Pixel Scroll 4/8/21 Illinois Pixels! I Hate Illinois Pixels.

(1) AMAZING STORIES ON HIATUS. Steve Davidson’s Amazing Stories issued a press release announcing that “A major licensing agreement using the Amazing Stories name has been terminated owing to non-payment.” As a result, the magazine won’t be coming out. (The website will remain active.)

… Due to the failure to pay and due to the many other costs directly related to this contract, Experimenter Publisher is currently no longer able to maintain the publishing schedule of Amazing Stories magazine, and that publication has been placed in hiatus pending the resolution of these issues…

The licensee is not named, although curiously the press release criticizes another company, Disney, by name. (Disney isn’t the licensee. And you don’t need to tell me in comments who you think it is – I know who it is. The point is this press release announces litigation yet refuses to speak the target’s name out loud.)  

The Amazing Stories’ Patreon page is slightly more forthcoming than the press release.

We licensed a major corporation several years ago and factored licensing fees into our budget.  Unfortunately, those fees have not been received, which places us behind the 8-ball.

Our licensee has been formally notified of numerous breeches of our contract and our intention to terminate that contract.  Service was sent to the contractually designated addresses and we have received no response, not even an acknowledgement of our notice to them.

This strongly suggests that they are planning on waiting to see what we are going to do and then will use their enormous budget and other assets to continue to ignore the fact that they no longer have the rights to use the name, or, perhaps even more problematic, sue us in order to remove us from the picture.

We can not afford to defend ourselves from such an unjustified action at this point in time.  Further, the current state of limbo discourages any other studio from working with the property, preventing us from developing other potential revenue sources.

Perhaps “encouraging” us to go away was the plan all along – but given the lack of communication, we doubt we’ll ever know the real reasons behind why they have chosen not to honor their contractual obligations.

What we DO know is, fighting this fight has put us in a deep hole and if the licensee decides to fight (likely), we’ll be in an even deeper hole.

We need your help to keep this dream alive.

(2) VANDERMEER’S LATEST. Paul Di Filippo reviews “’Hummingbird Salamander,’ by Jeff VanderMeer for the Washington Post.

… Now from this daring and ever-shifting author comes “Hummingbird Salamander,” a volume more naturalistic, more like a traditional thriller than its predecessors, but one that also features hooks into the literary novel of paranoid conspiracy, a genre best exemplified by Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.” In fact, our doughty and frankly terrifying heroine, “Jane Smith,” might be the Oedipa Maas the 21st century needs.

(3) THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG. Joel Hodgson is running a Kickstarter — “Let’s Make More MST3K & Build THE GIZMOPLEX!” Did people think that was a good idea? Yes! In the first 24 hours they’ve raised $2,162,492 of their $2,000,000 goal. The reasons for returning to crowdfunding the series include —

In the not-too-distant past – about 6 years ago, November 2015 AD – we ran a Kickstarter to BRING BACK MST3K after 15 years in hibernation.

It was a little bit stressful, and a lot of work, but I’ve gotta tell you… the whole experience went better than we had ever hoped:

  • Thanks to you, our campaign broke a bunch of Kickstarter records.
  • Over 48,000 of you took up the cause… and together, we raised over $6 million.
  • With your help, we got picked up on Netflix and made 20 new episodes!

And you know, you can’t ever please everybody, but it seems like most of you were pretty happy with ’em…. and the critics were too: 

Also, having those new episodes on Netflix, along with a lot of our “classic” episodes, helped a lot of folks discover Mystery Science Theater for the first time. So, if you weren’t there to help #BringBackMST3K… Welcome! We’re glad you’re here to help  #MakeMoreMST3K.

Anyway: as you know, nothing good lasts forever.  Sometime in late 2019, during our third live tour, we got word: even though Netflix liked how our new episodes came out, they wouldn’t be renewing us for a third new season….

2. It’s time to try something new.

  • If enough of you want more MST3K, maybe we don’t need anyone to renew us.
  • From now on, we want you to decide how long MST3K keeps going.
  • We don’t need a network to “let us” make more MST3K. We can make it for you. 
  • When we do, you should be the first ones to see it.

(4) A LAND OF MARVELS. “Avengers Campus at Disneyland Resort Set to Open and Recruit Super Heroes June 4”Disney Parks Blog has a preview.

Super Heroes Assemble! As we’ve all been anticipating, I’m pleased to share that Avengers Campus – an entirely new land dedicated to discovering, recruiting and training the next generation of Super Heroes – will open June 4, 2021 at the Disneyland Resort!

…The first key area is the Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as WEB. It brings together bright innovators like Peter Parker who have been assembled by Tony Stark to invent new technologies and equip everyday people to become Super Heroes like the Avengers. WEB will house the new WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, the first Disney ride-through attraction to feature the iconic friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!

We previously shared that Tom Holland will reprise his role as Spider-Man in the new family-friendly attraction, which invites you to put your web-slinging skills to the test and experience what it’s like to have powers alongside Spider-Man – a feat accomplished with innovative technology adapted specifically for this attraction, perfect for up-and-coming recruits of all ages.

The second anchor attraction looms high above the land, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, a fan-favorite that opened in 2017….

(5) FEARS FOR WHAT AILS YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In“Scary Times Call for Scary Reads” on CrimeReads, Jennifer MacMahon says that scary books are what you should be reading during the pandemic.

Recently, I was talking with a friend who was excited to hear I had a new book coming out soon. “But is it scary?” she asked apprehensively. I told her a little about it: a woman returns to her old family home after her sister drowns in the spring fed pool—oh, and the pool is rumored to be bottomless and her sister believed there was something lurking in the water. So yeah, it’s a little creepy. My friend apologized and said that she just couldn’t read unsettling books because of how unsettling the world is right now. I would argue (and did!) that that is exactly when we need these books the most; they take us to dark places and help us explore our fears from the relative safety of our favorite reading spot…

(6) DON’T ASK. “Yahoo Answers, a Haven for the Confused, Is Shutting Down” reports the New York Times.

At times on Yahoo Answers, the people asking questions of strangers lunged for the hallucinatory limits of human curiosity: What would a heaven for elephants be like? Should scientists give octopi bones?

It helped people identify their sense of self: Why do people with baguettes think they are better than me? Is being popular in high school a good skill I can use in a job interview?

It sought explanations for the unexplainable: Smoke coming from my belly button? Why is everything at my grandma’s house moist?

And it gave air to gaps in knowledge and admissions that perhaps had nowhere else to go: What does a hug feel like?

Yahoo, which is owned by Verizon Media, will be shutting down the question-and-answer service and deleting its archives on May 4, erasing a corner of the internet that will be widely remembered for its — to be charitable — less-than-enriching contributions to human knowledge since its arrival in 2005.

Less charitably, BuzzFeed News this week called it “one of the dumbest places on the internet.” Vulture said it was “populated entirely with Batman villains, aliens pretending to be human, and that one weird neighbor you’d rather climb down your fire escape in a blizzard than get caught in a conversation with.”

There is plenty of evidence for that position. People asked: Can you milk Gushers to make fruit juice? Can I cook raw chicken in the Michael wave? I forgot when my job interview is? What animal is Sonic the hedgehog? IS THIS YAHOO EMAIL SUPPORT?

Most famously, in a question that launched a meme, a confused soul who had learned little about reproductive science or spelling asked: How is babby formed?

It was never known how many of the questions were based in earnest ignorance and curiosity, and how much was intentional trolling. Answering required no expertise, and often displayed little of it.

But the site clearly was seen by some people, including children, as a comfortable space to ask the questions — sometimes important ones — they’d never dare to ask friends, families and teachers….

(7) ZOOMING INTO FANHISTORY. [Item by Joe Siclari.] The Fanac Fan History Project has three more Zoom Programs coming up over the next two months.

April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for the Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and much more.  RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.

(8) SPEAKING OF MATH. Although James Davis Nicoll is aTor.com blogging machine, after he ran the numbers he realized, “I still won’t hit 1000 tor essays until 2032 or 2033….” Whichever number this is, the title is: “Five SF Stories That Embrace the Scientifically Improbable Reactionless Drive”.

… The rocket equation is vexatious for SF authors for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s math. 2) It imposes enormous constraints on the sort of stories the sort of author who cares about math can tell.   Drives that produce thrust without emitting mass are therefore very attractive.  Small surprise that persons with an enthusiasm for space travel and a weakness for crank science leap on each iteration of the reactionless drive as it bubbles up in the zeitgeist.

One such crank was John W. Campbell, Jr., the notorious editor of Astounding/Analog (for whom a dwindling number of awards are named). Because of his position and because authors, forever addicted to luxuries like clothing, food, and shelter, wanted to sell stories to Campbell, Campbell’s love of reactionless drives like the Dean Drive created an environment in which stories featuring such drives could flourish, at Analog and elsewhere….

(9) BONANNO OBIT. Author Margaret Wander Bonanno (1950-2021) has died reports Keith R.A. DeCandido. She wrote seven Star Trek novels, several science fiction novels set in her own worlds, including The Others, a collaborative novel with Nichelle Nichols, a biography, and other works. Her novel Preternatural was a New York Times Notable Book for 1997.[

DeCandido’s tribute “Margaret Wander Bonanno, RIP” says in part:

…We remained friends over the years, and when she came back to writing Trek fiction in the 2000s, I got to work with her a few times: I served as the line editor on her Christopher Pike novel Burning Dreams, I was the continuity editor on her Lost Era novel Catalyst of Sorrows, and best of all, I commissioned her to write the conclusion to the Mere Anarchy eBook series that celebrated Trek‘s 40th anniversary in 2006. Margaret did a superb job with the conclusion of this miniseries, which was entitled Its Hour Come Round, and which included one of my favorite scenes in any work of Trek fiction, a conversation between Raya elMora (one of the recurring characters in Mere Anarchy) and Klingon Chancellor Azetbur (from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • April 8, 1887 Hope Mirrlees. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel apparently beloved by many. (I’m not one of them.) In 1970, an American reprint was published without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1907 – Vincent Napoli.  Four covers, two hundred forty interiors for us; WPA (Works Progress Adm’n) muralist, e.g. this.  Here is an interior for “Time and Time Again” – H. Beam Piper, Apr 47 Astounding.  Here is one for “The Earth Men” – R. Bradbury, Aug 48 Thrilling Wonder Stories.  Here is one for ”Dark o’ the Moon” – S. Quinn, Jul 49 Weird Tales.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1912 –Ted Carnell.  Fan Guest of Honor at Cinvention the 7th Worldcon, brought by the Big Pond Fund.  Chaired Loncon I the 15th Worldcon.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 11.  Developed a pro career, editing New Worlds, Science FantasySF AdventuresNew Writing in SF; five dozen author profiles.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1933 – Cele Goldsmith.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic – both at once – living up to those names.  Special Committee Award form Chicon III the 20th Worldcon.  Amazing memoir years later in the Mar 83 issue.  Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  Mike Ashley’s here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born April 8, 1939 – Trina Hyman. Twoscore covers, a score of interiors for us; illustrated a hundred fifty books all told, e.g. A Room Made of Windows.  Here is Peter Pan.  Here is the Aug 88 F & SF.  Here is The Serpent Slayer.  Caldecott Medal, Boston Globe – Horn Book and Golden Kite Awards.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 79. Let’s call him a genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost. (CE) 
  • April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 54. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted to erotic genre fiction. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She has two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1968 – Alex Toader, age 53.  (Romanian name, “toe-AH-derr”.)  Here is The Day Dreamer.  Here is the Predator drop ship (Predators, N. Antal dir. 2010).  Here is a Terra-to-Mars spaceport.  Here is Tractor Beams Engaged.  [JH]
  • April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 47. Who Fears Death won a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon which is an Africanfuturism or Africanjujuism novel (her terms) was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti which led it off that trilogy won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works have been adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. (CE) 
  • Born April 8, 1978 – Natasha Rhodes, age 43.  Eight novels, one shorter story.  Motion pictures too, some of the novels are tie-ins.  Interview here; among much else she says “There were a lot of male sulky faces and pouty lips when women’s rights came in and became the norm rather than the exception.” [JH]
  • April 8, 1980 Katee Sackhoff, 41. Being noted here  for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica though I must confess I’ve only seen in her excellent role as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on Longmire. She also played Amunet Black, a recurring character who showed up on the fourth season of The Flash. To my pleasant surprise, I see her on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in a recurring role voicing Bo-Katan Kryze. (CE)
  • April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 40. You’ll possibly remember him  as the lead in John Carter which I swear was originally titled John Carter of Mars. He also played Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and was Lieutenant Commander Alex Hopper in Battleship which was based off the board game but had absolutely nothing to with that game. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ANSIBLE LINKS. David Langford, in the wake of hosting of Alison Scott’s Eastercon bid speech and Farah Mendlesohn’s ConFusion polemic, has added two more items of interest to the Ansible site:

Alison’s brief Doc Weir Award acceptance speech.

And, Jerry Kaufman’s presentation speech for the “FAAn Award for Lifetime Achievement”, virtually presented to Langford during the recent FAAn Awards ceremony.

… When I share the least fragment of this person’s extensive contributions to fanzines, science fiction, and fan culture, you’ll know immediately who I am talking about. But let’s pretend we don’t. He discovered science fiction at an early age in Wales (how green was his Soylent), and found fandom at the Oxford University SF Group…. 

(13) MARS WAVES HELO. Space.com’s opinion is “These selfies of NASA’s Mars helicopter with the Perseverance rover are just amazing”.

Seán Doran created this mosaic of Perseverance and the Ingenuity helicopter together using 62 images captured by the rover on its 46th Martian sol.

And also – “Perseverance snaps headshots on Mars in latest pics”.

Perseverance’s SHERLOC WATSON camera captured imagery of the Mast ‘head’ of the rover on April 6, 2021 (Sol 45). The imagery is combined with Martian wind audio captured by Perseverance on Sol 4.

(14) AN UNUSED SCROLL TITLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As someone who didn’t watch TNG as it happened, only random in returns over the decades since, and who finds Q annoying at best, my thought is, potential title-wise:

Q? Feh

(15) SACRE BLEU! Andrew Porter was tuned into tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! and witnessed this:

Category: Books by the number

Answer: Jules Verne’s first novel was “Cinq Semaines en Ballon”, or this long “In a Balloon”

Wrong question: What is 80 days?

Right question: What is five weeks?

John King Tarpinian, meanwhile, was pleased the show had a Bradbury reference, and sent this screenshot.

(16) HERE’S A CLUE. In “The 100 Best, Worst, and Strangest Sherlock Holmes Portrayals of All-Time, Ranked” on CrimeReads, Olivia Rutligiano ranks 100 actors (99 humans and one dog) who have portrayed Sherlock Holmes.  She includes characters who think they’re Sherlock Holmes, so Data and Stewie from Family Guy are here.  The actors include two who played Doctor Who and three from various versions of Star Trek.

