Pixel Scroll 1/16/22 I Hereby Dub The Current Dominant Genre (Whatever It May Be) Punky McPunkcore

(1) WOLVERTON FAMILY GOFUNDME. Following the death of Dave Wolverton, Dave’s family and friends are raising money on GoFundMe for his funeral and the family’s expenses. Here’s the link: “Please Help the Family of Dave Wolverton-Farland”.

David Doering also reports, “Spencer [Wolverton] called me to say his dad’s service will be this coming Friday, January 21, at 11 a.m. MST in St. George, Utah. There will be a link posted broadcasting the event for those who cannot attend.” 

(2) URSA MAJOR. Nominations for the Ursa Major Awards are open and will continue until February 12.

To nominate online, all people must first enroll. Go here to ENROLL FOR ONLINE NOMINATIONS or to LOGIN if you have already enrolled.

You may choose up to five nominees for each category:

Nominations may be made for the following categories:

Best Anthropomorphic Motion Picture
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Short Work
Best Anthropomorphic Dramatic Series
Best Anthropomorphic Novel
Best Anthropomorphic Short Fiction
Best Anthropomorphic Other Literary Work
Best Anthropomorphic Non-Fiction Work
Best Anthropomorphic Graphic Story
Best Anthropomorphic Comic Strip
Best Anthropomorphic Magazine
Best Anthropomorphic Published Illustration
Best Anthropomorphic Game
Best Anthropomorphic Website
Best Anthropomorphic Costume (Fursuit)

(3) REH AWARDS. Nominations for the 2022 Robert E. Howard Awards are open and will continue through January 31. You do not have to currently be a member of the Robert E. Howard Foundation to send in nominees at this stage of the process. However, the Final ballot will only be sent out to current Robert E. Howard Foundation members (members who have paid dues for the year 2022). That ballot will be released on February 15. See the link for the complete guidelines.

(4) HOWARD’S HOME ON THE RANGE. For more Robert E. Howard related content, The Cromcast has put a whole bunch of videos of the 2021 Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, on their YouTube channel here.

(5) CAUCUS RACE. On the third day, they squeed again: Simon McNeil picks up the baton with “Notes on Squeecore”.

…Now here I want to pause on one of the points the Rite Gud podcast were clear on here that, within their Squeecore definition it was not sufficient that a work be discursive so much as that a work must insist that its discursive element be seen and I think this is where Redshirts becomes a valuable point of discussion. Absolutely nobody is suggesting that the idea of disposable, red-shirted, extras on Star Trek was somehow unexplored prior to 2012. However Redshirts did a lot to foreground this through its fourth-wall-breaking conclusion. Now me? I like a fourth-wall break when it’s well executed and I think it was well executed in Redshirts. This essay should not be seen as an attempt to bury John Scalzi. But regardless of where we stand on matters of taste regarding the literary device or where we stand on the quality of execution of the device in this case, it still holds that this execution, in this story, served to underline the discursive elements of Redshirts such that it insisted the audience engage with them. It wasn’t sufficient to construct a funhouse mirror reflection of the Gothic as Peake did in his Gormenghast books, nor to interrogate the cultural assumptions of a genre as Pratchett did with classic British fantasy in his early Discworld novels – both of these were deconstructive works but neither, especially not Peake, felt much need to insist that the audience acknowledge that a deconstruction was in progress. But Scalzi had his characters literally escape from their work of fiction to plead for consideration from their own fictive creators. This is not a subtle work of deconstruction….

(6) SPSFC INSIDER. Alex Hormann of Boundary’s Edge shares what it’s like to be a Self-Published Science Fiction Competition judge so far: “SPSFC At Boundary’s Edge: Personal Thoughts”.

Thought #2: The 20% Rule

Generally speaking, I don’t DNF books. Even if I’m not enjoying a book, I push through to the end in the hopes of salvaging something from my investment. With the SPSFC, we had to read the opening 20% and decide if we should continue. This was a very different experience for me, and I’m still not sure if it was helpful. On the one hand, you can get a pretty good idea of what a book will be like from that sample. But on the other, you’re essentially reading an introduction with none of the payoff. There were some books that I knew within the first couple of pages that I wasn’t going to enjoy, almost always for stylistic or formatting reasons. Others proved to be strong enough in the opening chapters that they progressed further, only to lose my interest further on. I can’t help but wonder if those books I voted not to continue became something wonderful later on. And there was a book that made it through with a very strong start that completely lost me with its final chapters. This was also the stage of the competition where a book needed a majority vote to progress further. With only three judges, only two Yes votes were required, meaning we ended up with eleven books meeting the criteria. I don’t think letting an extra book slip through the cuts phase did any real harm to our allocation, but it did mean a little extra work in the next phase. Of the eleven that made it through, I had voted to continue with seven of them, and had voted for two more that ultimately failed to make the cut.

(7) ANSWER KEY. Here are Rich Horton’s “Answers to BIPOC SF/Fantasy Quiz” from Strange at Ecbatan.

1. Ava DuVernay, the acclaimed director of Selma, became the first Black woman to direct a live action feature with over a $100,000,000 budget with which 2018 film, an adaptation of a beloved Newbery Award winner?

Answer: A Wrinkle in Time

(8) SEE GERMANY’S BIGGEST SFF LIBRARY. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] German SFF writer Maja Ilisch reports about a visit to the Phantastische Bibliothek in Wetzlar, Germany’s biggest SFF specialty library. The post is in German, but there are photos: “Allein unter Büchern”.

(9) BILL WRIGHT (1937-2022). Australian fan Bill Wright died January 17. Bill was a founding member of both ANZAPA and the Nova Mob. He served as awards administrator for the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. He was secretary for the first Aussiecon in 1975 and helped organize the Bring Bruce Bayside Fan Fund in 2004. Bill was a Life Member of the Melbourne Science Fiction Club. One of his fanzines with an international following was Interstellar Ramjet Scoop.

In 2013 at the age of 76 he was voted the Down Under Fan Fund delegate. Bill was honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award in 2017.

(And I was always in Bill’s debt for introducing me to Foster’s Lager when he and Robin Johnson were at L.A.Con I to promote the first Australian Worldcon bid.)

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1995 [Item by Cat Eldridge.]  “Coffee – the finest organic suspension ever devised. It’s got me through the worst of the last three years. I beat the Borg with it.” — Captain Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager’s “Hunters”. 

On this evening twenty-seven years ago on UPN, Star Trek: Voyager premiered. The fourth spinoff from the original series after the animated series, the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, it featured the first female commander in the form of Captain Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew. 

It was created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor. Berman served as head executive producer, assisted by a series of executive proucers — Piller, Taylor, Brannon Braga and Kenneth Biller. Of those, Braga is still the most active with work on The Orville.

It ran for seven seasons  and one seventy-two episodes. Four episodes, “Caretaker”, “Dark Frontier”, “Flesh and Blood” and “Endgame” originally aired as ninety minute episodes. 

Of the series, and not at all surprisingly, Voyager gets the highest Bechdel test rating. Oh, and that quote I start this piece with in 2015, was tweeted by astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti International Space Station when they were having a coffee delivery. She was wearing a Trek uniform when she did so.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death.  (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of KilsonaThe Green Man of Graypec and The Terror from Timorkal), plus he wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly only in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1943 Michael Atwell. He appeared in Doctor Who twice, first in a Second Doctor story, “The Ice Warriors”, and later in the in the Sixth Doctor story, “Attack of the Cybermen “. He also voiced Goblin in the Labyrinth film, and had a recurring role in Dinotopia. (Died 2006.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 74. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His films include the Halloween franchise, The ThingStarman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to done that you like, or don’t like for that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 52. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for  Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. What by him should I be reading?
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 48. Yes, she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann, 36. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) I FOUGHT THE LAW AND THE LAW WON. “Video game preservation is complicated, both legally and technically” – the Washington Post tells about the challenges.

…A 2018 report by the Association of Research Libraries found that archivists are “frustrated and deeply concerned” regarding copyright policies related to software, and they charge the current legal environment of “imperiling the future of digital memory.” The obstacles archivists face range from legal restrictions around intellectual property to the technological challenges of obtaining or re-creating versions of the various consoles, computers and servers required to play various titles published over the years. Not only must the games be preserved, they also need to be playable, a quandary akin to needing a record player to listen to a rare vinyl album.

However, the legal hurdle to their research — chiefly, risking infringing on the copyrights of multibillion-dollar companies — remains the biggest for preservationists seeking access to games for academic research….

(15) SUPERNATURAL SUPERHIGHWAY. Paul Weimer shares his take about “Tim Powers’ Alternate Routes at A Green Man Review.

…Writing abouit supernatural doings in Southern California is nothing new for Powers, but this novel felt and reads distinctly different than his previous novels set in Southern California and wrapping around supernatural doings, but not always to its benefit. A Tim Powers novel for me is one with magic beneath the surface of our ordinary world that a few people can access. This often ties into a Secret History of events that we think we know, but we really don’t know the full story until Powers comes along. Characters with hidden motivations that make sense only in the denouement.. Lush use of setting and place. Tricks with time, character and perspective. Tim Powers work isn’t as byzantine as, say, Gene Wolfe, but paying attention and reading closely are absolute musts to figure out what is going on.

Alternate Routes has some of these but not as many as one might expect from a Tim Powers novel. For lack of a better phrase, Alternate Routes reads in a much more straightforward fashion, plot wise, than the typical Powers novel….

(16) WHAM! Meanwhile, back at Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer brings us up to speed about the second book in a series: “Microreview [book]: Chaos Vector by Megan O’Keefe”.

…Velocity Weapon tells a twisty story where Sanda is lied to and tricked by an AI on an enemy warship, and Biran desperately seeks political power for, primarily, finding out what has happened to his sister. The novel was particularly potent for a “Wham! moment” where Sanda’s understanding of what was happening to her, and why, turned out to be far far different than she knew.

Now, with a solar system seething with potential conflict, Sanda free of her captivity, and Biran in a position of power within the Keepers, Chaos Vector continues the story of these two siblings as revelations and conflicts from the first novel start to manifest…as well as new mysteries, and yes, new wham moments!

(17) VOX PLONKS HIS MAGIC TWANGER. Brian Z. asks, “Is it official puppy news when Scott Adams calls VD his mascot?” Oh, no – he’s going to sing!

(18) OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCE. I’m not a big game-player, so I’m glad to have Joe DelFranco tell me what made It Takes Two a prize-winning game: “Microreview [Video Game]: It Takes Two by Hazelight Studios”.  

The Game Awards Game of the Year winner, It Takes Two, asks two players to come together to repair an ailing marriage. In many relationships, poor communication causes the initial bond between partners to break down. Therein lies the crux of the conflict with It Takes Two. Cody and May, fed-up with their relationship, cause their daughter Rose much distress. Rose consults Dr. Hakim’s Book of Love to help bring them back together. With her tears, she binds her parent’s souls into two wooden dolls. Now it’s up to the players to help the protagonists get out of this mess and back to their bodies….

(19) PREDICTING PARENTHOOD. “Futurist Amy Webb has predictions on 5G, the metaverse, creating babies and a host of other bold topics” in the Washington Post.

S.Z.: Reading your book it feels like you have an almost philosophical belief that people should overhaul what they think about how humans are created. If synthetic biology can deliver on some of these promises — if it removes any age restriction on egg fertilization, say, or if embryos can be gestated outside a human body — what do these changes do to us as a society? Do they alter it fundamentally?

A.W.: The thing is we never stopped and asked how we got to this point. Until now a baby was a man and a woman and having the structures to be in place for that to happen. And now synthetic biology is giving us other options. Forty years into the future, I think it may be the case that there are many parents to one child, or that a 70-year-old and their 60-year old spouse decide to have a baby. Why would we close ourselves off to those possibilities?

(20) THERPEUTIC CREDENTIALS. [Item by Michael Toman.] Be sure to check out the link on the fur color of your cat and the supernatural! “Research Shows That Owning Cats Can, Indeed, Heal You” reports MSN.com. Hope that all in your household, including the unmasked four-pawed mammals, are staying Safe and Well.

1. Owning a cat can actually reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

According to an impressive 10-year study of more than 4,000 Americans, cat owners showed a 30 percent lower risk of death by heart attack than those who didn’t have a feline companion.

Participants had a lower heart rate, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.

Dr Adnan Qureshi, senior author of the study, said, “For years we have known that psychological stress and anxiety are related to cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks.”

(21) FROM BACK IN THE DAY. “Oldest remains of modern humans are much older than thought, researchers say”Yahoo! outlines the discovery.

Some of the oldest remains of modern humans in the world are much older than scientists thought.

The remains, known as Omo I, were found in southwest Ethiopia in the late 1960s. The bone and skull fragments researchers discovered were some of the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens.

Initial research suggested they were nearly 200,000 years old, but new research shows the remains are at least 230,000 years old.  The peer-reviewed research was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday

(22) PROLIFERATING PRESIDENTS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Last night Saturday Night Live began with a cold open in which President Biden blamed the Omicron outbreak on people buying tickets to Spider-Man and we found out that we actually don’t live in the real universe but rather one started as a joke by having the Cubs win the World Series. You know, that last bit makes some sense.

[Thanks to JJ, Chris Barkley, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Brian Z., Jeffrey Smith, Bill, David Doering, John A. Arkansawyer, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

Pixel Scroll 1/4/22 If You Like My File And You Think I’m Pixely, Come On Baby Let Me Scroll

(1) ACCESSIBILITY ISSUES RAISED ANEW. Mari Ness, who recently called out Discon III’s accessibility issues, today tweeted about another setback involving the Viable Paradise writers workshop. Thread starts here.

The “Accessibility at Viable Paradise” webpage discusses the provisions made by the workshop.

(2) SAVE THE CITY COMPOSER Q&A. “’Rogers: The Musical’ composer reveals a deleted ‘Hawkeye’ scene” — an Inverse interview with Marc Shaiman.

HAWKEYE’S POST-CREDITS SCENE was unlike anything we’ve seen before. While Marvel normally teases the future, their latest series ended with a victory lap in a full encore performance of in-universe Broadway sensation Rogers: The Musical’s “Save the City.”

