Premio Italia 2021

The winners of the 2021 Premio Italia were announced on July 17 during Deepcon 22 / Eurocon 2021 in Fiuggi, Italy.

Interestingly, Roger Zelazny’s 1993 novel A Night in the Lonesome October (in Italian translation) won the international sf novel category over books by finalists N.K. Jemisin, China Miéville, Charles Stross, and Jack Vance.

Illustrazione o copertina / Illustration or Cover Art

  • Franco Brambilla, Assalto Al Sole, Delos Digital

Curatore / Editor

  • Emanuele Manco

Traduttore / Translator

  • Annarita Guarnieri

Collana / Collection

  • Biblioteca di un sole lontano, Delos Digital

Rivista professionale / Professional magazine

  • FantasyMagazine, Delos Books

Rivista o sito web non professionale / Non-professional magazine or website

Saggio / Essay

  • Emanuele Manco, Matematica Nerd, CentoAutori

Romanzo di autore italiano – Fantascienza / Science fiction novel

  • Nicoletta Vallorani, Avrai i miei occhi, Zona 42

Romanzo di autore italiano – Fantasy / Fantasy novel

  • Maico Morellini, Il ragno del tempo, Providence Press

Antologia / Anthology

  • Carmine Treanni, Mondi paralleli. Il meglio della fantascienza italiana indipendente 2019, Delos Digital

Racconto di autore italiano su pubblicazione professionale / Story by an Italian Author in a Professional Publication

  • Dario Tonani, Un fiore per Gregorius Moffa, Cronache dell’Armageddon, Kipple

Racconto di autore italiano su pubblicazione amatoriale / Story by an Italian Author in an Amateur Publication

  • Francesca Cavallero, Nel silenzio dei cuori, Fondazione SF

Articolo su pubblicazione professionale / Article in a Professional Publication

  • Emanuele Manco, Isaac Asimov: dalla Fondazione verso l’infinito e oltre, Tom’s Hardware – Cultura Pop, 3Labs

Articolo su pubblicazione amatoriale / Article in an Amateur Publication

  • Giulia Abbate, Donne e fantastico di Giuliana Misserville, La Bottega del Barbieri

Romanzo internazionale / International sf novel

  • Roger Zelazny, Notte d’ottobre, Hypnos

Fumetto di autore italiano / Comic by an Italian Author

  • Carlo Recagno e Antonio Sforza, Storie da Altrove 23: La donna che vide l’uomo invisibile, Bonelli

Fumetto di autore internazionale / Comic by an International Author

  • Jeff Lemire, Sentient, Panini Comics

Film fantastico (premio non ufficiale) / Fantastic Film (unofficial prize)

  • Tenet

Serie televisiva (premio non ufficiale) / TV Series (unofficial prize)

  • The Mandalorian

Pixel Scroll 6/26/21 A Planet Must Have Sharp Elbows

(1) UNRELATED TWINS. Darryl Mott tweeted a rundown about why two gaming companies that each go by the name TSR are making the wrong kind of news recently. Thread starts here.

(2) COOL IDEA. IceCon 2021, the convention happening this November in Reykjavík, Iceland has added Ted Chiang as its third GoH. The first two are Mary Robinette Kowal and Hildur Knútsdóttir.

(3) ABOUT HUGO FINALIST STRANGE HORIZONS. Maureen Kincaid Speller, Strange Horizons’ Senior Reviews Editor speaking here as an individual, set the record straight about their interactions with DisCon III in a Facebook public post.   

… There has been a lot of pushback against this kind of thing in the last few years, especially as more groups/collectives are nominated, and rightly so. There is something very wrong with trying to reduce the work of many to one or two names, as if there is something inherently wrong in not being a lone creator. Is it not amazing that all these people pull together to produce this material in their spare time? For nothing? Apparently, it isn’t.

Last year, unforgettably, Fiyahcon showed that it is actually possible to work successfully to a different model. Strange Horizons was nominated for the inaugural Ignyte Award (which we won), and the difference in approach was unbelievable. Everything from happily listing everyone in the press releases to checking how we wanted our names pronounced to providing free access to the convention online for the entire weekend. I mean, wow? Winning was purely a grace note in some ways, but god, did I feel seen! Didn’t we all.

And so to this year’s Worldcon. SH gets nominated for Semi-Prozine again! Yay! Strange Horizons has a civil interaction with the Hugo Awards team and it is agreed that all of the collective can be individually named in the announcement, because pixels are not in short supply.

Except, apparently, they are.

Consternation.

We cannot all be listed, because we are too many. I’m not sure what went on behind the scenes but then, suddenly, we were not too many after all, and we were all listed.

I was not privy to the discussion about what would happen at the ceremony, but here are the things I do know, based on ludicrous claims I have seen on the internet this week….

(4) HWA PRIDE. Horror Writers Association’s “A Point of Pride” series features an “Interview with Nikki Woolfolk”.

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

Speculative fiction and horror are my go-to regarding explaining the world and reflect current events from a differing perspective. I wrote a short story that was painful and cathartic regarding a beloved cousin who was murdered. The story “L’Chaim” is my way of giving her a chance to live. My editor read the story and informed me that I had written psychological horror.

I had no idea that what I wrote could be seen as horror since I’m kinda a wimp when it comes to consistently watching or reading horror. Looking back I’ve noticed my Urban Fantasy stories have more of a horror slant and it’s surprising to me.

(5) DELANY IN ACADEMIA. Samuel R. Delany answers the question “How did I become a professor?” for Facebook readers.

…Now even then I knew enough about the history of the world to know that people who deluged older folks in a position of authority with long polemical letters are often thought of as basically nuisances whose screeds are to be glanced at and put aside to be looked at later, if not to be simply consigned to the circular file. Basically I was writing across an ocean into a world about which I had no real notion of how it worked: the American academic system.

What Leslie [Fielder]’s letter said was: Would you consider coming to the U. of Buffalo for a term, and teaching here, as Visiting Butler-Chair Professor. It’s an endowed chair. You will have a 10k fund to do with as you wish, as long as it benefits the university, as well as a salary of . . . I don’t even remember what it was. I just know that, other than a job in a rotisserie on upper Broadway (from which I’d been fired after a few weeks because I couldn’t make change) to another as a stock clerk at Barnes & Noble on 18th and 5th to still another behind the counter at a small walk-in soft-core porn and second-hand sex magazine store called Bob’s Bargain Books on West 42 St., for a couple of months each, I’d never had a salary since I was 15, working as a library page at the St. Agnes Branch Library on Amsterdam Avenue.

So Marilyn and I talked about it, and I wrote back “Yes.”

A single term as a guest professor, however, is not the same as full professorship—which did not happen until eleven years later. But it was certainly connected to it….

(6) THE TV SETS ARE BEING EXTINGUISHED ALL OVER EUROPE. Well, no – and perhaps quite the opposite will happen over the long term: “‘The thought is unbearable’: Europeans react to EU plans to cut British TV”The Guardian has the story.

…But post-Brexit, politically the will is there to challenge the dominance of British TV and film.

When the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Rome this week to formally approve Italy’s spending plan for its share of the EU’s recovery fund, the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, hosted her at the Cinecittà film studios in Rome, where €300m (£257m) of the funds are to be invested in development.

“It’s obvious that if Britain leaves the EU, then its productions no longer fall within the community’s quotas,” the Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, told Corriere della Sera. “Europe will have to respond on an industrial and content level, and Cinecittà will be strategic on this front.”

Sten-Kristian Saluveer, an Estonian media policy strategist, said EU plans to reassess the amount of UK content – in particular on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon – were inevitable.

“A big catalyst is the increased trade tensions between the UK and France, as well as the EU’s anti-trust procedures,” he said. “The question is not so much about original content produced in the UK as it is about studios in the UK connected to platforms like Apple and Netflix, which are very well positioned to utilise the good relations the UK has with the US – as well as exploiting the European capacity, including everything from work permits to subsidies,” he said.

“When Britain was in the EU there were spillover effects for the rest of the bloc. But now it’s not, the question is why should these platforms be able to exploit the same benefits?”

Saluveer said smaller EU members could stand to benefit from a reduction in UK content, as it could allow more room for their content. He cited the box office success Tangerines – an Estonian-Georgian co-production which was nominated for a Golden Globe – or the Oscar-nominated The Fencer, a Finnish-Estonian-German collaboration…

(7) THE LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. MIT Press’ new Radium Age imprint will republish “proto-sf” from the early 20th Century.

Under the direction of Joshua Glenn, the MIT Press’s Radium Age is reissuing notable proto–science fiction stories from the underappreciated era between 1900 and 1935. In these forgotten classics, science fiction readers will discover the origins of enduring tropes like robots (berserk or benevolent), tyrannical supermen, dystopian wastelands, sinister telepaths, and eco-catastrophes. With new contributions by historians, science journalists, and science fiction authors, the Radium Age book series will recontextualize the breakthroughs and biases of these proto–science fiction classics, and chart the emergence of a burgeoning genre.

ABOUT RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF

Do we really know science fiction? There were the Scientific Romance years that stretched from the mid-19th century to circa 1900. And there was the so-called Golden Age, from circa 1935 through the early 1960s. But between those periods, and overshadowed by them, was an era that has bequeathed us such memes as the robot (berserk or benevolent), the tyrannical superman, the dystopia, the unfathomable extraterrestrial, the sinister telepath, and the eco-catastrophe. A dozen years ago, writing for the sf blog io9.com at the invitation of Annalee Newitz and Charlie Jane Anders, I became fascinated with the period during which the sf genre as we know it emerged. In honor of Marie Curie, who shared a Nobel Prize for her discovery of radium in 1903, only to die of radiation-induced leukemia in 1934, I dubbed it the “Radium Age.”

