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 8/16/20 I Holler As I Overturn Mike’s BBQ And Turn The Pixel Of Scroll Into, Uh, Something Something

(1) THE POSTMAN RINGS FIRST. David Brin can be good at thinking things up – and he’s put his creative powers to work to support the US Postal Service: “Going Postal? And the ‘TOC’ you want… the book no one has read.”

Below, find the TOC you’ll want to tick… the Table of Contents of a book that might help…. but first… yes, there are countless times I’d prefer to be wrong!  Especially when it comes to the predictions made in THE POSTMAN!

TIME Magazines called EARTH one of “8 best predictive novels,” and there have been many other hits. But I always figured that my portrayal of lying-betraying-prepper “Holnists” in THE POSTMAN would prove to be artistic exaggeration — not a how-to manual for evil and treason.

Just as Adolf Hitler described his approach in Mein Kampf — and no one took him at his word — Nathan Holn is recalled having laid it all in the open… but Americans didn’t believe anyone would so baldly offer such a despicable program. The warning went unheeded till it was too late. 

Likewise, Donald Trump has said publicly that his attack on the U.S. Postal Service is intended directly to interfere in the election. Of course crashing USPS also undermines rural America, a major part of the GOP base. So how is this supposed to benefit Republicans? The answer is… it’s not. Chaos and dysfunction are the goal. To Trump’s puppeteers, it doesn’t matter if he loses, so long as America dissolves into bitterness and pain. 

Already it’s clear we need to start a mass movement akin to BLM to support Postal Workers!

(2) NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COMIC-CON. Robert J. Sawyer challenges some assumptions about Canadian sff award voters in a Facebook post.

Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, which was held by Zoom, due to the COVID pandemic.

The first issue the chair raised was what he considered to be a precipitous drop in the number of voters over the years. Years ago, he said, the number was in the mid-two-hundreds and he cited year-by-year figures showing a steady decline down to the current tally of 140 or so. Much discussion ensued about how to beef up the number.

My feeling is two-fold. First, it’s NOT an Aurora-specific issue, and, second, it’s NOT even a problem….

When people talk about bringing in vast new swaths of fans to beef up Aurora voting numbers, they usually mean finding a way to get young fans involved. But young fans, by and large, AREN’T SF&F readers, and have their own fandom traditions — they expect, for instance, their events to be high-cost and run to professional standards (even if mostly staffed by volunteers).

These are the fine folk who enjoy the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; Fan Expo in Toronto; Anime North, also in Toronto; OtakuThon in Montreal; and so-called “comic-cons” across the country. They want to see actors and comic-book artists. Politely, they don’t need us — AND WE DON’T NEED THEM.

If traditional fandom is shrinking — and it IS, mostly through attrition as people get old and finally go on to that great hucksters’ room in the sky — then so be it. But is that hurting the Aurora Awards?

I say no. I had no horse in the race this year — I was not even eligible in any category except for related work (for my bimonthly columns in GALAXY’S EDGE magazine) and wasn’t nominated. But I studied the ballot and, even more important for posterity, the actual winners this year, and my verdict is this: the Auroras are doing just fine.

… In the past, we’ve also seen ballots with conspicuous omissions and even more conspicuous inclusions. When a Canadian work is nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Award, it SHOULD raise eyebrows when it has been squeezed off the Aurora ballot by lesser creations.

This year, though, the best short-form Aurora went to the most-generally-lauded Canadian-authored (or, at least, co-authored) work on the ballot: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which had already won the Hugo AND the Nebula Awards.

In the past, we’ve seen huge numbers of votes of dubious pedigree: people who have no known connection to fandom but a personal connection to one of the nominees nominating and voting en masse, propelling dubious works onto the ballot and sometimes shamefully even winning the award.

Thankfully, those days of hustling seem to have fallen by the wayside….

(3) NASFIC 2020. The virtual Columbus 2020 NASFiC Opening Ceremonies start 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21. Here’s =“How To Attend”:

Attending the North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention will now be easy as everything will be online!

On the day the convention begins, the page you are viewing now will provide you with a virtual “log book”. When you have signed it, this website will provide you access to several more pages, with embedded chat channels and streaming video.

It will be free, but we will still accept donations.

(4) SFF AROUND THE GLOBE. FutureCon, a new virtual international sff convention, will launch September 17-20. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview in “Introducing FutureCon”. (See the schedule here.)

While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.

Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.

… Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.

(5) IN THE ZOOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Cora Buhlert has written up everything else at CoNZealand that was not the Hugo ceremony: “Cora’s Adventures at CoNZealand, the Virtual 2020 Worldcon, and Some Thoughts on Virtual Conventions in General”.

… After the 1960s SF panel, I had only ten minutes to get to my next panel “Translation: The Key to Open Doors to Cultural Diversity in SFF”. I was moderating again and the panelists were Libia Benda from Mexico, Luis F. Silva from Portugal, Wataru Ishigame, speaking from the POV of a publisher publishing translated SFF in Japan, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine as the token American. Though that would be mean, because Neil Clarke has done more than pretty much any other magazine editor to bring translated SFF to English speaking readers.

Again, we had a lively e-mail debate before the panel and just as lively a debate during the panel, complete with an audio zoombombing by a Mexican street vendor. I had also asked all panelists to recommend some SFF books or stories from their country that had been translated into English (and Neil Clarke generally recommended SFF in translation), so there were book recommendations as well.

The translation panel also overran by almost half an hour, because once the Zoom recording  was stopped, the Zoom meeting just remained open. After ascertaining that the audience could still hear us, we just continued talking about SFF in translation for another twenty five minutes or so, until the Zoom host shut down the room.  Now that’s something that could never have happened at a physical con, unless you were the last panel of the day and the room wasn’t needed again…. 

(6) RUNNING THE NUMBERS. Steve Mollman studies the “No Award” tea leaves in “The 2020 Hugo Awards: Interesting Statistics” at Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother. Lots of graphs.

I called my post from last week “Results and Final Thoughts“… but after it went up, I had another thought. So that title was a lie! Many people out there analyze various aspects of the results, but I want to look at two things: how many people vote in each category, and how many people vote No Award.

… Voting No Award in first place usually means one of two things, I would claim. First, it could mean that you find the concept of the category invalid. Every year, I vote No Award for Best Series, Best Editor, and a couple other categories, for example, and leave the rest of my ballot blank. I have some fundamental disagreements with the premises of those categories, and do not think they should be awarded. (Very few Hugo voters agree with me, though, clearly.) It could also mean that you just found everything in that category subpar: this year I voted No Award for Best Short Story, but still ranked finalists below it.

How well does Mollman’s interpretation hold up? And what is there to learn in the voting pattern from Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Campbell Award?

(7) BEYOND THE GREEN BOOK. NPR’s Glen Weldon chimes in: “‘Lovecraft Country’: Facing Monsters—And A Monstrous History”.

Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen’s dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).

3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)

And here is a brief, incomplete list of the things that Lovecraft Country prominently features that Green Book emphatically does not:

1. A story centered on the lives of Black characters.

2. Black characters with agency, absent any White Savior narrative

3. Shoggoths.

Shoggoths, of course, are creatures imagined by writer H.P. Lovecraft — blobs covered with eyes that continuously arise and dissolve back into their putrid, pulsating flesh. (The Shoggoths of Lovecraft Country are shaped more like Pit-bulls than protoplasm, though they’ve got that whole creepy-eyes thing covered.)

Lovecraft Country is only the latest in a series of movies, television series and novels to engage with America’s greatest moral, economic, social and psychological wound — the legacy of slavery — by way of the fantastic. Creators like Jordan Peele, Damon Lindelof, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead didn’t avail themselves of, respectively, body-swapping, superheroes, an angry ghost and an entirely literal subterranean mass-transit system as a means to distract from, or to trivialize, racial injustice. No: They knew that when grappling with a foundational truth so huge and ugly and painful, utilizing the metaphorical imagery of science-fiction and horror offered them a fresh way in — an opportunity to get their audiences to re-examine, to re-feel, the enduring impact of that evil.

…Though it’s sure to be compared to Watchmen, given both its prominent HBO Sunday night berth and its determination to view race in America through the prism of science fiction, Lovecraft Country is lighter in tone, and far pulpier in sensibility, than Lindelof’s comparatively grand, sweeping epic. It’s much more apt to go looser and loopier, sprinkling magic spells, sacred codexes, secret passages and the occasional light tomb-raiding into the mix. It’s also far more eager to serve up the satisfyingly grisly thrills of pulp horror — bad guys getting their bloody, cosmic comeuppance, for example.

But for every fun, if wildly anachronistic, element — needle-drops like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” say, or abdominal muscles like Majors’ — Lovecraft Country is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America. Between every narrow escape and exposition dump about “finding the missing pages from the forbidden tome” or whatever, it gives its characters and their relationships breathing room. Case in point: Letitia’s contentious bond with her sardonic, disapproving sister Ruby (the quietly astonishing Wunmi Mosaku, in a warm, deeply compelling performance) gets a chance to grow and complicate. And in a later episodes (only the first five were screened for press), Ruby happily manages to step off the sidelines and mix it up with the series’ deep, abiding weirdness.

(8) YS REVIEW. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky offers “Feeling Deluged By News? Let ‘The Daughters Of Ys’ Wash Over You”.

Though M. T. Anderson couldn’t possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story’s driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you’ve felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you’ve tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you’ll sympathize with Anderson’s characters.

This book is an excellent read right now for other reasons, too. Trying to keep abreast of your daily news feed may have made you impatient of any pleasure reading that isn’t perfectly absorbing (OK, that’s the last flood pun, I swear). A graphic novel, The Daughters of Ys is fun and easy to read. Anderson’s story, a reinterpretation of a Breton folktale, is effortlessly page-turning and actually feels a bit like a young adult title — not surprisingly, considering YA is Anderson’s preferred genre. But like Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, this book is both accessible to a wide age range and rich with ideas that will intrigue adults. (Note, however, that due to dark themes, some gore and the fact that the characters have sex, it may be best kept away from immature readers.)

Best of all, Daughters of Ys is a terrific respite for eyes weary of scanning headlines. Artist Jo Rioux isn’t as well-known as her coauthor — as is often the fate of illustrators who focus on children’s books — but she should be. Her drawings here aren’t just beautiful, with their deep, layered colors and elegant compositions; they’re also smart. Nodding to the original tale’s 5th-century setting, Rioux uses the style and motifs of Anglo-Saxon art (think of the Bayeux Tapestry and the metalwork of Sutton Hoo). But she doesn’t just replicate the style, she uses it to explore the evocative possibilities of minimalist cartooning. The characters’ faces have flat-looking eyes and minimal features, but they express intense, ambiguous emotions. Rioux also borrows the glowing lights and velvety shadows of Maxfield Parrish’s work for certain scenes, including a wonderful interlude set inside a circle of standing stones. The reader is encouraged to recall Parrish’s turn-of-the-20th-century America, when astonishing and alarming technological advances triggered a yearning for the romantic past, and to compare it with our own time.

(9) CHECK OUT COUNTER. WorldCat’s Library100 – I’ve read 41 of these.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(10) GOLDENBERG OBIT. American music composer, conductor and arranger Billy Goldenberg (William Leon Goldenberg) died on August 3, aged 84 reports Stephen Jones.