…What are the criteria we’re using to rank these portrayals? Fidelity to the source text? Creativeness of the interpretations? Resemblance to Sidney Paget’s illustrations? Quality of acting? Kind of. Simply put, portrayals are ranked in their ability to present a Holmes who makes sense as a derivation of the original character while exploring, interrogating, and expanding the character’s qualities in a thoughtful and meaningful way. And of course, yes, the quality of the performance itself matters.

The dog ranks ahead of Data! And the new number two is —

2. Basil Rathbone, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), etc.

The consummate actor Basil Rathbone, besides having my favorite name ever, is often considered to be the gold-standard for Holmes portrayals, having played Holmes in fourteen films in the 1930s and 40s. For many out there, he is *the* Holmes, and this is more than fair. Rathbone’s Holmes is an interesting take… very logical, though not wry, but also very vigorous. While he’s certainly very affable, there is little whimsy, nothing too nonconformist about him. It’s truly marvelous to behold (though more marvelous is how he never once turns around to flick Nigel Bruce’s idiot Watson on the head).

(17) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “Leonard Nimoy As Sherlock Holmes:  The Interior Motive (1976) Full Version” on YouTube is a 1976 episode of the PBS show “The Universe and I” in which Leonard Nimoy, as Sherlock Holmes, provides a science lesson about the nature of the earth’s core.

And here’s a clip featuring Peter Capaldi’s performance as Holmes — because you can never have enough Peter Capaldi.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Joe Siclari, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Ben Bird Person, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/21 Listen, Billy Pixel’s Come Unscrolled In File

(1) WOOKIEEPEDIA CONTROVERSY RESOLVED. The Wookieepedia editors’ vote on an “Amendment to naming policy for real-world transgender individuals” discussed in yesterday’s Scroll (Item #2) has been rendered moot by management’s decision that the status quo – using deadnames from production credits – violates the company’s Terms of Use:

…With the creation of our Community Safety team, we have an opportunity to lead on an evolving topic in society at large. That’s why we’ve been actively monitoring this conversation over the last week, including working with members of Wookieepedia’s administration knowing that there are a lot of opinions involved here.

Having reviewed the situation, and in keeping with the evolving understanding of these issues, Fandom has determined that, while it may not have been the intention, knowingly using a deadname in an article title is a violation of our Terms of Use. This is a global determination, meaning it applies to all wikis—including Wookieepedia. Since this supersedes local policies, this vote should be closed and policies should be updated to reflect the Terms of Use. The policy proposal here fits with our Terms of Use. Returning to the previous status quo (deferring to credits despite someone stating what their chosen name is) does not….

This is a final decision and Fandom staff will not be participating in a debate here or elsewhere right now. We will be discussing the topic of content related to the transgender community in greater detail with the Fandom community at large in the near future. We are committed to working with our community, internal teams, and outside experts to build a comprehensive framework to help guide our communities on how to properly create content relating to both fictional characters and real-life individuals who do not fit into outmoded definitions of identity and gender. Our goal is to provide an educational and growth framework for those who do not have real-life experience in these topics but want to learn more about creating inclusive content.

Our communities often spend much time debating the nuance of canon or the particulars of a given content policy, but we must also be willing to engage in challenging conversations about the nuance of external factors surrounding these topics. To that end, when wiki content is talking about real human beings with real needs, they must be respected.

(2) PLUMBING THE DEPTHS. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune calls on a scientist to answer “Which superhero should we call if the Suez Canal gets plugged again?”

…Our first thought was this is obviously a job for Superman, or someone nearly as strong like Thor, Wonder Woman or even the Incredible Hulk.

“Global supply chain blockage make Hulk mad! Hulk smash!” is how we imagine that would play out.

Not so fast, says our friendly neighborhood physics professor.

In addition to being an expert in stuff like amorphous semiconductors, University of Minnesota professor James Kakalios has pondered the physical properties of the superpowerful in his book, “The Physics of Superheroes.”

Kakalios explained that a 1,300-foot-long ship is designed to have its weight supported by water under the length of its hull. So a brute force effort by a single superhero could be counterproductive.

“Tanker ships are not meant to be picked up,” Kakalios said. “Even if supported under its center of mass, there would be enormous twisting forces, called torques, that would snap the vessel in half.”

Kakalios suggested that a better superhero for the job would be DC Comics’ Aquaman or Marvel Comics’ Namor the Sub-Mariner….

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Released this week, the latest in the monthly series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives: “The Trolley Solution” by Shiv Ramdas, about a college professor pitted against a machine. This is the third and final entry in their recent series about the future of learning.

From the moment the text message arrived with an aggressive ping, Ahmed knew something was amiss. Oh, it read innocuously enough, just the one line from Niyati asking if they could have a chat, but he knew better. It was still two weeks before his meeting with the tenure committee, which made it unexpected. Plus, it was Those Words. Whenever someone said that they wanted to have a chat, what they actually meant was that they had something to say to you that they knew you wouldn’t like one bit…. 

It was published along with a response essay by Katina Michael, a scholar of technology, policy, and society: “’The Trolley Solution’: How much of higher ed can be automated?”

Imagine a university without any teachers, just peer learners, open-access resources, and an office space full of high-speed internet-enabled computers, accessible to anyone between 18–30 years of age, regardless of any prior learning. That university is called 42. It does not have any academic instructors; the teachers are the self-starting students who have their eyes set on a job in Big Tech. Aided only by a problem-based learning curriculum, students gain a certificate of completion about three to five years after starting out. They are guaranteed internships in some of the world’s most prestigious firms and have set their sights on launching their careers as coders. 42’s philosophy is steeped in peer-to-peer learning, where human learners themselves spearhead the learning process….

(4) RELEASING A BOOK DURING THE PANDEMIC. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore presents S.B. Divya, C.L. Clark, Arkady Martine, and Premee Mohamed in conversation on Friday, April 9, 2021 – 2:00 p.m. (Pacific). Register here.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod, with Mur Lafferty. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press.

C.L. Clark graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. 

Arkady Martine is a speculative fiction writer and, as Dr. AnnaLinden Weller, a historian of the Byzantine Empire and a city planner. Under both names, she writes about border politics, rhetoric, propaganda, and the edges of the world.

Premee Mohamed is a scientist and writer with degrees in molecular genetics and environmental science, but hopes that readers of her fiction will not hold that against her. Her short speculative fiction has been published in a variety of venues.

(5) SPY QUEEN. Francis Hamit is on the third segment of today’s Matthews and Friends podcast talking about his alternative history spy novel, The Queen of Washington. Hamit says, “I go into how I do research, so that may interest some people.” Here is the link: “Matthews and Friends” (3-29-21).

(6) @EATONVERSE IS BACK. Andrew Lippert announced that the official twitter of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy at UC Riverside is returning to active status. “It will primarily be used to share items and documents from the collections that spark interest or are discovered while processing and working with the collections.” Here’s one of their latest tweets:

(7) STARTING THE NEXT CENTURY. Bradbury 101, produced by Phil Nichols, is a sequel to last year’s audio podcast series, Bradbury 100, which celebrated the centenary year of Bradbury. Here’s what Episode 04 is about —

THE ILLUSTRATED MAN is Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story collection. As a follow-up to the previous year’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, it secured Bradbury’s reputation as a science fiction writer of quality – and at the same time saddled him with the label “science fiction writer” even though most of his fiction after this point was NOT science fiction.

(8) CRACKED FACTS. Item #2 in Cracked’s “13 Scintillating Now-You-Know Facts About Movies, Science, And More” from March 28 remarkably gets some things wrong that were not wrong in the cited source article from Racked (“Meet the Woman Who Invented Cosplay”). Like, Forrest J Ackerman (the unnamed guy) and Morojo (her fan name) were never married.

(9) SHATNER’S 90TH BIRTHDAY WISDOM. “William Shatner Explains Star Trek’s Continued Popularity: ‘We’re on the Verge of Extinction’”. Don’t you know we’re on the eve of destruction? Shat does.

For more than 50 years, even though eras when the franchise was in a lull, Star Trek fandom has been vibrant and strong. Upon his 90th birthday, and turning himself into artificial intelligence, original Star Trek series star William Shatner reflected on why Gene Roddenberry’s vision has so firmly stood the test of time and why it seems to resonate even more strongly today. Shatner was blunt with the situation we find ourselves in during an appearance on PeopleTV‘s Couch Surfing, stating that “We’re on the verge of extinction. We are poisoning ourselves out of life, and the Earth will survive and this little cancer, mankind, that’s growing all around her will die off the way a body gets a temperature and kills the germs off. Mother Earth will get rid of us because we’re a pestilence. But we don’t have to be. And we can join with the rest of life that makes it here on Earth with equanimity.”

(10) NIMOY MONUMENT PLANNED. “Nimoy Family and Boston’s Museum of Science Announce Vulcan Salute Monument” reports StarTrek.com. The project was announced on Nimoy’s birthday, March 26.

The Museum of Science, Boston, one of the world’s largest science centers and one of Boston’s most popular attractions, in collaboration with the family of Leonard Nimoy, legendary actor of the historic television series, Star Trek, today, announced the development of a monument honoring the Boston native to be located at the Museum of Science.

The 20-foot, illuminated, stainless steel monument, designed by artist David Phillps, will be shaped in the famous “Live Long and Prosper” hand gesture that the actor’s character Mister Spock was known for. It will be located in front of the Museum, at Science Park, welcoming visitors and Star Trek fans from around the world.

The Museum wants to raise a million dollars for the Leonard Nimoy Memorial.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 29, 1968 –On this date in 1968, Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series that Gene Roddenberry planned but that never happened.

Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Verti, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 29, 1914 – Roy Hunt.  Program Book for Denvention I the 3rd Worldcon.  Here is his cover.  Here is the Pacificon I Combozine (4th Worldcon).  Here is a cover for The Gorgon, used on five issues 1947-1948.  Here is an illustration for “The Ghost” (Van Vogt, 1948).  Here is vol. 1 no. 2 of Fantasy Book.  Here is the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) coat of arms, which he designed.  Here is the Dec 59 New Frontiers.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1926 – Tom Adams.  Two short stories, eight covers, five interiors for us; much else, poetry prints, light shows e.g The Jimi Hendrix Experience, covers for Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie; a copy of AC’s Death in the Clouds with TA’s cover appears in the Dr. Who episode “The Unicorn and the Wasp” (10th Doctor).  Here is Needle in a Timestack.  Here is Patron of the Arts.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 91. He is best known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 78. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all had a hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel. (CE)
  • Born March 29, 1944 – Linn Prentis.  Began working as an agent for Virginia Kidd, then her own agency with offices in Washington State and New York.  Among her clients, Kage Baker, Patricia Briggs, Rick Bowes, A.M. Dellamonica, James Morrow.  Prentis Literary continues.  (Died 2016 – on December 24th, alas) [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to  her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 65. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? I’m surprised that she hasn’t been nominated for any Hugo Awards according to ISFDB database. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 64. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1963 – Michelle Mitchell-Foust, Ph.D., age 58.  Two poetry books; two anthologies (with Tony Barnstone), Poems Dead and Undead and Poems Human and Inhuman (also called Monster Verse).  Elixir Press Poetry Prize, Columbia University Poetry Prize, Missouri Arts Council Biennial Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 53. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in  Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. (CE) 
  • Born March 29, 1978 –  Nerine Dorman, age 43.  Four novels for us, a score of shorter stories; half a dozen anthologies.  Won a Nommo and a Sanlam Gold.  Has read The Count of Monte CristoThe Master and MargaritaThe Big TimeThe Stars My DestinationDouble StarWho?  [JH]
  • Born March 29, 1990 – Kiran Millwood Hargrave, age 31.  Poet, playwright, novelist.  Three novels for us.  Waterstone Children’s Book Prize, British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, Blackwell Children’s Book of the Year.  First novel for adults opened at No. 1 on The Times (i.e. of London) Bestseller Chart.  “Our parents took us everywhere – Jordan, India, China….  India is particularly special to me as my mum is from there.”  From The Girl of Ink & Stars: ‘A myth is something that happened so long ago that people like to pretend it’s not real, even when it is.’  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest discover robots with ethical problems – according to their designers.

(14) WISHBONER. Some show-biz pros are asking what turkey thought up this idea: “Comic-Con Criticized for In-Person Thanksgiving Weekend Event” in The Hollywood Reporter.

San Diego Comic-Con will return this year with an in-person convention during Thanksgiving weekend.

The pop culture event will host a “Comic-Con Special Edition” at the San Diego Convention Center from November 26-28. The announcement comes less than a month after Comic-Con International announced a virtual event would be held this summer due to uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of large-scale gatherings. The three-day Comic-Con@Home virtual event is set for July 23-25.

“It is our hope that by Fall conditions will permit larger public gatherings,” an announcement for the event said. “Comic-Con Special Edition will be the first in-person convention produced by the organization since Comic-Con 2019, and the first since the onset of the global pandemic COVID-19. The Fall event will allow the organization to highlight all the great elements that make Comic-Con such a popular event each year, as well as generate much needed revenue not only for the organization but also for local businesses and the community.”

…The announcement for an in-person Thanksgiving weekend event received immediate criticism across social media, with many noting the pandemic impacted the ability for many to be with their families during the holidays last year.

“So they scheduled #SDCC on the same weekend as the first chance most families will (hopefully) be fully able to celebrate Thanksgiving in two years. See you in 2022!” Charles Soule, writer and author for Daredevil and She-Hulk, shared on Twitter.

“Sure. Make it during the one non-denominational fall holiday weekend in U.S., w/ always peak airfare prices. And I’m sure A-list celebs will LOVE doing this. Black Friday, indeed,” author Tara Bennett wrote.

Linda Ge, who writes for CW’s new series Kung Fu, also tweeted “Does Comic-Con realize that most people didn’t get to spend last Thanksgiving with their families because of the pandemic? #SDCC”

(15) C3PO, R2D2, AND BBQ€590. This summer you could be “grilling from another galaxy” with the Star Wars-inspired Galaxy Grill for a mere 590 Euros.

Amaze your friends with a real space vehicle – they will definitely join the dark side with you.

(16) TECH SKEPTIC. In the Washington Post, Dalvin Brown says the likelihood you will have a robot with legs helping you in your home is very small, because robots are expensive, heavy (what happens if a robot falls on you?) and robots with humanlike hands are really expensive.  “Robots don’t know much about the world they’re operating in, so a robot needs a great deal of education to learn where things are in your house.” “For all the hype, robots are limited in what they can do in your home”.

… But how likely is it that you’ll ever be able to own a true robotic butler?

Robots are indeed getting more complex. As AI continues to advance, it allows machines to figure out more complex problems and reliably chat with humans. Still, robotics and AI firms say you’ll have to wait quite some time before you’re able to own anything remotely similar to Rosey the Robot from “The Jetsons.”

