Pixel Scroll 8/2/21 Don’t Talk About Scrolldays! You Kidding Me? Scrolldays? I Just Hope We Can Scroll!

(1) SWEET AND SOUR NOTES. Kameron Hurley shares her answer to a professional challenge: “When Should You Compromise? How to Evaluate Editorial Feedback” at Locus Online.

…There is also a huge variance in the quality of editorial and stakeholder feedback. Some­times you get notes that make it clear that the person making them was reading (or wants to read) an entirely different book than the one you’ve written.

So how do you determine which notes to take to heart, and which to ignore?

For me, it all comes back to understanding my novel and the story I want to tell. The feedback I get that gets me closer to refining and communicating that story is the feedback I take. The notes I get that that are clearly moving off into a direction that takes me away from the story I want to tell are the ones I toss….

(2) TRUE PRO TRUTH. John Scalzi announced “Dispatcher 3: Finished!” Soon after he tweeted —

(3) STAND BY. Vanity Fair says the LOTR for television is coming out in 2022. “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ Unveils a First Image and Release Date”. Someone – not the Vanity Fair writer — pointed out the September 2 release date coincides with the anniversary of Tolkien’s death in 1973. (Actually, the Vanity Fair article names two different September release dates, but the second presumably is a typo.)

Ever since 2017 when Amazon first announced the massively expensive deal that would send TV audiences back into the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, fans have been eagerly wondering when their journey might begin. The folks behind the as-yet unnamed series have picked a very auspicious date indeed. Break out the Longbottom Leaf and mark your calendars for September 2, 2022 so you can see what Amazon has had cooking over in New Zealand these last few years.

The date announcement comes with a first image of the series to celebrate the wrap of filming in New Zealand, and fans will be sure to eagerly pore over every pixel. We can confirm that the image is from the first episode though sources close to the production are declining to confirm the identity of the figure seen there. This could be an image of a city in Valinor. The trees in the background, at least, are very interesting. …

(3) DREAMS. Read Aaron Starr’s amazing parable “Feathers or Stones” at Black Gate. Today!

Once, long ago, there was a poor writer who lived in the depths of a forest with his wife. He would spend his evenings putting words to page while his wife rested by the fire. As she did so she would read those stories which were complete, and yet not yet ready for market. Using a special red pencil, she would note occasional errors and put to him questions the writing had left unresolved, in order that his next version of the story might be improved.

During the day she would walk out into the forest and spend her time hewing mighty trees, for she was a woodcutter by trade. He, meanwhile, would tend to the small garden, and every few days journey into the nearby town, riding down the river on a mighty raft formed of entire tree trunks she had stripped, all lashed together, and he would walk back home before sundown. Thus they had a modest supply of silver, and the wife was content they be together every evening.

But the writer was not content….

(4) INTERRUPTED DEBUT. Galactic Journey reviews the latest (in 1966) issue of If, including this story by a brand new author: “[August 2, 1966] Mirages (September 1966 IF)”.

The Empty Man, by Gardner Dozois

Jhon Charlton is a weapon created by the Terran Empire. Nearly invulnerable, incredibly strong and fast, he can even summon tremendous energies. Unfortunately for him, for the last three years, he has shared his mind with a sarcastic entity called Moros, which has appointed itself as his conscience. Now, Jhon has been sent to the planet Apollon to help the local rebels overthrow the dictatorial government.

Gardner Dozois is this month’s new author, and this is quite a debut. It’s a long piece for a novice, but he seems up to it. There’s room for some cuts, but not much. The mix of science fiction and almost fantasy elements is interesting and works. The only place I’d say a lack of experience and polish shows it at the very end. The point is a bit facile and could have been delivered a touch more smoothly, but it’s a fine start to a new career. Mr. Dozois has entered the Army, though, so it may be a while before we see anything else from him.

(5) FROM MASHUPS TO SMASHUPS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 28 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses video game crossovers.

Most crossovers are like this:  Brawlers created solely to let fans collide fictional DNA of their favourite characters against each other,  Their storylines are little more than a set dressing,usually involving a convenient tear in the space-time continuum. Kingdom Hearts, a collaboration between Disney and Final Fantasy developer Square-Enix, took narrative more seriously to offer a role-playing game with original characters and complex lore.  Sending plucky anime heroes out adventuring with Donald Duck to learn the true meaning of friendship may sound like a painfully trite exercise, but the games proved a runaway success. Kingdom Hearts developed into a stranger, darker story than anyone expected.

Today we are at peak crossover. There is The Little Prince- in -Sky:  Children of the Light, Assassin’s Creed in Final Fantasy, DC Comics heroes in Mortal Kombat and dozens of franchises distilled into costumes for party game Fall Guys.  Sometimes these make sense:  Yes, ace attorney Phoenix Wright and kindly Professor Layton could plausibly solve crimes together while Pirates of the Caribbean nestles neatly into the nautical fiction of Den of Thieves.  Others are plain wrongheaded: Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing pits the blue hedgehog against other Sega characters in go-karts, blithely ignoring his defining trait–Sonic doesn’t need a vehicle to go anywhere fast. 

(6) MIDSOUTHCON HONORS. Nominations are being taken for the 2022 Darrell Awards through December 1. See complete guidelines at the link.

In order to qualify, the work must either be written by an author who is living in the greater Memphis area (as defined below) when the work is published OR have at least one significant scene set within that area. Broadly defined, the area is west Tennessee, north Mississippi and northeast Arkansas.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 – Thirty years ago, Charles de Lint’s The Little Country novel wins a HOMer Award. The HOMer Awards were given by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature Forum on CompuServe. Locus notes that the winning authors were active there. (The novel was set in Cornwall though the music in it is influenced by Northumberland bagpiper Billy Pigg as the principal character is smallpiper Janey Little.) It was also nominated for the Aurora, Locus, Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and World Fantasy Awards as well. It’s just been released as an audiobook, and it is available from the usual suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 2, 1917 Wah Chang. Of interest to us are the props he designed for the original Star Trek seriesincluding the tricorder and communicator. He did a number of other things for the series — the Rabbit you see on the “Shore Leave” episode, the Tribbles,  the Vulcan harp first seen in “Charlie X“ and the Romulan Bird of Prey. Other work included building the title object from The Time Machine, and the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost. (Died 2003.)
  • Born August 2, 1920 Theodore Marcuse. He was Korob in “Catspaw”, a second season Trek episode that aired just before Halloween aptly enough. He had appearances in The Twilight Zone (“The Trade-Ins” and “To Serve Man”), Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaWild Wild West and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the episodes “The Re-collectors Affair,”  “The Minus-X Affair,”  and “The Pieces of Fate Affair.” (Died 1967.)
  • Born August 2, 1932 Peter O’Toole. I’m tempted to say his first genre role was playing King Henry in A Lion in Winter as it is alternate history. Neat film. Actually before that he’s got an uncredited role in Casino Royale as a Scottish piper. Really he does. His first genre role without dispute is as Zaltar in Supergirl followed by being Dr. Harry Wolverine in Creator. He’s Peter Plunkett in the superb High Spirits, he’s in FairyTale: A True Story as Arthur Conan Doyle, and Stardust as King of Stormhold. Not surprisingly, he played Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 2, 1948 Robert Holdstock. Another one who died far too young. His Ryhope Wood series is simply amazing with Lavondyss being my favorite volume. And let’s not overlook his Merlin Codex series which is one of the more original takes on that character I’ve read. The Ragthorn, co-written with Garry Kilworth, is interesting as well. Tor, which has the rights to him in the States, has been slow to bring him to the usual suspects. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 2, 1949 Wes Craven. Swamp Thing comes to mind first plus of course the Nightmare on Elm Street franchiseof nine films for which he created Freddy Krueger. Let’s not forget The Serpent and the Rainbow. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 2, 1954 Ken MacLeod, 67. Sometimes I don’t realize until I do a Birthday note just how much I’ve read of a certain author. And so it was of this author. I’ve read the entire Fall Revolution series, not quite all of the Engines of Light Trilogy, just the first two of the Corporation Wars but I’ve got it in my to be finished queue,and every one of his one-off novels save Descent. His Restoration Game is quite chilling. I should go find his Giant Lizards from Another Star collection as I’ve not read his short fiction. Damn it’s not available from the usual suspects!
  • Born August 2, 1955 Caleb Carr, 66. Ok, I’ll admit that this is another author that ISFDB lists as genre that I don’t think of as being as genre. ISFDB list all four of his novels as being genre including The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness which are not even genre adjacent by my reading. So is there something in those novels that I missed? 
  • Born August 2, 1976 Emma Newman, 45. Author of quite a few SF novels and and a collection of short fiction. Of interest to us is that she is co-creator along with her husband Peter, of the Worldcon 75 Hugo Award winning podcast Tea and Jeopardy which centers around her hosting another creator for a nice cup of tea and cake, while her scheming butler Latimer (played by Peter) attempts to send them to their deaths at the end of the episode. Her Planetfall series was nominated for a Hugo at CoNZealand.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows even an animated celebrity’s prosthetics can’t get past TSA.

(10) SOMETIMES THEY DO GROW WEARY. R.H. Lossin revisits “William Morris, Romantic Revolutionary” at the New York Review of Books.

At the end of William Morris’s News from Nowhere, or, An Epoch of Rest (Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance), a woman named Ellen explains to the visitor, William Guest, that he cannot stay in this perfect place of clean air, meaningful work, and satisfying leisure. Not because of any fictional science of time travel, nor because he poses a threat to this particular future’s social harmony, but because his very being has been so thoroughly deformed by the social conditions of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism that he is incapable of experiencing the pleasures and desires of a world freed of competition, exploitation, and suffering. “You belong,” explains Ellen, “so entirely to the unhappiness of the past that our happiness even would weary you.”

…Many aspects of News from Nowhere set it apart from other utopian fiction of the time—it is decidedly socialist, conscious of the environmental costs of industrialization, backward-looking rather than futuristic, and free of prescriptiveness about any particular social arrangements—but Ellen’s melancholy observation on the psychic life of the capitalist subject is singularly important. If no other argument for revolutionary change made within the novel seems persuasive, this line, appearing late in the narrative, should give us reason to consider the insufficiency, even the costs, of a pragmatic reformist mindset. At a moment in history when social reform and conservationist policy have appeared on the political horizon, William Morris offers a reminder of the constitutive limits of our imaginations. He urges us to wish harder, not plan better….

(11) INSIDE HIS STRUGGLE. SFF Book Reviews’ “The State of SFF – August 2021” roundup has an excellent lead-in to Scott Lynch’s recently-made-public newsletter update.

…Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republic of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.

Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

(12) WATCH ALONG WITH JMS. J. Michael Straczynski has made public another Synced Straczynski Commentary for Babylon 5 for the “And the Sky, Full of Stars” episode.

Originally created for Patrons of my page at: https://www.patreon.com/syntheticworlds This is an original full-length commentary/reaction for And the Sky, Full of Stars, one of our most important season one episodes. Sync up at the start of the commentary, and hit play.

(13) UNBREAKABLE. SYFY Wire is astonished: “Coulson (Still) Lives?! Marvel Confirms Clark Gregg Is Back For ‘What If…?’ Series”.

Phil Coulson just can’t be killed! Thanks to a production brief for Marvel’s What If…? (debuting next week), we now have it confirmed that Clark Gregg officially recorded dialogue for the animated anthology series. While the document doesn’t go into specifics about the episode Gregg’s featured in, we’d say it’s not too far-fetched to assume that he’ll reprise the role of the Corvette-loving S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who has a rather impressive talent for sticking around the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Coulson, whose MCU tenure can be traced back to the very beginning in 2008’s Iron Man, was a regular recurring character across the movies until he was murdered by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in 2012’s The Avengers. As Mobius (Owen Wilson) was kind enough to remind us in the season premiere of Loki, the agent’s death was the catalyst for bringing together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

(14) WHY PROVO IS FANNISH PT. 64. [Item by David Doering.] Here at the Provo City Cemetery is another reason why our city is suitably fannish–even Daleks come here to die… 

A Dalek Named Thomas… kids’ book maybe?

(15) REANIMATION. The Huntington knows our day won’t be complete without a timelapse video of the blooming of one of its famous Corpse Flowers.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on Loki in this episode with spoilers. “Villain Pub – Into the Loki-Verse”.

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Richard Horton.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/21 All Scrollnanas Make A Pixel, And So Do Many More

(1) NEW PANEL FOR CORDWAINER SMITH REDISCOVERY AWARD. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Robert J. Sawyer and Barry Malzberg have retired as judges for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award. A new panel has been created to select the honorees.  The new panel includes Rich Horton, Steven H Silver, and Grant Thiessen.  The new panel’s first selection will be announced at Readercon the weekend of August 13-15.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman declares “It’s pure pandemonium — peanut butter pandemonium! — with John Wiswell” in Episode 149 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Wiswell

Over the past year, you joined me as I’ve baked and shared homemade scones and pizza, or ordered takeout weiner schnitzel and sushi, my guests and I doing our best to seize those moments of community COVID-19 tried to steal from us. In this case, John Wiswell and I pretended we were sitting across the table from each other during the Nebula Awards weekend.

John Wiswell won a Nebula Award earlier this month for the short story “Open House on Haunted Hill,” which had been published last year by Diabolical Plots. He’s also appeared in NatureUncannyWeird TalesFiresideDaily Science FictionFlash Fiction OnlineCast of WondersPodcastle, and Pseudopod. In an astonishing show of prolificacy, he managed to posted fiction on his blog every day for six straight years, which I find astonishing. I found his Nebula acceptance speech astonishing as well; it was one of the best I’ve ever heard.

John and I were supposed to enjoy specialty hamburgers together this time around, only … something went wrong, as you shall hear. Why did I end up eating a chuck roast, brisket, and short rib burger while John only got to nibble on ice cream and carrots? For the answer to that question, well … you’ll have to listen.

We discussed his motivation for giving one of the greatest acceptance speeches ever, how he learned to build meaning out of strangeness, the way writing novels taught him to make his short stories better, his dual story generation modes of confrontation vs. escape, why what we think we know about the Marshmallow Test is wrong, the reason we’re both open online about our rejections, how the love of wallpaper led to him becoming a writer, why we’ve each destroyed our early writing from time to time, what he learned writing a story a day for six years, and much more.

(3) GARCIA APPEARANCES. Chris Garcia will be doing presentations at two Mystical Minds convention gatherings in the coming year.

Mystical Minds is a new Pagan, Paranormal, and Metaphysical convention created to expand our minds as well as our networks! 

Witches, Pagans, Paranormal investigators, psychics, mediums, metaphysical practitioners, UFO experts, cryptozoologists, mystics, and other free-thinking spiritual seekers will come together in person this fall and spring for two conventions in the beautiful Bay area of Northern California! 

For the Fall Gathering / Mystical Minds convention this October in Dublin, CA he’ll present:

History of Paranormal Research in the Bay Area

Before Ghost HuntersMost Haunted, or even Ghostbusters, San Francisco and the Bay has been home to research into the unknown. From occultists and de-bunkers in the early 20th century, to TV personalities in the 70s and 80s, to hard core particle physicists, research into the paranormal has happened here! Join Chris Garcia as he tells their stories! 

At the Spring Gathering / Mystical Minds convention next February in San Jose, CA he’ll speak about —

The Winchester House

An architectural marvel, containing a story of American eccentricity, and a debate over the potential paranormal aspects. We will look at the history of the House, the stories surrounding its building, the recounting of what people have experienced, and how development in the area may have something to do with all the fuss… both before and after Sarah Winchester showed up!  

(4) HARD DRIVES OF IF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the July 16 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses “interactive fiction” or IF, a genre between a video game and a novel.

After a few wilderness years (around 2000), IF re-emerged among a niche community of writers and intellectuals who organised around the annual Interactive Fiction Competition, founded in1995.  This renaissance as partially triggered by  progress in technology.  Writers developed methods for inactivity such as multiple choice as an alternative to the intimidating grammar rules of the text parser. New tools such as Twine, ChoiceScript and Inklewriter empowered those without coding skills to create their own games.  This contributed to a diversification of the creator pool, particularly encouraging queer writers who have broached provocative topics not tackled in the gaming mainstream, ranging from gender dysphoria to clinical depression to unconventional kinks…

…One of the most remarkable IF writers is Porpentine, author of the vivid story With Those We Love Alive.  On this tale of an artist enslaved by an insectoid empress, you roam an alien world of ‘glass flowers on iron stalks. Canopy of leafbone.  Statues sunk into the earth.’  Porpentine asks you to swap words out, wipe them away, and — most intimately — to draw symbols on your arm which represent emotional responses to the narrative.

(5) FREE DOWNLOAD FROM TAFF. Willis Discovers America and other fan fiction by Walt Willis is the latest addition to the selection of free ebook downloads at David Langford’s unofficial Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please. Here’s the download page.

An attempt to collect all Walt Willis’s short fan fiction, in the old sense of invented stories about real-life fans and fandom. This omits the long and much-reprinted The Enchanted Duplicator (1954 with Bob Shaw) and its sequel Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator… To the Enchanted Convention, both already in the TAFF ebook library.

The title piece is a wildly silly imagining of Walt’s first trip to the USA in 1952, written and serialized in multiple fanzines before he actually began the journey; the text used here is from the collected edition of 1955, which included a new preface and annotations explaining some of the more arcane in-jokes. Further items range from scripts for two recorded “taperas” or tape operas that had fans rolling in the aisles at 1950s conventions, to a 1987 recasting of The Enchanted Duplicator as a computer text-Adventure game. Most of this material has never before been collected.

Edited by David Langford, who has added a few more explanatory notes; research work by Rob Hansen and others; proofreading by Pat Charnock. Cover artwork by Bob Shaw, drawn on to stencil for the collected Willis Discovers America (1955). 45,000 words.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. John Scalzi tweeted this response to an item screencapped here the other day:

(7) ELVISH. The On fairy-stories website interviews Elvish linguistic scholar Carl F. Hostetter, editor of The Nature of Middle-Earth, a new J.R.R. Tolkien book: “From Linguistics to Metaphysics”. The book proposal with many of the edited texts was seen and approved by Christopher Tolkien, who passed away last year.

In your opinion, why did Tolkien not develop completely the Elvish languages?

For much the same reason that he never completed The Silmarillion: at first, because things grew and changed in his imagination and their expression on paper, and then, after the intervention and completion of The Lord of the Rings, because he had to revise everything to make it consistent with the published book and the thousands of years of “new history” that the introduction of the Second and Third Ages required, a task he was never able to achieve. With the languages, this was because whenever he attempted to make “definitive” decision on some point of phonology or grammar, he would almost inevitably start revising the whole system, which makes sense since any language is a complexly intertwined system, such that a change in one feature or detail can and almost always does affect other aspects. Nor, I think, was it ever Tolkien’s intention to make the Elvish languages “complete” or “finished”: they were primarily an expression of his linguistic aesthetic, and its changes over time. Unlike, say, with Zamenhof and Esperanto, Tolkien had no utilitarian purpose in mind for his languages.

(8) THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination has published the latest issue of Imaginary Papers, their quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination. Issue 7 features a piece on The Expanse by science, technology, and society scholar Damien P. Williams, and a piece on “Sultana’s Dream,” a 1905 Bengali feminist utopian speculative fiction story, by musicologist and media scholar Nilanjana Bhattacharjya.

One of the most engrossing things about the small-screen adaptation of The Expanse is how viscerally it examines the human costs of life in space. After being exposed to a massive dose of radiation, starship captain James Holden gets a permanent anticancer implant, like a far-future successor of a Port-A-Cath. And from the first episode, we’re made to understand that the Belters—descendants of humans who have worked, lived, and started societies on asteroids or the moons of other planets in our solar system—have different physiologies than the humans who still call Earth home. Gravity weighs heavier on Belters: it constricts their blood vessels, strains their hearts, and cracks their bones….

(9) HENDRIX INTERVIEW. See Kevin Kennel’s video interview of author Grady Hendrix on Facebook.

Author Grady Hendrix (‘Horrorstör’, ‘We Sold Our Souls’ and more!) graciously took time out of his busy schedule for an interview with our very own library staff member Kevin Kennel, to discuss his new book, ‘The Final Girl Support Group’ and his experiences as a writer and author. …Please note: this video contains adult content and is an interview about an adult horror novel.

(10) VISITING UTOPIA. Kim Stanley Robinson explains the usefulness of “The Novel Solutions of Utopian Fiction” in The Nation.

