Pixel Scroll 8/6/20 The Scroll With The Twisted Pixel

(1) SHARKE SIGHTING.  Nina Allan has been doing an interesting series of posts on both Hugo nominees and Clarke Award nominees; she wrote one on all of the Hugo-nominated novellas, for example. Her most recent is on Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. “Weird Wednesdays #9/Clarke Award #3: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley”.

…What a ride, what a charge. Kameron Hurley was last shortlisted for the Clarke Award back in 2014, for her debut novel God’s War. I enjoyed and admired God’s War, but had fallen somewhat out of touch with Hurley’s work since, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read her latest within the context of the Clarke. What a delight it is to see a writer fulfilling her potential. What I loved most about God’s War and the short fiction from Hurley that I’d read in the interim was its densely textured language, and The Light Brigade is immediately, thrillingly identifiable as by the same hand. Time (and increasing fame) has done nothing to slow or flatten the vividness and immediacy of Hurley’s approach, nor compromise its intelligence or conceptual ambition.

… Although The Light Brigade works perfectly well as a standalone novel – you don’t need to have read any of Hurley’s other work or even any science fiction to get on board – it is important to note the many and clever ways in which it is directly in conversation with older works of SF. …

(2) SUBSCRIBE TO ASTROLABE. Aidan Moher will launch a new newsletter— Astrolabe — on Friday

Aidan Moher

Astrolabe covers all the stuff I love—from science fiction and fantasy, to retro gaming, parenting, and personal news about my work. It’s about talking my stuff and professional news, but also building a community of readers, and sharing the love by highlighting and sharing all the other great work and books I come across.

Why wait? Here’s the link to subscribe.

Aidan Moher, who won a Best Fanzine Hugo in 2014 for A Dribble of Ink, which really was a beautiful publication, has gone on to author  “On the Phone with Goblins” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard,” and write for KotakuVentureBeatEGMUncanny MagazineCast of WondersBarnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy BlogTor.com, and various other places. 

But Aidan has not forgotten my teasing from back in 2014. He ended his email:

I see your absolute glee that I’m starting a issue-based fanzine, Mike Glyer. I SEE YOU.

(3) NUMBER NINTH, NUMBER NINTH. NPR’s Jason Sheehan warns us that “Whatever You’re Expecting, ‘Harrow The Ninth’ Is Not That Kind Of Book”.

You know how sometimes people say, Oh, it’s okay. You don’t have to read the first book in this series to dive right into the second.

This is not that kind of book

You know how sometimes people say, It’s like everything you loved about the first book, only MORE.

This is not that kind of book.

Last year, Tamsyn Muir absolutely owned the lesbian-necromancers-in-space genre. She created a crumbly, dusty, deeply haunted and wonderfully goopy horror-universe with Gideon the Ninth, peopled it with creepy, sepulchral wizards, dipped it all in the reverential tones of quasi-Catholic religious fanaticism, wrote it like a science-fantasy parlor romance full of murder and then gave it to us, still warm and dripping, like a cat bringing home a particularly juicy mouse.

…I loved Gideon. Loved everything about it. It was just so much of a book — so strange, so full, so lush, so double-bats*** crazy and so unerringly cool — that I didn’t think anything could top it.

And Harrow the Ninth, second in the series, doesn’t.

Because it is not that kind of book.

Gideon was the perfect surrogate through which to experience Muir’s creation — a brash, foul-mouthed, anarchic guide who was just as wonderstruck as we were by the gory weirdness happening at every other breath, but never so serious about it that any piece of the story felt logy with funereal detail.

Harrow, though? Harrow is all black crepe and rosaries. She’s that one goth girl from high school gone full dark supernova with her sacramental face paint and unfathomable necromantic powers. A bone witch (and don’t think Muir doesn’t have some fun with that), she can construct a skeleton from a chip of tibia and have it tear your arms and legs clean off. She vacillates wildly between breathless (though exceptionally prudish) teenage passion for a corpse (that would take pages to explain), fervent prayer and drear musings on death — her own and everyone else’s. At one point, she carefully (and explosively) poisons someone with a soup made from her own bone marrow and it’s passed off like, Oh, that’s just Harry, exploding one of God’s own hit men at the dinner table, the kooky kid!

(4) FAN PIPES UP. Speaking of Tamsyn Muir, she did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit yesterday: “I’m Tamsyn Muir, author of HARROW THE NINTH, second book of the Locked Tomb trilogy. AMA!”

[Question] … I have been telling all my friends that Alecto the Ninth is going to be a heist novel. Can you please confirm this, and if so, also confirm that there will be many heart crimes. Thank you for writing these books, they are fantastic….

tazmuir

AMA Author Tamsyn Muir

I had to go back and look to see if I’d ever mentioned that I wanted a heist in Alecto, because otherwise you are 1. psychic or 2. hiding in my drywall — there IS actually a heist in Alecto. It’s not the world’s greatest heist, and is undertaken by idiots, but there’s a heist. If you’re in my house, can you tell me if turning off the boiler at night has helped the pipes? I assume you’re between the walls.

(5) OPENING A FRESH DECK. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports that “With ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks,’ A Venerable Franchise Loosens Up”.

The prospect of spoofing Star Trek represents nothing new under the (binary) sun(s). The franchise has become an institution, and mocking institutions remains a thriving American cottage industry. Saturday Night Live started taking whacks at Trek way back in the ’70s, as did MAD magazine, and the short-lived sitcom Quark. As a piece of cultural furniture, Star Trek’s ubiquity, driven by multiple television series, movies, books, games, comics and fan-fiction, means its tropes have entered the collective consciousness, and have thus become easy to recognize — and to make fun of.

Why, one could even construct an entire, very-good movie just by riffing on Trek (1999’s Galaxy Quest), as well as an entire, not-very-good television series (FOX’s mystifying The Orville).

The difference between all these previous efforts and the one represented by Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering Thursday August 6th on CBS All Access, is a simple one:

This time, the comm signal is coming from inside the house.

True, the franchise has poked the gentlest of fun at itself, over the years — a throwaway line here, a winking reference to previous Trek series there. But Star Trek: Lower Decks is an official Trek property, its yuks are both nerdily meta and rigorously in-canon, and they go — more broadly than boldly, it must be said — where no Trek has gone before.

The premise is such stuff as comedy sketches are made on: Starships are huge, and staffed by hundreds of officers and crew members, so why does every Trek story need to revolve around the bridge, and the same 7 or so characters? Why not focus instead on the grunts doing the tedious, everyday work?

Creator/showrunner Mike McMahan made his bones on the animated series Drawn Together and Rick and Morty — shows whose darker, more cutting humorous sensibilities would seem to clash with Trek’s traditional commitment to ennobling, optimistic uplift. But that disconnect turns out to work for the new series, in most respects. For the nerds, in-jokes and easter eggs abound, testifying to the creators’ fondness for the source material, while viewers who don’t know a nacelle from a Jeffries Tube will likely appreciate the show’s sheer joke-density — and the fact that, as an animated series, it comes outfitted with an unlimited special effects budget.

