Pixel Scroll 9/20/21 Something Is Pixelling But You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You, Mr. Scroll?

(1) SOMTOW’S FILM WINS AWARD. This past weekend Somtow Sucharitkul and an orchestra flew in to do a concert at the Oldenburg International Film Festival — the biggest indie fest in Europe, “Sundance of Europe.” The music selected for the occasion, he says, “included all sorts of great music appropriate to our field including the 1922 score from Nosferatu and the ‘classic’ overture to Piranha II.”

The festival audience also witnessed the premiere of The Maestro, a film made with director Paul Spurrier, with Somtow’s score and onscreen performance.  (See File 770’s post about the making of The Maestro.)

In the video below you can watch the entire concert of film music at the Oldenburg Festival — followed by Somtow’s surprise at receiving the Spirit of Cinema Award 2021 for The Maestro.

Oldenburg Festival founder and director Torsten Neumann (left) Somtow Sucharitkul (right)

(2) NO EMMYS FOR SFF SHOWS. The Primetime Emmy Awards aired last night but I don’t have a post up about them because “Sci-fi and fantasy shows completely shut out of Primetime Emmys”, as explained at Winter Is Coming.

… And while series like WandaVision and The Mandalorian cleaned up at the Creative Arts Emmys, which awards more technical categories like production design and costuming, they came up empty at the Primetime Emmys, which rightly or wrongly are considered to be more prestigious….

(3) NEW LEM TRANSLATION. Stanislaw Lem’s 1964 story, published in English for the first time, tells the tale of a scientist in an insane asylum theorizing that the sun is alive. “The Truth, by Stanislaw Lem”, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, is part of a new collection and a free read at The MIT Press Reader.

Here I sit writing in a locked room, where the door has no handle and the windows can’t be opened. They’re made of unbreakable glass. I tried. Not out of a wish to escape or out of rabid fury, I just wanted to be sure. I’m writing at a walnut table. I have plenty of paper. I’m allowed to write. Except no one will ever read it. But I’m writing anyway. I don’t want to be alone, and I can’t read. Everything they give me to read is a lie, the letters start to jump before my eyes and I lose patience. None of what’s in them has been of the least concern to me ever since I realized how things really are….

(4) MARCIA LUCAS’ OPINION ABOUT SW SEQUELS. From Marcia Lucas’ foreword in a new biography about Howard Kazanjian.

IGN continues, in “Marcia Lucas Was ‘Furious’ Over Star Wars Sequel Trilogy: ‘They Don’t Get It’”.

…And perhaps to set the record straight, Lucas also directs her wrath at her ex-husband’s prequel trilogy, revealing her disappointment in Episode I literally brought her to tears in 1999.

“I remember going out to the parking lot, sitting in my car and crying,” Lucas writes. “I cried. I cried because I didn’t think it was very good. And I thought [George] had such a rich vein to mine, a rich palette to tell stories with… There were things I didn’t like about the casting, and things I didn’t like about the story, and things I didn’t like — it was a lot of eye candy. CG.”…

(5) DUNE, ON THE BIG AND BIGGER SCREEN. “’Dune’ Earns $36.8M in Overseas Debut”The Hollywood Reporter has a breakdown.

The highly anticipated Legendary/Warner Bros. movie opened overseas to $36.8 million across 24 markets and 7,819 screens. Russia led international tickets sales with $7.6 million, followed by France ($7.5 million), Germany ($4.9 million) and Italy ($2.6 million).

Dune‘s giant-format ticket sales were a particular stand-out, with the movie earning $3.6 million in Imax ticket sales from 142 screens, making its per-screen Imax average an astounding $25,000. The Imax ticket sales made up 10 percent of the movie’s total international take. The movie was shot for large-format viewing, with the Imax version featuring an exclusive expanded aspect ratio….

(6) IN CASE YOU WANT TO KNOW. Deadline has a vast calendar of when shows will begin airing: “Fall TV Premiere Dates 2021: New and Returning Series”.

Deadline’s comprehensive annual list of fall premiere dates for new series and new seasons of returning series. It covers more than 450 broadcast, cable and streaming shows bowing from September 1 through December 31

(7) SOUNDS OF SILENCE. I’m gradually working my way through SF Signal’s blogroll. It was compiled years ago and many of the authors have in the interim changed to another platform or dropped blogging for other alternatives. Justine Larbalastier explains why she moved on from Twitter in “Why I Left Twitter, or, the Last Day of 2019”, and left  blogging in “The Importance of Masks”, posted in July 2020.

…I haven’t been blogging because I missed the community that used to be here. When this was a regular blog there was a wonderful conversation in response to almost every post. I’m finding blogging here to silence soul sucking.

I miss the community of the old days but I accept those days are gone. The conversations now unfold on social media.

I have found an engaged community on Instagram ready and willing to discuss the intersections of fashion and politics during this pandemic and there are no trolls. I’m loving it. So I post my mini essays there. I will continue to post longer essays here and will soon be updating this site with my fashion research.

I don’t foresee returning to Twitter anytime soon. It was too depressing. I miss those of you I no longer interact with, but my mental health is so much better since I left. So . . .

(8) RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 1840. Barbara Hambly, who is still at it, recently migrated her blogging activity to Barbarahambly.blogspot.com as she notes in “Experimental Post #2”.

And here we are, at my new blog. The website is yet to come, and for the first couple of weeks I’ll be buried in a deadline: Benjamin January # 19, Death and Hard Cider, which takes place against the background of the 1840 Presidential election. I thought about calling it, “Tippecanoe and Murder, Too,” but realized that a lot of people won’t understand the reference to the campaign of William Henry Harrison. That was the first “modern” style Presidential campaign, with songs, rallies, women’s auxiliary organizations (even though women couldn’t vote – the guys found them convenient for providing refreshments at the rallies, and Harrison’s opponents railed against those hussies for handing out leaflets and reading newspapers and having opinions about the politics of their betters)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this evening, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century first aired on NBC. It was developed by Glen Larson who created Battlestar Galactica and Leslie Stevens who created Outer Limits. It is of course based on characters created by Philip Francis Nowlan. The only cast that counts was Gil Gerard as Captain William “Buck” Rogers and Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering. Oh, and Mel Blanc in the first season voicing Twiki. It lasted but two seasons of thirty-seven episodes. Buster Crabbe who played Buck Rogers in the original thirties Buck Rogers film serial would play Brigadier Gordon in an episode here. It’s worth noting that the series re-used most of the props, star fighters, stages, some of the effects film and even costumes from Battlestar Galactica. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1935 — Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel.  I’ve also read his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock. Interestingly he has four BSFA Awards including ones for the artwork for the cover of his own first edition of Kaeti & Company. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 20, 1940 — Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 20, 1950 — James Blaylock, 71. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. I see the usual suspects don’t have much by him but they do have two Langdon St. Ives tales, Homunclus and Beneath London.
  • Born September 20, 1951 — JoAnna Cameron, 70. I’ve previously mentioned in passing Shazam!, a Seventies children’s series done by Filmation. Well she was the lead on Isis, another Filmation children’s series done at the same time. Her only genre appearance was a brief one in the Amazing Spider-Man series. Anyone here seen it? I don’t remember seeing it. 
  • Born September 20, 1955 — David Haig, 66. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7 in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet inThe Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally I should I should he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back.
  • Born September 20, 1974 — Owen Sheers, 47. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in  the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series.
  • Born September 20, 1986 — Aldis Hodge, 35. He played Alec Hardison on the Leverage series which just got a reboot. Ok, I know it’s not precisely genre but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use of technology in that series are keeping with the MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek: Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD. “Whistle, Gotham City’s latest superhero, is Jewish. It’s a full-circle moment for the comics industry” reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

It turns out that Batman’s hometown of Gotham City has a historically Jewish neighborhood, complete with a synagogue. And for this year’s High Holidays, at least one masked superhero will be worshipping there. 

Her name is Whistle, a.k.a. Willow Zimmerman, and she’s a Jewish superhero — DC Comics’ first to be explicitly created as Jewish in 44 years. She’s an activist-turned-masked-crusader who draws inspiration from Jewish teachings; she develops the ability to talk to dogs; and she’s making her debut this month in “Whistle: A New Gotham City Superhero,” a graphic novel geared to young adults.

“There’s a long and fascinating history of Jewish creators in comics,” the book’s author and character creator, E. Lockhart, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Superman, Batman and Spider-Man were all invented by Jewish men, and scholars have interpreted them through a variety of lenses that take that into account. But while there have certainly been Jewish superheroes before, Whistle is the first Jewish hero to originate as Jewish from DC Comics since 1977.”

Lockhart was referring to Seraph, a superhero from Israel who helped Superman in “Super Friends #7? before immediately falling out of the public eye. 

(13) TWENTY ACROSS. Catherynne M. Valente celebrated on Facebook her appearance as a clue in a Washington Post crossword puzzle.

(14) NEIGHBORHOOD READY TO BEAM UP. Janice L. Newman tells Galactic Journey readers about their new (in 1966) television-watching tradition: “[September 20, 1966] In the hands of an adolescent (Star Trek’s ‘Charlie X’)”.

….It’s official, we now have a “Star Trek” night at our house each week, when we gather our friends and watch the latest episode. Though we’ve only watched two episodes so far, the show is off to an interesting start! This week we saw “Charlie X”, which had thematic similarities to both of the pilots we saw at Tricon….

(Tricon was “this year’s” Worldcon in Cleveland.)

(15) LIKE THE TUNGUSKA EVENT? It’s a theory. “A giant space rock demolished an ancient Middle Eastern city and everyone in it – possibly inspiring the Biblical story of Sodom” reports Yahoo!

…Experiments with laboratory furnaces showed that the bubbled pottery and mudbricks at Tall el-Hammam liquefied at temperatures above 2,700 F (1,500 C). That’s hot enough to melt an automobile within minutes.

The destruction layer also contains tiny balls of melted material smaller than airborne dust particles. Called spherules, they are made of vaporized iron and sand that melted at about 2,900 F (1,590 C).

In addition, the surfaces of the pottery and meltglass are speckled with tiny melted metallic grains, including iridium with a melting point of 4,435 F (2,466 C), platinum that melts at 3,215 F (1,768 C) and zirconium silicate at 2,800 F (1,540 C).

Together, all this evidence shows that temperatures in the city rose higher than those of volcanoes, warfare and normal city fires. The only natural process left is a cosmic impact….

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in to tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where contestants had trouble connecting this chemistry lesson with a famous film.

Final Jeopardy: 1980s Movies

Answer: The dip used to kill characters in this 1988 film consisted of Acetone, Benzene & Turpentine, ingredients in paint thinner.

Wrong questions: What is “Dune?” and “What is Raiders of the Lost Ark?”

Right question: What is, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

(17) MOVIE HISTORY UP FOR BIDDING. Heritage Auction’s “Monsters & Friends: Featuring The Kevin Burns Collection” event November 5-7 will include many prime items, including these two:

First, Producer Stanley Bergerman’s Personal Copy of the Universal Pictures Script for Frankenstein (1931). A vintage studio bound and bradded, 99-page screenplay for the Classic Horror movie, Frankenstein. Stanley Bergerman was Universal Studios head, Carl Laemmle’s, son-in-law and a Producer. The oversized script is filled with the content that became one of the greatest monster movies of all time. Second, The Wizard of Oz Metro Goldwyn Mayer Clapperboard (1938). A large vintage wooden clapperboard with metal-hinged clapstick, hand lettered in white on the black painted front face, “Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Wizard Of Oz, Director – Victor Fleming, Camera – Harold Rosson,” and dated, at the bottom of the board, “11-6-1938.” 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/12/21 Make The Scene On The Mezzanine, But Don’t Scroll In The Pixels

(1) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. August 14 is Free Comic Book Day. Here are Marvel’s contributions to the event.

Readers can stop by their local comic shop for Free Comic Book Day 2021: Avengers/Hulk and Free Comic Book Day 2021: Spider-Man/Venom, featuring new stories that kick off the upcoming eras of fan-favorite heroes and lay the groundwork for major new storylines.

The new creative team behind Amazing Spider-Man is about to take the Spider-Man mythos beyond your wildest expectations! Get a first look at Ben Reilly as the new Spider-Man in a story by writer Zeb Wells and artist Patrick Gleason. Then, see what’s in store for Venom when Ram V., Al Ewing, and Bryan Hitch take over in a glimpse that will show you just how twisted their upcoming run will be! 

(2) BLOGGER’S VERDICT ON VOX DAY. Blogger has elevated the threat level to Defcon 2. Yesterday this was the message users were getting when they tried to reach Vox Popoli: “This blog is under review due to possible Blogger Terms of Service violations and is open to authors only.” Today Blogger says flat out —

(3) LEM 100. In “A Century in Stanislaw Lem’s Cosmos”, the New York Times salutes those who are celebrating the author’s centenary.

In “The Eighth Voyage,” a short story by Stanislaw Lem, aliens from across the universe convene at the General Assembly of the United Planets. Lem’s hero, the space traveler Ijon Tichy, watches as an uninformed but overconfident creature steps forward and makes the case to admit Earth to the organization’s ranks. The planet — which he mispronounces as “Arrth” — is home to “elegant, amiable mammals” with “a deep faith in jergundery, though not devoid of ambifribbis,” the alien tells the delegates.

His sentimental appeal is well-received, until a second extraterrestrial stands up and begins to list humanity’s wrongdoings, which include meat-eating, war and genocide. Tichy listens as the aliens belittle us and label us misguided and corrupt, our planet a blip on their intergalactic radar.

This cosmic perspective — mischievous yet melancholy, and far beyond a human point of view — is a signature with Lem, an icon of science fiction best known to English-speaking readers as the author of the 1961 novel “Solaris.” Throughout a career spanning six decades that produced more translated works than any other Polish writer, he adopted the viewpoints of aliens, robots, a conscious supercomputer and a sentient planet, using these voices to reckon with philosophical quandaries….

(4) BRIEF REMINDER. Readercon 31, online only, takes place this weekend, August 13–15, 2021, with Guests of Honor: Jeffrey Ford & Ursula Vernon. Also “Memorial Guest of Honor” Vonda N. McIntyre. As they say:

Although Readercon is modeled on “science fiction conventions,” we have no art show, no costumes, no gaming, and almost no media. Instead, Readercon features a near-total focus on the written word.

Registration is $25, and “grants you access to the Discord server and recordings of all program items for six full months following the convention. After that time is up, most recordings will be made public, but some may be taken down.”

(5) ALTERNATE WHO. Radio Times says the Doctor Who “archeologists” have found more material: “Doctor Who’s Tom Baker to return for audio adaptation of lost scripts”.

Tom Baker is set to reprise his role as the Fourth Doctor in Big Finish’s upcoming adaptations of lost Doctor Who episodes.

The two episodes – Doctor Who and the Ark and Daleks! Genesis of Terror – were written by screenwriter John Lucarotti and Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, respectively and are set for release in March 2023.

Big Finish recently rediscovered the episodes’ original scripts and initial story outlines and will be adapting them into audio adventures as part of their series, Doctor Who – The Lost Stories.

… producer Simon Guerrier said in a statement.

“The Ark in Space and Genesis of the Daleks are among the best-loved TV stories ever. We’ve uncovered first draft scripts by John Lucarotti and Terry Nation that are exciting, surprising and very different.”

(6) AUREALIS AWARDS JUDGES WANTED. The Aurealis Awards have put out a call for judges. The positions are open to Australian residents only. See complete guidelines at the link.

Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts.

The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(7) TRAILER TIME. This clip explains why vampires shouldn’t learn about chain letters – from What We Do in the Shadows.

