Pixel Scroll 8/10/20
Ancillary Mustache

(1) ADDING A HUGO CATEGORY. Speculative Fiction in Translation’s Rachel Cordasco renews her appeal that “major Anglophone SFF awards should include a separate translation category” in “SFT And The Awards”.

…Really, all of this comes down to a naming problem. If the Hugos are going to be a “World Award,” logically they should include works from around the world, in any language. Since that doesn’t seem likely any time soon, and Anglophone readers generally don’t learn multiple languages unless they have to, then the award should (again, logically) stop calling itself a “World Award” and start acknowledging that, from the very beginning, it has been and still is an award given to English-language SFF by English-language readers.

….And then there’s the whole set of general arguments opposing, or at least not immediately embracing, a separate translation category. I’ve listed a few below:

  • We already have too many award categories.
  • Not enough Anglophone readers read SFT so how could they vote on it?
  • Creating a separate translation category will send the message that SFT is inferior to Anglophone speculative fiction.
  • SFT can win and has won awards without any “help.”
  • But how can we determine if the translation is any good?
  • Changing award rules is too difficult.

I’m going to address each of these points separately, making sure that I reiterate that I am not involved in any of these awards at the executive level, though I did participate in the most recent Locus Awards voting and was able to bring my knowledge of current SFT to the discussion, which I truly appreciated.

You may also know that I started a “Favorite SFT” poll in 2018, which is open to anyone who would like to vote (once!). This approach has its flaws but it’s the best I can do with the resources I have. Just the fact that the poll exists makes me think that more people are becoming aware that SFT does exist.

To the first point that “we already have too many award categories”: so what? And also, is a translated category somehow less important than the “Young Adult” or “First Novel” category? And to the subpoint that some translated work might win in two categories, can’t that happen with other categories? And aren’t there ways to get around that? I freely admit that I’m not cut out for business meetings and deciding rules about rules- which is one of the reasons why I’m not on these committees. This is just me on a website putting forth my opinions, against which everyone is free to argue. (Just be respectful when you rip me to shreds, ok?)….

(2) DAY AFTER DAY. SYFY Wire explores “The Unending Appeal Of Time Loops”. But only once.

…But outside of a stay-at-home crisis, time loops have gained traction in their appeal due to the same themes that made Groundhog Day so popular to begin with. Like the drunken locals that Phil Conners laments to in Punxsutawney, or the fellow wedding guest in the Palm Springs hotel pool talking to Samberg’s Nyles, those existing outside the loop can relate on a visceral level to the experience of feeling like today is the same as yesterday and tomorrow. For Bill Murray, the appeal of Groundhog Day as a script was its representation of people’s fear of change, and how we choose to repeat our daily lives to avoid it. These themes echoed in Russian Doll, which as a bingeable streaming series really allowed audiences to inhabit the repetitive nature of the loops, ironically utilizing the same technologies that have sped our lives up and caused them to feel even more cyclical.

(3) FIYAHCON. I signed up for FIYAHCON (October 17-18) news in time to receive its August Update naming three more guests:

FIYAHCON tweeted additional information: Rebecca Roanhorse: “We suspect you know @RoanhorseBex from all of that constant award-winning she does as a Black + Indigenous writer of many brilliant things.”; Cassie Hart: “is a Maori writer who’s been working intensely behind the scenes to shine a light on SFF from Aotearoa while grinding out an impressive number of works herself.”; Yasser Bahjatt: “chaired the Worldcon bid for Saudi Arabia. And while that didn’t land, we are thrilled to hear more from him about Arabian SFF and other ways we can uplift and celebrate the spec community there.”

The three newcomers join FIYAHCON’s previously announced guests:

There’s also an educational FIYAH Definition T-Shirt that’s new.

(4) THE NEXT MARTIAN. io9 points to today’s trailer drop: “Hilary Swank Is on a Mission to Mars in the Emotional First Trailer for Netflix’s Away.

She’s boldly going where no one has gone before, but doing so means leaving the people she loves the most. We’ve got the first trailer for Netflix’s Away, a new series that sees Hilary Swank joining the first manned mission to Mars—a three-year journey that will test the limits of its crew, as well as the patience of those who were left behind….

(5) JUST SAYIN’. Jay Blanc tweeted his ideas for improving Hugo administration. Thread starts here. Whether or not he has the solution (and CoNZealand Deputy Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte responded skeptically in the thread), I had to agree with Blanc’s last tweet about what one of the problems is.

He’s not alone in marveling at how many times in the past decade the Hugos have been hamstrung because someone was writing code from scratch. That doesn’t always happen for the same reason. We didn’t always need or want, in the past, a system that integrates all aspects of a member’s digital interaction with the convention. That’s what they’re moving toward, therefore it would make sense for that software to be created and stabilized. Funding it, having the work done and vetted, and working out licensing to the committees (which are entities of their own) would all be part of the mission.

(6) THE EYES HAVE IT. “Looking Forward on Looking Backwards” at The Hugo Book Club Blog.

… Because they are voted on primarily by people who were born decades after the original publication dates, the Retro Hugos are less likely to recognize work that has not been reprinted. This means that the average Retro Hugo voter inevitably experiences the works they’re voting on through a filter created by the intervening generations. Other than Erle KorshakCora Buhlert, and Gideon Marcus, we’d be hard-pressed to name a Hugo voter who is likely to have read a 1945-era pulp magazine cover-to-cover and experienced the works in something like their original context….

No need to be so “hard-pressed.” You have not because you ask not.

…For the Retro Hugos to be relevant and worthwhile awards, we as members of the World Science Fiction Society need to wrestle with why the awards need to exist. Is their intent to reproduce the racist tastes of the past or can they help focus a critical lens on the history of the genre and help us discover works that might have been overlooked?

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 10, 1951 Tales Of Tomorrow first broadcast the “Blunder” in which a scientist is warned his experiment with nuclear fission could destroy the earth. Written by Philip Wylie who wrote the screenplay for When Worlds Collide.  The primary cast is Robert Allen and Ann Loring. It was directed by Leonard Valenta who otherwise did soap,operas. The original commercials are here as well.  You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and sf films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter  from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and just a few other works are available in digital form. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows about as it’s often added to that mythical genre canon and several more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows of. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes of which ISFDB documents that four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World: “Kidneys — Like Father Used to Make” and “Pea Soup — Potage Ste. Germaine“ being two of them. (Died 1978.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1913 Noah Beery Jr. Genre-wise, he’s best remembered as Maj. William Corrigan on the Fifties classic SF film Rocketship X-M, but he showed up in other genre undertakings as well such as 7 Faces of Dr. LaoThe Six Million Dollar ManFantasy IslandBeyond Witch MountainThe Ghost of Cypress Swamp and The Cat Creeps. I think he appeared in one of the earliest Zorro films made where he’s credited just as a boy, he’d be seven then, The Mark of Zorro which had Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and his father, Noah Beery Sr. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1931 – Alexis Gilliland, 89.  Seven novels, six shorter stories and a Feghoot; Campbell (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Chaired six Disclaves.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) met at his house for decades.  One of our finest fanartists.  Four Hugos, three FAAn (FAn Activity Achievement) Awards, Rotsler.  Letters, perhaps three hundred cartoons in AlexiadAlgolAmazingAnalogAsimov’sChungaFantasy ReviewFlagJanusLocusMimosaPulphouseSF EyeSF CommentarySF ReviewSFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) BulletinStar*Line, Worldcon Souvenir Books.  Here is a cover for SF Review.  See hereherehere.  Makes good deviled eggs.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1944 Barbara Erskine, 76. I’m including her because I’ve got a bit of a mystery. ISFDB lists her as writing over a dozen genre novels and her wiki page says she has a fascination with the supernatural but neither indicates what manner of genre fiction she wrote. I’m guessing romance or gothic tinged with the supernatural based on the covers but that’s just a guess. What do y’all know about her? (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 65. Best-known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a most excellent series about the few Greek gods who have made to the present day. Though not genre in the slightest way, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s an adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1955 – Tom Kidd, 65.  Eight Chesleys.  Artbooks KiddographyOtherWorldsHow to Draw & Paint Dragons.  Three hundred eighty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Here is Not This August.  Here is the Oct 83 Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Here is Songs of the Dying Earth.  Here is Overruled.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1962 – Horia Gâbea, Sc.D., 58.  Romanian playwright, poet, essayist, novelist, engineer, popularizer of contract bridge.  University of Bilbao prize for poetry.  The Serpent performed by the British Royal Court Theatre.  Translator of Chekhov, Corneille, John D. MacDonald, Machiavelli.  Accused of being “gratuitously bookish…. a pun more important than a murder…. thin and edgy like a razor…. forgives no one no thing.” Worlds and Beings anthology in English.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 55. Best-known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space RangersHighlanderQuantum LeapRelic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on Starhyke, a six-episode series shot in ‘05 you can on Amazon Prime.  (CE)
  • Born August 10, 1971 – Lara Morgan, 49.  Six novels for us.  “Her mission is to rid the world of tea, one cup at a time.  This is going quite well.”  She liked All Our Yesterdays, alas for me not Harry Warner’s but Cristin Terrill’s; ranked Ender’s Game about the same as Lilith’s Brood.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 10, 1985 – Andrew Drilon, 35.  A dozen short stories; Philippine Speculative Fiction 9 with Charles Tan; four covers, three dozen interiors; comics.  Here is Heroes, Villains, and Other Women.  Here is WonderLust.  Here is a sequence from his own Whapak! [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) DOUBLE-OH BRACKETS. Morgan Jeffery, in “Sean Connery named the best James Bond as thousands of 007 fans vote in our poll” in Radio Times, says that 14,000 James Bond fans voted to see who the best Bond of all time was, with Sir Sean Connery first, Timothy Dalton second, and Pierce Brosnan third.  Sam Heughan from Outlander was named the #1 choice to be the new Bond in the survey,

…Round 1 saw Connery knock out current 007 actor Daniel Craig, coming out on top with 56 per cent of the vote compared to Craig’s 43 per cent, while Pierce Brosnan winning Round 2 with 76 per cent against his opponent George Lazenby’s 24 per cent.

Round 3 saw perhaps the most surprising result yet, as Roger Moore was knocked out of the competition – with 41 per cent of the vote, he lost out to his immediate successor Timothy Dalton, who scored 49 per cent of the vote.

(11) TOP TEN. ScreenRant lists “Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy”. After all, nobody wants to buy just plain old Trek merchandise. And one item meets a need of Filers who never have enough of these —

4. Next Generation Spoons

At some point, someone decided that Star Trek fans were fanatical about cutlery and all things fine dining, hence the creations of a series of elegant Next Generation spoons.

The high-quality spoons feature the faces of fan-favorite characters such as Captain Picard and Data on the handle of each implement. While nice its almost impossible to imagine anyone actually using these spoons to eat with and the illogical decisions that led to their creation would no doubt befuddle Spock.

(12) APOLLO 1 INVESTIGATION. Dwayne Day continues his exploration of space history with new details about the Apollo 1 fire of 1967 in The Space Review: “After the fire: a long-lost transcript from the Apollo 1 fire investigation”.

As long as there has been spaceflight, there have been conspiracy theories. There were conspiracy theories about Sputnik in the late 1950s (“their Germans are better than our Germans”) and dead cosmonauts in the early 1960s. Even before some people claimed—on the very day that it happened—that the Moon landing was faked, Apollo had its own conspiracy theories. In those days it was difficult for them to propagate and reach a wide audience, unlike today, when they can spread around the world at the speed of light. One of those Apollo conspiracy theories was about a whistleblower named Thomas Baron, who later died under mysterious circumstances.

Baron worked on the Apollo program in Florida for one of the key contractors. After the Apollo 1 fire in early 1967, Baron testified before a congressional fact-finding delegation that went to Florida. He later died under what some people considered to be mysterious circumstances, fueling speculation that he was killed to shut him up. The transcript of his testimony also could not be found by later researchers, which fueled the speculation that somebody was covering up damaging information.