Many fans weren’t pleased with this prime spot looking backwards instead of forward, but the scene paradoxically did something new. After 20-odd teasers and reveals, the most surprising choice was not revealing anything at all. It also allowed the fabulous music and lyrics of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman to take center stage.

Shaiman and his co-lyricist Scott Wittman are Broadway legends, with Hairspray and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among their many collaborations. But Hawkeye posed unique challenges: how do you create a show tune that fans would enjoy but Clint Barton would walk out of? How do you immortalize a classic Marvel moment in a silly but loving way? The answers involve a lot of lore, some speculation, and tons of encouragement from the brains behind Hawkeye….

There’s an official soundtrack (only) of the number here on YouTube. I also discovered a fan-made video performance version by “Stray and the Soundtrack” here which is a lot of fun.

(3) TOLKIEN SAINTHOOD. Francisco García, President of STP, the Peruvian Tolkien Society, reports they offered a Mass for the 130th birthday of JRR Tolkien and for the advancement of his Cause of Canonization on January 3. A video of the service is available on Facebook.

(4) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2021 Costa Book Awards, a UK literary prize sponsored by a coffee company, have been announced. None of the shortlisted genre works are winners.

The prize has five categories – First NovelNovelBiographyPoetry and Children’s Book. The winner of each receives £5,000. The Costa Book of the Year will be chosen from among them and get a £30,000 prize. The overall winner will be announced on February 1.

  • 2021 First Novel Award – Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking)
  • 2021 Novel Award – Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller(Fig Tree)
  • 2021 Biography Award – Fall: The Mystery of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (Viking)
  • 2021 Poetry Award – The Kids by Hannah Lowe(Bloodaxe Books)
  • 2021 Children’s Book Award – The Crossing by Manjeet Mann(Penguin)

(5) A KAIJU FORETASTE. Tor invites readers to “Download a Digital Preview of The Kaiju Preservation Society, the first five chapters of John Scalzi’s forthcoming novel.

When COVID-19 sweeps through New York City, Jamie Gray is stuck as a dead-end driver for food delivery apps. That is, until Jamie makes a delivery to an old acquaintance, Tom, who works at what he calls “an animal rights organization.” Tom’s team needs a last-minute grunt to handle things on their next field visit. Jamie, eager to do anything, immediately signs on.

What Tom doesn’t tell Jamie is that the animals his team cares for are not here on Earth. Not our Earth, at at least. In an alternate dimension, massive dinosaur-like creatures named Kaiju roam a warm and human-free world. They’re the universe’s largest and most dangerous panda and they’re in trouble.

It’s not just the Kaiju Preservation Society who’s found their way to the alternate world. Others have, too. And their carelessness could cause millions back on our Earth to die.

(6) BUTLER’S GEOGRAPHY. The Huntington has arranged some companion events and interactive online resources to enrich their “Mapping Fiction” exhibit. These three relate to Octavia Butler.

Lecture – Revisiting Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena
Saturday, March 19, and Saturday, April 23, 2022
2–3:30 p.m.
Pasadena Public Library, La Pinturesca Branch
Free with reservation; limited capacity [ticket info available soon]
On two Saturdays this spring, Ayana Jamieson, local educator and founder of the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network, will lead a moderated conversation about our desire to locate Butler’s Pasadena.

Walking/Driving Tour – Octavia E. Butler’s Pasadena: A Literary Tour
Visitors can take a self-guided walking or driving tour of the locations around Pasadena where Butler lived, visited, and often found inspiration. Tour maps are available online and in the exhibition gallery. You can also access the tour in Google Maps. After you take the tour, share your pic by tagging it #WalkWithOctavia.

The Literary Life of Octavia E. Butler: How Local Libraries Shaped a Sci-Fi Legend
An interactive map
 by the Los Angeles Times of Octavia Butler’s life in books.

(7) BOGDANOFF TWINS DIE. Twin brothers Grichka and Igor Bogdanoff (b. August 29, 1949) both died on COVID (on December 28 and January 3, respectively).  In 1976, they published Clefs pour la science-fiction, and from 1979-86 co-hosted the science fiction show Temps X, which introduced several British and American science-fiction series to the French public, including The PrisonerStar Trek, and Doctor Who. They also were involved a controversy in which it was alleged the brothers wrote nonsensical advanced physics papers that were nonetheless published in reputable scientific journals.

(8) JAY WOLPERT (1942-2022). Screenwriter Jay Wolpert has died at age 79. Before he started writing movies, he also created The Price Is Right TV game show. The Hollywood Reporter mentions his credit for Disney’s film The Count of Monte Cristo, and for helping to start another Disney franchise —  

…Wolpert then found himself as the first writer hired by Disney to tackle a movie adapting its classic theme park ride, The Pirates of the Caribbean. Once again, he channeled his Classics Illustrated love plus his affinity for pirates — he had once made a pilot for a swashbuckling game show titled Duel in the Daytime  — to write the script for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).

Three other scribes joined the film, but when the movie that starred Johnny DeppOrlando Bloom and Keira Knightley was released, Wolpert received a story by credit, and he would also receive a credit for creating characters in the four subsequent feature sequels. He spent the next decade or so working on several Disney movie projects, including a reimagining of The Sword and the Stone.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2001 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty one years ago, the first of four episodes of the RoboCop: Prime Directives series first aired on Space in Canada. The series, created by Fireworks Entertainment, consists of four feature-length episodes: Dark JusticeMeltdownResurrection, and Crash and Burn. It follows up directly on the first Robocop film. 

It was directed by Julian Grant as written by Brad Abraham and Joseph O’Brien who I guarantee hadn’t done anything that you’d heard of. Robocop here was Paige Fletcher who played the narrator in the HBO genre anthology series The Hitchhiker. Other primary cast were Maurice Dean Wint, María del Mar Geraint Wyn Davies, Leslie Hope and Anthony Lemke. 

Reception for the series was generally good. Allan Johnson writing for the Chicago Tribune said that it was “worthy of Verhoeven’s movie, never letting up on the satirical nature of the original, not shying away from the mayhem, and making good use of special effects.”  It didn’t do well on the Scifi Channel because, as usual, that channel didn’t bother to publicize it at all. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book by publishing original material in the early Thirties instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.)
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 75. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb. 
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 64. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom and Edison Carter on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly, I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well-crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist  and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon.  His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out Supergirl,  Honey, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like.
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 62. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could say are genre adjacent. But no, I’ve honored him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! 
  • Born January 4, 1982 Kerry Condon, 40. She provides the voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y. in the Marvel Universe films. More impressively, she was the youngest actress ever to play Ophelia in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet. She also played Clara on three episodes of The Walking Dead, and I see she was Dr. Zoe Boyle In Believe, one of those many series that disappeared before anyone knew they existed. 
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 37. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She played also Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012. And she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” of Black Mirror.
  • Born January 4, 2000 Addy Miller, 22. She is on the Birthday List for being Sarah in Plan 9. Really? They re-made that movie? Why? And yes she played A Walker in that other show. My fave role by her is because of the title, it was a short  called Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown, in which she was Scary Carrie Carmichael. And yes you can watch it here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Marc de Wolf relays news from Mars.

(12) GOING FOURTH. Arturo Serrano is on fire! Check out his review of Matrix Resurrections — “In ‘Resurrections,’ the toxic legacy of ‘The Matrix’ is the new villain to defeat” — at Nerds of a Feather. Beware Spoilers.

Lana Wachowski is very much aware of how dangerous it was to ask for another Matrix movie.

In the first scene of The Matrix Resurrections, a self-professed fan of Neo watches a deliberately inaccurate remake of The Matrix, one where the female lead loses. Then this fan intrudes into the narrative, rescues one of her heroes, and exits a movie theater, running for her life.

The title of the movie she’s desperately fleeing? The Root of All Evil.

What, pray tell, is the root of all evil? The love of money.

That’s the horror Resurrections is trying to avoid, and despite its corporately mandated existence, it manages to not lose itself.

(13) SOLE SURVIVOR GAMES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews “battle royale” games where, like The Hunger Games or Squid Game, all the characters fight each other until only one survives.

In the world of gaming, the first titles to imitate Battle Royale, such as the visual novels Dangonrompa and Zero Escape, explored similar themes, but the big successes today are shooters with no such intellectual pretensions.  Here a group of players are dropped from a plane across a large map and must scavenge weapons and fight until only one survives.  These have become the dominant form in online gaming…

…The genre has also proved versatile. A number of non-violent games have offered eccentric takes on the battle royale, ranging from the candy-coloured obstavle course Fall Guys to Tetris 99, where 99 players stack blocks in a last-man-standing competition.  Today there is truly a battle royale for every player, and last week I finally found one for me–new release Babble Royale, a spin on Scrabble in which players parachute letter tiles on to a board and compete to be the last speller standing.

(14) THE BOTTOM LINE. For the fourteenth year, Jim C. Hines has shared his professional earnings results in “2021 Writing Income”.

… So while I produced almost two books, 2021 was a year with no original Jim C. Hines publications, which is a bit frustrating and discouraging. It also makes the income numbers more interesting, at least to me.

2021 Income: The biggest check came from the Delivery/Acceptance payment for Terminal Peace. While I delivered that manuscript in September 2020, the payment didn’t make its way through the system and get to me until 2021. I’m kind of glad, because otherwise this year’s numbers would be a lot more depressing…

(15) GET YOUR BETS DOWN. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] SF² Concatenation has just tweeted; its first advance post ahead of its seasonal edition (slated for mid-month). This advance post relates to its team’s informal bit of fun as to the best books and film or the past year. The SF² Concatenation have been doing this for quite a few years now and have something of a track record of some of their choices going on to be short-listed for awards (a few even winning). See here and scroll down.

(16) TRAILER PARK. From Disney+, The Book of Boba Fett Episode 2 trailer.

(17) A LITTLE OOPS. There were a lot of eyeballs on the big reunion – too many to miss a mistake like this: “Harry Potter reunion special mixes up Emma Watson and Emma Roberts: ‘How did this happen?’”

…The makers of HBO Max’s hit reunion special, Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts, accidentally swapped in a childhood photo of Emma Roberts for franchise star Emma Watson…. 

(18) A CENTURY AHEAD. Isaac Arthur lays out his “Challenges & Predictions for the Next 100 Years” – that will sober you up!

Every year has new challenges, every generation faces its own unique crises, and as we move into the New Year, we will look at the challenges facing us in the next century and set out Top 10 Predictions for life in the year 2121.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Meredith, Steven H Silver, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, 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 Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/21 “Say, Sky-Farmer, Can I Take this Wormhole To Tau Ceti?” “You Could, But I Don’t Know Why, They Already Have One.”

(1) SCALING MOUNT TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Book blogger Runalong Womble has shared his TBR Reduction Challenge for 2022 in a fun little blog post that may help those of us whose bedside tables are creaking under the weight of unread tomes. “Your TBR Reduction Book Challenge – Let Me Help You!”

So I usually like to increase your pile of books to be read and yes I admit a warm glow of satisfaction when I hear that you’ve been tempted. But spoilers I am just as liable to a good temptation. Pass a bookshop; sale or good review and magically books soon enter my house or e-reader (the latter a place where many books go to die unread as no one really knows what lives within them). So let your kind womble share their own TBR challenge and I hope this helps you too!

Here’s an example from Womble’s calendar:

March – New Beginnings

5 – For the beginning of Spring I want you to open a book in the TBR pile by an author you’ve never read before

Stretch Goal – March is named after Mars, so genre fans find a book that very likely has a big battle in it be it in space, our world or a secondary world.  Non-genre fans look for a book about a conflict be that a dilemma, family feud etc

(2) THE FOLKS AT HOME. Today Cora Buhlert posted “The 2021 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award” (companion piece to yesterday’s highly entertaining “2021 Darth Vader Parenthood Award”). The Kent ceremony got a little out of hand, as the various characters started interacting. But first, Cora discusses some candidates who didn’t make the finals.

…Everybody’s favourite gay couple, Paul Stamets and Dr. Hugh Culber from Star Trek Discovery became parents last year, when they formed a beautiful little rainbow family with Adira, teenaged genius with a Trill symbiont, and their boyfriend Gray, who’s a disembodied ghost for much of season 3 before finally getting a body in season 4. Through it all, Stamets and Culber have done an excellent job parenting their untraditional family and would certainly be deserving winners. But as I said above, the competition was stiff this year….

(3) UNEXPECTED LOVE LETTER. Évelyne Lachance says “Worldcon is the place to call home” in an essay for Medium.

Who is WorldCon for?

It’s for you, the science fiction fan. And by fan, I mean, at any level, any age, any level of fandom, knowledge, and experience. Whether you’ve read a single novel about space travel or thousands, whether you’re a Star Trek fan, a Star Wars Fan, both, or none, it doesn’t matter. Worldcon is a place of acceptance for all fans. There is no gatekeeping, no “true Scotsman”, no required reading or watching. You could walk into your first con with absolutely zero knowledge of anything Sci-Fi and still be welcomed with open arms. Because if you’re there, it means you belong there.

(4) LOOKING AT RERUNS. Olav Rokne notes at the Hugo Book Club Blog, “A small group of us are slowly working our way through all the Hugo-shortlisted Dramatic Presentations year-by-year. Some years have been more of a slog than others, but 1967 had an excellent shortlist, and the contemporaneous fanzines are filled with debate about the movies and shows. Seems like the year that the Best Dramatic Presentation category really came into its own at the Hugos.” “Best Dramatic Presentation Boldly Goes Forward (1967)”.

With the benefit of hindsight, it seems only natural that Star Trek should win a Hugo Award in its first season.

At the time, however, this decision was not without controversy.

The Worldcon chair for 1967, Ted White, published a screed against the show calling its writers patronizing and ill-informed. Hugo-winning fan writer Alexei Panshin opined that Star Trek was filled with cliches and facile plots.

But for every voice criticizing the new show, there were several voicing their support. Big-name authors like Harlan Ellison and A.E. Van Vogt campaigned for the television series to win a Hugo, hoping that the recognition might buy it a second season….

(5) A SLIPPERY SLOPE TO A ROCKY ROAD. In “Pluto should be reclassified as a planet, scientists argue” NBC is picking up a bit of science news that I saw a couple weeks ago but originally left alone because it’s not as much fun saying Pluto should be a planet if it means adding a whole bunch of other rocks I never heard of to the category, too!

