Pixel Scroll 7/26/21 I Am Just A Filer, Though My Story’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) COZY CATASTROPHES. James Davis Nicoll told me this is “A happy Monday piece.” Makes me worry about what the rest of the week is going to look like: “Five Classic SFF Novels About Environmental Disaster” at Tor.com.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)

This cozy catastrophe stands out because it’s a rare book in which humans are not to blame for deadly environmental changes. The novel begins quietly, as a meteor shower splashes down in Earth’s oceans. English Broadcasting Company reporters Mike and Phyllis Watson, who document the escalating crisis, see nothing alarming. Initially.

Unfortunately for the former rulers of Earth, the objects were spacecraft, delivering the planet’s new owners to Earth’s oceans. At first these enigmatic beings limit themselves to sampling the inhabitants of an occasional village to better understand their new home. Once they’ve settled in—and particularly once humans attempt to nuke the settlers—the aquatic aliens decide to conduct planetary improvements. Which is to say, they begin melting ice caps, providing themselves with more aquatic lebensraum. This also drowns the coastlines where atom bomb-wielding, land-dwelling pests tend to congregate.

(2) TWICE THE SPICE. Boing Boing spotted an Instagram post that edits the new Dune trailer into a comparison with David Lynch’s adaptation from the Eighties: “Watch: A spicy side-by-side of Dune (1984) and Dune (2021)”. See it at the link.

The newest sci-fi spectacular that is Dennis Villeneuve’s Dune might not include David Lynch’s battle pugs, but it does include some startling similarities with the original 1984 film.

(3) UNTRUE GRIT. A ZDnet writer says he got suspended for this: “On Facebook, quoting ‘Dune’ gets you suspended while posting COVID and vaccine misinformation gets you recommended”.

…[A] managing editor for commerce of our sister site, CNET, was beaming on Facebook about how he was able to get in to see a sneak preview of Dune, the Denis Villeneuve-directed film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi epic that is due for a late October release.

I’m sure many other people are as excited as I am about this movie. So I quoted [in reply] the duel scene in question, in which Sting, playing the charismatic and psychotic Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, shouts, “I -WILL- kill you.” I even put it in quotes so that there was no question I was quoting the film.

I thought nothing of it. I went about the rest of my evening. About an hour later, I was notified by Facebook that I was suspended for three days due to violating Community Standards.

I was shocked. Suspended for quoting a film? Without even using any obscenities? This seems… extreme.

Obviously, I had no intention of killing Russell Holly, envious as I was that he got to see this film months before anyone else. I am also not in the practice of murdering my editorial colleagues with poisoned daggers, as anyone at ZDNet will tell you….

(4) LEVY HASKELL HONORED. Stinson, a nationwide legal firm, recognized employee Fred Levy Haskell, a Minneapolis fan, with an award: “Stinson Staff Honored as Unsung Legal Heroes in Missouri and Minnesota: Stinson LLP Law Firm”

Stinson LLP is proud to announce 2021 Unsung Legal Heroes award recipients for Missouri and Minnesota. 

…Levy Haskell, work product support specialist, is based in Minneapolis. He is recognized for the guidance and optimism he provided to his team, as well as the complex tools he implemented during the transition to working remotely. Fred is appreciated for his upbeat nature and willingness to help anyone at the firm.  

(5) J.K. ON THE BBC. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] J. K. Rowling seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym and confirmed she conceived his series on a delayed, crowded rail train.  The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed is a BBC Radio 4 series in which the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, talks to poets and writers in his garden shed.  An episode this weekend had J.K. Rowling as the guest. (You can also listen to extended version.)

She revealed that she too writes in a shed-like outhouse in her garden. Like Simon’s, it too is devoid of internet access so as to rid distraction.  She revealed that she had seriously considered writing Harry Potter under a pseudonym using the name ‘Oliver’. She also said that she and her publisher decided to use the gender neutral ‘J. K.’ abbreviation.  She confirmed the story that the idea for Harry Potter came to her on a long-delayed and crowded train from Manchester to London.

She said that she always wanted to be a writer ever since she realised that the stories her mother read to her were written by someone.

With regards to writing, she says that her drafts are all hand written and outlines are in notebooks (which nobody has ever seen). The advantage, she said, of hand writing drafts is that using a word processor sees early versions deleted and once gone, are gone. The problem here is that sometimes she finds dialogue or a scene simply has not worked and that she realised that an earlier version had a better staring point for taking in a slightly different direction. Hand-written records are therefore very valuable. Simon Armitage confirmed that he too writes by hand. He said it was important for a writer to access the archaeology of the writing process.

Subsequent to the ‘Potter’ books, J. K. Rowling had been writing crime novels as Robert Galbraith. (The lawyer who outed her was fined £1,000 for breaching privacy rules.) Initially, though the Galbraith books had had critical acclaim, they had no commercial success, that came following the outing.  Simon Armitage asked Rowling as to choose her favourite of two other well-known crime writers: Ruth Rendall or P. D. James. Rowling, with difficulty went for P. D. James.

(6) SHELL GAME. Atlas Obscura ponders “Why Is the World Always on the Back of a Turtle?” Yes, Discworld gets mentioned.

ANYONE WHO’S EVER HEARD THE expression “it’s turtles all the way down” is probably familiar with the image of the world being carried on the back of a giant turtle. While that philosophical one-liner is of relatively modern vintage, the cosmic turtle mytheme has appeared in disparate cultures across the globe for millennia. In honor of everyone’s favorite intellectual quandary, let’s take a moment to celebrate the tortoises that hold up the world.

In his book Researches Into the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization, the turn-of-the-20th-century anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor writes that the world turtle concept likely first appeared in Hindu mythology. In one Vedic story, the form of the god Vishnu’s second avatar, Kurma, is a great turtle, which provides a celestial foundation upon which a mountain is balanced….

