Star Trek Day 2021 Livestream September 8

Star Trek Day 2021, a free live-streamed celebration of Star Trek, begins Wednesday, September 8 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific/ 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

Live from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California, Star Trek Day will feature back-to-back in-person conversations with cast members and creative minds from the Star Trek Universe, “legacy moments” with iconic cast, and other announcements and reveals.

Mica Burton and Wil Wheaton

The event will be hosted by Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton. Wheaton commented on his blog:

I’ve read the entire script, and I’m about to leave for rehearsal, so I know most of the OMGAREYOUSERIOUS stuff that will be revealed. I’m not going to spoil anything, but I will tell you that if you love Star Trek the way I love Star Trek, you won’t want to miss it.

Mica Burton is LeVar Burton’s daughter, an actor and cosplayer who is well known to fans of D&D webseries Critical Role and the Overwatch League. 

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/21 I’ve Been Pixeled, Been Misfiled, When Will I Be Scrolled

(1) PLAY ALONG AT HOME. Eli Grober offers these “Opening Lines Rewritten for a Pandemic” in The New Yorker.

“A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle

“It was a dark and stormy night, so we stayed inside, just like we’d done every night for the last year. In that way, it was a perfectly normal night.”

“A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But, mostly, it was the worst of times. In fact, not once had it felt like the best of times.”

Bill sent the link with a suggestion that Filers extend the list. Here’s his contribution —

“Double Star” by Robert A. Heinlein

If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he doesn’t need to wear a mask, he’s a spaceman.

(2) FREE BOOK FROM TAFF. Creative Random Harris is now available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please. Over 276,000 words.

Chuck Harris (1927-1999) was active in fandom in the 1950s as a founding editor of the legendary fanzine Hyphen (where he wrote the “Random” column), and returned to the fannish scene in 1984. His letters, full of hilarious, scabrous and generally irresponsible anecdotes, were re-edited as the “Creative Random History” column in many issues of Pulp (1984-1989) and distributed in his own round-robin compilations Quinsy (later just Q) and Charrisma; similar columns also appeared in other fanzines.

For this ebook, Rob Hansen and David Langford have assembled a huge mass of Chuck’s articles and correspondence (some never before published). There is an introductory appreciation written in 1989 by his lifelong friend Walt Willis, a historical foreword by Rob Hansen, and various notes and explications by David Langford.

Cover photo of Sue and Chuck Harris in 1989 (as special guests of Corflu 6) by Geri Sullivan.

(3) RED AND OTHER COLORS PLANET. View the California Art Club’s online exhibit “Mars: An Artistic Mission”. Features work by Julie Bell, James Gurney, William Stout, Boris Vallejo and many others.

Art and science have been intertwined since the dawn of civilization. Science, and in particular space exploration, has allowed us to transcend our bodily limitations on Earth, magnifying our creativity in the process, as we are propelled into the cosmos. With Mars: An Artistic Mission, which celebrates the landing of the Mars Perseverance Rover on the Red Planet, we honor the marriage of art and science.

As you venture through these virtual galleries, you will find dazzling Mars-scapes, snapshots of rovers in operation, and ethereal portraits of life beyond our Earthly barrier.

We hope this exhibition leaves you saying “Mission Accomplished.”

(4) ANOTHER SPIN AROUND THE BLOCK. “Surprise! A Second The Suicide Squad Trailer Has Dropped”Yahoo! leads the way:

Trailers have a fun way of changing the context of what you’re looking at. It’s truly an experiment in the Kuleshov effect, but with more music. We’re barely a week out from the bombastic, humor-fueled, classic-rock-ified first trailer for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, which introduced us to our new favorite son, King Shark. Now, Gunn has shared a second trailer that premiered in cinemas with Godzilla vs. Kong. It’s got a completely different feel, even though it uses a lot of the same shots, moments, and lines. If we saw this one first, we might think we were getting an action drama. Maybe it’s both!

(5) MIDCOURSE MANUVERS. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction revealed forthcoming changes to hosting and sponsorship in the “Shape of Things to Come”.

October 2021 will see the tenth anniversary of the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which since 2011 has been hosted by Orion and linked to the Gollancz SF Gateway ebook operation. Orion/Gollancz have now decided not to renew the contract on 1 October 2021, and we are parting amicably.

The principal Encyclopedia editors John Clute and David Langford plan to move sf-encyclopedia.com to their own web server and continue as seamlessly as possible with very much the same “look and feel”, with access exactly the same as now, though soon perhaps with a new sponsor and certainly with a few improvements that the current platform does not allow. Keep watching the skies!

John Clute’s version of the announcement ends:

…The first changes to be made, several of which David has already pre-coded, will be technically “cosmetic”, but should make the site easier to navigate. Nothing is ever signed until it’s signed, and nothing is ever certain till it bores you silly: but the reference to new sponsors is not blowing in the wind.

(6) IRISH NATCON WILL BE ONLINE. Octocon, the National Irish SF Convention, is going virtual again in 2021.

This is absolutely not an April fool’s joke.

The committee weighed up the pros and cons, and we want everyone to be able to attend our next in person convention.

Our convention family includes people from outside Ireland as well as all over the 32 counties.

Last year’s Virtual convention went so well, we are exploring bringing you all even more panels, readings, workshops, interviews, and fun activities.

(7) AWKWARD. Wil Wheaton asked Facebook readers to find him a copy of an anecdote he had published. When he happened to find his own copy he shared it with his Facebook followers. (Also at his blog.) Here’s the setup:

I first met William Shatner on the set of Star Trek V back in 1988. I was 16, and had been working on TNG for two years at the time….

For weeks, I tried to get up the nerve to introduce myself. When I would walk from the stage to my dressing room or school room, I would do it slowly, looking at their stage door, hoping to catch a glimpse of Mister Spock, or Doctor McCoy, or even the legendary Captain Kirk. The few times they did appear, though, I could never find the courage to approach them.

This went on for about six weeks.

…Why was I so intimidated? I was a 16 year-old geek, with a chance to meet The Big Three from Star Trek. You do the math.

One afternoon, while I was sitting outside stage 9 talking with Mandy, my costumer, they opened the huge stage door across the way, and I could see right into the set of Star Trek V. It was a large area, like a cargo bay, filled with extras and equipment. It was quite different from our set, but it was unmistakably The Enterprise. Standing in the middle of it all was William Shatner. He held a script open like it was a holy text. The way he gestured with his hands, I could tell that he was setting up a shot and discussing it with the camera crew.

I waited for the familiar rush of nerves, but it didn’t come. Seeing him as a director and not as Captain Kirk put me at ease. I knew that this was my moment. If I didn’t walk over and introduce myself right then, I would never do it….

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1981 — Forty years ago, John Carpenter’s Escape from New York premiered. (That was how it was shown on-screen.)  Starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, this film was written by John Carpenter and Nick Castle. It was directed by John  Carpenter, and produced by  Larry Franco and Debra Hill. Supporting cast was  Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton. The film received generally positive reviews with Russell in particular finding favor with the critics; it did very well at the box office earning far more than it cost to produce; and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it an excellent seventy seven percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 1, 1875 Edgar Wallace. Creator of King Kong, he also wrote SF including Planetoid 127, one of the first parallel Earth stories, and The Green Rust, a bioterrorism novel which was made into a silent film called The Green Terror. Critics as diverse as Orwell, Sayers and Penzler have expressed their rather vehement distaste for him.  Kindle has an impressive number of works available. (Died 1932.) (CE)
  • Born April 1, 1911 – Augusta Braxton Baker.  First black to get a Master’s degree in librarianship from Albany Teacher’s College, admitted only under pressure from Eleanor Roosevelt whose husband F.D. Roosevelt was then Governor of New York.  First black librarian in an administrative position at the NY Public Library.  President of Amer. Lib’y Ass’n Children’s Services Division.  Chaired the Newbery and Caldecott Medals committee.  First Storyteller-in-Residence at an American university (Univ. S. Carolina).  Two anthologies for us, The Talking Tree and The Golden Lynx.  (Died 1998) [JH] 
  • Born April 1, 1918 – Frank Borth.  Twoscore interiors for us; also comics e.g. There Oughta Be A Law! 1970-1983 succeeding Harry Shorten, “Draw Along with FB” in Treasure Chest 1963-1972.  Here is an illustration for “As Chemist to Chemist” in the Nov-Dec 78 Asimov’s.   Here is Zelazny’s  “Last Defender of Camelot”  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born April 1, 1926 Anne McCaffrey. I read both the original trilogy and what’s called the Harper Hall trilogy oh so many years ago. Enjoyed them immensely but haven’t revisted them so I don’t know what the Suck Fairy would make of them. And I confess that I had no idea she’d written so much other genre fiction! (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born April 1, 1942 Samuel R. Delany, 79. There’s no short list of recommended works for him as everything he’s done is brilliant. That said I think I’d start off suggesting a reading first of Babel- 17 (one of his four Nebula winners) and Dhalgren followed by the Return to Nevèrÿon series. I’m reasonably sure that his only Hugo-winning fiction was in the Short Story category at Heicon (1970) for “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” as published in New Worlds, December 1968. He won another Hugo for Best Nonfiction Book with The Motion of Light In Water: Sex and Science Fiction Writing in the East Village 1957-1965 at Noreascon Three (1989). (CE) 
  • Born April 1, 1950 – Randy Bathurst.  Active in the Detroit area during the 1970s, particularly with fanart.  Fan Guest of Honor at Marcon XI.  Here he is in the Masquerade costume competition at Torcon II the 31st Worldcon (hello,Tim Kirk).  He’s in the first issue of File 770;see here (PDF; scroll down to p. 8).  See his Ten of Cups in Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck here (PDF of the deck starts with BP’s introduction, then Cups).  Here is Our Gracious Hosts report of his death.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born April 1, 1953 Barry Sonnenfeld, 68. Director of The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values  (both of which I really like), and the Men in Black trilogy (well one out of three ain’t bad). He also executive produced Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve not seen, and did the same for Men in Black: International, the recent continuation of that franchise. (CE)
  • Born April 1, 1960 Michael Praed, 61. Robin of Loxley on Robin of Sherwood which no doubt is one of the finest genre series ever done of a fantasy nature. He also played Phileas Fogg on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, an amazing series that never got released on DVD. It has spawned a lively fanfic following since it was cancelled with names such as Spicy Airship Stories. (CE) 
  • Born April 1, 1963 James Robinson, 58. Writer, both comics and film. Some of his best known comics are the series centered on the Justice Society of America, in particular the Starman character he co-created with Tony Harris. His Starman series is without doubt some of the finest work ever done in the comics field. His screenwriting is a mixed bag. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well that’s him. He’s much, much better on the animated Son of Batman film. (CE) 
  • Born April 1, 1966 – Janette Rallison, age 55.  A dozen novels, one novelette for us (some under another name); a score of other novels and books of shorter stories. Has read My Double Life (memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt), BabbittA Tale of Two Cities, two by Jane Austen, The Brothers KaramazovThe 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  “If your teacher asks you to identify symbolism in my books, you have my permission to tell him/her that I didn’t put any in.”  Website.  [JH]
  • Born Aril 1, 1974 – Diane Awerbuck, age 47.  Two novels for us (with Alex Latimer, as Frank Owen), a score of shorter stories.  Outside our field, Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Short Story Day Africa prize.  Geoff Ryman’s interview with her for Strange Horizons (and excerpt from AR’s Home Remedieshere.  [JH]
  • Born April 1, 1991 – Kat Zhang, age 30.  Four novels for us.  Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year.  First book sold at age 19.  Outside our field, in The Emperor’s Riddle a Chinese-American girl and her brother visiting China tangle with legends of the Chian-wen Emperor (Ming Dynasty; disappeared 1402). [JH]

(10) A FAN’S HOUSE. This post from Porch.com advises you how to “Turn Any Space at Home into Your Favorite Fandom”. It exists to drive business to home improvement professionals, however, its commercial orientation didn’t keep me from enjoying the article — maybe you will, too.

First, assess your space.

When it comes to Fandom decor, you can draw inspiration from your favorite films, books, video games, or any other cultural sources that strike your fancy. You can transform a nook beneath your stairs into Harry Potter’s hidden chamber or your bedroom into Maleficent’s boudoir of enchantment. The key is to choose a theme that resonates with your interests so that it will delight you each time you visit the space. 

Of course, before you head out to shop for a Lego Death Star for your Star Wars-themed room or a life-size Pikachu for your Pokemon personal den, you’ll need to assess your space carefully. Keep its measurements handy so that you don’t have to estimate sizing considerations while you’re shopping for items like draperies, carpets, furnishings, and decorative items. Be sure you note the dimensions of windows, walls, and the floor.

(11) NOT LIKE OLD TIMES. Diamond Bay Radio did a podcast on time and space in Russian speculative fiction of the 1920s. In this interview, Mlex spoke with Reed Johnson, of Bowdoin College, about the life and works of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, and his time travel story, “Memories of the Future”.

“Half eaten away by rust, its letters said: WHOLESALE SUPPLIERS OF UTOPIA SINCE… The year had been obliterated by time.”

(12) RAMPING UP TO THE VIRTUAL EASTERCON. Episode 28 of the Octothorpe podcast is now available: “Literally the Best Thing You’ve Ever Said About Me”.

John Coxon is communicating, Alison Scott’s head is spinning, and Liz Batty is a programme operator. We discuss all the things about Eastercon that we’re excited about (which takes a while!) and then discuss future Eastercons, briefly talk about staying Seder in the apocalypse, and then talk about breakfast.

(13) HANDMAID’S TALE. In The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 trailer, June Osborne becomes Public Enemy No. 1 says Yahoo!

June Osborne wants justice and it looks like the country of Gilead is prepping for an all-out war. Hulu has released the first full trailer for the fourth season of the popular Emmy-winning series, and the wait to learn more is coming to an end with the show’s return on April 28.

(14) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED (TWICE). David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss look at Australian literature, ranging from a book about bushrangers written in serial form in 1882 to modern science fiction in Episode 49 of Two Chairs Talking.

(15) WHEN THE HUGOS ARE DEAD, WILL YOU BE INVITED TO THE FUNERAL? Here’s someone who thinks that’s only minutes away – Richard Paolinelli – who’s such a lazy ass his post runs under a photo copied from File 770. (*) “The Sad Demise Of The Hugos And The Nebulas” [Internet Archive link].

…Instead, they embarked on the “Wokian Way”, disregarded great works, and embraced lesser material based on the creators’ sex and race rather than on the quality of the works themselves. Any creator deemed unworthy, 99.9% white males oddly enough, was run out of each organization and their works blacklisted from consideration. Predictably, with each passing year the Hugos and the Nebulas have become less popular, as shown by the declining number in participating voters.

The Dragon Awards, open to all who enjoy SF/F around the world and free to participate in – unlike the Hugos and Nebulas – are thriving….

Of course they’re thriving — because the Dragons are moving toward the mainstream – John Scalzi’s The Last Emperox won in 2020 – something the Sad Puppies who monopolized the awards in their first year tried to ignore: “Reaction to 2020 Dragon Awards Winners”.

(*) It’s Fran Wilde’s photo from Twitter, but bears the file name the image was given in the media library here.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mind Matters introduces DUST’s short film “The Big Nothing”:

When the captain of an isolated mining station near Saturn is murdered, Detective Lennox is sent to investigate the three remaining crew members. Centered around a series of interrogations and flashback, Lennox discovers that everyone has a motive to kill. With otherworldly threats approaching and the killer amongst them, will everybody make it off the station?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Mlex, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, James Bacon, David Langford, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Bill, John Hertz, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 2/28/21 Chasing A Blanched Scroll Across The File With A Pixel Fork

(1) THE VOICE OF THE FUTURE. Wil Wheaton has been picked to narrate How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates.

Even Wheaton is impressed.

Did I mention that Bill Gates allegedly chose me, personally? Because holy h*ck he did. He chose me. Personally. Out of everyone in the world who does my job, he picked me. That kinda blows my mind.

(2) WORLDCON HOTEL. DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, posted their biweekly hotel update: “2/28 Hotel Update”.

We have retained legal counsel in Delaware, which is the location of the Wardman Park bankruptcy proceedings. We are working with our legal counsel to move closer to a resolution, and we hope to provide you more concrete information as the process progresses.

