Pixel Scroll 1/14/21 The Unpleasant Pixel Of Jonathan Scroll

(1) COSMIC RAY. The Waukegan Public Library is taking submissions to its Cosmic Bradbury Writing Contest through January 29. Complete guidelines at the link. The winning submission will be awarded a $50 Amazon gift card and will be formally recognized on the library website.

…Venture into the deep expanses of space and the planets it contains. Show off your imagination and creativity by writing an original short story with the theme of space and space travel.

Does your universe have alien life forms or is it slowly being colonized by a vastly expanding human race? If you impress the judges and make Ray Bradbury proud, you will be beamed a $50 Amazon gift card!

Submission Deadline is January 29, 2021. For writers 14 years and older. Submissions limited to 5 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font).

(2) ANOTHER AGE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF reaches the end of its run through Journey Press’ Rediscovery anthology with Pauline Ashwell’s “Unwillingly to School.” 

Ashwell is an author whose work I have read before Rediscovery Vol 1. Less than entirely usefully, the sole work of hers I have read was 1992’s Unwillingly to Earth, which collects the Lizzie Lee stories, of which Unwilling to School is the first. I do not, therefore, have much sense of her skills outside this particular series. Unwillingly to Earth struck me a bit old-fashioned in 1992. Since the first instalment was written in 1958, that’s not terribly surprising.

Still, readers nominated Ashwell’s fiction enough to nominate her for the ?“Best New Author” Hugo. Twice. Not only that but twice in the same year, courtesy of a pen-name and the difficulty fans had discovering that Pauline Ashwell and Paul Ash were the same person. Will my Young People think as highly of her story? Let’s find out.

(3) MAKING CHANGE. Sarah Gailey talks about worldbuilding – building the one we’re in — at Here’s the Thing. “Building Beyond”.

Humans are built to imagine. That, to me, is one of our best qualities: the ability to hypothesize, to wonder, to create whole universes out of nothing at all. Whether or not you think of yourself as a writer, you can generate a world with your mind. Isn’t that just fucking amazing?

Part of why I love this ability we all share is because it can be used to change the shape of reality. When we let ourselves imagine new worlds, we start to realize that the world we live in is just as mutable as the worlds we imagine. When we start to believe that change is possible at all, all the doors fly open, and we start to believe that we can make change happen.

I think we could all use some of that belief right now, in a world where things are different. In a world we can build, together….

(4) READ AGAIN. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar signal boost several authors whose novels deserve a new look in “Let’s talk about fantasy and science fiction books that have fallen off the radar” at the Washington Post.

…Tanith Lee was a literary great: She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for a novel. I loved her Secret Books of Paradys, a series of Gothic, interlinked stories set in an alternate Paris, but she worked in all kinds of modes. Alas, she eventually had trouble selling her work. Her titles came out from smaller and smaller presses and were difficult to find. Lee died in 2015 and recently DAW/Penguin began reissuing her catalogue. You can now find titles such as “The Birthgrave,” “Electric Forest” and “Sabella.”

(5) WORLDCON LAWSUIT UPDATE. Jon Del Arroz today reported he gave a deposition in his lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation.

In February 2019, the court tossed four of the five causes of action, the case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation. (Not libel.)

(6) STATE HAS EYE ON AMAZON. “Connecticut probes Amazon’s e-book business” according to The Hill.

Connecticut is probing Amazon’s e-book distribution for potential anticompetitive behavior, according to the state’s attorney general. 

“Connecticut has an active and ongoing antitrust investigation into Amazon regarding potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) said in a statement. 

Tong noted that Connecticut has previously taken action to protect competition in e-book sales. 

When the Justice Department sued Apple in 2012 alleging it conspired with major publishers to raise the price of e-books, Connecticut was among states that filed their own lawsuit against Apple, The Wall Street Journal noted. The Journal was the first to report on Connecticut’s Amazon probe…

(7) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. In “Nine Great Science Fiction Thrillers” on CrimeReads, Nick Petrie recommends novels by Heinlein, Dick, and Leckie that are based on crimes.

The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch (2018)

The Gone World was recommended to me by my local indie bookseller and I was immediately smitten.  The protagonist is Naval investigator Shannon Moss, who is chasing the killers of a Navy Seal’s family and trying to find his missing teenage daughter. 

The wrinkle is here is a secret Navy program sending astronauts forward in time to solve the riddle of the impending end of the world that gets closer with each attempt to solve the problem. The storytelling is complex, lyrical, and metaphysical without sacrificing intensity—I could not turn the pages fast enough.  Sweterlitsch is very, very good and I can’t wait for his next book.

(8) REACHING THE END OF THE UNIVERSE. The Horn Book has “Five questions for Megan Whalen Turner” who’s wrapping up a series.

Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief (with that never-to-be-bettered twist at the end!) was published in 1996. Now, after six books set in that unforgettably detailed world, full of political machinations, double crosses, dubious motivations, and familial obligations, the series comes to a close with Return of the Thief (Greenwillow, 12 years and up).

1. You’ve spent almost twenty-five years in the universe of Attolia. What will you miss most about writing about it?

Megan Whalen Turner: This has been such a bewildering year, I’m not sure of my own feelings anymore, but I think the answer is…nothing? I know that other authors have gotten to the end of their long-running series and felt a sense of loss, but I don’t. Very much to the contrary. I feel like I hooked a whale twenty-five years ago, and after playing the line for so long, I’ve finally landed it — maybe because, for me, finishing this book doesn’t mean shutting the door on the whole world. There’s room left for more storytelling — if I ever want to go back and write about Sophos’s sisters and their mother, or to follow up any number of loose threads left to the imagination. It’s this one narrative arc that has finally reached its conclusion, and that’s just immensely satisfying.

(9) MARVEL PRIMER. Vanity Fair tutors readers in “WandaVision: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to the New Marvel Show”. Useful for people like me who mostly know about the kind of comics found on tables at the barber shop. (Need to know anything about Sgt. Rock?)

Who Is Wanda? Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. Scarlet Witch, has a long history in Marvel comics. She officially joined the film franchise in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron. As you may or may not recall, that movie was a Joss Whedon joint—so if you’re a fan of his non-Marvel work, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly, it may come as no surprise that his version of Wanda was an angsty, troubled, superpowered teen girl with a tragic backstory. Think of her as Buffy Summers meets River Tam meets Willow Rosenberg. She also sported an outrageous Eastern European accent, which the MCU, in its infinite wisdom, decided to randomly drop without ever really mentioning it again. 

So yes: Wanda hails from a fictional Eastern European country called Sokovia. In much of her time in the comics she’s a mutant, like the X-Men (you know, Wolverine, etc?). But because Marvel Studios did not, at the time of her film debut, own the rights to the X-Men, the films instead called her—vaguely—a “miracle.” (More on that in a bit.) Wanda had a twin brother named Pietro, a.k.a. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who could run very fast—but died, tragically, in Ultron…. 

(10) SPREADING THE WORD. E. Everett Evans, for whom the Big Heart Award was originally named, was responsible for what may have been the first appearance of the word “fanzine” in a newspaper, when he was interviewed for this Battle Creek [Mich.] Enquirer article published on October 5, 1941 (p.26) about the “Galactic Roamers” organization. The word had been coined only a year earlier by Louis Russell Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine, Detours

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 14, 1981 Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating. 
  • January 14, 2007 — The animated Flatland film was released on DVD.  It was directed by Ladd Ehlinger Jr., the animated feature was an adaptation of the Edwin A. Abbott novel, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. The screenplay was written by author Tom Whalen with music was composed by Mark Slater.  It starred Chris Carter, Megan Colleen and Ladd Ehlinger Jr.  It was well received by critics snd currently has a rating of seventy percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 14, 1915 – Lou Tabakow.  Founding Secretary-Treasurer of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group, then its long-time head (“Dictator”).  Co-founded Midwestcon, chaired many, also Octocon (the Ohio one, not e.g. the Irish one).  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon I, Dubuqon II, Rivercon V.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  At SunCon the 35th Worldcon entered the Masquerade (our costume competition) with Joan Bledig as “TAFF and DUFF, visitors from the planet FIAWOL”, winning Best Aliens and Best Presentation.  Wrote “The Astonishing Adventures of Isaac Intrepid” stories with Mike Resnick; MR’s appreciation here.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Ken Bulmer.  First (honorary) President of British Fantasy Society. Guest of Honor at Eastercon 19, Novacon 3, SfanCon 5, Shoestringcon I, BECCON ’83, Cymrucon 1984.  TAFF delegate.  Fanzines e.g. Steam and the legendary Nirvana.  A hundred novels, as many shorter stories; eighty “Kenneth Johns” science essays with John Newman; historical fiction.  Edited Foundation and New Writings in SF.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1921 – Don Ford.  Chaired Cinvention the 7th Worldcon.  Co-founded Midwestcon and chaired the first one.  Collector.  CFG long celebrated the Tabakow-Ford birthday.  TAFF delegate; first U.S. TAFF Administrator.  Ron Bennett’s appreciation here – note, Skyrack the RB fanzine is skyr ack the shire oak.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series.  (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1931 – Joe Green, age 90; hello, Joe.  Guest of Honor at Palm Beach Con, Necronomicon ’97.  Phoenix Award.  Opened his home to pilgrim fans watching the Apollo launches.  Eight novels, five dozen shorter stories (two with Shelby Vick, two with daughter Rosy Lillian a second-generation fan, one in Last Dangerous Visions).  Appreciation of Ray Lafferty in Feast of Laughter 4.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1950 – Arthur Byron Cover, age 71.  Fifteen novels, a score of shorter stories including one for Wild Cards, one in LDV; also television.  Long career with the Dangerous Visions bookshop in Los Angeles.  Interviewed Dick, Ellison, Spinrad for Vertex.  Essays, review, letters in Delap’sNY Rev SFOmniSF Eye.  [JH]
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 57. He’s got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost, followed by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thrones, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1967 Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow is in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE) 
  • Born January 14, 1973 – Jessica Andersen, Ph.D., age 48.  A dozen novels for us, twoscore all told.  Landscaper, horse trainer.  Has read a score of books by L. McMaster Bujold.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd has rules for living in a 1/10,000th scale world. Very helpful for people who are taller than Godzilla.

(14) TINTIN ON THE BLOCK. If the late Fred Patten had a few million Euros to spare he’d have bought this. “Tintin cover art sells for record breaking €3.2m”The Guardian tells why it went for so much.

A rejected Tintin cover illustrated by Hergé that was gifted to a child and kept in a drawer for decades has set a new world record as the most expensive comic book artwork, selling at auction for €3.2m (£2.8m) on Thursday.

Le Lotus Bleu was created in 1936 by the Belgian artist, born Georges Remi, using Indian ink, gouache and watercolour. It had been intended for the eponymous cover of his fifth Tintin title, which sees the boy reporter head to China in order to dismantle an opium trafficking ring.

Hergé was told the painting would be too expensive to mass produce because it featured too many colours, so he painted another version with a black dragon and a blank red background, which became the cover. He then gave the first artwork to Jean-Paul Casterman, the seven-year-old son of his editor, Louis Casterman. It was folded in six and put in a drawer, where it stayed until 1981, when Jean-Paul asked Hergé to sign it….

(15) POWDER MAGE. [Item by Paul Weimer.] I’ve read and really enjoyed these novels, so I do hope this come to fruition. “Joseph Mallozzi To Adapt Fantasy Novel ‘Powder Mage’ As TV Series”Deadline has the details.

…The drama series will take place in the Nine Nations, a fictional world in which magic collides with 18th century technology against the backdrop of political and social revolution. At the heart of the story are Powder Mages, unique individuals who gain magical abilities from common gunpowder.

The series is a fight for survival as mythical gods return to battle for a world that has changed in their absence. It will feature epic battles, gritty magic, heart-stopping duels, cunning political maneuvers, intrepid investigators, and shocking betrayals.

