Pixel Scroll 11/6/19 The Bulleted, Bolded People

(1) SFF MAGAZINE SURVEY. Jason Sanford is working on a report about science fiction and fantasy magazines for which he’s already interviewed a number of publishers and editors. Sanford also wants feedback from the larger genre community – that means you! Readers are welcome to respond to his short survey hosted on Google Docs.

Sanford aims to release his report after Thanksgiving.

(2) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo has started her “Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2019”.

Once again I have created this post for consolidating fantasy and science fiction award eligibility round-ups. Here are the rules.

I prefer to link to, in order of preference:

  1. Your blog post listing what you published that is eligible
  2. Your social media post listing what you published that is eligible
  3. A single link to the material that is available online

(3) CIVIL WAR. It won’t take you long to figure out what inspired James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post “Science Fiction vs. Fantasy: The Choice Is Clear”. Which side will you choose?

…Science fiction provides its readers with iron-hard, fact-based possibility. For example, Frank Herbert’s Dune played with the possibility that the right combination of eugenics and hallucinogenic drugs (taken from enormous alien worms) might allow messianic figures to draw on the memories of their ancestors. Well, how else would it work?

(4) LOOKING BACKWARD. At Quillette, Craig DeLancey analyzes the removal of Tiptree, Campbell and Lovecraft from sff award iconography in “Science Fiction Purges its Problematic Past” to lay the foundation for his own unique proposal.

…If we must be concerned with the author and not just the work, then Houellebecq’s book is an example of the balance that our criticism should achieve: we must recognize that the work is one thing, the author another. Literary criticism should not be a struggle session.

But this is not the spirit of our moment. Instead, as speculative fiction becomes more diverse, the sense that it must be corrected grows, and author and art are evaluated together. There is a notable asymmetry in this evaluation. Most fiction readers are women, and many fiction genres are dominated by women. Men who write romance novels or cozy mysteries must write under female pseudonyms, because the audiences for these genres will largely avoid books by men. In publishing, this is considered merely a demographic fact, and not an ethical failure of some kind. The attitude is very different towards science fiction. That for decades science fiction was mostly written, read, and published by white men is seen, at best, as something that must be denounced and aggressively corrected, and at worst as evidence that racism and sexism were the driving engines of this creative explosion. We do not single out other genres of fiction, or other art forms, for this kind of invective. We do not hear admirers of the golden age of jazz, for example, denounce the great composers of that era because they were nearly all African-American men. Louise Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, and many other such men are honored for their genius, and we recognize their creations as a gift to humankind. Why not consider American science fiction in the twentieth century as a gift, instead of dismissing it as “Sterile. Male. White.”?

(5) EXPLORING SPACE – ON BOOKSTORE SHELVES. Sarah A. Hoyt treats Fonda Lee as someone who deserves mockery for “A Fundamental Misunderstanding of Supply and Demand”. Hoyt addresses Lee’s March 2019 tweets:

…Sigh.  We won’t get into the idiocy of traditional publishing and their artificial restrictions on market, but still…

This poor woman has everything backward in her head.  It makes it very difficult for me to believe that she can create any kind of sane or believable world. Why? Because she doesn’t understand the laws of supply and demand, which means she doesn’t understand reality….

…The dead great shall always be with us. You want to outsell them: write a lot and write well.  Or find another job.

Economics in the end — regardless of what prizes you get for being a good little girl, or how much your professors praised you — is cold equations. Cold equations ALL THE WAY DOWN.

Is it fair? No. Well…. Not fair in the sense that it doesn’t matter how good you are if people don’t know you exist.  But it is fair in the sense that if you write well and a lot and figure out how to advertise you’ll be rewarded.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 6, 1981 Time Bandits premiered. Co-written, produced, and directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Kenny Baker, Sean Connery, John Cleese, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and David Warner. It received critical acclaim with a current 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and was a financial success as well.  Apple has gained the rights for a Time Bandits television series to distribute on Apple TV+ with Gilliam on board in a non-writing production role and Taika Waititi as the director of the pilot. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 6, 1907 Catherine Crook de Camp. Author and editor. Most of her work was done in collaboration with her husband L. Sprague de Camp, to whom she was married for sixty years. Her solo work was largely non-fiction. Heinlein in part dedicated Friday to her. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 6, 1914 Jonathan Harris. Doctor Zachary Smith, of course, on Lost in Space. He was somewhat typecast as a villain showing up such Mr. Piper on Land of the Giants, The Ambassador on Get Smart and the voice of Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2002.)
  • Born November 6, 1951 Nigel Havers, 68. The bridegroom Peter Dalton in “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. He’s done a lot of children’s genre theatre: Jack in the Beanstalk twice, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Peter Pan and Aladdin. He’s been in one Doctor Who audiobook and narrated Watership Down once upon a time. He was Mark Ingram in An Englishman’s Castle, an alternate telling of WWII. 
  • Born November 6, 1953 Ron Underwood, 66. His first directing effort was Tremors starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Reba McEntire in her acting debut. Later genre efforts include Mighty Joe Young, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, episodes of Once Upon A Time, Fear the Walking Dead and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 
  • Born November 6, 1955 Catherine Ann Asaro, 64. She is best known for her books about the Ruby Dynasty, called the Saga of the Skolian Empire. I don’t think I’ve read them, so if you’ve read them, please do tell me about them. 
  • Born November 6, 1960 Michael Cerveris, 59. Remembered best as the Primary Observer on Fringe. He’s played Puck and been in Macbeth way off Broadway so his creds there are covered too. He was Mr. Tiny in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, and Elihas Starr, the original Egghead, in Ant-Man and the Wasp.
  • Born November 6, 1964 Kerry Scott Conran, 55. A director and screenwriter, best known for creating and directing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a film I absolutely adore. And that’s it. That’s all he done. 
  • Born November 6, 1968 Kelly Rutherford, 51. She’s here for having the recurring role of Dixie Cousins on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and that’s in addition to managing to get herself involved in more bad genre series that got cancelled fast such as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures and Kindred: The Embraced (8 episodes each). Indeed, her very first genre gig had the dubious title of Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge.
  • Born November 6, 1972 Rebecca Romijn, 47. Played Mystique in the X-Men film franchise but my favorite role for her is as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that cross all realities in The Librarians series.  She also was a regular playing Roxie Torcoletti in Eastwick, yet another riff the John Updike novel. She is now Number One on Discovery

(8) LEARN ABOUT STAN LEE. In LA at the Skirball Cultural Center on November 10, there will be a conversation between Danny Fingeroth, author of “A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee”, and comics historian Jerry Beck.

Discover how Stan Lee became known as the voice and face of comics at this conversation between Lee’s colleague and author Danny Fingeroth and animation historian Jerry Beck.

As editor, publisher, and co-creator of Marvel, Lee worked with creative partners, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, to create world-famous characters including Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Avengers. But Lee’s career was haunted by conflict and controversy. Be amazed by Lee’s complex and accomplished life at this illuminating discussion.

(9) MARY YES, HERMAN NO. A word sticks out prominently in this Guardian interview: “Tade Thompson: ‘Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick’ “.

The book that influenced my writing
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I read it as a teenager and the seething mess of nested narratives and charnel houses lodged itself in my imagination. I’ve read it more than any other book and hardly a day goes by when I don’t think of making corpses walk. Quite frankly Victor Frankenstein was a dick.

The book I think is most overrated
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. With apologies to my US friends and my English teacher. This book didn’t just leave me cold. When I finished I wanted to make a list of everybody who had recommended it and make them eat it.

(10) GENRE WORK NOTED. BBC’s panelists invite everyone to “Explore the list of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World”. Chip Hitchcock says, “I count 17 of the 100 (and there’s probably a few I’m missing through not knowing the works), although I’d be happier if the Twilight series wasn’t one of them.”

(11) NOT A TWELVE-STEP PROGRAM. “Boeing aims for Moon landing in ‘fewer steps'”.

Aerospace giant Boeing has unveiled its proposal for a lander that could take humans to the Moon’s surface.

Under a programme called Artemis, the White House wants to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Its approach, named “Fewest Steps to the Moon”, would use the huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

The company says its plan reduces the complexity involved in sending several different bits of hardware into space on multiple launches.

For most robotic space missions, all the hardware needed for the mission is launched on one rocket. Likewise, the crewed Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s required only one lift-off.

However, the Artemis missions are expected to involve several flights to loft all the hardware needed. For example, the lander elements are likely to be launched separately from the Orion capsule carrying crew.

Boeing says it can land astronauts on the Moon with only five “mission critical events” – such as launch, orbit insertion and others – instead of the 11 or more required by alternative strategies.

…The company says its lander would be ready for the 2024 mission, called Artemis-3. But Boeing’s plan would depend on a more powerful variant of the SLS rocket called Block 1B.

Under current Nasa plans, the Block 1B version of the rocket wouldn’t be ready until 2025.

(12) VARIATION ON FLORIDA MAN. UPI says be on the lookout — “Florida police seek return of 300-pound Bigfoot”.

Police in Florida are seeking information on the disappearance of an unusual piece of property — a 300-pound Bigfoot statue.

The Boynton Beach Police Department said the 8-foot-tall Sasquatch statue was stolen from in front of a store called Mattress Monsterz in October.

(13) HPL. SYFY Wire opines: “Nic Cage goes full Lovecraft in first trailer for cosmic horror tale Color Out of Space”. Tell me if you don’t think the kid doesn’t look like he just walked out of A Christmas Story. (Not the one framed below, the one in the beginning of the trailer,)

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

The Tiptree Award’s New Name Is The Otherwise Award

The Tiptree Motherboard has completed a long and thoughtful discussion about the Award’s name. The Tiptree Award is becoming the Otherwise Award. This post from the Motherboard, “From Tiptree to Otherwise”, explains in detail how they came to this decision and chose this name.

…We received many emails and social media messages that urged us to keep the name. But we were, in the end, convinced by the many and heartfelt messages that asked us to change. We entered into this discussion as a conversation about how to interpret what happened at the end of Alice and Huntington Sheldon’s lives (a topic on which Sheldon’s biographer, Julie Phillips, has recently reflected further). But the responses to our post made us realize that this was in fact a conversation about whose lives and voices we value. And that’s a matter about which there should be no ambiguity.

We value the disabled writers and readers and artists and fans who support this award. Many of them – many of you – have told us that the Award’s current name holds negative, painful, exclusionary associations. So we’re changing it.

…We want the Award to keep encouraging writers, artists, and other creative people to invent the future that we want to live in. For that to happen, we need readers, supporters, and creators to gather together in support of the Award’s winners and of the process of choosing them. And for that to be possible, we need all the voices to be heard.

Their post includes substantial extracts from people who wrote both for and against changing the name. Hirotaka Tobi, 2006 winner of the Japanese Sense of Gender Award – founded by the Japanese Association for Gender Fantasy and Science Fiction (G-Ken) and inspired by the Tiptree Award, urged them to keep the Tiptree name. Nisi Shawl, winner of the 2009 Award, was personally willing to continue with the name, though without trying to impose that view on others:

…The issue of harm reduction in the naming of the award is the kind of multifaceted problem the award was founded to address–though the axis of difference on which it focused was originally gender rather than ability. And what I’ve been hearing and saying about how we respond to this problem? That is the kind of multiplex analysis the Tiptree Award’s founders were encouraging by naming it not after an historical figure but a mythic one, a mythic figure arising out of one writer’s response to powerful social pressures.

There’s still plenty to mull over here. And I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with having received the Tiptree. With having received an award named with that name.

But I don’t see how that makes it okay for me to say other potential recipients should think and feel the same way about the matter….

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, editor and writer, asked the Motherboard to change the Award’s name. Among her reasons —

…Thirdly, I believe that the name change is important because ableism is a systemic disease. We can’t always see it, but it can be felt. It is felt deeply within our genre, and the conversation around the name of the Tiptree has only made it more clear to me: my professional field is rife with ableism, and we must seek to change that. Allowing the name to remain, with disabled people emphasizing their discomfort, implicitly allows ableism to take root. It allows us to say that disabled voices do not matter.

Those who expressed their views in social media included two more who favored changing the name, Hiromi Goto, 2001 Award winner, and Catherynne M. Valente, 2007 Award winner.

Debbie Notkin, the first chair of the Motherboard and the chair of the first Tiptree jury, wrote of the process she went through:

…I cherish the Tiptree Award, and consider it one of the best endeavors I’ve ever been involved with…. In a vacuum, I would certainly argue for not changing the name of the award. All of our heroes have flaws—in fact, one of the worst aspects of having heroes is the desire that they be perfect. If we give into that, we can either have heroes or tell the truth, but not both. Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree, Jr. will always be a hero of mine.

But we are not in a vacuum. We’re in a community. And we’re in a historical moment when groups that have been horribly marginalized and abused are – often for the first time – finding that they can acknowledge their pain, make demands, make their voices heard, make change. And find allies….

Having decided to make a change, they listed their criteria for a name and decided on The Otherwise Award. 