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this month, Robert Holdstock’s Avilion would be published. Set in his Ryhope Wood series, it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It would be the final work from this author as he died in-hospital at the age of sixty-one from an E. coli infection on the 29th of November 2009. He would be honored with The Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society the following year.  And they would rename their best fantasy novel award in his honor – now called the BFS Robert Holdstock Award. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class a very long time ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? I see his Time Must Have a Stop novel was on the long list at CoNZealand. (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 76. She first graces our presence as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellar’s last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. She was recently in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms as Mother Ginger, regent of the Land of Amusements. Her next genre role is in the forthcoming Shazam! Fury of the Gods as Hespera.
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 76. Winner of the Otherwise Award. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s also a major critic for the past thirty years reviewing fiction and nonfiction for The GuardianThe Daily Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and The New York Times. He’s lightly stocked at the usual suspects though TheViriconium sequence is there at a very reasonable price. 
  • Born July 26, 1954 Lawrence Watt-Evans, 67. Ok I’ll admit that I’ve not read “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” which won him a short fiction Hugo at Conspiracy ’87. It also was nominated for a Nebula and won an Asimov’s Reader’s Poll that year. It’d be his only Hugo. So I’m curious what Hugo voters saw in it. Yes, I’ve read him — his War Surplus series is quite excellent.
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor, 64. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the second best of the Trek series to date and I’m including the present series in that assessment. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit. And she had a brief role in Torchwood: Miracle Day.
  • Born July 26, 1964 Sandra Bullock, 57. First film role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man, Practical Magic and Gravity to name but three of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 52. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. I’ve got his Firefly novel, Generations, in my Audible queue.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side depends on a literary reference – which I’m confident you’ll all get.

(10) WORKING TOGETHER. Literary agent Mark Gottlieb posted the interview that he conducted with Willam F. Nolan and Jason Brock shortly before Nolan’s death on July 15: “In Memory of Award-winning Author and Creator of Logan’s Run William F. Nolan”.

What is it like working together in a collaboration as two authors?

Nolan: Well, I have collaborated quite a bit in my career. I worked on the screenplay to Burnt Offerings with producer/director Dan Curtis, for example. I did most of the adaptation of Marasco’s novel, but Dan and I worked on other elements together. Of course, I co-wrote Logan’s Run with my dear friend George Clayton Johnson. That started as an idea of mine, but as the book took shape George added some fine elements. We literally typed the whole thing from notes in three weeks! We spelled one another on the typewriter in a hotel. I did the final polish later. Jason and I have worked on a lot of pieces together, also, but I’ll let him talk about that.

Brock: I come from a background in music, and having a band is quite collaborative. Also, I am a filmmaker, having completed two documentaries and working on others, and film in general is extremely collaborative. So, writing is a pretty easy way to work together as there are fewer people involved, at least in the active writing phase, as opposed to editing and preparing for publication. As long as the coauthors share roughly the same vision for the outcome, getting there can be a lot of fun, actually. It’s surprising the places a piece can go when you write something, then have the other person take your concepts and spin them, then you do that to theirs, etc. It’s a rush.

(11) A DIFFERENT TAKE ON D&D. Areo’s Christopher Ferguson restrains his enthusiasm, but what do you think? “Sensitive Masters and Wheelchair Accessible Torture Chambers: Dungeons & Dragons in the Culture War Era”.

…The collection is, indeed, progressive in tone. It has been noted that it includes a wheelchair accessible dungeon (a cause celebre for progressive members of gaming communities, though wheelchairs aren’t specifically mentioned in the book) and numerous nonplayer characters who use they/them pronouns. The collection also signals progressivism in other ways—for example, the new adventures de-emphasise the idea that good or evil motives are inherent traits of monster races. (This is a response to those who have protested that the attribution of inherent bad traits to this group is analogous to racism in real life.) And it includes a trigger warning of sorts: the accompanying book begins with a section titled “Be a Sensitive Dungeon Master,” which uses progressive buzzwords such as trigger and unsafe….

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Let the BBC break it to you: “Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson may not be astronauts, US says”.

…The Commercial Astronaut Wings programme updates were announced on Tuesday – the same day that Amazon’s Mr Bezos flew aboard a Blue Origin rocket to the edge of space.

To qualify as commercial astronauts, space-goers must travel 50 miles (80km) above the Earth’s surface, which both Mr Bezos and Mr Branson accomplished.

But altitude aside, the agency says would-be astronauts must have also “demonstrated activities during flight that were essential to public safety, or contributed to human space flight safety”….

I think this reminds me of a scene in The Right Stuff where test pilots insisted the Mercury capsule needed a window and some flight control capability. Because they weren’t just the human counterparts of the monkeys that had been shot into space.

(13) HEY, I GREW UP HERE. “This quirky L.A. museum is dedicated to San Fernando Valley history” – the Washington Post has the story.

…Of the thousands of artifacts displayed here, Gelinas says, it’s the extensive collection of electric and neon signs, some with graffiti still intact, that are the museum’s biggest draw. A neon sign from the now-defunct, iconic, Palomino Club, a famed North Hollywood country music venue that hosted talent such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Tanya Tucker, is a crowd favorite, he reports. Other signs in the extensive collection include one from a Jewish deli, a Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery complete with windmill and a galloping horse that once advertised a local liquor store.

…Of the collection, Gelinas says, 25 percent is donated while the other 75 percent is “rescued,” as in Gelinas and his team get a call to come take an item that might be destroyed. These “History Watchdogs,” as he refers to them, call when beloved area signage or iconography is in danger of being torn down. When that happens, Gelinas says, he and his team of loyal museum volunteers, many of whom have been specially trained in removal techniques, take great pains to make sure things are done well.

(14) DC AT SDCC. During the DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow Comic-Con@Home panel on Sunday, the cast and showrunners unveiled a sneak peek at the remainder of the show’s sixth season — think bowling, board games, aliens, weddings, magic mushrooms, and a whole lot of dark drama involving John Constantine.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/21 This Pixel Will Self-Destruct In Five Parsecs

(1) SUMMER READING. In “Meet the Authors of Summer’s Biggest Sci-Fi and Fantasy Adventures” Goodreads features Q&As with Shelley Parker-Chan, Nghi Vo, Matt Bell, Tasha Suri, Becky Chambers, Cassandra Khaw, T.J. Klune, and Cadwell Turnbull.

Cadwell Turnbull, author of No Gods, No Monsters

GR: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

CT:  Balancing all the narrative elements. I’m very interested in narratives where individuals and groups of people converge around significant events for very different reasons. I wanted the novel to honor individual and collective action where each person is important. That was hard to do. The other challenge was the cosmology underpinning the story, which requires a few conceptual leaps to make sense. I didn’t want to do too much too fast and undercut the emotional weight of those leaps. I also didn’t want to undermine the very real and very important personal conflicts of the characters with god-level madness. Add to that my love of subtlety and subtext and the writing process became a tug-of-war between all these disparate goals. But I did my very best. Luckily I have two more books in the series to tease out every layer.

