Pixel Scroll 9/20/21 Something Is Pixelling But You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You, Mr. Scroll?

(1) SOMTOW’S FILM WINS AWARD. This past weekend Somtow Sucharitkul and an orchestra flew in to do a concert at the Oldenburg International Film Festival — the biggest indie fest in Europe, “Sundance of Europe.” The music selected for the occasion, he says, “included all sorts of great music appropriate to our field including the 1922 score from Nosferatu and the ‘classic’ overture to Piranha II.”

The festival audience also witnessed the premiere of The Maestro, a film made with director Paul Spurrier, with Somtow’s score and onscreen performance.  (See File 770’s post about the making of The Maestro.)

In the video below you can watch the entire concert of film music at the Oldenburg Festival — followed by Somtow’s surprise at receiving the Spirit of Cinema Award 2021 for The Maestro.

Oldenburg Festival founder and director Torsten Neumann (left) Somtow Sucharitkul (right)

(2) NO EMMYS FOR SFF SHOWS. The Primetime Emmy Awards aired last night but I don’t have a post up about them because “Sci-fi and fantasy shows completely shut out of Primetime Emmys”, as explained at Winter Is Coming.

… And while series like WandaVision and The Mandalorian cleaned up at the Creative Arts Emmys, which awards more technical categories like production design and costuming, they came up empty at the Primetime Emmys, which rightly or wrongly are considered to be more prestigious….

(3) NEW LEM TRANSLATION. Stanislaw Lem’s 1964 story, published in English for the first time, tells the tale of a scientist in an insane asylum theorizing that the sun is alive. “The Truth, by Stanislaw Lem”, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, is part of a new collection and a free read at The MIT Press Reader.

Here I sit writing in a locked room, where the door has no handle and the windows can’t be opened. They’re made of unbreakable glass. I tried. Not out of a wish to escape or out of rabid fury, I just wanted to be sure. I’m writing at a walnut table. I have plenty of paper. I’m allowed to write. Except no one will ever read it. But I’m writing anyway. I don’t want to be alone, and I can’t read. Everything they give me to read is a lie, the letters start to jump before my eyes and I lose patience. None of what’s in them has been of the least concern to me ever since I realized how things really are….

(4) MARCIA LUCAS’ OPINION ABOUT SW SEQUELS. From Marcia Lucas’ foreword in a new biography about Howard Kazanjian.

IGN continues, in “Marcia Lucas Was ‘Furious’ Over Star Wars Sequel Trilogy: ‘They Don’t Get It’”.

…And perhaps to set the record straight, Lucas also directs her wrath at her ex-husband’s prequel trilogy, revealing her disappointment in Episode I literally brought her to tears in 1999.

“I remember going out to the parking lot, sitting in my car and crying,” Lucas writes. “I cried. I cried because I didn’t think it was very good. And I thought [George] had such a rich vein to mine, a rich palette to tell stories with… There were things I didn’t like about the casting, and things I didn’t like about the story, and things I didn’t like — it was a lot of eye candy. CG.”…

(5) DUNE, ON THE BIG AND BIGGER SCREEN. “’Dune’ Earns $36.8M in Overseas Debut”The Hollywood Reporter has a breakdown.

The highly anticipated Legendary/Warner Bros. movie opened overseas to $36.8 million across 24 markets and 7,819 screens. Russia led international tickets sales with $7.6 million, followed by France ($7.5 million), Germany ($4.9 million) and Italy ($2.6 million).

Dune‘s giant-format ticket sales were a particular stand-out, with the movie earning $3.6 million in Imax ticket sales from 142 screens, making its per-screen Imax average an astounding $25,000. The Imax ticket sales made up 10 percent of the movie’s total international take. The movie was shot for large-format viewing, with the Imax version featuring an exclusive expanded aspect ratio….

(6) IN CASE YOU WANT TO KNOW. Deadline has a vast calendar of when shows will begin airing: “Fall TV Premiere Dates 2021: New and Returning Series”.

Deadline’s comprehensive annual list of fall premiere dates for new series and new seasons of returning series. It covers more than 450 broadcast, cable and streaming shows bowing from September 1 through December 31

(7) SOUNDS OF SILENCE. I’m gradually working my way through SF Signal’s blogroll. It was compiled years ago and many of the authors have in the interim changed to another platform or dropped blogging for other alternatives. Justine Larbalastier explains why she moved on from Twitter in “Why I Left Twitter, or, the Last Day of 2019”, and left  blogging in “The Importance of Masks”, posted in July 2020.

…I haven’t been blogging because I missed the community that used to be here. When this was a regular blog there was a wonderful conversation in response to almost every post. I’m finding blogging here to silence soul sucking.

I miss the community of the old days but I accept those days are gone. The conversations now unfold on social media.

I have found an engaged community on Instagram ready and willing to discuss the intersections of fashion and politics during this pandemic and there are no trolls. I’m loving it. So I post my mini essays there. I will continue to post longer essays here and will soon be updating this site with my fashion research.

I don’t foresee returning to Twitter anytime soon. It was too depressing. I miss those of you I no longer interact with, but my mental health is so much better since I left. So . . .

(8) RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN 1840. Barbara Hambly, who is still at it, recently migrated her blogging activity to Barbarahambly.blogspot.com as she notes in “Experimental Post #2”.

And here we are, at my new blog. The website is yet to come, and for the first couple of weeks I’ll be buried in a deadline: Benjamin January # 19, Death and Hard Cider, which takes place against the background of the 1840 Presidential election. I thought about calling it, “Tippecanoe and Murder, Too,” but realized that a lot of people won’t understand the reference to the campaign of William Henry Harrison. That was the first “modern” style Presidential campaign, with songs, rallies, women’s auxiliary organizations (even though women couldn’t vote – the guys found them convenient for providing refreshments at the rallies, and Harrison’s opponents railed against those hussies for handing out leaflets and reading newspapers and having opinions about the politics of their betters)….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1979 – Forty-two years ago on this evening, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century first aired on NBC. It was developed by Glen Larson who created Battlestar Galactica and Leslie Stevens who created Outer Limits. It is of course based on characters created by Philip Francis Nowlan. The only cast that counts was Gil Gerard as Captain William “Buck” Rogers and Erin Gray as Colonel Wilma Deering. Oh, and Mel Blanc in the first season voicing Twiki. It lasted but two seasons of thirty-seven episodes. Buster Crabbe who played Buck Rogers in the original thirties Buck Rogers film serial would play Brigadier Gordon in an episode here. It’s worth noting that the series re-used most of the props, star fighters, stages, some of the effects film and even costumes from Battlestar Galactica. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1935 — Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel.  I’ve also read his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock. Interestingly he has four BSFA Awards including ones for the artwork for the cover of his own first edition of Kaeti & Company. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 20, 1940 — Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 20, 1950 — James Blaylock, 71. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. I see the usual suspects don’t have much by him but they do have two Langdon St. Ives tales, Homunclus and Beneath London.
  • Born September 20, 1951 — JoAnna Cameron, 70. I’ve previously mentioned in passing Shazam!, a Seventies children’s series done by Filmation. Well she was the lead on Isis, another Filmation children’s series done at the same time. Her only genre appearance was a brief one in the Amazing Spider-Man series. Anyone here seen it? I don’t remember seeing it. 
  • Born September 20, 1955 — David Haig, 66. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7 in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet inThe Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally I should I should he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back.
  • Born September 20, 1974 — Owen Sheers, 47. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in  the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series.
  • Born September 20, 1986 — Aldis Hodge, 35. He played Alec Hardison on the Leverage series which just got a reboot. Ok, I know it’s not precisely genre but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use of technology in that series are keeping with the MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek: Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD. “Whistle, Gotham City’s latest superhero, is Jewish. It’s a full-circle moment for the comics industry” reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

It turns out that Batman’s hometown of Gotham City has a historically Jewish neighborhood, complete with a synagogue. And for this year’s High Holidays, at least one masked superhero will be worshipping there. 

Her name is Whistle, a.k.a. Willow Zimmerman, and she’s a Jewish superhero — DC Comics’ first to be explicitly created as Jewish in 44 years. She’s an activist-turned-masked-crusader who draws inspiration from Jewish teachings; she develops the ability to talk to dogs; and she’s making her debut this month in “Whistle: A New Gotham City Superhero,” a graphic novel geared to young adults.

“There’s a long and fascinating history of Jewish creators in comics,” the book’s author and character creator, E. Lockhart, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Superman, Batman and Spider-Man were all invented by Jewish men, and scholars have interpreted them through a variety of lenses that take that into account. But while there have certainly been Jewish superheroes before, Whistle is the first Jewish hero to originate as Jewish from DC Comics since 1977.”

Lockhart was referring to Seraph, a superhero from Israel who helped Superman in “Super Friends #7? before immediately falling out of the public eye. 

(13) TWENTY ACROSS. Catherynne M. Valente celebrated on Facebook her appearance as a clue in a Washington Post crossword puzzle.

(14) NEIGHBORHOOD READY TO BEAM UP. Janice L. Newman tells Galactic Journey readers about their new (in 1966) television-watching tradition: “[September 20, 1966] In the hands of an adolescent (Star Trek’s ‘Charlie X’)”.

….It’s official, we now have a “Star Trek” night at our house each week, when we gather our friends and watch the latest episode. Though we’ve only watched two episodes so far, the show is off to an interesting start! This week we saw “Charlie X”, which had thematic similarities to both of the pilots we saw at Tricon….

(Tricon was “this year’s” Worldcon in Cleveland.)

(15) LIKE THE TUNGUSKA EVENT? It’s a theory. “A giant space rock demolished an ancient Middle Eastern city and everyone in it – possibly inspiring the Biblical story of Sodom” reports Yahoo!

…Experiments with laboratory furnaces showed that the bubbled pottery and mudbricks at Tall el-Hammam liquefied at temperatures above 2,700 F (1,500 C). That’s hot enough to melt an automobile within minutes.

The destruction layer also contains tiny balls of melted material smaller than airborne dust particles. Called spherules, they are made of vaporized iron and sand that melted at about 2,900 F (1,590 C).

In addition, the surfaces of the pottery and meltglass are speckled with tiny melted metallic grains, including iridium with a melting point of 4,435 F (2,466 C), platinum that melts at 3,215 F (1,768 C) and zirconium silicate at 2,800 F (1,540 C).

Together, all this evidence shows that temperatures in the city rose higher than those of volcanoes, warfare and normal city fires. The only natural process left is a cosmic impact….

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in to tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where contestants had trouble connecting this chemistry lesson with a famous film.

Final Jeopardy: 1980s Movies

Answer: The dip used to kill characters in this 1988 film consisted of Acetone, Benzene & Turpentine, ingredients in paint thinner.

Wrong questions: What is “Dune?” and “What is Raiders of the Lost Ark?”

Right question: What is, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

(17) MOVIE HISTORY UP FOR BIDDING. Heritage Auction’s “Monsters & Friends: Featuring The Kevin Burns Collection” event November 5-7 will include many prime items, including these two:

First, Producer Stanley Bergerman’s Personal Copy of the Universal Pictures Script for Frankenstein (1931). A vintage studio bound and bradded, 99-page screenplay for the Classic Horror movie, Frankenstein. Stanley Bergerman was Universal Studios head, Carl Laemmle’s, son-in-law and a Producer. The oversized script is filled with the content that became one of the greatest monster movies of all time. Second, The Wizard of Oz Metro Goldwyn Mayer Clapperboard (1938). A large vintage wooden clapperboard with metal-hinged clapstick, hand lettered in white on the black painted front face, “Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Wizard Of Oz, Director – Victor Fleming, Camera – Harold Rosson,” and dated, at the bottom of the board, “11-6-1938.” 

