Pixel Scroll 9/29/21 I Should Have Been A Pair Of Ragged Pixels, Scrolling Across The Floors Of Silent Files

(1) BROOKLYN BOOK FESTIVAL. The Brooklyn Book Festival, running from September 26-October 4, has several virtual panels of interest to sff readers. Register at the links.

From creating slice-of-life cyclops and mermaid stories to horror-infused dramas and Afrofuturist epics, worldbuilding—complete with specific rules, cultures, and logic—is no small feat. Join creators Tim Fielder (Infinitum), Kat Leyh (Thirsty Mermaids), John Jennings (After the Rain), and Aminder Dhaliwal (Cyclopedia Exotica) as they discuss the unique challenges and joys of speculative storytelling and how fantastical worlds can say more about our own. Moderated by writer and editor Danny Lore (Queen of Bad Dreams, FIYAH Magazine). 

A dystopian London, a child caught in the midst of a deadly epidemic, and a grieving taxi driver in a ghostly Washington, D.C. Join the authors of A River Called Time (Courttia Newland), Phase Six (Jim Shepard), and Creatures of Passage (Morowa Yejidé) for a conversation on what draws them to speculative fiction, from world-building to the mechanics that make a story tick. Moderated by Carolyn Kellogg.

A Life of Crime (virtual) – Brooklyn Book Festival – October 3, 9:00 p.m. Eastern

Join award-winning mystery authors Naomi Hirahara and Walter Mosley for a discussion about their prolific and versatile writing livest. Hirahara’s latest mystery, Clark and Division, revolves around a Japanese American family building a new life in 1940s Chicago after their release from mass incarceration during World War II. Mosley’s indefatigable detective, Easy Rawlins, returns in Blood Grove, solving a new mystery on the streets of Southern California in 1969. Moderated by Dwyer Murphy, editor in chief of CrimeReads.  

The in-person programming includes “The View from the End of the World”, October 3, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

A cross-country road trip in an atomic-powered tunnel digger, when everything else has stopped working.. A scavenger hunt for extinct species set against the backdrop of environmental collapse.. Hollywood dreams literally going up in flames, amid nefarious corporate dealings.  Join Jonathan Lethem (The Arrest), Jeff VanderMeer (Hummingbird Salamander), and Alexandra Kleeman (Something New Under the Sun), as they discuss visions of our world and how we’ll manage to keep living in it. Moderated by Alice Sola Kim.

Jonathan Lethem and Jeff VanderMeer will be appearing virtually.

(2) FLAME ON. SF2 Concatenation’s Autumn 2021 issue weighed in on fan controversies from last spring in this incendiary Editorial Comment.  (The creators of this long-lived periodic sff news publication are The Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation Team.)

EDITORIAL COMMENT

The 2021 Worldcon has a new Chair who deserves best wishes from all in the SF Worldcon community.  We need to remember, she has taken over following the successive resignations of the convention’s former co-chairs one of which was due to the continued abuse conrunners and others are receiving from a minority of self-righteous, perfervid, strident Worldcon fans.
          Of course, it is not just convention runners, this year one major author who has given much to the Worldcon community – in both time, effort and cash over many years – has received disparaging attention due to what is arguably a non-malicious misjudgement unfortunately made at last year’s Worldcon. The maltreatment this well-known author has received includes a nasty little article whose title uses profanity against its target (the article’s writer was unable to marshal her argument with calm logic). Sadly, there were enough of these strident fans for it to be short-listed for a Hugo Award to be presented at this year’s Worldcon. That the article contains both a profanity and the author’s name – the target of her abuse – means that it clearly runs contrary to the Worldcon convention’s own code of conduct, yet the Worldcon committee has decided to do nothing: the least it could have done would have been to censor the offending words and explain why.
          Such Worldcon abuse from a minority of fans is not new, in fact it seems to be increasingly regular.  Indeed the last time the Worldcon had been held in our neck of the woods in Brit Cit there was a volatile reaction to the proposed host for the Hugo ceremony that was both unwarranted and totally over-the-top that even spilled over into the mainstream press.
          And so it will be interesting this year to see whether the Hugo will go to a hate-mongering work or whether the majority of Worldcon’s Hugo voters will take a stand?
          The Worldcon is next likely to come to our neck of the woods in 2024; that is if the Cal Hab Worldcon bid for that year wins.  Let’s hope that by then the braying, vociferous minority will have moved on so that that event can be tantrum free.

(3) BIDDERS CALLED OUT. SF2 Concatenation – which is produced by a predominantly UK team – also challenged the Glasgow in 2024 Worldcon bid to address crowding issues at the last three European Worldcons.

The 2024 bid for a British Worldcon in Glasgow is still on….  But given the increasing overcrowding problems at recent European Worldcons (London in 2013Helsinki in 2017, culminating in a jam-packed Dublin in 2019) it seems that the current generation of European Worldconrunners are unable or (worse?) unwilling to curb numbers to fit their venue’s size.  It would arguably be helpful if the Glasgow 2024 bid team gave a clear steer as to its planning policy on avoiding overcrowding so that those contemplating registering having attending the programme (as opposed to the socialising) as a big draw can decide whether or not to commit a four-figure investment in registration, travel, accommodation and food to attend.

(4) HOLLYWOOD ICON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I heard this 2018 interview Leonard and Jessie Maltin did with Rick Baker and his daughter Veronica Baker: Maltin on Movies: Rick and Veronica Baker. Rick Baker won seven Oscars for makeup and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  His daughter, Veronica, is a producer at DC Universe Infinite.

Rick Baker discovered his calling in 1958 when he was 8 and bought the third issue of Famous Monsters Of Filmland.  As a teenager, he discovered the home address of master makeup artist Dick Smith and sent him some photos of his work.  Smith realized that Baker had talent and then spent a day with the teenage Baker giving him tips and subsequently hired him as an assistant for The Exorcist.  Smith, Baker recalled, was a very nice guy who was really good at spotting talent, since three of the teenage monster enthusiasts he corresponded with became Baker, J.J. Abrams, and Peter Jackson.

