Pixel Scroll 2/24/21 Old Rossum’s Scroll Of Practical Credentials

(1) YOU TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. George R.R. Martin is involved in developing a series based on Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks for HBO, as he explained at Not A Blog: “On the Road with Roger Z”:

… We had not intended to announce anything yet, to be sure. Development is a long and uncertain process. Thousands of shows are pitched, hundreds of pilots are written, dozens of pilots are filmed, but only a very few of them ever get greenlit to series. There is a reason that Hollywood insiders call it “development hell.” And what’s the point of announcing projects that might never make it to air? That’s why HBO — like most other networks and streamers — prefers to keep these things quiet.

Even so, even so… you cannot win the lottery unless you buy a ticket, so we all keep playing.

…My career in television started in 1985 when I adapted Roger Zelazny’s “The Last Defender of Camelot” for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It was the first script of mine ever to be filmed (starring Richard Kiley and Jenny Agutter and a stuntman whose nose got cut off during the swordfight). Roger was a friend, a mentor, and one of the greatest science fiction writers who ever lived. He died in 1995, but his work will live for so long as people read SF and fantasy. It was an honor to be able to bring one of his stories to television. And now I am hoping we will be able to do it again.

I pitched ROADMARKS to HBO last year — along with four other SF and fantasy works (by various other writers) that I thought had the makings of great shows. They all had (and have) lots of potential, but ROADMARKS was the one they responded to….

(2) LEVER OF CHANGE. Learn the key to an author’s new book in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

…The big idea of Transgressions of Power is that a human being, in the moment of action, may not know what the significance of their choices might be; they might not be in a position of power that allows for drastic change; but their choices and actions matter.

(3) FRY’S CLOSING. [Item by Betsy Hanes Perry.] Fry’s was where, in Northern California, you went to look for components; later it branched out into computers (of course!), computer components, large appliances. It used to stock snacks as a loss-leader to get geeks to come in for casual shopping.

All the stores were themed, and the one in Fremont was themed around the 1893 World’s Fair. It had a Tesla coil that went off once an hour (see here). The one in San Jose was themed as a Mayan temple. “The kitschy history of the Bay Area’s themed Fry’s Electronics” at SFGate.

…If you’re not familiar: Every Fry’s store has a theme and elaborate decorations to go along with it. In the Bay Area, the San Jose store “pays tribute to the first astronomers, the Mayans, with settings from Chichen Itza,” complete with a massive temple at the entrance, palm trees between shelves and hidden speakers that play the sounds of birds chirping through the parking lot. Fremont is the “1893 World’s Fair,” where a Tesla coil at the center of the store fires off every hour. Sunnyvale is “the history of Silicon Valley” and the Palo Alto store was “Wild West.” (Sadly, the Palo Alto store rode into the sunset earlier this year.)

[Editor’s postscript.] The Fry’s in Burbank near where I used to live had an explicitly Fifties sci-fi alien invasion theme. It was awesome.

(4) THE FIRST SILENCE. Tananarive Due conducts an interview with “Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins on ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Legacy” at Vanity Fair.

…FOSTER: We met at a reading. I didn’t really get a proper meet with Tony. So we’re sitting across from each other, and he launches in, and we start the reading. And I was just petrified. [Laughs.] I was kind of too scared to talk to him after that.

He did another movie, and I started the film without him. I still kept that kind of hold-your-breath feeling about the character just from that first reading. Jonathan wanted to use this technique that Hitchcock talked about, where you have the actors use the camera as the other person. And I think there was something really interesting about that for the film, but that also meant that Tony and I couldn’t see each other. For a lot of the close-ups, we were looking into a camera lens and the other person was just a voice in the background. And—remember?—they had to lock you into the glass prison cell. So he would do a whole day inside the prison cell, and they wouldn’t let him out. We’d just do his side. And then the next day, we’d do my side.

HOPKINS: Also, they discovered before we started filming that there would be a problem if there were bars on the prison cell for left and right eyelines. So the designer—it was Kristi Zea—came up with a Perspex thing, which makes it even more frightening, because he’s like a tarantula in a bottle. No visual borderline between the two. It was more terrifying, because it’s a dangerous creature in a bottle who can do anything. He could break the glass….

(5) MORE, PLEASE. In “The Canonical Sequel FAQ” John Scalzi tells fans what the future holds in store for his various series.

Pretty much on a daily basis, I get asked on social media whether there will ever be a sequel to [insert one of my books/series here]. To reduce the amount of typing that I have to do each time this is asked, I now present The Canonical Sequel FAQ, which will tell you — at a glance! — whether you can expect a sequel to whatever book it is that you are hoping to have a sequel to. This will be updated from time to time.

(6) TIM KIRK MAP. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “’The Country Around Edgestow’: A Map from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength by Tim Kirk from Mythlore” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The map has been reproduced at the link with permission.

… One of Lewis’ key terran fictional places is “Edgestow,” the home of Bragdon Wood, Bracton College, and the literary centre of the events in That Hideous Strength. In my reading about Lewis and Arthurian literature, I happened upon Margaret Hannay’s piece, which included a map of “The Country Around Edgestow” by artist Tim Kirk.…

(7) ARE YOU BOOKED FOR THE LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY? “Doctor Who Master trilogy watchalong party confirmed for Sunday” says Radio Times.

…Doctor Who Magazine’s Emily Cook has organised most of the watchalongs so far, and announced that they would be coming to an end this month. She tweeted the news by saying, “Everything has its time, and everything ends… I’ll be announcing the final Tweetalong later this afternoon!”

She later followed up with a tweet that read, “Believe it or not, we’ve been doing Doctor Who Lockdown for almost a year now! This may be the last Tweetalong, but we’re going to end with a SPECTACULAR watch party.

“And here comes our final Tweetalong… A TRIPLE BILL! Sunday 28th February 6pm (GMT), UTOPIA 7pm (GMT), THE SOUND OF DRUMS 8pm (GMT), LAST OF THE TIME LORDS. Watch with fans around the world. Join in with the hashtag #YANA”

If you haven’t participated in the event before, the idea is that fans from all over the world re-watch classic episodes at exactly the same time, tweeting their reactions and comments along the way.

(8) CATCH AND SELL ‘EM ALL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 17 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber discusses the rise in value of rare Pokemon cards.

Today, a Chansey (Pokemon card) could be worth around $3,000. That’s a great deal less than the rare holographic Blastoise which sold at auction last month for $360,000, roughly the price of a brand-new Ferrari. In 2021, their 25th year of existence, Pokemon cards are enjoying a resurgence in popularity almost matching their late-1990s heyday.

This is partly down to the pandemic, which has left many stuck at home with extra disposable income, to take up a new hobby that combines investment with a waft of nostalgia. Streaming platforms YouTube and Twitch have cultivated communities of Pokemon card traders such as Leonhart, who quit his job as a lawyer to open card packs full-time on YouTube (the sealed packs contain a random selection of cards which could be precious or worthless), and streaming star Logan Paul, who says he has spent $2m on his card addiction.

(9) HEAR OCTAVIA BUTLER. NPR’s “Morning Edition” devoted a segment today to “Sci-Fi Writer Octavia Butler Offered Warnings And Hope In Her Work”. It includes numerous sound bites from an archival interview with the author. Listen to a recording or read a transcript of the NPR item at the link. (The complete transcript of Octavia Butler’s 2005 interview is available at Democracy Now! – “Remembering Octavia Butler: Black Sci-Fi Writer Shares Cautionary Tales in Unearthed 2005 Interview”.)

NOEL KING, HOST:

Octavia Butler seemed almost to belong to the future. She was the first Black woman to receive the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Those are the highest honors in science fiction and fantasy writing. She was the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur genius grant. She was prolific and prophetic from the 1970s until her death in 2006. Here’s Laine Kaplan-Levenson from NPR’s history show Throughline.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

OCTAVIA BUTLER: I don’t recall ever having wanted desperately to be a Black woman science fiction writer. I wanted to be a writer.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 24, 1952 — On this day in 1952, Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here. It is not one of the three Aladdin And His Lamp filmsthat are rated at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 – Wilhelm Grimm. With older brother Jacob (1785-1863) assembled and published the collection known to us as Grimms’ Fairy Tales (1812). Loved music; good story-teller; animated, jovial fellow. The Grimms weren’t the authors, so I can’t call them seminal, but they sure were vital. (Died 1859) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1921 – Richard Powers. Frank R. Paul Award. SF Hall of Fame. Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Six hundred sixty covers, seventy interiors. Artbooks Spacetimewarp Paintings; The Art of Richard Powers. Our great pioneer of illustration that was not representation. You can see it start here with a 1950 cover (his first?) for Pebble in the Sky. By 1956 he did this for To Live Forever. By 1963 he was here for Budrys’ Inferno. Here is the Sep 78 Analog. Here is the Program Book for Chicon V the 49th Worldcon, 1991 – where he was Guest of Honor; before that, LoneStarCon I the 3rd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). Not one Chesley, not one Hugo. Did we appreciate him? Do we now? (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 88. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World, A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1941 – Sam Lundwall, age 80. Author, critic, translator, editor, publisher; television producer; cartoonist; photographer; singer. Organized Scancon 76 (Stockholm); Guest of Honor at Eurocon 9 (Zagreb), 21 (Dortmund). Translated his 1969 book on SF from Swedish into English as SF, What It’s All About (1971). SF, an Illustrated History (1978). Penguin World Omnibus of SF (1986) with Brian Aldiss. More nonfiction in Swedish about SF. A score of novels (four available in English), seven shorter stories (four). Reporter for Locus. Long thought by many the personification of SF in Sweden, idiosyncrasies (how not?) and all. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 74. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 70. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror. She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 55. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 53. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1975 – Socorro Acioli, age 46. A score of books; Head of the Saint is available in English. Author, teacher, translator. “I collect bookmarks and coffee makers. I like old photos, old houses, and things that no longer exist. In the same measure [na mesma medida], I love technology.” [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1979 – C.J. Harper, age 42. Two novels for us, also “funny books for teens under the name Candy Harper…. attended six different schools, but that honestly had very little to do with an early interest in explosives”; she’s been “a bookseller, a teacher and the person who puts those little stickers on apples”; has read Vanity Fair, Gone With the Wind, Of Mice and Men, David Copperfield. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1991 – Daryl Qilin Yam, age 30. One novel; co-editor of SingPoWriMo (i.e. Singapore). Studied at Univ. Warwick, Univ. Tôkyô. Stageplay producer at non-profit collective Take Off Productions. On the board of directors of literary charity Sing Lit Station. “I am first and foremost a writer of fiction and poetry … photography … is a field in which I remain an amateur. But … we live in a world that loves images…. I have a fondness for the backs of people (facial expressions are too didactic for my taste), and I like to frame my subjects in situations where highlights and shadows are nicely balanced.” [JH]

(12) PRESERVING WORLDS. Here’s a new Diamond Bay Press podcast on the classic online gaming environments and virtual worlds that have become virtual ghost towns. It’s based on a new video documentary series called Preserving Worlds, which is available for free on the streaming service called Means.tv.

A conversation between Lex Berman and Derek Murphy.

Derek Murphy is the co-director, with Mitchel Zemil, of the Preserving Worlds series, and the documentary film Sarasota, Half in Dream.

Recorded with Zencastr from Cambridge and Brighton, MA on 18th February, 2021.

what if the ghost of a player of a dead game, was telling us what it was all like?

(13) THE ’66 DOLLAR QUESTION. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks sends a missive from 1966 asking — “[February 24, 1966] Is 1966 the Best Year Ever for American Comic Books?”.

… A lot of the thrill these days has been at Marvel, as some of their comics are reaching unparalleled new levels of excellence. For instance, the work of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee on both Amazing Spider-Man and the “Dr. Strange” strip in Strange Tales has been outstanding. Peter Parker has graduated high school and enrolled at Empire State University in Spider-Man. Pete seems to be shedding his nature as a nebbish since he joined college, making new friends while having new (and more sophisticated) problems. The three-part “Master Planner” saga which ended in ASM #33 was a storyline nonpareil, a thrill a minute journey with a spectacular denouement. (I’m including the payoff below, but please try to find all these issues if you can, because the leadup is just as spectacular).

(14) ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION. Alexandra Erin wonders something —

(15) JPL’S TRICKSTERS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Remember that on the last Rover they would not allow JPL to put a JPL plaque on it so they used Morse Code on the wheels that spelled out JPL. Holes that were “designed” to drain sand as it moved about.

This time, there are multiple Easter Eggs. The first was deployed as Perseverance was en route to the Martian surface: “Mars rover’s giant parachute carried secret message” at Yahoo!

The huge parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark, a crossword hobbyist, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to know how the parachute was oriented during descent. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun,” he said Tuesday.

Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday….

This illustration provided by NASA shows a diagram added over the parachute deployed during the descent of the Mars Perseverance rover as it approaches the surface of the planet on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

(16) BOOKS ARE THE ESSENCE. The Essence of Wonder crew gets together on-screen to exchange book recommendations in “EoW Staff Share Their Favorite Books! Ready… Fight!” on Saturday, February 27, at 3 PM (US Eastern). Register at the link.

(17) THE DIRTY DOZEN PLUS THREE. 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a highly scientific list of the fifteen “Worst Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made”. Well, at least highly-less-pulled-out-of-somebody’s-butt-than-usual for a listicle.

…To determine the worst sci-fi movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes. We created an index based on the average critic rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the average audience rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and the average user rating from IMDb. We only considered feature films with at least 5,000 Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews, 10 Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews, and 10,000 IMDb user reviews…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: ‘Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Earthblood’” Fandom Games says you play a werewolf fighting evil corporation Endron, “which doesn’t even pretend not to be Enron with a D” but is so dumb on security that it has ventilator shafts with doggy doors so werewolves can pass through them.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Betsy Hanes Perry, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Gadi Evron, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I see it every time I go to church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/21 It Is Too Late For The Pixels To Vote, The Scroll Has Already Begun

(1) OSCAR CHANCES. “Is Chadwick Boseman Headed for a Posthumous Best-Actor Oscar Win?” asks Vogue. Fans remember him as the Black Panther, King of Wakanda, and there may be other pages still to be added to his memory book:

With rave reviews for his performance as Levee, a blues trumpeter in 1920s Chicago, in the film adaptation of the August Wilson play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—and now with a Screen Actors Guild nomination to go along with the Golden Globes nod he received on Wednesday—Chadwick Boseman may be inching ahead of his competitors in this year’s Oscars race for best actor.

Many award prognosticators are already predicting that Boseman, who died of cancer in August at the age of 43, could become the third actor—following Peter Finch in Network and Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight—to win a posthumous Oscar for his performance. (At this point, his chief rival appears to be Riz Ahmed, who plays a punk-metal drummer beginning to go deaf in Sound of Metal. Ahmed has won several critics’ awards as well as the best-actor citation from the National Board of Review.)…

(2) MURDER, HE WROTE. Mark Lawrence took a poll. The result, he says, is that “7.4% of you are monsters”.

(3) O TEMPORAO MORES! How the classics are neglected. The Washington Post needed to add this correction to the end of an article today —

Correction: A previous version of this story implied that a planet blows up in “The Empire Strikes Back.” No planets blow up in that particular Star Wars film. This story has been updated.

(From the article “Kroger closes Ralphs, Food 4 Less stores over pandemic pay mandate”.)

(4) ARGUMENT CLINIC. David Gerrold offered a new service on Facebook. This could be the coming thing.

At the suggestion of a friend, I am now charging $50 for 30 minutes of online argument.

Subject must be agreed on beforehand. (I reserve the right to decline.) Sources of data must also be agreed on before. (Fox News and other farce right sources will not be accepted. In return, I will forego CNN, NYT, Huffpost, Washington Post, and MSNBC)

No personal attacks aloud or allowed.

Only one argument per week please.

(5) ALPHABET SOUP IS BLUE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] YInMn has now been approved for commercial use: “Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries” at Hyperallergic.

Cerulean, azure, navy, royal … Much has been written about the color blue, the first human-made pigment. “Because blue contracts, retreats, it is the color of transcendence, leading us away in pursuit of the infinite,” wrote William Gass in his book On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry. Wassily Kandinsky once mused: “The power of profound meaning is found in blue, and first in its physical movements of retreat from the spectator, of turning in upon its own center […] Blue is the typical heavenly color.”

And now, for the first time in two centuries, a new chemically-made pigment of the celebrated color is available for artists — YInMn Blue. It’s named after its components — Yttrium, Indium, and Manganese — and its luminous, vivid pigment never fades, even if mixed with oil and water.

Like all good discoveries, the new inorganic pigment was identified by coincidence….

(6) THE GAME’S AFOOT. The Guardian covers the many reimaginations of Sherlock Holmes, including a few that are clearly genre, as well as the ongoing conflicts with the litigious Arthur Conan Doyle estate: “’I think I’ve written more Sherlock Holmes than even Conan Doyle’: the ongoing fight to reimagine Holmes”.

…. “My step-grandmother, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, tried hard to stop the world doing what it liked with her father’s fictional characters. In the end she realised this was a fruitless exercise,” says Richard Pooley, director of the Conan Doyle estate and step- great-grandson of the author. “Instead she focused on giving her approval to those Holmes pastiches which were well-written and did not stray too far from Doyle’s characterisation. We have tried to do the same.”