(8) LORNA TOOLIS (1952-2021). Lorna Toolis, retired collection head of the Toronto Public Library’s Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, died of cancer on August 11. Toolis, notes Robert J. Sawyer in his tribute was also a 2017 inductee into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

Earlier in life she was a member of ESFCAS, the Edmonton Science Fiction and Comic Arts Society. Toolis is survived by her husband, the Aurora Award-winning writer Michael Skeet, with whom she co-edited Tesseracts 4: Canadian Science Fiction published in 1992.

Toolis was interviewed last year by the Toronto Public Library blog for “Merril Collection at 50: Stories from the Spaced Out Library” (the latter was the collection’s original name). Among her memories —

The Merril Collection has hosted so many prominent authors/editors/scholars in the world of Speculative Fiction. Have you ever been starstruck?  

Lorna: I counted myself amazingly fortunate. Over the years, I had lunch with Margaret Atwood and dinner with Gene WolfeNeil Gaiman was our guest three times, as was Cory DoctorowJohn Scalzi was a huge hit with the audience and returned to speak several times by request. When Lois Bujold was our guest, her kids were having trouble with their grammar, and I gave her my personal copy of The Transitive Vampire. Robert Jordan was a guest and he was an absolute sweetheart.

(9) NEAL CONAN OBIT. Retired radio host Neal Conan died August 10 at the age of 71. Jim Freund recalled Conan’s science fiction connections from early in his career at WBAI in New York.

…My favorite regular program Bai’ did was “Of Unicorns and Universes,” which he co-produced and was often hosted by Neal Conan. Neal, while primarily a producer of some of our best Public Affairs programming, (at the same time Paul Fischer was our News Director,) was quite the sf fan. He worked with Samuel Delany on the 2-hour adaptation of “The Star Pit,” and some years later, when I was co-host on Thursday and Fridays of Hour of the Wolf with Margot Adler, he was an occasional co-host on Mondays. (I usually engineered.) I was quite surprised at how much of a Heinlein fan he was….

Conan would be hired by NPR and spend 36 years at the network. Robert Siegel paid tribute to his work there in “Neal Conan, Former Host Of NPR’s ‘Talk Of The Nation,’ Has Died”.

…Later at NPR, he held an astonishing variety of jobs. He was at various times the line producer and the executive producer of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Back in 1987, he ran NPR News for a year. He was a reporter.

…  In 1991, while reporting from southern Iraq on the war to liberate Kuwait, Neal was taken captive by the Iraqi Republican Guard, along with New York Times reporter Chris Hedges. It took diplomatic efforts to get them released….

[SIEGEL]: Neal Conan’s most prominent role at NPR was hosting Talk Of The Nation. …He tried out for that job the week that began on Monday, September 10, 2001. Sept. 11 was Neal’s Day 2….

The New York Times has also published an obituary.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 – Thirty years ago at Chicon V at which Marta Randall was the Toastmaster, Edward Scissorhands wins the  Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works for the Con for this Award were Total RecallGhostBack to the Future III and The Witches

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 12, 1894 Dick Calkins. He’s best remembered for being the first artist to draw the Buck Rogers comic strip. He also wrote scripts for the Buck Rogers radio program. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Complete Newspaper Dailies in eight volumes on Hermes Press collects these strips.  They’re one hundred fifty dollars a volume. (Died 1962.)
  • Born August 12, 1929 John Bluthal. He was Von Neidel in The Mouse on the Moon which sounds silly and fun. He’s in Casino Royale as both a Casino Doorman and a MI5 Man. (Why pay the Union salaries?) He had roles in films best forgotten such as Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. (Really. Don’t ask.) And he did play a blind beggar in The Return of the Pink Panther as well, and his last genre role was as Professor Pacoli in the beloved Fifth Element. Lest I forget he voiced Commander Wilbur Zero, Jock Campbell and other characters in Fireball XL5. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 12, 1931 William Goldman. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted for the film. Wrote the original Stepford Wives script and King’s Hearts in Atlantis and Misery as well. He was hired  to adapt “Flowers for Algernon“ as a screenplay but the story goes that Cliff Robertson intensely disliked his screenplay and it was discarded for one by Stirling Silliphant that became Charly. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 12, 1947 John Nathan-Turner. He produced Doctor Who from 1980 until it was cancelled in 1989. He finished as the longest-serving Doctor Who producer. He cast Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors. Other than Who, he had a single production credit, the K-9 and Company: A Girl’s Best Friend film. He wrote two books, Doctor Who – The TARDIS Inside Out and Doctor Who: The Companions. He would die of a massive infection just a year before the announcement the show was being revived. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 12, 1954 Sam J. Jones, 67. Flash Gordon in the 1980 version of that story. Very, very campy. A few years later, he played the lead role in a TV adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit which I’ve not seen and am now very curious about as the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes don’t have good things to say about it. He also had the lead in The Highwayman (name of his character there) which is described as a mix of Mad Max and Knight Rider. It lasted nine episodes in the late Eighties. Anyone seen it?
  • Born August 12, 1960 Brenda Cooper, 61. Best known for her YA Silver Ship series of which The Silver Ship and the Sea won an Endeavour Award, and her Edge of Dark novel won another such Award. Due co-authored Building Harlequin’s Moon with Larry Niven, and a fair amount of short fiction with him. She has a lot of short fiction, much collected in Beyond the WaterFall Door: Stories of the High Hills and Cracking the Sky. She’s well-stocked at the usual suspects.
  • Born August 12, 1966 Brian Evenson, 55. I consider him a horror writer (go ahead, disagree) and his Song for the Unraveling of the World collection did win a Shirley Jackson Award though it also won a World Fantasy Award. He’s also won an International Horror Guild Award for his Wavering Knife collection. He even co-authored a novel with Rob Zombie, The Lords of Salem
  • Born August 12, 1992 Cara Jocelyn Delevingne, 29. Her first genre role was as a mermaid in Pan. She then shows up in James Gunn’s Suicide Squad as June Moone / Enchantress, in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as Laureline. She was in Carnival Row as Vignette Stonemoss. It was a fantasy noir series on Amazon Prime.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) I TALK FOR THE TREES. NPR’s Elizabeth Blair says “Dr. Seuss Warned Us 50 Years Ago, But We Didn’t Listen To ‘The Lorax’”.

Call it fate or an unfortunate coincidence that Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax celebrates its 50th anniversary the same week the United Nations releases an urgent report on the dire consequences of human-induced climate change. The conflict between the industrious, polluting Once-ler and the feisty Lorax, who “speaks for the trees,” feels more prescient than ever.

“Once-ler!” he cried with a cruffulous croak.
“Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans…why, they can’t sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.

(14) DON’T SCRY FOR ME ARGENTINA. Romina Garber, in conversation with Dhonielle Clayton, will discuss her new book Cazadora on Thursday, August 19 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

Werewolves. Witches. Romance. Resistance. Enter a world straight out of Argentine folklore…

Following the events of Lobizona, Manu and her friends cross the mystical border into Kerana–a cursed realm in Argentina–searching for allies and a hiding place. As they chase down leads about the Coven–a mythical resistance manada that might not even exist–the Cazadores chase down leads about Manu, setting up traps to capture and arrest her.

Just as it seems the Cazadores have Manu and her friends cornered, the Coven answers their call for help. As Manu catches her breath among these non-conforming Septimus, she discovers they need a revolution as much as she does.

(15) THE LOTTERY. Did you plan to live forever? Don’t. “NASA Says an Asteroid Will Have a Close Brush With Earth. But Not Until the 2100s”  says the New York Times.

An asteroid the size of the Empire State Building has a slight chance of hitting Earth.

Don’t worry. You’ll long be dead before that has any chance of happening. So will your children. Probably all of your grandchildren, too.

At a news conference on Wednesday, NASA scientists said there was a 1-in-1,750 chance that an asteroid named Bennu, which is a bit wider than the Empire State Building is tall, could collide with Earth between now and 2300.

That is actually slightly higher than an earlier estimate of 1 in 2,700 over a shorter period, between now and 2200….

(16) MARK YOUR CALENDAR.  On the other hand, if you are going to be around for at least another century, Gizmodo has a suggestion for your bucket list: “John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez Have Made A Movie No One Will See For 100 Years”.

Think the secrecy around the biggest Hollywood blockbusters is crazy? They don’t come close to what John Malkovich and Robert Rodriguez are doing. The pair has collaborated for a film that no one will see for 100 years. Literally.

This isn’t some joke. They’ve made a film, called 100 Years, which is being placed in a special time-locked safe that won’t open again until November 18, 2115. Why? Well, because it’s promotion for Louis XIII Cognac, an ultra-luxury liquor that is aged 100 years. Bottles currently on shelves were made in 1915 so they decided a piece of art that speaks to their commitment to quality was something worth doing….

Gizmodo links to three teasers: 100 Years: The Movie You’ll Never See Nature Teaser”, “100 Years: The Movie You’ll Never See Retro Teaser”, and “100 Years: The Movie You’ll Never See Future Teaser”.

(17) FILL IN THE BLANC. Gabriel Iglesias was on Colbert last night to talk about Space Jam 2.

Comedian Gabriel Iglesias is the voice of Speedy Gonzales in “Space Jam 2” and he was very excited to get the role without even auditioning.

(18) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Nerdist says you will finally have a chance to see it: “Cult Sci-Fi Favorite BLAKE’S 7 Is Coming to BritBox”. Get your money ready.

For fans of classic British science fiction, there are a few names that always pop up. Doctor Who, naturally, stands head and shoulders above everything else. Other favorites like Sapphire & SteelThe Prisoner, and the shows of Gerry Anderson pop up as well. But for a certain age of fan, the cream of the crop is Blake’s 7. The show was the BBC’s direct attempt to capitalize on the success of Star WarsBlake’s 7 ran for four seasons from 1978 to 1981 and has been pretty hard to find in North America lately. That is, until now. The entire series will debut on BritBox beginning August 13….

(19) TOSSED IN SPACE. The latest issue of Nature warns: “World must work to avoid a catastrophic space collision”.

Governments and companies urgently need to share data on the mounting volume of satellites and debris orbiting Earth.

There’s an awful lot of stuff orbiting Earth, with more arriving all the time. More than 29,000 satellites, pieces of rockets and other bits of debris large enough to track from the ground are circling the planet. Smaller items number in the millions. The Californian company SpaceX alone has launched some 1,700 satellites over the past 2 years as part of its Starlink network, which provides broadband Internet, with thousands more planned. Other companies are also planning such megaconstellations, and more and
more nations are launching or plan to launch satellites. This growing congestion is drastically increasing the risk of collisions in space….

(20) SHORT SUIT. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says NASA’s Artemis mission to the Moon could be delayed because the program to design a new spacesuit has spent $1 billion but delays have meant they will only have two flight-ready spacesuits prepared by fiscal year 2025. “NASA IG says 2024 moon landing won’t happen, blames space suit delays”.

Ever since the White House directed NASA to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis program, there have been all sorts of daunting challenges: The rocket the space agency would use has suffered setbacks and delays; the spacecraft that would land astronauts on the surface is not yet completed and was held up by the losing bidders; and Congress hasn’t come through with the funding NASA says is necessary.But another reason the 2024 goal may not be met is that the spacesuits needed by the astronauts to walk on the lunar surface won’t be ready in time and the total development program, which ultimately will produce just two flight-ready suits, could cost more than $1 billion…

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers:  Loki” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that Loki “has a Comic-Con’s worth of alternate Lokis” including Richard E Grant, who “can make you love anything he does, even if he’s dressed like Kermit The Frog and talks nonsense for 30 minutes straight.”  Bonus: they send up Tom Hiddleston’s Chinese vitamin commercial!

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Richard Horton, Lloyd Penney, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/21 I Never Could Get The Hang Of Scrolldays

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC CELEBRATES EPISODE 150. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to binge on the Balkans with Eisner Award-winning comics writer Tom King in episode 150 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Tom King

Tom started out in comics by interning for both DC and Marvel, where he was an assistant to X-Men writer Chris Claremont. After his comics-inspired debut novel A Once Crowded Sky was published in 2013, and after a stint in the CIA, he went on to write Batman and Mister Miracle for DC, The Vision for Marvel, and many other projects, which won him an Eisner Award in 2018 for Best Writer. Plus — and I only realized this while taking note of comic artist Joe Giella’s recent 93rd birthday — we’ve both written Supergirl stories — 43 years apart! But that’s not the only commonality to our comics careers, as you’ll soon hear.

We discussed the two questions no one in comics can answer, his attempt at age 11 to get a job at Archie Comics, how he goes back to the beginning when writing a classic character such as Supergirl, whether Alan Moore would have had the impetus to create Watchmen in today’s environment, our dealings with comic book censorship, the weird way Monica Lewinsky caused him not to get hired by MAD magazine, the differences we discovered early on between Marvel and DC, what he learned as an intern to the legendary Chris Claremont, the Black Knight pitch he got paid for which was never published, the way comic book people are like circus folk, why the current state of Krypto proves I could never go back to writing comics, and much more.

(2) WORDPLAY IN ANNIE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Historically, the bad guys in the Annie comics have had names ranging from more-or-less backwards, to descriptive ones. (Sorry, can’t think of or find examples off the top of my head nor thru brief web search, no time to walk over to L/O/A books in bedroom bookshelf…) (The names in Dick Tracy are no slouch, neither.) Currently Annie features a villain called “Bandy Dessinay”… and if that sounds familiar:

Bandes dessinées (singular bande dessinée; literally ‘drawn strips’), abbreviated BDs and also referred to as Franco-Belgian comics (BD franco-belge), are comics that are usually originally in the French language and created for readership in France and Belgium.

As for why I recognized the rephoneticized term, it’s mostly from the year or three that I was subscribing to ComiXology Unlimited (their streaming digital comic book offering), where Bandes Dessinées was often one of the group/type categories along with (something like, IIRC) issues, series, collections.

Interestingly (at least, I think so), “Annie has appeared in the Dick Tracy comic strip after Little Orphan Annie was discontinued.” according to the Pigtails in Paint article on “Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie”.

Pogo fans will, of course, remember Albert Alligator and Beauregard Frontenac Bugleboy III (“The Faithful Dog”) (or perhaps Ponce de Leon Montgomery County Alabama Georgia Beauregard Possum, per a different web site) periodically gearing up as “Little Arfin’ Lulu,” with (his) eyes “all blunked out” and Sandy.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW RETURNS. March 20, 2022 will be the date for the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Collectors Show. The 42nd edition of the show (which had to skip 2021) will take place as usual at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, in Glendale, California.

(4) SHARPSON REVIEWED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] “The Future Refusing To Be Born” at The Hugo Book Club Blog. I keep thinking about the book, and how the author ties rejection of modernity (nostalgia) to authoritarianism. Definitely think that Sharpson will end up on my personal ballot for the Astounding Award based on this book. 

In Neil Sharpson’s debut novel When The Sparrow Falls, that place is The Caspian Republic: a country founded by expatriate American and Russian bioconservative activists, whose boundaries are roughly those of present-day Azerbaijan.

While the rest of the world has embraced an almost-singularitarian future of AI-guided mass prosperity, near immortality, and widespread expansive human rights, this Caspian Republic has hewed to a quasi-religious “Humanity First” doctrine and polices the use of technology.

…Sharpson’s prose is sparse, clear, and engaging. He ably paints a picture of a deeply flawed society, and one that is the all-too-believable result of nostalgia-driven politics and identity-driven ideology. Because the Caspian Republic’s technology is pretty much limited to what was common in North America in the 1980s, readers will be reminded of late-era Cold War spy stories….