Baker, who retired in 2015 because he was tired of dealing with the suits, had lots of stories.  He notes he was King Kong in the 1976 movie and played the pilot who killed Kong in the 2005 remake.  He still works on new designs and enthusiastically posts them on Instagram.

Cosplayers whose favorite holiday is Halloween will find Baker and his family simpatico because they spend three months a year prepping their  Halloween costumes. One year Baker, his wife, and their two daughters played four different versions of the Joker.  Another year they were characters from Beauty And The Beast with Baker playing the Beast.

I thought this was very enjoyable.

(5) ENJOYING ASIMOV’S BOOKS. Adam-Troy Castro tries to stick up for Asimov, though necessarily begins his Facebook post with a hefty list of concessions.

Thanks to the new TV adaptation of Asimov’s FOUNDATION, some people are rushing to the internet to make the clever observation that Isaac Asimov really wasn’t a great writer of fiction.

They are also talking about his disgusting personal conduct toward women at conventions, but let us put that aside, mostly because I absolutely agree that it was disgusting and have no reason to argue with you….

…When I was a kid of about 8-10, precociously picking up books that had been marketed to adults from a school library that had the whole set of Asimov and Clarke books, they were a godsend to me. I had no problem parsing the prose, any prose. But for a kid who had not yet even begun to decode adult interactions, beginning a process that I am still shaky on today, as are we all, it was helpful to have books that imparted the sense of wonder and provided drama that was pretty much all surface because anything more sophisticated was precisely the stuff that I would be confused by and get bogged down in. Through Asimov I learned the trick of reading a book. And from Asimov I moved on to writers capable of introducing, among other things, more elegant prose, more complex description, more sophisticated characterization, and the resonance of human interactions that were by their nature harder to navigate than math problems….

(6) PROPERTY IS THEFT. WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast interviews a professor who believes “Sci-Fi Is a Good Way to Learn Political Theory”. Listen to the complete interview with Joseph Reisert at the link.

…Reisert is currently teaching Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed to help students understand Marxist ideas of a society without private property. “It’s the one imagining of a society without property that seems reasonably plausible to me,” he says. “I love that novel, and I think the central insight there is that to make that society without property work, even apart from the organizational challenges, requires a kind of moral transformation that’s not easy to accomplish.”

Another advantage of science fiction novels is that they tend to be more entertaining than political treatises, meaning that students are more likely to actually read them. “One shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having a light, easy reading at the end of a long semester right before people take exams,” Reisert says.

(7) THEFT IS THEFT, EVEN MORE SO. A press release on Business Wire reports “Educational Publishers Obtain Preliminary Injunction Against 60 Illegal Websites that Use Online Ads to Sell Pirated Content”.

Educational publishers, Macmillan LearningCengage Group, Elsevier, McGraw Hill and Pearson,have obtained a Preliminary Injunction from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against 60 websites that sell illegal, unlicensed copies of eBooks. The publishers filed suit against the operators of these websites on August 9, 2021, and on the same date obtained a Temporary Restraining Order that required the immediate shutdown of the infringing activity on these websites, as well as the cessation of the services provided by intermediaries that support the websites. With the Preliminary Injunction, that injunctive relief has now been extended through the pendency of the litigation. This is the fourth suit in less than two years that the publishers have brought against pirate eBook websites, and the fourth time they have successfully obtained a Preliminary Injunction.

Like the prior lawsuits, the current lawsuit states that the operators of the pirate eBook websites use online ads—most notably ads on Google and Microsoft’s Bing—to attract customers searching for the publishers’ legitimate content to their illegal websites. In addition to Google and Bing, the websites rely on payment processors, web hosts, domain registrars, proxy service providers and other internet service providers, all of whom are required by the Court’s injunction to stop facilitating the pirate websites’ illegal activity.

The sale of pirated textbooks injures students, who do not receive legitimate copies of the products they seek to purchase. Piracy also causes publishers financial injury, creating a ripple effect impacting the ability to invest in the creation of new works and scholarly contributions that benefit education as a whole. The educational publishers’ enforcement efforts seek to stop online piracy.

(8) SANDMAN CLIP. IndieWire introduces “’The Sandman’ First Look at Neil Gaiman’s Netflix Series”.

Netflix’s logline for the dark fantasy show reads: “A rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama and legend are seamlessly interwoven, ‘The Sandman’ follows the people and places affected by Morpheus, the Dream King, as he mends the cosmic — and human — mistakes he’s made during his vast existence.”

The preface at YouTube says —

The Lord of Dreams has been summoned, and captured, by mortal men. Once free from his captivity, this eternal ruler of Dreams will realize that his troubles are only just beginning. The Sandman is a Netflix series based on the groundbreaking comic book series created for DC by Neil Gaiman.

(9) LITERARY CHOCOLATE. Fine Books & Collections brings to fans’ attention a new Lovecraftian delicacy that will soon be available.

Open Book Chocolates, purveyors of handmade, literary-themed chocolates, has announced a Lovecraft-inspired dark chocolate bar infused with Nori seaweed, ginger spice, and candied ginger. It’s called ‘The Call of Cthulhu,’ and a Kickstarter campaign is underway to launch this new flavor into the world. They’ve already met their funding goal, but potential backers can still get in on the action through October 12.

The Kickstarter still has 13 days to run: The Call of Cthulhu Chocolate Bar by G. E. Gallas.

…Our newest flavor, The Call of Cthulhu, is inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s 1926 short story about narrator Francis Wayland Thurston’s search for the truth behind his recently deceased great uncle’s papers. Cthulhu is an ominous, nightmarish, octopus-like creature that hibernates underwater until the time is right for him to emerge and cause havoc. Nori seaweed represents Cthulhu’s aquatic origins, while the spicy kick of ginger expresses the discombobulation he bestows on man….

