Pixel Scroll 10/19/21 He Learned Almost Too Late That Man Is A Scrolling Pixel

(1) TOR.COM DEFCON DOWNGRADED. Reddit has updated yesterday’s warning that Tor.com was hacked and spreading malware to say the site is now “safe-ish” to use.

It appears that Tor.com has taken action and cleaned up the file mentioned in this post, meaning the information below is now outdated and Tor.com should currently be safe-ish to use.

Safe-ish, as the vulnerability that allowed the hack to happen may still exist, along with any possible backdoors the hackers left behind. So until Tor.com confirms that the problem is completely resolved, it is possible that malware might re-appear on the site.

(2) IT’S CROSSOVER SEASON. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This season/year’s Flash/Arroverse crossover will span five episodes across several shows, starting with The Flash, on November 16. Gizmodo has the story: “The Flash: Armageddon First Trailer for New Crossover Event”.

Despero first appeared in  Justice League of America #1 (October 1960) (via Despero – I knew he was initially a JLA villain and was early Silver Age, since I’m pretty sure I remember buying (or borrowing) and reading it when it came out, for a dime… and the TV preview/trailer’s brief chess images around the 15-second mark are, I’m sure, an homage to JLA #1’s cover.) Despy has returned many times over the decades; in more recent manifestations, all muscle-bulked out. I also realized that I was briefly conflating him, JLA-comic-villain-appearance-wise, with Kanjar Ro, my bad. Based on the trailer, in this cross-over, he’ll look like a human being, no head-fin, etc.

Here’s File 770’s roundup of two past crossovers.

2019:

2017: The musical one

And here’s CBR’s summary of the Arrowverse cross-overs: “Every Arrowverse Crossover, Ranked”.

(3) HARROW & VALENTE ONLINE. The Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid invites you to joing them for “Tor-rific tales: Alix Harrow and Catherynne M. Valente in conversation with Anna Milon” on Thursday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. British Summer Time. Free. Register here.

Offering fresh, feminist perspectives and chilling, creepy visions in their reimaginings of beloved stories, the authors will discuss craft, favourite tales, and of course, their latest novellas. So grab a hot drink and a copy of A Spindle Shattered by Alix E. Harrow and Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente.

(4) RAUM AT THE TOP. The next two articles in Cora Buhlert’s episode-by-episode review of the West German science fiction show Space Patrol Orion are live at Galactic Journey.

Here’s episode 2, “Planet Off Course”: “[October 18, 1966] Moral Dilemmas and Earth in Peril: Space Patrol Orion Episode 2: ‘Planet Off Course’”.

… So far, science fiction had had no presence on West German TV, so professional TV critics were mostly baffled, to put it politely. The Berlin tabloid B.Z. called Orion “pseudoscientific nonsense” set in a “brainless utopia”. The magazine Kirche und Fernsehen (Church and Television) lamented that the dialogues were too complicated for the viewers to understand, at least viewers not used to science fiction and gadget speak….

And here’s episode 3, “Guardians of the Law”: “[October 19, 1966] Routine Missions and Asimovian Robots: Space Patrol Orion Episode 3: ‘Guardians of the Law’”

After pulling out all the stops in episode 2, what would Raumpatrouille Orion do for an encore? Well, instead of threatening the entire solar system this time around, writer Rolf Honold and W.G. Larsen have opted for a more low-key adventure for the Orion 8 and her brave crew.

And so episode 3 “Hüter des Gesetzes” (Guardians of the Law) opens with that most routine of situations, namely a robotics training course for Space Fleet personnel, including the Orion crew. The Orion crew seems bored, but my interest perked up once robotics specialist Rott (Alfons Höckmann) mentioned the Three Laws of Robotics. Yes, Isaac Asimov’s famous Three Laws of Robotics exist in the Space Patrol Orion universe….

(5) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Great little twitter thread from Farscape star Claudia Black about her encounter with a young James McAvoy. Bit of a long read (best to see the quote about her in the linked article first, to give context), but it’s just heartwarming. (“James McAvoy, Son Of Dune, Has Advice For His Father, Dune Star Timothée Chalamet” at Slashfilm.) Twitter thread starts here.

(6) HEROIC NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA. [Item by Andrew Porter.] After over a year’s worth of work, Jess Nevins completed the expansion and conversion of his Encyclopedia of Print Heroes (2017) to an online edition. Table of Contents here. Introduction here:

The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes is intended to be a kind of sequel to my Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana: an attempt at providing a panoptical view of the characters of genre culture from across media and around the world, spanning the years from 1902 to 1945. But as was the case with Fantastic Victoriana the title of Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes is likely to be misleading, and some explanation of what the book is and what it is not is necessary. 

Pulp Heroes is an encyclopedia. However, any book with the word “encyclopedia” in the title is at least implicitly laying claim to both authority and exhaustiveness. I’ve made a reasonable attempt at the former, but the latter was beyond my capabilities, and perhaps beyond anyone’s. As I documented in my Pulp Magazine Holdings Directory, time has been cruel to the American pulps. 38% of all American pulps no longer exist (at least in libraries), and 14% of all American pulps survive in only scattered (less than five total) copies. It’s theoretically possible that pulp collectors own large numbers of these missing pulps, but collectors are hard to locate and many are uncooperative when it comes to letting outsiders view their collections (or even to sharing information). [1] Only a handful of academic libraries have more than one or two issues of the longer-lasting and better-known pulps, and more obscure pulps, like Spicy Screen StoriesThrilling Mysteries, and Zeppelin Stories, are completely unavailable. And the rarest pulps of all, Spicy Gorilla StoriesHobo Romance, and Two-Fisted Quaker Mysteries, are not mentioned in even the most in-depth reference works.…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1954 – Sixty-eight years on this date, Ballantine Books first published Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. It would be awarded a Retro Hugo at Noreascon 4.  It would also be voted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Though most reception at the time of publication was extremely favorable with the Galaxy reviewer Groff Conklin saying the novel was “among the great works of the imagination written in English in the last decade or more”, some were not at all pleased with the P. Schuyler Miller review for Astounding saying that it was “one of Bradbury’s bitter, almost hysterical diatribes”. It would later be made into a well-received François Truffaut film which has a strong rating of seventy-two percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. A remake which was made three years ago fares much worse garnering a rating of just thirty- three percent. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 19, 1934 Peter Weston. He made innumerable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning, and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo awards but never won, including a nomination for his autobiography Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Since 1984, those awards have been cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 81. Actor of Stage and Screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films). He also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. 
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 76. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! He of course is Dick Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun.  And for true genre creds, he voiced the character of Yoda in the  NPR adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
  • Born October 19, 1945 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 76. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. He won a Neffy for his Endgames novel, and a Utah Speculative Fiction Award for his Archform: Beauty novel. 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 75. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billy Piper-led series, far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North as the shortness of them works in their favor.
  • Born October 19, 1955 Jon Favreau, 66. I can’t possibly list everything he’s done so I’ll just singly my favorite things he’s done or will do. He’s the creator of The Mandalorian, and he’s serving as a director and executive producer for its spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett. He was executive producer of The Avengers and the first and only great Iron Man film where he made his appearance as Happy Hogan, a role he’s reprised several times. 
  • Born October 19, 1990 Ciana Renee, 31. Her most known genre role is as Kendra Saunders / Hawkgirl  on Legends of Tomorrow and related Arrowverse series. She also showed up on The Big Bang Theory as Sunny Morrow in “The Conjugal Configuration”, and she played The Witch in the theaterical production of Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.  She was also Elsa in the theaterical production of Frozen.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE PRICE FOR CHALLENGING SCIENCE CLAIMS. [Item by Brown Robin.] Is there (scientific) method to this madness? “Bik And Raoult Hydroxychloroquine Feud Exposes Tensions” at Buzzfeed.

Days after a mysterious new illness was declared a pandemic in March of last year, a prominent scientist in France announced that he had already found a cure.

Based on a small clinical trial, microbiologist Didier Raoult claimed that hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old antimalarial drug, was part of a 100% effective treatment against COVID-19. Then–US president Donald Trump promptly proclaimed that the finding could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”

But the study seemed off to Elisabeth Bik, a scientist turned science detective living in Silicon Valley. Bik has a sharp eye for spotting errors buried in arcane scientific papers, particularly when it comes to duplicated images. And much about Raoult’s paper looked fishy, as she later noted on her blog. Unfavorable data was left out, and the trial’s timeline was mathematically impossible. “Something does not seem quite right,” she wrote.

Before long, Bik would learn the price of raising such concerns. Raoult and a coauthor went on to call her a “witch hunter,” a “mercenary,” and a “crazy woman” on Twitter and in the press. Then, in April 2021, Raoult’s collaborator announced that they had filed a criminal complaint against Bik and a spokesperson for PubPeer, a website where she and others post scientific criticism, accusing them of blackmail, extortion, and harassment. He tweeted out a screenshot of the complaint, revealing her home address to the world….

(11) TOURING IMAGINARY WORLDS. [Item by David K.M. Klaus.] Rick Steves is / was my / Nila’s favorite travel writer and PBS travel program TV host, and we wished we could have gone on one of his marvelous European tours. I never saw anything specific until this very article, but he always set off my fannish radar. “Rick Steves Casually Reviews Dangerous Fantasy Locations” by Kurt Zemaitaitis at McSweeney’s.

… The Shire used to be the best-kept secret of Middle Earth, but tourists have been flocking there lately because of their famous “second breakfasts.”…

(12) AMBIVALENT OPTION. Kotaku says “Classic Doom Is Now Playable Via A New Twitter Account”. Yeah, I don’t know – I’m still traumatized from playing it on the network in the Loscon game room years ago and being repeated killed by the same teenager before I’m 30 seconds into the game…

Are you bored, sitting in some waiting room? Maybe, instead of just doing nothing you want to play some Doom? Well you could download the fantastic mobile ports of Doom or play it on Switch. Or, why not play Doom using Twitter via short commands and videos?…

(13) CONFLATION. Yeah, I can sort of see how this might cross someone’s mind. This Dune meme is a callback to the poster for the 2000 stoner comedy Dude, Where’s My Car?

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Every Sean Connery Bond” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the six Sean Connery Bond movies (Never Say Never Again doesn’t count).  They note that Connery is “England’s best Scottish spy” and Connery fights “like a drunk stepdad.”  But he’s up against SPECTRE, whose limited range of evil plans results from all the henchmen who keep getting killed off.  Also, for “peak evil performance” you need “the physique of an egg.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Eric Franklin, David K.M. Klaus, Brown Robin, Ben Bird Person, Cora Buhlert, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day m.c. simon milligan.]

Pixel Scroll 7/14/21 Still Crazy After All These Light-Years

(1) F&SF COVER PREVIEW. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction shared an advance look at the cover of its July/August 2021 issue by artist Alan M. Clark.

(2) A PERSPECTIVE ON AFRICAN SF. Marta Mboka Tveit discusses how “The rise of African Speculative Fiction and other exciting cultural production indicates that modernity is not an exercise in ‘catching up’ with Europe, but an entirely new condition” in “Makeshift modernity” at Africa Is A Country.

…First off, let me argue how excellent the rise of ASF is for everyone, but most importantly for us, the people of African descent. “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it,” said James Baldwin. To make it, one must first imagine it; to make change, one must first imagine a different kind of future. ASF can be linked to the decolonization of the mind in many ways: we must break the molds of colonial prescriptions, education, and decisions about Africa’s place in the world, much like speculative fiction breaks the mold of what can and cannot exist.

ASF points to an insistence on partaking in the technology-steeped global future and represents a push to actively influence that future. Furthermore, publishing and sharing tales and ideas about the future shows a new kind of optimism and self-confidence. Newfound confidence also arguably comes from stronger and more frequent connections with cousins from another planet—those in African America—facilitated by modern communication technology and faster cultural exchange. Africa is looking to African America for cool self-confidence, and African America is looking to Africa for roots and authenticity. This has been going on for a long time. Increasingly, however, African American interest has given cultural expressions from the continent a boost onto the global stage. After five centuries of the rest of the globe telling Africa its cultures and inputs are useless, those cultures and inputs suddenly find themselves at the forefront of global “cool.” But this time around, we might actually gain something from it….

(3) SCORCHED EARTH. Elaborate attempts to sabotage Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” yesterday prompted Paul Weimer to connect the dots, saying “the trolls are trying to ruin my life and the lives of those even lightly connected to me” in “A Quick Post on Trolls Again” on his Patreon. He attributes the attack to his having retweeted the author’s announcement of the AMA.

