Hallmark Rolls Out 2021 Ornaments

Right after the Fourth of July might not be when I shop for Christmas ornaments, but somebody does, because that’s when Hallmark runs its Keepsake Ornament Premiere.

If the timing is for the convenience of retailers, there is also a certain logic in picking a spot on the calendar that is as far away as you can get from a date associated with Christmas trees. It’s plain some of these ornaments are intended for a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, while others probably are destined never to decorate a tree at all but to remain pristine in their original wrapping on collectors’ shelves.

Although this first one has nothing to do with the Christmas season other than that’s when four of the Harry Potter movies came out, if you believe there’s an omniscient Santa Claus who knows when you’ve been bad or good, then this might work for you, too:

“There’s nothing hidden in your head the Sorting Hat can’t see…” Relive the Sorting Ceremony, one of the most eagerly anticipated traditions for first-year students at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This Christmas tree ornament features the famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat, which moves and says lines about each house: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff (battery-operated).

And Hallmark also caters to a sort of counter-Christmas clientele with these next two items.

Be sure to give Old Man Parker’s “major award” a glorious spot on the tree this year! With its lampshade fringe and fishnet stockings, this premium porcelain Christmas tree ornament will have you reminiscing about the hit holiday movie “A Christmas Story” all season long. Year dated 2021.

Or to be even more frank about it:

Spread the spirit of Halloween Town to even the smallest of Christmas trees with this miniature ornament. The stylized design features Sally holding one of her potion ingredient jars. For a spooktacular display, pair it with our coordinating Lil’ Jack and Lil’ Oogie Boogie mini ornaments (each sold separately).

Then, if you call yours a Halloween or Thanksgiving tree, Hallmark has you covered.

Make it a Halloween of legendary proportions when you display this cute ornament! The diorama-style jack-o’-lantern design features an adorable Bigfoot creature with its iconic pose wandering in front of a moonlit forest.

Yes, it’s hard to imagine a more sacred holiday memory than this —

Relive one of the most hilarious moments from “Friends” when you display this Christmas tree ornament. In an effort to cheer up Chandler, Monica wears a turkey on her head—complete with a fez and sunglasses. When you press the button to play the audio clip from the show, you’re sure to proclaim your love…just as Chandler did on that fateful Thanksgiving Day.

But it’s a complete mystery what occasion Hallmark thinks people are celebrating when they buy creeptastic ornaments like these two:

After her sister’s demise, the Wicked Witch of the West harbored villainous hope for getting her hands on the Ruby Slippers. Relive the climactic scene inside her castle as the Wicked Witch of the West demands that a frightened Dorothy turn over the enchanted footwear. Fans of the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” will love adding this Christmas tree ornament to their collection.

And I think the most suitable tree for decorating with the next ornament would be something like Old Man Willow, who tried to turn the hobbits into mulch.

Considered one of the most powerful Disney villains, the dark and sinister Chernabog first reared its wicked head in the classic 1940 film “Fantasia.” Pay tribute to good versus evil with this striking likeness of the menacing character ferociously emerging from Bald Mountain with his giant wings extended. Insert the bulb of a standard miniature light string through the rubber grommet on the ornament to create a special lighting effect.

Otherwise there are literally dozens of Keepsake Ornaments that commemorate popular movies and TV shows.

If they’re serious about selling these, quit fooling around, call him “Baby Yoda.”

The legend continues with The Child named Grogu (often called “Baby Yoda” by fans) from the Disney+ original series The Mandalorian. This Christmas tree ornament features the mysterious Force-sensitive alien playing with a shifter knob—from Din Djarin’s ship, The Razor Crest—as he sits atop a Stormtrooper helmet from remnants of the Galactic Empire.

Ordinarily, when I see a robot it’s not my first response that “He needs a few square meals under his belt” like I do with this one:

Loyal to the Rebel Alliance, K-2SO carried the markings of his former programming as an Imperial security droid, allowing him to effectively infiltrate Imperial installations and outposts. Rebellion hero Cassian Andor undertook the difficult task of reformatting K-2SO’s personality, leaving him with a blunt disposition that cemented his place as a favorite character. Fans of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will love displaying this metal Christmas tree ornament of the versatile droid.

There are quite a few sci-fi TV shows with ornaments. There’s even an entire series of alternate-universe crew from Star Trek: TOS’ “Mirror, Mirror” episode, including the iconic Spock.

A striking departure from his prime-universe self, Spock’s discipline toward logic and science not only made him an inscrutable presence aboard the I.S.S. Enterprise but also led him to discern Captain Kirk’s most dangerous secret. Plug the ornament into Hallmark’s Keepsake Power Cord (sold separately) for constant illumination, then press the button to start a sound and light show based on the classic original Star Trek series episode “Mirror, Mirror.” Connect all of the Star Trek Storytellers ornaments—Captain James T. Kirk, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, First Officer Spock and Ensign Pavel Chekov—and the U.S.S. Enterprise Tree Topper (each sold separately) to unlock additional interactive performances.