[Thanks to JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Will R., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Randall M.]

Pixel Scroll 9/5/21 Scrollers Of The Purple Pixel

(1) LISTEN UP. Connie Willis proclaimed to Facebook readers “PRIMEVAL IS BACK!!!” (Hey, my ears may be deaf but my eyes aren’t!)

I just saw that the first two seasons of PRIMEVAL, the British science-fiction series, is now available from Britbox, and I thought it was a good time to encourage anybody who hasn’t seen it so far to take a look at it. That is, if there’s anybody left who I haven’t already told they HAVE to watch this series–

I have recommended it so many times that it’s become a standing joke in science fiction circles (I somehow figure out a way to mention it on every single panel) and Locus has forbidden me to mention it at the Locus Awards Banquet. As if that could stop me!

I know it sounds like I’m obsessed with the series, but so was Kit Reed, one of my favorite science-fiction writers of all time (see her brilliant short stories, “The Wait” and “Great escape Tours, Ltd.”) and nearly everybody I’ve ever introduced it to has loved it. (One couple took it on a beach weekend and ended up never going outside the entire time because they were binge-watching.)…

You know anything forbidden by Locus is mandatory here….

 … So, basically, the A-team with dinosaurs. So far, it’s completely formula, and you think the hunky guy and the pretty blonde will obviously get together, the geeky nerd will provide the plot explication and comic relief, the professor and the bureaucrat will flirt with each other, etc. but that only lasts for an episode or two, and then things start to get really interesting….

(2) SVENGOOLIE LENDS A HAND. Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications is one of five selected to host a special John Oliver exhibit. Horror-themed TV host Svengoolie told his fans how he helped with the successful pitch to Oliver, and that some of his items will be displayed by the Museum.

Tapped by Emmy-winning writer, comedian and television host John Oliver, the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) announced today it is one of only five museums in the country receiving an art display featured on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The special exhibit opens Oct. 2 through Oct. 26, 2021. In addition to winning the honor through a national competition, the Museum also receives $10,000 from Last Week Tonight. The MBC’s designated charity, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, also will receive a $10,000 donation.

… The national competition began after Oliver’s 2020 segment about the harsh effects of the global pandemic on small museums. Oliver wanted to help. He called for submissions from museums that wanted to compete for displaying items from his Masterpiece Gallery collection. The Museum responded with a humorous video pitch using the power of broadcast to communicate important stories and influence audiences….

Admission is free, but the Museum has suggested that visitors bring a non-perishable food donation which will go, along with the $10,000 donation, to the Greater Chicago Food depository.

(3) TV TUNES. The theme songs of four genre shows made it into The Guardian’s top 20, although it was crime series “Inspector Morse voted No 1 theme song in poll of TV and music fans”.

4 Game of Thrones – Ramin Djawadi
13 Doctor Who – Ron Grainer
14 The Lone Ranger (William Tell Overture) – Gioachino Rossini
19 Thunderbirds – Barry Gray

(4) DON’T TOUCH THAT DIAL. The latest (in 1966) British sff sensation is on black-and-white TV. Let Galactic Journey tell you all about it: “[September 4, 1966] British Science Fiction Lives! (Alien Worlds #1 & New Writings in SF #9)”.

Move over James Bond and John Steed, there is a new dashing science fictional spy on the scene. I am of course referring to the latest hit from the team behind Doctor WhoAdam Adamant Lives!

An old-fashioned Victorian swashbuckling hero, Adam Adamant is frozen by a masked supervillain and buried under London. After being found by a construction crew, he finds himself resurrected in the strange world of London in 1966. Teaming up with a young mod woman named Georgina Jones, they solve unusual crimes such as satanic aristocrats or a soap manufacturer drugging the nation with plastic flowers.

(5) TWO THUMBS UP. A pair of early reviews of Denis Villenueve’s Dune are quite favorable.

The Guardian’s Xan Brooks calls Dune “Blockbuster cinema at its dizzying, dazzling best”.

Dune reminds us what a Hollywood blockbuster can be. Implicitly, its message written again and again in the sand, Denis Villeneuve’s fantasy epic tells us that big-budget spectaculars don’t have to be dumb or hyperactive, that it’s possible to allow the odd quiet passage amid the explosions. Adapted from Frank Herbert’s 60s opus, Dune is dense, moody and quite often sublime – the missing link bridging the multiplex and the arthouse. Encountering it here was like stumbling across some fabulous lost tribe, or a breakaway branch of America’s founding fathers who laid out the template for a different and better New World.

The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey says the “Spectacular sci-fi adaptation is this generation’s Lord of the Rings”.

… Villeneuve’s Dune is the sandworm exploding out from the darkness below. It is a film of such literal and emotional largeness that it overwhelms the senses. If all goes well, it should reinvigorate the book’s legacy in the same way Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy did for JRR Tolkien’s work. Indeed, much like Jackson, Villeneuve has a certain pliancy to his vision that, in this case, has been his saving grace. Arrival and Prisoners, two of his previous films, may have possessed their own distinctive look but, when it came to Blade Runner 2049, his belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, it spoke fluently in the language of what came before….

(6) DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Photo of myself (right) and Tony Edwards of Delta SF Film Group. Tony is wearing his Knight of St. Fantony jacket. The pic was taken at 2019’s Festival of Fantastic Films.

Tony Edwards (L), Jonathan Cowie (R)

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • 1942 – Seventy-nine years ago on this date, “The Impatient Patient,” a Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon short featuring Daffy Duck and Dr. Jekyll premiered. The cartoon is set in Jekyll’s mad scientist’s laboratory. It was produced by Leon Schlesinger and directed by Norman McCabe. The story by Don Christensen. It starred Mel Blanc. In 1968, a redrawn color edition would be re-released and in 1992, a computer colorized version came out. Animation fans detest both of these versions. You can watch the original version here as it’s in the public domain.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 — Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played a series of androids in I, Mudd, a quite classic Trek episode. Both appeared as police women in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. They only acted for three years and every appearance of their total seven appearances by one was with the other. (Alyce died 2005; Rhae died 2009.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 — Donna Anderson, 82. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neville Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels. The first is a Sixties skinflick, the second is a Seventies exploitation film. She last shows up in a genre role series in The Incredible Hulk
  • Born September 5, 1939 — George Lazenby, 82. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. His turn as Bond was the shortest among the actors in the film franchise and he is the only Bond actor not to appear beyond a single film. (He was also the youngest actor cast as Bond, at age 29, and the only born outside of the British Isles.) Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was also a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. He voiced the Royal Flush King in a recurring role in the Batman Beyond series. 
  • Born September 5, 1940 — Raquel Welch, 81. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though she made One Million Years B.C. thatwith her leather bikini got her much more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 — Michael Keaton, 70. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming. He reprises that role as in Marvel’s upcoming Morbius film.
  • Born September 5, 1959 — Carolyne Larrington, 62. Norse history and culture academic who’s the author of The Land of the Green Man: A Journey Through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles and Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones. She also wrote “Norse gods make a comeback thanks to Neil Gaiman – here’s why their appeal endures” for The Conversation.
  • Born September 5, 1964 — Stephen Greenhorn, 57. Scriptwriter who written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series whichJodie Whittaker and Alex Kingston appeared in. He also wrote the Mind Shadows strip which was featured on the Who website.
  • Born September 5, 1973 — Rose McGowan, 48. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in Planet Terror and Pam in Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld on all the hoops people will be expected to jump through upon the arrival of the next big book.

(10) GAIMAN INSPIRATION. “HBO Max orders ‘Dead Boy Detectives’ pilot from Greg Berlanti”SYFY Wire has the story.

Greg Berlanti‘s involvement with the DC Universe on the small screen is expanding once again. Variety has confirmed the Arrowverse producer extraordinaire is teaming up with HBO Max for a pilot of Dead Boy Detectives, a DC/Vertigo comic inspired by the Sandman universe created by Neil Gaiman.

Written by Mark Buckingham and Toby Litt (Buckingham also served as illustrator), the book follows a pair of deceased boys — Charles Rowland and Edwin Paine — who forego a ticket to the afterlife in order to remain on Earth, solving mysteries via supernatural means. Think Constantine meets The Hardy Boys.

(11) HE RODE A BLAZING CREDENTIAL. “George Takei teamed up w/ Mel Brooks in film inspired by Blazing Saddles” reports RedShirtsAlwaysDie.

Fans rightfully so give William Shatner props for still working at 90 years old, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only original Star Trek actor still going strong these days. George Takei is 84 years old and is himself still acting. Takei even has a major project coming up with the famed Mel Brooks (who’s 95 years old himself).

The new project is called Blazing Samurai and features a loaded cast. Names like Michael Cera, Samuel L. Jackson, Ricky Gervais, Gabriel Iglesias, Djimon Honsou, and Star Trek: Discovery’s very own Michelle Yeoh. The man himself, Brooks, will also be lending his voice to the animated feature.

The film is based on Brooks’ own Blazing Saddles comedy and will center around Hank, played by Cera, who is a dog that wants to become a samurai. Jackson plays a cat, and Gervais plays the evil villain….

(12) YOU BET YOUR LIFE. This time they mean it. Coming to Netflix: Korean sf. “Squid Game Official Teaser #1” with English subtitles.

How far would you go for 45.6 billion won? Welcome to Squid Game, a mysterious survival game that could change your fortune for good. The only cost to play? Your life.

(13) WORLD FANTASY HEAD START. Lela E. Buis, in “That Concludes the 2021 World Fantasy Award Reviews”, rounds up the links to all 15 fiction reviews.

(14) MR. SCI-FI. Marc Scott Zicree tells viewers “Why I Love Used Books!”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A visit to Walt Disney’s house, featuring animator Floyd Norman and Disney historian Don Hahn.

From legendary filmmaker Don Hahn and Disney Files Magazine Editor Ryan March comes “Disney Drop-In,” a Disney Vacation Club series of unscripted videos filmed in interesting Disney places with equally interesting Disney people. In this episode, Don Hahn leads Disney Legend Floyd Norman on a tour of Walt Disney’s historic home on Woking Way in Los Angeles, California.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/23/21 Your Scroll, The La Pixela, Is On File

(1) INTERNATIONAL SERIES AWARD TAKING ENTRIES. The Sara Douglass Book Series Award judging panel welcomes entries for the 2021 award. The deadline to enter is September 30. See full guidelines at the link.

  • The third iteration of the Sara is underway in 2021, covering series ending (in original publication anywhere in the world) between January 2018 and December 2020.
  • The current judging year is deliberately excluded. This permits an earlier submissions deadline to allow adequate time for the judges to consider all works entered….

(2) REMEMBERING LOSS. In “The Grief in Memories”, a guest post at Stone Soup, TJ Klune frankly discusses personal experiences with death and grief and how they informed his new novel Under the Whispering Door.

… I know grief. I do. Chances are you do too. If you live long enough to learn what love is, you’ll know loss. Though no two people will grieve the same way, there’s still something universal about it, the way it changes us. It makes us feel like our hearts are being torn from our chests. It makes us furious, ranting and raving at the unfairness of it all. It’s all-consuming, this great thing that wraps itself around us and refuses to let go….

(3) FANAC.ORG. One of the fanzines now available at Fanac.org is a rarity mentioned in Ed Meskys’ obituary a few weeks ago. (“Peggy Rae McKnight (later Sapienza) began publishing Etwas in 1960; ‘We traded fanzines at the time, her Etwas (German for something) for my Niekas (Lithuanian for nothing).’”)