Curie’s development of the theory of radioactivity, which led to the freaky insight that the atom is, at least in part, a state of energy constantly in movement, is an apt metaphor for the 20th century’s first three decades. These years were marked by rising sociocultural strife across various fronts: the founding of the women’s suffrage movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, socialist currents within the labor movement, anti-colonial and revolutionary upheaval around the world… as well as the associated strengthening of reactionary movements that supported, e.g., racial segregation, immigration restriction, eugenics, and sexist policies….

In order to help surface overlooked Radium Age texts — particularly works by women, people of color, and writers from outside the USA and Western Europe — Joshua Glenn and Noah Springer have an advisory panel that presently includes Annalee NewitzAnindita BanerjeeDavid M, Higginskara lynchKen LiuSean Guynes, and Sherryl Vint.

Here are the covers of the first books in the series.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1966 – Fifty five years ago at Tricon which was held in Cleveland and had Issac Asimov as its Toastmaster, Roger Zelazny would win his first Hugo for …And Call Me Conrad which would later be called This Immortal. It was published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, October and November of 1965 and then in book form by Ace the same year. It tied with Frank Herbert’s Dune. It would be the first of six Hugos that he would win and one of two for Best Novel, the other being for Lord of Light.  His other four Hugos would be for the “Home Is the Hangman” novella, the “Unicorn Variation“ novelette, “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai” novella and “Permafrost” novelette. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1904 — Peter Lorre. I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in Americanized version of Casino Royale which an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series as Le Chiffre. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Shudder!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 25, 1910 — Elsie Wollheim. The wife of Donald A. Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 25, 1950 — Tom DeFalco, 71. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his Marvel Comics and in particular for his work with the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 25, 1965 — Daryl Gregory, 56. He won a Crawford Award for his Pandemonium novel. And his novella, We Are All Completely Fine, won the World Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award as well. It was also a finalist for the Sturgeon Award. I’m also fond of his writing on the Planet of The Apes series that IDW published.
  • Born June 25, 1969 — Austin Grossman, 52. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designer, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 25, 1969 — Lev Grossman, 52. Author most noted for The Magicians trilogy which is The MagiciansThe Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His latest work was the screenplay for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things film which was based off his short story of that name. 
  • Born June 25, 1980 — Jason Schwartzman, 41. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He  was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in  Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 25, 1984 — Aubrey Plaza, 37. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. And she was Lenny Busker on Legion.  

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Alley Oop runs into a little Moon explorer name confusion.

(11) TURING PASSES TEST. “New £50 note featuring Alan Turing goes into circulation” reports The Guardian.

The new £50 note goes into circulation on Wednesday – but with consumers increasingly going cashless, for millions of people it may be months or even years before they see or touch one….

However, perhaps the new-look £50 – featuring Alan Turing, the scientist best known for his codebreaking work during the second world war – will give the note’s image a makeover.

Its arrival is notable as it means the Bank of England has now completed its switch away from paper money.

The Turing £50 will join the Churchill £5, the Austen £10 and the Turner £20, all of which are printed on polymer, a thin and flexible plastic material that is said to last longer and stay in better condition than paper.

… The new £50 note, which features Alan Turing, contains advanced security features including two windows and a two-colour foil, making it very difficult to counterfeit.

(12) THE KLEPTO CONNECTION. “Stealing Science-Fiction: Why the Heist Works So Well in Sci-Fi” – Justin Woolley explains at CrimeReads.

…There is something inherently lovable about the heist story. They have been a mainstay of cinema since the mid-twentieth century and feature prominently in novels, TV, video games and across all media. The heist story often gives us many of the things we love in story, underdogs, a sense of style, thrills, adventure and a chance to see characters who are the smartest, the fastest, the best at what they do. Heists are also perfectly set up for the structure of a story. We usually have a clear external conflict from the very beginning, our team versus whatever is protecting the ‘big score’. Then, we get to see how the crew are going to overcome the odds by being (often literally) in on the plan, blueprints and all. Throw some spanners in the works, maybe a betrayal, a few character flaws to be overcome, and you’re primed to go for a terrific caper.

There’s something else I find interesting about heist stories—they are, in many ways, genre-neutral. They appear most commonly as contemporary action stories but also in historical fiction, fantasy and, of biggest interest to me, science-fiction. I am a fan of many genres, including crime and thriller, but I am foremost an author of science-fiction…. 

(13) IN THE BEGINNING. Mental Floss’ article about “The Early Careers of 12 Famous Novelists” includes entries on Octavia Butler, Frank Herbert, Mark Twain, and George R.R. Martin.

8. FRANK HERBERT

Frank Herbert was a veteran newspaper reporter when he began circulating Dune, his 1965 novel of galactic intrigue over spice. Though it was well-received by sci-fi fans and even serialized in Analog magazine, Herbert had no takers until it was accepted by automotive publisher Chilton. By 1972, Herbert had given up his newspaper career to write novels.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: League of Legends: Wild Rift” on YouTube, Fandom Games says this is “a bite-sized version of League of Legends that lasts half as long” and “has no chat functionality, making it “one of the few games that people who haven’t had their hearts turned to coal by the Internet” can enjoy.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Nic Farey, Daniel Dern, 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 Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 4/25/21 Files Runs The Pixel Down

(1) FUTURE UNIONS. “Workers of All Worlds Unite,” a public talk about labor unions in science fiction with Olav Rokne, is a free Zoom event happening Thursday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. Mountain time. Join the Zoom free here. Or you could also support the event by getting tickets here.

Workers Of All Worlds Unite!

Science fiction is filled with depictions of standard capitalist employment relationships, but little thought seems to have been given to how workers in the future will assert their rights. Join Olav Rokne as he explores the troubled history of labour unions in science fiction, and makes an argument as to why this history matters.

(2) ELLISON TRUST VICTORY. Two weeks ago J. Michael Straczynski, Executor of the Harlan and Susan Ellison Trust, updated fans about a successful action to fight off opportunistic banks.

(3) EXTREMELY HONEST. Ian Moore takes the first step in his Hugo finalist Mt. Tsundoku 12-step program by admitting powerlessness:

(4) HE’LL BE IN SCOTLAND AFORE YE. Recorded April 15, Shoreline of Infinity brings you “Ken MacLeod’s Road Trip”.

Ken MacLeod’s Road Trip takes us from Scotland through the north of England and London to the far side of the Earth. Three talkative passengers – Charles Stross, Justina Robson and Tasha Suri – read from their work, and over the car radio Hannah and Sam Bennett play drive-time music live from the wonderful world of tomorrow. Hosted by Shoreline of Infinity – science fiction magazine and publisher based in Scotland for the world to enjoy.

(5) WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR? People have been trying to answer that question about these familiar names for years.“L. Ron Hubbard, Robert Heinlein and the Kamikaze Group Think Tank – Not So ‘Nothing’ After All?” at The McClaughry’s Blog is a 2017 post, but it’s news to me!

… Not that Hubbard was some kind of White Knight or anything, far from it. Even a brief perusal of our work here at the blog would tell you very quickly that we don’t go easy on Mr. Hubbard. But, I don’t think that we need to discredit his actual bad acts by throwing out wrong characterizations and outright lies about him either.

Hubbard has two big holes in his Navy history that none of the so-called ‘experts’ ever noticed that I documented in my post. Either one of which could easily have been this Aleutians business, and I’m guessing it was the second “hole” from November 3 to November 25, 1944.

It actually fits well with then being tasked with Heinlein to deal with anti-Kamikaze tactics. Heinlein details that two assignments came to him from Naval Intelligence, practically back to back. The problem is, people have put wrong times for when these were. Times that don’t fit with KNOWN dates and events.

Heinlein and other science fiction writers were utilized several times for Naval Intelligence projects…

Right on the back of that is when Heinlein formed his Think Tank on Kamikazes with Hubbard etc. which was also called a “crash” project.

In 1944, Heinlein recruited Hubbard, Sturgeon and others for a project: “Op-Nav-23, a brainstorming job on antikamikaze measures.” [46] The Bradbury Chronicles by Sam Weller, p. 12

I had been ordered to round up science fiction writers for this crash project-the wildest brains I could find, so Ted was a welcome recruit. Some of the others were George O. Smith, John W. Campbell Jr., Murray Leinster, L. Ron Hubbard, Sprague de Camp, and Fletcher Pratt…

– Stephen Dedman in May the Armed Forces Be with You

Ok, first question would be when were these kamikaze attacks?

Although there had been spotty “kamikaze” actions by Japanese fighter pilots with engine troubles etc. earlier in WWII, the first inklings of an actual program appears to have been decided upon by August 1944 but not acted upon until Vice-Admiral Takijiro Onishi, took command of the 1st Air Fleet in the Philippines on October 17, 1944. Onishi had initially opposed the idea, but changed his mind when he took command.

Three days later kamikaze attacks – kamikaze means “Divine Wind” – were introduced October 20 of 1944 and on October 25 the first formal (and mass) kamikaze attacks launched in the Phillippines….