The estate has authorised Horowitz’s sequels and Lane’s stories, but most Holmes adaptations come without the estate’s stamp of approval – not that that appears to put readers off. Pooley says that its approval comes down to the quality of the writing, and if the writer stays “true to Doyle’s depiction of Holmes’s and Watson’s characters” – meaning they don’t mind if Cumberbatch’s Holmes lives in modern London, or if Holmes and Watson are women, as in HBO Asia’s Miss Sherlock….

(7) CREATIVITY BY THE HANDFUL. Another opportunity to hear from Octavia Butler researcher Lynelle George “about how a writer looks, listens, and breathes—how to be in the world.” “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler: A Conversation with Author Lynell George”. Register here.

George will be in conversation with Los Angeles artist Connie Samaras, an avid admirer of Butler’s prose which served as the inspiration for her 2019 project “The Past is Another Planet”, an illustrious depiction of the Huntington Library, home to Butler’s archive. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 4, 1983 Videodrome premiered. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg, with a cast of James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry. It was the first film by Cronenberg to get Hollywood backing and it bombed earning back only two million dollars of its nearly six million budget. In spite of that, critics and audience goers alike found it to a good film. Today it is considered his best film by many, and it holds a sterling seventy-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 4, 1889 – Dorothea Faulkner.  Two short stories, half a dozen poems, in If and Slant (there’s a range for you) and like that, under variations of “Rory Faulkner”, “Rory Magill”, “Dorothea M. Faulkner”.  Active in the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society), serving a term as Secretary, and the Outlanders, also the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  Often seen in Now & Then.  With that and Slant you won’t be surprised to hear she attended Loncon I the 15th Worldcon (at age 68) and was made a Knight of St. Fantony.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1915 – Harry Whittington.  For us, one Man from U.N.C.L.E. novel and four novellas, and an essay on Fredric Brown for this collection; outside our field, note first HW’s One Deadly Dawn was published as an Ace Double with Tucker’s Hired Target; HW wrote two hundred novels – fourscore in one twelve-year span – under a score of names; quite possibly King of the Pulps; see here.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1938 – Ted White, age 83.  Perhaps our most been-everywhere-done-everything fan alive.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories; assistant editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, then edited Amazing and Fantastic (concurrently!), Stardate; columnist for Algol and Thrust; “Uffish Thots” and “The Trenchant Bludgeon” in SF Review; active beyond measure there, in IzzardNew FrontiersRaucous CaucusRiverside QuarterlyYandro, and indeed File 770.  Interviewed by Schweitzer in SF Voices.  One Hugo (as Best Fanwriter; often a finalist as a pro), three FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Chaired Lunacon 11-13.  Organized FanHistoricon 9 but couldn’t attend.  Variously Pro and Fan Guest of Honor at Bubonicon 4, DeepSouthCon 18, RavenCon 11, Aussiecon Two the 43rd Worldcon.  Also musician and music critic (plays keyboards, saxophone).  British Fantasy Award for Heavy Metal.  Acidulous, enthusiastic, skeptical, strong; it would be a miracle not to think him sometimes wrong.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 81. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn In “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George A. Romero. Is horror genre or genre adjacent? Either way, he’s got an impressive listing form the Dead films, I count seven of them, to Knightriders, which is truly genre adjacent at best, and one of my favorites of him, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Oh, and he wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Stan Lee, but he did show up in at least seven of his films. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of, but you can see the premiere episode here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 62. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters),  voicing a role in The Cat in The Hat short, Night GallerySealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO. She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 60. I’m been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I last listened to The Line War and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of hundred thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again).  (CE)
  • Born February 4, 1962 Thomas Scott Winnett. Locus magazine editorial assistant and reviewer from 1989 to 1994. He worked on Locus looks at books and Books received as well. In addition, he wrote well over a hundred review reviews for Locus. He died of AIDS related pneumonia. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born February 4, 1968 – Neve Maslakovic, Ph.D., age 53.  From Belgrade to Stanford’s STAR Lab (Space, Telecommunications, And Radioscience) to writing fiction.  Four novels, another due next month.  Likes the Twin Cities winters.  Has read Time and AgainA History of [Greek letter “pi”], Three Men in a Boat, nine by Wodehouse, five by Sayers, a Complete Sherlock HolmesA Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1968 – David Speakman, age 53.  Until recently very active in the N3F, serving as Chair of the Directorate, editor of The Nat’l Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam; two Franson Awards, Kaymar Award, awarded a Life Membership.  As to “recently”, he explains here.  [JH]
  • Born February 4, 1990 – Zach King, age 31.  Actor, author, digital-video illusionist.  Three novels for us.  Two London Film Festival first-place awards.  A video of him apparently flying on a broomstick had two billion views in four days.  “They rejected my application to Hogwarts but I still found a way to be a wizard.”  Does he do it all with mirrors?  Website. [JH]

(10) FANZINE SPOTLIGHT. The newest installment of Cora Buhlert’s Fanzine Spotlight series is a Q&A with Star Trek Quarterly editor Sarah Gulde: “Fanzine Spotlight: Star Trek Quarterly”.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

I’ve been a Trekkie since TNG started in 1987, so when Chris Garcia and James Bacon asked me to guest edit an issue of Journey Planet, I did a whole Star Trek-themed issue. I reached out to people I know in the Trek community and asked them to write about how Star Trek had impacted their lives. I ended up receiving some really impactful stories, from a friend who had immigrated to the US finding a family, to another friend finding the courage to come out of the closet, all through Star Trek.

It was a game-changing experience for me to edit other people’s stories. Everyone has a story to tell, but everyone is at a different writing level. Some pieces I didn’t have to touch, while I spent hours editing others. I loved helping people tell their stories, and making sure those stories were heard.

I loved it so much I didn’t want to stop with one issue! After some careful thought, I decided to create my own Star Trek-themed fanzine. Monthly was too much for me to take on by myself, so I went with quarterly. I asked Women At Warp, a feminist Trek podcast, to write a regular column. (Since then I’ve joined the show as a co-host.) I passed out flyers at the big annual convention in Las Vegas soliciting submissions for the first issue. And I posted to various Star Trek Facebook groups looking for more….

(11) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. Delish reports “This Chocolate Easter Egg Features A Marshmallow Baby Yoda Inside”. Eat Baby Yoda? And the Galerie Candy site is already sold out! What kind of barbarians are at the gates?

…The Mandalorian Egg-Shaped Magic Hot Chocolate Melt from Galerie Candy is very similar to a hot cocoa bomb—but without the hot chocolate mix. Made of milk chocolate, it’s meant to be dissolved in a cup of hot milk to reveal the green Baby Yoda marshmallow inside. While it’s intended use is to make hot chocolate, you can easily eat the Baby Yoda treat as is.

(12) DEEP WATERS. In Two Chairs Talking podcast Episode 45, “Not Waving but Drowning”

David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about the books they’ve been reading lately, ranging in length from novellas to a nine-volume, almost million-word opus written entirely in the form of letters. And a rather damp theme emerges…

(13) LIGHTEN UP. Frostbeard Studio adds a brand new bookish scent every month to its line of Book Lovers’ Soy Candles and Bookish Goods.

Here’s the description of their scented “Through the Wardrobe” candle:

Follow your nose through the woods to a mysterious lamppost where you’ll embark on a magical adventure into wintry realms. You might be cozied up with blankets and a book, but you’ll feel like you’re being whisked away to a snowy, enchanted forest in another world.

(14) GET IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR. Camestros Felapton recommends this adaptation of a comic: “Review: Sweet Home”.

…The monsters feel like a cross between The Thing and Attack on Titan but that weirdness aside, the story gradually drifts into a more conventional zombie-apocalypse survival narrative. The small number of survivors trapped on the ground floor of the Green Home apartment bloc, must find ways to band together to protect themselves from the surrounding nightmare. In later episodes they have to deal with an intruding human gang, as well as the secret agenda of the army which (as per usual) knows more about the plague than they are letting on. Luckily, by this point the viewer is more invested in the fate of the ensemble of characters who range from shop keepers to an improbable combination of people with bad-ass backstories.

(15) SUICIDE SQUAD. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Warner Bros. has announced the official plot synopsis for Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Now let the betting begin on who gets Gunned down first. “The Suicide Squad Synopsis Teases a ‘Search and Destroy’ Mission” at CBR.com.

… Some of the DC villains and antiheroes called out in the synopsis include Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and “everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn.” Part of the Suicide Squad’s mission will see them dropped off “on theremote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.”

(16) CONTRAPTIONS WITH PERSONALITY. These imaginative illos are a lot of fun: “Boris Artzybasheff’s living machines / part one” and  “Boris Artzybasheff’s living machines / part two” at PastPrint.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/3/21 A Round Pixel In A Square Scroll

(1) HE IS THE CHAMPION. LeVar Burton is the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. [H/t to Locus Online.]

We are excited to announce that LeVar Burton, award-winning actor and longtime host of Reading Rainbow, has been named the inaugural PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion. Launched in conjunction with the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s 40th Anniversary, this annual commendation will recognize devoted literary advocacy and a commitment to inspiring new generations of readers and writers.

…PEN/Faulkner Literary Champion LeVar Burton will be honored, along with this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner and finalists, in a virtual celebration to be held on May 10, 2021.

(2) INTERZONE REVERSES COURSE. Today Andy Cox announced “Interzone Does Not Have A New Publisher…” Plans to turn the magazine over to PS Publishing have been revoked.

Following concerns expressed by subscribers and the increasing confusion about what the new publisher intended to do with the magazine, we sought some clarity. The deal we had was a very simple one and they had to commit to just one thing, but as soon as it became obvious they weren’t going to honour it we had no choice but to withdraw the magazine, along with the various parts of it we’d already handed over. In other words, we are still the publisher of Interzone.

Admittedly this does throw a spanner into the TTA works. We’d already made plans for Black Static and other things – including my own “retirement” – based on Interzone being given to a new publisher. So I’d like to ask for some time to get things back into place, and to make any changes that have to be made in order to fulfil our commitments to you. We will do everything we can to fill subscriptions, but stuff like format and schedule may have to change. We might even have to stop taking new subscriptions and follow the winding-down Black Static route. Meanwhile we will continue to try to find a trustworthy publisher who is right for Interzone.

Your input on all of this and more is always welcome so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I’d like to finish this update by thanking everybody for the heartwarming messages received over the past few weeks. I’ve tried to reply to everybody but if I missed you please don’t think for an instant that I’m ungrateful. Like I said before, it really has been an honour.

(3) BUTLER AS VISIONARY. [Item by Joel Zakem.] In honor of Black History Month, the NPR podcast radio show Throughline is looking at the lives and legacies of three Black visionaries including Octavia Butler, whom they describe as follows:

Octavia Butler was a deep observer of the human condition, perplexed and inspired by our propensity towards self-destruction. She described herself as a pessimist, “if I’m not careful.” As an award winning science fiction writer and ‘mother of Afrofuturism,’ her visionary works of alternate realities reveal striking, and often devastating parallels to the world we live in today. Butler was fascinated by the cyclical nature of history, and often looked to the past when writing about the future. Along with her warnings is her message of hope – a hope conjured by centuries of survival and persistence. For every society that perished in her books, came a story of rebuilding, of repair. These are themes Butler was intimately familiar with in her life. She broke on to the science fiction scene at a time when she knew of no other Black woman in the field, saying she simply had to “write herself in.”

While the show is scheduled to debut on February 18, 2021, you should, as they say, check your local listings. My local NPR news station (WFPL in Louisville)  is running the show on Saturday, February 27 at noon.

(4) PLAYABLE DOOMS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 27 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at why gamers love apocalypses.

You know how it looks.  Even though the original cataclysmic text, The Book Of Revelation, is extraordinarily vivid, with the sun turning black, stars falling to earth, and a pregnant woman fighting a seven-headed dragon across the sky, gaming apocalypses are drab affairs. You trudge past areas of grey and brown wreckage, shattered cities and crumbling landmarks.  You wear tattered, colourless clothes, eat out of cans and sleep in bunkers and dirty mattresses. The Whore of Babylon never swoops down on unbelievers the way she does in the Bible, drunk on the blood of slain martyrs.  Clearly the apocalypse just isn’t what it used to be.”

…While the aesthetics of the gaming apocalypse are mostly tired, there are a few exceptions.  Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda:  Breath Of The Wild argue that the end might look colourful and lush,  Meanwhile, The Last Of Us series offers evocative dioramas of lives lived in abandoned American homes following a zombie outbreak.  There are the crops on a deserted farm left to wither on the vine, and the diary entries of a girl who cannot understand why her father never comes home.

(5) THE WINTER OF OUR CONTENT – MUCH CONTENT. George R.R. Martin’s “Reflections on a Bad Year” at Not A Blog talks about the pandemic, isolation, and loss. On the other hand —  

What was good about 2020?   Besides the election?

Well… for me… there was work.

I wrote hundreds and hundreds of pages of THE WINDS OF WINTER in 2020.   The best year I’ve had on WOW since I began it.    Why?  I don’t know.   Maybe the isolation.   Or maybe I just got on a roll.   Sometimes I do get on a roll.

I need to keep rolling, though.   I still have hundreds of more pages to write to bring the novel to a satisfactory conclusion.

That’s what 2021 is for, I hope.

I will make no predictions on when I will finish.   Every time I do, assholes on the internet take that as a “promise,” and then wait eagerly to crucify me when I miss the deadline.   All I will say is that I am hopeful.

(6) THE NEXT MIDDLE AGES. You won’t have to go back in time to get to the Middle Ages. Tribes of Europa premieres on Netflix on February 19.

2074. In the wake of a mysterious global disaster, war rages between the Tribes that have emerged from the wreckage of Europe. Three siblings from the peaceful Origines tribe – Kiano (Emilio Sakraya), Liv (Henriette Confurius) and Elja (David Ali Rashed) – are separated and forced to forge their own paths in an action-packed fight for the future of this new Europa.

(7) RAISED BY WOLVES. South African reviewer Elene Botha is enthusiastic about the series; not everybody is. “Hard core sci-fi fans rejoice: Raised by Wolves is live on Showmax” at 9Lives.

…If you do not enjoy sci-fi, turn around now. Raised by Wolves is modern sci-fi at its best. The production value is very high and the scenes are beautifully shot and executed. The actors they have chosen have extremely interesting features that kind of picks up on the modernity of the entire series.

Despite being quite modern in both look and feel, it is definitely reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s earlier interests (like the first Bladerunner or Alien) which actually gives it a very retro-modern feel. We had a sneak-peek of the first two episodes, and the use of the barren landscapes and hostile environments are contrasted against the technological advances that Scott, who produced the first two episodes, fully leans into.

(8) THE NARRATIVE. “Interview with Kurt Vonnegut” at Robert Caro’s website is a terrific roundtable interview LBJ biographer Caro, Barbara Stone and Daniel Stern conducted with Kurt Vonnegut in 2012.

VONNEGUT
Let’s just use a simple word here: truth. In Slaughterhouse Five I wanted a person who dies of carbon monoxide poisoning to be a beautiful blue, and then you know I wanted a sort of swooning with the beauty of this corpse. Well, that was a mistake and I got a letter from a doctor who said a person who is a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning is rosey and it’s often commented on how well the person looks. I got letter after letter about that for about two or three years.

CARO
To my mind, the prose in a non-fiction work that’s going to endure has to be of the same quality as the prose in a work of fiction that endures. And I actually tested this out for myself. I read one hunk of Gibbon ‘s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, then I read a part of War and Peace which is a grand historical novel, right, so I figured that’s the closest to Gibbon. So I would read a part of one then apart of the other. I did this all summer. And the writing in Gibbon is at the same level, you know, they don’t read at the same cadences but it’s at the same intensity and level as in War and Peace. I’ve always felt that no one understands why some books of non-fiction endure and some don’t, because there’s not much understanding among many non-fiction writers that the narrative is terribly important. I would say what we both do that is the same is the narrative. I mean history is narrative, just like your books are narrative.

VONNEGUT
Or the reader will stop reading….

(9) JRRT. Shelf Awarenessfeature “Reading with… John Hart” – a multiple Edgar Award winner – includes these fond memories of Tolkien.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was a birthday gift when I turned 15, and I read the entirety of it in two days, mostly sprawled out on the living room floor, or in bed until the wee small hours. This was before the movies, of course, so the experience was one of raw imagination and total immersion. Few people build worlds the way Tolkien did. I still see it my way, and not as Peter Jackson brought it to the screen….

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Is it sad that I keep coming back to The Lord of the Rings? As an adult, I read very little fantasy. As a child, though, I was transported by the remarkable depth of this imaginary world, the complex interweaving of multiple geographies, religions, histories, cultures and interests, the peoples and places, and how they’d evolved, fought and co-existed for thousands of years. Tolkien created a foreign, remarkable, unforgettable world, yet made it entirely real to me. Total conviction. I read those stories with childlike wonder, and would pay dearly to have the experience again. I’m too old and jaded, I’m sure, but if anyone could make it happen, Tolkien would be the one to do it.

(10) WILLIAMS OBIT. Film publicist Karl Williams died January 31. Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro has an extended profile of this genre expert: “Karl Williams Dead: Longtime Paramount Film Publicist Was 52”.

