Pixel Scroll 10/6/20 Don’t Clickety, Don’t Call Me, Let Me Sit For A While, I’m Reading All The Books In My Tsundoku Pile

(1) POWERFUL CANON. Amy Tenebrink shares the impact that stories by a leading sff author had on her: “Personal Canons: Nnedi Okorafor”.

…Onyesonwu is one of those angry, defiant, adventurous heroines of my heart. But Who Fears Death isn’t just a story of a warrior girl; it’s the story of all warrior girls. Who Fears Death is, itself, angry, defiant, and adventurous. It rips apart the fabric of our quotidian world and shows us, more clearly for all its speculation, what is wrong with us but what could be right with us. This is speculative fiction at its best: incisive, unflinching, uncompromising. Untethered from what’s “real” in a way that can show us what is, in fact, actually real—and what could be real if only we reached for the stars.

In Who Fears Death, Nnedi put a heroine of my heart into a book of my heart. Who Fears Death showed me, in a moment, what speculative literature can be: not just a series of quest-wanderings, of dragon-slayings, of evil mage-vanquishings, but an inspirational, aspirational blueprint for me and my place in the world. Who Fears Death is itself a sword, a magic wand, a spell that can change everything.

(2) ALPHA OF THE OMEGA. The award administrators — Sci-Fest L.A. and Light Bringer Project — have announced that the Tomorrow Prize and The Roswell Award will now reside under an umbrella competition name, the Omega Sci-Fi Awards. Here’s the new logo.

(3) MEMBERS OF THE JURY. James Davis Nicoll introduces the Young People Read Old SFF panel to “The Pleiades” by Otis Kidwell Burger.

The Pleiades is impressive enough readers would no doubt run out to acquire her other works. Unfortunately, Rediscovery’s biographical entry on her reveals that her SF career was quite short1. At least, I assume younger readers would react as positively as I did. How did my Young People actually feel?

(4) QUESTIONS ABOUT THE POLICY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Non-binary writer Akwaeke Emezi, whose works are at least borderline SFF, has declared that they will no longer submit their novels to Women’s Prize for Fiction (where they were a finalist last year), after being asked to provide proof of their legal gender: “Akwaeke Emezi shuns Women’s prize over request for details of sex as defined ‘by law'” in The Guardian.

Emezi said that when Faber got in touch with the Women’s prize about submitting The Death of Vivek Oji, they were informed: “The information we would require from you regards Akwaeke Emezi’s sex as defined by law.”

“Forget about me – I don’t want this prize – but anyone who uses this kind of language does not fuck with trans women either, so when they say it’s for women, they mean cis women,” wrote Emezi. “And yes, this does mean that them longlisting [Freshwater] was transphobic. It’s fine for me not to be eligible because I’m not a woman! But you not about to be out here on some ‘sex as defined by law’ like that’s not a weapon used against trans women.”

The Women’s prize was established in response to the Booker failing to shortlist a single female writer in 1991. Following Emezi’s nomination in 2019, the organisers of the £30,000 award said it was working on a policy “around gender fluid, transgender and transgender non-binary writers”.

Responding to Emezi’s comments, the prize organisers said that their terms and conditions for entry equated the word “woman” with “a cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex”.

(5) O’DELL KICKSTARTER. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Here is a Kickstarter of interest: Claire O’Dell is looking for funding to republish her River of Souls trilogy, which came out in 2010 from Tor, when she was still writing as Beth Bernobich: “The River of Souls Trilogy, Second Edition” With 26 days left, $566 of the $2,500 goal has been raised.

I’m Claire O’Dell, author of the Lammy Award-winning Janet Watson Chronicles, the River of Souls trilogy, and the Mage and Empire books.

Back in 2007, writing as Beth Bernobich, I landed my very first book deal—a three-book contract with Tor Books for my novel Passion Play and two sequels, aka, the River of Souls trilogy.  Passion Play came out in October 2010, and to my absolute delight it won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Epic Fantasy. Queen’s Hunt and Allegiance followed in 2012 and 2013, with great reviews, and a prequel novel, A Jewel Bright Sea, appeared last year from Kensington Books.

Now that I have the rights back to the trilogy, I’d like to re-release them with new covers that better match the story and the characters. (Not to mention fixing a few continuity errors that crept in along the way.) Pledges from this campaign will pay for custom cover art and rewards.

(6) FOUNDATION. At WIRED, “The Geeks Guide to the Galaxy” interviews several creators to support the claim that “‘Foundation’ Has One of the Best Sci-Fi Concepts Ever”.

John Kessel on psychohistory:

“I studied physics as an undergrad, and basically what [Asimov] is doing is taking classical thermodynamics and applying it to human behavior. In thermodynamics, you can’t predict what one atom is going to do, but if you have several billion atoms in a contained box, you can predict—very precisely—if you raise the temperature, exactly what the effect on pressure is going to be, things like that. He’s basically saying if you have enough human beings—you have 100 million worlds, all inhabited by human beings—that psychohistory can predict the mass behavior of human beings, without being able to predict any individual human being’s behavior. That’s a cool idea.”

(7) WHITE SCREEN OF DEATH? [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian has run several articles and opinion pieces about how the postponement of Dune and that James Bond movie will affect British cinemas — and may kill them off altogether. A lot of anger, which is partly understandable, because movie theatres are open again at reduced capacity in the UK and much of the rest of Europe, but have nothing to show, because all of the big Hollywood movies are being held back. Here are four views of the situation.

He’s best known for sweeping in at the last minute to save the day – but James Bond’s latest act could be the death knell for many British cinemas.

The announcement that the release of No Time to Die, the 25th film featuring the secret agent, would be delayed again has left cinemas facing financial obliteration because of the absence of other forthcoming blockbuster films.

Our movie industry was just about keeping its morale steady. It was enforcing perfectly workable rules on sanitising and physical distancing and not subject to those closures taking theatre and live entertainment to the cliff edge. The pilot light of big-screen cinema culture was flickering. But it was still alight.

But this is a serious blow. If it is really true that Cineworld will close 128 cinemas, putting 5,500 jobs at risk (and it is not simply a scare-story negotiating ploy leaked to the press alongside the company’s official letter to the culture secretary Oliver Dowden demanding action) then this is potentially devastating. 

…For an understanding of how we got here, look at the fates of two films that did get released during the pandemic. Following a tense summer in which Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and Disney’s live-action Mulan remake competed against the coronavirus in a game of grandmother’s footsteps, both films were finally released using opposing strategies.

“Warner Bros did a brave thing bringing out Tenet [in cinemas] at that very fraught time,” says Naman Ramachandran, international correspondent at Variety magazine. “It sent a positive message to the exhibition sector as a whole.” Disney, on the other hand, launched Mulan on its streaming service Disney+, where it came with a premium price tag (£19.99/$29.99) in addition to subscription fees. Cinemas screened it only in territories where Disney+ is not available. “My opinion is that Disney should’ve released Mulan in cinemas also,” says Ramachandran. “There was a demand for it and it would’ve kept the theatrical chains happy.” As it stands, no one is: not the exhibitors who lost out on an event movie, nor Disney, who won’t be thrilled if the mediocre streaming audience estimates are correct.

Mulan’s defection and Tenet’s under-performance in the US (it still hasn’t opened in the lucrative New York and Los Angeles markets, where cinemas remain closed) have had a devastating effect on other big releases.

…After six weeks of global release, Tenet has grossed more than £235m worldwide – a number that means different things to different analysts. For a latter-day Nolan film, it’s borderline disastrous: far short of the £405m grossed by his last film, Dunkirk, which itself was a modest performer compared to the £830m racked up by The Dark Knight Rises. With a production budget around £154m, it’s fair to say these are not the receipts of Nolan’s or Warner Bros executives’ dreams. Others would argue that they’re not half bad for a film released in the midst of a global pandemic in which the filmgoing public has been actively discouraged from communal indoor activity – a metric for which there is no precedent to set the bar. Globally, it’s the third-highest grosser of the year, behind Chinese epic The Eight Hundred and January’s Bad Boys for Life, which already feels like a relic from another era.

All in all, things could be worse for Tenet – except for the fact that, by just about anyone’s yardstick, things haven’t been nearly good enough….

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty five years ago this year at Intersection, the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part series finale, “All Good Things…“.  (It beat out The MaskInterview with the VampireStargate and Star Trek: Generations.) It was directed by Winrich Kolbe from a script written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga. The title is derived from the expression “All good things must come to an end”, a phrase used by Q during the story itself. It generally considered one of the series’ best episodes with the card scene singled out as one of the series’s best. 

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

10/6 Mad Hatter Day. The original picture of the Mad Hatter by John Tenniel in Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll depicts him wearing a hat, bearing the note “In This Style 10/6”. Although we know this is really an order from the time the picture was drawn to mean a hat in that style cost 10 shillings and sixpence, we take this as inspiration to act in the style of the Mad Hatter on 10/6 (In the UK this would point to the tenth of June, but as the day was founded in America it is the 6th of October).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 6, 1895 – Caroline Gordon.  Guggenheim Fellowship.  O. Henry Award.  Honorary D.Litt. degrees from Bethany College (West Virginia), St. Mary’s College (Indiana).  The Glory of Hera for us, her last novel; ten others; short-story collections; non-fiction.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1928 – Frank Dietz.  Co-founder of the Lunarians; chaired the first 15 Lunacons; Fan Guest of Honor at Lunacon 50.  Fanzine Luna (and Luna’).  Recorded many SF cons on wire and tape, unfortunately most now seems lost.  File 770 appreciation by Andrew Porter here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1942 – Arthur Hlavaty, 78.  A dozen times Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist.  No doubt inspired by the C.M. Kornbluth story “MS. Found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie” – maybe the only circumstance in which no doubt could be applied to him – he called a fanzine The Diagonal Relationship, later The Dillinger Relic, then Derogatory Reference; not seen since 2002, but in Fanzineland that’s neither complete nor conclusive: No. 33 of his Nice Distinctions just appeared after three years.  Fan Guest of Honor at Empricon 3, MidSouthCon 2, Westercon 42, Minicon 37; Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  If Sarcasm is in anger, satire is with love, he is as so often with him both.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1942 Britt Ekland, 78. She starred in The Wicker Man* as Willow MacGregor, and appeared as a Bond girl, Goodnight in The Man with the Golden Gun. She was also Queen Nyleptha in King Solomon’s Treasure based off the H. Rider Haggard novels. *There is only one Wicker Man film as far as I’m concerned. (CE)
  • Born October 6, 1946 John C. Tibbetts, 74. Film critic, historian, author. He’s written such articles as “The Illustrating Man: The Screenplays of Ray Bradbury” and “Time on His Hands: The Fantasy Fiction of Jack Finney”. One of his two books is The Gothic Imagination: Conversations on Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction in the Media, the other being The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1950 David Brin, 70. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel and the Uplift series of which The Uplift War won the Best Novel Hugo at Nolacon II and is most excellent. I’ll admit that the book he could-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me for its title. So who’s read his newest novel, The Ancient Ones? (CE)
  • Born October 6, 1953 – Roseanne Hawke, Ph.D., 67.  Wolfchild, 11th Century story set in the lost land of Lyonesse (RD was awarded Bard of Cornwall in 2006).  Daughter of Nomads, Mughal empire.  Chandani and the Ghost of the Forest, Himalayan mountains.  Memoir, Riding the Wind.  “I started a romantic novel when I was 17 but I burnt it….  working for ten years in the Middle East and Pakistan … I started writing seriously.”  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1955 Donna White, 65. Academic who has written several works worth your knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. LeGuin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. She’s also the author of the dense but worth reading A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1955 Ellen Kushner, 65. If you’ve not read it, do so now as her sprawling Riverside seriesis amazing. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read all of it. And during the the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful. As it’s Autumn and this being when I read it, I’d be remiss not to recommend her Thomas the Rhymer novel which won both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award. (CE) 
  • Born October 6, 1962 – John Knoll, 58.  Chief Creative Officer at Industrial Light & Magic.  Creating the Worlds of “Star Wars”; covers for The Art of “Star Trek” (with M. Uesugi), Inside “Star Trek”.  Scientific & Engineering Award given him and his brother Thomas for creating Adobe Photoshop.  Cameo appearance as a pilot in The Phantom Menace.  More in his Wikipedia entry.  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1978 – Anna Elliott, 42.  Three Tristan & Isolde books; four about Jane Austen characters, two about Sherlock Holmes, a few more.  Among her favorites by other authors, Life With Father, Wodehouse’s books about Bertie Wooster, Sayers’ books about Lord Peter Wimsey.  “What do you like to do when you’re not writing?”  “Mostly think about writing.”  [JH]
  • Born October 6, 1986 Olivia Jo Thirlby, 34. She is best known for her roles as Natalie in Russian SF film The Darkest Hour and as Judge Cassandra Anderson in the excellent Dredd. And she was Holly in the supernatural thriller Above the Shadows. (CE)  

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HEAVY GOING. Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson finds it easy to curb his enthusiasm: The Haunting of Bly Manor Is an Erratic, Melodramatic Follow-Up”.

A great actor whose name I am not supposed to mention here narrates much of the new Netflix series The Haunting of Bly Manor (out October 9). In 2007, her character tells a wedding party a chilling, sad story of 1987 (and years previous) England, when a spooky estate’s resident ghosts tangled fitfully with living people, all caught in the grip of personal loss. This American actor tries her noble best to maneuver a Northern English accent, though it gets a bit wobbly as her narration scrapes the ceiling of profundity but never quite breaks through. 

The voiceover, with its heavy writing and uneven if committed delivery, is pretty neatly representative of the whole of Bly Manor, which aims for something scary and sweeping but is too often hampered by messy adornment. Bly Manor is the second series in the Haunting franchise that began with 2018’s Hill House, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel led by horror auteur Mike Flanagan.

(13) SCRUBTOBER IS OVER. “After series of scrubs, SpaceX launches Starlink mission from Kennedy Space Center” reports Florida Today.

After more than a month of scrubs and delays, SpaceX broke the Space Coast’s launch drought early Tuesday when a Falcon 9 rocket boosted 60 Starlink internet satellites from Kennedy Space Center.

The 7:29 a.m. liftoff from pad 39A signaled the end of what was commonly referred to as “Scrubtober,” a long series of mission delays that actually began in September due to hardware issues and inclement weather. Tuesday’s Starlink mission, for example, had been scrubbed four times…

(14) FINDING THE GEMS. The Virtual Memories Show devotes Episode 399 to editor “Sheila Williams”.

With her new fantastic short story anthology, Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends (MIT Press), editor Sheila Williams brings together a panoply of voices to explore how technology and scientific advances have on the deepest human relationships. We talk about Sheila’s nearly 40 years editing science fiction stories at Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, how she manages to balance new and diverse voices with a foundation of SF’s history, how she copes with receiving ~800 stories a month (while only being able to buy 5-6), and technology’s greater role in day-to-day life and what that means for writers’ and readers’ imagination and expectations. We also get into her author freakouts (like going blank when she met Samuel R. Delany many years ago), how her philosophy background helps her as an editor, missing cons and festivals, the challenge of editing an author in translation (in this case Xia Jia), and more. Give it a listen! And go read Entanglements!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/7/20 A Elbereth Gilthoniel, Silivren Penna Pixel Scroll

(1) LEAPIN’ STARSHIPS! Ars Technica is there when “SpaceX hops a full-scale Starship prototype for the second time”.

Less than one month ago, SpaceX blasted a full-scale prototype of its Starship vehicle to an altitude of 150 meters above South Texas before returning it safely to the ground. On Thursday, the company did it again with the latest version of the vehicle, dubbed Serial Number 6, or SN6.

As outdoor temperatures soared into the mid-90s Fahrenheit shortly after noon, the prototype was loaded with liquid methane and liquid oxygen before igniting its single Raptor engine. This engine, situated off-center, powered the vehicle at a slight angle into the sky, where it moved several dozen meters laterally before descending and coming to rest near the launch stand.

These test flights represent significant technical achievements, as they involved testing out the large, complex plumbing systems for Starship’s fuel tanks and rocket engine as well as pushing the thrust vector control system of the Raptor engine in flight….

(2) DRAGON ALONG. Doris V. Sutherland analyzed the Dragon Awards results for Women Write About Comics: “2020 Dragon Award Winners: Thousands Vote Despite Right-Wing Backlash”.

…Brian Niemeier, who won a 2016 Dragon Award for his self-published novel Souldancer, blamed the perceived flaws of the 2020 Dragon ballot on the ongoing pandemic. According to Niemeier’s assessment, the lack of a physical convention meant that “normal people tuned out” while a “Death Cult” that also holds sway over the Hugo Awards “took advantage of the drastically reduced voter base to pack the ballot”. Niemeier claims that this movement is literally in league with Satan: “the Death Cult witches lie constantly in the manner of their father below”.

Best Horror Novel winner Ursula Vernon expressed amusement at these accusations: “I did not find out I was even on the nomination list until my husband said ‘Hey, you’re up for a Dragon!’ so whoever is in charge of Death Cult Communications is falling down on the job!”

Come the day of the awards, Niemeier’s theory regarding voting numbers turned out to be wrong. While the official number of “more than 8,000 ballots” marks a smaller turnout than the 10,000-11,000 ballots cast in the previous two years, it is the same number as was given by the award administrators for 2017, and twice the number provided for 2016.

In reality, of course, there is no need to attribute the shift in the Dragon Awards to either COVID-19 or the machinations of devil-worshippers. As far back as 2017, when Brian Niemeier lost to James S. A. Corey and Declan Finn lost to Victor LaValle, it was clear that the Dragons were outgrowing the grip of any politicised clique. Rather than the year of the pandemic, the real odd-one-out year of the Dragon Awards’ history is clearly their debut in 2016 — the year in which they had their lowest turnout.