The Powder Mage trilogy was first published in 2013 and has sold over 700,000 copies. Mallozzi will exec produce with No Equal’s J.B. Sugar, Frantic’s Jamie Brown, and McClellan….

(16) DRILL ENDS. Part of NASA’s InSight lander was unable to perform its mission: “RIP: Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet”.

NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.

Scientists in Germany spent two years trying to get their heat probe, dubbed the mole, to drill into the Martian crust. But the 16-inch-long (40-centimeter) device that is part of NASA’s InSight lander couldn’t gain enough friction in the red dirt. It was supposed to bury 16 feet (5 meters) into Mars, but only drilled down a couple of feet (about a half meter).

Following one last unsuccessful attempt to hammer itself down over the weekend with 500 strokes, the team called it quits.

… The mole’s design was based on Martian soil examined by previous spacecraft. That turned out nothing like the clumpy dirt encountered this time.

InSight’s French seismometer, meanwhile, has recorded nearly 500 Marsquakes, while the lander’s weather station is providing daily reports. On Tuesday, the high was 17 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 degrees Celsius) and the low was minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 49 degrees Celsius) at Mars’ Elysium Planitia, an equatorial plain.

The lander recently was granted a two-year extension for scientific work, now lasting until the end of 2022.

(17) NUMBER NINE. Running online from February 13-18, the “I Heart Pluto Festival 2021 – Celebrating the 91st anniversary of Pluto’s discovery” is organized by the Home of Pluto, Lowell Observatory.

The I Heart Pluto Festival is going virtual! Show your love for our frosty ninth planet that was discovered in cold and snowy Flagstaff, Arizona by Clyde Tombaugh 91 years ago on February 18, 1930.

(18) THE NEW NUMBER ONE. In “Video games have replaced music as the most important aspect of youth culture” at The Guardian, Mike Monahan argues that video games are as central to the lives of today’s teenagers as music was to earlier generations.

It would be incorrect to say video games went mainstream in 2020. They’ve been mainstream for decades. But their place in pop culture feels far more central – to gamers and non-gamers alike – than ever before. In part, this is due to desperate marketers hunting for eyeballs in a Covid landscape of cancelled events. Coachella wasn’t happening, but Animal Crossing was open was for business. Politicians eager to “Rock the Vote” looked to video games to reach young voters. (See: Joe and Kamala’s virtual HQ and AOC streaming herself playing Among Us.) The time-honored tradition of older politicians trying to seem young and hip at a music venue has been replaced by older politicians trying to seem young and hip playing a video game. Yes, quarantine was part of this. But, like so many trends during the pandemic, Covid didn’t spark this particular trajectory so much as intensify it. Long before the lockdowns, video games had triumphed as the most popular form of entertainment among young people.

(19) STEP IN TIME. Dick Van Dyke is one of the “2021 Kennedy Center Honorees”NPR has the story.

…Master of pratfalls, goofy facial expressions and other forms of physical humor, 95 year old Dick Van Dyke danced on rooftops in Mary Poppins, tripped over the ottoman on The Dick Van Dyke Show and wise-cracked with his fellow security guards in the Night At the Museum movies “with a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, says Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. To join the “illustrious group” of just over 200 artists who’ve received Kennedy Center Honors, says Van Dyke in a statement, “is the thrill of my life.”

(20) BIT OF A MYSTERY. Keith Thompson, a longtime 770 subscriber, says he got a strange result when he searched for Chuck Tingle’s new book.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In his latest appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Neil Gaiman explained

that a previous appearance’s aphorism that “Writers need to find their way to boredom to inspire creativity,” only applies if you’re not actively terrified at the same time. Calling living under stifling COVID precautions like “being locked in the cellar with a bomb—and several poisonous snakes,” Gaiman said that he’d been talking more about being stuck on the tube when the world isn’t embroiled in self-devouring madness so that your creative mind can wander, happily untroubled that it might be killed at any moment.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/20 May The Luck Of The Seven Pixels Of Gulu Be With You At All Times

(1) COVID-19 VACCINATION. First responder and noted fanzine fan Curt Phillips posted a photo on Facebook of him receiving the injection —

First Covid 19 vaccination accomplished this morning. Fast, simple, easy. No adverse reactions at all. *Everybody* should get one!

Soon as we can, Curt! He’s followed up in the intervening hours with a couple of posts to say there were no complications and there was no more arm soreness than there is with his annual flu shot.

(2) IN OVERTIME. “An earlier universe existed before the Big Bang, and can still be observed today, says Nobel winner”, quoted in Yahoo! News.

…The timescale for the complete evaporation of a black hole is huge, possibly longer than the age of our current universe, making them impossible to detect.

However, Sir Roger believes that ‘dead’ black holes from earlier universes or ‘aeons’ are observable now. If true, it would prove Hawking’s theories were correct.

Sir Roger shared the World Prize in physics with Prof Hawking in 1988 for their work on black holes.

Speaking from his home in Oxford, Sir Roger said: “I claim that there is observation of Hawking radiation.

“The Big Bang was not the beginning. There was something before the Big Bang and that something is what we will have in our future.

“We have a universe that expands and expands, and all mass decays away, and in this crazy theory of mine, that remote future becomes the Big Bang of another aeon. 

“So our Big Bang began with something which was the remote future of a previous aeon and there would have been similar black holes evaporating away, via Hawking evaporation, and they would produce these points in the sky, that I call Hawking Points.

“We are seeing them. These points are about eight times the diameter of the Moon and are slightly warmed up regions. There is pretty good evidence for at least six of these points.”

(3) MULTIPLE CHOICES. The Guardian’s “Can you crack it? The bumper books quiz of 2020” includes a question about Iain Banks which I missed, so to heck with it anyway. (It’s a wide-ranging quiz. There are several more sff-themed entries. I missed almost every one of them, too, so double to heck with it.)

What day job did the Booker winner have while writing his novel? Who was rejected by Mills & Boon before becoming a bestselling author? Test your wits with questions from Bernardine Evaristo, Jonathan Coe, David Nicholls and more

(4) FAN SERVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Isaac Asimov’s In Memory Yet Green.

In The Early Asimov, I included “Big Game” among the list of those stories of mine that disappeared.  Not so.  I had it all these years and, without knowing it, had included the manuscript with papers of mine that I had donated to the Boston University library.  A young science-fiction enthusiast, Matthew Bruce Tepper, who had prepared an accurate and exhaustive bibliography of my science fiction, went through my papers at BU, uncovered the manuscript, and sent me a Xerox copy.  I had the story published in Before The Golden Age (Doubleday, 1974).

(5) IN MEMORY YET BROWN. Scott Edelman asks for help in tracing the history of this DC in 1974 Worldcon bid promotional shopping bag.

I found this among my late sister-in-law Ellen Vartanoff’s collection of science fictional memorabilia — an item I’d never seen before, promoting both Disclave and the 1974 D.C. Worldcon. You, who know all and see all, surely know when and where this might have been handed out — right?

And if not you, perhaps one of your readers.

(6) SOUNDS HAPPY. In “Christopher Eccleston opens up on returning to Doctor Who”, Radio Times interviews the actor about his audio roles for Big Finish.

…Eccleston went on to praise the scripts, which he described as “beautiful” – adding that the care and knowledge that had gone into them had played a huge part in easing him back into the role after such a long time away.

“That’s what made it feel seamless,” he said. “I felt that you [Briggs] understood what he was all those years ago – and so it was like putting on a pair of old shoes. Running shoes!

“Doing the scripts, you do get the sense of somebody who’s completely immersed in the lore of the show. I think what I realised, with all my writers, when I did the 13 episodes – and with this – is basically you’re playing the writer.

“You’re playing Steven Moffat, you’re playing Russell T Davies, you’re playing you [or] Rob Shearman… you’re playing them, their projected self, as the Doctor – and that’s what’s nice, because he has a slightly different voice from episode-to-episode while having continuity, of course. You all wanna be the Doctor!”

(7) GEISER OBIT. Artist David Geiser died in October.  The East Hampton Star  traced his career.

David Geiser, an artist whose career ranged from the underground comics he created in San Francisco in the late 1960s and 1970s to heavily textured mixed-media works he focused on after moving to New York in 1979, died unexpectedly of heart disease in his sleep at home in Springs on Oct. 14. He was 73.

A prolific artist, his work from the underground comics early in his career to recent drawings such as “Snail Ridin’ the Mouse” and “Dog Boy (a Young Cynic)” reflect his not only his wit and the eccentricity of his vision but also his remarkable draftsmanship….

“David left behind scores of underground comics from his early years in San Francisco, and hundreds of drawings and paintings,” as well as sculptures ranging in size from five inches square to 10 feet by 10 feet, according to Mercedes Ruehl, his partner since 1999. “In his spare time he was an avid reader of contemporary fiction from a wide array of cultures and nationalities,” she added….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty five years ago, Elizabeth Hand won the Otherwise Award for Waking the Moon. It would go on to win the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature the next year. And Terri Windling would in her fantasy summation in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Eighth Annual Collection select it as of her best books of the year. The American first edition cuts one hundred pages out of the British first edition. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 20, 1897 – Susanne Langer, Ph.D.  First woman popularly and professionally recognized as an American philosopher.  Fellow of the Amer. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Cellist.  Five short stories for us, in The Cruise of “The Little Dipper”.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1930 – Tom Boardman, Jr.  Son of the founder of UK’s Boardman Books, managing director after it left the family, SF advisor to Gollancz, Four Square, Macdonald, New English Lib’y.  Edited five reprint anthologies 1964-1979.  An ABC of SF got Aldiss to Zelazny if we allow its pseudonymous B.T.H. Xerxes.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best remembered as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger ManThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 68. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. (The Jason Isaacs fronted series is superb.) The Life After Life duology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price in An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all-time fav films which is Darkman, and finally she was Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1957 – Angela Hunt, Ph.D., age 63.  Two novels, five shorter stories for us; a hundred fifty books, children’s, middle-graders’, adults’; some nonfiction; five million copies sold.  Romantic Times Book Club Lifetime Achievement Award.  A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year.  Also Angela Hunt Photography.  One of her dogs was on Live With Regis and Kelly as second largest in America.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 60. Named a SFWA Grand Master this year. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual? (CE) 
  • Born December 20, 1967 – Jukka Halme, age 53.  Chaired three Finncons.  Guest of Honor at Eurocon 33 (Stockholm) and 37 (St. Petersburg).  GUFF (Going Under Fan Fund when southbound, Get Up-and-over Fan Fund northbound) delegate, attended the 55th Australian national convention (“natcon”) in Brisbane.  Chaired the 75th Worldcon (called simply “Worldcon 75”; opinions expectably differ on naming these things).  Seen in fanzines e.g. ChungaTwinkThe White Notebooks.  Served on the 2020 Tähtifantasia (“star fantasy”) Award jury.  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 50. Best remembered for playing the trill Ezri Dax on the final season of Deep Space Nine (1998–1999), and as Sarah Bannerman on The Dead Zone. She’s done a number of genre films including Deepwater Black, Cube, Iron Invader, and Metal Tornado, and has one-offs in Beyond RealityForever KnightTekWarOuter LimitsPoltergeist: The LegacyPsi Factor and Stargate Atlantis. Did I mention she’s Canadian? (CE)
  • Born December 20, 1981 – Nick Deligaris, age 39.  Digital artist.  Two dozen covers, and much else.  Here is Bypass Gemini.  Here is Skykeep.  Here is Nova Igniter.  He did the cover and is interviewed in this issue of Deep Magic.  He has an interior on p. 5 of this issue of Tightbeam (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born December 20, 1990 – Ashley Dioses, age 30.  Five short stories; a hundred forty poems in The Audient VoidThe Literary HatchetRavenwood QuarterlySpectral RealmsWeirdbook; collection Diary of a Sorceress.  Inspired by Poe.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SEASON’S READINGS. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar suggest “The perfect science fiction, fantasy and genre-bending tales for the chilly days ahead” in their column for the Washington Post.