In 1999, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, radio station WAMU in Washington, DC, aired a program about the role of Washington politics in the lunar landing. “Washington Goes to the Moon” was written and produced by Richard Paul and featured interviews with a number of key figures in the story. Paul had decided that the Apollo 1 fire and the subsequent investigations into its cause would be a key focus of the program. In the course of researching the fire, he stumbled upon a document that many believed was long-lost: a transcript of an interview with Thomas Baron, who alleged that there were numerous improper actions taken by his employer, North American Aviation, which was building the spacecraft.

(13) THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE. “The nuclear mistakes that nearly caused World War Three” – BBC kept count.

From invading animals to a faulty computer chip worth less than a dollar, the alarmingly long list of close calls shows just how easily nuclear war could happen by mistake.

…All told, there have been at least 22 alarmingly narrow misses since nuclear weapons were discovered. So far, we’ve been pushed to the brink of nuclear war by such innocuous events as a group of flying swans, the Moon, minor computer problems and unusual space weather. In 1958, a plane accidentally dropped a nuclear bomb in a family’s back garden; miraculously, no one was killed, though their free-range chickens were vaporised. Mishaps have occurred as recently as 2010, when the United States Air Force temporarily lost the ability to communicate with 50 nuclear missiles, meaning there would have been no way to detect and stop an automatic launch.

(14) BLOCKHOUSE FOR BLOCKHEADS? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Schultz, in “For Sale: A Cold War Bunker and Missile Silo in North Dakota” on Atlas Obscura, says that tomorrow auctioneers will sell a 50-acre site in North Dakota that housed a missile base loaded with Sprint missiles that were supposed to be the last line of defense against Soviet ICBM’s.  The missiles are gone but the buildings are still there, and it’s perfect for a slan shack or future Worldcon bid, or would be an ideal place to conduct fan feuds.  What better place to launch verbal missiles than a place that housed real missiles? Plus all the former missile silos are guaranteed to be socially distant from each other!

HALF AN HOUR SOUTH OF the Canadian border, in Fairdale, North Dakota, a hulking concrete structure rises up from the flat fields that surround it. The beige buildings are so prominent on an otherwise pastoral landscape that they could be mistaken for a 20th-century Stonehenge.

It’s a Cold War missile site, and it’s for sale.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. In “The Lord of The Rings:  The Two Towers Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George promises a film with “a whole lot of walking.  Even the trees walk.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/9/20 Pixel The Scroll That Makes You Happy

(1) NEW NINTH DOCTOR STORIES COMING FROM BIG FINISH. Christopher Eccleston has finally come around to playing the Doctor again announces BBC Studios.

Big Finish Productions, in association with BBC Studios announces the long-awaited return of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.

First seen on screen in 2005, Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor introduced a whole new generation of fans to Doctor Who.

Now he’s back, with a brand-new series of twelve fantastic full-cast audio adventures in space and time, due to be released across four box sets, starting with volume one in May 2021.

Christopher Eccleston said: “After 15 years it will be exciting to revisit the Ninth Doctor’s world, bringing back to life a character I love playing.”

Big Finish’s own press release hints at how Eccleston was won over (even after turning down Steven Moffat’s attempt to get him for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who).

Big Finish’s Chairman, Jason Haigh-Ellery said: “I first talked to Christopher about returning to the role of the Doctor at the Gallifrey One convention in February this year. Christopher said he was enjoying meeting the fans and was pleased that his Doctor was remembered so fondly.  He indicated he would be open to discussing a project with Big Finish. 

“And then the pandemic happened and time moved both quickly and very slowly. Over recent months, ideas have been exchanged and discussions had. I am so pleased that Christopher has decided to return to the role with us – and I’m excited to welcome him to the Big Finish family as we discover the new adventures of the Ninth Doctor.” 

(2) SCARY GOOD. On the Horror Writers Association blog: “HWA Poetry Showcase Featured Poets” features a Q&A with Sarah Read, K.P. Kulski, and Sarah Tantlinger.

(3) WHERE TO FIND THEM. James W. Harris has been working on analysis and comparison of lists of the “great works” of SFF for several years. This week, while everyone else is busy damning the canon, he posted about the optimal solution for acquiring all the greatest sff stories in as few anthologies as possible. “The SF Anthology Problem – Solved” at Classics of Science Fiction.

Two years ago when we completed version 1 of The Classics of Science Fiction Short Story list I proposed a math challenge. Version 1 came up with 275 stories. I asked if there was any mathematically way to decide what were the fewest anthologies that contained all 275 stories using ISFDB.org as a reference database. Version 1 was generated using .csv files. Since then we updated the process to a database for version 2 of the list, which produced 101 stories — we believe that was a more practical reading list.

A science fiction fan could read the entire list over the summer by reading one story a day, or in a year by reading one story every three days, but where would they get the 101 science fiction short stories?…

(4) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s“The Full Lid for 7th August 2020”processes his experiences with the virtual CoNZealand.

…To all the CoNZealand volunteers: I see you. I see your hard work. Thank you.

The issues being raised by our community this week are with the structure you inherited and were bound by. None of that is the fault of volunteers, acting with minimal resources, time, communication and support.

My intention here is to report my own experiences and do so honestly. There are things that have to be done to make this experience better for everyone. My hope is my experiences can help with that.

It includes a segment evaluating the successes and criticisms of CoNZealand Fringe.

(5) A THING OF BEAUTY. The Astounding Award.

(6) RESTART TREK. All those Star Trek movies you’ve read about being developed in the past couple of years? You might not be hearing about some of them any more. Mike Fleming Jr., in the Deadline story “Emma Watts’ Top Priority At Paramount: Figure Out ‘Star Trek’ Reboot” says that Paramount CEO Watts has shelved all existing scripts for the fourth Star Trek movie, including one with Noah Hawley as writer/director, one with Mark L. Smith as writer and Quentin Tarantino as director, and one with S.J. Clarkson as director that would have had Chris Hemsworth play Chris Pine’s father.  But since Star Trek is a “monster franchise” for Paramount so Star Trek 4 will get made.

…What we’re hearing is that both the [Noah] Hawley pic — which calls for a new cast and might be about a deadly virus which might feel awkward given current circumstance — and the [Mark L.] Smith version — [Quentin] Tarantino dropped out as director, but the project is still viable based on an episode of the classic Star Trek series that takes place largely earthbound in a 30s gangster setting — might serve the franchise best as Logan-like spinoffs when the core franchise has been revitalized. But that the other one might have the cleanest path toward a relaunch, with an emphasis on boosting overseas gross numbers which have never been the franchise’s strong suit. These decisions will take place over the next few weeks.

(7) A GEM IN WAITING. ScreenRant’s Crag Elvy pooh-pooh’s the idea of a Silmarillion adaptation, but doesn’t go so far as to whinny a big horse laugh at it: “Lord of the Rings: Why A Silmarillion Movie Wouldn’t Work”.

But just because The Silmarillion could be turned into a feature-length film, that doesn’t necessary mean it should be. The book offers a fascinating insight into Middle-earth’s long history, adding context to the events of The Lord of the Rings and widening the lore in fascinating and organic ways. Arguably, there are events in The Silmarillion that eclipse anything in Tolkien’s more famous books in terms of importance. However, The Silmarillion is not a conventional novel in the same style as The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. There is no central protagonist, while the narrative spans many eras of time and vast expanses of geography. Moreover, The Silmarillion reads more like a religious text or a history textbook (albeit an infinitely more interesting one) than a story with a clear beginning, middle and end. Telling the same sort of heroic tale movie fans are used to would be a tough ask from The Silmarillion‘s source material, as would constructing one complete start-to-finish narrative suitable for mainstream cinema.

(8) BEYOND THE PANDEMIC. ConTamination2020,  “An online convention using Science Fiction & Science to explore pandemics and the long-term future of humanity,” will be held September 12-13, 2020, between 1p.m.-9p.m. GMT+1. The con is being organized by a small group of volunteers interested in using speculative fiction to explore the future of humanity after COVID-19, led by Vivienne Raper, Kat Kourbeti, and Catrin Osborne. Follow them on Twitter here.  

To avoid stepping on any toes, we’ve narrowed the focus of ConTamination to be a science-meets-speculative-fiction convention. Our aim is to tackle the big questions that many of us are asking about the future, and our place as science fiction and fantasy fans within it.

They’re looking for volunteers – if you’re interested, click on the “ConTamination 2020 Volunteer Interest Form”.

In a time of social distancing and home isolation, how about we all get together to talk books, pandemics, and the social impact this current evolving crisis will have worldwide, in both science and literature?

We still have open slots for panels so if you are interested in speaking and have a topic in mind that relates to any of the theme strands of the convention (science, fiction, or social change – where it relates to pandemics and the way we are dealing with the current pandemic), however remotely, do reach out and let us know your thoughts.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 9, 1996John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. as it was stylized on screen premiered. The sequel to Escape from New York, it was co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter, co-written and produced by Debra Hill and Kurt Russell, with Russell again starring as Snake Plissken. It also co-stars Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, and Pam Grier.  Reception was definitely mixed. With most critics thinking the script was uneven, the film bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 39% rating.  Carpenter has said that, “Escape from L.A. is better than the first movie. Ten times better.” (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 – P.L. Travers.  Four novels, two shorter stories and a cookbook about Mary Poppins; other novels, poetry, nonfiction.  Also had a career as an actress; parents disapproved, thus “Pamela Travers”.  First two MP books unsurpassed, perhaps unequaled.  Translated into Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian.  Never happy with the Disney version though it made her rich; “It’s glamourous and a good film on its own level, but I don’t think it’s very like my books.”  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1908 – Joan Kiddell-Monroe.  Author and illustrator, famous for children’s books.  Oxford Myths & Legends (i.e. Oxf. Univ. Press).  Muriel Levy’s six Adventures of Wonk.  Four of her own In His Little Black Waistcoat about a panda.  Aesop’s Fables.  Arabian Nights.  Here is “The Exploits of Hanuman”.  Here is Queen Amata singing of Turnus and Lavinia from The Aeneid.  Here is a cover for The Magic Bed-Knob.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1914 Tove Jansson. Swedish-speaking Finnish artist wrote the Moomin books for children, starting in 1945 with Småtrollen och den stora översvämninge (The Moomins and the Great Flood). Over the next decades, there would a total of nineteen books. Currently Moominvalley, the new animated series is playing, on Netflix. And Terry Pratchett in “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” credits her for him becoming a fiction writer. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1920 – Jack Speer.  Pioneer of fanhistory with Up to Now (1939) and what we now know as Fancyclopedia I (1944).  Introduced mailing comments, i.e. on others’ contributions in mailings, or distributions, of amateur publishing associations, thus ancestor of blog postings.  His SF Song Sheet at Chicon I (2nd Worldcon) was the ancestor of filk music; the costume party he and Milt Rothman suggested was the ancestor of the spectacular on-stage contest we call the Masquerade.  Fancestral Voices collects his fanwriting.  When in my fanzine Vanamonde I misspelled the famous typo poctsarcd he promptly wrote back “Nothing is sacrd.”  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1941 – Jamila Gavin, F.R.S.L., 79.  Her Indian father and English mother met in Iran; she calls herself half and half.  The Wheel of Surya, two sequels, follow two generations of Indian Sikhs; The Magic Orange TreeThree Indian Goddesses and Three Indian Princesses are short stories from Indian legends; she is also a patroness of the Shakespeare Schools Festival.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories, for us; twoscore more books (e.g. Coram Boy about the 18th Century foundling hospital established by Thomas Coram; Whitbread Prize).  Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.  [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 76. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits, Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. (CE) 
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 73. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 71. Author of two novels so far in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1953 – Jim Theis.  To him is attributed The Eye of Argon, said to be from 1970 when the author was 17 (maybe 16 when he wrote it).  For two decades he has been subject to De mortuis nil nisi bonum (Latin, “Of the dead, say nothing but good”, various reasons e.g. they cannot defend themselves), to which the reply may be that we are speaking not of him but of his Eye, or that it’s so bad it’s —  anyway, see here.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 9, 1956 Adam Nimoy, 64. Son of the Leonard Nimoy and the actress Sandra Zober. His wife is Terry Farrell.  He’s directed episodes of Babylon 5Next GenerationThe Outer Limits (he directed his father in the “I, Robot” episode, and Sliders. He’s responsible for For the Love of Spock, the documentary about his father. (CE)
  • Born August 9, 1970 – Thomas Lennon, 50.  Actor, screenwriter, producer-director, guitarist.  Played Eddie the Shipboard Computer in the 2005 film of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mr. Mxyzptlk in Supergirl on CW television this year.  Two novels for us; the first, Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles, was a NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville calls into a Trekkie talk show.
  • Prickly City wonders if Earthmen should stay home.
  • Non Sequitur says these complaints have been valid for a long while.
  • Another Non Sequitur has the “true reason” these species missed Noah’s Ark.

