Pixel Scroll 9/13/20 Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mrs. Pixel?

(1) MINORITY REPORT? The Tampa Bay Times says “Pasco’s sheriff created a futuristic program to stop crime before it happens. It monitors and harasses families across the county.”.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco took office in 2011 with a bold plan: to create a cutting-edge intelligence program that could stop crime before it happened.

What he actually built was a system to continuously monitor and harass Pasco County residents, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

First the Sheriff’s Office generates lists of people it considers likely to break the law, based on arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by police analysts.

Then it sends deputies to find and interrogate anyone whose name appears, often without probable cause, a search warrant or evidence of a specific crime.

They swarm homes in the middle of the night, waking families and embarrassing people in front of their neighbors. They write tickets for missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass, saddling residents with court dates and fines. They come again and again, making arrests for any reason they can.

(2) STAR TREKKING WITH WILL SMTH? We Got This Covered’s source told them “Paramount Reportedly Eyeing Will Smith For Big Star Trek Role”.

…According to our intel – which comes from the same sources that told us Captain Pike would be getting his own spinoff long before Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was announced – the studio are keen to recruit Will Smith to play a Starfleet captain. Although, at this time, it isn’t yet clear exactly what movie they’re eying him for.

After all, the canonical Star Trek 4 and Noah Hawley’s unrelated take on the material are both still rooted firmly in development hell, and Paramount could realistically end up making none or both of those sci-fi blockbusters. Still, with Robert Downey Jr. and Brie Larson both having found themselves linked to Star Trek recently as well, it would certainly appear that the studio are actively seeking an injection of star power to ensure that the next installment in the franchise can make it into production sooner rather than later.

(3) MEET THE MAYOR. Dan Snierson, in the Entertainment Weekly story Family Guy taps Sam Elliott to succeed Adam West as Mayor: See the first photos” says that three years after Adam West’s death, Family Guy has named Sam Elliott to replace him as mayor of Quahog.  Elliott will voice Adam West’s cousin, Wild Wild West.  (Adam West’s character on Family Guy was named Adam West.)

…He’ll be playing a key role: the new Mayor of Quahog, a post that became vacant after Adam West — who played Mayor Adam West in more than 100 episodes — died in 2017. West remained a presence on the show into the following year, as several episodes recorded before his death made their debut. Family Guy paid tribute to West several times, but almost two years after the actor’s death, the show finally acknowledged his passing in an episode that saw the high school renamed after him.”We wanted to take the time to respect Adam,” executive producer Richard Appel tells EW. “In having a conversation about ‘How do you replace him?,’ the universal belief was: he’s irreplaceable. And then the next question is, ‘Do you find a new mayor?’ In the world of Family Guy, he had an important role, and a role that was necessary for a lot of stories.”

(4) READING THE TRACKS. Amal El-Mohtar’s latest New York Times Sunday Book Review column “Power and Passage: New Science Fiction and Fantasy” covers Elwin Cotman’s Dance On Saturday (Small Beer Press) and Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds (Del Rey).

The discourse about reading fiction during the pandemic has followed two broad tracks: There are those who take comfort in the activity, and those who have found reading impossibly difficult. I belong to the latter camp, but I’m all the more excited to share the following books, which, while very different in genre and mode, shook me out of listless distraction with their originality.

(5) FACES IN SFF. Camestros Felapton made a discovery.

So that’s James Schmitz! I never saw a photo of him before. Nor saw him in person, even though he lived in LA – he didn’t come to conventions, and I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer my invitation to be on a Westercon program, although I suppose I made the attempt because he did interact with a few fannish book reviewers, like Paul Walker. (FYI, there’s a whole website devoted to Schmitz and his works saved at the Internet Archive.)

(6) SHREK GENESIS. [Item by rcade.] Some audio was shared on social media of Chris Farley performing as Shrek with Eddie Murphy as Donkey.

Farley, who helped the movie become greenlit by signing on to star in the title role in 1996, had completed 80 to 95 percent of the voice work for the film when he died of a cocaine and morphine overdose. Mike Myers was brought in and the script was rewritten, turning Shrek from sweet and American under Farley to acerbic and Scottish under Myers.

More details at this archived Jim Hill Media link: “How ‘Shrek’ went from being a train wreck to one for the record books”.

…Of course, back then, “Shrek” was supposed to have had a very different storyline. It wasn’t a movie about an ogre who just wanted to be left alone in his swamp. But — rather — it was about a teenage ogre who wasn’t all that eager to go into the family business. You see, young Shrek didn’t really want to frighten people. He longed to make friends, help people. This ogre actually dreamed of becoming a knight.

This was the version of “Shrek” that Chris Farley was working on just prior to his untimely death in December 1997. According to folks that I’ve spoken with who worked on this version of the film, Farley’s voice work on the project was nothing short of heroic.

(7) YOU’RE THE TOP. The Guardian’s E Foley and B Coates rank “Top 10 goddesses in fiction”. Tagline: “In ancient myth – and novels by authors from Neil Gaiman to Toni Morrison – these ambiguous figures are sometimes repressive, sometimes inspiring.” Free registration required to read.

(8) SHORT CHANGED. Camestros Felapton finds out “Which Hugo story finalists don’t have a Wikipedia page”. But should they?

My capacity to generate (rather than just make-up) trivia increases every week. Today I get to tell you which Hugo Finalists in Novel, Novella, Novelette and Short Story do not currently have a Wikipedia page.

(9) CAMPAIGN BEGINS. “300 years on, will thousands of women burned as witches finally get justice?”The Guardian reports they might.

