted and Victorian, Jemisin’s New York is loud, colourful and in your face. Whereas Neverwhere is a rabbit warren of a mystery, The City We Became owes more to superheroes, a genre that is as New York as they come. I can’t claim Jemisin has grasped that same sense of place as Gaiman did with London because I don’t know New York except through it’s own fictional depictions but it feels like it does.

The superhero comparison is not a shallow one. This is very much a story about a group of New Yorkers who each gain unique powers and who must find a way to fight a supernatural evil…

(15) FOR THE RECORD. [Item by Rob Thornton.] As the wheel turns and progressive rock begins to make a comeback once more, evidently the extravagant extra-long science fiction concept album must also return, as seen in this Bandcamp Daily review: “Neptunian Maximalism, ‘Éons’”

At 123 minutes and—in its physical form—three CDs long, Éons, the new album from Belgium’s Neptunian Maximalism, is unquestionably a massive work. Even so, the size and scale of the project—formed in 2018 by multi-instrumentalist Guillaume Cazalet and saxophonist Jean-Jacques Duerinckx—never feels unnecessary or extravagant as this aptly named collective uses the healthy runtime to explore heavy psych, tribal rhythms, free-jazz freakouts, meditative drone and the vast, shadowy spaces in between. Arriving in the wake of a four-song EP and a largely improvised live album that hinted at Neptunian Maximalism’s ambition, Éons fully delivers on those early promises. The sonic epic not only gives the band plenty of room to roam, but also follows a conceptual framework that imagines the end of Earth’s human-dominated anthropocene era and the onset of a ‘probocene’ era, in which the planet is ruled by superior, intelligent elephants.

(16) THE MIDDLE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Well it’s not The Monolith from that film… Atlas Obscura visits “The Center of Santa Clara Valley”.

ALONG COYOTE CREEK ON A far-flung San JoseCalifornia trail, a mysterious plaque sits next to a bike path. At first glance, it appears to be entirely covered in ones and zeroes. But from a different angle, the words “Santa Clara Valley” are faintly visible, etched beneath the numbers.

The reason for the plaque’s strange location is that it marks the geographical center of the Santa Clara Valley, which may be more familiar by its other moniker: Silicon Valley. The numbers, as it happens, spell out three words in binary. 

(17) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. “Stonehenge: Neolithic monument found near sacred site” reports BBC.

A ring of large shafts discovered near Stonehenge form the largest prehistoric monument ever discovered in Britain, archaeologists believe.

Tests carried out on the pits suggest they were excavated by Neolithic people more than 4,500 years ago.

Experts believe the 20 or more shafts may have served as a boundary to a sacred area connected to the henge.

“The size of the shafts and circuit is without precedent in the UK,” said Prof Vince Gaffney, a lead researcher.

The 1.2 mile-wide (2km) circle of large shafts measuring more than 10m (30ft) in diameter and 5m (15ft) in depth are significantly larger than any comparable prehistoric monument in Britain.

(18) INCLUSIVE. “Is this the most accessible game ever?”

The first time Steve Saylor fired up the hotly-anticipated new game The Last of Us Part II, he burst into tears.

“Y’all don’t even know how much…” he says between sobs in his video of the moment, which has now had nearly half a million views.

“I’m sorry. I don’t even know what to say.”

Steve is legally blind, and was looking at the overwhelming accessibility options menu.

Courtney Craven, editor of accessibility-focused gaming site Can I Play That, is hard of hearing and has some motor-control issues, and had a similar reaction.

“The first thing I did upon launching [the game] for the first time was FaceTime a friend and cry,” she says.

The game has already been dubbed “the most accessible game ever”.

It has more than 60 different accessibility settings, allowing an unprecedented level of customisation and fine-tuning.

Every button can be changed, and one-handed control schemes are available by default.

Players like Courtney can turn on direction arrows on subtitles to indicate where the sound is coming from; players like Steve can outline characters and enemies in vivid colours.

(19) ROLL ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM. NPR declares “The Latest Pandemic Shortage: Coins Are The New Toilet Paper”.

Just as supplies of toilet paper are finally getting back to normal, the coronavirus has triggered another shortage of something we typically take for granted: pocket change.

Banks around the U.S. are running low on nickels, dimes, quarters and even pennies. And the Federal Reserve, which supplies banks, has been forced to ration scarce supplies.

