Pixel Scroll 9/10/19 I Can’t Believe I Pixeled In Front Of The Dean Of Science Fiction!

(1) SNEAK PEEK. The folk at the seasonal SF² Concatenation have advance-posted a review of the Dublin Worldcon ahead of their autumnal edition.

The SF² Concatenation is largely run by Brits  — however, the conreport here is by Sue Burke, a US fan and sff author (Semiosis): “Dublin 2019”.

…Despite the inconvenience, the snaking queues became good places to meet new people.

The Auditorium held only 2,000, so events there required wristbands to get in, and we had to line up in the afternoon to get them. I didn’t attend the Opening Ceremony/1944 Retro Hugos, Masquerade, or Hugo Award Ceremony. (During the Closing Ceremony, I was instead standing in line at the airport). I wanted to get a wristband for the Hugo Awards, but the queue was enormous and located outside, next to the CCD, during a cold, windy rainstorm, so I abandoned that attempt. (In fairness to the organisers, I am not sure where else the queue could have been located. All available space inside the building was in use!)

Other than that, the convention was splendid: well-organised and always on time.  Events started at 9 a.m. with accessible yoga and a “stroll with the stars” morning walk, and ended in the wee hours at Martin Hoare’s Bar – known as Martin’s, named for the volunteer who was to be Fan Bar Manager but who died a few weeks before the convention.

…Other than [overcrowding] the convention was splendid: well-organised and always on time.…

…For me, one of the many high moments of the convention came on Saturday evening at the Bright Club Ireland, a stand-up comedy show. Steve Cross made an excessively deep, textual reading of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to determine the exact date that the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons.

(2) NOT EASY MAKING GREEN. That new Muppets comedy series? Fuggedabowdit! The Hollywood Reporter has learned: “‘The Muppets’ Disney+ Comedy Series Scrapped”. But Disney is greenlighting the talk show Muppets Now.

….Creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis (Once Upon a Time) and Josh Gad (Frozen) have walked away from the scripted comedy, called Muppets Live Another Day, which they had been quietly at work on for months, and Disney+ has opted to abandon work on the series.

…The decision to retool the planned Muppets show will not impact the unscripted shortform series Disney+ announced last month at D23. That show — Muppets Now — will feature beloved characters like Kermit and Miss Piggy alongside celebrity guests.

(3) ATTEMPTED THEFT. A BBC story reports — “Margaret Atwood says thieves targeted Handmaid’s Tale sequel”.

Margaret Atwood says thieves made concerted efforts to steal her manuscript for The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

The author and her publisher were targeted by “fake emails” from “cyber criminals”, trying to obtain the unpublished novel, she told the BBC.

She described the attempts as a “phishing exercise” that could have led to blackmail or identity theft.

“It was a commercial venture of a robbery kind,” Atwood said.

“People were trying to steal it. Really, they were trying to steal it and we had to use a lot of code words and passwords,” she told BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones.

“What would they have done with it if they had succeeded? They might have said, ‘We’ve got the manuscript, and we’re putting it up online [unless you] give us your credit card details’. Or they might have said, ‘Read this excerpt and download it. And if you downloaded it, a virus would have stolen your information’.

(4) NEW COINAGE. Ken Pelham offers advice about devising “The Jargon and Slang of the Fantastic” at the SFWA Blog.

…But don’t fear creating words. Heck, Shakespeare did it all the time. Just make sure they sound authentic to the world created. Sometimes those words even become part of our own Earthly languages. Like William Gibson’s “cyberspace.” We instinctively knew what it meant the first time we heard it. And J.K. Rowling may have added more words to the English language than anyone since Shakespeare. Time will tell….

(5) NEW DEAL. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “‘Bonkers’ new ‘Joker’ sidesteps controversy, ‘Batman’ hook-up”, has an interview with Joker director Todd Phillips, who says that his film, set in a world resembling New York City in the late 1970s “was never meant to connect” to anything in the DC Extended Universe, “and I don’t see it connecting to anything in the future,” meaning it’s unlikely Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker will take on Robert Pattinson’s Batman.