It spanned more than a century and a half, and resulted in about 2,500 people – the vast majority of them women – being burned at the stake, usually after prolonged torture. Remarkably, one of the driving forces behind Scotland’s “satanic panic” was no less than the king, James VI, whose treatise, Daemonologie, may have inspired the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Now, almost 300 years after the Witchcraft Act was repealed, a campaign has been launched for a pardon for those convicted, an apology to all those accused and a national memorial to be created.

“There should be an acknowledgement that what happened to these women was a terrible miscarriage of justice,” Claire Mitchell QC, the campaign’s founder, told the Observer. She pointed out that in Salem, the Massachusetts town where a series of infamous witchcraft trials took place in the 1690s, a formal apology for the 200 accused and 20 executed was issued in 1957. In Scotland – where 3,837 people were accused, two-thirds of whom are believed to have been put to death – there has been no such recognition….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2005 — Fifteen years ago at Interaction, Susanna Clarke‘s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell won the Best Novel Hugo. The other finalists were River of Gods by Ian McDonald, The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks, Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross and Iron Council by China Miéville. It would be her last novel for fifteen years with only her only other work then being a collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories with illustrations by Charles Vess. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is also available in audiobook form as narrated most excellently by Simon Prebble. A BBC television adaptation was done ten years after publication. In 2006, it was reported that she suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome which she very recently reported that she had recovered from. Her second and soon-to-be-released novel is Piranesi which is not follow-up to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 13, 1898 – Arthur J. Burks.   Served in the U.S. Marines during both World Wars, eventually retiring as lieutenant colonel.  Resigned after WW I, became a million-word-a-year man for the pulps, re-enlisted, wrote again afterward, perhaps 800 stories for us and others.  Interviewed in the May 33 SF Digest by Julie Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, later more famous than he.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1926 Roald Dahl. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice? Or that he hosted and wrote for a sf and horror television anthology series called Way Out which aired before The Twilight Zone for a season? He also hosted the UK Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.  My favorite Dahl work is The BFG. What’s yours? (Died 1990.) (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1931 Barbara Bain, 89. She’s most remembered for co-starring in the original Mission: Impossible television series in the 1960s as Cinnamon Carter, and Space: 1999 as Doctor Helena Russell. I will confess that I never watched the latter. Her first genre role was as Alma in the “KAOS in CONTROL” episode of Get Smart! (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1937 – Dick Eney.  Active fan from 1949, including fanzines, filking, cons; also our neighbor the Society for Creative Anachronism.  Program Books for Discon I and II the 21st and 32nd Worldcons.  Toastmaster at the first Conterpoint.  Published Fancyclopedia II.  Fan Guest of Honor at L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon.  Witty but pushed his prejudices; could be pithy and poisonous: earned applause, but we all knew It’s Eney’s fault!  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1943 – Mary Kay Bray.  Scholar whose work in the Black American Literature ForumExtrapolationFantasy ReviewThe Review of Contemporary Fiction, and the SF Research Ass’n Review led the SFRA in 2002 to establish the annual Mary Kay Bray Award for the best essay, interview, or extended review to appear in SFRA Review.  Filer Rich Horton is currently on the Award Committee.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1946 Frank Marshall, 74. Producer of Raiders of the Lost ArkPoltergeistIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Indian in the Cupboard to name but a few he’s produced; there’s an even a longer list of films that he’s been involved in as an executive producer. His upcoming projects are the animated Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous series and the Jurassic World: Dominion film. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1947 Mike Grell, 73. He’s best known for his work on books such as Green Lantern/Green ArrowThe Warlord, and Jon Sable FreelanceThe Warlord featuring Travis Morgan is a hollow Earth adventure series set in Skartaris which is a homage to Jules Verne. As Grell points out “the name comes from the mountain peak Scartaris that points the way to the passage to the earth’s core in Journey to the Center of the Earth.” The Justice League Unlimited “Chaos at the Earth’s Core“ episode made use of this story. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1960 – Bob Eggleton, F.N., 60.  Almost five hundred covers and eight hundred interiors.  Magic, the Gathering cards.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Many times a Guest of Honor, e.g. Loscon 27, Norwescon XXIV, Balticon 39, MidSouthCon 26, Lunacon 60 (with wife Marianne Plumridge); Chicon 6 the 58th Worldcon.  Artbooks Alien HorizonsGreetings from Earth, seven more.  Gaughan; Skylark; twelve Chesleys including Artistic Achievement; eight Hugos. International expert on Godzilla.  Here is Thrust 26.  Here is Why Do Birds.  Here is the Chicon 6 Souvenir Book (logograph “Chicon 2000” with Space ships at upper right).  Here is the Jul-Aug 08 Analog.  Here is A Bicycle Built for Brew.  Here is the Nov-Dec 19 F&SF.  [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1961 Tom Holt, 59. Assuming you like comical fantasy, I’d recommend both Faust Among Equals and Who Afraid of Beowulf? as being well worth time. If you madly, deeply into Wagner, you’ll love Expecting Someone Taller; if not, skip it. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1974 Fiona Avery, 46. Comic book and genre series scriptwriter. While being a reference editor on the final season of Babylon 5, she wrote “The Well of Forever” and “Patterns of the Soul” as well as two that were not produced, “Value Judgements” and “Tried and True”. After work on the Crusade series ended, she turned to comic book writing, working for Marvel and Top Cow with three spin-offs of J. Michael Straczynski’s Rising Stars being another place where her scripts were used. She created the Marvel character Anya Sofia Corazon later named Spider-girl. (CE) 
  • Born September 13, 1977 – Pola Oloixarac, 43.  One of Granta’s Best Young Spanish Novelists (2010).  Founding editor of bilingual Buenos Aires Review.  Savage Theories and Dark Constellations translated into English.  Has presented at Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Stanford, Univ. Toronto.  Of Theories she says “The book has sparked verbal violence and a sexist uproar precisely because it doesn’t deal with … issues … traditionally associated with ‘women’s literature’, but instead contains … traits solely reserved for men.”  [JH]
  • Born September 13, 1978 – Scarlett Algee, 42.  A dozen short stories for us; since Apr 2019 managing editor at JournalStone Publishing.  Has read nine of the sixteen Sheckley collections I know of, and ranks them, low to high: Divine Intervention (about even with How the Irish Saved Civilization), The People TrapShards of Space and Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?Pilgrimage to Earth and Notions UnlimitedCitizen in SpaceUntouched by Human HandsStore of Infinity (above Les Misérables).  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows the kind of episode you can end up with if you misspell Star Trek.
  • And is Ziggy witnessing the Prime Directive being applied to himself?

