Pixel Scroll 10/7/20 Those Who Do Not Learn Pixel Scroll Title History Are Doomed To Repeat It

(1) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA MILESTONES. John Clute regaled Facebook followers with the latest box score:

SFE hubris moment again; we’re free online so hope we can intrude this way . We’ve just hit 75,000 titles listed with full context in Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Checklists. Also, we now provide Picture Gallery scans for more than 5,000 individual authors given entries (some have only one, Robert Silverberg has 166 and counting). Personally, have just finished writing solo entry number 7,000.

(2) MEACHAM TO RETIRE. Tor editor Beth Meacham, a 7-time Hugo nominee and winner of the Skylark Award (2007), is retiring in December.Publishers Lunch has the story.

Beth Meacham, executive editor at Tor/Tom Doherty Associates will retire at the end of the year. She joined Tor as editor-in-chief in 1984. President and publisher Fritz Foy writes, “We’re delighted that Beth will continue to edit a small number of projects for us on a consulting basis. But most of her list will be moving to other editors as she prepares for her retirement.”

(3) NERDS EVERY MONDAY. Adri Joy and the Nerds of a Feather Team are starting a new series of weekly theme posts that focus on work from countries and regions that are underrepresented in English speaking science fiction and fantasy markets: “Introducing: Nerds on Tour!”

…Speculative fiction is, by definition, a global phenomenon, but the Anglophone science fiction and fantasy community has often sought to define its boundaries in ways that exclude much of the work being created in the rest of the world, even as it adds the “World” label into its own events and awards. At a time when it can feel like our own worlds are narrowing, we think its more important than ever to push back, to remind ourselves why we love genre in all its forms and to go beyond the narrow window of culture, language and geography that shapes most of the media we get to watch. Nerds on Tour will be running on Mondays from now until December, and we hope you enjoy everything we have in store.

(4) FRANCHISE PLAYER. Cat Rambo’s new “Cat Chat” is a really fascinating “Interview with Jennifer Brozek about Writing For Franchises.” Brozek: “The final surprise that I had for franchises is sometimes the publisher doesn’t actually know what they want. They want a story and they have sort of an idea in their head but they don’t know how to communicate it to an author. They don’t have universe bibles. They don’t have… They just want fiction in that universe. ‘No, not like that!’ You know, it’s kind of like ‘I don’t know art but I know it when I see it.’”

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and media tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. …Jennifer talks about writing for franchises, including Shadowrun and Valdemar, what has surprised her about the process, what worlds she hasn’t written in but would like to, and which of her original worlds would make the best franchise, as well as what advice she’d give to people working in it. Jennifer teaches Working in Other Worlds: Writing for Franchises with Jennifer Brozek, for the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. The next class will be Saturday, October 24, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

(5) RACE IN D&D. “Dungeons & Dragons Officially Removes Negative Racial Ability Score Modifiers From Rules”Comicbook.com has the story.

Dungeons & Dragons players will no longer have a negative ability score modifier when building a character of a certain race. Last week, Dungeons & Dragons officially released updated errata for a number of their sourcebooks and adventures. The Volo’s Guide to Monsters errata was particularly important in that it removed the negative ability score modifiers for playable kobolds and orcs. While kobolds originally had a -2 modifier to their Strength score, and orcs had a -2 modifier to their Intelligence, the updated rules remove those modifiers entirely from the game. Additionally, the errata also removes the orc’s “Menacing” trait with the “Primal Intuition” trait, which grants players proficiency in two of the following options – Animal Handling, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, and Survival.

The updated rules reflect previous comments by the Dungeons & Dragons team that promised better representation and a movement towards giving the player characters individualism as opposed to forcing them to fit within cultural stereotypes within the game’s lore. While players can still choose to use the cultural generalities of D&D’s various campaign settings when creating a character, the updated rules allows for greater expression and also gives DMs more freedom to create their own worlds where the standard D&D cultural stereotypes aren’t present.

(6) OCTOBER THE SEVENTH IS TOO LATE. Sorry I didn’t know about this earlier — “Wednesday, Oct. 7: BBC America Assembles Long-Lost ‘Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones’”. Runs in part tonight, the rest tomorrow night.

Wednesday, Oct. 7

Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones
BBC America, 8pm
New Miniseries!