(12) THE UPSIDE OF THE PANDEMIC. Sir Julius Vogel Best Novel winner Sascha Stronach thinks, “One of the few saving graces of this year’s worldcon is that we didn’t end up having to host all these very important writers in TSB Arena, the worst events venue in New Zealand.” Thread starts here.

(13) FIRST THINGS FIRST. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick says “‘The First Sister’ Is Stylish, Substantial — And Very Cool — Space Opera”.

Linden A. Lewis’s debut novel The First Sister (book one in a trilogy of the same name) is a lot of fun, as stylish as it is substantial. Would you like your space opera with the social commentary and swaggery cool of Alexandre Dumas, with a dash of Cowboy Bebop and some awesome queer characters? Are you interested in political maneuverings and space economics, fantastically rich worldbuilding and sneaky spy stories? Read on. First Sister might be just the book you’ve been waiting for.

(14) IT’S IN THE CARDS. In The Washington Post Magazine, Gavin Edwards went to the 2019 Magic: The Gathering Mythic Championship in Richmond to profile players able to compete at a level where they can win serious money.  He note that nearly all of the top Magic:  The Gathering players are men, but Jessica Estephan, the first woman to win a Magic Grand Prix tournament, says that rather than two or three women at a big tournament, “I need more than two hands” to count the women competing, “and that just blows my mind and I love it.” “Strange Magic”.

The best Magic players have their games broadcast on Twitch with up to 30,000 people watching at once and up to 750,000 sampling the tournament at some point.

…After Lee gathered his cards and departed, Nettles told me quietly, “He’s a high-profile player, a Hall of Fame guy. I’m a tier below.” (Magic does have an official Hall of Fame, honoring 48 of its greatest competitors.) Nettles had played enough matches against the world’s best Magic players to assess his abilities vs. theirs: “I make a mistake in three percent of the games, they might make a mistake in one percent, and that’s the difference in a tournament.” One minute you’re a hero; the next minute, you’re a goat. Or in this case, an elk.

In 2019, Wizards provided 32 top players with sponsorship contracts worth $75,000 and, almost as important, gave them automatic invitations to major tournaments. Nettles wasn’t in that tier, but he had played well enough at Magic tournaments to get a sponsorship from a company that makes protective card sleeves, allowing him to play the game for a living.

(15) AARGHONOMICS. “The pandemic has put video game equipment in unusually high demand. The gaming chair is ascendant,” declares the New York Times: “This Is Not a Desk Chair”. (It is also not the chair John Scalzi recently bought. I checked.)

In a rented home on a sunny street in Los Angeles, a team of professional gamers sat hunched over in swivel chairs while a pair of ergonomic specialists observed their posture, asked questions and took notes.

The gamers reported pain in their necks, their lower backs, their hips, wrists and shoulders. Carpal tunnel was a common complaint. Most of them were not yet 20.

Over several days in May 2018, specialists who had come from Herman Miller, the modern furniture company, and Logitech, the computer accessory and software manufacturer, watched professional teams practice in their training facilities (often large homes they shared with teammates) and play in a tournament.

They noticed how the gamers gripped their toes on the bases of their chairs to support their bodies, how they would incline forward when they played and how, in their downtime, they would exhibit what Herman Miller personnel dubbed “the teenage slouch.”

“We’re over 50, we don’t know anything about gaming,” said John Aldrich, the vice president of advanced engineering at Herman Miller, which is best known for its Eames lounge chair and mid-century modern furniture. “Watching multimillionaire 19-year-olds playing games was not what I expected to do with my career.”

Perhaps not, but Mr. Aldrich has devoted much of his professional life to ergonomic design, an area of relevance to anyone who sits for extended periods of time, as gamers do. And many players gravitate toward models that resemble chunkier, aggressively colorful office chairs….

(16) DON”T FORGET TO CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a talk given at Boskone 5 (1968): “Larry Niven: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation.” We didn’t have YouTube in Ye Olde Days, so this material was still all new to me when Niven reprised it at a convention I attended a few years later.

In this audio recording (illustrated with dozens of images), Larry Niven gives a delightful talk on the effects of teleportation on a society. Five years before his “Flash Crowd” was published, this recording is a grand exposition of what goes on in this author’s mind as he works out the impact of new technology. “The limitations you assume for your teleportation are going to define your society.” Isaac Asimov (and a number of other audience members) challenge Larry with questions and suggestions. There’s even a chalkboard talk (which you can follow from the audio). The program provides a very entertaining and complete logical framework for thinking about the problems and advantages of different implementations of mechanical teleportation, with the eager participation of the engineers in the audience.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/7/20 I Saw The Thing Comin’ Out Of The Sky, It Had The One Long File, One Big Eye

(1) WISH YOU WERE HERE. NASA unveiled “8 Martian Postcards to Celebrate Curiosity’s Landing Anniversary”.

Two sizes of wind-sculpted ripples are evident in this view of the top surface of a Martian sand dune. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth. The larger ripples — roughly 10 feet (3 meters) apart — are a type not seen on Earth nor previously recognized as a distinct type on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since Aug. 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today.

(2) MEET R.F. KUANG. Andrea Johnson notes she did this Nerds of a Feather  Q&A, “Interview: R.F. Kuang, author of The Burning God”, before Kuang won the 2020 Astounding Award. Still plenty to interest readers here.

NOAF: When you first started outlining and writing The Poppy War, did you know how the trilogy would end?

R.F. Kuang: Yes, I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. I always come up with the ending first. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, but I can’t get started on a story unless I know where it’s all going; I need to give some direction to the story engine. I’ve been picturing the final scene in my mind for years and years, so it’s a relief to finally get it down on paper. So yes, I actually always conceived of The Poppy War as just the prequel material to the stuff I really wanted to write.

(3) WFC POC. World Fantasy Con, which will take place online October 29-November 1, is taking applications as well as donations for People of Color sponsored memberships.

In early June, WFC 2020 launched an initiative to help ensure that our convention is inclusive and that our program encompasses the diverse cultures and peoples that enrich the literature and art of fantasy and horror. Thanks to donations from many of our members and our sponsors, we have been able to sponsor attending memberships for twenty-eight people of color – so far. This initiative will continue until registration closes in late October. To donate to this fund, or to apply for a sponsored membership, visit this page on our website.
 
WFC 2020 operates under the auspices of Utah Fandom Organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your donation may be tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.

(4) EDITS4BLACKSFF. “Diana M. Pho Announces the #Edits4BlackSFF Project, Which Offers Free Editorial Services to Black Speculative Writers”Tor.com has the story. Application details at the the project link.

Three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor Diana M. Pho has announced a new project dedicated to helping Black speculative fiction novelists get traditionally published. Entitled #Edits4BlackSFF, the project will select nine finalists for a free query letter review and 10-page line edit of their manuscript(s), with the winner receiving both a free developmental edit and consideration for representation from a pool of 8 literary agents.

(5) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM. John Scalzi’s “Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again” actually has no theological content at all.

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.

I’ve essayed this before, because I’m me, but here’s my newest set of thoughts on the matter, also because I’m me. Ready? Here we go:

As a practical matter, the science fiction “canon” is already dead….

(6) CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Camestros Felapton offered his take on things in “Canon and Campbell”. I looked at this excerpt and asked myself, “What more needs be said?” And yet, Camestros thought of something.

…On the first point I’d cite Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion, which has canonical qualities to it but which is also a shining example of something that is not required reading….

(7) STAMPS AFOOT. The Royal Mail will issue new Sherlock stamps on August 16 with secret messages embedded. What those messages are is displayed at the top of this Design Week article: “Royal Mail’s Sherlock Holmes stamps contain ‘secret messages’”.

…So founder Steve Haskin tells Design Week that designing the stamps was a “labour of love”. The stamps are based on fans’ most popular episodes, from the series premiere A Study in Pink to the series two cliff-hanger The Reichenbach Fall. Taking into account the global Sherlock Holmes fanbase, and its attention to detail, the studio pored over episodes to extract the “minutest moments” from Sherlock episodes.

Characters were taken from those episodes and placed in the foreground of the stamps, such as Irene Adler from the second series premiere A Scandal in Belgravia. These portraits had to be “strong” and “poignant” as they are focal point. “Special moments” were then illustrated using screengrabs and composed onto each stamp.

(8) KÜNSKEN STYX WITH IT. At the Hugo Book Club Blog, “Interview with Derek Künsken – Author of The House Of Styx”.

What was the main theme that you wanted to tackle in The House of Styx?

I was flying to the Nebulas conference, I think it was in 2013. I had already created all of the biology in the clouds of Venus, but I didn’t really have a story to tell with this. I had a sort of survival story, but something was missing. This was going on at the same time as some of the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debates were happening in Quebec — and I’m half-Quebecois myself.

So I was following the news and basically it was appalling to see some of the discourse around “how should Arab people integrate into Quebec.” It quite obviously came from a place of intolerance. Then I realized that the caustic intolerance that I was observing in society was a perfect metaphor for the sort of acidic environment of the clouds of Venus. And so I wrote that story, but there was so much more to it that — as soon as I had sold it to Analog — I realized I had another novel or two in me dealing with those kinds of characters, that kind of political setting and that kind of metaphorical environment.

(9) IN COUNTRY. Paste Magazine says Lovecraft Country’s Pulpy Call Is One Even Cthulhu Couldn’t Resist”.

Ranging from Chicago’s South Side (the show was partially shot in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood) to the eerie East Coast where Lovecraft’s tales haunted their hapless sailors and professors, Lovecraft Country tracks the cruel magicks of legacy while pointing out at every turn that its genre’s legacy is steeped in racism. Just because Lovecraft was a racist dickhead on a cosmic scale doesn’t mean Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) doesn’t love his brand of fiction. Tic and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) kick off the series on a Jim Crow-defying quest to find Atticus’ missing father (Michael K. Williams)—who’s off in search of their family’s secretive and spooky “birthright”—accompanied by Tic’s childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollet).

….[It] could be a magical universe that exists just under the surface of his own, but it’s certainly not an exciting call to adventure. It’s trouble. Why? Because he’s Black, and Blackness doesn’t mix well with America’s entrenched systems—even if they’re magical ones.

This simple twist works to deconstruct the more conventional aspects of the series. That doesn’t mean the show lacks convention: there’s always water rising or bridges collapsing or demons seducing or heroes smooching. If a magazine from the ‘50s featured it on the cover, you can bet it’ll be bolder and Blacker in Lovecraft Country.

(10) HOT ON THE TRAIL. Alexis Soloski’s not-uncritical but interesting piece on Lovecraft in today’s New York Times is made timely by the imminent premier of Lovecraft Country. “Gods, Monsters and H.P. Lovecraft’s Uncanny Legacy”.

…Broadly — and with plenty of exceptions — Lovecraft’s stories suggest huge and unfathomable horrors lurking just beneath the surface of the mundane world. Filled with miscegenation, tentacles and unspeakable dread, his works often begin with ordinary or ordinary-seeming men drawn into extraordinary and otherworldly situations. Almost no one gets out alive or sane. His brand of weird is gooey and misanthropic, with an insistence that the universe is at best indifferent to human life and at worst antagonistic.

To adapt a Lovecraft work is to reckon with a troubled and troubling legacy — blatant racism and sexual phobias blight much of his work. Still, he remains influential, with his sinister, squishy qualities still felt across media — television, film, fiction, comics, video games, role-playing games, visual art, plushies — and multiple genres. The stomach monster from “Alien”? Extremely Lovecraft. That giant squid from “Watchmen”? Lovecraft again. The devouring Shoggoths from the “Lovecraft Country” pilot? A squelching tip of the hat.