That’s important, because despite its bright, broad, cartoony look, the planets of Lower Decks can appear legitimately otherworldly, instead of all looking like the Vasquez Rocks outside of Santa Clarita, California. Alien races can look alien — obviating previous series’ need to, as one wag (me) once put it, “Grab a dayplayer, slap a hunk of spirit gum between their eyebrows, paint ’em Prussian blue and shove ’em in front of the camera”.

(6) I WRITE THE WORDS. NPR reveals how “A New Documentary Shines A Spotlight On The Lyricist Behind The Disney Renaissance”.

Alan Menken composed the song “Prince Ali,” memorably sung by Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated feature Aladdin, while sitting at the lyricist’s hospital bed. His friend, Howard Ashman, was dying.

“His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time,” says Menken. “But Howard’s [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there’s something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he’s extremely vital — even now.”

Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist, is coming to streaming August 7 on Disney+. It also shows the friendship between Ashman and Menken, who met in New York City in the 1970s, where Ashman was the artistic director of a black box theater, the WPA, near Union Square. Menken had been working as an accompanist for singers and writing songs for Sesame Street, and they immediately gelled like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Together they wrote the musicals Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and the unlikely hit, Little Shop of Horrors — a monster mash parody of American musical comedies, which won several Drama Desk Awards and was adapted into a film in 1986 – before going on to work for Disney.

The documentary tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows (including the ill-fated Broadway show Smile with composer Marvin Hamlisch), and to his untimely death. It’s told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast — a Disney-lover’s treasure trove….

(7) ABOUT ASIMOV. In the comments on LitHub’s article “What to Make of Isaac Asimov, Sci-Fi Giant and Dirty Old Man?”, posted in May, former SFWA President Marta Randall told about the time Isaac Asimov assaulted her:

“In general,” writes Nevala-Lee, “Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful.”

I have to take exception to this. In the mid-1980s I was serving my first term as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the first woman to hold that office, and attended the Boskone convention, as did Dr. Asimov. He showed up in the organization’s suite and I thought it proper to introduce myself, so at a suitable break in the conversation, I held out my hand for a shake and tried to say, “Dr. Asimov, I’m Marta Randall, the president of SFWA.” I didn’t make it to the second syllable of his title before he grabbed my hand, jerked me to him, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. We were in a suite run by our professional organization, but apparently it never occurred to him that his actions might be inappropriate. Luckily a number of members who knew me pried him off of me before I tried to deck him.

We met again years later, when I was protected by carrying a baby on my back. He was perfectly cordial, but never apologized, if he even remembered the assault.

The man was a pig.

(8) VIRTUAL OXONMOOT. The UK’s Tolkien Society will hold “Oxonmoot Online” from September 18-20. Full details at the link.

…Clearly Oxonmoot Online will be a very different event from a normal Oxonmoot, but our aim is to bring you a busy and engaging weekend of Tolkien related activities. In addition, the online nature of the event offers new opportunities for international members who are normally unable to travel to Oxford to take part….

…Thanks to the actions of Ar-Pharazôn at the end of the Second Age, we find ourselves living on a round world – which means we have to deal with the complexities of time zones. To make the event as accessible as possible to as many of our members as we can, the “core” time for the keynote events and larger activities will be 18:00-22:00 UK time.

Outside these hours, we will run an engaging programme of talks, papers, activities and social gatherings – the exact timing of which will depend on the offers we get from you, our members. We intend to record talks and papers so that delegates can watch the presentations which are delivered at a time which is difficult in their time zone…

(9) THE GOAL IS MONEY. Trailer for the Korean sff movie Space Sweepers. “Are lots of trash worth a fortune?”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 6, 1955 Science Fiction Theater’s “The Stones Began to Move” first aired. Starring Truman Bradley, Basil Rathbone, and Jean Willie, a discovery inside the just-opened tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh may hold a clue as to the construction of the pyramids, but a murder is committed to keep that secret from being revealed. You can watch it here,

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 6, 1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  (His name was Alfred Tennyson; he was later made 1st Baron Tennyson.)  Poet whose engagement with quest and fantasy point us to him (“To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought” – speaking of which, don’t neglect the highly strange Frank Belknap Long story “To Follow Knowledge”, 1942).  See “Ulysses”, “Tithonus”, Idylls of the King (the Matter of Arthur).  (Died 1892) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series  He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see iBooks has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle has just the latter. (Died 1947.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born August 6, 1917 – Barbara Cooney.  Author and illustrator of a hundred children’s books, some fantastic.  Two Caldecott Medals.  National Book Award.  Here is a picture that might simply be entitled “Fantasy”.  Here is a cover for Snow White and Rose Red.  Here is Where Have You Been?  Here is “The Owl and the Pussycat” (note the runcible spoon).  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 – Judith Bemis, 65.  Co-chair (with husband Tony Parker), Tropicon 8-9.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Parker), Concave 16.  Treasurer of MagiCon (50th Worldcon), Noreascon 4 (62nd).  Active getting fanzines into FANAC.org database. [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 –Eva Whitley, 65.  Chaired Paracon 1, Disclaves 26 & 34.  Widow of Jack Chalker; says  ”Possibly the only person in fandom to meet spouse by making him GoH (Paracon 1)”.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 17 (with Chalker) & 21, Norwescon XXII (with Chalker).  Active in WSFA (Washington [D.C.] SF Ass’n) and BSFS (Baltimore SF Ass’n).  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 58. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Wow. Her first meaningful genre roles were as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1969 – Álvaro Enrigue, 51.  Novel Sudden Death for us, Herralde Prize.  Six novels, three collections of shorter stories and one of essays.  Mortiz Prize.  Carlos Fuentes said E’s novel Perpendicular Lives “belongs to Max Planck’s quantum universe rather than the relativistic universe of Albert Einstein, a world of co-existing fields … whose particles are created or destroyed in the same act.”  Translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German.  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1972 – Paolo Bacigalupi, 48.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories, translated into French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Spanish.  Interviewed in Electric VelocipedeIntergalactic Medicine ShowInterzoneLightspeedLocusNY Review of SFSF Research Ass’n Review.  First novel The Windup Girl won Hugo, Nebula, Campbell (as it then was) Memorial, Compton Crook, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, Ignotus, Laßwitz, Prix Planète, Seiun; also a Printz, a Sturgeon, another Seiun.  Toastmaster at MileHiCon 42; Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 33, Capclave 2014.  Williamson Lectureship, 2014.  [CE and I found two different dates for his birthday; since he’s done and won much, we decided to let both notes stand – JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Truer cartoon words were never spoken — Ziggy.

(13) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project is “Tomorrow Is Another Daze,” a story of Aztlán, creative reuse, and making technology work for you by Ernest Hogan (an Arizona-based writer, often called the father of Chicanx science fiction).

