Pixel Scroll 12/24/21 Scrollent Green Is Made Of Pixels

(1) THE MOVING FINGER WRITES. “Russell T Davies has already written new Doctor Who episodes for 2023” reports Radio Times.

…In an interview with The Guardian, the writer has revealed some of the new episodes are already written and ready to go – but he insists the new Doctor is not yet decided.

“I’ve already written some of the episodes. The first will go out in November 2023 – that’s the 60th anniversary of the show,” he said.

Davies was tight-lipped on the topic of who will replace Whittaker as the Doctor, however….

(2) BEWARE SPOILER. Radio Times interviews “Jodie Whittaker on being exterminated by Dalek in Doctor Who”.

…Speaking about the upcoming episode, which will see her succumb to her foes a fair bit, Whittaker told press including RadioTimes.com: “When I read this episode for the first time and in one of the opening moments get exterminated I genuinely thought, ‘Somebody has decided to write me out a bit sooner than I thought!’

“It’s brilliant to play because the first time, for the Doctor, it’s as if you’re grasping at those seconds and that realisation that it could be your last moment. And for you to be killed by a Dalek would be so horrendous! But then once you realise you’re in this time loop the anticipation of the pain and the fun that can be had with that… it’s the first time in my career I’ve died so many times in an episode, there’s always a first! ”…

(3) A HUNK OF BURNING LOVE. Marvel shares Kate Bishop’s Yule Log.

Grab some hot cocoa and cuddle up by the fireplace at Kate Bishop’s inspired NYC apartment!

(4) HAWKEYE NON-SPOILER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Hawkeye’s end of season-finale episode #6 includes the full performance of the Rogers/Avengers “I Could Do This All Day” song.

(5) TWILIGHT ZONE. Slash Film reminds everyone that “Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Is Science Fiction With A Beating Heart”.

…”The Twilight Zone” isn’t only some of the most unique and influential science fiction of all time, it’s also science fiction with a soul. Watch straight through, and you’ll see that Serling has an unmovable moral compass that always directs his narrative path to the most humane end result. It makes sense that the series is often played in marathons around the holiday season, as many episodes would make a great double feature with the Frank Capra Christmas classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” The show possesses both a sense of wonder and a through-line of deep awareness of humankind’s fallibility and mortality….

(6) A LOOK AT THE NEW MATRIX FILM. Pablo Vazquez reviewed The Matrix: Resurrection on Facebook. Reprinted here with permission.

First off, let me preface this by noting that the Matrix series has been highly influential to me and cheesily responsible for getting me to read more philosophy and exploring heterodox concepts. After rewatching some scenes and talking with other folks who’ve seen the film, I think the new Matrix film is somewhere between a 5-5.5/10 and some moments border on 6/10. It is very clearly a protest film if an impotent one and I respect it for that. It’s very clear no one involved wanted to do this but they were willing to jump back in if only to maintain an element of creative control. Some scenes are quality Matrix, some are a bit too “Whedonized/Marvelized” for me, and there’s a few sequences that were far too Episode One for me to the point that they might as well have put in some podracing. The pacing was weird, the movie seemed cheaply made, the soundtrack was disappointing and the dialogue was even more so. Don’t even get me started on the fight sequences and, I gotta say, the aesthetic was rather bland for a series so well known for its aesthetics.

What did I like then? Well, probably the first half of the film where it still seemed like a Situationist critique on the power of media to shape consensus reality and a vicious attack on bland sequel culture. The sad point is it basically became the things it was obviously trying to critique. The acting was good and I loved seeing the Sense8 cast involved in something again considering Sense8 is my all-time favorite Wachowski work. I think the movie got too saccharine in its second half but I did like the “two halves of a greater whole” theme. The cinematography was also good but could’ve been better.

Would I go see it again? Probably not. Do I think people are ridiculous for liking it? Definitely not. This is very much a subjective film considering I view it as a cynical nostalgia cash-in masquerading as radical critique but, to someone, it could very well be a crucial “message movie” or some simple entertainment. Lana didn’t want to make this but I suppose her at the helm is a bit better than whatever catastrophe WB was planning in the first place without her. All in all, to me, it’s not a thinking film, it’s rather not what I was looking for with The Matrix, and way too cynical for me, but hey, I suppose that’s the world we live in now and at least it makes alright popcorn fodder if you feel like hitting up the theaters and getting your nostalgia dose.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1981 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty years ago in Australia, The Road Warrior (alt: Mad Max 2) premiered. Directed by George Miller and produced by Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music. It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. 

It was extremely well received by critics with Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times saying it was “one of the most relentlessly aggressive movies ever made,” and Vincent Canby of the New York Times calling it “an extravagant film fantasy that looks like a sadomasochistic comic book come to life.” On a budget of just three million, it made thirty-six million — a rather excellent showing.  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an eighty-seven rating. It would be nominated for a Hugo at ConStellation, the year Blade Runner took home the Hugo.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 24, 1910 — Fritz Leiber. I can say that my fav work by him is The Big Time which I either read or listen to every year. And yes, I’ve read the Change War Stories too, difficult to find as they were. Yes, I know it won a Hugo — much, much deserved!  I’m also fond of Conjure Wife, but otherwise I prefer his short fiction to his novels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 24, 1945 — Nicholas Meyer, 74. Superb and funny novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is.  Much better than the film, I think. Now his Time After Time film is spot on. And let’s not forget his work on the Trek films, The Wrath of Khan (much of which went uncredited), The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country.  
  • Born December 24, 1964 — Mark Valley, 55. He made my Birthday list first by being the lead, Christopher Chance, in Human Target, a short-lived series created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for DC, that was weirdly well done. He was also John Scott in Fringe as a regular cast member early on. He voiced Clark Kent / Superman in the second part of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Born December 24, 1966 — Diedrich Bader, 53. I know him best as the voice of Batman on The Batman and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. No, he’s not Kevin Conroy but his Batman is quite enjoyable and interesting in his own right. He’s best cast as Batman / Bruce Wayne in the new Harley Quinn series on the DC Universe service.
  • Born December 24, 1969 — Mark Millar, 50. Comic book writer whose resume is long. The Millar/Quitely era on The Authority was politically edged and often got censored by DC as it commented on the Iraq War — well worth your reading. His run on Swamp Thing from 142 to 171 has a lot of other writers including Morrison. He did the Ultimates at Marvels and a lot of the superb series ended in the Avengers film. Finally, his excellent Civil War was the basis of the Captain America: Civil War film and his not to be missed Old Man Logan was the inspiration for Fox’s Logan film.

(9) COVID JOURNAL. John Skylar, Ph.D., a virologist who contracted Covid at DisCon III, is publicly documenting his experience with the virus. Thread starts here.

(10) TAIYOU CON. An Arizona anime con has had its director resign after a sexual assault claim: “Anime fans, cosplayers bow out of Arizona convention after sexual assault accusation” at Yahoo!

Cosplayers and fans of comic books, anime and video games have vowed to boycott a long-running Arizona anime convention in January due to allegations of misconduct and sexual assault against the convention’s director, who has since stepped down.

On Dec. 15, Arizona resident Allie Heady, 25, detailed in a public Facebook post that she had been sexually assaulted by someone known within the anime and cosplay communities as Gackto in December 2017. Gackto also was the name of the director of Taiyou Con, an annual anime convention scheduled for Jan. 7-9 at Mesa Convention Center.

…Heady, an anime fan who lives in Arizona, alleged in her Facebook post that she now has post-traumatic stress disorder after being sexually assaulted by Gackto four years ago.

“It’s taken me a long time to come forward and speak about this. But I continue to see him, and his posts and his ‘achievements.’ And I don’t want to,” she wrote. “And whether or not anyone believes me, I can finally get this off my chest.”

At the end of her post, Heady added a call to action: “He also created an anime convention called Taiyou Con. Please boycott it. Please understand what nightmares he has put me and others thru. Please share my story and uplift those who are maybe too afraid to come forward, because it’s happened. And I will not, I do not want to stay quiet anymore.”

(11) SPACE RONIN. [Item by Kendall.] Tons of rogue planets, Jupiter sized (which makes me wonder about smaller ones they simply can’t detect).  I wouldn’t want to meet a Jupiter in a dark alley between the stars. “Astronomers discover largest group of ‘rogue planets’ yet”The Verge has the story.

Astronomers just discovered a treasure trove of “rogue planets” — free-floating planets that don’t orbit a star but exist all by their lonesome in the depths of space. With masses comparable to that of Jupiter, the 70 or more rogue planets spotted throughout the Milky Way galaxy are the largest such group of cosmic nomads ever found.

Located within the Scorpius and Ophiuchus constellations, the planets were spotted using a suite of telescopes on both the ground and in space. Typically, rogue planets are difficult to image because they aren’t close to any stars to make them visible. However, with data compiled over 20 years from European Southern Observatory (ESO) telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, and more, Núria Miret-Roig, an astronomer at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux, France and the University of Vienna, Austria, and her team were able to capture faint heat signatures emitted from planets that formed within the last several million years.

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Well, this is inspired! “Where Is The Comma In ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen’ Supposed To Go?”

This a cappella arrangement of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” examines how commas can change meanings… often with unintended results.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/18/21 Always Pixeling And Never Scrollmas

(1) DOUBLE-BARRELLED VOTING DEADLINE. November 19 is the deadline for DisCon III members to vote for the Hugos, and ASFA members to vote for the Chesley Awards!

(2) HOW THE NYT BESTSELLER LISTS WORK. John Scalzi stepped in to set the record straight.

The Reddit link to his six-point commentary is here.

So, actual New York Times best selling novelist here.

One: The New York Times list very generally tracks sales, but also employs other criteria in order to mitigate “gaming,” — so, for example, they tend to disregard “bulk buys” of a book and will otherwise asterisk books they think have manipulated sales. Gaming the list is a moving target, so the criteria change over time. The point of the list is to give a snapshot of what people are actually purchasing but also, hopefully, reading (or at least giving to others to read).

(3) THE DOCTOR IS OUT. Radio Times knows we thrive on every crumb of info about the series – even the episode titles: “Doctor Who Flux unveils final episode title: The Vanquishers”.

The title of Doctor Who: Flux‘s sixth and final episode has been officially confirmed.

The Vanquishers will premiere on Sunday 5th December and will see the conclusion of the series’ “massive arc”, which has been spread over all six episodes in a Doctor Who first.

There’s a synopsis too, which hints at what’s in store for Thirteen and her companions. It reads: “In the final epic chapter in the story of the Flux, all hope is lost. The forces of darkness are in control. But when the monsters have won, who can you count upon to save the universe?”

(4) WOULD YOU LIKE TO GUESS? In the Washington Post, Adela Suliman says Warner Bros. is planning a big special for HBO Max for the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter film, but no one will say why J.K. Rowling won’t be there. “Harry Potter stars ‘Return to Hogwarts’ in 20-year HBO reunion missing J.K. Rowling”.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, who played the trio of best friends Harry, Hermione and Ron respectively, came of age on screen where they began as child actors on the fabled Hogwarts school set. The actors grew up in front of a global audience of ardent fans. Now in their 30s, they will join cast members and the films’ makers for a nostalgic TV special.

British author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the books the movies are based on and worked closely with the film’s producers, is absent from the lineup for the Warner Bros. television show. Representatives for Rowling told The Washington Post on Wednesday that they would not be commenting. Warner Bros.also declined to comment.

… Rowling caused a social media storm last year after she shared her opinions on Twitter and months later wrote a lengthy personal essay on transgender issues, and some in the LGBTQ community accused her of transphobia. Grint, Watson and Radcliffe publicly distanced themselves from Rowling’s comments at the time and said they stood with the trans community….

Watson, who played bookish Hermione Granger, shared the news of the television reunion on her Instagram page along with a photo of the young cast, and thanked loyal fans known as “Potterheads.”

“Harry Potter was my home, my family, my world and Hermione (still is) my favorite fictional character of all time,” she said Tuesday. “I am proud not just of what we as group contributed as actors to the franchise but also as the children that became young adults that walked that path.”…

(5) DECEMBER THE FIRST IS (NOT) TOO LATE. Yesterday the Authors Guild sent a warning to members along the same lines SFWA recently did, in respect to the National Library of New Zealand’s plans, and how authors whose books are included can opt-out. (Which they’ll also be able to do after December 1.)  

Despite strong opposition from the New Zealand Society of Authors and international groups including the Authors Guild, the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) is moving ahead with its plan to donate 400,000 books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive for digitization and lending through its Open Library platform. This collection likely contains tens of thousands of books written by American authors—many still protected by copyright—and may include your books.

While it is unfortunate that New Zealand officials are choosing to partner with the Internet Archive—an entity that has consistently flouted copyright law—over our objections, the NLNZ is allowing any author whose book is included in the collection to opt out of the scheme in response to the concerns raised about the legality of “controlled digital lending.”

Authors who do not wish their books to be digitized by the Internet Archive and loaned out through Open Library have until December 1, 2021, to opt out and withdraw their books.
 

Here’s how to opt out:

      1. Check whether your books are included in the collection. NLNZ has provided an Excel spreadsheet of all titles it intends to donate. The spreadsheet is available on this page. Click the link labeled “List of candidate books for donation to the Internet Archive” (it is a large Excel file, so we suggest downloading it and then searching for your name by running a Ctrl+F search). 
      2. If your books are available, send an email to opcmanagement@dia.govt.nz and ask that they be withdrawn. Your email must include the NZNL’s “unique number” (column “I” on the spreadsheet) of each title you would like withdrawn, and proof that you have rights in the titles (emails from persons or organizations whose names correspond with rightsholders’ names will be sufficient proof of rights).

 If you need assistance, please send us an email staff@authorsguild.org.

(6) PETERSON OR HARKONNEN? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Can you tell which statements were said by a Canadian pseudophilosopher, and which ones are said by a fiendish villain from the novel Dune?  Honestly, I couldn’t pass this test even if the Reverend Mother held the Gom Jabbar to my throat.  “Who Said It? Jordan Peterson or Baron Vladimir Harkonnen”.

(7) A NEW HOPE. Orange County (CA) is getting rid of library fines starting next week. The library will still collect for lost or damaged items. 

Orange County Board of Supervisors approved to indefinitely eliminate library late fines. Beginning November 23, OC Public Libraries will take its 100 years of service in a new direction by removing late fines for overdue items. 

“Public libraries play an essential role in providing safe, accessible, and free educational resources for every member in our community,” said Chairman Andrew Do, First District Supervisor. “Eliminating late fines will incentivize residents to take advantage of county library resources once again and not be hesitant to take a book home during their next visit.” 