.. Lavie: Let me throw the first snowball here: I’m going with Tove Jannson’s “Moominland Midwinter” (translated from the Swedish by Thomas Warburton), one of the true greats and my favorite moomin book. Moomintroll wakes up alone from hibernation to find the world transformed, and everyone he knows is gone or sleeping (apart from Little My, who’ll never miss the fun). If you don’t cry over “The Squirrel With the Marvelous Tail,” you’re a monster. I reread it a few weeks ago and it’s just as wonderful as ever.

(12) NIVEN’S GENESIS. Fanac.org adds constantly to its online fannish collection. Among the latest gems are the programs from the series of LASFS Fanquets the club used to hold to honor members’ first pro sales. Larry Niven is now a Grand Master, but once upon his time he made his first sale to If. Read about his early career and what Fred Pohl liked about his work in Fanquet 13 edited by Bruce Pelz.

(13) ANOTHER ONE OF THE GREATS. Also deserving of praise is Fanac.org’s success in filling out its online collection of John Bangsund’s zines Australian Science Fiction Review and Scythrop.

Australian Science Fiction Review was nominated for Best Fanzine in 1967 and 1968. In 1968 (in the first year the Ditmars were presented), it won the award for best Australian fanzine. We now have a complete run under that name. The zine changed its name to Scythrop in 1969, and we added 5 issues of Scythrop: #21-24 and #28. We just lost John Bangsund to Covid-19 this year.

(14) PARIS, BUT NOT IN THE SPRINGTIME. Could be news to you, too – J. G. Ballard’s interview in The Paris Review, Winter 1984: “The Art of Fiction No. 85”

BALLARD

I take for granted that for the imaginative writer, the exercise of the imagination is part of the basic process of coping with reality, just as actors need to act all the time to make up for some deficiency in their sense of themselves. Years ago, sitting at the café outside the American Express building in Athens, I watched the British actor Michael Redgrave (father of Vanessa) cross the street in the lunchtime crowd, buy Time at a magazine kiosk, indulge in brief banter with the owner, sit down, order a drink, then get up and walk away—every moment of which, every gesture, was clearly acted, that is, stressed and exaggerated in a self-conscious way, although he obviously thought that no one was aware who he was, and he didn’t think that anyone was watching him. I take it that the same process works for the writer, except that the writer is assigning himself his own roles. I have a sense of certain gathering obsessions and roles, certain corners of the field where the next stage of the hunt will be carried on. I know that if I don’t write, say on holiday, I begin to feel unsettled and uneasy, as I gather people do who are not allowed to dream.

(15) GAMING CASUALTY. The curse of 2020 continues.Mashable reports “’Cyberpunk 2077′ has been removed from the PlayStation Store, and Sony is offering refunds”.

Cyberpunk 2077‘s launch has been the kind of disaster we now expect from 2020. Released on Dec. 10, the ridiculously hyped roleplaying game was swiftly and widely derided for having more bugs than the Montreal Insectarium, with flying cars and glitchy penises dominating the discourse. Now, Sony Interactive Entertainment has announced that not only will it offer refunds to anyone who bought the game from its PlayStation Store, it will also stop selling Cyberpunk 2077 altogether….

(16) YOUR COMEDY MILEAGE MAY VARY. From last night’s Saturday Night Live.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/17/20 For He To-Day That Scrolls His Pixel With Me, Shall Be My Sibling; Be He Ne’er So File

(1) INSIDE STORY. In “Why I Write”: Samuel R. Delany scrolls through the reasons. This conversation appears in the Winter 2020 print issue of The Yale Review.

… I remember sitting on the steps of the embalming room at the back of the chapel in my father’s Harlem funeral parlor, watching Freddy, my father’s embalmer, working on the corpse of a tan woman with reddish hair stretched on her back on the white enamel surgical table with its drain and clamps…

“How old is she?” I asked.

“Twenty-­five,” Freddy told me, at work in his rubber gloves with the bottles of pink embalming fluid.

“What did she die from?” I asked.

Freddy picked up the tag on the woman’s wrist. “Sugar diabetes is what it says here.”

“Does everybody have to die?” I asked.

“Eventually.” Freddy smiled. “But you won’t have to worry about that for a long time…”

“But I will have to die, won’t I?”

Freddy laughed. “Not for a long, long time…”

I think his firmness was supposed to be reassuring, but suddenly I felt a dizzying chill. I didn’t know what to say or do, but I stood up and said softly, “I’m going upstairs.” Halfway through the funeral chapel, I began to move quickly, and at the stairwell up to the first floor where we lived, I started running. My mother was in the bathroom, scrubbing the floor. “I’m gonna die!” I burst in, screaming, and threw myself into her arms. “I’m gonna die, Mommy! I’m gonna die!” I think she was bewildered.

“You’re not gonna die,” she said.

“No! No! Not now. But I’m gonna die…!”

She pooh-­poohed my terror, and for almost forty minutes while I screamed and thrashed and hugged her and sobbed, she tried to find out what was wrong. She couldn’t quite believe that, really, this was all it was. I had seen dozens of corpses before, but it never occurred to me to tell her that it was the reality of a dead body that had initiated my panic….

(2) LODESTAR 2020. Naomi Kritzer tweeted a photo of her Lodestar Award trophy.

(3) A SAUCER WITHOUT CREAM. Timothy the Talking Cat says what needs to be said – then, characteristically, keeps on talking: “Tim’s Hot Take: Discworld is Terrible” at Camestros Felapton.

Good evening everybody, it is I, your favourite feline provocateur, raconteur and secateur aka Timothy the Talking Cat. In every community there must be somebody who is brave enough, far-sighted enough and clever enough to speak to mindless herds and lay down the cold, hard truth about their clumsy sheep-like opinions…

(4) SOUND ADVICE. The creation of the Mexican Gothic audiobook is discussed in the AudioFile Magazine’s “Behind the Mic” podcast: “In Conversation with Narrator Frankie Corzo”. There’s also a partial transcript:

Jo Reed: I’m curious, and we can use MEXICAN GOTHIC as an example, because there’s quite a range of characters, I’m curious about what’s your process for determining the voice for any given character?

Frankie Corzo: You know, I think, very early on when I started doing audiobooks, I learned that there were the kind of giants among us who have a preternatural ability, supernatural ability, at being able to make these really distinct, crazy character voices, and I was like, “Okay.  If I go that way, it’s going to feel like a caricature,” and I never wanted anything, even when I do a children’s book, I don’t want it to feel performative. As much as it is a performance, you want it to feel as grounded and as relatable and as in the skin of these people as possible, so with every character, I always go from the entryway of their characteristics.  How are they described as how they carry themselves? 

You know, once we get past accents, once we get past anything that is really concrete that the author has informed us about, what are the characters saying about them, and what do they say about themselves, and how do they carry themselves in the world, and how does that affect their voice? I think going that route for me personally allows me more to play with when we’re in different acts of the book, when we’re in different places in their journey. You know, especially with a younger protagonist, or a lot of the books that I’ve gotten to do this year, like Natalia Sylvester’s RUNNING, our protagonist begins not really sure of her voice yet and figuring out all of these things, and at the end she’s like this revolutionary, and how does that affect your voice? So I always try to go in from the route of character as far as personality and physicality more than I go from a place of purely what they would sound like.

(5) KIND OF LIKE THE OPENING CHALLENGE OF BEAT BOBBY FLAY. What do you do with that odd ingredient? Sarah Gailey assembles the recipes they published earlier in the year to help readers cope with pandemic-limited cupboards: “Year In Review: Stone Soup” at Here’s the Thing.

…In the end, from March all the way through July, I wrote thirty-seven recipes. Some of them are kind of bonkers, because they’re designed to use a particular tricky ingredient. Some of them are pretty straightforward. All of them were written with the express intention of helping people weather a really fucked-up time in their lives, and for that, I’m proud of them.

Here’s the full list:

#1 – Comfort Broccoli
Recipe: Flavorful Roasted Broccoli
What do you do with the vegetables you’d normally cook as a Virtuous Side Dish, when all you want to eat is a really shitty burger? I don’t care how much you love fresh produce: when the thing you want is some garbage-food that’s designed in a lab to please your monkey-brain, broccoli feels like a thing to be endured. That ends today.

(6) SCALING DOWN. Former HWA President Lisa Morton joins in a discussion about Close Encounters Of The Third Kind miniature effects.

David Jones, Greg Jein, Mark Stetson, and Lisa Morton talk about the miniatures made for the original film, and the special edition. Extended segment from my Sense of Scale documentary.

From the transcript:

And you know there was the usual uh dropping stuff on the floor and things breaking little small pieces and and it was always at the most crucial time. I remember requesting that they put carpeting on the floor in our model shop because I think I was prone to dropping stuff a lot

(7) BULLOCH OBIT. “Jeremy Bulloch Dead: Boba Fett Actor in Star Wars Dies at 75”Variety profiled him.

Jeremy Bulloch, the British actor who starred as bounty hunter Boba Fett in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, died on Thursday in London of complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to his representatives. He was 75.

… Bulloch took on the role of Boba Fett in 1978 while he was starring in the television comedy series “Agony.” He had previously starred in the BBC soap opera “The Newcomers.” Other credits included the James Bond movie “Octopussy” and the TV series “Doctor Who” and “Robin of Sherwood.” He also had a cameo in 2005’s “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

In Season 3 Episode 4 of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale a tribute is given to Ray Bradbury — at around 41 minutes one of the Handmaids exits a house with the address of 451.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

December 17 – Wright Brothers Day

Wright Brothers Day on December 17 recognizes the first time Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully flew their heavier-than-air, mechanically propelled aircraft in 1903.

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1999 — In 1999, the very first Endeavour Award for Distinguished Novel or Collection would go to Greg Bear for Dinosaur Summer. The Award is given annually at OryCon for a work written by a Northwest author or authors published in the previous year. Runner-ups that year were John Varley’s The Golden Globe, Kate Wilhelm‘s The Good Children, Steve Barnes’ Iron Shadows and Robin Hobb’s Ship of Magic. He would win the same Award the next year with Darwin’s Radio. Oddly enough that would be the last Endeavour Award that he would win. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 17, 1702 – Marie-Madeleine de Lubert.  Author of folk tales, or perhaps we should say stories in the style of folk tales, much admired; many fantastic.  Corresponded with Voltaire.  A novella and three shorter stories in Princess Camion (2018, i.e. in English); Cornichon et Toupette tr. as “A Fairy’s Blunder” in The Grey Fairy Book.  (Died 1785) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1873 – Ford Madox Ford.  Among much else, a children’s fantasy The Brown Owl, science fiction co-authored with Joseph Conrad The Inheritors, five more novels and three shorter stories for us.  Ladies Whose Bright Eyes, which FMF said was “what would really happen”, has been called a reverse of Twain’s Connecticut Yankee – but not by me.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1884 – Alison Uttley, D.Litt.  More than a hundred books.  For us A Traveller in Time, later made a BBC TV series; a score of tales collected in Moonshine and Madness; four more magical collections; stories about a fox (half a dozen), a mouse (a dozen), rabbits (twoscore), a pig (a dozen; the pig is named Sam).  Honorary Doctor of Letters from Univ. Manchester.  (Died 1976) [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As the history teacher of Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, she as Barbara Wright was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) Hill returned in a Fourth Doctor story, “Meglos” as the Tigellan priestess Lexa. She also appeared on two genre anthologies, Out of This World and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazine, the SF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed a lot of his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years and I’d loved his short story collection, Dance Band on the Titanic. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed?  I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon except one from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 74. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film.  Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of genre films including LeviathanShark AttackHood of HorrorDragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume! as he voiced Lucius Fox in the superb Batman: Bad Blood. He’s in the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife. (CE) 
  • Born December 17, 1950 – J.R. “Mad Dog” Madden, age 70.  Chemical engineer and Red Cross volunteer.  Hosted Swampcon II at his house.  Letters, con reports in SF ChronicleSF Review, and even File 770 which, who knows, might appear on paper again.  Fan Guest of Honor at Coastcon ’81 and IX, DeepSouthCon 35.  Rebel Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 – Rian Johnson, age 47.  Wrote and directed Looper and The Last Jedi.  “A Paragraph on PKD” in Journey Planet.  Introduction to The Time Traveller’s Almanac.  Plays banjo.  [JH]
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 47. Director responsible for the superb Hugo nominated Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi which was Hugo nominated and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. (CE)
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 45. First SFF appearance was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me whenever I watch it. (It has a superb seventy rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.) She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is six films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Milady de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy which I’ve no interest in seeing.(CE)
  • Born December 17, 1985 – Greg James, age 35.  With Chris Smith, three Kid Normal novels and a shorter story; a short story in The Time Collection.  Radio, television; presented I Survived a Zombie Apocalypse.  Cricket and rugby fan.  Powerful charity fund-raiser cycling, climbing mountains, lip-synching “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Duplex shows why bean-counters and Seuss don’t mix.