If you don’t know your Yog-Sothoth from your Shub-Niggarath — good! Run while you can! But if you hold your sanity lightly, here is a brief guide to the man, the monsters and the popular culture slime trail his works have left behind.

(11) SINCE TOLKIEN. “From Tolkien to Hungarian folklore: a brief history of Hungarian fantasy literature” in Daily News Hungary is an English-language article by Barbara Simon.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 7, 1940 — The Adventures Of Superman radio program aired “Taos: Pillar Of Fire At Graves End”. It starred Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander but the former was kept a secret from the audience for another six years. Based on the comic created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, Superman, it was thought that it would be better if the actor was more mysterious, so he was kept anonymous. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 7, 1871 – Abanindranth Tagore.  Writer, painter, bridger of Euro-American and Asian artwork.  Literary fame for Bengali stories as told to children.  Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, helped clear RT’s road to the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Fantasy elements integral.  Brought Chinese and Japanese elements into his own graphics.  See hereherehereherehere.  On his Khirer Putul Wikipedia says “sugar doll”, the French translation has “cheese doll”, which both miss the metaphor of khir.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1903 Rudolf Ising. He was an early staffer to Walt Disney who left to create the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons at Warner.  He produced Hanna and Barbera’s first cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot, a cartoon featuring characters later known as Tom and Jerry. He was the first independent cartoon producer to win an Academy Award. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1928 – Milton Lesser.  For us eight novels, a hundred sixty stories, see hereherehere; letters in AmazingAstonishingFantasticPlanet.  Fictional memoirs of Cervantes, Columbus (won Prix Gutenberg du Livre), Goya, Poe.  Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1933 – Jerry Pournelle, Ph.D.  Thirty novels, a dozen shorter stories, three dozen anthologies, many with co-authors; two hundred essays, letters, in AlgolThe Alien CriticDestiniesGalaxyOmniThe Patchin ReviewSF AgeSF ChronicleSF ReviewStarshipTrumpet; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.  Lucifer’s Hammer and Footfall (with Larry Niven) on NY Times Best-Sellers list.  Seventh SFWA President (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award.  Aerospace.  Computer journalist.  Founding President of Pepperdine Research Institute.  We met for lunch and disagreed.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1936 Richard L. Tierney, 84. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art. Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 63. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 – Lis Carey, 63.  Active Boston fan, faithful Filer.  Chair of Boskone 46.  Here she is at BucConeer (56th Worldcon) helping with the Bostando (Boston for Orlando) 2001 Worldcon bid (L to R. Suford Lewis, LC, Tim Roberge).  A few fiction and non-fiction books she’s read, her ranking higher to lower: Omar Bradley (by S. Ossad), Children of Blood & Bone (T. Adeyemi), Queens of Animation (N. Holt), The Last Emperox (J. Scalzi), The Once & Future King (T. White), The History of Bourbon (K. Albala; the drink, not France).  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 60. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 60. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well, he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first-person shooter video game. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1970 – Yû Godai, 50.  The Story of the Beginning of Bone written while she was still a college student, 4th annual Fujimi Shobo (publisher) Fantasy Novel Prize; five more novels, three shorter stories.  Here is a cover from Avatar Tuner. [JH] 
  • Born August 7, 1980 – Lindsey Leavitt, 40.  A dozen young-adult and children’s novels, some for us (five are fantasies about mice in a series Commander in Cheese).  YALSA (Young Adult Lib’y Services Ass’n) Best Fiction Award, Amazon Book of the Year Award.  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1975 Charlize Theron, 45. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), PrometheusMad Max: Fury RoadThe Addams Family as Morticia Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in  Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.  (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics. Where does “Funny once” go in this model?

(15) UNDER THE DOME. SciFiNow.uk points the way to DC’s virtual event: “DC Fandome: Immense Line-Up Announced”

…DC FanDome is the first-ever global celebration of the DC Multiverse covering the brand’s biggest films, live-action series, animated TV series, games and comics.

Available in nine languages (Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (LAS)), DC FanDome will feature over 100+ hours of programming celebrating the past, present and future DC content through panels, behind the scenes access, user generated experiences, big reveals and exclusives from DC.

DC FanDome is made up of the Hall of Heroes and five islands…

(16) THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. Andrew Liptak surveys how “The U.S. Military Is Turning to Science Fiction to Shape the Future of War” for One Zero at Medium.

…It may sound like it could be the plot of a new Netflix series, but it’s actually one of the U.S. Army’s “science fiction prototypes,” a teaching tool designed to imagine what the near future of warfare might look like and to prompt military personnel to think creatively about conflicts they might end up fighting. This one takes the form of a 71-page graphic novel called Invisible Force: Information Warfare and the Future of Conflict, produced by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and Arizona State University’s Threatcasting Lab.

As digital technologies and robotics have opened up the kinds of futures once imagined by pulp science fiction writers, a loose network of national security professionals, military officers, and training organizations are working to try to predict the future of war — by generating science fiction stories of their own….

(17) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. Paul Weimer tells what he enjoyed about a new sff novel: “Microreview [book]: In Evil Times by Melinda Snodgrass” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The world that Snodgrass creates continues to fascinate from the first novel, especially since we expand from the pressure cooker of the High Ground space station to see the Empire, on the ground, as it were, as well as in the depths of space. We get slices of society all around, from Mercedes’ center of Imperial power, to the very humble existence that Tracy’s father as a tailor has, to the life of military officers. We get a painted portrait of what this stratified, socially conscious world is like and how people fit into that system, resist that system and find themselves in trouble for opposing that system. We also get a better sense of how aliens, an oppressed stratum of society, fit and struggle in a human dominated Solar League. Aliens are very much third class citizens, and the consequences of that are explored in the book both from Tracy and Mercedes’ perspectives….

(18) HELP WANTED. Writing all those Tor.com five-things posts has burned out James Davis Nicoll’s laptop, and he’d be thrilled if people want to help him buy the replacement: “Alas, Poor Jenkins”.

My faithful laptop has subtly hinted that I need to prioritize replacing it, first by closing every Word File within a few minutes of opening them…

(19) SAVING THROW. Wizards: Tales of Arcadia premiered on Netflix today.

After discovering a secret underworld of trolls and teaming up with aliens to save the planet, the teenagers of Arcadia Oaks are back for one final journey: time traveling to the world of King Arthur’s Camelot to defeat villains and preserve the future. Major characters like Jim (Emile Hirsch), Toby (Charlie Saxton) and Claire (Lexi Medrano) have returned from the previous sagas of “Trollhunters” and “3Below,” joined this time by the legendary Merlin (David Bradley). 

The series is written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, whose 2017 film “The Shape of Water” took home four Oscars, including best picture and director.

(20) GRAND FINALE. Meanwhile, IndieWire reports “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans’ Animated Film to Premiere on Netflix in 2021”.

…Del Toro has billed the film as the conclusion to his “Tales of Arcadia” television trilogy which includes the “Trollhunters,” “3Below,” and “Wizards,” shows. “Wizards” premiered on Netflix today.

Here’s Netflix’s synopsis for the upcoming film: Arcadia may look like an ordinary town, but it lies at the center of magical and mystical lines that makes it a nexus for many battles among otherworldly creatures, including trolls, aliens and wizards. Now, the heroes from the hit series “Trollhunters,” “3Below” and “Wizards,” team-up in their most epic adventure yet where they must fight the Arcane Order for control over the magic that binds them all.

(21) OVER A BARREL. NPR’s Linda Holmes sees that “Seth Rogen Finds Himself (Twice) In ‘An American Pickle'”

When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he’s almost always got pals around. He’s made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.

An American Pickle, streaming on HBO Max on Aug. 6, is adapted from a four-part Simon Rich story that appeared in The New Yorker in 2013. Called “Sell Out,” it’s about a Polish immigrant named Herschel (whose wife is pregnant) who falls into a pickle barrel in 1920 and wakes up, perfectly preserved, 100 years later. This premise, neatly told in the first six short paragraphs, is both absurd and (no pun intended) narratively rich. In the film, which Rich adapted for the screen himself, both the preserved Herschel and his great-grandson Ben — who are the same age — are played by Seth Rogen. What follows is part wacky opposites-attract picture, part family story, part silly caper and, most interestingly, part funny (but also thoughtful) examination of what our ancestors would think of us, especially if they made great sacrifices to give us what we now have.

In the original story, Herschel’s descendant is Simon Rich himself, a script doctor in Hollywood. Here, he’s Ben, an app developer who’s spent five years of his life trying to get an app off the ground that scans bar codes to tell you how ethically made a particular product is. For a whole variety of reasons — from “what’s an app?” to “who cares?” — this confounds Herschel. He quickly discovers, too, that the small cemetery where his wife is buried has been dishonored by the presence of a giant billboard for vanilla vodka (chosen perhaps because Rogen has enormous fun pronouncing “vanilla vodka” in his version of Herschel’s accent). This cannot stand. So Herschel sets out to do what he knows best: make pickles and sell them to Brooklyn, so he can reclaim the cemetery. This does lead to some familiar material about hipsters who love artisanal foods, but it’s executed pretty well, and Rich’s script keeps it moving.

…Let’s focus on this much: It’s a clever idea, it has some good jokes, and it approaches the idea of immigration to the United States in a way I haven’t seen. That’s not to even mention the fact that being preserved in a pickle barrel and waking up in 100 years has never been more appealing.

(22) HOW DID THEY KNOW? Mental Floss dishes up “9 Books That Predicted the Future”. This first one is pretty surprising.

1. FUTILITY

In this book written by Morgan Robertson, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is steaming at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” But the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many of the passengers drown when the ship goes down.

The story sounds familiar, but this ship wasn’t the TitanicFutility‘s ship was the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage—and those aren’t the only similarities between Robertson’s Titan and the Titanic, either. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic the story—now called The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility—was being serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”

(23) AND AWAY THEY GO. “Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members”.

Facebook has deleted a large group dedicated to sharing and discussing QAnon conspiracy theories.

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that a “deep state” network of powerful government, business and media figures are waging a secret war against Donald Trump.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the group was removed for “repeatedly posting content that violated our policies”.

Last month both Twitter and TikTok also cracked down on QAnon content.

Twitter banned thousands of accounts and said it would block QAnon urls, while TikTok deleted hashtags that signposted QAnon videos.

The deleted Facebook group, called Official Q/Qanon, had nearly 200,000 members.

There are, however, many other QAnon groups that are currently still active on the platform.

(24) CORMORANT ALOFT AGAIN. Adri Joy says readers will find a long-awaited payoff in terms of character healing and growth in the third book of this series: “Microreview [Book]: The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Baru Cormorant is back for round three! In The Tyrant Baru Cormorant (which, in-keeping with the rest of this series’ inexplicable name shortenings, is being published as “The Tyrant” in the UK) everyone’s favourite provincial savant returns for another round of high-stakes political drama against the empire of Falcrest: the empire which colonised her island, killed one of her fathers and tried to cut her off from her own culture as a child, and also the empire which now counts her as among its most elite operatives. The first book in the series captured my heart and then broke it into a million pieces, and while I don’t think I’m the same reader as I was five years ago, I still consider new releases in this series to be a significant event, and I’m especially glad we haven’t had to wait too long between the previous book and this one.

(25) SHADES OF MEANING. PEN America’s weekly interview series delivers “The Pen Ten: An Interview With Laura Van Den Berg”.

9. The stories in this collection are haunting, and this also includes the stunning cover art. Whether it’s a woman who works as grief freelancer playing the roles of widowers’ dead wives or a woman pretending to be her missing sister, the stories speak to each other in unearthly ways. Can you speak about the subversive nature of ghosts that permeate the collection—when you realized this was a connective tissue while writing the stories and how it operates in the book, as well as our lives?
The cover was designed by Na Kim, who is a genius. I think it captures the spirit of the collection beautifully. In terms of the thematic through lines, I thought a lot about the supernatural as a means to explore the material that cannot be contained by corporal life: the unsayable secrets, the unexamined truths, the incomprehensible realities. In an NPR interview, Toni Morrison once said that “if you are really alert, then you can see the life that exists beyond the life that exists on top.” What does this “life beyond” have to say about our world that cannot be conveyed through other channels? What does it mean to haunt? What does it mean to be haunted? All these questions were important guides, though it took some time to recognize the supernatural as a thematic link. For a while, I had a lot of stories—maybe 350 pages worth—but I was struggling to find the book. Once I started letting the spectral guide me, a shape began to emerge.

