Pixel Scroll 5/22/21 In Odin Days, A Glimpse Of Stalking

(1) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. “China’s Zhurong Mars rover kicks off roving mission after driving off landing platform”Global Times has the story.

Named after an ancient fire god of Chinese mythology, the 1.85-meter-tall and some 240-kilogram Zhurong Mars rover safely drove off the landing platform and reached the surface of Mars at 10: 40 am on Saturday, kicking off its roving mission, the Global Times learned from the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

China has become the second country in the world to successfully deploy a robotic rover onto the surface of Mars, breaking up US’ monopoly in the field, Chinese space analysts hailed.

The rover will carry out environmental perception and scientific detection in the patrol area as planned. At the same time, the orbiter will operate in the relay orbit to provide stable relay communication for the rover’s patrol and exploration. The orbiter is serving as a data relay station for communications between Zhurong and mission controllers on Earth.

(2) HERE WOLF, THERE HASSLE. The question of what an author would want done with a work like this by his estate is always interesting: “John Steinbeck’s estate urged to let the world read his shunned werewolf novel” in The Guardian.

Years before becoming one of America’s most celebrated authors, John Steinbeck wrote at least three novels which were never published. Two of them were destroyed by the young writer as he struggled to make his name, but a third – a full-length mystery werewolf story entitled Murder at Full Moon – has survived unseen in an archive ever since being rejected for publication in 1930.

Now a British academic is calling for the Steinbeck estate to finally allow the publication of the work, written almost a decade before masterpieces such as The Grapes of Wrath, his epic about the Great Depression and the struggles of migrant farm workers.

“There would be a huge public interest in a totally unknown werewolf novel by one of the best-known, most read American writers of the 20th century,” said Professor Gavin Jones, a specialist in American literature at Stanford University…

… But Steinbeck’s literary agents, McIntosh & Otis, told the Observer they would not be publishing the novel. “As Steinbeck wrote Murder at Full Moon under a pseudonym and did not choose to publish the work during his lifetime, we uphold what Steinbeck had wanted,” they said. “As the estate’s agents, we do not further exploit the works beyond what had been the author and estate’s wishes.”

(3) TAKE THE CASH AND LET THE REDDIT GO. “Wanda Sells AMC Theatres Stake For $426 Million”The Hollywood Reporter sums up the transaction.

Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group has sold off essentially its entire stake in AMC Theatres, officially exiting the U.S. theatrical exhibition business.

Wanda has had a controlling stake in the exhibition giant since 2012, but January’s Reddit-fueled rally saw the company trade in its super-voting Class B stock for Class A common stock, giving up control but giving it the option to cash out.

And cash out it did. On Friday, AMC disclosed that Wanda sold all but 10,000 shares in the past week, netting $426.7 million. It previously sold three tranches last month for $220 million.

(4) SELF-PUBLISHED FANTASY BLOG-OFF 7. Mark Lawrence starts SPFBO 7 – the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2021 – PHASE 1 with a full board, titles listed at the link. He shared some statistics about the 300 entrants.

A list of most of the entries is on Goodreads thanks to Hiu Gregg.

From the list I discovered that:

40 entries ~13% have 100+ ratings on Goodreads.

 97 of the entries have 25+ ratings.

 0 of the books were published 10 or more years ago – the oldest is 9 years old.

 0 of the books have more than 1,000 pages. The longest is 986 pages.

 5 of the books have over a 1,000 ratings, the most ratings is 3,769.

(5) SOUVENIR BOOK. If you happened to take in the World’s Fair while you were in New York for the first Worldcon, here is a nifty souvenir book you could have bought, reproduced in full by Past Print: ”New York World’s Fair / Souvenir Book / 1939”.

Donald Deskey’s superb design of this World Fair book must have made it one of the more worthwhile souvenirs amongst the of hundreds cheaply made commercial items. Perhaps the best souvenir of all was the plate (right) designed by Charles Murphy for the Homer Laughlin company, unfortunately I don’t have one.

    Deskey is probably better known as a furniture designer of the streamline era but his graphic work appeared in every household across the land because he designed the Tide soap box with the red, orange and yellow bulls eye and boxes for Oxydol and Cheer. The design for Crest toothpaste was also his.

    The design of this book with 144 (unnumbered) pages still looks fresh today, seventy plus years after they were printed. Large photos and graphics, angled text and the clever use of ten short pages to introduce the various sections work really well and provide enough visual interest to keep turning the pages. I particularly liked these short intro pages that used spot color and cleverly designed to blend into the page underneath. Turning over the cover to reveal a bird’s eye view of the complete Fair with color on the left and mono on the right seems rather unusual design choice though.

(6) FREITAG OBIT. The New York Times commemorates Ruth Freitag (1924-2021), a librarian renowned for her knowledge of science, technology, and astronomy: “Ruth Freitag, Librarian to the Stars, Dies at 96”.

Isaac Asimov was enthralled with her and wrote her a limerick. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan wrote in their introduction to “Comet” (1985) that “one of the most pleasant experiences in writing this book” was meeting her. Numerous other science writers acknowledged their debts to her in forewords to their books.

Ruth Freitag, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress for nearly a half-century, was unknown to the general public. But she was, in more ways than one, a librarian to the stars.

Known for her encyclopedic knowledge of resources in science and technology, Ms. Freitag (pronounced FRY-tog) was sought out by the leading interpreters of the galaxy. She developed a particular expertise in astronomy early in her career.

Her learnedness became so comprehensive that she opened up new worlds to Mr. Asimov, the pre-eminent popular science writer of his day, and Mr. Sagan, the astronomer who introduced millions of television viewers to the wonders of the universe.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 22, 2012 — On this day in 2012, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise to date, it was directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it though admittedly the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre fifty three percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 — Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve read all the Holmes stories a long time ago. My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles as it allows him to develop a story at length. Favorite video Holmes? Jeremy Brett.  Looking at ISFDB, I’m see there were more Professor Challenger novels than I realized. And the Brigadier Gerard stories sound suspiciously comical… (Died 1930.) (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1938 — Richard Benjamin, 83. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, one added in collection Feensters in the Lake.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine”, a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1939 — Paul Winfield. He’s best remembered as Capt. Terrell in The Wrath of Khan, but he was also in the Next Gen episode “Darmok” as the signature character.  He showed up in Damnation Alley as a character named Keegan and in The Terminator as Lt. Ed Traxler. Oh, and let’s not forget that he was Lucien Celine In The Serpent and the Rainbow which surely is genre. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips, age 78.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1964 — Kat Richardson, 57. Her Greywalker series is one of those affairs that I’m pleased to say that I’ve read every novel that was been published. I’ve not read Blood Orbit, the first in her new series, yet. Has anyone here done so? (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1968 — Karen Lord, 53. A  Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. Lord was Toastmistress of Worldcon 75 in 2017. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1979 — Maggie Q, 42. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series. (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1979 – Kagami Takaya, age 42.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Nine light novels available in English.  Here is the most recent I know of; see here.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1985 – Arwen Mannens, age 36.  Three novels; so far I find them only in Dutch.  Samples of her 2006 and 2021 drawing here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – the word Carbonite should be enough….

(10) DISNEY PLUS WITCHES. “Bette Midler announces that ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ is happening: ‘We’re back!’” says Yahoo! Entertainment.

Here’s yet another reason why you should always bet on Bette (Midler). Last year, the acting and singing icon confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment that she would “absolutely” be back for Hocus Pocus 2 — the long-rumored sequel to Disney’s 1993 Halloween favorite — alongside her witchy onscreen sisters Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker. “As soon as we sign on the dotted line,” Midler promised at the time. 

Flash-forward a few months, and it looks like that dotted line isn’t blank anymore. Hocus Pocus 2 will start production later this year for a 2022 premiere on the Disney+ streaming service. And all three Sanderson sisters promptly confirmed the news on social media. “It’s been 300 years… but we’re BACK!” Midler teased on Instagram. 

(11) GET THE LEAD OUT. Past Print takes you on a visual tour of its collection of “Type tools before the pc”. I remember using a hand-held composing stick in Print Shop back in nineteen-ought-sixty-eight.