Lalo was in the middle of making Huevos Rancheros Microöndas when the doorbell rattled. The microwave buzzed less than a second after. Yet another quarantine for yet another virus was going on, so he wasn’t eager to answer the door. For all he knew it could be a terminal case, long past the early stages that are said to be similar to what they used to call future shock: the disorientation and hallucinations, the convulsions, foaming at the mouth, about to drop dead on his porch under the decorations his wife insisted on putting up, requiring the services of a hazmat team….

On Monday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they will have another virtual event on Zoom, with Ernest and scholar, author, and editor Frederick Luis Aldama. Register at the link.

(14) EAR TO THE GROUND. Michelle Nijhuis, in “Buzz Buzz Buzz” at New York Review of Books, discusses four recent works about human responsibilities towards animals.

…The scholarly emphasis on negative rights, along with the work of animal-rights and animal-welfare activists, has arguably improved the treatment of domesticated animals in North America and Europe. Public opposition to animal cruelty is now widespread, and recent laws and policies have banned animal blood sports. The insights of advocates such as Temple Grandin have helped us imagine how other species experience the world, and begin to curb some of the most brutal factory-farming practices.

None of these advances, however, has changed our fundamental relationship with animals—which is hardly sustainable, ethically or otherwise. In Slime, when one of the translators finally succeeds in communicating with a bump-nosed parrotfish from the Pacific Ocean, the message is stark, delivered in dramatic terms: “Youare helping Slime to kill us You You You Land Monsters!!! Why? Stop? Why? Change your swimming! Change your swimming! Change your swimming!!!!” Were Slime written today, it might include a line from a pangolin or a bat, warning that our heedless exploitation of animals carries deadly risks for all.

… That animals are in this sense political actors is an underrecognized and, to my mind, potentially powerful point of convergence between the animal-rights and ecological-protection movements: both traditions hold that animals have needs and wants that humans are more than capable of understanding, and should attend to.

(15) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE AMONG THEM ENGLISH. James Davis Nicoll was pleased to get some egoboo from the letters to the editors in the August 4 Sydney Morning Herald:

Hold the phonics

Each of your “o’s”, Kevin Harris, represents different sounds because of the consonants in each word that have individual phonetic sounds; always have and always will (Letters, August 5). Otherwise, we’d all be speaking French, where half the letters aren’t ever pronounced. John Kingsmill, Fairlight

Thirty years ago, one James Nicoll observed that “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary”. With that has come disparate rules of pronunciation, to the annoyance of Kevin Harris’ five-year-old and countless others. For English, basic phonics works for about 40 per cent of words, enough to make it a useful tool. For the rest, plenty of guided reading will make up most of the deficit. Richard Murnane, Hornsby

(16) SURPRISE! – NOT. “Hollywood censors films to appease China, report suggests” – BBC has details.

Hollywood bosses have been censoring films to placate the film market in China, a report has suggested.

The lengthy report says US film companies want to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market.

It said casting, content, dialogue and plotlines were increasingly being tailored to appease censors in Beijing.

The report, compiled by the free speech charity PEN America, claimed China was therefore influencing movies released in cinemas around the world.

China holds the world’s second largest box office market behind the US.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6bn (£2bn) in China last year, with Disney’s Avengers finale, Endgame, making $614m (£466m).

PEN is a non-profit organisation that campaigns on free speech and it sponsors the Pinter Prize for literature.

The report said that Marvel’s 2016 superhero film Dr Strange whitewashed a major Tibetan character for fear of jeopardising the title’s chances of success in China.

The forthcoming Top Gun sequel, Maverick, was also criticised for the “mysterious disappearance of the Taiwanese flag” in a 2019 trailer.

“Our biggest concern is that Hollywood is increasingly normalising pre-emptive self-censorship in anticipation of what the Beijing censor is looking for,” said James Tager, author of the report.

(17) HEISENBIRDS. “Attaching Small Weights To Pigeons Helps Them Shoot Up In The Social Hierarchy”NPR transcript:

Scientists found that attaching small weights to pigeons causes them to shoot up in the social hierarchy. The finding is important because scientists often attach trackers to pigeons.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

It turns out there is a social hierarchy among pigeons, and it definitely pays to be the big bird on campus.

STEVE PORTUGAL: Being top of the dominance hierarchy basically gives you preferential access to everything. It means you get priority access to food, priority access to mates.

SHAPIRO: That’s Steve Portugal, a zoologist and biologist at Royal Holloway, University of London. And contrary to what you may have heard about the early bird getting the worm, in the case of pigeons, it is heavier birds that get all the perks.

VANEK SMITH: So Portugal and his colleagues wondered what would happen if you made lighter pigeons feel heavier. If you beefed them up, would they punch above their weight?

SHAPIRO: They tested their theory in a captive flock of homing pigeons. They identified the birds in the bottom half of the hierarchy and loaded them up with tiny weights – little bird backpacks, actually.

PORTUGAL: And sure enough, when I did that, they became much more aggressive, started much more fights and won many more fights as well.

(18) EVRYBODY MUST BE STONE. ScreenRant luckily didn’t run out of fingers while counting the cast: “All 9 Star Trek Actors In Gargoyles The Animated Series”.

A number of Star Trek actors lent their voices to the animated series Gargoyles. The show followed the adventures of gargoyles, nocturnal creatures who turned into stone during the day. After being transported from their home in Scotland to New York City, the clan were awoken from their 1000-year-long magical slumber and took on the responsibility of protecting the city. The children’s series originally ran from 1994 until 1997, but has been finding new audiences thanks to Disney+.

… Like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis was a main character on both Star Trek: TNG as well as GargoylesSirtis played Deanna Troi, the empathetic, chocolate-loving counsellor onboard the USS-Enterprise. Troi is half-Betazoid, which grants her empath abilities — which often came in handy in dealings with other alien races. Also like Frakes, Sirtis played a villainous role on Gargoyles: her character Demona despised humans, and is possibly the most dangerous of all remaining gargoyles. She aligned herself with David Xanatos, and was largely responsible for him resurrecting the Wyvern clan, whom she had hoped would join her on her quest for vengeance.

(19) BEEB TRIVIA. Nicholas Whyte told the SMOFs list where they could see this Hugo-related feat:

The UK quiz show University Challenge had three questions about the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form last night, all correctly answered by the team from Strathclyde University – which, as it happens, is in Glasgow.

[Thanks to PhilRM, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Peer Sylvester, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, verified, blue check Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 7/11/20 Hello Pixel, Hello Filer, Here I Am At Camp 770

(1) COOL RUNNING. Archipelacon 2, the Nordic science fiction and fantasy convention in Mariehamn, Finland in 2025, is also a bid for Eurocon for 2025. (Cheryl Morgan added, “but not Worldcon, the venue is too small and they are much too sensible.”)

(2) PLAN B. Ian Sales, in “Reading diary 2020, #8” briefly gave some thought to reviewing the books on the Clarke Award shortlist before realizing it would be more interesting to tee off on US fandom.