…At the heart of the creative work this award has honored for the last 28 years is the act of imagining gender otherwise. We have honored those who expand or explore gender by imagining the world otherwise. Over the next 28 years and more, we expect people’s lived experiences of gender to shift, change, and multiply in ways we can’t possibly imagine. But whatever happens, writers and artists will make sense of it, and push at the limits, by imagining otherwise.

Otherwise means finding different directions to move in—toward newly possible places, by means of emergent and multiple pathways and methods. It is a moving target, since to imagine otherwise is to divert from the ways of a norm that is itself always changing.

With the addition of a space, the name also means “other, wise”: that is, wise to the experience of being the other. Such wisdom might come from direct experience or from careful, collaborative consultation.

The Black queer studies scholar and creative writer Ashon Crawley has a beautiful essay “Otherwise, Ferguson” that speaks to the possibility of otherwise politics:

To begin with the otherwise as word, as concept, is to presume that whatever we have is not all that is possible. Otherwise. It is a concept of internal difference, internal multiplicity. The otherwise is the disbelief in what is current and a movement towards, and an affirmation of, imagining other modes of social organization, other ways for us to be with each other. Otherwise as plentitude. Otherwise is the enunciation and concept of irreducible possibility, irreducible capacity, to create change, to be something else, to explore, to imagine, to live fully, freely, vibrantly. Otherwise Ferguson. Otherwise Gaza. Otherwise Detroit. Otherwise Worlds. Otherwise expresses an unrest and discontent, a seeking to conceive dreams that allow us to wake laughing, tears of joy in our eyes, dreams that have us saying, I hope this comes true.

We’ve always sought and found the works that bring all this to mind and heart. We’re excited to name the Award with a word that encapsulates what we feel it stands for.

Going forward, they will consider everyone who has won a Tiptree Award, been named on the Honor or Long List, or awarded a Tiptree Fellowship, to be retroactive Otherwise honorees. Which name they want to apply is up to each person.

They’re going to pause and take more feedback:

For the next two weeks, we’re going to hold off on making any permanent changes while we listen to responses from you – just in case there are any compelling reasons not to use Otherwise that we have missed. You can reach us at feedback@tiptree.org if you would like to share your thoughts.

Then they will update the website and start making related changes involving the IRS, the State of California, and various vendors.

The next round of fellowships (2019) will carry the new name. And at WisCon 44 in May 2020, they will present their 29th award: the first Otherwise Award.

[Thanks to Pat Murphy for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/25/19 Oh But I Was So Much Scroller Then, I’m Pixel Than That Now

(1) DOZOIS FINALE. At Flogging Babel, Michael Swanwick reviews “Gardner Dozois’ Last Story”, “Homecoming” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sep/Oct 2019).

Chance plays such a major role in our lives! It was chance that killed Gardner Dozois. He died not of a lingering illness but from a fortuitous disease picked up in a hospital whose staff chanced not to be competent enough to take care of his original complaint in a reasonable lenth of time. So when he wrote “Homecoming,” he had no idea how close he was to death.

Nevertheless, it is hard to read this story as anything but his farewell….

(2) TIPTREE AWARD HOSTS COMMENT. The organizers of WisCon have made a “Statement of Support in Renaming the Tiptree Award”.

Since the creation of the Tiptree Award was first announced by Guest of Honor Pat Murphy at WisCon 15 in 1991, WisCon has been proud to host the award winners and to support the award by hosting fundraisers at-con. Making big changes can be difficult, but listening to the voices of our community members exemplifies the values that our con continues to strive towards. We fully support the Motherboard in their decision to rename the award, and we look forward to celebrating the award under its new name at WisCon 44 in 2020.

(3) REPLAY. From BBC we learn “Original Jurassic Park cast to return in next movie”.

The original stars of Jurassic Park are to reunite for the next instalment of the dinosaur film franchise.

Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum will reprise their roles in the upcoming Jurassic World 3.

The actors led the cast of the 1993 hit, directed by Steven Spielberg, and have appeared separately in subsequent instalments.

…It is believed the trio will appear alongside Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the stars of 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The latter release saw Goldblum reprise his role as Dr Ian Malcolm, having previously done so in 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Neill and Dern reprised their roles as Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Sattler in 2001 film Jurassic Park III.

(4) IN AND OUT OF FANDOM. Rob Hansen announces  some additions to his fanhistory site THEN:

  • Now that T. Bruce Yerke’s memoir of 1930s LA fandom is online I was able to expand my page on “The LASFS Clubroom” accordingly.

In the late 1930s the Los Angeles Science Fiction League – as they were then known – were meeting in Clifton’s Cafeteria, a downtown eatery located at 648 South Broadway after initially meeting at members’ homes and the like. T.Bruce Yerke recalled those LASFL days in his MEMOIRS OF A SUPERFLUOUS FAN (1943):

The great difference between the Chapter #4 of the SFL and the present LASFS is a subject of many ramifications, the product of an evolution of some years’ length, and a very interesting study. Perhaps it may be summed up in brief by the observation that the club in l937 had no social life to speak of. The chapter centered about meetings held roughly every other Thursday. Otherwise the members contented themselves with occasional Sunday gatherings of a highly informal and unofficial nature. Often groups of three or four attended shows together or went book hunting en masse, but that was virtually the sum of it. For the most part, members saw nothing of each other between alternate Thursdays, save the vicarious mediums of post and telephone….

Prominent among those dissidents were the trio – Vince Clarke, Joy Clarke, and Sandy Sanderson – known as ‘Inchmery’ after Inchmery Road in South London where they all shared a house together. Vince Clarke was not at all happy with fandom and was on the point of quitting it, as can be seen in this letter to him from George Locke dated 7 April 60…

(5) HUGO WANK. At Archive of Our Own, “Stanley Cup — What it Means” by Anonymous. Looks like this has been online for over a week, but it’s news to me!

…“What? No, the Oviraptors won fair and square. But the fans are saying they won.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Here, I’ll read you this tweet. Someone called PuckerUp wrote, “I can’t believe we won the Stanley Cup! I’m so excited you guys!” And there’s more like that. They really think they won it. So we want you to tell them that it was the Oviraptors team that won, not them. They can say they supported the actual winners.”

“Uh, are you sh—“ the spokesperson quickly changed course mid-sentence. “Are you sure someone saying “we won” instead of “my favorite team won” is a problem? I think everyone knows it was the athletes who actually won…”

“It dilutes what winning the Stanley Cup means, if just anyone can go around saying they won it. I mean, listen to this: HockeyLuvver63 tweeted, “Oviraptors won because I was the MVP and saved Darcy from rolling off the couch.” And then there’s a picture of this woman catching a Boston Terrier in a puck costume as it slides off a sofa. If people keep saying things like that, other people might start thinking the real winners and MVPs are just making it up too, and sneer at them for it.”…

(6) WILD IN THE STREETS. Although we covered this performance, I haven’t previously linked to The New Yorker story. In the magazine’s December 11, 2017 issue Alex Ross reviews War of the Worlds, an opera by Annie Gosfield based on the Orson Welles radio broadcast of 1938 and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic collaborating with the experimental opera company The Industry. 

The main audience was seated at Disney Hall, where the orchestra was ostensibly performing a new suit, by Gosfield, modelled on Holst’s The Planets.  The actress Sigourney Weaver, who has a history with aliens, assumed the pose of an unctuous gala host.  Halfway through the “Mercury” movement, she broke in with the first of many news bulletins.  As the concert faltered–we never got past “Earth”–Weaver elicited live reports from three nearby parking lots, each of which had its own performers and audience.  The auxiliary sites were placed near antiquated air-raid sirens that still stand throughout the city; they hummed with extraterrestrial transmissions.  Scientists jabbered technicalities; a TV reporter interviewed eyewitnesses; a military honcho tried to impose order.  Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, had a cameo, appearing onstage at Disney with a reassuring message:  “Please don’t attempt to leave this building.  Just outside these walls is utter chaos.  A climactic ray-gun assault on Disney was repelled by the metal shield that Frank Gehry had presciently installed on the exterior.  Weaver exclaimed, ‘The power of music has redeemed humanity once again!’

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 25, 1924 — Opened on this date in Moscow, Aelita: Queen of Mars. A silent film by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov. In the United States, Aelita was edited and titled by Benjamin De Casseres for release in 1929 as Aelita: Revolt of the Robots. The 2004 DVD has a musical score based on the music of Scriabin, Stravinsky, and Glazunov.
  • September 25, 1976 Holmes & Yoyo debuted. A heavy on the comedy police show where Detective Alexander Holmes keeps injuring his partners so he’s given an android partner which is John Schuck as Gregory “Yoyo” Yoyonovich in his first genre role. It lasted thirteen episodes. The reviews were not kind. Nor were the ratings.
  • September 25, 2006 — On NBC, Heroes aired its first episode, “Genesis”. It would last four seasons and remarkably would actually not be cancelled before it wraps up its story. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1862 Henry McNeil. Though he wrote two Lost Race novels, he’s here because he was a member of the Kalem Club circle that centered around Lovecraft. He played an important role in the career of Lovecraft as he was the first to urge that writer to submit his fiction to Weird Tales in the early Twenties. (Died 1929.)
  • Born September 25, 1919 Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Anyone here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 68. Ok, I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is when he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even doing on other such series as well. Pure comic genius! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy.
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displays those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 57. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, Nightmare Cafe, Mann & MachineProject Shadowchaser II, Legend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry.
  • Born September 25, 1968 Will Smith, 51. Despite the vile stinkers that are Wild Wild West and Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is quite superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin
  • Born September 25, 1969 Catherine Zeta-Jones, 50. Her first role ever was as in Scheherazade in French short 1001 Nights. Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off The Haunting of Hill House. And finally, she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. 
  • Born September 25, 1980 Benedict Jacka, 39. Though I’ll admit I’ve fallen behind in my reading of his Alex Verusseries, what I’ve read of it has been quite excellent — superb protagonist, interesting story and a quirky setting. Good popcorn literature! 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) REPRESENTATION ON TV. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In advance of The Good Place’s return this week, Kwame Opam of the New York Times profiles the show’s understated convention-breaking character Chidi Anagonye, and what the positive depiction of a character like him means for nerds of color: “The Good Place”. Opam writes:

Chidi is the sort of character who, in past generations, might have been the butt of the joke more often than not. Instead, he’s a romantic lead on one of television’s most beloved shows.

(11) JOKER FILM VIOLENCE PROTESTED. “Batman shooting victim’s family ‘horrified’ by Joker film’s violence” – BBC has the story.

Families of those killed while watching a Batman film in 2012 have written to Warner Bros with concerns about the new Joker film and urging the studio to join action against gun violence.

Twelve people died in a cinema showing The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.

They included Jessica Ghawi, 24, whose mother Sandy Phillips told BBC News she was “horrified” by the Joker trailers.

Warner Bros said the film – which stars Joaquin Phoenix – was not an endorsement of real-world violence.

Phoenix walked out of a recent interview when asked about the issue.

Sandy Phillips and her husband, Lonnie, who run Survivors Empowered, an anti-gun violence group, wrote to Warner Bros along with three others whose relatives were killed, injured or caught up in the 2012 shooting.

Speaking to BBC News, Mrs Phillips said: “When I first saw the trailers of the movie, I was absolutely horrified.

“And then when I dug a little deeper and found out that it had such unnecessary violence in the movie, it just chilled me to my bones.

“It just makes me angry that a major motion picture company isn’t taking responsibility and doesn’t have the concern of the public at all.”

(12) PLAY AT WORK? [Item by Chip Htchcock.] Student tells reporter: “My degree is not just riding roller coasters”.

Staffordshire University might be one of the smallest in the UK, but it has some quirky degree courses.

One is theme park management. Undergraduates spend half of their time at Alton Towers whose owner Merlin Entertainments helped design the course.

Amusing genre note: Wikipedia says the teaching site’s new wooden roller coaster (first woodie in the UK in 20 years, and first ever to include fire) is called the Wicker Man.

(13) WITHOUT A NET. “Boston Dynamics Atlas robot twists and somersaults” – BBC video.

US robotics firm Boston Dynamics has developed new techniques to let its Atlas robot blend together the movements of gymnastic routines more smoothly.

(14) YOUR METAL PAL WHO’S FUN TO BE WITH. “Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot goes on sale”.

A robotics company whose creations have amassed millions of views on YouTube, is renting out one of its stars, Spot.

Anyone wishing to lease the quadruped dog-like robot could do so for “less than the price of a car,” Boston Dynamics told IEEE Spectrum.

It suggested Spot could be useful in construction, the oil and gas industry and for those working in public safety.

One expert said its appeal may be limited by its price, which will be determined by demand.

Noel Sharkey, robotics experts and professor of computer science at Sheffield University, said “Spot is possibly the world’s finest example of a quadruped robot and since the addition of a robot arm, it seems a little more practical – but will it be practical enough at that price?

(15) RANSOMWARE. BBC says the evidence shows they’re back: “Notorious GandCrab hacker group ‘returns from retirement’”.

An infamous hacker group that was thought to have disbanded appears to be behind a wave of new attacks being carried out across the world.

