Pixel Scroll 1/13/20 Hey Airbender, Bend A Little Space-Time For Me

(1) STORY DECK. From the fertile mind of James Davis Nicoll – “Five SF Works to Read If You’ve Ever Played Traveller” at Tor.com. First on the list —

Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series

Both The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit are quite Traveller-esque, the first with its small commercial vessel crewed by a diverse assortment of characters struggling to stay afloat in a demanding universe, and the second features the sort of horrifying backstory implied by Traveller’s notorious character generation system.

(2) THE WHY. BBC’s The Why Factor analyzes the appeal of  “Dystopias”.

23 minute audio

Released On: 13 Jan 2020

Available for over a year

Dystopic fiction is going through a bit of a boom at the moment, but why is it that we can’t seem to get enough of stories where ordinary people struggle to survive against an all-powerful state or in a post- apocalyptic world? Is it because they reflect the anxieties we already feel about the world we live in, or because they allow us to escape it. 

Shabnam Grewal asks Why is Dystopic fiction so appealing? 

(3) PRATCHETT. BBC Radio 4’s “Good Omens” webpage includes a section about “Terry Pratchett on Neil Gaiman” which is an extract from the hardback edition of Good Omens, published by Gollancz. This is probably not recent, but it’s news to me…

…He also had a very bad hat. It was a grey homburg. He was not a hat person. There was no natural unity between hat and man. That was the first and last time I saw the hat. As if subconsciously aware of the bad hatitude, he used to forget it and leave it behind in restaurants. One day, he never went back for it. I put this in for the serious fans out there: If you search really, really hard, you may find a small restaurant somewhere in London with a dusty grey homburg at the back of a shelf. Who knows what will happen if you try it on?

(4) DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS. “Lucifer Season 5 Announces Musical Episode”Comicbook.com has the story.

Details about “Blood Celestial Karaoke Jam” aren’t being released just yet, but what we do know is that this episode will be different from the 1940s-set episode. That episode, which will be the fourth of the final season, reportedly will contain only two song performances and not a full plot built around singing and dancing. Even with that being the case, the noir episode should be highly entertaining for fans as it will offer an alternate version of Lucifer (Tom Ellis) and Mazikeen (Lesley-Ann Brandt) singing together. The rest of the cast will also be part of that episode but won’t be playing the characters fans are most familiar with in the series given its past setting.

“I can’t tease too much!” Ellis said previously about the episode. “I would say on this episode, we take a trip down memory lane with Lucifer. We tell a story that answers the question a lot of fans have been asking actually.”

(5) IN TIME OF MOURNING. David Gerrold deftly addresses an issue on Facebook.

When Harlan Ellison died, there were people who were quick to point out what a terrible human being he was. And yes, that was their experience of him. Okay.

Over here, Harlan was my big brother. He saved my life. I knew he had human failings. We all do. Harlan’s were considerable. (So are mine.) So what? His impact on me — and on many — was enormous. And those of us who had benefited from his various kindnesses were saddened by his loss. He was important to us.

But to those who needed to vent their unfulfilled angers — “Have you no decency? At long last, have you no sense of shame?”

In such a circumstance, I would ask, “Why do you want to add to the pain of the close friends and family? What do you gain?”

Or is your own self-righteous need to dredge up your own angers one more time so important that the feelings of others are irrelevant to you?

What I’m talking about is the lack of empathy — and the inability to recognize the consequences of one’s own actions.

What I have learned (the hard way) is that maturity and wisdom are best demonstrated by keeping one’s mouth shut and listening harder. There might still be something to learn that is more important than my own unresolved issues.

Does this have anything to do with any recent events in the SF community?

Oh, probably.

(6) MORBIUS. Sony Pictures has dropped a teaser trailer for Morbius. “Teaser”? It’s almost three minutes long!

One of Marvel’s most compelling and conflicted characters comes to the big screen as Oscar® winner Jared Leto transforms into the enigmatic antihero, Michael Morbius. Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder, and determined to save others suffering his same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. What at first appears to be a radical success soon reveals itself to be a remedy potentially worse than the disease.

(7) RESNICK GOFUNDME CONTINUES. The target amount has been raised to $70,000 for the “Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe.

UPDATE on 01/13/2020: Carol and Laura would like to very much thank all of Mike’s friends, peers, and donators for their condolences and amazingly generous donations. Carol is just now starting to discover how expensive everything is following Mike’s passing, and it has been quite overwhelming. Your support has helped comfort her through a very hard time.