A team of scientists wants Pluto classified as a planet again — along with dozens of similar bodies in the solar system and any found around distant stars.

The call goes against a controversial resolution from 2006 by the International Astronomical Union that decided Pluto is only a “dwarf planet” — but the researchers say a rethink will put science back on the right path.

Pluto had been considered the ninth planet since its discovery in 1930, but the IAU — which names astronomical objects — decided in 2006 that a planet must be spherical, orbit the sun and have gravitationally “cleared” its orbit of other objects.

Pluto meets two of those requirements — it’s round and it orbits the sun. But because it shares its orbit with objects called “plutinos” it didn’t qualify under the new definition.

As a result, the IAU resolved the solar system only had eight major planets — Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — and Pluto was relegated from the list.

But a study announced in December from a team of researchers in the journal Icarus now claims the IAU’s definition was based on astrology — a type of folklore, not science — and that it’s harming both scientific research and the popular understanding of the solar system….

(6) A SHORTER SENTENCE. The Scroll began following this case after Courtney Milan revealed she had been one of the jurors. The original, stunningly-long sentence now has been reduced by the governor: “Trucker Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence reduced from 110 to 10 years”.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has commuted the sentence of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to 10 years with eligibility for parole in five. The 26-year-old was originally given a 110 year sentence for a 2019 crash that killed four people, but had his sentence reduced after public outcry over Colorado’s mandatory sentencing laws…. 

(7) SIDE BY SIDE. Karlo Yeager Rodríguez and Kurt compare their predictions (Episode  145 – Hugo Predictions Beer Run) against what won. . . as well as one pesky sponsor stealing the show in Podside Picnic Episode #149 “Beauty Of Our Weapons @ WorldCon”.

There’s also a recent episode hosted by Karlo where Kurt, Chris and Pete discuss the Thomas Godwin classic story The Cold Equations: Episode 148: “The Cold Beer Equations”.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2003 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Eighteen years ago, Patricia McKillip won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the World Fantasy Award for Ombria in Shadow. It was also on the long list for the Nebula Award. It had been published the previous year by Ace Books. The jacket illustration is by Kinuko Y. Craft who did almost all of the Ace covers for the author. I reviewed Kinuko Craft‘s Kinuko Craft: Drawings & Paintings over at Green Man which is a most excellent look at her art.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yes, Kipling. He’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “The Cat that Walked By Himself“, wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic. Of course there’s always The Jungle Books which run to far more stories than I thought they did. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once in way that was sometimes xenophobic but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 71. Damn his Deserted Cities of the Heart novel was frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I saw was on the DC Universe app, so I read it and it was fantastic. Nice! Anyone here that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on usual suspects with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 70. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund who went to Albacon II in Glasgow. And she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3. She writes an active blog at Avedon’s Sideshow.
  • Born December 30, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 64. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, begore going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
  • Born December 30, 1958 Eugie Foster. She was nominated for a Hugo at Aussiecon 4 for one of the most wonderfully titled novelettes I’ve ever heard of, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”. It won a Nebula and was nominated for a BSFA as well. I’ve not read it, who here has read it? She was managing editor for Tangent Online and The Fix.  She was also a director for Dragon Con and edited their onsite newsletter, the Daily Dragon. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas A. Anderson, 62. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. 
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 45. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her late father. She was with Simon Green the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They of course helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot.
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 41. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching.   She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out as of note. One is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies. The other role is fascinating — The Lady In Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story: “IM Global Television Developing ‘The Black Company’; Eliza Dushku To Star”.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio’s big idea might be shocking at first, but it may grow on you.

(11) ZOOMING TO THE HUGOS. Cora Buhlert, a finalist who attended virtually from Germany, posted her commentary on the 2021 Hugo winners, but says her full con report will have to wait until the new year: “Some Thoughts on the 2021 Hugo Award Winners and the Ceremony in general”.

…The Zoom party was beamed into the main party via a tablet or laptop, so we could see our fellow finalists in Washington DC and could talk to them. Plenty of people came over to say hello and good luck. Outfits were admired – and honestly, the Hugos have the best range of outfits. It’s like the Oscars, only crazier. After all, we had two of Santa’s elves there, otherwise known as John and Krissy Scalzi. And best of all, you have a lot of people with realistic bodies at the Hugos. The masks made it a bit difficult to recognise people, even if I knew them, though thankfully Sarah was really good at recognising people under their masks. The noise level in the ballroom also made it difficult to talk, so we made signs to hold up saying things like “Good luck!”, “Great dress/suit/outfit” and – this was John Wiswell’s – “I’m rooting for you and only you, I promise.” I enjoyed the whole set-up a lot and hope that future Worldcons adopt this idea, so even finalists who cannot be present in person get a taste of the ceremony….

(12) THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Galactic Journey awards Galactic Stars to the best of 1966: “[December 26, 1966] Harvesting the Starfields (1966’s Galactic Stars!)”

There are many outlets that cover new releases in science fiction and fantasy.  But to my knowledge, only one attempts to review every English language publication in the world (not to mention stuff published beyond the U.S. and U.K.!) We are proud of the coverage we provide.

And this is the time of year when the bounty is tallied.  From all the books, magazines, comic strips, movies, tv shows, we separate the wheat from the chaff, and then sift again until only the very best is left.

These, then, are the Galactic Stars for 1966!

Here are the star-takers in Best Novelettes:

Riverworld, by Philip José Farmer

All of humanity is ressurrected on the banks of the world-river.  Including Tom Mix and a certain carpenter from Nazareth…

For a Breath I Tarry, by Roger Zelazny

Two computer brains endeavor to know long-dead humanity.  Beautiful.  Powerful.

A Two-Timer, by David I. Masson

A 17th Century scholar sojourns for a time in Our Modern Times.  Delightful.

Angels Unawares, by Zenna Henderson

An early tale of The People.  Kin can be adopted as well as born.

(13) SHAME ON YOU! For the Win reports a “Dead By Daylight fan gives up chase following stern talking-to” – the clip is at the link.

Sometimes, a good old-fashioned finger wag is enough to put someone in their place — at least it was in a particularly knee-slap worthy match of Dead By Daylight.

Over on Reddit, user Borotroth shared a cute clip of them fending off a killer in the most bizarre way possible: by scolding them via finger-pointing emotes. After a few good pokes, the killer decides to turn tail and run, like a child that’s received a stern talking-to from a parent. Typically, something like this would result in the survivor player getting clotheslined, yet that wasn’t the case. What a power move….

(14) SHIELDS UP. Space.com says the tricky part is just beginning: “James Webb Space Telescope begins unfolding delicate, massive sunshield”.

NASA’s massive new space observatory has entered its most perilous phase yet as it begins the careful process of unfurling its delicate sunshield.

The James Webb Space Telescope launched on Saturday (Dec. 25) and will be a revolutionary new observatory focused on studying the universe in infrared light. But first, it has to survive a monthlong trek out to its final post and a carefully choreographed deployment process. On Tuesday (Dec. 28), the spacecraft notched another key step in that deployment as it unfolded the Forward Unitized Pallet Structure (UPS) of its vast sunshield, according to a NASA statement… 

(15) HEAD IN THE CLOUDS. CBR.com knows where you can “Watch Japan’s Latest Massive Gundam Statue Being Assembled”.

…Japanese news organizations NHK and the Mainichi Shimbun were on hand to film the new statue’s head being attached. The statue is being constructed in the center of a shopping center located in Fukuoka, Japan. The Gundam’s head piece was pre-built and had to be lifted in place using a construction crane. As shown in the NHK’s video, just the head alone dwarfs the height of the workers who are putting the massive mecha together.

(16) YOU DIDN’T KNOW THEY WERE LOST? PBS’ Space Time with Matt O’Dowd offers advice about “How to Find ALIEN Dyson Spheres”.

On our search for alien lifeforms we scan for primitive biosignatures, and wait and hope for their errant signals to happen by the Earth. But that may not be the best way. Any energy-hungry civilization more advanced than our own may leave an indisputable technological mark on the galaxy. And yes, we’re very actively searching for those also. Time to update you on the hunt for galactic empires.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” the Screen Junkies say you’ll probably get entertainment coal in your stocking if you watch this 2000 film with Jim Carrey as the third of his “menacing green characters who will probably kill you,” after the Riddler and the Mask.  “The film’s quite exhausting, like a cake made out of frosting,” the Junkies say, and is so dark that director Ron Howard is trying to be a “ginger Tim Burton.”

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

2021 Steam Awards Nominees

Steam Awards logo

The 2021 Steam Awards nominees were announced December 22, 2021. Public voting to pick the winners continues through to January 3, 2022. Vote here.

GAME OF THE YEAR

VR GAME OF THE YEAR

LABOR OF LOVE

BETTER WITH FRIENDS

OUTSTANDING VISUAL STYLE

MOST INNOVATIVE GAMEPLAY

BEST GAME YOU SUCK AT

BEST SOUNDTRACK

OUTSTANDING STORY-RICH GAME

SIT BACK AND RELAX

Pixel Scroll 12/22/21 Snoopy’s Scrollmas

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2022 cover art by Kent Bash illustrates “Animale Dei Morti” by Nick DiChario. Publisher Gordon Van Gelder says the issue has just been printed and will be distributed soon.

(2) PEN LONGLISTS. The 2022 PEN America Literary Awards Longlists announcement shows these titles are up for the Pen/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award ($10,000):

For a work that exemplifies literary excellence on the subject of the physical or biological sciences and communicates complex scientific concepts to a lay audience.

  • The Memory Thief: And the Secrets Behind What We Remember — A Medical MysteryLauren Aguirre (Pegasus Books)
  • This Is the VoiceJohn Colapinto (Simon & Schuster)
  • Holding Back the River: The Struggle Against Nature on America’s WaterwaysTyler J. Kelley (Avid Reader Press)
  • Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond EarthAvi Loeb (Mariner Books)
  • The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams DeferredChanda Prescod-Weinstein (Bold Type Books)
  • Fox & I: An Uncommon FriendshipCatherine Raven (Spiegel & Grau)
  • Second Nature: Scenes from a World RemadeNathaniel Rich (MCD)
  • Count Down: How Our Modern World is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human RaceShanna H. Swan (Scribner)
  • Believers: Making a Life at the End of the WorldLisa Wells (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be AliveCarl Zimmer (Dutton Books)

The Judges are: Jonathan Safran Foer, Michele Harper, and Lauren Redniss.

(3) WILL THEY REWRITE THE SENTENCE? Updating a story being followed here because Courtney Milan said she’d been on the jury: “Trucker’s 110-year sentence in fatal Colorado crash to be reviewed after outcry” in the Sacramento Bee.

Following an outcry by millions of people, including Kim Kardashian, Colorado prosecutors have filed a motion seeking for a second look at the 110-year prison sentence of a trucker convicted in a fatal 2019 crash.

“As Colorado law required the imposition of the sentence in this case, the law also permits the Court to reconsider its sentence in an exceptional case involving unusual and extenuating circumstances,” the motion filed by the Colorado First Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The motion says the court can review its sentence of Rogel Aguilera-Mederos based on new reports.

The move comes after more than 4.5 million people signed a Change.org petition asking Gov. Jared Polis to commute Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence….

(4) FRESH TRACKS. The Mary Sues have released a new album, Laser Printed Heroes. Hear all the tracks, including “A Thousand Lives” on Soundcloud. Band member Carol Dashiell – my daughter’s aunt! – told Facebook followers:

I’m super proud of this, it’s been a labor of love for a long time. Two of the songs are originals by Stu Venable (who also did our sound), plus some covers from various geeky properties, like Portal, The Witcher, Outlander, and others!

I’ve put the link the the comments so we don’t get throttled by Facebook, I hope you’ll check it out!

And if you like our album art, thank Sam Balcomb, who is a genius.

(5) REMEMBERING A FORGOTTEN CLASSIC. A new version of the original adventure game by Thomas M. Disch. Amnesia, a cult classic published by Electronic Arts 1986, is now available on the web for contemporary computers: AMNESIA : Restored.

Amnesia was envisioned as “bookware”—that is, a new kind of environment created specifically for the personal computer. Its two 5.25-inch floppy disks were packaged in a booklike folio that, when opened, resembled a newspaper with the author’s bio and game information presented as news about NYC. The game was also bundled with a 18-page manual, a command summary, map of Manhattan, x-street indexer, registration mailer, and newsletter subscription postcard.

When writing AMNESIA, Disch, an accomplished novelist, experimented with storytelling for the, then, new electronic environment. His 400-page manuscript laid out a narrative game that offers players 10 different endings. One sees players living out their days on a sheep station in Australia with a wife and a house full of children. In another, players are found guilty of a crime they do not remember committing and are given the choice of committing suicide or facing a firing squad. In some cases, they are allowed to meet St. Peter and provide the correct information about their identity to enter heaven. Depending on players’ ability to solve the puzzle, they may never leave The Sunderland Hotel. But if they are persistent, they get to explore the streets and places of NYC in search of who they really are….

(6) DECLINE BUT NOT FALL. John Crowley writes about “Learning to live with my aging mind in “The Old Imperium” at Harper’s.

…In July 2016, after taking the battery of tests that constitutes a neuropsychological evaluation, I was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. Some months before then, my wife, L., had begun to notice and point out to me some signs: wrong word choices or failures to come up with a common name began to happen more than occasionally. Then came instances of fumbled choices or misunderstandings in daily activities. Some of these incurred serious if momentary risks. L. was puzzled. I wasn’t in denial about these incidents; I was, though, in a state of disbelief. Each one could be dismissed as random; I could perceive no pattern; it seemed that my thought processes remained sound. I was also pestered by the sort of slips that unnerve the old and can seem comical to the young and the unimpaired—forgetting where the car is parked, opening the closet or refrigerator door and standing immobile, unable to remember what was wanted, often something not kept there. I was seventy-two years old, and it became clear that I needed help. My wise doctor—my primary care provider—found my symptoms as I described them doubtful as indications of impaired cognition, but agreed to prescribe a neuropsychological evaluation, to create a baseline against which future tests, if needed, could be compared…

He spends several paragraphs discussing what it was like to take the tests.

(7) DSC 60. DeepSouthCon 60 will be held in Huntsville, AL from October 21-23, 2022. Our Mike Kennedy and Sam Smith are co-chairs.