…The Clarke commentary no longer takes place. An attempt to reinvigorate it several years ago with a shadow jury was loudly condemned by US fans who plainly didn’t understand what a shadow jury is and equally plainly hadn’t bothered to find out. Despite all claims to the contrary, fandom is not a community. Once upon a time, it was an emergent phenomenon of the stories’ existence. Now it’s just a part of the marketing machine, and, happily for the publishers, it costs them nothing. Five stars means less than one star. Giving a book five stars just makes you a fucking mug. And everything is dominated by the US, a nation which seems congenitally incapable of recognising that other countries exist and they do things differently there (yes, I know, that’s a time-based reference, not geographic one; but never mind). True, science fiction is an American mode of fiction, and the single largest market for its creations, so its dominance is hardly surprising. But us non-USians, while we may appreciate the genre output of the US – the stories, the novels, the films, the TV series – we don’t actually give a shit about what US fans think. Science fiction fandom is not one giant global family. It never has been. And it never should be. Vive la différence.

(There actually are bunch of good reviews in the post, once you get past this.)

(3) WINDYCON CANCELLATION. Chicago-area’s Windycon will not take place this year now that they’ve reached agreement with their facility.

Out of concern for the safety for our members, guests, and staff, Windycon 47 in 2020, originally scheduled for November 13-15 is cancelled for this year by mutual agreement with our hotel.

All room reservations will be automatically canceled by the hotel beginning Monday, 7/13.

If you have purchased a membership, dealer tables, or space in the art show for Windycon 47, we will refund your money or roll over your payments for Windycon 47 in 2021, per your preference.  Please contact us at registration@windycon.org to let us know.  Dealers, please contact dealers@windycon.org for your preferences, and artists, please contact artshow@windycon.org

If you haven’t contacted us by August 1, 2020, then memberships will be automatically refunded.

If you have a membership that was rolled over from Windycon 46, that membership will automatically be rolled over to the convention in 2021.

There may yet be some online activities which will be held during Windycon 47’s original timeframe.  Should this come to pass, information will be posted on the Windycon website and via social media channels.

Windycon 47 will now be held at the Westin in Lombard, Illinois on November 12-14, 2021, COVID-permitting, featuring all of the guests from 2020.

If you have any questions, please contact the ISFiC board at: board@isfic.org

(4) STORYGRAPH. Someone has invented a tool that could massively accelerate the growth of your Mount TBR, judging by Cole Rush’s “Interview with Nadia Odunayo, Founder of The StoryGraph” at The Quill To Live

Welcome to our special interview with Nadia Odunayo! Nadia is the founder of The StoryGraph, an online service that helps you find books to fit your mood. After you read the interview, head over to The StoryGraph to sign up and find your next read!

What is The StoryGraph and what does it do for readers?

The StoryGraph is a website that helps you to find perfect books for you based on your mood and the types of books you like to read.

Our magic feature is “Ordered for you.” Users fill out a short survey — it takes anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes to fill out — letting us know their favourite sorts of books to read, down to specific topics, types of authors, themes, genres etc. — and we order all of the books on our website for them based on how well they match their preferences.

Combine that with our filter menu, where you can filter down by moods, pace, genres, book size, and more, and you’re never more than a few clicks away from your next perfect book!

(5) DRIVE-IN FAVORITE. Did you see this coming? Deadline says it’s making the cash registers ring again: “‘Empire Strikes Back’ Leads At The Weekend Box Office Again, 23 Years After Sequel’s Special Edition”.

For the first time since the February 1997 reissue, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is leading at the box office this weekend after clocking an estimated $175K at 483 locations. Empire should end the weekend with a 3-day take in-between the high $400K and low $500K.

(6) DON’T PANIC. Huffpost urges, “Don’t Fall For The ‘Cancel Culture’ Scam”. And proceeds to document inaccuracies in the open letter signed by over 150 writers, including J.K. Rowling.

On Monday, 153 prominent writers, academics and public figures signed their names to a statement entitled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate.” According to the signatories, “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”

While the letter itself, published by the magazine Harper’s, doesn’t use the term, the statement represents a bleak apogee in the yearslong, increasingly contentious debate over “cancel culture.” The American left, we are told, is imposing an Orwellian set of restrictions on which views can be expressed in public. Institutions at every level are supposedly gripped by fears of social media mobs and dire professional consequences if their members express so much as a single statement of wrongthink.

This is false. Every statement of fact in the Harper’s letter is either wildly exaggerated or plainly untrue. More broadly, the controversy over “cancel culture” is a straightforward moral panic. While there are indeed real cases of ordinary Americans plucked from obscurity and harassed into unemployment, this rare, isolated phenomenon is being blown up far beyond its importance.

(7) CLARON CONVERSATIONS CONTINUE.  The next two installments of the Clarion Conversations are scheduled for July 15 and 16.

The Future is Queer – July 15, 5:30pm PT / 8:30pm ET (Register here.)

This week, our guests are José Iriarte, Jordy Rosenberg, and Nicasio Andrés Reed, moderated by Ellen Kushner. The conversation, named in honor of the Delany-Kushner-Sherman “The Future is Queer” scholarship for Clarion students, will explore speculative fiction through the eyes of these four writers whose work centers queer stories and experiences, the writers who inspired and paved the way for them, and what the future of the field looks like.

We encourage attendees of tonight’s conversation to make a contribution to the Delany-Kushner-Sherman/The Future is Queer Scholarship, which recognizes the continued work of Samuel R. Delany, Ellen Kushner, and Delia Sherman as active LGBTQ writers in the field of science fiction and fantasy, and their contributions as Clarion faculty members who have been particularly supportive of LGBTQ students over the years. The scholarship provides financial support for Clarion students who self-identify as part of the broader queer community. In addition, it recognizes the need for more queer representation in speculative literature, and the many hardships queer writers face due to employment, home, and financial discrimination. Our hope is that the Delany-Kushner-Sherman scholarship will help more queer writers attend the Clarion Workshop.

Remembering Octavia/Writers of Color at Clarion – July 16, 5pm PT / 8pm ET (register here)

This week, our guests are adrienne marie brown, Lisa Bolekaja, and Senaa Ahmad, moderated by Shelley Streeby (Clarion Workshop Faculty Director). The focus this week is to highlight the contributions of writers of color in the Clarion community, looking back to early student Octavia E. Butler and to the future through the eyes of these three writers, including two Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholars—a scholarship for Clarion students of color sponsored by the Carl Brandon Society.

The Carl Brandon Societyhas tirelessly dedicated itself to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. We encourage attendees of tonight’s conversation to make a contribution to the Butler Scholarship Memorial Fund.

