Pixel Scroll 3/30/21 Give Me A Long Enough Pixel And A Place To Scroll

(1) CHEN QUIFAN. Yi-Ling Liu has a profile of Chen Qiufan in the April WIRED.  The article has a wealth of detail about what it is like being a sf writer in China, including the news that if The Three-Body Problem had been published in China today instead of in 2008 it would be heavily censored. “Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan”. Registration required.

… But in the past few years—a period that has seen China’s sci-fi authors elevated to the status of New Age prophets—Chen’s own career has become an object in the fun-house mirror. After The Waste Tide garnered widespread attention at home and abroad, reviewers began praising Chen as the “William Gibson of China,” and the tech industry has embraced him as a kind of oracle. An institute run by AI expert and venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee’s company has even developed an algorithm capable of writing fiction in the author’s voice. (Chen’s recent short story “The State of Trance,” which includes passages generated by the AI, nabbed first prize in a Shanghai literary competition moderated by an artificially intelligent judge, beating an entry written by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan.) In China, it is the place of science fiction itself—and the status of writers like Chen—that have taken a turn toward the hyperreal….

(2) NOT TODAY’S TITLE: “A Mushroom You Can’t Smoke? That’s A Non-Tokeable Fungi!” The genius that is Daniel Dern strikes again.

(3) FLUSHED WITH PRIDE. James Davis Nicoll is impressed with these “Five Thrilling SFF Works About Meticulously Planned Infrastructure” at Tor.com.

Sure, there’s a lot of entertainment value in grand set piece battles, personal duels, or even two wizards engaging in a magical combat to the death. But there are those of us who enjoy a more arcane pleasure: edge of the seat thrills as protagonists struggle to build vast infrastructure projects. I would argue that providing London with a functional sewer system was more exciting than defeating the French at Trafalgar….

His first specimen is A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! by Harry Harrison (1972).

(4) A HAMMERLOCK ON FAME. “William Shatner to Be Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame” reports Comicbook.com.

WWE announced on Tuesday that the latest inductee into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame will be none other than Star Trek star William Shatner. The original Captain Kirk popped up on WWE programming a few times, including his famous 1995 appearance where he flipped Jerry “The King” Lawler and his turn as the celebrity guest general manager for Monday Night Raw in 2010.

This year’s induction ceremony will take place inside the WWE ThunderDome on April 6 and will induct both the Class of 2020 and 2021 after last year’s ceremony was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

(5) MY BIG FAT RED WEDDING. Io9 says Game of Thrones will also inspire a Broadway spinoff: “Game of Thrones Broadway: Key Westeros History Coming to Stage”.

Though the show is long gone, fans of Game of Thrones have plenty to look forward to. There will be more George R.R. Martin books (hopefully), multiple new HBO shows, and now there will be a stage production that’ll go back in time to fill in a key part of Westeros history.

Sixteen years before the events in Martin’s first novel, as well as the TV show, was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal—an event often referred to because many of the major players from across Westeros were there, either competing in, or enjoying, various competitions. Think of it almost like the Westeros Olympics. At the end of the event, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen declared his love for Lyanna Stark, a young woman who was already promised to Robert Baratheon. The event led to Robert overthrowing the Targaryens and basically starting the events that took place in the novels and series….

(6) CONTROVERSIAL MANIFESTO. “Writers in culture war over rules of the imagination”The Guardian visits the front lines.

It’s a venerable global cultural institution, dedicated to freedom of expression and set to celebrate its centenary this year. Yet the writers’ association PEN is being drawn into dispute over a declaration claiming the right of authors to imagination, allowing them to describe the world from the point of view of characters from other cultural backgrounds.

At issue is a charter manifesto, The Democracy of the Imagination, passed unanimously by delegates of PEN International at the 85th world congress in Manila in 2019. A year on , through the social upheavals of 2020, PEN’s US arm, PEN America, has not endorsed the manifesto, which includes the principle: “PEN believes the imagination allows writers and readers to transcend their own place in the world to include the ideas of others.”