…OC Public Libraries wishes to reflect its vision of ‘Open Doors, Free Access and Community’ and welcome back patrons that have refrained from coming to the library due to outstanding fines. 

(8) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED FANZINES. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] Ian Cooke with the British Library tweeted a link to an article calling for contributions to a doctoral research project about UK football fanzines from the 1970s to the present. The accompanying picture of a spread of typical football fanzines reminded me of some of our own generation of fanzines, with mimeo reproduction, some fairly crude art, and layout & design marked more by enthusiasm than talent. Parallel evolution among almost completely unconnected subjects. The direct link is here.

(9) MINUTE MAN. Marc Scott Zicree offers up the Twilight Zone Minute – “The Man in the Bottle”.

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1985 — Thirty-six years ago today, Calvin and Hobbes first appeared in serialization from the Universal Press Syndicate. (The very first strip is available here to view.) Created by Bill Watterson, it was his first and only such strip after working in advertising and political cartooning. The last strip of Calvin and Hobbes was published on December 31, 1995. At the height of its popularity, it was featured in over twenty four hundred newspapers worldwide. Despite the overwhelming popularity of the strip, the strip remains notable for the complete lack of official product merchandising as Watterson is absolutely opposed to it being marketed that way. If you’ve purchased any Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, it’s bootleg. Everything by him is copyrighted, so I’m not including any images here. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 82. Well, there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that’s garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I wholeheartedly recommend, and I’ve heard good things about The Penelopiad. What else do you like of hers? 
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 75. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so that I read oh-so-long ago were superb. The Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his Stars Wars work as I never got into it. Though I’m glad the Evil Mouse is paying him for it finally. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 71. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction is quite excellent, and I see the usual suspects have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 71. I’d say that he’s best known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs, a neat feat indeed. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 68. His best book is Voice of the Fire which admittedly isn’t genre. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is very close. Pity about the film which surprisingly has a forty-four percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. His worst work? The Lost Girls which is genre in an odd manner. A shudderingly pornographic manner. Shudder. I’m also fond of The Ballad of Halo Jones and Swamp Thing work that he did as well. And let’s not forget that the The Watchmen won a well-deserved Hugo at Nolacon II. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 60. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards.
  • Born November 18, 1970 Peta Wilson, 51. Wilhelmina “Mina” Harker in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, a bit role as Bobbie-Faye in Superman Returns. Inspector in the “Promises” episode of the Highlander series. Though The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was not well received, she received a Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress for being in it which is rather surprising I’d say. 
  • Born November 18, 1981 Maggie Stiefvater, 40. Writer of YA fiction, she has myriad series, of which I recommend The Dreamer trilogy, The Wolves of Mercy Falls and the astonishing Raven Cycle. With her sister, Kate Hummel, she writes and records a piece of music for each novel she releases. These are released in the form of animated book trailers. She’s had five Mythopoeic Fantasy Award nominations but so far no wins. 

(12) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. The New York Times’ Michael Tisserand reviews American Comics: A History by Jeremy Dauber in “A Sweeping History of American Comics”.

…Dauber is particularly nuanced in dealing with the many controversies buffeting comics past and present, from debates over comics codes and depictions of sex and violence to questions of diversity, representation and authority “played out through the stretch of spandex.” He identifies comics’ “original sin” as the publishers’ failure to give creators proper credit, compensation and rights to their work. From there, he digs deep into comics economics, beginning with the $130 once paid to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for Superman and landing at the current multi-platform, multi-billion-dollar industry. There is no shortage of bitter ironies in this part of the tale: “In something that felt like an overdetermined symbol, the original check for $130 made out to Siegel and Shuster for Superman, the site of the grandest battle between creator and corporation, netted $160,000 at auction in 2012.”

(13) SAFETY CONCERN. Seanan McGuire, a GoH at last weekend’s Windycon in Chicago, tweeted about a problem she observed with people behaving like they’d found a loophole in the con’s mask-wearing requirement. Thread starts here. [Via Petréa Mitchell’s SMOF News.] 

(14) ESSENCE OF WONDER. The Essence of Wonder team’s Zoom with 2021 Astounding Award Finalist Lindsay Ellis can be seen now on YouTube.

Lindsay Ellis is so cool! Astounding Award Nominee Lindsay Ellis author of Axioms End and Truth of the Divine joined Alan and Karen this last Saturday to discuss her work, nomination, and a lot of fun was had!

(15) BATTLE ROYALE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This trailer, which dropped today, asks, “What if all the DC superheroes, all the Looney Tunes characters, Tom, Jerry, and the Scooby-Doo gang were in one incredible universe where they could fight each other?”

(16) FLAKEY NAMES. Boston.com invites everyone to “Meet ‘SNOWbegone Kenobi,’ ‘Jennifer Snowpez,’ and the 160 other snowplows named by Vermont kids”. The full list can be found at VTrans’ “Name A Plow Program” webpage.

In October, Vermont elementary students were tasked with naming the VTrans snowplows as part of their Name a Plow Program. From “Jennifer Snowpez” to “Mr. Pushy” and even “Steve,” their responses did not disappoint.

The state’s elementary schools were tasked with submitting names for VTrans’ 250 snowplows from Oct. 4 to Oct. 22, according to VTrans. The named plow would then be assigned to cover the respective school’s district, according to the state.

…Some schools gave their plows intense names as they prepare to battle the stormy months ahead. The Lunenburg School’s “The Lion’s Snow Destroyer,” Rutland Area Christian School’s “RACS Snow Destroyer,” and “Snowcrusher” from Sustainability Academy to name a few….

The force (of snowplows) must be strong in Vermont this year, as there were six Star Wars referenced plows. “Luke Snow Walker” will be joined by both “Snowbegone Kenobi” and “Obi-Wan KenSNOWbi,” “Storm Trooper,” “Darth Blader,” and of course, “Baby Snowda.”

Other names also had creative references: “Perry the Plowerpus” was the “Phineas and Ferb” inspired plow name from The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales and “Edgar Allen Snow” was the poetic name of Pacem School’s plow….

(17) CATS NOT DECEIVED BY TELEPORTATION. We’re not talking about the “two to beam up” kind of thing, however, today’s Nature reports “Experiments involving ‘impossible teleportation’ reveal the cognitive powers of the house cat” — “A cat can track its human by voice — if it can be bothered to”.

Pet cats seem to be able to track their human companion’s every move — through sound1.

Domestic house cats (Felis catus) use visual cues to create a mental map of their environment and the whereabouts of any other creatures nearby. However, our feline familiars also have keen ears, which could assist with their mental cartography when their prey — or person — is out of sight.

To investigate this, Saho Takagi at Kyoto University in Japan and her colleagues attempted to hoodwink dozens of house cats through ‘impossible teleportation’ experiments. The researchers placed each cat in a room with two widely spaced audio speakers. First, one speaker played a recording of the cat’s owner calling its name. Then, the second speaker played the same recording after an interval that would be too short for a human to travel between the two locations. Video cameras recorded the cats’ reactions.

The team found that house cats were noticeably surprised by auditory evidence that their people had been ‘teleported’. The cats’ astonishment suggests that they can keep mental notes of their humans’ presence and map that person’s location by voice.

(18) LIKE YOU NEED LITTLE TEENEY BRANDING IRONS FOR ANTS. If you can just find the little holes they made…. “Black holes slamming into the moon could end the dark-matter debate” according to MSN.com.

…A black hole half the size of a golf ball would have a mass equivalent to Earth’s. Even microscopic black holes, with masses comparable to asteroids, would’ve unceasingly sucked in and destroyed everything along their path. 

Slowly, as the universe progressed, swarms of them would have seen planetary systems rise and fall, and billions of years ago there’s a fair chance they’d have even whizzed through our corner of the cosmos. Eventually, these mini black holes would’ve sailed away from each other. But if they did exist, experts think they’d still be roaming in and around the galaxies right this second. 

They are, scientists believe, our newest lead on dark matter — perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe.

Dark matter quests that hope to unveil the strange, invisible particle or force that somehow binds the cosmos together often reach a wall. Solving the puzzle requires, well, actually… finding dark matter. 

So to ensure this innovative hypothesis isn’t a dead end, we’d need to locate unseen, miniature versions of black holes. But how? We have enough trouble finding supermassive, visible ones with high-tech equipment tailored to the search.

That’s where the moon comes in.

“There’s this funny estimate that you can do,” says Matt Caplan, an assistant professor of physics at Illinois State University and one of the theorists behind the research published in March. Caplan contends that if dark matter can indeed be explained by these tiny black holes, then at some point, they would have punctured the moon. 

Yes, you read that correctly: The moon might’ve been bombarded by atomic-sized black holes. Taking it a step further, the wounds they inflicted should still be up there; if these mini-abysses are proven to exist, dark matter may no longer be an everlasting enigma….

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bruce D. Arthurs, Olav Rokne, Chris Barkley, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowrie, Michael J. Lowrey, Jennifer Hawthorne, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10/21 The Lone And Level Pixels Stretch Far Away

(1) SAINT OF STEEL CONTINUES. Oor Wombat has a third Paladin book out today, written in her guise as T. Kingfisher.

Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard’s investigations. It’s a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he’s called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.

Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the maze of the mysterious killer, it’s Galen’s job to protect Piper from the traps that await them.

He’s just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…

Here are some early returns from the readers on Twitter:

(2) BARRELLING OVER LEVIATHAN FALLS. In “The Expanse Saga Takes Its Final Space Flight”, Publishers Weekly interviews authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck about how they created the story arc.

…Their aspirations were extremely modest initially. “The original concept for this was we would write Leviathan Wakes and sell it for pizza money,” Abraham said.

Franck added, “We didn’t have high expectations for it being a big new title or anything. And that’s what Daniel means by pizza money—you know, you could sell it for a few thousand bucks, and high-five each other, and that’d be the end of it.”

They did have a firm idea of where their story could continue after that first novel, however. “When we sent it out, we wrote one-paragraph outlines of what the next two books would be,” Franck said. “We sent that to the publisher too. And they bought three books based on one complete book and two one-paragraph blurbs. It was when we started writing the second book that we actually sat down and said, ‘Let’s have a good plan for this. Let’s figure this out.’ And that was when we really started to plan out what the longer story would be.”

The plan, inevitably, changed a bit. While the authors once contemplated writing 12 books, they cut out three after realizing their ideas for what would have followed the sixth book, 2016’s Babylon’s Ashes, were just a “boring rehash.” Instead, the seventh book, 2017’s Persepolis Rising, featured a dramatic time jump that allowed the authors to give the solar system time to stabilize after the events of the prior book.

Not much else changed, though. Franck said he had pitched “the last scene and the last line of the last scene” of Levithan Falls to his colleague around 2012.

The Expanse has sold a total of four million copies in North American and has been translated into 21 languages, according to Orbit, its publisher. Interest in the series has continually grown and Levithan Falls has a first printing of 125,000 copies….

(3) SUPERSAVER. “How ‘Adventures of Superman’ star Jack Larson saved a piece of Charlie Chaplin history and met Seinfeld”Decades has a memory about the actor who played Jimmy Olsen.

… [In 1955] Chaplin had sent for his films and memorabilia to be shipped to Europe.

But Chaplin only kept certain costumes and props. Other props lying around Chaplin Studios were being tossed in the trash. One prop that was about to end up in the garbage can was a rubber wrench that Chaplin used to great effect in the classic film Modern Times.

While working on Superman, Larson saw this cinematic crime about to happen and couldn’t sit still. He begged them to let him have it. They thought he was nuts for asking for this piece of rubber….

(4) TRANSLATING TOLKIEN. The virtual Tolkien Society Autumn Seminar with the theme “Translating and Illustrating Tolkien will take place November 6. It is free, sign up at the link.

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result. The author’s invented names and languages prompt the question of how the translator should approach Tolkien’s immense mythology. Recent scholarship has emphasised the need for a wider range of Tolkien’s work to be translated in order for readers to gain a fuller understanding of Arda and the author’s development. But with a wealth of translated texts existing already, this seminar hopes to spark new interpretations about old texts and for unacknowledged translations to be brought to light and examined….

(5) TAFF REPORT AVAILABLE. Anna Raftery’s report of her TAFF trip to MidAmeriCon II (the 74th Worldcon) in 2016, Cuttlefish and Cake, can now be acquired for a donation of £5 at the link. Purchase will give you access to the PDF and MP3 versions of the report. All proceeds will go to TAFF.

(6) NEWS, GOOD AND OTHERWISE. David Brin has rounded up a bunch of interesting science links “Gravitational waves, Snowball Earth … and more science!” at Contrary Brin.

…A fascinating paper dives into the SFnal question of “what-if” – specifically if we had been as stupid about the Ozone Layer as we are re climate change. The paper paints a dramatic vision of a scorched planet Earth without the Montreal Protocol, what they call the “World Avoided”. This study draws a new stark link between two major environmental concerns – the hole in the ozone layer and global warming – and how the Montreal Accords seem very likely to have saved us from a ruined Earth.

Going way, way back, the Mother of Modern Gaia Thought – after whom I modeled a major character in Earth – the late Lynn Margulis, has a reprinted riff in The Edge – “Gaia is a Tough Bitch” – offering insights into the kinds of rough negotiations between individuals and between species that must have led to us. Did eukaryotes arise when a large cell tried and failed to eat a bacterium? Or when a bacterium entering a large cell to be a parasite settled down instead to tend our ancestor like a milk cow? The latter seems slightly more likely!

Not long after that, (in galactic years) some eukaryotes joined to form the first animals – sponges – and now there are signs this may have happened 250M years earlier that previously thought, about 890 Mya, before the Earth’s atmosphere was oxygenated and surviving through the Great Glaciation “Snowball Earth” events of the Kirschvink Epoch….

(7) EXPANSE REACHES ITS LIMIT. The Expanse’s sixth and final season arrives December 10 on Amazon Prime.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2008 – Thirteen years ago this October, G. Willow Wilson’s most excellent Air series would see its first issue on Vertigo, an imprint of DC comics, published. It’s illustrated by Turkish artist M. K. Perker, and it tells the story of Blythe, an acrophobic flight attendant, who gets involved with a terrorist from a country that doesn’t exist. Amelia Earhart and Quetzalcoatl are crucial characters. Reception was sharply divided with folks within our community such as Neil Gaiman and Gail Simone loving it but with mainstream critics pretty much dismissing it for both for the story and the artwork. It would last but twenty four issues before being cancelled due to low sales. It’s not available digitally but is easily had in the four trade paper collections for reasonable prices at online sellers. Oddly enough, it’s not listed on ISFDB even though it’s clearly fantasy, but then neither is her graphic novel Cairo which is also quite excellent.  Does ISFDB have a bias against graphic novels? 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Ed Wood Jr. Though best remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space which inexplicably has a sixty-eight percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes, he did a lot of terribly bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? The Bulldance is at least genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase”, a Second Doctor story. In the Seventies, he wrote the BBC Doctor Who and the Pescatons audio drama which I remember hearing. It was quite excellent. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 70. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. (Not so named in the film but in the novelization.)  Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 55. She’s Miss West in that wretched Wild West West and the Mysterious Women in the exemplary Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy. Nope, not seen that one. Her last genre role was Zillia in Conjuring: The Book of the Dead, a horror film riffing off Alastair Crowley. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) NEVERENDING STORY. Read the first chapter of Douglas Wolk’s All of the Marvels: A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told at Entertainment Weekly.

