Pixel Scroll 9/8/20 If You Can’t Be With The Scroll You Pixel, Pixel The Scroll You’re With

(1) STAR TREK DAY. io9’s James Whitbrook tells how “Star Trek: Discovery’s New Trailer Brings the Fight for the Federation to the Far Future”.

The crew of the Discovery made a terrible sacrifice at the end of season two, leaving their lives as they knew them behind and flinging the ship 930 years into the future, where the Federation is in some dire straits of its own (again). Now it seems it’s up to Michael and her friends to remind them of what the Federation has fought hard to stand for.

Star Trek’s all-encompassing Star Trek Day livestream event just kicked off with the latest look at the third season of Discovery, our first since that major glimpse at New York Comic-Con last year.

(2) KLINGON GOES POSTAL. Robert J. Sawyer celebrated Star Trek Day on Facebook with this observation:

If you’d told Canadian actor John Collicos that his country would honour him with a stamp 50-odd years later for the four or five days of work he did as one of countless guest-starring roles over his career, he’d have thought you were out of your mind.

It’s part of this 2016 set:

(3) POD TREK. Tawny Newsome, of the Star Trek: Lower Decks voice cast, announced an upcoming podcast, Star Trek: The Pod Directive, which she will co-host with actor-comedian Paul F. Tompkins (BoJack Horseman).

Guests will include actor Ben Stiller, author Reza Aslan, “Star Trek: Picard” star Michelle Hurd, “Lower Decks” executive producer Mike McMahan, politician Stacey Abrams, comedian and “Discovery” costar Tig Notaro, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, and “Picard” and “Short Treks” composer Jeff Russo.

Newsome also debuted a preview for the show, which runs weekly Sept. 14 through Nov. 9.

(4) MULAN. Jeannette Ng’s article “‘Mulan’ Has a Message: Serve China and Forget About the Uighurs” at Foreign Policy challenges the terms under which the film was made, then sharply criticizes the film itself.

All art is political. Strangely, Disney’s live-action Mulan is more obviously so than most.

Mulan makes the current nationalist mythology of a Han-dominated China the foundation of its story. That would be bad enough. But parts of it were also filmed at the location of current and ongoing mass human rights abuses, including cultural genocide, against ethnic minorities.

The credits of Mulan specifically thank the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Committee, as well as the Public Security Bureau in the city of Turpan and other state entities there. The Public Security Bureau is one of the main forces administering the internment camps, enforcing the surveillance and interrogation of even nominally “free” Uighurs, forcing people into slave labor, demanding that Uighurs host Han guests employed by the government to spy on them, and sterilizing Uighur women. The Publicity Department—a term that used to be more honestly translated as the Propaganda Department—justifies these atrocities. Most of these policies were well in place—and some of them known in the West—by the time the film was shot, partly in Xinjiang, in 2018.

That should be the only thing that needs to be written. But there’s more.

Even before the film—which was not previously known to have been filmed  in Xinjiang—arrived, it had blundered right into politics. Two of the film’s stars, Liu Yifei (Mulan) and Donnie Yen (Commander Tung), have voiced their support of the Hong Kong police against the city’s pro-democracy protests, thus sparking an online movement to boycott the film…. 

(5) DISNEY AMBITIONS. In a Washington Post opinion piece, “Why Disney’s new ‘Mulan’ is a scandal”, Isaac Stone Fish says that Disney credits “four Chinese Communist party propaganda departments in the region of Xinjiang and the Public Security Bureau of the city of Turpan in the same region–organizations that are facilitating crimes against humanity.”  He says we need to know the extent to which Disney cooperated with instruments of Chinese repression against the Uighurs and that by filming in Xinjiang the 2020 version of Mulan is “Disney’s most problematic movie” since the racist Song Of The South. Fish also adds perspectives about Disney’s historic efforts to do business in China.

…Disney executives had thought that the original “Mulan” would please both the Chinese government and Chinese filmgoers. But because Disney had distributed “Kundun” (1997), a film glorifying the Dalai Lama, Beijing restricted the studio’s ability to work in China. Disney spent the next several years trying to get back into the party’s good graces. “We made a stupid mistake in releasing ‘Kundun,’” the then-CEO of Disney Michael Eisner told Premier Zhu Rongji in October 1998. “Here I want to apologize, and in the future we should prevent this sort of thing, which insults our friends, from happening.”

Since then, Disney has endeavored to please Beijing. The rewards have been immense, culminating in the successful opening of Shanghai Disneyland in June 2016. This park, Disney’s Executive Chairman Bob Iger said, is the “greatest opportunity the company has had since Walt Disney himself bought land in Central Florida.” Partnering with Xinjiang is another step that binds Disney closer to the party.

(6) HARD SF. [Item by Eric Wong.] Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual compilation — “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction of 2019” — with 19 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained by changing the Highlight from Free Online to Podcasts, changing the table View by Publication and Author, and Filtering the table by awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(7) SLEEPING IN THE FACTORY. In “How Speculative Fiction Becomes Reality” on CrimeReads, Rob Hart says his 2018 novel The Warehouse has “an outside world so hostile people are forced indoors” and “an online retail merchant dominating the economy while the small business landscape is wiped out,” but that when he wrote his novel he thought the future he foresaw would happen a decade from now, not in 2020.

…Instead of the slow march of climate change and the steady drip of private interest trumping public good, it was a pandemic that ground the economy to a halt in a matter of weeks. We may not be housed in giant, city-sized live-work facilities, but most of us are now living at our jobs.

And hasn’t that been the whole point of the 21st century economy? Forcing you to come in sick, making you accept unpaid overtime and check your e-mail on the weekends—it was all about making it so you were always working. Even better if you barely left the office. Now you don’t.

Not to say there’s any fun in being right. Not with so much suffering and loss. Not with so many monumental failures in leadership. Not when facing the realization of just how fragile the system is, and how many holes there are in the safety net.

(8) THE FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY. Andrew Liptak has an interview with Matt Ruff at Reading List: “Lovecraft Country: making the best of the horror icon”.

Your book came out in 2016 on the heels of a larger movement and reckoning within fandom about the role of authors of color and from marginalized communities. How does that longer history of marginalization and exclusion play into your view with the book or the world you’ve set up?

I knew that stuff was going on while I was writing, but history of dissatisfaction of fans of color goes back a lot further. In my research for the novel, I would be reading back issues of the Chicago Defender (the historic black newspaper in Chicago in the 1950s) to get a sense of what the issues of the day were in the black community at that time, and I would read the reviews section for movies and books and the things coming out then. A lot of it was very familiar in terms of the complaints that the reviewers had: we’ve got money, we want to buy movie tickets, we want to buy books, please make stuff that recognizes that we exist and that plays to us too.

The problem was that back then was that you could complain all you want it, but the only folks reading the Black press were Black folks who did not get to make decisions in Hollywood. So this dissatisfaction has always been there. It was expressed by friends of mine growing up, and there’s a woman named Pam Noles, who wrote an essay called Shame that was very influential when I was thinking about Lovecraft Country, which sort of talks about her evolution as a young Black nerd. One of the things she talks about that’s heartbreaking is experience going to see Star Wars for the first time and which for her as for me, was like a quasi-religious experience. But for her, it was also the moment where she finally understood what her parents had been trying to tell her about: this genre that you like doesn’t really appreciate you the way you seem to think it does.

(9) BUTCHER PREVIEW. The book trailer for Jim Butcher’s Battle Ground debuted at Virtual Dragon Con. The trailer was filmed back in December, concurrently with the trailer for Peace Talks, directed by Priscilla Spencer. Dragon Con also hosted a virtual cast and crew panel for both trailers: “The Dresden Files: Peace Talks Trailer Cast and Crew Panel” with Jim Butcher, Spencer, and the rest. 

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on NBC. Featuring the voice work of the original cast with the exception of Walter Koenig which was apparently due to budget constraints. Most other voices were done by the cast but Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harry Mudd were performed by the original actors. It would air for two seasons and twenty two episodes winning an Emmy for Outstanding Entertainment in a Children’s Series for its second season. David Gerrold, Chuck Menville, D.C. Fontana and Larry Niven would write scripts as would Walter Koenig. Roddenberry decided it wasn’t canon after it ended which didn’t stop scriptwriters from referring to it down the years in inventive ways, i.e. Elim Garak on DS9 mentions Edosian orchids, a reference to the character Arex here who’s an Edosian. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom ThumbMother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.) (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1932 – John Boardman, Ph.D., 88.  Physicist, fanziner, filker.  Master of Diplomacy i.e. the board game.  Treasurer of Nycon 3 (25th Worldcon).  Life Member of the Lunarians, Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Perdita) at Lunacon 41.  Officer of the Puddleby-on-the-Marsh Irregulars.  Co-founder of the Beaker People’s Libation Front.  “Science for Science Fiction” in Ares.  Active in the Society for Creative Anachronism, served as Mural Herald of the East Kingdom.  To be seen in AmraAsimov’sLocusRiverside QuarterlySF ReviewTrumpetXero.  “Because you are not John Boardman, is why.”  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1936 – Don Punchatz.  Ninety covers, two hundred interiors for us; more outside our field.   Here are FoundationFoundation and EmpireSecond Foundation.  Here is Nightwings.  Here is Night of the Cooters.  Artbook Don Punchatz, a retrospective.  Spectrum Grandmaster.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 75. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, andbefore being the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a still dismal 24%.  (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1947 – Bill Burns, 73.  Attended every Eastercon (Unted Kingdom nat’l con) since 1965.  Doc Weir Award (U.K. service award).  Best known for founding and maintaining eFanzines.com.  Fan Guest of Honour (with wife Mary) at Eastercon LX; at 77th Worldcon.  A dozen FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards. [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1952 – Linda Addison, 68.  For us, two dozen stories, ninety poems, in ApexAsimov’sDark MatterTales of the UnanticipatedTomorrow, three hundred fifty all told.  Poetry editor of Space & Time, “Word Ninja” there.  B.S. (mathematics) from Carnegie-Mellon.  2002 Rhysling anthology.  First black Stoker winner; won four more.  Horror Writers’ Lifetime Achievement award.  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 66. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The LegacyThe New Adventures of Superman, The Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances. (CE)
  • Born September 8, 1958 – Danny Flynn, 62.  Hundreds of covers, computer-game illustrations, in and out of our field; biology, detective fiction, golf.  Here is the May 94 Interzone.  Here is I Will Fear No Evil (surely one of our best book titles).  Here is Wild Seed.  Artbook Only Visiting This Planet.  [JH]
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? And, of course, there the adaptation of Lovecraft Country which I’ve not see as I don’t have HBO. (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, (and later publisher, which he remains), for which he has awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form at Nippon 2007 and at Denvention 3.  He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. (CE)
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 45. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards  winning Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. (CE) 
  • Born September 8, 1979 – Bianca Turetsky, 41.  Three novels, four shorter stories with Courtney Sheinmel.  In the novels, illustrated by Sandra Suy, Louise Lambert buying dresses on sale from strange folk finds they take her back in time, pleasing KirkusSeventeen, and the Historical Novel Society.  [JH]

(12) WEARING THE HORNS. Added to the fanhistory site THEN, Ken Cheslin’s 1989 piece “SADO and the 1960s Brum Group – a memoir”. Curator Rob Hansen says, “This might interest a few people, if only for how much Ken Cheslin’s Viking character Olaf coincidentally resembles the later ‘Hagar the Horrible’.”

(13) WINNING NAME. L. Jagi Lamplighter has decided her new column at Superversive SF will be called “Slice of Light”, and follows the title announcement with a heartwarming preview of coming attractions. Even you heathens might enjoy this one.

(14) HALO OVER JUPITER.

(15) TEARS OF A CLOWN.  “Ted Cruz, longtime fan of ‘The Princess Bride,’ swipes at cast members’ plans to reunite to raise money for Democrats”The Hill has the story.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a longtime fan of “The Princess Bride,” took aim at cast members of the cult classic over the weekend after reports emerged of their plans to reunite for a fundraiser supporting Democrats in Wisconsin.

Cast members from the film will be taking part in a virtual table read for the fundraiser — which a site for the event said will feature actors Robin Wright, Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin and Billy Crystal. 

In a tweet reacting to the news on Saturday, Cruz referred to lines from Inigo Montoya, a character portrayed by Patinkin in the 1987 film.

“Do you hear that Fezzik? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when the six-fingered man killed my father,” he wrote in the tweet.

“Every Princess Bride fan who wants to see that perfect movie preserved from Hollywood politics makes it now,” Cruz, who has been vocal in the past about his feelings for the film and acted out a scene from the flick when he was running for president in 2015, added….

(16) LOST AND FOUND. “Roanoke’s ‘Lost Colony’ Was Never Lost, New Book Says” – the New York Times sifts the scholarship.

…Historians and archaeologists not involved in the recent research on Hatteras were more skeptical, saying that the evidence was inconclusive and that they wanted to see peer-reviewed work. They also said the argument was not new: The idea that the Croatoans, as the Native people on Hatteras were called, adopted at least some of the settlers has long been considered plausible.

“Sure, it’s possible — why wouldn’t it be?” said Malinda Maynor Lowery, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “People don’t get lost. They get murdered, they get stolen, they get taken in. They live and die as members of other communities.”

Dr. Maynor Lowery presented a similar possibility in her 2018 book on the history of the Lumbee people, the descendants of dozens of tribes in a wide region including eastern North Carolina. Despite violence by the English against Croatoan villagers, she wrote, the settlers probably took refuge with them.

“The Indians of Roanoke, Croatoan, Secotan and other villages had no reason to make enemies of the colonists,” she wrote. “Instead, they probably made them kin.”

The English landed into a complicated fray of conflict and shifting alliances, said Lauren McMillan, a professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va.

“They’re all interfighting, and these different groups are trying to use the English against one another,” she said. “The Croatoans perhaps saw the English as a powerful ally and sources of valuable new things.”

Dr. Maynor Lowery, who is Lumbee, added that the “lost colony” story is itself based on the incorrect premise “that Native people also disappeared, which we didn’t.”

The story, she said, was like “a monument that has to come down,” adding that “it’s harder to dismantle an origin story than a statue.”

(17) ESSENCE OF WONDER. “AI and Ethics: Professionals Speak” on the next Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron.

Not Mute in the Winter…
In the first part of the show, we’ll be discussing the potential of AI to be useful to society in general, but we’ll be taking a greater look at where there are possibilities for AI to be misused or even abused if not properly handled.  Our primary questions in this part of the show will be to ask where AI can be biased, how bias is introduced into AI systems, examples of attacks on AI and how these then manifest in the world. We’ll be looking at the social implications of using AI in situations where previously only human judgement has been deployed and how this is spreading to encompass more decision-making processes.

Turing Test Failed, They Suspect Nothing…
Our show corner will be looking at theoretical examples of how a number of simple and sensible decisions could give rise to AI that can go from beneficial to nefarious.

Terminating Skynet…
In the second part of the show, we’ll be looking will be how to ensure an ethical approach to the development and control of Artificial Intelligence.  How we should go about securing AI systems and the methods of embedding ethics throughout the lifecycle of AI and its usages. We will also delve into the social vs institutional approaches to Ethical AI.

The panelists include:

  • Steve Orrin – Federal CTO, Intel Corp
  • Dr. Jim Short – Research Director, Lead Scientist and co-founder of the Center for Large Scale Data Systems (CLDS) at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
  • Chloe Autio – AI Policy Lead for Intel Corp
  • Dr. Andrew Harding – Senior Technology and Policy Adviser at Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation for the UK Government
  • Tamara Zubatiy – CEO of VeriCrypt

(18) AI SPEAKS BACK. On Onion Public Radio, “Robots Inform Artificial Intelligence Researchers That They’ll Take It From Here”.

The A.I. research team at MIT is hailing it as a breakthrough in their field that will finally allow them to kick back and relax a little bit. We have the latest on what the now-sentient robotic life forms have planned next.

(19) THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS. “Realistic False Arm Dinosaur Puppet” – several different versions are available. Here’s one of them.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Batman:  Mask of the Phantasm” on Youtube, the Screen Junkies take on the fine film that entertained a “generation of latch-key kids” in the 1990s.

[Thanks to John King Tarpnian, N., JJ, Alan Baumler, Eric Wong, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 7/23/20 Flat Scrolls And Geocentric Pixels

(1) HIS DARK MATERIALS TRAILER. Decider has eyeballs on Comic-Con@Home where this new trailer was aired today.

HBO is celebrating Comic-Con@Home with a first look at Season 2 of His Dark MaterialsDuring today’s virtual panel for the show, HBO unveiled the trailer for the upcoming season of the drama, which introduces some fresh faces.

