Pixel Scroll 10/20/20 Obi-Wan Said, Padawan, You’re Gonna Drive Me To Stalking If You Don’t Stop Flying That Millennial Falcon

(1) THE DOCTOR AND ROSE. Bustle previews a new installment of David Tennant Does A Podcast With…Billie Piper.

…Tennant met Piper 15 years ago on the set of Doctor Who. He entered in her second series and it’s hard looking back to imagine it as anything other than an immediate success. However, Piper said that when Dr Who was brought back to our screens with Christopher Eccleston in the leading role, that wasn’t the case. “When we started making it, everyone said it was going to be a failure. So you just didn’t imagine it being on for longer than three months,” she said. “Imagining that 15 years later, it’s still probably the biggest job you will have ever done and you’ll still be talking about it and going off and meeting people and, you know, celebrating it… That was a big reach.”

… Thinking about whether the reboot would be popular wasn’t the only thing on Piper’s mind. Doctor Who was the first big acting role she got after leaving the music world. “I wanted to prove myself as an actress; to myself, family, and this dream I had,” she said, “people don’t greet you with open arms when you’re trying new things, especially in this country. The attitude is very much ‘let’s see it then.’” Piper and Tennant made such a lasting impact on the series they’ve bot returned for guest appearances in Doctor Who.

Listen to the full conversation between Tennant and Piper at the link.

(2) THE ANCESTORS. Vulture’s Lila Shapiro profiles Rebecca Roanhorse and challenges to her as an “OwnVoices” writer in “The Sci-Fi Author Reimagining Native History”.

…Roanhorse is speaking from her home in Santa Fe, overlooking the Sun and Moon mountains. She lives there with her husband, a Diné (or Navajo) artist, and their 12-year-old daughter. She rarely speaks with her birth mother. “I’m sure some people may come home and find joy,” she said, “but that has not been my experience.” Her new book, Black Sun, is an epic set in an imaginary world inspired by the indigenous cultures of North America as they were before European explorers invaded the shores of the continent. Her work has been embraced by the literary world and often appears on lists of the best “OwnVoices” fantasy novels. (The phrase, which originated in 2015 as a Twitter hashtag and has since turned into a publicity tool, signifies that the author shares the same background or experiences as the characters they write.) And since entering the scene a few years ago, she’s already received many of the genre’s most prestigious awards. Black Sun, which was published on October 13, was one of the most eagerly anticipated titles of the fall. Some have compared it to the monumental achievements of N.K. Jemisin and George R.R. Martin. Screen adaptations of several projects are already underway.

But within Native communities, the book’s reception has been mixed. Although Roanhorse has many Native fans who have hailed her work as groundbreaking and revelatory, she also has a number of vocal detractors. Not long after her debut, Trail of Lighting, was published, a group of Diné writers released a letter accusing her of cultural appropriation, mischaracterizing Diné spiritual beliefs, and harmful misrepresentation. They took issue with Roanhorse’s decision to write a fantasy inspired by Diné stories, since she is only Diné by marriage, and wondered why she hadn’t written about her “own tribe,” referring to the Ohkay Owingeh people of New Mexico. Some have even expressed doubts about Roanhorse’s Native ancestry and her right to tell Native stories at all.

At a time when the publishing industry is throwing open its doors to authors who traditionally faced barriers to entry, the controversy over Roanhorse’s work reveals a fault line in the OwnVoices movement. Native identity is exceptionally complex. It consists of hundreds of cultures, each of which has its own customs. Further complicating all this is the fact that Roanhose grew up estranged from Native communities, an outsider through no choice of her own. This complexity is reflected in her writing — both her debut and her latest work concern protagonists who are at odds with their communities. “I’m always writing outsiders,” she says. “Their journey is usually about coming home, and sometimes they wished they’d stayed away.”

(3) MEET MR. SCIENCE. At Black Gate, Doug Ellis browses a pamphlet sent to drum up advertising for Analog in the early Sixties: “A Man of Science: A Study of the Readership of Analog Science Fact-Fiction. (Scans of the pamphlet can be read at the link.)

… The report discusses how Mr. Science’s income is about double that of Mr. Average’s, and that 38.4% of Mr. Science have had graduate study, compared to 2.3% of Mr. Average. It discusses various professional societies Mr. Science belongs to, and the credentials of some of its authors. It also spends two pages touting the background and editorship of John Campbell….

(4) A CLOSE SCRAPE. “NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid” reports the space agency. Still awaiting word on sample quality as of this PR.

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023.

This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January.

… All spacecraft telemetry data indicates the TAG event executed as expected. However, it will take about a week for the OSIRIS-REx team to confirm how much sample the spacecraft collected.

(5) LEHRER GOES PUBLIC. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Tom Lehrer has put all his lyrics in the public domain: Songs and Lyrics by Tom Lehrer. The site includes lyrics and sheet music, but, alas, no recordings.

My rough quick count shows about 45 songs I’m familiar with (including several from The Electric Company, of which at least four are on a Lehrer multi-CD compilation and on Spotify), although some posted include revisions and/or private versions (and, according to a separate list poster, not all known revisions/updates). Also about 60 songs that I’ve never heard of.

By the way, the home page advises: “Note: This website will be shut down on December 31, 2024, so if you want to download anything, don’t wait too long.”

As noted, some of the Electric Company songs are on (free) Spotify. And elsewhere, like YouTube (search “Tom Lerher Electric Company”). (And see http://www.tomlehrer.org/covers/electric.html for related info.)

I also recommend the (PBS) Tom Lehrer Live In Copenhagen concert, from decades ago, it shows what a great (IMHO) performer he is – available here at the Internet Archive.

(6) THE VERDICT ON CATS. John Hodgman ruled on a thorny issue in the February 16 New York Times Magazine.

Question: My friend Abby insists that the movie CATS is good.  She has even persuaded our friends to perform a live version of it on her backyard on St. Valentine’s Day.  She says this is not a sarcastic bit.  Please order her to admit that this is some sort of joke.

HODGMAN:  I am truly impartial, as I have never seen either the film or the stage production of CATS.  However, I have processed enough of my friends’ trauma after they watched the recent movie to establish these principles:  1) There is no way Abby can actually replicate the C.G.I. strangeness of that movie unless her backyard is a literal uncanny valley; 2) Thus, Abby is simply putting on the stage version of CATS, which everyone seems to have liked, even without sarcasm; 3) People like what they like, and it’s not your job to police your friends’ Jellicle thoughts.  Happy Valentine’s Day.  Now and forever.

(7) HE’S DEAD, JAMES. ‘Tis the season – so James Davis Nicoll lists “Five SFF Books Built Around Dead People (Or Mostly Dead People)”. Was Miracle Max wrong when he said “If he were all dead, there’s only one thing you can do”?

Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan (1977)

Charlie is an enigma: a human corpse found in a cave on the Moon. A missing man should be easy to identify, given how few humans have made it out into space. Inexplicably, all of them can be accounted for. So who is the dead man?…

(8) ANOTHER DAM BOOKSTORE. “A Surreal New Bookstore Has Just Opened in China”Architectural Digest takes a look inside.

…For a book lover, stepping into a bookstore is always exciting, but a new bookstore in China makes the experience absolutely spellbinding. Dujiangyan Zhongshuge, located in Chengdu, was designed by Shanghai-based architecture firm X+Living, which has created several locations for Zhongshuge. The two-story space appears cathedral-like, thanks to the mirrored ceilings and gleaming black tile floors which reflect the bookcases, creating a visual effect that feels akin to an M.C. Escher drawing. “The mirror ceiling in the space is the signature of Zhongshuge bookstore,” says Li Xiang, founder of X+Living. “It effectively extends the space by reflection.”

Upon entering, shoppers encounter C-shaped bookcases, which create a series of intimate spaces. In the center of the store, towering arches and columns take advantage of the full height of the space. These bookcases were inspired by the history and topography of the region. “We moved the local landscape into the indoor space,” says Li. “The project is located in Dujiangyan, which is a city with a long history of water conservancy development, so in the main area, you could see the construction of the dam integrated into the bookshelves.”

(9) FUTURE-CON. The success of their first event has encouraged Future-Con’s organizers to keep going. Thread starts here.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1979 — Forty one years ago, Robert Heinlein’s The Number of The Beast first saw publication as a serial staring with the October issue of Omni magazine which was edited by Ben Bova and Frank Kendig. New English Library would offer the first edition of it, a United Kingdom paperback, the following January. Fawcett Gold Medal / Ballantine would print the first U.S. edition, again a paperback, that summer. There would be no hardcover until twenty-years after it first came out when SFBC did one. It did not make the final voting list for Best Novel Hugo at Noreascon Two. It won no other awards. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. He came to hate that he played that character feeling he’d been Typecast. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.) (CE)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. One half with Manfred Bennington Lee of the writing team who created Ellery Queen.  ISFDB lists two Ellery Queen novels as being genre, And on the Eight Day and The Scrolls of Lysis, plus a single short story, “ A Study in Terror”. (Died 1982.) (CE) 
  • Born October 20, 1906 – Crockett Johnson.  Of this simple genius – that’s praise – I wrote here: Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley, Harold and the purple crayon, the geometricals.  A commenter mentioned Barkis.  Also there’s The Carrot Seed; more.  Fantagraphics’ fourth volume of Barnaby reprints is scheduled for 1 Dec 20.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1923 – Erle M. Korshak, 97.  Sometimes known as “Mel”, hello Andrew Porter.  Here he is with other pioneers at Nycon I the 1st Worldcon.  Committee secretary, Chicon I the 2nd Worldcon.  His Shasta Publishers an early provider of hardback SF 1947-1957; after its end, EMK dormant awhile, then Shasta-Phoenix arose 2009 publishing classic SF art.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  Barry Levin Lifetime Collector’s Award.  Announced as First Fandom Guest of Honor, Chicon 8 (80th Worldcon, 2022).  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best remembered  for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had another appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea “The Wax Men” episode. (Died 1973.) (CE)
  • Born October 20, 1937 – Betsy Haynes, 83.  Eighty novels of history, mystery, comedy, the supernatural.  In The Dog Ate My Homework a girl using a magic word can make things happen; to escape a test she says the school has been taken over by giant termites: suddenly she hears giant crunching steps.  Two dozen Bone Chillers by BH became a television series, some based on her books, some by other authors although BH appeared at the end of each saying Use your imagination.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1941 Anneke Wills, 79. She was Polly, a companion to the Second and Third Doctors. She was also in Doctor Who: Devious, a fan film in development since 1991 with live-action scenes mostly completed by 2005 but the film still not released I believe. You can see the first part here. (CE)
  • Born October 20, 1955 – Greg Hemsath, 65.  Active in Los Angeles fandom during the 1980s.  While rooming with local fan Talin, worked on The Faery Tale Adventure, a computer game for the Amiga; here is a map Greg and Bonnie Reid made.  Here is Talin in the “Dream Knight” vacuum-formed fantasy armor Greg helped with.  Remarks from Greg appear in Bill Rotsler fanzines.  Greg told Loscon XXVIII he was a past Guildmaster of the Crafters’ Guild of St. Gregory the Wonderworker.  Applying that title to Greg himself would be disrespectful, so I shan’t.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 61. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (As quoted in Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair (CE) 
  • Born October 20, 1961 – Kate Mosse, O.B.E., 59.  Author of fiction, some historical; playwright, journalist e.g. The TimesThe GuardianBookseller; broadcaster e.g. Readers’ and Writers’ Roadshow on BBC Four.  For us, three Languedoc novels (she and husband lived there awhile), two more.  Co-founded the Women’s Prize for Fiction.  Officer of the Order of the British Empire.  First female executive director of Chichester Festival Theatre.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1966 – Diana Rowland, 54.  Marksmanship award in her Police Academy class.  Black Belt in Hapkido.  Math degree from Georgia Tech but has tried to forget.  Eight novels about Kara Gillian accidentally summoning a demon prince, and then what.  Six about white trash zombies.  A story in Wild Cards 26; half a dozen more.  [JH]
  • Born October 20, 1977 Sam Witwer, 43. He’s had many genre roles — Crashdown in Battlestar Galactica, Aidan Waite in Being Human, Davis Bloome in Smallville, Mr. Hyde in Once Upon a Time and Ben Lockwood in Supergirl. He has voiced Starkiller in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, The Son in Star Wars: The Clone Wars,  was the Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars Rebels. and also voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone WarsStar Wars Rebels and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark shows why witches prefer cats.
  • Crankshaft knows who to call when you absolutely, positively have to have a facemask right away.

(13) SALADIN AHMED LEAVING MS. MARVEL. In January, writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Minkyu Jung will end their run on Magnificent Ms. Marvel with an oversized finale issue.

Since launching last year, Magnificent Ms. Marvel has been a revolutionary era for Kamala Khan, with surprising developments in both her personal life and burgeoning super hero career. Between saving the alien planet of Saffa to fighting against the mysterious and deadly entity known as Stormranger, Kamala Khan also teamed up with new allies to defend her home of Jersey City.

Ahmed and Jung will end this thrilling journey with an issue that sees Ms. Marvel facing down Stormranger with the help of new hero Amulet, all while confronting the ongoing drama surrounding her family and friends. The special giant-sized issue also happens to the be the 75th issue of Kamala Khan’s solo adventures and will be a worthy capstone to a run that has greatly enhanced the legacy of one of Marvel’s brightest stars.

Here’s what Saladin had to say about closing out his tenure on the title:

“Forget super heroes, Kamala Khan is just plain one of the most important fictional characters of her generation. I knew that was true even before I came to write comics. But meeting and hearing from fans since launching The Magnificent Ms. Marvel has made it clearer and clearer. Kamala means so much to so many! Muslim readers. South Asian readers. But also people of all ages and cultures from all over the world who want to root for a selfless, kindhearted (possibly slightly dorky) hero in this grim, stingy era.

“Minkyu Jung’s pencils and designs went effortlessly from the streets of Jersey City to the alien plains of Saffa to night sky battles, always maintaining the human emotion that drives this book. From homicidal battlesuits to awkward conversations, he constantly pushed our story in new visual directions. I can’t imagine a more perfect artist for this run, and I’m so happy we got to work together.

“Of course a hero’s myth becomes most fully realized when it is passed between storytellers, changing with each telling. We’ve brought Kamala face to face with new enemies and to new places in her personal life, sent her to space and to the edge of the law. Now others will tell her story their way. I can’t wait to see what that looks like.”

(14) LIVING IN THE PRESENT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Star Trek: Discovery star Sonequa Martin-Green, who says she gave birth to her second child in July.  She promotes the series (where filming wrapped in March) as well as her appearance in the forthcoming Space Jam 2. “Sonequa Martin-Green stars in a future she hopes one day can be a reality”.

 .. The year 2020 and all that has come with it has been a monumental one for Martin-Green, who has become the face of the next generation of “Star Trek” storytelling while also strengthening her voice in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in a moment of American social awakening. She and her husband, “Walking Dead” actor Kenric Green, welcomed their second child, Saraiyah Chaunté Green, on July 19 (via a home birth that was planned pre-pandemic). Martin-Green describes 2020 as a “doozy” but says that, despite all its difficulties, it will always be highlighted by the birth of her daughter.

This year’s racial reckoning in America has weighed heavily on Martin-Green, an Alabama native, who says she is keenly aware of the “new” and in some cases “old” world that awaits her Black children.

“Being Black in America, but also being raised in the South — where racism is quite in your face, it’s not so subtle down there — I feel like this is a time of exposure and a time of enlightenment,” Martin-Green said.

(15) TAKE COVER. “Wear a Mask” parodies the “Be Our Guest” number from Beauty and the Beast.

(16) SPIRITS QUEST. Richard Foss will offer a free virtual talk for the Palos Verdes Library called “Imbibing LA: Boozing it Up in the City of Angels” on October 29 at 7 p.m. reports EasyReader News.

In the talk he explores the history of alcohol in Los Angeles, which the library describes as a “historical center of winemaking and brewing, a region where cocktails were celebrated by movie stars and hunted down by prohibitionists, and a place where finely balanced drinks and abysmal concoctions were crafted by bartenders and celebrities. This talk explores that lively history from the first Spaniards to the end of Prohibition.”

Foss says if you want to appreciate the skill and the artistry of a chef or a bartender or anyone else who is in the restaurant industry, “it helps to know the cultural background, and that’s one of the things that I try to do with this particular talk. It’s about the history of drinking in Los Angeles from the time of the Spanish on to the current era.”

…When not reviewing restaurants or giving talks about food history, Foss is busy curating an exhibition for the Autry Museum of the American West called “Cooking up a New West.”

It’s about the waves of immigration that came to California and how it changed the way America eats. “At the time I proposed this I didn’t think of it as remotely political but in the current environment anything that you do about the value immigrants have added to our culture has suddenly become more political than it used to be.”

The exhibit is expected to open in 2021.

Readers can register for “Imbibing LA: Boozing it Up in the City of Angels” here.

(17) SETTING THE BAR WHERE IT BELONGS. [Item by Dann.] I came across this via Grimdark Magazine: “Five Things Netflix Must Get Right For Conan”. I didn’t see any mention of this development until recently. FWIW, I think their points are pretty good. I would summarize them as:

  • Conan should be a character that demonstrates violence
  • Conan is more than a brooding hulk of muscles.  Get the character right by reflecting his humor and intelligence.
  • Get the casting right.  The lead actor has to be a physical specimen capable of presenting a broad array of emotions.
  • Respect and represent the source material.
  • This isn’t generic fantasy.  RE Howard created a complete alternative history and mythos.  Use that creation to tell better stories.

I’ve got a Kindle edition of the complete Conan stories by RE Howard.  I’ll read a story or two in between novels.  Too many times, it turns into a story or ten!

(18) HARRY POTTER AND THE LIBERATED TOME. MailOnline is hot on the trail: “Harry Potter and the £40k lost library book: Bosses at British reading centre want to reclaim book that went missing two decades ago… before selling for a fortune at US auction”.

… The book was one of three original editions of JK Rowling’s debut purchased by the city’s library in 1997. Only 500 hardbacks were ever printed.

In 2004, two were sold to raise extra money. It was then that staff discovered that the third was missing.

Its whereabouts remained a mystery until it appeared at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, being sold by a Californian owner. A Portsmouth City Library stamp inside the book appears to be from August 1997.

It went on to sell for $55,000 (£42,500), nearly three times its $20,000 estimate.

Portsmouth City Council library service says the book in question was not officially checked out.

Eric Bradley, Heritage Auctions’ public relations director, told the BBC: ‘If the Portsmouth library was interested in getting it back… I think it would set a precedent, because I think it would be the first time a library took a serious case to reclaim a Harry Potter book.’

(19) SECRET HISTORY. Is this how Europe got fractured?

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains the reason the hobbits can float down a raging river on barrels without the barrels filling up with water is that they’re on the river of questionable physics.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jeffrey Smith, Dann, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Confuse The Force, Luke” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/17/20 The Eliot Ness Monster

(1) CARRYING OUT THEIR LAST WISHES. J. Michael Straczynski posted on Facebook today about his all-consuming role as executor for Harlan and Susan Ellison.