(6) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1976 – Forty-five years ago at MidAmeriCon, the Hugo for Best Novella went to Roger Zelazny for “Home Is the Hangman” which was published in Analog, November 1975.  It would also win the Nebula the same year. The other nominated novellas were “The Storms of Windhaven” by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle [Analog, May 1975] “ARM” by Larry Niven [Epoch, 1975] “The Silent Eyes of Time” by Algis Budrys [F&SF, Nov 1975] and “The Custodians” by Richard Cowper [F&SF, Oct 1975]. It is collected with the other two novellas in this series, “The Eve of RUMOKO“ and “Kjwalll’kje’k’koothaïlll’kje’k“ in My Name in Legion which is available from the usual suspects. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 25, 1897 Fletcher Pratt. He’s best remembered for his fiction written with L. Sprague de Camp, to wit Land of Unreason, The Carnelian Cube and The Complete Compleat Enchanter. I’m rather fond of The Well of the Unicorn and Double Jeopardy. I see that he and Jack Coggins were nominated for International Fantasy Award for their Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Space Ships, a non-fiction work published in 1951. Anyone known about this? (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1915 Mort Weisinger. Comic book editor best known for editing  Superman during in the Silver Age of comic books. He also served as story editor for the Adventures of Superman series,  Before that he was one of the earliest active sf fans, working on fanzines like The Planet (1931) and The Time Traveller (1932) and attending the New York area fan club  known as The Scienceers. (Died 1978.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1915 – Leslie Croutch.  Television & radio repairman.  Half a dozen stories.  Contributor to The AcolyteFuturian War DigestSpacewaysTin TacksVoice of the Imagi-NationLe Zombie.  Various fanzines of his own, notably Light.  See here and Harry Warner’s appreciation here (PDF).  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1920 John Mantley. He wrote but one SF novel, The 27th Day,  but it rated a detailed write-up by Bud Webster in The Magazine of F&SF which you can read here. (He wrote the screenplay for the film version of his novel which gets an abysmal score of twenty-five percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) He also produced a number of episodes of The Wild Wild WestBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and MacGyver. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born April 25, 1925 – Margery Gill.  A dozen covers, as many interiors for us; much else.  Here is Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds.  Here is The Saracen Lamp.  Here is Over Sea, Under Stone.  Here is English Fairy Tales.  Here is an interior from A Little Princess.  See this appreciation in the Illustrators Wiki.  (Died 2008) [JH] 
  • Born April 25, 1929 Robert A. Collins. Edited a number of quite interesting publications including the Fantasy Newsletter in the early Eighties, the IAFA Newsletter in the late Eighties and the early Nineties along with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual with Rob Latham at the latter time. He also wrote Thomas Burnett Swann: A Brief Critical Biography & Annotated Bibliography. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1941 – Stella Nemeth, age 80.  Book reviews and occasional drawings in The DiversifierLan’s LanternSF BooklogZeor Forum; seen in Algol.  More recently in Art With a Needle.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1957 – Deborah Chester, age 64.  Three dozen novels for us (some under different names); several others.  Has a recipe in Anne McCaffrey’s Serve It Forth.  Professor at Univ. Oklahoma.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1961 Gillian Polack, 60. Australian writer and editor. She created the Ceres Universe, a fascinating story setting. And she’s a great short story writer as Datlow demonstrated when she selected “Happy Faces for Happy Families” for her recommended reading section in the ‘04 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She’s reasonably stocked at the usual suspects. (CE) 
  • Born April 25, 1975 – Courtney Schafer, age 46.  Three novels, one shorter story.  Electrical engineer, worked in aerospace.  While at Cal Tech (California Inst. of Technology) she also learned rock climbing, skiing, SCUBA diving; later, figure skating.  Favorite series, the Lymond Chronicles; has also read Hidden FiguresThe Little PrinceWatership Down.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1979 – Christopher Hopper, age 42.  Half a dozen novels, a score more with co-authors; one shorter story.  Encouraged by his wife he has two million words published; also plays in her band.  He’s breakfasted with Winnie Mandela, kite-surfed in Hawai’i, photographed white rhinos in South Africa, climbed the Great Wall of China.  [JH]
  • Born April 25, 1981 Silvia Moreno-Garcia, 40. Canadian of Mexican descent. She’s the publisher of Innmouths Free Press, an imprint devoted to weird fiction. Not surprisingly, she co-edited with Paula R. Stiles for the press, the Historical Lovecraft and Future Lovecraft anthologies. She won a World Fantasy Award for the She Walks in Shadows anthology, also on Innsmouth Free Press. She was a finalist for the Nebula Award 2019 in the Best Novel category for her Gods of Jade and Shadow novel. And finally with Lavie Tidhar, she edits the Jewish Mexican Literary Review. Not genre, but sort of genre adjacent. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro finds something at the window gently tapping.

(9) X-MEN NEWS. Christian Holub, in the Entertainment Weekly story “Marvel reveals the results of X-Men fan election” says Marvel sent out a bunch of mini-comics before deciding whether Banshee, Strong Guy, Boom-Boom, or other rookies got to join the X-Men team. Those Twitter comics are linked at the end of the article.

…Election season is finally over for the X-Men. Back in January, Marvel conducted a public vote for fans to choose a member of the newest X-Men team that is set to debut at the much-anticipated Hellfire Gala in June’s Planet-Sized X-Men #1. As with any election, there can only be one winner, and unfortunately lots of losers. But at least fans get to see how each of the candidates — Banshee, Polaris, Forge, Boom-Boom, Tempo, Cannonball, Sunspot, Strong Guy, Marrow, and Armor — responded to the results in a new series of mini-comics published to Marvel’s social media accounts over the past week.

Written by Zeb Wells (Hellions) and illustrated by a variety of artists (including Rachelle Rosenberg who colored them all), each installment of these Twitter comics featured two candidates each reckoning with their loss. First up was Strong Guy and Forge, illustrated by Mike Henderson. Despite the fact that Forge has used his mutant affinity with technology to develop all kinds of bio-organic resources for the new mutant nation-state on the living island of Krakoa, Strong Guy points out that they’re equal in defeat….

(10) WHY DID YOU DESIGN? There’s a Kickstarter to fund production of “The Prisoner Retro Style Action Figures by Wandering Planet Toys”, with versions of Number 6 as he was attired in different episodes, a boxed pair with Number 6 and his nemesis Number 2, and even a Rover figure.  

In 1967 the cult classic TV series, THE PRISONER, came bursting onto the screen. The series, about an unnamed British intelligence agent who awakes to find himself trapped in an idyllic seaside village, was not only an instant hit with viewers at the time, it went on to be watched and re-watched obsessively by fans, quickly gaining cult status.

While there have been several collectables released over the decades, THE PRISONER has never received a line of OFFICIALLY LICENSED ACTION FIGURES… and Wandering Planet Toys is working with our licensing partners at ITV Studios to bring to life 4-inch RETRO STYLE ACTION FIGURES that celebrate Patrick McGoohan’s brilliant series. 

… Want to get information about these figures? Good, because by hook or by crook you will!

No discussion of THE PRISONER is complete without mention of the Village’s spherical guardian and menace, ROVER. In order to evoke the iconic moment of NUMBER 6 pushed up against the gelatinous side of the guardian, we’ve created a Limited Edition plastic packaging unit depicting our hero in the belly of the beast. This package is a resealable clamshell so the figure can be removed for display, then reinserted.

(11) SENATOR, YOU’RE NO JACK KENNEDY. But he makes a pretty good John Scalzi.

(12) REDRUM. It’s official! “NASA’s first color photo from the Mars Ingenuity helicopter is… red” reports Mashable. Images at the link.

Mars is often referred to as the “Red Planet” because of the rusty, reddish-orange sandscape blanketing the planet. That comes into sharp focus in our first color photo snapped by the Mars Ingenuity helicopter.

That was taken about 17 feet above the ground. You can clearly see the sandy red-orange Martian surface. And if you look at the bottom of the image, you’ll clearly see Ingenuity’s shadow, with two of its spindly legs visibly jutting out from it’s rectangular body.

Those patterns in the ground that look like tracks are in fact… tracks left by the Perseverance rover, the remote-operated research vehicle that carried Ingenuity safely to Mars. Once it deposited its flying robot friend the Perseverance headed off to a new location, first to monitor the helicopter for a month and then to proceed with its other duties.

Here’s a closer look at those tracks….

(13) JOSH FIGHT. There can be only one… Josh! Wikipedia explains yesterday’s “Josh fight”. Which is sounds a little like a Pennsic Wars where all the combatants have the same first name.

On the chosen day, several hundred people, including many named Josh, congregated at Air Park.[4][6] Attendees came from as far as New YorkHouston,[7] and Washington[8] with some dressed in superhero and Star Wars costumes.[9][10] The gathering also included a fundraising element for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, which raised over $8,000 USD,[3][11] and a food drive that collected over 200 pounds (90 kg) of food for a nearby food bank.[12][13]

Three ‘fights’ were held – one game of rock paper scissors for those named Josh Swain, a second with pool noodles for all attendees named Josh, and a third and final all-in battle for anyone in possession of a pool noodle willing to participate.[14] Only two Josh Swains were in attendance – Josh Swain, the event’s creator, beat a rival Josh Swain from Omaha in the rock paper scissors event.[12] A local four-year-old boy named Josh Vinson Jr., dubbed ‘Little Josh’, who had been treated at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha for seizures when he was two years old, was declared the winner and crowned with a paper crown from Burger King as well as a replica AEW World Championship belt

(14) WHAT IF MY ‘PARTNER’ HAS A JOB AND I DON’T? In “AI ethicist Kate Darling: ‘Robots can be our partners’” – a Guardian interviewer goes for the jugular:

But companies are trying to develop robots to take humans out of the equation – driverless robot cars, package delivery by drone. Doesn’t an animal analogy conceal what, in fact, is a significant threat?