(12) NOT LOST, JUST THROWN AWAY. CrimeReads’ Keith Roysdon decided to rewatch the bad final season of LOST. He explains why he thinks it was bad and notes the many mysteries of the show that were never answered: “Coming To Terms With ‘Lost,’ All These Years Later”.

…Like millions of other viewers, I found the series riveting television. I loved the characters and situations and twists. The polar bear. The hatch. The slowly-unfolding story of the Dharma Initiative. And I was never more horrified at a TV plot point than when “the Others” kidnapped young Walt.

The intense reaction the series inspired in me and others backfired, though, when “Lost” ended with a disappointing final season and a two-part finale that didn’t just disappoint but outraged some.

I was so disappointed that, in the 11 years since the finale aired on May 23, 2010, I’ve never revisited it, never rewatched the DVD set that collects dust on a shelf. I’ve never gone back to revisit the cult ABC series on streaming….

It’s not just the failure of the show to answer many of its mysteries that is so off-putting. Remember that scene in the cult movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension” when Jeff Goldblum’s character asks about a watermelon in a complicated piece of machinery and Clancy Brown’s character says, “I’ll tell you later” but then never does? That did not ruin “Buckaroo Banzai” for me.

But “Lost’s” mysteries were so many and some were so largely unanswered….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Out of the Inkwell: The Fleischer Story is a documentary, narrated by Carl Reiner, about the Fleischer studios which explains why Max and Dave Fleischer were great cartoonists. It first appeared around 1990. Leonard Maltin and Mark Evanier are two of the talking heads.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Will R., Andrew Porter, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel “Anything Geas” Dern.]

Anderson Wins Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2020

Mark Lawrence has tweeted out the news that Justin Lee Anderson’s The Lost War (Eidyn Book 1) is the winner of the 6th Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off. The book was the top-rated finalist for 4 of the 10 reviewing blogs, with an average rating of 8.35 out of 10.

The sixth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO #6) began with the submission of self-published fantasy works on June 1, 2020. The first 300 author-submitted works were accepted into the competition. The major qualifiers were that the book must be self-published, must be currently available for purchase, must be a work of fantasy, and must be either a stand-alone novel or the first book in a series.

The works were then divided into ten groups of 30 with each group being assigned to one of ten volunteer sites/organizations that provide reviews of works of fantasy. Each site read their 30 assigned works and promoted one book into the finalist round.

Once the finalists were identified, each review site read, reviewed, and rated the nine remaining finalists. The winner will be the book with the highest average rating from the ten review sites.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest five years ago. Here is his Mission Statement:

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

It is not:
i) Perfect. Great books will slip through this net just like they do every other net.
ii) Aimed at getting traditional publications deals. Some authors opt for them but it would be an insult to suggest that the holy grail for self published authors is a deal with a big publisher.
iii) Charged for. This is totally free. The enormous effort given by the reviewers/blogs is a gift. Don’t abuse it. #NoDrama

The winner receives the prestigious Selfie Stick Award

The rest of the 2020 finalists are listed here.

[Based on posts written by Dann.]

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off #6 Reaches the Finals

By Dann: The sixth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO #6) began with the submission of self-published fantasy works on June 1, 2020. The first 300 author-submitted works were accepted into the competition. The major qualifiers were that the book must be self-published, must be currently available for purchase, must be a work of fantasy, and must be either a stand-alone novel or the first book in a series.

The works were then divided into ten groups of 30 with each group being assigned to one of ten volunteer sites/organizations that provide reviews of works of fantasy. Each site read their 30 assigned works and promoted one book into the finalist round.

Once the finalists were identified, each review site read, reviewed, and rated the nine remaining finalists. The winner will be the book with the highest average rating from the ten review sites.

SPFBO #6 is quickly coming to a close. Most of the reviewers have read most of the books. Twenty out of 100 reviews are yet to be completed. The following table (data from April 19, 2021) provides the ratings as well as (1) links to the books, (2) links to the authors’ websites, (3) links to the review blogs, and (4) links to their specific reviews (click on the score number).

Use the slide at the bottom of the table to bring the right half into view.

ScoreFantasy-FactionFantasy Book CriticLynn’s BooksBooknestKitty GThe Weatherwax ReportFantasy HiveQueen’s Book AsylumCritiquing ChemistFantasy Inn
The Fall of Erlon by Robert H. Fleming6.10657666.56.568*4
The Lost War by Justin Lee Anderson(8.35/6)7.59*9.5**897
Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher(8.15/9)8.58**8.59998*7.56
Voice of War by Zack Argyle(7.85/6))88*77.588.5
Shadow of a Dead God by Patrick Samphire(7.75/8)8*7887987
Darkness Forged by Matt Larkin(7.30/7)66.587.58*6.58.5
 Last Memoria by Rachel Emma Shaw(6.95/8)776.5768*6.57.5
Wind From The Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree(6.95/8)7.587858*75
The Combat Codes by Alexander Darwin(6.15/9)3.58*48.566.5775
Nether Light by Shaun Paul Stevens(5.65/7)456.5673.57.5*
Blogger Average Score7.07.2

* = Blogger chose this finalist.
** = Blogger’s top book.

Mark Lawrence noted that a number of the blogs/reviews reduced their scores for The Combat Codes on the basis that it wasn’t fantasy.

Mark recently announced that SPFBO will return for a seventh season on June 1, 2021. One of the ten review sites will not be participating in SPFBO #7. Any reviewer(s) that would be interested in committing to the full reading/review process should contact Mark directly via one of his publicly acknowledged channels.

Pixel Scroll 4/16/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Pixel’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) CONTRACT GUIDES NOW OPEN ACCESS. The Authors Guild has released its Model Book Contract to the public for the first time. They have also produced a separate Literary Translation Model Contract for U.S. translators and literary agents.

“We updated the Model Trade Book Contract last year right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. We never could have predicted just how deleterious the crisis would be on working writers, with 71.4 percent of authors reporting losing, on average, 49 percent of their regular pre-pandemic income, based on our latest member survey,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Given this situation, we have been exploring various ways to help ease the lives and careers of professional writers, which is why the Authors Guild Council recently voted to remove the Model Trade Book Contract from behind our member paywall and make it freely accessible for all writers, publishers and anyone interested in book contracts. We hope that publishers will look to its terms in creating their own or adopt it, and we want authors around the globe to have access to it so they can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before signing any book deal.”

(2) THEY’RE BACK. “Wakandans Featurette/Marvel Studio’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube is a trailer from Disney+ that announces that Wakandans have shown up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.

(3) SPFBO. Mark Lawrence has announced that he will be starting the next Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off on June 1st.  They need another blogger/reviewer.

(4) FINALS EXAM. Cora Buhlert has 2,000 well-chosen words to share on the subject: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Finalists”.

… When the Best Series Hugo was proposed, the argument was that a lot of popular and long-running series are overlooked by the Hugos – or the Nebulas for that matter – because the individual novels don’t stand alone very well and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

However in practice, such series, no matter how popular, are rarely nominated. Particularly The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is notable by its absence, even though the Best Series Hugo seems tailor-made for this series.

Instead, the Best Series ballot tends to consist of trilogies by authors Hugo voters like and where individual volumes have often made the ballot before as well as of works set in the same wold that form a series if you squint really hard. I guess most Hugo voters simply aren’t series readers.

That said, the actual Best Series ballot looks pretty good this year. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells is a hugely popular series where prettty much every installment has either been a finalist or would have been, if Martha Wells hadn’t withdrawn two Murderbot novellas from consideration in 2019. It’s also a great series….

(5) HAVE YOU RED IT TOO? The Heinlein Society has a good reason for suggesting that you watch this trailer and note what books the kids are reading at about 28 seconds.

(6) IT’S JUST TAKING A KIP. Meanwhile, back at the Red Planet, NASA’s InSight lander is “in crisis”: “NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Hibernate so Batteries Don’t Die” at Business Insider.

… Unlike other sites where NASA has sent rovers and landers — including the landing spot of the new Perseverance rover and its Mars helicopter — powerful gusts of wind have not been sweeping Elysium Planitia. These winds, called “cleaning events,” are needed to blow the red Martian dust off the solar panels of NASA’s robots. Without their help, a thick layer of dust has accumulated on InSight, and it’s struggling to absorb sunlight.InSight’s solar panels were producing just 27% of their energy capacity in February, when winter was arriving in Elysium Planitia. So NASA decided to start incrementally turning off different instruments on the lander. Soon the robot will go into “hibernation mode,” shutting down all functions that aren’t necessary for its survival.

