Pixel Scroll 11/21/20 I’m In Danger, I’ve Been Told Of Traps In Pixels I’ve Never Scrolled

(1) IS THE END IN SIGHT? The New Yorker profiles Toby Ord, a philosopher who studies our species’ “existential risk,” in “How Close Is Humanity to the Edge?”

… For someone with Ord’s interests, living through a pandemic is an opportunity to contemplate alternate histories. What might have happened in a world in which covid-19 didn’t exist, or was handled differently? What if the virus had been more deadly? Ord’s book reckons with these divergences on a grand scale, considering both the grim futures that await us if existential threats to humanity aren’t addressed and the far more promising outcomes that become possible if they are. Ord has given the name “the precipice” to our current phase of history, which, he writes, began at 11:29 a.m. Coördinated Universal Time, on July 16, 1945—the moment of the Trinity test, when the first nuclear bomb was detonated. It will end, he suggests, with either a shared global effort to insure humanity’s continued survival or the extinction of our species.

Ord places the risk of our extinction during the twenty-first century at one in six—the odds of an unlucky shot in Russian roulette. Should we manage to avoid a tumble off the precipice, he thinks, it will be our era’s defining achievement. The book catalogues many possible catastrophes. There are the natural risks we’ve always lived with, such as asteroids, super-volcanic eruptions, and stellar explosions. “None of them keep me awake at night,” Ord writes. Then there are the large-scale threats we have created for ourselves: nuclear war, climate change, pandemics (which are made more likely by our way of life), and other novel methods of man-made destruction still to come. Ord is most concerned about two possibilities: empowered artificial intelligence unaligned with human values (he gives it a one-in-ten chance of ending humanity within the next hundred years) and engineered pandemics (he thinks they have a one-in-thirty chance of bringing down the curtain). The pandemic we are currently experiencing is the sort of event that Ord describes as a “warning shot”—a smaller-scale catastrophe that, though frightening, tragic, and disruptive, might also spur attempts to prevent disasters of greater magnitude in the future….

(2) TEVIS ON TAP. Brick’s rediscovered“Interview with Walter Tevis” is based on a 1981 radio show appearance where the late Richard Lupoff was one of the trio of interviewers.

[Richard A. Lupoff]: Norman Spinrad called The Man Who Fell to Earth a single-entry novel into the science fic­tion genre by a so-called mainstream novelist. He also referred to you as an SF novice. In view of the fact that The Man Who Fell to Earth was published in 1963, if you had been publishing stories in Galaxy, If and Fantasy and Science Fic­tion since 1957, how do you feel about the appellation of SF novice?

WT: I was pissed, and I thought he was wrong. You know, maybe he didn’t know about those sto­ries. Some of them had dwelled in obscurity for several years, and the thing I was mainly known for at the time I did The Man Who Fell to Earth was The Hustler, which is . . . which everybody thinks, anyway, is pretty far from sci­ence fiction. . . . I’ve worked both sides of the street for some time. Still am, you know, and that was a long time ago, and right now in my life I’m not sure whether I’m a science fiction writer or not, but I think I’ve written enough science fiction that, you know, willy-nilly, I am….

(3) TOP SHORTS. The fourth annual Copa Shorts Film Fest winners include some works of genre interest, as reported by inMaricopa.com’s story “Veteran’s film on fighter ace takes top honors at Copa Shorts fest”.

…The top screenplay, “Graveyard Girl,” was written by Sixa Monmarché, a first-time screenwriter from Gilbert. The screenplay is a paranormal thriller that creates an engaging story with fully-realized characters in 12 pages, a press release said.

The festival, held virtually from Nov. 7-9 due to the pandemic, featured more than 50 short films. A workshop on writing comedy, “Creating Comedy from the Ordinary,” was presented by Pat Battistini, the Audience Choice winner from the 2019 festival.

“Moving Day,” a comedy with puppets, was this year’s Audience Choice winner. It was directed by Jonason Pauley and Jesse Perrotta of Mesa.

The Best High School film, “Hackers: The Misfit Superheroes,” provided insights into hackers and how they operate. Written and directed by Ethan Wilk from Scottsdale, the film explains how hackers counterattack malicious large-scale hacking.

The Best College film, “Sami” directed by Eden Bailey, is a sci-fi film about a credible future world with a sidekick robot to a scientist living on a desolate planet. The engaging film included CG.

(4) WINDS OF WINTER. George R.R. Martin gave fans a progress report earlier this month in “Back to Westeros”:

Sometimes I do get the feeling that most of you reading my posts here care more about what is happening in Westeros than what is happening in the United States.

So let me assure you that, when not sweating out election returns or brooding over other real world problems, I have continued to work on THE WINDS OF WINTER.

…I was really on a roll back in June and July.   Progress has continued since then, but more slowly… I suffered a gut punch in early August that really had me down for a time, and another, for different reasons, in early September.   But I slogged on, and of late I am picking up steam again….

(5) THE ****S IN THE SKY. Yesterday, Rachel Bloom was on NPR’s Ask Me Another. John A. Arkansawyer listened to the 18-minute segment and says “She was very funny. I normally tune that show out if it starts–I’m moderately fond of the one before it, and something they benefit–but when I heard she was their guest, I left it on that long. They created her a contest which you’ll love.” “Rachel Bloom: I Want To Be Where The Normal People Are”.

On shooting the “**** Me, Ray Bradbury” music video:

Actually, when we shot that video, we shot it in an old Catholic school in Brooklyn that since has closed for film shoots, but I paid $400 to get this entire Cathlic school for a day. But, it was still connected to the Catholic church, and so there would be a priest wandering around. And so I told everyone, “Don’t let the priest know the title of the video we’re filming.” And I actually recorded a separate clean version of the song to play in case the priest came in, so at the very least we could keep filming if he wanted to stay and watch for a while. But it replaced all the expletives with sound effects like boi-oi-oi-oi-oing or one of them was a baby crying like “Wah!” I also told the dancers, “If the priest comes in, cover up.” Just because we were very scantily-clad.

(6) SOLOW OBIT. A key figure in Trek history died November 19: “Herbert F. Solow obituary, exec who sold Star Trek to NBC dies at 89”SYFY Wire highlights of his career.

…Hired by legendary actress/producer Lucille Ball in 1964 to revive her production company, Desilu Studios, after her divorce from Desi Arnaz, Solow began developing several series pitched to the company, including Mission: ImpossibleMannix, and a new sci-fi series that Roddenberry was formulating.

Solow initially pitched the show, called Star Trek, to CBS, which turned it down because the network already had Lost in Space (ironically, CBS now owns the entire Star Trek library of shows and movies).

Solow then turned his efforts to NBC, where he had once worked. With Ball’s support, the network was convinced to commission a pilot called “The Cage.” The network wasn’t pleased with the product, but took the unusual step of asking for a second pilot featuring a heavily revamped cast. That one, called “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” convinced NBC to pick up the series and premiere it in September 1966.

According to the book These Are The Voyages, Solow was just one of two executives at Desilu who championed Star Trek when the rest of the board warned Ball that it was a financial and creative risk that could sink the production company.

… The exec later left Desilu and went to work for MGM, where he developed series such as Medical Center and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. He also went on to produce the sci-fi series Man from Atlantis, as well as a number of motion pictures.

Of course, anybody who’s watched enough episodes of original Trek has his name etched in memory because of this iconic credit slide:

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 21, 1903 – Isaac Bashevis Singer.  Four novels, ninety shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  Fantastic elements recur; so does a sense of humor which has been called melancholy.  His work may be of most interest to SF fans who have no connection with eastern Europe nor with Judaism.  The beacon of SF is Minds as good as you but different; and he was given the Nobel Prize in Literature for “his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life.”  (Died 1991) [JH] 
  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR and his father invited him  to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. I’ll leave to this august group to discuss their merit as I’ve got mixed feelings on them. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born November 21, 1937 Ingrid Pitt. Performer from Poland who emigrated to the UK and is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire LoversCountess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the true version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s UnderworldDominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles twenty years apart in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.) (CE) 
  • Born November 21, 1942 – Jane Frank, Ph.D., 78.  Leading art collector, agent, and author; so much so that she was made Agent Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon.  On particular artists she and husband Howard Frank have produced The Art of Richard Powers and The Art of John Berkey; from J & H’s own holdings, The Frank Collection and Great Fantasy Art Themes from the Frank Collection; more generally Paint or Pixel and the biographical dictionary Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century.  [JH]
  • Born November 21, 1945 – Vincent Di Fate, 75.  This giant among our pro artists has the rare ability not only to make superb art but also to discuss.  His Infinite Worlds, a comprehensive history of SF art, published in 1997, remains indispensable: artists arrive and leave but, to take over an old saying, Life is short, art is long.  His own artbook The SF Art of Vincent Di Fate. Four hundred covers, five hundred fifty interiors.  Here is To Your Scattered Bodies Go.  Here is the Sep 87 SF Chronicle.  Here is the Jan 95 Galaxy.  Here is the Nov 09 Analog.  A Hugo, a Skylark, a Chesley for Life Achievement, SF Hall of Fame.  His Website is headed Science • Art • Imagination.  A note by me on Infinite Worlds is here.  [JH]
  • Born November 21, 1946 – Tom Veal, 74.  Chaired Windycon X, in many other years its Treasurer.  Oversaw the Business Meeting, site selection, Hugo balloting at MagiCon the 50th Worldcon; then chaired Chicon 6 the 58th Worldcon.  Dauntless and reliable.  Curator of the Christine Valada Portrait Project.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born November 21, 1950 – Evelyn Leeper, 70.  Co-founder of the Mt Holz (MT Middletown, HO Holmdel, LZ Lincroft, New Jersey) SF Society; co-editor of The MT Void (weekly, since 1978).  Twelve-time Hugo finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Twenty years a judge of the Sidewise Award (alternative history).  With husband Mark Leeper, Fan Guests of Honor at Contraption 5, Windycon XXIX.  [JH]
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 67. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. The quite excellent Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog which is one of the better ones I’ve read. (CE) 
  • Born November 21, 1965 — Alexander Siddig, 55. Sudanese born English actor whose full name is amazing: Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abdurrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi. His best remembered role is as Dr. Julian Bashir on Deep Space Nine. He also had the recurring role of Doran Martell in Game of Thrones, on Da Vinci’s Demons, he was Al-Rahim, and he played Philip Burton on Primeval. More recently he had the juicy role of Ra’s al Ghul on Gotham. (CE) 
  • Born November 21, 1971 Greg Bechtel, 49. Canadian writer who’s one of those rare genre writers whose entire output is short fiction. You can find most of these in Boundary Problems which is available from the usual digital suspects. And he and Rhonda Parrish co-edited Tesseracts Twenty-One: Nevertheless, the Canadian SF anthology. (CE) 
  • Born November 21, 1978 – Mary G. Thompson, 42.  Four novels.  Practicing lawyer for seven years including five in the U.S. Navy, then a librarian.  Invented Pipe Men and the Wuftoom.  [JH]
  • Born November 21, 1982 Ryan Carnes, 38. He was in two Tenth Doctor stories, “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks in which he played Laszlo. He played Kit Walker / The Phantom in the miniseries of the same name, and has the lead as Chris Norton in Beyond the Sky, an alien abductee film. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Herman is Frankensteinly speaking.

(9) THE 600-POUND BATMAN. He’s now the real man of bronze. And Yahoo! News will tell you where to find him — “Burbank Adds ‘Batman: Hush’ Statue In The City’s AMC Walkway”.

A colossal Batman statue based on the Batman: Hush character design by DC artist, publisher, and chief creative officer Jim Lee has been placed in Burbank’s AMC Walkway pedestrian area.

The “Visit Burbank” organization in partnership with DC brought the bronze statue to the area. Lee’s design from his 2002 Batman comics run was reimagined in 3D form by digital sculptor Alejandro Pereira Ezcurra at Burbank’s American Fine Arts Foundry and Fabrication. The final statue measures seven-and-a-half feet tall and weighs 600 pounds.