As you may be aware, Carol does not earn an income herself, and Mike was unable to work for a good slice of this year, due to multiple surgeries and illnesses. Yet she still has funeral arrangements to cover, a mortgage to pay, food to put on the table, and way too many bills to pay off. Every dollar donated helps her set up a new existence without her life partner.

We have changed the fundraiser goal to help meet her current needs, and while we understand you may have donated already (for which we are profoundly grateful), we ask if you could please share the fundraiser on your social media accounts again to help raise awareness. Your well wishes alone, and supportive words, have been so valued. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 13, 1939 Son Of Frankenstein premiered. It  starred Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and was the third entry in Universal Studios’ Frankenstein series and the last to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster. Directed and produced by Rowland V. Lee, Wyllie Cooper wrote the script in which he created the Igor character. The box office was remarkable and Universal Studios ordered The Ghost Of Frankenstein several years later with Lon Chaney Jr. in the title role. It has an amazing 91% rating among critics and 71% among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • January 13, 1964 The Outer Limits aired the sixteenth episode of its first season, a comedy called “Controlled Experiment”. Yes comedy and the only one that they did.  Written and directed by Leslie Stevens, it starred Grace Lee Whitney of Trek fame as Carla Duveen and The Martians in a story well worth seeing. You can see it here.
  • January 13, 1980 Dr. Franken first aired. Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky and Jeff Lieberman from a script by Jeff Lieberman, it starred Robert Vaughn as Dr. Arno Franken in a modern retelling of this that tale. Robert Perault played the John Doe in  Room 841 whom I assume was The Monster. The All Movie Site says no network or sponsor cared enough to purchase this pilot film for a weekly series emerge from it.
  • January 13, 1989Deepstar Six premiered. It was directed  by Sean S. Cunningham and produced by  him and Patrick Markey from a screenplay by Lewis Abernathy and Geof Miller from the story that  Abernathywrote. (I know that’s a lot of credits.) The sprawling cast included included Greg Evigan, Nancy Everhard, Miguel Ferrer, Nia Peeples and Matt McCoy. It was extremely poorly received by critics and audience members alike. Currently it’s got a a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among critics but only seven have been found that expressed an opinion, and it gets just 23% among the many reviewers there gave their opinion.  

January 13, 2008 — Fox Television premiered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It starred Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau, it lasted two seasons and thirty one episodes. (It actually had a wrap-up to it.) It was narrated by Lena Headey who you’ll remember as Ma-Ma in Dredd. At Rotten Tomatoes, critics (77%) and reviewers (85%) really liked it but it never got better than mediocre ratings. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 Clark Ashton Smith. One SFF critic deemed him one of “the big three of Weird Tales, with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft“. This is while some readers found him excessively morbid — as L. Sprague de Camp said of him, “nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.” If you’ve not read his work, Nightshade has collected it in The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, five volumes in total. They’re all available in Kindle editions. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 13, 1933 Ron Goulart, 87. First I must acknowledge that he is very prolific and uses many pseudonyms,  to wit Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Wow!) You did the see Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that the I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he’s prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? 
  • Born January 13, 1938 William B. Davis, 82. Best remembered I say as the Smoking Man. (need I say which series? I think not.) He’s had a long career in SFF video with roles in The Dead Zone, Mindstorm, Beyond the Stars, Snakehead TerrorRise of the Damned, Singularity Principle, and my fav title for one of his his works, Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf. 
  • Born January 13, 1938 Billy Gray, 82. Here’s here for being Bobby Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He’s certainly not here for CPO Fred Twining in The Navy vs. the Night Monsters, the other SFF film he did which rates a 26% by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. His Wiki page has him retiring from acting in 1977 but he appeared in 1996 as the Majordomo in The Vampyre Wars which was his last acting role. 
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 82. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer Space, The Munsters Today, Sliders, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
  • Born January 13, 1943 Richard Moll,  77. Most will best remember him best from Night Court — that’s not genre unless the Magic Judge Harry did was real — but I’ve found that he voiced Harvey Dent aka Two-Face on Batman: The Animated Series which I recognized him from. He had SFF other appearances on Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyMork & MindyFantasy IslandJurassic: Stone AgeHeadless HorsemanScary Movie 2The Flintstones and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant,  75. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black Mountain, The Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes. Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends. I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it?
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 60. ‘ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well-crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well.
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 52. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “ Rock of Ages” for METAtropolis: Green Space.
  • Born January 13, 1982 Ruth Wilson, 38. She’s Marisa Coulter in BBC’s His Dark Materials series. She’s in Depp’s The Lone Ranger as Rebecca Reid. (Yes, it’s genre. There’s a wendigo as a story device,) in the horror film I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, she was Lili Saylor. Finally I note she was Sara (Number 313) in the remake of The Prisoner. Having seen and enjoyed the original series, I skipped this happily when it came out. 