The YouTube description adds –

His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.

(2) DO IT YOURSELF. There’s only one of me so I can’t write a post about every one of these items – darn it! Here is programming for Thursday, July 23, 2020, for Comic-Con International – much of it available for replay on YouTube.

(3) COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE? A second trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music. Available On Demand and in theaters September 1.

(4) SCARES THAT CARE. Brian Keene and friends have done a few 24-hour telethons to raise funds for Scares That Care.  The most recent event was canceled due to Covid.

They are opting to do a virtual fundraiser on August 1st.  It’s only 13 hours, but it looks like it will be packed with lots of interesting panels. See the FAQ and schedule at the Scares That Care Virtual Charity Event link. Say, they get the same kind of questions as the Worldcon!

Q: I’m a celebrity who works in the horror genre. Why wasn’t I included in programming?
A: We tried to accommodate as many horror professionals as we could, but unlike our physical Scares That Care Weekend charity events, we are limited by the technological restrictions and time constraints of this virtual event. However, you can still help the cause by sharing the event with your fans and encouraging them to donate.

(5) HOLY SH!T. The New York Times shared a discovery — “How to Sell Books in 2020: Put Them Near the Toilet Paper” .

If you want to sell books during a pandemic, it turns out that one of the best places to do it is within easy reach of eggs, milk and diapers.

When the coronavirus forced the United States into lockdown this spring, stores like Walmart and Target, which were labeled essential, remained open. So when anxious consumers were stocking up on beans and pasta, they were also grabbing workbooks, paperbacks and novels — and the book sales at those stores shot up.

“They sell groceries, they sell toilet paper, they sell everything people need during this time, and they’re open,” said Suzanne Herz, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor. “If you’re in there and you’re doing your big shop and you walk down the aisle and go, ‘Oh, we’re bored, and we need a book or a puzzle,’ there it is.”

Big-box stores do not generally break out how much they sell of particular products, but people across the publishing industry say that sales increased at these stores significantly, with perhaps the greatest bump at Target. In some cases there, according to publishing executives, book sales tripled or quadrupled.

Dennis Abboud is the chief executive of ReaderLink, a book distributor that serves more than 80,000 retail stores, including big-box and pharmacy chains. He said that in the first week of April, his company’s sales were 34 percent higher than the same period the year before.

“With the shelter in place, people were looking for things to do,” he said. “Workbooks, activity books and just general reading material saw a big increase.”

(6) PROMOTION TOOLS. C.E. Murphy gives readers a look behind the curtain in “Writing Career: Running The Numbers”.

…And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! 🙂

So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))

Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.

(7) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Even God Has a Place Called Home” by Ray Mwihaki, a story about environmental health, witchcraft, technophilia, and transcendence.

On Monday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they wll host another virtual event on Zoom, with Ray and science fiction author Christopher Rowe.

(8) CLARKE AWARD LOWDOWN. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter about this year’s nominees for the prize: “The Best Science Fiction of 2020”.

…In terms of who the audiences are for these books, on the one hand, if you like science fiction, you’ll find much to enjoy here but if you haven’t really tried the genre before, or if you might have been put off, I’d stress that these are all books published in 2019, for a 2020 prize, so they’re very contemporary-feeling in terms of their characterisation, quality of prose, plotting and so forth. You can definitely trace their lineage through the different eras of science fiction as it has evolved as a genre, and all of these books interrogate and tease and play with that tradition in different ways, but are also respectful of it. That’s the difference between, say—insert name of mainstream author—who has discovered a science fiction concept and written a book about it, then does a press tour where they try and convince you they’ve somehow invented robots, or space travel or parallel universes, or whatever. You know: ‘Before me science fiction was just cowboys in space, but my book is about real futures…’

(9) RENDEZVOUS WITH JOHN CLUTE. In “Arthur C. Clarke’s Scientific Romances Eschew Spectacle for Dumbstruck Wonder”, John Clute takes Rendezvous with Rama as the text to explore his views for LitHub readers.

… In his rendering of the 2001 story, Clarke may be marginally more emollient than Kubrick when it comes to assessing humanity’s chances of genuine uplift at the hands of a transcendent superbeing, but compared with contemporary in-house American SF visions of the future, both novel and film are baths of cold water.

Both were tortuously understood by many genre viewers as optimistic paeans to technological progress, with a bit of hoo-ha at the end; and Clarke himself never directly contradicted Kubrick’s dramatic rendering of his own exceedingly measured presentation of his clear message—also articulated in Childhood’s End, and hinted at strongly in Rendezvous with Rama—that as a species we may simply not quite measure up.

But this calm magisterial verdict, couched smilingly, mattered little to his own career, even when understood correctly. The huge success of 2001 had both made him rich and transformed him into a world gure; an addressable, venerated guru whose declarations on the shape-of-things-to-come were now given to the world at large. The best of this nonfiction work was collected years later as Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (1999), a huge volume whose title perfectly sums up the coign of vantage from which he wrote: which is to say, as though from the future itself, from somewhere on the far side of the slingshot ending….

(10) MORE UK FANHISTORY ONLINE. Rob Hansen has expanded THEN’s 1961 coverage of the SF Club of London. And “I’ve also added a link to a report by George Locke on the 1960 Minicon in Kettering. I didn’t think any report beyond a couple of sentences in Skyrack existed for that con so I was quite surprised to stumble across it.” Scroll down to 1960s section for links on the THEN index.

Then there’s the 1967 London Minicon, with photos. All part of filling in the history.

(11) BACK TO BASICS. “It’s Time to Re-Re-Re-Meet the Muppets”, and the New York Times makes the introductions.

At the dawn of “The Muppet Show” in the late 1970s, a visit to the Muppet Labs consisted of watching its nebbishy proprietor, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, demonstrate misbegotten inventions like an exploding hat or a self-destructing necktie with a brief burst of pyrotechnics, a canned explosion sound and a puff of smoke.

Today, a return visit to those labs on the Disney+ series “Muppets Now” features Honeydew and his agitated assistant, Beaker, using a homemade device called the Infern-O-Matic to reduce everyday items — a carton of eggs, a wall clock, a guitar — to smoldering piles of ashes.

If this scene from “Muppets Now” feels manic and combustible — and even a bit familiar — that is by design: as Leigh Slaughter, vice president of the Muppets Studio, explained recently, she and her colleagues are hopeful that this series will conjure up “that true Muppet anarchy — that complete chaos.”

She added: “If they’re going to take on real-world science, we thought, we have to burn things. We have to drop things. We have to blow things up.”

“Muppets Now,” a six-episode series that debuts on July 31, is both Disney’s attempt to bring those familiar, fuzzy faces to its streaming service and a parody of internet content. Its segments feature characters like Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef in rapid-fire comedy sketches that lampoon popular online formats.

The new series also strives to reconnect the Muppets with the disorderly sensibility they embodied in the era of “The Muppet Show” and get back to basics after other recent efforts to reboot the characters fizzled out.

“The thinking is to stop trying so hard to be like everybody else and just be the Muppets,” said Bill Barretta, a veteran Muppet performer and an executive producer of “Muppets Now.” “Let’s celebrate the fact that they all have to deal with each other and just be silly and play and entertain again.”

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 23, 1995 The Outer Limits aired “I, Robot”. This is a remake of the November 14th, 1964 episode that aired during the second season of the original Twilight Zone. This is not based on Asimov’s “ I, Robot” but rather on a short story by Eando Binder that ran in the January 1939 issue of Amazing Stories. The script was by Alison Lea Bingeman who also wrote episodes of RobocopFlash GordonForever KnightBeyond Reality and The Lost World at that time. Adam Nimoy was the director and Leonard Nimoy, his father, was in it as he been the earlier production playing a different character. (CE)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 23, 1889 – Yuri Annenkov.  Illustrator, portraitist, theater and cinema designer.  Zamyatin said he “has a keen awareness of the extraordinary rush and dynamism of our epoch.”  Here is a Synthetic landscape.  Here is the photographer M.A. Sherling.  Here is Zamyatin.  Here is a frog costume.  Here is Miydodir, an animated washstand that eventually makes the boy at left wash.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1910 Ruthie Tompson, 110. An animator and artist. Her first job was the ink and paints, uncredited, on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was involved in every animated from film Disney for three decades, stating with Pinocchio (Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form). Some she was an animator on, some she was admin on. She worked on Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, too. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1914 – Virgil Finlay.  Pioneering illustrator.  Hugo for that in the first year we gave them; five Retrospective Hugos.  First sale, the Dec 1935 Weird Tales; probably 2,600 works of graphic art; fifty poems, mostly published after his death.  Here is a cover for The Stars Are Ours.  Here is the Dec 56 Galaxy.  Some of his marvelous monochrome: The Crystal Man“Flight to Forever”; I haven’t identified this, can you?  SF Hall of Fame.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  See the Donald Grant and the Gerry de la Ree collections.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1926 Eunice Sudak, 94. Novelizer of three early Sixties Roger Corman films: Tales of TerrorThe Raven and X, the latter based of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. She wrote a lot of other novelizations but they weren’t even genre adjacent.(CE)
  • Found Fandom July 23, 1937 Cyril M. Kornbluth. Wikipedia says July 2 is his birthday — 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom says July 23 is the date he discovered fandom. I certainly read and liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on. Given his very early death, he wrote an impressive amount of fiction, particularly short fiction which Wildside Press has all of n a single publication, available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1958.) (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1947 – Gardner Dozois.  Three novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors, translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian.  Two Nebulas.  Editor of Asimov’s 1984-2004; two dozen Asimov’s anthologies, many with Sheila Williams.  Four years editing Best SF Stories of the Year, thirty-five of The Year’s Best SF (no, I shan’t explain, and I shan’t tell the jelly-bean story, either).  Four dozen more anthologies; one Nebula Showcase.  Fifteen Hugos as Best Pro Editor; one as Best Pro Editor, Short Form.  Skylark Award.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1948 – Lew Wolkoff, 72.  Long-time laborer in fanhistory and the workings of our conventions.  Some highlights: co-chaired ArtKane IV, an art-focussed con in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1979; assembled Phoxphyre, a fanzine anthology of the 1936 Philadelphia convention, with reminiscences by Baltadonis, Goudket, Kyle, Madle, Newton, Pohl, Train, 1983; Program Book appreciation of Barbi Johnson, a Guest of Honor at Lunacon 26, 1983; helped design the base for the 1951 Retro-Hugo trophy, 2001; chaired PSFS (Philadelphia SF Soc.) Young Writers’ Contest, 2018; got 120 audiotapes of Philcon proceedings to the SF Oral History Ass’n; founded, or purported to found, the SF Union of Unpublished Authors (“ess-eff-double-U-ay”, i.e. taking off SFWA the SF Writers of America).  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1949 – Eric Ladd, 71.  Twenty covers for us.  Here is The Falling Torch.  Here is Convergent Series.  First suggested to Bob Eggleton that BE should exhibit in our Art Shows.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1954 – Astrid Bear, 66.  One of the great entries in our Masquerade costume competitions was The Bat and the Bitten, Karen Anderson and her daughter Astrid at the 27th Worldcon.  In 1983 Astrid married Greg Bear; they have two children.  Here is AB at the 76th Worldcon on a panel discussing the 26th (L to R, Astrid, Tom Whitmore, Mary Morman, Ginjer Buchanan, Suzanne Tompkins, Gay Haldeman).  For the 71st, since Jay Lake whom she and all of us loved had contrived to obtain whole-genome sequencing, and AB had become a fiber artist, she made Jay Lake Genome Scarves in time to give him one, as you can see here.  Fanzine, Gallimaufry.  It’s not true that this book is about her.  [JH]
  • Born July 23, 1970 Charisma Carpenter, 50. She’s best remembered as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She was also Kyra on Charmed and Kendall Casablancason Veronica Mars.  She was Sydney Hart in Mail Order Monster and Beth Sullivan in the direct to video Josh Kirby… Time Warrior! Franchise. (CE)
  • Born July 23, 1982 —  Tom Mison, 38. He is best-known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which crosses-over into Bones. Currently he’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to that he Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Fresh from his Hugo voter reading, Dann writes, “In light of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, I thought this xkcd might be useful.  Check out the mouse-over/alt text.”

(15) WORLDCON TIME OUT OF JOINT. Bill Higgins started out teasing David Levine about CoNZealand’s July 16 “Wild Cards” panel, then his imagination ran away with him:

(16) THIS JUST IN…THE ONION. “Disaster: Luigi Left His Space Heater Plugged In For 3 Days And The Entire ‘Paper Mario’ Kingdom Burned Down”.

For years, Luigi’s kindhearted nature and well-meaning oafishness have endeared him to millions of fans who were willing to look past his lengthy history of incompetence. But it seems like the iconic Nintendo character might have just passed the point of no return: The big guy in green apparently left his space heater plugged in for three days straight, and now the entire Paper Mario kingdom has burned to the ground….

(17) STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. CBS All-Access dropped a clip today.

Get an exclusive look at a hilarious scene from the upcoming series premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, an all-new animated comedy featuring the voices of stars Jack Quaid (Ensign Brad Boimler) and Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner).

(18) LONG MARCH TO MARS. NPR reports “China Launches Ambitious Mission To Mars”

A heavy-lift Long March-5 roared off a launch pad on Hainan Island Thursday, carrying China’s hopes for its first successful Mars mission – an ambitious project to send an orbiter, lander and rover to the red planet in one shot.

If everything goes according to plan, Tianwen-1 will be China’s first successful mission to Mars, after a previous attempt failed in 2011 — gaining it membership in an elite club including only the U.S. and Russia, of nations who have successfully landed on the planet. (Even so, the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander, which touched down in 1971, transmitted for mere seconds before contact was lost.)

…The goals of the mission are to map surface geology, examine soil characteristics and water distribution, measure the Martian ionosphere and climate and study the planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields.

The BBC adds details: “China’s Tianwen-1 Mars rover rockets away from Earth”.

China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.

The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).

It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.

Called Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, the rover won’t actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.

This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.

…The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars’ equator. The rover will study the region’s geology – at, and just below, the surface.

Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.

A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.

This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit, using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.

(19) THERE WLL BE SPACE WAR. Or so Jerry Pournelle might have said.“UK and US say Russia fired a satellite weapon in space” – BBC has the story.

The UK and US have accused Russia of launching a weapon-like projectile from a satellite in space.

In a statement, the head of the UK’s space directorate said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.”

The statement said actions like this “threaten the peaceful use of space”.

The US has previously raised concerns about this Russian satellite.

In his statement, Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, head of the UK’s space directorate, said: “Actions like this threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.

“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

(20) FIRST PEOPLE. “Earliest evidence for humans in the Americas”.

Humans settled in the Americas much earlier than previously thought, according to new finds from Mexico.

They suggest people were living there 33,000 years ago, twice the widely accepted age for the earliest settlement of the Americas.

The results are based on work at Chiquihuite Cave, a high-altitude rock shelter in central Mexico.

Archaeologists found thousands of stone tools suggesting the cave was used by people for at least 20,000 years.

(21) DIH-DIH-DIH-DAH. “Secret Morse code tune sees game removed in China”.

A popular mobile game has been taken offline in mainland China for “rectification work”, after netizens discovered its musical director had written a song containing Morse code with a hidden Hong Kong pro-democracy message.

According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the Cytus II musical rhythm game, produced by Taiwan’s Rayark Games, has been removed from China’s mainland app stores.

This was done after netizens discovered a controversial song by Hong Kong musical director ICE, real name Wilson Lam, on his Soundcloud account.

The piece, Telegraph 1344 7609 2575, was actually posted on his page in March, but after netizens discovered it contained in Morse code the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, many in the mainland called for him to be sacked.

(22) RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER YOU. Floors that can scare you – a gallery of wild images at Imgur.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games’ Honest Game Trailers:  SpongeBob Square Pants–Rehydrated on YouTube says that “children and extremely inebriated adults” will enjoy this new version of a classic SpongeBob SquarePants game featuring “Rube Goldberg machines that require a Ph.D. in SpongeBob to complete.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/13/20 Pixel Number 8 Will Make You Cry. Pixel Number 2 Has Surprised Us All

(1) COLSON WHITEHEAD FETED BY LOC. He’s the youngest person to get this recognition: “Library of Congress to honor author Colson Whitehead.

Already this year’s recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Orwell Prize for political fiction, Whitehead is now being honored by the Library of Congress. On Monday, it announced that he had won the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Whitehead, 50, is the youngest winner of the lifetime achievement prize, which the library has previously given to Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Denis Johnson, among others. He is the first author to win Pulitzers for consecutive works of fiction — “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” for which he won in April.