… “How do YOU know what the deal is, huh? My guy talked to the executor just yesterday, who told him this straight-up. How do YOU know better than HE does?”

How do I know better? How do I know these are just rumors?

Because I am the Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust.

I’ve kept a low profile since accepting this position in order to focus on of the million-and-one details that have to be addressed. I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been appointed an executor, but it is a massive undertaking. To be an executor is to inherit nothing but be responsible for everything, and to implement the last wishes of those who entrusted you with the totality of their life’s work.

Consequently, ever since Susan’s passing, 80% of my day, every day, has gone into establishing the Trust, dealing with tax issues, creditors, court documents, lawyers, accountants, affidavits, death certificates, corporate minutes…in simpler cases, the process only takes a few months, and usually ends by parceling out bequests or auctioning off the estate.

But that is not the case here, because there is the legacy of Harlan’s work that must be preserved and enhanced. Looking after all this, and seeing to Harlan and Susan’s wishes, is something I will likely be doing for the rest of my life.

Everything that Harlan ever owned, did or wrote will be fiercely protected. Steps are being taken to certify Ellison Wonderland as a cultural landmark, ensuring that it will remain just as it is long after I have gone to dust.

To revive interest in his prose, literary representation has been shifted to Janklow & Nesbit, one of the largest and most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Film and TV rights will be handled through A3, previously known as the Abrams Agency, also a leading and influential agency. I will be working hand in glove with them to get Harlan’s work back into print in a big way.

There is more to say on future plans – much more – but all of that will come in time….

(2) WORD MAGIC. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick promises that Alix E. Harrow’s “‘The Once And Future Witches’ Will Have You Spellbound”.

…Harrow likes a secret society in the best way, and Witches is riddled with secrets, honeycombed with groups working toward overlapping or opposing goals. The Sisters engage in imaginative skulduggery, scrounging plans from overlooked skills and ignored know-how. She also likes an uprising, and here, where witchery and sickness both run deep as water under a layer of oil, that’s heady stuff. We all (I hope) agree women getting the vote was long overdue. Framing the reclamation of magic and power against that real-world struggle, which we know turned out a certain way, feels particularly apt to themes of once and future, poignant to the powerlessness many feel this year.

I adored watching characters as their expectations were subverted, as their understanding of their world expanded. Harrow revels in many-layered mysteries, in a story of many acts, in wordplay….

(3) MAUS ARTIST. The Guardian’s Sam Leith interviews “Graphic artist Art Spiegelman on Maus, politics and ‘drawing badly'”.

…Spiegelman’s success had the disconcerting effect of placing an artist who had been happy in the comix-with-an-x underground – a lysergic disciple of R Crumb – very firmly in the literary establishment. He became a staple of Tina Brown’s New Yorker, a darling of academics, and came to be regarded by many, not without resentment, as a sort of capo of the US comics scene.

“I remember when I first got this Pulitzer prize I thought it was a prank call,” he says, “But immediately after I got back to New York, I got an urgent call from a wonderful cartoonist and friend, Jules Feiffer: ‘We have to meet immediately. Can you come out and have a coffee?’ And we met. He said: ‘You have to understand what you’ve just got. It’s either a licence to kill, or something that will kill you.’”

That comics are now considered “respectable” – thanks in part to Maus – is something Spiegelman never quite looked for. But he acknowledges it has its advantages. “I’m astounded by how things have changed. And I would say I might have been dishonest or disingenuous when I said I wasn’t interested in it being respectable. I love the medium. And I love what was done in it from the 19th century to now. But I know that on some level, I want it to be able to not have to make everything have a joke, or an escapist adventure story.”

His rocket launch into canonicity was both “liberating and also incredibly confining – trying to find places to go where I wouldn’t have to be the Elie Wiesel of comic books”. Even at the time, Spiegelman seems to have been conscious that Maus would be in danger of defining him. The next project he took on was illustrating Moncure March’s jazz-age poem The Wild Party for a small press: “This was going to be a kind of polar opposite [to Maus]: decorative, erotic, frivolous in many ways and involved with the pleasures of making; although it didn’t turn out to be so pleasurable in its third year. Every project I start turns into a coffin.”

(4) MAKE IT SO. “‘I Longed To See Something Different, So I Wrote It’: Questions For Rebecca Roanhorse” at NPR.

… In an email interview, Roanhorse tells me that’s something she’s always wanted to write about. “I have been reading epic fantasies inspired by European settings since I was a child, and while I’m still a fan of many of these works, I longed to see something different,” she says. “So I wrote it. I never made a conscious decision to go in that direction. That direction was simply the natural culmination of my love of the architecture, poetry, politics, and history of these places and people that I’ve been learning about forever.”

(5) IN MEMORY NOT GREEN. The actress says it ain’t so: “Tatiana Maslany Refutes She-Hulk Casting Report: Lead Role In Disney+ Series ‘Not Actually A Thing” at SYFY Wire.

Previous reports that Tatiana Maslany was getting ready to go green may have been premature. The Canadian-born Orphan Black star recently told an Ontario newspaper that she’s not been cast, after all, as the star of Marvel’s upcoming She-Hulk series at Disney+.

Speaking with the The Sudbury Star this week, Maslany tapped the brakes on all the She-Hulk hype, saying she’s “unfortunately” not currently tied to the series. First reported by Variety in September, word quickly spread that Marvel had tapped Maslany to play Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk), the comics-based cousin of Bruce Banner.

(6) GAME FACE. Ty Schalter’s “Personal Canons: Ender’s Game” is the latest guest post in Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series.

…So why, then, am I putting on my cape and riding out for this book as one that Everyone Must Read?

It’s not just because it remains a beautiful piece of art. Neither is it just because many other great books Card wrote have been silenced by his own inability to let them speak for themselves. Nor is it just because Ender’s Game deserves to be snatched from the canonical pyre and preserved for future generations.

It’s because Ender’s Game is a warning.

It’s a warning to privileged kids like me, who believe they know better than everyone else, when they don’t know how to turn in their homework on time. It’s a warning to everyone who thinks the universe owes them anything, just because of the circumstances of their birth. It’s a warning to a society that will stop at nothing to put itself first, even if that means perverting everything it’s supposed to stand for. Most of all, it’s a warning to authors, to readers, to writers, to the SFF community.

Yes, it’s possible to build a future where everyone can thrive together. Where our stories and our lives are enriched by the diversity of our voices, experiences, myths, cultures, and canons. Where the stories we tell light the way for all of humanity.

But the moral arc of the universe doesn’t bend toward justice by default. It requires constant, collective work with hammer and tongs. It requires pain, exhaustion, sacrifice by those who are able on behalf of those who aren’t. It requires humble reflection on everything we’ve ever done and choosing to do the right thing now, again and again, no matter how badly (or how often) we’ve screwed up. It is the journey of a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

(7) THE LIGHTHEARTEDNESS OF OTHER DAYS. James Wallace Harris surveys the field in “Poking Fun at Science Fiction”, but confesses, “My problem is sarcasm, satire, and subtle jabs go right over my head (my lady friends take advantage of this).”

…Study that Emsh (Ed Emshwiller) painting above. At first I thought it a clever way to suggest action – a woman had been abducted from a space colony. But then I thought of something, and it became funny, But how could it possibly comic? Obviously a woman has been kidnapped by an alien on a colony world – that’s tragic. But if you know the history of science fiction magazines, and the cliches about covers with BEMs carrying off a scantily clad women, then you might think Emsh is playing around. In case you don’t know the lingo, BEM stands for bug eyed monster. Sex sells, even for science fiction magazines. Why did Emsh leave off the sexy woman and lower the sales of that issue? Because we expected a naked woman he thought might be funny to disappoint us. Sure, the painting is of a serious action scene, a man is running to rescue a woman. Maybe even the editor told him, “No babes.” But I like to think Emsh is also poking fun at science fiction (See the section below, Sex, Nudity, and Prudity in Science Fiction.)

(8) FLEMING OBIT. Actress Rhonda Fleming died October 14. The New York Times paid tribute: “Rhonda Fleming, 97, Movie Star Made for Technicolor, Is Dead”. Here’s a brief excerpt concerning her genre connections.

Rhonda Fleming, the red-haired actress who became a popular sex symbol in Hollywood westerns, film noir and adventure movies of the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 97.

Ms. Fleming’s roles included those of a beautiful Arthurian princess in the Bing Crosby musical version of Mark Twain’s novel “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” (1949).

… Ms. Fleming’s … last film was “The Nude Bomb,” a 1980 spy comedy based on the 1960s sitcom “Get Smart,” in which she played Edith Von Secondberg, an international fashion designer.

In a 1993 interview with The Toronto Star, relaxing at her California home with Mr. Mann, she said, “My husband recently asked me if I’d seen any movie I wanted to appear in.” She went straight for a specific role. “I said yes, the dinosaur in ‘Jurassic Park.’”

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination form O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 17, 1856 – Jane Barlow.  Knew French & German; classical scholar; pianist.  D.Litt. from Univ. Dublin.  A score of books; Irish Idylls went into nine editions.  For us The End of Elfintown book-length poem; translation of The Battle of Frogs and Mice, title page here; under another name, A Strange Land.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 103. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next GenerationShadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 86. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a BBC video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it.  (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1942 – John Sapienza, Jr., 78.  Gamer (six years in Alarums & Excursions), WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) stalwart, helpful con-runner (he was at SMOFcon 7; SMOF for “secret masters of fandom” being as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better; SMOFcon 37 was in 2019), and lawyer, who found himself marrying Peggy Rae Pavlat, which had an effect like Atomic Mouse’s U-235 pills.  He was and is quite worthy; I said the only way Peggy Rae could have got more sapience was by marrying him.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan.  Best known for the Wheel of Time series, finished by Brandon Sanderson at RJ’s death.  Also Conan the Barbarian books.  Under other names, historical fiction, a Western, dance criticism.  In the Army earned a Distinguished Flying Cross with oak-leaf cluster, Bronze Star with “V” and oak-leaf cluster, two Vietnamese Gallantry Crosses with palm.  His widow continues as an editor.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, F.N., 70.  Another WSFA stalwart, he chaired ConStellation the 41st Worldcon, three Disclaves including one he couldn’t attend, two Capclaves, Balticon 15, three World Fantasy Conventions.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 29, Lunacon 40, Armadillocon 36, World Fantasy Con 2018.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Publisher, Old Earth Books.  Occasional Filer.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1951 – Geraldine Harris, 69.  Five novels, two shorter stories; see her Website here.  Also children’s books on ancient Egypt.  Married name Geraldine Pinch identifies her academic work in Egyptology, from which she says she has retired.  [JH]
  • Born October 17, 1958 Jo Fletcher, 62. British editor who, after working for Gollancz for 16 years, founded Jo Fletcher Books in 2011. Interestingly ISFDB says she’s done two World Fantasy Convention souvenir books, Gaslight & Ghosts and Secret City: Strange Tales of London, both with Stephen Jones. She also wrote with him the British Report aka The London Report for Science Fiction Chronicle. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 52. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1983 Felicity Jones,  37. She played Ethel Hallow for one series of The Worst Witch and its sequel Weirdsister College. She’d later be in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as Felicia Hardy and in Rogue One as Jyn Erso. I’d say her role as balloon pilot Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts is genre adjacent. (CE) 
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 36.  Stick-figure cartoons can degenerate into word gags, and the endlessly sour can tire like the sweet, but speaking of endlessness, “Time” in RM’s xkcd won the Best-Graphic-Story Hugo having been updated every thirty minutes 25-30 Mar 2013, then every hour until 26 Jul, in total 3,099 images; he evidently learned Time must have a stopHuxley did.  A teacher of mine said “There’s a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Donald Duck’s nephews) first appeared in a comic strip.
  • Bliss suggests the next Harry Potter title.
  • A mega-dose of secret history at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

(12) GRAB AND GO. October 20 will be the day NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex snatches a sample from the asteroid Bennu. Planetary Society has a briefing: “Your Guide to the OSIRIS-REx sample collection”. Click on planetary.org/live for NASA TV coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET / 21:00 UTC.

…Collecting a sample from Bennu is no small challenge. The asteroid, which measures 500 meters (a third of a mile) wide, ended up being much rockier than mission designers expected. The sample site is just 16 meters in diameter and surrounded by boulders bigger than OSIRIS-REx itself. The spacecraft must collect its sample without guidance from Earth, since it currently takes nearly 20 minutes for signals to travel between our planet and Bennu at the speed of light.

The entire process takes almost 5 hours. OSIRIS-REx will match Bennu’s 4-hour rotation rate and slowly descend to the surface. To give the spacecraft more room to maneuver, it adjusts itself into a Y-shape, extending its sample arm 3 meters and tilting back its two solar panels. Eventually OSIRIS-REx must turn its high-gain antenna away from Earth, restricting the volume of information ground controllers can receive. The spacecraft figures out where it is by comparing surface views from prior flyovers with real-time camera images. It will back away immediately if it thinks it’s going to crash.

Bennu barely has any gravity, so OSIRIS-REx can’t land. Instead, the spacecraft will high-five Bennu with a cylindrical dinner plate-sized device at the end of its arm called TAGSAM, the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM blasts nitrogen gas into the surface, kicking dust and small rocks into a collection chamber that runs around the inside of the device.

OSIRIS-REx won’t overstay its welcome, immediately backing a safe distance away from Bennu. The mission team will take pictures of TAGSAM to verify they got a sample, and later spin the spacecraft to weigh it. If for some reason things go awry, the spacecraft carries enough nitrogen for two more collection attempts. But if everything goes according to plan, OSIRIS-REx will store the sample in a capsule and depart for Earth next year. In September 2023, the capsule will parachute to a landing in Utah.

(13) POSSIBLE BREAKTHROUGH WITH BRAIN INSPIRED COMPUTING. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A core trope of science fiction has been ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) from Arthur Clarke’s HAL 9000 to Philip K. Dick’s replicants.  In real life, computer scientists have over-used the term, applying it to things like facial recognition, and so for what SF folk would call AI they call it General Artificial Intelligence (GAI).  In addition to the rod to GAI, there is also the problem of Moore’s Law by which computing power of a chip doubles every couple of years: this cannot go on indefinitely and we may reach the limit in a decade or so’s time.  Chinese computer scientists from the Centre for Brain-Inspired Computing Research, Tsinghua University, Beijing, have just had a breakthrough that is likely to help address both issues.  Their work is rather technical but in essence they have developed a new approach using neural networks. Instead of getting the network to work like a normal computer, they have developed a new computer system hierarchy.  In essence, while normal computers have an algorithm described in software which is accurately compiled into an exact equivalent intermediate representation of hardware — a set of instructions that is then run on the hardware, what the computer scientists have done is develop an inexact, approximate way to do this.  This overcomes the difficulty of producing exact representations in neural networks. One advantage of this is that their programs can be run on a number of different types of neural network.  Another is that while exactness is lost, processing speeds and power greatly increases.

All this sounds very fine, but will it work? Well, they have tried it out with three experiments done both their new way and on a traditional computer as well as a platform, based on devices called memristors, that accelerate neural network function. One, was to simulate the flight of a flock of birds. The second was to simulate riding a bike, and the third performing a linear algebra analysis called QR decomposition.  All worked.  However the degree of accuracy presented by the new architecture depended on the degree of approximation used. For example, with 10% error no bird, in the flock of birds simulation, matched the standard computer simulation. But with 0.1% error nearly all the birds were plotted either overlapping or immediately adjacent to those plotted with the standard traditional computer simulation.  It may well be that in a couple of decade’s time, when you are locked out of your home by your house AI and arguing with it to be let in, you may reflect that the key stepping stone to creating such GAIs was this research.  (See the review article as well as the primary research abstract and the full paper (available only to subscribers and at subscribing academic libraries’ computer terminals.)

Meanwhile you can see a summary of last season’s science over at ;SF² Concatenation.

(14) REPEATEDLY FRAMED. Not Pulp Covers gives Ray Harryhausen a taste of his own stop-motion:

Special effects master, Ray Harryhausen, demonstrates animating a skeleton warrior from 1963’s ‘Jason and the Argonauts’.

(15) VOLUMES OF MONEY. Learn “Why first edition books can attract obsessive collectors and sell for eye-watering sums” at Inews.

Sales of first editions have made headlines around the world this week after fetching eye-watering price tags.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of his plays, from 1623 – was sold by Christie’s at auction in New York for a record $9.98m (£7.6m), hot on the heels of the sale of a first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for £75,000 on Tuesday.

But beyond the big hitters, there are collectors all around the world quietly seeking out first editions. They can amass important collections that would be nigh-on impossible to achieve if it was art, and not books, they were buying.

… Beyond that, collectors love first editions because they can show how the author wanted the book to look and can be a joint collaboration between author and publisher.

F Scott Fitzgerald, for example, was shown the original artwork for the dust jacket of The Great Gatsby and it influenced his thoughts on the novel. He wrote to his publisher in August 1924, begging them to keep the jacket for him as he had “written it into the book”.

Arthur Ransome so disliked the drawings produced for his book Swallows and Amazons that only the dust wrapper, endpaper and frontispiece designs were retained. He would eventually go on to illustrate it himself.

The Hobbit’s famous first edition cover – featuring a mountainous landscape – was designed by JRR Tolkien himself and is loved by collectors and fans alike.

And Lewis Carroll withdrew the initial print run of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland over the quality of the images. There are thought to be only 22 of them in existence; with such scarcity comes a willingness from collectors to pay huge sums.

(16) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so it’s actually a plasma torch, but it does look (and somewhat act) like the “real” thing. “Lightsaber technology has improved in the real world with the help of this retractable plasma sword” at SYFY Wire.

Lightsaber technology has come a long way since Star Wars‘ George Lucas painted some wooden dowel rods for Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. Now people in the real world have actually created the ancient and respected blade of the Jedi — and it’s getting closer and closer to the legit canon construction. The latest evolution involves a retractable flaming beam that offers up 4000° of Darth Maul-halving power.

The latest step in The Hacksmith‘s grand quest for a real-life lightsaber (the YouTuber has been advancing his constructions over many different iterations) involves a retractable “blade” that replaces the super-hot metal rod from previous editions like the protosaber. Now it really looks like the lightsaber blade is extending and retracting, along with all the fiery damage it brings.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH. Every now and then.]

2020 Ignyte Awards

FIYAH Literary Magazine’s inaugural Ignyte Awards were presented in an online ceremony on October 17 brilliantly hosted by Jesse of Bowties & Books.

The Ignyte Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre. There were 1,431 valid votes cast to decide the winners. 

