Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #45

Who Watches The Watchmen? –  Part One: Episodes 1-3

**BEWARE SPOILERS**

By Chris M. Barkley:

WATCHMEN by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 12 Issues, September 1986 – October 1987, omnibus edition DC Comics/Warner Books, 1987.

“This city is afraid of me…I have seen its true face”

-Rorschach

It is widely regarded that Jack Katz’s The First Kingdom (1974) and the late Will Eisner’s A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) should be credited as being among the first great, modern graphic novels. 

Watchmen, by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons is, without a doubt, acknowledged as the first masterpiece of this literary form.

This psychological and sociological deconstruction of the nature and mythology of superheroes has been a towering inspiration to nearly everyone who has aspired to work in the comics industry since its publication in the mid-1980’s.

I had the privilege of reading Watchmen in its original twelve issue run when it was first published. I vividly remember being very excited about reading this series. And I, as a jaded 30-year-old-reader, had not been taken by surprise by a graphic novel or comic book since I was nine years old and encountering the Fantastic Four and the Justice League for the first time.   

I was mesmerized as Ozymandias’ (Adrian Veidt) diabolical plan to unite the world by making it fearful of a faked alien invasion played out; the murder of a remorseful ex-hero Eddie Blake (The Comedian), the relentless and brutal investigation of his and other murders by Rorshach (Walter Joseph Kovacs), Doctor Manhattan’s (Jon Osterman) growing alienation from humankind and the personal struggles of Sally Jupiter (Silk Spectre) and Nite-Owl (Dan Dreiberg) and the eventual destruction of a good portion of New York City and a massive death toll., .

And the plan worked. Or did it?

A nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the United States was averted, and the surviving heroes, with the exception of Rorshach, agreed to keep silent. Doctor Manhattan kills Rorshach to ensure his silence. But knowing he might not be able to speak out, he cleverly planted a diary outlining most of plot with a tabloid newspaper. We, the readers, were left with an ironic, ticking time bomb waiting to go off…

Moore and Gibbon’s original contract with DC Comics stipulated that if Watchmen went out of print, the publishing rights and characters would revert back to them to do with them as they wished. But, not only a critical success but a big moneymaker for DC. Moore, citing this and other contractual disputes with DC, is totally estranged from the publisher and has repeatedly refused to have anything to do with Watchmen. And I don’t blame him a bit. If we were all moral and ethical people, we would boycott anything and everything Watchmen-related. 

Unfortunately, we are not very moral or ethical people. Are we?      


WATCHMEN (Director’s Cut: 3 Hours 2 minutes, 4/4 stars, 2009) with Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup,Matthew Goode,Carla Gugino,Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Patrick Wilson. Screenplay by David Hayter and Alex Tse, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Directed by Zach Synder.

“People’s lives take them strange places. They do strange things, and sometimes they can’t talk about them… I know how that is.”.

Laurie Jupiter/Silk Spectre II

The film rights to Watchmen were immediately snatched up by renowned producers Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver. They were the first of many who tried, and failed, to make a movie out of Watchmen. Several writers and directors were employed to give it a go, among them Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, who exclaimed at one point it would be better as a mini-series and at another said the graphic novel was “unfilmable”.

In 2005, Gordon and a new partner, Lloyd Levin, tapped director Zach Synder, who had just completed the special effects historical epic, 300, to try to bring it all together. Synder and new screenwriter Alex Tse used elements of an earlier script by David Hayer, restored the Cold War setting of 1985 and an element involving Doctor Manhattan working on an energy conversion project backed by Adrian Veidt.

I saw the film when it premiered a decade ago but hadn’t seen it since then. I remember being impressed with it and thought was a very good adaptation. Looking back, I gave it three out of four stars (on the Leonard Maltin rating scale) because as good as it was, I found the underlying themes of the source material somewhat muted. 

To re-acquaint myself with the film, I purchased a copy of Zach Synder’s director’s cut (which has 24 minutes of additional footage) and found it that it was a more satisfying experience. Sure, it features extended action scenes but it also gives more nuance and character motivation to Laurie Jupiter (Malin Ackerman), her mother, Sally (Carla Gugino) and Nite-Owl (Partick Wilson). Their character arcs actually heighten the performance of Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorshach, whose contrasting performance as the hard ass, uncompromising vigilante burns even brighter. In a fairer world would he have been nominated for an Oscar and aced the winner Christoph Waltz (for Inglorious Basterds) for the award.

Synder and screenwriter Alex Tse received a lot of criticism for changing a vital element of the original story; the conspiracy behind faking the alien invasion. Instead, a subplot involving Doctor Manhattan and Adrian Veidt developing a new source of energy derived from his superpowers and Veidt framing him for a far more heinous crime, the utter destruction of several major global cities. While I thought this was a brilliant way to set the film apart visually from the graphic novel, other critics harped that it was either still too faithful version or or disagreed with the choices storywise. As for me, I think that; filmmakers have a better chance of producing more interesting and innovative art when they bring their perspectives and ideas to an adaptation than being a slave to the original material.

(To get an author’s first-hand perspective on how they viewed an adaptation of their own work, interested readers may want to hunt down David Mitchell’s essay on how his 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, was handled by its three directors. It was originally published in the 2012 movie tie-in edition and, as of this post, is not available online.)

Watchmen was not the huge financial success Warner Brothers and DC Comics had hoped for at the box office, earning $185 million worldwide against an estimated budget of $138 million. Sales of various home video editions have been moderately good. In bookstores and online, the graphic novel spiked in advance of the film and did so again this past year upon the announcement from HBO that a limited series was in the works. 

Despite the failure of the film, DC embarked on a series of prequel stories called Before Watchmen in 2012, featuring individual characters from the novel.

Naturally, Alan Moore was very unhappy with these developments, stating in a 2012 interview on the Seraphemera (Books & Music) website:

“All the nasty comments that I was making when I was angry–about the comics industry not having had an idea of its own in the last 40 years…it would seem that DC are really going that extra mile in trying to prove me incontrovertibly right.”

and

“What the comics industry has effectively said is, ‘Yes, this was the only book that made us briefly special and that was because it wasn’t like all the other books.’ Watchmen was something that stood on its own and it had the integrity of a literary work. What they’ve decided now is, ‘So, let’s change it to a regular comic that can run indefinitely and have spin-offs.’ and ‘Let’s make it as unexceptional as possible.’ Like I say, they’re doing this because they haven’t got any other choices left, evidently.”     


WATCHMEN: White Rabbit, HBO, DC Comics, based on Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, with Regina King, Jean Smart, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson,Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Andrew Howard, Jacob Ming-Trent, Tom Mison, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, Louis Gossett Jr. and Jeremy Irons.

“I’ve got a nose for white supremacy and he smells like bleach.” 

Angela Abar/Detective Sister Night, Episode 1

  • Episode 1: “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice”, Written by Damon Lindelof, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 2: “Martial Feats of Comanche Horsemanship”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Nick Cuse, Directed by Nicole Kassell
  • Episode 3:”She Was Killed by Space Junk”, Written by Damon Lindelof & Lila Byock, Directed by Stephen Williams

Which brings us to Damon Lindelof’s “remix” of the original graphic novel for television.The veteran of high profile genre shows like Lost and The Leftovers, he turned the job down twice before accepting. He went in knowing that he would never get Alan Moore’s approval and that whatever may come, the die-hard fans of the graphic novel (or the film for that matter) would never be satisfied with the results.

Taking a deep creative breath, Lindelof took to Instagram and made the following statement: “I am compelled despite the inevitable pushback and hatred I will understandably receive for taking on this particular project. This ire will be maximally painful because of its source. That source being you. the true fans.”

He also said: “I’m a true fan, too. And I’m not the only one. What I love about television is that the finished product is not the result of a singular vision, but the collective experience of many brilliant minds.”

Among those brilliant minds is Watchmen’s original artist, Dave Gibbons, who signed on with Lindelof as a visual consultant. His contributions are immediately evident in costumes of the characters and the style and feel of the production itself. 

The story begins with one of the most stunning opening sequencing in the history of television; a brutal recreation of the ransacking, murderous rampage and destruction of the Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Emerging from the carnage, a young black child rescues an infant and flees the burning city.

We then shift ninety-eight years into the future and thirty four after the events depicted in the graphic novel. Loud rap music drones from of a pickup truck late at night. The middle aged driver become apprehensive when police lights signal for him to pull over and it appears he is a victim of racial profiling. And as the officer questions the driver in an antagonistic manner, it verifies these suspicions with one startling twist; the driver is white and the Tulsa cop is African-American and wearing a mask. When the cop is brutally assaulted and critically injured, it set in motion a series of events that will range far across this alternate universe.

And what a strange universe it is. Over the course of the first three episodes several several passing glances and easter eggs have revealed the following observations and easter eggs:

  • That actor Robert Redford has been President for decades. 
  • That African-Americans were granted some substantial reparations from the government over the years.
  • There are no cell phones or the development of any social media outlets. But electric cars seem to be a standard mode of travel.
  • Author/Attorney John Grisham was appointed to the Supreme Court and is retiring.
  • Masked vigilantes were banned in 1977 but apparently many persist in the practice.
  • A newspaper announces that Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) has been officially declared dead.
  • Tiny squids fall from the sky on an irregular basis, a stark reminder that mankind is still living under a threat of an impending “invasion:’
  • A dramatization documenting adventures of the first vigilantes called “American Hero Story” is being promoted on television (a clear call out to the Tales of The Black Freighter comics in the original Watchmen AND to Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story).
  • And Doctor Manhattan has been spotted on Mars, puttering around building and deconstructing things on the surface and, presumably, keeping an eye on Earth.

Tulsa’s police chief, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson) quickly deduces that a white supremist group, the Seventh Kalvary, was responsible. Three years earlier, the force and their families had been targeted in a surprise attack that left them dead and the few that remained demoralized. In response, the state government funded a pilot project that allowed officers to mask themselves and detectives to don elaborate costumes to protect their identities. Unfortunately, as the first episode amply demonstrates, this habitually leads to the abuse of the civil rights of criminal suspects and innocent civilians alike.

Our main protagonist, Angela Abar, is a survivor of the attack and has adopted the guise of a mild mannered, civilian identity of a local baker. But, when she’s alerted via pager to an emergency, she swiftly enters the back room and, like Spiderwoman, the Green Hornet and countless other heroes, transforms herself into Sister Night; with a nun’s habit and balaclava clad, she is a total badass supercop.

Sister Night forcibly brings a suspect into Tulsa’s secret police facility where he is subjected to an interrogation by Detective Wade Tillman, aka Looking Glass (played a droll and sardonic Tim Blake Nelson), who wears a reflective mirror mask. After conducting a very strange method that seems imitate Bladerunner’s Voight-Kampff test, Tillman concludes that while the suspect may not have been directly involved with the attack, he definitely knows something. And Sister Night proceeds to beat the location of the Seventh Kalvary out of him.

Meanwhile, at an undisclosed location, we spy a man (Jeremy Irons) riding horseback through the countryside. (Although he isn’t identified, I immediately suspected this regal looking rogue to be Adrian Veidt. And I was right.) While he seems to be right at home, he gives the appearance of being preoccupied with writing a play called “The Watchman’s Son” and recruiting his servants, Miss Crookshanks (Sarah Vickers) and Mr. Phillips (Tom Mison) to help him bring it to life.

At first, I thought these might be androids, but no, after Mr. Philips is burned alive during the performance of the play, it’s revealed that there are multiple copies of him and Miss Crookshanks, clones, doing his bidding around the castle in various roles. And who knows, they might even be clones of himself!

It also becomes evident that while Veidt lives in relative comfort, he is not at liberty to leave the compound at any time. After another one of his Philips clones expires in a grisly manner during one of his experiments involving a primitive pressure suit and a trebuchet, it is evident that the World’s Smartest Man is trying to escape. And the person who is standing in his way is a mysterious character named “the Game Warden”, who sends Veidt a written warning that he suspects his current activities may be in violation of the terms of his imprisonment. And Veidt, being the person he is, doubles down on his efforts.        

Meanwhile, Sister Night and Chief Crawford lead a nighttime raid on the Kavalry’s remote safehouse, which, like the first two episodes, are thrillingly directed with precision and verve by Nicole Kassell. And while they succeed in breaking up the gang’s current plan, they don’t gain enough intelligence to know exactly what they’re up to. 

Angela goes home only to receive a phone tip from a strange voice who tells her knows who she is and proceeds to demands she drive to a location in a field she knows well. Fearing that her identity and family has been compromised, she drives there only to find Crawford’s body hanging from a tree and a VERY elderly black man in a wheelchair (Louis Gossett, Jr.), proudly claiming to be the murderer.

This man, who calls himself Will, also claims to be Angela’s grandfather and to being 109 years old. Angela takes him to her bakery hideout, handcuffs him and takes a DNA sample to be tested and later is shocked to find out his claim is valid. Having kept Will out of the investigation of Crawford’s death, she decides to formally take him into custody as a material witness. But as she places him in her civilian car under the cover of darkness, a mysterious craft swoops in with an electro-magnetic grapple and spirits Will, and her car (!), away. A paper flutters down from the car; the tattered leaflet with the words “Look After This Boy” scrawled on the back, the same note that was placed in the pocket by the father of the boy who survived the 1921 Tulsa riots. 

The third episode introduces the audience to a middle-aged Laurie Blake (Jean Smart, who is equally snappy and ironically sad in her role) the second Silk Spectre and daughter of Sally Jupiter and Eddie Blake. A hard-bitten veteran of the FBI’s Anti-Vigilante Task Force, she also appears to be trapped in a life she doesn’t enjoy very much. It is heavily implied that her ex-husband, Nite-Owl, is languishing in prison for violating the 1977 federal anti-vigilante act and Laurie feels guilty for receiving a get out of jail free card in exchange for her services. 

Enter Joe Keene Jr., a US Senator from Oklahoma (and an aspiring Presidential candidate) who comes calling on Laurie to do him a favor; he has arranged with the Bureau to send her to Tulsa to investigate the death of Chief Judd Crawford, who he strongly suspects might not have been killed by the Seventh Kalvalry but by a masked vigilante. .Should Laurie succeed and he becomes President, he strongly suggests he just might pardon Daniel Dreiberg.

But Laurie doesn’t only pine for her ex-husband, in her spare time from the investigation, she also records phone messages beamed directly to Mars via special booths for her ex-boyfriend, Doctor Manhattan to “hear”.

As sad and lonely as Laurie seems, her demeanor in public is sharp and professional. In her interactions with Angela, Wade and her nerdy FBI partner Dale Petey (Dustin Ingram) she lets it be known that does not suffer fools gladly and that she has read all of the reports, seen all of the video and is as smart as a very sharp, venomous tack. And if anyone is hiding anything, she’ll be the one to suss it out. Wade seemingly bows to her authority but not Angela, who puts on a brave and defiant face. That’s because she has plenty to hide at this point, including finding evidence that Chief Crawford may have been on the take and is concealing her grandfather’s role in his death.

And at the end of the third episode, as Laurie completes her phone call to Mars that evening, pleading for a sign from Doctor Manhattan that he might still care for her or the human race. As she is walking to her car, a huge clue falls into her lap from the sky above. And as she looks to see where it came from, she catches sight of Mars, glowing ominously in the distance. We leave Laurie as she laughs maniacally at the night sky and the audience wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

I must admit that I have been fairly overwhelmed by what Damon Lindelof has done with this production of Watchmen. He clearly reveres the source material but is totally unafraid in taking it in unexpected and startling directions.

There has been some blow back from fans who have complained at great length that Lindelof has made Watchmen too “political”, which is laughable because a more discerning reader should have caught on to those themes in the very first issue back in 1986. 

Others have vociferously objected to Rorschach being held up as a modern-day symbol of white supremacy. Well, those people thought he was the “hero” of previous iterations of Watchmen, when in fact, he was a damaged human being who was given the worst aspects of Batman, which were then magnified to the nth degree. A nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible, Walter Kovacs was the perfect character for other nihilistic, psychotic and inflexible racists to glom onto as their object of adulation.

Furthermore, Lindelof and his crew of creators are daring the audience to immerse themselves in a world where they may have to either root for, understand or have empathy for people, especially police officers, who are going about their jobs and lives in a completely aberrant and disgusting manner as they try to grapple with forces and circumstances they are having a hard time comprehending.