(10) THIN WORLDBUILDING. Paul Weimer, in “Microreview [book]: How The Multiverse Got Its Revenge by K. Eason”, gives his verdict to Nerds of a Feather readers:

…This is the story of How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge, followup to How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse.

The narrative voice is a strong point of the novel and a real highlight that carries over from the first book. Voice and tone and grounding the reader into an immersive and distinctive voice is a way for a novel to center and be grounded, I think, especially given the gonzo weirdness of an unabashedly science fantasy universe. This is a novel, a world, a series that only puts the lightest of foundational touches to align the SFnal and Fantasy elements and it likes it that way. So tone and narrative voice carry the reader even as they wonder just how fairies, otherwise unexplained even as aliens, line up with spacecraft, space stations, and the magical art of arithmancy. Having recently watched the She-Ra reboot, I saw this sort of sensibility at work in a visual medium, and people who dig that science fantasy feel in She-Ra are going to like and accept that feel in the first novel, and here in the second novel as well…. 

(11) TINGLE TUESDAYS. They’re coming. So to speak.

(12) OVERDUE. Mental Floss lists “13 Unbelievable Unfinished Projects”. The Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington used on the dollar bill is one of them. And it turns out that The Canterbury Tales has been unfinished for a lot longer than Last Dangerous Visions.

(13) WHAT A LONG STRANGE TRIP. “8mm film returned to Minnesota library 40 years overdue” – UPI has the story. And the wonderful thing is this library system abolished late fines in 2018.

Employees at a Minnesota library found an unusual item in a return bin — an 8mm film that was 40 years overdue.

Dan Buckanaga, an employee at the Duluth Public Library, said he was emptying a return bin when he spotted what he initially thought was a CD audiobook, but a closer examination revealed to be an 8mm movie on a reel.

“I’d never seen one before,” Buckanaga told the Duluth News Tribune.

The film reel, a copy of classic silent film A Trip to the Moon, was accompanied by a Post-it note reading: “Sorry, checked this out when I was 14 and we moved. It is 40 years overdue but better late than never.”

Randall Brody, 54, came forward as the man who returned the film. He said he found it in a box in his garage earlier this year and remembered he and his brother had checked it out of the library Sept. 2, 1980, shortly before their family moved to North Dakota.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Frank Olynyk, John Hertz, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Michael J. Walsh, StephenfromOttawa, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/29/20 The Wheel of Time Bears Bitter Fruit

(1) FOR THE WINNERS. Joy Alyssa Day posted a photo of this year’s Chesley Award.

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 13. On April 13, 1970, the Apollo 13’s lunar landing was aborted in what would become a historic mission. The crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft splashed down on April 17, 1970.

It’s a beautiful piece, 4″ wide, 12″ deep and about 4″ tall. Water is sculpted fused glass with a blown glass Apollo Capsule attached. Capsule is engraved and painted for the doors and windows.

(2) BREAK THE CYCLE. Samantha Haney Press in a Facebook post urges “A Radical Approach To Fan-Run Cons”.

…Conrunning is a hard, sometimes thankless task. Most of the time people don’t know who does what unless they’re looking to complain. Most people don’t know that a lot of fan-run cons are run by volunteers, not paid workers.

THAT BEING SAID, conrunners are still stewards of and drawn from the community made up of the convention’s attendees. If your convention isn’t welcoming to congoers of marginalized identities, the demographics trickle up. Fewer people of color among attendees means fewer people of color to recruit from for leadership positions.

And the reverse becomes true, too – no people of marginalized identities in leadership roles? Those demographics will feel unwelcome as attendees, either through passive perception or active failures by leadership. It’s a cycle.

You have to make a DELIBERATE EFFORT to break the cycle. At *every* link in the chain, or it perpetuates itself.

You need not just one person overseeing programming, for instance, but an ecosystem of people across many departments, from front-facing/high-profile jobs to the invisible ones backstage. You need redundancy in case of burnout – conrunner burnout is REAL, and it’s **compounded** by social justice burnout for those trying to enact systemic change….

(3) SPECULATING ABOUT REALITY. Mary Anne Mohanraj interviews “Minal Hajratwala”, author of Leaving India, at Speculative Literature Foundation. (Transcript here.)

“South Asian work in particular, it’s interesting because I feel like…a modern South Asian science fiction sensibility, if there is one, is still forming. And of course, I mean, we’ve talked about this, how diverse South Asia is, so many different strands. So whether you can even say there is ‘a South Asian sensibility’ is disputable. But at the same time, I do think that South Asian countries have this deep wellspring of myth…and religion, which is nothing if not speculative. Like, that’s, to me, that’s the definition. It’s like we don’t know things; therefore, we will speculate about how reality is constructed. And so drawing from that is this really fertile ground that I think people are still just beginning to tap into.”

(4) SOUND FAMILIAR? Den of Geek presents “The Scariest Sentences Ever Written, Selected by Top Horror Authors”. You’ll know a bunch of these.

For Halloween we’ve attempted to round up some of the scariest sentences ever written – and who better to ask for their recommendations than some of the finest horror writers and editors around? We asked some of our favourite experts to tell us the line that scared them most and why. Any suggestions of your own? Let us know in the comments.

To Serve Man by Damon Knight

Scariest sentence“It’s a cookbook,” he said.

Is there a better whammy of an end line than this? Ten to one you’ll know the story that precedes it: Seemingly benevolent aliens, the Kanamit, arrive on earth, promising peace and prosperity. The aliens are as good as their word, and start whisking “lucky” humans off to their planet for a “ten year exchange programme”. A U.N translator, who (rightly) thinks this is all too good to be true, sets about translating the aliens’ favourite book, which, from its title, “To Serve Man,” is assumed to be an innocent handbook. It ain’t (see the last line).

(5) CLUB FANS. PC Magazine asks Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society President Matthew B. Tepper “In 2020, Is Science Fiction Still an Escape?”

That was a long time before you joined, but do you have any memories of meeting [Ray Bradbury]?
MBT: 
If you bounced around to all the libraries and bookstores on LA’s Westside, as I did as a kid, it was hard not to meet Ray! He was always around somewhere, always genial, always ready to bask in adulation. The last time I saw him was just before his 90th birthday, at a bookstore.

There must be lots of writers who’ve emerged from LASFS over the years.
MBT: 
Yes, we’ve had many authors come up from our membership. The best known is Larry Niven, author of Ringworld, and he still attends our Zoom meetings. 

(6) MORE ABOUT LUPOFF. Comics expert Maggie Thompson focuses on the good times in “Richard Allen Lupoff: Among the Memories” at The Comics Journal.

…But facts, dates, awards: They don’t convey just how much fun it was to hang out with Dick and Pat — and how eternally kind they were as hosts. I’m speaking here as one among many who experienced their kindness. For example, they: provided home base, as Don and I explored Manhattan’s comics publishers; played host, as Don and I visited Poughkeepsie to tour the Western printing operation; and brainstormed collecting a bunch of nostalgia articles into book collections that others could share. Heck, I haven’t even mentioned their kindness, as the plans for us all to see the Broadway show It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Superman fell through — and they arranged to substitute the off-Broadway The Mad Show. They were there for us so that we could attend John Benson’s multi-day New York City comics convention that same year (with Pat and me as two of the four attending females). And it was grand to see them more than once at Comic-Con International: San Diego.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1996 — Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife was published by Tor Books with the cover illustration by Susan Boulet. It would win the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature the following year. It was nominated for both the BFA and Nebula Awards too. She later published a somewhat loosely connected story, “The Color of Angels”, a year later. Jo Walton in What Makes This Book So Great says that The Wood Wife “hits a sweet spot for me where I just love everything it’s doing.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 29, 1906 – Fredric Brown.  Had he written only “Arena”, The Lights in the Sky Are StarsMartians, Go Home, and What Mad Universe, it would have been enough for us; these even if alone would make him a star in our sky.  Two more novels, a hundred thirty shorter stories – some very short, one of his gifts.  Also detective fiction (Edgar Award for The Fabulous Clipjoint).  NESFA Press has two collections.  I never met him in person; photos show an ordinary-looking man; all his strangeness, of which he had no lack, must have gone into his work.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born October 29, 1925 – Beryl Mercer.  Active in the British SF Ass’n.  Essays, reviews in Vector and Zenith, some with husband Archie Mercer.  Fanzines Oz (for OMPA, the Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n), Mercatorial Annual (with AM), The Middle Earthworm (with AM; Tolkien), The Once and Future Worm (with AM; Arthur); did much of the zine reproduction for PADS (Printing And Distributing Service) and contributed Link (with Mary Reed).  Eastercon committees.  Doc Weir award (U.K., for service).  (Died 2003) [JH]  
  • Born October 29, 1935 Sheila Finch, 85. She’s best-known for her stories about the Guild of Xenolinguists which are quite excellent. The Golden Gryphon collection The Guild of Xenolinguists is well worth seeking out. She also wrote Myths, Metaphors, and Science Fiction: Ancient Roots of the Literature of the Future which is exactly what the title says. Neither are available at the usual digital suspects though some of her other work is. (CE) 
  • Born October 29, 1938 Ralph Bakshi, 82. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break would be on CBS  as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul mouthed talking cat. Genre wise, I’d say War Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and whose final name was Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you know what film. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series!  Then there’s Cool World… (CE) 
  • Born October 29, 1967 Rufus Sewall, 53. Appeared as Reichsmarschall John Smith in The Man in The High Castle loosely based on the novel by Philip K. Dick. And he was the lead in Dark City, a film often compared to the Matrix films. He’s also appeared, and this not a complete listing,in The Legend of ZorroAbraham Lincoln: Vampire HunterA Knight’s TaleMermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature, The Illusionist and on the American version of the Eleventh Hour series.(CE)
  • Born October 29, 1971 Winona Ryder, 49. Beatlejuice, of course, but also Edward Scissorhands and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Not to mention Alien Resurrection and Star Trek as Spock’s human mother Amanda Grayson. Which brings me to Being John Malkovich which might me the coolest genre film of all time. (CE) 
  • Born October 29, 1971 Anna Dale, 49. Scottish  writer whom many reviewers have dubbed “the next JK Rowling” whose best  known for her Whispering to Witches children’s novel. It was based on her masters dissertation in children’s writing. She has written two more novels of a similar ilk, Spellbound and Magical Mischief. (CE)
  • Born October 29, 1979 Andrew Lee Potts, 41. He is best known as Connor Temple on Primeval and the all-too-short live spinoff Primeval: New World. He was also Tim Larson in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a British crime drama series. Yes, it’s that Stan Lee. He also had recurring role of Toby in Strange, a BBC supernatural series. (CE) 
  • Born October 29, 1938 – Ralph Bakshi, 82.  Producer, director, writer, animator.  Fritz the Cat (1972), first animated film to be rated X, may be the most financially successful independent animated film of all time.  Two years of Mighty Mouse 1987-1989.  Started as a cel polisher at Terrytoons.  Golden Gryphon for his Lord of the Rings.  Inkpot.  Annie.  [JH]
  • Born October 29, 1968 – Stanley Donwood, 52.  One novel, a shorter story, four covers for us; half a dozen other books; artwork for the band Radiohead, its singer Thom Yorke’s solo albums, TY’s band Atoms for Peace – I’ll let you decide whether those are ours, Our Gracious Host has been after me for saying maybe. Website Slowly Downward, also the title of a 2001 collection.  Here is Blue Light.  Here is Concrete Island.  Here is Let’s All Go to the Science Fiction Disco.  [JH]
  • Born October 29, 1975 – Dahlia Rose, 45.  Seven dozen books; mostly romance, historical, military, modern, paranormal, combinations thereof; to quote her Website, “Bad boys, soldiers and shifters, spice between the sheets”.  Ten so far in the Paladin Dragons series.  [JH]
  • Born October 29, 1986 – Lyndsay Gilbert, 34.  Likes SF, playing the fiddle, cats, dogs, “and the ancient art of belly dance”.  Has read Tennyson and Yeats.   One novel, three shorter stories so far.  A few months ago she wrote, “My life has changed so much in the last two years.  Unfortunately my writing hasn’t changed enough, so prepare for a deluge of emotional poems, folks.”  [JH]

(9) GONE ALREADY. ComingSoon reports “Sci-Fi Drama Brave New World Cancelled at Peacock After One Season”.  