(3) DISMANTLING MULAN. At A Naga of the Nusantara, a self-identified Malaysian bookworm declares “Disney Brought Dishonour To Us All: A Film Review of Disney’s Live Action Mulan” .

…Okay, usually I would do a bit of research, reading, and maybe even talk to some friends before I review something but fuck it, I am only going to put in about the same amount of effort that had apparently been invested into this movie (i.e. minimal). I am Chinese and I am also a fan of Disney films, and I am very easy to please. Do you know how easy it is to please me? I’ll tell you. I actually don’t hate most of Disney’s naked money-grabbing live action remakes that they’ve been pushing out in recent years. That’s the truth. I’ll pay money just to watch diluted versions of their classical animated canon because I am that kind of patsy who is in his 30’s and am utterly, shamelessly susceptible to nostalgia. And I would venture to say that Disney would have done a much better job by me if they had simply stuck to the same playbook they used for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Remake it shot by shot. Play us the same catchy songs. That way at least, they would just be revisiting the original gauche liberties they took with Chinese culture back in 1998. But nooo, they have elected instead to abandon their old mistakes in order to commit new hate crimes against the Chinese people. How is it that there are way more Chinese people involved in this new version of Mulan and we still end up with a less culturally-reverent movie?

(4) SUBMISSIONS WANTED. [Item by Chuck Serface.] The next issue of The Drink Tank will be “Istanbul: Queen of Cities,” brought to you by Christopher J. Garcia, Alissa McKersie, Chuck Serface, and special guest-editor, Douglas Berry. We’re looking for submissions – history, fiction, artwork, photography, personal reminiscences, reviews, or poetry – that focus on aspects of this city and its surrounding areas, Gallipoli and the Princes’ Islands, for example.  Please send your work to drinktankeditorial@gmail.com by October 1, 2020. We’ll have it out shortly thereafter.

(5) SPIKE MCPHEE CATALOG #4. (Not to be confused with Archie.) Doug Ellis has posted another catalog of art and other items from the Spike McPhee estate. You can download it from the link below:

From 1977 to 1989, the Science Fantasy Bookstore operated in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Deb and I hung out there when we were in law school and became friends with the owner, Spike MacPhee. Spike was a member of NESFA and also founded the small press, Paratime Press, which published several checklists in the 1970’s. He was also GoH at the first Arisia convention in 1990.

Besides reading SF, Spike was a devoted science art collector. From the late 1960’s into the 1990’s, Spike attended several SF conventions – among them Boskone, Lunacon, Nycon III, Noreascon, Discon, Torcon and Disclave – where he would often buy art at the art show auction. He also became friends with many SF artists of the 1970’s and bought art directly from them as well. Spike remained a passionate fan until he passed away on November 13, 2019.

As I mentioned in my emails for previous catalogs, we’re now handling the sale of original art, books and other material for Spike’s estate. The fourth catalog is now available, and can be downloaded until September 13 as a 21 MB pdf file here.

If you’d like to download actual jpgs of the images, those can be downloaded in a zip file until September 13 directly here.

(6) DUCK! Dragon Con TV solved a problem and saved an annual tradition by making a semi-live version of a famous Warner Bros. cartoon: Duck Dodgers In The 24th And A Half Century (Sort Of).

What happens when your socially distanced sci-fi & fantasy convention wants to continue the tradition of playing DUCK DODGERS every year at The Masquerade but you don’t want to get shut down by copyright bots? Simple… you make your own version at home.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Johnny Weissmuller was one of Clayton Moore’s swimming instructors when he took lessons as a teenager at the Illinois Athletic Club.  Imagine Tarzan teaching the Lone Ranger to swim.

Source: Los Angeles Times

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1960 — Sixty years ago, Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place was first published in hardcover by Viking Press which simply says “First published in 1960” on the copyright page. (ISFDB doesn’t list an exact date either. However, it was mentioned twice in the New York Times in May 1960.) Clute at the Encyclopaedia of Fantasy calls it “a Supernatural Fiction in chamber-opera form“.  Published before he turned twenty one, it’s been in print since along with The Last Unicorn. It is a very well written novel for a first time author. Though it won no Awards itself, it certainly contributed towards his World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement and Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master awards. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 7, 1890 – Manuel Komroff.  Playwright, screenwriter, novelist, editor, translator.  I, the Tiger from the viewpoint of a caged tiger, a few shorter stories, for us; more outside our field, including an ed’n of Marco Polo adding a chapter to the Marsden ed’n (1818) and revising the Yule ed’n (1871).  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1900 – Taylor Caldwell.  Half a dozen novels for us; many others including historical fiction e.g. Dear and Glorious Physician (Luke), The Earth is the Lord’s (Genghis Khan), Glory and the Lightning (Aspasia, mistress of Pericles).  Dialogues with the Devil is between Lucifer and the Archangel Michael.  This Side of Innocence set in Gilded Age upstate NY the best-seller of 1946.  Her books sold 30 million copies.  Outspoken conservative.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1921 Donald William Heiney. Writer under the pseudonym of MacDonald Harris which he used for all of his fiction of one of the better modern set novels using the Minotaur myth, Bull Fever. His time travel novel, Screenplay, where the protagonist ends up in a film noir 1920s Hollywood is also well crafted. Most of his work is available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born September 7, 1924 – Gerry de la Ree.  Formed the Solaroid Club (New Jersey; included Manly Wade Wellman), 1939.  Collector, small-press publisher, dealer; sports journalist outside our field.  Seven books on Virgil Finlay; also Hannes Bok, Stephen Fabian, Clark Ashton Smith, Stanley Weinbaum; The Art of the Fantastic from his own collection.  First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1994 (i.e. posthumously).  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1937 John Phillip Law. He shows up as the blind angel Pygar in Barbarella, and he’s the lead in Ray Harryhausen’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. He’s Flight Commander Elijah Kalgan on South African produced generation ship Space Mutiny, and he was one of four actors who over the years played Harty Holt in Tarzan films, his being in Tarzan, the Ape Man. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1944 – Cas Skelton, 76.  She and husband Paul (he sometimes “Skel”) long active fans, particularly in fanzines; even published The Zine That Has No Name, years before Marty Cantor’s No Award.  Before that, Inferno became Small Friendly Dog.  Such, such were the joys –  [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1955 Mira Furlan, 65. She’s best known for her role as the Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the entire run of Babylon 5, and also as Danielle Rousseau on Lost, a series I did not watch. She’s reunited with Bill Mumy and Bruce Boxleitner at least briefly in a series called Space Command.(CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1960 Susan Palwick, 60. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Neighbor’s Wife”,  the Crawford Award for best first novel with Her Flying in Place, and the Alex Award would be awarded for her second novel, The Necessary Beggar. Impressive as she’s not at all prolific. All Worlds are Real, her latest collection, was nominated for the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. (CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1960 – Michelle Paver, 60.  A score of novels; Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series set in Stone Age Europe sold a million copies, its Ghost Hunter winning The Guardian’s Children’s Fiction prize; Gods and Warriors series in the Bronze Age.  Patron of the United Kingdom Wolf Conservation Trust.  Met ice bears at Churchill, Manitoba. [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1973 Alex Kurtzman, 47. Ok, a number of sites claims he single handed lay destroyed Trek as the fanboys knew it. So why their hatred for him? Mind you I’m more interested that he and Roberto Orci created the superb Fringe series, and that alone redeems him for me. (CE)
  • Born September 7, 1974 Noah Huntley, 46. He has appeared in films such as 28 Days LaterThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (excellent film), Snow White and the Huntsman (great film), Event Horizon (surely you’ve something else to do) and Dracula Untold (well, not so great). He’s Gawain in The Mists of Avalon series which I refuse to watch, and shows up as Donovan Osborn in the CW series Pandora which, I’m not kidding, got a Rotten Tomatoes zero percent approval rating. Ouch. (CE) 
  • Born September 7, 1977 – Nalini Singh, 43.  A dozen Guild Hunter novels, a few shorter stories; a score of novels, a dozen shorter stories, about Psy-Changelings; a dozen more novels; thirty short stories on her Website.  Two Vogels.  A dozen NY Times Best Sellers.  [JH]
  • Born September 7, 1998 – Ghughle, possibly timeless.  The Ghreat Revelation of this so far little known fannish ghod came to Steven H Silver (no punctuation after the H) on September 22, 2001; see Argentus 2.  The birthday of Ghughle is celebrated, or had better be, on September 7th.  This image was vouchsafed to Stu Shiffman, and we all know what happened to him. [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full catches up with a UFO.
  • Speed Bump sees things from the Lilliputian point of view.
  • What Heathcliff learned from Star Trek. (Besides never to wear a red shirt.)

(11) “CHADWICK BOSEMAN IS AN ANCESTOR NOW.” Evan Narcisse remembers “Chadwick Boseman Was Ready For History Every Time” in a profile at GQ.

…A few months after that meeting, Marvel Comics approached me about writing a comic book series called Rise of the Black Panther. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to re-imagine T’Challa’s earliest days as a king. The only problem was that I was scared as hell. Could I actually step into a legacy that I’d loved from afar, before a major motion picture starring the same character came out? Could I follow in the footsteps of creators whose work made me feel seen and helped spark my dreams of writing? I’d been writing about comics for almost half my life, but I’d never actually written them before. History was getting all up in my face and asking me what I was going to do. To come up with an answer, I thought back to my interview with Boseman. He was an actor who, as far as I could tell, hadn’t read any Black Panther comics before getting slipped one on the set of Gods of Egypt. Yet he took on the risk of portraying T’Challa. What sorry excuse could I, a lifelong comics nerd, muster for not doing the same?

Because when history came for Chadwick Boseman—as it did on multiple occasions—he was ready. Every time. That’s why his passing hits me so hard. Look at his life story and you see a man who knew the importance of meeting the moment. When he got his first big TV job on a soap opera, it was a character who was getting caught up in gang life. He asked the show’s creators questions meant to help round out the role and steer it away from stereotypes. For his trouble, he got fired the next day….

(12) SURVIVOR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Yondu Udonta—actor Michael Rooker—dishes (via Entertainment Weekly) on his recent battle with COVID-19.

Guardians of the Galaxy star Michael Rooker has been fighting a real-life battle here on Earth.

In a Facebook post on Friday, the actor told fans that he’s beaten COVID-19 after an “epic battle” with the illness.

“If y’all aint figured it out by now why I’ve been isolating in this crazy awesome Airstream of mine, let me help y’all out by saying I’ve been fighting off COVID-19,” Rooker wrote. “I have to let y’all know it has been quite a battle. And as in any war, ALL is fair. And IN the middle of this epic battle I’ve come to the conclusion that there aint a whole heck of a lot one can do externally, to fight off COVID-19 once it has gotten into your body.”

(13) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. SYFY Wire signal boosts speculation that “Half Of Earth Could End Up Being Taken Over By A Digital Information Overload As Soon As 2245”.

…It could happen, if you ask physicist Melvin Vopson. An astonishing half of Earth’s mass could take the form of digital data by 2245. He believes that we process so much digital information that if we keep up so much oversaturation, we will redistribute the physical atoms that make up this planet and everything on it into digital bits and computer code until we end up living in a sort of computerized simulation. You could argue that we already live in a simulation, but the unnerving thing about Vopson’s research is that it is an actual projection as opposed to something that could happen but will continue to exist in the realm of science fiction until it actually does.

(14) THE “THERE’S TOO MUCH POLITICS ON FILE 770” ITEM OF THE DAY.

(15) ALTERNATE LITERATURE. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] If you recall the still from Seth Meyer’s show with the altered Thorn Birds cover–Thorn of the Rings, I believe it was–then you’ll be interested in the lower right hand corner of this video where I’ve cued it up. The bottom book is, sadly, not SF, but the rest of the stack is: https://youtu.be/gqV_fxqUI_I?t=143

(16) THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY. ScreenRant rounds up “12 Hilariously-Titled Ripoffs of Better Movies”. Tagline: “If you’re sick of watching well-produced Hollywood films with good acting and good effects, take a look of these so-called ‘mockbusters.’”

8. What’s Up? Balloon To The Rescue

If you thought mockbusters could only rip off action films, think again. This time, Pixar was the target with the amazingingly awful What’s Up? Balloon to the Rescue. Because “What’s Up” wouldn’t have been an obvious enough ripoff of Pixar’s Up, so they had to throw the word balloon in there just to make sure everyone knew what was, um, up.

Featuring what is absolutely the worst/most nightmare-inducing animation you’ll ever see, it’s actually fascinating that What’s Up even exists considering the amount of time and effort that it must have taken to make a movie this bad. Not only is the film insultingly bland and near-impossible to watch, but it’s also insanely racist in a way that only a movie that looks like a ’90s screensaver could be. If it isn’t yet clear, everything about this film is fascinating, and if you want to cringe your way through a night with some friends, you literally couldn’t make a worse choice than What’s Up.

(17) FANDOM SURVIVES, TOO. SF2 Concatenation has posted “How Eastercon and Worldcon fandom”. Tagline: “In 2019 the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolved. By early 2020 it had spread from Asia to the rest of the World. In March 2020 much of Europe and N. America went into lockdown. Yet SF fan activity continued.  Caroline Mullan reveals how.”

… Many fans around the world had seen the virus coming and started modifying their public behaviour before lockdowns started to take hold.  One of the first fruits of this was Concellation 2020, which sprang up on Facebook on 13th March, founded by Christopher Ambler and Craig Glassner as a forum for letting off steam as fans started to stay at home.  Within 24 hours the group had over a thousand members, and at time of writing it has over 30,000 from all over the world, making jokes, exchanging information, displaying art, cosplay and merchandise, raising funds for charity, and discussing all things fannish.  This was an early example of the many new online groups and forums that have been springing up to allow fans to socialise, exhibit and share their creativity and thoughts from lockdown.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Disney’s Live-Action Mulan Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the Mulan remake “took the animated movie and removed the fun stuff” but added characters who wore so much makeup “they’re basically violent theatre majors.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/5/20 Please Pixel Your Scroll In The Form Of A Question

(1) KEEPING THE PLUS IN DISNEY+. Disney+ will premiere Mulan on its platform – at an extra charge to subscribers reports Variety.

In another major blow to movie theaters, Disney announced Mulan will forgo its planned theatrical release.  Instead, the live-action remake is premiering on Disney Plus on Sept. 4 for a premium rental price.

The company believes that the release of the action epic will help drive subscribers while serving as a valuable test case to determine how much of their hard-earned cash customers are willing to part with in order to watch a movie that was originally intended to debut exclusively in cinemas.

Unlike the rest of the content available on Disney Plus, “Mulan” won’t be available directly to subscribers. Consumers in the U.S. and other territories will have to pay $29.99 to rent the movie on top of the streaming service’s monthly subscription fee of $6.99. In markets where Disney Plus isn’t available, “Mulan” will play in cinemas.

(2) SEE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will hold the Aurora Awards ceremony online this year on Saturday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern via the When Words Collide YouTube channel. The livestream will be open to everyone.

(3) LEADER OF THE PACK. HBO Max dropped a trailer for Raised by Wolves. Arrives September 3.

Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.

(4) BEUKES Q&A. NPR’s Petra Myers interviews author: “In ‘Afterland,’ A World (Mostly) Without Men: Questions For Lauren Beukes”.

Lauren Beukes’ new Afterland takes place in a world that exists not long after our own — a very near future in which a terrible virus has wiped out almost all the men in the world, leaving a scant few million, mostly held in government research facilities.

As the book opens, we meet Cole, who’s on the run after breaking her preteen son out of one of those facilities with the help of her sister, Billie (who has her own motives). Their journey will take them across a drastically different — but still recognizable — country, bouncing from utopian communes to religious sects to Miami sex clubs.

“I wanted to interrogate the preconceptions that a world of women would be a kinder or gentler place,” Beukes tells me over email, “especially if it was only a couple of years out from our current reality and the existing power structures, inequality and social ills. Because of course, women are full human beings and just as capable of being power hungry, selfish, violent, corrupt as much as we are of being kind, compassionate and nurturing as men are of all those things too….”

Why do you think the idea of wiping out all the men is so compelling? This isn’t the first no-men post-apocalyptic story I’ve read, but I don’t think I’ve seen any where women get wiped out.

I’ll be the first to cop to a world without men hardly being an original idea, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 somewhat-prim women’s utopia, Herland, on up through Joanna Russ’ The Female Man in 1975 and, more recently, the hugely popular comics series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, which gets a subtle nod in Afterland.

It’s an appealing idea because it allows us to explore how women could be without the centuries of oppression and misogyny (including the internalized kind), without the constant threat of violence and rape. It’s the joy of imagining a world where we could be safe walking at night (without having to be a man-killing vampire, as in the wonderful Iranian film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.)

The reverse has been explored in a much more limited away, including in a recent movie about a woman-killing plague with a father and his sole surviving daughter, and in Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties, which puts all the women in the world into a coma.

I don’t think it’s as popular a conceit, because of the power structures. We live under patriarchy. And the horrific reality is that women are “wiped out” every day, usually by intimate partner violence. In South Africa, we have a devastatingly high rate of gender-based violence, including against gay and trans men and women. According to my friend Dr. Nechama Brodie, who wrote the recent Femicide in South Africa, four women a day are killed here by their partners or ex-partners. The most recent international stats I could find were from the Global Study on Homicide, which found that one-third of women killed in 2017 were victims of domestic violence.

(5) MISSING IN ACTION. Sir Julius Vogel Award winner Casey Lucas tells “How NZ’s best fantasy and science fiction writers got shafted on a global stage” on The Spinoff.

… But I’m going to do what the Hugo Awards committee was afraid to do and stop giving Martin airtime. Because I’m here to document a completely different phenomenon – one that has only been generating chatter once the immediate shocking aftermath of the Hugos’ disrespect to its own nominees had passed.