… But in this world, we are never going to get the chance to start over. This was one of the reasons Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels objected to 19th-century utopias like that of Charles Fourier, the French designer of small communes living in perfect harmony: They were fantasy solutions that served only to distract people from the real work of politics and revolution. They were also in competition with Marx and Engels’s own ideas, so there was the usual left infighting. But it was a legitimate complaint: If utopia isn’t a political program, then what is it for?

The answer should be obvious. Utopias exist to remind us that there could be a better social order than the one we are in. Our present system is the result of a centuries-old power struggle, and it is devastating people and the biosphere. We must change it—and fast. But to what?

Utopias are thought experiments. Imagine if things ran like this: Wouldn’t that be good? Well, maybe…let’s live in it fictionally for a while. What problems crop up in this system? Can we solve them? What if we tweak things this way, or that? Let’s tell this story and then that story, and see how plausible they feel after we spend some imaginative time in them….

(11) STEPHEN HICKMAN (1949-2021). Famed sff artist Stephen Hickman died July 16 reported his friend and colleague Ron Miller on Facebook: “Lost one of my best friends, Steve Hickman, this morning and the world lost one of its best artists and finest human beings.” Hickman had over 350 book and magazine covers to his credit. He won the 1994 Best Original Artwork Hugo for his Space Fantasy Commemorative Stamp Booklet. He was a six-time Chesley Award winner.

(12) JUDI B CASTRO OBIT. Judi Beth Castro died July 15 of a sudden illness. She was 58. Her husband, author Adam-Troy Castro, announced her passing on Facebook.

The love of my life, Judi Beth Castro, lost her fight for life at 10:50 PM Thursday night. The illness was sudden, and she was always in critical danger, but between Tuesday night and Wednesday evening her numbers were improving at such a steady rate that we thought there was hope. Alas, the decline began on Thursday morning and by afternoon there was no doubt….

Her genre credits include Atlanta Nights (2005; a parody which she contributed to with many other co-authors), and the short fiction “Unfamiliar Gods” co-authored with Adam-Troy Castro.

(13) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1953 – Sixty-eight years ago, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered as a black-and-white movie serial from Republic Pictures. It was originally going to be a syndicated television series. It was directed by Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon and Fred C. Brannon as written by Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman. Its cast was Judd Holdren, Aline Towne, Gregory Gaye and Craig Kelly.  It would last but one season of twelve twenty-five minute episodes. And yes, it was syndicated to television on NBC in 1955. Some sources say Dave Steven based his Rocketeer character off of Commando Cody. And there’s a clone trooper named Commander Cody who serves under Jedi general Obi-Wan Kenobi, an homage that Lucas has openly acknowledged as he watched the series as a child. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his  short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) being my favorite work by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the usual suspects. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri S. Tepper. Nominated for an Austounding Award way back when, she had a long career, so I’m going to single out BeautyThe Gate to Women’s CountrySix Moon Dance and The Companions as my favorites knowing very well that yours won’t be the same. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 70. She’s won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice with “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She won the 1994 Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, for lifetime contributions to science fiction, “both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him,” presented by the New England Science Fiction Association. She’s well stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one is depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 58. Ok, so her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and  Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Yes, I’ll admit that they’re two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon them what-so-ever. Update: I’ve discovered since I last noted her Birthday that she was in Drop Dead Fred, a dark fantasy. She also stopped acting six years ago. 
  • Born July 16, 1965 Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, 56. Best remembered genre wise as Tommy Webber in the much beloved Galaxy Quest though his longest acting role was Patton Plame on the cancelled NCIS: New Orleans
  • Born July 16, 1966 Scott Derrickson, 55. Director and Writer of Doctor Strange who also had a hand in The Day the Earth Stood Still (as Director), The Exorcism of Emily Rose (Director and Writer), Urban Legends: Final Cut (Director and Producer) and the forthcoming Labyrinth sequel (Director and Writer). 
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 54. His last genre film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favourite Award,  Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. He also was in two of the Austin Powers films as well. Oh, and he voices Ted / The Man with the Yellow Hat, a tour guide at the Bloomsberry Museum in Curious George.

(15) BANNED FROM ARGO. Larry Correia told Monster Hunter Nation readers that he’s gotten his “7th or 8th” 30-day ban from Facebook. He posted screenshots from his appeal to FB’s Oversight Board in “Fun With The Oversight Board -Or- Better Sign Up For The Newsletter Before I Get Perma-Banned” [Internet Archive link].

…Facebook is a time suck garbage site that exists as the propaganda arm of the DNC/Corpo-Uni-Party, to spy on you to sell to advertisers, and to steal everyone’s personal information. After bamboozling all the content creators to go over there to build “community” they now hold them hostage because the content creators are scared to leave because they’ll take a financial hit (The Oatmeal’s got a great cartoon about it)….

(16) WE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. FOREVER. Hackaday memorializes the “End Of An Era: NTSC Finally Goes Dark In America”.

A significant event in the history of technology happened yesterday, and it passed so quietly that we almost missed it. The last few remaining NTSC transmitters in the USA finally came off air, marking the end of over seven decades of continuous 525-line American analogue TV broadcasts. We’ve previously reported on the output of these channels, largely the so-called “FrankenFM” stations left over after the 2009 digital switchover whose sound carrier lay at the bottom of the FM dial as radio stations, and noted their impending demise. We’ve even reported on some of the intricacies of the NTSC system, but we’ve never taken a look at what will replace these last few FrankenFM stations….

(17) SUSTAINABLE USE OF SPACE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] In this week’s Science:

Last month, at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, the leading industrial nations addressed the sustainable and safe use of space, making space debris a priority and calling on other nations to follow suit. This is good news because space is becoming increasingly congested, and strong political will is needed for the international space community to start using space sustainably and preserve the orbital environment for the space activities of future generations.

There are more than 28,000 routinely tracked objects orbiting Earth. The vast majority (85%) are space debris that no longer serve a purpose. These debris objects are dominated by fragments from the approximately 560 known breakups, explosions, and collisions of satellites or rocket bodies. These have left behind an estimated 900,000 objects larger than 1 cm and a staggering 130 million objects larger than 1 mm in commercially and scientifically valuable Earth orbits.

(18) SUPERPRANKSTERS? Isaac Arthur’s video “Annoying Aliens” contends, “Fictional portrayals of alien invasion or reports of alien sightings and abductions often imply motives which on inspection make little sense… unless perhaps the true purpose was mischief.”

(19) DISCWORLD COMMENTARY. YouTuber Dominic Noble says he has finally overcome his “sense of loss and deep sadness at the tragically too early passing of the author [Terry Pratchett] due to Alzheimer’s disease” and  is planning to do videos on the Discworld books. He begins with this overview of Discworld and his appreciation for it and for Pratchett.

(20) POTTER IN PERSPECTIVE. YouTuber Eyebrow Cinema considers“Harry Potter – 10 Years Later”.

It’s been a decade since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two arrived in theaters and brought an end to JK Rowling’s saga of witches and wizards. Like most 90s kids, I too read all the books and saw all the movies as a kid and teenager but have completely left the series behind since. Ten years later, how does Harry Potter hold up? In this video essay, I try to get to the heart of Harry Potter as while as examine my own relationship to the series.

No official works cited for this video, though I imagine my criticisms of Rowling’s transphobia will draw some ire. I have no intention of arguing the ethics or legitimacy of Rowling’s claims….

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, Chris M. Barkley, Jennifer Hawthorne, Steven H Silver, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 7/9/21 Someday We’ll Find It, The Scrolling Convention

(1) CLARION ONLINE EVENTS. Each year Clarion West brings the Write-a-thon to the global community. This is the second year it’s been presented virtually. Check out the free virtual panels and readings coming your way.

Register at the link for “Uncovering Cover Art” featuring Grace P. Fong, Sloane Leong, Aimee Fleck, and John Jennings, on Monday, July 12 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

While books capture our hearts, covers are what call to readers from the shelves. What makes an eye-catching, imagination-sparking cover? What do authors need to know about the process? Come learn the answers from some of the hottest artists and book designers in the industry.

You also can register at this link for “Mental Health & Writing” with Susan Palwick, Chaplain, Cassie Alexander, ICU RN, and Justin C. Key, MD on Monday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

Authors and other artists are often stereotyped as struggling with our mental health. With increased emphasis in media and culture toward understanding and promoting mental health, writers have more resources and self-care tools than ever before. Learn about establishing healthy writing habits and writing about difficult subjects from a panel of authors who are also professionals in fields related to health and wellness.

(2) MEET THE NEW BOSS. James Davis Nicoll, for one, is happy to welcome our “Alien Overlords: Five SF Futures Where Humans Are No Longer in Charge” at Tor.com. (OK, not really, but the line begs to be used here.)

Humans are accustomed to seeing ourselves as the rulers of creation, apex beings with the right to rearrange the world for our convenience. For many people this is a central tenet of faith, little challenged by the occasional pandemic or environmental collapse. SF authors, however, are willing to consider that this just might be wrong. Many works have explored what it would be like if we were one day to discover that superior entities now ruled our world. Humans would be domestic animals, mere puppies of Terra…

Consider the following five works that challenge human supremacy….

(3) MORDOR ON THE RIVIERA. “An Enduring Fellowship” in Deadline Disruptors+Cannes on pages 34-41 can be read magazine-style at Issuu.

In 2001, a lavish Cannes part, and 26 minutes of footage changed the course of film history. As Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings approaches its 20th anniversary, Mike Fleming Jr. gathers key players to look back at a breathtaking gamble.

(4) VIDEO GAME LEGENDS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] In the July 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses urban legends about games that drove users mad (mad, I tell you, mad!)

Much gaming creepypasta revolves around video games for children such as Pokemon and Mario. There is the story of Herobrine, a misty-eyed character who stalks Minecraft, only glimpsed in the distance or through fog.   Another concerns a mod for fantasy adventure Morrowwind named “Jvk1166z.esp’ which causes characters to stare blankly at the sky while a figure with long, spidery limbs haunts the edges of your screen.  Neither myth has been substantiated.

Some popular legends concern haunted games that probably never existed. Polybius was supposedly a 1980s arcade game, created as part of a US government experiment, that induced psychoactive reactions in players.  More recently, a YouTube video emerged called ‘Sad Satan’ that showed a creepy corridor in a mysterious game apparently downloaded on the dark web,  Online commented eager jumped on these, untangling references to serial killers and psy-ops, but both are likely hoaxes dreamt up by horror fans.

(5) TSR’S CHESHIRE CAT IMITATION. En World tries to follow the bouncing brand in the face of a new press release from TSR: “ Just when you thought it was all over…. now there’s a fourth TSR!”

In the story that will never end, after having this week turned itself into Wonderfilled, Inc, and deleted its Twitter account, TSR is BACK AGAIN! Like again, again, again, again. Complete with old-school logo! And Michael appears to actually exist!

Michael K. Hovermale says in a press release that an unnamed individual (I’m guessing Stephen Dinehart) apparently ran all the social media accounts for TSR, Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, Ernie Gygax, Justin LaNasa, and Giantlands. He goes on to say that this person has been replaced, and that all posts on those social media accounts are “invalid”. There’s no mention of Stephen Dinehart’s social media accounts though.

…The existing (TSR3} website still says it’s WONDERFILED (sic), Inc. However there’s now a NEW one at TSR Hobbies. We’ll call that TSR3.5 for now. I’m struggling to distinguish TSRs from tribbles at this point. They just keep on coming!

Here’s the text of the TSR press release at PR.com: “TSR Appoints New Public Relations Officer; Responds to Social Media Mismanagement”.

TSR has replaced the individual that was serving as both social media manager and information technology manager for TSR and The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum. This individual was also the social media manager for Giantlands, Justin LaNasa, and Ernie Gygax.

All posts on all social media accounts for TSR and Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum should be considered invalid.

All posts on all social media accounts of Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax should be considered invalid.

TSR is in the process of recovering the social media accounts of TSR, The Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum, and the personal Twitter accounts of Justin LaNasa and Ernie Gygax….

Ernie Gygax:
“I wish to speak directly to the transgender community regarding this incident. The individual who was speaking to you on Twitter does not represent me or TSR in any way. Trans people are always welcome to play with us. Everyone is welcome at our table.”

(6) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. Dwayne Day discusses a 1969 proposed NASA Mars rocket that inspired Gordy Dickson, Stephen Baxter and Lego builders today in “Flights to Mars, real and LEGO” in The Space Review.

…Boeing’s design [submitted in 1968] has shown remarkable staying power and still appears in artwork decades later. Now, Boeing’s design has been recreated in LEGO form, in three-dimensional plastic glory that you can build yourself….

The political winds had shifted against expensive human space exploration long before the summer of 1969 and the Mars mission, which was only supposed to be the capstone at the top of NASA’s ambitious plans, never had a chance for approval. NASA officials soon found themselves scrambling to justify any human spaceflight activity at all, let alone the exquisite program they had envisioned.

But by this time, the Mars spaceship design had gone public. Marshall Space Flight Center artists had produced artwork showing the multiple phases of the Mars mission and that artwork was soon published in many places, such as books about future spaceflight. The Apollo-shaped MEM also became iconic and was also illustrated by numerous artists. Although the public knew that a future Mars mission had not been approved, they could reasonably expect that if it eventually happened, this was what it would look like.

In 1978, Canadian-American science fiction author Gordon Dickson published the novel The Far Call, about a mission to Mars which employed a spacecraft similar to the one outlined in 1969. It also appeared in Allen Drury’s heavy-handed 1971 book The Throne of Saturn. In 1996, Stephen Baxter published Voyage, which also used a similar spacecraft, although an accident involving a nuclear propulsion stage has tragic consequences. (See: “Space alternate history before For All Mankind: Stephen Baxter’s NASA trilogy,” The Space Review, June 8, 2020.)

(7) PATTY JENKINS AND STAR WARS. “Patty Jenkins says she’s ‘free’ to create the Star Wars story she wants” notes Fansided. Patty Jenkins, director of two Wonder Woman movies, was announced by Disney in late 2020 to be helming the next Star Wars feature film, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. 

The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner included Star Wars questions in a recent interview: “Patty Jenkins Thinks Streaming’s Day-and-Date Strategy Won’t Last”.

You had one of the best announcements of the pandemic, in my opinion, when you suited up and revealed that you are directing Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. How is development going?

It’s going amazing. I had been on it already for six months before I even announced that, so we’re pretty deep into it. We’re finishing a script, crewing up, and it’s all going wonderful. I’m so excited about the story and excited that we’re the next chapter of Star Wars, which is such a responsibility and such an opportunity to really start some new things. It’s really exciting in that way.

What is the consulting process like with the Star Wars brain trust?

There’s plenty of it. It’s an entirely different way of working. I’m on the phone with all of them and doing Zoom meetings with everybody involved in Star Wars all the time. I’m fairly free to do the story that we want to do, but you really need to know who’s done what, who’s doing what, where it goes and how it works, and what designs have been done before. It’s a whole other way of working that I’m getting up to speed on.

(8) WILLIAM SMITH (1933-2021). Actor William Smith, famous as the opponent of Clint Eastwood’s Philo Beddoe in the climactic bare-knuckle fight that ends  Any Which Way You Can (1980), but whose 274 career credits includes many genre productions, died July 5 at the age of 88. The Hollywood Reporter profile mentioned these sff TV and movie appearances:

An inductee into the Muscle Beach Venice Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, Smith was perfect for the role as Adonis, a henchman for Zsa Zsa Gabor’s evil Minerva on Batman. On the ABC show’s final episode in 1968, he was on the receiving end of a Whamm!!, Zowie!, Splatt!, Crash! and Sock! from Batman, Robin and Batgirl.

…He also played the father of the title character in Conan the Barbarian [1982], writing his own lines for his monologue that opens the film. “No one, no one in this world can you trust … not men, not women, not beasts … this you can trust,” he says pointing to the movie’s iconic steel sword.

…Smith appeared in the cult movies Piranha (1972), where he said his stunt with a very large anaconda almost cost him his life, as an FBI agent in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), and as a drag racer in David Cronenberg’s Fast Company (1979).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 9, 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, Tron premiered. The producer was Donald Kushner. It was written and directed by Steven Lisberger from the story by himself and Bonnie MacBird. The cast was Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner, Cindy Morgan and Barnard Hughes. The film was well received by critics with Ebert in particular loving it. However it did poorly at the Box Office and the studio wrote it off as a loss. (The sequel, Tron: Legacy, was a box office success.) Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a decent rating of sixty-nine percent. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 9, 1911 — Mervyn Peake. Best remembered for the Gormenghast series which is quite delightfully weird. Most fans hold that there are but there novels in the series (Titus GroanGormenghast and Titus Alone) though there’s a novella, “Boy in Darkness”, that is a part of it. It has been adapted for radio three times and television once, and Gaiman is writing the script for a forthcoming series which as now isn’t out. (Died 1968.)
  • Born July 9, 1938 — Brian Dennehy. He was Walter in the Cocoon films, and, though it’s more genre adjacent than actually genre, Lt. Leo McCarthy in F/X and F/X 2. He also voiced Django in  Ratatouille. His very last performance was as Jerome Townsend in the “Sing, Sing, Sing” episode of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels series. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 9, 1944 — Glen Cook, 77. With the exception of the new novel which is still on my To Be Read list, I’ve read his entire excellent Black Company series. I’ve also mostly liked his far lighter Garrett P.I. series (though not the last novel for reasons I’ll not discuss here) which it seems unfortunately he’s abandoned. And I should read the Instrumentalities of the Night as I’ve heard good things about it. 
  • Born July 9, 1945 Dean Koontz, 76. The genres of of mystery. horror, fantasy and  science fiction are all home to him. Author of over a hundred novels, his first novel was SF — it being Star Quest (not in print) published as an Ace Double with with Doom of the Green Planet by Emil Petaja. ISFDB claims over half of his output is genre, I’d say that a low estimate. 
  • Born July 9, 1954 — Ellen Klages, 67. Her novelette “Basement Magic” won a Nebula Award for Best Novelette. I strongly recommend Portable Childhoods, a collection of her short fiction, which published by Tachyon Publications, my favorite publisher of fantasy. They released another collection from her, Wicked Wonders, which is equally wonderful. Passing Strange, her 1940 set San Francisco novel, which won a BSFA Award and a World Fantasy Award, is also really great. Ok, I really like her.
  • Born July 9, 1971 — Scott Grimes, 50. He’s Lieutenant Gordon Malloy on The Orville. He did show up once in the Trek verse, playing Eric in the “Evolution“ episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. And you might recognize him as Bradley Brown in the first two Critters films. 
  • Born July 9, 1978 — Linda Park, 43. Best known for her portrayal of communications officer Hoshi Sato on the Enterprise. Her first genre role was Hannah in Jurassic Park III, and she was Renee Hansen in the Spectres filmwhich Marina Sirtis was also in. Her latest genre role was in For All Mankind as Amy Chang in the “Pathfinder” episode. 
  • Born July 9, 1995 — Georgina Henley, 26. English actress, best remembered  for her portrayal of Lucy Pevensie throughout the Chronicles of Narnia film franchise from age ten to age fifteen.  She’s listed as having an unspecified role in an untitled Game of Throne prequel series but given the number of those proposed, this may or may not exist. Actually I’d bet on it not happening. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HERE’S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING FOR YA. Texas Monthly checked in with the artists who did the comic book that adorns the lawsuit filing: “Houston Comic Book Store Filed a Lawsuit in Comic Form”. (See the images in the June 30 Pixel Scroll, item #12).

They filed the lawsuit as … a comic book?

Sure enough. Artists Michael Charles, Maurice Terry Jr., Michael Brooks, and Benjamin Carbonero of Bad Cog Studios illustrated the 24-page comic at the request of Third Planet owner T.J. Johnson and his attorney, Cris Feldman. “I was really intrigued by it because, first of all, I got a lawyer calling me to do a creative project,” Charles told the Chronicle. The full-color comic shows the store staff fending off an onslaught of ceramic plates, lit cigarette butts that they allege have twice caused fires, and no fewer than fourteen fire extinguishers tossed from hotel balconies onto the store’s roof. One panel depicts store employees using buckets to collect water as rain leaks through the damaged roof onto the shelves.

Is this legal?

It is, in fact! It’s unconventional, but the law doesn’t require that pleadings in civil cases be black-and-white typed documents formatted in any particular way. Still, there are good reasons why most lawsuits look the same: one judge might be amused by an unusual pleading, while another may consider it beneath the dignity of the court; a gimmicky pleading might undermine the gravity of the case; and, of course, not every suit lends itself to creative storytelling. The pleading from Third Planet is a unique case. It’s a third amended petition, which means that the parties involved are already in the middle of the legal process. The store and its attorneys know who the judge reviewing the claim is, and whether he’s the sort to hold this gimmick against them. Also, according to the pleading, lawyers for the defendant claimed that they didn’t understand the previous petition, which meant that filing it as an easy-to-comprehend comic book fits the time-honored legal tradition of being snarky to opposing counsel.

