Pixel Scroll 7/2/21 Fun Fact. -40 Pixels Are The Same Amount Of Scrolls In Both Celsius And Fahrenheit

(1) BOOMING BOX OFFICE. The Hollywood Reporter marks the coming Fourth of July with a chronicle about the making of a blockbuster that was released 25 years ago on this holiday weekend: “’You Can’t Actually Blow Up the White House’: An Oral History of ‘Independence Day’”

…Director Roland Emmerich, writer Dean Devlin and stars Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Randy Quaid and more look back at the battle to cast Will Smith, concerns over that famous Super Bowl ad, and a last-minute reshoot to save the ending.

DEVLIN The one character we had in our mind from day one was Jeff Goldblum. As we were working on the script, I would do my Jeff Goldblum imitation. Then we were basing his father [Judd Hirsch’s Julius] off of my grandfather, who was also named Julius.

EMMERICH Ethan Hawke was on our list too, but I thought at that time he was too young. It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. That was the combo we thought. The studio said, “No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets].”

DEVLIN They said, “You cast a Black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office].” Our argument was, “Well, the movie is about space aliens. It’s going to do fine foreign.” It was a big war, and Roland really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war.

EMMERICH It was pretty shortly before the shoot and we still hadn’t locked in Will and Jeff. I put my foot down. “Universal people are calling every day, so give me these two actors or I move over there.” I don’t think it would have been a possibility [to actually move studios], but it was a great threat….

DEVLIN One of the things we had very early on was the idea of blowing up the White House in a TV ad. 

EMMERICH It was very controversial. I had this idea that the ad is: the second of July, you see the shadows; third of July, you have the fire coming through; Fourth of July, the White House explodes. It was such a simple concept, and Fox hated it.

DEVLIN “You can’t actually blow up the White House in a TV spot.” Roland said, “Why?” And [Fox] said, “Well, because what happened in Oklahoma [City, where on April 19, 1995, anti-government extremists detonated a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing over 150]. It could be seen as insensitive.” And I said, “Yeah, but that wasn’t done by space aliens.”

EMMERICH I said, “We’ll test it: once with the White House, and once without.” [Fox exec] liked it so much when they saw the test result, they decided — in a very smart and clever move — that they would put this as the first commercial on the Super Bowl….

(2) NEW CHINA SF NEWS MONTHLY COMING. Regina Kanyu Wang signal-boosted plans to publish the “World Science Fiction Bulletin” in China, and called upon the science fiction community to help in “gathering clues about the latest news in world SF!”

Please fill in the Google Docs form to provide information:

This form is to gather information for “World Science Fiction Bulletin”, a monthly mini-magazine to introduce the latest science fiction news to Chinese readers. The mini-magazine will be published in Chinese in both paper and e-version, and will be compiled into an annual anthology at the end of a year.

It is a great chance to showcase what SF-related events happening in your own country/region, what are being published/broadcast, and what the fans love. It will serve as a window for the Chinese fans to learn about SF all over the world, as well as a platform for future communication and opportunities like publishing/visiting China.

We are looking for three kinds of information (which should happen in the year 2021):

1. Latest news in SF (conventions, awards, important publications, and etc.)

2. Important works (fictions/non-fictions, movies, TV series, comics, games, and etc.)

3. Regular information provider/writer (who would like to constantly join the project, communicate more with Chinese SF community, and even write articles for the project – the writing language should be in English and there will be payment.)

You may fill in the form multiple times. Thank you so much for your support and please feel free to spread the form as widely as possible!

(3) ALL ABOUT THE BOOKS. In “6 Books with Cat Rambo”, Paul Weimer takes the author through Nerds of a Feather’s standard questions, including –

 1. What book are you currently reading? 

I just started Devices and Desires by K.J. Parker, book one of a fantasy (ish) trilogy. I’m enjoying it because it talks about one of my favorite things, the economics of a world, and how trade and other market forces drive civilizations.  No magic whatsoever! But lots of lovely details and interesting characters, and a slow-burning epistolary romance. I love fantasy that thinks about the economics of things because it feels so much better thought out than some of the cartoonier books.

(4) THE ANSWER IS… Camestros Felapton, in “Debarkle Chapter 45 – The Reviews (April to July)”, provides an overview of the efforts to review the slated finalists on the 2015 Hugo ballot.

…As leader of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign, Brad Torgersen had appealed to critics of his slate to read the works nominated and evaluate them fairly. Proponents of the No Award Strategy argued that the impact of slate voting (particularly from the Rabid Puppy campaign) meant that even a reasonable works was compromised as a finalist by the Puppy slates. In those categories where there was a single non-slated finalist (such as Best Fan Writer and Best Novelette) even the non-slated finalist was competing against a field that many fans regarded as illegitimate.

A pertinent question then was whether the 2015 finalists were any good….

(5) THE INSIDE STORY. Sarah Chorn discusses “Writing with an Emotional Landscape” at Bookworm Blues.

The other day, my parents came to visit. My dad and I were talking and he asked, “What are your books known for?” I thought about it for a minute and then said, “I’m pretty sure I’m known for writing with emotional intensity.” My dad laughed and said, “You’ve always been pretty emotionally intense.”

I have been, I know that. I have often experienced and interpreted the world through a kaleidoscope of emotions. When I have a story idea, it’s not the situation that interests me as much as the emotions that get all tangled up in these moments. It’s that tangled emotional web I like to explore. I tend to think the character’s inner journey is just as important, if not more so, than the story itself. I’m one of those people who likes it when authors make me cry. That’s when the book stops being something I’m reading, and starts being something I am living….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes listeners will dig into dolmades with agent extraordinaire Joshua Bilmes on episode 148 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Joshua Bilmes

My guest this time around — for my first face-to-face-in-restaurant meal in 466 days — is agent Joshua Bilmes, and the reason we were able to get together is because I learned — back when we chatted before our panel on “Using Writing Prompts and Exercises Effectively” during the virtual Balticon — that he was going to be visiting nearby. We decided to meet for lunch at Rockville, Maryland’s Mykonos Grill, which Washington Post food writer Tom Sietsema included at the end of May, on his list of “7 Favorite Places to Eat Right Now.”

Joshua Bilmes is the President of JABberwocky Literary Agency, which he founded in 1994. He began his agenting career at the famed Scott Meredith Literary Agency in 1986. His best-selling clients include Brandon Sanderson (whose fantasy novels have sold more than 18 million copies), Charlaine Harris (one of the rare authors whose writing has inspired three different television shows), Peter V. Brett (whose Demon Cycle series has sold more than 3.5 million books), and many others. I’ve lost count of the number of convention panels Joshua has been on with me in addition to the one I mentioned earlier, everything from “There is No Finish Line: Momentum for Writers” to “How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft” to “How to Incorporate Critique” — further proof he definitely has a handle on the way the writing and publishing work.

We discussed how the COVID-19 lockdown impacted the publishing industry, what he learned by visiting 238 Borders bookstores, the offer he’s made to bookstore employees he’s surprised has never been taken up, how writing letters to Analog led to his career as an agent, what life was like at the famed Scott Meredith literary agency, the fact which had he but known he might not have gone out on his own as an agent, why he’s had to redefine what “pleasure” means, what he has to say to people who think they don’t need agents, the sixth sense he possesses which helps him choose new clients, and much more.

(7) NAMES TO RECKON WITH. Archaic Media poses “10 Questions for Jack Dann”.

Was the New Wave SF influential to you?

Well, I would have to give that question an emphatic ‘yes’, especially as I was fortunate enough to be a part of the movement, although, along with writers such as Gardner Dozois, George Alec Effinger, Michael Bishop, Ed Bryant, John Shirley, A. A. Attanasio, I came in towards the end. Writers such as J. G. Ballard, Joanna Russ, Brian Aldiss, Samuel Delany, Bob Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm, Carol Emshwiller, Harlan, Tom Disch, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michael Moorcock, to name but a few off the top of my head, influenced my writing.

I began publishing in Bob Silverberg’s New Dimensions series, Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, and Damon Knight’s Orbit series. I sold a story to Harlan’s ill-fated Last Dangerous Visions, met other writers at Damon and Kate’s continuous New Wave literary soiree at their old mansion called The Anchorage in Milford, Pennsylvania; and remember with joy and nostalgia what it felt like to be part of a literary zeitgeist.

(8) HWA PRIDE. An “Interview with Norman Prentiss” is the latest “Point of Pride” from the Horror Writers Association Blog.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Horror stories always struck me as sardonic fun, and a good fit for my morbid sense of humor. The genre offers a great introduction to storytelling, since pace and atmosphere are so important, and the surprise endings of so many Twilight Zone or EC Comics-style stories made me think like a writer, trying to guess where a story was headed.

Later in life I realized my youthful attraction to horror also connected to my awkward, mostly-repressed queer identity. The protagonists of horror stories might be bookish nerds, loners, outsiders. And the monsters, too (well, maybe not the bookish part, except for Shelley’s creature). That idea of otherness resonates with a lot of gay youth, I think, especially when I was growing up.

(9) TINGLE TALK. The Vox article about Isabel Fall’s story prompted Chuck Tingle to make extended comments on Twitter. Thread starts here.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 2, 1939 – On this day in 1939, the first Worldcon convenes in New York, and continues through July 4. Attendance was reported at being around two hundred. It was held in the Caravan Hall in New York at the same time as the New York World’s Fair was going on and the latter was themed as The World of Tomorrow. The Guest of Honor was Frank R. Paul and the con was chaired by Sam Moskowitz. It called itself the World Science Fiction Convention, and has subsequently been called Nycon I and the 1939 Worldcon.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 2, 1908 — Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at The Millennium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. And no, I’ve no idea what the latter is. (Died 1965.)
  • Born July 2, 1914 — Hannes Bok. He’s a writer, artist and illustrator created nearly one hundred fifty covers for various detective, fantasy and sf fiction magazines. He shared one of the inaugural 1953 Hugo Awards for science fiction achievement for Best Cover Artist with Ed Emshwiller.  He also wrote a handful of novels, the best known being The Sorcerer’s Ship, The Blue Flamingo and Beyond the Golden Stair. (Died 1964.)
  • Born July 2, 1927 — Brock Peters. His first genre role is in Soylent Green as Lieutenant Hatcher, and he’ll follow that up by being in The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country as Fleet Admiral Cartwright, and notably he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 2, 1931 — Robert Ito, 90. Though you’ll best remember him as being in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Professor Hikita, his first genre role was actually an uncredited role in Get Smart!, the first of a lot of genre roles including, but not limited to,  Women of the Prehistoric PlanetSoylent GreenRoller BallThe Terminal ManStar Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: The Next Generation and more voice work than I can possibly list here though he had a long recurring role as The Mandarin on Iron Man.
  • Born July 2, 1948 — Saul Rubinek, 73. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he has worked rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. 
  • Born July 2, 1950 — Stephen R. Lawhead, 71. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two books in the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. 
  • Born July 2, 1956 — Kay Kenyon, 63. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read her Dark Talents series, so opinions please. And she was nominated for three Endeavour Awards which is very impressive. 
  • Born July 2, 1970 — Yancy Butler, 51. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SURVIVOR. Elizabeth Bear has posted the video of “AHSS Presents a conversation with Elizabeth Bear ‘How to Survive a Literary Life’” on YouTube.

There’s a lot of information out there on how to perfect your work and seek publication. There’s not as much about how to deal with the stresses of writing for a living—inconsistent income streams, uncertainty, arbitrariness of the market, mental health issues, public exposure, professional jealousy, exploitative contracts, and more.

(14) CAN THIS BE PLAYED FOR MONEY? BBC World Service’s Business Daily asks “How would we trade with aliens?” – audio at BBC Sounds.

A US government report on UFOs has said there was no clear explanation for the unidentified aircraft, but did not rule out extra-terrestrial origin. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested into searching for signs of alien intelligence. 

Ed Butler speaks to Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University, who has analysed the closest, most likely planets to support alien life. If, or when, we do make contact what could we trade with our new neighbours? 

David Brin, a science fiction writer and astro-physicist says our culture would be the most easily exchanged aspect of our civilisation. 

And what about making money on Earth from the continued interest in aliens? Juanita Jennings is the public affairs director for the town of Roswell, New Mexico, site of the most famous UFO sighting. 

(15) GAMES THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the June 30 Financial Times, Tom Faber, reports from the E3 trade show about Wholesome Games, which creator Matthew Taylor says specializes in “Uplifting and thoughtful” games.

‘Wholesome’ refers to a tone rather than a gameplay genre.  Most examples are brightly colored with charming characters and storylines that eschew saving the world in favour of more mundane goals:  cooking, farming, hiking, fishing, looking after a pet.  Instead of gamifying lust and punishing failure, wholesome games often elicit empathy and kindness via a more positive mechanic sometimes known as ‘friend and befriend.’

A sample from this year’s Wholesome Direct showcase includes games where you can play a farming cat, a skateboarding pigeon, or, approaching wholesomeness terminal velocity, a cafe owner brewing artisan tea–for cats.

(16) FOLLOW THE MONEY. “The ‘Metaverse’ is growing. And now you can directly invest in it” reports the Washington Post.

… “Like the mobile Internet and the fixed-line Internet before it, the Metaverse will transform nearly every industry and involve the creation of countless new businesses,” said Matthew Ball, managing partner of venture firm EpyllionCo. Ball, along with his group, created the index and has written influential essays on the ongoing evolution of the Metaverse.

