Pixel Scroll 4/15/21 Pixel Dawns On MarbleScroll

(1) PAY THE WRITER. Adam Whitehead in “Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties” at The Wertzone brings promising news:

Foster does not go into details, but notes on his webpage.

“The irritating imbroglio with Disney, which you may have read about, is moving towards a mutually agreeable conclusion. A formal statement will be forthcoming.”

Hopefully the matter will now be resolved and Disney will agree to uphold their contractual obligations moving forwards with both Foster and all other impacted authors.

For background, see Cora Buhlert’s post “The #DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster and SFWA Joint Press Conference”.

(2) NO, THE REAL WRITER. The Guardian says the proceeds of a literary prize were ripped off by scammers: “Rathbones Folio prize paid £30,000 to scammers posing as the winner”. (Incidentally, they did make it good to the genuine winner.)

… Publishing industry magazine the Bookseller revealed on Wednesday that the Folio, which is awarded to the year’s best work of literature regardless of form, was scammed by “sophisticated cyber-criminals”. The scammers posed as the Mexican author [Valeria] Luiselli, who had won with her novel Lost Children Archive, and requested that the £30,000 payment be made through PayPal.

Minna Fry, the prize’s executive director, confirmed that the funds were lost and that “the police were informed at the time, as were key industry colleagues”.

“Our winner Valeria Luiselli was awarded her prize money in full, and the lost funds were absorbed by cost savings elsewhere,” she added.

The prize is run by a charity and is independent from its sponsor, Rathbone Investment Management. Fry said the investment firm “have supported us through this incident and helped us to put in place additional safeguarding measures”.

This is not the first time a book prize has been targeted by fraudsters. A spokesperson for the Baillie Gifford prize for non-fiction, worth £50,000, confirmed that it was also targeted in November, but no funds were paid.

“Someone emailed pretending to be the 2020 winner Craig Brown and asked us to pay the prize money via PayPal,” a spokesperson for the prize told the Bookseller…

(3) EXIT THE WAYFARER UNIVERSE. On the Imaginary Worlds podcast “Becky Chambers Goes Wayfaring”.

Becky Chambers’ latest novel, “The Galaxy and The Ground Within,” is the final book in her Wayfarer series, which is about aliens, humans and AI trying to make their way through the galaxy and find common ground. Some of the characters in her books may seem fantastical and strange, but the conversations between them often revolve around familiar issues like identity, gender, family structure, and politics. We talk about why she’s closing this chapter in her writing career, even though the Wayfarer series could’ve gone on indefinitely, and what she has planned next.

(4) WEB OF LIES. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee casts an oversized shadow across comic book fandom. But arguments abound about how much credit he deserves for the various works he is purportedly behind. In a new deeply-researched biography True Believer, journalist Abraham Riesman looks at this iconic figure. It’s a terrific book that perhaps people should be considering for Best Related Work on *next year’s* Hugo ballot, and that the Hugo Book Club Blog reviewed this week:  “The Lies That Bind”.

There is a long tradition of fandom idolizing a certain variety of PT Barnum-style self-promoter. This tradition has come under much-needed scrutiny in the past decade thanks to works such as Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein by Farrah Mendelsohn. Abraham Riesman’s True Believer is a welcome addition to this critical reckoning.

(5) SPOTTED IN GOTHAM. Did you know François Truffaut took the robot dog out of his film of Fahrenheit 451 because there was no technology for the dog? Well, that future has just about arrived: “NYPD Deploys ‘Creepy’ New Robot Dog In Manhattan Public Housing Complex” in Gothamist.

… The remote-controlled bot was made by Boston Dynamics, a robotics company famous for its viral videos of machines dancing and running with human-like dexterity. (Versions of “Spot,” as the mechanical dog is known, can open doors, and are strong enough to help tow an 18-wheeler.)

Since October, the NYPD has dispatched the robot to a handful of crime scenes and hostage situations, raising fears of unwanted surveillance and questions about the department’s use of public dollars. The mobile dog, which comes equipped with automated sensors, lights, and cameras capable of collecting “limitless data,” is sold at a starting price of $74,000.

A spokesperson for the NYPD said the robot dog was on standby, but not used, during a domestic dispute at East 28th Street on Monday afternoon. After a man allegedly barricaded himself inside a room with a mother and her baby, officers showed up and convinced him to let them exit. The man was arrested for weapons possession, police said….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 15, 1944 –On this day in 1944, The Monster Maker which was originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by by Sigmund Neufeld which was by Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was almost completely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low five percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 15, 1452 – Leonardo da Vinci.  One of our greatest neighbors.  Among his many drawings were things that could almost be made then; dreaming them up, and depicting them, took imagination very much like SF authors’ and illustrators’.  Here is a 500th-anniversary exhibit I made for Dublin 2019 the 77th Worldcon with high-tech graphics wizard Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink (shown as it appeared at Loscon XLVI later; scroll down past Rotsler Award photos).  (Died 1519) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1908 – Howard Browne.  Edited Amazing and Fantastic; five novels, a dozen shorter stories for us, some under other names; also detective fiction; films, television.  More here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had on every-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1937  Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and  Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.) (CE)
  • Born April 15, 1938 – Unipán Helga, age 83.  (Personal name last, Hungarian style.)  Designed more than a hundred twenty books, many ours.  Here is The Antics of Robi Robot (in Romanian).  Here is an interior from the Jun 73 Korunk (“Our Age”).   Here is Orthopedic Hat.  Here is The Vicissitudes of a Brave Mouse.  Here is Calendar of Nature.  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1941 – Mal Dean.  Six covers, twoscore interiors for us.  Particularly associated with Michael Moorcock and the graphic-art Jerry Cornelius.  Here is the Jun 69 New Worlds.  Here is “The Duke of Queens duels Lord Shark the Unknown” illustrating MM’s “White Stars”.  Here is the Nov 75 – Jan 76 Other Times.  Outside our field, jazz trumpeter & bandleader, illustrator; cartoonist.  Here is a posthumous artbook.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949 – Tim Bolgeo.  Uncle Timmy chaired LibertyCons 1-25, Chattacons 7-11.  Fan Guest of Honor at Con*Stellation III (not this one), DeepSouthCon 43, StellarCon 33, LibertyCon 32.  Four decades a fixture in fandom.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1949  Sharan Newman, 72. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (GuinevereChessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga . They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1966 – Cressida Crowell, age 56.  A dozen novels, particularly about How to Train Your Dragon (eleven million copies sold) and The Wizards of Once.  Illustrates many of her own books.  Blue Peter Book Award.  “Children are surrounded by adults who are VERY BOSSY.  They might not always mean to be bossy, and they have the best of intentions, but still.”  [JH]
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 47. Winner at Chicon 7 of the Best Fan Writer Hugo. Author of the Goblin Quest series which I’ve read at least two of and enjoyed. Same for his Magic ex Libris series. Yeah more popcorn reading. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 31. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. (CE) 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 24. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills, the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor who would be back several times more. She was Wolfsbane in the Marvel film New Mutants. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) CLARION CALLS. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, organized by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego, is hosting the Winter Writers Series, a monthly series of conversations between Clarion alumni and instructors about the art of speculative fiction and their writing careers. These conversations, co-hosted by Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, are presented via Zoom Webinars and are free and open to the public. Each conversation will include time for Q&A with the audience. The next is —

Speculative Horror

April 21, 2021, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

Join us for a conversation about ins and outs of writing modern horror with three astounding writers and Clarion alumni/instructors who terrify and unsettle us.

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The PhysiognomyThe Girl in the GlassThe Portrait of Mrs. CharbuqueThe Shadow YearThe Twilight Pariah, and Ahab’s Return. His story collections are The Fantasy Writer’s AssistantThe Empire of Ice CreamThe Drowned LifeCrackpot Palace, and A Natural History of Hell.

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The EcstaticBig MachineThe Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle’s DESTROYER. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the World Fantasy Award, British World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, Shirley Jackson Award, American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens. He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a best book of the year for Vulture, The Washington Post, Barnes & Noble, and more – and a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). A recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Sam’s work has been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, John W. Campbell and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. A community organizer by day, he lives in New York City. His latest novel is The Blade Between.

(10) LEEDS LIBRARY ARTICLE ON E.R. EDDISON. The Secret Library / Leeds Libraries Heritage Blog profiles the author in “Novels That Shaped Our World: Life, Death and Other Worlds”.

…In 1922 he published his first and most notable fantasy work, The Worm Ouroboros. The Worm, a serpent or snake, derived from the old Norse, ormr. This he followed with three volumes set in the imaginary world first observed by the Lords Juss and Brandoch Daha as they gaze from the top of great mountain, Koshstra Pevrarcha in The Worm, Zimiamvia, known as The Zimiamvian trilogyMistress of Mistresses (1935), A Fish Dinner in Memison (1941), and The Mezentian Gate (published posthumously in 1958). His Icelandic sagas were: Styrbiorn the Strong (1926) and his much admired translation of Egil’s Saga (1930).

In 1963 almost twenty years after Eddison’s death his late wife, Winifred Grace, and his close friend and literary executor, Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton deposited into the care of the special collections of the Leeds Central Library the vast majority of Eddison’s manuscript works….

(11) LIVE OCTOTHORPE. Big doings by John Coxon, Alison Scott and Liz Batty on the Octothorpe podcast.  Listen to Episode 29 here — “Ode to Badger”.

John is not Chris Garcia, Alison is full of beans, and Liz is T. S. Eliot. We handle letters of comment and then spend an hour talking about ConFusion in a BUMPER EPISODE.

You also are invited to join them for Octothorpe Live on 25 April – either join the Facebook group here or email them at octothorpecast@gmail.com for the Zoom link!

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Zack Snyder’s Justice League/Trilogy” on YouTube is HBO Max’s repackaging of Man Of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League into a trilogy.

[Thanks to Edd Vick, Bruce D. Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Steven French, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Olav Rokne, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

NYRSF Reading Series Opens 2021 with Sam J. Miller

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, January 5, 2021, the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series opened 2021 and the second half of its 30th season with a virtual reading by writer Sam J. Miller (“to make sure we stay on our toes,” said the Series’ executive curator, Jim Freund). The event was guest hosted by Amy Goldschlager (who was described by Freund as “the general series dogsbody” – a word I’ve only otherwise encountered in Shakesperean comedies and Blackadder).

Sam J. Miller (website samjmiller.com) is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving and Blackfish City. His short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides” won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award, and other stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. Miller’s offering was an excerpt from his latest novel, Between the Blades.

A living machine, Tyrannosaurus Hex, is rampaging through AR (Augmented Reality – a Monster from the Vid?) and, it seems, crossing over to reality.