There is a threat to people’s jobs. But that threat is not the robots – it is company decisions that are driven by a broader economic and political system of corporate capitalism. The animal analogy helps illustrate that we have some options. The different ways that we’ve harnessed animals’ skills in the past shows we could choose to design and use this technology as a supplement to human labour, instead of just trying to automate people away.

(15) DOME IMPROVEMENTS. The New Yorker asks “Do Brain Implants Change Your Identity?”

The first thing that Rita Leggett saw when she regained consciousness was a pair of piercing blue eyes peering curiously into hers. “I know you, don’t I?” she said. The man with the blue eyes replied, “Yes, you do.” But he didn’t say anything else, and for a while Leggett just wondered and stared. Then it came to her: “You’re my surgeon!”

It was November, 2010, and Leggett had just undergone neurosurgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. She recalled a surge of loneliness as she waited alone in a hotel room the night before the operation and the fear she felt when she entered the operating room. She’d worried about the surgeon cutting off her waist-length hair. What am I doing in here? she’d thought. But just before the anesthetic took hold, she recalled, she had said to herself, “I deserve this.”

Leggett was forty-nine years old and had suffered from epilepsy since she was born. During the operation, her surgeon, Andrew Morokoff, had placed an experimental device inside her skull, part of a brain-computer interface that, it was hoped, would be able to predict when she was about to have a seizure. The device, developed by a Seattle company called NeuroVista, had entered a trial stage known in medical research as “first in human.” A research team drawn from three prominent epilepsy centers based in Melbourne had selected fifteen patients to test the device. Leggett was Patient 14….

(16) ANIMATION INSPIRATION. “David Letterman Interviews Mel Blanc in 1982” from Late Night.

Even in his 70’s, Mel never lost those little voices. It amazes me how he could go from one to another so quickly and effortlessly.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/24/21 Old Rossum’s Scroll Of Practical Credentials

(1) YOU TAKE THE HIGH ROAD. George R.R. Martin is involved in developing a series based on Roger Zelazny’s Roadmarks for HBO, as he explained at Not A Blog: “On the Road with Roger Z”:

… We had not intended to announce anything yet, to be sure. Development is a long and uncertain process. Thousands of shows are pitched, hundreds of pilots are written, dozens of pilots are filmed, but only a very few of them ever get greenlit to series. There is a reason that Hollywood insiders call it “development hell.” And what’s the point of announcing projects that might never make it to air? That’s why HBO — like most other networks and streamers — prefers to keep these things quiet.

Even so, even so… you cannot win the lottery unless you buy a ticket, so we all keep playing.

…My career in television started in 1985 when I adapted Roger Zelazny’s “The Last Defender of Camelot” for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It was the first script of mine ever to be filmed (starring Richard Kiley and Jenny Agutter and a stuntman whose nose got cut off during the swordfight). Roger was a friend, a mentor, and one of the greatest science fiction writers who ever lived. He died in 1995, but his work will live for so long as people read SF and fantasy. It was an honor to be able to bring one of his stories to television. And now I am hoping we will be able to do it again.

I pitched ROADMARKS to HBO last year — along with four other SF and fantasy works (by various other writers) that I thought had the makings of great shows. They all had (and have) lots of potential, but ROADMARKS was the one they responded to….

(2) LEVER OF CHANGE. Learn the key to an author’s new book in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

…The big idea of Transgressions of Power is that a human being, in the moment of action, may not know what the significance of their choices might be; they might not be in a position of power that allows for drastic change; but their choices and actions matter.

(3) FRY’S CLOSING. [Item by Betsy Hanes Perry.] Fry’s was where, in Northern California, you went to look for components; later it branched out into computers (of course!), computer components, large appliances. It used to stock snacks as a loss-leader to get geeks to come in for casual shopping.

All the stores were themed, and the one in Fremont was themed around the 1893 World’s Fair. It had a Tesla coil that went off once an hour (see here). The one in San Jose was themed as a Mayan temple. “The kitschy history of the Bay Area’s themed Fry’s Electronics” at SFGate.

…If you’re not familiar: Every Fry’s store has a theme and elaborate decorations to go along with it. In the Bay Area, the San Jose store “pays tribute to the first astronomers, the Mayans, with settings from Chichen Itza,” complete with a massive temple at the entrance, palm trees between shelves and hidden speakers that play the sounds of birds chirping through the parking lot. Fremont is the “1893 World’s Fair,” where a Tesla coil at the center of the store fires off every hour. Sunnyvale is “the history of Silicon Valley” and the Palo Alto store was “Wild West.” (Sadly, the Palo Alto store rode into the sunset earlier this year.)

[Editor’s postscript.] The Fry’s in Burbank near where I used to live had an explicitly Fifties sci-fi alien invasion theme. It was awesome.

(4) THE FIRST SILENCE. Tananarive Due conducts an interview with “Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins on ‘Silence of the Lambs’ Legacy” at Vanity Fair.

…FOSTER: We met at a reading. I didn’t really get a proper meet with Tony. So we’re sitting across from each other, and he launches in, and we start the reading. And I was just petrified. [Laughs.] I was kind of too scared to talk to him after that.

He did another movie, and I started the film without him. I still kept that kind of hold-your-breath feeling about the character just from that first reading. Jonathan wanted to use this technique that Hitchcock talked about, where you have the actors use the camera as the other person. And I think there was something really interesting about that for the film, but that also meant that Tony and I couldn’t see each other. For a lot of the close-ups, we were looking into a camera lens and the other person was just a voice in the background. And—remember?—they had to lock you into the glass prison cell. So he would do a whole day inside the prison cell, and they wouldn’t let him out. We’d just do his side. And then the next day, we’d do my side.

HOPKINS: Also, they discovered before we started filming that there would be a problem if there were bars on the prison cell for left and right eyelines. So the designer—it was Kristi Zea—came up with a Perspex thing, which makes it even more frightening, because he’s like a tarantula in a bottle. No visual borderline between the two. It was more terrifying, because it’s a dangerous creature in a bottle who can do anything. He could break the glass….

(5) MORE, PLEASE. In “The Canonical Sequel FAQ” John Scalzi tells fans what the future holds in store for his various series.

Pretty much on a daily basis, I get asked on social media whether there will ever be a sequel to [insert one of my books/series here]. To reduce the amount of typing that I have to do each time this is asked, I now present The Canonical Sequel FAQ, which will tell you — at a glance! — whether you can expect a sequel to whatever book it is that you are hoping to have a sequel to. This will be updated from time to time.

(6) TIM KIRK MAP. Brenton Dickieson introduces readers to “’The Country Around Edgestow’: A Map from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength by Tim Kirk from Mythlore” at A Pilgrim in Narnia. The map has been reproduced at the link with permission.

… One of Lewis’ key terran fictional places is “Edgestow,” the home of Bragdon Wood, Bracton College, and the literary centre of the events in That Hideous Strength. In my reading about Lewis and Arthurian literature, I happened upon Margaret Hannay’s piece, which included a map of “The Country Around Edgestow” by artist Tim Kirk.…

(7) ARE YOU BOOKED FOR THE LAST DAY OF FEBRUARY? “Doctor Who Master trilogy watchalong party confirmed for Sunday” says Radio Times.

…Doctor Who Magazine’s Emily Cook has organised most of the watchalongs so far, and announced that they would be coming to an end this month. She tweeted the news by saying, “Everything has its time, and everything ends… I’ll be announcing the final Tweetalong later this afternoon!”

She later followed up with a tweet that read, “Believe it or not, we’ve been doing Doctor Who Lockdown for almost a year now! This may be the last Tweetalong, but we’re going to end with a SPECTACULAR watch party.

“And here comes our final Tweetalong… A TRIPLE BILL! Sunday 28th February 6pm (GMT), UTOPIA 7pm (GMT), THE SOUND OF DRUMS 8pm (GMT), LAST OF THE TIME LORDS. Watch with fans around the world. Join in with the hashtag #YANA”

If you haven’t participated in the event before, the idea is that fans from all over the world re-watch classic episodes at exactly the same time, tweeting their reactions and comments along the way.

(8) CATCH AND SELL ‘EM ALL. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 17 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber discusses the rise in value of rare Pokemon cards.

Today, a Chansey (Pokemon card) could be worth around $3,000. That’s a great deal less than the rare holographic Blastoise which sold at auction last month for $360,000, roughly the price of a brand-new Ferrari. In 2021, their 25th year of existence, Pokemon cards are enjoying a resurgence in popularity almost matching their late-1990s heyday.

This is partly down to the pandemic, which has left many stuck at home with extra disposable income, to take up a new hobby that combines investment with a waft of nostalgia. Streaming platforms YouTube and Twitch have cultivated communities of Pokemon card traders such as Leonhart, who quit his job as a lawyer to open card packs full-time on YouTube (the sealed packs contain a random selection of cards which could be precious or worthless), and streaming star Logan Paul, who says he has spent $2m on his card addiction.

(9) HEAR OCTAVIA BUTLER. NPR’s “Morning Edition” devoted a segment today to “Sci-Fi Writer Octavia Butler Offered Warnings And Hope In Her Work”. It includes numerous sound bites from an archival interview with the author. Listen to a recording or read a transcript of the NPR item at the link. (The complete transcript of Octavia Butler’s 2005 interview is available at Democracy Now! – “Remembering Octavia Butler: Black Sci-Fi Writer Shares Cautionary Tales in Unearthed 2005 Interview”.)