Etwas, Peggy Rae McKnight. Added the full 7 issue run of this early 1960s fanzine by Peggy Rae. Peggy Rae McKnight of course is Peggy Rae McKnight Pavlat Sapienza. Contributors include Harry Warner, Jr., Les Gerber, Ozzie Train, and others. The shorter issues may be more like perzines.

(4) PARTY LIKE IT’S 2010 AGAIN. As part of the Bradbury birthday commemoration, Phil Nichols produced a bonus episode of Bradbury 100 LIVE! In the 90th birthday video clip you can see all kinds of people, like the late George Clayton Johnson, Marc Scott Zicree, and John King Tarpinian (even though he’s trying to be invisible.)

On the eve of Ray Bradbury’s 101st birthday, I ran Bradbury 100 LIVE – a livestream version of my Bradbury 100 podcast. Joing me via Zoom was Steven Paul Leiva: novelist, friend of Ray Bradbury, and former Hollywood animation producer. This live show includes never-before-seen photos and video from Ray’s 90th birthday party, held in Glendale California in 2010. And we talk at length about one of Ray’s “lost” films, Little Nemo In Slumberland. We also discuss legendary animator Chuck Jones, who was a friend of Ray’s, and who was significant to the origin of The Halloween Tree and the abandoned Nemo project.

(5) WELL, EXCUSE MEEE. Despite popular demand, “John Cleese to explore cancel culture in new Channel 4 documentary” reports Radio Times.

British comedy legend John Cleese will be exploring cancel culture in a new documentary series for Channel 4.

The series – which is to be titled John Cleese: Cancel Me – will see the Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star “explore why a new ‘woke’ generation is trying to rewrite the rules on what can and can’t be said”.

Throughout the series, the comedian will talk to a variety of people – including some famous faces who claim to have been ‘cancelled’ and others who have campaigned against comedians and programmes – to ask if it is possible to create comedy without causing offence….

(6) LEGAL MANEUVERING. In the Scarlett Johansson-Disney lawsuit, the latter has filed a motion to send the matter to binding arbitration. “Disney pushes for private arbitration in Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ lawsuit” at USA Today.

Disney has filed a motion to settle a lawsuit brought by “Black Widow” star Scarlett Johansson behind closed doors. 

The motion was filed to Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday afternoon by Disney attorney Daniel Petrocelli. In documents obtained by USA TODAY, Petrocelli argued that the contract between Disney and Periwinkle Entertainment Inc., the company representing Johansson, included an agreement to settle any disputes through “binding arbitration” in New York City. 

Disney’s request for arbitration is the company’s first filing in the case since Johansson filed suit on July 29, alleging her contract with Marvel was breached when “Black Widow” was released on the Disney+ streaming service at the same time as in theaters. 

In Friday’s filing, Disney argued the complaint put forth by Johansson and Periwinkle Entertainment has “no merit.” 

“There is nothing in the Agreement requiring that a ‘wide theatrical release’ also be an ‘exclusive’ theatrical release,” Petrocelli wrote. 

Petrocelli cited box office numbers, noting that the combined opening weekend revenue from ticket sales in theaters and Disney + Premiere Access receipts totaled more than $135 million. That surpassed other Marvel Cinematic Universe films that were released before the pandemic, including “Thor: The Dark World,” “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Petrocelli wrote. 

“Disney is now, predictably, trying to hide its misconduct in a confidential arbitration,” Johansson’s attorney John Berlinski told USA TODAY in a statement. “Why is Disney so afraid of litigating this case in public?”…

(7) THE TIME OF DAY. James Davis Nicoll reaches for the shelf with “Classic SF Featuring Planets With Very Long or Very Short Days” at Tor.com.

…SF authors have noticed this and written books about planets/planetesimals with different day lengths. Consider these five vintage works.

Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement (1953)

61 Cygni’s world Mesklin is sixteen times more massive than Jupiter. A day less than twenty minutes long means that the gravity at the equator is a measly three gravities. Thus, human starfarer Charles Lackland is able to briefly set down near the equator, where he is subjected to extreme discomfort (rather than immediate death). Too bad for Lackland that the object of his quest, a lost probe, is near one of Mesklin’s poles, where gravity is high enough to reduce a human to paste.

Conveniently for Lackland, Mesklin is not only life-bearing—it has natives. Rational self-interest being universal in Clement’s universe, Lackland strikes a deal with local trader Barlennan: retrieve the probe in exchange for services only someone with space flight can provide the trader. What follows is a glorious expedition through conditions quite alien to the human reader….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1989 – Thirty-two years ago at Noreascon 3 where the Toastmaster was Frederik Pohl, C. J. Cherryh wins the Hugo for Best Novel for Cyteen. It had been published by Warner Books the previous year. Other nominated works that year were Red Prophet by Orson Scott Card, Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, Islands in the Net by Bruce Sterling and Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson.  Andrew Porter’s Science Fiction Chronicle would give it their SF Chronicle Award and Locus would award it their Best SF Novel Award. It was nominated for a BSFA as well. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not one who was a lead actor in any genre series save Department S where he was Jason King but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor, and he faces off against the classic Avenger pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 92. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve, count ‘em twelve, Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth CenturyFantasy IslandThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsI Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Born August 23, 1931 Barbara Eden, 90. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors, and she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. She was  Angela Benedict in The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, the wonderful film version of Charles Finney’s novel, The Circus of Dr. Lao. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Her latest genre was just two years ago, Mrs. Claus in My Adventures with Santa. 
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which was filmed as Time after Time as directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. Time after Time was nominated for a Hugo at Noreascon II, the year Alien won. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 23, 1965 Chris Bachalo, 56, Illustrator well known for his work on DC Comics’ Shade, the Changing Man and Gaiman’s two Death series, Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life
  • Born August 23, 1966 Charley Boorman, 55. He played a young Mordred in Excalibur which was directed by his father (and he was joined by his older sister Katrine Boorman who played Ygraine, Mordred’s grandmother) He was Tommy Markham in The Emerald Forest, and had an uncredited role in Alien
  • Born August 23, 1990 Jessica Lee Keller, 31. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in LuciferTerror Birds and 12-24

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld shows it’s not paranoia, if you’re actually being watched.

(11) OUT OF COSTUME. Comics writer Tom King, while signing at Awesome Con in Washington DC over the weekend, had to deal with a fan who refused to wear a mask. Fascinatingly, the fan was dressed as Rorschach. Thread starts here. The fan was removed by the concom.

(12) WHO IS HOSTING JEOPARDY? “’Jeopardy!’: Mayim Bialik To Step In As Temporary Host Of Syndicated Show After Mike Richards’ Exit”Deadline has the story.

Mayim Bialik, who earlier this month was announced as host of the Jeopardy! primetime and spinoff series, will fill in as host of the mothership syndicated program following the abrupt exit of Mike Richards as host after one day of tapings. (He remains an executive producer of the franchise.)

Bialik, who guest hosted earlier this year in the wake of Alex Trebek’s death, is currently scheduled to tape three weeks of episodes (15 episodes) when production resumes this week. Additional guest hosts will be announced as search for a permanent host of the Sony Pictures Television program resumes.

(13) SCI-FI FOR STRINGS. CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on John Williams, with the news that he is rearranging some of his film scores for violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

John Williams is one of America’s most celebrated musical talents – the best-known creator of music for films. He has written the scores for such revered classics as “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “Superman” and “Schindler’s List.” In a story originally broadcast September 22, 2019, Correspondent Tracy Smith talks with Williams, and with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, who collaborated with the composer on an album of works for violin and orchestra adapted from his film scores, “Across the Stars.”

(14) RAIN DANCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Hollywood Reporter has a delightful story about an encounter (and aftermath) between Malcolm McDowell and Gene Kelly, recounted here on the 99th anniversary of the latter’s birth. Always remember: it’s showbiz, not just show. “Malcolm McDowell Learned 40 Years Later Why Gene Kelly Was Upset With ‘A Clockwork Orange’ Using “Singin’ in the Rain””.

…McDowell’s character sings the iconic 1952 musical number during one of the most disturbing and graphic scenes in the 1971 Kubrick classic. Talking to the same room of fans, McDowell said the song was not in the script, the idea just came to him during a take and Kubrick loved it. “It was just instinctive,” he added.

It would not be until 40 years later when McDowell would learn why Kelly was so mad about the situation.

“I am telling this story to the Academy, and afterward this lady came up and said, ‘I’m Gene’s widow. Gene wasn’t upset with you, Malcolm. He was really upset with Stanley Kubrick because he hadn’t been paid.’ And I went, ‘My God, there’s quite a gang of us who haven’t been paid!’” he said to laughs.

(15) HOOCH TREK. “Star Trek Wines Adds New Alien-Inspired Bottles”Food & Wine admires the designs. (See full details at the Star Trek Wines site.) Click for a larger image.

…Star Trek Wines has just announced the addition of two more bottles to its now six-bottle lineup.

To recap, Star Trek Wines launched with two options — Chateau Picard Cru Bordeaux and United Federation of Planets Old Vine Zinfandel — produced in partnership with Wines That Rock. (If that name sounds familiar, it’s because they also make wines for The Hallmark ChannelNPR, and Downton Abbey, along with their namesake rock band-themed products.) A year later, in 2020, two more wines joined the mix: Klingon Bloodwine and United Federation of Planets Sauvignon Blanc.

Now, it’s 2021, and as any serialized TV show knows, you need fresh content, so say hello to your latest season of Star Trek Wines: United Federation of Planets Special Reserve Andorian Blue Chardonnay (at $50 per bottle) and Cardassian Kanar Red Wine Blend (at $60 per bottle)….

(16) ON THE STAGE. Michael Toman pointed out a couple of the latest sort-of-genre items available from Playscripts.

When a narrator displeased with her part tries to ruin the happy endings of five Grimm’s fairy tales, a talking lobster must save the day. A charming comedy full of enterprising animals and classic storytelling magic.

When Archer finds herself a captive audience for her dad’s latest masterpiece, it seems pretty familiar for a fantasy adventure screenplay at first. Wars, in the stars. Brides, of the princess variety. This story’s got such an incredibly absurd array of heroes, villains, robots, and romances, it’s total chaos. But once Archer gets pulled in to the mashup tale of a princess with a secret agenda and some space wizards destined for greatness, she starts to wonder: Could this be so much chaos it’s actually… genius? With all the special effects achieved by one actor hurling models and puppets, plus a flexible cast, an epic quest can come to any stage in this hilarious satire of beloved fantasy adventures. 

(17) MIMEO MAKERS. In the Forties, when a couple of fans couldn’t afford a mimeograph, they figured out how to DIY – they made one from a paint can. Now that mimeos practically don’t exist anymore, this technique might come in handy again.

Join Olson Graduate Rich Dana and Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections Peter Balestrieri as they explore the techniques created by Dale and Anita Tarr back in the 1940s of printing zines with a paint can.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/21 Second Stage Lesnerizer

(1) STARTING A STORY. This compelling thread starts here.

(2) BUTLER BIO ON THE WAY. Yesterday’s Oprah Daily acknowledged the author’s birthday with an excerpt from a new biography: “Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler: Excerpt”.

…But the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism, and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read now than ever, and that phenomenon is destined to grow with the publication Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, due out in January of 2022.

Zoboi, who was a National Book Award finalist for her young adult novel American Street, is not just a Butler devotee, but was mentored by the writer. Now, she has written an ode to her told in poems and prose. Here, Oprah Daily shares an exclusive sneak peak of the forthcoming volume, just in time to say: Happy Birthday Octavia Butler.