“It was just a surprise,” said Gay Dempsey, who runs the Bank of Lincoln County in Tennessee, when she learned of the rationing order. “Nobody was expecting it.”

Dempsey’s bank typically dispenses 400 to 500 rolls of pennies each week. Under the rationing order, her allotment was cut down to just 100 rolls, with similar cutbacks in nickels, dimes and quarters.

That spells trouble for Dempsey’s business customers, who need the coins to stock cash registers all around Lincoln County, Tenn.

“You think about all your grocery stores and convenience stores and a lot of people that still operate with cash,” Dempsey said. “They have to have that just to make change.”

…The U.S. Mint produced fewer coins than usual this spring in an effort to protect employees from infection. But the larger problem — as with many other pandemic shortages — is distribution.

During the lockdown, many automatic coin-sorting machines that people typically use to cash in loose change were off-limits. And with many businesses closed, unused coins piled up in darkened cash drawers, in pants pockets and on nightstands, even as banks went begging.

“The flow of coins through the economy … kind of stopped,” Powell said.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman on ‘Game of Thrones,’ Favorite Words, and Tattoos” on YouTube is a 2015 interview with WNYC where Gaiman explains that, given a choice between living in Game of Thrones or Lord of The RIngs, he’d choose a world with better plumbing.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/20/20 Let The Filed Rumpus Begin

(1) ARISIA’S LATEST REFORMS. Boston’s Arisia conrunning group is taking steps to create “A More Welcoming Arisia”. The post begins:

Black Lives Matter. While we don’t have a time machine to prevent the injustices of the past, we certainly have the power and the duty to correct present injustices and prevent future injustices in the spaces we are responsible for creating. Actions speak louder than words, and we are determined that our actions will reflect our resolve to make Arisia a more diverse, more welcoming space.

Changes have been made to the Arisia Code of Conduct:

  • We have replaced some language that has been weaponized against BIPoC or used to police their behavior. In particular, we strive to avoid coded words like “intimidating” and “civilized”. We can and will continue to clarify our expectations of Arisia attendees, but we will do it in ways that do not alienate fans of color.
  • We have added “display of hateful iconography” to the list of behavior the Code of Conduct explicitly forbids, with reference to the iconography listed on the SPLC and ADL websites.
  • In light of our knowledge of endemic police racism and brutality in interactions with BIPoC, we have removed suggestions that Arisia would involve the police, either reactively in response to prohibited behavior, or proactively by encouraging a police presence. In the past, we have sometimes paid for Boston Police Department details during the convention, but we commit to ending this practice.
  • We have clarified the protected classes, including race, to which our harassment policy pertains.

They have retired the “Lens” logo.

This artwork too closely resembles a modern police badge, which has become a symbol of oppression.

It is being replaced with Lee Moyer’s winged-A logo designed for Arisia 2017.

They have formed an Anti-Racism Committee “dedicated to educating ourselves about the injustices suffered by BIPoC and how to become actively anti-racist.” They also are “re-committing to supporting the convention’s Diversity Committee, which exists to make the Arisia convention a safer, more welcoming space for fans of color.”

(2) PROGRESS REPORT. Good news from DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis: “We have achieved a proper glass door! Now we even look open. Noon-6, Monday-Saturday.”

And on June 17, publisher Catherine Lundoff spoke at DreamHaven Books about owning and operating a small press. The title of the the talk was “The Return of Running a Small Press: It’s an Adventure” and it also featured a live Q&A on Facebook.

(3) FREE READS FROM SOMTOW. Somtow Sucharitkul is giving away three free ebooks on Amazon THIS WEEKEND ONLY — from now till 23:59 Sunday night.

Somtow in a mask.

The Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter • A book for young adults, this was a Junior Literary Guild selection as well as a Science Fiction Book Club selection. It’s about a half Jewish, half Lakota boy with some cultural identity issues who befriends a girl in school whose problem leaves his in the dust: she’s half human and half vampire. And she has to pick a side before she turns sixteen.…

Light on the Sound • the first volume of a series set in a galactic empire of incredible beauty and brutality. Of this series, reviewers said:

“He can create a world with less apparent effort than some writers devote to creating a small room … yet these tales are intricately wrought as those handcarved oriental balls within balls” — The Washington Post

“His multicultural viewpoint may yet give us the best SF novel of all time” — Analog

After a twenty year silence, I’ve added a fifth book to the series, and am working on a sixth, so this book is by way of introduction.