Likewise, many movies and other characters. I think it’s the inclusion of the comic book that I like best about this one.

Eighty years ago, “Man’s World” changed forever with the first appearance of Wonder Woman. This Christmas tree ornament celebrates the legacy of one of DC Comics’ most powerful and beloved Super Heroes—a steadfast symbol of truth, justice and equality—alongside cover art from the Wonder Woman No. 1 comic book.

Want to bet there are a couple of Filers who will soon own this item?

Originally constructed from a single enchanted stone in the shape of a giant Power Skull, Castle Grayskull protects the hidden power of the Universe and the secrets of Eternia. He-Man and his foes struggle to hold the mysterious, timeless powers of the mighty fortress. This Christmas tree ornament is a nostalgic tribute to “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” for fans of all ages.

In the end I admit that this ornament, which relates to no holiday and needs no tree to justify its existence, affords me so much amusement that if I’m not careful I’ll wind up owning it.

He’s not Sheldon Cooper, he’s The Flash! Relive the hilarious events as the gang dresses up like the Justice League of America for a New Year’s Eve costume party with this Christmas tree ornament. Press the button to play some of Sheldon’s phrases from that unforgettable episode of “The Big Bang Theory” (battery-operated).

Pixel Scroll 7/10/21 More Scrolls About Pixels And Fnord

(1) GRRM’S NEW PROJECT. George R.R. Martin is one of the executive producers of the forthcoming Dark Winds series based on the books by Tony Hillerman. The Hollywood Reporter lists the others:

…The series is created and executive produced by Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) and stars Zahn McClarnon (Fargo), who is also an executive producer, and Kiowa Gordon (The Red Road). Vince Calandra (Castle Rock) is the showrunner and also an executive producer. Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) will direct the pilot and executive produce. Other executive producers include George R.R. MartinRobert Redford, Tina Elmo and Vince Gerardis. In a rare move, the production has secured permission to film on tribal lands in New Mexico….

Martin’s own announcement on Not A Blog says:

…I am thrilled to report, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are returning to television.

We just got word from AMC that they are greenlighting DARK WINDS, based on Tony’s novels about the two Navajo tribal policemen.   The first season will be six episodes long, adapted (largely) from LISTENING WOMAN, one of my favorite books in the series.   If we get the viewers. more seasons will follow, and more books will be adapted.

…DARK WINDS will be filmed in and around Santa Fe and Gallup, and on the Navajo reservation, and based out of the Native-owned Camel Rock Studios (the former Camel Rock Casino), right here in the Land of Enchantment.   Filming will begin in August, and continue — we hope — for many years.

Bob Redford and Chris Eyre have put together a great team (with a little help from yours truly), and we hope to make a great show, one that truly captures the magic of this very special place.   Look for DARK WINDS on AMC in 2022.

(2) EYEWITNESS TO SFF HISTORY. Alec Nevala-Lee introduces the video of his interview: “Talking with Barry Malzberg”.

In the course of researching my book Astounding, I got to know the author Barry N. Malzberg, who by any estimation has had one of the most singular careers in all of science fiction. Over the course of three sessions in July 2019, I interviewed Barry about his life and work in a conversation that ended up lasting close to two hours, which I’ve finally put online. We spoke about his influences and early career; his time at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency; the rise and fall of the softcore erotica market; his friendships with Dean Koontz and Bill Pronzini; his brief stint as editor of Amazing Stories magazine; his encounter with the editor John W. Campbell; and the origins, legacy, and “bad karma” of his novel Beyond Apollo. I think there’s some good stuff there, so enjoy! (If you get the chance, you might also want to check out my recent interview with the science fiction podcaster Mikel J. Wisler, in which we discuss a similarly broad range of topics, including my New York Times review of Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.)

(3) BUHLERT ONLINE READING. Cora Buhlert will be taking part in the monthly Flash Fiction Night organized by Space Cowboy Books in Joshua Tree, California on Tuesday, July 13 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific US Time. It’s a free online event — register here.

Cora wrote at her blog:

I’ll be reading some science fiction flash fiction together with Andy Dibble and Douglas A. Blanc. It’s already the third Flash Fiction Night and you can watch recordings of the first two on the Space Cowboy Books YouTube channel.

(4) THE FUTURE’S NOT FAR AWAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kim Stanley Robinson took part in a forum about climate change moderated by Ezra Klein in the June 27 New York Times Magazine.  Other panelists include Saul Griffith, Rhinna Gunn-Wright, and Shilela Jasanoff.  Klein appeared pretty familiar with The Ministry of the Future. “What if American Democracy Fails the Climate Crisis?”

Klein: Stan, imagining outside the current context is your specialty as a science-fiction novelist, so I’m wondering what you think the weaknesses of our current systems are.