(13) STAY HOME. Some of the principals of an independently-produced genre movie are asking that you not go out to see it. Gizmodo/io9 has the story: “Directors of Synchronic Ask You to Please Not Go See Their Movie”.

In a statement posted on Instagram, the three creators say that, “at the time of writing this, we personally wouldn’t go to an indoor movie theater, so we can’t encourage you to.” They explain that the film’s distribution situation is out of their control, and assure audiences that the film will be available via on-demand “in a few months” for those who want to watch it without risking their lives.  

(14) ANOTHER THREE-LETTER WRITERS GROUP REPLACES MOST OF ITS BOARD. The International Thriller Writers are regrouping and electing a new board after an internal meltdown almost as bad as though less public than RWA’s – Publishers Weekly has the story: “International Thriller Writers Regroup After Resignations”.

Less than three months after the resignations of all but two members of the International Thriller Writers association’s board of directors, the organization is rebuilding to better serve its members with an eye towards avoiding the recent controversies that have plagued it and several other organizations serving writers. Like other organizations, including most recently, the National Book Critics Circle, ITW has been forced to confront charges of racial insensitivity. ITW is also dealing with the aftermath of charges lodged with the organization as well as with Dallas, Tex. police that a male author affiliated with ITW allegedly assaulted a female author during a conference in late fall, 2019.

ITW members recently voted on a slate of 11 mystery and thriller authors who will join its board beginning in mid-October, including such notables as Anthony Horowitz and C.J. Box. Half of the new members are female, including Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, and Lisa Gardner. ITW has created a new committee, diversity and outreach, headed by incoming board member Alexia Gordon. Veteran board officer Heather Graham and incoming board member Gregg Hurwitz will serve as co-presidents of the 12-member board.

In addition, in July the 16-year-old organization established a security and safety committee to draft a comprehensive process for dealing with violations of its code of conduct policies. The six-member committee includes at least one survivor of assault, a law enforcement officer, a district attorney, a psychologist, and a victim’s rights lawyer.

(15) RETRO VISIONS CONTINUE. Cora Buhlert recently revisited the first two Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore, “Black God’s Kiss” and “Black God’s Shadow,” gaining insights into the sword and sorcery genre in the process:

As I said a few posts ago, I will be reviewing vintage SFF stories beyond the confines of the Retro Hugos as well, beginning with “Black God’s Kiss”, a sword and sorcery novelette by C.L. Moore that was the cover story of the October 1934 issue of Weird Tales and also introduced the swordswoman Jirel of Joiry to the world. The story may be read online here. This review will also be crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! Also trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence.

…Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! Also trigger warning for discussion of sexual violence.

“Black God’s Shadow” takes place a few weeks or even months after “Black God’s Kiss”. Our heroine Jirel of Joiry is still haunted by the events in the previous story and it shows… 

(16) RAMMING SPEED. [Item by Contrarius.] The beginning of the rebellion of nature? A plot for a new movie — “The Orcas” instead of “The Birds”? “Scientists baffled by orcas ramming sailing boats near Spain and Portugal” in The Guardian.

In the last two months, from southern to northern Spain, sailors have sent distress calls after worrying encounters. Two boats lost part of their rudders, at least one crew member suffered bruising from the impact of the ramming, and several boats sustained serious damage.

The latest incident occurred on Friday afternoon just off A Coruña, on the northern coast of Spain. Halcyon Yachts was taking a 36ft boat to the UK when an orca rammed its stern at least 15 times, according to Pete Green, the company’s managing director. The boat lost steering and was towed into port to assess damage.

A second article in The Guardian — Whalemageddon! “‘I’ve never seen or heard of attacks’: scientists baffled by orcas harassing boats”.

…The pod rammed the boat for more than an hour, during which time the crew were too busy getting the sails in, readying the life raft and radioing a mayday – “Orca attack!” – to feel fear. The moment fear kicked in, Morris says, was when she went below deck to prepare a grab bag – the stuff you take when abandoning ship. “The noise was really scary. They were ramming the keel, there was this horrible echo, I thought they could capsize the boat. And this deafening noise as they communicated, whistling to each other. It was so loud that we had to shout.” It felt, she says, “totally orchestrated”.

The crew waited a tense hour and a half for rescue – perhaps understandably, the coastguard took time to comprehend (“You are saying you are under attack from orca?”). To say this is unusual is to massively understate it. By the time help arrived, the orcas were gone. The boat was towed to Barbate, where it was lifted to reveal the rudder missing its bottom third and outer layer, and teeth marks along the underside….