(2) WHY HE HAD TO LEAVE. Edmund Schluessel reports on his experiences with Finncon 2020, which took place this past Friday-Sunday online and was based in Tampere, Finland. “Finncon 2020. So.”

I was quite sanguine about Finncon 2019. I praised the “more thriving, more diverse, more accepting community” I had found in Finland.

Thus this post is difficult to write. I’ll start with the part of Finncon 2020 I was there for, then talk about why I had to leave….

(3) HOLIDAY ON KLENDATHU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing at The Verge, Joshua Rivera examines the legacy and impact of Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film adaptation of Starship Troopers, linking to several other articles that examine the movie’s newfound relevance to America’s current political divisions. I know this film gets debated endlessly around these parts, but to my eye, the fact that a quarter century later people outside the SFF community are still debating its meaning and parsing its subtext is a good indication that Starship Troopers has enduring value. “The world is finally coming around to Starship Troopers”

I’m here to see the fireworks, and rare is the blockbuster that is interested in forcing me to question that.

(4) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-DISTANCE. Shelf Awareness shows how it’s done genre-style in “Social Distancing at Atomic Books”.

(5) SWEDISH HOPES UP. Fantastika, the Swedish national con or Swecon, is off for this year so they’ve named a date for the event in 2021. (We had the cancellation a few days ago, but not the new date.)

The Committee has decided to cancel the convention in October due to the corona pandemic. We have instead booked the venue, Dieselverkstaden, for the weekend April 9-11, 2021, i e the weekend after Easter. We sincerely hope that it will be possible to have the convention at that time. Please note that this is not the same date as the one that we previously considered.

If you wish to have the membership refunded you need to send me an e-mail with information on how I should send it, e g via PayPal. If you have already got a refund you are of course welcome to pay the membership again.

Please see further information on https://fantastika2020.com/

(6) DEEPSOUTHCON HOPES DOWN BUT NOT OUT. CONtraflow chair Frank Schiavo told Facebook followers the event (which is also this year’s DeepSouthCon) has been postponed to 2021. But there may be a virtual DeepSouthCon on the original weekend.

After much discussion, long board meetings, working back and forth with the host hotel, city/parish/state leadership, and Southern Fandom Confederation/Deep South Con representatives , the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion: under current conditions, we cannot give you the amazing Fan experience that you all have come to expect from the previous nine years of CONtraflow. We must reschedule CONtraflow 10, originally scheduled for this coming November 13-15.  Hosting our convention as usual in 2020 is impossible in these pandemic conditions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future.  There are simply too many unknowns at play at this time.  Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow 10.  Please know this decision is as tough and painful for us as it is for all of you.  We didn’t make it lightly and hope you will support our decision.

I am sure most of you have questions about the rescheduled event. I’ll try to answer a few of the big ones.

The new date for CONtraflow 10 is October 1-3, 2021 at the Airport Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana.   We are currently working on guests and speakers for the new convention dates.  We’ll have a first flier about the new dates up on social media for you to share in the next few days. We are planning to have a more detailed flier with guests and major events up and out there online before the end of September.

…As for the DeepSouthCon 58 (2020) to be hosted by CONtraflow this year,  there are plans for a virtual DeepSouthCon 58 mini convention featuring panels, programming, the annual SFC meeting and the Hearts tournament, and more on the Saturday of the original convention weekend (November 14, 2020).  We are working out the details of online hosting and any possible costs and will be updating you with details of the virtual DSC in the coming weeks….

(7) A STRANGE PROLOGUE. Rob Hansen has added “THE 1971 EASTERCON” to his THEN British fanhistory website, complete with the usual cornucopia of photos. It includes this account of a bizarre chain of events:

THE BRIAN ALDISS GoH SAGA – Peter Weston

At SCI-CON 70:

Brian confided that this was the second time he had been asked to be Guest of Honour but had then been required to step down. We were suitably shocked, as he went on to explain how he had been invited as GoH for 1969 in Oxford, but when a new committee had taken over, headed by John Brunner, they had wanted to have Judith Merril instead. George Hay had heard about this, thought it was a bit poor, and so he had asked Brian to be GoH in 1970, which he had accepted. Then George heard that James Blish was moving to England and he did exactly the same thing, pushing out Brian once again in favour of a supposed bigger “name.” Rog and I were suitably disgusted, and promptly offered to make amends. We would bid for the 1971 Eastercon and would do it properly. We promised to find a decent hotel and make Brian our Guest of Honour. (p.191)

***

Suddenly, however, we hit double trouble. Brian Aldiss resigned as Guest of Honour, and this was immediately followed by the start of a postal strike. Brian’s letter was a bombshell! The only reason Rog and I had taken on the convention was to do justice to him, and now he was dropping out for no very good reason, saying vaguely that he “might be living in Hong Kong for a while.”

(8) INSIDE THE STORY. The Odyssey Writing Workshop does a Q&A with a graduate: “Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee”.

What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?

I mentioned cross-tension earlier, which I love. The thorn in my side, however, is forward tension.

To start us on the same page, by forward tension I mean the often external plot tension that pulls a reader through the story. In my Bourshkanya Trilogy, this tends to be resistance activities to weaken or tear down the fascist state. In general, fighting the big bad, and the sequence of events that leads to it, tends to be high in forward tension as the characters try and fail, as the villain pursues them, etc.

Cross-tension, by contrast, occurs between characters who have opposing, potentially unreconcilable beliefs. Both characters may try to do what they believe is right or necessary, may even care deeply for one another, but with the underpinnings of their belief structures in conflict, they’re forced onto opposite sides, e.g., a resistance fighter and a loyal State soldier. Secrets flourish in this soil, as do the juiciest (in my opinion) of all fiction elements: well-motivated, understandable yet heartbreaking betrayals. Or not. Opposing beliefs can be reconciled, which is part of what makes them so delightful. Cross-tension can also arise between a character and elements of the world, e.g., a resistance fighter who has to pretend loyalty to the State.

From my description, you can probably tell how much I love cross-tension. It makes my brain sing and is one reason I love having multiple POVs on both sides of a tricky moral line.

(9) HELP NEEDED. Jenny Parks, the author of Star Trek Cats (2017) and Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats (2018) has an online fundraiser for treatment of her Hodgkin’s lymphoma: “Jenny Parks Cancer Relief Fund”. As of today, people have donated $10,462 of the $25,000 goal. Ben Bird Person submitted the item with these images of “some of her art she’s done for me!”

(10) PRESTON OBIT. Actress Kelly Preston, whose best-known sff role was in the 1986 film Space Camp, died July 12 of cancer. (The New York Times tribute is here.)  She had a brief cameo with her husband John Travolta in Battlefield Earth (2000). On This Date In Science Fiction History takes an extended look at her genre resume in “Stardate 07.13.2020.A: In Memoriam – Kelly Preston”.

(11) CRAWFORD OBIT. Small press publisher Gary William Crawford (1953-2020) died July 9.He founded Gothic Press in 1979, serving as its editor, as well as the author of many published works in Gothic literature. 

From 1979 to 1987, Crawford produced six issues of the journal Gothic, and later, the press published the horror poetry magazine Night Songs. Crawford recently began the online journal, Le Fanu Studies.

(12) BRECHA OBIT. Sff writer F. Alexander Brejcha (1957-2019), whose first story was published in Analog in 1992, died in February 2019 it was recently learned. A collection of his short fiction, People First!!, was released in 2004, as was a collection of three novellas, No World Warranty.

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 13, 1960 — Irwin Allen’s version of The Lost World premiered. Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novel. It was directed by him, produced by him with the assistance of Cliff Reid, and he wrote the screenplay with the help of Charles Bennett. The cast included Claude Rains, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, Jill St. John, and Michael Rennie. Financing was so limited that the monsters were monitor lizards, iguanas, and crocodiles affixed with miniature horns and fins. Critics weren’t fond of it, it did poorly at the box office, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a scathingly poor 20% rating. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 13, 1796 – William Harvey.  Engraver and designer.  Woodblocks for e.g. Bewick’s Aesop, Northcote’s Fables, Lane’s Arabian Nights.  Here is “Ali of Cairo”; here is “The Merchant and the Jinni” (note, jinni is the singular, jinn the plural); here is “Sayf al-Muluk and Badi’a al-Jamal”.  Here is a portrait of Defoe, and title page, for Robinson Crusoe.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1864 – John Astor IV.  Possibly the richest man in the world when he went down with the Titanic; wrote A Journey in Other Worlds set in what is now our past, the year 2000, with travel to Jupiter and Saturn powered by antigravity. (Died 1912) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps.  (Died 1961.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 – Dik Daniels.  For years a prominent photographer, to whom we owe many such records.  Widely, long, and uncelebratedly enough helpful that he was given the Big Heart, our highest service award. Some photos 1968-2001 on this Website.   (Died about 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, 80. Jean-Luc Picard, starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up though the current Star Trek: Picard. Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though not even genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 78. Three great roles of course. First, being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second, of course, being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh ,and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 67. To quote Fancyclopedia, Chip Hitchcock “is a con-running fan living in the Boston area. He is a member of NESFA and MCFI and has worked on a great many conventions including Worldcons at the Division Head level, Boskones and numerous other regionals.“ Happy Birthday, Chip!  (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1954 – Gary Feldbaum, 66.  First SF con, Boskone 15 (Fancyclopedia 3 and some others call the first Boskones I-V i.e. through 1945; the current ones, starting in 1965, 1-57 so far).  Moved to Philadelphia; happening to be a lawyer when one was wanted incorporated the Philadelphia SF Soc. (PSFS); chaired six Philcons.  Has worked on Worldcons on three continents.  Might be found heading a Division or ushering for the Masquerade.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1965 – Tomoyuki Hoshino, 55.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; nine more novels.  Bungei, Mishima, Noma, Ôe, Yomiuri, Tanizaki Prizes.  Born in Los Angeles, lived in Mexico long enough to get work in Japan translating Spanish-language movies.  Teaches creative writing at his alma mater Waseda U.  Me and the collection We, the Children of Cats are available in English.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1981 – Monica Byrne, 39.  The Girl in the Road won a Tiptree Award (as it then was); translated into German. Nine shorter stories in, on, or at Electric VelocipedeFantasyThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionShimmer.  Plays.  A TED Talk (Technology, Entertainment, Design).  Non-fiction in The AtlanticHuffington PostVirginia Quarterly Review.  Website.  [JH]

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus has a toy that’s too big for the playroom.
  • Something Positive finds it’s too hard to separate the work from the artist.

(16) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart fills readers in about The Full Lid for 10th July 2020:

This week in The Full Lid we have a first!! Matt Wallace’s Savage Legion is out in a couple of weeks and as part of the coverage for it, I’m delighted to run an original flash fiction piece by Matt, along with one by myself. Matt’s one of my favorite writers and people and it’s a delight to see him doing excellent work like this piece and the upcoming novel.

Elsewhere I take a look at the graphic novel new Netflix movie The Old Guard was adapted from. Finally, I take a look at unfairly overlooked crime/science fiction/magic movie Sleight.

(17) KOWAL Q&A. Andrew Liptak’s Reading List has a substantial “Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal” filled with insights like this:

How did this all dovetail with your interest in science fiction?

There’s no point in my life when I don’t remember reading science fiction. My dad and I would — actually the whole family, but dad and I particularly — would listen to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it was on the radio. We’d watch Star TrekBattlestar Galactica; I read all of the things. But it is for me again, the thing that I said at the beginning about the ways science fiction and fantasy for me allows us to ask big questions.

Connie Willis set a thing once, which made me go “Oh, yes, that’s why I like it so much.” She said that she thinks that the difference between science fiction and fantasy and mimetic fiction or everyday fiction is that in mimetic fiction, you have ordinary problems, but then your character has to have an outsized or an extraordinary response to an ordinary problem. Like, someone’s husband is cheating on them, it’s not just, that they go stay with a family member; they go to the PTA and they stand on the table and they confront the person that he was having an affair with in order to drive the plot — you have to have this extraordinary reaction to cause the plot to move forward.

Whereas in science fiction and fantasy, we have extraordinary events taking place, which allows people to have normal, proportionate responses. And that made me understand part of why I like science fiction and fantasy, but it also made me realize that it gives us an opportunity to present a much more faithful representation of honest human emotion. The things that happen to us in our real world can be as as rocking or earth-shattering as a meteor hitting. There can be things that are as deeply traumatic. But most of those things aren’t enough to drive a plot. I feel like that’s doing a disservice to people who write mimetic naturalistic fiction, because I certainly have read stuff where people are having completely normal responses to completely normal events, but speaking in very general terms, it is an opportunity that science fiction offers.

(18) WITNESS SELF-PROTECTION PROGRAM. Frank Robinson’s early story, “Hunting Season” has been discovered and is going into production says The Hollywood Reporter: “James Wan, ‘John Wick’ Writer Derek Kolstad Team for Sci-Fi Time Travel Tale ‘Hunting Season'”.

…Robinson was one of the figures to come out of the mid-20th century sci-fi short story scene, penning techno-thrillers for various pulp publications. His thriller The Glass Inferno, written with Thomas Scortia, was one of two books that were combined to make the classic 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. He also was known for being the speechwriter for Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978.

Hunting Season will follow a law officer from the future who is declared an enemy of the state and sentenced to be executed by being sent to the past and stalked by a posse. The man has three days to acclimate to his new era and find a way to survive.

(19) NO NORMAL CONQUEST. Steven H Silver’s new novel After Hastings is behind today’s Big Idea feature at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Steven H. Silver”.

While in grad school, one of the things my professors constantly warned against during discussions was falling into the trap of counterfactual speculation. When discussing and debating the causes and events of the medieval period, we were to confine ourselves to theories that could be supported by the primary sources and archaeological evidence. The fact that I did not become an historian and founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History may give some indication of how well I adhered to those rules.

(20) PAGING DR. HOWARD, DR. FINE, DR. HOWARD… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Pick six of your most intelligent, fittest friends. Now imagine the seven of you are on a mission to Mars & you have appendicitis. Which friend do you pick to be your surgeon? Mind you, none of them have medical training. “From floating guts to ‘sticky’ blood – here’s how to do surgery in space” at The Conversation.

… Surgery in microgravity is possible and has already been been carried out, albeit not on humans yet. For example, astronauts have managed to repair rat tails and perform laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and repair the organs inside the abdomen – on animals, while in microgravity.

These surgeries have led to new innovations and improvements such as magnetising surgical tools so they stick to the table, and restraining the “surgeonaut” too.

One problem was that, during open surgery, the intestines would float around, obscuring view of the surgical field. To deal with this, space travellers should opt for minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as keyhole surgery, ideally occurring within patients’ internal cavities through small incisions using a camera and instruments.

(21) DON’T LESNERIZE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Simon Denyer, Akiko Kashiwagi, and Min Joo Kim discuss how robots are being used in the pandemic in Japan and South Korea,  including Avatarin’s use of avatars and the robot in South Korean elementary schools who takes kids temperatures and maskshames them if their masks aren’t over their noses. “No masks, no coughs: Robots can be just what the doctor ordered in time of social distancing”.

Now, the patrol robot has been adapted so it can also disinfect surfaces as it patrols, and is attracting interest from Tokyo’s Metro stations as well as other businesses.

In May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted surging demand for unmanned deliveries and pledged to carry out tests to see if delivery robots were safe to use on roads and sidewalks by the end of the year.

Even the self-driving wheelchair can come into its own amid a coronavirus-filled world, the company said, potentially helping elderly people move around more independently without a helper who might be a vector for the virus.

(22) OVERTAKING. “Female gamers are on the rise in the ‘world capital of gaming'”.

The number of females playing video games in Asia is growing at a faster rate than their male rivals, according to the latest research.

Women are levelling the playing field across all of Asia’s key markets including China, India and Japan.

The female video gaming community grew by 19% last year, according to data commissioned by Google.

Asia is regarded as the global capital of video games, accounting for 48% of the world’s total gaming revenue.

…There are a number of factors that are contributing to this rise, with storylines becoming more inclusive and connectivity improving across the region.

For 2019, the numbers of female gamers had grown to 38% of the 1.33bn global gaming population, according to Google which collaborated with market researchers Niko Partners.

But for Asia, the proportion of female gamers is much higher. In China, they now account for 45%, while for South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia the figure is 40%.

(23) ENVIRONMENTAL DRINKING. “Johnnie Walker whisky to be sold in paper bottles”. If this was Beam’s, could you imagine “Smooooth”-ing with a paper bottle?

Johnnie Walker, the whisky which traces its roots back 200 years, will soon be available in paper bottles.

Diageo, the drinks giant that owns the brand, said it plans to run a trial of the new environmentally-friendly packaging from next year.