It began as murmurs in chat rooms, posts on social media platforms, questions posed on industry Slacks and Discords: say, where was the New Zealand representation at the Hugo Awards ceremony? The New Zealand presenters? What of the karakia, the acknowledgement of mana whenua? Aside from a few jokes, a ramble about our gorgeous country, an admittedly brilliant segment on the artists who crafted the physical Hugo trophies, and a stuffed kiwi on a desk, there was no New Zealand content.

Those who attended the WorldCon held in Helsinki, Finland in 2017 commented on the stark contrast. That ceremony, organised in part by the Turku Science Fiction Society, presented Finland’s Atorox Award alongside its international counterparts. So … what about our local awards ceremony?

(6) ISN’T SOMETHING ELSE MISSING? CoNZealand publications staff didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory here.

Since they didn’t print anything but his name, James Davis Nicoll thinks it would have been nicer if it had been spelled correctly.  

Souvenir Book editor Darusha Wehm apologized, however, Nicoll says he found that apology lacking.  

(7) YES, WE’LL EAT THE BREAD. Why certainly, giving a Hugo to people who hijacked the CoNZealand name is exactly the kind of move you might expect to see after the previous two news items.

But as a salute to their not using any WSFS registered trademarks I think we really should be voting them the DisCon III Shiny Pointy Thing.

(8) IF IT’S RIGHT IT’S A MIRACLE. Somehow Tor.com gets James Davis Nicoll’s name right in the byline for this fivesome — “Five SFF Stories Involving Secretly Supernatural Beings”. Was it a case of divine intervention?

Neighbours! Fine people, right up to the moment when they are overcome by xenophobia and assemble in a large mob (shouty), all too well supplied with torches (lit) and implements (agricultural). Of course, not all people are prone to hateful prejudice and fear against outsiders. Some might go the other way, lavishing unwanted adoration and attention on unusual people. It’s awkward either way, which is reason enough for some folks to carefully conceal their true nature.  Such as these five…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 5, 1850 – Guy de Maupassant.  Fifty short stories for us, translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish; three hundred in all, six novels, travel, poetry.  Second novel Bel Ami had thirty-seven printings in four months.  A father, many think, of the short story.  Managed to write both realistically and fantastically.  (Died 1893) [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1891 Donald Kerr. Happy Hapgood in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars which might be one of the earliest such films. His only other genre appearances were in the Abbott and Costello films such as Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in uncredited roles.  (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best-remembered  for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1935 Wanda Ventham, 85. Mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. She’s been on Doctor Who three times, in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story, in “Image of the Fendahl, a Fourth Doctor story and finally in “Time and the Rani”, a Seventh Doctor story. She also had roles in The Blood Beast TerrorProject U.F.O and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. She was often on British TV including Danger ManThe SaintThe Avengers and The Prisoner. And yes, she was on Sherlock where she played his mother. (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1943 – Kathleen Sky, 77.  Five novels, eight shorter stories, translated into French and German.  The Business of Being a Writer with Stephen Goldin.  I realize I haven’t read “One Ordinary Day, with Box”, but since it came well after an all-time great Shirley Jackson story (“Had it for lunch”; he didn’t, of course, which is the point), it must –  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1947 – Élisabeth Vonarburg, Ph.D.,, 73.  A score of novels, fifty shorter stories.  Editor of Solaris 1983-1986, contributor thereafter; also to CarfaxFoundationNY Review of SFTorus (hello, Lloyd Penney).  Ten Prix Aurora.  Grand Prix de l’ImaginairePrix du Conseil Quebecois de la Femme en LitteratureUtopiales Prix Extraordinaire.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 25, three-time Guest of Honour at Boréal (2004, 2007-2008), Guest of Honour at Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1948 – Larry Elmore, 72.  First professional illustrator at TSR (producers of Dungeons & Dragons).  Did Dragonlance.  Also Magic: the Gathering.  Also Traveller and Sovereign Stone.  Novel (with brother Robert), Runes of Autumn.  Artbooks Reflections of Myth (2 vols.) and Twenty Years of Art and Elmore: New Beginnings.  Two hundred covers, twelve dozen interiors.  Here is the Mar 85 Amazing.  Here is Chicks in Chainmail.  Here is 1632.  Here is Missing Pieces 5.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 64. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read?  (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1966 James Gunn, 54. Director, producer and screenwriter who first film as director was Slither. Very silly film. He’s responsible for both Guardians of The Galaxy films, plus the forthcoming one. He executive produced both of the recent Avengers films, and he’s directing and writing the next Suicide Squad film. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1968 – Carina Axelsson, 52.  Fashion model and author.  After modeling in New York and Paris went to art school, wrote and illustrated children’s picture book Nigel of Hyde Park, a frizzy-haired dragon (then fashion-detective Model Under Cover, then Royal Rebel; naturally World-Wide Web logs = blogs brought about video blogs = vlogs).  Three favorite books Jane EyrePride and PrejudiceRebecca, so she may really be a both-ist.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 48. I remember the book group I was part of having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1988 – Manuel Sumberac, 32.  (The should have a caron over it, a punctuation mark like a little v, indicating a sound like English sh.)  Thirty covers, many interiors.  Here is The Nowhere Emporium.  Here is Tuesdays at the Castle.  Also animation.  Also Steampunk City, an alphabetical journey: see the letters O and P.  Here is an interior from Steampunk Poehere is another.  Website here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THREE-BODY. Now it’s going to be a TV series.

(12) THEY MADE A LITTLE CORRECTION. Somebody jogged the elbow of the folks at io9, who now have added this note to the bottom of their post about George R.R. Martin and the Hugos

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified File 770, a multiple award winner of Hugos for Best Fanzine, as being affiliated with “the Hugos’ official website.” io9 regrets the error.

Think of it as a corollary to Muphry’s Law.

(13) OVERCOMING. Vanity Fair chronicles how “Black Storytellers Are Using Horror to Battle Hate”.

Civil Rights leader Patricia Stephens Due adored scary stories, which baffled her family since she had experienced so many real terrors. While crusading against Jim Crow laws and segregation in the 1960s, she’d been threatened, dragged away, and arrested, and her eyesight had been permanently damaged when police threw a tear gas canister directly into her face.

Still, she loved tales of killers, monsters, and restless spirits, and purchased her daughter, the future novelist and scholar Tananarive Due, her first Stephen King book. “My dad thought it was kind of weird, but now I’ve come to think that she liked horror because she was a civil rights activist,” says Due. “There was something about horror—that thrill and anxiety when you’re watching something on a screen that isn’t real—that I believe was therapeutic to her, and helped her slough off some of that fear and anger.”

(14) CIVICS CURSE. “City growth favours animals ‘more likely to carry disease'”.

Turning wild spaces into farmland and cities has created more opportunities for animal diseases to cross into humans, scientists have warned.

Our transformation of the natural landscape drives out many wild animals, but favours species more likely to carry diseases, a study suggests.

The work adds to growing evidence that exploitation of nature fuels pandemics.

Scientists estimate that three out of every four new emerging infectious diseases come from animals.

The study shows that, worldwide, we have shaped the landscape in a way that has favoured species that are more likely to carry infectious diseases.

And when we convert natural habitats to farms, pastures and urban spaces, we inadvertently increase the probability of pathogens crossing from animals to humans.

“Our findings show that the animals that remain in more human-dominated environments are those that are more likely to carry infectious diseases that can make people sick,” said Rory Gibb of University College London (UCL).

(15) DEAD ON. “Horror effects icon Tom Savini: ‘My work looks so authentic because I’ve seen the real thing’”, he explains to The Independent.

Whether it’s Kevin Bacon unexpectedly getting an arrow through the throat while lying in bed in Friday the 13thTed Danson’s waterlogged walking corpse in Creepshow, or a zombie getting the top of its head sliced off by a helicopter blade in Dawn of the DeadTom Savini is responsible for some of horror cinema’s greatest moments. Yet not everybody realises that a lot of this iconic gore was inspired by the special effects guru’s traumatic time serving as a field photographer in Vietnam.

“I saw some pretty horrible stuff,” the horror legend, now 73, tells me soberly. “I guess Vietnam was a real lesson in anatomy.” While serving with the US military, Savini learnt details such as the way blood turns brown as it dries or how our bodies lose control of the muscles when we die. “This is the reason why my work looks so visceral and authentic,” he adds. “I am the only special effects man to have seen the real thing!”

(16) MARTIAN HOP. “SpaceX: Musk’s ‘Mars ship’ prototype aces 150m test flight” – BBC has the story.

A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship vehicle has successfully flown to an altitude of 150m (500ft).

The uncrewed test vehicle rose up on a plume of exhaust before deploying its landing legs and touching down softly.

The flight was carried out at SpaceX’s test site near the village of Boca Chica in south Texas on Tuesday evening.

It’s the first flight test in almost a year for the Raptor engine, which will be used to power Starship.

The stainless steel test vehicle, called SN5, has been compared variously to a grain silo and water tank.

But it could pave the way for a spacecraft capable of carrying humans to the Moon and Mars.

(17) ROUGH RIDE. “SpaceX: Nasa crew describe rumbles and jolts of return to Earth” – BBC story includes interview video.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have described the rumbles, heat and jolts of returning from space in the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday.

Behnken vividly described the clouds rushing by the window and jolts that were like being “hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat”.

But Hurley and Behnken said the spacecraft performed just as expected.

They splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, ending the first commercial crewed mission to the space station.

“As we descended through the atmosphere, I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired. It seemed like just a couple of minutes later, after the [de-orbit] burns were complete, we could look out the windows and see the clouds rushing by,” he said at a news conference broadcast from Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise – you can hear that rumble outside the vehicle. And as the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body.

“We could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws – all those little motions were things we picked up on inside the vehicle.”

(18) NO S**T, THERE THEY ARE. Er, correction, make that “yes s**t” — “Climate change: Satellites find new colonies of Emperor penguins”.

Satellite observations have found a raft of new Emperor penguin breeding sites in the Antarctic.

The locations were identified from the way the birds’ poo, or guano, had stained large patches of sea-ice.

The discovery lifts the global Emperor population by 5-10%, to perhaps as many as 278,500 breeding pairs.

It’s a welcome development given that this iconic species is likely to come under severe pressure this century as the White Continent warms.

The Emperors’ whole life cycle is centred around the availability of sea-ice, and if this is diminished in the decades ahead – as the climate models project – then the animals’ numbers will be hit hard.

One forecast suggested the global population could crash by a half or more under certain conditions come 2100.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Down And Out Kidney” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Dan and Jason about why you should worry about too much uric acid in the body (and yes, it’s entertaining!)

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Madame Hardy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 8/3/20 Undeserved Loss And Inaccessible Healing

(1) MAKE ROOM, MAKE ROOM! The 2020 Hugo voting report, which begins with a short list of works that got enough votes to be finalists but were disqualified or withdrawn by the author, showed that Ann Leckie declined her nomination for The Raven Tower. In a blog entry today she explained why: “The Hugos and The Raven Tower”.

…I’ve had a taste of that cookie quite a few times now. It is, let me tell you, one delicious cookie. And when the email came telling me that The Raven Tower was a finalist for the Hugo Award, I thought of the books in that longlist, how often I’d had a bite of this cookie, and how many of the amazing books from 2019 were debuts, and/or were books that, when I’d read them, my first thought was, Oh, this should be on the Hugo ballot. More books than there were spots, for sure. And I realized that I could do something about that, at least in a small way.

And so I withdrew The Raven Tower from consideration.

Let me be perfectly clear–I was overwhelmed at the thought that so many readers felt The Raven Tower deserved to be a Hugo finalist. I have been treasuring that for months. And as I’m sure we all know, these have been months during which such treasures have become extremely important.

I also want to be clear that this is not any sort of permanent decision on my part. I make no promises about withdrawing anything in the future. If I am ever so fortunate as to have a work reach the shortlist again, and I see what seems to me a good reason to withdraw, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. It is, after all, one of the sweetest, most delicious cookies around!

(2) A WEE JOKE. From the August issue of Ansible:

The Retro Hugo Statistics reveal that a single Fan Writer nomination for 1944 work (it took three to get on the final ballot and no one had more than six) went to some chap called David Langford. Ho ho, very satirical….

(3) WHO BENEFITS. Much truth in this.

(4) NOW PLAYING. “The Ballad of Ursula K. Le Guin.”

(5) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. “John Boyne accidentally includes Zelda video game monsters in novel”The Guardian has his confession.

John Boyne, the award-winning author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, has acknowledged that a cursory Google led to him accidentally including monsters from the popular video game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in his new novel.

Boyne’s A Traveller at the Gates of Wisdom opens in AD1 and ends 2,000 years later, following a narrator and his family. In one section, the narrator sets out to poison Attila the Hun, using ingredients including an “Octorok eyeball” and “the tail of the red lizalfos and four Hylian shrooms”….

Dana Schwartz rounded up some graphics to support the story. Thread starts here.

(6) HARD TO KEEP UP. David Gerrold concludes a Facebook post about sff awards with this sentiment:

…Personally, I am delighted that we are suffering from the challenges of success instead of the problems of failure. The level of mediocrity has risen and the level of excellence has truly surpassed the past. So the challenges in front of any author must look insurmountable, even to the long-time practitioners.

As difficult as all this may seem to anyone who writes, it’s still a good thing. Because it’s no longer about the awards — in fact, it never was about the awards. It has always been about the quality of the work.

That there is so much good work being created these days is a victory for the field, and especially for the readers.

I just wish I had enough time to keep up with it all.

(7) ONE MORE TAKE. Robert J. Sawyer has his own issue with George R.R. Martin’s choices while hosting the Hugo ceremony.

…But let me elucidate one category of Martin’s microaggressions that cut across the entire spectrum of humanity by subtly excluding anyone not part of his old guard: his use of nicknames for writers and editors whose prominence was in days gone by, signaling that no matter who you might be, if you weren’t part of the inner circle back in the day, you’ll never really be a true fan (or pro) now.

In Martin’s very, very long commentaries during yesterday’s Hugo Awards ceremony, Robert Silverberg was “Silverbob,” George Alec Effinger was “Piglet,” and the editor Robert A.W. Lowndes was “Doc.” I think Martin also called Isaac Asimov “Ike” during his trips down memory lane, although I’m not going to sift through the hour and forty-five minutes of his rambling again (fully half of the total running time of the Hugo ceremony) to be sure.

You see? Even someone like me — 40 years a selling author in this field, and now 60 years of age — was never part of that ancient, early prodom. I’ve known Robert Silverberg since 1989 and knew Asimov and Effinger, too, but was never close enough to call them by cutesy nicknames.

And if someone like me feels left out after all these decades in the field, imagine how the newer writers, or the writers whose literary background wasn’t the American SF magazines, felt during the Hugo ceremony.

… Yes, it’s a small thing — that’s why it’s called a MICROaggression — and it’s usually done without consciously intending to exclude or put down someone else, but microaggressions ARE pervasive and exclusionary in effect. We’d all do well to guard against committing them.

(8) JOIN THE BOB & DOUG SHOW. Back in their home theater after taking their show on a bit of a road trip, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their flight to the International Space Station and back aboard the inaugural crewed voyage of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon craft. This press release — “NASA Astronauts to Discuss Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight” – tells how to access their news conference.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will discuss their recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission to the International Space Station during a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 4.

The news conference from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will be broadcast live on NASA Television and on the agency’s website.

This will be a virtual event with no media present, due to the safety restrictions related to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Reporters who wish to participate by telephone must call Johnson’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

(9) DRESSING UP PITTCON. The International Costumers Guild did a roundup of contemporary photos and reports about a Worldcon sixty years ago: “Convention Costuming History – 1960”.

The 1960 Worldcon, known as Pittcon (Pittsburgh, PA) promoted their masquerade as a “Costume Cabaret”. Following the show, there would be a glee club performance, a “minstrel show of science fiction flavor”, and then a dance (music provided by a “hi-fi”, rather than a live band like some past years)…

(10) ROBERTA POURNELLE OBIT. Roberta Pournelle, widow of Jerry, passed away last night at the age of 85. Her son Frank Pournelle announced services are planned in the coming week. The Chaos Manor page on Facebook saluted her:

An educator for 30 years at the Dorothy Kirby Center in Commerce, Mother of 4, Grandmother, a friend to many; she made order out of Chaos.

Born Roberta Jane Isdell, she married Jerry Pournelle in 1959. ISFDB shows she wrote a nonfiction piece for Analog in 1988, “High-Tech for the Little Red Schoolhouse.”

(11) SUSAN ELLISON OBIT. HarlanEllisonBooks.com announced today that Susan Ellison (1960-2020) died over the weekend at home, the “Lost Aztec Temple of Mars.” No other details were given. Susan and Harlan married in 1986 and were together 32 years until his death in  2018.

(12) BUARD OBIT. It was recently learned that Patricia Anne Buard died in May 2017 reports the International Costumers Guild. Photos of her masquerade entries at the link.

Patricia Anne Buard. Patricia was a person of several interests, including theater and theology. In addition to having created works of both original fantasy and historical recreations, her short story “Devil’s Advocate” was published in the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology book “Red Sun of Darkover”, released in 1987.

(13) IVEY OBIT. David Ivey succumbed to his battle with cancer on July 24. The International Costumers Guild describes one of his memorable entries.

David was a Michigan area costumer. His best known creations were Krakatoa, the Volcano God, and St. Helen. Krakatoa appeared at several venues, including Worldcon: Chicon V, in 1991 (photo below). It was quite innovative for its time, featuring several special effects.

(14) ENGLISH OBIT. “Bill English: Computer mouse co-creator dies at 91” – BBC pays tribute.

The co-creator of the computer mouse, William English, has died aged 91.

The engineer and inventor was born in 1929 in Kentucky and studied electrical engineering at university before joining the US Navy.

He built the first mouse in 1963, using an idea put forward by his colleague Doug Engelbart while the pair were working on early computing.