(3) THE PLAY’S THE THING. (Except she’s talking about a different play than Hamlet.) Connie Willis shared “Some Midsummer Night’s Dreams for Midsummer Night” on Facebook.

…The first night of our film festival, we watched GET OVER IT, the teen movie with Ben Foster, Kristen Dunst, and Martin Short. Berke, played by Ben Foster, has been dumped by Allison for another guy, so he tries out for the school musical DeFores-Oates (Martin Short) is directing, to try to get her back. He’s helped by Kelly (Kirsten Dunst) who really likes him, but he doesn’t even see her because he’s completely obsessed with getting Hermia back. Sound familiar?

The movie doesn’t do the whole play–there’s no Pyramus and Thisbe and Bottom’s just a walk-on, but there are fairies (including the rapper Sisqo), and a stoned stage crew who double as Puck, and the movie’s surprisingly faithful to the play, except for the ending, when Berke takes things into his own hands. GET OVER IT captures even better than Shakespeare the agony you go through when you’re in love with someone who doesn’t even know you exist.

The second night we watched the 1999 A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM (or as I call it, the Ally McBeal version,) starring Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale, with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Puck. It’s a good movie overall and lots of stuff I loved–the lovers flee to the woods on bicycles, Puck is very funny and as much of an annoyance to his boss Oberon, Michelle Pfeiffer makes a sexy and funny Titania, and Max Wright is beyond wonderful as the reluctant actor dragged into the play at the last minute to be the Man in the Moon, with a cigarette dangling from his lip and a dog getting into the act.

But there are three moments of true genius in the play…

(4) GOODBYE TO AMAZON. Amanda S. Greene continues her step-by-step explanation of everything involved in shifting her books away from the Amazon platform in “Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever” at Mad Genius Club. There are a lot of issues that require thoughtful decisions.

 …I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website…. 

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS KERFUFFLE. Michael Swanwick offered “A Few Quiet Words of Thanks for the People Putting on Discon III” at Flogging Babel.

Yesterday, I reserved my hotel room for Discon III. And that put me in mind of the first and only time I was on a con committee.

This was in the 1970s, before I made my first sale. I’d only been to a few science fiction conventions but I knew the guy in charge of putting on a con whose name I conveniently forget and, doubtless for reasons of fannish politics, he filled the committee with his friends, despite the fact we none of us had any experience at the tasks we were assigned.

Long story, short. I did a terrible job. And I’ve never volunteered to serve again. Because even if everything goes perfectly, your reward for putting on a convention is not getting to experience it.

So I’d like to express my gratitude to the Discon III staff, both present and past. That includes everybody who quit for reasons of principle and everybody who decided to tough it out, also for reasons of principle.

This has been a star-crossed year for the Worldcon. I won’t bother to list all the problems: Acts of God, acts of Man, acts of Fans. We all know them. It must have been maddening to be at the white-hot center of them all.

Which makes this a good time to say: Thank you.

(6) FINE DISTINCTION. And one of John Scalzi’s comments:

(7) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. Jo Martin will be a guest at Gallifrey One: Thirty Second to Midnight, to be held in LA in February 2022.

It’s with great pleasure that we can now announce that JO MARTIN will be joining us next February as a confirmed guest, for her very first Doctor Who convention appearance in North America!

Jo Martin became an immediately beloved part of Doctor Who mythology when she appeared as Ruth Clayton in series 12’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” opposite Jodie Whittaker… a woman who was, in fact, a previously unknown earlier incarnation of the Doctor herself!  As the landmark first Doctor of color to be shown in the long-running series, she also appeared in the season finale “The Timeless Children.”…

(8) ONLINE PROMETHEUS AWARDS TO INCLUDE LFS-REASON PANEL. The Libertarian Futurist Society couch plans for their online award ceremony in these terms:

In 2021, LFS members will have a rare opportunity to watch and enjoy the annual Prometheus Awards ceremony and an interesting related panel discussion for free online – without having to register for a Worldcon.

Reason magazine will be the media sponsor of the hour-plus panel discussion, which will immediately follow the online half-hour Prometheus Awards ceremony for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame). Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward and Reason’s book editor Jesse Walker will join LFS leaders, including board president William H. Stoddard, on the hour-plus panel discussion along with, we hope, the 2021 Prometheus Award-winning novelist (tba).

(9) VETERAN COMICS READER. James Bacon was interviewed by Football Comics Podcast Champ/We are United, as hosts Rab and Gull take a little break from all the footie and have a look at War Comics, covering classic titles like Battle, Commando, Victor, Warlord, and many more. “Champ/We Are United Episode 13: War Comics”.

(10) COSPLAY DATING. Yahoo! says “Singles Dress Up as Creatures for Blind Dates” is the premise of Sexy Beasts.

Given the popularity of The Masked Singer, we can ascertain that viewers enjoy watching people dressed up in strange costumes. And given the general state of reality television over the past two decades, we can also conclude that people enjoy watching people go on bizarre dates. Netflix has endeavored to combine these two irrefutable tenets in one convenient package. Thus, we have Sexy Beasts, in which elaborate-prosthetic-laden singles meet for a night of “nonjudgmental” romance. At least that’s how they’re touting it. Take a look at the trailer, which features dolphins, demons, canids, scarecrows, insects, bovines, and a handful of uncategorizables….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1976 — On this date in 1976, Logan’s Run premiered. It was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Saud David. The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is based on the 1967 Logan’s Run novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. Though critical reception was at best mixed, it was a box success and is considered to have MGM from financial ruin. It was nominated at SunCon, a year in which no film was awarded a Hugo. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 76. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1951 — Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1953 — Russell Mulcahy, 68. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company really messed with production. He would later released this film in Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 64. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which in on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything genre worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 — Cixin Liu, 58. He’s a winner of a Hugo Award  for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, the Chinese State sponsored SFF Awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? Is it still on? 
  • Born June 23, 1964 — Joss Whedon, 57. I think I first encounter him with the Buffy tv series. And I hold that Angel was far better told. Firefly was a lovely series that ended far too soon. And don’t get me started on the Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 49. Liz Sherman in Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 21. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon for New Scientist.

(14) WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD. CrimeReads excerpts a new history of comic books by Paul S. Hirsch: “The Early, Wild, Exploited, and Sometimes Radical Days of the Comic Book Industry in America”.

The American comic book is inseparable from foreign policy, the great twentieth-century battles between capitalism and totalitarianism, and the political goals of the world’s preeminent military and cultural power. The history of the American comic book is a story of visual culture, commerce, race, and policy. These four fields are analogous to the four colors used to print comic books: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. They lie atop one another, smearing, blending, and bleeding to create a complete image. To separate them is to disassemble a coherent whole and to shatter a picture that in its entirety shows us how culture and diplomacy were entangled during the mid-twentieth century.

THE EARLY YEARS, 1935–1945

The period from 1935 to 1945 was defined by images of darkness and light. The comic industry itself—populated by otherwise unemployable immigrants, racial minorities, and political radicals—emerged from the shadows of the New York publishing world….

(15) BOOK RESURRECTION. “’Most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print’: the fight to rescue a nation’s lost books” in The Guardian.

…This is the unfortunate fate of most books, even literary prize-winners. In fact, of the 62 books that won Australia’s Miles Franklin Award between 1957 and 2019, 23 are currently not available as ebooks, 40 are not available as audiobooks, and 10 are not available anywhere, in any format whatsoever. They’re officially out of print. This is something that Untapped: The Australian Literary Heritage Project is trying to rectify.

“Untapped is a collaboration between authors, libraries and researchers, and it came about because most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print. You can’t find it anywhere,” says project lead, Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin from Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. “Think about it. If so many Miles Franklin winners are out of print, you can imagine how bad availability must be for memoir, and histories, and other local stories.”

Untapped’s mission is to digitise 200 of Australia’s most important lost books, preserving them for future generations and making them available through a national network of libraries. They include books such as Anita Heiss’s I’m Not Racist, But … (2007) and Frank Hardy’s The Unlucky Australians (1968). “One exciting thing is that all these books will now be part of the National E-deposit scheme,” Giblin says, referring to the legal requirement for all publishers to provide copies of published works to libraries – a framework only recently extended to electronic publishing. “This means they’ll be preserved forever. These books will now be around as long as we have libraries.”

(16) WEIR Q&A. Suspense Radio, a thriller podcast, interviews Andy Weir: “LaunchpadOne: Interview with Andy Weir”.

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(17) ROY HOWARD GOH SPEECH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Cromcast has a recording of Roy Thomas’ guest of honor speech at the 2021 Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains. Lots of interesting stuff about working at Marvel in the 1960s and 1970s, not just Conan related, though there is a lot of that, too. “Howard Days 2021 – When Conan Went Public!”

(18) BUILDING UP THEIR INVENTORY. James Davis Nicoll knows where the cargo in their holds came from — “Risky Business: Five Books About Interplanetary Trade” at Tor.com.

Humans have, starting in prehistoric times (with obsidian, red ochre, etc.), established vast trade networks that cross mountains, deserts, and oceans. Presumably, this will be true in the future as well, even as humanity expands out into SPAAACE. While there are reasons why larger concerns will tend to dominate, the little guys will often provide more engaging narratives. Thus, these five heartwarming tales of working traders enthusiastically engaging in commerce among the stars…

The Trouble Twisters by Poul Anderson (1966)

Hyperdrive gave humans the stars…also vast fortunes to Polesotechnic League merchant princes like Nicolas van Rijn. Great men cannot be everywhere, however, which is why this collection of short pieces focuses not on van Rijn but his employee, David Falkayn (don’t worry! David eventually gets into management by marrying the boss’s beautiful daughter). Whether upending religious prohibitions, obtaining state secrets, or intervening in bitter ethnic strife, Falkayn and his co-workers always find the solution that delivers profit.

Long after the events in this book, Falkayn would become disenchanted with the League’s conscience-blind focus on immediate profits. This would have regrettable implications for Falkayn’s relationship with van Rijn, but without actually saving the League or humanity from the consequences of the League’s short-sighted policies. But at least they generated lots of profit for the shareholders before the League-armed space barbarians descended from the skies….

(19) SPIDER-MAN BEYOND. A Marvel press release tells me – “Stay tuned tomorrow for information on this exciting new Amazing Spider-Man era from Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Cody Ziglar, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells!”

(20) MARVEL MARKETING. Did that previous item come from this guy? This video from Screen Rant, which dropped today, features Ryan George as master marketer Normantula McMan, who says, “I get butts in seats.  I influence butts in ways you can’t imagine.”  And McMan knows butts, because his grandpa came up with the idea that four out of five doctors recommended a particular smoke!

(21) ASTRONAUTS TO EXPERIENCE TIDE EFEFCT. Yep, here’s the science entry in today’s Scroll courtesy of the AP: “Dirty laundry in space? NASA, Tide tackle cleaning challenge”. It turns out there’s a simple reason why the International Space Station smells like an old gym sock.

How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t.

They wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the filth and stink anymore, then junk them.

NASA wants to change that — if not at the International Space Station, then the moon and Mars — and stop throwing away tons of dirty clothes every year, stuffing them in the trash to burn up in the atmosphere aboard discarded cargo ships. So it’s teamed up with Procter & Gamble Co. to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years, just like on Earth.

The Cincinnati company announced Tuesday that it will send a pair of Tide detergent and stain removal experiments to the space station later this year and next, all part of the galactic battle against soiled and sweaty clothes….