His many credits include Fear No Evil, Silent Night Lonely Night, Ritual Of Evil, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973), The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, The Ufo Incident, Metamorphoses, This House Possessed, Massarati And The Brain, Prototype, Frankenstein (1986), 18 Again! and Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady. On TV Goldenberg composed music for the pilots of Night Gallery (again for Spielberg), Future Cop and Gemini Man, plus episodes of The Name Of The Game (Spielberg’s ‘LA 2017’), The Sixth Sense and Circle Of Fear (along with the theme music for both shows), Amazing Stories and the 1989 mini-series Around The World In 80 Days. He also composed one of the themes to the Universal logo.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 16, 1951 Dimension X’s “The Vital Factor” was first broadcast. The story is that a ruthless millionaire is determined to be the first man to conquer space…no matter what the cost. The script was used later on X Minus One. It was written by Nelson Bond who is the holder of a Nebula Author Emeritus award for lifetime achievement. He’s also the recipient of First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. His Meg the Priestess stories gave us one of the first powerful female characters in the genre. Daniel Ocko and Guy Repp are the actors here.  You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazines, Amazing Stories in 1926, and Wonder Stories in 1929. He  also played a key role in creating fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” And of course he’s who the Hugos were named after back in 1953. (Died 1967.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1913 – Will Sykora.  Active at least as early as Jan 30 letter in Science Wonder Stories.  With Sam Moskowitz, thought the true fannish spirit meant promotion of science.  President of ISA (Int’l Scientific Ass’n) which sought to include amateur scientists, maybe the first fan club, unless disqualified in retrospect for insufficient frivolity – or insufficient leftism, which the Futurians were charged with excess of.  Charter member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n).  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Paul Lehr.  Three hundred covers, fifty interiors.  Here is his beginning, Satellite E One.  Here is his famous Nineteen Eighty-four (no mustache on Big Brother!).  Here is Spectrum 4.  Here is The Ringworld Engineers.  Here is the Mar 81 Analog.  Here is the Aug 96 Tomorrow.  What a giant.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in the Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode?  (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1931 – Walt Lee.  Monumental if only for his 20,000-entry Reference Guide to Fantastic Films (with Bill Warren) – which, allowing for differences in scale, is like saying Cheops (or Khnum Khufu if you prefer) is monumental if only for the Great Pyramid of Giza.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 87. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eileen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1952 – Edie Stern, F.N., 68. “Andre Norton’s Diamond Celebration” (with husband Joe Siclari) in Fantasy Review.  “Fancy Jack” (Jack Speer; with Siclari) in Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book, hello Guy Lillian III (62nd Worldcon).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Introduction (with Siclari) to Virgil Finlay Centennial book for 2014 World Fantasy Convention.  “LeeH” (Lee Hoffman, or for some of us, Hoffwoman), Journey Planet 27.  “Wheels of IF” (Irish fandom; with Siclari) for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book.  Noted SF art collector (with Siclari), very helpful with SF con Art Shows.  Fan Guest of Honor, Loscon 46.  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Siclari).  Since 2016, Webmaster of the FANAC Fanhistory Project (fanac = fan activity; Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions was originally formed for MagiCon the 50th Worldcon, Orlando).  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 62. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”,  along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1967 – Betsy Dornbusch, 53. Five novels, fifteen shorter stories. Co-editor Electric Spec 2006-2015.  Essays & interviews there.  Likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, the Denver Broncos, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1969 – Michael Buckley, 51.  A score of novels, some about the Nat’l Espionage, Rescue, & Defense Society (which spells –  ), NY Times Best Sellers; some about the Sisters Grimm (yes).  Robotomy for the Cartoon Network.  Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox just released (April).  Used to be in a punk rock band called Danger, Will Robinson.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MALTINS TALK ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest Maltin on Movies podcast, which dropped on the 14th, is with animation expert Jerry Beck

Beck runs two websites: animationscoop.com for news and cartoonresearch.com for longer articles.  One recent article on cartoonresearch.com by Keith Scott lists all the voice actors on Tex Avery’s cartoons, which did not give credits for voice work.

Beck in the interview discusses many aspects of his career, including his providing the commentary for DVDs of Fritz Freleng cartoons to running a popular panel at Comic-Con called “Worst Cartoons Ever” so that fans can howl at a smorgasbord of stinkers.  Beck also has written several histories of animation.  But he was also one of the first Americans to understand the importance of anime.  He recalled that when Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in the mid-1980s, Roger Corman controlled the rights and released it in a heavily-cut, badly dubbed version.  Beck realized Miyazaki’s importance and was the first to distribute Miyazaki’s films uncut to theaters.

As part of his anime distribution, Beck talked to the producers of Akira, who explained that they were shutting down their studio and offered Beck the contents.  Eight months later, Beck got a call from the Port of Los Angeles (“and I’ve never gotten a call from a port before”) with eight giant containers of cels and other stuff, which Beck sold to the delight of serious collectors.

Also in the podcast, Maltin revealed that he learned Roman numerals from Popeye cartoons, which taught him that MCMXXXVI meant “1936”.

(14) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR. Coming right up! The Nerdist says it will be one of the lots available for bid in a Star Wars prop auction happening August 26-27.

For sci-fi movie prop collectors, items from the Star Wars saga are the Holy Grail. Now, fans who have wanted to get their hands on authentic items from a galaxy far, far away are in for a treat. Several props and costumes from the saga are going up for auction by The Prop Store of Los Angeles and London. Some very coveted pieces are among the items, including a full Darth Vader costume from 1977.

These Star Wars items are part of a much larger sci-fi/horror movie auction, being held on August 26th and 27th. One lucky fan will have a chance to get their hands on one of the great heroes of the Rebel Alliance: this Admiral Ackbar sculpt. Made after Return of the Jedi, from the original mold, it will set you back at least $3,000 to $5,000.

(15) BLESSED EVENT. Queen Elizabeth II has revealed her favourite film and it’s an SF movie, namely the 1980 Flash Gordon – The Guardian has the story: “Brian Blessed: Flash Gordon is the Queen’s favourite film”.

Brian Blessed has claimed that the Queen revealed to him that her favourite film is Flash Gordon, the 1980 sci-fi in which he stars as Prince Vultan.

Speaking about the film’s 40th anniversary to Edith Bowman on Yahoo Movies, the actor said that whenever he goes, people demand he recite his character’s catchphrase.

“Everywhere I go, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’,” said Blessed. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’, it’s their favourite film.”

He continued: “The Queen, it’s her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas.”

The actor then assumed the Queen’s accent, quoting her as saying: “You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying ‘Gordon’s alive’?”

(16) STAR TREK, THE NEXT GAG. ScreenRant is sure they know: “The 10 Funniest Star Trek Episodes, Ranked”.

6. TNG: Qpid

From this fourth season episode of The Next Generation comes one of Worf’s most famous quotes. Transported to Sherwood Forest by Q and adorned in the costume of Will Scarlett, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men,  Worf exclaims, “I am not a merry man.”

“Qpid” has one of the series lightest touches, to the point it feels like an old Errol Flynn film. While Picard plays Robin Hood, the rest of his Merry Men try to get used to their temporary roles. One of the funniest parts is during the fight between Robin’s friends and Nottingham’s guards. Both Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi knock two of the bad guys out by bashing large vases over their heads.

(17) STOP-AND-POP. Ethan Alter, in “How Netflix’s new Black superhero movie ‘Project Power’ addresses real-life policing and ‘how police should be held accountable'” on Yahoo! Entertainment, interviews writer Matthew Tomlin (whose next project is co-writer of The Batman) and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt about Project Power, which dropped on Netflix this week.

When screenwriter Mattson Tomlin sat down to write Project Power in 2016, he knew that he wanted to create a superhero universe that put Black heroes front and center. The film that arrives on Netflix on Aug. 14 stays true to that vision, with Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback portraying the dynamic duo of Art and Robin, who take on a top-secret government agency that’s dispensing ability-enhancing pills on the streets of New Orleans. But there’s also a third superhero in the mix: a white police officer named Frank (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the kind of “plays by his own rules” cop that’s been a popular Hollywood protagonist for decades.

As the film begins, Frank’s personal rules include popping those contraband pills to get a super-powered boost for daring busts. But after Art and Robin awaken him to the sordid story behind those drugs — a story that includes the exploitation of Black research subjects — he opts to join their cause. “Ultimately, the character goes through the movie trying to do the right thing,” Tomlin says. “Sometimes he goes about it in a messy way, but that’s where his heart is.”

(18) ROBOTIC VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. “Robot boat completes three-week Atlantic mission”.

A UK boat has just provided an impressive demonstration of the future of robotic maritime operations.

The 12m Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer has completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic.

SEA-KIT International, which developed the craft, “skippered” the entire outing via satellite from its base in Tollesbury in eastern England.

The mission was part-funded by the European Space Agency.

Robot boats promise a dramatic change in the way we work at sea.

Already, many of the big survey companies that run traditional crewed vessels have started to invest heavily in the new, remotely operated technologies. Freight companies are also acknowledging the cost advantages that will come from running robot ships.

But “over-the-horizon” control has to show it’s practical and safe if it’s to gain wide acceptance. Hence, the demonstration from Maxlimer.

(19) LIKE YOU DO. “How Do You Solve a Moon Mystery? Fire a Laser at It” – the New York Times explains. Tagline: “Researchers have used reflective prisms left on the moon’s surface for decades, but had increasingly seen problems with their effectiveness.”

…One obvious culprit is lunar dust that has built up on the retroreflectors. Dust can be kicked up by meteorites striking the moon’s surface. It coated the astronauts’ moon suits during their visits, and it is expected to be a significant problem if humans ever colonize the moon.

While it has been nearly 50 years since a retroreflector was placed on the moon’s surface, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2009 carries a retroreflector roughly the size of a paperback book. That spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, circles the moon once every two hours, and it has beamed home millions of high-resolution images of the lunar surface.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter “provides a pristine target,” said Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who, along with his colleagues, tested the hypothesis that lunar dust might be affecting the moon’s retroreflectors.

(20) MARGE SIMPSON FIRES BACK. The New York Daily News urges you to “SEE IT: Marge Simpson ‘p—ed off’ at Kamala Harris comparison”.

On Wednesday, senior Trump adviser Jenna Ellis compared Democratic vice presidential contender Kamala Harris to Marge Simpson, who’s voiced by actress Julie Kavner.

“Kamala sounds like Marge Simpson,” [Ellis] tweeted.

Marge responded on “The Simpsons” Twitter account with a 27-second clip in which she says the matter makes her uncomfortable.

“I usually don’t get into politics,” Marge said Friday, adding that her show-daughter Lisa informed her the comparison wasn’t meant as a compliment to either woman.

“As an ordinary suburban housewife I’m starting to feel a little disrespected,” the cartoon mom said. “I teach my children not to name-call, Jenna.”

? [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Cheryl Morgan, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “LOVECRAFT COUNTRY”)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(13) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

(1) MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! The 2020 Hugo voting report, which begins with a short list of works that got enough votes to be finalists but were disqualified or withdrawn by the author, showed that Ann Leckie declined her nomination for The Raven Tower. In a blog entry today she explained why: “The Hugos and The Raven Tower”.

…I’ve had a taste of that cookie quite a few times now. It is, let me tell you, one delicious cookie. And when the email came telling me that The Raven Tower was a finalist for the Hugo Award, I thought of the books in that longlist, how often I’d had a bite of this cookie, and how many of the amazing books from 2019 were debuts, and/or were books that, when I’d read them, my first thought was, Oh, this should be on the Hugo ballot. More books than there were spots, for sure. And I realized that I could do something about that, at least in a small way.

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

Let me be perfectly clear–I was overwhelmed at the thought that so many readers felt The Raven Tower deserved to be a Hugo finalist. I have been treasuring that for months. And as I’m sure we all know, these have been months during which such treasures have become extremely important.

I also want to be clear that this is not any sort of permanent decision on my part. I make no promises about withdrawing anything in the future. If I am ever so fortunate as to have a work reach the shortlist again, and I see what seems to me a good reason to withdraw, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. It is, after all, one of the sweetest, most delicious cookies around!

(2) A WEE JOKE. From the August issue of Ansible:

The Retro Hugo Statistics reveal that a single Fan Writer nomination for 1944 work (it took three to get on the final ballot and no one had more than six) went to some chap called David Langford. Ho ho, very satirical….

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

(4) NOW PLAYING. “The Ballad of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

(5) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. “John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel”The Guardian has his confession.

John Boyne, the award-winning author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has acknowledged that a cursory Google led to him accidentally including monsters from the popular video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in his new novel.

Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom opens in AD1 and ends 2,000 years later, following a narrator and his family. In one section, the narrator sets out to poison Attila the Hun, using ingredients including an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”….

Dana Schwartz rounded up some graphics to support the story. Thread starts here.

(6) HARD TO KEEP UP. David Gerrold concludes a Facebook post about sff awards with this sentiment:

…Personally, I am delighted that we are suffering from the challenges of success instead of the problems of failure. The level of mediocrity has risen and the level of excellence has truly surpassed the past. So the challenges in front of any author must look insurmountable, even to the long-time practitioners.

As difficult as all this may seem to anyone who writes, it’s still a good thing. Because it’s no longer about the awards — in fact, it never was about the awards. It has always been about the quality of the work.

That there is so much good work being created these days is a victory for the field, and especially for the readers.

I just wish I had enough time to keep up with it all.

(7) ONE MORE TAKE. Robert J. Sawyer has his own issue with George R.R. Martin’s choices while hosting the Hugo ceremony.

…But let me elucidate one category of Martin’s microaggressions that cut across the entire spectrum of humanity by subtly excluding anyone not part of his old guard: his use of nicknames for writers and editors whose prominence was in days gone by, signaling that no matter who you might be, if you weren’t part of the inner circle back in the day, you’ll never really be a true fan (or pro) now.

In Martin’s very, very long commentaries during yesterday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, Robert Silverberg was “Silverbob,” George Alec Effinger was “Piglet,” and the editor Robert A.W. Lowndes was “Doc.” I think Martin also called Isaac Asimov “Ike” during his trips down memory lane, although I’m not going to sift through the hour and forty-five minutes of his rambling again (fully half of the total running time of the Hugo ceremony) to be sure.

You see? Even someone like me — 40 years a selling author in this field, and now 60 years of age — was never part of that ancient, early prodom. I’ve known Robert Silverberg since 1989 and knew Asimov and Effinger, too, but was never close enough to call them by cutesy nicknames.

And if someone like me feels left out after all these decades in the field, imagine how the newer writers, or the writers whose literary background wasn’t the American SF magazines, felt during the Hugo ceremony.

… Yes, it’s a small thing — that’s why it’s called a MICROaggression — and it’s usually done without consciously intending to exclude or put down someone else, but microaggressions ARE pervasive and exclusionary in effect. We’d all do well to guard against committing them.

(8) JOIN THE BOB & DOUG SHOW. Back in their home theater after taking their show on a bit of a road trip, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their flight to the International Space Station and back aboard the inaugural crewed voyage of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. This press release — “NASA Astronauts to Discuss Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight” – tells how to access their news conference.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

This will be a virtual event with no media present, due to the safety restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reporters who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

(9) DRESSING UP PITTCON. The International Costumers Guild did a roundup of contemporary photos and reports about a Worldcon sixty years ago: “Convention Costuming History – 1960”.