Call of Cthulhu is just one of a whole line of book-inspired chocolate bars that includes Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Treasure Island, The Raven, Les Miserables, and A Christmas Carol.

(10) ANOTHER TASTE OF HPL. Heritage Auctions has a big Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy auction coming up on October 14 when  The Gary Munson Collection of Horror and Fantasy Rare Books goes under the hammer. One example is this Lovecraft rarity:

…No discussion of genre-defining work is complete without a mention of H.P. Lovecraft. Though a somewhat controversial character, there can be no doubt that his curious mind, monstrous creations and bone-chilling descriptions of creeping madness continue to shape the horror genre — and will well into the future. There is a reason we describe the worst of our nightmares as Lovecraftian: because H.P. Lovecraft shined a spotlight on all the darkest corners of our world and our minds.

As rare and secretive as the Eldritch gods themselves is this copy of an autographed manuscript signed for the short story, Pickman’s Model. Featuring 16 leaves of Lovecraft’s spidery handwriting, the manuscript is not only signed by Lovecraft, but is also written on the backs of 15 letters written to the author himself. Purportedly, Lovecraft was no fan of typewriters and often used the backs of correspondence, notes and other scrap paper for getting down his ideas. These unique letters contain a laundry list of recognizable names of Lovecraft’s peers and provide unique insight into the publication timeline of the story and Lovecraft’s correspondence and interactions in the years leading up to publication…

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1963 – Fifty eight years ago this evening on CBS, My Favorite Martian first aired. It was created by John L. Greene who had absolutely no SF background. (Think The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.) It starred Ray Walston as “Uncle Martin” (aka the Martian) and Bill Bixby as Tim O’Hara. The first two seasons, seventy five episodes, were black and white, while the last thirty two episodes of season three were in color. It did very well for the first two seasons but ratings dropped significantly in the third season and it got cancelled. An animated series, My Favorite Martians, was made by Filmation and aired on CBS a decade later. It lasted sixteen episodes. Jonathan Harris voiced Martin. It would be remade in 1999 as a film with Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Martin and Ray Walston in a new role, Armitan/Neenert. It was a box office disaster. It currently has a twelve percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 28, 1873 — Theodore Lorch. He’s the High Priest in 1936 Flash Gordon serial. He also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 28, 1930 — Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes she was a redhead. Unless you can count her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. In 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 28, 1934 — Stuart M. Kaminsky. Though best remembered as a very prolific mystery writer for which I single out the Toby Peters series about a private detective in 1940s Hollywood and the Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov series about a Moscow police inspector,  he does have genre works. He did two Kolchak the Night Stalker graphic novels, plus wrote the scripts for two Batman stories, “The Batman Memos” and “The Man Who Laughs”. As an editor, he’s responsible for the On a Raven’s Wing: New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe anthology. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 28, 1942 — Ian McShane, 79. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrayed Mr. Wednesday in American Gods. And it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. 
  • Born September 28, 1944 — Isla Blair, 77. Her first credited film appearance was in  Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. She’s Blaker in The Quatermass Experiment. Finally she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series.
  • Born September 28, 1959 — Scott MacDonald, 62. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen,  Voyager,  Deep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess how bad the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is.
  • Born September 28, 1961 — Nicholas Briggs, 60. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Well not just them as he also voices the Judoon, the Ice Warriors, the  Nestene Consciousness, the Jagrafess and the Zygons.  Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he did act twice in the Whoverse. Once on Torchwood as Rick Yates on “Children of Earth: Day Four” andThe Sarah Jane Adventures as Captain Tybo in “Prisoner of the Judoon” episode.  Fourth he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot
  • Born September 28, 1974 — Alexis Cruz, 47. He was Skaara in the Stargate film and  remarkably got to play the same character in the Stargate SG-1 series as well which is unusual indeed. He’s done a number of fairly obscure horror films (DarkWolfSpectres, Slayer and Altergeist).
Hayao Miyazaki

(13) LOVE FOR MIYAZAKI. {Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the September 21 Financial Times, former Financial Times film critic Nigel Andrews noted the 20th anniversary of Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spiritied Away, the only film in Andrews’s 46-year career he gave six stars to (Andrews judged on a 1-5 star scale).

Hiyao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is 20 years old. I saw it at the 2001 Berlin Film Festival, where it won the golden Bear for Best film.  Some months later it won the Best Animated Feature Oscar. Is it the best film I’ve ever seen?  Quite possibly.  I’d want it on a desert island.  Yes, my life would be poorer without it. And I never, during my 46 years as a practicing movie reviewer, bestowed that 6/5 rating on anything else; or even thought to….

…Maybe Miyazaki’s masterpiece is better seen as a movie to crown his own career than to coronate future directors.  He never followed it with a better one himself, though there are marvels in Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, and The Wind Rises.  But then Welles never surpassed Citizen Kane, nor Hitchcock Vertigo.  Spirited Away is the great treasure of 21st century animation, and we may be saying that when the 21st century ends. 

(14) TRADPUB’S ANSWER TO THE $600 ASHTRAY. Amanda S. Green, in “Who can read your book?”, discusses news reports about the U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee grilling publishers about library e-book contracts.  

…As an example, the article notes how a California school district had to pay $27/yr per student for access to e-books of The Diary of Anne Frank. In other words, if 100 students that year studied the book, the district paid the publisher $2700–and the district nor the kids “owned” that e-book. If they bought the paperback book directly from Amazon instead of through Baker & Taylor where they’d probably get a discount, they’d pay $11/copy or less. The e-book would cost $6.99. So why is the per student cost for the school library for this e-book so much more?

Why aren’t publishers trying to encourage school districts to invest more of their limited library funds in books and e-books–and giving them more for their money–than they are? After all, if we teach our youngsters to enjoy reading, that should be a win-win for publishers, right?

When publishers have politicians pointing out the obvious, there’s a problem….