The twenty-seven thousand or so superhero comic books that Marvel Comics has published since 1961 are the longest continuous, self-contained work of fiction ever created: over half a million pages to date, and growing. Thousands of writers and artists have contributed to it. Every week, about twenty slim pamphlets of twenty or thirty pages apiece are added to the body of its single enormous story. By design, any of its episodes can build on the events of any that came before it, and they’re all (more or less) consistent with one another….

(12) BEFORE AND BEHIND THE CAMERA. A profile of Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the October 2 Financial Times notes she is involved in two franchises: she co-wrote No Time To Die and is an actor in Indiana Jones 5. (I had to take a three-question survey about underwear brands to get free access to the article – make sure your drawers are in order.) “Phoebe Waller-Bridge: the writer making James Bond ‘a little bit twisted’”.

…The marriage between quirky creativity and mega budgets can be fraught. Waller-Bridge, who stars opposite Harrison Ford in the fifth instalment of Indiana Jones, has been coy about her contributions to the latest Bond film. Those hoping to find Fleabag will be disappointed. The secret agent retains some of his old cheesiness. Yet the central speech by sinister villain Lyutsifer Safin contained a reminder of Waller-Bridge’s protagonist: “I just think I want someone to tell me how to live my life?.?.?. because so far I think I’ve been getting it wrong.”…

(13) TRIPPING. Victoria Silverwolf finds a clever lead for a review of the latest (in 1966) issue of Worlds of Tomorrow at Galactic Journey: “[October 10, 1966] Let’s Take A Trip (November 1966 Worlds of Tomorrow)”.

… Until this month, this hallucinogenic drug [LSD] was legal everywhere in the USA. On October 6, it became illegal in the state of California. In response to the new law, on the same day thousands of people showed up for a so-called Love Pageant Rally in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. They enjoyed music from local artists, and many took doses of LSD in defiance of the law….

Even if you live in California, you can enjoy a trip deep into your imagination in a perfectly legal manner, simply by opening the latest issue of Worlds of Tomorrow. Fittingly, almost all the fiction takes place in the far reaches of interstellar space….

(14) INSIDE TZ. Marc Scott Zicree is doing full episode commentaries on over 100 Twilight Zone episodes that will supplement those he did for the official disc set. To find out how to buy them, look at Twilight Zone Commentaries.

The official Twilight Zone BluRay set contained 54 full-length detailed, informative, and entertaining commentaries by Marc Scott Zicree. And now, Marc continues where that left off, with commentaries of the remaining 102 Twilight Zone episodes delivered in a convenient app on your phone, tablet, laptop, SmartTV, or other device.

(15) FOUNDATION GARMENT. You’ve read the series – now buy the shirt that looks as old as it is — Foundation unisex book t-shirt from Out of Print.

The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov received the 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time series, beating out the Lord of the RingsFoundation is the first book in that trilogy.

Each purchase helps to fund literacy programs and book donations to communities in need.

(16) ASTRO’S COUSINS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Also in the Financial Times, columnist John Gapper, in a column about the Amazon Astro, made a Doctor Who reference that was news to me.

There is a well-known Punch cartoon of some Daleks from Dr Who at the foot of a staircase, cursing that their plans to conquer the universe are ruined.  This machine (the Astro) suffers from similar limitations:  It can navigate apartments but would be stymied by a two-storey house.

(17) READY FOR EVERY EMERGENCY. “Star Trek: Prodigy Gives Extended Look at Captain Janeway Hologram” at CBR.com.

… At Prodigy‘s panel at New York City Comic-Con, the show debuted a minute-long clip from the show’s pilot episode. In it, the hologram introduces herself to the ragtag group of young aliens, announcing she is the Emergency Training Hologram for the USS Protostar. Little does she know that everything is far from routine on this ship.

After making her introductions, Tellurite Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) criticizes her looks, prompting a snippy response to show that Janeway’s snark made its way into the programming. The crew does no better job after that first impression to show that they have any idea what they’re doing. Shy Rok-Tahk (Rylee Alazraqui) doesn’t even know what a Federation is.….

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, John Coxon, Lise Andreasen, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/21 Now The Years Are Scrolling By Me, They Are Rocking Pixelly

(1) 328305 JACKMCDEVITT. SF writer Jack McDevitt has been honored with an asteroid. Here’s the chart –

(2) HUMAN COST IGNORED. Will Slocombe protests that “Militaries Plunder Science Fiction for Technology Ideas, But Turn a Blind Eye to the Genre’s Social Commentary” at Activist Post.

One of the most interesting tools for thinking about future defence technology isn’t big data forecasting and the use of synthetic training environments, but narrative and imagination. And we get this from science fiction.

That might sound fanciful, but many militaries are already engaging with the genre. The US military and the French army use science fiction writers to generate future threat scenarios. The Australian Defence College advocates for the reading of science fiction and, in Germany, Project Cassandra uses novels to predict the world’s next conflict. The Sigma Forum, a science fiction think tank, has been offering forecasting services to US officials for years.

But while science fiction provides military planners with a tantalising glimpse of future weaponry, from exoskeletons to mind-machine interfaces, the genre is always about more than flashy new gadgets. It’s about anticipating the unforeseen ways in which these technologies could affect humans and society – and this extra context is often overlooked by the officials deciding which technologies to invest in for future conflicts….

(3) GET READY FOR BLUECON. [Item by Florrie Frederiksen.]  BlueCon, the 48th French national science-fiction convention, takes place August 19-22. The in-person event will be held on the international campus of the Valbonne University near Nice and the French Riviera. Ugo Bellagamba, president of this project, waxed poetical in his introduction: “Blue is the primary color of imagination, which may be painted in shades of azure, deep blue, or the morning blue which lightens and opens, the color of the skies, of the sea, which both invite to explore the realms beyond the horizon… ”

It is still possible to join the 105 attendees already committed to make this convention a success; panels and meetings and many tables are already being readied. Although the rooms in the center are already filled, the website lists other possibilities for accommodation nearby. Nice is easily reached by train and there is a good sized airport not far away.

(Warnings: this convention does not plan to have virtual elements. All attendees must make sure to have the compulsory valid “passe sanitaire” i.e. QR code proof of full vaccination or at least a negative PCR test dated after August 17. Even then, both vaccinated or non vaccinated people should be wearing masks and some measures of distance and hygiene will be necessary).

The program of the convention has been posted here.

(4) GHOSTBUSTERS AFTERLIFE TRAILER. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is coming to theaters in November.

In Ghostbusters: Afterlife, when a single mom and her two kids arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind.

(5) TERRIFICON LINEUP. Joe Stuber interviews David Gerrold for his Comic Book Central podcast: “David Gerrold on Star Trek & Land of the Lost!” Gerrold is on his way to be a guest at Terrificon.

TerrifiCon Week continues with legendary Star Trek writer and creator of Land of the Lost, David Gerrold! David drops by to talk about the origin of his fascination with sci-fi, crafting the most memorable episode of Trek, tackling tales of Tarzan and Superboy, and developing the complex mythology for the 70s Saturday morning sensation, Land of the Lost!

(6) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. James Davis Nicoll homes in on the trouble of that green and ancient land at Tor.com: “Five Speculative Visions of Britain in Chaos”.

The Star Fraction by Ken MacLeod (1995)

Rescued by US/UN intervention from the perils of the United Republic’s radical democracy, Britain is home to a patchwork of micro-states under the umbrella of the restored Hanoverian monarchy. Within sensible limits, each micro-state is free to govern itself as it sees fit, with heavily armed, remotely piloted war robots providing gentle rebukes should anyone overstep the US/UN guidelines.

Although the peace process can be trying from the perspective of the common person in the street, the system provides something the US/UN treasures: stability. However, stability is a chimera. An unseen enemy has been waiting patiently to bring the US/UN regime down. Now, thanks to a mercenary, a fundamentalist teen, and a scientist, the revolution has come.

(7) HAMIT MEDICAL UPDATE. Longtime File 770 contributor Francis Hamit has had two surgeries this week to deal with spinal stenosis. His partner Leigh Strother-Vien reports:

Francis had his first surgery on Friday, the 23rd, and his second yesterday, the 26th. Everything went well; in fact, they decided Friday’s went so well that they combined the second and the planned third surgeries together yesterday, fixing his spine down to the T2. He is in the ICU for at least one more day just to be extra careful, and he’s getting plenty of pain management. He said to let you know that it’s ok to put something in File 770 if you wish.

Before the surgeries Hamit sent me a note which ended:

…So I am going to be out of action and Leigh will be taking care of me.  … I will be “just the writer” for  some time to come.  Fortunately that’s part of my therapy.  So I’m not going anywhere.  Just completed that long novel and my memoir and have other work in progress. (Also need a literary agent). 

…Thoughts, prayers, good wishes etc are welcome of course.  Buying, reading and reviewing my books and stories, (Amazon.com) or dramatic work (Stageplays.com) is also very helpful since it helps out with expenses.  No time left for a fundraiser and too much else to do….

(8) A TRIBUTE TO ANDERSSON. The death of horror writer C. Dean Andersson a.k.a. Asa Drake was reported here the other day. Here is a tribute by his friend Christopher Fulbright: “Rest in Peace Dean Andersson”.

… Looking through old pictures is a little bittersweet. We had such great times together, but you never think about having to say goodbye for the last time. You seldom know what conversation will be your last. If I had to pick a last conversation, the one we had was as close to perfect as one might get—we talked about everything from the meaning of life to God himself. We talked a lot about God. I brought him a book of Robert E. Howard’s Kull stories and a Bible, which I promised had heroes and heroines, swords and sorceresses, dragons, pagan gods, epic battles, and the living dead. He was so grateful, and it was such a good talk. I left Dean’s hospital room a week and a half ago with a promise that I would bring lunch by his house and hang out in a couple of weeks, after he’d had a chance to get settled in again at home. Well … I know I’ll see him again someday, it’s just going to be a longer wait. In the meantime, the world is a bit poorer without him. He would no doubt have some subtle quip to make at that, but I insist it’s true….

(9) LESNIAK OBIT. Jim Lesniak of Voodoo Comics died over the weekend while manning his dealers table at the Gem City Comic Con in Dayton, OH according to numerous reports. No more details are known at this writing.

(10) HENRI VERNES (1918-2021). [Item by Florrie Frederiksen:] Henri Vernes (pen-name of Belgian author Charles-Henri-Jean Dewisme, born in 1918) passed away on July 25 at the age of 102.

He is best remembered for the over 200 French language novels of action, fantasy and science-fiction revolving around the BOB MORANE character, that he published continuously since 1953. Bob Morane also appeared in a 1965 television series, a 1996 animated movie, and a number of comics albums with art by well-known French artists.

The character has been made famous by a line in the 1982 song L’Aventurier by French rock group Indochine (“Et soudain surgit face au vent le vrai héros de tous les temps, Bob Morane contre tout chacal, l’aventurier contre tout guerrier.” Tranlsation: “And suddenly, against the wind appeared the real all time hero: Bob Morane fighting any jackal, the adventurer fighting all warriors…”)

A French science-fiction award has been named for Bob Morane (see here).

(11) MEMORY LANE.

  • July 27, 2001 – Twenty years ago, the Planet of the Apes reboot premiered. Directed by Tim Burton and produced by Richard D. Zanuck, it was the sixth film in the Planet of the Apes franchise, very loosely adapted from Pierre Boulle’s novel and the 1968 film version. The screenplay was by William Broyles Jr., Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. The primary cast was Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kris Kristofferson, Estella Warren and Paul Giamatti. The critics mostly liked it though Ebert noted the original was much better, and it did very well at the box office ranking among the top ten films of the year. Currently at Rotten Tomatoes, audience reviewers really don’t like it and give it a twenty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 27, 1874 Frank Shannon. He’s best remembered now as the scientist Dr. Alexis Zarkov in the three Flash Gordon serials starring Buster Crabbe between 1936 and 1940.  The serials themselves were Flash GordonFlash Gordon’s Trip to Mars and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. He does show in the Forties Batman serial as Dr. Hayden and The Phantom serial of the era as Professor Davidson. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 27, 1938 Pierre Christin, 83. French comics creator and writer. In the mid Sixties, collaborated with Jean-Claude Mézières to create the science-fiction series Valérian and Laureline for PiloteTime Jam: Valerian & Laureline, a French animated series was released, and a feature film directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, was released as well. A compilation of the Valerian & Laureline series is on YouTube here.
  • Born July 27, 1938 Gary Gygax. Game designer and author best known for co-creating  Dungeons & Dragons with Dave Arneson. In addition to the almost beyond counting gaming modules he wrote, he wrote the Greyhawk Adventure series and the Dangerous Journeys novels, none of which is currently in print. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of the many novels listed at ISFDB, so I’ve no idea how he is as a genre writer.(Died 2008.)
  • Born July 27, 1939 Sydney J. van Scyoc, 82. Her first published story was “Shatter the Wall” in Galaxy in 1962. She continued to write short stories throughout the Sixties and Seventies, and published Saltflower, her first novel in the early Seventies. Assignment Nor’Dyren is one of her better novels. Over the next twenty years, she published a dozen novels and likewise number of short stories. 
  • Born July 27, 1940 Gary Kurtz. Producer whose genre credits include Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz. He did a late Eighties SF film Slipstream, which reunited him with Mark Hamill. He was the original producer on The Spirit. He was executive producer on Chandler, a PI film which isn’t genre adjacent but worth noting here. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 27, 1949 Robert Rankin, 72. Writer of what I’d call serious comic genre fiction. Best book by him? I’d single out The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse as the best work he ever did bar none. Hell, even the name is absolutely frelling great. 
  • Born July 27, 1968 Farah Mendlesohn, 53. She’s an historian and prolific writer on genre literature, and an active fan. Best works by her? I really like her newest work on Heinlein, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, whichwon a BSFAHer Diana Wynne Jones: Children’s Literature and the Fantastic Tradition is also a fascinating read. And I highly recommend her Rhetorics of Fantasy as we don’t get many good theoretical looks at fantasy. Her only Hugo to date was at Interaction for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. She’s also garnered a BFA for Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction (shared with co-writer Michael Levy) which also got a Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy, and she a Karl Edward Wagner Award winner as well. 
  • Born July 27, 1973 Cassandra Clare, 48. I read at least the first three or four volumes of her Mortal Instruments series which I see means I’ve almost completed it. Damn good series. Anyone read her Magnus Bane series? Interestingly she’s been nominated for myriad Goodreads Choice Awards and won two for City of Fallen Angels and City of Heavenly Fire.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING. Here’s a teaser trailer for Mad God, a feature film directed by Phil Tippett, the world’s pre-eminent stop motion animator. Content Warning: Graphic body horror. Tippett’s career credits include Star Wars, RoboCop, and Jurassic Park.