Best Novel – Adult – for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the adult audience: 

  • Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Best Novel – YA – for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the young adult audience:

  • We Hunt the Flame – Hafsah Faizal

Best in MG – for works intended for the middle-grade audience:

  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky – Kwame Mbalia

Best Novella – for speculative works ranging from 17,500-39,999 words:

  • This is How You Lose the Time War – Max Gladstone & Amal El-Mohtar

Best Novelette – for speculative works ranging from 7,500-17,499 words:

  • Emergency Skin – N K Jemisin for the Amazon Forward Collection

Best Short Story – for speculative works ranging from 2,000-7,499 words:

  • A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy – Rebecca Roanhorse for Mythic Dream

Speculative Poetry – 

  • A Conversation Between the Embalmed Heads of Lampião and Maria Bonita on Public Display at the Baiano State Forensic Institute, Circa Mid-20th Century – Woody Dismukes for Strange Horizons

Critics Award – for reviews and analysis of the field of speculative literature:

  • Alex Brown – Tor.com

Best Fiction Podcast – for excellence in audio performance and production for speculative fiction:

  • LeVar Burton Reads – LeVar Burton

Best Artist – for contributions in visual speculative storytelling:

  • Grace P. Fong

Best Comics Team – for comics, graphic novels, and sequential storytelling:

  • These Savage Shores – Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar, & Tim Daniel

Best Anthology/Collected Works – 

  • New Suns – Nisi Shawl

Best in Creative Nonfiction – for works related to the field of speculative fiction:

  • Black Horror Rising – Tananarive Due

The Ember Award – for unsung contributions to the genre:

  • LeVar Burton

Community Award – for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre:

  • Strange Horizons – Gautam Bhatia, Vajra Chandrasekera, Joyce Chng, Kate Cowan, Tahlia Day, William Ellwood, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Lila Garrott, Dan Hartland, Amanda Jean, Lulu Kadhim, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Anaea Lay, Dante Luiz, Heather McDougal, AJ Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Clark Seanor, Romie Stott, Aishwarya Subramanian, Fred G. Yost, and the SH copyediting team and first readers

Rebecca Roanhorse

Woody Dismukes

LeVar Burton

Tananarive Due

Ram V

Alex Brown

Jesse of Bowties & Books

L.D. Lewis, Art Director of FIYAH

Pixel Scroll 10/11/20 If Pixels Be The Food Of Love, Scroll On

(1) CHERRYH NOW CANCER FREE. C.J. Cherryh updated fans about her battle with colon cancer in a public Facebook post yesterday.

Long story in short, I’ve had cancer. I don’t, now, and scans show I’m well and truly rid of it. Found out in February, had surgery (colon cancer), started chemo in March, and thanks to a really great medical staff and good insurance, I finished chemo successfully, had a raft of scans and another round with my excellent GI doc, and am now clean and clear—not to be cavalier about it all. Chemo is rough. It’s done a number on general strength and it does age you a bit. Or more than a bit. So I know I’ve been in a fight and I look older than I did before this started, but I refuse to settle down and act older. I’ll be exercising to get my strength back.

I owe an immense amount to Jane, who’s had to do everything from cat box to general cookery and bottlewashing and all this with the handicap of Covid restrictions, while she’s had her own issue with a ferociously painful hip problem. I’d have been in a heckuva mess without her taking care of me.

Kudos to local friends who have brought us stuff and fixed stuff that was broken. Without you, we couldn’t have kept isolation and safety. One of us exposed is both of us in danger.

So Jane and I both had a forced hiatus from writing, and everything is about 8 months behind. Our publisher has been enormously understanding. We are officially getting back to work. We had the next Alliance book 3/4 finished when this happened, and we will likely be working together, too, on the next Foreigner book, just to get our heads firmly back in the game. So we’ll be late, but we do have a hall pass.

I kept this illness under wraps because there’s nothing anybody not in reach could do, and I had no ready answers to give anybody. But the outcome is the very best. And I would urge anybody out there to go get that postponed colonoscopy. This kind can be dealt with and prevented during a colonoscopy, so go do that, eh? I was lucky. Real lucky. A clinic NP, one of my regular docs and another NP combined saw my shortness of breath as, yep, something that had to be seen to….

(2) MOTHER. In the midst of the pandemic with kids stuck at home, Lydia Kiesling considers “The Aspirational Android Parenting of ‘Raised by Wolves” in The New Yorker.

… Though I watched “Raised by Wolves” to escape—tearing through the first five episodes in a single weekend—it threw my terrestrial problems into stark relief. I find the show transporting, corny, and unexpectedly relatable. As I watch, I can’t stop thinking about how much better a job the androids are doing than my husband and I and our own machines. “Mother is killing it,” I whispered admiringly during one episode, my fretful firstborn grinding her teeth in her bunk bed upstairs. Never mind that almost all the original children perished, that they eat fungus and sinister spuds and sleep under burlap. Never mind that Mother murders a lot of humans in Episode 1. It doesn’t matter. Mother and Father are there for the kids, and, in their android way, for each other….

(3) RARITIES. In 1965, Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes records three firsts in the Doctor Who series: “[OCTOBER 10, 1965] DOCTOR WHERE? (DOCTOR WHO: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN)”

…No, really. That’s it. That’s the whole story. This is the first Doctor Who story to be a single episode long. Not only that, it’s the first one in which neither the Doctor nor his companions make an appearance. I suppose he got his day off after all!

And to top it all off, this is the only episode so far in which the baddies win…

(4) HORROR U. The Horror Writers Association’s Horror University workshops, formerly only accessible in-person at StokerCon, are available online this fall at $50 for non-members and $40 for members per session. Coming up on the calendar:

  • 2020 October 19 — Writing and Selling Short Stories

The short story market has never been healthier, and it can not only build your career and increase your professional income, it can also help you stretch as a writer. Short stories offer more creative opportunities than any other form of writing. We’ll discuss the short story structure, tips on finding killer opening hooks and powerful endings, strategies for finding paying markets, and much more.
Recording? No

Instructor: Jonathan Maberry

  • 2020 October 26 — Poetry Forms Workshop for All Writers

Not just for poets: a workshop to play with the different poetry forms to use less words to say more; heighten readers’ emotional reaction, clarify your style/voice and handle writing blocks. We will explore several poetry shapes and their rules to understand how they are created. Time will be available for attendees to practice writing, including creating writing “seeds.”
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Linda D. Addison

  • 2020 November 2 — The History of Ghosts

Are you ready to write a ghost story, but wish you knew a little more about the history of your spectral protagonist? Lisa Morton, author of the acclaimed Ghosts: A Haunted History and Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances is here to help, with a one-hour illustrated presentation that looks at the classical history of ghosts, ghosts in the Middle Ages, paranormal beliefs around the world, and modern hauntings. You’ll hear some chilling real-life ghost stories, and probably learn a few new things about these visitors from beyond.
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Lisa Morton

  • 2020 November 9 — Done to Death

With novels on the bestseller lists and movies winning Academy Awards, the horror genre is hotter than ever. But if you want your fiction to stand out from the pack, you need to do more than offer readers retreads of well-worn stories of monsters, ghosts, and demons. You need to write horror that’s original and captivating – horror only you can write. This workshop will teach you how to avoid clichés when writing horror and dark fantasy and create stories that are fresh and exciting.
Recording? Yes

Instructor: Tim Waggoner

(5) MANY TRIALS. In “Truths Too Terrible: On Arthur Schnitzler and Franz Kafka”, LA Review of Books presents an excerpt  from Adam Kirsch’s The Blessing and the Curse: The Jewish People and Their Books in the Twentieth Century.

… It would be wrong to say that The Trial is “really” about antisemitism, as if the work’s many other theological and political dimensions were unreal. But it was his experience of being a modern European Jew at a time of profound Jewish crisis that gave Kafka such an immediate experience of the alienation and isolation, the helplessness and guilt, that would become central to the experience of so many people in the 20th century. Jewishness, he suggests, is not a unique fate but an extreme one, which equips the writer — at least, when the writer is Kafka — to see truths too terrible for most people to recognize until it is too late.

(6) MAPPING DYSTOPIA. BookRiot recommends “8 Science Fiction Novels By Authors Of Color For The End Times”. Up first –

RIOT BABY BY TOCHI ONYEBUCHI

Onyebuchi’s first book for adults is about police brutality, being Black in the United States, and family. It begins with the 1992 L.A. Riots (which give the book part of its title), but it doesn’t stop there. Instead, it plows right past us into a near-future alternate reality. With its multifaceted exploration of incarceration and systemic racism, it couldn’t be more timely. It’s a beautiful and powerful book that uses sci-fi to address the very dystopian elements of today’s sociopolitical landscape. You should read it. Now. 

(7) SPEAKING OF. “Powell’s Books Presents Rebecca Roanhorse in Conversation With Tochi Onyebuchi” on October 14. Register at the link.

…Roanhorse has created an epic adventure [Black Sun (Gallery/Saga), the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy] exploring the decadence of power amidst the weight of history and the struggle of individuals swimming against the confines of society and their broken pasts in the most original series debut of the decade. Roanhorse will be joined in conversation by Tochi Onyebuchi, author of Riot Baby and War Girls.

 (8) JANET FREER OBIT. Janet Freer, a literary agent for leading New Wave sf writers and others, has died at the age of 89. Her daughter wrote in The Guardian:

…Janet began work as a commercial artist before starting her publishing career in London around 1962. She spent several years in the sales department at Panther Books and then joined Scott Meredith Literary Agency for a short while before setting up her own agency. Janet Freer Literary Agency specialised in SF/fantasy and represented new-wave SF writers such as Michael Moorcock, Harlan Ellison, Christopher Priest and Thomas M Disch, and others associated with the SF magazine New Worlds in the60s.

In the early 70s, Janet joined Michael Bakewell and Diana Tyler at MBA Literary Agents. She represented an impressive list of authors during that time, including Anne McCaffrey, Anne Perry and Ursula K Le Guin for the UK market.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Sixteen years ago, Kage Baker’s “The Empress of Mars” novella won the Theodore Sturgeon Award and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novella (Vernor Vinge‘s “The Cookie Monster“ would win) as well as the Nebula Award for Best Novella which was won by Eleanor Arnason’s “The Potter of Bones”. It was first published in the July 2003 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It would be expanded into a novel five years later. You can hear Kage reading it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 11, 1782 – Steen Blicher.  Pioneer of the novella in Danish; “the first of Danish literature’s great storytellers … one of [its] few tragic poets” (Baggesen, Blicher’s Short Stories, 1965) (in Danish).  “The Rector of Veilbye” (1829, English 1907, named to the Cultural Canon of Denmark 2006) has implied supernatural elements, see here.  (Died 1848) [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1922 – Garry Edmondson.  A dozen novels for us, as many shorter stories.  Also Westerns.  Wrote under several names besides his own José Mario Garry Ordoñez Edmondson y Cotton.  A Marine in World War II.  Spoke six languages.  Gardner Dozois called The Ship That Sailed the Time-Stream a classic.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1944 – Julek Heller, 76.  Eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Here is The Titus Books.  Here is a Robinson Crusoe.  Here is a Sleeping Beauty piano picture-book.  Here is an Enchanted Horse.  Here is an interior for Jack and the Beanstalk.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1945 – Gay Haldeman, 75.  Master’s degrees in Spanish Literature and in Linguistics.  Taught thirty years at the Mass. Inst. Tech. Writing Center.  Toastmaster at ConFusion 1981 (“Nine Billion Names of ConFusion”), 1992 (“Hardwired ConFusion”).  Guest of Honor (with husband Joe) at e.g. Finncon 2007, ICON 43.  Skylark award.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  Here she is on a panel at the 60th Worldcon looking back at the 26th.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1949 Sharman DiVono, 71. She was the primary writer of the Star Trek comic strip from a year in the early Eighties.  She’s written a number of other strips such as Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm The Man from Planet X and Tarzan. She has written for three animated series — G.I. JoeBill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Star Wars: Droids. She’s written one genre novel, Blood Moon. (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 60. Well-known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course, she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas. (CE)
  • Born October 11, 1965 Sean Patrick Flanery, 55. I think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. It certainly wasn’t as Bobby Dagen in Saw: The Final Chapter, a film best forgotten. He appeared as Jake Greyman in Demon Hunter, a low budget horror film, and as John in The Evil Within.  (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1972 —  Claudia Black, 48. Best remembered for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in the Containment series. (CE) 
  • Born October 11, 1972 – Nir Yaniv, 48.  Author, editor, musician, filmmaker.  Founded the Webzine for the Israeli Society for Science Fiction & Fantasy.  A novel, ten shorter stories.  See this Strange Horizons interview with him about The Universe in a Pita.  [JH]
  • Born October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 43. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. (CE)
  • Born October 11, 1984 – Jaymin Eve, 36.  Eight novels with Leia Stone (Anarchy USA Today Best Seller), five and a novella with Jane Washington, a score solo, in nine universes.  Paranormal fantasy.  More outside our field.  “I grew up in a little country town [in Australia], and the library was my favorite place in the world.”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. So we expect, when Shift, the new UK anthology comic, is launched in newsagents and comic shops around the UK on October 29.

Featuring the best in independent creator owned stories from new talent and seasoned veterans (including Jim Krueger, Brian Haberlin, Steve Yeowell, Simon Furman, Scott Morse and many more) – there’s something for everyone with a a diverse array of exciting and thought-provoking stories

Seven stories, ongoing titles, creator interviews, articles and more..

Foot Soldiers – Jim Krueger (Earth X, Justice, Marvels X), Steve Yeowell (Zenith, The Invisibles, Sinister Dexter)

To The Death – Simon FurmanGeoff Senior. Acclaimed Transformers creative team, and creators of Marvel’s Death’s Head

Kora – Chris Geary (Ace’s Weekly)

Soulwind – Scott Morse (Littlegreyman, Elektra: Glimpse and Echo, Catwoman, Sam and Twitch)

Shifter – Brian Haberlin (Witchblade, Aria), Brian Holguin (Spawn), Skip Brittenham, Geirrod van Dyke, Kunrong Yap

Tiny Acts of Violence – Martin Stiff (The Absence)

Hungerville – Warwick Fraser-Coombe (The Shadow Constabulary, Interzone)

Pre-order at The Shift Store, or add to a subscription at GetMyComics.com where 5 or 10 issue pre-pay subscription offers are available.

(13) D&D LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. The Believer has posted on its site “Destroy All Monsters” by Paul La Farge, first published in 2006, which combines a history of Dungeons and Dragons with a report on the 2005 Gen Con and an interview with D&D co-creator E. Gary Gygax.

…The appeal of D&D is superficially not very different from the appeal of reading. You start outside something (Middle Earth; Dickens’s London; the fascinating world of mosses and lichens), and you go in, bit by bit. You forget where you are, what time it is, and what you were doing. Along the way, you may have occasion to think, to doubt, or even to learn. Then you come back; your work has piled up; it’s past your bedtime; people may wonder what you have been doing.

Once you set foot inside the cave, however, you see very quickly that D&D is quite different from a book, or movie, or soap opera. For one thing, there are a lot more rules….

(14) A SHORT HISTORY. In “The Hugo ceremony 2020, notes”, Lise Andreasen has extracted the chronology of what happened during this year’s virtual ceremony. Use it the next time you need to find something in the 3-1/2 hour Hugo video.

(15) THE REVIEWER’S ART. Links to several dozen reviews of sff from last week at Sweet Freedom in “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books And More”.

(16) BLOCH RADIO SERIES. Now back in circulation at Audiophile Archive, two episodes ofRobert Bloch’s Stay Tuned For Terror radio drama series.

As a huge fan of old time radio and Robert Bloch, this series has been my white whale for years. 39 fifteen-minute episodes, all adapted by Bloch himself from his own short stories? Sounds amazing — but unfortunately there’s been no episodes in circulation — until now! Huge thanks to OTR collector/historian David Lennick who discovered two episodes on a disc he got decades ago and was generous enough to send me the programs in WAV. 

More information on the series in these notes at the Internet Archive:

…Bloch prepared 39 short stories with accompanying radioplay scripts, Johnny Neblett formed his first production company to produce it, and Bloch’s friend Howard Keegan–director of many of the Lights Out productions–signed on to direct the program. Neblett and Berle Adams persuaded Weird Tales Magazine to provide a tie-in to the magazine and promoted the new program as Weird Tales’ Stay Tuned for Terror, so as to leverage Bloch’s considerable fame and popular success with that print publication.

With corrections in a comment by reseacher Karl Schadow:

Enthusiasts of both Robert Bloch and radio horror programs are elated by the posting of this audio, the quality of which is superb. However, the history of this series as presented above contains some factual inaccuracies. For example, individual episodes were recorded at station WBBM and not WMAQ. This is important as producer Johnnie Neblett had established a rapport with WBBM via his first series So The Story Goes which had been broadcast by that station since 1943, the year Neblett Radio Productions was founded. Thus, his firm had been in existence two years prior to the recording and subsequent release of Stay Tuned for Terror.

There was no conspiracy regarding the Wisconsin newspaper radio logs of Stay Tuned for Terror. The series was recorded during the early months of 1945 and released late in the spring of that same year. The newspapers accurately printed details provided to them by Chicago station WMAQ which broadcast the program for thirteen weeks.

Despite the death of Johnnie Neblett in September of 1946, Stay Tuned for Terror continued to be distributed throughout the remainder of the 1940s and into the 1950s by various firms headed by James Doolittle (Craig Dennis), Berle Adams and Rush Hughes. Neblett had sold out his share of the enterprise to James Doolittle in October of 1945….

(17) ACTION! Someone on eBay will be happy to sell it fo $4,200: “2003 Clapperboard For – Lord Of The Rings – Return Of The King” .

(18) VIDEO OF THE WEEK. “The Joker:  Put On A Happy Face” on YouTube is a 2020 documentary that includes interviews with four actors who played the Joker (Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix) and many writers of Joker scripts, including the Joker’s co-creator, Jerry Robinson, Frank Miller, and Denny O’Neil.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Karl Schadow, Todd Mason, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/20 He’s Just A Poor Scroll From A Poor Pixelry, Spare Him Comments From This File 770

(1) MARGINALIZED BY STAR WARS. “John Boyega: ‘I’m the only cast member whose experience of Star Wars was based on their race'” – a British GQ interview.

With the Lucasfilm-branded elephant in the room acknowledged, it is even harder to ignore. This is Boyega’s first substantial interview since finishing the franchise – his first since last year’s The Rise Of Skywalker tied a highly contentious, hurried ribbon on the 43-year-old space saga. How does he reflect on his involvement and the way the newest trilogy was concluded?

“It’s so difficult to manoeuvre,” he says, exhaling deeply, visibly calibrating the level of professional diplomacy to display. “You get yourself involved in projects and you’re not necessarily going to like everything. [But] what I would say to Disney is do not bring out a black character, market them to be much more important in the franchise than they are and then have them pushed to the side. It’s not good. I’ll say it straight up.” He is talking about himself here – about the character of Finn, the former Stormtrooper who wielded a lightsaber in the first film before being somewhat nudged to the periphery. But he is also talking about other people of colour in the cast – Naomi Ackie and Kelly Marie Tran and even Oscar Isaac (“a brother from Guatemala”) – who he feels suffered the same treatment; he is acknowledging that some people will say he’s “crazy” or “making it up”, but the reordered character hierarchy of The Last Jedi was particularly hard to take.