(22) RETURN TO SENDER. Yahoo! draws our attention to a remarkable working model: “Fan-Made Captain America Shield Actually Bounces Back”.

…We have to give big props to the YouTuber here. Unlike other “make your own Cap shield” videos, he didn’t go the drone route. Which is kind of cheating. The MCU shield bounces after all, it doesn’t fly. According to their own description, the shield they made was created with carbon fiber with a fiberglass ring, to provide bounce while keeping maximum strength. The shield also magnetically connects to the user’s wrist, and can be thrown overhand just like Cap. We think the final results are pretty darn impressive….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

The description from The Nevers: Official Teaser says —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/21 The Gripping Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye With A Mote In It

(1) IBA WINNERS. The “Infected by Art 9 Winners” were announced January 18. The jury panel members were Ed Binkley, Tran Nguyen, John Picacio and Dug Stanat. [H/t Locus Online]

Scott Gustafson – St. George and the Dragon

GRAND PRIZE WINNERS

The artworks that won Art Medium Category Honors are listed here.

Hope Doe was also chosen by her peers to win the Body of Work Award for IBA 9.

Out of almost 2,000 pieces submitted to this year’s competition there were 63 artworks that were unanimously selected by the Jury Panel through their rounds of voting which have been given special recognition. What the Jury Panel felt were the best pieces submitted to IBA 9 can be viewed at the link. See all 336 artworks selected for IBA 9 here.

Infected by Art Volume 9 will have 269 artists represented. IBA 9 will go into production in Spring and debut next Fall at IX 2021.

(2) PERPETUAL FAVORITE. In the Washington Post, Danny Freedman discusses The Monster At The End Of This Book, a Sesame Street Little Golden Book which has sold 13 million copies, been turned into a book app and a half-hour animated special on HBO Max, and introduced generations of four-year-olds to metafiction. “’The Monster at the End of this Book’ is still a hit”.

… It’s one of the top-10 selling Little Golden Books of all time. A decade-old interactive app version has been downloaded more than half a million times and is among the most popular book apps. Last fall, HBO Max released an animated special based on the book, giving sales another bump.

All of that has made “The Monster at the End of This Book” an unlikely constant, at a rarefied height, though it still chases the iconic status of picture books such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Goodnight Moon” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”

And the book’s long tail of influence is out of proportion with its 24 pages and its cardboard cover devoid of medallions. It’s come to be regarded as an evolutionary step in children’s metafiction, nudging further the creation of stories that “demystify bookmaking for children and invite them to sort of get their hands dirty,” says children’s book historian Leonard Marcus.

(3) WISCON 2021. Due to the pandemic there will not be a full-scale WisCon in 2021, only a small event sufficient to honor the hotel contract. The guests of honor have once again been rolled forward to the next in-person WisCon in 2022: Rebecca Roanhorse and Yoon Ha Lee, who were originally invited to attend WisCon 44 in 2020; as well as Sheree Renée Thomas and Zen Cho, who were originally invited to attend WisCon 45 in 2021.

What will happen instead?
Firstly, we are in the process of planning a much smaller in-person event to occur at the Concourse Hotel in May in order to fulfill the contract we signed with them. This would look something like an intensive workshop event, rather than a convention, and the Workshops department has been looking into how it could work. The number of attendees would also be vastly reduced, in compliance with whatever guidance Public Health Madison & Dane County has in place at the time. We’ll be talking again with the Concourse Hotel this month and probably again later to revisit these plans.

The group would also like to plan another WisCONline to occur in 2021 if they can get enough help.

(4) THE MILENNIUM APPROACHES. James Davis Nicoll is making a list and checking it twice – of the number of works he’s reviewed on his blog. James says, “I have just discovered I am 4 1/2 books away from having reviewed an even one thousand books by women.”

Grand Total to Date
1770 works reviewed. 994.5 by women (56%), 738.5 by men (42%), 21 by non-binary authors (1%), 15 by gender unknown (1%), 488.75 by POC (28%)

(5) MEET THE FANEDS. Cora Buhlert has two more Fanzine Spotlight posts, one for Runalong the Shelves, a UK book blog by “Runalong Womble”, and the other for Warp Speed Odyssey, a Canadian SFF site.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Runalong The Shelves is now in its fourth year and is very much a book blog with a big focus on reviewing science fiction and fantasy but also interested in horror and the occasional thriller. You may find me interviewing authors on recent works; answering the odd book tag and taking part in a small annual blogger jury award named Subjective Chaos Kind of Award which is a lot of fun debating books with different bloggers. I try to be diverse both in the types of books I review but also increasingly promoting the diverse voices creating them which I think is a wonderful move for our genre (and way overdue)

Who are the people behind your site or zine?

I [Steven Morrissette] started by myself slowly but then I met Jean-Paul Garnier from Space Cowboy Books who was of tremendous help and also became the first contributing author, reviewing some books and conducting some interviews for Warp Speed Odyssey. Furthermore, Robin Rose Graves who is a friend of Jean-Paul became the second contributing author submitting book reviews and interviews as well. And Finally, there is my sister Jessica who started translating some of the articles into french.

(6) DE FOREST OBIT. The Space Review reported the death of Kellam de Forest (1926–2021) on January 19 from complications due to COVID-19: “Kellam de Forest, who gave us Stardates and the Gorn”.

…De Forest was one of two technical advisors that Gene Roddenberry employed during the production of the original Star Trek television series….

With a degree in American history from Yale, de Forest made many major contributions to the original television series created by Gene Roddenberry including developing the idea of the Stardate, which he supplied for Star Trek’s second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

January 31 Gorilla Suit Day

Mad Magazine artist Don Martin created the idea of Gorilla Suit Day for a 1963 comic strip in which a character mocks the holiday and is then assaulted by gorillas and people in gorilla suits. 

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARIES.

  • 1981 — Forty years ago, Clifford D. Simak’s “Grotto of the Dancing Deer” wins the Hugo Award for Short Story at Denvention Two. It would also win a Nebula, and both Locus and Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact would make it their first place pick that year. It was originally published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact in the April 1980 issue.
  • January 31, 1993 Space Rangers came to a quick end on CBS, airing its fouth of sixth episodes, “To Be … Or Not To Be”. (The final two episodes aired later.) It was created by Pat Densham, and it starred a cast that arguably was larger than the length of the series: Jeff Kaake, Jack McGee, Marjorie Monaghan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Danny Quinn, Clint Howard, Linda Hunt and Gottfried John. The series is available on DVD which is out of print at this point. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 31, 1901 – Maria Luise Kaschnitz.  Highly regarded as a poet; also prose fiction, essays.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us; «Gespenster» is in English as “Ghosts!”  Outside our field, see The House of ChildhoodCirce’s Mountain and Long Shadows (shorter stories); Whether or Not (tr. of memoir Steht noch dahin, more literally Still there); Selected Later Poems.  Büchner Prize, Roswitha Prize.  Kaschnitz Prize named for her.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1927 —  Norm Prescott. Co-founder and executive producer at Filmation Associates, an animation studio he created with veteran animator Lou Scheimer. The studio is responsible for such productions as The New Adventures of SupermanFantastic VoyageThe Batman/Superman Hour and Star Trek: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.) (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1937 —  Philip Glass, 84. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a very fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre underpinning.  (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1934 – Gene DeWeese.  Fan and pro. Thirty novels, as many shorter stories, some with Buck Coulson; almost three hundred reviews in “Once Over Lightly” for SF Review.  Now You See It/Him/Them and Charles Fort Never Mentioned Wombats, both with Buck, are classic faan fiction, i.e. fiction by fans about fans; Now is set at Discon II the 32nd Worldcon and has more or less recognizably e.g. Dean Grennell, George Scithers, Buck’s wife Juanita; Charles is a sequel set in Sydney just before Aussiecon I the 32nd Worldcon with e.g. Rusty Hevelin, Denny Lien, Bob Tucker.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1941 —  Jonathan Banks, 80. First genre role was as Deputy Brent in Gremlins, a film I adore. In the same year, he’s a Lizardo Hospital Guard in another film I adore, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Ahhh, a good year indeed. Next I see him playing Michelette in Freejack, another better than merely good sf film. The last thing I see him doing film wise is voicing Rick Dicker in the fairly recent Incredibles 2.  Series wise and these are just my highlights, I’ve got him on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Shel-la in the “Battle Lines” episode, in Highlander: The Series as Mako in the “Under Colour of Authority” episode and as Kommander Nuveen Kroll in short lived Otherworld series. In SeaQuest 2032 also had for two episodes as Maximillian Scully. (CE)
  • Born January 31, 1959 – Laura Lippman, age 62.  Three short stories for us and, little as I like titles with colonitis, “In a Strange City: Baltimore and the Poe Toaster”.  Next door in detective fiction she has won the Agatha, Anthony, Barry, Edgar, Gumshoe, Nero, and Shamus Awards. Three NY Times Best-Sellers that I know of.  Writes in a neighborhood coffee shop.  Teaches at Goucher College.  [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1960 —  Grant Morrison, 61. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the HBO series is based on his work and is quite spectacular), Seven Soldiers and The Multiversity which is spectacularly weird. (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1963 – Jeffrey Scott Savage, age 58.  A dozen novels for us, half a dozen others.  Has been a plumber and a French chef.  To “What is your favorite book that you didn’t write?” he answered “I am always discovering new books that I love.  But if I had to pick my very favorite of all time, it would probably be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”  [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1967 Sam Weller, 54. Author of Ray Bradbury: The Last InterviewShadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury (co-edited with Mort Castle), The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury and Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews. He also recently published his first collection of short fiction, Dark Black. (CE) 
  • Born January 31, 1975 – Krista McGee, age 46.  Three novels for us, as many others. Said C.S. Lewis’ Space trilogy “is … fantastic … underappreciated…. a brilliant work of science fiction, well worth the time and effort it takes to read.”  [JH]
  • Born January 3, 1981 – Chris McCoy, age 40.  Has a wicked tennis serve.  Went via a writing scholarship to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji.  First novel for us actually called Scurvy Goonda.  Although, in case you couldn’t tell, I don’t always agree with Kirkus, its reviewer said “imaginary friends – no, ‘Abstract Companions’ – are … manufactured … in Orion’s Belt….  all … vanish suddenly … recruited into an army of Ab-Coms….  [In] a climactic battle … a gigantic slab of bacon and melted-down video games figure prominently.”  Next, The Prom-Goer’s Interstellar Excursion.  [JH]
  • Born January 31, 1987 Sabaa Tahir, 34. Pakistani-American YA writer best known for her NYT-bestselling An Ember in the Ashes series and its sequels.  An Ember in the Ashes, the first novel in the now four novels deep series, was nominated for the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy.(CE) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld: “Waiting for Godot to Join the Zoom Meeting”

(11) ON THE SPINNER RACK. Cora Buhlert reaches back to the Sixties to review a then-new paperback for Galactic Journey: “[January 22, 1966] Monks, Demi-Gods and Cat People: The Sword of Lankor by Howard L. Cory”.

The Sword of Lankor by Howard L. Cory plunges us right in medias res with our hero, the mercenary Thuron of Ulmekoor embroiled in a tavern brawl in the city of Taveeshe on the planet of Lankor. Thuron is certainly the perfect protagonist, because – so the author assures us – “adventure followed him around like a friendly puppy”. He’s also tall, strong and a skilled swordsman.

During the tavern brawl, Thuron saves the life of Gaar, a member of a race of furry cat people called Kend. As a result, Gaar is now Thuron’s servant for a year and a day, as the customs of his people demand. But Gaar brings other skills to the partnership as well, for he is an oracle, conjurer and pickpocket. Gaar is also the brains of the duo, while Thuron is the brawn.

