Pixel Scroll 9/25/21 What We Do With A Pixel Scroll Gives Everyone A Start

(1) Q&A WITH POLISH SFF WRITER. Bence Pintér’s interview with Polish sci-fi author Jacek Dukaj is available in English at Spekulatív Zóna: “Q&A with Jacek Dukaj”.

The most recently translated work from you is The Old Axolotl. This book is unique in a lot of ways. What inspired you to write it, and why did you released it only in e-book form initially?

Lately I find I need some additional push to complete a story – to write for publication, not just for my own satisfaction. In this case it was the literary project and PR campaign of Allegro (sort of Polish eBay). You could say they had commissioned „The Old Axolotl”. They didn’t set any limits for a theme or style (I wouldn’t have agreed to such a deal). But it was an opportunity to explore new features of electronic books (as they appeared to us back then).

I’m always up for pioneer projects. If something looks very risky or impossibly hard, my first reaction is to try and do it.

The book was adapted by Netflix, but the series Into the Night only used the premise of the story. How do you feel about this adaptation?

I wonder if “adaptation” is the right word. It would be more fair to say that Into the Night was based on the same idea as the one which gave birth to The Old Axolotl. The story, the characters – they are all different. Jason George, the showrunner of Into the Night, is the sole author of the screenplay.

I’m happy people seem to like it. It’s rather small budget production, yet it became much more popular globally than other non-English series of similar budget. Into the Night punches above its weight, so to speak.

(2) BEBOP BEGINNING. Variety sets up the video: “’Cowboy Bebop’: Opening Credits Debut for Netflix Adaptation”.

…The opening credits are so iconic that, rather than release a trailer to promote its upcoming live-action adaptation of “Cowboy Bebop,” Netflix elected to debut the full opening credits for the show during its Tudum global fan event on Saturday….

(3) STEELY FAN. Tablet Magazine’s Paul Grimstad holds “A Conversation With Donald Fagen”, which has a section on the musician’s love of sf, of which this excerpt is about half —

A tune like “Pretzel Logic” has a pretty elliptical story going on, and speaking of science fiction!

Well, yeah, that was kind of a time-travel thing.

It’s funny when the person who greets the narrator in the future, says, “Where did you get those shoes?” like the fashion between the two times is completely out of whack.

That actually fills in the link between black humor and science fiction, because the science fiction novels I liked the most were funny in that way. I think my favorites included that kind of humor. Like Frederick Pohl and his partner Cyril Kornbluth, who wrote these really satirical novels.

The Space Merchants was recently reissued in the Library of America Series …

Oh really? I remember reading that one when I was a kid.

Another guy from that era who I think of as funny is Alfred Bester.

Another one of my favorites. He was an ad man, so it’s got this very New York, Madison Avenue feel, the Mad Men type of thing, but making fun of it.

(4) NASA’S FIRST WOMAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has released issue 1 of First Woman—a downloadable, interactive (augmented reality), graphic novel telling the (to date) fictional story of the first woman (and first person of color) to walk on the Moon. It’s also available as an audio story. A Spanish-language version of (at least) the first issue of the comic is also planned. The comic is available for iOS & Android platforms. “NASA Releases Interactive Graphic Novel ‘First Woman’”.

NASA released its first digital, interactive graphic novel on Saturday in celebration of National Comic Book Day. “First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity imagines the story of Callie Rodriguez, the first woman to explore the Moon.

While Callie’s story is fictional, the first woman and the first person of color will walk on the Moon, achieving these historic milestones as part of NASA’s Artemis missions. Through this graphic novel, NASA aims to inspire the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation.

Download, read, and interact with “First Woman” or listen to the audio version exclusively on NASA’s SoundCloud.

…The 40-page comic book highlights NASA technologies for traveling to, landing on, and exploring the Moon. The digital format comes to life, letting readers engage and interact through augmented reality elements using the First Woman website or their mobile devices.

To learn more about the graphic novel and interactive experiences, visit: Calliefirst

(5) FULL COURT PRESS. The New York Times has more coverage of the legal issues between Steve Ditko’s heirs and Disney, which has sued to keep them from regaining their share of the rights to some well-known Marvel characters: “Disney Sues to Keep Complete Rights to Marvel Characters”.

The reclamation attempts stem from a provision of copyright law that, under certain conditions, allows authors or their heirs to regain ownership of a product after a given number of years. Such efforts turn on whether authors worked as hired hands or produced the material on their own and then sold it to publishers. The Copyright Revision Act of 1976, which opened the door to termination attempts, bans termination for people who delivered work at the “instance and expense” of an employer.

“Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect,” Mr. Petrocelli said by phone. (Mr. Petrocelli is also representing Disney in its legal fight with Scarlett Johansson, who sued the company in July over pay connected to ticket sales for “Black Widow.”)

For instance, Disney’s complaint against Mr. Lieber contends that “Marvel assigned Lieber stories to write, had the right to exercise control over Lieber’s contributions and paid Lieber a per-page rate for his contributions.” Those conditions render his contributions “work made for hire, to which the Copyright Act’s provisions do not apply,” according to the complaint.

Mr. Toberoff sharply disagrees. “At the time all these characters were created, their material was definitely not ‘work made for hire’ under the law,” he said in an email in response to Disney’s filings. “These guys were all freelancers or independent contractors, working piecemeal for car fare out of their basements.” Hence, not “traditional, full-time employees,” he said.

“At the core of these cases is an anachronistic and highly criticized interpretation of ‘work-made-for-hire,’” Mr. Toberoff said in a separate email, adding that the interpretation “needs to be rectified.”

(6) FINAL TALLY. Robert Kroese declared the first BasedCon “a tremendous success. We had nearly 70 attendees and a phenomenal group of authors and presenters. People came from as far away as Oregon, California, Texas, and New Hampshire.” He wants to run another in 2022.