… So what they did is, just before her AMA, they set up a fake account very similar to her name (one letter changed to the number one) and set up their OWN AMA.  So, not only were they impersonating here (with plenty of comments and stuff about my supposed perfidy), Nicole could not actually do her own AMA at first.

And when THAT got sorted and she started her real AMA, the troll account started answering questions posed to her in the real AMA, until the moderators finally banned them from the AMA…. 

And the trolls also subjected Paul to a new round of harassment at work and by trying to get into some of his online accounts.

Nicole Kornher-Stace tweeted a thread of her own about the experience that starts here. A few excerpts —

And here’s a screencap of the Reddit moderator’s announcement while they were trying to manage the trollish invasion of the real AMA.

(4) ADA HOFFMANN BOOK LAUNCH. Ada Hoffmann’s The Fallen, the sequel to her debut, The Outside, was released yesterday. The author will be in conversation with Janelle Shane in a free online event on July 15 (3pm MDT/5pm EDT/10pm BST) on Facebook and YouTube

Released to immediate acclaim in 2019, The Outside was nominated for both the Philip K. Dick Award and the Compton Crook Award, so the follow-up, continuing the story of scientist Yasira Shien as she faces off against awesome AI gods and angels, is hotly anticipated to say the least!

Excitedly, to mark the next book in this eldritch-horror-meets-space-opera universe, Ada will (very appropriately) be in conversation with Janelle Shane, optics and AI researcher, host of the AI humor blog AIWeirdness.com, and author of the 2019 popular science book, You Look Like a Thing and I Love You

(5) I HAVE NO CATNIP AND I MUST SCREAM. Camestros Felapton presents “A Message From: The CattimothyTech Dept.” It was a great ride while it lasted. Which wasn’t long!

…Dear valued subscriber,

Thank you for joining us on the amazing journey into freedom. It has been a truly inspiring five thousand and forty seconds in which we came together in the spirit of unity that shaped our great nation. When our founder, CIO, CFO and CEO Timothy the Talking Cat outlined his vision for a truly free and anti-elite tech platform for all Americans, we were inspired by how many of you rallied around his cause to break free of the shackles of facebooktwittergoogle. …

(6) WHAT ABOUT. Space.com is actually complaining that the Emmys neglected genre despite the huge haul of nominations for The Mandalorian, WandaVision, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Lovecraft Country “’The Mandalorian’ receives 24 Emmy nominations, including Best Drama Series”.

…Sadly, the sci-fi genre wasn’t well represented in this year’s nominations, which were announced Tuesday  (July 13). Again. It seems only the big franchise names received any kind of attention. There was nothing for “The Expanse” on Amazon Prime Video or “For All Mankind” on Apple TV+ or HBO’s “Raised By Wolves” — and while that show gradually descended into insanity as Season 1 concluded, the actual performances were outstanding. And what about SyFy’s “Resident Alien” in the Comedy category? The eligibility period for 2021 submissions was from June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021, so all of those shows could’ve been recognized….

(7) DON’T TAKE IT FOR GRANTED. On the other hand, WandaVision’s team is a little surprised: “How ‘WandaVision’ Went From ‘Totally Bananas’ Underdog to Emmy Juggernaut” at Vanity Fair.

…Not that the WandaVision team expected it to happen, at least like this. “Honestly, I was like, if we have one nomination, we will have won,” says series showrunner Jac Schaeffer, who also earned a writing nomination. “The cards are kind of stacked against the superhero space when it comes to recognition and awards.”

By the time nominations morning arrived, Schaeffer may have been the only one—most pundits were betting big on WandaVision, though maybe not 23 nominations big—but when it started, WandaVision really was an underdog. It became the first Marvel project on Disney+ basically by accident, when the pandemic delayed production on other shows, meaning that the bright new future of Marvel on television was being introduced by a defiantly oddball story about grief, sorcery, and classic television. “I felt very secure early on sort of occupying this little corner of the sandbox,” Schaeffer says. “The idea was that Falcon and the Winter Soldier would go first and, and that we could be weird in this little space.”

Instead, WandaVision debuted in mid-January at the peak of a world-altering pandemic, which many viewers had spent stuck at home and, like Wanda Maximoff herself, filtering their realities through television. “There was sort of an element of kismet to it,” Schaeffer says. “The content of the show itself ended up being a reflection of what so many people were doing in their own homes, you know, retreating into their favorite shows as a form of comfort.”

On Emmy nominations morning, both Olsen and Schaeffer were busy sharing the celebration with the rest of the team, though it wasn’t easy to take in the scope of the success….

(8) DOUBLE UNDERLINE. Meanwhile, Adweek declares “Streaming Has Officially Taken Over TV Awards Season”.

No matter how you look at the nomination breakdowns released Tuesday, the story is clear: If it wasn’t already a sure thing that streaming is the future of television, the 2021 Emmy nominations have officially cemented it.

Streaming services accounted for four of the five top nominated outlets, with HBO Max (paired with HBO) and Netflix overwhelmingly dominating in terms of total nominations. Disney+, less than two years old, beat out every broadcast and cable network in terms of nominations and came in third overall.

Apple TV+, which isn’t even a breakout streamer (parent company Apple has mostly given it away for free since its launch), received more nominations (34) than all the broadcast networks aside from NBC. 

(9) WHAT’S AHEAD FOR AMERICA. James Davis Nicoll curated these “Five Speculative Visions of a Future America” for Tor.com. I was pleasantly surprised to find I’m not the only fan who remembers this one —

Rosinante Trilogy by Alexis Gilliland

Crisis and political necessity led to the formation of the North American Union, encompassing the United States, Mexico, Canada, and a few other nations. The formative crisis having past, the Union is held together largely thanks to the determination of a cabal of conservatives, the Creationist Coalition. The central figures in the Administration are determined to not let their power and influence slip away. Their resolve proves the North American Union’s undoing.

The Administration is long on steadfast purpose, but short on foresight. Assassinating a Hispanic populist governor alienates Hispanic North Americans. Paranoid attempts to capture a suspected Old Regime sympathizer force the sympathizer to see the Union as his enemy. Each move undertaken to ensure the Union’s stability instead undermines it, with the inevitable result that the North American Union collapses into independent nation states.

(10) EFFECTS HISTORY. BBC Radio 4 has aired the second installment of Unreal: The VFX Revolution “Digital Realms”.

How visual effects changed and how they changed the movies. Oscar winner Paul Franklin explores how film entered the digital realm.

The 1970s saw the very first onscreen digital effects in films like Westworld. Those first pioneers of CGI already spoke of digital humans, indeed of entire films being made within the computer, but Hollywood was unconvinced. By 1979, some of those visionaries like Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith, later founders of Pixar, were working for filmmaker George Lucas, who primarily wanted new digital tools for editing and compositing and to explore computer graphics. Their first all-digital sequence created life-from lifelessness with the Genesis effect for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Meanwhile Disney itself was creating TRON, a spectacular mix of state-of-the art animation and pioneering digital effects that took audiences into cyberspace for the first time. In their different ways these two films were the true harbingers of the digital revolution that would bring profound change to moviemaking within little more than a decade. And then came Terminator 2’s chrome shape shifter-the T1000. The revolution was underway.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 – Fifteen years ago, Catherynne M. Valente would win the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for The Orphan’s Tale: In the Night Garden. (It would also be nominated for a World Fantasy Award.) Two years later, she won a second Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for The Orphan’s Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice.  Both volumes are available from the usual suspects for just five dollars and ninety-nine cents. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 14, 1904 — Zita Johann. She’s best known for the lead performance in Karl Freund’s 1932 film, The Mummy which also featured Boris Karloff. She wouldn’t show in another horror film for another fifty-four years when she was in Raiders of the Living Dead as a Librarian as her original career only lasted three years. She quit film to work in theater where she where she was a partner of John Houseman, her husband, who she was married to from 1929 to 1933, and with Orson Welles as well. She also taught acting to people with learning disorders. (Died 1993.)
  • Born July 14, 1906 — Abner J. Gelula. One of the many authors* of Cosmos, a serialized novel that appeared first in Science Fiction Digest in July 1933 and then has a really complicated publication that I won’t detail here. It was critiqued as “the world’s most fabulous serial,” “one of the unique stunts of early science fiction,” and conversely “a failure, miserable and near-complete.” The entire text, chapter by chapter, can be read here. *To be precise,  Earl Binder, Otto Binder. Arthur J. Burks,  John W. Campbell, Jr., Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Ralph Milne Farley, Francis Flagg, J. Harvey Haggard, Edmond Hamilton, David H. Keller, M.D., Otis Adelbert Kline, A. Merritt, P. Schuyler Miller, Bob Olsen, Raymond A. Palmer, E. Hoffmann Price and Edward E. Smith. Gulp!  (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 14, 1926 — Harry Dean Stanton. My favourite genre role for him? The video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding.  He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 14, 1939 — Sid Haig. Best remembered as having a lead role in Jason of Star Command as the villain Dragos. He had one-offs in BatmanMission: Impossible, Star TrekGet SmartFantasy IslandBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and MacGyver. His Trek appearence was First Lawgiver in “The Return of the Archons”, and someone in casting at Mission: Impossible liked him as he had nine different roles there. He was Royal Apothecary twice on Batman, not a role I recognize. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 14, 1943 — Christopher Priest, 78. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders (both of which won BSFAs)and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound?  
  • Born July 14, 1949 — Brian Sibley, 72. He co-wrote (with Michael Bakewell) BBC Radio 4’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. He also adapted The Chronicles of Narnia, and Titus Groan and Gormenghast for the same. Print wise, he’s responsible for such works as The Lord of the Rings Official Movie Guide and The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy. His only Award to date is a Sir Julius Vogel Award which is given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) and the National Science Fiction convention for Weta Digital: 20 Years of Imagination on Screen.
  • Born July 14, 1964 — Jane Espenson, 57. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 for Games of Thrones, season one. She was on the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica.
  • Born July 14, 1966 — Brian Selznick, 55. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a travelling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre. His next work, Kaleidoscopic, due out this autumn looks to just as fantastic. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Gasoline Alley, after a week or so following a colander-hat-guy “hearing ghost voices,” solves the mystery.
  • Broom Hilda needs a proofreader just as much as I do.

(14) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Is Jason Cordova trying to suggest John Scalzi ripped off two of his novels? Here’s a screencap of Cordova’s Facebook post.

What seems clear to Cordova might not seem so clear to anyone else. Scalzi’s “Preservation Society” in his title phrase sounds like it’s about a rather different subject than Cordova’s “Urban Revitalization Project.” And Cordova’s own title resonates with a line from Godzilla 1985 (as quoted in the Wikipedia) — “That’s quite an urban renewal program they’ve got going on over there” – a coincidence that would be of no more than trivial interest but for Cordova’s complaint.  

As for Cordova’s The Corruptor – the Amazon blurb says this is what the book is about:

…The single greatest advance in computer technology since the invention of the microchip, the Warp is a virtual reality gaming system so advanced that players aren’t just in the game, they are the game. And inside the Warp lies the most cunning of all games, the de facto king of online gaming. It is the one game said to be unbeatable: Crisis.

The Warp was flawless, and the game was perfect. Until something went terribly wrong, trapping Tori Adams and her friends inside it, unable to log off and free their minds from the uploaded virus in their brains. With no other options available and time running out, they must do the one thing that has never been done before—what experts say can’t be done—they must beat Crisis in order to save their lives.

I have read Scalzi’s Lock In but not Cordova’s book, however, from the latter’s description they appear to have about the same degree of overlap as Ready Player One and The Matrix.

(15) HYPE TIME. Two members of the MCYouTube react to the upcoming film FreeGuy featuring Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi. “Deadpool just slipped into the MCU early, to make fun of Ryan Reynolds”.

…like so many other studios, Disney is facing the question of how to goose up active interest in a film it’s been teasing since 2019. The apparent solution: Bring in Deadpool, dump him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and have him promote the film.

(16) GAIMAN ON SCREWTAPE. Brenton Dickieson shares “Neil Gaiman’s Introduction to The Screwtape Letters, Marvel Comics Edition” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

… someone sent me a snapshot of the introduction to an edition that is slightly different than my own gifted copy of the Marvel Comics version of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. This other edition does not reproduce Lewis’ own 1941 preface as mine does. Instead, it has a special introduction written by Neil Gaiman.

