Pixel Scroll 2/26/21 Got My Mjolnir Working

(1) IF YOU LOVED THEM IN GOOD OMENS… A finalist for RadioTimes.com Awards 2021– TV Moment of the Year is Judi Dench slamming David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Staged, a British comedy series set during the COVID-19 pandemic and primarily made using video-conferencing technology.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen playing exaggerated versions of themselves (actors) in 2020 trying to get work is already hilarious, but add in Dame Judi Dench and you’ve got a work of art. Tennant and Sheen aren’t exactly enthusiastic about their new role in a play, and Dench is on hand to remind them they have said yes to a job so they should “stop f**king about” and “do the bloody job”. That’s them (and us) told.

The series premiered on BBC One last summer, and another eight-episode series was released January 4. The first series synopsis is —

David Tennant and Michael Sheen (playing themselves) were due to star in a production of Six Characters in Search of an Author in the West End. The pandemic has put paid to that, but their director (Simon Evans – also playing himself) is determined not to let the opportunity pass him by. He knows how big a chance this is for him and turns his attention to cajoling his stars into rehearsing over the internet. All they need to do is read the first scene, but throughout the series they come up against a multitude of oppositional forces: distraction, boredom, home-schooling and their own egos.

(2) THE MAN FROM UNCLES. Don Blyly is interviewed by Carz Nelson in “Down But Not Out: The Future of Uncle Hugo’s” at The Alley Newspaper.

…Deciding whether to reopen the stores won’t be easy. At 70 years young, many assumed owner Don Blyly would retire from retail business after the fire. Such assumptions are premature, however. It takes a lot of drive to start over from nothing, but Blyly seems to be equal to whatever tasks he sets himself.

…He admits that he has a knack for bouncing back from adversity, “I’ve noticed that I seem to have more resilience than most other people and I’ve wondered why. Partly it is stubbornness. Partly it is because the more of a track record you have at overcoming previous difficulties, the more confidence you have of overcoming the latest difficulty.”

Blyly says the city has a lot to answer for when it comes to the uprising, “Back in 2015 the Department of Justice made recommendations for reforming the Minneapolis Police, but the City Council has done nothing to implement those recommendations. The judge in the trial of Mohamed Noor for the murder of Justine Damond raised issues about problems with the Minneapolis Police that have never been addressed.” 

Since the uprising and subsequent looting, he’s concerned that many people think the area is too dangerous to visit, “About half of my sales were to people outside the I-495/ I-694 loop, and they are now scared to come to Minneapolis to spend their money. Customers in South Minneapolis told me that they would be scared to return to the Uncles if I rebuilt in the old location. The city is going to have to actually work on fixing the problems with the Minneapolis Police instead making ‘defunding’ speeches before people will feel comfortable about spending their money in Minneapolis again.”

(3) IT PAYS TO BE POSTHUMOUS. Julie Phillips, in “Born to Be Posthumous” at 4Columns, reviews Mark Dery’s Born To Be Posthumous:  The Eccentric Life And Mysterious Genius Of Edward Gorey.

By his mid-twenties, the artist and illustrator Edward Gorey had already settled on his signature look: long fur coat, jeans, canvas high-tops, rings on all his fingers, and the full beard of a Victorian intellectual. His enigmatic illustrations of equally fur-coated and Firbankian men in parlors, long-skirted women, and hollow-eyed, doomed children (in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, among other works) share his own gothic camp aesthetic. Among the obvious questions for a reader of Gorey’s biography are: Where in his psyche, or in the culture, did all those fey fainting ladies and ironic dead tots come from? And, not unrelatedly: Was Gorey gay?

…Gorey described himself as “undersexed” in a 1980 interview, and equivocated: “I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t. A lot of people would say that I wasn’t because I never do anything about it.” Did he reject a gay sexuality, or was his particular sexuality, perhaps asexuality, not yet on the menu? Dery isn’t out to judge, and encourages us instead to look at how Gorey’s arch imagery, flamboyant self-presentation, and “pantheon of canonically gay tastes” (ballet, Marlene Dietrich records, silent film) allow him to be read in the context of gay culture and history, whatever his praxis in bed…. 

(4) TOO MANY NOTES. Vox’s Aja Romano investigates a kerfuffle at Archive Of Our Own (AO3) about the issues of a million-word fanfic with 1,700 tags. “Sexy Times with Wangxian: The internet’s most beloved fanfiction site is undergoing a reckoning”.

… Since it first appeared in October 2019, “Sexy Times With Wangxian,” or STWW, has become notorious across AO3. That in itself is unusual, because most AO3 users stick to their own fandoms and don’t pay much attention to what’s happening in others. STWW belongs to the fandom for the wildly popular Chinese TV series The Untamed, and the “Wangxian” in the title refers to the ship name for the show’s beloved main romantic pairing. It’s a very long fanfic, over a million words, and contains more than 200 chapters of porn featuring The Untamed’s large cast in endless permutations and sexual scenarios.

All that, by itself, isn’t enough to make STWW remarkable — not on a website as wild and unpredictable as AO3. Yet the fic has become impossible for many AO3 users to ignore thanks to a unique quirk: Its author has linked it to more than 1,700 site tags (and counting).

A quick note about AO3’s tagging system: It is designed to let users tag creatively and freely. So you can add useful tags, like pairing labels and character names, but you can also toss in personalized tags for fun and creative expression, from “no beta readers we die like men” to “I wrote this at 4am on three bottles of Monster Energy and zero sleep don’t judge.”

The tagging system is in service of the site’s total permissiveness — you can write anything you want in tags. But for the site to function, tags still need to be useful for navigation. So AO3 has hordes of volunteers known as “tag wranglers” whose sole job is to sort through the massive number of fic tags on the site and decide which ones will actually help users find what they’re looking for.

Those tags are then made “canonical,” which means they’ll become universal tags that every user can sort through. They’ll also appear within a list of suggested tags as you type. If I start to type “hospital” while tagging a fic, AO3 will return canonical tag suggestions like “Alternate Universe — Hospital,” “Hospital Sex,” and “Hogwarts Hospital Wing.” That makes it easy to determine whether your fic fits tags the community is already using.

AO3’s tagging system is so organized and thorough that it has won widespread acclaim from fields like library science and internet infrastructure. But it still has its limits — and with more than 1,700 tags, “Sexy Times With Wangxian” has revealed what some of those limits look like — in some cases quite literally….

The tags are so numerous, they can’t fit into a single screenshot on a large monitor. Here’s a quick scroll through the entire thing…

(5) THEY’RE FEELING BETTER. Jen Chaney, in “No, They Weren’t Dead the Whole Time” at Vulture, has an oral history of the last episode of Lost, which reveals that showrunners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof had the ambiguous ending in mind the whole time and that the show was so important that the State of the Union in 2010 was moved because it conflicted with the final season opening episode.

…When the finale aired, it sparked divided responses (understatement) from fans. Some loved the emotional way in which Jack’s journey and that of his fellow survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 came to a close. Others were extremely vocally angry about not getting more direct answers to the show’s many questions. Still others came away from it all convinced that the castaways had been dead the whole time. (They were not dead. They really weren’t.)

What was semi-clear at the time and is even clearer now is that the broadcast of the Lost finale would mark the end of something else: the truly communal broadcast television experience. Subsequent finales would be major events (see HBO’s Game of Thrones) and even draw larger audiences (2019’s final Big Bang Theory attracted 18 million viewers, compared to the 13.5 million who tuned in for the Lost farewell). But nothing else since has felt so massively anticipated and so widely consumed in real time the way that the end of Lost, the Smoke Monster Super Bowl, did in 2010.

Vulture did extensive interviews with writers, cast, and crew members, who reflected on the development of “The End,” the making of the still hotly debated episode, and the cultural conversation it continues to generate. Because, yes, of course, we had to go back.

(6) AT HOME WITH SFF. Aidan Moher conducts a lively and revealing Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee, Brian Staveley, Kate Elliott, Aliette de Bodard in “Blood Matters: Growing Up in an SF/F House” at Uncanny Magazine.

…An appreciation for speculative fiction isn’t always handed down from within a family. Sometimes it grows on its own, or is introduced by a friend or a teacher. Or a child is uninterested, despite their parents’ best efforts to sway them to the side of elves and proton cannons. I recently reached out to several writers to ask them about their experience growing up, their parents’ relationship to speculative fiction, and the impact that parenthood has had on them as writers….

…There are also emotional sacrifices that come along with parenthood. After the birth of her first child, de Bodard’s tolerance for stories featuring child abuse or endangerment “went from weak to zero” immediately. “I had to put off reading a book I was much looking forward to because I couldn’t get past the violence against a child.” As the father of a daughter, I’ve had a similar experience to de Bodard, and have also become even more aware of and angered by the pervasive sexism that continues to plague speculative fiction and fandom.

Personal writing of any sort reveals layers to a person that even their close friends and loved ones might not recognize. My wife often finds it odd to read my writing—not because of the subject matter, but because it’s told in a voice that doesn’t sound familiar to her ear.

“My children have all read at least some of my writing,” said Elliott. “I often consult them about plot, character, and world–building because I like to hear their feedback, because they know me so well, and because they have fascinating and deep imaginations. They are probably my most valuable writing resource, with my cherished writer and reader friends a close second.”…

(7) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the opportunity to “Savor Stan Lee’s favorite sandwich with comics writer Jo Duffy” in episode 139 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jo Duffy

My old Marvel Bullpen pal Jo Duffy had a lengthy, celebrated run back then on Power Man and Iron Fist, where she also wrote Conan the BarbarianFallen AngelsStar Wars, and Wolverine. She also wrote Catwoman for DC and Glory for Rob Liefeld’s Extreme Studios imprint of Image Comics. Additionally, she worked on the screenplays for the horror films Puppet Master 4 and Puppet Master 5.

We discussed why she knows what Superman will look like when he’s 100, the many reasons our kid selves both thought Marvel had D.C. beat, the genius of Marie Severin, how I may have inadvertently been responsible for her getting a job as an Assistant Editor in the Marvel Bullpen, what it was like to work with Steve Ditko, the firing she still feels guilty about 40 years later, how she approached the challenge of writing Power Man and Iron Fist, the letter she wrote to Stan Lee after the death of Jack Kirby, the two-year-long Star Wars story arc she was forced to squeeze into a few issues, the best writing advice she ever got, and much more.

(8) FIRST THERE IS NO MOUNTAIN, THEN THERE IS. Sarah Gailey, in “Building Beyond: Move Mountains” at Stone Soup, gets an assist from Alex Acks and nonwriter Kacie Winterberg to illustrate how easy a particular facet of sff creation can be:

Building Beyond is an ongoing series about accessible worldbuilding. Building a world doesn’t have to be hard or scary — or even purposeful. Anyone can do it. To prove that, let’s talk to both a writer and a non-writer about a worldbuilding prompt.

How do you go about communicating with a mountain to prevent it from pursuing its ambition of becoming a volcano?

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 26, 1977 — On this day in 1977, Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, considered the most popular of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not-so-accidental take off of Fu Manchu. Cat Eldridge reviewed the episode at A Green Man Review. You can watch the first part online here with links to the rest of the story there as well. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 26, 1874 – Katherine Cameron.  Member, Glasgow Society of Lady Artists (Women Artists after 1975).  A dozen illustrated books for us.  This is in Stories from the Ballads (M. Macgregor, 1906).  Here are Snowdrop and the Seven Dwarfs.  Here is Celtic Tales.  Here is Undine.  This is in The Enchanted Land.  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1916 – Clifford Geary.  A dozen covers, two dozen interiors for us; many others.  Noteworthy in particular for illustrating Heinlein’s “juveniles”.  Here is a frontispiece for Starman Jones.  Here is an interior for Between Planets.  This is in Space Cadet.  Here is one from outside our field.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1918 Theodore Sturgeon. I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six genre novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 Marta Kristen, 76. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in  the original Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and  Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1945 – Alex Eisenstein, age 76; 1946 – Phyllis Eisenstein (Died 2020).  Active fannish couple; P also an active pro, a dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories with A collaborating on half a dozen; so far as I know The City in Stone, completed, remains unpublished.  AE co-edited Trumpet.  Here is his cover for More Issues at Hand.  PE was Guest of Honor at Windycon XXX, Capricon 26, ConQuesT 38; a soft-sculpture of her was part of the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  AE, a noted SF art collector, has organized many displays including that Chicon.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1948 Sharyn McCrumb, 73. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements.  If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended.  Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print and available from the usual suspects which is interesting as I know she took them out of print for awhile. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1952 – Bob Devney, F.N., age 69.  Eight-time finalist for Best Fanwriter.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lover of SF movies – some of them, anyway.  When I remarked to him I hadn’t seen The Devniad in a while, he muttered something about Twitter; but quite possibly he still hasn’t recovered from Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, where he worked very hard, as I saw and maybe you did too.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1957 – John Jude Palencar, age 64.  A hundred ninety covers, five dozen  interiors.  Artbook Origins.  Here is Rhinegold.  Here is Kushiel’s Avatar.  Here is The Dark Line.  Here is Mind of My Mind.  This picture led to The Palencar Project – David Hartwell did such things.  Five Chesleys.  American Water Color Society Gold Medal.  Hamilton King Award.  Spectrum Grand Master.  Also National GeographicSmithsonianTime.  [JH]
  • Born February 26, 1963 Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on  Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had any lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current carnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series there features here as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material including photos of her puts it. (CE) 
  • Born February 26, 1965 Liz Williams, 56. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic city Singapore Three, its favorite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with an actual Chinese-derived Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read. (CE)
  • Born February 26, 1968 – Lynne Hansen, age 53.  Half a dozen novels, ten dozen covers.  Here is Strangewood.  Here is Things That Never Happened (hello, Scott Edelman).  Here is A Complex Accident of Life.  Here is The High Strangeness of Lorelei Jones.  [JH]

(11) COATES TO SCRIPT SUPERMAN MOVIE. Trey Mangum, in “Ta-Nehisi Coates To Write Upcoming Superman Film From DC And Warner Bros.” on Shadow and Act, says Coates will write a script for a Superman movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot, but with no director or stars attached at this time.

…We’re hearing that no director is attached as of yet and plot details remain under wraps. Additionally, the search for an actor to play Kal-El / Superman hasn’t started yet.

“To be invited into the DC Extended Universe by Warner Bros., DC Films and Bad Robot is an honor,” said Coates in a statement received only by Shadow and Act. “I look forward to meaningfully adding to the legacy of America’s most iconic mythic hero.”

“There is a new, powerful and moving Superman story yet to be told. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with the brilliant Mr. Coates to help bring that story to the big screen, and we’re beyond thankful to the team at Warner Bros. for the opportunity,” said J.J. Abrams in the statement to S&A.

“Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me opened a window and changed the way many of us see the world,” added Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group. “We’re confident that his take on Superman will give fans a new and exciting way to see the Man of Steel.”

(12) SANS RIDES ET SANS REPROCHE. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara finds this is a rhetorical question: “Is Disney California Adventure, with no rides, worth $75?”

…If you think Disney’s recent announcement that it will soon be charging $75 a head for the thrill of wandering around California Adventure to buy and eat things while admiring the entrances to still-closed rides is nuts, I am here to tell you that it is not.

At least not if my recent visit to Downtown Disney and Buena Vista Street is any indication.

…It was absolutely clear right away. Desperate for even the faintest tang of the Disney experience, thousands of us apparently are quite willing to settle for the elements of the Disney experience we normally complain about the most: waiting in line, overpriced food and the siren call of way too much Disney merch.

Late on a recent Wednesday afternoon, it was a 45-minute wait simply to enter the Downtown Disney area, 50 if you count the five-minute walk from the car, which cost 10 bucks to park.

To be fair, the line that snaked through an entire parking lot could be construed, at least in these coronavirus-plagued times, as a Disney experience in and of itself. The now-ubiquitous six-feet-apart marks created a socially distant conga line that involved far more walking than standing: “Well, we’re getting our steps in,” one of my daughters remarked.

…As the sun set over the Simba parking lot and our group advanced through the temperature-taking station and the bag-check station, then past a police presence prominent enough to make any mask-shirker think twice, one could at least imagine a world returning to something approaching normal.

Listen to the piped-in music! Yes, once upon a time it did indeed drive some of us insane. But now, after a yearlong lifetime of home-office work — concentration broken on an hourly basis by the maddening syncopated roar of leaf blowers and brain-drilling hum of the neighbors’ home improvement project — all those Disney tunes fell around us like the singing of a heavenly host….

(13) MARTINE’S SEQUEL. In a review at Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere makes the book sound irresistible: “A Desolation Called Peace: Wonderfully rich and nuanced”,

…Beyond the plot reasons, I loved that it was more a cultural conflict because that concept is at the heart of this duology: the way the Empire doesn’t simply conquer via its military but swamps others with its pervasive, relentless, invasive cultural tentacles (hmm, sound familiar?), the way the question of “who counts as human” (or more broadly, who can be considered a person) runs throughout the Empire on a macro level, and throughout the relationship between Mahit and Three Seagrass on a micro level.

… It’s impossible to read these moments and not relate them to everyday existence for those forced to swim in the sea of a majority culture. This fraught tension is made all the richer for how Martine portrays (realistically) how seductive such cultural power is even for those it threatens to swamp, like falling in love with the waves that are trying to drown you. And then it gets under the skin and into the brain so it becomes almost second nature: “Mahit laughed, a raw sound … She couldn’t do it all. She thought in Teixcalaanli, in imperial-style metaphor and overdetermination. She’d had this whole conversation in their language.”

(14) HARD TIME. Will it be at least seven more years before Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has something good to say about the monthly issue of Analog? “[February 26, 1966] Such promise (March 1966 Analog)”.

… It all came down to this month’s Analog.  If it were superb, as it was last month, then we’d have a clean sweep across eight periodicals.  If it flopped, as it often does, the streak would be broken.

As it turns out, neither eventuality quite came to pass.  Indeed, the March 1966 Analog is sort of a microcosm of the month itself — starting out with a bang and faltering before the finish….

(15) FROM BROADWAY TO BROADBAND. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 19 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews “online interactive theatre shows” which try to capture some of the spontaneity of live theatre.

Collaboration is key to success with all these show: the quicker an audience learns to share tasks, the better.  In Sherlock In Homes:  Murder At The Circus (from the Wardrobe Theatre and Sharp Teeth Theatre), this turns out to be a group of small girls from Wales with a formidable line in questioning,  (The same companies have also created Sherlock In Homes 2:  Murder On Ice.)

Another Sherlock-inspired show, Murder At The Circus is a droll, family-friendly affair, low on tech high in audience-actor interaction. Sherlock is missing (again), leaving behind a rum case involving a dead circus clown and a plate of potted meat.  We, the impromptu detectives, must quiz a line-up of dubious suspects with names like Glenda Flex (acrobat) and Rory McPride (lion tamer), all of whom are adept at juggling the truth.