The final free book is Sounding Brass. It is an autobiographical memoir about the time I spent as a student ghost-writing music that was presented as the work of a cabinet minister during the Vietnam War. It’s definitely a worm’s eye view of “the swamp” with major political figures making cameo appearances, but although it’s definitely a funny book it also asks some questions about what “being an artist” really means.

To get these books for free, please make sure you order them from Amazon during the window of Saturday the 20th – Sunday the 21st, Pacific Standard Time.

Please enjoy the books and, if you so desire, visit my website  (www.somtow.com) and sign up for the newsletter, and you’ll receive news and the occasional free ebook.

(4) IN PRAISE OF VIRTUAL CONS. Polish fan Marcin Klak discusses “Online Conventions and Where to Find Them” at Fandom Rover. His post is a great window on what’s been done in this line in Europe.

… All in all, I found the conventing online is really rewarding. The feeling is different than the one at the in-person cons but it has also some similarities. The most important aspect is that it allows me to socialize with fellow fans. I do hope that sooner rather than later in-person cons will be possible, but even then I think I would like to find some time for the online events. They have their own certain value not only as a “replacement” but also as events worth spending time on even in the “regular” times.

(5) UFO #8. Alex Shvartsman has released the Unidentified Funny Objects 8 table of contents. He expects the book to be released by early October.

  • Foreword by Alex Shvartsman
  • “The 10:40 Appointment at the NYC Department of Superhero Registration” by Chris Hepler
  • “Soul Trade” by Galen Westlake
  • “A.I., M.D.” by Kurt Pankau
  • “The Fellowship of the Mangled Scepter” by James Wesley Rogers
  • “When the “Martians” Return” by David Gerrold
  • “Welcome Home” by Simon R. Green
  • “The Unwelcome Mat” by J. J. Litke
  • “Get Me to the Firg-<click><cough>-xulb On Time” by Laura Resnick
  • “Black Note, in His Transition to a Supreme State of Wokeness” by James Beamon
  • “The Other Ted” by Wendy Mass and Rob Dircks
  • “C.A.T. Squad” by Gini Koch
  • “Ambrose Starkisser” by Jordan Chase-Young
  • “Gommy” Amy Lynwander
  • “Journey to Perfection” by Larry Hodges
  • “Fifteen Minutes” by Mike Morgan
  • “Zaznar the Great’s Fifty-Sixth Proposal to the Council for Urban Investment” by Jared Oliver Adams
  • “Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal” by Illimani Ferreira
  • “Couch Quest” by Eric D. Leavitt
  • “Pet Care for the Modern Mad Scientist” by Michael M. Jones
  • “The Punctuation Factory” by Beth Goder
  • “One Born Every Minute” by C. Flynt
  • “Shy and Retiring” by Esther Friesner
  • “Suburban Deer” by Jamie Lackey
  • “Body Double” by Jody Lynn Nye

(6) PAWS FOR ENJOYMENT. I’ve learned you can support George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Theater in Santa Fe by accessing the “Quarantine Cat Film Festival” (mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll) with a virtual ticket purchased through their site. The link will take you there.