As readers will know, Gaiman is not simply a giant in the fantasy world–outside of the horror genre, I think American Gods is the most important work of fantasy on the continent–but one of the new generation pioneers of the graphic novel medium. He is also a lifelong Narnia fan–and, we discover here, a lover and appreciative reader of Screwtape. Leaving beside any technical matters you might normally find in an introduction, Gaiman still manages to orient the reader to the book in their hands while giving us a sense of what he loves about Screwtape as a theologically interested but not specifically religious reader.

Besides some good swipes at the American Christian culture war (the ’90s one, not the current one) and a perceptive description of Narnia, Gaiman draws the reader to Screwtape for entertainment, delight, and wisdom. Gaiman’s perspective of Screwtape‘s impact has reminded me of that larger group of readers of Lewis that keep coming back to his works….

(17) MIGHT BE ON YOUR BOOKSHELF. Fonts In Use looks back at the design of “Philip K. Dick paperback covers (Panther Science Fiction)” from the Seventies.

Roslyn Gothic arguably saw its most extensive and iconic use on the paperback covers with works by Philip K. Dick as published by Panther Books.

Designed by Harry Winters, Roslyn Gothic was released by Visual Graphics Corporation (VGC) in 1972, to be used with their Photo Typositor, a popular display typesetting machine of the phototype era. There were three styles; Medium, Bold, and Outline. The sans serif of condensed proportions is infused with some traits that seem to harken back to Art Nouveau, or Jugendstil: counters in dg, or p are tear-shaped, e has a diagonal bar while the top arm of K is vertical, some stems in mnu are slightly curved, A is asymmetrical, and G is pointed at the bottom. Several of these features can also be found in German typefaces from around 1900, like Sezessions-Grotesk or Skulptur. By giving his design a large x-height and tight letterspacing, Winters turned these influences into a quintessential 1970s display typeface. With its punchy yet slightly alien-looking shapes, Roslyn Gothic became a popular choice on book covers in the science fiction genre.

(18) SPEAKER FOR THE TREES. No, we’re not talking about the Lorax. In this video of “Trees, Chainsaws, and the Visions of Paradise in J.R.R. Tolkien” from 2002, Tom Shippey discusses Tolkien’s relationship to trees, the literary function of forests, and the under-rated sophistication of Hobbit poetry. This quote comes from the YouTube transcript —

…Perhaps the best example of this comes from a colleague of mine now a professor of Harvard who tells this anecdote which I shall rapidly pirate. He said that some it must have been at least thirty years ago when he was a student backpacking his way around Europe he found himself in Oxford and he went to the University parks and he found a bench there and took his backpack off and sat down on the bench and looks at the parks for a bit. And at this point I’m an old guy came up very well-dressed and he came along and he sat down on the bench and he started to talk about trees. Trees, how beautiful they were, trees, some particularly beautiful trees, trees, now some trees he was personally fond of, trees, the awful things people did to trees, trees, how awful people were who did these awful things to trees trees, what we ought to do to these awful people in the world. But at this point my colleague said he was beginning to get rather nervous, picks his backpack up and edged away reflecting that you know they haven’t got all the weirdos locked up yet by any means. But next morning he got the local paper and discovered a picture of the old weirdo in it and it was of course the distinguished professor talking who was in the paper because he’d been collecting an honorary doctorate… 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gordon Van Gelder, Anna Grace Carpenter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/21 I Have No Button But I Must Correct That Typo

(1) STAR WARS AT 44. On the “realio trulio” Star Wars Day, Craig Miller posted two excerpts from his book, Star Wars Memories, on Facebook. Here’s a quote from the first part:

SAYING YES TO “STAR WARS” (FOX’S MARKET RESEARCH)

It wasn’t an easy sell to get a studio to okay production on “Star Wars”. George Lucas had made the extremely successful “American Graffiti” for Universal Studios. He had a three-picture deal with them. “American Graffiti” was the first. They wanted him to make more films for their studio. The whole purpose of a multi-picture deal, of providing on-going office space and services, is because the studio is betting that the films you make will be profitable and they want you to make those movies for them.

They turned “Star Wars” down.

The Readers Report, while generally favorable, included the phrase “Do we have faith that Mr. Lucas can pull this off?”. Obviously, Universal didn’t….

(2) TUCKERIZED TITANS. A new Teen Titans Go! episode titled ”Marv Wolfman and George Perez” will air this Saturday at 9 a.m. Pacific, featuring animated versions of their namesakes voiced by themselves. Marv and George were the co-creators of Raven, Starfire, and Cyborg, who were added to Robin and the other Titans.

(3) CORA MAKES THE PAPER AGAIN. The second of Cora Buhlert’s two local papers, the Weser-Kurier, published its coverage of her latest Hugo nomination came out today: “Cora Buhlert aus Seckenhausen ist erneut für den Hugo Award nominiert” – behind a paywall, unfortunately.

Here’s a link to a scan of the print edition, where you can actually read the whole thing, though it’s still in German: “Neue Aussichten Auf die Rakete” (“New prospects for the rocket”).

 (4) CGI ZOMBIES. What, the studio wasn’t willing to hire real zombies? “Zack Snyder Breaks Down a Zombie Heist Scene from ‘Army of the Dead’” for Vanity Fair.

In this episode of ‘Notes On A Scene,’ Director Zack Snyder breaks down a zombie heist scene from ‘Army of the Dead.’ Zack guides us through the nuances and challenges of working with CGI zombies, and explains how he was able to edit Tig Notaro into his ‘Army of the Dead’ universe.

(5) IN CASE YOU WERE IN DANGER OF FORGETTING. Reddit’s u/caeciliusinhorto explicates a very sensitive bit of recent fanhistory: “Pounded in the Butt by the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Related Work, or Who Can Call Themselves Hugo Award Winners?” The lengthy analysis begins mysteriously —

Many months ago I found myself on r/fanfiction explaining the history of the AO3 tag “Serious Human Male/Handsome Gay Living Archive”, and made a mental note that it would make a good HobbyDrama post if I wrote it up more comprehensively….

— and ends a mere 2700 words later with a link to the Tingle-esque work involved.

(6) REAR GUARD ACTION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov, in his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, discusses a Star Trek convention he went to in New York City in 1975.

The climax of the convention came on Sunday the twelfth (January 12, 1975), when William Shatner (Captain Kirk) spoke before a superenthusiastic audience of more than four thousand, who filled the seats and aisles to capacity.  Shatner answered all questions with good humor and unpretentiousness and had everyone enthralled. When it was time to leave, he explained to everyone there was no way he could sign autographs for such huge a crowd and made ready to get off the stage.

At this point, the young man who organized the convention whispered in my ear, ‘Quick!  Get on the stage and hold the audience so that Shatner can get away.’

I said, ‘They’ll tear me limb from limb.’

But he was physically pushing me onto the stage while one of his henchmen was busily announcing me.

I started talking–babbling, rather.I waited for a mad, furious rush on the part of disappointed ‘Star Trek’ fanatics, but it didn’t come.  They seemed to be enjoying me, actually, and I was just beginning to relax and settle down when the organizer approached and said, ‘Shatner’s safely away.  Get off, so we can get on with the program.’  So I got off.

Talk about being used!

(7) CAN NEVER LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE. James Davis Nicoll tells you about attempts to terraform Terra in “Five Stories About Alien Attempts to Reshape the Earth” at Tor.com.

All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (Trans. Alexander O. Smith) (2004)

The aliens who dispatched the engineered lifeforms humans call Mimics did stop to consider the morality of xenoforming a world that might well be inhabited. But they concluded that xenoforming would be as ethically neutral as killing insects to make way for housing construction. No need to examine Earth before reshaping it.

Keiji Kiriya, human, thinks human needs are more important than alien schemes. Thus, his brief, glorious career in Earth’s defence forces. Thus his inevitable death the first time he encounters Mimics. His resurrection in the past—on the morning before the first battle—comes as an unexpected surprise. Alas, the results of the rerun battle are little better than the first. The same is true of the second. And the third…but by death 157, Keiji is getting the hang of the time loop in which he is trapped and well on his way to figuring out how he might save the Earth for humans.

(8) M.I.T. SF COURSE. MIT News discusses the aims of the institute’s sff course: “Inhabiting 21st-century science fiction”.

In March, literary heavyweights Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman — a Nobel laureate, and the beloved author of “American Gods,” “Sandman,” and “Good Omens,” respectively — convened at an independent bookstore event to discuss genre and science fiction.

They arrived at twin conclusions: one, that rigid genre distinctions between literary works promote an unproductive and false hierarchy of worth, and two, that the 21st century is a very tricky time to attempt to define “science fiction” at all. Gaiman said that he increasingly feels genre “slippage where science fiction is concerned” because, he says, “the world has become science fiction.” The hacking exploits in William Gibson’s novel “Neuromancer” or the sequencing of an entire genome overnight no longer belong to the realm of fantasy.

For MIT students, the permeable relationship between reality and science fiction is often familiar territory. In their labs and research projects, students and faculty experience personally the process by which imaginative ideas turn into new techniques, possibilities, medicines, tools, and technologies. (And they learn that many such new realities actually have had their origins in speculative literature.)

Students in the MIT Literature course 21L.434 (21st Century Science Fiction), taught by Assistant Professor Laura Finch, also discover that science fiction is a powerful, useful way to think about and understand the world we currently inhabit…. 

(9) ROBOT CREDENTIALS. Katie Engelhart parses “What Robots Can—and Can’t—Do for the Old and Lonely” in The New Yorker.

It felt good to love again, in that big empty house. Virginia Kellner got the cat last November, around her ninety-second birthday, and now it’s always nearby. It keeps her company as she moves, bent over her walker, from the couch to the bathroom and back again. The walker has a pair of orange scissors hanging from the handlebar, for opening mail. Virginia likes the pet’s green eyes. She likes that it’s there in the morning, when she wakes up. Sometimes, on days when she feels sad, she sits in her soft armchair and rests the cat on her soft stomach and just lets it do its thing. Nuzzle. Stretch. Vibrate. Virginia knows that the cat is programmed to move this way; there is a motor somewhere, controlling things. Still, she can almost forget. “It makes you feel like it’s real,” Virginia told me, the first time we spoke. “I mean, mentally, I know it’s not. But—oh, it meowed again!”

She named the cat Jennie, for one of the nice ladies who work at the local Department of the Aging in Cattaraugus County, a rural area in upstate New York, bordering Pennsylvania. It was Jennie (the person) who told her that the county was giving robot pets to old people like her. Did she want one? She could have a dog or a cat. A Meals on Wheels driver brought Virginia the pet, along with her daily lunch delivery. He was so eager to show it to her that he opened the box himself, instead of letting Virginia do it. The Joy for All Companion pet was orange with a white chest and tapered whiskers. Nobody mentioned that it was part of a statewide loneliness intervention….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 25, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Star Wars premiered. Later retitled as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it was written and directed by George Lucas. You know who the cast is so we’ll not list all of them here. Lucas envisioned the film as being in the tradition of Buck Rogers which he originally intended to remake but couldn’t get the rights to.  Reception by critics and fans alike alike was fantastic with IguanaCon II voting it the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo over Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It holds a stellar ninety-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 25, 1915 – DeeDee Lavender.  Four decades an active fan with husband Roy Lavender.  Together served a term as Secretary-Treasurer of the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n).  They’re in Harlan Ellison’s forewords to his collections I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream and Angry Candy; they knew Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton, and were guests at the B&H homes in Ohio and California.  They were part of a Southern California fannish social group called the Petards, named by one of Rick Sneary’s famous misspellings, hoist for host.  Here she is with Roy at a Petards meeting in 1983, and thirty years earlier in New York (L to R, Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, DeeDee, Roy, Stan Skirvin).  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1916 – Charles Hornig.  Published his fanzine The Fantasy Fan in 1933, thus First Fandom (i.e. active by at least the first Worldcon, 1939), and hired, age 17, by Hugo Gernsback to edit Wonder Stories.  Founded the SF League with HG; later edited Fantasy; also Future and Science Fiction (they eventually combined); SF Quarterly.  See his notes on Nycon I, the first Worldcon, here. (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1926 – Phyllis Gotlieb.  Prix Aurora for A Judgement of Dragons (note spelling; she was Canadian).  The Sunburst Award is named for her first novel.  A dozen SF novels, a score of shorter stories, eight poetry collections – the first being Who Knows One?  Among her husband’s Physics students was Cory Doctorow’s father.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1935 — W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel is The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well known than Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent as well. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1939 — Ian McKellen, 82. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s  the Gus the Theatre Cat in the best forgotten Cats. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1946 — Frank Oz, 75. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh-so-patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise. An interesting Trivia note: he’s in the Blues Brothers as a Corrections Officer, and is the Warden in Blues Brothers 2000. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1949 — Barry Windsor-Smith, 72. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja as partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1950 – Kathryn Daugherty.  Engineer.  Married four decades to James Stanley Daugherty.  At Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon, headed Contents of Tables; a typo made it “Contests of Tables”: in each newsletter I announced “Today’s winner is the Picnic”, “Today’s winner is the Periodic”.  Chaired Westercon LIII, a hard one: it was at Honolulu, see my report here [PDF; p. 11]. Luckily not exhausted; she and JSD were Fan Guests of Honor at Baycon 2001, Loscon 36.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1953 – Stan Sakai, age 68.  Lettered Groo the Wanderer comics; since 1984, author of Usagi Yôjinbô comics about samurai rabbit Miyamoto Usagi, who has (wouldn’t you know it) crossed paths with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The rônin life is hard.  During the most recent Year of the Rabbit (2011), the Japanese-American Nat’l Museum in Los Angeles had an Usagi Yôjinbô exhibit.  Parents’ Choice award, an Inkpot, six Eisners, an Inkwell, two Harveys, two Haxturs (Spain), a Plumilla de Plata (Mexico), a Cultural Ambassador award, and a Nat’l Cartoonists Society award.  [JH]
  • Born May 25, 1966 — Vera Nazarian, 55. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in tone to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds me more than a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisherof Norilana Books which publishes such works as Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies,and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies. (CE)
  • Born May 25, 1982 – Bertrand Bonnet, age 39.  Six dozen reviews in Bifrost (French-language prozine; European SF Society award for Best Magazine, 2016), of Blish, Herbert, Le Guin, Pohl (with and without Kornbluth), Resnick, Strugatsky, Tolkien (including the Letters, yay).  [JH]