(26) A BACON REFERENCE WITHOUT SCALZI. Lise Andreasen shares a fraught moment from the German quiz show Gefragt Gejagt today. 

Who wrote Nova Atlantis?

Wrong answer: Hemingway. 

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, PhilRM, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Bence Pintér, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 8/1/20 Scrollers Tick
In Vain

(1) WORLDCON ENDS: FILM AT ELEVEN. Watching CoNZealand’s Closing Ceremonies brought back a memory —

When Winnipeg started its bid for the 1994 Worldcon, chair John Mansfield had everybody on the committee fill out a questionnaire about their interests. On the last day of the convention he returned these forms to everyone saying, “Okay. Here’s your life back.”

At today’s Closing Ceremonies the gavel passed to DisCon III’s Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard.

(2) TABLE SERVICE. Camestros Felapton illustrates an aspect of the 2020 Hugo Award nomination process in “EPH Fan Writer”.

… As each person is eliminated, the points get redistributed. By looking at the change in points for each surviving nominee, you can calculate the proportion of points that the survivor gets from the eliminated.

(3) THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. There are several good rundowns on the problems with last night’s Hugo Awards ceremony, including this one from Sean Reads Sci-Fi, “Uh-Oh, the Hugos Were a Hot Mess!”, which includes some good excerpts from the acceptance speeches.

…Some of the history was admittedly interesting, but I kept waiting for Martin to catch up to the present day, to illustrate how the long arc of the Hugos has bent toward justice, how the field continues to evolve to this day. He never did. He stayed rooted firmly in the past, and as the night wore on his stubborn refusal to acknowledge current movements in SF/F began to feel pointedly exclusionary rather than just incidentally so.

And I haven’t even mentioned the names! To mispronounce someone’s name live is one thing. As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that you will occasionally get someone’s name wrong on the first day. But (a) they had plenty of time to practice, (b) they almost certainly were given pronunciation guides by most authors, and (c) this doesn’t excuse the constant mispronunciations during pre-recoded segments, unless, of course, Martin refused to re-record them, which is its own set of problems. The folks behind the scenes should have done more to vet these segments, and should have pushed back harder when it became clear what Martin was doing.

What’s fascinating to me, though, is how the awards themselves drew such a sharp contrast to the nostalgic navel-gazing of the toastmaster. It really felt like the past and the future colliding – and the future won. Literally! The winners often talked about systemic problems within the industry, about the fights that we still have to fight, about the hard work that women, people of color, queer folks, and others have to do in order to even be considered alongside the white/cis/het fuddy-duddies running last night’s show. It was such a welcome breath of fresh air, for instance, when R.F. Kuang, one of the first winners, emphasized the barriers that she faced getting into the field:

If I were talking to a new writer coming to the genre in 2020, I would tell them, well, if you are an author of color, you will very likely be paid only a fraction of the advance that white writers are getting. You will be pigeon-holed, you will be miscategorized, you will be lumped in with other authors of color whose work doesn’t remotely resemble yours. Chances are very high that you will be sexually harassed at conventions or the target of racist micro-aggressions or very often just overt racism. People will mispronounce your name, repeatedly, and in public, even people who are on your publishing team. Your cover art will be racist, and the way people talk about you and your literature will be tied to identity and your personal trauma instead of the stories you are actually trying to tell. If I had known all of that when I went into the industry, I don’t know if I would have done it, so I think that the best way we can celebrate new writers is to make this industry more welcoming for everyone.

R.F. KUANG, ASTOUNDING AWARD FOR THE BEST NEW SF WRITER

This was refreshing precisely because it’s an aspect of the history of the awards and of the fandom in general that George R.R. Martin, in his endless panegyrics to days gone by, refused to even acknowledge. Pointing out the deep-rooted, structural, and personal racism and sexism at the heart of the industry isn’t a sign of ingratitude – it’s a sign of strength and resolve in the face of tough barriers. As Ng put it in her speech:

Pulling down memorials to dead racists is not the erasing of history, it is how we make history … It would be irresponsible for me to stand here and congratulate us as a community without reminding us that the fight isn’t over and that it extends well beyond the pages of our books … Let us be better than the legacies that have been left us. Let them not be prophecies. Let there be a revolution in our time.

JEANNETTE NG, BEST RELATED WORK

That revolution was in strong form last night, as most winners took the time to celebrate marginalized voices and denounce the forces that marginalized them in the first place. I keep coming back to Martine’s speech, as well – to the knife that hurts all the more because you loved it before it cut you. A trenchant description of an industry and a genre that many loved but were excluded from for so long. That is, thankfully, changing. Not fast enough to prevent last night’s debacle – but fast enough to allow for last night’s inspiring wins

(4) GRRM RESPONSE. George R.R. Martin has commented here on File 770 about some of the reports and criticisms in circulation, beginning with – http://file770.com/2020-hugo-awards/comment-page-2/#comment-1205393

Whoever is circulating the story that I was asked to re-record portions of my Hugo hosting to correct mispronounced names, and that I refused, is (1) mistaken, or (2) lying. Never happened.

CoNZealand did ask me to re-record three of my videos, all for reasons for quality control: poor lighting, poor sound, wobbly camera. I complied with their request on two of the videos, the two that opened the evening; I re-did those live from the JCC. (The originals had been done in my cabin on an iPhone, when we were just trying to get the hang of this thing). The third segment they wanted re-recorded was the bit about the Hugo trophy, where I had some fun with the juicer, the Alfie, and the like. In that case, we decided to stay with the first take, since I no longer had the props on hand and could not easily have reproduced what I’d done at the cabin, which everyone seemed to like.

There is also a story out there that I was provided with the correct phonetic pronunciations of all the names. That too is completely untrue….

(5) YOUR NEW HUGO LOSERS HOSTS. Who wouldn’t sign up for that?

(6) GROWING PAINS. Scott Edelman stirred up some memories that were called out by his sister-in-law in service of an anti-Vietnam War protest.

(7) LEM STORY DRAMATIZED. “Review: A Sci-Fi Classic Featuring a Multiverse of Stooges” comes recommended by a New York Times reviewer.

…You wouldn’t think that the 4-foot-wide by 8-foot-tall space, approximately the same shape as an iPhone screen, would be big enough for a play, let alone an avant-garde company. Yet the closet, only 2 feet deep, is one of the stars of Gelb’s Theater in Quarantine series, which since late March has produced, on a biweekly schedule, some of the new medium’s most imaginative work from some of its simplest materials. As in silent movies, clowning, movement and mime are usually part of the mix.

“The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy,” which was livestreamed on Thursday evening and will remain available in perpetuity on Gelb’s YouTube channel, has all of those and then some. Based on a 1957 story by Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science fiction writer most famous for “Solaris,” it concerns an astronaut named Egon who, passing through a minefield of gravitational vortexes, is caught in a causal loop paradox that bombards him with innumerable (and insufferable) alternative selves.

Lem’s story is a satire of the infinite human capacity for self-defeat, with the various Egon incarnations bickering and undermining one another as the gyrations of space-time bend them into conflict. When “a meteor no bigger than a pea” pierces the ship’s hull, destroying the rudder, everyone has ideas about fixing it — but since it’s a two-man job, making cooperation essential, nothing actually gets done.

(8) HEARING A DISCOURAGING WORD. Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich asks “Why are all these science-fiction shows so awful?”

Science fiction was once a niche TV commodity, but March brought three major live-action genre projects. Star Trek: Picard finished its debut season on CBS All Access. FX shared Devs with Hulu, pitching the miniseries as prestige bait for the chattering class. Season 3 of Westworld was HBO’s new hope for a buzzy, sexy-violent epic. And they were all terrible….

I get it: We are all scared of phones, and bots, and the Algorithm. Yet by demonizing technology, these projects oddly exonerate the people behind that technology. CEOs with tragic origin stories in Westworld or Devs are puppets for machines they can’t control. Higher-tech powers in Brave New World and “You May Also Like” control whole civilizations comprised of unaware humans.

(9) LIBRARIES TAKE HEAT IN CANADA. Publishers Weekly has the story:“Canadian Libraries Respond to ‘Globe and Mail’ Essay Attacking Public Libraries”.

[Intro] Editors Note: In a nearly 3,000 word opinion piece published on July 25 in ‘The Globe and Mail’ Kenneth Whyte, publisher of Toronto-based indie Sutherland House Books, pinned the troubles of Canada’s independent bookstores and publishers on the work of public libraries….

Publishers Weekly reprinted the Canadian Urban Libraries Council’s response:

It is otherwise hard to understand why public libraries are to blame when bookstores and libraries have coexisted harmoniously and supported each other for decades.

So what’s changed? While there are a lot of changes that point to shifts in the marketplace, such as the research identifying a decline in leisure reading, coupled with less and less space for literary reviews in major news outlets, these are minor compared to the two major developments that have dramatically altered the book and reading landscape—and they have nothing to do with public libraries. First is the explosive growth in popularity of e-books and digital audiobooks. Second, is the increasing dominance of Amazon in the book retail and publishing marketplace.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 1, 1986Howard The Duck premiered. Directed by Water Huyck and produced by Gloria Katz who were also the screenplay writers.  George Lucas was executive producer. Its human stars were Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones and Tim Robbins. Howard The Duck was Ed Gale in the suit with the voice being Chip Zien. Critics almost unanimously hated it, it bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 38% rating. It would be the last Marvel Film until Captain American twenty-one years later. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 1, 1819 – Herman Melville.  Without debating – though some do – how far Moby-Dick is fantasy, we can claim some more clearly – hmm, maybe not the best word with this writer – anyway, “Bartleby”, “The Tartarus of Maids”, “The Encantadas”, let’s say nine or ten.  John Clute would include The Confidence-Man.  (Died 1891) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1898 – William Ziff.  I mean Ziff Sr., though Ziff Jr. is noteworthy too.  The elder was the Ziff in Ziff-Davis Publishing, which took over Amazing from Hugo Gernsback, added Fantastic Adventures, comics with art director Jerry Siegel and e.g. John Buscema.  I happen to think this cover for Weird Adventures 10 is feminist – look how the man is fascinated while the woman with him knows they should fear – but then I think Glory Road is feminist, and how many see that?  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May, 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available in digital form. (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1914 – Edd Cartier.  Oh, how great he was.  Eventually we put him on two Retrospective Hugo ballots.  We think of him as a comedian; true enough, but see this cover for Foundation and Empire.  Vince Di Fate knew; see his treatment of EC in Infinite Worlds.  World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.  (Died 2008)  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1923 Alan Yates. Though better known under the Carter Brown name where he wrote some one hundred and fifty mystery novels, I’m noting him here for Booty for a Babe, a Fifties mystery novel published under that name as it’s was set at a SF Convention. (Available from the Kindle store.) And as Paul Valdez, he wrote a baker’s dozen genre stories. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. Best-remembered for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was also Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1945 – Yvonne Rousseau, 75.  Author, editor, critic, long-time fan.  Australian SF Review, 2nd Series with J. & R. Blackford, Foyster, Sussex, Webb.  Three short stories and a novelette.  Contributor to Banana WingsChungaFlagFoundationJourney PlanetThe Metaphysical Review, Riverside QuarterlySF CommentarySF Eye.  Fan Guest of Honour at ConFictionary, where the fire alarm went off and the hotel actually was on fire.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 66. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us in that he writes genre reviews which are collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein ‘s “By His Bootstraps”.  (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 65. Director who was first  a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1969 – Dirk Berger, 51.  Five dozen covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Sucker Punch.  Here is Empire Dreams.  Here is Nova 23.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 41. I knew I’d seen him before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film franchise and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for its entire run. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in Conan the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1993 – Tomi Adeyemi, 27.  Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Virtue and Vengeance, both NY Times Best Sellers.  Norton Award, Waterstones Book Prize, Lodestar Award.  Parents thought she’d be better off if they didn’t teach her their native tongue (they’re Yoruba), so with an honors degree from Harvard she got a fellowship to study it in Brazil.  Website here.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur offers a suggestion on how to get started on that post-apocalyptic novel.