…Jean Cocteau Cinema presents Quarantine Cat Film Festival. Amateur filmmakers from around the world filmed their beloved cats during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. This compilation reel brings together the cutest, funniest, brave stand most loving of these videos, exclusively filmed during the pandemic.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1997 — Will Shetterly’s Dogland was published by Tor Books. The Chopping Block was listed as the cover artist. Shetterly has said it’s the novel that he’s most proud of. The story is based on his own childhood and a business that his parents owned called Dog Land. In 2007 Shetterly published a sequel, The Gospel of the Knife. Reviewers including Faren Miller, Ellen Kushner, Gahan Wilson and Peter Crowther praised both the characters and the setting. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s ShadowThe Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) (CE) 
  • Born June 20, 1913 Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. The first, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, was published in 1966. She’d publish twenty-nine more novels plus three collections of The Cat Who… shorter tales over the next forty years.  Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1919 – Kees Kelfkens.  A dozen covers for Dutch translations.  Here is The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym.  Here is The Two Towers.  Here is Nineteen Eighty-Four.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1920 – Lloyd Eshbach.  Fan, pro, church publisher and Evangelical Congregational minister.  First sold SF 1930 to Scientific Detective Monthly; thirty more short stories.  Founded Fantasy Press and helped other small presses; edited Of Worlds Beyond about pro writing.  Pro Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon (Cincinnati); reminiscences of the 1st, 6th, 7th, 10th, 39th, 41st, for the 47th (Noreascon III Program Book).  Last novel 1990, The Scroll of Lucifer.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1941 – Pamela Zoline.  Illustrated several stories for New Worlds, see e.g. this for “Camp Concentration”.  Her most famous story “The Heat Death of the Universe” has been translated into Croatian, German, Japanese, Polish; five more.  You can read “Heat Death” here [PDF].  In 1984, with husband John Lifton and five others, founded the Telluride Institute at Telluride, Colorado; in 2006, she and JL founded the Centre for the Future at Slavonice, Czech Republic.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1950 – Bruce Dane.  Attended L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; first President of the Central Arizona Speculative Fiction Society; after Los Angeles and Phoenix, Colorado Springs.  A filker; at his death Bill Mills sang “Don’t Bury Me in the Cold Cold Ground” to which you could once and might still get access here [PDF]; the File 770 report is here.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 69. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1947 Candy Clark, 73. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye, and The Blob in the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon because it’s not the Whedon Buffy. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1962 – David Clink.  As he says, poet, poker player, punster (e.g. “The Valet of the Shadow of Death”).  Fourteen dozen poems, e.g. in the 2019 Rhysling Anthology; four collections, recently The Role of Lightning in Evolution.  A poetry editor for Amazing.  His Website is here; it has his 2013 biography here.  [JH]
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 53. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical MagicThe Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), the splendid Paddington and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 52. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll. (CE)
  • Born June 20, 1971 – Wu Ming-yi, Ph.D.  Professor of Chinese at Nat’l Dong Hwa University, Taiwan.  Two novels for us, The Man with the Compound Eyes and The Stolen Bicycle; six others, short stories, essays; known for nature writing, or as some would have it, ecological literature; translated into Czech, English, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Turkish.  Designed and illustrated his non-fiction Book of Lost Butterflies and The Dao of Butterflies.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • All glory is fleeting: Wondermark,”In which a Visitor proves a Nuisance, Part 2.”

(10) LIVE LONG. Gothamist ran this Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock image of Dr. Fauci street art on the Lower East Side. Andrew Porter adds, “Note The Pigeon of Truth on his shoulder!”

(11) MARTIAN HOP. The art students at Liverpool John Moores University couldn’t have their senior exhibits because of the pandemic. So they used NASA’s 3D Scans to hold a “Degree Show on Mars”.

The planet is currently broken. We are doing our degree show on Mars.

The trajectory of the LJMU Fine Art Degree show has been charted. We proceed at full-throttle and we are on schedule. This final journey into the unknown for our graduating students is not a pared back simulation of what might have been, it is a voyage that seeks to collectively establish new relevance and understanding for their individual endeavours, amid the stasis the world is currently experiencing. 

Artists respond to the world as they find it, they reflect it and help to build an understanding of what we are experiencing. The Degree Show on Mars is not simply showcasing the extraordinary originality and resilience of our graduating artists. It is a means by which we can document and understand the crisis through the eyes of artists who are emerging into a world very different to that which they had anticipated. 

(12) FACING UP. Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova invites you to enjoy a gallery of homemade masks — “As an Antidote to Fear of Death, I Eat the Stars: Vintage Science Face Masks” – now licensed for sale.

A small, coruscating delight: I have made a series of face masks featuring wondrous centuries-old astronomical art and natural history illustrations I have restored and digitized from various archival sources over the years….

(13) ABOUT POE. At CrimeReads, Sarah Weinman asks “Can You Really Separate Edgar Allan Poe’s Work From His Life?” Weinman wrote the introduction for a reissue of Julian Symons’ Poe biography The Tell-Tale Heart, originally published in 1978, which has been out of print for decades.