While welcoming the commitment to freedom of expression, officials at PEN America indicate that aspects of the declaration might be perceived as straying into the contentious territory of cultural appropriation.

A spokesperson for PEN America told the Observer that the manifesto had not been explicitly rejected – two members of PEN America helped draft it – but “that does not necessarily indicate that we as PEN America formally endorse that action on behalf of our staff or board”.

PEN International’s “The Democracy of the Imagination Manifesto” says —

Pen International Upholds The Following Principles:

  • We defend the imagination and believe it to be as free as dreams.
  • We recognize and seek to counter the limits faced by so many in telling their own stories.
  • We believe the imagination accesses all human experience, and reject restrictions of time, place, or origin.
  • We know attempts to control the imagination may lead to xenophobia, hatred and division.
  • Literature crosses all real and imagined frontiers and is always in the realm of the universal.

(7) VERKLEMPT READERS. The New York Times absolutely knows “How Crying on TikTok Sells Books”.

…An app known for serving up short videos on everything from dance moves to fashion tips, cooking tutorials and funny skits, TikTok is not an obvious destination for book buzz. But videos made mostly by women in their teens and 20s have come to dominate a growing niche under the hashtag #BookTok, where users recommend books, record time lapses of themselves reading, or sob openly into the camera after an emotionally crushing ending.

These videos are starting to sell a lot of books, and many of the creators are just as surprised as everyone else.

“I want people to feel what I feel,” said Mireille Lee, 15, who started @alifeofliterature in February with her sister, Elodie, 13, and now has nearly 200,000 followers. “At school, people don’t really acknowledge books, which is really annoying.”

…“These creators are unafraid to be open and emotional about the books that make them cry and sob or scream or become so angry they throw it across the room, and it becomes this very emotional 45-second video that people immediately connect with,” said Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble. “We haven’t seen these types of crazy sales — I mean tens of thousands of copies a month — with other social media formats.”…

(8) OVERWROUGHT SKEPTIC. Everything Wrong With did Galaxy Quest recently:

Galaxy Quest is so good it hurts. It’s one of the best Star Trek movies ever made. It’s hilarious. We love it. Still has sins.

(9) EVERYBODY DROPS. NOBODY SPLATS. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] There’s this long but pretty interesting video at Brows Held High that says it’s about Starship Troopers, but is, at least in part 1, much more about Heinlein in general — it references many of his works, including, believe it or not, Farnham’s Freehold. (Any further parts aren’t released yet but probably will be soon; Kyle is reasonably reliable about his YouTube drops.) It also has an interesting dual generation take, where Kyle interviews his folks about their take on Heinlein’s work, as his father is an engineer who’s a huge Heinlein fan, and his family has a long history of military service.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1996 – Twenty-five  years ago, Paul J. McAuley wins the Clarke Award for Fairyland which had been published by Victor Gollancz Ltd the previous year. The other nominated novels were Ken MacLeod’s The Star Fraction, Patricia Anthony’s The Happy Policeman, Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships, Christopher Priest’s The Prestige and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. It would also win the John W. Campbell Memorial and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 30, 1746 – Francisco Goya.  Some of what this painter achieved is very strange.  Here is The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters on the cover of Haunted.  Here is The Spell on the cover of The October Country.  Here is Fantastic Vision on the cover of Positions and Presuppositions in SF.  (Died 1828) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1853 – Vincent Van Gogh.  Another painter whose work can be very strange.  Here is Starry Night on the cover of Orphans of the Sky.  Here is Wheatfield with Crows.  Here is The Night Café on the cover of Campbell & Baker’s anthology of stories and poems it inspired.  Here is a self-portrait.  (Died 1890) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1906 – Dirce Archer.  Served a term as President of PSFA (Pittsburgh SF Ass’n).  Half a dozen reviews in Astounding that I know of.  By 1961 she said of herself, “Primarily a book collector now.  Used to do batik, clay modelling, water colors, but am now too nervous to do art” – after chairing Pittcon the 19th Worldcon.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series ran twenty-four  volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1914 – Francis T. Laney.  Active in his local club, and The Acolyte (Lovecraft fanzine), but what made him famous, or notorious, was his 130-page Ah! Sweet Idiocy! blistering us with how bad we were.  Read it for its writing, not its accuracy; there is, of course, all too much truth in it.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at the time he was active. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel  which I’d recommend as it reads a lot to similar what Heinlein would write. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. Ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey it is genre of a sorts, isn’t it? It’s a really fun film which is in the public domain so enjoy watching it here. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. Stardance won the Hugo Award for Best Novella at IguanaCon II. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program Book. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 71. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 63. Voice actor primarily for such roles as The Brain on the Pinky and The Brain series (which Stross makes use of in The Laundry series) with Pinky modeled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. (CE)
  • Born March 30, 1975 – Wendy Isdell, Ph.D., D.D., age 46.  Two novels.  Likes Barbara Hambly for characterization and style.  Plays classical guitar.  “Can also tie things into knots with my feet….  Anyone who claims to be sane is simply clinging to the illusion that they agree with what everyone else says reality should be.  Sorry.  I don’t subscribe to that publication.  (I used to, but the cover price became too high so I bought Reader’s Digest instead.)”  [JH]
  • Born March 30, 1991 – Michelle IzmaylovM.D., age 30.  Five novels.  Aristine Mann Award.  Also loves drawing and painting.  First published at age 14.  Resident physician at Vanderbilt Univ. Medical Center.   “After a tough day … I sit down and write.”  [JH]