Researchers at cyber-security company Secureworks say they reached their conclusion after analysing a new strain of computer virus.

They claim the culprits are the GandCrab crew.

The gang is thought to be Russian and previously sold customised ransomware to other criminals.

Their code had scrambled data on victims’ computers and demanded blackmail payments to decrypt it. It is estimated to have affected more than 1.5 million machines, with hospitals among those affected.

In May, the group had surprised many in the security industry when it announced it was “retiring” after earning more than $2bn (£1.6bn) from the trade.

Someone claiming to be part of the group claimed it had “cashed out” its earnings and quit the business.

It had been active since about January 2018.

But Secureworks has linked the group to a new strain of ransomware called REvil or Sondinokibi.

The malware has caused major disruption to hundreds of dental practices in the US as well as 22 Texas municipalities.

Researchers say not only is the code similar to that of the earlier attacks but that it contains similar mistakes.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/19 One Pixel, One File and One Scroll, Well, My Fandom, She Gone, She Gone Tonight

(1) A CLASSIC. Deadline reports Clifford D. Simak’s novel Way Station, a 1964 Hugo winner, will be developed for Netflix: “Matt Reeves’ 6th & Idaho To Turn Sci-Fi Tale ‘Way Station’ Into Netflix Movie”. In years gone by this was my #1 favorite sf book!

Here’s the logline on Way Station: For more than 100 years Enoch Wallace has been the keeper of a Way Station on Earth for intergalactic alien travelers as they teleport across the universe. But the gifts of knowledge and immortality that his intergalactic guests have bestowed upon him are proving to be a nightmarish burden, for they have opened Enoch’s eyes to humanity’s impending destruction. Still, one final hope remains for the human race.

(2) GRRM WILL CO-AUTHOR GOT TV PREQUEL. “‘Game of Thrones’: Second Prequel in the Works at HBO”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

A second Game of Thrones prequel is in the works at HBO.

Sources confirm to The Hollywood Reporter that the premium cable network is near a deal for a pilot order for a prequel set 300 years before the events of the flagship series that tracks the beginnings and the end of House Targaryen. Ryan Condal (Colony) and Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin will pen the script for the drama, which is based on Martin’s book Fire & Blood.

(3) COPING WITH CHANGE. M.L. Clark provides a deeply thoughtful analysis of the conversation about award names in “Letting Go of Our “Heroes”: Ongoing Humanist Training and the (Ex-)James Tiptree, Jr. Award” at Another White Atheist in Colombia.

…I asked myself three questions, then, to challenge my knee-jerk defense of the status quo–and I’d encourage you to employ similar the next time a group decision focussed on harm-reduction finds you, initially, “on” or “on the other side of” the fence.

1. To whom are you listening in this debate?

In the wake of my defensiveness, I had to make a concerted effort to read counterpoints to my perspective. Lots of them. And as I did, I took note of the times when I felt the greatest urgency to seek out both-sides-ism, to return to the security of others whose initial reactions were the same as mine: folks reluctant to change the name of this award, to own up to the pain Sheldon’s story has left in the hearts of many living human beings.

Critically, too, I didn’t then seek out those arguments when I wanted to–because what need did I have of them? They’d be sheer preaching to the choir, like the reading of apologetics for some Christians when faced with doubts. But I did note the contexts in which I most wanted to dive for shelter… and those contexts? They were usually when someone said something that challenged me to reason from empathy, to recognize the humanity of other people marginalized by Sheldon’s prominence at potential cost to the value of her disabled husband’s life. At those points most of all, I felt the urge to hide behind the presumption of neutrality, in superficial phrasing like, Well, no one can say for sure what happened that night! 

Which, sure, is true… but then why was I still automatically favouring one interpretation–the more convenient interpretation–over another that people were actively telling me did harm to their sense of full and safe inclusion in SF?

(4) EX-MEN. Cian Maher helps Polygon readers remember “That time the X-Men’s humanity was put on trial in a real court of law”. Because the Toy Biz company could get a lower tariff rate if the figurines were deemed nonhuman.

…Toy Biz’s motion acknowledged that the X-Men “manifest human characteristics at varying degrees,” but argued that most are more of a mixed bag of human and non-human aspects. For example, the document specifically calls out Wolverine (rude!) for having “long, sharplooking [sic] claws grafted onto his hands that come out from under his skin along with wolf-like hair and ears.”

Don’t body-shame Wolverine! He tries very hard!

Judge Barzilay’s official ruling, in which Toy Biz prevailed, states “the action figure playthings at issue here are not properly classifiable as ‘dolls’ under the HTSUS by virtue of various non-human characteristics they exhibit.”

(5) THESE THINGS HAVE TO BE DONE CAREFULLY… Vance K offers advice to parents in “Let’s Frighten Children! Vincent Price & Scooby-Doo” at Nerds of a Feather.

You’re a parent. You love horror. But horror is scary. So how to share this love of horror with your young, innocent, in-love-with-the-world child?

…For me and my family, the first step to introducing horror was to introduce the language of scares without, really, the fear. It’s hard to be a little kid. You are tiny, and surrounded by giants. Nothing makes sense, and every outcome is uncertain. Mom’s leaving…Will she come back?! How long is an hour?! It’s unknowable. And worse, there might actually be a monster under the bed. Or in the closet — you just don’t know.

This is where Vincent Price and Scooby-Doo came in handy. It’s pretty unlikely any kid is going to be legitimately frightened by an episode of Scooby-Doo. And yet, there are ghosts, goblins, witches, vampires, werewolves, creepers, and more, all running about. I’m actually not a huge Scooby fan, but I found the Cartoon Network Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated series to be excellent. I watched a big chunk of it with my kids, who were five and seven at the time. They loved it, and still do. We re-watch episodes regularly. In a world where asking a kid who has grown up with an iPhone to watch Bela Lugosi’s Dracula seems like a bridge too far, this is a show that is fast-paced, conversant in horror tropes, dabbles in grotesque/frightening imagery, and is funny, smart, and good. It’s also a show that prominently features Vincent Van Ghoul, who is a not-at-all-disguised representation of Vincent Price.

(6) ALA ADDRESSES MACMILLAN CEO. Publishers Weekly covers an American Library Association press conference where “Librarians Launch National Campaign to Oppose Macmillan’s Library E-book Embargo”.

…So far, that action includes two rather modest initiatives, unveiled on Wednesday. One is an online petition (eBooksForAll.org) urging Sargent and Macmillan to reconsider the publisher’s recently announced embargo. The other is a new online book club, in partnership with OverDrive. The “Libraries Transform Book Pick” will offer library users unlimited access to a selected e-book for two weeks, with no holds list and no waiting. The first pick is Kassandra Montag’s debut novel After the Flood (HarperCollins), which will be available for unlimited e-book checkouts at public libraries from October 7-21.

(7) WORDS OF A FEATHER. Paul Di Filippo’s F&SF column “Plumage from Pegasus” tells all about a collaboration by two of the genre’s founders that was largely unknown ‘til a couple of years ago: Flora Columbia: Goddess of a New Age, by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

In the year 1901, with the publication of his ninth novel, The First Men in the Moon, H. G. Wells, then a thirty-five-year-old wunderkind, cemented his reputation as the leading purveyor of “scientific romances.” The acclaim accorded to this British upstart, however, did not sit well with the aging lion of the nascent genre, Jules Verne—then an ailing seventy-three and just a few years away from his own death. Verne did not care for Wells’s less-stringent approach to scientific speculation, nor for his wilder imagination. In fact, Verne was so perturbed that he gave vent to his famous direct criticism of the novel: “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does M. Wells find his cavorite? Let him show it to me!”

So much is a matter of historical record. But what came next remained secret until just recently.

Both irked and disappointed by the jab from this venerable figure who had done so much to pioneer imaginative literature and whose respect he would have relished, Wells did a daring thing. On a mission both conciliatory and confrontational, he journeyed to France to confront the Master. In Amiens, at 44 Boulevard de Longueville, he was received with a wary hospitality. But after some awkward conversation over a lunch of calvados and choucroute garnie, the two writers found a shared footing in their mutual love of “science fiction,” a term they would not even have recognized. And then, impulsively, they decided to seal their tentative new friendship in a manner befitting their shared passion.

They would collaborate on a short novel….

(8) COLLINS OBIT. Charles Collins (1935-2019) died August 26 at the age of 83. He worked as a Publisher’s Representative, eventually becoming co-owner of Como Sales Company. Also, with Donald M. Grant, he co-founded Centaur Press, later renamed Centaur Books, a small press active from 1969 through 1981.

With Donald M. Grant, left, and Robb Walsh at the launch of Kingdom of the Dwarfs, 1980. Photo by © Andrew Porter

It was primarily a paperback publisher, though one of its more successful titles was reissued in hardcover. It was notable for reviving pulp adventure and fantasy works of the early twentieth century for its “Time-Lost Series.”

Authors whose works were returned to print include Robert E. Howard, Arthur O. Friel, Talbot Mundy, H. Warner Munn, and William Hope Hodgson. In the sole anthology it issued, the press also premiered a new work by Lin Carter. In later years it also published longer works by contemporary authors, including Carter, Galad Elflandsson, and Robb Walsh. Its books featured cover art by Jeff Jones, Virgil Finlay, Frank Brunner, Stephen Fabian, Randy Broecker, and David Wenzel.

The family obituary is here. Collins’ own history of Como Sales Company is here.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 13, 1969 – CBS introduced Scooby Doo, Where Are You? 50 years ago this week: Quoting the Wikipedia —

The first episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! “What a Night for a Knight” debuted on the CBS network Saturday, September 13, 1969. The original voice cast featured veteran voice actor Don Messick as Scooby-Doo, radio DJ Casey Kasem (later host of radio’s syndicated American Top 40) as Shaggy, actor Frank Welker (later a veteran voice actor in his own right) as Fred, actress Nicole Jaffe as Velma, and musician Indira Stefanianna as Daphne.[15] Scooby’s speech patterns closely resembled an earlier cartoon dog, Astro from The Jetsons (1962–63), also voiced by Messick.[2] Seventeen episodes of Scooby-Doo Where are You! were produced in 1969–70.

  • September 13, 1974  — Planet of the Apes debuted as a weekly television series with the  “Escape from Tomorrow” episode. Roddy McDowall was once again Galen. Due to really poor rating, CBS canceled the series after 14 episodes. 
  • September 13, 1999 — On this day, in the timeline inhabited by the crew of Space: 1999, the events told in the “Breakaway” premier episode happened.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1898 Arthur J. Burks. He  sold his first stories to Weird Tales in 1924. He became one of the “million-word-a-year” men in the pulp magazines by dint of his tremendous output. He wrote in the neighborhood of eight hundred stories for the pulps. Both iBooks and Kindle have some of his fiction available for free if you care to see how this pulp writer reads. (Died 1974.)
  • Born September 13, 1926 Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.  My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 13, 1931 Barbara Bain, 86. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell. I will confess that I never watched the latter. Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! 
  • Born September 13, 1932 Dick Eney. Most notably, in 1959 he published Fancyclopedia 2, an over two hundred page encyclopedia of all things fandom. He worked on committees for Discon I, Discon II, and Constellation and was the Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.Con II, the 1984 Worldcon. He served as OE of FAPA and SAPS and was a member of The Cult and the Washington in ’77 Worldcon bid. He was toastmaster at Conterpoint 1993. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 13, 1936 Richard Sapir. Pulp writer in spirit if not in actuality. Among his many works is The Destroyer series of novels that he co-created with Warren Murphy. (Murphy would write them by himself after death of Sapir starting with the seventy-first novel until the series concluded with ninety-sixth novel.)  And the main character in them is Remo Williams who you’ll no doubt recognize from  Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins where Fred Ward played Remo which I’ve watched but remember nothing of thirty years on. (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 13, 1939 Richard Kiel. He’s definitely  best remembered  for being the steely mouthed Jaws n The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Now let’s see what other SFF films he’s been in… His very last genre work was voicing Vlad in the animated Tangled with first his being The Salorite in The Phantom Planet. He was Eegah in the low budget horror film Eegah,  a giant House of the Damned, Dr. Kolos in The Human Duplicators, Psychiatric Hospital Patient in Brainstorm, Bolob in the Italian L’umanoide, internationally released as The Humanoid, and he reprised his Jaws character in Inspector Gadget. Series wise, he’s shown up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Twilight Zone,  Kolchak: The Night StalkerThe Wild Wild West (where he working in a recurring role with Michael Dunn as Dr. Miguelito Loveless), I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, Land of The Lost and Superboy. (Died 2014.)
Richard Kiel, right, in Wild Wild West
  • Born September 13, 1944 Jacqueline Bisset, 75. I never pass up a Bond performance and so she’s got on the Birthday Honors by being Giovanna Goodthighs in Casino Royale even though that might have been one of the dumbest character names ever. As near as I can tell, until she shows up in as Charlotte Burton in the “Love the Lie” episode of Counterpart that’s her entire encounter with genre acting.
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 72. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green Arrow, The Warlord, and Jon Sable Freelance. The Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne as Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth .
  • Born September 13, 1961 Tom Holt, 59. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, truly into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. 
  • Born September 13, 1969 Bob Eggleton, 50. He’s has been honored with the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist eight times! He was guest of honor at Chicon 2000. There’s a reasonably up to date look at his artwork,  Primal Darkness: The Gothic & Horror Art of Bob Eggleton  which he put together in 2010 and was published by Cartouche Press.