(13) NONE SO BLIND. The Hollywood Reporter’s kerfuffle coverage, “Dean Cain Lambastes ‘Woke’ Captain America Comic; Gets Roasted on Twitter in Return”, includes Cain’s admission that he didn’t read the issue. (But James Bacon did, and recently reviewed it for File 770: “Captain America of the Railways and Joe Gomez”.)

Dean Cain was still trending Friday on Twitter after criticisms he made about the new Captain America comic series earlier in the week on Fox & Friends.

The former Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman star and Donald Trump supporter, bashed The United States of Captain America comic series due to a line in the first issue in which Cap says the American dream for some “isn’t real.”

Cain took issue with that notion, saying everyone in the country should support the U.S.A.

“I love the concept of Captain America, but I am so tired of this wokeness and anti-Americanism,” Cain said on the Fox News Channel program. “In my opinion, America is the greatest country in history. It’s not perfect. We are constantly striving for a more perfect union, but I believe she’s the most fair, equitable country anyone’s ever seen, and that’s why people are clamoring to get here from all over the globe.”

Calling himself a “revolutionary” for supporting America these days, Cain added, “Do these people ever travel outside of America? Do they go to other countries where they have to deal with governments who aren’t anywhere near as fair as the United States? I don’t think they do. I do it all the time, and I kiss the soil when I get back.”

Needless to say, his comments did not go over well with most, a lion’s share of the reaction on social media blasting Cain for his short-sightedness.

Cain later admitted that he had not actually read the comic, he was just responding to a conservative outlet that reported on one line in the book to which ultra Right-wingers then dug in their claws….

(14) HE’S DEAD, JIM. When Loki visits The Simpsons, Stan Lee won’t be with him: “Marvel Blocks Stan Lee Cameo in ‘The Simpsons’-‘Loki’ Crossover Short”.

The long-standing tradition of Stan Lee appearing in every Marvel Comics film, television show and video game has come to an end – “The Simpsons” showrunner, Al Jean, says Marvel prevented them from adding a cameo appearance of the comic book legend in their new animated short, “The Good, the Bart, and the Loki.”

In the short, Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, makes his debut appearance in “The Simpsons” universe for a cartoon that makes an array of allusions to other MCU prominent characters. But there is no sign of Lee.

Jean told ComicBook.com that he and his team considered inserting a tribute to Lee upon discovering unused audio files of the creative genius from a prior engagement with the show.

“It wasn’t a joke,” Jean said. “We just thought, ‘Oh, we have Stan Lee audio from when he was on our show. Could we cameo him in?’”

However, Marvel summarily nixed the plan due to a new policy they have established concerning the beloved author.

“They said that their policy is he doesn’t cameo now that he’s passed away. Which is a completely understandable policy,” Jean explained. “That was their only note and that was, of course, easily done.”

(15) AGAINST THE GRAINS. “World’s biggest sandcastle constructed in Denmark” reports The Guardian. At 21.16 metres in height, it is more than 3 metres taller than the previous holder, says Guinness World Records.

Its Dutch creator, Wilfred Stijger, was assisted by 30 of the world’s best sand sculptors. He said he wanted the castle to represent the power the coronavirus has had over the world since the beginning of the pandemic. On top of the sandcastle is a model of the virus wearing a crown.

“It’s ruling our lives everywhere,” Stijger said. “It tells you what to do … It tells you to stay away from your family and not go to nice places. Don’t do activities, stay home.”

To make it more cohesive, the sand contains approximately 10% clay and a layer of glue was applied after it was completed so that it could stand up to the chilly and windy conditions of the autumn and winter.

Blokhus residents have been delighted to see local features incorporated into the sandcastle, such as beach houses and lighthouses, as well as depictions of popular activities such as windsurfing and kitesurfing.

The castle is expected to stand until the heavy frost sets in, probably next February or March.

(16) KHAN! Io9 debuted DUST’s “Star Trek Khan William Shatner Scream in Claymation”. The whole thing is 10 seconds long. The lip-quiver preceding the scream is what makes it great.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Danish Road Safety Council reminds people that if you’re going to invade another country you should wear a helmet!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Rich Horton, John A Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/21 Fun Fact. -40 Pixels Are The Same Amount Of Scrolls In Both Celsius And Fahrenheit

(1) BOOMING BOX OFFICE. The Hollywood Reporter marks the coming Fourth of July with a chronicle about the making of a blockbuster that was released 25 years ago on this holiday weekend: “’You Can’t Actually Blow Up the White House’: An Oral History of ‘Independence Day’”

…Director Roland Emmerich, writer Dean Devlin and stars Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Randy Quaid and more look back at the battle to cast Will Smith, concerns over that famous Super Bowl ad, and a last-minute reshoot to save the ending.

DEVLIN The one character we had in our mind from day one was Jeff Goldblum. As we were working on the script, I would do my Jeff Goldblum imitation. Then we were basing his father [Judd Hirsch’s Julius] off of my grandfather, who was also named Julius.

EMMERICH Ethan Hawke was on our list too, but I thought at that time he was too young. It was pretty clear it had to be Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum. That was the combo we thought. The studio said, “No, we don’t like Will Smith. He’s unproven. He doesn’t work in international [markets].”

DEVLIN They said, “You cast a Black guy in this part, you’re going to kill foreign [box office].” Our argument was, “Well, the movie is about space aliens. It’s going to do fine foreign.” It was a big war, and Roland really stood up for [Smith] — and we ultimately won that war.

EMMERICH It was pretty shortly before the shoot and we still hadn’t locked in Will and Jeff. I put my foot down. “Universal people are calling every day, so give me these two actors or I move over there.” I don’t think it would have been a possibility [to actually move studios], but it was a great threat….

DEVLIN One of the things we had very early on was the idea of blowing up the White House in a TV ad. 

EMMERICH It was very controversial. I had this idea that the ad is: the second of July, you see the shadows; third of July, you have the fire coming through; Fourth of July, the White House explodes. It was such a simple concept, and Fox hated it.

DEVLIN “You can’t actually blow up the White House in a TV spot.” Roland said, “Why?” And [Fox] said, “Well, because what happened in Oklahoma [City, where on April 19, 1995, anti-government extremists detonated a bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing over 150]. It could be seen as insensitive.” And I said, “Yeah, but that wasn’t done by space aliens.”

EMMERICH I said, “We’ll test it: once with the White House, and once without.” [Fox exec] liked it so much when they saw the test result, they decided — in a very smart and clever move — that they would put this as the first commercial on the Super Bowl….

(2) NEW CHINA SF NEWS MONTHLY COMING. Regina Kanyu Wang signal-boosted plans to publish the “World Science Fiction Bulletin” in China, and called upon the science fiction community to help in “gathering clues about the latest news in world SF!”

Please fill in the Google Docs form to provide information:

This form is to gather information for “World Science Fiction Bulletin”, a monthly mini-magazine to introduce the latest science fiction news to Chinese readers. The mini-magazine will be published in Chinese in both paper and e-version, and will be compiled into an annual anthology at the end of a year.

It is a great chance to showcase what SF-related events happening in your own country/region, what are being published/broadcast, and what the fans love. It will serve as a window for the Chinese fans to learn about SF all over the world, as well as a platform for future communication and opportunities like publishing/visiting China.

We are looking for three kinds of information (which should happen in the year 2021):

1. Latest news in SF (conventions, awards, important publications, and etc.)

2. Important works (fictions/non-fictions, movies, TV series, comics, games, and etc.)

3. Regular information provider/writer (who would like to constantly join the project, communicate more with Chinese SF community, and even write articles for the project – the writing language should be in English and there will be payment.)

You may fill in the form multiple times. Thank you so much for your support and please feel free to spread the form as widely as possible!

(3) ALL ABOUT THE BOOKS. In “6 Books with Cat Rambo”, Paul Weimer takes the author through Nerds of a Feather’s standard questions, including –

 1. What book are you currently reading? 

I just started Devices and Desires by K.J. Parker, book one of a fantasy (ish) trilogy. I’m enjoying it because it talks about one of my favorite things, the economics of a world, and how trade and other market forces drive civilizations.  No magic whatsoever! But lots of lovely details and interesting characters, and a slow-burning epistolary romance. I love fantasy that thinks about the economics of things because it feels so much better thought out than some of the cartoonier books.

(4) THE ANSWER IS… Camestros Felapton, in “Debarkle Chapter 45 – The Reviews (April to July)”, provides an overview of the efforts to review the slated finalists on the 2015 Hugo ballot.

…As leader of the Sad Puppies 3 campaign, Brad Torgersen had appealed to critics of his slate to read the works nominated and evaluate them fairly. Proponents of the No Award Strategy argued that the impact of slate voting (particularly from the Rabid Puppy campaign) meant that even a reasonable works was compromised as a finalist by the Puppy slates. In those categories where there was a single non-slated finalist (such as Best Fan Writer and Best Novelette) even the non-slated finalist was competing against a field that many fans regarded as illegitimate.

A pertinent question then was whether the 2015 finalists were any good….

(5) THE INSIDE STORY. Sarah Chorn discusses “Writing with an Emotional Landscape” at Bookworm Blues.

The other day, my parents came to visit. My dad and I were talking and he asked, “What are your books known for?” I thought about it for a minute and then said, “I’m pretty sure I’m known for writing with emotional intensity.” My dad laughed and said, “You’ve always been pretty emotionally intense.”

I have been, I know that. I have often experienced and interpreted the world through a kaleidoscope of emotions. When I have a story idea, it’s not the situation that interests me as much as the emotions that get all tangled up in these moments. It’s that tangled emotional web I like to explore. I tend to think the character’s inner journey is just as important, if not more so, than the story itself. I’m one of those people who likes it when authors make me cry. That’s when the book stops being something I’m reading, and starts being something I am living….

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes listeners will dig into dolmades with agent extraordinaire Joshua Bilmes on episode 148 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Joshua Bilmes

My guest this time around — for my first face-to-face-in-restaurant meal in 466 days — is agent Joshua Bilmes, and the reason we were able to get together is because I learned — back when we chatted before our panel on “Using Writing Prompts and Exercises Effectively” during the virtual Balticon — that he was going to be visiting nearby. We decided to meet for lunch at Rockville, Maryland’s Mykonos Grill, which Washington Post food writer Tom Sietsema included at the end of May, on his list of “7 Favorite Places to Eat Right Now.”

Joshua Bilmes is the President of JABberwocky Literary Agency, which he founded in 1994. He began his agenting career at the famed Scott Meredith Literary Agency in 1986. His best-selling clients include Brandon Sanderson (whose fantasy novels have sold more than 18 million copies), Charlaine Harris (one of the rare authors whose writing has inspired three different television shows), Peter V. Brett (whose Demon Cycle series has sold more than 3.5 million books), and many others. I’ve lost count of the number of convention panels Joshua has been on with me in addition to the one I mentioned earlier, everything from “There is No Finish Line: Momentum for Writers” to “How to Self-Edit That Lousy First Draft” to “How to Incorporate Critique” — further proof he definitely has a handle on the way the writing and publishing work.

We discussed how the COVID-19 lockdown impacted the publishing industry, what he learned by visiting 238 Borders bookstores, the offer he’s made to bookstore employees he’s surprised has never been taken up, how writing letters to Analog led to his career as an agent, what life was like at the famed Scott Meredith literary agency, the fact which had he but known he might not have gone out on his own as an agent, why he’s had to redefine what “pleasure” means, what he has to say to people who think they don’t need agents, the sixth sense he possesses which helps him choose new clients, and much more.

(7) NAMES TO RECKON WITH. Archaic Media poses “10 Questions for Jack Dann”.

Was the New Wave SF influential to you?

Well, I would have to give that question an emphatic ‘yes’, especially as I was fortunate enough to be a part of the movement, although, along with writers such as Gardner Dozois, George Alec Effinger, Michael Bishop, Ed Bryant, John Shirley, A. A. Attanasio, I came in towards the end. Writers such as J. G. Ballard, Joanna Russ, Brian Aldiss, Samuel Delany, Bob Silverberg, Kate Wilhelm, Carol Emshwiller, Harlan, Tom Disch, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Michael Moorcock, to name but a few off the top of my head, influenced my writing.

I began publishing in Bob Silverberg’s New Dimensions series, Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, and Damon Knight’s Orbit series. I sold a story to Harlan’s ill-fated Last Dangerous Visions, met other writers at Damon and Kate’s continuous New Wave literary soiree at their old mansion called The Anchorage in Milford, Pennsylvania; and remember with joy and nostalgia what it felt like to be part of a literary zeitgeist.

(8) HWA PRIDE. An “Interview with Norman Prentiss” is the latest “Point of Pride” from the Horror Writers Association Blog.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

Horror stories always struck me as sardonic fun, and a good fit for my morbid sense of humor. The genre offers a great introduction to storytelling, since pace and atmosphere are so important, and the surprise endings of so many Twilight Zone or EC Comics-style stories made me think like a writer, trying to guess where a story was headed.

Later in life I realized my youthful attraction to horror also connected to my awkward, mostly-repressed queer identity. The protagonists of horror stories might be bookish nerds, loners, outsiders. And the monsters, too (well, maybe not the bookish part, except for Shelley’s creature). That idea of otherness resonates with a lot of gay youth, I think, especially when I was growing up.

(9) TINGLE TALK. The Vox article about Isabel Fall’s story prompted Chuck Tingle to make extended comments on Twitter. Thread starts here.

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 2, 1939 – On this day in 1939, the first Worldcon convenes in New York, and continues through July 4. Attendance was reported at being around two hundred. It was held in the Caravan Hall in New York at the same time as the New York World’s Fair was going on and the latter was themed as The World of Tomorrow. The Guest of Honor was Frank R. Paul and the con was chaired by Sam Moskowitz. It called itself the World Science Fiction Convention, and has subsequently been called Nycon I and the 1939 Worldcon.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 2, 1908 — Rip Van Ronkel. Screenwriter who won a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at The Millennium Philcon for Destination Moon. He also produced the earlier Destination Space movie for television, andwrote the screenplay for The Bamboo Saucer. And no, I’ve no idea what the latter is. (Died 1965.)
  • Born July 2, 1914 — Hannes Bok. He’s a writer, artist and illustrator created nearly one hundred fifty covers for various detective, fantasy and sf fiction magazines. He shared one of the inaugural 1953 Hugo Awards for science fiction achievement for Best Cover Artist with Ed Emshwiller.  He also wrote a handful of novels, the best known being The Sorcerer’s Ship, The Blue Flamingo and Beyond the Golden Stair. (Died 1964.)
  • Born July 2, 1927 — Brock Peters. His first genre role is in Soylent Green as Lieutenant Hatcher, and he’ll follow that up by being in The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country as Fleet Admiral Cartwright, and notably he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 2, 1931 — Robert Ito, 90. Though you’ll best remember him as being in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as Professor Hikita, his first genre role was actually an uncredited role in Get Smart!, the first of a lot of genre roles including, but not limited to,  Women of the Prehistoric PlanetSoylent GreenRoller BallThe Terminal ManStar Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: The Next Generation and more voice work than I can possibly list here though he had a long recurring role as The Mandarin on Iron Man.
  • Born July 2, 1948 — Saul Rubinek, 73. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, though he has worked rather often on genre series and films including EurekaMasters of HorrorPerson of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship seem to be his only genre films. His latest genre role is in For all Mankind as Rep. Charles Sandman in their “He Built the Saturn V“ episode. 
  • Born July 2, 1950 — Stephen R. Lawhead, 71. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two books in the Bright Empires series which are also very much worth reading. 
  • Born July 2, 1956 — Kay Kenyon, 63. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely as a listening experience a few years back. I’ve not read her Dark Talents series, so opinions please. And she was nominated for three Endeavour Awards which is very impressive. 
  • Born July 2, 1970 — Yancy Butler, 51. Detective Sara Pezzini on the  Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SURVIVOR. Elizabeth Bear has posted the video of “AHSS Presents a conversation with Elizabeth Bear ‘How to Survive a Literary Life’” on YouTube.

There’s a lot of information out there on how to perfect your work and seek publication. There’s not as much about how to deal with the stresses of writing for a living—inconsistent income streams, uncertainty, arbitrariness of the market, mental health issues, public exposure, professional jealousy, exploitative contracts, and more.

(14) CAN THIS BE PLAYED FOR MONEY? BBC World Service’s Business Daily asks “How would we trade with aliens?” – audio at BBC Sounds.

A US government report on UFOs has said there was no clear explanation for the unidentified aircraft, but did not rule out extra-terrestrial origin. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested into searching for signs of alien intelligence. 

Ed Butler speaks to Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer at Cornell University, who has analysed the closest, most likely planets to support alien life. If, or when, we do make contact what could we trade with our new neighbours? 

David Brin, a science fiction writer and astro-physicist says our culture would be the most easily exchanged aspect of our civilisation. 

And what about making money on Earth from the continued interest in aliens? Juanita Jennings is the public affairs director for the town of Roswell, New Mexico, site of the most famous UFO sighting. 

(15) GAMES THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOU. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the June 30 Financial Times, Tom Faber, reports from the E3 trade show about Wholesome Games, which creator Matthew Taylor says specializes in “Uplifting and thoughtful” games.

‘Wholesome’ refers to a tone rather than a gameplay genre.  Most examples are brightly colored with charming characters and storylines that eschew saving the world in favour of more mundane goals:  cooking, farming, hiking, fishing, looking after a pet.  Instead of gamifying lust and punishing failure, wholesome games often elicit empathy and kindness via a more positive mechanic sometimes known as ‘friend and befriend.’

A sample from this year’s Wholesome Direct showcase includes games where you can play a farming cat, a skateboarding pigeon, or, approaching wholesomeness terminal velocity, a cafe owner brewing artisan tea–for cats.

(16) FOLLOW THE MONEY. “The ‘Metaverse’ is growing. And now you can directly invest in it” reports the Washington Post.

… “Like the mobile Internet and the fixed-line Internet before it, the Metaverse will transform nearly every industry and involve the creation of countless new businesses,” said Matthew Ball, managing partner of venture firm EpyllionCo. Ball, along with his group, created the index and has written influential essays on the ongoing evolution of the Metaverse.

Joining Ball on the ETF’s council are: Jerry Heinz, former head of enterprise cloud services at Nvidia; Jacob Navok, co-founder and chief executive of Genvid Technologies; Jesse Walden, managing partner of Variant Fund; Jonathan Glick, former New York Times senior vice president of product and technology; Anna Sweet, chief executive of Bad Robot Games; and Imran Sarwar, formerly from Rockstar North where, among other projects, he worked as co-producer and designer of “Red Dead Redemption 2” and “Grand Theft Auto Online,” the most profitable entertainment product ever made.

… But the Metaverse is more than just a game that incorporates other companies’ intellectual property. Instead, it’s an Internet where people will more tangibly replicate many common aspects of real world life, including socialization, commerce and entertainment.

Ball has written several essays in recent years that popularized observations on the Metaverse. As part of the fund, Ball is writing an additional series of essays that establish the framework of the Metaverse, and how to think of it.

Just as the iPhone or Facebook can’t be called the Internet, neither can one video game — whether it’s “Fortnite” or “Roblox” — can be referred to as the Metaverse, Ball said. But video games help widespread acclimation and understanding of how a Metaverse can operate. Ball writes in his essay detailing the slow but steady industrial adoption of electricity, and compared it to the rise of the mobile Internet and the factors that led to the groundbreaking invention of the iPhone….

(17) BLUE YONDER. In the Washington Post, Taylor Telford profiles Wally Funk, 82, who was one of 13 women selected for the Mercury program but will go to space for the first time on Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket along with Bezons, Mark Bezos, and one lucky raffle winner. “Wally Funk was supposed to go to space 60 years ago. Now she’s going with Jeff Bezos.”

.. Blue Origin has said travelers must be able to endure three times the force of gravity for two minutes on ascent and 5½ times the force of gravity for a few seconds on the way down. Participants must be between 5 feet and 6-feet-4-inches tall and weigh between 110 and 223 pounds. As a young girl, Funk used to jump off the roof of her parents’ barn in a Superman cape, pretending to fly. She loved to build model planes and ships, became an “expert marksman” at 14 and skied competitively for the United States in slalom and downhill races. She has been flying since 1957. She is also an antique car enthusiast and “avid zipliner,” according to her website.

When NASA finally opened its programs to women in 1976, Funk applied three times and received three rejections. But she has never been the type to let anything stand in her way, she says in the video.