This is the mostly missing eighth serial of the fourth season of Doctor Who, which was broadcast in six weekly parts from April to May 1967, starring Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. Only two of the six episodes are held in the BBC film archives with snippets of footage and still images existing from the other four. Fortunately, off-air recordings of the soundtrack also still exist, making the animation of a complete serial possible once again, and that is what has been done here. The Faceless Ones sees the TARDIS arrive on Earth at a runway at Gatwick Airport in England, where the Doctor and his companions encounter sinister identity-stealing aliens known as the Chameleons. The first three episodes of the serial air tonight, and the three concluding episodes air tomorrow night.

TV Insider interviewed the director of the production: “‘Doctor Who’s Animated ‘The Faceless Ones’ Is a ‘Spine-Chilling’ ’60s Story”.

What was the most difficult challenge you encountered in this project?

AnnMarie Walsh: There are a number of challenges in creating an animated series of classic Doctor Who. For one, animation is a very different medium compared with live-action, and we play to its strengths to achieve the best way of telling the stories. Working with a low budget and a tight schedule will always require inventiveness, but we are animating to the original soundtracks from the 1960s. The fact that they are mono tracks—with the music, sound effects, and dialogue all in one single track—makes it very difficult to edit. It forces us to reorder our approach: Instead of recording the dialogue [from] the script, creating the music to the storyboards and animatics, and adding the sound effects at the end, we change the order of production and visualize the storyboards with the audio of the original recordings in mind as well as the original script.

Being unable to separate the music and sound effects from the dialogue means we need to be very creative in our storytelling. We need to have something fitting happen for every sound effect, even if it would be easier to have that action timed differently, or to have a line said earlier. We also don’t get any alternative or retakes in the audio, which we normally have.

Jamie, Sam, The Doctor, Crossland and The Commandant all peer at new evidence – Doctor Who: The Faceless Ones _ Season 1, Episode 3 – Photo Credit: Animated Series Team/BBC

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 — Twenty-five years ago, Pat Cadigan’s Fools won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel. It was first published on HarperCollins UK, and it would be her second Clarke Award as she won for Synners three years previously. Fools is currently available as a Gollancz SF Masterworks trade paper edition and as an ebook from the usual digital suspects for just three dollars. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 7, 1893 – Alice Dalgliesh.  Taught 17 years at the Horace Mann School.  Wrote three dozen children’s books.  Editor of children’s books at Scribner’s 1934-1960; under her, books (including hers) won Newbery Honors, Caldecott Medals and Honors.  Edited Heinlein’s “juveniles” from Red Planet through Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; his disagreements with her appear in Grumbles From the Grave and were added to her Wikipedia page.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1942 – Lee Gold, 78.  Introduced to Van Vogt because she had golden pipecleaners in her hair and someone thought Van should meet her.  Published Along Fantasy Way, the Guest of Honor book for Tom Digby at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon.  Since 1975, Official Editor of Alarums & Excursions, an apa devoted to role-playing games; since 1988, also of Xenofilkia, a filk fanzine.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society).  Hour-and-a-half 2019 interview here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 – John Brosnan.  Sixteen novels, half a dozen shorter stories; four nonfiction books about the cinema, Eaton Award for Future Tense.  Wrote most of the cinema entries in the 1979 Encyclopedia of SF.  The current (2018) Nicholls-Clute-Langford entry ends, “he gave readers a considerable amount of unfocused pleasure.”  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1947 Lightning Bear. Native American stuntman and stunt coordinator. He did stunt work on the classic Trek series as well as Star Trek: The Motion PictureThe Wrath of Khan, and The Search for Spock.  He did not receive on-screen credit for any of these. Star Wars fans claim that he did stunt work on the three original Star Wars films but Lucas Films says that there is no records that he did. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1950 Howard Chaykin, 70. Comic book artist and writer. His first major work was for DC Comics drawing “The Price of Pain” which was an adaptation of author Fritz Leiber’s characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword of Sorcery #1. He would illustrate damn near everything else from Batman and The Legion of Super-Heroes for DC to Hulk and Iron-Man for Marvel (to name but four series) but I think his best genre work was his own American Flagg! series which I’ve enjoyed several times. It’s available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1952 – Peter Peebles, 68.  Fifty covers, a few interiors.  Here is the Aug 91 SF Chronicle.  Here is the Apr 95 Analog.  Here is A Wizard in Midgard.  Here is Taylor’s Ark.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1958 Rosalyn Landor, 62. She played Guinevere in Arthur the King, and Helen Stoner in “The Speckled Band” of Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes. She was the redheaded colleen Brenna Odell in the “Up the Long Ladder” episode of Next Generation which was banned in The United Kingdom for some years as it made a passing reference to Ireland being united in the early twenty first century. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1963 Tammy Klein, 57. She’s getting a birthday write-up because of the  most likely unauthorized Trek audioseries she’s involved in called Star Trek: Henglaar, M.D. in which she’sSubcommander Nonia but she also been in some definitely really pulpy works such as Lizard ManJurassic CityAwaken the Dead and Zoombies. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1977 Meighan Desmond, 43. New Zealand resident who’s best remembered as Discord in Hercules: The Legendary JourneysXena: Warrior Princess and even Young Hercules, a vastly underrated series. Post-acting career, she was the special effects runner on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, special effects assist coordinator/runner on Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, assistant art director on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and construction office assistant on Mulan. (CE) 
  • Born October 7, 1979 Aaron Ashmore, 41. He‘s known for being Jimmy Olsen on Smallville and Steve Jinks on Warehouse 13. He also is Johnny Jaqobis on Killjoys, a series I’ve yet to watch. He also had a recurring role as Dylan Masters in XIII: The Series which I think is SFF. (CE)
  • Born October 7, 1979 – Shadreck Chikoti, 41.  Writes in English and Chichewa in and out of our field.  His SF novel Azotus the Kingdom won his second Peer Gynt Literary Prize.  Director of Pan African Publishers, founder of the Story Club.  See Geoff Ryman at Strange Horizons about and with him here.  [JH]
  • Born October 7, 1992 – Stephanie Diaz, 28.  Extraction and two sequels.  Also edits.  “Any combination of chocolate and peanut butter….  Basically, it’s all books all the time in my world….  wish I could go back to a year ago when we were in London on our way to Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye.”  I haven’t learned if she drinks my favorite whisky, Talisker. [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off The Mark shows why it might be hard for a zombie to wear a mask – or did that possibility ever cross your mind?