Meanwhile, Phoenix choked up while paying tribute to his late brother, River. “When I was 15 or 16 my brother River came home from work and he had a VHS copy of a movie called Raging Bull and he sat me down and made me watch it. And the next day he woke me up, and he made me watch it again. And he said, ‘You’re going to start acting again, this is what you’re going to do,’” the younger Phoenix recalled while receiving the TIFF Tribute Actor Award. “He didn’t ask me, he told me. And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life.”

What initially appeared to be a curious experiment is shaping up to be a sure thing, at least in terms of box office. According to some forecasts, Joker is on track to enjoy a $100 million opening weekend, topping last year’s Venom, which also billed itself as a darker alternative to the usual superhero fare. And the Toronto audience largely greeted the movie with cheers and applause, with the majority of the praise being directed in Phoenix’s direction.

(6) HORROR YOU CAN BANK ON. The Hollywood Reporter asks “Is ‘It’ a New Kind of Horror Franchise?” Tagline: “Never before has there been a series that’s been closer to being the ‘Avengers’ or ‘Star Wars’ of the genre.”

…But with only two films to its name, It is larger than its competing properties. Consider: It: Chapter One did around 40 percent of the Conjuring series’ combined global gross with just the first installment. It: Chapter Two‘s success remains unwritten, but short of disaster the film will cement this duology among the genre’s greatest blockbusters. Chalk that up once more to King’s name; that alone gives It: Chapter One and Chapter Two a built-in audience at a moment when the author’s material is a ubiquitous hot commodity. (See: April’s Pet Sematary re-adaptation, Hulu’s Castle Rock, the upcoming Doctor Sleep and In the Tall Grass.) Give credit to It‘s shapeshifting antagonist, Pennywise, too, a movie monster tailor made to scare the bejesus out of a wide viewing audience. Spiders might be your worst nightmare. Maybe werewolves. Maybe diseased hobos, mummies, your abusive father, your dead brother, a kindly old lady lurking naked in her kitchen or, last but not least, clowns. It has all of these (plus a very cute pomeranian that isn’t actually so cute after all).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 10, 1935Popeye was heard for the first time on NBC radio.
  • September 10, 1993 — Fox TV first aired The X-Files.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1898 Bessie Love. In 1925, she starred in The Lost World based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She wouldn’t show up again in a genre film until 1963 when she was in Children of the Damned followed by being in Battle Beneath the Earth a few years a later and then having a small uncredited role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She’d be in Vampyres, Gulliver’s Travels and The Hunger to round her genre career. Vampyres btw is described as a “erotic/lesbian vampire horror film”, an apparent subgenre in the Seventies. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 67. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC.
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 66. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she co-wrote with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love.
  • Born September 10, 1953 Stuart Milligan, 66. He first shows up as Walters on the Sean Connery-led Outland and a few years later we see him as a Police Sergeant on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He’ll play Richard Nixon in Doctor Who for two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of The Moon”. 
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 64. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised for being founder along with AC Crispin for being founder of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Tara Ward, 60. She played Preston in the “Warriors of the Deep”, a Fifth Doctor story.  After Doctor Who, she shows up in one-offs in Star Cops and Dark Realm beforehaving a very minor role in the Justice League film.
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 60. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile.
  • Born September 10, 1968 Guy Ritchie, 51. Director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both of each I rather liked,  and the live-action Aladdin. He did also directed / wrote / produced the rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which got rather nice reviews to my surprise as well as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which apparently sucked. 

(9) BRADBURY HISTORY.  In this decade-old video, Roslyn Shapiro talks about Ray Bradbury’s writing group with her husband in the 1940’s.

(10) THE NO GOOD, VERY BAD… “The day the dinosaurs’ world fell apart” — lots of concrete details in this BBC article.

Scientists have a recording of the worst day on Earth; certainly the worst day in the last 66 million years.

It takes the form of a 130m section of rock drilled from under the Gulf of Mexico.

These are sediments that were laid down in the seconds to hours after a huge asteroid had slammed into the planet.

You’ll know the event we’re talking about – the one researchers now think was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammals.

The high-resolution account of this catastrophe was recovered by a UK/US-led team, who spent several weeks in 2016 drilling into what remains of the crater produced by the impact.