  • Master of Ceremonies: Norman Cates, Co-Chair, 2020 New Zealand WorldCon, the first Virtual WorldCon
  • Fan Guest of Honor: Bill Plott, who attended DSC 1, at David Hulan’s house, in Huntsville Alabama

Both Norman and Bill will be appearing in person.

(8) THE FLOW. Rich Horton reviews “A Newly Discovered Avram Davidson Novel: Beer! Beer! Beer! for his blog, Strange at Ecbatan.

… In among Davidson’s papers there were some completely or nearly completed pieces — for instance an account of a trip to Belize — and at least one novel. This novel has now been published, by Seth Davis’ imprint Or All the Seas With Oysters Publishing. Seth was kind enough to send me a copy.

This novel is set in Yokums, NY, in 1930. (Yokums, of course, is a stand-in for Yonkers.) In one sense it is a fictionalized retelling of a locally famous incident: a sewer-cleaning crew encountered a mysterious rubber pipe — and from its open end beer came pouring out….

(9) RINGING IN THE MILLENNIUM. The New York Times traces “How ‘Lord of the Rings’ Became ‘Star Wars’ for Millennial Women”.

…For a certain subset of Millennial women, the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy occupies the same role that “Star Wars” might for those who grew up from the late ’70s into the ’80s: It’s become a treasured part of the comfort-watch genre for women in their late 20s and 30s.

In the years after the films came out, rewatching them felt like a ritual only my sister and I observed. (My parents saw them with us in theaters, then never watched them again.) Through college, I met the occasional “Lord of the Rings” girl — a few friends in graduate school, and strangers on drunken nights out. And, of course, there were the memes and the accompanying meme accounts.

Then a few years ago, I began to notice the articles on The Cut and elsewhere. “What of the Boromir Woman?” “I’m Always Horny for Sauron.” “The Greatest Christmas Movie Is ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”

“We all loved ‘Lord of the Rings,’” said Gabriella Paiella, 32, a culture writer for GQ and former staff writer at The Cut. “That definitely did heighten my sense that there was a specifically female interest in these movies that I hadn’t necessarily thought of before because I think the world of ‘Lord of the Rings’ is sort of thought of as a nerdy male interest.”

“I was absolutely obsessed with reading gay hobbit erotica,” said one fan, Chelsea McCurdy.Chelsea McCurdy

Jokes and memes remained a fantastic way fans could bond, but Paiella and other women who came of age in the era of “Lord of the Rings,” say their passion for the movies is much deeper and more emotional. It’s an attachment that grew alongside the films’ most poignant, Howard Shore score-backed moments: “Don’t you know your Sam?” “I know your face” and “I would have followed you, my brother, my captain, my king.”…

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1961 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an Army major – a collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment, we’ll start collecting clues as to the whys, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we’ll only explain it – because this is the Twilight Zone

Sixty years ago this evening, The Twilight Zone‘s “Five Characters In Search of an Exit” first aired on CBS. It was fourteenth episode of the third season. It was written of course by Rod Serling and directed by Lamont Johnson. It was based of Marvin Petal’s “The Depository” short story.  The title, and the story itself, is a variation on Luigi Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” play. It’s far more entertaining than you’d think given the source material. 

The premise is that uniformed Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside in a large metal cylinder, where he meets a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown. None of them have any memory of who they are or how they became trapped. 

The cast here is William Windom, Murray Matheson, Susan Harrison, Kelton Garwood, and  Clark Allen. The last shot of the episode, in which the five characters are seen in doll form, does not feature the actors; rather, specially made dolls were crafted that closely resembled the five actors who played the parts, and these are shown. 

All of the Twilight Zone episodes are available on Paramount+. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1917 Frankie Darro. What I’m most interested that it was he inside Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet. Other than showing up on Batman as a Newsman in two episodes, and The Addams Family as a Delivery Boy in one episode, I don’t think he had any other genre roles at all. Well, he was Lampwick, the boy who turns into a donkey in Pinocchio. That should count too. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 22, 1943 Michael Summerton. One of the original Dalek operators, his work would show up in three First Doctor stories, “The Survivor”, “The Escape” and “The Ambush”. He’s interviewed for “The Creation of The Daleks” documentary which is included in the 2006 The Beginning DVD box set. According to his Telegraph obit, he was he was the last survivor of the original four operators of the Daleks. So, you don’t need to get past their paywall, here’s the Who part here: “After a lean period, he was excited to be offered a part in a new BBC science fiction series. His agent told him he would not need to learn any lines for the casting, and when he arrived at the BBC workshops he was asked to strip down to his underpants and sit in what appeared to be a tub on castors. Summerton (who was one of the four original Daleks) was instructed in how to move this apparatus about, the director saying: ‘We want to test this prototype for maneuverability. We want you to move forwards, backwards, sideways. Quickly, slowly.’ Presently the director lowered a lid over him with a plunger sticking out of it. Summerton found himself in total darkness. He would later relate: ‘When the lid went on I knew my career as an actor was over.’” (Died 2009.)
  • Born December 22, 1954 Hugh Quarshie, 67. First genre role was as Sunda Kastagirin in Highlander followed by being Detective Joyce in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and Lieutenant Obutu In Wing Commander. He’s Captain Quarsh Panaka in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. He’s got a long tv history starting with playing Philostrate in A Midsummer Night’s Dream along with being Professor John Galt in the pilot for The Tomorrow People and Solomon in the Doctor Who episodes of “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 70. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning Who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to include him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics who’s played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series.
  • Born December 22, 1951 Charles de Lint, 70. I’ve personally known him for twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer, so let just list some of my favorite novels by him which would be Forests of The HeartSomeplace To Be FlyingSeven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart here.
  • Born December 22, 1955 David S. Goyer, 66. His screenwriting credits includes the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark CityMan of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well, there’s there’s Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForwardConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, KryptonBlade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1962 Ralph Fiennes, 59. Perhaps best-known genre wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film franchise, he’s also been M in the Bond films that just wrapped up starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it!
  • Born December 22, 1978 George Mann, 43. Writer and editor. He’s edited a number of anthologies including the first three volumes of Solaris Book of New Science Fiction. Among my favorite books by him are his Newbury & Hobbes series, plus his excellent Doctor Who work. The Affinity Bridge, the first in Newbury & Hobbes series, was nominated for a Sidewise Award. The Revenant Express is his latest novel.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton suggests Macanudo could be interpreted as evidence that maybe Chewbacca wasn’t along for the Kessel Run!

(13) A NEW BROOM SWEEPS CLEAN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Molly Roberts says that quidditch leagues are changing the name of the sport because of their views on J.K. Rowling’s comments on transgendered people and to  avoid the trademark Warner Bros. has on “quidditch,”  but they don’t know what the new name will be or how to attract people to the sport without a Harry Potter connection. “Quidditch’s new name might teach J.K. Rowling a surprising lesson”.

…US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch declared last week that they would change their names — partly because they believe ditching the trademark will allow the sport to expand, and partly because they believe ditching its inventor will avoid any nasty association with her public bigotry.

The move is meaningful and meaningless at the same time — and could show Rowling what she’s been missing all along. But let’s back up a second to help out those who can’t tell a bludger from a quaffle. (Ouch.)

Quidditch is the made-up sport of Rowling’s universe, in which witches and wizards fly around on brooms hurling some balls into hoops, hitting other balls with bats at other players, and trying to snatch one last little winged golden ball out of the air. Quidditch is also the real-life version of that sport, in which decidedly non-magical humans run around with brooms between their legs, hurling slightly deflated volleyballs into hoops and slightly deflated dodgeballs at opponents, and trying to snatch a tennis ball dangling in a sock from someone’s shorts….

(14) TOP TV. The New York Times television critics named “The Best TV Episodes of 2021”. They picked a number of episodes from genre programs – here are two examples.

Love, Death & Robots’ (Netflix)

‘The Drowned Giant’

In just 13 minutes, this elegant short about a giant’s corpse that washes up on a beach one day captures, in a perfect snapshot, humanity’s tendency to desecrate marvels, to behold a world-changing event and decide simply to carry on. Based on a short story by J.G. Ballard, “The Drowned Giant” is rendered here in mostly realistic animation, with the giant’s clean-shaven cheeks, tidy fingernails and muscular chest shown in aching detail. In an era when so many shows just blend together, this episode stands out for its light touch and sad imagination. (Streaming on Netflix.) MARGARET LYONS

‘What We Do in the Shadows’ (FX)

‘Casino’

“Shadows” is one of the funniest shows on TV right now, and “Casino,” where the gang heads to Atlantic City, was my favorite episode this season. Nandor (Kayvan Novak) becomes entranced by a “Big Bang Theory” slot machine — “‘bazinga’ is the war cry of Sheldon,” he explains — and in perfect, cascading horror, this leads to the total dissolution of his understanding of the universe. “Shadows” is its best when the vampires’ grandiosity clashes with their vulnerabilities, especially their excitability, and I’ll never see another in-house ad on a hotel TV without thinking that it’s Colin Robinson’s favorite show. (Streaming on Hulu.) MARGARET LYONS

(15) BEST BAD GUYS. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna and David Betancourt dsicuss their six favorite Spider-Man villains, in a spoiler-filled article. “Top 6 Spider-Man movie villains ranked, from Electro to Green Goblin”.

[The latest film’s] Lizard, Rhino and Harry Osborn’s New Goblin, among others, can’t crack our list — keep trying, fellas. Here are our top six villains across this Spider-Man franchise’s eight live-action solo movies….

(16) AI: A FUTURE FOR HUMANS. BBC Radio 4 concludes the annual Reith Lectures series, “Stuart Russell – Living With Artificial Intelligence”, with the fourth and final episode now online here

Stuart Russell suggests a way forward for human control over super-powerful Artificial Intelligence. He argues for the abandonment of the current “standard model” of AI, proposing instead a new model based on three principles – chief among them the idea that machines should know that they don’t know what humans’ true objectives are.

Echoes of the new model are already found in phenomena as diverse as menus, market research, and democracy. Machines designed according to the new model would be, Russell suggests, deferential to humans, cautious and minimally invasive in their behaviour and, crucially, willing to be switched off. He will conclude by exploring further the consequences of success in AI for our future as a species.

Stuart Russell is Professor of Computer Science and founder of the Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence at the University of California, Berkeley.

(17) DRONES, GUNS, AND BOMBS THAT CALL THEIR OWN SHOTS. “Killer Robots Aren’t Science Fiction. A Push to Ban Them Is Growing” reports the New York Times.

It may have seemed like an obscure United Nations conclave, but a meeting this week in Geneva was followed intently by experts in artificial intelligence, military strategy, disarmament and humanitarian law.

The reason for the interest? Killer robots — drones, guns and bombs that decide on their own, with artificial brains, whether to attack and kill — and what should be done, if anything, to regulate or ban them.

Once the domain of science fiction films like the “Terminator” series and “RoboCop,” killer robots, more technically known as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, have been invented and tested at an accelerated pace with little oversight. Some prototypes have even been used in actual conflicts.

The evolution of these machines is considered a potentially seismic event in warfare, akin to the invention of gunpowder and nuclear bombs.

This year, for the first time, a majority of the 125 nations that belong to an agreement called the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, or C.C.W., said they wanted curbs on killer robots. But they were opposed by members that are developing these weapons, most notably the United States and Russia.

The group’s conference concluded on Friday with only a vague statement about considering possible measures acceptable to all. The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a disarmament group, said the outcome fell “drastically short.”

(18) MAKE IT SO. Learn “How to Pronounce ‘Omicron’ the Star Trek Way”.

(19) A HOLE IN ONE. PBS Space Time host Matt O’Dowd asks “What Happens If A Black Hole Hits Earth?”

The possibility that a black hole could actually impact Earth may seem straight out of science fiction, but the reality is that microscopic primordial black holes could actually hit Earth. If one did, it wouldn’t just impact like an asteroid, it’d pass straight through the entire Earth and exit the other side. Perhaps craziest of all, this may have already happened!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rich Horton, Robert Brown, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day reheadedfemme.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/21 A Pixel Upon The Deep

(1) CHENGDU MARATHON LIVESTREAM CONTINUES. The Chengdu Worldcon bid livestream was noted in yesterday’s Scroll. Alison Scott took a look at it and reported in a comment here —

The Chengdu bid has been running a stream each evening (11:00 – 14:00 UTC) on Chinese Youtube/Twitch style site bilibili, featuring SF authors and other celebrities encouraging Chinese SF fans (of whom there are millions of course) to join DisCon III and vote for Chengdu.

The link to the stream is here. Although i couldn’t understand the stream, I used Google Translate to read the chat; full of SF fans, mostly students, talking about their favourite books, movies and tv shows and asking how to set up a local SF club in their area.

(2) TOMORROW PRIZE DEADLINE. There’s less than one week left for Los Angeles County high school students to enter their short sci-fi stories in The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award competitions. Full details at the Omega Sci-Fi Awards website. Those feeling the pressure should read “5 Things that Inspire” by Clare Hooper.

With the deadline approaching, many find it intimidating to start writing. Writer’s block is the worst. But the best cure for writer’s block is finding a good place to start, and that may mean inspiration. Here are five things that inspired previous winners and honorable mentions of The Tomorrow Prize and The Green Feather Award to write:

1: Anime

The accessibility and popularity of anime has only gotten wider in recent years. With so many shows in dozens of genres, it’s easy to find something you may want to put your own spin on. Omega Sci-Fi Awards Student Ambassador and Tomorrow Prize Finalist, Gwendolyn Lopez found inspiration through Studio Ghibli films. These films usually have a thin line between the mundane and the fantastical, thus inspiring Gwendolyn to give a more introspective feel to her story, Star Sailor. Ethan Kim, an honorable mention for The Tomorrow Prize, took inspiration from a different anime show, Dororo, which features a young man roaming the countryside fighting demons. Dororo inspired the themes of godlike figures and a battlefield setting in his story Cold Ashes….

(3) TOP GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Bechdel’s ‘Secret to Superhuman Strength’ Wins PW’s 2021 Graphic Novel Critics Poll” announced Publishers Weekly.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength (Mariner) by Alison Bechdel lands on the top spot of PW’s annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll, garnering seven votes from a panel of 15 critics. A groundbreaking queer author and a true household name in contemporary comics, Bechdel is best known for her widely acclaimed 2006 graphic family memoir Fun Home.