After several rounds of unfocused interrogation from our team, the Welsh 10-year-olds spring into action. “Where were you location-wise when you were kissing?’ demands one, sternly, of a particularly evasive character,  It would take a hardened criminal not to crack.”

The websites for this are sharpteeththeatre.orgthewardrobetheatre.com, and sherlockimmersive.com.

(16) MALZBERG ON PKD. A year ago on the DickHeads Podcast: “Interview #12 – Barry Malzberg – Malzberg Spectacular Part 1”.

David must have done something right because author Barry Malzberg was willing to sit down for a lengthy phone conversation with him. In this interview, Barry leads David through his experiences with multiple authors including PKD, the in’s and out’s of the publishing industry of the 60s and 70s, and more. Also, don’t forget to check out part 2 of our Barry Malzberg Spectacular where author James Reich joins David in an in-depth look at the award-winning novel Beyond Apollo, which garnered the first ever John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

(17) POTATO HEAD, THE MORNING AFTER. The London Economic has an entertaining collection of tweets about yesterday’s kerfuffle: “Best reactions as usual mouthpieces are foaming over a genderless Potato Head”. Here are a few —

When it was all over but the shouting, Reason’s Robby Soave announced:  “Mr. Potato Head will remain the strong, masculine figure he always was.”

(18) IN MELODY YET GREEN. The Washington Post’s Tim Carman reviews Lady Gaga Oreos. They’re pink! (With green filling!) “Lady Gaga Oreos are an extra-sweet mystery wrapped in an enigmatic pink wafer”.

…One of the promotions tied to Gaga’s cookies is a Sing It with Oreo feature. You can make personal recordings, transform them into “musical messages of kindness” and send them to folks you love and support. The pink foil packaging for Gaga Oreos features a QR code, which provides instant access to the recording function. You probably have to give up countless pieces of personal information in the process, but go ahead, “Just sing from the heart, and make someone’s day a little brighter.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/21 Good Science Fiction Predicts The Pixel. Great Science Fiction Extrapolates To The Scroll

(1) COGITO ECO SUM. In “Jeff VanderMeer Talks Noir, Suspense, and His New Eco-Thriller With Meg Gardiner” at CrimeReads Gardiner interviews VanderMeer about his new novel Hummingbird Salamander, which he says is a thriller set “ten minutes into the future.”

MG: You’re known as a speculative fiction writer—science fiction, fantasy, the weird. Hummingbird Salamander, though, is grounded in the present day-ish world. It doesn’t include supernatural elements. It does contain plenty of suspense and action, and draws us into mysteries that revolve around traumatic loss—of family, ecologies, maybe the world. How do you describe this book? 

JV: That’s true, but at the same time the Southern Reach trilogy, for example, was set in the real world and the real challenge there was character relationships, how to unfold the mystery—all of the usual stuff in non-speculative books. So I see the “weird” element in Hummingbird Salamander as being about how dysfunctional and strange our reality has become. Sometimes I describe the novel as a thriller-mystery set ten seconds into the future, or as traveling through our present into the near future. Readers should expect a lot of the dark absurdity and environmental themes as well as the usual thing—that I tend to write “messy” protagonists who don’t easily fit into the world around them. The fact is, our reality with its conspiracy paranoia and all the rest tends to affect our fiction, too. So that the present-day is science fiction.

(2) BAFTA GOTY NOMINEES. The BAFTA EE Game of the Year Award Nominees 2021 have been released. The EE Game of the Year Award is the only category at this year’s British Academy Games Awards voted for by the public. This new award recognizes the fans’ favorite game from the past year. These are the nominees:

(3) FOUR CENTURIES OF YOLEN. “’Owl Moon’ author Jane Yolen looks back at 400 books”. The article is behind a Boston Globe paywall, but what the heck, let’s celebrate!

Her 400th publishes March 2 — and she’s got 30 more in the works

By Lauren Daley Globe Correspondent

(4) BY NO MEANS THE LAST. Peter White, in “’Avatar: The Last Airbender’ To Expand With Launch Of Avatar Studios” at Deadline, says Nickelodeon is launching Avatar Studios to produce a lot of animated content following the continuing success of Avatar:  The Last Airbender.

Nickelodeon is launching Avatar Studios, a division designed to create original content spanning animated series and movies based on the franchise’s world….

Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender, which follows the adventures of the main protagonist Aang and his friends, who must save the world by defeating Fire Lord Ozai and ending the destructive war with the Fire Nation, aired for three seasons between 2005 and 2008.It was followed by The Legend of Korra, which launched on Nickelodeon in 2012 and ran for four seasons.

The property has subsequently been translated into a ongoing graphic novel series written by TV series co-creator DiMartino, a live-action feature film starring Dev Patel and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and Netflix is making a live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender series, albeit without the involvement of Dante DiMartino and Konietzko. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra have grown at least ten-fold in popularity since their original hit runs on Nickelodeon…” said Brian Robbins, President, ViacomCBS Kids & Family.

(5) MONOPOLY MONEY. The New York Times contemplates “What Happens When a Publisher Becomes a Megapublisher?”

…Perhaps the industry’s biggest concern about the merger, especially among agents and authors, is what it will mean for book deals. An agent representing a promising author or buzzworthy book often hopes to auction it to the highest bidder. If there are fewer buyers, will it be harder for agents to get an auction going for their clients, and ultimately, will it be harder for authors to get an advantageous deal?

Penguin Random House operates about 95 imprints in the United States, like Vintage Books, Crown Publishing Group and Viking, and these imprints are allowed to bid against one another, as long as another publisher is bidding as well. If the third party drops out, the bidding stops, and the author selects an imprint from within Penguin Random House in what the industry likes to call a “beauty contest.”

A spokeswoman for Penguin Random House said the practice of allowing imprints to compete would continue but that it was too early to say whether Simon & Schuster and its imprints would still count as a third party. Some publishers only offer house bids and do not allow internal competition….

Booksellers are concerned, too:

Penguin Random House has worked closely with independent booksellers during the pandemic, offering flexible or deferred payments to help them through such a challenging year. Still, some are anxious about narrowing competition in a world where their choices are already constricted. Gayle Shanks, one of the owners of Changing Hands bookstores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., said that while Penguin Random House has been supportive of independent bookstores, she worries that with fewer big publishers to work with, she’ll have less leverage and opportunity to negotiate.

(6) ROBOCOP STATUE. Its kneecaps alone weigh 25 pounds apiece! “A decade later, Detroit’s crowdfunded RoboCop statue is finally complete — but still awaiting a final home” reports the Detroit Metro Times. “The statue, in the coming weeks, will be moved into storage, awaiting its new home — though it will no longer be the Michigan Science Center.”

…10 years ago this month, some wag tweeted at Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that Detroit needed a statue of RoboCop. The reason: Philadelphia had a statue of Rocky, and RoboCop “would kick Rocky’s butt.”

The post lit up social networking, prompting the creation of a fan page blaring “Detroit Needs a RoboCop Statue.” It gave hundreds of people something to like, to laugh about, or even to scorn.

“Within 24 hours, it went viral,” Walley says. “And I don’t remember whether I called Jerry or Jerry called me, but a light bulb went off. We were like, ‘Whoa, we could really create a big buzz and gain a lot of attention for what we’re doing. We might be able to take it to the next level!”

Their instincts hit instant pay dirt: Within three days, their crowdfunding appeal for funding a statue of RoboCop had raised more than $17,000 from more than 900 backers worldwide. Heck, soon Funny or Die released a video of RoboCop lead actor Peter Weller riffing on the project. By the time the funding drive was over six weeks later, more than 2,700 backers had pledged more than $65,000.

…On the east side of Detroit, in a small cinderblock building across the road from a major auto parts supplier, work continues on the RoboCop statue. On this chilly winter afternoon, Venus Bronze Works honcho Giorgio Gikas is busy coaching his crew through final assembly at his shop.

Gikas is the very picture of a European metalworker. Stocky and stout, and adorned with tattoos, he wears his hair short on the sides and back, long on top, pulled back into a ponytail. He speaks in an accented, raspy voice in Hemingway sentences that pull no punches. Mention a Detroit art name to him and he’ll give you his honest estimation — without the sugar on top. Gikas has a right to his opinion — he is the only outdoor sculpture conservator in Michigan who does museum-quality work.

The sixtysomething has been working on RoboCop for six or seven years, including the time he spent fighting colon cancer. The malignancy left him in bed for a year and a half, in no condition to do anything.

“I’m clean now, got everything taken care of,” he says, then looks over at the statue and adds, “and it’s still here.”…

(7) PEOPLE OF THE (FUTURISTIC) BOOK. Next Thursday, March 4 at 7:00 ET, Michael A. Burstein, Valerie Frankel, and Steven H Silver will be discussing “What it means when we say something is Jewish Science Fiction” as part of the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s programming in support of their Jews in Space Exhibit.  More information and the registration page can be found at “People of the (Futuristic) Book”.  Ticket prices are free, $5, $25, or $50.

(8) TREK + TREK = PARAMOUNT PLUS. “Paramount+ Releases Expanding Star Trek Universe Sizzle Reel”Comicbook.com sets the frame.

When Paramount+ launches on March 4th, it will become the streaming home of every classic Star Trek series in its entirety — Star Trek: The Original SeriesStar Trek: The Animated SeriesStar Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise — plus the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery and the first season of Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks. Each of those newer series will return for more episodes. Discovery spinoff Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is in production and Kurtzman has said that he has years of new Star Trek planned….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years or so of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1976.) (CE)
  • Born February 25, 1917 – Rex Gordon.  Nine novels for us, a dozen others, some under other names.  Radio operator on passenger and merchant ships during World War II; one was sunk.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born February 25, 1930 – Frank Denton, age 91.  His fanzine Ash-Wing drew Grant Canfield, Terry Jeeves, Andy Porter, Lisa Tuttle; here is AW 14 (Jim Garrison cover).  Co-founder of Slanapa.  Fan Guest of Honor at MileHiCon 6, Westercon 30, MosCon II, Rustycon 7.  The Great Haiku Shoot-Out with Mike Horvat.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1943 – Jean Weber, age 78.  Of the twenty-year fanzine WeberWoman’s Wrevenge.  GUFF delegate (Get Up and over Fan Fund when northbound, Going Under Fan Fund southbound) with Eric Lindsay, published Jean and Eric ’Avalook at the U.K. (this link might let you download a PDF).  Guest of Honour at Circulation IV.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1949 – Wiktor Bukato, age 72.  Author, publisher, translator of Anderson, Clarke, Ellison, Sturgeon, Weinbaum, White.  Here is Science Fiction Art (sztuka is art in Polish).  Three Silesian Fantasy Club Awards as Publisher of the Year.  Co-ordinator of Eurocon 1991.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1957 Tanya Huff, 64. Her now-concluded Confederation of Valor Universe series is highly recommended by me though it’s probably not quite good enough to a Hugo worthy series.  And I also give a strong recommendation to her Gale Family series which might be. I’ve not read her other series, so I’ll ask y’all what you’d recommend. (CE)
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 53. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short since the Eighties. Their first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but they now have five novels published with the latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Their story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1970 – Robert Price, age 51.  Learned Cantonese as a teenager, got a Chinese Studies M.A. in Germany, wrote Space to Create in Chinese SFhere is his cover; here is a 2017 interview.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1984 – Susan Dennard, age 37.  Studied marine biology around the world, but forwent a Ph.D. to write.  Half a dozen novels (two of them NY Times Best-Sellers), two novellas.  After marrying a Frenchman, settled in the U.S. Midwest; two dogs named Asimov and Princess Leia, two cats.  Likes karate and gluten-free cookies.  [JH]
  • Born February 25, 1985 Talulah Riley, 36. Miss Evangelista in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, two most excellent Tenth Doctor stories. She also portrays Angela in the Westworld series, and she shows up in Thor: The Dark World as an Asgardian nurse. And she’s Gina Gartison in Bloodshot, the Van Diesel fronted Valiant Comics superhero film.  Anyone seen the latter? (CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shares advice from an Avenger.

(11) OCEAN’S ARMY. Netflix dropped a trailer for Army of the Dead, a Zack Snyder movie about zombies smashing Las Vegas.

Following a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas, a group of mercenaries take the ultimate gamble, venturing into the quarantine zone to pull off the greatest heist ever attempted.

(12) TODAY’S THING NOT TO WORRY ABOUT. Did you hear about the controversy over whether Hasbro is “cancelling” Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head and replacing them with unisex Potato Head? Hasbro says this isn’t happening and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head will continue as separate characters.

(13) BRUNNER IN PERSPECTIVE. “Paul Di Filippo Reviews The Society of Time by John Brunner” at Locus Online includes an interesting overview of Brunner’s career.

… But on the other hand, now that we have passed the 25th anniversary of his death, the personal details of his life—the mortal horrors and human mundanities—recede somewhat from the foreground of his biography, and the mountain ranges of his books remain. Thus it is with every writer, great and small, in their posthumous days. And so we can now see that Brunner’s life was, using this perspective, consequential and victorious, not an unmodified tragedy at all. He left monuments. For one brief span—from 1968’s Stand on Zanzibar to 1975’s The Shockwave Rider—Brunner was on fire, tapped into the zeitgeist and channeling his speculations into brilliant novels that remain eerily prophetic and impactful today. If you read The Sheep Look Up (1972) in 2021, you’ll think it’s a newly written post-mortem on our current sad state of affairs….

(14) IT WAS MIDNIGHT ON THE SEA. In “More Than a Hundred Years Later, the Sinking of the Titanic Still Matters” on CrimeReads, sf author Alma Katsu discusses her new novel The Deep, her take on the Titanic disaster.

…As the Titanic goes to show, it is easy for humans to cling to denial when faced with existential threats like spiraling poverty and consolidation of power by elites. How does one prepare for doomsday? Is it so unexpected that many would prefer to believe the lies and would refuse to see the iceberg until chunks of it came crashing onto the deck?

(15) BOG STANDARD. This Mental Floss post certainly lives up to its title: “11 Incredible Things Found in Bogs”.

2. FRANKENSTEIN BODIES

Archaeologists know that prehistoric people knew about bogs’ preserving properties not just because of the butter, but also because of a pair of extremely cool—and extremely weird—skeletons known as the Cladh Hallan bodies. Found beneath the floor of a house in a small village in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, these two bodies were buried sometime around the year 1000 BCE. It wasn’t unusual for ancient people to bury their ancestors beneath their homes. What was odd, however, was the fact that the bodies were hundreds of years older than the house itself. The island’s early inhabitants had mummified the corpses by stashing them in a bog for several months before burying them in their new location.

It gets even weirder. On closer examination, archaeologists discovered that each skeleton was a mishmash of bones from three different individuals, making a total of six bodies. The matching was done so well, it only turned up during a DNA test.

(16) THE NEXT GENERATION. Satirical news site The Onion offers up this gem: “NASA Welcomes Litter Of Mars Rovers After Successful Breeding Of Perseverance, Curiosity”. They write:

It will be months before these little guys can open up their image sensors and begin rolling around on their own, but once they do, their mother will teach them how to collect samples and analyze soil composition.

(17) JUST A LITTLE CAT MAP. The Budget Direct insurance website is attracting clicks with its feature “Cats vs. Dogs: Which Does the World Prefer?” – their map of the results is here.

…Country-for-country, the cats have it. We found 91 countries with more cat posts than dog posts on Instagram, and just 76 the other way around. Cat-lover territory includes the huge territories of Canada (52.3% of cat or dog photos are cats), China (88.2% cats), and Russia (64% cats).

The dogs take more continents, though. Dog posts outweigh cat posts across North and South America, Oceania, and Africa, while the cats take just Europe and Asia. The most fervently dog-loving city is Morpeth in North East England. Morpeth has the highest number of dog posts among the 58 cities that are 100% pro-dog. Hoofddorp in the west of the Netherlands is the most emphatically pro-cat city.

(18) THROWBACK THURSDAY. In case you thought the TV show had an original story.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/19/21 Why, I Sweep My Scroll With A Geiger Counter Every Day, And Nary A Pixel!

(1) DISCON III REACTIONS. Today’s decision by the 2021 Worldcon committee to remove Toni Weisskopf as a GoH (“DisCon III Removes Weisskopf as a Guest of Honor”) is being widely discussed.

Toni Weisskopf posted a concise response on Facebook.

The committee of Discon III approached me this week to discuss the allegations about Baen’s Bar that were posted at Patreon. Baen is conducting a thorough investigation, which we feel we cannot rush, and has taken down the Bar while we conduct the investigation.

I do understand the immediate appeal of Discon III wishing to act quickly to respond to their community. Today they informed me of their official decision to remove me as their Editor Guest of Honor.

While I strongly disagree with the committee’s decision, I will regretfully accede to their wishes.

These excerpts for the Scroll are primarily by authors who condemned the decision (except for the final one).

David Weber responded on Facebook.

So Toni Weisskopf has been formally disinvited by WorldCon and DisCon. Can’t say it was a surprise. I will however remind people of the personal policy I adopted years ago and reiterated in the case of ConCarolina and John Ringo. I will not attend a con which has disinvited a guest. You are always free to invite —or not—anyone you like. Any con which disinvites someone after the invitation has been issued and accepted, especially when they do so under pressure, however, does not deserve to be trusted by future guests.

He said more in the comments on his post, including —

Bob Eggleton made this comment —

Chuck Gannon also made a comment on Weber’s post, repeating one of his quotes linked here yesterday and extending it as follows:

…So Toni Weisskopf activated the most proactive, realistic option available to her: she closed the Bar, thereby ending any possibility that it might do further ostensible injury.

36 hours later, however, she was disinvited without any additional cause.

You will note, however, that no one asserted that she did not respond quickly enough. In fact, in disinviting her, there were no further/new discoveries added to those put forth in Mr. Sanford’s essay.

So what had changed? If the concom believes that 36 hours is enough time for her to resolve the matter completely, I once again point out that

a) any business person operating in the real world would *know* that is not enough time to conduct anything like a thorough review

b) in order to ensure that what Mr. Sanford reported could not expand or remain as a potential threat, SHE CLOSED THE WHOLE BAR DOWN.

If she had meant to stonewall, or not actually investigate the matter, she would not have taken the step of closing the Bar.

Do I repeat myself in this post? Assuredly so . . . because these are salient points which are being repeatedly, perhaps purposively, overlooked.

For anyone familiar with the musical Hamilton, cue “The Room Where It Happened” as we ponder “so what changed in 36 hours?”

Larry Correia shames the SMoFs in “An Open Letter To The Old Time Fans at WorldCon” [Internet Archive link].

…Then several years later, after the old controversy I caused had died off and most of us barbaric outsiders had said screw cheesy WorldCon and moved on with our lives, some of you still felt guilty for how you’d treated Toni, so you extended an olive branch. You offered her the Guest of Honor spot at your little convention. How nice. How fucking magnanimous.