(5) 100 YEARS OF LEM. The Viennese are participating in the Stanislaw Lem centenary reports Radio Poland: “Austrian capital honours Polish sci-fi great Lem”. See video of the dance on Facebook.

Lem’s centenary is being celebrated in Poland as the Year of Lem, and now Vienna, the writer’s home in the 1980s, has joined in, staging a series of musical events collectively dubbed the Lem Festival.

Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM) is the driving force behind the project, in co-operation with the ImPuls Tanz festival and the Klangforum Wien ensemble.

During the events, which run through the end of July, dancers and musicians are expected to invite audiences “to reflect on the possibility of communication with ‘the Alien,'” according to the Polish institute.

This is because, a century after Lem was born, and following the NASA rover’s landing on Mars, this question has again become our civilisation’s most pressing problem, the organisers have said….

(6) THEY MADE IT. The Uncanny Kickstarter hit its initial funding goal – now they start work on the stretch goals.

(7) APEX AND ABOVE. Likewise, the Apex Magazine 2022 Kickstarter reached its basic goal and is rolling up its milestone rewards. First on the list, a story by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam – who does a Q&A with publisher Jason Sizemore in the linked update.

JASON SIZEMORE: Do you and Levar Burton hang out? Talk a little about the process of working with Mr. Burton and hearing your words narrated by Mr. Reading Rainbow?

BONNIE JO STUFFLEBEAM: What an experience! I got an unexpected email from Julia Smith, the producer of LeVar Burton Reads, inviting me to be LeVar’s featured writer at his live Dallas event for my story “In the City of Martyrs.” I had no idea that this was an email that one could get, so I was immediately ecstatic to both appear live and to have my story appear on the podcast. The night of the show, I got to meet Julia and LeVar, both amazing and talented professionals, then got to hear LeVar read my story to musical accompaniment. After the reading, we did a Q&A with LeVar and then with the audience.

What I remember most from the event was LeVar’s generosity; he offered to meet-and-greet the very large group of people who came to support me. Also, the audience questions for the Q&A were perceptive as hell. The audience was clearly full of serious readers, and I’m not sure there’s a better feeling than to be surrounded by people who share that passion. Then, of course, there was the magic of hearing my short story read by a man whose voice I grew up listening to. Normally, I can’t divorce the reading of my own stories from the fact that I wrote them, but hearing LeVar read my work with a balalaika setting the story’s mood throughout, I got goosebumps.

(8) DISNEY GETS ROUGH. As reported here earlier, Scarlett Johansson filed a high-stakes breach of contract lawsuit against Disney over the release of Black Widow, alleging Disney broke its contract with her by releasing her solo feature on streaming platform Disney+ on the same day as theaters. Disney’s reply drags their star through the mud: “Disney blasts Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ suit: ‘No merit whatsoever’”.

…However, Disney pushed back hard against Johansson’s arguments. In a statement issued to Yahoo Finance, the media giant said, “There is no merit whatsoever to this filing. The lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”…

Johansson’s representatives at CAA hit back: “Hollywood agent Bryan Lourd steps into Disney v Scarjo fight” in the Los Angeles Times.

“They have shamelessly and falsely accused Ms. Johansson of being insensitive to the global COVID pandemic, in an attempt to make her appear to be someone they and I know she isn’t,” Lourd, co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency said in a statement. Lourd represents some of Hollywood’s biggest stars besides Johansson, such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney. Disney did not respond to requests for comment on Lourd’s statement….

“Scarlett has been Disney’s partner on nine movies, which have earned Disney and its shareholders billions,” Lourd said. “The company included her salary in their press statement in an attempt to weaponize her success as an artist and businesswoman, as if that were something she should be ashamed of.”

(9) BLUE ORIGIN TRIES TO REVIVE NASA’S INTEREST. Blue Origin says it’s willing to cover $2 billion of the cost for a second lunar lander contract, should NASA award one. In a July 26th letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos said his company is willing to waive up to $2 billion in payments over the current and next two government fiscal years in exchange for a fixed-priced contract. In April, NASA selected SpaceX as the recipient of its Human Landing System (HLS) contract, a decision that competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics protested shortly after. The full letter is at the link, here are some excerpts:

Blue Origin is committed to building a future where millions of people live and work in space to benefit the Earth….

This is why Blue Origin answered NASA’s urgent call to develop a Human Landing System. We built the National Team – with four major partners and more than 200 small and medium suppliers in 47 states – to focus on designing, building, and operating a flight system the nation could count on. NASA invested over half a billion dollars in the National Team in 2020-21, and we performed well. The team developed and risk-reduced a safe, mass-efficient design that could achieve a human landing in 2024. 

Our approach is designed to be sustainable for repeated lunar missions and, above all, to keep our astronauts safe. We created a 21st-century lunar landing system inspired by the well-characterized Apollo architecture — an architecture with many benefits. One of its important benefits is that it prioritizes safety. As NASA recognized, the National Team’s design offers a “comprehensive approach to aborts and contingencies [that] places a priority on crew safety throughout all mission phases.” 

Unlike Apollo, our approach is designed to be sustainable and to grow into permanent, affordable lunar operations. Our lander uses liquid hydrogen for fuel. Not only is hydrogen the highest-performing rocket fuel, but it can also be mined on the Moon. That feature will prove essential for sustained future operations on the Moon and beyond.

From the beginning, we designed our system to be capable of flying on multiple launch vehicles, including Falcon Heavy, SLS, Vulcan, and New Glenn. The value of being able to fly on many different launch vehicles cannot be over-stated…

Yet, in spite of these benefits and at the last minute, the Source Selection Official veered from the Agency’s oft-stated procurement strategy. Instead of investing in two competing lunar landers as originally intended, the Agency chose to confer a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar head start to SpaceX. That decision broke the mold of NASA’s successful commercial space programs by putting an end to meaningful competition for years to come…. 

(10) TED LEWIN (1935-2021). Illustrator and writer of children’s books Ted Lewin died July 28. Jane Yolen paid tribute on Facebook.

Heartbroken–this says it all. Ted and [his wife] Betsy were dear friends for many years and Ted illustrated David’s only children’s book (HIGH RIDGE GOBBLER) and a bunch of mine, Several of his originals for the books decorate my dining room. I see them everyday. Ted was a lovely, lovely man, a wonderful storyteller, who brought much beauty to the world.

Ted Lewin illustrated over 200 books, winning a 1994 Caldecott Honor for Peppe The Lamplighter. A number of these were done in collaboration with his wife, Betsy.

As a young man who wanted to go to art school at the Pratt Institute, he earned money to finance his education by taking a summer job as a professional wrestler – the beginning of a fifteen year part-time career that eventually inspired his autobiographical book I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler.

Lewin’s professional honors also include a Silver Medal in the Society of Illustrators Annual Show (2007), and he and Betsy were inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 2015. [Click below for larger image.]

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1987  – In July of 1987, Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. It would win a Locus Best First Novel Award and be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here as some of them are from Minnesota fandom.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. (They were printed. I have a signed one here.) And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of fandom with lyrics by John Ford, Steven Brust and others. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s exemplary Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 30, 1947 John E. Stith, 74. Winner of two HOMer Awards, given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe, for Redshift Rendezvous and Naught for Hire. The former would be nominated for a Nebula as well. The HOMer Awards ended in about 2000. 
  • Born July 30, 1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, 74. Terminator franchise, of course, as well as Running ManConan the Barbarian and  Conan the DestroyerTales from the Crypt and True Lies. Apparently in sort of announced Conan and Terminator reboots. Though I think that’s more rumor than reality. 
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 73. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film though I’ve seen it twice. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen. 
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 55. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. He’s also written the Fable Encyclopedia which is a most excellent look at Willingham series. I didn’t know he also wrote fiction ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jason Watkins, 55. His first genre role was William Herrick in Being Human. He’s also had a recurring role on Dirk Gentely as DI Gilks. And he voiced Captain Orchis on Watership Down.  Naturally, he’s been in Doctor Who, specifically as Webly in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver”.  He showed up in The Golden Compass as Bolvangar Official.
  • Born July 30, 1970 Christopher Nolan, 51. Writer, producer and often director as well of the latest Batman film franchise, The PrestigeInterstellarInception and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to name some of his work. His latest, Tenet, has been nominated for a Hugo this year. 
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 46. Her Southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read the Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how good they are. Anyone read these?  She won an Endeavour Award for her Dreadnought novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest shows the judge throwing the book at an unexpected traffic offender.

(14) GET YOUR ANSWERS READY. Your hosts for Science Fiction 101 podcast are Phil Nichols of the Bradburymedia website, who is also known for the Bradbury 100 podcast and the Bradbury 101 YouTube channel; and Colin Kuskie of the Take Me To Your Reader podcast. Episode 7, “We Goes There”, features a sci-fi quiz.

(15) BASEDCON. *Rolls eyes* Thread starts here.

(16) HEAP OF GLORY. “Londoners Were Promised a Hill With a View. They Got a Pile of Scaffolding.” Linking to this New York Times item so you can appreciate the amusing comment which I’ve quoted below.

Advance publicity for the Marble Arch Mound — London’s newest visitor attraction — suggested that an Arcadian landscape would be created in the middle of the city, with spectacular views over Hyde Park.

A huge artificial hill, over 80 feet high, would rise at one end of Oxford Street, London’s busiest shopping district. Costing around 2 million pounds, or about $2.7 million, design renderings suggested that it would be covered in lush trees and that visitors would be able to climb to the top — and “feel a light breeze” against their skin.

The hill was part of a £150 million plan by Westminster Council to lure visitors back into the center of the city after the pandemic. In May, Time Out, London’s main listings magazine, described it as “visually arresting/bonkers.”

The reality has turned out to be somewhat different. Since opening on Monday, the mound has been widely mocked online as more of a folly than a dream — a pile of blocky scaffolding covered in patches of vegetation that look in danger of slipping off, and that it isn’t even high enough to look over the trees into Hyde Park….

 A commenter on the article said:

To be fair to Westminster City Council that spot has become increasingly difficult to manage, with the combination effect of a long record of unplanned and haphazard development accumulating to create serious problems. 

Obviously, the confluence of ley lines and faerie roads there lead to that being the natural place for the portal to Avalon, which in turn attracted the gate into Narnia. But, installing the secret entrance to Q branch’s main workshop so close to both the back door to the Ministry of Magic and unquiet spirits of Tyburn Tree was asking for trouble, and probably meant spatio-temporal subsidence would inevitably produce The Rift. 

Although finding a more plausible way to conceal the essential interdimensional-engineering work needed might have been better, it can be argued that attracting widespread ridicule with this hill has provided the sort of smokescreen that was wanted more cost-effectively. 

We probably shouldn’t rush to judgement, and wait for the official paperwork to be declassified and released under the 5,000-year rule.

(17) ROBODOG. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is the game “Quick, spot the cop” or “Quick Spot, the cop”? Another publication has chimed in on whether robotic “dogs” are suitable for use by police. “Robotic Police Dogs: Useful Hounds or Dehumanizing Machines?” at U.S. News & World Report.

If you’re homeless and looking for temporary shelter in Hawaii’s capital, expect a visit from a robotic police dog that will scan your eye to make sure you don’t have a fever.

That’s just one of the ways public safety agencies are starting to use Spot, the best-known of a new commercial category of robots that trot around with animal-like agility.

The handful of police officials experimenting with the four-legged machines say they’re just another tool, like existing drones and simple wheeled robots, to keep emergency responders out of harm’s way as they scout for dangers. But privacy watchdogs — the human kind — warn that police are secretly rushing to buy the robots without setting safeguards against aggressive, invasive or dehumanizing uses.

In Honolulu, the police department spent about $150,000 in federal pandemic relief money to buy their Spot from robotics firm Boston Dynamics for use at a government-run tent city near the airport.

“Because these people are houseless it’s considered OK to do that,” said Jongwook Kim, legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. “At some point it will come out again for some different use after the pandemic is over.”…

(18) AI ASSESSES CATS. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in cat happiness technology has made the headlines: “Feline okay? The app that tells you if your cat’s happy” reports Reuters.

Cat owners who love to take pictures of their furry friends now have a new excuse to pull out their smartphones and take a snapshot: it may actually help the cat.

A Calgary, Alberta, animal health technology company, Sylvester.ai, has developed an app called Tably that uses the phone’s camera to tell whether a feline is feeling pain.

The app looks at ear and head position, eye-narrowing, muzzle tension, and how whiskers change, to detect distress. A 2019 study published in peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports found that the so-called ‘feline grimace scale,’ or FGS, is a valid and reliable tool for acute pain assessment in cats….

(19) GIVING THE GOVERNMENT THE DIGIT. If an AI can be trusted with your cat, surely their work should not go unrewarded! “Australian Court Rules That AI Can Be an Inventor”Gizmodo has the story.

In what can only be considered a triumph for all robot-kind, this week, a federal court has ruled that an artificially intelligent machine can, in fact, be an inventor—a decision that came after a year’s worth of legal battles across the globe.

The ruling came on the heels of a years-long quest by University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbot, who started putting out patent applications in 17 different countries across the globe earlier this year. Abbot—whose work focuses on the intersection between AI and the law—first launched two international patent filings as part of The Artificial Inventor Project at the end of 2019. Both patents (one for an adjustable food container, and one for an emergency beacon) listed a creative neural system dubbed “DABUS” as the inventor.

The artificially intelligent inventor listed here, DABUS, was created by Dr. Stephen Thaler, who describes it as a “creativity engine” that’s capable of generating novel ideas (and inventions) based on communications between the trillions of computational neurons that it’s been outfitted with. Despite being an impressive piece of machinery, last year, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruled that an AI cannot be listed as the inventor in a patent application—specifically stating that under the country’s current patent laws, only “natural persons,” are allowed to be recognized. Not long after, Thaler sued the USPTO, and Abbott represented him in the suit….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol,” Fandom Games says this game will take you back to the ’90s (remember Scholastic book fairs?  All-denim outfits?) and will “tickle your nostalgia nose” but still frustrate you even though you’re not a teenager any more, but have kids and a mortgage.

(21) TINGLING BULLETINS AS THEY BREAK. Chuck Tingle told Facebook followers today that the music rights holders withdrew their complaints three days ago, but Twitter still hasn’t done doodly about restoring his account.

first off POWER OF LOVE IS STRONG with help of some true buckaroos behind scenes (who i will thank when this is all over and direct you to their websites and other ways) AND ALSO with help of all buckaroos on social media: SONY MUSIC and IFPI have decided to withdraw their copyright complaints and say ‘okay just take them down lets trot on you can have your account back’ which is HUGE DEAL. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH THIS PROVES LOVE IS REAL. also even though this situation is frustrating for chuck i must say sincere thank you to sony and ifpi this was a choice they made to do right thing by chuck in the name of the buckaroo lifestyle. so thank you everyone (with more thanks to come)

this happened THREE DAYS ago and twitter was notified. since then twitter has not responded to any methods of contact from chuck or sam rand or manager of chuck. chuck remains suspended with no way of contacting them that does not get automated response even though fact of the matter is:

THERE IS NO REASON FOR CHUCK TINGLE TWITTER TO BE SUSPENDED AT THIS POINT i do not have copyright infringement marks anymore or any other infractions. i have sent message to say ‘can you tell WHY my account is still suspended even after you said it would be better if i fixed these issues?’ and no response.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Olav Rokne, Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 4/10/21 Scrollier Than Thou

(1) LEND A HAND? Another Titan Comics blog tour will be rolling through on Monday. Would one of you volunteer to write a review of a comic by tomorrow night? I’d be thrilled, and so would Titan Comics. (Email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will send you a link to the PDF.)