(15) ON WRY. David Bratman’s report about visiting “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience” in San Jose begins with a rather clever comment.

… You show your proof of vaccination – though they’re quite bewildered by the actual card, expecting it to be transferred to a phone – and nobody’s very interested in your ticket – and head down a clogged (because people read very slowly) passage by a series of panels with explanatory narration and quotes from Vince’s letters in English and Spanish. Finally, if you get around that and the arrow-bearing signs reading “Gogh This Way” which must be terribly confusing to anyone who doesn’t know how to mispronounce the name, you get to the main hall….

(16) REWRITING THE DICTIONARY. The WPM Invitational site has an archive of the results of two Washington Post competitions, among other things: “Word Play Masters”.

The Washington Post’s Mensa invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.   Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.                     
                                                                            
2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole….               

And there are 15 more.

The same site also has the 16 winners of a different challenge:

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.  And the winners are:
                                                                                                              
                                                                            
 1. Coffee , n. The person upon whom one coughs.                            
                                                                            
 2. Flabbergasted , adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained….             

Etc.

(17) LIVED IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. “Scientists Unseal Secret Cave Chamber Used by Neanderthals”Yahoo! has the story.

Scientists exploring a cave network inside of the Rock of Gibraltar—a monolithic limestone mass in the British territory of Gibraltar—have discovered a chamber that nobody’s seen for 40,000 years. The chamber, which measures about 42 square feet, not only offers insight into a pocket of Earth long untouched, but also, in all likelihood, an area where Neanderthals visited. And perhaps snacked on animal carcasses.

Gizmodo reported on the discovery, which the scientists recently announced. The team visited the Gibraltar cave network—known as Gorham’s Cave complex—in August of this year as a continuation of a nine-year-long effort to determine its true dimensions. The complex is of intrigue as experts consider it to be one of the last habitations for Neanderthals in Europe. The site’s so important for archaeology, in fact, it’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site….

(18) ROBOTECH. Here’s a promotional video with footage the Amazon Astro mentioned in the Scroll the other day:

(19) AUTEUR’S DEBUT. Dementia 13, the 1963 horror film that marked Francis Ford Coppola’s debut has been released last week in a restored director’s cut.

Presented in HD and available on Blu-ray for the first time, Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s cut of Dementia 13 is quintessential gothic horror, wrapped in the twisted mysteries of a family’s deepest, darkest secrets. A widow deceives her late husband’s mother and brothers into thinking he’s still alive when she attends the yearly memorial to his drowned sister, hoping to secure his inheritance. But her cunning is no match for the demented, axe-wielding thing roaming the grounds of the family’s Irish estate in this cult favorite featuring Patrick Magee, Luana Anders, William Campbell, and Bart Patton.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Costume Designer Tutorial” on Screen Rant, Tyler Lemco plays costume designer Dode L.who took off Superman’s underwear for Man Of Steel and says “I knocked Thor’s dumb helmet off his dumb head and never looked back”  Among his suggestions:  black leather jackets always work and make sure all male superheroes have abs built into their costumes; but don’t ask him about “that credit card thing” that got him into trouble with Willem Dafoe. This was written by Seb Decter.  Ryan George has a brief cameo.

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

Wait, Wait, A Few Dern Moments: Notable Digital Freebies

By Daniel Dern: Got some eye/ear time available? Here’s a few that don’t require reaching for your wallet (assuming you still own and use a wallet).

SCHMIGADOON (Apple Plus TV)

If you like Broadway musicals with a strong dash of snark, you’ll probably love this quasi-fourth-wallish musical comedy spoof — great songs, great dance, great actors. So far (as of August 1), four of the six half-hour episodes are up.

Apple Plus TV is $4.95/month (and, like Display+ and HBO Max, among others, you can let several people share your account).

Meridithilly, (currently), all premiere episodes of Apple Plus series are available free without you having to even join…and you can get a free one-trial. So you could wait a fortnight and catch them all. (Of course, if you’re going to want to watch Foundation, or have already been Ted Lasso‘ing, etc., this advice is moot.)

THE SANDMAN (Audible)

I don’t consider myself an audio-book fan (versus the megahours of music, Firesign Theater, NPR segments, etc that I ebibe, along with enjoying author readings in person and Zoomed), but a friend not only recommended the ensemble Audible of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (which I read as the comics came out, one by one, and periodically re-read my trade paperback versions of), and, so far, I’m enjoying it.

Gaiman is doing the narration; the all-star cast includes James McAvoy as Morpheus (Dream), Kat Dennings as Death, Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven, among others.

I reserved the ten-CD, 10 hour 55 minute set through my library, but a friend re-urged me to simply go through Audible — The Sandman by Neil Gaiman — who currently offers this for free — it’s listed as “free sample” but at least for now, it’s the whole thing. A price that’s hard to beat. (My friend says “No Audible account needed” (or maybe that’s “no need to give any payment info” — I appear to already have four other Audible things on my phone, in the app that’s clearly been sitting there for a few years.)

(I don’t see this on HooplaDigital.com, though there’s a dozen or so other Gaiman audiobooks — and the comic book collections are all there, under e-books…)

This set covers the first three book collections of Sandman’s 75 issues.

“Act II” is apparently coming out mid-August.

The mix of Gaiman’s narration, the voices, plus SFX and music, are (so far– I’m early on) well done and feel true to the words-and-images source. I can’t say or even guess what the experience would be for somebody who hasn’t read (which, for comics, includes looking at, of course) the original comics (or listening first and then reading). (Let me know!)

HOOPLADIGITAL BONUS BORROWS FOR AUGUST

Hoopla’s digital book/comic, audio and video loans already don’t cost anything — but you’re limited per month to whatever your library’s arrangement is with Hoopla. (Although if you can also accounts with additional Hoopla-partnering libraries, you can up your monthly borrows that way.)