In fact, companies are having a hard time commercializing anything more complex than a Roomba — which has been vacuuming houses for 20 years.

… Right now, robots are doing well in factories where there’s plenty of space, no small kids around and employees wearing protective gear. They’re really good at completing a single repetitive task, like screwing on a wheel.

But imagine introducing machinery with legs and lifting capabilities into your home where things can and do go wrong. What if it falls on someone, or a software update causes it to go haywire? It’s funny on “The Jetsons,” but it wouldn’t be so comical if your grandmother were on the receiving end….

(17) RYAN GEORGE. In “Godzilla Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the producer is happy that the son of Bryan Cranston’s character is named Ford because “selling your son’s name as advertising space is tight!”  (The producer’s three sons are Ben, Jerry, and Outback Steakhouse.)

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Filers will remember when OwlKitty entered the Lord of The Rings.  But in “Godzilla v. Cat (OwlKitty Parody)” on YouTube, OwlKitty takes on Godzilla!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Chris R., JJ, Cat Eldridge, David K. M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, David Doering, Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/21 I Scrolled Pixel Rae’s Lawn

(1) JEOPARDY! Tonight’s installment of Jeopardy! featured an entire category about the Nebula Awards. The first clue even mentioned the L.A. Science Fiction League of 1937. Andrew Porter provides screencaps. (Click for larger image.)

(2) TURN BACK THE CLOCK. Internet Archive Blog proudly points to a“Major SciFi Discovery Hiding in Plain Sight at the Internet Archive”.

Fans of science fiction learned last week that the word “robot” was first used in 1920—a full three years earlier than originally thought.The “massively important yet obvious” change in date was confirmed with a search of the Internet Archive, which has a digitized first edition of the Czech play, R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots, published in 1920. There on the title page, hiding in plain sight in an English-language subtitle to the work, is the earliest known use of the word “robot.”

This important piece of information is one of many little-known facts captured in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. The project was completed this year by historian Jesse Sheidlower,…

(3) PROGRESS REPORT. Alastair Reynolds, in “We’ve been landing on Mars for a long time”, compares the length of time probes have been going to Mars with a benchmark in the history of eartbound aviation.

(4) THE WRIGHT STUFF. There was a lot more mileage left in the old bird after all: “Part of Wright brothers’ 1st airplane on NASA’s Mars chopper” reports AP News.

A piece of the Wright brothers’ first airplane is on Mars.

NASA’s experimental Martian helicopter holds a small swatch of fabric from the 1903 Wright Flyer, the space agency revealed Tuesday. The helicopter, named Ingenuity, hitched a ride to the red planet with the Perseverance rover, arriving last month.

Ingenuity will attempt the first powered, controlled flight on another planet no sooner than April 8. It will mark a “Wright brothers’ moment,” noted Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio, the Wrights’ hometown, donated the postage-size piece of muslin from the plane’s bottom left wing, at NASA’s request….

(5) BLUE PLAQUE SPECIAL. “Campaign to buy JRR Tolkien’s Oxford home fails” reports The Guardian.

An appeal to the public to raise £4.5m to buy JRR Tolkien’s former home in Oxford has failed.

Project Northmoor launched a crowdfunding campaign in December to raise money to acquire Tolkien’s former house at 20 Northmoor Road in Oxford, before it was put on to the market. Backed by names including Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen, who played Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf in adaptations of Tolkien’s novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the campaign said it wanted to turn the Grade II-listed property into “the first literary centre in the world dedicated to Tolkien”, and that it needed £4.5m to do so.

The Tolkien Society distanced itself from the project, after being approached for support by organisers, saying that the house “would not be a museum and would not be open to the public”, and that given the property is a listed building and already has a blue plaque celebrating the author, it is “well protected under the law and not in need of rescue”. The Tolkien Society was also concerned that plans it had seen for the property included “spiritual retreats”, that the charity’s “business model includes running a bed and breakfast, with a full-time resident warden”, and that its “primary intention appears to be to run creative workshops, rather than educational programmes about Tolkien”. It was also critical of the fact that “no prominent members of the Tolkien community – be they writers, academics, artists etc – are directors of the company”…

(6) “BLERDS” EXPLORE INTERSECTION OF BLACKNESS AND NERDINESS. Adam Bradley of the New York Times offers an insightful article titled “The Black Nerds Redefining the Culture”. In it, he traces how race and nerd subcultures overlap and affect each other.

“Blerds still love the same types of content [as other nerds],” Terril “Rell” Fields, the 33-year-old founder of the Raleigh, N.C.-based blerd.com says. “A Blerd just sees nerd culture through their Black cultural lens.” They may notice things that other nerds don’t: a Black or brown supporting character in a comic book that might otherwise be forgotten; a political allegory of race and democracy played out in a sci-fi television series.

(7) THEY CAME IN FROM THE COLD – TO WRITE. In “The Best Spy Novels Written by Spies, According to a Spy” on CrimeReads, sf writer Alma Katsu, a former spy, recommends her favorite spy novels by people who served in intelligence.

…As a retired intelligence professional and a published novelist, and now the author of a spy novel, I’m here to set the record straight: Even when you’ve been in the espionage business, it’s hard to write a good spy novel.

The heart of a good spy novel is not the caper but the personal or moral issue facing the protagonist. In a nutshell, that is the spy business, particularly on the clandestine side. You’re constantly asking yourself, am I doing the right thing? Do the ends justify the means? If I do this questionable thing, what does it mean about me as a person? The best spies—like the best people in general—question themselves. Test their motives. And try to hold themselves accountable. Because—like Spiderman—spies have great power, and with great power comes great responsibility….

Joe Weisberg, An Ordinary Spy

That’s right, the mind behind the brilliant TV series The Americans put a few years in with one of the three-letter agencies. Before his transition to television, he wrote this absolutely true-to-life novel. There was a tussle with CIA’s pre-publication review board that resulted in redactions, which the publisher cheekily decided to leave in. Without fail, when asked what it’s like to work at the Agency, this is the book I recommend. An Ordinary Spy perfectly captures what happens in the beginning, when your James Bond dreams crash into reality.

(8) THERE ARE OLD EQUATIONS, AND BOLD EQUATIONS, BUT THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD COLD EQUATIONS. Netflix dropped a trailer for Stowaway, about a stowaway aboard a Mars mission,

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 24, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that its birthday but let’s skip past that technically please. Quark was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. It starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and  Cyb Barnstable. It specialised in satirizing popular SF series and films and the Wiki article says three episodes were based upon actual Trek episodes. It lasted but eight episodes, beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 24, 1852 – Edward Page Mitchell.  Editor-in-chief of the New York Sun; pioneering SF author.  “The Crystal Man” predated Wells’ Invisible Man; “The Clock That Went Backward” predated The Time Machine – though Wells must be credited for that superb name, and story; faster-than-light travel (“The Tachypomp”) in 1874; other firsts.  See Sam Moskowitz ed., The Crystal Man (1973).  More here.  (Died 1927) [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were apparently written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad”. (Died 1926.) (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist, Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. Ishi is available on the usual suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born March 24, 1911 – Gabriel Mayorga.  I know of five covers, half a dozen interiors for us, but he may have done more.  Tuned a notable artistic vision to the demands of our publishers.  Here is the May 40 Super Science (Fred Pohl, editor).  This Jun 40 Astonishing was re-used by Justine Larbalestier for The Battle of the Sexes in SF.  Here is the May 41 Super Science Novels (also Pohl).  Painted, sculpted, and taught in New York City, working in oil, pastel, watercolor, epoxy, plastic and polyester plastic.  Here is Strength (1928) carved from a bar of soap for a contest.  He illustrated this Theory and Practice of Fencing.  More here.  (Died 1988) [JH] 
  • Born March 24, 1930 Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. He died of a heart attack. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born March 24, 1946 Andrew I. Porter, 75. Editor, publisher, fan. Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. Editor of Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became StarshipAlgol / Starship started in the Sixties and was a five-time Hugo nominee in the Seventies, and exceedingly superb reading it was. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis, who was doing SFR. He founded the newzine Science Fiction Chronicle in May 1980 and published it monthly, eventually selling it to DNA Publications in May 2000.  He has won myriad awards including the Big Heart Award. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon. And with John Bangsund, he was responsible for Australia hosting its first Worldcon. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 75. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death  resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 72. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me. (CE)
  • Born March 24, 1949 – Bob Walters, age 72.  A score of covers, a hundred eighty interiors.  Here is Sunspacer.  Here is the Dec 84 Asimov’s.  Here is the May 85 Analog.  Here is A Thunder on Neptune.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1960 – Lene Kaaberbøl, age 60.  A score of novels for us; also crime fiction.  Nordic Children’s Book Prize.  Morgensen Prize.  First published at age 15.  “I was born in Copenhagen, by mistake, really, since my parents are both Jutlanders…. the distinction may appear trivial to non-Danes, but to insiders it is a crucial one!…  The Morning Land was one of the first … Danish fantasy novels for adults.”  Silver medal in pétanque at the World Championships.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1975 – Carl Hancock Rux, age 46.  Author of novels, essays, poems, plays, songs; actor and director; instrumentalist, singer (five solo albums, a dozen singles). Village Voice Literary Prize, NY Fdn. for the Arts Prize.  Alpert, Bessie, Doris Duke, Obie Awards.  Asphalt (novel, play) is ours.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born March 24, 1988 – Viktoria Gavrilenko, age 33.  Three covers for us.  Here is Villains, Inc.  Here is Young Sentinels.  Freelance concept artist and illustrator (also as “Viccolatte – call me Vik”); other occupations, tea drinking, writing, staring at ducks.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd’s “IMDb Vaccines” illustrates an eccentric thought experiment about a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
  • Frank and Ernest discuss the legal issues of a monster stomping on a city.

(12) INTERNET RANDALL. Lorelei Marcus replays a famous (at the time) production of Arsenic and Old Lace with Boris Karloff for Galactic Journey readers: “[March 24, 1966] Dark Comedy and Birthday Wishes (a Tony Randall double feature)”.

… For those who are unfamiliar with the show, Arsenic and Old Lace is a dark comedy about two sweet old ladies who murder for fun, and their poor nephew, Mortimer Brewster, who discovers their nasty habit and tries to clean up the whole mess. Further conflict arises when Boris Karloff- I mean Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer’s brother and a notably malicious murderer, returns home to hide out for a while. As you might imagine, insanity ensues….

Though the rest of the cast is marvelous, I’d have to say Tony Randall gives the best performance as Mortimer Brewster, the straightman nephew. You may believe I have a slight bias in favor of Randall at this point, and that’s probably true, but I think it’s also fair to say that his execution of Mortimer ties the whole show together.

(13) BEEN THEN, DONE THAT. The Science Fiction 101 podcast returns in episode 2, “It’s About Time”.

Phil [Nichols] and Colin [Kuskie] consider the persistence of the concept of time travel. And we have a little guess-the-mystery-sound competition, albeit with no prizes to speak of other than (a) some small kudos and (b) a shout-out on our next episode. (Post a comment if you can identify the sound.)

(14) THE LARCH. “This Wooden Sculpture Is Twice as Old as Stonehenge and the Pyramids” says Smithsonian Magazine. Image at the link – it looks like Groot imitating “The Scream.”

Gold prospectors first discovered the so-called Shigir Idol at the bottom of a peat bog in Russia’s Ural mountain range in 1894. The unique object—a nine-foot-tall totem pole composed of ten wooden fragments carved with expressive faces, eyes and limbs and decorated with geometric patterns—represents the oldest known surviving work of wooden ritual art in the world….

Based on extensive analysis, Terberger’s team now estimates that the wood used to make the Shigir statue is about 12,250 years old. Carved from a single larch tree with 159 growth rings, the object itself was likely crafted around 12,100 years ago, at the end of the Last Ice Age, reports Michelle Starr for Science Alert.

(15) BEFORE 42. CBC previews a new book that reveals “Even Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author Douglas Adams struggled with writer’s block”.

Writing didn’t always come easily for Douglas Adams.

That may be a surprise to fans of the late British comedy and sci-fi writer, whose prolific resume includes the iconic novels The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, as well as classic episodes of Doctor Who and Monty Python. 

But it’s no surprise to his sister Jane Thrift, who was there when he was writing some of his most famous works, and often got a sneak peek at his earliest drafts. 

“If it was going well, oh, it was exciting. He’d call you in and print it off the printer or show you what he’d written and he’d stand there. And it was a bit tricky sometimes because he was just waiting for the expression or the laugh,” Thrift told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

“But the times when it was difficult — those were difficult. Those were hard. It was hard to watch him go through that process. And I think it was probably as he became more successful, he knew the value of each word and it had to be perfect.”

Adams’s insecurity about his own writing is one of revelations about the author’s inner-life that will be explored in the forthcoming book 42: The Wildly Improbable Ideas of Douglas Adams. …

(16) THEY CAN’T SEE YOU COMING. Smithsonian Magazine answers “How Does Your Vision Compare to Other Critters in the Animal Kingdom?”

Ever wondered what the world looks like through a cockatoo’s eyes? How about a giraffe—or even a butterfly?

For a new study published last month in Trends in Ecology & Evolution, a team of researchers set out in search of answers. As lead author Eleanor Caves explains in a press release, humans have higher visual acuity than most members of the animal kingdom, who “see the world with much less detail than we do.” And in recent decades, researchers have been slowly teasing apart how clear (or blurry) each critter’s view of the world is.

… As the measure decreases, an animal’s (or individual’s) vision worsens: At less than 10 cycles per degree, a human is deemed legally blind. The majority of insects, however, are lucky to see even one cycle per degree.

(17) STILL MORE SHAT! Birthday week continues with “William Shatner for the Commodore VIC-20” on YouTube. Shat learns that in 1982 you can play computer games on a computer!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Cloudy Dog Talk About” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Asami Ike for Filers who know dogs are their friends!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/21 The Zack Pixel Cut

(1) THAT LESSON DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Charlie Jane Anders breaks down the “7 Wrong Lessons That Creators Learned From Game of Thrones” for Tor.com readers.

2. Viewers still love the “smartest guy in the room”

Superficially, Tyrion Lannister might appear to fit in with the “smartest man in the room” archetype, as made famous by HouseSherlock and certain Doctors on Doctor Who. And I think that the widespread love of Peter Dinklage’s fantastic performance as Tyrion helped give this already-popular trope a new lease on life.

Except that when you scratch the surface, Tyrion is lovable because he’s frequently one step behind his enemies, and wrong more often than right. Season one of Thrones features Tyrion blundering from one bad situation to another, without much of a clue, and he survives by luck as much as cunning. His best moments in season one are ones in which he acts recklessly, slapping Prince Joffrey and joking about turtle soup in front of people who already want to execute him.