…Bill English became the first person to use a mouse when he built the prototype at Mr Engelbart’s research project at the Stanford Research Institute.

The idea was Mr Engelbart’s, which he described as only being “brief notes” – but the creation was down to Bill English.

His first version was a wooden block with a single button – and underneath, two rolling wheels at 90-degree angles that would record vertical and sideways movement.

“We were working on text editing – the goal was a device that would be able to select characters and words,” Mr English told the Computer History Museum in 1999.

(15) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 3, 1951 — The Tales of Tomorrow series premiered with “Verdict From Space”. The series was performed and broadcast live on ABC from 1951 to 1953. There were eighty-five episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length. The series came about through the efforts of Theodore Sturgeon and Mort Abrahams, together with the membership of the Science Fiction League of America. The League who included Theodore Sturgeon, Anthony Boucher, and Isaac Asimov made their work available to the producers.  The screenplay was written by Sturgeon and is based on his own story “The Sky Was Full of Ships” first published in the June 1947 issue of Thrilling Wonder. You can watch it here.

(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 3, 1841 – Juliana Ewing.  Thirty short stories for us; a score of books with our and other stories, plays, book-length fiction, for children.  Roger G. Lancelyn Green (1918-1987), one of the Inklings, who suggested the name Chronicles of Narnia to C.S. Lewis, called JE’s the first outstanding child-novels in English literature.  Kipling said he knew her novels Jan of the Windmill and Six to Sixteen almost by heart; of Six “here was a history of real people and real things.”  From her novelette “The Brownies” (1865) the Baden-Powells got the idea and name for junior Girl Guides.  Here is a Caldecott cover for Jackanapes (1884).  (Died 1885) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1904 Clifford Simak. I was trying to remember the first novel by him I read. I’m reasonably sure it was Way Station though it could’ve been City which just won a well-deserved Retro Hugo. I’m fond of Cemetery World and A Choice of Gods as well. By the way I’m puzzled by the Horror Writers Association making him one of their three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement. What of his is truly horror? (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1920 P. D. James. Author of The Children of Men which she wrote to answer the question “If there were no future, how would we behave?” Made into a film which she said she really liked despite it being substantially different than her novel. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1922 – Ron Turner.  Some sources say his birthday is the 22nd.  Twelve dozen covers (I’d say “one gross”, but look what trouble that made for Bilbo Baggins), more if you count posthumous uses.  Tit-Bits SF ComicsSpace AceRick RandomStingrayThe DaleksThunderbirds.  Here is Operation Venus.  Here is a John Russell Fearn collection.  Here is Rick Random and the Terror from Spacehere is its opening interior.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1926 —  John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1940 Martin Sheen, 80. So that was who that was! On Babylon 5: The River of Souls, there’s a Soul Hunter but the film originally didn’t credit an actor who turns out to be Sheen. Amazing performance. He’s been in a number of other genre roles but that’s the ones I like most. Though I will single him out for voicing Arthur Square in Flatland: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1946 – John DeChancie, 74.  Best known for nine Castle Perilous and three Skyway books, he’s published ten besides, two dozen shorter stories; if you know he has written as Raul Cabeza de Vaca, and entitled a poem “The Refusal to Mourn the Rejection, by Printed Form, of a Hopeful Writer in Pittsburgh, February, 1992”, you’ll know he can read, and smile, and has been with SF a while.  Some fans become pros; some pros become fans, as he did; some are both, as he has been.  Plays piano, likes the American Songbook and Rachmaninoff; paints, including a portrait of Rachmaninoff.  See this, which includes portraits of Marty Cantor and Chip Hitchcock.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1950 John Landis, 70. He’d make this if all he’d done was An American Werewolf in London, but he was also Director / Producer / Writer of the Twilight Zone movie. And wrote Clue which was the best Tim Curry role ever. And Executive Produced one of the best SF comedies ever, Amazon Women on the Moon. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1953 – Margaret Bechard, 67.  Reed College woman (as an Antioch boy, I think of these things).  Children’s fiction, translated into French, Korean, Swedish.  Two novels, one shorter story for us; Star Hatchling about first contact won a Golden Duck.  Six other novels.  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1971 – Yoshitoshi ABe, 49.  Graphic artist.  Usually writes his name in Roman letters, with capitalized for the sake of early works he signed “AB”.  Known to sketch with just his finger and an iPad.  Thirty self-published books; artbooks; covers; half a dozen each of animé and manga.  Here is his cover for Sakurazaka’s All You Need Is Kill (A. Smith tr. 2009; hello, Pete Young).  Here is Walking the Dragon from YA’s artbook Gaisokyu (“Palace”; 2007).  [JH]
  • Born August 3, 1972 Brigid Brannagh, 48. Also credited as Brigid Brannagh, Brigid Brannah, Brigid Brannaugh, Brigid Walsh, and Brigid Conley Walsh. Need an Irish redheaded colleen in a genre role? Well she apparently would do. She shows up in Kindred: The EmbraceAmerican GothicSliders, Enterprise (as a bartender), RoarTouched by an AngelCharmedEarly EditionAngel (as Virginia Bryce in a recurring role), GrimmSupernatural and currently on Runaways in the main role of Stacey Yorkes. (CE)
  • Born August 3, 1979 – Evangeline Lilly, 41.  Actress, author.  She was in LostReal Steel, two Peter Jackson hobbit films, three Marvel superhero films – to misquote Winston Churchill, who said a Wasp couldn’t sting thrice?  So far two Squickerwonker short stories for children have appeared, one translated into Portuguese.  [JH]

(17) A TOTAL SURPRISE. After Hastings author Steven H Silver tells Lawrence Shoen about eating reindeer steak in Stockholm as part of “Eating Authors: Steven H Silver”. However, the cuisine is overshadowed in this great anecdote about something that happened at dinner —

SHS: Honestly, there are a lot of things I don’t remember about my most memorable meal because it sticks out not because of the food or the company or even the location, but rather because of an incident that occurred during the meal….

(18) KAIJU KIA. Does ScreenRant have enough fingers and toes to answer the question? “How Many Times Godzilla Has Died (All Movies)”. (And I wonder if it’s more or less than the number of times John Wayne got killed?)

He’s starred in over 30 movies but how many of those has Godzilla actually died in? The first movie is a somber monster movie with the title creature is intended to be a walking metaphor for nuclear weapons. The movie’s huge success led to a franchise that is still running nearly 70 years later, with the monster appearing in sequels, reboots and remakes, in addition to comics, novels and video games where he’s battled against all sorts of creative monsters.

(19) MAD, I SAY. Could it be that Dave Freer’s message in “F-IW” at Mad Genius Club is “When you’re in your time machine on the way back to kill baby Hitler, don’t forget to stop off in the Sixties and take over traditional publishing”?

…Both of these [old] books had a huge effect on my young mind. Yes, I can see the Woke and modern left rubbing their hands (and other parts, never mentioned) in glee, saying ‘Yes! We were RIGHT that we had to capture publishing and exclude any badthink. Just think if we’d had the dominance we have now over traditional publishing, back in 1960, even evil people like Freer would have been won (Hi: I’m Dave the Divider. If it wasn’t for me, so we are told by the self-elected authorities,  sf/fantasy would be united and singing Kumbaya. See what a fate I saved you from!).

(20) CANON FIRED. Meg Elison says you’re excused from reading the SFF “canon.”

Thread starts here. A couple of excerpts —

(21) APOLLO POLITICS. At The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses an interesting radio program about space history. “Sending Washington to the Moon: an interview with Richard Paul”.

The radio show “Washington Goes to the Moon” two decades ago shed new light on the political battles around the Apollo program, and provided a wealth of material for later historians. Dwayne Day interviews the man who wrote and produced the show.

(22) FANTASY NETWORK FREEBIES. Some of us encountered The Fantasy Network for the first time watching CoNZealand events. They also have lots of free content. For example, the 2017 movie Magellan:

When NASA picks up three signals of extraterrestrial origin coming from within our own solar system, the space agency expedites a mission to investigate the sources. As Earth’s lone emissary, they send Commander Roger Nelson, the test pilot for an experimental spacecraft call the Magellan, assisted by an onboard A.I. named Ferdinand.

(23) MORE, PLEASE. James Davis Nicoll is sure these are “Five Stories That Make You Wish For a Sequel”. But rest easy – none of them involve the megaselling series that have made sff news this week.

Many books function perfectly as standalones; many series end well. Plots are resolved, characters are given their reward or punishment. But there are also books that seem to cry out for a sequel and series that are never finished, leaving readers frustrated. We want more!

Alexis Gilliland’s Rosinante series is on this list —

… I discovered the series is funnier than one would expect from plotlines that feature banking crises, union negotiations, and the sudden collapse of the dominant government in North America. There were just three books in the series—Revolution from Rosinante (1981), Long Shot for Rosinante (1981), The Pirates of Rosinante (1982)—but the setting was expansive and interesting enough that more stories were possible, perhaps elsewhere in Gilliland’s Solar System. Thus far, none have materialized.

(24) DIY. “New ‘Quar-Horror’ Films Show Staying At Home Is Scary Too”.

It’s no exaggeration to say this year feels like a horror movie. And now, a few filmmakers are making it official.

All over YouTube, you can find inventive homemade horror shorts taking the pandemic as inspiration. (They come from Brazil, from Canada and from, well, Funny or Die.) And a new movie Host, filmed over twelve weeks in quarantine and entirely on Zoom, debuted on the horror channel Shudder last week.

Call it “quar-horror.”

Among the most chilling of the YouTube offerings is Stay At Home, part horror movie and part PSA from a filmmaker in New Orleans.

“I literally just grabbed a box, and I set up the camera on a tripod and gave myself a scenario,” says Kenneth Brown, a former Uber driver turned horror auteur. “And the story started to build and build and build.”

Brown went to film school, and you can tell. Based on the myth of Pandora’s Box and the evening news, Stay At Home is elegantly lit and crafted. As of this writing, it’s racked up nearly 200,000 views on YouTube.

Part of what makes Stay At Home so effective — and heartfelt — is the insistent drone of news anchors discussing the mounting carnage. “That’s everything I need to say as far as reaching African Americans, which is the population most vulnerable to this virus,” says Brown, who is Black himself.

But escapism is also the point, say Nathan Crooker and James Gannon. Their upcoming quar-horror, called Isolation, just wrapped principal photography. The two produced the film; Crooker is also its director. Isolation is an anthology; nine interconnected shorts by different directors who filmed their movies using only resources immediately available to them.

(25) PIECEMEAL. According to BBC, “Other mammals lose out in panda conservation drive”.

Saving the giant panda is one of the big success stories of conservation.

Decades of efforts to create protected habitat for the iconic mammal has pulled it back from the brink of extinction.

But, according to a new study, while many other animals in the same landscape have benefited from this conservation work, some have lost out.

Leopards, snow leopards, wolves and Asian wild dogs have almost disappeared from the majority of protected areas.

Driven to near extinction by logging, poaching and disease, their loss could lead to “major shifts, even collapse, in ecosystems”, said researchers in China.

Without the likes of leopards and wolves, deer and livestock can roam unchecked, causing damage to natural habitats, with knock-on effects for other wildlife, including pandas themselves.

By protecting the panda’s forests, conservationists believed they would be protecting not only the charismatic black-and-white animal, but the many other species roaming the same habitat.

But while that has worked for some other wildlife, the efforts do not appear to have worked for large carnivores, such as the leopard and wolf.

A team of researchers now says a broader – holistic – approach is needed to manage the ecosystem in which the panda lives – one that ensures key species don’t lose out.

(26) SHORT LEAPS FORWARD. In the Washington Post, Bethonie Butler interviews Catherine Hardwicke, whose new Quibi series “Don’t Look Deeper” is set “15 minutes into the future” and has a teenage girl as a protagonist who may or may not be an android.  Hardwicke discusses what it was like to direct a story delivered in 10-minute chunks and why star Helena Howard is a “strong and vulnerable” actor Hardwicke enjoyed working with. “Can Catherine Hardwicke get you to watch Quibi?”

Why Quibi? Were the shorter episodes appealing?

Actually, the script was written for short episodes. It was written in chapters. I thought that was quite interesting when I first read the script. I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating,” because the short format does tie in — it weaves in directly with what’s going on with [Aisha’s] memory. We tell the story in a non-linear way as her memories are being erased and restored. The technology that we’re exploring, showing it on a new technological platform with the vertical and horizontal, it all seemed to kind of work together in an interesting way. So this leap of faith — that [Quibi founder Jeffrey] Katzenberg said let’s try this format — I thought that was an interesting challenge to dive into it and see what happens.

(27) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dragonball Evolution Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that when the hero of the film has to collect seven dragonballs to make a wish that dragonballs are as powerful as “blowing out candles on a birthday cake.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/1/20 Scrollers Tick
In Vain

(1) WORLDCON ENDS: FILM AT ELEVEN. Watching CoNZealand’s Closing Ceremonies brought back a memory —

When Winnipeg started its bid for the 1994 Worldcon, chair John Mansfield had everybody on the committee fill out a questionnaire about their interests. On the last day of the convention he returned these forms to everyone saying, “Okay. Here’s your life back.”

At today’s Closing Ceremonies the gavel passed to DisCon III’s Bill Lawhorn and Colette H. Fozard.

(2) TABLE SERVICE. Camestros Felapton illustrates an aspect of the 2020 Hugo Award nomination process in “EPH Fan Writer”.

… As each person is eliminated, the points get redistributed. By looking at the change in points for each surviving nominee, you can calculate the proportion of points that the survivor gets from the eliminated.

(3) THE PAST THROUGH TOMORROW. There are several good rundowns on the problems with last night’s Hugo Awards ceremony, including this one from Sean Reads Sci-Fi, “Uh-Oh, the Hugos Were a Hot Mess!”, which includes some good excerpts from the acceptance speeches.

…Some of the history was admittedly interesting, but I kept waiting for Martin to catch up to the present day, to illustrate how the long arc of the Hugos has bent toward justice, how the field continues to evolve to this day. He never did. He stayed rooted firmly in the past, and as the night wore on his stubborn refusal to acknowledge current movements in SF/F began to feel pointedly exclusionary rather than just incidentally so.

And I haven’t even mentioned the names! To mispronounce someone’s name live is one thing. As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that you will occasionally get someone’s name wrong on the first day. But (a) they had plenty of time to practice, (b) they almost certainly were given pronunciation guides by most authors, and (c) this doesn’t excuse the constant mispronunciations during pre-recoded segments, unless, of course, Martin refused to re-record them, which is its own set of problems. The folks behind the scenes should have done more to vet these segments, and should have pushed back harder when it became clear what Martin was doing.

What’s fascinating to me, though, is how the awards themselves drew such a sharp contrast to the nostalgic navel-gazing of the toastmaster. It really felt like the past and the future colliding – and the future won. Literally! The winners often talked about systemic problems within the industry, about the fights that we still have to fight, about the hard work that women, people of color, queer folks, and others have to do in order to even be considered alongside the white/cis/het fuddy-duddies running last night’s show. It was such a welcome breath of fresh air, for instance, when R.F. Kuang, one of the first winners, emphasized the barriers that she faced getting into the field:

If I were talking to a new writer coming to the genre in 2020, I would tell them, well, if you are an author of color, you will very likely be paid only a fraction of the advance that white writers are getting. You will be pigeon-holed, you will be miscategorized, you will be lumped in with other authors of color whose work doesn’t remotely resemble yours. Chances are very high that you will be sexually harassed at conventions or the target of racist micro-aggressions or very often just overt racism. People will mispronounce your name, repeatedly, and in public, even people who are on your publishing team. Your cover art will be racist, and the way people talk about you and your literature will be tied to identity and your personal trauma instead of the stories you are actually trying to tell. If I had known all of that when I went into the industry, I don’t know if I would have done it, so I think that the best way we can celebrate new writers is to make this industry more welcoming for everyone.

R.F. KUANG, ASTOUNDING AWARD FOR THE BEST NEW SF WRITER

This was refreshing precisely because it’s an aspect of the history of the awards and of the fandom in general that George R.R. Martin, in his endless panegyrics to days gone by, refused to even acknowledge. Pointing out the deep-rooted, structural, and personal racism and sexism at the heart of the industry isn’t a sign of ingratitude – it’s a sign of strength and resolve in the face of tough barriers. As Ng put it in her speech:

Pulling down memorials to dead racists is not the erasing of history, it is how we make history … It would be irresponsible for me to stand here and congratulate us as a community without reminding us that the fight isn’t over and that it extends well beyond the pages of our books … Let us be better than the legacies that have been left us. Let them not be prophecies. Let there be a revolution in our time.

JEANNETTE NG, BEST RELATED WORK

That revolution was in strong form last night, as most winners took the time to celebrate marginalized voices and denounce the forces that marginalized them in the first place. I keep coming back to Martine’s speech, as well – to the knife that hurts all the more because you loved it before it cut you. A trenchant description of an industry and a genre that many loved but were excluded from for so long. That is, thankfully, changing. Not fast enough to prevent last night’s debacle – but fast enough to allow for last night’s inspiring wins

(4) GRRM RESPONSE. George R.R. Martin has commented here on File 770 about some of the reports and criticisms in circulation, beginning with – http://file770.com/2020-hugo-awards/comment-page-2/#comment-1205393

Whoever is circulating the story that I was asked to re-record portions of my Hugo hosting to correct mispronounced names, and that I refused, is (1) mistaken, or (2) lying. Never happened.

CoNZealand did ask me to re-record three of my videos, all for reasons for quality control: poor lighting, poor sound, wobbly camera. I complied with their request on two of the videos, the two that opened the evening; I re-did those live from the JCC. (The originals had been done in my cabin on an iPhone, when we were just trying to get the hang of this thing). The third segment they wanted re-recorded was the bit about the Hugo trophy, where I had some fun with the juicer, the Alfie, and the like. In that case, we decided to stay with the first take, since I no longer had the props on hand and could not easily have reproduced what I’d done at the cabin, which everyone seemed to like.