Joining Ball on the ETF’s council are: Jerry Heinz, former head of enterprise cloud services at Nvidia; Jacob Navok, co-founder and chief executive of Genvid Technologies; Jesse Walden, managing partner of Variant Fund; Jonathan Glick, former New York Times senior vice president of product and technology; Anna Sweet, chief executive of Bad Robot Games; and Imran Sarwar, formerly from Rockstar North where, among other projects, he worked as co-producer and designer of “Red Dead Redemption 2” and “Grand Theft Auto Online,” the most profitable entertainment product ever made.

… But the Metaverse is more than just a game that incorporates other companies’ intellectual property. Instead, it’s an Internet where people will more tangibly replicate many common aspects of real world life, including socialization, commerce and entertainment.

Ball has written several essays in recent years that popularized observations on the Metaverse. As part of the fund, Ball is writing an additional series of essays that establish the framework of the Metaverse, and how to think of it.

Just as the iPhone or Facebook can’t be called the Internet, neither can one video game — whether it’s “Fortnite” or “Roblox” — can be referred to as the Metaverse, Ball said. But video games help widespread acclimation and understanding of how a Metaverse can operate. Ball writes in his essay detailing the slow but steady industrial adoption of electricity, and compared it to the rise of the mobile Internet and the factors that led to the groundbreaking invention of the iPhone….

(17) BLUE YONDER. In the Washington Post, Taylor Telford profiles Wally Funk, 82, who was one of 13 women selected for the Mercury program but will go to space for the first time on Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket along with Bezons, Mark Bezos, and one lucky raffle winner. “Wally Funk was supposed to go to space 60 years ago. Now she’s going with Jeff Bezos.”

.. Blue Origin has said travelers must be able to endure three times the force of gravity for two minutes on ascent and 5½ times the force of gravity for a few seconds on the way down. Participants must be between 5 feet and 6-feet-4-inches tall and weigh between 110 and 223 pounds. As a young girl, Funk used to jump off the roof of her parents’ barn in a Superman cape, pretending to fly. She loved to build model planes and ships, became an “expert marksman” at 14 and skied competitively for the United States in slalom and downhill races. She has been flying since 1957. She is also an antique car enthusiast and “avid zipliner,” according to her website.

When NASA finally opened its programs to women in 1976, Funk applied three times and received three rejections. But she has never been the type to let anything stand in her way, she says in the video.

“I like to do things that nobody has ever done,” Funk said….

(18) TRIVIAL TRIVIA COURTESY OF PHIL NICHOLS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] A  frame from Truffaut’s 1968 film Stolen Kisses (Baisers volés). Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) returns to his apartment, and the first thing he does is take down this red toy car emblazoned with the salamander logo from Fahrenheit 451. One of many cross-references between Truffaut films!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Merman meets mustached characters – and more! Honest Trailers’ fills you in about Pixar’s Luca.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Gottacook, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/21 Scroll Up The Usual Pixels

(1) NEBULA MUSIC. The 56th Annual Nebula Award winners post is at the link. Below, you can watch host Aydrea Walden’s fantastic song referencing all 40 finalists, then hear the great acceptance speeches:

(2) DEBARKLE. Camestros Felapton’s history of the Puppy slates and how they illuminate right wing politics has reached the announcement of the 2015 Hugo finalists, which were overwhelmingly Puppy: “Debarkle Chapter 39: April — Part 1, the Finalists”.

…In the headline Best Novel category, the combined Sad and Rabid Puppy slates had won three of the five finalist positions but would have won four out of five if Correia had not withdrawn. The Sad Puppy nominated Baen book Trial by Fire by Charles E. Gannon and the Rabid Puppy nominated Baen book The Chaplain’s War by Brad Torgersen both fell a few votes short of being a finalist. The addition of Correia’s withdrawal meant that despite everything, once again no Baen novels were Hugo finalists. In an added irony, one of the two Tor published novels in the finalists was the Sad/Rabid Puppy nominated The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson.

In the next chapters, we will look at some of the immediate and later reactions to the Puppy sweep of the finalists. However, in this chapter, I want to concentrate on the shifting nature of the finalists.

In the days that followed many of the people co-opted by Torgersen and Day as nominees for their slates discussed their inclusion. Matthew David Surridge, a writer at The Black Gate fanzine and a nominee on both the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates for Best Fan Writer, explained that he had declined a nomination.

… Surridge had discovered accidentally that he was on the slates in February but thinking that it was unlikely that he’d be a finalist, he had ignored them. When contacted by the Hugo administrators, he declined. Surridge declining meant that Laura Mixon, author of the report on Requires Hate, became a finalist, which also meant that Best Fan Writer had one non-Puppy nominated finalist.

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman gets to break a 428-day streak with Karen Osborne in Episode 146 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Karen Osborne

Up until my meal with writer Karen Osborne on which you’ll be eavesdropping this episode, it had been 428 days since I’d last seen an unmasked face other than my wife or son. (Except on Zoom, that is.) Due to COVID-19, I hadn’t been able to pull off that kind face-to-face chatting and chewing since Episode 117, recorded in March 2020 with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Michael Dirda. I’m more thrilled that I can possibly convey to begin the slow crawl back to a new normal.

Karen Osborne was a Nebula Award finalist last year for her short story “The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power.” Her fiction has appeared in UncannyFiresideEscape PodRobot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her debut novel, Architects of Memory, the first book of The Memory War series, was published in September 2020 by Tor Books, and its sequel, Engines of Oblivion, was published this past February. She’s the emcee for the Charm City Spec reading series, has won a filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding, and most importantly, accompanied me on the theremin during my late-night ukulele singalong when I was Guest of Honor a few years back at the Baltimore World Fantasy Convention.

We discussed her biggest surprise after signing with an agent for her first novel, how she was able to celebrate the launch of that debut book and a Nebula nomination during the COVID-19 lockdown, what you need to keep in your head to never go wrong about a character’s motivations, how the Viable Paradise writing workshop taught her to lean in on her weird, the favorite line she’s ever written, how she wrote fanfic of her own characters to better understand them, why she doesn’t want her daughter to read her second novel until she’s 13, the way Star Trek: The Next Generation changed her life, how the Clarion workshop taught her to let go of caring what other people think of her writing, what Levar Burton means to her childhood, and much more.

(4) NOW FOR ANOTHER MUSICAL NUMBER. Nerdist says the promise is finally fulfilled: “Starlight’s Ballad from THE BOYS Season 2 Gets Full Music Video”.

Season two of The Boys put star Erin Moriarty’s musical chops on display. The first episode of the bunch set the action at the funeral of deceased Seven fixture Translucent; the emotional, and highly publicized event gave Moriarty’s character Starlight a chance to sing her heart out. However, viewers of the Amazon Prime series only got a snippet of the ballad, titled “Never Truly Vanished.” Creative forces behind the program always intended to release a longer version by way of a formal music video.

Showrunner Eric Kripke made mention of these plans to CinemaBlend back in September, just after the season had dropped online. As with so many other productions, constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic waylaid said plans. But now that things are a bit safer in the macro, the The Boys team has come together to give us the music video once promised. Take a gander below at Starlight’s rendition of “Never Truly Vanished.”

(5) SORTED. Patrick Susmilch at Hard Drive says “Progress: We Finally Have a Female Orson Scott Card” – and it’s J.K. Rowling.

Young adult fiction fans are rejoicing as the literature world finally has a female equivalent to Orson Scott Card now that J.K. Rowling’s recent series of anti-trans tweets and a 3,600 word essay have given them an opportunity to be disappointed by a female author’s hatred. 

“I’m used to seeing tears on a reader’s face when I explain that the author of Ender’s Game believes that homosexuality is caused by child abuse,” said librarian Jennifer Kinsley, “but it’s a huge step forward to have to explain to young fans that their favorite female author believes that only women menstruate and that trans women are secretly trying to molest them in gender-neutral bathrooms.”…

(6) CENTER NAMES FELLOWS. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination has announced its inaugural class of Applied Imagination Fellows, “who will work over the next year on projects to catalyze transformative change and advance visions of inclusive futures in partnership with communities around the world.”

Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang who is one of them:

So excited and honored to be part of the cohort! I am an imagination fellow of CSI@ASU this year!

I will create a series of video interviews with female science fiction authors, editors and fans, as well as scientists and entrepreneurs, from across China, both to foreground the creative vitality of women imagining and creating the future and to explore how these creators promote nondualistic thinking in their work, as a way to reframe conflicts and imagine a more inclusive, harmonious future. This will also be part of my PhD project at CoFUTURES, UiO.

(7) THE 50K FURSUIT. Here is an interesting confluence of fandom, tech and venture capital: “$50,000 FURSUIT: crypto-fueled bidding smashes auction record at The Dealers Den”Dogpatch Press has the story.

The new all-time fursuit auction record is worth a nice car or some people’s yearly income. (Highest commission is a different number.) It’s been 3 years since the last record by MixedCandy: A look at furry business with a $17,017 record fursuit auction price, July 2018.

Shifting winds of tech and business helped make this possible; it has to do with porn, politics, and payment providers. We’ll get into that… but I’m sure that wasn’t on the mind of Zuri Studios and Sabi, the owner/maker based in the Czech Republic with a fluffalicious folio of “god tier fursuits“.

Sabi just found out there’s no business like sew business.

…Tripling the record since 2018 gets steaming hot takes on social media. How can any suit be worth so much? 

Like any painting or original object, it’s because something’s rare and someone’s willing to pay. (Try offering less for this one!) The price isn’t just the worth of one costume; it’s for years of school and practice, growing clients and a business, and developing networks for knowledge, trade and materials. Fursuits aren’t art to hang on the wall, they’re eye candy you hug at cons. When live events thrive, it makes a market. But you don’t have to fight for this fursuit when there’s makers for many budgets, who share free DIY maker knowledge. Just remember it isn’t a get-rich business, one fursuit isn’t a goldmine, the market isn’t cornered, and it’s not a payday for a big corporation. There’s more room for makers to be pro-fans when one can get such a big reward.

But how does that kind of purchasing power come from furries?…

(8) HWA PRIDE. Horror Writers Association starts its Pride Month thematic posts with “A Point of Pride: Interview with Greg Herren”.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Horror is one of the few forms of art—regardless of form, whether it’s the written word or a visual medium—that can evoke a visceral reaction from the audience—physical, emotional, intellectual—and I’ve always thought that was impressive.

I’ve always loved being scared (which is weird, now that I think about it). When I was a kid, my grandmother introduced me to crime and suspense movies, and she also loved what she called (and I still call them this in my head) “scary movies”—I don’t think she ever called them horror—and I also loved the haunted houses at amusement parks. I’ve always, as long as I can remember, been partial to ghost stories more than anything else….

(9) APPROVAL RATING. [Item by Rich Horton.] I stumbled into a Twitter thread about yesterday’s episode of Mythic Quest, which showed C. W. Longbottom working for “Amazing Tales” in 1972, and winning a Nebula for “Best Debut Novel” (!) in 1973 for a novel he wrote that Isaac Asimov basically rewrote …  And the Nebula they used was a misprinted Nebula made in 2005 that they got from Steven Silver! Thread starts here. (Mythic Quest is an uneven show, but when it’s on, it can be wonderful!)

(10) KRAFT OBIT. David Anthony Kraft, who worked on The Defenders, Captain America and Man-Wolf early in his career, died of complications of the coronavirus on May 19. The New York Times tribute is here: “David Anthony Kraft, Comic Book Writer and Chronicler, Dies at 68”.

…Growing up as a boy in small-town North Dakota, David Anthony Kraft escaped into the world of comic books. He read issues of The Incredible Hulk hidden in his textbooks at school. He trudged through snow during brutal winters to buy the latest adventure of Thor.

When he was 12, he decided to write his own comics, so he installed a desk and a lamp in a closet at home. His stepmother soon found him scribbling away.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m writing,” he said. “This is my office.”

“What makes you think you can be a writer?”

“I will be a writer. And I’m going to work for Marvel.”

At least in his retelling, so began the real-life superhero origin story of David Anthony Kraft.

Soon enough, he sold a piece to Amazing Stories. In his teens, he wrote tales for pulpy horror comics. He developed a correspondence with Marvel’s offices in New York, and he kept asking about job openings. When he was 22, they asked him to try out for a junior staff position, and he drove to the city on his motorcycle, arriving at Marvel’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters in 1974.

Mr. Kraft became one of Marvel’s writers during the 1970s and ’80s. He was known for his work on The Defenders and on titles like Captain America and Man-Wolf. He wrote nearly the entire run of The Savage She-Hulk….