And when Tyrion sets his mind to playing politics, he’s never particularly good at it. As Hand of the King, he’s mostly a disaster—he doesn’t work well with the king he’s supposed to be serving, and he wastes all his energy feuding with Cersei and trying to figure out whether he can trust the Grand Maester or Varys or Littlefinger. (News flash: he can’t trust any of them.) His big brainwave, sending Myrcella away for her own safety, results in Myrcella’s utterly predictable death. When Tyrion becomes Daenerys’ Hand and starts giving her terrible advice, it’s a continuation of his previous track record.

Nobody loved Tyrion because he was smarter than everybody else, but because he was funny and entertaining and obnoxious in a good way, and he wore his broken heart on his sleeve.

(2) SUBSTACK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Newsletters are proliferating as more writers find them useful for publicity and to create another revenue stream. Substack has been a popular platform for managing and distributing people’s content, but one of their programs has been a source of controversy because the company has been satisfied to let the money rain on the just and unjust alike.

Andrew Liptak provides a concise and lucid explanation of the issues in a recent issue of his Transfer Orbit newsletter (which extends well beyond this excerpt).

…That brings us to this week: Substack recently unveiled an initiative called Substack Pro, which subsidized a group of 30 or so writers by paying them an advance, which would get paid back through a newsletter that’s given the boost to self-sufficiency. In theory, that’s a good idea for both writers and Substack.

But — and there’s a but — in doing so, Substack crosses the line from being a platform that hosts user-generated content, to something that’s actually facilitating its publication. It’s an inherent editorial choice, one that comes with some particular problems. Author Jude Ellison Sady Doyle highlighted some of the issues that this poses: “In Queers We Trust. All Others pay Cash” in which he laid out some systemic issues that they’re seeing with the company, and how Substack Pro is troubling in that some of the authors who seem to be part of the program have engaged in some anti-Trans rhetoric….

… This whole thing has caused a bit of a firestorm amongst folks within the SF/F community. I’ve seen a bunch of folks like Aidan MoherKarin LowacheeAnnalee Newitz, and Maddie Stone depart the platform over this….

Liptak is not leaving Substack at this time, but he is looking for a suitable place to move.

Elizabeth Bear explained to her readers why she’s staying at Substack in “On the Kerfuffles of Capitalism” at Throw Another Bear in the Canoe.

… If I refuse to work with publishers who pay royalties to objectively crappy people, I’m going to have to go get a job as an office manager and frankly I no longer have the wardrobe for that gig. Also I’ve developed a morbid fear of telephones.

Heck, there are a few people in publishing who think I’m an objectively crappy person, for reasons of their own. I haven’t seen any of them refusing to work with my publishers.

I also don’t see why progressives should en-masse abandon a pretty useful tool for outreach and a decent income stream without a much better reason than “capitalism is kind of fucked, internet capitalism doubly so.” It is, but we all have to live here for now.

So for the time being, this content will continue to be available both here and over on Patreon. (If you’re no longer comfortable with Substack feel free to follow me over there. Same content, also delivered to your mailbox, different capitalist overlords.) Much of it free, a percentage of it for paid subscribers only….

Sarah Gailey is moving their Stone Soup newsletter from Substack to another platform: “We Are A Snail”.

I would say it’s time for us to go, but we aren’t really going anywhere. We don’t have to leave the home we’ve built out of each other; we can move through the world without risking the elements.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, our little community is going to travel from Substack to Ghost.io.

If you’re curious about the motivation behind leaving Substack, here’s a good place to start, and here’s a good place to learn more. The short and diplomatic version is that Substack is doing some questionable financial business, and simultaneously isn’t protecting trans people the way it ought to. There’s quite a lot I’d like to say about the situation, but for now I’ll leave it at this: the choice between protecting profit and protecting people feels like a difficult one, but in reality, it is a false choice. It’s easy to make that decision feel complicated, but it’s not. If there can be no profit without investment in exposing trans people to harm, then there should be no profit.

I think we’ll all be very happy at Ghost, and I know my heart will be quite a bit lighter once we’ve made the shift….

(3) ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE. This list of “114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers” from Writer’s Digest should give you plenty to nitpick!

Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorite fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime. Find more than 100 fiction sub-genre descriptions for writers….

(4) MULTIPLE CHOICE. YouTuber Dominic Noble reviews Kiln People by David Brin in “Detective Mystery… BUT WITH CLONES!”.

(5) HABIT NUMBER 5. The Onion’s slideshow “Habits Of Silicon Valley’s Most Powerful Fortune 500 CEOs” includes a bitter joke about the fate of the publishing industry.

(6) THE BIG STFNAL SLEEP. James Davis Nicoll rounds up five examples of “Classic SF About Extremely Long Naps”.

Sleep! How precious, how precarious! Many of us struggle with insomnia. Perhaps we have apnea. Perhaps we own a cat who believes motionless humans are food. Perhaps we are simply aware that up to forty thousand redback spiders can fit into the volume of the average pillow. But sleep can be overdone. Imagine waking to discover that decades or centuries have passed…

This is a convenient way for an author to arrange for a protagonist not unlike the reader to tour an alien setting. Unsurprisingly, a lot of authors have taken advantage of the plot possibilities of the long sleep…

(7) MORISSEY OBIT. Artist Dean Morrissey  (1951-2021), a four-time Chesley Award winner, died March 4. The family obituary is here. Morrissey was a self-taught artist who was inspired to become an illustrator through his admiration for the work of painters ranging from Rembrandt to N.C. Wyeth.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 18, 1981 — On this day in 1981, The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”). You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 18, 1909 – C. Walter Hodges.  Author-illustrator, theatrical costume & scenery designer, student of the Elizabethan stage; Shakespeare’s Theatre won the Greenaway Medal.  Here is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Here is a Chronicles of Robin Hood.  Here is The Little White Horse (a unicorn).  Here is Make-Believe.  Here is Enter the Whole Army.  Here is The Wouldbegoods.  After a Wayne State Univ. plan to reconstruct the Globe Theatre collapsed, CWH sold nearly a thousand drawings to the Folger Lib’y; they can now be browsed electronically.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it before. He wrote a number of other genre-friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born March 18, 1936 – M. Thomas Inge, Ph.D., age 85.  Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, Virginia), where he teaches, among much else, American humor and comic art, film & animation.  Edited A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for Oxford World Classics; James Branch Cabell, Centennial Essays (with E. MacDonald; JBC said “Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”); Comics as Culture; wrote The Incredible Mr. Poe on comic-book adaptations of EAP works; Anything Can Happen in A Comic Strip; threescore books.  Faulkner scholar.  Davis Award for Lifetime Contributions to Southern Letters. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1947 – Drew Struzan, age 74.  Seventy covers, a few interiors; movie posters.  Here is Blade Runner.  Here is Back to the Future.  Here is Rebel Dawn.  Here is The Art of Drew Struzan. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1949 – Tullio Proni, age 72.  Master machinist and electronics expert, co-founded General Technics.  Leading concocter of the blinkies which seemed to appear everywhere in the 1970s under the name Isher Enterprises.  This led to annual house parties called Ishercon.  Mad Scientist Guest of Honor at DucKon IV.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 71. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, CharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 62. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 60. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1973 – Max Barry, age 48.  Six novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Invented electronic game NationStates.  Aurealis Award, Western Australian Premier’s Book Award.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1993 – Samantha Hoffman, age 28.   Fourteen novels.  Says of herself, “Her favorite genre to write is paranormal romance, but she also likes to dabble in fantasy and horror, as well as having a new love of science fiction.”  [JH]

(10) A SPECIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY. The International Carnivorous Plant Society recently announced that the first-ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, a worldwide event dedicated to spotlighting carnivorous plant public awareness and education, starts on May 5, 2021.

The ICPS is proud to promote the first ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, to be held on the first Wednesday of May (May 5th, 2021). In lieu of the international conference in Himeji, Japan, World Carnivorous Plant Day 2021 will serve as the preeminent carnivorous plant event of the year. This day-long web event will stand in for the delayed ICPS conference. The conference has been rescheduled to occur in Japan in 2022.

To assist with these efforts, events involving the Richardson-based carnivorous plant gallery The Texas Triffid Ranch (Dallas’s Pretty Much Only Carnivorous Plant Gallery) run through May 5, 2021, and continue through the end of 2021.

(11) KING’S CHOICE. “Ten Pulp Crime Authors Recommended By Stephen King” at CrimeReads. And guess who’s on the list!

RAY BRADBURY

In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, Hard Case Crime published Killer, Come Back to Me, a brand new collection of the master’s crime fiction—less well known than his trademark fantasy, but just as unforgettable. At the time of his death, King wrote, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”

(12) WEEP WAIL. In the latest episode of Octothorpe. “John is excited, Alison is oh boy oh boy oh boy, and Liz… isn’t.” Listen here: “Eeyore of Eastercon”.

 We celebrate our anniversary with a myriad of letters of comment, we discuss Eastercon’s platform news, and then we talk excitedly about fanzines and that new Douglas Adams book.

(13) LEVERS OF CHANGE. Mental Floss extols a documentary that shows “How ‘Star Trek’ and Nichelle Nichols Changed the Face of NASA”.

Nichelle Nichols is best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series. But the 88-year-old actor also carries with her a lesser-known legacy: Playing a foundational role in the formation of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and inspiring generations of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) leaders.

A new documentary titled Woman In Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek, and the Remaking of NASA details the powerful, revealing, and uplifting story of Nichols’s advocacy and the crucial part she played in not just bringing diversity to NASA’s astronaut classes but in shaping the American space program we know today….

(14) PUT A LID ON IT. “New analysis shows potential for ‘solar canals’ in California”Tech Xplore has the story.

UC Santa Cruz researchers published a new study—in collaboration with UC Water and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced—that suggests covering California’s 6,350 km network of public water delivery canals with solar panels could be an economically feasible means of advancing both renewable energy and water conservation.

The concept of “solar canals” has been gaining momentum around the world as climate change increases the risk of drought in many regions. Solar panels can shade canals to help prevent water loss through evaporation, and some types of solar panels also work better over canals, because the cooler environment keeps them from overheating….

(15) FULL OF STARS. “A photographer spent 12 years capturing this Milky Way image – and it’s breathtaking”Microsoft News has the story, and a link to the picture.

What have you been working on for the past 12 years? Whatever it was, I bet it’s not as awesome as this ridiculously awesome Milky Way image by J-P Metsavainio. His work on the composite photo began in 2009 and a dozen years later he has one of the most spectacular works of astronomy art you’ll ever lay eyes on. The image is huge both in its pixel resolution and its ambition, as the photographer had to collect a whopping 234 photos in order to piece together the final product.

As PetaPixel reports, Metsavainio began capturing specific features of the Milky Way with his high-end camera equipment and astronomy accessories. Those images are works of art in their own right, but the composite image that they helped to produce is even more spectacular.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the latest Mario release reintroduces gamers to “the strangely proportioned fictional plumber you love more than your own parents” with a bonus feature where Mario enters a “strange cat-centric alternate dimension” where he fights giant cats.

[Thanks to Ruth Sachter, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Frank Olynyk, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Moshe Feder, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lise Andreasen.]

NASA Names Perseverance Rover Touchdown Site “Octavia E. Butler Landing”

NASA has named the Perseverance rover’s landing place on Mars the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Landing Site, just as they had earlier named the Curiosity site for Ray Bradbury (Bradbury Landing). The location is marked with a star in the above image from the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

It’s a great choice, both for Butler’s inspiring work as a science fiction writer, and that she did much of her writing while living in Pasadena only a few miles away from Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Read more about Perseverance here.

Butler signing in 2005. Photo by Nikolas Coukouma.

[Based on a press release. Thanks to David Shallcross for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/28/21 Chasing A Blanched Scroll Across The File With A Pixel Fork

(1) THE VOICE OF THE FUTURE. Wil Wheaton has been picked to narrate How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates.

Even Wheaton is impressed.

Did I mention that Bill Gates allegedly chose me, personally? Because holy h*ck he did. He chose me. Personally. Out of everyone in the world who does my job, he picked me. That kinda blows my mind.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL. DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, posted their biweekly hotel update: “2/28 Hotel Update”.

We have retained legal counsel in Delaware, which is the location of the Wardman Park bankruptcy proceedings. We are working with our legal counsel to move closer to a resolution, and we hope to provide you more concrete information as the process progresses.

(3) IGN PREVIEWS DC. IGN Fan Fest 2021 took place today where DC shared clips from Justice Society: World War II and  a premiere clip of The Flash‘s seventh season

  • Justice Society: World War II – Official Exclusive Wonder Woman vs Nazis Clip

In this exclusive sneak peek at Warner Bros. Animation’s latest DC animated movie, Justice Society: World War 2, Wonder Woman faces off with a group of Nazi soldiers. The new film finds modern-day Barry Allen – prior to the formation of the Justice League – discovering he can run even faster than he imagined, and that milestone results in his first encounter with the Speed Force. The Flash is promptly launched into the midst of a raging battle – primarily between Nazis and a team of Golden Age DC Super Heroes known as The Justice Society of America. Led by Wonder Woman, the group includes Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor and the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. The Flash quickly volunteers to assist his fellow heroes in tipping the scales of war in their favor, while the team tries to figure out how to send him home. But it won’t be easy as complications and emotions run deep in this time-skipping World War II thriller. Justice Society: World War II will be available to purchase on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

  • The Flash: Season 7 Premiere – Official Exclusive Clip

In this exclusive clip from the long-awaited Season 7 premiere of The Flash, Barry races against the clock to stop Mirror Master and rescue Iris before his speed permanently runs out. “All’s Well That Ends Wells” will premiere on The CW on Tuesday, March 2.

(4) I, WITNESS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt, published in 1980, offers his explanation of fanzines and fandom in 1955.  (I’ve omitted the details of the fan feud he was involved in.)

Fan magazines are produced by fans and exist, literally, in the hundreds.  All but a very few are evanescent and exist for only a few issues before the time and the costs become insupportable.

I have no theoretical objection to write an occasional piece for love, but I have always steered clear of the fan magazines. There are so many that to write for one will mark you down as a target for the others and you will be nibbled to death…

…Though I had been an almost lifelong reader of science fiction, though I had written letters to magazines, though I had even involved myself with the Futurians, I had never immersed myself in what was called ‘fandom.’

I had no experience whatsoever with the ferocious single-mindedness with which this handful of people lived their science fiction.  They interpreted literally among us the catchphrase that ‘Fandom is a way of life.’

What ever these enthusiasts could earn in their work they invested in their collections, or in their fan magazines. Their time was entirely devoted to their correspondence and to their meetings. Often, in fact, their fan activities crowded out the basis on which it was all founded–for they were so busy being fans of science fiction, they lacked the time to read science fiction.