(7) JUST LIKE THE 770 COMMENTS SECTION! [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] This is a very funny online-only thing Seth Meyers does at the end of every week, reading letters from the viewers at home (the jackals) about the various errors from the week before. This week, he addresses his former nemesis, the jackal/knitter Patti Lyons. It’s cued up to that:

Seth Meyers takes a moment to address some of the errors from this week of Late Night, like accidentally saying “on accident” instead of “by accident” and pronouncing “turnpike” as “turnbike.”

This closing speech is not genre in content (other than the knitting), but is so genre in form that it just isn’t funny. Except it is. Very.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1987 – Thirty-four years ago, The Princess Bride premiered. It was directed by Rob Reiner who co-produced it along with Andrew Scheinman. It was adapted by William Goldman from his novel of the same name. It had amazing cast of Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Robin Wright, Peter Falk, Fred Savage and Billy Crystal. It would win a Hugo at Nolacon II. Reception for it was great with every major critic loving it and many praising its sweetness. It currently holds a ninety-four rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. Mind you it was a modest box office success just earning back what it cost to produce. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 — Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Who here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 — Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such for his Every Thing On It collection and a handful of a apt named poems, and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and will also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. So what do you think is genre? (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1946 — Felicity Kendal, 75. She plays Lady Clemency Eddison in the the Tenth Doctor story, “The Unicorn and The Wasp”, one of my favorite Who tales. She recently played Baroness Ortsey in the new Pennyworth series. And though it’s definitely really not genre, I’m noting her role in Shakespeare-Wallah, story of a family troupe of English actors in India, just because it’s a fascinating story.
  • Born September 25, 1951 — Mark Hamill, 70. OK, I’ll confess that my favourite role of his is that he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even been doing on other such series as well. Pure comic evilness! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy. 
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displayed those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1961 — Heather Locklear, 60. Her first genre role was Victoria ‘Vicky’ Tomlinson McGee in Stephen King’s Firestarter followed by being Abby Arcane in The Return of Swamp Thing. She was also Dusty Tails in Looney Tunes: Back in Action. She’s had one-offs in Tales of the Unexpected, Fantasy IslandMuppets Tonight and she voiced Lisa Clarkson in the “Prophecy of Doom” episode on Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born September 25, 1964 — Maria Doyle Kennedy, 57. She was Siobhán Sadler in Orphan Black, and currently is Jocasta Cameron in Outlander. She’s been cast as Illa in now being filmed The Wheel of Time series.
  • Born September 25, 1968 — Will Smith, 53, Despite the stinker that were Wild Wild West and later Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin.

(11) THE SIGN OF THE Z. Screen Rant says you can trace the influence on Batman’s creators to a 1920s Zorro movie, and it didn’t stop there. The connection plays an major role in a current DC Comics’ crossover event, “Joker War.” — “Batman: How Zorro Created The Dark Knight”.

…It wasn’t until the legendary Frank Miller decided to give a nod to Kane and Finger in The Dark Knight Returns #1 that The Mark of Zorro is established. Miller cites the 1940 Tyrone Power adaptation, which was actually released after Batman’s creation, but the precedent was set. In Todd Phillips’ Joker film, 1981’s Zorro, the Gay Blade is the movie referenced. Whichever adaptation a creator chooses, Zorro and Batman’s histories are inextricably intertwined, which explains why Bruce’s archenemy decides to use the film against him….

(12) CASSANDRA PETERSON (ELVIRA) INTERVIEWED ABOUT COMING OUT AS GAY. Cassandra Peterson gave her first interview since she came out about her 19 year relationship to The Tamron Hall Show.

The woman behind the iconic character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Cassandra Peterson exclusively sits down for the first interview since revealing a 19-year relationship with a woman. The undisputed Queen of Halloween reveals her full story in a new book titled, “Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark,” and joins our show to talk about it. From her roots in Kansas to coming out, Elvira gets real about her journey to become the world’s sexiest, sassiest Halloween icon.

(13) GO FAST, TURN UP! [Item by Jeff Warner.] Being an auto racing fan as well as a SF Geek, this caught my attention. “NASA astronaut captures Indianapolis from space station” in the Indy Star.

Indianapolis is, once again, piquing the interest of astronauts in space.

NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough has been regularly sharing “out of this world” views from the International Space Station on Twitter, including stunning views of the French Riviera, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano and the Las Vegas Strip. 

Indianapolis joined the ranks with clear views of White River, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis International Airport. If you zoom into the center, you can see Lucas Oil Stadium, too.

(14) JEOPARDY! A contestant on last night’s episode of Jeopardy! went astray. Andrew Porter  took notes.

Category: Novels

Answer: “I was no longer a master, but an animal among the animals, under the Martian heel.”

Wrong question: “What is Slaughterhouse 5?”

Correct question: “What is ‘War of the Worlds?'”

(15) SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] There is a disturbance in the Force.  The Senators from the Old Republic are alarmed.  But can they trust…The Parliamentarian? The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri declares, “The Senate Mandalorian — I mean, Parliamentarian — is our only hope”.

The twin suns set over the Senate chambers, and the leadership sighed. The legislative nights were long and cold on this desert planet where no compromise had flourished for a long time, just banthas and the partisan Rancor.

“We have important legislation containing lots of policy priorities we have got to get through,” Grief Schuuma, leader of the Narrow Majority, said. “But there is just no way we can do it using regular order.”

“Well, we could,” a voice murmured from the corner, cloaked in shadow, “if we were willing to sacrifice the filibuster.”…

(16) ZINE SCENE. Mlex sent a link to the Autumn Equinox issue of his zine Zapf Punkt. Read the synopsis and you’ll know why!