Toni, being a far better human being than any of you could ever aspire to be, thought the offer over. She knew there was risks. She knew that she’d take heat from people on the right (and she has). Morons on my side of the political would call her a sell-out, quisling, traitor, boot licker, so on and so forth, and they did. She got attacked by the useless grifters on both sides, looking for hate clicks. But unlike you, Toni ignores the baying mob and always does what she thinks is the right thing to do.  She looked at your peace offering, and said fine, If you want to try and mend fences, okay, I’ll take the heat, I’ll be your guest of honor. She was the bigger person.

She talked to me about her decision. I told her I understood, I wouldn’t do it, but I respected her call, but that she’d surely get yelled at by the idiots on both sides. She already knew, but she thought it was the right thing to do anyway. Because unlike you, Toni actually has a moral compass. Your moral compass is a windsock. Her one mistake in all this was assuming that any of you old time Smofs would have a spine….

A very large number of people today are reaching for rhetorical flourishes to complain about what happened. RS Benedict made this connection. (If you don’t recognize Isabel Fall’s name, run a search here. Also let it be noted that Weisskopf has been removed as GoH, not banned from attending.)

Mike VanHelder, an experienced conrunner, tried to understand the decision from a convention running perspective. As part of that he wrote this How It Should Have Ended scenario, in addition to other insights. Thread starts here.

(2) NO ONE TO FOLLOW. While we’re at it, let WIRED’s Angela Wattercutter tell you about “The Crushing Disappointment of Fandom”.

…When we really, truly admire someone, whether they’re an Avenger or Anthony Fauci, there’s a tendency to mimic their personality, even their morality. Media theorists call these bonds “parasocial relationships”; parents of kids with one too many Star Wars posters (probably) call it “over the top.” But the people in it, the ones who write fic and spend days making cosplay before the next convention, call it part of their identity, the fabric of who they are.

Until it’s not. Earlier this week, actress Gina Carano lost her job playing Cara Dune on The Mandalorian. The former MMA fighter had been facing criticism for months for her anti-science views on mask-wearing, mocking transgender-sensitive pronouns, and tweets about voter fraud. Then, on Wednesday, after she shared an Instagram story that suggested having differing political views was akin to being Jewish during the Holocaust, the hashtag #FireGinaCarano began to trend on Twitter. That night, Lucasfilm issued the following statement: “Gina Carano is not currently employed by Lucasfilm and there are no plans for her to be in the future. Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Carano’s comments are harmful for a lot of reasons, but they seem to carry an additional weight for fans. Cara Dune was a hero, someone who fought for people, a tough, competent female warrior in a genre often dominated by men. Fans looked up to Cara, and by extension Carano, but the actor’s comments on social media left one of those things harder to do….

(3) BY POPULAR DEMAND. The UK’s Daily Mail proclaims: “WandaVision: Fans CRASH Disney+ to stream latest episode”.

Viewers of WandaVision crashed Disney+ on Friday morning as the latest installment dropped on the streaming service.

There was a brief 10-minute outage in the early hours of Friday as episode seven of the Marvel Cinematic Universe-based series was made available, PEOPLE reports.

Fans expressed their frustration on social media after experiencing issues as they signed on in droves to catch the latest installment of Wanda and Vision’s Westview adventures.

(4) RECOVERED. Claire O’Dell has released a second edition of her award-winning River of Souls trilogy with new covers and updated text: River of Souls Series. The author blogged about the books here.

…Once Tor returned the rights to me, I decided to release a second edition, with new covers and updated text. I commissioned new artwork from the amazing Jessica Shirley. I badgered my long-suffering spouse into designing new covers. And I spent several months editing and proofreading the manuscripts. The e-books are now available at my on-line bookstore (here), individually or as a bundle, and will appear at all the usual vendor sites later this week….

(5) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. James Davis Nicoll helps us keep these two things straight: “Five SF Works Featuring Dyson Shells (and Not Dyson Swarms)” at Tor.com.

…There are at least two kinds of Dyson Sphere. The first—the one Dyson intended—is made up of a myriad of independently orbiting objects. While this presents an interesting traffic control challenge, the Dyson Swarm has the advantage that not only can it be built incrementally over a very long period, but the components are gravitationally coupled to the star in question.

The second option is a solid shell with the star in the middle….

Here’s one of James’ picks:

“Back to Myan” by Regina Kanyu Wang (2017)

Retrieved by the Union from certain extinction on the ice-encrusted world Myan, Kaya is somewhat less than entirely grateful. After all, the reason Myan was freezing in the first place was Project Saion, the Union’s vast energy-gathering structure blocking Myan from its star, Saion. While the Union did belatedly notice the Myan natives and rescue them, this didn’t come to pass until 997 out of every 1000 of Kaya’s species had perished in the cold. Still, the Union is very, very powerful, while the handful of Myans are not. There is nothing Kaya can do to save her home world. At least, that’s what the Union believes…

(6) GREG BEAR INTERVIEWED. Frank Catalano, who was SFWA Secretary back when Greg Bear was SFWA President, pointed out a good profile of Greg Bear in the Seattle Times today, including his thinking that his newest novel may be his last one, and the trouble he had in finding a publisher for it: “Lynnwood’s Greg Bear, stalwart of modern science fiction, starts writing his life story”.

The 69-year-old Lynnwood-based author and first-class raconteur still has a lot to say. He’s published four novels since aortic dissection surgery left him with a titanium heart valve six years ago and has plans for more. But he’s just not sure he wants to deal with the business of fiction publishing anymore after having a hard time finding a buyer for “The Unfinished Land,” eventually published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint John Joseph Adams Books.

“If I had written it and no one wanted to publish it, what would I do right at that point?” Bear said. “I considered just retiring. And I think I’m still making that decision at this point.”

Catalano reacts: “It’s end-of-days when Greg Bear can’t find a publisher. Ack.”

(7) ENDLESS RIVER. “Doctor Who’s River Song Alex Kingston writes new novel”Radio Times has the story.

… Alex Kingston is releasing a brand new River Song novel, taking the popular companion on a brand new adventure.

The book, entitled The Ruby’s Curse, promises to tell a thrilling story set in New York in 1939, featuring both River Song and her alter-ego Melody Malone. It is Alex Kingston’s first foray into writing Doctor Who fiction, following in the footsteps of Tom Baker, whose story Scratchman follows the escapades of the Fourth Doctor….

“Having absolutely no idea of the journey I would be taking with River Song when I first uttered those words, “Hello Sweetie,” I cannot begin to express how excited I am to be able to continue not only River, but Melody’s adventures on the written page,” she says.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1961 — Sixty years ago at Seacon in Seattle, A Canticle for Leibowitz, a fix-up of three short stories published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. wins the Hugo for Best Novel. It was published by J. B. Lippincott. Other nominees that year were The High Crusade by Poul Anderson, Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys, Deathworld by Harry Harrison and Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon. Surprisingly this is the only award this novel won.  

(9) BLACKBURN OBIT. Graphic designer “Bruce Blackburn, Designer of Ubiquitous NASA Logo, Dies at 82” reports the New York Times. He died February 1 at the age of 82,

…In 1975, NASA introduced the worm, a sleek sequence of winding red letters, and the logo quickly became a tangible symbol of a boundless space age that lay ahead.

“We did get what we set out to accomplish,” Mr. Blackburn said. “Anybody we showed it to immediately said, ‘Oh I know what that is. I know them. They’re really great. They’re right on the leading edge of everything.’”

But in 1992, a few years after the Challenger explosion, NASA dropped the worm and revived the meatball in a decision that was said to be intended to improve company morale.

Mr. Blackburn and other designers lamented the choice. “They said, ‘This is a crime. You cannot do this,’” he said. “‘This is a national treasure and you’re throwing it in the trash bin.”

“His design sensibility was offended by what happened,” his daughter said. “He thought the meatball was clumsy and sloppy and not representative of the future.”…

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 19, 1923 – Alan Hunter.  Fan and pro artist; founded the Fantasy Art Society (U.K.); fifty covers, three hundred fifty interiors, for Banana Wings, DreamFantasy TalesMatrixNebulaNew Worlds, SF ChronicleVector, the Millennium Philcon Program Book (59th Worldcon), the LoneStarCon 3 Program Book (71st Worldcon).  Artist Guest at Fantasycon 1981.  Here is the Spring 53 Nebula.  Here is an interior from the Mar 53 New Worlds.  Here is an interior from Dream.  Here is the Oct 86 SF Chronicle.  Here is Vector 112.  Here is Banana Wings 38.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1937  Terry Carr. Well-known and loved fan, author, editor, and writing instructor. I usually don’t list awards both won and nominated for but his are damned impressed so I will. He was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and he was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. Wow. He worked at Ace Books before going freelance where he edited an original story anthology series called Universe, and The Best Science Fiction of the Year anthologies that ran from 1972 until his early death in 1987. Back to Awards again. He was nominated for the Hugo for Best Editor thirteen times (1973–1975, 1977–1979, 1981–1987), winning twice (1985 and 1987). His win in 1985 was the first time a freelance editor had won. Wow indeed. Novelist as well. Just three novels but all are still in print today though I don’t think his collections are and none of his anthologies seem to be currently either. A final note. An original anthology of science fiction, Terry’s Universe, was published the year after his death with all proceeds went to his widow. (Died 1987.) (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1963 Laurell K. Hamilton, 58. She is best known as the author of two series of stories. One is the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter of which I’ll confess I’ve read but several novels, the other is the Merry Gentry series which held my interest rather longer but which I lost in somewhere around the sixth or seventh novel when the sex became really repetitive. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1946 – Rosemary Ullyot, age 75.  Early member of the Ontario SF Club.  Fanzine Kevas & Trillium with Alicia Austin and Maureen Bournes.  “Kumquat May” column in Energumen.  Twice finalist for Best Fanwriter.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1957 – Jim Rittenhouse, age 64.  Founded Point of Divergence, alternative-history apa.  Guest of Honor at DucKon 12, Windycon 32.  Judge of the Sidewise Award.  Has read As I Lay DyingUncle Tom’s Cabin, Suetonius’ Twelve Caesars, Adam BedeLolitaOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  “Why do I like fountain pens?  The smoothness and ease of writing, the clarity and solidity of the line, the profound coloring and the strong saturation of the ink.”  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1964 Jonathan Lethem, 57. His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a weird mix of SF and detective fiction, is fantastic in more ways that I can detail briefly here. I confess that I lost track of him after that novel so I’d be interested in hearing what y’all think of his later genre work particularly his latest, The Arrest. (CE)
  • Born February 19, 1966 Claude Lalumière, 55. I met him once here in Portland at a used book store in the the SFF section, and his wife wrote reviews for Green Man once upon a year. Author, book reviewer and editor who has edited numerous anthologies including two volumes of the excellent Tesseracts series.  Amazing writer of short dark fantasy stories collected in three volumes so far, Objects of WorshipThe Door to Lost Pages and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes. Tachyon published his latest anthology, Super Stories of Heroes & Villains. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1968 Benicio del Toro, 53. Originally cast as Khan in that Trek film but unable to perform the role as he was committed to another film. He’s been The Collector in the Marvel film franchise, Lawrence Talbot in the 2010 remake of The Wolfman, and codebreaker DJ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Let’s not forget that he was in Big Top Pee-wee as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy followed by being in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Dr. Gonzo which damn well should count as genre even if it isn’t. (CE) 
  • Born February 19, 1970 – Victor Ehikhamenor, age 51.  Writer, visual artist including photography and sculpture.  Exhibited in the first Nigerian pavilion at the Venice Biennale (57th Biennale, 2017).  Here is I Am Ogiso, the King of Heaven.  Here is The Unknowable (enamel & steel), Norval Foundation, Cape Town.  Here is Hypnotic Lover.  Here is Wealth of Nations, Nat’l Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1973 – Nikki Alfar, age 49.  A score of short stories.  Three Palanca Awards.  Manila Critics’ Circle Nat’l Book Award.  Co-editor, Philippine Speculative Fiction.  Interviewed in Fantasy.  [JH]
  • Born February 19, 1984 – Marissa Meyer, age 37.  Re-told CinderellaLittle Red Riding HoodRapunzel, and Snow White in the Lunar Chronicles; the first, Cinder, MM’s début, was a NY Times Best-Seller; later Fairest, a prequel.  Heartless has the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.  Half a dozen more novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Introduction to Yolen’s How to Fracture a Fairy Tale.  Has confessed to writing (under another name) twoscore pieces of Sailor Moon fanfiction.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio is always bizarre – this time it’s even funny.
  • Non Sequitur chronicles the Alexa / Siri conspiracy.
  • The Flying McCoys reveals that Superman buys outfits off the rack! (When they’re in stock.)

(12) HE’LL BE REMEMBERED. Milton Davis reports the GoFundMe was successful and that the headstone and monument for Charles R. Saunders’ grave have arrived.  The grave of famous fantasy writer Charles R. Saunders was without a headstone until friends raised money for it.

(13) REPURPOSED AND FUNNY. [Item by rcade.] The paranormal fantasy novelist Richard Kadrey has been reading some obscure science fiction paperbacks from the golden age of the lurid cover. Authors include Supernova Jackson, Cliff Zoom and Brawny Magnum.

The titles of Kadrey’s novels in his Sandman Slim series would be right at home on a shelf with these classics. They include Kill The Dead, Aloha from Hell, Ballistic Kiss and King Bullet, which comes out in August.

He’s also the founder with cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling of the Dead Media Project, which sought to save obsolete and forgotten forms of media. But it died.

(14) NOT A FAN. Variety’s Caroline Framke is not amused: “’Superman and Lois’ Brings The CW Superhero Brand Back Down to Boring Earth: TV Review”.

…It makes sense on paper for a new show about Superman to fast forward through the stuff that’s been done to death in order to find some new way into the man, the myth, the legend. Why not make him a harried dad juggling apocalyptic threats with teenage boys, one of whom might have the same kind of powers as he does? The CW’s dads are already supernaturally hot, so hey, might as well lean into the brand. (Hoechlin, like Tom Welling before him, does not at all have a Christopher Reeve level of charisma to bring to the role — but to be fair, who does?)

But for all the logical storylines and character journeys that “Superman and Lois” includes, it nonetheless lacks the spark to make any of it very interesting. Despite solid efforts from Tulloch, Garfin, and especially Elsass to bring life to their stiff scenes, these Kents feel more stuck than striking

(15) DO YOU REMEMBER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.[ Hugh freakin’ Jackman does the “announcer guy“ voiceover for a movie teaser… Io9 points to “Reminiscence First Look: The Sci-Fi Mystery Romance Is Out 9/3”. The clip is in Hugh Jackman’s tweet:

[Thanks to Michael Toman, rcade, James Davis Nicoll, John Hertz, Danny Sichel, Jeffrey Jones, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Steven H Silver, Frank Catalano, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris R.]

Pixel Scroll 2/12/21 A Series Of Unfortunate Event Horizons

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners a chance to “Nibble hors d’oeuvres with Mary Robinette Kowal” in Episode 138 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the Lady Astronaut series — which so far includes the novels The Calculating StarsThe Fated Sky, and The Relentless Moon — as well as the historical fantasy novels in The Glamourist Histories series plus Ghost Talkers. Her short stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsAsimov’s, and other magazines and anthologies, and her collections include Word Puppets and Scenting the Dark and Other Stories.

She’s currently the President of SFWA, a member of the award-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and has received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, four Hugo awards, the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel, the Nebula, and Locus awards. Her novel The Calculating Stars is one of only 18 novels to win the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in a single year. She’s also a professional puppeteer and voice actor, and has won two UNIMA-USA Citations of Excellence, the highest award an American puppeteer can achieve.

We discussed the temporal differences between puppetry and science fiction conventions, how she transitioned from writing magical Regency novels to the Lady Astronaut series, why unlike many writers, she reads her reviews (albeit selectively), the reason she’s able to write relationships between reasonable people so well, how she constructs a science fiction mystery, why it’s so important she likes her characters’ clothing when she picks a project, the meaning of science fiction itself within her science fiction universe, the way she uses sensitivity readers to make her work better, how a novel is like a clear glass pitcher, and much more.

(2) TUTTLE BEGINS. Lisa Tuttle’s inaugural column for The Guardian has posted: “The best recent science fiction and fantasy – review roundup”.

… Adam Roberts is one of the most intellectually daring British science fiction writers, trying something different in every book. Purgatory Mount (Gollancz, £16.99) starts off like classic space opera, on board a spaceship crewed by five quasi-immortal superhumans. On an empty planet they discover an enormous tower-like structure, possibly the remains of a space elevator, in which they perceive a resemblance to Dante’s mountain of Purgatory. However, this is not the real story….

(3) STURGEON AWARD CONSIDERATION. Nominations are open for the 2021 Sturgeon Award through March 15. Eligible works are science fiction short stories, novelettes, or novellas originally published in English during 2020, in a magazine, anthology, website, or other format.

If you are a reader/reviewer/critic:

If you are interested in participating, please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) your list of up to ten (10) nominations for what you consider to be the top science-fiction short works of the year, ranked from 1 to 10, with 1 being your top pick. If possible, please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON NOMINATIONS LIST.  

If you are an editor:

Please submit via email (gunn.sf.center@gmail.com) a list of the three (3) best science fiction stories from your year’s editorial work. You do not need to rank these. Please include publication information and date of publication. If published online, please include a link. Include in the header:  2021 STURGEON EDITORIAL NOMINATIONS.  

This year’s Sturgeon Award Jury members are Sarah Pinsker, Elizabeth Bear, Taryne Taylor, and Kij Johnson, and they will also involve Noel Sturgeon in the selection process. Noel is Trustee of the Theodore Sturgeon Literary Trust and one of Theodore Sturgeon’s children. 

(4) SF POETRY PODCAST. Outskirts Poetry has launched The Outskirts Poetry Podcast, a “bi-weekly podcast beaming straight out of an underground bunker that perfectly marries SF Poetry/Fiction and the counterculture.”

The podcast is geared toward writers and readers of speculative genre poetry and fiction “who enjoy art that thrives at the fringes of society.” Season 1 guests include interviews with Catherynne M. Valente, space poet; Josh Pearce, Afrosurrealist; D. Scot Miller; and Augur Magazine Editor, Terese Mason Pierre. Outskirts Poetry is a creative media collaboration between Post-apocalyptic poet, Jake Tringali, who hosts the podcast, and fellow SFPA spec-fic writer and media specialist, Melanie Stormm.

Go to the link above to listen, or access the podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Outskirts Poetry Podcast covers the margins: science fiction, fantasy, weird, the things listeners should be in on, but might not be yet. Our main exports are badly behaved.

(5) FINANCIAL HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe has been started to “Help Alma Alexander With The Loss of her Husband”. The reason for the appeal —  

Alma Alexander, fantasy writer and all-around good egg, is facing the devastating loss of her husband, coupled with medical and funeral expenses, and the possible loss of her home.

We are trying to raise some funds to give her husband, Deck, a proper send-off, and ease the burden on Alma.  The campaign is being organized by Tim Dunn of Nerdy Origami, and all monies raised will go directly to Alma.