(2) WISCON SAYS SUPPORT THEIR HOTEL. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] This is different. The convention hotel saying: No convention this year? Come and hang out anyway! The SF3/WisCon Newsletter encourages readers to  “Spend Memorial Day weekend at the Concourse Hotel”.

As you know, we’re not able to hold a WisCon in Madison this spring. However! The Concourse Hotel, the longtime home of WisCon, is running a special promotion for members and friends of the WisCon community over Memorial Day weekend, May 27-31, 2021

… The Concourse hosted its first WisCon in 1984 and has been our full-time hotel partner since 1995. They are an independently owned and operated hotel and as such have been hit especially hard by the loss of business during the pandemic. This is a fantastic chance to support them, get away from home for the weekend and see some friends in a clean, well-ventilated, socially distant environment….

(3) BOTH SIDES NOW. Lincoln Michel is writing an interesting series about the different genre and literary ecosystems for his Counter Craft newsletter. Here are links to the first three posts.

… I’m NOT going to try and delineate the (various and conflicting) definitions of “genre” and “literary” here. I do plan to get into that in some future newsletter but for now when I refer to the “literary world” I’m speaking of what you’d expect: MFA programs, magazines like The Paris Review or Ploughshares, imprints like Riverhead or FSG, agents who list “literary fiction” on their websites, etc.

When I say “genre world” I’m focusing mostly on science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction (plus the one hundred billion subgenres of those). Those are the genres I write in and am most familiar with. Obviously, there are other genre ecosystems: crime fiction, romance fiction, etc. Those tend to overlap a fair amount with SFF world, and also tend to function similarly in terms of how professional organizations operate, how awards are structured, and so on. But when I speak of something like “genre jargon” I’m pulling primarily from SFF. I don’t think I need to define SFF, beyond saying that acronym means “science fiction and fantasy.” You know it. Magazines like Lightspeed and Uncanny. Imprints like Orbit, Del Rey, and Tor.

Because genre vs. literary fiction is so often treated like a team sport where you pick a side and scream insults at the other one, I want to state up front that I root for both. Or perhaps play for both, in this metaphor. I’ve published in both “literary” magazines like The Paris Review and Granta as well as “genre” magazines like Lightspeed (forthcoming) and Strange Horizons. My story collection was published by the literary Coffee House Press and my science fiction novel is coming out this year from Orbit. I really love both “teams” here….

…Popular authors also tend to contend over and over. This can easily be seen by the list of multiple winners. Many SFF writers have won the Hugo for Best Novel multiple times. You have 6/12 (wins/nominations) for Heinlein and 4/10 for Bujold. Five different authors have won three times and nine have won twice. There is nothing like that in the Pulitzer. No author has won three, four, or six Pulitzers. Only four have won twice: Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, John Updike, and Colson Whitehead. This is despite the fact that the Pulitzers have been around since 1918 and the Hugos only since 1953. (This pattern is a little less prominent in other, newer awards, but still there.)

It’s fair to note that SFF perhaps has a smaller pool of books to choose from, since at least theoretically the literary awards are drawn from all of literature. But if the literary world is as narrow and parochial as many SFF fans contend then you’d expect to see that in the rewards.

As with almost everything I discuss here, there are arguments for both ways of doing things. In the genre side, the titans of the genre can be adequately reflected in the awards. A monumental work like N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy—truly one of the best fantasy series of modern times, which I’ve written about a bit here before—can even win three times in a row . That would simply never happen in the literary world, no matter how deserving. And one could certainly argue that the awards more accurately reflect the tastes of readership.

This can be a downside too, since biases and prejudices are also reflected. Before N.K. Jemisin won in 2016, no black author had ever won the Hugo for best novel. If you had died before 2015, when Cixin Liu won, you would have never witnessed a POC win the Hugo. It was hardly perfect in the lit world, but you did have Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ha Jin, Jesmyn Ward, Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and others winning NBAs and Pulitzers. It’s about the same for gender. Ursula K. Le Guin was the first woman to win a Hugo for Best Novel in 1970. (Ditto the Nebula, although that had only started in 1966.) By that time, dozens of women had won the Pulitzer and/or National Book Award.

All of that said, both the lit world and SFF world have been far better on the diversity front in the last five to ten years than they have been historically. Hopefully that will continue.

… Publishing runs on novels. At least when it comes to fiction, novels are what agents want to hear about, what editors want to look at, and—with a few exceptions—what readers want to buy. Perhaps because of this, short stories hold a special place in fiction writers’ hearts. The short story is our form. Our weird mysterious little monster that no one else can love.

Strangely, the opposite was true 100 years ago. For the first few decades of the 20th-century, the short story was the popular form of literature. It was a magazine world back then. Short stories were what paid the bills. Authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald felt forced to write short stories that they could afford to write “decent books” (novels) on the side! In the genre world, the short story was so dominant that even the “novels” were often a bunch of existing short stories stitched quickly together in what was known as a “fix-up.” I’m not talking obscure books here, but some of the pillars of SFF from that era: Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Asimov’s I, Robot, and Simak’s City. Also several of Raymond Chandler’s best hardboiled novels over in crime fiction. (Here’s a good post by Charlie Jane Anders arguing the fix-up is the ideal form for SFF.)…

(4) INSIDE BASEBALL. Kevin Standlee views with alarm: “DisCon III Moves to December — and Ignores the WSFS Constitution”.

…You may be asking, “So what? All the bids we knew about have already filed, so what difference does it make?”

I contend that there are two reasons for being concerned about this. The first is that frankly, there are groups that are unhappy about both the bids on the ballot, for various reasons. A “sprint” bid might enter the field. Now even though I have agreed to run Memphis’ WSFS division should they win, I’m trying to be as fair as I can about the known deficiencies of all currently filed bids. In 1990, I was a member of the San Francisco in ’93 Worldcon bid committee, facing filed bids from Phoenix and Zagreb. Due to unimpressive performances from all three filed bids at the 1989 SMOFCon (the filing deadline at that time was the close of the previous Worldcon, and sites were selected three years in advance at that time), a heretofore hoax bid for Hawaii was pressed into service by a large number of SMOFs and a write-in bid for Hawaii in ’93 filed. The write-in bid placed second ahead of the Zagreb and Phoenix bids, and I rather expect that had they been on the ballot, they might have beaten San Francisco. In 1991-92, I wrote and was a co-sponsor of a change to WSFS rules that changed the filing deadline to 180 days before the convention, a rule that, had it been in effect for the 1990 election for the 1993 Worldcon, would have allowed Hawaii to be on the ballot. So even though it would have been used against me back then, I recognize the value in keeping the door open for “sprint” bids. If there are groups that still want to take a shot at the 2023 Worldcon, I think they should have a chance to file until the T-180 deadline that is written into the Constitution.

The second reason I think DisCon III should reopen filing, even if nobody else files, is philosophical. WSFS rules are not self-enforcing. We trust Worldcon committees to follow WSFS rules as much as they can, subject to local laws and other contingencies. There is no higher authority that can force a Worldcon committee to obey WSFS rules. There’s no WSFS Inc. that can step in and give orders. There is no appeal from a Worldcon committee’s decisions. A Worldcon committee that refuses to follow a clearly-written and unambiguous rule that would not be difficult to follow is telling us that no rule is safeWSFS governance is based on trust. If we can’t trust a committee to follow the rules, then the unwritten contract between the members of WSFS and the Worldcon committee that manages the members’ annual convention breaks down….

… I think DisCon III should change their initial decision and reopen site selection filing until June 18, even if no other bid surfaces, to confirm that insofar as they are able to do so, even under the difficulties of a worldwide pandemic, they will continue to obey the rules of the organization whose membership is the World Science Fiction Society. To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the members of WSFS….

(5) READ ALL ABOUT IT. The New York Times takes readers “Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal”, in the process showing what journalists believe is the way to attract today’s audience.

… Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007….

… As the team was completing a report on its findings last summer, Mr. [Matt] Murray [WSJ Editor] found himself staring down a newsroom revolt. Soon after the killing of George Floyd, staff members created a private Slack channel called “Newsroomies,” where they discussed how The Journal, in their view, was behind on major stories of the day, including the social justice movement growing in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death. Participants also complained that The Journal’s digital presence was not robust enough, and that its conservative opinion department had published essays that did not meet standards applied to the reporting staff. The tensions and challenges are similar to what leaders of other news organizations, including The Times, have heard from their staffs.

In July, Mr. Murray received a draft from Ms. [Louise] Story’s team, a 209-page blueprint on how The Journal should remake itself called The Content Review. It noted that “in the past five years, we have had six quarters where we lost more subscribers than we gained,” and said addressing its slow-growing audience called for significant changes in everything from the paper’s social media strategy to the subjects it deemed newsworthy.

The report argued that the paper should attract new readers — specifically, women, people of color and younger professionals — by focusing more on topics such as climate change and income inequality. Among its suggestions: “We also strongly recommend putting muscle behind efforts to feature more women and people of color in all of our stories.”

The Content Review has not been formally shared with the newsroom and its recommendations have not been put into effect, but it is influencing how people work: An impasse over the report has led to a divided newsroom, according to interviews with 25 current and former staff members. The company, they say, has avoided making the proposed changes because a brewing power struggle between Mr. Murray and the new publisher, Almar Latour, has contributed to a stalemate that threatens the future of The Journal.

…About a month after the report was submitted, Ms. Story’s strategy team was concerned that its work might never see the light of day, three people with knowledge of the matter said, and a draft was leaked to one of The Journal’s own media reporters, Jeffrey Trachtenberg. He filed a detailed article on it late last summer.

But the first glimpse that outside readers, and most of the staff, got of the document wasn’t in The Journal. In October, a pared-down version of The Content Review was leaked to BuzzFeed News, which included a link to the document as a sideways scan. (Staffers, eager to read the report, had to turn their heads 90 degrees.)…

(6) THE POWER OF ANTHOLOGIES. Featuring Linda D. Addison (Sycorax’s Daughters), Maurice Broaddus (POC Destroy Horror & Dark Faith), and Sheree Renée Thomas (Dark Matter), and moderated by author and editor Nisi Shawl (New SunsEverfairStories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany), “Ancestors and Anthologies: New Worlds in Chorus” is a free livestream panel hosted by Clarion West and the Seattle Public Library on Monday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. Register at the link. It’s part of the “Beyond Afrofuturism: Black Editors and Publishers in Speculative Fiction” Panel Series.

From the groundbreaking Dark Matter to Sycorax’s Daughters to POC Destroy!, anthologies are one way marginalized voices gather in chorus on a particular subject, subgenre, or genre. Our anthologies panel will delve into the world of bespoke collections with luminaries in the field.

(7) AUTHOR’S LIBRARY GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. “L’Engle Library up for auction to benefit three organizations” announces the Madeleine L’Engle website. The books will be sold in lots on April 8, 13, 20, 22, and 27, but bidding opens early.

… What took so long? 1) It is a daunting thing when a loved one dies to be responsible for the accumulations of a lifetime. 2) We’re book people! Letting go of books is painful. A bookcase is a record of time spent and history and books are harder to find good homes for than one might think. 3) Her particular status as beloved author made every decision weighted.

(8) STANISLAW LEM CENTENNIAL DEBATE. On April 18, Polish Society for Futures Studies (PSFS) will present a live online debate “The expansion of future consciousness through the practice of science fiction and futures studies,” celebrating the Stanis?aw Lem centenary. Lem was a celebrated science-fiction writer and futurologist from Poland. The Centennial Debate will feature international participants: Thomas Lombardo, professor emeritus of Rio Salado College and author of books on science-fiction and future consciousness; Karlheinz Steinmüller, PhD, science fiction author, publisher and eminent German futurist; Kacper Nosarzewski, futurist from Poland and a literary critic.

The event will be streamed live on Zoom and YouTube, April 18th 12:00 am Pacific Standard Time, 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, 20:00 Central European Time, and the admittance is free. More information including links to the event will be posted at https://centennialdebate.ptsp.pl/.

The event is being supported by the World Futures Studies Federation, Association of Professional Futurists and Lem Estate, among many others.

Stanis?aw Lem wrote, in Solaris: “We don’t want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos.” The Centennial Debate will explore the practice of science-fiction and futures studies as different ways of “using the future” and increasing our understanding of humanity’s hopes, fears, prospects and predicaments.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • On a day in 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered.  It was directed by Leonard Nimoy who wrote it with Harve Bennett. It was produced by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett. It starred the entire original original Trek cast. It would lose out to Aliens at Conspiracy ’87. The film’s less-than-serious attitude and rather unconventional story were well liked by critics and  fans of the original series along with the general public. It was also a box office success. And it has an exemplary eighty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 10, 1936 – David Hardy, age 85.  Astronomical and SF artist.  European Vice President of the Int’l Ass’n of Astronomical Artists.  Artbooks e.g. Visions of SpaceHardyware50 Years in Space: what we thought then, what we know now.  Two hundred fifty covers, a hundred interiors.  Here is the Jun 74 Amazing.  Here is King David’s Spaceship.  Here is Understanding Space and Time (note that the piano is a Bösendorfer).  Here is the Apr 2010 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre which it should, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it somewhat. OK, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in the superb Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1948 – Jim Burns, age 73 (not James H. Burns 1962-2016).  Four hundred twenty covers, two hundred interiors.  Three Hugos.  Twelve BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards.  Artist Guest of Honour at Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon, several other more local cons in the U.K. and U.S., see here.  Artbooks e.g. LightshipTransluminalThe Art of Jim Burns.  Each in The Durdane Trilogy used a segment of this, e.g. The Asutra.  Here is Interzone 11.  Here is the Jul 94 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wanderer.  Here is Dozois’ 34th Year’s Best Science Fiction.  Here is Dark Angels Rising.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1951 – Ross Pavlac.  Co-chaired Marcon XIII-XIV, Windycon VIII, Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Torque 2.  Sometimes appeared in a blue aardvark costume; RP’s fanzine for the apa Myriad was The Avenging Aardvark’s Aerie; RP was one of the first fans to extrude a Website, also so called.  Chaired Windycon XXIV from his deathbed.  See these appreciations.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1953 David Langford, 68. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the EoSF, not to mention some 629,000 words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the Encyclopedia of SF, and contributed some eighty thousand words of articles to the most excellent EoF as well. And let’s not forget his genre writing as well that earned him a Short Story Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for “Different Kinds of Darkness”.  And yes, he has won other Hugos, too numerous to recount here. (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1955 Pat Murphy, 66. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 10, 1957 John M. Ford. Popular at Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. Possibly. The Dragon Waiting is also excellent and his Trek novels are among the best in that area of writing.  I’d be lying to say he’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1959 – Ruth Lichtwardt, age 62.  Hugo Adm’r for Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  Chaired MidAmeriCon II the 74th; her reflections as Chair here.  Long active with the Gunn Center for the Study of SF; Adm’r for the 2021 Conference.  Co-chaired ConQuest 49.  Drinks Guinness.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1975 – Merrie Haskell, age 46.  Three novels, a score of shorter stories, recently in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 313.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Schneider Book Award.  “I don’t think I’m unique in finding stories where female agency is non-existent, or is punished, as really troublesome….  I’m not even talking about the waiting-for-rescue parts; I don’t love that, mind you, but where are the choices?”  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 43. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. Quite fascinating.  (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1984 – Rachel Carter, age 37.  Three novels for us.  Nonfiction in e.g. The New Republic.  Teaches fiction-writing, also a freelance editor.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1992 Daisy Ridley, 29. Obviously she played the role of Rey in The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. She was also in Scrawl, a horror film as well as voicing Cotton Rabbit in Peter Rabbit. Though stretching to even call it genre adjacent even, she was Mary Debenham in Murder on the Orient Express which was rather well done. (CE)

(11) THE GREAT (PRICE) LEAP FORWARD. “Comics are only getting more expensive. How high is too high?” asks Mike Avila at SYFY Wire.