(10) DIAMOND JUBILEE. In “Pippi and the Moomins” on Aeon, Richard W. Orange uses the 75th anniversary of the first books by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson to discuss their achievements in children’s literature.

In February 1944, Russian bombs smashed the windows of Tove Jansson’s art studio in Helsinki. ‘I knocked slivers of glass out of the windows,’ the author wrote in her diary. She was so depressed, she had been unable to paint for a year, and despaired that war was ‘making us smaller. People don’t have the strength to be grand if a war goes on for a long time.’

Some 250 miles away across the Baltic, another woman was documenting the same bombardment from the safety of her flat in Stockholm. ‘About 200 Russian planes had carried out a bombing raid on Helsinki,’ wrote Astrid Lindgren in her war scrapbook. ‘It’s awful to contemplate the fate of Finland.’

Aside from a seven-year age difference, the two had much in common: both had cut their hair short in their late teens and early 20s, and worn trousers and neck ties – the style of radical women in the age of jazz. Both had a youthful fascination with philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche. Both were committed anti-Fascists….

(11) WATCHING YOUR SIX. In “6 Books with Stina Leicht” at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer poses the questions.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about? 

Maria Dahvana-Headley’s Beowulf translation. No woman has ever had their translation of Beowulf published before. Translations are very much affected by the person that translates them. I understand this really affected the interpretation of the story. I’m so very looking forward to it.

(12) BEFORE THE GAME. More details about the Game of Thrones prequel in Deadline’s story about a new cast member: “‘House Of the Dragon’: Paddy Considine To Star As King Viserys Targaryen In HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ Prequel”.

Based on Martin’s Fire & Blood, the series, which is set 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones, tells the story of House Targaryen.

In the 10-episode first season, Considine will play King Viserys Targaryen, chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather’s legacy. But good men do not necessarily make for great kings….

(13) ROLL THE BONES. Art & Object listens to the cash register ringing – and ringing! “T. Rex Skeleton Sells for Record-Breaking $31.8 Million at Christie’s”.