(2) BARBARA NEELY REMEMBERED. Mystery Writers of America has established the Barbara Neely Scholarship in honor of the late author, a trailblazing Black crime novelist who was named a Grand Master by MWA in late 2019. “She was named a Grand Master not only for the high quality of the work she produced during her career, but also for being an inspiration to an entire generation of crime writers of color.”

Two scholarships of $2000 each per year will be awarded: “One for an aspiring Black writer who has yet to publish in the crime or mystery field, and another for Black authors who have already published in crime or mystery.”

Applications are being taken from July 1 through September 30. The applications will be reviewed by the Barbara Neely Scholarship committee, including Black crime writers, and the winner will be announced in the late fall. The application form is here

Applicants must be Black, American citizens, and age 18 or older. They must submit a brief biography, competed application form, and 300-500-word statement on their interest in the mystery genre and in general terms (class, conference, equipment, etc.) how they would use the scholarship funds. Prior membership in MWA is not required.

The Barbara Neely Scholarship will be awarded on the basis of writing ability, interest in the crime/mystery genre, and likely benefit from the scholarship funds and MWA membership. 

(3) JUICY IS BETTER. There’s a Kickstarter to fund Juicy Ghosts by Rudy Rucker, the author’s twenty-fourth novel. People have contributed $5,302 of its $7,000 goal with 27 days to go. Rucker tells how the project began:

 Juicy Ghosts is about politics, telepathy, and immortality. I started it in 2019, as a reaction to Donald Trump’s repeated remarks that he planned to be a three-term president. That pushed me over the edge.

I started with a short story called “Juicy Ghosts.” Rebels bring down an insane, evil President who’s stolen an election. They sting him with a lethally tweaked wasp, erase the online backup of his mind, and explode his clone. Too much? It’s hard to stop, when you’re having this much fun! Over the next two years, my story grew into a novel. I had to write it. I had to stand and be counted.

So, yes, Juicy Ghosts is a tale of political struggle—but it’s more than that. It’s hip and literary, with romance and tragedy. Plus gnarly science, and lots of funny scenes. I used a loose, say-anything style. The point-of-view characters are outsiders and slackers. The majority of them are women, and they give the tale a grounded tone.

We’ll see commercial telepathy, or teep, before long. And we’ll want a channel that’s richer than text and images. Users might transmit templates for the neurochemicals that are affecting their current mood. Your friends feel your pheromones! In Juicy Ghosts, people do this with gossip molecules, which are nano-assemblers  with tiny antennas.

I’ve been writing about digital immortality since my early cyberpunk novel Software. The idea is to represent a soul by a digital program and a data-base, calling the construct a lifebox. But in Juicy Ghosts  a lifebox needs to be linked to a physical body.  It’s not enough to be a ghost—you want to be a juicy ghost. The linked body might be an insect or an animal or a biotweaked bot—but high-end users will have tank-grown clones.

Lifeboxes and clones will be expensive, so most people will settle for free lifebox storage provided by tech giants. The catch is that if you accept this free service, you’re obligated to do gig-work for the company—as a bodyguard, a chauffeur, a maid, of a factory worker. Typical of our times!

I like happy endings. I’d rather laugh than cry.  My characters destroy the evil President’s political party, topple the pay-to-play immortality racket, and provide everyone with free lifeboxes and physical bodies. Ta-da!

(4) LET IT GO. Lightspeed Magazine shines its “Author Spotlight” on Rachel Swirsky whose story “Innocent Bird” is in the magazine’s July issue.

[Swirsky:] … I actually initially went into submission with a version of this that was 1,000 words shorter. After getting a couple of very kind rejections, I let it lie for a while, and the next time I looked at it, I felt like the story had a reserved quality to it that didn’t seem appropriate. My graduate training—along with a lot of other aspects of contemporary aesthetics—strongly veers toward keeping emotions subtextual in this very discreet fashion. I went back into the story to let the heartbreak go straight onto the page. Shoko is a teenager; she’s full of these big emotions. She doesn’t express them to other people which only means she’s constantly inflated with love and distress and confusion and uncertainty about her future that she has no escape valve from. I think she tries to distance herself from that internally to some extent—there are moments when she underplays what she’s feeling—but she shouldn’t be written like a middle-aged literary professor wrestling with a midlife crisis….

(5) ROBOCREATORS. “Automated art: threat or menace?” asks James Davis Nicoll. SFF authors’ answer the question in these “Five SF Stories About Automated Art” at Tor.com.

“The Darfsteller” by Walter M. Miller (1955)

Thanks to advances in the field of robotic acting, Ryan Thornier, former star, is now Ryan Thornier, underpaid theatre janitor. True, there are many occupations not yet automated to which the old man could apply his thespian talents—salesman, politician, general—but these are beneath the former star. Only stage acting will do. But his desire to shine onstage cannot erase the fact that robotic mannikins programmed with recorded personality matrices deliver the same services as living actors, but are much cheaper and more reliable.

Ryan is very stubborn. Given even the smallest hope of reclaiming his lost place on stage, he will leap to take advantage of the opportunity…regardless of consequences.

(6) PERFORMATIVE REFORM. Radio Times, not surprisingly given their heavy coverage of The Doctor, favors the Doctor/Missy/Master arcs in this analysis: “What Loki got wrong – and Doctor Who got right”.

… A few times over the course of Loki, viewers had compared it to Doctor Who, mainly because of its general time-travel premise (what are the officious TVA except Time Lords with a dental plan?) and especially after episode three saw Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) trapped on a dying world. In fact, many commented that Loki did ‘Doctor Who’ better than Doctor Who itself, thanks to a higher budget and bigger stars. (Though did Loki have a sonic screwdriver? I think not. Case closed.)

And I actually think Loki could learn something from Doctor Who, more specifically, from a storyline that saw an iconic villain try to change their ways with mixed success….

(7) CLEAR CHANNEL. Here’s a post about the new book its author was trying to draw attention to in that sabotaged Reddit AMA: “The Big Idea: Nicole Kornher-Stace” at Whatever.

NICOLE KORNHER-STACE:

Since approximately five minutes after I started publishing, my mom has been telling me I should write a kids’ book. For a while I was…skeptical. Many of the kind things people have said about my work involve it being dark but ultimately hopeful but before that just. so dark. And many of my rejections have been for being “too dark.” None of which really felt super compatible with, y’know, a children’s book.