(12) HIS SHIP CAME IN. “Working for Marvel Comics is a dream come true for Malaysian artist Alan Quah”, and it’s not a 9-to-5 job he says in a Yahoo! profile.

What is it like being a Marvel Comics artist? For Malaysian artist Alan Quah, it is nothing short of having a wish granted.

“It is a dream come true, because I collected Marvel Comics when I was really really young. When I became a teenager I drew comics for a living, then I left the [comics] industry for 15 years to venture into advertising. Then I came back and tried my luck drawing comics for the American market again,” said Alan Quah, who became a cover artist for Marvel Comics in late January this year.

The Petaling Jaya-based artist mainly does comic book covers for Marvel Comics in a work-for-hire agreement. In the United States, comics retailers may sometimes commission a cover for an issue of a comic. These covers are known as retailer exclusive variant covers. Comics retailers will liaise with Marvel Comics to determine the requirements and specifications of the cover art. Marvel Comics will then get in touch with Quah to create the artwork, along with all the relevant stakeholders.

Since joining Marvel Comics, he has worked on covers for the following titles: Alien, The Spider’s Shadow, Venom, and The Marvels (not related to the 1994 series Marvels, which was told from the perspective of man-on-the-street Phil Sheldon)….

(13) I KNOW — YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES! A teaser trailer for Last Night in Soho has dropped. Opens in theaters this October.

Edgar Wright’s psychological thriller about a young girl, passionate in fashion design, who is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters her idol, a dazzling wannabe singer. But 1960s London is not what it appears, and time seems to fall apart with shady consequences…

(14) FASHION SHOW. Someone on eBay is selling this UFO-themed “Space Shopping” Hermes scarf.  They want $629 – but you can pay on monthly installments! This is not something to blow your nose on.

(15) IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST. “Body of missing man found in Spanish dinosaur statue” – the BBC reports how he got there.

Spanish police are investigating the death of a 39-year-old man whose body was found inside a dinosaur statue.

Authorities were alerted on Saturday after a father and his son noticed a smell emanating from the papier-mâché figure in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, a suburb of Barcelona.

The father then saw the corpse through a crack in the Stegosaurus’ hollow leg.

Police said the man had been reported missing by his family, and no foul play is suspected.

Three fire brigade teams were called to scene after the body was discovered, and firefighters cut open the dinosaur leg to retrieve it.

Local media report the man – who has not been named – was trying to retrieve a mobile phone he dropped inside the statue. He then fell inside the decorative figure and was left trapped upside down, unable to call for help.

(16) IT MAY BE NEWS TO YOU. “Rachel Bloom sings Season’s of Love… in Klingon!” at the 2011 Worldcon.

Rachel Bloom’s performance at Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention. She was at the convention because her song “Fuck Me Ray Bradbury” was nominated for a Hugo award. Sorry about the poor lighting. The room was set up for a disco, and Rachel gave a short performance.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Pokémon Snap”, Fandom Games says that this Pokémon movie where you take photos instead of shooting people, is the gaming equivalent of “a little amusement park ride and some photos at the end.”

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, N., Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Tom Galloway, Cora Buhlert, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Cat Rambo.]

2020 Stabby Award Winners

Reddit’s r/Fantasy moderators announced the winners of the Best of /r/Fantasy 2020 — the Stabby Awards on January 6. They report there were 1739 votes cast, 1632 of were valid (eliminating duplicates and votes cast by persons whose account was too new).

Best Novel 

  • The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie

Best Self Published / Independent Novel

  • The Torch that Ignites the Stars by Andrew Rowe

Best Debut Novel

  • The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Best Novella 

  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

Best Short Fiction 

  • The Case of the Somewhat Mythic Sword by Garth Nix

Best Serialized Fiction 

  • The Wandering Inn by pirateaba

Best Anthology/Collection/Periodical 

The Book of Dragons, ed. Jonathan Strahan

Best Artwork 

Best Artist 

Best Site 

Best Game 

  • Hades by Supergiant Games

Best TV/Movie 

  • The Mandalorian

Best Audio Original – Fiction 

Best Audio Original – Nonfiction 

Best Narrator 

Best Virtual Convention 

Best Related Work 

Best Professional Contributor 

Best Community Member 

Best Essay 

Best Review 

Best /r/Fantasy Original 

Best r/Fantasy Original Comment (Anything Not an Essay or Review)

2020 Stabby Award Nominees

Reddit’s r/Fantasy group has chosen the nominees for the Best of /r/Fantasy 2020 — the Stabby Awards.

The group has over 1.2 million members, although last year just 903 votes were cast.

Voting continues until January 4. The winners will be announced January 6.

There are many categories – the lists of nominees follow the jump.

Update: The r/Fantasy mods asked that File 770 remind everyone —

Rules surrounding vote brigading:

You are welcome and encouraged to share this voting thread, but links directly to the Google Form or shares of the voting thread that specifically ask folks to vote for you will be considering attempts to brigade. Share information about the Stabby Awards as a whole. Even if you’re not the original creator/nominee, but are sharing in support of someone, the same rules will apply. Don’t get your favorite creator disqualified by not following the rules. As in previous years, the moderator team reserves the right to determine winners in the event of hinky business.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 8/6/20 The Scroll With The Twisted Pixel

(1) SHARKE SIGHTING.  Nina Allan has been doing an interesting series of posts on both Hugo nominees and Clarke Award nominees; she wrote one on all of the Hugo-nominated novellas, for example. Her most recent is on Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. “Weird Wednesdays #9/Clarke Award #3: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley”.

…What a ride, what a charge. Kameron Hurley was last shortlisted for the Clarke Award back in 2014, for her debut novel God’s War. I enjoyed and admired God’s War, but had fallen somewhat out of touch with Hurley’s work since, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read her latest within the context of the Clarke. What a delight it is to see a writer fulfilling her potential. What I loved most about God’s War and the short fiction from Hurley that I’d read in the interim was its densely textured language, and The Light Brigade is immediately, thrillingly identifiable as by the same hand. Time (and increasing fame) has done nothing to slow or flatten the vividness and immediacy of Hurley’s approach, nor compromise its intelligence or conceptual ambition.

… Although The Light Brigade works perfectly well as a standalone novel – you don’t need to have read any of Hurley’s other work or even any science fiction to get on board – it is important to note the many and clever ways in which it is directly in conversation with older works of SF. …

(2) SUBSCRIBE TO ASTROLABE. Aidan Moher will launch a new newsletter— Astrolabe — on Friday

Aidan Moher

Astrolabe covers all the stuff I love—from science fiction and fantasy, to retro gaming, parenting, and personal news about my work. It’s about talking my stuff and professional news, but also building a community of readers, and sharing the love by highlighting and sharing all the other great work and books I come across.

Why wait? Here’s the link to subscribe.

Aidan Moher, who won a Best Fanzine Hugo in 2014 for A Dribble of Ink, which really was a beautiful publication, has gone on to author  “On the Phone with Goblins” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard,” and write for KotakuVentureBeatEGMUncanny MagazineCast of WondersBarnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy BlogTor.com, and various other places. 

But Aidan has not forgotten my teasing from back in 2014. He ended his email:

I see your absolute glee that I’m starting a issue-based fanzine, Mike Glyer. I SEE YOU.

(3) NUMBER NINTH, NUMBER NINTH. NPR’s Jason Sheehan warns us that “Whatever You’re Expecting, ‘Harrow The Ninth’ Is Not That Kind Of Book”.

You know how sometimes people say, Oh, it’s okay. You don’t have to read the first book in this series to dive right into the second.

This is not that kind of book

You know how sometimes people say, It’s like everything you loved about the first book, only MORE.

This is not that kind of book.

Last year, Tamsyn Muir absolutely owned the lesbian-necromancers-in-space genre. She created a crumbly, dusty, deeply haunted and wonderfully goopy horror-universe with Gideon the Ninth, peopled it with creepy, sepulchral wizards, dipped it all in the reverential tones of quasi-Catholic religious fanaticism, wrote it like a science-fantasy parlor romance full of murder and then gave it to us, still warm and dripping, like a cat bringing home a particularly juicy mouse.

…I loved Gideon. Loved everything about it. It was just so much of a book — so strange, so full, so lush, so double-bats*** crazy and so unerringly cool — that I didn’t think anything could top it.

And Harrow the Ninth, second in the series, doesn’t.

Because it is not that kind of book.

Gideon was the perfect surrogate through which to experience Muir’s creation — a brash, foul-mouthed, anarchic guide who was just as wonderstruck as we were by the gory weirdness happening at every other breath, but never so serious about it that any piece of the story felt logy with funereal detail.

Harrow, though? Harrow is all black crepe and rosaries. She’s that one goth girl from high school gone full dark supernova with her sacramental face paint and unfathomable necromantic powers. A bone witch (and don’t think Muir doesn’t have some fun with that), she can construct a skeleton from a chip of tibia and have it tear your arms and legs clean off. She vacillates wildly between breathless (though exceptionally prudish) teenage passion for a corpse (that would take pages to explain), fervent prayer and drear musings on death — her own and everyone else’s. At one point, she carefully (and explosively) poisons someone with a soup made from her own bone marrow and it’s passed off like, Oh, that’s just Harry, exploding one of God’s own hit men at the dinner table, the kooky kid!

(4) FAN PIPES UP. Speaking of Tamsyn Muir, she did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit yesterday: “I’m Tamsyn Muir, author of HARROW THE NINTH, second book of the Locked Tomb trilogy. AMA!”

[Question] … I have been telling all my friends that Alecto the Ninth is going to be a heist novel. Can you please confirm this, and if so, also confirm that there will be many heart crimes. Thank you for writing these books, they are fantastic….

tazmuir

AMA Author Tamsyn Muir

I had to go back and look to see if I’d ever mentioned that I wanted a heist in Alecto, because otherwise you are 1. psychic or 2. hiding in my drywall — there IS actually a heist in Alecto. It’s not the world’s greatest heist, and is undertaken by idiots, but there’s a heist. If you’re in my house, can you tell me if turning off the boiler at night has helped the pipes? I assume you’re between the walls.

(5) OPENING A FRESH DECK. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports that “With ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks,’ A Venerable Franchise Loosens Up”.

The prospect of spoofing Star Trek represents nothing new under the (binary) sun(s). The franchise has become an institution, and mocking institutions remains a thriving American cottage industry. Saturday Night Live started taking whacks at Trek way back in the ’70s, as did MAD magazine, and the short-lived sitcom Quark. As a piece of cultural furniture, Star Trek’s ubiquity, driven by multiple television series, movies, books, games, comics and fan-fiction, means its tropes have entered the collective consciousness, and have thus become easy to recognize — and to make fun of.

