2021 Strand Critics Awards Nominees

Recognizing excellence in the field of mystery fiction and publishing, the 2021 Strand Critics Awards are judged by selected group of book critics and journalists, this year including talent from NPR, USA Today, the LA Times, and Wall Street Journal.

The nominees are:

BEST MYSTERY NOVEL (2020)

  • Snow by John Banville (Hanover Square Press)
  • You Again by Debra Jo Immergut (Ecco)
  • Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley (Mulholland Books)
  • The Missing American by Kwei Quartey (Soho Crime)
  • A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown and Company)
  • Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay (William Morrow)
  • Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger (Park Row)

BEST DEBUT NOVEL (2020)

  • Amnesty by Aravind Adiga (Scribner)
  • Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (Ecco)
  • When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole (William Morrow)
  • Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline (William Morrow)
  • A Burning by Megha Majumdar (Knopf)
  • A Certain Hunger by Chelsea G. Summers (The Unnamed Press)
  • Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (Custom House)

THE STRAND MAGAZINE’S PUBLISHER OF THE YEAR AWARD

  • Josh Stanton, CEO of Blackstone Publishing

THE STRAND MAGAZINE’S LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

  • Stephen King
  • Joyce Carol Oates
  • Alexander McCall Smith

The Strand Critics Awards ceremony will be held virtually in early September.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/21 I’ll Take A Sheet of Cities In Flight On the Edge Of Forever Stamps, Please

(1) HERE COMES THE SUN (STAMPS). On June 16 the United States Postal Service will release a series of stamps highlighting images of the Sun captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Order them online here.

…The 20-stamp set features ten images that celebrate the science behind NASA’s ongoing exploration of our nearest star. The images display common events on the Sun, such as solar flares, sunspots and coronal loops. SDO has kept a constant eye on the Sun for over a decade. Outfitted with equipment to capture images of the Sun in multiple wavelengths of visible, ultraviolet, and extreme ultraviolet light, SDO has gathered hundreds of millions of images during its tenure to help scientists learn about how our star works and how its constantly churning magnetic fields create the solar activity we see.

“Just don’t stare at them directly,” says Daniel Dern.

(2) DAS Q&A. “Interview: Indra Das, author, science fiction and fantasy novels” in the Hindustan Times.

How did the idea of The Devourers, your last novel, take shape?During my undergraduate years, I attended a baul mela in Kolkata, and, while intoxicated, had a vision (not quite literally, but almost) while protecting a kitten in the mela ground from a circling pack of dogs, of being in the same spot hundreds of years earlier, listening to minstrels around a campfire in the dark wilderness, while monsters hunted us. When I returned from winter break to college, I turned that into a short story in a Creative Writing class, which eventually turned into the first chapter of The Devourers a while later, when I was in grad school.

(3) ALL THE KING’S PUBLICISTS. Stephen King wrote the adaptation of his book Lisey’s Story that’s coming to Apple TV+, and is getting a lot of coverage about it. The New York Times interviewed him: “Stephen King on Why ‘Lisey’s Story’ Was One He Had to Adapt Himself”.

Alone, but not: It’s a theme that courses through King’s sweeping body of work, and it returns for several characters across layers of time and space in “Lisey’s Story,” which begins Friday on Apple TV+. Julianne Moore stars as Lisey Landon, the widow of Scott Landon, a famous novelist (played by Clive Owen) whose childhood traumas drove him to forge a connection to a transdimensional world called Boo’ya Moon.

As vividly depicted in the show, Boo’ya Moon is a place of tranquil beauty, like a Pre-Raphaelite wonderland. But it’s also menacing terrain, where cloaked figures sit silently inside a massive amphitheater awaiting resolutions to earthly traumas…

SYFY Wire talked to the producer: “J.J. Abrams on Lisey’s Story and why Stephen King adaptations are booming right now”.

… Even among the many other King adaptations that have recently emerged or are set to arrive in the near future, the Apple TV+ series based on King’s 2006 novel feels especially important, because King himself has said so. He counts Lisey’s Story among his personal favorite works, and holds it so dear that he took it upon himself to script all eight episodes of the miniseries for director Pablo Larrain (Jackie)….

Hear King himself speak about it on today’s CBS Sunday Morning.

(4) LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE. Hear author of Light of the Stars Adam Frank in a free webinar co-sponsored by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination – register and maybe win a book: Adam Frank Webinar & Giveaway.

The search for life in the Universe is undergoing a profound renewal. Thanks to the discovery of thousands of planets orbiting other stars, the introduction of new observing technologies, and increased support from both public and private sectors, a new science of searching for “techno-signatures” is emerging.   

In this talk Dr. Frank will unpack this frontier area, discussing what counts as a techno-signature; how to be systematic in thinking about exo-civilizations and their evolution; what techno-signatures can tell us about our own future. He believes that within the next few decades we will likely have actual data relevant to the question life, perhaps even the intelligent kind, in the Universe. 

Dr. Adam Frank is a leading expert on the final stages in the evolution for stars like the Sun, but his current work also focuses on life in the universe. His research group at the University of Rochester has developed advanced supercomputer tools for studying how stars form and how planets evolve. His most recent book is Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, which won the 2019 Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science. He has written two other books, The Constant Fire: Beyond the Religion and Science Debate, and About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang.  He is the co-founder of the blog 13.8 on BigThink.com and an on-air commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered.

(5) ON THE AIR. A half hour segment of The Martian Chronicles is part of the WAMU’s “The Big Broadcast: June 13, 2021”.

We’re celebrating 5 years tonight of Murray Horwitz as host of The Big Broadcast! Join us for some of our favorites, including Orson Welles, Fred Allen, Lucille Ball and The Whistler — as well as our usual DragnetYours Truly Johnny Dollar and Gunsmoke….

7:30 p.m. Dimension X    “Martian Chronicles” (Original air date August 18, 1950. NBC network.) (Running time 30:19)

(6) SFF AND THE BIG QUESTIONS. “Exploring Tomorrow: Meaningful Science Fiction and Life’s Big Questions” is Mikel J. Wisler’s podcast:

Can science fiction save the world? Author and filmmaker, Mikel J. Wisler, explores the themes and ideas presented in a wide range of sci-fi movies and books from various time periods. Convinced that sci-fi is the most naturally philosophical genre, Wisler invites everyone from die-hard fans to casual observers to dive into meaningful conversations about how sci-fi helps us think about our future, brings up challenging scenarios, and forces us to ask big questions.

Astounding author Alec Nevala-Lee is interviewed in Episode 25.

(7) NED BEATTY (1937-2021). Actor Ned Beatty died June 13 at the age of  83. Best known for his work in Deliverance and Network, his genre roles included Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman) bumbling sidekick Otis in Superman (1978) and its 1980 sequel.  He was in  Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977). He voiced Lotso in Toy Story 3 (2010) and The Mayor in Rango (2011). And he has another two dozen lesser genre credits.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 13, 1980 —  On this date in 1980, The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything premiered in syndication as distributed by Paramount Television. Based on the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name, it was written by George Zateslo and directed by William Wiard. Myrl A. Schreibman Was the producer. It starred Robert Hays, Pam Dawber, Zohra Lampert, Jill Ireland, Ed Nelson and Maurice Evans. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1892 — Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1893 — Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me, and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
  • Born June 13, 1903 — Frederick Stephani. Screenwriter and film director who is best remembered for co-writing and directing the 13-chapter Flash Gordon serial in 1936. He directed Johnny Weissmuller‘s Tarzan’s New York Adventure (aka Tarzan Against the World). He was also an uncredited writer on 1932’s Dracula. (Died 1962.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell, 78. My favourite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born June 13, 1949 — Simon Callow, 72. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”, an Eleventh Doctor story. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the series. How is this series? He was also The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander
  • Born June 13, 1953 — Tim Allen, 68. Jason Nesmith in the much beloved Galaxy Quest. (Which of course won a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon 2000.) He actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in what would become a long-running film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 — Audrey Niffenegger, 58. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her.  Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House. 
  • Born June 13, 1969 — Cayetana Guillén Cuervo, 52. She’s got the role of Irene Larra in El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time), a Spanish SF series which sounds fascinating but which I’ve not seen. Anyone here seen it? Not fond of captioning, but I’d put up with it to see this. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEMISIN & COMPANY. DC Comics tells what makes its latest Green Lantern exceptional: “Jo Mullein and Far Sector Are Out of This World”.

…Sojourner “Jo” Mullein’s impact is not defined by the fact that she’s the first Black, queer woman to ever hold the mantle of Green Lantern. Or by the fact that N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell and Deron Bennett are one of the first all-Black creative teams to helm a Green Lantern title. Those are huge factors in just what makes the book special, of course, but what truly makes Far Sector and its hero feel so groundbreaking is the imaginative exploration of what it means to be a Green Lantern and the innate understanding of how that very imagination is at the core of what makes the hero great. Where some Green Lantern stories feel stymied by a lack of the thing that gives the Power Ring its magic, Far Sector pulses with imagination on every page….

(12) NEW HANDS AT THE HELM. “‘The Lord Of The Rings’ Goes On: Anime Film ‘The War Of The Rohirrim’ In Works At New Line”Deadline has the story.  

The J.R.R. Tolkien franchise is heading back to the big screen in a fresh New Line and Warner Animation anime title The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.  I’m told that the Oscar-winning feature architects Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are not involved with the project as we speak, but that will be determined down the road. Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings: Return of the King scribe Philippa Boyens will be a consultant on the new project directed by Kenji Kamiyama. The pic is being fast-tracked with animation work done by Sola Entertainment. Voice casting is currently underway. Pic will be distributed around the globe by Warner Bros. Pictures.

The War of the Rohirrim focuses on a character from the book’s appendix, the mighty King of Rohan, Helm Hammerhand, and a legendary battle which helped shaped Middle-earth heading into LOTR. The anime pic will expand the untold story behind the fortress of Helm’s Deep, delving into the life and bloodsoaked times of Hammerhand. Overall, the movie is a companion piece to New Line’s LOTR trilogy and is set roughly 250 years before that movie during the third age (Note Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings mini-series is set during the second age).

Kamiyama has been behind such anime projects as Blade Runner: Black Lotus and the TV series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Joseph Chou (Blade Runner: Black Lotus) will produce. Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) are writing….

“This will be yet another epic portrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world that has never been told before. We’re honored to partner with much of the incredible talent behind both film trilogies, along with new creative luminaries to tell this story,” said Sam Register, President of Warner Bros. Animation. “And so it begins.”

(13) TOURISTS, ASSEMBLE! See a replay of the Avengers Campus Opening Ceremony from Disney California Adventure park.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/20/21 When You Said “Pixels” Were You Referring To Credentials Who Can Walk Through Walls?

(1) PROVING LOVE. [Item by Soon Lee.] How did a New Zealand journalist end up on the cover of a Chuck Tingle “Tingler”? Chuck was inspired to write Almost Pounded By The Physical Manifestation Of Simulation Theory After Realizing We’re Erotica Characters Then Deciding To Just Be Friends after listening to a conspiracy theory podcast by New Zealand journalist/documentary maker David Farrier. Tingle then approached Farrier (who has been compared to Louis Theroux) to be on the cover of the story and the rest as they say, is a Tingler cover.

Farrier’s account of the events is here. It includes the full text of the Tingler, available free online, from which this is an except:

…Some people believe these events are proof the natural world isn’t so natural; that everything we’re experiencing might be nothing more than mindbogglingly intricate computer code,” my companion explains.

“Like in Handsome Keanu And The Computers Of Heck?” I retort, recalling one of my favorite science fiction films.

“Sure,” David replies encouragingly. “The idea is that our whole existence could be a creation within another reality external to this one. That reality could be nearly identical to ours, or vastly different in ways we can’t even comprehend. Maybe on the higher plane of existence all these bigfeet, dinosaurs and unicorns are human beings with vaguely similar names. I could be a journalist there, instead of the world renown foot model who sits before you. Maybe on that reality the hit film Handsome Keanu And The Computers Of Heck is called something weird and vague like The Matrix.”…

(2) HOW NOT TO HIRE AN EDITOR. A pro tip from Sarah Chorn.

(3) MALE CALL.  James Davis Nicoll shares his ideas about “strong male protagonists” (his quote) in “Five SFF Novels Featuring Men Who Don’t Give Up Easily” at Tor.com.

When one thinks of science fiction and fantasy protagonists, one thinks of figures like Morgaine (Gate of Ivrel), Essun (The Fifth Season), Cordelia Naismith (Shards of Honor), Beatrice Clayborn (The Midnight Bargain) and Anna Tromedlov (Hench). A casual glance suggests these are generally women, which only makes sense. The majority of fiction readers are women and of course they want relatable characters.

However, it’s entirely possible to write a book with a strong male protagonist at its centre (“strong” as in striking, resolute, and/or determined, not as being able to dead-lift surprising amounts of weight, of course—assessing male characters purely in physical terms would be offensively reductive)…

(4) SHOWS GETTING SECOND ACTS OR THE AX. Will your favorites be back? Deadline rounds up the “2020-21 TV Cancellations & Renewals For Broadcast, Cable & Streaming”. Here’s an excerpt — the list for The CW where so many of the shows are genre. New series in bold.

Batwoman (renewed for Season 3)
Black Lightning (canceled; four seasons; ending in 2021)
Burden of Truth (canceled; four seasons)
Charmed (renewed for Season 4)
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (renewed for Season 7)
DC’s Stargirl (renewed for Season 3)
Dynasty (renewed for Season 5)
The Flash (renewed for Season 8)
In the Dark (renewed for Season 4)
Kung Fu (renewed for Season 2)
Legacies (renewed for Season 4)
Nancy Drew (renewed for Season 3)
Penn & Teller: Fool Us (renewed for Season 8)
Riverdale (renewed for Season 6)
Roswell, New Mexico (renewed for Season 4)
Supergirl (renewed/canceled; will end after upcoming Season 6)
Superman & Lois (renewed for Season 2)
Two Sentence Horror Stories (renewed for Season 3)

(5) TO THINE OWN SELF. Hadley Freeman interviews William Shatner for The Guardian: “’Take it easy, nothing matters in the end’: William Shatner at 90, on love, loss and Leonard Nimoy”. A lot of good exchanges are sandwiched between these excerpts.