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1971 — Fifty years ago at Noreascon I, the Hugo for Best Short Story went to Theodore Sturgeon for “Slow Sculpture”. It was published in Galaxy, February 1970. Other nominated works were  “Continued on Next Rock” by R. A. Lafferty (Orbit #7, 1970) “Jean Duprès” by Gordon R. Dickson (Nova #1, 1970) “In the Queue” by Keith Laumer [Orbit #7, 1970] “Brillo” by Ben Bova and Harlan Ellison (Analog, August 1970). It is available from the usual suspects in his Slow Sculpture collection at a very reasonable price.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 5, 1844 — L. T. Meade. Author of series aimed generally at girls but who wrote several genre series as well, to wit Stories of the Sanctuary ClubThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings and The Sorceress of the Strand. All of these were co-written by Robert Eustace. Meade and Eustace also created the occult detective and palmist Diana Marburg in “The Oracle of Maddox Street” found initially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1902. (Died 1924.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1928 — Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a Roddenberry series that would have starred him and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as the Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1899 – Boris Artzybasheff.  Prolific graphic artist in and out of our field; two hundred covers for Time (one was Craig Rice – pen name of Georgiana Craig – first mystery-fiction writer shown there, 28 Jan 46).  Here is his cover for The Circus of Dr. Lao – he did its interiors too; here is The Incomplete Enchanter.  Here is a commercial illustration, “Steel”; here is Buckminster Fuller.  Don’t miss Artzybasheff in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  Book of his artwork, As I See (rev. 2008).  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1908 – John Fearn.  British author of SF, crime fiction, Westerns; fairground assistant, cinema projectionist; wrote under two dozen names.  Two hundred books in our field, two hundred eighty shorter stories.  Guest of Honour at Eastercon 2.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1931 – Barbara Paul, age 90.  She says, “I did not grow up reading science fiction…. I was one of those smug mundanes who thought ‘sci-fi’ was all death-rays and aluminum-foil spacesuits and Robby the Robot.  (Well, maybe sci-fi is, but not SF.)  It wasn’t until my son, eleven at the time, handed me a book of short stories by Robert Sheckley that I began to realize what I’d been missing.”  For us, six novels (I’m counting Liars and Tyrants and People who Turn Blue, which depends upon a psychic character), a dozen and a half shorter stories; more of other kinds e.g. detectives.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1946 — John Bach, 75. Einstein on Farscape (though he was deliberately uncredited for most of the series), the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Also a British body guard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1953 — Kathleen Kennedy, 68. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say of which at least half are genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark  as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1960 – Margo Lanagan, age 61. A dozen novels, six dozen shorter stories, in our field; among the two dozen contributors to “Celebrating 50 Years of Locus” in Locus 687.  Four Ditmars, six Aurealis awards, three World Fantasy awards.  Recent collection, Stray Bats.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1964 – P.J. Haarsma, age 57.  Author, photographer.  Co-founder of Kids Need to Read.  Four Rings of Orbis books, two Spectrum comics (with Alan Tudyk, Sarah Stone) in that world, and an electronic role-playing game.  Crowd-funded $3.2 million to start Con Man (television).  Redbear Films commercial production.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1976 — Lauren Beukes, 45. South African writer and scriptwriter.  Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel. And The Shining Girls would win her an August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. Afterland, her latest genre novel, was on the long list for a NOMMO. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1980 – Timo Kümmel, age 41.  One novel, five dozen covers, twoscore interiors.  Here is The Time Machine of Charlemagne.  Here is Hello Summer, Goodbye.  Here is Exodus 33.  Here is The Eternity Project.  Here is phantastisch! 81.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump features a celebrity’s relative.
  • Macanudo describes a particular danger of witchcraft:

(14) DROP A DIME, YOU CAN CALL ME ANYTIME. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd weighs in on the government’s UFO report: “E.T., Phone Me!”

…Who on Earth wanted a “Friends” reunion, and why in heaven’s name doesn’t anyone from the Biden White House return my calls?

We must consider the terrestrials in our midst who seem very extraterrestrial. Mitch McConnell and Marjorie Taylor Greene are in no strict sense earthlings.

And yet not since Michael Rennie’s Klaatu and his all-powerful robot, Gort, landed their flying saucer on the Mall in the 1951 movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still” has the capital been so riveted by the possibility of aliens hovering.

Carbon-based life-forms are eagerly awaiting a report by intelligence officials about aerial phenomena lighting up the skies in recent years, mysterious objects witnessed and recorded by Navy pilots.

After reading The New York Times story on what the report will say, Luis Elizondo, who once ran the Pentagon’s secret program on U.F.O.s, tweeted, “If The New York Times reporting is accurate, the objects being witnessed by pilots around the world are far more advanced than any earthly technologies known to our intelligence services.”

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that a government that couldn’t get it together to prevent a primitive mob from attacking the seat of government on Jan. 6 can’t figure out a series of close encounters.

Could it be that we are not the center of the universe? The truth, if it’s out there, certainly isn’t in the report.

As Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper wrote in The Times, intelligence officials said they have found no evidence that the mysterious sightings are alien spacecraft. But they have also found no evidence that they’re not.

(15) THE LEADER. If your eyeballs haven’t been abused enough already, Jon Del Arroz takes his victory lap on Vox Day’s blog: “JDA defeats Worldcon” [Internet Archive link].

… I followed Vox’s lead and decided to fight it with everything I had. We filed suit for defamation and have been engaged in a long court battle for nearly 4 years. Finally, WorldCon opted to settle and wrote me a formal, public apology and gave us financial compensation…

(16) FINE BY FEYNMAN. Priyamvada Natarajan reviews three science books for The New York Review of Books in “All Things Great and Small”.

…Three new books examine our current understanding of matter’s origin and qualities, and chronicle our continuing quest to probe beyond atoms. Neutron Stars: The Quest to Understand the Zombies of the Cosmos by Katia Moskvitch, a science writer, explores recent research into the super-dense remains of stars ten times more massive than our Sun, whose precise material composition has eluded us. The astrophysicist Katie Mack’s The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) shows how the contents of our universe—matter and energy—determine its destiny and, ultimately, its demise. In Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality, the physicist Frank Wilczek, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004, addresses new discoveries that are leading to a reassessment of the atomic hypothesis. He explains how notions of matter have changed over the past decades from “all things are made of atoms” to “all things are made of elementary particles”—the expanding list of which includes quarks, gluons, muons, and the recently discovered Higgs boson….

(17) HISTORIC PLAQUE. Via Alison Scott:

(18) A WHIFF OF THINGTIME. Atlas Obscura traces “How a Giant, Stinky, Delightful Corpse Flower Got to an Abandoned Gas Station” and interviews its keeper.

…Many of us doted on houseplants, but probably not the way that Solomon Leyva did. Leyva lives in AlamedaCalifornia, an island just west of Oakland, where he raises and sells cacti, succulents, and rare plants. One of Leyva’s pandemic-era pals was a titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), a gargantuan plant better known as the corpse flower on account of the unmistakably unsavory stench of its blooms. The plant usually shows off like this only once every several years—and when it does, its glorious fringe wilts after just a day or two. So, when Leyva’s titan arum bloomed in May, he lugged it onto a wagon and rolled it to a patch of asphalt in front of an abandoned gas station, so human neighbors could come say hello….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: Omori,” which comes with a spoiler warning, Fandom Games argues that Omori’s creators succeeded in creating one of the most depressing video games ever, with “a fairly simple story that stretched out to 20 hours.”

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Peer, Rich Horton, Patch O’Furr, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/21 We Were Somewhere Around Scrollstow On The Edge Of Fandom When The Files Began To Take Hold

(1) HISTORY-MAKING NOVELETTES. At the SF Award Database, Mark Kelly has released his list of the Top 100 Novelettes in sff history, with the first 20 annotated: “Top SF/F/H Novelettes”.

On top: “Nightfall” by Isaac Asimov (1941). Here’s the link to his “Short Fiction Ranking Introduction and Methodology”.

Kelly posted the “Top SF/F/H Short Stories” a few months ago. “Bears Discover Fire” by Terry Bisson headed that list. Pages for other categories are in process.

(2) YOUR NEW FAVORITE PROF. N.K. Jemisin has joined the ranks of Master Class instructors.

(3) ESSENCE OF WONDER. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron is hosting a two-part panels on “Exploring Chinese Science Fiction Multi-dimensionally: Fiction, Translation, Fandom, Industry, and More” on Saturday, April 24 at 3 p.m. Eastern. Register at the link.

Join us for two panels on Chinese science fiction explored from multiple outlooks, from the fiction itself, through the translation and the fans, and all the way to the industry. The show is co-hosted by Regina Kanyu Wang and Yen Ooi, with our panelists: Chen Qiufan, Fend Chang, Emily Xueni Jin, Christine Ni, Angus Stewart, and Guangzhao Lyu. More details below.

There will be a segment on Asia and another on Europe.

(4) KICKS IN SIXTY-SIX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov, in his autobiography In Joy Still Felt, discusses how he was master of ceremonies at the 1966 Worldcon.  He was also nominated for a special Hugo for “Best All-Time Novel Series,” where he competed against The Lord Of The Rings and series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert A. Heinlein, and E.E. Smith.  Hugos then were given at a banquet.

I felt Tolkien was certain to win, and fairly so, and that Heinlein, Smith, and Burroughs all had enough devotees among the young fans attending the convention (and who did the voting) to give each a good shot at second place.  Foundation, I felt, would finish in last place, and I grieved at being the sacrificial lamb.  I was reconciled at losing, but hoped against hope that Burroughs or Smith would place fifth.  I would be delighted to place fourth.

When it came to hand out that award, however, the organizer of the convention hastily whispered to me that Harlan (Ellison) wanted to handle the novel item and said, in a shamefaced manner, ‘We had better let him. You know Harlan.’

I certainly knew that Harlan was capable of making a giant-size fuss if he didn’t have his way, and I didn’t want him spoiling the banquet, so with what grace I could muster I gave way.

Harlan came dancing up, made a few rapid remarks that had everyone laughing, and then announced the nominees and omitted the Foundation series.

I called out from my seat, in real outrage, ‘Hey, Harlan, at least mention the Foundation series.’

Harlan didn’t hear me, or at least he made no sign that he had.  He reached for the envelope, tore it open, waited the inevitable heartbeat for the sake of suspense, and said, ‘And the winner:  Isaac Asimov for the Foundation series.’

I thought it was Harlan’s idea of a joke and sat there without moving and rather annoyed until everyone started laughing, and I gather I really won.  And there were Gertrude and the children beaming, and everyone still laughing and applauding, and I got up to accept my Hugo, thoroughly and utterly speechless.

I don’t think the organizers of the convention thought anyone would take the award away from Tolkien, and it was the first indication I had, the first really convincing indication, since the first of the Foundation series appeared twenty-four years before, that the series was so popular. In fact, I realized that just as ‘Nightfall’ was the most highly regarded piece among the shorter lengths, The Foundation Trilogy was the most highly-regarded science-fiction item among the longer lengths.

(5) BOMBS, BOOKS, AND BOWIE. [Item by rcade.] The chemical/biological/radiological/nukes/explosives expert and electronic musician Andy Oppenheimer is tacking on a new job title — science fiction author.

Oppenheimer, who has written the indie novels Fields of Orion: An Odyssey and Fields of Orion: The Mission, describes the books and upcoming sequels in a guest post on the SFF book database Risingshadow. “Guest post by Andy Oppenheimer”.

In the two decades before I started writing science fiction, I wrote and lectured about defence, weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, bio, chemical), and counter-terrorism. Before that, I worked in publishing – starting with a job at an American futuristic science magazine, Omni, which also published science fiction. I went to the big conventions in the USA and here in Britain, and met many famous authors.

I wonder if I should have started writing sci-fi back then. But during my time at Omni I was more involved in the London nightclub scene as a DJ and part-time synth-pop singer.

He calls David Bowie, who he used to cosplay at nightclubs and science fiction cons, a major influence on both his music and fiction. Oppenheimer told Altvenger Magazine how he was hired by Omni in 1978: “Thin White Nuke by Andy Oppenheimer”.

When I ask my boss why I got the job over others with science degrees, he says: “You looked and acted the part for a futuristic magazine – and the others were boring.”

He later became a specialist on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons for the publication Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor. There’s no word on whether he looked the part.

(6) NO TRICKLE-DOWN. “Winter Soldier Creator Ed Brubaker on Lack of MCU Profits” at The Mary Sue.

The global success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned Marvel and Disney billions of dollars over the past decade. But does any of that money trickle down to the writers and artists who created these beloved characters and stories? Not much, according to writer Ed Brubaker. Brubaker discussed his relationship with the MCU during an appearance on Kevin Smith and Marc Bernardin’s Fatman Beyond podcast, where he delved into his history with Marvel.

Brubaker, along with artist Steve Epting, resurrected the character of Bucky Barnes and transformed him into the Winter Soldier in 2004. What followed was a highly successful comics run that garnered Brubaker multiple Eisner awards and nominations for Captain America…. 

Brubaker highlighted the salary discrepancy for comics creators and artists by noting that he earned more money for his cameo performance in The Winter Soldier than for his creation of the character itself. “It’s ridiculous that like being a co-creator of The Winter Soldier … I should not have to be worried about providing for my wife if I die. Like right now, I don’t live a high life … I do well … it started to feel like this kind of hurts a little bit. To be overlooked this way. I know that they’ve made deals with other people that have had less input on what they do. And I just kind of felt like, it just sucks,” Brubaker told Smith and Bernardin….

(7) YOU’LL WANT TO SHELL OUT. Let Kotaku encourage you to “Drink Up This Ghost In The Shell Japanese Booze”.

Joining the likes of other geeky sake comes a line of Ghost in the Shell-themed stuff. Kanpai!

Previously, there has been Pac-Man, Yakzua, and Final Fantasy branded sake. Now, three bottles, each with characters from Ghost in the Shell, will be released in Japan.

According to Kurand (via Grape and PR Times), there is a light and dry-tasting Motoko Kusanagi branded release from Arinokawa Sake Brewery….

(8) FLETCHER OBIT. Costume designer Robert Fletcher, who worked on the original four Star Trek films, died April 5 at age 98. The Wrap has details: “Robert Fletcher, ‘Star Trek’ Film Costume Designer, Dies at 98”.