By pausing its scientific operations, the lander should be able to save enough power to keep its systems warm through the frigid Martian nights, when temperatures can drop to negative-130 degrees Fahrenheit.

“The amount of power available over the next few months will really be driven by the weather,” Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, said in a statement.

InSight is still in good condition — it’s even using its robotic arm — but an out-of-season storm could cause a power failure. If the lander’s batteries die, it might never recover.

“We would be hopeful that we’d be able to bring it back to life, especially if it’s not asleep or dead for a long period of time,” Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator, told Insider. “But that would be a dicey situation.”

(7) THE HOLE NINE YARDS. Let James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five Books That Use Wormholes to Plug Plot Holes” at Tor.com. First on the list –

Starman Jones by Robert Heinlein (1953)

This novel long predates the heyday of wormholes; it doesn’t even use the phrase. But it uses spacetime anomalies, which are just like wormholes. With one exception: they don’t just have an entrance and an exit. They can take you all sorts of interesting places if you enter the anomaly with the wrong approach vector. A small error calculating the vector and a hapless ship could find itself light-millennia off-course, with no clear idea how to get home. No prizes for guessing if this happens to the Asgard, the very ship on which the eponymous Starman Jones is serving. Nor is this worst that will happen to the unfortunate castaways.

(8) MCCRORY OBIT. Actress Helen McCrory, OBE, (1968-2021) died April 16 reports GEEKchocolate.

We are hugely saddened to hear of the death of the wonderful Helen McCrory, known to us as Rosanna Calvierri’s in Doctor Who’s Vampires of Venice, but with a resume which stretched from Interview with the Vampire, Charlotte Gray, The Count of Monte Cristo, Skyfall, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, a recurring role in Harry Potter as Narcissa Malfoy, and a long stint as Polly Grey on Peaky Blinders, as well as two appearances as Cherie Blair in The Queen and The Special Relationship.

(9) FELIX SILLIA OBIT. The actor who played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, Felix Sillia, has died at the age of 84 reports SYFY Wire.

In addition to playing Cousin Itt, Silla’s other best-known roles include playing the robot Twiki / Odee-x on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and an evil miniature “Hitler” in 1975’s The Black Bird. He also had smaller parts in much-loved movies, such as playing an Ewok on Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Dink in Spaceballs. He also worked as a stuntman on E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Temple of DoomHoward the Duck, and Batman Returns.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 16, 1955 –On this day in 1955, Science Fiction Theatre aired “Time Is Just A Place” as the second episode of the first season.  It’s from Jack Finey’s “Such Interesting Neighbors” (published in Collier’s, 1951) which would later form the basis of the March 20, 1987 adaptation of the story under its original title for Amazing Stories. The story is that neighbors are increasingly suspicious of the inventions of Mr. Heller, who claims to be an inventor, who uses a robotic vacuum cleaner and a flashlight that beams x-rays. It starred Don DeFore, Warren Stevens and Marie Windsor.  You can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 16, 1891 – Dorothy Lathrop.  Illustrator and author.  Historically a lot of good fantasy has been written for children; folks who appreciate fantasy know to look there.  DL illustrated twoscore books, writing nine herself, also nonfiction.  Rachel Field’s Hitty, illustrated by DL, won RF a Newbery Medal; DL’s illustrations for Helen Fish’s Animals of the Bible won DL a Caldecott Medal.  Here is DL’s cover for an ed’n of The Little Mermaid.  Here is a dandelion soldier.  Here is an interior for Mopsa the Fairy.  This is from DL’s Fairy Circus.  Here is Across the Night Sky.  Here is a 2011 appreciation with another score of pictures.  (Died 1980) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1921 Peter Ustinov. He had a number of genre appearances such as being in Blackbeard’s Ghost as Captain Blackbeard, in the animated Robin Hood by voicing both  Prince John and King Richard, as simply The Old Man In Logan’s Run, Truck Driver In The Great Muppet Caper, and in Alice in Wonderland as The Walrus. He wrote The Old Man and Mr. Smith: A Fable which is clearly genre. Genre adjacent (well sort of), he played Hercule Poirot twice. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 Kingsley Amis. So have you read The Green Man? I’m still not convinced that anything actually happened, or that rather everything including the hauntings were really in Maurice Allington’s decayed brain. I’m not seeing that he did much else for genre work other outside of The Anti-Death League and The Alteration but he did write Colonel Sun: A James Bond Adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham and his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction which was published in the late Fifties sounds fascinating as he shares his views on the genre and makes some predictions as there’ll never be a SF series on the boob tube despite there already being some. (Died 1995.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1922 John Christopher. Author of The Tripods, an alien invasion series which was adapted into both an excellent radio and a superb television series. He wrote a lot of genre fiction including the Fireball series in which Rome never fell, and The Death of Grass which I mention because it was one of the many YA post-apocalyptic novels that he wrote in the Fifties and Sixties that sold extremely well in the U.K. The film version would be nominated for a Hugo finishing sixth in the balloting at Noreascon I, a year where No Award was given. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born April 16, 1953 – J. Neil Schulman.  Four novels, half a dozen shorter stories; collection Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories (speaking of Hobbes’ Leviathan, I used to joke that the tiger should have been Calvin, and the boy Hobbes because he was nasty, brutish, and short); “Profiles in Silver” for The Twilight Zone; two Prometheus Awards.  I can’t remember ever agreeing with him, but I miss him.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1954 Ellen Barkin, 65. Usually I don’t do a birthday listing for just a few genre appearances but I make an exception for those performers who appeared in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Barking played Penny Priddy in that film and that was her only genre appearance other than playing Kathleen in the Into The West film about Irish Travellers and a very special horse named Tír na nÓg. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1962 Kathryn Cramer, 59. Writer, editor, and literary critic. She co-founded The New York Review of Science Fiction in 1988 with David G. Hartwell and others, and was its co-editor until 1991 and again since 1996. She edited with her husband David G. Hartwell Year’s Best Fantasy one through nine and Year’s Best SF seven through seventeen with him as well.  They did a number of anthologies of which I’ll single out The Hard SF Renaissance and The Space Opera Renaissance as particularly superb. She has a most excellent website — Kathryncramer.com. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1970 – Brandon McKinney, age 51.  Here is a fine cover for John Whitman’s novelization Star Wars.  Here is a cover for JW’s Phantom Menace.  Interiors for both.  Here is Batman, here is Robin.  Here is Spider-Man.  Here is Bruce Lee in The Dragon Rises.  Also Elfquest; see here.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1975 Sean Maher, 46. Doctor Simon Tam In the Firefly verse. And Dick Grayson (Nightwing) in a staggering number of  animated DAC films, to wit  Son of BatmanBatman vs. Robin,,Batman: Bad Blood, Justice League vs. Teen TitansTeen Titans: The Judas Contract and Batman: Hush. He showed up on Arrow as Shrapnel in the “Blast Radius” and “Suicide Squad” episodes. (CE)
  • Born April 16, 1978 – Amy Ruttan, age 43.  Four novels for us; two dozen others.  “Half the fun of writing historicals and being swept away in a different time period is the research….  let someone else you trust have a look over your work.  You’ll be surprised what you as an author won’t pick out.”  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1983 – Thomas Olde Heuvelt, age 38.  Too little (say I) of his work has been translated from Dutch into English.  “The Day the World Turned Upside Down” was and won a Hugo, which may be some encouragement.  Six novels, sixteen shorter stories; one novel, five shorter stories in English so far.  Three Paul Harland prizes.  [JH]
  • Born April 16, 1990 – Kusano Gengen, age 31.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Only three stories yet translated into English; one is “Last and First Idol” – yes, alluding to Olaf Stapledon – which won a Seiun, and is the lead story in a 2018 collection with the other two.  KG drew a thousand words from Jonathan Clements, of which I’ll quote a few about “Idol”: “Described by one of the Hayakawa Sci-Fi Contest [which “Idol” won – JH] panelists as ‘stupid’, and by an employee of his own publisher as ‘abysmal’, Kusano’s work of recursive SF provocatively combines the breathless, vapid prose of a teenage school story with the portentous, epic concerns of Space Opera, turning each into a wry commentary on the pomposity of the other.”  Meanwhile Kusano-san went off to Hokkaidô University for a Ph.D.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) IMAGINARY PAPERS ON YOUR DOORSTEP. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today published the 6th issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination.  