…I won’t lie, though: I sure do miss the time when a buck got you two comics and change. But I get how inflation works and how rising paper costs can’t be ignored. I’m also quite aware that the higher cover prices of today’s market have led to creators being able to make a decent living while entertaining us. That benefits the fans, who get to enjoy the great stories that spring from their imaginations.

However, there does come a point where comic books can simply become too expensive for many fans, forcing readers to drop titles not because they don’t like reading them, but because they simply can’t afford to anymore.

We may be approaching that point.

One of the Big Two publishers, DC Comics, is bumping the price up on some of its monthly titles to $5.99 for a 40-page issue. In its solicitations for June releases, several ongoing series, The Joker #4, Superman Red & Blue #3, Wonder Woman: Black White and Gold #1, and one of the company’s flagship books, Batman #109, are all listed with $5.99 cover prices. Think about that for a moment. If someone wanted to read all four of those titles, it would cost about $24 (before tax) to do so. Four comics, $24. That’s a big financial hit….

(12) JONESING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Phoebe Waller-Bridge to star in new Indiana Jones” reports CNN. Let’s hope the 35-year-old Waller-Bridge is not the love interest for the 78-year-old Harrison Ford. She wouldn’t pass the “half+7” rule for another 22 years.

(13) TRADECRAFT. Francis Hamit was a guest on the Spies Like Us podcast to discuss “Pine Gap (2018) Part One”. (The trailer for the Netflix series is at the link: Pine Gap: Season 1).

2018 Australian 6-episode series which we HIGHLY recommend both for spy geeks and people that don’t care much about tradecraft but enjoy a solid human drama.  Watching these characters unwind and reveal their true characters under the duress of multiple intertwining espionage threats was a real treat for both of us.  ALSO!!!!  It is our first episode featuring a guest with actual expertise in the field, author and ex-intelligence officer Francis Hamit.  Really excited about this one.

Hamit says: “This was a very positive experience for me.  Tod and Dave are really nice guys and very ‘Otaku’ for any spy film or television show.  Some of those (James Bond, etc) fall into the SF&F genre and they’ve done about fifty so far.  Each is an hour long and they usually do two part, one hour each, in depth discussions.  I was on as a topic expert on SIGINT.”

(14) AMONG THE NEVERS. The New York Times’ Mark Hale tells why he found it hard to get into the show: “Review: ‘The Nevers,’ From HBO and (Formerly) Joss Whedon”.

One of the puzzlements of “The Nevers,” the new alt-superhero show beginning Sunday on HBO, is the title. The peculiarly gifted late-Victorian Londoners, mostly women, who serve as the show’s heroes (and some of its villains) are never called “nevers”; they’re most often referred to as the Touched. In the first four of the series’s 12 episodes, nothing is called the Nevers. You can understand not calling a show “The Touched,” but it’s still a little confusing.

And the confusion doesn’t end there. “The Nevers,” while handsomely produced and, from moment to moment, reasonably diverting, doesn’t catch fire in those early episodes in part because we — along with the characters — are still trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Before this goes any further, it’s time to mention that “The Nevers” — a rare case these days of a genre series not based on an existing property — was created for the screen by Joss Whedon. There are things to be explained about Whedon’s involvement with the show, but for now let’s stick to the synergism between the new series and his great creation, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”…

(15) WHAT’S UP, DOCK. AP News is there when “American, Russians dock at International Space Station”.

A trio of Russian and American space travelers launched successfully and reached the International Space Station on Friday [April 9].

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off as scheduled at 12:42 p.m. (0742 GMT, 3:42 a.m. EDT) aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

They docked at the station after a two-orbit journey that lasted just over three hours.

It is the second space mission for Vande Hei and the third for Novitskiy, while Dubrov is on his first mission.

(16) KING PONG. SYFY Wire tells how “Elon Musk’s Neuralink gets monkey to play Pong with its mind”. (The video is here.) “The darn monkey probably gets higher scores than I ever did,” says John King Tarpinian.

By today’s standards, Pong doesn’t appear to exactly offer the latest, greatest gaming experience around, but just try and tell that to Pager, a macaque monkey who works for Elon Musk at Neuralink, who is currently playing the game with just his mind…

The gameplay is all part of Musk’s master plan of creating a “fully-implanted, wireless, high-channel count brain-machine interface (BMI),” aka a Neuralink, according to the company’s latest blog post highlighting Pager’s gameplay. While the end goal of the implanted device is to give people dealing with paralysis a direct, neural connection to easily and seamlessly operate their computers and mobile devices, the technology is currently giving this monkey some solid entertainment (as well as some tasty banana smoothies)

In the best video you’ll see of a monkey playing video games all day, we get to hang out for a few minutes with Pager, a 9-year-old macaque who, about six weeks ago, had a Neuralink device implanted into each side of his brain. By appearance, he doesn’t seem to be ill-affected by the procedure, save for some missing head fur. Although, it’s hard to say we’re really having a good hang, as Pager is intently focused on playing mind games with a joystick, and on the sweet, sweet smoothies he gets for interacting with the computer. (Hey, at least he’s getting paid.)

(17) BEACH BLANKET BIG BROTHER. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – is running a multi-part series about radio and on-screen adaptations of Orwell’s novel. The latest is “1984 Marathon Part 5 — 1984 Meets Dr. Phibes!” However, the cute title is deceptive — it’s really an audio copy of Vincent Price’s 1955 radio performance in the role of Winston Smith.

[Thanks to Danny Sichel, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Jeffrey Smith, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/20 Come And Listen To The Scroll Of An Earthsea Wizard Named Ged

(1) FOUR CENTURIES OF ANSIBLE. Congratulations to David Langford on publishing his four hundredth issue of Ansible. In addition to all the sff news in every issue, there’s always a grateful balance provided by departments like “Thog’s Masterclass.” One of the classic quotes from #400 is —

When Relativity Goes Bad. ‘The ship trembled, twisted, shuddered as full mass returned with the disruption of the field. Mass flooded back into the vessel, titanic mass, mass impossible to contain, it transformed into sheer energy, blasted through the nulgrav generator and poured from there into outer space.’ (Volsted Gridban, Planetoid Disposals Ltd., 1953) [BA]

(2) ZOOMING TO EURCON. Marcin Klak, Polish fan and past GUFF winner, has written up the virtual Eurocon: “Futuricon – The Future is Now”.

…There were a few interesting items to watch during Futuricon. I managed to visit some of them and  a hmissed some others… The ones I was especially happy to attend were Alison’s Virtual GUFF Trip talk treating about this year’s GUFF delegate’s (Alison Scott) virtual foray to Australia and New Zealand. I was also fascinated by the great talk by Cheryl Morgan – Worldbuilding with Sex and Gender. It was a short introduction to how sex and gender look in nature. It was so interesting that I decided to buy one of the recommended books to read more about the topic.

(3) SLF GRANT OPENING. The Speculative Literature Foundation is accepting applications for the Working Class Writers Grant through December 31.

This grant is awarded annually to assist working class, blue-collar, poor, and homeless writers who have been historically underrepresented in speculative fiction, due to financial barriers. We are currently offering one $1000 working class grant annually, to be used as the writer determines will best assist his or her work. This year, we will accept applications October 1, 2020 through December 31 2020.

(4) LONG REACH. This English-language article from the German foreign broadcast service Deutsche Welle spotlights how the Chinese government is exerting pressure on foreign publishers: “Chinese censors target German publishers”. Tagline: “As China tries to expand its influence abroad, it’s going beyond politics and business to target literature and publishing. German publishers are among those that have been targeted by censors, as DW has learned.”

…When DW contacted Phoenix Juvenile and Children’s Publishing, the publisher in Nanjing which ordered the changes to Dragonfly Eyes, the employee who spoke with Frisch said the changes had been requested by the author.

But communication between the two publishers suggests a different story. In these messages, seen by DW, the Phoenix employee told the German publisher that “relevant departments” had given negative feedback on the book and that the issue was “sensitive.” She then reminded Frisch several times that she had to state publicly that the novel was a work of fiction, that it was “made up, not real.”

In the Chinese edition however, the author clearly writes in his foreword that the story was based on the memories of somebody he had met. 

Later, the Phoenix employee told Frisch to stop all promotion of the book “in the interest of the author and the state.” She added that “because the story concerns the Cultural Revolution and because it is the anniversary year, you cannot not publish the book for the time being.”

This exchange took place at the end of October 2019, when the People’s Republic of China had just celebrated its 70th anniversary. By that point, the publisher’s tone had become slightly menacing. “Listen to our advice,” the employee said. “This will also protect the interest of your own publishing house.”

The licensing contract seen by DW does not mention any vetting of the final edition. “The deal is I get a text and I translate it,” Frisch said. “I don’t want to be used in political games.”…

(5) IMMOVABLE OBJECTIONS. Far Out explores “The reason why Stanis?aw Lem was furious about Andrei Tarkovsky’s adaptation of his novel ‘Solaris’”.

…Although Tarkovsky’s adaptation wasn’t the first (a 1968 television movie of Solaris by Boris Nuremburg), it is certainly the most famous and has been immortalised for its contribution towards a better understanding of the cinematic medium. More than the science fiction elements in the film, Tarkovsky was interested in the human problem. This fundamental difference between their respective approaches contributed to the dispute between Lem and Tarkovsky.

In October of 1969, Lem met Tarkovsky and literary expert Lazar Lazarev at the Peking Hotel in Moscow to discuss the script. Lem was not receptive to the changes that Tarkovsky had envisioned for his adaptation and could not understand why Lazarev was present. The writer maintained that his novel already had everything needed for a film, ignoring Tarkovsky’s efforts to convince Lem that he knew what he was doing as a filmmaker. When Lazarev asked if Lem would like to watch one of Tarkovsky’s films, the writer coldly answered: “I don’t have the time for that.”

However, the meeting was ultimately fruitful because Lem gave in and allowed them to go ahead with the project. The writer said that it was a matter of principle to not forbid anything but apart from that, he was openly against Tarkovsky’s vision. Insisting that he did not write the book about “people’s erotic problems in space”, Lem recalled the meeting between the two creative geniuses: “Tarkovsky and I had a healthy argument. I sat in Moscow for six weeks while we argued about how to make the movie, then I called him a ‘durak’ [‘idiot’ in Russian] and went home.”

(6) A FOOLISH CONSISTENCY IS THE HOBGOBLIN. “Little, Big: Talking with John Crowley” at Mythaxis Review.

DH: As someone who reads and watches are broad range of things, that resonates. Obviously, authors, film-makers, and other creatives have a similar freedom to experiment to see what works for them. However, the prevailing advice for achieving commercial success (at least as an author) is to pick a niche and stick to it. Do you have any advice for authors and filmmakers who want to succeed in multiple areas?

JC: I think the crux is how a writer – and his readers – define success. It certainly has long been the case in certain parts of the US literary world, and probably in that of other nations as well, that rapid production of new versions of successful books is the best way to high sales, and certainly most publishers are happy to facilitate that. But there’s a divide that ought to be noted: My most recent book was sent in MS to some twenty editors; some were entirely uninterested, but a small number thought the book was great. But because the publisher didn’t see profits from such an oddity it was refused, until at length one editor with a private label within a big house took it. If that’s the common route now, I would tell writers that they may as well write whatever they like, and make it entirely different every time, and trust that someone will take it even if it doesn’t match market expectations. (I’m quite sure that my last three or four novels, if read without my name attached, would not be recognized as by the same author.) About films I know less, though I’d guess the quandary – and the approach – would be similar.

(7) FLAME ON. From the inaugural virtual Ring of Fire Convention (ROFCON), a video of the panel on modern publishing featuring Alexi Vandenberg (M), Toni Weisskopf, Shahid Mahmud, Kevin Anderson, and Eric Flint.

(8) CONRAD OBIT. Roxanne Conrad (1962-2020), who published thriller, sff and YA under the name Rachel Caine, died of cancer on November 1 at the age of 57. More tribute from her husband and associates here.

Roxanne Conrad, aka Rachel Caine. Roxanne lost her fight with a rare and aggressive cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, on November 1, 2020.

Roxanne was known worldwide as thriller, science fiction, and young adult writer Rachel Caine. With over 56 books in print and millions of copies sold, she was a popular guest at conventions in the United States and around the world. Her popular book series include the young adult Morganville Vampires novels, the Great Library series, and the #1 bestselling Stillhouse Lake novels in adult thrillers.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • November 2, 1988 — The first part of Doctor Who’s “The Happiness Patrol” aired. Written by Graeme Curry, it was intended (by him and the other writers) to be a parody of Thatcherism, with Helen A representing Margaret Thatcher herself. Starring Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Sophie Aldred as Ace and Shelia Hancock as Helen A. with David John Pope as Kandy Man. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, referred to this story in his 2011 Easter sermon, on the subject of happiness and joy. Really. Truly. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 2, 1913 Burt Lancaster. Certainly being Dr. Paul Moreau on The Island of Doctor Moreau was his most genre-ish role but I like him as General James Mattoon Scott in Seven Days in May. And, of course, he’s really great as Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1927 Steve Ditko. Illustrator who began his career working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during which he began his long association with Charlton Comics and which led to his creating the Captain Atom character. Did I mention DC absorbed that company as it did so many others? Now he’s best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. For Charlton and also DC  itself, including a complete redesign of Blue Beetle, and creating or co-creating The Question, The Creeper, Shade the Changing Man, and Hawk and Dove.  He been inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1928 – the Usual Don Fitch, 92.   So he has long signed his name and referred to himself.  But his usual is quite wonderful. Long-time helpful member of LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society), earning its Evans-Freehafer service award in 1970.  Fanzine From Sunday to Saturday in many apas, e.g. FAPASAPSTAPSThe CultN’APAANZAPAAPA-L.  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 28.  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1941 – Ed Gorman.  Three dozen novels, ten dozen shorter stories for us; comics; a dozen anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg; detective fiction (Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America), Westerns; nonfiction in NY TimesRedbook.  Interviewed A.J. Budrys in SF Review.  Fanzine Ciln.  Won a short-story contest sponsored by Scribner’s, invited by an editor to expand into a mainstream novel, quit after six months saying “I was bored out of my mind.”  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1942 – Sue Francis, 78.   Co-chaired DeepSouthCon 24 (with Ken Moore).  With husband Steve Francis, mainstays of Rivercon for twenty-five years.  Their reminiscence of NorthAmeriCon ’79 the 2nd NASFiC (N.Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) here. Together Fan Guests of Honor at ConTact 6, Phoenixcon 5, MidSouthCon 10, DeepSouthCon 33, InConJunction XX, Con*Stellation XX; Rebel and Rubble Awards; DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates, report Sue & Steve’s Excellent Adventure in Australia; Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1942 – Carol Resnick, 78.  A founder of Windycon.  Noted costumer and judge of our Masquerade costume competition.  Widow of Mike Resnick, who throughout his pro career (4 Hugos, 1 Nebula; Galaxy’s Edge magazine) remained also a fan; together Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon VI, Pro Guests of Honor at Contraption 5.  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1942 Stefanie Powers, 78. April Dancer, the lead in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. which lasted just one season. Did you know Ian Fleming contributed concepts to this series and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well?  She would play Shalon in the crossover that started on The Six-Million Man and concluded on The Six-Million Woman called “The Return of Bigfoot”. (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1949 Lois McMaster Bujold, 71. First, let’s note she’s won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, matching Robert A. Heinlein’s record, not counting his Retro Hugo. Quite impressive that. Bujold’s works largely comprises three separate book series: the Vorkosigan Saga, the Chalion series, and the Sharing Knife series. She joined the Central Ohio Science Fiction Society, and co-published with Lillian Stewart Carl StarDate, a Trek fanzine in which a story of hers appeared under the byline Lois McMaster. (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1969 Lucy Hawking, 51. Daughter of Stephen Hawking. Children’s novelist and science educator. With her father, she wrote the George’s Secret Key series which may or may not be genre. Anyone here from Britain who’s actually seen them? (CE)
  • Born November 2, 1972 – Masayoshi Yasugi, 48.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Japanese SF New Face Award for The Dreaming Cat Sleeps in Space (2003); three more novels, a dozen shorter stories.  [JH]
  • Born November 2, 1983 – Ádám Gerencsér, 37.  Edits Sci Phi Journal (with Mariano Martin Rodríguez), two short stories there.  “When … I wanted to read a comprehensive guide to Hungarian alternate history and realised that it didn’t exist, I wrote one (in English, Journal Hélice vol. III no. 6).”  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side visits the beach as two figures pass each other with the day’s catch.