…Robert “Bob” Fletcher worked as a costume designer for over six decades, crafting the iconic look of the Klingons and the Vulcans in the original “Star Trek” movies, starting with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979. His last feature film was “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” in 1986, and he’s credited with imagining the “monster maroon” Starfleet uniforms worn by William Shatner and company….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 18, 1938 –Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1, a comic book published on April 18, 1938 by National Allied Publications even though the cover said June. The character was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster. This was actually an anthology, and contained eleven features with the Superman feature being the first thirteen inside pages. Five years ago, a pristine copy  of this comic sold for a record $3,207,852 on an eBay auction. It was one of two hundred thousand that were printed. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 18, 1884 – Frank Paul.  After FP had been contributing to Gernsback’s Electrical Experimenter awhile, G recruited him to help start Amazing; FP did every cover 1926-1929.  Then Air WonderScience WonderScientific DetectiveWonderFantasticScience Fiction; eventually Amazing again.  Here is Ralph 124C41+.  Here is the Aug 27 Amazing.  Here is the Clevention Program Book (13th Worldcon).  Here is the Dec 57 Satellite.  Two hundred twenty covers, fourteen hundred forty interiors.  Guest of Honor at the first Worldcon.  Two posthumous artbooks.  (Died 1963) [JH]
  • Born April 18, 1907 – Gertrude Carr.  Charter member of the Nameless Ones.  Correspondent of TrumpetVega, and like that; member of various apas e.g. FAPASAPSN’APA.  Active in Star Trek fandom during its first decades.  See here.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born April 18, 1952 – Martin Hoare.  Physicist and beer connoisseur.  Co-chaired Eastercon 35 and 53, a suitable numerical coincidence.  Doc Weir Award (service).  Regularly attended U.S. Worldcons during the long run of Dave Langford’s Best-Fanwriter Hugos, gleefully announced telephoning with the news at 3 a.m. DL’s time.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 18, 1946 Janet Kagan. “The Nutcracker Coup” was nominated for both the Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, winning the Hugo at ConFrancisco. She has but two novels, one being Uhura’s Song, a Trek novel, and quite a bit short fiction which is out in The Complete Kagan from Bean Books and is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1965 Stephen Player, 56. Some birthday honor folks are elusive. He came up via one of the sites JJ gave me but little is on him on the web. What I did find is awesome as he’s deep in the Pratchett’s Discworld and the fandom that sprung up around it. He illustrated the first two Discworld Maps, and quite a number of the books including the 25th Anniversary Edition of The Light Fantastic and The Illustrated Wee Free Men. Oh, but that’s just a mere wee taste of he’s done as he did the production design for the Sky One production of Hogfather and The Colour of Magic. He did box art and card illustrations for Guards! Guards! A Discworld Boardgame. Finally he contributed to some Discworld Calendars, games books, money for the Discworld convention. I want that money. (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1965 – Stephen Player, age 56.  Thirty covers, a dozen interiors.  Here is an Oxford ed’n of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Associated with Terry Pratchett; here is The Discworld Mapphere is The Illustrated “Wee Free Men”.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 18, 1969 Keith R. A. DeCandido, 52. I found him with working in these genre media franchises: such as Supernatural, AndromedaFarscapeFireflyAliensStar Trek In its various permutations, Buffy the Vampire SlayerDoctor WhoSpider-ManX-MenHerculesThorSleepy Hollow,and Stargate SG-1. (He has also written works that were not media tie-ins.) (CE) 
  • Born April 18, 1971 David Tennant, 50. Eleventh Doctor and my favorite of the modern Doctors along with Thirteen whom I’m also very fond of. There are some episodes such as the “The Unicorn and The Wasp” that I’ve watched repeatedly.  He’s also done other spectacular genre work such as the downright creepy Kilgrave in Jessica Jones, and and Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He’s also in the Beeb’s remake of the The Quatermass Experiment as Dr. Gordon Briscoe. (CE) 
  • Born April 18, 1973 Cora Buhlert, 48. With Jessica Rydill, she edits the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a most excellent site. She has a generous handful of short fiction professionally published, and she’s was a finalist again for the Best Fan Writer Hugo this year. I’ve got her Paris Green: A Helen Shepherd Mystery in my reading list. (CE) 
  • Born April 18, 1994 – Alexandra Adornetto, age 27.  Eight novels.  Her first was published when she was 13; “The shadow represents individuality and colour and a person’s spirit, really.”  Won a State public-speaking competition.  Commuted between Australia and Ole Miss.  Besides writing, likes “old-style country music, theology, singing.”  [JH]
  • Born April 18 – Cheryl Morgan.  Her Emerald City won a Best-Fanzine Hugo (I contributed to it); CM later won Best Fanwriter, joined in earning two Best-Semiprozine Hugos while at Clarkesworld, now edits Salon Futura,owns Wizard’s Tower Press.  Guest of Honor at Eurocon 34.  I’d call her an idiosyncratic critic but around here that wouldn’t indicate she was unusual.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Get Fuzzy has a lot of funny-horrible puns mashing up Star Wars and Canada. 
  • Bizarro does justice to superhero cuisine.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY.PBS’ American Experience series premieres American Oz: The True Wizard Behind The Curtain on April 19.

Explore the life and times of author L. Frank Baum, the creator of one of the most beloved, enduring and classic American narratives. By 1900, when The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published, Baum was 44 years old and had spent much of his life in restless pursuit of success. With mixed results he dove into a string of jobs  — chicken breeder, actor, marketer of petroleum products, shopkeeper, newspaperman and traveling salesman — Baum continued to reinvent himself, reflecting a uniquely American brand of confidence, imagination and innovation. During his travels to the Great Plains and on to Chicago during the American frontier’s final days, he witnessed a nation coming to terms with the economic uncertainty of the Gilded Age. But he never lost his childlike sense of wonder and eventually crafted his observations into a magical tale of survival, adventure and self-discovery, reinterpreted through the generations in films, books and musicals.

(13) THE EARTH IS FLAT, HOW BOW DAT. [Item by rcade.] If you’re looking for the kind of definitive proof that only a random Internet search can provide, Getty Images has a series titled “Flat Earth from Space.” Here’s a lovely shot of the Antarctica-ringed planet we call home perched on its stabilizing stalactite: “Flat Earth From Space Stock Photo”

The images are by iStock contributor Cokada from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who has a portfolio of more than 8,800 images that include a lot of science fictional elements. “Cokada Stock Image and Video Portfolio”.

(14) IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN COMPLAIN TO OSHA. The Guardian is inspired by Stowaway to survey the field: “Sitting in a tin can: why sci-fi films are finally telling astronaut life like it is”

Anybody who fancies watching a new science fiction film this month can count their lucky stars. A Netflix drama, Stowaway, features Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim as a trio of astronauts who are on their way to Mars when they discover that an unfortunate launch-plan engineer, Shamier Anderson, is still onboard. The trouble is, there is only enough oxygen for three of them. American viewers can also see Voyagers (due for release in Britain in July), in which 30 hormonal starship passengers are preparing to colonise another world. The trouble is, something goes wrong on their mission, too, and the trip turns into an interplanetary Lord of the Flies. The moral of both stories is that you should probably push “astronaut” a few slots down your list of dream jobs. But if you’ve caught any other science fiction films recently, it’s bound to be quite far down the list, anyway.

Again and again over the past decade, cinema has warned us that venturing beyond the Earth’s atmosphere is uncomfortable, dangerous, exhaustingly difficult, frequently tedious, and almost certain to involve interplanetary angst and asphyxiation…. 

(15) FRANKENSTEIN’S DROID. This happened at an auction in 2017, but it’s news to me. An “R2-D2 unit from ‘Star Wars’ sells for $2.75 million” reported CNN, the prop assembled from genuine bits and pieces.

A complete R2-D2 unit sold for $2.75 million Wednesday at a California auction, according to the Los Angeles-area auction house Profiles in History.

Luke Skywalker’s 43-inch tall sidekick was assembled from components from the original “Star Wars” trilogy as well as “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” and “Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” according to the auction catalog. The films were made between 1977 and 2002.

Unfortunately, this R2-D2 won’t interact with you. “No internal mechanics or workings are present,” the auction house said.

The droid is constructed of aluminum, steel and fiberglass, and is believed to be the only complete R2-D2 unit in the public domain, according to Profiles in History’s auction catalog. The auction house called it “one of the most instantly recognizable pieces of pop culture in existence.”

The dome in the droid dates to the original 1977 film when it was used by actor Kenny Baker.

The auction catalog said R2-D2 units were upgraded as more films were made, with older components being retired….

(16) TRAILER TIME. The WB dropped a trailer for the animated Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Star Trek:  First Contact 25th Anniversary/First Contact Day” on YouTube is a panel sponsored by Paramount Plus for the 25th anniversary of Star Trek:  First Contact that was moderated by Wil Wheaton and included Sir Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Alice Krige, and Jonathan Frakes, who starred in the film and directed it,  Topics included Krige’s preparation for her work as the Borg Queen, how Spiner felt his work as Data changed with the introduction of the emotion chip, and why Frakes as a director became known as “Two-Takes Frakes,”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/11/21 Pixels Are Reactionaries, And The Scrolls Are Missionaries

(1) IT’S TIME. Kristian Macaron analyzes “Why I Love Time Travel Stories” on From the Earth to the Stars, the Asimov’s SF blog.

Time travel is never only about the science, rather, the impossibilities.

The science and whimsy of time travel are infinite, complex, and lovely, but I love time travel stories because the quest of traversing Time can explore how possibilities and probabilities shape the person we are in the Present, the person we become in the Future. Fate is more fluid than it would like us to believe.

There are three reasons I love time travel stories. First, it’s a form of storytelling that transcends genre; next, the rules of the time machine or loop are creative and crucial; finally, no matter the plot, Time as a player forces the character to confront the infinity of their impact….

(2) CUTTING OFF CIRCULATION. Washington Post tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler protests “Amazon’s monopoly is squeezing your public library, too”.

Mindy Kaling has gone missing from the library.

I was looking forward to reading the comedian’s new story collection, “Nothing Like I Imagined.” So I typed Kaling’s name into the Libby app used by my public library to loan e-books. But “The Office” star’s latest was nowhere to be found.

What gives? In 2020, Kaling switched to a new publisher: Amazon. Turns out, the tech giant has also become a publishing powerhouse — and it won’t sell downloadable versions of its more than 10,000 e-books or tens of thousands of audiobooks to libraries. That’s right, for a decade, the company that killed bookstores has been starving the reading institution that cares for kids, the needy and the curious. And that’s turned into a mission-critical problem during a pandemic that cut off physical access to libraries and left a lot of people unable to afford books on their own.

Many Americans now recognize that a few tech companies increasingly dominate our lives. But it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on exactly why that’s a problem. The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens….

(3) BUTLER’S AND OTHERS’ LITERARY ESTATES. The Writers’ Room on NPR discusses “The State Of Literary Estates” with panelists Merrilee Heifetz, literary executor, the Octavia Butler Estate, and former agent for Octavia Butler; Blake Hazard, trustee, F. Scott Fitzgerald Estate and Zelda Fitzgerald Estate; great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald; and Miranda Doyle, intellectual freedom chair, Oregon Association of School Libraries; district librarian, Lake Oswego School District.

Much has been made recently of the literary estate of Dr. Seuss choosing to discontinue printing several of his books due to racist imagery and stereotyping in several titles.

Some right-wing news outlets have decried the decision as an example of cancel culture, despite the estate making the decision independently. Seuss’ story isn’t particularly novel, either. Roald Dahl’s books for children have also been criticized for racist language and the author’s anti-Semitism. At the end of 2020, the Dahl family released a statement in which they apologized for “lasting and understandable hurt” caused by his anti-Semitic comments.

Many online and in the news are continuing to discuss the best way to handle problematic content in significant pieces of art from the past. But others are asking fundamental questions: What’s the purpose of a literary estate? And what’s their role in managing the legacy of an artist or author?

(4) CHINA THEME ISSUE. The British Science Fiction Association’s Vector 293 (Spring 2021) is devoted to the theme of Chinese SF, and is produced in collaboration with guest editors Yen Ooi and Regina Kanyu Wang. “Yen Ooi introduces the issue as well as many of its recurring concepts, such as techno-orientalism. Regina Kanyu Wang takes us through the history of women writing SF in China….” And much more.

One item from the issue is available online: “Chen Qiufan: Why did I Write a Science Fiction Novel about E-waste?” a transcription of a public talk given by the author in 2019.  

 …Many people have asked me why I wrote a science fiction novel instead of discussing the issue of environmental pollution in a documentary literature, if I wanted to talk about it. But for me, science fiction has a metaphorical role that cannot be found elsewhere. It can transcend the limits of the “present” and incorporate literary symbols that are applicable to all cultures in all countries concerning the imagination of the future. Thus, in science fiction, environmental issues can be generalised to a broader social context, and readers are more willing to consider how their personal actions can affect our environment, or the work and lives of garbage workers they have never met….

(5) SPEAKS VOLUMES. Elizabeth Knox’s “Metaliterary Worlds: On Fictional Books Within Books” includes a paragraph about Clifford D. Simak’s Time and Again. The post begins:

I set out to remind myself about fictional books within books and, researching, discovered how much has been said already about the cursed and forbidden ones. The characters of my novel, The Absolute Book, think about some of these in the course of the story—Lovecraft’s Necronomicon or, in Robert Chambers’ short story collection The King in Yellow, the eponymous play said to drive all who encounter it insane. I wanted to suggest that the Firestarter of The Absolute Book—an ancient scroll box which has survived so many library fires that scholars have begun to imagine it starts them—is cursed in some way. I also wanted to suggest the possibility that the Firestarter might in fact be blessed and revelatory….