This issue features writing from media scholar Lisa Yin Han, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and learning sciences researcher Ruth Wylie.

Here is a link for subscribing to future issues.

 (14) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has scheduled three more FanHistory Project Zoom Sessions. To attend, send an RSVP to fanac@fanac.org in order to receive a link. 

  • April 17, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London –  Early Star Trek Fandom, with Ruth Berman and Devra Langsam.  

Stories and anecdotes from Ruth and Devra about their entry into fandom, about the origins of Star Trek fandom, and how they came to publish T-Negative and  Spockanallia. For those of us that came into fandom later, here’s a chance to hear how Star Trek was received in general fandom, how Trek fandom got started, who the BNFs were and what they were they like.  How did the first Trek fanzines and Trek conventions affect fandom, and how did Trek fandom grow  and become its own thing. 

  • April 27, Tuesday – 4pm EDT, 1pm PDT,  9PM London. An Interview with Erle Korshak by Joe Siclari. 

Erle Korshak is one of our remaining FIrst Fans (inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1996) and a Guest of Honor at Chicon 8 (2022 Worldcon). Erle was an organizer of the first Chicon,  the 1940 Worldcon, and was one of the Worldcon auctioneers for many years. He started Shasta Publishers, one of the first successful specialty SF publishers.  He was also involved with early SF movies. In this session, fan historian Joe Siclari  will interview Erle and his son Steve about early fandom, early conventions (including Worldcons), Shasta, and both Erle and Steve’s continuing interest in illustration art. Note: this is a midweek session. 

  • May 22, Saturday – 2pm EDT, 11AM PDT, 7PM London – An Interview with Bjo and John Trimble. 

Bjo and John Trimble have had an enormous impact on fandom from the 1950s onward. They’ve pubbed their ish, and some of the zines are available on FANAC.org. Bjo created the convention art show as we know it today (pre-pandemic) with Project Art Show, and published PAS-tell to share info with interested fans everywhere. In LASFS,  Bjo had a large role in reviving a flagging LASFS in the late 50s. Her most famous contribution was the successful Save Star Trek campaign which resulted in a 3rd year of the original series. Bjo was one of the organziers of Los Angeles fandom’s film making endeavors.  John is a co-founder of the LASFS clubzine, De Profundis and an editor of Shangri-L’Affaires. Bjo and John were Fan Guests of Honor at ConJose (2002), and were nominated twice for Best Fanzine Hugos. Bjo was nominated for Best Fan Artist Hugo. In this interview, expect stories and anecdotes of Los Angeles fandom, how the art show came to be, Save Star Trek and more. 

(15) BEAMING INTO YOUR HOME. Stay tuned as Galactic Journey boldly goes through 1966!

(16) BIG BUCKS. Smaug’s dead, so they can’t borrow it from him.“Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Costs $465 Million for Just Season 1” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings television show is going to cost all the gold in the Lonely Mountain.

The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that Amazon will spend roughly NZ$650 million — $465 million in U.S. dollars — for just the first season of the show.

That’s far above previous reported estimates that pegged the fantasy drama as costing an already record-breaking $500 million for multiple seasons of the show.

“What I can tell you is Amazon is going to spend about $650 million in season one alone,” Stuart Nash, New Zealand minister for economic development and tourism, told Morning Report“This is fantastic, it really is … this will be the largest television series ever made.”

The figures were released as part of as part of the New Zealand government’s Official Information Act and initially reported by the New Zealand outlet Stuff. The documents also confirmed the studio’s plan to film potentially five seasons in New Zealand — as well as possible, as-yet-unannounced spinoff series.

By comparison, HBO’s Game of Thrones cost roughly $100 million to produce per season, with its per-episode cost starting at around $6 million for season one and eventually rising to around $15 million per episode in season eight….

(17) THE TRAIN TO NOWHERE. Mashable’s reviewer Belen Edwards says “’Infinity Train’ Season 4 is a strong end to a show that deserved more”.

… However, part of the beauty of Infinity Train has always been its conciseness. The animated series takes on an anthology format. Each season follows a different passenger on the titular train, where each car holds a new world. Passengers are assigned a glowing green number that goes down as they learn more lessons and work to resolve the problems in their life. When their numbers reach zero, they can exit the train. Each season is only 10 episodes long, and at 11 minutes each they pack in an astounding amount of character development and heart. …

(18) KING OF THE MOVIES. There will be an online “Dollar Baby film festival” hosted by Vancouver’s Baker Street Cinema of unreleased Stephen King movies from April 23-25. Full details at the link.  

Hosted by Canadian film production company Barker Street Cinema, the virtual festival, called STEPHEN KING RULES, will screen 25 submissions by filmmakers from all over the world, many of which have never been seen by a global audience before.

Since 1977, the Master of Horror – Stephen King – has allowed emerging filmmakers to adapt his previously unproduced short stories into films that may help launch their careers through what is called the Dollar Baby Deal. Barker Street’s STEPHEN KING RULES Dollar Baby Film Festival will showcase an exciting line-up of these independent movies, including interviews and panel discussions with the filmmakers themselves….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Dann, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Bill, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day MixMat and Cliff with an assist from Jack Lint and Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 5/23/20 Extraordinary Pixellated Derisions And The Madness Of Scrolls

(1) DOCTOR’S ORDERS. Mark Oshiro is winding down his Mark Reads videos for medical reasons: vocal cord damage. He’ll still be doing the reviews, just not the live readings. Oshiro is a two-time Best Fan Writer Hugo nominee (2013, 2014). “Announcing the next Mark Reads project and the future of videos”

First, the not-so-great news. I ask that you please respect my privacy in terms of like… not asking invasive questions about my medical stuff. Thank you in advance! The short of it is: I got sick in January 2019, did not go to the hospital (as I assumed it was a cold), and have been dealing with some ramifications of that since then. The main issue, though, is that over 2019, I sustained damage to my vocal chords. If we were not in a pandemic, I might have just taken a break from videos and then jumped back into things, but since this is not an emergency, most non-essential stuff is postponed here in NYC.

So, doctor’s orders: I need to stop doing Mark Reads videos. (Not Mark Watches, though, since it is not me continuously talking/yelling for 30-40 mins straight.)

… But also: I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE. Because it’s time to start a NEW SERIES here on Mark Reads and YES, SERIES.

…I will be reading N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy next!!!

There won’t be videos, but there will be REVIEWS! And it’s kinda exciting to get to go back to the old style of reviews, where I have to put my immediate reactions into the review instead of relying on videos for that part. 

(2) FREEDOM. Not a small press but a publishing cooperative – here’s how and why they did it: “Nerine Dorman on Making a Cooperative Initiative Work” a guest post on Cat Rambo’s blog.

It all started innocently enough about five or so years ago. A fellow author sent me a link to an article about the Book View Café, and we figured: why don’t we do something like this? By this stage many of us in our small circle of writerly folks were already rather jaded about the opportunities available in the industry—especially for those of us who live in far-flung places like South Africa where there isn’t a big market for SFF fiction. Some of us had already been agented, had sold novels to big publishing houses. Some of us were not making it out of the slush pile yet… or were exhausted by all those full requests for submissions that simply vanished into a sticky silence. Added to that, some of us also had had unpleasant experiences with small presses going under, taking their back catalogue out of print. And a good handful were simply daunted by the war stories told by their author friends who’d already had a mad whirl on the merry-go-round of getting published and had their fingers burnt.

(3) SPFBO PROGRESS REPORT. Mark Lawrence says he has 192 of the 300 entries wanted to begin the sixth Self-Published Blog-Off. They are listed in the post.

(4) HOW QUICKLY THEY FORGET. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The last question of the New York Times‘s news quiz had enough information to be easy, but only 43% picked the correct answer.

The new book “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” tells the story of a character named Coriolanus Snow and is a prequel to which best-selling series?