Kim Stanley Robinson: Well, we are stuck in an international system of nation-states, and we don’t have time to invent and institute any kind of alternative world governance, so we have to use what we’ve got. But we also have the Paris agreement, and climate equity was written into it so that developed rich nations were tasked with paying more and doing more and helping the historically disadvantaged and even colonized nations. Executing all that is, of course, a different story.

(5) LE GUIN. Andrew Porter sent this link to an article which he says surprisingly eluded him when The Guardian originally published it in March. It’s a review of the nonfiction book Le Guin completed during her last year: “Dreams Must Explain Themselves by Ursula K Le Guin review – writing and the feminist fellowship”. (The title essay appeared in Porter’s fanzine, and was collected in a 40-page chapbook of essays under the same title in 1975.)

In 1973 Ursula Le Guin was phoned by publisher and science fiction fan Andrew I Porter, trying to persuade her to write about herself in his magazine Algol. “Andy kept saying things like, ‘Tell the readers about yourself,’ and I kept saying things like, ‘How? Why?’” Standing in her hallway, with a child and a cat circling her legs, it seemed impossible to explain over the crackling connection that “the Jungian spectrum of introvert/extrovert can be applied not only to human beings but also to authors”. Le Guin knew that at one end of the spectrum there are authors such as Norman Mailer, who talk about themselves, and at the other, authors who, like her, need privacy….

(6) IT’S AROUND HERE SOMEPLACE. “Look: Long-lost ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress found in box at D.C. school” reports UPI. And it’s not quite as rare as you might at first believe. It’s the sixth version of Dorothy’s dress from the 1939 film known to still exist.

A long-lost dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz has been found decades later in a box at a university in Washington, D.C.

Catholic University announced in a news release that the dress, which was gifted to the school nearly 50 years ago by actress Mercedes McCambridge while she was serving as the drama department’s artist-in-residence, was found by drama department lecturer Matt Ripa in a box placed atop some mail slots near his desk.

Ripa said he had often gone searching for the dress during his free time after hearing about the long-lost item in 2014, but he was apparently beaten to the discovery by Thomas Donahue, a now-retired drama professor, who had placed the box in Ripa’s office before leaving the school last year.

Ripa said the box must have been placed atop the mail slots by someone, causing it to evade his notice until last month.

“As soon as I popped the top off the box, I knew what it was,” Ripa told The Washington Post. “I saw that blue gingham and I just started laughing and laughing. I mean, I’m still laughing. Because I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history right in my hands.”

The school contacted Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, to verify whether the dress was authentic. Lintelman and two colleagues examined the garment and determined that it appears to be the real deal.

(7) SPEAKING OF. “Andy Serkis Is Returning To The Lord Of The Rings”Giant Freakin Robot has the story.

Andy Serkis is going back to Middle Earth – but not in the way you might think. The actor, who has lent his voice to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the first Hobbit film, will be narrating J.R.R Tolkien’s work in a brand new series of audiobooks.

(8) ON THE TUBE. In The Space Review, Emily Carney and Dwayne Day give a very deep, spoiler-filled dive into the second season of For All Mankind“Revisiting the past’s future: ongoing ruminations about ‘For All Mankind’”.

Emily Carney:

Another interesting aspect about “For All Mankind” is that the show includes women as equal characters with equal time in the show’s narrative. That probably owes to the show’s “Star Trek” heritage. But the show doesn’t really start out that way in season one: it begins with the Soviets beating the US to the punch, and shows how the US astronaut cadre responds to this defeat. By this point in the show’s timeline, women aren’t astronauts, so we see the show’s Deke Slayton imploring his men to “get mad,” “kick the dog,” and let loose during the weekend after the Soviet landing.

This is when we get to meet Ed Baldwin and Gordo Stevens, who were just mere kilometers from the lunar surface weeks before. At The Outpost, an astronaut hangout modeled on a long-gone bar not far from Johnson Space Center, the astronauts have an insane, alcohol-soaked party, which culminates in a group singalong to Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?” In my mind, I think this was shown to compare how men coped with defeat and heartbreak versus how women—in the upcoming narrative—would cope with similar stressful situations. Ed Baldwin even briefly kneecapped his own career by opening up about his frustrations with NASA to a reporter. At any rate, by this point, women were wives and mothers in the “For All Mankind” universe, not astronauts or management.

Dwayne:

Yeah, that’s a good observation. Initially, it’s all machismo. It’s brave men and heroes. But that’s about to change very fast. And that makes the show’s title a bit ironic—it’s not about “man” after the first episode.

After the Soviet Union beats America to the Moon, the Americans respond by landing Apollo 11, which in this alternative timeline, nearly ends in failure. But the Soviets then follow up with another significant first when they land a woman on the Moon. We see one of the female characters—a young Mexican girl named Aleida—smile when she sees that a woman is on the Moon.