In this issue, we investigate the radical art collective Zero Dimension, the electric guitar boom in Japan, and the dropout culture that threatened to overrun traditional society with folk music, glue-sniffers, surrealism, violence, pornography, pills, gender-confusion, interplanetary war, and the worst of all possible dooms: disorder.

By the late 1960s, this agitated social crisis briefly intersected with a manufactured music scene called Group Sounds. We listened to many hours of cheesy pop music to find the cherry bombs and make our own favorite freakbeat selection. Here’s our group sounds playlist, the official soundtrack of ZP 11.

This issue also features an edited transcript of our interview with Daniel Joseph, which originally appeared on Diamond Bay Radio in May. Daniel provides the biographical background for Izumi Suzuki’s Terminal Boredom, and we discuss her writing style, the modes and themes that appeared in her work, and how revolutionary it was at the time.

Join us for the meta-textual knock-out that Suzuki delivered to Japanese science fiction literature, before her decline into depression and suicide in 1986.

A pictorial glimpse of popular science fiction culture from around 1970 in Japan wraps up the issue.

(17) THINGS TO COME. The Orville: New Horizons arrives March 10, 2022.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bence Pintér, Jeff Warner, Darrah Chavey, Mlex, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/21 Please Pixel Carefully As Our Menu Scrolls Have Recently Changed

(1) WHAT ELSE BELONGS ON THAT SHELF? At Kalimac’s corner, blogger DB answers “if Tolkien is …”

A recent conversation presented me with a chance to answer the question, “If Tolkien is my favorite fantasy author, who are my other favorites?”

To answer this, I’m going to have to turn back to a long-ago time, before recent fantasy giants like Martin and Pratchett, before even Donaldson and Brooks, not quite before the Ballantine Unicorn’s Head series but before I was aware of it, and report on my perplexity at the recommendations I was getting from friends and helpful librarians for “things like Tolkien” to read after him. They were sword-and-sorcery authors like Robert E. Howard, and the likes of comic-book superheroes. I tried these things, but I was not even remotely attracted to them. I could see the superficial resemblance – battles involving mighty heroes, often in a semi-barbarian pseudo-medieval landscape – but that’s not what Tolkien was about, or what he was like. They were badly written, crudely plotted, and their heroes were all like Boromir. The likes of Frodo and Sam didn’t even exist there. They only had the crude surface resemblance, and not what I went to Tolkien for: his soul, his depth of creativity, his sense of morality. I quickly learned that surface resemblance has nothing to do with what makes Tolkien distinctive or worthwhile. That inoculated me against falling for all the Tolclones to come just because they were Tolclones, as so many did (and the Jackson movies are Tolclones in that respect).

What gave Tolkien quality I learned when I read the original Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin. These books were not very like Tolkien in surface appearance, but they had the depth of creative impulse, and a sure sense of moral imperative. Le Guin’s moral principles were different from Tolkien’s, but they were consistent, and morally defensible, and above all they were palpable. That’s what taught me that a coherent moral vision was what made for a real resemblance to Tolkien….

(2) CAPTAIN JACK. “John Barrowman gives his side of the story after tales of his naked antics on TV sets re-emerged” in a Daily Mail interview. He seeks to justify or mitigate several reports of his past on-set behavior, the details of which come after this excerpt.  

…Then a couple of months ago the sky fell in. Following accusations of sexual harassment against Noel Clarke, who played Mickey Smith – the boyfriend of Billie Piper’s character Rose – in Doctor Who from 2005 until 2010, historic footage emerged on YouTube of a sci-fi convention, Chicago Tardis, in 2014, released by The Guardian newspaper which had investigated Clarke’s behaviour on the Doctor Who set. 

In an interview in front of a live audience, Clarke is seen regaling fellow cast members Annette Badland and Camille Coduri with tales of John’s behaviour on the set of Doctor Who, exposing himself ‘every five seconds’. Clarke then jokes with the audience not to do this at their workplace or they might go to prison.

The allegations levelled against Clarke are extremely serious. At least 20 women have come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment and bullying, ‘inappropriate touching and groping’ and secretly filming naked auditions before sharing the videos without consent. 

He denies all the allegations, but BAFTA has since suspended the Outstanding Contribution award it bestowed on him just weeks earlier, and the BBC has shelved any future projects he was working on with them.

Now John’s behaviour on the sets of both Doctor Who and Torchwood has come under scrutiny once again. The furore has led to a video of Captain Jack Harkness being expunged from the current immersive Doctor Who theatre show Time Fracture, a planned Torchwood audio production featuring John and former Doctor Who lead David Tennant being scrapped and doubt about whether he will be invited back to the Dancing On Ice panel. 

…  ‘The moment has come to set the record straight,’ he says from the Palm Springs, California, home he shares with his husband Scott Gill. ‘This is the first time – and the last – I will address this subject. And then I plan to draw a thick black line under it.’…

(3) FOR SOME OF YOU, BEWARE SPOILERS. In an appearance on The Tonight Show, Mark Hamill talks about voicing Skeletor in the He-Man continuation Masters of the Universe: Revelation and how he pulled off the coolest surprise ever in The Mandalorian.

(4) RESCUE MISSION. In “The Haunted Mind of Shirley Jackson”, New Yorker reviewer Zoë Heller argues the importance of a new Shirley Jackson biography.

Here’s how not to be taken seriously as a woman writer: Use demons and ghosts and other gothic paraphernalia in your fiction. Describe yourself publicly as “a practicing amateur witch” and boast about the hexes you have placed on prominent publishers. Contribute comic essays to women’s magazines about your hectic life as a housewife and mother.