A 67-million-year-old dinosaur fossil known as “Stan” was the star of the show at Christie’s last night when it sold for $31,847,500 after a protracted bidding war between buyers on the phone in New York and London. Among the 46 lots in the 20th Century Evening Sale, including standout works by Cy Twombly, Picasso, and Mark Rothko, the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton, the last lot of the evening, caused the most excitement when it sold for nearly four times its high estimate of $8 million to James Hyslop, head of Christie’s Science & Natural History Department. The sale beat the last record of $8.36 million set in 1997 for an equivalent T. Rex specimen.

(14) NOBEL FOR CRISPR. “2 scientists win Nobel chemistry prize for gene-editing tool” reports the AP.

The Nobel Prize in chemistry went to two researchers Wednesday for a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized science by providing a way to alter DNA, the code of life — technology already being used to try to cure a host of diseases and raise better crops and livestock.

Emmanuelle Charpentier of France and Jennifer A. Doudna of the United States won for developing CRISPR-cas9, a very simple technique for cutting a gene at a specific spot, allowing scientists to operate on flaws that are the root cause of many diseases.

“There is enormous power in this genetic tool,” said Claes Gustafsson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry….

(15) NOTHING. NEXT QUESTION? Co-hosting this week’s Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron on Saturday, October10 will be Alan Lightman, discussing with philosophers Rebecca Goldstein and Edward Hall what separates science from the humanities. For example, what would it take to convince a scientist that a phenomenon was actually a miracle? Register here.

In this discussion with philosopher and novelist Rebecca Goldstein, philosopher of science Edward Hall (Harvard), and physicist and novelist Alan Lightman (MIT), we will consider the question of the role of experiment in science and how that feature separates science from the humanities. We will also discuss the strong commitment of scientists to a completely lawful universe.

This latter issue could be framed as a question: What would it take to convince a scientist that some phenomenon was a miracle — that is, could not be explained, even in principle, to lie within the laws of nature?

For most scientists, the answer is NOTHING. Yet surveys repeatedly show that 75% of the American public believes in miracles. Why this marked discrepancy between the beliefs of scientists and nonscientists?

(16) TRUE GRIT. Andrew Porter took notes when a contestant stumbled over a Neil Gaiman item on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: The Librarian Invasions.

Answer: Lucien becomes chief librarian of the Dreaming in this Neil Gaiman comic Book series with a one-word title.

Wrong question: “What is Cryptonomicon?”

Correct question: “What is Sandman.”

(17) EXCHANGE RATE. A 1.5 oz Harry Potter Chocolate Wand – for $10.99!! The weight you gain by eating it will be magically offset by the lightening of your wallet.

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

Dan Simmons Criticized for Remarks About Thunberg

Dan Simmons’ Facebook comment mocking teenaged environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who recently spoke at the U.N., is now removed, however, screencaps were shared and many sff writers and fans have tweeted their dismay.

Simmons is a World Horror Grandmaster and past winner of the Hugo (for Hyperion), World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, British Fantasy Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Here is a full screencap.

Here is a sampling of the reaction.

  • Jeff VanderMeer
  • Stina Leicht
  • Ilana C. Myer
  • Adam-Troy Castro
  • Paul Tremblay
  • Robin Johnson (the game developer, not the Australian fan)
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • Richard Webb
  • April A. Taylor
  • Paul Weimer
  • Ellen Datlow

Kinda surprised so many people are just now figuring out that Dan Simmons is a crank. He’s never hidden the fact.

Pixel Scroll 1/19/18 The Scroll Pixel Wagon Is A-‘Comin Down The Street, Oh Please Let It Be For Me

(1) WASHINGTONIAN WOMBAT. The Washington Post’s Mary Quattlebaum profiles Ursula Vernon, whose comic five-volume Hamster Princess series retells “fairy tales with a strong female hero,” in “Ursula Vernon elevates a rodent to royalty”.  The latest, Whiskerella, retells Cinderella but with mice.

‘I always wondered why the girl didn’t save herself,” Ursula Vernon said about the fairy tales she read as a kid. “I mean, why doesn’t Snow White just whack the evil queen instead of relying on the prince?”

Vernon decided to retell fairy tales with a strong female hero. In her popular Hamster Princess series, Harriet eagerly rescues anyone in danger.