(15) IT’S FROM AN OLD FAMILIAR SCORE. Vintage News shares some “Twisty Turny Facts About The Classic TV Series ‘The Twilight Zone’”.

Check out some mind-boggling behind-the-scenes facts, as we take you on a trip into Serling’s singularly strange universe…

It has a connection to Marty McFly

Does this building look familiar? As Screen Rant points out, the setting was part of The Twilight Zone’s first ever episode: “Where Is Everybody?”

The story concerns a man who appears to be alone in the world. Yet Courthouse Square, part of Universal Studios, has been anything but deserted over the years.

Lightning bolts and streaks of fire turned the area into an exit route for time travelers Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in Back To The Future (1985)….

(16) FIELDS OF DREAMS. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Since we just discussed Lord Dunsany, the fantasy author, here is a profile of his descendant Randal Plunkett, the current Lord Dunsany, who is an eco hippy organic farmer and film maker. His first movie The Green Sea even appears to be genre: “’There have been many death threats, but I’ll never stop’ – Randal Plunkett, Baron of Dunsany, on rewilding his family estate” in The Independent.

…  “After attempting a normal agricultural approach, I stepped back and saw a landscape bleak and exhausted from overgrazing and over-farming,” he explains. “Chemicals injected into the soil and no pause for regeneration or recovery. How does land remain healthy when the cycle of life is ignored?”

The 21st Baron of Dunsany made a radical decision. He removed all grazing animals from the property, gearing towards an overall holistic focus on crops. Pesticides were banned, fertilisers were abandoned and invasive weeds like ragwort and thistle were tackled by hand. “My mum looked at me as if I’d joined a cult.”

Steered by a passionate new advocacy for veganism, Randal — who tradition dictates should be addressed as Lord Dunsany — came upon the concept of ‘rewilding’ seven years ago, a progressive approach to conservation allowing the environment to take care of itself and return to a native natural state. Rather than an experimental litmus test in a quiet corner of the property, he sacrificed 750 acres of a highly profitable 1,700-acre pasture in an unorthodox gamble.

“I wanted to return the land to the wild, not just preserve what little natural habitat remained. So we locked up a huge part of the estate and it was militant. No footfall most of the year, no paths or interference. That’s not to say we abandoned the land, we’re guardians keeping a distant, watchful eye. And the results speak for themselves.”…

(17) FLORIDA MAN. “Florida man washes ashore after trying to ‘walk’ to New York in bubble device” reports The Guardian.

Florida man startled beachgoers when he washed ashore inside a hybrid bubble-running wheel device.

The man, identified by a local news channel as Reza Baluchi, washed ashore in Flagler county on the east coast of Florida on Saturday.

He was inside a large barrel-type device which appeared to have flotation buoys attached to each end. The Flagler county sheriff’s office posted photos of the strange vessel on Facebook.

“The occupant advised he left the St Augustine area yesterday to head to New York,” the sheriff’s office said, “but came across some complications that brought him back to shore”.

…The Sun-Sentinel reported that Baluchi was forced to turn back after he discovered that some of his safety and navigation equipment had been stolen. The equipment has been recovered, and Baluchi plans to resume his journey once the weather improves, the newspaper said.

(18) THE LATEST MEMES OF 2003. In Honest Trailers:  Space Jam:  A New Legacy, on YouTube, teh Screen Junkies say this movie turns LeBron James into “a joyless grunt who plays boring basketball” and Bugs Bunny into “off-brand Bugs Bunny.”

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, N., Steve H Silver, Cora Buhlert, Florrie Frederiksen, David K.M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/17/21 Part Pixel. Part Scroll. All File 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS DEADLINE. Red Panda Fraction reminds everyone that July 19 the deadline to nominate for the Dragon Awards. The award has a unique eligibility period – the works must be released between 7/1/2020 and 6/30/2021 – and to help deal with it RPF has created an eligible works spreadsheet compiled by volunteers (inspired by Renay’s Hugo Awards spreadsheet) in a Google Doc located here. Dragon Awards nominations can be submitted here

(2) A TOMORROW WAR MAKEOVER. Camestros Felapton wasn’t content to “Review: The Tomorrow War (Amazon)” – now he’s come up with a plan for “Fixing The Tomorrow WarBEWARE SPOILERS as they say.

Sorry, it’s just that this daft film is bugging me. If you are going to have a time travel plot then do something with it. Terminator 1 and 2 managed to be exciting, daft movies and still have some interesting things to say about determinism and time travel. The Tomorrow War pulled one emotional beat out of the set-up but otherwise the time travel aspect just lead to an absurd situation in which Chris Pratt and only Chris Pratt could work out what to do in the past to help the future. It didn’t help that Pratt is not good at conveying the idea that his character is a particularly insightful thinker….

(3) BIG BUCKS. Somebody got paid: “‘Walking Dead’ Lawsuit Settled For $200M Between Frank Darabont, CAA & AMC” reports Deadline.

Less than a month before The Walking Dead kicks off its 11th and final season, the long and bitter legal war between former showrunner Frank DarabontCAA and AMC is over.

In the dictionary definition of a strategic whimper not a bang, the cabler just filed paperwork with the SEC declaring that they have paid out $200 million to the Shawshank Redemption director and the uberagency to end the dispute.

“The Settlement Agreement provides for a cash payment of $200 million (the “Settlement Payment”) to the plaintiffs and future revenue sharing related to certain future streaming exhibition of The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead,” says the understated filing (read it here).

“With regard to the Settlement Payment, the Company has taken a charge of approximately $143 million in the quarter ended June 30, 2021 in consideration for the extinguishment of Plaintiffs’ rights to any compensation in connection with The Walking Dead and any related programs and the dismissal of the actions with prejudice, which amount is net of
approximately $57 million of ordinary course accrued participations,” the 3-page document continues.

… All of which means almost 10 years since TWD‘s Halloween 2011 premiere under Darabont’s tutorage, this legal saga is done like a walker with a knife through the head.

(4) LEVAR BURTON READS HIS OWN BOOK. Entertainment Weekly invites everyone to “Hear LeVar Burton read his novel Aftermath for the first time”. Audio at the link.

Book aficionado, actor, director, and novelist LeVar Burton is doing something new with one of his old projects.

He’s taking Aftermath, his speculative fiction novel from 1997, and turning it into a new audiobook — and EW has your first listen.

When Burton released the book in the late ’90s, it was set in the future — 2019. It followed a group of people that just might be able to save humanity following catastrophic events, including a destructive earthquake, racial strife (the fictional Black president was assassinated in 2012), and war.

EW’s sneak peek from Aftermath is Burton’s new author’s note, where he comments on some of the themes and offers reflection on recent historical events. Looking back on his novel, Burton said he was “astonished by similarities between” his “timeline and unfolding events.” He also notes he wrote the book as “a cautionary tale.”…

(5) A DIM VIEW. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw critiques the cinematography of Marvel movies in “Why the MCU’s Lighting Sucks—Including ‘Loki’ and ‘Avengers: Endgame’” at Daily Dot.

Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fandom is a fount of strong opinions, some of which I find wholly understandable (Tilda Swinton’s role was a fiasco; Sebastian Stan is an underrated gem) while others are a little more… puzzling. In the latter category, it’s always bizarre to see people praise the MCU’s lighting. Unlike the artistic vigor of the comics, Disney’s Marvel franchise delivers film after film that can best be described as “murky.” And that includes the popular technique of just blasting a scene with a single color.

This week saw the release of Black Widow and the Loki finale, both involving a similarly lackluster lighting strategy. Black Widow‘s final sequence includes flashes of red to break up the grey undertones of a traditional Marvel battle, while Loki concludes in a purple castle—after fighting a purple CGI behemoth in episode 5. In both examples, the result is deceptively monotonous. While Loki‘s purple color scheme is initially eye-catching, the low-contrast lighting makes it hard to make out the characters’ facial expressions. The same goes for many other scenes in the show, as evidenced by this official promo image…

There’s nothing wrong with filming in monochrome, of course. The film industry did it for the first forty years of its existence. But Marvel’s “paint it all purple” (or brown, or red) technique ignores the shadows, reflections, and highlights utilized in traditional black-and-white films. So we’re neither benefiting from evocative lighting choices or from the vibrant color palette in blockbusters like Superman (1978). (For a classic superhero movie that probably would work in black and white, Tim Burton’s Batman is full of stark, noir-style contrasts.)…

(6) GOT TO BE HERE SOMEWHERE. Austin Gilkeson examines “The Fellowship of the Ring and the Memes of Middle-earth” at Tor.com, including a famous one that doesn’t come from Tolkien’s books.

The other day, I opened Facebook and saw a Boromir meme. You know the one. Fingers and thumb forming a circle, golden light about him, the words “One does not simply [something something]” embossed over the image. This one has the Center for Disease Control logo below that, with the PR announcement, “Fully vaccinated people may now simply walk into Mordor.” Below that, Boromir rubs his temple in frustration. Twenty years on from the debut of The Fellowship of the Ring, and that line from Sean Bean’s Boromir, and I think we can safely say that the “One does not simply” meme is, like the Eldar, immortal….

(7) JOE MCKINNEY (1968-2021). Author Joe McKinney, writer of 13 novels in many genres, including horror, ghost stories, virus thrillers, crime and science fiction, died July 13. He was an 8-time Bram Stoker Award nominee, winning twice, for his novel The Flesh Eaters (2012) and his young adult novel Dog Days (2014).

In addition, he was a sergeant with the San Antonio Police Department, Patrol Supervisor, and before that a homicide detective, disaster mitigation specialist, and he’d helped run the city’s 911 Dispatch Center.

The San Antonio Current paid tribute here, and quotes two writers connected with the Horror Writers Association who eulogized McKinney on Facebook.

“I am terribly saddened to hear that a good friend and great writer, Joe McKinney, has passed away suddenly,” horror author and HWA board member JG Faherty posted on Facebook Thursday. “I will miss the chats we used to have every few months. He was always there to help me when I needed some factual assistance with police procedure, or to just bullshit about things.”

On Thursday, horror author Lisa Morton, a six-time Bram Stoker Award winner, posted a Facebook remembrance of McKinney. She met the San Antonio author in 2006 after being asked to write a blurb for Dead City.

“I became both a fan of Joe’s work and a friend,” Morton wrote. “At some point we both wound up serving as HWA officers and trustees, and Joe was always a trusted voice of wisdom. Even after he left office (he served lastly as HWA’s secretary), we stayed in touch, talking about an amazing crime novel he wanted to write, based on some uncomfortable truths he’d learned while serving within the San Antonio Police Department.”

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1996 – Twenty-five years ago the Deadly Games series ended its run on UPN after just one season. So why am I bringing it to your attention? Because Leonard Nimoy was one of the executive producers (along with Jim Charleston, Christopher Hibler and Christian I. Nyby II), along with being a creative consultant and he directed the pilot for the series. He was not one of the creators as that was Paul Bernbaum, S.S. Schweitzer and Anthony Spinner. (Only the latter with work on The Invaders and The Man from U.N.C.LE. had any extensive genre work. Well, and he wrote for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.)  Its principal cast was James Calvert, Christopher Lloyd, Cynthia Gibb and Stephen T. Kay. The plot? Evil VR characters escape into reality. Really, would I kid you? The network contracted for an initial thirteen episodes and cancelled it before all of them even aired due to really poor ratings. There’s no audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes but the aggregate critical rating there is fifty percent. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.)
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 67. Best known rather obviously for creating and writing most of  Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for as well as the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics sides, he’s written The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written SupermanWonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. I wonder how his Dangerous Visions anthology project is coming along. 
  • Born July 17, 1956 Timothy D. Rose, 65. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but also was in The Dark Crystal, Return to EwokReturn of The JediReturn to OzThe Muppet Christmas CarolThe Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well. 
  • Born July 17, 1965 Alex Winter, 56. Bill in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its sequels Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and Bill & Ted Face the Music. And though I didn’t realise it, he was Marko in The Lost Boys. He directed two Ben 10 films, Ben 10: Race Against Time and Ben 10: Alien Swarm. He also directed Quantum Is Calling, a short film that has cast members Keanu Reeves, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Paul Rudd. 
  • Born July 17, 1967 Kelly Robson, 54. She finally has a collection out, nearly five hundred pages of fiction, Alias Space and Other Stories. It’s available at the usual suspects for four dollars and ninety-nine cents. Bliss! It contains “A Human Stain” for which she won a Nebula, and two Aurora winners, “Waters of Versailles” and “Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach”. 
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 45. Wow. Author of  Ex Machina, Pride of Baghdad, Runaways, Saga (which has won a BFA and a Dragon), Y: The Last Man, and his newest undertaking, Paper Girls. And he’s won a Hugo Award at LoneStarCon 3 for Saga, Volume One. You could spend an entire summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of Lost during seasons three through five, and he was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series.
  • Born July 17, 1992 Billie Lourd, 29. Lourd is the only child of actress Carrie Fisher.  She appeared as Lieutenant Connix in the Star Wars sequel trilogy as Lieutenant Kaydel Ko Connix.  She also has been a regular cast member on American Horror Story for the five seasons. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Prickly City has the passive-aggressive UFO take on Earth people.
  • Lio’s lost pet poster leaves out one important fact.

(11) BIG PRICE TAGS. The New York Times includes photos of several of these unique items in “Toymakers Create Their Dream Projects (but Ask for Money Upfront)”.

… Other collectors are opening their wallets to buy exclusive products like a $575 Transformers action figure from Hasbro, a $350 Star Wars gunship from Lego, a $75 Magic 8 Ball from Mattel and a $250 Bear Walker skateboard from Pokémon.