(11) ROLLING ON THE RIVER. Kelly Lasiter recommends a book at Fantasy Literature: “Mapping Winter: A character and a world that will stick with me”.

Mapping Winter (2019) is Marta Randall’s reworking of her 1983 novel, The Sword of Winter. (Randall talks more about the story behind the book here.) Its release as Mapping Winter was followed shortly by the all-new sequel The River South, with the two novels making up the RIDERS GUILD series. It’s a secondary-world fantasy, but without magic; I was about two-thirds of the way through the book when I realized, “Huh, I don’t think there’s been any magic!” What it does have is a nation poised between feudalism and industrialization.

(12) SCHOOL DAZE. James Davis Nicoll rings up our magic number: “Five SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

Kazuma Kamachi’s ongoing series of short novels and their associated manga and anime (A Certain Magical Index, A Certain Scientific Railgun, A Certain Scientific Accelerator, etc.) is set in Academy City. The city is home to over two million students, most of whom have some degree of reality-breaking Esper power. Some can control electromagnetism; some can keep objects at a constant temperature. Imagine the Xavier School for the Gifted with the population of Paris, France. Unlike the leadership of Xavier’s school, however, the people running Academy City are ambitious people entirely unfamiliar with the concepts of consent or ethics….

(13) ABOUT THAT DEAD HORSE. Good point – after all, how many people would watch a channel that mostly runs commercials?

(14) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Paul Weimer says people who like a character-focused story will love it: “Microreview: This Is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In a world of twitter, and direct messages, and texts, and instant social media, long form letters are a delightful retro technology and form. Epistolary novels and stories, never the most common of forms even when letters were dominant as a means of communication, are exceedingly distinctive just by their format in this day and age. It’s a bold choice by the authors to have the two agents, Red (from a technological end state utopia) and Blue (from a biological super consciousness utopia) to start their correspondence and to have their letters (which take increasingly unusual forms as described in the narrative) be the backbone of the action. Every chapter has one of the principals in action, and a letter from the other principals, giving a harmonic balance for the reader as far as perspective. But it is within the letters themselves that the novella truly sings and shows its power.

(15) BOG STANDARD. Nina Shepardson reviews Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss at Outside of a Dog.

The theme of Sarah Moss’s latest novel, Ghost Wall, can be summed up by a William Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even really past.” Sylvie’s father plans an unusual vacation for their family: joining a local college professor’s project to spend a couple of weeks living the way British people did in the Bronze Age. This involves some of the physical discomforts you would expect, such as foraging for food in the summer heat and living in huts. But things take a darker turn as Sylvie’s father’s fascination with the period deepens into obsession. And not all the hazards of the era were natural ones; there’s evidence that a nearby bog was a site of human sacrifice….

(16) ALASDAIR STUART. It’s Full Lid o’clock!

(17) THE MESSAGE. Joseph Hurtgen has just released his second sff novel with a theme chosen for reasons he explains in “Why I Wrote an Anti-Gun, Anti-Trump, Environmental Science Fiction Novel “. “This novel is an exercise in hoping our democracy outlasts this election cycle, hoping our generation doesn’t destroy the planet, and hoping that we could rise above greed to make our nation safe for our children. What better place to do all this hoping than in the pages of science fiction?”

The book follows William Tecumseh Sherman as he time travels around America’s history, talking to presidents that like their guns and aren’t interested in instituting environmental protections. 

I realize that it’s a bit of stretch that Sherman would get involved politically. Sherman once said if he was elected, he wouldn’t serve. But isn’t that precisely the kind of leader America needs? Someone disinterested in leadership wouldn’t likely have ulterior motives for holding a position of power: no Putins to please, no buildings to build in Moscow or the Middle East.

But the reality of American politics is that those willing to profit from power are rewarded for it. In 2019, the emoluments clause might as well be struck from the record. It clearly isn’t taken seriously. But emoluments are only the tip of the ugly iceberg.

(18) “THE SCREAM”. “Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2019: Here are the finalists” — minimal text, great photos.

(19) THEATER AS GAME. “Variant 31: ‘Pushing the boundaries’ of immersive theatre”.

It’s being promoted as the biggest live immersive game yet. Variant 31 is theatre – there are 150 real-life performers involved. But its creator is hoping it will bring in video gamers – and people who like jumping out of aircraft.

If you heard reports of reanimated cadavers roaming at will beneath New Oxford Street you might suppose London had been having a particularly bad day for public transport.

But producer Dalton M Dale is proud to stand in a slightly musty former shop basement and talk of the malevolent band of marauding zombies he’s adding to the growing world of immersive theatre.

He’s from North Carolina but in 2017 he came to London after a few years working on immersive shows in New York.

“London is the place to push the envelope of what immersive storytelling can do: the point about Variant 31 is that as you move through our really large site you get actively involved in the story. That’s instead of standing at a slight distance and observing and admiring, which has often been the case with even the best immersive experiences.”

…”You start at Patient Intake at Toxico Technologies,” Dale explains. “Toxico 25 years ago has manufactured strange and nefarious materials for chemical warfare. You are given a piece of wrist technology which at key points across 35 floors will allow you to do various things: you can alter the lighting and open hidden passages and even change the weather.

“Creatures emerge as you move through. From the moment you step into this world the hunt is on and someone wants to catch you. Oh, and always bear in mind: the only way to kill a zombie is to aim for the head.

Players score points by killing the creatures and at the end of the experience there will be just one winner from your group. “We claim this is the first truly immersive experience: it’s not spoon-fed like some other shows. Your presence matters and genuinely changes what goes on.”

(20) DATA SAVED BY DEFNESTRATION. BBC tells how “Russian activist saves data from police with drone”.

A Russian activist used a drone to get his data out of his high-rise flat when police came to search it.

Sergey Boyko says he sent hard drives to a friend by drone when police banged at his door at 10:00 local time, to avoid them getting hold of the data.

The search was part of a nationwide crackdown on the opposition.

Around 200 raids have been carried out in the past few days after the ruling party suffered major losses in local elections in Moscow.

A YouTube video taken (in Russian) by a female companion shows Mr Boyko, who lives in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, releasing a drone from his flat in a tall apartment block as police wait to be let in.

Mr Boyko heads the local branch of the movement of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who campaigned for voters to defeat candidates of the United Russia party using tactical voting in Sunday’s city council election.

The activists say the raids are a form of revenge by the authorities for the setbacks.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In A Month of Type on Vimeo, Mr Kaplin animates the alphabet.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Joseph Hurtgen, IanP, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contrbuting editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Tiptree Name Will Be Removed from Award

The Tiptree Award Motherboard today tweeted its intention to change the name of the award:

This reverses the decision they announced at the start of the month and had explained in-depth in “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award”.

The change comes in response to recent requests to drop the name because in her last acts the author shot her invalid husband before killing herself. The discussion included tweets by Carrie Cuinn (‘no one’s whole life excuses killing a disabled person in their care. It can’t, or what does that say about the value of my life, my son’s, any disabled person’s?”), Kelly Robson (“This [Twitter] is just not the place for a nuanced conversation. But Tiptree isn’t sacred to me. I’m tapping out. To be very clear: she was a murderer and murder is never excusable.”) and Natalie Luhrs (“She murdered her husband while he slept and then killed herself. And yet there’s a SFF award named after her. I am deeply conflicted about this.”)

Those involved in the conversation at File 770 have ranged from many fans with disabilities, to Tiptree’s literary executor Jeff Smith, who knew the author well.

Although there are fans who wanted to keep the Tiptree Award name, those who administer the award have always regarded their work as something of a movement, and they are showing that they plan to listen to people who have always been the source of their support.

[Thanks to Lenore Jean Jones and James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #44

Names and Legacies 

By Chris M. Barkley: If I had told you a month ago that legacies of three of the biggest names in the fantasy and sf community would come under scrutiny and that one in particular would have his name removed from two prestigious awards, you probably would have looked at me oddly and thought I was crazy.

Well now, welcome to Crazy Town.

I, on the other hand, would not have been surprised as much because of what had happened a year ago.

Tuesday, November 27 2018, was the BEST day of Linda Fairstein’s life. Well, you could say it was the LAST best day of her life because forty-eight hours later, it began to unravel.

Fairstein, an acclaimed and best-selling crime writer of many years, awoke that day to find out that her peers in the Mystery Writers of America had named her as a Grand Master, the highest award of their organization could bestow. She was being honored for her series of 20 novels featuring Alexandra Cooper, a sex crimes prosecutor.

When she found out, she took to Twitter, writing,“How is THIS news for a thrilling surprise. I am Mystery Writers of America 2019 GRANDMASTER…..I’m pinching myself.”

But, almost immediately, prominent crime writers, with novelist Attica Locke in the lead, were protesting the announcement. Locke explained vociferously that Fairstein was directly responsible for the false imprisonment of five innocent men. 

Linda Fairstein’s previous occupation was a district attorney for New York City. For nearly a quarter of a century she was the lead prosecutor of the Sex Crimes Unit in Manhattan. In that capacity she became a feminist icon for her tough stances on crime and advocacy for victims’ rights in court.

Unfortunately, she was also responsible for personally supervising the prosecution of the Central Park Five, a 1989 case in which a jogger was brutally beaten and raped. The five Latino and black male teenagers were arrested, questioned, tried and eventually convicted for the heinous crime. They all claimed that the confessions they signed were coerced and that they were innocent. In 2002, all of them were exonerated by DNA evidence, freed and were given a substantial financial settlement from the city.

So, when the MWA reversed themselves, they released the following statement:

“After profound reflection, the Board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the Board of Directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused.”

By this past June, Dutton, her current publisher, had dropped her and activists on social media outlets called on the public to boycott her books and anyone selling them.

Fairstein exacerbated her situation by not apologizing for what happened or at least admitting that our judicial system failed these young men miserably. But no; instead she doubled down and she stood by their original convictions despite the evidence to the contrary, and hinted that if they were not guilty of that offense, they were probably guilty of something else and absolutely deserved exactly what they got. When HBO’s drama about the Central Park Five, “When They See Us” was aired this past spring, it featured a less than flattering portrayal of Fairstein. 

When I heard about Linda Fairstein’s problems with the Mystery Writers of America, I got into an semi-argument with a bookselling friend about what should happen to her. He stated, unequivocally, that her actions in her life should have nothing to do with her work as a writer. 

And, In a fair and a just world, that would happen. But, as we have seen repeatedly over the advent of the internet and social media outlets, there are people out there who would vehemently oppose the most harmless and innocuous you could come up with, including kittens. knitting and lawn bowling. 

I told my friend back then that while it was more than likely that Linda Fairstein probably did deserve the MWA honor, people, her peers, critics, and the public at large and the tidal forces of social interaction she helped foment were going to deny her because of her past actions and her adamant defense of them. 

And the very same scenario has played out again, in high definition no less, in these past few weeks. 

When Jeannette Ng made her speech denouncing John W. Campbell, Jr. at the Hugo Award Ceremony three weeks ago, it set off a tsunami of arguments, retrospectives and reassessments of Campbell, the late Alice Sheldon (best known under her pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr), Amazing Stories founder Hugo Gernsback and other various literary luminaries of the past and present.

John W. Campbell, Jr.

By sheer coincidence, I discovered Campbell the editor in high school, several months after he died. My neighbor, Michaele, had a subscription and loaned me her copies of Analog, which were among the last he had edited. The stories were ok but what really caught my eye were the strangely cranky editorials, which made me curious enough to want to meet him. It was well enough that he had departed; had I gone back a few years and read of his 1968 endorsement of George Wallace for President, that would have been quite enlightening.

From 1937, for their first fifteen years or so, Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction magazine (and for the few years it existed, its fantasy counterpart, Unknown) were the biggest influences in sf literature and fandom at large.

But, along came Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas. And Horace Gold. Cele Goldsmith. Frederik Pohl. Ian and Betty Ballantine. Joseph and Edward Ferman. And Harlan Ellison.  And many other editors and publishers who followed in their footsteps. Like all good literary movements, sf diversified, became more inclusive and expanded.

 And Campbell himself? Not so much.

To be sure, he still was respected by authors and artists who produced for him. And don’t forget that he was the first to serialize Frank Herbert’s magnum opus, Dune, and, ironically, the very FIRST story by one James Tiptree, Jr (who is waiting on deck, so to speak).

But Campbell was estranged from a number of major authors such as Robert A. Heinlein, whom he had clashed with over ideological and political differences. 