I think I’m arriving good and early for my interview with William Shatner when I click on our video chat link 10 minutes ahead of time. But Shatner has arrived even earlier: there he is, as soon as my Zoom screen opens, poking away at his computer. “I like to get in early to ease my mind. But it’s OK, I can meditate afterwards,” he says. His tone is often heavily ironical, as if he is daring you to accuse him of playing a joke on you. This has led to much discussion from fans about “the Shatner persona”, although Shatner scoffs at the phrase. “I don’t know what that even is,” he says.

I think they think you play up to their expectations, I say.

“What are their expectations? That I’m Captain Kirk? Well, I am Captain Kirk! I don’t know what people mean when they talk about my persona. I’m just myself. If you’re not yourself, who are you?”

…I t feels rude to ask a 90-year-old if he worries about death, so I ask instead what he wishes he had known at 20 that he knows at 90.

“Here’s an interesting answer!” he says perkily. “I’m glad I didn’t know because what you know at 90 is: take it easy, nothing matters in the end, what goes up must come down. If I’d known that at 20, I wouldn’t have done anything!”

Our time is up now, and so Shatner and I bid our farewells. “This is always the awkward bit, before you turn off [the camera],” he says, and then in his ironical voice he says: “Pleasure seeing you! Bye! Bye!” And then, just like a 3D hologram when the electronics stop working, he vanishes.

(6) DECONSTRUCTION DERBY. From Kalimac’s series of reports on Tokien-related items held adjacent to the virtual International Congress on Medieval Studies: “Saturday at Kalamazoo”.

…. Most provocatively, Luke Shelton took issue with, or at least queried, Tolkien’s statement in the Lord of the Rings foreword that the work is not an allegory. That depends on what you think an allegory is, Luke said, and he cited readers who have ignored Tolkien on that point. Then he went on to say that, since Tolkien accepted “the freedom of the reader” to interpret but that what he objected to in allegory was “the purposed domination of the author,” isn’t an author who objects to his work being considered allegory indulging in purposed domination? And he said it as if he’d caught Tolkien in a giant “gotcha.” In reality it’s a Gödelian category error, like saying the barber can’t shave himself if he shaves just the men in the village who don’t shave themselves. The only domination Tolkien is showing here is expecting readers not to make declarations as to what they think his allegorical purposed domination is…

(7) ON THE ERR. Rob Hansen’s THEN fanhistory site has added a recording of “The March of Slime”, a parody radio show performed by British fans and debuted at the 1955 Eastercon. There is also the text of the introduction and a link to a complete transcript.  

COMMENTATOR: Well, here we are in the historic and time-hallowed saloon bar of the famous Globe Tavern, that erstwhile haunt of Dr. ..Johnson, Crippen and Christie. Gathered here this evening are the honourable representatives of the London Circle – The only circle in the world composed entirely of squares….

The ads for BLOG are wonderful, too….

COMMERCIAL ANNOUNCER: Folks. Have you heard that BLOG gives you that deep sleep that psychologists say is so necessary – cleans gramophone records – is so kind to your silks and woolens – weans babies safely – kills rats, mice and badgers – is the swift antidote for leprousy, croup, and beri-beri – and on top of all this is guaranteed to contain no pterodactyls, diplodoci or other noxious ingredients…

(8) DOES THAT REALLY MAKE IT BETTER? Sarah Gailey’s Building Beyond series works on a writing prompt called “Orca You Glad to See Me”. Jo Ladzinski and Ryan Boyd join in the fun.  

You are a freelance image consultant. You have been hired by orcas to help them repair their image among the seal and penguin communities.

After all three have played with the idea, Gailey sums up:

All of these possibilities are just beginnings. Jo’s strategy is the start of a story about direct, honest admiration of predators by their prey. Ryan’s approach is the opening of an examination of substance abuse in cetacean communities. My scheme is guaranteed to be successful, resulting in a long-running stream of daytime procedurals about tough-but-fair orcas with complicated backgrounds, who just want to do right by their families by targeting and decimating seal and penguin communities.

(9) WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles KC Green, whose webcomic “Funny Online Animals” (featuring Question Hound) was so popular that he’s now distributed through King Features’s Comics Kingdom division with some placements in large metropolitan dailies. “The ‘This Is Fine’ dog is back. And creator KC Green wants to show he’s more than a meme”.

…“Question Hound will be there, but only in the part that feels like it’s a writer’s room for the strip,” says Green, who is based in western Massachusetts. “He’s the money behind ‘Funny Online Animals’ because I make a living doing what I do thanks to” the meme.

“I recognize that,” he notes by email, “and sometimes resent that.”

He also knows that it’s exhausting to try to keep your creation on any sort of leash — particularly after the Internet has adopted your character as its own.

(10) BOOL HUNT. Lisey’s Story, based on a novel by Stephen King, premieres June 4 on Apple TV+.

(11) MIURA OBIT. The Guardian mourns the passing of a famous manga artist and writer: “Kentaro Miura, creator of bestselling manga Berserk, dies aged 54”.

Kentaro Miura, creator of the long-running dark fantasy manga Berserk – one of the bestselling manga series ever written – has died at the age of 54.

His US publisher Dark Horse Comics, describing Miura as a “master artist and storyteller”, said he had suffered acute aortic dissection and died on 6 May. “He will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to his family and loved ones.”

The Japanese artist was best known for Berserk, which he wrote and drew. It first launched in 1989 and has been running ever since. Set in a world inspired by medieval Europe, it follows the story of the mercenary Guts, a warrior with a huge sword and an iron hand, and Griffith, leader of the mercenary Band of the Hawk. Dark, violent and humorous, Berserk ran to 40 volumes with more than 35m copies sold worldwide, according to its Japanese publisher Hakusensha. It was also adapted into anime TV series, films and video games….

(12) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 20, 1950 — On this evening in 1950, Dimension X’s “The Lost Race” was playing on NBC stations nationwide. Ernest Kinoy adapted the story from Murray Leinster’s “The Lost” first published in the April 1949 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories. A space crew find themselves shipwrecked on a world where the ruins of a long dead spacefaring civilization hide a deadly secret that has the power to destroy the present as it did the past.  Matt Crowley, Kermit Murdock and Joseph Julian were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 20, 1799 – Honoré de Balzac.  His complete works total 20,000 pages.  We can claim six novels, three dozen shorter stories; what of The Quest for the Absolute, whose alchemist hero at the end cries Eureka! [Greek, “I have found it”] and dies: is it fantasy?  (Died 1850) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1911 – Annie Schmidt.  Mother of the Dutch theatrical song, queen of Dutch children’s literature.  Hans Christian Andersen Medal.  Poetry, songs, plays, musicals, radio and television for adults.  Two fantasies for us, Minoes (tr. as The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof), Pluk van de Petteflet (tr. as Tow-Truck Pluck).  One of fifty in the Dutch Canon with Erasmus, Rembrandt, Spinoza, Van Gogh, Anne Frank; see here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1911 — Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including 1,500 for just DC Comics. For DC, He created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1928 — Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 92. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series which gets much, much better in characterization and writing as it goes along. She also did some more traditional genre fare, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. (CE) 
  • Born May 20, 1946 — Cher, 75. She was  Alexandra Medford in The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1946 – Mike Glicksohn.  Three FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) awards.  With Susan Wood published the superb fanzine Energumen, Hugo winner 1973; with her, Fan Guests of Honour at Aussiecon One the 33rd Worldcon; his trip report, The Hat Goes Home (he famously wore an Australian bush hat).  Co-founded the fanziners’ con Ditto (named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  One of our best auctioneers at Art Shows, at fund-raisers for cons, and for traveling-fan funds.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Luis Royo, age 67.  Covers in and out of our field, comics, a Tarot deck, CDs, video games; a domed-ceiling fresco in Moscow (with his son Romulo Royo).  Spectrum silver award, Inkpot award.  See hereherehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1960 — John Billingsley, 61. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprised that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-FilesStargate SG-1Duck DodgersTwin PeaksLucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair. (CE) 
  • Born May 20, 1961 — Owen Teale, 60. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.(CE)
  • Born May 20, 1988 – Amberle Husbands, age 33. Writer, graphic artist, sheetmetal mechanic.  Four short stories.  Has read The Master and MargaritaStarman JonesThe Tale of Genji (Seidensticker tr.), The Sot-Weed Factor, We Have Met the Enemy and He Is UsBlack Elk Speaks.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1997 – Sean Fay Wolfe, age 24.  First novel published at age 16; two more.  Eagle Scout.  Black Belt in Shidôkan karate.  Five-time All-State musician.  Creator of online games.  Three cats and a little white dog named Lucky.  [JH]

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump makes a UFO joke from a standard pizza service question.
  • Get Fuzzy has some gamer snark.

(15) ART THEFT IN CALIFORNIA. San Diego Police are asking for help in recovering art stolen from San Diego in April 2021 – Heritage Auctions has the complete list at the link. It includes several pieces of fantasy and comics art.

In April, my house was ransacked and a valuable art collection was stolen. Unfortunately, some of the stolen pieces do not have an image available. Below is a list of the art taken:

  • Lil Abner Pen and Ink advertising drawing, commissioned for King Features Syndicate, circa 1950s. Description: Lil Abner, drawn from behind, clicking his heels in the air. Price paid: $2,500
  • Monte Moore – Gandalf, consulting a book in a library. Published in “Frazetta: Icon.” Price Paid: $1,500
  • Ernest Chiraicka – two page interior splash page in a pulp magazine. Description: Blond woman in a blue dress stands on one side of an apartment door, holding a gun up alongside her ear, in the hall, a man stands against the wall near the door, also holding a gun. Price Paid: $5,000
  • Marie Severin – Late 60s early 70s “Mad Magazine” Cover Painting. Description: Funny looking guy stooping and smelling the flowers. Price Paid: $6,500…

(16) BATMAN. DC’s animation division dropped this trailer for a new Batman animated film.

(17) FACEHUGGER FACE MASKS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A colleague posted this one on Facebook — Facehugger mask leather pattern PDF by Leatherhub.

And a quick search led to others on Etsy. Click for larger images.

(18) PALESTINIAN SFF. Book Riot has the latest info about “Science Fiction and Fantasy by Palestinian Authors”, assembled by Alex Acks.

As I often do when terrible things are happening in the world and I’ve made all the phone calls I can and I still feel helpless, I turn to SFF as one way we can all at least connect together. So let’s talk about SFF by Palestinian authors. There isn’t a lot in (or translated to) English, but it’s still very worth reading.

The speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons published a Palestinian Special issue on March 29, 2021. There are short stories and poetry to check out there….

(19) CREDENTIAL NOIR. Does this sound up your alley? Painted Cats by Neal F. Litherland from Ring of Fire Press.

Leo is the toughest alley cat around, but he’s got some soft spots. One is for an ex-flame looking for help and the other is for abandoned kittens, which lead him into trouble a lot bigger than he expected. But putting trouble in front of Leo is not what the furry denizens of the streets who know him would call a good career move….

It was a lazy summer in the park when an old flame walked back into Leo’s life. It had been a while since he’d seen Delilah, and it looked like she was doing all right for herself. She had a problem, though, and it wasn’t one her new squeeze could fix… a friend of hers had gone missing. Worse, she’d left her kitten behind.
 
Mischief was a devoted mama, and she never would have abandoned Trouble to fend for himself. Especially not in a place like Scratch Alley. But for old times’ sake, Leo agreed to stick his nose into things and see what he could turn up.
 
What he found was a lot more than he bargained for. While Mischief appeared to have vanished into thin air, Leo finds low-rent muscle dogging his steps. While he’s looking for Delilah’s missing friend, though, they’re trying to get their claws on Trouble. What’s so special about the kitten that petty packs of alley enforcers are out for blood? That might just be the answer to where Mischief went, however, if Leo knows anything about… Painted Cats.

(20) GETTING PAID. Can we possibly reread Raymond Chandler’s bad opinion of science fiction often enough? I never grow tired of it, myself, and Letters of Note has decided it’s a good day to revive his 1953 quote along with parts of three other Chandler missives in “She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound”.

Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It’s a scream. It is written like this: “I checked out with K19 on Aldabaran III, and stepped out through the crummalite hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Brylls ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was icecold against the rust-colored mountains. The Brylls shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn’t enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google5 had told me it wasn’t enough. He was right.”

They pay brisk money for this crap?

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/21 Soon May The Filerman Come To Bring Us Books And Cats And Rum

(1) SPEAK FRIEND. Guy Gavriel Kay will deliver the 2021 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, an annual lecture on fantasy literature held at Pembroke College, Oxford. The digital lecture will take place on Tuesday, May 11th, 6 PM BST (1 PM ET).

Kay has published fourteen novels which have been translated into 30 languages and have appeared on bestseller lists around the world. He is also the author of the poetry collection, Beyond This Dark House. His most recent work is A Brightness Long Ago.

Before beginning his career as a novelist, Kay was retained by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien to assist in the editorial construction of The Silmarillion, the first and best-known of the posthumously published Tolkien works. Called to the Bar of Ontario in 1980, he has also been principal writer and associate producer for the CBC’s award-winning crime-drama series, The Scales of Justice. 

Register to attend on Zoom, or watch the livestream on their YouTube channel. Zoom capacity will be limited but YouTube capacity is not. Both Zoom and YouTube will broadcast at the same time.

(2) WHEN EVERYONE GOES BLISSFULLY ASTRAY. Yahoo! reports two LOTR actors are starting a podcast in May. “’The Lord Of The Rings’: Dominic Monaghan & Billy Boyd Launch Podcast”.

The pair, who played hobbits Merry and Pippin in The Lord of the Rings, are launching a podcast about the hit film franchise.