If you are reminded at this point of Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, you are not alone. And indeed the Burroughs comparison on the backcover is misleading, for there are many authors that The Sword of Lankor is more reminiscent of than Burroughs.

(12) BABYLON 5 VISUALS UPGRADED. Engadget delivers the good news that “’Babylon 5 Remastered’ now available to buy or stream on HBO Max”.

Nearly thirty years after its first broadcast and close to twenty since its troubled DVD release, Babylon 5 is finally getting a polish. From today, Warner Bros. is launching Babylon 5 Remastered both as a digital download (from iTunes and Amazon where available globally) and on HBO Max. It might not be the perfect version of the show that its creators had intended, but it’s likely the best we’re gonna get. 

A Warner Bros. spokesperson told Engadget that Babylon 5 Remastered has been scanned from the original camera negative. The film sequences were scanned in 4K and then “finished,” or downscaled, back to HD, with a dirt and scratch clean-up, as well as color correction. The show’s CGI and composite sequences, meanwhile, have been digitally upscaled to HD with only some minor tweaks where absolutely necessary.

In order to maintain visual quality and fidelity between the show’s filmed and effects-heavy sequences, the new version is only available in 4:3. That’s the same format that the show was originally broadcast in, rather than the widescreen DVD releases….

(13) THAT’S HEDLEY. The Reprobate tells how Warner went through the charade of producing a Blazing Saddles TV series to hold onto its rights to make a sequel to Mel Brooks’ movie: “Black Bart – The Buried TV Sequel To Blazing Saddles”. I must have blinked and missed the pilot when it aired in 1975. The IMDB listing is here.

….But perhaps the most absurd of these contractual obligation projects came with Blazing Saddles, which was adapted into a TV series that ran for four seasons – which would suggest a major hit show by 1970s television standards, except for the fact that it never aired. Not a single episode beyond the pilot was shown on TV anywhere.

…What the cast and crew thought of all this is hard to gauge – Gossett has talked about the weirdness of it all, but you have to wonder just how anyone managed to drum up any enthusiasm once it became clear that the show would never air. Ironically, the plans for a Blazing Saddles sequel ultimately went nowhere – by 1979, it was clear that the moment had passed and audience tastes had changed. The sequel was shelved, and the series was finally cancelled. The pilot episode has since turned up on the Blazing Saddles DVD and blu-ray, but the other episodes have yet to be seen. It’s entirely possible that they were never even completed beyond the ones shown to Brooks, and may have been trashed

(14) BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATERS. “Army robots made of robots? New LEGO-like method could make it happen” reports Army Times.

…“Robots rearranging to form a bridge made of robots, similar to ants, is one embodiment of our concept of structural robotics, which blur the line between active and passive elements and feature reconfigurability. It is still a motivating use case for the system, but we are looking at broader implications for ground robotics which are adaptable, reconfigurable, and resilient,” said Dr. Christopher Cameron, an Army researcher.

Researchers are also interested in building those impact-absorbing materials for similar robots. Using the LEGO-lattice configuration paired with injection molding helps for rapid assembly. And they don’t have to do just one thing.

That method of building the structures could give them a combination of characteristics such as becoming thicker when force is applied, getting stiff or flexible, depending on the need or reaction. And by using these materials in these ways, researchers said that larger structures can be put together than with conventional materials used in robots today.

(15) CRIME’S A WASTIN’. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] This is hilarious: “Midsomer Murders ‘Series Finale’: Finally An Explanation for all Those Murders” at Mystery Tribune.

DCI Barnaby looked down at the body and then at me. “Everyone else is dead or in jail. So, I’m going to guess you’re the murderer.”…

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Thomas J. Yagodinski created “Jawa Plays Eruption: A Stop Motion Tribute to the Great Edward Van Halen”.

…This was an extremely FUN way to pay respects to a musical Legend and to also challenge myself to recreate Eddie’s amazing solo, frame by frame via stop motion animation. Is it perfect? Of course not, that’s impossible and nothing ever is 🙂 The Jawa is a stop motion puppet I fabricated and the guitar is the 1:4 scale (16inch) Mini Guitar (#EVH?-004) that I further customized.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/26/20 I Feel My Temperature Rising, Higher Higher, It’s Pixelling Through To My Scroll

(1) RETRO ROCKET. [Item by Jeffrey Smith] A documentary crew’s attempt to find a 100-year-old rocket: “Space Oddity” in The Washington Post Magazine. This one has special interest for me because this is where I live — not Venus, but Hampden. In fact, I was on Morling Avenue today when I went out to pick up our dinner. I’ve eaten at Holy Frijoles, but not at Rocket to Venus, though it’s been here long enough and we’ve eaten everywhere else, so I don’t know why not.

… Now, three longtime friends living in Baltimore — John Benam, Brian Carey and Geoff Danek — along with a film crew, are trying to fill out the story of Robert Condit and his rocket for a documentary titled “Rocket to Venus.” In January, they retraced Condit’s movements to Miami Beach, where they learned he had taken the rocket after leaving Baltimore. Condit had made international news when he announced that he would launch himself into space from the Florida beach, including a December 1927 mention in The Washington Post under the headline “A Jaunt to Venus.”

“Time and again some hardy soul hoped to reach the stars,” the article read. “Never, so far as is known, has the feat been attempted: but no one had possessed a machine such as Mr. Condit has developed.”

…“It will not be very long until we know just what we have for neighbors,” Condit wrote about space travel in a 1928 lecture discovered by the filmmakers, “and in the course of the next few years, we will probably be doing business with Venus as casually as we now transact our affairs across the ocean or go for an aeroplane ride of a few thousand miles before breakfast.”

(2) EVEN HOTTER THAN WASHINGTON D.C. All the rocketship did was blow up in his garage, but the technology Condit used was not that different from rockets built at the time by Robert Goddard and Hermann Oberth. What would Condit have found if he’d made it? “Likely active volcanoes found on Venus, defying theory of dormant planet” says The Guardian.

Scientists have identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that appear to have been recently active – and probably still are today – painting the picture of a geologically dynamic planet and not a dormant world as long thought.

The research focused on ring-like structures called coronae, caused by an upwelling of hot rock from deep within the planet’s interior, and provided compelling evidence of widespread recent tectonic and magma activity on Venus’s surface, researchers have said.

Many scientists had long thought that Venus, lacking the plate tectonics that gradually reshape Earth’s surface, was essentially dormant geologically, having been so for the past half billion years.

…The researchers determined the type of geological features that could exist only in a recently active corona – a telltale trench surrounding the structure. Then they scoured radar images of Venus taken by Nasa’s Magellan spacecraft in the 1990s to find coronae that fit the bill. Of 133 coronae examined, 37 appear to have been active in the past 2m to 3m years, a blink of the eye in geological time.

(3) DOCTOR TOO. “Tade Thompson: full-time doctor who finds energy for full-on writing career” – profiled in The Guardian.

After Anton Chekhov and Arthur Conan Doyle, Tade Thompson is the latest in a long line of medical doctors who have become writers.

Thompson is a full-time hospital psychiatrist, who writes science fiction, fantasy and crime thrillers that have received rave reviews and prizes, but he has no intention of giving up the day job, somehow fitting in everything by writing in the early hours.

A fierce bidding war has finally concluded over the film rights to his Molly Southbourne novellas, a nightmarish psychological story about a girl who, when she bleeds, creates duplicates of herself who want to kill her.

The rights have gone to Complete Fiction, the film company the director Edgar Wright and the producer Nira Park set up with their long-time collaborators the writer-director Joe Cornish and the producer Rachael Prior. They will transform the stories into a multi-season television series in collaboration with Netflix. Thompson is executive producing it and may write an episode or two…

(4) SPORTS SECTION. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Where else would you expect to find a mention of Gene Wolfe except in an article about an Argentine football manager published on an Indian website? “Marcelo Bielsa: Genius That’s Hard to Miss, Harder to Notice, Impossible to Fathom”.

In April last year, at the age of 87, the writer Gene Wolfe died of heart disease in Illinois. For science fiction fans, Wolfe was a cult figure, a modern day savant whose writing only a few could understand, and yet unanimously admired. His books never sold much, and yet he is widely regarded as the greatest American science fiction writer of all time. All his obituaries, while admiring and respectful, had an underlying theme, a question that invariably also followed a huge amount of his literary work. His writing, and its implications, were so challenging and polarising that everyone seemed to question what kind of greatness it was.

The reason to bring up Wolfe is because Marcelo Bielsa is back in business. Talking about Bielsa even more so. The mad stories, legends and myths about this football obsessed, workaholic, crazy, maniacal Argentinian cult figure, spoken about in hushed tones (and loud yells) in football circles across the world, have become mainstream over the past few years….

(5) AT THE ALTER. Lucas Adams reviews the exhibition in “Worlds Apart: Sci-Fi Visions of Altered Reality” in the New York Review of Books.

… Attempting to rework the past, at least on paper, has been the outlet of artists and authors for as long as people have been wishing for different endings. “As If: Alternative Histories From Then to Now,” an exhibition at the Drawing Center, presents eighty-four works from 1888 to the present that “offer examples of how we might reimagine historical narratives in order to contend with the traumas of contemporary life.”

…Among them is Futurian War Digest by J. Michael Rosenblum, a British science fiction zine the conscientious objector made during World War II, featuring spacefaring adventurers, robot love affairs, and more. The police kept an eye on Rosenblum during the war, out of concern that he was “publishing seditious materials and of collecting contraband ink and paper,” the museum wall text explains, but one look at its simple but fanciful black-and-white illustrations, and it’s clear this was simply a creative outlet in the midst of a war.

Also on view is work by Herman Poole Blount, better known as the Jazz musician Sun Ra, one of the pioneers of Afro-futurism. In the late 1930s, Sun Ra experienced a life-altering vision in which he went to Saturn and met aliens, and discovered he was not an Earthling, but actually a citizen of outer-space. Ra’s creation of a new identity allowed him to free himself from societal constraints, or as the exhibition’s free zine puts it: “As an interstellar visitor, Sun Ra wasn’t subject to racial violence–he was someone, from somewhere, else.”