(12) DRACULA FOR ALL THE SENSES. Print Magazine admires the work done by Beehive Press in “Designing the Ultimate Dracula Experience”. This amazing collection will be out next year. Many photos at the link.

Last year, Philadelphia-based boutique publisher Beehive Books launched a Kickstarter to bring literary lovers an interactive Dracula experience like never before: “You are not a passive observer. You are a scholar exploring this supernatural archive.” When it’s released in 2021, Dracula: The Evidence will deliver a briefcase full of letter correspondence, photographs, diaries, newspaper clippings, phonograph records and more, that make the saga of the centuries-old vampire more real than ever.

… When the finished project is delivered, readers will be able to unfold a map of London and track the characters as they move through the story. Letters and photographs will give them a chance to become “supernatural archeologists.” Blueprints and additional maps will turn them into amateur detectives.

All told, from the aged briefcase that holds all of the documents to the beautifully bound journals and framed photos, the planned design is downright dazzling.

(13) HEAR ME. STEAL ME. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Created A New Form Of Sign Language For The Tusken Raiders” – let SYFY Wire fill you in.

For many moons, Star Wars fans have written off the Tusken Raiders as savage Sand People that bray like donkeys whenever they go on the offensive. Thanks to The Mandalorian, acolytes of the galaxy far, far away can now view Tatooine’s desert nomads in a new light. In Season 1, the bounty hunter known as Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) proved that one can actually make physical contact with the Tuskens and live to tell the tale. The Season 2 premiere took that dynamic to an entirely new level as Djarin forged a shaky alliance between the Sand People and the citizens of Mos Pelgo.

But before the show could have its titular hero communicating with the indigenous folk of Tatooine, it needed a new language through which they could speak to one another. That’s where Troy Kotsur came in; the deaf actor was hired to come up with a sign-based vocabulary for the Tusken Raiders and it wasn’t just a matter of bringing American Sign Language to the Great Dune Sea.

(14) TOWERS OF BABEL. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says what NASA engineers are worried about the software in the giant Space Launch System rocket, since the rocket has parts made by Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, and the United Launch Alliance and it’s not clear if the software can integrate equipment made by these different companies: “NASA’s new rocket would be the most powerful ever. But it’s the software that has some officials worried.”

… Computing power has become as critical to rockets as the brute force that lifts them out of Earth’s atmosphere, especially rockets like the SLS, which is really an amalgamation of parts built by a variety of manufacturers: Boeing builds the rocket’s “core stage,” the main part of the vehicle. Lockheed Martin builds the Orion spacecraft. Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman are responsible for the RS-25 engines and the side boosters, respectively. And the United Launch Alliance handles the upper stage.

All of those components need to work together for a mission to be successful. But NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) recently said it was concerned about the disjointed way the complicated system was being developed and tested.

At an ASAP meeting last month, Paul Hill, a member of the panel and a former flight and mission operations director at the agency, said the “panel has great concern about the end-to-end integrated test capability and plans, especially for flight software.”

(15) KITTY LITERATURE. The Guardian interviews a philosopher about his latest study: “John Gray: ‘What can we learn from cats? Don’t live in an imagined future’.

…One impulse for this book was a conversation with a fellow philosopher, who assured Gray that he “had taught his cat to be vegan”. (Gray had only one question: “Did the cat ever go out?” It did.) When he informed another philosopher that he was writing about what we can learn from cats, that man replied: “But cats have no history.” “And,” Gray wondered, “is that necessarily a disadvantage?”

Elsewhere, Gray has written how Ludwig Wittgenstein once observed “if lions could talk we would not understand”, to which the zookeeper John Aspinall responded: “He hasn’t spent long enough with lions.” If cats could talk, I ask Gray, do you think we would understand?

“Well, the book is in some ways an experiment in that respect,” he says. “Of course, it’s not a scientific inquiry. But if you live with a cat very closely for a long time – and it takes a long time, because they’re slow to trust, slow to really enter into communication with you – then you can probably imagine how they might philosophise.”

Gray believes that humans turned to philosophy principally out of anxiety, looking for some tranquillity in a chaotic and frightening world, telling themselves stories that might provide the illusion of calm. Cats, he suggests, wouldn’t recognise that need because they naturally revert to equilibrium whenever they’re not hungry or threatened. If cats were to give advice, it would be for their own amusement.

(16) AND I SWEAR THAT IT’S ALL TRUE. A whale of a tale.

(17) WARP DEED. “Tenacious D” covers the “Time Warp.” Vocals by Jack Black and Kyle Gass. Cameo appearances by Eric Andre, Ezra Miller, George Takei, Ilana Glazer, Jamie Lee Curtis, John Heilemann, John Waters, Karen O, King Princess, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Michael Peña, Peaches, Phoebe Bridgers, Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Susan Sarandon.

It’s astounding… time is fleeting… and the 2020 election is here. Time to ROCK-Y THE VOTE! And remember: it’s just a jump to the LEFT, and not a step to the right!

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight Breaking Dawn Pitch Meeting” at Screen Rant, Ryan George summarizes both the fourth and fifth Twilight movies in one meeting because, unlike the last Harry Potter meeting, there really isn’t enough plot in the last Twilight novel for two movies.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/31/20 Scroll Me Tomorrow; Hurry Back. Can’t You See? I Need To Read More Than Yesterday

Still under the weather, so another short Scroll.

Feel free to add in comments that should have been scrolled today!

(1) SEAN CONNERY DIES. Actor Sean Connery died October 31. Here is an excerpt of Leonard Maltin’s tribute.

I only spoke to the actor a few times, but each meeting was memorable. The encounter I will never forget came when I was assigned to cover his hand-and-footprint ceremony at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1999 to promote the movie Entrapment, which costarred newcomer Catherine Zeta-Jones.

As we stood in the famous forecourt of Grauman’s, I asked what this honor meant to him. He gestured over his shoulder at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and told me that he’d stayed there on his first trip to Los Angeles in the late 1950s. Now, decades later, he was here to perpetuate a tradition that went back even farther than his career.

He had vivid memories of his first trip to Movieland. “My expenses were a hundred bucks a week. I was staying in this hotel and found out that it was like sixteen bucks a day and I had nothing left for food, drink, or a car, so I walked from here to Fox. I got stopped once en route by the police saying, ‘Where are you going, buddy?’ I said, ‘I’m walking.’ He said, ‘Smartass, stay where you are.’ ” Once the problem was unraveled, Fox eventually agreed to give him a car and be more flexible with his per diem.

(2) BARD NOT BOND. [Item by Michael Toman.] On the off chance that Other Bardophile Readers of File 770 might also be interested in seeing a play with witches this Halloween, try Googling “Sean Connery Shakespeare Macbeth” for a link to see a young SC as the doomed Scottish king.

(3) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 31, 1962 First Spaceship On Venus premiered In the Eastern Bloc. It’s a 1960 East German/Polish film based on the 1951 Stanis?aw Lem novel The Astronauts. Lem did not like it at all and asked his name to be removed as he hated the strident politicization of the story. IMDB still lists him as the story source. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon it in 2008. 

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 31, 1760 – Katsushika Hokusai.  (Name given Japanese style, personal name last.)  His famous woodblock sometimes called “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa” is actually a view of Mt. Fuji, first in a set (note Zelazny’s story “24 Views of Mt. Fuji, by Hokusai”).  Here is “The Ghost of Oiwa” from One Hundred Ghost Tales.  Here is The Oxford Book of the Supernatural.  Here is “The Mansion of the Plates” used for Apparitions.  Here is a magician.  (Died 1849) [JH]
  • Born October 31, 1795 – John Keats.  In his twenty-five years he wrote poetry soon recognized as great.  He said “My imagination is a monastery and I am its monk.”  Here is Virgil Finlay’s illustration for “La belle dame sans merci”.  This illustration by Bell for Endymion will remind you of some JK lines.  Here is another illustration for Endymion (look up the myth if you don’t know it).  Here is an Endymion illustration engraved by Joubert from a painting by Poynter.  Here is an illustration by Riviére.  JK wrote this sonnet about Chapman’s translation of Homer, a fantasist writing about a fantasist.  (Died 1821) [JH]
  • Born October 31, 1923 – Art Saha.  Research chemist whose work was used on Space satellites.  Futurian.  President of the Lunarians (New York) and of the First Fandom organization.  Edited half a dozen Year’s Best Fantasy, and with Don Wollheim, a score of Year’s Best SF.  Program Book for SunCon the 35th Worldcon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Empiricon 4, Unicon 10, Lunacon 29.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born October 31, 1937 – Jael, 83.  Three dozen covers, thirty interiors; in her seventy-year career, ten-thousands of images all told.  Here is Venus Plus X.  Here is the Fall 1993 Aboriginal.  Here is Letters to Jenny (note the author at upper right).  Here is the Summer 2000 Dreams of Decadence.  Interviewed in Lighthouse 2.  Artbook Perceptualistics (with John Grant).  [JH]
  • Born October 31, 1941 – Dan Alderson.  At JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) wrote software used by Voyager 1 & 2; his Trajectory Monitor used by low-thrust craft at least through 2008.  Much-loved member of LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Inspired the Alderson Drive in Niven & Pournelle’s Mote in God’s Eye and The Gripping Hand; Dan Forrester in Lucifer’s Hammer is based on him (German Wald is “forest”).  Unfortunately self-esteem notoriously as low as his genius was high; he joked about it but meant it too; in one famous incident he said “We could always hold a self-denigration contest.  Of course I’d lose,” cracking up his driver and nearly the car.  (Died 1989) [JH]
  • Born October 31, 1946 – Stephen Rea, 74. Actor who’s had a long genre history starting with the horror films of Cry of the BansheeThe Company of Wolves (from the Angela Carter short story)and The Doctor and the Devils. He’d later show up Interview with the VampireThe MusketeerFeardotComV for VendettaUnderworld: AwakeningWerewolf: The Beast Among Us and Ruby Strangelove Young Witch. He had the role of Alexander Pope in the most excellent Counterpart series. (CE) 
  • Born October 31, 1958 – Ian Briggs, 62. He wrote two Seventh Doctor stories, “Dragonfire” and “The Curse of Fenric”, the former of which of which introduced Ace as the Doctor’s Companion. (The latter is one on my frequent rewatch list.) He novelized both for Target Books. He would write a Seventh Doctor story, “The Celestial Harmony Engine” for the Short Trips: Defining Patterns anthology. (CE) 
  • Born October 31, 1959 – Neal Stephenson, 61. Some years back, Longfellow Books had a genre book group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made re-read that and Snow Crash. My favorite novel by him by far is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. (CE) 
  • Born October 31, 1961 – Peter Jackson, 59. I’m going to confess that I watched and liked the first of the Lord of The Rings films but got no further than that. I was never fond of The Two Towers as a novel so it wasn’t something I wanted to see as a film, and I like The Hobbit just fine as a novel thank you much having read it at least a half dozen times. Now however the Adventures of Tintin is quite amazing indeed. (CE) 
  • Born October 31, 1972 – Matt Smith, 48. He’s the current and longest-serving editor of long-running 2000 AD, and also the longest-running editor of its sister title Judge Dredd Magazine. He written three Judge Dredd novels plus a number of other genre novels based off the properties he edits. Along with Alan Ewing and Michael Carroll, he’s written the Judge Dredd audiobook, a take on the newly deputized Dredd. (CE) 
  • Born October 31, 1978 – Lara Möller, 42.  Three novels and a shorter story for Shadowrun, two more short stories; also crime fiction, poems (in German).  Backpacked in Australia for ten months; “helping [with a] cattle drive … in the Outback or picking oranges on a plantation is … completely different … from sitting at the computer in the office,” which she resumed.  [JH]
  • Born October 31, 1979 – Erica Cerra, 41. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica, plus the artificial intelligence A.L.I.E. and her creator Becca in The 100. Her most recent genre role was a recurring one as Duma on Supernatural. (CE)

(5) COMICS SECTION.

(6) SPECTRAL SCRIBERS. In “All The Famous Writers Who Have Reportedly Come Back As Ghosts” on CrimeReads, we learn that the ghosts of Lovecraft and Poe have been spotted and if you go to Baltimore’s The Horse You Came In On pub and deny that Poe’s ghost haunts the place, bottles will shake!

Concluding our brief list is the one you’ve all been waiting for: the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. He is wildly believed to haunt several locations in and around Baltimore, the city where he died tragically at age forty. One of these locations is the catacombs of the Westminster Presbyterian Church (which just seems haunted to begin with), which was built on top of the Old Western Burial Grounds. Poe was buried there, though he was not interred in one of the graves that the church was constructed upon. But people claim to have seen his spirit wandering through the tunnels, as well as the hospital where he died, the military fort where he was based when he unhappily served in the army, and the street where he lived….

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

Pixel Scroll 9/15/20 The Six Million Pixel Scroll

(1) IT’S SF2 CONCATENATION TIME. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s Autumnal edition is now up. Principal contents include:

Plus there are many standalone SF/FH book and non-fiction SF & science book reviews.

Full details at SF2 Concatenation’s What’s New page.

Looking ahead, in SF² Concatenation will (hopefully, depending on its lock-down) have its spring (northern hemisphere) edition. Before that, hopefully we will have a pre-Christmas one-page ‘Best of’ Nature Futures short stories. But if we have a second UK lockdown then that will get rolled into our January edition.

(2) CANON CONSIDERED. In a guest post at Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons, Alasdair Stuart recalls the years when Warren Ellis’ work used to weave way through his life, and why he now doubts it can even sit on his shelves.

…So I start buying comics from the store I used to manage before being laid off.

That last one becomes a solace, a tiny spark against the black backdrop of sleeping on my parents’ camper bed. But it reminds me of the medium that brought me joy as joy slowly returns. This time it’s Ellis’ Secret Avengers[6] run — Fortean and weird, kind and bleak. The team are barely in control, reacting as much as leading. But they’re still trying. Beast – large, smart, kind Beast – makes an appearance.

I buy the book three times. In singles. In trade. The last time I buy it digitally, in California with my new partner, and realize that, at last, I’m home.

*

When we move back to the UK a panel from Transmetropolitan heads my new Facebook page. It’s Spider Jerusalem, sitting on a window ledge. The text box reads:

AND SO, FREED, I BEGIN TO WRITE.

I know how he feels. It’s good to be outside at last.