The 1960 Worldcon, known as Pittcon (Pittsburgh, PA) promoted their masquerade as a “Costume Cabaret”. Following the show, there would be a glee club performance, a “minstrel show of science fiction flavor”, and then a dance (music provided by a “hi-fi”, rather than a live band like some past years)…

(10) ROBERTA POURNELLE OBIT. Roberta Pournelle, widow of Jerry, passed away last night at the age of 85. Her son Frank Pournelle announced services are planned in the coming week. The Chaos Manor page on Facebook saluted her:

An educator for 30 years at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, Mother of 4, Grandmother, a friend to many; she made order out of Chaos.

Born Roberta Jane Isdell, she married Jerry Pournelle in 1959. ISFDB shows she wrote a nonfiction piece for Analog in 1988, “High-Tech for the Little Red Schoolhouse.”

(11) SUSAN ELLISON OBIT. HarlanEllisonBooks.com announced today that Susan Ellison (1960-2020) died over the weekend at home, the “Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” No other details were given. Susan and Harlan married in 1986 and were together 32 years until his death in  2018.

(12) BUARD OBIT. It was recently learned that Patricia Anne Buard died in May 2017 reports the International Costumers Guild. Photos of her masquerade entries at the link.

Patricia Anne Buard. Patricia was a person of several interests, including theater and theology. In addition to having created works of both original fantasy and historical recreations, her short story “Devil’s Advocate” was published in the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology book “Red Sun of Darkover”, released in 1987.

(13) IVEY OBIT. David Ivey succumbed to his battle with cancer on July 24. The International Costumers Guild describes one of his memorable entries.

David was a Michigan area costumer. His best known creations were Krakatoa, the Volcano God, and St. Helen. Krakatoa appeared at several venues, including Worldcon: Chicon V, in 1991 (photo below). It was quite innovative for its time, featuring several special effects.

(14) ENGLISH OBIT. “Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91” – BBC pays tribute.

The co-creator of the computer mouse, William English, has died aged 91.

The engineer and inventor was born in 1929 in Kentucky and studied electrical engineering at university before joining the US Navy.

He built the first mouse in 1963, using an idea put forward by his colleague Doug Engelbart while the pair were working on early computing.

…Bill English became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at Mr Engelbart’s research project at the Stanford Research Institute.

The idea was Mr Engelbart’s, which he described as only being “brief notes” – but the creation was down to Bill English.

His first version was a wooden block with a single button – and underneath, two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement.

“We were working on text editing – the goal was a device that would be able to select characters and words,” Mr English told the Computer History Museum in 1999.

(15) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 3, 1951 — The Tales of Tomorrow series premiered with “Verdict From Space”. The series was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. There were eighty-five episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length. The series came about through the efforts of Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahams, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The League who included Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, and Isaac Asimov made their work available to the producers.  The screenplay was written by Sturgeon and is based on his own story “The Sky Was Full of Ships” first published in the June 1947 issue of Thrilling Wonder. You can watch it here.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 – Juliana Ewing.  Thirty short stories for us; a score of books with our and other stories, plays, book-length fiction, for children.  Roger G. Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), one of the Inklings, who suggested the name Chronicles of Narnia to C.S. Lewis, called JE’s the first outstanding child-novels in English literature.  Kipling said he knew her novels Jan of the Windmill and Six to Sixteen almost by heart; of Six “here was a history of real people and real things.”  From her novelette “The Brownies” (1865) the Baden-Powells got the idea and name for junior Girl Guides.  Here is a Caldecott cover for Jackanapes (1884).  (Died 1885) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1922 – Ron Turner.  Some sources say his birthday is the 22nd.  Twelve dozen covers (I’d say “one gross”, but look what trouble that made for Bilbo Baggins), more if you count posthumous uses.  Tit-Bits SF ComicsSpace AceRick RandomStingrayThe DaleksThunderbirds.  Here is Operation Venus.  Here is a John Russell Fearn collection.  Here is Rick Random and the Terror from Spacehere is its opening interior.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1926 —  John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 80. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1946 – John DeChancie, 74.  Best known for nine Castle Perilous and three Skyway books, he’s published ten besides, two dozen shorter stories; if you know he has written as Raul Cabeza de Vaca, and entitled a poem “The Refusal to Mourn the Rejection, by Printed Form, of a Hopeful Writer in Pittsburgh, February, 1992”, you’ll know he can read, and smile, and has been with SF a while.  Some fans become pros; some pros become fans, as he did; some are both, as he has been.  Plays piano, likes the American Songbook and Rachmaninoff; paints, including a portrait of Rachmaninoff.  See this, which includes portraits of Marty Cantor and Chip Hitchcock.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 70. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1953 – Margaret Bechard, 67.  Reed College woman (as an Antioch boy, I think of these things).  Children’s fiction, translated into French, Korean, Swedish.  Two novels, one shorter story for us; Star Hatchling about first contact won a Golden Duck.  Six other novels.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1971 – Yoshitoshi ABe, 49.  Graphic artist.  Usually writes his name in Roman letters, with capitalized for the sake of early works he signed “AB”.  Known to sketch with just his finger and an iPad.  Thirty self-published books; artbooks; covers; half a dozen each of animé and manga.  Here is his cover for Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (A. Smith tr. 2009; hello, Pete Young).  Here is Walking the Dragon from YA’s artbook Gaisokyu (“Palace”; 2007).  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 48. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish redheaded colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1979 – Evangeline Lilly, 41.  Actress, author.  She was in LostReal Steel, two Peter Jackson hobbit films, three Marvel superhero films – to misquote Winston Churchill, who said a Wasp couldn’t sting thrice?  So far two Squickerwonker short stories for children have appeared, one translated into Portuguese.  [JH]

(17) A TOTAL SURPRISE. After Hastings author Steven H Silver tells Lawrence Shoen about eating reindeer steak in Stockholm as part of “Eating Authors: Steven H Silver”. However, the cuisine is overshadowed in this great anecdote about something that happened at dinner —

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal….

(18) KAIJU KIA. Does ScreenRant have enough fingers and toes to answer the question? “How Many Times Godzilla Has Died (All Movies)”. (And I wonder if it’s more or less than the number of times John Wayne got killed?)

He’s starred in over 30 movies but how many of those has Godzilla actually died in? The first movie is a somber monster movie with the title creature is intended to be a walking metaphor for nuclear weapons. The movie’s huge success led to a franchise that is still running nearly 70 years later, with the monster appearing in sequels, reboots and remakes, in addition to comics, novels and video games where he’s battled against all sorts of creative monsters.

(19) MAD, I SAY. Could it be that Dave Freer’s message in “F-IW” at Mad Genius Club is “When you’re in your time machine on the way back to kill baby Hitler, don’t forget to stop off in the Sixties and take over traditional publishing”?

…Both of these [old] books had a huge effect on my young mind. Yes, I can see the Woke and modern left rubbing their hands (and other parts, never mentioned) in glee, saying ‘Yes! We were RIGHT that we had to capture publishing and exclude any badthink. Just think if we’d had the dominance we have now over traditional publishing, back in 1960, even evil people like Freer would have been won (Hi: I’m Dave the Divider. If it wasn’t for me, so we are told by the self-elected authorities,  sf/fantasy would be united and singing Kumbaya. See what a fate I saved you from!).

(20) CANON FIRED. Meg Elison says you’re excused from reading the SFF “canon.”

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(21) APOLLO POLITICS. At The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses an interesting radio program about space history. “Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul”.

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.

(22) FANTASY NETWORK FREEBIES. Some of us encountered The Fantasy Network for the first time watching CoNZealand events. They also have lots of free content. For example, the 2017 movie Magellan:

When NASA picks up three signals of extraterrestrial origin coming from within our own solar system, the space agency expedites a mission to investigate the sources. As Earth’s lone emissary, they send Commander Roger Nelson, the test pilot for an experimental spacecraft call the Magellan, assisted by an onboard A.I. named Ferdinand.

(23) MORE, PLEASE. James Davis Nicoll is sure these are “Five Stories That Make You Wish For a Sequel”. But rest easy – none of them involve the megaselling series that have made sff news this week.

Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

… I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.

(24) DIY. “New ‘Quar-Horror’ Films Show Staying At Home Is Scary Too”.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

All over YouTube, you can find inventive homemade horror shorts taking the pandemic as inspiration. (They come from Brazil, from Canada and from, well, Funny or Die.) And a new movie Host, filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine and entirely on Zoom, debuted on the horror channel Shudder last week.

Call it “quar-horror.”

Among the most chilling of the YouTube offerings is Stay At Home, part horror movie and part PSA from a filmmaker in New Orleans.

“I literally just grabbed a box, and I set up the camera on a tripod and gave myself a scenario,” says Kenneth Brown, a former Uber driver turned horror auteur. “And the story started to build and build and build.”

Brown went to film school, and you can tell. Based on the myth of Pandora’s Box and the evening news, Stay At Home is elegantly lit and crafted. As of this writing, it’s racked up nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

Part of what makes Stay At Home so effective — and heartfelt — is the insistent drone of news anchors discussing the mounting carnage. “That’s everything I need to say as far as reaching African Americans, which is the population most vulnerable to this virus,” says Brown, who is Black himself.

But escapism is also the point, say Nathan Crooker and James Gannon. Their upcoming quar-horror, called Isolation, just wrapped principal photography. The two produced the film; Crooker is also its director. Isolation is an anthology; nine interconnected shorts by different directors who filmed their movies using only resources immediately available to them.

(25) PIECEMEAL. According to BBC, “Other mammals lose out in panda conservation drive”.

Saving the giant panda is one of the big success stories of conservation.

Decades of efforts to create protected habitat for the iconic mammal has pulled it back from the brink of extinction.

But, according to a new study, while many other animals in the same landscape have benefited from this conservation work, some have lost out.

Leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas.

Driven to near extinction by logging, poaching and disease, their loss could lead to “major shifts, even collapse, in ecosystems”, said researchers in China.

Without the likes of leopards and wolves, deer and livestock can roam unchecked, causing damage to natural habitats, with knock-on effects for other wildlife, including pandas themselves.

By protecting the panda’s forests, conservationists believed they would be protecting not only the charismatic black-and-white animal, but the many other species roaming the same habitat.

But while that has worked for some other wildlife, the efforts do not appear to have worked for large carnivores, such as the leopard and wolf.

A team of researchers now says a broader – holistic – approach is needed to manage the ecosystem in which the panda lives – one that ensures key species don’t lose out.

(26) SHORT LEAPS FORWARD. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler interviews Catherine Hardwicke, whose new Quibi series “Don’t Look Deeper” is set “15 minutes into the future” and has a teenage girl as a protagonist who may or may not be an android.  Hardwicke discusses what it was like to direct a story delivered in 10-minute chunks and why star Helena Howard is a “strong and vulnerable” actor Hardwicke enjoyed working with. “Can Catherine Hardwicke get you to watch Quibi?”

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

Actually, the script was written for short episodes. It was written in chapters. I thought that was quite interesting when I first read the script. I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating,” because the short format does tie in — it weaves in directly with what’s going on with [Aisha’s] memory. We tell the story in a non-linear way as her memories are being erased and restored. The technology that we’re exploring, showing it on a new technological platform with the vertical and horizontal, it all seemed to kind of work together in an interesting way. So this leap of faith — that [Quibi founder Jeffrey] Katzenberg said let’s try this format — I thought that was an interesting challenge to dive into it and see what happens.

(27) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dragonball Evolution Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that when the hero of the film has to collect seven dragonballs to make a wish that dragonballs are as powerful as “blowing out candles on a birthday cake.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/28/20 We Have Pixelsign The Likes Of Godstalk Has Never Seen!

(1) OPEN DISCUSSION OF OPEN LETTER. Several authors have responded to the challenges raised in the letter posted here: “Writers Circulate Letter of Concern About Saudi Worldcon Bid”.

  • Robert J. Sawyer wrote extensive comments about the Open Letter in this public Facebook post.
  • Seanan McGuire, an author who’s also been a Worldcon runner, has added her insights on Twitter, Thread starts here.
  • Cat Valente’s thread starts here, and the comments are along these lines —

(2) EVANIER ON MALTIN PODCAST. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest podcast is with their long-time friend, Mark Evanier. (Click here.)  Evanier talks about how he began his career as Jack Kirby’s assistant and then goes on to discuss his years at Hanna-Barbera, including what it was like to work with Tex Avery and Mel Blanc and how Jonathan Winters once used some downtime to do some improv in his office.  Also discussed was his six-year run as the writer of Garfield and Friends, and how he gave work to such comedy legends as George O’Hanlon (the original voice of George Jetson) and Rose Marie.  He also discusses his role at Comic-Con, where he is one of six people who has attended every Comic-Con.  As part of his Comic-Con segment, he gives some valuable advice about running panels.  He is also an author, with his edition of the seventh volume of The Complete Pogo about to be sent to the printer.  Evanier’s long-time partner was Carolyn Kelly, daughter of Pogo creator Walt Kelly, and Evanier vows to finish the definitive Pogo collection Carolyn Kelly began.