Shirley Jackson did all of these things, and, during her lifetime, was largely dismissed as a talented purveyor of high-toned horror stories—“Virginia Werewoolf,” as one critic put it. For most of the fifty-one years since her death, that reputation has stuck. Today, “The Lottery,” her story of ritual human sacrifice in a New England village (first published in this magazine, in 1948), has become a staple of eighth-grade reading lists, and her novel “The Haunting of Hill House” (1959) is often mentioned as one of the best ghost stories of all time. But most of her substantial body of work—including her masterpiece, the beautifully weird novel “We Have Always Lived in the Castle” (1962)—is not widely read…. 

… In a new, meticulously researched biography, “A Rather Haunted Life,” Ruth Franklin sets out to rescue Jackson from the sexists and the genre snobs who have consigned her to a dungeon of kooky, spooky middlebrow-ness….

(5) SCARY MOVIES. SYFY Wire says these are “The 25 scariest sci-fi movies ever made, ranked”.

… As Aliens celebrates 35 years of thrilling audiences, SYFY WIRE revisited some memorable sci-fi scare-fests and ranked the best of the most terrifying movies both science fiction and horror have to offer…. 

15   Scanners (1981)

Director David Cronenberg’s Scanners is firmly indoctrinated into the Cult Movie Hall of Fame, thanks in large part to an iconic scene early in the film that features an exploding head. 

Scanners is a barebones sci-fi thriller about a man capable of telekinesis and psychokinesis forced to hunt down others like him. His hunt takes him and audiences on a dark and unsettling tour of where government bureaucracy and supernatural science intersect, where individuals with the ability to weaponize thoughts are subjugated by those who think of them only as threats. Despite its low-budget trappings, Scanners packs in a considerable amount of deep thematic ideas among all the gore and unsettling bits. 

(6) WINCHESTER. Edward M. Lerner suggests his book signing in Virginia on August 7 is the right destination if you’re ready to fly the coop. “SF and Nonsense: Has the time come? Are we (as opposed to my protagonists) *less* doomed?” (And the area boasts some historic sites worth visiting, too.)

Is anyone ready to get out of the house and resume “normal” life? And I don’t mean to observe Bastille Day. (I hear a resounding chorus of “YES!“)

Then please join me for my first post-COVID book signing, upcoming on Saturday, August 7th (2 to 4 PM) for Déjà Doomed. 

Unfamiliar with this, my latest novel?  That’s easily remedied. “DÉJÀ DOOMED is … finalement here 🙂” is what I posted on its recent release date. Naturally, I’ll be happy to discuss it — or pretty much anything — in person.

Where? you ask. The Winchester Book Gallery, on the lovely walking mall of scenic, historic Winchester, VA. 

(7) NOT OFF THE SHELF. Jayme Lynn Blaschke’s video “A Moment of Tiki: The Wall Is Lava” is a progress report on his DIY tiki bar.

Episode 29 of A Moment of Tiki is now live on the YouTubes! This time out I walk viewers through a build of a faux lava accent wall. I spent the bulk of last summer building out this project in the Lagoon, and it was more of a time-consuming than I’d anticipated. Editing all the footage taken over the course of several months proved a challenge unto itself.

Still, this is a vision I had way back when I started this whole crazy home tiki bar build project…

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 – Fifteen years ago, Eureka premiered on the SciFi Channel. It was created by Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia. It had a very large ensemble cast: Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton. Debrah Farentino. Jordan Hinson, Ed Quinn, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Niall Matter, Matt Frewer, Tembi Locke and James Callis were the principal performers. It had a five-year run and lasted seventy-seven episodes plus a handful of webisodes. Though set in Oregon, it, like so many SF series, was filmed in British Columbia. Though critical reception was decidedly mixed, it did very well in the ratings and the SciFi Channel allowed it to wrap up properly. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most excellent eighty-eight percent rating.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 18, 1913 Red Skelton. Comedian of the first order. The Red Skelton Hour ran for three hundred and thirty-eight episodes.  I remember Freddie the Freeloader. He’s here because ISFDB says he wrote A Red Skelton in Your Closet which is also called Red Skelton’s Favorite Ghost Stories. He also has cameos in Around the World in Eighty Days and Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, both of which I consider at least genre adjacent. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 18, 1913 —  Marvin Miller. He is remembered, if he’s remembered for it, for being the voice of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. He would reprise that role myriad times in the next few decades in such films and series as The Invisible Boy, the first Lost in Space series and Gremlins. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 18, 1933 Syd Mead. Best remembered on his design work on such films as Star Trek: The Motion PictureBlade RunnerTron2010: The Year We Make ContactShort CircuitAliensJohnny Mnemonic, and Blade Runner 2049. There’s an excellent look at him and his work, Visual Futurist:The Art & Life of Syd Mead. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 18, 1938 Paul Verhoeven, 83. Responsible for Starship TroopersTotal Recall, Hollow Man and Robocop. He’s made the final list for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation three times (Starship TroopersTotal Recall and Robocop) but has not won it. 
  • Born July 18, 1966 Paul Cornell, 55. Author of both the Shadow Police series and the Witches of Lychford novella series which are quite excellent as well as writing a lot of television scripts for Doctor Who including his Ninth Doctor story”Father’s Day” which was nominated for a Hugo, Primieval and Robin Hood. He was part of the regular panel of the SF Squeecast podcast which won two Hugo Awards for best fancast, one at Chicon 7 and one at LoneStarCon 3. And he scripted quite a bit of the Captain Britain and MI: 13 comic series as well — very good stuff indeed.
  • Born July 18, 1967 Van Diesel, 54. Guardians of The Galaxy franchise (“I am Groot!”) and other MCU films, The Iron Giant, xXx which is more or less genre, the Chronicles of Riddick franchise and The Fifth Element which I absolutely adore. He’s apparently in the third Avatar film. 
  • Born July 18, 1982 Priyanka Chopra,  39. As Alex Parrish in Quantico, she became the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. Is it genre? Maybe, maybe not, though it could fit very nicely into a Strossian Dark State. Some of her work in her native India such as The Legend of Drona and Love Story 2050 is genre as Krrish 3, an Indian SF film she was in. She’s got a major role in the still forthcoming Matrix 4 film.
  • Born July 18, 1994 Taylor Russell, 27. Judy Robison on the current Lost in Space series. She had a recurring role as Evelyn on Falling Skies, and she’s done a lot of horror films given her age.