(6) GRRM, DEVELOPMENT HELLION. George R.R. Martin has what seems like a pretty exhaustive list of all of his current media projects in his most recent post in “Coming…Eventually…Maybe” at Not A Blog. (This excerpt covers only part of them.)

…I am not quite sure why all these stories seem to be breaking now.   The SANDKINGS project has been underway for more than a year (Covid obviously shut things down) and IN THE LOST LANDS for something like six years.   We also have an animated feature of THE ICE DRAGON in development at Warner’s (as it happens I wrote “Sandkings” and “The Ice Dragon” within a couple weeks of each other, during a Christmas break from my job teaching college in Dubuque, Iowa — that was a good break).

And that’s just in the feature sphere.   In television, as seen here, I am working with Kalinda Vazquez on a pilot for Roger Zelazny’s ROADMARKS, and I am part of the terrific team that is trying to bring Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH to series on HBO…. 

(7) BAILIE OBIT. South African-born character actor David Bailie died March 5 at the age of 83. On TV he played “Dask” in the 1977 Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death, and also appeared in Blake’s 7. In movies, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. His other film credits include The Creeping Flesh (with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), Son Of Dracula (1973), Legend Of The Werewolf (also with Cushing), The Beyond (2017), The House That Jack Built and In The Trap. Bailie reprised his Doctor Who role as Dask in the Kaldor City audio drama series, and he was in Big Finish Productions audio dramas playing the “Celestial Toymaker”. Bailie also was a professional photographer, specializing in portrait photography. 

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The New York Times article “A Model and Her Norman Rockwell Meet Again” focuses on how the artist often used people in his town as models. For most of them it was their main claim to fame, with one exception —  

…The people he painted were real, though. Like Sorenson in “Bright Future,” many lived in or near Stockbridge. William J. Obanhein, the police chief in Stockbridge, posed for Rockwell several times (though he was better known as “Officer Obie” in Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era ballad “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because he had arrested Guthrie for littering)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 11, 1971 — On this day in 1971, THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch. It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor.  He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of novels after that decision came into effect. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read the book and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 58. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1967 John  Barrowman, 54. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack,  Aladdin as, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons. (CE) 
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and  Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really he did. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born March 11, 1914 – Francis Towner Laney.  Active fan in the late 1940s, he left telling us all why in Ah! Sweet Idiocy! (1948).  He answered FIAWOL (“Fandom is a way of life”) with FIJAGH  (“Fandom is just a [gosh-darned] hobby”); we took things too seriously, he took 130 pages to say; we were a lot of fuggheads, a term he coined, cuttingly, disputably, memorably.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1925 – Christopher Anvil.  Twoscore stories about the Federation of Humanity; another dozen about Pandora’s Planet; another nine about War with the Outs; fourscore others; half a dozen collections; two novels; comical, daredevilish, moving.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1953 – Judith Silverthorne, age 68.  Six novels for us; nonfiction e.g. Ingrained about pioneer Saskatchewan woodworkers 1870-1930.  Two Moonbeam Awards.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1964 – Libba Bray, age 57.  Nine novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  A Great and Terrible Beauty NY Times Best-Seller.  Printz Award for Going Bovine.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1970 – Nicole Murphy, age 51.  Seven novels, two anthologies, 15 shorter stories.  Wrote up Artist Guest of Honour Shaun Tan for the Aussiecon 4 Programme Book (68th Worldcon).  Chaired Conflux 4, co-chaired 9.  [JH]
  • Born March 11, 1971 – Jonas Karlsson, age 50.  Actor (Guldbagge Award) and author; three novels so far available in English.  Born in Salem, the one in Stockholm County, Sweden, not the one in Essex County, Massachusetts.  Played Mats, which Swedish-speakers do not rhyme with “Do cats eat bats?”, in Bang Bang Orangutang, a Swedish film which is not SF but who couldn’t love the title? which rhymes in Swedish too.  [JH]

(11) SUING FOR SUPER NON-SUPPORT. Joe George is “Ranking the Live-Action Members of Superman’s Supporting Cast” for Tor.com. Did you ever wonder who is the worst Lex Luthor? Here’s George’s candidate:

9. Jesse Eisenberg (DCEU) — Okay, I’m going to lose some of you right away, so let’s get this over with. I dislike all of Zack Snyder’s movies, especially those with Superman in them. But the worst part of his very bad Superman movies is, without question, Jesse Eisenberg’s take on Lex Luthor. There’s potential here to update Lex from an early 20th-century mad scientist to a 21st-century villain like Mark Zuckerberg. But Eisenberg’s jittery, manic take is all irritating style and no substance, coming off as the perfect embodiment of the phrase “a dumb person’s idea of a smart person.”

(12) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Mental Floss says these are “14 Things You Might Not Know About ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’”.

3. BEFORE CRITICIZING PROPAGANDA IN NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, GEORGE ORWELL WORKED AS A PROPAGANDIST.

During World War II, Orwell worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation. His role with the BBC Empire Service involved creating and supervising programming that the nation would feed to Indian networks to encourage a pro-Allies sentiment and spark volunteering.

4. GEORGE ORWELL MODELED ROOM 101 AFTER AN OFFICE AT THE BBC.

Nineteen Eighty-Four’s most horrifying setting is Room 101, the Ministry of Love’s torture chamber in which victims are exposed to their worst nightmares. What readers might not know is that Orwell modeled the chilling locale on an actual room.

As a propagandist, Orwell knew that much of what the BBC said had to be approved by the Ministry of Information, possibly in the BBC’s Room 101. He probably drew the name of his nightmare room from there. Curious about what the dreadful room looked like? The room has since been demolished, but in 2003 artist Rachel Whiteread created a plaster cast of the room.

(13) URB BLURB. Science News reviews Annalee Newitz’ nonfiction book Four Lost Cities: “A tour of ‘Four Lost Cities’ reveals modern ties to ancient people”.

… The section on Cahokia (A.D. 1050 to 1350) — located in what is now Illinois, across the Mississippi River from St. Louis — offers an unexpected reason for a city’s emergence. Many people link cities with capitalism and trade. Cahokia’s 30-meter-tall pyramids, 20-hectare plazas and a population (at the time) bigger than Paris suggest that spiritual revival can also build a major metropolis. Cahokia and Angkor, which reached its peak from A.D. 800 to 1431 in what is now Cambodia, also show how cities can form when power gets concentrated in a few influential people. 

Through touring such diverse cities, Newitz shows that the move to urban life isn’t just a setup for a hero of a story. It’s a common setup for many ancient cultures….

(14) E.T. PHONE ROME. In “Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination”, John C. Wright points out he is one of three sff authors who contributed to Cambridge Scholars Publishing’s essay collection Extraterrestrials in the Catholic Imagination: Explorations in Science, Science Fiction and Religion:

Included:

Sciopods, Blemyae, and the Green Children of Woolpit: “Aliens” in the Catholic Imagination, Premodern Era
Michael F. Flynn

What Has Outer Space to Do with Christ?
John C. Wright

Catholic Questions in Science Fiction and Fantasy
Tim Powers

I was honored to be asked to pen an essay titled “What Has Outer Space To Do with Christ?” for this volume. The burning question of whether soulless and dispassionate Vulcans can be baptized is not necessarily addressed, but questions of like magnitude are.

However, as is only to be expected, Mike Flynn’s essay on Sciopods and Blemyae is the more interesting. It is the first I ever heard about the Green Children of Woolpit — and if you have not heard these names before, prepare to be fascinated.

(15) FAIR HEARING. A reconstructed Neanderthal ear adds a new piece to the puzzle of whether the early humans could speak. “Neanderthals Listened to the World Much Like Us” in the New York Times.

…In the new study, the researchers used high-resolution CT scans of ear structures in five Neanderthals, 10 modern Homo sapiens and nine early hominids from Sima de los Huesos, an archaeological site in what is now Spain, who lived before Neanderthals.

The team created 3-D models of these ear structures and ran the measurements through a software model to calculate the sound power transmission, which describes the way sound energy moves from the environment into the ear canal and winds its way toward the cochlea — essentially how much of the sound energy ultimately makes it to your inner ear.

The researchers used this metric to calculate the occupied bandwidth, which reflects the range of frequencies in which at least 90 percent of the sound power reaches the inner ear — the “sweet spot” of hearing, according to Dr. Quam. This sweet spot is the range we hear best in, where our ears are most tuned to sound.

The study found the Neanderthal ear’s sweet spot extended toward frequencies of 3 to 5 kHz, which are specifically dedicated to consonant production. The researchers believe this optimization toward consonants could be a key sign that Neanderthals had verbal language.

“The use of consonants distinguishes human language from mammalian communication, which is almost completely vowels,” Dr. Quam said. “Like grunts, howls, shrieks.”

In fact, the study found Neanderthals’ sweet spot was the same as modern human hearing, whereas the early hominids from Sima de los Huesos had a hearing range somewhere between chimpanzees and modern humans….

(16) WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? Here’s a show I knew would produce a Scroll item sooner or later. And the promise was fulfilled by the opening episode of its fifth season: “First reveal of ‘The Masked Singer’ Season 5 is ‘most famous guest ever’”.

This Wednesday, when guest host Niecy Nash removed the Snail’s stovepipe chapeau and Kermit’s adorable little green noggin popped out of a foxhole in the costume’s back, viewers were united in their excitement and delight over this meta, puppet-within-a-puppet, Russian-doll-like moment. (There was a pair of decidedly less adorable actual Russian Dolls who also performed on Wednesday’s premiere, but I’ll get to them later.) Judge Ken Jeong even declared Kermit the “most famous guest ever” to compete on the show, and — sorry Lil Wayne, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Tony Hawk, et al — Ken wasn’t wrong. Kermit is an icon… and, as it turns out, he’s not a bad Daryl Hall impressionist either.

Sadly, while Kermit the Snail gave a charming and not-at-all-sluggish performance, as he told Niecy: “It’s not easy being green, but sometimes it’s even harder being a snail!”…

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Rich Lynch.] “Right Up Our Alley” — not exactly genre, but it caught the attention of Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn. The video footage is not CGI.

[Thanks to Dan B., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, PJ Evans, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 2/19/21 Why, I Sweep My Scroll With A Geiger Counter Every Day, And Nary A Pixel!

(1) DISCON III REACTIONS. Today’s decision by the 2021 Worldcon committee to remove Toni Weisskopf as a GoH (“DisCon III Removes Weisskopf as a Guest of Honor”) is being widely discussed.

Toni Weisskopf posted a concise response on Facebook.

The committee of Discon III approached me this week to discuss the allegations about Baen’s Bar that were posted at Patreon. Baen is conducting a thorough investigation, which we feel we cannot rush, and has taken down the Bar while we conduct the investigation.

I do understand the immediate appeal of Discon III wishing to act quickly to respond to their community. Today they informed me of their official decision to remove me as their Editor Guest of Honor.

While I strongly disagree with the committee’s decision, I will regretfully accede to their wishes.

These excerpts for the Scroll are primarily by authors who condemned the decision (except for the final one).

David Weber responded on Facebook.

So Toni Weisskopf has been formally disinvited by WorldCon and DisCon. Can’t say it was a surprise. I will however remind people of the personal policy I adopted years ago and reiterated in the case of ConCarolina and John Ringo. I will not attend a con which has disinvited a guest. You are always free to invite —or not—anyone you like. Any con which disinvites someone after the invitation has been issued and accepted, especially when they do so under pressure, however, does not deserve to be trusted by future guests.

He said more in the comments on his post, including —

Bob Eggleton made this comment —

Chuck Gannon also made a comment on Weber’s post, repeating one of his quotes linked here yesterday and extending it as follows:

…So Toni Weisskopf activated the most proactive, realistic option available to her: she closed the Bar, thereby ending any possibility that it might do further ostensible injury.

36 hours later, however, she was disinvited without any additional cause.

You will note, however, that no one asserted that she did not respond quickly enough. In fact, in disinviting her, there were no further/new discoveries added to those put forth in Mr. Sanford’s essay.

So what had changed? If the concom believes that 36 hours is enough time for her to resolve the matter completely, I once again point out that

a) any business person operating in the real world would *know* that is not enough time to conduct anything like a thorough review

b) in order to ensure that what Mr. Sanford reported could not expand or remain as a potential threat, SHE CLOSED THE WHOLE BAR DOWN.

If she had meant to stonewall, or not actually investigate the matter, she would not have taken the step of closing the Bar.

Do I repeat myself in this post? Assuredly so . . . because these are salient points which are being repeatedly, perhaps purposively, overlooked.

For anyone familiar with the musical Hamilton, cue “The Room Where It Happened” as we ponder “so what changed in 36 hours?”

Larry Correia shames the SMoFs in “An Open Letter To The Old Time Fans at WorldCon” [Internet Archive link].

…Then several years later, after the old controversy I caused had died off and most of us barbaric outsiders had said screw cheesy WorldCon and moved on with our lives, some of you still felt guilty for how you’d treated Toni, so you extended an olive branch. You offered her the Guest of Honor spot at your little convention. How nice. How fucking magnanimous.

Toni, being a far better human being than any of you could ever aspire to be, thought the offer over. She knew there was risks. She knew that she’d take heat from people on the right (and she has). Morons on my side of the political would call her a sell-out, quisling, traitor, boot licker, so on and so forth, and they did. She got attacked by the useless grifters on both sides, looking for hate clicks. But unlike you, Toni ignores the baying mob and always does what she thinks is the right thing to do.  She looked at your peace offering, and said fine, If you want to try and mend fences, okay, I’ll take the heat, I’ll be your guest of honor. She was the bigger person.