“Like, you guys knew what to do with Daisy Ridley, you knew what to do with Adam Driver,” he says. “You knew what to do with these other people, but when it came to Kelly Marie Tran, when it came to John Boyega, you know fuck all. So what do you want me to say? What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience…’ Nah, nah, nah. I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”

(2) IN PLAIN SIGHT. On June 25 Gollancz (the SF/Fantasy/Horror imprint of Orion Books) released the first three books in McCaffery’s Dragonflight series as audiobooks. Artist Allison Mann noticed something about the art that was used. Thread begins here.

Someone else tweeted a possible source for the art on their Dragonflight audiobook as well.

(3) JETPACK CROSSING. The Los Angeles Times reports an incident near the airport: “A jet pack at LAX? Maybe. Jet packs are very real”.

It sounds like something out of a movie: An American Airlines pilot calls the control tower at Los Angeles International Airport to warn that his plane just flew past someone in midair — a person wearing a jet pack.

But the pilot really did give that warning Sunday night, and it wasn’t laughed off. The FBI is investigating….

JetPack Aviation Corp., based in Van Nuys, says it’s the only one to have developed a jet pack that can be worn like a backpack. The technology is real: Chief Executive David Mayman demonstrated it five years ago by flying around the Statue of Liberty, and his company has created five of them.

So it’s not out of the question that someone could have been soaring above the airport last weekend, giving pilots a scare.

Mayman was quick to say that if a jet pack was involved, it wasn’t one of his. JetPack Aviation keeps its five packs locked down, he said, and they’re not for sale. The company does offer flying lessons at $4,950 a pop, but he said students are attached to a wire and can’t stray too far.

None of the company’s competitors sell their products to consumers either, Mayman said.

The weekend incident “got us all wondering whether there’s been someone working in skunkworks on this,” he said, using a term for a secret project. Or maybe, he mused, the airline pilot saw some kind of electric-powered drone with a mannequin attached.

CNN reports the exchanges wth the tower went like this:

“Tower. American 1997. We just passed a guy on a jetpack,” the first plane called in. “Off the left side maybe 300 — 30 yards or so. About our altitude.”

About 10 minutes later, another plane spotted the man.

“We just saw the guy fly by us on the jetpack,” the crew told the traffic controller.

According to the communications, air traffic control warned a JetBlue flight to “use caution… person on a jetpack reported 300 yards south.”

After the plane acknowledged the instruction, the controller concluded with: “Only in LA.”

(4) YOUR OVERDUE FUTURE. The Irish Times constructed their checklist with the help of a 1974 sf collection: “Promises, promises: What is 2020 not delivering?” Everything besides jetpacks, I guess.

2020 is one of those years. No, not in that sense (well, obviously in that sense but that’s not what we’re talking about here…). No, 2020 is one of those years that tends to crop up in 20th century science fiction as a key year, a momentous one. A year by which time certain prophecies will have come true.

Back in the seventies, publisher Jerry Pournelle published an anthology book called 2020 Vision, for which he sought contributions from such noted sci-fi authors as Harlan EllisonLarry Niven, and Ben Bova. While some of the predictions, such as robot chefs, deep-space exploration by humans, and, erm, “An adult playground where law is enforced by remote control” haven’t come to pass (unless I’m missing something…) a few did. Several of the stories have mentions of mobile communication technology, while Prognosis: Terminal by David McDaniel posits a future where there is “a gigantic world brain to which everyone is infinitely connected.” Sounds like the internet to me…

(5) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. At the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Philissa Cramer asks “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ contains a plot point that resembles an age-old anti-Semitic lie. Why?”

Hiram Epstein, the episode reveals, was a University of Chicago scientist who conducted gruesome experiments on Black children and adults in the basement of the Winthrop House, a decrepit mansion in a white neighborhood that a main character, Leti Lewis, purchases and renovates. His spirit haunts the home, making it unsafe for Leti and her tenants and friends, until an exorcism summons the mutilated bodies of his victims and restores psychic order.

Epstein’s story calls to mind the way that Jews have been accused for centuries of stealing the blood of non-Jewish children to use in religious rituals, often to make matzah for Passover, in what is known as a “blood libel.” The blood libel charge was leveled routinely at Jews beginning in the Middle Ages, and it was used to justify countless deadly pogroms and vigilante actions. A blood libel charge tore apart an upstate New York town in 1928, and the trope featured prominently in Nazi propaganda.

Could “Lovecraft Country,” which deals so elegantly with the Black American experience, really have a blood libel embedded in its plot? On Twitter, I found a single reaction to Hiram Epstein’s name — one that matched my own.

Scholars who study anti-Semitism had more to say. The plot point “falls right into the category of a new version of the blood libel,” Elissa Bemporad, a scholar of Jewish history at Queens College who recently published a book about blood libels in the Soviet Union, told me. “The name Epstein gives it away. This clearly builds on the blood libel trope and narrative — the question of children as victims of the alleged crime, and the fact that the perpetrator is a man. Anti-Semitism, like racism, is so often gendered.”

The Epstein name isn’t present in the original novel on which the series is based, “Lovecraft Country” by Matt Ruff. There, the ghost that haunts the house Leti buys is named Hiram Winthrop — explaining the mansion’s name — and he isn’t a doctor. (He also isn’t nearly as scary.) The series adds a more recent owner who colluded with local police to facilitate abductions and experimentation.

…But intention is only part of the picture when assessing stereotypes in popular culture, according to Aryeh Tuchman, the associate director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“I don’t want to say you can never have a villain in a movie or TV show have a stereotypically Jewish name,” Tuchman said. “But you need to educate yourself. When you’re dealing with a topic that is so fraught as allegations of ritual murder, then to know that these allegations have been leveled against Jews for thousands of years is something you need to pay attention to.”

(6) BEST PRACTICE? John Scalzi delivered “A Quick Note on the Malleting of Comments” to Whatever readers today.

I’ve recently begun to see an upswing in comments which begin with some variation of “I expect this comment to be deleted/malleted/otherwise expunged, but…” I think this is done for two reasons. About five percent of the time it’s someone genuinely not knowing whether what they’re about to write is going to cross the line with regard to my moderation policies. The rest of the time it’s a warding spell and/or pre-emptive smugness at transgression; either “not in the face!” or “see, I told you.”

Either way I find it passive-aggressive and annoying, so here’s a new guideline I’ve begun implementing: When I see some variation of “I expect this comment to get the Mallet,” I’m going to stop reading the comment there, and will most likely then Mallet the comment — not necessarily because the comment was in itself mallet-worthy (although it might have been, who knows), but simply because I’m a people-pleaser and don’t want to disappoint the person making the comment….

(7) BLACK SUN. “Rebecca Roanhorse’s Genre-bending New Novel” – a Publishers Weekly profile by Dhonielle Clayton.

…She encountered many half-Native characters in popular urban fantasy series, but noticed how those characters were divorced from their heritages. “They didn’t interact with the heroes and gods and monsters of Native cultures,” she explains. She says she started thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a story where a character was very Native? Very attached to her culture and surrounded by brown people, and in a world that I knew?”

She’d been practicing Indian law and living in the Navajo nation with her husband and daughter when she started thinking about writing more seriously. It was at this point that she began working on what would become her debut fantasy, the Locus-winning and Hugo-nominated novel Trail of Lightning (Saga Press), which was published in 2018, when Roanhorse was in her 40s.

“So I just decided to write it. I wrote it purely for myself and for the joy of writing, and to keep myself sane while being a lawyer,” she says. “I didn’t even know people like me could be writers. An editor asked me why I waited so long to start writing, and I said ‘I didn’t know that I could be a science fiction and fantasy writer.’ I didn’t come to see people like Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin until later, so I didn’t see anyone writing this genre that looked like me. So I didn’t even know it was an option.”

(8) WOMEN IN COMICS. When The Society of Illustrators in New York reopens on September 9, one of its exhibits will be “Women in Comics: Looking Forward and Back”. Afua Richardson, a Dublin 2019 Feautured Artist, is one of the many who will have work on display.

Over 50 women cartoonists from vintage comic strips to cutting edge graphic novels explore themes common to the female experience such as love, sexuality, motherhood, creativity, discrimination, and independence. 75 works drawn from the collection of the author and herstorian Trina Robbins show a progression of witty women from the Flapper era to the psychedelic women’s comix of the 1970s…

Building on this foundation, 20 contemporary women cartoonists will be showing work from new or upcoming publications…

By Afua Richardson.

(9) EX CATHEDRA. In Episode 35 of their Two Chairs Talking podcast, David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss say a sad farewell to John Bangsund, and discuss three quirky films of Terry Gilliam: Time Bandits, Brazil and 12 Monkeys: ?“The gifted grotesqueries of Gilliam”.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2013 – NESFA Press published The Road to Amber: Volume 6: The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny. It reprinted the first of the Francis Sandow series, “Dismal Light”, published in the May 1986 issue of If, where this character first appears. The story comes before Isle Of Dead, the prequel to To Die in Italbar. (Zelazny would narrate the audiobook version of this as he did Isle of Dead and Home is The Hangman but they were never digitized.) It would also include the not-previously-collected piece in the series, “Sandow’s Shadow (Outline)”. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He played Kublai Khan in the completed erased by the BBC First Doctor story, “Marco Polo.” He’s in the first Pink Panther film as Pierre Luigi, a photographer, and has roles in Danger ManDepartment SThe Avengers and The Prisoner. In the latter, he was number Fifty-four in “It’s Your Funeral”. The Gamma People in which he played Lochner is I think his only true genre film. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen Way. She shows up on Doctor Who twice, first as Old Mother in the First Doctor story, “The Forest of Fear,” and later in a major role as Karela in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Creature from the Pit”. She’d also shows up on the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. as simply Old Woman at the age of fifty-five. Other genre appearances i think is limited to an appearance on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. Well unless you count The Saint which is at best genre adjacent. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1918 – Allen Drury.  I came to Advise and Consent long after its years as a NY Times Best Seller; it’s first-rate; it’s moved by 1950s values – what else would people write in 1959? and I don’t read books to be agreed with.  Five SF sequels (Advise isn’t SF), a novel about a Mars mission, two about ancient Egypt, a dozen others outside our field, five nonfiction books. Two of the Advise sequels are mutually incompatible, each supposing a different assassination.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1925 Peter Hunt. He was the Editor, yes Editor, on five of the better Bond films (Dr. NoFrom Russia with LoveGoldfingerThunderball and You Only Live Twice), and also the much lesser On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was also responsible for a Gulliver’s Travels and, I’m not kidding about the title, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star which I’ve never heard of but gets a stellar 75% rating from audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. He directed the title sequence of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1942 – Demi, 78.  Born in Massachusetts, M.A. from Univ. Baroda.  Seventy books she illustrated herself, e.g. Liang and the Magic PaintbrushDragon Kites and DragonfliesThe Magic BoatOne Grain of RiceThe Firebird; illustrated for others, e.g. Yolen’s Dragon Night, James’ Eucalyptus Wings.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1944 – Roland Green, 76.  Seventy novels, thirty shorter stories, some with co-authors e.g. wife Frieda Murray.  Three dozen reviews in Far Frontiers including Bridge of Birds and Heart of the Comet.  One anthology with Bujold, another with Turtledove.  Inconsequential SF Tales for the Worldcon bid that won and hosted Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon).  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1946 Walter Simonson, 74. Comic writer and artist who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well. His artwork on the RoboCop Versus The Terminator that Dark Horse did is amazing. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1951 Mark Harmon, 69. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, but he’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan. (CE)
  • Born September 2, 1953 – Gary Lippincott, 67.  Thirty covers, a score of interiors.  Here is the Jan 95 F&SF.  Here is Little, Big.  Here is “Tori and Friends”.  Here is The Prince and the Pauper (M. Mayer adaptation).  Artbook Making Magic.  Three Chesleys.  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1955 Steve Berry, 65. Author of the Cotton Malone series which is either genre or genre adjacent depending on where your personal boundaries fall. There’s five in the series now with the first being The Templar Legacy. He also self-published a Captain America novel, Never Forgotten, and a Star Wars story as well, “Crash Landing”, which makes him a fanfic writer as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 2, 1972 – Justine Musk, 48.  In a highly various life she’s written three novels for us, three shorter stories.  Taught English as a Second Language in Japan.  “Love without power is anemic, as Martin Luther King, Jr., pointed out, and power without love is tyranny….  We *cannot* … dismiss the subject altogether because it is distasteful to us.  The point is not to play the same old game, whether we’re buying into it or rebelling against it.”  [JH]
  • Born September 2, 1977 – Fuminori Nakamura, 43.  Kenzaburô Ôe Prize for The Thief, called a chilling philosophical novel.  Evil and the Mask is ours.  A dozen more novels (five translated into English so far), four collections of shorter stories.  David Goodis Award.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • At The Far Side, all the mathematicians go: oh, the horror. 

(13) BUSIEK, AHMED HAVE STORIES IN SPIDER-MAN MILESTONE ISSUE. Spider-Man reaches another milestone this month with Amazing Spider-Man #850, the latest issue in writer Nick Spencer’s run on the title. The issue features the return of Spider-Man’s greatest villain, the Green Goblin. There’s a trailer for it here.

There will also be a trio of back-up stories by “Spidey legends of past, present and future to drive home that Spider-Man is the greatest character in all of fiction!”

Those back-up tales are by Kurt Busiek, Chris Bachalo, Tradd Moore, Saladin Ahmed, and Aaron Kuder. Amazing Spider-Man #850 hits stands September 30.

(14) SAVING THROW. “Neil Gaiman Endorses Petition To Save Constantine Comic”ScreenRant has the story.

The effort to save the Constantine comic book from cancellation just won a welcome ally; author Neil Gaiman. Not only has Gaiman shared a Change.Org petition regarding the endangered book on his social media, but he has allowed his name to be officially tied to the fan-driven effort to save John Constantine: Hellblazer.

The recent acquisition of Warner Bros. by AT&T has led to widespread turmoil across the entertainment industry. This is particularly true at DC Entertainment, which lost one-third of its staff in the wake of the latest round of lay-offs. This coincided with the cancellation of a number of low-selling titles, including John Constantine: Hellblazer, which had only seen eight issues hit the stands since its premiere in 2019

Despite not having a lengthy run on the original Hellblazer series, Gaiman is still closely associated with the character of John Constantine. Gaiman wrote a one-off story for Hellblazer, “Hold Me,” which was printed in Hellblazer #27 and centered around Constantine trying to put the spirit of a homeless man who froze to death to rest. “Hold Me” is widely considered to be one of the best one-shot stories to feature John Constantine ever written. Gaiman also gave Constantine a prominent role in the first Sandman graphic novel, Preludes and Nocturnes, with Dream of the Endless turning to Constantine for assistance in recovering his magical bag of sand, which Constantine had owned at one time.

(15) DISCOVERING DRESDEN. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Similar to my belatedly recentish reading of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series (only one more to go now, I think, waiting for library loan request to be fulfilled), I’d seen references to The Dresden Files — Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books — I hadn’t investigated (read) any until a year or two ago, when a friend recommended them, and lent me one, to prime the pump.

I enjoy this kind of thing in a limited amount, but enjoyed ’em enough to add Dresden to my reading list.

As of yesterday, having finished Peace Talks, the newest, I’m caught up —  until the end of this month, when Battle Ground comes out. (I’m like 30th in line on my library’s request queue, so hopefully I’ll get my loan fulfilled by Halloween.)

Harry’s a wizard. Not to be confused with that British kid, either. Dresden is a wizard operating as a PI in Chicago, in a world where there’s magic beings and stuff — fae, vamps, spirits, etc — although most of the world remains unaware of such. Like any PI, Dresden’s cases and other events means that he takes a lot of lumps, to say the least. Like Spenser (and, to be fair, >75% of PIs, it would seem), Dresden is a wise-cracking hard-ass, and he does it well.

If you’re already a Dresden fan, you’ve probably already read this newest book. If you haven’t, you’ll enjoy it. One non-spoiler note, Peace Talks doesn’t wrap up its events, so it’s a good thing Battle Ground is coming out soon.

If you like this kind of stuff, consider ’em. (Start in order, with Storm Front.)

BTW, here’s the video trailer from March 2020 announcement.

(16) REFERENCE DROPPED — FROM A GREAT HEIGHT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the August 29 Financial Times, Guy Chazan interviews Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti, who was aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

The expedition her crew joined was number 42 — the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything in Douglas Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Christoforetti describes the coincidence as ‘awesome.’  An avid Adams fan, she made sure the poster for Expedition 42 was modelled after the one for the Hitchhiker’s Guide movie, while her last tweet from the ISS said ‘So long and thanks for all the fish” — a reference to the message left by the dolphins in Adams’s book when they abandoned a shortly-to-be-demolished Planet Earth.

(17) FUTURE TENSE. The August 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “How to Pay Reparations: a Documentary,” by Tochi Onyebuchi, a story about artificial intelligence, systemic racism, and reparations.

It was published along with a response essay by Charlton McIlvain, a historian of race and technology,  “Racism Cannot Be Reduced to Mere Computation” which begins –

Tochi Onyebuchi’s “How to Pay Reparations” spoke to me. Its themes rang virtually every note of my twentysomething-year-long career. In 1998, I made my first digital footprint with a signed online petition in support of reparations for the Tulsa race riots. I endured countless run-ins with Oklahoma good ol’ boys while crisscrossing the state, working for candidates representing a perpetually losing political party. As an academic, I researched Black politicians and white racial resentment, and testified as an expert in federal court about cases of reverse redlining and housing discrimination. And as a historian of technology, I’ve chronicled—like Onyebuchi—the stories of hope and despair wrought by computing technology on Blackness and Black people, in the service of an ever-triumphant white racial order.

(18) WHAT VASICEK STANDS FOR. Joe Vasicek’s title “White Science Fiction and Fantasy Doesn’t Matter” [Internet Archive] is far from the most hallucinatory claim uttered in his post, which conflates the Worldcon’s awards with the state of the sff field, and adds to a Lost Cause mythology that ignores Vox Day’s central (and Sad Puppy-sanctioned)  role in what happened in 2015.

The United States of America is currently engaged in a violent struggle that will determine whether this hyper-racist intersectional ideology will defeat the populist uprising that has its champion in Trump, or whether the country will reject this new form of Marxism and come back from the brink of insanity. But in science fiction and fantasy, the war is already over, and the intersectionalists have won. It is now only a matter of time before they purge the field of everything—and everyone—that is white.

The last chance for the SF&F community to come back from the brink was probably in 2015. The intersectionalists were ascendant, but they hadn’t yet taken over the field. (That happened in 2016, when N.K. Jemisin, an avowed social justice warrior and outspoken champion for anti-white identity politics, won the Hugo Award for best new novel for the next three consecutive years.) A populist uprising within fandom known as the Puppies attempted to push back, and were smeared as racists, sexists, misogynists, homophobes, and Nazis. Whatever your opinion of the Puppies (and there were some bad eggs among them, to be sure), they did not deserve to be silenced, ridiculed, shouted down, and threatened with all manner of violence and death threats for their grievances. After the Puppies were purged, the intersectionalists took over and began to reshape the field in their image.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer wasn’t renamed the Astounding Award because Campbell was a racist (even though he was). His name was stripped from the award because the people who renamed it are racists—not in the bullshit way the intersectionalists have redefined it, but in the true sense of the word: discrimination based based on race….