Fans knew each other, loved each other, hated each other, formed cliques and threatened lawsuits, and, in short, formed a small subculture to which everything else in the world seemed alien and of no account.

News spread through fandom at the speed of light, even though it might never so much touch the world outside  Any controversy involving fandom or the fan world elicited a joyful response at once as a vast number of fans (well, dozens anyway) plunged into the fray–on either side, it didn’t matter which.

(5) OLD BIRDBATH. And speaking of Fifties fandom…I Remember Me and Other Narratives – Walt Willis in Mimosa compiled by Rich Lynch is now available at Fanac.org. Includes this passage about a 1954 exchange between Willis and then-fanzine-editor Harlan Ellison.

….I did, however, get a letter from Harlan Ellison, about a phone call he made to me, an enterprise which was slightly handicapped by the fact that I didn’t have a phone at the time. He got my father’s house, which was a block away, and my sister didn’t come and get me because it was raining.

[From Ellison’s letter] “To say I’m merely angry or hurt would be a gross understatement. I’m completely devastated. You sent me ‘Mike Hammer at the Philcon,’ and I sent it out to be illustrated. Sure, it took me a year to get to it, but I was suspended with college work. Now when I have it on stencil and run off and announced as in the next issue with illos by Nasman Peterson, I pick up Mari Wolf’s column and see Space Times has already pubbed it. I’m really in a mess with the thing, and personally I think it was both poor taste on your part and a gross injustice not to at least write and tell me what had happened, before you sent a carbon to anyone else…”

I replied as follows. “Dear Harlan, Come now, old Birdbath. In the first place, how do you expect me to know you wanted the MS if you didn’t even acknowledge it? You wrote several times asking me to do something for you, but when I did send it there wasn’t another peep out of you. In fact, you folded your fanzine, retired from fandom, and changed your address. Not that I thought all this was on account of the MS, but in the absence of any acknowledgement or mention of it in any of your blurbs except the last one, how was I to know you were going to publish it?… Chuck Harris was staying with me at the time. The mail had just arrived, he had got five letters and there were none for me, and he was pulling my leg about my fan status having declined. Then my sister came round with the news that there had been a phone call from a Mr. Ellison of Ohio. Thanks, pal. All the best. Walter.”

This was at a time when transatlantic phone calls were almost unheard of in fandom. My recollection is that Chuck asked me, did I often get phone calls from American fans, and I said, “Only when it’s something important.”

(6) STRONACH INTERVIEWS LUCAS. In “An interview with Casey Lucas, moments before the avalanche hits” at The Spinoff, Alexander Stronach interviews the person he’s been friends with the longest, a Wellington science fiction and fantasy writer on the brink of world domination. (Alexander Stronach is Sasha Stronach, 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Winner for Best Novel, and Casey Lucas is the winner of the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Short Story.)

…Casey Lucas is a Swiss army knife. Casey Lucas is six feet tall and extremely bisexual. Casey Lucas is back from the dead (again). Casey Lucas is – finally, after years of dedication and hard work – on the cusp of very big things.

In the last year she’s won one of New Zealand’s highest honours for science fiction and fantasy writing, she’s worked on the wildly popular games Mini Metro and Mini Motorways, she’s run a workshop at Clarion West (possibly the most prestigious SF/F workshop in the world), she’s edited 30 graphic novels, she’s been hired to work on the next block of collectible card game Magic: the Gathering, and now her post-apocalyptic fungal fantasy web serial Into the Mire has picked up a prestigious international agent and is poised to go out to publishers.

Casey Lucas is, for lack of a better word, utterly singular, and today I’m getting deep in the weeds with her about success, trauma, M*A*S*H, and the impossible vastness of stone.

Alex Stronach: So you’re an “overnight success” now. What’s the spell look like? Who do I gotta kill? 

Casey Lucas: Success in publishing is like an avalanche. You only see the snow rushing at you, but it took millions of exhausting years and lots of earthquakes for that mountain to yank itself up out of the sea, and you don’t get the avalanche without a mountain for it to roll down….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 28, 1993 — On this date in 1993, Journey to the Center of the Earth first aired on NBC. It was intended as the pilot for a series but that never happened. It’s based on the novel of the same by Jules Verne. It is one of at least seven adaptations of the Verne novel to date so far. It was by William Dear from the screenplay by David Evans and William Gunter. It starred David Dundara, Farrah Forke, Tim Russ, Jeffrey Nordling and John Neville. No, it was not well received by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes where it has a rating of just eighteen percent. And Screen Rant dubbed it the worst adaptation of the novel ever done.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 28, 1820 – Sir John Tenniel.  Had he only illustrated Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, it would have been enough for us.  He also illustrated an edition of the Ingoldsby Legends – so well known in the U.K. that Dorothy L. Sayers has Lord Peter Wimsey quoting them as late as Five Red Herrings (1931) and The Nine Tailors (1934).  JT drew 2,300 cartoons for Punch.  His knighthood (1893) was the first ever given to an illustrator.  (Died 1914) [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1875 – Maurice Renard.  Pioneering SF writer (d’accord, honors to Rosny aîné).  MR’s Dr. Lerne (1908) was a great Mad Scientist.  The Blue Peril is a decade earlier than The Book of the Damned and, I dare say it, kinder.  The Man Who Wanted to Be Invisible doesn’t “ruin” The Invisible Man – MR dedicated Le docteur Lerne to Wells – but faces, you should pardon the expression, the optics.  Half a dozen novels, ninety shorter stories.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of  his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.) (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a series planned off it. He also two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All of his work is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born February 28, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who was considered the originator of the program’s structure in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born February 28, 1946 – Leanne Frahm, age 75.  Two Ditmars as Best Fanwriter; two others, and an Aurealis, for fiction.  Seen in SF Commentary (and The Metaphysical Review); Souvenir Book for Aussiecon Three the 57th Worldcon – the year Greg Benford said “Certainly, thank you.  Are you inviting me to be Fan Guest of Honor or Pro Guest of Honor?”  Two dozen short stories (one with Terry Carr! anthologized in Stellar 7; another in TC’s Universe 13).  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1948 – Donna Jo Napoli, Ph.D., age 73.  Fourscore novels – opinions may differ on what under “children’s” we should count.  Writes for us when not too busy as a linguist, she’s a professor at Swarthmore.  Arabian Nights, Egyptian, Greek, Norse tales for National Geographic.  Golden Kite Award, Sydney Taylor Award, Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards.  Bimodal videobooks which hearing parents can read – I don’t know what else to call it – to deaf children.  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 64. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? He’s decently stocked by the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 44. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so. (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1977 – J.T. Petty, age 44.  Four novels, as many shorter stories, for us; others too.  Motion pictures, videogames.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1980 – Gareth Worthington, Ph.D., age 41.  Endocrinologist who’s given us six novels.  Studied Jeet Kune Do, which as I understand is the best ever if you happen to be Bruce Lee – no blame, great sages keep telling us It’s simple, see?  Has read Moby-Dick and A Brief History of Time.  [JH]

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Dr. Seuss is credited with inventing the word “nerd,” which first appeared in ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ in 1950. Source: Parade Magazine

(10) VOICE FROM THE PAST. NPR reprised a 2000 interview with the author — “Stephen King: The ‘Craft’ Of Writing Horror Stories”.

In an interview on Fresh Air, King described his life-changing accident to Terry Gross but said it didn’t change the way he approached his writing….

On the nurses who took care of him

“You know, they’d all read Misery, and they worked for an outfit called the Bangor Area Visiting Nurses. These are nurses who go into the home and give home care. And I think one of them told me toward the end of the period, where I needed full-time nursing, that they had all read it, and they had all been called into the office by their superior and told in no uncertain terms, ‘You don’t make any Misery jokes.'”

Includes an excerpt from King’s book On Writing with this quote:

…Asteroid Miners (which wasn’t the title, but that’s close enough) was an important book in my life as a reader. Almost everyone can remember losing his or her virginity, and most writers can remember the first book he/she put down thinking: I can do better than this. Hell, I am doing better than this!

What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff?

(11) NAVIGATING TREK NOVELS. The Trek Collective has “Star Trek novel updates: First Coda blurbs, details of next DS9 novel, and audiobook covers”. A forthcoming trilogy is supposed to tie everything together.

More Star Trek novel news! Following the recent reveal of the 2021 line-up of Star Trek novels, Simon and Schuster have now updated their Online Catalog with blurbs for the books coming towards the end of the year, including the first details of the Coda trilogy. Continue below for all the details.

The Coda trilogy is set to tie-up the reality of the Star Trek litverse which has been told over the last couple of decades, but was alas shunted into an alternate timeline by the new canon events of Picard. All three of the new blurbs start with the following intro, which confirms we are getting one last enormous TNG/DS9/Titan/Aventine crossover:

… Temporal Apocalypse!! Blimey. Who is the mysterious old friend, what is the nature of the disaster, how will this all mesh the litverse with the canon reality? I cannot wait to find out!

If you have no idea what the litverse is, check out the Almighty Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart, compiled by Thrawn and I. You’ve got a few months to get caught up on the dozens of books leading up to this epic closing trilogy (though of course if you’re not caught up I’m sure the authors will make sure it’s entirely accessible to new readers too). 

(12) THE CHART. Indeed, the “Almighty Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart” deserves an item to itself – you should see it! This is the proposed reading order for Star Trek books created by Thrawn and 8of5 for the period between the end of DS9 (1999) and Star Trek: Picard. (There are, of course, a zillion other Trek books outside this timeframe.)

If you’re a bit lost navigating the sometimes complex web of interconnectivity between the various Star Trek novels in the post-finale continuity, this is the resource you need. TrekBBS user Thrawn found a most elegant solution, with his brilliant Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart. Now (as of 2020) on the version six, Thrawn and I guide you through the world of Star Trek fiction.

Whether you’re a fan of TNGDS9Voyager, or Enterprise the chart below will show how they spin off into New FrontierTitanIKS GorkonVanguard, or Seekers, and crossover into DestinyTyphon PactThe FallMirror Universe, and more; letting you chart your own path through the Trek-litverse. Once you’ve got to grips with the flow chart you might also find some of my lists a useful reference too.

(13) BLACK SWAN? StarTrek.com analyzes “How The Search For Spock Changed the Way Star Trek Got Made”.

There are several pivotal turning points in the production history of Star Trek. Pinning down the most important ones is tricky — is filming of “The Cage” more impactful than casting the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before?” What about the writing approach in Season 3 of The Next Generation? Which events truly define how Star Trek was made and why? Among the likely candidates, the moment when Leonard Nimoy took over directorial duties for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock tends to be overlooked. One June 1, 1984, The Search For Spock was released, becoming the very first Trek production crafted by one of the actors. And the way Star Trek was created behind-the-scenes would never be the same.

(14) URBAN LEGENDS. “Mars City design: 6 sci-fi cities that will blow your mind” from Inverse.

6. BRADBURY CITY – MARS TRILOGY

There are several fictional cities in Kim Stanely Robinson’s seminal SF books about the settlement of Mars — Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars — so it’s hard to pick just one. But, if you have to choose only one Martian metropolis from his books, Bradbury City is the way to go.

Named for Ray Bradbury, who wrote The Martian Chronicles, Robinson’s Bradbury City is designed to recreate a city in Illinois. Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois. The Martian Chronicles features several unlikely Martian cities, some made by humans, some made by Martians. But, in almost all cases, like in “Night Meeting,” these towns and cities often have gas stations and pickup trucks.

(15) YOUTUBER. Dom Noble reviews “Raybearer ~ An African Inspired Fantasy Novel”.

(16) IT HAPPENED TO HIM, TOO? “Kevin Feige Panicking After Mom Throws Out $3.6 Billion Worth Of Superhero Crap” in The Onion. (Too short to excerpt – but I don’t need to talk anyone into reading The Onion, do I?

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Underground Comix Movement” on YouTube is an introduction to the great independent comix creators of the late 1960s, including S. Clay Wilson, Peter Bagge, and Gilbert Shelton.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Rich Lynch, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest Winner Named

The winner of the Waukegan (IL) Public Library’s Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest is Orton (Orty) Ortwein, age 46, a Midwestern writer currently residing in Pewaukee, WI.

The judge says his short story, The Unidentified U.F.O., “provides an interesting twist on the trope of aliens and what an ‘invasion’ by them might be like.”

Ortwein will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card and his story has been posted on the library website.

Waukegan is Ray Bradbury’s birthplace, and the WPL invited writers age 14 and up to submit short stories about five pages long on the theme of space, space travel, and anything else to do with that.

Pixel Scroll 2/9/21 I’d Like A Pixel Scroll Reservation For Tuesday

(1) HUGO NOMINATING PROGRESS REPORT. DisCon III told Facebook followers today:

285 people have submitted The Hugo Awards nominations. Are you one of them? You do not have to submit your nominations in one go, start submitting now and come back later to add more up until the deadline of March 19, 11:59pm Pacific Time.

(2) TAKE THE PLEDGE. Henry Lien invites Facebook readers to become the angel-geezers of their better nature:

MY SENIOR CITIZEN PLEDGE

I hereby pledge that when I am a senior citizen, I will not be afraid of, resist, or complain about technology or cling to old-timey ways. I will learn how to use quantum conferencing suppositories and listen to electro-shamisen sea chanteys or whatever young people are doing. I will be part of Today tomorrow. Will join me in this pledge, pre-seniors?

(3) BRADBURY’S MARS. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum will host a watch party for the “Landing of NASA Perseverance Rover on the Red Planet” on February 18 from 12 PM PST – 1:45 PM PST.

“Percy,” the life-hunting Mars Perseverance rover, is scheduled to set down inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater. The rover launched on June 30, 2020. 

What does it feel like to be a scientist embedded in the engineering team of a spacecraft? And to have Ray Bradbury speak at your commencement? Listen as NASA’s Dr.Sarah Milkovich, Ph.D. planetary geology, tells RBEM’s Dom Loise.

(4) JOURNEY PLANET. In the 57th issue of Journey Planet, James Bacon, Chris Garcia, and Chuck Serface handle the editing duties and the theme is King Arthur, a topic Chris has wanted to tackle since they started the zine back in 2008! Download here: Journey Planet 57: Arthur, King of the Britons.

Spanning multiple arenas of the Arthurian legend, there’s a massive 92 pages of material including looks at literature, theatre, comics, film, and even Vegas, baby!!!  Bob Hole, Julian West, Steven H Silver, and the good Cardinal Cox handle the history, and Chris interviews Arthurian scholar and editor of Arthuriana Dorsey Armstrong. Laura Frankos gives us a marvelous view of the ‘legendary’ musical Camelot, while Neil Rest, Tony Keen, and Chris handle the world of film. There’s great comics coverage from Derek McCaw, Helena Nash, and Chuck, and a great fiction reprint from the exceptional Ken Scholes. All this wrapped in a cover by Vanessa Applegate, with art by Chris, Fionnula Murphy, Derek Carter, Bob Hole, the DeepDreamGenerator, and Matthew Appleton! We even have letters of comment!!!