(3) IGN PREVIEWS DC. IGN Fan Fest 2021 took place today where DC shared clips from Justice Society: World War II and  a premiere clip of The Flash‘s seventh season

  • Justice Society: World War II – Official Exclusive Wonder Woman vs Nazis Clip

In this exclusive sneak peek at Warner Bros. Animation’s latest DC animated movie, Justice Society: World War 2, Wonder Woman faces off with a group of Nazi soldiers. The new film finds modern-day Barry Allen – prior to the formation of the Justice League – discovering he can run even faster than he imagined, and that milestone results in his first encounter with the Speed Force. The Flash is promptly launched into the midst of a raging battle – primarily between Nazis and a team of Golden Age DC Super Heroes known as The Justice Society of America. Led by Wonder Woman, the group includes Hourman, Black Canary, Hawkman, Steve Trevor and the Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick. The Flash quickly volunteers to assist his fellow heroes in tipping the scales of war in their favor, while the team tries to figure out how to send him home. But it won’t be easy as complications and emotions run deep in this time-skipping World War II thriller. Justice Society: World War II will be available to purchase on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

  • The Flash: Season 7 Premiere – Official Exclusive Clip

In this exclusive clip from the long-awaited Season 7 premiere of The Flash, Barry races against the clock to stop Mirror Master and rescue Iris before his speed permanently runs out. “All’s Well That Ends Wells” will premiere on The CW on Tuesday, March 2.

(4) I, WITNESS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt, published in 1980, offers his explanation of fanzines and fandom in 1955.  (I’ve omitted the details of the fan feud he was involved in.)

Fan magazines are produced by fans and exist, literally, in the hundreds.  All but a very few are evanescent and exist for only a few issues before the time and the costs become insupportable.

I have no theoretical objection to write an occasional piece for love, but I have always steered clear of the fan magazines. There are so many that to write for one will mark you down as a target for the others and you will be nibbled to death…

…Though I had been an almost lifelong reader of science fiction, though I had written letters to magazines, though I had even involved myself with the Futurians, I had never immersed myself in what was called ‘fandom.’

I had no experience whatsoever with the ferocious single-mindedness with which this handful of people lived their science fiction.  They interpreted literally among us the catchphrase that ‘Fandom is a way of life.’

What ever these enthusiasts could earn in their work they invested in their collections, or in their fan magazines. Their time was entirely devoted to their correspondence and to their meetings. Often, in fact, their fan activities crowded out the basis on which it was all founded–for they were so busy being fans of science fiction, they lacked the time to read science fiction.

Fans knew each other, loved each other, hated each other, formed cliques and threatened lawsuits, and, in short, formed a small subculture to which everything else in the world seemed alien and of no account.

News spread through fandom at the speed of light, even though it might never so much touch the world outside  Any controversy involving fandom or the fan world elicited a joyful response at once as a vast number of fans (well, dozens anyway) plunged into the fray–on either side, it didn’t matter which.

(5) OLD BIRDBATH. And speaking of Fifties fandom…I Remember Me and Other Narratives – Walt Willis in Mimosa compiled by Rich Lynch is now available at Fanac.org. Includes this passage about a 1954 exchange between Willis and then-fanzine-editor Harlan Ellison.

….I did, however, get a letter from Harlan Ellison, about a phone call he made to me, an enterprise which was slightly handicapped by the fact that I didn’t have a phone at the time. He got my father’s house, which was a block away, and my sister didn’t come and get me because it was raining.

[From Ellison’s letter] “To say I’m merely angry or hurt would be a gross understatement. I’m completely devastated. You sent me ‘Mike Hammer at the Philcon,’ and I sent it out to be illustrated. Sure, it took me a year to get to it, but I was suspended with college work. Now when I have it on stencil and run off and announced as in the next issue with illos by Nasman Peterson, I pick up Mari Wolf’s column and see Space Times has already pubbed it. I’m really in a mess with the thing, and personally I think it was both poor taste on your part and a gross injustice not to at least write and tell me what had happened, before you sent a carbon to anyone else…”

I replied as follows. “Dear Harlan, Come now, old Birdbath. In the first place, how do you expect me to know you wanted the MS if you didn’t even acknowledge it? You wrote several times asking me to do something for you, but when I did send it there wasn’t another peep out of you. In fact, you folded your fanzine, retired from fandom, and changed your address. Not that I thought all this was on account of the MS, but in the absence of any acknowledgement or mention of it in any of your blurbs except the last one, how was I to know you were going to publish it?… Chuck Harris was staying with me at the time. The mail had just arrived, he had got five letters and there were none for me, and he was pulling my leg about my fan status having declined. Then my sister came round with the news that there had been a phone call from a Mr. Ellison of Ohio. Thanks, pal. All the best. Walter.”

This was at a time when transatlantic phone calls were almost unheard of in fandom. My recollection is that Chuck asked me, did I often get phone calls from American fans, and I said, “Only when it’s something important.”

(6) STRONACH INTERVIEWS LUCAS. In “An interview with Casey Lucas, moments before the avalanche hits” at The Spinoff, Alexander Stronach interviews the person he’s been friends with the longest, a Wellington science fiction and fantasy writer on the brink of world domination. (Alexander Stronach is Sasha Stronach, 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Winner for Best Novel, and Casey Lucas is the winner of the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Short Story.)

…Casey Lucas is a Swiss army knife. Casey Lucas is six feet tall and extremely bisexual. Casey Lucas is back from the dead (again). Casey Lucas is – finally, after years of dedication and hard work – on the cusp of very big things.

In the last year she’s won one of New Zealand’s highest honours for science fiction and fantasy writing, she’s worked on the wildly popular games Mini Metro and Mini Motorways, she’s run a workshop at Clarion West (possibly the most prestigious SF/F workshop in the world), she’s edited 30 graphic novels, she’s been hired to work on the next block of collectible card game Magic: the Gathering, and now her post-apocalyptic fungal fantasy web serial Into the Mire has picked up a prestigious international agent and is poised to go out to publishers.

Casey Lucas is, for lack of a better word, utterly singular, and today I’m getting deep in the weeds with her about success, trauma, M*A*S*H, and the impossible vastness of stone.

Alex Stronach: So you’re an “overnight success” now. What’s the spell look like? Who do I gotta kill? 

Casey Lucas: Success in publishing is like an avalanche. You only see the snow rushing at you, but it took millions of exhausting years and lots of earthquakes for that mountain to yank itself up out of the sea, and you don’t get the avalanche without a mountain for it to roll down….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

February 28, 1993 — On this date in 1993, Journey to the Center of the Earth first aired on NBC. It was intended as the pilot for a series but that never happened. It’s based on the novel of the same by Jules Verne. It is one of at least seven adaptations of the Verne novel to date so far. It was by William Dear from the screenplay by David Evans and William Gunter. It starred David Dundara, Farrah Forke, Tim Russ, Jeffrey Nordling and John Neville. No, it was not well received by the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes where it has a rating of just eighteen percent. And Screen Rant dubbed it the worst adaptation of the novel ever done.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 28, 1820 – Sir John Tenniel.  Had he only illustrated Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, it would have been enough for us.  He also illustrated an edition of the Ingoldsby Legends – so well known in the U.K. that Dorothy L. Sayers has Lord Peter Wimsey quoting them as late as Five Red Herrings (1931) and The Nine Tailors (1934).  JT drew 2,300 cartoons for Punch.  His knighthood (1893) was the first ever given to an illustrator.  (Died 1914) [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1875 – Maurice Renard.  Pioneering SF writer (d’accord, honors to Rosny aîné).  MR’s Dr. Lerne (1908) was a great Mad Scientist.  The Blue Peril is a decade earlier than The Book of the Damned and, I dare say it, kinder.  The Man Who Wanted to Be Invisible doesn’t “ruin” The Invisible Man – MR dedicated Le docteur Lerne to Wells – but faces, you should pardon the expression, the optics.  Half a dozen novels, ninety shorter stories.  (Died 1939) [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. An illustrator known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of  his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.) (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a series planned off it. He also two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All of his work is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1984.) (CE) 
  • Born February 28, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who was considered the originator of the program’s structure in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born February 28, 1946 – Leanne Frahm, age 75.  Two Ditmars as Best Fanwriter; two others, and an Aurealis, for fiction.  Seen in SF Commentary (and The Metaphysical Review); Souvenir Book for Aussiecon Three the 57th Worldcon – the year Greg Benford said “Certainly, thank you.  Are you inviting me to be Fan Guest of Honor or Pro Guest of Honor?”  Two dozen short stories (one with Terry Carr! anthologized in Stellar 7; another in TC’s Universe 13).  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1948 – Donna Jo Napoli, Ph.D., age 73.  Fourscore novels – opinions may differ on what under “children’s” we should count.  Writes for us when not too busy as a linguist, she’s a professor at Swarthmore.  Arabian Nights, Egyptian, Greek, Norse tales for National Geographic.  Golden Kite Award, Sydney Taylor Award, Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards.  Bimodal videobooks which hearing parents can read – I don’t know what else to call it – to deaf children.  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1957 John Barnes, 64. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? He’s decently stocked by the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1977 Chris Wooding, 44. If you read nothing else by him, do read the four novel series that is the steampunkish Tales of the Ketty Jay. Simply wonderful. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray plays off the Cthulhu Mythos that certain folk don’t think exist and does a damn fine job of doing so. (CE)
  • Born February 28, 1977 – J.T. Petty, age 44.  Four novels, as many shorter stories, for us; others too.  Motion pictures, videogames.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born February 28, 1980 – Gareth Worthington, Ph.D., age 41.  Endocrinologist who’s given us six novels.  Studied Jeet Kune Do, which as I understand is the best ever if you happen to be Bruce Lee – no blame, great sages keep telling us It’s simple, see?  Has read Moby-Dick and A Brief History of Time.  [JH]

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Dr. Seuss is credited with inventing the word “nerd,” which first appeared in ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ in 1950. Source: Parade Magazine

(10) VOICE FROM THE PAST. NPR reprised a 2000 interview with the author — “Stephen King: The ‘Craft’ Of Writing Horror Stories”.

In an interview on Fresh Air, King described his life-changing accident to Terry Gross but said it didn’t change the way he approached his writing….

On the nurses who took care of him

“You know, they’d all read Misery, and they worked for an outfit called the Bangor Area Visiting Nurses. These are nurses who go into the home and give home care. And I think one of them told me toward the end of the period, where I needed full-time nursing, that they had all read it, and they had all been called into the office by their superior and told in no uncertain terms, ‘You don’t make any Misery jokes.'”

Includes an excerpt from King’s book On Writing with this quote:

…Asteroid Miners (which wasn’t the title, but that’s close enough) was an important book in my life as a reader. Almost everyone can remember losing his or her virginity, and most writers can remember the first book he/she put down thinking: I can do better than this. Hell, I am doing better than this!

What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff?

(11) NAVIGATING TREK NOVELS. The Trek Collective has “Star Trek novel updates: First Coda blurbs, details of next DS9 novel, and audiobook covers”. A forthcoming trilogy is supposed to tie everything together.

More Star Trek novel news! Following the recent reveal of the 2021 line-up of Star Trek novels, Simon and Schuster have now updated their Online Catalog with blurbs for the books coming towards the end of the year, including the first details of the Coda trilogy. Continue below for all the details.

The Coda trilogy is set to tie-up the reality of the Star Trek litverse which has been told over the last couple of decades, but was alas shunted into an alternate timeline by the new canon events of Picard. All three of the new blurbs start with the following intro, which confirms we are getting one last enormous TNG/DS9/Titan/Aventine crossover:

… Temporal Apocalypse!! Blimey. Who is the mysterious old friend, what is the nature of the disaster, how will this all mesh the litverse with the canon reality? I cannot wait to find out!

If you have no idea what the litverse is, check out the Almighty Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart, compiled by Thrawn and I. You’ve got a few months to get caught up on the dozens of books leading up to this epic closing trilogy (though of course if you’re not caught up I’m sure the authors will make sure it’s entirely accessible to new readers too). 

(12) THE CHART. Indeed, the “Almighty Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart” deserves an item to itself – you should see it! This is the proposed reading order for Star Trek books created by Thrawn and 8of5 for the period between the end of DS9 (1999) and Star Trek: Picard. (There are, of course, a zillion other Trek books outside this timeframe.)

If you’re a bit lost navigating the sometimes complex web of interconnectivity between the various Star Trek novels in the post-finale continuity, this is the resource you need. TrekBBS user Thrawn found a most elegant solution, with his brilliant Star Trek Lit-Verse Reading Order Flowchart. Now (as of 2020) on the version six, Thrawn and I guide you through the world of Star Trek fiction.

Whether you’re a fan of TNGDS9Voyager, or Enterprise the chart below will show how they spin off into New FrontierTitanIKS GorkonVanguard, or Seekers, and crossover into DestinyTyphon PactThe FallMirror Universe, and more; letting you chart your own path through the Trek-litverse. Once you’ve got to grips with the flow chart you might also find some of my lists a useful reference too.

(13) BLACK SWAN? StarTrek.com analyzes “How The Search For Spock Changed the Way Star Trek Got Made”.

There are several pivotal turning points in the production history of Star Trek. Pinning down the most important ones is tricky — is filming of “The Cage” more impactful than casting the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before?” What about the writing approach in Season 3 of The Next Generation? Which events truly define how Star Trek was made and why? Among the likely candidates, the moment when Leonard Nimoy took over directorial duties for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock tends to be overlooked. One June 1, 1984, The Search For Spock was released, becoming the very first Trek production crafted by one of the actors. And the way Star Trek was created behind-the-scenes would never be the same.

(14) URBAN LEGENDS. “Mars City design: 6 sci-fi cities that will blow your mind” from Inverse.

6. BRADBURY CITY – MARS TRILOGY

There are several fictional cities in Kim Stanely Robinson’s seminal SF books about the settlement of Mars — Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars — so it’s hard to pick just one. But, if you have to choose only one Martian metropolis from his books, Bradbury City is the way to go.

Named for Ray Bradbury, who wrote The Martian Chronicles, Robinson’s Bradbury City is designed to recreate a city in Illinois. Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois. The Martian Chronicles features several unlikely Martian cities, some made by humans, some made by Martians. But, in almost all cases, like in “Night Meeting,” these towns and cities often have gas stations and pickup trucks.

(15) YOUTUBER. Dom Noble reviews “Raybearer ~ An African Inspired Fantasy Novel”.

(16) IT HAPPENED TO HIM, TOO? “Kevin Feige Panicking After Mom Throws Out $3.6 Billion Worth Of Superhero Crap” in The Onion. (Too short to excerpt – but I don’t need to talk anyone into reading The Onion, do I?

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Underground Comix Movement” on YouTube is an introduction to the great independent comix creators of the late 1960s, including S. Clay Wilson, Peter Bagge, and Gilbert Shelton.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Rich Lynch, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Jennifer Hawthorne, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/11/21 The
Muppet Pastors

(1) LIGHTS OUT AT PARLER. When Twitter banned President Trump and purged thousands of QAnon-linked accounts that fell under the company’s “coordinated harmful activity” ban (due to concerns about online incitement leading to violence), Parler was one of the alternative social media sites expecting to offer a new home to the traffic — until its tech host, Amazon, pulled the plug: “Parler sues Amazon after pro-Trump site goes dark” in the Washington Post.

Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon Web Services on Monday, just hours after the social media network was taken offline when Amazon pulled support.

Parler filed the suit against Amazon on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The company alleges in the suit that Amazon breached its contract by not giving it 30 days’ notice before dropping service. Parler also argued that Amazon was being hypocritical by not taking similar action against Twitter, where violent posts can also appear.Big Tech abandoned the social media site, known for allowing unfettered speech on its platform, over the weekend after expressing concern that the site was not properly moderating posts that could incite violence. Google and Apple removed Parler from its app stores, while Amazon — which was hosting the site on its cloud — decided to stop working with it, effectively removing it from the Internet.

…Even after Apple warned Parler that it needed to implement a more thorough content moderation plan or be kicked off the App Store, the social media network spurned the idea.

(2) HOYT. Sarah Hoyt, in “…Book Promo And Some Blather By Sarah” [Internet Archive link], urged people not to make her Amazon sales collateral damage in their reaction to its treatment of Parler.

A lot of you are furious at Amazon for joining the unconscionable censorship of Parler, which btw is still relatively small and all innocuous, other than, you know, allowing Trump a platform (Because as invaders, the left can’t let the president of the US address the nation, of course.) Look, so am I. I’m even more furious because I have no way out of the trap.