The strategy is part of an effort by toy companies to form stronger bonds with fans by offering them once-in-a-lifetime toys. Many companies have beefed up their e-commerce presence to sell limited-edition items that are not found at Walmart or Target.

After slipping 4 percent in 2019, U.S. toy sales roared back last year, rising 16 percent to $25.1 billion, according to the NPD Group, a research firm. “2020 was an unprecedented year for the U.S. toy industry,” Juli Lennett, vice president and industry adviser for NPD’s U.S. toy division, said in a statement.

Much of the expansion was driven by pandemic-induced lockdowns that led consumers to shop online for entertainment options. In the first three quarters of 2020, overall online toy sales jumped 75 percent from a year earlier, NPD said.

Taking advantage of the online growth, executives at big toymakers like Hasbro and Mattel are ramping up their efforts to create dream projects. And digital strategies like crowdfunding allow smaller companies to bypass the hurdles of selling a concept to established retailers, which might balk at giving valuable shelf space to a large, expensive toy or an untested product.

(12) SCHMIGADOON. I don’t think I could actually stand to watch this show, but in small doses it’s morbidly fascinating. Consider the Carousel-esque “You Can’t Tame Me” clip. Which can’t be embedded here.

The six-part series follows a couple, played by Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key, who stumble on a magical town that lives in a 1940s musical. From there, the pair have to try and find true love.

(13) DON’T SPARE THE ROD.  “Submitted for your approval, the ten episodes that broke the bank…in the Twilight Zone.”The Richest calls these “The Ten Most Expensive Twilight Zone Episodes”.

8/10 Once Upon A Time, $67,250.76

The expensive budget behind this no-dialogue episode was in part due to the appearance of silent-film star Buster Keaton. The episode was written as an homage to some of Keaton’s most iconic performances and still retains the Twilight Zone’s iconic twist.

Centered around two men who are unhappy with their current existence, a time traveling helmet provides both a glimpse into how true satisfaction comes from acknowledging that the grass on the other side of the fence is not actually greener.

(14) WOMEN IN SPACE. “What does it take to do a spacewalk? Skill, courage, and being able to wear a men’s size medium” says The Conversation.

On June 25, astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet successfully completed an almost seven-hour EVA (extravehicular activity, or spacewalk) to install solar panels on the International Space Station. What does it take to don a spacesuit and venture out on such a technical and dangerous mission? Surprisingly, one of the main criteria (besides the years of astronaut training) is body size.

EVA capabilities blossomed during the era of NASA’s space shuttle. Astronauts rode robotic arms, floated tetherless through the void using jetpacks to steer, corralled satellites by hand, and built the International Space Station (ISS). They’ve done it all while wearing spacesuits based on the design first developed for the Apollo missions in the 1960s.

Each suit is a human-shaped spacecraft, featuring a backpack that houses a primary life support system; a layered, pressurised outer garment to protect astronauts from the space environment; and a “long john” undergarment that circulates chilled water via tubes over the body to stop the astronauts getting too hot inside their suit.

When designing these “next-gen” spacesuits in 1974, NASA opted for a modular “tuxedo” approach, in which the various components (upper torso, lower torso, helmet, arms and gloves) could be mixed and matched to fit individual astronauts. The suits came in five sizes, from extra small to extra large, and were based primarily on male body shapes — females were not eligible for NASA’s astronaut program until 1978….

… This means that to be selected for an ISS spacewalk, an astronaut must fit one of the two remaining available sizes: men’s medium, or men’s large. The first all-female EVA, planned for March 2019, had to be postponed because only one medium-sized suit was available. Another medium suit was eventually cobbled together from spares, and astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir successfully performed their groundbreaking spacewalk on October 18 2019.

(15) INCOMING. This dragon-killing movie is coming to Netflix next month: Monster Hunter: Legends of the Guild

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In this video, the Royal Ocean Film Society celebrates the work of director Joe Johnston and his film The Rocketeer, and says Johnston’s films are “cheesy, but the best kind of cheese.”  He notes that Johnston’s films are small, efficient tributes to the American dream, and says that fans of Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger will like Johnston’s earlier film.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/21 Let Us Now Scroll Famous Pixels

(1) USPS ‘DROID STAMPS ISSUED TODAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] From a post office near you, or via online: Star Wars Droids Stamps.

Use ’em to mail stuff! — or as an affordable, fungible gift to a Star Wars fan.

(2) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. Fansided’s “Dork Side of the Force” shares a collection of “25 of the most iconic Star Wars movie posters of all time”.

… The movie posters used to promote the movies have sometimes become as iconic as some of the movie moments themselves. These are 25 of the iconic works of art that have become some of the most memorable Star Wars images over the years….

1. The Phantom Menace teaser poster

After a decade and a half without a new Star Wars movie coming to theaters, The Phantom Menace was announced. We would all finally get to experience the first chapter of the saga.

There were rumors as to what we would get to see and more than a few images released of the movie being worked on, but this was the first official image we got advertising the upcoming movie — and really the trilogy as a whole. The image of a 9-year-old Anakin casting a Darth Vader shadow on the wall hit the world with a bang…

(3) BRADBURY STRIKES BACK. This 2019 IndyStar article begins its list of “7 cool items you can see at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” with a Star Wars relic —

Star Wars ‘Empire Strikes Back’ script

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection.

(4) THE LOREMASTER. Craig Miller, author of the superb Star Wars Memories, shared a joke with Facebook readers that got an immediate laugh from George Lucas and Gary Kurtz at the time, and that he needs to explain to the rest of us.  

…And now, the story. This is one that appears in my book, Star Wars Memories (available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart). More, and less obscure, stories throughout Star Wars Season.

Suggesting a Title for Film #3

(Warning: This story has a punch line. But it requires deep knowledge of both Star Wars lore and motion picture history in order to get it. I’ll explain it at the end but it won’t be as funny – maybe not funny at all – if I have to explain it you.)…

(5) LOCATING THE LOCATIONS. And Craig has definitely been to some of the places in “The Real Star Wars Universe” charted by Statista. (Click for larger image.)

(6) BIGGS SAVED FROM THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. “Star Wars: A New Hope – Deleted Scenes” on YouTube is 8 1/2 minutes of footage cut from Star Wars, including several scenes with Garrick Hagon as Biggs Darklighter that never appeared in the final cut of Star Wars.

(7) BRING ME THE HEAD OF DARTH VADER. “Darth Vader’s helmet raises charity funds in May the 4th auction” reports The Guardian.

In an auction house far, far away (well, Bristol actually), the enduring power of the force was clear.

A Darth Vader helmet sold for £2,200, more than five times the top estimate, and a signed picture of Alec Guinness in his Obi-Wan Kenobi robes was snapped up for £3,100, treble what was anticipated.

Someone, somewhere, paid £9,000 for a prototype lightsaber, the weapon of choice of Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga, which the Earthlings at East Bristol Auctions had judged might bring in £80-£120.

Hundreds of items hoarded and collected by David Prowse, the Bristolian who played Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, were sold off in his home city following his death, aged 85, last year.

Naturally the sale took place on May the 4th

(8) DISSENTING VOICES. Not everybody is attuned to the spirit of the day.

(9) INSIDE AMAZON. Publishers Lunch learned something about how Amazon handles internal controversies:

Controversies
From this article we learned that Amazon has an executive who serves as director of book content risk and qualitySarah Castle. It was her job to assess internal complaints from “dozens of Amazon employees” asking the company to stop selling Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, by journalist Abigail Shrier, arguing that the book violates Amazon’s recently stated policy against selling books “that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” The Seattle Times reports that Castle told employees on an internal message board, “After examining the content of the book in detail and calibrating with senior leadership, we have confirmed that it does not violate our content policy.”

(10) DOOM IN RETROSPECTIVE. GamesRadar+ does a Q&A with a past writer of a popular comic book: “Doom Patrol, New Gods, Old Gods, and a Fissure King: The Rachel Pollack Interview”.

In 1993, Rachel Pollack took over DC/Vertigo’s Doom Patrol following Grant Morrison’s star-making turn on the book. Her run lasted 25 issues, but has never been collected – but has begun making its way to DC digital platforms recently.

Among the memorable stories is the initial ‘Sliding In the Wreckage’ arc, as well as the introduction of Kate Godwin (Coagula) – the first trans superhero for DC or Marvel comic books. Over the course of her run, Pollack touched on concepts of family, fitting in, and making a path for yourself in a world that didn’t have a set path for you.

Newsarama spoke to Pollack earlier this month about her Doom Patrol run, her prose work such as the new novella collection The Fissure King, and her poised return to comic books.

Newsarama: Rachel, what are you working on today?

Rachel Pollack: I’m actually typing up a second draft of a story called ‘Visible Cities.’ I always write everything longhand with fountain pen and then type it up, and that’s my second draft. I’m doing that at the moment. And then I’m preparing for a trip to Scotland.

(11) MOORE ACQUISITIONS. “’I’m bursting with fiction’: Alan Moore announces five-volume fantasy epic” in The Guardian.

Two years after announcing that he had retired from comics, Alan Moore, the illustrious author of Watchmen and V for Vendetta, has signed a six-figure deal for a “groundbreaking” five-volume fantasy series as well as a “momentous” collection of short stories.

Bloomsbury, home to the Harry Potter novels, acquired what it described as two “major” projects from the 67-year-old. The first, Illuminations, is a short story collection which will be published in autumn 2022 and which moves from the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the “Boltzmann brains” fashioning the universe. Bloomsbury said it was “dazzlingly original and brimming with energy”, promising a series of “beguiling and elegantly crafted tales that reveal the full power of imagination and magic”.

The second acquisition is a fantasy quintet titled Long London, which will launch in 2024. The series will move from the “shell-shocked and unravelled” London of 1949 to “a version of London just beyond our knowledge”, encompassing murder, magic and madness. Bloomsbury said it “promises to be epic and unforgettable, a tour-de-force of magic and history”….

(12) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

May 4, 1962 The Twilight Zone‘s “The Dummy”.

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

On this day in 1962, The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and  George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with its own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 4, 1893 – Alfred Pollard.  Four novels for us; outside our field, crime and war stories, fiction and non, threescore books all told.  Served in World War I, earned the Victoria Cross.  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull-faced Bombers and finally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.) (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. The DC UNIVERSE streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1940 – Bob Layzell, age 80.  Threescore covers, a score of interiors.  Here is Farthest Star.  Here is Drunkard’s Walk.  Here is Dangerous Frontiers.  Here is A Trace of Memory.  Here is The Grey Prince.  [JH]
  • Born May 4 (year unknown) – Ernie Wheatley.  Known as the Dormouse of the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.) for falling asleep with his head on his arms at table during restaurant after-meetings, raising it to speak aptly, sleeping again.  Once after we had adopted “Death will not release you” and someone uttered it on some such occasion EW piped up “Even if you die!” which was promptly added.  In 1960 while Westerns were big, also home-made films, and fanfiction meant fiction about fans, Lee Jacobs wrote “The Musquite Kid Rides Again” for SAPS about a transparently-disguised Wrai Ballard; it was filmed; here is EW as “Killer Kemp” i.e. Earl Kemp who by then had won a Hugo for Who Killed SF?  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 78. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself that one of you will no doubt tell me. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early Cons and published an APA, The Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Do tell me about him. (CE)
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 65. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1957 – Nancy Canepa, Ph.D., age 64.  Here is Teaching Fairy Tales she edited.  Professor at Dartmouth.  “My teaching and research centers on early modern Italy (1550-1700).  I’m particularly fascinated by the development of new literary forms and languages during this period, in genres that range from the fairy tale to the mock epic to the travelogue.”  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1960 – Kate Saunders, age 61.  A dozen novels, a couple of shorter stories for us; two dozen books all told, some for adults, some for children.  Newspapers, magazines, radio, television.  Trask Award.  Costa Children’s Book Award.  [JH]
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 47. He’s a 14-time Hugo nominee, as a fan writer and as co-editor of The Drink Tank and Journey Planet, and a two-time winner — one Hugo with each fanzine. James was the 2004 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate: download his trip report at the unofficial TAFF website, WorldConNomicon. In addition to working on Irish convention Octocon, he ran his own conventions: Aliens Stole My Handbag, Damn Fine Convention, and They Came and Shaved Us. Ultimately he chaired the Dublin 2019 Worldcon. He ran Sproutlore—the Robert Rankin Fan Club. With fellow fans he established The James White Award, an annual short-story competition. And he often contributes to File 770! (OGH)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 44. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. (CE) 
  • Born May 4, 1978 – Shaenon Garrity, age 43.  A score of short stories.  Known for Webcomics Narbonic and Skin Horse.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award for Outstanding Writing.  Lulu of the Year Award.  Summa cum laude from Vassar.  Website.  [JH]

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) BLADE STUNNER. “Star Wars Day: Disney Parks shares footage of a real-world lightsaber” – as SYFY Wire explains.

When guests head to Orlando’s Walt Disney World next year for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser (an immersive, two-night experience housed at Galaxy’s Edge), they’ll probably catch sight of an actual lightsaber. That’s right, the Disney Parks Imagineering Research and Development team have built an honest to goodness retractable Jedi blade inspired by the iconic franchise.

To celebrate May the 4th (aka Star Wars Day), the Mouse House’s theme park division revealed a short video of the potentially patented lightsaber (it works kinda like a high-tech, dual measuring tape) — wielded by a cast member dressed as Rey — in action, and it’s beyond cool.

(16) A SHARPER IMAGE. Jeff Foust reviews the Folio Society Edition of Andrew Chaikin’s famous history of the Apollo missions for The Space Review: “Review: A Man on the Moon”.

…To be clear, the text of the book is unchanged from earlier editions: this is not a revised or expanded version. The only new words in this version is a brief preface by Chaikin, which he uses to explain the other major change of the book: the inclusion of nearly 200 color and black-and-white photos that he curated for the book. As high-quality digital versions of the photos became available in the years after he first wrote the book, he explains, “I was amazed at the details I could now see; I felt they had opened a new portal I could step through to witness what the astronauts had seen and done.”

This is not the first illustrated edition of the book, but this version strikes a better balance between the photos and text than that earlier three volume set, where the images at times drowned out the text. Here the images are better ties to the text, and include a mix of obvious famous pictures as well as less-famous ones from the missions or training for them. The book includes fold-out color plates, such as one that combines several views of the Earth taken by the Apollo 8 mission on its way to the Moon; it illustrates the spacecraft’s journey by showing our home planet get ever smaller.