NOEL KING, HOST:

Octavia Butler seemed almost to belong to the future. She was the first Black woman to receive the Nebula and Hugo Awards. Those are the highest honors in science fiction and fantasy writing. She was the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur genius grant. She was prolific and prophetic from the 1970s until her death in 2006. Here’s Laine Kaplan-Levenson from NPR’s history show Throughline.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

OCTAVIA BUTLER: I don’t recall ever having wanted desperately to be a Black woman science fiction writer. I wanted to be a writer.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 24, 1952 — On this day in 1952, Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here. It is not one of the three Aladdin And His Lamp filmsthat are rated at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 24, 1786 – Wilhelm Grimm. With older brother Jacob (1785-1863) assembled and published the collection known to us as Grimms’ Fairy Tales (1812). Loved music; good story-teller; animated, jovial fellow. The Grimms weren’t the authors, so I can’t call them seminal, but they sure were vital. (Died 1859) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let’s not overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.) (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1921 – Richard Powers. Frank R. Paul Award. SF Hall of Fame. Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. Six hundred sixty covers, seventy interiors. Artbooks Spacetimewarp Paintings; The Art of Richard Powers. Our great pioneer of illustration that was not representation. You can see it start here with a 1950 cover (his first?) for Pebble in the Sky. By 1956 he did this for To Live Forever. By 1963 he was here for Budrys’ Inferno. Here is the Sep 78 Analog. Here is the Program Book for Chicon V the 49th Worldcon, 1991 – where he was Guest of Honor; before that, LoneStarCon I the 3rd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). Not one Chesley, not one Hugo. Did we appreciate him? Do we now? (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 88. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World, A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1941 – Sam Lundwall, age 80. Author, critic, translator, editor, publisher; television producer; cartoonist; photographer; singer. Organized Scancon 76 (Stockholm); Guest of Honor at Eurocon 9 (Zagreb), 21 (Dortmund). Translated his 1969 book on SF from Swedish into English as SF, What It’s All About (1971). SF, an Illustrated History (1978). Penguin World Omnibus of SF (1986) with Brian Aldiss. More nonfiction in Swedish about SF. A score of novels (four available in English), seven shorter stories (four). Reporter for Locus. Long thought by many the personification of SF in Sweden, idiosyncrasies (how not?) and all. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 74. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt In Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the nearly entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica. He was made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 70. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror. She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 55. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom. ( CE)
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 53. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seventh Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers. (CE)
  • Born February 24, 1975 – Socorro Acioli, age 46. A score of books; Head of the Saint is available in English. Author, teacher, translator. “I collect bookmarks and coffee makers. I like old photos, old houses, and things that no longer exist. In the same measure [na mesma medida], I love technology.” [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1979 – C.J. Harper, age 42. Two novels for us, also “funny books for teens under the name Candy Harper…. attended six different schools, but that honestly had very little to do with an early interest in explosives”; she’s been “a bookseller, a teacher and the person who puts those little stickers on apples”; has read Vanity Fair, Gone With the Wind, Of Mice and Men, David Copperfield. [JH]
  • Born February 24, 1991 – Daryl Qilin Yam, age 30. One novel; co-editor of SingPoWriMo (i.e. Singapore). Studied at Univ. Warwick, Univ. Tôkyô. Stageplay producer at non-profit collective Take Off Productions. On the board of directors of literary charity Sing Lit Station. “I am first and foremost a writer of fiction and poetry … photography … is a field in which I remain an amateur. But … we live in a world that loves images…. I have a fondness for the backs of people (facial expressions are too didactic for my taste), and I like to frame my subjects in situations where highlights and shadows are nicely balanced.” [JH]

(12) PRESERVING WORLDS. Here’s a new Diamond Bay Press podcast on the classic online gaming environments and virtual worlds that have become virtual ghost towns. It’s based on a new video documentary series called Preserving Worlds, which is available for free on the streaming service called Means.tv.

A conversation between Lex Berman and Derek Murphy.

Derek Murphy is the co-director, with Mitchel Zemil, of the Preserving Worlds series, and the documentary film Sarasota, Half in Dream.

Recorded with Zencastr from Cambridge and Brighton, MA on 18th February, 2021.

what if the ghost of a player of a dead game, was telling us what it was all like?

(13) THE ’66 DOLLAR QUESTION. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks sends a missive from 1966 asking — “[February 24, 1966] Is 1966 the Best Year Ever for American Comic Books?”.

… A lot of the thrill these days has been at Marvel, as some of their comics are reaching unparalleled new levels of excellence. For instance, the work of Steve Ditko and Stan Lee on both Amazing Spider-Man and the “Dr. Strange” strip in Strange Tales has been outstanding. Peter Parker has graduated high school and enrolled at Empire State University in Spider-Man. Pete seems to be shedding his nature as a nebbish since he joined college, making new friends while having new (and more sophisticated) problems. The three-part “Master Planner” saga which ended in ASM #33 was a storyline nonpareil, a thrill a minute journey with a spectacular denouement. (I’m including the payoff below, but please try to find all these issues if you can, because the leadup is just as spectacular).

(14) ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION. Alexandra Erin wonders something —

(15) JPL’S TRICKSTERS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Remember that on the last Rover they would not allow JPL to put a JPL plaque on it so they used Morse Code on the wheels that spelled out JPL. Holes that were “designed” to drain sand as it moved about.

This time, there are multiple Easter Eggs. The first was deployed as Perseverance was en route to the Martian surface: “Mars rover’s giant parachute carried secret message” at Yahoo!

The huge parachute used by NASA’s Perseverance rover to land on Mars contained a secret message, thanks to a puzzle lover on the spacecraft team.

Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Clark, a crossword hobbyist, came up with the idea two years ago. Engineers wanted an unusual pattern in the nylon fabric to know how the parachute was oriented during descent. Turning it into a secret message was “super fun,” he said Tuesday.

Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday….

This illustration provided by NASA shows a diagram added over the parachute deployed during the descent of the Mars Perseverance rover as it approaches the surface of the planet on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. He also included the GPS coordinates for the mission’s headquarters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

(16) BOOKS ARE THE ESSENCE. The Essence of Wonder crew gets together on-screen to exchange book recommendations in “EoW Staff Share Their Favorite Books! Ready… Fight!” on Saturday, February 27, at 3 PM (US Eastern). Register at the link.

(17) THE DIRTY DOZEN PLUS THREE. 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a highly scientific list of the fifteen “Worst Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made”. Well, at least highly-less-pulled-out-of-somebody’s-butt-than-usual for a listicle.

…To determine the worst sci-fi movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes. We created an index based on the average critic rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the average audience rating from Rotten Tomatoes, and the average user rating from IMDb. We only considered feature films with at least 5,000 Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews, 10 Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews, and 10,000 IMDb user reviews…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers: ‘Werewolf: The Apocalypse: Earthblood’” Fandom Games says you play a werewolf fighting evil corporation Endron, “which doesn’t even pretend not to be Enron with a D” but is so dumb on security that it has ventilator shafts with doggy doors so werewolves can pass through them.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Betsy Hanes Perry, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Rich Lynch, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, Gadi Evron, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 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 November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, rcade, Contrarius, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/20 Lemonade Stand On Zanzibar

(1) READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. On the last day of CoNZealand, Jenny Hammond posted to Discord a verse about attending the first virtual Worldcon.

Five days of insanity
Oh the humanity
I click on a room
It refuses to Zoom
I say words of depravity!

(2) CONZEALAND MEMBERSHIP STAT. Interesting revelation.

(3) INSIDE THE HUGO CEREMONY. Erin Underwood, who presented the Best Fan Writer Hugo, told Facebook readers some specifics about the lack of support she received, and offered these general comments —

A few more thoughts, the ConZealand Hugo Awards Ceremony production team owned the production of the event (edited to be clear). It was their show. What we saw was what they created. George owns his words and choices, but they own the decision of using those videos. They produced the show that we saw.

… It is hard to push back against an iconic guest and to provide critical guidance for improved performance, but that was their job. ConZealand owned that Hugo Ceremony from start to finish. As con runners and volunteers, it’s our job to make sure that our speakers and guests are well-prepared and know exactly what’s expected of them, and if they fail, we fail.

Nicholas Whyte, Deputy Hugo Administrator added this comment:

CoNZealand Hugo administrators were as much in the dark about what was going on as you were. Probably more so in that we had no input at all, whereas at least you recorded a video.

Edited to add: practically the first thing we did with finalists was to ask the correct pronunciation of their names.

(4) AVOID FRIENDLY FIRE. Michi Trota is concerned about collateral damage from the social media response to the troubled Hugo Awards ceremony.

(5) ASPIRATION PLUS PERSPIRATION. Cheryl Morgan analyzes some of the challenges of managing Worldcons in “Why Worldcons Go Wrong” and says in conclusion:

…There’s a tendency in certain quarters to sneer when people say that running Worldcon is hard, but it is, and unless you have actually done it you probably don’t understand just how hard it is. Which is not to say that people don’t make terrible mistakes, and should not be called to account for them. I can assure you that I have done that often enough in my time (ask people about TorCon 3 if you don’t believe me). However, I have always tried to do so in the hope that we can learn from our mistakes and make Worldcon better. I hope you can see from the above that fixing things, or creating an alternative, is not simply a matter of vowing to “do better”.

(6) CLOSED CAPSHUNNING. The AI still needs some work.

(7) CHANGE THE CHANNEL. Heroes & Icons tickles your memory about these “15 Forgotten Science-Fiction TV Shows Of The 1980s”.