Yes, a lot of you — yes, I’m looking at you — have raged at Amazon for years and told us it would come for us and that we should get out now. This was not only misguided (I’ll explain why) but also it’s kind of the equivalent of poking a chained prisoner and saying “run.” He really wants to, but all you’re actually doing is torturing and wounding him.

However, since last night, this has TRULY become an emergency, not because of what Amazon will do or won’t do to ebook fiction (more on that) but because a core of my readers will now refuse to buy from Amazon under any circumstances, which means that I’m going to lose a lot of my income (and Amazon won’t give a flying fig. But I get your outrage, I understand, and yet you’ll only hurt the writers, UNTIL WE HAVE AN ALTERNATIVE.)

(3) CORREIA. Larry Correia’s post “Bow Before Appgooglezon” [Internet Archive link] at Monster Hunter Nation mentions neither Parler nor Amazon, but everyone in comments knows what’s being discussed, and they do name them.

(4) PUNDITRY. Camestros Felapton finds the two prior authors a source of inspiration for his own commentary. Quoted here are the final lines of a pair of his latest posts.

…So there you go, not one red cent apart from any red cents where a proportion of the red cent might go to Sarah Hoyt.

…It is a bit late in the day for Larry to discover that Elizabeth Warren had a point but it is noticeable that the step big tech took that tipped Larry over the edge was them clamping down on speech aimed at inciting violence to over throw an election.

(5) SCALZI. John Scalzi has written several posts on recent developments, beginning with “Thoughts on Coups and Sedition, 1/8/21”. (His comment on Trump’s Twitter ban is comparatively laconic: “Huh”.)  

Fine. First question: Was what happened on Wednesday an actual coup attempt?

What makes you think that it wasn’t?

I don’t know, I guess maybe I thought a real coup wouldn’t include a guy who looked like a Jamiroquai cosplayer at a Nazi bar karaoke night.

Just because it was a stupid coup attempt doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real coup attempt. Trump plumped for the thing to happen in his nodding and winking way on Twitter, and he incited it and encouraged it in person. The attendees came expecting to take part in one, and had planned their strategy, such as it was, on Parler and other not-exactly-savory portions of the internet. They brought weapons and zip ties. They went looking for congresspeople. They weren’t just there to hang out on the mall, wave their Trump flags, get a churro and go home. They meant business. Fortunately like all Trump business, it went belly up in record time. But that’s neither here nor there for the intent….

(6) JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin identifies some historical myopia in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s video (linked in yesterday’s Scroll) but adds “I’m mostly fine with Arnold’s message, BTW.”

(7) WATCHING BB. Buckaroo Banzai is the theme of the World Watch One Newsletter for January 10 [PDF file] which contains Steven H Silver’s “The Buckaroo Barrier” (pp. 15-16) where he explains, “I’ve been a fan of the film Buckaroo Banzai ever since I saw it in the theatres. A few years ago, I realized that for a lot of people, the first viewing of the film left them confused and disliking the film. I discuss why a second viewing may be necessary to appreciate it.”

(8) FIVE YEARS. Wil Wheaton shared his sobriety anniversary on Facebook His testimony begins:

Yesterday, I marked the fifth anniversary of my decision to quit drinking alcohol. It was the most consequential choice I have ever made in my life, and I am able to stand before you today only because I made it.

I was slowly and steadily killing myself with booze. I was getting drunk every night, because I couldn’t face the incredible pain and PTSD I had from my childhood, at the hands of my abusive father and manipulative mother.

It was unsustainable, and I knew it was unsustainable, but when you’re an addict, knowing something is unhealthy and choosing to do something about it are two very different things….

(9) SELF-PROPELLED TBR. Most have to go to the mountain, but his Mount TBR came to him, and James Davis Nicoll can even tell you the names of “Five of the Best Books I Never Meant to Read”.

While but a callow youth, I subscribed to the Science Fiction Book Club. The club, wise in the ways of procrastination, would send each month’s selection of books to subscribers UNLESS the subscribers had sent the club a card informing the SFBC that one did not want the books in question. All too often I planned to send the card off, only to realize (once again), when a box of books arrived, that intent is not at all the same thing as action.

Thus, I received books that I would not have chosen but, once in possession, I read and enjoyed them. All praise to the SFBC and the power of procrastination! Here are five of my favorite unintended reading experiences…

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1991 — The Nebula Award for Best Novel went to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, the fourth novel of the Earthsea sequence. It published by Atheneum in 1990. It had been twenty years since the last Earthsea novel was published. It would be not the last novel as The Other Wind would follow twenty years later.  It would also win the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 11, 1886 – Samuel Cahan.  Frequent Argosy interiors for us, e.g. Pirates of Venus and The Synthetic Men of Mars (Burroughs), “The Earth-Shaker” (Leinster).  Outside our field e.g. this fine drawing of Woodrow Wilson.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1906 – John Myers Myers.  A score of books, including historical fiction, nonfiction, poetry; for us marvelously Silverlock – get the NESFA Press edition with songs, a Reader’s Guide, commentary; as the folklorist George Melikis said about something else, “I love studying Macedonia because everybody lives there.”  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the Fantastic Voyage series and the Isaac Asimov novel were based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film. (Died 1998.) (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1928 – Virgil Burnett.  Author, illustrator, sculptor, Professor of Fine Arts at Univ. Waterloo (Ontario, Canada).  A dozen short stories collected in Towers at the Edge of a World.  Here is a cover for The War of the Worlds.  Here is his frontispiece for Jurgen.  HereThe Rubâ‘îyat [pl. of rubâ‘î , a kind of quatrain] of Omar Khayyam.  Here is his cover for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Here is Alexander the Great.  See this note on a 2013 exhibit by his daughter at Haverford College.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), the Hugo nominated The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script though there’s no proof of this), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels, One Hundred and One Dalmatians and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1931 – Mary Rodgers.  Her Freaky Friday and three sequels are ours; I’m unsure about her musical Once Upon a Mattress – is “The Princess and the Pea” fantasy?  She did music and lyrics for Davy Jones’ Locker with the Bill Baird marionettes, also music for a Pinocchio with them.  Daughter of Richard Rodgers.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 84. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi. (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 60. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted word play as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 58. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly, including the music done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the Vengeance on Varosstory on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (much least favorite Doctors). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins. (CE)
  • Born January 11, 1972 Tom Ward, 39. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”.  He played H.G. Wells in Hallmark’s The Infinite Worlds of H. G. Wells series, and he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles. (CE) 
  • Born January 11, 1976 – Alethea Kontis, age 45.  A dozen novels for us, four dozen shorter stories.  NY Times and USA Today best-seller.  Keynote address at Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference.  “Alethea means truth in Greek, but I was named after an episode from the first season of Kung Fu where Jodie Foster played a little girl named Alethea Ingram….  Our last name was originally Kontaridis, but my grandfather shortened it.”  Makes good baklava, plays bad acoustic guitar.  [JH]
  • Born January 11, 1987 – Wesley King, age 34.  A dozen novels, including two with Kobe Bryant and the possibly well-titled Incredible Space Rangers from Space.  NY Times best-seller.  Has read “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, The Time Machine, four Shakespeare plays, War and PeaceWhere the Wild Things Are.  Lives in Nova Scotia and on a 1967 sailboat.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BUT ON THE EIGHTH LEG. Literary Hub podcast Otherppl with Brad Listi brings us “George Saunders on How You Know When the Talking Spider Belongs in the Story”.

…For me, my intention is I really want all my stories to speak to those moments in our lives when the scrim drops away and we’re confronted with the brutality of this life that we’re living in. And also the beauty. But I want my stories to be comforting in the sense that they won’t be full of shit if you read them at a low moment. That means that I don’t want anything in a story that doesn’t serve that purpose, or another way of saying it is I don’t want anything weird to happen until it’s going to do that kind of emotional work. So my default is there’s no weird shit allowed. I’m basically a realist at heart. But every so often you get to a place where a story is saying, “If you will just let me have the talking spider, I will be more profound.” Or often what it does is it says, “There’s a question that I have to ask here in this story, but I can’t do it without the talking spider. Would you allow it?”

(14) CLASHING SYMBOLS. Mental Floss says the public can “Help Massachusetts Choose a Possible State Dinosaur”.

Massachusetts residents have no shortage of state symbols through which to celebrate their regional devotion….

Now, Massachusetts state legislator Jack Patrick Lewis is lobbying for another one: state dinosaur. As Boston.com reports, Lewis has fostered a passion for prehistoric creatures ever since seeing The Land Before Time (1988) in his youth, and he’s hoping an official state dinosaur will help fellow Bay Staters learn about the area’s early history.

Lewis has chosen two species to consider for the designation. The Podokesaurus holyokensis is a 3-to-6-foot carnivore whose fossils were unearthed around Mount Holyoke in 1910. Mignon Talbot, the woman who made the discovery, was the first woman to ever name a newfound dinosaur. The Podokesaurus’s competition is the Anchisaurus polyzelus, a slightly larger herbivore whose bones were located in Springfield, Massachusetts, more than half a century earlier….

Twelve states and the District of Columbia already have state dinosaurs – and there’s a separate category for state fossils.

(15) DINO NEST. At the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, “Researchers Announce World’s First Dinosaur Preserved Sitting on Nest of Eggs with Fossilized Babies”.

…“This kind of discovery—in essence, fossilized behavior—is the rarest of the rare in dinosaurs,” explains Dr. Lamanna. “Though a few adult oviraptorids have been found on nests of their eggs before, no embryos have ever been found inside those eggs. In the new specimen, the babies were almost ready to hatch, which tells us beyond a doubt that this oviraptorid had tended its nest for quite a long time. This dinosaur was a caring parent that ultimately gave its life while nurturing its young.”
 
The team also conducted oxygen isotope analyses that indicate that the eggs were incubated at high, bird-like temperatures, adding further support to the hypothesis that the adult perished in the act of brooding its nest. Moreover, although all embryos were well-developed, some appear to have been more mature than others, which in turn suggests that oviraptorid eggs in the same clutch might have hatched at slightly different times. This characteristic, known as asynchronous hatching, appears to have evolved independently in oviraptorids and some modern birds.

(16) SHARING EXPERIENCE. The Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog presents “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Gregory Ashe”.

You’ve published six books in your Hazard and Somerset mysteries. Do you tend to outline your books and series ahead of time, or do you tend to figure things out as you go along? When you started the series, did you know how many books you would write and where your characters would end up?

Although I have become more and more of an outliner, there is still an element of excavation and discovery in each book I write. One challenge I’ve faced as a writer is that I tend to write long books—and if I’m not careful, they become massive. Outlining helps me control the size of the story, as well as ensuring that I hit the right beats and turns when and where I want to. The excavatory and exploratory side of storytelling tends to happen, for me, between those major plot points. I have written quite a few books without an outline at all, but that is less and less the case. The same is true for series. The Hazard and Somerset series essentially took shape as two parts: the first four books, and then the last two. I learned from that, and when I wrote ‘season two,’ Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords, I had a fairly comprehensive outline for the five-book series. I now tend to write all of my series this way, with an outline to guide the pacing of the series as well as the individual books.

(17) CAT SCAN. In a video at A.V. Club, “Take a model train tour through a world ruled by giant cats”.

Jonathan Lawton is a visionary artist. His work may seem humble—the West Yorkshire man builds model railways, set in blue-skied little villages, just like so many other people looking for a productive reprieve from their daily lives. But, Lawton’s work extends beyond its genre and into the realm of speculative fiction thanks to his collaborator, a cat named Mittens that towers like a benevolent god in a showcase of his creation….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Power Rangers Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George explains that people who see the Power Rangers remake will not enjoy Bryan Cranston’s performance as a 65-million-year-old blue guy or that there’s no Power Rangers action until 90 minutes into the movie.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/29/20 The Three-Tribble Problem

(1) TREK THE VOTE. Trek fans are called on to volunteer their time to help protect election integrity in this YouTube clip featuring many stars from all of the shows, including Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, and Armin Shimmerman.

(2) R.U.R. EXHIBIT. Radio Prague International posted on its English language page “Karel Capek’s ‘robots’ at 100 – new exhibition highlights foreign productions of R.U.R.” (although, of course, they used the proper character to begin the author’s last name, for which we have substituted “C” because WordPress turns the other into a question mark.)

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of R.U.R., the dystopian theatre play by Karel Capek that introduced the word ‘robot’ into English – and to science fiction as a whole. A new exhibition called A Journey into the Depths of the Robot’s Soul focuses on how Capek’s ground-breaking play was received and staged abroad.

R.U.R. (or ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’) was Karel ?apek’s most popular work during his lifetime, both in Czechoslovakia and abroad. By 1923, a couple of years after its premiere in Prague, the dystopian play had been translated into 30 languages and been staged in major theatres in Europe and across the Atlantic.

Exhibition curator Zdenek Vacek is director of the Karel Capek Memorial, a museum housed in the writer’s summer residence in Stará Hu?, south of Prague. For the centennial anniversary, he says, they decided to focus on the history of R.U.R.’s early foreign performances and influence on writers around the world.

(3) BOLDLY GOING? A comic con in LA in December? Don’t count on it: “L.A. Comic Con announces in-person event, but conventions are still banned in the state” – the LA Times has the story.

L.A. Comic Con says it is moving forward with its plan to hold an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center, but large gatherings — such as conventions and conferences — are currently not permitted anywhere in California amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event’s organizers explained in a Sunday announcement on the L.A. Comic Con website that they have been working with the convention center and taking guidance from state and local officials to plan an event they think will “be both safe and fun” for attendees and exhibitors.

But Doane Liu, the executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development, told The Times on Monday that this announcement came as a surprise and is premature.

“Under current state health guidelines, conventions are not allowed,” Liu said. “It’s not known when they will be allowed.”

…In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the chief executive of L.A. Comic Con parent company Comikaze Entertainment, Chris DeMoulin, clarified that L.A. Comic Con is currently “a potential show.”

(4) DISNEY RETRENCHING. In fact, here’s more of the news we’re really expecting to see: “Disney to lay off 28,000 workers at domestic theme parks” reports the LA Times.

The Burbank-based company said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 employees at its domestic parks division, which includes Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The company’s once-mighty parks division has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus health crisis. In March, Disney announced it was furloughing more than 100,000 workers after the pandemic forced the company to shut down its lucrative theme parks.

Walt Disney World has been operating with strict capacity limits and social distancing requirements. California has not yet allowed theme parks including Disneyland to resume business.

(5) TRAILER PARK. SciFiNow alerted viewers to “Cognition: Trailer Revealed For Sci-Fi Short”.

COGNITION is a short dystopian sci-fi drama / thriller about a son confronting his past trauma. Journeying through the symbolic landscape of the subconscious mind, the story follows an unbreakable bond between father and son…. A bond that transcends SPACE AND TIME…..

(6) ASHKIN DIES. Nobel laureate Arthur Ashkin, who the New York Times styles as having invented a ‘Tractor Beam’, died September 21 at the age of 98.

Arthur Ashkin, a physicist who was awarded a 2018 Nobel Prize for figuring out how to harness the power of light to trap microscopic objects for closer study, calling his invention optical tweezers, died on Sept. 21 at his home in Rumson, N.J. He was 98.

Optical tweezers — or optical traps, as they are more properly known — use the pressure from a highly focused laser beam to manipulate microscopic objects, from atoms to living organisms, like viruses and bacteria.

As the Nobel committee wrote, Dr. Ashkin had “invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, molecules, and living cells with their laser beam fingers.”

Trapping biological material proved to have groundbreaking practical applications in research and in understanding the behavior of the basic building blocks of life, like DNA, and other biological systems. Today, optical tweezers are widely manufactured and sold to researchers.

Dr. Ashkin’s “tweezer” is created by shining a laser — a beam of coherent monochromatic light — through a tiny magnifying lens. The lens creates a focal point for the laser, and, by a strange twist of nature, particles are drawn near that focal point and trapped there, unable to move up or down or backward or forward.