(13) NEXT BATMAN. “DC Comics Sets The Stage For The First Black Batman” reports Black Information Network.

DC Comics set the stage for a groundbreaking development in their iconic Batman series. This week, the character of Tim “Jace” Fox took on the role of Batman. By doing so, he becomes the first Black character to hold the title.

“Even before the announcement of DC Future State and Future State: The Next Batman by John RidleyNick Derington and Laura Braga, the news that a person of color could be the next to don the cape and cowl as Gotham City’s protector sent tongues wagging inside and outside the comic book community about who it could possibly be,” DC Comics wrote.

Gizmodo has more: “DC Comics Reveals New, Black Batman Tim Fox for Future State”

After teasing that the upcoming Future State event would bring some bold, sweeping changes to a new generation of its legacy heroes, DC has confirmed the identity of the event’s Batman: Tim Fox, the estranged son of longtime Batman ally Lucius Fox, and brother of Batwing himself, Luke.

Tim has had a long, if relatively quiet, history out of the cowl in DC’s Batfamily books, first appearing back in 1979 during a terse dinnertable discussion between him and Lucius over his college grades in the pages of Batman #313. More recently, talk of what he’s been up to has been woven in and out of the Joker War arc in the pages of the Batman ongoing. Meanwhile, the Fox family had been brought “in-house” to help Bruce Wayne through FoxTech—with Lucius deciding that now is the time to attempt to reconnect with his distant son.

(14) SOMETIMES IN GOOD TASTE. But often not. Jennifer Szalai reviews Reid Mitenbuler’s Wild Minds: The Artists and Rivalries That Inspired the Golden Age of Animation for the New York Times: “‘Fantasia,’ ‘Snow White,’ Betty Boop, Popeye and the First Golden Age of Animation”.

By the time Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” premiered at Manhattan’s Broadway Theater on Nov. 13, 1940, what had started out as an animated short to revive Mickey Mouse’s flagging career had become a feature-length extravaganza. Images in the movie channeled evolutionary theory and abstract art, depicting roaring dinosaurs, vibrating shapes and dancing brooms. Everything was set to classical music and blasted over the new Fantasound system, whose volume could apparently reach 165 decibels — enough, The New Yorker reported at the time, to “kill many elderly members of the audience, knock the others cold and deafen the survivors for life.” The magazine continued: “Don’t worry about it, though. You’re safe with Walt Disney.”

The combination perfectly encapsulated what Disney Studios was becoming: a determined wielder of awesome power, leavened by Disney’s assurances that he was a really nice guy. (This happened to mirror the self-image of the country at large, which assiduously coupled its impending dominance on the world stage with repeated avowals of benign intentions.) According to “Wild Minds,” Reid Mitenbuler’s lively history of the first half-century of animation, “Fantasia” marked a turning point in American culture, an attempt to reconcile the refinement of artistic ambition with the demands of mass consumption. To work on the project, Disney had tapped the conductor Leopold Stokowski, who was so proudly pretentious that the studio’s cartoonists wanted to call the movie “Highbrowski by Stokowski.”….

(15) REMEMBRANCE OF THINGS RIGHT NOW. “Stephen Colbert Answers a Series of Revealing Questions (While Drinking Whiskey)” to answer Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. (Plenty of genre references in his answers to #27 and #28.)

Through its origins as a parlor game made popular by Marcel Proust, the 35 questions are designed to reveal the nature of Stephen’s true self. What is his idea of perfect happiness? Who are his favorite writers? What is his biggest regret?

(16) VANISHED WORLD. In his “Graphic Content” column “Into the Crime-Riddled 1980’s Los Angeles of Ethan Reckless” on CrimeReads, Alex Segura interviews Ed Brubaker about his new graphic novel Reckless illustrated by Sean Phillips and “set in the wild world of 1980s Los Angeles.”

[Brubaker] .. The crazy part was realizing that because we had so much lead time, we could put out three of these books in one year. I was reading about how the first three Travis McGee books came out just a few months apart from each other, and I thought… we could do that. Since we’re switching away from monthly comics to graphic novels, lets try and keep them on a tight schedule, so our readers don’t have to wait a year for the next one. So far we’re on track and it hasn’t killed us, but we’re both back in lockdown where we live, so that’s been good for productivity, I guess.

(17) FASTING. “Faster Than Light? How About Faster Than Thought?—a Film Review” at Mind Matters.

Anyhow, here’s a short film about it, “Hyperlight” by Adam Stern: “FTL”: “A lone astronaut testing the first faster-than-light spacecraft travels farther than he imagined possible,” attempting to establish communications with a colony on Mars:

(18) JEOPARDY! Say, those Jeopardy! sff questions are getting tougher! Here’s what Andrew Porter witnessed in tonight’s episode.

Category: First Words

Answer: “A screaming comes across the sky”, begins this 1973 Thomas Pynchon novel.

Wrong question: What is “The Crying of Lot 49”?

Correct question: What is “Gravity’s Rainbow”?

(19) CHARTING THE MUPPETS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the December 12 Financial Times, Helen Brown discusses the Muppets song “Mah-Na Mah-Na,” which was originally written by “prolific Tuscan jazz composer Piero Umiliani” for “an Italian soft-core exploitation film, Sweden:  Heaven And Hell.”

The puppets first performed the song on the show (Sesame Street) on November 27, 1969, sung by two wool-plated Muppets (voiced by Frank Oz and Loretta Long) and beatnik character Bip Biuppadotta, voiced by (Jim) Henson himself.  The loveable comedy of the scat lay in the way Henson often began his scats with enthusiasm, only to lose his thread.  A follow-up performance on the primetime -The Ed Sullivan Show- took it mainstream.  The female back-up singers were reimagined  as fluorescent twin monsters with massive  eyelashes called Snowths:  a combination of snout and mouth.  The beatnik’s scat odysseys grew increasingly deranged until he literally broke the fourth wall by running into the camera and smashing it…

…The Snowths and Bip Bippadotta performed the song in a 1976 episode of -The Muppet Show-, intoducing it to a new audience.  In 1977, it was released as a single (“Mahna Mahna”) which peaked at number eight in the UK charts, while -The Muppet Show- soundtrack album on which it appeared knocked The Beatles’s -Live At Hollywood Bowl- from the top of the charts.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/20 It’s The Pixel To Scroll When You’re Scrolling More Than One

(1) THE VALUE IN EXPERIMENTING. Nino Cipri offers some sff writing pointers. Thread starts here.

(2) BABY FOOD. Beware spoilers – but not spoilage: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2: A Baby Yoda food diary”) in the LA Times.

Babies have to eat — and Grogu is no different.

During the second season of “The Mandalorian,” Grogu, long referred to by fans as Baby Yoda, has been shown eating everything from a froglike alien’s eggs to fancy blue cookies. The popular Disney+ series could easily spawn a spinoff called “The Best Thing Baby Yoda Ever Ate.”

As of the seventh episode of Season 2, titled “The Believer,” Baby Yoda remains a captive of Moff Gideon and his Imperial forces. Hopefully, the Empire remembers to feed its prisoners, because Grogu is one hungry baby, if previous episodes are anything to go by.

Until Mando and Baby Yoda are reunited (and hopefully throw a celebratory feast), here’s a look back at everything Baby Yoda has been seen eating during the show so far.

(3) DINO TIMES. The Los Angeles Public Library did an “Interview With an Author: David Gerrold” about his new novel Hella.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

I had a first draft that sat on my computer for a couple of years. It wasn’t bad, but it needed a polish. And the ending was unsatisfying. I offered it to Betsy Wollheim at DAW. I really admire her. She understands the genre better than most because she grew up in it. Her dad, Donald A. Wollheim, was one of the most underrated movers and shakers in the field. She suggested that I rethink the ending and I came up with a much stronger resolution, one that was a much better payoff. So I have to give her the credit for making Hella a better book.

(4) PRO TIP. In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Memory Yet Green he discusses how he continued to write letters in the pages of science fiction magazines even after he became a professional.

I began to enjoy less the writing of letters.  Yet I did write them, and often quarreled with writers who objected to something or other in one of my stories–until I received a letter from the writer Nelson S. Bond (whom I met briefly at the World Convention in 1939, and never again), saying that now that I was a professional, I should stop slugging it out in fan columns.  I took that seriously and from the moment I received that letter, I stopped writing letters to the magazines, except for very occasional ones that did not involve fannish comments.  I have always been grateful to Bond for this word in season.

(5) TWO FIFTHS. Thanks to Jim Henley for this fine example of a File 770 trope – double fifths!

(6) ANOTHER FIVE. Speaking of the magic number, James Davis Nicoll knows “Five Novels About the World After the End of the World”.

While nostalgia has had a place in tabletop roleplaying games ever since the field was old enough to have second editions—remember when tabletop roleplaying game nostalgia was new?—the recent Twilight 2000 Kickstarter is remarkable for the speed at which the project hit its funding goals: just seven minutes, a bit longer than it would take missiles launched from the Soviet Union to reach Britain.

First published in 1984, Twilight 2000 took as its background a mid-1990s Soviet-Chinese conflict that spiraled into a global war when East and West Germany tried to use Soviet distraction to reunify. By 2000 all sides are too exhausted to continue. Most campaigns begin as the war stumbles to a chaotic, exhausted halt.

T:2000 might seem to be an odd game to be nostalgic about. Perhaps it is a reflection of the Jason Mendoza principle: “Anytime I had a problem and I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem.” …

(7) CHINA’S COSPLAY RESTRICTIONS. “China cracks down on cleavage at cosplay convention”CNN has the story.

Organizers of Asia’s largest digital entertainment expo — where scantily clad models usually dress up as characters from comic books, movies and video games — say they will levy a fine of $800 on women who reveal “more than two centimeters of cleavage.”

Men are not exempt from the crackdown on exposed flesh.

They will face the same penalty if they wear low-hanging pants or expose their underwear. If models are caught dancing in cages or around a pole they will be fined a whopping $1,600, as will anyone caught striking vulgar poses.

It’s the latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality in China.

A New York Times story on December 11 collected other examples in “Two soccer teams showed up to play. One lost because of hair dye” (repeated here by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel):

Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference on the smallest details of Chinese life is being felt more and more. Censors have blurred the bejeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on television and the internet so that, in their mind, the piercings and jewelry don’t set a bad example for boys. Women in costumes at a video game convention were told to raise their necklines.

(8) BATMAN ’66 AND OTHER VINTAGE TV OPINIONS. [Item by Todd Mason.]  From 1966: “At Issue; 65; What’s Happening to Television?” This episode of the monthly series from National Educational Television makes its points, sometimes less tellingly than its creators think it does, but writer Morton Silverstein and some of those interviewed sure get their boots in on Batman, the ABC series, to a remarkable degree. Also, the blithe use of “drama” to refer only to anthology series that don’t have a slant toward one established program category or another beyond that concept. Interesting to those who are students of popular culture and news medium self-justification.