Also, in an era where more television shows and films are telling more diverse stories, it is utterly refreshing to see a gerne-oriented show tackle racial and political issues head on for a mainstream audience. These are exactly the sort of entertainment vehicles we need more of in these confusing and turbulent times; confounding, controversial and profound, they excite the intellect and stir meaningful conversations about who we are and what we should be doing.

This past spring, I stated that I was only going to list HBO’s magnificent techno-horror miniseries Chernobyl as my lone entrant on my Best Dramatic Presentation-Long Form Hugo award ballot. Well, I think may have been a bit premature saying that; if Damon Lindelof and company can pull it off this daring adaptation over the remaining six episodes, I’ll be nominating Watchmen as well. 

And from what I’ve seen so far, I’ll be VERY disappointed if they don’t make it. But, after seeing the first three episodes of this series, I have a sneaking suspicion they will stick the landing, in the biggest way possible.

Pixel Scroll 11/5/19 The Void Pixel’s Tale

(1) 2019 WORLD FANTASY AWARDS PHOTO. Lee Whiteside took this picture of the winners and accepters at Sunday’s World Fantasy Awards ceremony.

Left to right: Kathleen Jennings (accepting for Best Novella winner Kij Johnson), Emma Törzs (Best Short Fiction co-winner as well as accepting for co-winner Mel Kassel), C. L. Polk (Best Novel), Tobias S. Buckell (Best Collection with Paolo Bacigalupi), Reiko Murakami (accepting for Best Artist winner Rovina Cai), Irene Gallo (Best Anthology) and Rajan Khanna (accepting for Scott H. Andrews, Special Award – Nonprofessional)

(2) WATCHMEN PODCAST. ScienceFiction.com alerts listeners when “HBO Launches ‘The Official Watchmen Podcast’”.

The Official Watchmen Podcast launches after the third episode of the series airs on November 3rd. Over three episodes, host Craig Mazin (HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl) discusses Watchmen with its Executive Producer and Writer, Damon Lindelof. Join Mazin and Lindelof as they divulge narrative choices, explore the show’s connection with the groundbreaking graphic novel, and how it reflects our modern times. Make sure to watch episodes one through three of Watchmen before listening. The Official Watchmen Podcast is produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios.

(3) MAKE ROOM. If Marie Kondo didn’t get you started decluttering, maybe this post by Wil Wheaton will do it: “The Purge”. This excerpt is followed by a moving account of the emotional work he went through in the process.

…As I was cleaning up my emotional baggage, working on strategies to protect myself from my abusers, and practicing mindfulness daily, I realized that I had a ton of STUFF just sitting around my house, cluttering up my physical living space the way my emotional trauma and pain was cluttering up my emotional space. So I made a call, and hired a professional organizer to come to my house, go through all my bullshit with me, and help me get rid of all the things I didn’t need any more.

This process was, in many ways, a metaphor.

We spent several days going through my closets, my game room, my storage spaces in my attic and shed, and eventually ended up with FIVE TRUCKLOADS of stuff I didn’t need. Most of it was clothes and books and things that we donated to shelters, which was really easy to unload. I acquire T-shirts so much, I regularly go through my wardrobe and unload half of what I have, so it’s easy to get rid of stuff without any emotional attachments.

But there were some things that were more difficult to get rid of, things that represented opportunities I once had but didn’t pursue, things that represented ideas that I was really into for a minute, but didn’t see through to completion, things that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t really fit into my life, etc….

(4) AO3 TO THE RESCUE. Yahoo! will be closing downYahoo! Groups – at least as people are used to it — for good on December 14, by which point all uploaded content will be lost: “Yahoo is shuttering Yahoo Groups. Fandom will never be the same”.

The death of Yahoo Groups is a particular blow to text-based fan communities, which thrived on the platform in the 2000s. Yahoo message boards and email lists were crucial to the early days of fandom, both as a publishing platform and as a semi-private meeting place in the days before social media sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit. Yahoo Groups were particularly integral to Harry Potter and English-language anime fandoms, overlapping with the rise of Livejournal in the early 2000s. These fannish mailing lists were home to reams of fanfiction and in-depth commentary on pop culture, and spawned lifelong friendships (and, OK, the occasional deathly feud) within their communities.

AO3 has offered sanctuary to fanworks that are at risk because of the Yahoo Groups shutdown:

We have two processes in place — one to move fanworks from Yahoo Groups onto the Archive Of Our Own, and one to download and preserve messages and other content from Yahoo Groups in file systems so moderators and Yahoo Groups users have more than nine weeks to figure out how to preserve and possibly share that content.

Open Doors can only import fanworks archived in Yahoo Groups onto the Archive of Our Own with the consent of the moderator(s). If you are a moderator and would like to import fanworks from your Yahoo Group(s) to AO3, you are welcome to contact Open Doors via our contact form.

…If you’re a moderator who’d like to potentially import your group to the AO3, contact Open Doors and we’ll talk to you about options. For more updates on what’s happening, see announcements or check back on this page.

If you’d like to directly help rescue teams and you want to save only fandom groups, you can use this form to nominate fandom groups OR you can go directly to the public spreadsheet to find nominated groups that still need downloading. (General downloading instructions are here.) If you want to help save fandom groups and many other non-fandom groups, see Archive Team’s chrome extension. Both are worthy efforts and both face a hard deadline of Dec 14.

(5) CONZEALAND MINORS POLICY. Here are some features of CoNZealand’s “Minors Onsite Policy” for the 2020 Wordcon,

A minor is anyone under the age of 18. In New Zealand, the law requires that no minor under the age of 14 be left unattended. …

Overall Policy 

All Kid-in-tow and Child memberships must be tied to an adult membership. All minors under 16 should have a sticker on the back of their badge detailing up to two adults (over 18) who are responsible for them.  

Due to the nature of licensing and regulation in regards to child care in New Zealand, it will not be possible for us to provide child care at CoNZealand. Please refer to the links to nanny and babysitting services at the end of this document.

Memberships

There are three types of memberships for minors at CoNZealand:

  1. Kid-in-tow (no charge)—born in or after 2015 (generally 5 and under)
  2. Child ($105)—born in or after 2005 (generally 5-15)
  3. Young Adult ($250)—born in or after 2000 (generally 15-20)

These age groups do not exactly align with the differing expectations for supervision of minors. New Zealand law requires that no child under the age of 14 be left unattended. 

(6) ABOUT THE CAMPBELL AWARD. If you didn’t read it in August on Boing Boing, Locus Online has reposted Cory Doctorow’s opinion piece, “Jeannette Ng Was Right: John W. Campbell Was a Fascist”.

At the Hugo Awards ceremony at this summer’s Dublin Worldcon, Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Ng gave an outstanding and brave acceptance speech in which she called Campbell – the award’s namesake and one of the field’s most influential editors – a “fascist” and expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

I am a past recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2000) as well as a recipient of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (2009). I believe I’m the only person to have won both of the Campbells, which, I think, gives me unique license to comment on Ng’s remarks, which have been met with a mixed reception from the field.

I think she was right – and seemly – to make her re­marks….

(7) SOMETHING IN COMMON. BBC explains an award and poses a question: “Staunch Book Prize: Should writers ditch female victims?”

From the escapades of an intern-turned-spy in Turkey’s capital to the tale of a priest in 15th Century Somerset, there might not be an obvious connection between the novels shortlisted for this year’s Staunch Book Prize.

But they have one thing in common: none of them involve physical or sexual violence towards women.

The prize, which is in its second year, recognises thrillers in which “no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered”.

But while some commend it for challenging stereotypes, others accuse it of ignoring social realities.

Speaking to the BBC, shortlisted authors and other writers share their views on why female characters are so often the victims of violence – and whether that needs to change.

(8) GENTLEMEN, BE OBLITERATED. The Space Review’s article “Nuking the site from orbit: when the Air Force wanted a base on the Moon” mentions Heinlein’s 1940s vision of a moon base with atomic weaponry.

…The concept of the Moon as a strategic base apparently dates at least back to 1948 and an article by Robert S. Richardson titled “Rocket Blitz From the Moon” in the mass-market Collier’s magazine. The article was beautifully illustrated by famed space artist Chesley Bonestell. In one Bonestell painting a bullet-shaped rocket (illogically equipped with large aerodynamic fins) is blasting off from a lunar crater. Another rocket stands prepped in the background and a lunar base is tucked into the side of a mountain. In the next illustration—probably Bonestell’s most dramatic painting ever—Manhattan has been blasted with at least three atomic bombs.

Richardson’s article focused primarily on the physics of the Moon: the low gravity, the lack of air, the trajectory and velocity calculations for firing rockets at the Earth. Rather than advocate that the United States should build a lunar rocket base, Richardson warned that another country could undertake a secret project to develop a lunar base and achieve strategic surprise against the United States. He did not clearly explain why the Moon would be a good place for basing missiles other than its presumed safety from Earth observation, and he noted that it would take at least a day for a rocket to reach Earth with its warhead. Considering that there were other means of basing long-range strategic weapons that did not involve the massive cost of a space program and a lunar base, Richardson’s idea was fanciful at best. But Collier’s was a large circulation magazine, not a science fiction pulp, and this short article certainly reached a big audience and probably fired some imaginations.

Richardson was not the only person writing about the possibilities of using space as a platform for attacking Earth. Robert Heinlein co-wrote a non-fiction article in August 1947, also for Collier’s, called “Flight into the Future.” Heinlein and his co-author, US Navy Captain Caleb Laning, suggested basing atomic weapons in orbit, and Heinlein later used this idea in his book Space Cadet. The 1950 movie Destination Moon, which Heinlein co-wrote, also echoed a similar theme (see “Heinlein’s ghost (part 1)”, The Space Review, April 9, 2007). One of the characters in the movie explains why a lunar base is necessary: “There is absolutely no way to stop an attack from outer space. The first country that can use the Moon for the launching of missiles will control the Earth. That, gentlemen, is the most important military fact of this century.”…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 5, 1938 Jim Steranko, 81. His breakthough series  was the Sixties “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry effecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
  • Born November 5, 1942 Frank Gasperik. Tuckerized in as a character in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red,  and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 5, 1944 Carol Anne Douglas, 75. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the  Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series.  Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character.
  • Born November 5, 1949 Armin Shimerman, 70. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end.  He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film.
  • Born November 5, 1960 ?Tilda Swinton, 59. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantine was frelling strange…
  • Born November 5, 1961 Sam Rockwell, 58. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh, Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. 
  • Born November 5, 1964 Famke Janssen, 55. Her first genre role was Xenia Onatopp in the Bond film GoldenEye and her longest running genre role was as Jean Grey / Phoenix (Dark Phoenix) in the X-Men film series. Counting horror which I do, she’s got a number of genre appearance including Lord of IllusionsThe WolverineHouse on Haunted HillDeep Rising and Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Born November 5, 1970 Tamzin Outhwaite, 49. She was Detective Inspector Rebecca Flint on Paradox, a SF police series that ran for just five episodes and received really harsh reviews. Her only other SF role was as the Captain in an Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver” which was scripted by Neil Gaiman. 

(10) BE FREE! ABC news reports “Chicago book returns surge 240% after city eliminates fines”.

“Just by word of mouth and also on the library’s social media pages like Facebook, we saw a lot of patrons say, ‘Oh my God. This is so great. I’m gonna bring back my books. I’ve been hesitant to come back to the library because I owe these fines,'” Telli said.

Chicago became the nation’s first major city to forgo overdue fines, which went into effect Oct. 1 and erased all outstanding fees. Mayor Lori Lightfoot framed the policy change as her latest attempt to remove barriers that deter youth and low-income patrons.

Lightfoot is also making an effort to open libraries on Sundays. The mayor’s 2020 budget includes an $18 million property tax increase to honor her promise to establish Sunday hours at Chicago’s 81 libraries. Currently, the Harold Washington central library and three regional libraries are open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

(11) NEVER? WELL, HARDLY EVER. Even Book View Café’s  Madeleine E. Robins will sometimes “RTFM*”.

I am, by nature, a dive-in-and-figure-it-out sort of technology user. This may come from my early days as a computer user, when my then room-mate and sometime business partner dropped a box on my desk and said “we’re doing a user’s manual for X Corp. Can you learn this” — this being PageMaker, the forerunner of InDesign, a page layout program–“by next week? I should have copy for you then.”

Reader, I did not rise up and slay him; I learned the program, eventually well enough that I taught classes in it. I still use those skills:  one of the things I do at my day job is to use InDesign to produce the posters, ads, and other marketing materials that the museum I work at needs for promotion….

(* Read the Fucking Manual.)

(12) PERFECTLY CLEAR. Will this New York Times opinion piece make it all better? Next question! “Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain.”

…In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.

I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”

Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other….

(13) ELRIC MEETS DUNGEON SYNTH. A Moorcock-obsessed United Kingdom musician who goes by the name Elric is working in the “dungeon synth” genre (an eerie combination of goth, classical, and folk tunes played on 80s synths). The releases are on Bandcamp and are named “Antihero”, “Stormbringer”, and “Elric of Melnibone”. They are all “name your price.” As Bandcamp said about one of the releases:

It’s safe to say that fantasy literature and role-playing games (the tabletop and the video variety) loom large in the world of Dungeon Synth, and Elric expertly combines both of them. Inspired by the chiptune soundtracks of games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana as well as (obviously) the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock, Elric’s music is the perfect soundtrack to crawling through (16-bit) alcoves, searching for abandoned potions and treasure while trying to avoid the hungry ghouls hidden in the shadows.”

(14) DO ME A SOLID. “Searching For Solid Ice As Scientists Freeze In To Study A Warming Arctic” – BBC delivers lots of meaty detail and pictures.

High up in the Arctic Ocean close to the North Pole, a solitary ship floats in darkness, moored to an expansive piece of ice.

If all goes according to plan the ship will remain with that ice for an entire year, so that scientists on board can study the Arctic system and how it’s responding to climate change.

It’s a project called the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). But finding a piece of ice thick and stable enough to host the mission’s science and logistics is not easy, and there may be challenges for the ice and the scientists in the months ahead.

…The MOSAiC expedition – about a decade in the planning – is an international collaboration involving hundreds of scientists and almost 20 countries. Their goal is to better understand the changing Arctic and improve how it’s represented in climate models.

“We need this information because the Arctic is changing so rapidly, and it’s a place that we have not observed very well in the past,” says Matthew Shupe, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a co-coordinator for MOSAiC.

The last time scientists looked at the Arctic Ocean system so comprehensively was more than 20 years ago. But the Arctic has been warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and the picture there has changed dramatically.

That’s why these researchers want a year out in the ice: to get an updated look at how the physics, the chemistry, and the biology of this area work during all four seasons.

(15) BIG HOOCH. NPR finds “Climate Change Is Disrupting Centuries-Old Methods Of Winemaking In France”.

In France, climate change is already impacting one of the country’s most emblematic industries — winemaking. French vintners say heat, drought and erratic weather is altering the landscape and their centuries-old way of working.

Brothers Remi and Gregoire Couppé are fourth generation winemakers who craft a top vintage, grand cru St Emilion. In the last few years they’ve been confronted with some new challenges. Forty-four-year-old Remi Couppé says there’s no denying the weather is getting hotter and drier.

“Because of the grapes. They show us the change,” he says. “Especially in alcohol. The alcohol level has been getting higher in the last five years.” These days, the alcohol content by volume can reach 15%, he says; when he was a boy, “it was maximum 12 [% ABV]. It’s causing me some problems when I start the vinification process, because I have to use new yeast to avoid too much alcohol. It’s really new for me.”

The higher alcohol levels come from increased sugar in the grapes due to more sun and heat. What’s also new are some of the plants sprouting up between the vines. Couppé picks a flowery-looking weed, holding it up to the blazing sun. “This plant is from the south of Europe and I never saw it here in my life before four years ago.”

Couppé says you have to be careful when using the mechanized harvester now, because such plants can get mixed in and ad a taste to the grapes.

The brothers say in the past three years they’ve completely stopped a process called “stripping,” where most of the vine leaves are removed just before the harvest. Now they need the leaves’ shade to keep the grapes from burning on the vine. Couppé points to a shriveled, sun-exposed cluster of grapes next to the dark, plump ones still shaded by the leaves.

(16) OUTSIDE OPINION. BBC tells how “Voyagers shed light on Solar System’s structure”.

Data sent back by the two Voyager spacecraft have shed new light on the structure of the Solar System.