“Bonus Borrows,” first introduced somewhere in the last year so, however, don’t count against your monthly quota — here’s https://www.hoopladigital.com/collection/13534 the batch that Hoopla just added.

HUNDREDS OF SKIFFY AND OTHER “MEGAPACK” COLLECTIONS

Megapack collections are hundreds-to-thousand page collections of sf and other stuff, by authors known and lesser-known, mostly of older stuff, but some, I’m seeing, have new stories, interviews, and other materials. Lots of author and thematic SF (and pulp, detective, western, etc.) anthologies.

On Amazon/Kindle, these e-collections are inexpensive, periodically in the Meredith Moment range (a buck or three), making them inexpensive, ahem, Kindling to make sure you’ve got enough back-up reading material for a long trip…or a relaxing weekend.

Hoopla (hoopladigital.com), it turns out/I’ve just discovered, has bunches of said megapacks — https://www.hoopladigital.com/search?page=1&q=megapack&scope=everything&type=direct — Free! (Only requirement: You need a card/account with a public library that partners with Hoopla — and each library determines how many items a patron can borrow per month. Borrows auto-return if you don’t release them sooner, so you can’t run up overdue or “lost” fines.)

A quick look at the search results from the URL shows megapack titles including: Harry Harrison, Fredric Brown, Edgar Pangborn, F. Scott Fitzgerald, H. Beam Piper, Jane Austen, R.A.Lafferty, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London science fiction, and topicals including Cthulhu Mythos, Robot, Whodunit?, Fantasy, Utopia, Steampunk, Mystery, Sea-Story, Vampire, Great American Novel, Space Opera…the task of filling up your list…

Tip: “Favorite” (“heart”) the ones you want, to keep track, and then judiciously borrow based on how much time you think you’ll have to e-consume.

In Conversation with Dirk Maggs, Producer of The Sandman

Neil Gaiman (L) and Dirk Maggs (R)

The Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine podcast recently featured a conversation between host Jo Reed and producer, director, and writer Dirk Maggs. In a career spanning 30 years, Maggs has won many national and international awards. He first made a name for himself turning DC comics into audio productions, and when Douglas Adams heard those adaptations, he pulled Dirk in to bring his Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy series back to audio. Maggs has also had a longtime collaboration with Neil Gaiman, which most recently has resulted in an audio adaptation of The Sandman, Gaiman’s beloved classic comic book series.

Listen in as they discuss Maggs’ decades of work bringing audio dramas to life.

James McAvoy

Partial Transcript:

Jo Reed:  I’m curious, when you go into the studio, for example, and let’s talk about SANDMAN specifically, do you have a sense of how the narration should sound to you? Are you hearing it already in your head? Do you know what you want from each actor? I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying—

Dirk Maggs:  Do I prepare?

JR:  No. No, I’m sure you do prepare, but how much do you leave open for the actor?

DM:  That’s a good question, Jo. The challenge of making SANDMAN was, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, but I was also very aware that this is a much loved, much cherished piece of work.  One of the biggest issues with THE SANDMAN is, it’s been in existence for over 30 years now. People know what they want to hear from it. And I realized quite early on that if I was going to be clever and try and reinvent the wheel, I would be in an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” situation. But the thing about SANDMAN was, I don’t think audio, as a medium, need feel inferior to any other medium, because I believe that our medium works just like movies and TV do. The only difference is that the stimulation bypasses the optic nerve. It doesn’t go in through the front door. It sneaks in through the side doors and then it creates the image on your cerebral cortex. Between your ears is the single greatest imaging chip in the computer world, which is the human brain. Your brain will create visions from what you hear. Some people, there are conditions where people don’t have this, but most people have this, which is really what we rely upon in the audio business to tell our stories. You visualize from what you hear.

Andy Serkis as Matthew the Raven

JR: OK, so let’s bring it back to SANDMAN.

DM: So I was ready to go with an adaptation of SANDMAN, and I knew this wouldn’t be so much an audio dramatization. It would be an audiobook sort of riding on a dramatization, because we would need to find a way to stick very close to the original. I felt that that was the plow to furrow, because then Neil, as exec. producer with me on this, we could then concentrate and make this as quintessentially SANDMAN as we could.

JR: Well that’s easier said than done. How did you go about making this happen?

DM: I immediately gave up any thought of updating it, making it present day, introducing cell phones or the internet or all of this. It had to stay set in the late ’80s, early ’90s. It had to be something with Neil’s authentic voice in it, and that was the real revelation, because I said to Neil, “The only way I can think of doing this is to see your original scripts, the scripts you wrote for the artists and Todd Klein, who was doing the lettering, and the inkers and the colorists. Those will have the descriptions of what you wanted to see, and if I blend those descriptions with what you actually see in the comics, we will end up with something which will be as quintessentially SANDMAN as you can get. Then if somebody wants to pick the comic book up and look at it alongside, there will be a fair degree of correlation.

Tales in The Sand – Cathy Tyson, John Macmillan, Amaka Okafor, Don Gilet, Joseph Marcell, Inel Tomlinson

So Neil dug out from these ancient hard drives, and I think the first one I got was episode three. I think one and two have disappeared into the ether. I was looking at it, and as soon as I opened this thing, I’m with Neil, I’m standing at his shoulder while he’s writing this in 1987, and he goes into what this episode’s going to be about and the general feel of it. And then he starts describing the panels. Then something wonderful happens: This stuff I’m reading, these descriptions of what he’s seeing in his mind’s eye, it’s poetry. It’s like Dylan Thomas. Suddenly, I can see exactly what this needs to be. This needs to be Neil.  He’d already asked if he could narrate and I said, “Well, of course. Of course, my dear.” But when I saw this, I thought oh, this is it. This is the motherlode, and that was one of the best parts of the job for me.

Arthur Darvill

JR:  He’s a wonderful narrator. He has just such a beautiful voice and intonation. And he can lead you into some dark places, as he does in the book, without being threatening.