After the reading, Goldschlager conducted a revealing interview with Miller. He agreed that the story is “very Ray-Bradburian, ’The Veldt’ in AR.” He went on to confess that he puts “a lot of me” in his fiction, but, even though “I’m a mess,” they do “dumb things that I hope I wouldn’t do.” (Besides that, his protagonist in Between the Blades has a Hungarian name.) She noted that whales appeared in both Between the Blades and Blackfish City. “I love whales; they’re amazing” (a whale appears on the city seal of Hudson, NY, where he’s from), and like us “engage in revenge.”  James Baldwin, one of his favorite authors, also uses his and our history.

Goldschlager was in Downtown Brooklyn, which somehow led to a discussion of the issue of gentrification and the balance between “having nice things” and retaining neighborhood mix. He wants to take us to “a place where solutions can be found;” Between the Blades was “evenhanded” on the issue, she felt. A community activist and organizer, he was concerned that most people are struggling in a hard place right now, and encouraged us to understand what we can do about whatever issue we care about, health care, housing, racial and social justice. One of his is Health Care for the People – his husband is a nurse-practitioner and had Covid-19 last year – whose GoFundMe he shared: Healthcare for the People.

He misses having people to “geek out” with about Avatar: The Last Airbender (his favorite character is Prince Zuko) and the “disappointment” of Game of Thrones.

With Barbara Krasnoff as virtual “Audience Wrangler,” he took virtual questions from the virtual audience. Is “City Without a Map” a podcast or a radio show? (Freund, naturally, stuck up for radio.) Well, it’s in the future, so the words we use are not really applicable, but podcast is a good enough analogy. What genre programs (sf/fantasy) is he into currently? One obsession is Harley Quinn (HBO Max); “it has an edge.” (When Batman tells her that supervillains are ruining Gotham City, she responds no, lack of affordable housing is ruining Gotham City.) In terms of books, he praised Leo Mondello’s forthcoming Summer Suns, and said that Alaya Dawn Johnson is another favorite.

Miller has, of course, been asked the usual mainstream question “Where do you get your ideas?” (from his head), but the oddest one was whether his father reacted more to his coming out as gay or as a vegetarian. (Miller is the son of a butcher, and “the last in a long line of butchers.” That puts The Art of Starving in a whole new light.) He took them both with good humor and was quite amused by the latter. What is he working on now? Short stories, the very early draft of another novel, and a graphic novel pitch. It’s difficult to write in a visual medium like comics, and, as he can’t draw at a professional level, has to surrender some control to the artist. How has the pandemic affected his productivity? He moves between high levels and low.

Goldschlager concluded by announcing upcoming readers:

  • Tues., Feb. 2nd (Groundhog Day): Charles Yu
  • Tues., March 2nd: Karen Russell

She added that, even though the readings are virtual, there are still expenses involved and asked us to help keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf. (And listen to Hour of the Wolf, his radio show on WBAI-FM.) Miller concluded by, as a writer, thanking Goldschlager and Locus for running audiobook reviews.

Pixel Scroll 12/29/20 A Mime
In A Tesseract Still Has Ways To Get Out

(1) BRADBURY’S CHAMPION. The Los Angeles Review of Books hosts “Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia”.

COMMEMORATING THE CENTENNIAL of the great Ray Bradbury, biographer Sam Weller sat down with former California poet laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia for a wide-ranging conversation on Bradbury’s imprint on arts and culture.

SAM WELLER: The first time I met you was at the White House ceremony for Ray Bradbury in November 2004. You were such a champion for Ray’s legacy — his advocate for both the National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize. As we look at his 100th birthday, I want to ask: Why is Bradbury important in literary terms?

DANA GIOIA: Ray Bradbury is one of the most important American writers of the mid-20th century. He transformed science fiction’s position in American literature during the 1950s. There were other fine sci-fi writers, but Ray was the one who first engaged the mainstream audience. He had a huge impact on both American literature and popular culture. He was also one of the most significant California writers of the last century. When one talks about Bradbury, one needs to choose a perspective. His career looks different from each angle….

(2) TUCKER ON BRADBURY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Beard Mumblings,” a column by Bob Tucker that appears in the recently published Outworlds 71, but which was written in 1986 and is about the 1986 Worldcon.

There were some very pleasant memories of the con.  One of them was when Ray Bradbury recognized me in the huge 10th floor consuite and came over to shake and talk.  Mind you, we had not met each other for 40 years.  Our last meeting was the 1946 Worldcon in Los Angeles, yet he recognized and remembered.  I was very pleased to see him again, and equally pleased to get his autograph across the page of his chapter in Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays.  Judging the way he examined that page and that chapter, he doesn’t have a copy.

(3) WHEN HOKEY RELIGIONS AND ANCIENT WEAPONS ARE A MATCH. Professor Louise A. Hitchcock makes a connection in “The Mandalorian and Ancient Mediterranean Societies: The Way of The Force?” at Neon Kosmos. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…Thus, like both Achilles and Gilgamesh of early epic, baby Grogu has semi-divine aspects paired with Din Djarin’s stoic sense of duty and discipline. The pairing both calls to mind Patroclus who becomes a role model to the younger Achilles as well as Enkidu who becomes humanised through his friendship with Gilgamesh. In each epic tale the pair are changed by their bond of affection which is forged through shared experience. In all of these epics, the friends are also tragically separated, our ancients by death, and Grogu by Din Djarin’s quest to return him to the Jedi to finish his training. An element of danger is added by the fact that the Empire is seeking to capture or buy Grogu to increase its power through acquiring his force sensitive blood.

The weekly quest for survival as Din and Grogu, pursue their goal operates on the basis of pre-monetary economy that is reminiscent of maritime trade in the ancient Mediterranean. Food and drink are sometimes obtained through a shared code of hospitality, exchanging mercenary acts for information or needed supplies, transporting individuals from one port to another, providing Beskar ingots in exchange for ship repairs, and even trading spices. In other words, things haven’t changed a lot since the Silk Road brought needed goods from Asia to Mesopotamia or ships transported copper from Cyprus to Crete.

(4) OWN THOSE LITTLE BLACK BOOKS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Games Designers Workshop is doing two Bundles of Holding that together will contain all of legendary science fiction roleplaying game Traveller’s Little Black Books (LBBs). Currently, “Traveller LBBs 1” and “Traveller LBBs 2” are available. Both bundles together comprise the complete LBB collection.

Traveller! We’ve resurrected both of our 2015 offers of the classic “Little Black Books” from the Golden Age of Traveller, the original science fiction tabletop roleplaying game. Together these two bargain-priced offers give you DRM-free .PDF ebooks of all 50+ rulebooks, supplements, and adventures published as half-size manuals (with elegant black covers) by Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977-1982.

(5) BROKEN HEARTS OF A WRITING LIFE. Stephen R. Donaldson mourns the response to his latest draft.

11/12/20
“The Killing God”: progress report

                I’ve finally finished my first-pass revision of Book Three of THE GREAT GOD’S WAR, “The Killing God” (formerly known as “The Last Repository”). The text is now ready to deliver to my agent and editor. In its current form, it stands at 1100 pages, a bit more than 283,000 words. What happens next? My agent will read the book much faster than my editor will; but I won’t start on the next revision until I’ve received what are politely called “comments” from both of them. At that point, no doubt, Berkley (and Gollancz in the UK) will schedule publication. Sometimes this requires me to do my next revision in a hurry. But not always.

12/6/20 
“The Killing God”: bad news

                My agent has submitted the book to my editor at Berkley. Without reading it (!), my editor informed me that Berkley will not consider publishing the book until I cut 100,000 words. Roughly 35% of the text. On the assumption that I will not do such violence to my own work, Berkley has removed the book from their publication schedule.
Their assumption is correct. At this stage, I routinely prune my manuscripts by 10%. I may conceivably be able to go as far as 15%. But whether or not anyone likes my characters and how I handle them, my stories are very tightly plotted. Each piece relies on–and is implied by–what came before it. I can’t mutilate Book Three without making the entire trilogy incoherent.
My agent believes that where we stand now is not the end of “The Killing God.” (Never mind of my career.) He has persuaded my editor to go ahead and read the book. He hopes that seeing how strongly Book Three caps Books One and Two (which she loved) will persuade her to rethink her position. I have my doubts. I suspect that her position is corporate rather than editorial: my books no longer earn enough to make them worth publishing regardless of their intrinsic merits. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong.

When I have more news, I’ll post it here. I don’t expect to hear anything until sometime in January.

(6) NEXT NYRSF READING. Sam J. Miller will be featured on the virtual New York Review of Science Fiction reading, Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST.

Now that the Dystopia Year of 2020 is over, we will begin 2021 with the wonderful writer Sam J. Miller to make sure we stay on our toes.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He is the last in a long line of butchers, and he has also been a film critic, a grocery bagger, a community organizer, a secretary, a painter’s assistant and model, and the guitarist in a punk rock band. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com

After the reading general series dogsbody Amy Goldschlager will interview the author, and then we’ll open up the discussion to general questions from our virtual audience. Barbara Krasnoff will be the Audience Wrangler.

Please help us keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf.

(7) EXPANDING THE HONORVERSE. Eric Flint did a title reveal on Facebook today.

Well, it’s official. After much wrangling and soul-searching, we’ve settled on the title To End In Fire for the upcoming Honorverse novel David Weber and I are writing. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in October.

I tried to hold out for the more exciting title of The Cabal In The Luyten 726-8b (UV Ceti) System, but David overruled me. He thinks that title is too obscure. I find that hard to believe, given that the star system is clearly identified in the Gliese Catalog of Nearby Stars, which I’m sure can be found on every literate person’s bookshelves. But, he’s got the final sayso on account of he’s the one who created this whole setting.

Titles are just window dressing, anyway. What matters is the story — which in this case is shaping up to be a dandy. If I say so myself as shouldn’t, if I subscribed to Samwise Gamgee notions of modesty. Which (clears the throat), I don’t, on account of I’m a shameless scribbler and he’s, well, a hobbit when you get right down to it.

(8) MOSS OBIT. Actor Basil Moss (1935-2020) died November 28. There’s an overview of his career in The Guardian.

Basil Moss, who has died aged 85, was a perennial character actor often popping up in popular series as authority figures, but he found his best parts in two BBC soaps.

He became a familiar face on television as the librarian Alan Drew in Compact, set in the offices of a glossy women’s magazine… 

After Compact, Moss’s other TV roles included … a doctor with the hi-tech military agency Shado, defending the Earth against aliens, in UFO (1970-71), the puppet master Gerry Anderson’s first full live-action series; and Robert Atkinson in the political thriller series First Among Equals (1986).