*

I am rounding the corner towards forty-four and I’m reading a different kind of Ellis’ work. Somanyofus.com collects testimony from over sixty of the countless women who he’s harassed, or groomed, or manipulated over the last twenty years. Careers made or denied, glimpsed briefly from my own track but now laid out with courageous, horrifying context. Were it simply that, it would be damning. But damning is a zero-sum game. Damning is something Spider Jerusalem would do.

The writers of this site are better than that. Better than him.

There are tools here. Questions to ask, behavior to search for. Things to know as you travel the complex and protean landscape of parasocial relationships.

This corpus is not just a collection of testimony but a statement of intent, a course bearing for an industry from the very people that industry — through Ellis — has ground up and thrown aside. Those damaged the most by the toxic business they loved, hauling on the tiller and trying to steer it away from more rocks, more damage, more careers broken against the shore of this single man….

(3) ROWLING IGNITES SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN. “J.K. Rowling’s New Book—About A Cross-Dressing Serial Killer—Draws Outrage” Forbes’ Lisette Voytko has a rundown:

The revelation that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s latest book hinges on a male serial killer who dresses like a woman infuriated social media users Monday, after Rowling kicked up controversy in recent months over her views on transgender people, which critics denounced as transphobic.

Rowling’s new book, written under her pen name Robert Galbraith, is titled Troubled Blood and is the latest installment of a fictional crime series following private detective Cormoran Strike.

Troubled Blood’s villain is a “psychopathic serial killer,” according to the book’s Amazon page, and turns out to be a man who dresses as a woman.

Reaction on social media was swift, with #RIPJKRowling trending on Twitter by early Monday afternoon, as critics and former fans argued that Troubled Blood’s villain is another example of the author’s alleged transphobia….

(4) THE COMMERCIAL MARCHES ON. “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will go on, but only in TV land”. Well, it’s always been more of a televised variety show anyway, to be honest.

This year’s parade will still have the giant balloons, colorful floats and, of course, Santa Claus, but it will “shift to a television-only special presentation,” Macy’s and New York City announced on Monday.

The parade will still air across the country on NBC on Thanksgiving morning, but the pandemic forced Macy’s to “reimagine” the event. It will forgo the traditional 2.5-mile route and reduce by 75% the number of parade participants, who will be socially distanced during performances and required to wear face coverings.

…All parade participants will be at least 18 years old, with previously selected high school and college bands’ performances deferred to the 2021 event and local professional marching and musical ensembles taking over this year.

Meanwhile, the 80 to 100 handlers that normally walk the balloons throughout the city will be replaced by specialty vehicles.

(5) LEM IN PLAY. GamesRadar+ honors the source material of a forthcoming game: “The Invincible is a sci-fi thriller coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X from a new studio of former CD Projekt Red and Techland developers”.

In fact, if you’ve read any of Stanislaw Lem’s novels, then you’re probably surprised that it’s taken this long for a studio to directly adapt one of his stories into a video game, which feel like the perfect medium for his pulpy ruminations on AI, futurology, and space exploration. 

The studio that’s breaking that pattern is Starward Industries, a new team based out in Cracow, Poland, made up of 12 veteran developers who hail from CD Projekt Red, Techland Games, and other household names from around the rest of the country. 

(6) WHAT VERNE GOT RIGHT. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s AirSpace podcast presents “Voyages To Mars”.

In this first installment of Voyages to Mars, we hear launch stories from two famous science fiction novels written long before the invention of modern rockets. From Percy Greg’s 1880 novel, Across the Zodiac, we get a detailed account of one of the first imaginary ships ever to travel from the Earth to Mars in literature. In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel, From the Earth to the Moon, we find one of the first descriptions ever written of what it might be like to witness a launch. Strap yourself in and come along for the ride.

(7) BOOKSTORE DESPERATION. There must be a lot of this happening by now: “Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore launches a GoFundMe as more stores struggle through pandemic” in the Los Angeles Times.

Next to a bottle of hand sanitizer, on a table at an entrance to Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore, is a message to customers describing an existential crisis induced by a pandemic. It says, in essence: We need your help.

“We have tried to weather this storm, with creative reinvention, hard work, and perseverance, as we always have,” reads the note from Diesel owners Alison Reid and John Evans. “We’ve managed to keep our booksellers afloat financially and with the necessary health care. But at this point, our stores are foundering.

”… So we are asking for your support to restore us to a sustainable level, to make it through this taxing time… We have resisted this appeal to our wider community, but now we are running out of time. It is either this, or ending our run as a quality independent bookstore.”

Online orders, gift card purchases and the recent return of indoor shopping by appointment only have helped keep afloat the charming bookstore tucked inside the Brentwood Country Mart. But as Reid and Evans alerted some 3,500 people via email, “it is not enough, given our rent, operating expenses and our publisher debt, to sustain us.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 15, 1965 — The Lost In Space series premiered on CBS. It was created and produced by Irwin Allen who was also responsible for Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. It starred Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Jonathan Harris and Bob May. Dick Trufeld was the voice of The Robot.   It would three seasons and eight three episodes, fifty-four In color. It would get two reboots — the Lost in Space film (withThe Robinsons: Lost in Space short) and the Lost in Space series. A sixty-minute animated film aired in the early Seventies as part of the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. Only Jonathan Harris from the series was part of the voice cast. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 15, 1894 – Rachel Field.  Hitty, her First Hundred Years won a Newbery Award (the first given to a woman) and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, memoir of a mountain-ash-wood doll.  The Magic PawnshopEliza and the Elves also ours.  English lyrics to Schubert’s Ave Maria for Disney’s Fantasia.  A dozen other books, three best-sellers.  (Died 1952) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1898 – Jan Slauerhoff.  Poet and novelist, an important Dutch author.  The Forbidden Kingdom (1932; Irishman haunted by and maybe transferring identities with Luís de Camões 1524-1580) recently in English (2012); sequel The Life on Earth (1934; tr. as Adrift in the Middle Kingdom 2019) yet stranger.  I haven’t found his poetry (Van der Hoogt Prize, 1933) in English.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1914 – Aldolfo Bioy Caseras.  Friend of and collaborator with Borges, who called C’s Invention of Morel “reasoned imagination”, ha ha.  For us, one more novel, eight shorter stories, tr. into English; much else.  Legion of Honor, Cervantes Prize, Diamond Konex Award. (Died 1999)  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 80. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942  Charles L. Grant. A writer of whom it’s said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror.” Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. And “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. Both iBooks and Kindle have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1942 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 78. Best known for her series of historical horror novels about the vampire Count Saint-Germain. She has been honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a Living Legend Award from the International Horror Guild Award and a Bram Stoker Award for Life Time Achievement. (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942 – John Faucette.  Five novels, a few shorter stories; collection, Black SF.  Half a dozen novels unfinished at his death.  Of Black SF a reviewer said “warning label on the cover … should be heeded….  adult themes….  no one can argue that the author does not have a strong imagination.”  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 74. I think that The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him. His short fiction such as “The Ugly Chickens” which won The World Fantasy and Nebula Awards are most excellent. A generous selection of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 74. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s done other genre work with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s also Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1960 — Kevin Roche, 59. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also is the editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 58. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much it’s Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1971 – Laura Martin, 49.  Colorist for CrossGen, DC, Image, Marvel.  Four times Comics Buyer’s Guide Favorite Colorist; six Eagles, two Eisners, a Harvey; Inkwell Awards Ambassador.  Special Guest at Comic-Con Int’l, 2015.  Here is a watercolor (portrait of Butch Guice).  Here is another.  She donated the original of this to the Baltimore Comic-Con art auction.  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1977 – Sophie Dahl, 43.  Author and former fashion model.  Contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, to be seen (I mean, after her modeling career) in The GuardianThe ObserverVogue (won a Jasmine Award).  Books and cookboks.  Children’s picture book Madame Badoebdah.  Puffin Classics 2008 ed’n of The Secret Garden has her introduction.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield agrees with aliens about what makes life on Earth worthwhile. (“These aliens were redirected to Denmark, I presume,” says Lise Andreasen.)

(11) CHOOSING BETWEEN HORROR AND CATS. You don’t actually have to, as we learn in James Whitbrook Q&A at io9, “Manga Legend Junji Ito Talks Making Horror, Adapting It, and Cats”. Here’s the part about cats:

io9: Your autobiographical manga series Yon & Mu is quite a step out from what people typically know you for. What drove you to make the switch from horror to a slice of life about living with cats?

Junji Ito: I had drawn some short autobiographical comics in the past, and I enjoy working on them because of how easy they are to make. When I got married, I started living with the cats that my wife brought with her, but prior to that I had never been around cats much and honestly got the impression they were a bit creepy. At some point, I realized that a manga about learning how to deal with these new circumstances could be interesting. Not long after, my editor somehow caught onto the fact that I was now living with cats, and proposed the idea of drawing the manga. I was between projects at the time, so it was perfect timing.

(12) ARRIVAL. James Davis Nicoll shows off his newly-arrived Hugo finalist pins at his Dreamwidth blog.

(13) TRAILBLAZER. There’s not much left of summer, so be prepared to read fast! James Davis Nicoll prepared “A Late-Summer SFF Reading List” to save you some time at Tor.com.

What have I read recently? I am so happy to have imagined someone asking me that conveniently leading question.

I should note that I have embraced the concept of comparative advantage by focusing on activities at which I am acceptably competent (reading, reviewing, encountering wild animals), freeing people who are not me up for other activities at which they are superior (anything social). The end result is more productivity all round! Plus, it turns out that, at the moment, a simple handshake can be akin to French-kissing Death herself, so all in all, this anti-social, work-focused lifestyle is working out pretty well! For me, anyway. Without further ado, here’s a survey of what I’ve been reading over the last month…

(14) MUTATING SARS-COV-2 VIRUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Most people (deniers excepted) have an interest in the SARS-CoV-2 /CoVID-19 pandemic, but SF folk perhaps a little more as pandemics are something of an SF trope and commonly evoked as the backdrop to a ‘Quiet Earth’ story.

The latest Nature journal has a feature, by Nature staffer Ewen Callaway, that explores how the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which can result inCoVID-19 disease) is mutating.

The feature may be a little hard to digest for those Filers not rooted in science or biology, so here’s a condensed summary.

SARS-CoV-2 is mutating (as was previously much anticipated even as a short-term concern). Fortunately it is mutating at less than half the rate of influenza viruses and a quarter that of HIV. The virus genome has nearly 30,000 letters and if you were today to sequence a virus from two patients anywhere in the world you’d probably see an average of 10 RNA letters difference. So far, some 90,000 patients have had their virus genomically sequenced and this has revealed over 12,000 mutations doing the rounds. Luckily, nearly all these do not affect the way the virus spreads, or the resulting disease.

The bad news is that a new dominant strain has emerged. Way back, it infected an estimated less than 10% of patients by early-to-mid-February but nearly 100% by mid-June (of a sample size of over 50,000 patients globally). This strain, D614G (with a genome mutation at the coding for the 614th amino acid position) is unlike most other strains that do not affect the CoVID-19 disease. Instead, this new strain is
more infective than the original SARS-CoV-2! This is because this mutation alters the spike protein on the virus’ surface that it uses to latch on to human cells. It makes the spike more open and so easier to latch onto human cell membrane proteins.

The good news is that in COVID-19 patient impact terms this strain is no better or worse to contract than the original virus.

More good news, is that though this new strain is more infective, it responds just as well to vaccines. This is likely because what makes it more infective (an open spike) also exposes the receptor binding domain (RBD) used to lock onto human cells but the mutation has not changed the RBD itself. So this new mutation is unlikely to affect the prognosis for a vaccine from the potential vaccines now being trialled.

Interestingly, there is a second mutation doing the rounds which is a big mutation involving nearly 400 RNA nucleotides! This strain is linked to a milder form of CoVID-19.

Where does all this leave us?

Well, it could be that slow mutation will lead to vaccine-resistant strains. With vaccination, these strains may only generate mild symptoms (vaccines to related strains may confer partial protection) and also we may develop new vaccines for the new significant mutations. One possibility, the Nature feature contemplates (which the SF²; Concatenation briefing also considered way back in March), is that vaccines will immunise us making us less susceptible to mutations, so that subsequent COVID-19-related disease will have less impact. In short, that we will eventually get by with annual SARS-CoV jabs and that in the long-term it will be a bit like living with flu.

(15) TOS CONTINUES. Fansided makes sure viewers know “A new fan film called Star Trek: First Frontier has debuted online”.

Star Trek: First Frontier is an entirely new, original, and self-funded fan film that takes place in the time of the original show. Set in the same time-frame, with sets and uniforms dedicated to that era of Star Trek. It was directed by Kenneth Smith, with the entire film being self-funded by the director. It was released on Star Trek Day 2020 to add to the festivities.

Despite its production budget being very high for a Star Trek fan-film, there are issues that the director himself admits to. He attempted to fix everything but funds became scarce after Covid-19 hit, and the subsequent quarantining caused a financial issue in fixing some of the minor issues with the audio. Smith promises that the issues will be fixed in a special edition.

(16) HONEST TRAILER PARK. In “Mulan (2020) Honest Trailer” the Screen Junkies explain the Mulan remake has “vibrant colors and sumptuous landscapes that will be totally wasted on your crappy TV.”

(17) ONLY ONE HAS A RACING STRIPE. Ranker asks readers to vote on “The 19 Coolest Starships In The ‘Star Trek’ Universe”.

Throughout the many complicated iterations of the Star Trek universe, there are entire cultures dedicated to exploration, subjugation, and assimilation. Whether they’re looking to map uncharted territories or obliterate neighboring races, the right starship makes all the difference.

Here’s a look at some of the greatest Starfleet cruisers, Klingon fighter ships, and bizarre sentient space vessels that the Star Trek universe has to offer.

Now in fourth place —

4. USS ENTERPRISE (NCC-1701)

Where It’s From: Star Trek: The Original Series

Who It Belongs To: Starfleet

Why It’s Awesome: This Constitution-class heavy cruiser was built in San Francisco, assembled in space, and has one of the most storied histories of any vessel in Starfleet. It has visited more than 70 different worlds over its multiple five-year missions, and is the flagship of the Federation fleet.

(18) NOT YOUR AVERAGE BEAR. Looks like he couldn’t find a pic-a-nic basket in time. “Perfectly preserved Ice Age cave bear found in Arctic Russia”.

Reindeer herders in a Russian Arctic archipelago have found an immaculately preserved carcass of an Ice Age cave bear, researchers said Monday.

The find, revealed by the melting permafrost, was discovered on the Lyakhovsky Islands with its teeth and even its nose intact. Previously scientists only had been able to discover the bones of cave bears that became extinct 15,000 years ago.

Scientists of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, the premier center for research into woolly mammoths and other prehistoric species, hailed the find as groundbreaking.

In a statement issued by the university, researcher Lena Grigorieva emphasized that “this is the first and only find of its kind — a whole bear carcass with soft tissues.”

“It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place, including even its nose,” Grigorieva said. “This find is of great importance for the whole world.”

A preliminary analysis indicated that the adult bear lived 22,000 to 39,500 years ago.

(19) PITCH MEETING. In “Twilight: New Moon Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the sequel to Twilight reveals that werewolves run around shirtless to save themselves from ripping off their shirts, but asking what happens to werewolf pants is too much information.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From 2014.

The Doctor and Clara have been called to the National Portrait Gallery to investigate some very strange paintings, but instead the Doctor runs into, well, himself.

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

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

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

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

First on the list –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/8/20 Shoes For Industry 4.0! Shoes For The Grateful Walking Dead

(1) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. ComicBook.com tells how some fans are watching as they celebrate the day: “Star Wars Releases Women of the Galaxy Video for International Women’s Day”.