(13) BE PREPARED. A Public Service Announcement from the Dread Pirate Roberts channeling Inigo Montoya.

(14) ADVICE FOR SFF POETS. Veteran editor of Star*Line and Mobius: A Journal for Social Change “gives some surprising insights on submissions” in this interview conducted by Melane Stormm at SPECPO.

A must watch for any writer, but especially if you identify as female or if you’re feeling hesitant to submit your work someplace.

(15) ON BRADBURY’S SHELVES. The second installment of Phil Nichols’ Bradbury 100 podcast had dropped.

My guest is Jason Aukerman, Managing Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The “Bradbury Center”, as it’s known for short, is the place where Ray’s working papers are held in archive, along with the contents of Ray’s personal library, and many of his professional and personal artefacts such as awards, videotapes and film prints.

(16) BALESTRIERI JOINS READ-A-THON. A Bradbury Read-A-Thon is planned as part of the author’s centenary celebration: “Iowan to join top authors, celebs in sci-fi ‘read-a-thon’” RadioIowa has the story.

A library curator at the University of Iowa will join “Star Trek” actor William Shatner and a list of other celebrities, authors and science fiction experts in a Ray Bradbury Read-a-thon next month. The event on August 22nd will mark what would have been the famed author’s 100th birthday.

Peter Balestrieri, curator of science fiction and popular culture collections at the UI Libraries, says he’s thrilled to be taking part.

“The Read-a-thon will be about 40 people reading segments of Ray Bradbury’s famous novel, ‘Fahrenheit 451,’” Balestrieri says. “All of the clips from all of the different readers will be put together into one seamless audio-visual book.”

Balestrieri will read a six-minute portion of the book as part of the roughly-four-hour event. Top sci-fi authors who will also read aloud include Neil Gaiman, Marjorie Liu and Steven Barnes, as well as former NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

(17) THAT’S NOT GOOD NEWS. “Nasa: Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has gone into hibernation, space agency says” at Yahoo! News.

Nasa‘s Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has sent itself into hibernation, the space agency has said.

The spacecraft was sent to space Thursday in a launch that had no technical problems – even despite an earthquake that struck just before liftoff, and a preparation period that came during the coronavirus outbreak. Shortly after it was launched, Nasa announced that it had received its first signal from the spacecraft.

But soon after it was in space and headed towards Mars, it became apparent that something had gone wrong with the craft. After that initial signal, mission controllers received more detailed telemetry or spacecraft data that showed there had been a problem.

The signal, which arrived on Thursday afternoon, showed that the spacecraft had entered a state known as “safe mode”. That shuts down all but its essential systems, until it receives new messages from ission control.

The hibernation state is intended to allow the spacecraft to protect itself in the case of unexpected conditions, and will be triggered when the onboard computer receives data that shows something is not as expected.

Nasa’s engineers think that the state was triggered because part of the spacecraft was colder than expected while it was still in Earth’s shadow. The spacecraft has now left that shadow and temperatures are now normal, Nasa said in an update.

Mission controllers will now conduct a “full health assessment”, the space agency said, and are “working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars”.

(18) TOLKIEN SAYS. At BookRiot: “28 J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes From His Books, Essays, And Letters”.

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” —The Fellowship of the Ring

(19) NAVIGATING ON VIRTUAL SEAS. Mlex reports  on the Cyberpunk Culture Con (July 9-10), with some commentary on other virtual cons (BaltiCon, ConZealand, Fantastikon): “Cyberpunk Culture Conference”.

…I want to report on the recent virtual con, the Cyberpunk Culture Conference (Jul 9-10, 2020), which managed to swim perfectly through the fantastic milieu of the future that has already become the past, and floated out from the wreckage on that frenzied ouroboros of possibility waves as easily as a swimmer takes to an inflated tire inner tube on a summer pond.

The conference sprang up around recent books published by Routledge, which are quite excellent, I should add…

(20) 3D. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Great article about racing and 3D printing — “3-D Printing, a Boon for Racers, Inches Closer for Carmakers” — in the New York Times. Here’s two key ‘graphs from the top:

The Belgian racing team Heli had an engine problem. Specifically, under race conditions, the manifold of the four-cylinder turbo diesel in its BMW 1-series exploded, bursting along an ultrasonically welded seam that held together the manifold’s two halves.

…In 2018 Heli took the problem to ZiggZagg, a Belgian company that fabricates parts using an HP 3-D printer. ZiggZagg made a digital scan of the two-piece manifold and after 10 hours had a digital blueprint for a stronger, lighter, one-piece manifold. In its first race with the new manifold, printed using what is known as PA 12 nylon, the part held up and Heli took third. That same manifold lasted until the car was retired earlier this year.

(21) THE DRAGON RETURNING – MAYBE. NPR reports “Astronauts Set To Return To Earth In First U.S. Splashdown In Decades”.

The two astronauts that blasted off in the first private space vehicle to take people to the International Space Station are about to return to Earth — by splashing down in the waters around Florida.

This will be the first planned splashdown for space travelers since 1975, although a Russian Soyuz capsule did have to do an emergency lake landing in 1976.

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley says that he and his crewmate Robert Behnken are prepared for the possibility of seasickness.

“Just like on an airliner, there are bags if you need them. And we’ll have those handy,” Hurley said in a press conference held on Friday, while on board the station. “And if that needs to happen, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that that’s happened in a space vehicle. It will be the first time in this particular vehicle, if we do.”

The astronauts will come home in the same SpaceX Dragon capsule that took them up on May 30. Their flight marked the first time people had been launched to orbit from U. S. soil since NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011.

The success of their trip in the SpaceX vehicle has been a major milestone for commercial space travel, and a vindication of NASA’s long-term plan to rely on space taxis for routine flights to and from the orbiting outpost—while the government agency focuses on developing vehicles for a return to the moon.

The current plan is for the Dragon “Endeavour” capsule to undock from the International Space Station on Saturday at 7:34 p.m. ET, with scheduled splashdown at 2:42 p.m. ET on Sunday. There are potential splashdown zones both in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. With a hurricane headed towards Florida, however, it’s unclear if the weather will cooperate with the plan.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Virtual Viewing:  Disney’s Cruise Line’s Tangled, The Musical” on YouTube is an hour-long musical, with three songs composed by Alan Menken, that was performed on Disney’s Cruise Line and is worth seeing for people who need a Disney musical fix.  (Hat tip to Mark Evanier.)

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

2019 Compton Crook Award

R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War has won the 2019 Compton Crook Award for Best Debut Novel presented by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Members of BSFS chose The Poppy War by reading and rating debut novels published between Nov 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018. First, members selected six finalists and then gave The Poppy War their highest rating. The other finalists were:

•    S.A. Chakraborty – The City of Brass
•    Rebecca Roanhorse – Trail of Lightning
•    Rena Rossner – Sisters of the Winter Wood
•    Lauren Teffeau – Implanted
•    Nick Clark Windo – The Feed

BSFS will award R. F. Kuang with a check for $1,000 and an invitation to be the Compton Crook Guest at Balticon (the BSFS annual convention) for two years. This year Balticon will be held May 24-27, 2019 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. Baltimore, Maryland.

BSFS has presented the Compton Crook Award for best first novel in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres since 1983. Past winners have included Donald Kingsbury, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Flynn, Wen Spencer, Maria Snyder, Naomi Novik, Paolo Bacigalupi, Myke Cole, Charles Gannon, and Ada Palmer. Last year’s winner was Nicky Drayden for Prey of Gods.

Kuang may be the youngest winner of the award. She started writing The Poppy War while still a student at Georgetown University and was only 22 when Harper Voyager published it. The sequel, The Dragon Republic, will be published this summer.

BSFS named the Compton Crook Award in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, after his death in 1981. Professor Crook, an active member of BSFS, was a staunch champion of new works in the speculative genres.

BSFS is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable, literary and educational organization, dedicated to the promotion of, and an appreciation for, science fiction in all of its many forms. BSFS was launched on January 5, 1963 and has been holding its convention, Balticon, since 1967.

Pixel Scroll 4/13/19 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Are

(1) SCHOEN LEAVES SFWA BOARD. Earlier this week Lawrence M. Schoen announced he was “Resigning from the SFWA Board of Directors”:

Effective as of 10am today, April 10th, 2019, I am resigning my position as a member of the SFWA Board of Directors.

We live in a world where appearance often carries more weight than intention. Recent controversies, and my perceived involvement in them, have increasingly made it difficult for me to effectively perform the responsibilities for which I’d been elected. Accordingly, it makes sense for me to step aside and allow someone else to continue the work.

Today’s decision notwithstanding, I remain committed to the ideals and goals of SFWA, perhaps best expressed by the statement the Board composed at last year’s Nebula Conference: “We are genre writers fostering a diverse professional community committed to inclusion, empowerment, and outreach.”

It has been my privilege to be of service to this organization and our community. I encourage you all to pay it forward.

Schoen’s statement does not specify what “recent controversies” he is perceived to be involved in. They may relate to Jonathan Brazee’s 20Booksto50K Nebula recommendation list. Schoen’s novelette “The Rule of Three” is one of the stories on the list that made the Nebula ballot. Brazee responded to criticism by apologizing for the list.

(2) NICHOLS ON SPACE COMMAND. Marc Zicree told fans, “Today’s shoot with Nichelle Nichols went great! Here’s a behind the scenes clip, with more to come.”

To help with the GoFundMe to pay for their efforts, click on “Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols Space Command Scene!”. At this writing they’ve raised $2,310 of their $15,000 goal.

(3) LUCAS’ FINGERPRINTS. IGN explains “How George Lucas Helped Finish Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”.

The new teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features quite the surprise: as the trailer comes to a close, the screen cuts to black and our ears are filled with the cackling of Emperor Palpatine. It’s a laugh cold enough to send shivers down your spine and a character inclusion crazy enough to make your head spin. He met his electrifying end in Return of the Jedi, after all. IGN talked to director and co-writer JJ Abrams at Star Wars Celebration Chicago about how the iconic villain came to be a part of the film, and his answer included a meeting with the Maker himself, George Lucas.

“This movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at, what is the bigger story? We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before writing the script,” Abrams revealed. “These were things that were in real, not debate, but looking at the vastness of the story and trying to figure out, what is the way to conclude this? But it has to work on its own as a movie, it has to be its own thing, it has to be surprising and funny and you have to understand it.”

(4) COPING. Sarah Hughes, TV critic at The Guardian, tells how Game of Thrones helped her cope with her cancer diagnosis. “Game of Thrones, cancer and me…”

…Best of all, while I might not find out how Martin himself intends to finish his series (there are still two long-awaited books to come), I will almost certainly see the TV series of Game of Thrones return for its brutal, no doubt bloody and hopefully rewarding conclusion this month. As for Tottenham Hotspur winning the league in my lifetime, that remains too great a step for even the most benign of gods to arrange.

(5) CLFA VOTING BEGINS. At the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “The 2019 Book of the Year ballot is now open!”

Ready to cast your vote for CLFA Book of the Year 2019?  Go here to support your favorite!

(6) YAKFALL. We only thought we’d figured out the subject for Ursula Vernon’s next Hugo acceptance speech. Hilarious thread starts here.

Another great thread about their Tibetan explorations begins here.

(7) THE ESSENTIALS. Can a fannish kitchen be complete without a set of “Star Trek Klingon Alphabet Fridge Magnets”? ThinkGeek takes the “No” side of the debate.