The duo are launching The Friendship Onion with podcast producer Kast Media and the series will premiere on May 18. They will bring banter, stories and comedy to the podcasting space, each week digging into the latest in pop culture, put fans’ Lord of the Rings knowledge to the test, reveal exclusive stories from filming and maybe even welcome surprise drop-ins from famous faces.

Monaghan, who is also known for his role on Lost, played Meriadoc ‘Merry’ Brandybuck in the films, close friend to Frodo Baggins, and along with Peregrin ‘Pippin’ Took, played by Boyd members of the Fellowship of the Ring.

The Friendship Onion will be available weekly on Spotify and across all podcast platforms, including video simulcast episodes on YouTube….

(3) STRANGE AT ECBATAN THE QUIZ. Rich Horton has challenged readers with a 17-question quiz: “Quiz: Images of Aliens in SF”.

Following is a quiz I wrote for an online trivia league I am in. The subject matter is aliens in SF books, movies, TV, or comic books. Each question is accompanied by an image of the alien. The quiz ran over the weekend. Some of you may know the winner, David Goldfarb, who was prominent on the great Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written back in its glory days. Tom Galloway, another prominent fan known for his trivia knowledge, also did very well.

I need to thank Steven Silver and John O’Neill (as well as several members of the trivia league) for helping me improve the question set, including some excellent proposed questions.

I will post the answers in a day or two. If you want, you can post your guesses in the comments.

1. There are many aliens depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This alien race may be hard to depict definitively, as they are shapeshifters, but they do have a typical form. They appeared in Captain Marvel in the MCU, and in the comics as early as an issue of Fantastic Four in 1962. What is the name of this alien raceClick here

2. What’s the common name for this cowardly species featured in many of Larry Niven’s Known Space stories? The name is perhaps ironic as this species doesn’t seem to have the appendages normally used by the human performers known by that name. Click here

(4) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Rebecca Roanhorse and Angela Slatter in a YouTube livestream on May 19 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Link to come – check back at the KGB site.

Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse is NYTimes bestseller and an award-winning speculative fiction writer. Her latest novel, Black Sun, was recently nominated for the Nebula award for Best Novel of 2020. She has short fiction published in Apex MagazineUncanny, and multiple anthologies. She has also written for Star WarsMarvel , and for TV. She lives in Northern New Mexico.

Angela Slatter

Angela Slatter in a multi-award-winning Australian writer of dark fantasy and horror. Her latest publications are the gothic fairytale novel All the Murmuring Bones from Titan, and the mosaic collection The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales from Tartarus Press. She has a PhD, teaches for the Australian Writers’ Centre, and is trying to finish a new gothic novel, Morwood.

(5) REHABILITATING “SOLO”. Mike Ryan, the senior pop culture reporter at UpRoxx makes a credible argument in favour of everyone’s most forgotten Star Wars movie: Solo. “You Know, ‘Solo’ Is Actually A Lot Of Fun”.

if you haven’t watched Solo in a while, away from all the drama and (maybe for you) bad lighting, give it another shot. It might just be the most pure fun Star Wars movie we’ve gotten from this era so far.

(6) SUE BURKE Q&A. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson supplies the questions for “Interview: Sue Burke, Author of Immunity Index”.

NOAF: Secret sisters, a geneticist studying illegal technology, and a deadly virus. What inspired this story, and how did all those elements get into the story?

SB: The initial central question of the story is identity. What makes us the same and different? Some of it is genetics, and some of it is life experiences. What makes those differences stand out? People show their true nature in a disaster. Because the story is about genetics, I brought more genetics and more disaster into it. The elements posed a lot of questions, and the story resulted from one set of answers.

(7) ASIMOV’S SF EDITOR HAS THE ANSWERS. The Odyssey Writing Workshop shares “Odyssey Podcast #138: Sheila Williams”.

Award-winning editor Sheila Williams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, she answers questions about her editorial process, story endings, and what differentiates a good story from a story that she buys.

Sheila is the multiple Hugo Award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. She is also the winner of the 2017 Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for distinguished contributions to the science fiction and fantasy community.

(8) COSINE COMING BACK. COSine, the Colorado Springs, CO convention, will be held in person once more next January 14-16.  

Last June we had to make the difficult decision to postpone COSine 2021. After that we put ourselves into suspended animation until such time as a vaccine for COVID was available and an appropriate supply of lemon-soaked paper doilies could be acquired.
 
Well, the doilies arrived, and most of us have aching arms, so it looks like we are on track for COSine 2022:

Guest of Honor: C.J. Cherryh
Artist Guest of Honor: Jane Fancher
Special Guests: Connie Willis & Courtney Willis

Our lowest rates for registration are available through the end of October, but if you want to sign up now, you can beat the Halloween rush! At the very least, please make sure that we are on your calendar.

(9) HORROR UNIVERSITY. It’s time to enroll for the virtual Horror University, part of the Horror Writers Association’s StokerCon coming May 20-23. See the session schedule at the link. One session, $55/members, $65/nonmembers; multiple-session discounts available.

Horror University is one of the most successful and popular aspects of StokerCon™. We are proud to present another great series of workshops for StokerCon™ 2021. Horror University furthers the Horror Writers Association’s focus on education with a curriculum run by some of the best and brightest in the horror field.

HORROR UNIVERSITY offers a series of 90 minute to two-hour workshops. They are not your typical workshop experiences—they are hands-on, intensive classes that include interactive activities and exercises. Workshop registration will open April 12. Workshops for this year’s Horror University will be virtual, part of Horror University Online. All HU courses will be run through the Horror University School on Teachable.com and require separate registration and additional payment as has been the practice at all past StokerCons.

All workshops are in Eastern Standard Time. Click the workshop titles in the table below for more detailed information about each workshop and instructor. Pricing is provided below.

(10) THEY DIDN’T ABANDON HOPE. Sarah Gailey’s new “Building Beyond” writing prompt is “See You In Hell”. Amanda Hamilton and Brendan Williams-Childs play along.

Hell is an urban metropolis in the middle of a sprawling agrarian underworld. You’ve just moved to a farm about six hours upstate from Hell.

Amanda Hamilton (she/her) is a chaos scheduler for her spouse, daughter and myriad pets. She’s also a fundraising professional, primarily focused on corporations and foundations these days. When not managing various and sundry to-do lists, she likes to read and nap and read some more.

Gailey: What is it about Hell that made you decide to move?

They always said that if you could make it in Hell, you could make it anywhere. Well, after a decade of (barely) making it, I was done…. 

(11) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. Salon did a Q&A with Andy Weir and put one of his quotes in a headline: “’I don’t want to be L. Ron Hubbard’: Andy Weir on writing escapism & new book ‘Project Hail Mary’”.

…At its core, science fiction as a genre reflects the fears, anxieties, politics, events, and mood of the present. Thus, the immediate question: What type of science fiction (and speculative fiction more broadly) will the Age of Trump and its aftermath produce?

In an effort to answer that question I recently spoke with author Andy Weir whose first best-sellling novel “The Martian” was adapted by Ridley Scott into a 2015 blockbuster feature film of the same title starring Matt Damon. Weir’s other work includes the novel “Artemis” and the beloved short story “The Egg.”…

What type of science fiction writing and other works – and creative arts more generally – do you think are going to come out of this moment?

My book “Project Hail Mary” was finished before the pandemic. The story involves an alien microbe. It may seem that “Project Hail Mary” is somehow-pandemic related, but that is just pure coincidence. Moreover, this microbe does not infect humans; it infects stars in outer space.

I honestly do not know what is going to come out of this.

I do not think that there is going to be quite as much disease-related science fiction, as one might suspect. We are all going through this pandemic, and when it’s over, it will be a common experience. It is not really something we are going to enjoy reminiscing about. We will never forget the experience with the pandemic, but it is not something we are going to want to mentally relive.

My instinct is that the pandemic experience is not going to impact science fiction very much because science fiction and fantasy are on a basic level about escapism. Spend some time in the world of this book so that you can enjoy yourself away from the world that you live in. The last thing anybody wants is for a book to drag them back to the world that they live in.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 5, 1856 – W.W. Denslow.  First illustrator of Baum’s Wizard of Oz; also illustrated Baum’s Father Goose and Dot and Tot of Merryland.  Designed the sets and costumes for the 1902 stage version of Wizard.  Illustrated Denslow’s Mother GooseDenslow’s “Night Before Christmas”, 18-vol. Denslow’s Picture Books.  Comic strip Denslow’s Scarecrow and Tin Man.  Newspaper reporter, editorial cartoonist, poster artist.  Designed books and bookplates.  (Died 1915) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1907 – Pat Frank.  Wrote what I’ve long thought the best-made atomic-bomb-and-after novel Alas, Babylon; two more novels, one shorter story for us; two other novels; memoir; journalism.  Office of War Information overseas correspondent during World War II.  American Heritage Foundation Award.  (Died 1964) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 79. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? (CE)
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 78. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing the BFA winning Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing the BSFA winning Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. And it might be at least genre adjacent, so I’m going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. (CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1944 – Dave Locke.  Active fanziner, e.g. Awry; electronic zine Time and Again.  Loved by some, annoyed others (can this surprise you?), or both.  Among his best, What do birds of a feather do?  Dave Locke.  More here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 77. He’s known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, a most excellent Hades in the animated Justice League Unlimted series, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. Oh, and voicing Macbeth in the exemplary Gargoyles animated series too.(CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 64. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, before going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. (CE) 
  • Born May 5, 1958 – Ingrid Nielson, age 63.  Drawings pp. 15, 21, Program Book for ConFederation the 44th Worldcon; see here (PDF).  Photo of her & Andre Norton here.  Moderated panel “ASFA [Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America] and the Chesleys” at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  2010 Chesley “for work on the Chesley Awards for 20+ years”.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1961 Janet Brennan Croft, 60. She’s published any number of works on library science, but she is concentrated her research on Tolkien, winning the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies for War and the Works of J.R.R. TolkienTolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the RingsTolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language, and Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien. I’d also like to single her work, Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I. (CE)
  • Born May 5, 1963 – Michelle West, age 58.  Twoscore novels, fifty shorter stories (some as M. Sagara); book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; interviewed in Challenging DestinyLightspeedNorthern Dreamers.  Within a 4-page single-space rejection letter from Lester Del Rey was a curmudgeonly line of encouragement, and off she went.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1975 – Tanya Tagaq, age 46.  Canadian Inuk throat singer.  Six albums; also collaborator with Kronos Quartet, Buffy Sainte-Marie (here is TT’s cover).  Polaris Prize, Canadian Folk Music Award, two Junos, Western Canadian Music Award.  Novel for us Split Tooth won Indigenous Voices Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente, 42. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur lives up to its name while depicting the first land-walking creatures.

(14) GETTING THE WORD OUT WITH PICTURES. [Item by Rose Embolism.] Jem Yoshioka, creator of the science fiction romance webcomic Circuits and Veins was tapped for the New Zealand Covid information campaign! The poster is seriously lovely!

(15) IF IT DIDN’T HAPPEN, IT’S NOT A SPOILER, RIGHT? In Brian Hiatt’s article for Rolling Stone, “Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange Almost Appeared in ‘WandaVision’”, Kevin Feige explains that Dr. Strange was going to appear in the last episode of WandaVision but he thought having Dr. Strange show up “would take it away from Wanda” so Benedict Cumberbatch was written out of the script. This is a preview of a big oral history of WandaVision in Rolling Stone that has yet to appear.

The story of WandaVision‘s main character, Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch (played by Elizabeth Olsen), is set to continue in 2022’s Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, but the two projects were almost linked much more directly. As Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige reveals in Rolling Stone‘s upcoming, extensive oral history of WandaVision, Marvel struck a deal with Benedict Cumberbatch to appear in the final episode of the show as Dr. Strange. But late in the process, they wrote him out.

“Some people might say, ‘Oh, it would’ve been so cool to see Dr. Strange,’” says Feige. “But it would have taken away from Wanda, which is what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want the end of the show to be commoditized to go to the next movie — here’s the white guy, ‘Let me show you how power works.’” That meant the Dr. Strange movie, too, had to be rewritten. In the end, Feige says, Marvel’s process is “a wonderful combination of very dedicated coordination, and chaos. Chaos magic.”… 

(16) WHAT A CROCK. BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime brings you “Cookie Jar by Stephen King” in three parts.

After his mother’s untimely death, Rhett inherits a cookie jar which proves to have some very unusual properties…

‘I had sort of a peculiar childhood, because my mother was peculiar. Not outright crazy, but very, very peculiar. Stories were her way of staying sane… A way to cover that hole in reality the way you might cover a well with boards so no one would fall in. But her stories stopped working for her. Because the thing she was afraid of was in the house with her all along.’

From ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’, Stephen King’s story adapted in three parts. Read by Colin Stinton.

(17) OUT TO LAUNCH. SpaceX posted about yesterday’s launch:

On Tuesday, May 4 at 3:01 p.m. EDT, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This was the ninth launch and landing of this Falcon 9 first stage booster, which previously launched Telstar 18 VANTAGE, Iridium-8, and six Starlink missions.

(18) BOARDING PARTY. Insider lets you “Watch Royal Marines Explore Storming a Ship at Sea With Jet Packs”.

The British military been exploring the possibility of boarding ships at sea with futuristic jet packs that let wearers fly over the water like Iron Man.

The “Jet Suit” was made by Gravity Industries. The company released a video Sunday that showed its operators wearing jet packs and working with the Royal Marines to launch from rigid inflatable boats and land aboard the Royal Navy Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol ship HMS Tamar.

(19) BAD LOOK? Politico has details as “Pentagon watchdog opens new probe into military’s handling of UFOs”.

…But one former top Pentagon intelligence official who has lobbied Congress to take more action on such sightings said on Tuesday that the IG’s involvement is a positive step to compel the military to take the issue more seriously.

“You are looking at how is it possible that restricted military airspace is being routinely violated for months and years and nobody is informed in the Defense Department or the Congress and there is a complete system breakdown,” said Christopher Mellon, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence. “That’s a valid thing for them to investigate.”