In The Secret to Superhuman Strength, her long-anticipated third memoir, Bechdel celebrates the fads and fanaticism of fitness culture—including her own obsession with physical self-improvement—using the phenomenon as a lens through which to examine both queer and American culture writ large…. 

(4) RAISING KANE. Cora Buhlert posted a new Fancast Spotlight, featuring The Dark Crusade, a podcast focused on the works of Karl Edward Wagner: “Fancast Spotlight: The Dark Crusade”.

… Therefore, I’m happy to welcome Jordan Douglas Smith of The Dark Crusade to my blog:

Tell us about your podcast or channel.

The Dark Crusade is dedicated to the life and work of writer/editor/publisher Karl Edward Wagner. We are systematically moving through his work, discussing it from a historical and literary lens. In addition to the podcast, we have a companion blog that covers additional facts about the stories, links to scholarship, and overviews of some of the collections Wagner has edited….

(5) TAFF VOTING OPENS TODAY. Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund administrators Johan Anglemark and Geri Sullivan are now accepting ballots for the 2022 TAFF race. It will close on April 19, 2022, after Reclamation (Eastercon) in London.

You can download the fill-in form ballot here (US Letter; A4 will follow shortly). It has the candidates’ platforms, the names of their nominators, and the voting instructions. Voting is open to anyone active in fandom before April 2020 who donates at least £3 (GBP), €3 (EUR), or $4 (USD) to TAFF. Voting is also possible online here.

Competing for the honor are these four great fans: Anders Holmström (Sweden), Fia Karlsson (Sweden), Mikolaj Kowalewski (Poland), and Julie Faith McMurray (UK). One of them will make a TAFF trip to Chicon 8, the 80th World Science Fiction Convention in September, 2022.

(6) CAST A WIDE NET. [Item by Cora Buhlert] The Pulp Net has an article about Fritz Leiber, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Don Herron: “Three sought adventure”. What struck me about this is that Herron not only knew Leiber, but also met Harry Otto Fisher, on whom Mouser was based and the resemblance was apparently uncanny.

… “Two Sought Adventure” saw print that August in the pulp Unknown — the first professional sale for Fritz Leiber Jr., who would go on to become one of the most-awarded writers in 20th-century imaginative literature.

The characters introduced, the barbarian Fafhrd and the wily Gray Mouser — the two best thieves in Lankhmar, and the two best swordsmen — would have many more adventures with the author till the end of his life….

(7) I’VE HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. It appears to be Fritz Leiber month, because Grimdark Magazine also has an article about him by Ryan Howse: “The works of Fritz Leiber”.

… During their adventures, they battled men, magicians, and monsters, were in the power of two bizarre wizards who obviously did not have their best interests at heart, faced down the incarnation of death, survived the poverty of lean times in Lankhmar, climbed the world’s largest mountain on a whim, and plenty more. Their quests were often them following a rumour for fun or profit, with no grander schemes in mind….

(8) RAMA LAMA. “Dune Director Denis Villeneuve to Adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama”Tor.com has the story.

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is heading from Arrakis to Rama. After he finishes up Dune: Part Two (which was greenlit after Dune: Part One’s commercial success), the director will take on a feature adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama….

(9) OFF THE BEAM. Camestros Felapton has his own cat-themed series – Timothy the Talking Cat in the spirit of Zelig: “Missing Moments from Movie History: The Carbonite Manoeuvre”. Picture at the link.

An infamous cat-related accident on the set of the Empire Strikes Back resulted in this unfortunate outcome….

(10) ON THE DIAL. At BBC Sounds, The Exploding Library series begins with “Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut”.

In this new literature series, a trio of comedians explode and unravel their most cherished cult books, paying homage to the tone and style of the original text – and blurring and warping the lines between fact and fiction.

“We are what we pretend to be. So we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

So reads the warning at the beginning of the novel Mother Night, in an author’s introduction written by Kurt Vonnegut himself. Yet in this world of unreliable narrators, editor’s “corrections” and weirdly omniscient first-person testimony, nothing is really what it seems.

Purportedly the “confessions of Howard J. Campbell Jr”, an American expat-turned Nazi propagandist-turned Allied spy (allegedly), Vonnegut’s warped collection of bizarre characters and slippery narratives invite us to cast aside our black and white notions of morals and guilt and survey the gazillions of greys in between.

Comedian Daliso Chaponda considers the strange world of people playing versions of themselves in public – comedians, spies, politicians and, to an extent, all of us. How do you deal with people perceiving you differently to your “real” self? And, for that matter, how do you know who you “really” are?

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1974 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-seven years ago, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein premieres. The screenplay was co-written by Brooks and Gene Wilder who plays the lead role. The rest of the cast was Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars and Madeline Kahn. 

The film was shot in black and white with the lab equipment there originally used as props for the 1931 film Frankenstein as created by Kenneth Strickfaden.

Brooks has often said that he considers it by far his finest although not his funniest film as a writer-director. Reception for it was generally very good with Roger Ebert saying it was his “most disciplined and visually inventive film (it also happens to be very funny).”  It won a Hugo at Aussiecon. It was a fantastic box office success earning eighty-six million on a budget of just three million. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it near perfect rating of ninety-two percent. 

Mel Brooks would later adapt this into a musical that would run both off Broadway and on Broadway.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.)
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing, as is Tik-Tok, which won a BSFA, and Bugs is as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. He is generously stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2000.)
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story. He also wrote the Next Gen story “First Contact” (with Dennis Russell Bailey, Joe Menosky, Ronald D. Moore and Michael Piller.) And he continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1952 Marta DuBoi. Her first genre role is on the Starman series as Dr. Ellen Dukowin the “Fever” episode though you’ll likely better recognize her as Ardra on the “Devil’s Due” episode of the Next Generation. She also had roles on The Land of The LostThe Trial of the Incredible Hulk and Tales of the Golden Monkey. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 15, 1953 Robert Charles Wilson, 68. He’s got a Hugo Award for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the “The Cartesian Theater” novelette and Prix Aurora Awards for the Blind Lake and Darwinia novels. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. Very, very mpressive indeed. 
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 67. Ahhh, the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam. As you know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago!
  • Born December 15, 1963 Helen Slater, 58. She was Supergirl in the film of that name, and returned to the 2015 Supergirl TV series as Supergirl’s adoptive mother. Also within the DC Universe, she voiced Talia al Ghul in in Batman: The Animated Series. Recently she also voiced Martha Kent in DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year. And Lara in Smallville… And Eliza Danvers on the  Supergirl series..   Her other genre appearences include being on SupernaturalEleventh HourToothlessDrop Dead Diva and the very short-lived Agent X
  • Born December 15, 1970 Michael Shanks, 51. Best known for playing Dr. Daniel Jackson in the very long-running Stargate SG-1 franchise. His first genre appearance was in the Highlander series and he’s been in a lot of genre properties including the Outer LimitsEscape from MarsAndromeda (formally titled Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and there’s a juicy story there), SwarmedMega Snake, Eureka, Sanctuary, Smallville, Supernatural and Elysium. Wow! 

(13) TIME TO CROW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews Death’s Door, a game he feels is strongly influenced by Legend Of Zelda, Dark Souls, and Hollow Knight.

Coming from tastemaking indie publisher Devolver Digital, I should have known better than to judge the game harshly.  Its mechanics are familiar but the plot is original and compelling, told with an economy that threads through every element of the game’s design.  You play a fledgling crow who is a new employee at a supernatural bureau of avatar grim reapers.  Your job is to collect the souls of those who have passed on.  Yet when a soul you have collected is stolen, your immortality (a handsome job perk) is compromised, meaning you will age and ultimately die if you cannot recover it….

Death’s Door is a game about being a small, fragile thing in a mysterious, dangerous world.  This is deftly constructed with certain characters and safe spaces scattered across the map which are colourful and memorable: the interminable bureaucracy of the celestial reaper’s office; your companion Pothead, whose skull has been replaced with a vat of soup; the gravedigger who gives touching elegies for those enemies you slay. The spare lines of dialogue tinkle with humour and specificity, helping you empathise with the mute reaper crow on his lonely journey to understand the meaning of death.

(14) BUHLERT AT VIRTUAL WORLDCON. Best Fanwriter Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert has posted her virtual DisCon III schedule: “Cora goes virtually to DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon”. Her first panel is Thursday.

(15) COMING DOWN A CHIMNEY NEAR YOU. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda rescues last-minute shoppers with his list of “Gift books 2021: Mysteries, ghost stories and other treats”.

‘The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume 5,’ edited by Christopher Philippo (Valancourt)

This latest in an annual series again demonstrates that chills and frights still linger in the browning pages of old magazines and Christmas albums. Philippo reprints two fine tales I’ve read elsewhere — Amelia B. Edwards’s “My Brother’s Ghost Story” and Barry Pain’s “The Undying Thing” — but all his other choices were unfamiliar to me. Since James Skipp Borlase is represented by two stories, I decided to read them first….

(16) YA BOOK SUGGESTIONS. Tara Goetjen on YA horror, paranormal, and ghost story novels crime fiction fans might like. “Genre-Bending YA Novels Perfect For Crime Fans” at CrimeReads.

… To me, this is the great intrigue of a genre-bending thriller. There should always be, without fail, a human face behind the mystery or the bloodshed, just like there is in No Beauties or Monsters [her new book]. But whether or not there is a shadowy, inexplicable, perhaps unbelievable force also wielding terror… well, that’s why we read on till the very end. Here are some other genre-bending young adult novels with speculative elements that kept me reading till the very end too….

(17) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS HOBBITS. GameRant’s Alice Rose Dodds delves into the books to help fans of the LOTR movies answer the question  “What Exactly Is Shire Reckoning?” — “What exactly is this measurement of time, and how does It differ from others in Middle Earth?”

…It is little known that there was a vast long period of time before which any hobbits ever came to rest in The Shire. Hobbits, being of a homely nature and loving their beautiful holes beyond all else, dislike to remember this fact, for they see those days as terrible days, before the comfort of a simple life was discovered… 

(18) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK AT LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. But don’t be fooled.  “Christmas Movies Show How Fake Snow Evolved, From ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ To Harry Potter” at LAist.

Watching classic holiday movies is a journey through the technology used to create yuletide joy in different generations. We once used asbestos as movie snow — now the technology ranges from computer graphics to a special type of paper.

In the early days of film, Hollywood “snowmen” would take anything that could be seen as white and flaky and put it to use, author and Atlas Obscura editor April White told LAist. Those sources of flaky whiteness included bleached cornflakes, gypsum, salt, concrete dust, asbestos, and even chicken feathers….

(19) THE LATEST STRANDS. Richard Lawson sorts the cycles of Spider-Man movies for Vanity Fair readers and comments on the new trailer in “Spider-Man: No Way Home Is a Very Tangled Web”.

…Well, to be fair, Spider-Man was always a Marvel property; he just lives at Sony because of deals that long predate Kevin Feige’s Disney-backed conquest of the content cosmos. In that sense, No Way Home is mostly just a triumph of studio executives agreeing on things and actors making their schedules work. A feat unto itself, I suppose…

(20) WEB CASTER VS. SPELL CASTER. Doctor Strange and Spider-man battle it out in the mirror dimension in this clip of the Spider-Man vs Doctor Strange fight scene from Spider-Man: No Way Home.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, Jeffrey Smith, Johan Anglemark, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Pixel Scroll 12/11/21 The Scroll In The High Pixel

(1) REACHING OUT. Kate Elliott distills her sff experience into a Twitter thread, which starts here.

(2) COWBOY BEBOP. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Science fiction author Wesley Chu (The Lives Of TaoThe Walking Dead: Typhoon) posted this “hot take” on Twitter:

He followed it up with a link to the petition “Save the live action Cowboy Bebop” posted in yesterday’s Pixel Scroll: “Make me a prophet, friends! Sign the petition to save Cowboy Bebop.” The petition now has over 2,000 signatures.

(3) IN AND OUT OF FLUX. Camestros Felapton, in “Review: Doctor Who Flux”, assesses how nu-Who’s thirteenth season with the Thirteenth Doctor wrapped up. Beware spoilers!

…So where does that leave Flux and why was it not so terrible despite all that? As I’ve joked before, it was a shaggy-dog story where lots of things happen but most of it doesn’t really matter. Events strung together but without a substantial narrative arc can be entertaining. These kinds of “just a bunch of stuff that happened” plots make millions when they are Fast & Furious movies. I don’t know what the first big example of this approach is but I suspect that is the James Bond film You Only Live Twice which makes not a bit of sense but has so many memorable fragments that it feels like it has a story there. F&F is worse to some degree because that narrative fragmentation splits over multiple films i.e. I can remember lots of scenes from those movies but I have to actively think about elements to work out which film it was from (at least from about F&F5)….

(4) SIGNING OFF. “Nichelle Nichols Appears for Final Comic-Con Events in L.A. amid Conservatorship Battle” reports Yahoo!

…Nichelle Nichols, one of the stars of the original Star Trek series and a pioneering recruiter of women and minorities for America’s space program, made her final convention appearance before her many fans as part of a three-day farewell celebration at L.A. Comic-Con over the weekend.

Best known for playing communications officer Nyota Uhura aboard the starship Enterprise, the iconic actress, singer and dancer — who turns 89 on Dec. 28 — signed autographs, posed for photos and attended an early birthday celebration, where she briefly but joyfully kicked up her heels and danced. Nichols was also the subject of tribute panels throughout the convention, though she did not make any public statements.

An active figure on stage, TV and music since the early 1960s, Nichols’ public and professional life has been slowed since she was diagnosed with dementia in 2018, and she has also been at the center of a conservatorship battle. However, she was all smiles during her many appearances on her retirement tour at Comic-Con LA. Nichols was seen waving, blowing kisses and flashing Star Trek‘s famous Vulcan salute to the many fans who turned out to bid her farewell….

(5) FROM THE ARCHIVES. [Item by Bill.] Metafilter just finished a series of posts over the last week in which highlighted “short speculative fiction stories published by online magazines that are no longer publishing, or that are on hiatus, but whose interesting archives remain online” — Posts tagged with magazinearchives / MetaFilter.