According to DeadlinePeacock has officially decided not to give David Wiener’s sci-fi drama series Brave New World a second season renewal, with UCP planning to shop it to other streamers or networks. This cancellation comes four months after the Alden Ehrenreich-led series debuted its 9-episode first season as part of the original slate for the streamer’s launch in July.

(10) FOR ALL MANKIND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “What if America had lost the race to the moon? My long-read Q&A with Ronald D. Moore” at the American Enterprise Institute, AEI scholar James Pethokoukis interviews For All Mankind creator Ronald D. Moore about his show, including why NASA did not cooperate with the series because they don’t want to hear from cranks who think the Moon landing was faked, why there should be more optimistic sf, and whether Moore, as a former Star Trek writer, agrees with Peter Thiel’s statement that Star Wars is capitalist and Star Trek communist because there’s no money in Star Trek.

In the show, one of the lead characters, astronaut Ed Baldwin, portrayed by Joel Kinnaman, criticizes NASA for being too risk-averse. Is that just a purely in-show criticism? Or is that a real-world criticism when we think about the things that have either gone wrong or not really been as spectacular as maybe many of us had hoped decades ago?

I think it’s a little bit of both. In the show’s context, I felt like that’s where the characters would go. They would be looking for reasons why they got beat, and it was like, “Well, this is why we got beat: We got too risk-averse after the Apollo 1 fire. It made us too cautious, and we lost that spirit. That’s the reason.”

In real-world terms, I think there is some validity to that. I think that the Apollo 1 fire, the Challenger accident, and the Columbia accident were magnified to the point in the public imagination that then everything at NASA became about safety. I’m not saying that we should risk astronaut lives willy-nilly. That’s not the point at all. But these are inherently dangerous things that we’re attempting. We’ve gotten to the point with space travel where we’re so concerned about that aspect that it feels like they’re really unwilling to take much risk at all.

And it’s an inherently dangerous undertaking. So then you’re sort of saying, “Well, we’re going to do very, very little of it because we have to be so, so, safe in every single possible way because we’re so deathly afraid of losing somebody.” The truth is it was predicted that we were going to lose more than one orbiter when the Space Shuttle program was first posited. So it wasn’t a shock on a certain level that it happened. It’s an inherently dangerous business. But, as a result of what happened, the way it was portrayed, and the way we dealt with it, the American public just became like, “God, we just cannot risk their lives anymore.” That works against the idea of, “You have to boldly go. You got to be bold. You got to take the risk.”

(11) REWINDING SHEETS. The Guardian brings you “Scariest ghosts in cinema – ranked!”. My favorite horror movie is almost at the bottom of this list.

18. Emeric Belasco in The Legend of Hell House (1973)

Size does matter. If ever a ghost failed to live up to its reputation it’s the malevolent entity at the centre of John Hough’s screening of Richard Matheson’s haunted house tale (played by an uncredited Michael Gough) who has to delegate his havoc-wreaking to a black cat and unsecured chapel furniture. He still manages to rack up a body count.

(12) HOUSELESS HAUNTS. CrimeReads’ Matthew Lyons counts off “The 9 Scariest Fictional Haunted Houses (That Aren’t Actually Houses)”. First on the list —

The Photo Album – Paper Tigers, Damien Angelica Walters

Some of the scariest hauntings are borne out of trauma, and in no other book is this fact examined with such dread and empathy as Damien Angelica Walters’ Paper Tigers. The story follows Alison, a horribly scarred young woman navigating the trauma from the loss of the life she used to know, who soon discovers a photo album in a curio shop that is far more terrifying and alive than it seems at the outset….

(13) BOWIE. Pitchfork invites everyone to “Watch the New Trailer for David Bowie Movie Stardust  — “…The movie focuses on a U.S. publicity tour in 1971, which led to Bowie inventing the Ziggy Stardust character. The film is coming to theaters and VOD on November 25.”

David Bowie is one of the most seminal legends in music history; but who was the man behind the many faces? In 1971, a 24-year-old fledgling David Bowie (Johnny Flynn) is sent to America to promote his newest record, The Man Who Sold the World. Leaving behind his pregnant wife Angie (Jena Malone), Bowie and his band embark on a makeshift coast-to-coast promotional tour with struggling Mercury Records publicist Rob Oberman (Marc Maron).

(14) MUPPET SCARES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “MVP of Horror: Alice Cooper recalls making a devilish deal with the Muppets”, Lyndsey Parker interviews Cooper, who said he was concerned that appearing on The Muppet Show would affect his brand as a super-scary guy, but Cooper says he had a really great time.

Back in the ‘70s, almost every major musical artist was starring in some bonkers movie musical or TV variety show — even KISS got in on the act. But KISS’s fellow shock-rocker Alice Cooper turned most of those opportunities down, out of concern that such projects would dilute the menacing image he’d so carefully cultivated with his own 1975 television special, Alice Cooper: The Nightmare, and its companion concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare. “I never wanted to be in a show where I had to totally lose the Alice character and become something else,” he explains to Yahoo Entertainment.

But when Jim Henson came calling, asking him to star in The Muppet Show’s 1978 Halloween special, that was an offer Alice could not refuse. “I never had so much fun in my life as doing The Muppet Show,” he gushes.

“I balked at first,” Cooper admits. “I went, ‘Oh man, I’ve been spending all this time building this villain image. Is this just going to water it down?’ I said, ‘Who’s going to be on it?’ And they said Christopher Lee, Vincent Price [who’d done previous Muppet Show Halloween guest spots]. And I went, ‘I’m in!’ I didn’t even have to think about it. I went, ‘I’m in. If those guys can do it, I am privileged to do it.’”

I saw the version of “School’s Out” Cooper did with the Muppets and I thought it was pretty entertaining.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/28/20 No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll Pixels!

(1) FRENCH LOCKDOWN. Utopiales, the International Science Fiction Festival of Nantes (France), scheduled for this weekend, was cancelled following today’s announcement by the French president of a new nationwide lockdown.

BBC explains:

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown until at least the end of November.

Mr Macron said that under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.

Mr Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

The Utopiales committee said:

…Maintaining a cultural offering is essential. That’s why we made a commitment to the end and if we had it do over we would do it again. However, everyone’s health is at the moment a top priority we must implement the decisions of the authorities.

(2) EXPLICATE!  Camestros Felapton created a photo gallery of “Some buildings that look like Daleks”

…So is it worth pointing out that the NZ parliament building has a distinct resemblance to a Dalek and surely that tells you a lot about that nation? 

(3) REVERSE THE POLARITY. Fast Company explains how “This incredible Google experiment lets you time travel to your hometown 200 years ago” – always assuming there was a there there two hundred years ago. Quite likely in 1820 there was nothing but bushes in my California neighborhood.

In the 20 years he’d lived in New York, Raimondas Kiveris had seen the city change immensely. “It was a completely different place, a different town,” says Kiveris, a software engineer at Google Research. This got him wondering what his neighborhood looked like even before that—before he’d lived there, before he’d even been born. “There’s really no easy way to find that information in any organized way,” he says. “So I was starting to think, can we somehow enable this kind of virtual time travel?”

Three years later, his attempt at virtual time travel is taking shape as an open-source map that can show, in both a bird’s-eye view and a pedestrian-level view, the changes that happen to city streetscapes over time. With a slider to control the year, the map displays a historically accurate representation of development in almost any U.S. city dating back to 1800. Automatically generated 3D models of buildings rise from the landscape as the slider moves forward through time. It can even show a rough estimation of what a city would have looked like from the pedestrian’s view, like a low-res Google Street View.

… The map was created using historical fire insurance maps, a rich source of information for the built environment that includes precise information about building ages, sizes, heights, roof shapes, and even materials. The map creates simplified 3D models of these buildings, and the time slider allows a user to see, for example, Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle nearly devoid of buildings in the 1870s and almost fully developed in the 1920s….

(4) CAMPAIGNING IN A SWING SHIRE. At McSweeney’s, Keith Rubin serves up a stack of “Political Fundraising Emails From Middle-Earth”.

Hi Bungo,

Have you heard the good news??? Will Whitfoot is SURGING in the latest polls! This is our chance to FINALLY elect a hobbit who TRULY loves banquets as Mayor of the Shire…. 

(5) HORROR TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF THE ELECTION. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda suggests some things to read over the next few days: “For Halloween: a critic’s pick of macabre treats for your library” .

…Consider, for example, “British Weird: Selected Short Fiction, 1893-1937,” edited by James Machin, which features not only classic stories — including Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows” and E.F. Benson “Caterpillars”— but also less familiar ones such as Mary Butts’s “Mappa Mundi.” As an extra treat Machin reprints Butts’s four-part 1933 essay, “Ghosties and Ghoulies: Uses of the Supernatural in English Fiction,” likening it to H.P. Lovecraft’s pioneering monograph, “Supernatural Horror in Literature.”

(6) DEATH WILL NOT RELEASE YOU. Despite the title, “Richard Lupoff: A Remembrance”, Ted White’s piece for the Comics Journal is mainly about his own place in fanhistory, and a chance to rehearse his unhealed wounds.

… Dick had typed up the stencils for the first issue of his new fanzine, Xero. At his request, I took the subway to Pacific Avenue in Brooklyn, to a warehouse business called Pace Paper, and bought the required reams of mimeo paper for Xero. The first issue of Xero was thin, compared to subsequent issues, and memory tells me that the Lupoffs wrote most of it. Certainly the centerpiece of the issue was Dick’s piece of comic-book nostalgia about “The Big Red Cheese,” the original Captain Marvel.

No one then realized the subsequent impact of that piece. It didn’t create comics fandom – which already existed – but it helped galvanize it. It sparked a wave of nostalgic interest in comics, mostly as relics of childhood, now fondly remembered, in SF fandom. SF fans had broad interests. Music was one, and comics turned out to be another.

In 1960, some of us had been comics fans for years. My friend Bhob Stewart created EC fandom with his fanzine, The EC Fan Bulletin. Bhob joined forces with Larry Stark and me to publish Potrzebie during the latter days of EC. EC fandom overlapped a lot with SF fandom, with some EC fans like Mike May becoming SF fans. Don and Maggie Thompson were SF fans who became comics fans around 1960.

This was the pot that Dick Lupoff stirred up.

I wrote the comics piece for Xero #2, “The Spawn of M.C. Gaines,” an overly broad overview of the creation of comic books and superheroes. (I totally rewrote it for its book publication, focusing only on Superman and Batman.) The comics pieces in Xero were published under the running head, “All In Color For a Dime” and the series took off, with many fans clamoring to write pieces about their childhood favorite comics. One of them was Harlan Ellison, who was living just up my block at the time.