This supersized beast also marks the first time Chris ever did layout on his phone!

(5) AFROFUTURISM. “Beyond ‘Black Panther’: Afrofuturism Is Booming in Comics” – the New York Times tells where to find it.

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it struck the author and illustrator John Jennings as so unprecedented, such a break from American history, that it was like an event from some far-flung future.

“Before then, the only time you would see a president who was Black was in a science-fiction movie,” he said in a phone interview last month. Jennings compared it to the sorts of imaginative leaps one finds in the most forward-thinking works categorized as “Afrofuturist.”

This year, fans of Afrofuturism will see a bumper crop of comics and graphic novels, including the first offerings of a new line devoted to Black speculative fiction and reissues of Afrofuturist titles from comic-book houses like DC and Dark Horse.

Afrofuturism, whether in novels, films or music, imagines worlds and futures where the African diaspora and sci-fi intersect. The term was coined by the writer Mark Dery in 1993 and has since been applied to the novels of Octavia Butler (“Kindred”), the musical stylings of the jazz composer Sun Ra and more recently films such as “Get Out” and “Black Panther,” which presented a gorgeously rendered vision of the technologically advanced, vibranium-powered nation of Wakanda.

“Afrofuturism isn’t new,” said Ytasha L. Womack, a cultural critic and the author of “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture,” a primer and history of the movement and aesthetic. “But the plethora of comics and graphic novels that are available is certainly a new experience.”

Graphic novels published in January included “After the Rain,” an adaptation of a short story by the Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor, and “Infinitum,” a tale of African kings and space battles by the New York-based artist Tim Fielder….

(6) BLACK PANTHER. While others are taking readers beyond, Ta-Nehisi Coates is still finishing his redefining work on the comic which ends with Black Panther #25 in April. The issue will bring fans the triumphant end to the “Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” storyline.

Since taking over the title in 2016, the National Book Award winner and New York Times Best-Selling author has transformed the Black Panther mythos. Now five years later, he departs, leaving the world of Wakanda forever changed and laying the groundwork for the next bold era of this iconic Marvel hero.

“Ta-Nehisi has come up with a truly special finale here, one that not only wraps up the current story of T’Challa’s attempt to stop Emperor N’Jadaka’s conquest of Wakanda, but also deals with elements that reach all the way back to the beginning of Ta-Nehisi’s run….” said editor Wil Moss.

Throughout his run, Coates has taken the Black Panther to hell and back and expanded Wakanda into the distant stars. In his final issue, he’ll bring T’Challa full circle, back to the home he left behind…and the crown he has never fully accepted. The journey will conclude, but the legend remains. 

Click for larger images.

(7) KIWI REFERENCES. “The New Zealand Author Behind the First Great Fantasy Epic of the Year: A conversation with Elizabeth Knox, author of The Absolute Book – a Slate interview.

…I really love a somewhat minor subplot in the book—Taryn’s father, the movie actor who has had roles in what are clearly the Lord of the Rings movies, going back to Wellington for what he thinks is a screen test for a new Peter Jackson project. Weta, Peter Jackson’s studio, plays a sometimes oversize role in the culture of your city. Has your writing life ever intersected with their work?

Oh, I can tell my Peter Jackson story. I saw his first movie, Bad Taste, in the film festival, and I really loved it. I mean, it’s fun, but it’s also the work of a very, very good director. And then he came into the bookshop and the museum where I was working, and my boss had been one of his helpers on the movie. He introduced me and said, “Elizabeth’s a writer.” And at that point I had just published my first novel. Peter Jackson gave me his WingNut Films card and said, “Do you want to write a screenplay for me?” And I said, “Oh, no, I don’t think I could do that.”

What a missed opportunity!

Well, it was very early on in both our careers.

(8) RAISING TWINS. “Superman & Lois” – “Their family is anything but ordinary.” Premieres Tuesday, February 23.

(9) THROWBACK. Here’s some artwork of Doctor Who’s seventh Doctor in the “rubber hose” cartoon style:

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 9, 1966 Lost In Space’s “War Of The Robots” first aired as the twentieth episode of the first season. It is worth noting because the second robot in this episode is Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet. Robby the Robot would make a number of appearances in series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Addams Family. Robby the Robot was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2004. 

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

February 9 Extraterrestrial Culture Day

An officially acknowledged day in New Mexico (Roswell), Extraterrestrial Culture Day celebrates extraterrestrial cultures, and our past, present and future relationships with extraterrestrial visitors.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 9, 1867 – Natsume Sôseki.  (Personal name last, Japanese style; Sôseki is a pen name, Japanese pronunciation of a Chinese idiom meaning “stubborn”.)  I Am a Cat is ours, indeed narrated by a cat. You can read a little about it here.  A collection “Ten Nights’ Dreaming” and “The Cat’s Grave” is in English.  He was a novelist, a poet – most of his work outside our field – and among much else a student of English literature.  See this comparison with Shakespeare.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1928 – Frank Frazetta.  A Hugo, three Chesleys (two for artistic achievement); Spectrum Grand Master, Writers & Illustrators of the Future and World Fantasy Awards for lifetime achievement; SF Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame, Kirby Hall of Fame, Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.   In comics, Westerns, fantasy, mystery, war, historical drama, funny animals; Buck RogersFlash Gordon; Li’l Abner with Al Capp.  In our field perhaps most famous for Tarzan, CarsonConan.  Two hundred covers, sixteen hundred interiors; portfolios, sketchbooks, posterbooks; see e.g. Testament with Cathy & Arnie Fenner.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1935 R. L. Fanthorpe, 76. I’m including him as he was a pulp writer for UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s during which he wrote under some sixty pen names. I think he wrote several hundred genre novels during that time but no two sources agree on just how many he wrote. Interestingly nothing is available by him digitally currently though his hard copy offerings would fill a wing of small rural library. He’d be perfect for Kindle Unlimited I’d say. (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1936 Clive Walter Swift. His first genre appearance was as Snug in that version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Several years thereafter he was Dr. Black in A Warning to the Curious” (based on a ghost story by British writer M. R. James).Then he’s Ecto, whoever that character is, in Excalibur. He shows up next in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Revelation of a The Daleks” as Professor Jobel. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1942 Marianna Hill, 79. Doctor Helen Noel in the excellent “Dagger of The Mind” episode of the original Trek. (The episode introduces the Vulcan mind meld.) She also had roles on Outer Limits (in the Eando Binder’s “I Robot“ story which predates Asimov’s story of that name), Batman (twice as Cleo Patrick), I-SpyThe Wild Wild WestMission: Impossible and Kung Fu (ok the last one has to be least genre adjacent).  (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1951 Justin Gustainis, 70. Author of two series so far, one being the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series which he’s written three superb novels in so far, and the other being the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations series which has seven novels and which I’ve not read yet. Who’s read the latter series? (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1952 – Ben Yalow, F.N., age 69.  Having attended eight hundred SF conventions, working on a third of them, his trademark Black Watch bowtie has become a symbol of SMOFfery.  “SMOF” is “Secret Master Of Fandom”, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke, besides the Marty Balin comment; it’s come to mean the folks who put on SF cons, particularly those who study, argue about, and try to act on doing them better.  Co-founder of SMOFcon.  Edited four books for NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press; Fellow of NESFA (service); Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon X, OryCon ’87, ConDiego the 5th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas), Loscon 17, FenCon XIV; scheduled for Discon III the 79th Worldcon.  His dry but not unsympathetic sense of humor is shown by his receiving the Rubble Award, and by remarks like “Running a Worldcon is impossible.  Running a NASFiC is harder.”  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1954 – Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, age 67.  A dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories.  Her Star Wars novel (with Michael Reaves) Shadow Games was a NY Times Best-Seller.  Besides prose writing, she’s a filker; she and husband Jeff Bohnhoff have won two Pegasus Awards as Best Performers, one for Best Parody; Guests of Honor at LepreCon 24, TusCon 30, Archon 30, Balticon 41, DucKon 17, 2t0nic the 20th British Filk Convention, FenCon VII, LepreCon 38, Windycon 42, Boskone 52; they are in the Filk Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1956 Timothy Truman, 65. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1960 Laura Frankos, 61. She’s written a bakers dozen of genre short stories. She’s more known for her Broadway history column “The Great White Wayback Machine” and has also published one mystery novel, Saint Oswald’s Niche. Wife of Harry Turtledove. Her Broadway Quiz Book is available on all digital platforms. (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1977 – Rhiannon Lassiter, age 44.  Started writing young, sent a few chapters to her mother (Mary Hoffman)’s agent and to family friend Douglas Hill: result, two novels accepted by Macmillan when she was nineteen.  A dozen novels, four shorter stories; book reviews in Armadillo and Strange Horizons.  [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1981 – Amber Argyle, age 40.  Sixteen novels, two shorter stories.  She “grew up on a cattle ranch, and spent her formative years in the rodeo circuit and on the basketball court.”  She and her husband are “actively trying to transform [three children] from crazy small people into less-crazy larger people”; a note elsewhere, however, says she is “fluent in all forms of sarcasm”.  Has read Heart of DarknessThe Secret GardenAll Quiet on the Western Front, six Shakespeare plays.  [JH]

(13) BOOKSTORE IS OVERNIGHT SUCCESS. Yesterday’s Scroll ran the Super Bowl-style commercial The Late Show with Steven Colbert did for a small business — Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina. The follow-up Colbert did last night starts at 1:32.

Foggy Pine Books owner Mary Ruthless said, “Three weeks ago, we were like… wondering how we were going to make it through winter. And now I’m having to hire, you know, a couple of extra people to help process all of the orders.”

(14) FIREFLY NEWS. “Firefly Goes to the Moon: NASA Sends Firefly Aerospace Lander to the Moon in 2023”SCIFI Radio tells what it means.

…A Firefly Aerospace lander will launch to the moon in 2023 as part of NASA’s Artemis program. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Firefly?” 

…A janitor’s cart is far less interesting than the truth – that this is an artist’s rendering of the Blue Ghost, a robotic lander being built by Texas-based Firefly Aerospace to deliver 10 scientific experiments and technology demonstrations to the lunar surface in 2023. It will touch down in a lunar mare called Mare Crisium, a low-lying basin on the near side of the moon that measures more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) wide. The lander will carry instruments to study several aspects of the lunar surface in preparation for future human missions to the moon. 

(15) GET OUT BEFORE THE SUN COMES UP. James McMahon, in “They came at night: how a Spanish-speaking cast shot an alternative Dracula after Bela Lugosi had gone to bed” in The Guardian, discusses the 90th anniversary of the Spanish-language version of Dracula, which is 29 minutes longer than the English-language version, features a quite different take on Dracula by Carlos Villar, and was long thought lost until a copy was found in the Cuban film archive.

They came under the shadow of darkness – quite literally. Just as Dracula star Bela Lugosi was no doubt being tucked up for the night, director George Melford, cast and crew made their way on to the Universal studio lot in 1931 to shoot a Spanish-language version of the Bram Stoker 1897 horror novel, filmed using the same sets and costumes as the much more familiar Tod Browning masterwork….

Shot in half the time the Lugosi vehicle was allotted, and on a much smaller budget, Drácula contains revealing differences. It’s 29 minutes longer the Browning’s film, with more dialogue – we see more of Dracula’s castle; and the framing of shots are argubly superior – thanks to Melford’s crew having access to Dracula’s dailies when they arrived at night, thereby being able to make revisions to lighting and camera angles….

(16) AN ORIGINAL WOZNIAK. Hypebeast sighted a real original on the auction block: “Rare Apple-1 Computer $1.5 Million USD eBay Auction”. I like how eBay invites me to just “add it to cart”, too, like my credit’s good!

A working Apple-1, one of the tech giant’s first line of computers introduced back in 1976, is now up for auction on eBay for $1.5 million USD.

If you’re familiar with the history of Apple, then you’ll know that the Apple-1 is now rare memorabilia. Designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak, then sold wholesale by Steve Jobs, the two sold off some of their belongings to raise enough money to cover manufacturing costs — Jobs sold his Volkswagen van and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator.

(17) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Leo has been patient til now: “8-Year-Old Calls Out NPR For Lack Of Dinosaur Stories” at NPR.

… Leo has a point. All Things Considered is about to turn 50 years old. NPR’s archivists found the word “dinosaur” appearing in stories 294 times in the show’s history. By comparison, “senator” has appeared 20,447 times.

To remedy the situation, All Things Considered invited Leo to ask some questions about dinosaurs to Ashley Poust, a research associate at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Leo wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up….

(18) THAT’S SO LAST YEAR. The New York Times says “Monoliths Are Still Happening”.

Much like the coronavirus, monoliths refuse to be left behind in 2020.

The discovery of a new mysterious metal slab in Turkey on Friday was a throwback to a momentary craze from the olden days of November and December. Back then, a shiny, metal monolith appeared in the Utah desert without explanation, followed by copycats from California to Romania.

Perhaps art projects or perhaps the manifestation of pandemic-induced boredom, the monoliths captured the world’s attention for a fleeting moment. It remains unknown who created many of them, or why they were created, but they largely faded from cultural relevance as the world focused on other things, like the presidential transition, a coup in Myanmar or the Netflix show “Bridgerton.”

But the new monolith was gone after just four days. It vanished without explanation on Tuesday, according to local reports.

This despite the presence of something its predecessors didn’t have: armed guards.

The military police started an investigation to identify the people who planted the monolith in a rural area of Sanliurfa, a province in southeastern Turkey, according to DHA, a local news agency. The military police and village guards — government-paid civilians who work with the military police — stood watch as the investigation unfolded, protecting the monolith from any threats, DHA reported.

Also unlike previous monoliths, this one has an inscription. In the Gokturk alphabet, an ancient Turkic language, it reads: “Look at the sky, see the moon.”…

(19) NOW ARRIVING. The AP provides more details about the trio of Mars exploratory craft that will reach the Red Planet this month: “Next stop Mars: 3 spacecraft arriving in quick succession”.

The United Arab Emirates’ orbiter reaches Mars on Tuesday, followed less than 24 hours later by China’s orbiter-rover combo. NASA’s rover, the cosmic caboose, will arrive on the scene a week later, on Feb. 18, to collect rocks for return to Earth — a key step in determining whether life ever existed at Mars.

Both the UAE and China are newcomers at Mars, where more than half of Earth’s emissaries have failed. China’s first Mars mission, a joint effort with Russia in 2011, never made it past Earth’s orbit. “We are quite excited as engineers and scientists, at the same time quite stressed and happy, worried, scared,” said Omran Sharaf, project manager for the UAE.