(6) PRAISING WITH FAINT DAMS. Is James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel impressed by this Lafferty Hugo-winner? Please…stop laughing.

This month’s Young People Read Old Hugo Winners presented me with a dilemma. “Eurema’s Dam” by R. A. Lafferty shared the 1973 Hugo for Best Short Story with “The Meeting” by C. M. Kornbluth and Frederik Pohl. How to choose between two works the voters found worthy? The answer, it seems, was in having read “The Meeting”, which is about commandeering a developmentally deficient child’s body so the body can house the brain of a superior child. Since I don’t actively dislike my Young People, I went with the story I didn’t remember anything about, a story that only might annoy them, rather than the story I remembered all too well and was absolutely certain would enrage them.

R. A. Lafferty was a beloved author of whimsical fantasies. My brain lacks the proper receptors and I don’t see the appeal. I am aware I am in the minority here. Perhaps my Young People will see the virtues in Lafferty’s writing to which I am blind. Let’s find out! 

(7) TIME AFTER TIME. The latest episode of CSI Skill Tree, a series on videogames, worldbuilding, storytelling, and possible futures, is focused on the 2019 game Outer Wilds, about unraveling the mysteries of a solar system caught in a time loop. The guests are game director and designer Randy Smith (Thief series, Waking MarsJETT: The Far Shore) and Luc Riesbeck, a space policy and research analyst at Astroscale U.S.

(8) FUTURE SEASON’S GREETINGS. The Bristol Board has copies of the original space-themed covers by Frank R. Paul for the Christmas issues of Forecast, Hugo Gernsback’s radio and electronics magazine of the Fifties and Sixties. Here’s an example.

(9) THANKS FOR THE MEMORY HOLE. “Feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four approved by Orwell’s estate” – the Guardian has the story.

The estate of George Orwell has approved a feminist retelling of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which reimagines the story from the perspective of Winston Smith’s lover Julia.

… Publisher Granta said that Julia understands the world of Oceania “far better than Winston and is essentially happy with her life”. As Orwell puts it in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “in some ways she was far more acute than Winston, and far less susceptible to Party propaganda … She also stirred a sort of envy in him by telling him that during the Two Minutes Hate her great difficulty was to avoid bursting out laughing. But she only questioned the teachings of the Party when they in some way touched upon her own life. Often she was ready to accept the official mythology, simply because the difference between truth and falsehood did not seem important to her.”

“She has known no other world and, until she meets Winston, never imagined one. She’s opportunistic, believing in nothing and caring not at all about politics. She routinely breaks the rules but also collaborates with the regime whenever necessary. She’s an ideal citizen of Oceania,” said Granta. “But when one day, finding herself walking toward Winston Smith in a long corridor, she impulsively hands him a note – a potentially suicidal gesture – she comes to realise that she’s losing her grip and can no longer safely navigate her world.”

Orwell’s estate said it had been “looking for some time” for an author to tell the story of Smith’s lover, and that Newman, who has previously been longlisted for the Women’s prize and shortlisted for the Guardian first book award, “proved to be the perfect fit”…

(10) WHO DREW. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Artist Colin Howard who did book and VHS covers for Doctor Who in the 1980s-1990s has announced a new art book: Timeslides: The Doctor Who Artwork of Colin Howard.

Colin Howard’s art graced the covers of around thirty VHS releases, and for the first time ever, they’re collected together in Timeslides: The Doctor Who Art of Colin Howard

Join Colin as he opens his personal archive and takes you on a tour of his Doctor Who universe – from iconic videos to book covers, from illustrations to private commissions. Featuring original sketches, unpublished designs, and a fascinating commentary, Timeslides takes you further behind the scenes than ever before.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Twenty-nine years ago, The Muppet Christmas Carol premiered as directed by Brian Henson (in his feature film directorial debut) from the screenplay by Jerry Juhl. Based amazingly faithfully off that story, it starred Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge with a multitude of Muppet performers, to wit Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Ed Sanders, Jerry Nelson, Theo Sanders, Kristopher Milnes, Russell Martin, Ray Coulthard  and Frank Oz. I must single out Jessica Fox as the voice of Ghost of Christmas Past. 

Following Jim Henson’s death in May 1990, the talent agent Bill Haber had approached Henson’s son Brian with the idea of filming an adaptation. It was pitched to ABC as a television film, but Disney ended up purchasing it instead. That’s why it’s only available on Disney+ these days. 

Critics in general liked it with Roger Ebert being among them though he added that it “could have done with a few more songs than it has, and the merrymaking at the end might have been carried on a little longer, just to offset the gloom of most of Scrooge’s tour through his lifetime spent spreading misery.” (Those songs were by Paul Williams, another one of his collaborations with the Jim Henson Company after working on The Muppet Movie.) Box office wise, it did just ok as it made twenty-seven million against production costs of twelve million, not counting whatever was spent on marketing. And audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a rather ungloomy rating of eighty-eight percent.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. He’s best known, or at least best recognized, as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprises in the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing FriendsSpider-WomanThundarr the BarbarianFantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1945 Zienia Merton. She’s best remembered for playing Sandra Benes in Space: 1999. She played Ping-Cho during a series of First Doctor stories. She had roles on Dinotopia, the Sarah Jane Adventures and Wizards vs. Aliens. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 11, 1944 Teri Garr, 77. A long history of genre film roles starting in Young Frankenstein as Inga before next appearing in Close Encounters of the Third Kind as Ronnie Neary. Next is the horror film Witches’ Brew where she was Margaret Lightman. She voices Mary McGinnis in Batman Beyond: The Movie, a role she has does on a recurring basis in the series. Series wise, shows up uncredited in the Batman series in the “Instant Freeze” as the Girl Outside the Rink. And of course, she’s Roberta Lincoln in Star Trek’s “Assignment Earth” episode. (I once found a site that the spin-off series had actually been made.) She has a number of other genre roles, none as interesting as that one. 
  • Born December 11, 1954 Richard Paul Russo, 67. Winner of two Philip Dick Awards, first for Subterranean Gallery, and later for Ship of Fools. Subterranean Gallery was also nominated for a Clarke Award. He apparently stopped writing genre fiction quite some time ago. 
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 64. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twenty books and growing. Now I’ve no interest in reading them but Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned the early ones into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. 
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 62. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams which won a World Fantasy Award, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. Her two novels The Little Witch and The Shipbuilder of Bellfairie are most excellent, and are available from the usual digital suspects.  Her collections unfortunately are not. 
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 59. Actor of course best known for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited called “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1”. He’d have an appearance as sheriff in the Eleventh Doctor story, “A Town Called Mercy”, a Weird Western of sorts.
  • Born December 11, 1965 Sherrilyn Kenyon, 56. Best known for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now.  I realize in updating this birthday note that I indeed have read this first several of these and they were damn good. She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor. She has won two World Fantasy Awards, one for her short story, “Journey Into the Kingdom”, and one for her short story collection, Map of Dreams

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) FOR YOUR WISHLIST. Connie Willis wrote a long Facebook post hawking her American Christmas Stories collection.

…Stefanie Peters and David Cloyce Smith and the other editors at Library of America did all the heavy lifting, scouring all sorts of obscure books and magazines, finding thousands of stories for us to choose from, and getting all the necessary permissions and releases. All I did was read a bunch of stories, suggest some stories they’d missed, and write the introduction.)

Between us, we found mysteries, horror stories, Westerns, science-fiction stories, ghost stories, police procedurals, and fantasies, stories by famous authors like Bret Harte and John Updike and stories by writers you’ve never heard of, like Pauline Hopkins and John Kendrick Bangs. Stories by African-American authors writing in the post-Civil War South, by Chinese-American authors writing about California’s Chinatown, by authors of vastly different backgrounds writing about Alaskan and Puerto Rican and Nebraska Christmases.

And we found stories written in all different keys, from cynicism to sentimentality, from nostalgia to urban angst. And comedy. So many Christmas collections focus solely on serious or uplifting stories, but humor’s been a staple of the American Christmas story since Mark Twain and William Dean Howells, and I was really happy we were able to include humorous stories by Shirley Jackson, Robert Benchley, Leo Rosten, Joan Didion, and Damon Runyon.

(Especially Damon Runyon. We would have included all his Christmas stories if we’d had room, and all of O. Henry’s, but alas, there were length constraints–and permissions we weren’t able to get. And in addition, we didn’t want this collection to be a carbon copy of every other Christmas anthology we’d ever read. Which is why O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” and the “Christmas won’t be Christmas” piece by Louisa May Alcott aren’t in the book. Sorry. But they’ve been reprinted virtually everywhere, and if we included them, we’d have had to leave out stories by both O. Henry and Alcott that you might not have read before.).

We also included lots of other wonderful stories, like Langston Hughes’ wistful “One Christmas Eve” and Edna Ferber’s “No Room at the Inn” and Ben Hecht’s “Holiday Thoughts” Jacob Riis’s “The Kid Hangs Up His Stocking” and Jack London’s “Klondike Christmas” and Dorothy Parker’s “The Christmas Magazines and the Inevitable Story of the Snowbound Train.”

For you science-fiction, fantasy, and horror fans, there’s Cynthia Felice’s “Track of a Legend,” Mildred Clingerman’s “The Wild Wood,” Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Buzz,” Ray Bradbury’s “The Gift,”and Raymond E. Banks’s “Christmas Trombone.”” (And a story of mine that they chose, “Inn.”)…

And don’t forget to register for the Library of America’s American Christmas Stories conversation with Connie Willis, Nalo Hopkinson, and Penne Restad on December 15 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

(15) I READ YOU FIVE BY FIVE. Two more of James Davis Nicoll’s thematic look-back posts at Tor.com.

… Perhaps some fictional examples are in order, since historical examples would no doubt set the comments on fire (so let’s please avoid that)….

Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler (1980)

No person works as hard to find and gather humanity’s psionic adepts as Doro. Doro has invested millennia tracking down, gathering, and breeding mutants to ensure that they survive and flourish. Thanks to Doro’s endless work, the genes for psionic talents have been concentrated and encouraged to flourish.

However, this long-standing project had nothing to do with any particular concern for mutant-kind or a belief in orthogenesis. Doro is a psychic predator. Mutant minds are tasty and their appropriated bodies provide him with comfortable temporary accommodation. Worse, the psychics are quite aware of Doro’s appetites. They simply lack the means to resist him. The best that shape-shifting immortal Anyanwu can do is to play a weak hand as well as she can, using Doro’s desire for a peer to limit the damage he does to her kin.

… But pessimism is nothing new, of course. Olden time SF authors were enormously pessimistic, producing works every bit as sour and gloomy as the most morose works penned by today’s authors. Don’t believe me? Here are five intensely depressing SF novels from the long, long ago. I recommend each and every one of them, if only to cast your current circumstances in a more favourable light….

(16) GALACTIC OPPORTUNITY. Space Cowboy Books will host an online reading and interview with Janice L. Newman, author of “At First Contact,” on December 14. Register here.

Join us for a reading and interview with Janice L. Newman about her new book At First Contact, a touching trio of romances in a speculative vein. From the edge of space, to the shadows of the paranormal, to the marvels of the mystical.

(17) BANK ON IT. Seneca Falls goes all-in on It’s A Wonderful Life. “This New York Town Is Honoring A Beloved Holiday Movie’s 75th Anniversary” at Forbes.

… “We also say that we don’t think that Frank Capra intended Bedford Falls to be one place,” said Law. “It is every place that people hold dear to our hearts.”

Regardless, Law noted that Seneca Falls has welcomed actress Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, since her first visit there in 2002.

“She has introduced us to other cast members, relatives of cast members and others associated with the film,” said Law. Other visiting actors have ranged from Jimmy Hawkins, who played Tommy Bailey, to Jeanine Roose, who played younger Violet Bick.

Grimes also helped to make the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum a reality, after being talked to about the need for a place where film fans can reminisce and honor its meaning….

Here’s the link to The Seneca Falls It’s A Wonderful Life Museum website.

It’s a Wonderful Life was filmed entirely in California, as were most movies at that time.

However, Seneca Falls has long believed itself to be the inspiration for Bedford Falls…

(18) GHASTLY TIMING. The New York Ghost Story Festival started December 11 and continues online. It’s free. Watch live on You Tube, or view any time later.

See the December 11 event with Kathe Koja, Brian Evenson, Rudi Dornemann and Jeff Ford:

Still to come —

  • Tuesday, December 14, 8:00 p.m. Eastern with David Surface, Brenda Tolian, Pat Wehl, and Joshua Rex here
  • Friday, December 17, 8:00 p.m. Eastern with Kevin Lucia, Jo Kaplan, and Eric Guijnard here.
  • Saturday, December 18, 7:00 p.m. Eastern with Sarah Langan, Kevin Brockmeier, John Langan, and Angela Slatter here

(19) W76 WOULD LIKE ITS $4K BACK. Twitter shut down Jon Del Arroz’ account under his own name, but he’s started another. Think about how good his lawyer must be that he was able to defend Jon against allegations of being a racist.

(20) MARTIAN MUD. “China’s Mars Rover Has Amassed Reams Of Geological Data” reports Nature.

 Some surface features, such as possible sedimentary material and mud volcanoes, hint at the past flow of water, so scientists are looking for clues that there was once water or ice below the surface. This is “of great scientific interest” because it might provide evidence of an ancient ocean, says Bo Wu, a planetary scientist at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

(21) ON YOUR HEAD BE IT. “The Sorting Hat Tells All In The Harry Potter Reunion” on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

On another night last week Jennifer Lawrence appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Near the end of their second segment, they discussed genre movies. After the 3:00 mark, Colbert gets a little flustered when Lawrence reveals how little she knows about the Lord of the Rings movies. Nominally, the main topic of the interview is Lawrence’s to-be-released movie Don’t Look Up, which definitely has a genre premise.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Bill, Ben Bird Person, Chris Barkley, Joey Eschrich, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, part of “The Hugo Pixel Scroll Winners” series.]

Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra Will Perform Video Game Music at Discon III

The Washington Metropolitan Gamer Symphony Orchestra (WMGSO) will perform an evening of music from popular video games at DisCon III on Thursday, December 16. The event begins at 8:00 p.m.