…Karl worked for Paramount for roughly 15 years, … an integral part of the campaigns for the first two Transformers movies, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Star Trek, Paramount’s early Marvel movies Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Thor and the Shia LaBeouf pics Disturbia and Eagle Eye. 

Post-Paramount, Karl served as the Head of Publicity for Digital Domain as well as serving various PR stints with 20th Century Fox, CBS Films and most recently Amazon…

Paramount’s Waldman told me today: “Karl was the original fanboy digital publicist. He was friendly with all the fanboy-site guys and could talk the talk. He was an integral part of Paramount’s most successful movies like the Transformers launch in 2007, Iron Man in 2008 and so many more. When we had Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he knew Lucasfilm left, right and center. When it came to that incredible Comic-Con when we assembled The Avengers in 2010Karl was there.”

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2016 — Fifteen years ago, the Sidewise Award went to Charles Stross to Merchant Princes series for the Best Long Form Alternate History for the first three novels, The Family TradeThe Hidden Family, and The Clan Corporate. (Stross on his blog tells the story of reediting the early books in this series for republication on Tor in substantially different form. It’s well worth reading.) Invisible Sun, the next novel in the series, is due out in September of this year after being delayed several times. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 3, 1870 – Beatrice Grimshaw.  Journalist with three decades in the South Pacific.  Two novels and thirty shorter stories for us; a dozen novels all told, essays, a memoir.  You might be able to read The Sorcerer’s Stone here.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1907 – James Michener.  Pulitzer Prize.  Tales of the South Pacific became a Broadway musical and two feature films.  From best-selling novels and nonfiction (75 million copies sold during his life, e.g. HawaiiCaravansCentennial; nonfiction IberiaThe Floating World on Japanese prints; A Century of Sonnets, his; memoirs) a major philanthropist.  Space (1982) starting with the Space program as it then existed becomes SF and is worth attention.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1925 John Fiedler. He’s solely here as he played the ever so bland bureaucrat who gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper on the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. I’m less interested in him than who wrote that screenplay. It was written by Robert Bloch, a master of horror who would write two other Trek episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and “Catspaw”. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1938 Victor Buono. I remember him best in his recurring role of Count Manzeppi in The Wild Wild West. In his very short life, he showed up in a number of other genre roles as well including as a scientist bent on world domination in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea in an episode titled “The Cyborg”, as Adiposo / Fat man in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Colonel Hubris in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Professor William McElroy / King Tut in Batman, Sir Cecil Seabrook in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Mr. Schubert on Man from Atlantis. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1946 – Eclare Hannifen, age 75.  (Personal name pronounced “ee-klar-ee”.)  As Hilda Hoffman, grew interested in SF and fandom, married Owen Hannifen; active awhile as Hilda Hannifen; changed her name.  Learned Dungeons & Dragons, introduced it to many West Coast fans; she and O conducted Lee Gold’s first session.  Part of Sampo Productions with O and the late great Jerry Jacks.  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1954 – Shawna McCarthy, age 67.  One story with Charles Platt.  Edited SF Digest.  Followed Kathleen Moloney at Asimov’s, promptly won a Hugo as Best Pro Editor; four anthologies, Isaac Asimov’s Wonders of the WorldIA’s Aliens & OutworldersIA’s Space of Her OwnIA’s Fantasy; succeeded by Gardner Dozois.  SF editor at Bantam.  Co-edited two Full Spectrum anthologies.  Fiction editor at Realms of Fantasy.  Then a career as an agent.  Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 21, WindyCon XXIX, World Fantasy Convention 2011.  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1963 Alex Bledsoe, 57. I highly recommend his Tales of The Tufa which can sort of be described as Appalachian Fae though that’s stretching it. His Eddie LaCrosse novels remind me of Cook’s Garrett PI series and that’s a high compliment as that’s one of my favorite fantasy PI series. Anyone read his Firefly Witch series? (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1964 – Rita Murphy, age 57.  Five novels. Taught awhile at Monteverde Friends School in Costa Rica.  Delacorte Press Prize, starting with two pages in mid-September and turning in her book by December 31.  “I sometimes feel that I have very little to do with the setting of the story or the characters that emerge.”  For Harmony, “I contacted the Cherokee Heritage Center in Oklahoma, spoke with a man there of Cherokee descent, and used their online Cherokee dictionary.”  [JH]
  • Born February 3, 1970 Warwick Davis, 51. Nearly fifty live and voice appearances since first appearing in the Return of the Jedi in place of Kenny Baker who was going to be an Ewok before he fell ill. Did you know he’s in Labyrinth as a member of the Goblin Corps? I certainly didn’t. Or that he did a series of humorous horror films centered around him as an evil Leprechaun? They did well enough that there was six of them. Hell he even shows up in Doctor Who in the “Nightmare in Silver” episode. (CE) 
  • Born February 3, 1979 Ransom Riggs, 42. He’s best known for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I’ll confess I know absolutely nothing about, so educate me. I know it was turned into a film by Tim Burton which could a Very Good Thing. His first book btw was The Sherlock Holmes Handbook: The Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective. (CE)
  • Born February 3, 1984 – Rodrigo Adolfo, age 37.  Ten covers for us.  Here is Trial by Fire.  Here is Sunker’s Deep.  Two DeviantArt sites, one pro, one for his hobbyist photography.  [JH]

(13) BOOK WILL BENEFIT DWAYNE MCDUFFIE FOUNDATION. Publishers Weekly previews “A New Guide to the Black Comic Book Community”.

Three comics industry veterans have joined together to produce The Access Guide to the Black Comic Book Community 2020-2021. The title is the first in a series of reference works that will introduce creators of color who released books in 2020 as well as industry institutions and events that spotlight their works.

The reference work will be released on February 17 and all proceeds will be donated to the Dwayne McDuffie Foundation to be used to subsidize academic scholarships for diverse students. The foundation is named after the late McDuffie, an Eisner-award winning comics writer, animator and a cofounder of Milestone Media, a celebrated Black superhero publishing venture that focused on minority representation in comics….

(14) TBR ASAP. So says Book Riot about “8 of the Best Queer Science Fiction Books”, a list that includes:

CHILLING EFFECT BY VALERIE VALDES

In this adult and humorous space opera, Captain Eva Innocente and the crew of La Sirena Negra cruise the galaxy delivering small cargo for even smaller profits. When her sister Mari is kidnapped by The Fridge, a shadowy syndicate that holds people hostage in cryostasis, Eva must undergo a series of unpleasant, dangerous missions to pay the ransom.

But Eva may lose her mind before she can raise the money. The ship’s hold is full of psychic cats, an amorous fish-faced emperor wants her dead after she rejects his advances, and her sweet engineer is giving her a pesky case of feelings. The worse things get, the more she lies, raising suspicions and testing her loyalty to her found family….

(15) TODAY’S WILD-ASS THEORY. Film Theory, to be specific: “Titanic is about Time Travel… No REALLY!”

Titanic is a movie that has stood the test of time… and has one of the BIGGEST unanswered questions of any movie. No, I don’t mean could they both fit on the door if Rose had just moved over a little. I mean the question is Jack a time traveler sent to make sure the Titanic sinks? Yes, that age old question. Well Theorists, today we are going to answer that once and for all!

(16) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Peeps are not genre, or even genre adjacent. Why do I feel compelled to write about them? These new flavors must spark a connection between “exotic” and “alien” in my imagination. “Holiday Peeps Are Back in Time for Easter”.

In addition to returning fan-favorite flavors, Peeps-lovers can look forward to two “delectable new flavors” — Hot Tamales Fierce Cinnamon Flavored Marshmallow Chicks and the Froot Loops Flavored Pop — which will be available nationwide….

(17) AFROFUTURISTIC SERIES ON THE WAY. “Idris and Sabrina Elba Working on Afrofuturistic Sci-Fi Series for Crunchyroll” Slanted has the story.

… The Afro-futuristic science fiction series, which is currently in development, will be set in a city where the rise of biotechnology has created an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Two rising stars from either side of this divide are pitted against each other in a story that will ultimately explore equality and kinship within a corrupt society.

“We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Idris and Sabrina to develop this anime-inspired sci-fi epic,” said Sarah Victor, Head of Development, Crunchyroll. “It is a privilege to work with such talented, creative partners and we look forward to bringing this exciting project to life.”

(18) IMMATERIAL PLANET. “Fans petition NASA to name planet TOI-1338 b in SOPHIE’s memory” reports The Fader.

As the world continues to mourn the tremendous loss of SOPHIE, who passed away this weekend following an accident in Athens, fans are asking for the Scottish producer’s otherworldly legacy to be honored in space. A new petition created by Christian Arroyo asks for NASA to consider naming the recently discovered planet TOI 1339 b after SOPHIE, due to the aesthetic similarities between the planet and SOPHIE’s visual lexicon….

Here’s the link to the petition at Change.org – ”NASA, name TOI-1338 b in honor of SOPHIE”.

…When artist renditions of TOI 1338 b (a circumbinary exoplanet discovered by Wolf Cukier and fellow scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) were featured in the press following the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu, many fans noticed the similarities between the interpretations and the aesthetic sense of SOPHIE’s visual work, specifically the cover for her 2018 album Oil of Every Pearl’s UnInsides.

I am requesting, at the discretion of the incredible scientists who discovered the planet, that TOI 1338 b be named in honor of the great LGBT+ influence, SOPHIE. Her fans would love to pay homage by having her name be remembered in this way and for her influence to continue to flourish for years to come.

(19) ROLLING MORE THAN THE DICE. “Dungeons and Diversity brings phenomenal wheelchair minis to D&D”All Gamers has the story.

Dungeons and Dragons sells itself on the principle of creativity, allowing you the freedom to imagine someone entirely different to play, or design a fantastical version of yourself. Yet for all the innovation encouraged in its play, the game’s core rules have proven somewhat restrictive, or non inclusive for many. 

Dungeons and Diversity is hoping to change that, starting with the creation of some seriously impressive combat wheelchair miniatures. Created by Strata Miniatures, the models include a Human Druid, Elf Rogue, Tiefling Cleric and Dwarf Barbarian. Each is intricately detailed, with equipment loaded across the sides and back…

(20) FANTASTIC FOUR AT 60. Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and now the company will present their saga in a radical new way in Fantastic Four: Life Story.

Written by acclaimed writer Mark Russell (Second ComingWonder Twins) and drawn by Sean Izaakse (Fantastic FourAvengers No Road Home) , Fantastic Four: Life Story …will tell the entire history of the Fantastic Four from beginning to end, set against the key events of the decades through which their stories were published.

Fantastic Four: Life Story #1 will take place in the “Swinging Sixties” when Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny took that fateful journey to space that changed the face of comic book storytelling forever. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and the Space Race, a terrible accident occurs that gives them great powers and a terrible secret, entangling them in Earth’s history forever as they transform into the world’s premiere super hero team.

“What I’ve always loved about the Fantastic Four is how it reduces the cosmic struggle of human survival to the scale of a family squabble while treating personal relationships as a matter of truly galactic importance,” Russell said. “Weaving their story and their world into our story and what’s happened in our world over the last sixty years was an important reminder to me of how smart it is to approach life like that.”

Click to view larger images:

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/21 Like Three Zabriskan Fontemas In A Trench Coat

(1) DR. MAE JEMISON. Dr. Mae Jemison will give a talk in the Oregon State University Provost’s Lecture series on February 4. Free registration here.

Dr. Mae Jemison: the first woman of color in space; a national science literacy ambassador and advocate for radical leaps in knowledge, technology, design and thinking — on Earth and beyond. She also served six years as a NASA astronaut. Join us as we explore the frontiers of science and human potential with Dr. Jemison for the next Provost’s lecture on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. [Pacific] Free, remote, open to all.

(2) BLASPHEMY, I TELL YOU. Throwing-rocks denier James Davis Nicoll unleashes his skepticism on some of the leading hard science authors of the genre: “Five Books That Get Kinetic Weapons Very Wrong”. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress supplies the text for his opening lesson.  

… On the surface, this seems plausible. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation assures one that this would be quite vexing to anyone standing where the rock happens to land: at 11 kilometres per second, each kilogram of rock would have about 60 megajoules of kinetic energy, more than ten times the energy of a kilogram of TNT. Nobody wants more than ten kilograms of TNT exploding on their lap.

But…a moment’s consideration should raise concerns. For example, the rebels are using repurposed cargo vessels. How is it they are able to reach the surface at near-escape velocities without fragmenting on the way down? How did the rebels manage to erase Cheyenne Mountain from existence when (given the numbers in the book) it would take about two hundred thousand impacts to do so? How did the rebels cause a tidal wave in the UK when simple math says the wave would only have been a few centimetres high at Margate?

Heinlein probably relied on a simple but useful technique: he didn’t do the math…. 

(3) NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE, AND PROBABLY NEVER WERE. The Horn of Rohan Redux conducted “An interview with Suzanne Nelson, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature 2020 finalist” for her book A Tale Magnolious

There is something post-apocalyptic about the dust bowl-esque farm featured in this book. Did you pull ideas from history or dystopian literature? 

I’m a fan of dystopian literature, but I didn’t have any particular piece in mind as I was writing A Tale Magnolious. Certainly, the desperation of the Dust Bowl years and the Great Depression era were at the forefront of my mind as I wrote. I am an avid student of history and think often about periods, like World War II, where there have been great loss, or evil and tragedy, but where humankind has ultimately overcome these horrors through courage, faith, and love. As I crafted Nitty and Magnolious’s story, I kept returning to the idea of hope blooming in the midst of desolation. Even Neezer Snollygost had the chance to alter his self-serving, destructive path, but he chose not to. In a way, I suppose he resembled Tolkien’s Gollum in that his obsessions robbed him of his better self. But others in Magnolious like Windle Homes, gave up their resentments and anger, and once they did, their hearts reopened to love. People have a way of finding joy and one another in the darkest times through love and hope.

(4) WEBSITE DEFLECTS BLAME. Directors Notes has responded to Adam Ellis and his charges that Keratin ripped off his comic: “A Statement on Adam Ellis’ Keratin Plagiarism Accusation”.

For clarity, we would like to state that Directors Notes was in no way involved with the creation of Keratin nor have we profited from the film’s existence. We are however regretful to have used our platform to help promote the film. Had the full facts of its genesis been made clear to us at the time would have declined to run the interview.

As has been pointed out by many commentators, when asked about Keratin’s inspiration Butler and James’ response: “The original concept was inspired by a short online cartoon we saw which we developed further” fails to credit Ellis as the creator of the original online cartoon, nor does it detail the email conversation the filmmakers had with Ellis or his request that they pull the film from festivals.

(5) AVOID CROWDS. Paul McAuley has advice for writers in “World-Building The Built World”.

…Worldbuilding is hard only if you pay too much attention to it. Less is almost always better than more. Use details sparingly rather than to drown the reader in intricate descriptions and faux exotica; question your first and second thoughts; set out a few basic parameters, find your character and start the story rather than fleshing out every detail of the landscape, drawing maps, and preparing recipe cards and fashion plates before writing the first sentence. Wherever possible, scatter clues and trust the reader to put them together; give them the space to see the world for themselves rather than crowd out their imagination with elaborate and burdensome detail.

Most of the heavy lifting for the worldbuilding of War of the Maps was already done for me in a speculative scientific paper, ‘Dyson Spheres around White Dwarfs’ by Ibrahim Semiz and Selim O?ur. That gave me the basic idea: a very large artificial world wrapped around a dead star, its surface a world ocean in which maps skinned from planets were set. Almost everything else was tipped in as the story progressed. Discovering details essential to the story as it rolls out gives space and flexibility to hint at the kind of random, illogical, crazy beauty of the actual world; the exclusionary scaffolds of rigid logic too often do not….

(6) WINDOW ON A PAST WORLDCON. AbeBooks is offering “The Twelfth World Science Fiction Convention Papers” for a tad under $24,000. I now realize one of the disadvantages of the internet age – all those emails I got from pros while organizing convention programs will never be collectibles! Also, I wonder if there’s anything in the archive explaining why SFCon (1954) decided not to continue the Hugo Awards which had been given for the first time the previous year?

A UNIQUE OFFERING THE TWELFTH WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION PAPERS. Held in San Francisco in the summer of 1954 with G.O.H. John Campbell, Jr., this was one of the great early gatherings. Included in this massive archive is everything that one might want to know about running a convention: Hotel rates for rooms, banquets, buffet menus, rentals, carpenters, electricians, etc. There are letters from attendees and those who wished to attend but could not; paid invoices from photo shops, printers, etc.; canceled checks (along with some unused ones as well) and check stubs; Radio scripts from local stations and press clippings and pictures from local papers; letters from major Motion Picture Studios answering requests about film availability; SIGNED letters from advertizers (including all the small presses); the entire convention mailing list; black & white photos picturing singularly or in group Ackerman, Anderson, Boucher, Bloch, Campbell, Clifton, Dick, Ellison, Evans, Gold, Mayne, Ley, Moskowitz, Nourse, E.E. Smith, Williamson, Van Vogt, Vampira, et.al. But of course the major importance of this archive has yet to be mentioned. And that’s simply the great abundance of SIGNED letters, post-cards and notes from authors and artists. To wit: Anderson, Asimov (3), Blaisdell, Blish, Bond, Bonestell (4), Boucher (3), Bradbury (4), Bretnor, F. Brown, Howard Browne, Budrys, Campbell (5), Clement, Clifton (2), Collier, Conklin, DeCamp, DeFord, Dick, Dickson, Dollens (8), Emshwiller (2), Eshbach (2), Evans, Farmer, Freas (3), Greenberg (2), Gunn, Heinlein, Hunter (5), Kuttner, Ley (5), Moskowitz, Neville, Nolan (3), Nourse, Obler, Orban (3), Palmer, Pratt, Simak, E.E. Smith (2), Tucker, Williamson (3), Wylie, et.al. Finally, also included is a set of audio tapes which were taken at this convention. Now for the first time (depending on your age I guess) you can not only be privy to what went on at this convention, but also hear the actual voices of Anthony Boucher, John W. Campbell, E.E. “DOC”Smith and others too numerous to mention. A unique opportunity to snatch a bit of vintage post-war Science Fiction history. (The tapes, while definitely included in this grouping, may not be immediately available.).