Today, this 200km-wide structure is positioned under Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, with its best preserved central portions sitting just offshore of the port of Chicxulub.

The team pulled up a great long core of rock but it’s a particular 130m-long section that essentially documents the first day of what geologists call the Cenozoic Era, or as some others like to refer to it: the Age of Mammals.

(11) INSPIRATION. BBC’s current affairs and entertainment channel Radio 4 presents a 25-minute ‘religious’ program, Beyond Belief. Yesterday’s episode focused on the implications for religion of the novel Frankenstein.

Ernie Rea in conversation with guests about the religious content in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, which is often lost in its interpretation on the big screen.

(12) LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION. “Polaroid’s newest gadget gives analog life to smartphone photos”. FastCompany says the device goes on sale October 10.

It’s a shiny, tightly framed snapshot of a couple of friends of mine, posing as we share a booth at a New York diner. It’s almost (but not quite) square, with a distinctive white border that’s thicker at the bottom than on the other sides.

As you may already have figured out, the item I am cradling in my hand is a Polaroid photo.

But unlike the hundreds—thousands?—of Polaroids I’ve shot in my life, this one began its life as a digital image. I took it with my Pixel 3 smartphone and then used a new gadget, the Polaroid Lab, to transfer it onto a piece of proudly analog Polaroid instant film, where it developed before my eyes in classic fashion.

… For the most part, I liked how my Polaroid-ized photos came out—but not because they were perfect replicas of the digital originals. They were soft rather than crisp, with a dreamy color palette and an element of surprise, since two copies of the same image don’t necessarily develop identically. The current Polaroid Originals film is the best it’s made since Impossible revived the format, but it still isn’t as consistent as Fujifilm’s Instax.

(13) UNDER THE RADAR. Smithsonian’s 2017 article shows Moose and Squirrel were the real subversives: “How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire”, not the villains.

…The Variety Show format enabled three things. First, its gloss of adult sophistication completely undercut by silliness was incredibly attractive to me and my sister.  Secondly, it got us to delight in the work of a revolving cast of top-notch, old school voice actors who’d grown up in radio and knew how to sell a line.  June Foray, for example, is the common thread that weaves together the everyman fast-talkers of Warner Brothers films (she voiced Granny and Witch Hazel for Looney Tunes), the pop culture and political satire of Stan Freberg, and the Cold War kiddie fare of “Bullwinkle” (as Rocky, Nell Fenwick, Natasha, and more).

“Fractured Fairy Tales” were narrated by veteran actor Edward Everett Horton, a Warner Bros. stable favorite, and featured Daws Butler (Elroy Jetson), a Stan Freberg comedy show veteran, along with Paul Frees and June Foray. Before giving voice to Dudley Do-Right’s nemesis Snidely Whiplash, Hans Conried was better known as Captain Hook in Disney’s “Peter Pan,” as well as for his years’ long yeoman’s work on radio mystery shows, “I Love Lucy,” and “Burns and Allen.”

Finally, the show’s format and depth of talent connected my sister and me to a world of comedy that was well before our time, but helped us navigate what came afterwards. Apart from Sesame Street and the Electric Company (whose cast was a gift to future Broadway lovers) the cartoon landscape during the 1970s was bleak. I don’t know what happened during the Summer of Love to cause formerly respectable shops like Hanna-Barbera to go from “Jonny Quest” to “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels,” but it can’t have been pretty.

(14) IN THE DOCKET. The New York Post reports the late author’s relatives are contesting ownership of a valuable Ellery Queen collection: “Late author’s stolen book collection found after hitting auction block: suit”.

The jig is up!

In a twist straight out of a pulpy page-turner, a son says he discovered his late mystery-novelist father’s signed books had been stolen — after seeing them go up for auction at Soetheby’s, according to a new lawsuit.

Upper West Sider Richard Dannay — son of detective-fiction author Frederic Dannay — claims 33 of his dad’s signed books were stolen by his step-mom Rose, passed to her son Terry Koppel and eventually given to Sotheby’s for auctioning, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed late Wednesday.