Steven M. Block, a professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University, compared optical tweezers to the kind of immobilizing technology postulated in “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” calling them “the closest thing to a tractor beam that humans have ever produced.”…

(7) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

  • Fifty years ago, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at Heicon ’70. (It would win the Nebula Award as well.) (The  runner-ups for the Hugo were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony‘s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.‘s  Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron.)  It was published first by Ace Books in their paperback Ace SF Special, Series 1 in 1969, and has had at least thirty editions in eleven languages though not Finnish. The first edition of The Left Hand of Darkness did not contain an introduction though later editions do. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 78. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 76. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. Finally, she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1949 – Joêlle Wintrebert, 71.  Nine novels, three dozen shorter stories; three years editing Univers; essays, reviews in Alerte!FictionFuturs; edited Petite anthologie de la science-fiction (all in French).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1952 – Lou Stathis.  Fan and pro.  Part of the SF Forum that gave birth to ICON.  Wrote for FantasticMississippi ReviewSF EyeThrustVertigo (i.e. DC Comics’). One novel.  Here is a Jeff Schalles photo from the mid-1980s.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 61. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen, VoyagerDeep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold.. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 59. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off, he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Dale Dickey, 59. She was Martha Bozeman in a recurring role on True Blood. She’s also been on Them: CovenantThe X-Files and Bones, and in two genre films, Changeling and Iron Man 3. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 – John O’Halloran, 59.  Long active at SF cons.  Webmaster for the Int’l Costumers Guild, 1989.  “Gerard” in the Best of Show “Trumps of Amber”, Torcon 3 (61st Worldcon) Masquerade, see here (at right) and here; judge, LoneStarCon 3 Masquerade (71st).  Official Photographer of Events, Loncon 3 (72nd); Official Photographer for Candid Shots, Sasquan (73rd) – see his Sasquan album here.  Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Chris), Baycon 2013.  Taiko drummer (as Chris is too).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1978 – Aislinn Batstone, 42.  (Forename is Irish, pronounced like “Aish-lin”.)  “What the Witch Wants” in Stupefying, “Instructions in My Absence” in Timeless Tales, a dozen more.  Master’s degree in Philosophy, taught philosophy, married a philosopher.  So there.  [JH, B.A. in Philosophy]
  • Born September 29, 1983 – Elisa McCausland, 37.  Half a dozen books (some collaborative).  Ignotus award for Wonder Woman about feminism as a superpower; later, with Diego Salgado, Supernovas, a feminist history of audiovisual SF; McC also does “Postheroic Transmutations”, about the subversive power of superheroines, on the Rock & Comics podcast (all in Spanish, i.e. her section of R&C is «Transmutaciones Postheroicas»).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STOCKING UP. Virgin Galactic SPCE stock recorded big gains after more financial firms recommended it to investors: “Virgin Galactic jumps 25% in its second best day ever after getting Wall Street’s full endorsement”.

Shares of Virgin Galactic surged nearly 25% in trading Monday after Wall Street firms continued to set higher expectations for the space tourism stock.

The stock jump came after Bank of America and Susquehanna began coverage of Virgin Galactic. Notably, the two firms join six others in recommending Virgin Galactic’s stock to investors, giving the company the eight Wall Street buy ratings – and zero to hold or sell.

“No company in our coverage universe has anywhere near comparable growth potential,” Bank of America analyst Ron Epstein said.

Virgin Galactic’s 24.8% jump, with shares closing at $20.51, was its second-biggest in a trading day since its public debut last year. Including Monday’s climb, the stock is up about 78% this year.

(11) ALWAYS THOSE DARNED MUGGLES. “Scots Harry Potter fans slammed for cramming station to see Hogwarts Express” reports the UK’s Daly Record.

Scots Harry Potter fans have been slammed as ‘idiotic’ after scores of people crammed onto a railway platform to watch a train from the iconic film franchise pass by.

The steam train, made famous by the blockbuster movie series, travelled from its winter base in Carnforth in Lancashire on Monday.

The ‘Hogwarts Express’ route had several stops at a number of Scots stations, including Dalmuir in West Dunbartonshire.

The locomotive chuntered past the gathered Potter fanatics at around 5.45pm.

But photos that emerged of the fleeting moment sparked fury on social media.

Locals slammed Dalmuir residents for ignoring social distancing guidelines.

Some claimed that many among the large crowd on the platform were not wearing face masks or coverings and were also not staying two metres away from each other.

Many took to Facebook to vent their anger after the image was shared online.

One wrote: “Yes, it’s a train from Harry Potter, but I think there are much more important things going on.

“Covid-19 is so strong right now, Christmas is under threat.

“We are meant to be social distancing and none of this is happening whatsoever for a train.

“This is shameful, disgusting and very disappointing.”

Another added: “Where is the social distance there?”

A third commented: “I cannot believe the stupidity of these people all for the sake of a Harry Potter train….

(12) ABOUT YOUR STAR WARS KNOWLEDGE. Ranker contends there are “25 Things You Didn’t Know About The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy”. (If I didn’t know that many answers on my driver’s exam, I’d be walking!) Here’s Number One —

1. James Earl Jones Wasn’t Credited By Request

James Earl Jones’ long career is filled with exceptional roles, but he’s probably best known for providing the voice of Darth Vader. David Prowse spoke all the dialogue as the movie was filmed, but his British West Country accent wasn’t working for George Lucas.

It’s unclear whether Lucas always planned to dub over Prowse’s dialogue, but in the end, that’s what he did, using Jones’ dialogue instead. Jones, however, asked that he not be given credit for his work in the film’s credit reel, and in the original, he wasn’t. 

Jones felt that his contribution to the film was minimal and he didn’t deserve credit. Over time, he realized the significance his voice gave to the character and reprised the role in subsequent movies, television series, and video games.

(13) BUSINESS OUTREACH. “How do you know you’ve arrived at the Uncommon Open Air weekend? You see the bookshop with a sea monster coming out of the windows,” the owners said on Facebook.  This landmark is the River Bookstore in Amherstburg, Ontario.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Screen Junkies, in “Firefly Honest Trailer” on YouTube, invite viewers to “suit up in their dustiest browns and beiges” to watch Firefly, the show with so much “quippy dialogue” that “if the ship goes under 50 quips an hour, it’s primed to explode!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cyril Simsa, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “One-Body” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/21/20 Pounded
In The Scroll By The Anthropomorphic Concept
Of Pixels

(1) COLUMBUS NASFIC OPENING CEREMONIES. [Item by David Doering.] Watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Columbus NASFiC, I noted the number of apologies for lack of the in-person meetings.

However, I also think we should celebrate that we are LIVING an SF novel. If we had written this 20 years ago, it would have been SF–real-time linkups with AV from around the globe!! Is that KEWL or what??

We did NOT have to cancel. We still have a great slate of programming. AND we still can get together to honor Mike Resnick.

I should add that we also don’t have worry about scaring each other with pathogens if we were in person. Thus potentially setting off a “War of the Worlds” scenario with all of us “aliens” descending on a single city only to be doomed by GERMS.

(2) ROGUE NASFIC. Chris Garcia is the virtual Columbus NASFiC’s Editor Guest of Honor. The con newsletter made everyone aware he’s also got some real-life concerns right now:  

Please share your positive thoughts, hopes, prayers – as appropriate – and spare a moment of contemplation for Christopher J. Garcia (GOH), his wonderful family Vanessa, John Paul and Ben, as they await news of their home, and neighbourhood, evacuated as they are from Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz County CZU August Lightning Complex Fire. Certainly, we all wish them well. (submitted by James Bacon)

In better Chris Garcia news, check out his Rogue NASFiC YouTube channel of extra programming. As Chris explained on Facebook:

This is what happens when I’m given the power of Guest of Honor without oversight!

This YouTube Channel has some great videos of interviews and more! I’ll be adding as the Weekend (and beyond!) goes on!

Coming soon will be our Podcast channel!

I wanna thank the entire team of the NASFiC for letting me have a little fun!!!

Here’s one example:

(3) NINA ALLAN FIRES A CANON. [Item by PhilRM.] Here’s another very interesting piece by Nina Allan, discussing, among other things**, the notion of an SFF canon:  “Weird Wednesdays #11: the question of lineage”. There’s a well-known quote by Borges, from his essay on Kafka: “The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.” Nina’s take (which I completely agree with) is that every writer creates their own canon; I’d extend this to say that every reader creates their own canon also.

**Her piece also convinced me that I really need to read William Golding’s The Inheritors and The Spire, which sound like fascinating books.

…I have explored and will continue to explore some of the ‘canonical’ works from science fiction’s so-called Golden Age – not because I feel I should but because I am interested. I enjoy thinking about these things, I enjoy writing criticism, and I happen to believe that the more widely you read around a subject, the more fiercely you can argue your corner, the more enjoyment you can derive. And having said that, I saw an interesting comment somewhere at some point during the post-Hugo furore with words to the effect that it is actually the middle generation of science fiction writers – Le Guin, Butler, Russ, Delany, Disch, Haldeman, Pohl – who are the true pioneers of the American tradition, who not only wrote better then but speak better now to the generation of writers currently winning Hugos. That definitely rings true for me, though it might not for you. But that’s the beauty of such contentions: they are there to be discussed.  

(4) SFF WRITERS ON AMW PODCAST. The American Writers Museum in Chicago is doing a series of science fiction-themed podcast episodes for the Ray Bradbury Centennial.

In celebration of Bradbury, the AWM will also air in August on its newly launched podcast four conversations with contemporary science fiction and fantasy writers. Each weekly episode of the podcast features one of the AWM’s past live programs and covers a range of topics including process, writing influences, and the life of a writer. J. Michael Straczynski, author of Becoming Superman headlines the August 10 episode. On the August 17 episode, Annalee Newitz, author of The Future of Another Timeline, is joined by journalist Dan Sinker. Hugo-Award winner John Scalzi, author of The Consuming Fire, is featured on the August 24 episode. Isabel Ibanez, author of Woven in Moonlight, closes out the month on the August 31 episode.

Episodes already online —

(5) THE POWER OF FIVE. James Davis Nicoll has assembled another listicle for Tor.com: “Five SF Books That Would Make Great Musicals”.

If there is one lesson to be learned from Hamilton’s Broadway success, it’s that a surprising diverse number of themes can be successfully turned into musicals. After all, who would have believed Ontario’s steel town—just a second—I have just been informed that the musical Hamilton is not in fact about Hamilton, Ontario, but rather about a significant figure in the American Revolution. I see.

Nevertheless, my point stands: almost everything can be turned into a musical, given sufficient talent. Even science fiction epics. Which brings me to the exciting topic of What Science Fiction Works I Would Like to See as Musicals.

(6)  HARRYHAUSEN SCULPTURE. This piece is up for bid at Nate D. Sanders Auctions until August 27. “Ray Harryhausen Original Bronze Sculpture — One of 12 in His Limited Edition Self-Portrait Entitled ‘Giving Life to Fantasy'”

Ray Harryhausen original sculpture, #10 in the limited edition of 12 created in the early 1990s, and then cast in 2010, the last work of fine art by the cinematic trailblazer before his passing. Entitled ”Giving Life to Fantasy”, this self-portrait sculpture depicts Harryhausen as he wanted to be remembered, filming the animated creatures of his imagination: the Cyclops and Dragon in their climactic battle in ”The 7th Voyage of Sinbad”. Other personal touches in this detailed sculpture include Harryhausen’s Giant Octopus from ”It Came from Beneath the Sea” in a box on the floor (along with his inspiration, the gorilla from ”King Kong”), and his Brontosaurus from ”The Animal World” on the side table. Signed and numbered by Harryhausen on the corner of the table, ”Ray Harryhausen 10/12”. Sculpture stands on a green marble and wooden base, with entire presentation measuring 19” x 11.5” x approximately 11” tall, and weighing nearly 50 lbs. Some light patina to bronze, overall near fine condition.

(7) HUNGER GAMES IN EVERYDAY LIFE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Reader, Financial Times.] This is the lede of an article by John Reed in the August 20 Financial Times about protests against the Thai government.

“It is a morning ritual at every Thai school, steeped in tradition and nationalist decorum: children stand still and sing the national anthem as the kingdom’s blue, white, and red flag is raised.

But this week, amid a growing ‘Free People’ youth protest movement, children across Thailand raised their hands during the ceremony to make the protesters’ trademark, defiant three-fingered salute.

The gesture originated in The Hunger Games, the dystopian young adult franchise of books and films, but has been adopted as an emblem of a movement that has spread from university campuses to secondary schools…

…”it has become a peacefully powerful symbol of anti-authoritarianism,’ said Viengrat Nethipo, assistant professor of political science at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.  ‘Recently it’s been described among youth as symbolic of the French Revolution’s values of liberty, equality, and fraternity, so it’s easily adopted as a symbol.'”

(8) STATUE READY FOR PRIME TIME. [Item by rcade.] Medusa, a 2008 statue by the Argentine-Italian sculptor Luciano Garbati, is getting a seven-foot tall bronze version in New York City across from the New York Criminal Courthouse where Harvey Weinstein was put on trial. NSFW image in a tweet here

Garbati’s statue is a response to Benvenuto Cellini’s famous Perseus with the Head of Medusa statue and the idea that Medusa is the villain of the story.

Quartz explains in “The story behind the Medusa statue that has become the perfect avatar for women’s rage” – 

The original Greek myth of Medusa offers plenty to be angry about. The monstrous being with snakes for hair starts out as a human woman, who Poseidon rapes in Athena’s temple. The goddess then punishes Medusa by turning her into a Gorgon and exiling her. Perseus is later sent on an errand to bring Medusa’s head to King Polydectes. Equipped with a mirrored shield, winged sandals, and a special sack for her head, Perseus creeps up on Medusa while she lies sleeping, cuts off her head, and then uses it as a weapon for turning enemies into stone.”

Garbati says, “The representations of Perseus, he’s always showing the fact that he won, showing the head…if you look at my Medusa…she is determined, she had to do what she did because she was defending herself. It’s quite a tragic moment.”

(9) STEVEN UNIVERSE AND SHE-RA. “In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson” at Paper.

…With Steven Universe and She-Ra both having ended this year, PAPER invited showrunners Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson to sit down with one another and reflect on the legacies of their respective series, getting their start in comics, the state of representation in the animated field and where things go from here.

PAPER: Since you’re both wrapping up your respective series’, looking back at what each of you have accomplished, in those series what are you proud of, what do you wish you could have improved on or pushed further?

Rebecca Sugar: Okay, well looking back on everything, I’m really proud of what we were able to do with the characters of Garnet and Ruby and Sapphire. It really goes all the way back to the time I spent on Adventure Time and when I got a chance to do some of the earlier episodes with Marceline and Bubblegum. This was 2010 so Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still a national policy. It would be half a decade before same-sex marriage was legal in The United States and I wanted to do something with the characters of Marceline and Bubblegum but figure out how to get it on TV. The strategy at the time that I pitched was that because they’re both centuries-old, millenniums-old, had a relationship sometime in the past and they’re unpacking that in a way that would be apparent. That was the only way to be able to do something with these characters and their relationship on screen.

As I was entering my show, I really wanted to find a way to be able to show characters actively in a relationship happening in real-time. We strategized the concept of fusion to be able to explore relationships and include queer relationships. Central to that, one of the things we were excited about was to have the character of Garnet have a ton of screen time and be a main character. There were a lot of things I wanted to explore with an active relationship to parallel my own relationship. I was inventing these characters with my co-executive producer Ian Jones-Quartey, who is also my partner. We wanted to explore an active, queer relationship that would parallel a lot of our experiences with bigotry as an interracial couple.

(10) N.K. [Item by rcade.] While discussing a project called Women’s Prize for Fiction Reclaim Her Name that asked to publish one of her stories for free, then asked to publish one of her novels for free, Nora Jemisin explains how she came to write novels under the initials N.K. Thread starts here.

“(And for those wondering, I’ve said this in multiple interviews, but I did it bc at the time I was an academic starting to publish papers, and thought the initials would separate my fiction writing from my academic writing. [Yeah, this was before natural language processing.])”