It’s not that I thought it was a bad idea, it just felt like an idea that was beyond my skillset or ability to even really conceptualize. So on the back burner it sat for a long time, along with a whole bunch of other stuff I’d talked myself out of writing for various reasons. (Thanks, impostor syndrome. You’re the best.)

And then I had a baby. And then my baby grew up into a kid. And just like that I had an audience to write a kids’ book for. And everything kind of came together from there….

(8) DISABLED PARTICIPANTS SOUGHT. Mission: AstroAccess has put out “A Call For Disabled Explorers to Experience Zero Gravity.” Any disabled adult living in the U.S. can apply – see full guidelines and view the application here. The deadline to apply is August 15.

Outer space is not just humanity’s future: it’s a call to rethink life on Earth right now.

In zero gravity, what is standing up? What is lying down? What does it mean to be unable to walk if no one there is walking? How does that shift our understanding of disability?

We are excited to announce the launch of Mission: AstroAccess, a program bringing a diverse group of disabled space enthusiasts on a historic ZERO-G parabolic flight! Participants will complete targeted tasks during the program’s flight to help answer basic questions about how disabled people can live and work in outer space. Mission: AstroAccess’ crew of disabled volunteers will take flight on October 17th, 2021, as the first step in a progression towards increasing diversity in space and the greater STEM field. 

…Mission: AstroAccess serves an additional purpose—while traditional physical barriers are lifted in space, accidents resulting in some form of disability are inevitable during extended missions in space’s dangerous environment. We are dedicated to advancing disability inclusion in space exploration, not just for the benefit of marginalized communities, but for the benefit of all humankind. The tasks conducted during this program will help inform accessible design to make extended space travel safer for everyone.

(9) A GENRE SUCCESS STORY. “Print Book Sales Soar in Year’s First Half”Publishers Weekly ran the numbers, which show graphic novel sales blew up.

…The big story in adult fiction was the strength of the graphic novel format. Unit sales soared 178.5% in the first half of the year, rising to 16.2 million copies sold, making graphic novels the second-largest adult fiction subcategory. Graphic novels made up nearly 20% of adult fiction unit sales in the first six months of 2021, compared to 9.3% last year.

Viz Media was one of the big beneficiaries of the graphic novel boom. Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia, Vol. 26 was the top adult graphic novel in the first half of the year, selling more than 90,000 copies. Other volumes in the Academia line also sold well, including volume two (about 82,000 copies sold) and volume one (81,000 copies). Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Taiba, Vol. 1 by Koyoharu Gotouge, also published by Viz, sold more than 82,000 copies. A title published by a company other than Viz, Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 by Hajime Isayama, published by Kodansha, sold nearly 88,000 copies….

(10) SID ALTUS (1949-2021). Detroit fan Sid Altus died July 13, his daughter Shana announced on Facebook. Sid was a member of the Detroit in ’82 Worldcon bid. He worked on AutoClave and ConFusion. He and Alex Berman co-founded a small press, Phantasia Press, which published high-end limited editions of hardcover sf aimed at the collectors’ market. Fancyclopedia 3 has more about his history.

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1997 – Twenty-four years ago this week, the Roar series premiered on Fox. It would last but thirteen episodes, five of which initially would go unaired. This sort of Celtic fantasy had Heath Ledger in the lead role, his first genre undertaking. The series also starred Vera Farmiga, Lisa Zane, John Saint Ryan, and Sebastian Roché. The show was created by Shaun Cassidy after the success of of  Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess but it truly bombed. It certainly didn’t help that the series was in the same time slot as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two novels, Roar: A Novel, a prequel, and Roar: The Cauldron, would later be written.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author with definite genre leanings. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group, has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the Civil War. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes, this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women.  As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1947 T. E. D. Klein, 74. Horror writer with two awards to his name, one a BFA for The Ceremonies novel, another a World Fantasy Award for his “Nadelman’s God” novella. He was editor of the Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid Eighties and the Night Cry zine for several around that time.
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 64. His best known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was Host of Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 58. Red Sonja! What’d a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 54. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. His short stories are most excellent thus it’s most fitting his recent The Twisted Book of Shadows collection won a Shirley Jackson Award. 
  • Born July 15, 1951 Jesse Ventura, 70. He’s actually been in far more genre films that I thought. His first film was Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe which audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a rating of nineteen percent. After that, he’s been in PredatorRunning ManDemolition Man and Batman & Robin

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side has a strange Martian/Wizard of Oz mashup. At least that’s what I think it is.
  • Frank and Ernest meet some innovative cave people.

(14) HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER. At Black Gate, Aaron Starr’s “Long and Winding” is the amusing saga about writing a doorstop-sized novel.

January 12th

Dear Diary,
After Justine’s third encounter with the forces pursuing her, I realized that what this sword-and-sorcery novel needs is some more swords! But Justine has given no hint of any sort of background with weapons. I’ll need to introduce a wise mentor, to teach her the ways of cold steel. Someone grizzled and worldly, cynical and a touch sarcastic.

That’s it! Dear diary, you’re a genius! Her mentor will be her spirit animal! This will kill two birds with one stone, which, I might point out, rules out a bird as her spirit animal, doesn’t it? Tee-hee! Seriously, what sort of animal embodies these qualities? A raccoon springs to mind. They seem sufficiently grizzled and worldly, and are no doubt cynical. But might I be playing into harmful stereotypes? I’ll have to think about that some more.

Later: I have visited the cafe next door, to allow myself a fresh perspective. As I drank a fortifying mug of pressed-almond choco-caf with double-frothed soy, I struck up a conversation with a man who just happens to be a city planner. He confirmed my instincts regarding raccoon-kind, and assured me that, if any urban mammals were to take up arms, they would certainly be among the first to do so….

(15) REINCARNATED IN FANTASYLAND. The tropes come thick and fast in Petréa Mitchell’s “Anime roundup 7/15/2021: Work in Progress” at Amazing Stories.

In this week’s viewing: More summer premieres! More terrible light-novel-based summer premieres! Also a couple of fighting shows….

(16) YOU NEED LITTLE TEENY EYES. The Criterion Collection will bring out The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) on October 19.

…Existentialism goes pop in this benchmark of atomic-age science fiction, a superlative adaptation of a novel by the legendary Richard Matheson that has awed and unnerved generations of viewers with the question, What is humanity’s place amid the infinity of the universe? Six months after being exposed to a mysterious radiation cloud, suburban everyman Scott Carey (Grant Williams) finds himself becoming smaller . . . and smaller . . . and smaller—until he’s left to fend for himself in a world in which ordinary cats, mousetraps, and spiders pose a mortal threat, all while grappling with a diminishing sense of himself…. 