(20) RIDING ALONG. Sean D. serves up a “Microreview [Book]: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho” at Nerds of a Feather.

Our bodies can often seem possessed. To most people, that possession occurs in a metaphorical sense. Dogma possesses us, as it’s hammered down from society until it sticks, nailed down to our core whether we like it or not. And that dogma can deviate from what we want deep down, like how family values dictate who we can and can’t love. Black Water Sister explores that possession, and with clever skill, it combines it with literal possession. A family spirit inhabits the protagonist, while they’re dealing with family interference from all sides. It’s a compelling story that’s quality is heightened by witty dialogue, a pacey second half, and vibrant characters….

(21) NOT SF BUT WEIRD. The Canadian census has a soundtrack: “2021 Census soundtrack”.

As Canada’s statistical portrait, the census is a reflection of who we are and what makes us Canadian. Listen to our Spotify and YouTube playlists while you complete your 2021 Census questionnaire to experience the different facets of Canadian culture through the sounds of our celebrated musical talent. If these songs aren’t already among your favourite tracks, we hope that you have the opportunity to discover something new as you fill out your questionnaire online in May.

Get comfortable, press play, and let’s experience Canada’s musical talent together.

(22) BUTT OF THE JOKE. Left over from May the Fourth, the “R2-D2 & C-3PO 1980 Star Wars Anti Smoking PSA”.

R2-D2 and C-3PO from “Star Wars” in a 1980 anti-smoking public service announcement. Aired in 1984 on Milwaukee’s WVTV.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/21 The Zack Pixel Cut

(1) THAT LESSON DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Charlie Jane Anders breaks down the “7 Wrong Lessons That Creators Learned From Game of Thrones” for Tor.com readers.

2. Viewers still love the “smartest guy in the room”

Superficially, Tyrion Lannister might appear to fit in with the “smartest man in the room” archetype, as made famous by HouseSherlock and certain Doctors on Doctor Who. And I think that the widespread love of Peter Dinklage’s fantastic performance as Tyrion helped give this already-popular trope a new lease on life.

Except that when you scratch the surface, Tyrion is lovable because he’s frequently one step behind his enemies, and wrong more often than right. Season one of Thrones features Tyrion blundering from one bad situation to another, without much of a clue, and he survives by luck as much as cunning. His best moments in season one are ones in which he acts recklessly, slapping Prince Joffrey and joking about turtle soup in front of people who already want to execute him.

And when Tyrion sets his mind to playing politics, he’s never particularly good at it. As Hand of the King, he’s mostly a disaster—he doesn’t work well with the king he’s supposed to be serving, and he wastes all his energy feuding with Cersei and trying to figure out whether he can trust the Grand Maester or Varys or Littlefinger. (News flash: he can’t trust any of them.) His big brainwave, sending Myrcella away for her own safety, results in Myrcella’s utterly predictable death. When Tyrion becomes Daenerys’ Hand and starts giving her terrible advice, it’s a continuation of his previous track record.

Nobody loved Tyrion because he was smarter than everybody else, but because he was funny and entertaining and obnoxious in a good way, and he wore his broken heart on his sleeve.

(2) SUBSTACK UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Newsletters are proliferating as more writers find them useful for publicity and to create another revenue stream. Substack has been a popular platform for managing and distributing people’s content, but one of their programs has been a source of controversy because the company has been satisfied to let the money rain on the just and unjust alike.

Andrew Liptak provides a concise and lucid explanation of the issues in a recent issue of his Transfer Orbit newsletter (which extends well beyond this excerpt).

…That brings us to this week: Substack recently unveiled an initiative called Substack Pro, which subsidized a group of 30 or so writers by paying them an advance, which would get paid back through a newsletter that’s given the boost to self-sufficiency. In theory, that’s a good idea for both writers and Substack.

But — and there’s a but — in doing so, Substack crosses the line from being a platform that hosts user-generated content, to something that’s actually facilitating its publication. It’s an inherent editorial choice, one that comes with some particular problems. Author Jude Ellison Sady Doyle highlighted some of the issues that this poses: “In Queers We Trust. All Others pay Cash” in which he laid out some systemic issues that they’re seeing with the company, and how Substack Pro is troubling in that some of the authors who seem to be part of the program have engaged in some anti-Trans rhetoric….

… This whole thing has caused a bit of a firestorm amongst folks within the SF/F community. I’ve seen a bunch of folks like Aidan MoherKarin LowacheeAnnalee Newitz, and Maddie Stone depart the platform over this….

Liptak is not leaving Substack at this time, but he is looking for a suitable place to move.

Elizabeth Bear explained to her readers why she’s staying at Substack in “On the Kerfuffles of Capitalism” at Throw Another Bear in the Canoe.

… If I refuse to work with publishers who pay royalties to objectively crappy people, I’m going to have to go get a job as an office manager and frankly I no longer have the wardrobe for that gig. Also I’ve developed a morbid fear of telephones.

Heck, there are a few people in publishing who think I’m an objectively crappy person, for reasons of their own. I haven’t seen any of them refusing to work with my publishers.

I also don’t see why progressives should en-masse abandon a pretty useful tool for outreach and a decent income stream without a much better reason than “capitalism is kind of fucked, internet capitalism doubly so.” It is, but we all have to live here for now.

So for the time being, this content will continue to be available both here and over on Patreon. (If you’re no longer comfortable with Substack feel free to follow me over there. Same content, also delivered to your mailbox, different capitalist overlords.) Much of it free, a percentage of it for paid subscribers only….

Sarah Gailey is moving their Stone Soup newsletter from Substack to another platform: “We Are A Snail”.

I would say it’s time for us to go, but we aren’t really going anywhere. We don’t have to leave the home we’ve built out of each other; we can move through the world without risking the elements.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, our little community is going to travel from Substack to Ghost.io.

If you’re curious about the motivation behind leaving Substack, here’s a good place to start, and here’s a good place to learn more. The short and diplomatic version is that Substack is doing some questionable financial business, and simultaneously isn’t protecting trans people the way it ought to. There’s quite a lot I’d like to say about the situation, but for now I’ll leave it at this: the choice between protecting profit and protecting people feels like a difficult one, but in reality, it is a false choice. It’s easy to make that decision feel complicated, but it’s not. If there can be no profit without investment in exposing trans people to harm, then there should be no profit.

I think we’ll all be very happy at Ghost, and I know my heart will be quite a bit lighter once we’ve made the shift….

(3) ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE. This list of “114 Fiction Sub-Genre Descriptions for Writers” from Writer’s Digest should give you plenty to nitpick!

Here’s a breakdown of some of your favorite fiction genres, including romance, horror, thriller/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and mystery/crime. Find more than 100 fiction sub-genre descriptions for writers….

(4) MULTIPLE CHOICE. YouTuber Dominic Noble reviews Kiln People by David Brin in “Detective Mystery… BUT WITH CLONES!”.

(5) HABIT NUMBER 5. The Onion’s slideshow “Habits Of Silicon Valley’s Most Powerful Fortune 500 CEOs” includes a bitter joke about the fate of the publishing industry.

(6) THE BIG STFNAL SLEEP. James Davis Nicoll rounds up five examples of “Classic SF About Extremely Long Naps”.

Sleep! How precious, how precarious! Many of us struggle with insomnia. Perhaps we have apnea. Perhaps we own a cat who believes motionless humans are food. Perhaps we are simply aware that up to forty thousand redback spiders can fit into the volume of the average pillow. But sleep can be overdone. Imagine waking to discover that decades or centuries have passed…

This is a convenient way for an author to arrange for a protagonist not unlike the reader to tour an alien setting. Unsurprisingly, a lot of authors have taken advantage of the plot possibilities of the long sleep…

(7) MORISSEY OBIT. Artist Dean Morrissey  (1951-2021), a four-time Chesley Award winner, died March 4. The family obituary is here. Morrissey was a self-taught artist who was inspired to become an illustrator through his admiration for the work of painters ranging from Rembrandt to N.C. Wyeth.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 18, 1981 — On this day in 1981, The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”). You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 18, 1909 – C. Walter Hodges.  Author-illustrator, theatrical costume & scenery designer, student of the Elizabethan stage; Shakespeare’s Theatre won the Greenaway Medal.  Here is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  Here is a Chronicles of Robin Hood.  Here is The Little White Horse (a unicorn).  Here is Make-Believe.  Here is Enter the Whole Army.  Here is The Wouldbegoods.  After a Wayne State Univ. plan to reconstruct the Globe Theatre collapsed, CWH sold nearly a thousand drawings to the Folger Lib’y; they can now be browsed electronically.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. No idea what it’s like as I’ve never heard of it before. He wrote a number of other genre-friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born March 18, 1936 – M. Thomas Inge, Ph.D., age 85.  Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College (Ashland, Virginia), where he teaches, among much else, American humor and comic art, film & animation.  Edited A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for Oxford World Classics; James Branch Cabell, Centennial Essays (with E. MacDonald; JBC said “Tell the rabble my name is Cabell”); Comics as Culture; wrote The Incredible Mr. Poe on comic-book adaptations of EAP works; Anything Can Happen in A Comic Strip; threescore books.  Faulkner scholar.  Davis Award for Lifetime Contributions to Southern Letters. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1947 – Drew Struzan, age 74.  Seventy covers, a few interiors; movie posters.  Here is Blade Runner.  Here is Back to the Future.  Here is Rebel Dawn.  Here is The Art of Drew Struzan. [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1949 – Tullio Proni, age 72.  Master machinist and electronics expert, co-founded General Technics.  Leading concocter of the blinkies which seemed to appear everywhere in the 1970s under the name Isher Enterprises.  This led to annual house parties called Ishercon.  Mad Scientist Guest of Honor at DucKon IV.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1950 J.G. Hertzler, 71. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the  “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, CharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 62. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 60. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions. (CE)
  • Born March 18, 1973 – Max Barry, age 48.  Six novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Invented electronic game NationStates.  Aurealis Award, Western Australian Premier’s Book Award.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 18, 1993 – Samantha Hoffman, age 28.   Fourteen novels.  Says of herself, “Her favorite genre to write is paranormal romance, but she also likes to dabble in fantasy and horror, as well as having a new love of science fiction.”  [JH]

(10) A SPECIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY. The International Carnivorous Plant Society recently announced that the first-ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, a worldwide event dedicated to spotlighting carnivorous plant public awareness and education, starts on May 5, 2021.

The ICPS is proud to promote the first ever World Carnivorous Plant Day, to be held on the first Wednesday of May (May 5th, 2021). In lieu of the international conference in Himeji, Japan, World Carnivorous Plant Day 2021 will serve as the preeminent carnivorous plant event of the year. This day-long web event will stand in for the delayed ICPS conference. The conference has been rescheduled to occur in Japan in 2022.

To assist with these efforts, events involving the Richardson-based carnivorous plant gallery The Texas Triffid Ranch (Dallas’s Pretty Much Only Carnivorous Plant Gallery) run through May 5, 2021, and continue through the end of 2021.

(11) KING’S CHOICE. “Ten Pulp Crime Authors Recommended By Stephen King” at CrimeReads. And guess who’s on the list!

RAY BRADBURY

In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, Hard Case Crime published Killer, Come Back to Me, a brand new collection of the master’s crime fiction—less well known than his trademark fantasy, but just as unforgettable. At the time of his death, King wrote, “Ray Bradbury wrote three great novels and three hundred great stories. One of the latter was called ‘A Sound of Thunder.’ The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.”

(12) WEEP WAIL. In the latest episode of Octothorpe. “John is excited, Alison is oh boy oh boy oh boy, and Liz… isn’t.” Listen here: “Eeyore of Eastercon”.

 We celebrate our anniversary with a myriad of letters of comment, we discuss Eastercon’s platform news, and then we talk excitedly about fanzines and that new Douglas Adams book.

(13) LEVERS OF CHANGE. Mental Floss extols a documentary that shows “How ‘Star Trek’ and Nichelle Nichols Changed the Face of NASA”.

Nichelle Nichols is best known for her role as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series. But the 88-year-old actor also carries with her a lesser-known legacy: Playing a foundational role in the formation of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and inspiring generations of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) leaders.

A new documentary titled Woman In Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek, and the Remaking of NASA details the powerful, revealing, and uplifting story of Nichols’s advocacy and the crucial part she played in not just bringing diversity to NASA’s astronaut classes but in shaping the American space program we know today….

(14) PUT A LID ON IT. “New analysis shows potential for ‘solar canals’ in California”Tech Xplore has the story.

UC Santa Cruz researchers published a new study—in collaboration with UC Water and the Sierra Nevada Research Institute at UC Merced—that suggests covering California’s 6,350 km network of public water delivery canals with solar panels could be an economically feasible means of advancing both renewable energy and water conservation.

The concept of “solar canals” has been gaining momentum around the world as climate change increases the risk of drought in many regions. Solar panels can shade canals to help prevent water loss through evaporation, and some types of solar panels also work better over canals, because the cooler environment keeps them from overheating….

(15) FULL OF STARS. “A photographer spent 12 years capturing this Milky Way image – and it’s breathtaking”Microsoft News has the story, and a link to the picture.

What have you been working on for the past 12 years? Whatever it was, I bet it’s not as awesome as this ridiculously awesome Milky Way image by J-P Metsavainio. His work on the composite photo began in 2009 and a dozen years later he has one of the most spectacular works of astronomy art you’ll ever lay eyes on. The image is huge both in its pixel resolution and its ambition, as the photographer had to collect a whopping 234 photos in order to piece together the final product.

As PetaPixel reports, Metsavainio began capturing specific features of the Milky Way with his high-end camera equipment and astronomy accessories. Those images are works of art in their own right, but the composite image that they helped to produce is even more spectacular.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Super Mario 3D World & Bowser’s Fury” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the latest Mario release reintroduces gamers to “the strangely proportioned fictional plumber you love more than your own parents” with a bonus feature where Mario enters a “strange cat-centric alternate dimension” where he fights giant cats.