“I like to do things that nobody has ever done,” Funk said….

(18) TRIVIAL TRIVIA COURTESY OF PHIL NICHOLS. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] A  frame from Truffaut’s 1968 film Stolen Kisses (Baisers volés). Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) returns to his apartment, and the first thing he does is take down this red toy car emblazoned with the salamander logo from Fahrenheit 451. One of many cross-references between Truffaut films!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Merman meets mustached characters – and more! Honest Trailers’ fills you in about Pixar’s Luca.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Gottacook, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/21 Pixelback Scroller

(1) BOOM! STUDIOS BEGINS WORK WITH #DISNEYMUSTPAY TASK FORCE. SFWA has another update:

The #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is pleased to announce that BOOM! Studios have begun to work with them to achieve the Task Force’s goals to ensure that all writers who are owed royalties and/or statements for their media-tie in work are identified and that Disney and other companies honor their contractual obligations to those writers after acquiring the companies that originally hired the writers. 

BOOM! Studios strongly support all creators receiving any reporting and royalty payments they are contractually owed. When we have obligations, we honor them,” said Filip Sablik, President, Publishing & Marketing BOOM! Studios. “We are happy to work with both the Disney Task Force and our licensor Disney to resolve the situation to everyone’s satisfaction.”

Through their research, the Task Force believes that BOOM! Studios were not told about the writers who were due royalties when Disney transferred media rights to them. Though Disney is a partial owner of the studios, it is not engaged in the day-to-day operations. “BOOM! Studios are not at fault here, and the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force is grateful that they have taken the lead with their cooperation,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, President, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). “With their help, we’re able to speed up the process of locating writers who might have been affected by the rights transfer by Disney. I wish Disney itself was also willing to work with us.”

Fans, fellow writers, and the creative community need to continue to post on social media showing their support so the #DisneyMustPay Joint Task Force can help writers. Thanks to their support, the message is reaching Disney and related organizations, such as BOOM! Studios, to alert them to the work they need to do to honor their contractual obligations. 

(2) KRANER Q&A. Download the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s interview with Author Stephanie Kraner.

(3) FREE VIRTUAL BALTICON. Balticon, Maryland’s oldest science fiction convention, is holding its second virtual convention on Memorial Day Weekend (May 28-31, 2021). Balticon is being offered without charge at balticon.org.

“Last year we set a high standard that other science fiction conventions have used as their model,” said ConChair, Yakira Heistand. “Balticon 55 will be even better because we learned a lot and had an entire year to plan for this format, instead of just two months.”

Hugo-winning author Seanan McGuire, headlines the event as the Guest of Honor. Celebrated author, C.J Cherryh will accept the Robert A. Heinlein Award. Micaiah Johnson will receive the 2021 Compton Crook Award, given for the best first science fiction novel and named to honor the memory of long time Towson University professor Compton Crook. Maryland high school winners of this year’s Jack Chalker Young Writers’ Award will read from their works.

Almost 300 panels, concerts, discussions, and readings are planned during the 36-hour convention, along with open role playing and board gaming sessions Traditional Balticon events including the art show, headed by Artist Guest of Honor Alyssa Winans, and the four-hour short film festival Sunday evening are on the schedule. The very popular science program offers multiple presentations on medical advancements, space exploration, and other technological developments.

For the first time, Balticon is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council (msac.org) through an emergency grant.  “We are happy to have this help because hosting an online convention requires many additional resources,” said Steven Joel Zeve, the Balticon Treasurer. A GoFundMe fundraiser is being held to help make up for the revenue lost by holding a free convention.

Balticon is a presentation of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. The BSFS building, in east Baltimore, houses a 12,000+ item library of speculative fiction books, magazines, and videos. Information on regular BSFS events can be found at bsfs.org.

(4) FAN IMPROVEMENTS. In the May 19 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses game “modders.”  He explains that a “mod is a fan-made alteration that can range from small graphical tweaks to huge overhauls in gameplay.”

The most frightening thing in Capcom’s new horror game Resident Evil Village is not the mutilated hand of protagonist Ethan Winters, nor the 9-foot tall Lady Dmitriescu with her razor-sharp fingers:  it is Thomas The Tank Engine.  Days after the game’s official release, members of the online modder community, who hack games to alter graphics and gameplay, have already offered a raft of ludicrous additions. including swapping every monster in the game with Barney the Dinosaur.

Thomas is special for gamers, though. Since a modder first swapped the dragons of SKYRIM for the cheery blue locomotive in 2013 (prompting legal threats from IP holder Mattel), he has been incongruously shoehorned into all manner of games.  Most memorable was the mod that replaced Mr X, the mutant villain of Resident Evil 2, with a huge Thomas who stalks you with dead eyes, his theme tune jangling eerily.

(5) THE BOOKS YOU LOVE. Salman Rushdie encourages us to “Ask Yourself Which Books You Truly Love” in an opinion piece for the New York Times.

…I believe that the books and stories we fall in love with make us who we are, or, not to claim too much, the beloved tale becomes a part of the way in which we understand things and make judgments and choices in our daily lives. A book may cease to speak to us as we grow older, and our feeling for it will fade. Or we may suddenly, as our lives shape and hopefully increase our understanding, be able to appreciate a book we dismissed earlier; we may suddenly be able to hear its music, to be enraptured by its song.

When, as a college student, I first read Günter Grass’s great novel “The Tin Drum,” I was unable to finish it. It languished on a shelf for fully 10 years before I gave it a second chance, whereupon it became one of my favorite novels of all time: one of the books I would say that I love. It is an interesting question to ask oneself: Which are the books that you truly love? Try it. The answer will tell you a lot about who you presently are….

I want to return, however, to that childhood self, enchanted by tales whose express and sole purpose was enchantment. I want to move away from the grand religious epics to the great hoard of scurrilous, conniving, mysterious, exciting, comic, bizarre, surreal and very often extremely sexy narratives contained in the rest of the Eastern storehouse, because — not only because, but, yes, because — they show how much pleasure is to be gained from literature once God is removed from the picture.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of the stories now gathered in the pages of “The Thousand Nights and One Night,” to take just one example, is the almost complete absence of religion. Lots of sex, much mischief, a great deal of deviousness; monsters, jinnis, giant Rocs; at times, enormous quantities of blood and gore; but no God. This is why censorious Islamists dislike it so much.

In Egypt, in May 2010, just seven months before the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak, a group of Islamist lawyers got wind of a new edition of “Alf Laylah wa Laylah” (the book’s original Arabic title) and brought an action demanding that the edition be withdrawn and the book banned because it was “a call to vice and sin” that contained several references to sex. Fortunately, they did not succeed, and then larger matters began to preoccupy Egyptian minds. But the fact is, they had a point.

(6) ETERNALS TEASER. Marvel dropped a trailer for Eternals.

“Throughout the years we have never interfered, until now.” Watch the brand new teaser trailer for Marvel Studios’ “Eternals” and experience it in theaters this November.

(7) LIEUTENANT TOLKIEN. Atlas Obscura thinks there’s a connection between Lord of the Rings and the “Cannock Chase Military Training Grounds – Staffordshire, England”. I don’t promise the article provides much more info than the claim.

… Also present, near the village of Brocton is an accurate 40-meter by 40-meter model of the area involved in the Battle of Messines Ridge in Belgium. It was complete with accurate contours, trenches, roads, railways, and an accurate model of the village of Messines. This model was re-excavated by archaeologists in 2013 and after laser scanning was covered with a protective membrane then re-buried because it was too fragile to be left exposed. The model was constructed by German prisoners held in a nearby POW camp and was used for training purposes. An information board now marks the spot….

One of the best known WWI occupants of the Cannock Chase complex was J.R.R. Tolkien, who both trained and lived locally while recovering from injuries sustained in France. Many people believe that several parts of the chase inspired scenes in the author’s Lord of the Rings trilogy….

(8) SHAVER SPEAKS. Here’s a visit to an antique land. Jerry’s House of Everything gives a full intro to the appearance of “Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver on The Long John Nebel Show”. (The recording is at the Internet Archive.) Doesn’t say what year the show was aired, but Nebel died in 1978, so before then, anyway.

…In 1943, Shaver wrote to Amazing Stories to tell the editor Ray Palmer that he had discovered an ancient unknown language called Mantong, the source for all human languages.  Palmer, always on the lookout for ways to shill his magazine, got in touch with Shaver.  Shaver submitted a manuscript to Palmer which Palmer rewrote and published the novella, titled “I Remember Lumaria,” in the March 1945 issue.  The story introduced the evil “deros” to the science fiction reading public….

(9) CHANNELING RAY BRADBURY. Inverse declares “The most underrated sci-fi anthology show ever is streaming for free right now” – Peacock is running episodes of The Ray Bradbury Theater.

…Unlike most sci-fi anthology shows — like Twilight Zone or Outer Limits — The Ray Bradbury Theater has the most in common with Black Mirror for one simple reason: the vast majority of the episodes are written by the same person.

The Ray Bradbury Theater is literally what it sounds like: Ray Bradbury presenting TV versions of a bunch of his short stories. It’s the kind of stunt that seems almost impossible to imagine now, with the closest analog perhaps being Castle Rock insofar as Stephen King is probably the closest living version of Bradbury. It’s hard to find a short story writer more prolific and consistently good as Bradbury, especially when you go digging around in the sandbox of older science fiction. Bradbury’s stories don’t always make sense, but they’ve always got style and attitude.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born 24 May 1794 – Rev. Dr. William Whewell.  (Pronounced “hew-ell”.)  Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  Crater on the Moon named after him.  Mathematician, Anglican priest, historian of science.  Coined the words scientist, physicist, linguistics, osmosis, ion, astigmatism.  Royal Medal for organizing thousands of volunteers internationally to study ocean tides.  Clifton Fadiman in Fantasia Mathematica anthologized this poem.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1917 – Irving Cox.  Five dozen stories in AmazingAstoundingCosmosFantasticFutureIfImaginationOrbitRocket StoriesSaturnSF AdventuresSF QuarterlySF StoriesUniverse – to name just some of the prozines we’ve had.  You can read ten of his stories from 1953-1960 here.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1925 — Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher),  Deadman with writer Arnold Drake and the  Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard Productions and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1928 – William Trevor.  Whitbread Prize for The Children of Dynmouth, reviewed by Elaine Cochrane in SF Commentary 60/61, p. 26 [PDF]; two more Whitbreads; Hawthornden Prize; Saoi; four O. Henry Awards (not limited to U.S. authors since 2002).  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born 24 May 1930 – Terri Pinckard.  Stories in Fantasy BookVertex; wrote the Introduction to Womanthology (F. Ackerman & P. Keesey eds. 2003).  Told the L.A. Times (3 Jun 99) that when we landed on the Moon “I cried.  Science fiction writers were the ones who dreamed it.”  With husband Tom Pinckard hosted the Pinckard Salon, which drew Ackerman, Bloch, Bradbury, Daugherty, George Clayton Johnson, C.L. Moore, Niven, Pournelle, Roddenberry, Spinrad.  Dian Girard dedicated Tetragravitron (as by J.D. Crayne) to “Members of the Pinckard Salon”.  Big Heart (our highest service award) to Terri & Tom jointly.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1947 — James Cosmo, 74. Genre work is fairly deep including appearances in films including HighlanderThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeThe Seeker: The Dark Is Rising and Wonder Woman, as well as television series such as SS-GBTerry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic and the Game of Thrones. (CE)
  • Born May 24, 1952 — Sybil Danning, 69. Her rise to fame began with her  role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars which he billed as his Star Wars. (No kidding.) She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf, a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1953 — Alfred Molina, 68. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh, and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1960 — Doug Jones, 61. I first saw him as Abe Sapien on Hellboy, an amazing role indeed. To pick a few of my favorite roles by him, he’s in Pan’s Labyrinth as The Faun and The Pale Man (creepy film), a clown in Batman Returns, the Lead Gentleman in the “Hush” episode of Buffy and currently Commander Saru on Discovery. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1960 — Michael Chabon, 61. Author of the single best fantasy novel about baseball, Summerland which won a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. His other two genre novels, Gentlemen of the Road and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, winner of Best Novel at Denvention 3, are stellar works in themselves. He was Showrunner for the first season of Picard but will be Executive Producer for the upcoming season. (CE) 
  • Born May 24, 1965 – Watanabe Shin’ichirô, age 56.  (Personal name last, Japanese style; apostrophe to indicate syllables “shin-ichi-rô”; circumflex to indicate is a long vowel, also written oh or ou or oo – or with a macron, which this software won’t allow.)  Co-directed Macross Plus; directed Cowboy Bebop, alternative-history Samurai ChanpurûSpace DandyCarole & Tuesday.  Blade Runner – Black Lotusis expected in 2021.  At the Yokohama (65th) Worldcon my host’s daughter was rehearsing The Magic Flute but none of my fellow gaijin are rehearsing Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees.  [JH]
  • Born May 24, 1985 – Isabelle Melançon, age 36.  Drawings in Oziana and The Baum Bugle.  Oz found its way into the Webcomic that Isa co-authors, Namesake – or vice versa.  Here’s a sketch for Quibbling and even one for Hamilton.   [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full spotted this puzzle book celebrity.
  • Lio has a great name for a school.

(12) GET READY TO CELEBRATE TOWEL DAY. Save the Rhino encourages you to Stand up for Towel Day 2021, tomorrow, May 25. I’m told it’s Douglas Adams’ favorite charity. (Fanzine fan Jim Mowatt raised money for them, too, in 2016 – “Mowatt Marathons To Save The Rhino on April 24”.)

Join us for a raucous evening of fun and merriment to celebrate a day of towel-carrying and all things, ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’.

We’ve teamed up with Stand up for Towel Day to bring you the very best sketches and segments from real events between 2017 and 2020. It will feature the very best sketches and segments from Stand Up for Towel Day’s short but rich history.

Limited edition Towel Day merchandise will be available during the event. Including a towel!

…Since 2017 Stand Up for Towel Day has provided a place to gather after a day of celebratory towel carrying for stand-up comedy, slam poetry, sketches, improv and more in homage to Douglas and his work.

For the second year in a row, we’ve teamed up with Stand up for Towel Day’s curator, Rachel Wheeley, and producer, Nell Thomas, to bring you the 2021 edition of the event.

This year’s programme, a pre-recorded event, will feature live footage recorded at real events from 2017 to 2020. It will feature the very best sketches and segments from Stand Up for Towel Day’s short but rich history. Thanks to Kevin Jon Davies, Douglas Adams documentarian and author ‘42 The Probable Ideas of Douglas Adams’ for making the footage available.

(13) HOLLYWOOD SINCE COVID. Guillermo del Toro’s next movie, scheduled for a December 3 release, interrupted production because of the pandemic. “Nightmare Alley: Release Date, Cast, Details” at IndieWire. The title caught my eye, because the book it’s based on was written by Joy Davidman’s first husband.

…The movie wrapped in December of 2020, and now, a year later, it’s headed for release on December 3 from Searchlight Pictures. Del Toro spoke about the film’s production during an IndieWire Live conversation over the summer. “We stopped the shoot a week before [the industry shut down]. We reacted super fast, we proposed the studio to stop as opposed to being asked to stop,” del Toro said. “That saved us. Nobody to my knowledge in the cast or the crew got coronavirus. We were roughly 45 percent in. We were literally in the middle of a great scene. We went to lunch and talked to the studio and when we came back we said, ‘Everybody leave your tools and leave now.’”

Here are nine things to know about del Toro’s latest thriller before it opens later this year.

A Noir-Tinged Storyline

Based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham, the film centers on an ambitious young carny (Cooper) with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words. He hooks up with a female psychiatrist (Blanchett) who, it turns out, is even more dangerous than he is. The seedy story drops us into the demimonde of 1940s American show business, and introduces us to the sleazy denizens of a carnival filled with grifters, charlatans, and noir-like femme fatales. 

(14) UNDER PRESSURE. John Scalzi wonders if we expect too much:

(15) RELIC OF THE INTERNET. The New York Times says “Welcome to the Space Jam, Again”. State-of-the-art-1996!

The 1996 “Space Jam” website is important in the way antique maps are important — not because they are necessarily useful tools for present-day navigation, but because they reveal the boundaries around which people’s lives were once oriented, and invite us to remember, or imagine, a world differently arranged.

Many years past its original relevance (of which there was never terribly much, this being the official website of the 1996 live-action/animated sports comedy “Space Jam”), the “Space Jam” website now serves as a virtual portal to the 1990s. The home page — a low resolution star-speckled black galaxy whose flat cartoon planets are slapped, like stickers, around the “Space Jam” logo — is not a nostalgic recreation. It is the real thing, beautifully preserved in the resin of digital time — a visual artifact from a less connected World Wide Web.

Today the internet is dominated by overlapping social platforms. But the “Space Jam” website, which existed before Google, harkens to an era when the web felt more like an infinite archipelago of islands to which one might surf in pursuit of one’s passions — or by accident….

(16) IT’S ABOUT TIME. Mind Matters sets the frame for The Bargain, a DUST sci-fi short film: “Sci-fi Saturday: In a Future Market, Time To Live Is Bought, Sold”.

Cora is indentured in the service of Hue, the creator and owner of time-exchanging technology. She is alive thanks to Hue’s monthly “payments”: on her own, she’d have only a few weeks left. She works as his bodyguard and assistant, extracting or injecting time from his clients. She is horrified by Hue’s predatory deals, but complaining means breaching her contract. However, when a single mother of two falls victim to his extortion, Cora’s leash finally snaps. She now has to choose between her future or the life of a stranger.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the SPOILER-FILLED “Army of The Dead Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George explains that the movie asks “What if zombies did everything?” and has “strong zombies, fat zombies, dumb zombies, and robot zombies.”  Also, we learn that a group of mercenaries can carry hundreds of millions in $100 bills out of Vegas because they have backpacks!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/22/21 Do Jedi Name Their Lightsabers?

(1) FREE ON EARTH DAY. Yes, it’s F.O.E. Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, in honor of Earth Day, has published Everything Change, Volume III, a free digital anthology of climate fiction featuring the winner and finalists of their 2020 global climate fiction contest. Edited by Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich, the book is available in a variety of digital formats. View the 10 original illustrations created by Brazilian artist João Queiroz at the book’s webpage (scroll down).

The title Everything Change is drawn from a quote by Margaret Atwood, our first Imagination and Climate Futures lecturer in 2014. The contest and anthology are presented by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University, a partnership of the Center for Science and the Imagination and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

Stories by: Barakat Akinsiku, Amanda Baldeneaux, J.R. Burgmann, Mason Carr, Scott Dorsch, Sigrid Marianne Gayangos, Kathryn E. Hill, Jules Hogan, Anya Ow, Natasha Seymour

(2) PENNSIC WAR DELAYED AGAIN. The Society for Creative Anachronism’s Pennsic War will not happen again in 2021, however, a non-SCA event called Armistice will be run at the same site. Here are excerpts from the official explanations:

From the Mayor: Pennsic War 49

G’Day Everyone When taking office in the position of Mayor for Pennsic 49 I made a promise to everyone. That promise was that above all else, I would endeavour to run a fiscally responsible and safe Pennsic 49. It was my dear friend and mentor Viscount Sir Edward that said to me “The people that attend this event are Pennsic, take care of them.” I promised him I would. Then COVID 19 hit and the entire world was plunged into a crisis, the like of which we have not witnessed in our lifetimes. Over the past few months, I have been in constant discussions with The Pennsic Seneschals Group (PSG), The President of the SCA Inc, Coopers Lake Management and my Pennsic Senior Executive Group. In addition, I have seen the comments from many of you and listened to the comments from my Deputy Mayors and their staff. I have kept you all updated as much as possible so that you all understand my decision-making process and so that you understand the path I am walking when I make decisions. Although change is happening and things are getting better, I must deal with the now, rather than what I think it may be like in 3 months’ time and unfortunately our vendors needs for commitment and certainty are requiring us to make commitments earlier than we originally intended. As Mayor of Pennsic 49, I was entrusted with, the welfare and safety of the entire Pennsic Family. It is therefore with great sadness that I must inform you today that, I have decided to Postpone Pennsic 49 for another 12 months to 2022. The new dates for Pennsic 49 will be 29 July 2022 – 14 August 2022. This has been an exceedingly difficult decision to make but I trust you understand the reasoning behind it.
…Yours in Service, Sir Gregory of Loch Swan Mayor Pennsic 49

To explain a little further, I just want to put a couple of ‘Myths” that are circulating to bed and for people to clearly understand a few things that have and are happening behind the scenes.

Please understand that SCA, Pennsic staff, and Coopers management are jointly working together to find a solution. A separate, non-SCA event Armistice was the best joint solution that solved the issues of liability, allowed the business to survive, and provided an event for folks.