(7) A WRITER BEGINS. Read Octavia Butler’s autobiographical article “Positive Obsession”, the Library of America’s “Story of the Week.”

…A decade after she published Kindred, as her standing in the literary world continued to rise, Octavia Butler wrote for Essence magazine a remarkably compelling essay outlining the path of her career, from early childhood in the 1950s to her status as a full-time writer in the 1980s. We present her life story as our Story of the Week selection….

MY MOTHER read me bedtime stories until I was six years old. It was a sneak attack on her part. As soon as I really got to like the stories, she said, “Here’s the book. Now you read.” She didn’t know what she was setting us both up for….

(8) SLOW READER. “’Doctor Doolittle’ returned to Canadian library was 82 years overdue” – UPI has the story.

…”We were putting a fan in our bathroom, so we had to cut a hole through our roof and while we were up in the attic, we found a bunch of old books,” Musycsyn told CTV News.

Musycsyn said the copy of Doctor Dolittle stood out because it bore markings from the Sydney Public Library.

“This one in particular had the old library card from 1939,” Musycsyn said. “And I just thought that was interesting, because it was the same week that the library had abolished their fines.

“So, I thought it was a good thing, because I wouldn’t want to know what the fine on an 82-year-old overdue book would be.”

Library officials said the old Sydney Public Library burned down in 1959, destroying most of its books. They said the tome returned by Musycsyn might not have survived if it had been returned on time.

(9) VON BRAUN’S SF BOOK. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website discusses the engineer’s literary ambitions Mars Project: Wernher von Braun as a Science-Fiction Writer”.

The German-American rocket engineer Dr. Wernher von Braun is famous—or infamous—for his role in the Nazi V-2 rocket program and for his contributions to United States space programs. He was, I have argued, the most influential rocket engineer and space advocate of the twentieth century, but also one whose reputation will be forever tainted by his association with Nazi crimes against humanity in V-2 ballistic missile production. Von Braun certainly was multi-talented—he was a superb engineering manager, an excellent pilot, and a decent pianist. In the U.S., he became a national celebrity while speaking and writing about spaceflight. But we don’t think him as a science-fiction writer. It was not for want of trying. Von Braun wrote a novel, Mars Project, in America in the late 1940s and later exploited his fame to publish a novella about a Moon flight and an excerpt from his failed Mars work.

…The political context for his fictional Mars expedition is equally fascinating. Mars Project opens in 1980, after the United States of Earth, with its capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, conquers and occupies the Soviet bloc, aided by its space station—once again called Lunettadropping atomic bombs on Eurasian targets. While von Braun reveals his tendency to naïve technological utopianism in the Martian sections, his opening displays a conservative anti-Communism suited to the Cold War hysteria of 1949. His vision of World War III is, to put it plainly, a fantasy of a successful Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union….  

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 2, 1925 The Lost World enjoyed its very first theatrical exhibition.  It was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, a forerunner of his work on the original King Kong. It’s the first adaption of A. Conan Doyle’s novel of the same name.  It’s considered the first dinosaur film. This silent film starred Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Wallace Beery and Lloyd Hughes. Because of its age the film is in the public domain, and can be legally downloaded online which is why you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 2, 1882 – James Joyce.  If I call Ulysses or Finnegans Wake fantasy, someone will answer “He just wrote what he saw”, which leads not only to Our Gracious Host’s days as an SF club secretary, but also to Van Gogh’s Starry Night.  Marshall McLuhan said in War and Peace in the Global Village he could explain what FW’s thunder said.  Half a dozen short stories for us anyway.  (Died 1941) [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1905 – Ayn Rand.  Anthem and Atlas Shrugged are ours – meaning they’re SF; I express no opinion on them or Objectivism philosophically, that being outside the scope of these notes.  I did put a Jack Harness drawing of JH’s Objectivist Mutated Mouse Musicians in the L.A.con II (42nd Worldcon) Program Book, but that was ars gratia artis.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even though it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavours include, and this is lest OGH strangle me is only the Choice Bits included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense.” (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas M. Disch. Camp ConcentrationThe Genocides334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done.  He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born February 2, 1947 – Eric Lindsay, age 74.  Fan Guest of Honor at Tschaicon the 21st Australian natcon, Danse Macabre the 29th.  Fanzine, Gegenschein.  GUFF delegate with wife Jean Weber (northbound the Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, southbound the Going Under Fan Fund); their trip report Jean and Eric ’Avalook at the UK here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 72. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series we were just discussing? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest to name some of his genre roles. (CE)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 72. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight ZoneOuter LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. (CE)
  • Born February 2, 1957 – Laurie Mann, F.N., age 64.  Co-chaired Boskone 25, chaired SMOFcon 30 (SMOF is Secret Master Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke, besides the Jefferson Airplane comment).  Two short stories.  Pittsburgh Bach Choir.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Maintains William Tenn Website.  Fan Guest of Honor at Rivercon XII, ArmadilloCon 27 (with husband Jim Mann).  Program Division head for Sasquan the 73rd Worldcon, also (with JM) for Millennium Philcon the 59th. You might read her “Everything I Learned About Buying and Renovating Buildings I Learned from Monty Wells”.  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1966 – Frank Lewecke, age 56.  Molecular biologist.  Half a dozen covers for German-language editions of Herbert-Anderson Dune books.  Here is House Atreides.  Here is The Butlerian Jihad.  More generally this gallery.  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1981 – Tara Hudson,age 40.  Three novels for us.  Says she once drove a blue Camaro, got her lowest grade (B) in law school, and in that profession had a great career and stagnated.  Many seem happy with the result.  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1986 Gemma Arterton, 35. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld depicts “The Runaway Lobster-Telephone Problem.”

(13) SPASEBO BOLSHOYA SUPERMAN. You don’t need millions of dollars for special effects anymore if you have a drone with a tiny camera: “Superman With a GoPro”. (Don’t ask me why the closed captions are in Russian.)

(14) WHEDON WAS HERE. Yahoo! Entertainment frames the series and trailer: “’The Nevers’ First Trailer: Joss Whedon Creates HBO’s Next Genre-Mashing Original Series”.

Whedon is back with HBO’s “The Nevers,” albeit with a twist. While Whedon created and executive produced the Victorian Era science fiction series, he announced in November he was stepping away from the series. By this point, “The Nevers” had already wrapped production on its six-episode first season. Whedon is no longer involved with “The Nevers,” but HBO’s teaser trailer for the show is peak Whedon with its clashing of genres and super-powered female action heroes.

The description from The Nevers: Official Teaser says —

Society fears what it cannot understand. Experience the power of The Nevers, a new @HBO original series, this April on @HBOmax. In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the “Touched”: people — mostly women — who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some charming, some very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of… well, pretty much all the forces — to make room for those whom history as we know it has no place.

(15) I SAY I’M SPINACH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] MIT scientists have used nanotechnology to enable spinach to detect components of explosives and other hazardous substances. The spinach plants can also send out an alert via e-mail, so guess what the headline is about. Though automatic e-mail alerts aren’t anything unusual. My furnace regularly e-mails me as well. From Euronews, “Scientists have taught spinach to send emails and it could warn us about climate change”.

…Through nanotechnology, engineers at MIT in the US have transformed spinach into sensors capable of detecting explosive materials. These plants are then able to wirelessly relay this information back to the scientists.

When the spinach roots detect the presence of nitroaromatics in groundwater, a compound often found in explosives like landmines, the carbon nanotubes within the plant leaves emit a signal. This signal is then read by an infrared camera, sending an email alert to the scientists.

This experiment is part of a wider field of research which involves engineering electronic components and systems into plants. The technology is known as “plant nanobionics”, and is effectively the process of giving plants new abilities….

(16) POWER WALK. [Item by Michael Toman.] Just in case Other Mostly Shut-In “At Risk” Filers can use some inspiration for taking a daily 30-minute Masked Walk for exercise toward achieving the goal of 50 miles a month? “Astronauts Wind Down After Spacewalk, Reap Space Harvest” from the NASA Space Station blog.

…NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover completed their second spacewalk together on Monday wrapping up a years-long effort to upgrade the station’s power system. They relaxed Tuesday morning before spending the afternoon on a spacewalk conference and space botany.

The duo joined astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and called down to spacewalk engineers after lunchtime today. The quartet briefed the specialists on any concerns or issues they had during the Jan. 27 and Feb. 1 spacewalks….

(17) BEWARE REDSHIRT ARMED WITH UKULELE. Howard Tayler tweeted a rediscovered drawing of John Scalzi, eliciting this comment from the subject.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Mandalorian Season 2” on Honest Trailers. the Screen Junkies say the show combines “the world of Star Wars, the feel of old samurai movies, and the emotional core of Reddit’s r/awww community because every time you see Baby Yoda, you want to go “Awwwww!”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/21 And I Looked And Behold A Pale Pixel, And Their Name Who Sat On Them Was ´Scroll Title´

(1) ALL THAT JAZZ. Elle M. has a fascinating commentary on the difference between worldbuilding and lore. Thread starts here. A few quotes follow —

They also use the author of Harry Potter as a compelling example of where lore gets injected at the expense of worldbuilding.

(2) TRENDY PLACES. Sarah Gailey’s Stone Soup blog is hosting “Building Beyond,” an “ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.” For “Building Beyond: Robot Dating”, editor Brian J. White and writer Suzanne Walker imagine where they’ve gone on a date with a giant robot.

Gailey’s dry synopsis should make you very curious to read the post:  

…Brian’s date is the foundation of a story about a robot who is learning to live in the world, and who just so happens to be inhabiting a city of decadences. Suzanne’s date is the beginning of a world in which robots and humans regularly go out together, and frogs have learned to cater to the complicated ecosystem of needs that arise in such relationships. 

(3) UNDER THE HARROW. Constance Grady and Vox’s critic at large Emily VanDerWerff undertake a “Harrow the Ninth discussion: profound grief and terrible puns” at Vox.

Constance Grady: I have a hard time working out exactly how I feel about volume two of this trilogy. Harrow the Ninth is a trickier book than Gideon the Ninth, in the same way that bitchy, conniving Harrow is a trickier protagonist than sweet basic jock Gideon.

First of all, there’s the problem of tone. Gideon mined enormous amounts of tension and humor out of the contrast between its lurid goth world and Gideon’s straightforward “it looks like a sword, I want to fight it” worldview and her dirty jokes. That’s part of what helps puncture the grandiosity of Muir’s worldbuilding and keep everything feeling accessible and human-scale, no matter how complicated the mythology might be.

But Harrowhark worships all the lurid skeletal nonsense around her with a religious intensity, and she considers boning jokes prurient. So the easy laughter of the first volume fades away: The jokes are meaner in Harrow than they were in Gideon, and darker….

(4) MRS. PEEL, WE’RE NEEDED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 23 Financial Times, Peter Aspden writes about the 60th anniversary of British TV series The Avengers, which was first broadcast in January 1960.

The plots (of The Avengers), in the meantime, got crazier.  In 1967’s ‘Epic,’ from the fifth season, Peel is kidnapped by a Teutonic film director named ZZ von Schnerk, who is filming a movie called The Destruction Of Emma Peel, for which he needs to kill her in real, or reel, life.  The self-referntiality was off the scale, now.  ‘Gloat all you like, but I am the star of his picture, says captive Peel to the villiainous director, and anyone interested in meta-texts.

Like so many of the fashions of the 1960s, Rigg only lasted a couple of seasons. She left to star in her own Bond Film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which she showed that her range extended further than understated self-mockery (in fairness, she had also already played Cordelia opposite Paul Scofield’s Lear) by providing one of the franchise’s few genuinely heartbreaking endings.  Peel’s farewell to Steed was itself a rare poignant moment, a peck on the cheek with a final piece of womanly advice:  ‘Always keep your bowler on it times of stress.  And watch out for diabolical masterminds.’

(5) SPLATTERPUNK AWARDS. [Item by Dann.] Nominations are open for the 2021 Splatterpunk Awards through February 14.  Brian Keene and Wrath James White have been experiencing….ummm…difficulties in getting valid nominations.  Someone nominated HP Lovecraft who, being dead, is ineligible.  Also, he hasn’t published anything new in the last year.  Also, also, he hasn’t published anything that is close to being Splatterpunk.

Midnight Pals over on Twitter has the theoretic exchange where Brian and Wrath try to explain how this is supposed to work.  (I’m pretty sure that Dean Koontz didn’t nominate HP Lovecraft.)

The awards will be presented during a ceremony at the 2021 Killercon Convention, taking place in Austin, Texas.

In addition to the Splatterpunk Awards, author John Skipp will receive this year’s J.F. Gonzalez Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the field.

(6) FLOWER POWER. Galactic Journey’s Vicki Lucas encounters a classic of the Sixties: “[January 28, 1966] The Book as Rorschach Test (Flowers for Algernon)”.

…Try as I might, I have great difficulty thinking of this novel as a science-fiction story. It could be conceived of as a psychological thriller, but no one dies except a mouse. It is deeply psychological and delves as far into the brain as anyone can get right now, accepting Freudian analysis as routine, while it is Jung’s “individuation” that the main character, Charlie Gordon, seeks without a guide except for his reading.

…I recommend this book, no matter its genre, and hope that anyone who reads it finds him- or herself touched by the plight of both those who are “exceptional” on the low end and those “exceptional” on the high end.

What will you see in it?

I see five stars.

(7) TAPPING INTO TED WHITE. Fanac.org posted a second installment of Ted White’s livestreamed interview, conducted by John D. Berry.

Ted White has been a science fiction fan for over 70 years, as well as an artist, fanzine editor and publisher, professional writer, editor and jazz critic. Interviewer John D. Berry has known Ted for more than 50 years. 

In part 2 of the January 23, 2021 interview, Ted talks about how he began writing professional science fiction, and the influence of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Terry Carr, Bob Tucker and others. There are anecdotes of the New York Fanoclasts and of how the bid for the 1967 NyCon3 came about. 

Ted discusses “The Club House” column in Amazing Stories, responsible for bringing many into fandom in the early 1970s, and speaks of his many fanzine collaborations, along with challenges along the way. This Zoom interview was very well received by all the attendees, who clamored for more. Look for the next part of the interview.

(8) WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE. Camestros Felapton risked his eyeballs – will you? “I watched Star Trek – Lower Decks”.

…Pitched as humorous, adult-orientated animated series in the Star Trek universe, the series creator is Mike McMahan, a lead writer from Rick and Morty. However, the show’s humour is both less crude and less imaginative than that show, indeed overall it pitches itself at ‘amusing’ rather than ‘funny’. The obvious comparison is with The Orville, rather than Galaxy Quest or John Scalzi’s Redshirts….

(9) IMAGINARY PAPERS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the fifth issue of Imaginary Papers, a quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. (Use this link to subscribe for future issues.)

Issue #5 features writing from games critic Emma Kostopolus, on the space opera game Mass Effect 3 (2012), and writer and educator Malik Toms, on John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet (1984), as well as a piece from me about the collection Scotland in Space (2019).