Today is International Women’s Day, and people have been busy celebrating the women in their lives, including their favorite franchise characters. Chewbacca actor Joonas Suotamo wrote a special post in honor of Carrie Fisher, and he’s not the only one to celebrate the women of Star Wars. The official Instagram account for Star Wars also took to social media to share a “Women of the Galaxy” video, which showcases most of the women featured in the original Star Wars trilogy, prequels, sequels, and both live-action and animated series.

View this post on Instagram

Women of the galaxy. ?

A post shared by Star Wars (@starwars) on

(2) SF IN TRANSLATION. Rachel Cordasco posted the “Favorite SFT From 2019 Poll Results” on February 15. (See second and third place finishers at the link.)

Favorite Novel

  1. Waste Tide by Chen Qiufan, translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)

Favorite Collection

  1. Everything is Made of Letters by Sofia Rhei, translated from the Spanish by Sue Burke, James Womack, and the author, with assistance from Ian Whates, Arrate Hidalgo, and Sue Burke (Aqueduct)

Favorite Anthology

  1. Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation, edited and translated from the Chinese by Ken Liu (Tor)

Favorite Short Story

  1. “All Saints’ Mountain” by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft (Hazlitt)

Favorite Translator

  1. Ken Liu

(3) JACK BARRON IN MEXICO. Norman Spinrad cheers on the work of a Mexican publisher in “Viva La Fondo De Cultura Economica” on Facebook.

It started with my then agent telling me that a Mexican publisher wanted to publish BUG JACK BARRON in a cheap Mexican edition for a small advance. BUG JACK BARRON had been published in Spanish, but not in Mexico, since, like English language rights split between the US and Britain, Spanish language rights are generally split between Spain and Latin America. I shrugged, and said okay, not knowing much more about it, except that it was Paco Taibo, who I knew years ago, was making the deal, and I didn’t think much more about it then.

But then Paco asked me to come to Mexico City for the book launch, which was also going to be the launch of a new collection of the overall publisher, La Fondo de Cultura Economica. What is that ? I asked, and Paco told me the brief version.

La Fondo de Cultura Economica is a non-profit publisher subsidized by the Mexican government which publishes 500 books a year, distributes the books of other publishers in its 140 book stores in Mexico and the rest of Latin America, whose mission is to allow people who otherwise might not be able to afford buy them to buy a wide assortment of books at cut-rate prices.

(4) LEM IN TRANSLATION. The Washington Post’s Scott Bradfield believes “Stanislaw Lem has finally gotten the translations his genius deserves”.  The Invincible is just one of the books worth reading that’s available in the U.S. for the first time in a proper Polish-to-English translation.

Lem’s fiction is filled with haunting, prescient landscapes. In these reissued and newly issued translations — some by the pitch-perfect Lem-o-phile, Michael Kandel — each sentence is as hard, gleaming and unpredictable as the next marvelous invention or plot twist. It’s hard to keep up with Lem’s hyper-drive of an imagination but always fun to try.

(5) BAD ACTORS AT GOODREADS. Camestros Felapton notes that Ersatz Culture “has been doing some deep data-driven detective work on Goodreads sockpuppet accounts” and rounds up the related Twitter threads here — “Just some links to Ersatz Culture’s detective work”. Felapton explains why the abuse is so easy:

To register an account with Goodreads you have to give an email address BUT unlike most websites these days there is no email verification step i.e. you don’t NEED multiple actual email addresses to set up multiple accounts. The system is wide-open for abuse.

Ersatz Culture says the issue is: “Suspicious Goodreads accounts giving a slate of books 5-star reviews, and potentially getting them onto the Goodreads Choice Award as write-in nominees.”

* On a Hugo-related list on Goodreads that Contrarius admins, a few months ago I noticed patterns of user rating that were atypical and (IMHO) suspicious

* I spent a load of time this weekend digging into why this happened.  Ultimately it came down to 80+ brand new user accounts created in October and November 2019 all giving 5-star ratings to a slate of 25-35 books (plus a few others)

* The November cohort of these accounts were created in the week when the Goodreads Choice Awards were open to write-in candidates.  Quite possibly this is coincidence – there’s no way of proving any connection, that I can see – but two of the books on their slate were successful in getting into the nominations; one of them turns out to be a massive outlier compared to the other nominees in its category when you look at metrics of number of Goodreads users who’d read it etc.

The details are in three long Twitter threads: here, here, and here.

(6) THE ROARING THIRTIES. First Fandom Experience is at work on a project to acquaint people with “The Earliest Bradbury”.

In honor of the upcoming centenary of Ray Bradbury’s birth (August 22, 2020), we’re digging through our archive of 1930s fan material to find the earliest appearances of Ray’s writings — in any form. We hope to publish a compendium of these in the next several weeks.

We’re not talking about the well-known and oft-reproduced works such as Futuria Fantasia, or even the somewhat-known and occasionally-reproduced “Hollerbachen’s Dilemma.” We’re seeking anything that appeared prior to 1940 that has been rarely if ever surfaced, especially as it was originally printed.

A primary source for Ray’s earliest articles is the Los Angeles Science Fiction League’s organ, Imagination! This zine’s first issue was published in October 1937 — the same month that Ray joined the LASFL. It ran for thirteen issues through October 1938. Through years of ardent questing, we’re fortunate to have assembled a complete run.

See pages from those zines at the link.

(7) ALDISS DRAMATIZATION ONLINE. Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse is a 5 part audio book series downloadable from BBC Radio 4 Extra: “Brian Aldiss – Hothouse” read by Gareth Thomas.

Millions of years from now, a small tribe battles to stay alive in Earth’s dense jungle.

(8) WHERE NOVELLAS COME FROM. Odyssey Writing Workshops presents an interview with “Graduate & Guest Lecturer Carrie Vaughn”.

Congratulations on having three novellas come out this year, including two Cormac & Amelia stories, and “Gremlin,” which came out in Asimov’s Science Fiction, about a gremlin partnering with a WWII fighter pilot. What are some of the challenges in writing novella-length fiction?

Thank you! Novellas have actually reduced some of the challenges I’ve been facing recently, as strange as that sounds. Over the last couple of years, I’d been putting a huge amount of pressure on myself to write a “big” novel. Big ideas, big impact, etc. That wasn’t working out so well for various reasons, and novellas gave me a chance to back up and rediscover my creative well, without as much pressure. Novellas have enough space to tell an in-depth story with lots of detail and character development, but without the commitment of writing a full-length novel. I went into my rough drafts folder and found some stories I had abandoned or not really developed because I thought they were supposed to be novels—but it turns out that maybe they were meant to be novellas. I could finally develop them without the pressure to “go big.” “Gremlin” and “Dark Divide” both came out of that effort. So did “The Ghosts of Sherwood,” which will be coming out in June 2020. I’ve found novellas to be more liberating than challenging.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

To celebrate the 42nd anniversary of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Dan Mersh and Helen Keen put on their dressing gowns and make themselves a nice hot cup of tea as they introduce all 6 episodes of the 1978 radio series alongside archive programmes and especially made H2G2-related features and interviews.

  • March 8, 1984 — The comedy musical Voyage of the Rock Aliens premiered. It was directed by James Fargo and Rob Giraldi.  It starred Pia Zadora, Jermaine Jackson,  Tom Nolan, Ruth Gordon and Craig Sheffer. It was conceived as a B-movie spoof, and you can see if that’s true here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 8, 1859 Kenneth Grahame. Author of The Wind in the Willows  of course, which it turns out has had seven film adaptations, not all under the name The Wind in the Willows. Did you know A.A. Milne dramatized it for BBC Radio 4 back in the Seventies as Toad of Toad Hall? Oh, and he did write one other fantasy, The Reluctant Dragon which I’ve never heard of. Have any of y’all read it? (Died 1932.)
  • Born March 8, 1914 Priscilla Lawson. In 1936, she was cast in the very first Flash Gordon serial as the daughter of Ming the Merciless. Princess Aura’s rivalry with Dale Arden for Flash Gordon’s affection was one of the main plots of the serial and gained Lawson lasting cult figure status. (Died 1958.)
  • Born March 8, 1921 Alan Hale Jr. The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided wasgenre, and he did show up in such films as Captain Kidd and the Slave GirlThe Fifth Musketeer and The Giant Spider Invasion which is most decidedly SF, if of a pulpish variety. Series wise, I see he was on The Wild Wild West and Fantasy Island. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 8, 1934 Kurt Mahr. He’s one of the first authors of the Perry Rhodan series which, according to his German Wiki page, is one of “the largest science fiction series of the world.” I’ve not read any Rhodan fiction, so how is it? (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 8, 1939 Peter Nicholls. Writer and editor. creator and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction with John Clute. His other publications were Science Fiction at LargeThe Science in Science Fiction edited by Nicholls and written by him and David Langford, and Fantastic Cinema. He became the first Administrator of the UK’s Science Fiction Foundation. He was editor of its journal, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, from 1974 to 1978. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 8, 1950 Peter McCauley, 70. I remember him best from the most excellent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World series where he played Professor George Challenger. He also showed as Mr. Spilett on Mysterious Island, another series shot in New Zealand and based off Jules Verne’s novel L’Île mystérieuse. Continuing the Verne riff, he was Admiral McCutcheon in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a Nineties TV version of the novel. 
  • Born March 8, 1970 Jed Rees, 50. Another Galaxy Quest performer, he played Teb, a Thermian. His most recent major genre outing was on Deadpool as Jared / Agent Smith / The Recruiter. He’s had one-offs in Ghost WhispererThe Crow: Stairway to Heaven, The Net, X-Files, Outer Limits,The Sentinel and Sliders.
  • Born March 8, 1976 Freddie Prinze Jr., 44. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was in Wing Commander as Lt. Christopher Blair followed by the animated Mass Effect: Paragon Lost in which he voiced Lieutenant James Vega. Speaking of animated endeavors, I’ve got him in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time voicing Future Jim / Future Tim followed by being in all in all four seasons of the animated Star Wars Rebels as Kanan Jarrus. And that’s a series which I highly recommend as it may well be the best Star Wars fiction ever done. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot’s Jason Fox discovers that role-playing the Witchers may be harder than it seems.
  • Rhymes with Orange makes it two genre references in row, albeit with an awful pun.

(12) NO SXSW THIS YEAR. Strictly speaking, public health wasn’t the reason it got canceled; every sponsor wasn’t going to be there. The Hollywood Reporter explains: “SXSW Canceled Due to Coronavirus Outbreak”.

…In communication with The Austin Chronicle late on Friday, SXSW co-founder and managing director Roland Swenson told the outlet that the festival does not have an insurance plan to cover this specific reason for cancellation. “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather). However bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”

The cancellation follows many companies choosing not to participate this year as a safety precaution, including Netflix, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, WarnerMedia and Amazon Studios. 

In announcing their cancellations, several companies cited concerns over the spread of the virus, which has resulted in 3,000 deaths worldwide and affected over 90,000 people in numerous countries. Though little is known and a vaccine is not currently available, coronavirus causes the virus, which involves flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough and respiratory trouble. 

(13) MICKEY AND MINNIE VISIT THE MUSEUM. In “The Walt Disney Archives are shaping the culture of tomorrow. Ask Marvel’s Kevin Feige”, the LA Times talks about how Disney history is preserved, and the Bowers Museum exhibit that will share it with the public.

…In an industry not known for its permanence, it is perhaps no surprise that the Great Movie Ride is no more — its replacement, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, opened this week — but Feige’s comments cut to the importance of not only remembering but also safeguarding our past. The value of pop art, and how revered and inspirational it can be to its audience, is arguably directly proportional to the care with which we treat it. At least that’s a core thesis of a new Disney-themed exhibit opening at Orange County’s Bowers Museum, which aims to look not only at Disney’s history but the art of conservancy itself.

For 50 years, the Walt Disney Archives has amassed one of Hollywood’s most extensive corporate histories, a collection that ranges from company memos — the initial contract for the silent 1920s Alice Comedies — to figurines from, yes, the recently retired Great Movie Ride. That Alice Comedies contract, as well as a xenomorph from “Alien,” which was once housed in that Walt Disney World attraction, are part of the expansive “Inside the Walt Disney Archives: 50 Years of Preserving the Magic,” an exhibit opening this weekend and continuing through Aug. 30 at Santa Ana’s Bowers Museum.

See full details about the exhibit at the Bowers Museum website.

(14) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. “The first SpaceX Dragon capsule is taking its final flight”.

[Friday] night, SpaceX launched its first generation Dragon capsule on its twentieth — and final — resupply run to the International Space Station.

The launch marks the Dragon’s last mission as the capsule makes way for SpaceX’s updated and improved Dragon 2 capsule, which will begin making resupply runs to the space station in October.

Alongside cargo to resupply the ISS, the Dragon will be bringing along payloads for experimental research aboard the space station. Including an Adidas experiment to see how it can manufacture midsoles in space; a project from the faucet maker, Delta, to see how water droplets form in zero gravity; and Emulate is sending up an organ-on-a-chip to examine how microgravity affects intestinal immune cells and how heart tissue can be cultured in space.

(15) …TWICE. “SpaceX Successfully Lands 50th Rocket In 5 Years”.

SpaceX launched another cargo mission to the International Space Station Friday, successfully landing the flight’s rocket booster for the 50th time in the last five years, the Associated Press reported.

The rocket lifted off to a countdown and cheers from an audience at SpaceX’s headquarters in California, but the largest cheers came for the successful landing of the rocket’s first-stage booster. After falling away from the Dragon capsule, the “Falcon 9” touched back down on the landing pad, amid flashes of bright light and smoke.

“And the Falcon has landed for the 50th time in SpaceX history!” announced lead engineer Jessica Anderson on a livestream from SpaceX HQ.

(16) MODERN FARMING AKA YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. BBC tells how “Bacon saved after pedometer-eating pig’s poo starts farm fire”.

A peckish pig who swallowed a pedometer ended up sparking a fire in its pen.

Fire crews were called to a farm near Bramham, Leeds, at about 14:00 GMT on Saturday after copper from the pedometer’s batteries apparently reacted with the pig’s excrement and dry bedding.

The pedometers were being used on pigs to prove they were free-range. No pigs or people were hurt in the fire.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had gone to “save the bacon”.

(17) THE BAT CAPITAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] And here everybody thought Gotham was a stand in for NYC. Turns out it was London all along. ComicBook.com is there when “Epic Batman Statue Debuts in London”

DC Comics just debuted an epic new Batman statue in Leicester Square. They posted about the monument to the superhero on Facebook with an image of the Caped Crusader looking down on the populace. The detailing on this piece looks very intricate with the muscle work, utility belt, and cowl deserving special shout outs. The post also calls back to Batman Day when the company made Bat-Signals all across the world in different cities. London was on the list of places that got the light show…

A lot of fans have big hopes for Matt Reeves’ The Batman next year. They believe it could give them a fresh take on the character that will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other movie version of the hero.

“It’s very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale. It’s told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it’s going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional,” Reeves said to THR. “It’s more Batman in his detective mode than we’ve seen in the films. The comics have a history of that. He’s supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and that’s not necessarily been a part of what the movies have been. I’d love this to be one where when we go on that journey of tracking down the criminals and trying to solve a crime, it’s going to allow his character to have an arc so that he can go through a transformation.”

(18) 007 VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Saturday Night Live host Daniel Craig of course talked about playing James Bond in the opening monologue.  He also played a purported clip from No Time To Die. It’s really funny!

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