There is also a story out there that I was provided with the correct phonetic pronunciations of all the names. That too is completely untrue….

(5) YOUR NEW HUGO LOSERS HOSTS. Who wouldn’t sign up for that?

(6) GROWING PAINS. Scott Edelman stirred up some memories that were called out by his sister-in-law in service of an anti-Vietnam War protest.

(7) LEM STORY DRAMATIZED. “Review: A Sci-Fi Classic Featuring a Multiverse of Stooges” comes recommended by a New York Times reviewer.

…You wouldn’t think that the 4-foot-wide by 8-foot-tall space, approximately the same shape as an iPhone screen, would be big enough for a play, let alone an avant-garde company. Yet the closet, only 2 feet deep, is one of the stars of Gelb’s Theater in Quarantine series, which since late March has produced, on a biweekly schedule, some of the new medium’s most imaginative work from some of its simplest materials. As in silent movies, clowning, movement and mime are usually part of the mix.

“The 7th Voyage of Egon Tichy,” which was livestreamed on Thursday evening and will remain available in perpetuity on Gelb’s YouTube channel, has all of those and then some. Based on a 1957 story by Stanislaw Lem, the Polish science fiction writer most famous for “Solaris,” it concerns an astronaut named Egon who, passing through a minefield of gravitational vortexes, is caught in a causal loop paradox that bombards him with innumerable (and insufferable) alternative selves.

Lem’s story is a satire of the infinite human capacity for self-defeat, with the various Egon incarnations bickering and undermining one another as the gyrations of space-time bend them into conflict. When “a meteor no bigger than a pea” pierces the ship’s hull, destroying the rudder, everyone has ideas about fixing it — but since it’s a two-man job, making cooperation essential, nothing actually gets done.

(8) HEARING A DISCOURAGING WORD. Entertainment Weekly’s Darren Franich asks “Why are all these science-fiction shows so awful?”

Science fiction was once a niche TV commodity, but March brought three major live-action genre projects. Star Trek: Picard finished its debut season on CBS All Access. FX shared Devs with Hulu, pitching the miniseries as prestige bait for the chattering class. Season 3 of Westworld was HBO’s new hope for a buzzy, sexy-violent epic. And they were all terrible….

I get it: We are all scared of phones, and bots, and the Algorithm. Yet by demonizing technology, these projects oddly exonerate the people behind that technology. CEOs with tragic origin stories in Westworld or Devs are puppets for machines they can’t control. Higher-tech powers in Brave New World and “You May Also Like” control whole civilizations comprised of unaware humans.

(9) LIBRARIES TAKE HEAT IN CANADA. Publishers Weekly has the story:“Canadian Libraries Respond to ‘Globe and Mail’ Essay Attacking Public Libraries”.

[Intro] Editors Note: In a nearly 3,000 word opinion piece published on July 25 in ‘The Globe and Mail’ Kenneth Whyte, publisher of Toronto-based indie Sutherland House Books, pinned the troubles of Canada’s independent bookstores and publishers on the work of public libraries….

Publishers Weekly reprinted the Canadian Urban Libraries Council’s response:

It is otherwise hard to understand why public libraries are to blame when bookstores and libraries have coexisted harmoniously and supported each other for decades.

So what’s changed? While there are a lot of changes that point to shifts in the marketplace, such as the research identifying a decline in leisure reading, coupled with less and less space for literary reviews in major news outlets, these are minor compared to the two major developments that have dramatically altered the book and reading landscape—and they have nothing to do with public libraries. First is the explosive growth in popularity of e-books and digital audiobooks. Second, is the increasing dominance of Amazon in the book retail and publishing marketplace.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 1, 1986Howard The Duck premiered. Directed by Water Huyck and produced by Gloria Katz who were also the screenplay writers.  George Lucas was executive producer. Its human stars were Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones and Tim Robbins. Howard The Duck was Ed Gale in the suit with the voice being Chip Zien. Critics almost unanimously hated it, it bombed at the box office, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 38% rating. It would be the last Marvel Film until Captain American twenty-one years later. (CE)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 1, 1819 – Herman Melville.  Without debating – though some do – how far Moby-Dick is fantasy, we can claim some more clearly – hmm, maybe not the best word with this writer – anyway, “Bartleby”, “The Tartarus of Maids”, “The Encantadas”, let’s say nine or ten.  John Clute would include The Confidence-Man.  (Died 1891) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1898 – William Ziff.  I mean Ziff Sr., though Ziff Jr. is noteworthy too.  The elder was the Ziff in Ziff-Davis Publishing, which took over Amazing from Hugo Gernsback, added Fantastic Adventures, comics with art director Jerry Siegel and e.g. John Buscema.  I happen to think this cover for Weird Adventures 10 is feminist – look how the man is fascinated while the woman with him knows they should fear – but then I think Glory Road is feminist, and how many see that?  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1910 Raymond A. Palmer. Editor of Amazing Stories from 1938 through 1949. He’s credited, along with Walter Dennis, with editing the first fanzine, The Comet, in May, 1930. The secret identity of DC character the Atom as created by genre writer Gardner Fox is named after Palmer. Very little of his fiction is available in digital form. (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1914 – Edd Cartier.  Oh, how great he was.  Eventually we put him on two Retrospective Hugo ballots.  We think of him as a comedian; true enough, but see this cover for Foundation and Empire.  Vince Di Fate knew; see his treatment of EC in Infinite Worlds.  World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award.  (Died 2008)  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1923 Alan Yates. Though better known under the Carter Brown name where he wrote some one hundred and fifty mystery novels, I’m noting him here for Booty for a Babe, a Fifties mystery novel published under that name as it’s was set at a SF Convention. (Available from the Kindle store.) And as Paul Valdez, he wrote a baker’s dozen genre stories. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1930 Geoffrey Holder. Best-remembered for his performance as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die but he’s also the narrator in Tim Burton’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. He was also Willie Shakespeare in Doctor Doolittle but it’s been so long since I saw the film that I can’t picture his character. And he was The Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland that had Richard Burton as The White Knight. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1945 – Yvonne Rousseau, 75.  Author, editor, critic, long-time fan.  Australian SF Review, 2nd Series with J. & R. Blackford, Foyster, Sussex, Webb.  Three short stories and a novelette.  Contributor to Banana WingsChungaFlagFoundationJourney PlanetThe Metaphysical Review, Riverside QuarterlySF CommentarySF Eye.  Fan Guest of Honour at ConFictionary, where the fire alarm went off and the hotel actually was on fire.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1954 James Gleick, 66. Author of, among many other books, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman and What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Electronic Frontier, and he is one of us in that he writes genre reviews which are collected in Time Travel: A History. Among the works he’s reviewed are Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea” and Heinlein ‘s “By His Bootstraps”.  (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1955 Annabel Jankel, 65. Director who was first  a music video director and then the co-creator and director of Max Headroom. She and her partner Rocky Morton first created and directed The Max Talking Headroom Show, a mix of interviews and music vids which aired on Channel 4 and HBO. Jankel and Morton would go on to direct Super Mario Bros. And they’re both responsible for the Max Headroom movie and series. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1969 – Dirk Berger, 51.  Five dozen covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Sucker Punch.  Here is Empire Dreams.  Here is Nova 23.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born August 1, 1979 Jason Momoa, 41. I knew I’d seen him before he showed up as Aquaman in the DC film franchise and I was right as he was Ronon Dex on Stargate Atlantis for its entire run. He was also Khal Drogo in the first season of A Game of Thrones. And not surprisingly, he was the title character in Conan the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born August 1, 1993 – Tomi Adeyemi, 27.  Children of Blood and BoneChildren of Virtue and Vengeance, both NY Times Best Sellers.  Norton Award, Waterstones Book Prize, Lodestar Award.  Parents thought she’d be better off if they didn’t teach her their native tongue (they’re Yoruba), so with an honors degree from Harvard she got a fellowship to study it in Brazil.  Website here.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur offers a suggestion on how to get started on that post-apocalyptic novel.

(13) BE PREPARED. A Public Service Announcement from the Dread Pirate Roberts channeling Inigo Montoya.

(14) ADVICE FOR SFF POETS. Veteran editor of Star*Line and Mobius: A Journal for Social Change “gives some surprising insights on submissions” in this interview conducted by Melane Stormm at SPECPO.

A must watch for any writer, but especially if you identify as female or if you’re feeling hesitant to submit your work someplace.

(15) ON BRADBURY’S SHELVES. The second installment of Phil Nichols’ Bradbury 100 podcast had dropped.

My guest is Jason Aukerman, Managing Director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The “Bradbury Center”, as it’s known for short, is the place where Ray’s working papers are held in archive, along with the contents of Ray’s personal library, and many of his professional and personal artefacts such as awards, videotapes and film prints.

(16) BALESTRIERI JOINS READ-A-THON. A Bradbury Read-A-Thon is planned as part of the author’s centenary celebration: “Iowan to join top authors, celebs in sci-fi ‘read-a-thon’” RadioIowa has the story.

A library curator at the University of Iowa will join “Star Trek” actor William Shatner and a list of other celebrities, authors and science fiction experts in a Ray Bradbury Read-a-thon next month. The event on August 22nd will mark what would have been the famed author’s 100th birthday.

Peter Balestrieri, curator of science fiction and popular culture collections at the UI Libraries, says he’s thrilled to be taking part.

“The Read-a-thon will be about 40 people reading segments of Ray Bradbury’s famous novel, ‘Fahrenheit 451,’” Balestrieri says. “All of the clips from all of the different readers will be put together into one seamless audio-visual book.”

Balestrieri will read a six-minute portion of the book as part of the roughly-four-hour event. Top sci-fi authors who will also read aloud include Neil Gaiman, Marjorie Liu and Steven Barnes, as well as former NASA administrator Charles Bolden.

(17) THAT’S NOT GOOD NEWS. “Nasa: Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has gone into hibernation, space agency says” at Yahoo! News.

Nasa‘s Mars spacecraft is experiencing technical problems and has sent itself into hibernation, the space agency has said.

The spacecraft was sent to space Thursday in a launch that had no technical problems – even despite an earthquake that struck just before liftoff, and a preparation period that came during the coronavirus outbreak. Shortly after it was launched, Nasa announced that it had received its first signal from the spacecraft.

But soon after it was in space and headed towards Mars, it became apparent that something had gone wrong with the craft. After that initial signal, mission controllers received more detailed telemetry or spacecraft data that showed there had been a problem.

The signal, which arrived on Thursday afternoon, showed that the spacecraft had entered a state known as “safe mode”. That shuts down all but its essential systems, until it receives new messages from ission control.

The hibernation state is intended to allow the spacecraft to protect itself in the case of unexpected conditions, and will be triggered when the onboard computer receives data that shows something is not as expected.

Nasa’s engineers think that the state was triggered because part of the spacecraft was colder than expected while it was still in Earth’s shadow. The spacecraft has now left that shadow and temperatures are now normal, Nasa said in an update.

Mission controllers will now conduct a “full health assessment”, the space agency said, and are “working to return the spacecraft to a nominal configuration for its journey to Mars”.

(18) TOLKIEN SAYS. At BookRiot: “28 J.R.R. Tolkien Quotes From His Books, Essays, And Letters”.

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’” —The Fellowship of the Ring

(19) NAVIGATING ON VIRTUAL SEAS. Mlex reports  on the Cyberpunk Culture Con (July 9-10), with some commentary on other virtual cons (BaltiCon, ConZealand, Fantastikon): “Cyberpunk Culture Conference”.

…I want to report on the recent virtual con, the Cyberpunk Culture Conference (Jul 9-10, 2020), which managed to swim perfectly through the fantastic milieu of the future that has already become the past, and floated out from the wreckage on that frenzied ouroboros of possibility waves as easily as a swimmer takes to an inflated tire inner tube on a summer pond.

The conference sprang up around recent books published by Routledge, which are quite excellent, I should add…

(20) 3D. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Great article about racing and 3D printing — “3-D Printing, a Boon for Racers, Inches Closer for Carmakers” — in the New York Times. Here’s two key ‘graphs from the top:

The Belgian racing team Heli had an engine problem. Specifically, under race conditions, the manifold of the four-cylinder turbo diesel in its BMW 1-series exploded, bursting along an ultrasonically welded seam that held together the manifold’s two halves.

…In 2018 Heli took the problem to ZiggZagg, a Belgian company that fabricates parts using an HP 3-D printer. ZiggZagg made a digital scan of the two-piece manifold and after 10 hours had a digital blueprint for a stronger, lighter, one-piece manifold. In its first race with the new manifold, printed using what is known as PA 12 nylon, the part held up and Heli took third. That same manifold lasted until the car was retired earlier this year.

(21) THE DRAGON RETURNING – MAYBE. NPR reports “Astronauts Set To Return To Earth In First U.S. Splashdown In Decades”.

The two astronauts that blasted off in the first private space vehicle to take people to the International Space Station are about to return to Earth — by splashing down in the waters around Florida.

This will be the first planned splashdown for space travelers since 1975, although a Russian Soyuz capsule did have to do an emergency lake landing in 1976.

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley says that he and his crewmate Robert Behnken are prepared for the possibility of seasickness.

“Just like on an airliner, there are bags if you need them. And we’ll have those handy,” Hurley said in a press conference held on Friday, while on board the station. “And if that needs to happen, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that that’s happened in a space vehicle. It will be the first time in this particular vehicle, if we do.”

The astronauts will come home in the same SpaceX Dragon capsule that took them up on May 30. Their flight marked the first time people had been launched to orbit from U. S. soil since NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011.

The success of their trip in the SpaceX vehicle has been a major milestone for commercial space travel, and a vindication of NASA’s long-term plan to rely on space taxis for routine flights to and from the orbiting outpost—while the government agency focuses on developing vehicles for a return to the moon.

The current plan is for the Dragon “Endeavour” capsule to undock from the International Space Station on Saturday at 7:34 p.m. ET, with scheduled splashdown at 2:42 p.m. ET on Sunday. There are potential splashdown zones both in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. With a hurricane headed towards Florida, however, it’s unclear if the weather will cooperate with the plan.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Virtual Viewing:  Disney’s Cruise Line’s Tangled, The Musical” on YouTube is an hour-long musical, with three songs composed by Alan Menken, that was performed on Disney’s Cruise Line and is worth seeing for people who need a Disney musical fix.  (Hat tip to Mark Evanier.)

[Thanks to Darrah Chavey, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Mlex, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 6/24/20 Pretty Pixels In The File, They Twinkle On The Screen, And Then Get Refreshed So That New Ones Are Seen

(1) JUMP ON THE TRUCK. In the Washington Post, Robert Zubrin and Homer Hickam have an opinion piece where they say that SpaceX Dragon’s success should make the preferred launch vehicle for a return to the Moon and NASA should shelve the Orion rocket as too unwieldy. “Send the SpaceX Dragon to the moon”.

In March 2019, Vice President Pence challenged NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 “by any means necessary.” This was a potential breakthrough, because after nearly 50 years of drift, the White House was finally giving NASA’s human spaceflight program a concrete goal with a clear timeline and forceful support — a necessity for any progress and the restoration of the agency’s can-do spirit. The purpose for the mission itself is a blend of economic, scientific and world leadership goals designed to make the investment worthwhile to all Americans.

NASA’s response to Pence’s challenge was to proceed with what it already had in the pipeline: the Orion crewed spacecraft and the massive shuttle-derived Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift expendable booster rocket. SLS has been in slow-walk development since 2006, with more than $18 billion spent, but it is still years away from launch. Considering this track record, we unhappily doubt the SLS/Orion combination will meet the vice president’s challenge.

But now we have an alternative. The contract that resulted in the Dragon crewed spacecraft was issued by NASA in 2014. Six years and $3 billion later, it has flown astronauts into orbit. What SpaceX did was show that a well-led entrepreneurial team can achieve results that were previously thought to require the efforts of superpowers, and in a small fraction of the time and cost, and even — as demonstrated by its reusable Falcon launch vehicles — do things deemed impossible altogether. This is a revolution….

(2) RWA. The Romance Writers of America will hold a virtual RWA Conference from August 28-30. A full list of the RWA 2020 Conference Scholarships are at the link. Some new ones have been added.

RWA also has clarified a recent announcement about Dreamspinner Press to say they are available to advocate for non-members, too. Thread starts here.

(3) FROM THE CANOE. Elizabeth Bear posted “an open letter to my friends and acquaintances in the publishing community who have been outed as serial harassers, and to the ones who still think they’re getting away with something.”

It begins:

Hey there. I know you’re having a rough time right now, and I’m sorry to say you earned it. I wish I had known about your behavior sooner; I wish I had known that you weren’t just making rank jokes among friends, as we all do once in a while, but engaged in serious abuses of your power, engaged in harming people.

I am, needless to say, very very disappointed in you.

I’m saddened for the people you have hurt, and I’m really disappointed that you have turned out not to be the person I thought you were. Even more, I’m wondering if you even have the self-awareness to realize how much you have harmed not just the people you harassed or gaslit or backstabbed, but also the communities you were a part of. How much you have damaged the people who care about you and who have tried to be your friends, as well….

(4) STOKERCON UK. The StokerCon UK committee has announced a new set of dates for the Horror Writers Association event which has been chased around the calendar by the coronavirus. The post is here.

…Secondly, we are grateful to the majority of you who, since our previous announcement, have allowed us to get on with trying to save the convention—or at least a version of it—by rescheduling it.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we have agreed tentative dates for the event with the two convention hotels of 28-31 January 2021. With events and advice changing so quickly, the hotels have agreed to follow UK Government advice and are prepared to reassess or postpone the event once again nearer the time, depending on the spread and hopeful containment of the virus.