 (10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2000 — Twenty one years ago at Chicon 2000, Galaxy Quest, a DreamWorks film, would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It would edge out The Matrix (which lost by just three votes), The Sixth SenseBeing John Malkovich and The Iron Giant. It was directed by Dean Parisot. Screenwriters David Howard and Robert Gordon worked off the story by David Howard. It’s considered by many Trekkies to the best Trek film ever made. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 28, 1820 – Vilhelm Pedersen.  First illustrator of Hans Christian Andersen; a hundred twenty-five in the five-volume 1849 edition.  Indispensable like Tenniel’s for Lewis Carroll.  Here is “The Top and Ball”.  Here is “The Flying Trunk”.  Here is “Hyldemor”.  Here is “Thumbelina”.  (Died 1859) [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1834 – Sabine Baring-Gould.  Anglican priest, author of fiction, folklorist.  Grandfather of the Holmes scholar.  Wrote “Onward, Christian Soldiers” (music by Sir Arthur Sullivan).  This edition including Curious Myths of the Middle Ages and Were-wolves appeared recently.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born January 28, 1931 – Komatsu Sakyô.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Leading Japanese SF author.  Most famous for Japan Sinks.  Two shorter stories in this collection.  Author Guest of Honor at Nippon2007 the 65th Worldcon – of which, incidentally, you can see my report here (PDF).  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1957 – Joanne Findon, Ph.D., age 64.  Assistant Professor of English at Trent Univ. (Peterborough, Ontario).  Two novels for us.  “I blame my two lifelong passions – writing fiction and studying the past – on … Lloyd Alexander.”  More here.  [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1959 Frank Darabont, 62. Early on, he was mostly a screenwriter for horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream WarriorsThe Blob and The Fly II, allminor horror filmsAs a director, he’s much better known as he’s done, The Green MileThe Shawshank Redemption and The Mist.  He also developed and executive-produced the first season of The Walking Dead. He also wrote Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that I like a lot. (CE) 
  • Born January 28, 1961 – Michael Paraskevas, age 60.  Illustrator and animation producer.  With his mother Betty, books and television Maggie and the Ferocious BeastMarvin the Tap-Dancing Horse.  MP encouraged BP, which I think is cool.  A score of books, some with her, some not.  Spaceships and many other things at MP’s Website.  [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 40. His first genre role is as Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed.  He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb’s superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. (CE) 
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 36. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s also Luther Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. (CE) 
  • Born January 28, 1986 – Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, age 35.  This historic champion track & field athlete has recently written half a dozen children’s fantasies with Elen Caldecott, may the name be for a good omen.  Here’s the latest I know of.  [JH]
  • Born January 28, 1998 Ariel Winter, 23. Voice actress whose shown up in such productions as Mr. Peabody & Sherman as Penny Peterson, Horton Hears a Who!DC Showcase: Green Arrow as Princess Perdita and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly (Robin). She’s got several one-off live performances on genre series, The Haunting Hour: The Series and Ghost Whisperer. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

At xkcd Randall Munroe has a couple more installments on his living in a scaled world series:

(13) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 8 to make your voice heard: “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2020!”

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2020. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 11 to February 8, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

(14) CON CALLS ON FANS FOR HELP. “Otakon Discusses Future, Asks for Donations” reports the Anime News Network. Their 2021 event is scheduled to be held at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. from August 6 to 8. Last year’s Otakon was cancelled.

Otakorp president Brooke Zerrlaut announced in a newsletter on Thursday that the organization is requesting donations for the first time. The Otakon convention’s staff are continuing to evaluate plans for 2021 and noted that the event may “potentially close” permanently.

The newsletter explained that Otakorp, a volunteer-run non-profit organization, runs the annual Otakon convention dedicated to Asian culture. Because of the cancelation of Otakon 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is in a “precarious position.”

(15) A WRITER’S BEGINNING AND END. Book and Film Globe in“The Tragedy of Karl Edward Wagner” reviews a documentary about the acclaimed fantasy writer and editor.

The makers of the new Vimeo documentary, The Last Wolf: Karl Edward Wagner, have trained their lens on an elusive horror and fantasy writer with a cult following. Besides the stories of supernatural and psychological terror collected in In a Lonely Place (1983) and Why Not You and I? (1987), Wagner spun tales about Kane, a hero sometimes compared to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, who wanders and fights his way through a fantasy realm peopled with brigands, thieves, sorcerers, monks, and shapeshifters. This body of work exceeds the better-known Conan mythos in its sexuality and violence, tropes that Wagner used with uneven results.

Wagner was also a longtime editor of the Year’s Best Horror Stories series, showcasing the work of Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, Brian Lumley, Elizabeth Hand, David J. Schow, T.E.D. Klein, Charles L. Grant, Dennis Etchison, and dozens of others in the field. A few of these scribes appear in The Last Wolf, with especially vivid remembrances coming from Campbell and Etchison. Peter Straub, who wrote a foreword to In a Lonely Place, also has a lot to say.

…The sources interviewed in The Last Wolf render a portrait of an ambitious youth who collected paperbacks, became well known to the staff of a used bookshop in Knoxville through constant visits, and liked to freak out his nephews with spooky tales as they lay in their beds by an open window. While still in high school, Wagner meets a charming young woman, Barbara Mott, on a double date. He later marries her. His career enters high gear in the 1970s as he churns out stories, but not novels, and he stays busy writing and editing through the 1980s and 1990s, almost right up to his death.

“The Fourth Seal” is about a scientist looking to cure cancer. Wagner became the victim of something comparable its destructiveness. The Last Wolf doesn’t skirt around the plunge into alcoholism that drew growing concern on the part of Wagner’s peers in the weird field and led to the end of his marriage. Some of the recollections are hard to take. 

(16) BUY BUTLER. The London Review Bookshop’s Author of the Month is Octavia E. Butler.

Our Author of the Month for February is the American Science Fiction writer Octavia E. Butler.

In her many sometimes interlocking works Butler asks questions about race, gender and, pre-eminently, hierarchy in startling ways, and to offer equally startling versions of possible futures, often dystopian, that are uncannily like the present. This is extraordinary writing, written against the grain of gender and race prejudice and against the grain of Butler’s own persistent writer’s block.

Start with her masterpiece Kindred. We’re next to certain you won’t stop there.

(17) A GLIMPSE OF SF HISTORY. Samuel R. Delany reminisced about Judith Merril in a Facebook post.

Judith Merrill [sic] (Boston, 21 Jan 1923—Toronto, 12 Sept 1997), was—for the last years of her life, one of my best friends in the science fiction world, and thus, like all of her friends, to me she was “Judy” and I—to her—was “Chip.” We could never quite agree about where we met. During the time I was sharing a room with my friend, Bob Aarenberg, at the St. Marks Arms, on West 113th St., in NYC, and in our upstairs neighbor Randy Garrett took me to a party in Greenwich Village, where I met her and talked with her quite a while. But a few years later, she had no memory of that meeting. But as a kid I’d read her collaborations with C. M. [K]ornbluth (the Gunner Cade books), and thoroughly enjoyed them; I’d read a handful full of her stories—”Only a Mother,” which I felt was okay, but also “Dead Center” which I felt was much stronger (and still do after several rereadings of both and others)—but the writings of hers that meant most to me was her critical work….

(18) BUT THEY DID. James Davis Nicoll remembers “Five SF Empires That Seemed Too Big to Fail”, by authors Andre Norton, Phyillis Eisenstein, John Scalzi, Walter Jon Williams, and H. Beam Piper.

(19) FOR THE EAR AND THE EYE. Cora Buhlert’s spotlight series detours to visit with the creator of a semiprozine: “Not-a-Fanzine Spotlight: Simultaneous Times”.

Why did you decide to start your site or zine?

…The Simultaneous Times Newsletter started when the pandemic lockdowns started. Usually I’m at my bookstore six days a week, and since we specialize in science fiction, most of my conversations center around the genre. Immediately I began to miss the conversations and my customers, so I started the newsletter as a way to stay connected with science fiction fans. Since then it has just grown. But we still give free subscriptions. I thought people would prefer to get a letter in the mail over receiving an email.

What format do you use for your site or zine (blog, e-mail newsletter, PDF zine, paper zine) and why did you choose this format?

Several members of my team, including myself, have a background in radio. When we all started talking about starting a podcast we decided that we wanted to produce the program the way that radio shows were produced in the past. Really take the radio arts approach instead of going with modern trends in podcasting. Since then we’ve even teamed up with the radio station KZZH 96.7 in Northern California, so our program did end up on the air.

The Newsletter is print because I wanted to put something physical in people’s hands, especially during this time of not being able to see each other. That being said, I have started to put the back issues on our website, so the archive is available to everyone

(20) IT’S PEOPLE! Shiv Ramdas comments on a trending topic. Thread starts here.

(21) THE SINS OF STARSHIP TROOPERS. [Item by Dann.] The guys at Cinema Sins have  “Everything Wrong With Starship Troopers in 19 Minutes or Less”. (Parenthetically, I’m not looking for the 5,681st iteration of “The book is better than the movie” or the 12,259th iteration of “Verhoeven never read the book!”.  I like ’em both for different reasons.  And the Cinema Sins guys are great.)

(22) TINGLE REVIEWED IN THE GUARDIAN. [Item by PhilRM.] Here are words I never expected to read in the Guardian: “’My Antifa Lover’: I read the weirdest Trump-era erotica so you don’t have to” by J. Oliver Cromwell.

…In recent years, Amazon’s e-books market has nurtured a flourishing cottage industry of self-published romance and erotic literature – and the Trump years have inspired many to put pen to paper. The most successful authors (most write under pseudonyms) are known for their prolific publication, thesaurus-aided descriptions of the human anatomy, and responsiveness to current events.

The surreality of the past four years was particularly generative of their creative juices. With the Trump era now drawn to a chaotic close, we decided to review four of the most memorable entries in this niche literary genre.

I’m strangely drawn to the title “My Antifa Lover”, although slightly disappointed that Conroy opted to review Chuck Tingle’s Pounded In The Butt By The Handsome Physical Manifestation Of Tromp’s [sic] Twitter Ban That Should’ve Come Years Sooner But Fine Now That It’s Here High Five rather than the frankly superior Domald Tromp [sic] Pounded In The Butt By The Handsome Russian T-Rex Who Also Peed On His Butt And Then Blackmailed Him With The Videos Of His Butt Getting Peed On. No, I have no idea how the internet got us here either, really.

I feel compelled to note that the reviewer gave Tingle’s work 5/5.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the 1780s, a charismatic healer caused a stir in Paris. An amusing video about the history of Mesmer’s methods and how he influenced medicine in the late 18th Century. Vox recalls The phony health craze that inspired hypnotism”.

Scientific progress in the 18th century in Europe, a period known as the “Age of Enlightenment,” was demystifying the universe with breakthroughs in chemistry, physics, and philosophy. But medical practices were still relying on centuries-old treatments, like leeching and bloodletting, which were painful and often ineffective. So when Franz Anton Mesmer, a charismatic physician from Vienna, began “healing” people in Paris using an alternative therapeutic practice he called “animal magnetism,” it got a lot of attention. Mesmer claimed that an invisible magnetic fluid was the life force that connected all things and that he had the power to regulate it to restore health in his patients. He was a celebrity figure until the King of France, Louis XVI, commissioned a group of leading scientists to investigate his methods in 1784. Benjamin Franklin headed the commission, and they debunked the existence of the magnetic fluid in the first-known blind experiment. Mesmer was ruined, but “mesmerism” didn’t end there. The report also acknowledged that Mesmer’s methods were making his patients feel better, which they attributed to the power of the human imagination. This experiment ultimately laid the groundwork for our understanding of the placebo effect and inspired an evolution of Mesmer’s practice into something more recognizable today: hypnotism.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Mlex, Joey Eschrich, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, PhilRM, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer, who has ridden the fourth horse once before.]

Pixel Scroll 1/8/21 Riverworld Deep, Mount To-Be-Read High

(1) WHATES NEW INTERZONE EDITOR. The PS Publishing newsletter (which I haven’t seen) announces Ian Whates is taking over the editorial reins of Interzone, Jonathan Strahan confirms. Whates follows Andy Cox, who has run the UK zine for years.

(2) WHO WROTE THE BOOK. Joyce Reynolds-Ward in “Writing the Revolution” argues that sff helped fuel the mindset behind yesterday’s debacle in DC.

…For every nuanced, mindful, well-thought-out version of Writing the Revolution, there are at least three or four crudely sketched out wish-fulfillment fantasies that are no more realistic than a first-person-shooter video game or their real-life variant, the run-and-gun tacticool classes that are nothing more than jumped up paintball, that allow the participants to fantasize that they are Real Warriors. Hell, I see several of these books pop up every day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, either through ads or assorted promotional groups. And they’re churned out to fulfill a reader demand for romantic notions about what Rebellion or Revolution really is.

(Dare I mention Star Wars here? Um, maybe not.)

Couple that sort of romanticized view of revolution and warfare with the sort of political polemic dominating social media over the past five years (Um. Longer) and you end up with events like January 6th, 2021.

You end up with an angry mob seeking to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power because they’ve been fed lies about the legitimacy of the 2020 election and who view themselves as akin to their fictional heroes.

And the intersection of the two has created the foundation for that idealized conceptualization of revolution….

(3) FAAN AWARDS BALLOT AVAILABLE. Nic Farey, FAAn (Fanzine Activity Achievement) Awards Administrator, has published The Incompleat Register [PDF file] as a voters’ guide. The nominating ballot is within, and votes must be received before midnight PDT, Friday March 12, 2021. Voting is open to anyone with an interest in fanzines. Farey cautions that the Register —

should not be considered to be a definitive list of what you can and cannot vote for. My sources are primarily efanzines.com, Guy Lillian’s listzine ‘The Zine Dump’ and also paper zines personally received. As I can’t possibly be aware of everything, all votes received will be counted in good faith. A “fanzine”, for our purposes, is defined as an immutable artifact, once published not subject to revision or modification. The fanzine might not exist in a physical form. A pdf, for example, is an artifact.

And he adds —

  • You do NOT have to be a member of Corflu or anything else for that matter.
  • You do NOT have to have read or received any minimum number of fanzines to vote, although of course we encourage you to check out the contenders.

(4) BUTLER’S BEGINNINGS. “7 Surprising Facts About Octavia Butler” at Mental Floss.

2. A BAD SCI-FI MOVIE INSPIRED OCTAVIA BUTLER TO START WRITING.

It was a 1954 movie called Devil Girl from Mars, which Butler saw when she was about 12 years old, that ignited the future author’s interest in science fiction. “As I was watching this film, I had a series of revelations,” Butler said during a 1998 talk at MIT. “The first was that ‘Geez, I can write a better story than that.’ And then I thought, ‘Gee, anybody can write a better story than that.’ And my third thought was the clincher: ‘Somebody got paid for writing that awful story.’ So, I was off and writing, and a year later I was busy submitting terrible pieces of fiction to innocent magazines.”

(5) GIVE THEM YOUR ATTENTION. Alex Acks spotlights “6 of the Best Black Indie SFF Writers You Should Be Reading” at Book Riot. First on the list —

NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ

A genre polymath who does crime, horror, and SFF, she brings a delightfully pulpy twist to everything she writes, whether it’s mashing up fantasy or science fiction with mystery or penning weird westerns. (Her website is here.) But if you give one book a shot…

KILL THREE BIRDS BY NICOLE GIVENS KURTZ

First off, I cannot get over this cover. (The cover for the sequel, A Theft Most Fowl, is also gorgeous.) Second, we have winged people following a Phoenix goddess, with a caste system that’s laid out as kind of birds. And our main character, Prentice Tasifa, is a Hawk, gifted with the supernatural ability to see things others can’t. And then it’s a well written procedural mystery where Prentice has to hunt down a serial killer.

(6) HOMESTEADING ON TATTOOINE. “The Force (and a Lenient Disney) Is With ‘Star Wars’ Fan Filmmakers” says the New York Times. It’s definitely more encouraging when you don’t get sued.

…Moviemaking fans of other fantasy franchises have complex relationships with the companies that own them, and “Star Wars” fan films do walk a legal tightrope. Disney asks that they be clearly marked, not raise money through crowdfunding, omit copyrighted media, and not profit from ticket sales or online advertisements. The company doesn’t appear to discriminate between fan films made by professionals and those made by amateurs, provided they follow its rules. “There is a point where you do have to protect your copyright,” Hale said.

Not everybody complies. An Indiegogo campaign to finance “Kenobi” got help from James Arnold Taylor, who has voiced the character in “Star Wars” animated television shows. (He also plays the villain in “Kenobi.”) Others have turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund their work.

And some who try to observe the rules have run into trouble. Warner/Chappell, which shares some “Star Wars” music rights with Lucasfilm, in 2019 claimed copyright over a Darth Vader fan film, “Shards of the Past,” posted on YouTube. A torrent of online criticism followed, accusing the company of seeking to profit from fan work. Lucasfilm ultimately intervened to lift the claim. (Hale said she could not comment about copyright claims.)

As technology stretches the capabilities of fan storytelling, questions of propriety could become even thornier. Several films by Peter Csikasz, a Hungarian university student, combine digital assets from official “Star Wars” video games with original motion-capture animation. Csikasz said the games’ developers were aware of his work, even as fan-made “Star Wars” video games have been repeatedly shut down.

As these films grow technically more artful, they have also grown more expensive. A two-minute animated movie can cost more than $5,000 to produce. The budget for “Kenobi” approached $100,000, Satterlund said. (Costly expectations can be prohibitive: last month, Ortiz indefinitely suspended his project after failing to raise $20,000 through crowdfunding.)

Disney’s rules mean many fan movies are financial losses, but a well-executed production can drive YouTube subscribers, attract sponsors for future work or open doors to professional opportunities. “It greases the wheels,” Satterlund said of his short. “It’s helped get me in the room to talk to somebody.”

(7) PW STAFF PICKS OF 2020. Martha Wells’ Network Effect is one of the few sff works named by Publishers Weekly staff as “The Best Books We Read in 2020”.

Martha Wells’ cranky, TV-binging Murderbot, the star and narrator of four superb novellas before this novel, made for a perfect quarantine companion. Her SecUnit killing machine has favored a solitary existence ever since it hacked its way to sentience. It feels safest hunkered down in a storage bay, mainlining its favorite shows, far removed from the messy emotions and motives of people – a preference that only became more relatable as 2020 stretched on…. 

(8) MODEL CITIZEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In a December 31 piece in the Financial Times about the failures of polling, Christine Zhang and Courtney Weaver note a prediction Isaac Asimov made in 1955.