 “Video Game Music is the soundtrack of our lives, it plays while we play, it sets the mood, and enhances the drama or the humor, it is a creative art that deserves to be showcased. Combining it with orchestral music, through the talent of the WMGSO, will show the artistry and power of this music,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, chair of DisCon III. “Fans may find themselves humming along.”

WMGSO is a nonprofit community orchestra whose mission is to share video game music by putting on affordable, accessible concerts in the D.C. area.

“WMGSO’s performance at DisCon III has been in the works for over a year, and we’re excited to finally bring it live to all attendees, both in-person and virtual!” said Jasmine Marcelo, WMGSO President.

“So many video games owe a debt of gratitude to science fiction. As the community of gaming continues to grow and collaborate with other communities, performances such as this one provides an opportunity for our ensemble and DisCon III attendees to enjoy aspects of overlapping fandoms.” according to Jamin Morden, WMGSO Interim Music Director.

Since the ensemble’s first rehearsal in August 2013, membership has grown to more than 100 performers. In celebration of WMGSO’s five-year anniversary in 2018, the ensemble recorded its first professional album. WMGSO: The Album includes 12 tracks performed by the full orchestra and/or choir. Thanks to meeting crowdfunding stretch goals, an additional eight tracks of chamber music was released shortly thereafter as a download-only album, WMGSO: The Album DLC.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 11/16/21 Filefjonk, Scrollmaiden, And Other Moominpixels

(1) SFF HISTORY. Jaroslav Olsa Jr., Consul General at the Czech Consulate in Los Angeles, will lecture on forgotten Czech-American science fiction writer Miles / Miloslav J. Breuer during the November 18 LASFS meeting.

After publishing a small booklet and opening of an exhibition on Breuer, you can hear a short lecture (30 min) on Breuer, his Czech-American life and science fiction I am to deliver on 18 November 2021 to Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. LASFS was created by my late friend Forrest J Ackerman in 1934 and this is to be its meeting number 4395!!!

The zoom room opens on 18 November 2021 at 7:45 PM Pacific Standard Time (in Europe it is 19 November 04:45 AM, and in Beijing 19 November at 11:45 AM), meeting starts at 8:00 PM, my lecture will be the part of the meeting.

You do not need to be LASFS member – only use the following link. Zoom address:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82574832548

(2) AUREALIS AWARDS ALERT. There is now less than one month until entries close for the 2021 Aurealis Awards. The administrators remind Australian creators —

It’s important to remember that ALL eligible Australian work published for the first time between January 1 and December 31, 2021 must be entered by December 14, even work intended for publication after the December 14 cut off date.

(3) SEE WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. A recording of the World Fantasy Awards 2021 awards ceremony held Sunday, November 7 can be viewed here.

(4) JOURNEY PLANET. Journey Planet issue 59, dedicated to the Hugos, continues the zine’s usual year-end deluge of issues. Available here.  

Chris Garcia and James Bacon are joined by Jean Martin for an issue that takes a look at the Hugos in various ways. Hugo nominee Cora Buhlert looks at one of Fritz Lieber’s legendary stories. Chris Garcia and Kristy Baxter bring their podcast Short Story Short Podcast to the pages of Journey Planet as they look at the 2021 Best Short Story nominees, Jean interviews the amazing Hugo-winning Fan Artist Maurine Starkey, and Hugo winning Fanzine Editor James Bacon looks at Best Graphic Story. All this with art by Mo Starkey and Chris Garcia’s various AI-assisted programs!

(5) STRANGE MUSIC. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Tom Faber reviews The Artful Escape.

The most bizarre premise of any game I’ve played was that of 2007’s role playing title Eternal Sonata.  As it begins, Frederic Chopin is lying on his death bed aged 35, succumbing to tuberculosis.  In his dying state, he dreams a vivid fantasy world.  Here the player controls an anime-fied Chopin and teams up with a cast of plucky teens. However, this imaginative conceit only leads to a rote exercise in dungeon-crawling, broken up by dry educational interludes that tell the story of the composer’s life, scored by his nocturnes…

…The game (The Artful Escape) is a simple platformer offering little challenge, but it has visual flair and the genius inclusion of a button you can press at any time to launch into a wailing guitar solo (I held it down for almost the entire game). With hilarious vocal turns from Carl Weathers, Lena Headey, Jason Schwartzman and Mark Strong, The Artful Escape is more engaging as a story, but it resonates as a fable about finding your own voice.

(6) GAIMAN ON STAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Also behind a paywall in the Financial Times, Sarah Hemming reviews the theatrical adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, which will be at Britain’s National Theatre through May.

What’s brilliant about Katy Rudd’s staging is that it keeps all options open.  Perhaps it’s true that a hideous otherworldly creature does (literally) worm its way through the boy’s hand and into his household, assuming the seductive form of Ursula, a woman who beguiles his dad and his sister.  Or perhaps we’re in the traumatised imagination of a shy boy, struggling to comprehend death.  Or perhaps it is his adult mind, transposing a buried memory about when his father became abusive (the double casting of Nicolas Tennant as both father and adult son hints at this).

On stage, interior and exterior landscapes overlap, just as they do in memory, and something is no less real for being imagined.  The boy seeks refuge in stories, all of them pitched on the threshold between this world and another.  Rudd’s staging takes this as its key. Thresholds and portals loom large in Fly Davis’s set:  at home, doors move and multiply in nightmare fashion to allow Ursula to keep bursting in on him (a transfixing bit of stagecraft); a window offers escape; thickets on the farm yield up terrifying, shape-shifting creatures composed of rags and shards and beaks (designed by Samuel Wyer).

(7) IMPORTANT BITS. “Bill Nighy to narrate Terry Pratchett’s footnotes in new Discworld recordings”. The Guardian says, “The actor will bring Pratchett’s ‘personal commentary’ to life in a star-studded re-recording of all 40 Discworld audiobooks.”

 Bill Nighy might be one of the UK’s best-loved actors, known for roles from Love Actually’s Billy Mack to Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean. But he will be relegated to the marginalia in his next endeavour after signing up to read the footnotes in a new adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.

Nighy will be part of a star-studded re-recording of all 40 Discworld audiobooks from Penguin Random House, which will see narrators read nearly four million words in total, over almost 150 days in the studio, to result in more than 400 hours of finished audio. Indira Varma, of Game of Thrones fame, will be narrating Pratchett’s books about his trio of witches, Fleabag’s Sian Clifford will narrate the titles in which Death plays a major role, and Andy Serkis will narrate Small Gods, with more casting to be announced….

(8) WHILE WE’RE WAITING FOR THE TARDIS TO BE INVENTED. “The UK’s red telephone boxes are disappearing. But some are getting a second life”ZDNet tells how.

There are still around 21,000 phone boxes across the UK: if that seems like a lot, then it’s worth remembering that there used to be nearer to 100,000.

We made five million calls from those kiosks last year, but volumes have also been dropping for some time: we spent 800 million minutes talking in phone boxes in 2002, but just seven million last year.

That’s bad news for the remaining telephone boxes across the country…

…Still, amidst this inevitable decline, the UK’s communications watchdog Ofcom has announced plans to protect about 5,000  boxes, for example giving a kiosk more protection from being decommissioned if more that 52 calls were made from it in the last year or if it’s situated in an accident hotspot. But beyond this protected sub-set, what about the rest?

As William Gibson famously noted ‘the street finds its own uses for things’. Technology is often put to uses unplanned or unexpected by its makers….

…And already the street is finding new uses for phone boxes: in the last few years, 6,000 have been turned into everything from miniature libraries to holders of defibrillators….

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. In The Munsters, the Raven in the “cuckoo clock” who said “Nevermore” instead of cuckoo was voiced by Mel Blanc.

(10) CLIFFORD ROSE (1929-2021). A founding member of the Royal Shakespeare Company who also appeared in Doctor Who, actor Clifford Rose, died November 6 at the age of 92. The Guardian’s obituary is here.  

[He] was a founder member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960 and one of its most prominent “second leads” over many seasons.

For a time, and before returning to the RSC, he was a household face, reaching even larger audiences in the 1981 Doctor Who story Warriors’ Gate, as the maverick starship trooper Captain Rorvik, who is transporting the enslaved, time-sensitive Tharils, a pride of leonine aliens – until the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, intervenes.

… On film, he played nice cameos in 2011, in the fourth of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, On Stranger Tides (in a neat scene with Johnny Depp, he plays bailiff to Depp’s “pretend” judge), and in Phyllida Lloyd’s underrated The Iron Lady, with Meryl Streep as the best ever Mrs Thatcher, Jim Broadbent her gobsmacked loyal husband, Denis.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1991 — Thirty years ago, The Addams Family premiered. It’s based off both the characters from the cartoon created by Charles Addams and the Sixties Addams Family series. It was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld in his film directing debut from a screenplay by Caroline Thompson who had co-wrote the story for Edward Scissorhands and Larry Wilson who co-wrote Beatlejuice. It had an amazing cast of Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci, Jimmy Workman, Judith Malina, Carel Struycken and Christopher Hart. So how was the reception for it? The consensus among critics at the times was that it was mildly amusing but not much more than that.  Only the BBC really liked it saying that, “the top-notch cast that elevates this film from flimsy to sheer delight.” It was however a box office success making over two hundred million dollars against a thirty million dollar budget. Over at Rotten Tomatoes, audience reviewers give a rather superb sixty-six percent rating.  It would be nominated for a Hugo at MagiCon, the year that Terminator 2: Judgment Day won. It followed by a sequel, Addams Family Values, two years later.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 16, 1907 Burgess Meredith. Brief though his visit to genre was, he had significant roles. The first was in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Narrator although initially he was uncredited. One of his other genre role was a delightful take as The Penguin in original Batman series. He also shows up in Tales of Tomorrow, an anthology sf series that was performed and broadcast live on ABC in the early Fifties, and on The InvadersThe Twilight ZoneFaerie Tale Theatre: Thumbelina (with Carrie Fisher!) and The Wild Wild West. Did I mention he voiced Puff the Magic Dragon in a series of the same name? Well he did.   Ok so his visit to our world wasn’t so brief after all… (Died 1997.)
  • Born November 16, 1952 Candas Jane Dorsey, 69. Canadian writer who’s the winner of the Prix Aurora Award and the Otherwise Award for gender bending SF for her Black Wine novel. She’s also won a Prix Aurora Award for her short story, “Sleeping in a Box”.  She’s one of the founders of SF Canada was founded as an authors collective in the late Eighties as Canada’s National Association of Speculative Fiction Professionals. At the present time, she appears to have little available from the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born November 16, 1952 Robin McKinley, 69. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast was her first book. It was considered a superb work and was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Rose Daughter is another version of that folktale, whereas Spindle’s End is the story of Sleeping Beauty, and Deerskin and two of the stories that you can find in The Door in the Hedge are based on other folktales. She does a superb telling of the Robin Hood legend in The Outlaws of Sherwood. Among her novels that are not based on folktales are SunshineChalice and Dragonhaven. Her 1984 The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery Medal as that year’s best new American children’s book. She was married to Peter Dickinson from 1991 to his death in 2015, they lived together in Hampshire, England where she still lives. They co-wrote two splendid collections, Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits. I’d be very remiss not to note her Awards, to wit a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword, then a Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown, a World Fantasy Award for Anthology/Collection for Imaginary Lands, as editor, a Phoenix Award Honor Book for Beauty and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for Sunshine. Impressive indeed!
  • Born November 16, 1962 Darwyn Cooke. Canadian comics artist, writer, cartoonist, and animator. His work has garnered myriad Eisner, Harvey, and Joe Shuster Awards. He did the art on Jeph Leob’s Batman/The Spirit one-off, and did everything including the cover art on the most delicious Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score. Cooke adapted for IDW five of Donald Westlake’s Richard Stark novels in graphic novel form, four after Westlake passed on. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 16, 1972 Missi Pyle, 49. Laliari in the Hugo winning Galaxy Quest which is one of my fave feel good SF films of all time. Let’s hope that a series never comes to be.  She’s also has been in Percy Jackson: Sea of MonstersA Haunted House 2Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Star Trek: The Next Generation,  RoswellThe TickPushing Daisies and Z Nation
  • Born November 16, 1976 Lavie Tidhar, 45. The first work I read by him was Central Station which won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. It certainly deserved that accolade! The next work by him I experienced was The Bookman Histories in which Mycroft Holmes is murdered and, well, everything of a pulp nature gets tossed into alternate history England. Both absolutely brilliant and completely annoying at the same time. I’m just read Unholy Land, his telling of the founding of a Jewish homeland long ago in Africa, and I’ve got By Force Alone, his profane Arthurian retelling, on my TBL list. 
  • Born November 16, 1977 Gigi Edgley, 44. Though her genre experiences are varied, I think she’ll be only remembered for her role as Chiana, a Nebari who was a member of Moya’s crew on Farscape. Other genre appearances include BeastmasterThe Lost WorldQuantum Apocalypse and she has a role in the video fanfic Star Trek Continues in the “Come Not Between the Dragons” episode. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Zits finds a record of genre interest that deserves to be even rarer.  

(14) JUST SAY NO. “Somebody finally fixed the ending of The Giving Tree.” Read the “fixed it for you” ending at Literary Hub.

This weekend on Instagram, I discovered something I never knew I always wanted: a helpful update to Shel Silverstein’s psychotic parenting allegory The Giving Tree, in which a tree gives up every molecule of itself to help some ungrateful kid, and we’re supposed to think it’s good and noble or something. Yeah, you remember.

Anyway, playwright and screenwriter Topher Payne has now fixed it. The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries is part of Payne’s “Topher Fixed It” series, which was created in support of The Atlanta Artist Relief Fund, and which offers printable alternate endings for certain problematic children’s books….

(15) SANDBOX. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Trailers: Dune (2021)” the Screen Junkies say the film “at its core is about getting high while your workaholic parents are distracted” and that Paul Atreides “would be a perfect fit in the X-Men Universe, but here Professor X just teaches you how to recycle your piss.”

(16) WRECK OPPORTUNITY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Thousands of pieces of dangerous debris were left in orbit when Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile test this past weekend. Reportedly at least 1500 pieces large enough to be tracked were generated as well as likely many thousands more objects too small to be tracked from the ground. “US says it ‘won’t tolerate’ Russia’s ‘reckless and dangerous’ anti-satellite missile test”.