[Thanks to Ruth Sachter, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Frank Olynyk, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Moshe Feder, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lise Andreasen.]

Pixel Scroll 3/3/21 The Pixels Are Due On Scroll Street

(1) TERRY AND THE WIZARD. [Item by rcade.] Twitter user Edgar Allen Doe shares the tale of the day he went to Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, California, and met the fantasy author Terry Prachett, who met a wizard. Thread starts here.

Doe writes, “I really cannot overstate the ‘full wizard regalia’ element of this person.”

Prepare to take a journey spanning six tweets that does not go the way you think it will, you jaded cynic.

One of the people who saw the tweets also witnessed the meeting, which based on a Petaluma Argus-Courier news search I did likely occurred on Oct. 15, 2006.

(2) THE HORROR. James Davis Nicoll chronicles “Five Fascinating Twists on Cosmic Horror” at Tor.com.

…Now in its seventh edition, Call of Cthulhu is the second most popular roleplaying game on Roll20. It reportedly dominates the roleplaying market in Japan. That’s interesting, because unlike most RPGs, Call of Cthulhu (or CoC for short) is set in a universe where humans are not top dog, where there are vast, incomprehensible entities who refrain from snuffing us out mainly because they’ve never noticed us, where First Contact is often Last Contact. Characters in CoC generally spend the adventure or campaign coming to grips with how out of their depth they are—before going mad. If they are very lucky, they’re eaten first….

What more do you need to cheer yourself up?

(3) THE UNKNOWN PAST. “Doctor Who’s The Timeless Children – Morbius Doctors confirmed”Radio Times knows this is a big deal and makes sure you don’t miss it.

Doctor Who’s series 12 finale The Timeless Children dropped a number of huge reveals – but one of these twists was actually first telegraphed by the show back in 1976.

The episode revealed that the Doctor is not a native Gallifreyan, but the latest incarnation of a mysterious being called the Timeless Child, from parts unknown.

The Child or ‘Foundling’ – the first being to ever regenerate – had many different incarnations, many of which were wiped from their mind by the Time Lords (specifically by a sect of Gallifreyans called The Division).

This means that there were in fact an unknown number of incarnations of the being we now know as the Doctor before the ‘first’ (as played by William Hartnell from 1963-66).

Huge reveal, right? But this twist is not without precedent – as RadioTimes.com previously predicted, The Timeless Children has links to the 1976 Doctor Who story The Brain of Morbius, starring Tom Baker as the Doctor.

And the article goes on to glean details of the 1976 episode.

(4) WHO, RAY? “Who Is R. A. Lafferty? And Is He the Best Sci-Fi Writer Ever?” WIRED reviewer Jason Kehe does all he can to provoke us into reading The Best of R. A. Lafferty, “which Tor published earlier this year to nonexistent fanfare.”

…OK, SO A select few actually have read Lafferty, a secret society of loonies whose names you probably do recognize. Neil Gaiman. Ursula Le Guin. Samuel Delany. Other sci-fi writers, in other words. R. A. Lafferty has always been, then, a sci-fi writer’s sci-fi writer—a blurry, far-out position to find oneself in. When comedians hang out, they famously have to commit acts of borderline criminality, usually involving nudity and great heights, to get each other to bust up. So just think what absurdities a sci-fi writer has to conjure forth to gobsmack his fellow sci-fi writers—sci-fi writers who actually are, by much wider consensus, some of the best in the world.

The descriptor they tend to resort to, as if by no other choice, is sui generis, dusty old Latin for “one of a kind.” It’s probably the most common phrase associated with Lafferty (incidentally a self-taught student of Latin), and it appears not once but twice in The Best of R. A. Lafferty, which Tor published earlier this year to nonexistent fanfare and which, in keeping with the man’s self-aggrandizing sense of humor, should’ve been called The Best (of the Best) of R. A. Lafferty. Each of the 22 short stories is introduced by a writer often far more famous than Lafferty, including Gaiman and Delany, and also John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, Connie Willis, and Harlan Ellison (who’s dead; his piece was originally published in 1967). Ellison—whose fellow Ellison, Ralph, wrote Invisible Man—says this of Lafferty: “He is the invisible man.” Nice….

(5) CAVEAT EMPTOR. Mad Genius Club’s Sarah A. Hoyt, in “Time has come to talk of many things”, says a fashion style in sff book covers will rebound on publishers when readers find the books don’t deliver what’s on their jackets.

I want to talk about a new trend I’ve observed in covers, and how it applies to much of the greater world out there. I.e. how the new trend in covers is just a new way that traditional publishing has come up with to screw itself and the entire field of writing over.

… If you have been alive a long time, or even if you “just” read books for a long time, you’re probably aware that there are trends in covers, as there are in everything else. In covers, though, particularly in the era of mega-chain bookstores, that “look” not only tended/tends to be more uniform, but it changes completely….

And then…. I kept running into more of these covers from other houses. Covers that explicitly try to look like they’re at the latest in the 50s.

Look, as a marketing strategy it’s brilliant. And stupid as heck.

Why?

Well, because now people are getting used to looking at Amazon for books that they remember reading/used to read/etc. they will be drawn to covers that are what they remember when they fell in love with a genre.

The problem is this: for most of the mainstream publishing, the contents won’t match the cover.

And yes, I can see them totally preening and going “if we get the rubes to look at our much superior product, they’ll love it.”

Because, you know, in the industry, it’s never about publishing what people want to read. It’s about “educating” the public. Which has taken them from 100K plus printruns for midlist to 10k printruns for high list….

(6) DR. SEUSS’ WWII POLITICAL CARTOONS. At “Dr. Seuss Went to War”, UC San Diego hosts a searchable gallery of his editorial cartoons from before and during WWII. Having discussed just yesterday the criticisms levied against his imagery of nonwhites, it’s interesting to see that some of these 1940s cartoons go after America’s leading racists of the time such as Gerald L.K. Smith.

Because of the fame of his children’s books (and because we often misunderstand these books) and because his political cartoons have remained largely unknown, we do not think of Dr. Seuss as a political cartoonist. But for two years, 1941-1943, he was the chief editorial cartoonist for the New York newspaper PM (1940-1948), and for that journal he drew over 400 editorial cartoons.

The Dr. Seuss Collection in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at the University of California, San Diego, contains the original drawings and/or newspaper clippings of all of these cartoons. This website makes these cartoons available to all internet users. The cartoons have been scanned from the original newspaper clippings in the UCSD collection.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War by historian Richard H. Minear (The New Press, 1999) reproduced some two hundred of the PM cartoons. That means that two hundred of the cartoons available here have received no airing or study since their original appearance in PM. The cartoons Dr. Seuss published in other journals are even less known; there is no mention of them in Dr. Seuss Goes to War. Dr. Seuss also drew a set of war bonds “cartoons” which appeared in many newspapers as well as in PM

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

[Double feature!]

  • March 3, 1965 — On this day in 1965, The Human Duplicators premiered. It was produced and directed by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (without a credit for the latter as director). The film stars George Nader, Barbara Nichols, George Macready and Dolores Faith. It was the color feature on a double bill with the black-and-white Mutiny in Outer Space. It wasn’t well received by critics, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 gave it their usual treatment. It currently holds a zero percent audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here. (CE)
  • March 3, 1965 — On this day in 1965, Mutiny in Space premiered. It was, produced, directed and written by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (although the latter was not credited as directing). It starred William Leslie, Dolores Faith, Pamela Curran and Richard Garland. The word “meh” would best sum up the reaction critics at the time had to this film. It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes so you’ll need to watch it here and see what you think of it. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 3, 1863 Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1920 James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which he played Phillip Bainbridge.  Doohan did nothing that I can find of a genre nature post-Trek. ISFDB notes that he did three Scotty novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1923 – Erik Blegvad.  Illustrated more than a hundred children’s books; as ever, opinions will differ on which we can count.  Apprenticed in a machine shop, left it when the Nazis took Denmark, imprisoned for distributing Danish Resistance literature, eventually translated for the British.  Self-Portrait 1979.  Three of Sharp’s Miss Bianca books (Miss B is a mouse); Bed-Knob and Broomstick – his cover, one of his interiors; his own translation of Hans Andersen. Washington Post appreciation here. (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1924 Catherine Downs. She’s in four Fifties grade B SF films: The Phantom from 10,000 LeaguesThe She CreatureThe Amazing Colossal Man and Missile to the Moon. All but the first film werewas the subject of a MST3K show. (Died 1976.) (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1928 – Paul Callé.  (“KAL-lee”.)  Known for NASA work, see this bookhere is an Apollo XI drawing; see more of his Space art here.  It is of course open to the rejoinder Not fiction.  Here is The Legion of Space.  Here is The Star Seekers.  Here is an interior from the Jul 50 Super Science Stories.  He did much with the American West (i.e. U.S. and Canada); see how each person is portrayed here.  His pencil book here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1936 Donald E. Morse, 85. Author of the single best book done on Holdstock, The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction which he co-wrote according to ISFDB with Kalman Matolcsy. I see he also did two books on Kurt Vonnegut and the Anatomy of Science Fiction on the intersection between SF and society at large which sounds fascinating. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1938 – Patricia MacLachlan, age 83.  A novel and four shorter stories for us; thirty other books, one winning a Newbery Medal, one about Matisse; still writing, most recently published last June.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1945 George Miller, 76. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road Warrior,  Mad Max 2Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome andFury Road.  He also directed The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of EastwickBabe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1955 – Greg Feeley, age 66.  Two novels, thirty shorter stories for us.  I keep heaing he’s turned in Hamlet the Magician, but not when we may expect it.  Here is a note on Robinson, Le Guin, Clute, Egan.  Here is a note on Thurber’s “Catbird Seat”.  Here is “Why I Love Laurence Sterne Scholarship”.  Four dozen reviews in FoundationSF Age, and like that.  Interviewed Waldrop for Interzone.  Himself interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1970 – John Carter Cash, age 51.  Indeed the son of that Cash and that Carter.  While mostly in music outside our field, he’s given us one book.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born March 3, 1982 Jessica Biel, 49. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw MassacreBlade: TrinityStealthThe Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and theanimatedSpark: A Space Tail. (CE) 
  • Born March 3, 1981 – Kiersten Fay, age 40.  Ten novels, one shorter story, of paranormal romance with demons and vampires.  She’s a USA Today best-selling author.  [JH]

(9) SINCE YOU ASKED. On Drew Barrymore’s show “Stephen King Confesses He Didn’t Like The Shining Movie”. He gives his opinion at about the 1-minute mark.

(10) A CLOSE SHAVE. Amazon’s new icon got an immediate re-iteration because the old “new” made people think of Hitler’s toothbrush mustache. CNN has the story — “Amazon quietly changed its app icon after some unfavorable comparisons”.

… “We designed the new icon to spark anticipation, excitement, and joy when customers start their shopping journey on their phone, just as they do when they see our boxes on their door step,” an Amazon spokesperson said. The app icon was tweaked based on user feedback.

Only iOS users in the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy and Netherlands saw the Hitler-esque logo over the past few weeks. The updated logo rolled out worldwide for iOS users last week. Android users will see the new logo beginning this week.

(11) NAVIGATING LONELINESS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Best Wishes From a Guy Lashed to the Mast of Loneliness, Listening for So Far Silent Sirens — “Kristen Radtke Writes, and Draws, Our Loneliness” at Publishers Weekly.

When Kristen Radtke started writing about loneliness in 2016, she had no idea of what was to come. Writers are famously prescient, but who could have imagined the global pandemic of Covid-19 and the isolation it would generate? Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness (Pantheon, July), Radtke’s latest graphic nonfiction book, is a marvelous deep dive into that universal emotion, blending science, memoir, journalism, research, philosophy, and pop culture to explore isolation and our desire to be close to one another….

(12) HOPING TO PREDICT SOLAR WEATHER. “Origin of the Sun’s solar storms discovered in scientific breakthrough” reports Yahoo!

…In 1859, a large solar storm called the Carrington Event caused widespread issues with telegraph systems across Europe and the United States.

A repeat storm of such magnitude today could be far more devastating.

But now researchers at University College London (UCL) and George Mason University in the US believe they have located where on the Sun these particles come from, in a bid to better predict when they might strike again.

Their findings, published in Science Advances journal, indicate that the particles have the same “fingerprint” as plasma located low in the Sun’s corona, close to the middle region of the it’s atmosphere.

“In our study we have observed for the first time exactly where solar energetic particles come from on the Sun,” said co-author Dr Stephanie Yardley, from UCL….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Kill Your Idioms” on Vimeo, Grant Kolton takes aim at well-worn cliches.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/21 Chasing A Blanched Scroll Across The File With A Pixel Fork

(1) THE VOICE OF THE FUTURE. Wil Wheaton has been picked to narrate How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates.

Even Wheaton is impressed.

Did I mention that Bill Gates allegedly chose me, personally? Because holy h*ck he did. He chose me. Personally. Out of everyone in the world who does my job, he picked me. That kinda blows my mind.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL. DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, posted their biweekly hotel update: “2/28 Hotel Update”.

We have retained legal counsel in Delaware, which is the location of the Wardman Park bankruptcy proceedings. We are working with our legal counsel to move closer to a resolution, and we hope to provide you more concrete information as the process progresses.