Read the whole thread for how she handles a question about what the K stands for.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • August 1998Blade premiered. With Wesley Snipes as Blade, this film, the first of a trilogy, was directed by Stephen Norrington and written by David S. Goyer as based on the Marvel character developed by writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan. It was produced by Snipes along with Peter Frankfurt and Robert Engelman. Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, N’Bushe Wright and Donal Logue were the other principal cast. Marvel, along with Amen Ra Films and Imaginary Forces, were the producing film companies. It was generally well-received by critics though several thought it was way too violent. Box office-wise, it did fantastic but Marvel earned just a flat fee of $25,000. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently only give it a 55% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bears one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “ Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Although it is said that she started writing SF when Boucher became editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, she only published five of her eighteen late Forties through Fifties works there. One published there, “Mary Celestial“, was written with Boucher. And one, “A Death in the Family”,  was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Best remembered as a mystery writer.  I see no indication that she’s in print in any manner these days for her SF (but three of her mysteries are available from the usual suspects) though she had two SF collections, Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow and Xenogenesis.  (Died 1975.) (CE) 
  • Born August 21, 1911 – Anthony Boucher.  Co-founded The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with Francis McComas, co-edited with him 1949-1954, alone through ’58; two Hugos for Best Professional Magazine.  Eight Best of F&SF anthologies 1952-1959 (’52-’54 with FM).  A Treasury of SF ’59, one of our best.  Six dozen short stories.  Translated into Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian.  Opera lover.  First translator of Borges into English, hello Evelyn Leeper.  Also detective fiction (a star there too), radio drama, poker.  (Died 1968) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1927 – Arthur Thomson.  Fanartist.  Thirty covers, a hundred forty interiors.  Signature often read as “ATom”, some insist it’s just “Atom”.   Resident illustrator of Hyphen.  Back covers for Nebula.  Here is the Nov 64 Riverside Quarterly.  Here is Banana Wings 49 (repr. from An ATom Sketchbook).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, published ATom Abroad.  Official Artist of Boskone 15.  Two Novas.  Rotsler Award.  (Died 1990) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 – Ron Walotsky. A hundred eighty covers, fifty interiors.  Gallery in Locus 500.  Interview in SF Chronicle 214.  Magic: the Gathering cards.  Ancient Warriors of Lost Civilizations series based on horseshoe-crab shells found near his Florida home.  Here is the May 67 F&SF.  Here is Lord of Light.  Here is Earth Ship and Star Song.  Here is The Shores Beneath.  Here is Houston, Houston, Do You Read? (Souls cover bound with it is by Dieter Rottermund.)  Here is the Nov 97 Analog.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Artbook, Inner Visions.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Damn, I didn’t know he’d passed on. Life During Wartime which won him the Astounding Award for a Best New Writer is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “ Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 64. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits. (CE);
  • Born August 21, 1957 – John Howe, 63.  A hundred sixty covers, two hundred fifty interiors.  The Maps of Middle-EarthThere and Back Again with Brian Sibley; A Middle-Earth Traveler.  Here is Rip van Winkle.  Here is The Lord of the Rings (presumably not meaning to imply Gandalf is he, aiee). Here is The Once and Future King.  Here is Fool’s Errand.  Here is Créatures.  Artbooks Myth & MagicSur les terres de TolkienJohn Howe Fantasy Art WorkshopForging DragonsLost WorldsColoring Dragons.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1965 – Darynda Jones, 55.  Sixteen novels, three shorter stories.  Summa cum laude from U. New Mexico.  Sign-language interpreter.  RITA Award.  Admits to almost finishing a post-Apocalypse story while in a corner booth at a Tastee Freez, kindly has never shown the manuscript.  Lives in New Mexico with husband and two sons the Mighty Mighty Jones Boys.  Third Grave Dead Ahead NY Times Best Seller.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 52. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. Due later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe. (CE)
  • Born August 21, 1972 – Socorro Vegas, 48.  Premio Nacional de Poesía y Cuento «Benemérito de América»Premio Nacional de Novela Ópera Prima «Carlos Fuentes» (Mexico).  Five book-length works (Todos las islas is short stories).  We may claim “The Giant in the Moon”, see it in English here.  Other translations in CompressedConcho River ReviewThe Listening EyeLiteralThe Modern Review.  [JH]
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 45. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. Next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild In the animated Gen¹³ film. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. (CE) 

(13) DC FANDOME. In addition to everything else happening this busy weekend is the DC Fandome. It’s free and signing up is easy — here. The 24-hour event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific.

(14) GRATITUDES. In “i am grateful”, Wil Wheaton admits it’s hard for him to fall asleep because when he’s trying, that’s when anxiety works on him most aggressively. He shares a practice that has made it easier.  

…But I started doing something that’s been incredibly helpful, and I thought I’d share it.

Every night as I’m getting ready for bed, I focus on a list of things for which I am grateful. I call it “doing my gratitudes”. I just start somewhere, like “I am grateful that I am going to sleep in a warm, safe bed. I am grateful that I get to share this bed with Anne. I am grateful I have enough food.” Stuff like that. I remind myself that there is so much that is good in my life, and by thinking about those things, recognizing those things, and making space to feel grateful for them, I do not give my anxiety an opportunity to grab hold of anything and go to work on me.

… Those bright lights are so important right now, whether they are stadium lights turning night into day, or pinpricks that barely allow candlelight through black velvet. Spending time in gratitude makes it easier for me to find the light, and remember that it is there, even when I can’t see it.

(15) THE CAST IS IN HERE. SYFY Wire believes “The X-Files Cast Singing Its Theme Song On Zoom Is Now, Like The Truth, Out There”.

Did the iconic theme song for The X-Files need fan-written lyrics? If it got the cast of the sci-fi series to reunite for a musical Zoom call, then, perhaps — like the massive government archives secreting away the supernatural — it’s worth it for the greater good.

…Now how many government secrets are hidden in this song? The new lyrics — courtesy of contest winners Jennifer Large and Rebecca MacDonald — give composer Mark Snow’s classic eerie theme a twist, especially when sung by a wide-ranging collection of cast members and crew.

(16) A KIND OF WORLDBUILDING. Tiffany Meuret analyzes “Our Timely Obsession with Animal Crossing” at the SFWA Blog.

…Explanations abound for the game’s sudden explosion in popularity, but I have noticed a particularly common camaraderie among fellow writers. What is it about this game, with so many other open-concept games already in existence, that draws writers to it with such gusto? The timing of release and the sweetness of the game in such dark times are no doubt factors, but I believe it goes deeper than that, down to the very core of our creative hearts. 

…From that moment on, I unconsciously spun the narrative of my experience. From the clothes I wore to where I placed the coin-operated tourist binoculars I’d shot out of a balloon with a slingshot, I was crafting a story within this story-less game. This is the garden where I breed pink roses. Here is my carnival for when I need a bit of a thrill, outfitted with a popcorn machine and a teacup ride. There is the playground and community pool where I’ll meet my friends on the weekend, lined with color-coded tables for playing chess. Every piece of wallpaper, every color, every pair of jelly sandals I place on my chibi feet are dishing out tone and theme and mood. 

And then there are the villagers. They are a delight to witness as they flit about the island, munching on popsicles, singing, or sprinting Naruto-style on the beach. I’ve dedicated far too many hours to crafting and designing spaces on my island that my residents might enjoy, despite many of the items being stationary and non-interactive. My imagination does all the work the game does not. 

(17) TALL TYPO TALE. [Item by rcade.] The new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator maps the entire world so you can fly over it, using AI and lots of mapping data. Engadget reports “A typo created a 212-story monolith in ‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’”  

Alexander Muscat tweets, “In Microsoft Flight Simulator a bizarrely eldritch, impossibly narrow skyscraper pierces the skies of Melbourne’s North like a suburban Australian version of Half-Life 2’s Citadel, and I am -all for it-.”

(18) VANISHING POINT. BBC Documentary covers “Rulebreakers: How I disappear”.

In Japan, if you want to disappear from your life, you can just pick up the phone and a ‘night moving company’ will turn you into one of the country’s ‘johatsu,’ or literally ‘evaporated people.’ You can cease to exist. Meet the people who choose to disappear and the people who are left behind.

(19) NOT COYOTE AND ROADRUNNER. But there are prints from two animals. “Cliff collapses in Grand Canyon, revealing 313 million-year-old footprints, park says”Yahoo! News has the story.

A geology professor hiking in the Grand Canyon made a “surprising discovery” — the oldest recorded tracks of their kind.

After a cliff collapsed in Grand Canyon National Park, a boulder with fossilized tracks was revealed, park officials said in a Thursday news release. The fossil footprints are about 313 million years old, according to researchers.

“These are by far the oldest vertebrate tracks in Grand Canyon, which is known for its abundant fossil tracks” Stephen Rowland, a paleontologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in the news release. “More significantly, they are among the oldest tracks on Earth of shelled-egg-laying animals, such as reptiles, and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking in sand dunes.”

(20) IT’S BACK. Like The Blob or The Thing, there’s no stopping Pumpkin Spice from showing up anytime it wants. Morning Consult takes notice: “With Seasonal Products Making an Early Return This Year, Consumers Weigh In on Sweet Spot for Promotions”.

Pumpkin spice came early this year — too early, according to majorities of consumers. 

Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-flavored coffee and other fall treats returned to the menu earlier than ever this year, the company said, arriving at participating locations Wednesday. Starbucks Corp. has yet to confirm the return date for its much-loved pumpkin spice latte, but one location reportedly said the product would launch on Aug. 28. 

While some social media users are eager for the early return of fall products — a silver lining in an otherwise difficult year — new polling from Morning Consult shows that many consumers would prefer to see products promoted closer to the seasons or holidays with which they’re associated….

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Metal Monsterette is a fun family film made in 1957 with kids and cousins by Ed Emshwiller. His daughter Eve is the heroine and daughter Susan is the mad scientist Dr. Majenius. 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/8/20 You Unlock This Scroll With The Key Of Pixelation

(1) JURY SUMMONS. Two groups are recruiting jurors for their annual awards.

The British Fantasy Society’s call is here.

If you are interested in being a juror for this year’s awards, please register your interest here We are especially interested in hearing from those historically under represented on juries; and you do not need to be a member of the BFS to fulfil this role.

Both forms will remain open until Wednesday 16th August.
Any questions, please get in touch at bfsawards@britishfantasysociety.org

A few days ago they were concerned about the balance of applicants:

The Aurealis Awards also are looking – “Aurealis Awards 2020 – Call for Judges”. Full requirements at the link.

We are seeking expressions of interest from Australian residents who would like to judge for the 2020 Aurealis Awards. Judges are volunteers and are drawn from the Australian speculative fiction community, from diverse professions and backgrounds, including academics, booksellers, librarians, published authors, publishing industry professionals, reviewers and enthusiasts. The only qualification necessary is a demonstrated knowledge of and interest in their chosen category (good time management skills and an ability to work in a team in an online environment are also essential).

(2) ULTIMA RATIO REGUM. Camestros Felapton continues to work out what canon means to sff readers, and if it’s useful in “Types of canon/key texts”.

… I think within discussions of canon there is a sense of books whose role it is to edify the reader, the books that will make you (somehow) a better reader. I’m sceptical that any books really fit that criteria and even more sceptical that we can find a common set of such books. However, there are clearly books that themselves provoke further books and as such books that get referenced in later works and later works that can be seen as response to earlier works. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers being an obvious example of such a work. This is canon as a kind of feedback loop of significance — the books that are themselves critiques of Troopers lend significance to Troopers as a book. You don’t have to have read Starship Troopers to enjoy Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but having some familiarity with Heinlein’s book adds an element to Hurley’s book.

(3) HEATED WORDS. As someone wrote on Twitter: “The phrase ‘You couldn’t make Blazing Saddles today’ takes on an entirely new meaning.” CBR.com has the story: “Blazing Saddles Is Being Remade as an Animated Samurai Movie About Cats and Dogs” .

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles is considered a film classic, even though it’s stirred up some controversy over the years. Now the film is being retold in an entirely new medium, as well as an entirely new genre.

The Los Angeles film company Align is helping develop an animated film titled Blazing Samurai. The film takes the basic premise of Blazing Saddles and transplants it to the Samurai era. The story follows a dog named Hank who dreams of becoming a Samurai. When he becomes in charge of protecting Kakamucho, he learns that the town is populated entirely by cats.

(4) A GOLDEN AGE. Galactic Journey does a rundown on the 1964-1965 television season: “[AUGUST 8, 1965] NAVIGATING THE WASTELAND #2 (1964-65 IN (GOOD) TELEVISION)”. I was 12 around then so no wonder I remember this as the Golden Age of TV. The Traveler obviously has a later bedtime than I did that year, because I never got to watch his favorite, Burke’s Law —

Three years ago, I reported on the state of television in the wake of former FCC-chief Newton Minow’s pronouncement that television was a ‘vast wastelend.’  Since then, I have remained a devoted fan of the small screen, if not completely addicted to ‘the boob tube.’  Indeed, the Young Traveler and I have our weekly favorites we do not miss if we can at all help it.

And so, as we sail through the sea of summer reruns, gleefully anticipating the Fall line-up, I take delight in awarding the Galactic Stars of Television for the 1964-65 season.

Burke’s Law 1963-65

Amos Burke is what would have happened if Bruce Wayne’s parents had never been shot – he’s a Beverly Hills playboy millionaire who also happens to be the dapper Captain of Homicide for the L.A. Police Department.  In each episode, Amos, with the aide of grizzled Sergeant Hart and youthful Detective Tilson (and occasionally the doe-eyed Sergeant Ames), solves a murder mystery…..

If The Traveler hadn’t waxed rhapsodically about this show – and I’m not sure whether he thinks it fits the blog’s sff theme or just thinks it’s good – then it wouldn’t have seemed such a glaring oversight to end the post pointing out Harlan Ellison wrote a script for the lamentable Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, without mentioning Ellison also wrote four scripts for 1964 episodes of his beloved Burke’s Law series.

(5) SINCE 1984. Jane Johnson looks back on “A life in publishing”.

I realised this morning that it’s 36 years to the day when I started to work in publishing, as an editorial secretary at George Allen & Unwin Publishers, in Ruskin House on Museum Street. What follows really is the trajectory of modern publishing in microcosm.

My skillset was not ideal: I loved books, especially the works of JRR Tolkien and came with a first class English degree, a Masters in Scandinavian Studies (Old Icelandic) and absolutely no secretarial abilities at all. But I had worked for a year at Foyles and another as a boardmarker/cashier at Ladbrokes, and so had proved I could work hard and not be snooty about getting my hands dirty; and that I was numerate and understood the concept of gambling, which my new boss assured me was the essence of publishing. These were the times of Telex machines and manual typewriters, which were just giving way to electronic typewriters (my nightmare) but David was remarkably patient with my Tippexed letters, blackened carbon copies and non-existent shorthand, and within a year had promoted me away from my disaster zone to become an editor. Paperbacks were a fairly new concept: hardbacks were the prestige edition.

(6) IMPROVEMENT NOT NEEDED. In a post on Facebook, David Gerrold tells how a book is being unfairly belittled.

There is currently a backlash against The Giving Tree, and some people are circulating an alternate ending.

Hey! I have an idea. I have an alternate ending for Winnie The Pooh. Pooh is a bear. He decides he likes bacon. He eats Piglet. Much more realistic, right?

No, look. Shel Silverstein knew what he was doing when he wrote The Giving Tree.

It doesn’t need an alternate ending — specifically not one that’s preachy, badly written, doesn’t really fit, and is intended to cast the original in a bad light….

(7) TAKING THE MINUTES. In “Six Novels That Bring Together Mystery And Time Travel” on CrimeReads, Julia McElwain recommends novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Lauren Beukes as time travel novels mystery readers might like.

Depending upon how it’s done, it can add to the tension—a race against time as our characters try to return to their own era—or it can allow readers to explore the past through modern eyes. In my own In Time mystery series, I’ve enjoyed the fish-out-of-water sensation that my main character—a modern-day woman and brilliant FBI agent—experiences after being tossed back to the Regency period in England. As women then were second-class citizens without the ability to even vote, not only does she have to deal with personal obstacles, but she also cannot tap into her usual arsenal of forensic tools to solve crimes.

Whether time travel is being used to wrap a mystery in an extra, innovative layer or is allowing readers to view humanity and history through a different lens, the theme is brilliantly done in the books that I’ve listed below….

(8) ALLEN OBIT. A software pioneer has died: “Frances Allen, Who Helped Hardware Understand Software, Dies at 88” in the New York Times.

Frances Allen, a computer scientist and researcher who helped create the fundamental ideas that allow practically anyone to build fast, efficient and useful software for computers, smartphones and websites, died on Tuesday, her 88th birthday, in Schenectady, N.Y.

Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her great-nephew Ryan McKee, who said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

In the mid-1960s, after developing software for an early supercomputer at the National Security Agency, Ms. Allen returned to her work at IBM, then the world’s leading computer company. At an IBM lab in the Hudson River Valley town of Yorktown Heights, just north of New York City, she and her fellow researchers spent the next four decades refining a key component of modern computing: the “compiler,” the software technology that takes in programs written by humans and turns them into something computers can understand.