Forty-two years after they were launched, the spacecraft are still going strong and exploring the outer reaches of our cosmic neighbourhood.

By analysing data sent back by the probes, scientists have worked out the shape of the vast magnetic bubble that surrounds the Sun.

The two spacecraft are now more than 10 billion miles from Earth.

Researchers detail their findings in six separate studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“We had no good quantitative idea how big this bubble is that the Sun creates around itself with its solar wind – ionised plasma that’s speeding away from the Sun radially in all directions,” said Ed Stone, the longstanding project scientist for the missions.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Lee Whiteside, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/19 When You’re At The Bottom Of A Pixel, It’s Time To Put Down The Scroll

(1) FAN NONPROFIT CALLS FOR SUPPORT. Con-or-Bust, the organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions, has put out a call for workers to keep it going. Their Twitter thread about what’s needed starts here.

(2) FRESH MONSTERS. “Creepy Stories (and More) from Victor LaValle and Benjamin Percy” on Lit Hub links to an episode of the Lit Hub podcast Fiction/NonFiction, which features interviews with LaValle and Percy and each author reading three excerpts from their fiction.

LaValle explains how devices like monsters make it possible to write about how something feels, rather than merely what happened; Percy discusses doppelgängers, and asks whether politically, the call is coming from inside the house.

(3) COMPLETING THE ARC. John Scalzi had a good time at the movies — “Terminator: Dark Fate Review” on Whatever.

…As I walked out of the film last night I posted a five word recommendation of this film: “It gets Sarah Connor right.” This actually matters because despite the name of films, the “Terminator” films are about Sarah Connor, and the arc of her life dealing with the terrible fate that life has dealt her: Victim to fighter to avenger. Sarah Connor is realistically (with the context of these films) damaged by this fate of hers; particularly in this film she’s a PTSD wreck. And, well, she would be, wouldn’t she. It’s important that the Terminator films show her this way. It’s for better or worse the grounding the films need to make every other absurd thing that happens in them function on the level of plausibility.

(4) NOT SO BLITHE SPIRIT. In “Like It or Not, Damon Lindelof Made His Own Watchmen”, Vulture’s Abraham Reisman gets showrunner Damon Lindelof to answer several ethical questions about Watchmen, including the morality of how he is making the series without Allan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s permission because the rights were supposed to revert to them if the comic books were out of print, and they’ve never gone out of print, and how Robert Redford is “in the series” as the perpetual president but the actual Robert Redford was neither approached or asked because he had retired before the series started production.

Does it keep you up at night? Or have you made your peace with it?
It wakes me up at night, but much less so now that it’s done. I’m about to say something very ridiculous, but in all sincerity, I was absolutely convinced that there was a magical curse placed upon me by Alan [Moore]. I’m actually feeling the psychological effects of a curse, and I’m okay with it. It’s fair that he has placed a curse on me. The basis for this, my twisted logic, was that I heard that he had placed a curse on Zack [Snyder]’s [Watchmen] movie. There is some fundamental degree of hubris and narcissism in saying he even took the time to curse me. But I became increasingly convinced that it had, in fact, happened. So I was like, “Well, at least I’m completely and totally miserable the entire time.” I should be!

(5) ALL ABOARD PULLMAN. The new BBC/HBO His Dark Materials mini-series starts Monday, November 4. The credits alone are enough to leave Io9’s Julie Muncy bowled over: “The Opening Title Sequence for His Dark Materials Is Stunningly Good”.

His Dark Materials is a sweeping fantasy epic, and it deserves a title sequence to match. Fortunately, thanks to HBO and the BBC, it’s got one. Today, BBC released the opening for the upcoming His Dark Materials TV show, and it absolutely lives up to the pedigree of the series. If you’re looking for something to build hype, this is it. I’m especially partial to the graphics at the end. Like, wow.

(6) HIS BARK MATERIALS. The previous item also reminded Daniel Dern of a photo he shot at Arisia 2016 of an “Armored polar bear” from The Golden Compass.

DanielDern-Arisia2016-DSC08657-DogCosplay

(7) NANOWRIMO AT 20. The New York Times celebrates the anniversary: “Ready. Set. Write a Book.” Article includes tips and tools.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the National Novel Writing Month project, which challenges people to write a 50,000-word novel in November. NaNoWriMo, as it is known, is a nonprofit that supports creative writing and education. Those who sign up for the group’s free annual event get community support, progress tracking and motivational advice to complete a book draft.

If you think you have a novel in you, here is a quick guide to digital tools to help you along your way.

(And if the thought of cranking out an average of 1,667 words a day in the NaNoWriMo challenge doesn’t fit in with your schedule or you need more prep time — don’t despair. You could write it at your own pace.)

(8) SLADE OBIT. Bernard Slade, who co-created The Flying Nun and wrote 17 episodes of Bewitched, has died at the age of 89 reports the New York Times. Outside of genre his successes were creating the 1970s television series The Partridge Family, and the Broadway play “Same Time, Next Year.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 3, 1954 — In Japan, Godzilla (Gojira) premiered. This is the very first film in the Godzilla franchise.  It was written by Honda, Takeo Murata, and Shigeru Kayama, and was produced by Tomoyuki Tanaka, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.  It enjoys a 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers and an even more impressive 93% among critics. It made almost nothing on its first run here on the States. 

And here is a good place to link to Funny or Die’s Rambo/Godzilla mashup (released in June).

  • November 3, 1967 — The Trek episode of “I, Mudd” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd with Richard Tatro as  Norman,  Alyce Andrece as Alice #1 through #250, Rhae Andrece as Alice 251 through 500 and, lest we forget, Kay Elliot as Stella Mudd. Written by Stephen Kandel as based on a story by Gene Roddenberry.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 3, 1921 Charles Bronson. He didn’t do he a lot of genre acting but I’ve got him in One Step Beyond as Yank Dawson in “The Last Round” and he’s in The Twilight Zone in “Two” as The Man opposite Elizabeth Montgomery as The Women. He was also in Master of The World which is  based on the Verne novels Robur the Conqueror and its sequel Master of the World. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 3, 1932 Monica Vitti, 87. She’s best remembered in the English language movie going world for her performance as the lead agent in Modesty Blaise. It‘s rather loosely based upon the Modesty Blaise strip by Peter O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original story upon which Evan Jones based his screenplay. 
  • Born November 3, 1932 Jack Harness. Usually I’d give a précis of his fan bio based Fancyclopedia 3 and sources. Oh, this time you really need to go read the Fancyclopedia 3 write-up as the writer has detailed a true character among characters: Jack Harness (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Aneta Corsaut. If you saw The Blob, the original Fifties version, she was Jane Martin. Her only other genre film work was as an uncredited tourist mother in Blazing Saddles. And unless I’m mistaken, she had no other genre series work at all though she was popular in Westerns. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Jeremy Brett. Still my favorite Holmes of all time. He played him in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in a total of 41 episodes. One source said he was cast as Bond at one point, but turned the part down, feeling that playing 007 would harm his career. Lazenby was cast instead. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 3, 1933 Ken Berry. He’s making the Birthday Honors for Disney’s The Cat from Outer Space in which he was Dr. Frank Wilson. No, the cat wasn’t Goose. And he played seven different roles on the original Fantasy Island which well may be a record. Oh, he like pretty much everyone else was a guest performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. I know it’s not genre, I just find that amusing. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 3, 1952 Eileen Wilks, 67. Her principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and the multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing as well! 
  • Born November 3, 1953 Kate Capshaw, 66. Best known as Willie Scott in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (which I’ll confess I’ve watched but a few times unlike the first film which I’ve watched way too much), and she was in Dreamscape as well. She retired from acting several decades ago.
  • Born November 3, 1953 Adam Ant, 66. He actually has a decent genre acting history having been on the Eighties Amazing Stories, in Out of Time (a time travel film), Love Bites (oh guess), Tales from The Crypt, voiced a role on Batman: The Animated Series and Cyber Bandits. Oh and voicing Sri Charge-A-Lot on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries!
  • Born November 3, 1956 Kevin Murphy, 63. Best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo for nine years on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. He was also the writer for the show for eleven years. I’m surprised the series was never nominated for a Hugo in the Long Form or Shot Form. Does it not qualify?
  • Born November 3, 1963 Brian Henson, 55. Can we all agree that The Happytime Murders should never have been done? Thought so. Wash it out of your consciousness with Muppet Treasure Island or perhaps The Muppet Christmas Carol. If you want something darker, he was a puppeteer on The Witches, and the chief puppeteer on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And he voices Hoggle in Labyrinth.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) CARTOON-LIKE SCULPTURE. This towering figure sits in front of a new high-rise on the waterfront in Greenpoint, NYC.

(13) KEEPING AHEAD. Steven James advises authors “How to Write Crime Fiction Set in the Near Future” at CrimeReads.

2) Trust your reader’s imagination.

In my latest novel, Synapse, I refer to slates, which are basically the tablets of the future. Who knows what phones thirty years from now or even five years from now will be able to do? Don’t make the smartphones of the future too dumb. If you can imagine it, there’s probably some software engineer somewhere out there who’s thought of the same thing.

So, when it comes to technology don’t try to get so specific that the technology will be outdated by the time the book comes out.

Here’s a prime example: years ago when I was writing my book The Rook, I thought it would be cool if someone could look up a song online just by humming it and search using sound-based search algorithms rather than just text-based ones. Cutting-edge, right? Well, as I was writing the manuscript, that technology was released. If I’d included it in my book as something new or innovative, readers would have shaken their heads: “They’ve been able to do that forever.” It’s important to keep an eye on current trends and technological breakthroughs.

(14) FANTASTIC ART. CBS’ Sunday Morning paid a visit to “Art collective Meow Wolf”.

What is Meow Wolf? An art collective founded in Santa Fe, N.M., whose name came from words picked out of a hat, and which puts on immersive exhibitions that tantalize audiences with vivid visuals and storytelling that is magical, mysterious, or just downright weird. Their latest exhibit, called “The House of Eternal Return,” is contained in a former bowling alley purchased by one of the group’s benefactors, “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin. Conor Knighton reports.

(15) NEXT WEB. Looper sounds the alert: “Get ready for a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel”.

The news drop came after several days of teasing and a pair of cryptic tweets posted to the official Twitter account for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. On October 27, the account posted a GIF of a genetically modified spider silk-gliding down to the streets of New York and creepy-crawling toward the camera — a moment fans will remember from the aesthetically striking film. The post was accompanied by an emoji of a pair of eyes, often used to indicate that secrecy, sneaky behavior, or some kind of deceitful act is taking place. Then, on October 31, the Into the Spider-Verse Twitter page shared a hype-boosting warning: “Something’s up. Our Spidey sense is tingling. RT if yours is, too.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “How To Power Your House, With xkcd’s Randall Munroe” on YouTube, Randall Munroe offers all sorts of options for powering your house using the amount of space in a typical front yard.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/27/19 We Keep Scrollin’ Most Of Our Lives, Filing In A Pixel’s Paradise

(1) A DRAGON POET. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings contemplates “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Playful and Profound Letter-Poem to Children About the Power of Books and Why We Read”.

…Most dragons don’t know how to read. They hiss and fume and guard their hoard. A tasty knight is what they need
For dinner (they spit out the sword),
Then go to sleep on heaps of treasure. They’ve no use for the written word….

(2) CLOUDY, WITH A CHANCE OF GENRE. Last night on Saturday Night Live there were three sketches with fantasy in them:

  • Spooky Song is about a ghost who really doesn’t want to explain the tasteless way in which he died.
  • Space Mistakes shows what happens when you make mistakes in space.
  • Dance Rehearsal asks, “What happens if you’re taking a dance class and your instructor is a werewolf?”

(3) ‘BOT AND SOULED. The LA Review of Books’ Patrick House considers the writing of robots in “I, Language Robot”.

I was hired to write short fiction at OpenAI, a San Francisco–based artificial intelligence research lab. I would be working alongside an internal version of the so-called ‘language bot’ that produces style-matched prose to any written prompt it’s fed. The loss that I feared was not that the robot would be good at writing — it is, it will be — nor that I would be comparatively less so, but rather that the metabolites of language, which give rise to the incomparable joys of fiction, story, and thought, could be reduced to something merely computable.

(4) PULLMAN’S RETORT. The author’s post appeared atLit Hub on October 8 and the link has made the rounds, but still may be news to some of us: “Philip Pullman on Children’s Literature and the Critics Who Disdain It”.

…The model of growth that seems to lie behind that attitude—the idea that such critics have of what it’s like to grow up—must be  a linear one; they must think that we grow up by moving along a sort of timeline, like a monkey climbing a stick. It makes more sense to me to think of the movement from childhood to adulthood not as a movement along but as a movement outwards, to include more things. C. S. Lewis, who when he wasn’t writing novels had some very sensible things to say about books and reading, made the same point when he said in his essay “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”: “I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon-squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two.”

But the guards on the border won’t have any of that. They are very fierce and stern. They strut up and down with a fine contempt, curling their lips and consulting their clipboards and snapping out orders. They’ve got a lot to do, because at the moment this is an area of great international tension. These days a lot of adults are talking about children’s books. Sometimes they do so in order to deplore the fact that so many other adults are reading them, and are obviously becoming infantilized, because of course children’s books—I quote from a recent article in The Independent—“cannot hope to come close to truths about moral, sexual, social or political” matters. Whereas in even the “flimsiest of science fiction or the nastiest of horror stories . . . there is an understanding of complex human psychologies,” “there is no such psychological understanding in children’s novels,” and furthermore “there are nice clean white lines painted between the good guys and the evil ones” (wrote Jonathan Myerson in The Independent, 14 November 2001).

(5) GOALS AND PURPOSES. Robert J. Sawyer draws the title of his article in the July edition of Galaxy’s Edge, “What SFWA Was Supposed to Be”, from the contrast he perceives between founder Damon Knight’s stated purpose for the organization and the SFWA mission statement of 2018.

…Of course, times change; of course, publishing is different now than it was then. But in the thirty-six years I’ve been a member of SFWA, I’ve seen—and, indeed, foreseen—all the changes that people are talking about now and more (I was writing in 1998 as SFWA president about “the post-publisher economy”).

For instance, it used to be that giant print runs were required to get economical per-copy pricing; that’s no longer true. It used to be there were many thousands of bookstore accounts for publishers to service in North America; sadly, that’s no longer true. It used to be that audiobooks were only made in eviscerated abridgments and only of the biggest print sellers; wonderfully, that’s no longer true. And it used to be that the only effective way to publish a book was on paper. That’s no longer true, either (and I’ve got a bunch of my own older titles out in self-published e-book editions).

Whatever you might think of these changes, every single one of them came with enormous cost savings for publishers, but no portion of that was ever passed on to the authors. I remember at one convention this decade hearing the late David G. Hartwell brag that Tor, the publisher he worked for, had just had its best year ever, while one of his authors—with Hugos galore—confided to me that he didn’t know how he was going to heat his house that coming winter.

Among the most egregious things that have happened during my career: literary agents going from ten-percent commissions to a fifteen percent; publishers locking in a 3:1 split of e-book royalties—three dollars for them to every one for the writer; and publishers using print-on-demand and the mere notional existence of an e-book edition to keep from reverting rights to authors for titles the publisher is no longer promoting or selling in any meaningful quantity. SFWA rolled over on every one of these.

But never let it be said that SFWA is without achievements. They recently—and I’m not making this up—produced an official SFWA secret decoder ring. I didn’t pony up to get one; I doubt Damon Knight would have wanted such a thing, either.

(6) CHAPMAN OBIT. Scholar and regular attendee of the International Conference on the Fantastic Arts Edgar Chapman (1936-2019), a Professor Emeritus in the English Department at Bradley University, died October 11 at the age of 83. He authored numerous articles and books including The Magic Labyrinth of Philip Jose Farmer (1984) and The Road to Castle Mount: The Science Fiction of Robert Silverberg (1999). He also co-edited Classic and Iconoclastic Alternate History Science Fiction (2003).