When the two awards were established in his name two years after his death, John W. Campbell, Jr. was so well thought of and revered that there was no virtually opposition from any of the sponsors; Conde Nast Magazines (which later morphed into Dell Magazines) and the World Science Fiction Society (as the administrator) for the Best New Writer and the Memorial Award for Best Novel by late authors Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss. (The Gunn Center Conference of the University of Kansas formally took over the administration of the Campbell Memorial Award in 1978).

Harrison wrote this of the awards in 1977:

When John died it was a blow to all of us. After the memorial service a number of his writers were talking, and out of the talk came the Astounding anthology, what has been called the last issue of the Campbell magazine. It was a good tribute to a good editor. There is another tribute I think of just as highly, the award for the best SF novel of the year presented in his name and memory. An award I am sure he would have loved because it instantly became involved in controversy when the first prizes was presented. How John enjoyed a good argument and a good fight! That this fight sprawled through the letter columns of Analog for some months would have cheered him even more.

(For those among you who are intensely curious about that first recipient, the very first winner of the Memorial Award for Best Novel award was Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg, a book whose plot and themes probably would have turned his brain inside out. Don’t believe me? Check it out sometime.)

In the wake of the events of the past three weeks, Campbell’s grandson, John Campbell Hammond, has expressed some distress and disappointment over the removal of his name from the two awards. Others have been more pointed in their criticism, calling it a reactionary response of “political correctness” or “erasure”. 

Mr. Hammond may be saddened but at least he can be consoled by the voters of the 1944 Retro-Hugos, which held his grandfather in some high esteem because they awarded him in the Best Editor, Short Form category.

Here’s the thing; while he was a brilliant innovator in our branch of literature, there is also no doubt that his views on women and race were abominable. We can only speculate how much better things might have been if he hadn’t been such a person. Looking back, it is quite evident that the only thing holding up his reputation up for all these decades was white privilege, willful or unknowing ignorance and racism. 

And what’s happened to Campbell is not “erasure” but, as John Scalzi elegantly put it on his blog, a “reassessment”. And part of that process is a condemnation of your past actions.  

Alice Sheldon

Almost immediately in the wake of all of this, The Tiptree Motherboard, the administrators of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, were inundated by requests that they change the name of their award, citing that Alice Sheldon (the alias behind the Tiptree pseudonym) had committed the murder of her spouse, the ailing and terminally ill Huntington Sheldon, and then committed suicide.

Where I had no doubt that removing Campbell name was correct thing to do, I was equally adamant that Tiptree’s name should remain in place.

I am proud to state that I voted for Sheldon’s Hugo winning novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read,” on my very first Hugo Awards ballot back in 1977. At that time, no one knew “James Tiptree, Jr.” was other than a as a damn good writer. Upon first reading, I found her short fiction to be entertaining, intensely personal and incredibly enlightening. And I still do.

The bubble burst the very next year when, in her guise as Tiptree, slipped up and revealed to several of her correspondents that her mother had recently died. That led a few clever people to a Chicago newspaper obituary and directly her real identity.

Sheldon continued to write, as Tiptree and “Raccoona Sheldon” until her and her husband’s deaths in 1987. It was long rumored among her friends and family that she and “Ting” had made a long-standing murder/suicide pact if either became too ill for the other to care for. In her 2006 Hugo Award winning biography, The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, author Julie Phillips did not state conclusively that this was the case. Recently, Phillips wrote on Twitter:

“The question has come up whether Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr) and her husband Ting died by suicide or murder-suicide. I regret not saying clearly in the bio that those closest to the Sheldons all told me that they had a pact and that Ting’s health was failing.

Ting’s son Peter Sheldon also said there was a pact, and that Ting was declining. Alli probably wanted to die more than Ting did. But the pact didn’t have to do with his blindness or disability. He was going, and they chose to go out together.”

Recently on the Tiptree Motherboard, Phillips elaborated further:

“Ting didn’t leave a statement, but all Ting’s friends that I talked to plus his son Peter were unanimous that it was a pact, and that Ting’s health was failing when it happened. The only one who cast doubt on that was the lawyer who talked to her on the last night, James Boylan. He didn’t know either Ting or Alli very well, and I have doubts about how well he understood what was happening. I’m planning to write up what I know, because I left too much room for doubt when I wrote the book.”

I got into a very brief argument on the Tiptree Motherboard Twitter feed with a troll (with no previous history of posting) who stated unequivocally that Sheldon was nothing more than a common murderer.  I countered that while John W. Campbell was a serial offender in life, Alice Sheldon should not be condemned forever for one desperate and tragic choice.

Even moreso, the name “James Tiptree, Jr.” and the meaningful and influential fiction that was presented under that name has transcended the life of the author. I believe that the award cannot be what it is, a celebration of the exploration of sex and gender roles in fantastic fiction without that name attached to it.

On 2 September, the Tiptree Motherboard issued a lengthy statement covering the controversy and stated that a name change was not in the offing. Two days later they, issued the following clarification: 

 We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at feedback@tiptree.org.

So, at least for the foreseeable future, The James Tiptree Award will remain as it is.

Hugo Gernsback

Our last person of interest is Hugo Gernsback, an immigrant from Luxembourg who founded the 1926 magazine Amazing Stories, the very first publication completely devoted to publishing science fiction (which he originally dubbed “scientifiction”). Through it, he also created the “Science Fiction League”, a club whose members published letters in the magazine and corresponded with each other eventually met in person, thus creating the first wave of sf fandom and conventions. 

But before Amazing Stories, Gernsback was better known as a publisher of all sorts of other publications. He was notorious for not paying his contributors very much (or in some cases, not at all) and his business practices were seen by many at the time as very shady or outright fraudulent.

As author Barry Malzberg once wrote:

Gernsback’s venality and corruption, his sleaziness and his utter disregard for the financial rights of authors, have been well documented and discussed in critical and fan literature. That the founder of genre science fiction who gave his name to the field’s most prestigious award and who was the Guest of Honor at the 1952 Worldcon was pretty much a crook (and a contemptuous crook who stiffed his writers but paid himself $100K a year as President of Gernsback Publications) has been clearly established.

The very next year, the Science Fiction Achievement Awards were first given out at the11th Worldcon in Philadelphia. And despite his scurrilous reputation, people began to nickname this new award, “The Hugo”, after him! And I have no doubt that this just tickled his fancy up to his death at the age of 83 in 1967. The name became so universally used that by1992, it was officially codified into the Constitution of World Science Fiction Society.

I am amused that some people are showing some genuine outrage that the most prestigious award in sf is named after such a scoundrel. And not because I think it’s a bad idea. Oh no, on the contrary, this might be a GREAT idea whose time has come. 

All these pundits have to do is come up with a name to replace “Hugo Award”. Something that has a consensus of fandom behind it. A name that can be protected legally by the World Science Fiction Society. And…

A name that will have to endure at the very least, four or five years of committee studies and formal Business Meeting debates, amendments, substitutions and serpentine votes.

To those who wish to embark on this fool’s errand, I wish you all the luck on this Earth and all of its known (and unknown) alternate versions as well. 

In any event, fame and legacies are all fleeting and a fool’s deepest desire. All that really matters in life in the long run are your family, friends, memories and knowing that you tried to do the right thing and the best you can under the circumstances.

My advocacy of new categories for the Hugo Award will probably be my legacy. And I’m hoping for more. But It is my hope that my work will not stand and that others will study, deconstruct, demolish and build on the ashes of my efforts.

I hope a new Best Dramatic Presentation category is even more expansive and inclusive. The Editing category should formally include anthologies and author collections. Manga should definitely be included in the description of the Comics and Graphic Story category. And a Best Translated Novel award (or, at least a test of such a category) should be inevitable and welcomed, not feared.

If I had to single out one of the greatest moments in my life in fandom, I could tell you exactly when it happened, the night before the 2012 Hugo Awards Ceremony at Chicon 7.

My partner Juli and I were hanging out in the Hyatt Regency bar overlooking Michigan Avenue when we were approached by a woman and her partner. She said she sought me out to to thank me personally for working so hard to establish the Best Graphic Story category in which she was a nominee that year. I, in turn, congratulated her on the nomination and wished her the best of luck.

And the next day, Ursula Vernon won her first Hugo Award for her graphic omnibus, Digger. She did not thank me on stage. She didn’t have to because she already had.

It is always better to give than to receive. And I have always strived to create the possibility to give the highest award we have to the most deserving creators. And that is all I have ever wanted.

Or needed.

Pixel Scroll 9/4/19 The Filer Who Climbed Mount Tsundoku, But Came Down From Mount Read

(1) TIPTREE AWARD UPDATE. The Motherboard has added this note to their “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award” post:

Update: Wednesday September 4, 2019.

We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at feedback@tiptree.org.

(2) WORLDBUILDING. “R.J. Theodore on Secondary Worlds Without Monocultures: POV, Cultural Perspective, and Worldbuilding” is a guest post on Cat Rambo’s blog.

My favorite part of writing SFF is inviting the reader to explore new worlds with unearthly mechanics, magic systems, or zoology that entrance the imagination. But what imprints a story on the reader’s soul is the ability to relate to the experience. The real world contains multitudinous experiences, cultures, and viewpoints. It’s important to reflect that in our stories, even if we are zooming in on a more intimate story.

Avoiding monoculture by creating characters who have different experiences makes a story feel vibrant, more faithful, and realistic. When those characters interact, it adds conflict, tension, and opportunities to create real magic.

(3) UNPERSUASIVE. NPR’s Glen Weldon sums up “Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance’: Gorgeous, Multi-Faceted, Hollow At Its Center”.

Let’s get the cheap joke out of the way up top:

Look, if I wanted to watch dead-eyed, expressionless creatures sniping at one another over backstories I can’t follow without consulting the Internet, I’d watch Real Housewives.

Okay, that’s done. Now let’s get serious. Let’s talk Gelflings.

…Real talk: Gelfling are … bad. Boring. Lifeless. Dull.

On their own, they’d be generic enough — a first-pass attempt at your garden-variety Tolkien-adjacent high-fantasy race. But as soon as you place them — as do both the original 1982 The Dark Crystal film and Netflix’s new, 10-episode prequel series — at the center of a world as gorgeously wrought, breathtakingly detailed and astonishingly elaborate as that of The Dark Crystal, they become something even worse: They’re basic.

…When Henson and Co. create wildly inhuman, or un-human, creatures, we’ll blithely accept them, whether their eyes are ping-pong balls (C. Monster, K.T. Frog) or their mouth’s that of a toucan with a skin condition (assorted Skeksis). Pigs, podlings, bears or bog monsters — it doesn’t matter. We cheerfully buy into the illusion, not only because these women and men are so skilled in the art of design and puppetry, but because we know that we’re tourists wandering through someone else’s imagination — we assume things look and act different, there.

But Gelfling? They’ve got disturbingly human-like faces, and we know how those work. And even though the art of Gelfling-animatronics has evolved in the 37 years since the film — eyebrows now knit, cheeks now dimple — Gelfling as a race remain permanent residents of the darkest depths of the uncanny valley.

(4) ATWOOD’S NEW BOOK. NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reports that “‘The Testaments’ Takes Us Back To Gilead For A Fast-Paced, Female-Centered Adventure”

What do the men of Gilead do all day?

We learn very little about it in The Testaments. We hear of one who mostly shuts himself in his study, away from his family, to work all day. We learn that a high-ranking government official serially kills off each of his teenage wives once they get too old for his tastes, then seeks out new targets. We learn that another respected man is a pedophile who gropes young girls.

So. We know that Gilead men are at best nonentities, at worst monstrous. Beyond that, they are chilly, dull, uninterested in the women around them — to the point that they also seem kind of dim. Mostly, they lurk just outside the frame, threatening to swoop in at any moment to wreak havoc.

And that absence only emphasizes that the women of Gilead are more fascinating than ever. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to her classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, returns to that dystopic theocracy 15 years later via three protagonists: Agnes, a girl in Gilead who from a young age rejects marriage, though her parents intend to marry her to a powerful Commander. Daisy is a Canadian girl repulsed by Gilead, raised by strangely overprotective parents. And Aunt Lydia — yes, that Aunt Lydia — has near-godlike status as one of Gilead’s founding Aunts and spends her days quietly collecting dirt on Commanders and fellow Aunts.

Telling much more about how the lives of Agnes, Daisy and Aunt Lydia do and don’t intersect would be to spoil the fun of The Testaments. The book builds its social commentary on gender and power into a plot-driven page turner about these women’s machinations as they deal with their stifling circumstances.

“Fun” is a loose term here, of course. As with The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments contains a lot of gut punches (as one may have gathered by now, what with all the murderous, pederastic men everywhere).

And a lot of the time, it’s women administering these gut punches to each other. Despite the awful men everywhere, one of the main themes The Testaments explores is how women hurt one another — whether it’s friend versus friend, Aunt versus student, or even mother versus daughter.

(5) AND A BONUS. At NPR,“Hear Margaret Atwood Read From ‘The Testaments,’ Her Sequel To ‘The Handmaid’s Tale'” — audio, with transcript.