Why, one could even construct an entire, very-good movie just by riffing on Trek (1999’s Galaxy Quest), as well as an entire, not-very-good television series (FOX’s mystifying The Orville).

The difference between all these previous efforts and the one represented by Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering Thursday August 6th on CBS All Access, is a simple one:

This time, the comm signal is coming from inside the house.

True, the franchise has poked the gentlest of fun at itself, over the years — a throwaway line here, a winking reference to previous Trek series there. But Star Trek: Lower Decks is an official Trek property, its yuks are both nerdily meta and rigorously in-canon, and they go — more broadly than boldly, it must be said — where no Trek has gone before.

The premise is such stuff as comedy sketches are made on: Starships are huge, and staffed by hundreds of officers and crew members, so why does every Trek story need to revolve around the bridge, and the same 7 or so characters? Why not focus instead on the grunts doing the tedious, everyday work?

Creator/showrunner Mike McMahan made his bones on the animated series Drawn Together and Rick and Morty — shows whose darker, more cutting humorous sensibilities would seem to clash with Trek’s traditional commitment to ennobling, optimistic uplift. But that disconnect turns out to work for the new series, in most respects. For the nerds, in-jokes and easter eggs abound, testifying to the creators’ fondness for the source material, while viewers who don’t know a nacelle from a Jeffries Tube will likely appreciate the show’s sheer joke-density — and the fact that, as an animated series, it comes outfitted with an unlimited special effects budget.

That’s important, because despite its bright, broad, cartoony look, the planets of Lower Decks can appear legitimately otherworldly, instead of all looking like the Vasquez Rocks outside of Santa Clarita, California. Alien races can look alien — obviating previous series’ need to, as one wag (me) once put it, “Grab a dayplayer, slap a hunk of spirit gum between their eyebrows, paint ’em Prussian blue and shove ’em in front of the camera”.

(6) I WRITE THE WORDS. NPR reveals how “A New Documentary Shines A Spotlight On The Lyricist Behind The Disney Renaissance”.

Alan Menken composed the song “Prince Ali,” memorably sung by Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated feature Aladdin, while sitting at the lyricist’s hospital bed. His friend, Howard Ashman, was dying.

“His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time,” says Menken. “But Howard’s [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there’s something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he’s extremely vital — even now.”

Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist, is coming to streaming August 7 on Disney+. It also shows the friendship between Ashman and Menken, who met in New York City in the 1970s, where Ashman was the artistic director of a black box theater, the WPA, near Union Square. Menken had been working as an accompanist for singers and writing songs for Sesame Street, and they immediately gelled like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Together they wrote the musicals Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and the unlikely hit, Little Shop of Horrors — a monster mash parody of American musical comedies, which won several Drama Desk Awards and was adapted into a film in 1986 – before going on to work for Disney.

The documentary tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows (including the ill-fated Broadway show Smile with composer Marvin Hamlisch), and to his untimely death. It’s told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast — a Disney-lover’s treasure trove….

(7) ABOUT ASIMOV. In the comments on LitHub’s article “What to Make of Isaac Asimov, Sci-Fi Giant and Dirty Old Man?”, posted in May, former SFWA President Marta Randall told about the time Isaac Asimov assaulted her:

“In general,” writes Nevala-Lee, “Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful.”

I have to take exception to this. In the mid-1980s I was serving my first term as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the first woman to hold that office, and attended the Boskone convention, as did Dr. Asimov. He showed up in the organization’s suite and I thought it proper to introduce myself, so at a suitable break in the conversation, I held out my hand for a shake and tried to say, “Dr. Asimov, I’m Marta Randall, the president of SFWA.” I didn’t make it to the second syllable of his title before he grabbed my hand, jerked me to him, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. We were in a suite run by our professional organization, but apparently it never occurred to him that his actions might be inappropriate. Luckily a number of members who knew me pried him off of me before I tried to deck him.

We met again years later, when I was protected by carrying a baby on my back. He was perfectly cordial, but never apologized, if he even remembered the assault.

The man was a pig.

(8) VIRTUAL OXONMOOT. The UK’s Tolkien Society will hold “Oxonmoot Online” from September 18-20. Full details at the link.

…Clearly Oxonmoot Online will be a very different event from a normal Oxonmoot, but our aim is to bring you a busy and engaging weekend of Tolkien related activities. In addition, the online nature of the event offers new opportunities for international members who are normally unable to travel to Oxford to take part….

…Thanks to the actions of Ar-Pharazôn at the end of the Second Age, we find ourselves living on a round world – which means we have to deal with the complexities of time zones. To make the event as accessible as possible to as many of our members as we can, the “core” time for the keynote events and larger activities will be 18:00-22:00 UK time.

Outside these hours, we will run an engaging programme of talks, papers, activities and social gatherings – the exact timing of which will depend on the offers we get from you, our members. We intend to record talks and papers so that delegates can watch the presentations which are delivered at a time which is difficult in their time zone…

(9) THE GOAL IS MONEY. Trailer for the Korean sff movie Space Sweepers. “Are lots of trash worth a fortune?”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 6, 1955 Science Fiction Theater’s “The Stones Began to Move” first aired. Starring Truman Bradley, Basil Rathbone, and Jean Willie, a discovery inside the just-opened tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh may hold a clue as to the construction of the pyramids, but a murder is committed to keep that secret from being revealed. You can watch it here,

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 6, 1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  (His name was Alfred Tennyson; he was later made 1st Baron Tennyson.)  Poet whose engagement with quest and fantasy point us to him (“To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought” – speaking of which, don’t neglect the highly strange Frank Belknap Long story “To Follow Knowledge”, 1942).  See “Ulysses”, “Tithonus”, Idylls of the King (the Matter of Arthur).  (Died 1892) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series  He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see iBooks has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle has just the latter. (Died 1947.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born August 6, 1917 – Barbara Cooney.  Author and illustrator of a hundred children’s books, some fantastic.  Two Caldecott Medals.  National Book Award.  Here is a picture that might simply be entitled “Fantasy”.  Here is a cover for Snow White and Rose Red.  Here is Where Have You Been?  Here is “The Owl and the Pussycat” (note the runcible spoon).  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 – Judith Bemis, 65.  Co-chair (with husband Tony Parker), Tropicon 8-9.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Parker), Concave 16.  Treasurer of MagiCon (50th Worldcon), Noreascon 4 (62nd).  Active getting fanzines into FANAC.org database. [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 –Eva Whitley, 65.  Chaired Paracon 1, Disclaves 26 & 34.  Widow of Jack Chalker; says  ”Possibly the only person in fandom to meet spouse by making him GoH (Paracon 1)”.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 17 (with Chalker) & 21, Norwescon XXII (with Chalker).  Active in WSFA (Washington [D.C.] SF Ass’n) and BSFS (Baltimore SF Ass’n).  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 58. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Wow. Her first meaningful genre roles were as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1969 – Álvaro Enrigue, 51.  Novel Sudden Death for us, Herralde Prize.  Six novels, three collections of shorter stories and one of essays.  Mortiz Prize.  Carlos Fuentes said E’s novel Perpendicular Lives “belongs to Max Planck’s quantum universe rather than the relativistic universe of Albert Einstein, a world of co-existing fields … whose particles are created or destroyed in the same act.”  Translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German.  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1972 – Paolo Bacigalupi, 48.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories, translated into French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Spanish.  Interviewed in Electric VelocipedeIntergalactic Medicine ShowInterzoneLightspeedLocusNY Review of SFSF Research Ass’n Review.  First novel The Windup Girl won Hugo, Nebula, Campbell (as it then was) Memorial, Compton Crook, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, Ignotus, Laßwitz, Prix Planète, Seiun; also a Printz, a Sturgeon, another Seiun.  Toastmaster at MileHiCon 42; Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 33, Capclave 2014.  Williamson Lectureship, 2014.  [CE and I found two different dates for his birthday; since he’s done and won much, we decided to let both notes stand – JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Truer cartoon words were never spoken — Ziggy.

(13) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project is “Tomorrow Is Another Daze,” a story of Aztlán, creative reuse, and making technology work for you by Ernest Hogan (an Arizona-based writer, often called the father of Chicanx science fiction).

Lalo was in the middle of making Huevos Rancheros Microöndas when the doorbell rattled. The microwave buzzed less than a second after. Yet another quarantine for yet another virus was going on, so he wasn’t eager to answer the door. For all he knew it could be a terminal case, long past the early stages that are said to be similar to what they used to call future shock: the disorientation and hallucinations, the convulsions, foaming at the mouth, about to drop dead on his porch under the decorations his wife insisted on putting up, requiring the services of a hazmat team….

On Monday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they will have another virtual event on Zoom, with Ernest and scholar, author, and editor Frederick Luis Aldama. Register at the link.

(14) EAR TO THE GROUND. Michelle Nijhuis, in “Buzz Buzz Buzz” at New York Review of Books, discusses four recent works about human responsibilities towards animals.

…The scholarly emphasis on negative rights, along with the work of animal-rights and animal-welfare activists, has arguably improved the treatment of domesticated animals in North America and Europe. Public opposition to animal cruelty is now widespread, and recent laws and policies have banned animal blood sports. The insights of advocates such as Temple Grandin have helped us imagine how other species experience the world, and begin to curb some of the most brutal factory-farming practices.

None of these advances, however, has changed our fundamental relationship with animals—which is hardly sustainable, ethically or otherwise. In Slime, when one of the translators finally succeeds in communicating with a bump-nosed parrotfish from the Pacific Ocean, the message is stark, delivered in dramatic terms: “Youare helping Slime to kill us You You You Land Monsters!!! Why? Stop? Why? Change your swimming! Change your swimming! Change your swimming!!!!” Were Slime written today, it might include a line from a pangolin or a bat, warning that our heedless exploitation of animals carries deadly risks for all.

… That animals are in this sense political actors is an underrecognized and, to my mind, potentially powerful point of convergence between the animal-rights and ecological-protection movements: both traditions hold that animals have needs and wants that humans are more than capable of understanding, and should attend to.

(15) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE AMONG THEM ENGLISH. James Davis Nicoll was pleased to get some egoboo from the letters to the editors in the August 4 Sydney Morning Herald:

Hold the phonics

Each of your “o’s”, Kevin Harris, represents different sounds because of the consonants in each word that have individual phonetic sounds; always have and always will (Letters, August 5). Otherwise, we’d all be speaking French, where half the letters aren’t ever pronounced. John Kingsmill, Fairlight

Thirty years ago, one James Nicoll observed that “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary”. With that has come disparate rules of pronunciation, to the annoyance of Kevin Harris’ five-year-old and countless others. For English, basic phonics works for about 40 per cent of words, enough to make it a useful tool. For the rest, plenty of guided reading will make up most of the deficit. Richard Murnane, Hornsby

(16) SURPRISE! – NOT. “Hollywood censors films to appease China, report suggests” – BBC has details.

Hollywood bosses have been censoring films to placate the film market in China, a report has suggested.

The lengthy report says US film companies want to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market.

It said casting, content, dialogue and plotlines were increasingly being tailored to appease censors in Beijing.

The report, compiled by the free speech charity PEN America, claimed China was therefore influencing movies released in cinemas around the world.

China holds the world’s second largest box office market behind the US.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6bn (£2bn) in China last year, with Disney’s Avengers finale, Endgame, making $614m (£466m).

PEN is a non-profit organisation that campaigns on free speech and it sponsors the Pinter Prize for literature.

The report said that Marvel’s 2016 superhero film Dr Strange whitewashed a major Tibetan character for fear of jeopardising the title’s chances of success in China.

The forthcoming Top Gun sequel, Maverick, was also criticised for the “mysterious disappearance of the Taiwanese flag” in a 2019 trailer.

“Our biggest concern is that Hollywood is increasingly normalising pre-emptive self-censorship in anticipation of what the Beijing censor is looking for,” said James Tager, author of the report.

(17) HEISENBIRDS. “Attaching Small Weights To Pigeons Helps Them Shoot Up In The Social Hierarchy”NPR transcript:

Scientists found that attaching small weights to pigeons causes them to shoot up in the social hierarchy. The finding is important because scientists often attach trackers to pigeons.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

It turns out there is a social hierarchy among pigeons, and it definitely pays to be the big bird on campus.

STEVE PORTUGAL: Being top of the dominance hierarchy basically gives you preferential access to everything. It means you get priority access to food, priority access to mates.

SHAPIRO: That’s Steve Portugal, a zoologist and biologist at Royal Holloway, University of London. And contrary to what you may have heard about the early bird getting the worm, in the case of pigeons, it is heavier birds that get all the perks.