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Don’t tell Harlan but Ray Bradbury gets credit for Terminator first.  Ray was on the Oscar nominating committee for documentaries, in 1977.  The next screening for the committee was listed as a muscle building movie, Pumping Iron.  Without even screening it the committee basically said NEXT.  Ray spoke up and said they had to screen it because his brother, Skip, was a body builder and worked out on Venice’s Muscle Beach.  After watching the documentary it was nominated.  Making the career for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Heck, we got Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk, too. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 27, 1967 Star Trek’s “Catspaw” was first aired. Written by Robert Bloch who said it was based on his 1957 story, “Broomstick Ride” published in Super Science Fiction. It was their Halloween episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 27, 1922 Ruby Dee. Her first genre role is in Cat People. No name there but she has the wonderful name of Mother Abagail Freemantle in The Stand series. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 27, 1937 Steve Sandor. He made his first genre appearance on Trek playing Lars in the second season episode “The Gamesters of Triskelion”. He also did one-offs on Knight Rider, Fantasy Island and The Six-Million Dollar Man. He did a choice bit of horror in The Ninth Configuration. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1938 Lara Parker, 80. Best known for her role as Angelique on Dark Shadows which aired from 1966 to 1971. She also played Laura Banner in The Incredible Hulk pilot, and Madelaine in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker “The Trevi Collection” episode. And she was on Galactica 1980 in “The Night The Cylons Landed” two-parter. 
  • Born October 27, 1939 John Cleese, 80. Monty Python of course, but also Time BanditsMary Shelley’s Frankenstein, two Bond films as Q and even two Harry Potter films as Nearly Headless Nick. He’s definitely deep into genre film roles. And let’s not forget he shows up as an art lover on the “City of Death” story, a Fourth Doctor story.
  • Born October 27, 1948 Bernie Wrightson. Artist with who with writer Len Wein, he’s known for co-creating Swamp Thing. He did a lot of illustrations from Cemetery Dance magazine to Stephen King graphic novels to DC and Marvel comic. Ell me what you liked about his work. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 27, 1953 Robert Picardo, 66. He debuted in genre as Eddie Quist, the serial killer werewolf in The Howling. He’d be in Dante’s Explorers, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Small Soldiers and Innerspace. And then of course he played the role of the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) on Voyager. And even managed to show on on Stargate SG-1. Busy performer! 
  • Born October 27, 1963 Deborah Moore, 56. English actress and the daughter of actor Roger Moore and Italian actress Luisa Mattioli. She’s an Air Hostess in Die Another Day, a Pierce Brosnan Bond film. And she was a secretary in Goldeneye: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. Her very first role was as Princess Sheela in Warriors of the Apocalypse.
  • Born October 27, 1970 Jonathan Stroud, 49. His djinn-centered Bartimaeus series is most excellent. Though considered children’s novels, I think anyone would enjoy them. I’ve also read the first two in his Lockwood & Co. series as well — very well done. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe finds out why a character is not a Tolkien fan.
  • How To Cat hears Zarathustra speaking, if you know what I mean.

(11) PREFERRED HORROR. At IndieWire, “Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, and 30 More Directors Pick Favorite Horror Movies”.

Quentin Tarantino, on “Audition”

Takashi Miike’s 1999 horror movie “Audition” is often cited as one of the most disturbing films ever made. Ryo Ishibashi stars as a widow named Shigeharu Aoyama who stages auditions for men in hopes of meeting a new husband or life partner. Aoyama falls for Asami (Eihi Shiina), but her dark past has unexpected and brutal consequences. Tarantino called the movie one of his favorites since he’s been a director, referring to it as a “true masterpiece” in a 2009 interview.

 (12) DIRECTOR TO VIDEO. “Fan Video Imagines Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in STAR TREK”Nerdist tell you where to find this micro-epic.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, a.k.a. “the 9th film from Quentin Tarantino,” made quite the splash upon release when it hit theaters this past summer. It had all of Tarantino’s signature trademarks — a couple of cranky male leads, excessive violence, and a rockin’ retro soundtrack. And it’s left QT fans salivating for whatever his 10th (and possibly final?) movie will be. Rumors abound that it could in fact be a Star Trek film. Leading many fans to ponder just what the heck a “Pulp Fiction-esque Star Trek” movie would even look like.

Well, one fan has combined the well known Quentin Tarantino sensibilities and aesthetics with some old school Star Trek footage, and the result is “Once Upon a Time in Star Trek.”

(13) A TREE GROWS IN ANAHEIM. The Orange County (CA) Register makes sure all the locals know: “History & Heritage: The Legend of the Halloween Tree “.

…Bradbury’s novel “The Halloween Tree” tells the story of a group of trick-or-treaters who learn about the origins of Halloween while on an adventure to find their missing friend. Bradbury dreamed of having a Halloween Tree at Disneyland park, and on the 35th anniversary of the novel, his dream was brought to life.

“I belong here in Disneyland, ever since I came here 50 years ago. I’m glad I’m going to be a permanent part of the spirit of Halloween at Disneyland,” the author said at the tree’s dedication. Bradbury would visit the tree before he passed away in 2012.

Today, the Halloween Tree delights guests of all ages and honors Bradbury’s many contributions to Disney. A plaque at the base of the tree commemorates the night of its dedication: “On the night of Halloween 2007, this stately oak officially became ‘The Halloween Tree,’ realizing famed author Ray Bradbury’s dream of having his symbol for the holiday become a part of Disneyland.”

(14) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. CNN finds the way to Sesame Street: “The entrance to this Pennsylvania house is monstrous. Cookie monstrous”.

In the words of Cookie Monster: “Home is where heart is. Heart where cookie is. Math clear: Home is cookie.”

For a Pennsylvania homeowner, Cookie Monster’s logic sounds just about right.

Lisa Boll from York County turned the entrance of her house into Cookie Monster. Literally.

(15) WATCHMEN. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt profiles Regina King, who plays Sister Night in Watchmen.  Betancourt discusses King’s background with showrunner Damon Lindelof and how she signed on  to the part because of Watchmen’s anti-racist themes. “‘Watchmen’ gives Regina King her first superhero role — and takes a bold look at race relations in 2019”.

Showrunner Damon Lindelof was planning to give the “Watchmen” story quite a twist — so he told King to use her unfamiliarity to her advantage. It’s a different approach compared with many actors who land superhero roles and are immediately handed a stack of comics.

“He didn’t want me to confuse how he saw this world,” said King, who worked with Lindelof on HBO’s “The Leftovers.” “He was right.”

“Because I did watch the film after [filming the pilot], and I would have been confused,” she added. “They stand on their own. They don’t even feel related to me in any way. Which I think is a great thing. I think that’s the beauty of Damon making the choice of using the [comics] as canon instead of trying to duplicate, from my understanding, something that was already great.”

(16) HEAVY LIES THE HEAD. Io9’s James Whitbrook says afterwards he was ready for Jedi chiropractic — “I Wore Hasbro’s Ridiculous New Star Wars Replica Helmet for a Day, and All I Got Was Some Neck Ache”.

One of the more expensive offerings Hasbro had for this year’s Triple Force Friday extravaganza was the latest helmet in its Star Wars: The Black Series line of “roleplay” items. Joining a line that already had everything from Darth Vader’s helmet to more Stormtrooper variants than you can shake an Incinerator Trooper at, the Luke Skywalker X-Wing Battle Simulation Helmet is a 1:1 replica of the same helmet worn by everyone’s favorite Rebel-turned-Jedi-turned-Milk-Swigging-Curmudgeon in both A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

Packed with lights and sounds to replicate Luke’s experiences at the battles of Yavin and Hoth, the main draw is it’s…well, a Star Wars helmet you can put on your head.

(17) NO REMATCH! Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: Simon Pegg on the existential terror of zombies and whether Chris Martin really cameos in ‘Shaun of the Dead'”, has an interview with Simon Pegg on the 15th anniversary of Shaun of the Dead where he reveals that Coldplay’s Chris Martin is not in the film and there will never be a sequel to Shaun of the Dead because “it’s a complete story:  it has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

1. There’s a reason slow-moving zombies are terrifying.

When Romero was making his pioneering zombie favorites, the walking dead only moved at a slow and steady pace. But by the time that Wright, Pegg and Frost were making Shaun, zombies had acquired frightening busts of speed in films like 28 Days Later and Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake. Previously a zombie originalist, Pegg now says that’s he’s come around on their lightning-quick descendants. “I’m not the purist I used to be — I’ve seen fast-zombie things that I’ve enjoyed,” the actor says, pointing to the 2016 South Korean cult favorite Train to Busan. But there was never a world in which Shaun would have made the switch, and not just because they were trying to remain true to Romero’s vision. Pegg argues that quicker creatures would have undermined the dramatic metaphor of a person — and entire society — caught in the grip of stagnation, which runs beneath the movie’s comedy. “There’s something incredibly creepy about the shambling dead. They’re more of an effective metaphor for death when they just sort of come slowly. That’s what death is — death doesn’t always just run at you.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/25/19 Oh, Nicky, I Love You Because You Scroll Such Lovely Pixels

(1) $$$ FOR JANEWAY MONUMENT. ScienceFiction.com spotlights a fundraiser — “Fans Are Collecting Money To Dedicate A Monument To Captain Janeway”.

Fans of ‘Star Trek: Voyager‘ are hoping to raise money to erect a monument in honor of lead character Captain Janeway in her future hometown Bloomington, Indiana.  Kate Mulgrew portrayed the Captain for seven seasons on ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ from 1995-2001.  She is the only female starship captain to serve as the focus of a ‘Star Trek’ series.  The fictional character’s backstory included the fact that she was born and raised in Bloomington in the 24th century.

The Captain Janeway Bloomington Collective is raising funds to install a monument to the Star Trek: Voyager character in her “future” birthplace, Bloomington, IN. Donate between Oct. 22 – Dec. 22, and your contribution will be DOUBLED! www.janewaycollective.org/donate

(2) WRITERS, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America responds to a ruthless business practice with a bromide: “SFWA Contracts Committee Advisory on No-advance Contracts”.

Recently, SFWA’s Contracts Committee was made aware of a situation in which a well-liked publisher canceled the publication of a number of books it had contracted to publish….

A publisher so well-liked that it cannot be named. (But see item #3 at the link).

And with this example of a ruthless business practice fresh in their minds what does SFWA advise writers to do?

Publishers of all sizes may find themselves unable to live up to their contractual commitments for a wide variety of reasons, some of which could not have been reasonably anticipated. Hence, the Contracts Committee urges writers to think carefully about signing a contract that provides no advance, or only a nominal advance, while tying up their work for a lengthy period of time.

So think carefully.

(3) LINE UP, SIGN UP, AND REENLIST TODAY. “Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ Enlists Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard And Jessica St. Clair”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

Netflix’s already-in-production comedy ‘Space Force’ has added three new cast members to an already impressive cast, fronted by Steve Carell and John Malkovich.  They will now be joined by Noah Emmerich, Fred Willard, and Jessica St. Clair.  Carell stars as Mark R. Naird, “a General tapped by the White House to lead a new branch of the Armed Forces with the goal of putting American ‘Boots on the Moon’ by 2024.”  Carell co-created the show with Greg Daniels (‘The Office’, ‘King of the Hill’).

Emmerich will portray the… *ahem* interestingly named Kick Grabaston, Naird’s old commanding officer, who is now the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff.  Jealous of Naird’s new position, he does “everything in his considerable power to make Naird’s life difficult.”

(4) BUT IS IT ART? Cora Buhlert sums up the cinematic kerfuffle in “Old Directors Yell at Clouds – Pardon, Superheroes”.

…Because for all their flaws, today’s superhero movies are a lot more diverse in front and behind the camera, then the highly touted movies of the New Hollywood era, which were made by and for a very narrow slice of people. It’s no accident that directors, actors and characters of those movies are all white and male and either Italian-American or members of some other immigrant group (the characters in The Deer Hunter are all descendants of Russian immigrants). There are a lot of people who never saw themselves reflected in those movies – women, people of colour, LGBTQ people, people who are not American – and who likely never much cared for those movies either, because the big Scorsese or Coppola fanboys are mostly white dudes themselves.

Saladin Ahmed says it best in the following tweet:

(5) POP! SIX! SQUISH! Eneasz Brodski mourns a convention experience in “Why Are Your So Bad?” at the Death Is Bad blog.

I had a saddening encounter this weekend. On a panel about civil verbal disagreement, an audience member asked what to do when people use terms that are viewed by one side in a debate as slurs (such as “climate-denier”) and was told that in such a case, rather than getting upset one should stay quiet and introspect on their situation and see if they can understand why the other party would say such things….

(I know that “climate denier” is obviously drastically different. No one’s ever been kicked out of their house or beaten to death for being a climate denier. But after a failed attempt using a more analogous example, I found this was the only one that could get my co-panelist to consider how someone from the outside would view her call to ponder “why am I so bad?” rather than anything remotely realistic.)

Importantly, afterwards the panelist told me privately that she didn’t mean to be unfair or anything. It’s just that the person who asked the question was a White Man, he obviously needed to reflect on himself. And implicit both in her words and the “you know…” look she was giving me was that white men can have no legitimate complaints about how they are treated, and that was the basis of her answer. They are a class that can only ever do violence, and no verbal abuse can be visited upon them that is not morally justified. The only thing she knew about the question-asker was that he was white and male and somewhere north of his 40s, and that was enough.

(6) CARRIE FISHER BIO ON THE WAY. “Author of unauthorized Carrie Fisher biography defends it against family disavowal”Entertaiment Weekly has statements from both sides.

A new biography on the late actress and writer Carrie Fisher is generating controversy ahead of its release next month.

On Thursday, Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, and her father, Bryan Lourd, issued a statement disavowing Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller. Set to be published through the Farrar, Straus and Giroux imprint Sarah Crichton Books, which falls under Macmillan — one of the Big 5 publishing houses in the U.S. — the book has generated strong buzz in the form of starred trade reviews and praise from award-winning writers including Rebecca Traister and David Maraniss.

Bryan Lourd wrote the statement. He calls the biography “unauthorized,” writing, “I do not know Ms. Weller. Billie does not know Ms. Weller. And, to my knowledge, Carrie did not know her.” He adds that Weller sold the book “without our involvement,” and that he has not read the book. “The only books about Carrie Fisher worth reading are the ones Carrie wrote herself,” he concludes. “She perfectly told us everything we needed to know.”

(7) HE’S DEAD JIM. The Guardian reports “Plan to exhume James Joyce’s remains fires international ‘battle of the bones’”. Seven cities claimed Homer dead, and all that.

… Joyce left Ireland in 1904 to live in Trieste, Paris and Zurich, never returning to his homeland after 1912. The writer had a complex relationship with the country, which in effect banned Ulysses over its “obscene” and “anti-Irish” content. He “decries Irish society’s conservatism, pietism and blinkered nationalism” in his writing, according to an essay from the Irish Emigration Museum curator Jessica Traynor. One of the characters in his novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man describes Ireland as “the old sow that eats her farrow”.

Although Joyce “couldn’t bear to live in Dublin”, Traynor continues, his “spiritual and artistic engagement with the city continued until the end of his life”. When he lived in Paris, his “favourite pastime was to seek out visitors from Dublin and ask them to recount the names of the shops and pubs from Amiens Street to Nelson’s Column on O’Connell Street”.

When Joyce died aged 58 after undergoing surgery on a perforated ulcer, Ireland’s secretary of external affairs sent the order: “Please wire details about Joyce’s death. If possible find out if he died a Catholic.” Neither of the two Irish diplomats in Switzerland at the time attended his funeral, and the Irish government later denied Barnacle’s request to repatriate his remains.

If the Dublin city councillors’ motion is passed, the next step will be to ask the Irish government to request the remains be returned before the centenary celebrations around the publication of Ulysses in 2022. A spokeswoman for culture minister Josepha Madigan told theJournal.ie it was “a matter in the first instance for family members and/or the trustees of the Joyce estate”.

(8) COLLECTIBLE FANZINES. PoopSheet Foundation has details about the sale of the “Steve Ogden Fanzine Collection on eBay”.

Some of you know fanzine publisher/collector Steve Ogden passed recently. Per his wishes, I’ve begun listing his massive collection which includes comic fanzines, sf fanzines, mini-comics, underground comix, comic books and more.