  • A fun way to teach anyone the basics of pIqaD (the Klingon alphabet)
  • For use on magnetic surfaces, like your fridge or your ship’s hull

…This set contains the entire alphabet, with multiples for the more frequently used, plus a few apostrophes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1937 Terry Carr. Lifelong fan and long after he turn pro, he continued to be active in fandom, hence was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. He worked as an Editor, first at Ace where he edited The Left Hand of Darkness. After a fallout with Wollheim, he went freelance where he developed Universe and Best Science Fiction of the Year, the latter on a remarkable four publishers. He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo thirteen times and won twice. He wrote three novels, one with Ted White, and three collections of his stories in print. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 13, 1943 Bill Pronzini, 76. Mystery writer whose Nameless Detective has one genre adventure in A Killing in Xanadu. Genre anthologist, often with Barry N Malzberg, were many and wide ranging, covering such things as Bug-Eyed Monsters (with Malzberg), Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (with Greenberg and Malzberg) and Arbor House Necropolis. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote “The Pillars of Salt Affair”, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novella that ran in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine.
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 68. The Fifth Doctor and one that I never came to be fond of. Just seemed too lightweight for the role. I thought he put more gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 65. His notable genre TV work includes executive producing, producing or writing, or both, for Strange Luck, Seven DaysOuter Limits, Eerie, Indiana, and The Twilight Zone. He was also story editor for the Max Headroom series which I loved.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. Editor, writer and anthologist. He was founding editor of Warner Books’ Questar Science Fiction, and later served as managing fiction editor at TSR. He co-wrote the autobiography of Julius Schwartz. Strangely enough, I’ve actually read one of his anthologies, A Yuletide Universe, as I remember it from the cover art. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 69. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and Redcap). He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno followed quickly Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and  Angel  De La Guardia in Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by a hard SF role as Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly.  No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1962 Stephen Holland, 57. I’m a deep admirer of those who document our genre and this gentleman is no exception. In handful of works, he’s created an invaluable resource for those interested in SF published in paperback. British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines, 1949-1956: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide and The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar Paperback Publishing certainly look to be essential reading, and his Fantasy Fanzine Index: Volume 1 also sounds useful.

(9) WHAT A TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE. Rebecca F. Kuang’s thread about the Game of Thrones tapestry starts here.

Through July 28 the public can “see Game of Thrones® immortalised in a giant, 77-metre long Bayeux style tapestry at the Ulster Museum.”

(10) THRONE CHOW. Delish says that in the UK, “TGI Friday’s Is Celebrating The Game Of Thrones Premiere With A Menu Inspired By The Series”.

In honor of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones—which premieres in just three days, people!!!—TGI Friday’s has released a limited-edition menu inspired by the series. However, vegetarians and vegans may want to steer clear of the “Dragon Slayer Feast.” It’s definitely a meat-heavy selection….

You can also order up Dragon Fire Hot Wings and the Bucket of Beast Bones, which is a combo of ribs and Friday’s famed glazed wings. However, as far as we know, the GOT special is currently a U.K. exclusive. The meat-filled feast will kick off April 10.

(11) ALTERNATE ASTRONAUTS. Camestros Felapton continues working his way through the finalists: “Hugo Novels: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal”.

The Calculating Stars has a more grounded aesthetic than it’s predecessor, and aims to present a plausible alternative history where the space program is accelerated and is also a more international collaboration. In the centre of this effort is Dr Elma York who desperately wants to go into space but who must also navigate through the complexities of 1950s America.

It’s an engaging fictional autobiography of a remarkable person — the kind of multi-talented character that you find in accounts of America’s space program. Drive, talent, brains and luck conspire to put Elma in a spotlight but the attention that comes with it reveals Elma’s greatest weakness: social anxiety in crowds when she is the focus of attention. Ironically the press characterising her preemptively as ‘The Lady Astronaut’ complicates her attempts to actually become an astronaut.

(12) CREDIT WHERE DUE. Misty S. Boyer’s long Facebook post provides further detail about who contributed to the newsmaking black hole photo.   

…The photo that everyone is looking at, the world famous black hole photo? It’s actually a composite photo. It was generated by an algorithm credited to Mareki Honma. Honma’s algorithm, based on MRI technology, is used to “stitch together” photos and fill in the missing pixels by analyzing the surrounding pixels.

But where did the photos come from that are composited into this photo?

The photos making up the composite were generated by 4 separate teams, led by Katie Bouman, Andrew Chael, Kazu Akiyama, Michael Johnson, and Jose L Gomez. Each team was given a copy of the black hole data and isolated from each other. Between the four of them, they used two techniques – an older, traditional one called CLEAN, and a newer one called RML – to generate an image.

The purpose of this division and isolation of teams was deliberately done to test the accuracy of the black hole data they were all using. If four isolated teams using different algorithms all got similar results, that would indicate that the data itself was accurate….

(13) POST MORTEM. What happened? “Beresheet spacecraft: ‘Technical glitch’ led to Moon crash”.

Preliminary data from the Beresheet spacecraft suggests a technical glitch in one of its components caused the lander to crash on the Moon.

The malfunction triggered a chain of events that eventually caused its main engine to switch off.

Despite a restart, this meant that the spacecraft was unable to slow down during the final stages of its descent.

(14) BIG STICK. “Internet Archive denies hosting ‘terrorist’ content”.

The Internet Archive has been hit with 550 “false” demands to remove “terrorist propaganda” from its servers in less than a week.

The demands came via the Europol net monitoring unit and gave the site only one hour to comply.

The Internet Archive said the demands wrongly accused it of hosting terror-related material.

The website said the requests set a poor precedent ahead of new European rules governing removal of content.

If the Archive does not comply with the notices, it risks its site getting added to lists which ISPs are required to block.

(15) BULL MARKET. Science reports “Beliefs in aliens, Atlantis are on the rise”. (Full text restricted to subscribers.)

Beliefs in “pseudoarchaeology”—ancient aliens, Atlantis, and other myths—are on the rise. In 2018 41% of Americans believed that aliens visited Earth in the ancient past, and 57% believed that Atlantis or other advanced ancient civilizations existed. These outlandish beliefs have been circulating for decades, and archaeologists are now mobilizing to counter them. They are taking to Twitter, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and newspapers to debunk false claims and explain real archaeological methods, and they plan to compare notes this week during a symposium at the Society for American Archaeology meeting. 

(16) IT’S ALL JUST FUN AND GAMES UNTIL… Never forget that Quidditch is a field sport: “For Some Quidditch Players, The Magic Wears Off As Injury Risks Grow Clearer”.

It happened in a split second, and Vanessa Barker doesn’t remember any of it. She doesn’t remember dropping to the field, nor does she remember how she got hit.

When she came to, she was sitting on the sidelines with an EMT, being evaluated for what turned out to be her first concussion. Over the next two years, she’d suffer another two more while out on the field — hardly what she expected when she decided to start playing quidditch.

…”If I ever have any others, I’ll have to stop playing,” she said.

(17) PLAYING A TATTOO. For the next four weeks you can listen online to BBC4’s production of “Ray Bradbury – The Illustrated Man”, dramatized by Brian Sibley.

A young traveller encounters a vagrant on the road, who claims that his tattoos come to life after dark and tell the future. Starring Iain Glen and Elaine Claxton.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Black Hole:  Based on Stephen Hawking’s Reith Lecture” on YouTube is an animation done for BBC Radio4 of an excerpt of a Stephen hawking lecture where Hawking says it’s not hopeless if you fall into a black hole.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cora Buhlert, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day cmm.]

2019 IAFA Crawford Award

The winner of the 2019 Crawford Award, presented annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for a first book of fantasy, is R.F Kuang for her novel The Poppy War (Harper Voyager).

The other finalists on this year’s Crawford shortlist are The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com), Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield (ChiZine), The Breath of the Sun, Rachel Fellman (Aqueduct), Half-Witch, John Schoffstall (Big Mouth House), and Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga).

Participating in this year’s nomination and selection process were previous Crawford winner Candas Jane Dorsey and former IAFA president Farah Mendlesohn, as well as Cheryl Morgan, Niall Harrison, Karen Burnham, and Mimi Mondal.

The award will be presented March 16 at the 40th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, Florida.

Also, the IAFA’s Distinguished Scholarship Award will be presented to the conference’s guest scholar, Mark Bould.

AudioFile’s Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks of 2018

AudioFile, a print and ezine, reviews audiobooks to “recommend good listening, top-notch performances and dynamic listening experiences.” The editors annually honor their choices of the best audiobooks across a variety of categories.

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2018 Best of Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks. They are listed here with links to the AudioFile reviews. To see the winners in all the other categories, page through the AudioFile 2018 Best Audiobooks ezine.

2018 Best of SCI-FI, FANTASY & HORROR Audiobooks

ARMISTICE by Lara Elena Donnelly, read by Mary Robinette Kowal

SPACE OPERA by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Heath Miller

SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik, read by Lisa Flanagan

THE OUTSIDER by Stephen King, read by Will Patton

THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang, read by Emily Woo Zeller

WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER? by Jesse J. Holland, read by Ken Jackson and a Full Cast

Exclusive Narrator Videos on YouTube

  • Lisa Flanagan, narrator of SPINNING SILVER

Pixel Scroll 7/22/18 Insert Self-Referential Pixel Scroll Title Here

(1) THE BARD OF MARS. Tickets are on sale for “MARTIANS – An Evening With Ray Bradbury”, to be staged at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks, CA beginning September 7.

Ray Bradbury speaks directly to the audience weaving Martians stories both humorous and harrowing, bringing his characters to life on stage right before your eyes. Characters like Bob and Carrie, a young couple struggling to turn the cold, dead Mars into an Earthly garden. Theres Beck and Craig, two soliders of fortune searching for the legendary Blue Bottle of Mars! Father Nivens religious faith traps a shapeshifting Martian in the form of Christ! Emil Barton is the alst man on Mars with only recordings of his younger self to keep him company, or drive him mad!

As Ray creates his stories we come to know the mind and heart of the great writer who believes that humanity can only survive by carrying our culture out into the Universe!

Most of the text is taken from Rays own words, from interviews and books hes written on the art of writing, as well as adaptations of his Martian stories The Strawberry Window, The Blue Bottle, The Messiah and Night Call, Collect.

Ray Bradbury is played by co-creater Charlie Mount who played him in a production of The October Country and produced Rays Irish play Falling Upward with Pat Harrington, Jr, both staged at Theatre West in association with Rays Pandemonium Theatre Company…

(2) STEAMPOSIUM UP IN SMOKE. There will be no Alaska Steamposium this year. Its chair, Tess, announced on Facebook what the future holds:

We attempted to adapt, to go with the flow, and pull off a hail Mary. And I think our track record of hail Marys is pretty good. (Anyone remember the year we had more vendors and staff than attendees?) But the honest truth is, we don’t want to half ass it. We like to whole ass all of our endeavors.

There were many reasons we chose this as the best path, and a good portion of that was how to keep our booth spaces and ticket prices affordable for everyone. If anyone has paid money, it is being refunded as I type.

We’re going to take a year and reorganize, and restructure, and in general change the way we do things. We completely understand if we loose some of you to anger and frustration. But we hope with all our hearts that you stick with us. We have even greater hope that some of you will join our Staff. We have far too few people to run an event of this size. Dedicated, (A small portion of the reason for our postponement for a year)

Many, many of you have concerns, comments, and suggestions moving forward. Please post them here. As with all difficult decisions, the responsibility stops with me. I wear the big bustle. My staff has worked hard, tirelessly, and even spent their own money in an attempt to make this year possible. If you need somewhere to place blame or vent anger, you direct to toward me, and me alone….

(3) NOVIK PRAISED. Constance Grady reviews the new book for Vox: “With Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik cements her status as one of the great YA fantasy authors”.

Spinning Silver is a spiritual successor to Novik’s 2015 novel Uprooted, for which she won the Nebula for best science fiction and fantasy novel. While the books don’t take place in the same universe, they’re both set in fantasy lands with Eastern European influences, and they both play with fairy-tale tropes without becoming literal retellings. (Novik got her start in fanfiction, which means she comes by her ability to deconstruct tropes honestly.)

The novels also both revolve around the same romance trope, in which a feisty young girl is kidnapped by an immensely powerful older man whom she must change for the better. The power dynamics here are questionable, to say the least, but the way Novik insists on her heroine’s agency makes the story palatable, and the conclusion is undeniably satisfying. What makes the trope more or less work in the end is that Novik’s girls are not just heroines. They are also monsters, even if they have their reasons for what they do.

(4) LOOKING THROUGH THE LENDING WINDOW. John Scalzi, a flagship author at Tor, weighs in on “That Tor Library eBook Lending Thing”.