Often, though, the high-spirited hamster creates the very situations she must rescue herself and others from.

In “Whiskerella,” the fifth book in this hilarious series, Harriet takes on a bossy fairy godmouse. The godmouse wants Ella, a pretty hamster, to go to royal balls and meet a prince to marry. But Ella doesn’t like any of the rude princes she meets. And she hates wearing the magical glass slippers! They pinch her feet.

(2) GENERATIONAL CHANGE. The Paris Review’s Dara Horn notes that her daughter has a lot of choices that weren’t available to her growing up — “Finding Science Fiction and Fantasy for Female Readers”.

… Something enormous has happened in the years between my childhood and my daughter’s—a shift that might have started somewhere around The Golden Compass series, or with novels by Tamora Pierce and Francesca Lia Block or dozens of other books I had grown too old to read, and then accelerated with the runaway success of the Twilight and Hunger Games series. A young-adult landscape emerged where science fiction and fantasy was no longer targeted only at boys, and girls were no longer expected to read only stories about empathetic middle-school friends. This phenomenon is complex, an elaborate give-and-take between the changing roles of women and the rising demand for stories of the fantastic, and I don’t pretend to understand the many social and commercial forces that brought it into being. But I can’t help but notice the vast difference between my daughter’s bookshelf and mine—the many magical books waiting for her when she finished A Wrinkle in Time, hungry for more—and rue the imagined worlds I missed by being born too soon….

(3) COMMON DENOMINATOR. Stina Leicht makes a wise suggestion in “Sometimes Your Experience is What You Bring”.

Reading is an interactive experience. This is a big part of what makes literature an art form. Writers don’t get to dictate your experience of their work. We’ve never had that level of control–even if sometimes we wish we did.[1] A literary work is always one part what the reader brings to the piece. Readers aren’t passive. Reading engages the imagination. If the piece you’re reading doesn’t do this, the piece in question has failed in its job. That’s the definition of interactive. So, if you’re missing a sense of wonder from all modern SFF, then maybe it’s time for some self-examination? As a therapist once told me: “If every relationship is a failed relationship, maybe it’s time to have a look at the common denominator in all those relationships.” Hint: the biggest common factor is yourself. So, maybe it’s time to admit that maybe the lack of wonder isn’t the author’s fault? Because no author, no matter how talented or how powerful the work, can give you back your childhood.

(4) ERIC FLINT HEALTH UPDATE. There’s good news, as Eric Flint posted yesterday on Facebook.

I saw my oncologist today. The results of a CT scan I took last week have come in and everything looks good. There’s no indication of any kind that the lymphoma has come back. So YAY for medical science and nurses and doctors and everybody who works in hospitals and clinics.

And, okay, a grudging YAY for the poisons that killed the cancer faster than they killed me. They call it “chemotherapy.” This is a bit like calling attempted murder “homicide therapy.” But, what the hell, it seems like it worked, so a grudging YAY for homicide therapy.

(5) RARE BOOK DESTRUCTION. A flood in a bookstore basement ruined some King rarities, among others —“Stephen King ‘horrified’ by loss of his manuscripts in bookstore flooding” in the Bangor Daily News.

Stephen King said Wednesday that he was “horrified” to learn that tens of thousands of dollars worth of rare books — including his own original manuscripts and rare editions — were ruined after a burst pipe flooded the basement of several downtown Bangor businesses.

Gerald Winters’ bookstore, which specializes in rare and limited edition copies of King’s books, was among the handful of businesses damaged by flooding from the broken pipe in front of 46 Main St.

“I’m horrified. As a book lover, my heart goes out to him,” King told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday. “I will eventually reach out and see if I can help in any way.”

Winters estimates he lost about 2,000 books, and as many as seven of King’s original typed manuscripts, including, “Dolan’s Cadillac,” “Maximum Overdrive,” and “The Eyes of the Dragon.” Dozens of first- and limited-edition King books, galleys, signed copies and prints in different languages are among the items believed to be damaged.

(6) THE ARTIST’S OWN COLLECTION. The Society of Illustrators in New York is hosting “Under the Influence: The Private Collection of Peter de Sève” through March 17.