Ray Bradbury is discussed beginning at minute 56, and Evanier discusses what it was like to interview Bradbury in front of several thousand Comic-Con attendees.  (He routinely asked Harlan Ellison fr advice about what questions to ask Bradbury). He notes that Bradbury always liked to go to the hucksters room to see what was new in comics and how he would always happily sign his works.  Leonard Maltin noted that Bradbury had a youthful spirit throughout his life and “never lost his sense of wonder.”

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The July 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Legal Salvage,” by Holli Mintzer, a story about artificial intelligence, thrifting, and taste.

Twenty, 25 years ago, someone lost a building.

It started as a U-Haul self-storage franchise, and switched allegiance between a few other companies as it changed owners. The last owner had been running it as an independent when he died. His heirs were halfway across the country, and before they could do anything about it, one of them died and the other two spent down the rest of the estate fighting over how to split it….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Can an A.I. Develop Taste?” by Kate Compton, an artificial intelligence coder, artist, and educator.

…As humans, our possessions mean many different things to us. Their value may be practical. We need a blender to make smoothies and a bike to get to work on time. But many objects also have sentimental value and hook into the complex web of human emotions and relationships. We may have aspirational objects that tell us who we want to be (someone who goes camping more, exercises more, would wear those impractical shoes). We also keep nostalgic objects that remind us, through memory or our senses, of people or values that we want to remember. Sometimes our collections simply “spark joy” (in Marie Kondo’s words) in some unknowable way.

In “Legal Salvage,” we meet three collectors: Mika, Ash, and Roz. We also learn about people who abandoned power tools or neon signs or commemorative saltshakers in their storage lockers. We don’t know what these objects meant to the vanished collectors…. 

(4) JACKSON ON SCREEN. “Josephine Decker Releases A New Film About The Horror Writer Shirley Jackson” – transcript of an NPR inetrview.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The new movie “Shirley” starts after the author Shirley Jackson has published her most famous short story. It’s called “The Lottery.” You might have read it in high school.

JOSEPHINE DECKER: The town annually stones to death one of its members because that’s just what’s done. You know, I think there’s a reason that that has stayed in our canon. It’s incredibly intense to talk about institutionalized oppression.

SHAPIRO: That’s the movie’s director Josephine Decker. Her film “Shirley” is a fictional story about a real person. And so I asked Decker how she compares the author, who died in 1965, to the character Shirley Jackson that Elisabeth Moss plays in the movie.

DECKER: It was a tricky challenge I guess you could say. But our MO was really just to prioritize making the audience feel like they were inside of a Shirley Jackson story. We put that above all else. So we were always adventuring into her fiction as the primary source for our inspiration of how to approach the film. We were very clear that we wanted to make a film that wouldn’t be mistaken for a biopic, even though I think it totally (laughter) has. It’s hard – when you call a film “Shirley,” I guess people get confused.

(5) CAMP IN TROUBLE. Huntsville’s Space Camp, and the US Space & Rocket Center museum in general, are in deep financial trouble due to knock-on effects of the pandemic and are seeking donations to help stay open: “U.S. Space & Rocket Center launches ‘Save Space Camp’ Campaign” on WAFF 48.

(6) THAT’S STRANGE! Yahoo! News shares tweeted footage from four years ago in “Benedict Cumberbatch Surprised Fans In Comic Store As Doctor Strange In New Video”.

A behind-the-scenes video of Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange delightfully stopping by a comic bookstore is making the rounds, and it’s exactly a bright spot the internet needed these days.

Scott Derrickson, the director and co-writer of “Doctor Strange,” on Monday night shared a “never before shown moment” of Cumberbatch, in full character regalia, casually walking into. a comic book store in New York City during the filming of the 2016 superhero flick. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 28, 1940 – Bugs Bunny, the iconic cartoon character, made his official debut in the 1940 Oscar nominated short, The Wild Hare. The Looney Tunes standout was first voiced by actor Mel Blanc. NPR “Morning Edition.” “What’s Up, Doc? Bugs Bunny’s Age. Cartoon Rabbit Turns 80”.
  • July 28, 1955 — X Minus One’s “The Embassy” first aired. The story is that a man walks into a detective agency wanting to hire them to find the Martians that he says are here on Earth. It’s based on a story by Donald Wollheim published in Astounding Science Fiction in the March 1942 issue. The script is by George Lefferts. The cast includes Joseph Julian and Barry Kroger. (CE)  

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 28, 1844 – Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Including this original extraordinary poet will startle any Christian.  “What?  That’s not fantasy!”  Be kind, brothers and sisters.  Discovering him was worth all the quarreling with my teacher after high test scores put me in English IV my freshman year in college.  Read this; and yes, it’s a sonnet.  If you didn’t look up “Heraclitean” and you should have, shame on you.  (Died 1889) [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1866 – Beatrix Potter.  Famous for The Tale of Peter Rabbit; two dozen of these.  Prizewinning breeder of Herdwick sheep.  Conservationist.  Careful mycological paintings finally published in W.P.K. Findlay’s Wayside & Woodland Fungi (1967); Linnean Society finally apologized for sexist disregard of her research (1997).  (Died 1943) [JH]
  • Probably best known for Tales of Peter Rabbit but I’d submit her gardening skills were second to none as well as can be seen in the Green Man review of Marta McDowell’s Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life here (Died 1943.) (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1928 Angélica Gorodischer, 92. Argentinian writer whose Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was got translated by Ursula Le Guin into English. Likewise Prodigies.has been translated by Sue Burke for Small Beer Press. (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1931 – Jay Kay Klein.  For decades he was fandom’s photographer.  He wrote Analog’s Biologfor thirty years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Discon II the 32nd Worldcon.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  At the end he donated some 70,000 photos to the Eaton Collection at U. Cal. Riverside; so far 6,000 digitized and available electronically.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1941 Bill Crider. Though primarily a writer of horror fiction, he did write three stories in the Sherlock Holmes metaverse: The Adventure of the Venomous Lizard, The Adventure of the St. Marylebone Ghoul and The Case of the Vanished Vampire. He also wrote a Sookie Stackhouse short story, “Don’t Be Cruel” in the Charlaine Harris Meta-verse. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1947 – Colin Hay, 73.  Six dozen covers, a few interiors.  Here is The Left Hand of Darkness.  Here is Orbitsville.  Here is Rendezvous with Rama.  Here is Before the Golden Age vol. 2.   [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1955 – Ed Green, 65.  Hard worker at cons within reach, local, regional, world.  Chaired Loscon 24 and 31, co-chaired La-la’s Eleven (9th in a series of relaxacons, named with variations of “La-la Con” i.e. for Los Angeles and La-la Land).  Served as LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.) President.  Evans-Freehafer Award for service to LASFS.  [JH]
  • Born July 28, 1966 Larry Dixon, 54. Husband of Mercedes Lackey, both GoHs of CoNZealand, who collaborates with her on such series as SERRAted Edge and The Mage Wars Trilogy. He contributed artwork to Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons & Dragons source books, including Oriental AdventuresEpic Level Handbook, and Fiend Folio. (CE)
  • Born July 28, 1968 Rachel Blakely, 52. You’ll most likely know her as Marguerite Krux on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World as that was her longest running genre role. She was briefly Alcmene on Young Hercules, and played Gael’s Mum on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. And showed as Penelope in the “Ulysses” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. (CE)
  • Born July 2, 1980 – Kelly van der Laan, 40.  Four novels, three shorter stories in her Spring (in Dutch, Lentagon) series – first novel came from Nanowrimo; a dozen more short stories. “Pink Water” won first prize in the Fantastic Story contest.  Collection Lost Souls just released in February.  Likes Corey, King, Lynch, Martin, Sanderson, Rothfuss.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is Herman the subject of alien catch-and-release?

(10) FROSTY IN SPACE. Official ice cream of the Space Force TV show, “Ben and Jerry’s Boots on The Mooooo’N.” Here are four minutes of laughs about the ice cream in “Boots on the Moooon:  Space Force R & D Diaries.”

(11) LAST CHANCE TO SEE. BBC reports “Van Gogh: Postcard helps experts ‘find location of final masterpiece'”.

A postcard has helped to find the probable spot where Vincent van Gogh painted what may have been his final masterpiece, art experts say.

The likely location for Tree Roots was found by Wouter van der Veen, the scientific director of the Institut Van Gogh.

He recognised similarities between the painting and a postcard dating from 1900 to 1910.

The postcard shows trees on a bank near the French village of Auvers-sur-Oise.

The site is 150m (492ft) from the Auberge Ravoux, the inn in the village, where Van Gogh stayed for 70 days before taking his own life in 1890.

(12) STEVEN KNOWS BEST. In Yahoo! Entertainment’s “‘Waterworld’ at 25: How Kevin Costner’s choice to ignore Steven Spielberg resulted in one of the most expensive movies ever”, Ethan Alter interviews Waterworld screenwriter Peter Rader, who says that Steven Spielberg’s advice to director Kevin Reynolds and star Kevin Costner to film most of Waterworld in a tank rather than on the water led to colossal cost overruns when the film’s sets were destroyed in a typhoon.

Memo to all aspiring filmmakers: When Steven Spielberg tells you not to do something, you’d be wise to listen. Kevin Costner and Kevin Reynolds learned that lesson the hard way during the production of their 1995 action epic, Waterworld. Set in a dystopian tomorrow where the polar ice caps have melted, erasing “dryland” and bathing the world in water, the movie was conceived as an ambitious aquatic Western with a science-fiction twist. But when Waterworld washed ashore in theaters 25 years ago this summer, all anyone could talk about was the out-of-control budget and behind-the-scenes creative battles that culminated with Costner replacing Reynolds in the editing room. According to Waterworld screenwriter, Peter Rader, the source of the movie’s many troubles stemmed from one fateful decision: the choice to shoot the entire film on the open water rather than in a controlled environment like a studio water tank….

(13) IN THE QUEUE. “Virgin Galactic set for last key rocket test flights”.

Virgin Galactic is about to start a key series of powered test flights of its passenger rocket plane.

The company’s Unity vehicle has so far conducted only glide flights after moving into its operational base in New Mexico earlier this year.

The powered ascents will see Unity ignite its hybrid rocket motor to climb to the edge of space.

These tests will set the stage for Virgin Galactic to introduce its commercial service.

Six hundred individuals have so far paid deposits to take a ride on Unity, with many of these individuals having put down their money a good number of years ago.

But George Whitesides, the company’s chief space officer, said their wait would soon be over.

“Our next flight will be just purely two pilots in the front to do a systems check,” he told BBC News.

“And then, once we’ve done that – well, we’re in pretty exciting territory because the plan is to start putting [four of our] people in the back. We haven’t shared exactly how many flights that will be because we’ve got to see how it goes. But it could be a fairly small number.”

(14) HAVE A LOOK AROUND. “The interior design of Virgin Galactic’s rocket plane” – BBC video.

Fare-paying passengers will have big windows to view space from the vehicle’s cabin.

(15) PUTTING IT TOGETHER. “Iter: World’s largest nuclear fusion project begins assembly” – BBC has the story.

The world’s biggest nuclear fusion project has entered its five-year assembly phase.

After this is finished, the facility will be able to start generating the super-hot “plasma” required for fusion power.

The £18.2bn (€20bn; $23.5bn) facility has been under construction in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, southern France.

Advocates say fusion could be a source of clean, unlimited power that would help tackle the climate crisis.

Iter is a collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US. All members share in the cost of construction.

(16) STUCK IN A GROOVE. At the New York Times, two space journalists say “Too Much Mars? Let’s Discuss Other Worlds”.

Three government space agencies around the world are getting ready to return to Mars this summer. Along with China and the United Arab Emirates, the United States plans to land the fifth NASA rover, Perseverance, on the red planet (along with a small, experimental helicopter, Ingenuity). But the rover’s most important job will be scooping up and caching some samples that humans or robots may eventually retrieve.

The planetary science community will cheer these missions. But many researchers have started asking, more loudly than usual, why we’re going back to Mars yet again. So we invited Rebecca Boyle and David W. Brown, two journalists who have devoted a fair share of their careers to interviewing space researchers at NASA and in academia, to discuss why Mars, a planet that lost its atmosphere long ago, seems to absorb so much of the oxygen — and budgetary resources — in the rooms where explorations of our solar system are decided.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Screen Junkies take on a classic in Honest Trailers:  E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial on YouTube. The junkies spend most of their time bashing the ’80s cheesefest Mac And Me, which they show is almost like E.T. “except for one major difference:  E.T. is good!” (DId you know Jennifer Aniston made her debut in Mac And Me?)

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

2020 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award

The 2020 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award is presented today to:

Rick Raphael
(1917-1994)

The jury particularly cites:

  • Raphael’s 1966 fixup novel Code Three, composed of three shorter works the first two of which were published in Analog and were each separately nominated for the Hugo Award.
  • Raphael’s 1960 novella “Make Mine Homogenized,” also from Analog (April 1960), a masterpiece of science-fiction humor, reprinted in The Great SF Stories 22 (1960), edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg.