1. We needed to make a decision earlier because as PA (Just talking about our PA based Support services) started to emerge from the pandemic and slowly ramp up their businesses to pre-pandemic levels over the next 6 months, vendors need some certainty about their future commitment for everything from Portaloos to Waste Disposal bookings. We could not commit to that as the Pennsic War considering the current rules the SCA has in place today for SCA events. That was one consideration in our decision.

2. …All these decisions were made in concert with the SCA, the Pennsic Financial Committee, and the Coopers management working together to determine the best path forward for this summer.

3. For the Pennsic War to survive for another 20+ years, we need to support the main business that has supported us over these many years, Cooper’s Lake Campground and many of the smaller businesses and merchants that rely on Pennsic for part of their yearly income.  They have survived 18 months of no business income and forced closure. That is tough for any business, let alone one, like Coopers Lake,  that solely depends on campers and events. To that end we have been in discussions with the Coopers Lake Management for weeks about their options to survive. Armistice is that option.

4. Armistice “IS NOT” taking over from the Pennsic War. The Coopers Lake Management don’t want that at all. This is a one off event to help them through another tough year and is supported by Pennsic War and many Pennsic staff will be working to make Armistice event successful. It’s an option that gives those that wish to camp and relax with friends in PA, under PA health Guidelines the option to do so in a relaxed medieval environment.

5. We are all adults. Many have asked how to support the Coopers, well I’d suggest that this is a way of doing that, even if you can’t attend the event. I registered even though it is likely I won’t be able to attend, given current international travel rules.

6. This “Is Not” an SCA event. It is a Coopers Lake event run under their rules and insurance.

I hope that clears up some of the questions. Simple language, we knew about this alternate event, were consulted and even offered our expertise to support it. I know, there will be those that want to see some hidden secret SMOF type agenda, but those that know me, know that isn’t the case….  

(3) TONY STARK, COME FORTH. “Marvel Fans Rent Billboard Campaigning For Iron Man To Be Brought Back To Life”CinemaBlend has the story.

…The above image comes to us from a now-deleted Twitter post, which was shared a few hundred times ahead of its mysterious disappearance. Both the social media account and said billboard encourage Marvel fans to use the hashtag #BringBackTonyStarkToLife on April 24th, marks the two-year anniversary of Avengers: Endgame.

…It seems the Marvel fans behind the campaign want to see Iron Man/Tony Stark get a happy ending in the MCU. A number of characters fell throughout Infinity War and Endgame, including Black Widow. But Tony’s death hit especially hard, and his funeral scene was an emotional one considering Pepper Potts and their daughter Morgan.

While both Natasha and Tony died in Avengers: Endgame, Captain America was given a chance at a happy ending. After returning the Infinity Stones to their proper place in the timeline, Steve went back and lived his happy ending with Peggy Carter. It’s likely due to this that fans want to see Iron Man get the same treatment.

Still, it seems unlikely that Tony Stark would somehow be brought back to life in the MCU. The Russo Brothers have spoken about the importance of real stakes, and that includes death scenes. Tony Stark’s death wrapped up the character’s arc, and showed the real sacrifices that come with saving the galaxy.

(4) FIYAHCON PLANS. FIYAHCON 2021, a virtual convention centering the perspectives and celebrating the contributions of BIPOC in speculative fiction, will be held September 16-19.

…The event is hosted by FIYAH Literary Magazine and carries a variety of entertaining and educational content surrounding the business, craft, and community of speculative literature. The inaugural event took place in October of 2020 to great acclaim, and we look forward to doing it all again this year!

Get ready for three-point-five days of dynamic, entertaining content with BIPOC at the center of speculative literature discourse! The event takes place September 16-19, 2021 and includes panels, presentations, games, office hours, write-ins, workshops, kickbacks, and more.

Where the magazine is focused specifically on the elevation of Black voices in short speculative fiction, FIYAHCON seeks to center the perspectives and experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). The reasoning is that Black voices are not the least represented in the field, and we don’t want to exclude groups who are already systemically excluded from other spaces….

(5) THE THAWED LEFTOVER EQUATIONS. [Item by Cliff.] The premise for this movie sounds strangely familiar…. “Stowaway review – a devastating dilemma drives tense Netflix sci-fi” in the Guardian.

Ever since Sandra Bullock MacGyver’d her way from mid-orbit chaos back down to earth in Alfonso Cuarón’s show-stopping thriller Gravity, we’ve seen a rise in briskly efficient sci-fi competency porn. It’s a subgenre of films working off the thrill of watching high-stakes problem-solving, of professionals using their reality-rooted smarts to deal with fantastical situations. We’ve since seen Matt Damon use botany in The Martian, Amy Adams use linguistics in Arrival, Natalie Portman use cellular biology in Annihilation and Chris Pratt use Jennifer Lawrence in the unintentionally creepy Passengers. Just a few months after Netflix ventured into similar territory with George Clooney’s business first, emotion later drama The Midnight Sky, they’re taking us up into the stars with Stowaway, a late-stage acquisition title that should scratch that itch a little more successfully….

(6) TUBERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 21 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber discusses the rise of virtual YouTubers, or “VTubers.”

CodeMiko is a video game character without a game.  The pink-haired avatar lives on Twitch, the live streaming platform owned by Amazon, where she chats with her half-million fans and interviews internet personalities in a signature style marked by absurdist humour and non sequiturs.  Her videos are immensely enjoyable, and they might just signal the next frontier of digital entertainment.

Controlling Miko is a human actress and programmer wearing a motion capture suit, known only as ‘The Technician.’  When The Technician moves or speaks, the Miko avatar mimics her precisely on screen.  This set up is a variation on the virtual YouTuber, or VTuber, a phenomenon where live streamers host videos as fictional characters, masked behind cutesy anime avatars..  As of last October, VTuber streams on YouTube were wracking up more than 1.5bn views a month.  It may seem curious that audiences choose animated figures over real humans, but the VTuber concept offers striking advantages to both streamers and viewers.

(7) THE PRESSURE IS ON. James Wallace Harris asks “Will Climate Change Crush Our Science Fictional Dreams?” at Classics of Science Fiction.

… Elon Musk might get people to Mars but we’ll discover two things. Living on Mars will not be the romantic fantasy that science fiction fans have always dreamed, and leaving Earth won’t save us. We’ll probably also return to the Moon, but we’ll discover trying to colonize it will be nearly impossible and we’ll learn the true value of the Earth and its biosystem that was so perfect for us.

As the years progress and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere increases and the percentage of habitable land decreases I believe our desire for space travel will wane. We won’t have to wait for dramatic sea level rise for everyone to be convinced, heat waves will start to kill millions. Just read the first chapter of The Ministry for the Future to understand. I expect events like it will come true sometime this decade. We won’t need to see drowned cities to know the disciples of Ayn Rand have doomed us. Increasing weather catastrophes, declining food production, and mass migrations of refuges will make it plain enough we made the wrong decisions and believed the wrong people….

(8) CON WILL REQUIRE ATTENDEES BE VACCINATED. Blerdcon, to be held July 16-18 in Washington, D.C., announced on Facebook they have decided to make Blerdcon 2021 “a vaccine mandated event (even if you HAD covid and recovered).”

…Only those having received their completed vaccine regiment and showing their Covid-19 Vaccination Record Card at registration will be admitted into the convention. This extends to all staff, volunteers, vendors, contractors and sponsors.

The community simply has too much to lose and nothing to gain by taking on any unnecessary risks, even as we anticipate low infection/high vaccination rates for mid-July. So we are adding this to our other anti-covid measures: outdoor parties and events, spaced seating in all panel rooms, mask mandate for all indoor spaces, sanitation stations, nightly cleaning.

(9) CAPTAIN JACK IS IMMORTAL – YOU ARE NOT. Radio Times thinks they have found some Secret Information in the advertising for a comic book: “Doctor Who leaks | Will time windows and Captain Jack be in series 13?” If you don’t want to know a possible spoiler – don’t blink click!

… The synopsis was originally found on the official Penguin Random House website, and while it has since been removed it is still publicly available to view on other sites. When contacted by RadioTimes.com, the BBC declined to comment on “speculation.”

(10) POWELL OBIT. Costume designer Anthony Powell died April 18 at the age of 85 reports Deadline. Powell won multiple awards for non-genre productions — a Tony Award for the costumes of 1963’s School for Scandal, and Oscars in 1972 for Travels with My Aunt  1978 for Death on the Nile and in 1979 for Tess. He received the Costume Designers Guild’s Career Achievement Award in 2000. For genre work he earned Academy Award nominations for Pirates (1986), Hook (1991) and 102 Dalmatians (2000) (for the costumes of Glenn Close’s Cruella de Vil). His other credits included Sorcerer, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 101 DalmatiansThe AvengersThe Ninth Gate and Miss Potter, the 2006 Beatrix Potter biopic.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 22, 2005 — On this day in 2005, Star Trek: Enterprise went where the original series and Deep Space Nine had gone before as they ventured into the Mirror Universe with “In A Mirror Darkly”  with the first part of a two-part adventure in the program’s fourth season. (Star Trek: Discovery would later retcon itself into this universe.)  It was written by Mike Sussman who got his start on Star Trek: Voyager and wrote nearly thirty Trek episodes across the two series.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 22, 1887 – Kurt Wiese.  A score of covers, many interiors for Walter Brooks’ Freddy the Pigbooks.  Among much else, here is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; Caldecott Honor for You Can Write Chinese.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born April 22, 1899 – Vladimir Nabokov.  Scientist, poet, translator, critic, teacher, fiction author, memoirist.  Said he didn’t like SF but wrote some anyway, e.g. “Lance”.  Superb treatment of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Metamorphosis” in Lectures on Literature.  (Died 1977) [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1902 Philip Latham. Name used by Robert Shirley Richardson on his genre work. His novels were largely first published in Astounding starting in the Forties, with the exception of his children’s SF novels that were published in Space Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote a few scripts for Captain Video, the predecessor of Captain Video and his Video Rangers. His Comback novel starts this way: ‘ When Parkhurst heard the announcement that climaxed the science fiction convention, he found that he’d been right, years ago when he had faith in science-fictionists’ dreams. But, in another way, he’d been wrong . . .’ It’s available at the usual digital suspects for a buck. (Died 1981.) (CE) 
  • Born April 22, 1928 – Robert Schulz.   Two dozen covers.  Here is The Sword of Rhiannon.  Here is The Caves of Steel.  Here is Space Tug.  Here is Beyond Time and Space.  (Died 1978) [JH] 
  • Born April 21, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 84. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (previous three films are all Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman. (CE) 
  • Born April 21, 1977 Kate Baker, 44. Editor along with with Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace of the last two print issues of Clarkesworld .  She won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine twice, and the World Fantasy Award (Special Award: Non Professional in 2014, all alongside the editorial staff of Clarkesworld . She’s a writer of three short genre stories, the latest of which, “No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak”, you can hear it here. Warning it has as subject matters abuse and suicide. (CE)
  • Born April 21, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 37. She had the odd honor of being a Companion to the Tenth Doctor as Lady Christina de Souza for just one story, “Planet of the Dead”.  She had a somewhat longer genre run as the rebooted Bionic Woman that lasted eight episodes, and early in her career, she appeared as the sorceress Nimueh in BBC’s Merlin. Finally I’ll note she played Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BBC’s Learning project, Off By Heart Shakespeare. (CE) 
  • Born April 22, 1943 – Louise Glück, age 78.  Her poem “Circe’s Power” is anthologized here.  In The Wild Iris flowers talk with a gardener and an “unreachable father”.  Pulitzer Prize, William Carlos Williams Award, Bollingen Prize, U.S. Poet Laureate 2003-2004, Nat’l Humanities Medal, Nobel Prize.  Professor at Yale.  [JH]
  • Born April 21, 1944 Damien Broderick, 77. Australian writer of over seventy genre novels. It is said that The Judas Mandala novel contains the first appearance of the term “virtual reality” in SF. He’s won five Ditmar Awards, a remarkable achievement. I know I’ve read several novels by him including Godplayers and K-Machines which are quite good. (CE) 
  • Born April 22, 1966 – Marie Javins, age 55.  Editor-in-chief at DC Comics.  Has done Marvel too, e.g. prose adaptation of graphic novel Iron Man: In extremis; with James Gunn, The Art of “Guardians of the Galaxy”.  Colorist.  Travel writer.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born April 22, 1989 – Catherine Banner, age 32.  Three novels for us, the first when she was 19; another outside our field well received.  Lives in Turin.  “I underwent a shift, as all writers who continue writing beyond adolescence probably do, from thinking ‘What story shall I write?’ to asking, instead, the more pertinent question, the one which can sustain a lifetime of work: ‘How can I do justice to this story I feel I must tell?’”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro reveals the surprise ending to a crime story.

(14) THE HOSTS WITH THE MOST. “’Jeopardy!’: Robin Roberts, LeVar Burton & George Stephanopoulos To Guest Host” says Deadline. A different source reports LeVar Burton’s episodes will air July 26-30.

Jeopardy! has unveiled the final group of season 37 guest hosts, with Robin RobertsLeVar Burton and George Stephanopoulous among the TV personalities set to lead the  popular trivia game.

Executive producer Mike Richards revealed that David Faber, who is a former Celebrity Jeopardy! champion,  and Joe Buck will also step up to the lectern to wrap up the game show’s 37th season. Previous season 37 guest hosts, who have stepped in for the late longtime host Alex Trebek, include Anderson Cooper, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Savannah Guthrie, Bill Whitaker, Mayim Bialik, Katie Couric and Aaron Rodgers.

(15) RITE GUD. Raquel S. Benedict has released more Rite Gud podcast episodes. (Previously identified in this space by her initials, she is now going by her full name.)  

What makes a writer? Is it coffee and cats? Is it a good author photo? Is it having a screenname like @JaneDoeWrites? Is it in your soul, in your bones, in your DNA? Is it collecting photos of books and sharing writing memes and penning endless posts about writing (specifically, about how much you hate it)?
In this episode, Carmilla Mary Morrell joins us to talk about the dark secret of being a writer: you have to fucking write. We also discuss the problem of defining people by rigid identities and the Doctrine of Dog Cum.

If you’ve spent any time talking about geek culture, you’ve probably seen one word come up over and over again: gatekeeper. To be a gatekeeper is bad. To be a gatekeeper is exclusionary and harmful and discriminatory.

The internet was supposed to get rid of gatekeepers and usher in a new, democratic era of content, an era free of inequality or bias or those evil old boogeymen called gatekeepers. But is it really? Are we really getting rid of gatekeepers, or are we just replacing the old gatekeepers with new ones?

In this episode, Colin Broadmoor joins us to talk about fandom, The Monk, and why fiction should hurt.

If you’re into science fiction and fantasy, you might have heard of something called hopepunk. Hopepunk, according to its supporters, is a creative movement that believes that producing and consuming optimistic fiction will make the world a better place. But does hopepunk really offer meaningful hope and revolution, or is it just a way to numb yourself and hide from the world?

In this episode, Sid Oozeley gets on the mic to talk about how all fiction is escapist: the only question is, what are you escaping from?

(16) PINBALL WIZARDRY. SYFY Wire tells what players what to expect when “Star Wars Pinball, Resident Evil go VR in Oculus virtual reality gaming showcase”.

With Baby Yoda and Din Djarin as ringside spectators, you might think there’d be galactic levels of pressure not to foul up a task — even if it’s something as casual as a game of Star Wars Pinball. But in Oculus’ big quest (pun intended) to bring the galaxy far, far away and other big-name game franchises to its family of VR platforms, it all actually ends up feeling pretty fun….

For its VR upgrade, Star Wars Pinball isn’t just replaying the classics, it’s also roping in newcomers to Lucasfilm’s ever-expanding galaxy. In addition to familiar tables based on the original films, watch for a pair of new themes created specifically for VR, as well as franchise newcomers straight out of The Mandalorian. While Oculus unveiled the new look, its Quest platforms aren’t the only place you’ll be able to hone your virtual skills; in addition to Oculus Quest 1 & 2, Star Wars Pinball is also headed to Steam VR and PlayStation VR on April 29….

(17) BUTLER RESEARCHER. In “How Octavia Butler Created Her SciFi Worlds” at Jezebel. Joyzel Acevedo interviews Lynell George, author of A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia E. Butler.

Originally, it was Lynell George’s mother who was the Octavia Butler fan. A Los Angeles-based English teacher for 30 years, George’s mother would hand Butler’s books to students who didn’t like reading; “‘What are you interested in? Who are you? Oh, here, this is for you’,” she recalls. Once, she brought George along to a Butler reading in Pasadena, California, and George describes the awe she felt seeing Butler in person for the first time: “There was something very powerful about this tall, Black woman walking to the bookstore and sitting inches away from me—it was a small store—to talk about her work, to talk about writing.”…

(18) ZOOM WITH OKUNGBOWA. Powell’s Books presents Suyi Davies Okungbowa in conversation with S. A. Chakraborty on May 18, at 5:00 PM Pacific. Register for the Zoom webinar here.

From Suyi Davies Okungbowa, one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, comes Son of the Storm (Orbit), a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forgotten magic set in a world inspired by the precolonial empires of West Africa. In the ancient city of Bassa, Danso is a clever scholar on the cusp of achieving greatness — only he doesn’t want it. Instead, he prefers to chase forbidden stories about what lies outside the city walls. The Bassai elite claim there is nothing of interest. The city’s immigrants are sworn to secrecy. But when Danso stumbles across a warrior wielding magic that shouldn’t exist, he’s put on a collision course with Bassa’s darkest secrets. Drawn into the city’s hidden history, he sets out on a journey beyond its borders. And the chaos left in the wake of his discovery threatens to destroy the empire. Okungbowa will be joined in conversation by S. A. Chakraborty, author of The Daevabad Trilogy.

(19) CAN’T BEAT THAT. The Guardian’s Alison Flood celebrates a new edition of the author’s first book in “Terry Pratchett’s debut turns 50: ‘At 17 he showed promise of a brilliant mind’”. There’s a 2-minute audio clip at the link.

In November 1971, a debut novel from a young author was published, to a small but not insignificant splash. Set in a world of tiny people who live in a carpet, it was described by the book trade journal Smith’s Trade News as “one of the most original tots’ tomes to hit the bookshops for many a decade”, while Teachers’ News called it a story of “quite extraordinary quality”.

The unknown author was Terry Pratchett, and the book was The Carpet People. This week, publisher Penguin Random House Children’s is releasing a 50th-anniversary edition, with Doctor Who and Good Omens star David Tennant reading the new audiobook.

“Terry would have loved knowing that David was going to do it,” said Rob Wilkins, Pratchett’s former assistant and friend who now manages the Pratchett estate. “David was a Doctor Who that really mattered in the Pratchett household, so he would have been so thrilled.”…

(20) VENISON WITH A VENGEANCE. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert shows what happens when you mess with nature in “Bambi Returns: The Clone Wars”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How WandaVision Should Have Ended” on YouTube, the How It Should Have Ended Team thinks WandaVision would be better with the addition of several DC superheroes, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves! QUITE POSSIBLY SPOILERS.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/19/21 The Calamari Of Dr. Cabinet

(1) UP, UP, AND AWAY. “NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Succeeds in Historic First Flight” the space agency reported today. (For a summary of the mission see the Wikipedia: “Ingenuity (helicopter)”.)

Monday, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter became the first aircraft in history to make a powered, controlled flight on another planet. The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT (3:46 a.m. PDT).

“Ingenuity is the latest in a long and storied tradition of NASA projects achieving a space exploration goal once thought impossible,” said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The X-15 was a pathfinder for the space shuttle. Mars Pathfinder and its Sojourner rover did the same for three generations of Mars rovers. We don’t know exactly where Ingenuity will lead us, but today’s results indicate the sky – at least on Mars – may not be the limit.”

The solar-powered helicopter first became airborne at 3:34 a.m. EDT (12:34 a.m. PDT) – 12:33 Local Mean Solar Time (Mars time) – a time the Ingenuity team determined would have optimal energy and flight conditions. Altimeter data indicate Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 10 feet (3 meters) and maintained a stable hover for 30 seconds. It then descended, touching back down on the surface of Mars after logging a total of 39.1 seconds of flight. Additional details on the test are expected in upcoming downlinks.

(2) ALL THE FEELS. The Atlantic’s Marina Koren captures the emotions of the event in “No, You’re Crying About a Helicopter on Mars”.