All three spacecraft rocketed away within days of one another last July, during an Earth-to-Mars launch window that occurs only every two years. That’s why their arrivals are also close together. Called Amal, or Hope in Arabic, the Gulf nation’s spacecraft is seeking an especially high orbit — 13,500 by 27,000 miles high (22,000 kilometers by 44,000 kilometers) — all the better to monitor the Martian weather.

China’s duo — called Tianwen-1, or “Quest for Heavenly Truth” — will remain paired in orbit until May, when the rover separates to descend to the dusty, ruddy surface. If all goes well, it will be only the second country to land successfully on the red planet.

The U.S. rover Perseverance, by contrast, will dive in straight away for a harrowing sky-crane touchdown similar to the Curiosity rover’s grand Martian entrance in 2012. The odds are in NASA’s favor: It’s nailed eight of its nine attempted Mars landings.

(20) JUDGE FOR YOURSELF. Could this be the first SJW credential lawyer? Daily Beast explains how a “Texas Lawyer Accidentally Appears in Zoom Court as a Kitten”. On the recording the lawyer insists he’s not a cat. But are you going to believe something a lawyer says or your own eyes?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In a new “Pirates of the Caribbean Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says Pirates Of The Caribbean is “a wacky adventure where you disregard physics and probability and all that bring stuff.  But it’s more fun that way!”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/7/21 Scroll Nine From Filer Space

(1) HWA YIELDS TO SAFETY CONCERNS. This year’s StokerCon will be virtual: “StokerCon™ 2021 Special Announcement”. The virtual event will keep the announced May 20 to 23 dates. Next-year’s in-person event will take place in Denver at the same hotel they intended to use in 2021.

The Horror Writers Association has made the difficult decision to shift StokerCon™ 2021 from an in-person event to a virtual platform during its originally scheduled May 20 to 23 dates. With the ongoing pandemic, the emergence of viral variants, and the broad range of travel obstacles around the world, we have deemed this to be the safest, most responsible way to hold the event.

As might be expected with an event of this size, switching to a virtual footing poses many challenges, but Con co-chairs, James Chambers and Brian Matthews; HWA President, John Palisano; Vice President, Meghan Arcuri; Administrator, Brad Hodson; and the officers and trustees of the HWA Board have made significant progress in executing this change.  Our hope is to preserve the spirit of StokerCon and create an event that will resemble as closely as possible our usual programming—panels, presentations, interviews, author readings, ceremonies, and the Bram Stoker Awards® presentation. At this time our plans include the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference, Librarians’ Day, Horror University, and the Final Frame Film Competition. And while we won’t be able to gather in the same place, all attendees of this virtual StokerCon will receive—or, outside the U.S., have the option to receive—a printed copy of the beautiful souvenir book created and edited by Josh Viola and HEX Publishing….

(2) BOSKONE’S INTERVIEW SERIES. Boskone 58, to be held February 12-14 has been running a series of interview posts.

Dr. Gillian Polack

…If you were planning a holiday or vacation and could visit any location, whether in the real world or fictional worlds, where would you go? Why? 

I love portal fantasies. I always dreamed of the doors in other peoples’ writing and of walking through those doors into enchanted lands. Then I wrote my own. I now want to visit the house in Borderlanders and travel to strange places. I seldom want to visit anywhere I’ve written about, for I know all the downsides of all the places, but doors that lead to hidden seas or to rooms lined with liquid glass? That’s different.

Here are links to more mini-interviews:

(3) HOUR AFTER HOUR. Jim Freund is “Celebrating 50 years of Hour of the Wolf, his WBAI radio show.

Hour of the Wolf premiered in early 1971, somewhere between January and early March. I was to engineer the majority of her programs. Adler came up with the title, taken from the 1967 Ingmar Bergman film of the same name starring Liv Ullman and Max von Sydow. Initially there was no consistent opening music theme until early 1972, when we saw the environmentally-aware science fiction movie Silent Running. The best thing in the film (IMO) was the fabulous soundtrack by Peter Schickele of P.D.Q. Bach fame. There is a grand scene in the movie in which we see small robots caring for and watering the last trees in existence; the camera then pans out to an exterior perspective showing us that this is one of many ships set up as environmental domes. The name of this music is “The Space Fleet,” and once we found a copy in a bin in a 69-cent store, it became the official theme music of the show….

…In 1973, Margot and I both passed the entrance qualifications for the Clarion West Science Fiction Writers Workshop — an intense six-week seminar that featured a different teacher each week that was a veritable Who’s Who of progressive writing in the era. I could not afford to go to Seattle for that long, much less the entrance fee, plane fare, and room and board. Furthermore, Margot told me if I could not go, I would take over Hour of the Wolf in her absence. And that’s what happened. When Margot came back, she was offered a 7-9 AM slot twice a week, which fit her schedule better, and it was agreed that I would stay over after Hour of the Wolf and engineer her show as well….

(4) BE SERIOUS. While the BBC hasn’t said Jodie Whittaker is moving on, speculation is rife – and Radio Times’ Huw Fullerton scoffs at the rumored replacements. “The next Doctor and why all the guesses are wrong”.

… Every single time we start talking about who the next Doctor should be, people invariably start suggesting names so absurd and unlikely that you have to wonder if they’ve recently returned from a parallel universe, where appearing in a popular British sci-fi series is the pinnacle of creative and financial achievement.

Tilda Swinton? Richard Ayoade? Idris Elba? If people seriously think these sort of names are realistic, they haven’t been paying attention to the way the show is made, or its demands. It’s like watching the judges on The Masked Singer confidently predicting that Brad Pitt has decided to dress up as a talking clock and sing ballads on ITV primetime – while technically possible, not a suggestion that anyone could really take seriously….

(5) PRO TIPS. Lou J. Berger drew on his 15 years of experience for this writing advice on Facebook.

… The second bit of advice is to write for yourself, first and foremost. If you are changing your manuscript because you know exactly how each of your critique partners will judge it, see the above advice about finding a new group. The value of a strong critique group will ALWAYS be better than writing in a vacuum. Unless there’s toxicity. Then get the hell out, immediately.

Writing for yourself means that you write something you want to read. And when you read it through other people’s eyes, you are catering to another person’s will. We’ve been through enough in our lives, bending to the will of others. Don’t let your prose get sullied by that same desperate need to conform. It is in the writing of your HEART that you will find release, and the passions that stir you, in the quiet hallways of your own mind, deserve the treatment that only you, and you alone, can give them. Write your HEART and let the others be damned. If there’s one thing in this godforsaken world that you can lay claim to, it is your innermost, private thoughts, and they shall always be yours, the true essence of what makes you unique….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 7, 1992 The Ray Bradbury Theater aired “The Utterly Perfect Murder” episode. Based on a short story by Bradbury, it concerns the long anticipated revenge of a boy tormented in his childhood who now thinks he has plotted the utterly perfect murder. It’s directed by Stuart Margolian, and stars Richard Kiley, Robert Clothier and David Turri. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 7, 1478 – Sir Thomas More.  Recognized as a saint in the Catholic Church.  Renowned among us for Utopia, which would be just fine if we read it carefully enough to realize that, as Lafferty had a fictional TM repeat in Past Master, it’s a satire.  (Died 1535) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1812 – Charles Dickens.  Many of us know “A Christmas Carol”, with ghosts; he wrote fourscore more fantastic stories, among much else he is still famous for; some say he believed the end of Mr. Krook in Bleak House was possible, others call it fantasy.  I can’t let CD’s greatness go without saying, but it’s mostly outside our field.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1883 – John Taine.  A dozen novels, three shorter stories.  Under another name he earned a Ph.D., taught math at Cal Tech, wrote Men of Mathematics which he wanted to entitle The Lives of Mathematicians, and several others, The Queen of the SciencesThe Handmaiden of the SciencesThe Development of MathematicsMathematics: Queen and Servant of Science, of substantial literary ability in this subject which is far easier to do than to write prose about.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He played the lead roles in the Tarzan the FearlessFlash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do so although other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1913 – Henry Hasse.  His superb “He Who Shrank” is in the superb Healy-McComas anthology Adventures in Time and Space.  Since this is File 770, I’ll note HH is named co-author of Ray Bradbury’s “Pendulum”, Sep 41 Super Science Stories, which I understand is RB’s first publication in a prozine.  A story “The Pendulum” appeared in the Fall 39 Futuria Fantasia, RB’s fanzine.  The Kent State Univ. Collected Stories of RB vol. 1 lists both: do you know how they differ?  I can’t get at these sources just now.  But we digress.  One novel; twoscore more shorter stories, two with RB, two with Emil Petaja, two with Albert de Pina.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born February 7, 1921 – John Baltadonis.  Today is the hundredth birth-anniversary of this fannish giant (he was in fact 6’2″ [1.9 m] tall).  See the note about him yesterday, No. 6 in the Pixel Scroll.  Don’t neglect his fanart; we did during his life, he never had enough Best Fanartist nominations even to reach the Hugo ballot.  [JH]
  • February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 72. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. (CE)
  • February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 71. Michael Toman in a letter to our OGH asked we note her Birthday as he has a “A Good Word for one of his favorite writers” and so do I. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and ““The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. (CE)
  • February 7, 1952 Gareth Hunt. Mike Gambit in The New Avengers, the two-season revival of The Avengers that also starred Joanna Lumley as Purdey and Patrick Macnee as John Steed. Quite excellent series. He was also Arak in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of The Spiders”. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • February 7, 1955 Miguel  Ferrer. You likely best remember him as OCP VP Bob Morton in  RoboCop  who came to a most grisly death. Other notable genre roles include playing FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks and USS Excelsior helm officer in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In a very scary role, he was Director of Hatcheries and Conditioning in Brave New World.  Lastly I’d like to note that he did voice work in the DC Universe at the end of his life, voice Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) in Justice League: The New Frontier and Deathstroke (Slade Joseph Wilson) in Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. (Died 2017.) (CE) 
  • February 7, 1960 James Spader, 61. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No, I did not enjoy that film, nor the Ultron character. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavor. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate, a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He also plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. (CE)
  • Born February 7, 1990 – Jessica Khoury, age 30.  Seven novels. “Read as much as you can, in as many genres as you can.  Read insatiably.  Read ingredients on your food.  Read warning labels on heavy machinery.  Read the newspaper, read magazines, read manga”.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SAME BAT CHANNEL, SAME BAT BROKEN RECORD. Busted again: “AWKKKKKK! Batman No. 1 Sells for $2.2 Million” reports Print.

Last week, reported The Hollywood Reporter, a near-mint copy of the Batman No. 1 comic, published in 1940, “sold as part of Heritage Auction’s comics and comic art events. … The final price was $2,220,000, which included the buyer’s premium fee.” Just in case you’re worrying about how you’re going to pay your monthly health insurance premium or children’s college tuition, that number, to repeat, was $2,220,000—a record for “the most expensive Batman comic ever sold.”

Does that mean that other comic books have sold for more? Well, according to Helen Stoilas in The Art Newspaper, “The rare 1940 issue, which marks the first appearance of the Joker and Catwoman, is the second most-expensive comic book ever sold. Even before the live sale opened on Thursday [Jan. 14], the start of Heritage’s four-day Comics and Comic Art event, online pre-bidding for the comic book had shot up to $1.9 million. Its sale of $2.22 million, to a U.S. bidder on the auction house’s online HA Live platform, knocked out the previous Batman record holder, a copy of 1939’s Detective Comics #27, which introduced the character to the world and sold for $1.5 million at Heritage this past November.”

(10) THROWBACK TEAM. “Justice Society: World War II” on YouTube is a trailer for a new WB cartoon about the original matchup of DC superheroes.

(11) CATCHING UP TO FANDOM. The New York Times shows why “‘Bridgerton’ Is Just the Beginning”.

It’s a world of corsets, stays and chemises. Of weskits, bum rolls, breeches and hoop panniers. For actors, wearing period costume has long meant literally stepping into the past: lacing soft modern flesh into antique shapes and learning how to use the toilet without peeling off multiple layers.

“Bridgerton,” Shonda Rhimes’s racially diverse Netflix series set in 1813 England, has suddenly ignited new interest in Regency fashions. But a global community of hobbyists has been designing, making and wearing clothing from the 19th century and earlier for many years. Long a private obsession fueled by films like “The Leopard” and “Pride and Prejudice,” social media has widened the conversation, with fans of all ages and backgrounds worldwide now trading notes on how best to trim a sleeve or adjust a straw bonnet.

Pre-pandemic, they gathered in Los Angeles at Costume College, an annual conference, at Venice’s Carnival and the Fêtes Galantes at Versailles. Some lucky Europeans, like Filippa Trozelli, find themselves invited to wear their historical clothing to private parties at ancient local estates….

(12) THE FINAL CAT FRONTIER. “Star Trek Enterprise Cat Tree: Bolding Going Where No Cat Has Gone Before” at Technabob. I’m thinking the cats shown posing on this tree might easily be mistaken for aliens.

A USS Enterprise and Deep Space Nine themed cat tree: it’s what every Star Trek loving feline owner’s home has been missing. And now thanks to Etsy seller CE360designs, you can finally fill that void with a custom Star Trek Enterprise 1701D and DS9 Wood Cat Tower. You know they say good things come in small packages, but I imagine this box being on the larger side.

According to the sales copy, “The bottom is a wormhole but can be a Borg ship.”

(13) MARS SPINOFFS. The space agency tells how “NASA’s Perseverance Pays Off Back Home”.

A laser-light sensor that can identify bacteria in a wound may sound far-fetched, but it’s already becoming a reality, thanks in part to NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. The technology is going to Mars for the first time on Perseverance, which will touch down on the Red Planet in February, but it’s already detecting trace contaminants in pharmaceutical manufacturing, wastewater treatment, and other important operations on Earth.

That’s not the only technology headed to Mars that’s already paying dividends on the ground. Here on Earth, these innovations are also improving circuit board manufacturing and even led to a special drill bit design for geologists….

(14) SLOW WOOD? That’s what Michael J. Walsh asked after reading CBC Radio’s article: “Scientists develop transparent wood that is stronger and lighter than glass”.

Researchers at the University of Maryland have turned ordinary sheets of wood into transparent material that is nearly as clear as glass, but stronger and with better insulating properties. It could become an energy efficient building material in the future.

Wood is made of two basic ingredients: cellulose, which are tiny fibres, and lignin, which bonds those fibres together to give it strength.

Tear a paper towel in half and look closely along the edge. You will see the little cellulose fibres sticking up. Lignin is a glue-like material that bonds the fibres together, a little like the plastic resin in fibreglass or carbon fibre. The lignin also contains molecules called chromophores, which give the wood its brown colour and prevent light from passing through.

Early attempts to make transparent wood involved removing the lignin, but this involved hazardous chemicals, high temperatures and a lot of time, making the product expensive and somewhat brittle. The new technique is so cheap and easy it could literally be done in a backyard….