…But the audacity of Symons’ project makes more than a bit of sense: because, he rightly argues in The Tell-Tale Heart, so much of what we think we know about Edgar Allan Poe is rooted in grudges, hearsay, rumor, and mystery, and of intuiting too much personal meaning from his successful, written-for-the-money mystery stories and from the poems that were closer to Poe’s heart and spirit.

(14) LAST AT BATS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Holy Bat-feuds! Revisiting the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding ‘Batman Forever’ 25 years later”, Ethan Alter argues that Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever “might arguably be worse” than Schumacher’s widely reviled Batman & Robin, and lists the many feuds surrounding the film, including Michael Keaton turning down $15 million to get in the bat-suit because the script for the film “sucked,” Val Kilmer regretting he replaced Keaton in the bat-suit, and villians Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey wanting to stick knives in each other.

…Schumacher and Kilmer were all smiles during the Batman Forever publicity tour, but it turns out that was just really good acting. Interviewed by Entertainment Weekly in 1996 — one year removed from the film’s release — the director described a tense on-set relationship that culminated in an actual pushing match. “He was being irrational and ballistic with the first AD, the cameraman, the costume people,” Schumacher said. “He was badly behaved, he was rude and inappropriate. I was forced to tell him that this would not be tolerated for one more second. Then we had two weeks where he did not speak to me, but it was bliss.” Speaking with Vulture in 2019, Schumacher was even more pointed: “I didn’t say Val [Kilmer] was difficult to work with on Batman Forever. I said he was psychotic.” 

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman–Is Writing For Children Tougher Than Writing for Adults?” on YouTube is a 2013 video by Bloomsbury Publishing where Gaiman explains that when writing for children, he has to be more precise than writing for adults.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/17/20 How Many Pixels Will It Take? One For Peter, Two For Paul, Three To Post On My Facebook Wall

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON UPDATE. The chairs of World Fantasy Con 2020 announced the availability of sponsored memberships for People of Color.

We at World Fantasy Convention 2020 support diversity in all aspects of fantasy and horror. It is our hope that our virtual convention will be attended by a diverse membership, many of whom are using their craft to create literature and art that not only entertain but introduce fantasy enthusiasts to a wide range of cultures. Many WFC members feel the same and are taking steps toward encouraging people of color to participate in this year’s virtual convention. As a result, we’ve received several offers to sponsor the memberships for people of color to participate in the Virtual World Fantasy Convention.
 
If you would like to apply for one of these sponsored memberships, please complete the request form.

The form includes this explanation —

Only two criteria are required to request one of these sponsored memberships: (1) you must be actively participating in some aspect of fantasy or horror (examples: author, artist, collector, bookseller, etc.); (2) you must consider yourself a person of color.

(2) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s July/Aug 2020 cover art by Alan M. Clark is for the story “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” by David Erik Nelson.

(3) IN BLOOM AGAIN. Grady Hendrix offers advice about reading Ulysses. First, that you should do it.  

…Everyone should read Ulysses at some point in their life. It’s a book unlike any other, a book that knocks you out of your comfort zone, a book that makes your brain strain like you’re reaching for something on a high shelf, and it’s really, really funny. I’ve read it a couple of times and here’s my advice:

Step 1) RELAX.
You’re going to miss things. It’s okay. Some things are worth missing, some things are boring, some things are references that don’t make any sense in today’s world, so who cares? Joyce didn’t want people to puzzle out his book like the answers to an exam, he wanted to present a slice of life in all its freaky majesty and stupidity. Keep looking up at the stars, not down at your feet.

Step 2) Like a shark, keep moving forward.
Reading this book is like trying to drink a waterfall. The point is the overall impression, not so much the individual details. Just keep pushing ahead, don’t sit there with a magnifying glass trying to appreciate every single word. Joyce himself said he put in a buttload of puzzles and tricks and things that don’t make sense for literary critics and scholars, just to mess with their heads, so don’t get hung up on them…..

(4) TROOPER STORM. A conflict between the top officer of the Star Wars costuming group the 501st Legion and a local United Kingdom unit led to a suspension of the officer: “Major Costume Club Drama: 501st LCO Ousted in Apparent Coup d’État”, a long post at Costuming, Cosplay & Costume Clubs 101, tries to explain what happened.