The US strongly condemned a Russian anti-satellite test on Monday that forced crew members on the International Space Station to scramble into their spacecraft for safety, calling it “a reckless and dangerous act” and saying that it “won’t tolerate” behavior that puts international interests at risk.

US Space Command said Russia tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite, or DA-ASAT missile, striking a Russian satellite and creating a debris field in low-Earth orbit of more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris that is also likely to generate hundreds of thousands of pieces of smaller orbital debris.

US officials emphasized the long-term dangers and potential global economic fallout from the Russian test, which has created hazards for satellites that provide people around the world with phone and broadband service, weather forecasting, GPS systems which underpin aspects of the financial system, including bank machines, as well in-flight entertainment and satellite radio and television.

… The crew on board the ISS had to quickly don their spacesuits and jump into their spacecrafts in case the station was hit by some passing debris, according to Russia’s space agency ROSCOSMOS. Two US officials told CNN the precautionary measures were a direct result of the debris cloud caused by the Russian test….

Spaceflight Now’s coverage also includes a lengthy history of various countries’ history of testing satellite-destroying missiles, including the U.S., China and India. U.S. officials: Space station at risk from ‘reckless’ Russian anti-satellite test – Spaceflight Now

(17) LEND ME YOUR EARS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Front Row, the BBC’s daily arts show, on November 15 had a mention of Kim Stanley Robinson in the intro, then halfway through or thereabouts a brief reading from Ministry for the Future, followed by a discussion by others about dystopian and utopian fiction. Audio available at the link.

(18) COP26. The recent COP26 conference included a session on “Arts and the Imagination Hosted by Brian Eno”. Some familiar sff names participated.

Just as we need climate scientists to present the facts, we need the arts and culture to help us think and feel and talk about the climate crisis at all levels. The conversation needs scientists – but it urgently needs artists too. Science discovers, Art digests. Art and culture tell us stories about other possible worlds, lives, and ways of being. A novel or a film invites us to experience an imaginary world and see how we feel about it. Culture is where our minds go to experiment, to try out new feelings. This special event on the final day of COP26 features story-tellers, artists and performers brought together by 5×15 and Brian Eno, EarthPercent and the Jaipur Literature Festival to explore the role of artists and the arts in responding to climate change. As COP26 draws to a close, we’re looking forward to the road ahead and exploring the power of imagination to drive change – for humans, for animals, for flora and fauna, for soil, for oceans. Featuring Rosie Boycott, Brian Eno, Carolina Caycedo, Amitav Ghosh, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ben Okri, Charlotte Jarvis, Mirabella Okri, Olafur Eliasson, Emtithal Mahmoud, Wilson Oryema, Neil Gaiman and more.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/13/21 Mean Ol’ Pixels, Taught Me To Weep And Scroll

(1) RECORDED AT THE DAWN OF THE INTERNET. In January 2000, Robin Williams signed a 3-year contract with Audible to release a new online audio interview every 2 weeks. The Robin Williams Fansite has a list of them that are available on YouTube here. Among them is “Robin Williams & Harlan Ellison”.

Robin is joined by the inimitable, garrulous, and thoroughly entertaining science fiction writer Harlan Ellison for a gabfest, during which the author and the comedian bounce through topics as diverse as Martian gargoyles, computer vampires, little people vs. midgets, soup vs. sex, the genius of Lenny Bruce, and the many, varied attempts on Ellison’s life. With more than 1,700 stories to his credit – including novels, essays, television and film scripts – it’s obvious that Ellison is a brain to be reckoned with, but it’s never been more apparent than in this fascinating give-and-take with Robin, another force to be reckoned with!

Other points of interest include the four things that got the young Ellison kicked out of college, how he sent a woman “out of her Mesopotamian mind,” the writers-night-out drinking and schmoozing society known as the Hydra Club, and the time when Lester Del Rey inspired L. Ron Hubbard to “cobble up” a religion. Then there’s a discussion of Ellison’s parents (“two pandas who gave birth to a wolverine”) and a determination of where ideas come from (“Schenectady”). Ellison even previews his current project: Incognita, Inc., the story of a Dickensian cartographer who maps hidden cities of literature and lore.

(2) USING OUR X-RAY VISION. The Telegraph article about Peter Capaldi is behind a paywall, however, an interesting quote has been tweeted:

(3) TIME TO CATCH UP. “Ms. Marvel: Kamala Khan’s Origin and Powers Explained”IGN has a complete dossier if you need to know more after seeing the teaser trailer for the new Disney+ series starring Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan.

(4) BOOK POLITICS IN TEXAS. Continuing to follow a story that began with a Texas legislator sending a list of 850 books to schools in the state demanding they tell him if they have these books in their libraries and how much they have spent on them, now the Governor of Texas has issued his own requirements: “Greg Abbott tells state agencies to block books with ‘overly sexual’ content” reports the Texas Tribune.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday told state education officials to develop statewide standards preventing “pornography” and “other obscene content in Texas public schools,” citing two memoirs about LGBTQ characters which include graphic images and descriptions of sex.

Abbott’s directive to the Texas Education Agency, Texas State Library and Archives Commission and State Board of Education comes days after the governor told another entity — the Texas Association of School Boards — to determine the extent to which “pornography or other inappropriate content” exists in public schools across the state and to remove it if found. But the association told Abbott it had no regulatory authority over school districts and suggested the governor direct his inquiry to TEA or SBOE.

The political back and forth came on the heels of Keller Independent School District removing a book — “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe — from one of its high school libraries after some parents raised concerns over the books’s graphic images. Kobabe’s graphic novel is about the author’s own journey with gender identity. At one point, it includes an illustrations of oral sex and other sexual content, along with discussions related to pronouns, acceptance and hormone-blocking drugs.

In his Nov. 8 letter, Abbott mentioned that book along with “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado, which the governor said “describes overtly sexual and pornographic acts.” That book along with several others, the governor said, was recently removed from classrooms in Leander Independent School District. “In the Dream House” is a memoir that examines an abusive relationship between two women.

Abbott told education officials Monday that the Texas Association of School Boards had “attempted to wash its hands clean of the issue by abdicating any and all responsibility in the matter.”

“Given this negligence, the State of Texas now calls on you to do what the Texas Association of School Boards refuses to do,” Abbott wrote, saying that the standards the entities develop “must ensure transparency about the materials being taught in the classroom and offered in school libraries.”…

(5) TOP SHELF. Meanwhile, Book Riot’s list of “The Best Cities for Book Lovers in 2022” puts Pasadena, CA at the top of the list. There’s also a bottom 10, with two cities in Texas and four in Nevada.

… The study looked at the 200 biggest cities across the United States, comparing access to a wide variety of book acquisition variables. Among them were public libraries, bookstores, Little Free Libraries, book clubs, and events dedicated to books and reading. Another variable they looked at was the availability of books “in the wild,” based on users on BookCrossing who share books they’ve found, released, and tracked via the website.

The company ranked the top 200 cities from best cities for book lovers to worst cities for book lovers, based on overall scores out of 100 possible points. …

(6) OVAL OFFICERS. Let Atlas Obscura acquaint you with “The Long, Strange History of People Filing Flying Saucer Patents”.

Early in the summer of 1947, an amateur pilot from Idaho named Kenneth Arnold spotted something in the Washington skies that kind of blew his mind….

But the guy who got to the U.S. Patent Office first, surprisingly, wasn’t actually inspired by the popular perception of the UFO at all. He had the idea, in fact, years before Kenneth Arnold took his fateful flight.

The Dutch painter and sculpture artist Alexander Weygers, who grew up in the Dutch East Indies—now Indonesia—and spent most of his adult life in the U.S., was something of a 20th-century Leonardo da Vinci. He had both an engineering and artistic background, and his work spanned sculpture, illustrations, photography, and many other fields….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1987 — Thirty-four years ago, The Running Man premiered. Though it was said to be rather loosely off the Richard Bachman, the alias of Stephen King at the time, novel of the same name, a lawsuit would later find that the film was plagiarized in large part from the French movie Le prix du danger which was in turn was based off Robert Sheckley’s “The Prize of Peril” short story. No idea if that film plagiarized Sheckley. 

It was directed by Paul Michael Glaser whose only previous film as a director was described as an “action crime neo noir thriller”. Lots of adjectives there, eh? As you know it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Kotto, and Jesse Ventura. 

All of the critics thought it was at best paper thin though most including Roger Ebert had high praise for Richard Dawson though few were fond of the role Arnold Schwarzenegger had here. It wasn’t a box office success, earning just thirty-seven million against a budget of twenty-seven million. It has a decent but not outstanding rating of sixty percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. For reasons not entirely clear, it’s being remade. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 13, 1887 A. R. Tilburne. Pulp artist who by 1938 was selling cover illustrations to Short Stories and Weird Tales, and in the 1940s he also drew many interior story illustrations for Weird Tales. In 1947 he painted the cover for H. P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear which was published by Avon. (Died 1967.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. The character first appeared in Nowlan’s 1928 novella Armageddon 2419 A.D. as Anthony Rogers. Nowlan and the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip illustrated by Dick Calkins. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1933 James Daris, 88. He played the role of Creature in the deservedly maligned  “Spock’s Brain” episode. He’d do one-offs in I SpyI Dream of JeannieLand of the GiantsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible, the latter with Shatner and Nimoy. He retired from after his role in Larva, a horror film.
  • Born November 13, 1934 Garry Marshall. He’s getting Birthday honors for creating along with Dale McRaven and Joe Glauberg the Pam Dawber and Robin Williams-fronted Mork & Mindy series which had a four year run. (I hadn’t realized it was spun off from Happy Days.) And he shows up on Pinky and the Brain twice voicing Mr. Itch – The Devil including in “A Pinky and the Brain Halloween”. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 13, 1948 John de Lancie, 73. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse, though I was more fond of him as Janos Barton in Legend which stars Richard Dean Anderson (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it).  He was also Jack O’Neill’s enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar ManBattlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight ZoneMacGyverMission: Impossible (the Australian edition which is quite excellent), Get Smart, Again!Batman: The Animated Series, and I’m going to stop there.
  • Born November 13, 1955 Whoopi Goldberg, 66. Best known as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Next Gen which she reprised in Generations and Nemesis. Other genre appearances include Ghost, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle to name but a few as she’s very busy performer!
  • Born November 13, 1955 Brenda Clough, 66. She was nominated for a Hugo at ConJosé for her “May Be Some Time” novella. I’m very fond of her fantasy Averidan series. Though very much not genre, I recommend her A Most Dangerous Woman, a sequel to The Woman in White by Wilkie Collin. It’s a serial on, errrr, Serial Box which you can find at the usual suspects. 
  • Born November 13, 1957 Stephen Baxter, 64. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth series with Terry Pratchett.  I’ve only read the first three but they are quite great SF!  Ok I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of awards as well though no Hugos.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for a Hugo for best short story as were quite a number of his other works. 

(9) COMICS UNDER ATTACK. “Ransomware Hits Major US Comic Book Distributor”PCMag has the story.

Maryland-based Diamond Comic Distributors reported it had suffered a ransomware attack that temporarily took down the company’s website and disrupted its ability to process customer orders. 

“Due to the system issues we’re experiencing, some customer shipments of product with an on-sale date of November 10 will be delayed,” the company wrote in an update on Monday. 

(10) 84 SESAME STREET. In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri asks, “What if Big Bird became Big Brother?” “Big Bird’s vaccine doesn’t make him a communist. This does.”

Big Bird was always watching.

There were fewer puppets on Sesame Street than before, but that was for the best. Not all of them had been loyal. Some of them had objected to the fact that the street formerly known as Sesame Street (it was now Victory Plaza) had been the site of so many public puppet decommissionings. But Big Bird assured them that if they did not get rid of thought traitors, the Paw Patrol would come for them. (They had always been at war with the Paw Patrol.)…

(11) THINKING INSIDE THE BOX. “Gucci made an Xbox Series X for the one percent”Yahoo! described this case of extreme fashion.

…Italian fashion house Gucci has teamed up with the company to release a special edition Xbox Series X that will cost an eye-watering $10,000. The bundle will include the console, two wireless controllers and a very fancy carrying case. Oh, it will also come with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, in case you were worried….

(12) ADVENTURES WITH A CURSED MERMAN. Albuquerque-based author Zachary Hagen cites as the influences for his first series, The Eternal Chronicles, such writers as Christopher Paolini, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis. The opening book in the series, Eternity’s Well, was released August 31.

When you lose family, friends, and country, how far is too far?

Elior watched as his twin brother, the only real family he had left run into a building as it disappeared.

Nyx, a cursed merman, watched as his father and best friend were killed in front of him.

Opal’s father died leaving her with a legacy to live up to and a throne to protect.

When they join forces with a wise professor to find the Well of Eternity, can they find answers to their problems? Can the ancient evil lurking in the shadows of society be stopped before it’s too late, or will blood be spilled killing their hope and dooming Lux Terra forever?

Eternity’s Well will hook you from the very beginning and take you on a spellbinding, breathtaking journey through a new world where anything is possible.

(13) RISING TIDE. Chris Rose sent this link with a note: “Given that COP26 just ended (ish)… this feels pretty on topic.” “Everything GREAT About Waterworld!” at CinemaWins.

This is one of those movies from my childhood that I don’t think gets the love it deserves. So here’s everything right with Mad Max 2.5! I mean Waterworld!

(14) GREEN SEASON. “She-Hulk Trailer Reveals Return Of Smart Hulk & Fourth Wall Break”Screen Rant sets the scene:

A new teaser trailer for She-Hulk reveals the return of Smart Hulk to the MCU. She-Hulk is the new Disney+ series starring Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, a lawyer by day and She-Hulk when she’s angry. The series showrunner is Jessica Gao and Kat Coiro & Anu Valia serve as directors for the 10-episode series.

Joining Maslany on the show is Tim Roth, once again playing The Abomination/Emil Blonsky, who made his first appearance in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and recently appeared as the character in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Also joining the cast is Jameela Jamil as She-Hulk villain Titania, as well as Ginger Gonzaga, Josh Segarra, and Renée Elise Goldsberry. Mark Ruffalo is also returning to the show as Bruce Banner/Hulk, although until now it was unclear if he would be in human or Hulk form….

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