(10) MAX LEGROOM. Scott Stinson explains why “Mad Max: Fury Road is a ridiculous masterpiece — flaming guitar bad guy says it all really” at National Post.

…Fury Road is a thrill ride, is what I’m saying. Our hero Max is captured right off the jump by a bunch of marauding fellows, imprisoned and used as a blood donor. His captors call him a blood bag, which really underscores the unlikelihood of a fair trial and eventual release. It’s quickly established that the gang is beholden to a cult leader, Immortan Joe, who has respiratory and skin problems but does control the water supply, the source of his power. Next comes Furiosa, a bad-ass truck driver who is leading a supply run. (There is a shortage of everything in this world except sand and orange lens filters.) But, wait! Furiosa is actually double-crossing ol’ Joe and has stowed away his harem of wives. Joe is greatly displeased and a convoy heads off in pursuit, with Blood Bag Max strapped to the front of one of the vehicles rather awkwardly.

This all happens with such quick pacing that it feels like it could have been one of those “previously on” catch-up scenes on a TV series…. 

(11) MR. GREEN HAS ARRIVED. Here’s another argument why “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” BasedCon organizer Robert Kroese tweeted —

(12) CREATIVE DIFFERENCES. Fansided discusses “How Dr. McCoy’s age changed Star Trek’s The Way to Eden” in The Original Series.

…Once [D.C.] Fontana turned her draft of the script in, a producer told her McCoy wasn’t old enough to have a twenty-one-year old daughter because he was Kirk’s “contemporary,” even though DeForest Kelley, the actor who portrayed Dr. McCoy, would have been 48 in 1968.

Fontana was livid that the writers’ guide wasn’t even read so that the script could be considered. She requested her name be removed from it, choosing instead to use her pseudonym “Michael Richards.”…

(13) COPTER ON TITAN. The Planetary Society tells “How Dragonfly will explore Saturn’s ‘bizarro Earth’ moon, Titan”. But it won’t arrive until 2037.

Why send a typical lander when you can send a dual-quadcopter?

That’s the question Dr. Elizabeth Tuttle and her team at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory asked when they developed NASA’s next New Frontiers mission to Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The dual-quadcopter, aptly named Dragonfly, will carry a suite of instruments designed to analyze Titan’s surface, which can vary from pure water ice to crumbly, orange-tinted organic sands.

Over a series of flights throughout its three-year nominal mission, Dragonfly will hopscotch over Titan’s surface, investigating new places to visit and previously identified safe sites. Dragonfly’s science instruments include a gamma-ray and neutron spectrometer to analyze the elements beneath its ski-like legs, a UV light to detect fluorescent, organic molecules, and a mass spectrometer to analyze more complex, biologically relevant samples….

Life on Titan, if it exists or ever existed, would need to adapt to a life of Antarctic-like temperatures, near-constant twilight, and transient liquid water. What sort of life could possibly survive in such a hostile environment?

That’s exactly what Dragonfly aims to investigate by flying to Selk Crater, a geologically young impact crater just 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) north of where Cassini’s Huygens probe landed in 2005. 

(14) THE CLAWS THAT CATCH. An #OwlKitty parody video from 2019: “If Baby Yoda was a Cat (Mandalorian + OwlKitty)”

(15) TENTACLE TIME. This link was sent together with a note of concern that Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’s soliloquy “Octopuses” is probably too profane for a Scroll item, “but it’s genre-adjacent and really funny.” So you know. From the transcript —

…And before we start, I am fully aware that there are plenty of amazing animals in the ocean, which is, as we know, a big wet trash bin full of God’s weirdest typos….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Creating The World Of Harry Potter:  The Magic Begins is a 2009 documentary, which Warner Bros. posted to YouTube in April, about the making of Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone.  It has a lot of behind-the-scenes footage which if you’re a hardcore Harry Potter fan you’d want to see,  I thought the footage of filming was interesting and the adults in the interviews are British pros who know how to be entertaining.  The kids are a lot less interesting.  I dunno what the British equivalent of “inside baseball” is but here are two things I learned:  the Hogwarts uniforms come from the films and not the books because J.K. Rowling declared that Hogwarts students didn’t have uniforms.  She was persuaded that uniforms were the right look for the movies.  Dame Maggie Smith declared that her character, Professor McGonigall, was Scottish, so her hat isn’t a witch’s hat but some sort of Scottish hat. Harry Potter fans will find this worth an hour.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

BasedCon Planning for Dozens of Attendees

BasedCon – A based sci-fi con, organized by author Robert Kroese to appeal to the “sci-fi writer or fan who is sick of woke politics,” is planned for September 17-19 near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The list of confirmed guests includes two-time Prometheus Award-winner Travis J.I. Corcoran, Robert Kroese, J.A. Sutherland, Hans Schantz, Jason Anspach*, Milo James Fowler, J. Daniel Sawyer, Dan Gainor, and Nick Cole* (asterisk indicates attending virtually).

On the BasedCon website, Kroese explains what “based” means to him and why his con has that name.

Why “BasedCon”?