(3) IGN PREVIEWS DC. IGN Fan Fest 2021 took place today where DC shared clips from Justice Society: World War II and  a premiere clip of The Flash‘s seventh season

  • Justice Society: World War II – Official Exclusive Wonder Woman vs Nazis Clip

In this exclusive sneak peek at Warner Bros. Animation’s latest DC animated movie, Justice Society: World War 2, Wonder Woman faces off with a group of Nazi soldiers. The new film finds modern-day Barry Allen – prior to the formation of the Justice League – discovering he can run even faster than he imagined, and that milestone results in his first encounter with the Speed Force. The Flash is promptly launched into the midst of a raging battle – primarily between Nazis and a team of Golden Age DC Super Heroes known as The Justice Society of America. Led by Wonder Woman, the group includes Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor and the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. The Flash quickly volunteers to assist his fellow heroes in tipping the scales of war in their favor, while the team tries to figure out how to send him home. But it won’t be easy as complications and emotions run deep in this time-skipping World War II thriller. Justice Society: World War II will be available to purchase on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

  • The Flash: Season 7 Premiere – Official Exclusive Clip

In this exclusive clip from the long-awaited Season 7 premiere of The Flash, Barry races against the clock to stop Mirror Master and rescue Iris before his speed permanently runs out. “All’s Well That Ends Wells” will premiere on The CW on Tuesday, March 2.

(4) I, WITNESS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt, published in 1980, offers his explanation of fanzines and fandom in 1955.  (I’ve omitted the details of the fan feud he was involved in.)

Fan magazines are produced by fans and exist, literally, in the hundreds.  All but a very few are evanescent and exist for only a few issues before the time and the costs become insupportable.

I have no theoretical objection to write an occasional piece for love, but I have always steered clear of the fan magazines. There are so many that to write for one will mark you down as a target for the others and you will be nibbled to death…

…Though I had been an almost lifelong reader of science fiction, though I had written letters to magazines, though I had even involved myself with the Futurians, I had never immersed myself in what was called ‘fandom.’

I had no experience whatsoever with the ferocious single-mindedness with which this handful of people lived their science fiction.  They interpreted literally among us the catchphrase that ‘Fandom is a way of life.’

What ever these enthusiasts could earn in their work they invested in their collections, or in their fan magazines. Their time was entirely devoted to their correspondence and to their meetings. Often, in fact, their fan activities crowded out the basis on which it was all founded–for they were so busy being fans of science fiction, they lacked the time to read science fiction.

Fans knew each other, loved each other, hated each other, formed cliques and threatened lawsuits, and, in short, formed a small subculture to which everything else in the world seemed alien and of no account.

News spread through fandom at the speed of light, even though it might never so much touch the world outside  Any controversy involving fandom or the fan world elicited a joyful response at once as a vast number of fans (well, dozens anyway) plunged into the fray–on either side, it didn’t matter which.

(5) OLD BIRDBATH. And speaking of Fifties fandom…I Remember Me and Other Narratives – Walt Willis in Mimosa compiled by Rich Lynch is now available at Fanac.org. Includes this passage about a 1954 exchange between Willis and then-fanzine-editor Harlan Ellison.

….I did, however, get a letter from Harlan Ellison, about a phone call he made to me, an enterprise which was slightly handicapped by the fact that I didn’t have a phone at the time. He got my father’s house, which was a block away, and my sister didn’t come and get me because it was raining.

[From Ellison’s letter] “To say I’m merely angry or hurt would be a gross understatement. I’m completely devastated. You sent me ‘Mike Hammer at the Philcon,’ and I sent it out to be illustrated. Sure, it took me a year to get to it, but I was suspended with college work. Now when I have it on stencil and run off and announced as in the next issue with illos by Nasman Peterson, I pick up Mari Wolf’s column and see Space Times has already pubbed it. I’m really in a mess with the thing, and personally I think it was both poor taste on your part and a gross injustice not to at least write and tell me what had happened, before you sent a carbon to anyone else…”

I replied as follows. “Dear Harlan, Come now, old Birdbath. In the first place, how do you expect me to know you wanted the MS if you didn’t even acknowledge it? You wrote several times asking me to do something for you, but when I did send it there wasn’t another peep out of you. In fact, you folded your fanzine, retired from fandom, and changed your address. Not that I thought all this was on account of the MS, but in the absence of any acknowledgement or mention of it in any of your blurbs except the last one, how was I to know you were going to publish it?… Chuck Harris was staying with me at the time. The mail had just arrived, he had got five letters and there were none for me, and he was pulling my leg about my fan status having declined. Then my sister came round with the news that there had been a phone call from a Mr. Ellison of Ohio. Thanks, pal. All the best. Walter.”

This was at a time when transatlantic phone calls were almost unheard of in fandom. My recollection is that Chuck asked me, did I often get phone calls from American fans, and I said, “Only when it’s something important.”

(6) STRONACH INTERVIEWS LUCAS. In “An interview with Casey Lucas, moments before the avalanche hits” at The Spinoff, Alexander Stronach interviews the person he’s been friends with the longest, a Wellington science fiction and fantasy writer on the brink of world domination. (Alexander Stronach is Sasha Stronach, 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Winner for Best Novel, and Casey Lucas is the winner of the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Short Story.)

…Casey Lucas is a Swiss army knife. Casey Lucas is six feet tall and extremely bisexual. Casey Lucas is back from the dead (again). Casey Lucas is – finally, after years of dedication and hard work – on the cusp of very big things.

In the last year she’s won one of New Zealand’s highest honours for science fiction and fantasy writing, she’s worked on the wildly popular games Mini Metro and Mini Motorways, she’s run a workshop at Clarion West (possibly the most prestigious SF/F workshop in the world), she’s edited 30 graphic novels, she’s been hired to work on the next block of collectible card game Magic: the Gathering, and now her post-apocalyptic fungal fantasy web serial Into the Mire has picked up a prestigious international agent and is poised to go out to publishers.

Casey Lucas is, for lack of a better word, utterly singular, and today I’m getting deep in the weeds with her about success, trauma, M*A*S*H, and the impossible vastness of stone.

Alex Stronach: So you’re an “overnight success” now. What’s the spell look like? Who do I gotta kill? 

Casey Lucas: Success in publishing is like an avalanche. You only see the snow rushing at you, but it took millions of exhausting years and lots of earthquakes for that mountain to yank itself up out of the sea, and you don’t get the avalanche without a mountain for it to roll down….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 28, 1993 — On this date in 1993, Journey to the Center of the Earth first aired on NBC. It was intended as the pilot for a series but that never happened. It’s based on the novel of the same by Jules Verne. It is one of at least seven adaptations of the Verne novel to date so far. It was by William Dear from the screenplay by David Evans and William Gunter. It starred David Dundara, Farrah Forke, Tim Russ, Jeffrey Nordling and John Neville. No, it was not well received by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes where it has a rating of just eighteen percent. And Screen Rant dubbed it the worst adaptation of the novel ever done.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 28, 1820 – Sir John Tenniel.  Had he only illustrated Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, it would have been enough for us.  He also illustrated an edition of the Ingoldsby Legends – so well known in the U.K. that Dorothy L. Sayers has Lord Peter Wimsey quoting them as late as Five Red Herrings (1931) and The Nine Tailors (1934).  JT drew 2,300 cartoons for Punch.  His knighthood (1893) was the first ever given to an illustrator.  (Died 1914) [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1875 – Maurice Renard.  Pioneering SF writer (d’accord, honors to Rosny aîné).  MR’s Dr. Lerne (1908) was a great Mad Scientist.  The Blue Peril is a decade earlier than The Book of the Damned and, I dare say it, kinder.  The Man Who Wanted to Be Invisible doesn’t “ruin” The Invisible Man – MR dedicated Le docteur Lerne to Wells – but faces, you should pardon the expression, the optics.  Half a dozen novels, ninety shorter stories.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of  his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.) (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a series planned off it. He also two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All of his work is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born February 28, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who was considered the originator of the program’s structure in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born February 28, 1946 – Leanne Frahm, age 75.  Two Ditmars as Best Fanwriter; two others, and an Aurealis, for fiction.  Seen in SF Commentary (and The Metaphysical Review); Souvenir Book for Aussiecon Three the 57th Worldcon – the year Greg Benford said “Certainly, thank you.  Are you inviting me to be Fan Guest of Honor or Pro Guest of Honor?”  Two dozen short stories (one with Terry Carr! anthologized in Stellar 7; another in TC’s Universe 13).  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1948 – Donna Jo Napoli, Ph.D., age 73.  Fourscore novels – opinions may differ on what under “children’s” we should count.  Writes for us when not too busy as a linguist, she’s a professor at Swarthmore.  Arabian Nights, Egyptian, Greek, Norse tales for National Geographic.  Golden Kite Award, Sydney Taylor Award, Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards.  Bimodal videobooks which hearing parents can read – I don’t know what else to call it – to deaf children.  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 64. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? He’s decently stocked by the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 44. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so. (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1977 – J.T. Petty, age 44.  Four novels, as many shorter stories, for us; others too.  Motion pictures, videogames.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1980 – Gareth Worthington, Ph.D., age 41.  Endocrinologist who’s given us six novels.  Studied Jeet Kune Do, which as I understand is the best ever if you happen to be Bruce Lee – no blame, great sages keep telling us It’s simple, see?  Has read Moby-Dick and A Brief History of Time.  [JH]

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Dr. Seuss is credited with inventing the word “nerd,” which first appeared in ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ in 1950. Source: Parade Magazine

(10) VOICE FROM THE PAST. NPR reprised a 2000 interview with the author — “Stephen King: The ‘Craft’ Of Writing Horror Stories”.

In an interview on Fresh Air, King described his life-changing accident to Terry Gross but said it didn’t change the way he approached his writing….

On the nurses who took care of him

“You know, they’d all read Misery, and they worked for an outfit called the Bangor Area Visiting Nurses. These are nurses who go into the home and give home care. And I think one of them told me toward the end of the period, where I needed full-time nursing, that they had all read it, and they had all been called into the office by their superior and told in no uncertain terms, ‘You don’t make any Misery jokes.'”

Includes an excerpt from King’s book On Writing with this quote:

…Asteroid Miners (which wasn’t the title, but that’s close enough) was an important book in my life as a reader. Almost everyone can remember losing his or her virginity, and most writers can remember the first book he/she put down thinking: I can do better than this. Hell, I am doing better than this!

What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff?

(11) NAVIGATING TREK NOVELS. The Trek Collective has “Star Trek novel updates: First Coda blurbs, details of next DS9 novel, and audiobook covers”. A forthcoming trilogy is supposed to tie everything together.

More Star Trek novel news! Following the recent reveal of the 2021 line-up of Star Trek novels, Simon and Schuster have now updated their Online Catalog with blurbs for the books coming towards the end of the year, including the first details of the Coda trilogy. Continue below for all the details.

The Coda trilogy is set to tie-up the reality of the Star Trek litverse which has been told over the last couple of decades, but was alas shunted into an alternate timeline by the new canon events of Picard. All three of the new blurbs start with the following intro, which confirms we are getting one last enormous TNG/DS9/Titan/Aventine crossover:

… Temporal Apocalypse!! Blimey. Who is the mysterious old friend, what is the nature of the disaster, how will this all mesh the litverse with the canon reality? I cannot wait to find out!

If you have no idea what the litverse is, check out the Almighty Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart, compiled by Thrawn and I. You’ve got a few months to get caught up on the dozens of books leading up to this epic closing trilogy (though of course if you’re not caught up I’m sure the authors will make sure it’s entirely accessible to new readers too). 

(12) THE CHART. Indeed, the “Almighty Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart” deserves an item to itself – you should see it! This is the proposed reading order for Star Trek books created by Thrawn and 8of5 for the period between the end of DS9 (1999) and Star Trek: Picard. (There are, of course, a zillion other Trek books outside this timeframe.)

If you’re a bit lost navigating the sometimes complex web of interconnectivity between the various Star Trek novels in the post-finale continuity, this is the resource you need. TrekBBS user Thrawn found a most elegant solution, with his brilliant Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart. Now (as of 2020) on the version six, Thrawn and I guide you through the world of Star Trek fiction.

Whether you’re a fan of TNGDS9Voyager, or Enterprise the chart below will show how they spin off into New FrontierTitanIKS GorkonVanguard, or Seekers, and crossover into DestinyTyphon PactThe FallMirror Universe, and more; letting you chart your own path through the Trek-litverse. Once you’ve got to grips with the flow chart you might also find some of my lists a useful reference too.

(13) BLACK SWAN? StarTrek.com analyzes “How The Search For Spock Changed the Way Star Trek Got Made”.

There are several pivotal turning points in the production history of Star Trek. Pinning down the most important ones is tricky — is filming of “The Cage” more impactful than casting the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before?” What about the writing approach in Season 3 of The Next Generation? Which events truly define how Star Trek was made and why? Among the likely candidates, the moment when Leonard Nimoy took over directorial duties for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock tends to be overlooked. One June 1, 1984, The Search For Spock was released, becoming the very first Trek production crafted by one of the actors. And the way Star Trek was created behind-the-scenes would never be the same.

(14) URBAN LEGENDS. “Mars City design: 6 sci-fi cities that will blow your mind” from Inverse.

6. BRADBURY CITY – MARS TRILOGY

There are several fictional cities in Kim Stanely Robinson’s seminal SF books about the settlement of Mars — Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars — so it’s hard to pick just one. But, if you have to choose only one Martian metropolis from his books, Bradbury City is the way to go.

Named for Ray Bradbury, who wrote The Martian Chronicles, Robinson’s Bradbury City is designed to recreate a city in Illinois. Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois. The Martian Chronicles features several unlikely Martian cities, some made by humans, some made by Martians. But, in almost all cases, like in “Night Meeting,” these towns and cities often have gas stations and pickup trucks.

(15) YOUTUBER. Dom Noble reviews “Raybearer ~ An African Inspired Fantasy Novel”.

(16) IT HAPPENED TO HIM, TOO? “Kevin Feige Panicking After Mom Throws Out $3.6 Billion Worth Of Superhero Crap” in The Onion. (Too short to excerpt – but I don’t need to talk anyone into reading The Onion, do I?

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Underground Comix Movement” on YouTube is an introduction to the great independent comix creators of the late 1960s, including S. Clay Wilson, Peter Bagge, and Gilbert Shelton.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Rich Lynch, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/13/21 I Saw Lon Chaney Jr. Scrolling With The Queen, Filin’ The Pixels Of London

(1) WANDAVISION VIEWS. Camestros Felapton gives plenty of spoiler warning before starting his analysis: “WandaVision: Episode 6 – All-New Halloween Spooktacular! (spoilers)”.