Videos of the first two panels are available on YouTube.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 11, 1997 Contact premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis with production by him and Steve Starkey. It‘s  based off Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel of the same name with the screenplay by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg. Jodie Foster is the protagonist with an extensive supporting cast of Matthew McConaughey, James Woods, Tom Skerritt, William Fichtner, John Hurt, Angela Bassett, Rob Lowe, Jake Busey and David Morse. Contact won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at BucConeer, beating out Men In Black, Gattaca and Starship Troopers. The rough consensus of the critics was that it had great ideas, quite flat characters. Box office wise, it never earned back what it cost to make. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 78% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 – E.B. White.  Essayist at Harper’s and The New Yorker.  Three revisions of Strunk’s 1918 Elements of Style (1959, 1972, 1979) which thus since 1959 has also borne White’s name.  Letters, 1976 (Winship Award); Essays, 1977; Poems & Sketches, 1981.  For us, Stuart LittleCharlotte’s Web(Newbery Honor), The Trumpet of the Swan.  Amer. Acad. Arts & Letters Gold Medal, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Wilder Award, Nat’l Medal for Literature, Pulitzer Prize.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1913 – Harold McCauley.  Five dozen covers, a hundred interiors for AmazingFantasticImaginationOther WorldsUniverse.  Here  is a cover for the August 1940 Fantastic.  Here is the May 1952 Imagination.  Here are some images from the Grapefruit Moon Gallery (the stern man with a staff is HM’s cover for Empire of the Atom).  See Di Fate’s note on him in Infinite Worlds.  The Quaker Oats man has his face. (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1913 – Cordwainer Smith.  Forty short stories; even the titles are strange – “Scanners Live in Vain”, “Golden the Ship Was – Oh! Oh! Oh!”, “Think Blue, Count Two”.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  Under another name (and he used others too) he was Sun Yat-sen’s godson, earned a Ph.D., knew six languages, studied brainwashing and psychological warfare.  We may understand him some day.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. I don’t think we can consider The King and I genre or even genre adjacent…  If we do, he played Prince Mongkut in the short-lived Anna and the King as well. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 95. The voice of Daleks in the early years of Doctor Who including two non-canon films, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.; his voice work made him a sought-after worker and he’d be used on ThunderbirdsAsterix & Obelix Take On CaesarTimeslipMoomin, Stingray and even the recent Thunderbirds Are Go. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1954 – Sarah Prince.  Ceramicist, photographer, graphic designer.  Voice and handbell choirs.  Co-chaired Ditto 6 (fanziners’ convention, named for a brand of spirit duplicator – I’ve used it myself and “spirit duplicator” still sounds fantastic).  Here (Mark Olson photo) she is at Boskone 28.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 64. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Really just go read it and we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1958 – Alan M. Gutierrez, 62.  A hundred sixty covers, forty interiors.  Here is the Spring 1983 Rigel.  Here is The Infinite Sea.  Here is the April 2005 Analog.  Here is Fuzzy Ergo Sum.  Here are some starship concept sketches.  [JH]
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 61. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative fiction, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazines” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1976 T.L. Morganfield, 44. She is as she says “An Aztec geek; whether it’s history or mythology, I devour it all. It’s a love affair that began in college and has taken over my fiction writing life.” And that’s why I’m recommending her Bone Flower trilogy which is at genre adjacent if not genre. Her Aztec West series bring the Aztec gods into the Old West and is quite entertaining in a weird sort of manner. (CE)
  • Born July 11, 1984 – Marie Lu, 36.  Nine novels, five New York Times Best Sellers, some adapted to graphic novels and video games; they are young-adult futuristic dystopias.  Here is a January 2020 interview for The Writer.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows a suspicious case of news not going viral.

(11) MOVING IN A NEW DIRECTION. “Julia Sawalha ‘devastated and furious’ at Chicken Run sequel ‘ageism'” reports BBC.

Actress Julia Sawalha has said she is “devastated and furious” at not being in the Chicken Run sequel, claiming she was told her voice sounds “too old”.

Sawalha, who played Ginger the chicken in the 2000 animated original, said she felt she had been “unfairly dismissed”.

The actress said she had “officially been plucked, stuffed & roasted” after being told the role was being recast, but wished the film “the best of luck”.

The BBC has asked Aardman Animations and distributor Netflix for comment.

In an open letter, the Absolutely Fabulous and Cranford star said she had been “informed out of the blue” that the producers of Chicken Run 2 were recasting Ginger.

“The reason they gave is that my voice now sounds ‘too old’ and they wanted a younger actress,” she wrote.

Sawalha responded by filming herself speaking some of her old dialogue and sending the video to the sequel’s producers.

She said she had received a “very kind” response from an unnamed “creative” – who said the recasting would still go ahead.

(12) SHE ADORES THE DOCTOR. BUT NOT THAT DOCTOR. Galactic Journey’s Lorelei Marcus will tell you “This is how I fell hard for handsome, clever, talented teen idol of the century: Tony Randall.” [JULY 10, 1965] “SINCE I FELL FOR YOU” (A YOUNG TRAVELER’S CRUSH).

… He’s at his best though, when he is playing Dr. Lao; specifically when he drops the stereotypical façade of a foolish Chinese man and becomes the traveled scholar underneath. Suddenly he is standing straight and tall, almost regal in his confidence. His voice is deep and carrying, but his demeanor is kind, wise, and gentle. He speaks in a perfect and precise manner and his words discuss the magical secrets of the universe. I hadn’t known it at the time, but despite all the makeup and effects, this role was one of the closest to Randall’s true self.

At this point, I was awed by Randall’s performance in the movie, but felt little beyond that. Dr. Lao was a few thousand years too old for my tastes, and I had yet to see the man behind him more clearly. Then my father’s and my weekly Password viewing happened to feature a very special guest. I was quite excited, not necessarily because it was Tony Randall on Password, but simply because it was an actor that I recognized and admired. At least, that’s how it started.

I was folding laundry while watching the TV, and I found my attention frequently drifting away from my linens and to the man on screen (no, not host Alan Ludden.) Randall was fascinating to watch. He always sat with perfect poise and spoke with wonderful rich tones. And he was absolutely erudite, forcing me to pull out a dictionary a few times. His brilliance aided in his gameplaying as well, as I believe he is the only player in Password history so far to win four games in a row!

(13) LANSDALE INTRO ONLINE. Joe R. Lansdale, in “The Missing Link Between Golden Age Detectives, Hardboiled Noir, And Hallucinogenic Adventure” on CrimeReads, has an introduction to a new edition of Joel Townsley Rogers’s The Red Right Hand. a novel Lansdale says is “a genre slider, a brain teaser, a liar and a truth-teller at the same time.” 

… Clues and odd impressions pile up like plague victims, and from time to time the answer to the riddle seems close at hand, as if you could reach out and grasp it. Then the answer that seemed so clear wriggles from your grasp like an electric eel and slithers into darkness.

(14) STARRING ATTRACTION. At The Eloquent Page, Pablo Cheesecake entertainingly reviews “Random Sh*t Flying Through The Air by Jackson Ford”.