(19) SECOND LIFE LIMITS VIRTUAL CAMPAIGNS. After yesterday’s story about Biden-Harris yard signs in Animal Crossing it’s interesting to read New World Notes reporting “Second Life Bans Political Billboards From Public Lands After Pro-Trump & Anti-Trump Signs Choke The Virtual Sky”.

Another US Presidential election year, another clash of ideas in Second Life. As has been the case since 2004, the virtual world has recently been festooned with political billboards, much or most of them pro-Trump or anti-Trump — though as with Facebook, it seems like the pro-Trump forces have had the upper hand.

“There was a couple of people setting up lots of mini ad farms for Trump and some places had been plastered in far right slogans and adverts,” SL veteran “0xc0ffea” tells me. 

Some commonly trafficked areas in Second Life have devolved into a veritable battle of billboards, with “Re-elect Trump” and other Trump friendly signs such as “Police Lives Matter” having to share the same space with snarky rejoinders like: “Trump/Putin – Make America Hate Again”. 

This time, however, Second Life owner Linden Lab responded, updating its policy on virtual world advertising to prohibit ad content that are “political in nature” from the SL mainland, which the company maintains. (This policy does not apply to privately-owned regions and continents.)

(20) GHOSTS IN AMERICA. Brett Riley is “Searching For Haunted Fiction In American Literature” at CrimeReads.

Back in college, one of my American Literature professors once argued that the problem with trying to write American gothic fiction is that the country isn’t old enough to have any ruined castles or ancient bloodlines. She had a point, but with ghost stories, you don’t necessarily need ancient history or locales that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. You just need “unfinished business.” A character might die under mysterious circumstances. Foul play is suspected, but the perpetrators are never brought to justice. Or maybe an untimely death stops a character from completing a crucial task or realizing a lifelong goal. In general, something terrible or tragic happens, and the victim of these circumstances suffers so much pain, despair, or outrage that their essence cannot “move on.” A piece of themselves remains—sometimes benign, sometimes dangerous or even murderous.

When a work is labeled a “ghost story,” the reader likely assumes a certain set of tropes—the spectral figure floating through a darkened room or across a foggy landscape; a crumbling, moldy, dank, littered building set on a hill, or on the outskirts of town, or behind a rotting fence; a quirky harbinger of doom who tries to warn the protagonists of the dangers they will soon face; moonlit graveyards; and, perhaps most crucially, a particular history that weighs down the characters with specifically emotional tonnage….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The other day we introduced some ambience recordings. On Facebook John DeChancie pointed out another one — an hour’s worth of “Spaceship Nostromo Sounds.” Yeah, that will put me perfectly at ease!

In this video you can experience the digital recreation of the USCSS Nostromo from the game Alien Isolation. The main story of Alien Isolation is about Amanda Ripley who is searching for her missing mother Ellen. It takes place 15 years after the first Alien movie and the disappearance of the Nostromo. In the main story you don’t really come in contact with the ship but the DLC “Expandable Crew” lets you play an iconic scene from the first movie which takes place on the Nostromo. This video showcases the interior of that ship including space ship ambience sounds. So try to relax on a ship that might have a Xenomorph on board 🙂

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Joey Eschrich, Rose Embolism, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/19/20 The Fandom Raspberry Blower Of Old
Pixel Town

(1) MARVEL’S VOICES EXPANDS. This November, Marvel celebrates Indigenous history with a landmark special, Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1, written and drawn by some of the industry’s most renowned Indigenous talent along with talents making their Marvel Comics debut.  

Celebrated writer and artist Jeffrey Veregge, who just wrapped up his exhibition Jeffrey Veregge: Of Gods and Heroes at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, is leading this book alongside a team of acclaimed creators to explore the legacy and experiences of Marvel’s incredible cast of Indigenous characters.

Hugo, Nebula, and Locus-award winning Black/Ohkay Owingeh writer Rebecca Roanhorse and Tongva artist Weshoyot Alvitre tell an Echotale like none before as she is set to play a critical role in Marvel Comics. Geoscientist and Lipan Apache writer Darcie Little Badger joins acclaimed Whitefish Lake First Nation artist Kyle Charles for a Dani Moonstarstory where she will face the crucial question of what her Indigenous heritage means in the new era of mutantkind. And Bram Stoker-winning horror writer Stephen Graham Jones of the Blackfeet Nation teams up with Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation artist David Cutler to revisit one of the darkest spots of X-Men history!

(2) BRIAN KEENE SPOTLIGHTS HAYWARD ALLEGATIONS. Soon after Brian Keene posted “Behind Closed Doors” supplementing his podcast’s report of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct within the industry, he and Mary SanGiovanni were alerted to yet another situation involving allegations that author Matt Hayward sent inappropriate communications to several women.  

Since then Keene has written three posts on the subject, beginning with “Statement Regarding Matt Hayward & Poltergeist Press” (June 26) which emphasizes:

…We believe the women. We believe writer and book reviewer Cassie ‘Lets Get Galactic’, who has stepped forward. And we believe those who have not stepped forward. 

We have known Matt for several years. He and his wife Anna have been guests in our home. Anna’s publishing company, Poltergeist Press, has published books by both of us. We consider them dear friends.

Approximately one year ago, Matt sent a series of inappropriate messages to Mary. Matt has acknowledged this and apologized for it. Mary accepted the apology because Matt was inebriated when the messages were sent, and he was going through a rough time emotionally, having just experienced the death of his best friend. Brian followed Mary’s lead, and in the time since, Mary has received no further inappropriate messages from Matt. Cassie’s account tells a similar story, as do the accounts of those women who have not shared their experience publicly. There is a pattern of behavior.

Again, we believe the women. And we apologize for the hurt that someone we are close to has caused you….

In a follow-up statement, “Update on Russian Translations and Poltergeist Press”, Keene said:

Since that time, several of us have spoke with Anna Mulbach, wife of Matt Hayward. She wishes to continue publishing Russian language translations. The financial stability of that line impacts the livelihood of many Russian citizens, including translators and investors. The success the line has had so far is a testimony to Anna. I wish to encourage that. Further, the fact that this successful foreign-language publisher is run and operated by a woman is something else I wish to encourage, because it’s something our industry desperately needs more of.

Anna has assured me that Matt will not be involved in any aspect of the Russian-language operation, including production or design.

With all that in mind, I have decided to continue working with Anna for Russian-language translations….

On August 18, Keene summarized everything in a “Final Statement on Poltergeist Press, et all”.

…After that was announced. Rights for Dissonant Harmonies were reverted, and Bev Vincent and I sold it elsewhere. Geoff Cooper wanted some time to consider the reversion clause for Shades, since he is not plugged in to the business and wanted to talk to people and determine the facts before signing it. Then Anna Hayward of Poltergeist press announced that she was shutting down the company.

A few weeks later, Anna contacted several of us and indicated that she would like to keep the Russian language imprint open. It was her company — not Matt’s. She assured us that Matt would not be involved in any way with the production.

And so Jeff Strand, myself, and Mary SanGiovanni released a third statement last month, which can be read here.

This will be my final statement, because quite frankly, I am sick of talking about this.

This statement is my own. I do not speak for Mary SanGiovanni (whose own final statement can be read here). I do not speak for Robert Ford, Bev Vincent, Jeff Strand, Wrath James White, Edward Lee, John Boden, Wesley Southard, Tim Meyer, Ronald Kelly or anyone else who has been impacted by this clusterfuck.

This statement will include foul language. It will include my personal opinions.

My personal opinions follow:

1. I support the victims. I have always supported the victims. Anyone who has listened to The Horror Show for the last 6 years knows that I support the victims. Anybody who has been following my career since 1996 knows that I support the victims. I was the first person to report on the then-whispered allegations involving Ed Kramer. I had my then budding-career threatened for doing so. I gave zero fucks then and I give zero fucks now. I will always support the victims. I myself am a victim, and several of the people most important in my life have been victims.

If you do not believe that I support the victims, then I respect your decision. Stop buying my books and listening to my podcasts.

2. I support and believe the victims in this case. I have seen people intimating online that the most vocal victim, Cassie, “made this all up” and others saying that she and the other victims “just want their 15 minutes of fame”. I don’t believe that. But I’ll tell you what, motherfuckers…lets buy into your conspiracy theory for a minute. Let’s say Cassie made it all up for 15 minutes of fame.

Mary SanGiovanni didn’t make it up. I know. I’ve seen the evidence. And Mary’s got an accomplished 20-year career. She doesn’t need fifteen minutes of fame. I believe Mary SanGiovanni. I believe Cassie. And I believe the other women who came forward.

If my belief in these women bothers you, then I respect your decision. Stop buying my books and listening to my podcasts.

(And to the fat fuck who looks like a dropout from Juggalo college and keeps repeating this “15 minutes of fame” bullshit, I’m not going to name you here, because you don’t deserve even a second of fame)….

Four more points follow.

(3) DO THE MONSTER MASK. Secret Los Angeles assures locals they will still have a haunted house to visit this year, in a new socially-distant way: “Urban Legends of Southern California are rolling in to save Halloween!”

Halloween is inevitably going to look a bit different this year with a number of highly-anticipated events canceled already, including Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, and Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure.

But fear not, the spooky holiday traditions will still be upheld in Costa Mesa thanks to this drive-through haunted house experience. Urban Legends of Southern California will conjure up all SoCal’s most terrifying urban legends, cursed souls and monsters that have haunted residents for generations. Whether it’s the mysterious winds that howl through the streets or the unnatural presences that make your hairs stand up, familiar stories will be brought to life through a series thrills.

Once you’ve purchased your ticket, you’ll arrive in your vehicle at your allocated timeslot. From there, you’ll be guided through a journey of immersive scenes, dazzling special effects, and live performances. It’s bound to get your pulse racing as you scramble to lock your car door. You won’t have to worry about monsters getting to close though, they’ll be wearing masks and social-distancing at all times…

(4) IT’S A BREATH MINT; LESS FILLING. James Davis Nicoll tells me “the file name was something like ‘how to start arguments’” — “SF or Fantasy? — Six Works That Defy Easy Classification” at Tor.com.

…See, for example, discussions about where to place The Fifth Season and Gideon the Ninth. Both works have elements generally associated with science fiction, as well as elements traditionally associated with fantasy. Hard classification will fail because the assumption that things are only one thing at a time is wrong. Utterly wrong.

[sarcasm] I am certain that having explained this so clearly, there will never be another argument on such matters. [/sarcasm]

(5) DYSTOPIAN LIFE IMITATES DYSTOPIAN ART. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In 2019, UK high school student Jessica Johnson won the Orwell Youth Prize for writing a short story depicting computer systems that undermine lower-income students by adjusting grades downwards. This spring, in response to COVID-shortened school years, the government of the UK implemented a computer system that “projected” students’ grades forward based on assumptions on how they were doing — and it adjusted the grades of low-income students downwards. Jessica Johnson was one of the students adversely affected by the computer error. “Student who wrote story about biased algorithm has results downgraded” in The Guardian.

She says: “I based [the story] on the educational inequality I already saw. I just exaggerated that inequality and added the algorithm. But I really didn’t think it would come true as quick as it did!”

(6) IF YOU COULD TALK TO THE ANIMALS. NPR’s “Morning Edition” reminds listeners that “Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm,’ Around For Decades, Almost Wasn’t Published”.

DAVID GREENE, HOST: George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” turns 75 this week. The book is now considered a classic, but NPR’s Petra Mayer reminds us that it almost wasn’t published at all.

…MAYER: Orwell biographer D.J. Taylor says the 6-year-old nephew of one of Orwell’s friends read it…

D J TAYLOR: …And reported back via his uncle that he loved it because it didn’t contain any difficult words.

MAYER: But “Animal Farm” is a dark, upsetting book. The pigs take over, and bit by bit, they grow more cruel and murderous, masking each new outrage in revolutionary rhetoric. By the end, drinking liquor, snapping whips and gambling with the neighborhood farmers, they’re indistinguishable from the humans they originally overthrew.

Broadly, “Animal Farm” is a fable about tyranny, but specifically, it’s a satire on the Soviet revolution and how it led to Joseph Stalin’s reign of terror. So why tell such a painful story in such a childish manner? D.J. Taylor says that Orwell was influenced by “Gulliver’s Travels” and French fables. But also, at the time he was writing “Animal Farm,” he and his first wife, Eileen, were adopting a child. So not only did he have kids on his mind…

TAYLOR: The era in which he wrote for the 10 years previous, cinema screens had been full of cartoon animals. You know, it was the great age of the Disney cartoon.

MAYER: It was, in fact, turned into a cartoon a few years after he died, but it almost wasn’t a book at all. Orwell was shopping “Animal Farm” to publishers in 1944 when the Allied victory in World War II was far from assured. Again, D.J. Taylor.

TAYLOR: So this is effectively a satire of Stalin, who was then – even America regarded as avuncular Uncle Joe, you know, our great ally in the fight against Nazism.

MAYER: No one wanted to take a potshot at Uncle Joe. It took more than a year and multiple publishers, but “Animal Farm” finally came out in the U.K. in 1945, and it was a massive hit. Its success enabled Orwell to write his masterwork, “1984.” When people use the adjective Orwellian today, they’re almost invariably talking about “1984.”

(7) HOOKED ON A FEELING. “Stephen Graham Jones on How Horror is the Puppet of Your Own Terror” at LitHub.

Brad Listi: That’s interesting. It’s interesting to think of it that way. I feel like when we go to read something, we’re trying to feel something, or hoping to at least. And if somebody can scare the shit out of you, that’s a feeling.

Stephen Graham Jones: It is. Horror can change your behavior. It can make you turn off the lights in your house in a different sequence at eleven o’clock at night. It can make you edge along the wall to get to your bed instead of just walking brazenly across the middle of your bedroom floor. I love that horror puts you on a string like that. It turns into a puppet, a puppet not necessarily of the the writer, but a puppet of your own terror and your own dread. I think that’s beautiful.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 19, 2007 Highlander: The Source premiered. The final film of the story that spanned both the film and television series, it saw the return of Adrian Paul reprising his character of Duncan MacLeod from Highlander: The Series and the fourth film, Highlander: Endgame. He also produced along with Peter S. Davis and William N. Panzer while Brett Leonard directed. The screenplay was Mark Bradley and Steven Kelvin Watkins from the story by the former. Reception was universally negative if not downright hostile with it being the first film in the series not to get a widescreen distribution.  SciFi Channel instead aired it. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a richly deserved 19% rating. (CE)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 19, 1894 – H.W. Wesso.  After covers for Amazing, painted every Astounding cover under W. Clayton (Jan 30 – Mar 33; H. Bates ed.), then more, also AstonishingMarvelStrange TalesThrilling, five dozen in all; eight hundred interiors.  Here is the Jan 30 Amazing.  Here is the Jan 38 Astounding.  Here is an interior from a 1930s Astounding; I haven’t found the date more exactly, can you?  Here is an interior from the Jan 41 Thrilling.  Again I recommend Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  (Died 1948) [JH] 
  • Born August 19, 1921 Gene Roddenberry. Oh, you know who he is. But did you know he wrote a lot of scripts for Have Gun – Will Travel? Indeed, his script for the show, “Helen of Abajinian” would win the Writer’s Guild of America award for Best Teleplay in 1958. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1930 D.G. Compton, 90. SWFA Author Emeritus whose The Steel Crocodile was nominated for the Nebula Award. The Unsleeping EyeThe Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe in the U.K., was filmed as Death Watch which the Audience Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes actually like giving it a 60% rating. His two Alec Jordan near-future police stories are superb. Nearly everything he wrote of a genre nature is available from the usual digital suspects save Hot Wireless Sets, Aspirin Tablets, the Sandpaper Sides of Used Matchboxes, and Something That Might Have Been Castor Oil. (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1938 Richard N. Farmer. Author of Islandia Revisited, a sequel to Austin Tappan Wright’s Islandia. No idea it was if authorized but I’m betting it wasn’t as it’s not in print in either print or digital editions currently. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1938 –Diana Muldaur, 81.  Student of Stella Adler.  First woman President of the Acad. Television Arts & Sciences.  Two Star Trek appearances (original series), later Katherine Pulaski, M.D., in The Next Generation.  Voiced another physician in animated Batman (1992-1994).  One appearance in The Hulk (1979).  Don’t blame CE for omitting her, these things are hard.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1945 – Roseanne di Fate.  Teacher, mostly of nursery school, another hard thing; last position at Vassar, my grandmother’s college.  Andrew Porter did a biography of R & Vincent in Algol 21 (Tim Kirk artwork! Bester interview of Heinlein! Benford on knowledge! Brunner on the art & craft of SF! Lupoff book reviews!).  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 19, 1947 – Dwain Kaiser.  Active fan in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  Used-book shop owner; had several, all called Magic Door; at his death he was operating his fourth, in Pomona (L.A area).  Founded a Las Vegas SF Society, thus repaying Arnie Katz, one of whose fanzines (with Lenny Bailes) let DK know there was such a thing as fandom.  Published many zines and took part in apas.  OGH’s appreciation here; you will want to know more, but this is the best I can do for now.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born August 19, 1950 Jill St. John, 70. She’s best remembered as Tiffany Case, the Bond girl in Diamonds Are Forever. She was the first American to play a Bond girl. She shows in The Batman in “Smack in the Middle” and “Hi Diddle Riddle” as Molly. And she played Jennifer Holmes in the 1960 film version of The Lost World. (CE)
  • Born August 19, 1952 Jonathan Frakes, 68. Best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in Next Gen though I’m fond of his voicing David Xanatos on the Gargoyles series which had at least five Trek actors doing voice work. Interesting bit of trivia: For a time in the Seventies, he worked for Marvel Comics at cons as Captain America. He has directed more than 70 television episodes, including episodes of five Trek series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.The Librarians and The Orville. (CE) 
  • Born August 19, 1961 – Randy Smith, 59.  Wrote up the Hugo Awards Ceremony for the ConJosé Souvenir Book (60th Worldcon).  Long helpful in the San Francisco area, currently a director of SFSFC (San Francisco SF Cons, the non-profit that hosted the 51st, 60th, 76th Worldcons; Westercon 53, 64, 66; and like that) and now tired but not exhausted having chaired its liaison committee for the 78th Worldcon we just virtually had.  Relations with John Blaker a model of ecumenism (which, should they read this, they will blushingly try to disclaim).  [JH]
  • Born August 19, 1988 – Veronica Roth, 32.  Six novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Divergent a NY Times Best Seller; it and first sequel sold five million copies before film version of Divergent released.  Her gaze upon the world, says John Clute, is cuttingly sharp; she is said to be reading the Bible; “cuttingly sharp” could be said of Isaiah, though he did not give us dystopias; beyond that is beyond my pay grade.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy shows that wile you can fool some of the people all of the time, you can’t fool the bird.