While most Johnnie Walker is sold in glass bottles, the firm is looking for ways of using less plastic across its brands.

Making bottles from glass also consumes energy and creates carbon emissions.

To make the bottles, Diageo will co-launch a firm called Pulpex, which will also produce packaging for the likes of Unilever and PepsiCo.

Diageo’s paper whisky bottle, which will be trialled in spring 2021, will be made from wood pulp and will be fully recyclable, the company said.

The idea is that customers would be able to drop them straight into the recycling.

(24) TUCKER INTERVIEW, PART DEUX. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of the Bob Tucker interview done for Chicon 2000.

Dick Smith’s interview of Wilson “Bob” Tucker was done for Chicon 2000, that year’s World SF Convention. Here in Part 2, the stories keep coming (and Bob is an excellent storyteller). Tucker talks about Claude Degler’s first appearance in fandom and how Jack Speer (later Judge Speer) got into trouble. There’s more about Chicon 1, how he learned about the internet and how fandom has changed in the preceding 60 years. You’ll even hear how Bob ended up joining the N3F after decades in fandom.  Videography by Tom Veal, Chairman of Chicon 2000.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mlex, Olav Rokne, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

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.]

Pixel Scroll 6/23/20 Nobody Would Have Come If I’d Yelled Chocolate

(1) ON THE DOUBLE. Connie Willis took a much-needed break from the news and devised this recommendation list: “Books And Movies: Doubling Your Pleasure”.

Okay, the world continues to go mad, with Covid-19, racism, and social injustice rampant. (Tonight, for instance, they’re tear-gassing people in D.C. again, coronavirus cases in Arizona are spiking, and two megachurch conmen are claiming they’ve invented a new air conditioning that kills 99.9 per cent of the virus. Note: They haven’t.)

I spend most of my days yelling and/or screaming at the TV and obsessing about how nuts everything is and how many things need to be fixed, and today’s no exception, but some of the time, just to keep a tenuous hold on our sanity, my family and I try to think about stuff that has nothing to do with the mayhem around us. To that end, my husband quilts, my daughter does the Getty Art Challenge, I read Agatha Christie mysteries, and together my daughter and I make up lists of favorite books and movies.

We thought you might need to take a mental break occasionally, too, so we’re sharing this, but I don’t want you to think that we’re not still VERY AWARE of how much is wrong and how much we need to do to rescue the world from its current messes.

So, in that spirit…

My daughter Cord and I had so much fun coming up with our lists of books that we reread over and over again, that we decided to put together another list, this one of movies and books that you should definitely read and/or watch….

For example:

5. BOOK: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen
MOVIE: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant)

It’s impossible to improve on Jane Austen, but Emma Thompson almost pulls it off in her brilliant script for the 1995 movie, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. She got rid of a bunch of extraneous characters and equally extraneous scenes and made the younger sister Margaret (a mere cipher in the novel) into a charming and fully-developed character who by the end was my favorite: “He’s kneeling down!”

(2) IGNORE THOSE CLICKBAIT WEBSITES. That’s what George R.R. Martin says. He means the other ones, not mine, I’m sure. Even if I am also linking to his Winds of Winter progress report. Because we all want to know!

…If nothing else, the enforced isolation [of the pandemic] has helped me write.   I am spending long hours every day on THE WINDS OF WINTER, and making steady progress.   I finished a new chapter yesterday, another one three days ago, another one the previous week.   But no, this does not mean that the book will be finished tomorrow or published next week.   It’s going to be a huge book, and I still have a long way to go.   Please do not give any credence to any of the click-bait websites that like to parse every word of my posts as if they were papal encyclicals to divine hidden meanings.

… Of late I have been visiting with Cersei, Asha, Tyrion, Ser Barristan, and Areo Hotah.   I will be dropping back into Braavos next week.    I have bad days, which get me down, and good days, which lift me up, but all in all I am pleased with the way things are doing.

I do wish they would go faster, of course.   Way way back in 1999, when I was deep in the writing of A STORM OF SWORDS, I was averaging about 150 pages of manuscript a month.   I fear I shall never recapture that pace again.   Looking back, I am not sure how I did it then.    

George is also preparing to participate in the virtual Worldcon.

…I still plan to host the Hugo Awards and fulfill all the rest of my toastmasterly duties for worldcon, and have started pre-recording some bits for the ceremony (a wise precaution, since I am hopeless with Zoom and Skype and like things), but that is a lot less time-consuming and distracting than flying to the other end of the world.   In between tapings, I return to Westeros.  

(3) DOCTORS IN THE HOUSE. SYFY Wire lets you “Watch Jodie Whittaker & David Tennant Judge Stay-At-Home Doctor Who Cosplay Challenge”.

Some inventive Doctor Who fans — and Nate — showed off their costume-making talents to the world, with The Doctors themselves assessing the results. 

The Late Late Show host and former Who cast member James Corden put out a call to Doctor Who fans to compete in a cosplay challenge where they would have some 24 hours to create a costume from the show “using only objects from around their homes.” This is, in fact, keeping with the tradition of the classic series, which has often been teased for its wobbly sets and very low-budget aesthetic. (Seriously, some of the creatures were clearly made from bubble wrap.)  

James Corden also did an interview segment with the two actors.

(4) A KIND OF REALITY. Leslie Klinger, who has annotated Gaiman’s American Gods, is the subject of a LitHub Q&A. “American Gods has a new annotated version with a Sherlockian twist.”

Aaron Robertson: I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek, poetic quality of the annotations. I wonder if you have any literary influences of your own with those?

Leslie Klinger: The big “literary influence” on me is the best Sherlockian scholarship, written by hundreds of amateur scholars who love the world of Holmes and Doyle. Dorothy Sayers famously explained how Sherlockians approach the stories in their scholarship: “The rule of the game is that it must be played as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord’s; the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere.”

I have carried that approach—the Sherlockian “game”—over to other books that I’ve annotated, pretending (or “pretending”) that the stories are true and analyzing them from a biographical/historical perspective. Could the character have really done that? Are the historical aspects presented true or made up?

Neil—no mean Sherlockian himself—is especially adept at weaving reality into his fiction. I discovered that in detail in the course of annotating Gaiman’s Sandman and so fully expected to find a wealth of historical underpinnings here.

(5) THE LADY IN THE MOON. “‘Over the Moon’ Cast and Filmmakers Debut Trailer, Discuss Animated Musical” in Variety.

…Actors Sandra OhPhillipa SooJohn Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles and newcomer Cathy Ang joined producers Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou, along with director Glen Keane, to discuss the making of the movie, a musical adventure about a young Chinese girl named Fei Fei (Ang), who builds her own rocket ship to travel to the moon in order to prove the existence of the legendary Moon goddess Chang’e (Soo). 

Soo, a Tony Award nominee for her work in “Hamilton,” noted that she has known about the story of Chang’e since childhood, through a children’s book written by Amy Tan. “I remember as a kid, asking my dad to read it over and over and over to me. Because I was just obsessed with this idea of the moon lady,” Soo said. “And when I was asked to play her, I was of course honored because it’s so infrequent that I’m being asked to play specifically Chinese characters. And also even more rare that I get to be in a film with incredible Asian actors who are surrounding me. So when I read the script and they invited me to come join them to create this beautiful story, I was, of course, immediately on board and so excited.”

(6) AGENT DROPS KRUEGER DUE TO ALLEGATIONS. Publishers Lunch reported today:

Agent DongWon Song announced that he was dropping Filipino-American fantasy author Paul Krueger as a client after allegations were made on Twitter that Krueger had harassed multiple women in publishing, although the specifics of the complaints available on that platform were unclear and mostly second-hand. Krueger posted a vague apology but has since deleted his Twitter account, and one person who publicly accused Krueger subsequently made her account private. DongWon said in his tweet, “I have terminated my professional relationship with Paul Krueger. This was a difficult decision to make but it is the right one.” He referred to “new information coming to light” in the past week and said he had “spoken to several people directly impacted by Paul’s behavior,” later adding, “Thank you to those of you who spoke up. That took courage and I am grateful to you all.”

(7) YOU THINK YOU HAVE TOO MANY BOOKS? “12 million books and a cherry-picker: Graduate Trainee visit to the Bodleian Storage Facility” — a Bodleian Libraries weblog invites you to see the BSF lift in action. You’ll wish one would fit in your home library!

… So how do you store 12.5 million books — and not only books, but maps, manuscripts, microfilms, periodicals and newspapers too? By 2009, the New Bodleian (which had 11 floors of space) as well as facilities at Nuneham Courtenay and a salt mine in Cheshire (yes, really) were at capacity. Costing approximately £25 million, and involving the biggest book-move in the Bodleian’s history (6.5 million items!), the BSF needed some serious storage. As we entered the main warehouse, it became clear that they really pulled it off.

… The BSF is huge. Its shelves are 11 metres high and over 70 metres long. Before the automatic lights kick in, the narrow aisles seem to converge into darkness. We wore high-visibility jackets to alert staff driving the book-retrieval vehicles to our presence. A cross between a cherry-picker and a forklift, these vehicles are configured to fit exactly between the shelves, allowing staff to retrieve an impressive average of one book per minute. Although I personally wouldn’t like to be 11 metres up in the air, Boyd assured us it’s a very safe operation!

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie premiered. It was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis who says they conceived it as a cinematic interpretation of the 1959–1964 TV series at created by Rod Serling. The film stars Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan, and John Lithgow, with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the prologue segment. Burgess Meredith took over as Host, the position of Rod Serling, in the series. So how did it fare? Critics were generally lukewarm, although some like as New York Times‘ media critic Vincent Canby, who called the movie a “flabby, mini-minded behemoth” were almost angry. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 54% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 Eileen Gunn, 75. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1946 Ted Shackelford, 74. He’s mostly remembered as Lieutenant Patrick Brogan on Space Precinct which lasted a single season of thirty-four episodes. It was created and produced by Gerry Anderson. It combined live action, full-body prosthetics, puppetry, and Supermacromation techniques. The writing crew likewise was huge — thirty-seven are listed at IMDB. Likewise the cast was immense, Ted Shackelford, Simone Bendix, Lou Hirsch and Richard James who a cast of thirty-seven actors according ISFDB! He had the usual one-offs in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Twilight ZoneDeadman’s Gun and The Outer Limits. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1951 Greg Bear, 69. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. (CE) 
  • Born June 23, 1953 Russell Mulcahy, 67. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company meddled with production. He would later release this film as Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed several episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1963 Cixin Liu, 57. He won a Hugo Award for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, China’s SFF awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1972 Selma Blair, 48. Liz Sherman in Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. (CE)
  • Born June 23, 2000 Caitlin Blackwood, 20. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired!  (CE)
  • Born June 23, 1896  – Paul Orban.  His first sale was a watercolor at age 14 for $5 – about $135 in money of 2020.  Fifty years later he had done a dozen covers, some fourteen hundred interiors.  Brian Aldiss said he expressed “perennial things – unending quests, great aspirations, long farewells, and a welcoming pair of arms on the far side of light.”  Here is a cover for Astounding magazine.  Here is a cover for Marooned on Mars.  Here is an interior for The World of Null-A.  Here is an interior for Norman Menasco’s “Trigger Tale”.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1931 – Nancy Share. With her sister Marie-Louise Share produced the fanzine Hodge-Podge for SAPS (the Spectator Amateur Press Society); with Larry Touzinsky, Fan To See (she was Art Director) which had contributions and letters from Robert Bloch, Terry Carr, Harlan Ellison, Juanita Wellons (later J. Coulson).  When Wrai Ballard wrote Non-Poetry that poetry-haters might like, NS countered with Am-So Poetry.  After the revelations of Ghu, Foo (or Foofoo), and Roscoe, NS proclaimed Ignatz.  She married Art Rapp, the first Rosconian.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1937 – Richard Curtis, age 83.  Edited the anthology Future Tense; audio anthology Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy; wrote Squirm, a movie novelization; a few shorter stories.  Best known as a literary agent; contributed “Agent’s Corner” to Locus 1980-1992, collected as Mastering the Business of Writing (rev. 1996).  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1947 – Mark Olson, F.N., age 73 Active Boston fan; has been President and Treasurer of both NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) and MCFI (Massachusetts Convention Fandom, Inc., which has produced three Worldcons, four Smofcons).  Chaired Boskone 23 and Noreascon 3 (47th Worldcon).  Fan Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 9, Minicon 34, WindyCon 33. Fellow of NESFA, a service honor.  Active with fanhistory Website fanac.org (fanac fan activity; FANAC = Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions ran the 50th Worldcon, then started the Website); oversees Fancyclopedia 3.  Fanzine, The Typo Machein.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1967– Tommy Ferguson, age 53.  Founded the Queen’s University of Belfast Science Fiction & Fantasy Society.  Lived in Belfast, Toronto, Belfast.  Long-time fanzine Tommyworld – TF beat Claire Brialey, Tom Digby, Mike Glyer, Cheryl Morgan, Ted White, and me for Best Fanwriter in the 1998 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards – now a Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 23, 1981 – Ertaç Altinöz, age 39.  Digital artist (his name actually uses a dotless-i character which in Turkish stands for a sound different from i, but the software won’t show it).  Here is a cover for Clarkesworld 49.  Here is Shireen Baratheon teaching Ser Davos to read.  Here is “The Pointy End”, which for me recalls Princess Langwidere in Ozma of Oz.  [JH]

(10) FREE COMIC BOOK SUMMER. The revived event will last the summer, with 45 titles for readers to choose from. “Free Comic Book Day Changed to Weekly Event Lasting All Summer” reports Comicbook.com.

After being officially cancelled earlier this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Free Comic Book Day is back! Though usually scheduled for the first Saturday in May each year, Diamond Comic Distributors have announced the event will take place in comic shops around the country with brand new free comics every week starting in July and running through September. Due to the length of the event now, it’s being rebranded as Free Comic Book Summer for this year. Retailers will receive five to six Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) titles in their weekly shipments during each week of the promotional window, the full slate of which you can find below.

“Every year, Free Comic Book Day is our big event to thank current comics fans, welcome back former fans and invite those new to comics to join the fun,” said Joe Field, originator of FCBD, and owner of Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA. “In this very different year, Free Comic Book Day is more like Free Comic Book Summer… and there’s so much fun to discover in this year’s FCBD comics! So many cool stories are available for this stretched-out Free Comic Book Day 2020. I’m confident long-time fans and newcomers alike are going to find a story that’ll make them want to visit their local comic shop every week! Fans, bring your friends and family and head to your local comic shop every week starting July 15 through September 9 to check out the new, and fantastic, free comics available that week!”

(11) A RECORD NO ONE WANTS TO SURPASS. Rob Hansen has added a section on the 1970 UK Eastercon to his THEN fanhistory website, with photos and links to audiofiles.

SCI-CON the 1970 UK National Science Fiction Convention took place over the weekend of Friday, 27th March to Monday, 30th March. It was held in London at the Royal Hotel, Russell Square (located a hundred yards or so from Russell Square Underground station). It’s widely regarded as being the worst Eastercon ever held.

Well, I guess that’s frank enough!

Bill Burns’ Prologue gives immediate hints about why things didn’t go well.

…At the Oxford Eastercon in 1969, George Hay proposed with his then-usual enthusiasm that the 1970 convention should be held in London – without having done any prep work on finding a hotel (or indeed on anything else). In the absence of any other bids, George was awarded the con. At the time he was also starting something called “The Environmental Consortium” with an office in central London, whose aims were never quite clear to me, but which an on-line reference notes was one of George’s organisations to promote “applied science fiction”.

Despite winning the bid, George had no hotel, no committee, and no idea how to run a con. Derek Stokes and I looked at each other in dismay, and volunteered for the committee in the hope of steering the con at least partially along traditional lines, but George had his own agenda and couldn’t be restrained….

(12) HAMILTON. Some inside baseball about the Disney+ release of Hamilton.

(13) MIND THE GAP. Yahoo! News reports “‘Black neutron star’ discovery changes astronomy”.

Scientists have discovered an astronomical object that has never been observed before.

It is more massive than collapsed stars, known as “neutron stars”, but has less mass than black holes.

Such “black neutron stars” were not thought possible and will mean ideas for how neutron stars and black holes form will need to be rethought.

The discovery was made by an international team using gravitational wave detectors in the US and Italy.

(14) CATCH ‘EM ALL. Peel a Woodrow Wilson from your money roll and this could be yours: “Ultra rare Pokemon card expected to fetch up to $100,000”.

An extremely rare Pokemon card, thought to be one of only seven ever produced, is up for auction online and experts said it could sell for up to $100,000.