“Game of Thrones”

“Harry Potter”

“The Hunger Games”

“Twilight”

(5) HOW TO FILL UP THE VAST WASTELAND. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik says that it’s highly unlikely the major networks will have original dramas on this fall because no pilots were shot and Los Angeles and New York remain locked down. This could mean that the networks could broadcast more foreign or cable originals, leading to Star Trek: Picard being broadcast on CBS. “The fall broadcast season could look like nothing we’ve ever seen before”.

…Most of the roughly 50 pilots ordered this year were never shot. (Pilot-shooting usually takes place in the spring — right as lockdowns began.) That means network executives would have to order full series with nothing but a script on which to base their decision, a process they have historically resisted as too risky.

Not that they could shoot those programs — or any returning ones — if they wanted to. To make a September debut, series need to begin shooting by July or early August at the latest. Yet production is nowhere near restarting. Producers and the guilds that cover most Hollywood workers have all said they are not yet comfortable reopening sets, where hundreds of cast and crew work in close quarters for long hours.

(6) AMAZINGCON. Steve Davidson has updated the AmazingCon schedule of events. The virtual event runs June 12-14. Registration required. Donations requested, but not required.

Taking place on line (we’re calling it “AmazingCon – Virtually the First One!”) via Zoom and this website, AmazingCon will feature author readings (more than 40!), writing workshops, panel discussions, continuous musical performances, an online art show and more.

(7) TAPPING INTO THE HUGOS. Essence of Wonder With Gadi Evron will begin a series of Hugo finalists live shows, over the next month hosting the finalists in various Hugo categories for panel discussions featuring their work and nominations. Registration required – no charge.

May 30David Brin and Best Professional Artist Hugo finalists

On Saturday the 30th of May we have the Best Professional Artist finalists on the show. We will further feature world-renowned author and public intellectual David Brin for a reading and an interview. This episode was created in collaboration with ASFA, and the finalists panel will be moderated by Sara Felix.

Participating in the panel: Tommy ArnoldGalen DaraJohn PicacioYuko Shimizu, and Alyssa Winans,

June 6 — Joe Haldeman and the 2020 Hugo finalists for Best Novel

On Saturday the 6th of June, we have the Best Novel finalists on the show. We will further feature genre-shaping Grand Master Joe Haldeman for a reading and an interview, along with a surprise guest.

Participating in the panel: Alix E. HarrowSeanan McGuireArkady Martine, and Kameron Hurley.

Other upcoming shows:

  • June 13: Best Novella and Best Novellette.
  • June 20: Best Short Story and Editors Short Form

(8) VETERANS. The immortal warriors of The Old Guard are coming to Netflix on July 10.

Forever is harder than it looks. Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary. Based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, Beyond The Lights), The Old Guard is a gritty, grounded, action-packed story that shows living forever is harder than it looks.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 23, 1984 — George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a prequel to Raiders of The Los Ark, premiered. The second film in the now four film deep franchise, it starred Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Amrish Puri,  Roshan Seth, Philip Stone and Ke Huy Quan. It was primarily written by Lucas with assistance from  Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz. It was scored by John Williams. It had decidedly mixed reviews early on but the  consensus now among critics is that it’s a very good film, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes agree and give it an 85% rating. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 23, 1909 Robert Thomas Maitland Scott Jr. Son and a father and son writing team who created The Spider, a pulp character who was clearly a rip-off of The Shadow. They wrote only the first two Spider novels before it was written by various house authors though it’s disputed if Scott Jt. had an uncredited role because the SF element in the series clearly reflect his tastes. He would die in a motor vehicle while on active duty with Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1915 – Oliver Butterworth.  Four decades a Professor of English at Hartford College; staged a yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday party.  Six children’s books: we can claim The Enormous Egg which won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, two more.  The egg was enormous because it had to hatch a triceratops, eventually named Uncle Beazley.  Egg was made into a play, produced on television by NBC Children’s Theater.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1915 – William Timmins.  A run of 46 Astounding covers including for The World of Null-A, six more; here’s his last; fifty interiors.  Outside our field, All AcesThe Boy Scout HandbookCluesDime SportsFamily CircleLibertyThe ShadowWestern Storyoilswatercolors.  He’s on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1921 – James Blish.  Member of the Futurians, his fanzine The Planeteer.  Doctor Mirabilis about Roger Bacon.  In the Wonders of 1958 discussions at the 66th Worldcon we took up two of his books from that year and asked “How does Time compare to Conscience”?  Six dozen Star Trekadaptations, collected in a dozen books.  Ninety more short stories.  Twenty columns of book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  At the 38th Worldcon, I danced “Horatio’s Fancy” with his widow.  (Died 1975) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1933 Joan Collins, 87. Sister Edith Keeler in “The City on the Edge of Forever,” the sort-of Ellison-scripted Trek episode. She has an extensive number of other genre appearances including Land of the PharaohsMission: ImpossibleThe Man From U.N.C.L.E.Tales from the CryptSpace: 1999The Fantastic JourneyFuture CopFantasy Island and Faerie Tale Theatre. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1933 Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1934 – Phil Castora.  Quiet and unassuming fan, joined us in 1951 at Pittsburgh, then Washington, D.C., then Los Angeles where I met him.  Quiet, that is, unless something struck him as really funny, when he would collapse laughing, rolling on the floor and startling the cat if you had one.  I was like that in law school.  His letters to File 770 in paper days were gems, as Our Gracious Host has told us.  And OGH should know; he too served as our club Secretary.  Luckily Castora left a memoir, Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 – Isidore Haiblum.  City College of New York with honors.  Eighteen novels, a good number; thirteen are ours, a good number for those of us among whom eighteen is a good number; translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  Roger Zelazny called Interworld a mix of hard-boiled and zany, and he should know.  Faster Than a Speeding Bullet (with Stuart Silver) about Golden Age radio.  Interviewed Isaac Bashevis Singer in Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1935 Susan Cooper, 85. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Do not go see the truly awful film. Her Scottish castle-set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and just plain fun. I’d also recommend Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent.  (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1967 Sean Williams, 53. Australian author who has been the recipient of a lot of Ditmar and Aurealis Awards. And I mean a lot. Most of his work has been co-authored with Shane Nix (such as Emergence and Orphans series, Star Wars: New Jedi Order novels) but I’d recommend The Books of the Cataclysm series wrote solely by him as it’s most excellent. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born May 23, 1974 – Sarah Beth Durst.  A score of fantasy books for kids, teens, adults.  Alex Award from American Lib’y Ass’n.  Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Drink, Slay, Love made into a Lifetime movie.  About The Reluctant Queen, here’s her Big Idea. Translated into Czech, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish.  [JH]
  • Born May 23, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 41. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superb), co-authored with Bev Vincent and illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE)

(11) INCOMING. The BBC asks “Could you – would you – eat in a mask like this?” “Remote controlled mask invented to allow eating” (video).

A face mask with a remote controlled mouth has been invented in Israel, allowing diners to eat food without taking it off.

The mask can be opened mechanically by a hand remote or automatically when the fork reaches the mask.

Reminds me of a way parents try to jolly a toddler into eating unwanted vegetables – “Here comes the plane in for a landing!”

(12) NOT READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Anthony Lane studies “Our Fever for Plague Movies” in an article for The New Yorker.

… Such terrors are not ours. But they are, so to speak, our regular dreads intensified—superheated, speeded up, and luridly lit. We worry about being stuck in bed with a rocketing temperature and drenched pajamas; we worry about our elders, who may be home alone and afraid to be visited, or wrestling for breath in the back of an ambulance. Such worries are only natural. Our imaginings, though, defy both nature and reason. They are as rabid as zombies, falling and crawling over themselves to fabricate what comes next. Dreams travel worstward, during a fever, and one job of the movies is to give our dreams, good or bad, a local habitation and a name.

(13) STARLORD PRAT. “Chris Pratt accidentally deleted 51,000 emails”.

Actor Chris Pratt has shared the moment he accidentally wiped clean his entire email inbox.

The Marvel star began sorting through his inbox after telling fans his son, Jack, had teased him for having 35,000 unread messages.

Unfortunately, Pratt pressed the wrong button and was forced to watch as 51,000 emails were erased.

Pratt shared the moment on Instagram, and fans rushed to poke fun at the incident.

“Yesterday my son was playing with my phone and he gasped in shock looking at the number of unread emails that I have. It’s a lot,” Pratt said.