(5) YOU ARE HERE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about this moment with empathy and wisdom: “Business Musings: Shock, Survival, and Forgiveness”.

… We now know where we are. We’re in that prolonged change. It’s a transition, and we’ve finally hit it. All of 2020 will be a year of half-measures, making do, and getting through.

Frankly, I find knowing where we are calming. I now know how to proceed day to day. I don’t like it, but I don’t have to like it.

I, you, all of us just have to survive it.

The knowledge of where we’re at, though, took me out of survival mode. I’m no longer obsessively reading the news every day, trying to figure out where we are. I’m donning my mask when I go out. I make that daily calculation—is it worth the risk to my health (and Dean’s health) to do whatever it is I am planning to do?

I can calculate risk now. And, more importantly, Dean and I are agreed. We consult if we’re going to do something outside of our usual schedule, based on the level of risk.

We are more or less staying home, but we did anyway, since we work here.  That sense of ease, that feeling of no longer being on the knife’s edge, has made it easier to focus, although not always easier to work.

I’m one of the few people I know who has made the mental transition out of survival mode. (If one of us gets sick, I know I’ll head right back into it.) Now that I know how we’re going to be living day to day, I’m willing to live day to day. I don’t need to be ever vigilante for another tow truck, coming at us out of the dark.

Because I’ve made this transition, I can see other folks who haven’t. In my various social media feeds, I’m watching writers talk about their process or their lack of one. Writers, discussing how their work has changed or just plain stopped. Writers, who can’t face any of their usual projects, and who are feeling lost and don’t exactly know why.

Everyone knows the changes in their writing habits come from the pandemic, but most don’t understand what to do. And many people are worried that the changes to their writing methods are permanent.

Are those changes permanent? It depends on the change. They seem to fall into two categories…

… We are in a new place. Like any new place, it will take time to learn all its ins and outs. We have to explore it and understand it—and survive the transition into it.

If you’re dealing with actual life and death issues, from someone being very ill in your life to a major loss of income or career, then give yourself time to recover. Take the pressure off your writing. There’s enough pressure in your life….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY,

  • June 24, 1982 Blade Runner premiered. It was directed by Ridley Scott, and was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. It starred Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. It was based very loosely on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It would win the Best Dramatic Presentation at ConStellation, beating out The Wrath of KhanE.T.The Dark Crystal and The Road Warrior. Critics were puzzled by it and t generated little street buzz nearly thirty years ago. It would vastly raise its stature over the years, now being considered one of the Best SF works ever done. It’s worth Warner Bros. released The Final Cut, a 25th-anniversary digitally remastered version; this is the only version over which Scott retained full artistic control.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 – Ambrose Bierce.  Four hundred short pieces, sixty poems.  A pioneer in realistic fiction; a great fantasist; a biting satirist.  When William Dean Howells said AB was among our three greatest writers, AB said “I am sure Mr. Howells is the other two.”  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 1914, maybe) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1915 – Sir Frederick Hoyle.  Coined the expression “Big Bang”, rejected the theory.  Radar research in World War II with more personnel than the Manhattan Project. Mayhew Prize, Balzan Prize, Crafoord Prize.  Founded the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and resigned from it.  A dozen SF novels, two dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors; translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian,  Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1937 – Charles Brown.  Founded Locus (with Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf) as a fanzine; it grew, changed, and “semiprozine” was invented to describe it; 29 Hugos by the time of his death.  You could disagree with him; on panels with him I opposed his “mainstream literature is about the past, science fiction is about the present, nobody can write about the future”; no one has outdone him.  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Award for lifetime achievement.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1947 Peter Weller, 73. Yes it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is it of the Naked Lunch genre? Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise! (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1948 – Kris Neri, age 72.Two novels for us; four more, sixty shorter stories.  After living in San Francisco, and Southern California, moved to Sedona (Arizona); now at home in Silver City (New Mexico).  Teaches writing through the U. Cal. L.A. Extension School.  Says her Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries feature “a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent”.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1950 Mercedes Lackey, 70. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. Lackey and Dixon are GoHs of this year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1950 Nancy Allen, 70. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct-to-video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh, that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1961 Iain Glen, 59. Scots actor who played as Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, he’s also  well known for his roles as Dr. Alexander Isaacs/Tyrant in the Resident Evil franchise; and he played the role of Father Octavian, leader of a sect of clerics who were on a mission against the Weeping Angels in “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1970 – Nicolas Fructus, age 50.  Recently, comics and storyboard art for animated films and video games.  Worked with Moebius, Philippe Druillet; founded Delcourt publishing house.  Here is a cover for Bifrost.  Here is one for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe”.  Here is A Year in the Air.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1982 Lotte Verbeek, 38. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including being Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the now-concluded cross-world Counterpart series. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1988 – Kasey Lansdale, age 32. Country music singer-songwriter who has been writing in our field with her father Joe Lansdale; six short stories with him, two alone; edited two anthologies, recently Impossible Monsters.  “Tremble” with JL was in Pop the Clutch from Dark Moon last year.   Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1994 Nicole Muñoz, 26. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same same. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) STICK WITH IT. USPS announced “New Stamps Celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th Birthday Coming Soon to a Post Office Near You”.

The U.S. Postal Service will issue commemorative Forever stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday. The Postal Service and Warner Bros. Consumer Products are excited to dedicate these stamps at a virtual ceremony on July 27, the 80th anniversary of Bugs Bunny’s official screen debut.

Bugs has always been known for his impeccable impersonations and his masterful masquerades, so the soon-to-be-revealed 10 designs on this pane of 20 stamps each showcase a costumed Bugs Bunny in some of his most memorable getups.

(10) A BIG IDEA. Rosamund Lannin is “Searching for Body Positivity in Fantasy” at Tor.com.

I remember the first time I encountered an attractive fat woman in a fantasy novel. My heart flipped a little as I read about a woman was for-real fat. She wasn’t your usual fictional overweight woman, either: there was no zaftig or curvy or voluptuous to be found near the Scientist’s Daughter in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. But she was definitely attractive. The narrator describes her as follows:

“A white scarf swirled around the collar of her chic pink suit. From the fullness of her earlobes dangled square gold earrings, glinting with every step she took. Actually, she moved quite lightly for her weight. She may have strapped herself into a girdle or other paraphernalia for maximum visual effect, but that didn’t alter the fact that her wiggle was tight and cute. In fact, it turned me on. She was my kind of chubby.”

(11) THE NEXT SHIFT. At The Mary Sue, Cree Myles advises: “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors”.

… Society generally views the science fiction genre as one of leisure. You read it because you have time, not because you want to learn something. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While all writers are charged with the task of creating a more empathetic society, science fiction writers have the additional burden of telling us what happens next.

Some of our best thinkers, and certainly our most comprehensive hopers, have been sci-fi writers. N.K. Jemisin has given us black female demigods who, despite their powers, still somehow suffer at the hands of an oppressive society. Octavia Butler has given us shapeshifters, time travelers, and voyagers who all had to react and survive under patriarchy and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin was creating entire non-binary societies … in the 1960s.

(12) IT’S IN THE OH! E. D. Ursula Vernon coins a word:

(13) BACK FROM THE FUTURE. “Segway: End of the road for the much-hyped two-wheeler”

Segway is ending production of its original two-wheeler, which was popular with city tour guides and some police forces – but not the public.

Launched in 2001, the much-hyped self-balancing vehicle promised to revolutionise personal transport.

The Segway, invented by US engineer Dean Kamen, debuted with much fanfare, but struggled to make a profit.

Accidents didn’t help with the Segway’s popularity, and the company was bought by Chinese rival Ninebot in 2015.

Made at a factory in New Hampshire, in the US, production of the Segway Personal Transporter will end on 15 July.

Announcing the news, Segway president Judy Cai said: “Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle.”

However, in the vehicle’s almost two decade-long history it has also been the subject of mockery and high-profile collisions as well as a tragic death.

(14) THE PASSENGER PIGEON OF VIDEO STORES. Atlas Obscura leads readers to something that’s the last of its kind: “Bend Blockbuster Video”.

In early summer of 2018, there were two Blockbusters left in Alaska and one in Oregon. The Alaska stores finally closed that summer, leaving the Bend store as the last one standing. National media attention soon followed and the Bend Blockbuster became a tourist site as well. And after the last Blockbuster Video in Australia closed in 2019, the Bend store became the only one left in the world. 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/20 The Galileo Sevateem

(1) INCOME INEQUALITY. In “#PublishingPaidMe and a Day of Action Reveal an Industry Reckoning”, the New York Times does a roundup of Monday’s Twitter exchange, leading with a focus on Jesmyn Ward. Other authors quoted include N.K. Jemisin and John Scalzi.

…Hand-wringing over diversity is nothing new in publishing — its work force is more than three-quarters white, according to a survey released earlier this year by the children’s book publisher Lee & Low Books — but over the weekend, conversations that have been occurring for years took a turn into public protest.

Using a hashtag, #PublishingPaidMe, that quickly began trending on Twitter, authors shared their advances, which is the amount of money they receive for their books before any royalties, typically based on copies sold, start coming in. The young adult author L.L. McKinney, who is black, started the hashtag on Saturday, hoping to highlight the pay inequality between black and nonblack writers.

“These are conversations black authors have been having with each other and trying to get the industry engaged on for a long time,” she said. While she wasn’t surprised by the disparities that were revealed, she was hurt, she said, by “how deep it went.”

Jesmyn Ward, a critically acclaimed novelist, said on Twitter that she “fought and fought” for her first $100,000 advance, even after her book “Salvage the Bones,” for which she said she received around $20,000, won a National Book Award in 2011. After switching publishers, she was able to negotiate a higher advance for “Sing, Unburied, Sing” — for which she won a second National Book Award, in 2017 — but, she said, “it was still barely equal to some of my writer friends’ debut novel advances.”

…A Google spreadsheet that collected the advances of authors also went viral, amassing nearly 1,200 entries by midday Monday. Its contents were self-reported and could not be independently verified, but many entries were detailed with the genre of book, the race, gender and sexual orientation of the author, as well as what the authors were paid. Of the 122 writers who said they earned at least $100,000, 78 of them identified as white, seven as black and two said they were Latin American.

(2) TOP LGBT SF. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual list of “Outstanding LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy short fiction from 2019”. These 30 stories are finalists for major SF/F awards, included in year’s best SF/F anthologies, and recommended by prolific reviewers. Here are some of their observations about the list.

(3) ROWLING CRITIC. At LitHub, “How JK Rowling Betrayed the World She Created. Gabrielle Bellot on Transphobia and Growing Up with the Harry Potter Universe”. One of many pieces responding to Rowling’s tweets of a few days ago.

Time and time again, I’ve become accustomed to having to defend my womanhood when public figures declare that transgender women are not “real” women. Sometimes, I want to quietly sit back, avoiding the stress of having yet another prolonged argument with people who will call me “sir” at best and a rapist who should be euthanized at worst—for all trans women, the argument goes, are just men who want to sneak into women’s locker rooms to do nefarious things. It’s emotionally and spiritually exhausting to debate your identity; sometimes, you just want to log off social media and take a walk or hug someone you love for support, curling up in your own small safe harbor, where, at least for a bit, no one is accusing you of being a freak, a pervert, an abomination who does not belong in the annals of this Earth….

(4) ROWLING REPLIES TO CRITICS. On her website today, “J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues” a 3,600-word explanation of her views that also includes a previously undisclosed personal history of sexual assault.

….But endlessly unpleasant as its constant targeting of me has been, I refuse to bow down to a movement that I believe is doing demonstrable harm in seeking to erode ‘woman’ as a political and biological class and offering cover to predators like few before it. I stand alongside the brave women and men, gay, straight and trans, who’re standing up for freedom of speech and thought, and for the rights and safety of some of the most vulnerable in our society: young gay kids, fragile teenagers, and women who’re reliant on and wish to retain their single sex spaces. Polls show those women are in the vast majority, and exclude only those privileged or lucky enough never to have come up against male violence or sexual assault, and who’ve never troubled to educate themselves on how prevalent it is….

(5) DOOM PATROL TRAILER. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the second season.

The Doom Patrol isn’t done with the weird just yet! See what the team’s been up to in Season 2, starting with 3 new episodes on June 25.

(6) COLORADO CON CANCELLED. COSine, Colorado Springs’ annual convention, has joined the ranks of the postponed. What’s unusual is – this was a January 2021 event, and it’s being bumped to 2022.

Fortunately, all of our guests have agreed to come in 2022! You can read the official announcement here.

(7) THE GLUE THAT HOLDS IT ALL TOGETHER. Frank Catalano says “It’s weird to cross streams between education conferences and the Nebula Conference, but I did it. With a photo, in EdSurge.” — “Who’s Zoomin’ Who? Remote Education Conference Woes and Wows”. Frank’s wide-ranging review of virtual conference techniques includes these notes of praise for SFWA’s recent Nebula Conference.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America moved its annual Nebula Conference for professional writers in late May online. Yes, it had good moderators, snappy sessions and well-oiled combinations of online tools over its three days. But it also had something that helped replicate the physical experience.

In advance of the event, paid registrants received an unexpected package in the mail containing a four-page color schedule, a printed name badge and a short tumbler glass etched with the name of the event. To make those post-session Zoom happy hours more … happy.

Now that’s an organization looking to the future of virtual conferences.

(8) POD PERSON. Michael Dirda confesses: “All the books in my 300 boxes sparked joy. The lockdown made me rethink why I was keeping them” in the Washington Post. He really did end up giving some of the books away. A few.

… It was clear to my lightning brain — I’m not a Sherlockian for nothing — that I needed to free up space in the storage pod before I could put more boxes into it. There was, I deduced, just one way to accomplish this: I would have to start selling or giving away some of my books right now rather than later. But which ones should go? Obviously, I would keep personal favorites such as James Salter’s “A Sport and a Pastime,” Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” Frederick Exley’s “A Fan’s Notes” and John Crowley’s “Little, Big,” as well as books I still hoped to read (Samuel Richardson’s “Clarissa,” Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene,” Cao Xueqin’s “The Story of the Stone”) or reread (Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall,” Boswell’s “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” Stendhal’s nonfiction, Macaulay’s essays, dozens of ghost-story collections, lots of P.G. Wodehouse, Edmund Crispin and Evelyn Waugh). I’d also retain material need for writing projects — mainly that popular fiction in the attic — and, not least, the first or special editions worth more than $100, including signed books by Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison and Hunter Thompson.

So, picture me two weeks ago, as I sat on a white plastic lawn chair inside a gigantic metal oven, picking up book after book and only occasionally feeling a Kondoesque spark of joy amid many spasms of regret. 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 10, 1950  — Dimension X aired “The Green Hills of Earth”. Based on Robert Heinlein’s short story which originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on February 8, 1947, the title refers to a song that Heinlein wrote fragments of here and the filk community has filled out the lyrics down the years. It was adapted here by Ernest Kinoy who also did the same task at X Minus One. You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 10, 1918 Barry Morse. He was Prof. Victor Bergman on Space: 1999, and he also appeared on the Twilight ZoneOuter Limits, The InvadersTekWarThe Martian ChroniclesRay Bradbury TheaterSpace Island OneMemory RunThe Shape of Things to Come and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1918 – Frank Hamilton.   He didn’t invent the Shadow, or Doc Savage,  but he illustrated them excellently.  We in fandom know about Mipple-Stipple; his stippled style defies us to call it mundane.  Here is an FH Shadow on the cover of Frank Eisgruber’s Gangland’s Doomhere is the FH cover for a Doc Savage tribute; both with lots of interiors.  Here is a note from ThePulp.net with a 1982 FH self-portrait; here is a note from “The Shadow” wiki.  Find, if you can, his Amazing Pulp Heroes (with Link Hullar’s text).  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1922 – Judy Garland.  For us this star shines in the MGM Wizard of Oz – winning her only Academy Award.  I love the Oz Frank Baum wrote; in the MGM version much is right; and otherwise, as a law school professor of mine said – of a major figure with whom he disagreed vigorously – There is a sense in which a genius can’t be wrong.  The rest of her career was such a tragedy because there too she earned such glory.  (Died 1969) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1935 – Yoshiro Tatsumi.  He coined geika for a development of manga he preferred; see here.  I can’t go along with calling it more realistic, or saying that’s better – I had this quarrel with people when Watchmen first appeared – but Tatsumi-san was a genius, and we could stand knowing more about SF and related art of Japan.  Here is the cover for his memoir of 1945-1960 A Drifting Life (English version); here is a Wikipedia article about it; here is an article about geika and mangahere is an article in the Lambiek Comiclopedia with panels showing his work.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1937 Luciana Paluzzi, 73. She is best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. She also appeared in Hercules as Iole’s maid, The Green Slime as Doctor Lisa Benson, Captain Nemo and the Underwater City as Mala and The Six Million Dollar Man: The Solid Gold Kidnapping as Contessa DeRojas. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1942 Jürgen Prochnow, 78. I thought he was a rather good Duke Leto Atreides in Dune. It certainly was the best of the genre films he did around that time as The KeepTerminus and The Seventh Sign were pretty awful horror films.  Much better was Robin Hood where he was  Sir Miles Folcanet. Then there’s Judge Dredd where he’s Judge Griffin… I’ll end his genre with his role as Cdr. Paul Gerald in Wing Commander. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1951 Charles Vess, 69. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1952 Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen. The two of them were also frequent attenders of Ren Faires were they set up a tavern and sold various sales. Kage had a deep fascination with Elizabethan English. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1953 – Don Maitz.  Two hundred thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors from this luckily prolific artist; two Hugos, one Worldcon committee special award, ten Chesleys; World Fantasy award; Society of Illustrators Silver Medal.  Two art books, First Maitz (he created the image of Captain Sir Henry Morgan 1635-1688 for Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum) and Dreamquests; two sets of Don Maitz Fantasy Art Trading Cards.  Guest of Honor at – among others – Boskone 18, Lunacon 28, Loscon 19, Minicon 49, Balticon 27, and Lonestarcon 2 the 55th Worldcon (1997).  Here is his cover (with his wife Janny Wurts) for The Darkest Road.  Here is his cover for his Worldcon’s Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1962 – Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, M.D., Ph.D.  Author, physician, Professor of Medicine at Tanta University.  Two hundred books in both Egyptian Arabic and Classical Arabic; also in Web-based magazines.  Refaat Ismael of his Beyond Nature series is a retired bachelor doctor with a sarcastic attitude who keeps having paranormal adventures.  In Utopia Egyptians live in a dystopian and utopian (or as I should say cacotopian and eutopian) society separated by walls; translated into English, Finnish, French, German.  Cheryl Morgan interviewed him in Locus 614.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born June 10, 1964 Andrew M. Niccol, 56. Screenwriter / producer / director who wrote and produced one of my favorite genre films, The Truman Show. The film won him a Hugo at Aussiecon Three.  He also was involved in GattacaThe TerminalIn TimeThe HostThe Minutes short videoand Anon. Sort of genre adjacent is that he‘s been announced as the screenwriter for a live version of the Monopoly game but it is still in development.  (CE)
  • Born June 10, 1986 – Amanda Havard.  In The Survivors and two sequels Sadie Matthau searches for answers about her family who survived the Salem witch trials through supernatural abilities; on an Immersedition interactive book application are AH’s original music, and maps, photos, background, commentary; a syndication at Wattpad.com has had 5 million readers.  Independent Publisher‘s Editor’s Choice award, eLit bronze medals for Fantasy – Science Fiction and Young Adult.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TO PUT A POINT ON IT. James Davis Nicoll curates “Five SFF Works Inspired by RPGs”.