(6) SAXON OBIT. Actor John Saxon, known for his roles in three Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Enter the Dragon died July 25 at the age of 83 reports the Chicago Sun-Times. His horror résumé also includes two films for Roger Corman: Queen of Blood (1966) and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), playing a tyrannical warlord.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 26, 1968 Mission Mars premiered. (Called Murder in the Third Dimension in the U.K.) Directed by Nick Webster, it was produced by Everett Rosenthal from a screenplay by Mike St. Clair with the story being written by Aubrey Wisberg. The cast was  Darren McGavin, Nick Adams, George De Vries and Michael DeBeausset. Not a single critic at the time like it with one saying it was just a “conventional monster movie” and another commenting that it was “plodding, dull and amateurish“. There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 26, 1856 – George Bernard Shaw.  This great playwright, radical, and wise guy did some SF; Man and SupermanBack to MethuselahAndrocles and the LionToo True to Be Good, a few more; two dozen short stories; outside our field, essays, music criticism, plays, preachments.  “My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.”  Nobel Prize.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1885 – Paul Bransom.  Illustrated The Wind in the WillowsJust-So Stories; comic strip The Latest News from Bugville for The New York Evening Journal.  Fifty books of wildlife subjects.  Many fine Saturday Evening Post covers.  Clinedinst Medal.   Here are Ratty and the Wayfarer from Willows, and here is Pan.  Here is “The stork was as hungry as when she began” from An Argosy of Fables.  Here is Buck leaping in the air from The Call of the Wild.  Here is a cover with Joseph Gleeson for Just-So Stories.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley.  Many know his masterpiece Brave New World, with everything wrong and people made to love it, translated into Bulgarian, Dutch, French, Galician, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish; some, his other SF e.g. After Many a Summer Dies the Swan; his last, Island, with everything right, may be weaker.  More novels, essays, short stories, plays and screenplays, poetry, travel.  Pacifist and psychedelicist.  (Died 1963) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1928 —  Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.) (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1929 – Lars-Olov Strandberg.  Co-founded SFSF (Scandinavian SF Ass’n); chairman, secretary, or treasurer of its board continuously 1965-2011.  Life-long photographer, thus documenting SF cons (see e.g. this fine photo of Kathy & Drew Sanders’ entry in the Masquerade costume competition at Seacon ’79 the 37th Worldcon).  Linked Swedish fandom to Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom.  Alvar Appeltofft Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at Swecon 2, Interaction the 63rd Worldcon.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1939 – Steve Francis, 81.  Some become all-round fans from fanzines; he, from the Dealers’ Room.  With wife Sue, mainstays of Rivercon during its twenty-five years; together, Fan Guests of Honor at MidSouthCon 10, Marcon 27, DeepSouthCon 33, Con*Stellation XX.  Rebel and Rubble Awards.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  Scheduled to be Fan Guests of Honor at the cancelled 14th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) this year.  [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 75. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 75. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden, though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1971 – Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ph.D., 49.  Co-founded Strange Horizons, editor four years; editor for ten issues of Jaggery. One SF novel, three others; two dozen shorter SF stories of which three in Wild Cards, a dozen others; essays in SHFantasyUncanny; interviewed in LightspeedLocusMithila; edited WisCon Chronicles9.  Gardener and cook.  [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 42. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1978 – Elizabeth Tudor, 42.  Azerbaijani lawyer and SF author.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Here is her Authors Guild page.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld:

(10) RNZ BOOSTS THE SIGNAL. Here’s a first taste of Worldcon coverage in New Zealand’s mainstream media: “World Science Fiction Convention hosted by NZ” at RNZ. Hear audio of the broadcast at the link.

Ten years of planning have gone into New Zealand’s first time hosting the World Science Fiction Convention. Several thousand ardent fans, guests and speakers were due to come to Wellington from around the world – about now.

But organiser Lynelle Howells says the show must go on – and it will this Wednesday to Sunday, in the virtual realm – more than 750 planned talks, sessions and workshops will be beamed out around the world online.

“The world science fiction convention is held in a different city every year, so for it to come down to New Zealand is a really big deal; then of course Covid happened. It’s the first time anybody’s tried to run a WorldCon virtually, but needs must,” she says.

(11) WORDLESS IN GEHENNA. At The Wertzone, Adam Whitehead reports “Patrick Rothfuss’s editor confirms she is yet to read a single word of THE DOORS OF STONE”.

In somewhat surprising news, Patrick Rothfuss’s editor Betsy Wollheim has reported that she is yet to read any material from his next novel, The Doors of Stone, the third and concluding volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and notes a lack of communication on the book’s progress.

Rothfuss shot to fame with the first book in the trilogy, The Name of the Wind, in 2007. With over 10 million sales, The Name of the Wind became one of the biggest-selling debut fantasy novels of the century. The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, did as well on release in 2011. Nine years later, the third book remains unpublished.

The Doors of Stone is probably the second-most-eagerly-awaited fantasy novel of the moment, behind only George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, which it actually exceeds in waiting time (though only by five months). Martin has provided updates on The Winds of Winter, albeit extremely infrequent ones, but has recently reported much more significant progress being made. Rothfuss, on the other hand, has maintained near constant zero radio silence on the status of book in recent years, despite posting a picture of an apparently semi-complete draft in 2013 that was circulating among his beta readers….

(12) THE GREATEST STAR TREK SERIES YOU’RE NOT WATCHING. So says Space Command creator Marc Zicree.

I’m the author of The Twilight Zone Companion and also a writer for such shows as Star Trek – The Next Generation, Babylon 5, Deep Space Nine, Sliders and many others.

Recently, I’ve been shooting a new show that I wanted to share with you. And if you can share it with your fans, that would be great (and let them know we have a Kickstarter campaign going in order to shoot more).

It’s called Space Command,

The Kickstarter is to fund the fifth episode, which is a little bit confusingly called “SPACE COMMAND Episode 4 – FORGIVENESS PART 2”. As of today they’ve raised $26,798 of the $48,000 goal, with 17 days left to go.

The show’s cast (with some of their previous genre credits) includes Doug Jones (Star Trek Discovery, Shape of Water); Christina Moses (A Million Little Things); Neil deGrasse Tyson (Cosmos); Mira Furlan (Lost, Babylon 5); Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek); Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager, The Orville); Mike Harney (Orange is the New Black, Project Blue Book); Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl, Babylon 5, Tron); Bill Mumy (Lost In Space, Babylon 5); Ethan McDowell (Doom Patrol); Barbara Bain (Space: 1999, Mission Impossible); Armin Shimerman (Deep Space Nine, Buffy).

  • The Pilot Episode
  • The Animatic Prequel —  (combining the completed audio play with the work-in-progress graphic novel).
  • Our Special Two-Part Pandemic Episode

(13) WANDERERS. In Ken Kalfus’ story “In Little America” at N+1 Magazine, Americans become the world’s illegal migrants.

…For ten months or so I belonged to a crew on a container ship flying a flag of convenience. My passport wouldn’t allow me ashore in most ports. The borderless, visa-free ocean was my home.

The American catastrophe had meanwhile entered a new phase that drained the world of any cruel pleasure it had taken in our downfall. Now the overwhelming sentiment was pity. I followed the news with averted eyes….

(14) YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON. “Human-sized robot presents lottery winner with check in Quebec”.

The first in-person check presented to a lottery winner in Quebec since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was presented by an official immune to the disease — a human-sized robot.

Loto-Quebec said it employed the use of a robot designed by a student club at the Montreal-based Ecole de Technologie Superieure, in partnership with Centech, to present Guylaine Desjardins with her check for $4.47 million.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Ttle credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/19/20 If You Like My File And You Think I’m Pixely, Come On Baby Let Me Scroll

(1) ’45 CALIBER. Ian Moore’s “Where to find the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards finalists” on Secret Panda is a Homeric compilation of publicly available material and alternative sources for learning about the Retro nominees. And it ends with a great cat photo.

…But what of the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards finalists? There is unlikely to be a Voter Packet for these, so how are Hugo Awards voters to go about making an informed choice here? Fortunately, many of the works that will be on the ballot are available online, either on the Internet Archive or elsewhere. Below I have compiled links to as many of these as I could find, and provided information about whether items are in print or otherwise…. 

(2) RESIZING THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. The Hard Times reports “Middle Earth Temporarily Bans Fellowships of More Than Five”.

MINAS TIRITH — The White Council of the Wise issued a decree today that all fellowships in Middle Earth shall be no larger than five companions for at least the next quarter-age to help slow the spread of the Samund-01 curse that has already killed over 30,000 elves, dwarves, and men.

(3) BLACKOUT. Connie Willis blogged her “Journal Of The Coronavirus Year III”.

…It does feel like we’re living through another Black Death.

But in recent days, as the horrors of the coronavirus pandemic have begun to unfold,
I’ve also been reminded of similarities of this pandemic to the Blitz:

1. The disruption of our daily lives.
The orderly schedules of the British people was completely upended by the Blitz. People found themselves sleeping under the kitchen table or in basements or tube shelters. They went to work in the morning after a sleepless night with bombs falling overhead, only to find that their place of work was closed or bombed out, and when they went home, they found that had been bombed out, too. Everything changed in an instant. Theaters and museums were closed, and the way of life they’d always known disappeared overnight as if it had never been….

She comes up with three more parallels before concluding –

Everybody’s rising to the occasion, and, in spite of my having occasional worried thoughts about all of us becoming the crazy characters in Shirley Jackson’s WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE, we’re doing great. When this is all over, we’re going to be able to say, just like the British, “This was their finest hour.”

(4) SEEKING DONATIONS. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) asks for help to open ‘The Martian Chronicles’ exhibit area for the Ray Bradbury Centennial celebration in “Green Town” in 2020. The donation link is here.

(5) WHO MEMORIAL. “Farewell, Sarah Jane” on the official Doctor Who YouTube channel.

Today marks the anniversary of the passing of Elisabeth Sladen, who played the Doctor’s friend Sarah Jane Smith. In a new video, scripted by Russell T Davies and narrated by Jacob Dudman, Sarah Jane Smith’s closest friends come together to say “Farewell, Sarah Jane”.

(6) MORE SARAH JANE. Coincidentally, SYFY Wire ran this story a couple of days ago — “Wire Buzz: Elizabeth Sladen’s Daughter In Doctor Who Radio Drama”.

Doctor Who is keeping it in the family.

Sadie Miller, the actress daughter of the late Elizabeth Sladen, is boarding the TARDIS in the role her mother made famous on the iconic BBC sci-fi series — that of intrepid investigative reporter Sarah Jane Smith — in Big Finish‘s highly anticipated audio drama Doctor Who: Return of the Cybermen.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1907 Alan Wheatley. Best remembered  for being the Sheriff of Nottingham in The Adventures of Robin Hood TV series, with Richard Greene playing Robin Hood. In 1951, he had played Sherlock Holmes in the first 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.)
  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. He was Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M which you can see here. (It was nominated in the 1951 Retro Hugo Awards given at The 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.)
  • Born April 19, 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.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 84. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, 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.
  • Born April 19, 1936 Tom Purdom, 84. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak for him in the introduction to his Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons collection: ‘How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction?  So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions.  They’re a lot of work.  But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.’  He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 74. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course, but it’s not his first genre appearance as he’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in 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.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark E. Rogers. Best remembered for the Samurai Cat series which in the first book, The Adventures of Samurai Cat, lampooned Tolkien, Lovecraft and Howard. Indiana Jones. Burroughs’ Barsoom and Star Wars would also get their due. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 53. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine four times.  He’s a longtime contributing editor to SF Site and has written that site’s news page since its beginning. Over twenty years ago, he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. He publishes his own fanzine, Argentus, and is a Hugo nominee this year for his work on Journey Planet.
  • Born April 19, 1968 Ashley Judd, 52. Best known genre wise for playing Natalie Prior in the Divergent film franchise. She was also Carly Harris-Thompson in the Tooth Fairy film, and was Ensign Robin Lefler in a few episodes of Next Gen. She played Beverly Paige on several episodes of Twin Peaks as well. 

(8) GAULD Q&A. On NPR: “Scientists Are Human, Too: Questions For Cartoonist Tom Gauld”.

As a sci-fi and fantasy nerd, of course I love the cartoon of the scientist being tempted by science fiction. Where did that one come from?

I think the scientist character in that cartoon is a bit like me when I’m making these cartoons, because I have to resist the temptation to draw silly robots and over-the-top science fiction technology every week. I am a SF/F nerd myself and while that’s one of the things that draws me to science, I have to remind myself to look in all the different areas of science to find cartoon themes.

(9) MARLOWE AND THE QUEEN. Francis Hamit, who frequently shared with File 770 readers his experience as a writer publishing via early indie platforms, and has spent years trying to get a movie made, sends this update.