I mimeographed at least the first three issues of Xero, and had at Dick’s request purchased the paper for the next issue when Dick did something I have never understood. Covertly, secretly, he arranged with friends living on Staten Island to mimeograph that and subsequent issues. I found out only when presented with a copy of the new issue.…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. It’d be a runner-up at Intersection to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s  “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. It was directed by Roland Emmerich and produced by Dean Devlin, Oliver Eberle and Joel B. Michaels. It was written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.  Principal cast was Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson and Viveca Lindfors.  It was a box office success despite the critics generally not being overly fond of it. Currently it holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of an excellent 73%. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge ad John Hertz]

  • Born October 28, 1818 – Ivan Turgenev.  This great Russian master (most noted for Fathers and Sons) left a dozen short stories for us.  Even Tolstoy – who once challenged IT to a duel, but withdrew – left five.  See e.g. The Mysterious Tales of IT (R. Dessaix tr. 1979).  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1903 – Evelyn Waugh.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us, by another author famous otherwise, possibly great.  Here is his own cover for Vile Bodies.  Here is his cover for a chapbook of “Love Among the Ruins”.  Was his best the biographies of Helena (248-330) and Ronald Knox (1888-1957)?  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1939 Jane Alexander, 81. She’s resistance fighter Virginia in Terminator Salvation, and has shown up in a number of genre series including playing C. on Elementary, Nora Morgan in an episode of Forever, and a recurring role as Klara on the intriguing sounding Tales from the Loop web series. She has several horror creds to her name as well, including Dr. Grasnik in The Ring and Sofi Kozma in The Unborn. (CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 69. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, an American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns.  (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1952 Anne Potts, 68. Janine Melnitz in the still best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters Afterlife which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about but which apparently has most of the original cast. (CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 62. Writer of four novels over a decade some twenty years ago including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories edited by Bruce Bethke. (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1962 – Jean-Jacques Chaubin, 58.  Jewelry stylist with Van Cleef & Arpels; then comics, video games (including the 1992 Dune), computer graphics; fifty book covers.  Here is The End of Time, and After.  Here is A Hint of Nothingness.  Here is Galaxies 5.  Here is The Armies of Daylight.  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1967 – Christopher Ecker, 53.  Author, translator, teacher, critic.  For us two novels, ninety shorter stories, a hundred sixty poems.  Friedrich Hebbel Prize, Saarland Art Prize.  His thousand-page novel Fahlmann (not “the pale man”, it’s the protagonist’s name) is “one of the most excessive reading adventures that contemporary German literature has to offer” – the Hebbel jury really said exzessivsten, I can’t help it.  Ulrich Commerçon, Saarland Minister of Education & Culture, said Ecker wonderfully combines fantasy and a philosophical world view, not forgetting wit.  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 53. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think… (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1974 – Ruth Ann Nordin, 46.  Almost a hundred books by now.  “One day, while browsing through the library, it suddenly occurred to me that if I wanted to read the book I had in mind, I was going to have to write it.  I’ve been writing ever since.”  Mostly romances, Western, Regency, modern.  Ann’s Quest to Be Queen and sequels (she becomes queen of the distant planet Raz), and five others, are ours.  When RAN apologized “I did not do as thorough a job of editing as I do today with my editor and three proofreaders.  I can’t go back and edit those books … I lost control of them,” she drew a comment “As always, you underestimate your talent.”  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 38. The Eleventh Doctor, my third favorite of the modern Doctors, and he’s also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. He’s also Jim in the quite excellent Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.(CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1989 – Heather Frost, 31.  Her Seers and two sequels are for us, plus a prequel in her collection Asides.  She owns two typewriters and holds Lord of the Rings movie marathons.  Mansfield Park and Harold and the Purple Crayon are two of her favorite books, so we agree there (not meaning the typewriters).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side witnesses an alien spacecraft’s distress call.

(10) WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT? Leading off AbeBooks’ “Most Expensive Sales from July to September 2020” is a copy of Michael Crichton’s The Lost World – which went for $25,000!

An unread, as new first edition complete with its dust jacket. The book is signed by Steven Spielberg, special effects director Stan Winston, and 10 actors from the film adaption of this novel – Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Richard Schiff, Arliss Howard, Vanessa Chester, and Thomas F. Duffy. Published in 1995, the novel was the sequel to Crichton’s 1990 bestseller Jurassic Park. The Lost World was adapted for cinema in 1997.

(11) WINNING THE PLANET SERIES. I’m a lifelong Dodger fan (I remember hearing “We’re going to Milwaukee!” on TV in 1959) yet I never knew ‘til this morning that pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s Uncle Clyde discovered Pluto: “Clayton Kershaw Still Isn’t As Cool As His Great-Uncle” at Central Track.

…It was a hell of a moment for sure — a coronation fit for a king, and an accomplishment Kershaw’s extended family will surely brag on for generations to come.

On the other hand: Kershaw’s great-uncle Clyde Tombaugh is the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930, so maybe a World Series win isn’t such a huge deal in the great scheme of things for the Kershaw family tree?

For his part, and to his credit, Kershaw is quite proud of his ancestor’s achievement. After Tombaugh passed in 1997, Kershaw has used his considerable platform to celebrate his great-uncle’s discovery — and to keep championing Pluto’s designation as a full-on planet despite its 2006 downgrading to a “dwarf planet.”

Kershaw first publicly touted his familial connection to Pluto — and his dedication to its former status — in a 2009 online fan Q&A with ESPNLosAngeles. Then, in 2015, he discussed it during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, doubling down on his stance and even sharing a little insight into his family’s thoughts on the matter.

“It’s something that’s been a huge problem in the Kershaw/Tombaugh family for a couple of years now,” he said when Kimmel broached the subject. “My great uncle discovered Pluto. I know that sounds like a joke when it comes out, but it’s true. Clyde Tombaugh, [my] great uncle, discovered Pluto. And they took it away from us — said it’s a dwarf planet now. What scientists just decide to just get in a room one day and say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re out with Pluto’?”

(12) AIN’T EASY BEING MRS. GREEN. The Nerdist shows examples as “Artist Turns THE MUPPETS Into Famous Horror Movie Characters”.

The collection includes:

–Gonzo as Jason Voorhees, with Camilla as Mrs. Voorhees
–Fozzie as Freddy Krueger
–Miss Piggy as Carrie White
–Kermit as Norman Bates
–Beaker as Michael Myers, with Dr. Bunson Honeydew as Dr. Loomis
–Swedish Chef as Leatherface
–Animal as Buffalo Bill
–Rowlf as Hannibal Lecter
–Sam the Eagle as Pinhead
–Scooter as Chucky
–Electric Mayhem as Capt. Spaulding and the Firefly Family
–Statler and Waldorf as The Grady Twins

(13) GROAN UPS. Polygon’s Emily Heller knows what these books are about: “A Series of Unfortunate Events and the horror of adults being absolute dummies”.

…A Series of Unfortunate Events is often described as surreal and absurdist. Handler has listed Roald Dahl, another children’s author with a darkly whimsical style, as an influence on his work. But while the novels’ world is certainly weird, it’s important that it makes sense within kid logic.

When I was a kid, there were plenty of things that mattered so much to me, but adults just didn’t get it. There were also things that adults seemed to understand implicitly, but didn’t make any sense to me. I was fortunate to grow up in a comfortable, loving home, so those things were very low stakes, but they were very real — and frustrating and anxiety-inducing — in the moment.

A Series of Unfortunate Events reflects that dichotomy back to its young readers. The Baudelaires don’t understand why Justice Strauss can’t just adopt them and are frustrated when no one else seems to recognize Count Olaf under his obvious disguises. It’s an exaggerated version of the truth that every child eventually starts to suspect: adults may not always know what they’re doing.

Lemony Snicket lets children feel like they’re in on a secret. That allows A Series of Unfortunate Events to do what so much good horror fiction does — explore and validate our deepest fears. It also gives readers the tools to deal with that horrifying reality….

(14) UNSATISFIED CUSTOMER. “Kellogg’s Minecraft Creeper Crunch Cereal, Reviewed” at Serious Eats.

…For today’s video, I tried Kellogg’s Minecraft Creeper Crunch cereal. Not only am I old enough to have never played Minecraft, but I had no idea there was this much Minecraft merchandise and branded content. It appears, however, that kids are still crazy about the property, enough so that they’ll want to have a little Minecraft iconography with their breakfast.

The problem is that this cereal, cinnamon-flavored with marshmallows, is not good. It barely tastes like cinnamon, and the marshmallows are flavorless. If Minecraft is a video game about building with digital blocks, then this cereal is like eating those blocks except, I imagine, far less satisfying. These aren’t good as a snack, and the milk isn’t particularly good either. They are, as far as cereal goes, a total failure.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/23/20 Pixels Should Scroll A Minimum Of Six Feet Apart

(1) OVERVIEW OF SF IN CHINA. A lot of good information in Regina Kanyu Wang’s “Chinese Science Fiction Goes Global”, available in English at Korean Literature Now.

…Back in 1991, 1997, and 2007, Science Fiction World, the largest SF magazine and publisher in China, convened for international conventions that not only received government support, but featured government leaders in attendance. Since 2016, the China Association for Science and Technology has sponsored the China SF Convention in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shenzhen. Not only was the opening ceremony attended by the Chinese vice president, but association leaders and local officials have attended every year since then. In 2017, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, co-hosted the 2017 China SF Con as well as the China International SF Conference, and it was declared that the latter event would, in perpetuity, become biennial and be held in Chengdu.

The aforementioned names and their linkages may be a complicated matter, but suffice it to say, the two major SF conventions in contemporary China are led by the China Association for Science and Technology and the Sichuan Province Association for Science and Technology. Another grassroots science fiction event—the Xingyun (Nebula) Awards for Global Chinese Science Fiction ceremony—gained government support and commercial viability a few years after being financially sponsored by its founders. Unlike the fan-fueled activities of their international counterparts, the major SF conventions within China are tied to the popularization of science and development of the SF industry and rarely do without speeches from officials, high-level summits, laser light shows, closed-door banquets, and the like. To solidify the connection between domestic and foreign conventions, the science and technology associations and local governments have regularly sent representatives to Worldcon in recent years, heading overseas to study how to hold international SF conventions, with panel discussions, marketplaces, exhibitions, and parties—and various other activities that have since become commonplace. Relatively speaking, China’s science fiction conventions have become fancier, as well as more commercial, whereas overseas science fiction conventions have generally become more grassroots.

Particularly noteworthy is the case of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, home of the longstanding Chinese SF institution, Science Fiction World magazine. Today, Chengdu is competing with Memphis in the United States to host the 2023 Worldcon. This is but one such initiative designed to cement Chengdu’s reputation as the Capital of Science Fiction. According to the 2019 Chinese Science Fiction Industry Report: “In order to develop the city’s ‘Silicon Valley’ for science fiction film and television industry, Chengdu plans to invest more than 2 billion yuan and add another 200,000 square meters to its current size of 150,000 square meters, for a total gross investment of 26 billion yuan.” Chengdu is not the only local government to invest in science fiction as a growth sector. In the city of Mianyang, also in Sichuan Province, the Pisces Dome Sci-Fi World is a project that spans about 2500 Chinese mu—or 412 acres—and calls for a total gross investment of 5 billion RMB to implement cutting-edge VR/AR (virtual reality and augmented reality) technology, establishing the city as a science and technology tourist destination. In Qianjiang, Hubei Province, plans are underway for the construction of the so-called Chinese Sci-Fi Author Village, where authors will be invited to assume the post of village head and write works on the theme of the Qianjiang crawfish (a local delicacy), and engage in other related commercial activities.

Thus, it should be clear that to the Chinese government, science fiction is not only literature, but a lucrative industry…. 

(2) CONTRADICTING THE RECEIVED WISDOM. From [link to pirate site removed.]

HALDERMAN: You do invent wonderful landscapes. The Earthsea trilogy creates such a vivid picture of the sea—have you done a lot of sailing?

LE GUIN: All that sailing is complete fakery. It’s amazing what you can fake. I’ve never sailed anything in my life except a nine-foot catboat, and that was in the Berkeley basin in about three feet of water. And we managed to sink it. The sail got wet and it went down while we sang “Nearer My God to Thee.” We had to wade to shore, and go back to the place we’d rented it and tell them. They couldn’t believe it. “You did what?” You know, it’s interesting, they always tell people to write about what they know about. But you don’t have to know about things, you just have to be able to imagine them really well.

(3) MORE ABOUT LUPOFF. The Wikipedia reminds us:

Starting in 1977, Lupoff co-hosted a program on Pacifica Radio station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California that featured book reviews and interviews, primarily with science fiction (and mystery) authors. Originally an occasional one-hour program called Probabilities Unlimited, after several months it became a regular weekly, half-hour program called simply Probabilities, which aired until 1995. The program relaunched that year as Cover to Cover; Lupoff departed in 2001 to focus on his writing career. Among the notable authors interviewed by Lupoff and his co-host, Richard Wolinsky, were such luminaries as Ray BradburyOctavia ButlerRichard AdamsUrsula K. Le Guin, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Andrew Porter says all of Dick’s interviews on KPFA are still on the Internet here. And he sent three photos he took of Lupoff over the years. [Credit: Photos by and copyright © Andrew Porter.]