“What’s Happening to Television?” is the topic explored by no fewer than twenty-two top personalities allied to the television industry. This hour program in National Educational Television’s “At Issue” series presents timely and critical observations on daily programs, news, TV ratings, government regulations and the role of advertising. “What’s Happening to Television?” is analyzed by network executives, news commentators, advertising people, writers and critics. They comment on the growth of television, from its infant days to its present giant development, when more than 35 million Americans watch their sets for some 3 hours daily. “What’s Happening to Television?” looks back into TV history, analyzing some of the early successes, commenting on present programs, and giving the viewer a glimpse of next fall’s offerings. Some of the questions discussed include: Will television ever live up to its potential? What is the real purpose? Who determines which programs are dropped? What is the role of the program sponsors? Is the public interest being protected? Is educational television the answer to more worthy programs? What can the viewer do to control the quality of programs coming into the family living room? 

(9) GALANTER OBIT. Star Trek author Dave Galanter (1969-2020) died of cancer on December 12. Galanter has authored (or coauthored with collaborator Greg Brodeur) such Star Trek projects as Voyager: Battle Lines, the Next Generation duology Maximum WarpThe Original Series novels Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds, and numerous works of short Star Trek fiction.

(10) LE CARRE OBIT. The author of the George Smiley novels has fallen to pneumonia: “John le Carre, who probed murky world of spies, dies at 89” reports the AP News. He died December 12.

“John le Carre has passed at the age of 89. This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit,” tweeted novelist Stephen King. Margaret Atwood said: “Very sorry to hear this. His Smiley novels are key to understanding the mid-20th century.”

…After university, which was interrupted by his father’s bankruptcy, he taught at the prestigious boarding school Eton before joining the foreign service.

Officially a diplomat, he was in fact a “lowly” operative with the domestic intelligence service MI5 —he’d started as a student at Oxford — and then its overseas counterpart MI6, serving in Germany, on the Cold War front line, under the cover of second secretary at the British Embassy.

His first three novels were written while he was a spy, and his employers required him to publish under a pseudonym. He remained “le Carre” for his entire career. He said he chose the name — square in French — simply because he liked the vaguely mysterious, European sound of it….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 13, 2002 — On this date in 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis premiered. It directed by Stuart Baird and produced by Rick Berman from the screenplay by John Logan as developed from the story by John Logan, Rick Berman and Brent Spiner. It was the fourth and final film to feature the Next Generation cast. It received decidedly mixed reviews, was a full-blown box disaster but currently has a decent fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 13, 1909 – Alan Barclay.  Five novels, two dozen shorter stories; essays “Interplanetary Navigation” in New Worlds SF, “The Bow” in SF Adventures.  “The Scapegoat” is in New Worlds SF 105 which has this neato Sydney Jordan cover.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1923 – Faith Jaques.  Six covers, eight interiors for us.  Here is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and here is an interior.  Here is “The Flirtation of Two Mice”.  Outside our field I know her for this; and here are some Christmas Waits.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 91. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1940 – Ken Mitchell, age 80.  Co-founded the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and the S Playwrights Center.  A novel, a shorter story, two covers for us (here is The Tomorrow Connection); six other novels, a dozen plays.  Retired from the Univ. Regina English Department, tours as a cowboy poet.  Order of Canada.  Saskatchewan Order of Merit.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1945 – Drew Mendelson, age 75.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Maybe Cora Buhlert can explain why “Once I Built a Railroad” was translated as »Einst baute ich eine Eisenbahn« which means Once I built a railroad but Pilgrimage was translated as Die vergessenen Zonen der Stadt which isn’t a bad title for it but doesn’t mean Pilgrimage.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A. MacAvoy, 71. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope. The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells so, do tell me about her other works. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 66. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, took her character Alanna through the trials of training as a knight; it sold very well and was well received by readers. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. (CE)
  • Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 66. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want. Just ask me.  She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cat Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1960 – José Eduardo Agalusa Alves da Cunha, age 60.  (Agalusa the maternal, Alves da Cunha the paternal surname, Portuguese style.)  Two novels for us: The Society of Reluctant Dreamers just appeared in English, 2019; The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize); a dozen others, shorter stories, plays, poetry, journalism, radio.  Int’l Dublin Literary Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1969 Tony Curran, 51. Vincent van Gogh in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Pandorica Opens”, the latter as a cameo. He’s had vampire roles in Blade II as Priest and Underworld: Evolution as Markus, and was Lt. Delcourt in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to name but a few of his myriad genre roles. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1978 – Lee Isserow, age 42.  A score of novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; screenwriting; and the terrifying ABAM project, which means – yes – A Book A Month.  Has read not only Breakfast of Champions but The Master and Margarita.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1984 Amal El-Mohtar, 36. Canadian editor and writer. Winner of Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and  Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award  for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past four years. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In The Far Side, it looks like the coroner’s office has already picked up this extra sized decedent.
  • And in another entry of The Far Side, they also walk dogs.

(14) IMAGINARY GIFT SHOP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post had a short feature where they asked writers to “dream up the presents that they’d love to parcel out this year but don’t exist.”  Ken Liu says he wants a phone-sized device he can point at tweeters to see whether they are arguing in good faith or just being a troll.  Ted Chiang says he wished the Web had evolved into a subscription-based servie where people paid for sites they visited with money instead of personal data. “A guide to gifts that don’t exist but should”.

(15) THE ANSWER IS BOOKS. Of more practical use, “A gift guide for the fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror books in your life” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar in the Washington Post.

It’s that time of the year when the nights grow long, the air grows cold, the festive lights go up and the year’s best books lists are sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. But will any of them help you find that perfect book-gift for your friends who love science fiction, fantasy and horror? If not, we’re here to help….

(16) THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. Camestros Felapton is highly entertaining with “My new pointless Star Wars theory”.

The issue that had been bugging me was the inconsistent way of travelling between planets. In the films but also in The Mandalorian (less so in cartoons), characters fly in space ships between planets in two ways:

  • Using hyperspace as faster than light travel.
  • Using sub-light speed engines….

But now he has it all figured out!

(17) YES, VIRGINIA, THERE WAS A WRITER NAMED G. K. CHESTERTON? At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutigliano contends “Famed mystery writer G.K. Chesterton proudly, sincerely believed in Santa Claus”.

… Chesterton’s applied his penchant for logic in this article on “Santa Claus.” Along with providing a short history of the figure of Santa Claus in popular culture (particularly his origins, as the gift-wielding St. Nicholas of Bari in Medieval iconography), Chesterton offered a simple proposition: that a child’s ultimately ceasing to believe in Santa Claus, justified by the fact that Santa Claus is not real, is a precursor to that child’s ceasing to believe in God. And this, Chesterton explained, was a terrible phenomenon.

And then he admitted a surprising detail: “I startled some honest Protestants lately by telling them that, though I am (unfortunately) no longer a child, I do most definitely believe in Santa Claus.”

Elaborating on this decidedly ‘hot take,’ Chesterton stressed that he felt it was critical for children to believe in Santa Claus even after Santa Claus has been debunked as a real, flesh-and-blood man, because the Santa Claus that children know is ultimately a caricature of an actual saint; just because, Chesterton argued, he is not real to their eyes does not mean that he is not a genuine, spiritual entity….

(18) FIREFLY CHARACTER AS ILLUSTRATION OF PTSD. “SERENITY and Coping with Trauma” from Cinema Therapy on YouTube.

What happens when you’re kidnapped from your family, tortured, and conditioned into being an assassin? You get River Tam. And also Alan, apparently. Therapist Jonathan Decker and filmmaker Alan Seawright discuss what we can learn about coping with trauma from Summer Glau’s character River in Serenity and Firefly. They break down some of the symptoms of PTSD she exhibits, and some of the things that help her work through them and start healing. Even though most of us don’t live in a sci-fi future with space ships, space zombies, and space cowboys (along with psychics and lots of other fun), we can still learn a thing or two about how to heal from and deal with the trauma we do face in real life.

(19) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org is planning a series of Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions.

For our first session, Rob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know, he has written the history of British fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them here. Reserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

Despite the pandemic, Rob has done video recordings around London, and with historic photos and live description will give us a tour that covers some household fannish names and places. He has worked with Edie [Stern] over the past several months to provide an interesting and fairly detailed coverage of London’s fan heritage. This one-hour session is based on tours which Rob has given to individual fans and also developed as a group tour after the last London Worldcon. Even if you have been on one of these tours, you will find some fresh sights and insights. Of course, Rob will be live on Zoom with additional material and to answer questions.  Please send your RSVP to fanac@fanac.org as our Zoom service is limited to 100 participants.

(20) BEYOND INFINITY. Disney+ dropped a trailer for What if….? an alternate-universe animated series.

(21) MARTIANS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The New York Times puzzle page has a game called “Letter Boxed”, in which you make words out of letters arranged around a square. The idea is to use all the letters with as few words as possible: there is always a two-word solution. The two-word solution for Saturday 12/12 was “Visualizing – Grok”.

(22) EDUCATE YOURSELF. Ursula Vernon ladles out more life experience. Thread starts here.

(23) RUN TO DAYLIGHT. SYFY Wire learned that “Spiders get thrown off spinning webs in zero-G…unless they have light”.

It’s one small step for insects, eight steps for spider-kind.

“Arachnauts” flown to the ISS have revealed their secret backup plan when they can’t use gravity to figure out where they are when spinning their webs. Earth’s gravity is what normally helps them make a web optimal for catching dinner—and position themselves in it. Lamps accidentally placed above the spider experiment showed that when the arachnids lose their orientation in microgravity, they use light to find their way again….  

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Hulk (2003) Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that people who watched the 2003 Hulk expecting that Hulk would smash things will be disappointed by the first 45 minutes, which consist of nothing but brooding and that few people will be excited by the scenes where Hulk beats up a Hulkified French poodle.

[Thanks to Jim Henley, David Goldfarb, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Contrarius, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Goodreads Choice Awards
2020 Winners

The voters have spoken: here are the Best Books 2020 — Goodreads Choice Awards winners.

Goodreads also has posted the vote totals for the top 20 finishers in each category. There were in aggregate 5,674,480 votes cast in all rounds.

BEST FANTASY

  • House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas 
  • Second: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Scwab
  • Third: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
  • Fourth: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Click to see the complete voting tallies for Best Fantasy.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION

  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini 
  • Second: Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2) by Tamsyn Muir 
  • Third: Network Effect (The Murderbot Diaries, #5) by Martha Wells 
  • Fourth: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Click to see the complete voting tallies for Best Science Fiction.

BEST HORROR

  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 
  • Second: If It Bleeds by Stephen King 
  • Third: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix 
  • Fourth: The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson 

Click to see the complete voting tallies for Best Horror.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVELS & COMICS

  • Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman
  • Second: Fangs by Sarah Andersen 
  • Third: I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf by Grant Snider 
  • Fourth: Fangirl, Vol. 1: The Manga by Sam Maggs 

Click to see the complete voting tallies for Best Graphic Novels & Comics.

BEST YOUNG ADULT FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION

  • The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black 
  • Second: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games, #0) by Suzanne Collins
  • Third: Chain of Gold (The Last Hours, #1) by Cassandra Clare 
  • Fourth: Midnight Sun (Twilight, #5) by Stephenie Meyer

Click to see the complete voting tallies for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction.

BEST MIDDLE GRADE & CHILDREN’S

  • The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan 
  • Second: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
  • Third: Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson 
  • Fourth: One True King (The School for Good and Evil: The Camelot Years, #3) by Soman Chainani 

Click to see the complete voting tallies for Best Middle Grade & Children’s.

AudioFile’s Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks
of 2020

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2020 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks.

They are listed below with links to the AudioFile review.