(17) D@MN ROBOTS. Abandon hope, all ye who own phones. Inverse reports a study: “Does ignoring robocalls make them stop? Researchers uncover 2 key findings”.

More than 80 percent of robocalls come from fake numbers – and answering these calls or not has no effect on how many more you’ll get. Those are two key findings of an 11-month study into unsolicited phone calls that we conducted from February 2019 to January 2020.

To better understand how these unwanted callers operate, we monitored every phone call received to over 66,000 phone lines in our telephone security lab, the Robocall Observatory at North Carolina State University. We received 1.48 million unsolicited phone calls over the course of the study. Some of these calls we answered, while others we let ring. Contrary to popular wisdom, we found that answering calls makes no difference in the number of robocalls received by a phone number. The weekly volume of robocalls remained constant throughout the study.

(18) DAY GO SNOW, DAY GO SLEET, DAGOBAH. Starbuck’s “Been There” series of cups includes this souvenir of Dagobah. This one is “pre-owned.” I wonder when this series came out.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/11/19 Keep Them Pixels Scrollin’, Though The Files Are Swollen, Five-Hide!

(1) WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE THINK OF MACLEAN. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF returns with the panel’s responses to “Unhuman Sacrifice” by Katherine MacLean. Mikayla and the other young hands weigh in.

Katherine MacLean (1925 – 2019) was active as a short story writer mainly in the 1950s (although pieces appeared as late as 1997) and as a novelist mainly in the 1970s. Her Second Game saw her a Hugo finalist in 1959; Missing Man won a Nebula in 1972. Rediscovery offers MacLean’s “Unhuman Sacrifice”, an uplifting tale of a human missionary convinced he knows best for a community of just-contacted aliens. No doubt it can only end well.

The plan for this phase of Young People was to shift to a conversation-based format, using Slack to facilitate discussion. I then sabotaged this by getting sick the week the reviews came in. Ah, well. Next time it will all work swimmingly.

(2) MANY CHEFS. Daniel Brotzel’s SFWA Blog post “Collaboration” includes this advice for making it work:

…Writing a book with someone else can be a nightmare or it can be pure pleasure. In our case, lots of things fell into place almost by accident, things which I can now see are essential to making a collaboration work. These include:

• a shared passion for the project and the idea
• mutual respect for each other’s writing and ideas
• a practical way of working that can accommodate everyone’s schedules and constraints
• a willingness to set egos aside and make compromises for the good of the project (and the ultimate benefit of the reader)
• an attitude that embraces sharing and the ambition to see things through
• a good blend of the skills and capabilities that you to get a book off the ground – and beyond

(3) ANIMANIACS. SYFY Wire confirms the Animaniacs Cast Will All Return”.

Almost a full year ago we found out that the Animaniacs will be revived on Hulu with Steven Spielberg executive producing. And that was pretty exciting. But the larger question hung in the air: What about the original cast?

Well you can breath easy: They’re all back. Yes, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, and Maurice LaMarche are all returning to the fold. Or the water tower, I guess. It’s a massive relief. It’s not that animated characters can’t be recast, it’s just that these specific actors are, frankly, a pure distillation of so many childhoods that it would be a shame if they weren’t all returning to Animaniacs. Hooray! Everyone likes good news!

(4) WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD AMAZON? amNY reveals “The secret to The Mysterious Bookshop’s 40-plus years of success”.

…Book clubs also keep loyal readers inspired, including a Book of the Month subscription that includes a signed first edition of the shop’s choosing and an unclassifiable club that includes books that do not fall into the traditional mystery genre. For example, Rob Hart’s “The Warehouse,” which takes place in a near-future dystopian world where a company has become a totalitarian force, would not traditionally be shelved in a bookstore’s mystery section, but has been extremely popular in The Mysterious Bookshop.

Speaking of corporate monopolies, Penzler isn’t fearful of big box competitors.

“We can compete with Amazon because they don’t offer signed books,” he says. “I shouldn’t say that so loudly because they’ll probably do it, but every mystery writer comes to sign at our store. Half of books sold are signed and we don’t charge more for them!”

(5) ONE IS ENOUGH. NPR’s Mark Jenkins pans both performances: “Clone Gunman: Will Smith Vs. Will Smith In Sluggish, Sterile ‘Gemini Man'”.

Long before digital imaging, German philosopher Walter Benjamin opined that reproductions of artworks lacked the “aura” of the original. But what about reproductions of people? To judge by Will Smith’s double act in Gemini Man, the forerunner can be just as lacking as the copy.

Conceived more than 20 years ago as a Tony Scott-directed action flick, Gemini Man eventually fell to Ang Lee, who has recently shown more interest in cinematic technology than storytelling. Once a versatile stylist, the Taiwan-born director of The Life of Pi now seems consumed by advances in CGI. His latest trick, casting Will Smith against a digitally backdated version of himself, can’t save this movie from being bland, sluggish, and sentimental.

…There’s something else that Gemini Man shares with The Da Vinci Code: clunky dialogue. Credited to three writers but reportedly the work of many more, the movie’s script offers a preposterous scenario that might have been finessed by visual and verbal wit. It has little of either….

(6) THE NEED FOR SPEED. Leonard Maltin, on the other hand, was won over by the technical virtuosity as he says in the beginning of his review “Gemini Man: Two Will Smiths For The Price Of One”.