(9) 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 strong 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 a seventy-seven percent rating which is far better than the thirty-nine percent rating the the Escape from L.A. sequel gets. It did not get a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 — John Wyndham. His best known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. The usual suspects have an impressive selection of his novels including these titles though little of his short fiction is available, alas. The Day of the Triffids is currently a buck ninety-nine there. (Died 1969.)
George Clayton Johnson by Tony Gleeson.
  • Born July 10, 1929 — George Clayton Johnson, He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including “A Game of Pool,” “Kick the Can,” “Nothing in the Dark,” and “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap.” (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 — Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. She was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame at Sasquan. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world”.  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading, and they’re available at the usual suspects for a very reasonable price. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 — Susan Seddon Boulet. If you’ve read the American edition of Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife (which won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature Award), you’ve seen her amazing work. Or perhaps you’ve got a copy of Pomegranate‘s edition of Ursula Le Guin’s Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight which also features her art. If you’re keen on knowing more about this amazing artist, see the Green Man review of Susan Seddon Boulet: A Retrospective. (Died 1997.) 
  • Born July 10, 1945 — Ron Glass. Probably best known genre-wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Jerry Merris, a SF horror film, and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it has a very impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh, and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1953 — Hans Beimler, 68. He was co-executive producer, director, and writer on TekWar before co-producing a number of Next Gen episodes. He was involved in over a hundred episodes of Deep Space Nine in a numberof production roles too complicated to describe here. And he was one of the executive producers of the short-lived Dresden Files.
  • Born July 10, 1970 — John Simm, 51. The second of the modern Masters on Doctor Who.  He appeared in the final three episodes of the Time of the Tenth Doctor: “Utopia,” “The Sound of Drums,” and “Last of the Time Lords.” He also played Sam Tyler in the most excellent Life on Mars. And he played Macbeth atChichester Festival Theatre.

(11) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. Janice Marcus spotlights the latest (in 1966) work from oft-overlooked writer Rosel George Brown: “[July 10, 1966] Froth, Fun, and Serious Social Commentary (Sibyl Sue Blue)”.

Sibyl Sue Blue was not what I expected.

Set in the futuristic year of 1990, Rosel George Brown’s Sibyl Sue Blue takes place in a world both like and unlike today’s world of 1966. Sibyl is a tenacious and smart detective working for the city’s homicide department. When a series of bizarre ‘suicides’ start plaguing the city’s youth, she’s called in to investigate. As she follows the clues, she’s drawn into increasingly strange events, from trying alien drugs to being invited to join a spacefaring millionaire on an off-world jaunt.

Sounds like fun, right? Yet when Judith Merril told me the other day that she’ll be reviewing it in an upcoming issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction, she mentioned that “…under all the froth and fun and furious action, there is more acute comment on contemporary society than you are likely to find in any half dozen deadly serious social novels.

She’s right!

(12) JUNGLE CRUISE. Yahoo! shows what the redesigned Disneyland attraction will be like: “Disneyland revamps Jungle Cruise ride after racism criticism”.

…The Jungle Cruise will officially reopen on July 16, with some changes, the park announced Friday. The ride, which takes passengers through Asia, Africa and South America, had been closed since the park itself reopened April 30, after being shutdown because the pandemic. 

The company had announced in January that it would remove “negative depictions” of native people and pledged to make further changes to “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.” 

The ride, which originally opened in 1955, has been criticized, for example, for depicting the locals as headhunters.

“We’re excited to be building on the story of the Jungle Cruise to include new adventures that stay true to the experience we know and love, while adding more humor, more wildlife, and an interconnected story,” Chris Beatty, an Imagineer who worked on the renovations, said in a news release. “As part of creative development, we’ve also introduced characters from around the world and took a thoughtful approach to ensure accurate representation of cultures in our story.”

Beatty explained in behind-the-scenes video of the upgrade that one of the team’s goals was to “bring a sense of inclusivity” to the project. “We want to make sure that everyone that rides the Jungle Cruise can see themselves in the characters and in this experience.”

They also wanted to keep it classic and to highlight the “skippers,” the Disney cast members who make jokes while leading the faux tour of the area.

As part of the new storyline, chimpanzees have taken over a wrecked boat and the tourists have climbed up a tree in search of safety…. 

(13) RISKY BUSINESS. The Hubble Space Telescope suddenly went offline almost a month ago. Now “NASA will attempt a ‘risky’ maneuver to fix its broken Hubble Space Telescope as early as next week”.

…However, a recent NASA announcement suggests a glimmer of hope: The agency tweeted on Thursday that it had successfully tested a procedure that would switch parts of the telescope’s hardware to their back-up components.

This could pave the way for the payload computer to come back online, leading to the restart of Hubble’s scientific observations.

NASA reported the procedure could happen as early as next week, following additional preparations and reviews. The telescope and the scientific instruments on board remain in working condition.