The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award has been presented annually since 2001 by the Cordwainer Smith Foundation, preserving the memory of science-fiction writer Paul Linebarger, who wrote under that pen name. The Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award honors under-read science fiction and fantasy authors with the intention of drawing renewed attention to the winners.

The award is normally presented at Readercon, which was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is sponsored by Paul Linebarger’s estate, represented by B. Diane Martin.

The 2020 jury consisted of Barry Malzberg and Robert J. Sawyer. “The jury mourns the passing of its third member, Mike Resnick, who died January 9, 2020,” Malzberg and Sawyer said, adding: “We are actively seeking new jurors with a deep knowledge of science fiction and fantasy history and invite those interested in serving to reach out to sawyer@sfwriter.com.”

Pixel Scroll 6/21/20 It Was Pixellation, I Know, Scrolling You All Alone

(1) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX — ACROSS. Robert Sawyer discovered his book is the first clue in today’s Sunday Mirror (UK) “Quizword and Crossword” puzzle.

(2) GENE WOLFE. Thomas Mirus’The Catholic Culture Podcast devoted a recent episode to “Gene Wolfe, Catholic Sci-Fi Legend”. Sandra Miesel (a three-time Hugo nominated fanwriter in the Seventies) and Fr, Brendon Laroche weigh in.

After much popular demand, Thomas pays tribute to legendary Catholic sci-fi writer Gene Wolfe, who passed away last year. Though not known to the general public, Wolfe is a sci-fi author’s sci-fi author—a number of his contemporaries considered him not only the best in the genre, but in American fiction at the time (Ursula Le Guin said “Wolfe is our Melville”). Among today’s writers, one of his biggest fans is Neil Gaiman.

One critic described Wolfe’s magnum opus, The Book of the New Sun, as “a Star Wars–style space opera penned by G. K. Chesterton in the throes of a religious conversion.”

Wolfe also held the patent on the machine that makes Pringles. That’s his face on the can.

In this episode, Fr. Brendon Laroche comments on Wolfe’s works, while Wolfe’s friend, Catholic historian and sci-fi expert Sandra Miesel, shares personal reminiscences.

(3) THE HALL NINE YARDS. Paul Fraser deconstructs the story choices of “The Science Fiction Hall of Fame volume 1, 1970, edited by Robert Silverberg, part one” It’s a long post filled with fascinatingly salty opinions.

… Already we can see the wheels beginning to come off. Are these stories by Sturgeon, Heinlein, Leiber, and Clarke really the best these writers wrote in the pre-1965 period? Do A Martian Odyssey and Twilight really belong in the same list as Flowers for Algernon or Nightfall?

The selection procedure becomes even more muddled as editor Silverberg bodges his way through the rest of the list: Arthur Clarke’s The Star is in the top fifteen but is bumped by The Nine Billion Names of God; one writer (Bradbury, I assume) has four stories on the original ballot but none in the top twenty, so Silverberg includes Mars is Heaven, “the story that the writer himself wished to see included in the book” (this, rather than the more obvious There Will Come Soft Rains or The Sound of Thunder)3; another writer’s stories “made the second fifteen, one vote apart; but the story with the higher number of votes was not the story that the writer himself wished to see included in the book” (presumably that is why the middling Huddling Place is here rather than the slam-dunk Desertion).

Definitive? I think not, and this will become even more apparent when we look at the stories themselves….

This footnote is a masterpiece of subversion:   

2. The SFWA has, at various times in its history, been as dodgy an electorate as any other—as one can see from the high correlation of peculiar winners to individuals holding office in the organisation (who conveniently had access to the mailing list of members)—and that’s before you factor in the tendency for a group of professionals to engage in “Buggins’ Turn” (see the Wikipedia article).

Let us also not forget that roughly the same set of voters made sure that the 1971 Nebula Award short story result was “No Award” so that none of the “New Wave” nominees would win, a partisan act that led to the mortifying scene where Isaac Asimov announced Gene Wolfe’s The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories as the winner at the Nebula Awards before having to correct himself.

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 21, 1985  — Cocoon premiered. Directed by Ron Howard, it was produced by David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck. The screenplay was written by Tom Benedek off a story by David Saperstein. It starred Don Ameche, Wilford Brimle, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Brian Dennehy, Jack Gilford, Steve Guttenberg, Maureen Stapleton, Gwen Verdon, Herta Ware and Tahnee Welch. Music was by James Horner who did the same for The Wrath of Khan and Avatar. The film was overwhelmingly positively received, did very well at the box office and currently holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of 67%. 

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 21, 1839 – Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis.  Called the greatest writer of Latin America; the greatest black literary figure.  Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas – i.e. written after the grave – has been translated into Catalan, Czech, Dutch, English, Esperanto, French.  Two dozen shorter stories; recent English collections in 2018, 2019.  (Died 1908) [JH]
  • Born June 21, 1882 – Rockwell Kent. “I don’t want petty self-expression,” he said; “I want to paint the rhythm of eternity.”  Illustrated Moby-Dick.  Here is Peace Oath.  Here is a bookplate.  His jazz-age-humorist side was signed “Hogarth, Jr.” in the original Vanity Fair and Life magazines.  Memoirs, This Is My Own and It’s Me, O Lord.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born June 21, 1938 Mary Wickizer Burgess, 81. I noticed sometime back when searching iBooks for genre fiction that there was something called Megapacks showing up more and more such as The 25th Golden Age of Science Fiction MegapackThe Randall Garrett Megapack and The Occult Detective Megapack. They were big, generally around five hundred pages in length, and cheap, mostly around five dollars, but occasionally as little as ninety cents, in digital form! Starting in 1976, Mary and her husband, the now late Robert Reginald founded Borgo Press which has published hundreds in the past forty years. By the turn of the century, they’d already published three hundred Megapacks. I bought them for the purpose of getting as little as one story I wanted to read. (CE)
  • Born June 21, 1938 Ron Ely, 82. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record. (CE)
  • Born June 21, 1944 – Hori Akira.  His Solar Wind Node won the 1980 Nihon SF Taisho Award; Babylonian Wave won the 1989 Seiun.  A dozen shorter stories, translated into English, German, Hungarian; “Open Up” is in Speculative Japan 2 (i.e. in English).  Non-fiction, Two People’s Trip on the SF Road (with Musashi Kanbe).  [JH]
  • Born June 21, 1947 Michael Gross, 73. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well-armed graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (wasn’t that a Niven story?) and voicing a few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters. (CE)
  • Born June 21, 1948 – Sally Syrjala.  Active particularly in the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; edited Tightbeam, Kaymar Award, President 2008-2009.  Elsewhere in fanzines e.g. Lan’s Lantern, LASFAPA (L.A. Scientifiction Fans’ Amateur Press Ass’n), indeed a regular correspondent of Vanamonde.  High school valedictorian.  Chaired the Friends of Cape Cod Museum of Art, trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society.  Her File 770 appreciation is here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born June 21, 1955 – Sue Burke.  Translator (four books so far of Amadís de Gaula), fan, pro.  Recent novels SemiosisInterference; two dozen shorter stories, poems, in Abyss & ApexAsimov’sBeneath Ceaseless SkiesBroad SpectrumClarkesworldInterzoneSlate.  Alicia Gordon Award.  Milwaukee, Austin, Madrid, Chicago.  Her Website is here.
  • Born June 21, 1957 Berkeley Breathed, 63. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is genre as they are fantastic creatures. And he contributed three cartoons to the ConFederation Program Book. (CE)
  • Born June 21, 1964 David Morrissey, 56. His most well known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest of seeing as I don’t do zombies) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m very ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve listened the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. (CE)
  • Born June 21, 1965 Steve Niles, 55. Writer best-known for works such as 30 Days of NightCriminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film. (CE)
  • Born June 21, 1984 – Theresa Hannig.  Steffan Lübbe Prize.  Seraph Prize for The Optimizers; next novel The Imperfect.  Just now a panelist at First Virtual Book Fair of the Saar (19-21 June).  Has been a project manager for solar-power plants.  [JH]

(6) DOUBLE HEADER. Galactic Journey reviews a pair of (1965) Ace Doubles. “[June 20, 1965] Ace Quadruple (June Galactoscope #1)”

[Kris Vyas-Myall and Cora Buhlert team up to cover two of the better Ace Doubles to have come out in a while. Enjoy!]

The Ballad of Beta-2, by Samuel R. Delany, and Alpha, Yes! Terra, no!, by Emil Petaja (Ace Double M-121)

I have generally been disappointed by the Ace Doubles so far this year. Those I have read have seemed to me to be quite old fashioned and I had been wondering if they were going to be heading into a more conservative route with them this year. Thankfully, this new Double I have found has been one of their best…

(7) THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week” is Ambrose Bierce’s “Working for an Empress”. The explanation of how this story came to be is rather involved. Part of it is —

…Captured during the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon III was deposed in September 1870 and lived in exile with the Empress and their entourage at Camden Place, a palatial country house in Kent, until his death in January 1873. James Mortimer, an American who served in France as an imperial private secretary, followed Louis-Napoleon and Eugénie to England and, with their financial support, established the London Figaro, the weekly that hired Bierce to write a column. In the spring of 1874, when Bierce had been in England for two years, Mortimer wrote him with a strange proposal: to edit and write a new publication called The Lantern, which was to be modeled after the seditious French journal published years earlier by Rochefort. Because Mortimer’s patron and friend, the Empress Eugénie, regarded the just-escaped Rochefort as “a menace and a terror,” Bierce was puzzled and discomfited by the offer. But his qualms were mostly overcome when was also told that the new magazine, like its predecessor, should be “irritatingly disrespectful of existing institutions and exalted personages”—a prospect that “delighted” Bierce. Still, the purpose of the new enterprise mystified him.

(8) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. In The Guardian: “Yeast of our worries: Marmite supplies hit by Covid-19 beer brewing slowdown”.

…When asked by a customer why larger 400g squeezy jars were hard to get hold of at the moment, the firm replied: “Due to brewers yeast being in short supply (one of the main ingredients in Marmite) Supplies of Marmite have been affected. As a temporary measure we have stopped production of all sizes apart from our 250g size jar which is available in most major retailers.” 

Brewers slowed and stalled production when pubs were forced to shut in an attempt to slow the Covid-19 pandemic.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/3/20 Listen To The Pixel Sing Sweet Songs To Rock My Scroll

(1) STILL OVERCOMING. Tananarive Due expresses decades of experience in “Can We Live?” in Vanity Fair. Tagline: “The daughter of civil rights activists on the question that’s haunted her for decades.”

… . I was only a little older than Bryant, and sitting in my junior high school cafeteria, when I wrote a poem inspired by police brutality called “I Want to Live.”

I was 14, and neighborhoods in my home city of Miami were burning.

The memory returns, raw and visceral, as I watch footage from the uprisings in Minneapolis and nationwide protesting Floyd’s killing….

… When I was finished, I had tears in my eyes, but the despair in my chest felt soothed. I showed the poem to my mother, and she told me how lucky I was to have writing as an outlet for my emotions. “The people setting those fires feel hopeless,” she said. I’d wanted to be a writer since I was four, but that was the first time I understood that writing might save my life.

Now a new generation is discovering just how devalued their lives are in U.S. society, risking a pandemic and possible police violence to protest in the name of a better society. In their cities they are facing their own baptisms by fire.

But it comes with a cost. After my mother was teargassed at a peaceful march in Tallahassee in 1960, she wore dark glasses even indoors for the rest of her life, complaining about lingering sensitivity to light. “I went to jail so you won’t have to,” she once told me.

If only it were that simple. If only one generation’s sacrifices could have fixed it all….

(2) THAT’S CAT. Camestros Felapton’s latest “Missing moments from movie history” illustrates “George Lucas’s original plans for the Death Star 2…”

(3) PUBLISHERS SUE INTERNET ARCHIVE. Member companies of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Internet Archive (“IA”) in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.“Publishers File Suit Against Internet Archive for Systematic Mass Scanning and Distribution of Literary Works”.

…The suit asks the Court to enjoin IA’s mass scanning, public display, and distribution of entire literary works, which it offers to the public at large through global-facing businesses coined “Open Library” and “National Emergency Library,” accessible at both openlibrary.org and archive.org. IA has brazenly reproduced some 1.3 million bootleg scans of print books, including recent works, commercial fiction and non-fiction, thrillers, and children’s books. 

The plaintiffs—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, John Wiley & Sons and Penguin Random House—publish many of the world’s preeminent authors, including winners of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Newbery Medal, Man Booker Prize, Caldecott Medal and Nobel Prize.

Despite the self-serving library branding of its operations, IA’s conduct bears little resemblance to the trusted role that thousands of American libraries play within their communities and as participants in the lawful copyright marketplace. IA scans books from cover to cover, posts complete digital files to its website, and solicits users to access them for free by signing up for Internet Archive Accounts. The sheer scale of IA’s infringement described in the complaint—and its stated objective to enlarge its illegal trove with abandon—appear to make it one of the largest known book pirate sites in the world. IA publicly reports millions of dollars in revenue each year, including financial schemes that support its infringement design….

The press release follows with more details about the AAP’s side of the argument.

(4) HOP TO IT. “Watership Down Enterprises Wins Case Against Film Producer”: Shelf Awareness has the story.