I was wary approaching Gemini Man, which I saw at 120 frames per second (about four times normal film speed) in 3-D. I got a headache the last time I watched a high-frame-rate feature but I came away from this film a believer. Director Ang Lee is trailblazing new territory, as he did in Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk, but this time he has a highly enjoyable, action-packed story and a perfect star in Will Smith. The entertainment value is high and cutting-edge technology organically suits the content….

(7) INSIDE THE CANISTER. Alasdair Stuart says this is what readers of “The Full Lid 11th October 2019” have in store:

This week’s Full Lid soars above London with the parkour and violence enthusiasts of the Assassins Creed Symphony! Then I’m off to Sheffield to discover my new favorite poem at an event that celebrates science and art and where they mix. This piece genuinely left me speechless and I’ve been riding an endorphin wave from being able to see it all week.

Finally, I take a look at Swedish SF movie Aniara, adapting the epic poem and Horror Christmas reaches The Silence of the Lambs. If you like what you read, please share and subscribe and I’ll see you next week. Happy Friday, everyone!

(8) PEN OUT LOUD. In a wide-ranging conversation with author Marlon James, acclaimed writer and former PEN America President Salman Rushdie previewed his latest novel Quichotte, a modern take on Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century novel Don Quixote, at a PEN Out Loud evening in New York City. There’s also a transcript at the link: “Salman Rushdie and Marlon James Discuss Language, Reality, and Nostalgia at PEN Out Loud”.

RUSHDIE: Intimate, but you know, [English is] not my mother tongue. That’s to say. I grew up in a kind of environment in India where everybody’s kind of multilingual because you have to be. But basically the language we spoke at home was mostly not English, mostly Urdu. But I went to what they call an English medium school. So when I went to school, I was being taught in English. So I grew up more or less bilingual. One of the reasons that I never make a spelling mistake is because I had to learn the language. People who just have the language very often can’t spell.

JAMES: Yes, when you said that, I heard my high school teacher in the back of my head going “dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and leave a full stop by the end of every single sentence.”

RUSHDIE: Yes, exactly. We got taught that shit.

JAMES: Yes, but I remember for a long time my biggest struggle with writing in English is, I would put something down, or I’ll speak, and it took me a while to realize I sounded like the butler.

RUSHDIE: Like a butler?

JAMES: Yeah. Like it was a very colonial English.

RUSHDIE: Like Jeeves.

JAMES: Yeah.

RUSHDIE: I can’t imagine you writing, the books you’ve written, as if you were Jeeves.

JAMES: I’m telling you, I used to use shit like “betwixt.”

(9) LEONOV OBIT. Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first to walk in space, died at the age of 85 on October 11. CollectSpace paid tribute:

…Selected alongside Yuri Gagarin among the first 20 Soviet Air Force pilots to train as cosmonauts in 1960, Leonov flew twice into space, logging a total of 7 days and 32 minutes off the planet.

Launched on Voskhod 2, the world’s 17th human spaceflight, on March 18, 1965, Leonov made history as the first person to exit his spacecraft for an extravehicular activity (EVA).

“The Earth is round!” he exclaimed, as he caught his first view of the world. “Stars were to my left, right, above and below me. The light of the sun was very intense and I felt its warmth on the part of my face that was not protected by a filter,” said Leonov in a 2015 interview with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on the 50th anniversary of his spacewalk.

The New York Times obituary tells how that mission was almost fatal for Leonov:

…What Mr. Leonov did not reveal until many years later was that he and his fellow cosmonaut, Pavel I. Belyayev, who was also an Air Force pilot, were fortunate to have survived.

Mr. Leonov’s specially designed suit had unexpectedly inflated during his walk, and its bulk was preventing him from getting back inside the Voskhod.

“I knew I could not afford to panic, but time was running out,” he recalled in the book “Two Sides of the Moon” (2004), written with the astronaut David Scott, about their experiences in space.

Mr. Leonov slowly deflated the suit by releasing oxygen from it, a procedure that threatened to leave him without life support. But with the reduced bulk, he finally made it inside.

“I was drenched with sweat, my heart racing,” he remembered.

But that, he added “was just the start of dire emergencies which almost cost us our lives.”

The oxygen pressure in the spacecraft rose to a dangerous level, introducing the prospect that a spark in the electrical system could set off a disastrous explosion or fire.

It returned to a tolerable level, but the cosmonauts never figured out the reason for the surge.

When it came time for the return to Earth, the spacecraft’s automatic rocket-firing system did not work, forcing the cosmonauts to conduct imprecise manual maneuvers during the descent that left them in deep snow and freezing temperatures in a remote Russian forest, far from their intended landing point.

(10) PITTS OBIT. The SFWA Blog noted the death of J.A. Pitts:

SFWA member John A. Pitts died on October 3 from amyoidosis.  Pitts began publishing short fiction in 2006 with “There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket (A Fortean Love Story),” co-written with Ken Scholes.  He went on to write several short stories on his own and in 2010 began publishing novels under the name J.A. Pitts with Black Blade Blues, the first novel in his series about Sarah Beauhall.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 11, 1957 The Black Scorpion debuted. Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday and Carlos Rivas, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 33% rating. Mystery Science Theater 3000, well, see for yourself here what they thought of it. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • October 11, 1921 Linda Stirling. Sheila Layton in the 1945 The Purple Monster Strikes serial, also known as D Day on Mars. The sequel to this serial was the 1950 Flying Disc Man from Mars, which simply recycled much of the footage from the original. (Died 1997.)
  • October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.)
  • October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 59. Well known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.
  • October 11, 1965 ?Sean Patrick Flanery, 54. I really think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. 
  • October 11, 1972 ?Claudia Black, 47. Best known for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in The CW’s Containment series.
  • October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 43. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. 
  • October 11, 1985 Michelle Trachtenberg, 34. Dawn, one of the most annoying characters in television ever, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(13) NANCY. A Slate Q&A with Olivia Jaimes reveals “Nancy’s Artist Revived an 80-Year-Old Comic Strip by Writing Fan Fiction”