(10) MORE STEVE STILES. The artwork Steve Stiles did for the Baltimore Sun in the Eighties and Nineties can be viewed here.

(11) IN THE QUEUE. Is it funny? Well, its at least well-told. Thread starts here.

(12) A REALLY GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Strip artist: Local cartoonist collects 10 years of smutty sci-fi comics” – an interview in the Brooklyn Paper.

…Migdal also wanted to create an inclusive erotic novel, one that would be a fun and exciting read for audiences of any orientation. But it took a little while to work out the kinks in his art style, said the author. 

“I had to develop my artistic skills to draw naked people that didn’t look like a pile of legos,” Migdal said. “But also drawing images that were representing body positivity and figuring out how to get that on to the page.” 

The story follows Ana?s Phalese, a Brooklynite who meets a visitor from another world — Fauna Lokjum, the Liquorice Princess of Candy World — who is on the run from an arranged marriage to a supervillain. The two hop across dimensions and explore their sexualities while trying to save the world from Fauna’s would-be fiance.  

(13) BURN A LITTLE. Parts of the western US are still arguing over how to back down from the old Forest Service policy of preventing all fires, realizing that small fires helped reduce the fuel for huge fires. Australia is now looking at the same issue: “Aboriginal planners say the bush ‘needs to burn'”.

For thousands of years, the Indigenous people of Australia set fire to the land.

Long before Australia was invaded and colonised by Europeans, fire management techniques – known as “cultural burns” – were being practised.

The cool-burning, knee-high blazes were designed to happen continuously and across the landscape.

The fires burn up fuel like kindling and leaf detritus, meaning a natural bushfire has less to devour.

Since Australia’s fire crisis began last year, calls for better reintegration of this technique have grown louder. But it should have happened sooner, argues one Aboriginal knowledge expert.

“The bush needs to burn,” says Shannon Foster.

She’s a knowledge keeper for the D’harawal people – relaying information passed on by her elders – and an Aboriginal Knowledge lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

…While modern-day authorities do carry out hazard reduction burning, focusing on protecting lives and property, Ms Foster says it’s “clearly not working”.

“The current controlled burns destroy everything. It’s a naive way to practise fire management, and it isn’t hearing the Indigenous people who know the land best.

“Whereas cultural burning protects the environment holistically. We’re interested in looking after country, over property and assets.

…”Cool burning replenishes the earth and enhances biodiversity – the ash fertilises and the potassium encourages flowering. It’s a complex cycle based on cultural, spiritual and scientific knowledge.”

They also create a mosaic of ecologies, Ms Foster says, and this can lead to beneficial micro-climates.

(14) BE ALERT. Penguin is releasing We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Call of Cthulhu as part of its new brand:

Orange you glad we included Penguin Orange? This vivid collection of beloved modern classics is a nod to our old-school, tri-band heritage design, featuring custom illustrations by artist Eric Nyquist that take everything to the next level.

(15) THE SCENT OF A BOOK. The BBC’s Miguel Trancozo Trevino reports on “The people trying to save scents from extinction”

The smells of ordinary life, from traditional pubs to old books, are part of our culture and heritage – and many of them are in danger of being lost.

Imagine an old leather-bound book just pulled out from a wooden shelf. Its yellowed pages release dust as they open. Even before you begin to read the book, the unique smell of it fills your nose.

This familiar scent is not only a simple pleasure for people who like to peruse libraries and bookshops. These smells have a cultural heritage value, and they are at risk of being lost. For every old book that falls apart, is thrown away or kept locked behind a temperature-controlled curatorial door, these scents become harder to experience. It is a problem that is far from unique to books – from perfumeries and pubs to entire cities, the background scents of our lives are changing all the time.