She talked to me about her decision. I told her I understood, I wouldn’t do it, but I respected her call, but that she’d surely get yelled at by the idiots on both sides. She already knew, but she thought it was the right thing to do anyway. Because unlike you, Toni actually has a moral compass. Your moral compass is a windsock. Her one mistake in all this was assuming that any of you old time Smofs would have a spine….

A very large number of people today are reaching for rhetorical flourishes to complain about what happened. RS Benedict made this connection. (If you don’t recognize Isabel Fall’s name, run a search here. Also let it be noted that Weisskopf has been removed as GoH, not banned from attending.)

Mike VanHelder, an experienced conrunner, tried to understand the decision from a convention running perspective. As part of that he wrote this How It Should Have Ended scenario, in addition to other insights. Thread starts here.

(2) NO ONE TO FOLLOW. While we’re at it, let WIRED’s Angela Wattercutter tell you about “The Crushing Disappointment of Fandom”.

…When we really, truly admire someone, whether they’re an Avenger or Anthony Fauci, there’s a tendency to mimic their personality, even their morality. Media theorists call these bonds “parasocial relationships”; parents of kids with one too many Star Wars posters (probably) call it “over the top.” But the people in it, the ones who write fic and spend days making cosplay before the next convention, call it part of their identity, the fabric of who they are.

Until it’s not. Earlier this week, actress Gina Carano lost her job playing Cara Dune on The Mandalorian. The former MMA fighter had been facing criticism for months for her anti-science views on mask-wearing, mocking transgender-sensitive pronouns, and tweets about voter fraud. Then, on Wednesday, after she shared an Instagram story that suggested having differing political views was akin to being Jewish during the Holocaust, the hashtag #FireGinaCarano began to trend on Twitter. That night, Lucasfilm issued the following statement: “Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Carano’s comments are harmful for a lot of reasons, but they seem to carry an additional weight for fans. Cara Dune was a hero, someone who fought for people, a tough, competent female warrior in a genre often dominated by men. Fans looked up to Cara, and by extension Carano, but the actor’s comments on social media left one of those things harder to do….

(3) BY POPULAR DEMAND. The UK’s Daily Mail proclaims: “WandaVision: Fans CRASH Disney+ to stream latest episode”.

Viewers of WandaVision crashed Disney+ on Friday morning as the latest installment dropped on the streaming service.

There was a brief 10-minute outage in the early hours of Friday as episode seven of the Marvel Cinematic Universe-based series was made available, PEOPLE reports.

Fans expressed their frustration on social media after experiencing issues as they signed on in droves to catch the latest installment of Wanda and Vision’s Westview adventures.

(4) RECOVERED. Claire O’Dell has released a second edition of her award-winning River of Souls trilogy with new covers and updated text: River of Souls Series. The author blogged about the books here.

…Once Tor returned the rights to me, I decided to release a second edition, with new covers and updated text. I commissioned new artwork from the amazing Jessica Shirley. I badgered my long-suffering spouse into designing new covers. And I spent several months editing and proofreading the manuscripts. The e-books are now available at my on-line bookstore (here), individually or as a bundle, and will appear at all the usual vendor sites later this week….

(5) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. James Davis Nicoll helps us keep these two things straight: “Five SF Works Featuring Dyson Shells (and Not Dyson Swarms)” at Tor.com.

…There are at least two kinds of Dyson Sphere. The first—the one Dyson intended—is made up of a myriad of independently orbiting objects. While this presents an interesting traffic control challenge, the Dyson Swarm has the advantage that not only can it be built incrementally over a very long period, but the components are gravitationally coupled to the star in question.

The second option is a solid shell with the star in the middle….

Here’s one of James’ picks:

“Back to Myan” by Regina Kanyu Wang (2017)

Retrieved by the Union from certain extinction on the ice-encrusted world Myan, Kaya is somewhat less than entirely grateful. After all, the reason Myan was freezing in the first place was Project Saion, the Union’s vast energy-gathering structure blocking Myan from its star, Saion. While the Union did belatedly notice the Myan natives and rescue them, this didn’t come to pass until 997 out of every 1000 of Kaya’s species had perished in the cold. Still, the Union is very, very powerful, while the handful of Myans are not. There is nothing Kaya can do to save her home world. At least, that’s what the Union believes…

(6) GREG BEAR INTERVIEWED. Frank Catalano, who was SFWA Secretary back when Greg Bear was SFWA President, pointed out a good profile of Greg Bear in the Seattle Times today, including his thinking that his newest novel may be his last one, and the trouble he had in finding a publisher for it: “Lynnwood’s Greg Bear, stalwart of modern science fiction, starts writing his life story”.

The 69-year-old Lynnwood-based author and first-class raconteur still has a lot to say. He’s published four novels since aortic dissection surgery left him with a titanium heart valve six years ago and has plans for more. But he’s just not sure he wants to deal with the business of fiction publishing anymore after having a hard time finding a buyer for “The Unfinished Land,” eventually published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint John Joseph Adams Books.

“If I had written it and no one wanted to publish it, what would I do right at that point?” Bear said. “I considered just retiring. And I think I’m still making that decision at this point.”

Catalano reacts: “It’s end-of-days when Greg Bear can’t find a publisher. Ack.”

(7) ENDLESS RIVER. “Doctor Who’s River Song Alex Kingston writes new novel”Radio Times has the story.

… Alex Kingston is releasing a brand new River Song novel, taking the popular companion on a brand new adventure.

The book, entitled The Ruby’s Curse, promises to tell a thrilling story set in New York in 1939, featuring both River Song and her alter-ego Melody Malone. It is Alex Kingston’s first foray into writing Doctor Who fiction, following in the footsteps of Tom Baker, whose story Scratchman follows the escapades of the Fourth Doctor….

“Having absolutely no idea of the journey I would be taking with River Song when I first uttered those words, “Hello Sweetie,” I cannot begin to express how excited I am to be able to continue not only River, but Melody’s adventures on the written page,” she says.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1961 — Sixty years ago at Seacon in Seattle, A Canticle for Leibowitz, a fix-up of three short stories published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. wins the Hugo for Best Novel. It was published by J. B. Lippincott. Other nominees that year were The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys, Deathworld by Harry Harrison and Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon. Surprisingly this is the only award this novel won.  

(9) BLACKBURN OBIT. Graphic designer “Bruce Blackburn, Designer of Ubiquitous NASA Logo, Dies at 82” reports the New York Times. He died February 1 at the age of 82,

…In 1975, NASA introduced the worm, a sleek sequence of winding red letters, and the logo quickly became a tangible symbol of a boundless space age that lay ahead.

“We did get what we set out to accomplish,” Mr. Blackburn said. “Anybody we showed it to immediately said, ‘Oh I know what that is. I know them. They’re really great. They’re right on the leading edge of everything.’”

But in 1992, a few years after the Challenger explosion, NASA dropped the worm and revived the meatball in a decision that was said to be intended to improve company morale.

Mr. Blackburn and other designers lamented the choice. “They said, ‘This is a crime. You cannot do this,’” he said. “‘This is a national treasure and you’re throwing it in the trash bin.”

“His design sensibility was offended by what happened,” his daughter said. “He thought the meatball was clumsy and sloppy and not representative of the future.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 19, 1923 – Alan Hunter.  Fan and pro artist; founded the Fantasy Art Society (U.K.); fifty covers, three hundred fifty interiors, for Banana Wings, DreamFantasy TalesMatrixNebulaNew Worlds, SF ChronicleVector, the Millennium Philcon Program Book (59th Worldcon), the LoneStarCon 3 Program Book (71st Worldcon).  Artist Guest at Fantasycon 1981.  Here is the Spring 53 Nebula.  Here is an interior from the Mar 53 New Worlds.  Here is an interior from Dream.  Here is the Oct 86 SF Chronicle.  Here is Vector 112.  Here is Banana Wings 38.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1937  Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to Awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds went to his widow. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1963 Laurell K. Hamilton, 58. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but several novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest rather longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1946 – Rosemary Ullyot, age 75.  Early member of the Ontario SF Club.  Fanzine Kevas & Trillium with Alicia Austin and Maureen Bournes.  “Kumquat May” column in Energumen.  Twice finalist for Best Fanwriter.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1957 – Jim Rittenhouse, age 64.  Founded Point of Divergence, alternative-history apa.  Guest of Honor at DucKon 12, Windycon 32.  Judge of the Sidewise Award.  Has read As I Lay DyingUncle Tom’s Cabin, Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars, Adam BedeLolitaOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  “Why do I like fountain pens?  The smoothness and ease of writing, the clarity and solidity of the line, the profound coloring and the strong saturation of the ink.”  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem, 57. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Arrest. (CE)
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 55. I met him once here in Portland at a used book store in the the SFF section, and his wife wrote reviews for Green Man once upon a year. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies including two volumes of the excellent Tesseracts series.  Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of WorshipThe Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1968 Benicio del Toro, 53. Originally cast as Khan in that Trek film but unable to perform the role as he was committed to another film. He’s been The Collector in the Marvel film franchise, Lawrence Talbot in the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and codebreaker DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Let’s not forget that he was in Big Top Pee-wee as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy followed by being in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Dr. Gonzo which damn well should count as genre even if it isn’t. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1970 – Victor Ehikhamenor, age 51.  Writer, visual artist including photography and sculpture.  Exhibited in the first Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale (57th Biennale, 2017).  Here is I Am Ogiso, the King of Heaven.  Here is The Unknowable (enamel & steel), Norval Foundation, Cape Town.  Here is Hypnotic Lover.  Here is Wealth of Nations, Nat’l Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1973 – Nikki Alfar, age 49.  A score of short stories.  Three Palanca Awards.  Manila Critics’ Circle Nat’l Book Award.  Co-editor, Philippine Speculative Fiction.  Interviewed in Fantasy.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1984 – Marissa Meyer, age 37.  Re-told CinderellaLittle Red Riding HoodRapunzel, and Snow White in the Lunar Chronicles; the first, Cinder, MM’s début, was a NY Times Best-Seller; later Fairest, a prequel.  Heartless has the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.  Half a dozen more novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Introduction to Yolen’s How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.  Has confessed to writing (under another name) twoscore pieces of Sailor Moon fanfiction.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio is always bizarre – this time it’s even funny.
  • Non Sequitur chronicles the Alexa / Siri conspiracy.
  • The Flying McCoys reveals that Superman buys outfits off the rack! (When they’re in stock.)

(12) HE’LL BE REMEMBERED. Milton Davis reports the GoFundMe was successful and that the headstone and monument for Charles R. Saunders’ grave have arrived.  The grave of famous fantasy writer Charles R. Saunders was without a headstone until friends raised money for it.

(13) REPURPOSED AND FUNNY. [Item by rcade.] The paranormal fantasy novelist Richard Kadrey has been reading some obscure science fiction paperbacks from the golden age of the lurid cover. Authors include Supernova Jackson, Cliff Zoom and Brawny Magnum.

The titles of Kadrey’s novels in his Sandman Slim series would be right at home on a shelf with these classics. They include Kill The Dead, Aloha from Hell, Ballistic Kiss and King Bullet, which comes out in August.

He’s also the founder with cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling of the Dead Media Project, which sought to save obsolete and forgotten forms of media. But it died.

(14) NOT A FAN. Variety’s Caroline Framke is not amused: “’Superman and Lois’ Brings The CW Superhero Brand Back Down to Boring Earth: TV Review”.

…It makes sense on paper for a new show about Superman to fast forward through the stuff that’s been done to death in order to find some new way into the man, the myth, the legend. Why not make him a harried dad juggling apocalyptic threats with teenage boys, one of whom might have the same kind of powers as he does? The CW’s dads are already supernaturally hot, so hey, might as well lean into the brand. (Hoechlin, like Tom Welling before him, does not at all have a Christopher Reeve level of charisma to bring to the role — but to be fair, who does?)

But for all the logical storylines and character journeys that “Superman and Lois” includes, it nonetheless lacks the spark to make any of it very interesting. Despite solid efforts from Tulloch, Garfin, and especially Elsass to bring life to their stiff scenes, these Kents feel more stuck than striking

(15) DO YOU REMEMBER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.[ Hugh freakin’ Jackman does the “announcer guy“ voiceover for a movie teaser… Io9 points to “Reminiscence First Look: The Sci-Fi Mystery Romance Is Out 9/3”. The clip is in Hugh Jackman’s tweet:

[Thanks to Michael Toman, rcade, James Davis Nicoll, John Hertz, Danny Sichel, Jeffrey Jones, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Steven H Silver, Frank Catalano, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris R.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/20 The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized

(1) FLIGHT WORN ART. Artist Gregory Manchess tells how he designed the Dragon Crew One patch – and how he got the gig in the first place: “Mission Patch: Crew One” at Muddy Colors.

…Through a convoluted process of attending conventions and patiently waiting for the right timing, I’d met an astronaut who is a fan of science fiction. Kjell Lindgren, the year before, had opened the envelope to read one of the winners for the World Science Fiction convention in 2016. . .while floating in zero g at the space station.

The following year, Kjell (pronounced ‘Chell’) attended the WSF convention in Helsinki, which I attended, and I got to meet him. A year after that, I ran into him again at the same convention in Texas. I asked him about his next flight up and joked that I’d like to come along. He asked if I knew how to handle a robotic arm and I said, “Man, I can handle a brush. How could that be any harder?” I think he actually did a spit take on that one.