We’ve observed different types and degrees of #CostumeClub drama over a period of more than 10 years, but never have we seen something as “grand mal” as this: in a secret hearing held by the world’s largest costume club, the 501st Legion, the club’s president (called the Legion Commanding Officer, or LCO) was found “guilty” of a minor offense and sentencing her to a six-month suspension from the club. This effectively removed her from the position of LCO that she had been elected to in February, 2020….

  • The LCO, under her authority to oversee the club, questioned the leadership of the UKG (the 501st local chapter, or garrison, in the United Kingdom) about their charitable donation practices, which include the possible misuse of collected funds, as well as the possible intimidation of UKG members to donate in order to be permitted to participate at club events. In other words, “pay for play”, which is a violation of the 501st’s charter, as is the possible misuse of the collected funds.
  • Members of the UKG leadership accused the LCO of “humiliating” them on their forum and brought charges against her.
  • Using the club’s bylaws, the Legion leadership then held a hearing (a secretive hearing that the overall membership had no knowledge of until it was too late) in which the LCO was found guilty and sentenced to a six month suspension, effectively removing her from the position of LCO.

(5) BIGFOOT. On Soundcloud, hear an excerpt from Devolution by Max Brooks read by Judy Greer, Max Brooks, Jeff Daniels, Nathan Fillion and full cast.

The #1 bestselling author of World War Z returns with a horror tale that blurs the lines between human and beast, and asks, What are we capable of when we’re cut off from society?

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Brooks about his new novel:

In Devolution, the residents of a remote and tiny Washington town called Greenlop are menaced by creatures following the eruption of Mount Rainier.

“As with all my books, for every hour I spent writing, I must have spent maybe between 10 and a hundred hours researching,” says Brooks. “I mean, I researched everything. I researched how Mount Rainier would really erupt. I researched how those houses — these smart eco-homes — would actually work with a friend of mine who worked for Microsoft. I made those weapons, by hand, just to see if they were possible, with the materials the character have. I went to the Pacific Northwest to the space where I put Greenloop to see if my characters could walk out on their own. And, just FYI, they couldn’t. That is some brutal lethal terrain out there. As far as the Bigfoot creatures themselves, I’ve always studied the lore but I really tried to research genuine primate biology and behavior. I tried to go the factual route. If there was a giant species of ape living in North America, how would they live? I went the path of facts and science.”

(6) BARKING ZONE. Marona’s Fantastic Tale on YouTube is a trailer for a new French animated film that was virtually released last Friday.

Marona is a half-breed Labrador whose life leaves deep traces among the humans she encounters. After an accident, she reflects on all the homes and different experiences she’s had. As Marona’s memory journeys into the past, her unfailing empathy and love brings lightness and innocence into each of her owners’ lives

(7) BRYMER OBIT. Well-known puppeteer Pat Brymer died April 12 at the age of 70 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

…Brymer also served as principal puppeteer on Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004), for which he also “portrayed” Baxter, the bartender and limo driver. His credits included such other features as Short Circuit (1986), My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), Extreme Movie (2008).

Star Wars veteran John Dykstra led the team that built the animatronic Bushwood Country Club gopher that bedeviled Murray’s Carl Spackler in Caddyshack (1980), but it was Brymer, as the principal puppeteer, who gave him life.

Brymer created an updated version of the woolly Lamb Chop character for renowned puppeteer and ventriloquist Shari Lewis. In the 1990s, they collaborated on the PBS shows Lamb Chop’s Play-Along and The Charlie Horse Music Pizza and on Lamb Chop on Broadway.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1940 — In the John W. Campbell, Jr. edited Astounding Science-Fiction, Robert Heinlein’s “The Roads Must Roll” was first published. Heinlein would reprint it in The Man Who Sold The MoonThe Past Through Tomorrow and The Best of Robert Heinlein. Through the Eighties, it was a favorite of genre anthologists. It was adapted for both Dimension X and X Minus One. MidAmeriCon II (2016) would give it a Retro Hugo for Best Novelette over “Blowups Happen” by, errr, the same author. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.] [Note: There was a problem forwarding John’s entries to OGH with the hyperlinks included. They will be added as soon as possible,]