But the switch will be “risky,” according to NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz.

“You can’t actually put your hands on and change hardware or take a voltage, so that does make it very challenging,” he told New Scientist.

…On June 30, NASA announced it had figured out that the source of the payload computer problem was in Hubble’s Science Instrument Command and Data Handling unit (SI C&DH for short), where the computer resides.

“A few hardware pieces on the SI C&DH could be the culprit(s),” NASA said.

Backup pieces of hardware are pre-installed on the telescope. So it’s just a matter of switching over to that redundant hardware. But before attempting the tricky switch from Earth, engineers have to practice in a simulator, the agency added.

NASA has rebooted Hubble using this type of operation in the past. In 2008, after a computer crash took the telescope offline for two weeks, engineers successfully switched over to redundant hardware. A year later, astronauts repaired two broken instruments while in-orbit – Hubble’s fifth and final reservicing operation. (NASA does not currently have a way to launch astronauts to the space telescope.)

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

Hollywood Icons Go on the Block December 18

Heritage Auction’s next Hollywood Auction on December 18 will feature Margaret Hamilton’s “Wicked Witch of the West” screen-worn flying hat from The Wizard of Oz. Among the other goodies you can bid on are —

  • Elizabeth Taylor “Cleopatra” lavender gown and headdress from Cleopatra (1963).
  • Marlon Brando “Fletcher Christian” Royal Navy officer uniform from Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).
  • Original Lucasfilm-sanctioned “Darth Vader” promotional costume for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi
  • Frank Darabont personal 3-sheet poster from Planet of the Apes signed by Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and James Whitmore.
  • Ultra-heavy “Thor” Mjölnir hammer used by all the Avengers in the “worthy test” sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Moe Howard’s (70+) page handwritten manuscript for his autobiography Moe Howard and the Three Stooges.
  • Robert Keeshan’s iconic “Captain Kangaroo” jacket from Captain Kangaroo
  • Lou Ferrigno “The Hulk” screen worn costume on custom display from The Incredible Hulk
  • Kevin Costner “Mariner” costume ensemble from Waterworld
  • Director Barry Sonnenfeld’s annotated shooting script from The Addams Family.

Plus the Michael Keaton original “Batman” cowl and display from Batman Returns.

Also the helmet worn by actor Michael Ansara in the “Soldier” episode of Outer Limits. (Which John King Tarpinian assures me was also worn by Robin Williams in an episode of Mork and Mindy.)

Or maybe you’d like to exchange a pile of dollars for these cubits from Battlestar Galactica.

And I’m sure we all remember Apocalypse Kong – don’t we?

Finally, for your listening pleasure, a recording of a Star Trek score — but which episode? Perhaps “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the third episode which aired two days after the date on the box.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/20/20 I Have Come Here To Chew Bubblegum And Scroll Pixels… And I’m All Out Of Bubblegum

(1) UP AND COMERS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport surveys the new class of astronauts (chosen from 18,000 applicants) and says while some traditions haven’t changed (the process of picking an astronaut remains mysterious) the new astronauts will now have the option of going to the International Space Station via two commercial spacecraft and possibly may fly back to the Moon in a few years. “As the possibility of going to space grows, U.S. astronauts still don’t know how they get picked to fly”.

…Now there is an array of flying options coming to fruition, all launching from Cape Canaveral, that could provide astronauts a variety of flight opportunities not seen in decades. There’s SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which in May became the first spacecraft to launch NASA astronauts from United States soil in nearly a decade. Boeing is also working to get its Starliner capsule ready, with a first crewed flight set for sometime next year. And NASA hopes Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft will fly astronauts on a trip around the moon by 2023.

All of which means it’s an exciting time to be an astronaut, especially as the highly coveted assignments for the 48-member NASA astronaut corps in Houston are being handed out. It’s also a chance for NASA to showcase its astronauts and attempt to rekindle the national enthusiasm they once inspired. In the decades since Apollo, when astronauts were household names and revered as heroes, they are now largely anonymous.

(2) IN THE NEXT ROW. At LitHub: “Walter Mosley: When I’m Telling a Story I Imagine the Eavesdropper Over My Shoulder”.

Who do you most wish would read your book?
I once explained my audience by saying that I imagined being on a train or a bus sitting side by side with my favorite older cousin, Alberta Jackson. I’d be telling her stories about Easy Rawlins or his murderous friend Mouse. She’d be all excited and worried about Easy.

Sitting behind us is some person we don’t know and aren’t thinking about. That unknown person is my audience. They’re eavesdropping on my story and responding in ways I have no idea of. That way my writing, storytelling cannot be swayed by opinions external to the world I’m talking about.