AudioFile will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators from Best Audiobooks 2020 across all the categories on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

2019 Best Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks

Whether they are brought to life by an all-star cast or narrated by actors with the skills to bring vibrant characters to life, these 2020 Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror audiobooks will sweep you up in stories both familiar and highly original. Join an old friend on an unforgettable journey, witness the birth of a new city, or explore an isolated mansion in the Mexican countryside. Once you start listening to this year’s best audiobooks, you won’t want to put them down.


THE SANDMAN by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.] | Read by Riz Ahmed, Kat Dennings, Taron Egerton, Neil Gaiman, James McAvoy, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis, Michael Sheen, and a Full Cast


THE HAUNTING OF H.G. WELLS by Robert Masello | Read by Steve West


THE CITY WE BECAME by N.K. Jemisin | Read by Robin Miles


MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Read by Frankie Corzo


THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien | Read by Andy Serkis

Pixel Scroll 11/24/20 Do I Dare Disscroll The Pixelverse?

(1) GRATING EXPECTATIONS. Piper J. Drake analyzes readers’ reactions based on default views of history in “Marginalized people living varied and fulfilled lives in genre fiction is historically accurate” at the SFWA Blog.

Earlier this year, an author of color announced the acquisition of her new historical romance series. In direct reply to her tweet, someone publicly questioned the historical accuracy of the series. The author of color was prepared because she knew she would be challenged about “historical accuracy” and she provided an organized response. The challenger deleted her tweet but doubled down on her right to question the author and circled back to her own feed to gain sympathizer support for the attitude she was getting from the author of color because she “just asked a question.” For those sympathizers, I broke down the original challenge to demonstrate why it wasn’t just a question but, in reality, an insidious attack.

Let’s unpack this, because one might wonder why we’re even discussing historical accuracy in science fiction and fantasy. After all, these genres are fiction. Accuracy doesn’t need to come into play.

But here’s the thing: when the question of historical accuracy is raised regarding fiction, it’s rarely — if ever — actually about facts or history. 

It’s about the default, the norm.

It’s about what some people consider to be true simply because they’ve never questioned those assumptions, and the reality they default to is often wrong…. 

(2) SERPELL ON AFROFUTURISM. The Huntington has posted “Black Matter”, in which Namwali Serpell, professor of literature at Harvard, author of The Old Drift, and recent recipient of the Arthur C. Clarke award for the best science fiction novel published in the UK, discusses the origins of afrofuturism. This is the Ridge Lecture for Literature

(3) PICKING UP AFTER PICARD. Abigail Nussbaum copes with Trek-induced anxieties in “One More Adventure: Thoughts on Star Trek: Picard, which she says ends up wasting its beloved titled character.

I watched the first few episodes of Star Trek: Picard this spring, and then stopped. I could blame a lack of time, too many shows on my schedule and not enough hours to keep up with all of them (this was the reason that I similarly ended up dropping the most recent season of Legends of Tomorrow, which I wrote up on my tumblr last week). But really, the reason was that Picard made me anxious. All new Star Trek does. I find it impossible to watch these shows without the constant awareness that the people who are the franchise’s current stewards have, at best, a teaspoon’s-depth understanding of what it is and why it works, and I end up feeling constantly on guard against the next travesty they’re sure to commit. Which also makes me kind of sick of myself, for watching like that, being unable to let go, unable to trust the story to take me where it wants to go—even if that distrust is well earned. It’s for this reason, I think, that I found this summer’s new animated foray into the franchise, Lower Decks, so relaxing. The show is wall-to-wall fanservice, with absolutely no pretension of doing anything new with its material. So while the result is, inevitably, uninvolving, it’s also easier to trust.

Picard, in contrast, seems designed to agitate my NuTrek anxieties….

(4) CRITICS’ CHOICE. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar line up their picks of the year: “2020 books: Best science fiction, fantasy and horror” in the Washington Post. The list of five opens with —

The Only Good Indians

By Stephen Graham Jones

Jones, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, conjures a revenge story involving friends who are haunted by a supernatural entity. The tale calls to mind classics such as “It” and “Ghost Story.” Jones’s take is a fresh and enticing tale — and features a memorable foe.

(5) ‘TIS THE SEASON. Journey Press hopes you’ll do some gift shopping off their booklist — “Received from Galactic Journey, reposted with permission”, signal boosted by James Davis Nicoll.

As you may know, the book business has been hit inordinately hard by COVID. Printing and shipping have been disrupted, but more importantly, bookstores have been locked down. Those that are open have lower foot traffic for obvious and good reasons.

For presses like mine , which have prioritized brick and mortar shops over Amazon, it’s been a rough time.

With the holiday season coming up, I wonder if you might consider one or more of our books as gift possibilities — for others…and yourself. Not only would you be getting some great reading material, you’d be helping me and Journey Press out at a time when we could really use some good news. I guarantee you will enjoy all of these, as will anyone you give them to:

(6) BE EARLY BIRDS. The annual “H.G. Wells Short Story Competition” offers a £500 Senior and £1,000 Junior prize and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.

The theme for the 2021 HG Wells Short Story Competition will be “Mask”. The competition will open in early 2021, and close in July 2021.

Get started now while we wait for them to start taking submissions.

(7) RIPPLES ON THE POND. Engadget delivered the news — “The Hugo Awards will have a video game category in 2021” with a link in the last sentence to the post here – presumably the strong case was made in the comments, or the linked article by Ira Alexandre.

…As things stand, video games won’t be an ongoing fixture at the Hugo Awards. That’s not unusual. The awards have consistently experimented with categories. In 2002 and 2005, for instance, it gave out awards to the best websites, but hasn’t done so since. The good news is that the Hugo Study Committee will consider adding a permanent Best Game or Interactive Experience category, and there’s a strong case to be made for their inclusion.  

On the other hand, PC Gamer is condescending in its coverage: “The Hugo Awards are getting a videogame category—but only for 2021”.

…Hold on, I hear you say, haven’t games been meaningful prior to early 2020? Isn’t the continued growth of the gaming industry a pretty strong signifier of how many people spend a large amount of time gaming, pandemic or no? 

Well, even though videogames do have a rather large audience overlap with science fiction novels, the people who actually nominate and vote for the awards may not be a prime gaming audience. These are the same people who just last year showed that when it comes to diversity, the Hugos still have some way to go, and who reference Pong in reply to their own gaming category announcement. Back in 2006, a newly-introduced videogames category to the Hugo Awards was dropped due to lack of interest.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premiered on ABC. It was produced and written by George Lucas. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the sequel to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure was considered mostly harmless by critics. It is treated as canon by Lucas. It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 24, 1849 – Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Four novels for us including The Secret Garden, nine shorter stories; much other work outside our field including Little Lord Fauntleroy, first loved, then hated (“an awful prig”), perhaps due for re-examining.  John Clute, whom I love to agree with because it’s so seldom, says “The supernatural content of [SG] is slight … but the book as a whole, like the best fantasies, generates a sense of earned transformation….  ‘Behind the White Brick’ stands out…. has a swing and a drive … makes one regret that FHB did not write full-length fantasies.”  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected.  She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1912 – Charles Schneeman.  Ten covers, three hundred interiors.  Here is the May 38 Astounding.  Here is the Jan 40.  Here is the Nov 52.  Here is the Aug 68 Riverside Quarterly.  This is for Gray Lensman.  This is for “The Scrambler”.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman.  (No punctuation after the J).  Pioneer and indeed a founder of fandom; collector (he was the Grand Acquisitor); editor, literary agent.  Famous for wordplay, he was known as 4e, 4sj, and much else.  At Nycon I the first Worldcon he and Morojo – an Esperanto nickname, they were both Esperantists – wore what he called futuristicostumes, pioneering that too.  Winning a Hugo for #1 Fan Personality, never given before or since, he walked off stage leaving it, saying it really should have gone to Ken Slater.  For years administered the Big Heart, our highest service award.  In one of his more inspired puns, called us the Imagi-Nation.  (Died 2008)
  • Born November 24, 1942 – Alicia Austin, 78.  Fan and pro artist.  Three dozen covers, four hundred eighty interiors.  Inkpot; one Hugo; World Fantasy Award; Guest of Honor at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon; more.  This Program Book page shows her logograph for L.A.Con (in retrospect L.A.con I).  Artbook Alicia Austin’s Age of Dreams.  Here is The Last Castle.  Here is Solomon Leviathan’s Nine Hundred Thirty-First Trip Around the World.  Here is Bridging the Galaxies.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 72. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife, Jeanne Robinson.  In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than be comfortably listed here. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1949 – Jim Warren, 71.  A hundred covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Artbooks The Art of Jim WarrenPainted Worlds.  Here is All Flesh is Grass.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Here is a Disney-related image (JW is an official Disney artist).  He is self-taught.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1951 – Ruth Sanderson, 69.   Eight short stories, a score of covers, two dozen interiors for us; much other work outside our field.  Two Chesleys. World Fantasy Con 2011 Program Book.  Here is The Princess Bride.  Here is The Snow Princess.  Here is The Golden Key.  Here is The Twelve Dancing Princesses, in a grayscale coloring book for adults.  Here is her Little Engine That Could.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 63. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 63. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. I other genre work, She was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s popped doing what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “ Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 63. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence whose first novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works. Noon was the winner of the Astounding Award for the Best New Science Fiction Writer. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 55. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s sf because of the metanarrative aspect. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio shows why you never got that flying saucer as a kid. 
  • Lio also prompts this note to self: Avoid horror movie pop-up books.
  • Pearls Before Swine discusses the challenges of writing during the lockdown.
  • Off the Mark has an X-ray vision of a Thanksgiving Day truth.

(11) DOCTOROW. Register at the link to watch Cory Doctorow’s talk on “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” — 2020 Beaverbrook Annual Lecture Part 2 on November 30 at 12:00 Eastern. A live Q&A session will follow.

His lecture, “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” will build from his recently published book of the same name, and will respond to the current state of surveillance capitalism through a critical analysis of technological and economic monopolies.

(12) CONTESTS OF NOTE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Haben Kelati has a piece about contests for kids.  She lists three of them and I thought two were pertinent.

The Geek Partnership Society has a contest for kids to write poetry, comic books, or short stories with sf or fantasy elements, with prizes being $50-75 gift cards: Writing Contest – Geek Partnership Society.

NASA has a contest where kids imagine who they’d bring on an expedition to the Moon’s south pole and one piece of technology they’d leave on the Moon to help future astronauts.  Three first prizes get trips to see an Artemis-1 launch and nine second prizes get tours of the Johnson Space Center. Future Engineers :: Moon Pod Essay Contest.

(13) HE WAS FIRST. “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Gene Luen Yang” includes video of Yang’s presentation.

When Gene Luen Yang was named the 2016-2018 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the honor represented more than just recognition for his extraordinary work. It was also a profound acknowledgment of the importance of a genre that was once relegated to being mere comics.

Yang was the fifth National Ambassador, but the first graphic novelist to receive the honor.

The Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council bestow the ambassadorship on a writer for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and a dedication to fostering children’s literacy.

In “Dragon Hoops” (First Second), Yang’s first nonfiction work, he turns the spotlight on his life, his family, basketball and the high school where he once taught. In “Superman Smashes the Klan” (DC Comics), a Chinese-American teenager awakens to find his house surrounded by the Klan of the Fiery Kross.

In the video Yang recorded exclusively for the Library, he speaks eloquently about the importance of libraries in disseminating stories: “Libraries are the keepers of stories. Stories define culture, right? Whether or not we have hopeful culture or a culture that’s mired in despair is completely up to the stories that we tell. It’s completely up to the stories that are taken care of by our libraries, that are collected and disseminated by our libraries.”

(14) WELCOME TO AARP. My fellow geezers, here’s a chance to play the video games of your youth without that Atari console you wouldn’t have anyway because if you did you’d have sold it by now. “Atari Video Games – Classics Available To Play Online”. Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Missile Command, and Pong.