The Pokemon Super Secret Battle No. 1 Trainer card, being sold by Heritage Auctions, is billed by the auction house as the “holy grail” of collectible cards and its condition was rated a perfect 10 by experts at PSA Card.

(15) TURNING OVER NEW ROCKS. Now that a large number of exoplanets are known, NASA is chipping in some bucks toward SETI. From USA Today, via Yahoo! — “Scientists are searching the universe for signs of alien civilizations: ‘Now we know where to look'”.

For the first time in more than three decades, research scientists have received grant money from NASA to search for intelligent life in outer space.

Specifically, the [$278K, 2 year ] grant will provide funding for a project to search for signs of life via “technosignatures.”

Grant recipient Avi Loeb of Harvard is quoted as saying:

“Such signatures might include industrial pollution of atmospheres, city lights, photovoltaic cells (solar panels), megastructures or swarms of satellites.”

Anogher grantee, Adam Frank (University of Rochester) said:

“The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence has always faced the challenge of figuring out where to look. Which stars do you point your telescope at and look for signals? Now we know where to look. We have thousands of exoplanets including planets in the habitable zone where life can form. The game has changed.”

(16) TUBULAR. “Nasa Mars rover: Key questions about Perseverance” – BBC has the answers.

On 20 July, Nasa will get its first opportunity to launch the Perseverance rover to Mars. Here, we answer some common questions about the mission.

What will the rover do?

The Perseverance rover will land on Mars to search out signs of past microbial life, if it ever existed. It will be the first Nasa mission to hunt directly for these “biosignatures” since the Viking missions in the 1970s.

The rover will collect samples of rock and soil, encase them in tubes, and leave them on the planet’s surface for return to Earth at a future date. Perseverance will also study Martian geology and test out a way for future astronauts to produce oxygen for breathing and fuel from CO2 in the atmosphere.

In addition, a drone-like helicopter will be deployed to demonstrate the first powered flight on Mars. Perseverance will explore Mars’ Jezero Crater for at least one Martian year (about 687 Earth days).

(17) PETAFLOPSWEAT. The U.S. is nudged out of first place. “Japanese supercomputer, crowned world’s fastest, is fighting coronavirus”.

The newly crowned world’s fastest supercomputer is being deployed in the fight against the coronavirus.

Japan’s Fugaku supercomputer claimed the top spot on Monday, carrying out 2.8 times more calculations per second than an IBM machine in the US.

The US machine, called Summit, came top of the bi-annual Top500 list the previous four times.

Fugaku’s victory broke a long run of US-China dominance, returning Japan to the top for the first time in 11 years.

Top500 ranks the world’s most powerful non-distributed computer systems.

Fugaku has already been put to work on fighting the coronavirus, simulating how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions installed or in packed trains with the windows open.

When it is fully operational next year, experts are hoping the machine will also be able to help narrow down the search for effective treatments for the virus.

The room-sized machine lives in the city of Kobe and was developed over six years by Japanese technology firm Fujitsu and the government-backed Riken Institute. Its name is another way of saying Mount Fuji.

Its performance was measured at 415.53 petaflops, 2.8 times faster than second-place Summit’s 148.6 petaflops. The US machine is housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. A supercomputer is classified by being more than 1,000 times faster than a regular computer.

(18) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Not as attention-grabbing as politics, but with long-term consequences: “Facebook bans ‘loot-to-order’ antiquities trade”.

Facebook has banned users trading in historical artefacts on the site.

It follows a campaign by academic researchers and an investigation by BBC News, exposing how items looted from Iraq and Syria were sold on Facebook.

One expert welcomed the move but said for anything to change, Facebook should invest in “teams of experts to identify and remove networks rather than playing whack-a-mole with individual posts”.

Facebook says all trade in ancient artefacts is banned on its platforms.

(19) PLAIN GOOFY. The Screen Junkies continue their look at older movies with their “Honest Trailer” on A Goofy Movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/4/20 The Heterodyne Boys And The Pixel Scroll Of Prague

(1) VIRTUALOSITY. Edmund Schluessel tells what it was like attending the first WiFi SciFi, which took place this afternoon UK time. “Con report: WiFi SciFi”.

…Around 75 people including 16 panelists, mostly drawn from the UK, attended two panels, two kaffeeklatsches and a quiz over the course of a late afternoon UK time. The medium of the event was teleconferencing platform Zoom; kaffeeklatsches were allocated using Zoom’s breakout room feature and the quiz using the poll feature.

The technical end of the experiment didn’t go perfectly, of course–connectivity problems made it hard for guest Tade Thompson to participate, making 3 conventions out of 3 where I almost met him but didn’t. Cheryl Morgan has some hot takes in a Twitter thread here.

But we shouldn’t judge the event by the technical imperfections of an overloaded system–we’re all trying to rebuild the world with spit and bits of string right now. The miracle, the monument to human ingenuity, is that any of this is working at all….

(2) FLATTEN THE CURVE. Jaroslav Olsa Jr., editor, fan, and Designated Consul General in Los Angeles for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Czech Republic), asked his Facebook friends to share this PSA:

It seems that the Czech Republic and Slovakia succeeded in slowing the increase of the numbers of infected people in the last days. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were the first European countries which made face masks obligatory in public spaces already two weeks ago – and though the stocks were limited, the Czechs and the Slovaks started their DIY production. See how the Czech and Slovak – all of us – are doing to stop the pandemocis.

(3) SURVIVING A HARD LIFE. Covid-19: A message from John Rhys-Davies.

John Rhys-Davies shares his thoughts from his home in the Isle of Man. He reflects on the experience of his family during the war and what we can learn from a generation that faced the greatest adversity of the 20th century.

(4) HOMEFRONT AND THE FIRST MASQUERADE. Rob Hansen has added updates to a book and to his fanhistory website.

An August 1940 piece by Ted Carnell I was unaware of was recently brought to my attention. This was a good fit for HOMEFRONT: Fandom in the UK (1939-1945) so Dave Langford has now kindly added it to the ebook. For those who are interested, downloading a new copy and having it overwrite your existing one is pretty simple: Homefront.

Also just added to my website is material I found on how the first convention masquerade came about, and thus the birth of cosplay/costuming. Though not my thing, this is of obvious fanhistorical interest: “The First Masquerade & The Birth of Cosplay”.

No photos of the masquerade, alas, yet enough detail that someone could probably re-enact it.

(5) AMY POND REVISITED. “Doctor Who: Steven Moffat releases new Amy Pond scene ahead of fan watchalong”. The rewatch was yesterday. Fortunately, the YouTube video story is forever.  

If his Strax-starring introduction to The Day of the Doctor wasn’t enough, former Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has written ANOTHER new short scene tying into the BBC sci-fi series, this time acting as a sort-of-prequel to 2010 episode The Eleventh Hour.

Produced remotely ahead of a planned fan rewatch of the episode (which welcomed Matt Smith into the central role exactly a decade ago), the short animation sees Caitlin Blackwood reprise her role as the younger Amelia (or Amy) Pond, the series companion played by Karen Gillan as an adult throughout the series.

(6) FREE READ. Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show is now free and open. You can read all back issues with no charge at IntergalacticMedicineShow.com

At this time of stay-at-home orders and quarantines, we hope you will enjoy the wonderful writers and artists who contributed to IGMS during its 14-year run.

(7) TOWARDS A FRESH BREEZE. Inverse’s Eric Francisco claims “Winds of Winter is GRRM’s chance to change Jon Snow’s fate for the better”. But he’s not delusional about it.

Let’s make one thing clear: I’m a pop culture writer on the internet. George R.R. Martin is a successful author worth $80 million. He created Westeros and the Starks and White Walkers, this morning I created a mediocre batch of pancakes. George R.R. Martin can do whatever he wants and he doesn’t have to listen to me.

That said, long before he wrote A Song of Fire and Ice, George R.R. Martin was a huge nerd and just a fan of geeky stuff. He even wrote letters to Marvel’s comic book editors, where he raved and ranted about the Fantastic Four. It’s safe to say that Martin understands fan culture, so he can put up with people like me telling him how to “fix” his story. And I’d never dream of yelling at anyone to “fix” their story lest I’m their editor.

But coming up three years on the ultimate reveal of Game of Thrones, in which we learned Jon Snow’s true parentage and connections to the Targaryens, I’m curious to know if Martin could (or would) pursue a new path in his books. One that’s completely different to how things went down for Jonny Snow in the HBO series.

(8) LAURIE KUNKEL OBIT. [Item by Woody Bernardi.]

I am ashamed to say that I have only just discovered that Laurie Yates-Kunkel (Laurie Kunkel) died on September 11, 2019. I don’t have any more details about Laurie’s death.

Laurie Kunkel was one my oldest friends in Fandom. David Allred introduced us when we were all students at UNLV. We were in the Univ Library, where David worked. Laurie was in the stacks doing research, she was always much more studious than me and actually earned two Bachelors, one in English and one in History. She was wearing a Star Fleet uniform, the day we met.

The three of us began the process which ultimately led to the creation of the Fantastic Fiction Club of UNLV in the Spring Semester 1987. Shockingly, I was campaigning for the FFCU to host a convention. But the other members of the Club preferred to write. So we created a semiprozine instead. We called it Neon Galaxies. Laurie also had some of her Fiction published in a journal produced by the English Dept.

 Then in 1990, Laurie Kunkel, David Allred & I searched out, with difficulty, Ken & Aileen Forman’s home, for the 2nd meeting of what was later named SNAFFU. In those days they lived in a subdivision on the outskirts of Las Vegas, bordered by empty desert. An area of Green Valley which had only just begun to be developed. Within a year, Arnie Katz& Joyce Katz made contact with SNAFFU. Laurie met Bill Kunkel and they were married a few years later.

Laurie and I joined FAPA, at the urging if Arnie & Joyce. However Laurie was always a far better writer than me and was also much more active in Fanzine Fandom than I ever was. Laurie was also active in the Southern Nevada Amateur Press Society (SNAPS), edited by Joyce Katz.

Bill died in 2010 and Laurie had been bedridden since 2007 and was having caregivers in a couple times a day ever since.

[Reprinted from the Fanhistory and the SNAFFU FB Groups.]

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 4, 2012 Iron Sky premiered. A Finnish-German-Australian production that was directed by Timo Vuorensola. The screenplay was by Michael Kalesniko, Ryan Healey and Timo Vuorensola from a treatment by Johanna Sinisalo and Michael Kalesniko. It starred Tero Kaukomaa, Oliver Damian, Mitchell Welsh and Samuli Torssonen plus many, many others. No, Nazis on the moon was not an idea that got a great reception and it currently has a 37% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • April 4, 2014  — Bermuda Tentacles premiered on Syfy.  It was directed by Nick Lyon. IMDB says it had nine producers which we won’t bother to list here. It starred Linda Hamilton and also had the cast of Trevor Donovan, Mýa, John Savage and Jamie Kennedy. Critics thought it stink, stank, stunk with one critic saying It was the “one of the worst that has been produced by Syfy.” Audience reviewers at at Rotten Tomatoes give it a thirteen percent rating. There are pirated copies of it on Youtube in Hindi and Tamil. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 4, 1902 Stanley G. Weinbaum. His first story, “A Martian Odyssey”, was published to general accolades in July 1934, but he died from lung cancer less than a year-and-a-half later. ISFDB lists two novels, The New Adam and The Dark Other, plus several handfuls of short stories that were I assume were out for consideration with various editors at the time of his death. Everything he wrote is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1935.)
  • Born April 4, 1914 Richard Coogan. He had but one genre role and it was a brief one but one well worth noting. He was for a brief time, the original Captain Video in the Captain Video and His Video Rangers which aired from 1949 to 1955. He lived to be almost a hundred but his acting career was over in the early Sixties. You can see him in the pilot, “The Sparrow”, here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 4, 1932 Anthony Perkins. Without doubt, he’s best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its three sequels. Three sequels?!? One sec… H’h, I missed the third one in the Nineties. Genre wise, I don’t see a lot otherwise by him though he was in The Black Hole as Dr. Alex Durant and was in Daughter of Darkness as Prince Constantine. (Died 1992.)
  •  Born April 4, 1948 Dan Simmons, 72. He’s the author of the Hyperion Cantos and the Ilium/Olympos cycles. Hyperion won a Hugo Award. If you like horror, Song of Kali which won a World Fantasy Award is highly recommended. 
  • Born April 4, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 66. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. 
  • Born April 4, 1959 Phil Morris, 61. His first acting role was on the “Miri” episode of Trek as simply Boy. He was the Sam the Kid on several episodes of Mr. Merlin before returning to Trek fold as Trainee Foster in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Next interesting role is voicing Vandal Savage on a three-part Justice League Unlimited story called “The Savage Time”, a role he reprised for Justice League: Doom. No, I’ve not forgotten that he was on Mission: Impossible as Grant Collier. He also played the Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) on Smallvillie. Currently He’s Silas Stone on Doom Patrol and no, I didn’t spot that was him in that role. 
  • Born April 4, 1960 Hugo Weaving, 60. He is known for playing Agent Smith in The Matrix franchise, Elrond in The Lord of the Rings  and The Hobbit trilogies, V in V for Vendetta  and oh so evil Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger. He also voiced Megatron in the first three films of the Transformers franchise.
  • Born April 4, 1965 Robert Downey Jr., 55. Well the less the said about his latest genre venture Doctor Little the better. No doubt his greatest genre role is that of Tony Stark his creation Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course he played Sherlock Holmes in the Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. And voiced James Barris in A Scanner Darkly
  • Born April 4, 1967 Xenia Seeberg, 53. She is perhaps best known for her role as Xev BeLexx in Lexx, a show’s that’s fantastic provided you can see in its uncensored form. I also see she played Muireann In Annihilation Earth, Noel in So, You’ve Downloaded a Demon, uncredited role in Lord of The Undead, and Sela in the “Assessment” episode of Total Recall 2070.
  • Born April 4, 1968 Gemma Files, 52. She’s a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic. Her Hexslinger series now at three novels and a handful of stories is quite fun. It’s worth noting that she’s a prolific short story writer and four of them have been adapted as scripts for The Hunger horror series. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss obviously saw a different ice show than the rest of us did.
  • It was just a dream? — Garfield.
  • Non Sequitur shows how COVID-19 is affecting writers.

(12) SIGNAL BOOST. “Please, we’re begging, make this Patrick Stewart/Ian McKellen gardening detective show a reality”AV Club’s Alison Shoemaker gets a post out of someone else’s Twitter conversation, like good bloggers do….

…This time, the source is not a fun caption on a publicity still, but a whole vibe from fantasy novelist M.L. Brennan….

Beyond what the article quotes, there’s a lot of wish-casting and hoped-for dialog etc. bits, enough that it’s worth the read. Thread starts here.

(13) FIRST PERSON. NPR covers “‘The Wuhan I Know’: A Comic About The City Behind The Coronavirus Headlines”, includes numerous examples.

Back in January, Laura Gao, a 23-year-old product developer for Twitter living in San Francisco, was preparing to visit her relatives in Wuhan, China. The trip was to celebrate her grandmother’s 80th birthday.

But in the days leading up to her flight, Gao’s relatives told her to cancel her trip. The coronavirus was spreading throughout the city.

Gao, a native of Wuhan, stayed in San Francisco and on January 23, the day after her flight would have landed, the city went on lockdown. If she’d taken her trip, Gao thinks she’d still be in Wuhan today.

“Instead, I’m here in San Francisco seeing the other side of the story,” Gao says. “There was a lot of anger and panic and pity that was coming from not only the media, but the people around me.”

As the virus spread, Wuhan quickly captured the world’s attention. For many Americans, this was the first time they had ever heard of the city — and in the frightening context of coronavirus.

She decided to make a comic telling her own story and highlighting her favorite parts of the city.

(14) MASKS. People are sharing DIY resources for making masks. Here are two some fans sent around:

(15) TROLL TEASERS. “Anna Kendrick and Rachel Bloom Just Spilled Some Tea About Trolls World Tour” at Bravo TV.

It’s almost time for Trolls World Tour! The jam-packed sequel hits theaters and is available to watch at home on demand on April 10. To celebrate this epic musical event, Anna Kendrick (who voices Queen Poppy) and Rachel Bloom (Queen Barb), sat down with Bravo in the video above to share a few spoilers about what to expect. 

“Poppy is the queen now, and feeling the pressure to prove herself,” explained Kendrick. “Poppy is determined. She thinks Barb and she are going to be best friends now.” 

But according to Bloom, Queen Barb has some plans of her own that don’t really include Poppy at all.

(16) LAST CHANCE TO SEE? “10 years to save ‘world’s most threatened sea turtle'”

The largest turtle in the ocean, the leatherback gets its name from its tough, rubbery skin.