Alexander was interviewed by File 770’s Carl Slaughter in 2017.

(6) GRRM APPEARS FOR CHARITY. [Item by John A Arkansawyer.] Saturday night: “Food for Love – Join us Valentine’s Eve for a STAR-STUDDED VIRTUAL CONCERT to end hunger in New Mexico”. There’s some serious talent on the bill, and between George R.R. Martin and David Byrne, its genre-relevance hops the bar, in my opinion.

(7) NIVEN’S WORLDBUILDING. Dominic Noble devotes a video to “The Absolutely Crazy Worlds And Aliens Of Known Space”.

…Pearson’s Puppeteers — the name makes sense in the book — are a fascinating non-humanoid race known for several unusual physical and psychological characteristics. For starters they have three legs and two heads, neither of which contain their brain, which is located in their torso. Their heads serve as multi-function limbs encompassing all the usual activities of seeing, eating, breathing, and speaking, while also being their primary manipulators. They’re also known for being incredibly intelligent and almost comically cowardly — everything scares the heck out of these creatures no matter how unlikely the threats. So their entire culture is based around making things as safe as possible for themselves. It’s such a part of their core being that any Puppeteer who shows even a little courage is considered certifiably insane. The absolute best example of this is the reason that no human has seen a Puppeteer for centuries at the start of the story. “We need to evacuate this entire section of the galaxy! The galactic core has exploded!” “What? When?” “10 000 years ago.” “Um, okay, and when is the blast wave going to reach us?” “20 000 years. We’re wasting time talking. Run!”

Yeah, they evacuated their entire species and started a mass exodus out of the galaxy 20 000 years in advance just to be safe. This conveniently leads up to the setup for the plot of this book…

(8) DATLOW ON EDITING. Tor Nightfire’s Tonia Ransom supplies the questions in “Interviewing Ellen Datlow, the Doyenne of Short Horror Fiction”.

TR: What advice would you give aspiring editors?

ED: The key to good editing is asking questions and not imposing your own bias/style (if you’re also a writer) on someone else’s story. If you like a story and think you might want to acquire and edit it but believe it needs work, don’t be afraid to make suggestions, and if something isn’t clear, you might ask the writer to tell you what they think is going on––and if their vision is not coming through on the page, tell them that. But always remember: it’s not your story. It’s the writer’s. If you can’t agree on revisions, let it go. Learn to say “no.” Never feel obliged to buy stories by friends or big names if you don’t like the story or don’t think it works for the venue for which you’re editing.

(9) GET THE POINT? James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where to find “Blades for Hire: Five Fictional Duellists”. This first one should be familiar —

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (1973)

Inigo Montoya trained to become a master swordsman for one driving purpose: to slay the six-fingered man who murdered Inigo’s father. Once he had become a master swordsman, Inigo discovered that his plan was flawed: Inigo had no idea who the six-fingered man might be or where he might be found. Years of searching turned into decades. A penniless Inigo had no choice but to hire himself out as a duellist. Alas, this meant he must work for evil men like master criminal Vizinni. Will he ever find the six-fingered man?

(10) INA SHORROCK OBIT. Liverpool fan Ina Shorrock (1928-2021) has died of a heart attack at the age of 92. She discovered fandom in 1950, was a member of the Liverpool Group, and generally acted as a social director for Liverpool fandom. Eric Bentcliffe in 1959 called her “British fandom’s ‘Hostess with the mostess’. Ina has superabundant energy, and a gift for making people both ‘at home’ and happy.” She belonged to the BSFA (which she chaired). She was married to fellow fan Norman Shorrock.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, The Adventures Of Superman radio program began with the airing on New York City’s WOR of its first episode, “The Baby from Krypton”. The story is what you expect it to be. It would air until March 1951 with 2,088 original episodes of the program airing. It starred Bud Collyer as Clark Kent / Superman and Joan Alexander as Lois Lane. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 – Russell Chauvenet.  Had he only coined the word fanzine (in his zine Detours; also generally credited with prozine) it would have been enough for us.  He co-founded the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; with Damon Knight and Art Widner) and served a term as President.  Another zine Sardonyx was originally mimeographed but I feel sure I had in my hand a later multi-color issue, produced by spirit duplicator, in the Fanzine Lounge at Chicon VI the 58th Worldcon.  Next door to us he was rated Expert at chess; also built his own Windmill-class sailboat, and was a medal-winning runner.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1929 Donald Kingsbury, 92. He’s written three novels (Courtship RiteThe Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1933 – Juanita Coulson, age 88.  Co-edited the Hugo-winning fanzine Yandro with husband Buck Coulson; you can see a lot of issues here; you can go directly to her cover for Y92 here.  First-rate filker; won a Pegasus; Filk Hall of Fame.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  She and Buck were Fan Guests of Honor at L.A.Con the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle fan fund sent them to Seacon ’79, the 37th; after Buck left, she was Fan Guest of Honor at Reconstruction the 10th NASFiC (North America SF Con; since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 79. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire”, which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His  genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of  Galaxy Quest into novel form. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The AvengersStar MaidensHammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock HolmesTales of the UnexpectedRandall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.) (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Maud Adams, 76. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. (CE)
  • Born February 12, 1945 – David Friedman, Ph.D., age 76.  Two novels from this man schooled as a physicist who taught law a dozen years at Santa Clara Univ. (now emeritus) and earned the rank of Duke in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism); it is said he while king of the Middle Kingdom challenged the East, later as king of the East accepted the challenge and lost (to himself).  He is an incrementalist consequentialist anarcho-capitalist, and yes, I think all those terms are needed.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1950 Michael Ironside, 71. Ahhhh, he of Starship Troopers fame. His first SF role was actually as Darryl Revok in Scanners. Later roles included Overdog in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Ricther In Total Recall, General Katana in Highlander II: The Quickening and of course Lt. Jean Rasczak In Starship Troopers. Now he also did some series work as well including being Ham Tyler on V The Final Battle and V The SeriesseaQuest 2032 as Captain Oliver Hudson which I really liked, General Sam Lane on Smallville and on the Young Blades series as Cardinal Mazarin. (CE) 
  • Born February 12, 1954 – Stu Shiffman.  Long-time fanartist; won a Hugo; was given the Rotsler Award.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Fan Guest of Honor at WisCon 12, Minicon 20, Lunacon 43.  Four stories.  Here are covers for Chunga 1 and 19.  Here is Taral Wayne’s tributezine The Slan of Baker Street (alluding to Van Vogt’s novel Slan and SS’ Sherlock Holmes hobby).  One of my favorite photos of him is here.  Randy Byers’ appreciation is here.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1962 – Katherine Roberts, age 59.  Welsh and Spanish.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories.  First class degree in mathematics.  Boase Award.  Correspondent of Vector.  Contributed a “Top 10 SF Novels” to The Zone and Premonitions 6.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 12, 1981 – Lucy Christopher, age 40.  Australian now in England.  Five novels, one shorter story.  Boase Award.  Gold Inky.  Teacher, horsewoman.  “We are all storytellers….  Thinking about this is my life’s work.”  [JH]

(13) TOMORROW’S MEREDITH MOMENT. The ebook edition of Return to Nevèrÿon, a four-volume “postmodern sword-and-sorcery” epic from Samuel R. Delany will be downpriced to $1.99 across all US and Canadian retailers on February 13 the author announced on Facebook. He provided this Amazon link.

(14) EBOOK$. Protocol investigates how an app that assists libraries also poses financial challenges: “Libby is stuck between libraries and e-book publishers”.

On the surface, there couldn’t be a more wholesome story than the meteoric rise of the Libby app. A user-friendly reading app becomes popular during the pandemic, making books cool again for young readers, multiplying e-book circulation and saving public libraries from sudden obsolescence.

But the Libby story is also a parable for how the best-intentioned people can build a beloved technological tool and accidentally create a financial crisis for those who need the tech most. Public librarians depend on Libby, but they also worry that its newfound popularity could seriously strain their budgets.

… Libby downloads increased three times their usual amount beginning in late March. E-book checkout growth and new users on Overdrive both increased more than 50%.

Libby had helped to save libraries.

It had also accelerated a funding crisis. Public library budgets have never been luxe, and book acquisition budgets in particular have always been tight. Though it may seem counterintuitive to readers, e-books cost far more than physical books for libraries, meaning that increased demand for digital editions put libraries in a financial bind….

(15) NO MOSS WAS GATHERED. “Stonehenge may be a rebuilt Welsh stone circle, new research shows”Yahoo! has the story.

…Scholars have known for decades that most of Stonehenge’s bluestones were carried, dragged or rolled to Salisbury Plain from the Preseli Hills. In 2019, Parker Pearson and his team provided evidence of the exact locations of two of the bluestone quarries. And last year, another team of researchers led by David Nash of the University of Brighton revealed that most of Stonehenge’s sarsens hail from a woodland area in Wiltshire, some 15 miles from where they stand on Salisbury Plain.

The bluestones are thought to have been the first to be erected at Stonehenge some 5,000 years ago, centuries before the larger sarsen stones were brought there. The discovery by Parker Pearson and his team that the bluestones had been extracted from two quarries in the Preseli Hills before the first stage of Stonehenge was built in 3000 BC prompted them to reinvestigate the nearby Waun Mawn site to determine whether those monoliths were the remains of a stone circle supplied by the quarries that was then dismantled to build Stonehenge….

(16) THE WEB, ER, WEED OF CRIME BEARS BITTER FRUIT. Talk about “going bad.” Let the Wikipedia tell you the fate of “Saturn (magazine)”.

Saturn was an American magazine published from 1957 to 1965. It was launched as a science fiction magazine, but sales were weak, and after five issues the publisher, Robert C. Sproul, switched the magazine to hardboiled detective fiction that emphasized sex and sadism. Sproul retitled the magazine Saturn Web Detective Story Magazine to support the change, and shortened the title to Web Detective Stories the following year. In 1962, the title was changed yet again, this time to Web Terror Stories, and the contents became mostly weird menace tales—a genre in which apparently supernatural powers are revealed to have a logical explanation at the end of the story.

Donald A. Wollheim was the editor for the first five issues; he published material by several well-known authors, including Robert A. HeinleinH. P. Lovecraft, and Harlan Ellison, but was given a low budget and could not always find good-quality stories. It is not known who edited the magazine after the science fiction issues…

(17) SPAIN RODRIGUEZ DOCUMENTARY. In “A New Film Plumbs the Depths of Spain’s Underground Comix”, Print Magazine interviews documentary filmmaker Susan Stern.

I met Spain and followed “Trashman,” his signature comic, at The East Village Other. He was a groundbreaker. What inspired you to make this film?

I made Bad Attitude because I wanted more people to see Spain’s bold, original pen-and-ink art. Just as the 1960s have a soundtrack, I’ve always thought Spain’s art helped design the “look” of the ’60s. When I began the film in 2012, it was a time of relative political complacency. I also wanted to rouse people with Spain’s fiery—yet self-satirizing—left-wing radicalism. As it turned out, Bad Attitude is perfect for the political ferment of 2021. Spain’s “anti-racist” work with the white working-class bikers of Buffalo in the early 1960s is a revealing part of the film….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/21 I’d Like A Pixel Scroll Reservation For Tuesday

(1) HUGO NOMINATING PROGRESS REPORT. DisCon III told Facebook followers today:

285 people have submitted The Hugo Awards nominations. Are you one of them? You do not have to submit your nominations in one go, start submitting now and come back later to add more up until the deadline of March 19, 11:59pm Pacific Time.

(2) TAKE THE PLEDGE. Henry Lien invites Facebook readers to become the angel-geezers of their better nature:

MY SENIOR CITIZEN PLEDGE

I hereby pledge that when I am a senior citizen, I will not be afraid of, resist, or complain about technology or cling to old-timey ways. I will learn how to use quantum conferencing suppositories and listen to electro-shamisen sea chanteys or whatever young people are doing. I will be part of Today tomorrow. Will join me in this pledge, pre-seniors?

(3) BRADBURY’S MARS. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum will host a watch party for the “Landing of NASA Perseverance Rover on the Red Planet” on February 18 from 12 PM PST – 1:45 PM PST.

“Percy,” the life-hunting Mars Perseverance rover, is scheduled to set down inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater. The rover launched on June 30, 2020. 

What does it feel like to be a scientist embedded in the engineering team of a spacecraft? And to have Ray Bradbury speak at your commencement? Listen as NASA’s Dr.Sarah Milkovich, Ph.D. planetary geology, tells RBEM’s Dom Loise.

(4) JOURNEY PLANET. In the 57th issue of Journey Planet, James Bacon, Chris Garcia, and Chuck Serface handle the editing duties and the theme is King Arthur, a topic Chris has wanted to tackle since they started the zine back in 2008! Download here: Journey Planet 57: Arthur, King of the Britons.

Spanning multiple arenas of the Arthurian legend, there’s a massive 92 pages of material including looks at literature, theatre, comics, film, and even Vegas, baby!!!  Bob Hole, Julian West, Steven H Silver, and the good Cardinal Cox handle the history, and Chris interviews Arthurian scholar and editor of Arthuriana Dorsey Armstrong. Laura Frankos gives us a marvelous view of the ‘legendary’ musical Camelot, while Neil Rest, Tony Keen, and Chris handle the world of film. There’s great comics coverage from Derek McCaw, Helena Nash, and Chuck, and a great fiction reprint from the exceptional Ken Scholes. All this wrapped in a cover by Vanessa Applegate, with art by Chris, Fionnula Murphy, Derek Carter, Bob Hole, the DeepDreamGenerator, and Matthew Appleton! We even have letters of comment!!!

This supersized beast also marks the first time Chris ever did layout on his phone!

(5) AFROFUTURISM. “Beyond ‘Black Panther’: Afrofuturism Is Booming in Comics” – the New York Times tells where to find it.

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it struck the author and illustrator John Jennings as so unprecedented, such a break from American history, that it was like an event from some far-flung future.

“Before then, the only time you would see a president who was Black was in a science-fiction movie,” he said in a phone interview last month. Jennings compared it to the sorts of imaginative leaps one finds in the most forward-thinking works categorized as “Afrofuturist.”

This year, fans of Afrofuturism will see a bumper crop of comics and graphic novels, including the first offerings of a new line devoted to Black speculative fiction and reissues of Afrofuturist titles from comic-book houses like DC and Dark Horse.

Afrofuturism, whether in novels, films or music, imagines worlds and futures where the African diaspora and sci-fi intersect. The term was coined by the writer Mark Dery in 1993 and has since been applied to the novels of Octavia Butler (“Kindred”), the musical stylings of the jazz composer Sun Ra and more recently films such as “Get Out” and “Black Panther,” which presented a gorgeously rendered vision of the technologically advanced, vibranium-powered nation of Wakanda.

“Afrofuturism isn’t new,” said Ytasha L. Womack, a cultural critic and the author of “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture,” a primer and history of the movement and aesthetic. “But the plethora of comics and graphic novels that are available is certainly a new experience.”

Graphic novels published in January included “After the Rain,” an adaptation of a short story by the Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor, and “Infinitum,” a tale of African kings and space battles by the New York-based artist Tim Fielder….

(6) BLACK PANTHER. While others are taking readers beyond, Ta-Nehisi Coates is still finishing his redefining work on the comic which ends with Black Panther #25 in April. The issue will bring fans the triumphant end to the “Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” storyline.

Since taking over the title in 2016, the National Book Award winner and New York Times Best-Selling author has transformed the Black Panther mythos. Now five years later, he departs, leaving the world of Wakanda forever changed and laying the groundwork for the next bold era of this iconic Marvel hero.

“Ta-Nehisi has come up with a truly special finale here, one that not only wraps up the current story of T’Challa’s attempt to stop Emperor N’Jadaka’s conquest of Wakanda, but also deals with elements that reach all the way back to the beginning of Ta-Nehisi’s run….” said editor Wil Moss.

Throughout his run, Coates has taken the Black Panther to hell and back and expanded Wakanda into the distant stars. In his final issue, he’ll bring T’Challa full circle, back to the home he left behind…and the crown he has never fully accepted. The journey will conclude, but the legend remains. 

Click for larger images.

(7) KIWI REFERENCES. “The New Zealand Author Behind the First Great Fantasy Epic of the Year: A conversation with Elizabeth Knox, author of The Absolute Book – a Slate interview.

…I really love a somewhat minor subplot in the book—Taryn’s father, the movie actor who has had roles in what are clearly the Lord of the Rings movies, going back to Wellington for what he thinks is a screen test for a new Peter Jackson project. Weta, Peter Jackson’s studio, plays a sometimes oversize role in the culture of your city. Has your writing life ever intersected with their work?

Oh, I can tell my Peter Jackson story. I saw his first movie, Bad Taste, in the film festival, and I really loved it. I mean, it’s fun, but it’s also the work of a very, very good director. And then he came into the bookshop and the museum where I was working, and my boss had been one of his helpers on the movie. He introduced me and said, “Elizabeth’s a writer.” And at that point I had just published my first novel. Peter Jackson gave me his WingNut Films card and said, “Do you want to write a screenplay for me?” And I said, “Oh, no, I don’t think I could do that.”

What a missed opportunity!

Well, it was very early on in both our careers.

(8) RAISING TWINS. “Superman & Lois” – “Their family is anything but ordinary.” Premieres Tuesday, February 23.

(9) THROWBACK. Here’s some artwork of Doctor Who’s seventh Doctor in the “rubber hose” cartoon style:

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 9, 1966 Lost In Space’s “War Of The Robots” first aired as the twentieth episode of the first season. It is worth noting because the second robot in this episode is Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet. Robby the Robot would make a number of appearances in series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Addams Family. Robby the Robot was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2004. 

(11) TODAY’S DAY.