DM:  Yes. Neil has a very particular way of reading. If you hear one of Neil’s books read by the author, he has a distinct style. He has a rhythm and he has a way of massaging a sentence which keeps you interested to the very end. Neil reading this stuff, and with the action playing underneath, with the wonderful cast we had and with, you know, I’ve brought every inch of sound designing experience I’ve had over the last 40 years into the sound design. And then James Hannigan’s music, which adds a whole new layer of magic to the thing. When it’s all mixed together, you’re transported, and you’re in this guy’s head. It was so wonderful. About 10pm one night, three or four months ago, while I was doing post-production, I emailed Neil and I said, “Do you know how good you were when you wrote this stuff?” I didn’t expect an answer, but almost immediately came back, Neil saying, “Yes, but I don’t remember doing it. I’m not the person who wrote this. He’s a different person to me.” And I thought, what an interesting answer, because this young man, who’s what? Neil wasn’t yet 30 when he started SANDMAN. He was a library brat. He brought himself up just devouring books, and all of it is in THE SANDMAN. He’s got the poetry. He’s got the knowledge. He’s got all this eclectic stuff that’s just gathered in his brain. It’s just falling out on the page. It’s magical, absolutely magical. It was magical to do it. Some jobs, you know, in the end it’s a job of work, and some jobs are hard work. You think, gosh, I really could have picked a less onerous duty here.  But this was a joy, from start to finish.


AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience. AudioFile Earphones Awards are given to exceptional audiobooks. Subscribe to Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine for daily audiobook recommendations from AudioFile editors and contributors, and for bonus interview episodes for a behind-the-scenes peek into the making of favorite audiobooks.

[Based on an AudioFile Magazine blog post.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/20 You Can’t Sleep ’Cause The World’s On Fire, Don’t Read Me If You’d Prefer The Shire, Techno Thriller

(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?

James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.

McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.

(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:  

After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.

(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.

 …“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.

Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….

If you go: Book Club

Emily St. John Mandeljoins the L.A. Times Book Club in conversation with reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

When: 7 p.m. May 19

Where: Free virtual event livestreaming on the Los Angeles Times Facebook Page and YouTube.

More info: latimes.com/bookclub

(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.  

Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.

While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….

(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.

Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.

(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”,  he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.

…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”

[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.

[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.

(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room.  Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise.  He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.

…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.

(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:

Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?

We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.

(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.

It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical.  An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.

Rick and Morty, however is anything but…

…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.

(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.

The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 13, 1994 The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay.  Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece.  Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny.  Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one.  Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle.  Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons.  Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues.  Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen.  Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman.  First SF novel at age 15.  Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese.  A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more.  Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one.  Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns).  Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini).  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?

As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…

(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.

An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.

The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.

The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.

However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.

(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”

Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturinghasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.

“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….

(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.

(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.

Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing

When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?

In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).

…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.

…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”

(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.

100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.

With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/19 We Always Lived In The Castle, But We’re Now AirBnB’ing It Out Instead

(1) DUBLIN 2019 WRITING WORKSHOP. To be led by GoH Diane Duane.

(2) IN THE BEGINNING. Here’s part two of Anne-Louise Fortune’s video series Worldcon 101 – Dublin 2019.

(3) MAD NO MORE. ComicBook.com originally reported “MAD Magazine to Cease Publication”:

MAD Magazine will cease publication later this year, according to reports. Blogger Jedidiah Leland reportedly discovered the news after a MAD editor confessed to the magazine’s doom in a Facebook group, and shortly thereafter, cartoonist Ruben Bolling seemed to confirm the report on Twitter….

But as it turned out, MAD – unlike the Wicked Witch of the West — is not really and completely dead: “Details Surface About Plans for MAD Magazine’s Future”:

MAD magazine will not be completely closing down, as previously reported — although most of its new content will cease, and availability for the iconic humor magazine will be reduced. Earlier tonight, the news broke that MAD was set to cease publication after two more issues of new content, with the magazine using archival content to fulfill its obligation to existing subscribers. This is a little true, and a little not, and ComicBook.com has heard from a source with knowledge of the situation who clarified what is going on.

MAD will be leaving the newsstand after issue #9, which will land on newsstands in early August with all-new content. MAD #10 will also contain new content, but will be available only via direct market comic book retailers and subscriptions. Rather than closing up shop, the plan at present is to continue publishing issues that will feature reprinted classic MAD pieces, wrapped with new covers art. Further, MAD will continue to publish its end of year specials, as well as books and special collections, capitalizing on the value of the MAD brand in spite of the loss of new content in the magazine

(4) FRIGHTENING FLICK. NPR’s Justin Chang reports that “‘Midsommar’ Shines: A Solstice Nightmare Unfolds In Broad Daylight”:

In the viscerally unnerving films of Ari Aster, there’s nothing more horrific than the reality of human grief. His haunted-house thriller, Hereditary, followed a family rocked by traumas so devastating that the eventual scenes of devil-worshipping naked boogeymen almost came as a relief. Aster’s new movie, Midsommar, doesn’t pack quite as terrifying a knockout punch, but it casts its own weirdly hypnotic spell. This is a slow-burning and deeply absorbing piece of filmmaking, full of strikingly beautiful images and driven less by shocks than ideas. It’s not interested in frightening you so much as seeping into your nervous system.

And like Hereditary, Midsommar is very much rooted in loss. It begins with a young American woman named Dani, played by the great English actress Florence Pugh, panicking over a family emergency that moves swiftly toward its worst possible outcome. As she tries to pick up the broken pieces of her life, Dani seeks solace from her boyfriend, Christian, and is surprised to learn that he’s about to go on a trip with some of his grad-school buddies. They’re headed to a remote Swedish commune that is holding a nine-day festival to observe the summer solstice. Dani presses him about why he didn’t tell her earlier, and an argument ensues.