A court in England has ruled in favor of Watership Down Enterprises, the estate and family of author Richard Adams, in an action brought against producer Martin Rosen, who wrote and directed a 1978 animated film based on the classic novel, Variety reported.

The judgment ordered Rosen and companies controlled by him to pay the estate court costs and an initial payment for damages totaling approximately $95,000 within 28 days for infringing copyright, agreeing to “unauthorized license deals and denying royalty payments,” Variety wrote, adding that additional damages will be assessed at a future hearing.

The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court also terminated the original contract in which motion picture rights for Watership Down were originally granted to Rosen in 1976. In addition, IPEC granted an injunction preventing Rosen and his companies from continuing to license rights to Watership Down, and directed them to give further disclosures of their activities and to destroy infringing materials.

(5) JEAN-LUC OUT FRONT. At TechRepublic, Matthew Heusser extracts “4 leadership lessons from Star Trek: Picard”.

It’s an open secret among Star Trek fans that the Picard character changes. Between the television show, the movies, and now the show that bears his name, Picard changes from  peacemaking collaborative leader to warrior to now something more like a Sherlock Holmes of the 24th century. Instead of a noble hero leading a team, the Picard of the new series, along with the audience at home, is trying to answer some questions, including “What the heck is happening here and what is the next move?”

He doesn’t always make the right one.

Seeing those mistakes, in seeing Picard as a human, allows us to grapple with our own humanity. It’s a different side of Picard from what we saw in the series; instead of perfection, we see a man trying to stay in the game at an age that many would go off to the retirement home. Let’s learn from it, with minimal minor spoilers….

(6) TRACING EARLIEST USE OF SFF IDEAS. The “Timeline of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions”, sorted by publication date, reaches back to 1634. Here’s the beginning of the list:

DateDevice Name (Novel Author)
1634Weightlessness (Kepler) (from Somnium (The Dream) by Johannes Kepler)
1638Weightlessness in Space (from The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin)
1638Gansas (from The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin)
1657Moon Machine – very early description (from A Voyage to the Moon by Cyrano de Bergerac)
1705Cogitator (The Chair of Reflection) (from The Consolidator by Daniel Defoe)
1726Knowledge Engine – machine-made expertise (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1726Geometric Modeling – eighteenth century NURBS (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)
1726Bio-Energy – produce electricity from organic material (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)

(7) IN CRIMES TO COME. CrimeReads’ Drew Murray, in “Scifi Tech Is Here—And Criminals Can (And Will) Use It”, looks at autonomous vehicles and augmented reality and how they will be used in near-future sf novels.

…It [augmented reality] could also be the ultimate tool for a con man. How many times have you run into someone familiar, but you can’t quite place where you know them from? They seem to know you and, not wanting to offend them, you keep talking, hoping it will come to you. What if you’ve never actually seen this person before in your life? What if they’re a hustler, reading everything about you from text floating in the air next to your head, projected in their vision by glasses, or even contact lenses? All that real-time information to establish trust, the primary currency of any con.

(8) ROBERT J. SAWYER. He’s has a successful day drawing attention to his new novel The Oppenheimer Alternative.

… And I didn’t want to tell an alternate history. That is, I didn’t want to say, well, sure, you can gainsay me until this page—the point of divergence—but after that, anything goes. Rather, I decided to tell a secret history: a series of plausible events that were, in themselves, authentic big-ideas hard SF, and have them occur in the lacunae in the public record. I wanted no one to be able to say, “Okay, that was fun, but of course it never happened.”

  • He appeared on Michael Shinabery’s show on KRSY-AM in Alamogordo, New Mexico, yesterday for han hour-long chat [MP3].

The show starts at the 1-minute mark with Benny Goodman’s “The Glory of Love,” which figures in my novel; the outro is the great Tom Lehrer singing his atomic-bomb song, “We’ll All Go Together When We Go.”

  • And he was on CTV Calgary:

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 3, 1950 Dimension X’s “The Embassy” was broadcast. Written by Donald A. Wollheim, this story was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in the March 1942 issue. (Aussiecon One would later give him a Special Hugo for The Fan Who Has Done Everything.)  It was adapted by George Lefferts. The cast was Daniel Ocko, Bryna Raeburn and Norman Rose.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 3, 1905 Norman A. Daniels. Creator of  the Black Bat, a pulp character who debuted the same time as Batman which led to lawsuits over similarities to the latter, and wrote for such series as The Phantom Detective, Doc Savage and The Shadow. He also created the Crimson Mask. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1905 Malcolm Reiss. It’s uncertain if he ever published any genre fiction but he’s an important figure in the history of our community as he edited in the Thirties through the Fifties, Jungle StoriesPlanet StoriesTops in Science Fiction and Two Complete Science-Adventure Books. Fletcher Pratt, Ross Rocklynne, Leigh Brackett and Fredric Brown are but a few of the writers published in those magazines. (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1929 – Brian Lewis.  Ninety covers for New Worlds (here’s one), Science Fantasy (here’s one), Science Fiction Adventures (here’s one), for a few books; sometimes realistic, sometimes surrealistic; fifty interiors; also comics. (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1946 Penelope Wilton, 74. She played the recurring role of Harriet Jones in Doctor Who wherethey actually developed a story for the character. She was also played Homily in The Borrowers, Barbara in Shaun of the Dead, The Queen in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Beatrix Potter in The Tale of Beatrix Potter, The White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass and Gertrude in in Hamlet at the Menier Chocolate Factory. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1949 Michael McQuay. He wrote two novels in Asimov’s Robot City series, Suspicion and Isaac Asimov’s Robot City (with Michael P. Kube-McDowell) and Richter 10 with Arthur C. Clarke. The Mathew Swain sequence neatly blends SF and noir detective tropes – very good popcorn reading. His novelization of Escape from New York is superb. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1950 – Owen Laurion.  Long active in the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation (“N3F”).  Edited The Nat’l Fantasy Fan and later Tightbeam.  Kaymar Award. “The Way It Was” in M. Bastraw ed., Fifty Extremely SF* Stories (none over 50 words).  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1950 Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg credits the line “E.T. phone home” line to her. (She’s Eliot’s school nurse in the film.) She also wrote the screenplays for The Indian in the Cupboard and BFG with the latter being dedicated in her memory. And she wrote the “Kick the Can” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born June 3, 1958 Suzie Plakson, 62. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 56. His most recent genre performance was in the recurring role of Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive role was I think as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him. (CE)
  • Born June 3, 1966 – Kate Forsyth.  Thirty fantasy novels, a dozen shorter stories; collections of fairy tales, of her own poetry; sold a million books.  Bitter Greens interweaves Rapunzel with the 17th- century Frenchwoman who first told the tale, won American Library Association award for historical fiction; doctoral exegesis The Rebirth of Rapunzel won the Atheling Award for criticism.  Five Aurealis Awards.  Her Website is here.  [JH]
  • Born June 3, 1973 – Patrick Rothfuss.  The Wise Man’s Fear N.Y. Times Best-Seller.  Half a dozen shorter stories.  Games, e.g. Acquisitions, Inc. (Penny Arcade).  Charity, Worldbuilders.  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Something’s interfering with TV reception at The Far Side. (A reprint from back when they had antennae.)
  • Bizarro shows it’s hard to escape those family traits.
  • Mother Goose and Grimm warns you to know your car’s features.
  • Frazz shows an unsuccessful example of genre homework.
  • The Argyle Sweater sympathizes with folks who can’t tune out the neighbors.

(12) A DIFFERENT TORCON. Tor Books and Den of Geek have posted the schedule for “TorCon 2020: Stay Home, Geek Out”. Register for items at the link.  

In partnership with Den of Geek, we are proud to announce the launch of TorCon, an all-new virtual convention that brings all the fun of panels directly to the fans. From Thursday, June 11th through Sunday, June 14th, Tor and Tor.com Publishing are presenting eight panels featuring over twenty of your favorite authors across different platforms, in conversation with each other—and with you!

Join authors including Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Nnedi Okorafor, Christopher Paolini, Brandon Sanderson, V. E. Schwab, and many more for four days of pure geekery, exclusive content, sneak peeks, and more…all from the comfort of your own home!

(13) SIGNPOSTS. James Davis Nicoll reaches into his reviews archive for choice titles by black authors. Thread starts here.

(14) INTERSECTION OF SFF AND RELIGION. Since Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light was discussed here recently, Filers may be interested in Victor Gijsbers’ comments on the book. Thread starts here.

(15) NOT THAT FUNNY. This is fromThe Week:

“A man dressed as a medieval knight and carrying a 3-foot-long sword created some concern at a aprk in the U.K., bringing police armed with guns. Lennon Thomas, 20, was confronted by police in Cardiff and ordered to put the weapon down, before he explained that he was simply trying out a costume he uses for his hobby of fantasy roleplaying.  Thomas apologized for a ‘lapse in judgment,’ conceding, ‘Perhaps it was a little stupid of me to bring the sword, as from a distance it does look realistic.’  He added, ‘Life is a lot more fun when you don’t care how weird you are.'”

(16) MOVIN’ OUT. The Harvard Gazette is “Filling gaps in our understanding of how cities began to rise”.

New genetic research from around one of the ancient world’s most important trading hubs offers fresh insights into the movement and interactions of inhabitants of different areas of Western Asia between two major events in human history: the origins of agriculture and the rise of some of the world’s first cities.

The evidence reveals that a high level of mobility led to the spread of ideas and material culture as well as intermingling of peoples in the period before the rise of cities, not the other way around, as previously thought. The findings add to our understanding of exactly how the shift to urbanism took place.

The researchers, made up of an international team of scientists including Harvard Professor Christina Warinner, looked at DNA data from 110 skeletal remains in West Asia from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age, 3,000 to 7,500 years ago. The remains came from archaeological sites in the Anatolia (present-day Turkey); the Northern Levant, which includes countries on the Mediterranean coast such as Israel and Jordan; and countries in the Southern Caucasus, which include present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Based on their analysis, the scientists describe two events, one around 8,500 years ago and the other 4,000 years ago, that point to long-term genetic mixing and gradual population movements in the region.

“Within this geographic scope, you have a number of distinct populations, distinct ideological groups that are interacting quite a lot, and it hasn’t really been clear to what degree people are actually moving or if this is simply just a high-contact area from trade,” said Warinner, assistant professor of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. “Rather than this period being characterized by dramatic migrations or conquest, what we see is the slow mixing of different populations, the slow mixing of ideas, and it’s percolating out of this melting pot that we see the rise of urbanism — the rise of cities.”

(17) LOCKDOWN DEBATE. “Coronavirus: Sweden’s Tegnell admits too many died” – a BBC story.

Sweden’s controversial decision not to impose a strict lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic led to too many deaths, the man behind the policy, Anders Tegnell, has acknowledged.

Sweden has seen a far higher mortality rate than its nearest neighbours and its nationals are being barred from crossing their borders.

Dr Tegnell told Swedish radio more should have been done early on.

“There is quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done.”

Sweden has counted 4,542 deaths and 40,803 infections in a population of 10 million, while Denmark, Norway and Finland have imposed lockdowns and seen far lower rates.

Denmark has seen 580 deaths, Norway has had 237 deaths and Finland 321. Sweden reported a further 74 deaths on Wednesday.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  You could have bought this Thunderbird replica last year.

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Scott Edelman, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Robert J. Sawyer interviewed by Mike Glyer about The Oppenheimer Alternative

By Mike Glyer: Robert J. Sawyer is one of only eight writers — and the only Canadian — to win all three of the top science fiction awards for best novel of the year: the Hugo (Hominids), the Nebula (The Terminal Experiment), and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (Mindscan). He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2016 “for his accomplishments as a science-fiction writer and mentor and for his contributions as a futurist.” Sawyer’s new book The Oppenheimer Alternative will be released June 2 and is available for pre-order now.  

MIKE GLYER: Why this book at this time?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: There are three reasons. First, this is the 75th-anniversary year of the birth of the atomic age: July 16 is the 75th anniversary of the Trinity test; August 6, the bombing of Hiroshima; and August 9, the bombing of Nagasaki.

Science-fiction publishers are notoriously bad about promoting books — one senior editor once told me they literally have no idea how to do that — but I knew, given my track record, that I could get lots of mainstream media attention if my book tied into a major anniversary. I was so convinced of the importance of this that I turned down offers from bigger publishers who wanted The Oppenheimer Alternative but said they couldn’t get it out until 2021 or even later.

Second, enough time has passed for an appropriate reassessment. Everyone I portray in my book is dead except for Oppenheimer’s son Peter, although Freeman Dyson was alive when I finished the book. I sent him an autographed bound galley with my regards, which he received just before he died.

If you do a book today about Ronald Reagan or either Bill or Hillary Clinton or Elon Musk or William Shatner, the partisans descend upon you, but we all can look back now at the cast I used — not just Oppenheimer, but Hans Bethe, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Kurt Gödel, Leslie R. Groves, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Harry Truman, Wernher von Braun, and John von Neumann — with a degree of objectivity.

This sort of historical writing is somewhat akin to the science-fiction process: a scientist conceives of a great idea — Szilard, say, with the nuclear-fission chain reaction or Oppie with black holes — and we extrapolate forward to see what the ramifications of it will turn out to be. The difference is that in historical writing, we know the ramifications by now.