The Eighties were a golden era for science-fiction. Cineplexes were chockablock with blockbusters like The Empire Strikes BackBack to the FutureAliens and The Terminator. On the small screen, you could get your space fix with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sitcoms had aliens and androids as their stars in ALF and Small Wonder. Even the cars could talk on Knight Rider.

Of course, not everything was a hit. For every smash, there were scores of knock-offs. Every network attempted to launch its own time travel adventure, it seems. While these shows rarely made it to a second season, they remain cult favorites of those who watched them. They might have thrived today, in our geek culture of a thousand options…

13. THE POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR (1982–83)

Peter Barton starred alongside Lou Gossett, Jr., in this 1982 superhero series. Production began in 1981, though was put on hold after Barton fell onto a pyrotechnics flare, suffering severe third degree burns. Production was shut down, as the actor healed for several months in a hospital. Barton had edged Tom Cruise for the lead role, an alien prince hiding out in high school on earth. Star Trek fans take note: Leonard Nimoy directed an episode, and Walter Koenig wrote one.

(8) YOUR NAME HERE. The New York Times’ John Schwartz has been “Tuckerized” – in fact, he even uses that word in his article “Boldly Writing What I Hadn’t Written Before: Science Fiction”.

I’m a character!

I mean, in a novel. OK, a minor character, more like a cameo, but still — my name is the first that you see in the first chapter of “The Relentless Moon,” the new novel in Mary Robinette Kowal’s “Lady Astronaut” science fiction series. The novels are set in an alternate timeline that has the world, after a devastating meteorite strike and the resulting runaway global warming, greatly accelerating its space program to get humans off the doomed planet.

HALFWAY TO MARS
John Schwartz, Special to the National Times
KANSAS CITY, March 28, 1963 — If all goes as it should — and in space, that is no sure thing — then sometime today, thirteen brave voyagers will cross a Rubicon that no man ever has: the halfway point between our home planet and Mars.

Ms. Kowal, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards and who is president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, makes her novels something of a group project by relying on the expertise of others for thorny passages: She gets help with orbital mechanics and spacecraft piloting, for example, from actual astronauts. She puts the names of real people into her work, including astronauts.

But she tucks in other names, as well….

(9) DON COMES UP LIKE THUNDER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night I heard a 2019 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Don Hahn.  Hahn began his career at Disney in the mid-1970s, back when an animator who asked to “see a scene” could have an intern go to the storage area where the original cels were stored.  Hahn’s been associated with Disney ever since, surviving the first attempt to revive the animation decision in the early 1980s and the second one when Disney shifted to musicals with The Little Mermaid.  He was the producer of the first versions of Beauty and The Beast and The Lion King, and tells many stories about the era, including how The Lion King was nearly scored by ABBA. He’s also proud of spotting talent early, including seeing the potential in composer Hans Zimmer and director Tim Burton, and says Burton became a success because of “an incredible work ethic.”

Hahn also writes books, including books about animation and an edited version of Walt Disney’s memos about animators.  He paints and published a collection of his art called Hahn Solo.

Hahn also directs documentaries about Disney.  His most recent one is Howard, about Howard Ashman, who revived the American musical with his lyrics for The Little Mermaid  and Beauty and The Beast  but whose career was tragically cut short after he died of AIDS in the early 1990s. Howard is dropping on Disney+ on August 7, 

Hahn was going to come to a movie convention Maltin held last year, and promised he would sign a book any way a customer wanted “as long as it was legal according to the laws of the state of California.”

Hahn’s website is donhahn.com.

(10) IN (LONDON) TIMES TO COME. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Behind a paywall at The (London) Times: “Why the future looks bright for science fiction” by Bryan Appleyard.

John Clute, the co-editor of the six million-word Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, is pleading with me.

“Please don’t use it, it is deeply vulgar and very stupid. It’s really kind of reprehensible . . . I shouldn’t have mentioned it at all, and I didn’t.” But, John, it’s out there, it’s in your book. I really have no choice.

The term he loathes is “cli-fi”. It means climate-change fiction — stories about the world after a climate catastrophe, stories that used to be called science fiction. The purpose cli-fi serves is not noble, it is pure snobbery. It is, as the entry says, a way of “distancing from the perceived downmarket nature or Pulp roots of Genre SF”. “Speculative fiction” is another class-ridden term used by authors who don’t like to be seen slumming it. Even “sci-fi” is not welcome — in TV listings and the like it describes superhero nonsense.

Yet calling it SF will not, for many readers, drag it out of the lower ranks of the literary league table. Jessica Harrison, the editor of the new SF series from Penguin Modern Classics, admits that for her the term at first evoked book or magazine covers with “half-naked girls and purple planets”. Neither is present on the austere white covers of her list…

… Now, and here comes the optimism, SF has gone global, with new waves of Asian and African writers. One Chinese author in particular has to be mentioned, Liu Cixin. I’ve just started reading his book The Three-Body Problem — it is different from anything else and beautifully written. It is also brave, in that it starts with a vivid description of the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Barack Obama loved the book, not least because it made his “day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty”. That, of course, is exactly what SF should do.

SF will survive even as technological progress seems to race ahead of some of its wildest imaginings. It will survive because it is a way of seeing — not aliens, time warps, superluminal travels and so on, but ourselves. Dr Snaut nailed it in the greatest of all SF movies, Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972).

“We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man!”

(11) BRIMLEY OBIT. Actor Wilford Brimley, who appeared in Cocoon and its sequel, died August 1 at the age of 85. He was also in The Thing (1982), the Ewoks: Battle for Endor TV movie, Progeny, and in the genre-adjacent Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) as the head of C.U.R.E.

(12) BELATED MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • In July 1997, Donnerjack was published by the Easton Press. This was the true first edition as the Avon Books hardcover edition wouldn’t be out for another month. Though it was started by Roger Zelazny, this novel was largely completed by Jane Lindskold. He completed a few hundred pages of the first draft and left detailed notes for its remainder. The outline Zelazny did was entitled ”Donnerjack, of Virtù: A Fable for the Machine Age“. It was to be the first novel in a trilogy but as Zelazny said in his Hugo Award winning “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by by Hokusai“ novelette, “I know, too, that death is the only god who comes when you call.” (CE)

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 2, 1916 Elizabeth Russell. She’s best remembered as the Cat Woman (though the voice was dubbed by Simone Simon) in The Cat People. And she was Barbara Farren In The Curse of the Cat People — some of the same characters, not a sequel.  She was also Countess Lorenz in The Corpse Vanishes where her co-star was Bela Lugosi. Lastly she was Dean of Women Grace Gunnison in Weird Women which was sort of based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second-season Trek episode that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild, Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair”,  “The Minus-X Affair”,  and “The Pieces of Fate Affair”.  (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1942 – Isabel Allende, 78.  Adventures in and beside literature include ten novels for us, a score of shorter stories, translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese; many others (one of which, Chip Hitchcock, is Zorro).  Fan of Shakespeare.  Translator of romance novels into Spanish, fired for altering dialogue to show the heroines smarter, plots to show them more independent.  First woman to receive the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit.  Harvard Litt.D. (Latin, Litterarum Doctor “doctor of letters”, in her case honoris causa “for the sake of the honor” i.e. honorary degree).  Memoir, The Sum of Our Days.  American Academy of Arts & Letters.  Chilean Literature Prize.  Gish Prize.  US Medal of Freedom.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1945 Joanna Cassidy, 75. She is known for being the replicant Zhora Salome in Blade Runner and Dolores in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, two of my favorite films. She also did really bad horror films that don’t bear thinking about. I mean really bad horror. (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1949 Craig Shaw Gardner, 71. Comic fantasy author whose work is, depending on your viewpoint, very good or very bad. For me, he’s always great.  I adore his Ballad of Wuntvor sequence and highly recommend all three novels, A Difficulty with DwarvesAn Excess of Enchantments  and A Disagreement with Death. Likewise his pun-filled Arabian Nights sequence will either be to your liking or really not. I think it’s worth it just for Scheherazade’s Night Out. (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1949 – Joe Siclari, F.N., 71.  Collector, fanhistorian, active in cons and fanzines.  New Yorker and Floridian.  Chair of MagiCon the 50th Worldcon.  Co-founded SMOFcon (“Secret Master Of Fandom”, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke) and FanHistoriCon.  Published The Complete “Quandry” (being Lee Hoffman’s fanzine; note spelling), The Enchantment (Walt Willis), A Wealth of Fable (Harry Warner’s fanhistory of the 1950s); edited a photo-illustrated ed’n of All Our Yesterdays (HW fanhistory of the 1940s).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Chairman of FANAC (fanac has long been short for fan activity; in this case, the Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions) which sponsored MagiCon and now sponsors Fancyclopedia 3 and the FANAC Fan History Project.  Fan Guest of Honor at MiniCon 31 (with wife Edie Stern), DeepSouthCon 34, Loscon XXVI, Lunacon 51.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with Stern).  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Stern).  FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement Award) for Best Online Archive or Resource (i.e. the FANAC Fan History Pjt; with Stern).  Named Fan Guest of Honor (with Stern) for Chicon 8 the scheduled 80th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1952 – Hope Leibowitz, 68.  Only person to have attended every Ditto (fanziners’ con; named for a brand of copying machine).  Has lived in Toronto longer than New York (38 yrs, 30 yrs).  Contributor to FLAP (Fannish Little Amateur Press, an apa).  Sent a birthday card to Bob Madle (see here and here).  Likes the cover for Mike Resnick’s Paradise – but I forgot to ask if she meant this one (Whelan) or maybe this one (Gauckler).  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 66. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read a certain author. And so it was of MacLeod. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, all of The Fall Revolution, just the first two of the Corporation Wars and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available digitally! (CE)
  • Born August 2, 1973 – Prapda Yun, 47.  Writer, filmmaker, graphic designer.  S.E.A. Write Award for Probability (short stories); The Sad Part Was, mostly therefrom, seems the first translation of Thai fiction published in the UK.  PY himself has translated Lolita and PninA Clockwork OrangeR.U.R.  Songs and other music for Buahima and the Typhoon Band.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1976 – Emma Newman, 44.  Eleven novels, as many shorter stories (one for Wild Cards).  Collection, From Dark Places.  Audiobooks.  “How LARP [Live-Action Role Playing] Changed My Life” here.  Best-Fancast Hugo for Tea and Jeopardy (with husband Peter), see here.  [JH]
  • Born August 2, 1994 – Dawson Vosburg, 16.  Three novels. “I love my imagination.  It’s the one thing I’m thankful for every day.”  Here’s Chapter 2 of Incognito.  [JH]

(14) DAYS OF OUR LIVES. The sand ran out?