Please note, this is a direct sequel to The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind. It is entirely possible that if you have not read book one in The Frost Files series then this review will contain something akin to minor spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

Teagan Frost’s life is finally back on track. Her role working for the government as a psychokinetic operative is going well and she might even be on course for convincing her crush to go out with her. But, little does she know, that sh*t is about to hit the fan . . .

A young boy with the ability to cause earthquakes has come to Los Angeles – home to the San Andreas, one of the most lethal fault lines in the world. If Teagan can’t stop him, the entire city – and the rest of California – could be wiped off the map.

For reference, before we begin, I’m going to refer to this book henceforth as Random Sh*t. I can’t be bothered typing Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air all the time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliant title for a brilliant book, but it’s wearing me out. The prospect alone of having to repeatedly type it out is giving me the fear.

(15) UNDER THE HARROW. Andrew Mather reviews a sequel in Harrow The Ninth – Sure, Ok, Yeah” at The Quill To Live.

God, it’s like assembling a fusion reactor without a manual. I am honestly surprised at my perceived commercial success of Tamsyn Muir’s The Locked Tomb series. Not that it is bad in any way – in fact, we gave book one a stellar review and listed the series as one of our top Science Fantasy books of all time. It’s just that these books are so confusing that you will literally never understand what is happening, which is usually a huge turn off for most readers. I am pleasantly surprised that the general public has collectively decided these books are worth the time and effort.

So, Harrow The Ninth, the second book in the series, is coming out soon. You might be sitting on your couch right now, browsing this review on your phone, and thinking “oh a Harrow review, maybe he will say the books get less confusing.” Well reader, no, unfortunately, I cannot say that because I don’t understand half the plot, and the other half I do understand is basically all spoilers.

(16) UNSEEN THINGS. Looks like Trump’s Space Force has a head start on the Border Patrol. The New York Times reveals “Beyond the Milky Way, a Galactic Wall”.

Astronomers have discovered that there is a vast wall across the southern border of the local cosmos.

The South Pole Wall, as it is known, consists of thousands of galaxies — beehives of trillions of stars and dark worlds, as well as dust and gas — aligned in a curtain arcing across at least 700 million light-years of space. It winds behind the dust, gas and stars of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, from the constellation Perseus in the Northern Hemisphere to the constellation Apus in the far south. It is so massive that it perturbs the local expansion of the universe.

But don’t bother trying to see it. The entire conglomeration is behind the Milky Way, in what astronomers quaintly call the zone of avoidance.

An international team of astronomers led by Daniel Pomarède of Paris-Saclay University and R. Brent Tully of the University of Hawaii announced this new addition to the local universe on Friday in a paper in Astrophysical Journal. The paper is festooned with maps and diagrams of blobby and stringy features of our local universe as well as a video tour of the South Pole Wall.

It is the latest installment of an ongoing mission to determine where we are in the universe — to fix our neighborhood among the galaxies and the endless voids — and where we are going….

(17) BEYOND ELEMENTARY. At Nerds of A Feather, Paul Weimer’s “Microreview [book]: The Sin In the Steel by Ryan Van Loan” points out a new book’s connection to a strong literary tradition.

…Going into the novel, I did not quite realize that this was going to be a twist on a Sherlock adventure, and it was a delight to meet Buc and Eld on Holmes and Watsonian  terms. The author takes this further than I expected–giving Buc a use of a drug in order to focus and think in a productive way, and making Eld a veteran Who Has Seen Things.. The youthful nature of the protagonists (Buc is 17 and Eld a couple of years later) puts them between a “Young Sherlock Holmes” and a Traditionally aged Holmes and Watson.

(18) WOKE IN TIME FOR BREAKFAST. Vogue tells why “OffLimits Is a New Cereal Brand for the Conscious Breakfast Lover”.

Emily Miller, author of the cookbook Breakfast and host of “Breakfast Club,” which hosts tours of famous breakfast spots around New York City, is launching a new cereal brand today called OffLimits. There are two flavors: DASH, which is made with Intelligentsia coffee and cacao, and ZOMBIE, a recipe that includes relaxing adaptogens like pandan, vanilla, and ashwagandha. The flavor’s names also represent fictionalized characters created by Miller. They represent moods and emotions like anxiety and depression. She crafted these personas in order to humanize cereal branding, which—despite how sugary or fattening it may be—has often shouted eat this and you will be better and stronger! DASH is also the very first female cereal character ever created in the industry.

(19) TUCKERIZED. Fanac.org has posted Part I of the Bob Tucker Interview that Dick Smith conducted for Chicon 2000.

Dick Smith’s interview of Wilson “Bob” Tucker was done for the 2000 World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon 2000 (with videography by Tom Veal, chair of Chicon 2000!). In this low key conversation, Tucker tells wonderful stories about 60 years of fandom, from Chicon 1 in 1940, to his only stint as convention Artist Guest of Honor, to the origin of the Tucker Hotel, to Claude Degler and more. There’s history. There’s “smoothing”. There are intriguing hints of stories not told. Here’s your chance to sit down with a ghiant of fandom, and listen to Dick Smith draw out his stories of our fannish past.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/23/20 So Tomorrow We Are Heading Up That Scrolly Road, Rocks And All. Got Any Dragons You Need Pixeled?

(1) WORTH YOUR WHILE. Having seen what shoppers are lined up for, James Davis Nicoll tracked down five highly time-absorbent novels — “Five Massive SFF Books to Read While You’re Social-Distancing” at Tor.com.

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

Clocking in at a streamlined 1120 pages, Ash tells the tale of 15th century mercenary Ash, a woman whose Europe is both very much like and very much different from our own. A natural soldier, she is drawn into the effort to defend a disunited Europe from the Visigoth army that threatens the continent. Visigoth-ruled Carthage has numbers and a seemingly magical technology the Europeans cannot match. Key to the invader’s success: the Faris, a woman guided by mysterious Voices…a woman who could be Ash’s twin.

(2) INSTANT TSUNDOKU. Paul Weimer presents “Mind Meld: The 101 and the 201 of SFF” at Nerds of a Feather. The feature involves asking people a genre-related question and sharing their responses. Answering this time are Marissa Lingen, Megan O’Keefe, Alix Harrow, Adri Joy, Marina Berlin, Lisa McCurrach, Melissa Caruso, Andrew Hiller, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Keena Roberts, J Kathleen Cheney, Elizabeth Fitz, Camestros Felapton, Catherine Lundoff, Sophia McDougall, and Julie Czerneda. His question is:

Some readers are looking for entry points into fantasy and pointing them at a book rich in the conversation and assumed tropes can throw them right out of it again. Other readers want more than a basic experience but are frustrated with novels that retread the same basics over and over.

So I’d like for you to recommend me *two* books:

1. A 101 SFF book that someone who may have seen Lord of the Rings but never cracked open an SFF book might fruitfully read. 
2. A 201 SFF book for someone looking for a deeper, richer experience, rewarding their previous reading in genre. 