…Handmaids are in the public eye again thanks to the hit TV series — and the frequent appearance of silent, red-robed protesters at political events. Now, Atwood is returning to the world of Gilead, the repressive theocracy she created out of the ruins of present-day America. The Testaments opens 15 years after the events of the first book, and follows an old familiar character as well as introducing some new voices. As for what happens to Offred … well, no spoilers here.

(6) INSIDE HOLLYWOOD. “Kristen Stewart was told to stop holding ‘girlfriend’s hand in public’ if she wanted a Marvel movie”Yahoo! Entertainment quotes the actress:  

… She continued, “I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favor, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie.'” The writer noted how the actress looked “almost amused at the memory.” Although Stewart kept it vague about where that directive came from, she added, “I don’t want to work with people like that.” (Marvel did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.)

“Literally, life is a huge popularity contest,” she added.

The 29-year-old credited a younger generation with helping give her the confidence to step out publicly with a romantic partner. “I just think we’re all kind of getting to a place where — I don’t know, evolution’s a weird thing — we’re all becoming incredibly ambiguous,” she explained. “And it’s this really gorgeous thing.”

(7) HUGO WINNING SERIES BECOMES GAME. ComicBook.com reports “Award-Winning Broken Earth Fantasy Series to Become a Tabletop RPG”.

The award-winning Broken Earth books by N.K Jemisin will be adapted into a roleplaying game. Earlier this month, Green Ronin Publishing, the maker of tabletop RPGs based on The Expanse, Lazarus, Dragon Age, and A Song of Ice of Fire, announced that had signed a licensing agreement with Jemisin to publish a new game based on her Hugo Award-winning series. The new game will use a modified version of Green Ronin’s Chronicle System, the same game system used by A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. Tanya DePass and Joseph D. Carriker will co-develop The Fifth Season RPG, which will be released in Fall 2020.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

History records that it was on this fateful day back in the year 1966 that Gene Roddenberry — believing he had captured lightning in a bottle — took a copy of Star Trek‘s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” to play for the crowds gathered at the World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  How was the program first received?  Well, let’s just say that Gene couldn’t sate their appetites, and — before the event was all over — crowds also demanded to view the black-and-white print the man also brought along of the original Trek pilot, “The Cage.”  So it goes without saying that many folks credit September 4th as the serendipitous birth of the franchise.

  • September 4, 1975 Space:1999 premiered on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 4, 1905 Mary Renault. ISFDB only counts her Theseus novels as genre (The King Must Die, and The Bull from the Sea). Is that right? I’m not familiar with her full body of work to say if it is or is not correct. (Died 1983.)
  • Born September 4, 1916 Robert A. W. Lowndes. He was known best as the editor of Future Science Fiction, Science Fiction, and Science Fiction Quarterly (mostly published late Thirties and early Forties) for Columbia Publications. He was a principal member of the Futurians. A horror writer with a bent towards all things Lovecraftian ever since he was a young fan, he received two letters of encouragement from H. P. Lovecraft. And yes, he’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1998)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read; even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series I don’t think it’s essential reading. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I see stocked in my local bookstores. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Ray Russell. His most famous story is considered by most to be “Sardonicus” which was published first in Playboy magazine, and was then adapted by him into a screenplay for William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus. In 1991 Russell received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 4, 1928 Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on Fantasy Island. He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 4, 1957 Patricia Tallman, 62. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine andtwo of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on further episodes of the latter as she did on Voyager. H’h to the latter. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. 
  • Born September 4, 1975 Kai Owen, 44. Best known for portrayal of Rhys Williams in Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off I stopped watching after the first two series. He reprised his characters in the Big Audio auidiodramas. 
  • Born September 4, 1999 Ellie Darcey-Alden, 20. She’s best known for playing young Lily Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. She’s also celebrated here for being  Francesca “Franny” Latimer in the Doctor Who  Christmas special “The Snowmen”, an Eleventh Doctor story. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets silly with a classical literary reference.
  • The Argyle Sweater gets silly with a pop culture TV reference. (Do you detect a trend?)

(11) PAYING THE FREIGHT. Arc Manor has begun a Kickstarter appeal, seeking $30,000 to publish “Robert Heinlein’s Unpublished Novel”.  They have already announced the ebook and a hardcover will be released in March 2020. 

We now have the unique opportunity to publish a brand new novel by this great author titled The Pursuit of the Pankera , A ‘parallel’ book written about the parallel universes introduced in book The Number of the Beast, published in 1980….

The Pursuit of the Pankera is an 185,000 word novel with the same characters as The Number of the Beast. The two books share a similar beginning, but where the existing book  goes off on a totally unrelated tangent (almost becoming a satire of science fiction and neglecting the original conflict), The Pursuit of the Pankera  remains focused on the original conflict and works itself towards a much more traditional Heinlein ending. In many ways, it hearkens back to some of the earlier Heinlein novels.

(12) YOUTUBE HIT WITH BIG PENALTY. BBC has the story — “YouTube fined $170m in US over children’s privacy violation”.

YouTube has been fined a record $170m (£139m) by a US regulator for violating children’s privacy laws.

Google, which owns YouTube, agreed to pay the sum in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The video-streaming site had been accused of collecting data on children under 13, without parental consent.

The FTC said the data was used to target ads to the children, which contravened the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa).

“There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law,” said FTC chairman Joe Simons.

He added that when it came to complying with Coppa, Google had refused to acknowledge that parts of its main YouTube service were directed at children.

However, in presentations to business clients, the company is accused of painting a different picture.

(13) BATMAN BY TWILIGHT. Ramin Setoodeh, in the Variety story “Robert Pattinson on Becoming Batman and Why ‘The Lighthouse’ Is Just Weird Enough”, has a long interview with Pattinson (it was Variety’s cover story) where he says he loved the Tim Burton movies as a kid and “You feel very powerful immediately” when you don the Batsuit.

…“Rob definitely has a darker side and is comfortable working in that space,” says Robert Eggers, the director of A24’s “The Lighthouse,” which screens this week at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival and opens in theaters on Oct. 18. “And he has good taste in cinema. I think a lot of directors he likes are doing stuff that isn’t run-of-the-mill Hollywood.”

But in the past few months, Pattinson’s career has taken another turn as he’s begun gravitating back toward the stormy clouds of movie stardom. He spent most of his summer in Estonia making the Nolan film, which arrives in theaters in July 2020. And of course, despite his concerns, he was cast in “The Batman,” the Warner Bros. tentpole from director Matt Reeves that will start shooting this winter and debuts in June 2021.

(14) CHANGING OF THE GUARD. Meanwhile in the actual comic books, Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston speculates “DC Comics is About to Give Us a Black Batman”. He says it’s likely DC will introduce a black Batman in 2020 although it’s unclear who will don the Batsuit.

The hot gossip coming out of comic book shows this weekend from a number of prominent sources, is that in the summer of 2020 leading into 2021, DC Comics is planning to bring us a black Batman. Not Bruce Wayne, but someone else donning the cowl and cape.

Who this new Batman will be, I don’t know. All I have been told is that it won’t be Duke Thomas, the young man previously teased as taking on the role of Robin and Batman to come.

Marvel Comics has given us a black/Latino Spider-Man with Miles Morales, popularised in the Into The Spider-Verse movie. Sam Wilson took on the role of Captain America, reflected in the Avengers: Endgame movie. And Nick Fury has been replaced in the Marvel Universe by his black son, Nick Fury, Jr, reflecting the casting of Samuel L Jackson in the Marvel movies. While in Doomsday Clock, DC Comics’ unauthorised sequel to Watchmen, the new Rorschach is a black man, and son of the original Rorschach’s psychiatrist. It looks like the mainstream DC Comics Universe may be heading in a similar direction with Batman.

(15) DISNEY ROTATES PARTY THEMES. LAist urges readers to “Embrace The ‘Nightmare’ Of Oogie Boogie Bash, Disney’s New Halloween Event At California Adventure”. (Why does this remind me that I came in second to Oogle Boogle in LASFS’ Fugghead of the Year Contest in 1976?)

Mickey’s Halloween Party is retiring to Florida. Disneyland’s wholesome, long-running, kid-focused, trick-or-treating event was a favorite for Disney fans (of all ages, we don’t judge) who were allowed to go to the parks IN COSTUME, which is normally against the rules.

This year, Disney is replacing the SoCal event with something slightly more sinister: the Oogie Boogie Bash, themed around Nightmare Before Christmas villain Oogie Boogie. It’s also switching parks, with the monster taking over California Adventure. Don’t worry, you can still dress up.

It’s a darker take on Halloween, with a focus on villains, and a storyline that involves Oogie Boogie casting a spell to take over the park.

The change may help keep both parks full, since Disneyland will no longer have to shut down early on event nights. It’s also a chance to age up the vibe from just being for the tykes, according to Disney show director Jordan Peterson, with some spookier attractions meant to appeal to the tween and even teen audience.

(16) SPECULATIVE THRILLER NEWS. John Marks, in “Seven Techno-Thrillers To Read As Our World Crumbles” on CrimeReads, says that there’s no better way to prepare for global environmental or technological collapse than reading a novel by Ernest Cline, Michael Crichton, or Andy Weir.

Authors, like me, who write speculatively about tech, are only limited by our imaginations. And that’s why we are fascinated by it, because it offers limitless potential.

Often it is far more of a challenge to create characters and worlds that are overshadowed by tech that goes askew than tech that gets it right.

What happens when automation that has been designed to assist humanity starts working against it? That question has been the basis of two of my six novels, The One and most recently, The Passengers.

(17) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR REPLICANT EYES. From 2013, the Blade Runner trailer redone in classic black-and-white noir style.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Brian Z., Rich Horton, David Doering and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 9/2/19 File Me A Scroll, You’re The Pixel Man

(1) ASTOUNDING AWARD. CoNZealand will use the new name immediately. (At least one very well-known business meeting regular has been trying behind the scenes to convince other conrunners they don’t have the authority to make the change, and failed.)

And now the change has been covered by the New York Times. “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”

Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”

(2) CONGRATULATIONS! Andrew Liptak’s book column has a new home: Polygon“13 New science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September”. The September 3rd entry is —

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers just earned a Hugo Award for her blisteringly optimistic Wayfarers trilogy, and coming off that win, she’s shifting gears with a new, standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. In the 22nd century, scientists make a big breakthrough that will help astronauts adapt to the harsh realities of space, opening up distant destinations in the cosmos to human explorers.

One team of astronauts ventures out to a solar system 15 light years away, and as they transform and adapt to their new home, so too is Earth. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Chambers packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise.”

(3) WORLDCON TAKEAWAYS. Eric Wong and Greg Hullender cover their Ireland tour and Dublin 2019 in “Dublin 2019 Recap “. Says Greg, “Yeah, it had a few issues, but we had fun.”

New Fanzines

Greg was on the “Fanzines Now!” panel, and that was the only panel we participated in this year. This panel was a discussion about the state of fanzines today. We had a good mix of people doing online fanzines (Rocket Stack Rank, Journey Planet, and Nerds of a Feather Flock Together) as well as Joe Siclari, who runs the Fanac History Project.

As usual for fanzine panels, the audience included lots of people involved with the traditional paper-based fanzines. Somewhat to our surprise, they were broadly supportive of modern online efforts. Joe remarked at one point that he had thought he’d be the conservative one on the panel, but he found himself standing up for the idea that “a blog is a fanzine, even if it only has one contributor, and even if no one ever comments on it.”

(4) CLASSIC EDITIONS. Steven H Silver profiles a small press publisher at Black Gate: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Donald M. Grant”.

In 1979, the year before he was awarded the World Fantasy Professional Award, DMG published Acts of Providence, The Road of Azrael, Lack Colossus, The Black Wolf, Tales of the Werewolf Clan, Jewels of Gwahlur, Lovecraft’s Providence and Adjacent Parts, Mayhem on Bear Creek, and Hawks of Outremer.

The year after Grant won the award, Stephen King approached him with the rights to publish the first edition of any and all books in the Dark Tower series. King didn’t believe they would have a wide appeal among his general audience.

(5) TIPTREE DISCUSSION. Geoff Ryman’s thoughts about the call to rename the award (which the Motherboard today declined to do) is here on Facebook and attracted comments from writers including David Gerrold, Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn.

(6) MONGOLIAN HANDMAID. Ferret Bueller checks in from a Mongolian bookstore once again. (Eat your heart out Locus!)

I don’t think I’ve had free time to visit File770 more than three times the past several months, but I saw the newest Mongolian SFF translation at the bookstore near my office today and immediately thought I’d pass on a picture if anyone was interested?. First is the full view and then the picture cropped to give a good look at the book at the top left, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (the translation of the title is exact). It’s next to Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in a Time of Cholera (though that title is rendered in Mongolian as Love in a Time of Plague), both of which were released about a month or two ago, maybe longer.