They fly to Sweden and, after a few hours’ drive, arrive at a remote, centuries-old village where they are greeted by about 60 men and women wearing white robes embroidered with mysterious symbols. They are known as the Hårga, and they invite their American guests to participate in each day’s festivities, which include lavish feasts, silent meditations, exhausting maypole dances and the consumption of various mind-altering drugs. Aster has a gift for dreaming up fictitious subcultures, and he visualizes these ancient customs and artifacts with an almost anthropological attention to detail. The Hårga seem benevolent enough at first, and there’s something comforting about their strange rituals and their intimate communion with nature.

(5) MORE TOOLS FOR FINDING GOOD SFF. Rocket Stack Rank, says Eric Wong in “New Recommenders and Improved Scoring” “has added 10 more recommenders, improved how story scores are calculated from 13 awards, 12 ‘year’s best’ anthologies, and 11 prolific reviewers, and updated the Best SF/F lists for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 YTD.”

(6) ASTRONOMY HISTORY, The Atlas Obscura Society can get you in to see “The Second Largest Public Telescope in the World” on July 6 and 7. It’s on Mount Wilson near Los Angeles. See schedule and details at the link. (Note: Observatory is not ADA compliant,.)

Collecting ancient light in a 60-inch mirror, the Hale Telescope reflects images in your eye of beautiful objects, some that lie millions of light years away from Earth.

Join Atlas Obscura for an exclusive evening of observation with Mount Wilson Observatory’s historic 60-inch telescope. Assisted by a telescope operator and a session director, you will investigate objects in the night sky and get up close and personal with our solar system. Depending on the evening’s weather conditions, you could get a glimpse of faraway planets, a staggeringly close-up look at the moon, or star clusters looming over Mount Wilson, where the seed of the idea for this groundbreaking scientific invention was planted.

In 1903, astrophysicist George Ellery Hale went hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains. Resting at the summit of Mount Wilson, he gazed at his surroundings and realized he had found the perfect place to build an observatory. Five years later, at the very same spot, he unveiled the world’s largest operational telescope, a 60-inch reflector that attracted preeminent scientists such as Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble. In fact, it was with this telescope that Harlow Shapley discovered that the Sun’s position was not the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. It now operates as the second largest telescope made exclusively for the public.

(7) MOTION IN LIBRARY. NPR’s Bethanne Patrick finds “In ‘The Ghost Clause,’ 2 Marriages, A Missing Child, And Yes, A Ghost”.

Howard Norman writes elegant prose — but really, that’s because everything about Howard Norman is elegant. The Vermont-based novelist and scholar of Native American lore sprinkles his fiction with all the things that interest him, from literary to culinary to planetary. Like many of Norman’s previous books, The Ghost Clause pays attention to Japanese poetry, binge-reading Trollope, what makes an intimate supper (mushroom omelets, salad, cherry pie with ice cream), and varieties of Northeast Kingdom moths.

The denizens of Adamant, Vt. — was there ever a better place name? — have a lot going on, even if by “a lot going on” one simply means making sure to leave time to have your cranberry scone toasted at the local café presided over by grumpy Vanessa. The first two people we meet are newly minted PhD Muriel Streuth and her husband Zach, a private investigator at the Green Mountain Agency. They’ve bought an old house with a library room, and their modern security system keeps picking up “Motion in Library.”

Investigations into the unknown motion-detector blips don’t reveal much. Fortunately for readers, our narrator soon reveals all (and this is not a spoiler): He is novelist Simon Inescort, whose widow, painter Lorca Pell, sold the house to Muriel and Zach after Simon’s untimely death by heart attack on the ferry from Maine to Canada. He also informs us of the title’s meaning, which refers to a perhaps-apocryphal Vermont statute whereby if new owners of a building discover it is inhabited by a “malevolent presence,” the sale can be nullified.

(8) CASTING FOR MERMAIDS. Here’s who they caught: “Halle Bailey: Disney announces singer to play Little Mermaid”.

Disney has cast singer Halle Bailey in the starring role of Ariel in a live action remake of The Little Mermaid.

“Halle possesses a rare combination of spirit, heart, youth, innocence and substance, plus a glorious singing voice,” director Rob Marshall said.

Halle, 19, half of R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle, “said it was a “dream come true”.

The film, which will start shooting in 2020, will feature new songs written by Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda.

(9) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND. In 2015, Westword published an article about a community spawned from the Shaver Mystery: “Maurice Doreal and His Brotherhood of the White Temple Awaited the Apocalypse in Colorado”.

… The American science-fiction community was still in an uproar over the Shaver Mystery, “The Most Sensational True Story Ever Told,” according to Amazing Stories magazine, a publication whose circulation had skyrocketed after it published “I Remember Lemuria!,” a fantastic story purporting to be a memoir of the extraordinary subterranean-world encounters of writer/artist Richard Sharpe Shaver, in 1945.