(17) CONSISTENCY. Nothing hits the spot in Schmigadoon like a big bowl of good old corn pudding! Here’s another introductory clip from the forthcoming musical series. Available tomorrow on AppleTV+. View on YouTube. (The stinkers won’t let it be embedded here!)

The six-part series follows a couple (Strong, Key) who stumble on a magical town that lives in a 1940s musical. From there, the pair have to try and find true love.

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter found another show in touch with Broadway – tonight’s episode of Jeopardy. A contestant had trouble with this. Though they really shouldn’t have.

Category: Broadway Musicals by Setting

Answer: Mushnik’s Skid Row Florists

Wrong question: What is ‘The Little Barber Shop of Horrors?”

Right question: What is ‘Little Shop of Horrors?”

(19) DICK GRAYSON & CO. Titans Season 3 begins airing on HBO Max on August 12.

Titans follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find where they belong. In season three, circumstances draw our heroes to Gotham City, where they will reunite with old friends and face new threats.

(20) BLINDED BY THE LIGHT. Experience the world in Vampire Reality. What We Do in the Shadows returns Sept 2 on FX.

A look into the daily (or rather, nightly) lives of four vampires who have “lived” together for hundreds and hundreds of years in Staten Island.

(21) HOOKED UP. “Tapping Into the Brain to Help a Paralyzed Man Speak” reports The New York Times.

He has not been able to speak since 2003, when he was paralyzed at age 20 by a severe stroke after a terrible car crash.

Now, in a scientific milestone, researchers have tapped into the speech areas of his brain — allowing him to produce comprehensible words and sentences simply by trying to say them. When the man, known by his nickname, Pancho, tries to speak, electrodes implanted in his brain transmit signals to a computer that displays his intended words on the screen.

His first recognizable sentence, researchers said, was, “My family is outside.”

The achievement, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, could eventually help many patients with conditions that steal their ability to talk.

“This is farther than we’ve ever imagined we could go,” said Melanie Fried-Oken, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University, who was not involved in the project.

Three years ago, when Pancho, now 38, agreed to work with neuroscience researchers, they were unsure if his brain had even retained the mechanisms for speech.

“That part of his brain might have been dormant, and we just didn’t know if it would ever really wake up in order for him to speak again,” said Dr. Edward Chang, chairman of neurological surgery at University of California, San Francisco, who led the research.

The team implanted a rectangular sheet of 128 electrodes, designed to detect signals from speech-related sensory and motor processes linked to the mouth, lips, jaw, tongue and larynx. In 50 sessions over 81 weeks, they connected the implant to a computer by a cable attached to a port in Pancho’s head, and asked him to try to say words from a list of 50 common ones he helped suggest, including “hungry,” “music” and “computer.”…

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Stephen Colbert on Tuesday night’s The Late Show: “Welcome back to the cool green hills of Earth,” he said to Sir Richard Branson.

Sir Richard Branson sits down with Stephen after returning from his historic trip to the edge of space, and has some advice for the next billionaire headed to orbit.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/11/21 Why, Sir I Shall Call The Pixel Squad. You Are In Need Of Pixelation. They Will Scroll You

(1) TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE. The Salam Award, which promotes imaginative fiction in and about Pakistan, released this video by Mushba Said to remind Pakistani writers they have until midnight July 31 to submit entries for the award. See full guidelines at the link. Participants must either be currently residing in Pakistan, or be of Pakistani birth/descent.

(2) GO ASK ALICE. This article in The New Yorker will pique your interest in the Victoria & Albert’s exhibition about “The Beguiling Legacy of ‘Alice in Wonderland’”.

The origins of Alice’s tumble into Wonderland and its long cultural afterlife—everything from Carroll’s tentative first sketches to cheery, Alice-themed advertisements for Guinness and tomato juice produced a hundred years later (“Welcome to a Wonderland of good drinking!”)—are the subject of a beguiling new exhibition, “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser,” at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London. 

Here’s a link to the Victoria & Albert museum’s webpage about the exhibit: “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser – Exhibition at South Kensington”.

Exploring its origins, adaptations and reinventions over 157 years, this immersive and theatrical show charts the evolution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from manuscript to a global phenomenon beloved by all ages.

They also offer a virtual reality tour: “V&A · Curious Alice: The Vr Experience”.

From rabbit holes to psychedelic mushrooms, flamingos to hedgehogs, Wonderland is the perfect world to explore in virtual reality. Curious Alice encourages audiences to reward their curiosity by navigating a fantastical landscape, interacting with the book’s famous characters and completing a series of curious challenges. Race against the clock to capture the White Rabbit’s missing glove; solve the Caterpillar’s mind-bending riddles; defeat the Queen of Hearts in a curious game of croquet.

(3) WENDIG AND KHAW. Powell’s Books presents “Chuck Wendig in Conversation With Cassandra Khaw,” promoting Wendig’s new book, on July 29 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific. Register for the virtual event here.

A family returns to their hometown — and to the dark past that haunts them still — in The Book of Accidents (Del Rey), a new masterpiece of literary horror by Chuck Wendig, bestselling author of Wanderers…. Wendig will be joined in conversation by Cassandra Khaw, game writer and author of Nothing but Blackened Teeth.

(4) POWER OF SFF POETRY. Sandra J. Lindow reviews Greg Beatty’s poetry collection Cosmic Songs for Human Ears at SPECPO, which includes his 2005 Rhysling winner “No Ruined Lunar City.”

An introductory essay published in 2005, “Driving the Machine Backward Through the Graveyard of Dead Narrative,” explains the evolution of genre poetry through reference to Johanna Russ’s 1971 critical essay, “The Wearing Out of Genre Materials.” Which argues that genre tropes progress through three distinct stages: “Innocence” which seems to be characterized by novelty and sense of wonder, “Plausibility,” which describes how authors use the rules of verisimilitude to support readers suspension of disbelief, and finally “Decadence” where a petrification of genre rules, “stylized, like ballet,” tempts writers to break long established conventions, for instance, combining magic with aliens and dinosaurs. Although Russ writes that it is not possible for a genre to return to Innocence, Beatty argues that it is possible for genre poetry to create a “liminal space” where tropes from fantasy and science become metaphor for human experience, thereby avoiding Decadence and possibly returning to the novelty and energy of Innocence.