(3) NEW ZEALAND GOING TO TOP ALERT LEVEL. Of concern for those hoping the 2020 Worldcon might still be held this summer, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the nation has gone to Level 3 status, and tomorrow they will be going to Level 4 status for at least 4 weeks.

A New Zealand Herald article explains: “Coronavirus: What Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4 mean for you and your family”.

New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is now at alert level 3 – and will move to level four for likely at least four weeks from Wednesday.

Alert level 3 means the risk of the potentially deadly virus not being contained and there will either be community transmission of the virus or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

Essential services will be open at all alert levels, but level level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just told the nation “we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential”.

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

(4) LAFFERTY FANS DISAPPOINTED. Laffcon, a one-day event about the works of R.A. Lafferty that had been scheduled for June 8 in Lawenceville, New Jersey has been postponed until June 2021.

(5) HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe to help the late Kate Hatcher’s family has been launched by Rick Kovalcik: “Help Ben (and Ireland) Hatcher”.

As you may know, Kate Hatcher passed away early in March after battling pneumonia (http://file770.com/kate-hatcher-1974-2020/). She left behind her partner, Ben Hatcher, and a daughter with health issues, Ireland. Various people have asked if there is anything we could do for Ben and Ireland. Well, John Hertz called me yesterday and said Ben and Ireland really could use some money, especially in the next month, while Ben tries to straighten out the finances and government payments to Ireland. Since John is not on the Internet, the suggestion was that I create a GoFundMe and send the money to Ben Hatcher. I am doing so. As I did for the Boskone ASL Fund, I will make up the GoFundMe fees (up to the asking amount) in addition to my personal contribution so that Ben and Ireland get the full amount that people are donating.  As suggested by John Hertz, I will send Ben a money order on about March 31st with what is raised to that point and then follow up with additional funds as appropriate (perhaps weekly). If anyone wants to check the veracity of this, please feel free to contact John Hertz; if you don’t have his phone number, I can give it to you.

(6) FAN FAVORITES. The nerd folk duo doubleclicks will livestream interviews with two sff authors this week. (Times shown are PDT.)

TUESDAY:
11am: Interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarers Series, which we’ve read about 2 dozen times. The second book has an AI in it whose story makes me feel one million things. Becky’s latest book is To Be Taught, If Fortunate and is also completely lovely!!

THURSDAY:
11am: interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries, which we’ve also read about 2 dozen times. This series is about a “robot” who just wants to binge tv shows and protect people and the books are so funny and real and emotional.

(7) A CHAPTER IN GENRE HISTORY. Joel Cunningham, the person who started the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, tells the story of the site, which closed last December after five years. Thread starts here. He’s got a new job at Lifehacker. 

(8) NOSTALGIA AVAILABLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An Ontario guy set up a site with all sorts of old broadcasts and bits and pieces many locals grew up with. Did you know that in 1972, Dan Ackroyd voiced the call sign for a TV station? They also have Judith Merril’s post-show discussions of Doctor Who episodes from 1980, old commercials, stuff from the Buffalo TV stations … a lovely rabbit hole to slither down: Retrontario.com.

(9) PLAGUE INVADES THE LOCKED TOMB. Bad news for those awaiting the sequel to one of last year’s most talked about sff books. Tamsyn Muir told readers today —

(10) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. “Not like the pictures”: “William Gibson Says Today’s Internet Is Nothing Like What He Envisioned”

William Gibson writes visionary stories — in his early work, he imagined an information superhighway long before the Web existed. But in a dozen novels over the last 35 years, Gibson has stalked closer and closer to the present.

His latest, Agency, has a complicated plot that jumps between the far future and the immediate present; Gibson says his favorite type of science fiction requires time and effort to understand. “My greatest pleasure in reading books by other people is to be dropped into a completely baffling scenario,” he says, “and to experience something very genuinely akin to culture shock when first visiting a new culture.”

Gibson imagined that sort of culture shock back in 1982 when he coined the word “cyberspace” in a short story. Two years later he popularized the term in his first novel, Neuromancer, about a washed up hacker hired for one last job.

…”He said once that he was wrong about cyberspace,” says author Lev Grossman, “and the internet when he first conceived it, he thought it was a place that we would all leave the world and go to. Whereas in fact, it came here.”

Grossman is a former book critic for Time magazine and author of the fantasy bestseller, The Magicians. “You have an artificial intelligence that is everywhere. It’s in all your devices. You’re looking through it as a lens to see the rest of the world. It’s an extraordinary vision of how computers will become aware, and become the thing that mediates between us and reality.”

But Gibson himself thinks the future of artificial intelligence will require human sensibility to take it to the next level. “Over the past few years, I’ve more and more frequently encountered people saying that the real change-bringer might not be something, an intelligence that we build from the ground up, but something like an uploaded healing consciousness that we then augment with the sort of artificial intelligence we already have.”

(11) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Marie Claire ran an article about nineandthreequartersco whose products we mentioned here the other day: “Harry Potter-inspired tea and coffee just launched in a whole range of magical flavours”. See more Harry Potter-themed beverages on the company’s Instagram page.

All the names take inspiration from J.K. Rowling’s fictional world; from ‘espresso patronum’, to ‘butter brew’, to ‘brew that must not be named’, there are flavours for every Potterhead.

The ‘espresso patronum’ coffee blend is, as you may have guessed, an espresso blend, promising to provide a smooth and chocolatey cup of coffee with a slightly fruity finish. The ‘butter brew’ coffee on the other hand, is a sweeter butterscotch flavour brew, taking inspiration from the beer the wizards drink at Hogsmede pub. More information about the other coffee flavours on their website.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 23, 1962 — The third season episode of Twilight Zone entitled “Person or Persons Unknown” first aired. Written by Charles Beaumont Who wrote a number of other classic episodes in this series such as “The Howling Man” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, he also was the scriptwriter for such films as  7 Faces of Dr. Lao and Queen of Outer Space. The premise of his script is simple: upon awaking from a bender, his protagonist find no one recognises him. Richard Long is David Andrew Gurney and the supporting cast are quite fine in their roles as well.  

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several year later in the Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1937 Carl Yoke, 83. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is to be in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of those serious academic volumes no one really reads for the most part. Yoke does have two genre stories to his credit, they’re called The Michael Holland Stories.
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 68. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad Awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work! 
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 62. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 23, 1959 Maureen Kincaid Speller, 61. British reviewer and essayist who has been nominated for Hugos for Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer. She’s had an extensive career with her writing showing up in MatrixSteam Engine TimeThe Gate and Vector (all of which she either edited or co-edited), Barbed Wire KissesFire & HemlockLocal FanomenaRed Shift, Interzone and The BSFA Review. Other than a brief collection by BSFA, And Another Thing … A Collection of Reviews and Criticism by Maureen Kincaid Speller, her work has not yet been collected. 
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 43. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First, she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think there’s there a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro answers the question, “What’s Heaven to a chicken?”
  • Bug-eyed aliens from Neptune invade Calvin & Hobbes.
  • Cul de Sac chronicles The Attack of the Monster Worm!  