(15) CALCULUS OR BUST. In the Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews says he is re-reading Have Space Suit, Will Travel and notes that Heinlein foresaw a dominance of “progressive education,” where students pick the courses of interest to them. “Progressive education hard to pin down because it’s everywhere”

…It is called progressive education. It took a beating in the 1950s, particularly from conservatives like Heinlein. In his novel, he describes a future time when humans are living on the moon and exploring the solar system, but the progressive commitment to student-centered learning in the United States has led to this class schedule described by the book’s hero, an ambitious high school sophomore:

“Social study, commercial arithmetic, applied English (the class had picked ‘slogan writing’ which was fun), handicrafts .?.?. and gym.” The school has no math classes beyond algebra and geometry, so the hero’s father persuades him to learn trigonometry and calculus on his own to pursue his dream of going to space.

…Heinlein died in 1988 at age 80.  He might be pleasantly surprised that in the real 21st century, even at a small-twon school like the one in his book, calculus is likely to be available, as well as college-level courses in chemistry and biology and reading of real literature.  My visits to schools often reveal that despite Heinlein’s doubts, progressive education has deepened learning with projects and topics relevant to students’ lives.

(16) IN DOUBTFUL TASTE. The New York Times wants to know “Why Were Canadians Warned Not to Let Moose Lick Their Cars?”

Visitors at a Canadian national park were greeted with a rather unusual digital road sign this weekend: “Do not let moose lick your car.”

The sign caught the imagination of the internet and led to questions like:

“What happens if a moose licks your car?”

“Is it really that big of a problem?”

And, perhaps most salient: “Exactly how would you stop them?”

As it turns out, the signs were put up by officials of Jasper National Park, in … Alberta, to try to stop moose from licking road salt off idling cars — a serious problem that can present dangers to the vehicles, the drivers and the moose.

Steve Young, a spokesman for the park, said … moose usually got their salt, a vital part of their diets, from salt licks… But the animals discovered that they could get the mineral from cars splashed with road salt. (It has begun snowing in Jasper, and salt can help melt ice on roads.) continues….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  In “Watch Dogs: Legion” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the future London portrayed in this series “is like now, only 20 percent more Elon Musk-ified.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Darah Chavey, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

Amazon’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2020

Amazon released its picks for the twenty Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year on November 23. N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became was named the best sff book of 2020.

Here’s the complete list:

  • Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks
  • Battle Ground by Jim Butcher
  • The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
  • Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  • The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
  • The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Scarlet Odyssey by C.T. Rwizi
  • The Last Emperox by John Scalzi
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
  • Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie
  • The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
  • Network Effect by Martha Wells

Two books in this category also ranked among the Amazon Editors’ 20 Best Books of the 2020, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab.

[Via Locus Online.]

2020 Ignyte Awards

FIYAH Literary Magazine’s inaugural Ignyte Awards were presented in an online ceremony on October 17 brilliantly hosted by Jesse of Bowties & Books.

The Ignyte Awards seek to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre. There were 1,431 valid votes cast to decide the winners. 

Best Novel – Adult – for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the adult audience: 

  • Gods of Jade and Shadow – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Best Novel – YA – for novel-length (40k+ words) works intended for the young adult audience:

  • We Hunt the Flame – Hafsah Faizal

Best in MG – for works intended for the middle-grade audience:

  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky – Kwame Mbalia

Best Novella – for speculative works ranging from 17,500-39,999 words:

  • This is How You Lose the Time War – Max Gladstone & Amal El-Mohtar

Best Novelette – for speculative works ranging from 7,500-17,499 words:

  • Emergency Skin – N K Jemisin for the Amazon Forward Collection

Best Short Story – for speculative works ranging from 2,000-7,499 words:

  • A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy – Rebecca Roanhorse for Mythic Dream

Speculative Poetry – 

  • A Conversation Between the Embalmed Heads of Lampião and Maria Bonita on Public Display at the Baiano State Forensic Institute, Circa Mid-20th Century – Woody Dismukes for Strange Horizons

Critics Award – for reviews and analysis of the field of speculative literature:

  • Alex Brown – Tor.com

Best Fiction Podcast – for excellence in audio performance and production for speculative fiction:

  • LeVar Burton Reads – LeVar Burton

Best Artist – for contributions in visual speculative storytelling:

  • Grace P. Fong

Best Comics Team – for comics, graphic novels, and sequential storytelling:

  • These Savage Shores – Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vitorio Astone, Aditya Bidikar, & Tim Daniel

Best Anthology/Collected Works – 

  • New Suns – Nisi Shawl

Best in Creative Nonfiction – for works related to the field of speculative fiction:

  • Black Horror Rising – Tananarive Due

The Ember Award – for unsung contributions to the genre:

  • LeVar Burton

Community Award – for Outstanding Efforts in Service of Inclusion and Equitable Practice in Genre:

  • Strange Horizons – Gautam Bhatia, Vajra Chandrasekera, Joyce Chng, Kate Cowan, Tahlia Day, William Ellwood, Rebecca Evans, Ciro Faienza, Lila Garrott, Dan Hartland, Amanda Jean, Lulu Kadhim, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Catherine Krahe, Anaea Lay, Dante Luiz, Heather McDougal, AJ Odasso, Vanessa Rose Phin, Clark Seanor, Romie Stott, Aishwarya Subramanian, Fred G. Yost, and the SH copyediting team and first readers

Rebecca Roanhorse

Woody Dismukes

LeVar Burton

Tananarive Due

Ram V

Alex Brown

Jesse of Bowties & Books

L.D. Lewis, Art Director of FIYAH

Pixel Scroll 9/23/20 With Credential-Like Tread Upon Our Post We Scroll

(1) SURPRISE ENDING. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan discussing the books on this year’s Clarke Award shortlist: “Clarke Award shortlist 2020 – the reckoning”.

 There’s a bit of irony in that it was written and posted prior to the announcement of the winner, and Nina clearly had no expectation that her favorite book from the shortlist, Namwali Serpell’s The Old Drift, would get the award!

…I was hoping to avoid bringing up the whole anxiety-of-American-influence thing because we’ve been there too many times before but this question of the Clarke/Hugo overlap means I cannot escape it. Part of my disappointment with this year’s shortlist lies in the lack of recognition for British talent. The Clarke is a British award, for novels published in Britain. This is one of the valuable and necessary ways it differs from the Hugos. The submissions list reveals a whole battery of British novels – M. T. Hill’s Zero Bomb, Vicki Jarrett’s Always North, Chris Beckett’s Beneath the World, A Sea, Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two, Jane Rogers’s Body Tourists, Ben Smith’s Doggerland, Will Wiles’s Plume, Jeanette Winterson’s Frankissstein – the presence of any one of which would have raised the overall quality of the shortlist by a substantial degree.

Which makes it all the more perplexing that the one British entry that was chosen by the judges is a journeyman work of genre fiction with no pretensions to innovation or radicalism whatsoever….

(2) WHOM THE FAIRIES NOTICE. WIRED Magazine adopts the author’s own metaphor: “The Madness of Susanna Clarke, Fairy Princess”.

…The official story was debilitating mental illness—housebound, couldn’t write—but clearly her fairy patrons had come for her, to reclaim their erstwhile princess. Or else they meant to punish Clarke for her betrayal, for spilling their precious secrets, by enfuzzing her beautiful brain. Something like that. The ways and reasons of the Fae are little known to common folk.

If this strikes you as cutesy, tidy, annoying, even a bit disturbing, a romanticization or fancification of what sounds like a period of immense torture for Clarke and her loved ones, consider their own words. “It was as though she’d been captured into the land of Faerie, as if she had been taken away from us,” Clarke’s editor told New York magazine. Clarke herself, in a rare interview, told The New Yorker, “You really shouldn’t annoy fairies, or write about them—they don’t like it very much.” Given that Clarke has now released a second dispatch from Faerie, called Piranesi, which plunges far deeper than Strange & Norrell ever did into those forbidden fortresses from which the un-mad and mortal among us are forever barred, perhaps there’s no better explanation. Clarke has indeed been there and back again….

(3) HELP MICHAEL HOGAN. Actor Michael Hogan, who appeared in the new Battlestar Galactica, The Man in the High Castle, Fargo, Teen Wolf and many others, suffered a serious brain injury due to an accident in January. He and his family need help and friends have started a GoFundMe: “Michael Hogan Fund”. To date they have raised $232,527 of the $300,000 goal.

In the words of his wife, Susan:  

“You probably know Michael as an actor.  Or maybe you know him as a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a father, a grandfather, or a husband. My husband. I am Susan Hogan and I am married to this extraordinary man. We have been each other’s best friend for decades. 

On Feb. 17, 2020, everything changed drastically in our world.  Michael was in Vancouver participating in a Battlestar Galactica convention, and at dinner following his day’s work, he fell and hit his head. Hard. He went to bed that night not realizing that the impact had caused a massive brain bleed.  He was unable to be woken the next morning and was taken to Vancouver General Hospital and emergency surgery performed. It took 57 staples to close the part of his scull they had to remove in order to reach the damage.
 
The accident left him with complete paralysis on his left side, memory loss, cogntivie impairment and an inability to swallow. … 

(4) SE HABLA. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar say “Spanish-speaking writers are producing ambitious science fiction and fantasy. Let these books be your introduction” in their latest Washington Post column.

Spanish is one of the world’s most-spoken languages, with a long, rich literary history extending all the way back to what many regard as the first modern novel, Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote.” With authors writing in Spanish from Madrid to Mexico City to Havana, what are we English speakers missing out on? And where do we start exploring?

Lavie: I recently got back from Celsius 232, a science fiction and fantasy festival in Asturias, Spain, which usually attracts hundreds of Spanish genre writers every year. This year, it felt somewhat apocalyptic, with compulsory face masks and authors signing books behind plastic screens while wearing gloves (and disinfecting them after each book). I did get to meet Sofía Rhei, a prolific novelist for both children and adults, who has one collection of stories in English, “Everything Is Made of Letters,” published by Aqueduct Press.

While Spain has a vibrant sci-fi and fantasy scene, it is only in recent years that there has been a push into the English-language market. Two fairly recent anthologies are “Terra Nova” and “Castles in Spain,” both edited by Mariano Villarreal. They showcase some of that talent, including the excellent Elia Barceló and Félix J. Palma, whose books in English translation include the internationally successful “The Map of Time.”…

(5) HE GAVE PEACE A CHANCE. [Item by Olav Rokne.]  In recent years, the DC universe has often had more success with television than with movies. Next year, that is likely to continue with a TV adaptation of Joe Gill’s Silver Age creation Peacemaker. John Cena will play the title character, who was originally written as a pacifist diplomat who uses non-lethal weapons to fight dictators, but eventually became an ultraviolent parody of tough-guy-with-a-gun comics. The Suicide Squad Spinoff Peacemaker, Starring John Cena, Ordered to Series at HBO Max; James Gunn to Write/Direct” at TVLine.

Peacemaker is an opportunity to delve into current world issues through the lens of this superhero/supervillain/and world’s biggest douchebag,” Gunn said in a statement. “I’m excited to expand The Suicide Squad and bring this character from the DC film universe to the full breadth of a series. And of course, to be able to work again with John, Peter, and my friends at Warner Bros. is the icing on the cake.”

(6) VERSUS ROWLING. “Judith Butler on the culture wars, JK Rowling and living in ‘anti-intellectual times’”, a Q&A conducted by Alona Ferber at New Statesman.

Thirty years ago, the philosopher Judith Butler*, now 64, published a book that revolutionised popular attitudes on gender. Gender Trouble, the work she is perhaps best known for, introduced ideas of gender as performance. It asked how we define “the category of women” and, as a consequence, who it is that feminism purports to fight for. Today, it is a foundational text on any gender studies reading list, and its arguments have long crossed over from the academy to popular culture. …

Alona Ferber: In Gender Trouble, you wrote that “contemporary feminist debates over the meanings of gender lead time and again to a certain sense of trouble, as if the indeterminacy of gender might eventually culminate in the failure of feminism”. How far do ideas you explored in that book 30 years ago help explain how the trans rights debate has moved into mainstream culture and politics?