Matthew Phelan: Is working with someone else’s characters emotionally freeing? Or do you feel an intense, world-historic duty to do justice to classic Nancy

Olivia Jaimes: It feels like I’m writing Nancy fan fiction, which is very freeing. I’ve said the same thing to my editor before, and she’s gently broken it to me that my Nancies are canon, but fan fiction is what it feels like nonetheless. Maybe what I mean by this is that I feel comfortable transforming the strip in ways that suit me because I trust readers to know “the rules” of transformative works like fan fiction. It’s your take on characters that are shared by everyone. You’re not trying to pass seamlessly as the original author; you’re stretching and bending the original work to make it say what you want it to say.

(14) FLASH REFERENCES FLASH. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Am I the only one who (a) couldn’t tell what the words were, in the episode, (b) wouldn’t have recognized this as a Queen tune, even if I had, nor necessarily which movie it was from, (c) don’t mind, since, if nothing else, Cisco (formerly “Vibe”) had “been waiting for the perfect moment to use it, and Caitlin (aka Killer Frost) recognized it. Io9’s James Whitbrook’s episode recap The Flash Finally Did It” explains:

… And, via Cisco, The Flash finally, finally does something that is incredibly goofy, completely rad, and something it has simply been yearning to do since it first began: Cisco taps a key on STAR Labs’ sound system.

And Queen’s Flash Gordon theme starts playing.

It’s so dumb. It’s so good. It is, as Cisco argues, the perfect moment to deploy the 1980 classic. You don’t care that the black hole CG comes with all the questionable success CW-budget computer effects usually bring. You don’t care that this has been, otherwise, a pretty humdrum episode of The Flash, and weirdly low key for a season premiere. This is what this show has always been, and hopefully always will be, about: embracing the sheer, kinetic, camp audacity of superhero comics and just having an absolute whale of a time while doing so.

(15) SAILOR SHIPPING OVER. ScienceFiction.com says “Sailor Moon Is Returning To The Big Screen In 2020 In ‘Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Eternal’”.

(16) GAMES TRANSFORMED TO NARRATIVES. “Ubisoft Planning Animated TV Adaptations of Popular Game Franchises”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Video game giant Ubisoft is getting cartoonish.

The Paris-based company’s film and television division is developing a slate of animated series inspired by its existing IP. First up: a Mars-set Rabbids Invasion special, after four successful seasons of the France 3/Netflix/Nickelodeon kids show. Other family-friendly programs in the works include a comedy-adventure inspired by the popular Rayman franchise and Hungry Shark Squad, based on the mobile game Hungry Shark.

… For slightly older viewers, Ubisoft is toning down its M-rated Watch Dogs action-adventure franchise for a tamer “cybermystery” aimed at tweens. The show centers on a teenaged “super hacker” who solves crimes in her high school.

(17) CHINA’S PROXY CENSOR. Zack Beauchamp, in “One of America’s Biggest Gaming Companies Is Acting As China’s Censor” on Vox, says that Activision Blizzard banned Chung Ng Wa, who plays as “Blitzchung,” after he won a Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament and then put on goggles and a face mask and said, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

On Tuesday, Blizzard came down hard on Chung. In an official statement on Hearthstone’s blog, the company announced that it would be suspending Chung for a year, forcing him to forfeit thousands of dollars in prize money from 2019 and firing the casters (commentators) who conducted the interview.

This is a big deal.

Blizzard, who created (among other things) World of Warcraft, is a massive company. It brought in about $7.5 billion in revenue in 2018. Like the NBA, which has rebuked the Houston Rockets’ general manager over a pro-Hong Kong tweet, Blizzard is not merely trying to operate within the confines of Chinese censorship but acting as its agent.

(18) HEY, THE TIMING IS NOT THE ROBOT’S FAULT. “Istanbul Airport Robot Has A Message for You!” on YouTube describes the friendly robots helping passengers at Istanbul Airport.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/11/19 Pixels With The Scroll Numbers Filed Off

(1) TOP 100 SF BOOKS. Reedsy Discovery is back with the counterpart to its fantasy list — “The 100 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time”.  This one arranges the titles in chronological order and I found myself zooming through, checking off one after another, when suddenly it was like I dropped off a cliff. I ended with only 43/100 read. (So it was hardly worthwhile to cheat and add another two titles I started and never finished.)

Whether you read sci-fi for its ability to speculate how technology will change our lives, or if you enjoy how its authors use it to hold a mirror up to modern society, you’ll find some of your favorite books (and hopefully, a few titles you’ve never read before) in our chronological list of the 100 best sci-fi books of all time.

(2) ON THE TRAIL. There’s a high-concept title for you — The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot. And it stars Sam Elliott.

Since WWII, Calvin Barr has lived with the secret that he was responsible for the assassination of Adolf Hitler. Now, decades later, the US government has called on him again for a new top-secret mission. Bigfoot has been living deep in the Canadian wilderness and carrying a deadly plague that is now threatening to spread to the general population. Relying on the same skills that he honed during the war, Calvin must set out to save the free world yet again.