(12) KEEP YOUR DOCTORS STRAIGHT. “Pierce Brosnan joins Black Adam as Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange” explains Yahoo!

Big news in the world of superhero casting, aTHR reports that Pierce Brosnan has joined Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam movie, where he’ll play DC superhero sorcerer Doctor Fate, who is not Doctor Strange. This will be Brosnan’s first indulgence in the world of super-powered cinematic throwdowns, taking on the role of Kent Nelson, an American archeologist (played, obviously, by a British man), who stumbles onto vast magical powers while exploring a foreign country, and yet is not, against all odds, Doctor Strange…

(13) DON’T PLAY WITH THAT! IGN tells where “LEGO Star Wars Darth Vader Helmet and More Sets Are Up for Preorder”. Kylo Ren would buy one of these.

…There’s a Darth Vader helmet, a Scout Trooper helmet, and an Imperial Probe Droid. All three sets will be available April 26, but you can preorder them now on Amazon.

LEGO says these sets are geared toward adults and experienced LEGO makers. They’re not designed to be played with; they’re designed to be displayed. They come with stands and placards so you can put them on your desk or bookshelf….

(14) ALWAYS BE CLOSING. Charles Seife’s biography Hawking Hawking regards Stephen Hawking as a “scientific celebrity”:

Stephen Hawking was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist and even the most brilliant man alive–but what if his true talent was self-promotion? When Stephen Hawking died, he was widely recognized as the world’s best physicist, and even its smartest person. He was neither. A brilliant exposé and powerful biography, Hawking Hawking uncovers the authentic Hawking buried underneath the fake. It is the story of a man whose brilliance in physics was matched by his genius for building his own myth.

(15) TICKED OFF. [Item by David Doering.] Another funny story. Swatch and Apple are in court over using the phrase “One more thing…” (Yeah, go figure.) The British judge concluded, however, that while:

Steve Jobs had used the phrase, it had probably been borrowed from television detective Columbo.

Not often does a fictional hero hold sway over a legal decision in a court of law. “Apple loses latest round of legal fight with Swatch over ‘one more thing’ phrase”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Bravely Default II,” on YouTube, Fandom Games says that this game features “bland do-gooders shaped like bobbleheads” and “will make you regress into your childhood like an adult eating a Lunchable,”

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

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.]