Uncredited, Moss was also seen as a Navy submarine officer in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired as written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney,  with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki  as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” Memory Alpha also notes Heinlein had Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones that were similar to these and Roddenberry called to apologize for these being so similar. Who remembers these?  It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon were Trek episodes written by Jerome Bixby, Norman Spinrad and Theodore Sturgeon.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 29, 1843 – Carmen Sylva.  Keyboardist (piano, organ), singer, graphic artist (painting, illuminating), poet, writer in English, French, German, Romanian, she left us particularly a dozen tales published in English as Pilgrim Sorrow, one in The Ruby Fairy Book and more recently in the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019).  CS was a pen name, she was the Queen of Romania.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1915 – Charles L. Harness.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories; appreciation of Van Vogt in Nebula Awards 31; interview “I Did It for the Money” in Locus (but, as has often been said, fiction-writers are liars).  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Author of Distinction.  Best known for “The Rose” and The Paradox Men.  Three NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press books; here is Jane Dennis’ cover for Cybele, with Bluebonnets.  Patent lawyer.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1916 John D. MacDonald. He wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many of the genre are collected in End of The Tiger which is available from the usual digital suspects (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1924 – Art Rapp.  At his home in Michigan he welcomed fans and published Spacewarp; after two years’ Army service in Korea he married Nancy Share and moved to Pennsylvania.  Two N3F Laureate Awards (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), later a term as N3F President.  To him was revealed the fannish ghod (naturally opinions differ on what this is for; it may indicate the shape of a cheek with a tongue in itRoscoe.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 92. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the Peter Cushing as The Doctor non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film. He would show up in the canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1945 – Sam Long, age 75.  First noted in Fred Hemmings’ Viewpoint reporting Eastercon 23, he notably published (with Ned Brooks) the Mae Strelkov Trip Report (as you can see here; PDF) after friends brought the fine fanartist MS from Argentina.  SL still appears e.g. in The MT Void (pronounce it M-T, not as an abbreviation for mountain).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1950 – Gitte Spee, age 70.  This Dutch artist born in (on?) Java has done lots of illustrations for us.  Here is Detective Gordon’s first case in English and in Polish.  Here is Rosalinde on the Moon(in French).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1961 – Kenneth Chiacchia, Ph.D., age 59.  Medical science writer at Univ. Pittsburgh, and since he is ours too, member of both SFWA and the Nat’l Ass’n of Science Writers.  A dozen stories; poems (the 2007 Rhysling anthology has this one).  Carnegie Science Center Journalism Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s noels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating  among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 57. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him on and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 51. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 48. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fav role for him being the title role in  Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians. (CE)

(11) KAL-EL AND LL. SYFY Wire is there when “The CW’s Superman & Lois drops first heroic trailer for new DC series”.

… While the teaser isn’t very long (or footage-heavy for that matter), it does give us our first look at the Kent family unit, while Clark talks about how the stress of life can strengthen a person beneath the surface. His use of the phrase “forged liked steel” is a nice little nod to one of Superman’s monickers: the Man of Steel.

(12) SPDIEY’S NEW THREADS. Spider-Man’s hideous new costume that looks like he tore it off a New England Patriots cornerback is revealed in Amazing Spider-Man’ #61.

Over the years, Spider-Man has donned a host of iconic costumes, from his classics digs to the black suit to the Iron Spider. Now in 2021, everyone’s favorite Wall-Crawler will get a brand-new costume to add to his legendary wardrobe! Designed by superstar artist Dustin Weaver, this vibrant new look is unlike any that Peter Parker has worn before. The mysterious look can be seen on Weaver’s incredible variant covers for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 and April’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63.

…  Peter Parker will wear this new suit for his face-off against Kingpin in the next arc of writer Nick Spencer’s hit run. Discover the mystery behind this top-secret costume when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 swing into shops this March!

(13) SUPERHERO LIFTS THEATER CHAINS. Deadline reports “’Wonder Woman 1984’ Opening Boosts Movie Theater Stocks, But AMC Loses More Ground”.

The better-than-expected Christmas-weekend opening of Wonder Woman 1984 is giving most exhibition stocks a welcome boost as the misery of 2020 gives way to hope for a brighter 2021.

Shares in Cinemark, Imax, Marcus Corp. and National CineMedia rose between 3% and 7% apiece after the sequel took in $16.7 million domestically, the best bow by any film during the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC, the world’s largest theater circuit, was a notable exception to the rally. Its stock dropped 5% on ongoing investor concern about its liquidity and a potential bankruptcy filing…. 

(14) BOOGLY WOOGLY STUFF. This is great — Boston Dynamics sets its robots dancing in “Do You Love Me?” on YouTube.

(15) SPLINTERS ARE BETTER. “Japan developing wooden satellites to cut space junk” – BBC News has the story. [Via Slashdot.]

…The partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth.

Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.

Wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth….

Does this train of thought wind up with Captain Harlock’s spaceship?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] “Batman:  The Animated Series/The Heart of Batman” on YouTube is a 2018 documentary, directed by Alexander Gray, on the 1990s “Batman: The Animated Series” which many critics, such as Glen Weldon, say is the best version of Batman.  The film shows that the immediate inspiration for the series was Tim Burton’s Batman and Steven Spielberg’s desire to build an animation at Warner Bros., including giving the budget to have a full orchestra record Shirley Walker’s imaginative score.  Creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski give many influences, including film noir, German expressionist films, Citizen Kane, Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, and the art of Alex Toth.  But Andrea Romano gets a lot of credit for coming up with superb voices, including Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman.  The series also turned Harley Quinn into a full-fledged, interesting character and led to Margot Robbie playing her in three big-budget movies.

As an aside, Batman:  The Animated Series discusses how earlier animated shows of the 1980s had stifling restrictions imposed by network censors.  One writer (who wasn’t identified) worked on Super Friends.  One episode had the Justice League shrunk to midgets leading to Robin fighting a spider.  The censors said the cartoon had to include a scene where the spider is seen crawling away because Robin couldn’t hurt the spider.

[Thanks to John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Rob Thornton, Louise A. Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/20 A Long-Expected Party: Potlatch, Status And Spoons Among Late Third Age Hobbits

(1) THE FUTURE THROUGH YESTERDAY. Nicholas Whyte has put together a video of “The world in 2021, according to science fiction” and started a YouTube channel to host it. At the link is his impressive list of sources.

I’ve spent several weekends working on a presentation of twentieth-century science fiction set in the year 2021, and here is the fruit of my labours, a 21-minute video.

(2) BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP. Phil Plait, in a “Bad Astronomy” entry at SYFY Wire, reports that “Alien hunters detect a signal from Proxima Centauri, the closest star, but it’s likely human in origin”.

…A standard radio astronomy technique to make sure that what you see is coming from the object you’re observing is to move the telescope back and forth a bit to point to a different part of the sky and see if the signal persists (perhaps leaking into the dish from a source nearby); this is called “nodding” because it’s like a head nodding. When they did this, the signal went away, then came back when they repointed at Proxima.

So it appears to be coming from the star, or at least form very nearby it in the sky. It also appears to have a very narrow frequency range. Not only that, but another characteristic you might expect from an intelligent signal is that, over time, the frequency itself will shift a bit — if aliens are transmitting from a planetary surface, as that planet rotates it causes a Doppler shift in the signal. A shift was seen in the signal, which is interesting….

(3) GOTHIC YEAR. Molly Odintz’ choices of “The Best Gothic Fiction of 2020” for CrimeReads is full of familiar names, including —

Sam J. Miller, The Blade Between (Ecco)

2020 brought a plethora of new additions to the gentrification noir canon, but Sam J. Miller’s The Blade Between stands out for its heroes’ plan to raise sinister supernatural forces in defense of their city. Ever since H.P. Lovecraft first drew attention to the plight of New England architecture by filling his fictional decaying homes with hideous monstrosities, Gothic fiction has been a surprisingly partisan force for housing preservation (Jane Eyre and Rebecca notwithstanding). In The Blade Between, the relationship reaches its zenith, as a photographer and his two childhood besties attempt to save their beloved city of Hudson from corporations and yuppies, only to find themselves instead awakening an ancient force bent on vengeance. Also, since this is Sam Miller, be warned: there will be whales. 

(4) STANDARD BEARER. Sean T. Collins shows how popular culture has connected The Stand with newsmaking crises over the years: “‘The Stand’: Tracing the Stephen King Epic Through Its Many Mutations” in the New York Times.

Take a pandemic. Add the paranormal. Make it a uniquely American story of survival horror. The result: “The Stand,” Stephen King’s epic post-apocalyptic novel from 1978, a new mini-series adaptation of which debuted Thursday on CBS All Access.

Conceived in the pre-Covid era, the show has taken on new resonance since, telling the story of a weaponized virus that wipes out 99 percent of the population. But that’s only the beginning. The real battle happens afterward as supernatural forces of darkness and light — embodied by the demonic dictator Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard) and the holy woman Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) — duel for the souls of the plague’s survivors.

Since the original novel’s original release, King’s saga has entered the pop-culture consciousness in many different incarnations, including an expanded edition of the book and an earlier mini-series adaptation. In anticipation of the show’s arrival, we’re tracing the story from its point of origin to its latest mutation.

The Allegory

The opening act of King’s novel is an eerily plausible account of the complete collapse of human society after the “Captain Trips” superflu is unleashed upon the world. That aspect has found relevance across the decades since the novel’s publication, in the Cold War nuclear arms race, through the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, to the events of 2020.

But that’s only the first part. Flagg is presented as an even worse plague upon the living — a grinning dictator who builds a new society based on human drivers like greed, pride, lust and wrath and who exploits the virus for the sake of his own power. Are there lessons to be applied in the real world? Successive generations have thought so….

(5) DOWN MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953  — At the 11th Worldcon in 1953, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man wins the very first Hugo for Best Novel. It had been published in Galaxy in January, February and March of the previous year. It would also be nominated for the International Fantasy Award, an award that would exist only in the Fifties. This would be the only Hugo that Bester would win though he would be awarded a SFWA Grand Master Award and Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for The Stars My Destination. It, like most of his works, is available from the usual digital suspects.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 19, 1897 – Lucia Trent.  Book reviewer for The Nation.  President of the Western Poets’ Congress.  Called the best woman reader of poetry.  Got a poem into Fire and Sleet and Candlelight (A. Derleth ed. 1961).  Seven books of them, some with husband Ralph Cheyney.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit in Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball which I’ll admit I’ve never seenAnd a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh, my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1922 – Harry Warner, Jr.  Two indispensable books of fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays (fandom in the 1940s) and A Wealth of Fable (1950s).  Quite possibly the best letters-of-comment author we’ve ever known; it seemed he read and wrote to every fanzine, his letters were short and they were good.  Three Hugos, four FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Fan Guest of Honor at Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  His own fanzines HorizonsSpaceways.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  More here. (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1949 – Lee Pelton. Active in Minn-stf and Minneapa.  Co-edited Rune with Carol Kennedy.  Often head of film program at Minicon.  Younger brother played baseball with John Purcell, as a result of which Purcell went Askew.  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1952 Linda Woolverton, 68. She’s the first woman to have written a Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She also co-wrote The Lion King screenplay (along with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts). (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1958 – Laura Whitcomb, age 62.  Three novels for us.  Won three Kay Snow awards, later served a term as a judge.  Sings madrigals.  [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 60. Best known for his Fractured Europe series which won a BSFA Award for the third novel, Europe in Winter. Europe at Midnight was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. I’ve listened to  the entire series and it’s quite fascinating. He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into any of those yet. (CE) 
  • Born December 19, 1961 Matthew Waterhouse, 59. He’s best known as Adric, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He was the youngest actor in that role at the time. And yes, he too shows up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1970 – Tanigawa Nagaru, age 50.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Famous for a dozen light novels about Suzumiya Haruhi, which earned TN the grand prize at the 8th Sneaker Awards and became television and film animé, video games, manga, audio dramas, and original Net animation.  I’ll actually refer you to the SF Encyclopedia.  [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 48. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running original Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, the second Fantasy Island series, Embrace of the VampireDouble Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre excellent animated short as a spoiled rich young thing with a murderous vent who comes to a most fitting end. (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1975 – Brandon Sanderson, age 45.  Thirty novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Concluded Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.  Proposed a theory of hard and soft magic.  Two Hugos, one being for a season of Writing Excuses podcast (with Kowal, Tayler, Wells, J. Sanderson).  Fifteen NY Times Best-Sellers.  A Geffen last year.  Interviewed in FantasyLightspeedSpace and TimeSuperSonic.  Launched by Hambly’s Dragonsbane.  [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1979 Robin Sloan, 41. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it and is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to consider reviewing,  Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre adjacent but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person. (CE)