“I’m one of those idiots who will do an IQ test and be like, ‘Wanna take an IQ test? Give me your email’. And then I do, which proves my IQ is about seven, I just get junk from everyone and I just don’t erase it.”

The Guardians of the Galaxy actor said his new goal while taking time off work due to Covid-19 would be to read through 1,000 emails a day.

He also made a promise to reply to them all.

However, his well-meaning plan fell through when he inexplicably deleted every single message he had ever received.

(14) MASKED AND CAPED CRUSADER. If you subscribe or haven’t run out of free articles (like I have) you may be able to read Kate Sidley’s  “Batman Works From Home”, one of The New Yorker’s “Daily Shouts.”

(15) TIME AFTER TIME. The Avocado has a wild story that, despite its title — “Groundhog Day Reclassified As Documentary” – feels more aligned with The Terminator.

… The panic that defined March and April had been replaced by a constant, ever-present anxiety that hadn’t spiked since he found out his job status was transitioning from furloughed to terminated. Since then the days have felt blended, broken up only by the occasional thrill of going to the grocery store for pasta or paper towels, although even those adventures have been less pleasant because his mask had really started to smell.

Jack couldn’t remember whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday when he woke up this morning and gave up on the analysis before deciding. …

(16) GOOD TO GO. “Nasa SpaceX crew mission cleared to launch”.

Key officials at the American space agency (Nasa) and private launch firm SpaceX have signed off next week’s historic mission to the space station.

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will ride to orbit from Florida – the first time in nine years that humans have left Earth from US territory.

A review panel has found no technical reason to delay the mission.

SpaceX’s Falcon-9 rocket with its Dragon capsule is set to lift off at 16:33 EDT (21:33 BST) on Wednesday.

…Already, the Falcon has been rolled out to the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, and lifted into the vertical.

The transfer on Thursday allowed SpaceX engineers to conduct a static fire on Friday. This saw the vehicle ignite briefly all nine of its engines to confirm their operational status.

(17) LOOKING AHEAD AT AI. He would say we’ve been warned — “A Case for Cooperation Between Machines and Humans” in the New York Times.

The Tesla chief Elon Musk and other big-name Silicon Valley executives have long promised a car that can do all the driving without human assistance.

But Ben Shneiderman, a University of Maryland computer scientist who has for decades warned against blindly automating tasks with computers, thinks fully automated cars and the tech industry’s vision for a robotic future is misguided. Even dangerous. Robots should collaborate with humans, he believes, rather than replace them.

Late last year, Dr. Shneiderman embarked on a crusade to convince the artificial intelligence world that it is heading in the wrong direction. In February, he confronted organizers of an industry conference on “Assured Autonomy” in Phoenix, telling them that even the title of their conference was wrong. Instead of trying to create autonomous robots, he said, designers should focus on a new mantra, designing computerized machines that are “reliable, safe and trustworthy.”

There should be the equivalent of a flight data recorder for every robot, Dr. Shneiderman argued.

It is a warning that’s likely to gain more urgency when the world’s economies eventually emerge from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and millions who have lost their jobs try to return to work. A growing number of them will find they are competing with or working side by side with machines….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mel Blanc:  Man of a Thousand Voices on YouTube is a 2007 documentary featuring interviews with directors Friz Freleng, Terry Gilliam, William Hanna, and Chuck Jones, voice actors Stan Freberg, June Foray, and Janet Waldo, long-time friend Kirk Douglas, and author Kim Newman.

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

Sixth Self-Published Fantasy
Blog-Off Will Take Entries on May 23

Mark Lawrence is getting ready for SPFBO 6. His fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off just named its 2020 winner in April —  M.L. Wang‘s The Sword of Kaigen. Now it’s time to start the next cycle.

He tweeted: “The SPFBO 6 will open for business at 1pm GMT on the 23rd of May 2020. Entry will be via an online form, be warned: YOU WILL NEED A GMAIL ACCOUNT or to get someone with a gmail account to it for you.”

They need 300 entries. On May 23 the link to enter will be here. SPFBO 5 filled in just over 24 hours!

Those interested in entering should bear in mind that Lawrence’s rules are —

i) No book that was entered in a previous SPFBO can be reentered.
ii) The book must be #1 in a series or a stand-alone.
iii) The book must actually be self-published by the start date, not something you’re considering self-publishing in future.
iv) It must be a fantasy book. (If you say it’s fantasy then it is. But if it isn’t really it won’t get far.)
v) One book per author.
vi) No anthologies.
vii) No short stories – books must be 40,000 words or longer.
viii) Your manuscript must accompany the email you send to enter the contest. You will not be allowed to update or change it.
ix) Don’t contact the blog to which you’ve been assigned. You can contact me about important issues.
.
Not a rule, an observation: It doesn’t matter how long your book has been published, Ten years? Fine.

The contest will begin on June 1.

The SPFBO Mission is –

Mission statement: 
The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

And Lawrence explains —

…The true prize is the publicity of being the winner, plus the bonus of being reviewed on the blogs of 10 highly respected fantasy bloggers.

Frankly you can’t buy better publicity than that. The winning book will have been selected as the best from a field of 250+ self-published works.

[Thanks to Dann Todd for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

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

SPFBO 2019 Winner

By Dann: Mark Lawrence has tweeted out the news that M.L. Wang‘s The Sword of Kaigen is the winner of the 5th Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off. The book was the top-rated finalist for 4 of the 10 reviewing blogs, with an average rating of 8.65 out of 10.

The contest began with 300 entries provided on a “first come/first entered” basis. To qualify, the books had to be a work of fantasy, self-published, available for purchase at the time of entry, and either a standalone or the first entry in a series.

Those entries were then broken into blocks of 30 books. Each reviewer read and reviewed their block of 30 books and nominated a single book into the final round. All 10 reviewers read and reviewed all 10 finalists with the average score being used to determine the ultimate winner.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest five years ago. Here is his Mission Statement:

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

It is not:
i) Perfect. Great books will slip through this net just like they do every other net.
ii) Aimed at getting traditional publications deals. Some authors opt for them but it would be an insult to suggest that the holy grail for self published authors is a deal with a big publisher.
iii) Charged for. This is totally free. The enormous effort given by the reviewers/blogs is a gift. Don’t abuse it. #NoDrama

The winner receives the prestigious Selfie Stick Award

The 2019 finalists with average scores and year of first publication are:

  1. The Sword of Kaigen (8.65) by M.L. Wang (2019)
  2. Fortune’s Fool (8.35) by Angela Boord (2019)
  3. Blood of Heirs (8.30) by Alicia Wanstall-Burke (2018)
  4. A Tale of Stars and Shadow (7.75) by Lisa Cassidy (2019)
  5. Kalanon’s Rising (7.70)by Darian Smith (2016)
  6. Never Die (7.70) by Rob J. Hayes (2019)
  7. Beggar’s Rebellion (7.25) by Levi Jacobs (2019)
  8. Blade’s Edge (6.90) by Virginia McClain (2015)
  9. A Sea of Broken Glass (5.85) by Sonja M. Black (2019)
  10. Spark City (4.80) by Robert J. Power (2018)

I just bought The Sword of Kaigen and expect it to be the first novel I read after my Hugo reading has been completed. I’ve lots of good things about Never Die from Rob J. Hayes as well.

Pixel Scroll 1/7/20 Who Flattened Tommy Tribble?

(1) RETRO RESOURCES. Cora Buhlert has started a recommendation spreadsheet for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The shortlink is bit.ly/RetroHugo1945

Cora hopes Filers will fill it in, “Especially since there are whole areas I know very little about. For example, the fan categories are completely empty so far.”

She has also started a companion blog called Retro Science Fiction Reviews, where she is reviewing Retro Hugo eligible works and linking to other people’s reviews. First on the board – “Retro Review: ‘Terror Out of Space’ by Leigh Brackett”.

(2) SPFBO SAMPLER AVAILABLE. Fantasy Book Critic announces “The SPFBO Sampler Available Now!” (SPFBO is the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, an annual competition hosted by Mark Lawrence.)

Today we’re thrilled to announce the official launch of The SPFBO Sampler! Looking to dive into the world of indie fantasy novels, but don’t know where to start? Here’s the perfect place to get a taste of the works of over 70 self-published authors from all around the world. Go get your copy today, and let all these incredible authors transport you into their worlds and beyond.