(15) WASCALLY FOREVER. John King Tarpinian has received his Bugs Bunny stamps.

(16) UNDER THE LID. Where does Alasdair Stuart find the time? Here’s what he covers this week in The Full Lid for 31st July 2020:  

This week in The Full Lid! With the movie riding high I dig into the second volume of the original Old Guard comic series. Force Multiplied changes the game for the immortals in some big ways and is both a good read and a great basis for the almost certain sequel. 

Elsewhere this issue I take a look at Fredrica and Stefon Bristol’s audacious and smart time travel movie See You Yesterday which is one of those films that will stay with you after viewing. Finally, I take a look at the first issue of Bleed Them Dry, a vampire/cyberpunk/murder mystery from Vault Comics and the team of Hiroshi Kuzumi, Elliot Rahal, Dike Ruan, Tim Daniel and Miquel Muerto. Our interstitials this week are remixes of classic Calvin and Hobbes strips by the Blindspotting team of Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs.

The Full Lid is weekly, free and published every Friday at 5 p.m. BST. You can find an archive and a subscription link at the top of this week’s issue.

(17) ROCKET SCIENCE. Here is how Siobhan Carroll would improve the Retro-Hugos:

 …my suggestions would be to focus on the award’s goal of introducing fans to lesser-known works and teaching us something about SF history. I’d suggest the following format changes:
1) make it a juried award, with the jury consisting of academics and critics who’ve done historical recovery work; 
2) reduce the slate from 12 or so awards to 1 or 2, which would allow for more fan engagement with the work(s) in question; 
3) make its guiding question not, ‘what works might have won in a given year’ but  ‘Which lesser-known SF works from the years of eligibility most speak to the genre and the SF community in 2022?’”

(18) READ FASTER. Review site BookNest.eu will turbocharge the growth of your Mt. TBR with their list of favorites from the 21st century:“Fantasy List: Top 100 Fantasy Books Of Our Century”.

We at BookNest.eu are incredibly excited to announce that we have reached the extraordinary milestone of TWO THOUSAND reviews! That’s an incredible number, considering all of the hours that go into crafting even a single review. We are proud of our reviewers, who have worked for years with passion and dedication to deliver our reviews to the fantasy community in the hopes of increasing awareness of authors and titles we are excited about.

In celebration of this occasion, our reviewers have compiled a list of our picks for the top one hundred fantasy novels that have been published this century. This list is, of course, subjective, so if your favourite book is missing, we apologize in advance. We have not read every book in the world, and the taste of our reviewers may not reflect your own.

(19) PRETTY COLORS. Goobergunch is definitely showing something here. Excuse me a minute while I go learn from the Wikipedia what it is….

(20) THEY MADE IT! “Splashdown! SpaceX And NASA Astronauts Make History”NPR has the story.

Two NASA astronauts are back on Earth after their space capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The last time any NASA astronauts came home by splashing down was in 1975—and back then, they were in an Apollo space vehicle. This time, the astronauts were in a white, bell-shaped capsule owned by SpaceX.

The success of their test flight, to the International Space Station and back, is a milestone for SpaceX, the first private company to send people to the outpost.

The company has been taking cargo to and from the station for years. This flight with people on board was the final test for SpaceX’s crew system to be certified by NASA as ‘operational’ for future astronaut missions.

That means the U. S. once again has its own ability to put people in orbit and return them safely. Since retiring its space shuttles in 2011, NASA has had to buy seats for its astronauts on Russian spaceships.

NASA can now rely on an American space taxi that takes off from Florida, and it’s already assigning astronauts to future SpaceX missions–including Megan McArthur, who happens to be married to one of the just-returned astronauts, Bob Behnken.

The BBC also has a movie of the parachute deployment and descent (splashdown at 1:18) and one of the crew checking out of the ISS.

(21) SOCIALLY DISTANCED MAGIC. [Item by N.]

If you wanna watch, it’s live right now on Twitch.

(22) A HORSE, OF COURSE. Adam Thirwell says Bojack Horseman reminds him of everything from Don Quixote to Ibsen in “A Horse’s Remorse” at The New York Review of Books.

…I’m in no way an avid watcher of cartoons but, to risk a sense of disproportion, I began to feel something similar as the animated series BoJack Horseman unfolded on Netflix over six seasons and seventy-seven episodes, beginning in 2014 and ending early this year. “It’s not Ibsen,” went a repeated refrain in the show, which was funny not just because it was a form of immediate self-deprecation about the show itself—a cartoon comedy whose supporting cast includes a news anchor who’s an irascible blue whale and a film studio renamed Warbler Brothers—but also because this show was Ibsen in a way, just an opioid version: a wild investigation of self-deception and failure. Or rather, that’s what I concluded by the end. At first it was simply zany and delightful, this series about a talking horse who’s the washed-up star of a now-forgotten 1990s hit sitcom, Horsin’ Around, a saccharine confection about a horse who adopts three human orphans. But by the time it finished, it had become something much grander and more terrible. Exactly what, however, and exactly how, are conundrums that have preoccupied me….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/20 She Has Loosed The Fateful Lightning Of Her Terrible Swifts’ Scorn

(1) YARNSPINNER. Cora Buhlert will be taking up the challenge a little differently this year, but she is running a post to hold herself accountable: “The 2020 July Short Story Challenge – Day by Day”.

What is the July Short Story Challenge, you ask? Well, in July 2015, Dean Wesley Smith announced that he was planning to write a brand new short story every day during the month of July. The original post seems to be gone now, but the Wayback Machine has a copy here. At the time, several people announced that they would play along, so I decided to give it a try as well. And then I did it again the following year. And the next. And the next. If you want to read my post-mortems of the previous July short story challenges, here are the posts for 2015201620172018 and 2019.

Because I’ve already done the July short story challenge five years in a row now and always found the experience very rewarding, I’m aiming for a repeat this year. Though for now, I’m only committing to doing this for a week, which is already half over. If things are going well, I’ll keep going, though I’m not sure if I can do the entire July this year, because Worldcon is at the end of the month and that will eat up my time and attention.

(2) TRAILER TIME. The Old Guard on Netflix is a film about immortal mercenaries starring Charlize Theron.

Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary.

(3) CLASS IS IN SESSION. In each episode of the “Science Fiction University” podcast, Driftglass and Blue Gal discuss one work of classic science fiction plus one science fiction movie. The two pieces share a theme, whether it be time travel, unreliable narrators, dystopias, etc. The most recent episode is “Episode 5: How HBO’s Westworld Went South”.

(4) TURN ON, TUNE OUT. The New Yorker revisits “The Walkman, Forty Years On”.

…Hosokawa noted how listeners used the devices to tame the unpredictability of urban spaces, with all of their unexpected intrusions and loud noises. Wearing headphones functioned both as a personal “Do Not Disturb” sign and an alternate soundtrack to the cacophony of the city. This was a new form of human experience, engaged disengagement, a technological shield from the world and an antidote to ennui. Whenever nerves frayed or boredom crept in, one could just hit Play and fast-forward life a little. One of the first Westerners to grasp the import of this new human capacity was the author William Gibson, a pioneer of the genre of science fiction called cyberpunk, who wrote years later that “the Sony Walkman has done more to change human perception than any virtual reality gadget.”

(5) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Extract from John F. Kennedy’s Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Nobel Prize Winners of the Western Hemisphere — April 29, 1962:

I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. 

Jefferson died on this day in 1826. (So did John Adams.)