… Herewith, some works with RPG DNA: works that you may not know and may like, featuring the now familiar teams of skilled adventurers—don’t call them murder hobos—using their diverse skill set to solve problems. Usually by stabbing them.

(13) BATWOMAN POST RUBY ROSE. Entertainment Weekly explains that Batwoman is replacing Ruby Rose’s Kate Kane with a new character”.

Just because Batwoman plans on introducing a brand new character to pick up the titular hero’s mantle in the wake of Ruby Rose’s exit doesn’t mean the CW superhero drama will forget about Kate Kane. In fact, Kate’s absence will baked into the show’s second season in the same way that Bruce Wayne’s was in the first season.

[…] “To be honest with you, I did consider the ‘soap opera version’ [of recasting] for a hot minute, because selfishly we already had a couple episodes written, and transition-wise it would be seamless,” [showrunner Caroline Dries] said, according to TVLine. “But upon further reflection — and I think [Arrowverse EP] Greg [Berlanti] helped me make this call — he’s like, ‘I think we should just reboot Batwoman as a different character.’” She went on to explain that this decision allowed them to honor Rose’s work in season 1 while also not forcing the audience to put a new face to a character they’d already spent time getting to know.

(14) IT’S A BIRD…IT’S A PLANE. Well, it’s a very small one. Gizmodo informs us “Google’s Drone Delivery Service Now Dropping Library Books to Kids”.

Book-loving kids in Christiansburg, Va., are about to get a special delivery to ease the boredom of summer quarantine (and months of being stuck at home). Google will soon start dropping books to kids via its drone delivery service, Wing, according to the Washington Post. Now they can get their hands on a copy of The One and Only Bob (if they don’t already own it).

… Google’s book delivery service is an extension of the company’s drone service, which first partnered with FedEx and Walgreens to deliver over-the-counter medicines and other items to Christianburg residents last October. That pilot program has continued throughout the pandemic. Wing also partnered with local restaurants to deliver meals to residents; that service also saw an increase in demand during quarantine. Google has been testing Wing since 2014, when the drones made their first test flights in Queensland, Australia.

(15) STANDING DOWN. NPR reports: “IBM Abandons Facial Recognition Products, Condemns Racially Biased Surveillance”.

IBM will no longer provide facial recognition technology to police departments for mass surveillance and racial profiling, Arvind Krishna, IBM’s chief executive, wrote in a letter to Congress.

Krishna wrote that such technology could be used by police to violate “basic human rights and freedoms,” and that would be out of step with the company’s values.

“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” Krishna said.

The nationwide demonstrations following the police killing of George Floyd already have led to changes to police departments around the country – over use of force policies, police misconduct and police contracts.

The moment of reckoning over the country’s relationship with law enforcement also comes as artificial-intelligence researchers and technology scholars continue to warn about facial recognition software, particularly how some of the data-driven systems have been shown to be racially biased. For instance, the MIT Media Lab has found that the technology is often less successful at identifying the gender of darker-skinned faces, which could lead to misidentifications.

People interviewed by the BBC expressed doubts:

Privacy International’s Eva Blum-Dumontet said the firm had coined the term “smart city”.

“All around the world, they pushed a model or urbanisation which relied on CCTV cameras and sensors processed by police forces, thanks to the smart policing platforms IBM was selling them,” she said.

“This is why is it is very cynical for IBM to now turn around and claim they want a national dialogue about the use of technology in policing.”

She added: “IBM are trying to redeem themselves because they have been instrumental in developing the technical capabilities of the police through the development of so-called smart policing techniques. But let’s not be fooled by their latest move.

“First of all, their announcement was ambiguous. They talk about ending ‘general purpose’ facial recognition, which makes me think it will not be the end of facial recognition for IBM, it will just be customised in the future.”

The Algorithmic Justice League was one of the first activist groups to indicate that there were racial biases in facial recognition data sets.

(16) ANOTHER RWA REFORM. Romance Writers of America, in “Dreamspinner Advocacy”, admits they didn’t adequately pursue the missing author payments from this publisher under the previous regime. They’re gathering statements to work on it now.

As we lay the foundation for RWA 2.0, one of the Board of Directors’ priorities is to strengthen RWA’s professional relations advocacy. To this end, we are reviving our advocacy efforts with respect to Dreamspinner Press and its missing author payments. Previous advocacy on this matter did not properly or fully address the issues, leaving many members unsupported. This is unacceptable and antithetical to our mission, and the Board and staff are committed to doing everything we can to support our members now to the greatest extent possible.

We will be reaching out to Dreamspinner Press to demand payments due to our members on behalf of our members who request that we do so. We also will be working with RWA’s attorney to explore all of our options in this matter. We will keep the membership updated on this process.

We would like to hear from any member who is a Dreamspinner Press author about your situation and what you would ideally like to see from our advocacy efforts. Also, if any members would like to contribute accurate, verifiable statements about their experiences with Dreamspinner Press to be used both in outreach to the publisher and in a potential public statement to better inform both members and non-members about the situation, we are collecting those by June 30, 2020.

(17) A CLOSER LOOK. “Planet’s satellites aim for still sharper view of Earth” — examples, and one picture just for drama.

When SpaceX puts up another batch of its Starlink satellites in the coming days, there’ll be three spacecraft from the Planet company catching the same Falcon rocket ride to orbit.

These companies – SpaceX and Planet – now operate the largest commercial constellations above our heads. SpaceX at over 450 satellites; Planet at more than 150.

SpaceX is targeting broadband communications; Planet is all about Earth observation, and this next launch marks a big milestone in the San Francisco outfit’s plans.

These next three platforms that go up with SpaceX will go into Planet’s SkySat network.

Already this comprises 15 spacecraft. The satellites were lowered in recent months from 500km in altitude to 450km, to increase their resolution. They now see any feature on the Earth’s surface larger than 50cm.

With the addition of the soon-to-launch threesome, and a further three about a month later, Planet will then have 21 of the high-resolution imagers circling the globe. At that point, the SkySats will be able to see any spot on the ground (cloud permitting) on average up seven times a day.

(18) MORE ON THE ANDROID BLIT. “‘How my photo ended up breaking Android phones'”.

Gaurav Agrawal, a scientist and amateur photographer living in San Diego, couldn’t believe it when he suddenly started seeing a photograph he took last summer popping up on the news.

He took it at St Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana, one “magical evening” in August 2019.

He shared the snap on photo platform Flickr and thought no more about it.

However, a glitch meant that when the image was set as wallpaper, it caused some Android phones to fail.

The handsets would switch on and off repeatedly, requiring a factory reset which meant all data on them was wiped.

Last week, a tweet about the bug went viral – and Mr Agrawal contacted me.

…”It was a magical evening,” Mr Agrawal told the BBC of the night he took the photo, in the park with his wife. It was their third trip there, in pursuit of the perfect picture.

“It was gloomy and cloudy, and we thought there wasn’t going to be a great sunset. We were about to leave when things started to change.”

He grabbed the shot on his Nikon camera, and later did a small edit using the editing software Lightroom.

And that’s where the bug crept in.

Lightroom gives three colour-mode options for exporting the finished result – and the one he picked is the one that seems to confuse some Android handsets.

(19) MM-MM-GOOD. “Italian woman prepares olives during brain tumour operation”.

Brain operation patients have been asked to play the violin or the guitar during surgery, but until now there is no record of anyone stuffing olives on the operating table.

A 60-year-old Italian woman did just that during a procedure to remove a tumour from her left temporal lobe.

The neurosurgeon at Ancona’s Riuniti hospital said the two and a half hour procedure “went very well”.

His patient is said to have prepared 90 olives in the space of an hour.

Awake brain surgery, as it is known, is used to treat some neurological conditions such as tumours that affect the areas of the brain responsible for vision, movement or speech. To help the surgeon try to inflict minimal damage on healthy tissue, the patient can be asked questions or engaged in an activity during the operation.

As the left temporal lobe controls speech, memory and movement of the right part of the body, neurosurgeon Roberto Trignani told Ansa news agency the method “allows us to monitor the patient while we work on their brain functions and to calibrate our action”.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Seven of Nine And The Doctor Singing ‘My Darling Clementine'” on YouTube is another clip of Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo singing from Star Trek: Voyager.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Jeanne Jackson, Mike Kennedy, Jeffrey Smith, Michael Toman, Eric Wong, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/20 The Galileo Sevateem

(1) ASTRONAUTS SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED. The LA Times has details: “New era of spaceflight dawns as SpaceX sends NASA astronauts into orbit”.

For the first time in nine years, NASA astronauts launched to orbit from U.S. soil. And for the first time ever, their ride to space was a craft designed and owned by a private company.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley rocketed to space Saturday afternoon aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, en route to the International Space Station. Despite some initial weather concerns, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22 p.m. EDT. The capsule is set to dock at the station early Sunday morning at 10:29 a.m. EDT.

Saturday’s launch was the start of a test flight evaluating Crew Dragon’s systems and capabilities. As the first crew ever to ride in the capsule, Behnken and Hurley will ensure everything works as expected before NASA certifies the spacecraft to regularly transport its astronauts to the space station.

Here is video tweeted by SpaceX:

(2) MY DAUGHTER RIDES ALONG. Virtually. I found out today that Class of 2020 graduates were invited to submit their photos to be part of a mosaic that is accompanying the astronauts to the ISS. My daughter Sierra is part of the picture – see her photo here.

The below mosaic will be flown to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Crew Demo-2 mission. To learn more about this historic mission, please visit spacex.com/launches

(3) MINNEAPOLIS BOOKSTORE UPDATE. We posted earlier today that Minneapolis sff landmarks Uncle Hugo’s had been burned and DreamHaven vandalized.

This is a photo of the remains of Uncle Hugo’s —

Someone immediately started a GoFundMe appeal in the name of Uncle Hugo’s, which got a lot of traction in social media, however it is not authorized. Owner Don Blyly will organize his own.

There was also an update from DreamHaven:

Thank you everyone who came by to help and wish us well. It was a mess, with most of the glass cabinets at least partially broken. There were a few merchandise casualties and they took/destroyed the electronics they found, but mostly they ignored the books. All except the one they tried to burn, which they left to smolder and which put itself out.

Teams of folks came by during the day (they appeared out of nowhere! It was *brilliant*!) and boarded up the store and painted “With great power comes great responsibility” on the boards. Also brilliant.

(4) LABOR OF LÁADAN LOVE. “A Third Dictionary & Grammar of Láadan” by Suzette Haden Elgin, Edited by: Jeanne Gomoll, Diane Martin, and with an  Introduction by Rebecca E. Haden, is now available. The 342-page trade paperback contains Láadan-English and English-Láadan dictionaries, grammar, lessons, essays by Suzette Haden Elgin, and an introduction by her daughter, Rebecca Haden. Go to Lulu.com, a print-on-demand company to order your copy: https://tinyurl.com/SHEdictionary

This book includes material from 1st Dictionary and Grammar (1988) and merges it with new vocabulary created for the Láadan website. Elgin died in 2015, but interest persists in the language she created in 1982, embodied in her SF “Native Tongue” series. Láadan is a feminist constructed language created by Elgin to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that the language one speaks influences the way one thinks, i.e., can a language expressing the views of women shape a culture? Láadan includes morphemes that require speakers to own their own perceptions—words that indicate, for instance, whether a statement comes from personal observation, a trusted source, or an unreliable third party. Nowadays Elgin might argue that accusations of “fake news” would be impossible in Láadan. This language also encodes speakers’ intentions into their sentences, eliminating another form of micro-aggression, the rude comment that is passed off as “just a joke.”

All proceeds will go to the Science Fiction Poetry Association, which Elgin founded in 1978.

(5) STARSHIP TEST FAILS. Not everything has been running smoothly at SpaceX, unfortunately. The Verge reports: “SpaceX loses another Starship prototype in massive explosion”.

A fourth prototype of SpaceX’s next generation Starship rocket exploded right after a test at the company’s south Texas test site on Friday. Shortly after SpaceX ignited the engine on the test rocket, a massive fireball engulfed the vehicle in flames, leaving very little hardware still standing and apparently causing damage to the test site.

The failed test comes just a day before SpaceX is set to perform an unrelated launch for NASA that will send two astronauts to the International Space Station. That historic mission will take place out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, on SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, which has flown more than 100 times before.

While the failure of the Starship prototype is not linked to the upcoming NASA mission, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did tell Aviation Week that SpaceX planned to put a pause on Starship development while the company focused on its first crewed flight. “I have redirected SpaceX’s priorities to be very focused on the crew launch,” Musk told Aviation Week during a podcast interview published on May 26th. “So that’s going to slow things down on the Starship front.”

The failed test comes just a day before SpaceX is set to perform a critical launch for NASA

The prototype that just exploded is meant to test out the design for SpaceX’s future Starship, a giant rocket the company wants to create to send people to deep space destinations like the Moon and Mars. SpaceX has been building various test versions of the Starship down at the company’s work site in Boca Chica, Texas. Today, the company ignited the main Raptor engine on the latest Starship prototype while holding the vehicle down, a type of test known as a static fire. It was the fifth static fire test SpaceX had conducted over the last couple of weeks.

(6) TYMN OBIT. Marshall B. Tymn (1937-2020), who did much to advance the study of sf in academia, died May 24. He won a Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions from the Science Fiction Research Association in 1990 Locus Online covers his career here.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 30, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s “The Little Black Bag” first aired. An unsuccessful doctor finds some very interesting instruments in a black bag which he has bought from a pawnshop. He and his wife differ over the ethics of using them. The script was written by Mann Rubin from story by Cyril Kornbluth as first published in Astounding Science Fiction, July 1950. (It would win a Retro Hugo for Best Novelette at Millennium Philcon.) It starred Joseph Anthony, Vicki Cummings, Florence Anglin and John Shellie. You can watch it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 30, 1914 Bruce Elliott. His fifteen stories in The Shadow magazine in the late Forties are generally held in low esteem by Shadow fans because of his handling of the character, best noted by the three stories in which the Shadow does not appear at all in his costumed identity. Oh the horror! He also wrote three genre novels — The Planet of ShameAsylum Earth  and, errr, The Rivet in Grandfather’s Neck. And he had stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction including “Wolves Don’t Cry”:and “The Last Magician”. (Died 1973.) (CE) 
  • Born May 30, 1920 Franklin J. Schaffner. In genre circles, he’s best remembered for as the director of two films, Planets of The Apes and Boys from Brazil. On the television side, he directed Alice in Wonderland and Treasure Island adaptations as five episodes of the Tales of Tomorrow series. (Died 1989.) (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1922 – Harry Stubbs.  Active Boston fan.  Began pro writing as Hal Clement in 1942, so I guess that’s Clement’s birth year; “Uncommon Sense” (1945) won a Retro-Hugo; HC maybe best known for Mission of Gravity.  Also living in the same body was the graphic artist George Richard.  See the NESFA Press collection The Essential Hal Clement.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1927 – Bob Peak.  Illustrator for film, TimeTV GuideSports Illustrated, postage stamps.  NY Artists Guild Artist of the Year, 1961.  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, 8 Awards of Excellence, 4 gold medals.    Posters for West Side StoryMy Fair LadyCamelot; in our field, RollerballSupermanStar Trek.  See a Camelot-themed cover for The Once and Future King here.See a Camelot-themed cover for The Once and Future King here.   (Died 1992) [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1934 – Pete Turner.  Renowned photographer; examples here.  See a cover for Omni magazine here; a book cover for Exile here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1936 Keir Dullea, 84. David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. He’s done a number of other genre films, Brave New WorldSpace Station 76, Valley of the Gods and Fahrenheit 451. And less we forget he was Devon in Starlost. (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1937 – Ross Chamberlain.  One of our finest fan artists.  Guest of Honor at Westercon LV.  Rotsler Award.  Here’s his Website.  [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1952 Andy Sawyer, 68. Member of fandom who managed the Science Fiction Foundation library in Liverpool for 25 years up to last year. For his work and commitment to the SF community, the Science Fiction Research Association awarded him their Thomas D. Clareson Award for Distinguished Service. And the  paper he wrote that I want to get and read is “The Shadows out of Time: H. P. Lovecraftian Echoes in Babylon 5” as I’ve always thought The Shadows were Lovecraftian!  And his APA list is impressive: &Another Earth Matrix,  Paperback Inferno and  Acnestis. (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1952 Mike W. Barr, 68. Writer of comics and sf novels. Created along with Jim Aparo the character Looker (Emily “Lia” Briggs), a hero in the DC  Universe. She first appeared first appeared in Batman & the Outsiders #25. He worked for both major houses though I’d say most of his work was at DC. He wrote the “Paging the Crime Doctor” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. (CE)
  • Born May 30, 1953 – Nancy Lebovitz.  Fan, conversationalist (is that redundant?), particularly known for calligraphy and thus slogan-buttons.  She says things like “I re-read sometimes because I’m enough of a different person that I notice different things in books than I used to.”  Here she is on a panel at Laffcon IV (R.A. Lafferty convention) last year; L to R, Samuel Tomaino, Darrell Schweitzer, Robert Bee, NL. [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1963 – Helen Sharman, Ph.D.  Chemist.  First British cosmonaut.  Ten honorary doctorates.  Okay, it’s not SF.  She was called the Girl from Mars (she was 24) but it was for research at Mars Confectionery.  Memoir, Seize the Moment – with Christopher Priest, is that better?  [JH]
  • Born May 30, 1964 Mark Sheppard, 56. He’s the son of actor W. Morgan Sheppard. A number of genre roles including lawyer Romo Lampkin on the Battlestar Galactica reboot, truly sleazy crime lord Badger on Firefly,  Tanaka on Dollhouse, Regent Benedict Valda on Warehouse 13, Canton Everett Delaware III on Doctor Who and Willoughby Kipling, member of the Knights Templar, on Doom Patrol. (CE)

(9) RUNNING HOT. This is not a National Enquirer headline: “‘Scorching-hot hacked computer burned my hand'”.