Here are the current auctions and there are many, many more on the way. Please add me as a favorite seller if you’d like to stay on top of the new listings.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Science Fantasy was a British fantasy and science fiction magazine, launched in 1950 by Nova Publications. John Carnell edited the magazine beginning with the third issue, typically running a long lead novelette along with several shorter stories….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 25, 1909 Whit Bissell. You most likely know him as Station Manager Lurry on “The Trouble With Tribbles”,  but his major contribution to the SFF genre was being in all thirty episodes of The Time Tunnel as Lt. Gen. Heywood Kirk. He also did one-offs on The Invaders, I Dream of Jeannie, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Science Fiction Theater, The Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. And yes, in The Time Machine film. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 25, 1940 Janet Fox. Author whose stories appeared in countless genre zines and anthologies between the Seventies and mid-Nineties.  Her long fiction, mostly the Scorpio Rising series, was done as Alex McDonough. She’s also known for the Scavenger’s Newsletter which featured a number of noted writers during its long run including Linda Sherman, Jeff VanderMeer and Jim Lee. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 25, 1955 Gale Anne Hurd, 64. Her first genre work was as Corman’s production manager on Battle beyond the Stars. (A decent 42% at Rotten Tomatoes.) From there, we’ve such films as Æon Flux, the Terminator franchise, AliensAlien NationTremorsHulk and two of the Punisher films to name just some of her genre work. Have any of her films been nominated for Hugos? 
  • Born October 25, 1955 Glynis Barber, 64. Soolin on Blake’s 7 for a series. She also appeared in The Hound of the Baskervilles (Ian Richard and Donald Churchill were Holmes and Watson) and a Sherlock Holmes series I didn’t know about, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson starring Geoffrey Whitehead and Donald Pickering. 
  • Born October 25, 1971 Marko Kloos, 48. Lines of Departure was nominated for the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel on a slate organized by the Sad Puppies. In reaction to this, Kloos withdrew the novel from consideration for the award. He was subsequently honored by George R. R. Martin for this decision. And that gets him Birthday Honors. 
  • Born October 25, 1989 Mia Wasikowska, 30. She’s Alice in Tim Burton’s creepy Alice in Wonderland and equally creepy Alice Through the Looking Glass. Rotten Tomatoes gave the first a 53% rating and the second a 29% rating.

(11) THE BOX SCORE. The Hollywood Reporter hears cash registers ringing: “Box Office: ‘Joker’ Passes ‘Deadpool’ as Top-Grossing R-Rated Pic of All Time”. I didn’t know they kept statistics for this.

To date, Joker has earned $258.6 in North America and $529.5 million internationally. It is is expected to ultimately take in close to $900 million globally, with some thinking it has a shot at approaching $1 billion. The film is an enormous win for Warner Bros., particularly considering it faced security concerns ahead of its release and that it is not a traditional comic book movie. Ultimately, Joker is expected to turn a profit north of $400 million. Village Roadshow and Bron each have a 25 percent stake in the film.

The new record for Joker puts it atop an R-rated all-time list that, in addition to Deadpool, includes 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded ($738.6 million), 2017’s It‘s ($697 million) and 2003’s The Passion of the Christ ($622.3 million), not adjusted for inflation.

(12) YOUR MONEY’S NO GOOD HERE. However, one studio is strangling a traditional revenue stream. Vulture reports “Disney Is Quietly Placing Classic Fox Movies Into Its Vault, and That’s Worrying”.

Joe Neff knew there was trouble when the horror films started vanishing.

Neff is the director of the 24-Hour Science Fiction and Horror Marathons that happen every spring and fall at the Drexel Theater, an independent venue in Columbus, Ohio. For this year’s Horror Marathon, Neff wanted to screen the original 1976 version of The Omen and the 1986 remake of The Fly, two of hundreds of older 20th Century Fox features that became the property of the Walt Disney Corporation after its $7.3 billion purchase of the studio’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, was made official this past spring. In the preceding few months, Neff had heard rumblings in his Google group of film programmers that Disney was about to start treating older Fox titles as they do older Disney titles — making them mostly unavailable to for-profit theaters. More and more film programmers and theater managers were reporting that they had suddenly and cryptically been told by their studio contacts that Fox’s back catalogue was no longer available to show. Some got calls informing them that an existing booking had been revoked.

(13) WATCHMEN AND ITS DISCONTENTS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] A segment of the fan community is voicing grievances about HBO’s Watchmen series that they complain is “too political.” Their grievance is, of course, nonsense, and Alex Abad-Santos of Vox magazine delves into exactly why Watchmen is, and always has been, a seriously political (dare we even say anti-fascist?) work of fiction. “Some Watchmen fans are mad that HBO’s version is political. But Watchmen has always been political.”  

In Moore and Gibbons’ version of Watchmen, giving someone unrestrained authority is a recipe for disaster. Lindelof pushes that question further and glances into American history to draw on that same theme, but from the point of view of black men and women — people who have been ostracized, belittled, dehumanized. People who someone like Rorschach would have loathed.

(14) LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHTENED OUT. Gareth L. Powell will explain it all to you.

(15) FOR ALL MANKIND. WIRED braves the elements to take readers “Inside Apple’s High-Flying Bid to Become a Streaming Giant”.

More than 50 buildings and soundstages sprawl across the 44 acres of the Sony Pictures lot. That’s a lot of window­less oblongs, and even more distance between them. If you need to get from, say, the Jimmy Stewart Building to Stage 15, golf carts and Sprinter vans are the customary mode—even on sunny days. On a particular Saturday in February, while an atmospheric river settled over Los Angeles, those vehicles were a necessity. The downpour was bad luck for the dozens of journalists there that day, but it was also a touch allegorical. After what felt like years of anticipation, Apple was about to take us behind the scenes of a show it was making for its still ­mysterious, still unnamed subscription streaming service. We were going to find out if Apple, maker of so many devices that have redefined the way we consume content, could finally make content—good content—of its own.

After the journalists handed their phones to Apple staffers to be taped up with camera-blockings stickers, the vans shuttled the group to Stage 15. (The Sony complex is also home to HBO’s Insecure and Showtime’s Ray Donovan. Apple may have a near-trillion-dollar market cap, but it still leases soundstages like everyone else in Hollywood.) Dryness maintained, we walked into the control room of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center circa 1969.

(16) THE NOTHINGULARITY. Vox makes a recommendation: “Zero Hours is a terrific fiction podcast about the end of the world”.

…But what feels like the end of the world happens millions of times a day on a more personal level. A marriage crumbles into ruin. Somebody loses their job. A child dies. Your favorite baseball team makes some boneheaded managing decisions and misses the World Series. You can’t find the chips you want. None of these is literally apocalyptic, but each one can be metaphorically so. Sometimes, that’s as bad as the real thing.

The space of the personal apocalypse is where the new audio fiction podcast Zero Hours thrives. It’s a seven-episode anthology series set across seven centuries and 594 years, beginning in 1722 and ending in 2316. (In between every episode, 99 years pass, so episode two takes place in 1821, episode three takes place in 1920, etc.)

Every episode depicts one of these smaller, personal apocalypses, but none of them actually end humanity (though the last takes place after we’ve gone extinct). The story is probably most similar to David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas (and the subsequent film based on it), but really, it’s not quite like any other work of fiction.

(17) WHAT’S STREAMING? Zomboat! on Hulu.

In this British sitcom available on Hulu, a cheeky group of travelers flee a zombie-infested Birmingham, England, by canal.

Daybreak on Netflix, is a comedy that “revolves around cliquey teens in a post-apocalyptic Glendale, Calif., where a nuclear blast has transformed many grown-ups into zombie-like monsters.” (Hey, John King Tarpinian’s hometown!)

(18) NOT YOUR AVERAGE TAILORS. A company called Full Body Armors offers custom-fitted superhero outfits including Batman, Iron Man, and Deadpool.  “The Iron Man Mark 47 suit can include a motorized mask, a voice changer, and even an integrated cooling system.”  All for five thou a suit!

Even if you order today, The Wearable Armored Batsuit Costume Suit won’t arrive in time for Halloween. Or Christmas. Maybe for Martin Luther King’s Birthday.

(19) SJWCS’ REAL STORY. “Why do we think cats are unfriendly?” If you feed them, they will come. Maybe. Eventually.

Cats are the only asocial animal we have successfully domesticated. We’re disappointed that we don’t bond with them as easily as dogs. But are we just missing the signs?

Dogs seem almost biologically incapable of hiding their inner moods – shuffling, snuffling, tail-wagging clues to contentment, nervousness or sheer, unadorned joy. Despite what the famous painting might want to tell you, dogs would be terrible poker players. We pick up their cues all too easily.

Cats also have sophisticated body language – their moods are signalled through twitching tails, ruffled fur, and the position of ears and whiskers. A purr usually (but not always) signals friendliness or contentment. They’re a usually reliable method of working out if the cat is in friendly mode or best left alone.

…One clue to the cat’s image may come from how they were domesticated in the first place. It was a much more gradual process than that of dogs – and cats were very much in the driving seat. The earliest domesticated cats started appearing in Neolithic villages in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. They didn’t depend on their early human hosts for food – they were encouraged to fetch it themselves, keeping crops and food stores safe from rats and other vermin. Our relationship with them was, from the outset, a little more at arms’ length than dogs, who helped us hunt and relied upon humans for a share of the spoils.

The cat that may be currently curled up on your sofa or glaring at you from its vantage point on top of the bookcase shares many of its instincts with that of its pre-domestic ancestors – the desire to hunt, to patrol territory, guarding it from other cat; they are much closer to their old selves than dogs. Our taming of cats has only partly removed them from the wild.

(20) THIS ONE’S REAL. Not a link to an Onion surrogate this time: “JK Rowling calls for end to ‘orphanage tourism'”.

JK Rowling has told young people not to become volunteers in overseas orphanages, because of the risk that they might be unwittingly supporting places that are cruel to children.

The Harry Potter author warned that children in orphanages in poorer countries often still had parents – but they had been separated by poverty rather than the death of their parents.

“Do not volunteer in orphanages. Instead, look at what drives children into institutions,” she told a conference in London.

The author set up a charity, Lumos, in response to cases of neglect in Eastern European orphanages, which is campaigning to remove children from orphanages and return them to their families.

It operates in countries including Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Colombia, Haiti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

(21) NOW IN PAPER. Well, yes, it is a commercial. But this is a pretty book! Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop Up Galaxy preview.

Presented in a dynamic 360-degree format that enables the action to be viewed from all sides, the book also opens up to form a displayable 3D diorama of the entire saga. Packed with amazing Star Wars moments and hidden surprises to discover, Star Wars: The Ultimate Pop-Up Galaxy represents a whole new level of sophistication and interactivity in pop-up books and is guaranteed to thrill fans of all ages. Matthew is the King of Paper Engineering and returns to the franchise with this new, deluxe pop-up.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Watchmen Series Discussion Post (Here There Be Spoilers)

By Daniel Dern: Having (a) read Alan Moore & Dave Gibbon’s original WATCHMEN comic book  mini-series as it was coming out (and keeping up with the discussions on Usenet), (b) watched Snyder’s 2009 movie (see my write-up, “I Watched The WATCHMEN (Movie, That Is)’), and, (c) least importantly, read DC Comics Before Watchmen 37-issue prequel (and d) having, somewhere, a set of the original Watchmen pins), I can say with reasonable confidence that you don’t have to have read/seen any of these to watch HBO’s new Watchmen mini-series. At least, not as of Episode 1, which is all that’s been aired as I write this.

If you have read the original comics and/or seen the movie (particularly the former), you will spot, or know a little more about, some of the bits (although these will, presumably, be explained as in further episodes), e.g., (1) the little blue guy doing something on Mars, (2) the old rich white guy, (3) a cake that I think looked sort of like a squiddy monster, (4) the use of watch and watchmaker references and imagery.

On the other hand, at least so far, the “Rorschach” inkblot masks, and people wearing them, in HBO’s series may, for all I know/we might find out, have no relation to the original.

That said, one episode in, it’s incredibly well done. It slightly reminds me of the recent (still going, IIRC) Legion show in the way that many of the scenes don’t immediately make sense or fit together, although Legion went mind-bendingly over the top on this, while this is simply, “whoa” level.

This is an grim show so far — unsurprising given what the show is focusing on and how — and I don’t anticipate much if any cheerful parts, although hopefully there’s some glimmer or change or hope at the (very) end.

Now to wait for HBO/BBC’s His Dark Materials mini-series, premiering on HBO on November 4. The trailers look awesome. Very different from the Disney movie (just a comment, not a criticism — Disney’s looked spot on to how I “saw the book in my mind as read it”).

Add your thoughts about the new Watchmen series in comments. *SPOILER WARNING*

Pixel Scroll 10/20/19 Recommended To All To Whom This Sounds Like A Recommendation

(1) NOW IT’S AN APOCALYPSE. The row started by Martin Scorsese’s remarks isn’t likely to subside anytime soon now that Francis Ford Coppola has been even more extreme in his supporting comments: “Coppola backs Scorsese in row over Marvel films”.

Francis Ford Coppola jumped into a controversy over the Marvel superhero movies Saturday, not just backing fellow director Martin Scorsese’s critique of the films but denouncing them as “despicable”…

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.

“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said.

“Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

(2) CINEMA AND THE MCU. David Gerrold challenges those two notable filmmakers’ opinion:

I disagree with Scorsese. I disagree with Coppola. They are wrong to dismiss the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “not cinema.”

The final battle in Avengers Endgame was a masterpiece of cinema, ranking with the final battle in Seven Samurai.

Why do I say this?

Because we got to see people we had fallen in love with rise to the most courageous moments of their lives — and when that whole group of women warriors showed up, that was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever seen in a movie. I cheered.

See, the thing about movies — yes, they’re art. There is true artistry in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Goodfellas is riveting, so is Casino.

But … I did not cheer any moment in any of those pictures. Was I emotionally involved? Yes. When the door closes on Kate’s realization that Michael has lied to her, that’s a powerful cinematic moment that resonates forever.

But do I come out of Scorsese and Coppola’s movies feeling cheered? No. Enlightened? Maybe a little. But never cheered.

And I think that’s part of their resistance to the Marvel films. A Marvel film is a good time. You experience a challenge, a triumph, a few laughs, and you end up feeling emotionally gratified, even exhilarated…

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her pictures of the reading: “Fantastic fiction at KGB October 16 photos”.

A nice crowd showed up to hear Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace read from their new novels, despite a lot of rain.

Nicole Kornher-Stace and Barbara Krasnoff

(4) UNWONTED PERFECTION. You don’t remember typing that word? You thought you wrote another one? In fact, you’re sure of it? Granola Rolla, a Facebook friend, takes that sort of thing in stride:

Autocorrect is a poet, effortlessly, without pretense, never feeling like it should explain itself. I envy the confidence with which it edits poetry into my day. Also, I have disreputable gloves on my shopping list. I doubt they’ll be as useful for the housework as the disposable gloves I’d thought I wanted, but such a fun thing to ponder.

(5) IT’S TAKING A KIP. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Phone Call Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving”.

Talking was the most popular way to communicate via cellphone in the fall of 2012, with 94% of survey respondents having done so in the prior week, according to consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons. By the spring of 2019, talking had fallen to least popular, behind texting, emailing, posting to social media and using chat apps, with just 45% reporting doing it in the prior week. In other words, less than half had used their phone for an actual phone call.

Multiple people I interviewed said when the phone rings unexpectedly, they assume someone has died….

(6) CUT TO THE CHASE. Carlye Wisel, in “Disney Finally Released Details on Rise of the Resistance — and It’s Going to Be the Best Star Wars Ride Yet” in Travel and Leisure, says that Disney’s new Star Wars ride, which will open on December 5 at Disney World, will last 15 minutes, includes trackless technology, and promises to have humor in the grim battle between the Resistance and the First Order. (Article warns where the spoilers begin.)

With multiple ride systems — four to be exact — that guests will experience while traveling on this intergalactic journey, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be one of the longest Disney rides in existence, as guests find themselves being chased by Kylo Ren for 15 minutes.

The latest Star Wars ride will also function like all your favorite Disney attractions combined into one, channeling The Haunted Mansion, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and famed overseas attractions like Mystic Manor for a thematic experience likely to exceed expectations, even for those who have already tried out other Star Wars rides. Paired with its special effects, projections, and blaster gunfire, Rise of the Resistance is shaping up to be a cinematic attraction so over the top, you won’t even be able to imagine what will come next.

(7) ESCAPING OBSCURITY. Slashfilm says tickets are available: “‘Roundtable’ Live Read: Brian K. Vaughan’s Unproduced Script to Be Read Aloud in Hollywood”. The show is November 2.

In the summer of 2008, Eisner and Harvey Award-winning comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, Y: The Last Man) sold a high-concept screenplay to DreamWorks called Roundtable. The movie never went into production, the script sat on a shelf collecting dust, and Vaughan went on to become the showrunner of the CBS TV series Under the Dome and continue his career in comics by writing things like the sci-fi/fantasy epic Saga. But now, eleven years later, Vaughan’s Roundtable script will finally see the light of day.