Judith Butler: I want to first question whether trans-exclusionary feminists are really the same as mainstream feminists. If you are right to identify the one with the other, then a feminist position opposing transphobia is a marginal position. I think this may be wrong. My wager is that most feminists support trans rights and oppose all forms of transphobia. So I find it worrisome that suddenly the trans-exclusionary radical feminist position is understood as commonly accepted or even mainstream. I think it is actually a fringe movement that is seeking to speak in the name of the mainstream, and that our responsibility is to refuse to let that happen. 

AF: One example of mainstream public discourse on this issue in the UK is the argument about allowing people to self-identify in terms of their gender. In an open letter she published in June, JK Rowling articulated the concern that this would “throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman”, potentially putting women at risk of violence.

JB: If we look closely at the example that you characterise as “mainstream” we can see that a domain of fantasy is at work, one which reflects more about the feminist who has such a fear than any actually existing situation in trans life. The feminist who holds such a view presumes that the penis does define the person, and that anyone with a penis would identify as a woman for the purposes of entering such changing rooms and posing a threat to the women inside. It assumes that the penis is the threat, or that any person who has a penis who identifies as a woman is engaging in a base, deceitful, and harmful form of disguise. This is a rich fantasy, and one that comes from powerful fears, but it does not describe a social reality. Trans women are often discriminated against in men’s bathrooms, and their modes of self-identification are ways of describing a lived reality, one that cannot be captured or regulated by the fantasies brought to bear upon them. The fact that such fantasies pass as public argument is itself cause for worry.

(7) ANTHOLOGY CROWDFUNDING. A Kickstarter appeal to raise $4,000 to fund publication of “Vital: The Future of Healthcare (2020)” launched September 22.

The anthology, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and medicine, will include works from notable authors such as Tananarive Due, David Brin, James Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, and others.

Backers will receive exclusive rewards such as advanced copies and other perks for early support of the project.

Proceeds from the book’s sale will be donated to the United Nations Foundation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO is a global leader coordinating the worldwide pandemic response.  

The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose who will serve as editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real life challenges during the pandemic and declarations of racism as a public health crisis. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose.  “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.” 

The book will be available for purchase or download at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, and independent bookstores.  Kickstarter backers or supporters will receive advance copies of the book, as well as other rewards for supporting the project.

The Kickstarter campaign will last until October 22, 2020. (A previous attempt in 2019 did not fund.)  

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty years ago, Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Talents which was published by Seven Stories Press won SFWA’s Nebula Award for Best Novel.  (It would also be a finalist for the Clarke Award for Best Novel and would be nominated for the Otherwise Award too.) It was chosen over novels by Ken MacLeod, George R. R. Martin, Maureen F. McHugh, Sean Stewart and Vernor Vinge. It was the second in a series of two, a sequel to Parable of the Sower. She had planned to write a third Parable novel, tentatively titled Parable of the Trickster, but it never happened as instead she wrote her final novel, Fledgling

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 23, 1783 – Jane Taylor.  Wrote “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (1806).  So near and simple can be immortality.  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1897 Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for being in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea  as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar H. Shiras. Also wrote under the name Jane Howes. Her most famous piece was “In Hiding” (1948), a novella that was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame anthology. It is widely assumed that it is the inspiration for the Uncanny X-Men that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would shortly release. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born September 23, 1920 – Richard Wilson.  A Futurian not barred from NYCon I the first Worldcon by the “Exclusion Act”.  Fanzines, The AtomEscapeScience Fiction News Letter.  Served in the Army Signal Corps; eventually director of the Syracuse Univ. news bureau.  Two novels, a hundred shorter stories; a Nebula; reviews, essays, in AstonishingLocusSF ReviewSuper Science.  Memoir, Adventures in the Space Trade.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1929 – Balbalis.  Forty interiors for Galaxyhere is one from Aug 53.  Illustrator for John Wiley & Sons.  Freehand sketch of the Shroud of Turin image adopted as the logograph of the Turin Shroud Center of Colorado.  American Institute of Graphic Arts award.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1948 Leslie Kay Swigart, 72. Obsessions can be fascinating and hers was detailing the writings of Harlan Ellison. Between 1975 and 1991, she published Harlan Ellison: A Bibliographical Checklist plus wrote shorter works such as  “Harlan Ellison: An F&SF Checklist“, “Harlan Ellison: A Nonfiction Checklist“ and “Harlan Ellison: A Book and Fiction Checklist”. Her George R. R. Martin: A RRetrospective Fiction Checklist can be found in the Dreamsongs: GRRM: A RRetrospective collection. (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 64. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1: The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice. (CE)
  • Born September 23, 1956 – Romas Kukalis, 64.  Two hundred thirty covers.  Some fine-art work.  Here is Wizenbeak.  Here is The Squares of the City.  Here is The White Dragon (Resnick’s, not McCaffrey’s).  [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1959 Elizabeth Peña. Ok, these notes can be depressing to do as I discovered she died of acute alcoholism. Damn it. She was in a number of genre production s including *batteries not includedGhost WhispererThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders and even voiced Mirage in the first Incredibles film. Intriguingly, she voiced a character I don’t recognize, Paran Dul, a Thanagarian warrior, four times in Justice League Unlimited. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce,  61. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek. (CE) 
  • Born September 23, 1960 – Stephanie Osborn, 60.  Retired rocket scientist.  Nat’l Weather Service certified storm spotter.  Two dozen novels for us; nonfiction, A New American Space Plan (with Travis Taylor).  Ranks Delany’s About Writing above Gone With the Wind.  [JH]
  • Born September 23, 1974 – Cindy Lynn Speer, 46.  Five novels (The Key to All Things released in July), a few shorter stories.  Practices 16th Century swordfighting. Ranks Persuasion about the same as Nineteen Eighty-four.  [JH]

(10) SIGN UP FOR HORROR PANEL. “StoryFest 2020: Final Cuts – New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles”

StoryFest concludes with a panel dedicated to the nightmares of the silver screen. Legendary genre editor Ellen Datlow leads the discussion on her anthology, Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles. She is joined by an all-star lineup of authors included in the anthology.

This is a virtual event. Click here to register and view the event.

Ellen Datlow is joined by a knockout list of panelists: Laird Barron, Christopher Golden, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Josh Malerman, and A.C. Wise. 

(11) WRONG OUT LOUD. Oh, my God! First they pitch canon out the window. Now James Davis Nicoll makes this confession — “On Reading Book Series in the Wrong Order”. Think of the children!

We live in a glorious age when books are a click away. It may now seem incomprehensible that one might be forced to read a series of books out of order. Yet, in a dark age not so long ago, when we (and by we, I mean me) were dependent on the vagaries of book store and library orders, it was very easy to find oneself in a place where the choice was (a) read an intermediate book or (b) read nothing new.

By way of example, here are five F&SF series I began in what most people would say is the wrong place….

(12) ATWOOD. BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week features Margaret Atwood and another poet/author: “Claudia Rankine and Margaret Atwood”.

Claudia Rankine, one of America’s leading literary figures, and the double-Booker Prize winner Margaret Atwood look at the world afresh, challenging conventions – with Kirsty Wark.

In her latest book, Just Us: An American Conversation, Claudia Rankine reflects on what it means to experience, and question, everyday racism. Her poems draw on a series of encounters with friends and strangers, as well as historical record. Her work moves beyond the silence, guilt and violence that often surround discussions about whiteness, and dares all of us to confront the world in which we live.

Margaret Atwood recently won the Booker Prize for a second time with The Testaments, her sequel to the 1985 prize-winner The Handmaid’s Tale. Her story of the fictional Gilead’s dark misogyny has retained its relevance after more than three decades. The world of Gilead was originally sparked by an earlier poem, Spelling, and Atwood explores the importance of poetry in firing the imagination.

(13) FALSE AND FALSE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Because it is the topic of the year and relevant to us all (especially SF fans as pandemics are something of a genre trope) a little science with BBC’s statistical programme More or Less and false positives in virus testing (especially in the latter half of the show): “Covid curve queried, false positives, and the Queen’s head”.

A scary government graph this week showed what would happen if coronavirus cases doubled every seven days. But is that what’s happening? There’s much confusion about how many Covid test results are false positives – we explain all. Plus, do coffee and pregnancy mix? And the Queen, Mao, and Gandhi go head to head: who is on the most stamps and coins?

Now, I have been told that my (pre-retired) job (of communicating science to non-scientists (often politicians)) is easy.

Though a little dismissive, actually, I take this as something of a compliment as anyone vaguely professional – be they a plumber, engineer. athlete or writer – tends to make their craft seem effortless. So, having listened to the afore programme, let me expand your horizons even further in just a couple of sentences.

Having considered false positives, what of false negatives? And, having pondered that, how does one balance the two? Welcome to the world of Type I and Type II errors. (That’s the real world which makes Johnson and Trump’s pontifications seem more like bluster. Hope I’m not doing them an injustice)

(14) RING DOWN THE CURTAIN. Looper combed through the movies and books to find “The last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain”. Gollum’s, of course, is “Oops!” (Just kidding.)

We wanted to see just how legendary each deceased character’s final moments ended up being, based on the litmus test of what they were talking about when they perished. With that in mind, we decided to round up the last words of every fallen Lord of the Rings hero and villain to do some comparing and contrasting.

(15) THEY’RE DEAD, JIM. “Scientists Determine Explosive New Mass Extinction Event 232 Million Years Ago”SYFY Wire finds another evolutionary memory hole.

Mass extinction events on our planet have only occurred a handful of times in the 540 million years since life began. Most people are familiar with the Cretaceous-tertiary Extinction that occurred some 65 million years ago that led to the demise of the dinosaurs and 50 percent of all plants and animals, as well as the Permian-triassic Extinction 250 million years ago that wiped out 95 percent of all species.

But now scientists have reconsidered the impact of The Carnian Pluvial Episode, a significant climate change event that took place approximately 234 to 232 million years ago (Late Triassic epoch) that led to the age of the dinosaurs…

…Violent volcanic eruptions in the Wrangellia Province of western Canada are the smoking gun and the most likely cause of the devastation and sudden climatic shift, when abundant volumes of hot volcanic basalt were poured out to form much of what is now the western coast of North America.

“The eruptions peaked in the Carnian,” Dr. Dal Corso said. “I was studying the geochemical signature of the eruptions a few years ago and identified some massive effects on the atmosphere worldwide. The eruptions were so huge, they pumped vast amounts of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, and there were spikes of global warming.”

These humid warming periods lasting a total of one million years were accompanied by an intense spike in global rainfall, as discovered back in the ’80s by geologists Mike Simms and Alastair Ruffell. This gradual climate alteration is reflected in the major biodiversity loss in the ocean and on land. 

However, following the extinction event, diverse new groups flourished to produce more modern-like ecosystems. These climate changes were beneficial to the sustained growth of plant life, especially the expansion of conifer forests.

“The new floras probably provided slim pickings for the surviving herbivorous reptiles,”explained Professor Benton. “We now know that dinosaurs originated some 20 million years before this event, but they remained quite rare and unimportant until the Carnian Pluvial Episode hit. It was the sudden arid conditions after the humid episode that gave dinosaurs their chance.”

(16) HEAVY ARMOR. “It’s Alive! 25-Ton Gundam Robot Moves for First Time in Yokohama”Yahoo! News is there.

A 25-ton robot, inspired by the popular 1970s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, has made its first moves in Yokohama, Japan.

Footage tweeted on September 21 shows the giant Gundam robot moving its arms and legs before lunging into an impressive squat at Yamashita Pier.

The robot is set to become the main attraction at Gundam Factory Yokohama, and was supposed to be officially unveiled on October 1, but the event has since been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatention’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]