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 1970 — Fifty years ago, Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber was published by Doubleday. It’s quite rare to find a copy these days because most of the copies were accidentally pulped by the publisher in error when the order went out to destroy remaining copies of Zelazny’s older book Creatures of Light and Darkness. It was the first novel in his Amber series. It was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award but lost out to Mary Stewart’s A Crystal Cave. A comic adaptation was done by Terry Bisson, and a TV adaptation is supposed being  produced by the creators of the Walking Dead series.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 4, 1878 – Frank Papé.  Five dozen covers, a hundred interiors, more outside our field; an Arabian Nights, an Odyssey, a Pilgrim’s Progress, a collection of the Psalms, a Robin Hood, Robinson Crusoe, a Sigurd and Gudrun; Cabell, Cervantes, Anatole France, Rabelais, Sabatini, Shakespeare, Spenser, Suetonius; an Indian and a Russian Story Book; Golden, Ruby, Diamond Fairy Books; Uncle Ray’s Corner (Ramon Coffman).  Here is a Penguin Island.  Here is a Silver Stallion.  Here is a moment from Alfred Clark’s As It Is in Heaven.  Here is Christian conquering Apollyon.  Here is Falcon the Hunter from The Russian Story Book.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born July 4, 1883 – Rube Goldberg.  A top cartoonist and not only for The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts (1914-1964); in 1915 his salary at the New York Evening Mail was $50,000 a year (go ahead, do the calculation); several comic strips including Mike and Ike (They Look Alike); 1948 Pulitzer Prize for this editorial cartoon.  First President of the Nat’l Cartoonists Society, namesake of the Reuben Award.  Here is his postage stamp.  Here is a Website.  We should’ve had a 100th Birthday exhibit at the 41st Worldcon but I didn’t think of it and neither did you.  (Died 1970) [JH]
  • Born July 4, 1901 Guy Endore. American novelist and screenwriter whose 1933 The Werewolf of Paris novel holds the same position in werewolf literature that Dracula does for vampire literature. It was filmed as The Curse of The Werewolf for which he wrote the screenplay. Stableford also praises his horror story, “The Day of the Dragon”. He worked on the screenplay for Mark of the Vampire starring Bella Lugosi. (Died 1970.) (CE)
  • Born July 4, 1904 William Meader. A long history in genre video starting with When Worlds Collide and The War of The Worlds. All of his appearances were uncredited as was the case in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers and The Absent Minded Professor, and even his appearances on Star TrekThe Twilight ZoneGet Smart!Batman Wild, Wild West and even Munster, Come Home! (Died 1979.) (CE)
  • Born July 4, 1941 – Howard Frank, Ph.D.  Director of the Information Technology Office at DARPA (Defense Adv. Research Pjts. Agency, U.S. Dept. of Defense), then Dean of the School of Business at U. Maryland.  Internet Hall of Fame.  Moskowitz Archive Award.  The Frank CollectionGreat Fantasy Art Themes from the Frank Collection (both with Jane Frank).  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 4, 1947 – Ann Layman Chancellor.  Costumer, filksinger, graphic artist.  Phi Beta Kappa (Classics), College of William & Mary; M.F.A., Boston University School of Theater Arts.  Assistant Professor of Design at U. Iowa, then U. New Orleans, then State U. N.Y. at Oneonta.  Parade Artist, New Orleans Mardi Gras; Ass’t Costume Dir., Guthrie Theater (Minneapolis); full-body costumes, heads, hardware, motion systems, Sesame Street. Art Director, Kalki (Cabell Society) 1971-1984.  Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 24.  Drew the Lady of Cups (no, not the Queen) for the Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck.  Costumes, Creatures, and Characters for the 38th Worldcon.  Here she is as Maleficent (shown with Cortlandt Hull’s Ming) at the 29th.  Here she is as Black Orchid at the 37th.  Substantial artwork for the 46th.  Here is a minor adventure with her at the 51st.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born July 4, 1949 Peter Crowther, 71. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s really available in digital form for much of short fiction or novels at the usual digital suspects.  (CE)
  • Born July 4, 1958 – Lynn Gold, 62.  Active fan in the San Francisco Bay area, and more widely as a filksinger.  With Lee & Barry Gold (no relation) published The Golden Gait Songbook for ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  Co-founded FanFare Music, the non-profit parent of Consonance; chaired Consonance 2001 and 2003-2004, Toastmistress at Consonance 2011; Interfilk Guest (traveling-filker fund) at NEFilk 10 (Northeast Filk Convention).  Guest of Honor at LepreCon 25, Loscon 28.  [JH]
  • Born July 4, 1967 Christopher McKitterick, 53. Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, a program at the University of Kansas that supports an annual series of awards, lectures, classes, workshops, the Campbell Conference, and AboutSF, a resource for teachers and readers of science fiction. He’s also a juror for and Chair of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel from 2002 onward. And yes, he does write genre fiction with one novel to date, Transcendence, more than a double handful of stories, and being an academic, critical essays such as  “John W. Campbell: The Man Who Invented Modern Fantasy and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” which was published in Steven H. Silver’s Hugo nominated Argentus. (CE)
  • Born July 4, 1977 David Petersen, 43. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good. He published a few years back The Art of The Mouse Guard 2005 – 2015 which though expensive is stunning as a look at his series. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations several years back. (CE)
  • Born July 4, 1983 – Milena Wójtowicz, 37.  A talkative optimist, a devoted lover of dogs, statistical yearbooks, books, Internet comics, and Christmas lights.Six novels, three dozen shorter stories, a dozen translations.  Among her characters are beautiful princesses, insidious dragons, neglected dogs, but even princesses have no influence on the roles the author will write for them.  Here is the cover for Wrota (Polish, “gate”).  [JH]
  • Born July 4, 1989 Emily Coutts , 41. She plays the role of helmsman Keyla Detmer on Discovery. She’s also her mirror universe counterpart, who is the first officer of that universe’s Shenzhou. (I like the series and am definitely looking forward to it when it jump a thousand years into the future next season!) She was in one episode of the SF series Dark Matter and in Crimson Peak, a horror film but that’s it for genre appearances. (CE)

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) HAT TIP. SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” probe “How Legends Of Tomorrow Paid Tribute To The Roots Of Fanfiction”

…The whole episode, titled “The One Where We’re Trapped on TV,” is a campy delight with fun twists on major TV shows, but the Star Trek parody in particular is pretty special. Sara and Ava play the roles of Kirk and Spock, respectively, and the series goes so far as to have them kiss on the bridge.

It’s a significant moment for a few reasons. First, it’s just plain delightful to see all the K/S (the original ship name for Kirk and Spock) sexual tension play out on screen. Second, having queer characters assume the roles of characters who have long been queered by fandom affirms how viewers have read the original characters for decades. And perhaps the coolest part of all is that in so doing, Legends pretty clearly nods to one of the roots of queer fanfic: slash.

(10) SERLING INTERVIEWED BY GUNN. “Interview With Rod Serling (1970)” on YouTube is an interview with Rod Serling about sf on television that James Gunn did for the Center for the Study of Science FIction at the University of Kansas in 1970.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Horror Europa With Mark Gatiss” on YouTube is a 2012 BBC documentary that is a sequel to “A History of Horror.”  The documentary is devoted to a discussion of great German, Belgian, French, Spanish, and Italian horror films and includes interviews with directors Dario Argento and Guillermo Del Toro and a visit to the Slovakian castle where Nosferatu was filmed.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Jerry Kaufman, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, JJ. Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus, who found something July Fourthish in yesterday’s item about BionicSwifts.]

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.]

About Zelazny

Roger Zelazny in 1988

By John Hertz:  Cat Eldridge and I are just getting used to doing these birthday notices together.  So far we seem to be coöperating well.  Hope you like the results.

In case your equipment doesn’t show it, there should be two side-by-side dots over the second “o” in “coöperating” just above: a dieresis mark.  “Dieresis” rhymes, more or less, with “Why, there is Sis.”  Shows there are two separate sounds, i.e. not coop-er-ate.  Punctuation is your friend, it’s here to help you.

Anyway, Cat told me he wanted to do the birthday notice about Roger Zelazny (1937-1995) for the 13 May 20 Pixel Scroll, so I didn’t do one.  I did say I had an anecdote.  He seems to think I should tell you.

I can’t avoid mentioning “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” (Nebula for Best Novelette), This Immortal (Hugo winner), and Lord of Light (Hugo winner).  Zelazny won four more Hugos, two more Nebulas – all before Nine Princes in Amber.  Gosh.

Anyway – or as Pul the grik-dog might have said (The Witches of Karres, ch. 11; grik-dogs can talk as good as anybody), double anyway –

Some years ago I was working at an in-store delicatessen of a supermarket chain in Hollywood.  Various people shopped and worked there.

One fellow-worker said he owned the rights to film Lord of Light.  He hadn’t yet made the film, he said, because the special-effects technology he could get at couldn’t do what he wanted.

Lots of folks there said lots of things.  Some might be true and some not.  Or both.  What did I know?

A woman who worked with us – can a woman be a fellow? – had striking conventional beauty.  That and other things, her conversation, her manner, left me thinking “This woman could be a Playboy Playmate.”  In fact she was a Playboy Playmate.  And, though I hadn’t heard at the time, one of her two Great Reads was Lord of Light.

So I just said “Sure, B– ” (I’m leaving his name out) and went on brewing coffee.  I couldn’t do anything about it anyway.  That’s triple anyway.

Some while later, but more or less around then, I ran into Zelazny at a party.  I didn’t know him, but I knew who he was.  We fell into conversation, as happens in the science fiction community.  I told him how much in particular I liked Lord of Light.  Few had tried what it did.  Few had succeeded.

Ambiguity is difficult because you have to keep the reader engaged.  So is mystery.  Next door in detective fiction some character is trying to resolve the mystery.  In SF there are often one or two characters trying to find their way.  It’s no accident that many an SF story is a Bildungsroman, an adventure of maturation and thus learning.

Also difficult is a story where at the beginning the reader doesn’t know although the characters do.

Lord of Light manages all that.  Also jokes.  There’s one about an epileptic shan, another about soulless followers.

Incidentally, I said, I’ve met a man who said he had the rights to film Lord of Light.

Without missing a beat Zelazny said “Well, if his name was B– it’s perfectly true.”

Zelazny was as accessible, and had as good a memory, as his reputation held.

That was the end of the anecdote for me.  There was more, much more, about Lord of Light, and filming it, and Jack Kirby, and indeed as Burl Ives sang, things too fierce to mention.  But they never had anything to do with me.  What, never?  No, never.  Anyway – quadruple anyway – that’s the end.