(15) COMICS PIPELINE SHUT OFF. Bleeding Cool reports “Diamond Comic Distributors No Longer Taking In New Comics”.

Bleeding Cool has been informed by multiple senior industry figures that Diamond Comic Distributors is requesting that no more product be shipped to any of its warehouse until further notice. Product already in its warehouses will be distributed, such that it can, but after that they will be distributing no more comics, magazine, books, toys, games, or any other product until further notice….

The company’s reasons for the decision are chronicled at Adventures in Poor Taste: “Diamond Comics Distributor explains choice to halt shipping and marks March 25 as last slated shipment”.

… Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease….

(16) CORONA CARTOONIST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Chen Wang, who uses the name “Messycow” for her cartoons, who uses her background as someone born in Wuhan but who now lives in Seattle, whose comics deal with how she copes with the coronavirus. “Chinese American cartoonist finds satire in coronavirus crisis — with a perspective from both cultures”.

“People in the rest of the world might not have known much at the time, but it was all people cared about in China,” says the artist, who has family in Wuhan. “I followed the news closely and experienced a lot of emotions.”

To channel those emotions creatively, she took a humorous tone with the comic “Quarantine Makes Life Better,” which depicted a faux-news report of characters coping with stay-at-home life.

(17) PIXAR’S ONWARD ONLINE. Adweek reports “Disney’s Onward Available for Digital Purchase Tonight as Coronavirus Shutters Theaters”.

Disney’s latest Pixar film, Onward, opened in theaters just two weeks ago, but the company is already making it available for digital purchase tonight, making it the latest current release to quickly migrate to video-on-demand platforms as the novel coronavirus’ spread wipes out traditional movie theater attendance.

The film, which follows the adventures of two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, will be available to purchase on digital platforms for $19.99 beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Disney said this morning.

It will then be released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ just two weeks from now, on April 3.

(18) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. The British Science Fiction Association has made its archive of its official journal Vector available on the Fanac.org website: “Early Vector now open access”.

The BSFA have partnered with FANAC.org to make sixty years’ worth of back issues available free online. This collection includes for the first time scans of all of the first seven issues (editors inclue E.C. Tubb, Terry Jeeves, Roberta Gray, and Michael Moorcock).

Most of what has been digitized is now available on Fanac: issues from the 1980s and 1990s should follow shortly.

(19) COMFORT READS. The New York Times features includes a couple of genre books (one of them by Harlan Ellison): “Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, Min Jin Lee and Others on the Books That Bring Them Comfort”.

Celeste Ng – ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman

In 1987, my sister was halfway through reading me “The Princess Bride” when she went off to college. The day she left, I cried myself to sleep — and then, after I got my bearings again, I read the rest of the book on my own. So this has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges that life isn’t fair (“It’s just fairer than death, that’s all”) yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there’s a point to it all. If you only know the (fantastic) film, pick the book up, too — it’s just as much of a delight. —Celeste Ng’s most recent book is “Little Fires Everywhere.”

(20) DEPTH SHALL NOT RELEASE YOU. BBC has the bad news — “Climate change: Earth’s deepest ice canyon vulnerable to melting”.

East Antarctic’s Denman Canyon is the deepest land gorge on Earth, reaching 3,500m below sea-level.

It’s also filled top to bottom with ice, which US space agency (Nasa) scientists reveal in a new report has a significant vulnerability to melting.

Retreating and thinning sections of the glacier suggest it is being eroded by encroaching warm ocean water.

Denman is one to watch for the future. If its ice were hollowed out, it would raise the global sea surface by 1.5m.

…Most people recognise the shores around the Dead Sea in the Middle East to have the lowest visible land surface elevation on Earth, at some 430m below sea level. But the base of the gorge occupied by Denman Glacier on the edge of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) actually reaches eight times as deep.

This was only recently established, and it has made Denman a location of renewed scientific interest.

(21) NOT BLASTS FROM THE PAST.  Got to love this title: “Not Rocket Science: SF Stories Involving Alternatives to Space Rocketry”, a Tor.com post by James Davis Nicoll:

…A cousin to the sling is the accelerator, a (presumably firmly bolted down) device which uses some force other than centripetal to accelerate payloads. Such devices have some obvious limits (namely, power supply, heat management, and the trade-off between accelerations low enough not to crush the payload and final velocities high enough to be useful). They also have advantages, not least of which is not having to haul a gigawatt-plus power supply off-planet and across space. Accelerators of various kinds go way back in science fiction, at least as far as Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, whose Baltimore Gun Club delivers a living payload past the Moon using a very, very large gun. No, larger than that.

Various flavours of accelerators show up all through SF. One of the more striking examples is Michael Swanwick’s Vacuum Flowers, whose “transit rings” manipulate space-time to accelerate payloads to high speeds without the payloads feeling the forces involved. I wonder if this was inspired by Robert Forward’s Guidelines to Antigravity

(22) LET THE SUNSHINE IN. Oh, sure, if you’re going to count everything“Electric car emissions myth ‘busted'”

Fears that electric cars could actually increase carbon emissions are a damaging myth, new research shows.

Media reports have questioned if electric cars are really “greener” once emissions from manufacture and electricity generation are counted.

The research concludes that in most places electric cars produce fewer emissions overall – even if generation still involves fossil fuels.

Other studies warn that driving overall must be reduced to hit climate targets.

The new research from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen – in The Netherlands – and Cambridge shows that in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a petrol car.

The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal.

(23) SEA FOR YOURSELF. SYFY Wire applauds a scientific development: “Creepy Extinct Fish With Fingers Unearths The Bizarre Truth Of How Hands Evolved”.

Humans may not be directly related to fish (except maybe Abe Sapien or that creature from The Shape of Water), but the fossil of an extinct fish known as Elpisostege watsoni was a breakthrough for a research team from Flinders University in Australia and Universite de Quebec a Rimouski in Canada. This literal fish out of water had fingers, as in actual finger bones, in its pectoral fins. Its 380-million-year-old skeleton revealed how vertebrate fingers evolved from fins — and how prehistoric fish morphed into tetrapods.

(24) ANCIENT PILOT. William Shatner was Archie Goodwin in this adaptation of Nero Wolfe.

An unsold, 1959 pilot for a proposed NERO WOLFE TV series starring Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. The theme was composed by Alex North. Rumor has it there are two additional unsold pilots with this cast out there somewhere.

(25) VULCAN LIVES. John Prine’s “Lonesome Friends of Science” is news to me!

“This song here is an epic.  This tells you about the humiliation of the planet Pluto, when it was told it was no longer a planet, the romantic escapades of the Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama, and the end of the world as we know it.  All in a little over four minutes.” 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nancy Lebovitz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, rcade, Joe Siclari, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Darrah Chavey, Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirebiting editor of the day Brian Z.]