Then I asked him, seriously, who was doing their mission patch. Several conversations later, I found myself on a Skype call with Kjell, the mission commander, Mike “Hopper” Hopkins, and mission pilot, Victor “Ike” Glover.

One never knows when an opportunity may arise that can be taken advantage of. My timing was right and my enthusiasm authentic. A deadly combination for winning over clients….

(2) THE IMAGINATION DESK. The latest episode of the Center for Science and the Imagination’s podcast The Imagination Desk features an interview with science fiction author, editor, and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang. Here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

Regina Kanyu Wang is a science fiction writer, researcher, and critic from Shanghai. She is now based at the University of Oslo, where she is part of the CoFUTURES project. In this conversation, we talk about the Chinese science fiction scene, its fan culture, and gender politics in the genre, as well as insights on Regina’s own recent writing—including how she builds nuance and complexity into her portrayals of AI and other technologies.

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Priya Sharma and Justin C. Key on Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. in a livestreamed event on YouTube. Link forthcoming. Listen to their podcast of readings here.

  • Priya Sharma

Priya Sharma is a short story writer whose collection All the Fabulous Beasts won a British Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award. Her first novella Ormeshadow from Tor won a Shirley Jackson Award. When she’s not writing she works as a doctor in the UK.

  • Justin C. Key


Justin C. Key is a speculative fiction writer and psychiatrist. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Crossed Genres. His novella, Spider King, will be released by Serial Box in early 2021. He’s currently working on a near-future novel inspired by his medical training. He lives in Los Angeles.

(4) DON’T BEAM UP THE PLAGUE. “Captain Kirk calls out Alberta for not adopting federal tracing app” – Edmonton’s City News has the story.

It appears Captain Kirk is a fan of the federal COVID-19 tracing up and a critic of Alberta’s decision not to adopt it.

Canadian icon William Shatner, who played the famous Star Trek character, voiced his opinion on Twitter Wednesday, promoting the COVIDAlert app.

“Now you just need to get Alberta on board,” said Shatner. “I’ve heard that certain people have an issue with the app because they have their own app.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada responded to the tweet, thanking Shatner for promoting contact tracing.

(5) SEA SQUARED. Being a successful writer is a dream come true. Or is that a nightmare? “Jeff VanderMeer on the Saga of The Festival of the Freshwater Squid” at LitHub.

…The Ambergris books received a ton of critical acclaim, well beyond what one might expect for fictions centered around squid and mushroom people. They also sold well enough that a non-rabid, fairly polite fan base sprouted up around Ambergris.

In short, I wrote about the fantastical Festival of the Freshwater Squid for years without anything particularly odd happening. What did happen tended to fall into one of three categories.

Category the first. Dried squid. Tons of it. Acres of it. More dried squid than there are undried squid. Every year, without fail, people sent me dried squid in the mail. Never the same people, I must add, so this was not a stalkery situation, but merely an issue of proper methods of disposal. I don’t actually like to eat squid because having become an amateur squidologist, I know just how intelligent squid are and how likely it is that they would rule over us if they lived fifty years instead of two to four. But, of course, it’s the thought that counts, and the thought of receiving bags and bags of dried squid for the rest of my life might’ve been disturbing, but it was also a testament to the power of Ambergris. (Ironically, I never received any ambergris in the mail.)…

(6) THREE MORE FOR YOUR TBR. Because why would you only read the first book after seeing this pitch? “Kelly Link: Why You Should Read This Classic Trilogy” in LitHub.

…At the heart of the Deptford Trilogy is a set of mysteries. There is the question of whether the woman struck in the head by the snowball may or may not be, afterward and as a consequence, a saint capable of raising the dead and other miracles. Tied to this is the question of the peculiar death of a man named Boy Staunton. At the end of Fifth Business, a clue is offered by a Brazen Head, which floats above a stage. “He was killed by the usual cabal,” it says. But the cabal of characters here and in Fifth Business’s sequels is anything other than usual. It is, in fact, an extraordinary cabal and unlike any you are likely to encounter in novels less bold in their scope. Davies has the scalpel-like acuity of a mystery novel sleuth who has been invited to attend a birthday party and for his own entertainment proceeds to pin down the secret desires, transgressions, and petty misdeeds of each guest. In fact, part of the strangeness and originality of Fifth Business is that, in the moment where a clue is offered by the Brazen Head, it becomes apparent that we are reading a mystery novel in reverse order. First, we are given a leisurely and pleasurable introduction to a cast of disreputable, eccentric characters along with their motivations, opportunities, and confessions. Then, as the book draws to its end, we arrive with a jolt at the moment when a body is discovered under the most perplexing circumstances. Afterward, rather than being given a solution, we are briskly shown out of the novel by its narrator.

(7) PRESERVE TOLKIEN’S HOME. The stars are aligning to make sure one of Tolkien’s homes meets a better fate than, say, Ray Bradbury’s. The goal is to establish a literary center there: “Lord of the Rings Cast Reunite to Buy $6 Million Home of Author J.R.R. Tolkien” reports People. The Tolkien Estate is not involved.

Lord of the Rings stars Sir Ian McKellen and John Rhys-Davies are embarking on another epic adventure.

Rather than crossing Middle Earth to battle the evil forces of Sauron, however, the British actors have joined a fellowship to save 20 Northmoor Road, the Oxford house in which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in advance of it being put on the market by realtors Breckon & Breckon.

The initiative, called Project Northmoor, starts crowdfunding on December 2 and hopes to raise $6 million to purchase the home and create a literary center in honor of Tolkien. It is also supported by The Hobbit star, Martin Freeman.

…”This is just an opportunity that can’t be ignored,” John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli and voiced Treebeard in the films, tells PEOPLE from his self-isolation in a New Zealand hotel.

“If people are still reading in 1,000 years, Tolkien will be regarded as one of the great myth-makers of Britain and it will be evident within a matter of years that not to secure this place would have been such an act of arrogance and ignorance and folly on our part.”

The donation site is here: “Project Northmoor – Save Tolkien’s Home”.

J.R.R. and Edith Tolkien moved into 20 Northmoor Road with their young family in 1930. Over the next 17 crucial years the house was the heart of the Tolkien home. It was here that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, which he had begun as a bedtime story for his children, and followed that with another unexpected journey. That book became The Lord of the Rings.

(8) KEAYS-BYRNE OBIT. Boing Boing reports “Hugh Keays-Byrne, of Mad Max fame, dead at 73”

(9) MORE ABOUT BOVA. Ben Bova’s son commemorated his late father in this Facebook profile: “Ben Bova, by his son. Benjamin William Bova”.

… Widely read, Dr. Bova would delight in reciting entire poems of, say, Rudyard Kipling, or the songs of Cole Porter on occasion. He would acknowledge the most esoteric pun or obscure reference with a groan or a wry grin. He could – as he often did during writing breaks – with pen and sans eraser, complete entire New York Times crossword puzzles in the time it takes to finish a lunch cup of yoghurt. Words were his tools; his memory and imagination, his toolbox. And his two pointing fingers – he never used his entire set of fingers to write, the hammers that pounded first the typewriter keys and then, when it was invented, the home computer to conceive and mold a good story….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty-five years ago Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Forgiveness Day,” published in the November 1994 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, would win the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. The other nominees were Maureen F. McHugh’s “Nekropolis” and Michael Bishop’s “Cri de Coeur”.  It would also win a Locus Award for Best Novella. It was last published in The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin on Saga Press which is available in print and digital editions.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 – Jerry Sohl.  Fourteen novels, two dozen shorter stories for us, other work including television, film, a chess book and a bridge book.  Title of posthumous collection Filet of Sohl not his fault.  (Died 2002)  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. Before that, played the Devil in Damn Yankees. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1929 – Lael Littke, age 91.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; she has published forty books, six dozen shorter stories, including Ellery Queen’sLadies Home JournalSeventeen.  “The trick is to recognize a good idea when it sweeps by.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1937 – Brian Lumley, age 83.  Eight Cthulhu novels, a score of shorter stories (“My guys fight back.  Also, they like to have a laugh along the way”); two dozen more novels including Necroscope best-sellers, ten dozen more shorter stories, three dozen poems.  World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 74. British-born American illustrator and writer who is genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as CathedralThe New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman.   I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”  (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 68. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good. (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1954 – Laura Underwood, age 66.  Nine novels, eighty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for Bradley Sinor’s Dark & Stormy Nights.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 52. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-FilesHercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall haughty she did show up in Luke Cage. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 49. Writer and illustrator, best remembered  as creator of the let excellent  Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. CE)
  • Born December 2, 1976 – Kate Milford, age 44.  Eight novels, another due next February.  Has read A Canticle for LeibowitzPoems of Ambrose Bierce, Borges’ Ficciones, and Serve It Forth.  She very frankly says “I update this site sometimes.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1980 – Leander Deeny, age 40.  One novel by this man whom someone wants us to know was in the BBC series Merlin and the Captain America film The First Avenger.  He likes whisky, cookery, falconry, and another thing I keep forgetting.  [JH]

(12) ALIEN REAL ESTATE. “Netflix Reveals What Mysterious ‘Alien Worlds’ May Look Like” – let the Daily Beast fill you in.

Netflix is brimming with outlandish out-of-this-world genre fare, but the streaming giant’s latest docuseries, Alien Worlds, puts the science back in science fiction. Imagining what life might be like on distant planets, producer Nigel Paterson’s four-episode endeavor utilizes what we know about biology and civilization on Earth to speculate about extraterrestrial existence—a mix of knowledge and conjecture that’s echoed by its form, which marries nature documentary footage from around the globe with inventive CGI panoramas of bizarre landscapes and creatures. The result is a fantastical—and fascinating—intergalactic version of Planet Earth.

In light of that structure, it’s only natural that Alien Worlds (premiering Dec. 2) boasts its own David Attenborough-like narrator: acclaimed English actress Sophie Okonedo, who imparts surprising and enlightening facts about Earth’s varied ecosystems—and surmises about what that could mean for life elsewhere—with sonorous, import-laden gravity….

(13) RETURN OF THE TOASTMAKER. Food Network ran a listicle about the “12 Best Star Wars Kitchen Tools”. This is the kind of thing we’re talking about – aren’t you glad these helmets are good for something?

Star Wars Storm Trooper Toaster

$49.95 

WILLIAMS SONOMA

We’re willing to bet that this is the fiercest toaster you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s shaped like a Stormtrooper’s helmet, but that doesn’t stop it from perfectly preparing your toast. The slots are extra-wide in order to accommodate different types of bread, and features a removable crumb tray for easy cleaning.

(14) CREDENTIAL HEALTH CHECK. Michael Toman sent this link with a reassuring note: “Nope, I’m definitely NOT suggesting ‘Cats Throw Up on SF’ as a new photo contest category for File 770!” Anyway, it’s Mental Floss’ fault that we’re wondering “Why Do Cats Throw Up So Often?”

And y’know, maybe I’ll forego putting an excerpt here.

(15) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Ryan Reynolds calls it “A Love Story for the ages. Or at least this age.”

(16) I’M PIXELING MY SCROLL FOR THE MISTY MOUNTAINS. Another reason to remember today’s date, on December 2, 1971 Led Zeppelin released ”Misty Mountain Hop” as a single in the US.

The most common interpretation of the song’s title involves a reference to the Misty Mountains in J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit.

(17) BOMBS AWAY. While tuned in to tonight’s Jeopardy, Andrew Porter saw these efforts to score during Final Jeopardy:

Novel Characters.

Answer: This character from an 1851 novel “was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Frankenstein?” “Who is The Count of Monte Cristo?”

Correct question: “Who is Captain Ahab?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life” on YouTube is a short film, written and directed by Peter Capaldi, that was originally broadcast on BBC Scotland in 1993.  The film, starring Richard E. Grant as Kafka, really is a variation on Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, and earned Capaldi an Oscar for Best Short Film–Live Action in 1995.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Arnie Fenner, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Alan Baumler, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Dann, Steve Davidson, Sean Wallace, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/20 You Scroll My Pixel Round Baby Right Round

(1) THE BOOKSELLER FROM UNCLE. Laurie Hertzel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has assembled readers’ “Fond memories of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s, and hope for the future”.

Elaine K. Murray, Minneapolis: It was my mother’s bookstore. All the years she worked at Sears across the street she could go there and get her beloved vintage mysteries at a price she could afford. After she retired I would drive her there and buy her books for a Christmas or birthday present.

She has been gone more than five years, but I could still go there, find books from some of her favorite authors, and feel like she was still near me.

Now that’s gone forever and I can’t seem to stop crying.

(2) WRITER INDEPENDENCE DAY. Cat Rambo is teaching two online courses on the Fourth of July. Registration and cost information at the links.

The next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

The question isn’t how to tell a good idea from a bad one; it’s how to learn to turn any idea into a story. Come with a story idea, no matter how vague. We’ll discuss multiple ways of plotting a story based on its unique inspiration, as well as engaging in class exercises designed to hone your plotting skills. Learn how to build a roadmap for your story that will help you complete it in a class that combines discussion, lecture, and in-class writing exercises.

Next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

Learn how to create interesting, rounded characters that your readers can identify with, whether hero or villain. We’ll cover how to write convincing interesting dialogue as well as how to flesh out a character so they come alive and help you move the story along. A combination of lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises will help you apply new technique immediately to your own stories.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is offering plenty more classes in the weeks to come. Here are two examples.