Third, there are profound real-life parallels today. The obvious one is the renewed threat of nuclear annihilation as rogue nations and the White House rattle their sabers. But, more subtly, the development of artificial intelligence — one of my favorite topics in previous books — echoes the Manhattan Project: a bunch of scientists, with virtually no oversight, deciding what is and what is not good for the rest of us.

You know, in 1942, Edward Teller had suggested that a single blast of an atomic bomb might ignite all the hydrogen in the oceans or all the nitrogen in the atmosphere, destroying the world. Hans Bethe said, nah, you’re probably wrong — and so they went ahead and did a test without any public or Congressional discussion of what amount of risk-taking with an extinction-level event was acceptable. Likewise, almost all artificial-intelligence research is done today in deep secret by the military or by corporations, with no one but the scientists themselves deciding if and when to throw a particular switch that might unleash Frankenstein’s monster.

MG: The Oppenheimer Alternative is grounded in your extensive research of the history of physics and atomic weaponry. I recognized some of that history but it was only quite late in the book that I recognized the science fictional departures — the alternate history. Are they present throughout, or is your goal to take readers inside the Manhattan Project as it happened?

SAWYER: The point of departure from what is established fact occurs in chapter 14 out of 57, when Edward Teller and Hans Bethe start arguing about their conflicting solar spectrographs, Bethe’s from 1938, which seems to show the sun undergoing carbon-nitrogen-oxygen-cycle (CNO) fusion, and Teller’s from 1945, which seem to show it undergoing proton-proton fusion.

But I actually don’t call the novel an alternate history; I think of it more as a secret history. None of the events it portrays are contradicted by what we know actually occurred. Instead, I’m filling in the gaps in the record. And gaps there surely are. As I mentioned above, Oppie was responsible for the notion of black holes. As Freeman Dyson wrote:

“As a direct result of Oppenheimer’s work, we now know that black holes have played and are playing a decisive part in the evolution of the universe. He lived for twenty-seven years after the discovery, never spoke about it, and never came back to work on it. Several times, I asked him why he did not come back to it. He never answered my question, but always changed the conversation to some other subject.”

And when Oppie was hauled before a security-review board, Deak Parsons, his second-in-command at Los Alamos really did go ape, declaring, in reference to President Eisenhower:

“I have to put a stop to it. Ike has to know what’s really going on. This is the biggest mistake the United States could make!”

In a bit of bad luck for Parsons — not to mention Oppie! — Parsons keeled over dead the next morning before he got in to see Eisenhower.

Even Oppie himself alluded to something huge going on behind the scenes. He really did say:

“There is a story behind my story. If a reporter digs deep enough he will find that it is a bigger story than my [security-clearance] suspension.”

So I set out to tell that story: the tale of why Oppie never commented publicly again on his astrophysics research, of the truth about what was really going that Parsons took to his grave, of the “bigger story” Oppie referred to.

There’s a thorough discussion of what’s real history and what’s my invention on my website: https://sfwriter.com/ffoa.htm

As you’ll see when you get to the chapter-by-chapter breakdown, the book is about half events we know actually occurred and half ones that are my own plotting.

MG: Many of the scientists whose characters are drawn on your pages died in the Sixties, like Oppenheimer himself, but others remained active for decades, like Hans Bethe, or Freeman Dyson (who I saw speak in 2013). Did you ever meet any of these scientists yourself? If so, how were you able to use those experiences to shape their characterizations in your book?

SAWYER: The only Manhattan Project figure I got to meet was Nobel Prize-winner Luis Alvarez; he graciously spent an afternoon with me at UC Berkeley on September 7, 1983, although my interest then was more in his work on identifying an asteroid as the cause of what we now call the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinctions.

But I’ve enjoyed having long conversations with four other Nobel laureates — Elizabeth Blackburn, Arthur McDonald, Joseph Stiglitz, and Robert W. Wilson — and I drew heavily on those encounters in trying to portray the Nobelists in my novel.

Cover of Canadian edition

Unlike the geeks portrayed on The Big Bang Theory, by and large these were people who were just as interested in the arts as the sciences, who were as happy to talk about their kids or pop culture as about their specialties, and who, although entitled perhaps to some arrogance, were actually all quite humble and nice.

There’s a zen that comes with reaching the pinnacle of your field. Of course, at the beginning of the Manhattan Project, of the physicists who appear in The Oppenheimer Alternative, only Neils Bohr, Arthur Holly Compton, Albert Einstein, and Enrico Fermi already had their Nobels; the ones for Luis Alvarez, Hans Bethe, Patrick Blackett, Richard Feynman, and I.I. Rabi came later.

Naturally, I’d seen Freeman Dyson speak many times on TV, and his son George gave my novel a very nice blurb, but I never got to meet Freeman or the others except Alvarez, although, of course, I’ve read all the biographies and autobiographies, and I’ve been to Los Alamos and the Trinity site.

MG: How should the A-bomb have been used? You show how Leo Szilard, who got Einstein to write to FDR urging the creation of an atomic weapon, circulated a petition calling for a demonstration of the bomb to the Japanese experts, rather start out using it on Japanese cities. The petition was suppressed and the leadership chose to drop the bomb to end the war. My father was a Marine on a troop carrier floating around Okinawa by then, so the idea that this was done in alternative to invading the Home Islands was real to him. Others now write that it was used with the intent to establish a post-war order with America as the only superpower. There are also some who look on its use as the product of an overpowering narrative, like Chekhov’s gun — “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” What’s your take on why it was used?

SAWYER: This is a sensitive issue, and I want to address it with an appropriate degree of respect. Most people think of me as a Canadian writer, but I’m also an American citizen, and I intend no bashing of the US here. Indeed, Canada is culpable, too: the three countries that collaborated on the development of the atomic bomb were the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

So let me start obliquely. I know exactly what I was doing on Sunday night, January 19, 1975: I was watching the first-ever broadcast of the episode “The Last Kamikaze” on The Six Million Dollar Man, written by Judy Burns, perhaps best known for previously having scripted “The Tholian Web” for Star Trek.

In this episode, United States Air Force Colonel Steve Austin, an astronaut and the very symbol of US patriotism, finds a Kamikaze pilot who thinks World War II is still being fought. In trying to explain that the war is over, Steve says this, verbatim — just about the longest speech Lee Majors made in the entire series:

“I’m afraid your Emperor didn’t have much choice. It’s not easy for me to tell you this. The United States invented an atomic bomb, a powerful bomb that could destroy a whole city with one explosion. At the time it seemed the best way to stop the war was to drop the atomic bomb on two Japanese cities. I wish it wasn’t true. Most Americans wish it never happened. But it did. Two Japanese cities were completely destroyed. Many, many people were killed. Your Emperor saw the wisdom of surrender. The fighting stopped September 1945, almost thirty years ago.”

I was fourteen then, and I was floored. Never before had I heard anyone say that most Americans — or Brits or Canadians — regretted using the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remained alert for similar assertions, but it wasn’t until I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s short story “The Lucky Strike,” which was first published in 1984 but I didn’t discover until 1989, that I again heard doubts being raised about the necessity of dropping those bombs.

I don’t gainsay your father’s feelings or experience for one moment, Mike. That the bombs had to be dropped was the line he and everyone else was fed then — and that most people still accept today. But it’s just not true (a) that it was necessary to use the atomic bomb at all, (b) that it was necessary to use it on civilian targets, (c) that the bombings in fact reduced the number of American war dead, and (d) that the bombings even reduced the number of Japanese war dead.

In truth, Japan had been making back-channel overtures to surrender for a year before the atomic bombs were dropped, wanting only one condition: that Emperor Hirohito, whom they considered divine, retain his throne. This seemed reasonable to both Churchill and Roosevelt — after all, there’d have to be some sort of functioning government in Japan after the war. But FDR went off-script in a briefing that was broadcast on radio and called instead for _“unconditional_ surrender.”

Churchill was gobsmacked, but said — as quoted in Richard Rhodes’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb — “Any divergence between us, even by omission, would on such an occasion and at such a time have been damaging or even dangerous to our war effort,” and because of that one slip of the tongue the official demand became unconditional surrender. Well, asking the Japanese to renounce the emperor in 1945 wouldn’t be much different from demanding the US renounce Jesus then if America had been the country needing to surrender — a complete non-starter.

On the day of the Trinity test, July 16, 1945, General Leslie R. Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, said — his own words as he reported them in his autobiography, Now It Can Be Told — in response to someone declaring the war was now over, “Yes, after we drop two bombs on Japan.”

Two bombs. He was hell-bent on testing both of their two competing bomb designs — the straightforward gun-type “Little Boy” and the complex implosion “Fat Man” — on civilian populations. At Groves’s request, a few Japanese cities had been spared the firebombing that had already ravaged Tokyo and other places precisely so that they could be used as pristine testbeds for atomic explosions.

Indeed, Groves was so afraid that he wouldn’t be get to test the second bomb design on Japan that he rushed the bombing of Nagasaki. He had it occur just three days after the Enola Gay bombed Hiroshima, even though word of what had happened in that city was only just reaching the Tokyo government, because thunderstorms were forecast for the subsequent few days. He knew that if he waited, the Japanese might surrender before he got to drop a Fat Man on the planned target of Kokura; it was only because of overcast skies there that Bockscar actually dropped its atomic bomb on Nagasaki instead.

Of course, once both bombs were dropped, we of the Allied powers happily accepted surrender and freely gave Japan the one condition it had always wanted: Hirohito the divine retained his throne until his death forty-four years later in 1989.

This topic always engenders a lot of heat, and a lot of people — including my US publisher, Shahid Mahmud — have gone back and forth with me over the issue. To at least give people a current overview of the topic, rather than what they might have learned in history class decades ago, I’ve put up a sourced discussion of this on my website: https://sfwriter.com/suoa.htm

Okay, enough preamble; let me answer your questions directly, Mike. In the first place, the atomic bomb never should have been built at all. I’ve read the Farm Hall transcripts made of secret recordings of Werner Heisenberg and others after the war, and it’s clear that Germany was nowhere near having, and really not seriously trying to develop, an atomic bomb.

Indeed, I’m in the camp — although this is certainly debatable — that believe Heisenberg, a German patriot but one who couldn’t stomach what Hitler was doing, threw the game and made sure the Fatherland would never develop an atomic bomb for that madman to use.

Second, Leo Szilard was right: if you had to show the world you had such a bomb, either as a deterrent or to explain to the taxpayers what you’d spent two billion 1945 dollars on, all you needed to do was invite Japanese observers and journalists to a remote site, set off the bomb there, and let people see what it could do.

The only reason I can see that this approach was unacceptable to Groves, who scuttled Szilard’s petition supporting this idea, was that he and others didn’t want the Soviets — the real audience — to know just that the US had a hugely powerful new weapon but also to have them know that the US had the balls to actually use it against civilian populations. No safe demonstration would have conveyed that message, and Truman, who by this time had succeeded FDR, delusionally believed that the Russians would “never” — his word — get the atomic bomb, so he felt there was no need to worry about them ever doing the same thing to the West.

So, I’m with Steve Austin from all those years ago: I wish it had never happened.

MG: Science fiction written in the Thirties contemporaneously with the period where your novel begins tended to be populated by altruistic superscientists — thinking for example of E.E. Smith’s Skylark series, and John W. Campbell Jr.’s stories about Arcot, Wade and Morey. Growing acceptance of scientific leadership on the issues of the day was once considered part of sf’s mission. But no matter what problem they’re working on, creating the atomic bomb or saving the human race from the calamity posed in your novel, your characters are utterly human, with questions never far from their minds like: Who gets the prizes? Who gets the good jobs? Who gets to work on the most interesting topics? Can sf readers handle the truth?

SAWYER: Excellent question. Science fiction, as a field, long held these truths to be self-evident: all scientific knowledge is worth having; government oversight is an impediment to progress — only those supercompetent Heinleinian lone wolves (read: we science-fiction fans) have the moxy to propel us into the future; and as long as our side is the one with the superior firepower, we’ll only use it virtuously. But all three of those are demonstrably hogwash.

Scientists are as human and as fallible as anyone else; they have — as Oppie contended throughout his life — no special moral insight; and most are, like people in any profession, careerists and opportunists trying to build reputations, make money, and get ahead.

One of my favorite bits in The Oppenheimer Alternative, wholly fictitious as far as I know, has Oppie, who was the manager of a team of Nobel laureates but never won the prize himself, getting to hold I.I. Rabi’s Nobel Prize: “Oppie rubbed the medal between thumb and forefinger, an atom or two of gold transferring to him, a few molecules from his body making a new home on the disk. Soon, he hoped; soon.” That sort of ambition is real, driving, and often blinds one to reality.

Can science-fiction readers handle the truth? I hope so. The ideal of the scientist as unbiased, rational truthseeker, as a Godlike beneficence, as an infallible oracle is simply not supportable. One of the great joys of reading — and writing — sf is getting inside the heads of realistic scientists and seeing the myriad conscious and subconscious forces that color their perceptions.

MG: Sf has become a more skeptical genre, more interested in mythmaking than science. What kind of stories would you like to see more of? And are there people you could point to already working in those areas?