… I am not a spacecraft engineer, nor do I know this robot personally. But I am mortal, and we mortals tend to anthropomorphize robots and even have fuzzy feelings toward them. (The exception: If their appearance falls into the “uncanny valley” category, they can creep us out instead). A whole assortment of research on the relationship between people and machines shows that we can’t help attaching our little human feelings to the little mechanical robots we build. And NASA knows it.

As with other robotic missions, NASA maintains a Twitter account for Perseverance, the rover that brought Ingenuity to Mars in February, and dispatches are written from the perspective of the machine. “I love rocks,” Perseverance tweeted in February to its followers, who currently number 2.7 million. “I’m on the move!” it exclaimed in March as it took its first drive. “I’ve taken my first selfie,” the rover said earlier this month, showing us a picture of its robotic frame, with Ingenuity in the background. NASA has already shared imagery of Ingenuity’s flight—from Percy, stationed nearby, and from the helicopter itself, which captured its shadow flitting across the surface of Mars….

(3) A WALK, NOT A GALLOP. Book Riot’s Alice Nuttall points the way: “Slow Sci-Fi: 11 Thoughtful And Low Action Sci-Fi Reads”. A Becky Chambers’ novel is first on the list.

…Slow sci-fi can be a peaceful read between more action-packed books, or can give you the chance to grapple with a futuristic or otherworldly concept on multiple levels. Don’t be fooled — slow doesn’t mean shallow, and sometimes thoughtful sci-fi can give the horrors of a dystopia more time to develop, really drawing back before landing that gut punch. Here are some lower-action, thoughtful sci-fi reads to add to your TBR pile.

(4) THE QUARTERMASS EXPERIMENT. Texas A&M Libraries will host “The Future at 25 Cents A Copy: The Material Culture of Pulp Science Fiction Magazines”, a virtual talk scheduled for Thursday, April 22 at Noon (US Central). The participants are Jeremy Brett, an Associate Professor at A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, where he is both Processing Archivist and the Curator of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Research Collection; Anna Culbertson, head of Special Collections & University Archives at San Diego State University, and Andrew Lippert, Special Collections Processing Archivist at UC, Riverside who works with the Eaton Collection. Register at the link.

“The “Pulp Era” of the 1920s-1940s was crucial to the formation of the science fiction genre in the United States. Pulp magazines were colorful, exciting vehicles for the work of countless creators, many of whom became major names. Librarians from three institutions with major pulp collections—Texas A&M University, the University of California, Riverside, and San Diego State University—will discuss the literary and genre legacy of pulps, including their significance as examples of mid-century American material culture.”

(5) DO YOU KNOW? Lise Andreasen would like to poll the audience.

(1) A French gentleman worked with agriculture, and invented a new drill plough, that was better at sowing. Michel Lullin de Chateauvieux – Wikipedia

(2) In “Surface Tension,” James Blish, talks about sowing people in the universe. The premier scientist is Chatvieux.

Does anybody know, whether this is a coincidence?

(6) EUROVISION SONG CONTEST. In return, Lise Andreasen offers to enlighten people who keep asking: How can this movie be nominated for the Hugo? She forwards these snippets from the Wikipedia plot summary:

Sigrit, who believes in the old Icelandic tradition of elves, asks them to help them in the contest…

Katiana’s ghost appears to (redacted)…

Luckily, unseen elves save (redacted)…

(7) HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOU HANG UP? Marvel dropped a trailer for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. The movie will be (only) in theaters September 3.

(8) PROVING LOVE. Netflix will release Love, Death, And Rockets, Volume 2 on May 14.

The NSFW animated anthology returns with a vengeance. Naked giants, Christmas demons, and robots-gone-wild… Consume irresponsibly.

Is there another Scalzi story in the new series? Youth wants to know.

(9) PROGRAMMED FOR FAILURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 12 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber, discusses Disco Elysium, a role-playing game created by “Estonian novelist Robert Kurvitz and his friends during a night of drinking in 2005” and which won three gaming awards at the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of Oscars.

The brew of debauchery, failure, and resilience that marks this origin story is palpable in the 6,000 years of dense history Kurvitz and his team crafted around this detective game.  The story unfolds across the impoverished district of Martinaise, abandoned by the law following a failed communist revolution and now under the heel of a corrupt labor union.

Your protagonist is similarly scarred, beginning the game with a bout of amnesia following a drug-fueled bender so destructive it makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas look like something for children.  As you recover your memory it becomes apparent that you’re a cop with a murder case to solve, a task you are profoundly ill-equipped to handle.  ‘The entire story is about how to react when you’re faced with failure,’ Helen Hindpere, lead writer on the Final Cut, tells me.  ‘How do you come out of it?  What do you do?’

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1981 — In 1981 at Devention Two, The Empire Strikes Back which was released the previous year by Lucasfilm won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. Other nominated works were Lathe of Heaven, the Cosmos series, The Martian Chronicles and Flash Gordon.  It was directed by Irvin Kershner from the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan with story by being George Lucas. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 18, 1907 Alan Wheatley. Best remembered for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first TV series about him, but no recordings of it are known to exist. And he was in Two First Doctor stories as Temmosus, “The Escape” and “The Ambush” where he was the person killed on screen by Daleks. (Died 1991.) (CE) 
  • Born April 19, 1923 – Lygia Fagundes Telles, age 98.  Camões Prize.  Commander, Order of Rio Branco.  Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et des Lettres.  Grand officer, Order of Gabriela Mistral.  Third woman elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters.  Called First Lady of Brazilian Literature.  Fifteen stories for us available in English, see collection Tigrela.  Many other works, many other awards.  [JH]
  • Born April 18, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here as it’s in the public domain. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at Millennium Philcon but lost out to Destination Moon.)  He would later play Hugh Lockwood in Probe, the pilot for Search, and Search itself, an SF series. His only other genre appearance I think was playing five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1933 W.R. Cole. Author of A Checklist of Science Fiction Anthologies, self-published In 1964. Ok, I’m including him today because I’m puzzled. SFE said of this work that ‘Though it has now been superseded and updated by William Contento’s indexes of Anthologies, it is remembered as one the essential pioneering efforts in Bibliography undertaken by sf Fandom.’  Was this really the first time someone compiled an index of anthologies? I seem to remember earlier efforts though I can’t remember precisely who. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born April 18, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 86. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, in that era he worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler. (CE)
  • Born April 18, 1946 Tim Curry, 75. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance as a year earlier he’d been in the Scottish Opera’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu  in The Three Musketeers, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player. (CE) 
  • Born April 19, 1947 – Donald Eastlake III, F.N., age 74.  Co-chaired Boskone 11, chaired Boskone 16.  Served as President of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n). Frequent chair of WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meetings, a particularly difficult thankless task.  Fellow of NESFA (service).  Guest of Honor (with wife Jill Eastlake) at Rivercon IX.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1948 – Christopher Yates, age 73.  A dozen covers.  Here is The Committed Men.  Here is The Year of the Quiet Sun.  Here is Solaris.  Here is Rogue Moon.  Here is Toyman.  Here is The Bornless Keeper.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1951 – Patricia Geary, age 70.  Four novels.  Vassar woman.  P.K. Dick Award.  Professor at Univ. Redlands.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1967 – Steven H Silver, age 54.  Chaired Windycon XXIX-XXX, 42 (so some are in Roman, some in Arabic numerals; do you think anyone asked me?); co-chaired Nebula Award Weekend 2010 (with Peggy Rae Sapienza, making SHS a Lawn Mower), chaired 2015-2016.  Fan Guest of Honor at DeepSouthCon 49, Capricon 32.  Fanzine, Argentus; three guest-editorships on Journey Planet.  See here.  [JH]
  • Born April 19, 1978 – Aleksi Briclot, age 43.  A score of covers, two dozen interiors; comics, films, video games.  Collection Worlds and Wonders in French and English (here is his cover).  Here is the Sep 04 Deep Magic.  Here is Galaxies 42.  Here is The Rose of Sarifal.  Here is Boundless.  Here is Stranger Things 4. [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) NOT DRAWN THAT WAY. CBR.com says “DC’s Karate Kid Was Accidentally Drawn the Wrong Way for Years”.

… One of the other audacious things about Shooter’s story was that he actually added FOUR new Legionnaires to the Legion in that story! Can you imagine pitching an editor with a story where you add four new members to the team? But hey, it worked out! One of the things Shooter felt that the Legion lacked was action characters. He felt that everyone’s powers were too passive. Everyone just pointed and fired a blast from their fingers or whatever. So that’s why Shooter loved the idea of Karate Kid, and wow, devoting PAGES to a fight between Superboy and Karate Kid was a bold, bold gambit at the time…

The problem was, as Shooter explained to my pal Glen Cadigan in Glen’s seminal work, The Legion Companion (I’d link to it, but I think it’s out of print and I don’t think it does Glen any good for me to tell you go buy a used copy on Amazon, ya know?), “In my crummy drawings, he was Half-Asian…when Shelly drew him, he made him like an American. Which is a shame.” As I noted in another old Comic Book Legends Revealed, one of the other Legionnaires introduced in that issue, Ferro Lad, was going to be Black, but Mort Weisinger wouldn’t approve it. Shooter was trying to diversify the Legion and he kept coming up short….

(14) IMPOSTER SYNDROME. The Hollywood Reporter tells why “Tim Curry Once Got Thrown Out of a ‘Rocky Horror’ Screening”.

…[Curry] explained, “I went rather early on at the Waverly [Theatre] in New York where it started, and they thought I was an imposter. And they threw me out.” Curry noted he was not in costume when he was tossed.

The Waverly (now IFC Center) was the original home of the midnight audience-participation screenings of Rocky Horror, which then spread across the country and still takes place to this day.

Asked about his feelings on the audience-participation screening, he said, “I thought it was enormous fun. I was having a ball — and then I got thrown out.”…

(15) TIME TO PLAY. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com entry has nothing to do with curling: “A Game of Stones: Five Novels Set in Asteroid Belts”. On the list is –

Up Against It by M. J. Locke (2011)

By the 24th century, humans can be found everywhere in the solar system, from the inner system all the way out to the Kuiper belt. This is possible in large part thanks to a trade network spanning the system. The network ensures that vital resources like volatiles are transported cheaply and reliably from source to destination. A case in point: asteroid 25 Phocaea (and its one settlement, Zekeston) flourish because the settlement can import the volatiles it lacks.

What Zekeston accepts as necessity, others see as opportunity. A disaster leaves Zekeston short on volatiles. Ogilvie and Sons is the only company in a position to resupply Zekeston in time to save its population. Ogilvie and Sons is more than willing to do this, provided Zekeston submits to rule by Ogilvie and Sons. Zekeston’s head of resource management, Jane Navio, is determined to save her adopted community from the predatory corporation. Whether she can do so with the resources at hand—some sympathetic functionaries and a gang of plucky kids—is unclear.

(16) BIG EARS. YouTube has a sketch from last night’s The Simpsons called “Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You)” where Quilloughby of The Snuffs (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) shows up in Springfield and charms Lisa Simpson. Morrissey of The Smith’s manager Peter Katsis loudly complained the show was making fun of the artist.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Pirates of the Caribbean:  Dead Man’s Chest” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says there are “enough nautical-themed Maguffins to fill an entire movie” in the first ten minutes, but he notes that it’s never clear in the movie why Davy Jones has an octopus face.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/12/21 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Pixel

(1) MUIR’S PROGRESS. Bence Pintér conducted a “Q&A with Tamsyn Muir” for the Hungarian magazine Spekulatív Zóna. (You can find the Hungarian version of the interview here.)

The Locked Tomb Trilogy seems like a pretty hard one to pitch to a publisher. How have you pitched it?

I never really pitched the trilogy as a trilogy. I pitched Gideon as more or less a murder mystery, because to me that’s still its most fundamental DNA: it’s the classic And Then There Were None set-up, a group of people in an isolated location start getting killed off one by one. I think I said it was a locked-room murder mystery with necromancers. But I was also deeply confused about a lot of things and thought it might be a Young Adult book, because I understood ‘young adult’ as a tag to mean ‘older teenagers would enjoy it’ and I firmly believed that older teenagers would enjoy Gideon! Someone I showed the story to at an early stage had to break it to me gently that this was not a Young Adult book, and never would be without very major re-writing and taking out 90% of the swearwords….

You signed a six-figure deal with Tordotcom Publishing. What will you work on after finishing Alecto the Ninth?

Lots of stuff. Next up is a novella about a gunslinger in a near-future dystopia, which is going to be a massive relief to write as it contains neither swords nor bones, thank God. Then I’ve got to start on the next full-length novel, which will probably have some swords and some bones but not at anywhere near the concentration Locked Tomb did, and will leaven the mixture by also having some motorbikes. And at some point I need to fit in the sequel to Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower, my novella from last year, which I’ve decided I’m not quite done with. Now if I could just get an extra four or five months added in to the year, maybe in summer when the weather’s OK, that would be fantastic.

(2) PRO TIPS. Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews Guest Lecturer Sheree Renée Thomas, now editing F&SF.

Congratulations on recently becoming editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction! What are the most common problems in the manuscript submissions you receive?

I just revised our submission guidelines to address that, because after reading 2,400 stories our first month in January, I noticed some patterns, particularly for people who have submitted work to the magazine in the past, and they probably don’t know that they’re doing some of these things.

The main thing I revised our submission guidelines to address is pacing. If you spend a long time setting up your story, or throat clearing, or giving us a long narrative exposition before we even get to the characters we’re supposed to be following and experiencing, you’re going to lose your readers’ interest right off the bat. One of the things people can do when they go back and look at the story is see if they started in the right place. As a writer, it’s not always easy to know that immediately. Sometimes we have to write the thing in order to know the thing; we have to write that first scene to get to the other one.

The other thing that a lot of writers do give us too much information that’s not naturally integrated into the storytelling, and so that becomes a little wearisome to read and hard to follow. People are not telling the story from the POV of the character who has the most to lose in the situation.

I don’t want to read about misogyny, whether it’s conscious or not in the story. I don’t particularly care for rape stories where rape is just a plot device and it’s not handled in a human way, where you don’t have the characters respond to it in a way that humans might. And F&SF is not the best market for super erotic work.

(3) TV DINNER. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Science Fiction TV Dinner series is going virtual for 2020-2021, and they’ll  Zoom the next event on Tuesday, April 27 at 6 p.m. Pacific time. It features The Mailbox, a short film about time travel and Chinatowns. They’ll be talking with the director, Louis Yin, a writer and filmmaker based in Beijing, and Diane Wong, a professor at Rutgers University who studies the Asian diaspora and the urban immigrant experience. The event is free, and open to everyone. Register at the link.

We’re shifting the format slightly, presenting Science Fiction TV Small Bites: short films from talented creators that invite us to explore a range of possible futures.

…Each Small Bite event will also feature an exclusive segment on cuisine and cooking by Corey S. Pressman, an author, educator, anthropologist, visual artist, and member of CSI’s Imaginary College.

We would like to thank Storycom for their support and collaboration on this event. Storycom is the first professional story commercialization agency in China, and is dedicated to bringing excellent Chinese SF stories to domestic and global audiences in various formats. Storycom also presents The Shimmer Program to introduce new audiences to Chinese SF. Learn more at https://twitter.com/ShimmerProgram.

(4) ACE ON THE CASE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the April 7 Financial Times, Tom Faber looks at video games that combine the supernatural with detective stories.

…The first detective games I loved were the Ace Attorney trilogy, in which you play Phoenix Wright, an impossibly earnest lawyer who solves a trio of outlandish murders.  The tone is decidedly zany, with anime-style graphics and supernatural story beats. But the sharp characterisation makes them deeply affecting.  Each complex case is split into two parts:  the first has you talking to witnesses and gathering evidence from the crime scene, while the second takes you to court, where you cross-examine witnesses and poke holes in testimony…

…Perhaps the secret ingredient to a successful detective game is allowing players freedom to find the solution by themselves.  These qualities re best exemplified in last year’s indie hit Paradise Killer, which sets its supernatural mystery across an open world, allowing you to investigate at your own pace.  The game never tells you where to go next and you can set the final trial at any point, no matter how much evidence you’ve gathered.  Newcomers may be alarmed by the game’s high-concept fantasy, which tells of a group of social elites constructing a utopia by sacrificing the working classes to resurrect a pantheon of vanished gods.  Yet once you find your footing, the story resolves into a fantastically imaginative, richly compelling narrative with a superb soundtrack to boot.

(5) WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM CONFUSION. Ian Moore’s “ConFusion: Eastercon 2021” report at Secret Panda offers a lot of coverage of the panel programming.

… Many of the academic presenters at ConFusion seemed to be from creative writing rather than literary criticism programmes, which changed the focus somewhat: when they were examining a particular theme within science fiction, it was with a view to ultimately creating something in that area themselves, with several then presenting us with some of their own creative work in progress.

I enjoyed Hester Parr’s presentation on fanfic, though at times it did tend towards more of a stirring defence of fan fiction than an academic analysis of it. Particularly interesting was the discussion of how some fanfic writers use their writing to work out things about themselves and the revelation that the My Fair Lady musical is closer to the original Pygmalion myth than the George Bernard Shaw play it is adapted from. I did find myself thinking about whether there is a difference between something like Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad and other retellings of myths or sequels to others’ work by novelists on the one hand and fan fiction proper on the other hand. Part of Parr’s argument seemed to be that there is not really a difference, with the human tendency to retell and adapt stories meaning that fanfic is a universal thing with its origins in the mists of time. I have the nagging sense though that there is something different between a novel written by a professional writer and something a hobbyist has posted to an online fanfic platform. To me the fannishness of fanfic is what distinguishes it from non-fan writing drawing on pre-existing stories, though further investigation may be required here….

(6) GAGARIN AND THE POTATO FIELD. Sixty years ago today Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Here’s the CNN story:

…Khrushchev’s answer came 60 years ago, on April 12, 1961, when Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth aboard a spacecraft called Vostok 1. After parachuting from the craft near the Russian village of Smelovka, Gagarin landed a hero — and a major embarrassment for the United States, already stung by the Soviet first-in-the-race launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite four years earlier….

And what goes up must come down – however unexpectedly that might be if you happen to be standing where they land.

(7) JOURNEY INTO SPACE. And the Journey Planet team bids everyone a Happy Cosmonautics Day. Ann Gry co-edited their “Russian Space – ” theme issue which came out in December.

Cover by Sara Felix

This unique issue of Journey Planet comes in two languages in parallel text, Russian and English. With bi-lingual text on every page we look at the Science, Engineering, Science Fiction, Films, Comics and poetry that the theme of Russian Space has to offer.

Muscovite Co-Editor Ann Gry (Anna Gryaznova) was committed to ensure the issue was as accessible as possible to the readers, interested in the subject and spent a tremendous amount of time working on translations as well as seeking out new voices, and hearing from voices who may be very new to Journey Planet readers. This issue is a curated glimpse into the creative realms mostly inaccessible due to the language barrier and is an attempt to give an idea of how space theme connects us all.

You can find the issue here:

(8) WE’LL MEET AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll extols “Five Stories Built Around the Threat of Nuclear Blackmail” to Tor.com readers. Not all of them are grim:

The Mouse that Roared by Leonard Wibberley (1955)

The tiny principality of Grand Fenwick had no intention of blackmailing the world with atomic doom. Faced with economic calamity (Americans had successfully copied Grand Fenwick’s principal export, Pinot Grand Fenwick wine), they came up with a simple but brilliant plan: declare war on the United States of America, lose, capitulate, and then wait for US to expend billions of dollars rebuilding Grand Fenwick (shades of the Marshall Plan). Since Grand Fenwick had not upgraded its military toolkit since the Hundred Years War, there was no way this cunning scheme could go wrong. Or so it seemed.

The handful of men-at-arms dispatched to New York City find a city abandoned thanks to a Cold War-era Civil Defense exercise. Hunting for someone to whom they might surrender, they stumble across Dr. Kokintz and his Q-bomb demonstration model. Both Kokintz and his device are carried off to Grand Fenwick, whereupon the astounded Grand Fenwickians discover to their alarm that they are now in possession of a weapon that could, if detonated, depopulate a continent. Still, having the eyes of the world on them has possibilities…provided nobody jostles the delicate Q-bomb.

(9) HAND MADE. The Dwrayger Dungeon makes a post from clips from a 1939 short in “13: PARAMOUNT Presents POPULAR SCIENCE”. See how a Popeye cartoon was made in the days of hand-painted animation cels.

Today we go behind the scenes of the making of the Popeye cartoon “Aladdin And His Wonderful Lamp” at the Fleischer Studios in Miami….