In a fictional America, elections are decided by Multivac, a supercomputer that requires only the input of one ‘representative’ voter to statistically model the outcomes of thousands of nationa1, state, and local contests.  This is the 2008 that science fiction author Isaac Asimov portrayed i his 1955 short story “Franchise,” published three years after Univac, one of the earliest commercial computers, successfully predicted Dwight Eisenhower’s landslide victory on US television network CBS.

Asimov’s dystopian democracy has not yet materialized.  As it turns out–particularly in the two most recent US presidential races–the electorate is not so easy to reliably predict.  Yet it is not from a lack of trying.

(9) KAPANY OBIT. “Narinder S. Kapany, ‘Father of Fiber Optics,’ Dies at 94” – the New York Times pays tribute.

…When Narinder S. Kapany was in high school in the 1940s in Dehradun, an Indian city in the Himalayan foothills, his science teacher told him that light travels only in straight lines. By then he had already spent years playing around with a box camera, and he knew that light could at least be turned in different directions, through lenses and prisms. Something about the teacher’s attitude, he later said, made him want to go further, to prove him wrong by figuring out how to actually bend light.

By the time he entered graduate school at Imperial College London in 1952, he realized he wasn’t alone. For decades researchers across Europe had been studying ways to transmit light through flexible glass fibers. But a host of technical challenges, not to mention World War II, had set them back.

He persuaded one of those scientists, Harold Hopkins, to hire him as a research assistant, and the two clicked. Professor Hopkins, a formidable theoretician, provided the ideas; Dr. Kapany, more technically minded, figured out the practical side. In 1954 the pair announced a breakthrough in the journal Nature, demonstrating how to bundle thousands of impossibly thin glass fibers together and then connect them end to end.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 8, 1891 – Storm Jameson.  Suffragette, took part in the Women’s Pilgrimage.  World War II led her to recant pacifism.  Four novels and a shorter story for us; forty other novels, novellas, criticism, history, memoirs.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor when Doctor Who firstaired on November 23rd, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years, leaving when a new Showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death.  I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1926 – Bob Pavlat.  Co-founder of WSFA; chaired Disclave 4-5.  Among his fanzines, BobolingsContour.  With Bill Evans, the monumental Evans-Pavlat Fanzine Index.  Had the good taste to marry Peggy Rae McKnight; Big Heart (our highest service award) given to both; after his death she found no one worth remarrying for sixteen years.  Appreciations here.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking, Ph.D., F.R.S.  Physically active in college, coxed a rowing crew; in graduate school contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease, with which he lived, defying all, for fifty years.  Fellow of the Royal Society.  Lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences – although an atheist; as Pope John Paul II said, “Both believing scientists and non-believing scientists are involved”.  U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.  A score of other substantial awards.  Masterly communicator of science, e.g. best-seller A Brief History of Time.  Appeared on Star Trek (The Next Generation), FuturamaThe Big Bang Theory; foreword to The Physics of ”Star Trek”; five George’s Secret Key novels with daughter Lucy Hawking.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1945 – Nancy Bond, age 76.  Newbery Honor and Tir na n-Og Award for A String in the Harp.  Two more books for us, five others.  Lived in Boston, Concord, London, and Borth.  “Each of my books has a firm geographical setting.”  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger, an erotic and kinky film worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him.  From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, a role which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what did I am leaving y’all to mention? (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born January 8, 1954 – Sylvie Germain, Ph.D., age 67.  Six novels for us translated into English; two dozen others, biography, a children’s book, essays.  Prix Femina, Moncrieff Prize, Prix Goncourt des LycèensPrix mondial Cino del Duca.  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1977 Amber Benson, 44. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters.  She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too. As an audiobook narrator her credits include works by Seanan McGuire and John Scalzi. (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1979 Sarah Polley, 42. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The MovieExistenzNo Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the DeadBeowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody. (CE) 
  • Born January 8, 1983 – Michael Ziegelwagner, age 38.  Fifty short stories, e.g. “On the Unreality of Our Forests”, “Bee, Wasp, Bumblebee, Fish”, “New Rules for the Robot Car”. Mostly in German.  [JH]
  • Born January 8, 1965 Michelle Forbes, 56. Best remembered as  Ensign Ro Laren in Star Trek: The Next Generation, she also showed up in the Battlestar Galactica: Razor film as Admiral Helena Cain, and the pilot of Warren Ellis scripted Global Frequency as Miranda Zero. She played Maryann Forrester on True Blood as well. (CE)

(11) FREUDIAN SPACE. Stephen Colbert makes a couple of (possibly NSFW) genre references in this installment of “Quarantinewhile…” on The Late Show.

(12) GENRE JIGSAW. Brooks & Wyman offers the  “Vintage Science Fiction Magazine Covers 1000 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle”. That’s pretty cute!

Jigsaw Puzzle 1000 Pieces for Adults: This collage of vintage sci-fi magazine covers is nearly 28? across. Our thick cardboard construction and high-quality paper laminate makes for a durable and beautiful puzzle image. Includes puzzle image insert to help you complete the puzzle without the box image.

(13) FAME ON THE MENU. Here’s another of those food places that gives celebrity names to its fare. The Atomo minimart in Los Angeles:

jean luc batard

made with fresh brewed earl grey, oat milk and a touch of agave. make it so.

peter sprinklage

a moist vanilla cake with almond and rum notes, bedazzled with rainbow sprinkles and frosted with a vanilla butter cream. make everyday your birthday.

(14) HAPPY UNBIRTHDAY. “New Observations Agree That the Universe is 13.77 Billion Years old”Universe Today has the story.

The oldest light in the universe is that of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). This light was formed when the dense matter at the beginning of the universe finally cooled enough to become transparent. It has traveled for billions of years to reach us, stretched from a bright orange glow to cool, invisible microwaves. Naturally, it is an excellent source for understanding the history and expansion of the cosmos.

The CMB is one of the ways we can measure the rate of cosmic expansion. In the early universe, there were small fluctuations of density and temperature within the hot dense sea of the big bang. As the universe expanded, the fluctuations expanded as well. So the scale of fluctuations we see in the cosmic microwave background today tells us how must the universe has grown. On average, the fluctuations are about a billion light-years across, and this gives us a value for the rate (the Hubble parameter) as somewhere between 67.2 and 68.1 km/sec/Mpc….

(15) WHAT MOORCOCK’S WORLDS LOOK LIKE. If you followed Michael Moorcock’s career in the UK, or were impatient enough to buy these paperbacks as imports like I was, you likely know these covers.“The master of Moorcock: The psychedelic sci-fi book covers and art of Bob Haberfield” gets discussed at Dangerous Minds.

Sci-fi author Michael Moorcock has published a dizzying array of books since getting his start editing a Tarzan fanzine when he was still a teenager. In addition to his extensive literary career, Moorcock has also had some pretty praiseworthy experiences in the world of rock and roll including having played banjo for Hawkwind (as well as writing lyrics for the band) and penning three songs for Blue Öyster Cult. However, as excellent as Mr. Moorcock is, this post is about a man whose art adorned countless covers of books by Moorcock and others in the genre of fantasy and sci-fi for years, Bob Haberfield. If you are of a certain age you will very likely remember being in a store (especially in the UK) catching yourself staring right at one of Haberfield’s many contemplative psychedelic book covers that were staring right back at you…

See a whole gallery of these covers here: “20 Bob Haberfield – Moorcock book covers ideas”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Random lessons Learned From Making Films” on Vimeo, director David F. Sandberg offers lessons he’s learned from making his three sf/fantasy films, including the complexity of having multiple actors in a scene (he had 14 in one scene in SHAZAM, and camera angles had to be plotted for all of them) and why good sound is more important in a film than good images. BEWARE SPOILERS.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/20 This Irrepixel-Able, Trantor ‘Original’, This Mule-Produced Crime

(1) FRONT AND CENTER. Octavia Butler is on the cover of Huntington Frontiers, published by the Huntington Library in Pasadena. Read the cover article here: “A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky” by Lynell George.

When I last encountered Octavia E. Butler, it was 2004 and she was slated to deliver the keynote at the Black to the Future Festival in Seattle, Washington. Time has flattened or obscured some of the details of days spent reporting on panels, lectures, and post-event gatherings. I don’t remember the precise order of events of that opening evening, but I do recall some of Butler’s heartfelt words about finding and making community in this brief but special moment when we were assembled together. I sat, scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook, making shapes of letters in the darkness of the auditorium. Her voice didn’t seem to need amplification—it was warm and deep and burnished with authority, as if she was not just leading things off, but leading a country….

(2) NOT OUT OF LEFT FIELD. First Fandom Experience solves three eofannish mysteries in “V is for Vincent, Vernon, Vytautas”. Learn more about a famous photo taken over the weekend of the First Worldcon in —

V is for Vincent

Below is one of early fandom’s most iconic images. On Independence Day, 1939, this carload of irascible youth from states far and wide ventured forth from the World Science Fiction Convention in New York to Coney Island. It’s a who’s-who of prominent First Fans: Madle and Agnew from Philadelphia, Korshak and Reinsberg from Chicago, Rocklynne from Ohio, and one very tanned Ray Bradbury from Los Angeles.

But among the who’s-who, there’s a “who’s that?” V. Kidwell. …

During the first Worldcon, fans took the opportunity to visit Coney Island where this foto-op took place: Front: Mark Reinsberg, Jack Agnew, Ross Rocklynne Top: V. Kidwell, Robert A. Madle, Erle Korshak, Ray Bradbury Coney Island, July 4, 1939)

(3) JAPANESE BOFFO BOX OFFICE. [Item by N.] “’Demon Slayer’ Overtakes ‘Spirited Away’ to Become Japan’s Biggest Box-Office Hit Ever”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. (Also it’s the fifth highest grossing film of the entire year, surpassing Sonic the Hedgehog, which is a coherent sentence I have just typed.)

Demon Slayer is based on a popular 2016 manga by Japanese artist Koyoharu Gotoge. But the property didn’t become a pop cultural phenomenon until it was adapted into an anime series for television. Produced by Tokyo-based studio Ufotable, the 26-episode series aired on Tokyo MX and other channels in 2019, but later became a sleeper smash hit when it re-aired on Netflix and Fuji TV. The popularity of the series reignited interest in the manga, making it a runaway bestseller. As of December, the Demon Slayer manga series has sold nearly 120 million copies.

When Ufotable’s big-screen adaptation of the series hit Japanese cinemas this fall, conditions were ripe for a box-office bonanza. Japanese cinemas nationwide had fully reopened nationwide after a brief period of COVID-19 shutdown in the spring. Since the Hollywood studios had postponed most of their releases until 2021, Demon Slayer had limited foreign competition and Japanese cinemas were highly motivated to wring as much earnings potential as possible for the local blockbuster. 

(4) WILL POWER. “Brain-controlled gaming exists, though ethical questions loom over the tech” reports the Washington Post.

As the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center shut its laboratories following the covid-19 outbreak, Nathan Copeland, a 33-year-old volunteer, collected the equipment that would grant him transformative abilities during lockdown. Paralyzed from the chest down with only limited arm movement, Copeland took home an advanced brain-computer interface, a device that allows him to control on-screen actions using only his mind.Copeland is part of cutting-edge research into brain-computer interfaces at the University of Pittsburgh, recently awarded over $8 million by the National Institutes of Health. The team’s experiments are a peek into a potential transhumanist future more commonly associated with cyberpunk movies “The Matrix” and “Ghost in the Shell.” Since 2015, Copeland has lived with a transistor-like chip, known as a multi-electrode array, surgically implanted directly into his brain. Copeland’s chip records the rapid-firing of cellular neurons — an almost inscrutably complex neurological signal — which is ferried over to a computer for what’s referred to as “decoding.” This signal is subsequently “translated” into the desired, seemingly telekinetic actions of its user.

To date, one of the team’s biggest successes has been decoding the complicated neural signals to allow Copeland to control a nimble robotic arm…. 

(5) JEDI CONSERVATION MOVEMENT. Musings on Mouse analyzes “Star Wars ‘nostalgia fatigue,’ and Marvel’s bankruptcy lesson”. BEWARE SPOILERS. I don’t think I included any below, however, definitely some in the linked article.

…Quality, some may argue, isn’t just representative of one episode or one movie, but the franchise as a whole. Case in point: The Mandalorian finale….

That, many critics argued in the days after the episode aired, is precisely the problem. As Matt Zoller Seitz wrote on Vulture, “the series succumbs to the dark side of parent company Disney’s quarterly earnings statements, which keeps dragging Star Wars back toward nostalgia-sploitation and knee-jerk intellectual-property maintenance.” Other fans rolled their eyes at the criticism, pointing out that Star Wars has always returned to the franchise’s most popular characters, most noticeably in the Expanded Universe’s novels, comics, and video games. 

Sound familiar? It should — it’s the exact same debate that popped up in 2017 after Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi hit theaters. What is Star Wars? It’s an argument we’ve come back to with The Mandalorian’s second season finale. I’m not a critic, and this newsletter doesn’t exist to critique art. What I’m more acutely interested in is determining Star Wars’ future business. Let’s be clear: Star Wars is more than fine, but as Star Wars expands under Disney, there’s always room to figure out how to ensure it grows at a healthy rate instead of risking alienating parts of its consumer base every year.

(6) PUTTING THEIR STAMP ON THINGS. JSTOR Daily’s Livia Gershon points to the introduction of a new academic work that overviews “James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ: Sci-Fi Pen Pals”.

At first glance, the classic science-fiction authors James Tiptree Jr. and Joanna Russ might not seem to have much in common. Behavioral psychologist Alice Bradley Sheldon began writing under “James Tiptree Jr.” in 1968, when she was in her fifties. She used the fictional male name and real knowledge of science and the military to infiltrate male-dominated science-fiction magazines. Russ, two decades younger, was an outspoken radical feminist, English professor, and critic. And yet, as Nicole Nyhan writes, the two writers exchanged hundreds of letters over fifteen years. Nyhan provides the introduction to a selection of writing from Tiptree’s side of the correspondence.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 in Heidelberg, Germany, “Ship of Shadows” by Fritz Leiber wins the Hugo for Best Novella. (It would also be nominated for a Nebula.) It was published in F&SF in July, 1969 which as you can see was billed as a Special Fritz Leiber Issue. This was a bizarre story of Spar, a blind, half-deaf barman at the Bat Rack. We’ll say no more. The other finalists were “A Boy and His Dog” by Harlan Ellison, “We All Die Naked” by James Blish, “Dramatic Mission” by Anne McCaffrey and “To Jorslem” by Robert Silverberg.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian in “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in such a way that the company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator.  He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list.  I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1929 – Janet Lunn.  Three novels, two shorter stories, one anthology for us; much else.  Metcalf Award, Matt Cohen Award, Order of Ontario, Governor General’s Award, Order of Canada.  Quill & Quire obituary here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 88. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares.  Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon. (CE)
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 86. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans though she’s better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. (CE) 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 78. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 – George Zebrowski, age 75.  A score of novels (Macrolife particularly applauded), a hundred shorter stories, several with co-authors.  Clarion alumnus.  Edited Nebula Awards 20-22; four Synergy anthologies, half a dozen more e.g. Sentinels with Greg Benford in honor of Sir Arthur Clarke.  Three years editing the SFWA Bulletin (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) with Pamela Sargent and Ian Watson.  Nonfiction anthologies Beneath the Red Star (studies on international SF), Skylife (with Benford; space habitats), Talks with the Masters (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Gunn).  Book reviews in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Campbell Memorial Award.  “Never Forget the Writers Who Helped Build Yesterday’s Tomorrows” in SF Age.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1946 – Sheryl Birkhead, age 74.  Long-time fanartist and (it serves us right) veterinarian.  Here is a cover for Tightbeam.  Here is one for It Goes on the Shelf.  Here is one for Purrsonal Mewsings.  Here is one for The Reluctant Famulus.  Kaymar Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1952 – Ramona Wheeler, age 68.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Essay “The Sailor of No Specific Ocean” in the Hal Clement memorial anthology Hal’s Worlds.  Here is her cover for her collection Have Starship, Will Travel.  Here is her cover for her collection Starship for Hire.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1963 – Robert Pasternak, age 57.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us.  Interviewed in On Spec.  Aurora Award.  Here is Leslie Fiedler’s biography of Stapledon. Here is the May 93 Amazing.  Here is the Dec 00 Challenging Destiny.  Here is the Summer 13 On Spec.  Here is a review of a Jun – Jul 07 exhibition.  Here is an image from a Winnipeg Free Press interview.  Here is an ink-drawn face; see here.  [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1979 – D. Renée Bagby, age 41.  Eight novels for us, five dozen others (some under another name).  Air Force brat, now wife; born in the Netherlands, has also lived in Japan, six of the United States.  Has read The Cat in the HatPersuasionThe Iliad and The OdysseyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  “The voices start talking and I type what they say.” [JH]
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 39. The Baroness in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis VukA Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.  (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) A DISH BEST SERVED LOLD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Zachary Pincus-Roth discusses how a bunch of Millennial Disney musical fans came up with “Ratatouille: The Musical,” created songs, cosplayed characters from the imaginary musical (including enlisting their parents to play older characters) and even creating a fake cover of Playbill for the imaginary musical.  Disney Theatrical Productions stated “although we do not have development plans for this title, we love when our fans engage with Disney stories.” — “How TikTok and social media are changing Broadway fandom”.