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) COME TO PAPA. Literary Hub’s Robert K. Elder contemplates “Why Ernest Hemingway Makes a Great Subject for Comic Book Artists”).Michael Toman surmises, “He was also one of Harlan Ellison’s favorite authors, as shown by HE’s naming of his ‘Kilimanjaro Corporation.’” (Could Ellison also have been paying a homage to Bradbury’s 1965 story with a Hemingway connection?)

…Celebrity appearances aren’t new to comic books. Both Stephen Colbert and President Barack Obama got guest shots with Spider-Man, and Eminem got a two-issue series with the Punisher. Orson Welles helped Superman foil a Martian invasion, and President John F. Kennedy helped the Man of Steel keep his secret identity. Even David Letterman got a studio visit from the Avengers. But, using the crowd-sourced Comic Book Database and my own research, I’ve discovered that Hemingway by far exceeds other authors in number of appearances (Shakespeare: 22, Mark Twain: 13). As historical figures go, only Abraham Lincoln comes close to touching him, with roughly 122 appearances in comics (and counting). 

(9) BATWHEELS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Batman/The Batmobile on YouTube is a 2012 documentary, directed by Roko Belic, all about the Batmobile.  Although Batman always had a car, the Batmobile was really invented by George Barris for the 1966 TV series, Barris was interviewed for the documentary, and discussed how he bought a Ford Futura concept car and turned it into the Batmobile Adam West drove.  West is also interviewed, as is Christian Bale, Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, and Christopher Nolan.  But the film is really for people who (like me) enjoy watching car designers talk about their work.  This film is pretty geeky but worth an hour.

Fun fact:  H.R. Giger was hired to design a Batmobile for BATMAN FOREVER but the car he drew looked like “a tarantula with four legs” and was unfilmable.

(10) PERSONAL PORTAL. Unmapped Chronicles series author Abi Elphinstone tells Guardian readers “I found my own Narnia behind a blue door in Scotland”.

…As a child, I watched salmon leap from the brilliantly named fishing pools beyond the blue door (Kitbog, Witch’s, Badger) and played hide-and-seek inside Doulie Tower (a folly built around 1780, when Lord Adam Gordon, commander-in-chief of the army in Scotland, acquired the estate and turned it from “the wildest state of barrenness” into woods filled with Scots pines, oaks, rowans and silver birches). I watched dippers gliding through the Rocks of Solitude (a picturesque narrow stretch of the North Esk) and I listened to my father’s stories about trolls who lived beneath the gnarled roots of beech trees. It felt impossible that all this should exist on the other side of that little blue door, yet it did.

(11) IN THE TWENTY-FOURTH-AND-A-HALF CENTURY. “Legendary’s BUCK ROGERS Sci-Fi Series Will Be Written by Brian K. Vaughan” reports GeekTyrant.

Comic book and TV writer Brian K. Vaughan has been hired to write Legendary’s television series adaptation of classic pulp hero Buck Rogers. Vaughan has worked on a ton of projects over the years, and he seems like a solid choice to take on the material. Some of his previous TV projects include Lost, Under the Dome, Y: The Last Man, Runaways, and more.

(12) THE TWELVE DAYS OF 770. Applause to Bruce D, Arthurs for his seasonal parody (left as a comment.)

Because I was avoiding stuff I should actually be working on this morning, I produced the following instead:

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My bookstore shipped to me
All twelve Maradaine books,
Eleven Pipers viking,
Ten Leibers mousing,
Nine Gideons boning,
Eight Correias shooting
Seven Besters jaunting,
Six Star Trek tie-ins,
F-i-i-i-i-ve Mu-r-r-r-de-r-r-r-r-bots!,
Four Asimovs,
Three Jules Verne,
Two Turtledoves,

And a one-volume Lord of the Rings!

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kaya Torres is circling a black hole in a pod, with no one coming, no one to help. She’s Alone. Mind Matters adds —

…As Torres is “marooned on my lifepod” as the only survivor of the DSV Intrepid, she is able to contact an “interstellar penpal” to keep her company via occasional messages until her food runs out and she dies. Unless…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nicholas Whyte, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/6/20 Tell Me About The Rest Of The Robots, Geordi

(1) MACHINE AGAINST THE RAGE. Get your Murderbot fix from Twitter’s MurderBotBot.

(2) KEEP THE ARMOR ON THE SHELF. The Society for Creative Anachronism has extended its suspension to the end of May 2021: “Resolution to Suspend In-Person SCA Activity Updated – December 4, 2020.

At the end of July, the Board of Directors issued a proclamation suspending most inperson SCA activities in North America until January 31, 2021, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In November, we asked the Kingdom Seneschals and Crowns of the known world to give us their counsel on how to proceed in the first part of 2021. We received very thoughtful responses from nearly all Crowns and Kingdom Seneschals as well as many other concerned people. We wish to thank everyone who responded for taking the time to do so, and for putting such effort into your responses. After reading and discussing the feedback received, the Board decided at their conference call meeting on 12/01/2020 to continue the suspension of in-person activities in North America through May 31, 2021….

(3) FILER ASKS YOU OPINION. Cora Buhlert says, “I’m considering starting a Patreon next year and have created a survey to gauge interest.”

Tell Cora what you think here — surveymonkey.de/r/WSDN6DK 

(4) THE ORIGINAL SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY. “How to subvert authoritarian regimes? Astrid Bear’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech for Poul Anderson’s ‘Sam Hall’” on the Prometheus Blog.

…Science fiction set in the future is often as much about the time it was written in as it is about prognostications.   Diving into both world and family history, we can tease out some of the threads that came together to make this story of the subversion of an authoritarian regime from within its record-keeping arm, and how that inspired revolution.

In 1953, we were less than 10 years from the end of World War II.  Senator Joe McCarthy was busy investigating citizens for wrongful thoughts and potential treason.   The early main-frame computer, UNIVAC, correctly predicted the winner of the 1952 presidential election. Dad’s brother, my Uncle John, was turned down for the US Foreign Service because of his Danish Communist aunt. And Dad wrote “Sam Hall.”

Computer-savvy folk of today will likely snicker a bit at the electromechanical whirs and buzzes of the government’s Central Records computer, nicknamed Matilda the Machine. Matilda holds detailed information on all citizens, tracking all transactions, travel, education, contacts, relationships.   The “Matildas” of today know a tremendous amount about us and our shopping habits, travel plans, and private emails.

For although Dad did a good job of thinking about the power of computers held by the government as data gathering machines, in 1953 he didn’t seem to have thought much about computers as gatherers of data for private enterprise.

The America of “Sam Hall” has closed its borders to immigration, gives its citizens loyalty ratings, assigns them each a unique ID number and demands that it is tattooed on the shoulder.  There is an underground movement, but, as our protagonist, Thornberg muses,   “It was supported by foreign countries who didn’t like an American-dominated world – at least not one dominated by today’s kind of America, though once ‘USA’ had meant ‘hope.’”…

(5) HAVE YE SEEN THE GREAT FLIGHT WHALE? Sam J. Miller’s new novel The Blade Between gets praised in a review by Gabino Iglesias at NPR.

The are violent ghosts, flying whales, and dead people with mouthfuls of saltwater hundreds of miles from the ocean in Sam J. Miller’s The Blade Between, but it all makes sense. It all makes sense because the story takes place in Hudson, New York, a place built on the remains of slaughtered whales, where their unused parts were buried underground and the scraps were fed to animals later used to feed people. Hudson is full of angry spirits, but now a different monster is destroying it: gentrification.

The Blade Between is a book about broken people. The creepy atmosphere and ghosts make it horror, but the drug abuse, evictions, cheating, and destroyed lives make it noir. Also, Miller’s writing and vivid imagery, especially when describing dreams, make it poetry. The mix of genres, much like the mix of elements, makes no sense, but it works.

(6) ONCE UPON AN ACADEME. Maria Sachiko Cecire asserts that Tolkien and Lewis not only wrote influential fantasy novels, they created the curriculum for Oxford’s English School, in “The rise and fall of the Oxford School of fantasy literature” at Aeon Essays. She doesn’t find this to be a plus.

… What is less known is that Tolkien and Lewis also designed and established the curriculum for Oxford’s developing English School, and through it educated a second generation of important children’s fantasy authors in their own intellectual image. Put in place in 1931, this curriculum focused on the medieval period to the near-exclusion of other eras; it guided students’ reading and examinations until 1970, and some aspects of it remain today. Though there has been relatively little attention paid to the connection until now, these activities – fantasy-writing, often for children, and curricular design in England’s oldest and most prestigious university – were intimately related. Tolkien and Lewis’s fiction regularly alludes to works in the syllabus that they created, and their Oxford-educated successors likewise draw upon these medieval sources when they set out to write their own children’s fantasy in later decades. In this way, Tolkien and Lewis were able to make a two-pronged attack, both within and outside the academy, on the disenchantment, relativism, ambiguity and progressivism that they saw and detested in 20th-century modernity.