For Cecilia Bembibre, a researcher at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, the smell of old books is important. She is developing different techniques to recover “extinct” scents from the past and to preserve those around today for the future.

It’s a facet of heritage that is often, quite literally, overlooked. “The proposals made by cultural heritage spaces such as galleries, museums, historic houses, are mostly focused on the sight,” says Bembibre. “The engagement they propose tends to be visual. [With] some exceptions, the stimulation of senses, like the objects that can be touched or smelled, is reserved for children.”

…In 2003, Unesco adopted a convention to safeguard intangible cultural heritage, which includes social practices, oral traditions and performing arts. Where, though, were the scents? For centuries there have been cultural practices where smell plays a vital role, like the Spanish Fiesta of the patios in Cordova or the Holy Week processions in Popayán, Colombia. In 2018, the skills related to perfumery in Pays de Grasse, France, were included on the intangible heritage list. No scents themselves, however, are listed.

(16) TECHNICAL PROWESS. Sure, the excuse to post this non-sff film is that it was shot on a phone – but the real reason is that it’s very sweet.

A film about three generations of Chinese women coming together at Chinese New Year. Shot on iPhone 11 Pro. Directed by Theodore Melfi. Cinematography by Lawrence Sher. Starring Zhou Xun, China’s leading actress.

(17) JEAN-RELUCTANT PICARD. “Patrick Stewart Didn’t Want To Reprise Captain Picard In A Post-Brexit World”. The NPR piece includes interview excerpts, and audio link to full interview including his impression of the version of the voiceover intro that was recorded but fortunately not used.

…Stewart says, in a post-President Trump and post-Brexit world, the United States and the United Kingdom, in particular, distanced themselves from what the United Federation of Planets — Star Trek’s fictional interstellar union of planets that share democratic goals — represented.

“The European Union always made me feel, well, we are heading towards our own Federation of Planets somewhere down the line that will come about. And I am angry, disappointed and embarrassed by our decision to leave the Union,” the English-born actor said in an interview with Weekend Edition Sunday.

Much like Picard, Stewart is uninterested in playing a part — fictional or not — if it doesn’t mesh with his beliefs.

It wasn’t until the producers described the transformed landscape they envisioned for Picard that Stewart got on board. “The Federation” has swung isolationist, and the new Picard is very different.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Way Out” on Vimeo, Jeon You-jin explains what happens when little girls chase balloons.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/19/17 Put A Pinch Of Pixel Into Five Cups Of Scrolls And Knead Until It Becomes Lembas

(1) MOUNT TBR. Telluride, Colorado has a new cultural resource – the Clute Science Fiction Library. [Via Ansible Links.]

The library, a program of the Telluride Institute, contains over 11,000 volumes, many of them first editions. It is located on Colorado Avenue next to Ghost Town Grocer.

The Clute Science Fiction Library is intended to be a place of excellence for scholars, writers and researchers, according to Pamela Lifton-Zoline, vice president and founding trustee of the Telluride Institute, a nonprofit that works to enrich “the health of environments, cultures, and economies,” according to the organization’s website.

The volumes were a private collection belonging to John Clute, an award-winning author, essayist and editor of “The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.” Clute contributed over 2 million words and thousands of entries to the encyclopedia.

Clute, who resides in England, has been a trustee of the Telluride Institute since its inception in 1985 — but he has been friends with Lifton-Zoline since high school, where she remembers meeting him in their French class.

“He came into this French class and he was just so exotic, (being) from Canada. We became really good friends,” Lifton-Zoline said. “(The library) is a work of friendship as much as it is a work of ownership.”

She added, “He has promised to bless the library with his visits, his presence, his connections and his whole community of wonderful writers.”

Clute has visited Telluride more times than he can count. He will return again in June 2017, this time to give an inaugural lecture at the Sheridan Opera House entitled: “Those Who Do Not Know Science Fiction are Condemned to Repeat it.”

(2) THE MUSIC INSIDE YOU. Articles that reference Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Inklings research in Bandersnatch don’t usually begin with a great big photo of Beyonce and a hook about the Grammys. The exception is Jeff Goins’ “Why You’ll Never Do Your Best Work Alone”.