…One of those letters, published in the October 1946 issue of Amazing Stories, came from Dr. Maurice Doreal, the Denver-based “Supreme Voice” for the Ascended Masters, super-evolved human beings who live below Tibet. Doreal had recently announced that he was moving his Brotherhood of the White Temple from central Denver to rural Colorado to wait out the coming nuclear holocaust. “Like Mr. Shaver, I have had personal contact with the Dero and even visited their underground caverns,” he now wrote. “In the outer world they are represented by an organization known loosely as ‘the Black Brotherhood,’ whose purpose is the destruction of the good principle in man…. The underground cities and caverns are, in the most part, protected by space warps, a science known to the ancients, but only touched on by modern science…. I note that many are wanting to enter these caves. For one who has not developed a protective screen this would be suicide and one who revealed their location would be a murderer….”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 4, 1883 Rube Goldberg. Not genre, but certainly genre adjacent. Born Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, he was a sculptor, author, cartoonist, engineer, and inventor who’s certainly best known for his very popular cartoons showing overly complex machines doing simple tasks in a terribly convoluted manner, hence the phrase “Rube Goldberg machines”. The X-Files episode titled “The Goldberg Variation” involved an apartment rigged as a Goldberg machine. (Died 1970)
  • Born July 4, 1901 Guy Endore. Writer of The Werewolf of Paris which is said by Stableford in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost & Gothic Writers as “entitled to be considered the werewolf novel”. He also wrote “The Day of the Dragon” which Stableford likes as well. He was a scriptwriter hence for writing Mark of the Vampire starring Bela Lugosi. He also the treatment for The Raven but never got credited. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 4, 1910 Gloria Stuart. She was cast as Flora Cranley opposite Claude Rains in The Invisible Man in 1933, and 68 years later she played Madeline Fawkes in The Invisible Man series. She was in The Old Dark House as Margaret Waverton which is considered horror largely because Boris Karloff was in it. And she was in the time travelling The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan as well. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 4, 1949 Peter Crowther, 70. He is the founder (with Simon Conway) of PS Publishing where he’s editor now. He edited a series of genre anthologies that DAW published. And he’s written a number of horror novels of which I’d say After Happily Ever and By Wizard Oak are good introductions to him. He’s also done a lot of short fiction but I see he’s not really available in digital form all that much for short fiction or novels.   
  • Born July 4, 1967 Christopher McKitterick, 52. Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, a program at the University of Kansas that supports an annual series of awards, lectures, classes, workshops, the Campbell Conference, and AboutSF, a resource for teachers and readers of science fiction. He’s also a juror for and Chair of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel from 2002 onward. And yes, he does write genre fiction with one novel to date, Transcendence, more than a double handful of stories, and being an academic, critical essays such as  “John W. Campbell: The Man Who Invented Modern Fantasy and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” which was published in Steven H. Silver Hugo-nominated Argentus. 
  • Born July 4, 1977 David Petersen, 42. Writer and illustrator of the brilliant Mouse Guard series. If you haven’t read it, do so — it’s that good. It almost got developed as a film but got axed due to corporate politics. IDW published The Wind in The Willows with over sixty of his illustrations several years back. 
  • Born July 4, 1989 Emily Coutts, 30. She plays the role of helmsman Keyla Detmer on Discovery. She’s also her mirror universe counterpart, who is the first officer of that universe’s Shenzhou. (I like the series and am definitely looking forward to it when it jumps a thousand years into the future next season!) She was in one episode of the SF series Dark Matter and in Crimson Peak, a horror film but that’s it for genre appearances.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A court judge and Frankenstein help Bizarro live up to its name today.

(13) SANDMAN TO TV. Deadline reports: “Netflix Orders ‘The Sandman’ Series Based On Neil Gaiman’s DC Comic”.

Netflix has given an 11-episode series order to The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s DC comic, from Warner Bros TV.

Allan Heinberg (Wonder WomanGrey’s Anatomy) is slated to write and serve as showrunner on the series, with Gaiman executive producing alongside David Goyer.

(14) THE ITALIAN SFF SCENE. The subject is Italian Science Fiction when Arielle Saiber is interviewed by Lex Berman for the Diamond Bay Radio podcast.

Lex Berman is the publisher of Diamond Bay Press.

Arielle Saiber is a professor of Italian literature and romance languages, and also a big science fiction fan!

Recorded with Zencaster on 8th May, 2019.

Find out about the history of Science Fiction and fandom in Italy, and why flying saucers would totally land at Lucca!

(15) VOX DAY AT THE MOVIES. “I look forward to the shrieks and wails,” writes aspiring moviemaker Vox Day. The Rebel’s Run Teaser Trailer has dropped, publicizing that a movie based on one of Arkhaven’s Alt-Hero characters, is now in pre-production. A one-minute trailer is followed by Chuck Dixon extolling the comics, and even a shot of Vox smiling happily. So if any of that is the kind of thing you need a warning about, you won’t click.

(16) LIPLESS READING. Extra Credits devotes a video to Harlan Ellison’s story and game in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – The End of the Apocalypse.

Harlan Ellison was a little dismissive of this short story that you’ve might only heard of because you saw it on a Steam summer sale, but at the time of its publication (1967) its ideas about the possibility of “evil AI,” as well as the possible degeneracy of humanity, were shocking and unexpected, and it set the stage for the wave of sci-fi we’ll talk about next season.

(17) WHAT’S BUZZING? Nature has a nice artist’s impression and short description of the drone proposed for use on Saturn’s moon, Titan — “NASA drone to soar across Titan”.

Named Dragonfly, the US$850-million mission will launch in 2026 and arrive at Titan in mid-2034. The nuclear-powered drone (pictured, artist’s impression) could traverse hundreds of kilometres during its two-year mission.

(18) IDENTIFYING PROS IN THE WILD. Orbit Books tweeted an amusing guide for telling two of its similarly-named writers apart.

(19) HARD WORK. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver ripped Amazon’s treatment of warehouse employees, now Amazon is trying to recover – Deadline has the story: “Amazon Calls John Oliver’s Report On Warehouse Work Conditions ‘Insulting’ To Employees”.

Amazon is calling John Oliver’s depiction of conditions at the company’s shipping and warehouse facilities “insulting” to Amazon workers.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s SVP Worldwide Operations, responded to a harsh segment that aired Sunday on HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. In the 20-minute segment, Amazon — as well as other companies with quick online-delivery systems — was lambasted for the exhausting chores required of the warehouse workers.

“The injury and illness rate in the warehouse industry is higher than coal mining, construction and logging,” Oliver said during the HBO show, in which he called Amazon the “Michael Jackson” of shipping because they’re “the best at what they do, everybody tries to imitate them, and nobody who learns a third thing about them is happy they did.”

(20) CHARACTERS WITH AGENCY. TV Sins wants you to know “Everything Wrong With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘Pilot’”

This week we head into the MTU by finding everything wrong with the pilot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.! It’s was a show with a lot of promise, and also a lot of sins.

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