Here are the guys working on the storyboards for their upcoming Popeye cartoon. I swear, there are like 500 drawings pinned up on the wall….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 12, 1940 — On this day in 1940, Black Friday premiered. It was directed by Arthur Lubinfrom from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (who won a Retro Hugo last year for Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man) and Eric Taylor. Though Boris Karloff and Béla Lugosi were co-billed, Lugosi only has a rather small part in the film and does not appear on screen with Karloff.  Universal had cast Lugosi as the Doctor and Karloff as the Professor, but Karloff insisted on playing the Doctor. So Lugosi was given the minor role of a rival gangster, while Stanley Ridges was brought in to play the Professor. Reception was mixed with some critics loving the double billing, but the NYT noted that “Lugosi’s terrifying talents are wasted”.  Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the audience reviewers give it a rating of forty nine percent.  It is in the the public domain now, so you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 12, 1884Bob Olsen. He wrote twenty-seven poems and stories that were published in Amazing Stories in the late 1920s early 1930s. He’s one of the first authors to use the term “space marines”. A search of both print and digital publishers does not show any indication that any of his genre or mystery fiction is now in-print. (Died 1956.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1908 – Janie Lamb.  Edited the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n) National Fantasy Fan and Tightbeam.  Inspiring spark of Southern Fandom (southern U.S., not e.g. the Republic of South Africa, or London, or Spain despite Roses from the South, these other regions not typically so calling themselves); chaired DeepSouthCon 7.  Kaymar and Rebel service awards.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1915Emil Petaja. He considered his work to be part of an older tradition of ‘weird fiction.’  He published thirteen novels and some one hundred fifty short stories. His Otava series, published by Ace Books in the Sixties, is based on the Finnish national myth, The Kalevala. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1921Carol Emshwiller. I think her short stories are amazing and The Start of the End of It All and Other Stories collection won a World Fantasy Award. She’d later receive a Life Achievement award from the World Fantasy Awards Administration. I’ve not read her novels, so which would you recommend? Novel wise, she’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects but her collections are largely not there. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1936Charles Napier. Adam in Star Trek’s “The Way to Eden”. He had one-offs, and this is not a complete list, on Mission ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkKnight Rider, Tales of The Golden MonkeyThe Incredible Hulk ReturnsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanDeep Space Nine and voiced Agent Zed in the animated Men in Black series. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born April 12, 1947 – Tom Clancy.  Regardless of whether Jack Ryan becomes President, and the author’s politics which as it happens I never liked much, I defiantly assert The Hunt for “Red October” – TC’s first novel! he’d been an insurance salesman! Deborah Grosvenor had to persuade the Naval Inst. to publish it! – is SF, and good SF too.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1952 – Pierre Stolze, Ph.D., age 69.  Dissertation at École Normale Supérieure on SF.  Seven novels, a score of shorter stories.  Will Francophone translators kindly address this man’s work?  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1958 – Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink, age 63.  Canadian living in Los Angeles.  Active particularly with Art Shows; board member of the Southern Calif. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell, pronounced skiffy).  Her high-tech expertise permitted the annual Rotsler Award display at Worldcons to rise above the personal handicraft of one man in a propeller beanie, however helped by volunteers (hello, Murray), and thus reach Dublin (77th Worldcon) and Wellington (78th Worldcon, virtual-only).  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1968 – Marah Searle-Kovacevic, age 53.  Head of Exhibits at Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon, credited by con chair with extra help at N4’s elaborate and successful First Night, see this detailed report.  Chaired SFContario 4-5.  Was assigned as head of Social Media for Westercon LXXIII.  [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1969 – Mike Jansen, age 52.  Ran Babel Publications for ten years with Roelof Goudriaan (hello, Roelof).  Three novels, fourscore shorter stories, a dozen poems, many available in English e.g. collection Ophelia in My Arms.  Website in eight languages including Arabic, Chinese, English. [JH]
  • Born April 12, 1979Jennifer Morrison, 42. Emma Swan in the Once Upon a Time series, and Winona Kirk, mother of James T. Kirk in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. She also paid her horror dues in Urban Legends: Final Cut as Amy Mayfield, the student videographer whose film goes terribly wrong. I’m intrigued to see that she’s the voice actor for the role of Selina Kyle / Catwoman in the Batman: Hush, a film that needs a R rating to be told properly and indeed did so. (CE) 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo reveals the ancestry of a certain popular character from The Mandalorian.

(13) THE ARRIVAL OF THE FUTURE. Eric Diaz analyzes “How the Year 1986 Changed Comic Books Forever” at Yahoo! Life. Here’s the first pair of reasons:

… Let’s get this double-whammy out of the way. 1986 saw the release of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. So much has been said about both of these comics already. Although much about them is different, each is a deconstruction of the superhero concept; and each elevated the medium to new levels of respectability.

Yes, their success has sown definite downsides. Too many creators take the wrong lessons from their popularity, veering “dark and edgy” for the sake of it. But this aside, both of these remain towering achievements in comic book storytelling…. 

(14) WONDER WOMAN WRITER REMEMBERED. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Mark Evanier and author/editor Anina Bennett about Joye Hummel Murchison Kelly’s appearance at the 2018 Comic-Con and how she enjoyed the recognition she got for her Wonder Woman work when she was 94. “She was the ‘secret’ Wonder Woman writer in the 1940s. Here’s how she finally got her due at 94”.

…“In all my years of Comic-Conning, I can’t recall another moment when the audience was so eager to give someone a long, loving ovation,” Evanier said Wednesday, “and the recipient was so delightfully surprised to be at an event like that receiving one.

“Joye told me it was the best weekend of her life, and I thought, ‘Imagine having the best weekend of your life when you’re 94!’”

(15) BIRD IS THE WORD. Jeff VanderMeer, in his essay “Hummingbirds and the Ecstatic Moment” for Orion Magazine, explains how birds provided comfort to him when he was sick in bed with asthma as a child and why birds play a crucial role in Hummingbird Salamander.

…I am not going to complain about my childhood—it was worse than some and better than many. But it was a sickly time for me. Transplanted to the Fiji Islands from Pennsylvania when my parents joined the Peace Corps, I discovered I was allergic to many flowering trees and also developed acute asthma. The practical effect of this meant that some mornings I would wake to birdsong hardly able to breathe or open my eyes.

Yet we lived in the cliché of a tropical paradise, a nature-rich country in which nothing separated you from the outdoors. An island nation that knew the limits of its resources and thus, at that time, treasured them.

At recess at school, in our drab gray uniforms, we would run across the road to the black sand beach at low tide and look for mudskippers, or walk along the edge of the reef, searching for starfish. I would stare into the alien eye of a sea turtle as my mother captured the detail in her biological illustrations. We would pile into a boat so my father could go to an outer island and observe the damage to coconut trees from rhinoceros beetles, for his research. Along the way, I would keep a birding journal and identify what I saw using a black-and-white stapled booklet showing the local Fijian species.

There could be no greater contrast between the beauty of that place and the realities of my condition…. 

(16) RESNICK ON SALE. There’s a Bundle of Holding with a flock of novels by Mike Resnick. It’s available for the next 21 days.

Adventurer! This Mike Resnick Bundle presents space opera and alternate-history fantasy ebook novels by Mike Resnick published by Pyr BooksMike Resnick (1942-2020) wrote more than 70 wide-ranging science fiction novels and hundreds of short stories that won many awards. This all-new fiction offer gives you DRM-free ebooks (in both ePub and Kindle formats) of a dozen Resnick novels: the four Weird West steampunk fantasies, the three Dead Enders adventures of interstellar espionage, and the five Starship military space operas. These three series showcase Resnick’s gift for fast pacing, engaging characters, snappy dialogue, and headlong action.

For just US$6.95 you get all three novels in our Mike Resnick Sampler (retail value $58) as DRM-free ebooks. Each of these novels — The Buntline Special, The Fortress in Orion, and Starship: Mutiny — launched a series.

And, if you pay more than the threshold price of $25.36, you’ll also get our Complete Collection with all the later books in each series — nine more novels worth an additional $180…

(17) DON’T DO IT. From an interview in The Guardian: “String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’”.

You believe that within a century we will make contact with an alien civilisation. Are you worried about what they may entail?

Soon we’ll have the Webb telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at, and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.

(18) IT’S A THEORY. “Prehistoric cavemen starved themselves of oxygen to induce hallucinations and inspire their ancient paintings, study finds”Yahoo! News has the story.

Prehistoric cave dwellers living in Europe purposefully starved themselves of oxygen to hallucinate while creating their decorative wall paintings, a groundbreaking new study has found.

Researchers have been questioning for years why so many of the world’s oldest paintings were located in often pitch-black tunnel systems, far away from cave entrances.

But a recent study by Tel Aviv University now reveals that the location was deliberate because it induced oxygen deprivation and caused cavemen to experience a state called hypoxia.

Hypoxia can bring about symptoms including shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, and rapid heartbeat, which can lead to feelings of euphoria, near-death experiences, and out-of-body sensations. The team of researchers believes it would have been “very similar to when you are taking drugs”, the Times reported.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Alien:  Covenant Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, both the producer and the screenwriter agree that the film’s plot is so ridiculous that the screenwriter says “the movie falls apart if any character stops being dumb” and the producer asks, “do all the characters have brain damage, or what’s up?”

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, rcade, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Rich Horton, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]

Pixel Scroll 3/20/21 The Pixels Are Already Here — They’re Just Not Very Evenly Scrolled

(1) HOTROOTING. Eddie Kim tells why he looks forward to the production, and shares a Redwall-inspired recipe: “’Redwall’ Netflix TV Series: The Best Food Porn Ever Written” at Mel Magazine. (“GRRM wept,” says N., who sent the link.)

The world of Brian Jacques’ Redwall is rife with every manner of woodland creature, depicting the lives of mice, moles, squirrels, badgers and beyond in mythic detail. As a young boy, I fell in love with everything about the series — the intricately illustrated covers, the sweeping tales of battle and camaraderie and the idiosyncrasies of each animal community. Over the course of 23 (!!) thick novels, Jacques weaves a tapestry of narratives, builds a unique lifestyle, dialect and even diet around various tribes and timelines. 

I, being a Korean kid in Hawaii who loved the water, imagined myself as one of the river otters. They played hard, fought hard and adored the spicy flavor of hotroot in their foods. Just like me, I thought as I read another Redwall novel at the dinner table, eating spoonfuls of kimchi stew. 

It wasn’t just the otters’ favorite shrimp ‘n’ hotroot soup that I craved; I’m fairly certain the Redwall books radicalized me at a young age into a type-A obsessive about delicious food. No matter whether I was reading Eulalia! or Martin the Warrior, I knew the book would feature page after page of lusty food prose, especially if it was a celebratory feast held in Redwall Abbey or another enclave. The words are straight out of a Chez Panisse menu: “Tender freshwater shrimp garnished with cream and rose leaves, devilled barley pearls in acorn puree, apple and carrot chews, marinated cabbage stalks steeped in creamed white turnip with nutmeg … crusty country pasties, and these were being served with melted yellow cheese and rough hazelnut bread.”… 

(2) THE FELAPTON CUT. Camestros Felpaton has seen the elephant: “I watched Zak Snyder’s Justice League cut (slowly and pieces)”. (Don’t ask me where the “c” in Zack went.)

…This is very much a Zak Snyder film and contains all his intentional problems. It is pretentious, has lots of slow-mo, odd music-video like sequences, many people starring off into the distance to express their inner feelings and, of course, a colour palette that’s best described as “metallic”. The dialogue is grim. The characterisation is angst. It’s a clever but disaffected teenage kid’s idea that goofy comic books are essays on Nietzsche….

(3) POWER OF FIVE. This link waited patiently to be rediscovered in a cache of unopened February emails: James Davis Nicoll’s “Five SF Works That Explore the Mysteries of Alpha Centauri” at Tor.com.

… Not only is Alpha Centauri the nearest system to ours, two of its three stars are at least somewhat sunlike. Unsurprisingly, science fiction long ago saw the narrative potential offered by Alpha Centauri. Consider these five examples.

He begins with —

Alpha Centauri or Die! by Leigh Brackett (1963)

The Solar System is firmly under the thumb of an authoritarian government determined to bring peace with a stomping boot. While every reasonable need is filled, daily life is regimented and the space lanes are plied solely by robot ships. Not everyone is happy with this arrangement. The malcontents include among them men like Kirby—men with the skills to crew a one-way flight to Alpha Centauri and its known habitable world.

There are, of course, one or two catches. The State forbids such flights. The same robot ships that travel between the solar planets could follow the refugees to Alpha Centauri. Most importantly, there is a reason the Solar System’s authoritarian have never tried to annex Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri’s world may not be home to someone but it is definitely home to something. How it will react to invaders remains to be seen….

(4) GAMING HORROR IS HARD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the February 10 Financial Times, gaming columnist Tom Faber looks at the recent release of The Medium (set in “an abandoned Soviet resort”) to discuss whether video games can be as scary as horror movies.

I started out with the venerable Resident Evil series, which since 1996 has oscillated between survival-horror and action-oriented adventures, also spawning a surprisingly robust film franchise starring Milla Jovovich.  2017’s Resident Evil 7:  biohazard, due a sequel this May, seemed promisingly spooky at first.  I arrived at an abandoned house in the Louisiana bayou and felt genuinely unsettled by the ominous creaking noises of the house, the squalid family kitchen and the sculpture out front, a cross between Alexander Calder and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  Yes as soon as a monster emerged and I had to start waving an axe around, I mentally flipped into monster-fighting game mode and all the tension abruptly vanished.

Horror needs to be paced slowly to allow tension time to build, to hide its monsters in the shadows, but this is a hard proposition for games, a medium defined by interactivity and action.  A new breed of narrative horror games prioritises atmosphere over combat, including Soma and Amnesia by Swedish team Frictional Games, an eerie demo for a cancelled Silent Hill sequel called P.T., and Taiwanese game Devotion, a disturbing tale which was removed from online stores due to a controversial reference to Chinese premier Xi Jinping.

(5) THOSE MONEY QUOTES. Most of the story is behind a Wall Street Journal paywall, however, the introduction is entertaining: “Is It Time to Kill the Book Blurb?”

Pulitzer-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen would have preferred that his forthcoming book, The Committed, have no praise-laden blurbs at all, he says. “Kill it. Bury it. Dance on its grave. They create so much work, emotional labor and guilt, whether one is writing one or one is asking for one.”

Often fawning and sometimes composed after only a casual skim of the book, pre-publication endorsements have been an entrenched part of the publishing industry since Ralph Waldo Emerson mailed a little-known Walt Whitman a note about his first poetry collection, Leaves of Grass, in 1855. Sensing an opportunity, Whitman’s publisher emblazoned a standout line from Emerson’s letter on the second edition of the book’s spine in gold letters: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career. RW Emerson.”

As blurbs multiplied, however, the public’s distaste for them also grew. In 1936, George Orwell claimed that “the disgusting tripe that is written by the blurb-reviewers” was causing the public to turn away from novels altogether. “Novels are being shot at you at the rate of fifteen a day,” he wrote in an essay, “and every one of them an unforgettable masterpiece which you imperil your soul by missing.”…

(6) NOT COMING TO A TELEVISION NEAR YOU. That Hashtag Show believes “Star Wars Detours Leaked Episode Gives Us A New Hope for Disney+ Release”. Your lack of faith is disturbing.

Anyone ever heard of Star Wars Detours? No? It’s no surprise, since no one has aired it since its production. Ever since Disney bought up Lucasfilm, they’ve locked up this Star Wars animated parody series in their vaults and never looked back. With the leak of a single episode though, there may be a new hope that Star Wars Detours may come to Disney+.

A few days ago on November 29, 2020; someone leaked a single episode of the never-aired Star Wars Detours series onto Reddit. The episode featured the bounty hunters Zuckuss and 4-LOM attempting to rob Dex’s Diner, with decidedly mixed results. An all-star cast of Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, and more contributed to the situation with utmost hilarity.

No one know who leaked this episode or why. All we know is that as soon as the leak occurred, Disney was just as quick to take it down with a copyright strike. By then though, it might as well have been closing the barn door after the horse already got out. Even Disney can’t make us unsee what we’ve already saw. Yet.

(7) A TITANIC MISSION. How far will it have to sink? “Seven Hundred Leagues Beneath Titan’s Methane Seas”. (Likely behind a New York Times paywall.)

What could be more exciting than flying a helicopter over the deserts of Mars? How about playing Captain Nemo on Saturn’s large, foggy moon Titan — plumbing the depths of a methane ocean, dodging hydrocarbon icebergs and exploring an ancient, frigid shoreline of organic goo a billion miles from the sun?

Those are the visions that danced through my head recently. The eyes of humanity are on Mars these days. A convoy of robots, after a half-year in space, has been dropping, one after another, into orbit or straight to the ground on the Red Planet, like incoming jets at J.F.K. Among the cargo is a helicopter that armchair astronauts look forward to flying over the Martian sands.

But my own attention was diverted to the farther reaches of the solar system by the news that Kraken Mare, an ocean of methane on Titan, had recently been gauged for depth and probably went at least 1,000 feet down. That as deep as nuclear submarines will admit to going. The news rekindled my dreams of what I think would be the most romantic of space missions: a voyage on, and ultimately even under, the oceans of Titan…

(8) TALE END. SYFY Wire broadcasts a promise: “DuckTales creators say series finale is going to have a lot of pay offs”.

…[The] series finale is aiming to go bigger and grander, as it sees Clan McDuck face off against their most devious foes yet: a secret evil organisation called the Fiendish Organisation for World Larceny, otherwise known as F.O.W.L. Led by Bradford Buzzard, F.O.W.L. is not only the biggest and most widespread threat the family has ever gone up against during all this time adventuring, but its also one whose roots began quite close to the Money Bin home, with Bradford having served as the chairman of Scrooge’s company, with a seat on its board of directors at one point…. 

(9) HOW HE WANTED TO BE REMEMBERED. Only he would have said it in more flattering terms: “’Self-satisfied pork butcher’: Shakespeare grave effigy believed to be definitive likeness” reports The Guardian. An image is included at the article.

…The painted effigy is a half-height depiction of Shakespeare holding a quill, with a sheet of paper on a cushion in front of him. In the 17th century, a Jacobean sculptor called Gerard Johnson was identified as the artist behind it. Orlin believes that the limestone monument was in fact created by Nicholas Johnson, a tomb-maker, rather than his brother Gerard, a garden decorator….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1976 — Forty five years ago, Joe Haldeman wins a Hugo for The Forever War at MidAmeriCon which was held in Kansas City. It had been published by St. Martin’s Press the previous year. The novel would also win a Nebula Award, a Locus Award for Best Novel and the Australian Ditmar Award. It has never been out of print and has a sequel, Forever Peace

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 20, 43 B.C.E. – Ovid.   Among three great poets of Roman literature (with Virgil and Horace).  Known to us, and perhaps best known today, for his Metamorphoses, 15 books recounting fantastic legends e.g. Daedalus; many translations, from Golding’s (1567, used by Shakespeare) to Rolfe Humphries’ (rev. 2018): see this comparing Mary Innes’ (1955); Golding’s; Dryden, Garth & Co.’s (1727); and cussing about them.  (Died 17 C.E.) [JH]
  • Born March 20, 1868 – Ernest Bramah.  Orwell said What Might Have Been inspired Nineteen Eighty-Four; WMHB and two others are SF.  The Bravo of London and a score of shorter stories about Max Carrados are detective fiction, some being ours too.  Timeless for five books about the superb fantastic Kai Lung, who said e.g. “In shallow water dragons become the laughing-stock of shrimps”.  Website.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born March 20, 1941 – Steve Sneyd.  SFPA (SF Poetry Ass’n) Grand Master.  Six collections e.g. Bad News from the StarsMistaking the Nature of the Posthuman – he knew very well that omitting a hyphen brought in resonance with posthumous.  Four anthologies e.g. Laying Siege to Tomorrow.  Nonfiction.  Four hundred forty poems, three dozen short stories.  Handwritten fanzine Data Dump, 226 issues 1991-2016.  A note by me here.  Some of where he led me here.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born March 20, 1948 Pamela Sargent, 73, She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships, is the one I like the best. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a woman determined to terraform that world at all costs is quite good also, and there is the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels, so please do tell me about them. (CE) 
  • Born March 20, 1948 John de Lancie, 73. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse, though I was more fond of him as Janos Barton in Legend which stars Richard Dean Anderson (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it).  He also was Jack O’Neill enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar ManBattlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight ZoneMacGyverMission: Impossible (Australian edition), Get Smart, Again!Batman: The Animated Series, and I’m going to stop there. (CE)
  • Born March 20, 1950 William Hurt, 71. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, an amazing film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, an Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows in up in that not really bad Lost in Space film as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead follows for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby, performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s phenomenal Robin Hood, and in horror film Hellgate was Warren Mills. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of notes, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitized blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. The other role worth noting is him as Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands. (CE) 
  • Born March 20, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 66. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are amazingly excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set in either California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE) 
  • Born March 20, 1959 – Suzanne Francis, age 62.  Nine novels, including a novelization of Frozen.  From King’s Lynn, Norfolk, England, she went to Dunedin (rhymes with “need inn”), South Island, New Zealand, a UNESCO City of Literature.  [JH]
  • Born March 20, 1965 – Noreen Doyle, age 56.  Archaeologist and in particular Egyptologist.  Anthologies, The First Heroes with Harry Turtledove; Otherworldly Maine.  A dozen short stories.  Here is her cover for Spirits of Wood and Stone.  [JH]
  • Born March 20, 1974 – Andrzej Pilipiuk, age 47.  Forty novels, two dozen available in English; two dozen shorter stories.  Invented Jakub Wedrowycz (there should be a mark like a cedilla under the e, but the software won’t allow it), an alcoholic exorcist; in another series about a thousand-year-old teenage vampire, a 300-year-old alchemist-szlachcianka, and a former agent of CBS, the historical Michael Sendivogius sometimes appears.  [JH]
  • Born March 20, 1979 Freema Agyeman, 42. Best known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised that role briefly in Torchwood and for several Big Finish audioworks. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. She was on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. I don’t think it was recorded, more’s the pity. (CE) 

(12) NEVER GET AN ARTIST MAD AT YOU. They might do the monster mash – to you!Mental Floss unveils twelve “Secrets of Comic Book Artists”.