(11) FOLLOW THE MONEY. In “The Big Idea: Thomas Levenson” at Whatever, the author of Money for Nothing tells about the famous figure who unexpectedly had to learn the hard way that what goes up must come down.

…Then it happened again. Deep into that story, I came across this:  a stray mention that [Isaac] Newton had lost £20,000–roughly four million dollars in 21st century money–in a financial scam that happened exactly three centuries ago this year, an event called the South Sea Bubble.  Afterwards, he told his niece that he could “calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of the people.”

That’s where Money for Nothing got its start: wondering why the smartest man of his day, someone who could surely do the math to expose the flaw in the South Sea scheme, got it so badly and expensively wrong.  The book that’s finally here has traveled from that starting point to a much bigger and (I hope) more fascinating narrative: how the wild ferment in ideas and ambitions in Britain in the late seventeenth century that we now call the scientific revolution created a culture of number and measurement that mattered in the daily life of those who lived through it.  From there, and how, as the Bubble played out, that disaster produced something very new: the modern financial capitalism that still plays out in all our lives, with all its wealth and woe….

(12) GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE.

But wait!

Back in the Seventies there was a San Diego fan who had his van painted as the Enterprise’s shuttlecraft. The guy went by the name of “James T. Kirk” which I guarantee you doesn’t make it any easier for me to search for a photo.

(13) SEPARATED AT BIRTH. Gizmodo relays scientific speculation about the question: “Does Our Sun Have a Long-Lost Twin?”

…The Oort cloud is the most distant region in the solar system, residing much farther than the outer planets and the Kuiper Belt. Unlike the Kuiper Belt, which is shaped like a donut, the Oort cloud is a massive and thick spherical shell that envelopes the entire solar system. The inner Oort cloud starts at around 1,000 AU from the Sun (in which 1 AU is the average distance from Earth to the Sun), while its outer edge stops at around 100,000 AU.

This region of space is filled with billions, possibly trillions, of rocky and icy objects left over from the formation of the solar system. According to the new paper, the overabundance of material presumed to exist in the outer Oort cloud is the result of our Sun’s early stint as a binary system.

To date, computers trying to simulate the formation of the solar system have failed to reproduce the proportion of objects seen in the outer realms of the Oort cloud and the scattered disc—a specific population of trans-Neptunian objects outside of the Kuiper Belt. As a result, the origin of the outer Oort cloud is “an unsolved mystery,” according to the paper, authored by astronomers Avi Loeb and Amir Siraj from the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smithsonian.

The new paper presents an elegant solution to the overpopulation problem: a second sun.

“A stellar companion to the Sun would increase the chance of trapping objects from the birth cluster of the Sun,” wrote Loeb in an email. “The Sun and its companion act as a fishing net that traps objects gravitationally as they pass near one of the two stars and lose energy by kicking it slightly.”

(14) EIGHTY-EIGHT KEY DATES. Delish charts “88 Food And Drink Holidays You Need To Mark On Your Calendars For Free Food”.

Besides the typical holidays that call for extravagant food spreads and homemade meals, there are tons of national food days that should be on your radar. They don’t all require a celebration but if you’re ever looking for an excuse to have a themed dinner or to drink a certain liquor by the truck load—you should keep some of these days in mind.

A pair of these fall on April 2 — National Burrito Day, National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day – which shouldn’t inconvenience exotic burrito connoisseur John Scalzi.

(15) CORDWAINER BIRD OF A DIFFERENT FEATHER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Burke’s Law S01E06 Who Killed Alex Debbs?” on YouTube is a 1963 episode of Burke’s Law written by Harlan Ellison.  Ellison fans recall that he used the name “Cordwainer Bird” for work he disowned.  Well, this episode is about the murder of Alex Debbs, founder of Debonair, a magazine vaguely like Playboy. The joke editor of the magazine is….Cordwainer Bird, and Bird is played by Sammy Davis Jr.!  Bird’s appearance begins after the 16-minute mark. Burgess Meredith also appears as a very nearsighted cartoonist.

(16) ORIGINS. “Where Did Penguins Come From? Scientists Say It’s Not Antarctica” reports NPR’s “All Things Considered.

The image of a penguin might bring to mind an endless march across windswept ice. The reality of penguins is a bit different, says Grant Ballard of Point Blue Conservation Science.

GRANT BALLARD: There’s actually only two species of penguin that really love ice.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Only two species. Many others live in warmer waters.

BALLARD: So an emperor penguin could conceivably be dealing with something like minus 70 degrees or even colder than that, especially with wind chill. But a Galapagos penguin is encountering temperatures that are around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

KELLY: So how did penguins evolve with such different lifestyles? A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has some answers.

RAURIE BOWIE: We’ve been able to resolve several long-standing questions about penguin evolution, in particular where penguins originated.

FADEL: Rauri Bowie of UC Berkeley is an author on that study. He says there’s been a long debate about where the first penguins evolved. Was it Antarctica or farther north in New Zealand, as others have suggested?

KELLY: Well, armed with genetic evidence from 18 species of modern-day penguins, his team has an answer.

BOWIE: Which turned out to be along the coast of Australia and New Zealand and nearby islands of the South Pacific.

KELLY: They say that happened around 22 million years ago.

FADEL: From there, the penguins surfed on a circular current at the bottom of the world.

…KELLY: If there is one thing the paper makes clear, it’s that the evolution of penguins is far from black and white.

(17) WASHED UP ON THE SHORES OF THE INTERNET. During my search for neglected Scroll titles today I rediscovered this gem by Will R. from 2015.

Just scroll right down and you’ll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from this vile hive,
aboard this tiny ship.

The Esk were mighty pixeled fen,
the Blogger brave and sure,
the Filers ticked the box that day,
for a three hour tour,
a three hour tour.

Discussion started getting rough,
the tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the filking of the fearless crew
the comments would be lost.
The comments would be lost.

The ship’s now lodged for good inside this
Highly trafficked file,
with Gilligan,
the Blogger too,
The reverend and the SMOFs,
the wombat red,
the dissenters and the grinning fan,
here in Gilligan’s File.

(Ending verse)
So this is the tale of our castaways,
they’ll be here for a long, long time.
They’ll have to make the best of things,
it’s an uphill climb.

The first Esk and the Blogger too
will do their very best,
to make the others comfortable
With their sordid rhetoric.

No threads, no lights, no time travel,
not a single luxury.
They’ll have to see what they can grow,
like NASA’s Mark Watney.

So join us here each day my friends,
you’re sure to get a smile,
from countless dumbstruck Trufen brave…
here in Gilligan’s File!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert tells Late Show viewers, “You Owe Kevin Costner An Apology For ‘The Postman.’” The parting shot is a corker.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/15/20 To Clickfinity And Beyond!

(1) RECONVENE REPORT. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] ReCONvene, the one-day virtual con of NESFA, was this afternoon, so I paid my ten dollars and attended via Zoom. 

It was worth devoting much of the afternoon to it for just one conversation, the Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction panel which had Ellen Kushner as moderator with P. Djèlí Clark, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Carlos Hernandez and, to my utter delight, Aliette de Bodard. I learned much about the writers and their worlds that I didn’t know. Like all items it allowed conversations among the fans as a text feed — I didn’t listen in too very much of that but they were getting a lot of participation. 

Earlier on, Modernizing Fairy Tales and Myths with Adam Stemple as moderator had Victor Lavalle, Seanan McGuire, Catherynne Valente and Rebecca Roanhorse as panelists. Like the other Zoom groups I listened to, it was flawless in its sound and video. Lots of personal ethnic background here as basis for storytelling — most excellent.

The panels were good and they used Discord for follow up chats which I’ll admit I skipped. There was a tour of the art show which is less interesting than being there, but the writers were the reason to be there and they even did Kaffeeklatsches, solo conversations with authors, so I listened to Justina Ireland who I was hearing of for the first time and turned out to be fascinating.

All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. If Boskone is virtual next February (and I wouldn’t count against it being so), I’ll certainly pay for a virtual membership based on his trial run which was organized well and easy to use.  

(2) THE ANSWER. Robert J. Sawyer has a piece in The Star today: “Robert J. Sawyer: We’re all living in a science-fiction novel now”.

As soon as Toronto let customers eat on restaurant patios again, I made a beeline for Orwell’s Pub — best dang chicken wings in the city. The indoor restaurant was closed, and Chris, the guy who usually tends bar, was serving. When he came by my table, he quipped, “Seems like we’re all living in a Robert J. Sawyer novel now.”

I was surprised he knew who I was. Despite Orwell’s being a cosy “Cheers”-style “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” place, as a non-drinker, I’m usually invisible to bartenders. But Chris was right: we are living in a science-fiction novel now, and a dystopian one at that.

Since my latest novel, “The Oppenheimer Alternative,” is about the Manhattan Project, I often get asked what should be the next big-science undertaking with an all-but-unlimited budget bringing together our brightest minds.

My answer: developing a general antiviral technique, rather than an endless succession of vaccines targeting one, and only one, specific virus. The old method is why our annual flu shots are sometimes ineffective; we’d guessed wrong about which strain of flu would become prevalent. It’s also why we’ve never had a vaccine against the common cold, which is caused by a vast, ever-mutating range of coronaviruses.

Viruses aren’t even alive. They’re just bits of genetic code encased in a protein shell, sometimes (as with the novel coronavirus plaguing us now) slicked down with a fatty coating. And that’s it.

(3) FREEDOM AT MIDNGHT. Somtow Sucharitkul will give away free eBook versions of three of his YA novels from August 17-19, starting at midnight Pacific time.

(4) FUTURE FREE READS. Ellen Datlow told HWA today about the dark fantasy reading coming out for free on the Tor.com website in the next few weeks:

  • “Wait for Night” by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror story -September 2 (which is when his novella Night Of The Mannequins will also be out).
  • “The Little Witch” by M. Rickert, a dark fantasy novelette-October 28
  • “On Safari in R’lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera” by Elizabeth Bear, a dark fantasy novelette-November 18

(5) THE REINVENTED COUNTRY. “HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ Brings Viewers To A World Of Monsters, Magic and Racism” – an NPR Morning Edition transcript.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Here’s the thing about being a Black nerd who loves science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories. Often, you wind up admiring work created to glorify people who are the exact opposite of you. That’s something the aptly-named bookworm Atticus Freeman tries to explain while telling a female friend about the latest novel he was reading on a long bus ride, the 1912 book “A Princess Of Mars” and its star, planet-jumping hero John Carter.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) You said the hero was a Confederate officer.

JONATHAN MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Ex-Confederate.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) He fought for slavery. You don’t get to put a ex in front of that.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Stories are like people. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You just try to cherish them and overlook their flaws.

DEGGANS: That could be something of a mission statement for the “Lovecraft Country,” a series based on the recent novel of the same name. The book and series reference the work of renowned horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft, known to have racist views about African Americans. The show compares the work of Lovecraftian (ph) supernatural beings which could have sprung from his books to the racism Black people faced in 1950s-era America.

Atticus Freeman, played by “Da 5 Bloods” costar Jonathan Majors, is a Korean War veteran who returns home to find his missing father. Before long, he’s enlisted help from his Uncle George, played by Courtney B. Vance, and his friend Letitia, played by Jurnee Smollett. They must travel across the country from Chicago to follow a clue. And along the way, they run into a not-too-helpful police officer who informs them Black people aren’t allowed in the area after dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

JAMIE HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Any of y’all know what a sundown town is?

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) Yes, sir. We do.

HARRIS: (As Sheriff Eustace Hunt) Well, this is a sundown county. If I’d have found you after dark, it would have been my sworn duty to hang every single one of you from them trees.

MAJORS: (As Atticus Freeman) It’s not sundown yet.

DEGGANS: But when the police officer and his buddies try to lynch the trio, everyone is attacked by huge, teethy, flesh-eating monsters who chase them into a cabin. Uncle George, who’s just as much of a bookworm as Atticus, has an idea of what they might be facing.

…At a time when the world is still reeling from seeing a Black man die with a white policeman’s knee on his neck, there is no better moment for HBO’s gripping “Lovecraft Country” to reinvent a supernatural tale.

(6) FLOURISHNG MAGIC. Rebecca Roanhorse tells the New York Times: “‘We’ve Already Survived an Apocalypse’: Indigenous Writers Are Changing Sci-Fi”. Tagline: “Long underrepresented in genre fiction, Native American and First Nations authors are reshaping its otherworldly (but still often Eurocentric) worlds.”

When Cherie Dimaline was growing up near Penetanguishene, a small town on the Georgian Bay in Ontario, her grandmother and great-aunts told her stories about a werewolf-like monster called the rogarou. It wasn’t spoken of as a mythical creature but as an actual threat, the embodiment of danger in a place where Indigenous women face heightened risk of violence.

“This wasn’t like, here’s a metaphor,” she said. “They would say, ‘The rogarou’s out, and he’s really hungry.’”

Decades later, Dimaline, a member of the Métis Nation in Canada, was working on a novel about a woman whose missing husband reappears with no memory of her, seemingly under a spell. She needed a charismatic villain, and when the rogarou — a wily trickster figure in Métis oral traditions — popped into her head, she realized the creature had never been given its due in popular culture.

That flash of inspiration turned into “Empire of Wild,” a genre-bending novel whose modern Indigenous characters confront environmental degradation, discrimination and the threat of cultural erasure, all while battling a devious monster….

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you all will accept his invitation to polish off prawn pizza with Stephen Dedman on Episode 125 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode I have breakfast while Australian writer Stephen Dedman has dinner 12 hours in my future.

Stephen has published more than 100 short stories, some of which I was privileged to publish back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine. You can find many of those stories in his collections The Lady of Situations (1999) and Never Seen by Waking Eyes (2005). His novels, which include The Art of Arrow Cutting (1997), Foreign Bodies (1999), Shadows Bite (2001), and others, have been Bram Stoker, Aurealis, William L. Crawford, and Ditmar Award nominees. He’s also written role-playing games, stageplays, erotica, and westerns. And he at one time worked as a “used dinosaur parts salesman,” a job which had me extremely curious — and as you listen to us chat and chew, you’ll find out all about it.

We discussed how the Apollo 11 moon landing introduced him to science fiction, what his father told him which changed his plan to become a cartoonist, the huge difference the Internet made in the lives of Australian writers, his creative trick for getting his first poem published, what acting taught him about being funny in the midst of tragedy, his former job as a used dinosaur parts salesman, the way page one tells him whether he’s got a short story or novel idea, how Harlan Ellison became the first American editor to buy one of his stories, and much more.

(8) MIND’S EYE. At LitHub, Kathleen Rooney discusses “How Fiction Allows Us to Inhabit Animal Consciousness”.

For centuries, human thinking—at least in the West—has been dominated by the notion, said to have originated with Aristotle, of the Scala Naturae, or the Ladder of Life. Also known as the Great Chain of Being, this concept establishes a hierarchy in which all life forms can be arranged in ascending degrees of perfection with humans, conveniently, at the topmost rung. Even after Darwin came along and replaced this model with his considerably less vertical Tree of Life, the idea of the human mind as the apex of biological consciousness has persisted.

Increasingly, in the face of climate catastrophe, more humans are beginning to question their hubris. In the introduction to their 2017 book Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene, the editors note: “Some scientists argue that the rate of biological extinction is now several hundred times beyond its historical levels. We might lose a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.” This, the arguable point of no return, affords a chance to examine the received belief in human exceptionalism. Science writing in particular and nonfiction in general have much to say regarding the similarities between human and non-human minds, but fiction offers opportunities to explore this interconnectedness as well. After all, if fiction has the power to show us another individual’s private and interior uniqueness, then why not depict animals possessing such interiority?

(9) YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR BONES. Skeleton Hour is a new monthly horror literature webinar series presented as an Horror Writers Association event in collaboration with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles.

Each panel will be an hour long and bring together 3-5 authors to discuss a specific topic in horror with a moderator guiding the discussion. Panels will take place on Zoom, with the audience able to ask questions in the chat window. The series launches Friday, August 28th, with the first panel focused on 70s-90s throwback horror including authors of novellas from the Rewind or Die series published by Unnerving Press: Mackenzie Kiera, Stephen Graham Jones, Lisa Quigley, and Jessica Guess, as well as noted subject matter expert Grady Hendrix!

Register for the Zoom webinar here: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2C6hfS-ARoGvvNontWmiqg. The event will also be live streamed by HWA on Facebook and YouTube.

(10) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Be sure to consult NASA’s Guide to Near-light-speed Travel before blasting off.