VANEK SMITH: So Portugal and his colleagues wondered what would happen if you made lighter pigeons feel heavier. If you beefed them up, would they punch above their weight?

SHAPIRO: They tested their theory in a captive flock of homing pigeons. They identified the birds in the bottom half of the hierarchy and loaded them up with tiny weights – little bird backpacks, actually.

PORTUGAL: And sure enough, when I did that, they became much more aggressive, started much more fights and won many more fights as well.

(18) EVRYBODY MUST BE STONE. ScreenRant luckily didn’t run out of fingers while counting the cast: “All 9 Star Trek Actors In Gargoyles The Animated Series”.

A number of Star Trek actors lent their voices to the animated series Gargoyles. The show followed the adventures of gargoyles, nocturnal creatures who turned into stone during the day. After being transported from their home in Scotland to New York City, the clan were awoken from their 1000-year-long magical slumber and took on the responsibility of protecting the city. The children’s series originally ran from 1994 until 1997, but has been finding new audiences thanks to Disney+.

… Like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis was a main character on both Star Trek: TNG as well as GargoylesSirtis played Deanna Troi, the empathetic, chocolate-loving counsellor onboard the USS-Enterprise. Troi is half-Betazoid, which grants her empath abilities — which often came in handy in dealings with other alien races. Also like Frakes, Sirtis played a villainous role on Gargoyles: her character Demona despised humans, and is possibly the most dangerous of all remaining gargoyles. She aligned herself with David Xanatos, and was largely responsible for him resurrecting the Wyvern clan, whom she had hoped would join her on her quest for vengeance.

(19) BEEB TRIVIA. Nicholas Whyte told the SMOFs list where they could see this Hugo-related feat:

The UK quiz show University Challenge had three questions about the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form last night, all correctly answered by the team from Strathclyde University – which, as it happens, is in Glasgow.

[Thanks to PhilRM, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Peer Sylvester, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, verified, blue check Andrew.]

2019 Stabby Awards

Reddit’s r/Fantasy group has chosen the winners of the 2019 Stabby Awards.

There were 903 valid votes cast.

The initial short fiction winner, “And They Were Never Heard From Again” by Benedict Patrick, was declared ineligible after the author clarified that it was a reprint from a previous year. Its place was taken by the two stories which had tied for second.

Stabby Award daggers will be sent to the winners.

Best Novel

Best Self Published / Independent Novel

Best Debut Novel

Best Novella

Best Short Fiction (Tie)

Best Serialized Fiction

Best Anthology/Collection/Periodical

Best Artwork

Best Site

Best Game

Best TV/Movie

Best Related Work

Best Audio Original

Best Narrator

Best Professional Contributor

Best Community Member

Best Essay

Best Review

Best /r/Fantasy Original

Pixel Scroll 12/29/19 Who Sawed Courtney Milan’s Boat?

(1) STABBY VOTING. Reddit’s r/Fantasy forum hasopened voting for the Stabby Awards. They’ve suffered voting shenanigans in the past, too, and here’s what they’ve done to stop them —

It’s now time to vote for the /r/Fantasy Best of 2019 Stabby Awards. Due to the sub’s growth over the past year (from the time that the nomination thread went live to now, we’ve grown by over 8,000 subscribers!) and to issues we experienced with vote gaming last year, voting will be taking place off Reddit.

We’re using a Google Form (same as we’ve used for our demographic census for years) and in order to vote you’ll need to include a link to your own user profile. Profiles will need to be at least 1 month old for their votes to count – we chose this cutoff to ensure that folks who created accounts solely to nominate and thus aren’t really part of our community aren’t going to affect the results.

Voting will end January 4, 2019 at 9 p.m. PST. Results should be live by January 6, 2019 by 1 p.m. PST.

(2) SPARKS TOO MUCH JOY? In The Guardian‘s “It’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ for today’s Britain, but with antidepressants as the monster”, critic Vanessa Thorpe analyzes the filmmaker’s challenge:

…An award-winning science-fiction thriller billed by critics as a modern Day of the Triffids takes a provocative approach to Britain’s growing dependence on mood-lifting chemicals and antidepressants.

Little Joe, released in UK cinemas in February, and starring Ben Whishaw, Emily Beecham and Kerry Fox, has divided reviewers with its odd, disturbing story of a newly bred plant designed to spread joy.

On set in a vast greenhouse laboratory, the acclaimed Austrian director Jessica Hausner first told her actors to forget about finding “the truth” of their characters.

Little Joe looks at the question of how do you perceive whether someone has changed or not,” Hausner told the Observer. “That was the big issue when I talked to the actors. And so even when we were shooting, we were shooting different versions of each scene.”

(3) ENDANGERED BY IDEAS. Maria Popova tells “How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe” at Brain Pickings.

…In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death….

(4) NOT MUSED. “And it occurs to me that this is disrespectful to the Nine” at It’s Always More Complicated, (a post inspired by Anne Bilson’s piece for The Guardian, “Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve: how movies malign women by calling them muses”.)

…But is this view of the Muse, who is after all a goddess, a being at whose feet the artist is supposed to lay the offering of the art created in order that she may judge it worthy, not very disrespectful? In assuming that the muse is just some empty thing to fill up with M. L’Artiste’s (and it is M., is it not) geeenyus?

François Truffaut once said of Catherine Deneuve: “I wouldn’t compare her to a flower or a bouquet, since there is a certain neutrality in her that leads me to compare her to the vase in which all the flowers are placed.” He meant that her reserve and air of mystery enabled spectators to “fill the vase” themselves; but the history of male film directors and their female muses is also a history of vase-filling: men translating their erotic fantasies into cinematic terms while failing to get to grips with the women themselves, who are invariably depicted as quixotic and inscrutable, even dangerous.

Not that I am sure which of the Nine would be the muse of movies – or would it vary by specific genre?

(5) BLUE GENES. Cora Buhlert presents “The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”.

… Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page via various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner was announced here.

In 2017 and 2018, a clear frontrunner emerged early on. 2019 was different, because there were several likely and unlikely candidates.

Warning: Spoilers for several of things including The Rise of Skywalker behind the cut…

(6) THE MOST OF BABY YODA. You wouldn’t want to miss this! (Well, some of you would, but your loss!)

BABY YODA from The Mandalorian season 1. Best of Baby Yoda taken from episodes 1 to 8 of The Mandalorian….

(7) GRAY OBIT. Scots author Alasdair Gray died December 29 at the age of 85. His publisher, Canongate, posted this retrospective:

A renowned polymath, Alasdair Gray was beloved equally for his writing and art. His debut, Lanark, which Canongate published in 1981, is widely regarded as being one of the masterpieces of twentieth century fiction. It was followed by more than thirty further books, all of which he designed and illustrated, ranging from novels, short story collections, plays, volumes of poetry, works of non-fiction and translations – most recently, his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Trilogy.

The Guardian’s tribute said he “blazed a trail for contemporary Scottish fiction with his experimental novels.”

In 1954, Gray began writing the novel that would occupy him on and off throughout the 1960s and 70s. Lanark divides the story of a life into four books, alternating between Glasgow and a shadowy version of the city called Unthank. The novel opens with book three, in which a young man finds himself in a dark metropolis filled with strange diseases, and then jumps back to fill in the story of Duncan Thaw, who grows up in Glasgow just before the second world war. The Guardian called it “fluent, imaginative”, a novel “of undeniable quality, but rare, and not for all tastes, like an oyster, or a truffle”.

He made an indelible impression on both the literary and fannish worlds. Alasdair Gray and Russell Hoban were the guests of honor at the first Mexicon (1984) in the UK. As David Langford recalls, he made ink sketches of various fans there, and his “[John] Brosnan drawing is inscribed: ‘The Author of Slimer, a seminal work which has influenced everything I have ever written.”

(8) WOLLEN OBIT. Peter Wollen (1938-2019), author of the influential film theory book Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, who also directed films and wrote screenplays, died December 17. The New York Times appreciation notes:  

Mr. Wollen didn’t just talk and write about cinema; in the 1970s and ’80s he was actively involved in making it. Perhaps his best-known film, which he both wrote and directed, was “Friendship’s Death” (1987), an unusual science-fiction film about an extraterrestrial robot who is on a peace mission but takes a wrong turn and winds up in Amman, Jordan, in 1970, a time of conflict there.

Tilda Swinton, in one of her first film roles, played the robot. In a tribute to Mr. Wollen published by the film website IndieWire, she said “Signs and Meaning” was “the first seminal book I read about film that actually made sense while bopping you to bits with its braininess and taking the engine of cinema completely apart in front of you while making you even more excited to jump in and go racing about in it just as soon as you possibly could.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired. Written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon (1968) were Trek episodes.
  • December 29, 2009 Princess of Mars premiered. This film from Asylum had Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris and Antonio Sabàto Jr. as John Carter. Rather loosely based on A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, the film was released in Europe as The Martian Colony Wars. Currently this film has a 10% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. in 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins. Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of Fire, Blaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the digital book realm yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 91. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing movie as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special.
  • Born December 29, 1949 Ian Livingstone, 70. Co-founder of Game Workshop whose flagship products are are Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. (Have I mentioned that Game Workshop has local shops where fans can buy their unpainted miniatures and other goodies?) He was the first Editor of White Dwarf whichyes, I read a long time ago. 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 56. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s novels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’d also be in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Neither will be mistaken for quality films. 
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 47. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow In Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I., with my fav role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians

(11) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. ComicBook.com invites us to “Star Wars: Watch Mark Hamill’s Perfect Harrison Ford Impression”, rendered during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

(12) TEN YEARS FROM NOW. New York Magazine did a future-themed issue in November included a batch of predictions about 2029 based on the newsmaking events of 2019: “The Weirdness Is Coming A glimpse of the near future as seen through the recent past.”.

Today In 2029…This odd future came into view…

We Will Never Know If a Movie Is a Hit

All of the entertainment we used to consume in more independently quantifiable ways — via TV ratings, box office, album sales — has moved to streaming, where we just have to trust Netflix or Spotify or Apple to tell us how popular it is, and they will almost certainly lie. Netflix occasionally releases random stats about how many people watched something, and they usually strain credibility. In June, it claimed 30.9 million watched a new Adam Sandler movie in its first three days, which would have made it one of the biggest openings in history if it had been released in theaters. And we never know how successful any movie is when it’s released on for-pay VOD (via iTunes, Amazon, or your cable box) because nobody shares any numbers at all, which is strange because streaming is how plenty of non-superhero movies make most of their money now. Obviously, they will know — the producers and stars who benefit. But the public will be living entirely in the dark, never knowing if something is actually a hit or just totally Astroturfed. This will be really disorienting; today, at least, the popularity of an artist accounts for like half of the way we feel about them. And hard audience figures were, for a generation of barroom debaters about pop culture, the closest thing anyone actually ever got to a “fact.” —Lane Brown

(13) OBAMA’S 2019 PICKS. “Barack Obama Lists His Favorite Films And Television Shows For 2019”Deadline has the story.

Former President Barack Obama is making a list, and checking it twice. A day after he released the list of his favorite books of 2019, he’s issued a film/TV faves ledger, including one of his own creations….

(14) NOT BEWITCHED. Eneasz Brodski pans a new show in “The Witcher, Episode 1: A Festivus Airing of Greivances” at Death Is Bad.

I saw the first episode of The Witcher on Festivus, and boy did that unintentionally fit the holiday theme. tldr is that the writers are just phoning this in, and hoping the strength of the fight choreography will keep people watching.

Full Spoilers below.

(15) ROVER COME OVER. LAist reveals, “We Got A Sneak Peek At JPL’s Mars 2020 Rover Before It Heads To Its Launch Site, And It’s Rad”. Photos at the link.

… On Friday, JPL gave a rare media tour to show off the interplanetary robotic vehicle to reporters inside a meticulous dust, hair and oil-free “clean room.” It’s the last time it will be viewed before it’s shipped off to Florida for its July liftoff.

That meant this reporter had to don a full body “bunny” suit and take an air bath with jets to blow away any wayward dust or hair left on the suit.

It took a lot of time and trouble, but NASA’s Dave Gruel said it’s crucial to keep the rover from getting contaminated.

“It’ll be a real bad day for us in the future if those samples come back from Mars and guess what? They’ve got my whisker in that sample,” Gruel said. “That’ll be bad.”

(16) WITH GREAT POWER COMES MINOR LEAGUE HOCKEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ComicBook.com: “Minor League Hockey Team Suits Up in Spider-Man Uniforms on Stan Lee’s Birthday”.