(5) IT HAD TO BE SNAKE. The Guardian celebrates “Escape From New York at 40: John Carpenter rebelling against the system”.

With a pirate’s eyepatch and a scowl that seems as fixed and enigmatic as Mona Lisa’s smile, Snake Plissken, the hero of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, drifts through a cataclysmic future like a man condemned, forced into a mission that, at best, might save a world he doesn’t care about anyway. The allegiances he forges along the way are hard-earned but only temporary, swiftly discarded as he survives one assignment and looks ahead to another one. He is deeply suspicious of authority, too, from the two-faced benefactor who’s forcing him through an impossible gauntlet to an aloof president who’s openly contemptuous of him and others like him.

In other words, Snake Plissken is John Carpenter, and Escape from New York was the first of three films in the 1980s in which Kurt Russell would serve as his charismatic stand-in – an iconoclast who had no home in the new Hollywood, but would take up residence on its fringes. As Plissken runs and guns his way through a Manhattan that’s been turned into maximum security prison, it’s easy to imagine it as an allegory for a film production, where Carpenter weaves his way through an impossible job with the help of fellow ne’er-do-wells that he’ll have to leave behind at the end. If he survives, it’s onto the next gauntlet….

(6) THE SHARP END. Netflix dropped a trailer for season 2 of The Witcher. Premieres December 17.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 11, 2011 — A decade ago, Alphas premiered on Syfy. It was created by Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. It is in the same universe as Warehouse 13 and Eureka, a fact confirmed when Vanessa Calder who is a recurring character on Warehouse 13 appeared in one episode of the series. (Thanks Andrew (not Werdna) for confirming that in a recent Scroll.)  It had far too many Executive Producers and Producers to list here, a puzzle for a series that would last but two seasons and twenty four episodes. It starred David Strathairn, Ryan Cartwright, Warren Christie, Azita Ghanizada, Laura Mennell, Malik Yoba and Erin Way. Critics in general loved it and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give a most excellent seventy seven rating. Syfy cancelled it on an unresolved cliffhanger. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 — E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. Along with William Strunk Jr., he is the co-author of the The Elements of Style English language style guide. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 — Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I read once upon a time in fragments. The usual suspects are well stocked with his novels and short stories including Scanners Live in Vain, a most excellent novella. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 — Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. Are we considering The King and I genre or even genre adjacent?  If we are, he played King Mongkut in the short-lived Anna and the King TV series as well. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 — David Graham, 96. The voice of Daleks in the early years of Doctor Who including two non-canon films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.; his voice work made him a sought after worker and he’d be used on ThunderbirdsAsterix & Obelix Take On Caesar, Timeslip, Moomin, Stingray and even the recent Thunderbirds Are Go. And yes, he’s still doing voice work as his last genre work was for the Nebula-75 series just last year.
  • Born July 11, 1950 — Bruce McGill, 71. His first role was as Director Eugene Matuzak in Time Cop. He later got one-offs in Quantum Leap (twice), Babylon 5Voyager and Tales from the Crypt. He’s in the television remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth as Vernon Gage. If MacGyver counts as genre, he has the recurring role of Jack Dalton. 
  • Born July 11, 1956 — Amitav Ghosh, 65. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Really just go read it and we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. His newest work is about the medieval Bengali tale about the forest (Sundarbans) goddess, Bon Bibi.
  • Born July 11, 1958 — Alan Gutierrez, 63. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog magazine, Aboriginal Science FictionAsimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines. He’s been nominated for five Asimov’s Readers Awards and two Analog Awards as well. 
  • Born July 11, 1984 — Serinda Swan, 37. She first graces our corner of the multiverse in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief as Aphrodite. Later on she’s in Tron: Legacy as Siren #2. Currently she’s Medusa in The Inhumans. She’s got one-offs in Supernatural, Smallville and The Tomorrow People.

(9) PUT TO THE TEST. DUST’s new sci-fi short film release is “Intelligentia”.

Lisa receives a butler A.I. to Turing test, and over the course of the procedure, she discovers the A.I. is not what it seems and her entire world disrupted.

(10) FLIGHT TO THE EDGE OF SPACE. The 70-year-old British billionaire and crew members of Virgin Galactic launched the commercial space plane Unity from New Mexico, reached the edge of space and landed safely back at the spaceport on Sunday. The New York Times posted “Highlights From Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Flight”.

…The rocket plane, a type called SpaceShipTwo, is about the size of an executive jet. In addition to the two pilots, there can be up to four people in the cabin. The particular SpaceShipTwo that flew on Sunday is named V.S.S. Unity.

To get off the ground, Unity was carried by a larger plane to an altitude of about 50,000 feet. There, Unity was released, and the rocket plane’s motor ignited. The acceleration made people on board feel a force up to 3.5 times their normal weight on the way to an altitude of more than 50 miles.

At the top of the arc, those on board were able to see the blackness of space as well as the curve of Earth from the plane’s windows. They also got out of their seats and experienced about four minutes of apparent weightlessness. Fifty miles up, Earth’s downward gravitational pull is essentially just as strong as it is on the ground; rather, the passengers were falling at the same pace as the plane around them.

The two tail booms at the back of the space plane then rotated up to a “feathered” configuration that created more drag and stability, allowing the plane to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere more gently. This configuration SpaceShipTwo like a badminton shuttlecock, which always falls with the pointy side oriented down, than a plane.

Still, the forces felt by the passengers on the way down were greater than on the way up, reaching six times the force of gravity.

Branson gets all the attention – but who piloted the mission and were the other crew members?

The pilots are David Mackay and Michael Masucci….

In addition to Mr. Branson, three Virgin Galactic employees joined the flight to evaluate how the experience will be for future paying customers. They were Beth Moses, the chief astronaut instructor; Colin Bennett, lead operations engineer; and Sirisha Bandla, vice president of government affairs and research operations.

In 2018 The New Yorker profiled a predecessor in “Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man”, “The ace pilot risking his life to fulfill Richard Branson’s billion-dollar quest to make commercial space travel a reality.”

At 5 a.m. on April 5th, Mark Stucky drove to an airstrip in Mojave, California, and gazed at SpaceShipTwo, a sixty-foot-long craft that is owned by Virgin Galactic, a part of the Virgin Group. Painted white and bathed in floodlight, it resembled a sleek fighter plane, but its mission was to ferry thousands of tourists to and from space.