In internet parlance, “based” means something like “in touch with reality.” Based behavior is the opposite of social justice activism, which is about meaningless virtue signaling and beating up strawmen. Some based beliefs include:

  • Men cannot give birth
  • Guns don’t kill people; people kill people
  • A fetus is a human being
  • Socialism has failed everywhere it’s been tried
  • Discriminating against white people is racism

BasedCon isn’t about pushing any particular ideology, but honest conversations have to start with a shared understanding of reality. If you think people with a certain skin color can’t be racist or you expect people to use made-up pronouns when talking about you, you may want to do a reality check before coming to BasedCon.

The BasedCon “About” page also devotes several paragraphs to the now-familiar “lost cause” genre narrative, for example —

Sci-fi cons used to be a lot of fun. They were places where people of all colors and creeds could get together to talk and learn about science fiction and fantasy books, games, movies, and TV shows. Then, starting a few years ago, things changed. Cons became increasingly dominated by a small clique of authoritarian jerks who made them into venues for pushing social justice dogma and, in the name of “inclusiveness,” shut down any opinions that didn’t align with progressive orthodoxy. You may remember the Sad Puppies saga, which culminated in WorldCon voters selecting “No Award” in several categories of the Hugo Awards rather than reward people outside their tribe…

Venue: BasedCon 2021 will be held at a privately owned property in Norton Shores, Michigan. How many people are they expecting to attract?

We have nine bedrooms onsite with 2-3 beds per room. If you prefer a private room, you can stay at one of the hotels nearby

Here are some tweets from earlier in the year when Kroese was still searching for a place to hold the event:

Here is some of the social media reaction, both favorable and unfavorable.

[Thanks to Anne Marble for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/17 How Many Books Must A Pixel Scroll Down Before You Can Call Him A Fan?

(1) WORD SCULPTOR. Steve Barnes tells about his day’s writing and shares a chunk of his draft (read it at the link).

Shhhhh. I’m working on the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes collaboration today, before switching over to the pilot script. My current style of working is laying out rough text and “wireframe” and then polishing with endless drafts, embracing hacking and slashing. First drafts are like dragging a block of marble up from the quarry. Subsequent drafts are chipping away everything that doesn’t resemble an elephant. Then finally…the polishing. I’m still chipping. If I write enough, eventually a crumb of something emotional and valid will peek through, and polishing it is like….hmmm…like striking a spark. Then carefully adding tender and fanning a flame, letting that flame spread through the rest of the book. It might be ugly at first, but it’s warm. Or better, HOT. I thought I’d share the first tiny fragment from the book, which I’ve referred to as “The Cthulhu War” but might actually be called “Starborn and Godsons”.

(2) A SONG OF FLOUR AND FIRE. Camestros Felapton’s cat writes GRRM a letter – “Dear Mister Martin from Timothy T Cat”.

Dear Mister Martin,

Or can I call you George or Are-Are? You may remember me from my previous letters what I wrote you – specifically my lengthy inquiry as to whether Sue Perkins was a Stark or a Lannister or what? Camestros has since explained that I have been habitually confusing the BBC’s  ‘Great British Bake Off” with HBO’s “Games of Thrones”. This revelation has certainly cleared up many a query I had about where the story was going. Although I am still puzzled by the distinction between baking powder and baking soda – don’t worry! I understand a great writer like yourself has to have his secrets, so I’ll wait to find that out in the final episode…

That out of the way, Timothy launches into his business proposition….

(3) CULINARY PLEONASM. More restaurant hate from Jay Rayner in The Guardian — “I am sick of half-hearted desserts. Bring me a proper pudding”.

Oh sure, restaurants appear to offer desserts. But where once it would have been a list of tarts and mille-feuille, of savarins and delices, of things requiring proper pastry work, now there are just unstable creamy things on a plate. It’s an endless parade of panna cottas and half-arsed mousses. The kitchen will throw on a bit of granola or a fragment of meringue to make it look like a dessert, but that doesn’t alter the fact. It’s not. It’s a squirt from an udder, set to a wobble courtesy of a boiled down cow’s foot. It’s a failure of ambition

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED PERSON? Young People Read Old SFF is back, and this time James Davis Nicoll has assigned the panel James Tiptree Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” Evidently James let them discover some things for themselves.

Lisa: …Once I figured out what was going on, I enjoyed the story – pieces of information were revealed throughout, and the story continued twisting and turning until I finally figured out what the story was about – a future world without men. We got to hear about worlds without men in When It Changed, A Rose for Ecclesiastes, to an extent, in the dolphin story (except the women were smart dolphins). As with A Rose for Ecclesiastes, this is a man-free story written by a man. Does the author’s gender change how the manless women carry on?

After finishing the story (which seemed to have a lot more contempt for men than most men would have), I googled “Does James Tiptree Hate Women?” The results of my google search provided me with the final twist I experienced in reading Houston, Houston. This twist was twisty enough that it made me laugh out loud at my computer in surprise. It turns out that James Tiptree is actually a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon – who is, in fact, female. Well of course she was.

(5) NAME THAT BOOK. Stump the Bookseller is a site for people who vaguely remember novels that appeared when they were kids. If you look at it you will see that most of the half-remembered books are YA sf and fantasy. Here’s their most recent request. Do you recognize it? Four people agreed on the answer in comments.

There was a book that I read in the early 1970s about a girl (A) whose family took in another girl (B), I can’t remember why. Girl B turned out to have powers that she used against Girl A. I remember two scenes. Girl A was going to the prom or a big dance with her boyfriend and was going to make her own dress. Girl B made Girl A buy a pattern and color for a dress that was unbecoming to Girl A. Also, Girl B made Girl A sick right before the dance so Girl B went with Girl A’s boyfriend. I don’t remember how Girl A got rid of Girl B, but the book ends with Girl A saying whenever she reads a story in the newspaper about a wife dying, or an accident with 3 people where the woman dies, that she wonders if it is Girl B is still out there up to her old tricks.