…The Oxford School’s medievalist approach radiated outward, influencing many more children’s fantasy authors and readers, and helping to turn Anglophilic fascination with early Britain and its medieval legends into a globally recognisable setting for children’s adventures, world-saving deeds and magical possibility. 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 6, 1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It would be the last Trek film to feature the entire original cast from the series, and was released just after Roddenberry passed on. Directed by Nicholas Meyers and produced by Ralph Winter Steven-Charles Jaffe, the screenplay was by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn from a story from Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. It would lose out to Terminator 2: Judgement Day at MagiCon for Best Hugo, Long Form Presentation. The film received a much warmer reception from critics and audiences alike than The Final Frontier did, and it was a box office success. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a most exemplary rating of eighty three percent. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 6, 1881 – Helen Knipe.  Illustrator (also rendered stage plays into novels).  Here is The Magical Man of Mirth.  Here is The Land of Never Was.  Here is an interior for The Queen of the City of Mirth.  (Died 1959) [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1909 Arthur K. Barnes. Pulp magazine writer in mostly the Thirties and Forties. He wrote a series of stories about interplanetary hunters Tommy Strike and Gerry Carlyle which are collected in Interplanetary Hunter and Interplanetary Huntress. Some of these were co-written with Henry Kuttner. His Pete Manx, Time Troubler collection featuring Pete Manx is a lot of fun too. Both series are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1979.) (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1911 Ejler Jakobsson. Finnish-born Editor who worked on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories butbriefly as they were shut down due to paper shortages. When Super Science Stories was revived in 1949, Jakobson was named editor until it ceased publication two years later. Twenty years later, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl.  His first credited publications were The Octopus and The Scorpion in 1939, co-edited with his wife, Edith Jakobsson. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 63. A performer with two Who appearances, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of DarknessGenie in the HouseRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and even a genre adjacent Midsomer Murders. (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 58. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never DiesThe World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories, and was Walter Steele on Arrow. He most recently played General Zod on Krypton He was, alas, Ben in the clunker of films, Mortal Engines. (CE)
  • Born December 6, 1942 – Ted Pauls.  A hundred reviews in LocusSF CommentarySF ReviewThe WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) Journal.  His T-K Graphics was a leading mail-order bookshop.  Fanzine, Kipple.  Co-chaired Balticon 5-8.  Part of the Baltimore SF Forum (hello, Ted White).  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1946 – Ana Lydia Vega, Ph.D., age 74.  Seven collections, one children’s book.  Casa de las Américas prize, Juan Rulfo prize.  Puerto Rico Society of Authors’ Author of the Year.  Professor at Univ. Puerto Rico (retired).  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1960 – Julie Dean Smith, age 60.  Four novels “done with panache and a happy skill” — hey, I’m quoting Clute, it must be St. Nicholas’ Day.  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1962 Janine Turner, 58. Maggie O’Connell on Northern Exposure which we’ve accepted as genre adjacent.  She was also Linda Aikman in Monkey Shines, a horror film not for the squeamish, and had one-offs in Knight-RiderQuantum Leap and Mr. Merlin. (CE) 
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 51. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in one episode of Stargate SG-1 and the entire Stargate Atlantis series. Her most recent genre roles was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients, and Commander Delaney Truffault in the Dark Matter series. (CE)
  • Born December 6, 1972 – Kevin Brockmeier, age 48.  Fifteen novels for us, thirty shorter stories.  “A Proustian Reverie” in the NY Times Book Review.  Three O. Henry prizes (take that, Arthur Hawke), several others.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born December 6, 1981 – Ben White, age 39.  Confessedly Aotearoan pâkehâ.  Three novels.  Twenty-six games here.  Has read The Sirens of TitanThe Phantom TollboothOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Thirteen Clocks.  [JH]

(9) STINK ‘EM UP JUST RIGHT. ”One-star wonders: how to make a film that’s so bad it’s good” – Catherine Bray shares the formula wih readers of The Guardian.

There is nothing quite like a good-bad movie. Sometimes the title alone is enough to let us know what we’re in for: think Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958). Sometimes the good-badness might be about knowing we are guaranteed an over-ripe performance from a particular star: think Nicolas Cage from around 2010 onwards. Sometimes a lurid or ridiculous premise promises a good time all by itself (see: Night of the Lepus, AKA the killer rabbit movie). But whether or not the creative minds behind these kinds of cultural landmarks were in on the joke is sometimes less self-evident.

…The godfather of wonderfully terrible films is Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood’s 1959 effort about aliens attacking the Earth. Hubcaps on strings are pressed into service as interstellar spacecraft, wobbling their way to our planet. When we get our first glimpse of the alien beings within, the hubcaps start to look pretty cosmic by contrast; the aliens bear a resemblance to inexpensive actors sporting off-the-rack medieval fayre costumes. Horror veteran Bela Lugosi, appearing as the villain, passed away before filming; his character’s scenes are constructed from screen-test footage he’d shot with Wood, plus additional material featuring another, far taller guy with a cape draped over his face. Throughout the film, scenery has a habit of wobbling alarmingly, particularly the gravestones.

(10) WWI09. According to io9 “The First Impressions of Wonder Woman 1984 Are In, and It Sounds Like a Fitting Sequel and ’80s Tribute” – a roundup of tweeted comments about the movie.

(11) WHAT’S UP CHUCK? Checking in on the latest wisdom from the Tingleverse.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/16/20 Hey! HAL! I’m Not Just Sitting Here On The Dock Of The Pod Door Bay For My Health! Open The $^%&$! Door, HAL!

(1) A TAIL OF SPACE. A new Star Trek: Discovery trailer. Complete with a certain feline. 

(2) PARIS CALLING. Halfway through the Constelación Magazine Kickstarter, they are announcing their second special event – “Translation Station” with Aliette de Bodard and Cristina Jurado. Takes place October 23 at 7 p.m. Paris time (10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern)  Register here.

Our very own Cristina Jurado is hosting a chat with multi-award-winning author Aliette de Bodard. They’ll have a fascinating conversation about translations and languages, and whever else happens to come up.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $10,048 of their $18,000 goal.

(3) ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH. In “Barnes & Noble Cyberattack” Locus Online signal boosts a warning to B&N customers:

Barnes & Noble CEO Darren Guccione warned customers to be “on high alert” following an October 10 data breach. The company notified customers via email.

While we do not know if any personal information was exposed as a result of the attack, we do retain in the impacted systems your billing and shipping addresses, your email address and your telephone number if you have supplied these… It is possible that your email address was exposed and, as a result, you may receive unsolicited emails… We currently have no evidence of the exposure of any of this data, but we cannot at this stage rule out the possibility….

(4) TOP 100 FANTASY LIST. TIME Magazine has anointed “The 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time”

… To develop our list, we began in 2019 by recruiting a panel of leading fantasy authors—Tomi Adeyemi, Cassandra Clare, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Marlon James, N.K. Jemisin, George R.R. Martin and Sabaa Tahir—to join TIME staff in nominating the top books of the genre (panelists did not nominate their own works). The group then rated 250 nominees on a scale, and using their responses, TIME created a ranking. Finally, TIME editors considered each finalist based on key factors, including originality, ambition, artistry, critical and popular reception, and influence on the fantasy genre and literature more broadly.

The result is a list that underscores the imaginative breadth of fantasy fiction—from early roots in the oral storytelling tradition that brought about works like The Arabian Nights, to modern classics like A Wrinkle in Time and groundbreaking recent novels like Black Leopard, Red WolfThe Poppy War and Elatsoe. Together, these titles help us trace our history and understand our reality….

I’ve read 24 of these, which is a disgraceful score – fortunately a few more of them are on my TBR pile.

Rich Horton regaled Facebook readers about the list’s deficiencies:

… Chew on that for a bit. This list doesn’t include Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It doesn’t include Little, Big. I could make a case that those are the two BEST fantasies of the past half-century. But they don’t make this list?…

He also noted that a third of the listed books came out in the past 6 years. Is this a Golden Age of fantasy, or is that another problem?

TIME also ran an article by N.K. Jemisin about the “Timeless Power of Fantasy”

… These are fraught times—but there have always been fraught times for someone in the world, somewhere. And there have always been those whose mastery of the art of storytelling has helped us understand how powerfully stories shape the world. C.S. Lewis sought to comfort children with faith. Philip Pullman disturbed them with warnings of encroaching fascism. There is a preponderance of stories aimed at children on this list, possibly because we’re still openly hungry for stories in the years of our childhood, and thus the stories we absorb then have a lasting effect. Our hunger for stories doesn’t really change when we grow up, however; the need is still there, acknowledged or not—especially if the stories we’ve been given up to that point don’t accurately encapsulate reality. Thus it’s fitting that some of the most powerful storytellers on this list, such as Victor LaValle, engage with adult concerns like parenthood instead of myth.

Is it comforting to see how many of the stories on this list wrestle with the need to reform institutions and change the leadership of society? It could be. Yet the newer storytellers on the list, many of whom hail from colonized cultures and thus have vastly different background stories from those of “classic” fantasy authors, also warn us of the realities of societal strife. The good guys don’t always win, the bad guys don’t always lose, and either way, the ones who suffer most will be the people who were already struggling to get by….

(5) FORGOTTEN DOCTORS. Artist Paul Hanley posted his conceptions for the Doctor Who TARDIS console rooms of “forgotten doctors” or those seen briefly in the Fourth Doctor serial “The Brain of Morbius”. Thread starts here. The first two:

(6) POPULAR FEAR. “Little Bursts of Fright: The Horror Anthology Is Having a Heyday” reports the New York Times.

When Mary Laws set out to create “Monsterland,” her new socially conscious horror anthology series on Hulu, she drew inspiration from the concise, unnerving fables of the British playwright Caryl Churchill.

“She knows how to tell a scary story,” said Laws, who has a playwriting background. “She refuses to give the audience a break.”

But Laws also looked within.

“As a woman, part of why I’m interested in horror is that I’ve been put in horrific situations and have experienced something like real terror,” she said. “My womanness has led me into those action-packed two minutes of tense terror that you feel when you’re facing some kind of dreaded situation. That’s the way that I think horror has to work.”

Accelerated terror in a fleeting time frame: that’s the revved-up engine that drives “Monsterland” and other new horror anthologies out this spooky season. Hulu’s “Books of Blood” assembles three tales inspired by Clive Barker’s short stories. “The Mortuary Collection,” on Shudder, is a compilation of darkly antic narratives. Quibi’s blood-and-guts series “50 States of Fright” recently released several new episodes, each set in a different state.

Sam Raimi, an executive producer of “50 States of Fright,” said the best short-form horror is “designed like a great campfire tale.”

“It’s something you can really get goose bumps from in a brief amount of time,” said Raimi, known to horror fans as the director of the “Evil Dead” movies. “I like the precision that it takes for a filmmaker to hold the audience in its grip.”

(7) IMAGINARY PAPERS. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the 4th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. The new issue features writing from SF critic Alvaro Zinos-Amaro and Katherine Buse, a scholar of digital media and the environmental humanities.

Buse’s Forgotten Futures segment discusses —

SimEarth (1990)

I like to say that my favorite video game is SimEarth (1990). But this is a joke: as far as I know, SimEarth has never been anyone’s favorite. Attempting to embody the paradox of “fun climate model,” it’s borderline unplayable: it’s baffling, slow, and lacking in what McKenzie Wark calls “satisfying win conditions.” It was created by Will Wright in consultation with James Lovelock as a software implementation of the Gaia Hypothesis, a theory of life at the planetary scale which Lovelock began to develop while working at NASA on astrobiology….