Migrating long distances a year, the turtle can cross the Pacific Ocean.

But with threats like getting tangled in fishing gear, the future for one distinct population looks “dire,” say conservation groups.

At the current rate of decline, the critically endangered Eastern Pacific leatherback turtle will vanish within 60 years.

We have just 10 years left to put measures in place to save it, says a group of conservation scientists and organisations including Fauna & Flora International (FFI).

“We have it within our power to protect these animals and enable them to thrive, but all those who have a hand in shaping their future need to work together to do so,” said Alison Gunn, programme manager for the Americas and the Caribbean at FFI.

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHALLENGE. Neil Gaiman and family have a problem familiar to many New Zealanders – too many feijoas!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A parody of 70s/80s Japanese TV imitations of famous sff franchises: “Japanese Doctor Who – The lost tape.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Lise Andreasen, Darrah Chavey, Andrew Porter, Moshe Feder, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Errolwi, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Free Read: Homefront – Fandom in the UK (1939-1945)

The cover photo shows the remains of The Red Bull, the first pub to host London fandom’s meetings, after it was destroyed during an air raid on 16 April 1941. Photo courtesy of Holborn Library.

Homefront – Fandom in the UK (1939-1945), a massive fanhistorical compilation by Rob Hansen focusing on British fandom during World War Two, is available as a free download from the TAFF website. (Donations to the fund appreciated.)

Hansen brings together first-hand accounts of wartime experience through fannish eyes, showing how the lines of communication between fans continued during that huge national disruption – and so, somehow, did the fannish sense of humor.

It chronicles how against all the odds a handful of dedicated individuals kept that community together in circumstances inconceivable to any who didn’t live through them. Despite being bombed out of their homes, called up to serve in the armed forces, or facing the hostility of tribunals in order to register as Conscientious Objectors, they somehow succeeded in keeping our eventually far-flung fandom together when it could all so easily have just faded away. Many of those who feature most prominently in Homefront went on to be the first post-war generation of British SF writers and there is much here that should be of interest to scholars of their work.

Hansen says “I’ve also included as a prologue Chuck Harris’s funny and evocative account of his 1930s childhood amid poverty and the British Union of Fascists in London’s long-gone Jewish East End.”

To accompany Homefront, he has set up an online photo gallery of fans in uniform during World War Two.

The Ansible Editions ebook is available in several formats. 161,500 words.

Pixel Scroll 11/19/19 Bleary-Eyed Pixeling, Bah

(1) KING OF FUNKO. Entertainment Weekly rejoices: “Bloody Hell! Stephen King (finally) gets his own Funko figure”. In fact, two of them.

Countless characters from Stephen King‘s lexicon of horror works have shrunk down to Funko Pop! vinyl form, from The Shining‘s “Here’s Johnny” Jack Torrance to It‘s Pennywise the shape-shifting clown. Now, King himself joins the list of auteurs immortalized in plastic.

Funko unveiled the acclaimed author in toy form on Monday through two new figures. One is a more standard King, dressed in black and holding a book. The other pays homage to two of his literary creations.

…King joins the likes of fellow author-to-Funko figures George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Dr. Seuss, and Edgar Allen Poe (“The Raven”).

(2) THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Adam Roberts thinks “The Fix-Up” novel’s importance to sff as been underestimated.

…But my suggestion, which, come the Greek kalends, I’ll write up into a proper academic paper, is this: the ‘fix-up’ has had a much larger, perhaps even a shaping, effect on the entire later development of SF than is realised. I don’t just mean those occasional SF novels today that are made up of discrete elements tessellated: Simmons’s Hyperion say, or Jennifer Egan’s Visit From the Goon Squad—it’s also in the way TV shows like Doctor Who or Star Trek assemble mega-texts out of lots of short-story-ish discrete elements, something (as per the MCU) increasingly mimicked by cinema. Only die-hard fans read new SF short stories today, but the form of the short story feeds directly into contemporary SF in several key ways. Speaking for myself, I find these formal possibilities really interesting: the jolting dislocation of it, the quasi-modernist experimentation; textual tessellation but in a pulp, populist idiom. That’s entirely my bag.

(3) LECKIE REMODELS. Ann Leckie has unveiled her new website and blog — https://annleckie.com/

(4) CHEATER WHO PROSPERED. Jesse Pasternack argues that Psycho Invented the Spoiler Alert as We Know It”. And used the one Hitchcock revealed in pre-release publicity to trick audiences into falling for the rest.

This is how Psycho operates—by outlining rules beforehand, it seems to promise to play by them. All of Psycho’s advance press materials were designed to manipulate audiences. The rules that Hitchcock set for watching it acted as extra-cinematic devices that would help further jolt audiences. Psycho breaks every rule it sets up. It doesn’t stick to a single genre (it goes from realistic crime story to psychological thriller to murder mystery). It kills its main character. Its main villain turns out not to exist. The character who takes over the plot is revealed to have been taken over by another force, a long time ago.

(5) WARTIME SERVICE. Rob Hansen has added a photo gallery to his fanhistory site THEN that shows British fans in uniform from WWII. Arthur C. Clarke and Terry Jeeves are in the mix: “WWII: BRITISH FANS IN THE FORCES”.

(6) THE FUR FLIES. The second trailer for CATS has dropped. USA Today provides the intro: “You have to see Taylor Swift (and Judi Dench’s fur coat) in the new ‘Cats’ trailer”.

Are you ready to see Judi Dench as a cat wearing a gangster-sized fur coat?

The new “Cats” trailer released Tuesday delivers such epic Dench moments, more Taylor Swift shimmying as Bombalurina and plenty of new jokes, thanks to the internet.

“Tonight is a magical night where I choose the cat that deserves a new life,” Dench’s Old Deuteronomy ominously intones.

“Judi Dench giving us @JLo in Hustlers,” tweeted Marc Malkin of The Hollywood Reporter, sharing an image of Dench in a full fur (on fur) coat.

(7) MANDALORIAN RECAP. Dean E.S. Richard warns you before the spoilers begin in his column “Mondays on Mandalore: A New New Hope” at Nerds of a Feather. Before he gets that far, Richard says —

…Going back to its roots, back in the actual New Hope days, that is what Star Wars is. Even amidst galactic conflict and high stakes, there is silliness and, well, life.

All of this is to say that The Mandalorian is Star Wars. There are tons of moments that make you laugh – even at its most tense. The stakes don’t seem high, at least until the end of the first episode, even for our helmeted protagonist. In my semi-humble opinion, that is where stories are the best – we know the Mandalorian himself will survive, but what will that cost?

(8) RESOURCES AND GOALS. Amanda S. Green has some advice about covers for indie authors in “What happens when you are avoiding NaNoWriMo” at Mad Genius Club.

Each of these images comes from Adobe Stock. If I broke down the monthly fee for a subscription, we’re talking about my having spent approximately $5 per image. When you consider how much a lot of authors pay for covers, that’s nothing. The fonts are all open source or free to use. Yes, the font work and text placement needs work. These are mock-ups to see if I liked what I was doing. That means there will be changes before the books go live.

Here’s the thing. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discovered a couple of things where book covers are concerned. First, it is important to review your covers every year or two. You need to see if they are still cuing genre and sub-genre properly. In other words, are they in line with what newer books are doing?

(9) AU REVOIR. Adri Joy covers the end of a trilogy in “Microreview [Book]: The Forbidden Stars by Tim Pratt”.

With so many action sequences to pack in, an entire system to liberate, and the overall arc with the Axiom to tie up, it’s almost inevitable that the ending of The Forbidden Stars gets a bit rushed. There’s nothing particularly unsatisfying about the events that transpire, but once things kicked off for the finale I found myself looking sceptically at the number of pages I had left to go, and one character in particular gets the short end of the stick when it comes to revealing their ending.

(10) LEND ME YOUR EARS. BGR’s Mike Wehner wonders why so few people – including him – ever heard of this station, which is definitely better than its ad: “NASA has a rock radio station, and the promo video is hilariously cringey”.

As the name implies, Third Rock Radio is a radio station that plays rock music. The “third rock” thing is a nod to Earth being the third planet from the Sun. The station plays a variety of rock tunes that often have some casual link to science or space. Basically, if a rock song has “Moon,” “Sky,” or “Rocket” in the title, it’s going to get played.

… NASA’s promotion of the station, on the other hand, has obviously been lacking. Even the promo video for the station has a mere 50k views despite being published over four years ago.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 19, 1919 Alan Young. He was David Filby and James Filby in The Time Machine. He was Stanley Beamish, the original lead in the unaired pilot of the 1967 Mr. Terrific series. It’s not the DCU character as the latter will not be created until 1997. And he was the voice of Scrooge McDuck for over thirty years, first in the Mickey’s Christmas Carol short (1983) and in various other films, series and even video games up to his death. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 19, 1924 William Russell, 94. He played the role of companion Ian Chesterton in Doctor Who, from the show’s first episode in the end until the next to the last of the second season when the Companions change. Yes, I know the “Unearthly Child” was the unused original pilot.  He’s continued the role to the present at Big Finish. And yes, he’s in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Born November 19, 1936 Suzette Haden Elgin. She founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association and is considered an important figure in the field of SFF constructed languages. Both her Coyote Jones and Ozark Trilogy are most excellent. Wiki lists songs by her that seem to indicate she might’ve been a filker as well. Mike, of course, has a post on her passing and life here. (Died 2015)
  • Born November 19, 1953 Robert Beltran, 66. Best known for his role as Commander Chakotay on Voyager. Actually, only known for that role. Like so many Trek actors, he’ll later get involved in Trek video fanfic but Paramount has gotten legalistic so it’s called Renegades and is set in the Confederation, not the Federation.
  • Born November 19, 1955 Sam Hamm, 64. He’s best known for the original screenplay (note the emphasis) with Warren Skaaren for Burton’s Batman and a story for Batman Returns that was very much not used. He also wrote the script for Monkeybone. Sources, without any attribution, say he also wrote unused drafts for the Fantastic FourPlanet of the Apes and Watchmen films. And he co-wrote and executive produced the M.A.N.T.I.S.series with Sam Raimi. 
  • Born November 19, 1961 Meg Ryan, 58. I won’t say she’s been in a lot of SFF films but overall she’s been in some really great ones. There’s Amityville 3-D which we’ll ignore but that was followed by the terrific Innerspace and that segued into Joe Versus the VolcanoCity of Angels I’ve not seen but it sounds intriguing. Kate & Leopold is just plain charming. Oh, and she was the voice of the villain Dr. Blight for several seasons on Captain Planet and the Planeteers.
  • Born November 19, 1963 Terry Farrell, 56. She’s best known for her role as Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine. She too shows up as cast on Renegades that Beltran is listed in. She’s got some other genre roles such as Joanne ‘Joey’ Summerskill in Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, and Allison Saunders in Deep Core. Interestingly she played the character Cat in the American pilot of Red Dwarf.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MAY NOT RISE AGAIN. “Is UK Based Phoenix Conventions Out of Business?”Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn wants to know if this outfit is really and sincerely dead.

So it really looks like UK based Phoenix Conventions (and their parent company KJ Events) may truly be dead. We think. We’d be shocked if they aren’t at this point. Probably. Let me explain.

Yesterday we were forwarded a tweet from twitter user QuickInSilvr which declared that the company was filing for bankruptcy. While we haven’t been able to independently verify that claim, the company has entirely blanked out both their Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events websites. While the Facebook pages are still up, the Phoenix Conventions and KJ Events Twitter accounts have also been deleted.

(14) THE BLOB. This one’s a bit bigger than Steve McQueen’s adversary: “Supernova 1987A: ‘Blob’ hides long-sought remnant from star blast”.

Scientists believe they’ve finally tracked down the dead remnant from Supernova 1987A – one of their favourite star explosions.

Astronomers knew the object must exist but had always struggled to identify its location because of a shroud of obscuring dust.

Now, a UK-led team thinks the remnant’s hiding place can be pinpointed from the way it’s been heating up that dust.

The researchers refer to the area of interest as “the blob”.

“It’s so much hotter than its surroundings, the blob needs some explanation. It really stands out from its neighbouring dust clumps,” Prof Haley Gomez from Cardiff University told BBC News.

“We think it’s being heated by the hot neutron star created in the supernova.”

(15) A MULLIGAN. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer reconsiders his first Hugo ballot, beginning with The Big One (as GRRM calls it): “The Hugo Initiative: The Novels of 1999: A Retrospective: A Preview of My Genre Future (2000, Best Novel)”.

At the time that Hugo voting had ended, I had read four of them, and voted on that basis. (I had not yet read any Harry Potter and did not feel inclined to read through the series, I would feel different several years later) 2000 was about the first time I started to dip my toes into getting review copies, but it would be many more years before I got my “break” in that regard. I fondly remember getting an ARC of Darwin’s Radio, it was quite the surprise and delight.

(16) SPACEPORT FAIL. Space exploration is supposed to fill the skies, not the jails: “Putin’s pet space project Vostochny tainted by massive theft”.

Russia’s new Vostochny space centre has lost at least 11bn roubles (£133m; $172m) through theft and top officials have been jailed.

So what went wrong with President Vladimir Putin’s pet project?

Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee (SK) says it is handling 12 more criminal cases linked to theft in this mega-project, which Mr Putin sees as a strategic priority for Russia, because of its huge commercial potential.

The longest jail term handed down so far was 11-and-a-half years for Yuri Khrizman, former head of state construction firm Dalspetsstroy.

Prof Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), told the BBC the Vostochny scandal highlighted the scale of corruption in Mr Putin’s huge state bureaucracy.

“How can you deal with it without declaring war on your own elite? He’s not prepared to do that. This dependency on mega-projects almost invariably creates massive opportunities for embezzlement,” Mr Galeotti said.

(17) SOME PEOPLE. BBC wants to know “Why some people are impossibly talented”.

Polymaths excel in multiple fields. But what makes a polymath – and can their cross-discipline expertise help tackle some of society’s most pressing challenges?

If it weren’t for an actress and a pianist, GPS and WiFi might not exist.

In the late 1930s and early 40s, Hedy Lamarr was the already the toast of Hollywood, famed for her portrayals of femme fatales. Few of her contemporaries knew that her other great passion was inventing. (She had previously designed more streamlined aeroplanes for a lover, the aviation tycoon Howard Hughes.)

Lamarr met a kindred spirit in George Antheil, however – an avant-garde pianist, composer and novelist who also had an interest in engineering. And when the pair realised that enemy forces were jamming the Allied radio signals, they set about looking for a solution. The result was a method of signal transmission called ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’ (patented under Lamarr’s married name, Markey) that is still used in much of today’s wireless technology.

It may seem a surprising origin for ground-breaking technology, but the story of Lamarr and Antheil fits perfectly with a growing understanding of the polymathic mind.

Besides helping to outline the specific traits that allow some people to juggle different fields of expertise so successfully, new research shows that there are many benefits of pursuing multiple interests, including increased life satisfaction, work productivity and creativity.

Most of us may never reach the kind of success of people like Lamarr or Antheil, of course – but the research suggests we could all gain from spending a bit more time outside our chosen specialism.

…As David Epstein has also reported in his recent book Range, influential scientists are much more likely to have diverse interests outside their primary area of research than the average scientist, for instance. Studies have found that Nobel Prize-winning scientists are about 25 times more likely to sing, dance or act than the average scientist. They are also 17 times more likely to create visual art, 12 times more likely to write poetry and four times more likely to be a musician.

(18) THE FLAGON WITH THE DRAGON. Bookworm Blues’ “Ten Mini-Reviews of some Great Nonfiction Books” includes Sarah Chorn’s rave for The Poisoner’s Handbook.

I have to admit, if you tell me to go read a book about forensics, I am not going to be excited. I don’t know why, but while that sort of thing may interest others, it does almost nothing for me. So, going into this, I read this book because of the poison, not because of the forensics.

That being said, holy crap was it interesting. The chapters are broken up by poisons, and the author tells readers how the poisons were used, some specific cases of said poisoning/incidents, and how this incident transpired and impacted the evolution of NYC’s forensic medicine, and all of this happened during prohibition.

So, selling points: prohibition, poisonings, forensics.

(19) FIRST CONTACT. [Item by Carl Slaughter.] When dealing with little green men, sending and receiving signals involves a relatively simple technological achievement — harnessing radio waves.  Making first contact with an extraterrestrial, or them making first contact with us, initiates what will prove to be a very challenging conversation.  “Language is all based on culture and requires a common frame of reference.  If you told an alien, ‘I’m taking an Uber to buy some coffee at Starbucks,’ you’d have to explain what Uber is, then explain what a car is, then explain what the Internet is, what a phone is, an app, coffee, Starbucks, stores, the monetary system.  All stuff that is intuitive to modern humans.  Translating the words of an extra terrestrial civilization is just the first step.  Understanding what they’re saying is the more challenging task.”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/1/19 We Are The Pixels That Say “Scroll!”