Sort of.

The Black List, the organization that publishes an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in the industry, is sponsoring a live reading of the script for one night only in Los Angeles, and this sounds like a cool opportunity to experience a story that may otherwise languish in obscurity forever. Read on for the synopsis of Roundtable, and to find out how to get tickets to the show.

(8) CAN’T GET OUT. CBS Sunday Morning devoted a segment today to “Playing an escape room” (video).

Correspondents David Pogue, Martha Teichner and Nancy Giles, along with “Sunday Morning” intern Cory Peeler, face a difficult challenge: Find their way out of a room before a bomb goes off! It’s just one of many examples of the big business in escape rooms – immersive adventures in which people must solve puzzles in order to extricate themselves. Air Date: Oct 20, 2019

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 20, 1965 Village Of The Giants premiered.  It starred Tommy Kirk and Beau Bridges, and is very loosely based on Wells’s book The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth. It scores 20% at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • October 20, 1987 The Hidden premiered. Starring Kyle McLachlan with Claudia Christian in an interesting cameo as well, reviewers (76%) and audience.(72%) alike loved it at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. Creator and writer, along with Manfred Bennington Lee, of Ellery Queen. Now I wasn’t going to say was he was genre but ESF does say he was because such genre authors such as Sturgeon penned Queen novels such as The Player on the Other Side. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring. A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best known for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had another appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea “The Wax Men” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1943 Peter Weston. He made uncountable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards but never won, including one nomination for his autobiography, Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Beginning in 1984 and for many years after, those Awards were cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1935 Leg Mailer, 85. He showed up in Trek twice first playing Bilar in “The Return of the Archons” and then being an Ekosian SS lieutenant in the “Patterns of Force” episode. And he Imperial Guard Number One in The Star Wars Holiday Special.  He had one-offs on The Greatest American Hero and the original Mission:Impossible, and he did voice work for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Note: until 1970, he used his birth name of Ralph Medina. 
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the Manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her pleased if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1941 Anneke Wills, 78. In 1966, she took the role of Polly, a companion to both the First and Second Doctors. She was herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. She was also in Doctor Who: Devious, a fan film in development since 1991. You can see the first part here. 
  • Born October 20, 1946 Thomas Wylde, 73. He’s here because he’s got two stories in the Alien Speedway franchise, Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #2: Pitfall and Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #3: The Web. I’ve never heard of these. Anyone read them?  He’s also got two stories in L. Sprague de Camp’s Doctor Bones series as well. 
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 61. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UP ALL NIGHT. In the Washington Post Magazine, Mikaela Lefrak profiles Andrew Aydin, whose day job is working for Rep. John Lewis and whose night-time job was helping Rep. Lewis write the Eisner Award-winning March. “He’s a Hill staffer for Rep. John Lewis by day — and an award-winning graphic novelist by night”.

…While they were writing “March,” they would spend hours on the phone combing through Lewis’s memories of sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters and the Bloody Sunday attacks during the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march. Occasionally they’d even fall asleep while still on the phone. “It reminded me of when sometimes Martin Luther King Jr. would call me late at night and he would fall asleep, and then I would fall asleep,” Lewis told me. “We’d talk and talk.”

Both men drew inspiration for the project from the 1957 “Montgomery Story” comic book that Lewis read as a teen. (It sold for 10 cents a copy.) They also looked to successful graphic memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.”

(13) WATCHMEN. The New York Times James Poniewozik says Lindelof’s TV adaptation delivers “a mystifying world you want to spend time in.” — “Review: ‘Watchmen’ Is an Audacious Rorschach Test”.

Damon Lindelof’s entertaining comic-book rethink takes on the Big Bad of white supremacy, explosively and sometimes unsteadily.

Many a superhero origin story involves exposure to a volatile substance — something dangerous, radioactive, caustic — that can be powerful if mastered, ruinous if uncontrolled.

In HBO’s “Watchmen,” beginning Sunday, that fissile storytelling material is history: specifically, America’s legacy of white supremacy. The first episode begins with the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Okla., in which white mobs rampaged in the prosperous “Black Wall Street,” massacring African-Americans in the street and strafing them from above with airplanes. A small boy’s parents pack him onto a car that’s fleeing the mayhem, like Kal-El being sent from Krypton. But there is no Superman flying to the rescue.

With that opening, Damon Lindelof (“Lost,” “The Leftovers”) reframes the universe that the writer Alan Moore and the artist Dave Gibbons created in the 1980s comics series. Where Moore wrote an alternative history of Cold War America — a pre-apocalyptic dystopia in which masked vigilantes have been outlawed — Lindelof reaches back and forward in time to root his caped-crusaders story in a brutal American tragedy.

The choice invests this breathtaking spectacle with urgency. “Watchmen” is a first-class entertainment out of the box, immediately creating a sad and wondrous retro-futuristic world. It takes longer, though, to get a handle on the complicated and all-too-real material it uses as its nuclear fuel….

(14) TOPIC OF CONVERSATION. Also in the Washington Post Magazine, in the Date Lab column, Neil Drumming explained what happened when the Post arranged for Piotr Gregowski and Claire Wilhelm to go on a blind date. “Date Lab: He worried that he sounded a little too excited about a fantasy novel”.

Things picked up when Claire mentioned that she’d been reading The Name of the Wind. a fantasy novel from The Kingfisher Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss.  Piotr is, as he puts it, ‘a huge fantasy nerd.’ ‘He was very excited to talk about that,’ said Claire.  He taught her how to pronounce the name of the novel’s main character, Kvothe.  (It’s Ka-Voth-ee.)  Piotr loosened up considerably on the topic of fantasy fiction. ‘Probably too much for a first date,’ he told me.  He needn’t have been concerned; a self-proclaimed fantasy nerd herself, Claire described him as ‘just the right amount of nerd.’  ‘We had a lot in common,’ she said.

However…

“Claire told me she didn’t feel much of an attraction, either, but ‘I would maybe have gone out with him if he had asked.’  In the end, she  considers the date a success because ‘I got to talk about books I like.’

But they didn’t go out again.

(15) AFTER A DNA TEST. Severance recommends, “If you want to comfort someone who’s had a DNA surprise, avoid making these 10 comments.”

Until recently, most people likely haven’t encountered someone who’s been knocked off balance by a DNA test result, so it’s understandable they might not appreciate the magnitude of the impact. But it’s just a matter of time. Mind-blowing DNA revelations are becoming so common that some DNA testing companies have trained their customer service staff representatives to respond empathetically. While those employees may know the right thing to say, here in the real world the people around us often haven’t got a clue how it feels — like a punch to the gut.

If you’ve become untethered from your genetic family, you might get a second surprise: some of your friends and loved ones may be remarkably unsympathetic, often infuriatingly judgmental, and sometimes even hostile. It’s clear that although DNA surprises have become ubiquitous, social attitudes haven’t kept pace, and a stigma remains….

3. Blood doesn’t make family.

This tries to mollify us and discount our feelings at the same time. Blood is exactly what makes family, consanguinity being the first definition of kinship. Certainly there are also families of affinity, but the familial love we feel for them doesn’t alter the fact that our blood relatives exist and they matter to us.

(16) SOCIABLE SLIME. “‘The Blob,’ A Smart Yet Brainless Organism Fit For Sci-Fi, Gets Its Own Exhibit”NPR has the story.

A brainless, bright-yellow organism that can solve mazes and heal itself is making its debut at a Paris zoo this weekend.

At least so far, “the blob” is more benevolent than the ravenous star of its 1950s sci-fi film classic namesake.

Time-lapsed videos of the blob show a slimy organism rapidly multiplying in size. How fast exactly? The blob can sprint about four centimeters per hour, according to the Paris Zoological Park

The blob is neither animal, nor plant. And although Physarum polycephalum — Latin for “many-headed slime” — is classified as a type of slime mold, scientists now consider the creature unrelated to fungi.

…The slime mold, which lacks a nervous system, is capable of advanced decision-making, learning and long-term memory storage, according to Audrey Dussutour, who studies unicellular organisms with the French National Center for Scientific Research.

“It can find its way through a maze, it can construct efficient transport networks, sometimes better than us, actually,” Dussutour said in an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition.

(17) THE LONG HAUL. “Qantas completes test of longest non-stop passenger flight” — note change in approach to jet lag.

Australian carrier Qantas has completed a test of the longest non-stop commercial passenger flight as part of research on how the journey could affect pilots, crew and passengers.

The Boeing 787-9 with 49 people on board took 19 hours and 16 minutes to fly from New York to Sydney, a 16,200-km (10,066-mile) route.

Next month, the company plans to test a non-stop flight from London to Sydney.

Qantas expects to decide on whether to start the routes by the end of 2019.

If it goes ahead with them, the services would start operating in 2022 or 2023.

…Passengers set their watches to Sydney time after boarding and were kept awake until night fell in eastern Australia to reduce their jetlag.

Six hours later, they were served a high-carbohydrate meal and the lights were dimmed to encourage them to sleep.

On-board tests included monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness as well as exercise classes for passengers and analysis of the impact of crossing so many time zones on people’s bodies.

(18) USEFUL SJWC? BBC has video of “Mr London Meow: The therapy cat visiting hospitals”. Much better company than The Blob.

Mr London Meow is a therapy cat who goes into some of London’s hospitals to offer therapeutic care to patients.

At the Royal London in Whitechapel he is loved not just by the patients, but by the staff as well.

(19) ANOTHER POTTERVERSE INSIGHT NOBODY ASKED FOR. Don’t read this Clickhole post if you’re sensitive to insults against Italians. “Big Step Backward: J.K. Rowling Has Revealed That Dementors Are The Wizarding World’s Version Of Italians”.

Buckle up, Harry Potter fans, because J.K. Rowling’s latest bombshell about the series definitely isn’t doing anything for inclusivity: The bestselling author has revealed that Dementors are the wizarding world’s version of Italians.

(20) FOR YOUR VIEWING TERROR. Vogue nominates “The 40 Best Spooky Movies to Watch for Halloween”. Three of them are —

Halloweentown

A Disney Channel original movie from the era before they were all about tweens becoming pop stars. (Stream it on Hulu and Amazon.)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

If you’ve been into the sexy new Sabrina show, revisit the quirky original. You won’t be disappointed. (Stream it on Amazon.)

Practical Magic

You’ll want to become a witch after watching this ’90s cinematic staple. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as witchy sisters navigating love, death, and magic. (Stream it on Amazon.)

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller with an assist from Anna NImmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/19/19 Scrollgar, Do We Have Pixel Sign?

(1) GALAXY QUEST. See the trailer for Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary, which will be distributed through Fathom Events.

By all accounts, it was a movie that beat all odds: Surviving a set fire, the loss of a powerful director, and a studio that didn’t understand what it had, “Galaxy Quest” turned into a pop-culture phenomenon that would “never give up, never surrender.” As the cult classic nears its 20th anniversary – premiering on December 25, 1999 – “Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary” explores how the science-fiction comedy became an enduring fan favorite, a movie that helped launch the sci-fi- and fantasy-driven movie and TV industry that dominates global entertainment today.

(2) WILL THIS THREAT ACTUALLY WORK? It would be interesting to know the terms of the original gift, and whether a Weisinger descendant can revoke it: “University may lose Superman papers over Liz Cheney comments”.

The University of Wyoming could lose the papers of a longtime “Superman” comic book editor after his son took offense to comments by Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports Hank Weisinger contacted the university’s American Heritage Center Tuesday demanding the return of the collected papers of Mort Weisinger.

The elder Weisinger spent three decades as the story editor of the “Superman” series published by DC Comics Inc.

Hank Weisinger says his action was prompted by comments the Wyoming Republican representative made Monday placing blame for Turkey’s Oct. 9 invasion of Syria on presidential impeachment proceedings by Democrats.

Weisinger says he does not want his father’s papers at a university represented by a member of Congress he perceives as opposing Superman’s values of “truth, justice and the American way.”

The University of Wyoming’s Comic Book Industry holdings include the Mort Weisinger Papers which cover his work on Superman and other publications:

Collection contains materials relating to Weisinger’s work as a writer and editor from 1928-1978. Collection includes correspondence (1932-1978) mostly regarding his work as a writer and editor for “This Week” and other magazines and with companies who were included in “1001 Valuable Things”; the galleys and manuscripts for “The Contest,” “The Complete Alibi Handbook” and “1001 Valuable Things”; the manuscript for an unpublished novel about a U.S. President (ca. 1975); legal agreements between Weisinger and “This Week” and Bantam Books (1954-1978); and photographs of Weisinger, the Weisinger family and various celebrities.

(3) WATCHMEN IN TIME. NPR’s Eric Deggans asks and answers: “Who Watches This ‘Watchmen?’ I Will, And You Should”.

The classic graphic novel Watchmen – an explicit, realistic take on what the world might be like if people actually put on costumes and masks to fight crime — tackled many social and political issues: American imperialism. Nuclear tensions with the Soviet Union. The corruption of a President Nixon who stayed in office for five terms.

But there’s one subject the book — hailed by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the last century – didn’t really approach.

Race.

So it makes a certain kind of sense that, when superstar TV producer Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) decided to build an HBO series around a modern continuation of the 1980s-era novel – okay, comic book — racial tension would be the first thing he tackled.

The result is a visually stunning, energetically complex series that digs into the hottest social issue of our time. But it’s done in a way that may leave viewers unsure exactly what Lindelof is saying about it all.

(4) COMICS IN SCHOOL. “‘Comic Book Libraries’ for Ypsilanti students blows past fundraising goal”MLive’s story covers the successful initiative.

A program led by two Eastern Michigan University alums aims to encourage area students to read by giving them access to “Comic Book Libraries” at community schools.

And a recent GoFundMe campaign to help expand the program has blown past its fundraising goal twice in a week.

The GoFundMe appeal “Providing Comic Book Libraries for local students!” has raised over $3,000.

Comic Book Libraries is a Hero Nation initiative that seeks to improve youth literacy by providing high-interest reading material to classrooms throughout our community.

We currently have educators at five different schools throughout our community hosting Comic Book Libraries and checking books out to eager students.

Graphic novels and comic books are excellent resources that help engage students with literature and art. From phenomenal fantasy adventures, to riveting retellings of historical events, there’s a graphic novel for everyone! 

(5) MUSH! NPR’s Scott Simon interviews the author and asks the obligatory question in “George R.R. Martin Really Does Know You Want Him To Write Faster”.

On whether it’s difficult to have millions of people waiting for The Winds of Winter, the next volume of A Song of Ice and Fire

Yes, especially because a certain portion of them are really impatient and snarky about it. You know, you can get one person who posts 150 messages in three days, all of which is “Where is Winds of Winter?” If any of you go home and post on your Twitter account, “Hey I was just at the Chicago Public Library Sandburg Award dinner and George R.R. Martin was there,” you know by the third message someone will say, well, “What the hell is he doing there? Where is Winds of Winter?” So at this point, it is what it is. And, you know, I should probably leave right now and go back [to] writing Winds of Winter.

It’s very important me to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. I want to finish it. I still have two more books to do, and I want to finish it strong. So people look at it and say, you know, this entire thing is an important work, not a half-finished or broken work. I know some of the more cynical people out there don’t believe that, but it is true.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 19, 1979 Meteor premiered. Starring Natalie Wood, Sean Connery, and Karl Malden, it was inspired by the 1967 Project Icarus from MIT. The film was a box office failure and received a 12% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 19, 2010 — The BBC’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon was first aired. Written by Mark Gatiss, it also stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 19, 1903 Tor Johnson. He acted in a lot of really bad films starting with Bride of the Monster and  The Unearthly with the next being Plan 9 from Outer Space followed by The Beast of Yucca Flats and finishing with The Night of The Ghouls. Three of these are directed by Ed Wood. He appears on in genre tv just once as Naboro in the “Inferno in Space” episode of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. (Died 1971.)
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet”, a First Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 19, 1921 George Nader. In 1953, he was Roy, the leading man in Robot Monster (a.k.a. Monster from Mars and Monsters from the Moon) acknowledged by him and others to be the one of the worst SF films ever made. He showed up in some decidedly low budget other SF films such as The Human Duplicators, Beyond Atlantis  and The Great Space Adventure. (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 79. He’s best known for playing Dumbledore in the final six Potter films after the death of Richard Harris who had previously played the role. He also shows up in the 2010 Christmas Special of Doctor Who, “A Christmas Carol”, an Eleventh Doctor story, playing Kazran/Elliot Sardick.
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 74. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the Hendersons, ShrekRise of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. Oh and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! 
  • Born October 19, 1946 ?Philip Pullman, 73. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North.
  • Born October 19, 1969 Vanessa Marshall, 50. Voice actress who’s Hera Syndulla on Star Wars: Rebels, a series I’ve been enjoying immensely. She’s gave voice to myriad characters from Poison Ivy to Black Widow. 
  • Born October 19, 1990 ?Ciara Renée, 29. She was Kendra Saunders / Hawkgirl in Legends of Tomorrow in the Arrowverse which means she showed up on Arrow and The Flash as well.