Today, Saturday December 28, would have been the legendary Stan Lee‘s 97th birthday. To mark the occasion fans all around the world are taking a moment to reflect on and honor the prolific and influential comics figure who was responsible for helping to create many of the most iconic characters in comics history — The X-Men, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and more. It’s one of those characters that a minor league hockey team is using to help honor Lee on his birthday with special Spider-Man uniforms.

On Twitter on Saturday, the Indy Fuel hockey team shared a photo of their uniforms for the evening’s game against the Kansas City Mavericks. The special jerseys are part of the Fuel’s Marvel Super Hero Night event, which just so happens to land on Lee’s birthday. The team also posted thanking the creator for “creating a pretty awesome universe.” You can check out both posts below.

(17) BIZARRE TOY. Nerdbot wants us to know “Monty Python Black Knight Figure Talks & Has Removable Arms”. If they also make one like this for Gandalf, imagine posing them opposite one another yelling, ”None shall pass, none shall pass!”

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, David Langford, John Hertz, and Rich Lynch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dennis Howard – classic faanish reference explained here.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/19 This Could Involve Thiotimoline

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy is taking nominations for the Stabby Award until December 28. See the complete guidelines at the link.

Nominations will continue to take place here on /r/Fantasy. Nomination rules are below. Please read them and ask any questions under the comment pinned at the top of the thread.

The method for voting will be explained when the voting thread goes live. The nominations thread will close December 26 at 12:30 p.m. PST. The voting thread will go live no later than about 10 pm on Saturday, December 28.

(2) DIZZYLAND. For your maximum confusion, the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest presents its Top 10 Finalists. First prize goes to “Dual Axis Illusion.”

This spinning shape appears to defy logic by rotating around both the horizontal and vertical axis at the same time! To make things even more confusing, the direction of rotation is also ambiguous. Some visual cues in the video will help viewers change their perception.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint has posted on Facebook a fully detailed account of the medical problems that caused him to be hospitalized during NASFiC, and the course of treatment since, leading up to —

….Within a few weeks, my condition has improved drastically. My 02 saturation levels are back to normal and I’ve stopped having to use oxygen supplements. I spent the past weekend engaged in a long overdue cleansing of the basement – think “scouring of the shire” –which had me going up and down stairs for hours carrying heavy stuff without getting short of breath right away. Granted, after a few hours I’d get a little fatigued and need to rest a bit, but gimme a break. See “almost 73,” above. When I was a teenager, I spent a whole summer once digging ditches. Those days are behind me.
(Happily. It’s not like I enjoyed it at the time any more than I would today. It’s just that at the age of 17 I was ABLE to do it.).

Okay, enough. This turned into a very long post so I’ll wait a day or so before posting a progress report on how my work is coming along. The gist is: “Quite well, actually.” As I said earlier, as long as I was sitting on my butt or lying down I was able to keep working despite the hypoxemia – and, o joyous day! – my current (and hopefully last) profession involves sitting on my butt or lying down pretty much 100% of the time.

(4) MARRIAGE MASH. Comicbook.com points the way as “Funny or Die Mashes Up Marvel and Star Wars With Marriage Story”.

…The new clip from the site cuts up footage from Marriage Story as well as both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars sequel trilogy to tell a similar story, but with Black Widow and Kylo Ren trapped in a relationship that has since become poisoned.

While both Driver and Johansson are earning buzz for their portrayal of the estranged couple undergoing divorce proceedings in Marriage Story, many fans are interested in their roles in their respective franchises.

(5) BROOKER OBIT. Tony Brooker (1925-2019), mathematician and computer scientist who designed the programming language for the world’s first commercial computer, died on 20 November 2019 aged 94. See the New York Times tribute.

Mr. Brooker had been immersed in early computer research at the University of Cambridge when one day, on his way home from a mountain-climbing trip in North Wales, he stopped at the University of Manchester to tour its computer lab, which was among the first of its kind. Dropping in unannounced, he introduced himself to Alan Turing, a founding father of the computer age, who at the time was the lab’s deputy director.

When Mr. Brooker described his own research at the University of Cambridge, he later recalled, Mr. Turing said, “Well, we can always employ someone like you.” Soon they were colleagues….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1963 — During Doctor Who’s first season, the first part of “The Daleks” aired. Written by Terry Nation and directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin. The Daleks which are created and co-owned by Terry Nation will make their first appearance in this story.  The below image is Dalek free so that I don’t spoil your appreciation of their first appearance.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. premiered. Hoping to take bite out of the kid-friendly box office, it was produced by Burt Topper and Joseph Barbera (yes, that Barbera as it was a Hanna-Barbera film), and a cast headed by Wesley Eure, Valerie Bertinelli and Conrad Bain. Critics found it mediocre at best, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it as it has Currently a 32% rating there.  
  • December 21, 1979Disney’s The Black Hole premiered. Intended as The Mouse’s Reponse to Star Wars, it was directed by Gary Nelson.  A cast of Joseph Bottoms, Maximilian Schell, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, and Ernest Borgnine were to be found here, while the voices of the primary robot characters were provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens who both were uncredited. Special effects were developed in-house as apparently were most of the matte paintings used. Critics for the most part didn’t like it, and it holds a 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And it bombed at the box office.
  • December 21, 2010 Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus premiered. Robert Picardo was the sole performer of genre interest in it, and it was directed by Christopher Ray, son of noted exploitation director Fred Olen Ray. Is it genre? Is it sci-fi?  No one liked it, the critics gave it scathing reviews, and currently it has a 19% score among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It has, alas, at least two sequels. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-write The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3, New Worlds SF, Science Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 82. Sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella? Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film. 
  • Born December 21, 1943 John Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He’s also a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be even genre adjacent. (Died 1996.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 75. He’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings, more short fiction than I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Worthy of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 71. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone)in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 53. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including Flatliners, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Three Musketeers,  voice work in Armitage: Poly-Matrix, Dark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration,  Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Mirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TOP COMICS. The Hollywood Reporter’s “Heat Vision” reporter Graeme McMillan names “Heat Vision’s Top 10 Comics Of the Decade”. Anchoring the list is — 

Smile (A Dental Drama) by Raina Telegmeier (Scholastic, 2010)
Telegmeier is, simply put, likely the most important figure in comics of the last decade; after a string of adaptations of the Babysitters Club novels for Scholastic, she’s spent the last ten years creating more comic readers than arguably any other creator with a series of graphic novels for publisher Graphix that mix autobiography with pure fiction, combining clear, easy to understand, visuals with writing that’s accessible and consistently smart and (perhaps most importantly) respectful of its target audience. Smile, Telegmeier’s first book this decade, remains perhaps the finest example of her work, with her story of dental problems as a kid able to win over any audience.

(10) GIFT IDEAS. If you have any last-minute shopping needs, then why not consider Brit Cit published SF/F? SF² Concatenation has a news page with the season’s science fiction and also fantasy book releases from the major UK genre imprints, not forgetting nonfiction SF and popular science. Titles available from large genre bookshops in N. America as well as some online peddlers.

(11) BEEN TO THE MOVIES. John Scalzi says the baker didn’t give the ingredients time enough to rise — “Review: The Rise of Skywalker”.

There are a lot of moments in Skywalker that, while affecting, could have been even more so if they hadn’t been so gosh darn rushed. The prequel trilogy had excellent actors who weren’t utilized fully because as a director Lucas didn’t know what to do with people; the Disney trilogy has excellent actors who aren’t utilized fully because they simply don’t have the time to process, onscreen, the overwhelming emotions they’re supposed to be having. Abrams the director steps on several of those moments because apparently he’s got another plot point he’s gonna cram in. It’s deeply rare, especially these days, that I say a film should be longer — Jesus, they really don’t need to be any longer — but Skywalker genuinely could have benefited from an extra ten or fifteen minutes, just to let its actors do their jobs.

(12) PUNCH PULLED. Leonard Maltin declined to throw his popcorn box at the screen – after all, says he, other people will like the excess: “Star Wars: Variations on a Theme”.

I had a good time watching J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, even though I felt sucker-punched more than once. The filmmaker knows that this is the last time he (or possibly anyone) will get to play with George Lucas’s original concept and characters and his giddiness gets the better of him. Without spoiling any surprises, let’s just say that elements of identity, the powers of the Force and matters of life and death are toyed with in the name of “gotcha” entertainment.

At the same time, Abrams knows that diehard fans share his sentimental longing to spend a little more time with the people who first won our hearts in the initial installments of the Star Wars saga. He milks this for all it’s worth, and if he errs on the side of excess I bet there are lots of folks who won’t mind.

(13) SALUTE TO THE SEVENTIES. Tim Kreider’s New York Times op-ed “What if ‘Star Wars’ Was Just a Movie?” is full of pronouncements about things that are obvious – if you agree with the analysis.

…Lots of critics pointed out that the coda of “Star Wars,” when three heroes march up a corridor between columns of massed soldiers, is a visual quote of the wreath-laying at Nuremberg in “Triumph of the Will,” but everyone seems to assume this is a random allusion, devoid of historical context. It’s not as if Lucas was oblivious of the source. His film is full of fascist iconography — all, up until this moment, associated with the Empire. Assuming this final image is deployed intentionally, it might be most hopefully interpreted as a warning: Don’t become the thing you’ve fought against. The intimation of a hidden kinship between our hero and his enemy was right there in Darth Vader’s name all along — the dark father.

(14) MORE DISSENT FROM ROWLING’S TWEET. “‘Harry Potter’ Helped Me Come Out as Trans, But J.K. Rowling Disappointed Me” is a New York Times op-ed. (Site limits free articles.)

… As a devoted Harry Potter fan who also happens to be transgender, it was like a punch in the gut.

For the past decade, I’ve been an active player in the Harry Potter fan community, serving as the spokesperson for an independent nonprofit inspired by the boy wizard, sitting on the brain trust for a prominent Harry Potter fan conference and making videos about the impact the series has had on my life. I’ve seen the mind-blowing creativity of fans — from wizard rock music to cosplay to fan fiction that will make you weep — as well as their unparalleled capacity for positive change. Fans have organized in Harry’s name to donate over 400,000 books around the world, campaign in support of marriage equality and even convince Warner Bros. to switch to ethical sourcing for its Harry Potter-branded chocolates.

It was this community of loving, passionate people who accepted me with open arms when I came out as transgender at the age of 25. While I was nervous about coming out to some relatives and acquaintances, I never doubted that the Harry Potter fan community would accept me for who I was. After all, we all adhered to the values we learned from the books about being yourself, loving those who are different from you and sticking up for the underdog….

(15) A PAIR OF SCIENCE ROUNDUPS. Science has just published its round-up of top science of the year. In the mix is the biological recovery at the dinosaur asteroid impact site, a look at the human precursor Denisovan species, quantum computing breakthroughs and new Horizons Kuiper belt object encounter.

Also, what went wrong for scientists in 2019, including the Amazon burning.

Forest fires consumed thousands of square kilometers of the Amazon this year, and many blame the policies of Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, for fanning the flames.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) estimates the number of fires in the Amazon increased by 44% compared with 2018. One factor was an increase in deforestation, to about 9700 square kilometers in the 12 months through July, the largest area since 2007–08, INPE reported in November. Ranchers and farmers cut down and sell valuable trees and then burn the forest to make space for planting crops or raising cattle. Remote sensing indicated that this year’s fires tended to be far away from where crops are grown, suggesting ranchers were probably responsible….

(16) MEOW MIX. A cat with representation! The Hollywood Reporter invites you to “Meet CAA’s Million-Dollar Cat Client”.

It’s been a tough year for viral cats. Grumpy Cat passed away May 14 at age 7 following a urinary tract infection, and, on Dec. 1, Lil Bub, a special-needs perma-kitten with an ever-dangling tongue, died in her sleep at age 8. Going strong, however, is Nala Cat, a Siamese-tabby mix with 4.3 million Instagram followers, who happens to be the sole feline client of powerhouse agency CAA….

(17) ANOTHER STAR ON THE HORIZON? “Bionic cat Vito becomes ‘superstar’ with his prosthetic legs” – BBC has the story. Photos at the link.

A six-year-old cat has become an internet “superstar” as the first in Italy to receive two prosthetic hind legs following a serious road accident.

Vito, or Vituzzo, had both rear legs amputated after they were crushed by a vehicle in Milan while his owners were away on their honeymoon.

The couple, former basketball player Silvia Gottardi and her wife Linda Ronzoni, returned home immediately.

Vito’s story has been widely shared with the hashtag #vituzzosuperstar.