The real value of A Man on the Moon, though, remains Chaikin’s account of the missions, enabled by his interviews with the Apollo astronauts. At the time he started the book, all but one of the 24 men who went to the Moon on nine Apollo missions were still alive (Apollo 13’s Jack Swigert died of cancer in 1982.) Enough times had passed for the astronauts to reflect on their journeys, but not so long that we would lose the chance to have them recount their experiences….

(17) RHUBARB PIE. Doris V. Sutherland received a virtual ovation for the new lyrics to “American Pie” posted as a comment on Camestros Felapton’s post “About three months to the Dragon Award 2021 finalists”. The first stanzas are —

A long, long time ago,
The Hugo Awards came along to honour sci-fi at its height
And I knew when I’d had a look
That each winner had been a classic book
Except perhaps for They’d Rather be Right

Then Puppies made some voting slates
The ’15 Hugos weren’t so great
The big winner was No Award
In science fiction’s culture war…

(18) KISS YOUR ASS GOODBYE. IFL Science has – simulated – bad news: “Large Chunk Of Europe “Annihilated” In NASA’s Latest Asteroid Impact Simulation Exercise”.

Every two years, international governmental and space agencies take part in a tabletop scenario as part of the Planetary Defense Conference. In this exercise, a space rock is discovered to be heading toward Earth and members of different agencies have to work out what are the best things to do to try and avoid catastrophe.

… The second day also sees a detailed look at what missions could be sent to deflect such an asteroid. And it’s not good news. The asteroid is too close and too fast (and possibly too big) for a course correction. So you ought to hit it hard. Either a nuclear weapon, among the biggest, ever assembled during the Cold War, or shooting like dozens of rockets at it. With the risk that it would fragment and still crash into Earth.

“If confronted with the 2021 PDC hypothetical scenario in real life we would not be able to launch any spacecraft on such short notice with current capabilities,” members of the group stated….

(19) CTHULHU FHTAGN. When a “Japanese Town Uses Relief Money To Erect Giant Squid Statue”, Cracked is there to haul in a net-full of puns.

…So folks, whether you hate the giant squid statue or find it ink-redible, what’s fin-ished is fin-ished. 

(20) FLY CASTING. In “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the series “comes from the military espionage side of the MCU, where the morals are as grey as the visuals” and that the cameo appearance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus leads them to speculate about when the rest of the Seinfeld cast will show up in the MCU. No spoiler warning – but who knows?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The World Begins With You” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the game is set in “nightmare Tokyo a place where you have to worry about how good you will look when you’re dead” and is so busy that the game “will have you tapping at your screen like a crazed woodpecker.”

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

Remembering Jack Klugman

Steve Vertlieb with Jack Klugman on the set of TV’s “Quincy” somewhere around the Summer of 1979.

By Steve Vertlieb: I grew up with television in the 1950s. The little box sitting in my living room, brightly lit from within, became a lifelong companion. During those most impressionable years, I came to recognize a variety of character actors and actresses who, in my private adolescent world, became trusted friends. Their faces were comforting affirmations of my youthful belief in the ultimate goodness of mankind. Among the most reassuring of these, both then and now, belonged to Jack Klugman. While he later established a delightful persona as Oscar Madison (opposite Tony Randall) in television’s adaptation of The Odd Couple, I will always regard Jack Klugman as one of the most vulnerable, deeply honest, and passionate actors in television history. He was “everyman” … a poor, simple “Joe,” trying to lift himself out of the gutter and become a “Mentsch.”

Klugman, along with Burgess Meredith, was particularly cherished by Rod Serling, who utilized their talents in four separate episodes each of his classic Twilight Zone series on CBS. Two of those episodes in particular affected me deeply during my formative years. In “A Passage For Trumpet,” Klugman played Joey Crown, a sad, lonely man with an affinity for his horn. In a world filled with strangers, his trumpet seemed his only friend … an instrument of beauty that alone elevated his soul. In a later episode of the classic series, Klugman was an inconsequential gambler (Max Phillips) whose sole meaning and value in life seemed the future of his only son, wounded in Vietnam. He sacrifices his own shabby life in order to save his boy … a selfless act “In Praise of Pip.”

In 1957, Jack Klugman co-starred with, perhaps, the most startling ensemble of young actors ever assembled in a single motion picture. Alongside Henry Fonda, Lee J Cobb, Martin Balsam, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Ed Begley, Robert Webber, and George Voskovic as “Juror No. 5” in Sidney Lumet’s landmark courtroom drama, Twelve Angry Men, Klugman delivered an impassioned performance as a loner struggling to voice his humanity in a sea of cynicism. He was always the common man, the quiet, dignified soul yearning to find expression in a world that often had no time for him.

His powerful guest starring role in the CBS dramatic series The Defenders in 1964 (“The Blacklist”) won him a well deserved Emmy Award. Klugman could always be counted on to deliver a strong, moralistic performance as he did opposite Jack Lemmon, as Jim Hungerford, in Blake Edwards’ tragic study of alcoholism, The Days of Wine and Roses (1962). He created the role of Ethel Merman’s friend and companion in the original production of Gypsy on Broadway (later re-created by Karl Malden in the motion picture version opposite Rosalind Russell). He delivered comforting support to Frank Sinatra in a strong performance as a loyal police officer in The Detective.

I was running the film department at WTAF TV 29 in Philadelphia during the late Seventies and early Eighties, and had become friendly with Dan Silverman, the head of publicity at Universal, who would take my brother and I on private walking tours of the studio’s back lot. On one such occasion, we visited the set of the popular Quincy series during filming and had a lovely meeting with the superb Jack Klugman whose heart melted upon learning that we had come from his favorite city, Philadelphia. I’d always wanted to meet him, and so this opportunity was quite literally a dream come true.

I’d been warned that the actor could be somewhat temperamental, and so I made sure that he knew right from the start that I had journeyed to Hollywood from The City of Brotherly Love. He was very warm, and threw his arms around me immediately.

After chatting for a few moments, Jack asked if my brother Erwin and I might like to return to the set after lunch to watch them film an episode of the weekly NBC series. “Would you boys like to come back after lunch, and watch us shoot,” he asked. I watched him walk over to his director. Pointing to us, he said “These gentlemen are going to come back after lunch and watch us “shoot.” “They’re from Philadelphia … Ya know … PHILADELPHIA!” He was very cute.

Jack Klugman remains one of my favorite actors, both on the small and large screens. His charm and self effacing humor when I met him on the set of Quincy is a memory that I’ll cherish always … as I will his profound body of work both in film and television.

Pixel Scroll 1/21/21 Underpeople S’top And S’tare, They Don’t Bother Me

(1) 45 PROOF. [Item by Rich Lynch.] A couple of years ago, in SFPA, I ran an essay titled “Of Beer and the Beltway” which was reprinted in the current (25th) issue of My Back Pages.

In it, I mentioned that a local craft brewery, 7 Locks, was producing a Rye Pale Ale they had named “Surrender Dorothy”, the name a riff on The Wizard of Oz but also a homage to a stunt that happened at a Washington Beltway railroad bridge overpass back in the 1970s.  Here’s what the beer’s logo looks like:  Surrender Dorothy RyePA – 7 Locks Brewing

In that same issue of MBP, I noted that there had recently been modern day pranksters at work who had updated the “Surrender Dorothy” Beltway bridge stunt by spray-painting that same bridge with “Surrender Donald”.  And now 7 Locks has produced a limited-run Rye PA with that same name:  Surrender Donald 6-packs | 7 Locks Brewing Online Shop

I didn’t find out about it until today, when it was described in a short news item in The Washington Post.  And since it was a limited run, it’s unfortunately no longer available.  I see they have beer glasses with that logo listed, so I may try to get one of them.  But damn!  Wish I’d known about it before today!

(2) SUPER TRAILER. The CW dropped a trailer for Superman & Lois.

(3) VIRTUAL CAPRICON. Capricon 41 begins two weeks from today. It’s usually in Chicago, but will be held this year in virtual space.

We have some really amazing program lined up for you, with awesome panelists from all over the world. Check out the full schedule at https://guide.capricon.org/. This is a mostly final schedule, but note that there may still be a few changes to times and panelists to come

Don’t Forget to Register! Everyone must register to access the virtual convention space. Register here.

(4) BERNIE SITS IN. A meme-driven website lets you “Put Bernie Anywhere!” The New York Times explains: “Bernie Sanders Is Once Again the Star of a Meme”.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a fierce advocate of fair wages and a former presidential candidate who lost the Democratic nomination to now-President Biden. And thanks to his practical clothing choices he is also now the center of a seemingly endless flood of altered pictures that dominated some corners of the internet in the hours after Mr. Biden’s socially distanced inauguration on Wednesday.

Amid the dark suits and bright coats dotting the Capitol steps, Mr. Sanders was photographed sitting masked, cross-legged and bundled up in a bulky coat and mittens against the frigid weather in Washington, D.C. Soon after, the image, taken by the photographer Brendan Smialowski for Getty Images, began to circulate on social media inserted into a wide array of photographs and scenes from movies and artworks….

(5) NIGHTMARE FROM DEL TORO. “Searchlight Sets Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Nightmare Alley’ for December” reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

Searchlight Pictures has updated its 2021 release calendar, dating Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” for December 3. The date puts del Toro’s latest in the thick of the 2021-2022 awards season. Searchlight appears to be following the same release plan it gave del Toro’s last movie, “The Shape of Water,” which started its U.S. theatrical rollout on the first weekend of December. “The Shape of Water” debuted at the Venice Film Festival, winning the Golden Lion, and it seems likely “Nightmare Alley” will show up on the fall film festival circuit.

Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” is adapted by the filmmaker, and film critic Kim Morgan, from the 1946 William Lindsay Gresham novel of the same name. The ensemble cast includes Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Rooney Mara, and David Strathairn…

(6) CASE IN POINT. The Hugo Book Club blog is going through all the Hugo-shortlisted dramatic presentations in order to see how the art of SFF cinema has evolved over time. The third post in the series is: “Hugo Cinema Club: 1960 Gets In The Zone”.

In 1960, for example, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling seems to have been mostly unaware of the award until some two weeks later when a delegation of California-based fans who had just returned from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania visited the CBS offices to hand him a three-pound chrome rocketship on September 22.

The fans — including Bjo and John Trimble, Rick Sneary and Forrest J Ackerman — were greeted warmly by the television legend, who had also earned his fourth Emmy that summer….

(7) DISTAFF SUPERHEROES. The Women of Marvel podcast announced a special celebrating Marvel’s heroes will debut in April. Women Of Marvel #1 will spotlight iconic characters from the X-Men to the Avengers in a collection of tales by an all-female lineup from throughout the entertainment industry.

Kicking things off will be comics legend Louise Simonson with a must-read introduction. Simonson will be followed by some of the hottest rising stars in the graphic novel industry. Nadia Shammas punches the glass ceiling with an action-packed She-Hulk adventure, Elsa Sjunneson grits her way to the front line with a tale about Captain Peggy Carter, Sophie Campbell goes feral with a bone-grinding Marrow story, video game and comics writer Anne Toole gets gritty in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, and Natasha Alterici of Heathen fame charges sword-first into the Marvel Universe with a revelatory tale about Rogue and Mystique. With astonishing art from new and established artists Kei Zama (TransformersDeath’s Head), Eleonora Carlini (Power RangersBatgirl), Skylar Patridge (ResonantRelics of Youth), Joanna Estep (Fantastic FourFraggle Rock) and more, readers are sure to come away powered up and ready to slay.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2006 — Fifteen years ago at L.A.con IV, Serenity wins the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Serenity was the film that finished off the story that started in the much beloved by fans Firefly series that aired briefly on FOX. Other finalists that year were Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-RabbitThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeBatman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It currently holds a phenomenal ninety-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 21, 1858 – Anna Dodd.  Short stories, novels, essays and other nonfiction e.g. criticism for The Art JournalIn and Out of Three Normandy InnsTalleyrand.  Fluent in French and Italian.  Some say Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward was inspired by AD’s novel for us The Republic of the Future, subtitled Socialism a Reality, but it’s no joyous forecast.  (Died 1929) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1921 – Charles Eric Maine.  A score of novels, as many shorter stories.  Here is a cover for his fanzine The Satellite – not to be confused with this.  Many applaud his Mind of Mr Soames.  Also detective fiction, engineering, radio, television, film.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1923 – Judith Merril.  Four novels, thirty shorter stories; book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction; half a dozen collections e.g. The Best of JM and posthumous Homecalling; a dozen annual Year’s Best SF (“a practically flawless anthologist” – Anthony Boucher).  Introduced and commented on Canadian broadcasts of Doctor Who.  Co-founded Milford Writers’ Conference.  Toronto Public Library’s Merril Collection named for her.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination SpaceThe InvadersTwilight ZoneMission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name but a few of them. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1929 – Arthur Jean Cox.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Active in his local club – a six-year string of perfect attendance at weekly meetings, eight terms as an officer – and cons e.g. Pacificon I the 4th Worldcon.  Essays, letters, reviews in AmazingAstoundingFantasy TimesF & SFRiverside QuarterlySF ChronicleSF Review.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1938 Wolfman Jack. Here because I spotted him showing up twice in Battlestar Galactica 1980 presumably as himself if I trust IMDb as it doesn’t list a character for him. He does have genre character roles having been in the Swamp Thing and Wonder Women series plus two horror films, Motel Hell and The Midnight Hour. (Died 1995.) (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1939 Walter C. DeBill, Jr., 82. An author of horror and SF short stories and a contributor to the Cthulhu Mythos. Author of the Observers of the Unknown series about a Lovecraftian occult detective which is collected is two volumes, The Horror from Yith and The Changeling. They don’t appear to be in print currently. (CE) 
  • Born January 21, 1947 – Cherith Baldry, age 74.  Sixty novels, seventy shorter stories, for us, some under different names; a dozen other books; plays; essays, letters, reviews in Banana WingsFocusVector.  [JH]
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 65. Best remembered genre wise I’d say for being in Beetlejuice but she also appeared in Earth Girls Are Easy and Transylvania 6-5000. She’s done some one-offs on series including Knight RiderFantasy Island and The Exorcist. Yes, they turned The Exorcist into a series.  (CE)
  • Born January 21, 1956 Diana Pavlac Glyer, 65. Author whose work centers on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings. She teaches in the Honors College at Azusa Pacific University in California. She has two excellent works out now, The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community and Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings. (CE)
  •  Born January 21, 1972 –Tracy Falbe, age 49.  Ten novels.  Has read DraculaEmpire of the Summer MoonNineteen Eighty-FourParadise LostTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  “I want to create someone you want to root for and then give him some disappointing traits.  I might infuriate a reader….  I’ll at least know that I provoked emotion.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BAD FLASHBACK. Sam Besanti, in “What Is Marvel’s Heroes Reborn And Why Can’t We Shake This Feeling of Impending Doom?”  at AV Club, says Marvel Entertainment (the whole company, not just the movie or comic book divisions) sent out a Cryptic Tweet with a teaser announcing the birth of “Heroes Reborn” and speculators are speculating what Marvel means by this.