(11) OBI BUT NO OBI-WAN. This happened last year, but it’s news to me… “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars” in The Guardian.

The Star Wars franchise is about to breach the artistic final frontier with a one-off performance of a kabuki adaptation starring one of Japan’s most revered stage actors.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery….

(12) UNFINISHED TOLKIEN. John M. Bowers asks “Did Tolkien Write The Lord of the Rings Because He Was Avoiding His Academic Work?” at Literary Hub. The trouble with this headline is that it’s not as if Tolkien didn’t procrastinate about working on his fiction, too.

…Already by 1932 he admitted to Chapman the weight of the Chaucerian incubus upon his conscience. His Gawain edition, “Chaucer as a Philologist,” and “The Monsters and the Critics” had all appeared before the Second World War. Set against this relatively slender résumé were undelivered assignments such as his Pearl edition, the book-length “Beowulf” and the Critics, and his EETS edition of Ancrene Wisse. If his own harsh remarks about George Gordon holding up their Chaucer edition did not quite qualify him as a “slanderer,” these complaints did de?ect blame from his role as an “idler” who failed to reduce his annotations to a publishable length. He would confess during a newspaper interview in 1968, “I have always been incapable of doing the job at hand.”

(13) AROUND AND AROUND. “Animation reveals invisible center of solar system that’s not the sun”Business Insider knows where it is. In a minute, you will too.

It’s common knowledge that the sun is the center of the solar system. Around it, the planets orbit — along with a thick belt of asteroids, some meteor fields, and a handful of far-traveling comets.

But that’s not the whole story.

“Instead, everything orbits the solar system center of mass,” James O’Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Japanese space agency, JAXA, recently explained on Twitter. “Even the sun.”

That center of mass, called the barycenter, is the point of an object at which it can be balanced perfectly, with all its mass distributed evenly on all sides. In our solar system, that point rarely lines up with the center of the sun…

(14) THOUGHT OF THE DAY. From Mike Kennedy: “I just realized that the various dings, buzzes, and clicks our phones/watches play to get our attention are clearly intended to train us to understand R2-D2.”

(15) EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC IP LAWYERS. CinemaBlend will explain “Why James Bond’s Studio Once Sent A ‘Very Stern Letter’ To Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Crew”.

Star Trek is a franchise that primarily deals in the world of sci-fi, but it’s not unheard of for the franchise to attempt parody other genres every so often. Such was the case in the Deep Space Nine episode “Our Man Bashir,” in which an accident in the Holosuite traps the crew in Bashir’s spy fantasy program. The episode is a fun nod to the genre of ’60s spy films but apparently was not well-received by James Bond studio MGM.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matters sets the frame for a DUST short in “Sci-Fi Saturday Film: The Robot Tries To Learn About Grief”.

An elderly woman, Sheila, whose daughter has been in a high-conflict zone in a military environment, learns to manage with a robot—ordered apparently off the internet, with a manual—that can learn to do homework and hang Christmas decorations.

It’s an agreeable story and good Christmas fare!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/15/20 All These Pixels Are Yours. Except Europa. Attempt No Scrolling There

(1) INTRODUCING BUTLER TO NEW READERS. Elizabeth Connor describes the work of “repackaging the Patternist Series for the Mother of Afrofuturism” in “How to Give Octavia Butler the Covers She Deserves” at Literary Hub.

…After some back and forth—and plenty of discussion with the editor acting as mediator—we determined that by elegant, they likely meant more stylized human forms in more sophisticated poses, as well as a textural or brushy quality to the art (as there had been on the Parable books), that lent an air of being hand-drawn rather than machine-made. As for dynamic, we soon understood that the symmetry of the earliest comps was what the agent and estate were reacting against. By simply breaking the vertical axis and giving each cover a certain degree of asymmetry—even as the figures revolved around a central “moon” shape that remained static—they felt much more alive. The designer came back with revisions and, in relatively quick succession, Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind had approved covers…

(2) DIFFERENT WISDOM. At the SFWA Blog, Sunny Moraine says “Explicit Sex Scenes and the Work of Stories” are far from mutually exclusive.

The origins of this piece lie in an annoyed Twitter thread I posted, in response to a tweet (possibly joking, I don’t know) to the effect of “movies shouldn’t have sex scenes in them, we’re past that now”. 

The origins of my annoyance go back a lot further. 

I’ve been writing explicit sex pretty much since I began writing. Like many of us, I got my start in fanfiction, and while fanfiction’s reputation for being heavily smut-focused isn’t entirely deserved, it isn’t entirely undeserved, either. Which is rather the point, because given that I started out writing a lot of explicit sex, I learned quite early just how much story-work one can do with a well-written sex scene. Especially a very explicit one, without a judicious fade-to-black or Vaseline on the camera lens. 

I want to be clear about something: I am not claiming ultimate authority over what a “good” sex scene consists of. Sex scenes, like sex itself, are highly subjective and personal, and different people will find that different things resonate. 

That said, my opinion is that a good sex scene is usually sexy, and one of the best ways to be sexy is to go deep into not only the physical descriptions of what’s happening, but also what’s going through these characters’ heads as they’re doing the sex. 

Which is one of the places where we get into the work explicit sex can do in a story, and in a way really no other kind of scene can manage in precisely this way….

(3) GETTING THE WORD OUT AND THE DOLLARS IN. James Van Pelt shares “The Frustrations (and the Surprising Successes) of Marketing Your Book” at Black Gate.

…Marketing is easy. Effective marketing that actually sells books, however, is hard. My son works for Facebook, so he helped me with an advertising campaign on the platform. We had a $250 budget for one of my collections, The Experience Arcade and Other Stories. One of the ads reached 1,900 readers. 103 people clicked on it. We did sell books, but not enough to pay back our investment. We found the same pattern to be true on the other books we promoted on Facebook….

(4) ON THE PINNACLE. The Hugo Book Club Blog surveys the top sff awards and why they are in “The Award For Best Award”.

… There are in fact enough award systems to warrant the effort of analysis to help decide which awards are worth paying attention to. Of course, dichotomous and divisive “success or failure” judgments are less useful than comparing how they’re organized and speculating about what might contribute to a robust and respected award. Examining the growing pains of recently created awards and thinking about why several smaller awards have managed to establish long-term relevance can also be helpful….

(5) SFRA. The Fall 2020 issue of the Science Fiction Research Association’s SFRA Review is available to download. Many articles and reviews, including an update from Rachel Cordasco about SF in Translation.

(6) WITH OR WITHOUT CHIPS. “’Scenarios of disruption’: Sci-fi writers asked to help guard France” – Australia’s The Age has the story,

Attacks from floating pirate states and hackers on soldiers with neural implants are just two scenarios dreamed up by a “Red Team” of 10 leading science fiction writers tasked with helping the French army anticipate future threats to national security.

“Astonish us, shake us up, take us out of our habits and comfort zone,” Florence Parly, the French defence minister, told the writers at a Defence Innovation Forum this month.

Many of the “scenarios of disruption” that they have been asked to imagine to challenge military planners are to remain top secret to avoid giving ideas to potential enemies. They were asked to stick to potential threats between 2030 and 2060….

(7) SWATTING A NEW FIREFLY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] One for the “wishful thinking” file. Questionably sourced rumors are bouncing around the internet about a Disney+ Firefly reboot. As much as I would love to believe this, I gotta express significant skepticism.  Adam Whitehead does a pretty good job of analyzing why this rumour likely ain’t true at The Wertzone: “RUMOUR: FIREFLY reboot under consideration for Disney+”.

… I find this rumour dubious for multiple reasons. The first is that Firefly‘s fanbase remains, despite the passage of almost twenty years, both voluble and passionate. Rebooting the show from scratch and dropping the previous actors and continuity would go down very badly. The second is that Firefly‘s universe was designed from scratch to be slightly more morally murky and complex, and that’s part of the show’s appeal. Making it more PG (or PG-13, if you’re in the USA) seems pointless. …

(8) NEW ALLEGATION AGAINST FLEGAL. Artist Sovereign has attached a three-page statement to her tweet: “Trigger warning: Sexual harassment / 1FW. I am speaking up about the harassment I received from Sam Flegal of One Fantastic Week. I’ve been quiet long enough and there are too many that still deserve an apology.”

(9) SEPTEMBER SONG. The date for a Chicago pulp collectors’ event is sliding later in 2021: “Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention Announces Rescheduled 2021 Dates of September 9 – 12, 2021”. Full details at the link. Doug Ellis begins —

As 2020 draws to a close, we’re feeling pretty confident that we will be able to hold our show in 2021.  However, given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic and the timing on the various vaccines, we became increasingly concerned that it would not be feasible or prudent to hold our show as originally scheduled from April 15-18, 2021.

We can now announce that we’ve reached an agreement with our hotel (the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois) to reschedule the convention to September 9-12, 2021. The location of the convention remains the same….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY

1984 — The Winter 1984 issue of the Missouri Review which was undated had Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Trouble with the Cotton People”, the very first of her Kesh stories that would become part of her Always Coming Home novel which was first published by Harper & Row the following year. Nominated for the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award, it would lose out to Barry Hugart’s Bridge of Birds. Library of America published the Always Coming Home: Author’s Expanded Edition last year. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1935 – Alma Jo Williams.  Five dozen reviews in SF Review.  Raised horses; earned a washin-ryu black belt; forty years at Cornell in the Baker Institute for Animal Health.  Of the 1984 Dune movie she said “The photography is gorgeous, the music appropriate, the special effects … well integrated….  The metamorphosed Guild navigators are laughable….  the evil of the Harkonnens was caricatured…. Only Sting, as Feyd, projected … subtle nastiness”.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing as is Tik-Tok which won a BSFA and Bugs as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1944 – Ru Emerson, age 76.  Two dozen novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Under another name she has two recipes in Serve It Forth.  Sings, plays guitar, flies stunt kites, a little Irish hardshoe.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1944 – John Guidry, age 76.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 9 & 11, Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon.  Founded ERB-apa (Edgar Rice Burroughs fans).  Rebel Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 53.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1945 – Steve Vertlieb, age 75.  Often seen here.  Mr. James H. Burns gave him this tribute on his 70th, with photos and links.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. He actually started his career writing out for Perry Rhodan. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story, and he’s continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953  Robert Charles Wilson, 67. He won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award  for the novelette “The Cartesian Theater” and Prix Aurora Awards for the novels Blind Lake and Darwinia. Impressive indeed. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953 – J.M. DeMatteis, age 67.  Like many comics stars, has done substantial work for both DC and Marvel, including television.  Eisner Award.  Wrote Abadazad for CrossGen, then when Disney acquired it, three Abadazad books.  One novel.  One album from his years as a musician.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 66. Ahhh the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And did you know that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam? And as we know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago! (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1958 – Leslie Smith, age 62.  Co-chaired Ditto 7 (fanziners’ con; named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  Fanzine, Duprass (see Cat’s Cradle) with Linda Bushyager.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1981 Krysten Ritter, 39. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I groked.  (CE)
  • Born December 15, 1982 Charlie Cox, 38. He played the role of Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Netflix’s Daredevil and The Defenders, was Tristan Thorn Thorn in Stardust based off the Gaiman novel and Dennis Bridger in the remake of A for Andromeda. (CE)

(12) SF AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS. FutureCon will stream a panel about “Capitalism and workers’ rights on Science Fiction” on Saturday, December 19 at 12 p.m. (noon US Eastern Time). Participants will be Alec Nevala-Lee (USA), Alexey Dodsworth, (Brazil) Fabio Fernandes (Brazil, host), Jorge Baradit (Chile), Marie Vibbert (USA), and Olav Rokne (Canada).

(13) PAWS IN THE ACTION. Sean D talks about a “gorgeous novella” at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [Book]: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo”.

It’s hard to pen a story in which the lines are blurred but the narrative is always clear. Ambiguity and warring perspectives can hurricane into incomprehensible pandemonium. However, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain manages to have characters who not only inhabit both the bodies of animals and humans, but have characters performing oral storytelling that’s just as fluid. What kept me engaged wasn’t rigidity and linearity, but a narrative voice that always had control with a grip greater than any rigidity….

(14) A SFF LOOK AT POLICING. No Police = Know Future edited by James Beamon is available in both print and electronic formats from publisher Amazing Stories and online book outlets.

When the concept of defunding the police (a concept we believe really means re-examining and reforming the concept of policing), arose during this year’s protests, we saw a perfect opportunity to put those beliefs into practice.

James Beamon, our editor, put it this way in his solicitation:

“After the brutal murder of George Floyd by the police, the world responded in righteous protest, with cries of “Black Lives Matter.” The police responded to these calls in large part with even more brutality, with video after video emerging that showed an assault on the public. And more cries came forth, with calls to defund the police.

But what’s that mean?

Science Fiction writers, this is your call to arms. Give us your potential (and hopefully positive) futures that involve alternatives to modern day policing. We want stories that replace the police entirely, dramatically reform them, or create parallel systems to refocus policing. We’re also seeking alternate concepts of rehabilitation and punishment as well, more emphasis on the carrot. In a world where police are perpetually brandishing their batons, I think we’ve all seen enough sticks.”

The stories collected in this volume –

  • Ryan Priest – Pro Bono Detectives
  • Lettie Prell – Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities
  • Jared Oliver Adams – All the Mister Rogerses From Bethel A.M.E.
  • P.T. MacKim – Well Regulated
  • Minister Faust – Freeze Police
  • Stewart C. Baker – Maricourt’s Waters Quiet and Deep
  • Ira Naymen – When the Call Comes In
  • Holly Schofield – One Bad Apple
  • Brontë Christopher Wieland – Apogee, Effigy, Storm
  • Jewelle Gomez – A More Perfect Union
  • Anatoly Belilovsky – Tax Day

(15) IN GENERAL. Paul Weimer finds much to like here: “Microreview [book]: Machine by Elizabeth Bear” at Nerds of a Feather.

… Bear calls out in the acknowledgements the inspiration for Core General that was to me delightfully obvious but perhaps newer readers to SF might not be aware of. James White’s Sector General stories and novels describe the adventures of a hospital in space, and Bear’s Core General is clearly a spiritual successor and heir to White’s ideas. Bear of course brings her own sensibilities and ideas to a Hospital in Space but the bones of the homage are there, and the social mores and ideas of White’s novels are updated for modern sensibilities.  This is also done a bit explicitly within the novel itself, as corpsicles found on Big Rock Candy Mountain have some rather archaic, primitive, frankly offensive and un-Synarchy-like ideas about many things. There is a culture clash and some real conflict between Jens and the rest of the Synarchy with Helen, the AI of Big Rock Candy Mountain, and the crew of the ship that they manage to unfreeze and revive….

(16) THE NEXT RIGHT STUFF. “NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions” – the names and brief bios are at the link.

NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

…The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience. The agency’s modern lunar exploration program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.

NASA will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team. Additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed….

(17) ROCKING THE MARKET. In “Making A Point With Moon Rocks” on National Review Online, Texas Tech economist Alexander William Salter says that NASA’s contracts to acquire moon rocks (or what is technically “lunar regolith”) is “a clever strategy to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction” since the purchases would show that private property can be created on the Moon, a position left ambiguous in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

.. NASA’s purchase of moon dirt is a clever strategic move to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction. The United States government isn’t violating Article II [of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty], because it’s not appropriating real estate. And it’s not violating Article VI, since it’s up to Congress to determine the extent of monitoring and policing duties. What the NASA program does is create a test case for first harvesting, and then selling, outer-space resources. As David Henderson and I have argued, “Given the vagueness of international space law on property rights, the precedents created by national space law will have a decisive role in shaping the future space environment. Hence, NASA’s actions can support a pro-business turn not just for the United States, but also for the international community as a whole.” …

(18) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. From Fast Company: “What toys from the past can tell us about how we predict the future”.

… What if those predictions actually ended up affecting how the future unfolds, like self-fulfilling prophecies? It’s a question plaguing futurists, and now a project is trying to illustrate the problem by showing how things created in the past have colored the present. The simplest examples—items that truly shape the minds of our next generations—come in the form of children’s toys.

The Museum of Future History’s first exhibition, Toying With Tomorrow: Playthings That Anticipated the Here and Now, is curated by experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats and timed to debut at the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) High-Level Futures Literacy Summit.

The idea was sparked by a growing concern among futurists, Keats says, that we have been “colonizing the future” with visions and predictions of what it will bring, and that those visions limit the opportunities or possibilities of those future generations. But this can be an abstract concept to grasp.

“What we needed was some way in which people could recognize the phenomenon in their own lives, and they could use that as a means by which to consider what sorts of predictions they make, what sort of impact those predictions might have going forward—individually as well as collectively in a society,” Keats explains. “Toys have a very direct way in which they influence the future through the children who play with them.”…

(19) WW84. “Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins share Wonder Woman 1984 opening scene at red carpet” and SYFY Wire is there.

It’s one thing to watch Diana grow up slowly — something Wonder Woman fans delighting in witnessing as star Gal Gadot lassoed a new generation of hearts in director Patty Jenkins’ 2017 blockbuster. But it’s something else entirely to watch our Amazon hero surge from past to present at lightning speed — leaping out of her idyllic childhood and into the mean city streets — in the butt-kickin’ romp that welcomes viewers to the opening moments of Wonder Woman 1984….