February 9 Extraterrestrial Culture Day

An officially acknowledged day in New Mexico (Roswell), Extraterrestrial Culture Day celebrates extraterrestrial cultures, and our past, present and future relationships with extraterrestrial visitors.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 9, 1867 – Natsume Sôseki.  (Personal name last, Japanese style; Sôseki is a pen name, Japanese pronunciation of a Chinese idiom meaning “stubborn”.)  I Am a Cat is ours, indeed narrated by a cat. You can read a little about it here.  A collection “Ten Nights’ Dreaming” and “The Cat’s Grave” is in English.  He was a novelist, a poet – most of his work outside our field – and among much else a student of English literature.  See this comparison with Shakespeare.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1928 – Frank Frazetta.  A Hugo, three Chesleys (two for artistic achievement); Spectrum Grand Master, Writers & Illustrators of the Future and World Fantasy Awards for lifetime achievement; SF Hall of Fame, Eisner Hall of Fame, Kirby Hall of Fame, Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.   In comics, Westerns, fantasy, mystery, war, historical drama, funny animals; Buck RogersFlash Gordon; Li’l Abner with Al Capp.  In our field perhaps most famous for Tarzan, CarsonConan.  Two hundred covers, sixteen hundred interiors; portfolios, sketchbooks, posterbooks; see e.g. Testament with Cathy & Arnie Fenner.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1935 R. L. Fanthorpe, 76. I’m including him as he was a pulp writer for UK publisher Badger Books during the 1950s and 1960s during which he wrote under some sixty pen names. I think he wrote several hundred genre novels during that time but no two sources agree on just how many he wrote. Interestingly nothing is available by him digitally currently though his hard copy offerings would fill a wing of small rural library. He’d be perfect for Kindle Unlimited I’d say. (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1936 Clive Walter Swift. His first genre appearance was as Snug in that version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Several years thereafter he was Dr. Black in A Warning to the Curious” (based on a ghost story by British writer M. R. James).Then he’s Ecto, whoever that character is, in Excalibur. He shows up next in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Revelation of a The Daleks” as Professor Jobel. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1942 Marianna Hill, 79. Doctor Helen Noel in the excellent “Dagger of The Mind” episode of the original Trek. (The episode introduces the Vulcan mind meld.) She also had roles on Outer Limits (in the Eando Binder’s “I Robot“ story which predates Asimov’s story of that name), Batman (twice as Cleo Patrick), I-SpyThe Wild Wild WestMission: Impossible and Kung Fu (ok the last one has to be least genre adjacent).  (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1951 Justin Gustainis, 70. Author of two series so far, one being the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations series which he’s written three superb novels in so far, and the other being the Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigations series which has seven novels and which I’ve not read yet. Who’s read the latter series? (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1952 – Ben Yalow, F.N., age 69.  Having attended eight hundred SF conventions, working on a third of them, his trademark Black Watch bowtie has become a symbol of SMOFfery.  “SMOF” is “Secret Master Of Fandom”, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke, besides the Marty Balin comment; it’s come to mean the folks who put on SF cons, particularly those who study, argue about, and try to act on doing them better.  Co-founder of SMOFcon.  Edited four books for NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press; Fellow of NESFA (service); Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon X, OryCon ’87, ConDiego the 5th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas), Loscon 17, FenCon XIV; scheduled for Discon III the 79th Worldcon.  His dry but not unsympathetic sense of humor is shown by his receiving the Rubble Award, and by remarks like “Running a Worldcon is impossible.  Running a NASFiC is harder.”  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1954 – Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, age 67.  A dozen novels, twoscore shorter stories.  Her Star Wars novel (with Michael Reaves) Shadow Games was a NY Times Best-Seller.  Besides prose writing, she’s a filker; she and husband Jeff Bohnhoff have won two Pegasus Awards as Best Performers, one for Best Parody; Guests of Honor at LepreCon 24, TusCon 30, Archon 30, Balticon 41, DucKon 17, 2t0nic the 20th British Filk Convention, FenCon VII, LepreCon 38, Windycon 42, Boskone 52; they are in the Filk Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1956 Timothy Truman, 65. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1960 Laura Frankos, 61. She’s written a bakers dozen of genre short stories. She’s more known for her Broadway history column “The Great White Wayback Machine” and has also published one mystery novel, Saint Oswald’s Niche. Wife of Harry Turtledove. Her Broadway Quiz Book is available on all digital platforms. (CE)
  • Born February 9, 1977 – Rhiannon Lassiter, age 44.  Started writing young, sent a few chapters to her mother (Mary Hoffman)’s agent and to family friend Douglas Hill: result, two novels accepted by Macmillan when she was nineteen.  A dozen novels, four shorter stories; book reviews in Armadillo and Strange Horizons.  [JH]
  • Born February 9, 1981 – Amber Argyle, age 40.  Sixteen novels, two shorter stories.  She “grew up on a cattle ranch, and spent her formative years in the rodeo circuit and on the basketball court.”  She and her husband are “actively trying to transform [three children] from crazy small people into less-crazy larger people”; a note elsewhere, however, says she is “fluent in all forms of sarcasm”.  Has read Heart of DarknessThe Secret GardenAll Quiet on the Western Front, six Shakespeare plays.  [JH]

(13) BOOKSTORE IS OVERNIGHT SUCCESS. Yesterday’s Scroll ran the Super Bowl-style commercial The Late Show with Steven Colbert did for a small business — Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina. The follow-up Colbert did last night starts at 1:32.

Foggy Pine Books owner Mary Ruthless said, “Three weeks ago, we were like… wondering how we were going to make it through winter. And now I’m having to hire, you know, a couple of extra people to help process all of the orders.”

(14) FIREFLY NEWS. “Firefly Goes to the Moon: NASA Sends Firefly Aerospace Lander to the Moon in 2023”SCIFI Radio tells what it means.

…A Firefly Aerospace lander will launch to the moon in 2023 as part of NASA’s Artemis program. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Firefly?” 

…A janitor’s cart is far less interesting than the truth – that this is an artist’s rendering of the Blue Ghost, a robotic lander being built by Texas-based Firefly Aerospace to deliver 10 scientific experiments and technology demonstrations to the lunar surface in 2023. It will touch down in a lunar mare called Mare Crisium, a low-lying basin on the near side of the moon that measures more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) wide. The lander will carry instruments to study several aspects of the lunar surface in preparation for future human missions to the moon. 

(15) GET OUT BEFORE THE SUN COMES UP. James McMahon, in “They came at night: how a Spanish-speaking cast shot an alternative Dracula after Bela Lugosi had gone to bed” in The Guardian, discusses the 90th anniversary of the Spanish-language version of Dracula, which is 29 minutes longer than the English-language version, features a quite different take on Dracula by Carlos Villar, and was long thought lost until a copy was found in the Cuban film archive.

They came under the shadow of darkness – quite literally. Just as Dracula star Bela Lugosi was no doubt being tucked up for the night, director George Melford, cast and crew made their way on to the Universal studio lot in 1931 to shoot a Spanish-language version of the Bram Stoker 1897 horror novel, filmed using the same sets and costumes as the much more familiar Tod Browning masterwork….

Shot in half the time the Lugosi vehicle was allotted, and on a much smaller budget, Drácula contains revealing differences. It’s 29 minutes longer the Browning’s film, with more dialogue – we see more of Dracula’s castle; and the framing of shots are argubly superior – thanks to Melford’s crew having access to Dracula’s dailies when they arrived at night, thereby being able to make revisions to lighting and camera angles….

(16) AN ORIGINAL WOZNIAK. Hypebeast sighted a real original on the auction block: “Rare Apple-1 Computer $1.5 Million USD eBay Auction”. I like how eBay invites me to just “add it to cart”, too, like my credit’s good!

A working Apple-1, one of the tech giant’s first line of computers introduced back in 1976, is now up for auction on eBay for $1.5 million USD.

If you’re familiar with the history of Apple, then you’ll know that the Apple-1 is now rare memorabilia. Designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak, then sold wholesale by Steve Jobs, the two sold off some of their belongings to raise enough money to cover manufacturing costs — Jobs sold his Volkswagen van and Wozniak sold his HP-65 calculator.

(17) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Leo has been patient til now: “8-Year-Old Calls Out NPR For Lack Of Dinosaur Stories” at NPR.

… Leo has a point. All Things Considered is about to turn 50 years old. NPR’s archivists found the word “dinosaur” appearing in stories 294 times in the show’s history. By comparison, “senator” has appeared 20,447 times.

To remedy the situation, All Things Considered invited Leo to ask some questions about dinosaurs to Ashley Poust, a research associate at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Leo wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up….

(18) THAT’S SO LAST YEAR. The New York Times says “Monoliths Are Still Happening”.

Much like the coronavirus, monoliths refuse to be left behind in 2020.

The discovery of a new mysterious metal slab in Turkey on Friday was a throwback to a momentary craze from the olden days of November and December. Back then, a shiny, metal monolith appeared in the Utah desert without explanation, followed by copycats from California to Romania.

Perhaps art projects or perhaps the manifestation of pandemic-induced boredom, the monoliths captured the world’s attention for a fleeting moment. It remains unknown who created many of them, or why they were created, but they largely faded from cultural relevance as the world focused on other things, like the presidential transition, a coup in Myanmar or the Netflix show “Bridgerton.”

But the new monolith was gone after just four days. It vanished without explanation on Tuesday, according to local reports.

This despite the presence of something its predecessors didn’t have: armed guards.

The military police started an investigation to identify the people who planted the monolith in a rural area of Sanliurfa, a province in southeastern Turkey, according to DHA, a local news agency. The military police and village guards — government-paid civilians who work with the military police — stood watch as the investigation unfolded, protecting the monolith from any threats, DHA reported.

Also unlike previous monoliths, this one has an inscription. In the Gokturk alphabet, an ancient Turkic language, it reads: “Look at the sky, see the moon.”…

(19) NOW ARRIVING. The AP provides more details about the trio of Mars exploratory craft that will reach the Red Planet this month: “Next stop Mars: 3 spacecraft arriving in quick succession”.

The United Arab Emirates’ orbiter reaches Mars on Tuesday, followed less than 24 hours later by China’s orbiter-rover combo. NASA’s rover, the cosmic caboose, will arrive on the scene a week later, on Feb. 18, to collect rocks for return to Earth — a key step in determining whether life ever existed at Mars.

Both the UAE and China are newcomers at Mars, where more than half of Earth’s emissaries have failed. China’s first Mars mission, a joint effort with Russia in 2011, never made it past Earth’s orbit. “We are quite excited as engineers and scientists, at the same time quite stressed and happy, worried, scared,” said Omran Sharaf, project manager for the UAE.

All three spacecraft rocketed away within days of one another last July, during an Earth-to-Mars launch window that occurs only every two years. That’s why their arrivals are also close together. Called Amal, or Hope in Arabic, the Gulf nation’s spacecraft is seeking an especially high orbit — 13,500 by 27,000 miles high (22,000 kilometers by 44,000 kilometers) — all the better to monitor the Martian weather.

China’s duo — called Tianwen-1, or “Quest for Heavenly Truth” — will remain paired in orbit until May, when the rover separates to descend to the dusty, ruddy surface. If all goes well, it will be only the second country to land successfully on the red planet.

The U.S. rover Perseverance, by contrast, will dive in straight away for a harrowing sky-crane touchdown similar to the Curiosity rover’s grand Martian entrance in 2012. The odds are in NASA’s favor: It’s nailed eight of its nine attempted Mars landings.

(20) JUDGE FOR YOURSELF. Could this be the first SJW credential lawyer? Daily Beast explains how a “Texas Lawyer Accidentally Appears in Zoom Court as a Kitten”. On the recording the lawyer insists he’s not a cat. But are you going to believe something a lawyer says or your own eyes?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In a new “Pirates of the Caribbean Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says Pirates Of The Caribbean is “a wacky adventure where you disregard physics and probability and all that bring stuff.  But it’s more fun that way!”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/6/21 Scroll from the Ninth Dimension

(1) THEY CAME FROM SPACE. Christie’s “Deep Impact: Martian, Lunar and Other Rare Meteorites” auction will offer rare meteorites for bid between February 9-23. Wonderful photos at the link.

The weight of every known meteorite is less than the world’s annual output of gold, and this sale offers spectacular examples for every collector, available at estimates ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The sale will offer 72 of the 75 lots at no reserve, with estimates starting at $250….

There are a dozen offerings of the Moon and the planet Mars and another dozen from some of the most famous museums in the world — as well as meteorites containing gems from outer space. 

(2) WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT. In the first issue of the Space Force Journal, a professional journal for the new branch of DoD, Wendy Whitman Cobb tries to separate sf from the SF. “’It’s a Trap!’ The Pros and Mostly ‘Khans’ of Science Fiction’s Influence on the United States Space Force”.

As the United States Space Force has been debated and ultimately stood up, it has often been linked with various science fiction undertakings, most prominently, Star Trek. For the most part, the science fiction connections are not new in the history of space and can be beneficial. Yet being compared to science fiction also presents challenges for the Space Force. This article begins by analyzing both qualitative and quantitative evidence of a science fiction-Space Force link, and finds that this link has been prevalent over the past several years. The space domain is susceptible to science fiction-based influences because of the unknowns that remain with space-based operations. This is even more true with respect to the public’s view of the Space Force. Thus, the leaders of the Space Force are forced to address the cognitive dissonance between what the public expects and what the Space Force can actually achieve in the near- to mid-term. Space Force leaders should therefore focus on “de-science fictionalizing” to draw a distinction between imagined futures and strategic challenges of today….

(3) A COMPLEX STEW OF FEELS. Jeannette Ng shares a whole chain of thoughts set off by watching Wandavision. Thread starts here.

(4) WHY SPECULATIVE POETRY? SPECPO asks SFPA Grand Master – Linda D. Addison.

CA What inspires you to write poetry and why speculative poetry? (What themes do you explore or do they always change?)

LDA: I am a big daydreamer from when I was a young child and those daydreams were always speculative, things like cats with wings. I was totally into the early fables with animals that talked and walked. I’ve always wondered What if? in the realm of Speculative-ness. Although I write fiction too, poetry is my first voice. I hear poetry inside all the time.

Everything inspires me to write, my reactions to the world around me and inside me. I’m not sure I can look at my work and say what themes they explore, since I write organically, without a lot of planning, unless I’m writing to a theme for a project. I would say the themes change, depending on what touches my heart and soul. Perhaps this is a question better answered by my readers.

(5) HOW CAN YOU RESIST? Ann Leckie has something to share:

(6) A FANNISH CENTENNIAL. First Fandom Experience celebrates the hundredth anniversary tomorrow of the birth of John V. Baltadonis (1921-1998) in “JVB 100”. Lots of his early fanzine art, and work he did when he got really good later on. A leading Philadelphia fan who attended the claimed First Convention held in his hometown in 1936, and traveled to New York for the first Worldcon in 1939, Baltadonis was elected to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1998.  

L-R Jack Agnew, Robert A. Madle, John Newton, Oswald V. Train, John V. Baltadonis. PSFS meeting – Nov 17, 1984. Courtesy of David Ritter.

(7) SPIDER-MAN COLLECTOR HAS TO LET GO. Long article about the “Ultimate Spider-Man Collection to Be Sold Under Heart-Wrenching Circumstances” – profiling the rarities and the collector, who is dying from cancer and is selling to set up his wife and daughter after he’s gone.

…If you talk to Levine long enough, soon you realize it’s not necessarily the comics he treasures the most. Anyone with money can buy comics, he notes. It’s the weird stuff that he covets, like a collection of  1990s-era Fruit Roll-Ups boxes that he’s only seen go up for auction once or twice and finally snagged. There’s still one, featuring the villain the Rhino, that he doesn’t own, and it eats him up inside because he’s seen an advertisement for it and knows it exists. (“I’d pay $10,000 for it, because in 35 years I’ve never seen it [at auction],” says Levine.)

These are his holy grails.

Among the other rarities: storyboards for James Cameron’s aborted Spider-Man movie; a never-sold, Spider-Man themed Camel Cigarette pack; and a letter Ditko wrote a fan in which the notoriously grumpy artist tells the recipient what he really thinks.

(8) HENRY OBIT. Actor Mike Henry died January 8 at the age of 84.

…He was cast as Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, in three films: Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966), Tarzan and the Great River (1967), and Tarzan and the Jungle Boy (1968).

His run as the jungle lord ended after being bitten by a chimpanzee while filming.

Henry segued into another franchise in 1977, playing Junior, the son of Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice, in Smokey and the Bandit. He reprised the role in the film’s 1981 and 1983 sequels.

Among Henry’s other film roles were appearances in Skyjacked (1972), Soylent Green (1973) and The Longest Yard (1974). His TV credits included roles on M*A*S*H, General Hospital and Fantasy Island….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — Thirty years ago at Denventon Two, Gordon R. Dickson had the ever so rare accomplishment of winning two Hugos at a single Con, first for the Best Novella for “Lost Dorsai” which been published in Destinies v2 #1 Feb/Mar 1980, second for Best Novelette for  “The Cloak and the Staff” which had been published in Analog in August of 1980. Other than an earlier short story Hugo for “ Soldier, Ask Not”, these are the only Hugos that he won.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 6, 1850 – Elizabeth Champney.  Three novels for us; a hundred all told, also shorter stories, essays, poems, travel.  A Vassar woman; see here. From In the Sky-Gardenhere is her husband James Champney’s title page; here is “A Ride on the Rocket-Star”.  (Died 1922) [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a role he reprised in the New Avengers. Avoid the putrid Avengers film which he is not in at peril of your soul. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as BloodsuckersFreedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes, let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely awful remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1924 Sonya Dorman. Her best-known work of SF is “When I Was Miss Dow” which received an Otherwise retrospective award nomination.  She also appeared in Dangerous Visions with the “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” story. Poem “Corruption of Metals” won a Rhysling Award. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1932 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1947 – Eric Flint, age 74.  Auto, oil, and steel worker, glassblower, longshoreman, machinist, meatpacker, truck driver, and trade-union activist, with a master’s degree in History from Univ. Cal. Los Angeles, he’s the publisher of Ring of Fire Press (first virtual RoFcon, 8-11 Oct 20) and the Grantville Gazette; fourscore novels, threescore shorter stories, many with co-authors; anthologies.  He edited the 2002 editions of Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories and Laumer’s Retief stories; wrote an appreciation of Tom Kidd for the 2018 World Fantasy Convention.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 73. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult  Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet. (CE)
  • Born February 6, 1950 – Michele Lundgren, age 71.  Known to us as the wife of Detroit graphic artist Carl Lundgren (four Chesleys including Artistic Achievement), she has been doing artwork of her own as a photographer; two books, The Photographic Eye and Side Streets.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1958 – Marc Schirmeister, age 63.  To borrow a line from Robert Silverberg about someone else, we’re all unique here but some of us are more unique than others.  Schirm has quietly – no – unobtrusively – no – well, idiosyncratically drawn Schirmish creatures for AlexiadAmraAsimov’sBanana WingsChungaFantasy BookFile 770FlagNew Toy, the Noreascon 4 Program Book (62nd Worldcon), Riverside QuarterlyVanamonde.  Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon 63.  Rotsler Award.  Did the Five of Wands for Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck – all the images and BP’s introduction here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1959 – Curt Phillips, age 62.  Corflu 50 Fan Fund delegate to Corflu 26 (fanziners’ convention; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate to Loncon 3 the 72nd Worldcon; report here.  Interviewed Alexis Gilliland for SF Review.  Co-ordinated celebrations of Bob Madle’s 100th birthday.  Often seen in Banana WingsChungaFile 770FlagRaucous Caucus – the usual suspects.  [JH]
  • Born February 6, 1974 Rajan Khanna, 47. To quote his website, he’s “an author, reviewer, podcaster, musician, and narrator.”  His three novels are from Pyr Books, all set in a fantastic universe of airships and steampunk, are Falling SkyRising Tide and Raining Fire. The audiobooks are first rate. (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 44. Their first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written by her in Swedish, was translated into English by them which won them a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category. Their next novel The Memory Theater is forthcoming this month. (CE) 
  • Born February 6, 1990 – Isamu Fukui, age 31.  (Personal name first, U.S. style.)  Three novels, the first written when he was 15, much made of it and him; the others a prequel and a sequel.  See here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • What do we call this, a Bayeaux Tapestry for Star Trek?