Safe to assume that all WandaVision reviews are spoiler filled. Before the fold, I’ll say that in terms of TV history, the town of Westview (huh…only just noticed that’s WV) has lurched not so much to the 1990s as the 2000’s. I guess the sitcoms of the 1990s are tougher to fit into the model. Roseanne would be the most iconic family-orientated sitcom other than The Simpsons (oh, but a nod to The Simpsons with a Halloween episode and I would have loved a cartoon episode of WandaVision). When I think of 1990s US sitcoms, Friends is the most obvious but that wouldn’t make any sense. Instead the vibe is a bit closer to Malcolm in the Middle with some fourth wall breaking asides to the camera from the kids….

(2) ALTERNATE MOON. A featurette has dropped for Season 2 of For All Mankind.

Leap into the alternate universe of 1983. Go behind the scenes of For All Mankind Season 2. Premieres February 19 on the Apple TV app with an Apple TV+ subscription.

(3) FOUND: A BIG FAN OF SEVENEVES. “Bill Gates Has Always Sought Out New Reading Recommendations – a New York Times Q&A.

What books are on your night stand?

“Infinite Jest.” I’m on a mission to read everything David Foster Wallace wrote, and I’m slowly working my way through everything else before I get to that one. I’ve also got a copy of “The Three-Body Problem,” by Liu Cixin, which I’ve been meaning to read for a while.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

I’ve always liked getting recommendations from other people, even when I was a little kid. I used to ask my teachers what their favorite books were and make my way through the lists they gave me. Our school librarian used to suggest things for me to read, too. She’d often give me books that were supposed to be for kids older than I was, which was very exciting for me. The book I probably read the most growing up was “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” a great science fiction book by Robert Heinlein.

How have your reading tastes changed over time?

I used to read a lot of science fiction when I was a kid, but not so much as an adult (although I rediscovered my love for the genre through Neal Stephenson’s incredible “Seveneves” a few years ago). …

(4) COSMOTECHNICS. In “From Tech Critique to Ways of Living” at The New Atlantis, Alan Jacobs, a humanities professor at Baylor University, analyzes Ursula Le Guin’s Always Coming Home about two-thirds of the way through the piece as part of his essay-review of books critiquing technology.

Always Coming Home illustrates cosmotechnics in a hundred ways. Consider, for instance, information storage and retrieval. At one point we meet the archivist of the Library of the Madrone Lodge in the village of Wakwaha-na. A visitor from our world is horrified to learn that while the library gives certain texts and recordings to the City of Mind, some of their documents they simply destroy. “But that’s the point of information storage and retrieval systems! The material is kept for anyone who wants or needs it. Information is passed on — the central act of human culture.” But that is not how the librarian thinks about it. “Tangible or intangible, either you keep a thing or you give it. We find it safer to give it” — to practice “unhoarding.” She continues,

Giving involves a good deal of discrimination; as a business it requires a more disciplined intelligence than keeping, perhaps. Disciplined people come here … historians, learned people, scribes and reciters and writers, they’re always here, like those four, you see, going through the books, copying out what they want, annotating. Books no one reads go; books people read go after a while. But they all go. Books are mortal. They die. A book is an act; it takes place in time, not just in space. It is not information, but relation.

It is not information, but relation. This too is cosmotechnics….

(5) IT IS GOOD TO BE KING. “Stephen King is helping a group of elementary students publish a pandemic-themed book”Literary Hub has the story.

It may not be the least bit spooky, but it’s true. The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation, the non-profit founded by King and his wife to support community projects in Maine, is funding the publication of a manuscript written by group of young students enrolled in the Farwell Elementary School’s Author Studies Program.

The students initially planned to fund their project through a Kickstarter campaign, but when King’s foundation caught wind of it, they stepped in to cover the $6,500 cost of publishing the 290-page manuscript….

(6) CHANGE OF ADDRESS. Steven H Silver’s website has moved. The new URL is:  http://www.stevenhsilver.com,

After 25 years at SF Site, my website has moved to a new url, including Silver Reviews, the Harry Turtledove website, the Murray Leinster website, my various bibliographies (Pluto, Chicago, Baseball, and Jewish SF).  The new url is http://www.stevenhsilver.com.  If people have links to any pages on my old website, they can replace the string sfsite.com/~silverag with stevenhsilver.com and the new link should work.

(7) RINGING IN YOUR EARS. “The Fellowship of the Bands: Nine Artists Inspired By ‘Lord of the Rings’”. Bandcamp Daily scrys the palantir to bring you the best.

… The series resonated with readers of all backgrounds, but especially the artists. Indeed, before Bad Taste was a twinkle in Jackson’s eye, bands were springing up all over the globe who drew on Tolkien’s books for inspiration. By the ’70s, rockers like Led Zeppelin and Rush, jazz musicians like John Sangster, and folkies like Sally Oldfield had all composed music directly inspired by The Lord of the Rings. Ever since, bands have continued to spring up who root their iconography in Tolkien’s works, especially in heavy metal, where acts like Blind Guardian and Summoning have made long careers singing about the trials and tribulations of hobbits and dwarves.

A rigorous exploration of all those bands could fill the Book of Mazarbul, so this piece will have a slightly narrower—and less serious—focus. Consider this a Bandcamp Fellowship of the Bands, made up of artists who take their names from the nine members of the fellowship. How well do these projects line up with their namesakes, and can they complement each other as well as Tolkien’s nine did in ultimately destroying the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom? Settle down in your hobbit hole with a nice cup of tea and find out….

(8) EYEWITNESS MEMORIES. Cora Buhlert has another article up at Galactic Journey. “This one is about a plane crash that happened in January 1966 approx. 5 kilometres from my home. My Dad actually was an eye witness at the time and I used his memories as well as reports from other witnesses and first responders as the basis for this article. I also Googled every single name on the memorial to find out more about the people who died, because most reports only focus on the celebrity passengers/” “[February 2, 1966] Death in the Fields: The Lufthansa Flight 005 Crash”.

… By daylight, the sight was so horrible that even hardened veteran fire fighters who had lived through World War II were shocked. But the grim work was particularly hard on the young fire fighters and the teenaged volunteers of the West German federal disaster relief organisation THW who had been tasked with recovering the bodies. Even the ladies of the Delmenhorst Red Cross station who had been sent to Bremen to provide the helpers with coffee and sandwiches were not spared the horrible sights, because they had to pass through the makeshift morgue to deliver food to the helpers….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • February 13, 2002 Special Unit 2 ends its run. Special Unit 2 was a Chicago-based unit charged with policing the city’s large population of mythological beings which were known as Links.  It ran on UPN for two seasons and nineteen episodes. It was created by Evan Katz, and starring Michael Landes, Alexondra Lee and Danny Woodburn. If you’re interested, the first episode is watchable here. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story,  “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode and also in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born February 13, 1933Patrick Godfrey, 88. His very first acting was as Tor in a First Doctor story, “The Savages. He’d be in a Third Doctor story, “Mind of Evil”, as Major Cotsworth. His last two acting roles have both been genre — one being the voice of a Wolf Elder in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; the other Butler in His Dark Materials. (CE) 
  • Born February 13, 1935 – John Holmes.  Twoscore covers for us; thousands of images all told.  Here is The Door Into Summer.  Here is The Man Who Had No Idea.  Here is Nabokov’s Despair.  The Guardian noted his “visual puns … intellectual debates …  disturbing, provocative, witty or lyrical … layered with meaning….  art director at … Ogilvy & Mather….  Detective novels, drama, sociology, astrology books and women’s liberation [“I don’t know if my insensitivity is any worse than their iconoclasm”]….  humming-birds fill the red halo of Beethoven’s deafness….  Laurel and Hardy, together or singly, were favourite subjects.”  (Died 2011)  [JH]
  • Born February 13, 1938Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll. His first credited role is Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. (Died 1999.) (CE)
  • Born February 13, 1938 – Joanne Burger.  Active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), reviewed fanzines for TNFF (The Nat’l Fantasy Fan), then edited it; produced annual SF Published in – 1967-1979.  Kaymar Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at LoneStarCon the 3rd NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas; LSC II and LSC III were Worldcons).  More here.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born February 13, 1943Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born February 13, 1954 – Mary GrandPré, age 67.  Two dozen covers, a dozen interiors, for us, many Harry Potter, where she’s most known; this one made the cover of Newsweek.  Here is Fair Peril.  Here is The Eye of the Heron.  Here is A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans.  Fine-art paintings too, like this.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born February 13, 1958 – Alexandra Honigsberg, age 63.  Thomist, violist.  Nine short stories, five poems.  Here she is at MagiCon the 50th Worldcon (Lenny Provenzano photo).  Here she is in 2007 (Scott Edelman photo).  Here is her 2009 review of Logicomix (A. Doxiades, C. Papadimitriou, A. Papadatos, A. DiDonna).  Here (p. 7) she is in 2017 for the Long Island Philosophical Society.  Here are ratings of a 2020 course she taught at St. John’s Univ., Jamaica, NY.  [JH]
  • Born February 13, 1959Maureen F. McHugh, 62. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. Both her novel and impressive short story collections are readily available at the usual digital sources. (CE) 
  • Born February 13, 1960 Matt Salinger, 61. ?Captain America in the 1990 Yugoslavian film of that name which was directed by Albert Pyun as written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block. It’s got a 16% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes which matches what critics thought of it. As near as I can tell this is only genre role. You can watch the film here.
  • Born February 13, 1960 – Kate Banks, age 61.  Twoscore books, many for us – opinions differ about books said to be children’s.  Boston Globe – Horn Book Award.  Zolotow Award.  Wellesley woman.  Likes “the way in which words and illustrations … create a whole new world in which sometimes real and other times magical and unexpected things … happen.”  [JH]
  • Born February 13, 1972 – Jarvis Sheffield, age 49.  Active with the Black SF Society and Genesis (i.e. the prozine).  Edited the Genesis anthology with Milton Davis; one story of his own in it; here is his cover for G11.  Game design, animation.  Director of the Diversity track at Dragon*Con.  Media Center Co-ordinator at Tennessee State Univ. One of this year’s winners of SFWA’s Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) NO WONDER. Peter White, in “’Wonder Girl’ TV Series Not Going Forward At The CW” at Deadline, says the CW has decided not to greenlight “Wonder Girl,” which would have been the first Latina superhero series.

…The drama, based on DC characters created by Joëlle Jones, centered on Yara Flor, a Latina Dreamer who was born of an Amazonian Warrior and a Brazilian River God, learns that she is Wonder Girl. With her newfound power must fight the evil forces that would seek to destroy the world…

(13) A TED TALK THAT TURNS INTO AN INTERACTIVE ADVENTURE. “Chaos Theory – A digital experience” will be performed by the Curious Theatre Company in a special two-week digital run Feb. 25 through March 7. Tickets sold at the link.

CHAOS THEORY is a comedic, immersive experience exploring the underlying chaos in our lives. A lecture about chaos theory devolves into a series of interactive games inspired by the science of chaos theory, reality dating shows, middle school crushes, and the butterfly effect to end all butterfly effects: COVID-19. The audience is guided by mathematical scientist, Dr. Genevieve Saoch, whose personal life continually interferes with her ability to be objective about her research as a Chaologist. Through a series of participatory experiments, audience members are invited to embrace their inner chaos agent as they embody facets of chaos theory including deterministic chaos, fractals, self-organization, and strange attractors.

(14) ANOTHER VALUABLE FANZINE. Cora Buhlert interviewed Rachel Cordasco for her continuing series: “Fanzine Spotlight: Speculative Fiction in Translation”.

Tell us about your site or zine.

I started SFinTranslation.com in 2016 when I couldn’t find any websites that focused on   tracking speculative fiction in English translation. Having reviewed a few works of SFT for SF Signal (before it closed a few years ago), I decided to learn more about the science fiction, fantasy, and horror that was being written around the world and then translated for Anglophone  readers. Since 2016, I’ve reviewed several dozen works of short- and long-form SFT (both for my site and for World Literature TodayStrange Horizons, and other publications), written  essays spotlighting regional SFT, and used social media to bring SFT to the attention of more readers. Among other things, I publish a regular “Out this Month” post to help readers find new SFT releases and I update a linked list of SFT that’s freely-available on the web.

(15) WHAT’S THE MATTER? “Scientists have finally studied einsteinium like never before” reports SYFY Wire.

… Unlike its genius namesake, einsteinium has a difficult temperament. Nuclear reactors can only produce microscopic amounts. Artificially created and at the edge of the periodic table, the 99th element is extremely radioactive and has a half-life (the time it takes for half of it to decay) of barely over 20 days. Getting a better look at it has always been just out of reach. Scientists from UC Berkeley and Georgetown University were finally able to create a more stable isotope of it, which stuck around long enough to demystify some of its hidden properties.

Einsteinium is invisible without a microscope, but one of the heaviest elements that exists — or at least can be made to exist. It is an actinide, part of a group of elements that includes uranium, though anything heavier than uranium is not naturally occurring. It’s also the type of radioactive poison that is often portrayed as glowing green sludge in comics and movies. So what would anyone want with this stuff? While it can’t be put to much use outside a research lab yet, it could eventually be used to make advances in technology and radiopharmaceuticals….

(16) THE NEXT CONJUNCTION. Keep watching the skies. Mental Floss says “The Conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury Is Coming in March 2021”.

One of last year’s astronomical highlights occurred on the winter solstice 2020, when Jupiter and Saturn appeared exceptionally close in a historic conjunction. Just a few months after that event, Jupiter will be getting cozy with a different planet in the night sky. Here’s everything you need to know about the conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury on March 5, 2021.

WHAT IS THE JUPITER-MERCURY CONJUNCTION?

A conjunction happens when two celestial bodies appear close together when viewed from Earth. On the morning of March 5, the largest planet in the solar system and the smallest (at least as of 2006) will come within 19.4 arcminutes of each other in the sky’s dome. That distance is roughly two-thirds the width of the moon….