(6) BE FREE. Teacher and author Tracy Townsend writes a series of tweets about a little-considered benefit of free online fiction. It begins here:

(7) MOMENT OF TRUTH. In “10 Questions with Hugo Award Winner Laura J. Mixon” interviewer Ryan Schneider mostly asks about her writing, and her new book Glass Houses, but he does throw a couple of curveballs –

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside, dammit! sayeth the engineer. The writer in me shrugs; whatever—I’m in it for the fun and glory and adventure. Just be consistent with that punctuation stuff and use it to tell a great story, and I’m yours.

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

Pro. I’ll fight you.

(8) BEEN HERE, DONE THAT. Here are four NASA astronauts who believed in alien visitation. Leroy Gordon Cooper was one of them.

But even before he underwent the life-changing experience of becoming the first man to sleep in space, he claimed to have seen UFOs flying over Germany in 1951.

The spaceman also said he saw flying saucers spying on a secret air base where experimental American aircraft were being tested.

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth,” he told the UN in 1984.

“We may first have to show them that we have learned how to resolve our problems by peaceful means rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members.

“Their acceptance will have tremendous possibilities of advancing our world in all areas.”

(9) KUMMING OBIT. Waldemar Kumming (1924-2017) died on April 5, age 92, according to Wolf von Witting. He was best known as the editor of Munich Roundup, a photo-filled zine about European fanac. He won a European SF Award for his services to fandom in 1984, and the Big Heart Award in 2005.

(10) MITCHELL OBIT. SF Site News reports Vicki Mitchell Gustafson, who wrote as V.E. Mitchell died on April 13, six days before her 67th birthday. Vicki was the widow of art historian Jon Gustafson, who died 12 years earlier, to the day. (Jon was a columnist for my old fanzine, Scientifriction.)

(11) IF YOU’RE LUCKY. Five days left to enter the Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway being run at Robert Kroese’s BadNovelist site.

The Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway is about showcasing authors who have been marginalized by the gatekeepers of the sci-fi publishing industry for the sin of not complying with progressive social justice dogma. From Sarah Hoyt, who was accused of racism and ”internalized misogyny” for her association with the Sad Puppies campaign to reform the Hugo Awards, to Nick Cole, who lost a publishing contract for daring to write a story about an artificially intelligent computer who is troubled by abortion, these authors have faced smear campaigns, boycotts and blacklisting for failing to toe the progressive line.

Just for entering, you’ll get:

Brother, Frank by Michael Bunker
The Red King by Nick Cole
Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
The Yanthus Prime Job by Robert Kroese
The Darkness by W.J. Lundy
Nethereal by Brian Niemeier
Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson

Three lucky winners will also receive:

Wick by Michael Bunker
Ctrl+Alt+Revolt by Nick Cole
Darkship Revenge by Sarah A. Hoyt
Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
The Shadows by W.J. Lundy
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Better to Beg Forgiveness by Michael Z. Williamson

Books will be provided as downloadable files, in both ebook and mobi (Kindle) formats.

(12) I, THE JURY. Aurealis Awards judge Elizabeth Fitzgerald tells what it was like.

The problem with my reckoning was that there was an embedded assumption that the award books would arrive at a regular pace. I really should have known better. The award opened for entries mid June and books trickled in until the first small rush arrived at the end of September. However, most of the entries arrived en masse in December.

To complicate matters, I suffered a bout of eye strain in November and continued to struggle with it through December. In the end, I recovered thanks to some eye drops and the inclusion of frequent breaks in my schedule. I made up for lost time by averaging a book a day throughout January and February. I didn’t watch any TV or do much of anything other than read. Now, you know I love reading, but two months and more of that started to get a bit much, even for me.

It improved my reading skills, though. I got faster. I found that 20 pages was usually long enough to judge the quality of the writing. I did a lot of skimming. And I got more comfortable with not finishing books. Prior to being a judge, I could count the number of books I’d DNFed on one hand.

I got to know my postman and the delivery guys very well. Books would show up randomly on my doorstep. It was like Christmas. And then, when it was actually Christmas, all the Aurealis books made a good disguise. My sweetheart busted me with the copy of Ninefox Gambit I’d ordered as his Christmas present. So, I told him it was another book for judging and let him take a look at it before putting it in the pile of judging books. I quietly snuck it out a couple of weeks later and wrapped it up.

(13) BOUTIQUE SERIES. Not that anybody uses the word “boutique” anymore. Recode tells why “Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ couldn’t be made into a TV show until TV changed”.

…The CEO of Starz, Chris Albrecht, previously oversaw the rise of prestige TV as CEO of HBO, including “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire.”

Shows like those proved that TV didn’t have to be made for the biggest audience possible.

“When you make something like ‘American Gods,’ you go, ‘This is not going to be to everybody’s taste,’” Gaiman said. “But you’re also not going to make it more to anybody’s taste by making it less like the thing that it is. You just kind of have to lean into it.”

Later entries in the prestige TV genre, like Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Amazon’s “Transparent,” changed how people watch TV, making it normal to binge an entire show in one sitting. Gaiman noted that cheapskates who don’t yet have Starz could wait until the end of the eight-episode season, sign up for a free trial and binge away.

(14) JORDAN TV. Variety reports Sony Pictures is at work on a Wheel of Time series.

The long-gestating “Wheel of Time” TV series adaptation is moving forward with Sony Pictures Television.

The series will be based on the high fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan, the pen name of James O. Rigney Jr. There are 14 novels in total, beginning with “The Eye of the World” in 1990 and concluding with “A Memory of Light,” which was finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007. They follow the quest to find the Dragon Reborn, who it is said will help unite forces to combat The Dark One.

Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.

(15) SFF GEOGRAPHY. Here are “11 Famous Movie Locations You Can Actually Visit” from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and more.