(15) DAVIDSON READ ALOUD. The Avram Davidson Universe is a podcast dedicated to the life work and impact of award-winning author, Avram Davidson. Episode 6 features “Alan Dean Foster & “Help! I Am Dr. Morris Goldpepper”.  It’s a very funny science fiction story about dentists. 

In each episode, we perform a reading and discussion of his works with a special guest. Avram Davidson (1923–1993) was a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and crime fiction. Davidson was born in Yonkers, NY and and served in the Navy during World War II. His life work includes 19 novels and over 200 short stories, all of which have been widely recognized for their wit and originality. Davidson’s works have won awards in three genres: an Edgar Award for mystery, a Hugo Award for science fiction, and three World Fantasy Awards.

(16) SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL. The most genre of today’s TV spots was “Edward Scissorhands – Cadillac Super Bowl Commercial”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Professor Layton” on Honest Game Trailers, Fandom Games says that while Professor Layton is “the world’s worst Sherlock Holmes cosplayer” the game’s many quizzes should appeal to fans of “anime, Agatha Christie, and people who enjoy the puzzle section in the newspaper.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, Will R., Darrah Chavey, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael J. Walsh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 2/6/21 Scroll from the Ninth Dimension

(1) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. Christie’s “Deep Impact: Martian, Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites” auction will offer rare meteorites for bid between February 9-23. Wonderful photos at the link.

The weight of every known meteorite is less than the world’s annual output of gold, and this sale offers spectacular examples for every collector, available at estimates ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The sale will offer 72 of the 75 lots at no reserve, with estimates starting at $250….

There are a dozen offerings of the Moon and the planet Mars and another dozen from some of the most famous museums in the world — as well as meteorites containing gems from outer space. 

(2) WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT. In the first issue of the Space Force Journal, a professional journal for the new branch of DoD, Wendy Whitman Cobb tries to separate sf from the SF. “’It’s a Trap!’ The Pros and Mostly ‘Khans’ of Science Fiction’s Influence on the United States Space Force”.

As the United States Space Force has been debated and ultimately stood up, it has often been linked with various science fiction undertakings, most prominently, Star Trek. For the most part, the science fiction connections are not new in the history of space and can be beneficial. Yet being compared to science fiction also presents challenges for the Space Force. This article begins by analyzing both qualitative and quantitative evidence of a science fiction-Space Force link, and finds that this link has been prevalent over the past several years. The space domain is susceptible to science fiction-based influences because of the unknowns that remain with space-based operations. This is even more true with respect to the public’s view of the Space Force. Thus, the leaders of the Space Force are forced to address the cognitive dissonance between what the public expects and what the Space Force can actually achieve in the near- to mid-term. Space Force leaders should therefore focus on “de-science fictionalizing” to draw a distinction between imagined futures and strategic challenges of today….

(3) A COMPLEX STEW OF FEELS. Jeannette Ng shares a whole chain of thoughts set off by watching Wandavision. Thread starts here.

(4) WHY SPECULATIVE POETRY? SPECPO asks SFPA Grand Master – Linda D. Addison.

CA What inspires you to write poetry and why speculative poetry? (What themes do you explore or do they always change?)

LDA: I am a big daydreamer from when I was a young child and those daydreams were always speculative, things like cats with wings. I was totally into the early fables with animals that talked and walked. I’ve always wondered What if? in the realm of Speculative-ness. Although I write fiction too, poetry is my first voice. I hear poetry inside all the time.

Everything inspires me to write, my reactions to the world around me and inside me. I’m not sure I can look at my work and say what themes they explore, since I write organically, without a lot of planning, unless I’m writing to a theme for a project. I would say the themes change, depending on what touches my heart and soul. Perhaps this is a question better answered by my readers.

(5) HOW CAN YOU RESIST? Ann Leckie has something to share:

(6) A FANNISH CENTENNIAL. First Fandom Experience celebrates the hundredth anniversary tomorrow of the birth of John V. Baltadonis (1921-1998) in “JVB 100”. Lots of his early fanzine art, and work he did when he got really good later on. A leading Philadelphia fan who attended the claimed First Convention held in his hometown in 1936, and traveled to New York for the first Worldcon in 1939, Baltadonis was elected to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1998.  

L-R Jack Agnew, Robert A. Madle, John Newton, Oswald V. Train, John V. Baltadonis. PSFS meeting – Nov 17, 1984. Courtesy of David Ritter.

(7) SPIDER-MAN COLLECTOR HAS TO LET GO. Long article about the “Ultimate Spider-Man Collection to Be Sold Under Heart-Wrenching Circumstances” – profiling the rarities and the collector, who is dying from cancer and is selling to set up his wife and daughter after he’s gone.

…If you talk to Levine long enough, soon you realize it’s not necessarily the comics he treasures the most. Anyone with money can buy comics, he notes. It’s the weird stuff that he covets, like a collection of  1990s-era Fruit Roll-Ups boxes that he’s only seen go up for auction once or twice and finally snagged. There’s still one, featuring the villain the Rhino, that he doesn’t own, and it eats him up inside because he’s seen an advertisement for it and knows it exists. (“I’d pay $10,000 for it, because in 35 years I’ve never seen it [at auction],” says Levine.)

These are his holy grails.

Among the other rarities: storyboards for James Cameron’s aborted Spider-Man movie; a never-sold, Spider-Man themed Camel Cigarette pack; and a letter Ditko wrote a fan in which the notoriously grumpy artist tells the recipient what he really thinks.

(8) HENRY OBIT. Actor Mike Henry died January 8 at the age of 84.

…He was cast as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, in three films: Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966), Tarzan and the Great River (1967), and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968).

His run as the jungle lord ended after being bitten by a chimpanzee while filming.

Henry segued into another franchise in 1977, playing Junior, the son of Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice, in Smokey and the Bandit. He reprised the role in the film’s 1981 and 1983 sequels.

Among Henry’s other film roles were appearances in Skyjacked (1972), Soylent Green (1973) and The Longest Yard (1974). His TV credits included roles on M*A*S*H, General Hospital and Fantasy Island….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — Thirty years ago at Denventon Two, Gordon R. Dickson had the ever so rare accomplishment of winning two Hugos at a single Con, first for the Best Novella for “Lost Dorsai” which been published in Destinies v2 #1 Feb/Mar 1980, second for Best Novelette for  “The Cloak and the Staff” which had been published in Analog in August of 1980. Other than an earlier short story Hugo for “ Soldier, Ask Not”, these are the only Hugos that he won.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 6, 1850 – Elizabeth Champney.  Three novels for us; a hundred all told, also shorter stories, essays, poems, travel.  A Vassar woman; see here. From In the Sky-Gardenhere is her husband James Champney’s title page; here is “A Ride on the Rocket-Star”.  (Died 1922) [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a role he reprised in the New Avengers. Avoid the putrid Avengers film which he is not in at peril of your soul. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as BloodsuckersFreedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes, let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely awful remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1924 Sonya Dorman. Her best-known work of SF is “When I Was Miss Dow” which received an Otherwise retrospective award nomination.  She also appeared in Dangerous Visions with the “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” story. Poem “Corruption of Metals” won a Rhysling Award. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1932 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1947 – Eric Flint, age 74.  Auto, oil, and steel worker, glassblower, longshoreman, machinist, meatpacker, truck driver, and trade-union activist, with a master’s degree in History from Univ. Cal. Los Angeles, he’s the publisher of Ring of Fire Press (first virtual RoFcon, 8-11 Oct 20) and the Grantville Gazette; fourscore novels, threescore shorter stories, many with co-authors; anthologies.  He edited the 2002 editions of Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories and Laumer’s Retief stories; wrote an appreciation of Tom Kidd for the 2018 World Fantasy Convention.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 73. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet. (CE)
  • Born February 6, 1950 – Michele Lundgren, age 71.  Known to us as the wife of Detroit graphic artist Carl Lundgren (four Chesleys including Artistic Achievement), she has been doing artwork of her own as a photographer; two books, The Photographic Eye and Side Streets.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1958 – Marc Schirmeister, age 63.  To borrow a line from Robert Silverberg about someone else, we’re all unique here but some of us are more unique than others.  Schirm has quietly – no – unobtrusively – no – well, idiosyncratically drawn Schirmish creatures for AlexiadAmraAsimov’sBanana WingsChungaFantasy BookFile 770FlagNew Toy, the Noreascon 4 Program Book (62nd Worldcon), Riverside QuarterlyVanamonde.  Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon 63.  Rotsler Award.  Did the Five of Wands for Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck – all the images and BP’s introduction here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1959 – Curt Phillips, age 62.  Corflu 50 Fan Fund delegate to Corflu 26 (fanziners’ convention; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to Loncon 3 the 72nd Worldcon; report here.  Interviewed Alexis Gilliland for SF Review.  Co-ordinated celebrations of Bob Madle’s 100th birthday.  Often seen in Banana WingsChungaFile 770FlagRaucous Caucus – the usual suspects.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1974 Rajan Khanna, 47. To quote his website, he’s “an author, reviewer, podcaster, musician, and narrator.”  His three novels are from Pyr Books, all set in a fantastic universe of airships and steampunk, are Falling SkyRising Tide and Raining Fire. The audiobooks are first rate. (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 44. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written by her in Swedish, was translated into English by them which won them a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. Their next novel The Memory Theater is forthcoming this month. (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1990 – Isamu Fukui, age 31.  (Personal name first, U.S. style.)  Three novels, the first written when he was 15, much made of it and him; the others a prequel and a sequel.  See here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • What do we call this, a Bayeaux Tapestry for Star Trek?

(12) A VALENTINE MINE BE. GeekTyrant points out the availability of Star Wars-themed pop-up Valentines. Yoda and Darth are options.

(13) SUPPORT LITERACY. The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers’ fundraising anthology Turning the Tied goes on sale March 13. All proceeds go to the World Literacy Foundation.

Like so many others, we at the IAMTW watched—horrified, heartbroken, and furious—as the tumultuous events transpired in the Spring and Summer of 2020 in the U.S..  The IAMTW added its voice of support to those fighting for better conditions, for justice, and for more equal opportunities for everyone.  We didn’t want to just speak up, however.  We wanted to actually do something, no matter how small,  to contribute to a solution.  To that end…writers write.  What could be more perfect than doing what we love to do, to help others and give readers something they’ll enjoy?  While the social upheaval in the U.S. provided the impetus for this anthology, we realize that marginalization and prejudice are a worldwide problem.  One of the best means of combating the disparities is education.  Therefore all the proceeds from this book will go to the World Literacy Foundation  (https://worldliteracyfoundation.org/) which promotes literacy worldwide with a focus on helping those who are underprivileged.

… This dazzling collection of uplifting and curious tales will take you through the centuries and from the depths of the ocean to the stars. You’ll discover well-known, beloved characters in new settings and circumstances.
Penned by some of the finest writers working in tie-in fiction today.

Sherlock Holmes, John Carter of Mars, Hopalong Cassidy, Mulan, Dracula, Mina Harker, the Three Musketeers, Cyrano de Bergerac, Baron Munchausen, and Frankenstein’s Creature are a scattering of the literary souls that populate these pages. And cats. There are more than a few cats.

(14) BRADBURY’S SOMETHING WICKED. A 2019 ScreenRant listicle claims these are “10 Hidden Details You Didn’t Know About Something Wicked This Way Comes”. Maybe 7 of them were, like this one:

4. Mr. Dark Appears In Another Bradbury Work

Mr. Dark is not only the ringmaster of the carnival but a member of the freakshow as well. His oddity? He is the Illustrated Man, The tattoos over his body shift, change, and alter. This is an impressive visual effect, but it’s also familiar to anyone exposed to Bradbury’s books.

Ray Bradbury’s short story collection, The Illustrated Man, is connected through an encounter with the titular Illustrated Man, whose ever-changing tattoos tell the stories in the book. The character is an aimless wanderer who tells the protagonist he was once a member of a carnival freakshow. Sounding familiar? Perhaps this was the true fate of Mr. Dark after the carnivals destruction? Who knows…

(15) WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? Futurism.com collates reports that “Scientists Are Weaving Human Brain Cells Into Microchips”. Dann sent the link with a note, “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be inspired or terrified by these kinds of stories.”

Brain Jack

It’s not unusual for artificial intelligence developers to take inspiration from the human brain when designing their algorithms or the circuitry they run on, but now a project is taking that biological inspiration a step further.

Scientists from England’s Aston University are physically integrating human brain stem cells into AI microchips, according to a university press release. The goal, the scientists say, is to push the boundaries of what AI can do by borrowing some of the human brain’s processing capabilities.

Neural Boost

The project, dubbed Neu-ChiP, sounds like the beginning of a sci-fi B movie where all-powerful AI runs amok. Typically, projects like this in the field of neuromorphic or brain-inspired computing focus on making AI algorithms more efficient, but Neu-ChiP aims to make them more powerful, too.

“Our aim is to harness the unrivaled computing power of the human brain to dramatically increase the ability of computers to help us solve complex problems,” Aston University mathematician David Saad said in the release. “We believe this project has the potential to break through current limitations of processing power and energy consumption to bring about a paradigm shift in machine learning technology.”

(16) QUICKEST TURNAROUND. “SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites on record-setting used rocket, nails landing”.

 SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink internet satellites to orbit this morning (Feb. 4) on a mission that notched a booster-reusability milestone for the company.

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with the 60 broadband spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station today at 1:19 a.m. EST (0619 GMT). 

Approximately nine minutes later, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth, landing smoothly on one of SpaceX’s drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. The massive ship, “Of Course I Still Love You,” is one of two SpaceX vessels that catch falling boosters and return them to port.

It was the fifth launch for this Falcon 9 first stage, which last flew just 27 days ago — the quickest turnaround between missions for any SpaceX booster….

(17) WORLD OF TOMORROW.  Next week’s Kickstarter might be a way to get a copy into your hands.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Superman Returns/The Science of Superman” on YouTube is a documentary that I believe was originally a bonus feature on the Superman Returns DVD that looks at whether Superman’s powers are scientifically plausible.  For example:  if Superman has heat vision, what’s the heat source?  Does his X-ray vision deal in any way with how X-rays actually act in the real world?  And, a question that entertained our parents when they were kids:  if he’s invulnerable, how does he get a haircut?

Scientists including University of California (Irvine) physicist Michael Dennin and Chapman University biologist Frank Frisch explain the scientifc howlers.  For example, remember in Superman:  The Movie when Lois Lane falls off a skyscraper and Superman flies up to catch her?  Dennin notes that Lois is falling at terminal velocity and if caught by a super-fast Superman Lois’s body would have 1000 times the impact than if Superman had stayed on the ground and caught her.  Even more implausible is the scene where Superman turns back time because, unfortunately, no one has found a way to reverse time.

I thought this was worth an hour.

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