(8) NEUKOM WINNERS PANEL. Neukom Institute Director Dan Rockmore invites you to an “Online Event with 2020 Speculative Fiction Literary Arts Awards Winners” on Wednesday, October 21 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

The panel discussion includes Neukom Award winners for Speculative Fiction (Debut) Cadwell Turnbull, author of The Lesson, Speculative Fiction (Open Category) Ted Chiang, whose stories are collected in Exhalation, and award judge Sam J. Miller.

Use the link below to join the online event:
https://dartmouth.zoom.u/j/93780993554?pwd=am5xQU0xTURIYmVHenhhNm0zdUZYZz09

Passcode: 789407

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1990 — Thirty years ago at ConFiction, the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, would go to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Released the previous year by  Lucasfilm, it was, of course, directed by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Jeffrey Boam which in turn was based off the story by George Lucas and Menno Meyjes. Need we note that George Lucas created the characters? Runners-up were The Adventures of Baron MunchausenBatmanField of Dreams and The Abyss. It holds a rather spectacular ninety-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He never had a major role but he was in myriad gene shows. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. alone he appeared in twenty-two episodes in twenty-two different minor roles, he was a henchman twice on Batman and had two uncredited appearances on Trek as well. He showed up on Mission ImpossibleGet Smart!The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and even The Invaders. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 95. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves which won the BSFA Award for Best Film and is based off Angela Carter’s A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 73. Apparently he’s one of only ten actors to appear in both the Trek and Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”.  And that might place him in very select acting company indeed. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 62. I think his finest role was as Nuke LaLoosh in Bull Durham, but his first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in the truly awful War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in the even worse Green Lantern. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 55. He is most noted for his work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three Stargate series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. (CE)
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 47. Most likely best known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. (CE) 
  • Born October 16, 1827 – Arnold Böcklin.  Symbolist painter.  Here is Self Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle.  Here is Silence of the Forest.  Here is St. Anthony Preaching to the Fish.  Here is Faun Whistling to a Blackbird.  Most famous for five versions of The Isle of the Dead – here is one – which inspired Mahler, Rachmaninoff, and Zelazny: this Dean Ellis cover is an homage.  (Died 1901) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1891 – Frances Comstock.  Illustrator, painter, sculptor.  Here is her cover for Dewey’s Star People.  Here is her frontispiece and an interior for Fairy Frolics.  Here is her cover for La Mothe – Fouqué’s Undine and here is an interior.  Here is an illustration for Crothers’ Ignominy of Being Grown-Up.  (Died 1922) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1926 – Ed Valigursky.  Two hundred covers, six dozen interiors.  Here is the Nov 51 Fantastic.  Here is The Stars Are Ours!, hello Publius – note the really wonderful foreground faces.  Here is The Pawns of Null-A.  Here is City.  Here is The Currents of Space.  Here is an interior illustrating “The Black Tide”.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1947 – Laura Brodian Kelly-Freas Beraha, D.M.E., 73.  Doctorate in Music Education (I heard her play piano two-hands with Somtow Sucharitkul), then San Francisco Bay area fandom.  Moved to L.A., exchanged coats by mistake with Kelly Freas at a party, married him, won a Chesley with him, survived him, married a local teacher whose name means blessed.  No one else outranks me as a Kelly Freas fan.  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1951 – Patrice Kindl, 69.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, Children’s Fiction, for Owl in Love.  Six more novels.  She and husband (son works in Manhattan) have 1 dog, 1 parrot, 1 cat; have raised monkeys, have housed hawks.  “All my characters are made up….  This isn’t an easy profession….  Read a lot and write a lot.”  Do I have to wait until I’m grown up? “No.  You should be reading and writing now.”  Does spelling matter? “Yes.  Yes, yes, yes!”  Grammar isn’t important, is it? “YES!  YES!  YES!”  Hmmmm.  This sounds like work.  “Yes.”  [JH]
  • Born October 16, 1973 – Christian Cantrell, 47.  Three novels, half a dozen shorter stories, despite or because of being Director of Design Prototyping at Adobe.  Hulu, TriStar, Fox 21, Random House projects in the works. “You can,” he says, “plant paphiopedilums [Venus’ slippers] in lava rock”, and he shows us.  [JH]

(11) END OF THE LINE. If you have the stomach for it, you can learn a lot about “The Last Days of Stan Lee” on the AARP site. Tagline: “A heartbreaking tragedy about the (alleged) abuse of the Marvel Comics creator by those who swear they loved him.”

…As we approach the second anniversary of Lee’s death, a half-dozen civil suits are pending and a criminal elder-abuse prosecution by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office remains mired in pretrial maneuverings. The courts have yet to shed light on many of the details and the veracity of the elder-abuse charges against several people. Elder-abuse cases are difficult to bring to trial, tough to litigate and hard to win. Was Stan Lee, like 1 in 10 Americans over age 60, a true victim of elder abuse, which can include physical violence, emotional torment, financial exploitation and willful deprivation? Plenty of evidence and testimony suggests that may be true.

But uncomfortable questions will arise along the way: Is it possible that our real-life hero, like many others in his situation, was complicit in his own abuse? And who will be the villain in this story? There will be plenty of suspects to choose from, but in the end, you will be shocked but not surprised.

(12) CAMEO COLLECTION. Last night’s Jeopardy hearkened back to Stan’s brighter days – unknown to the contestants, evidently. Andrew Porter took notes:

Final Jeopardy: Movie Appearances

Not an actor, this man who died in 2018 appeared briefly in some 40 mainly action films with a combined $30 billion worldwide gross,

Wrong question: Who is ?

Correct question: Who is Stan Lee?

(13) THE TWENTIES ARE NOT ROARING. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here are a few news stories about the pandemic woes of the British and global cinema industry, mostly from the Guardian

Months after the initial Covid-19 restrictions closed all cinemas, Australian moviegoers are beginning to return for socially distanced screenings across most of the country.

But with most major international releases delayed, the large chains that rely on blockbusters face an uncertain future. And for independent operators, more accustomed to showing reruns of classics and local titles, the outlook is not much clearer….

…But the immediate future for Bollywood in the UK now looks particularly bleak, given that Cineworld venues host more than half of all Bollywood screenings in the UK, presenting between 40 and 50 different films a year. The prospect of reduced takings in the UK is being felt in Mumbai, where the industry relies on the territory for a sizeable chunk of its overseas revenue.

…“But for me the really big success is the BFI restoration of La Haine,” said Wood. “We’ve played it now for four weeks and it’s sold out every single performance.” Bong Joon-ho’s Memories of Murder has also been hugely popular.

“Many of the successes have been foreign language, a number are directed by women, some directed by people of colour,” Wood said.

UK cinema admissions are set to hit their lowest level since records began almost a century ago, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic wiping almost £1bn from box office sales.

…Do you need the same number of cinemas if they’re only showing blockbusters? For some time, many of them have been artificially sustained anyway, the real estate empty for much of the day. There’s also the problem that this is a sector that’s historically been very conservative and reluctant to innovate. I remember when there was a great controversy about the introduction of cup-holders.

…I love the cinema – it truly brings me joy. “Escapism” sells the experience short; I feel alive and engaged when lost in a narrative that is not my own. I used to see about three films a week, but I think I’ve seen about three films since March because watching them at home just doesn’t come close and I haven’t been back since the cinemas reopened as it doesn’t feel like the responsible thing to do. Covid is meant to spread best in an enclosed environment and I’d feel proper shit if I caught it and ended up giving it to my parents and they then died because I just had to see Tenet.

…One of my routes on my morning runs each week takes me past a small independent high-end movie theater, privately owned. It has a full restaurant, a beautiful bar, a space that can be rented for civic events, and six small theaters with extremely comfortable chairs.

In the Before times, as one reporter likes to call everything pre-Covid, the theater had a wait-staff that would take your orders while you sank into those seats to watch your favorite blockbuster. Every Democratic Presidential candidate held an event in that theater in the run-up to February’s caucus. Not a week went by when I didn’t see or get an invitation to a special event held there.

In March, when quarantine set in, the theater’s owners put up huge sheets of plywood over the display windows on all three stories of the building and made the lovely balcony inaccessible should someone get the bright idea to climb up there.

No one has painted the plywood, unlike so many other plywood coverings in the Arts District here. So the high-end theater now looks like an abandoned building. A group of homeless men slept against the plywood until someone moved them out. Occasionally, one of the totally stoned people from the high-end marijuana dispensary across the street will sit on a bench near the plywood, swaying to music only they can hear….

(14) BUTLER DID IT. Having seen the trailer, JJ calls Greenland “like a bad mashup of Deep Impact, Armagedddon, and 2012: We Were Warned.

A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garrity’s experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.

(15) DRAMATIC TRACKS. “Prehistoric footprints of woman carrying toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats unearthed” – let Yahoo! News tell you the story.

Prehistoric footprints of a woman carrying a toddler while dodging sabre-toothed cats and giant sloths are the longest set of fossilised human prints ever found, scientists have said.  

The prints, which stretch for almost a mile and were discovered in the White Sands National Park in New Mexico, USA, date back 13,000 years.

…Locally known as “ghost tracks” because they can only be seen under certain weather conditions, the adult tracks were first discovered in 2017, followed by the child’s.

The prints tell the remarkable story of a woman and a small child as they made their way across the mudflats with large predators crossing their path.

An analysis found the woman was moving at a rapid pace, intermittently carrying and putting down the child.

On the outward journey, her prints show that she was slipping, suggesting conditions were wet and treacherous. But on her return, following the same path almost exactly, she was alone and no slipping marks were detected.

During the trips, other tracks show a giant sloth, mammoths and sabre-tooth cats crossed their path, and the sloth was startled by their scent.

“As the animal approached the trackway, it appears to have reared up on its hind legs to catch the scent, pausing by turning and trampling the human tracks before dropping to all fours and making off,” Prof Bennett said….

(16) HOT ON THE TRAILER. Amazon Prime introduces Invincible. The series will be online in 2021.

INVINCIBLE is an adult animated superhero series that revolves around 17-year-old Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun), who’s just like every other guy his age — except his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons). But as Mark develops powers of his own, he discovers his father’s legacy may not be as heroic as it seems.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Joey Eschrich, Ben Bird Person, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “I Can Improve On The Classics” Dern.]

2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards

Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute announced the winners of the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards for speculative fiction on October 8.

2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction (Debut)

2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Award for Speculative Fiction (Open)

The book awards were judged by Nebula Award-winner Sam J. Miller,

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that will be presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel to discuss the genre and their work.

The Neukom Awards has also awarded special recognition to We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia (Katherine Tegen Books, 2019) in the debut category, and The Archive of Alternate Endings, by Lindsey Drager (Dzanc Books, 2019) in the open category.

Neukom 2020 winners Cadwell Turnbull (l) and Ted Chiang (r) are honored for works in speculative fiction. [Turnbull photo credit: Anju Manandhar and Ted Chiang photo credit: Alan Berner.]