Bullets rained down from all angles but Abdelrhman Badr kept calm.

Suddenly an enemy burst through a window. Abdelrhman swung round to face the soldier and save his team. He lined up his sights for a fatal shot and squeezed the trigger but… his screen went black.

His computer had silently and suddenly shut itself down without warning.

Abdelrhman was confused. The game he was playing had never caused problems before.

He reached down and looked inside his computer, which he liked to leave open and on display in his bedroom.

Instinctively he touched one of the components, swore and pulled his hand back. The graphics card was so hot it had burned his fingers.

The 18-year-old from Sheffield hadn’t realised it yet, but this minor injury was caused by crypto-jacking.

(10) MUNDANE MEETS GENRE. “The Machine Stops: Will Gompertz reviews EM Forster’s work”.

My wife was listening to a radio programme the other day and heard a man talking about artificial intelligence. He mentioned a science fiction novella by EM Forster called The Machine Stops, published in 1909. He said it was remarkably prescient. The missus hadn’t heard of it, and nor had I. Frankly, we didn’t have Forster down as a sci-fi guy, more Merchant Ivory films starring Helena Bonham Carter and elegant Edwardian dresses.

We ordered a copy (you can read it for free online).

OMG! as Forster would not have said.

The Machine Stops is not simply prescient; it is a jaw-droppingly, gob-smackingly, breath-takingly accurate literary description of lockdown life in 2020.

If it had been written today it would be excellent, that it was written over a century ago is astonishing.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/27/20 Johnny Mnemonic B. Goode

(1) A NEW QUIZ. “The Sky National General Knowledge Test”. Only 80 out of 100 for me. How come I still can’t tell the difference between a watt and an amp? At least I got both genre literature questions right.

Sky have worked with leading academics and celebrity experts to bring together the 100 questions that everyone should know, in celebration of the launch of three TV channels: Sky Nature, Sky Documentaries and Sky HISTORY.

(2) NO COVER CHARGE. Camestros Felapton, where do you get these ideas? “My alternate Hugo novel cover art”. Can you match his six images with the Best Novel Hugo finalists?

As a thing to do, I’ve tried to make alternate cover art for each of the six novel finalists. As a quiz you can guess which picture was meant to be which.

(2b) GET OFF YOUR PHONE! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On the other side of the paywall, in the May 20 Financial Times, Leo Lewis discusses what happened when Ichiro Ogawa, former chairman of the assembly of Kagawa prefecture, decided that his daughter was spending too much time playing games on her smartphone.

In January Mr Ogawa proposed a rule–the first of its kind in Japan–that would ban anyone under 18, from playing (games) for more than an hour a day (90 minutes on weekends) on mobiles, PCs, and consoles.  The rule, which adds a smartphone curfew of 9 PM for those up to 15, would not be directly enforced by the state; that burden would fall on ‘responsible parents, mass-deputised as screen sentinels.  Two months later the assembly–98 percent male and mostly aged around 70, voted it through, casting cantankerous old Kagawa as the clear-eyed pioneer in a world groping for the answers to screen addiction.

Not so fast, says a 17-year-old from the prefecture who loves his games and views the lumberings of Kagawa’s assembly-osaurs as unconscionable over-reach.  The high-schooler, who uses only the name Wataru, has begin crowdfunding a campaign to repeal the ordinance, arguing it was arrived at unscientifically, wedges the state uncomfortably far into a matter that should be for each household to decide upon, and is in glaring breach of Japanese citizens’ fundamental right to self-determination.”

Tomoshi Sakka, a “fabulously tenacious lawyer” and a champion of free speech in Japan, has joined with Wataru to overturn the law.

(3) THE ACTOR WITH NO FACE. SYFY Wire covers a Golden Globes kerfuffle: “About Face! The Mandalorian’s Masked Hero Prompts Golden Globes To Revise Awards Rules”.

Bad news for The MandalorianThe Masked Singer, and most of the cast of Doom PatrolThe Golden Globes are changing their rules around to better delineate their stance on masked performances — and Pedro Pascal’s helmeted Din Djarin may have been the impetus behind it.

According to Variety, the change in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s awards — which reportedly states that “voice-only performances are not eligible in any acting category” — was prompted by Pascal being hidden for all but a bit of the Disney+ Star Wars show’s eight-episode first season. When the helmet finally came off in the finale, the HFPA must’ve breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Pascal was really under there … because it seems like they were so caught up about the masked secrecy that they decided to disallow such performances in their future considerations.

(4) LIBRARY WILL SEMI-REOPEN SOON. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I won’t say “they read my mind” but I did not just think about this but also suggested it to a friend or two, along with “Why aren’t the food trucks out driving around the way ice cream trucks use to be…”

Here’s the news, from our mayor’s latest email update:

[Our city’s library] “is preparing to launch “Library To-Go,” their new contactless hold and pickup service, next week. Please note that this will be by appointment only initially.”

I’ve already been making a fair number of reserve/purchase-requests (using the online system), including new books by Robert Sawyer (Oppenheimer Alternative), Marko Kloos’ Ballistic, Baen’s Give Me LibertyCon, Strathan’s Made To Order robot antho, Gene Wolfe’s (presumedly) last, Nearly Nero (pastiche/parody antho)… so, again, woo-hoo!

(5) UNFORCED ERROR. Carolyn Framke renders a verdict at Yahoo! Entertainment: “‘Space Force’ with Steve Carell and John Malkovich: TV Review”.

There was, clearly, no expense spared in the making of “Space Force.” Imagining what a Space Force branch of the military might actually look like outside the bounds of President Trump’s imagination (though the show never mentions him by name), the new comedy is a splashy flex of Netflix’s powers. It boasts the co-creator team of Greg Daniels and Steve Carell, whose smash hit “The Office” gained an almost more successful second life when it hit Netflix and won over a whole new generation of TV fans. With Carell at the center of its orbit, “Space Force” features an all-star cast including Lisa Kudrow (of Netflix’s other onetime rerun hit, “Friends”), John Malkovich, and even the late Fred Willard in the bittersweet role of Carell’s ailing father. Its sets are expansive and slick, gleaming and pristine. Every episode brings new familiar faces, stellar production design, and the kind of confidence that only the total support of a network can bestow. For all the heft behind it, “Space Force” should be an easy win. Ten episodes later, however, it’s safer to say that “Space Force” is really just okay. 

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 27, 1996 Doctor Who premiered on BBC. The film involving the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann that is. Short of The War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, he would have the briefest tenure of any Doctor from a video representation viewpoint having just the film and a short video later on. (He has done some seventy Big Finish audio stories to date.) The film was directed by Geoffrey Sax off the screenplay by Matthew Jacobs. The remaining cast of importance was Daphne Ashbrook as the Companion to the Doctor, Dr. Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts as The Master. Critics, American and British alike, were decidedly mixed on their reactions, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are equally divided and give it exactly a fifty percent rating.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 27, 1894 Dashiell Hammett. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time, but ISFDB says that he was also the editor of three genre anthologies, Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills, The Red Brain and Other Creepy Thrillers and Breakdown and Other Thrillers with writers such as Frank Bellnap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, it certainly looks that way. ISFDB also says one Continental Op story, “The Farewell Murder,” is at genre adj. (Died 1962.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1900 – Rudolph Belarski.  Virtuoso at air-combat magazine covers; five dozen covers for us, ArgosyFuture, SF StoriesStartlingThrilling; interiors too.  Here is one from 1955.  Here is a 2018 reprint.  (Died 1983) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1911 Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “The House of Horrors“ sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs which you can see here. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted HillHouse of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions.  He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1915 – Herman Wouk.  Name pronounced “woke”.  Began as a gag man for Fred Allen; Pulitzer Prize, four honorary doctorates.  Regardless of The “Caine” Mutiny”, of his masterpiece Marjorie Morningstar, of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, he’s here for A Hole in Texas, a fine SF novel he hardly needed to write but did because he felt like it.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1918 Robert C. Stanley. He was one of the two most prolific paperback cover artists used by the Dell Publishing Company, for whom he worked from 1950 to 1959. Among the covers he did was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Lost Empire (here), Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue (here), and Olaf Stapledon’s Odd Jon (here). (Died 1996) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1922 Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films.  His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1929 Burnett Toskey, 91. He was a Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones who served in various offices for them from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society.  His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pittcon, a honor he shared with  F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. (CE)
  • Born May 27, 1930 – John Barth.  Fellow of Am. Acad. Arts & Sciences.  Lannan Award for lifetime achievement.  National Book Award.  The Floating Opera is only strange (it won the Roozi Rozegari at Teheran for best translated novel, also strange).  The Sot-Weed Factor could perhaps be called historical fiction.  By Giles Goat-Boy he was doing SF.  Heinlein compared Stranger in a Strange Land to it.  In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor a man jumps overboard from a reconstructed Arab ship and finds himself in the world of Sindbad.  Nor was that all.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1934 – Harlan Ellison.  Bob Bloch, who also was both a fan and a pro, said HE was “the only living organism I know whose natural habitat is hot water”.  I mustn’t spoil the metaphor by calling HE a firebrand – or, wait, we can say hot water could never extinguish him.  SFWA Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame, Eaton award for lifetime achievement; 8 Hugos, 4 Nebulas; 3 Worldcon special committee awards.  Guest of Honor at Westercon XIX and XXXVII, Lunacon XVI, the first NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Iguanacon II (36th Worldcon), many more.  At workshops, with students, he gave everything.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1940 – Jackie Causgrove.  Prominent fan in the U.S. Midwest, then Southern California.  For Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck she did the Knight of Cups.  The Deck is a thing of wonder; each card by a leading fan or pro (or both) artist of the day, some extra cards; read BP’s description here (you can still get a deck from Elayne Pelz; if you don’t know how to do that, write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles 90057).  With Bruce Gillespie she administered the Tucker Fund that got Bob Tucker to Aussiecon I (33rd Worldcon); see one of its fliers here.  One of her fanzines was Dilemma, illustrated by her.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1954 – Mark Wheatley.  Writer, penciller, inker, letterer, editor, cover artist, publisher; developed color-production technology for comics; founded Insight Studios.  Re-interpreted the Flash, Baron Munchhausen, the Three Stooges, Dick Tracy, Doctor Who; invented Frankenstein Mobster and (it had to happen) Doctor Cthulittle.  Eisner, Inkpot awards.  [JH]
  • Born May 27, 1971 – Vilma Kadleckova.  We’ve learned the software here won’t recognize the character after the “e”; it should have a little “v” over it for the sound of “ch” in English “church”.  She’s Czech; a dozen SF novels and shorter stories, half a dozen local prizes.  Four novels so far (2013-2016) in her Mycelium series, Amber EyesIce Under the SkinVisionVoices and Stars; the first two won Book of the Year and Original Czech/Slovak Book from the SFFH Acad. in Prague.  In Vector 166, contributed “The View from Olympus” with Carola Biedermann and Eva Hauser.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss shows a measurable effect of the stay-at-home rules.

(9) ALL IN A ROW. Here’s a concept.

(10) GONE CUCKOO. “Epic 7,500-mile cuckoo migration wows scientists”.

One of the longest migrations recorded by any land bird is about to be completed.

Using a satellite tag, scientists have monitored a cuckoo that has just flown more than 7,500 miles (12,000km) from southern Africa to its breeding ground in Mongolia.

The bird has survived ocean crossings and high winds after traversing 16 countries.

It has been, say scientists, “a mammoth journey”. The satellite-tagged common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), named Onon after a Mongolian river, set off from its winter home in Zambia on 20 March.

(11) THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. CinemaBlend makes sure you’re able to “Watch Cats Star Jason Derulo Turn Into Spider-Man”. UPDATE — so many people had a problem with the embedded video I’m just going to link to it here.

Since a lot of people are staying in their homes right now to help flatten the curve of the current health crisis, that naturally means that it’s important to find ways to keep one’s mind occupied in order to maintain sanity. For well-endowed Cats star Jason Derulo, he recently decided to spend some time putting together a mini-Spider-Man origin story within his home’s walls.

Check out the man who played Rum Tum Tigger on the big screen last year suddenly obtaining the ability to do whatever a spider can…

(12) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. On the latest Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss the upcoming Hugo Awards, and David discusses with Rob Gerrand their mutual love of the work of Jack Vance. Episode 28: “Mastering the Dragons”

(13) SPACEWEAR. “Nasa SpaceX launch: Evolution of the spacesuit”.

The spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts on Wednesday’s Crew Dragon launch have been getting a lot of attention. How do they differ from other attire worn by astronauts down the years?

The futuristic flight suits that will be worn by Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on Wednesday look like they’re a world away from the bulky orange shuttle flight suits worn when astronauts last launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The helmets are 3D-printed and the gloves are touchscreen-sensitive.

But their primary purpose remains the same – to protect crew members from depressurisation, where air is lost from the capsule. They also provide ensure that astronauts have sufficient oxygen and regulate temperature. A communications link and breathable air are provided via a single “umbilical” cable in the seat that “plugs in” to the suit.

The Starman suits, as they’ve been called, are all in one piece and customised for the astronaut. Their look was conceived by Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez, who has worked on Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) GOING DARK? “Facebook shareholders try to block encryption plan”

Investors at Facebook’s annual stockholder meeting will vote on a proposal to postpone the firm’s plans for end-to-end encryption.

The firm says it wants to make the measure the default option across its messaging platforms to protect privacy.

But activist shareholders say this would make it nearly impossible to detect child exploitation on Facebook.

The group wants the company to delay the move until after its board of directors studies the risk further.

“As shareholders, we know that privacy is important to a social media company, but it should not come at the expense of unleashing a whole new torrent of virtually undetectable child sexual abuse on Facebook,” said Michael Passoff, founder of Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy service supporting the measure.

(15) A RINSE AND A SCRUB. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] (Borrowing from John M. Ford’s “Waiting for the Morning Bird”): “Nasa SpaceX launch: Big day called off because of weather”

Poor weather has forced SpaceX to call off the launch of Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS).

The two men were due to go up from the Kennedy Space Center in what would have been the first orbital mission from the US in nine years.

But unfavourable atmospheric conditions prompted controllers to call a stop just 16 minutes before lift-off.

The next opportunity for SpaceX and Nasa will come on Saturday.

If that’s no good, there would be a third opportunity on Sunday.

The frustration was that conditions just 10 minutes after the designated launch time of 16:33 EDT were acceptable.

But this was an instantaneous launch window where the SpaceX Falcon rocket and Dragon crew capsule had to leave on time or they wouldn’t be able to catch the space station.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Star Wars Jedi Temple Challenge” on YouTube is a new interactive game hosted by Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Grigg, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who explains it in our first-ever Pixel Scroll Post-Script.]

P.S.P.S. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Item-suitable Backstory & Lagniappe to this title suggestion:

Yesterday’s scroll included an item on Johnny Mnemonic (story and movie). This morning, my Spotify playlist played Charles T. Berry’s song, “Johnny B Goode.”

This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.) Go figure. I bet I’ve got it on one of my cassette recordings (still in need of digitizing, sigh).

SF-semi-adjacentwise, he did (at least in one concert at Passim’s in Cambridge, not sure if it made it to any recordings), riff a few verses starting with Kliban’s Mousies cartoon (“Love them little mousies/mousies is what I eat/bite their little heads/nibble on their tiny feet”).

Smither is a country blues guy, doing a mix of classic blues along with songs by Randy Newman, Dylan and others.

That said, here’s some Smither song links. Two of his own songs: “Origin of Species” (Arguably sf/f in spirit), “Love Me Like a Man” (First recorded/popularized by Bonnie Raitt). And other songs: “Maybelline” (done in a minor key); “Statesboro Blues”; “Friend of the Devil”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Game of Thrones”

“Harry Potter”

“The Hunger Games”

“Twilight”

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 30David Brin and Best Professional Artist Hugo finalists

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

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

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

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

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

Other upcoming shows:

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also made a promise to reply to them all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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