For Ms. Allen, the aim was to do this as efficiently as possible, so programmers could build software in simple and intuitive ways and then have it run quickly and smoothly when deployed on real-world machines.

Together with the researcher John Cocke, she published a series of landmark papers in the late 1960s and ’70s describing this delicate balance between ease of creation and speed of execution. These ideas helped drive the evolution of computer programming — all the way to the present day, when even relative novices can easily build fast and efficient software apps for a world of computers, smartphones and other devices.

In 2006, on the strength of this work, Ms. Allen became the first woman to win the A.M. Turing Award, often called the Nobel Prize of computing.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 8, 1956 X Minus One aired “The Last Martian.” This is the story of a reporter  seeing if a man’s claim that he is a Martian placed in a human’s body.  George Lefferts was the scriptwriter who adapted the story from the Fredric Brown’s “The Last Martian” short story first published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.  Mandel Kramer, Elliot Reed, Santos Ortega, Ralph Bell, John McGovern, and Patricia Weil were in the radio cast.  You can listen to it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 8, 1883 – Paul Stahr, Jr.  Forty covers for Argosy 1925-1934.  Also Collier’sJudgeLife, People’s Home JournalThe Saturday Evening Post; book covers, posters.  Here is the 10 Jan 31 Argosy.  Here is the 25 Aug 34.  Here is The Ship of Ishtar.  Here is a World War I poster.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the BarbarianFlash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween IIIDead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best-known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.) (CE) 
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 85. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course, that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. Ok, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 83. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda. (CE)
  • Born August 8, 1950 – John D. Berry, 70.  Of New York (Fanoclasts), later Seattle.  “The Club House” 1969-1972 (fanzine reviews) for Amazing.  Pacific Northwest Review of Books (with Loren MacGregor).  Fan Guest of Honor, Norwescon 1, VCON 13, Westercon 63.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Designed the souvenir book for 15th World Fantasy Con.  I daren’t say a font of knowledge but indeed he is good with them.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1958 – David Egge, 62.  Thirty book and magazine covers, three dozen interiors.  Here is The End of Summer.  Here is The Dorsai Pacifist (in German).  Here is a 1986 cover for The Mote in God’s Eye (in fact Moties don’t have faces, a non-trivial point, but see this anyway).  Here is the Apr 01 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1961 – Tim Szczesuil, F.N., 59.  Chaired Boskones 33, 53.  Five terms as NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) President, four as Treasurer; various committees.  Contributed to APA:NESFA.  For NESFA Press, edited His Share of Glory (C.M. Kornbluth), Strange Days (Gardner Dozois; with Ann Broomhead).  Fellow of NESFA (service award).  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1971 – Phlippa Ballantine, 49.  First New Zealand author to podcast her novel (Weaver’s Web, 2006; three more; PB since moved to Virginia).  Three novels about the Order, five (with husband Tee Morris) about the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences (Phoenix Rising was a top-10 SF book of the year on Goodreads, sequel The Janus Affair a Locus best-seller and Steampunk Chronicle readers’ choice for fiction), two about the Shifted World; a score of shorter stories.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 8, 1988 – Flavia Bujor, 32.  Children’s novel The Prophecy of the Stones (or “Gems”), written at age 13, translated into 23 languages.  A second is rumored.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows that the pandemic has reached mythic proportions.
  • Bizarro has a moral.

And Today In Comics History:

  • August 8, 1978: Garfield’s sidekick, Odie, made his comic strip debut.

(12) TUNING UP. CinemaBlend pays tribute to “10 Excellent John Williams Scores In A Steven Spielberg Movie”. On their list is:

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The 1977 science-fiction epic Close Encounters of the Third Kind helped cement Steven Spielberg as a master of the genre, and the movie’s epic story of humans coming into contact with aliens was only made that more memorable thanks to soaring and sweeping score by John Williams. 

Throughout the entire movie, the score pushes the plot along to the point where the humans finally begin to communicate with the alien mothership, which is another way of inserting Williams’ composition into the picture. The “Play The Five Tones” scene is a miraculous piece of filmmaking and orchestration as it starts rather small and hushed before going into a back and forth between the two species before growing into a grand composition that ultimately ends with a chorus of strings growing in intensity as the aliens reveal themselves to the amazement of the humans.

(13) PRIVATE EYES. NPR tells how “From Desert Battlefields To Coral Reefs, Private Satellites Revolutionize The View”.

As the U.S. military and its allies attacked the last Islamic State holdouts last year, it wasn’t clear how many civilians were still in the besieged desert town of Baghouz, Syria.

So Human Rights Watch asked a private satellite company, Planet, for its regular daily photos and also made a special request for video.

“That live video actually was instrumental in convincing us that there were thousands of civilians trapped in this pocket,” said Josh Lyons of Human Rights Watch. “Therefore the coalition forces absolutely had an obligation to stop, and to avoid bombardment of that pocket at that time.”

Which they did until the civilians fled.

Lyons, who’s based in Geneva, Switzerland, has a job title you wouldn’t expect at a human rights group: director of geospatial analysis. He says satellite imagery is increasingly a crucial component of human rights investigations, bolstering traditional eyewitness accounts, especially in areas where it’s too dangerous to send researchers

…They get those images from a handful of private, commercial satellite companies, like Planet and Maxar.

For the past three years, Planet has done something unprecedented. Its 150 satellites photograph the entire land mass of the earth every day — more than one million images every 24 hours. Pick any place on earth — from your house to the peak of Mt. Everest — and Planet is taking a photograph of it today.

“If you could visualize a string of pearls going around the poles, looking down and capturing imagery of the earth underneath it every single day,” said Rich Leshner, who runs Planet’s Washington office.

Scroll through Planet’s photo gallery and you get a bird’s eye view of the state of the world: idle cruise ships clustered off Coco Cay in the Bahamas, deserted streets around normally bustling sites like the Colosseum in Rome, and the smoke from the relentless fires set by farmers clearing land in the Amazon rainforest.

U.S. government satellites are the size of a bus. Planet’s satellites are the size of a loaf of bread. Planet is in business to make money, and its clients include the U.S. military and big corporations. But it also works with lots of non-profits and other groups it never anticipated.

(14) DAMMIT, BLANET! There is a thesis about a new type of planets, called “Blanets” (BLack Hole plANETS). “New Class of Planet Can Form Around Black Holes, Say Astronomers”Discover has the story.

Supermassive black holes are among the most exciting and puzzling objects in the universe. These are the giant, massive bodies that sit at the heart of most, perhaps all, galaxies. Indeed, they may be the seeds from which all galaxies grow.

Supermassive black holes are at least a hundred thousand times the mass of our sun. They are often surrounded by thick clouds of gas that radiate vast amounts of energy. When this happens, they are called active galactic nuclei. Discovering the properties of these clouds, and their curious central residents, is an ongoing exercise for astrophysicists.

Now researchers have a new phenomenon to consider — the idea that planets can form in the massive clouds of dust and gas around supermassive black holes. Last year, Keichi Wada at Kagoshima University in Japan, and a couple of colleagues showed that under certain conditions planets ought to form in these clouds. These black hole planets, or blanets as the team call them, would be quite unlike any conventional planet and raise the possibility of an entirely new class of objects for astronomers to dream about.

(15) DEAD OR ALIVE? In this 2019 article, WIRED considers the possibilities after “A Crashed Israeli Lunar Lander Spilled Tardigrades on the Moon”.

…Half a world away, Nova Spivack watched a livestream of Beresheet’s mission control from a conference room in Los Angeles. As the founder of the Arch Mission Foundation, a nonprofit whose goal is to create “a backup of planet Earth,” Spivack had a lot at stake in the Beresheet mission. The spacecraft was carrying the foundation’s first lunar library, a DVD-sized archive containing 30 million pages of information, human DNA samples, and thousands of tardigrades, those microscopic “water bears” that can survive pretty much any environment—including space.

But when the Israelis confirmed Beresheet had been destroyed, Spivack was faced with a distressing question: Did he just smear the toughest animal in the known universe across the surface of the moon?

…The lunar library on the Beresheet lander consisted of 25 layers of nickel, each only a few microns thick. The first four layers contain roughly 60,000 high-resolution images of book pages, which include language primers, textbooks, and keys to decoding the other 21 layers. Those layers hold nearly all of the English Wikipedia, thousands of classic books, and even the secrets to David Copperfield’s magic tricks.

Spivack had planned to send DNA samples to the moon in future versions of the lunar library, not on this mission. But a few weeks before Spivack had to deliver the lunar library to the Israelis, however, he decided to include some DNA in the payload anyway. Ha and an engineer on Spivack’s team added a thin layer of epoxy resin between each layer of nickel, a synthetic equivalent of the fossilized tree resin that preserves ancient insects. Into the resin they tucked hair follicles and blood samples from Spivack and 24 others that he says represent a diverse genetic cross-section of human ancestry, in addition to some dehydrated tardigrades and samples from major holy sites, like the Bodhi tree in India. A few thousand extra dehydrated tardigrades were sprinkled onto tape that was attached to the lunar library.

(16) THE BARD’S SJW CREDENTIALS. Cats are the theme for Shakespeare & Beyond’s post: “Of the flattering, pampered, reviled, predatory, ‘harmless, necessary’ early modern cat”.

… While many of us today think of cats primarily as pampered pets and cherished internet weirdos, for early modern Europeans cats ran the gamut, from pests and carriers of disease, to indicators of witchcraft and other feminine misbehavior, to objects of affection and partners in play. Shakespeare’s own references to cats display such a variety. Trying to shake Hermia off in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lysander calls her “thou cat, thou burr! vile thing,” (3.2.270), and Macbeth’s First Witch calls out to Graymalkin, a common name for a cat that could also be applied to a “jealous or imperious old woman,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1.1.9). In other places, he references a cat’s behavior, as when Falstaff insists he is “as vigilant as a  cat to steal cream” (Henry IV, Part 1 4.2.59). The Oxford English Dictionary also credits Shakespeare with the first reference to a cat’s purr, in All’s Well That Ends Well (5.2.19)…

(17) IS THAT PAL OR HAL? Wil Wheaton devotes a blog post to his forthcoming movie: “Wil Wheaton is a very bad friend in trailer for horror-thriller Rent-A-Pal”.

Everything about this movie makes me happy. The cast is superb, the editing and photography and music are gorgeous, and the story is REALLY FUCKING CREEPY.

I can’t wait for y’all to see this when it comes out in September.

The short description of the movie on YouTube says:

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy’s friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

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

A Bradbury Avalanche

Thanks to bloggers’ outpouring of interest in his work we again can celebrate “all Bradbury all the time” here at File 770.

(1) SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO. First Fandom Experience has announced a remarkable project: “Coming Soon: The Earliest Bradbury & More”.

This year (2020) marks the centenary of Bradbury’s birth, and we at First Fandom Experience hope to honor him by contributing to the extensive body of literature that surrounds him. Building on our work for The Visual History of Science Fiction Fandom, Volume One: The 1930s, we are on schedule to publish a volume titled The Earliest Bradbury, an exploration and celebration of his earliest writings as a science fiction fan, ahead of his centennial in August.

Like The Visual HistoryThe Earliest Bradbury explores history by wrapping an archive in a story. We use original artifacts from the past, such as fanzines, letters, and photographs, to tell the story of Bradbury’s journey as a young fan and author. Although we discuss his more well-known works, such as Futuria Fantasia and Hollerbochen’s Dilemma, we pay special attention to the often overlooked articles, letters, and stories Bradbury published as a teenager and young adult, and tease out the relationships that influenced the young Bradbury and launch his career as a professional author. As with The Visual History, many of the artifacts reproduced in The Earliest Bradbury are rare and difficult to find as originals or reproductions.

They’ll publish a deluxe, hard-bound edition of The Earliest Bradbury in July, which will be available through the FFE website. 

(2) AT NINETEEN. This month Wil Wheaton released his reading of one of Bradbury’s fanzine stories – the kind of thing we may expect to see in the FFE collection: “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Luana the Living by Ray Bradbury”.

Actor & writer Wil Wheaton (Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory, and Stand by Me) read Bradbury’s “Luana the Living” on an episode of his podcast, Radio Free Burrito. Wheaton describes this story of an explorer’s harrowing experience in the jungles of India as “*exactly* the kind of book I would have picked up from the spinning rack of fifty cent paperbacks in the drugstore.”

Published in 1940 in the fanzine Polaris when Bradbury was 19 years old, “Luana the Living,” offers a rare glimpse into the writers’ earliest works.

(3) HIT PERSON. In the tenth post of a series at BradburyMedia, Phil Nichols reviews the title story in the Bradbury’s Small Assassin collection: “Lockdown Choices – The Small Assassin”.

…It’s classic Bradburyan paranoia of the type we have seen in “The Crowd”, “The Wind”, “Skeleton” and “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl”. And as with most of those stories, the paranoid protagonist turns out to be justified in their paranoia. Bradbury, in his classic horror period, was never one to leave the reader to decide; he nearly always set things up to make you think the hero is crazy, then make you empathise with them, and then vindicate them….

See Phil Nichols’ entire slate of Lockdown Choices in “Reading at Home”.

Phil Nichols, historian, educator, and creator of Bradburymedia, offers his series of suggestions for the best Bradbury stories to enjoy at home while the world is engaged in social distancing.

Nichols also recounts Bradbury’s avalanche of productivity in the decade of the Fifties in his post titled “The Breathless 1950s”.

If you’ve been following my posts of late, you will know that I have been working through each of Ray Bradbury’s books in order of original publication, explaining a bit about how each book came about, and selecting the best stories and adaptations from each one.

So far, I have covered all the books from the 1940s and 1950s. And what a breathless decade(-and-a-bit) it’s been.

By the end of 1959, Bradbury had published nine books: three novels (or packaged to appear like novels), five short story collections, and one children’s book.

By the end of 1959, at the age of thirty-nine, he had been publishing short stories for twenty-two years, and had totalled 249 of them. That’s an average of 11.3 per year, but with a peak of 24 stories in 1950….

(4) THE FUTURE OF RACE. Kathryn Ross’ Pasadena Now opinion piece “Why Race Still Matters in a Post-Race Universe” takes a Bradbury story as a key text to lead up to this conclusion about representation; “Will race still matter then? Will it matter after we’ve discovered extensive space travel and aliens and new worlds and parallel universes? Perhaps not. But does it matter right now for audiences like myself and Andre? and my parents to see black people belonging as integral parts of these fantastical narratives? I think it does. However far into the future we’re reaching, it matters.”

June 2003. The American south is still segregated, blacks are employed by wealthy whites and treated like the lowliest of servants in an effect reminiscent of the Mammys, Bucks, and “boys” of old Hollywood, lynching is an after-dinner pastime, and use of the n-word in casual conversation abounds.

Celebrated sci-fi literary giant Ray Bradbury paints this raw and oftentimes hard-to-read picture as the context within his short story, “Way in the Middle of the Air.” Bradbury imagines a mass exodus of all the black people in America —not back to Africa as one white character suggests, but to the planet Mars— to escape the racial tyranny of Earth. This short appears in Bradbury’s famous first novel, The Martian Chronicles, first published in 1950.

From Bradbury’s 1950s viewpoint, June 2003 is the farthest reach of the future, and in this future, racism is still alive and as virulent as ever. To be clear, Bradbury is not writing as pro-racist. Rather, he is musing on what would happen to the racists if their prey could —and did— just leave, far beyond where they could reach. 

(5) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Christina Dalcher, in “The Dystopia At Home” on CrimeReads, looks at five dystopian novels (including Fahrenheit 451) for what they say about families.

You work hard all day, setting books on fire, waving your portable blowtorch around at anything that might be read, and when you come home, all you want is a little hug. Forget it, brother. Your wife is permanently glued to the largest boob-tube ever invented: the parlor wall, so stuck on it that she can barely remember your name. You start having second thoughts about your chosen trade, you want someone to talk to, and you turn to that one person who’s supposed to be your life partner, your sounding board in all things intimate. She tunes you out. You try reading a book, just for fun, and end up being locked out of the bathroom while your wife swallows enough pills to bring down a bull elephant.

Ah, marriage.