(4) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings for November 2 features James Morrow. The online event and starts at 7:00 Eastern. Jim Freund says —

Normally we convene (virtually or not) on the first Tuesday of each month, but this November that would mean Election Eve, and it was pointed out that may be a wee bit distracting. But you can’t ask for a better distraction than James Morrow, who will read from his latest published novella, “The Purloined Nation,” from the anthology “And the Last Trump Shall Sound.”

James Morrow is the award-winning author of over ten novels, as well as novellas and short-story collections. His critically acclaimed works include Blameless in Abaddon, New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and The Last Witchfinder called “provocative book-club bait” and “an inventive feat” by critic Janet Maslin. He has twice received the World Fantasy Award, for Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah, and has also won the Nebula Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife and their two enigmatic dogs.

Arc Manor Books is generously offering a 40% discount to attendees through the end of November. the other contributors are Cat Rambo and Harry Turtledove, so you’ll want to take advantage.

(5) BEST BOOKS OF 2020. Locus Online has extracted the works of genre interest from the list of “Publishers Weekly Best Books 2020” (see the full list at PW.) Their coverage begins with the SF/Fantasy/Horror category.

  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Everyone on the Moon Is Essential Personnel, Julian K. Jarboe (Lethe)
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab (Tor)
  • The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury)
  • The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones (Saga)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com publishing)
  • Strange Labour, Robert G. Penner (Radiant)

There are also works of genre interest in other categories.

(6) IT’S PERSONAL. Anna Martino tells why we should remember Captain Nemo in “Personal Canons: Jules Verne”.

…My 10th birthday, in January of 1991, was a special occasion for two very different reasons. There was a war going on in Iraq, and the adults at the party talked of little else. And my maternal grandmother — a Brazilian-Italian lady who had never been the warmest of women — gave me a collection of Jules Verne’s books as a present.

Those eleven hardcover books had once belonged to my mother. They were first published in Brazil in the early 1960s, with proper names translated into Portuguese (Conseil became Conselho and the Times of London became O Tempo) — but, other than that, they were completely unabridged.

These two facts moulded my life. I was curious about that strange, televised war — even moreso when my father explained there were rules to the battle. This led me, many years later, to a Master’s Degree in International Relations, focusing on conflict and news reception (namely, how do you know what you think you know about other countries?)

And then there was Captain Nemo.

Whenever someone talks about “The Great Canon of SFF”, I notice more of what’s not being said than what is. I’m Brazilian: my canon isn’t your canon. There’s the language barrier and the cultural perspective to consider. More’s the pity if you can’t read in Portuguese: you are missing out on fantastic stuff (but that’s a topic for another moment.)…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Get crunchy with Robert Shearman” in Episode 130 of Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Robert Shearman has won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and multiple British Fantasy Awards for his fiction, some of which has been gathered in such collections as Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical (2009), Remember Why You Fear Me (2012), They Do the Same Things Different There (2014), and earlier this year, a massive three-volume collection We All Hear Stories in the Dark. His writings for television, radio, and the stage have won him the Sophie Winter Memorial Trust Award, the Sunday Times Playwriting Award, the World Drama Trust Award, and the Guinness Award for Theatre Ingenuity. He also wrote the Hugo Award-nominated Doctor Who episode “Dalek” at the request of producer Russell T. Davies.

We discussed the reason we’re lucky we each survived to adulthood, how he almost talked his way out of selling his first short story, the way he starts every story thinking it’s funny even as things turn horrific, why some readers find his new collection offensive and others uplifting, how he’s following up that three-volume, 2,000-page, 650,000-word, 101-story collection, the way his brush with COVID-19 has affected his writing, and much more.

(8) WILLETT’S NEW BOOKS. In September, Saskatchewan author, Edward Willett released two books.

The Moonlit World from DAW is the third novel in his Worldshaper series

In The Moonlit World, fresh from their adventures in Master of the World in a world inspired by Jules Verne, Shawna Keys and Karl Yatsar find themselves in a world that mirrors much darker tales. Beneath a full moon that hangs motionless in the sky, they’re forced to flee terrifying creatures that can only be vampires…only to run straight into a pack of werewolves….

His second release, Shapers of Worlds, is an anthology project that Willett took on himself with his own press and features stories from multiple award winners and international best sellers in the science fiction genre.  Shapers of Worlds was successfully Kickstarted earlier this year, raising $15,700 from more than 330 backers and the book will be available through all major retailers. The ebook came out September 22, and the print edition is coming out November 14 Regina’s Shadowpaw Press.

Shapers of Worlds features new stories from Seanan McGuire, Tanya Huff, David Weber, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., D.J. Butler, Christopher Ruocchio, John C. Wright, Shelley Adina, and Willett himself, plus reprints from John Scalzi, David Brin, Joe Haldeman, Julie E. Czerneda, Fonda Lee, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, Gareth L. Powell, Derek Künsken, and Thoraiya Dyer.

All of the featured authors were guests during the first year of Willett’s podcast, The Worldshapers, winner of the 2019 Aurora Award (Canada’s top award for science fiction and fantasy) for Best Fan Related Work.

Willett is himself an award-winning author of more than sixty books of fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction for readers of all ages.

(9) PAINSTAKING. Elizabeth Bear is interviewed about her new book, Machine, a sequel to Ancestral Night, at Fantasy Hive.

Dr. Jens in Machine has a chronic pain condition. And that’s one of the things that mediates the way through which she interacts with the world around her. What was it like writing for a character with this condition?

I have an autoimmune condition myself. So I do have a certain amount of chronic pain. It’s not as debilitating as Jens’ chronic pain. It occurred to me while I was writing this book that I have, throughout my career, actually tended to write a lot of characters with some sort of chronic pain disability. All the way back to my first published novel, Hammered, the protagonist of which is a military veteran with some long-term damage from her combat experience. This is the first time though that I’ve really been conscious of the fact that I was writing something like that out of my own experience. 

It’s odd how your brain compartmentalizes things. 

This is very personal, but I think it’s because I had a really bad autoimmune flare starting in about the summer of 2015. That has really changed my ability to do a lot of things that I took for granted. We all process our trauma through our art. If you try not to do it, you’re just going to be writing very two-dimensional art. And so, it was in some ways cathartic. It was in some ways difficult and emotional. But also, I feel very strongly that there need to be narratives about marginalized people that do not center that marginalization. That there need to be narratives about queer people where the entire point of the narrative is not to problematize their queerness. And having grown up very rarely seeing somebody who I felt reflected me in the books that I was reading, I like to be able to widen the door to different kinds of protagonists. 

I think the real strength of science fiction and fantasy right now, my generation of writers and the generation of writers that are right after us, is that we are very diverse in our backgrounds and outlooks. And that… that is making science fiction and fantasy a much wilder and more interesting place.

(10) CHAMPION OBIT. Marge Champion, a great dancer in the 1940s and 1950s who was also a model that Disney animators used as Snow White and a hippopotamus in Fantasia died October 21 reports SYFY Wire. She was 101 years old. The Hollywood Reporter adds:

…Marge even danced for them as the dwarf Dopey, she recalled. She also served as a Disney model for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio (1940), for Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia (1940) and for Mr. Stock in Dumbo (1941).

…In 1936, she performed before large crowds with the Los Angeles Civic Opera and a year later married Art Babbitt, the Disney animator who created Goofy (she was 17 and he was 29; they divorced in 1940). She then played Snow White in a touring vaudeville act with The Three Stooges.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1970 — Fifty years ago at Heicon ’70 which had John Brunner as Toastmaster, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin won the Hugo for Best Novel. Runner-ups were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony’s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron. She would also win the Nebula for this novel. In all, she would garner nine Hugos with her final one being for the superlative The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition for Best Art Book as illustrated by Charles Vess.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 23, 1919 – Roy Lavender.  Engineer.  First Fandom (active at least as early as the first Worldcon, 1939; few still alive; a First Fandom organization continues).  Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.  Fan Guest of Honor, Kubla Khatch 22.  Memoir here.  Len Moffatt’s appreciation here (PDF).  “When the Apollo circled the Moon and the astronauts reached into B-3 locker for their cameras, they pulled them from the shock absorbing sheath I designed.  On the test stand for the Saturn rockets, cameras look up into the flame to photograph the performance (or failure) of the engines.  They survive in a protective box I designed.”  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1935 Bruce Mars, 85. He was on Trek three times, one uncredited, with his best remembered being in the most excellent Shore Leave as Finnegan. He also had one-offs in The Time Tunnel, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, and Mission: Impossible. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 82. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1938 – Bob Pepper.  Ten dozen covers.  Here is Titus Groan.  Here is a Fahrenheit 451.  Here is a Demolished Man.  Here is Lord Tyger.  Here is The Continent Makers.  Here is Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn.  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1940 Terry Gilliam, 80. He’s directed many films of which the vast majority are firmly genre. I think I’ve seen most of them though I though I’ve not seen The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteTidelandThe Zero Theorem or The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. I’ve seen everything else. Yes, I skipped past his start as the animator for Monty Python’s Flying Circus which grew out of his for the children’s series Do Not Adjust Your Set which had staff of Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin.  Though he largely was the animator in the series and the films, he did occasionally take acting roles according to his autobiography, particularly roles no one else wanted such those requiring extensive makeup.  He’s also co-directed a number of scenes.  Awards? Of course. Twelve Monkeys is the most decorated followed by Brazil with two and Time Bandits and The Fisher King which each have but one.  My favorite films by him? Oh, the one I’ve watched the most is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen followed by Time Bandits. (CE)
  • Born October 23, 1948 – Kent Bloom, 72.  Chaired Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon.  Earlier, living in Washington, DC, chaired DatClave 1 (Jack Chalker’s con report here); after moving to Denver, Smofcon 16 (SMOF for “secret masters of fandom”, as Bruce Pelz said, a joke – nonjoke – joke; SMOFcon draws people who often do the work at SF conventions and want to do it better).  Host (with wife Mary Morman) of First Friday Fandom.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Mary), Westercon 71.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1952 – Donna Andrews, 68.  A detective-fiction novel about an Artificial Intelligence personality that became sapient (I don’t know why people keep misusing “sentient” which means having senses – plants and animals are sentient, but so far as we can now perceive aren’t sapient, a distinction which makes a difference), named Turing Hopper, won the Agatha Christie award for best mystery of the year (You’ve Got Murder, 2002); three more.  Many other novels and shorter stories in that genre.  See her Website.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1953 Ira Steven Behr, 67. Best remembered for his work on the Trek franchise, particularly Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, on which he served as showrunner and executive producer. As writer and or producer, he been in involved in Beyond RealityDark AngelThe Twilight ZoneThe 4400Alphas, and Outlander. (CE) 
  • Born October 23, 1957 – Olga Slavnikova, 63.  Won the Russian Booker Prize for her novel 2017 (tr. English 2010); also for us A Light Head (2010; Eng. Light-headed 2015).  Five other novels.  Director since 2001 of the Debut Prize; see this 2012 New Yorker interview.  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 1959 Sam Raimi, 61. Responsible for, and this is not a complete listing, the Darkman franchise , M.A.N.T.I.S., the Jack of All Trades series that Kage loved, the Cleopatra 2525 series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess series and the Spider-Man trilogy. (CE)
  • Born October 23, 1983 – Dan Salmieri, 37.  Illustrator, sometimes for us.  Here is his note about his book Bear and Wolf.  Here is a sketch from the New York Times about the Twins Study brothers Mark & Scott Kelly.  Here is one from Data Collector.  Here is one from Brain Pickings.  Here is a cover for What Do Dragons Like Best to Eat? (in Dutch).  [JH]
  • Born October 23, 2007 Lilly Aspell, 13. She’s a Scottish-born performer best known so far for portraying the young Diana in Wonder Woman. She was Newschild in Holmes & Watson, and Megan in the alien invasion flick Extinction. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close To Home says this is about Halloween but it reminds me of Dr. Moreau.