So, you’ve just put the finishing touches on upgrades to your spaceship, and now it can fly at almost the speed of light. We’re not quite sure how you pulled it off, but congratulations! Before you fly off on your next vacation, however, watch this handy video to learn more about near-light-speed safety considerations, travel times, and distances between some popular destinations around the universe.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 15, 1984 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension premiered. Directed by and produced by W.D. Richter (with co-production by Neil Canton), the screenplay was by Earl Mac Rauch who did nothing else of a genre nature. Primary cast was Peter Weller, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Lloyd. Initial critical response was generally negative with a few claiming the script was unintelligible. More than one said it was too hip for its good. No, it didn’t do well at the box office but has since become a cult film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give an excellent 70% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 15, 1771 – Sir Walter Scott, Bt.  Lawyer, reviewer, antiquarian, poet, novelist; in the last three, fantastic elements recur; in the last two, by his doing; his reputation has soared, fallen, soared again.  He may yet prove timeless.  He wrote “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and “Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive!”  RossiniDonizettiSchubertBeethoven set his words to music.  His baronetcy became extinct upon the death of his son.  (Died 1832) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than sixty books of children’s literature including the Five Children Universe series. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a socialist organization later affiliated to the Labour Party. (Died 1924.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1907 – Jack Snow. Wrote Who’s Who in Oz (1954), rightly praised by Anthony Boucher (“Recommended Reading”, Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar 55).  By then JS had written two Oz novels of his own, five darker short stories for Weird Tales.  When Frank Baum, the first and arguably best Oztorian, died in 1919, JS offered to succeed him – age 12; he was turned down.  Matching or at least harmonizing with Baum’s style has been elusive ever since; Who’s Who which could neither treat at length nor argue is masterly, as Boucher noted.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1917 John Joseph McGuire. Best remembered as a co-writer with H. Beam Piper of A Planet for TexansHunter PatrolCrisis in 2140 and The Return, all of which I’ve read. His solo fiction was a bare handful and I don’t think I’ve encountered it. The works with Piper are available from the usual digital suspects as is a novella of his called The Reason Prisoner. It’s listed as being public domain, so’s free there. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1932 Robert L. Forward. Physicist and SF writer whose eleven novels I find are often quite great on ideas and quite thin on character development. Dragon’s Egg is fascinating as a first contact novel, and Saturn Rukh is another first contact novel that’s just as interesting. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1933 – Bjo Trimble, 86.  (There should be a circumflex over the j, an Esperantism indicating the pronunciation “bee-joe”, but the software won’t allow it.)  Omnifan preceding Bruce Pelz.  Her vitality and wit sparked LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) out of a slump, authored SF con Art Shows (for which she still refuses credit), led a letter-writing campaign that saved Star Trek from being scrapped (see On the Good Ship “Enterprise”), flourished in fanart, concocted cons and costumes.  Received the Big Heart (our highest service award) in 1964, possibly the youngest ever; Inkpot, 1974 (its first year); Fan Guest of Honor at Dragon*Con 1995 the 6th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  She and husband John have the Life Achievement Award from the Int’l Costumers Guild.  They were early Baroness and Baron in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where she has the Order of the Laurel (arts & sciences), both the Order of the Pelican (service).  Together co-chaired Westercon 23; were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJosé the 60th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1934 – Darrell K. Sweet.  Three hundred fifty covers for us, seventy-five interiors; perhaps 3,000 images all told.  Here is Space Cadet.  Here is Beyond the Blue Event Horizon.  Here is The Dictionary of SF Places.  Here is The Eye of the World.  Here is “The Gap Dragon and Princess Ivy”.  Artbook, Beyond Fantasy.  Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Tuckercon the 9th NASFiC; World Fantasy Con 2010; LoneStarCon 3 the 71st Worldcon which had to celebrate him posthumously.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1943 Barbara Bouchet, 77. Yes, I’ve a weakness for performers who’ve shown up on the original Trek. She plays Kelinda in “By Any Other Name”.  She also appeared in Casino Royale as Miss Moneypenny, a role always noting, and is Ava Vestok in Agent for H.A.R.M. which sounds like someone was rather unsuccessfully emulating The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It will be commented upon by Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1945 Nigel Terry. His first role was John in A Lion in Winter which is at least genre adjacent, with his first genre role being King Arthur in Excalibur. Now there’s a bloody telling of the Arthurian myth.  He’s General Cobb in the Tenth Doctor story, “The Doctor’s Daughter”, and on the Highlander series as Gabriel Piton in the “Eye of the Beholder” episode. He even played Harold Latimer in “The Greek Interpreter” on Sherlock Holmes. (Did 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 15, 1952 – Louise Marley, 68.  A score of novels (some under other names) including both a Glass Harmonica and a Mozart’s Blood, as many shorter stories.  Interviewed in FantasyLocusStrange HorizonsTalebones.  Two Endeavour Awards (note spelling; named for Captain Cook’s ship).  Before authoring, sang with the Seattle Opera.  See this autobiographical note.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1958 Stephen Haffner,  62. Proprietor of Haffner Press which appears to be largely a mystery and genre reprint endeavor though he’s published such original anthologies as Edmond Hamilton & Leigh Brackett Day, October 16, 2010 and the non-fiction work Thirty-Five Years of the Jack Williamson Lectureship which he did with Patric Caldwell. (CE)
  • Born August 15, 1964 – Carla Sinclair, 56.  Editor of Net Chick.  Author of Signal to Noise.  Co-founder of bOING bOING.  [JH]
  • Born August 15, 1972 Matthew Wood, 48. He started out as, and still is, a sound engineer but he also became a voice actor with his best know role being that of General Grievous in The Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. He often does both at the same time as on the  2013 Star Trek into Darkness where he was the surviving sound editor and provided the ever so vague additional voices. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) SETTING DOWN THE S.H.I.E.L.D. “‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Behind the Scenes of the Emotional Series Finale” – a New York Times Q&A with showrunners Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon.

…The resulting series, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” went on to have a successful seven-season run on ABC, which ended Wednesday with a complex two-hour series finale. That didn’t seem especially likely after its rough debut in 2013. Some critics wanted flashier connections to Marvel cinema — where was Iron Man? — and the show had to operate in the shadow of the movies: The existence of magic couldn’t be acknowledged until it was first revealed by the 2016 film “Doctor Strange” first; “life-model decoys,” a kind of android, weren’t permissible until an android character appeared in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

But about halfway through its run, the show began reinventing itself, with characters ping-ponging through space, time and alternative realities. Once the writers freed themselves of the timeline and narrative restraints established by the movies (and even ignored a few), the series started to soar.

“We could just make up our own stories,” said Jed Whedon. “It was liberating.”

In the final season, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents hopped around different decades, with a pit stop in the 1980s that provided pure pop-geek joy. (Agent Coulson as Max Headroom? Check.)

But the show never lost its emotional core: the relationship between Agents Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge), who crossed the galaxy more than once to be together, only to be repeatedly pulled apart. In the finale, they reunited, as Fitz helped the ragtag team save both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Earth from a takeover by an alien android race.

(15) IT ONLY MAKES HIM MAD. “Bald Eagle Sends Government Drone Into Lake Michigan” reports the New York Times.

… A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.

Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.

“When he looked up, the drone was gone, and an eagle was flying away,” said the department, whose name is abbreviated E.G.L.E.

A couple who regularly spends time watching eagles go after sea gulls in the area witnessed the battle but were surprised when they learned that it was a drone that had been downed in the fight, the department said….

The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”

(16) THE WORM TURNS. NPR asks“Could Giving Kids A 50-Cent Pill Massively Boost Their Income Years Later?”

It’s one of the cheapest ways to help kids in extremely poor countries: Twice a year, give them a 50-cent pill to kill off nasty intestinal parasites. Now, a landmark study finds the benefits carry over long into adulthood — and the impact is massive. But dig deeper and the issue quickly becomes more complicated — and controversial.

To understand why, it helps to start at the beginning, when newly minted economist — and future Nobel prize winner — Michael Kremer says he stumbled into this study by lucky happenstance.

It was the mid-1990s and Kremer was visiting Kenya. “I mean I was on vacation. I wasn’t there for a research trip or something,” he recalls.

Kremer, who had spent a year after college teaching at a school in Kenya, decided to look up a friend from that project. And at their get-together, the friend mentioned to Kremer that he was about to start a new aid program to help elementary school children — including by giving them deworming pills.

The parasites aren’t just bad for kids’ health. They can make a child too listless to pay proper attention in school or so sick she misses many school days.

Kremer, who had recently gotten his doctorate in economics, says he was struck by an idea: “I suggested that if he chose twice as many schools and then they initially started working in half of them and then later expanded [the deworming to the other half], I could measure the impact of what they were doing.”

…The experiment, which involved about 32,000 children, also turned deworming into a popular form of aid. That’s because the first set of results, released in 2004 by Kremer and a collaborator, Edward Miguel of University of California, Berkeley, showed that giving the kids the pills reduced absenteeism and dropping out of elementary school by a fourth — from 28% to 21%.

(17) WE INTERRUPT THIS DESSERT. Serious Eats reminds people of “The History of Astronaut Ice Cream”.

There may be no novelty sweet more polarizing than astronaut ice cream. Those who adore it praise its light, crunchy texture, and a flavor that is still unmistakably creamy and sweet. Its detractors will say biting into it is akin to chomping down on a piece of chalk: powdery and unnatural. And for those who have never tried it, the entire concept of eating ice cream stripped of all liquid may seem downright bizarre. But even though so-called astronaut (or to be more precise, freeze-dried) ice cream isn’t the most popular of novelty treats, its longevity proves that it has found a small, but fiercely loyal fan base.

Even its creator has been a little surprised at the product’s staying power….

[Thanks to amk, Andrew “Eagle Eye” Porter, Somtow Sucharitkul, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Dan Bloch, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

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 6/6/20 You Get A File, I’ll Get A Troll, We’ll Head Down
To The Pixel Scroll, Honey, Enemy Mine

(1) CUTTING OFF THEIR AIR. Connie Willis starts her Facebook post by comparing recent tragedies with the Salem witch trials: “On The Surreal Situation We Find Ourselves In”.

The first thing I thought of when I saw the horrific police murder of George Floyd was the Salem witch trials. Most people think the innocent victims of those monstrous trials were burned at the stake, but they weren’t–they were hanged. Mostly. Fourteen women, five men, and two dogs were executed by hanging. And one, an eighty-one-year-old farmer named Giles Corey, was pressed to death by putting a large flat stone on his chest and then piling more stones on top of it till they crushed the life out of him.

Basically the same thing happened to George Floyd. The policeman kneeling on his neck cut off his airway, and the other two holding him down pressed him flat against the ground so that his rib cage couldn’t inflate, and he suffocated to death.

The atrocities in Salem were precipitated by a belief that Evil was loose in their community.

It was, but it didn’t reside in the helpless slaves and old women and religious dissenters (and people who dared to speak out against what was happening) who were “tried” for witchcraft and executed.

The terrible irony of Salem is that the evil they were trying so hard to stamp out resided in the pious Christian town folk who accused them and the self-righteous judges who presided over their mock trials– “spectral evidence” was allowed, and they were pronounced guilty of crimes they had supposedly committed in the town even though they were locked up in jail at the time–and sentenced them to death.

The crimes brought to light by the death of George Floyd haven’t just been the murders of other African-Americans killed by the police, but other crimes the police have committed and are committing: the brutalizing of people exercising their First Amendment rights, the calling out of troops against the citizens they’re supposed to protect, and administration officials directing them to do so, calling for violence against their own people. Crimes by so-called law-abiding citizens and the officials they’ve put in office to “serve and protect” the public….

(2) YES, THIS AUGUST. Inverse fills readers in: “Everything We Know About Lovecraft Country, HBO’s Timely New Horror Series”.

In what just might be your next obsession from HBO, the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft finally does what the famed author never dared to do: Tell stories about Black people.

In August, HBO will premiere the television series Lovecraft Country, a road trip horror fantasy set in Jim Crow era America. It tells the story of an Army veteran and science fiction geek embarking on a cross-country trip to find his missing father, only to encounter otherworldly — and some very familiar — horrors along the way….

(3) LESS CYBER, MORE FILLING. “The New AP Stylebook Gets Technical. Really Technical”Slate explains how.

On Wednesday, the Associated Press released the 55th edition of its official Stylebook, complete with a new chapter on digital security practices for journalists. It also comes with a slew of new entries on technology that reinforce the importance of online advertising and cybersecurity in everyday life—and journalism.

For most journalists, the advice in the AP guide on how to secure their communications—through strong passwords, multifactor authentication, and the use of virtual private networks and encrypted messaging apps—will probably not come as a surprise. Still, for those tools to have made their way into the Associated Press Stylebook seems like a landmark of some kind for measuring how mainstream digital security concerns have become for journalists.

The new and revised technology-related entries in the Stylebook also reflect some interesting shifts in what the Associated Press believes journalists can expect general audiences to know. In general, many of the recommendations tend to urge journalists in the direction of greater specificity about the technologies they are describing and away from more generic, dated terms. For instance, the Stylebook endorses the terms digital wallets and mobile wallets, but it recommends avoiding e-wallet. In a similar vein, journalists are advised to use the prefix cyber– and the terms cyberspace and cyber sparingly, and instead substitute words like internet or digital…. 

(4) THE POSITIVE POWER OF BOREDOM. Eh, maybe. “What type of ‘bored’ are you? Find out and master the art of boredom”Body+Soul tells you how.

Lockdown got you climbing the walls? Are you over feeling bored? While it’s certainly an unpleasant feeling, experts say boredom isn’t always a bad thing. Some say that ‘blah’ feeling can even spur you on to greatness.

“There’s a real misconception that boredom is a sign of laziness and associated with apathy — actually, it’s the opposite,” says Professor James Danckert, who studies boredom. “It’s motivating — and, if we listen to it, we can learn a lot.”

Other experts agree that being bored can be a good thing. “Most of the time our minds are constantly occupied by external stimuli like smartphones,” says psychologist Dr Joann Lukins. “But boredom gives us a space to pause, reflect and then, often out of necessity, sees us create our next opportunity. I find it interesting that we use negative phrases like ‘bored to tears’ to discuss boredom when we can be ‘bored to brilliance’.’’

In fact, when researchers at the UK’s University of Central Lancashire asked people to do a boring task for 15 minutes and then asked them to come up with a list of things they could do with a plastic cup, they came up with more creative ideas than those in the control group who weren’t bored….

(5) WRITING FOR TEENS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is promoting the SDFutures online writing courses, along with UCSD and other supporters.

Imagining fantastic worlds and the future has never been more important.

It’s how we expand our sense of what is possible. It’s how we change our culture, save our planet, and make stories that create better futures for our loved ones and ourselves. This summer, we’re inviting San Diego–area teens to join us in exploring the power and potential of one of our most powerful human capacities: imagination.

SDFutures is series of online courses to help young people write science fiction and fantasy stories by developing their skills, meeting other young writers, and stretching their imagination with incredible professional writers of speculative fiction as guides. 

Our instructors include: Rebecca Roanhorse, Minh Lê, Kali Wallace, Lilliam Rivera, Patrick Coleman, Leah Thomas, Jeanelle Horcasitas, and Olivia Quintanilla.

If you know a community group, teacher, or young person who would benefit from this opportunity, please feel free to share.

More information, including how to register, at sd-futures.org.

(6) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Rich Horton put together a list of recommended books on his TBR pile. Many well-known titles here, but being TBR, he said his own score is zero. I’ve read 7. You have probably read multiples of my score.

Recently I posted a list of 100 books that was full of crap … it claimed to be a BBC list (it wasn’t) and it claimed that the average person had read only 6 (who knows?) and it was shoddily curated (multiple weird duplicates, etc.)

Here is what I believe to be a far better list. There are no duplicates (not even duplicate authors.) It is very English-language-centric — I can’t help that, English is all I can read…

(7) WITCHER WATCHER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the May 30 Financial Times, Nilanjana Roy says she misses browsing bookstores in Delhi but has found some consolation watching TV shows adapted from novels, including The Witcher.

The hugely popular Netflix series, The Witcher, is a dark fantasy based on five novels written by Andrzej Sapkowski in the 1990s, following Geralt of Rivia, a lone monster killer who plies his trade across time jumps in the Continent, a place where monsters, humans, and creatures from Slavic fantasy battle it out with one another. Sapkowski, now 71, lives in Lodz and is as big a star in Polang as Terry Pratchett was in the UK. In one of his interviews, he dismissed critics of the fantasy genre:  ‘All literature is fantastic in its own way because it tells what wasn’t on paper before and it doesn’t matter whether you write about hobbits or love.’  Over the years, the community of Witcher fans has grown larger, drawn in by three wildly successful video games based on Geralt’s adventures, but it’s only now that the books have become a hit, propelled by the Netflix show.

What drew me in was not just the lure of a fantasy world peopled by vedmaks (sorcerers) or strigas (a flying witch who sucks the blood of infants at night); it’s that many of the characters are depicted as outsiders and outcasts.  It’s refreshing to watch fantasy that has a subtle echo of this last century’s swirl of xenophobia and politics about who belongs and who lives in the periphery, and that seeps into Geralt’s bloody exploits.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 6, 1980 — The decidedly low-budget Galaxina premiered. Starring the 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten as the android Galaxina and a cast too large to detail here, it was written and directed by William Sachs. Marilyn Jacobs Tenser was the producer. She did work for Crown International which did low-budget genre films such as horror cinema, biker films, exploitation films, and B-movie drive-in fare. Critics thought it was a failure at spoofing it’s intended victims of Star TrekStars Wars and Aliens.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a not so generous 24% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 6, 1799 – Alexander Pushkin.  Sometimes after a surprise you re-examine and think “Oh.  Of course.”  When Ravi Shankar first visited Russia, people cried “Pushkin!  Pushkin!”  They loved Pushkin and there is a resemblance.  I’d like to call Mozart and Salieri a fantasy but, as my father used to say, not within the normal meaning of that term.  Anyway, we get Ruslan and Lyudmila and “The Queen of Spades” and The Bronze Horseman and “The Golden Cockerel” and The Stone Guest and “The Shot”.  Speaking of which –  (Died 1837) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1918 Richard Crane. In the Fifties, he would be cast in two of the series that largely defined the look and feel of televised SF for a decade. First, he was the dashing lead in Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which lasted for thirty-nine thrilling episodes; second, he’s Dick Preston in nine of the twelve episodes of the wonderfully titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe. He was also the lead in the fifteen-chapter serial Mysterious Island which was a very loose adaption of the Jules Verne novel. (Died 1969.) (CE) 
  • Born June 6, 1921 – Milton Charles.  Artist and art director in and out of our field; Art Director for Jaguar (New York), later for Pocket Books; five hundred awards from Amer. Inst. Graphic Arts (AIGA), Society of Illustrators, Amer. Book Publishers, and like that.  Here is his cover for Tucker’s Wild Talenthere is Vonnegut’s Mother Nighthere is a study of his V.C. Andrews covers.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1924 Robert Abernathy. Writer during the 1940s and 1950s. He’s remembered mostly for his short stories which were published in many of the pulp magazines that existed during the Golden Age of Science Fiction such as Planet StoriesGalaxyF&SFAstounding and Fantastic Universe. He did around forty stories in total, and apparently wrote no novels that I can locate. There’s no collection of his works currently available in digital form but some of his stories are up at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1942 Dorothy Heydt, 78. She was the creator and first editor of the Star Trek Concordance, first published in March of 1969. (Yes, I owned a copy.) A linguist, she credited with creating one of the first widely used Vulcan languages in 1967 for a Trek fan fiction series. Though most of her short fiction is set in her own Cynthia, Daughter of Euelpides series, some was set in Bradley’s Darkover series. (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1945 – Vivian French.  Libraries in the United Kingdom say she is borrowed – that’s a metaphor, folks – shall we call it a Thing Contained for the Container? – half a million times a year; the Tiara Club books have sold three million copies.  Three dozen novels for us, some shorter stories, not least “I Wish I Were an Alien” in which the extraterrestrial boy, for his part, wishes –  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1947 Robert Englund, 73. I think his best performance was as Blackie on the very short-lived Nightmare Cafe. Short-lived as in six episodes. Of course most will remember him playing Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. He actually appeared in a couple of now forgotten horror films, Dead & Buried and Galaxy of Terror, before landing that role. And he’s continued to do myriad horror films down to the years ranging from CHUD to Strippers vs Werewolves. Versatile man, our Robert.  (CE)
  • Born June 6, 1948 – Ron Salomon.  Hey Ron, I saw you had a Supporting Membership in last year’s Worldcon; thanks!  If CoNZealand has published a list I haven’t got one yet.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1959 Amanda Pays, 61. I first encountered her as Thero Jones on Max Headroom, a series I think should be considered one of the best SF series ever made. She appeared as Dawn in the Spacejacked film. She also had a guest role as Phoebe Green in the episode “Fire” of The X-Files, and was cast as Christina “Tina” McGee in The Flash of  the 1990 series, and she has a recurring role on the present Flash series as the same character.(CE)
  • Born June 6, 1964 – Jay Lake.  Born on Taiwan, lived in Nigeria, Dahomey (as it then was), Canada, and the U.S.  Won the Campbell Best New Writer award (as it then was); anyway, he was astounding.  Endeavour Award, also appropriate.  A dozen novels, two hundred seventy shorter stories, some co-authored.  Here is a cover he did for Polyphony – also appropriate.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1973 – Anne Ursu.  Teaches at Hamline, first university in Minnesota.  She’s given us eight novels, for children, adults, both.  The Lost Girl is told from the viewpoint of a crow.  In The Cronus Chronicles – three so far – two cousins find they’re in Greek myths; the first cousin we meet is Charlotte Mielswetzki, and if I say so myself it’s about time we did.  Breadcrumbs retells The Snow Queen; creatures from Hans Andersen’s tales keep showing up; and Jack, Hazel’s only friend in 5th Grade, may not want to be saved.  [JH]
  • Born June 6, 1973 Guy Haley, 57. British author of the Richards & Klein Investigations series, a cyberpunk noir series where the partners are an android and an AI. His regular paycheck comes from his Warhammer 40,000 work where he’s written a baker’s dozen novels so far. Not surprisingly, he’s got a novel coming out in the their just announced Warhammer Crime imprint which, though I’ve read no other Warhammer 40.000 fiction, I’m interested in seeing how they do it. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MAD, I TELL YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna throws a party when “Mad magazine legend Al Jaffee retires at age 99 after a record-breaking career”.