(8) SOMETIMES IN SPITE OF POPULAR DEMAND. Trae Dorn of Nerd & Tie discusses why reporting issue-focused fan news is a hazardous occupation. Thread starts here.

(9) RIIIGHT. It’s all a misunderstanding, you see: “Nobel Literature Prize judges defend controversial award for Peter Handke”.

Nobel Prize for Literature panel members have defended their decision to give this year’s award to controversial Austrian author Peter Handke.

The choice has been criticised because of Handke’s vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Nobel committee member Henrik Petersen said Handke was “radically unpolitical” in his writing and that his support for the Serbs had been misunderstood.

(10) THEY’RE GOING AT NIGHT. (Yeah, I know, but I’ve always loved that joke.) BBC says probe will watch the Sun: “European SolO probe ready to take on audacious mission”. (Embedded video is just audio, but adds info about connection to US solar satellite.)

The European spacecraft that aims to take the closest ever pictures of the Sun is built and ready for launch.

The Solar Orbiter, or SolO, probe will put itself inside the orbit of Planet Mercury to train its telescopes on the surface of our star.

Other instruments will sense the constant outflow of particles and their embedded magnetic fields.

Scientists hope the detailed observations can help them understand better what drives the Sun’s activity.

This goes up and down on an 11-year cycle. It’s sure to be a fascinating endeavour but it’s one that has direct relevance to everyone on Earth.

The energetic outbursts from our star have the ability to damage satellites, harm astronauts, degrade radio communications, and even knock power grids offline.

“We’re doing this not just for the sake of increasing our knowledge but also for being able to take precautions, for example by putting satellites in safe mode when we know big solar storms are coming or letting astronauts not leave the space station on these days,” said Daniel Müller, the European Space Agency (Esa) project scientist on SolO.

(11) DAWN OF FANDOM. John L. Coker III, President of First Fandom, introduced members to David Ritter’s First Fandom Experience project late last year:

…David is seeking material for an ambitious project: the First Fandom Experience (FFE).  The purpose of the FFE is to “honor, preserve and bring to life the experience of the first fans – the pioneering fans who were instrumental in defining, driving, growing and supporting science fiction and fantasy in the 1930s and beyond.”

David’s primary initial focus for FFE will be to “publish fan-created content from the SF and fantasy fields dating from the 1930s, in facsimile form, from the rarest to the most prominent fanzines of the period.  FFE will also seek to find and republish other related ephemera of the period, especially content relating to the fan club activities and conventions held through the 1930s.  In addition, FFE will publish new content authored by current fans and historians reflecting on their experience and knowledge of the genres in the 1930s.” 

Two recent posts from Ritter’s First Fandom Experience site are:

“They’re Grand, But… “ is the story of a late-night adventure in 1938, and its consequences, scanned from Sam Moskowitz’ fanzine.

In some ways, early science fiction fandom was like a family. Think Leave It To Beaver meets Jersey Shore. The love and hate in the complex web of relationships often played out both in person and in fanzines. A shining example: a 1938 late-night road trip worthy of Scorsese’s After Hours.

In February 1938, Samuel A. Moskowitz penned a saccharin homage to his brothers and occasional sister in the fan community. “They’re Grand” appeared in The Science Fiction Fan (v2n6).

“Dessert of the Day: The Science Fiction Special” documents an eofannish obsession with ice cream, with a recipe by Frederik Pohl in the The International Observer (v2n7, January 1937), later refined by Donald A. Wollheim and John B. Michel in The Science Fiction Bugle, May 1937. (Scans of both items at the link.)

(12) NO TIPS, PLEASE. “LEONARDO Bipedal Robot With Thrusters” on YouTube is a robot developed at Caltech with a really good sense of balance.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/15/19 Scroll What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Pixel

(1) ANCIENT VIDEO GAMES PLAYABLE AGAIN. Cnet makes a nostalgic discovery as “Internet Archive releases 2,500 MS-DOS games so you can relive the ’90s”.

If you loved playing retro MS-DOS games from the ’90s like 3D Bomber, Zool and Alien Rampage, you can now replay those, and many more, with the latest update from Internet Archive

On Sunday, Internet Archive released 2,500 MS-DOS games that includes action, strategy and adventure titles. Some of the games are Vor Terra, Spooky Kooky Monster Maker, Princess Maker 2 and I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.

Internet Archive software curator Jason Scott wrote on the site’s blog:

The update of these MS-DOS games comes from a project called eXoDOS, which has expanded over the years in the realm of collecting DOS games for easy playability on modern systems to tracking down and capturing, as best as can be done, the full context of DOS games – from the earliest simple games in the first couple years of the IBM PC to recently created independent productions that still work in the MS-DOS environment.

What makes the collection more than just a pile of old, now-playable games, is how it has to take head-on the problems of software preservation and history. Having an old executable and a scanned copy of the manual represents only the first few steps. DOS has remained consistent in some ways over the last (nearly) 40 years, but a lot has changed under the hood and programs were sometimes only written to work on very specific hardware and a very specific setup. They were released, sold some amount of copies, and then disappeared off the shelves, if not everyone’s memories.

It is all these extra steps, under the hood, of acquisition and configuration, that represents the hardest work by the eXoDOS project, and I recognize that long-time and Herculean effort. As a result, the eXoDOS project has over 7,000 titles they’ve made work dependably and consistently.

(2) THE WORD. Courtesy of ScienceFiction.com we learn that the Oxford English Dictionary’s “New Words List for October 2019” has loaded up on Star Wars terms. There are also a lot of additions you’d think would have gone into the OED years ago. Here are some of the October selections:

  • Jedi, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a member of an order of heroic, skilled warrior monks who are able to harness the mystical power of…
  • kapow, int.: Representing the sound of an explosion, a gunshot, a hard punch or blow, etc. Also in extended use, conveying the suddenness or powerful effect of an…
  • lightsabre, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a weapon resembling a sword, but having a destructive beam of light in place of a blade. Also: a…
  • Padawan, n.: In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: an apprentice Jedi (see Jedi n.). Also (often humorously) in extended and allusive use: a youthful…
  • force, n.1 sense Additions: With the and chiefly with capital initial. In the fictional universe of the Star Wars films: a mystical universal energy field which certain…
  • They, pron. sense 2c: Used with reference to a person whose sense of personal identity does not correspond to conventional sex and gender distinctions, and who has typically asked to be referred to as they (rather than as he or she).

(3) ANTHOLOGY CROWDFUNDING. A Kickstarter appeal to raise $8,300 to fund publication of Vital: The Future of Healthcare launched October 15. The anthology, a collection of short stories featuring the future of health and medicine, will include works from notable authors such as David Brin, James Patrick Kelly, Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, Annalee Newitz, Caroline Yoachim, Alex Shvartsman, Eric Schwitzgebel, Congyun Gu, and others. Backers will receive exclusive rewards such as advanced copies and other perks for early support of the project. The campaign will last until November 14, 2019.

The idea for “Vital: The Future of Healthcare” was first conceived by RM Ambrose who will serve as editor of the book. He saw a need and opportunity to use fictional stories to address real life challenges. “Medical science continues to advance, but for many, healthcare has never been more broken,” says Ambrose.  “This book will use the power of storytelling to explore and inspire solutions to the problems that government and even the tech industry have struggled to fix.” 

Other writers are in discussion to be part of the project, with the goal of securing support from about 10 additional authors.

Once published, all proceeds from the sale of Vital will be donated to Loma Linda University Health, a global leader in education, research and clinical care.

Book editor RM Ambrose is Assistant Fiction Editor at the Hugo Award winning “StarShipSofa” podcast. He attended Taos Toolbox in 2017 and is an Affiliate Member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

(4) THUMB OUT. Behind a paywall, Financial Times book columnist Nilanjana Roy’s piece in the October 5 Financial Times is about the 40th anniversary of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

He (Adams) was as much a futurologist, a wizard of predictions, as he was a writer.  In the late 1970s, he dreamed up an ‘Electronic Thumb”–a device that looked like a large electronic calculator on which you could summon up a million ‘pages’–and perhaps my favourite robot of all time, Marvin the depressive Paranoid Android.

The first online translation service, Altavista’a 1995 Babelfish, was named after the fictional fish that translates languages in Hitchhiker when Arthur Dent sticks it in his ear.  Deep Thought, the computer developed in the 1990s to play chess, was named in homage to Adams’s computer, which takes seven and a half million years to answer the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’  (Forty-two, as every Hitchhiker fan knows.)

(5) INSIDE STORY. Tim Goodman says people who have never read the graphic novel before may get lost: “‘Watchmen’: TV Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

It’s difficult to fully describe the visual and storytelling audacity behind HBO’s Watchmen, a series that warps perception in keenly original ways. It’s based on the late-1980s cult comic books of the same name (co-created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), then given a wholly different spin by Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers), a superfan of the source material but a wildly creative force of his own. This latest version (there was also a Zack Snyder movie in 2009) is simultaneously unique — it will certainly bring in fans of Lindelof’s work and HBO’s pedigree — and true to the spirit of the comics.

The challenge that Lindelof and HBO face is a pretty simple one: Watchmen will be utterly confusing without at least some passing knowledge of the origin story. This is a tale that begs for context, no matter how compelling and wonderfully baroque Lindelof’s telling is. So, yes, if you know nothing about Watchmen other than HBO’s tantalizing trailers (and a standout cast that includes Regina King, Tim Blake Nelson, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Jeremy Irons and others), you’d be well-served, at the very least, by reading the Wikipedia backstory. (Lindelof himself has said that if the series has new fans scrambling to discover the original work, that will be reward enough.)

(6) A THRONE OF METAL, AT LEAST. Actress Maisie Williams graces the latest cover of Metal

(7) PEOPLE ARE THE WORST. The Hollywood Reporter’s Chris Gardner was on hand for the soiree: “Jordan Peele Explains His Attraction to Horror: ‘There Is an Evil Embedded Into Our DNA’”.

The director shared the Hammer Museum stage with honoree Judy Chicago, presenters Gloria Steinem and Roxane Gay and performers Beck and Chris Martin at the record-setting Gala in the Garden fundraiser….

[Jordan Peele] He also dished out some of his early inspirations from the silver screen — with a nod to Martin Scorsese’s recent controversial statements about what qualifies as “cinema.”

“I can buy the premise for a second that this is a deserved thing, after all I spent so many hours growing up watching great cinema and absorbing art house classics of the 20th century like Ghostbusters 2, Gremlins 2, and Chud 2, all the twos,” he joked. “That’s my pathway of this great thing that Martin Scorsese calls cinema.”

He then got serious by expanding on his creative motivations.

“My passion is to entertain. I dream less about making a commentary about society than I do about getting a laugh or getting a scream or scaring anybody. Any audible noise that an audience can make, that’s my passion,” he explained. “Apparently to either get at something important or to just simply make people laugh, it involves a search of the same thing and that’s truth.”

Peele said that as he grew up, his perspective on life became “a little cynical,” and he found new truth in the exploration of what he refers to as “the human demon.”

“This is the idea that no matter what there is, whatever you do, there is an evil embedded into our DNA. It crystallizes when we get together. It’s in our tribalism, our nationalism, and our capitalism, our mob mentality, our obsession with categorization. We’re so good at masking our own evil from ourselves and so my obsession evolved to pulling down this mask,” he continued. “I figured why not try to reveal the truth in my language. Do it as entertaining as I could. I found early on that this would require a certain amount of vulnerability. if I was going to tap into fears that would resonate with others, I would need to explore and understand my own fears and my own faults.”

(8) DON’T TOY WITH FANS. Vanity Fair demands to know “Where’s Rose? Star Wars Fans Want Kelly Marie Tran’s Hero on More Merch”. Tagline: The first major female Asian character in the galactic saga was missing from many products for The Rise of Skywalker. Here’s what happened.

Laura Sirikul was on a mission. To the rest of the world, it was just October 4, but to movie fans like her, it was a galactic holiday—Triple Force Friday, when toys and merchandise from three upcoming Star Wars projects finally went on sale.

Sirikul ventured to big-box retailers around Pasadena, California, in search of items featuring her favorite character: Rose Tico, the quick-witted engineer played by Kelly Marie Tran. After hitting Target, Walmart, Hot Topic, and the Disney Store, Sirikul found herself asking a question that has since become a hashtag on social media: #WheresRose?

At the end of September, preview videos hyping the new merchandise showed a white T-shirt using the word “Rebel” as a backdrop for the character as she struck a heroic pose. “That ‘Rebel’ shirt was at the Disney Store, but she wasn’t on it,” Sirikul told Vanity Fair. “There was no Rose Tico at the mall.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 15, 1951 I Love Lucy made its television debut on CBS. Not genre in any sense at all but still worth noting. Desi appeared in a short called “The Fountain of Youth” which is genre. Although Lucy didn’t do any genre, their series was the foundation for Desilu Productions which eventually brought Star Trek to TV.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 15, 1911 James H. Schmitz. Writer of short fiction of a space opera setting, sold primarily to Galaxy Science Fiction and Astounding Science-Fiction. Sources laud him for his intelligent female characters. His collections are available on iBooks or Kindle. (Died 1981.)
  • Born October 15, 1919 E.C. Tubb. A writer of at least 140 novels and 230 short stories and novellas, he’s best known for the Dumarest Saga. His other long running series was the Cap Kennedy stories. And his short story “Little Girl Lost” which was originally published in New Worlds magazine became a story on Night Gallery. (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 15, 1924 Mark Lenard. Sarek, father of Spock, in Trek franchise. Surprisingly he also played a Klingon in Star Trek The Motion Picture, and a Romulan in an episode of Star Trek. He also had one-offs on Mission Impossible, Wild Wild West,  Otherworld and Planet of The Apes. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 15, 1926 Ed McBain. Huh, I never knew he ventured beyond his mystery novels but he published approximately 24 genre stories and 6 SF novels between 1951 and 1971 under the names S. A. Lombino, Evan Hunter, Richard Marsten, D. A. Addams, and Ted Taine. ISFDB has a list and I can’t say I know any of them. Any of y’all read them? (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 15, 1932 Virginia Leith, 87. The head in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Really. Truly. 

  • Born October 15, 1947 Lynn Lowry, 72. She is perhaps best known for her work in such horror films as George A. Romero’s The Crazies,  David Cronenberg’s Shivers, Paul Schrader’s Cat People and David E. Durston I Drink Your Blood. Some of these are truly in bad taste. 
  • Born October 15, 1955 Tanya Roberts, 64. Stacey Sutton in A View to Kill. Quite the opposite of her role as Kiri in The Beastmaster. And let’s forget in the title role of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle.
  • Born October 15, 1969 Dominic West,  50. Jigsaw in the dreadful Punisher film, Punisher: War Zone. His first SFF role was as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is the same year he shows up as Jerus Jannick in The Phantom Menace, and he was Sab Than on John Carter. His latest SFF role was as Lord Richard Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark shows that this Halloween, if you won’t go to Mount TBR, your Mount TBR might come to you.

(12) NOT TANK MARMOT. In “Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners showcase stunning scenes from nature”, CNN describes the winning photo:

It could almost be a scene from a slapstick comedy: a marmot stands frozen in fear, slack-jawed and balanced on one foot, as it suddenly notices a charging fox.

The dramatic image, captured with perfect timing by Chinese photographer Yongqing Bao, has won the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award, given out annually by London’s Natural History Museum.

(13) CHOCOLATE WITH YOUR PEANUT BUTTER. John Connolly speaks up “In Defense of the Supernatural in Detective Fiction” at CrimeReads.