(14) CHECKING IN. Andrew Porter tears himself away from the TV to share a moment from tonight’s Jeopardy! He says, “Not SF/F, but memorable!”

Category: Movie Sum-Up

Answer: Death takes a chess holiday; your move, Max Von Sydow.

Wrong questions: “What is Checkmate?” “What is Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey?”

Correct question: “What is ‘The Seventh Seal’?”

(15) FROM BUS STOP FLOP TO TOP. The Guardian alerts viewers “Documentary to tell how Dorset bus drivers took Alien to West End”.

When they came up with the idea of adapting the classic sci-fi horror film Alien for the stage, a troupe of amateur actors from deepest Dorset intended it to be faithful to the terrifying original.

It did not quite work out as as planned. The sets were shaky, the monsters not very scary and the acting not up to Hollywood standards – only one of the cast went with an American accent, the rest stuck with English west country. Nobody was frightened.

Alien on Stage, put on by a group of bus drivers and their friends, would have sunk without a trace had it not been noticed by a couple of London-based artistic types who had the madcap idea of transferring it to the West End of London.

The weird and wonderful tale of how Alien on Stage came to be performed in the West End is being told in a documentary to be premiered on Saturday at FrightFest in London…

(16) BRIDGE OVER RUBBLED WATERS. When Twisted Sifter says “This Animation of How Bridges Were Constructed in 14th Century Prague is Amazing” they speak sooth!

In this informative animation we learn how the iconic Charles Bridge was constructed in 1357. The historic bridge crosses the Vltava (Moldau) river in Prague, Czech Republic and is 516 metres (1,693 ft) long and nearly 10 metres (33 ft) wide. It was built as a bow bridge with 16 arches shielded by ice guards.

(17) ALL AIN’TS DAY. James Davis Nicoll’s “Five SF Tales About Dead or Dying Worlds” is not a Halloween-themed piece, but it does contain the word candy.

Life on Earth is most likely doomed…in a billion years or so. The Sun’s slowly increasing luminosity will trigger a runaway greenhouse effect like that seen on Venus. Later stages in stellar evolution will further sear the Earth into an airless husk (unless the red giant sun simply gobbles up the planet like a piece of candy). Oh woe is us!

The following five tales of dying worlds might be of some interest during this interesting time. Remember: when the prospect of yet another Zoom meeting provokes anxiety and loathing, we can always tell ourselves that it could be worse…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “If A Ghost Possessed Someone in 2020” on YouTube, Ryan George explains that demonic possession just isn’t scary in tumultuous 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Mlex, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Scott Edelman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Richard Lupoff (1935-2020)

Dick Lupoff in 2013.

Richard Lupoff, known to friends as Dick, died October 22 at the age of 85. His sons Tom and Ken announced on Facebook:  

My dad passed away early this morning in the hospital after a brief final illness. It was peaceful. And despite severe pandemic visitation restrictions my brother and/or I were allowed to be with him at all times so that he was not alone and we got to say proper goodbyes.

A longtime fan who worked as a technical writer, or when feasible a full-time sf pro, Lupoff with his wife Pat (and Bhob Stewart) edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Xero. They were among the founders of the Fanoclasts, and of New York’s Eastercon. Dick participated in APA-F and the New York Futurian Society. As a pro, he produced 20 novels and enough short fiction to fill several collections. He edited hardcover editions of Burroughs books, wrote a biography of Burroughs, and other nonfiction books drawing on his expertise in pulp, comics and sf history.    

Lupoff already was an avid sf reader when he encountered fandom in 1952 via Amazing Stories. “And suddenly I discovered a subculture of people who valued the intellectual over the physical, ideas over objects, imagination over conformity, cooperation over competition.” He decided the fastest way to become part of that world was to publish a fanzine, even though the only means of production available to him was to type each page on a sandwich of original and carbon paper. Once he had made eight copies of a zine he called SF52 he sent them to the leading faneditors of the day. A single recipient – Lee Hoffman – wrote back, which encouraged him to stick around.

In contrast to most fans, Lupoff was already a selling writer by the time he got involved. As a 14-year-old he was earning pocket money as a stringer for metropolitan newspapers, filing stories on prep school sports with the New York Times and Herald-Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Bulletin. Later, while an undergraduate at the University of Miami, he wrote news items for the Coral Gables, Florida, Times, and for WIOD, Miami’s 6:00 o’clock news five days a week. “It was like living in a movie,” he remembered.

After college and a two-year hitch as a conscript in the U.S. Army, he was hired as a technical writer for what was then Sperry Univac at a salary of $350 a month. This enabled Dick and Pat Lupoff to marry in 1958. They lived in Westchester County just north of New York City, where “it was possible for a young couple to lead a very pleasant upper-middle-class life on that salary.”

Pat and Dick Lupoff in 1958

He was impressed by his first sight of a computer:

Univac I. It had 1000 *words* of memory, roughly the equivalent of 12K bytes. The storage medium was a mercury delay line, and if you wanted to look at the memory you had to open a door in the side of a garage-sized metal structure and walk inside. It held half a dozen people comfortably.

He worked for Sperry for five years, then IBM for seven. The last several years at IBM were spent writing and directing movies. In the evenings and other free time he wrote. His first book, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure, came out in 1965, and his first novel, One Million Centuries, in 1967.

Lupoff said that first novel and his fiction-writing career generally was helped with a push in the right direction from Andrew Porter:

Pat and Dick Lupoff in Poughkeepsie in 1965. Photo taken by and (c) Andrew Porter.

FWIW, I want to offer a tip of the tam to Andy Porter. In 1965 I brought out my first book. It was nonfiction. I kept saying that I was going to write a novel but I kept stalling. Finally Andy took the train from New York City up to Poughkeepsie, where Pat and I were living at the time.

He kept pressuring me to stop talking about writing a novel and for heaven’s sake sit down and write. I finally did, and the result was One Million Centuries, certainly not an “Eighty-Yard Run” quality effort, but a respectable novel which went through a couple of editions (Lancer, later Timescape/Pocket) and got my career as a fiction writer rolling.

If it hadn’t been for Andy, I might have spent the next thirty years writing computer manuals and regretting what-might-have-been.

Andy, did I ever thank you for what you did? Probably not. So even at this very late date, and in front of the large and distinguished audience that we call Fictionmags — Thank you!

But it wasn’t until 1970 that, with Pat’s support and encouragement, he went full-time as a pro sff writer. His work was well-received. His novella “With the Bentfin Boomer Boys on Little Old New Alabama” in Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions was a Nebula nominee (1973). He earned two Hugo nominations for his short fiction, “After the Dreamtime” (1975), and “Sail the Tide of Mourning” (1976 – a Nebula nominee, too). His books during the decade included Sacred Locomotive Flies (1971), Into the Aether (1974), The Triune Man (1976), and two Buck Rogers novels under his Addison E. Steele pseudonym.  His entertaining collection of parodies on other sf authors, The Ova Hamlet Papers came out in 1979.

During that period he also wrote the short story “12:01 P.M.” (1973), adapted as the Oscar-nominated short film 12:01 pm (1990) and the TV movie 12:01 (1993). (Lupoff appeared in both films as an extra.) The major plot device is a time loop, so similar to that of 1993’s Groundhog Day that Lupoff and Jonathan Heap, director of the 1990 film, were “outraged” by the apparent theft of the idea, but “After half a year of lawyers’ conferences and emotional stress, we agreed to put the matter behind us and get on with our lives.”

An economic downturn at the end of the Seventies affected Lupoff’s markets and pushed him back into the workforce for a few years. But when given the opportunity to write full-time again, he said he found “The lesson that I had to accept was that the field had moved on, leaving me behind. It’s painful to say this, but it was nonetheless true.” However, he was able to rebrand himself as a mystery writer, and in that genre he enjoyed fresh success with The Comic Book Killer, featuring the detective team of insurance investigator Hobart Lindsey and Berkeley police officer Marvia Plum. That was followed by The Classic Car KillerThe Bessie Blue KillerThe Sepia Siren Killer, and (coming in 1995) The Cover Girl Killer.

Pat and Dick Lupoff in 2011

By the start of the 21st century, Dick and Pat Lupoff, who had raised three children, also were looked on as the lineal ancestors of comics fandom, a fact they celebrated by publishing a book of selections from their famous fanzine, The Best of Xero (2004) – which was, in turn, nominated for the Best Related Book Hugo (2005). John Hertz’ review describes the fanzine’s early days and names some of the well-known contributors:

Pat & Dick Lupoff typed stencils in their Manhattan apartment, printed them on a machine in Noreen & Larry Shaw’s basement, collated by hand, and lugged the results to s-f cons or stuffed them in mailboxes. The machine had not been given by Damon Knight, A.J. Budrys explained in a letter after a while, but lent. Eventually drawings could be scanned by electro-stencil, a higher tech. Colored ink joined colored paper, sometimes wildly colored. Xero could be spectacular.

…You’ll also see Anthony Boucher, Harlan Ellison, Ethel Lindsay, Fred Pohl, Rick Sneary, Bob Tucker as “Hoy Ping Pong”, Harry Warner — fans and pros mixing it up. Roger Ebert, later a movie critic, contributed poetry, often free-style, or formal and funny…

Even before starting Xero, the Lupoffs paid tribute to comics in their iconic costumes for the 1960 Worldcon masquerade, as Mary Marvel and Captain Marvel.

Pat Lupoff died in 2018. Dick was in Assisted Living these last few years, but still got around. He was a fixture at the annual Paperback Show in LA (see the photo of him at the 2019 event), one of the many places his absence will be felt.

Richard Lupoff, Sunni Brock, William F. Nolan, Jason Brock in 2019.

Pixel Scroll 7/1/20 Consider a Spherical Scroll

(1) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND LEADERSHIP TURNOVER. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced June 22 that they had accepted the resignation of Charles Brownstein as Executive Director, effective immediately.  According to Publishers Weekly, Brownstein’s resignation comes after the resurfacing of allegations of sexual assault brought against him in 2006. An account of the situation and its aftermath was reported in the Comics Journal in 2006.

The CBLDF subsequently posted this update:

First and foremost, the CBLDF is grateful that Kris Simon has come forward. We also want to recognize Taki Soma for what she endured and for bringing this to light. Both have our full support. We are releasing Shy Allot from the NDA she signed in 2010 when she left the organization so that her story can also be heard.

CBLDF’s Board is undergoing a complete review of management practices and where we have fallen short. We are examining our mission to ensure it meets modern industry needs, and will do so with input from our full-time staff, expert third parties, and the comics and manga community.

And on June 29, more retirements/resignations followed.

The CBLDF announced today that Paul Levitz is retiring from our Board of Directors. In addition, the Board has accepted the resignations of Katherine Keller and Jeff Abraham.

We respect the decisions that Paul, Katherine and Jeff have made to leave the Board. We realize it will be a long path to earning back the trust of our members, supporters and the industry. We recognize that it’s been our inability to react, or act at all, that’s been the cause of  pain in our community.

Even last week, when we took the necessary action in accepting Charles’s resignation, our communications were stilted and clumsy. To everyone who has come forward, we haven’t done justice to your bravery and we are truly sorry. We vow to be better….   

(2) VIRTUALLY THERE. Locus Online has posted a highly informative report about the 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference

The 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference morphed mid-COVID from an in-person conference into an impressive online event, held May 29-31, 2020. There were 808 members from 33 countries, a record, up from 2019’s record-breaking 475 registered members.

(3) LISTEN IN ON FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of its audio recording of the “Fans Into Pros” panel at IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. (The link to Part I is here.) The participants are Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Terry Carr, Richard Lupoff and Ted White. 