The debut winner, The Lesson, by Cadwell Turnbull, tells the story of the tense relationship between residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and aliens parked over the island group on a multiyear research mission. The book provides a spec-fic twist to the complexities of colonialism, and of interactions between people.

“Few science fiction storylines are more overused than tales of alien first contact and invasion, which makes Cadwell Turnbull’s achievement in The Lesson all the more astonishing,” said Miller. “He’s managed to make it fresh and alive and painfully relevant for a moment where our histories of colonization and exploitation are poised to teach us all some terrible lessons, and we should all be paying attention. It’s the kind of debut that makes me so excited for the future of speculative fiction.”

The open category winner, Exhalation, by Ted Chiang, is a collection of nine stories that address subjects including time travel, alien life and artificial intelligence. In the book, Chiang’s second collection of stories, the author creates devices such as a digital memory and a digital pet to explore the many imaginative alleyways of the spec-fic genre.

“Ted Chiang is simply the greatest living science fiction writer, and each new story of his is cause for celebration. It’s been 17 years since his last collection, and Exhalation is exactly the kind of brain-exploding, superhuman, profoundly human work we need right now. Far and away the best speculative book of the year, and probably the decade. Ted’s stories rewrite the rules of the world and widen the scope of our dreams, and we are all in his debt,” said Miller.

Turnbull and Chiang will participate in an online award event later this month to discuss their works and the speculative fiction genre.

[Based on a press release.]

Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards Announces 2020 Book Shortlist

Books from veteran and debut speculative fiction authors have been named to the shortlist of the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards, released June 17.

“This is such an odd and unsettling time to be reading through so much speculative fiction,” said Dan Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute and creator of the award program. “It’s also an important time. The works chosen for the 2020 Neukom shortlist are insightful, provocative and may even guide our thinking as we experience the challenges that beset the world today.”

2020 Neukom Awards Shortlist:

Debut Category

Open Category

The shortlist was determined by Rockmore and his Dartmouth colleagues Professors Tarek El-ArissPeter Orner, and Eric Schaller, as well as Santa Fe Institute Professor Jessica Flack.

Sam J. Miller

The third annual speculative fiction awards program will be judged by sff writer Sam J. Miller.

Miller also provided input on the shortlist selections.

“There’s lots to be angry about, and plenty of reasons for pessimism, but this list is proof that today’s speculative fiction writers can still help us imagine—and create—a better future,” said Miller. “I’m eager to dive into this list, and suddenly intensely terrified at the prospect of picking winners out of such an excellent list of books, encompassing work from well-known genre luminaries and bright new lights in the literary sky.”

Awards for both the debut and open book categories will be announced during the summer.

Each award winner will receive a $5,000 honorarium that is typically presented during a Dartmouth-hosted panel discussion about the genre and the winning works.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science is dedicated to supporting and inspiring computational work. The Literary Arts Awards is part of the Neukom Institute’s initiative to explore the ways in which computational ideas impact society.

[Based on a press release,]

Nebula Award Winner Sam J. Miller To Judge 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards

Sam J. Miller. Photo credit: Kalyaní-Aindrí Sanchez

Nebula Award-winning author Sam J. Miller has been announced as the judge for the 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards. The awards are presented annually at Dartmouth College to honor and support works in speculative fiction.

Miller is the author of the Nebula-winning The Art of Starving. Miller’s second novel Blackfish City—a shortlist selection of the 2019 Neukom Awards—tells the story of life set in a floating Arctic city where rising seas have caused dramatic geopolitical changes. His most recent book, Destroy All Monsters, was published in 2019.

“The imagined futures of some of the best speculative fiction have always felt uncomfortably close,” said Dan Rockmore, director of Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science and creator of the award program. “We are excited to have Sam Miller, one of the most imaginative writers of our day, guide us through this year’s awards under circumstances that seem like they were pulled from the pages of a spec fic book.”

The Neukom awards program presents prizes in two book categories: one for a debut author, and another in an open author category. There is also a separate award for playwriting. Miller will serve as a judge for the book awards.

“We’re living in weird and terrifying times that rival the best speculative fiction in their outlandishness,” said Miller, a recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award. “My peers and heroes in the genre community are rising to the challenge by writing magnificent books that not only capture the true horror of how we’re destroying the world, but the hope and power we have to save it. We’ve seen some astonishing novels come out in the past year, and I’m excited to help celebrate some of them as part of the Neukom Awards.”

Each Neukom award comes with a $5,000 honorarium given as a part of Dartmouth programming. The literary awards will be presented during a panel scheduled for fall of 2020. The playwriting award also includes the opportunity to develop and perform the script, first as a part of the summer VoxFest program and then later with the local Northern Stage theatre group.

The short list of books for this year’s awards will be made public in May. The list will be decided by Rockmore, along with Dartmouth colleagues Eric SchallerTarek El-Ariss, and Peter Orner, as well as The Santa Fe Institute’s Jessica Flack. The awards will be announced in June.

Additional information on the awards may be found on the Neukom Institute website here.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 7/9/19 With Mullets Towards None

(1) THOUGHTS ON A PROPOSED HUGO CATEGORY. Neil Clarke explains why he opposes “Hugo Proposal for Best Translated Novel”

…The biggest problem I have with this proposal is the message it sends not only to domestic readers, but foreign authors, editors, and publishers: translated works are not as good as ours, so we’re making a special category for you so you can get awards too. I don’t believe that’s the intention of those who drafted this proposal. I think they approached it with the best of intentions, but simply got it wrong. For years now, I have been making the case that we should be treating translated and international works as equals: stories worthy of standing alongside those we have routinely seen published. This proposal sends the opposite message, and on those grounds intend to vote no.

Translated works are capable of winning the Hugo without any special treatment. As they point out in their own commentary, three translated works have won since 2015, despite the relatively low number of translations published among a wide sea of domestic releases….

(2) ‘TOPIARY. Juliette Wade’s Dive Into Worldbuilding encounters winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Nebula nominee “Sam J. Miller and Blackfish City”. Read the synopsis at the link, and/or watch the video:

…There are some utopian elements in the story as well as dystopian ones. A lot of energy problems can be solved. The city uses methane generators to produce light. They also don’t need militarized police. Sam remarked how any place can have both utopian and dystopian elements depending on who you are. To the people who live in the Capital, the Hunger Games world is a utopia.

I asked if this book was strictly speaking science fiction or whether it had fantastical elements. He explained that it is a science fiction story, but that he uses nanites to do things that might seem magical. The nanites allow some humans to bond with animals. That bond could seem fantastical but it has technological underpinnings.

There are people called orcamancers. Sam explained that the origins of the orcamancers are  with illegal pharmaceutical testing that happened in the period between the present and the time period of the novel. Rival drugs were tested on people at different times. This accidentally led to a form of bonding with animals that Sam compared to the daemons in The Golden Compass. He explained that cultural practices regulate why you would bond with particular animals….

(3) CICERO – NOT ILLINOIS. Ada Palmer dives into “Stoicism’s Appeal to the Rich and Powerful” at Ex Urbe

I was recently interviewed for a piece in the Times on why the philosophy of stoicism has become very popular in the Silicon Valley tech crowd. Only a sliver of my thoughts made it into the article, but the question from Nellie Bowles was very stimulating so I wanted to share more of my thoughts.

To begin with, like any ancient philosophy, stoicism has a physics and metaphysics–how it thinks the universe works–and separately an ethics–how it advises one to live, and judge good and bad action. The ethics is based on the physics and metaphysics, but can be divorced from it, and the ethics has long been far more popular than the metaphysics.  This is a big part of why stoic texts surviving from antiquity focus on the ethics; people transcribing manuscripts cared more about these than about the others.  And this is why thinkers from Cicero to Petrarch to today have celebrated stoicism’s moral and ethical advice while following utterly different cosmologies and metaphysicses.  (For serious engagement with stoic ontology & metaphysics you want Spinoza.)  The current fad for stoicism, like all past fads for stoicism (except Spinoza) focuses on the ethics.

(4) DRAGON TRAINER NOW LAUREATE. “How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell named new children’s laureate”The Guardian has the story.

Cressida Cowell has become the new UK Children’s Laureate.

The author of How To Train Your Dragon, and the Wizards of Once will take over from previous laureate, Lauren Childs..

She said: “Books and reading are magic, and this magic must be available to absolutely everyone. I’m honoured to be chosen to be the eleventh Waterstones Children’s Laureate. I will be a laureate who fights for books and children’s interests with passion, conviction and action. Practical magic, empathy and creative intelligence, is the plan.”

Cressida has also revealed a ‘giant to-do list’ to help make sure that books and reading are available to everyone. It says that every child has the right to:

  1. Read for the joy of it.
  2. Access NEW books in schools, libraries and bookshops.
  3. Have advice from a trained librarian or bookseller.
  4. Own their OWN book.
  5. See themselves reflected in a book.
  6. Be read aloud to.
  7. Have some choice in what they read.
  8. Be creative for at least 15 minutes a week.
  9. See an author event at least ONCE.
  10. Have a planet to read on.

(5) GEEKY GETAWAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] For your vacationing pleasure, SYFY Wire has lists and descriptions of 10 hotels “Geek Road Trip: 10 nerdy hotels that’ll turn vacation into a fandom pilgrimage” and 6 Airbnbs “Geek Road Trip: 6 extra-nerdy Airbnb to book for your next vacation” with fan welcoming accommodations. The latter include a Harry Potter themed apartment in Atlanta GA, an ’80s throwback gaming room in Lisbon, Portugal (& other themed rooms in the same building), a Marvel-ous studio apartment in Manila Philippines, a Star Wars suite in Melbourne Australia, a riverside Hobbit hole in Orondo, WA and Pixar paradise (with differently-themed rooms) in Anaheim CA.

(6) NAMELESS DREAD. The series doesn’t have a title yet, but it does have characters: “George RR Martin Says ‘Game of Thrones’ Prequel Includes the Starks, Direwolves and White Walkers”.

HBO’s untitled Naomi Watts-led “Game of Thrones” prequel pilot may not have Targaryens and dragons — but it does have Starks, direwolves and, of course, White Walkers.

“The Starks will definitely be there,” George R.R. Martin, co-creator and executive producer on the project alongside showrunner Jane Goldman, told Entertainment Weekly in an interview published Tuesday.

“Obviously the White Walkers are here — or as they’re called in my books, The Others — and that will be an aspect of it,” the “A Song of Ice and Fire” author said, adding: “There are things like direwolves and mammoths.”

The appearance of the Starks, descendants of the First Men, shouldn’t be a shock to fans who remember the prequel — which is reportedly currently filming in North Ireland — takes place roughly 5,000 years before the events of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

(7) THE REEL DEAL. Yahoo! Finance expects big bucks to change hands: “‘Lost’ tapes of first moonwalk to be sold; former NASA intern may make millions”.

A former intern at NASA may become a millionaire when he sells three metal reels that contain original videotape recordings of man’s first steps on the moon.  