This very special exhibit offers guests the unique opportunity to view the personal collection of Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame recipient, Peter de Sève, and to learn what pieces in it inspire (and intimidate!) him. Spanning over 200 years, the show includes gems by legendary artists including: Edmund Dulac, Vivienne Flesher, Frank Frazetta, A.B. Frost, Carter Goodrich, Ana Juan, Moebius, T.S. Sullivant and many more.

Peter de Sève has created some of the most beloved images in the worlds of print and animation over the course of his 40-year career. From his design of the neurotic, saber-toothed “Scrat,” to his many unforgettable New Yorker magazine covers, de Sève has been producing classic images that continue to provoke and delight.

(7) GENRE HISTORY BOOK EXHIBIT. A Conversation larger than the Universe will be on view at The Grolier Club in New York City from January 25 through March 10.

A Conversation larger than the Universe is a history of science fiction in 70 literary artefacts and a highly personal tour through the bookshelves of Henry Wessells. The books—many signed or inscribed by their authors—magazines, manuscripts, letters, and artwork date from the mid-eighteenth century to the present and will allow the viewer to explore the ideas and people that have defined the literatures of the fantastic, from Mary Shelley and H. G. Wells to Philip K. Dick, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., and William Gibson…

Beginning with the origins of science fiction in the Gothic, this ‘Conversation’ contemplates topics such as the End of the World (and After), Imaginary Voyages, Dystopia, Women Authors, Literary Innovation, Humor, the Sixties, Rock ’n’ Roll, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, and what’s happening in science fiction and the fantastic right now. The exhibition adopts a broad description of Science Fiction encompassing Fantasy and Horror as well as bibliography and scholarship in the field.

In connection with the exhibition, a one-day Symposium on Science Fiction with a panel of distinguished authors, editors, and scholars will be held on Tuesday 6 March, 6-7:30 p.m.

Henry Wessells is an antiquarian bookseller in New York City and author of Another green world (2003) and Extended Range (2015). A frequent contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction, his work has appeared in NatureLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletWormwoodInterzoneThe Washington Post Book World, and other publications. He is also editor and bibliographer of American science fiction author Avram Davidson.

(8) WHO’S IN THE SUIT? Scott Edelman hopes a File 770 reader can solve these mysteries:

(9) THE COMING THING IN POETRY. The SPECPO blog interviews Holly Lyn Walrath, SF&F Poetry Association member and editor of Eye To The Telescope’s Time issue, in “Lone Stars, Abstractionism and Other Thoughtcrimes: Talking with Holly Lyn Walrath”

What are some of the trends you see in speculative literature that are really exciting you? Is there anything that’s boring you or that you see potentially as a literary dead-end?

I get really excited about experimental forms now appearing in speculative literature—hybrid works, erasures, and stories that cross genres. I’m thinking of the early work of Ken Liu using faux-erasure, as well as writers like Bogi Takács exploring hypertext poetry, Michael Janairo’s video poem from Mithila Review. Speculative literature is exploring more and more the definition of what we consider speculative literature. Another example is Riddled with Arrows, a new literary journal that focuses on writing about writing. It’s great to see so many venues and editors willing to showcase these new forms.

(10) POSSUM SPRINGS ETERNAL. Abigail Nussbaum discusses the pervasive pop culture influence of the game Night in the Woods.

You’ve probably heard about Night in the Woods even if you haven’t played it, or have only a vague idea what it is.  Released by indie studio Infinite Fall last year after a highly-successful kickstarter campaign, the game, an adventure-slash-ghost-story starring anthropomorphic animals who live in a dying Rust Belt town, is an irresistible combination of cute and spooky.  Its story, in which twenty-year-old college dropout Mae returns to her home of Possum Springs, reconnects with her friends and family, and slowly begins to realize that there are dark doings afoot, seems designed to appeal to a certain type of young fan, with its themes of early-adulthood aimlessness, coming of age, and mental illness.  Graphics from the game have been cropping up on my twitter feed and tumblr dash for months, almost instantly iconic due to the game’s simple yet evocative (and expertly-executed) design.  What surprised me, however, when I finished the game last week and went looking for in-depth discussions of it, is how little talk there seems to have been about Night in the Woods‘s politics.  To me, they feel not just important, but like the key to the entire exercise.