This audio recording (enhanced with many images) is Part 2 of that panel. More serious than part 1, this segment talks about becoming a writer, and provides straightforward, candid insights about selling in the field. There’s less byplay but lots of good discussion. Note two things – the recording does not go to the end of the panel but stops abruptly (source material ends), and there is a section where members of the audience are speaking and you can’t hear them on the recording.  

Please be patient – the responses from the panel are worth hearing. This recording courtesy of IguanaCon chairman Tim Kyger.

(4) BRITAIN IS FINE. Rob Hansen has added a section about the 1979 Worldcon bid to his website THEN, with publications, photos, etc. Rob says, “I’ll eventually get around to tackling the con itself, but in the meantime here’s the tale of how it came to be.”

The story of how the idea of holding a UK Worldcon in the 1970s emerged, and how things came together and the bid then evolved, is worthy of its own entry. The bid also had its own series of progress reports independent of the eventual convention, all of which are included here.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

(5) NOBODY MUST GET STONED. The recent launch of Avengers: Infinity War on Disney+ was promoted by a short video on Marvel’s Instagram account highlighting the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s six Infinity Stones.

(6) HEARD THAT SOMEWHERE BEFORE. A.V. Club will point you to the video: “It’s some kind of supercut of every time someone says “some kind of” on Star Trek”.

Pretty much everyone has some kind of vocal tic, some sort of repeated phrase or word they use without necessarily even realizing it in their day-to-day conversations. Pointing it out in each other is generally considered an asshat thing to do, but that doesn’t change how damn annoying it can be for all of us. On that note, here’s some sort of supercut of all 214 times someone says “some sort of” or “some kind of” on some sort of show called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot was born. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet where he had his first screen appearance on March 4, 1956. He would go to be part of a number of series including Lost in SpaceThe Addams FamilyThe Twilight Zone and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. (CE)
  • July 1, 1984 — William Gibson’s Neuromancer was published. It would win a Hugo for Best Novel at Aussiecon II. It was the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award for a paperback original. The novel opens with the new famous line of “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Deadpool director Tim Miller was chosen three years ago to direct a live-action film adaptation, and Neuromancer the Opera was written but a quarter of a century later has not been staged. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in the feud theory, Richard Lupoff wrote an articl debunking the idea. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1923 – Jean Hougron.  Indochina (as it then was) 1947-1951; a score of novels.  Two for us, The Sign of the Dog, translated into German, Italian, Portuguese; and Naguen, winning the Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction.  Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie française for Death and Fraud, no. 4 in his series The Indochina Night.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 86. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse, 85. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally, he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1942 – rich brown.  No capital letters in his name.  By the mid-1960s known and knowledgeable enough to publish, with Arnie Katz and Mike McInerney, the fanzine Focal Point, revived with AK in the early 1970s.  Also with AK the 3rd (1971) ed’n of The Enchanted Duplicator (1994 ed’n here) i.e. not the protagonist of “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” but producing one’s fanzine, once and for some still the heart of fan activity; also with AK The Incompleat Terry Carr (a somewhat more compleat ed’n 1988 by Jerry Kaufman); contributed a study of fanspeak to Joe Sanders’ Science Fiction Fandom, eventually brought into Fancyclopedia 3.  Self-depreciatingly said “I’m everyone’s rich brother” and “I’m in The Lord of the Rings.  The Ents have my skin.  They have rich brown skin.”  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1952 – Mary Kay Kare , 68.  Edited Red Dust, clubzine of the Norman, Oklahoma, SF Society; then Seattle, San Jose. Co-chaired Potlatch 19 (literary SF con).  Innocently going overseas to Corflu 27 she found herself Guest of Honor – at Corflu this is determined by drawing names from a hat.  Hugo Awards Administrator at Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon; photo  here.  Widow of the extraordinary Jordin Kare.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1959 – Leah Zeldes Smith, 61.  Can be found under both maiden and married names; husband, Dick Smith.  Served on boards of Ann Arbor SF Ass’n, Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n.  Co-founded Michigan Soc. of (Hapless) Amateur Publishers – opinions differ on whether the H is for Hapless or silent as in bheer; anyhow, MISHAP.  Half a dozen stories in Mike Resnick anthologies.  Fanzine Stet (with Dick) 3-time Hugo finalist.  Fan Guest of Honor at Corflu 4.  Down Under Fan Fund delegate (with Dick), attended Swancon 18.  Chaired Operacon.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 56. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in 2001 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where many of his other stories were published, and which he has edited for past six years. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best-known work.  (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1965 – Kevin Maroney, 55.  Long-time managing editor, now publisher, of the New York Review of SF, 14-time Hugo finalist.  Guest of Honor at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, held since 1975 when the Worldcon is overseas).  He says “Science fiction valorizes people who Know Things.”  Dilettante in the old sense.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1976 – Ketty Steward, 44.  Author, critic, proofreader.  Two dozen stories; collection, Interrupted Connections (in French, i.e. Connexions interrompoues; KS lives in Martinique). “HeLa Is Here” in English here.  Two special issues of Galaxies (in French) devoted to Africa.  Genre-mixing autobiographical novel, Black & White (Noir et blanc).  Degrees in applied mathematics, social sciences, labor science.  Student of Afrocyberfeminism.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 39. Author of the superb Persona novel, and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She also scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess. (CE)

(9) IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN SMELL YOU SCREAM. According to CNN, “This is what space smells like”.

If you’ve ever wondered what space smells like, a new perfume may answer that for you. A kickstarter was recently launched for a new fragrance called Eau de Space to bring the smell of outer space back down to Earth.

The fragrance was developed by Steve Pearce, according to Eau de Space product manager Matt Richmond. Pearce is a chemist and the founder of Omega Ingredients, a company focused on the “creation of the highest quality, provenance driven, natural flavours and ingredients for the food and beverage industry,” its website says.

(10) IN BOOKS TO COME. Andrew Liptak told readers where to find his monthly Reading List:

As some of you know from June, Polygon has decided to discontinue the list on their site for the foreseeable future — one small casualty from COVID. Accordingly, I’ve shifted the list over to my newsletter, Reading List.

This newsletter is designed as a step-back from the day-to-day news of the SF/F world, with a couple of different types of letters. Free ones have a regular set of content: I’m aiming for a book review and/or short piece of commentary, along with a list of notable long-read articles and pieces of note, as well as a roundup of book recommendations. I’m also using it as a place to conduct longer-form interviews and this book list. This has a growing audience, with a solid reading and open rate: 50-58%, depending on the post. 

The paid version (Reading List+) is something I just launched, and it features longer or in-depth commentary or reported feature — the first was about J.K. Rowling and Richard K. Morgan’s comments online. The next is set to go out this week, about the legacy of Michael Crichton’s name. This has a smaller audience, but with a much higher open and reading rate (~80%). Future plans here include podcasting (to be called Transfer Orbit), with one long-form interview set to debut later this month, as well as a handful of other posts, ranging from essays about writing, an in-depth feature on a military war game, and more.

(11) YOUR CHAIRS ARE READY. Episode 30 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast is out: “The many trouser-legs of time”. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg are joined by Dr. Lucy Sussex to talk about alternate history novels. In particular, they discuss those alternate timelines in which the Axis powers won the Second World War. (Did someone forget to punch the Nazis?)

  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton
  • Dominion by C. J. Sansom
  • The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
  • SS-GB by Len Deighton
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

(12) AT THE CORE. In Nature, astronomers claim “Core of a gas planet seen for the first time” says the BBC.

Astronomers have found a previously unseen type of object circling a distant star.

It could be the core of a gas world like Jupiter, offering an unprecedented glimpse inside one of these giant planets.

Giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn have a solid planetary core beneath a thick envelope of hydrogen and helium gas.

But no-one has previously been able to see what these solid cores are like.

Now, a team of astronomers has discovered what they think are the rocky innards of a giant planet that’s missing its thick atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the journal Nature.

(13) PLANTING THE FLAG. This is a wonderful GIF — “NASA if it had the same budget as the US Military”. (I won’t embed it here, because GIFs in the Scroll drive some of you to distraction. Not that I’ll never ever do it, you understand…)  

(14) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. BBC reports:“Tesla overtakes Toyota to become world’s most valuable car maker”.

Tesla has become the world’s most valuable carmaker, overtaking Japan’s Toyota, after its stock hit a record high.

Shares in the electric carmaker hit a record $1,134 on Wednesday morning, before falling back, leaving it with a market value of $209.47bn (£165bn).

That is roughly $4bn more than Toyota’s current stock market value.

However, Toyota sold around 30 times more cars last year and its revenues were more than 10 times higher.

Shares in Tesla have risen more than 160% since the start of 2020, as investors feel more confident about the future of electric vehicles.

(15) SPACE JAM. A 2017 NASA video called “Space Station Fisheye Fly-Through 4K” is a really good look at the International Space Station with some smooth jazz. 

(16) BORED NOW. “Crucible: Amazon pulls ‘boring’ big-budget video game”.

Amazon has pulled its first major game release, putting it back into a testing phase after poor feedback from players.

Free-to-play shooter Crucible is now being put back into “closed beta” – a pre-release stage with a limited number of players.

Current players will be part of the beta, but new players will be unable to download the game without an invite.

Amazon said it had listened to player feedback and would “continue to make the game better”.

In May, when the game was about to be released, Amazon Games vice-president Mike Frazzini told the BBC the company wanted “to make games that resonate with a very large audience of players”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What?!

Dippin’ Dots—they’re an amusement park, zoo, aquarium and overall summertime staple. The mini balls of ice cream that melt in your mouth are also a childhood favorite. But where did the “ice cream of the future” come from? The answer has a little something to do with cow feed.

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

Photos of 2019 LA Vintage Paperback Show

Lots of well-known writers and artists came and signed at last Sunday’s LA Vintage Paperback Show. Robert Kerr shot these photos (below) of some of the participants.

Pixel Scroll 12/13/18 Have Space Suit — But No Visa; Can’t Travel

(1) DRAGON AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. Camestros Felapton found that the “Dragon Award Nominations Are Open Sort Of”  — the “sort of” meaning Camestros experienced the same thing that I did before I tried it out — the actual nominations page is updated for the 2019 awards, but the supporting pages (rules,etc.) are still loaded with last year’s information. They’ll inevitably fix that when they get around to it, I’m sure. No hurry.

(2) ANOTHER LOOK AT SFWA V. WOTF. Keffy R.M. Kehrli responded to Eric James Stone’s criticism of SFWA’s handling of the Writers of the Future Contest (linked the other day in Scroll item #1.) Kehrli’s thread begins here.

(3) A FEW WEE IMPROVEMENTS. In that alternate universe where Camestros Felapton is Doctor Who’s showrunner, here’s what he would have done differently — “Doctor Who: Changing Season 11”.

There are lots of good things to say about the 2018 season of Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker was great, it was often visually lovely, it took historical episodes seriously and to top it all Alan Cumming deftly eating the scenery.

In my list of least liked Doctor Who episode there is not a single one from the 2018 season but…

…the best episodes weren’t on the same level as the best episodes from previous seasons. What the season gained in consistency it lost in excellence.

I’m going to suggest some changes that I think would have given it a bit more oomph.

(4) SMELLIER ON THE INSIDE. TARDIS versus trashcan? Olav Rokne labeled his link, “The dumbest thing I have ever tweeted, And yet…I’m shockingly proud.” Thread starts here.