When it was released on April 23, 2016, Lemonade credited 72 writers—and earned a swift public backlash as a result. One person on Twitter wrote, “Is this the time of year where we call Beyoncé a musical genius even though she has 50 [to] 100 writers and producers for each album[?]” Another said, “Beyoncé has FIFTEEN writers on one of her songs. But she’s a genius, they say.”

…Beyoncé’s detractors believe geniuses work alone, but history and modern research both suggest not….

…Diana Glyer has spent decades studying the Inklings, that famous literary group that birthed the careers of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others. And as she sees it, the myth of the starving artist who works alone is not only wrong, it “robs writers and other creatives of the possibility of writing the way that writing or creating normally takes place, which is in a community.”

Embracing that reality, rather than resisting it, can actually encourage creativity itself by helping us find like-minded creatives to collaborate with. If anything, our success is contingent on our ability to work well with others—which may be just one reason why employers seem so desperate lately to hire people with high emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Of course, we need to spend significant amounts of time alone with our craft. But we also need significant amounts of time with people who can guide us in doing better work.

Otherwise, creative output becomes a much slower, more grueling slog than it needs to be. As Glyer puts it, “the life of an artist, [or of] any kind of creator, is fraught with discouragement. You need people to correct your path.”

(3) SHARING THE SHIELD. In her article “My grandfather helped create Captain America for times like these”, Megan Margulies tells Washington Post readers about her grandfather, Captain America co-creator Joe Simon, and how Captain America “came to symbolize the immense love I had for my grandfather” but also Captain America’s shield is “again serving as a tool to fight all that threatens our Constitution and our national decency.”

Amid the masses of strangers gathered to protest at the Boston Women’s March, I spotted something familiar: that shield — red, white and blue — a simple design that holds the weight of so much conviction. Captain America’s iconic getup caught my eye, not only because of the principles it stands for but because he reminds me of another hero of mine. On Dec. 20, 1940, a year into World War II, my grandfather Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, both sons of Jewish immigrants, released the first issue of “Captain America.” The cover featured Cap slugging Adolf Hitler . Because the United States didn’t enter the war until late 1941, a full year later, Captain America seemed to embody the American spirit more than the actions of the American government.

As Cap socked the Führer, many rejoiced, but members of the German American Bund, an American pro-Nazi organization, were disgusted. Jack and my grandfather were soon inundated with hate mail and threatening phone calls, all with the same theme: “Death to the Jews.” As the threats continued, Timely Comics employees became nervous about leaving their building in New York. Then my grandfather took a call from Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who promised to send police officers to protect them. “I was incredulous as I picked up the phone, but there was no mistaking the shrill voice,” my grandfather recalled in his book “The Comic Book Makers.” “’You boys over there are doing a good job,’ the voice squeaked, ‘The City of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’”

(4) BACK TO THE BEAR FLAG. David Klaus sent the following link with a comment: “I have been saying for twenty years that Heinlein accurately predicted an eventual balkanization of the U. S., particularly a ‘California Confederation’ made up of today’s California, Oregon, and Washington ad depicted in Friday — although Northern California is probably more likely to band with the two other states while Southern California will set apart on its own.” — “’California is a nation, not a state’: A fringe movement wants a break from the U.S.”, in the Washington Post.

About 15 people huddled in a luxury apartment building, munching on danishes as they plotted out their plan to have California secede from the United States.

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of an independent California,” Geoff Lewis said as he stood in a glass-walled conference room adorned with California’s grizzly-bear flag and a sign reading “California is a nation, not a state.”

Sweaty onlookers from the gym across the hall peered in curiously.

Bolstered by the election of President Trump, the group, Yes California, is collecting the 585,407 signatures necessary to place a secessionist question on the 2018 ballot. Its goal is to have California become its own country, separate and apart from the United States.

(5) EXPANDING HORIZONS. The Everyone: Worlds Without Walls Kickstarter reached its minimum goal in the first five days. Since then editor Tony C. Smith has announced the addition of a story by Lavie Tidhar, and now a previously unpublished story by Ken Liu.

(6) WHEN THE EMPIRE STRUCK BACK. Washington Post columnist John Kelly continues his investigation of the Internet myth that the paper fired its film critic for giving Star Wars a bad review (“Would you believe that a Post critic was fired for hating ‘Star Wars’? Well, don’t”). He finds that, like most Internet myths, it’s a garbled version of the truth. Washington Star film critic Tom Dowling stopped writing film reviews (he continued to work for the newspaper) shortly after a May 1980 review where he called The Empire Strikes Back a “two-hour corporate logo explaining the future of the Star Wars industry.”