This huge undertaking has been organized by indie author Jon Auerbach, its gorgeous cover created by indie author and cover artist and designer Luke Tarzian, and includes a foreword by the accomplished and best-selling SFF author Mark Lawrence. This is one you surely cannot miss.

Get the Sampler here.

(3) TONOPAH GOING UP. Membership rates for the 2021 Westercon in Tonopah, NV will rise on March 1.

The cost of an attending membership in Westercon 74 will increase to $50 effective March 1, 2020. In addition, the $10 conversion-to-attending rate for those people who voted in the 2021 Westercon Site Selection in Utah expires at the end of February 2020. Membership rates for Young Adult and Child members remain unchanged.

(4) EREWHON LIT SALON. Louis Evans and Sarah Pinsker will be the readers at the Erewhon Literary Salon on January 9. The event takes place in the office of Erewhon Books in the Flatiron/NoMad district of Manhattan. For full information and policies, and to RSVP, click here. Event address and information will be emailed to those who have RSVPed a few days before the event.

LOUIS EVANS is a writer recently returned to his native NYC from a half-decade spent in the SF Bay. His work has been published in Analog SF&F, Escape Pod, The Toast, Third Flatiron Anthologies, and Write Ahead/The Future Looms. He’s a two-time winner of Zach Weinersmith’s Bad Ad-hoc Hypothesis Festival and the Shipwreck SF bad erotic fanfiction competition. He is a founding co-producer of Cliterary Salon, a feminist and queer literary show in the SF Bay. 

SARAH PINSKER is the author of over fifty works of short fiction, including the novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road,” winner of the Nebula Award in 2016. Her novelette “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” was the Sturgeon Award winner in 2014. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and Uncanny and in numerous anthologies and year’s bests. Her stories have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, French, and Italian, among other languages, and have been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, Eugie, and World Fantasy Awards.Sarah’s first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories was published by Small Beer Press in March 2019, and her first novel, A Song For A New Day, was published by Penguin/Random House/Berkley in September 2019.

(5) FUR FRIENDLY. Rolling Stone speculates whether “Will Furries Ever Go Mainstream?” (Hey, they’ve made it into Rolling Stone, that must count for something.)

…The mainstream media has historically painted furries as sex-crazed, socially maladjusted freaks who enjoy rubbing up against each other in giant bunny costumes. This is essentially false. Like most subcultures, the furry fandom is a largely internet-driven phenomenon, providing a label for a preexisting feeling that has always lived, dormant and unnamed, inside a select number of people. While there is a contingent of furries who do derive sexual pleasure from the subculture, the fanbase is much more broad than that.

Maybe you really liked drawing wolves during eighth-grade homeroom. Maybe you’ve always felt an inexplicable affinity with Tony the Tiger. Maybe you’ve long thought it would be rad to buy a $10,000 curvy hippo costume and enter a breakdancing competition. If you fall into any of these categories, then furries are your kind of people, and FurFest the place to unleash the human-sized sergal (a fictional rabbit/shark/wolf amalgam) within. As the voiceover to an intro presentation for FurFest sonorously boomed over a dubstep beat, “You know you are more than a human…now you are the beast that slept inside your mind.”

MFF is widely touted as the biggest furry con in the world, and its attendance has increased exponentially in recent years: While the con only saw about 1,000 attendees in 2005, it reported more than 10,900 guests in 2018, and Matt Berger, media relations lead for MFF, estimates that 12,000 were in attendance this year. That’s in part due to the increasing number of younger children and their families who are gravitating to furry culture — during my time at Midwest FurFest, I saw children as young as seven attending dance competitions and meet-and-greets accompanied by their parents, having stumbled on the fandom via YouTube or TikTok.

In so keeping with its increasingly family-friendly image, the fandom has become intent on promoting itself as a beacon of acceptance and inclusivity, and MFF is no exception….

(6) KEEPING SCORE. In “Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall”, Alec Nevala-Lee spotlights Isaac Asimov’s epic track record of harassment.

…In the end, however, another number might turn out to be equally meaningful. Over the course of many decades, Asimov groped or engaged in other forms of unwanted touching with countless women, often at conventions, but also privately and in the workplace. Within the science fiction community, this is common knowledge, and whenever I bring it up in a room of older fans, the response is usually a series of nods. The number of such incidents is unknown, but it can be plausibly estimated in the hundreds, and thus may match or exceed the long list of books that Asimov wrote.

(7) BALLARD REDUX. NPR’s Jason Heller reports that “There’s Heart Amidst The Ruins Of ‘The Heap'”.

“An unpreserved Vesuvius, an overnight ruin” — that’s how Sean Adams describes Los Verticalés, the fictional setting of his engrossing debut novel The Heap. Adams is not speaking figuratively. Los Verticalés, nicknamed The Vert, was once a leviathan 500-story building, erected in the American desert, that housed an entire metropolis’ worth of apartments, residents, and businesses. But years ago it suddenly collapsed, leaving a gargantuan pile of rubble and bodies called The Heap. That “overnight ruin” is now surrounded by a loose community of mobile homes called CamperTown, and the denizens of CamperTown dig through the debris, searching for the dead and whatever modest treasure might be salvaged.

One of these Dig Hands, as they’re known, has a higher motivation: Orville Anders is the brother of Bernard Anders, a radio personality who is the last known survivor of The Vert’s collapse. Bernard, however, is still trapped beneath the rubble, miraculously alive and broadcasting his daily radio talk show from somewhere in the bowels of The Vert’s vast corpse. Bernard, living in darkness, subsists on rats and a trickle of water coming down a wall; Orville digs desperately every day in search of his buried-alive, increasingly unstable brother, keeping in touch by calling in to his radio show every day, hoping not only to find Bernard but to strengthen a fraternal bond that’s grown frayed and distant over the years. It’s a numbing, heartbreaking task, and it’s made all the more difficult when Sundial Media — the owner of WVRT, the radio station that Bernard is still technically employed by — saddles Bernard with a moral dilemma: Would he be willing to brand and commercialize his exchanges with his brother as a kind of podcast-meets-reality-show?

Adams’ imaginative scope is staggering. The intricately wrought details of The Vert serve as the substructure of The Heap, contained in interstitial chapters that sketch a blueprint of the fallen building as a monument to modern technology as well as a chilling social experiment. The Vert’s inner core of apartments comprised the lower classes, since they were isolated from the outside of the building and therefore didn’t have windows; in their place, UV screens broadcast moving images of the real world as a kind of analogy of Plato’s cave wall. Reality began to warp inside The Vert as friction grew between The Windowed and The Windowless, to the point where the building’s physical collapse is symbolic of its civic collapse.

(8) ANOTHER DEMON PRINCE. Matthew Hughes announced he will be writing a sequel to Jack Vance’ Demon Princes series.

I’ve come to an agreement with Jack Vance’s son, John, that I will be writing a sequel to Jack Vance’s iconic Demon Princes series. A contract is being drawn up.

I’m not an outliner, but I’ve sketched out an idea for the story: a young person, not sure yet if it’s male or female, returns to the world called Providence and the community of Mount Pleasant. This was the site of a slave-taking raid by the five megacriminals known collectively as the Demon Princes, whom Kirth Gersen devoted his life to tracking down and killing.

The returnee has escaped from slavery and come to reclaim the family property – as well as something precious buried there.

But the ghost town has been repopulated by sinister people – I’m thinking maybe a cult or some kind of radical political organization. So my underdog has to undergo trials and tribulations.