(3) COMPARING VIRTUAL CONS ACROSS GENRES. Cora Buhlert has written a con report about the virtual Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival and how different it was from the SFF cons she’s attended: “Notes on the Virtual Bloody Scotland Festival and the Differences Between SFF and Crime Fiction Cons”

… Part of the reason for the lack of Discord chats, kaffeeklatsches and a dealers room may be that crime fiction festivals seem to be more focussed on listening to well-known writers speak and read than on interacting with fellow members. And indeed, there were fewer themed panels and a lot more of “See these cool authors talking about their writing and life”. It reminds more of literary festivals than SFF cons. Crime fiction cons also seem to be geared towards writers – the various British ones are often called “crime writing festivals”, hence the masterclasses. It’s simply a different con culture.

(4) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. Publishers Weekly examines how industry giant ReedPop is overcoming the learning curve to present virtual events in “New York Comic Con Goes Metaverse”.

…ReedPop has been “pivoting into what all of this stuff will look like digitally,” Armstrong says. “The Metaverse was our attempt to bring some content to fans, but also to figure this whole thing out a little bit. I don’t think anybody has perfected it.”

ReedPop event director and NYCC Metaverse showrunner Kristina Rogers agrees. She says the August event was a chance to see what worked and what would allow fans to get the most out of the event. “We said, ‘Let’s figure out how to get our content out there and see what the fans are really passionate about.’ It feels like needs are all changing constantly, because everything moves very quickly.”

One of the most popular features of the August Metaverse was live chat, Rogers says, noting that some of the panels were presented with live feedback on YouTube. “Fans told us they love being able to catch up with each other, and talking about a panel as it’s happening and right after.” Metaverse even included a “professional online con,” an online meeting between publishers and retailers, which was hailed as a huge success by participants.

NYCC Metaverse will have much of the traditional content of NYCC’s IRL editions, including media panels from CBS, FX, Hulu, and Star Trek and a significant amount of anime programming via anime distributor Funimation and manga publisher Viz Media. Traditional book publishers will be represented as usual, including Disney, Macmillan and its graphic novel imprint First Second Books, and Penguin Random House, with an emphasis on providing sneak peeks at trailers and covers, exclusive content, and author workshops, which are very popular with fans.

Looking to avoid still more talking heads on a computer screen, Rogers is searching for ways to offer conversations on fresh topics by dynamic participants. “We’ve seen a lot of iterations, and we’re still trying to figure out what’s actually going break through the noise,” she says.

(5) MAN UNDERBOARD. A veteran stunt man and stunt coordinator, “Ernie Orsatti, Stuntman Who Took Quite the Fall in ‘The Poseidon Adventure,’ Dies at 80”. The Hollywood Reporter profiled his most famous stunt.

…Ernie Orsatti portrayed Terry, the boyfriend of Pamela Sue Martin’s character, in The Poseidon Adventure, produced by “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen and directed by Ronald Neame.

On the day before the stunt was scheduled, Orsatti was informed that Allen “wanted him to do the fall. The actor replied, “‘I’m not a stuntman. You want me to do that fall?'” he recalled in the 2006 video short The Poseidon Adventure: Falling Up With Ernie.

The stunt called for someone to cling to the edge of an upside-down table, let go and plunge 32 feet to land on his back onto a skylight in the doomed ocean liner’s inverted ballroom. After some apprehension, Orsatti agreed to do it.

Stunt coordinator Paul Stader told him, “‘Do not lean your head back, you’ll break your neck. Pick a point, look at it and let go,'” he remembered. “I picked my feet up into what you call an ‘L’ so I would be falling straight away from the camera with my hands out — and then it knocked me colder than a cucumber.”

They got the shot in one take. “They wanted me to register terror, and they surely must have gotten it,” he once said. “I was scared to death.

“The actors who were off that day, like Gene Hackman and Ernie Borgnine, showed up with their families to watch the shooting. I asked Gene what he was doing here and he smiled and said, ‘We’ve all come to watch you die.’ He took pictures and everything.”

(6) TODAY’S EASTER EGG.

Go to Google

Search for WIZARD OF OZ

Click on the ruby slippers to the right.