Several readers…wrote to say it was the Washington Star’s Tom Dowling who was canned for a pan — not of the first film, but its sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back.” True?

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Dowling said when Answer Man rang the retired newspaperman up at his home in Northwest Washington. “The story is true as far as it goes. I don’t know how far it factually goes.”

…Never, he wrote, “had such unlimited resources, unparalleled good will and guaranteed formula of success been frittered away in such irreparable fashion.”

For most of its history, the Evening Star was the dominant newspaper in Washington, but by 1980 it had fallen behind The Post. It had been bought in 1978 by Time magazine, which that very week had put Darth Vader on the cover. The story inside noted: “In many ways the new film is a better film than ‘Star Wars,’ visually more exciting, more artful and meticulous in detail.”

Was it corporate embarrassment that got Dowling the ax? Hard to prove. Dowling said that years later, at a reunion of Star employees, a former editor sidled up and told him that Time magazine had a “secret interest” in the movie and executives were worried his pan would discourage people from going to see it.

“I have no idea if that was true,” Dowling said.

But the review had apparently irritated someone. Dowling filed a few more reviews — “The Gong Show Movie,” “Fame” — before Star editor Murray Gart moved him to a column called “Federal Cases” that poked fun at government bureaucracy. (“Actually, it was the most fun I’ve ever had in newspapers,” Dowling said.)

(7) ALDRIDGE OBIT. British artist, graphic designer and illustrator Alan Aldridge died February 17 at the age of 73. Best known as the creator of album covers for The Who (A Quick One) and Elton John (Captain Fantastic), he also worked as Penguin Books’ art director for a number of years. His SF cover artwork and design for Penguin Books is discussed at length here. Andrew Porter observes, “To say he was not popular with Penguin’s owners and the authors published would not be amiss.”

By 1967 Allen Lane was harbouring deep misgivings about the direction Tony Godwin was taking Penguin with regard to the marketing and distribution of fiction. Lane felt that the covers being designed by Alan Aldridge et al. were becoming too commercial and increasingly tasteless. To Lane such covers were undignified and not in keeping with Penguin’s reputation. Worse still, the use of images he regarded as titillating or even offensive was an insult to the books’ authors, some of whom were now making their own feelings known, with more than one threatening to move to another publisher.

Matters were made worse by Godwin’s desire to sell Penguin books in non-traditional outlets such as supermarkets. Lane disliked the idea and as booksellers joined authors to protest at the way Penguin was heading so the rift between the two men deepened. To Lane, Aldridge’s ‘vulgar covers’ and Godwin’s ‘gimmicky selling’ were a threat to over thirty years of Penguin tradition and brand identity. If left unchecked it would only be a matter of time before the books were being packaged and sold just like any other consumer product. The crisis came to a head in late April and early May, with a boardroom bust-up that resulted in Godwin’s departure and Lane’s barbed comment that ‘a book is not a tin of beans’.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

Thought to be introduced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair by brothers F.W. and Louis Rueckheim, legend has it the caramel-coated treat got its name three years later when a salesman — impressed by the process that kept the concoction from sticking together — exclaimed in delight: “That’s cracker jack!”

(9) A ROOM OF KIRK’S OWN. A Boca Raton mansion with Star Trek and other pop culture themed rooms is on the market for $30M.

The nine-bedroom home belongs to Marc Bell, whose portfolio has included Penthouse and Adult Friend Founder over the years. The entrepreneur equipped his one-of-a-kind estate with rooms modeled after the popular TV series/movie franchise, including the bridge from the Starship Enterprise, which serves as the home theater.

Designed by architect Randall Stofft, the Mediterranean villa also features a full-scale Borg model, a fictional alien race first appearing in the Star Trek television series. Other details include a Call-of-Duty-modeled video game room, retro arcade, 16 bathrooms, resort-style pool with waterfalls, wine room, gourmet kitchen, and a full basketball court.

The Star Trek-themed room shows up at the 1-minute mark of this sales video.

(10) HELP ME OBI-WAN. Your wallet may need rescuing after you’ve bought all these — “Hasbro 40th anniversary ‘Star War’ toys recreate classic movie scenes”.