(7) DICKS OBIT. Perhaps the most prolific contributor to Doctor Who, Terence Dicks (1935-2019) died August 29. Working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script editor from 1968 to 1974, he was credited in 156 episodes of Doctor Who. He wrote several Doctor Who serials and scores of novelizations. His final short story Save Yourself will be published next month in BBC Books’ Doctor Who: The Target Storybook. He wrote for TV’s The Avengers, the soap opera Crossroads, and co-created and wrote for the series Moonbase 3. He also worked as a producer on Sunday Classics. He authored several children’s series, including about a cat call Magnificent Max and, his longest running, another about a golden retriever The Adventures of Goliath. He received the 2015 Scribe Grandmaster career award for tie-in works.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 2, 1899 Martin Miller. He’s in Doctor Who with the First Doctor as Kublai Khan in “Mighty Kublai Khan” and “Assassin at Peking”. He’s Professor Spencer in The Avengers in “The Master Minds” and he shows up in The Prisoner as Number Fifty Four in “It’s Your Funeral”.  He also showed up as Dutrov in Department S in the series finale, “The Perfect Operation”. (Died 1969)
  • Born September 2, 1909 David Stern III. Creator of the Francis the Talking Mule character that became the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. Stern adapting his own script for the first entry, simply titled Francis. (Died 2003.)
  • Born September 2, 1911 Eileen  Way. She appeared on Doctor Who in An Unearthly Child, a First Doctor story, as Old Mother Karela  the series first on-screen death,  and in The Creature from the Pit, a Fourth Doctor story, as Karela. She would appear yet again in the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (as Old Woman), based on the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. (Died 1994.)
  • Born September 2, 1936 Gwyn Thomas. Welsh poet and academic who translated Tales from the Mabinogion with Kevin Crossley-Holland. “Chwedl Taliesin”, “The Tale of Taliesin” was a short story by them as well. By the way my SJW credit is named Taliesin. And he tells a lots of tales. (Died 2016.)
  • Born September 2, 1964 Keanu Reeves, 55. Ok Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a lot better film than its sequel. And I find the Matrix franchiseto be a pretentious mess that almost works. And let’s not talk about Johnny Mnemonic which bore little resemblance to the brilliant Gibson story.
  • Born September 2, 1966 Salma Hayek, 53. Her performance as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn is quite excellent. I can’t say the same for her performance as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild Wild West which got her nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.  I do like her as Francesca Giggles in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
  • Born September 2, 1968 Kristen Cloke, 51. Captain Shane Vansen in the unfortunately short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, a damn fine series. She has one-offs in Quantum LeapThe X-FilesMillennium and The  Others. She co-wrote with Shannon Hamblin an episode of The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” which is base64 code for “Followers”. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NO JOKE. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber reports on Joker from the Venice Film Festival.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Batman’s arch-nemesis in a new origin-story movie. But is this dark, dingy drama any better than any of the other supervillain films?

Now that Hollywood studios are running out of superheroes to make films about, they’re turning to supervillains instead, starting with Suicide Squad and Venom, and moving onto Batman’s smiley-faced arch enemy, the Joker. Todd Phillips’ revisionist origin story is different from those other entries in the bad-guy sub-genre, though. Devoid of fist fights and bank robberies, Batcaves and Batmobiles, Joker is a dark, dingy drama about urban decay, alienation, and anti-capitalist protests, with a distinctive retro vision and a riveting central performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Whether these differences make it much better than other supervillain movies, however, is open to question.

The film doesn’t specify when it is set, but its Gotham City is modelled on the graffiti-sprayed, litter-strewn pre-gentrification New York of Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy. This is the home of Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix as a greasy, disturbingly emaciated figure with ribs and vertebrae poking out at all angles. No male actor has been this skinny since Christian Bale – yes, Batman himself – starved himself to stick-insect proportions for The Machinist.

…The film traces his gradual uncovering of family secrets, and his slow descent into homicidal mania – and I do mean slow. Joker doesn’t have much of a plot, let alone any subplots, so there are only a couple of major sequences that haven’t already been in the trailers. Phoenix is a magnificent presence – always believable, how outrageous he becomes – and I was quite happy to sit and watch him skipping around in his outsized shoes and striking balletic poses on beautifully grimy staircases. But, however unusual its grungy 70s styling may be, Joker is ultimately nothing but a flimsy, two-hour supervillain origin movie, so the viewer is just waiting for Arthur to become the fully-fledged Clown Prince of Crime. If it had been chopped down to an hour and then intercut with a Batman plot, what a film that might have been.

(11) OTHER ASSESSMENTS. BBC does a roundup — “Joker film: ‘daring’ yet ‘pernicious’ origin story divides critics”.

A new film exploring the origins of DC comic book villain The Joker has left many critics grinning from ear to ear – but not all of them are amused.

The Guardian called Joker “gloriously daring”, while Total Film said it was “challenging [and] subversive”.

Joaquin Phoenix’s lead performance has been variously described as “fearsome”, “astonishing” and “mesmerising”.

According to another reviewer, though, the film is guilty of “aggressive and possibly irresponsible idiocy”.

Director Todd Phillips, writes Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek, “may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture”.

“But really,” she continues, “he’s just offering a prime example of it”.

(12) TIME PASSAGES. Campbell told a friend how he became editor of Astounding in 1937 in a letter that has been preserved. First Fandom Experience recently posted a scan of the letter with detailed commentary: “A Remarkable Letter — John W. Campbell’s 1937 Job Search”.

In May 1937, John W. Campbell, Jr. was looking for work. He was in good company — the unemployment rate in the United States was fluctuating around 15%, reflecting the lingering economic malaise of the Great Depression. Despite his degree in Physics and some success as a writer of science fiction stories, Campbell hadn’t found a steady gig.

This was to change in the Fall of that year when Campbell was hired as the Editor of Astounding Stories, where he reigned until his death in 1971….

The bottom of this page begins a critical passage that relates Campbell’s relationship with Mort Weisinger, a former editor of Science Fiction Digest / Fantasy Manazine, the most prominent fanzine of the mid-1930s. At the time of this letter, Weisinger had crossed into the professional ranks as Editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories.

This page essentially says that Weisinger taught Campbell how to be an editor, and wrote a letter of recommendation for him in that vein. It seems likely that both the advice and the reference played key roles in Campbell acquiring his job at Astounding. This is a tremendous testament to the role that prominent fans played in establishing science fiction as an industry during this period.

(13) ETERNAL LIFE. Gizmodo invites experts to address the question, “What’s My Best Chance of Living Forever?

               What do hideous mall t-shirts, emo bands from the mid-aughts, and gorgeously-wrought realist novels about dissolving marriages have in common? Simply this assertion: Life Sucks. And it does suck, undoubtedly, even for the happiest and/or richest among us, not one of whom is immune from heartbreak, hemorrhoids, or getting mercilessly ridiculed online.

               Still, at certain points in life’s parade of humiliation and physical decay almost all of us feel a longing—sometimes fleeting, sometimes sustained—for it to never actually end. The live-forever impulse is, we know, driving all manner of frantic, crackpot-ish behavior in the fringier corners of the tech-world; but will the nerds really pull through for us on this one? What are our actual chances, at this moment in time, of living forever? For this week’s Giz Asks, we spoke with a number of experts to find out.

Answers are essayed by Alice Parker (“Dean’s Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Southern California, whose research focuses on reverse-engineering the human brain, among other things”), Lindsay Wu (“Senior Research Fellow and Co-Head of the Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales, Sydney”), David Sinclair (“Professor of Genetics and co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard Medical School, whose research focuses on why we age and how to slow its effects”), and Mark McCormick (“Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center”).

(14) LOTS OF FACTS. Snopes.com has run an AP service news story profiling the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story. Snopes?“Possibly worth linking in Pixel Scroll is Snopes.com survey of the “Strange Twists” in the Ed Kramer story:”.

In the nearly two decades since a co-founder of Dragon Con was accused of molesting teenage boys, a strange legal odyssey has unfolded, including a proposed move to Israel, a trial delay because of a presidential election and an extradition by air ambulance.

Now, Ed Kramer faces new charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

(15) B.O. The movie is only 13th on the domestic record chart but is now #7 worldwideL “The Lion King Topples Marvel’s The Avengers on All-Time Box Office Chart”.

As one Disney movie continues succeeding at the box office, another falls another spot down on the all-time charts. Thanks to another steady weekend at the box office, The Lion King hyper-realistic reimagining has passed Joss Whedon’s fan-favorite The Avengers on the worldwide all-time box office chart. The Lion King is now seventh on the chart with $1.56 billion while the Marvel Studios hit drops to eighth with $1.52b.

It appears that’s the highest Jon Favreau’s remake will go on the worldwide charts as Jurassic World is sixth with a hefty $1.67b.

(16) THAT’S A WRAP. BBC is there when “‘Mission Jurassic’ fossil dinosaur dig closes for winter”.

Three full truck loads of dinosaur fossils were shipped out of the “Mission Jurassic” dig site in North Wyoming as scientists brought the 80-day excavation season to an end.

The specimens included skeletal parts from giant herbivorous sauropods and meat-eating theropods.

The fossils will now be cleaned to see precisely which species they represent.

Mission Jurassic is a major undertaking involving researchers from the US, the UK and the Netherlands.

It is led by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI) which has taken out a 20-year lease on a square mile (260 hectares) of ranch land.

The BBC was given special access to the site in July.

The fossil beds exposed at the secret location in the Big Horn Basin record dinosaur activity around 150 million years ago – and the summer’s work confirms the site is particularly rich.

One three-tonne block of rock lifted on the final day last week was embedded with multiple remains all stacked one on top of the other.

“Overall we must have moved something like 500-600 bones; it’s just a huge amount of material we’ve been able to shift in one year,” said Prof Phil Manning, a University of Manchester palaeontologist and TCMI scientist in residence.

(17) IRON MAN BRANCHES OUT. Marvel killed off the character, but remember actors, there’s always good work at the post office. “British inventor flies letter to Isle of Wight”. [Video.]

A British inventor has taken up the challenge to deliver a letter across open water through donning a jet engine-powered suit, 85 years after the idea of rocket post failed.

Richard Browning has followed in the footsteps of German entrepreneur Gerhard Zucker, who tried to send mail by rocket to the Isle of Wight, in 1934.

The distance from Hurst Castle in Lymington to Fort Albert in Freshwater is 1.3 km, and is the furthest Richard has ever flown.

(18) MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD. BBC reminds everyone about “The ‘ghost work’ powering tech magic”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “It’s ironic that Amazon’s collaborative tool is named Mechanical Turk, considering the fraud behind the original.”

Armies of workers help power the technological wizardry that is reshaping our lives – but they are invisible and their jobs are precarious.

Next time you ask Alexa a question, your voice might fly halfway round the world to Chennai, India, where human workers toil away to fine tune her artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered responses.

In nine-hour shifts workers transcribe audio, classify words and phrases into categories, and evaluate responses from Amazon’s digital assistant. It’s one of many Amazon centres around the world where “data associates” prepare millions of chunks of data to train Alexa’s AI.

The work can be relentless, says a former employee. He was crunching roughly 700 Alexa questions a day with strict benchmarks for how long each should take. Workers’ performance figures were circulated daily and targets crept up over the time he spent there. The work was monotonous, but the volume and pace were mentally exhausting, and he eventually quit.

“It’s not possible to work like a machine every day,” he says. “The system is built in such a way that every time you have to give 100%. From the point of a human, it’s not possible.”

To users, digital assistants, search engines, social media and streaming services seem like software wizardry, but their smooth running relies on armies of humans whose contribution often goes unrecognised.

(19) WIKIPEDIA TODAY. When he saw the Wikipedia had selected “the Nebula Award for Best Short story” for on Today’s Featured Article, John King Tarpinian snapped his screen. So to speak.

(20) NEWS TO ME. Io9’s 2014 article tells you about “31 Essential Science Fiction Terms And Where They Came From”

There are so many words and phrases that we use in science fiction—and even science—without giving it much thought. But where did we get terms like “death ray,” “terraforming,” “hive mind,” “telepathy,” and “parallel universe”?

…Key sources for this post include Jeff Prucher’s wonderful Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Egg” on YouTube is an animated adaptation of a short story by Andy Weir about the meaning of life

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]

Tiptree Award Motherboard Decides to Keep Name

The administrators of the Tiptree Award are retaining the name after discussing the challenges to the name and requests for change raised in social media. Their decision is explained in-depth in “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award”.

They reviewed the author’s history which is behind the controversy.

Alice and Huntington Sheldon’s story. We on the Motherboard, those who remember Alice Sheldon and those who do not, have long known the story of how she and her husband, Huntington Sheldon (known as Ting), died. 

Friends and family — and the science fiction community at the time — viewed this tragedy as resulting from a suicide pact: the desperate and tragic result of a combination of physical and mental illness and the Sheldons’ desire to die on their own terms. He was 84 years old; she was 71.

However, some who have read accounts of the Sheldon’s deaths more recently have pointed out a different interpretation. The story can also be seen  as an act of caregiver murder: where a disabled person is killed by the person, usually a close family member, who is responsible for their support. 

Both narratives fit the story. We see how much of the discussion of the Sheldons’ deaths, including our own, reflects the rhetorical tendencies identified in David Perry’s report, specifically the centering of those who kill over those who are killed. In the world outside of science fiction, Huntington Denton “Ting” Sheldon would be considered the more significant member of the couple. “Ting” Sheldon was Director of the Office of Current Intelligence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy and is credited with building that office of the CIA.