(6) GAIMAN AND WELLER ON BRADBURY. On May 9, as part of the Big Book Weekend programme, award-winning Bradbury biographer and writer Sam Weller joined in a spirited discussion with Neil Gaiman about Ray Bradbury’s inestimable influence and enduring popularity, and how it has inspired their own work.

The Big Book Weekend is a 3-day virtual festival, taking place on MyVLF.com (My Virtual Literary Festival), that brings together the best of the British book festivals cancelled due to coronavirus. The festival is sponsored by BBC Arts and The Arts Council, among others.

The program can still be viewed, however, free registration is required at https://myvlf.com. Other panels and discussions from various different genres are also available.

A transcript of the Weller/Gaiman discussion is accessible here. The URL seems to work if I’m not logged in, too, but no guarantees.

(7) DOING SOME WEEDING. If Bradbury hadn’t named a book after it I might never have heard of dandelion wine – now I even have a recipe for making it.

What started as a poor man’s wine in Europe slowly made its way into a tradition on the Great Plains of North America. Settlers found patches of the weed and started fermenting it into a sweet drink to enjoy after working in the fields all day.

Along with having a bit of alcohol, dandelion wine is also a medicinal drink. Dandelion flowers are packed with vitamins A, B, C, and D and are great for digestive health because they clean the kidneys and liver.

Today modern homesteaders make the wine at home and relish in its taste. Ever wanted to give winemaking a try? Now’s your chance to try homebrewing all those dandelion blossoms you have in your yard.

…While this dandelion wine recipe does take months to make, you’ll be happy you created it once you take the first sip of your very own homemade dandelion wine. In the meantime, read Ray Bradbury’s novel, Dandelion Wine, a 1957 novel that uses the flower petal wine as a metaphor for packing all of the joys of summer into a single bottle.

(8) COVERED IN ART. Anna Felicity Friedman explains how “Ray Bradbury Understood the Narrative Power of Tattoos” at LitHub.

…Tattoos and perceptions of them have transformed enormously from 1950­–51 when Esquire first published Bradbury’s short story in July of 1950, followed by the author using the character again as a frame device for the prologue and epilogue to The Illustrated Man collection. Tattooing was mired in a dark time in its history then, perhaps at its lowest point of popularity in modern times.

The heyday of the circus sideshow had passed, tattooing was mainly relegated to skid-row areas and near military bases, and, aside from macho characters like the soon-to-be-conceived Marlboro Man, tattoos were not for everyday people. By the 1950s, tattooed men held little appeal—especially compared to tattooed ladies—and Bradbury masterfully captured the pathos of being a washed-up tattoo performer, despite still being an extraordinary work of art, in his portrayals of Mr. William Philippus Phelps.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael O’Donnell, and Martin Morse Wooster for these stories.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/20 A Pixel Scroll Title That Turns Out To Have Been Used Before

(1) NOT DEAD YET. Since the cancellation of San Diego Comic-Con 2020 was announced in mid-April the people behind it have been thinking about an online counterpart. This humorous video dropped on May 8.

What it all means has yet to be revealed. However, in April SDCC started posting coloring books and videos with the theme of Comic-Con Museum@Home.

While Comic-Con 2020 has been cancelled (we’ll return in 2021!) and the Comic-Con Museum is currently closed along with the rest of the museums in Balboa Park, we want to welcome you to our newest endeavor: Comic-Con Museum@Home!

We have great plans for this new section of our website. This will be your main source for some amazing Comic-Con Museum content, such as exclusive videos—including past events (Sense of Wonder with Jen Bartel, The Art of Shag, Will Eisner Week), and new video content created exclusively for the Museum@Home program. Plus, we’re proud to introduce our exclusive “Fun Book” series, a regularly scheduled downloadable PDF featuring activity and coloring sheets created by the Comic-Con Museum for various age groups.

For one example – “Comic-Con Museum Celebrates Will Eisner: Life Forces: The Art of the Comics Memoir.“

(2) GNAW, YOU’RE KIDDING ME. The New York Times’ Cathy Weaver says it’s “Time to Check Your Pandemic-Abandoned Car for Rats”.  

You might want to make sure there’s not a rat living (or recently dead) in your car’s engine.

Why are you still reading? Check your car for a rat, I said. That’s the tip. Rats like it in there, and while they could take up residence in a car engine at any time, anecdotal reports (and mankind’s modern if imperfect knowledge of rat behavior) suggest the phenomenon may be occurring more frequently right now.

Three line breaks into this story, it is becoming increasingly clear that the depth of your interest in rats plunges far deeper than basic car maintenance tips. You are a person who seeks to understand rats in a way that rats may not even understand themselves. You want to read the invisible instruction encoded in a rat’s brain that compels him to abandon the deli dumpster where he has spent the majority of his short life and, all of a sudden, carry a leaf and perhaps some twigs into the engine of your Jetta. OK. Here is more rat information…

(3) LEAPIN’ LEPUS. “Juliet Johnson and Peter Capaldi On The Story of Richard Adams’ Watership Down” on YouTube is a promotional video for Black Stone Publishing in which Richard Adams’s daughter, Juliet Johnson, and Peter Capaldi discuss a new, unabridged version of Watership Down which Capaldi recorded to commemorate Richard Adams’s centennial.

(4) SURVIVAL OF THE SFFEST. “Everything I Need To Know To Survive Covid-19 I Learned By Watching Scifi & Horror Movies” is a clever mashup by Evan Gorski and Michael Dougherty.

(5) SOFT RE-OPENING. South Pasadena’s Vidéothèque movie rental business told people on its mailing list they expected to be allowed to reopen for pick-up service today.

Pursuant to County Health Dept provisions (& crossing our fingers), we will re-open Saturday, May 9 from 11am-7pm with front door service & will keep these hours daily.

Please refer to our website vidtheque.com to search for titles 

They included a bunch of movie recommendation lists to stimulate the demand, including Time Out’s “The 100 best horror films – the scariest movies ranked by experts”. Number four on the list is

Alien

The miracle of birth
Talk about above and beyond: Ridley Scott was hired by Twentieth Century Fox to make ‘“Jaws” in space’, and came back with one of the most stylish, subversive, downright beautiful films in either the horror or sci-fi genre. The masterstroke, of course, was hiring Swiss madman HR Giger as the film’s chief designer – his work brings a slippery, organic grotesquerie to what could’ve been a straight-up bug hunt (© ‘Aliens’). But let’s not overlook Dan O’Bannon’s script, which builds character without assigning age, race or even gender – plus one of the finest casts ever assembled.

(6) VIDEO GAME CREATOR. The Strong Museum of Play has received a collection of prototypes and projects from the family of inventor Ralph Baer.

Ralph Baer, known as the father of home video games and the first person to patent the idea of playing a video game on a television, spent more than four decades creating, inventing, and changing the landscape of play. The Strong museum, home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame, is pleased to announce that it has received a donation of prototype toys and technologies from Baer’s family that showcase his work and his creative thinking. The items add to the museum’s existing collection of Baer materials, which includes his personal papers and one of his desktop inventing workstations.

…Baer is known for his work in the video game industry, but in addition to creating the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972, the first home console machine, Baer led a successful career in toy and handheld electronic game design, creating the matching game Simon and the plush bear TV Teddy, among many other products. This collection includes dozens of items in various stages of development, including a Big Bird Talking Bank, the Video Buddy interactive system, augmented GI Joe rescue set, Super Simon, along with various other pieces or concepts, including talking greeting cards, a twirling carnival ride, modified stuffed animals, and a toy phone. Together, along with the museum’s existing personal papers, they provide a window into Baer’s design process.

“My father escaped Nazi Germany as a child, and he spent much of his life after that thinking differently about the world and trying to introduce more fun and whimsy into it. He was a visionary and creative force who never stopped learning, inventing, and tinkering—even into his 90s,” says Mark W. Baer, his son and the Trustee of the Ralph H. Baer Trust. 

(7) CREATURE FEATURE. Marie Brennan considers “New Worlds: Working Animals” at Book View Café.

…In fact, dogs serve as kind of a template for things we use working animals to do. The tasks of draft (pulling things like wagons or plows), pack (carrying loads directly) and riding came up when we talked about transportation, so I won’t rehash the list of species used in different parts of the world — but I will note that certain animals we can’t domesticate, like zebra and moose, can occasionally be tamed to perform those tasks. This category is where the Industrial Revolution made the most immediate and obvious dent: once we could replace muscle power with steam power and its successors, we no longer needed to keep millions of horses and mules and donkeys and camels and so forth to work for us.

(8) WHAT’S STUFFED INSIDE. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rides the line: “These ‘Little Eyes’ Watch The World Burn”.

Samanta Schweblin is not a science fiction writer. Which is probably one of the reasons why Little Eyes, her new novel (translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell) reads like such great science fiction.

Like Katie Williams’s 2018 novel Tell The Machine Goodnight before it, Little Eyes supposes a world that is our world, five minutes from now. It is a place with all our recognizable horrors, all our familiar comforts and sweetnesses, as familiar (as if anything could be familiar these days) as yesterday’s shoes. It then introduces one small thing — one little change, one product, one tweaked application of a totally familiar technology — and tracks the ripples of chaos that it creates.

In Tell The Machine, it was a computer that could tell anyone how to be happy, and Williams turned that (rather disruptive, obviously impossible) technology into a quiet, slow-burn drama of family and human connection that was one of my favorite books of the past few years. Schweblin, though, is more sinister. She basically gives everyone in the world a Furby with a webcam, and then sits back, smiling, and watches humanity shake itself to pieces.

You remember what a Furby is, right? They were those creepy-cute, fuzzy animal toys that could blink and squawk and sing, dance around and respond to some basic commands. They were toys that pretended (mostly poorly) that they were alive.

Schweblin’s version is called a kentuki. It’s a simple, fur-covered crow or mole or bunny or dragon with cameras for eyes, wheels, a motor. And a person inside. Virtually, of course. Not, like, for real. Because that would be horrifying. And Little Eyes is absolutely horrifying, but not that kind of horrifying….

(9) REDECORATING THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE. ScreenRant tries to explain “Why The Fourth Doctor Had A Second (Original) TARDIS Console Room”.

…In the debut episode of Doctor Who‘s original season 14, The Doctor takes his then-companion, Sarah Jane Smith, to a different, unused console room, and then strongly suggests this place was actually the original hub of the TARDIS. This console room remained The Doctor‘s base for the remainder of the season and was a massive visual departure from what had come before, with wooden panel walls, stained glass windows, and a smaller, cabinet-like console. Unfortunately, the Victorian-style console room only lasted a single season before the white, pimply decor returned. Reports conflict as to whether the wood of the previous set was proving problematic to maintain, or whether incoming producer, Graham Williams, simply wasn’t a fan.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 9, 1973 Soylent Green premiered in theatres. It was the last performance by Edward G. Robinson who gets a great death scene here. It starred Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. It was directed by Richard Flieschier and produced by Walter Seltzer and Russell Thacher. It was rather loosely based on Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Most of the critics at the time generally liked it, and at Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 71% rating among audience reviewers.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 9, 1860 J. M. Barrie. For us and for many others he’s the author of Peter Pan.  After that he had a long string of successes in the theater.  He knew George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.  He joined the Authors Cricket Club and played for its team along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne, and P.G. Wodehouse.  He was made a baronet in 1913. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 9, 1913 Richard McKenna. His short story “The Secret Place” was a Hugo finalist and won the Nebula.  “Casey Agonistes” (short story) and “Hunter, Come Home” (novelette) are in many anthologies; “Casey” has been translated into French, German, Italian; “Hunter” into French, German, Italian, Romanian; “Secret” into Dutch, German, Italian, Polish.  Cover artist for Volume 3 of the NESFA Press Essential Hal Clement (Variations on a Theme by Sir Isaac Newton).  Best known outside our field for The Sand Pebbles.  (Died 1963.)
  • Born May 9, 1920 Richard  Adams. I really loved Watership Down when I read it long ago so will not read it again so the Suck Fairy may not visit it. Are any of the various Watership animated affairs worth seeing? Reasonably sure I’ve read Shardik once but it made no impression one way or the the other.  Heard good things about Tales from Watership Down and should add it my TBR pile. (Died 2016)
  • Born May 9, 1920 William Tenn. Clute says in ESF that ‘From the first, Tenn was one of the genre’s very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers of short fiction, sharper and more mature than Fredric Brown and less self-indulgent in his Satirical take on the modern world than Robert Sheckley.’  That pretty sums him up I think.  All of his fiction is collected in two volumes from NESFA Press, Immodest Proposals: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume I and Here Comes Civilization: The Complete Science Fiction of William Tenn: Volume II. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 9, 1925 Kris Neville. His most well-remembered work, the “Bettyann” novella, is a classic of science fiction. It would become part of the Bettyann novel, a fix-up of it and “Overture“, a short story of his. He wrote a lot of rather great short fiction, much of which can be in the posthumous The Science Fiction of Kris Neville, edited byBarry N Malzberg (who greatly admired him) and Martin H Greenberg, and more (some overlapping with the first collection) Earth Alert! and Other Science Fiction Tales. He’s not alas wisely available in digital form. (Died 1980.)
  • Born May 9, 1926 Richard Cowper. Writer of some seriously comic genre fiction that Martin Amis loathed. The White Bird of Kinship series is what he’s best remembered for and I’d certainly recommend it as being worth reading.  It appears that all of here are available from the usual digital suspects. (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 9, 1936 Albert Finney. His first genre performance is as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge. That’s followed by being Dewey Wilson in Wolfen, a deeply disturbing film. He plays Edward Bloom, Sr. In the wonderful Big Fish and voices Finis Everglot in Corpse Bride. He was Kincade in Skyfall. He was Maurice Allington in The Green Man based on Kingsley Amis’ novel of the same name. Oh, and he played Prince Hamlet in Hamlet at the  Royal National Theatre way back in the Seventies! (Died 2019.)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Immortal words from The Far Side.
  • Bookshelves dominate Grant Snider’s new Incidental Comic.

(13) KEEPING COMIC SHOPS AFLOAT. Shelf Awareness reports money will start flowing from the rescue fund next week: “Binc Distributing $950K to Comic Book Stores”.

Next Tuesday, May 12, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) will distribute more than $950,000 raised by the Comicbook United Fund to comic store owners. The fund was created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by Creators 4 Comics, Jim Lee, DC and Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group. Binc is distributing amounts ranging from $800 to $2,400 to 637 comic book shops across the U.S. and U.S. territories.

The Comicbook United Fund grew out of the Forge Fund, which Oni-Lion Forge established last year with a donation to Binc of $100,000. This year, DC added another $250,000 to the fund. In addition, after the pandemic hit, a coalition of artists, authors, comics creators and other supporters held more than 600 auctions on Twitter, and DC’s Jim Lee began auctioning 60 original sketches in 60 days on eBay, with 95% of sales going to Binc.

In addition to the more than $950,000 that Binc is distributing to comic stores next week, Binc has distributed another $174,786 to 156 comic retail employees and owners to help with rent, mortgage, utilities, food and other necessities during this pandemic

(14) TIME AND TIDE. Wil Wheaton’s latest read is “By request, an HP Lovecraft short story.” Hear him at Soundcloud.

…I love the Cthulhu mythos, but I’m not crazy about Lovecraft’s storytelling. I feel like he spends a lot of time in the high concept and the world building, without ever really going more than skin deep on his protagonists and narrative characters. NB: I haven’t read a ton of Lovecraft, probably six or so short stories, so maybe he has a novel or novella with rich characters and narratives, but I haven’t found it.

None of this is to suggest that he wasn’t brilliantly creative and imaginative, just that his stories aren’t the most satisfying use of my time.

However, hundreds of you have reached out in comments and emails, asking me to narrate something from the Cthulhu Mythos, so today’s RFB Presents is a short, weird, lurid story called Dagon.

(15) OUR DYING EARTH. Tammy reviews “GOLDILOCKS By Laura Lam” at Books, Bones, and Buffy.

Goldilocks has a fantastic premise and uses one of my favorite sci-fi tropes: leaving our dying Earth and striking out to colonize a new planet, in the hopes of saving humankind. And for the first half of the story, it lived up to this promise. But I ended up with mixed feelings, and I felt the first half was way stronger than the second half. Still, I had a lot of fun reading this book, and I’m going to recommend it to readers who love strong female characters and enjoy reading about current social issues. There are some scary events in Goldilocks that really hit close to home (can you say “pandemic”?) which added a lot of tension to the story, but I also felt that Lam made a few missteps with the characters’ choices in some cases.