(11) COOK OBIT. Southern fan Don (Dea) Cook, an active Southern fan who also sent many stories for File 770, has died of cancer. (I haven’t seen the date yet.) He shared the Rebel Award with Bob Shaw in 1994. Don and his wife, Samanda Jeude, were Fan GoHs at the 1997 Balticon. He chaired an Atlanta bid for the 1995 Worldcon (losing to Glasgow). He also served for a time on the Worldcon’s Mark Protection Committee.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 19, 1809 – Edgar Allan Poe, in Boston, MA.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian recognized we needed to see this “how many X does it take” joke in Bizarro.

(14) STAR-CROSSED FELAPTON. In “Captain Bob and the Space Patrol”, Camestros Felapton makes a foredoomed attempt to write a completely apolitical sff story.

Captain Bob marched towards the silver-chrome rocket ship.

Did I say ‘captain’? That won’t do. I really don’t want anything political in this story. ‘Captain’ that suggests a rank and a rank suggests all sorts of thing. I mean sure, you can be captain of a civilian ship – it just means you are the one in charge but even that assumes Bob lives in a society in which hierarchal chains of command are the norm. Because this story must have no politics, I don’t want to suggest that his ship is necessarily run as some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune of like-minded space travellers but I also don’t want to rule out the possibility by calling Bob ‘captain’. Mind you, if I don’t call him ‘captain’ does that rule out possibility that Bob lives in a society like ours? I guess even if he is a captain then ‘Bob’ is still his name.

I’ll stick with just plain Bob. The reader can add ‘captain’ or ‘daily short-term decision maker decided by lot’ accordingly.

(15) PORK PRODUCT. If you enjoy reading negative things about McDonald’s McRib sandwich, this 2011 article is for you: “A Conspiracy of Hogs: The McRib as Arbitrage”.  And there’s more! — an appealing conspiracy theory.

The physical attributes of the sandwich only add to the visceral revulsion some have to the product?—?the same product that others will drive hundreds of miles to savor. But many people, myself included, believe that all these things?—?the actual presumably entirely organic matter that goes into making the McRib?—?are somewhat secondary to the McRib’s existence. This is where we enter the land of conjectures, conspiracy theories and dark, ribby murmurings. The McRib’s unique aspects and impermanence, many of us believe, make it seem a likely candidate for being a sort of arbitrage strategy on McDonald’s part. Calling a fast food sandwich an arbitrage strategy is perhaps a bit of a reach?—?but consider how massive the chain’s market influence is, and it becomes a bit more reasonable.

Arbitrage is a risk-free way of making money by exploiting the difference between the price of a given good on two different markets?—?it’s the proverbial free lunch you were told doesn’t exist. In this equation, the undervalued good in question is hog meat, and McDonald’s exploits the value differential between pork’s cash price on the commodities market and in the Quick-Service Restaurant market. If you ignore the fact that this is, by definition, not arbitrage because the McRib is a value-added product, and that there is risk all over the place, this can lead to some interesting conclusions. (If you don’t want to do something so reckless, then stop here.)

(16) STREET SMARTS. If you’ve fallen behind on Sesame Street – say, by two to four decades – this article in The New Yorker will catch you up: “The Evolution of “Sesame Street” on HBO”.

“Sesame Street” perpetually evolves as guided by trending theories of education: when the game-show host Guy Smiley ambushes Bert into a round of “Estimation Crustacean,” which is a math quiz contested by a shellfish, the scene reflects current thinking on teaching arithmetic. Also, this noble program tailors its tone and content for its audience as elastically as the most craven network talk show. Because fewer adults actually pay attention to “Sesame Street” these days, the series has turned down the dial on pop-culture parodies, such as one spoofing “Mad Men,” from 2009, with an advertising executive thanking his staff for making him happy. (“Good work, sycophants,” the Muppet Don Draper says.) And “Sesame Street” responds to media technology at a deliberate pace. Last year saw the début of Smartie, an animated yellow phone, as a new sidekick for Elmo. “Look it up” is her catchphrase. Elmo, of course, converses with Smartie in his distinctive falsetto, a voice that, with practice, an adult can train himself not to really hear. Smartie, too, is slightly annoying. But I would trust her to babysit.