Richard says he didn’t even know the books existed until he got the brochure from the auction house on Nov. 18, 2016 which described the collection as “The Terry R. Koppel Collection of Ellery Queen,” the court papers say.

(15) CONFLICT OF INTEREST CONTINUES TO FUEL CONFLICT. Washington Post economics columnist Steven Pearlstein discusses the debate between writers v. agents in Hollywood, saying that showrunners ought to end their memberships in the Writers Guild of America so that they can be “honest brokers” who are neither writers of talent agencies and then can act as a check on talent agencies’ power. “Big agencies and studios have a lock on Hollywood. It’s high time to apply antitrust law”.

… Five months ago, with the backing of 95 percent of its members, the Guild instructed writers to fire their agents unless they agreed to limit themselves to making money the old-fashioned way — taking a 10 percent commission for every contract they negotiate. Some of the small and midsize agencies agreed. But the Big Four — William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency and ICM Partners, which together negotiate 75 percent of the writers income — refused. The big bone of contention: a decades-old industry practice known as “packaging.”

These days, four of five TV shows and movies are said to be “packaged,” meaning that a talent agency has put together a group of its clients — actors, directors, writers and other talent — to participate in a project. For this, they earn a packaging fee that, in television, is almost always 3 percent of what a network pays the studio to produce the show, or somewhere between $15,000 to $30,000 per episode. Although these package fees are paid by the studios out of the production budget, they substitute for the traditional 10 percent commissions that writers, actors and directors would otherwise be required to pay their agents. The agencies claim that packaging is saving writers $49 million a year in commissions. The writers contend that whatever they are saving in commission is more than offset by the lower salaries they earn when production budgets are squeezed to pay packaging fees to their agents.

… The five-month standoff has also caused a rift among the writers, some of whom are having second thoughts about the Guild’s hard-line strategy. With the quiet encouragement of the agencies, more than 500 guild members are backing a slate of dissidents running against the current leadership in an election that will be decided Sept. 16.

The dissidents — headed by top “showrunners” such as Greg Berlanti (“The Flash,” “Arrow”), Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”), Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing,” “Network”), John Wells (“ER,” “The West Wing”) and David Kelley (“Big Little Lies,” “Goliath”) propose to reopen talks in the hope of reaching a “reasonable” compromise with the agencies.

On Twitter, the dissidents have been called “scabs” and “shills,” while the current leadership is accused of waging a needless battle and weakening the Guild as it heads into more important negotiations next year on a new contract with the studios and networks….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “To Scale: The Solar System,” a 2015 video on YouTube, Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet travel to Nevada’s Blackrock Canyon to build a scale model of the solar system so large that Neptune’s orbit is seven miles in diameter.

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

2019 Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist

The finalists for the 33rd Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature were released on May 7.

Tom Hunter, Award Director, commented:

Our 6 shortlisted titles were selected from a record-breaking 124 eligible submissions, and as the imaginative breadth of SF publishing in the UK has grown so too has the challenge for our judges. With this shortlist they have successfully melded multiple definitions of the genre into a celebratory whole that both upholds the best traditions of science fiction literature and beckons us towards exhilarating new futures.

The finalists are:

  • Semiosis Sue Burke (HarperVoyager)
  •  Revenant Gun – Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad Ahmed Saadawi (Oneworld)
  • The Electric State – Simon Stålenhag (Simon and Schuster)
  • Rosewater – Tade Thompson (Orbit)
  • The Loosening Skin – Aliya Whiteley (Unsung Stories)

Andrew M. Butler, Chair of Judges, thanked the panel:

As always, the jury have given us a snapshot of the best sf: cyberpunk, military space opera, first contact, dystopian America, fantastical Britain and war-torn Iraq. The judges have really done us proud, but I can see it’s going to be a tough final decision.

The members of the judging panel were:

  • Kris Black, British Science Fiction Association
  • Andrew Wallace, British Science Fiction Association
  • Dr Kari Maund, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Chris Pak, Science Fiction Foundation
  • Rhian Drinkwater, SCI-FI-LONDON film festival

The winner will be announced at a public award ceremony, held in partnership with Foyles Bookshop, Charing Cross Road, on Wednesday, July 17. Tickets on sale soon.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]