(1) TWO NEW TAFF EBOOK FUNDRAISERS. David Langford says they were unable to locate the final speech, but all the rest of The Serious Scientific Talks by Bob Shaw are now available as an ebook which you can download free – though with hopes you‘ll be inspied to donate to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.

The same hope comes with Rob Hansen’s latest fanhistory compilation, Challenging Moskowitz, released today:

Sam Moskowitz’s The Immortal Storm is regarded by many as the definitive history of US fandom in the 1930s, but several contemporary fans either presented alternative versions of events or took issue with the book’s selectivity (New York-centrism in particular) and partisanship. Rob Hansen has compiled and introduced this collection of relevant fanwriting by Allen Glasser, Charles D. Hornig, Damon Knight, Jack Speer, Harry Warner Jr, Donald A. Wollheim and T. Bruce Yerke.

First published as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 November 2019. The cover photograph of (from left to right) Jack Darrow, Julius Schwartz, an unknown, Donald A. Wollheim and Conrad Ruppert is from the Ted Carnell collection; actual photographer unidentified. Approximately 47,000 words.

(2) TIME AFTER TIME. In “The Superman Clause”, The Hugo Book Club Blog explores the rule in the WSFS Constitution that lets Worldcon members vote to add a year of Hugo Award eligibility. Their research has uncovered facts that are both fascinating and unexpected. For example, after listing all the works that have been granted an extension, they say:

We find it interesting that despite the high quality of these works, only the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction was actually placed on the Hugo Ballot (and it won a well-deserved Hugo trophy for Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn)….

(3) DRAGONS IN THE BOX SCORE. George R.R. Martin shares his insights about the fate of two post-Game-of-Thrones TV projects, one approved, the other dropped, in “The Dragons Take Wing” at Not A Blog.

Ryan Condal is new to Westeros, but not to me.   I first met Ryan when he came to New Mexico to shoot a pilot for a fantasy western that was not picked up.  I visited his set and we became friendly.  Later Ryan created and served as showrunner for the SF series COLONY, and we had the honor of doing a premiere screening for the show at the Jean Cocteau.   He’s a terrific writer… and a fan of my books since well before we met.   He tells me that he discovered the series just after A STORM OF SWORDS was published, and “I’ve loved the books for 19 years.”   (He is also a huge fan of my Dunk & Egg stories.   In fact, that was the show he wanted to do initially, but I’m not prepared to bring Dunk & Egg to television until I’ve written quite a few more stories).  Working with Ryan on the development of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has been a dream.

Martin adds:

But… let me make this perfectly clear… I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER.  Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as I’d love to write an episodes of HOUSE.

(4) WHERE IS IT? Readers learned from the November Ansible where Nature has hidden the fiction:

When Nature acquired a ‘new look’ with its 23 October issue, the ‘Futures’ short-sf-story page vanished from both the printed magazine and the website contents list. The feature continues online but you have to know where to look for it: nature.com/futures.

Their most recent entry (October 30) is Wendy Nikel’s “When We Were Infinite” which begins:

“The faster your ships, the smaller the Universe. The smaller the Universe, the more important it is to live harmoniously.” Inva weaves her digits together, invoking a picture of beings residing tranquilly side-by-side.

(5) THE ORIGINAL UPGRADE. What’s new at Los Alamos – in 1964? Galactic Journey’s Ida Moya has the declassified scoop: “[November 1, 1964] Time (sharing) travel”.

As the Traveler said, things have really been heating up in Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL). And what with President Kennedy being taken from us so traumatically last year, it has all been too much. We have been struggling with national security while mourning the loss of our leader, and also attending to a deluge of new computers that are coming into the lab. Things have calmed down a little so I am now able to share a few secrets with you again.

…I’m sure I also told you that we finally received our IBM 7090 computer. This equipment is being used for big science calculations around atomic energy, guided missile control, strategic planning (cryptanalysis, weather prediction, game theory), and jet engine design. I’m sure it is no surprise when I tell you we are using it to simulate nuclear explosions. This computer also has what they call an “upgrade,” the addition of more memory and input-output capability. The upgraded computer is called an IBM 7094.

(6) EXPLAINING THAT SUDDEN BURST OF TRAFFIC. I didn’t know there was more than one sff writer named Spinrad – meet Demetria Spinrad.

(7) WATCHERS’ DIGEST. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Entertainment Tonight: ”’For All Mankind’ Cast Describes the Apple TV Plus Drama in 10 Seconds”. ET challenged the cast of Apple TV+ streaming alternate history For All Mankind to describe the show in 10 seconds or less. The exclusive video is available on their website. 

This is one small step for your screens, but one giant leap for Apple TV+.

Apple’s streaming service officially launches today with a star-studded lineup of new shows including For All Mankind — the latest space-centric drama from Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: The Next Generation executive producer Ronald D. Moore.

[…] ET asked Joel KinnamanShantel VanSanten, Sarah Jones and many more of For All Mankind‘s cast members to embark on a stellar mission to describe the drama in 10 seconds or less — and their answers are out of this world!

(8) ALTERNATE SPACE HISTORY. And Andrew Liptak reviews the series at Polygon: “Apple series For All Mankind isn’t thrilled by America’s role in the space race”. When the Soviets get to the Moon first —

…The landing prompts the US to reexamine the drive to get to space. Astronaut Edward Baldwin (Altered Carbon’s Joel Kinnaman) takes the news particularly hard, and calls out NASA’s administration and Werner Von Braun’s cautious approach to space travel. He gets booted from his assignment, Apollo 15, but his antics attract the attention of some ambitious politicians and administrators, who get him to testify in congress that NASA all but allowed the USSR to get there first, and that the country needs a far more aggressive approach to space.

He gets his wish — he’s reinstated on Apollo 15, and Von Braun is forced out. The move is a timely one: after a far more hair-raising Apollo 11 mission (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin almost don’t make it off after a rough landing), the Soviets land a second time, this time with a female cosmonaut stepping out onto the surface. In response, President Richard Nixon orders that NASA begin training a team of female astronauts. When US intelligence believes that the Soviets might be planning a permanent camp on the Moon, NASA makes a lunar base a top priority.

Other plot threads feel embedded for future episodes or seasons (Moore and his writers have apparently plotted out seven).

(9) THE GAME GOES ON. The final trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level has dropped – the movie comes to theaters December 13.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 1, 1974 Phantom Of The Paradise premiered.  Written and directed by Brian De Palma,  and scored by and starring Paul Williams. It’s a very loose bastardisation of The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust. Remarkably it rates 84%% among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes and 92% among critics. 
  • November 1, 2000 — The SciFi series Starhunter premiered with its first episode, “The Divinity Cluster”. Starring Michael Paré, Tanya Allen and Claudette Roche, it would last just two seasons and be called Starhunter 2300 in the second season. Peter Gabriel Did the music for the second season opening credits. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 1, 1882 Edward Van Sloan. He’s best remembered for his roles in three Thirties Universal Studios films of Dracula, Frankenstein  and The Mummy. He was Abraham Van Helsing in the Dracula, a role he’d done in touring production of Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. He would be in a number of other horror films though none remembered as well as these. (Died 1964.)
  • Born November 1, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman.
  • Born November 1, 1917 Zenna Henderson. Her first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951.  The People series appeared in magazines and anthologies, as well as the stitched-together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh. Other volumes include The People Collection and Ingathering: The Complete People Stories. She was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1959 for her novelette “Captivity.” Her story “Pottage” was made into the 1972 ABC-TV movie, The People.  “Hush” became an episode of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside which first aired in 1988. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 1, 1923 Gordon R. Dickson. Truly one of the best writers of both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I won’t even begin to go into his stellar career in any detail as that would require a skald to do so. His first published speculative fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic Stories which was the first issue of Fantastic Story Magazine as it came to be titled. Childe Cycle involving the Dorsai is his best-known series and the Hoka are certainly his silliest creation. I’m very, very fond of his Dragon Knight series which I think reflects his interest in that history. (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 1, 1941 Robert Foxworth, 78. He’s been on quite a number of genre shows including The Questor Tapes,seaQuest DSV, Deep Space Nine, Outer Limits, Enterprise, Stargate SG-1 and Babylon 5. His first genre role was as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein where Bo Swenson played the monster.
  • Born November 1, 1942 Michael Fleisher. Comics writer best known for his DC Comics work of in the Seventies and Eighties on Spectre and Jonah Hex. He also has had long runs on Ghost Rider and Spider-Woman early which pulling it them on the Marvel Unlimited app shows that he is a rather good writer. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 1, 1958 Rachel Ticotin, 61. Melina in Total Recall. (Anyone see the remake?) She voiced Capt. Maria Chavez in the most excellent animated Gargoyles series. She hasn’t done a lot of acting but she was Charbonnet / Lilian in “Staited in Horror”, a Tales from The Crypt episode, and Theodora ‘Teddi’ Madden in “Mona Lisa”, an Outer Limits episode.
  • Born November 1, 1959 Susanna Clarke, 60. Author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I think wins my award for the most-footnoted work in genre literature. It won the World Fantasy, Nebula, Locus, Mythopoeic and Hugo Awards for Best Novel. It was adapted into a BBC series and optioned for a film. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works and is splendid indeed.
  • Born November 1, 1973 Aishwarya Rai, 46. Indian actress who’s done two SF films in India, the Tamil language Enthiran (translates as Robot) in which she’s Sana, the protagonist’s medical student girlfriend, and Mala in Action Replayy, a Hindi-language SF romantic comedy. She was also Sonia in The Pink Panther 2.
  • Born November 1, 1984 Natalia Tena, 35. She played Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter film franchise, and was the wildling Osha in Game of Thrones. She was also Lana Pierce on the YouTube SF series Origin which lasted one season. And, to my amazement, she was Fevvers in the stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus which took place at the Kneehigh Theatre. 

(12) ATWOOD NOW A COMPANION. But not the Doctor’s – the Queen’s. Shelf Awareness reports a royal honor for Margaret Atwood:

On Friday, Queen Elizabeth named Margaret Atwood a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for her services to literature, the CBC reported, adding that Atwood told British media she felt “a bit emotional” in the presence of the Queen while accepting the prestigious accolade during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family’s Twitter account noted the event: “.@MargaretAtwood was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty for Services to Literature. #Investiture.”

“When you see the Queen at her age and her schedule that she puts out, it’s an inspiration to everybody, you just keep going,” Atwood said after the ceremony.

Founded by King George V in 1917, the Companion of Honour is an award for those who have made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government over a long period.

(13) CRADLE OF GOLDEN AGE SF. In “Heinlein and Butler Revisited”, Steve Fahnestalk tells Amazing Stories readers about the time he visited Heinlein’s Missouri home town.

…Knowing that I would be driving to Missouri that summer, Spider [Robinson] asked me if I would be going anywhere near Butler and, if so, could I take some photos of the Heinlein wing of the public library. For reasons of my own not related to RAH, I was indeed going to Butler itself, so I said, “Sure!” and on June 15 of 2013, we drove into the almost prototypical little mid-American town. This town looks like something Ray Bradbury wrote, with a bandstand (Figure 2) on the town square across from the courthouse. I almost expected to see Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch! Or maybe even the story “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” by Stephen King!

(14) HALLOWEEN IS OVER. And James Davis Nicoll announces he’s “So Tired of All These Gormenghast Costumes, Year After Year…” at Tor.com.

…I do know how important Tékumel and Gormenghast are to people. Tékumel was, after all, one of the earliest in-depth roleplaying game settings, the first that offered worldbuilding with the depth of J. R. R. Tolkien’s popular works without being in any way derivative. (This was important for RPG companies fearing letters from Professor Tolkien’s estate’s lawyers … who are fine people, of course! No offense intended.) Obviously, had anyone tried a Lord of the Rings knock-off that featured Hobbits renamed “Halflets” or some such thing, the game might have survived a legal challenge… However, no roleplaying game company back then had the cash to test the theory. Empire of the Petal Throne pointed the way and other companies have followed.

(15) IN THE SPIRIT. There are lots of photos to go with BBC’s article “Harry Potter: How one drag queen became 31 JK Rowling characters”.

Some people might know Jaremi Carey as drag queen Phi Phi O’Hara.

Others might recognise him as Hermione Granger, Professor McGonagall, Dobby, Sirius Black or Rubeus Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies.

That’s because he’s spent October 2019 sharing photos of his transformations into some of JK Rowling’s fantasy characters on social media.

“I’m a Harry Potter fan first off, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to do,” Jaremi tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

He’d already been performing as Helena Bonham Carter’s character, Bellatrix Lestrange, in his live shows, and the idea for something bigger and more magical came to him during a trip to the UK.

(16) KAIJU HERDER. “Godzilla’s Conscience: The Monstrous Humanism of Ishiro Honda”Criterion traces the director’s impressive career.

… Honda… would forge a unique path as Japan’s foremost director of kaiju eiga, or giant-monster movies. While the works of Kurosawa et al. were limited to art-house distribution abroad, Honda’s films played to mainstream moviegoing audiences in the U.S. and across the West, and they have subsequently become ensconced in the pop-culture pantheon. Honda’s influence is undeniable: as one of the creators of the modern disaster film, he helped set the template for countless blockbusters to follow, and a wide array of filmmakers—including John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, and Guillermo del Toro—have expressed their admiration for his work. Yet the full scale of his achievements has only recently begun to be appreciated.

But it all started with Honda’s sober-minded approach to the original Godzilla. Other directors had begged off the project, believing it was ridiculous, and that it would likely end up a laughingstock. But to Honda, this was no joke….

(17) ANSWER BACK. BBC is there when “Disney boss Bob Iger talks Star Wars, Marvel and Martin Scorsese”.

Since becoming chief executive of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, Bob Iger has masterminded the Mouse House’s growth into an entertainment empire with the takeovers of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox….

Following the publication of his memoir, titled The Ride of a Lifetime (Disney does theme parks too), he gave his only UK interview to BBC media editor Amol Rajan.

Here are five key things he said, including why “less is more” in the Star Wars universe, why Martin Scorsese was wrong to compare Marvel films to theme parks, and why Disney didn’t go through with a deal to buy Twitter.

…The legendary Taxi Driver and Goodfellas director recently put the boot into Marvel by saying they are closer to theme parks than real films because it “isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being”.

“Ouch!” is Iger’s reply. “Martin Scorsese is a great film-maker. I admire him immensely. He’s made some great films. I would debate him on this subject. First of all, Marvel’s making movies. They’re movies. That’s what Martin Scorsese makes. And they’re good movies.”

He goes on: “I don’t think he’s ever seen a Marvel film. Anyone who’s seen a Marvel film could not in all truth make that statement.”

(18) BREAKFAST IS SERVED. Daniel Dern says, “I’m not sure I’l like this on a phone, or on a tablet, on a TV, or on a credenza…” Netflix will launch its Seussian Green Eggs & Ham series on November 8.

Heroes aren’t born, they’re poached, scrambled, and fried… Green Eggs and Ham, serving November 8, only on Netflix. The story you know is just the start. This new adventure is off the charts. Hit the road with a whole new crew. There’s Sam, Guy, and a Chickeraffe too. But how’d we turn this 50-word, Seussian spiel into a 13-episode meal? Our recipe starts “Here” and definitely goes “There.” We added a “Box” full of “Fox”, a “Boat” load of “Goat,” and a “Mouse,” on the “House.” Try it in the “Rain” on a “Train” or go far in your “Car” to find a spot to park and stream it in the “Dark.” Because, in case you were unaware, this show’s miles ahead of “Anywhere!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenaion’s Jonathan Cowie, Mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/3/19 I’d Like To Scroll A Pixel, I’d Like To Tick A Box, I’d Like To Read A Book So Good It Launches My Two Socks

(1) 1990 SOUVENIR BOOK. To help promote the planned Reunicon 2020 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ConFiction 1990, Kees Van Toorn and friends have uploaded the Souvenir Book of ConFiction 1990 on their website in flipbook format.

(2) GAME OF THE NAME. If you have the Scrivener writing app, something you can get it to do for you is make up character names (see “How to Use Scrivener’s Name Generator” at Fairies, Zombies and Agent Queries.) Here’s Exhibit A:

(3) ANOTHER BITE OF THE APPLE. Magical mysteries unfold in Ghostwriter, coming November 1 to the Apple TV app with an Apple TV+ subscription.