(12) A VALENTINE MINE BE. GeekTyrant points out the availability of Star Wars-themed pop-up Valentines. Yoda and Darth are options.

(13) SUPPORT LITERACY. The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers’ fundraising anthology Turning the Tied goes on sale March 13. All proceeds go to the World Literacy Foundation.

Like so many others, we at the IAMTW watched—horrified, heartbroken, and furious—as the tumultuous events transpired in the Spring and Summer of 2020 in the U.S..  The IAMTW added its voice of support to those fighting for better conditions, for justice, and for more equal opportunities for everyone.  We didn’t want to just speak up, however.  We wanted to actually do something, no matter how small,  to contribute to a solution.  To that end…writers write.  What could be more perfect than doing what we love to do, to help others and give readers something they’ll enjoy?  While the social upheaval in the U.S. provided the impetus for this anthology, we realize that marginalization and prejudice are a worldwide problem.  One of the best means of combating the disparities is education.  Therefore all the proceeds from this book will go to the World Literacy Foundation  (https://worldliteracyfoundation.org/) which promotes literacy worldwide with a focus on helping those who are underprivileged.

… This dazzling collection of uplifting and curious tales will take you through the centuries and from the depths of the ocean to the stars. You’ll discover well-known, beloved characters in new settings and circumstances.
Penned by some of the finest writers working in tie-in fiction today.

Sherlock Holmes, John Carter of Mars, Hopalong Cassidy, Mulan, Dracula, Mina Harker, the Three Musketeers, Cyrano de Bergerac, Baron Munchausen, and Frankenstein’s Creature are a scattering of the literary souls that populate these pages. And cats. There are more than a few cats.

(14) BRADBURY’S SOMETHING WICKED. A 2019 ScreenRant listicle claims these are “10 Hidden Details You Didn’t Know About Something Wicked This Way Comes”. Maybe 7 of them were, like this one:

4. Mr. Dark Appears In Another Bradbury Work

Mr. Dark is not only the ringmaster of the carnival but a member of the freakshow as well. His oddity? He is the Illustrated Man, The tattoos over his body shift, change, and alter. This is an impressive visual effect, but it’s also familiar to anyone exposed to Bradbury’s books.

Ray Bradbury’s short story collection, The Illustrated Man, is connected through an encounter with the titular Illustrated Man, whose ever-changing tattoos tell the stories in the book. The character is an aimless wanderer who tells the protagonist he was once a member of a carnival freakshow. Sounding familiar? Perhaps this was the true fate of Mr. Dark after the carnivals destruction? Who knows…

(15) WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? Futurism.com collates reports that “Scientists Are Weaving Human Brain Cells Into Microchips”. Dann sent the link with a note, “I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be inspired or terrified by these kinds of stories.”

Brain Jack

It’s not unusual for artificial intelligence developers to take inspiration from the human brain when designing their algorithms or the circuitry they run on, but now a project is taking that biological inspiration a step further.

Scientists from England’s Aston University are physically integrating human brain stem cells into AI microchips, according to a university press release. The goal, the scientists say, is to push the boundaries of what AI can do by borrowing some of the human brain’s processing capabilities.

Neural Boost

The project, dubbed Neu-ChiP, sounds like the beginning of a sci-fi B movie where all-powerful AI runs amok. Typically, projects like this in the field of neuromorphic or brain-inspired computing focus on making AI algorithms more efficient, but Neu-ChiP aims to make them more powerful, too.

“Our aim is to harness the unrivaled computing power of the human brain to dramatically increase the ability of computers to help us solve complex problems,” Aston University mathematician David Saad said in the release. “We believe this project has the potential to break through current limitations of processing power and energy consumption to bring about a paradigm shift in machine learning technology.”

(16) QUICKEST TURNAROUND. “SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites on record-setting used rocket, nails landing”.

 SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink internet satellites to orbit this morning (Feb. 4) on a mission that notched a booster-reusability milestone for the company.

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with the 60 broadband spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station today at 1:19 a.m. EST (0619 GMT). 

Approximately nine minutes later, the rocket’s first stage returned to Earth, landing smoothly on one of SpaceX’s drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. The massive ship, “Of Course I Still Love You,” is one of two SpaceX vessels that catch falling boosters and return them to port.

It was the fifth launch for this Falcon 9 first stage, which last flew just 27 days ago — the quickest turnaround between missions for any SpaceX booster….

(17) WORLD OF TOMORROW.  Next week’s Kickstarter might be a way to get a copy into your hands.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Superman Returns/The Science of Superman” on YouTube is a documentary that I believe was originally a bonus feature on the Superman Returns DVD that looks at whether Superman’s powers are scientifically plausible.  For example:  if Superman has heat vision, what’s the heat source?  Does his X-ray vision deal in any way with how X-rays actually act in the real world?  And, a question that entertained our parents when they were kids:  if he’s invulnerable, how does he get a haircut?

Scientists including University of California (Irvine) physicist Michael Dennin and Chapman University biologist Frank Frisch explain the scientifc howlers.  For example, remember in Superman:  The Movie when Lois Lane falls off a skyscraper and Superman flies up to catch her?  Dennin notes that Lois is falling at terminal velocity and if caught by a super-fast Superman Lois’s body would have 1000 times the impact than if Superman had stayed on the ground and caught her.  Even more implausible is the scene where Superman turns back time because, unfortunately, no one has found a way to reverse time.

I thought this was worth an hour.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/21 Like Three Zabriskan Fontemas In A Trench Coat

(1) DR. MAE JEMISON. Dr. Mae Jemison will give a talk in the Oregon State University Provost’s Lecture series on February 4. Free registration here.

Dr. Mae Jemison: the first woman of color in space; a national science literacy ambassador and advocate for radical leaps in knowledge, technology, design and thinking — on Earth and beyond. She also served six years as a NASA astronaut. Join us as we explore the frontiers of science and human potential with Dr. Jemison for the next Provost’s lecture on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. [Pacific] Free, remote, open to all.

(2) BLASPHEMY, I TELL YOU. Throwing-rocks denier James Davis Nicoll unleashes his skepticism on some of the leading hard science authors of the genre: “Five Books That Get Kinetic Weapons Very Wrong”. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress supplies the text for his opening lesson.  

… On the surface, this seems plausible. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation assures one that this would be quite vexing to anyone standing where the rock happens to land: at 11 kilometres per second, each kilogram of rock would have about 60 megajoules of kinetic energy, more than ten times the energy of a kilogram of TNT. Nobody wants more than ten kilograms of TNT exploding on their lap.

But…a moment’s consideration should raise concerns. For example, the rebels are using repurposed cargo vessels. How is it they are able to reach the surface at near-escape velocities without fragmenting on the way down? How did the rebels manage to erase Cheyenne Mountain from existence when (given the numbers in the book) it would take about two hundred thousand impacts to do so? How did the rebels cause a tidal wave in the UK when simple math says the wave would only have been a few centimetres high at Margate?

Heinlein probably relied on a simple but useful technique: he didn’t do the math…. 

(3) NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE, AND PROBABLY NEVER WERE. The Horn of Rohan Redux conducted “An interview with Suzanne Nelson, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature 2020 finalist” for her book A Tale Magnolious

There is something post-apocalyptic about the dust bowl-esque farm featured in this book. Did you pull ideas from history or dystopian literature? 

I’m a fan of dystopian literature, but I didn’t have any particular piece in mind as I was writing A Tale Magnolious. Certainly, the desperation of the Dust Bowl years and the Great Depression era were at the forefront of my mind as I wrote. I am an avid student of history and think often about periods, like World War II, where there have been great loss, or evil and tragedy, but where humankind has ultimately overcome these horrors through courage, faith, and love. As I crafted Nitty and Magnolious’s story, I kept returning to the idea of hope blooming in the midst of desolation. Even Neezer Snollygost had the chance to alter his self-serving, destructive path, but he chose not to. In a way, I suppose he resembled Tolkien’s Gollum in that his obsessions robbed him of his better self. But others in Magnolious like Windle Homes, gave up their resentments and anger, and once they did, their hearts reopened to love. People have a way of finding joy and one another in the darkest times through love and hope.

(4) WEBSITE DEFLECTS BLAME. Directors Notes has responded to Adam Ellis and his charges that Keratin ripped off his comic: “A Statement on Adam Ellis’ Keratin Plagiarism Accusation”.

For clarity, we would like to state that Directors Notes was in no way involved with the creation of Keratin nor have we profited from the film’s existence. We are however regretful to have used our platform to help promote the film. Had the full facts of its genesis been made clear to us at the time would have declined to run the interview.

As has been pointed out by many commentators, when asked about Keratin’s inspiration Butler and James’ response: “The original concept was inspired by a short online cartoon we saw which we developed further” fails to credit Ellis as the creator of the original online cartoon, nor does it detail the email conversation the filmmakers had with Ellis or his request that they pull the film from festivals.

(5) AVOID CROWDS. Paul McAuley has advice for writers in “World-Building The Built World”.

…Worldbuilding is hard only if you pay too much attention to it. Less is almost always better than more. Use details sparingly rather than to drown the reader in intricate descriptions and faux exotica; question your first and second thoughts; set out a few basic parameters, find your character and start the story rather than fleshing out every detail of the landscape, drawing maps, and preparing recipe cards and fashion plates before writing the first sentence. Wherever possible, scatter clues and trust the reader to put them together; give them the space to see the world for themselves rather than crowd out their imagination with elaborate and burdensome detail.

Most of the heavy lifting for the worldbuilding of War of the Maps was already done for me in a speculative scientific paper, ‘Dyson Spheres around White Dwarfs’ by Ibrahim Semiz and Selim O?ur. That gave me the basic idea: a very large artificial world wrapped around a dead star, its surface a world ocean in which maps skinned from planets were set. Almost everything else was tipped in as the story progressed. Discovering details essential to the story as it rolls out gives space and flexibility to hint at the kind of random, illogical, crazy beauty of the actual world; the exclusionary scaffolds of rigid logic too often do not….

(6) WINDOW ON A PAST WORLDCON. AbeBooks is offering “The Twelfth World Science Fiction Convention Papers” for a tad under $24,000. I now realize one of the disadvantages of the internet age – all those emails I got from pros while organizing convention programs will never be collectibles! Also, I wonder if there’s anything in the archive explaining why SFCon (1954) decided not to continue the Hugo Awards which had been given for the first time the previous year?

A UNIQUE OFFERING THE TWELFTH WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION PAPERS. Held in San Francisco in the summer of 1954 with G.O.H. John Campbell, Jr., this was one of the great early gatherings. Included in this massive archive is everything that one might want to know about running a convention: Hotel rates for rooms, banquets, buffet menus, rentals, carpenters, electricians, etc. There are letters from attendees and those who wished to attend but could not; paid invoices from photo shops, printers, etc.; canceled checks (along with some unused ones as well) and check stubs; Radio scripts from local stations and press clippings and pictures from local papers; letters from major Motion Picture Studios answering requests about film availability; SIGNED letters from advertizers (including all the small presses); the entire convention mailing list; black & white photos picturing singularly or in group Ackerman, Anderson, Boucher, Bloch, Campbell, Clifton, Dick, Ellison, Evans, Gold, Mayne, Ley, Moskowitz, Nourse, E.E. Smith, Williamson, Van Vogt, Vampira, et.al. But of course the major importance of this archive has yet to be mentioned. And that’s simply the great abundance of SIGNED letters, post-cards and notes from authors and artists. To wit: Anderson, Asimov (3), Blaisdell, Blish, Bond, Bonestell (4), Boucher (3), Bradbury (4), Bretnor, F. Brown, Howard Browne, Budrys, Campbell (5), Clement, Clifton (2), Collier, Conklin, DeCamp, DeFord, Dick, Dickson, Dollens (8), Emshwiller (2), Eshbach (2), Evans, Farmer, Freas (3), Greenberg (2), Gunn, Heinlein, Hunter (5), Kuttner, Ley (5), Moskowitz, Neville, Nolan (3), Nourse, Obler, Orban (3), Palmer, Pratt, Simak, E.E. Smith (2), Tucker, Williamson (3), Wylie, et.al. Finally, also included is a set of audio tapes which were taken at this convention. Now for the first time (depending on your age I guess) you can not only be privy to what went on at this convention, but also hear the actual voices of Anthony Boucher, John W. Campbell, E.E. “DOC”Smith and others too numerous to mention. A unique opportunity to snatch a bit of vintage post-war Science Fiction history. (The tapes, while definitely included in this grouping, may not be immediately available.).

(7) A WRITER BEGINS. Read Octavia Butler’s autobiographical article “Positive Obsession”, the Library of America’s “Story of the Week.”

…A decade after she published Kindred, as her standing in the literary world continued to rise, Octavia Butler wrote for Essence magazine a remarkably compelling essay outlining the path of her career, from early childhood in the 1950s to her status as a full-time writer in the 1980s. We present her life story as our Story of the Week selection….

MY MOTHER read me bedtime stories until I was six years old. It was a sneak attack on her part. As soon as I really got to like the stories, she said, “Here’s the book. Now you read.” She didn’t know what she was setting us both up for….

(8) SLOW READER. “’Doctor Doolittle’ returned to Canadian library was 82 years overdue” – UPI has the story.

…”We were putting a fan in our bathroom, so we had to cut a hole through our roof and while we were up in the attic, we found a bunch of old books,” Musycsyn told CTV News.

Musycsyn said the copy of Doctor Dolittle stood out because it bore markings from the Sydney Public Library.

“This one in particular had the old library card from 1939,” Musycsyn said. “And I just thought that was interesting, because it was the same week that the library had abolished their fines.

“So, I thought it was a good thing, because I wouldn’t want to know what the fine on an 82-year-old overdue book would be.”

Library officials said the old Sydney Public Library burned down in 1959, destroying most of its books. They said the tome returned by Musycsyn might not have survived if it had been returned on time.

(9) VON BRAUN’S SF BOOK. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website discusses the engineer’s literary ambitions Mars Project: Wernher von Braun as a Science-Fiction Writer”.

The German-American rocket engineer Dr. Wernher von Braun is famous—or infamous—for his role in the Nazi V-2 rocket program and for his contributions to United States space programs. He was, I have argued, the most influential rocket engineer and space advocate of the twentieth century, but also one whose reputation will be forever tainted by his association with Nazi crimes against humanity in V-2 ballistic missile production. Von Braun certainly was multi-talented—he was a superb engineering manager, an excellent pilot, and a decent pianist. In the U.S., he became a national celebrity while speaking and writing about spaceflight. But we don’t think him as a science-fiction writer. It was not for want of trying. Von Braun wrote a novel, Mars Project, in America in the late 1940s and later exploited his fame to publish a novella about a Moon flight and an excerpt from his failed Mars work.

…The political context for his fictional Mars expedition is equally fascinating. Mars Project opens in 1980, after the United States of Earth, with its capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, conquers and occupies the Soviet bloc, aided by its space station—once again called Lunettadropping atomic bombs on Eurasian targets. While von Braun reveals his tendency to naïve technological utopianism in the Martian sections, his opening displays a conservative anti-Communism suited to the Cold War hysteria of 1949. His vision of World War III is, to put it plainly, a fantasy of a successful Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union….  

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 2, 1925 The Lost World enjoyed its very first theatrical exhibition.  It was directed by Harry O. Hoyt and featured pioneering stop motion special effects by Willis O’Brien, a forerunner of his work on the original King Kong. It’s the first adaption of A. Conan Doyle’s novel of the same name.  It’s considered the first dinosaur film. This silent film starred Bessie Love, Lewis Stone, Wallace Beery and Lloyd Hughes. Because of its age the film is in the public domain, and can be legally downloaded online which is why you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 2, 1882 – James Joyce.  If I call Ulysses or Finnegans Wake fantasy, someone will answer “He just wrote what he saw”, which leads not only to Our Gracious Host’s days as an SF club secretary, but also to Van Gogh’s Starry Night.  Marshall McLuhan said in War and Peace in the Global Village he could explain what FW’s thunder said.  Half a dozen short stories for us anyway.  (Died 1941) [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1905 – Ayn Rand.  Anthem and Atlas Shrugged are ours – meaning they’re SF; I express no opinion on them or Objectivism philosophically, that being outside the scope of these notes.  I did put a Jack Harness drawing of JH’s Objectivist Mutated Mouse Musicians in the L.A.con II (42nd Worldcon) Program Book, but that was ars gratia artis.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even though it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavours include, and this is lest OGH strangle me is only the Choice Bits included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense.” (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas M. Disch. Camp ConcentrationThe Genocides334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done.  He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born February 2, 1947 – Eric Lindsay, age 74.  Fan Guest of Honor at Tschaicon the 21st Australian natcon, Danse Macabre the 29th.  Fanzine, Gegenschein.  GUFF delegate with wife Jean Weber (northbound the Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, southbound the Going Under Fan Fund); their trip report Jean and Eric ’Avalook at the UK here (PDF).  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 72. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series we were just discussing? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest to name some of his genre roles. (CE)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 72. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight ZoneOuter LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. (CE)
  • Born February 2, 1957 – Laurie Mann, F.N., age 64.  Co-chaired Boskone 25, chaired SMOFcon 30 (SMOF is Secret Master Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke, besides the Jefferson Airplane comment).  Two short stories.  Pittsburgh Bach Choir.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Maintains William Tenn Website.  Fan Guest of Honor at Rivercon XII, ArmadilloCon 27 (with husband Jim Mann).  Program Division head for Sasquan the 73rd Worldcon, also (with JM) for Millennium Philcon the 59th. You might read her “Everything I Learned About Buying and Renovating Buildings I Learned from Monty Wells”.  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1966 – Frank Lewecke, age 56.  Molecular biologist.  Half a dozen covers for German-language editions of Herbert-Anderson Dune books.  Here is House Atreides.  Here is The Butlerian Jihad.  More generally this gallery.  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1981 – Tara Hudson,age 40.  Three novels for us.  Says she once drove a blue Camaro, got her lowest grade (B) in law school, and in that profession had a great career and stagnated.  Many seem happy with the result.  [JH]
  • Born February 2, 1986 Gemma Arterton, 35. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. (CE)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld depicts “The Runaway Lobster-Telephone Problem.”

(13) SPASEBO BOLSHOYA SUPERMAN. You don’t need millions of dollars for special effects anymore if you have a drone with a tiny camera: “Superman With a GoPro”. (Don’t ask me why the closed captions are in Russian.)

(14) WHEDON WAS HERE. Yahoo! Entertainment frames the series and trailer: “’The Nevers’ First Trailer: Joss Whedon Creates HBO’s Next Genre-Mashing Original Series”.