  • Born June 17, 1876 – Norman Grisewood.  His Zarlah the Martian of 1909, with travel between planets, and an advanced civilization on Mars that had antigravity machines, made him a pioneer; Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+ came in 1911.  (Died 1923) [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1898 – Maurits Cornelis Escher.  Called himself a “reality enthusiast”.  Worked mainly in lithographs and woodcuts.  “Mathematicians,” he wrote, “have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain.”  Touched our field with e.g. Relativity and Waterfall.  His work used e.g. for this cover of Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang and this one of The Book of Sand and Shakespeare’s Memory.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1903 William Bogart. Pulp fiction writer. He is best remembered for writing several Doc Savage novels, using the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. Actually, he’s responsible for thirteen of the novels, a goodly share of the number done. It’s suspected that most of his short stories were Doc Savage pastiches. (Died 1977.)(CE)
  • Born June 17, 1931 Dean Ing, 89. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. I also liked his L-5 Community series which he wrote with Mack Reynolds though I won’t re-read it lest the suck fairy visit it. It looks like he stopped writing genre fiction about fifteen years ago. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1941 William Lucking, 79. Here because he played Renny in Doc Savage: Man of Bronze. (I know I’ve seen it, but I’ll be damned if I remember much about it.’)  He’s also had one-offs in Mission: ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkThe American HeroThe QuestVoyagersX-FilesThe Lazarus ManMillenniumDeep Space Nine and Night Stalker. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1948 – Sandy Cohen 72.  A dozen book notes for Delap’s F & SF Review.  Helpful at many conventions; a leading Art Show auctioneer; recently his management of the Dealers’ Room at the 2019 World Fantasy Con was applauded in Locus 707.  [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1953 Phyllis Weinberg, 67. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan Robert E. Weinberg. She co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector. She co-chaired World Fantasy Convention 1996. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1955 – Themistokles Kanellakis, 65. Prolific Perry Rhodan artist; eighty covers, three hundred sixty interiors.  Here is a cover for Terra Astra featuring “Wanderer” [Cora Buhlert, is that right for Irrläufer?] and another featuring “The Forbidden Generation”.  [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1977 – Tomasz Jedruszek, 43. A dozen covers, interiors too.  Here is a Kuttner collection headed by “Robots Have No Tails”; here is Sparrow Fallinghere is Holy Sister.  [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1982 Jodie Whittaker, 38. The Thirteenth Doctor, now in her third series. She played Ffion Foxwell in the Black Mirror‘s “The Entire History of You”, and was Samantha Adams in Attack the Block, a horror SF film. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1982 Arthur Darvill, 38. Actor who’s had two great roles. The first was playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. The second, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, was playing the time-traveller Rip Hunter in the Legends of Tomorrow. He also played Seymour Krelborn in The Little Shop of Horrors at the Midlands Arts Centre, and Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1997 – Jadna Alana,23. Brazilian writer, singer, “always surrounded by books and with many ideas in her head”; first novel published at age 18, two more, two shorter stories.  This anthology has her “Shadow of Night”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd shows that some resources are more renewable than you think, if you have the right technology.
  • The Wizard of Id has an unexpected notion about throwing a curse.

(11) MY BACK PAGES. Rich Lynch invites readers to download “the newest issue of my personal time capsule,” My Back Pages, at eFanzines.

Issue #24 was assembled in the middle of the ongoing world health crisis and has essays involving large cities and small college towns, a heavenly altarpiece and a demon barber, lost photographs and discovered keepsakes, huge spheres and regular-sized disk jockeys, blue skies and a robot deluge, national elections and regional theatre, famous writers and forgotten outcomes, major tourist attractions and minor league baseball, sharp razors and a pandemic beard, fan friends and an unseen enemy, cancelled conventions and rescheduled meetings, rich pastries and penniless college students, good musicals and bad taste, dumb questions and dumber suggestions.  And also the stuff legends are made of.

(12) THE ANSWER MY FRIENDS. You’ll find it blowing in “The Wind in the Willows: Part One” available for listening online at the Parson’s Nose Theater.

Kenneth Grahame’s charmingly funny 1907 tale of the “Riverbankers” – Moley, Ratty, Badger, Toad – the animals (or are they?) who dwell along the Thames. Culled from bedtime tales he told his blind son, Alistair, Grahame’s stories are full of the universal longing for friendship, home, adventure and courage adults seem to forget about until reminded, and then are so delighted to have found again.

(13) HONEST TRAILER TIME. The Screen Junkies continue their series of “honest trailers” for old movies with a look at Shrek 2.