According to TVLine, the upcoming reboot will center around four friends who discover a ghost in their neighborhood’s bookstore. This ghost seems to be decidedly less helpful than the Ghostwriter of the ‘90s; instead of helping the friends solve mysteries, he “releases” fictional characters from books into the real world. TVLine adds that each episode will highlight a particular book or novel.

(4) KAFKAESQUE CRIME. CrimeRead’s Peter Steiner calls him — “Franz Kafka: Misunderstood Crime Author”. Tagline: “How The Trial upended what we know about crime fiction.”

…Kafka’s language does not arouse suspicion, but it should. He describes the goings on with great precision, objectively noting peculiar elements, odd turns of events, strange settings and physical characteristics as a scientist might describe what he sees through a microscope, giving nothing special place, offering no opinion or emotional reaction, as though everything that takes place is equally worthy of notation. Random, apparently peripheral elements get the same attention as the most dramatic happenings. The supervising inspector arranges objects around a candle that sits on a night table he is using as a desk. He places his index fingers side by side as though comparing their length. Three men Josef K. does not seem to know examine a framed picture on a wall. But these are not clues, for K. or for us. They are disconnected observations that lead nowhere, that add up to nothing.

The disconnect between Kafka’s language and what is being described is what unsettles. Shocking, bizarre, and funny moments are described in the most mundane and unemotional language. Kafka has no reaction to anything himself and gives no clues how we should react. His almost pedantic detail and dry tone cast things in an oddly familiar light.

(5) LE GUIN AND MUSIC. [Item by Rob Thornton.] At the Electric Literature website, writer and editor Tobias Carroll wonders “Why Has Ursula K. Le Guin Inspired So Many Musicians?” He discusses how musicians are not only  mentioning her works in song titles and lyrics, they are also grappling with the themes from Le Guin’s stories in their works. Bands such as Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House, heavy metal bands Keep of Kalessin and Ragana, and San Francisco darkwave act Cold Beat are mentioned:

“[Cold Beat songwriter] spoke about the potential of science fiction to offer a glimpse of a better world. ‘When we broaden our vocabulary and learn more, there’s a lot out there to discover,’ she said. ‘I think it’s inspiring, especially when we’re getting down. It’s really healthy to remember that there’s a lot more out there.’ It’s the same kind of thought experiment that one might see in an Ursula K. Le Guin essay or story?—?albeit in the process of being transfigured into a catchy and propulsive song. And while Le Guin’s own foray into music hasn’t necessarily spawned a legion of sound-alikes, the fact that she felt compelled to create such a work suggests that she left room in her writings for music—a gateway that this group of musicians has passed through, creating memorable work as they go. “‘

To prove Carroll’s point, there are other bands who have somehow made Le Guin a part of their music, including Ekumen (a hardcore punk band from New Orleans), Spanish Kalte Sonne (a post-metal band from Spain with an album named Ekumen), Fogweaver (Earthsea-inspired dungeon synth act from Colorado), and Street Eaters (punk band from San Francisco) among others.

(6) A GOOD OMEN FOR BUYERS. AudioFile applauds Michael Sheen’s narration of Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust, volume 2) here.

Michael Sheen throws himself wholeheartedly into narrating this sequel to LA BELLE SAUVAGE, and listeners will be rapt. Lyra is now 20, and she and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are uneasy with each other in ways they never have been before. This central conflict is the catalyst for a series of journeys and is just one of many, many threads that Pullman will presumably pick up again in the final volume in the Book of Dust trilogy. For the ever-expanding international cast of characters, Sheen conjures a multitude of accents and delivers rapid-fire conversations between them. He’s in step with the text at every turn; when situations become fraught or dangerous, Sheen ramps up the tension exquisitely…

(7) LISTEN TO LONDO. AudioFile also tips a Babylon 5 actor’s voicing of J. Michael Straczynski’s Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood:

If you’re going to reveal your life story, it’s good to have a friend and fellow “Babylon 5” cast member perform it. Peter Jurasik, known to “Babylon 5” fans as the sleazy alien Londo Mollari, narrates the startling life of the series creator, J. Michael Straczynski, and his victories over a monstrous father, an abusive family, and, seemingly, an entire world out to destroy him. Jurasik soberly recounts his friend’s life, a fascinating, almost unbelievable, tale of courage and determination.

(8) BIRTH OF LASFS. More delving into the past of LA fandom at Rob Hansen’s fanhistory website THEN: “Vernon Harry and the Birth of LASFS” (originally, LASFL).

The birth of the Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League was announced in the pages of the February 1935 issue of WONDER STORIES, thus:

(9) FLYING OUT OF MY… Here’s a problem most of us don’t have — “Google faces winged-monkey privacy protest”.

Google has angered a privacy expert by repeatedly identifying him as a “dwarf character actor” famous for playing a winged monkey in The Wizard of Oz.

Pat Walshe told BBC News he had had the issue resolved twice, only to discover last week it had happened again.

The issue involves his photo being run next to text from another source about a dead American who had the same name.

He now aims to make an official complaint to data privacy watchdogs. Google has once again fixed the flaw.

(10) METCALF OBIT. Longtime fan Norm Metcalf (1937-2019) died September 21, within a few months after he was hospitalized for injuries sustained in a fall.

Robert Lichtman remembers:

I knew him via the science fiction fan subculture, where he published a fanzine, New Frontiers, that saw four issues (1959-1964) with noteworthy contributors including Poul Anderson, Anthony Boucher, Stanton Coblentz,  L. Sprague de Camp, August Derleth and Wilson Tucker.  He was a longtime member of several amateur publishing associations —  the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) 1963-1969 and 1973 to the present, and the Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS) 1961-1967 and 1987 to the present — and published a variety of titles for their mailing distributions.  He also researched and edited a reference, The Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1951-1965, which was published in 1968.  Norm was a serious student of science fiction.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 3, 1961A For Andromeda aired “The Message”, the premier episode. Written by Fred Hoyle and John Elliot, this UK series was broadcast in seven episodes. As was the practice at the time, the BBC’s copies of the serial were trashed after broadcast and most of the serial still remains missing.
  • October 3, 2000 — The Dark Angel series first aired. Starring Jessica Alba, it would run for two seasons. It was executive produced by James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee andRené Echevarria. 
  • October 3, 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuted on the Cartoon Network. created by George Lucas and produced by Lucasfilm Animation, the series is was renewed for a seventy season to air in 2020. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 3, 1874 Charles Middleton. He is no doubt best remembered for his role as the Emperor Ming the Merciless in the three Flash Gordon serials made between 1936 and 1940 which may been the only genre production he appeared in. (Died 1949.)
  • Born October 3, 1927 Don Bensen. Best-known for his novel And Having Writ… which is not in print in form digitally or in hard copy — damn it. Indeed, nothing by him is. Huh. (Died 1997.)
  • Born October 3, 1931 Ray Nelson, 88. SF writer best known for his short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was the basis of John Carpenter’s They Live.  He later collaborated with Philip K. Dick on The Ganymede Takeover. In the 1940s Nelson appropriated the propeller beanie as a symbol of science fiction fandom. His fannish cartoons were recognized with the Rotsler Award in 2003. He was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame this year.
  • Born October 3, 1935 Madlyn Rhue. She on Trek’s “Space Seed” as Lt. Marla McGivers, Khan Noonien Singh’s (Ricardo Montalbán) love interest. Other genre appearances included being on the original Fantasy Island as Lillie Langtry in “Legends,” and Maria in the “Firefall” episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 3, 1944 Katharine Kerr, 75. Ok I’m going to confess that I’ve not read her Deverry series so please tell me how they are. Usually I do read such Celtic tinged series so I don’t know how I missed them.
  • Born October 3, 1964 — Clive Owen, 55. First role I saw him in was the title role of Stephen Crane in the Chancer series. Not genre, but fascinating none the less. He’s been King Arthur in film of the same name where Keira Knightley was Guinevere. He’s also was in Sin City as Dwight McCarthy, and in The Pink Panther (though weirdly uncredited) as Nigel Boswell/Agent 006. I’ll also single him out for being Commander Arun Filitt in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
  • Born October 3, 1973 Lena Headey, 46. Many of you will know her as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones, but I liked her sociopathic Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal on Dredd better.  She was also Angelika in The Brothers Grimm, a film I’m sure I’ve seen but remember nothing about. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) EAT YOUR GREENS. Taste of Home promises “Nestle’s New Grinch Cookie Dough Is Mean, Green and Perfect for the Holidays”.  

The Grinch is one of our all-time favorite Christmas movies, so this cookie dough is a holiday miracle. The dough bakes into scrumptious, bright green sugar cookies made for a tall glass of milk. In theme with the story we all know and love, the Grinch cookie dough features an adorable red candy heart that brings the Dr. Seuss character to life. It’s the perfect thing to bake with the kiddos (or just yourself) this year.

(15) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport, reporting from Boca Chica Island, Texas, discusses the construction of Elon Musk’s spaceport on the Texas coast and the irony of having one of the world’s richest men building in one of the nation’s poorest counties: “Elon Musk’s improbable Mars quest runs through a border town concerned with more than getting to space”.

…But now, across the water on South Padre Island, the county has spent about $31 million building new pavilions and an amphitheater that would host concerts and weddings and make a prime viewing area for rocket launches. Local officials hope for a future where residents and tourists line the beach, the way they have for years along Florida’s Space Coast, cheering rockets as they tear through the sky.

“It’s exciting,” said Sofia Benavides, a county commissioner who represents Boca Chica. “I’m 69 years old and have never been to a rocket launch. For my children and grandchildren, it’s great that this is happening in their backyard.”

Not everyone is cheering, though.

A handful of residents who live next door to SpaceX’s facilities recently received letters from SpaceX, which said the company’s footprint in the area was going to be bigger and more disruptive than originally imagined. As a result, it was seeking to purchase their properties at three times the value determined by an appraiser hired by SpaceX. The deal was nonnegotiable, the letter said, and the company wanted an answer within two weeks, although some have received extensions.

Called Boca Chica Village, the area is made up of about 30 homes within walking distance of the Gulf of Mexico, occupied mostly seasonally. Many are boarded up. A few have weeds as high as the mailboxes….

(16) SNUBS. Travis M. Andrews’ “The Missing Oscars” in the Washington Post is about actors he thinks should have won Oscars but didn’t.  About a third of the people he picked were in sf or fantasy films, including Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, Michael Keaton for Beetlejuice, and Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix.  (Most of the actors he picked in sf and fantasy films were men.)

John Lithgow for
“The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension” (1984)

Lithgow’s primary strength as an actor is range. Look at his portrayal of long-standing, slow-burning dedication in “Love is Strange,” or his take on an alien trying to understand humanity in “3rd Rock From the Sun,” or as a hardline preacher who can’t tolerate dancing in “Footloose.” At times he’s also, to use a colloquialism, realllllllly gone for it, like when he portrayed a man with multiple personalities in “Raising Cain.” That role bordered on parody, but his most extravagant performance was parody, as Lord John Whorfin/Dr. Emilio Lizardo in Earl Mac Rauch’s and W.D. Richter’s sci-fi sendup. To play the mad intergalactic doctor, Lithgow lifted an Italian accent from an MGM tailor and changed his walk to that of an “old crab, because my alien metabolism is supposed to be messed up,” he later explained. The bizarre result is a deeply committed performance that’s wildly over-the-top and a singular, hilarious character.

(17) AI. Nature’s review ofStuart Russell’s latest book examines how artificial intelligence could spin out of control: “Raging robots, hapless humans: the AI dystopia.” Full review article here (open access).

In Human Compatible, his new book on artificial intelligence (AI), Stuart Russell confronts full on what he calls “the problem of control”. That is, the possibility that general-purpose AI will ultimately eclipse the intellectual capacities of its creators, to irreversible dystopian effect.

The control problem is not new. Novelist Samuel Butler’s 1872 science-fiction classic Erewhon, for instance, features concerns about robotic superhuman intelligences that enslave their anthropoid architects, rendering them “affectionate machine-tickling aphids”. But, by 1950, Norbert Wiener, the inventor of cybernetics, was writing (in The Human Use of Human Beings) that the danger to society “is not from the machine itself but from what man makes of it”. Russell’s book in effect hangs on this tension: whether the problem is controlling the creature, or the creator. In a sense, that has been at the core of AI from its inception…

(18) APOLLO’S CREED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the September 28 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Arwa Haider profiles the London Video Game Orchestra, a 65-piece orchestra that will perform Assassin’s Creed Symphony at the Eventim Apollo in London on October 5. Haider interviewed the founder of MGP Live, concert producer Massimo Goletta.

In an era when the entertainment industry is obsessed with ‘immersive’ events, video game concerts also present the possibility of grand spectacle on a globalized scale, such as MGP Live’s tours of classic gaming soundtracks,  Its current show Assassin’s Creed Symphony, based on the historic action-adventure series (and co-developed with its creators, Ubisoft) premiered in Paris over the summer and elicited a six-minute standing ovation at the Palais des Congrès.  It is now embarking on an autumn tour of the US and Europe, with a full international tour planned next year.  The company works with local musicians, rather than transporting an 80-piece instrumental and choral line-up from country to country….

…Video game concerts may in fact offer a financially savvy form of ‘future-proofing’ for traditional orchestras.  A recent GlobalData reported estimated that video games could be a $300bn industry by 2025.And with each passing year and the library of games growing, the bigger the repertoire MGP Live will have to draw on. The Assassin’s Creed Symphony draws on a series that spans more than a decade, and blends what Goletta describes as ‘the epic beauty and drama of the themes.’ He enthuses, ‘There are parallels with Beethoven and Bach, then elements of world music–along with the nostalgic effect.”

The London Video Game Orchestra’s website is here.

(19) DEADPOOL DEATH. Officials have determined “’Safety failures’ led to death of Deadpool 2 stuntwoman” says BBC.

An investigation into a stuntwoman’s death on the Vancouver set of Deadpool 2 has attributed her fatal motorcycle accident to a series of safety errors.

Government agency WorkSafeBC said the film’s makers should have ensured Joi Harris was wearing a helmet.

It also said barriers should have been in place to stop her “leaving the set perimeter” on 14 August 2017.

20th Century Fox, which made the 2018 film, said it “respectfully disagree[d] with some of the report’s findings”.

“Safety is our top priority, and while we respectfully disagree with some of the report’s findings, Fox thoroughly reviewed its stunt safety protocols immediately following the tragic accident and has revised and implemented enhanced safety procedures and enforcement,” it said in a statement.

Professional road racer Harris was killed while doubling for actress Zazie Beetz in the comic book-inspired sequel.

(20) WOMAN WINS HORROR FILM AWARD. “Horror film wins first-time director Rose Glass £50,000 award”

A film-maker who set her first feature in the traditionally male-dominated horror genre has won a £50,000 prize.

Rose Glass, 30, was named the winner of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award at a ceremony held on the eve of this year’s London Film Festival.

Her film, Saint Maud, tells of a devout young nurse who becomes the full-time carer of a chronically ill dancer.

Danny Boyle, chair of the jury, called the film “a thrilling cinematic journey through madness, faith and death”.

…The bursary, one of the largest arts prizes in the UK, allows film-makers at the start of their careers time to grow and develop.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “Canadian mint releases UFO-themed glow-in-the-dark coin”. See picture — since when does Canada have rectangular coins? Or is this some new meaning o the word “coin” that I haven’t previously been acquainted with?

Over 50 years ago, on the night of 4 October, strange lights appeared over the sky of a small Canadian fishing village.

Witnesses watched as the lights flashed and then dived towards the dark waters off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Now, what some believe to have been a UFO sighting has been commemorated by the Royal Canadian Mint.

The mint has released a collector’s coin that tells the story of a “unique and mysterious event”.

The scene on the glow-in-the-dark coin depicts a specific moment described by various eyewitnesses.

After seeing four strange flashing lights in the offshore night sky, they spotted an object 60-feet in length flying low, which dropped down at a 45 degree angle.

The coin comes with a flashlight that when used brings out the lights of the UFO, the stars in the night sky, and a haze over the water reported by locals.

(22) HAUNTED FIXER UPPER. Girl on the Third Floor is due out October 25, streaming, or limited theatrical release.

At the heart of the film is Don Koch (CM Punk), a man who is failing as a husband. For years he has skated by on charm and charisma, until it nearly landed him in jail. He now views fixing up an old house as a chance to make up for past mistakes. Meanwhile, his wife, Liz Koch, is concerned about the renovation timeline as they have a baby on the way. With all this pressure it’s no wonder Don responds to the flirtations of an attractive stranger. As Don tears the house apart, it begins to tear him apart as well, revealing the rot behind the drywall.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]