Whedon is back with HBO’s “The Nevers,” albeit with a twist. While Whedon created and executive produced the Victorian Era science fiction series, he announced in November he was stepping away from the series. By this point, “The Nevers” had already wrapped production on its six-episode first season. Whedon is no longer involved with “The Nevers,” but HBO’s teaser trailer for the show is peak Whedon with its clashing of genres and super-powered female action heroes.

The description from The Nevers: Official Teaser says —

Society fears what it cannot understand. Experience the power of The Nevers, a new @HBO original series, this April on @HBOmax. In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the “Touched”: people — mostly women — who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some charming, some very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of… well, pretty much all the forces — to make room for those whom history as we know it has no place.

(15) I SAY I’M SPINACH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] MIT scientists have used nanotechnology to enable spinach to detect components of explosives and other hazardous substances. The spinach plants can also send out an alert via e-mail, so guess what the headline is about. Though automatic e-mail alerts aren’t anything unusual. My furnace regularly e-mails me as well. From Euronews, “Scientists have taught spinach to send emails and it could warn us about climate change”.

…Through nanotechnology, engineers at MIT in the US have transformed spinach into sensors capable of detecting explosive materials. These plants are then able to wirelessly relay this information back to the scientists.

When the spinach roots detect the presence of nitroaromatics in groundwater, a compound often found in explosives like landmines, the carbon nanotubes within the plant leaves emit a signal. This signal is then read by an infrared camera, sending an email alert to the scientists.

This experiment is part of a wider field of research which involves engineering electronic components and systems into plants. The technology is known as “plant nanobionics”, and is effectively the process of giving plants new abilities….

(16) POWER WALK. [Item by Michael Toman.] Just in case Other Mostly Shut-In “At Risk” Filers can use some inspiration for taking a daily 30-minute Masked Walk for exercise toward achieving the goal of 50 miles a month? “Astronauts Wind Down After Spacewalk, Reap Space Harvest” from the NASA Space Station blog.

…NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover completed their second spacewalk together on Monday wrapping up a years-long effort to upgrade the station’s power system. They relaxed Tuesday morning before spending the afternoon on a spacewalk conference and space botany.

The duo joined astronauts Kate Rubins of NASA and Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and called down to spacewalk engineers after lunchtime today. The quartet briefed the specialists on any concerns or issues they had during the Jan. 27 and Feb. 1 spacewalks….

(17) BEWARE REDSHIRT ARMED WITH UKULELE. Howard Tayler tweeted a rediscovered drawing of John Scalzi, eliciting this comment from the subject.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Mandalorian Season 2” on Honest Trailers. the Screen Junkies say the show combines “the world of Star Wars, the feel of old samurai movies, and the emotional core of Reddit’s r/awww community because every time you see Baby Yoda, you want to go “Awwwww!”

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

Smell Like A Superhero

Is there a science fiction movie character you want to smell like? Forget Swamp Thing, c’mon, he’s not in Fragrance X’s catalog. Otherwise, there’s no end of superhero and genre branded colognes you can buy.

First, here’s a whiff of justice —

BATMAN COLOGNE

Batman Cologne by Marmol & Son, Based on the classic Justice League character, Batman, this heroic scent for boys and men incorporates fresh spicy notes for an aromatic blend. Lavender, bergamot and black pepper open this fragrance. The middle notes contain cardamom, geranium and patchouli, and closing notes include musk and vanilla.

SUPERMAN COLOGNE

Superman Cologne by Cep, Embrace your inner strength with Superman, the aromatic green fragrance for men of all ages. Ideal for wearing throughout the year, this energetic scent has the power to carry you through the day and well into the night. The similarities with its namesake don’t end there, though, because this aroma’s sillage has a commanding presence in any room. The top notes of this powerhouse of a fragrance are sorbet, lemon, ginger and ozonic notes. Within its super heart beat’s the notes of blood grapefruit, nutmeg and green notes. The dynamic powers of aromatic Egyptian musk and amber support the upper layers of the perfume pyramid. This scent made its debut in 2012 for the boy looking for his first cologne or the man who’s seeking to recapture the energy of youth.

In space no one can hear you scream, but you can smell real good while you’re doing so.

STAR TREK TIBERIUS

Star Trek Tiberius Cologne by Star Trek, James Tiberius Kirk was a fearless leader and a real ladies’ man. His essence has truly been captured in a bottle with Star Trek Tiberius cologne. With this fragrance around your pulse points, you will feel like venturing where no man has gone before. This cologne, which was introduced in 2009, opens with notes of pineapple, pear and citruses. The heart consists of lavender, black currant and melon. Woody notes make up a large part of the fragrance’s base along with moss, musk and patchouli.

Star Trek is one of the most iconic science fiction franchises of all time. The original series lasted for three seasons after premiering in 1966. The show followed the adventures of the starship enterprise, which was led by Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner. In the rebooted universe, James Kirk was played by Chris Pine. The show has influences numerous other properties over the decades.

STAR TREK SULU

Star Trek Sulu Cologne by Star Trek, Add an otherworldly flair to your outfit by wearing Star Trek Sulu cologne. This fragrance came out in 2010, and it features top notes of lemon, petit grain and lavender. The core of the composition consists of juniper berries, coriander and water lily. This warm heart will captivate your senses. The base brings out white musk, amber and sandalwood.

Star Trek has become one of the most iconic properties in all of pop culture. It is a science fiction series that began back in 1966. Gene Roddenberry developed the series to present morality tales, and the original series had cultural significance. The show was noted at the time from its progressive views on civil rights.

This particular cologne derives its name from the original character Hikaru Sulu. He was portrayed by George Takei in numerous films as well as the original series. In the rebooted slate of films, Sulu was played by John Cho.

For the next one I don’t have to make the obvious joke – it’s in the ad copy!

STAR TREK RED SHIRT

Star Trek Red Shirt Cologne by Star Trek, Men wanting a fun fragrance should wear Star Trek Red Shirt. This fragrance derives its name from the “red shirts” in the hit television series, which have become synonymous in pop culture for anyone in a movie or T.V. show who is going to die very soon. The top notes of this cologne include rosemary, lemon, apple and lime. The heart contains a mixture of fruity and water notes along with star anise, lavender and ginger. After all these aromas dry down, you get the base of musk, leather, amber, tonka bean and cedar.

Here are a couple of offbeat selections. I was wrong to assume Minions smell like bananas.

MINIONS

Minions Yellow Cologne by Minions, Offer your child a gift that keeps on giving by offering them Minions Yellow, a light, airy scent made from the popular Minions movie and television franchise. The top notes are designed to add a splash of freshness to any situation, and include tarragon, lemon, lime, lila and iris. The scent’s middle note consists of apple, and base notes are made from a simple combination of vanilla, tonka bean and amber.

Minions became popular through the rise of funny children’s movies such as “Despicable Me,” “Despicable Me 2,” and “Minions.” The fragrance itself was created by the parent company, Illumination Entertainment, which also happened to be the brain behind the movie production. The film “Minions” focused on the series’ most popular little characters, and grossed over a billion dollars in sales, prompting the creation of tons of merchandise like this fragrance.

Deadpool smells like a lot of different stuff – that part I agree with, anyway.

DEADPOOL

Deadpool Cologne by Marvel, Deadpool for men was launched in 2016 and is a musky, woody fragrance perfect for men who need a scent to help them get through the day; whether that means making it through a slew of stressful meetings, or a superhero day of stopping crime. The fragrance starts with the top notes of lavender, orange blossom, rosemary, sweet peppermint, and spicy coriander. The scent then moves into the heart notes of jasmine, oakmoss, and geranium. The base notes are an intriguing combination of warm amber, musk, soothing sandalwood, and woody cedar. These notes all work together to create a scent that is just as powerful as its namesake.

The cologne is moderately long-lasting to make it through the day but won’t become too much, and it has a soft sillage so it will entice without being overwhelming or unwelcome. The fragrance was released by Marvel, who created their first superhero themed scent in 2004.

VENOM

Marvel Venom Cologne by Marvel, Fans who cite Venom as their favorite character will love this unisex Marvel Venom cologne. Inspired by the formidable villain, this scent includes bright, fruity top notes of apple and bergamot orange. Beneath, the heart of the fragrance adds sweet floral notes of jasmine and lily of the valley along with sensual, earthy precious wood. Rich, grounding notes of cedar, musk and amber comprise the base of this franchise-based scent.

Personally, I associate the Hulk with the smell of smashed concrete and twisted rebar – what Marvel thinks is very different:

HULK

Hulk Cologne by Marvel, Unleash your inner Hulk with this cologne based on the famous Avenger. This fragrance first came out in 2004, a year after his big-screen debut in the Ang Lee-directed film. No one may like you when you are angry, but they will love being around the intense blend of notes found in this cologne, which include bergamot, orange blossom, musk, vanilla, woody notes and petit grain.

I’m fascinated that both X-Men Storm and Wolverine are “designed for young fans who might not hesitate to spritz liberally” – the kind of fans who might be the children of those guys in my high school locker room who doused themselves with Jade East.

STORM

X-Men Storm Perfume by Marvel, Feminine and powerful, X-Men Storm is a fresh spicy and floral fragrance released in 2004 inspired by the popular superhero character. The top notes of this fragrance include mandarin and violet, which slowly give way to the creamy heart of hyacinth, lily of the valley, iris, neroli, and freesia. The base is almost an almost undetectable hint of musk. The perfume was designed for young fans who might not hesitate to spritz liberally, so the fragrance isn’t overly potent or long-lasting, but is still suitable for a touch of floral scent on a day out.

WOLVERINE

X-Men Wolverine Cologne by Marvel, Inspired by the classic hero of comics and films, X-Men Wolverine is a straightforward scent with hints of thoughtfulness and ferocity. The simple formula includes a top note of orange blossom, a middle note of vanilla, and a base of musk. Designed for young fans who might not be able to withstand the temptation to spritz liberally, the fragrance is not overly potent. With its keepsake box, this fragrance is ideal for fans and collectors alike. . This fragrance was released in 2004.

This last one, really, you buy it for the helmet, right? Why even open the bottle?

STAR WARS STORMTROOPER

Star Wars Stormtrooper 3D Cologne by Disney, Showcase your inner Star Wars fanatic with Star Wars Stormtrooper 3D Eau de Toilette spray. The scent for boys opens with herbal notes combined lemon and bergamot. Orange blossom, midnight Jasmine and white flower bring a floral essence to the heart. Vanilla, amber and musk deepen the base for a decidedly masculine fragrance that isn’t overpowering. Complete your fan’s collection with matching shower gel. Show off the collectible bottle complete with stormtrooper head gracing the top.

Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

(1) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THAT PALANTIR. An insurrectionist wants a federal District Court to force the U.S. to adopt an interim government from the history of Middle-Earth: “Paul Davis Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Lawsuit, Declares ‘Gondor Has No King’” – the case is briefed by Law and Crime.

Paul M. Davis, the Texas lawyer who was fired from his in-house counsel job after he recorded himself among a mob at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6, has filed legal documents which set a new floor for legal embarrassment in U.S. jurisprudence. The documents employ a series of awkward references to — and ideas from — the temporary government of the Kingdom of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Davis’s lawsuit bombastically attempts to assert that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president and that a rightful heir to that office will someday return. Until then, the case foolishly argues that a federal judge might be able to appoint a group of “stewards” from the cabinet of former President Donald Trump to run most of the government from the White House. That should occur, the lawsuit lawlessly speculates, after the Secret Service escorts Biden and his wife out of the executive residence at the order of a federal judge.

…After a few lines of formalities, a six-page Amended Motion filed Thursday argued yet again for a restraining order.

“Gondor has no King,” the document says in its second paragraph, “to invoke a very appropriate quote from the J.R.R. Tolkien epic classic, ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

A footnote explains the analogy:

During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as “Aragorn,” occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.

(2) INAUGURATION DAY PRESENTS. More examples of the Bernie Sanders meme. First, where he’s dropped into fine art: “Bernie Sanders Stars in Art History’s Greatest Works in New Viral Meme” at ARTnews.

…A cascade of similar images soon followed. The art historian Michael Lobel made a version in which Sanders inside a moody café from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks—itself the subject of one of the more memorable Covid-era memes—and others placed the senator within iconic works by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, ASCO, Joseph Beuys, and Georges Seurat. (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte with Bernie, anyone?) There was even a version where Sanders appeared seated atop a stylite column that appeared first in a 5th century Byzantine manuscript.

But no version of the newest Sanders joke proved more memorable than one created by the writer R. Eric Thomas, who inset him facing Marina Abramovi? for one famous performance that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. MoMA picked it up, tweeting, “Bernie is present.” Something about Thomas’s rendition may help explain its charm. In most pictures of The Artist Is Present, Abramovi?’s steely eyes meet her viewer, almost daring anyone who sits before to look away. But in the meme version, Sanders looks away from her, his eyes cast toward the floor. In this meme, there seems to be a willful disregard of something that was construed by many as being great—an anti-establishment spirit that befits Sanders’s own views.

Then, StarTrek.com also ginned up some silly ones: “#BernieBeams into the Captain’s Chair”.

(3) COURT DECIDES AGAINST PARLER. “Amazon can keep Parler offline, judge rules” – the Seattle Times has the story.

… On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said that forcing Amazon to get Parler back online goes against the public interest, given “the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol.”

“That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” she wrote. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.”

Amazon welcomed the judge’s ruling. In a statement, the company issued a rejoinder to critics who have said Amazon infringed on Parler’s First Amendment rights when it suspended Parler’s account.

“This was not a case about free speech,” the statement said. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it).” …

(4) WILL GOOGLE GO? “Google threatens to leave Australia because of new media law” reports the Washington Post.

… The threat is the latest and most intense in a long-running battle that has pitted Australian lawmakers and news organizations against U.S.-based tech giants Google and Facebook. For years, news organizations in Australia have argued they should be paid when Internet companies aggregate news stories on their websites. Google and Facebook say their sites help people find news, and the resulting traffic to news websites is valuable on its own.The proposed media law would force the tech companies to negotiate with media companies on payments for previewing and linking to their content. If they can’t reach a deal, a government regulator would step in to set the rates. That arrangement is untenable, Mel Silva, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand, said in prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing Friday. …The idea that Google should pay for showing news in its search results is not new. In Spain, Google shut down its news aggregation website in 2014 after the country passed a law requiring online platforms that profit off news links to share their revenue with media companies. Just this week, Google agreed to negotiate payments to French publishers.

In the United States, Google is facing multiple federal and state antitrust lawsuits that allege the company has used its domination of online search to benefit its other businesses and push out competitors.

“It seems very peculiar to me that effectively Google wants to blackmail Australian consumers and policymakers with threats to go ahead and leave this jurisdiction when these discussions are happening all around the world, including in the U.S. itself,” Australian Sen. Andrew Bragg said during the Senate hearing, which was broadcast remotely.

(5) WOTC LITIGATION ENDS. The lawsuit creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed against Wizards of the Coast last fall was settled without trial in December. “Dragonlance Writers End Lawsuit Against Dungeons & Dragons Maker” reported Comicbook.com.

A surprising lawsuit involving the seminal writers of the Dragonlance novels and the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly ended. Last week, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the primary authors behind the popular Dragonlance novels, filed to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit against Wizards of the CoastWeis and Hickman filed the lawsuit in US District Court earlier this year, alleging that Wizards of the Coast breached a licensing contract to write a trilogy of new Dragonlance books by informing the pair’s publisher that they were no longer moving forward with the books without explanation. The duo, who claimed that a Dragonlance novel was already completed and that substantial work had begun on a second book, sought up to $10 million in damages in the initial lawsuit.

The filing noted that Wizards of the Coast had not formally answered their lawsuit, nor had they filed for a summary judgement. As Weis and Hickman filed for a dismissal without prejudice, the duo could hypothetically re-file their lawsuit at a later date.

(6) QUESTION TIME. Octothorpe is a podcast from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty about science fiction and SF fandom. In episode 23, “A Lot of Foreshadowing”, the three “discuss the recent debate over the Hugo Awards and DisCon III’s approach to the same, before touching on some upcoming fannish events.” One segment is provocatively titled, “Are the Hugos a massive cankerous boil on the Worldcon that just needs to be completely purged?”

(7) FURLAN OBIT. Actress Mira Furlan, who gained fame playing Delenn on Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau on Lost, died January 20 at the age of 65. The Variety tribute is here.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave a deeply emotional eulogy:  

… We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.

Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said.

“Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”

“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.

And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.

Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

…We have lost a light in our galaxy, but another has gained one. I will miss our talks, our laughs, our deep discussions about Hollywood and life. I will miss our dinners and trips abroad. I will miss the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. I will miss her captivating voice and contagious laughter. I will miss sharing with her one of the most gratifying experiences of my life: the relationship between Sheridan and Delenn.

(8) SAUNDERS APPRECIATION. The New York Times obituary of the famous fantasy writer has appeared: “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73”. He died last May, and as reported here on January 1, had been buried in an unmarked grave until friends raised money for a headstone. The Times has an extensive obituary with photos and book covers.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf premiered on CBS where it would run for three seasons before moving to USA for a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who also created Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other great genre series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord and Jean Bruce Scott. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.
  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its audience reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 22, 1788 – George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron.  Mad, bad, and dangerous to know; but, as George Szell said of Glenn Gould, “that nut is a genius”.  Wrote fantasy among much else, e.g. “Darkness”The Giaour, Manfred.  It could be said that his rhymes were fantastic – “And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, / Some samples of the finest Orientalism” (Beppo, Stanza LI).  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.) (CE) 
  • Born January 22, 1925 – Katherine MacLean.  Five novels, fifty shorter stories.  One Nebula.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 1. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  Interviewed in NY Review of SF.  (Died 2019) [JH] 
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt.  I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really hurt. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like.  If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down where he voiced Hazel and The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1951 – Donna Ball, age 70.  Eight novels for us as D. Boyd, Rebecca Flanders; ninety all told, with other pen names too.  Award-winning dog trainer.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1962 – Alison Spedding, Ph.D., age 59.  Author and anthropologist.  Three historical-fantasy novels; one science fiction in Spanish; three other novels in Spanish; shorter stories, a play, nonfiction.  While living in Bolivia criticized the government; imprisoned, many fellow academics thinking it political; released on a surety.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1972 – Stephen Graham Jones, Ph.D., age 49.  Nine novels for us (about The Only Good Indians last year, which caught the attention of the NY Times Book Review, note that SGJ is himself Blackfeet), a dozen others; ninety shorter stories for us, two hundred others.  Texas Institute of Letters Award.  Stoker Award.  Professor of English at Univ. Colorado, Boulder.  See this from the ReaderCon 30 Program Book.  Special Guest at World Fantasy Con 2020.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1982 – Janci Patterson, age 39.  A dozen novels for us, a score of others; some with co-authors including Brandon Sanderson.  Customizes Barbie dolls, watches “reality” television.  [JH]

(11) SUPER AUCTION ITEM. You have until January 28 to bid on a “Fantastic 1941 Letter Signed by Jerry Siegel, Thanking Sheldon Mayer for Promoting ’Superman’’’. Current bid is $783.