Then click on the tornado.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1996 — The BBC Books edition of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was published. It was based off the BBC Neverwhere series, and it would be nominated for both the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel but would win neither. It would not be on the Hugo ballot for either the series or the novel. It would be the only version of the novel until William Morrow published Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text in 2015. This version was supposed to have been first published by Hill House who did other Gaiman works such as the Good Omens screenplay and American Gods: Author’s Preferred Text  but they went out of business before doing so. Neverwhere has been done in as least two audio dramas, a comic books series, several theater productions and one delightfully illustrated edition of the novel. The Jim Henson Company optioned Neverwhere but never exercised that option.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 20, 1886 – Charles Williams.   His seven novels, many of his plays and poems, having essentially spiritual elements, are in our realm.  David Bratman edited the three Masques of Amen House in 2000.  Note also CW’s two books of Arthurian poetry, Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars.  Moving to Oxford during World War II he became an Inkling.  Dorothy L. Sayers called him the Master of the Images (in Dante’s Divine Comedy).  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1888 – Margery Stocking.  By 1914, writing and illustrating her own feature column in syndicated newspapers; in 1922, first woman to receive the Beaux Arts Medal from the Yale School of Architecture.  Fourteen years illustrating for Blue Book.  One of only four women who did pulp-magazine covers; Margaret Brundage was another.  MS’ forty-five covers for the best-selling Ranch Romances are beyond us, but here is a mermaid; here is hunting a saber-tooth tiger; here are some nymphs, here a satyr; here is “Moonlight Fantasy”.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. I’ve just downloaded his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock, from one of the usual digital suspects where he’s very well stocked.  (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1948 – George R.R. Martin, 72.  First Hugo 1975, four more; two Nebulas; one Stoker; one coveted Balrog (the only kind that can be coveted, aiee); Skylark; two Geffens (Israel), four Ignotuses (Spain); Phantastik Preis (Germany); Seiun (Japan); World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement.  His multi-author, multi-volume Wild Cards, and his Song of Ice and Fire, were well under way when he was Pro Guest of Honour at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon (and there was a fine “Winter is Coming” in the Masquerade), but no one dreamed of Ice and Fire’s fantastic success on television.  Now that he has pleased millions a misdeed looses lightnings.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1955 David Haig, 65. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7  in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the 2006 film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally I should note he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back. (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1950 James Blaylock, 70. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1963 – Elise Broach, 57.  Two E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, two Amer. Lib’y Ass’n Notable Children’s Books.  When Dinosaurs Came With Everything was a Time #1 Children’s Book of the Year; Masterpiece a New York Times Best Seller, five sequels.  Six more novels, nine more picture books. Yale alumna, three degrees including M.Phil. History.  “I can draw most animals, and I can tell the color of an M&M by its taste….  We had to drive a rental truck 3,000 miles across country….  I had an excellent record on greens and browns.”
  • Born September 20, 1974 Owen Sheers, 46. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1978 – Tiphanie Yanique, 42.  Nat’l Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, 2010.  Distinguished Teaching Award at the New School, 2015.  Now at Emory.  Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.  Boston Review Fiction Prize, Kore Press Short Fiction Award, Pushcart Prize, Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (fiction).  Land of Love and Drowning, which is ours, won the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Phyllis Wheatley Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1982 – Emilia Dziubak, 38.  Here is her cover for A Tale Magnolious.  Here is The House of Lost and Found.  Here is Where Are You, Mama? (in Polish).  Here is Gogi’s Gambit.  Here is Two Options (in Polish).  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 34. He played Alec Hardison on the Leverage series. Ok, I know it’s not precisely genre but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with the MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…) (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider offers this advice:

(10) ANIMATION AHOY. “Sailor Moon’s impact on modern American animation remains undeniable” asserts A.V.Club.

Twenty-five years after its U.S. television premiere, the impact of Sailor Moon on Japanese and Western animation remains undeniable. With its distinct visual vocabulary, story structure, and defined character archetypes, the series not only served as the blueprint for the many Japanese magical girl anime series that would follow it, but also established a visual aesthetic so iconic, we see references, parodies, and direct homages to the series throughout various Western television series—including transformation sequences in Teen Titans Go! and Star Vs. The Forces of EvilLisa Simpson dressed as Sailor Moon in The Simpsonsand even an episode of South Park, where Kenny receives a Sailor Moon brooch from the CEO of Sony that turns him into “Princess Kenny,” a play on Princess Serenity. Cartoon Network has even posted a video compiling multiple Sailor Moon references that have appeared across the various series that air on the network. The tropes established by Sailor Moon soon became common features of the magical girl genre: cute, talking guide animals, everyday objects that secretly double as magical transformation amulets, and a tight-knit group of friends represented by different colors and elements….

(11) CAN’T DRAG HIM OUT OF THE DUNGEON. “This game of Dungeons & Dragons has been going on for 38 years” reports CNN.

Stay-at-home orders due to the ongoing pandemic have upended a lot of plans—weddings have been postponed, concerts have been canceled, vacations have been pushed aside. But one thing that can’t be kept down? Robert Wardhaugh’s game of Dungeons & Dragons.

For the past 38 years, Wardhaugh has been playing the same game of Dungeons & Dragons in Canada. Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game that usually involves lots of miniatures, lots of imaginary worlds, and lots of high adventure. Starting in 1982, that might make it the longest continuously running Dungeons & Dragons campaign, ever. Or, at least the longest Wardhaugh has ever heard of….

(12) HE HUFFED AND HE PUFFED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—who has been cast to play DC villain Black Adam—apparently got a little peeved when his front gate wouldn’t open during a power outage. He was late to work, so he did what any super-strong villain would do. He ripped the gate off the brick columns & threw it aside: “The Rock Goes Full ‘Black Adam’ On Gate During Power Outage, ROCK SMASH!”