His surgery to attach two prostheses by inserting them directly into his remaining upper leg bones has reportedly never before been achieved successfully in Italy.

(18) SEUSS-COOKED MEAL. What’s this wrapped up in breakfast-scented paper for you from Sam? Surprise reveal, there’s a second serving of Green Eggs & Ham on Netflix.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, N., John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 3/28/19 Old Rossum’s Book Of Pixelated SJW Credentials

(1) APOLLO REUNION. Forbes tells how the picture came to be: “Buzz Aldrin Dazzles In Photo Of Apollo Astronauts”. John A Arkansawyer, who sent the link, says, “But gosh, I love the suit Buzz Aldrin is wearing! It makes me want to go out and punch a goddam liar right in the face.”

The only man between here and the moon capable of pulling off a rocket ship patterned suit, four gold rings, American flag socks, and a double watch combo is Buzz Aldrin, 89. Aldrin was one of eight Apollo astronauts to attend the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner March 16. The dinner also celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969, by Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong who died in 2012. Aldrin and his astronaut brethren were photographed in New York by Felix Kunze whose composite image rocketed to the top of Reddit Sunday evening.

(2) MY TYPE. That item in a recent Scroll about getting your cat its own keyboard? Kalimac sounds like his cat is overdue for one:

I came home from a quick visit to the library to find that a reply, fortunately unsent, had been opened to the e-mail that happened to have been sitting on my desktop at the time I left. The text read:

5v44444444444444444444444jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkumuuuuuuu

Just so you know.

(3) FUNEREAL POSTER. SYFY Wire makes an observation as “All those dusted heroes return(?!) in latest poster for Avengers: Endgame “.

Walt Disney Studios marketing president Asad Ayaz tweeted out the new Chinese poster for Endgame, and aside from giving us some new looks at the living heroes the post-Infinty War team will have to rely on, it also features 14 of the ones who are no longer with us. As with all the rest of Endgame’s intentionally mysterious marketing teases, though, there’s a catch to the way the two groups are presented:

(4) VISA CATASTROPHE ENDS MALAYSIAN CON. Eleven cosplayers from four Asian countries plus the con organizer were taken into custody: “A Dozen Cosplayers Arrested During Immigration Raid at Cosplay Convention”.  

Twelve people without proper work visas were arrested during an immigration raid at a cosplay convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on its first day over the weekend.

The event, Cosplay Festival 4, had a line-up of performances on March 23 when officers from the Immigration Department of Malaysia (Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia/JIM) stormed its venue at the Sunway Putra Hotel around 2 p.m. after receiving a tip.

(5) AMAZON DEVELOPING BUTLER BOOK FOR TV. “‘Wild Seed’: Viola Davis Developing Adaptation Of Octavia Butler Novel At Amazon, Scripted By Nnedi Okorafor And Wanuri Kahiu”: Shadow and Act has the story.

“We love Octavia Butler and her work and have for decades. But Wild Seed is our favorite. It’s expansive, disturbing, and unique. Wild Seed stays with you. It’s a love/hate story of African immortals that connects people on the African continent to the Diaspora. It merges the mystical and the scientific seamlessly. You’re going to see shape-shifting, body jumping, telepaths, people born with the ability to defy the laws of physics, all in the context of our past, present and future world,” said Kahiu and Okorafor.

(6) THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Leonard Maltin says “‘Dumbo’ Begs the Question: Why?”

Disney’s new live-action Dumbo isn’t awful….but it isn’t very good, either. Why waste so much money and talent on a film that is foredoomed to take second place to a classic? I know it’s all about making money, yet surely there are new ideas to pursue instead of constantly reproducing past successes. In this case the bar is set impossibly high. Dumbo is my favorite animated Disney feature. It’s got heart, humor, and originality. What’s more, it tells its story in just over an hour’s time. It’s a perfect movie.

Why Tim Burton would devote himself to a mediocre remake with a bloated script I can’t imagine….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1918 Robert J. Serling . Brother of that Serling. Author of several associational works including Something’s Alive on the Titanic. He wrote “Ghost Writer” published in Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian tinged space opera that was the universe that of the Rim World and John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1942 Mike Newell, 77. Director whose genre work Includes The AwakeningPhotographing Fairies (amazing story, stellar film), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (popcorn film — less filling, mostly tasty), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and two episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to wit “Masks of Evil” and “The Perils of Cupid”.
  • Born March 28, 1981 Gareth David-Lloyd, 48. Best known for playing as Ianto Jones on Doctor Who and Torchwood. John Watson in (what is referred to as a steampunk version by Wiki) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, also known simply as Sherlock Holmes. I also see him in Dark Signal, a supernatural thriller.
  • Born March 28, 1983 Natalie Lander, 36. I adore the amount of characterization that a performer brings to an animated character in the voice work they do. So it is with her work as Stargirl in the Justice League Action series of short animated works done recently. She created a smart and stubborn character who wasn’t going to be second to anyone. 

(8) REDDIT REELING AFTER MCDONALD SMEAR. A moderator of Reddit’s r/Fantasy group was one of the individuals engaged in the character assassination of Ed McDonald. The other moderators, trying to find a way forward, have posted a timeline of what they knew when, plus an apology. Here are excerpts.

WEDNESDAY

All hell broke loose within r/Fantasy. Up became down.

The r/Fantasy mods received information from multiple sources that there appeared to be a smear campaign against Ed McDonald. Retractions were posted from those who had put things out there involving Ed.

Later on Wednesday, we received information that one of the two individuals involved was a longstanding r/Fantasy moderator. WTF.

The r/Fantasy mod team shifted communications to remove that moderator from conversations and, during that process, that mod appears to have deleted his account. No information or other from that former mod.

TODAY – THURSDAY MORNING

We took time to try and sort things out. Again – looking to people across the industry and reputable sources. At this time there are retractions related to Ed McDonald across the internet from those who posted and information building that indicates mis-information was put out there against Ed McDonald. It also appears that one of those individuals was (a former) moderator of r/Fantasy.

The remaining r/Fantasy mods are reeling a bit with this crazy information.

NEXT STEPS

We would like to issue a formal apology to Ed McDonald for what has transpired. Go buy his books and give him a virtual hug. The information out there is incomplete but, at the very least, Ed is owed an apology for the call to ban him for 2019. Of course, he has been reinstated as an active r/Fantasy member.

Ed McDonald

No ill will should be borne towards those that were brought to be a part of something unwittingly. The level and scale of deception used to influence and coerce those that were used against me was extraordinary. And when I say that, unless you have seen the evidence, what you’re imagining by ‘extraordinary’ probably does not even begin to cover it. I’m going to go on stating this because even describing it that way does not begin to explain the lengths, depths and time investment that were put into this. The people who were coerced have been abused and they are also survivors of online stalking. Some of them have posted publicly to say that the perpetrator has groomed them for an entire year.

It is not right to be angry towards those whose trust has been abused. Those that have come forward and publicly apologised must not be blamed or attacked. Not in my name. Not because of this incident.

While I was the target, and the consequences of that targeting would have been life altering and devastating for me if not for the actions of those who believed in me and brought the truth to light, I am not the only survivor of online abuse. The people now discovering that they have spent months, or years, talking to and confiding in someone they believed to be a friend, only to discover that they have been played, are survivors as well.

Secondly, this has nothing to do with gender. I was not targeted because I was male. Due to the nature of the campaign, and because I have never met or spoken to the perpetrator, I do not know whether the person responsible is male or female. Please do not make this a platform for unrelated issues. The issue is entirely one of online harassment and falsification, which could happen to anybody irrespective of who they are.

Be kind to one another. If there’s at least one lesson we can all agree on, it’s surely that.

Author Mark Lawrence, creator of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, shared his own experience with being attacked.

[–]MarkLawrenceStabby Winner, AMA Author Mark Lawrence 136 points 2 hours ago 

It’s remarkably easy to raise a reddit lynch mob.

It happened to me (on a vastly smaller scale) in one thread. Half a dozen accounts – all started that day and all sharing the same word in their title – started calling me a cancer and accusing me of unspecified crimes against new authors.

Most people looking at the thread just saw lots of names saying I was the bad guy and me not lying down and taking my lumps. The one guy with many accounts got lots of upvotes and I was down in negative double digits.

Mods removed my replies.

It was unfortunate but not malicious on anyone’s part but the instigator. Modding a group is hard and there is often a lot going on at once.

The developments of the past few days have actually helped some people discover the author’s work for the first time, while others are trying to counter the toxicity with positive attention, such as Mark Timmony’s review of McDonald’s Blackwing.

(9) SJWC CRISIS. Not all cats live up to their reputation as companions in the quest for social justice…. BBC asks: “Should cats be culled to stop extinctions?”

Scientists are calling for a widespread cull of feral cats and dogs, pigs, goats, and rats and mice to save the endangered species they prey upon.

Their eradication on more than 100 islands could save some of the rarest animals on Earth, says an international team.

Islands have seen 75% of known bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile extinctions over the past 500 years.

Many of the losses are caused by animals introduced by humans.

Not naturally present on islands, they can threaten native wildlife.

“Eradicating invasive mammals from islands is a powerful way to remove a key threat to island species and prevent extinctions and conserve biodiversity,” said Dr Nick Holmes, from the group Island Conservation.

(10) SPACESUITS AREN’T THE ONLY PROBLEM. BBC finds way too much science gear is available only in large sizes: “One small step for man, but women still have to leap”.

Nasa has cancelled plans for its first all-female spacewalk this Friday, citing a lack of available spacesuits in the right size.

There are not enough suits configured on the International Space Station for both Christina Koch and Anne McClain to go out at the same time, so male astronaut Nick Hague will replace Lt Col McClain.

Last week, Lt Col McClain went on a spacewalk with Col Hague and learned that a medium-sized spacesuit fitted her best.

However, Nasa said in a statement: “Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday 29 March, Koch will wear it.”

For many women working in science, a choice between using equipment designed for men or missing out altogether is all too familiar.

(11) BITS BECOME BITERS. Or something like that: “Britain’s ‘bullied’ chatbots fight back”.

UK chatbot companies are programming their creations to deal with messages containing swearing, rudeness and sexism, BBC News has learned.

Chatbots have received thousands of antisocial messages over the past year.

One financial chatbot has been asked out on a date nearly 2,000 times and to “send nude [picture]s” more than 1,000, according to its makers, Cleo AI.

The chatbot now responds to the request by sending an image of a circuit board.

(12) MORE INTERNET TOXICITY. Apparently it far exceeds the ratio predicted by Sturgeon’s Law: “‘The biggest, strangest problem I could find to study'”.

Businesses are under siege every second of every day, bombarded by a “grey noise” of potentially harmful web traffic seeking access to their networks. But IT staff often can’t tell the malicious traffic from the benign. Why?

If your office building were visited thousands of times a day by criminals peering through the windows seeking a way in, you’d be understandably nervous about hanging around.

Yet any organisation with an online presence gets exactly this type of unwelcome attention all the time.

Security researcher Andrew Morris calls this constant barrage “grey noise” and has started a company of the same name with a mission of logging, analysing and understanding it.

…In 2018, Mr Morris’s network was hit by up to four million attacks a day. His honey-pot computers process between 750 and 2,000 connection requests per second – the exact rate depends on how busy the bad guys are at any given moment.

His analysis shows that only a small percentage of the traffic is benign.

That fraction comes from search engines indexing websites or organisations such as the Internet Archive scraping sites. Some comes from security companies and other researchers.

The rest of the internet’s background noise – about 95% – is malicious.

(13) MAKING A SPECTRE OF HERSELF. TIME Magazine dutifully published the official disclaimer. But the truth is out there! “‘As Far As We Know All Our Stores Are Ghost-Free.’ Supermarket Responds to Frozen Aisle Haunting Post”.

The employee, Christiana Bush, who works in the store’s bakery department, posted about the ghost sighting in a local, private Facebook group. ”This is going to sound really strange….but has anyone seen a ghost in the Wilmington market basket?” she wrote according to the Boston Globe. Adding that after she saw the woman, she looked to see if anyone else was catching a glimpse of the apparition and when she looked back she was gone.

“She looked kind of like melancholy and a little angry. So it was kind of a creepy kind of sense, but it was something,” Bush said Monday, according to the local NBC affiliate. She believes the woman was a ghost and asked the Facebook group whether anyone else had a paranormal experience in her store. The modern day ghost story has since gone viral with people across the country weighing in on the likelihood of a Victorian era ghost choosing to haunt a Market Basket.

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