Stucky had piloted SpaceShipTwo on two dozen previous test flights, including three of the four times that it had fired its rocket booster, which was necessary to propel it into space. On October 31, 2014, he watched the fourth such flight from mission control; it crashed in the desert, killing his best friend. On this morning, Stucky would be piloting the fifth rocket-powered flight, on a new iteration of the spaceship. A successful test would restore the program’s lustre.

Stucky walked into Virgin Galactic’s large beige hangar. He is fifty-nine and has a loose-legged stroll, tousled salt-and-pepper hair, and sunken, suntanned cheeks. In other settings, he could pass for a retired beachcomber. He wears the smirk of someone who feels certain that he’s having more fun than you are…

(11) SKYSCRAPER CAT. CBS This Morning devoted a short segment to the 3-D cat billboard in Tokyo that was recently covered by the Scroll. Their report includes video callbacks to several previous 3-D billboards.

(12) SO BAD YOU CAN’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF IT. In “The Schlock-Horror Drive-In That Rose From the Grave”, the New York Times tells about a drive-in revival in Pennsylvania.  

It was about 2 a.m. on a Sunday when the gross-out horror-comedy “Class of Nuke ’Em High” started playing at the Mahoning Drive-In. This was the last screening at TromaDance, an annual showcase of low-budget horror and sex comedies produced by the Queens-based Troma movie studio. Earlier that evening, about 600 cars had piled into the drive-in in Lehighton, Pa., but by 2 a.m., only the die-hards remained. Kevin Schmidt, an extra in the film, was among them.

He had driven to the Mahoning from Summit, N.J., and hadn’t seen the movie projected on screen since it was first shown in Jersey City in December 1986. “This is the only time I can justify driving 100 miles to see a movie,” Mr. Schmidt said much earlier in the evening.

By the time the evening was over, it had been another success for the Mahoning, a 72-year-old drive-in theater that was left for dead just seven years ago….

…Movie screenings at the Mahoning Drive-In often feel like events. Films are shown in double and triple features, sandwiched between older (and often bizarre) movie trailers. You might take in “Escape From New York” and “Invasion U.S.A.,” which play after vintage church advertisements (“Worship at the church of your choice”) or an anti-cable-TV screed (“Don’t let pay TV be the monster in your living room”). It is, in the words of Mr. Schmidt, “a special place.”…

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Director Mel Stuart reminiscences about Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in this short from 2011 that Warner Bros. released two weeks ago.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/18 Have Space Suit — But No Visa; Can’t Travel

(1) DRAGON AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. Camestros Felapton found that the “Dragon Award Nominations Are Open Sort Of”  — the “sort of” meaning Camestros experienced the same thing that I did before I tried it out — the actual nominations page is updated for the 2019 awards, but the supporting pages (rules,etc.) are still loaded with last year’s information. They’ll inevitably fix that when they get around to it, I’m sure. No hurry.

(2) ANOTHER LOOK AT SFWA V. WOTF. Keffy R.M. Kehrli responded to Eric James Stone’s criticism of SFWA’s handling of the Writers of the Future Contest (linked the other day in Scroll item #1.) Kehrli’s thread begins here.

(3) A FEW WEE IMPROVEMENTS. In that alternate universe where Camestros Felapton is Doctor Who’s showrunner, here’s what he would have done differently — “Doctor Who: Changing Season 11”.

There are lots of good things to say about the 2018 season of Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker was great, it was often visually lovely, it took historical episodes seriously and to top it all Alan Cumming deftly eating the scenery.

In my list of least liked Doctor Who episode there is not a single one from the 2018 season but…

…the best episodes weren’t on the same level as the best episodes from previous seasons. What the season gained in consistency it lost in excellence.

I’m going to suggest some changes that I think would have given it a bit more oomph.

(4) SMELLIER ON THE INSIDE. TARDIS versus trashcan? Olav Rokne labeled his link, “The dumbest thing I have ever tweeted, And yet…I’m shockingly proud.” Thread starts here.

(5) SIXTIES SFF. The Library of America’s Fall 2019 offeringsinclude these volumes of genre interest:

American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s(two volumes)
Gary K. Wolfe, editor
Volume 1: Four Classic Novels1960–1966
Poul Anderson, TheHigh Crusade • Clifford D. Simak, Way Station • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon • Roger Zelazny, . . . And Call Me Conrad [This Immortal]
Library of America #321 / ISBN 978-159853-501-3
Volume 2: Four Classic Novels 1968–1969
R. A. Lafferty, PastMaster • Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise • Samuel R. Delany, Nova • Jack Vance, Emphyrio
Library of America #322 / ISBN 978-159853-502-0
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-635-5
September 2019

The tumultuous 1960s was a watershed decade forAmerican science fiction. As the nation raced to the moon, acknowledged masters from the genre’s “golden age” reached the height of their powers. As it confronted calls for civil rights and countercultural revolution, a “new wave”of brilliant young voices emerged, upending the genre’s “pulp” conventions with newfound literary sophistication—and female, queer, and non white authors broke into the ranks of SF writers, introducing provocative new protagonists and themes. In American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s, editor Gary K. Wolfe gathers eight wildly inventive novels in a deluxe, two-volume collector’s set: Daniel Keyes’s heartbreaking Flowers for Algernon and Poul Anderson’s madcap time-travel novel The High Crusade; Clifford D. Simak’s Hugo Award-winning Way Station; Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award–winning . . . And Call Me Conrad (published in bookform as My Immortal), restored to a version that most closely approximates Zelazny’s original text; Joanna Russ’s Picnic on Paradise, a pioneering work of feminist SF, and Samuel R. Delany’s proto-cyberpunk space opera Nova; R. A. Lafferty’s quirky, neglected, utterly original Past Master; and Jack Vance’s haunting Emphyrio. Wolfe’s introduction offers a new view of the genre’s best, and a discussion of his selections, that ought to provoke rethinking and debate among fans and critics. (Wolfe’s new collection is a successor to American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, the two-volume set he edited for us in 2012.)