(16) IN THE BEGINNING. “Supergirl: 10 Things You Never Noticed About The First Episode” at ScreenRant.

… Since so much has happened in the meantime, it’s easy to forget what Supergirl was like in its beginnings when Kara Danvers was still learning how to use her powers and was hoping to figure out how to be a hero. No matter how many times you’ve seen the show’s first episode, you might have never noticed the following 10 details.

Number 10 —

National City

Kara reveals shortly after the beginning of the first episode that she lives and works in National City. The name of the city is a nice easter egg for all fans of the publisher DC comics.

National City doesn’t have its origin in the comics, but by choosing this name for Supergirl’s home, the show’s creators paid homage to DC comics. Before DC was, well, DC, the company’s name was National Comics Publications, hence the ‘National’ in the name of Supergirl’s city.

(17) MASTERPIECE THEATRE. Gideon Marcus is there when That Was The Week That Was goes off the air, and other real news is happening, but no time to waste! This is the magazine with Robert Sheckley’s Mindswap! — “[MAY 8, 1965] SKIP TO THE END (JUNE 1965 GALAXY]” at Galactic Journey.

…And then, having given my report, I’d tie it pithily to the subject at hand, namely the June 1965 Galaxy science fiction digest.  But the fact is, there’s lots to cover and I’m anxious to get it all down while it’s still fresh in my mind.  So, you’ll just have to pretend that I was clever and comprehensive in my introduction…. 

(18) THE FAR FUTURE – 1947. At First Fandom Experience they’ll take you back even further in time where you can see “A Rarity: Tellus News”.

This issue of Tellus News, a “newspaper of the future,” was discovered among a collection of fanzines from the 1940s.  It was mis-categorized because of the cover date: “Sol 23, 1947”

But this hand-drawn fanzine was created in 1932 by Howard Lowe as a vision of what news might look like 15 years hence.  It’s not a copy — it’s an original set of drawings. Rendered in colored pencil, it was likely never reproduced, and as such is a one-of-a-kind artwork….

(19) STAR WARS FOR THE 1 PERCENTERS. Michael Verdon, in the Robb Report story “Why ‘Star Wars’ Characters Are Taking Over the World’s Most Expensive Superyachts” says the British superyacht firm Thirtyc has been putting out Star Wars-related yachts for Star Wars Day on May 4, and Verdon shows how the onepercenters are having cosplay fun with their expensive yachts.

…Seeing a storm trooper and Darth Vader on a million-dollar tender isn’t an everyday occurrence. Neither is catching a glimpse of Princess Leia or Chewbacca driving away on another tender.

At first, the firm received a lot of compliments about their whimsical but highly realistic work. “As it spoke to peoples’ imaginations, they started asking us to use their boats,” says Armstrong. Soon, Star Wars vehicles like AT-AT Walkers and Starfighters appeared on superyacht helipads and rear decks.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Universe” on YouTube is a 1960 documentary, directed by Roman Kroitor and Colin Low for the National Film Board of Canada, which Stanley Kubrick said was one of his inspirations for 2001.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/20 The Voyage Of The Space Pixel

(1) RECOGNIZING THE TROUBLE. Yoon Ha Lee’s Phoenix Extravagant is set for an October release. Learn more about the author’s experience writing it in “Comma-Shaped Jades And Other Curiosities: An Article By Yoon Ha Lee” at SciFiNow.uk.

One of the things people warned me about when it comes to writing novels is that no matter how smoothly novel N goes, there’s no guarantee that novel N+1 will also go smoothly. I learned this the hard way in writing Phoenix Extravagant.

I thought I had the plot all planned out, and I knew my protagonist was going to be a painter, and that there would be a mecha dragon. As for the worldbuilding, well, I’d make that up on the fly.  That’s what I did with the hexarchate and it more or less worked then; why not now?

You’re probably thinking that making things up on the fly is where I went wrong, and that’s not quite true. If I try to linearize worldbuilding down a checklist, it kills the world flat dead for me. No: the issue was a bigger one. I picked the wrong setting….

(2) WHERE’S THE BEEF? What’s the first thing New Zealanders wanted to do when the government eased lockdown restrictions from level four to level three? Not what I’d guess. “New Zealanders are so eager to eat burgers after the coronavirus lockdown that police are having to enforce crowd control”.

Police in New Zealand have been required to enforce crowd control measures at a popular fast food outlet after large numbers of people rushed to buy burgers following a relaxing of the country’s lockdown measures on Tuesday.

New Zealand, which has reported 1,474 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, spent almost five weeks under a strict, level four lockdown. The country eased into level three restrictions on Tuesday, meaning some children could go back to school and 400,000 people were able to go back to work.

But for many, it was a chance to finally eat the fast food they had been craving. Under level three restrictions, a limited number of restaurants and cafes have been permitted to reopen. According to TVNZ, that resulted in long queues of cars at KFC and McDonald’s drive-thrus outlets throughout Auckland, the country’s biggest city.

(3) ROBOT CENTENARY NEARS.  Jaroslav Olsa Jr. has a plan for celebrating Capek’s famous robot story when its hundredth birthday rolls around. If you can help, email him at olsa-jr (at) post (dot) cz

One hundred years ago, in November 1920, drama “R. U. R. Rossum´s Universal Robots” by Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) saw its first edition. Story about a rebellion of artificial people ending with an extinction of humanity saw the first use of the word “robot”.

Though Isaac Asimov didn´t like the play, he rightly commented that R. U. R. is “immortal for that one word. It contributed the word ‘robot’ not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written.”

This year we will have an anthology of original science fiction stories set and connected to Capek´s world of R.U.R. But we are also thinking about an international anthology of the best robotic stories from all over the world… as another homage to maybe the most famous Czech – ROBOT. If you know such excellent piece from the East or West, South or North, send me a copy of the story…

(4) PRATCHETT’S FUTURE ON THE SMALL SCREEN. Media adaptations of favorite writers’ work can be chancy, but Variety makes this sound like a great idea: “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Series to Be Adapted by Endeavor Content, Motive Pictures”.

Narrativia, the production company launched by Pratchett in 2012, has struck an exclusive development deal with Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content for a series of TV adaptations. It is not yet known which of the “Discworld” books will be adapted initially….

Rhianna Pratchett, co-director of Narrativia and Pratchett’s daughter, said: “Discworld teems with unique characters, witty narrative and incredible literary tropes, and we feel these should be realised on screen in a form that my father would be proud of. It’s wonderful to embark on this journey with Motive and Endeavor Content, who both perfectly share our vision to make this a reality.”

Rob Wilkins, managing director of Narrativia, added: “The Discworld books are a huge source of joy to millions of readers, and rightly so; every paragraph, phrase and footnote was crafted with brilliance and flair and we are committed to bringing Terry’s world to the screen with the respect and care it deserves. With this partnership, we are delighted to say that Discworld has finally found its home.”

(5) FLYING SOLO. Cinema’s hottest pilot is in trouble again. “Harrison Ford plane incident under investigation by FAA” reports PageSix. He did the Kessel run in thirteen parsecs, but he screws up crossing a runway at a Southern California airport.

Harrison Ford says an airport runway incident now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration came about because he “misheard a radio instruction.”

The 77-year-old star, who is an avid pilot, was operating a plane at California’s Hawthorne Airport on April 24 when he crossed a runway while another aircraft was landing.

“Mr. Ford crossed the airport’s only runway in his aircraft after he misheard a radio instruction from [air traffic control],” Ford’s rep told Page Six in a statement Wednesday. “He immediately acknowledged the mistake and apologized to ATC for the error. The purpose of the flight was to maintain currency and proficiency in the aircraft.”

His rep added that no one was injured in the incident and “there was never any danger of a collision.”

The FAA confirmed that the two aircraft were approximately 3,600 feet away from each other at the time….

(6) WRITE IF YOU GET WORK. The good news is — “Harrison Ford Reportedly Being Eyed For Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Role”. Let WeGotThisCovered tell you all about it.

…According to our sources – the same ones who told us that the Guardians will cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder and Now You See Me 3 is in development, both of which have since been confirmed – Harrison Ford is reportedly wanted for a villainous part in the film. It’s unclear exactly which one it could be at the moment, but one possibility is the High Evolutionary, a role that his former Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill has been linked to in the past. In certain canon, the character has a hand in the creation and subsequent experiments on Rocket, which ties into the vague plot details that we know so far.

(7) ANDERS INTERVIEW. At Black Gate, Brandon Crilly introduces his “Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019”.

At Can*Con 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Author Guest of Honour Charlie Jane Anders sits down for a one-on-one with programming lead and author Brandon Crilly, discussing her latest novels, short fiction, and her work in fandom and the SFF community.

Which made me curious what’s the latest subject Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz are discussing on the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast. The answer — “Episode 55: 9 New Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now”.

In these tough times, we need great TV shows more than ever. We have lots of opinions about nine new series that are making us happy because they’re smart, fun, and — best of all — colorful! Plus, we’ve got recommendations for over a dozen more not-so-new shows that are worth digging up from last year, or last century. Stay safe at home and plunge your mind into dazzling new worlds. 

(8) OSCARS AFFECTED. NPR publicizes a “Academy Awards Eligibility Rules Change Due To COVID-19”.

With movie theaters shuttered and film festivals canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, films once slated for the big screen are now premiering in people’s homes, streaming on digital platforms or showing as video on demand. In an unprecedented move, the board governing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow movies that originally had theatrical release dates but are now being screened online to be eligible to be considered for awards.

“The historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a statement. Until now, to qualify for awards, a film had to run at least seven consecutive days in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County. Under the new rules, when theaters reopen, films may qualify for awards if they have theatrical runs in L.A., New York, California’s Bay Area, Chicago, Miami or Atlanta.

(9) WHERE TO HEAR FROM DOCTOROW. The Essence of Wonder livestream will offer “Cory Doctorow Being Civil With Security Experts” on May 9.

Cory Doctorow will join Gadi [Evron] on Saturday (9 May) to talk on DRM, Right to Repair, and COVID-19/Med-Tech, read from “Unauthorized Bread”, and moderate a panel discussion featuring Steve Crocker, Martin Roesch, Keren Elazari, Ron Gula, Dmitri Alperovich, and Caleb Sima, discussing the challenges of digital policy when facing security and privacy realities.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 29, 1950 Dimension X’s “No Contact” aired. The copy at the time described the episode such, “It was in the year 1982 that space men first discovered the great galactic barrier… 5 exploratory ships went out and none came back each disappearing mysteriously at the same vanishing point an invisible wall somewhere in the vast outer reaches that became known as the wrecker of spaceships.” Mel Brandt as usual was the announcer and  with George Lefferts being the writer, and the cast being Donald Buka, Matt Crowley and  Cameron Prudhomme. You can hear it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre, but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Gam,e are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1943 Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God, his first novel, I remember as being a rather decent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made it into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also edited The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. He is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which was decidedly genre. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1960 Robert J. Sawyer, 60. Hominids won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive.  And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name.  Interesting series that ended far too soon. 
  • Born April 29, 1958 Michelle Pfeiffer, 62. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?hin The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 50. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film. 

(12) MORE ABOUT KERSHNER. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Today being Irvin Kershner’s celebration of what would have been his 97th birthday, here is a little photo and story. “Kersh” is the older gentleman in the blue shirt and black jacket holding court with the line, (The hat in the lower right belongs to George Clayton Johnson.)  This was the premiere of Roger Lay Jr’s graduate thesis film, Chrysalis, based on Ray Bradbury’s story. Ray was sitting to George’s left, out of picture.  They held court before the screening.

Kersh kind of snuck into the theater, unbeknownst to Roger, so he was not introduced.  Once the screening was over and thank yous expressed people in attendance were getting up and heading for the door or giving a final good-bye to Ray.  I realized that most of the people in the audience were “future” directors.  I shouted out how many liked The Empire Strikes Back?  All hands were raised.  I pointed out Kersh, introduced him and the fact that he directed it.  A line quickly formed.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range depends on a little inside joke. Robert Bloch would have understood it.
  • The Argyle Sweater returns with another batch of “not-so-famous second careers” – three are genre.

(14) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. Two Chairs Talking, the podcast where past Australian Worldcon chairs Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “talk about books, movies and other stuff,” is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Grigg says Episode-26: “Now We Are One” is “a special episode in which Perry and I each pick our five favourite books/series of all time and explain why we love them so much.”

For the record, the books discussed are: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Tango Briefing by Adam Hall, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

(15) CATCHING UP. Wil Wheaton admits it was news to him — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift”. Hear him read it on Soundcloud.

A Modest Proposal is brilliant, biting, hilarious satire, that is as horrifyingly relevant in 2020 as it was in 1729. This reads like one of those brilliant editorials from The Onion, or a Hannity monologue.

… By the time I was in middle school, I was struggling to deal with my abusive father, and I just did what I had to in school to keep my grades up and not fail. My teachers were fantastic, but the curriculum was very narrow, and there was little appreciation for art and literature in it. When I got into high school, I was working full time on Star Trek. I had a magnificent on-set tutor who took me all the way from grade 9 to grade 12, who encouraged me to do all the things my previous educators had not, but by that time it was just too late for me. I have regretted all of this, from the moment I became aware of it in my 30s, and I’ve been working hard to educate myself in the middle of my life, since I was not educated fully at the beginning of my life.

I am so embarrassed and disappointed that my education is a mile wide and half an inch deep. I realized this years ago, and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself, using college lectures that are online, and by reading as much as I can, to expose myself to the great works of art and literature that my parents didn’t care about, and my educators didn’t teach me about….

(16) PROMISE MORE THAN FULFILLED. Tsana Dolichva reviews The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz”:

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz is a time-travelling science fiction novel. I picked it up based on the promise that there would be both time travel and lesbians, though it turned out to be more diverse than just that description implies….

…But the overarching story is about fighting for rights and the methods by which history is made/changed. An ongoing debate in the book concerns the efficacy of collective action vs the Great Man theory; whether history can be changed incrementally and/or whether killing Hitler actually does anyone any good. But this is more a book about the characters, mostly women, looking out for each other, no matter the time period. If that’s your jam, then this may well be the book for you.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight a Jeopardy! contestant’s genre answer was mistaken.

The category: 19th Century novels.

The answer: “It’s first line ends, ‘the period was so far like the present period…for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'”

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Time Machine’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Tale of Two Cities’?”

(18) LIKE FANTASIA’S HIPPOS. BBC reports“Dancing gargantuan black holes perform on cue”.

Astronomers have been able to test key consequences of Einstein’s theories by studying the way a couple of black holes move around each other.

One of these objects is a true colossus – a hole weighing 18 billion times the mass of our Sun; the other not quite so big at “only” 150 million Sun masses.

Scientists managed to predict their interactions very precisely.

They did so by including their warping effects on space-time and by assuming the larger hole had a smooth “surface”.

The black hole pairing, known as OJ 287, exists about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth.

Scientists have long recognised a sudden brightening from this system that occurs twice every 12 years. The outburst of energy is equivalent to a trillion suns turning on at once in the holes’ host galaxy.

The best explanation for this extraordinary behaviour is that the smaller object is routinely crashing through a disc of gas and dust that’s accreting on to its larger companion, heating the inspiraling material to extremely high temperatures in the process.

But this flaring is somewhat irregular. Sometimes the brightening episodes in the 12-year period occur as little as one year apart; other times, as much as 10 years apart.

It speaks to the complexity of the path the small hole takes around its partner – a complexity the research team has now built into a highly sophisticated model.

(19) NO PET ROCKS. The court extends a fannish rule: “AI cannot be recognised as an inventor, US rules”.

An artificial intelligence system has been refused the right to two patents in the US, after a ruling only “natural persons” could be inventors.

The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected two patents where the AI system Dabus was listed as the inventor, in a ruling on Monday.

US patent law had previously only specified eligible inventors had to be “individuals”.

It follows a similar ruling from the UK Intellectual Property Office.

(20) CHECKING UP ON THE OTHER DOCTOR. “Dr Chuck Tingle is the glue holding this fragile and crumbling existence together,” says Jake Dowzell. The current crisis has inspired these two topical tinglers.

Meanwhile, a Tingle fan has found a way to show love through Animal Crossing.

(21) SEEDING TIME. Nothing to do with sff, but I found it a relaxing report.

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