(5) SIXTIES SFF. The Library of America’s Fall 2019 offeringsinclude these volumes of genre interest:

American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s(two volumes)
Gary K. Wolfe, editor
Volume 1: Four Classic Novels1960–1966
Poul Anderson, TheHigh Crusade • Clifford D. Simak, Way Station • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon • Roger Zelazny, . . . And Call Me Conrad [This Immortal]
Library of America #321 / ISBN 978-159853-501-3
Volume 2: Four Classic Novels 1968–1969
R. A. Lafferty, PastMaster • Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise • Samuel R. Delany, Nova • Jack Vance, Emphyrio
Library of America #322 / ISBN 978-159853-502-0
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-635-5
September 2019

The tumultuous 1960s was a watershed decade forAmerican science fiction. As the nation raced to the moon, acknowledged masters from the genre’s “golden age” reached the height of their powers. As it confronted calls for civil rights and countercultural revolution, a “new wave”of brilliant young voices emerged, upending the genre’s “pulp” conventions with newfound literary sophistication—and female, queer, and non white authors broke into the ranks of SF writers, introducing provocative new protagonists and themes. In American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s, editor Gary K. Wolfe gathers eight wildly inventive novels in a deluxe, two-volume collector’s set: Daniel Keyes’s heartbreaking Flowers for Algernon and Poul Anderson’s madcap time-travel novel The High Crusade; Clifford D. Simak’s Hugo Award-winning Way Station; Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award–winning . . . And Call Me Conrad (published in bookform as My Immortal), restored to a version that most closely approximates Zelazny’s original text; Joanna Russ’s Picnic on Paradise, a pioneering work of feminist SF, and Samuel R. Delany’s proto-cyberpunk space opera Nova; R. A. Lafferty’s quirky, neglected, utterly original Past Master; and Jack Vance’s haunting Emphyrio. Wolfe’s introduction offers a new view of the genre’s best, and a discussion of his selections, that ought to provoke rethinking and debate among fans and critics. (Wolfe’s new collection is a successor to American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, the two-volume set he edited for us in 2012.)

(6) RICHARD LUPOFF INTERVIEW. This is the intro to the Richard A. Lupoff: Master of Xero! Interview at Alter Ego #156 – text starts on page 20.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 13, 1925 Dick Van Dyke, 93. Seriously you think I wouldn’t write him up? Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. in Mary Poppins followed shortly by being Caractacus Pott in the film adaptation in Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.(No it’s not the same character as he is in the book.)  He voices the lead character in the animated Tubby the Tuba film and plays D.A.Fletcher in Dick Tracy.  He narrates Walt: The Man Behind the Myth whose subject matter you can guess. Played Commissioner Gordon in Batman: New Times as well. Shows up in both of the Night at the Museum films which sort of interest me. And yes he has a role as Mr.Dawes Jr. in Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 89. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does.That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly no one saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time. Now Dreamscape was fun and well received. Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I saw he’s in Twelve Monkeys but I think I’ve deliberately forgotten that film and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. 
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A.MacAvoy, 69. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1984.  Loved her Black Dragon series. Other series include the Damiano, Lens of the World and Albatross. If memory serves me right, I read The Grey Horse at a time when I was obsessively into Irish myth and liked it a lot for its storytelling. 
  • Born December 13, 1954Emma Bull, 64. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer for the latter.  You can see it here. Oh, and the Faerie Queen is Emma herself.
  • She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cats Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50 and you can read the Green Man review of the CD / DVD combo they put out here.
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 64. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, taking her character Alanna through the trials training as a knight, sold very well and was well received by readers.That Erie’s, like most of work, is set is in Tortall, world akin to European Middle Ages. What I’ve seen of it I like a lot. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. 

(9) PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS. Jonathan Cowie writes: “SF2 Concatenation is gearing up now (before the Seasonal festive distractions) for its next seasonal edition to be posted mid-January.But the science part of its content will include…” —

A fuller figure has oft (rightly/or wrongly) been associated with US citizens and even SF fans.  But it seems as if the rest of the world is catching up and, indeed, over-taking!

Research just published today in the BMJ suggests that a number of countries’ restaurant meals have more calories than their counterparts in the US…

Modelling indicated that, except in China, consuming current servings of a full service and a fast food meal daily would supply between 70% and 120% of the daily energy requirements for a sedentary woman, without additional meals, drinks, snacks, appetizers, or desserts.

CONCLUSION
Very high dietary energy content of both full service and fast food restaurant meals is a widespread phenomenon that is probably supporting global obesity. This arguably needs to be addressed.

Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge now a mathematical formula

Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1984 novel Icehenge depicts a long-lived future human society that forgets its recent past…  Now research published in Nature has revealed that in reallife events, concerns, music etc, decays from our cultural memory mathematically.

In addition to science, the forthcoming seasonal edition of SF2Concatenation will have SF news (relating to publishing, TV and film), forthcoming SF as well as fantasy book titles, and convention reports including this year’s Worldcon, plus another in a series of articles of scientist SF authors favourite scientists.

(10) STAN LEE CAMEO. [Item by Mike Kennedy. Vanity Fair: “Behind the Scenes of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Cameo”. Fair Warning: THE VANITY FAIR ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS, though none are (intentionally) included below. (Their spoiler warning appears immediately after the paragraphs quoted below.)

It won’t be his last, but it may be his best.

Though he died last month, Marvel Comics legend and Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee pre-recorded several cameos for upcoming films before he passed—including a touching, animated appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Loaded with a heavy significance that resonates independent of his death, this emotionally resonant appearance is nothing like the zippy, superficial live-action and animated appearances Lee made in the past. That’s because the Spider-Verse filmmakers were determined to honor Lee’s legacy by breaking open narrow definitions of what it means to be a hero—and because of some personal events in Lee’s life that made his Into the Spider-Verse cameo particularly weighty. (The cameo also happens to be wickedly funny, which is part of Lee’s legacy as well.) The filmmakers—including Into the Spider-Verse’s three directors—took Vanity Fair behind the scenes of Lee’s appearance, as well as the in memoriam title card that closes out the film.

(11) A SPACE FIRST. BBC says they made it: “Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully reaches space”.

The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to space and back.

The firm’s SpaceShip Two passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin.

It marked the plane’s fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm’s space programme.

Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

(12) BACK IN THE AREA CODE. It can be called a success once the data’s sent back — “Parker Solar Probe: Sun-skimming mission starts calling home”.

Just weeks after making the closest ever flyby of the Sun, Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe is sending back its data.

Included in the observations is this remarkable image of the energetic gas, or plasma, flowing out from the star.

The bright dot is actually far-distant Jupiter. The black dots are repeats that occur simply because of the way the picture is constructed.

Parker’s WISPR instrument acquired the vista just 27.2 million km from the surface of the Sun on 8 November.

(13) BOGUS BOT. Reminds me of the 19th-century chess-playing automaton. From the BBC: “Robot turns out to be man in suit”.

A robot on show at a Russian state-sponsored event has turned out to be a man dressed in a costume.

Robot Boris featured on Russian TV and was apparently able to walk, talk and dance.

But soon after its appearance journalists began to question the bot’s authenticity.

In a picture published afterwards on social media, the neck of a person was clearly visible

(14) HISTORY BELOW THE WATERLINE. “Lake Titicaca: Underwater museum brings hope to shores”.

…The 9,360-sq-m building will have two parts, one located on the shore where pieces salvaged from the lake will be exhibited and another semi-submerged part which will allow visitors to see some of the underwater structures, dubbed “hidden city”, through glass walls.

(15) SEASONS’ EATINGS. Visitors to the UK will have noticed their strangely-flavored potato chips, but the strangeness is spreading to pizza, croissants, and ham: “Marmite sprouts? Why retailers are pushing the boundaries with festive food”.

Many readers will find the thought of Christmas tree-flavoured crisps revolting, but Iceland is betting its customers will feel the opposite this festive season.

The crisps are part of the supermarket chain’s festive food range, and have a distinct pine-like taste thanks to their pine salt seasoning, which is made with pine tree oil.

It is part of a wider trend for novel, sometimes bizarre fusion foods that has swept the UK over the last few years as retailers vie for our attention and our cash.

(16) WELL, SHEET. “Nasa’s IceSat space laser makes height maps of Earth” – BBC has the story.

One of the most powerful Earth observation tools ever put in orbit is now gathering data about the planet.

IceSat-2 was launched just under three months ago to measure the shape of the ice sheets to a precision of 2cm.

But the Nasa spacecraft’s laser instrument is also now returning a whole raft of other information.

It is mapping the height of the land, of rivers, lakes, forests; and in a remarkable demonstration of capability – even the depth of the seafloor.

“We can see down to 30m in really clear waters,” said Lori Magruder, the science team leader on the IceSat mission. “We saw one IceSat track just recently that covers 300km in the Caribbean and you see the ocean floor the entire way,” the University of Texas researcher told BBC News.

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

Zion’s Fiction Kickstarter Opens 10/12

Zions FictionZion’s Fiction co-editor Sheldon Teitelbaum begins his appeal with this attention-getting reminder –

Israel is the only country in the world directly inspired by a science fiction novel — Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland, or Old-New Land. “If you will it,” he famously declared, “it is no dream!” Millions took him up on his challenge, with results no science fiction writer ever could have imagined.

Science fiction is also a facet of today’s Israeli culture – and making the rest of the world aware is the purpose of Zion’s Fiction: An Anthology of Israeli Fantasy & Science Fiction, projected to be the first of a three-volume English language collection of Israeli speculative fiction, provided enough money can be raised.

Pledges will be taken on Kickstarter beginning October 12 at 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Many of the country’s finest authors, including Amos Oz, Meir Shalev, A.B. Yehoshua, Emile Habibi, Nava Semel, Gail Hareven, Michal Snunit, Orly Kastel-Bloom. Sayed Keshua, Etgar Keret and Shimon Adaf — Jews, Arabs, Russians — have written the stuff. It’s high time the rest of us got a chance to read it.

Free samples of four stories can be read at the main Zion’s Fiction website: “Mood” by Gail Hareven, translated by Emanuel Lottem; “Robotnik” by Lavie Tidhar, “My Lousy Autumn” by Nitai Peretz, translated by Jessica Cohen; and “The Stern-Gerlach Mice” by Mordechai Sasson, translated by Emanuel Lottem.

Zion’s Fiction has gathered an impressive set of endorsements, the most poetic being David Brin’s:

What a rate of mutation! That mystic shepherds should become a people of priests and sacrifices, then transform under hard pressure into enduring, argumentative teachers, then again into scientific pioneers… and now?  Zion’s Fiction explores the unlimited dreams of a people who have learned to stand on shifting ground. To face a future filled with danger and hope, forging into territory that can only be surveyed with the lamp of imagination on our brows.

Another by Jack Dann recalls his own groundbreaking 1974 collection Wandering Stars: an Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction — a book I remember reviewing when it came out.

Volume one of Zion’s Fiction will feature Israeli speculative fiction written since 1978, which Teitelbaum deems “the start of the golden age of Israeli SF.” If there are funds to produce the other two volumes, the second will showcase material published since 1948, “when hard-won independence gave rise to literary musings over alternate futures, presents and pasts.” The third will focus on material imagining different utopian versions of Jewish statehood, from the mid-19th Century and later.

Richard Lupoff hits the nail on the head when he says, “It is a land of scientific and human miracles. It makes perfect sense that Israel’s rich and tumultuous culture should produce a blossoming science fiction community.”

Free John Carter

Actually, John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood will be free in the Kindle edition until February 7 at midnight (PST).

Michael Sellers’ account has been endorsed by no less a luminary than Richard A. Lupoff, author of Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure and Barsoom: Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Martian Vision (and a distinguished faned!):

A Timeless Classic Becomes a Hollywood Calamity of Historic Proportions
It took 100 years to bring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars to the big screen. It took Disney Studios just ten days to declare the film a flop, withdraw it from distribution, and lock it away in the Disney vaults. How did this project, despite its quarter-billion dollar budget, the brilliance of director Andrew Stanton, and the creative talents of legendary Pixar Studios, become a calamity of historic proportions?

Michael Sellers, a filmmaker and Hollywood insider himself, saw the disaster approaching and fought to save the project – but without success. In John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood, Sellers details every blunder and betrayal that led to the doom of the motion picture – and that left countless Hollywood careers in the wreckage.

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is a must-read for every fan of John Carter and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and every film buff intrigued by the “inside baseball” aspects of modern Hollywood.

[Via Boing Bong, thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]