I’m very much looking forward to this.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 7, 1961 — ITV premiered The Avengers. Original cast was Ian Hendry and Patrick Macnee. Hendry left after the first series; Steed with becoming the primary male  character, partnered with a succession of female partners. The series would last for six seasons and one hundred and one episodes. We of course have our favorite female partner but that’s not for us to say here. After it ended in 1969, John Steed would be paired with two new partners on The New Avengers, a series that ran for two seasons in the mid-Seventies. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 7, 1912 Charles Addams. Illustrator best known for the Addams Family which he first drew in 1932 and kept drawing until his death. Needless to say there has been a number of films using these characters of which The Addams Family is my favorite. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 7, 1924 Eugene Lee Coon. Showrunner on Trek for much of the first and second seasons. Responsible in some part for thirteen scripts for the show. Outside of this show, he had little in the genre save writing one episode each of The Wild Wild West and The Immortal, and later scripting The Questor Tapes. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 7, 1926 Graham Stone. Australian fan, bibliographer, collector, and small press publisher. Founder of the Australian Science Fiction Society and member, as well, of the Futurian Society of Sydney. He wrote with his co-author Royce Williams, Zero Equals Nothing. Winner of an A. Bertram Chandler Award. (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 7, 1928 William Peter Blatty. Novelist and screenwriter best known for The Exorcist though he was also the same for Exorcist III. The former is by no means the only genre work that he would write as his literary career would go on for forty years after this novel and would include Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable which he renamed Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Hollywood Christmas Carol and The Exorcist for the 21st Century, his final work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 7, 1950 Erin Gray, 70. She’s best known as Colonel Wilma Deering Buck Rogers in the 25th Century series. Would it surprise you that she shows up in as Commander Grey in Star Trek Continues, one of those video Trek fanfics 
  • Born January 7, 1955 Karen Haber, 65. Wife of Robert Silverberg. I fondly remember reading her Meditations on Middle Earth anthology. And the three Universe anthologies she did with her husband are most excellent. I don’t remember reading any of her novels but that’s hardly a certainty that I didn’t as even when my memory was a lot better than it is now I hardly remembered all the genre fiction I read. 
  • Born January 7, 1957 Nicholson Baker, 63. Ok ISFDB lists him as having two SFF novels, The Fermata and House of Holes. The Wiki page him lists those as being two out of the three erotic novels that he’s written. Not having read them, are they indeed erotic SFF? I see that ESF say they’re indeed SFF and yes are erotic. H’h. 
  • Born January 7, 1961 Mark Allen Shepherd, 59. Morn, the bar patron on Deep Space Nine. Amazingly he was in Quark’s bar a total of ninety-three episodes plus one episode each on Next Gen and Voyager. Technically he’s uncredited in almost all of those appearances. That’s pretty much his entire acting career. He’s also an abstract painter whose work was used frequently on DS9 sets.
  • Born January 7, 1966 Heidi Elizabeth Yolen Stemple, 54. Daughter of Jane Yolen, sibling of Adam Stemple. She and Yolen co-wrote the Mirror, Mirror: Forty Folktales for Mothers and Daughters to Share anthology. ISFDBsays they did two chapbooks as well, A Kite for Moon and Monster Academy
  • Born January 7, 1971 Jeremy Renner, 49. You know him as Hawkeye in those MCU films but he’s also in a number of other SFF film including Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Mission: Impossible – Ghost ProtocolMission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and Arrival.
  • Born January 7, 1980 Tom Harper, 40. Director of such British series as Demons, Misfits and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. He’s also done some SFF film work such as The Woman in Black: Angel of Death and The Borrowers.
  • Born January 7, 1983 Ruth Negga, 37. She was Raina in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she left that show as she got a leading role being Tulip O’Hare in the Preacher series. She was also Nikki in Misfits, Queen Taria In Warcraft and a WHO Doctor In World War Z. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro suggests one of Stan Lee’s mottos was a bit naïve.
  • Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics is about Beginning,

(12) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. SYFY Wire’s Ryan Britt pinpoints “The moment when Picard became more important than Kirk in Star Trek history”.

Who is the most popular Star Trek captain of all time? This age-old — and extremely fraught — Trekkie debate has arguably been settled. The impending release of Star Trek: Picard seems to prove that, overwhelmingly, fans love Captain Jean-Luc Picard more than any other Trek captain ever. Yes, hardcore Trekkies will tell you they celebrate all captains equally (even Scott Bakula), but the zeitgeist seems to tell a different story.

We love Picard a lot, and surely, we love him more than Captain James T. Kirk. This wasn’t always the case, but we’ve been living in a Picard-first world for a long time now. Here’s when it happened….

(13) WONDER WOMAN. The Warner Bros. UK Twitter account has dropped four pics from the upcoming June 5 release Wonder Woman 1984: “Travel back to 1984 with these new stills from #WW84.” They include scenes set both on The Mall and in a mall.

(14) CELEBRITY BECKONS. Food & Wine sends word — “The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile Is Looking for Drivers”. “Want to spend a year traveling around in a giant hot dog? Never mind. We know the answer.”

Apply here — “Hotdoggers Wanted”.

Who? – You! We need outgoing, creative, friendly, enthusiastic, graduating college seniors who have an appetite for adventure and are willing to see the country through the windshield of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Applicants should have a BA or BS, preferably in public relations, journalism, communications, advertising, or marketing, though applicants are not limited to these degrees. 

(15) MYSTERY CATS 3K. In the Washington Post, Maura Judkis listens to readers who say they saw CATS after consuming pot, mushrooms, acid, poppers, and other illicit substances (not simultaneously). “People are seeing ‘Cats’ while high out of their minds. These are their stories.”

Anneliese Nielsen, who owns a cannabis brand in Los Angeles, used a strain of weed calibrated for relaxation, but found herself unable to relax in a  dark theatre illuminated by the ghastly cat face of Corden.  ‘I’m 35 and announced, ‘I’m scared!’ to my fellow moviegoers at least seven times,’ says Nielsen, who called the film ‘a special kind of evil.’

The Alamo Drafthouse chain has special ‘rowdy’ showings of CATS where patrons are encouraged to consume adult beverages and loudly comment on the film.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP? BBC reports “Facebook to ban ‘deepfakes'”.

Facebook has announced it will remove videos modified by artificial intelligence, known as deepfakes, from its platform.

Deepfakes are computer-generated clips that are designed to look real.

The social media company said in a blog that these videos distort reality and present a “significant challenge” for the technology industry.

While deepfakes are still relatively uncommon on the internet, they are becoming more prevalent.

AI software creates deepfakes of people – often politicians or celebrities – by merging, replacing, or superimposing content on to a video in a way that makes it look real.

Facebook said it would remove videos if it realised they had been edited in ways that weren’t obvious to an average person, or if they misled a viewer into thinking that a person in a video said words they did not actually say.

“There are people who engage in media manipulation in order to mislead,” wrote Monika Bickert, vice president of global policy management at Facebook in the blog.

Facebook staff and independent fact-checkers will be used to judge a video’s authenticity.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Looney Tunes–Behind The Lines: A Conversation With Tex Avery” on YouTube is an interview with the great animator Tex Avery that is undated, but probably from the late 1970s.

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

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2019 Finalists

Mark Lawrence has posted the ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2019 finalists. SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the blog named in brackets.

  • Blood of Heirs by Alicia Wanstall-Burke (The Coraidic Sagas Book 1) [Fantasy-Faction]
  • Beggar’s Rebellion by Levi Jacobs (Resonant Saga Book 1) [Fantasy Book Critic]
  • Never Die by Rob J. Hayes [Lynn’s Books]
  • Blade’s Edge (Chronicles of Gensokai Book 1) by Virginia McClain [The Qwillery]
  • Spark City: Book One of the Spark City Cycle by Robert J. Power [ Booknest]
  • The Sword of Kaigen: A Theonite War Story by M.L. Wang [Kitty G]
  • Fortune’s Fool (Eterean Empire Book 1) by Angela Boord [TSWI]
  • Kalanon’s Rising (Agents of Kalanon Book 1) by Darian Smith [Superstar Drifter]
  • A Tale of Stars and Shadow by Lisa Cassidy [Fantasy Hive]
  • A Sea of Broken Glass: A Dark Flintlock Fantasy (The Lady & The Darkness Book 1) by Sonya M. Black [Rockstarlit Book Asylum]

They’re now in phase 2 of the contest, where the participating bloggers are allowed five months to read and score the other 9 finalists, review their favorite, and lastly, review the winner.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest four years ago. Here is his Mission Statement:

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

It is not:
i) Perfect. Great books will slip through this net just like they do every other net.
ii) Aimed at getting traditional publications deals. Some authors opt for them but it would be an insult to suggest that the holy grail for self published authors is a deal with a big publisher.
iii) Charged for. This is totally free. The enormous effort given by the reviewers/blogs is a gift. Don’t abuse it. #NoDrama

The winner will receive the prestigious Selfie Stick Award

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]