Mad magazine’s iconic back-page Fold-In is about to fold it in. Finito after 56 years. Because Al Jaffee, officially the longest-working comic artist ever, has decided to retire at age 99.

So to mark his farewell, Mad’s “Usual Gang of Idiots” will salute Jaffee with a tribute issue next week. It will be the magazine’s final regular issue to offer new material, including Jaffee’s final Fold-In, 65 years after he made his Mad debut.“He deserves some spotlight outside our industry,” Mad caricature artist Tom Richmond said of the magazine’s beloved elder statesman, who broke into the business during World War II.

One of the most heartfelt features in the send-off issue will be by Sergio Aragones, a fellow Mad legend who befriended Jaffee in 1962 upon joining the staff. They formed a mutual admiration society — both deeply steeped in the craft of the pantomime cartoon — and were occasional roommates on the Mad staff’s storied annual trips to far-flung vacation spots….

(12) TOUGH AUDIENCE. ScreenRant has surprisingly demanding standards: “”Up, Up & Away”: Every Superman Actor, Ranked By Comic Book Accuracy”.

5. Christopher Reeve: Superman The Movie (1978)

There is so much that this movie does right. Superman’s strength, powers, and heroic optimism are fully realized, while Christopher Reeve gives a performance as strong as his character’s steely muscles. In his civilian life as Clark Kent, he is bumbling and shy, but sweet and a skilled reporter.

The biggest problem working against this movie is the famous scene in which Superman turns back time by flying around the Earth and reversing its rotation. This is not how time works, and it is certainly not how Superman’s powers work. If not for this scene, Christopher Reeve would top this list (at least in his first two films).

(13) READY FOR YOUR MT. TBR. The Little Red Reviewer has high praise for A Sinister Quartet, with fiction by Cooney, Wick, McGee, and Allen”.

…Part of me wants to tell you to read this collection in the order the stories are presented, so that you can move from least dark and scary to most dark and scary: Start with Cooney’s beautifully rendered fantasy “The Twice Drowned Saint”;  then go to Jessia P. Wick’s “An Unkindness”, a dark fantasy of a sister trying to save her brother from the fae;  from there go to Amanda J. McGee’s “Viridian”, a contemporary gothic horror of isolation and obsession;  and from there go to Mike Allen’s absolutely horrifying and terrifying “The Comforter”.  If you go that path, you’ll slowly ramp up from “fun, sorta creepy” to “not sure I should be reading this before bed”.

(14) AND IN THIS CORNER. The Little Red Reviewer also gives this irresistible description about Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia”.

…one day,  when the family is on an outing, having left Caseopea at home, as a punishment,  she takes special notice of an old trunk in her grandfather’s bedroom.  And she opens the trunk.

What’s in the trunk?   oh, only the bones and soul of Hun-Kame,  Lord of Xibalba, and one of his bone shards gets lodged in Casiopea’s hand.  no biggie, right?  He can just, remove the shard, and then he can go back to Xibalba to dethrone his brother, and then Casiopea can pretend none of this ever happened, right?

hahahaha, NO.

(15) MOUTHPIECE. “Facebook Begins Labeling ‘State-Controlled’ Media”.

Facebook has begun labeling content produced by media outlets it says are under state control, enacting a policy the social network first announced in October.

Pages and posts from at least 18 outlets including Russia Today, China’s People’s Daily and Iran’s Press TV now carry notices to users that they are “state-controlled media.” Ads from state-controlled publishers will also be labeled starting later this year. The labels will initially be shown to U.S. Facebook users and roll out to other countries over time.

“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, wrote in a blog post.

Facebook will also begin barring state-controlled outlets from buying advertising in the U.S. later this summer. Gleicher said that decision was “out of an abundance of caution to provide an extra layer of protection against various types of foreign influence in the public debate” ahead of the 2020 presidential election. He noted that these outlets “rarely” advertise in the U.S.

(16) I’M THINKING IT OVER. “Facebook Will Review Policies On Posts About State Violence, Voting” reports NPR.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook employees on Friday that the social network will review how it handles some of the most incendiary posts on its platform, including those by President Trump. His announcement follows a revolt by employees over his decision to do nothing about messages the president posted about violence toward protesters and mail-in voting.

In a memo to staff, Zuckerberg said he wanted “to acknowledge that the decision I made last week has left many of you angry, disappointed and hurt.”

Zuckerberg said Facebook will consider labeling posts that violate its rules, a more nuanced approach than the company’s current policy, which states that posts should either be removed or left alone. It will also review its policies allowing “discussion and threats of state use of force” and its policies on voter suppression.

(17) FACING UP. “Coronavirus face mask lights up with moving mouth shapes” – video. (At least it’s not as creepy as the Syncro Vox they tried on Clutch Cargo.)

A light-up face mask that responds to the sound of the wearer’s voice has been developed by a games developer in California.

The BBC’s Chris Fox spoke to designer Tyler Glaiel and had a go at making the mask himself – although he keeping his purely as a novelty.

(18) CONZEALAND CHAIRS Q&A. Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler held a video Q&A session this afternoon. Bottom line: Hugo voting is only being done with paper ballots right now. Site selection voting won’t start until the online advanced memberships fee token payment system is available — perhaps next week.

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

Coronavirus Threat Causes
Some Conventions to Cancel or Reschedule

Book fairs and sff conventions, like all public events, were already making decisions whether to proceed in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, but today’s World Health Organization announcement will step up the level of concern even higher. From the New York Times: “W.H.O. Declares Pandemic as Number of Infected Countries Grows”.

…“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the W.H.O., said at a news conference in Geneva.

“We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough,” he added. “All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

But now there is evidence on six continents of sustained transmission of the virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people and killed more than 4,300, and by most scientific measures the spread qualifies as a pandemic. The designation itself is largely symbolic, but public health officials know that the public will hear in the word elements of danger and risk.

PopCult HQ has been tracking 8 conventions worldwide that are planned for next weekend and as of yesterday, only two have been called off.

Seattle’s large Emerald City Comic Con, which was planned for March 12-15, announced on March 9 that it has been postponed until Summer 2020 (the date to be named later.)

Each year the Emerald City Comic Con team works their hardest to do right by the thousands of fans that come together in Seattle. We want to create a space for you to gather, be yourselves and make memories with those who matter to you most. We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in Seattle, and, after many hours of conversation internally and consultation with local government officials and the tourism bureau, we have decided to move next week’s Emerald City Comic Con to Summer 2020 with date and detail announcement forthcoming. We did everything that we could to run the event as planned, but ultimately, we are following the guidance of the local public health officials indicating that conventions should now be postponed.

The Manga Comic Con in Leipzig, Germany is part of the Leipzig Book Fair, which also will not take place. Public health policies contributed heavily to the decision:

…The Leipzig Public Health Office decided to follow the directive of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics, which states that the traceability of contact persons at major events must be guaranteed. The directive explicitly stipulated that every participant in the fair must provide written proof that he or she is not from any of the identified risk locations and has not had contact with people from such locations. Considering the approximately 2,500 exhibitors and 280,000 expected visitors, this was not a reasonable task. The health of our exhibitors, visitors, guests, partners and employees is our top priority. The City of Leipzig and Leipziger Messe have therefore decided to cancel the event entirely.

However, next weekend’s conventions in Canada, Ireland, and several U.S. cities east of the Mississippi are going forward.

On the other hand, the Burning Cat gaming con slated for May in Portland, OR has already canceled.

Not on PopCult HQ’s list, Consonance 2020, the Bay Area filk convention slated for March 20-22, has been cancelled. Chair Lynn Gold made the announcement today.   

And Perth, Australia’s Swancon 2020, calendared for April 25-27, has been called off. The convenors told Facebook followers, “This Really is The Darkest Timeline”:

In light of information from the Department of Health, the Western Australian Department of Health, and the advice of medical professionals in our community such as Dr Karen McKenna, the Convention Committee, Convention Steering Committee and WASFF Board have voted to cancel Swancon 2020.

Early projections indicate that the height of the pandemic is likely to be late April to early May, and as such we would be irresponsible to hold a large public gathering, regardless of the amount of hand sanitizer and tissues we provided.

The governor of Washington state today set a policy banning large gatherings in three counties which could impact Norwescon“Inslee orders halt on large gatherings in Seattle region, asks schools to prepare for closure, to slow coronavirus spread”

Flanked by the leaders of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, and of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, Inslee said he was ordering the cancellation of large church services, sporting events, concerts, festivals and conventions.

“Today I am ordering, pursuant to my emergency powers, that certain events in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties with more than 250 people are prohibited by order of the governor,” Inslee said, at a King County government building in downtown Seattle. The three counties are “experiencing significant community transmission, significant outbreaks and they are large population centers.”

The order is in effect through the end of March, Inslee said, but it is “highly likely” it will be extended beyond that time.

Norwescon is scheduled for April 9-12. The convention committee has posted this response:

The Executive team is aware of the March 11 announcement by WA Gov. Inslee regarding COVID-19 containment plans. We are in active discussion within the Executive team and with the hotel to determine our best options. We will provide updates as soon as possible, but do need some time to coordinate. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we do our best to adjust to a quickly moving situation.

BALANCING ACT. Where public health officials have not yet instituted any restrictions, few events can unilaterally cancel without jeopardizing their future.

The International Association For The Fantastic In The Arts, in “COVID-19, Cancellations, and Credits/Refunds”, said their economic survival would be in doubt if they cancelled the event, therefore ICFA 41 will still take place March 18-21 in Florida.

The conference will meet. We have to meet certain guaranteed minimums for room occupancy, food and beverage expenditures, etc., specified in our contract with the hotel, or pay out of pocket. It is not an exaggeration to say that cancellation would jeopardize the very existence of the IAFA.

All conrunners have a recent example in Arisia of what happens when penalty clauses kick in because an event has been cancelled for reasons outside the provisions of their facilities contracts.

In that vein, after conferring with their hotel the chairs of UK’s Eastercon, Concentric 2020, planned for April 10-13, put out this statement on March 8:  

The Eastercon committee met with the Hilton on Friday and discussed with them the concerns of the Eastercon membership. We asked about their policies on refunds for the event and any rooms booked with the potential issues from Covid-19. The Hilton have confirmed to the committee that, as the government’s stance at this point is business as usual, they will not be offering any additional or exceptional circumstances towards bookings that have already been made.

We have discussed if there would be any possibility of a change in their stance on this matter. We have been advised that the only time at which there would be a change would be if running the convention would be either impossible or illegal due to requirements put in place either from the Government or from an authorised public body such as Public Health England or the World Health Organisation….

Pittsburgh’s furry fandom Anthrocon (July 2-5) has also been consulting with and monitoring information from public health agencies, and in a March 9 statement said they plan to go on with the con:

At this time, there is no intention of canceling or delaying the Anthrocon 2020 convention. None of the agencies listed above has advised either course of action. We continue to monitor the situation daily, however, and should circumstances warrant either a cancellation or rescheduling, we will issue that announcement without delay on our web site and through all of our social media outlets. Please be patient. None of us can predict the course that this epidemic will take, and to what extent – or even if – it will be a concern in July. Our only choice is to rely on the advice of the medical professionals who are best situated to offer such advice.

At this time, no U.S. medical agency is advising travelers to cancel plans to travel to Western Pennsylvania, whereas of this date no cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

Today, the SFWA Board of Directors today said the Nebula Conference (May 28-31) is going forward, because of the penalties that would result from cancellation: “A Message from SFWA Regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)”.

…At the moment, SFWA is planning to hold the conference with adjustments to reduce the risks of spreading the virus. The SFWA Board and the Nebula Conference events team are talking about this evolving situation daily including the possibility that things may shift enough that we need to cancel the in-person event. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments.

The Nebulas are 80 days away and every day brings us a better understanding of what’s happening with COVID-19.

Our challenge is that the hotel will not allow us to cancel the event without paying penalties unless it is “illegal or impossible” to host it. Similarly, they will not offer us any refunds. This limits our choices. With that said, the board’s priority in decision-making still remains with the health and safety of our attendees and by extension their families.

The chairs of CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon, Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler made this public statement on March 6:

Although New Zealand has not been affected by Covid-19 to the extent of the rest of the world, our government and the NZ Ministry of Health have extensive civil defence plans. We are monitoring the situation and will be prepared for what the future brings.

As usual, we strongly advise all members purchase their own comprehensive travel insurance for any foreign travel, including cancellation insurance. If you have already purchased insurance for your journey to New Zealand, we recommend that you check the full terms with your insurance provider.

We are in touch with the Ministry of Health as well as with our venue planning managers. We want everyone to have a safe and healthy convention, and we will be following best practices.

CRUISE SHIPS. While the Canadian government’s coronavirus disease guidance warns citizens to avoid all cruise ship travel, and the United States’ Center for Disease Control recommends cruise ship travel be deferred, N.K. Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells are among the many pop culture guests currently aboard the 2020 JoCo Cruise, which ends March 13.

READINGS: The Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings series today canceled its March event with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy, promising instead, “both authors will be reading their work over an online livestream at the same scheduled date and time (March 18th, 7pm). Details on that livestream will be forthcoming.”

BOOK FAIRS. Outside of fandom, a series of publishing industry events have shuttered or rescheduled due to the withdrawal of participating book companies and sponsors.

The National Book Critics Circle in New York has canceled both its finalists reading on Wednesday, March 11, and its awards ceremony on Thursday, March 12. The Tucson (AZ) Festival of Books, which was planned for March 14-15, has canceled. 

The Los Angeles Times has postponed its Festival of Books and Food Bowl events, “in light of public health concerns related to the coronavirus and out of an abundance of caution.” “Los Angeles Times postpones Festival of Books and Food Bowl due to coronavirus concerns “

The 25th Festival of Books, originally scheduled for April, will now take place the weekend of Oct. 3-4 on the USC campus. The 4th Food Bowl, previously set for May, will also be moved to the fall, with dates to be announced later.

While the Book Prizes awards ceremony will not be held this year, honorees and winners will still be acknowledged via an announcement to be released on April 17.

With Italy already a center of the outbreak, publishers are shying away from the Bologna Book Fair:

Penguin Random House has become the second of the Big Five U.S. publishers to announce it would not attend this year’s rescheduled Bologna Children’s Book Fair, scheduled for May 4–7,

Shelf Awareness has a growing list of book fairs and bookstore events that have been called off, or adjusted their plans: “COVID-19 Update: More Cancellations & Postponements”.

SHOW UP BUT KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. Events that are proceeding have instituted whatever safety measures they think are appropriate.


UPDATE: Ace Comic Con Northeast (March 20-22), which had publicized their decision to go on, has now cancelled. Note that the following segment was written before the announcement.


Despite fannish complaints, ACE Comic Con Northeast is running March 20-22 in Boston, and chirpily told the Boston Globe: “ACE Comic Con is still on. Just don’t touch the Chrises (Hemsworth or Evans).”

…Ace Comic Con, which is hosting a Northeast fan event from March 20-22 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, will go on as planned, despite coronavirus concerns, according to organizers. That said, there are some new rules regarding social distancing, posted on ACE’s Facebook page:

“During Photo Ops & Autographs – Handshakes, hugs, requests to hold props during Photo Ops, and physical contact will not be permitted. No gifts, letters, or cards will be accepted by celebrity guests so we ask that you do not bring in those items.

…Of course, some have fans have posted complaints on Facebook. They bought special autograph packages expecting to get hugs and handshakes from stars.

“I am coming from FL and I wanted a hug from both Chris’. Now I’m gonna stand side by side with them? How is that fair? … I honestly don’t want to come anymore,” one Facebook user said.

FALLOUT. The economic consequences from not holding events will ripple far beyond the hotels and committees. For example, the SXSW cancellation has caused major layoffs:

On March 6, SXSW canceled its 2020 festival due to concerns surrounding the recent coronavirus outbreak. It marked the first cancellation in the annual Austin event’s 34-year history. Now, SXSW’s parent company SXSW LLC has laid off roughly a third of its 175 year-round employees, according to a new report by local paper the Austin American-Statesman,

DECISION TIME. To hold the con or not?

Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn agrees that “Every Convention Staff Needs to Have the COVID-19 Conversation”.

…The fact is we are dealing with a disease where it’s possible that some infected people can be contagious while appearing healthy for weeks. Transmission happens when people are in close proximity, and since this is a new form of the disease, odds are if you’re exposed you’re going to get it. And you can talk about how mortality rates as a percentage are only slightly higher than the flu, a lot of people don’t get the flu. There are plenty of people who walk our convention halls who have a good chance of dying if they get infected.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of having none of my convention’s attendees die.

So yeah, it’s time to talk. How drastic your conversation is depends on how bad things are where you are physically along with who might come to your event. If you’re an event like SXSW where people come from all over the world… consider not holding your event immediately. Postpone it if you can, but no event is worth people’s lives. If you’re a regional event, you need to look at the landscape. If you’re in a city or area with an active outbreak, do not hold your event, I beg of you.

And Chuck Wendig has written several virus-related blog posts in the past 10 days, beginning with “Running A Con, Conference Or Festival In The Age Of A Burgeoning Pandemic!” These are things that convention guests will have on their minds:

e) Recognize that we’re probably anxious about this. Many of us will go to our events via two or more airports, likely international ones. We will then be at your event with hundreds to thousands of people. If we’re writers, we’re gonna be theoretically up close and personal with folks, signing their books, some want photos — and trust me, writers are already a pretty anxious lot. Our brains are carousels of crawling ants. We’re already imagining worse case scenarios. (Seriously, have you read Wanderers?) You talking to us about that before we have to talk to you about it would be very nice.

f) Recognize too we don’t want to get stuck anywhere. We have families! Pets! Extreme introversion! Note that some people who have traveled overseas have found themselves in exactly this scenario. Best case scenario, it’s a travel delay. Worst case, it’s full restriction or quarantine. Who knows how the fuck this current administration will bungle this up — they might not do anything, or they might clamp down hard when it’s not needed. Either way? We don’t wanna find out. So, what happens if it does? Are you gonna cover our hotels if we’re guests? One night? Ten? Certainly your responsibility ends somewhere, but I’d sure like you to be thinking about that.

Right now, all the choices are hard.