Today, Marvel Entertainment—that’s the whole company, covering the movies, the comics, and the games—posted a curious teaser that simply had the name Heroes Reborn and “whatever happened to Earth’s mightiest heroes?” underneath. We don’t know specifically what that means, but there is one obvious implication, and based on the… oh, let’s say mixed reaction that the post is getting on Twitter, a lot of Marvel fans are coming to the same conclusion….

(12) X-MEN. X-Men Legends #1 hits stand on February 17. The series “will dive into the rich history of the X-Men to tie up loose ends, resolve long-standing plot danglers, and reveal shocking truths that will change the past and future of the X-Men!” Take a first look at the interior artwork here.

X-Men history will be revisited and revealed when X-MEN LEGENDS #1 debuts next month. This first-of-its-kind series will feature the return of the franchise’s most influential creators—including Louise Simonson, Chris Claremont, and more— in all-new, in-continuity stories set during their groundbreaking runs. Starting things off will be Fabian Nicieza with a two-part tale that finally reveals the truth behind one of the most talked-about mutant mysteries: Adam-X and his startling connection to the Summers bloodline!

Introduced during Nicieza’s explosive work on the X-Men in their nineties heyday, the beginnings of this storyline can be traced back to 1993’s X-Men #23. Since then, X-Men fans have endlessly speculated, theorized, and debated what became known as the “third Summers brother” mystery. Now, all will be answered as one the most infamous comic book plot danglers of all time is resolved!

(13) BIG SHOT. [Item by JJ.] Arnold Schwarzenegger posted video of himself receiving his first dose of coronavirus vaccine at the Dodger Stadium mass vaccination site. He celebrated the moment by slipping in a line from his film — “Come with me if you want to live!”

(14) NARNIA IS NOT INERRANT. Joe R. Christopher has a short essay titled “Was Aslan Wrong about Jadis’s Plan of Attack?” published in Mythprint 57:4, Whole No. 395 (Winter 2020): 8-9 (for sale at the link.) The answer is “Yes, he was.”

(15) HE MUST BE GOING. Larry Correia says Facebook “banned me from my own group because of what I MIGHT say.” Correia has been temporarily banned from FB from time to time, but I’ve never before heard of a ban where a person can still post on his own wall, which is where Correia announced he’ll be curtailing his FB presence. Not actually ending it: “There’s a few groups I use here that I can’t get the equivalent resource anywhere else yet.” All that he told his FB followers has been turned into a post for Monster Hunter Nation: “A Farewell to Facebook” [Internet Archive link].

Jon Del Arroz in a new YouTube video said he is amused by this turn of affairs, because he claims Correia had long ago kicked him out of his group. 

…The post is kind of making the rounds that Larry Correia was banned from his own Facebook group after a couple of years. I’m kind of laughing about this, I’m not, going to lie, because Larry Correia actually ordered that I would be banned from his Facebook group a couple years ago for my quote wrong think or wrong meaning as it were this always happens with the libertarian crowd…

Truthfulness is not JDA’s strong suit, however, he’s banned here, so why not from Larry’s FB group, too?

(16) BIG AND GRAY. Satellite images may take over from aircraft when it comes to surveying this endangered population: “Elephants counted from space for conservation”.

…And all the laborious elephant counting is done via machine learning – a computer algorithm trained to identify elephants in a variety of backdrops.

“We just present examples to the algorithm and tell it, ‘This is an elephant, this is not an elephant,'” Dr Olga Isupova, from the University of Bath, said.

“By doing this, we can train the machine to recognise small details that we wouldn’t be able to pick up with the naked eye.”

The scientists looked first at South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park.

“It has a high density of elephants,” University of Oxford conservation scientist Dr Isla Duporge said.

“And it has areas of thickets and of open savannah.

“So it’s a great place to test our approach.

“While this is a proof of concept, it’s ready to go.

“And conservation organisations are already interested in using this to replace surveys using aircraft.”

Conservationists will have to pay for access to commercial satellites and the images they capture.

But this approach could vastly improve the monitoring of threatened elephant populations in habitats that span international borders, where it can be difficult to obtain permission for aircraft surveys.

(17) A ROSE WAR BY ANY OTHER NAME. The Folger Shakespeare Library podcast Shakespeare Unlimited brings us “Shakespeare and ‘Game of Thrones’”.

Based on his knowledge of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, Harvard’s Dr. Jeffrey R. Wilson knew just how HBO’s Game of Thrones would play out. Jon Snow, the illegitimate son, was a Richard III type, who would win the crown (and our hearts, in a love-to-hate-him kind of way). But Daenerys Targaryen, as a kind of Henry VII, would defeat him in battle and win it back, restoring peace and order. Turns out he was wrong about all of that.

But as Wilson kept watching, he began to appreciate the other ways Game of Thrones is similar to Shakespeare—like the way that both Shakespeare and George R.R. Martin’s stories translate the history of the Wars of the Roses into other popular genres….

(18) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed another stumper on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: British Writers

Answer: When Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926, this British fellow writer tried to find her with the help of a spiritual medium.

Wrong questions: Who is George Orwell? and Who is George Bernard Shaw?

Correct question (only 1 contestant got it right): Who is Arthur Conan Doyle?

(19) A MISSION. Pierre Pettinger, the well-known costumer who along with his wife Sandy received the International Costumers Guild’s 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award, published a new space opera in October, The Road From Antioch.

The pilgrim ship Antioch is destroyed just short of the New Vatican. Someone is stealing critical shipments in the Chemosh Empire. Two worlds of the Laanyr Clan Heer have been attacked. Small vessels are buzzing the Rivnyera World Ships.

Who is behind these incidents? Terrorists? Rebels? The mysterious Cherek? Or someone else entirely? The nations of the Orion Arm must join forces and find the culprits.
The investigation ranges from the space around the planet Ans to the fields of Inohr Dan Nool to the supposedly primitive planet of Cordwainer. Join an Admiral, a Catholic Sister, a Knight Militant, an Ensign, a Great Mind, an Inspector and a Herdmaster as they seek out the perpetrators of these odd occurrences.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Jimmy Kimmel Live aired this wild animation last night – “Goodbye Donald Trump”.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/23/20 It Was The Alfred Bester Of Times, It Was The Bertie Wooster Of Times

Note: A bit light today because I’m off helping celebrate my brother’s birthday.

(1) OUT OF COURT. Mike Dunford of Questionable Authority makes some interesting comments on the decision against ComicMix (see “Dr. Seuss Enterprises Wins Appeal to Ninth Circuit; Seuss-Trek Mashup Violates Copyright”) and promises more on his next QuestAuthority at Twitch. Twitter thread starts here.

(2) A SCAM, BUT WHY? At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss warns that a “Spooky Phishing Scam Targets Traditionally-Published Writers”.

…The phisher, or phishers, employ clever tactics like transposing letters in official-looking email addresses (like “penguinrandornhouse.com” instead of “penguinrandomhouse.com“) and masking the addresses so they only show when the recipient hits “Reply”. They know how publishing works and appear to have access to inside information, utilizing not just public sources like acquisition announcements in trade publications, but details that are harder to uncover: writers’ email addresses, their relationships with agents and editors, delivery and deadline dates, even details of the manuscripts themselves. 

And they are ramping up their operations. According to the Times, the scam began appearing “at least” three years ago, but in the past year “the volume of these emails has exploded in the United States.”

So what’s the endgame? Publishing people are stumped. Manuscripts by high-profile authors have been targeted, but also less obviously commercial works: debut novels by unknowns, short story collections, experimental fiction. The manuscripts don’t wind up on the black market, as far as anyone can tell, and don’t seem to be published online. There have been no ransom demands or other attempts at monetization. 

[From a New York Times article:] “One of the leading theories in the publishing world, which is rife with speculation over the thefts, is that they are the work of someone in the literary scouting community. Scouts arrange for the sale of book rights to international publishers as well as to film and television producers, and what their clients pay for is early access to information — so an unedited manuscript, for example, would have value to them.”

(3) A CAT WITH A DESK. Timothy the Talking Cat makes “Tim’s Last Minute Gift Suggestions” at Camestros Felapton.

… You worthless and ungrateful humans have probably left all your shopping to the last minute. Well let me help out. Here are some quick and easy gifts you can get together even on a tight budget.

…Surprises. Everybody loves surprises! Go out into the garden. Find a dead bird. Sniff it and maybe wack it about a bit with your paws. Bring it home and drop it somewhere surprising….

(4) LUKER OBIT. A phantom’s beloved and a garden ghost:“Rebecca Luker, a Broadway Star for Three Decades, Dies at 59” reports the New York Times.

Rebecca Luker, the actress and singer who in a lauded three-decade career on the New York stage embodied the essence of the Broadway musical ingénue in hit revivals of “Show Boat,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man,” died on Wednesday in a hospital in Manhattan. She was 59. … she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as A.L.S. or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

…Just five years after college, she was on the Broadway stage, assuming the lead female role in “The Phantom of the Opera”— Christine, the chorus girl who is the object of the phantom’s affections.

“Phantom” was her Broadway debut; she began as the understudy to the original star, Sarah Brightman; became an alternate; and took over as Christine in 1989. She remained with the show until 1991.

Ms. Luker moved on immediately to another Broadway show: She played a ghost, the little orphan girl’s dead Aunt Lily, in “The Secret Garden.” 

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 23, 1963 — On this night in 1963, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas-themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script which was written by Rod Serling would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”, but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 23, 1896 Máiréad Ní Ghráda. She’s the author of Manannán, a 1940 novel which is regarded as the first such science fiction work in Irish. Several years previously, she translated Peter Pan into Irish, Tír na Deo, the first time it had been so done. (Died 1971.) (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1927 – Chuch Harris.  (“Chuch” from ChucHarris.)  Englander who became an adjunct (at least) of Irish Fandom with a letter to Walt Willis of Slant beginning “Dear Mr. Ellis”.  CH submitted a story about a family of werewolves beginning “The family were changing for dinner”.  Persuaded to visit Vin¢ Clarke and Ken Bulmer at their flat the Epicentre (mistaking this for the center, or centre, of an earthquake, has a long history) he helped generate Sixth Fandom, was shot with a water-pistol by James White, wrote for Hyphen, and formed Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell.  Much later Spike published the Chuck Harris Appreciation Magazine, which only a Johnson fan like me would call the Great Cham, hello Spike.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1928 – George Heap.  Long-time secretary of the Philadelphia SF Society, filker, Tolkien fan before the paperback Lord of the Rings arrived, he moved to Rochester, joined The Cult, and died at the horrid age of 41 just before Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon.  You can see four 1960 issues of his SF Viewsletter here.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1929 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature. Somehow it seems appropriate on Christmas for me to share that stamp here. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 75. Best known for the Riftwar series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. His only Award to date is a HOMer Award for Servant of the Empire which he co-wrote with Janny Wurts. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1978 Estella Warren, 42. Deena on the Planet of The Apes. She also shows up in Ghost Whisper, the Beauty and the Beast film as Belle the Beauty, TaphephobiaFeel the Dead and Age of the Living Dead. (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1954 – Susan Grant, age 66.  U.S. Air Force veteran, then commercial pilot; 18,000 hours flight time.  RITA Award – for Contact, an SF romance; there’s cross-genre action for you.  A score of novels, a few shorter stories, several Booklist and Library Journal Books of the Year.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1960 – Miyabe Miyuki, age 60.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Six novels, ten shorter stories so far available in English.  Yamamoto Shûgorô Prize, Naoki Prize, two Yoshikawa Eiji Prizes, Nihon SF Taishô Award.  Mystery Writers of Japan Award.  Batchelder Award for the English translation of her Brave Story.  Film, television, manga, video games.  All She Was Worth (English title) called a watershed in the history of women’s detective fiction.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1970 – Natalie Damschroder, age 50.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told, many shorter stories.  Loves the New England Patriots more than anything except her family, writing, reading, and popcorn.  I omit what she thinks her teen fiction kicks.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1984 Alison Sudol, 36. She’s known for her role as Queenie Goldstein on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I do so like those titles. She’s also has a recurring role as Kaya in Transparent, a series which is at least genre adjacent for its genre content and certainly SJW in content. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1985 – Marta Dahlig, age 35.  Digital artist, mostly.  Here is the Jun 05 Revelation.  Here is The Shifter (German edition, translated as The Healer).  Here is Sloth.  In a different vein, here is Mimi and the Brave Magic.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1986 Noël Wells, 34. Voice actor on Star Trek: Below Decks where she voices the green-colored Ensign D’Vana Tendi. I so wanted to love this series but was actually repelled by it. I said a year ago that “It should a rather fun time.” Well I was wrong.  So what do y’all think of it? (CE) 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • “Shoe” might have this same reaction to some of the book lists I run.
  • “Get Fuzzy” doesn’t treat a famous mathematician with the gravity his deserves.

(8) HIGH CALIBER CANON. Sff gets a fillip of genre recognition in The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story edited by John Freeman, to be released May 4, 2021.

…Beginning in 1970, it culls together a half century of powerful American short stories from all genres, including–for the first time in a literary anthology–science fiction, horror, and fantasy, placing writers such as Usula Le Guin, Ken Liu and Stephen King next to some of the often-taught geniuses of the form–Grace Paley, Toni Cade Bambara, Sandra Cisneros, and Denis Johnson. Culling widely, Freeman, the former editor of Granta and now of his own literary annual, brings forward some astonishing work to be regarded in a new light. Often overlooked tales by Dorothy Allison, Charles Johnson, and Toni Morrison will recast the shape and texture of today’s enlarging atmosphere of literary dialogue.

(9) BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Jason Scott retells a story he says happened in the 1990s. Thread starts here.

(10) REGIME CHANGE. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri finds another leader who has their own reality:“I, the White Witch, am disgusted by anyone who would try to make it always winter and never Christmas” .

Here in Narnia, it is so, so important that we have seasons, as I, the White Witch, have always been the absolute first to say. Lots of seasons, one leading to the next, leading to Christmas. I have always cared the most about seasons, and the second most about being absolutely sure that there will be Christmas. “More Seasons for Narnia!” was actually my slogan, although it was on a bumper sticker covered in ice crystals and hidden on my sledge under a big heap of Turkish delight. But I knew that it was there….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/21/20 Slexip Was I Ere I Saw Pixels

(1) AN EXPERIMENT. Samuel R. Delany has written a novel called Shoat Rumblin, His Sensations and Ideas. Not sff, but it is Delany.