(3) SUPERNATURAL FLAVOR. “‘Hellboy’ to Get 6 Limited Edition Beers for 25th Anniversary”The Hollywood Reporter has the story. The official launch of the Hellboy beer will take place during an as-yet-undisclosed March 15 event as part of Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle.

Six flavors will be released in editions of 666 starting in March.

What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy than to enjoy a drink in his honor? The answer is clear: enjoying one of six exclusive Hellboy beers, brewed by Oregon’s Gigantic Brewing to mark the character’s birthday.

Each of the six beers will be released in a limited edition of 666, with release windows of approximately seven weeks beginning in March to coincide with “Hellboy Day,” Dark Horse Comics’ March 23 celebration of the character’s 25th anniversary. Each release will have a flavor profile based on a specific character from the mythology built around the long-running comic character, launching with March’s “Hellboy,” obviously; that beer is described as “maple syrup pancake beer” by Gigantic Brewing.

Subsequent releases will be Liz Sherman (Mole Chili Stout), Johann Kraus (Citrus Wit Beer), Abe Sapien (Indigo Blue Fruit Ale), Blood Queen (Cranberry Yuzu Sour) and Trevor Bruttenholm (British Barleywine). Each beer, with the exception of the Trevor Bruttenholm, is 6.66% ABV; Trevor is a stronger 9.99%.

(4) HERE’S WHAT’S IN THE LTUE BENEFIT ANTHOLOGY. Trace the Stars, a benefit anthology for Life, the Universe, & Everything, the annual science fiction and fantasy symposium in Provo, Utah, will be released Thursday by Hemelein Publications and LTUE Press. The editors are Joe Monson and Jaleta Clegg. Cover art by Kevin Wasden. All of the stories were donated by the authors in support of the symposium’s mission to educate and train new authors and artists.

Trace the Stars is a space opera and hard science fiction anthology created in memory of Marion K. “Doc” Smith, the founding faculty advisor to Life the Universe, & Everything. All proceeds from sales of the anthology will go to support LTUE in allowing students to attend for a greatly reduced price.

Contents

(5) THE NEIL CLARKE FOUR: Over at Featured Futures, Jason has updated the “Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2018 Stories, Links” so that it now has collation. Strahan and Clarke’s ToCs are combined and the available stories are linked.

Welcome to the third annual linked collation of annuals or “year’s bests.” As the contents of the Afsharirad, BASFF, Clarke, Datlow, Guran, Horton, Shearman/Kelly, and Strahan science fiction, fantasy, and horror annuals are announced, they will be combined into one master list with links to the stories which are available online. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy some of them and that will help you decide which annual or annuals, if any, to purchase.

(6) THE FIRST MONTH’S FIRST-CLASS STORIES: Jason also has compiled the latest list of fiction which fascinated him in “Month in Review: January 2019” at Featured Futures.

This is a slightly re-titled and graphically enhanced version of what used to be the “Monthly Summation” and marks the first month of the two-tiered review system in which eight magazines are fully reviewed and twelve are selectively reviewed. This installment looks back on 96 stories of 502K words which produced just four recommendations and seven honorable mentions. It also includes links to the thirteen relevant reviews and the seven other January articles.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 11, 1908 Tevis Clyde Smith. He’s a curious story indeed as he collaborated on three short stories with Robert E. Howard. Those stories are “Red Blades of Black Cathay”, “Diogenes of today” and “Eighttoes makes a play”. ISFDB suggests that he might have written other short stories and poetry. Anyone encounter these? (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 11, 1926 Leslie Nielsen. I know the comic, bumbling fool who delighted generations of film goers. But his first starring role was as Commander John J. Adams in one of the finest SF films of all time Forbidden Planet. I am most decidedly not a fan of his later films but I think he’s brilliant here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 11, 1939 Jane Yolen, 80. She loves dark chocolate. That I know as I just sent her some a few weeks ago. She wrote me into a novel as a character, an ethnomusicologist in One-Armed Queen to be precise in exchange for finding her a fairytale collection she wanted. Don’t remember now what it was other than it was very old and very rare. My favorite book by her is The Wild Hunt, and I love that she financed the production of Boiled in Lead’s Antler Dance which her son Adam Stemple was lead vocalist on. 
  • Born February 11, 1953 – Wayne Hammond, 66. He’s married to fellow Tolkien scholar Christina Scull. Together they’ve done some of the finest work on him that’s been done including J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and IllustratorThe Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s CompanionThe Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book and The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
  • Born February 11, 1982 Natalie Dormer, 37. Best known as being in Game of Thrones as Margaery Tyrell as I’m more in the fact that she was in Elementary over three seasons as both Jamie Moriarty and Irene Adler. Anyone here watch this series? I’ve not but this sounds fascinating! 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The colleagues of a suspicious-looking trooper wonder what he’s been up to at Brewster Rockit.

(9) TO INFINITY AND BEYOND. Where do you keep the Infinity Stones between Marvel movies? Apparently Cate Blanchett owns them—or at least knows who to borrow them from (BuzzFeed: “Cate Blanchett Basically Wore An Infinity Stones Necklace To The BAFTAs And People Made Jokes”).

(10) BOVINE DATING. BBC finds a “Tinder-style app for cows tries to help the meat market”.

So you think the dating scene is like a meat market? Well, wait till you hear about the latest matchmaking app.

Following the example of Tinder, UK farming start-up Hectare has launched its own equivalent for livestock and called it Tudder.

The app features data profiles of animals from 42,000 UK farms in an effort to help farmers find the perfect breeding partner for their cattle.