Saturday, July 11

Values are not universal across all cultures, and thus what a satisfying story looks like is not limited to one model either. This course examines East Asian storytelling forms and themes, including the four-act kish?tenketsu structure, which is not based on conflict, tension, and resolution. The course will use case studies from books, films, and other mediums, and in-class exercises and games to demonstrate that elements that we consider staples of European/Western storytelling, such as the Hero’s Journey story structure, the empowerment arc, and individual heroism, are not universal across all cultures. Students will complete the course with tools to analyze the European/Western forms and themes in the stories they have written as well as templates from East Asian storytelling to explore and apply to their work.

Sunday, July 12 

Are you a novelist with a fascinating world? Have you thought about turning your novel into an RPG? In this class, gaming industry veteran will walk you through the ins and outs of adapting your novel to fit a gaming world. This class is customized for authors who have published at least one original novel or novella. It is not designed for adaptations of someone else’s work.

(3) MURDOCH MYSTERIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] We are on the home stretch of, via Acorn.tv, watching the Murdoch Mysteries [1], and, sans spoilers, I thought I’d drop a brief note on one of the episodes we saw earlier this week, Season 13 Episode 11, “Staring Blindly into the Future”

In addition to the use of (then) new scientific techniques to solve crimes — fingerprinting, blood typing, ultraviolet to reveal bloodstains, surveillance cameras — and various legitimized/finessed tech, like a prototype hyperloop, a (larger) roomba, and more — another of the sf/fan-adjacent aspects of the show is the use of historical figures (e.g., Mark Twain, played by William Shatner).

This episode features a dozen — most of whom (all but 3, IIRC) have appeared on previous episodes throughout the season:

  • Nikola Tesla
  • Svetlana Tsiolkofsky (a fictional daughter of rocketry’s Konstantin T.)
  • Thomas Edison
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Emma Goldman
  • Albert Einstein (previous name-dropped but not shown)
  • Marie Curie
  • Ernest Rutherford
  • Henry Ford
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Harry Houdini
  • H.G. Wells

Fun stuff!

[1] From the CBC URL:  “Set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century, Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour drama series that explores the intriguing world of William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders.”

(4) JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS BACK COVER. The Guardian reports a practice adopted by some newly reopened UK bookstores to minimize COVID-19 contamination  — “Flipping hell: book designers lament Waterstones’ back-to-front displays”.

It was understandable but slightly “heartbreaking”, designer Anna Morrison said of the news that Waterstones is asking shoppers to judge a book by its back cover.

The retailer has offered its apologies to book designers after some newly reopened branches began displaying books back to front so browsers could read the blurb without picking it up.

…People can pick up a book in Waterstones but if they do not buy, it is quarantined for 72 hours. A branch in Swansea was first to post on Twitter that they were turning books round where possible. 

(5) SOME AMENDS. John Scalzi reacted to news about the misconduct of several sff writers he knows (named in the piece): “When Friends Fuck Up, and So Do I”.

… I have some friends who have fucked up in how they’ve been treating women.

… I’m angry at my friends right now. I’m sad for my friends right now. I’m even more angry about and sad for the women who they have made feel unsafe, and who they have harassed, or groomed, or otherwise harmed, because it is unacceptable. I want to be a friend to my friends and I also want to chuck them off the side of the fucking boat and be done with them. I want to think there’s a way back for some of them, for the same reason there was a way back for me when I’ve fucked up before. That’s on them, and right now I don’t know how much, if any, of my personal time and credibility I want to put into helping them. I’m frustrated and I’m tired that we keep having to do this, and I’m ashamed that some of the reason we keep having to do this rests on me. I understand and accept why I need to write this piece and I also fucking resent having to, and that resentment rests solely on my friends, and me….

(6) GAMING FIGURES ACCUSED. The New York Times covered last weekend’s outpouring: “Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment”. Tagline: “After more than 70 allegations surfaced on Twitter this weekend, gaming companies and streamers responded with action. Some say it’s the beginning of real change in the industry.”

More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.

The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.

Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.

Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage. The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)

In interviews with The Times, when asked to describe their experiences with Lono, the streamers asked a reporter to refer to their public statements on Twitter, TwitLonger and Twitch.

Lono responded to their Twitter accusations in a YouTube video posted on Saturday. “There is no excuse for my behavior. There is no way to gloss over it. The things I did were unacceptable,” he said in the video. “Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.” (He declined to speak to a reporter from The Times on Monday, and would not share his last name.)

(7) BRAVE NEW SHOW. “You are an essential part of a perfect social body.” Brave New World  begins streaming July 15 on Peacock. Let SYFY Wire set the frame: “It’s A ‘Brave New World’ In First Full Trailer For Peacock’s Sci-Fi Dystopia Series”.

…Based on the highly-conditioned, controlled, and warped population in Huxley’s 1932 novel, this society is a tragic one in need of resistance. So why not John? And, as the new posters for the series declare, “everybody happy now.” The grammar might be a little strange but the sentiment is clear: this dystopia thinks emotional problems have been solved thanks to some handy pharmaceuticals.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 – George Orwell. His other work is admirable but he compels our attention with Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Naturally people on both the Left and the Right have claimed them and attacked them.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Thai.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1935 – Charles Sheffield.  Physicist and SF author. “Georgia on My Mind” won both the Hugo and the Nebula.  Thirty novels, a hundred shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Croatian, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish.  Toastmaster at BucConeer the 56th Worldcon.  Pro Guest of Honor at Lunacon 44 the year I was Fan Guest of Honor.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1944 – Rick Gellman, age 76.  Art Shows and Dealers’ Rooms at various conventions.  Helped start a Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund for sending writers to Clarion.  Founded the Minnesota Munchie Movement.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1958 – Pat Sayre McCoy, age 62.  She chaired WindyCon 33 and 34; ran the Green Room at Chicon 2000, the 58th Worldcon; contributed an essay to the wrestling with “SF conventions and Gender Equity” in Journey Planet 13, as did Our Gracious Host. [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1963 – Yann Martel, age 57.  Famous for The Life of Pi, second of three SF novels (besides writing Beatrice and Virgil, which is not about those two historical persons, nor a book-length treatment of The Divine Comedy, but – well, read it for yourself).  A theatrical adaptation of Pi with puppets (no, not hand puppets) was a great success and was scheduled to open in London this month, naturally postponed.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1980 – Amanda Arista, age 40.  Third novel about Merci Lenard, who always gets her story but doesn’t always get the truth she wants, just released in January.  Three novels about an urban panther.  AA herself likes bowling, croquet, and the SMU (Southern Methodist University) Creative Writing Program in which she once studied and now teaches.  [JH]

(9) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto,” a story about big data, emerging life forms, and a plea for coexistence by Regina Kanyu Wang.

 It was a public hearing held online. Billions of people crowded into the meeting room, in suits, in pajamas, on treadmills, on sofas, in groups in front of large screens suspended above busy streets, alone at home with VR headsets on. The host called for silence and their words were translated into myriad languages, in both sound and text. The audience held its collective breath and waited for the special guest to show. A face appeared, vague in detail, like billions of faces merged into one. The face began to talk, in an equally vague voice, in thousands of languages at the same time, alien but also familiar to everyone…

On Monday, June 29 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Regina in conversation with Athena Aktipis, a psychology researcher who studies cooperation across systems, from human sharing to cancer. Registration required.

(10) TONI WEISSKOPF Q&A. Author Robert E. Hampson interviewed Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf for his Wake Forest University class.

(11) BOUNTY PAID. “Rare ‘Star Wars’ Toys Attract Big Money At Auction”Forbes reported some high sales figures in March – but also that one rare item failed to attract its minimum bid.

One of the most sought after Star Wars collectibles has sold for $93,750 at auction.

Bidding on the Rocket-Firing Boba Fett started at $30,000 but had already exceeded the $60,000 lower estimate before the auction began thanks to several absentee bids. The final sale price includes the buyer’s premium.

The unpainted promotional item, made of blue plastic, is a prototype that utilized an L-Slot design named after the shape of the backpack mechanism to allow the rocket to fire. It was created by toymaker Kenner to promote the second film in the franchise, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It is one of the few prototypes known to exist. The launcher design was amended to a J-Slot mechanism and eventually replaced by a non-firing version. None of the firing toys were ever made available to the general public.

This item is the latest to be available on the market. A similar item sold at auction through Hakes in July 2019 for $112,926. Another, one that had been painted and had a J-Slot design in the backpack, sold for $185,850 in November 2019. Both prices include the buyer’s premium.

(12) LUNAR LOO. “NASA and HeroX Launch Lunar Loo Challenge to Find Way for Astronauts to Poop on the Moon”. So, will this be an outhouse with a crescent Earth on the door?

HeroX, the social network for innovation and the world’s leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition “Lunar Loo” on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Program. NASA is preparing to return to the Moon by 2024 and needs to develop a new way for astronauts to urinate and defecate in microgravity and lunar gravity. The crowdsourcing challenge calls on the global community of innovators to provide innovative design concepts for fully capable, low mass toilets that can be used both in space and on the moon.

Competitive toilet designs will align with NASA’s overall goals of reduced mass and volume, lower power consumption, and easy maintenance. Selected designs may be modified for integration into Artemis lunar landers. This effort is all part of NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon in 2024.

HeroX says this is the payoff:

This Lunar Toilet Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the teams submitting the top three designs in the Technical category.  The top three participants in the Junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise.

(13) ABOUT THE WEATHER. I’ll bet they were.

(14) FROM HIDDEN FIGURE TO MARQUEE NAME. BBC reports “Nasa to name HQ after first black female engineer”.

Nasa is to name its headquarters in Washington DC after its first black female engineer, Mary Jackson.

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said Jackson had helped to break down barriers for African Americans and women in engineering and technology.

The story of Mary Jackson was told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Born in Hampton, Virginia, she died in 2005.

Last year, Nasa renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way.

“Hidden no more, we will continue to recognise the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made Nasa’s successful history of exploration possible,” Mr Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Mary W Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped Nasa succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” Mr Bridenstine added.

“Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

(15) LISTEN TO THE RHYTHM OF THE FALLING RAIN. “The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Smell”.

Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery… until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.

Transcript here

(16) FORK OVER. Snippet good! “Google to pay for ‘high quality’ news in three countries”.

Google says it will pay some news outlets for “high-quality” stories that it uses amid pressure from publishers.

Part of the initiative will require Google to pay for its users to access news stories otherwise locked behind a so-called paywall on certain websites.

The first sites to join are in Australia, Brazil, and Germany, with a product launch set for later this year.

It comes as authorities in some countries investigate how tech firms use news content without paying for it.

Australia has put forward plans to force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers under competition rules.

France has already issued Google with an order to do so.

It is the latest development in a long-standing row with news publishers over whether tech giants should pay them to include “snippets” of news articles in search results or on social media.

(17) YOUTH’S A STUFF WILL NOT ENDURE. “Parties — Not Protests — Are Causing Spikes In Coronavirus”, according to NPR.

As the U.S. begins to open back up, coronavirus clusters — where multiple people contract COVID-19 at the same event or location — are popping up all over the country. And despite drawing massive crowds, protests against police violence and racial injustice in Washington state weren’t among those clusters.

“We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we’re finding is in large part that’s due to the use of masks,” Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it’s really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease.”

For the clusters that have popped up, Lautenbach says the state has been using contact tracing to learn more about how they’re contributing to the spread of the virus. For instance, it found that 14 cases were associated with a party of 100 to 150 people in early June. Subsequently, 15 more cases were associated with the original 14.

“So that one event spread to 29 people and 31 related employers,” Lautenbach says. “Our challenge is to continue to trace as it moves through families, as it moves through workplaces and as it moves through social events as well.”

But protests just aren’t spreading the disease in the same way, Lautenbach says.

“We’re finding that the social events and gatherings, these parties where people aren’t wearing masks, are our primary source of infection,” Lautenbach says. “And then the secondary source of infection is workplace settings. There were 31 related employers just associated with that one party because of the number of people that brought that to their workplace. So for us, for a community our size, that’s a pretty massive spread.”

And much of that spread, Lautenbach says, is affecting young people.

“We have seen almost a near flip in the cases that we’re experiencing,” Lautenbach says. “So in April of this year, we were really struggling with long-term-care outbreaks. And so about 3 out of 4 people were over the age of 30 and really pretty heavily skewed to 60-plus. And by contrast, in June, we’re seeing that now 2 out of 3 people that have contracted this disease are under 29.”

(18) SPLICING EDGE. NPR reports,“A Year In, 1st Patient To Get Gene Editing For Sickle Cell Disease Is Thriving”.

Like millions of other Americans, Victoria Gray has been sheltering at home with her children as the U.S. struggles through a deadly pandemic, and as protests over police violence have erupted across the country.

But Gray is not like any other American. She’s the first person with a genetic disorder to get treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

And as the one-year anniversary of her landmark treatment approaches, Gray has just received good news: The billions of genetically modified cells doctors infused into her body clearly appear to be alleviating virtually all the complications of her disorder, sickle cell disease.

(19) DON’T LESNERIZE. Dean Koontz, in the course of telling fans his new book Devoted is available, filled them in about his experience dining out in newly-reopened California.

Wow, after months of having to eat at home every night, we here in Koontzland were excited when our favorite restaurants began to do business again this past week. We went with Ms. Elsa on opening day. The patio tables were ten or twelve feet apart, the waiters wore masks and gloves, the busboys wore full-face plastic shields, and the mood-music guitarist kept alternating between “Eve of Destruction” and “Saint James Infirmary.” It was sooooo romantic!

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