(14) FROM ANOTHER WORLD. “Scientists Find The Biggest Soft-Shelled Egg Ever, Nicknamed ‘The Thing'”. My first reaction was that they didn’t exactly stretch their creativity trying to name this specimen. Then again, it was found in Antarctica, and maybe they had the Campbell story in mind, which would be clever. The NPR article doesn’t say.

…The object was more than 11 by 7 inches in size and looked like a deflated football. Clarke immediately realized that The Thing was a giant egg — a soft-shelled egg. And it was from 66 million years ago, around the time when an asteroid hit Earth and led to dinosaur extinction.

Many turtles, snakes and lizards lay eggs with soft, flexible shells. The Thing is the largest soft-shelled egg ever, by a long shot, says Clarke.

This fossilized egg is also one of the biggest animal eggs ever discovered, second only to the egg of the extinct elephant bird from Madagascar.

It’s also appropriate that this piece originated on NPR’s All Things Considered. Get it? D’oh.

(15) WHERE IT ALL CAME DOWN. This demonstrates the power of…something. Oregonlive reports “Now you can visit Exploding Whale Memorial Park on the Oregon coast”.

Florence, near where the whale — or as a KATU reporter referred to it at the time “a stinking whale of a problem” — washed up, is finally honoring this beautiful moment in history with a new park.

It was the people of Florence who picked the name Exploding Whale Memorial Park.

“We asked the community for name suggestions, narrowed those 120-plus names down to nine, and had the community vote on them,” said Florence city project manager Megan Messmer.

The park offers views of the Siuslaw River and Bridge and the sand dunes on the south side of the river, according to the City of Florence’s website.

(16) THEY SEEK IT HERE, THEY SEEK IT THERE. “Dark matter hunt yields unexplained signal”

An experiment searching for signs of elusive dark matter has detected an unexplained signal.

Scientists working on the Xenon1T experiment have detected more activity within their detector than they would otherwise expect.

This “excess of events” could point to the existence of a previously undetected dark matter particle called an axion.

Dark matter comprises 85% of matter in the cosmos, but its nature is unknown.

Whatever it is, it does not reflect or emit detectable light, hence the name.

There are three potential explanations for the new signal from the Xenon1T experiment. Two require new physics to explain, while one of them is consistent with a hypothesised dark matter particle called a solar axion.

The findings have been published on the Arxiv pre-print server.

(17) I’M FOREVER… “Blowing bubbles: Soapy spheres pop pollen on fruit trees.” The BBC has the story:

Japanese researchers have succeeded in fertilising pear trees using pollen carried on the thin film of a soap bubble.

They’ve been searching for alternative approaches to pollination, because of the decline in the number of bees worldwide.

When fired from a bubble gun, the delicate soapy spheres achieved a success rate of 95%.

The researchers are now testing drones that fire bubbles for pollination.

(18) BIG SJWCs. “Endangered cheetahs snapped in award-winning photos”. See the few places where cheetahs are prospering… Lots of pictures, including a carnivorous pushmi-pullyu.

Charity picture book series Remembering Wildlife has announced the 10 winners of its cheetah photography competition.

The winners were picked from more than 2,400 entrants, with the winning images showing cheetahs in Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa.

The images will be published in the book Remembering Cheetahs in October this year, alongside images donated by world-leading wildlife photographers. Competition entry fees will be distributed to cheetah-protection projects in Namibia and Kenya.

With slightly more than 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, Remembering Wildlife aims to create awareness of the threats to wildlife.

(19) NOISE REDUCTION. Sounds too good to be true. “Facebook to let users turn off political adverts”.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg says users will be able to turn off political adverts on the social network in the run-up to the 2020 US election.

…Rival social platform Twitter banned political advertising last October.

“For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman — 3 Books That Have Changed My Life” on YouTube is a video from 2010 where Gaiman talks about his love of C.S. Lewis, Michael Moorcock, and Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore and drawn by Steve Bissette.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Dennis Howard, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, BravoLimaPoppa, Gordon Van Gelder, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xopher Halftongue.]

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

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

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

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

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

See the NYPL event page for more information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I mean, imagine the pitch meeting:

“The future.

“Cities lie in ruin.

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

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

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

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

And yet?

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

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

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

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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