Farmers can view pictures of bulls or cows and swipe right to show interest.

Hectare Agritech, which also runs online grain marketplace Graindex, says its aim is “reinventing farm trading – and making farmers’ lives easier”.

(11) BUGS, MR RICO! But not as many as before: “Global insect decline may see ‘plague of pests'”.

A scientific review of insect numbers suggests that 40% of species are undergoing “dramatic rates of decline” around the world.

The study says that bees, ants and beetles are disappearing eight times faster than mammals, birds or reptiles.

But researchers say that some species, such as houseflies and cockroaches, are likely to boom.

The general insect decline is being caused by intensive agriculture, pesticides and climate change.

(12) ASK AGAIN, LATER. The new Spock spoke to SlashFilm (which they stylize as /Film): “Zachary Quinto Still Hopeful ‘Star Trek 4’ Will Happen Eventually”.

Here’s what Zachary Quinto had to say about the Star Trek 4 delay:

“I mean, it’s been a broad conversation that we’ve been having for a while in terms of what’s the future of the franchise. It’s in process so I don’t know exactly what to say other than there’s no plans for a movie happening at this moment.”

[…] “I would love to. I feel like it’s been an anchor of my creative life for the last over 10 years now so if I can go back to it, I’ll always be happy to. I love my Star Trek family so we’ll see how it goes.”

(13) WHAT’S OUT THERE. Looking for reviews to help make your reading decisions? Patricia Abbott’s blog has links to a week’s worth in the “Friday’s Forgotten Books, February 8, 2019” post.

  • Mark Baker. MURDER ON LENOX HILL, Victoria Thompson
  • Elgin Bleecker, CRIMES IN SOUTHERN INDIANA, Frank Bill 
  • Brian Busby, THE LISTENING WALLS, Margaret Millar
  • Kate Jackson/Cross/examining/crime, THE LETHAL SEX, John D. MacDonald 
  • Martin Edwards, THE PATON STREET CASE, John Bingham
  • Aubrey Nye Hamilton, BLACKSHIRT PASSES, Roderic Jeffries
  • Rich Horton, ANDROID AVENGER, by Ted White/THE ALTAR ON ASCONEL, by John Brunner
  • Jerry House, THE CITY by James Herbert; illustrated by Ian Miller; PRIDE OF BAGHDAD by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Niko Henrichon  
  • George Kelley, GO, LOVELY ROSE and THE EVIL WISH, Jean Potts 
  • Margot Kinberg, ARAB JAZZ, Karim Miske
  • Rob Kitchin, MOSKVA, Jack Grimwood
  • Kate Laity: PLOTTING AND WRITING SUSPENSE FICTION, Patricia Highsmith
  • B.V. Lawson, MURDER AMONG FRIENDS, Elizabeth Ferrars
  • Evan Lewis, CONAN OF VENARIUM, Harry Turtledove 
  • Steve Lewis, “When We Went to See the End of the World”, Robert Silverberg
  • Todd Mason, more of Wilma Shore’s short fiction: in THE NEW YORKER, FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, STORY magazine, COSMOPOLITAN, GALAXY and others; Carol Emshwiller, Rest in Glory
  • J.F. Norris, DEATH ON THE OUTER SHOAL, Anne Fuller and Marcus Allen
  • Mike Lind/OnlyDetect, CLOUDS OF WITNESSES, Dorothy L Sayers
  • Matt Paust, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, Robert Traver
  • James Reasoner, LUST TYCOON, “J X Williams”
  • Richard Robinson, INTERSTELLAR PATROL, “Christopher Anvil” (Harry Crosby)
  • Gerard Saylor, CURSE OF THE BANE, Joseph Delany
  • Kevin Tipple, ZERO COOL, “John Lange” (Michael Crichton)
  • TomCat, SOMETHING WRONG AT CHILLERY, R. Francis Foster
  • TracyK, THE MIRROR CRACK’D, Agatha Christie

(14) WHO CAN REPLACE A ROBIN? Everybody’s a critic. BBC reports: “Disney fans mock Will Smith’s Genie in Aladdin”.

Disney granted everyone’s wish on Sunday when they finally gave a first look at Will Smith’s blue Genie in the new live action version of Aladdin.

Unfortunately many fans were not impressed with what they saw and were quick to say so on social media.

“It turns out that Will Smith’s Aladdin Genie will haunt my nightmares,” tweeted one user.

Another added: “I’ll never sleep again and it’s all Will Smith’s fault.”

Vice is even less kind: “Our Three Wishes Are All for Will Smith’s Genie in ‘Aladdin’ to Go Away”.

Disney dropped a new trailer for the live-action Aladdin movie on Sunday, finally giving us our first look at Will Smith’s Genie in action. For the love of all that is holy, please put him back in the lamp.

They saved the big Genie reveal for right at the very end of the minute-long clip like some cruel trick, presumably to lull us into a false sense of security with a few nice shots of Jafar and Jasmine and the Prince Ali parade or whatever. 

(15) IMAGINARY FOOD ON THE MENU. Digital brand Epicurious serves up a video of kids eating foods from famous children’s books… starting of course with a Seussian special (YouTube:Kids Try Famous Foods From Children’s Books”).

Watch as kids try and react to some of the most famous foods from children’s books, including Green Eggs and Ham, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Dragons Love Tacos, Winnie-the-Pooh, Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory, The Giant Jam Sandwich, The Gruffalo and The Monster Who Ate My Peas.

[Thanks to Joe Monson, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, Jason, Todd Mason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]