Some months ago, I had dinner in New York with an old friend, one of the most senior figures in the American mystery community. We tend to differ on almost every subject under the sun, food and wine apart, but it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, and I like to think that we have both mastered that art, for the most part.

Toward the end of the evening, my friend suggested that I had made two errors in my career. One was the decision not to write exclusively in the mystery genre, but to explore other areas of writing. This, he felt, had damaged me commercially—although, as I pointed out to him, it had benefited me creatively. My second error, he believed, was to have mixed the mystery genre with the supernatural. Whatever its benefits or disadvantages to me, either commercially or creatively, he believed that this simply should not have been done. For him, the supernatural had no place in the mystery novel, and there are many in mystery community who share his opinion.

(14) LAST LAUGH. BBC shares “The graveside joke that had everyone laughing at a funeral”. (Also video.)

A dad’s message from beyond the grave has touched the hearts of thousands online.

Shay Bradley, 62, had a dying wish that had his family and friends laughing at his funeral in Dublin.

In a video that has received more than 136,000 upvotes on Reddit, the former Irish defence forces veteran pretends to be trapped inside his coffin and is heard knocking frantically, trying to get out

Coming from a speaker on the ground his voice boomed from his grave: “Hello, hello, hello… let me out!” There is then some swearing which sends the mourners into fits of laughter.

He goes on to sing: “Hello again, hello. I called to say goodbye.”

(15) STAY FROSTY. “His Dark Materials: Behind the scenes of the TV adaptation”.

Ahead of the eight-part dramatisation of the first of Philip Pullman’s best-selling His Dark Materials novels, the BBC’s Sian Lloyd describes her sneak-preview behind-the-scenes set visit earlier this year.

Huddled around braziers filled with warm coals or sitting with blankets wrapped over shoulders, close to a hundred shivering extras are trying to keep the cold at bay.

They are the Gyptians, the nomadic closely-knit boat-dwelling tribe at the centre of Pullman’s trilogy, who are about to get some disturbing news.

In the real world, we’re on the site of a former ironworks in Blaenavon in the south Wales valleys. There’s snow on the ground, and temperatures are still plummeting.

Cast members and crew have gathered for the opening scenes from the series, which covers the events of the novel Northern Lights, and which receives its premiere in London on Tuesday.

(16) GIVE YOU JOY. From BBC: “His Dark Materials: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Welsh ‘joy'”

Relocating to south Wales to film His Dark Materials was a “joy”, Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda has said.

The TV adaptation of Sir Philip Pullman’s trilogy is being screened in London before being broadcast on BBC One in November.

The actor plays Lee Scoresby in the series, which was made by production company Bad Wolf in Cardiff.

Miranda shared his love of Wales on social media during filming.

(17) COVER ARTIST. Would you like to hear Andy Partridge’s “Music inspired by the art of Richard Powers”, the famed sff artist and 1991 Worldcon guest of honor?

A Long time ago, in a library far away, (well, Swindon, actually), a shy schoolboy who loved books but was a slow reader, borrowed three science fiction books per week. He didn’t read them. Instead, mesmerised by the covers, he imagined his own stories to match the cover paintings which he stared at intently for hours. 

Invited to tell his classmates about the books he’d read, neither they nor the teachers spotted the invention. Few, if any, teachers read sci-fi and even though the early 1960s may have been a peak point for the excitement surrounding mankind’s initial steps beyond the Earth, teachers would sooner bore any potential interest in books out of children with Charles Dickens rather than risk capturing their imagination with Philip K Dick.

Decades passed. The moon was reached and then, it seemed, forgotten. The faraway galaxies became the stuff of mainstream cinema and TV. Books celebrating the work and art of an earlier generation of sci-fi writers and illustrators appeared. The boy in the library of the early 1960s, now a man in a comic book/graphic novel shop at the end of the first decade of a new millennium, discovered a book about Richard M. Powers and became a time traveller, transported back to the smell of the paper, the plastic protective library book coverings and the universe laid out, jigsaw like, on his bed. Richard M. Powers had been the principal artist, illustrator among illustrators and guide to unleashing Andy Partridge’s imagination among the stars and galaxies.

Andy’s response was to record a sort of soundtrack to the paintings which had been so inspirational to him. The resulting album conjures, via 12 enigmatic pieces – akin to a virtual Musique concrete (with the computer/editing process replacing the more cumbersome scissors/tape method) – a musical accompaniment to the variety of alien landscapes which Powers illustrated so profusely…. 

(18) LITTLE KNOWN STUFF. “William Shatner beams in with hit TV show at 88” on AFP says that Shatner’s paranormal mysteries show The UnXplained has been picked up for a second season on the History Channel and that Shatner’s secret for being productive at 88 is to “keep taking on projects.”

Shatner beamed into Cannes in southern France on Tuesday to beat the drum for the series — which tries to explain some of the mysteries of the world around us — at MIPCOM, the world’s biggest entertainment market.

“A friend of mine once received a call from someone who had passed away,” he said. Finding answers to such strange phenomena “was what this show is all about”, he told reporters.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/19 Scrolls Move In Mysterious Ways Their Pixels To Perform

(1) BLOGGER BLOWS AWAY SHORT SFF REVIEW SITE. Jason McGregor of Featured Futures just announced he is going to quit promoting and reviewing short sff and has gone so far as to delete hundreds of posts from his site: “The Incredible Shrinking Blog”.

…I was discouraged from rushing back to do reviews by the John W. Campbell business. In many ways (especially socioeconomic) I’m a pretty liberal guy, but I have next to no patience with “political correctness” or historical “revisionism” or any number of the other manifestations of “theory” prevalent these days. This has always been a drag on my enjoyment of current SF and contributed to the burnout I was feeling which led to my falling behind in March, but I felt like I was ready to get back on the horse…. And while I was doing that, we got the Awards Formerly Known As Campbell. While the attack was vulgar and ignorant, it was also irrelevant to short SF. However, people who are relevant to short SF and should know better have not only failed to be voices of reason but have added to the unreason. It just underscores that I signed up to read a body of literature with a significant emphasis on creative ideas and positive visions of futures with technologically and rationally advanced natures and what I’ve been reading is mostly a subgenre of LGB,eTc. fiction[2] which is populated by Orwellian erasers of the giants whose shoulders they stand upon insofar as they are SF at all (or Wile E. Coyotes sawing off the limb they sit on). The great Katherine MacLean died recently. One guess as to who published her first story in 1949….

As a lover of the unpopular field of print science fiction and the even less popular field of short SF, I made the promotion of contemporary short SF the purpose of this blog, only to have to admit that short SF has become unpopular for very good reasons and I now wish to do anything but promote it.

(2) KEEP ON CYBERTRUCKING. AL.com profiles a band with a sff-writing friend: “Drive-By Truckers bringing new music to Mobile, Decatur”.

…Capturing the sheer tumult of the times, rather than being washed away by it, is an artistic challenge that spans genres. In this case there’s a positive: It has become common ground in a slightly surreal online friendship played out on Twitter, featuring Hood and novelist William Gibson. On one side you have a band known for its obsession with the ways that the South’s history taints its present; on the other you have the futurist who coined the term “cyberspace” and revolutionized science fiction with his 1984 novel “Neuromancer.”

What most people don’t realize, Hood said, is that Gibson has Southern roots as well, having grown up in Virginia before moving to Canada during the Vietnam era….

(3) HUGO WRANGLER. Ian Moore resumes his Dublin 2019 report in “An Irish Worldcon, Part 4: Sunday” at Secret Panda.

I also had the terrifying experience in the afternoon of being summoned to meet James Bacon, the chair of Worldcon. I assumed that word about The Incident had finally percolated up to him and I was about to be removed from the Convention Centre with extreme prejudice. But before I could launch into an unconvincing attempt to explain myself, James revealed that he was actually presenting me with a Hero medal in recognition of my work for Worldcon both before and during the convention. This was something of a surprise and I was truly honoured to receive the medal, which I wore with pride for the rest of the convention.

(4) A FEW BRIEF EDITORIAL REMARKS. If you want to know Eric Flint’s opinion of the Electoral College, he’ll be happy to share it with you. Well, happy wouldn’t be the right word, exactly: “Concerning the Electoral College, or the Twaddle Had Finally Gotten To Me”.

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE, about which historical ignorance, incapacity to reason, blindness to reality driven by ideology and just plain stupidity have produced an ocean of twaddle.

It should be blindingly obvious by now that the Electoral College is at best an antiquated institution which never matched the vision of it held by the Founding Fathers and has become an impediment to modern government. In times past, the reason most people shrugged off its grotesque features was because in practice it didn’t seem to make much difference. In the first two centuries of the nation’s existence, a candidate won the Electoral College while losing the so-called “popular vote” only three times (in 1824, 1876 and 1888). But it has happened twice in the past five elections (2000 and 2016), so now it has become a major topic of debate….

(5) GRAEME GIBSON OBIT. Writer and conservationist Graeme Gibson, Margaret Atwood’s partner, has died at the age of 85 reports the CBC.

Margaret Atwood, Gibson’s longtime partner, said in a statement Wednesday issued by publisher Penguin Random House Canada: “We are devastated by the loss of Graeme, our beloved father, grandfather and spouse, but we are happy that he achieved the kind of swift exit he wanted and avoided the decline into further dementia that he feared.

“He had a lovely last few weeks, and he went out on a high, surrounded by love, friendship and appreciation. We are grateful for his wise, ethical and committed life.”

Gibson died Wednesday in London, England, where he had accompanied Atwood for the global release of her latest book.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 18, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still had its theatrical premiere in New York City. Klaatu was played by Michael Rennie. 
  • September 18, 2002The Twilight Zone, 3rd version, premiered on TV.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18, 1884 Gertrude Barrows Bennett. She’s been called a pioneering author of genre fiction. She wrote a number of fantasies between in the late teens and early twenties, and has been called “the woman who invented dark fantasy”. Her short story, “The Curious Experience of Thomas Dunbar” which was published under G.M. Barrows in Argosy is considered first time that an American female writer published SF story using her real name. I’m pleased to say that both iBooks and Kindle are heavily stocked with her works. (Died 1948.)
  • Born September 18, 1888 Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur. He is known primarily for his scholarly work on Beowulf and his translation of Snorri Sturluson’s Prose Edda for The American-Scandinavian Foundation, but also as a writer of pulp fiction having written The Altar of the Legion (with Farnham Bishop), He Rules Who Can and one short genre story, “The Golden Story”, though iBooks has The Adventures of Faidit and Cercamon for sale which may or may not be genre. (Died 1971.)
  • Born September 18, 1944 Veronica Carlson, 75. She’s best remembered for her roles in Hammer horror films. Among them are Dracula Has Risen from the GraveFrankenstein Must Be Destroyed and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also shows up in Casino Royale as an uncredited blonde.
  • Born September 18, 1947 Paul Seed, 72. Actor who’s now a director. He’s made the Birthday Honors list as he was Graff Vynda-K in “The Ribos Operation”, a Fourth Doctor story. That and an appearance on Tales of The Unexpected appear to be his only acting roles in the genre. 
  • Born September 18, 1948 Lynn Abbey, 71. She’s best known for co-creating and co-editing with Robert Lynn Asprin (to whom she was married for awhile) the Thieves’ World series of shared-setting anthologies. (Now complete in twelve volumes.) Her Sanctuary novel set in the Thieves’ World universe is quite excellent. I’ve not kept up with her later work, so y’all will not to tell me how it is.
  • Born September 18, 1949 William Stout, 70. Illustrator who’s worked on projects as diverse as Manning’s Tarzan of the Apes strip, Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder’s Little Annie Fanny in Playboy and  Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • Born September 18 Michael R. Nelson. Conrunner from the Baltiwash area who got into fandom in 1989. He chaired Disclave 41, Capclave 2002 and co-chaired the DC17 Worldcon bid. He is a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association.
  • Born September 18, 1955 Gary Russell, 64. As a writer, he is best known for his work in connection with Doctor Who and its spin-offs in other media. He worked for BBC Wales as a Script Editor on The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood. (Anyone here who’s watched the former series?) as a writer, he’s written nineteen Doctor Who universe novels and directed forty audioworks for Big Finish, one of which he wrote.
  • Born September 18, 1973 James Marsden, 46. He was Scott Summers / Cyclops in the X-Men film franchise. He was gunslinger Teddy Flood, an android in Westworld. He plays Tom Wachowski in the forthcoming Sonic the Hedgehog film
  • Born September 18, 1984 Caitlin Kittredge, 35. Wiki say she’s best known for her Nocturne City series of adult novels, and for The Iron Codex, a series of YA novels, but I think her best work is by far the Black London series. She’s also writing the current Witchblade series at Image Comics. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) THE ROADS MUST ROLL. Kotaku says it all adds up to a new world record: “Truck Carrying Gaming Dice Spills Onto Highway, Rolls A Perfect 756,000”.

On Friday, September 13, a truck bound for the Georgia-based tabletop and video game company Trivium Studios took a turn too sharply, spilling 216,000 gaming dice onto Interstate 75 in Atlanta in what could be the biggest unintentional dice roll ever.

(10) MARK YOUR CALENDARS. Tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I guess I jumped the gun by running my “Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!” post today.

(11) OVERDUE RETURN. It used to be part of the decoration outside the Los Angeles Public Library, until someone liberated it: “Piece of missing sculpture resurfaces in antiques store 50 years later”.

Lillard said a recent hunt for clues on Google brought him an old photo from a California newspaper showing the Well of Scribes, a sculpture that disappeared in 1969 from the Central Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.

“You could only see half of the well in the picture,” Lillard said. “That’s the half that I had.”

Lillard’s portion is one of three pieces that composed the entire sculpture. He said he has been in contact with the Los Angeles Public Library about bringing the sculpture home.

The final two pieces of the sculpture are still missing, but Lillard said he has hope they might still be found.

(12) POE FAN. S.D. Sykes, in “Why We Will Always Love ‘The Masque of the Red Death'” on CrimeReads, explains why she thinks Poe’s great story is “a beautiful and classic work” and “a gothic masterpiece.”

Whether you see Poe’s story as a reflection on mortality, or rather a tale of morality, it’s also important to remember that Poe himself was famously averse to didacticism in literature—so perhaps we should simply read the story for its own beauty and not try to imbue it with meaning? And “The Masque of the Red Death” is, indeed, a beautiful and classic work. A gothic masterpiece. The guests retire to “the deep seclusion” of a “castellated abbey.” The prince’s designs for the masquerade ball glow “with barbaric lustre”—being “grotesque” as they “glitter” with “piquancy and phantasm.” The story throbs with “something of the terrible” as the atmosphere of dread builds. Until, in true gothic style, we have the tragic ending, where all die in a “despairing posture.”

(13) BUT ARE THE JOKES CLEAN TOO? “The robot that cleans floors and tells jokes” – video.

More than 100 fully autonomous cleaning robots are coming to Singapore this year, made by local manufacturer Lionsbot.

Ella tells jokes as she cleans the floor in the island nation’s National Gallery… but not everyone is convinced.

(14) AREA CODE. Arby’s is still trying to tap into some of that free social media publicity: “Arby’s Declassifies ‘Storm Area 51’ Special Menu Items” reports Food & Wine.

…Arby’s, for one, has not given up on the dream. In July, the chain showed its support for the viral cause by announcing that it would bring a special menu of Arby’s items to feed whoever was in attendance at Area 51’s storming. And today, not only did Arby’s confirm that it’ll still be there, but also announced what those otherworldly new items would be.

… The “Redacted on Rye Sandwich” is billed as “roasted turkey on a toasted marble rye bread with Swiss cheese, tangy slaw and thousand island dressing,” a further spin on the classic Reuben. The “E.T. Slider” will feature “a crispy chicken tender dipped in Bronco Berry Sauce.” “Arby’s Frying Objects” will be “Arby’s loaded curly fries topped with savory moon rocks.” And finally, the “Galaxy Shake” is described as a “purple cow meets a Sour Patch Kid—a blue sweet milkshake base that turns pink and tarter as you drink or stir it, topped with a fruit crunch.”

(15) 30-50 FERAL COOKIES. Meanwhile, John King Tarpinian has sighted the Halloween Oreos in the field…

(16) WINDUP UP YOUR WATCHMEN. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Everything begins 10/20 on HBO,

[Thanks to Nancy Sauer, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John A Arkansawyer, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Darrah Chavey, StephenfromOttawa, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories.  Title credit goes to File 770’s contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]