  1. Tor says that it is noting a general impact on ebook sales because of library lending (its initial statement was more adamant about it, it appears, than some followups). I haven’t seen anyone’s sales numbers but mine, but I do know Tor’s data game is pretty strong — we use it to maximize my own sales and we’ve done a pretty good job there. Its data-mining history has some credibility for me.
  2. Tor has not been a troglodyte either in how it proceeds with ebook tech (remember that it was one of the first major publishers to offer ebooks DRM-free) or in sales/marketing. It’s taken risks and done things other publishers didn’t/wouldn’t do, sometimes just to see what would happen. I have my own example of this: Tor’s ebook-first serialization publication of The Human Division and The End of All Things helped provide Tor with much of the data it used to build its successful Tor.com novella line.

So with all that noted, let’s go back to my first blush statement. I don’t think having day-and-date ebook library lending has had a detrimental effect on my own sales situation. I’m also aware I’m not in the same situation as most authors with regard to sales and attention. Tor has a financial and fiduciary duty to sell books, for itself and for its authors. If Tor wants to try a pilot program to window ebook library lending to find out what impact it has on its sales in general, as much as I don’t think it makes sense for me or my books, I also recognize I don’t see all the data Tor sees across its entire line. I’m also willing to believe, based on previous experience, that Tor is neither stupid, excessively greedy, nor unwilling to make changes if the data tells it something different than what it expects.

(5) ALDRIN FAMILY VALUES. Buzz Aldrin told Florida Today (“Buzz Aldrin explains why he was a no-show at Apollo gala”) why he stayed away from a gala at Kennedy Space Center “kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, even though the event is an important fundraiser for his foundation and he typically is the star attraction.” It was due to a legal fight within his family and disagreements over the direction of Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation. His son, Dr. Andrew Aldrin, serves as the President of the Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.

“I will not be attending the Gala tonight. While initially looking forward to it, due to the present course of events related to my space initiative, also current legal matters linked to the ShareSpace Foundation, I have decided not to attend at this time…

…the Foundation is, in my view, now being used to promote quite different objectives. I was recently advised by way of a letter from an attorney for my son, Andrew Aldrin, that I was not to hold myself as being part of the Foundation.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported on the suit when it was filed in June: “Buzz Aldrin sues 2 of his children, claiming slander over dementia”.

Aldrin’s lawsuit filed earlier this month in a Florida state court came a week after his children, Andrew and Janice, filed a petition claiming their father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion. They asked for the court to name them his legal guardians

KVEO’s article “Gala opens countdown to 50th anniversary of 1st moon landing” adds:

Andrew and Jan Aldrin, as well as business manager Christina Korp, are on the foundation’s board and attended the gala. Aldrin’s oldest son, James, isn’t involved in the legal fight.

Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father’s absence during the gala.

“We’re sorry dad can’t be here, I know some of you are disappointed,” Aldrin said. “Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the first generation of Martians.”

(6) STARTING YOUNG. Kayla Randall has a profile in the Washington City Paper of Rebecca F. Kuang, whose first novel, The Poppy War, is out from Harper Voyager.  Kuang just graduated from Georgetown University this year. “How a Georgetown Student Published Her Epic Fantasy Debut—Before She Turned 22”

Kuang began writing the book when she was 19 and managed to start, finish, and publish the book all before turning 22. She graduated from Georgetown this spring and will enter Cambridge’s modern Chinese studies program in the fall.

“I never really thought about age being a barrier,” she says. She had read Eragon by Christopher Paolini, who started writing that book at the age of 15 and published it when he was 19. “It always seemed possible that you could write fantasy and get published at a ridiculously young age,” Kuang says.

A gap year between her sophomore and junior years allowed her to finish the book. She lived in Beijing and taught debate to high school students. Before she moved to China, she’d had very little contact with her grandparents but when she returned, she had long conversations with them and learned her family’s history in China. “I was steeped in that family legacy and decided I wanted to do something with it,” she says. The “something” evolved into the plot of The Poppy War, with some supplemental fantasy elements.

(7) FORTNITE ADDICTS. In the Washington Post, Sam Fortier says that many professional coaches are worried that athletes are spending so much time playing Fortnite that they’re not getting enough sleep and are doing a poor job at game time — “Are pro athletes playing too much Fortnite? Some teams are worried.”

The fear of the Capitals is that games such as Fortnite could erode a foundational practice of their developmental system: eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Before last season, the Capitals instructed Olie Kolzig, the former Capitals goalie who is now a coach with their minor league affiliate in Hershey, Pa., to monitor players’ cellphone usage. The organization knew some junior-hockey players had “a problem” because looking at screens less than an hour before bed affected their sleep. This coming season, management trusts Kolzig’s players will know the same concern applies to Fortnite.

Yet Kolzig finds himself in the same predicament any parent faces because video games are integral to his players’ culture. So he will ask they discipline themselves to about an hour a day and not to play before bed.

“It’s a big issue, and it could affect performance,” Kolzig said. “But they’re grown men. .?.?. You can’t hold their hand and force-feed them [advice]….”

(8) BRAND MALFUNCTION. Inverse says “Stan Lee Did a Legitimate Cameo in a DC Movie”.

…Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in pretty much every single Marvel movie, and for good reason, since the co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and more is in many ways Marvel’s public face. He never did any work for rival DC Comics, though, which explains why Lee has never made a cameo in a DC movie… until now.

Lee makes his DC debut in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, which opens on July 27. The long-running Cartoon Network series’ first big-screen adventure is chock-full of meta-humor that puts Deadpool to shame, as it’s all about making a blockbuster superhero movie and skewering the entire industry/genre in the process….

(9) WENDEL OBIT. 3rd Rock from the Sun actress Elmarie Wendel has died. Syfy Wire posted a career retrospective.

Her other genre roles included: Fallout 4 (Video Game, 2015), The Lorax (2012), Rumpelstiltskin (1995), Weird Science (1994, 1 episode), Knight Rider (1982, 1 episode).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows that, like Westworld, nothing can go wrong during a chat with Alexa….

(11) SIDESHOW. Gizmodo’s io9 takes you to the winner of the Franchise Wars at SDCC (“Taco Bell’s Demolition Man Restaurant Gave Us Nacho Fries, Happy Feelings, and Seashell Butts”). The pop-up “Taco Bell 2032” was something between a restaurant and an art installation set up near Comic-Con, though non-attendees were welcomed too. (One has a hard time imagining why any non attendee would have wanted to wait in the hours-long line.) The io9 writer was impressed with the effort put into the look and feel of the place, much evoking the Taco Bell featured in Demolition Man (Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Wesley Snipe). The food? Well, it certainly looks fancy and was said to taste pretty good, but it is a Taco Bell.

So, were the three seashells in the restroom? Yeah, looks like they were… but carefully sealed in a clear box with a scrolling electronic sign that seemed to read “out of order.” What people would have done with them had they been accessible does not bear close thought.

(12) DRAX DEFENDS JAMES GUNN. One of his actors spoke out in his defense: “Dave Bautista, Others Defend James Gunn: ‘I Am NOT OK With What’s Happening’” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” actor Dave Bautista came out strongly in defense of James Gunn Friday after Disney fired him from his role as director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

“I will have more to say but for right now I will say this,” Bautista, who plays Drax in both “Guardians” movies and in “Avengers: Infinity War,” wrote on Twitter. “James Gunn is one of the most loving, caring, good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. I’m NOT ok with what’s happening to him.”

(13) PETITION TO BRING BACK GUNN. A Change.org petition calling for Marvel to Re-Hire James Gunn already has over 106,000 signatures. The petition’s author says —

I’m smart enough to know this most likely won’t change anything but hopefully, this could get Disney to realize the mistake they made and not do it again in the future.

I agree on the point that if people say a bunch of stupid shit while working for a studio, the studio has full right to fire him over the possible controversy. This situation is very different though as he made these jokes years before he was working for Disney and also the fact that they were jokes. I agree with most, including Gunn himself that the jokes were shitty and un-funny but they were still jokes, it wasn’t an opinion or a statement, it was just a bad attempt at being funny.

(14) WHAT WAS SO BAD? Not everyone has read examples of Gunn’s tasteless jokes? Bill linked to numerous samples in this comment – and be warned, a lot of it is quite foul.

(15) NO COMING BACK. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna analyzes why “For James Gunn, there’s no return to being a major mainstream filmmaker”.

On Thursday, Gunn apologized in a series of tweets to his nearly half-million Twitter followers, trying to explain that he attempted such social-media “jokes” back when he viewed himself as “a provocateur” whose humor and horror movies alike were “outrageous and taboo.”

Joking in a taboo manner about such subjects as rape and pedophilia didn’t hurt Gunn’s filmmaking career back when he was a lesser-known indie director releasing such low-budget, industry-admired movies as “Slither.” But now that he is mainstream, there is, of course, no way a major studio creating all-ages entertainment can keep even a beloved franchise director in a leadership role.

Walt Disney chairman Alan Horn said Friday in a statement: “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

The irony here, of course, is that Disney simply had to know about Gunn’s history of offensive online remarks when they hired him for 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” – the first film in a franchise powered largely by Gunn’s bent sense of humor and love of classic rock songs.

(16) CERNOVICH. SFGate invites readers to “Meet Mike Cernovich, the Right-Wing Provocateur Who Got James Gunn Fired”.

Right-wing provocateur Mike Cernovich claimed another scalp online Friday when Disney fired James Gunn from its “Guardians of the Galaxy” series because of old tweets that Cernovich helped publicize.

(17) SKRUTSKIE NOVEL REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson sees “Muscle And Bone Meet Machinery In ‘Hullmetal Girls'”:

Hullmetal Girls embraces teen angst in the form of bionic mech suits and the girls who meld with them to save humanity.

Aisha Un-Haad has been working hard as a janitor to take care of her two younger siblings, but when one of them falls ill with a deadly fever that’s sweeping through all the ships that make up the Fleet, she makes the decision to become Scela, a bionic super-soldier created to protect and serve the Fleet’s rulers. There’s no going back once her body is sliced and diced to make room for the mechanical parts that make up her new artificially intelligent “exo,” and her mind is welded permanently to its will and those of the other Scela in her squad. But it will all be worth it if she can advance far enough in the ranks to earn a salary that will keep her siblings safe….

(18) ONE WORD. NPR’s Korva Kolman looks at “Beowulf In The Suburbs? ‘The Mere Wife’ Is An Epic Retelling”:

There’s a vitally important word in the epic tale of Beowulf and, according to Maria Dahvana Headley, it’s been translated incorrectly for a very long time. The word is aglæca/æglæca — no one’s entirely sure how to pronounce it – and, as Headley explains, that same word is used to describe Beowulf and his three antagonists: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon.

“In the early English translations it was translated for Beowulf as ‘hero’ and for Grendel as ‘monster,’ and for Grendel’s mother as ‘wretch of a woman’ or ‘hag,’ ” Headley says. “But it’s the same word.”

(19) ROBO FETCH. They’re going from viral video to market: “Boston Dynamics Is Gearing Up to Produce Thousands of Robot Dogs”.

Boston Dynamics, maker of uncannily agile robots, is poised to bring its first commercial product to market — a small, dog-like robot called the SpotMini.

The launch was announced in May, and founder Marc Raibert recently said that by July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini at the rate of around 1,000 units per year.

The broader goal, as reported by Inverse, is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications.

The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.

(20) BIG CONSTRUCTION. BBC covers “The mega-machines helping China link the world”. Includes an ordinary diagram, and animations of two extraordinary track layers.

China is creating a network of ambitious land- and sea-based transport links to connect its booming economy with those of Europe and Africa. And it’s wasting no time – designing incredible bespoke construction machines to get the job done fast.

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, aims to connect two-thirds of the world’s population across 70 countries through a network of land links (the “belt”) and sea routes (the “road”).

Officials talk about lifetime investments worth trillions of dollars, sourced from banks, participating countries and the Chinese government.

The scheme is not without controversy. Critics point out that it burdens poor countries with billions of dollars of Chinese debt, and dismiss it as a projection of Chinese foreign policy…

(21) THE ORVILLE AT COMIC-CON. The Season 2 Trailer for The Orville debuted at Comic-Con.

The Orville: Follows the crew of the not-so-functional exploratory ship in the Earth’s interstellar fleet, 400 years in the future.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]