Hasbro has unveiled a new line of retro-style Black Series toys for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars this spring. And they’re unveiling them with this series of photos featuring the playthings recreating memorable scenes from the film.

Although these new 6-inch toys are much larger than the Kenner originals that hit shelves in late 1977, they are displayed in similar bubble and card packaging — for an extra helping of nostalgia. (Hasbro acquired Kenner in 1991.) Each of the toys retails for $19.99 and will be available later this spring.

Above, you see the new Black Series Han, Leia, and Luke fleeing Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers in a scene aboard the Death Star.

(11) CAST A GIANT SHADOW. New posts at the Shadow Clarke site. Two more jurors introduce themselves, plus a “guess the shortlist and win the books” competition.

The Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy at Anglia Ruskin University is delighted to host a competition for readers to guess the short list.

The winner, thanks to the generosity of the Arthur C Clarke Award, will receive copies of all six of this year’s shortlisted novels.

To enter, post a comment in reply to this post with a list of six books (no more, no fewer), selected from the list of 86 eligible submissions, along with a rationale as to why you think that shortlist will be the ones which the judges have chosen. Pingbacks won’t be accepted as entries.

That is what makes the Clarke Award great. The fact that it doesn’t conform to genre stereotypes, the fact that it bucks the trend, the fact that it regards science fiction as the broadest of broad churches, and will look anywhere within that spectrum for the best. And that restless, wide-ranging aspect of the award is what gets people arguing about it. And that argument is good, not just for the award itself (though it does keep the award alive in people’s minds), but for science fiction as a whole. Because the more the Clarke Award challenges our expectations, the more it opens us up to an ever wider, ever changing sense of what science fiction is and can be.

Let’s face it, the biggest debate within science fiction at the moment is the debate surrounding the Sad and Rabid Puppies, and that debate is all about narrowing science fiction. The Puppies want to enclose and limit the genre, restrict it to a narrow spectrum that resembles the science fiction they remember from the 1950s: overwhelmingly masculine, almost entirely American, distinctly technophiliac, and ignoring the literary changes that have occurred within the genre over the last half century. This is science fiction that repeats what has gone before, that depends upon its familiarity; this is science fiction that is not going anywhere new. Okay, some work that fits within this spectrum can be interesting and important, but it cannot be, it should not be, the whole of science fiction. The best way to counter the Puppies’ argument is with the sort of expansionist, innovative, challenging argument about science fiction that has traditionally been associated with the Clarke Award.

I don’t particularly like SF, which is also to say that I am very particular about SF. My relationship to SF has been long, unbidden, unlabeled, and mostly uninformed, and I suspect this is the case for the majority of human beings who are not in fandom, but who have, at some point, been drawn to a kind of storytelling that presents the world in a way that’s different from our reality. Those same folks who are non-fans might not want to read books because they think books are boring (they often are), they don’t read SF because they think it’s dorky (it often is), and they’re not involved in fandom because there’s life to live (though perhaps not for very much longer). I completely get this. Even the term “SF” is relatively new to me: I doubt I’ve ever said “SF” in public, much less “SFnal”; in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never said “SFnal” out loud. SFnal. I said it. It echoed off the kitchen walls and it sounded unfamiliar and now I feel weird.

So you don’t have to tell me there’s a problem in SF. There are a number of problems, not the least of which are its fannish exclusiveness and its inability to properly recognize itself, its shortcomings, and its potential.

SPIELS ON WHEELS. Messy Chic has a cool gallery of old bookmobile photographs.

Long before Amazon was bringing books to your doorstep, there was the Bookmobile! A travelling library often used to provide books to villages and city suburbs that had no library buildings, the bookmobile went from a simple horse-drawn cart in the 19th century to large customised vehicles that became part of American culture and reached their height of popularity in the mid-twentieth century. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane with this forgotten four-wheeler…

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Eye of the Beholder

night-of-light-philip-jose-farmerAbeBooks’ exhibit of Penguin book covers begins with this line of praise: “One of the many reasons Penguin has been so successful over the years involves its history of creating fantastic book covers.”

I had to laugh – most Penguin covers look to me like high school art projects made with ten cents worth of clipart.

Not that I’m condemning the publisher. I always considered that one source of the savings being passed along to me when I purchased these inexpensive editions.

Besides, if I put any Penguin cover next to an old Gollancz edition – well, it does looks pretty good.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]