(17) DINO ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. AV Club says “Sad: Only 13 states have voted on an official state dinosaur” – however, Massachusetts has settled on theirs:

…After a month-long online (tax-funded) poll conducted by Massachusetts officials, over 60% of concerned, participating citizens opted for Podokesaurus holyokensis over Anchisaurus polyzelus to be ratified as the commonwealth’s official dinosaur. Last week, stalwart patriot and Massachusetts House Representative, Jack Patrick Lewis, introduced a pair of bills to certify the fair and democratic election of P. holyokensis to join the other dozen dinosaurs on record as official state ambassadors….

(18) ROAMING CHARGES. In “Animal Planet” in the January 17 New York Times Magazine, Sonia Shah notes that ICARUS, developed by the Germans space agency DLR, tracks the movement of thousands of animals  through receivers they carry that transmit signals to the International Space Station.  The study shows that animals migrate far more than has been commonly believed.

… By doing so, ICARUS could fundamentally reshape the way we understand the role of mobility on our changing planet. The scale and meaning of animal movements has been underestimated for decades. Although we share the landscape with wild species, their movements are mostly obscure to us, glimpsed episodically if at all. They leave behind only faint physical traces — a few paw prints in the hardening mud of a jungle path, a quickly fading arc of displaced air in the sky, a dissipating ripple under the water’s surface. But unlike, say, the sequence of the human genome, or the nature of black holes, our lack of knowledge about where our fellow creatures go has not historically been regarded as a particularly pressing gap in scientific understanding. The assumption that animal movements are circumscribed and rare tended to limit scientific interest in the question. The 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, imagining nature as an expression of God’s perfection, presumed each species belonged in its own singular locale, a notion embedded in his taxonomic system, which forms the foundation of a wide array of biological sciences to this day. Two centuries later, the zoologist Charles Elton, hailed as the “father of animal ecology,” fixed species into place with his theory that each species nestles into its own peculiar “niche,” like a pearl in a shell. Such concepts, like modern notions of “home ranges” and “territories,” presumed an underlying stationariness in undisturbed ecosystems.

But over the last few decades, new evidence has emerged suggesting that animals move farther, more readily and in more complex ways than previously imagined….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Martin Morse Wooster, Steven H Silver, Cora Buhlert, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

2020 Novellapalooza

stack of books ©canstockphoto / olegd

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2020 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story Synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 50 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • 38 of the novellas published in 2018,
  • 57 of the 2019 novellas,
  • and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas from my library, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 59!

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and I do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas are listed in two sections below. The first section, those with cover art, are the ones I have read, and they include mini-reviews by me. These are in approximate order from most-favorite to least-favorite (but bear in mind that after around the first dozen listed, there was not a large degree of difference in preference among most of the remainder, with the exception of a handful at the bottom). The second section is those novellas I haven’t read, in alphabetical order by title.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Some short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included, and in a couple of cases, novelettes which were long enough to be in the Hugo Novella tolerance were also included.

Please feel free to post comments about 2020 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your File 770 comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

If you see something that looks like gibberish, it is text that has been ROT-13’ed to avoid spoilers. (Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 12/19/20 A Long-Expected Party: Potlatch, Status And Spoons Among Late Third Age Hobbits

(1) THE FUTURE THROUGH YESTERDAY. Nicholas Whyte has put together a video of “The world in 2021, according to science fiction” and started a YouTube channel to host it. At the link is his impressive list of sources.

I’ve spent several weekends working on a presentation of twentieth-century science fiction set in the year 2021, and here is the fruit of my labours, a 21-minute video.

(2) BEEP BEEP, BEEP BEEP. Phil Plait, in a “Bad Astronomy” entry at SYFY Wire, reports that “Alien hunters detect a signal from Proxima Centauri, the closest star, but it’s likely human in origin”.

…A standard radio astronomy technique to make sure that what you see is coming from the object you’re observing is to move the telescope back and forth a bit to point to a different part of the sky and see if the signal persists (perhaps leaking into the dish from a source nearby); this is called “nodding” because it’s like a head nodding. When they did this, the signal went away, then came back when they repointed at Proxima.

So it appears to be coming from the star, or at least form very nearby it in the sky. It also appears to have a very narrow frequency range. Not only that, but another characteristic you might expect from an intelligent signal is that, over time, the frequency itself will shift a bit — if aliens are transmitting from a planetary surface, as that planet rotates it causes a Doppler shift in the signal. A shift was seen in the signal, which is interesting….

(3) GOTHIC YEAR. Molly Odintz’ choices of “The Best Gothic Fiction of 2020” for CrimeReads is full of familiar names, including —

Sam J. Miller, The Blade Between (Ecco)

2020 brought a plethora of new additions to the gentrification noir canon, but Sam J. Miller’s The Blade Between stands out for its heroes’ plan to raise sinister supernatural forces in defense of their city. Ever since H.P. Lovecraft first drew attention to the plight of New England architecture by filling his fictional decaying homes with hideous monstrosities, Gothic fiction has been a surprisingly partisan force for housing preservation (Jane Eyre and Rebecca notwithstanding). In The Blade Between, the relationship reaches its zenith, as a photographer and his two childhood besties attempt to save their beloved city of Hudson from corporations and yuppies, only to find themselves instead awakening an ancient force bent on vengeance. Also, since this is Sam Miller, be warned: there will be whales. 

(4) STANDARD BEARER. Sean T. Collins shows how popular culture has connected The Stand with newsmaking crises over the years: “‘The Stand’: Tracing the Stephen King Epic Through Its Many Mutations” in the New York Times.

Take a pandemic. Add the paranormal. Make it a uniquely American story of survival horror. The result: “The Stand,” Stephen King’s epic post-apocalyptic novel from 1978, a new mini-series adaptation of which debuted Thursday on CBS All Access.

Conceived in the pre-Covid era, the show has taken on new resonance since, telling the story of a weaponized virus that wipes out 99 percent of the population. But that’s only the beginning. The real battle happens afterward as supernatural forces of darkness and light — embodied by the demonic dictator Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard) and the holy woman Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) — duel for the souls of the plague’s survivors.

Since the original novel’s original release, King’s saga has entered the pop-culture consciousness in many different incarnations, including an expanded edition of the book and an earlier mini-series adaptation. In anticipation of the show’s arrival, we’re tracing the story from its point of origin to its latest mutation.

The Allegory

The opening act of King’s novel is an eerily plausible account of the complete collapse of human society after the “Captain Trips” superflu is unleashed upon the world. That aspect has found relevance across the decades since the novel’s publication, in the Cold War nuclear arms race, through the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, to the events of 2020.

But that’s only the first part. Flagg is presented as an even worse plague upon the living — a grinning dictator who builds a new society based on human drivers like greed, pride, lust and wrath and who exploits the virus for the sake of his own power. Are there lessons to be applied in the real world? Successive generations have thought so….

(5) DOWN MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953  — At the 11th Worldcon in 1953, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man wins the very first Hugo for Best Novel. It had been published in Galaxy in January, February and March of the previous year. It would also be nominated for the International Fantasy Award, an award that would exist only in the Fifties. This would be the only Hugo that Bester would win though he would be awarded a SFWA Grand Master Award and Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for The Stars My Destination. It, like most of his works, is available from the usual digital suspects.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 19, 1897 – Lucia Trent.  Book reviewer for The Nation.  President of the Western Poets’ Congress.  Called the best woman reader of poetry.  Got a poem into Fire and Sleet and Candlelight (A. Derleth ed. 1961).  Seven books of them, some with husband Ralph Cheyney.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit in Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball which I’ll admit I’ve never seenAnd a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh, my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1922 – Harry Warner, Jr.  Two indispensable books of fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays (fandom in the 1940s) and A Wealth of Fable (1950s).  Quite possibly the best letters-of-comment author we’ve ever known; it seemed he read and wrote to every fanzine, his letters were short and they were good.  Three Hugos, four FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Fan Guest of Honor at Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  His own fanzines HorizonsSpaceways.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  More here. (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1949 – Lee Pelton. Active in Minn-stf and Minneapa.  Co-edited Rune with Carol Kennedy.  Often head of film program at Minicon.  Younger brother played baseball with John Purcell, as a result of which Purcell went Askew.  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1952 Linda Woolverton, 68. She’s the first woman to have written a Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She also co-wrote The Lion King screenplay (along with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts). (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1958 – Laura Whitcomb, age 62.  Three novels for us.  Won three Kay Snow awards, later served a term as a judge.  Sings madrigals.  [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 60. Best known for his Fractured Europe series which won a BSFA Award for the third novel, Europe in Winter. Europe at Midnight was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. I’ve listened to  the entire series and it’s quite fascinating. He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into any of those yet. (CE) 
  • Born December 19, 1961 Matthew Waterhouse, 59. He’s best known as Adric, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He was the youngest actor in that role at the time. And yes, he too shows up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1970 – Tanigawa Nagaru, age 50.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Famous for a dozen light novels about Suzumiya Haruhi, which earned TN the grand prize at the 8th Sneaker Awards and became television and film animé, video games, manga, audio dramas, and original Net animation.  I’ll actually refer you to the SF Encyclopedia.  [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 48. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running original Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, the second Fantasy Island series, Embrace of the VampireDouble Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre excellent animated short as a spoiled rich young thing with a murderous vent who comes to a most fitting end. (CE)
  • Born December 19, 1975 – Brandon Sanderson, age 45.  Thirty novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Concluded Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.  Proposed a theory of hard and soft magic.  Two Hugos, one being for a season of Writing Excuses podcast (with Kowal, Tayler, Wells, J. Sanderson).  Fifteen NY Times Best-Sellers.  A Geffen last year.  Interviewed in FantasyLightspeedSpace and TimeSuperSonic.  Launched by Hambly’s Dragonsbane.  [JH]
  • Born December 19, 1979 Robin Sloan, 41. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it and is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to consider reviewing,  Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre adjacent but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person. (CE)

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) COME TO PAPA. Literary Hub’s Robert K. Elder contemplates “Why Ernest Hemingway Makes a Great Subject for Comic Book Artists”).Michael Toman surmises, “He was also one of Harlan Ellison’s favorite authors, as shown by HE’s naming of his ‘Kilimanjaro Corporation.’” (Could Ellison also have been paying a homage to Bradbury’s 1965 story with a Hemingway connection?)

…Celebrity appearances aren’t new to comic books. Both Stephen Colbert and President Barack Obama got guest shots with Spider-Man, and Eminem got a two-issue series with the Punisher. Orson Welles helped Superman foil a Martian invasion, and President John F. Kennedy helped the Man of Steel keep his secret identity. Even David Letterman got a studio visit from the Avengers. But, using the crowd-sourced Comic Book Database and my own research, I’ve discovered that Hemingway by far exceeds other authors in number of appearances (Shakespeare: 22, Mark Twain: 13). As historical figures go, only Abraham Lincoln comes close to touching him, with roughly 122 appearances in comics (and counting). 

(9) BATWHEELS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Batman/The Batmobile on YouTube is a 2012 documentary, directed by Roko Belic, all about the Batmobile.  Although Batman always had a car, the Batmobile was really invented by George Barris for the 1966 TV series, Barris was interviewed for the documentary, and discussed how he bought a Ford Futura concept car and turned it into the Batmobile Adam West drove.  West is also interviewed, as is Christian Bale, Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, and Christopher Nolan.  But the film is really for people who (like me) enjoy watching car designers talk about their work.  This film is pretty geeky but worth an hour.

Fun fact:  H.R. Giger was hired to design a Batmobile for BATMAN FOREVER but the car he drew looked like “a tarantula with four legs” and was unfilmable.

(10) PERSONAL PORTAL. Unmapped Chronicles series author Abi Elphinstone tells Guardian readers “I found my own Narnia behind a blue door in Scotland”.

…As a child, I watched salmon leap from the brilliantly named fishing pools beyond the blue door (Kitbog, Witch’s, Badger) and played hide-and-seek inside Doulie Tower (a folly built around 1780, when Lord Adam Gordon, commander-in-chief of the army in Scotland, acquired the estate and turned it from “the wildest state of barrenness” into woods filled with Scots pines, oaks, rowans and silver birches). I watched dippers gliding through the Rocks of Solitude (a picturesque narrow stretch of the North Esk) and I listened to my father’s stories about trolls who lived beneath the gnarled roots of beech trees. It felt impossible that all this should exist on the other side of that little blue door, yet it did.

(11) IN THE TWENTY-FOURTH-AND-A-HALF CENTURY. “Legendary’s BUCK ROGERS Sci-Fi Series Will Be Written by Brian K. Vaughan” reports GeekTyrant.

Comic book and TV writer Brian K. Vaughan has been hired to write Legendary’s television series adaptation of classic pulp hero Buck Rogers. Vaughan has worked on a ton of projects over the years, and he seems like a solid choice to take on the material. Some of his previous TV projects include Lost, Under the Dome, Y: The Last Man, Runaways, and more.

(12) THE TWELVE DAYS OF 770. Applause to Bruce D, Arthurs for his seasonal parody (left as a comment.)

Because I was avoiding stuff I should actually be working on this morning, I produced the following instead:

On the twelfth day of Christmas
My bookstore shipped to me
All twelve Maradaine books,
Eleven Pipers viking,
Ten Leibers mousing,
Nine Gideons boning,
Eight Correias shooting
Seven Besters jaunting,
Six Star Trek tie-ins,
F-i-i-i-i-ve Mu-r-r-r-de-r-r-r-r-bots!,
Four Asimovs,
Three Jules Verne,
Two Turtledoves,

And a one-volume Lord of the Rings!

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kaya Torres is circling a black hole in a pod, with no one coming, no one to help. She’s Alone. Mind Matters adds —

…As Torres is “marooned on my lifepod” as the only survivor of the DSV Intrepid, she is able to contact an “interstellar penpal” to keep her company via occasional messages until her food runs out and she dies. Unless…

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nicholas Whyte, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]