Excellent letter by Jerry Siegel, creator of ”Superman”, thanking comic pioneer Sheldon Mayer for promoting the comic before it was published in ”Action Comics #1” in 1938. Dated 18 September 1941, letter reads in part, ”Dear Sheldon: I may be coming to New York inside a few weeks and I hope we can get together at that time and curse the comic business to our heart’s content.

Again I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help make SUPERMAN what it is. I’m very much afraid that if it weren’t for a chap named Sheldon Mayer, as far as syndication is concerned SUPERMAN might still be gathering dust, and Joe [Shuster] and I would be working for a living…[signed] Jerry”.

Sheldon Mayer was one of the first employees of the McClure Syndicate, headed by comics pioneer Maxwell Gaines. Although many have taken credit for discovering ”Superman”, this letter serves as ultimate confirmation that it was Mayer’s championing of the comic which led to its inclusion in ”Action Comics #1”.

(12) GUNN APPRECIATION. John Kessel has posted some of his correspondence with the late sf author and scholar James Gunn from 2018 on Facebook: showing the advice he gave about a recently published novella.

In the wake of sf writer James Gunn’s death in December, I’ve been thinking of him and what he meant to me. The publication of my novella “The Dark Ride” in this month’s F&SF reminded me that I had sent him a draft of the story and we had this correspondence about it, which helped me to shape the final version.

I thought I’d post these emails just to show how generous and engaged he was even in his late 90s. I’m so glad that I knew him….

(13) CHUCKED OUT THE AIRLOCK.  [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] “The queen’s rep in Canada calls it quits after probe into toxic workplace” in Politico. If the Queen is not in Canada, the Governor General is our head of state. Not SFnal in itself but what makes this SF-adjacent is Payette is getting the heave ho over permitting a culture of harassment that included —

Allegations [dating] to the earliest days of her tenure when she would reportedly put staff on the spot to quiz them on outer space, demanding they name every planet or correctly state the distance between the sun and the moon….

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

…And last year, CBC News reported that Trudeau’s office failed to check with Payette’s former employees during its vetting process. As it turned out, Payette had resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints of mistreatment of employees, according to the news outlet. She also left the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2017, the year she became governor general, after two internal probes into claims she had verbally harassed staff members.

(14) FINN DE SIECLE. MEL Magazine joins its voice to the continuing uproar: “Finn Deserved Better — And So Did Black ‘Star Wars’ Fans”.

…Later on, in perhaps the most exciting shot of the trailer (at least for me), we see Finn standing in a frozen forest. His eyes are steely, determined. He looks every inch the hero — defiant, ready. He turns on his lightsaber. Its blue glow leaps to life just as we see the villain Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber spitting hot energy from its hilt. All of that tension, all of that conflict, absolutely crackling with dramatic potential. Only for all of it to fizzle away in the three films that followed.

We started with a Black stormtrooper who becomes a conscientious objector, follows his moral compass and joins the rebels to risk his life in order to save the galaxy. Somewhere along the way, though, the filmmakers made that character boring. That’s why Star Wars fans are still so pissed at the great betrayal of Finn. It’s why his name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, a full year after the final film of the newest trilogy was released in theaters.

That last point is key: Finn deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. The “we” in this instance is Black sci-fi fans. We’ve had to live on some thin soup from Hollywood for far too long. (Although we do have to give a shout out to Star Trek for Capt. Sisko.) For Blerds like me, we held out a small hope that it might be different this time. That Star Wars might finally move on from its Victorian-Nazi melodrama past and embrace the diversity of our moment. Specifically, by creating a credible Black hero.

The first time Star Wars added a Black character, we got a space pimp. Lando Calrissian felt like he’d escaped from a Blaxploitation film or a 1970s malt liquor commercial. But at least he was cool — paper thin, but undeniably cool….

(15) DRAGON APATHY. Declan Finn complains that no one wants to talk about the Dragon Awards on his blog, in “Emerging Dragons”.  

…But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.

With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don’t even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list … and they didn’t realize they were already on it.

It was worse last year when I said “We’re not playing this game,” and people made the same request– proving that they didn’t bother to read the post.

(16) BENEFIT FROM EXPERIENCE. More encouragement to get the vaccine from the Governator. Followed on FB by comments from a legion of anti-vaxxers, naturally.  

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The monologue on last night’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, starting around the 10:15 mark, has Colbert telling disillusioned Q-anon conspiracy theorists how to fill the void by taking up his own enthusiasm for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

(18) VIDEO OF A MUCH EARLIER DAY. “Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog In Dueling Banjos” on YouTube is a Funny or Die sketch from 2013, and come on, who doesn’t like Kermit The Frog or Steve Martin?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Rose, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/21/21 Underpeople S’top And S’tare, They Don’t Bother Me

(1) 45 PROOF. [Item by Rich Lynch.] A couple of years ago, in SFPA, I ran an essay titled “Of Beer and the Beltway” which was reprinted in the current (25th) issue of My Back Pages.

In it, I mentioned that a local craft brewery, 7 Locks, was producing a Rye Pale Ale they had named “Surrender Dorothy”, the name a riff on The Wizard of Oz but also a homage to a stunt that happened at a Washington Beltway railroad bridge overpass back in the 1970s.  Here’s what the beer’s logo looks like:  Surrender Dorothy RyePA – 7 Locks Brewing

In that same issue of MBP, I noted that there had recently been modern day pranksters at work who had updated the “Surrender Dorothy” Beltway bridge stunt by spray-painting that same bridge with “Surrender Donald”.  And now 7 Locks has produced a limited-run Rye PA with that same name:  Surrender Donald 6-packs | 7 Locks Brewing Online Shop

I didn’t find out about it until today, when it was described in a short news item in The Washington Post.  And since it was a limited run, it’s unfortunately no longer available.  I see they have beer glasses with that logo listed, so I may try to get one of them.  But damn!  Wish I’d known about it before today!

(2) SUPER TRAILER. The CW dropped a trailer for Superman & Lois.

(3) VIRTUAL CAPRICON. Capricon 41 begins two weeks from today. It’s usually in Chicago, but will be held this year in virtual space.

We have some really amazing program lined up for you, with awesome panelists from all over the world. Check out the full schedule at https://guide.capricon.org/. This is a mostly final schedule, but note that there may still be a few changes to times and panelists to come

Don’t Forget to Register! Everyone must register to access the virtual convention space. Register here.

(4) BERNIE SITS IN. A meme-driven website lets you “Put Bernie Anywhere!” The New York Times explains: “Bernie Sanders Is Once Again the Star of a Meme”.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a fierce advocate of fair wages and a former presidential candidate who lost the Democratic nomination to now-President Biden. And thanks to his practical clothing choices he is also now the center of a seemingly endless flood of altered pictures that dominated some corners of the internet in the hours after Mr. Biden’s socially distanced inauguration on Wednesday.

Amid the dark suits and bright coats dotting the Capitol steps, Mr. Sanders was photographed sitting masked, cross-legged and bundled up in a bulky coat and mittens against the frigid weather in Washington, D.C. Soon after, the image, taken by the photographer Brendan Smialowski for Getty Images, began to circulate on social media inserted into a wide array of photographs and scenes from movies and artworks….

(5) NIGHTMARE FROM DEL TORO. “Searchlight Sets Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Nightmare Alley’ for December” reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

Searchlight Pictures has updated its 2021 release calendar, dating Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” for December 3. The date puts del Toro’s latest in the thick of the 2021-2022 awards season. Searchlight appears to be following the same release plan it gave del Toro’s last movie, “The Shape of Water,” which started its U.S. theatrical rollout on the first weekend of December. “The Shape of Water” debuted at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Golden Lion, and it seems likely “Nightmare Alley” will show up on the fall film festival circuit.

Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” is adapted by the filmmaker, and film critic Kim Morgan, from the 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name. The ensemble cast includes Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, and David Strathairn…

(6) CASE IN POINT. The Hugo Book Club blog is going through all the Hugo-shortlisted dramatic presentations in order to see how the art of SFF cinema has evolved over time. The third post in the series is: “Hugo Cinema Club: 1960 Gets In The Zone”.

In 1960, for example, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling seems to have been mostly unaware of the award until some two weeks later when a delegation of California-based fans who had just returned from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania visited the CBS offices to hand him a three-pound chrome rocketship on September 22.

The fans — including Bjo and John Trimble, Rick Sneary and Forrest J Ackerman — were greeted warmly by the television legend, who had also earned his fourth Emmy that summer….

(7) DISTAFF SUPERHEROES. The Women of Marvel podcast announced a special celebrating Marvel’s heroes will debut in April. Women Of Marvel #1 will spotlight iconic characters from the X-Men to the Avengers in a collection of tales by an all-female lineup from throughout the entertainment industry.

Kicking things off will be comics legend Louise Simonson with a must-read introduction. Simonson will be followed by some of the hottest rising stars in the graphic novel industry. Nadia Shammas punches the glass ceiling with an action-packed She-Hulk adventure, Elsa Sjunneson grits her way to the front line with a tale about Captain Peggy Carter, Sophie Campbell goes feral with a bone-grinding Marrow story, video game and comics writer Anne Toole gets gritty in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and Natasha Alterici of Heathen fame charges sword-first into the Marvel Universe with a revelatory tale about Rogue and Mystique. With astonishing art from new and established artists Kei Zama (TransformersDeath’s Head), Eleonora Carlini (Power RangersBatgirl), Skylar Patridge (ResonantRelics of Youth), Joanna Estep (Fantastic FourFraggle Rock) and more, readers are sure to come away powered up and ready to slay.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 — Fifteen years ago at L.A.con IV, Serenity wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Serenity was the film that finished off the story that started in the much beloved by fans Firefly series that aired briefly on FOX. Other finalists that year were Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-RabbitThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeBatman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It currently holds a phenomenal ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 21, 1858 – Anna Dodd.  Short stories, novels, essays and other nonfiction e.g. criticism for The Art JournalIn and Out of Three Normandy InnsTalleyrand.  Fluent in French and Italian.  Some say Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward was inspired by AD’s novel for us The Republic of the Future, subtitled Socialism a Reality, but it’s no joyous forecast.  (Died 1929) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1921 – Charles Eric Maine.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories.  Here is a cover for his fanzine The Satellite – not to be confused with this.  Many applaud his Mind of Mr Soames.  Also detective fiction, engineering, radio, television, film.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1923 – Judith Merril.  Four novels, thirty shorter stories; book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; half a dozen collections e.g. The Best of JM and posthumous Homecalling; a dozen annual Year’s Best SF (“a practically flawless anthologist” – Anthony Boucher).  Introduced and commented on Canadian broadcasts of Doctor Who.  Co-founded Milford Writers’ Conference.  Toronto Public Library’s Merril Collection named for her.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination SpaceThe InvadersTwilight ZoneMission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name but a few of them. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1929 – Arthur Jean Cox.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Active in his local club – a six-year string of perfect attendance at weekly meetings, eight terms as an officer – and cons e.g. Pacificon I the 4th Worldcon.  Essays, letters, reviews in AmazingAstoundingFantasy TimesF & SFRiverside QuarterlySF ChronicleSF Review.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1938 Wolfman Jack. Here because I spotted him showing up twice in Battlestar Galactica 1980 presumably as himself if I trust IMDb as it doesn’t list a character for him. He does have genre character roles having been in the Swamp Thing and Wonder Women series plus two horror films, Motel Hell and The Midnight Hour. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1939 Walter C. DeBill, Jr., 82. An author of horror and SF short stories and a contributor to the Cthulhu Mythos. Author of the Observers of the Unknown series about a Lovecraftian occult detective which is collected is two volumes, The Horror from Yith and The Changeling. They don’t appear to be in print currently. (CE) 
  • Born January 21, 1947 – Cherith Baldry, age 74.  Sixty novels, seventy shorter stories, for us, some under different names; a dozen other books; plays; essays, letters, reviews in Banana WingsFocusVector.  [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 65. Best remembered genre wise I’d say for being in Beetlejuice but she also appeared in Earth Girls Are Easy and Transylvania 6-5000. She’s done some one-offs on series including Knight RiderFantasy Island and The Exorcist. Yes, they turned The Exorcist into a series.  (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1956 Diana Pavlac Glyer, 65. Author whose work centers on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. She teaches in the Honors College at Azusa Pacific University in California. She has two excellent works out now, The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community and Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings. (CE)
  •  Born January 21, 1972 –Tracy Falbe, age 49.  Ten novels.  Has read DraculaEmpire of the Summer MoonNineteen Eighty-FourParadise LostTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  “I want to create someone you want to root for and then give him some disappointing traits.  I might infuriate a reader….  I’ll at least know that I provoked emotion.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BAD FLASHBACK. Sam Besanti, in “What Is Marvel’s Heroes Reborn And Why Can’t We Shake This Feeling of Impending Doom?”  at AV Club, says Marvel Entertainment (the whole company, not just the movie or comic book divisions) sent out a Cryptic Tweet with a teaser announcing the birth of “Heroes Reborn” and speculators are speculating what Marvel means by this.

Today, Marvel Entertainment—that’s the whole company, covering the movies, the comics, and the games—posted a curious teaser that simply had the name Heroes Reborn and “whatever happened to Earth’s mightiest heroes?” underneath. We don’t know specifically what that means, but there is one obvious implication, and based on the… oh, let’s say mixed reaction that the post is getting on Twitter, a lot of Marvel fans are coming to the same conclusion….

(12) X-MEN. X-Men Legends #1 hits stand on February 17. The series “will dive into the rich history of the X-Men to tie up loose ends, resolve long-standing plot danglers, and reveal shocking truths that will change the past and future of the X-Men!” Take a first look at the interior artwork here.

X-Men history will be revisited and revealed when X-MEN LEGENDS #1 debuts next month. This first-of-its-kind series will feature the return of the franchise’s most influential creators—including Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, and more— in all-new, in-continuity stories set during their groundbreaking runs. Starting things off will be Fabian Nicieza with a two-part tale that finally reveals the truth behind one of the most talked-about mutant mysteries: Adam-X and his startling connection to the Summers bloodline!

Introduced during Nicieza’s explosive work on the X-Men in their nineties heyday, the beginnings of this storyline can be traced back to 1993’s X-Men #23. Since then, X-Men fans have endlessly speculated, theorized, and debated what became known as the “third Summers brother” mystery. Now, all will be answered as one the most infamous comic book plot danglers of all time is resolved!

(13) BIG SHOT. [Item by JJ.] Arnold Schwarzenegger posted video of himself receiving his first dose of coronavirus vaccine at the Dodger Stadium mass vaccination site. He celebrated the moment by slipping in a line from his film — “Come with me if you want to live!”

(14) NARNIA IS NOT INERRANT. Joe R. Christopher has a short essay titled “Was Aslan Wrong about Jadis’s Plan of Attack?” published in Mythprint 57:4, Whole No. 395 (Winter 2020): 8-9 (for sale at the link.) The answer is “Yes, he was.”

(15) HE MUST BE GOING. Larry Correia says Facebook “banned me from my own group because of what I MIGHT say.” Correia has been temporarily banned from FB from time to time, but I’ve never before heard of a ban where a person can still post on his own wall, which is where Correia announced he’ll be curtailing his FB presence. Not actually ending it: “There’s a few groups I use here that I can’t get the equivalent resource anywhere else yet.” All that he told his FB followers has been turned into a post for Monster Hunter Nation: “A Farewell to Facebook” [Internet Archive link].

Jon Del Arroz in a new YouTube video said he is amused by this turn of affairs, because he claims Correia had long ago kicked him out of his group. 

…The post is kind of making the rounds that Larry Correia was banned from his own Facebook group after a couple of years. I’m kind of laughing about this, I’m not, going to lie, because Larry Correia actually ordered that I would be banned from his Facebook group a couple years ago for my quote wrong think or wrong meaning as it were this always happens with the libertarian crowd…

Truthfulness is not JDA’s strong suit, however, he’s banned here, so why not from Larry’s FB group, too?

(16) BIG AND GRAY. Satellite images may take over from aircraft when it comes to surveying this endangered population: “Elephants counted from space for conservation”.

…And all the laborious elephant counting is done via machine learning – a computer algorithm trained to identify elephants in a variety of backdrops.

“We just present examples to the algorithm and tell it, ‘This is an elephant, this is not an elephant,'” Dr Olga Isupova, from the University of Bath, said.

“By doing this, we can train the machine to recognise small details that we wouldn’t be able to pick up with the naked eye.”

The scientists looked first at South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park.

“It has a high density of elephants,” University of Oxford conservation scientist Dr Isla Duporge said.

“And it has areas of thickets and of open savannah.

“So it’s a great place to test our approach.

“While this is a proof of concept, it’s ready to go.

“And conservation organisations are already interested in using this to replace surveys using aircraft.”

Conservationists will have to pay for access to commercial satellites and the images they capture.

But this approach could vastly improve the monitoring of threatened elephant populations in habitats that span international borders, where it can be difficult to obtain permission for aircraft surveys.

(17) A ROSE WAR BY ANY OTHER NAME. The Folger Shakespeare Library podcast Shakespeare Unlimited brings us “Shakespeare and ‘Game of Thrones’”.

Based on his knowledge of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, Harvard’s Dr. Jeffrey R. Wilson knew just how HBO’s Game of Thrones would play out. Jon Snow, the illegitimate son, was a Richard III type, who would win the crown (and our hearts, in a love-to-hate-him kind of way). But Daenerys Targaryen, as a kind of Henry VII, would defeat him in battle and win it back, restoring peace and order. Turns out he was wrong about all of that.

But as Wilson kept watching, he began to appreciate the other ways Game of Thrones is similar to Shakespeare—like the way that both Shakespeare and George R.R. Martin’s stories translate the history of the Wars of the Roses into other popular genres….

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed another stumper on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: British Writers

Answer: When Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926, this British fellow writer tried to find her with the help of a spiritual medium.

Wrong questions: Who is George Orwell? and Who is George Bernard Shaw?

Correct question (only 1 contestant got it right): Who is Arthur Conan Doyle?

(19) A MISSION. Pierre Pettinger, the well-known costumer who along with his wife Sandy received the International Costumers Guild’s 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award, published a new space opera in October, The Road From Antioch.

The pilgrim ship Antioch is destroyed just short of the New Vatican. Someone is stealing critical shipments in the Chemosh Empire. Two worlds of the Laanyr Clan Heer have been attacked. Small vessels are buzzing the Rivnyera World Ships.

Who is behind these incidents? Terrorists? Rebels? The mysterious Cherek? Or someone else entirely? The nations of the Orion Arm must join forces and find the culprits.
The investigation ranges from the space around the planet Ans to the fields of Inohr Dan Nool to the supposedly primitive planet of Cordwainer. Join an Admiral, a Catholic Sister, a Knight Militant, an Ensign, a Great Mind, an Inspector and a Herdmaster as they seek out the perpetrators of these odd occurrences.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Jimmy Kimmel Live aired this wild animation last night – “Goodbye Donald Trump”.

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