The most recent renovation of the Sesame Street courtyard, which is properly called the Arbor, involves one bold reconfiguration of the landscape. There now exists a view of a bridge. The shape of its tower suggests the Verrazano-Narrows, but its color apes the “international orange” of the Golden Gate Bridge, and it angles into the background as if Hooper’s Store is selling milkshakes in Dumbo. I find the bridge slightly disconcerting, and I can point to textual evidence that Oscar the Grouch shares my concerns. And yet it opens up a hospitable space. The bridge reaches out to expand the sense of place and extend a generous welcome. This land is your land, to the New York Island.

(17) HOLD ONTO YOUR… SEAT. Bored Panda has photos of “30+ Epic Toy Design Fails That Are So Bad, It’s Hilarious”. I don’t know if I want to run any of the photos as an excerpt, since so many are unintentional dick jokes, but they are hilarious as advertised.

We’ve seen our share of crappy design, but store shelves are so abundant with them, there’s always more to poke fun at. For example, toys. They’re usually designed and made by adults, so you’d expect a considerable amount of consideration before manufacturing them, right? Well, not so much. Bored Panda has collected some of the most questionable toys to prove that some designers have no clue what they’re doing.

From a doll head, used as an actual pony tail to a psychotic Elmo, it seems ridiculous someone actually greenlighted these ideas.

(18) WHO SAID CATS DON’T LIKE WATER. Atlas Obscura fills us in on “The Little-Known History of Seafaring Pets”.

When researchers conducted the first global study of ancient cat DNA they found that our feline friends were domesticated in the Near East and Egypt some 15,000 years ago, and later spread to Europe thanks in part to mariners, from the Phoenicians to the Vikings, who often took them on board to ward off rodents (another frequent human companion at sea, though not by design). A few thousand years later, the Romans took chickens on board military ships to predict the outcomes of battles—if the hens ate, victory could be expected. Roman general Publius Claudius Pulcher tried this trick before the Battle of Drepana against the Carthaginians in 249 B.C. He ignored the bad omen and threw the birds overboard. The Roman fleet was nearly wiped out. Despite this anecdote, the roles played by our maritime animal companions rarely make the history books. It is only recently that cultural institutions around the world have begun to pay attention to the history of animals at sea.

(19) COULD BE. Once he read Emma Straub’s “My Father Supported My Career—Until He Didn’t” in Real Simple, Andrew Porter decided, “This likely explains why, when I went into the bookstore she owns here in Brooklyn, and offered the people there (she was not present) scans of the many photos of Peter Straub (her father) I’d taken over the years, I never heard back from her.”

But this scenario happened again and again. I wrote books; my father read them and pronounced them wonderful, surefire hits…and then they wouldn’t sell. Still, my dad’s faith in me never wavered, even as I worked a host of other jobs—for a fancy cookbook publisher, at a clothing store for teens and tweens, as a personal assistant to a musician, in a bookstore. I even taught writing classes in my living room. Some of the jobs, like being a bookseller, were great and contributed to my writing life. Some, like selling overpriced jeans to 12-year-olds, were only good insofar as they were fodder for future stories. And they were—because it finally happened. I sold a book! I was going to make it big!

Sort of. My first book, a collection of stories, sold for a very modest amount of money—about enough to buy half of a fancy handbag. I was beyond thrilled. My parents came to every single event I did in New York City, always in the front row, laughing loudly in all the right spots. And then shortly thereafter I sold a novel for what felt like a lot of money, enough for my husband and me to turn the dank basement of our house into an actual office space, complete with the hot pink cabinets of our dreams.

That’s when things got weird. I was getting lots of press—magazines took my photograph and wrote articles about me, and I got asked to do zillions of events. Whenever I would call my dad to tell him about the new bits of press or things on the schedule, he would say, “Why didn’t they ask me to do that?” As if it made sense for Vogue to ask him to write a short story inspired by one of the new fall trends. At first, it seemed funny, but then I realized that he was serious—he was actually jealous. “Why didn’t they ask me to do this [any number of silly events at bars in Brooklyn that he wouldn’t have wanted to do in the first place]?” I think one of the problems was that my dad saw everything I did—he had Google Alerts set up for my name, so he’d often call to tell me that he’d seen something before I had.

(20) STAR WARS REBELS. The end begins when Star Wars Rebels returns with its final episodes. Monday, February 19 on Disney XD.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Janice Gelb, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]