…At one point, Vladimir Nabakov said that Madame Bovary was really just an extremely well-written fairytale. There’s one sense in which, unlike other of my books, that was what I was hoping to accomplish with Shoat Rumblin. The book was never finished to my satisfaction, although I wrote an ending for it. Through looking over it again, I’m at least contented with what I’ve done—if still uncertain how believable it is. As I’ve said on Twitter, it’s an experiment in gay pornography and realistic storytelling. Parts of it are funny and parts of it, I confess, I think are pretty grim. Overall, I’d call it a comedy rather than a tragedy, if only because it does have a happy ending, however believable or unbelievable you find it. I’m also hoping that this makes it intriguing enough for some of you to take a chance on it.

(2) TOR FOR TWO. “John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal Chat About Sci-Fi, Writing Processes, and More!” at Tor.com. There’s both a video and a transcript at the link.

MRK: One of my favorite things is when I introduce a reader to an author who is, by any metric except to this reader, more famous than I am. And they have never heard of them. And they’re like, “oh, this new author Ursula K. Le Guin, I love her books!” (laughs)

JS: You’re like; I don’t know how to break this one to you, but… But, that actually brings up a really interesting point which is that because science fiction and fantasy is, as a literature, as opposed to every other aspect of media, because it is still sort of niche where you come into the genre matters. Because, if they come in with you, then a lot of your antecedents or people who influenced you will be new to them. And to them, those classics will seem almost derivative or not up to date. I’ve had that happen sometimes where people will read me first, especially people who are under the age of 35. They’ll read me first and then they’ll go backwards into someone like Heinlein and then they’re like—“hmm, I don’t know—his stuff’s OK, but I kind of like yours better.” And I’m like, well—one, thank you, and two, it’s definitely because this is the path that you took into this genre. And, it’s still something that is very possible to do in this genre that I don’t know if in mainstream it will happen as much.

(3) RUSSIAN AROUND. “‘Sputnik’ Trailer: A Cosmonaut Brings an E.T. Invasion Back to Earth in Gory ‘Alien’ Homage”IndieWire sets the frame:

While a space traveler’s greatest fear is typically what’s waiting out there in the great unknown, what they bring back to Earth could be much, much worse. That’s the premise of Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko’s feature debut “Sputnik,” a sci-fi chiller with the stately echoes of Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien.” Set in the 1980s, “Sputnik” blends creature-feature effects with heady extraterrestrial thrills. An official selection of the canceled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival, the movie debuts from IFC Midnight in select theaters and on VOD August 14. Watch the trailer for the film below….

Here’s the YouTube intro:

Due to her controversial methods, young doctor Tatiana Yurievna (Oksana Akinshina) is on the precipice of losing her medical license. Her career may not be over, though. After she’s recruited by the military, Tatiana is brought to a secure science research facility to assess a very special case, that of Konstantin Sergeyevich (Pyotr Fyodorov), a cosmonaut who survived a mysterious space accident and has returned to Earth with a unique condition: there’s something living inside of him that only shows itself late at night. The military has nefarious plans for it. Tatiana wants to stop it from killing Konstantin. And the creature itself thrives on destruction.

(4) FLAME ON. Entertainment Weekly reports Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon begins casting”.

There are no official casting breakdowns yet available, but many are speculating about the potential lead characters based on Martin’s book. Fire & Blood covers 150 years and includes the rise and fall of many leaders in Westeros so it’s not clear which characters and time period will be the focus of the series. But sources tell EW that the famed Dance of Dragons – the Targaryen Civil War that occasionally referenced in GoT that ripped apart Westeros – will be tackled at some point in the series. What would make sense is if the first season (or two) led up to those events. Some fans have suggested the show could also be an American Horror Story-style anthology series, covering a vastly different time period in each season.

(5) RELATIONSHIPS FOR THE LONG HAUL. In “The Big Idea: Michael R. Underwood” at Whatever, the author argues there’s a sorely neglected big idea.

“Happily Ever After.”

A famous phrase that signals the end of many stories, from faerie tales to action movies to romance novels. Growing up, so many of the tv, film, comics, books, and more that I experienced said – implicitly, if not explicitly – that once a couple overcame whatever big trial happened in act three, the relationship itself was smooth sailing.

And depending on how you read those stories, it says something worse. It says that long-term, committed relationships are boring, or that they’re only interesting when they’re falling apart. “Happily Ever After” doesn’t prepare anyone for the lived reality of making a long-term relationship work. Sometimes the best romance works will illustrate those challenges and joys on the way, because romance writers are grand masters of characterization. But getting into my first romantic relationships, I had few fictional models for what it was like to negotiate the higher-level challenges and opportunities posed by a committed partnership. And being a storyteller by trade, that lack of narrative models became especially frustrating.

With Annihilation Aria, I set out to add to the count of works that unpack “Happily Ever After” and show that a committed couple can be exciting protagonists as well…. 

(6) VANDERMEERS’ FANTASY COLLECTION. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer preview The Big Book of Modern Fantasy at LitHub, including the Table of Contents: “On the Biggest Collection of Fantasy Tales Since WWII”. Plenty of names you know here.

…The truth is, a book of modern fantasy is a treasure trove of marvels, a cabinet of curiosities, and, perhaps more importantly, a strong, strong testimony to the importance of imaginative literature, of non-realist literature, and of traditions other than the Anglo Saxon. We, personally, have been enriched by these stories and lifted up by them. We hope readers will find their own favorites and fond memories from reading herein.

(7) CAPCLAVE CHANGES PLANS. Bill Lawhorn, Capclave 2020 Chair, says they’re going virtual. The event will be over the same weekend, but won’t start until Saturday.

Due to the novel coronavirus, the Capclave team has made the decision to be virtual this year. We will be holding Capclave October 17-18. Yes, this is two days, but we will run longer on Sunday than is typical. We will be focused on presentations, panels, and small group activities such as author readings or discussions.

Going virtual does present the opportunity to include people who would likely not be able to participate in a normal year. Keep an eye on our website and social media for news regarding new participants.

We plan to use Zoom for most activities, but we are looking at adding a text chat area via Discord as well. We will be updating our Code of Conduct to reflect the online nature of the convention. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact chair@capclave.org.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 21, 1929 John Woodvine, 91. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.   He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr J. S. Hirsch, but shortly thereafter he’s Master West 468 in The Tripods and Prior Mordrin in the Knights of God children’s SF serial. Finally, he’s Justice Dimkind in A Perfect State which is at least genre adjacent. (CE)
  • Born July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death in a motorcycle accident, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.) (CE)
  • Born July 21, 1944 – David Feintuch.  Campbell Award (as it then was) for Best New Writer.  Nine novels, of which seven portray Space navy officer Nick Seafort, translated into Czech, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.  Said he’d completed an eighth, of which no more has emerged.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1950 Asenath Hammond. She was was a fan who was a member of NESFA, New York City and LASFS fandoms. She was married for a time to Rick Sternbach. Mike has a write-up on her here. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born July 21, 1950 – Bill Kunkel.  Cartoons (sometimes as “Potshot”) in AlgolCheckpointThe Frozen FrogTrap DoorChunga seemed to energize him, he gave it much (for the end, see here and herecorflu = mimeograph correction fluid, loc = letter of comment).  Comics: DC, Marvel, Harvey; primary scripter for Richie Rich.  Pro wrestling: photographed for, edited, published Main Event magazine, hosted The Main Event radio show, energized Pro Wrestling Torch, cartoons and columns for Wrestling Perspective. Video games: Electronic GamesTips & Tricks magazines; designed a dozen games; memoir, Confessions of the Game Doctor.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and George Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. No, not even genre adjacent but damn brilliant. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & MindyHook which I adore, The Fisher KingBicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born July 21,1952 – Kathy Tyers, 68.  Ten novels, half a dozen shorter stories translated into Dutch and German.  A Star Wars novel was a NY Times Best Seller.  Two CDs of folk music (she plays flute, Irish harp).  Worked with Christopher Parkening on his memoir Grace Like a River.  Lives in Montana.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1956 – Todd Dashoff, 64.  Chaired Philcon 1988 and the Millennium Philcon – what else should we name a Worldcon at Philadelphia in 2001?  Knows Harry Warner upheld the rule that the local con there is Phillycon and only a Worldcon there is Philcon.  Knows this rule has not been followed since 1947 and meanwhile (after HW’s death) a comics con has been calling itself Phillycon.  Has been PSFS’ (Phil. SF Soc.) President and Treasurer.  Stalwart helper from locals to Worldcons.  Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Joni, another shining star) at Lunacon 46.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1960 – John Wardale, 60.  Balloon sculptor, hair braider, costumer, photographer, patiently giving balloon and braid workshops for beginners too.  A pleasure, if that word may be used, to judge “Angels Take Motown” at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) by Janine & John Wardale, Sharon & Hall Bass, which we awarded Best Motown Entry (Journeyman Class).  Has also taught Science: Energy + Time = Change.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1976 – Stephanie Law, 44.  Two dozen covers including books in German and Polish, also cards and other games.  Featured in Spectrum (six times) and Locus.  Best in Art Show, DragonCon 2015.  Art Guest of Honor at BayCon 2015, JordanCon 10, Philcon 2019; was scheduled for the 13th NASFiC this year.  Artbook, Descants and Cadences.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 44. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro reports it was a hard day at the Frankenstein factory.
  • Garfield shows what would be – for these aliens – a fate worse than death.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider calls this “Contemplation.”

(10) CHEATERS EVER PROSPER. “An author bought his own book to get higher on bestseller lists. Is that fair?” The Guardian says it doesn’t break the rules of the Sunday Times.

For any author, being able to describe yourself as a bona fide bestseller is key to conferring your career with a certain gravitas – and will often bring you even more sales. In the UK, while most book charts are tallied by Nielsen BookScan, the Sunday Times bestseller list – like the New York Times chart in the US – has become the gold standard. But making the bestseller list isn’t necessarily as straightforward as tallying sales. Not all is fair in romance and war (and other genres) when it comes to getting to the top of the charts.

Take the case of Mark Dawson, a British writer who just over a week ago hit No 8 on the Sunday Times hardback list with his thriller The Cleaner, released by the independent publisher Welbeck at the end of June. This is a great achievement for any author or small publishing house, but Dawson had done something remarkable: he bought 400 copies of his own book, at a cost of £3,600, to push his sales high enough to make the top 10….

(11) LOOKING FOR CHANGE. “More Resignations, but No Sign Yet of a Change in Gaming Culture” – the New York Times surveys the field.

First, a popular esports tournament was canceled. Next, top gaming studio executives stepped down. Then, a prominent talent management agency for video game streamers laid off its employees and closed.

The stream of reports of sexual harassment and assault in the gaming industry that began in June has continued unabated, as more women — and some men — have come forward with accusations of mistreatment.

Despite the actions that companies have taken in response to individual incidents, gaming experts say they are hesitant to call the moment an inflection point for an industry with a long and difficult history of sexist behavior and abuse. This is not the first time women have spoken up. In 2014, in what is known as Gamergate, women faced death threats for criticizing the gaming industry and its culture. Last year, women again came forward with stories of abuse in what was seen as gaming’s #MeToo moment.

So few expect the resignations this time to quickly change a culture that for decades has often been hostile to women.

“You can fire people all day long,” said Kenzie Gordon, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alberta who studies how games can be used to prevent sexual and domestic violence. But “if only the individual people are held accountable, that doesn’t have any impact on the culture of the organization as a whole, necessarily.”…

(12) THE MARTIAN YAWNICLES. “One Challenge for Future Mars Explorers? Boredom.” So says Kate Greene at LitHub.

… It’s conditions such as these—monotony, idleness, tedium, sensory deprivation, loneliness—that concern NASA psychologists who want to send a crew to Mars. Using existing technologies, a trip to the red planet will take 200 to 300 days of travel. Most of the time will be spent inside a cramped capsule. There will be a communication delay with Earth of up to 24 minutes due to a span of hundreds of millions of miles. Real-time chatting or video calls with friends and family and mission support will be an impossibility—the limitation is the speed of light—that no new technology would be able to overcome.

Mars crews would likely need to operate with a high level of autonomy because of this communication delay. Many people believe autonomy, which implies freedom of choice, can stave off boredom. Indeed, work imbued with personal meaning can be a potential solution, but it can’t fix everything.

In addition to the isolation and sensory deprivation, there will still be repetition of meals and routines and clothing and conversations between crewmembers. The workloads will still likely be full of tedium, with narrow margins for error. In short, a mission to Mars has the perfect ingredient list for boredom and disaster borne of boredom.

(13) WHAT WILL YOU MAKE FROM THIS? “A New Artificial Material Effectively Cannot Be Cut” — which they’ve dubbed Proteus, rather than ‘nocuttium’ or whatever; Slashdot has the story.

Researchers from the University of Stirling, UK, have embedded ceramic spheres in aluminum foam to create a material that couldn’t be cut with angle grinders, power drills or water jet cutters. “They dubbed it Proteus after the shape-shifting Greek god, for the way the material metamorphosed in different ways to defend against attacks,” reports New Scientists

(14) THE SWARM. Could “swarm 3-D printing” become an endless opportunity for unanticipated results?

…What they appear to have developed is a kind of mobile robotic 3D printing concept. As you can see in the video, dual independent 3D printers are temporarily fixed to specific locations on a grid. From these locations the devices will print within a controlled zone (which AMBOTS calls a “Chunk”).

After completing a layer of a chunk, a mobile robot picks up each 3D printer and moves them to another spot on the grid where they can then access another chunk. By moving the 3D printers repeatedly through a series of access points they are able to build the entire structure — without interfering with each other.

(15) IMPERFECT CREATION. Now wait a minute. It was his own show! Yet ScreenRant says there were “10 Things Rod Serling Disliked About The Original Twilight Zone”. Well, here’s one we all disliked for sure.

9. Those Damn Commercials

One beast Serling struggled with during the run of The Twilight Zone continues to be an irritant today. That has to do with lightweight commercials that tended to deflate the intensity of a suspenseful Twilight episode.

“However moving and however probing and incisive the drama,” mused Serling at a UCLA speaking engagement in 1971, “it cannot retain any thread of legitimacy when after 12 or 13 minutes, out comes 12 dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: Cowboy Bebop” on YouTube, Screen Junkies takes on the classic anime series, where everyone chain smokes and the gloomy atmosphere is heightened by introspective sax solos.

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