(20) SPACELANES. [Item by Daniel Dern.]  Via Slashdot: “Astronomers Discover Cosmic ‘Superhighways’ For Fast Travel Through the Solar System”. Not faster than light, more like “a faster lane on the service road” IMHO.

Invisible structures generated by gravitational interactions in the Solar System have created a “space superhighway” network, astronomers have discovered. ScienceAlert reports:By applying analyses to both observational and simulation data, a team of researchers led by Natasa Todorovic of Belgrade Astronomical Observatory in Serbia observed that these superhighways consist of a series of connected arches inside these invisible structures, called space manifolds — and each planet generates its own manifolds, together creating what the researchers have called “a true celestial autobahn.” This network can transport objects from Jupiter to Neptune in a matter of decades, rather than the much longer timescales, on the order of hundreds of thousands to millions of years, normally found in the Solar System….

(21) MORE ABOUT BEN BOVA. The New York Times ran Ben Bova’s obituary. To accompany that note, here are a couple of Andrew Porter’s photos of Bova (sent direct to 770, not from the NYT.)

…Ben Bova was a hard-science guy — and a passionate space program booster — and his visions of the future encompassed a dizzying array of technological advances (and resulting horrors or delights), including cloning, sex in space, climate change, the nuclear arms race, Martian colonies and the search for extraterrestrials. In newspaper articles, short stories and more than 100 books, he explored these and other knotty human problems….

(22) BOVA FINDS. And let Tor.com contributor James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five SFF Authors Discovered by Ben Bova”. The second of these is —

John M. Ford’s first professionally published story was “This, Too, We Reconcile,” published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1976. In it, a telepath is hired to read the mind of a martyr to determine if the dead man saw anything of the afterlife as he died and if so, what that afterlife is like. Rather alarmingly, the telepath is the second person hired for the job, his predecessor having committed suicide immediately after reading the martyr’s mind. This has all the earmarks of a task from which one should flee posthaste, but unluckily for our protagonist, his diligence outweighs his prudence.

This is admittedly a minor Ford, which may explain why it was never collected in either of the two Ford collections, From the End of the Twentieth Century (1997), and Heat of Fusion and Other Stories (2004). Nor has it been included in any anthology of which I am aware. Still, Bova saw enough in the story to help launch a career that lasted until Ford’s untimely death in 2006.

(23) HONESTY IS THE FUNNIEST POLICY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.]In “Honest Game Trailers: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” on YouTube, Fandom Games says even though you’re not playing Peter Parker, you can still fly through a very well-detailed New York City and (virtually) cause billions in property damage!

Also dropping today: In “Honest Trailers: Lost” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies sum up the six-season series by saying the characters asked so many questions in the show “The creators got tired of answering them” and that there was so much psychodrama “the writers room needed therapy.”

Fun fact:  the reason why the flight that crashed in show was Oceanic Airlines Flight 646 was that was the flight in the action film Executive Decision.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/20 When All You Have Is A Scroll, Everything Looks Like A Pixel

(1) WHERE THE BLOOD STILL PULSES – SO TO SPEAK. R.S. Benedict’s article for Blood Knife “How Horror Makes Itself Ungovernable” says that horror alone resists the corporatization of geek culture.

…Geek culture—comic books, video games, sci-fi, fantasy—is mainstream now, squeezing out mysteries, dramas, and period pieces at the box office.

…This is nothing to be celebrated. This is not victory. The mainstreaming of geek culture is artistic gentrification, a way for moneyed interests to wrest control of culture from the creatives who built it and crowd out any voice with something new or subversive to say. Sci-fi, which once gave us visions of the future, and fantasy, which once nurtured our imaginations, have been hijacked to sell imperialism and soda pop. The invaders have won; our loved ones have been replaced by pod people.

Only one speculative genre has managed to escape the Disneyfication process and retain something resembling a soul: horror….

(2) THE TRUTH, OR SOMETHING, IS OUT THERE. The news got George Takei’s attention.

“Former Israeli space security chief says aliens exist, humanity not ready” reports The Jerusalem Post.

Has the State of Israel made contact with aliens?

According to retired Israeli general and current professor Haim Eshed, the answer is yes, but this has been kept a secret because “humanity isn’t ready.”

Speaking in an interview to Yediot Aharonot, Eshed – who served as the head of Israel’s space security program for nearly 30 years and is a three-time recipient of the Israel Security Award – explained that Israel and the US have both been dealing with aliens for years.

And this by no means refers to immigrants, with Eshed clarifying the existence of a “Galactic Federation.”

The 87-year-old former space security chief gave further descriptions about exactly what sort of agreements have been made between the aliens and the US, which ostensibly have been made because they wish to research and understand “the fabric of the universe.” This cooperation includes a secret underground base on Mars, where there are American and alien representatives.

If true, this would coincide with US President Donald Trump’s creation of the Space Force as the fifth branch of the US armed forces, though it is unclear how long this sort of relationship, if any, has been going on between the US and its reported extraterrestrial allies.

But Eshed insists that Trump is aware of them, and that he was “on the verge” of disclosing their existence. However, the Galactic Federation reportedly stopped him from doing so, saying they wished to prevent mass hysteria since they felt humanity needed to “evolve and reach a stage where we will… understand what space and spaceships are,” Yediot Aharonot reported.

As for why he’s chosen to reveal this information now, Eshed explained that the timing was simply due to how much the academic landscape has changed, and how respected he is in academia.

“If I had come up with what I’m saying today five years ago, I would have been hospitalized,” he explained to Yediot.

Of course, the timing may also have something to do with the release of Eshed’s newest book, The Universe Beyond the Horizon – conversations with Professor Haim Eshed. And considering all the year’s travails, I liked this reaction —

(3) FELLOWSHIP OF THE PREQUEL. In the “Silmarillion Seminar”, hosted at The Tolkien Professor, a bunch of academics sit down and talk about the Silmarillion chapter by chapter:

Despite its challenging learning curve, The Silmarillion is an amazing set of stories. Some of these stories may be even more profound and more moving than The Lord of the Rings. What’s more, once you know The Silmarillion, you will begin to understand The Lord of the Rings in a whole new way.

In the Silmarillion Seminar, listeners will be reading through the book slowly and carefully, at the pace of about a chapter a week, and gathering together to have an online audio discussion with the Tolkien Professor about each chapter. Each session will be recorded and posted here on this page. Hopefully, you will pick up your copy of the book and give this truly incredible book another chance.

(4) IN A BEGINNING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] OK, now here’s a book I want to read (and have just library-reserved)…

A year or two or three ago, I went to an interesting lecture at Harvard on the origins of alphabets. It was interesting… but it didn’t address my question, and, when either in the Q&A session at the end or while we were milling afterwards, I asked about the origin of alphabetic order, to which I was told, more or less, IIRC, that was a different question. Fair ’nuff.

So, I just saw this review in our paper edition of the December 6 New York Times’ Book Review section (tho, per the URL, I see it ran online back in late October): A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order by Judith Flanders.

A few paragraphs into reading the review, I made a note (snapped a pic using my phone) and have reserved-requested it through/from my local library.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. Young People Read Old SFF reaches the second-to-last story in the Rediscovery collection from Journey Press, “Cornie on the Walls” Sydney van Scyoc. What does James Davis Nicoll’s panel think about this 1963 entry?

Sydney J. van Scyoc was mainly active in the 1960s through the 1980s. Although new short pieces appear as late as 2005, her most recent novel was 1991’s Deepwater Dreams. I haven’t read Deepwater because van Scyoc occupied a blindspot in my collecting. Having read this example of her work, I’ve taken to picking up her novels when I see them. Finding time to read them has thus far eluded me.

But were my Young People as enthusiastic? Let’s find out…. 

(6) MURDER IN SPACE. James Davis Nicoll also found time to write about “Five Space-Based Murder Mysteries” for Tor.com. One of them is —

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre (2017)

230,000 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, Ciudad de Cielo is filled with almost every vice and foible known to humanity. This is a paradise for bent private cop Nicola “Nikki Fixx” Freeman, because it offers many ways for a high-ranking Seguridad officer to siphon off some extra wealth for herself. The system works, as long as nobody gets too greedy and everyone remembers that there are limits to the crimes to which the authorities can turn a blind eye….

(7) GHOSTS IN THE BIG APPLE. The NY Ghost Story Festival can be viewed free on YouTube.

Night One: Thursday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests are Gwendolyn Kiste, Hysop Mulero and Rudi Dornemann

Night Two: Saturday December 10, 2020 7PM EST

Guests Sarah Langan, Lee Thomas, and Douglas Wynne

Here is the event page for Night Two on Facebook.

When the year grows old and December’s daylight departs too soon it is time to fill the dark nights with stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

Welcome to The New York Ghost Story Festival. An annual event of ghost story readings and discussion hosted by Daniel Braum. Featuring authors of the uncanny, strange and fantastic from New York and around the globe.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 1995 — “Two Tales of Korval,” the very first stories in Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Adventures in the Liaden Universe series was published by SR in a very limited sixty copies. There was two stories here, “To Cut an Edge” and “A Day at The Races”, plus “A Partial Liaden Glossary”.  More printings would follow. Both stories are in A Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume 1 which is available from the usual digital suspects.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 7, 1873 – Willa Cather.  A dozen stories for us, besides the work of her fame like O Pioneers!My ÁntoniaOne of Ours.  Pulitzer Prize.  Fellow, Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Nat’l Inst. Arts & Letters gold medal for fiction.  Nat’l Women’s Hall of Fame.  New York Writers Hall of Fame.  (Died 1947) [JH]
  • Born December 8, 1886 – Heywood Broun.  Sportswriter, drama critic, columnist, editor; co-founded the Newspaper Guild.  One of the Algonquin Round Table.  Often wrote against racism, censorship, persecution of people for their beliefs. A novel and three shorter stories for us, much other work.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Let’s us praise her first for her Retro Hugo this year for Shadow Over Mars, originally published in the Fall 1944 issue of Startling Stories. Now surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she competed The Empire Strikes Back script just before she died.  Is that the actual shooting script? (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1947 – Anne Fine, O.B.E., age 73. Three novels, four shorter stories for us; seventy children’s books, eight adults’.  Two Carnegie Medals, two Whitbread Awards, The GuardianAward.  Children’s Laureate (U.K., awarded every two years).  Fellow, Royal Soc. Literature.  Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 71. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli. (CE)
  • Born December 7, 1953 Madeleine E Robins, 67. I’m very fond of her Sarah Tolerance series which starts often Point of Honour, it features a female PI in an alternate version of Georgian London. The Stone War set in a post-apocalyptic NYC is quite interesting as well, and she has quite a bit short fiction, though only three have been collected so far in Luckstones: Three Tales of Meviel. Much of her fiction is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1957 – Terri Blackstock, age 63.  Six novels for us; forty others.  Carol Award.  Two NY Times best-sellers.  “I still print things out and mark all over the hard copies after each draft.  Under glass, I have pictures of my characters, with important stats about them, such as their ages, so I can refer to them often.”  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1973 Kelly Barnhill, 47. Her The Girl Who Drank the Moon novel was awarded the Newbery Medal and she was a McKnight Writing Fellow in Children’s Literature. Four years ago, her “Unlicensed Magician” novella received the World Fantasy Award for Long Fiction. Iron Hearted Violet was nominated as Andre Norton Award.  (CE) 
  • Born December 7, 1980 – Satô Yûya, age 40.  (Surname first, Japanese style.)  Mishima Yukio Prize.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  “Same as Always” closes the just-released Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.  [JH]
  • Born December 7, 1984 – Walter Dinjos.  This just-emerging Nigerian had a dozen stories in e.g. Abyss & ApexBeneath Ceaseless SkiesGalaxy’s Edge.  (Died 2018) [JH]

(10) ROLLING ON THE RIVERS. You Rivers of London fans might want to know about Ben Aaronovitch’s Titan Comics series, the latest title being Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious. (Writers: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel. Artist: Lee Sullivan.)

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park. Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

They’ve also diagrammed where the comics fit into the overall series. (Click for slightly larger version.)

(11) PANDEMIC HEROES. “Real Nurses, Real Stories” describes The Vitals, a comic Marvel produced in collaboration with the Allegheny Health Network based on true stories of nurses fighting the pandemic. Read the comic here —  The Vitals: True Nurse Stories (2020). (I’ll start typing again in a moment, right now I have something in my eye…)

(12) ALIEN COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel Comics earlier announced plans for all-new comics set in the iconic world of the Alien franchise. The first of these will arrive March 2021 with ALIEN #1, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, art by Salvador Larroca, and cover by InHyuk Lee.

ALIEN #1 will be a thrilling addition to the incredible legacy that began with the groundbreaking 1979 film. Featuring both new and classic characters from Earth and beyond, this bold take on the Alien mythology will entertain both longtime fans and newcomers to the legendary horror/science-fiction saga.

The new story will feature a Weyland-Yutani mercenary named Gabriel Cruz as he battles a deadly new breed of xenomorph with the survival of his child hanging in the balance.

(13) THE PLAY’S THE THING. File 770 contributor Francis Hamit’s stage play Memorial Day is now available for community and other theatre groups. See Stageplays.com. To read the opening scenes, click here.

Francis Hamit is the last guy you would expect to write an anti-war play.  He is an Army brat who served four years in the U.S. Army Security Agency during the Vietnam War and had a tour there himself.

“I mostly write about two things,” he says, “Soldiers and spies.  My background is in Military Intelligence and I try to stay current with how the American military has changed in the decades since the Vietnam War ended.  For many of those who were it there, it never did, because American society turned on us and blamed us for losing the war and every bad thing that happened there.  We were all accused of being drug addicts and war criminals, and that legacy has passed to subsequent generations of American soldiers.  Most Americans no longer know us, nor do they want to.  We are there on the front lines, but everyone else is at the Mall.”

MEMORIAL DAY is a two act, one set, seven character play set in a small town or city neighborhood someplace in the USA.  Anywhere between Alabama and Alaska.  One of the men was an Army Ranger on D-Day in World War Two.  Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation”.  The others came later.  The bar is owned by a Vietnam veteran, a draftee who one day got into a situation that earned him the Medal of Honor.  He doesn’t know what to do with the fame that comes with that award, and resists efforts by other to exploit it.  He will not even march in the town’s annual Memorial Day parade.  Anyone who ever lived in a small town will find these folks relatable.

(14) A NIP HERE, A TUCK THERE. Peter Jackson didn’t pull a Lucas on Lord of the Rings, but here’s what did change: “Peter Jackson talks 4K remasters for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies” at SYFY Wire.

Peter Jackson recently revisited Middle-Earth to remaster his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies in 4K Ultra HD. The undertaking allowed the celebrated director to go back to the original films (for example, The Fellowship of the Ring turns 20?! next December) and update their visual effects with modern tools. But don’t worry, this isn’t a Star Wars Special Editions-type situation of a director going back in and adding a bunch of stuff that wasn’t there originally.

“Visual effects technology has advanced a lot in 20 years and when they became ultra-crisp and sharp with the 4K process, we realized that some of the shots were not holding up too well. So, we got the opportunity to go back and remove and paint out any imperfections,” Jackson explains in a new video posted by Warner Bros. “I should make it clear: we didn’t upgrade or enhance any of the effects shots. They’re exactly the same as you’re used to seeing them, except they do look as if they were done today rather than 20 years ago.”

In doing so, he was also able to make both trilogies feel like one seamless unit, despite the fact that The Hobbit adaptations were shot years later and at a much higher frame rate. “They now feel like it’s one big, long film, telling the same story and looking and sounding the same,” Jackson added.

(15) CELEBRITY TSUNDOKU. “Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas” according to the New York Times Book Review. Some of what she reads is sff!

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of? 

Not enough folks know what a great book “Kindred,” by Octavia E. Butler, is. It’s kind of tricky to describe but somehow it all works — it’s about race relations and there’s time travel and romance. It’s powerful.

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid? 

I love historical fiction with a touch of romance — writers like Lee Smith or Diana Gabaldon. I avoid horror.

(16) WERE YOU INVITED TO THE FUNERAL? Colin Broadmoor claims “The Future Died in 1999” at Blood Knife.

The future died in 1999. Ever since, we’ve been trapped in the eternal present—waiting for the other shoe to drop.

For two decades, we’ve fought the same wars, watched the police murder the same people, voted for the same duopoly, and paid for the same IPs in books, movies, and video games. I’m typing this at the close of A.D. 2020—the year I waited for all my life, the way some Christians wait for the Second Coming.

2020, the year forever associated with media like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd ed., 1992). Each day I wake in 2020 and look around to see myself surrounded by the ash and shadows of the spent neon future of my youth.

For those of you who were not there or don’t remember, it’s difficult to explain the ways in which the 1990s were different from today. There are two key aspects of that final decade of the 20th century that you must keep in mind:

  1. It was the last decade in the West in which the analog took precedence over the digital in all fields.
  2. People felt as if we were witnessing the first rays of a 21st-century dawn, one that promised humanity better living through technology.

(17) A REASON FOR THIS SEASON. Several versions of this holiday tree decoration are for sale — no wonder! The 2020 LED Flickering Dumpster Fire.

[Thanks to Cliff, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, R.S. Benedict, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Danny Sichel.]