3 / 11

The Martian

Another earthly landscape stands in for an alien one in this 2015 Matt Damon film. Wadi Rum, or “The Valley of the Moon,” in Jordan is a close match for the red planet. The region also makes a cameo in Red Planet, Last Days on Mars, Lawrence of Arabia and Prometheus.

(16) WHACKS MUSEUM. Medieval peasants had their own ways of discouraging zombies.

Where else to learn about medieval zombies than in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports‘ latest study, (and everyone’s favorite new beach read), “A multidisciplinary study of a burnt and mutilated assemblage of human remains from a deserted Mediaeval village in England.” What a title.

If the click-baity title wasn’t evidence enough, it’s a pretty macabre read, leavened with just the right touch of osteology, radiometric dating, and strontium isotope analyses. But the upshot is that some villagers in the 11th to 13th centuries who lived near modern-day Wharram Percy in northern Yorkshire were apparently scared of zombies. So they made sure the dead would stay dead with some extra handiwork, deliberately mutilating the bodies after death.

(17) DRAMATIC PRESENTATION. Apparently this episode of Fargo featured Gloria (Carrie Coon) picking up a rocket trophy to use as a weapon. Several people thought it was a Hugo. (The linked article describes the episode, however, it doesn’t mention the trophy.)

It’s not a Hugo or an International Fantasy Award. No Hugo ever had that shape, or was designed with that kind of gap between the fins and the base. It’s an interesting puzzle. These days you can order a lot of different 3-D rocket awards online, maybe it’s one of those.

(18) SPEAKING OF. A striptease during language lessons?

….A leading adult entertainment webcam platform, unveiled “Language Lessons,” the first adult language-learning service that combines beautiful cam models with the latest translation technologies to make learning a foreign language fun and sensual. Now, in addition to camming with their favorite model in a private chatroom, fans can engage in casual conversation with them, learning an assortment of languages including Spanish, French, Romanian and English.

Daniel Dern commented – “(Obviously) (to me, a grey/white hair), I immediately thought of this classic sf story (rot13’d here to give Filers a chance to see if they can guess)…”

“Naq Znqyl Grnpu,” ol Yyblq Ovttyr, We.

Diplomat John Quincy Adams said the best way to learn a foreign language was with the help of a mistress – though he made clear he had only availed himself of the second or third best ways.

(19) MORE MARVEL. The official trailer for “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger,” coming to Freeform in 2018.

[Thanks to Wolf von Witting, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JohanP, who’s probably in the wind by now.]

Robert Kroese: Fleece Noir

robert-kroese

By Carl Slaughter:

THE BIG SHEEP
by Robert Kroese

the-big-sheep

Los Angeles of 2039 is a baffling and bifurcated place. After the Collapse of 2028, a vast section of LA, the Disincorporated Zone, was disowned by the civil authorities, and became essentially a third world country within the borders of the city. Navigating the boundaries between DZ and LA proper is a tricky task, and there’s no one better suited than eccentric private investigator Erasmus Keane. When a valuable genetically altered sheep mysteriously goes missing from Esper Corporation’s labs, Keane is the one they call.

But while the erratic Keane and his more grounded partner, Blake Fowler, are on the trail of the lost sheep, they land an even bigger case. Beautiful television star Priya Mistry suspects that someone is trying to kill her – and she wants Keane to find out who. When Priya vanishes and then reappears with no memory of having hired them, Keane and Fowler realize something very strange is going on. As they unravel the threads of the mystery, it soon becomes clear that the two cases are connected – and both point to a sinister conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the city. Saving Priya and the sheep will take all of Keane’s wits and Fowler’s skills, but in the end, they may discover that some secrets are better left hidden.

PRAISE FOR THE BIG SHEEP

  • “As original a plot as I’ve run across in a long time. The Big Sheep is a sheer delight!” – Hugh Howey, NYT Bestselling author of Wool
  • “Fun, fast, and addictive. Kroese gives us a sci-fi /noir detective story that manages to catch the reader off guard again and again.” – Peter Clines, author of The Fold, 14, and the Ex-Heroes series
  • “An enthralling blend of sci-fi and noir, The Big Sheep left me salivating for a second helping of Erasmus Keane’s adventures.” — Rick Gualtieri, author of The Tome of Bill series
  • “Maybe Rob Kroese’s latest sci-fi novel, The Big Sheep, isn’t co-authored by Phillip Dick, but it does the late great author some serious homage. At the same time…and this is remarkable… Kroese has conjured up a thoroughly original, stunningly intelligent plot that both thrilled and delighted me. It also made me laugh. A riveting, hallucinatory joy-ride into a dangerous future by a terrific author writing at the top of his game.” — Vincent Zandri, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Remains and When Shadows Come
  • “Kroese demonstrates his creative imaginative worldbuilding in this sci-fi mystery series debut set in 2039 Los Angeles.” – Publishers Weekly

AUTHOR BIO

Robert Kroese’s sense of irony was honed growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan – home of the Amway Corporation and the Gerald R. Ford Museum, and the first city in the United States to fluoridate its water supply. In second grade, he wrote his first novel, the saga of Captain Bill and his spaceship Thee Eagle. This turned out to be the high point of his academic career. After barely graduating from Calvin College in 1992 with a philosophy degree, he was fired from a variety of jobs before moving to California, where he stumbled into software development. As this job required neither punctuality nor a sense of direction, he excelled at it. In 2009, he called upon his extensive knowledge of useless information and love of explosions to write his first novel, Mercury Falls. Since then, he has four more books in the Mercury series; a humorous epic fantasy trilogy (the Dis trilogy), a space opera farce (Starship Grifters) and a quantum physics noir thriller, Schrodinger’s Gat. His latest book is The Big Sheep.

SOCIAL MEDIA

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