SAWYER: I mentioned my friend Kim Stanley Robinson earlier. He and I do seem to be part of the very small group still left whose members generally write optimistic science fiction; the days of Clarke and Asimov and their mostly sunny futures are long behind us. But it’ll be interesting to see how the field morphs after the COVID–19 pandemic: all those dystopian visions perhaps don’t seem nearly as entertaining as they did before.

Science fiction never predicts the future, but collectively, on any given topic, it should predict a smorgasbord of possible futures — and I firmly believe that, unless we put some positive scenarios on the table, the negative ones will become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Despite what I said earlier, for instance, I don’t think that artificial intelligence will necessarily be our downfall, although that was what almost all written and media sf was telling us, and so I wrote my WWW trilogy of Wake, Watch, and Wonder to add a win-win scenario to the discourse on the topic.

But finding similarly good-hearted, upbeat books is hard; cynicism is often presented as if it were a de facto measure of both literary worth and personal maturity. I recently went back and read a bunch of James White’s Sector General hospital-in-space books because I needed a dose of that good old-fashioned the-future-will-be-a-better-place science fiction.

Robert J. Sawyer. Photo by Carolyn Clink.

MG: What projects do you have in the works?

SAWYER: I’ve been lucky, as genre authors go. A lot of foreign-language popularity, some good Hollywood deals, and so on, have left me with the luxury of taking my time with books now. It’s been four years since my last novel, Quantum Night, and I’m only very slowly gearing up to write my next (which will be my 25th).

As always, I start with research, research, and more research. I have a vague notion for a novel about the future relationship between people and artificial intelligences, and I’ve been doing background reading related to that for months now — but I haven’t written a word of the novel yet.

I usually start with a topic, develop a theme, create characters that will let me explore the multiple facets of that theme, and only then work out a plot. At this point, I’m still developing my theme — the fundamental thing I want to say. As the old fanzine writers would have put it, I’m thisclose to having pinned it down, though.

I also just wrote a pilot script based on my 1997 novel Illegal Alien and I’ve got some nice Tinsel Town interest in doing a TV version of that book. And I’m in negotiations to do an original project for Audible. But, most of all, I’m just reading and thinking … and seeing where my curiosity leads me next.

Pixel Scroll 11/21/19 Because The Scroll Belongs To Pixels

(1) CHENGDU ROLLS OUT THE RED CARPET. An international array of visiting writers and Worldcon runners will attend the 5th China (Chengdu) International Science Fiction Conference this weekend.

China Daily previewed the event in an English-language article “Sci-fi conference to be held in Chengdu”.

…The guests are from 14 countries and regions, and over 40 events will be organized during the three-day conference.

…Chengdu, the capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province which is best known as the home of pandas, is the cradle of “Science Fiction World,” China’s most popular sci-fi periodical.

Founded 40 years ago, the magazine has cultivated a large number of well-known sci-fi figures including Han Song, Wang Jinkang and Hugo Award-winner Liu Cixin.

Chengdu has made great efforts in recent years to develop the sci-fi culture industry and build itself into China’s science fiction town. It has put in a formal bid to host the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in 2023.

Chengdu’s bid is competing with two other bids Nice, France, and Memphis, TN.

A partial list of the international writers and conrunners who are in Chengdu includes CoNZealand (2020) co-chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates, DisCon III (2021) co-chairs Colette Fozard and William Lawhorn, Chicago in 2022 bid co-chairs Dave McCarty, Helen Montgomery, plus Crystal Huff, Pablo M.A Vazquez, Ben Yalow, Derek Künsken, Mimi Mondal, Robert J. Sawyer, and Francesco Verso.

Pablo M.A Vazquez is a winner of the Shimmer Program’s Two-Way Exchange Fund, chaired the 2017 NASFiC, and will co-chair of the 2020 Corflu.

Some of the guests and visitors were also part of the group photo below taken at the China Science Fiction Conference two weeks ago (November 2-3) in Beijing, China. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal is at center, with Vazquez on the left, and Vincent Docherty (co-chair 1995 and 2005 Worldcons) to the right.

(2) ILM INNOVATION. Slashfilm fires the imagination with its description of a new visual media tech: “How Lucasfilm’s New ‘Stagecraft’ Tech Brought ‘The Mandalorian’ to Life and May Change the Future of TV”

… Kennedy adds an interesting little tidbit about the material used to create the screen:

“But I’m going to add one other thing that I didn’t know anything about this and it’s an interesting little tidbit. You have to grow the crystals for these screens. Who knew? You have to wait five years for the crystals to grow. And the crystals means a limited number of screens. Not only do you have to grow them but if you have volume, it’s important that you have the same bunch of LCD screens so that all the crystals are growing together. And then, how they refract the light, then they go into a whole pass on the ground crystals to then curate which ones are refracting the light in the same way so Its quite a process.”

So now the soundstage, a performance capture volume like the one James Cameron used on the Avatar films, is wrapped with these very high-resolution LED screens that present footage either shot on location or “in combination with CG environments.” Brennan explains further:

“And we’re able to have the perspective with cameras, but that means that you can change from Iceland to the desert in one [minute] from setup to setup so it really changes the flow of production. I think it also helps because actors are not in a sea of green. They’re actually seeing the environments that they’re in. And you add to that, after the puppetry and they’ve got characters to perform against in the environments that they are in and I think it does change.”

(3) BEST SFF. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar pick “The best science fiction and fantasy of 2019” for Washington Post readers. They make a wide, international sweep.

Silvia: I like mosaic novels so it’s no wonder I thought “Automatic Eve” by Rokuro Inui was cool, but it also had a Phillip K. Dick meets steampunk Japan vibe that is hard to miss. The other science fiction novel I recommend is Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s “We Cast a Shadow,” in which a black lawyer wants his son to undergo an expensive procedure that will render him white. It’s a near-future, socially charged and pretty impressive debut.

(4) TOP OF THE DECADE. And Paste Magazine figures with only a month to go it’s safe to call these titles “The 30 Best Fantasy Novels of the 2010s”. I’ve actually read four of them – yay me!

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015)

The first book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy introduces a stunning world in the midst of an apocalyptic event. To avoid major spoilers, let’s just say that The Fifth Season is brimming with gloriously intense family drama and includes one of the most phenomenal magic systems ever created. It also boasts a complex protagonist who is a mother, gifting us with one of the most formidable and fascinating characters of the 21st century. Jemisin made history by winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in the row for this trilogy, cementing her status as an essential voice in fantasy literature. But critical success aside, simply diving into her luminous prose will be enough for you to discern why she’s such a brilliant, must-read author. —Frannie Jackson

 (5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 21, 1942 — “Tweety Bird” debuted.
  • November 21, 1969 — First ARPANET link put into service.  

ARPANET was an early computer network developed by J.C.R. Licklider, Robert Taylor, and other researchers for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It connected a computer at UCLA with a computer at the Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, CA. In 1973, the government commissioned Vinton Cerf and Robert E. Kahn to create a national computer network for military, governmental, and institutional use. The network used packet-switching, flow-control, and fault-tolerance techniques developed by ARPANET. Historians consider this worldwide network to be the origin of the Internet.

  • November 21, 1973 — The Michael Crichton scripted Westworld premiered. Starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, critics gave it mixed reviews but it has an 86% rating among watchers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 21, 2012 — The animated Rise Of The Guardians enjoyed its premiere.  The feature starred the talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Isla Fisher. Based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood series, it really bombed. However the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is very healthy 80%. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien, 95. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR and his father invited him  to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. I’ll leave to this group to discuss their merit as I’ve got mixed feelings on them.
  • Born November 21, 1937 Ingrid Pitt. Actor from Poland who emigrated to the UK who is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the true version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s Underworld, Dominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 21, 1941 Ellen Asher, 78. Editor who introduced many fans to their favorites, as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award and an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. In 2009, she was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Worldcon in 2011.
  • Born November 21, 1942 Jane Frank, 77. Art collector along with her husband quite beyond belief. Really. Together they put compiled a legendary collection of genre artwork, The Frank Collection, that has won awards. She is the author of numerous articles on illustration art, artists and collecting, and the book The Art of Richard Powers which was nominated for a Hugo, The Art of John Berkey, and The Frank Collection.
  • Born November 21, 1944 Harold Ramis. Actor, Writer, and Producer, best-known to genre fans for his role as Egon Spengler in the Saturn-winning, Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Ghostbusters and its lesser sibling Ghostbusters II (the scripts for both of which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd). He had voice roles in Heavy Metal and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and a cameo in Groundhog Day, for which he received Saturn nominations for writing and directing. He was also director and producer of Multiplicity. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 74. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1946 Tom Veal, 73. He’s a con-running fan who chaired Chicon 2000. He was a member of the Seattle in 1981 Worldcon bid committee. He chaired Windycon X.  In 2016 he married fellow fan Becky Thomson. And he wrote the “1995 Moskva 1995: Igor’s Campaign“ which was published in  Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons as edited by Mike Resnick.
  • Born November 21, 1950 Evelyn C. Leeper, 69. Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,041. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon.
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 66. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog.
  • Born November 21, 1965 Björk, 54. Who bears the lovely full name of Björk Guðmundsdóttir. I like Icelandic. And I’ve got boots of her band somewhere here I think. She’s here for The Juniper Tree which is a 1990 Icelandic film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene which is based  on “The Juniper Tree” tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm. She’s one of five performers in it. Oh, and because her last album Utopia explored that concept even using cryptocurrency as part of the purchase process.

(7) ZOMBIES APPERTAIN THEIR FAVORITE BEVERAGE. [Item by Errolwi.] Complaints about a “terrifying to children” TV ad for New Zealand soft drink L&P have been rejected by the NZ advertising watchdog. Stuff has the story — “‘Frightening’ L&P zombie ad attracts 40 complaints from viewers”.

Coca-Cola Amatil, which produces the beverage, said the ad was a light-hearted parody of “zom-com” or “zomedy” movies such as Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies

…The Advertising Standards Authority dismissed the complaints, saying that while the ad may be distasteful to some viewers, it did not reach the threshold to be considered likely to cause harm or serious offence.

It noted that since receiving the complaints, the advertiser had decided to reschedule the ad to be screened after 7pm.

(8) BEWARE THIS SORT OF SPOILER. Whoops, too late. SYFY Wire insists: “Worry you must not! Yoda Baby merchandise will be coming in time for Christmas”.

We still don’t know what the titular hero of The Mandalorian is going to do with the little “asset” that he found in the first live-action Star Wars series, but it is more than clear that the real world wants a piece of it. Everyone wants merchandise for the “Yoda Baby,” and there’s good news on the horizon. 

Disney and Lucasfilm purposely held back this bit of salesmanship to avoid spoilers, but that starship has flown. CNBC reports that all kinds of toys and apparel based on the character will be out in time for the holidays. 

(9) IN WIRED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The December WIRED has three articles on Star Wars that I thought were interesting. These are:

  • Angela Watercutter interviews cosplayers who enjoy cosplaying Rey because her costume is relatively simple and because she is the first female character in Star Wars to wield a lightsaber: “Everybody Loves Rey, a Star Wars Story”.

Annamarie McIntosh is coming undone. People in comic-book tees are rushing past her, lit up by too-bright fluorescents. She’s surrounded by massive signs with corporate logos, from Nintendo to DC Comics. The cavernous hall is 460,000 square feet, and McIntosh is taking up about three of them, trying to cinch the beige bandages wrapped around her arms. “We’re having issues here,” she says, with an exasperated giggle. “It’s been falling down all day.” With an assist by her mom, the 17-year-old finally twists and tucks her costume into place. All things considered, the fix is easy. It’s 2019’s Comic-Con International, and compared to the wizards and warlocks and Wonder Women crowding the floor, the outfit of the Jedi Rey is plain, simple. Sensible.

  • Adam Rogers undertakes “A Journey to Galaxy’s Edge, the Nerdiet Place on Earth” — and discusses how the park is a form of storytelling.  He says that cosplaying in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is banned, although “I saw a few women cosplaying on the down low, hair done weird, rocking galactically appropriate boots.” This graf of Rogers is news to me:

Eventually, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will open. That’s a two-day stay adjacent to the Orlando park in a hotel designed to look like a Star Wars spaceship, a luxury liner called the Halcyon.  The windows will somehow look out onto space; families will get tours of the bridge, and ‘port day’ will connect to Galaxy’s Edge.  Apparently even the hotel building ill be bermed off from arriving guests–all they’ll see is the ‘terminal’ where they board a shuttle to the Halcyon in orbit above.

The biggest battle in Star Wars is between its mythic arcs—the heroes’ journeys—and its political stories. Padmé fell on the political side so squarely that the prequel trilogy expended significant visual and narrative energy trying to drag her toward the mythic, where Anakin Skywalker was waiting.

She never got there. Her realm was that of the negotiation and the vote, and nothing was able to bring her into line with the adventure and the myth.

(10) KIWI IN TRAINING. Stephen Colbert has spent the week masquerading as The Newest Zealander. I don’t think any WorldCon venues are in shot, but parts are right next to Museum of NZ.

Prominent New Zealand celebrities Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”) and Bret McKenzie (“Flight of the Conchords”) show Stephen around the town of Wellington and offer him tips on how to blend in as a local.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, Tom Boswell-Healey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]