Alice Sheldon

After quoting from Tiptree biographer Julie Phillips and Sheldon’s friend and literary executor Jeffrey Smith, the Motherboard sums up:

We ultimately do not know what happened on May 19, 1987. We can’t know with certainty and we don’t see how anyone can know except the ones who cannot tell us. But we are as convinced as we can be, given the unknowability of the facts, by the evidence that Alice and Huntington Sheldon chose to die together. 

We respect that not everyone who reads this will have the same interpretation. We recognize that the unconscionable murder of disabled people by their caregivers happens daily, driven both by the devaluation of disabled life and by the lack of available care and support. Therefore we do not seek to defend or exonerate Alice Sheldon, but to make sure the context of her actions remains part of any conversation about them. We are grateful to our community for raising these important issues and bringing them to our attention.

Then they review why the award is named for Tiptree:

We think it is important to understand how the Tiptree got its name. In 1991, founding mothers Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler made a conscious choice to name the award not after Alice Sheldon herself but after the assumed persona –– more than a pseudonym –– under which Sheldon published fiction and participated in fandom. In its conception, the James Tiptree Jr Literary Award hoped to acknowledge and celebrate Sheldon/Tiptree’s dual gender identity, the boundary-crossing work published under Tiptree’s name, and the havoc the revelation of Tiptree’s gender wreaked on the male-dominated science fiction world of the 1970s. 

Sheldon was a complicated individual, aspects of whose personal story have long been woven tightly into and through the idea and spirit of the Award. Yet the Award was not intended to reference a figure whose approval winners might imagine gaining or toward whose example they might aspire, in the way that other awards named for iconic individuals – most notably the former Campbell – appear to do.

The rationale for keeping the Tiptree Award name includes consideration of the meaning of her work:

Discussions about the naming of the award relate to broader issues that the Motherboard has been contemplating for some time. When we return to the stories Alice Sheldon wrote as Tiptree, we often find a pessimistic tendency that can seem, at times, like a horrible foreshadowing (though this is far from the only way to read them). Tiptree’s work describes the contours of gender oppression acutely and rarely, if ever, sees a way out. We have been reflecting this week on how many of our feminist icons were also women who could not see a way out. Tiptree’s stories, then and now, provide scope for multiple and complex politics. If we look at the work of our honorees, winners, and fellows, among their greatest commonalities are broad, deep, and diverse commitments to finding, or creating, ways out. 

See the post for the full discussion, which is about twice as long as these excerpts.

[Thanks to Pat Murphy and Jeffrey Smith for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 8/31/19 A Scroll Title Named Desire

(1) TIPTREE AWARD CONTROVERSY. While I can’t say I located the ultimate roots of the discussion, I found Carrie Cuinn’s thread, which starts here.

There are more comments in Natalie Luhrs’ thread, starting here.

Today Sweden’s John-Henri Holmberg countered challenges raised about continuing the James Tiptree Award under its existing name in his review of the history of the award and its namesake on Facebook. He asks in conclusion:

…What has changed in the last few months? As far as I know, nothing. The award given not even in her own name, but in the name of her pseudonym, celebrates work of imaginative fiction exploring the territory she made her own over her twenty-years long writing career. She explored it more deeply, searchingly, critically and imaginatively than anyone before her had ever come close to doing, and her work remains startlingly fresh, moving, and thoughtful. We owe it to her to celebrate her heritage, not to obliterate it. Her death, as that of her husband, was a tragedy, but not by any reasonable standard an erasure of her life or her literary heritage.

(2) CARRYING THE BANNER. Travis Corcoran’s Prometheus Award acceptance speech has been posted on the Libertarian Futurist Society blog:

Here is the acceptance speech by Travis Corcoran for 2019 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Causes of Separation.  (Corcoran could not attend the Dublin Worldcon but wrote this acceptance speech to be read there at the ceremony.)

…Chapman’s essay and Pournelle’s and Conquest’s laws are three observations of a single underlying phenomena: the collectivists always worm their way in and take over. We know THAT this happens, but WHY does it happen? How can we model it and understand it?

(3) WHAT, IT’S NOT CHEESE? Space.com reports “China’s Lunar Rover Has Found Something Weird on the Far Side of the Moon”.  

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover has discovered an unusually colored, ‘gel-like’ substance during its exploration activities on the far side of the moon.

The mission’s rover, Yutu-2, stumbled on that surprise during lunar day 8. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.

…So far, mission scientists haven’t offered any indication as to the nature of the colored substance and have said only that it is “gel-like” and has an “unusual color.” One possible explanation, outside researchers suggested, is that the substance is melt glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon. 

(4) EL-MOHTAR REVIEW. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar says “‘Palestine + 100’ Explores Contested Territory, Past And Future”

A few years ago I reviewed Iraq + 100, a project which invited its contributors to write stories set 100 years in Iraq’s future. It was conceived as an imaginative springboard for Iraqi writers to potentially launch themselves beyond the enduring trauma of waves of invasion and devastation — but because science fiction stories set in the future are always in some way about our present, the collection became a multi-voiced testament to the fact that you can’t project a future without first reckoning with the past.

Comma Press has followed that collection up with Palestine + 100, an anthology edited by Basma Ghalayini in which twelve Palestinian authors write stories set 100 years after the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — during which, as Ghalayini writes in her moving, thoughtful introduction, “Israel declared itself a new-born state on the rubble of Palestinian lives.” Thus where Iraq + 100 looked towards the year 2103, the stories in Palestine + 100 look towards 2048, and the bulk of the work isn’t about extrapolating a future so much as recognizing, fighting, and establishing narratives about the past. The choice of subtitle — “stories from a century after the Nakba” — exemplifies this, drawing attention to the fact that for Palestinians (and many Israelis), May 15, 1948 is not a date to celebrate, but to grieve.

In Palestine + 100, memory and imagination are contested territories. Samir El-Youssef’s “The Association,” translated by Raph Cormack, kicks off with the murder of a historian; the narrator observes that “Since the 2028 Agreement, the people of the country — all the different sects and religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish — had decided that forgetting was the best way to live in peace.” In Saleem Haddad’s “Song of the Birds,” a young girl lives in a beautiful simulation haunted by the vicious, broken reality it obscures. In Ahmed Masoud’s “Application 39,” two young men imagine a Palestinian bid for the Olympics as a joke — and find themselves in the tormented midst of trying to make that a reality, with all the consequences it entails. In Tasnim Abutabikh’s “Vengeance” the plot is evenly divided between one man’s elaborate pursuit of revenge against a neighbor he thinks has wronged him — and that neighbor’s heartbroken revelation that the man had the past all wrong. In almost all these stories there is a doubled, troubled vision, that never resolves so much as it fractures further.

(5) MICHAELS OBIT. Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) died August 30 of complications amid efforts to treat her lung cancer. (Condolences to filer Xtifr, her nephew.)

Michaels was known for her series about Skyrider, a woman space combat pilot. She also wrote urban fantasies including “Sister to the Rain” and “Cold Iron.” Her novel Skirmish was nominated for a Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1986. SFWA presented her with a Service Award in 2008.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. (Died 1984)
  • Born August 31, 1933 Robert Adams. He’s best remembered for the Horseclans series which became his overall best-known works though he wrote other works.  While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 Richard Gere, 70. Lancelot in First Knight starring Sean Connery as King Arthur. And was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honours!  
  • Born August 31, 1958 Julie Brown, 61. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s actually been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in TV’s Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 Jonathan LaPaglia, 50. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favourite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in a really bad film called Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history.
  • Born August 31, 1971 Chris Tucker, 48. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man.
  • Born August 31, 1982 G. Willow Wilson, 37. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Hugo Award winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but will soon.
  • Born August 31, 1992 Holly Earl, 27. She’s been in a number of British genre shows such as playing Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and yes, Doctor Who in the “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, an Eleventh Doctor story in she was Lily Arwell.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro lives up to its name with this idea about collaborative effort.

(8) ONE TO BEAM UP. Camestros Felapton’s incredible “tweetfilk” of Star Trek and Bowie, featuring science officer Ziggy!! Thread starts here.

(9) PLEASE DON’T JOKE ABOUT THIS. Variety: “‘Joker’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are raving for Warner Bros. latest comic book installment.

Todd Phillip’s “Joker” opened Saturday at the Venice Film Festival to effervescent reviews, with many critics highlighting an Oscar-worthy appearance from star Joaquin PhoenixVariety‘s own Owen Gleiberman praised Phoenix’s performance, emphasizing his physical acting and emotional control:

“He appears to have lost weight for the role, so that his ribs and shoulder blades protrude, and the leanness burns his face down to its expressive essence: black eyebrows, sallow cheeks sunk in gloom, a mouth so rubbery it seems to be snarking at the very notion of expression, all set off by a greasy mop of hair,” he wrote. “Phoenix is playing a geek with an unhinged mind, yet he’s so controlled that he’s mesmerizing. He stays true to the desperate logic of Arthur’s unhappiness.”

(10) VERY LEAKY ESTABLISHMENT. NPR asks “Have You Seen Any Nazi Uranium? These Researchers Want To Know”. (The photo makes it look like a Borg spaceship.)

Timothy Koeth’s office is crammed with radioactive relics – old watches with glowing radium dials, pieces of melted glass from beneath the test of the world’s first nuclear weapon.

But there is one artifact that stands apart from the rest: a dense, charcoal-black cube, two-inches on a side. The cube is made of pure uranium metal. It was forged more than 70 years ago by the Nazis, and it tells the little-known story of Germany’s nuclear efforts during World War II.

“From a historical perspective this cube weighs a lot more than five pounds,” Koeth, a physicist at the University of Maryland, says as he holds it in his hand.

…At the time of Hitler’s rise, Germany was actually at the cutting edge of nuclear technology. “Nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin in late 1938,” says Alex Wellerstein is a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. “They were the first team of people who figured out how to split the atom, and figured out that when you split the atom, a lot of energy was going to be released.”

That basic idea of splitting atoms to release energy is what’s at the heart of all of today’s nuclear power plants and all the world’s nuclear weapons.

But back during World War II, it was all theoretical. To find out how it could work, the Germans devised strange looking experiment. Scientists strung together 664 cubes of uranium with aircraft cables and suspended them. The result looked “kind of like a very strange modernist chandelier of cubes,” Wellerstein says.

The chandelier was dipped into a cylindrical tank of heavy water, which contains special isotopes of hydrogen that make it more conducive to nuclear reactions.

The setup was known as the B-VIII reactor. The Germans were experimenting with it inside a cave in the southern town of Haigerloch. They were still trying to get it to work when the allied invasion began. As Allied forces approached, the German scientists disassembled the reactor and buried the cubes in a field.

The first wave of Allied troops to arrive included a task force known as Alsos, which was seeking to seize as much of the Nazi program as they could.

The Nazi scientists quickly disclosed the location of the buried cubes to the Allies, Wellerstein says. The Alsos team boxed up the cubes, to send them back to America, but what happened after that is not entirely clear.

(12) UK BIOBANK. “Geneticists To Cooperate, Not Compete”NPR has the story.

There’s an astonishing outpouring of new information linking genes and health, thanks to the efforts of humble Englishmen and women such as Chritopeher Fletcher. The 70-year-old man recently drove 90 miles from his home in Nottingham to a radiology clinic outside the city of Manchester.

He is one of half a million Brits who have donated time, blood and access to their medical records to a remarkable resource called UK Biobank. The biobank, in turn, has become a resource for more than a thousand scientists around the world who are interested in delving into the link between genes, behaviors and health.

Popularity of the resource is snowballing. Just this week, a major study using the data explored the genetics of same-sex sexual behavior. And as researchers discover the biobank’s value, there’s a strong incentive to add to the database to make it even richer.

…What makes UK Biobank valuable is not only the half-million volunteers, whose health will be followed for decades, but also its community-spirited scientific strategy. Chief scientist Dr. Cathie Sudlow says the organizers, in a break from their usual ways, aren’t out to answer their own scientific questions, but to serve their colleagues.

“I’ll freely admit that when I first started out in the biobank I couldn’t really believe that we were all going to work really hard to make data available for other people,” she says. “And that is because I came from this traditional, kind of slightly paranoid, somewhat territorial, academic background.”

The scramble for research funds creates competitive incentives in much of academic science today. This biobank is different.

(13) JUST A FEW MORE HOURS. Readers of Camestros’ Felapton’s blog have entertained each other today with some last-minute speculation about the winners: “Just for fun, some Dragon Award predictions”.

Best Science Fiction Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen is a plausible winner. If it does then we can assume other works in the Brad Puppies list got lots of votes. I think Tiamat’s Wrath is a likely winner given the popularity of The Expanse TV series and the Dragon Con audience. However, Becky Chambers has a wide and devoted set of fans and I wouldn’t be astonished if Record of a Spaceborn Few won. If any of the others won, that would be interesting but I don’t know what it would mean.

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