The videotapes will be offered in a live auction on July 20th at Sotheby’s New York, but interested parties are able to place bids now at Sothebys.com. The sale coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. The price could reach $2 million.

According to the auction site, Gary George was awarded a cooperative work internship at the NASA Johnson Space Center in June 1973. Three years later, he bought more than 1,100 reels at a government surplus auction for $218, Reuters reported.

(8) GAIMAN’S STUDY. Variety’s photo essay takes you “Inside Neil Gaiman’s Rural Writing Retreat”. (Hey, we have the same interior decorator!)

Although Gaiman has won multiple Hugo Awards, he only keeps one in his office; the others are in his house in Wisconsin. The one he earned in 2016 for “The Sandman: Overture” receives extra special placement not only because of his long history with the franchise (“It had a ‘you can go home again’ quality to it,” he says) but also because “there is something magical in knowing I was awarded it for a graphic novel. I remember I was there, not too long ago, fighting for whether comics could get awards and things like that. But people loved it; it got its audience; it got awards; people cared.”

(9) NATIVE TONGUE TRILOGY EVENT. On Thursday, July 18, there will be a panel discussion on feminist sci-fi with Rebecca Romney, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Bethany C. Morrow, and moderated by Eliza Cushman Rose focusing on “The Legacy of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue Trilogy”. This event is hosted by The Feminist Press and will be held at Books are Magic, 225 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1911 Mervyn Peake. Ok I’ll admit I’ve not read the Gormenghast novels, nor have I seen the various video adaptations. Please tell me what I’ve been missing. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 Glen Cook, 75. With the exception of the new novel which I need to read, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also his far lighter Garrett P.I. Which unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it.
  • Born July 9, 1945 Dean Koontz, 74. The genres of of mystery. horror, fantasy and science fiction are all home to him. Author of over a hundred novels, his first novel was SF — it being Star Quest (not in print) published as an Ace Double with Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. ISFDB claims over half of his output is genre, I’d say that a low estimate. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 Ellen Klages, 65. Her novelette “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, which published by Tachyon Publications, my boutique favorite publisher of fantasy. Passing Strange, her 1940 set San Francisco novel is really great.
  • Born July 9, 1970 Ekaterina Sedia, 49. Her Heart of Iron novel is simply awesome. I’d also recommend The Secret History of Moscow as well. It’s worth noting that both iBooks and Kindle list several collections by her, Willful Impropriety: 13 Tales of Society, Scandal, and Romance and Wilful Impropriety that ISFDB doesn’t list. I’m off to buy them now. 
  • Born July 9, 1978 Linda Park, 41. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer character Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, she was Renee Hansen in Spectres which Marina Sirtis is also in. She was in some called Star Trek: Captain Pike three years back as Captain Grace Shintal. 

(11) DISTURBING TREND? Yesterday, “Jar Jar Binks spent the day trending on Twitter, baffling Star Wars fans” says SYFY Wire.

Earlier this morning, Jar Jar Binks was inexplicably one of the trending topics on Twitter. No one seemed to understand why, although there have been some theories. The Tampa Bay Times looked into the matter, which traced it back to a meme that predicts your Star Wars fate. While the image had been making the rounds online, it was shared by Mark Hamill earlier this morning, giving it some serious traction. 

(12) VINTAGE 2018 FINNCON. Karl-Johan Norén’s report on his 2018 Nordic Fan Fund trip to Finncon 2018 is up on eFanzines in both epub (preferred) and PDF formats.

…Meanwhile, Hulda and Therese participated in the Klingon language workshop, where they learnt some helpful Klingon phrases and Hulda impressed by showing a basic knowledge of the IPA symbols. Later on, when Hulda accidentally tickled Therese, Therese gave off a very Klingon-like sound, leading Hulda to ask if Klingons are ticklish. That gave rise to a very spirited discussion, including if Klingons would admit that they could possibly be ticklish, and if empirical research was advised…

(13) BUSTED. The Daily Beast reports on Streamliner Lines’ inaugural run through western Nevada: “Redditors Say This Is a Nazi Bus. The Owner Says It’s a Misunderstanding.”

It bans “social justice warriors” and drives across Nevada with a logo that looks suspiciously like a Nazi flag. It’s Reno’s new bus line and the owner says the racist reputation is all just a misunderstanding.

On Friday, Streamliner Lines launched its maiden bus run from Reno to Las Vegas. Streamliner president John Wang told The Daily Beast it ran a little behind schedule (traffic), and sold few tickets (the Nazi reputation). Still, the trip was the first victory for Streamliner, which previously failed inspection on its only bus and has spent the past month embroiled in spats with Redditors over the company’s logo and its ban on some left-wing passengers.

(14) BLADE RUNNER. Titan Comics advertises Blade Runner 2019 as “the first comic to tell new stories set in the Blade Runner universe!”

(15) KORNBLUTH TRIBUTE. Andrew Porter passed along a scanned clipping of Cyril Kornbluth’s obituary in a 1958 New York Times.

(16) UMM, YUM? Gastro Obscura calls her ‘Annabel Lecter’ because “These Made-to-Order Cakes Look Like Beautiful Nightmares”.

English pastry chef Annabel de Vetten crafts what may be the world’s most fantastically morbid confections. Her Birmingham studio and cooking space, the Conjurer’s Kitchen, is filled with feasts of macabre eye candy rendered with ghoulish precision.

Here is a plate heaped with thumb-sized maggots and grubs. There a bloodied human heart lies in a pool of green, molar-strewn slime. A stainless-steel coroner’s table hosts the disemboweled upper-torso of a corpse. It’s flanked by a four-foot statue of a saint, his face melting away to bone. On the counter, the neck of a deer’s partially fleshless head sinks its roots into a bisected flowerpot; a sapling bursts from its skull like a unicorn horn.

(17) THE ART OF FILLING OUT THE HUGO BALLOT. Steve J. Wright moves on to review “Hugo Category: Best Art Book”.

…Taking a look at this year’s offerings – well, the Hugo voters’ packet contains partial content (the images, really) from three of the six, and the full text and images from a fourth, which last was something I really didn’t expect.  I bought one of the remaining two myself… but the last one, Julie Dillon’s Daydreamer’s Journey, is a self-published job funded by a Kickstarter project and put together using indie tools, and the ultimate result was, I figured I could just about afford the book, but then I looked at the cost of overseas shipping, and my wallet instinctively snapped shut.  Pity, really.  Julie Dillon is a familiar name from recent Pro Artist final lists, and a book of her artwork (with accompanying descriptions of her creative process for each piece) would be a very nice thing to have.  The Kickstarter makes it look very enticing indeed….

(18) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. NPR finds that “Moon Rocks Still Awe, And Scientists Hope To Get Their Hands On More”

Darby Dyar says that as a kid, whenever Apollo astronauts returned from the moon, she and her classmates would get ushered into the school library to watch it on TV.

She remembers seeing the space capsules bobbing in the ocean as the astronauts emerged. “They climbed out and then they very carefully took the lunar samples and put them in the little rubber boat,” Dyar says, recalling that the storage box looked like an ice chest.

Nearly a half-ton of moon rocks were collected by the six Apollo missions to the lunar surface. And as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first landing mission approaches, NASA has decided to open up a still-sealed, never-studied moon rock sample that has been carefully saved for decades, waiting for technology to advance.

(19) I PRAY FOR ONE FIRST LANDING. Even if it’s not one of Glyer’s Chinese ‘bots I’m sure you’ll cheer when “AI pilot ‘sees’ runway and lands automatically”.

An automatic pilot has landed a plane using image-recognition artificial intelligence to locate the runway.

At large airports, systems on the ground beam up the position of the runway to guide automatic systems.

But in late May a new AI tool landed a small plane carrying passengers, by “sight” alone at Austria’s Diamond Aircraft airfield.

One expert said it could potentially improve flight safety.

The new system, developed by researchers at the technical universities of Braunschweig and Munich, processes visual data of the runway and then adjusts the plane’s flight controls, without human assistance.

Because it can detect both infrared light as well as the normal visible spectrum, it can handle weather conditions such as fog that might make it difficult for the human pilot to make out the landing strip.

Another advantage of the technology is it does not rely on the radio signals provided by the existing Instrument Landing System (ILS). Smaller airports often cannot justify the cost of this equipment and it can suffer from interference.

(20) LE GUIN ON PBS.  THIRTEEN’s American Masters presents the U.S. broadcast premiere of the “Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” documentary on August 2.

Produced with Le Guin’s participation over the course of a decade, American Masters – Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin tells the intimate coming-of-age story of the Portland, Oregon, housewife and mother of three who forever transformed American literature by bringing science fiction into the literary mainstream. Through her influential work, Le Guin opened doors for generations of younger writers like Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon and David Mitchell — all of whom appear in the film — to explore fantastic elements in their writing.

The film explores the personal and professional life of the notoriously private author through revealing conversations with Le Guin as well as her family, friends and the generations of renowned writers she influenced. Visually rich, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin illustrates the dramatic real-world settings that shaped Le Guin’s invented places using lush original animations over her own readings of her work to provide a firsthand experience of her fantastic worlds.

(21) TOUGH TIME AT NASFiC. Artist Newton Ewell had a terrible experience at SpikeCon and wrote about it on Facebook. Friends of his told me he’s okay with sharing it on File 770. (I’m adding this at the last minute, in preference to waiting for tomorrow’s Scroll.)

Have you ever been invited to a convention, only to be treated like you don’t belong there? I have.

Thursday was really hard on me. I felt very unwelcome at Spikecon, and have realized that driving an hour one-way, being shoved off into an unlit corner and having to confront people who hate me just really isn’t my thing.

Frankly, I’m afraid to come back to the convention. Libertarian Loudmouth Guy came by the table yesterday evening to drone on at me like a broken record about the same crap (his skewed politics) as usual. Being buttonholed by wackos who see my skin color and use it as a pretext to spew hateful talk at me does not make a good convention experience. Racist DrawGirl’s grudge against me was on full display. I’m not there to compete with anyone, nor am I there to be hated on by weirdos with strange fetishy grudges. Right-Wing Space Guy still can’t grasp that I don’t want to talk to him either, because of the Trump fanaticism displayed toward me.

I have friends there, but I was isolated from them, making the whole experience into an ordeal for me. I wanted to bring my large pieces, but something said, “don’t”. I’m glad I listened to that inner voice, because if I’d brought them, they’d have been ruined by the rain. I was supposed to have an electrical outlet for my drawing light, but all the outlets were taken up by the USS Dildo-prise people.

I don’t have money to afford driving back out there, let alone commuting back-and-forth, food etc. Being placed into a hostile working environment is too much pain for too little reward.

I realized that being presented with a symbol of racial oppression and corporate greed (a plastic golden spike) really hurt. All I feel from that is the pain and death dealt out to the people who worked so hard to join the two railroads, and it makes me sad. I’m hurt that my art is on all the con badges, but once I get there I’m made into a problem, a bothersome individual who’s not worth having the space I contracted for….

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