…Telling a sequential story across panels and pages is the purview of the comics artist, who must be accomplished in everything from the human anatomy to perspective to lighting. Whether they’re working with a writer or generating their own material, comic book artists must be versatile.

…To get more insight into how these fantasy illustrators operate, Mental Floss spoke to Coller and others. Here’s what they had to say about deadlines, owning their work, and getting penciled-in revenge….

8. COMIC ARTISTS CAN GET REVENGE IN THEIR ART.

It’s not uncommon for artists to use real people as models for their fictional characters—typically background or supporting figures. “You spend so many hours alone with a page that you get bored sometimes,” Jones says. “So you’ll draw your editors in the background.” Other times, it might be someone they’re annoyed with who meets an untimely end. “Maybe someone who has frustrated you becomes a bystander getting crushed.”

(13) DEAL OF THE DAY. Hey, I can’t afford it, but I’ve never seen an author make this offer before.

(15) LONG-DISTANCE MARRIAGE. [Item by David Doering.] I could have written this as an SF short story in the 70s. My home county, Utah County, will perform civil marriages via the Internet (as a Covid protection). However, it soon got noised about not just nationally, but internationally. Now couples in Israel who did not qualify to wed there could be officially married by a Utah administrator. As this article states, Israel will recognize marriages conducted by other countries, however — “Utah finds itself at the center of a new legal battle over Israel marriage rights” — at KSL.

Two Utah rabbis joined an administrative petition this week filed against the Israeli Interior Minister and the country’s population authority in an effort to lift an order that does not recognize civil marriages for Israeli couples completed through a Utah online system.

Israel carries strict religious rules regarding marriage but recognizes legal marriages done by other states.

…However, once Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri learned of the practice, he ordered the population authority to stop registering the couples and counting their marriage as legitimate. The petition was filed in an effort to reverse the ban and take it all the way to the country’s Supreme Court….

(15) ON THE REVERSE. In “The Trouble with Charlotte Perkins Gilman” at The Paris Review, Halle Butler says admirers of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s feminist sf and horror also have to take into account that  Gilman was a supporter of nativism and eugenics.

Herland, Gilman’s sci-fi novel about a land free of men, is an example of this. The inhabitants of Herland have no crime, no hunger, no conflict (also, notably, no sex, no art). They exist together in dreamlike harmony. Held one way, Herland is a gentle, maternal paradise, and the novel itself is a plea for allowing these feminine qualities to take part in the societal structure. Held another, we see how firmly their equality is based in their homogeneity. The novel’s twist is that the inhabitants of Herland are considering whether or not it would benefit them to reintroduce male qualities into their society, by way of sexual reproduction. Herland is a tale of the fully realized potential of eugenics, and for Gilman, it’s a utopia.

All of this is especially troubling when you consider that Gilman was a staunch and self-described nativist, rather than a self-described feminist, as the texts surrounding her rediscovery imply. Nativists believed in protecting the interests of native-born (or “established”) inhabitants above the interests of immigrants, and that mental capacities are innate, rather than teachable. Put bluntly, she was a Victorian white nationalist. When Gilman is described as a social reformer and activist, part of this was advocating for compulsory, militaristic labor camps for Black Americans (“A Suggestion on the Negro Problem,” 1908). Part of this is pleading for racial purity and stricter border policies, as in the sequel to Herland, or for sterilization and even death for the genetically inferior, as in her other serialized Forerunner novel, Moving the Mountain.

These ideas of Gilman’s are hard to reconcile with our current conception of her as a brave advocate against systems of oppression—a political hero with a few, forgivable flaws….

(16) HEATED EXCHANGE. Literary Hub recalls a sophisticated analysis offered to disprove the then-new theory of evolution: “Charles Darwin’s Great Uncertainty: Decoding the Age of Our Planet”.

…[William] Thomson was a man of faith but he had no truck with biblical literalists who believed the earth to be 6,000 years old. His position was that a slowly changing ancient earth stood in direct contradiction with the scientific principles that he had worked so hard to establish—that energy cannot be created or destroyed and that heat tends to dissipate. Using these laws, argued Thomson, it would be possible to estimate the age of the earth and investigate whether it was old enough for evolution to take place.

In April of 1862, he brought out a paper claiming that a thermodynamic analysis of the flow of heat in the earth showed directly that it must be younger than uniformitarians, and by extension Darwin, believed. It starts, “Essential principles of thermodynamics have been overlooked by geologists.” Dissipation was the key to Thomson’s argument. Observations from mine shafts and tunnels showed that the earth’s temperature increases with depth below the surface. Thomson’s friend the Scottish physicist J.D. Forbes, by taking measurements in and around Edinburgh, estimated that the earth’s temperature rose by one degree Fahrenheit for every 50 feet of descent. This persuaded Thomson that the earth was cooling, losing heat to the atmosphere.

Using elegant mathematics, Thomson combined Forbes’s measurements with others relating to the thermal conductivity and the melting point of rock. Even acknowledging uncertainties in the data, he concluded the earth’s age was somewhere between 20 million and 400 million years. This was far too short a time for evolution. Even if the older estimate was true, Thomson argued the earth would have been considerably hotter than it is now for most of its existence. Before around 20 million years ago, the temperature of the entire earth would have been so high that the whole globe was molten rock. Evolution’s requirement that the earth was much as it is now for eons defied thermodynamic sense.

Darwin was shaken. “Thomson’s views on the recent age of the world have been for some time one of my sorest troubles.” “I am greatly troubled at the short duration of the world according to Sir W Thomson.” “Then comes Sir W Thomson like an odious spectre”—these are lines from Darwin’s letters to friends. In turn, his allies felt unqualified to attack the physicist’s arguments and suggested that perhaps evolution worked faster than previously believed, a solution that didn’t satisfy Darwin….

(17) MARTIAN MINERAL WATER. “Mars’ Missing Water Might Be Hiding in Its Minerals”Smithsonian Magazine has the story.

The Martian landscape is an arid expanse of craters and sandstorms, but scientists have spotted several signs that at one point in its life, the Red Planet was awash with blue waters. Scientists have theorized that much of the planet’s water was lost to outer space as the atmosphere dissipated.

But the planet’s vast oceans couldn’t have been lost to space fast enough to account for other milestones in Mars’ existence. The water must have gone somewhere else. A new study presents a solution: the water became incorporated into the chemical makeup of the ground itself. The research uses new computer models and found that if Mars once had a global ocean between 328 and 4,900 feet deep, then a significant amount of that water might now be stored in the planet’s crust.

The study, published on March 16 in the journal Science and presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, incorporated data collected from Martian meteorites and by NASA’s Curiosity rover….

(18) RADIO ACTIVITY. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait says a new search tool finds “No alien signals found from 31 nearby Sun-like stars” at SYFY Wire.

The results? They detected 26,631,913 candidate signals. Yes, 26 million. Their new algorithm (which I’ll get to in a sec) screened out 26,588,893 of them (99.84%) as anthropogenic — that is, coming from humans. Radio transmissions, satellites, radar, and all sorts of human tech can emit radio waves, and they were able to find those pretty well and eliminate them.

Of those left, 90% or so were close enough to known radio frequency interference that they could be weeded out as well.

That left 4,539 candidate signals. They checked all those by hand, amazingly enough, and found…

… they too were all from radio interference. So, out of 26 million sources, not a single one was from aliens. Bummer*.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/15/21 Over 165 Days Without A Godstalk-Themed Scroll Title – Oops!

(1) ARKHAM ITEMS FOR SALE. John W. Knott, Jr. Bookseller is asking $415,000 for “AN ARKHAM HOUSE ARCHIVE: An important archive of material from the from the files of August Derleth, publisher and editor”.

…The Arkham House Archive contains over 4000 letters and documents related to publications issued by Arkham House, Mycroft & Moran and Stanton & Lee between 1939 and 1971, as well as correspondence and business papers related to Derleth’s activities as writer and editor for other publishers, including his editorial work as an anthologist in the 1940s and 1950s, and as a TV scriptwriter in the 1950s.
 This archive is a highly important collection of letters and documents. The core of the archive is correspondence, often extensive, from several hundred authors whose work Derleth published under his own imprints or in his highly important non-Arkham House anthologies published in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as manuscripts, mostly typewritten (including fair copies and carbons), submitted by Arkham House authors.

… These business papers largely predate the August William Derleth Papers held by the Wisconsin Historical Society, as “most of the pre-1963 materials were destroyed when this collection was originally processed, so substantially complete records survive only for the years between 1963 and 1970.”

(2) ROSWELL JUDGE. Light Bringer Project has introduced S.B. Divya as one of the Finalist Judges for the Roswell Award international short science fiction story competition from writers age 16 and older.

S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma. She enjoys subverting expectations and breaking stereotypes whenever she can. Divya is the Hugo and Nebula–nominated author of Runtime and co-editor of Escape Pod (anthology), with Mur Lafferty. Divya also co-host of the premier science fiction podcast magazine, Escape Pod

Her short stories have been published at various magazines including Analog, Uncanny, and Tor. Her collection, Contingency Plans For the Apocalypse and Other Situations, is out now from Hachette India. Machinehood is her debut novel from Saga Press. She holds degrees in computational neuroscience and signal processing, and she worked for twenty years as an electrical engineer before becoming an author.

Find out more about her at SBDivya.com or on Twitter as @DivyasTweets.

(3) JUSTICE LEAGUE. HBO Max dropped a second trailer for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

(4) NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 10 Financial Times, Tom Faber discusses how video games incorporate museums into their gaming.

In 2020’s Spider-Man:  Miles Morales, the hero is excluded from a science museum as a child but returns later as the titular web-slinger, leaping triumphantly between the wings of rockets suspended from the ceiling.  Here the museum space is shorthand for lost innocence, playing on gamers’ memories of school trips to exhibitions.  This same effect is pulled off more artfully in The Last Of Us Part II, which features a poignant flashback sequence in an abandoned museum of science and history.  In the ruined atrium, flooded with sunlight and overtaken by vines, the complex relationship between protagoinist Ellie and her father-figure Joel is infused with tenderness as they play on dinosaur skeletons and enter the command module of an Apollo spacecraft, forgetting the zombie-infested world outside for a few blissful moments.

In-game museums sometimes serve instead of meta-commentary, spaces where games tell the story of their own creation.  The joyous PS3 platformer Astro’s Playroom is a living exhibition of Sony’s greatest hits, while old Ratchet And Clank games contain secret levels which teach players about how developers created the game’s physics and environments.  Most imaginative is the post-credits museum of Call Of Duty 2:  Modern Warfare, remastered last year, where players can scrutinise character models, environments and weapons from the game.  Looking closely at each diorama–zooming in via the scope on your sniper rifle, naturally–reveals the extraordinary detail put into each component.  A tempting red button causes the exhibits to spring to life and attack.

(5) SMARTEST GUY IN THE ROOM? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt discusses how in 1958 he was approached to be on a quiz show called Brain or Brawn and he declined to appear.  Asimov writes, “I thought of Sprague de Camp, who managed to get on The $64,000 Question and who (for reasons known only to himself and God), chose motion pictures as his category, then muffed the very first question.”

I’d be interested in stories about fans and pros being on quiz shows.  Ray Bradbury appeared on an episode of You Bet Your Life in 1956.

(6) ERRONEOUS ZONE. “Off with their heads! Why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common online?”The Guardian searches for the answer.

… The White Rabbit never says, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” nor does the Mad Hatter say, “I am under no obligation to make sense to you.” The quote attributed to the Queen of Hearts – “That’s enough! Off with their head” – is almost right; she was after “heads”.

Dr Franziska Kohlt, editor of the Lewis Carroll Review, says she’s always spotting Carroll misquotes. “I saw a post about the coins on a collectors’ page, and almost automatically went checking for the quote, thinking, ‘Oh I hope they haven’t – oh no they have,” she said. “Misattributed Alice quotes are absolutely everywhere.”

Kohlt said that the “hurrier I go” and the “I am under no obligation!” quotes are “absolutely not Carroll quotes, as much as the internet insists”. “You wouldn’t believe how often we have to deal with these misquotes. I even find them in academic papers,” she said….

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • Anthony J. Lumsden conceived a design so advanced for the Van Nuys sewage facility that the building stood in for Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy (see it in Star Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).   6100 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys. (See “Scene It Before: The Japanese Garden from Star Trek” in Los Angeles Magazine.)

(8) JAMES FOLLETT OBIT. British writer James Follett (1939-2021) died January 10. Blake’s 7 fans knew him as the scriptwriter for the “Stardrive” and “Dawn of the Gods” episodes. In the Seventies he wrote many genre plays for BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Theatre, Just Before Midnight, and Saturday Night Theatre. In the Eighties he created Radio 4’s acclaimed SF serial Earthsearch, and later wrote three novels based on it. Altogether he wrote 11 sff novels, several computer games, and many radio and TV scripts. (He was the cousin of Ken Folett.)

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 15, 1981 — On this date in 1981, Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Roger Ebert who despised it with all of his soul, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy sixty four percent rating among audience reviewers. The same cannot be said for the sequels which have ratings of seventeen and eighteen percent among those same reviewers. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 15, 1852 – Augusta, Lady Gregory.  Folklorist, playwright, theatre manager.  Vital to Irish Literary Revival.  For us, collected and retold Irish tales e.g. “The Three Sons”, Cuchulain of Muirthemne.  Bernard Shaw called her the greatest living Irishwoman.  (Died 1932) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series. (Is it genre? You decide. I think it is.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1943 David Cronenberg, 78. Not a Director whose tastes are at all squeamish. His best films? I’d pick VideodromeThe FlyNaked Lunch and The Dead Zone.Though I’m tempted to toss Scanners in that list as well. ISFDB says he has one genre novel, Consumed, which garnered a Bram Stoker Award nominated for A Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Oh and he was in the film version of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1926 – Rosel Brown.  Three novels (one with Keith Laumer), two dozen shorter stories.  Recent reprint collection Earthblood (6 by RB, 3 by KL, 1 by both).  Had an M.A. in Greek, too.  (Died 1967) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1933 – Al Lewis, age 88.  Chaired Westercon 15.  Long active in LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society); first to receive its Evans-Freehafer Award (service).  Produced The Genie and The Musquite Kid Rides Again, famous in song and story.  [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1937 – Dan Adkins.  A dozen covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Fanart for e.g. Double:Bill (he has five in this issue – PDF), VegaXero (he’s in The Best of “Xero”), Yandro.  Fanzine, Sata (later by Bill Pearson).  Here is the Nov 66 If.  Here is the Jul 69 Galaxy.  Here is the Sep 71 Amazing.  Later worked with Wally Wood and for DC, Marvel, Dell.  Here is Doctor Strange 169.  Here is an interview by Roy Thomas.  Sinott Hall of Fame.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1948 Carl Weathers, 73. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other genre creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly The Sasquatch Gang comedy and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very, very not genre. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 72. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes BackRaiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas which is quite superb. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 59. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of  Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. Not at all surprisingly,she has also appeared as Stewart as the lead in myriad UNIT adventures for Big Finish Productions. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1965 – James Barclay, age 56.  A dozen novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Guest of Honour at FantasyCon 2008, Master of Ceremonies at FantasyCon 2010.  “Barclay Rambles On” in BFS Journal 10 (British Fantasy Society).  Two children, two dogs – meaning a total of four, not two.  [JH]
  • Born March 15, 1967 Emily Watson, 54. Her first genre appearance is in Equilibrium as Mary O’Brien before voicing Victoria Everglot in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Next is she’s Anne MacMorrow in the Celtic fantasy The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. She appeared apparently in a Nineties radio production of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase but I’ve no information on it. (CE) 
  • Born March 15, 1980 – Julie Cross, age 41.  Three novels, one shorter story for us; several others.  NY Times and USA Today Best-Seller.  Gymnast and coach.  Has read The OdysseyNative SonOne Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  [JH]

(11) PROLIFIC EDITOR. Two-time Hugo winner John Joseph Adams is heard from in Odyssey Podcast #136: John Joseph Adams at the Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog.

John Joseph Adams was a guest lecturer at the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. In this excerpt from a question and answer session, he talks about worldbuilding and what he’d most like to see in submissions.

John is the editor of John Joseph Adams Books, a science fiction and fantasy imprint from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is also the series editor of Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well as the bestselling editor of more than thirty anthologies, including Dead Man’s HandRobot UprisingsOz ReimaginedThe Mad Scientist’s Guide to World DominationOther Worlds Than TheseArmoredUnder the Moons of MarsBrave New WorldsWastelandsThe Living DeadThe Living Dead 2By Blood We LiveFederationsThe Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Way of the Wizard.

Recent books include Cosmic PowersWhat the #@&% Is That?Operation ArcanaPress Start to PlayLoosed Upon the World, and The Apocalypse Triptych.

 John is also the editor and publisher of the magazines Lightspeed and Nightmare.

(12) THE FIRST. Mental Floss celebrates “11 Facts About Donna Shirley, the First Woman to Manage a NASA Program”.

2. DONNA SHIRLEY WAS INSPIRED BY SCI-FI NOVELISTS RAY BRADBURY AND ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

At age 12, Shirley discovered—and devoured—Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles at the Wynnewood public library. Her earthbound teenage endeavors included editing her high school yearbook and playing cymbals in the marching band, but her space dreams were powered by Jimmy, the protagonist of Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sands of Mars, who makes a seven-month voyage to the planet. In her 1998 autobiography Managing Martians, Shirley recalled, “Clarke described a world that was my ideal of community and comradeship.”

(13) SET IN DC. In the Washington Post, Fritz Hahn, Anyang Guo, and Angela Haupt ask various people for their favorite books set in Washington.  Michael Dirda recommends This Shared Dream by Kathleen Ann Goonan, set in an alternate universe 1991 where JFK wasn’t assassinated and Martin Luther King becomes U.N. ambassador. “The best books about Washington D.C.”. One other sff novel is mentioned —

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders

I had often passed beautiful Oak Hill Cemetery on my walks around the city, but I didn’t get obsessed with it until I read “Lincoln in the Bardo,” a novel that might be described as a phantasmagoric “Spoon River Anthology” with footnotes. Set at the cemetery, and told by ghosts, it’s hilarious, disturbing and poignant by turn. George Saunders was inspired to write it after hearing about Lincoln’s visits to the cemetery to see his young son Willie, who temporarily lay in the Carroll Family Mausoleum after his death in 1862. The first time I tried to visit Oak Hill it was closing time, but an employee told me I could get a key and enter any time if I bought a plot, an idea I haven’t entirely ruled out. In the meantime I’ll make due with visiting hours.

— Julie Langsdorf, author of “White Elephant”

(14) MUPPET KNOWLEDGE. In “The Muppets Find Out Which Muppet They Are” on YouTube, the Muppets take BuzzFeed’s Muppet quiz to determine which Muppet they are, a process one Muppet called “very meta.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “300 Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says that 300 is set in Sparta, “a Greek city state where shirts have been outlawed” and the film consists of “slow-motion fight scenes with very muscular men wearing very tight thongs.”

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