I dissolved the Kit Marlowe Film Co, Ltd in February after five years and one month of trying to get CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE produced.  My recent surgery for spinal stenosis, (the first of two with the second on hold now because of the pandemic) makes it impossible for me to produce anything, even if our great producer Gary Kurtz hadn’t died in September, 2018, the HMRC had not changed the EIS rules and Brexit had not changed all of the assumptions we had when we started the company in 2014.   I’m an old poker player.  I know when to fold a losing hand.  Rising from the ashes, however, is the five-time award-winning screenplay and the curious fact that BFI says our letter of comfort for the film tax relief can be used by any UK film production company.  That’s a twenty percent rebate on the spend in the UK.  But coronoavirus has shut down the entire industry in the USA and UK.  Except for “development” and I have that script and two others out for consideration.  (Details on Facebook). 

I also have a few hundred copies of The Shenandoah Spy and The Queen of Washington left in the distributor’s warehouse.  I am reducing the retail price to $12.95 and $14.95 respectfully.  This is slightly below my break-even point but will free up cash to get another book to market.  Regular publishing has ls shut down so it may be DIY for the one I’m working on now STARMEN, a multi-genre romp that begins in El Paso, Texas in 1875 with the Pinkertons, who investigated all sorts of strange things.  I might also do some crowd-funding. 

Anyway those who would like to buy a copy of either book should call Pathway Book Service at 1-800-345-6665.  The Shenandoah Spy is $12.95 plus shipping and handling and they take credit cards.  The Queen of Washington is  a hardbound at $14.95 plus shipping and handling.  Amazon has a few copies at the old prices but has stopped taking third party distributors’ books to deal with the emergency.  Both books are in e-book at $9.99 on Amazon Kindle and as audiobooks at  Audible, Amazon and iTunes, sometimes for free. 

Anyone who wants a signed copy should contact me directly. (francishamit@earthlink.net). (My other books are also available but not discounted.)

Direct sales will be $27.50 per book, $50 for two plus $5.00 shipping each and these will be signed.  I’m running out of copies here and will have to order some from Pathway, which costs me for shipping.  If they are able. In the current emergency.  We can’t be sure.   On the other hand they will be signed.

Gail Shalan and I are converting The Shenanoah Spy audiobook to a Young Adult title.  That simply means we are going to cut the more graphic sexual content. Probably less than a thousand words that won’t be missed.  Times have changed since 2008 when the book was first published and we don’t want to provide “triggers” that get some readers upset and detract from the story. That means the sexual content is still there but more is left to the imagination.  Gail’s performance will be intact.  BTW the audiobook is “free” if it is a title used to sign up for Audible and Gail and I split a nice bonus.

(10) RABBIT TRACKS. Up for sale are “Charming letters and early drawings by a young Beatrix Potter showing Peter Rabbit from the 1890s”Daily Mail has the story

An archive of early drawings and letters by children’s author Beatrix Potter have emerged for sale for £250,000.

The charming illustrations date from the 1890s when the writer was honing her craft and had not yet become a household name.

One drawing from 1894 shows Peter Rabbit seven years before the first of his famous tales was published.

(11) A MONSTROUS REGIMENT. JDA shares another secret of his success.

(12) A WELL-DONE ENDING. Richard Paolinelli auditions as a script doctor.

(13) MIDDLE-EARTH’S BOTTOM LINE. “Here’s how much money the Lord of the Rings franchise has made”Looper added it up. (If only they’d had a good script doctor!)

.. The first three films in Jackson’s Middle-earth franchise raked in nearly $3 billion worldwide. And no, that number doesn’t account for DVD or memorabilia sales, or the sale of the trilogy’s television broadcast rights.

(14) SFF ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions’ 2020 April 24 Illustration Art Signature Auction online sale includes two cover paintings for Weird Tales: Virgil Finlay’s ‘The Thief of Forthe’ (July 1937) and Lee Brown Coye’s ‘The Vampire’ (July 1947).

(15) FROST READS. The editors of the Beatles-themed anthology Across the Universe, Michael A. Ventrella and Randee Dawn, are posting videos of various authors in the anthology reading from their work. Here, Gregory Frost reads “A Hard Day’s Night at the Opera.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/19 Pixel Gadol Hayah Scroll

(1) TINGLE. It was brought to Chuck Tingle’s attention yesterday that the incoming president of RWA, Damon Suede, made a claim about him in a 2018 interview. Chuck lit him up.

(2) OPINIONS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The staff of the Boston Public Library share their top ten science fiction (BostonPL_Top 10 Sci-Fi Novels of the 2010s), fantasy (BostonPL_Top Ten Fantasy Novels of the 2010s), and horror (BostonPL_Top Ten Horror Novels of the 2010s) novels of the decade, and their ten best books of the 2019 (BostonPL_BPL Staff Picks: Best Books of 2019; includes two genre works).

(3) JEFF VANDERMEER GOES TO A WORKSHOP. Hilarious. Thread starts here.

(4) YODABYES. Geek Girl Authority rounded up “Our Favorite Baby Yoda Fan Videos That Gave Us All the Emotions”.

In a matter of seconds, at the end of the first episode of The Mandalorian, pop culture and Star Wars fandom was changed forever. Baby Yoda was introduced to the universe and we’ll never be the same. The immediacy in which we fell in love with The Child has left an indelible mark. The eyes, the ears, the broth sipping… We were immediately in our feelings and could not climb out. And, thankfully, so were some very creative fans. 

Lovestruck, creative fans put out some wonderfully clever and sublimely hilarious videos. They run the gamut of Christmas song remakes, Hamilton mash-ups to very original productions. Take a look, dive into your Baby Yoda emotions and enjoy!

And hey – I actually know one of the singers in The Mary Sues! (She’s my daughter’s aunt.)

(5) SUPER ADAPTATIONS. “The Top 10 Comic Book Movies of the Decade” listed by Let Your Geek Sideshow.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

And maybe it was the freedom to explore obscure characters without being tethered to the baggage of canon that gave this film an opportunity to stretch? Or perhaps it was Gunn’s propensity for infusing humor, heart, and a killer soundtrack into a movie about a dysfunctional family which could very well be the most relatable premise ever?

Whatever the reason, you’ve got to give the dude credit–after all, Gunn was so confident with his realized vision that he held on to the merchandise-friendly Baby Groot until the end credits.  

(6) NO NEED TO PREDICT. “Kim Stanley Robinson: ‘What the hell do we write now?’” – the author is interviewed by New Statesman.

…Advisers to the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have sought him out to discuss the environment. But he doesn’t like to think in terms of political parties: “I’d just say I’m an American leftist. The left’s an honourable tradition and a very broad band from Bill Clinton to Xi Jinping. Anything that seems to be progressive in a way that a social scientist or an ordinary person in the street could agree with: health insurance, a pension, and the right to a job.”

His outlook is rooted less in ideology and more in the lived experiences of landscape – specifically the boldly fragile beauty of California’s terraformed farms and coast. “California’s different: it’s the fifth biggest economy in the world, it’s the gold rush, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and it’s too lucky. I wish the whole United States was being led by California, that would get faster solutions. On the other hand, the inequality here is getting as bad as anywhere.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian’s “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in a way that company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in  way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator. He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list. I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 87. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares. Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon.
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 85. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans. Much better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 77. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available in the digital format of your choice. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 George Zebrowski, 74. He won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brute Forces. He’s married to Pamela Sargent with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Trek novels. 
  • Born December 28, 1970 Elaine Hendrix, 49. I found a Munsters film I didn’t know about (big fan I am yes) and she’s Marilyn Munster in it: The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas. She later is Gadget Model 2 (G2) in Inspector Gadget 2. (Anyone watch these?) And she’s Mary in the animated Kids vs Monsters. 
  • Born December 28, 1978 John Legend, 41. Several years back, Legend was Jesus Christ in of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice opera Jesus Christ Superstar which aired on NBC. He also voices Crow in the animated Crow: The Legend film. 
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 38. The Baroness in one of the endless G.I. Joe films I’ve no intention ever of seeing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to be precise. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis Vuk, A Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.
  • Born December 28, 1982 Beau Garrett, 37. She made her genre appearances first in Turistas and Unearthed, definitely grade b horror films, before being Captain Raye in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Gem in Tron: Legacy
  • Born December 28, 1987 Thomas Dekker, 32. He’s best known John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Zach on Heroes andAdam Conant on The Secret Circle. He also played Jesse Braun in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. He was also in ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 which might be one of the worse titles I’ve seen for a horror film….

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s take on a recent newsmaking bit of punctuation.

(9) FAST DEATH. “Russia deploys Avangard hypersonic missile system” – BBC has the story.

Russia’s first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles has been put into service, the defence ministry says.

The location was not given, although officials had earlier indicated they would be deployed in the Urals.

President Vladimir Putin has said the nuclear-capable missiles can travel more than 20 times the speed of sound and put Russia ahead of other nations.

They have a “glide system” that affords great manoeuvrability and could make them impossible to defend against.

…Mr Putin said on Tuesday the Avangard system could penetrate current and future missile defence systems, adding: “Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons.”

(10) IT’S FOR SCIENCE! NPR asks “Would You Lend Your Voice To Our Experiment?”

We need your help — and your voice.

From a robot in your phone to a smart speaker in your kitchen, voice-to-text algorithms are moving into more and more aspects of our lives.

But how well do they understand English speakers of all backgrounds? We’re running an experiment to find out.

This is where you come in: Record yourself speaking (we’ll give you prompts), send us the clips and we’ll have the machines interpret them. It doesn’t matter if you know of or have used the devices or services we’re testing. If you can speak, we’d like to hear from you.

Here’s the link to the experiment: https://npr.forms.fm/voice-crunching

(11) MASH-UP. “BBC transfers HP Lovecraft drama to site of Rendlesham UFO incident”.

A podcast based on a 1930 American horror story has been relocated due to fresh inspiration from “rural English mythology” and an alleged UFO sighting.

The BBC Sounds podcast The Whisperer in Darkness features reports by US airmen who claimed to have seen a UFO in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk in 1980.

Writer Julian Simpson visited drama locations in Suffolk with actress Jana Carpenter before penning the series.

His version is loosely based on the novella set in Vermont by HP Lovecraft.

(12) VIRAL TENTACLES. This animatronic has gone viral.

(13) DISNEY EXEC PROFILED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the November 23 Financial Times, Emma Jacobs profiles Walt Disney Animation Studios president Jennifer Lee.

“Ms Lee knows something about identifying with animated heroes.  The 48-year-old has described growing up in Rhode island on “a poor street in a rich town: where she was tormented by schoolyard bullies,  In Disney’s Cinderella, Ms Lee found comfort in a character who ensured cruel mistreatment before finding happiness.  The bullying left her plagued with self-doubt.  ‘People talk about the dangers of rose coloured glasses,’ she said.  ‘But let me tell you, the lenses of self-doubt are far worse.  They are nasty.  Thick and filthy.”

….”Ms. Lee once wrote that the hardest part of being a female director was not the legacy of Disney or making herself heard in a room full of men.  Rather it was the red carpet.  ‘I didn’t know that being a size 2…might as well be a size 92 to the elite designers; I have never wanted to be an animated character so badly.'”.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “I’m a Lunatic Chef That Cooks Food Using Explosives.”

The master chef’s guide to serving up steaks to customers extra extra extra extra extra extra extra well done, whether they asked for it or not. This is also Cooking Simulator’s July 4 2019 update that adds some festive things for destroying your kitchen even faster.

[Thanks To Chip Hitchcock, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, John King Tarpinian, N., and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Warner.]