(6) RICHARD LUPOFF INTERVIEW. This is the intro to the Richard A. Lupoff: Master of Xero! Interview at Alter Ego #156 – text starts on page 20.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 13, 1925 Dick Van Dyke, 93. Seriously you think I wouldn’t write him up? Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. in Mary Poppins followed shortly by being Caractacus Pott in the film adaptation in Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.(No it’s not the same character as he is in the book.)  He voices the lead character in the animated Tubby the Tuba film and plays D.A.Fletcher in Dick Tracy.  He narrates Walt: The Man Behind the Myth whose subject matter you can guess. Played Commissioner Gordon in Batman: New Times as well. Shows up in both of the Night at the Museum films which sort of interest me. And yes he has a role as Mr.Dawes Jr. in Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 89. 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 no one 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 VI: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I saw he’s in Twelve Monkeys but I think I’ve deliberately forgotten that film and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. 
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A.MacAvoy, 69. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1984.  Loved her Black Dragon series. Other series include the Damiano, Lens of the World and Albatross. If memory serves me right, I read The Grey Horse at a time when I was obsessively into Irish myth and liked it a lot for its storytelling. 
  • Born December 13, 1954Emma Bull, 64. 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 for the latter.  You can see it here. Oh, and the Faerie Queen is Emma herself.
  • She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cats 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 and you can read the Green Man review of the CD / DVD combo they put out here.
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 64. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, taking her character Alanna through the trials training as a knight, sold very well and was well received by readers.That Erie’s, like most of work, is set is in Tortall, world akin to European Middle Ages. What I’ve seen of it I like a lot. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. 

(9) PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS. Jonathan Cowie writes: “SF2 Concatenation is gearing up now (before the Seasonal festive distractions) for its next seasonal edition to be posted mid-January.But the science part of its content will include…” —

A fuller figure has oft (rightly/or wrongly) been associated with US citizens and even SF fans.  But it seems as if the rest of the world is catching up and, indeed, over-taking!

Research just published today in the BMJ suggests that a number of countries’ restaurant meals have more calories than their counterparts in the US…

Modelling indicated that, except in China, consuming current servings of a full service and a fast food meal daily would supply between 70% and 120% of the daily energy requirements for a sedentary woman, without additional meals, drinks, snacks, appetizers, or desserts.

CONCLUSION
Very high dietary energy content of both full service and fast food restaurant meals is a widespread phenomenon that is probably supporting global obesity. This arguably needs to be addressed.

Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge now a mathematical formula

Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1984 novel Icehenge depicts a long-lived future human society that forgets its recent past…  Now research published in Nature has revealed that in reallife events, concerns, music etc, decays from our cultural memory mathematically.

In addition to science, the forthcoming seasonal edition of SF2Concatenation will have SF news (relating to publishing, TV and film), forthcoming SF as well as fantasy book titles, and convention reports including this year’s Worldcon, plus another in a series of articles of scientist SF authors favourite scientists.

(10) STAN LEE CAMEO. [Item by Mike Kennedy. Vanity Fair: “Behind the Scenes of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Cameo”. Fair Warning: THE VANITY FAIR ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS, though none are (intentionally) included below. (Their spoiler warning appears immediately after the paragraphs quoted below.)

It won’t be his last, but it may be his best.

Though he died last month, Marvel Comics legend and Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee pre-recorded several cameos for upcoming films before he passed—including a touching, animated appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Loaded with a heavy significance that resonates independent of his death, this emotionally resonant appearance is nothing like the zippy, superficial live-action and animated appearances Lee made in the past. That’s because the Spider-Verse filmmakers were determined to honor Lee’s legacy by breaking open narrow definitions of what it means to be a hero—and because of some personal events in Lee’s life that made his Into the Spider-Verse cameo particularly weighty. (The cameo also happens to be wickedly funny, which is part of Lee’s legacy as well.) The filmmakers—including Into the Spider-Verse’s three directors—took Vanity Fair behind the scenes of Lee’s appearance, as well as the in memoriam title card that closes out the film.

(11) A SPACE FIRST. BBC says they made it: “Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully reaches space”.

The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to space and back.

The firm’s SpaceShip Two passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin.

It marked the plane’s fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm’s space programme.

Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

(12) BACK IN THE AREA CODE. It can be called a success once the data’s sent back — “Parker Solar Probe: Sun-skimming mission starts calling home”.

Just weeks after making the closest ever flyby of the Sun, Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe is sending back its data.

Included in the observations is this remarkable image of the energetic gas, or plasma, flowing out from the star.

The bright dot is actually far-distant Jupiter. The black dots are repeats that occur simply because of the way the picture is constructed.

Parker’s WISPR instrument acquired the vista just 27.2 million km from the surface of the Sun on 8 November.

(13) BOGUS BOT. Reminds me of the 19th-century chess-playing automaton. From the BBC: “Robot turns out to be man in suit”.

A robot on show at a Russian state-sponsored event has turned out to be a man dressed in a costume.

Robot Boris featured on Russian TV and was apparently able to walk, talk and dance.

But soon after its appearance journalists began to question the bot’s authenticity.

In a picture published afterwards on social media, the neck of a person was clearly visible

(14) HISTORY BELOW THE WATERLINE. “Lake Titicaca: Underwater museum brings hope to shores”.

…The 9,360-sq-m building will have two parts, one located on the shore where pieces salvaged from the lake will be exhibited and another semi-submerged part which will allow visitors to see some of the underwater structures, dubbed “hidden city”, through glass walls.

(15) SEASONS’ EATINGS. Visitors to the UK will have noticed their strangely-flavored potato chips, but the strangeness is spreading to pizza, croissants, and ham: “Marmite sprouts? Why retailers are pushing the boundaries with festive food”.

Many readers will find the thought of Christmas tree-flavoured crisps revolting, but Iceland is betting its customers will feel the opposite this festive season.

The crisps are part of the supermarket chain’s festive food range, and have a distinct pine-like taste thanks to their pine salt seasoning, which is made with pine tree oil.

It is part of a wider trend for novel, sometimes bizarre fusion foods that has swept the UK over the last few years as retailers vie for our attention and our cash.

(16) WELL, SHEET. “Nasa’s IceSat space laser makes height maps of Earth” – BBC has the story.

One of the most powerful Earth observation tools ever put in orbit is now gathering data about the planet.

IceSat-2 was launched just under three months ago to measure the shape of the ice sheets to a precision of 2cm.

But the Nasa spacecraft’s laser instrument is also now returning a whole raft of other information.

It is mapping the height of the land, of rivers, lakes, forests; and in a remarkable demonstration of capability – even the depth of the seafloor.

“We can see down to 30m in really clear waters,” said Lori Magruder, the science team leader on the IceSat mission. “We saw one IceSat track just recently that covers 300km in the Caribbean and you see the ocean floor the entire way,” the University of Texas researcher told BBC News.

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