“I pushed, pulled and ripped the gate completely off myself,” Johnson said.

“Ripped it completely out of the brick wall, severed the steel hydraulics and threw it on the grass.”

“My security team was able to meet the gate technician and welders about an hour later — and they were apparently, ‘in disbelief and equally scared’ as to how I ripped it off”

(13) MAGIC METAL. “Metalhead’s Mulligan: Seven Heavy Records Inspired By ‘Magic: The Gathering” at Bandcamp.

…Of course, like most forms of geekery and high fantasy, the game’s spurred some pretty kick-ass metal, largely thanks to the art, which presents an abundance of aesthetic comfort food: zombies, skeletons, demons, blood sacrifice, and the like. “Fantasy literature, swords and sorcery/barbaric pulp and films, and tabletop/role-playing games have had a strong impact on metal music’s aesthetic direction since the genre’s nascent stages, so it only makes sense that someone fascinated with metal album covers would be interested in immersive gaming experiences that provide a similar art direction, and vice versa,” says Jake Rogers, lead singer of Visigoth and lifelong Magic player. “If you’re someone who grew up playing games such as Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, or Warhammer, and then discover Michael Whelan’s art adorning a Cirith Ungol album, or happen across Omen’s Battle Cry—the art for which looks like it could have been taken from an early Magic: The Gathering set—it only makes sense that your interest in the music would be piqued.” With that in mind, here are seven metal albums that pay homage, both directly and indirectly, to the first and best trading card game ever made.

(14) CATCHING UP WITH THE DINOSAURS. Although this Smasher--made Jurassic World 3: Dominion trailer dropped in June, I don’t seem to have linked to it yet. The film is now scheduled for release in June 2021.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Write Your Story on Vimeo, Willy Hajli and William Kirn explain what happens when an employee rebels against her AI overlords.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/12/20 If Pixels Be The Scroll Of Life, File On

(1) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON.  Tor author S.L. Huang, in “Genre Labels: What Makes A Book More Thriller Than Sci-Fi?” on CrimeReads, says “I’ve been a science fiction and fantasy nerd for as long as I can remember,” and that a book is more of a thriller than sf if “the science-fiction elements feel more realistic,” the book is in a contemporary Earth setting, and the book is written at a thriller pace with many short chapters rather than a sf pace.

4. Making the science fiction a single switch flip.

Lots of science fiction books have a broad array of speculative elements—worldbuilding, culture, technology, language, and advancements in science are just a few elements science fiction writers consider when building intricate other universes. But it’s not the only way to do science fiction. And a lot of the speculative stories that feel more mainstream have that “switch flip” element—that single, isolated “what if” that sets off everything.

What if we could extract viable dinosaur DNA from amber? What if a disease like this got out? What if this person switched bodies?

Then, after that one, singular leap of faith, the rest of the book logic plays out identically to how our real-world logic would work, with only that fundamental beginning change….

(2) STREAMING PLAYGROUND. Of necessity, Escape Room L.A.’s business has gone virtual. They’ve created two Escape Room scenarios for groups to play on Zoom, at $15 per person.

These live-hosted games feature both audio and visual clues. Your host will verbally describe your surroundings while showing you a series of images and puzzles, letting you know how you can interact with everything you see. It will be up to you to work together to solve the fun clues and tricky challenges! Can you escape in one hour or less?

There’s “The Lost Pyramid” and “Escape from Planet X.” The description of the latter is –

A vacation in outer space takes a wrong turn when your spaceship crash-lands on an uncharted alien planet. You discover that all of the crew have disappeared and the aliens are getting restless! In this fun, wacky adventure, it’s up to you to find a way to get the spaceship up and running and escape from Planet X before the aliens attack.

(3) THE BOOKS THEY DECIDED TO DISCUSS. In “Positron 2020 Report: Analyses of Chicagoland Speculative Fiction Book Clubs”, Jake Casella Brookins runs the numbers on Chicago-area sff book club selections, looking at race/gender balance in selected titles, genre changes over time, most-read authors, and how the various clubs’ lists of choices compare. “Pretty niche stuff,” says Brookins, “but SF/F scholars, readers, booksellers & librarians might be interested.”

His introduction to the report begins —

In-person book clubs are necessarily tied to very real and geographic communities. As I write this, Chicago is entering its second month of lockdown due to Covid-19. While many groups and organizations are successfully shifting to online meetings, the future of our clubs, bookstores, and libraries are uncertain. Ironically, this lockdown has given me the first chance to take a deep look at Chicago’s SF book clubs since Positron’s inception.

This report focuses entirely on book club meetings. While data from book sales and library loans would paint a much larger picture of reader behavior and preferences, there are a few advantages to using book club discussions as the unit of analysis, even beyond privacy and logistic concerns. At the most basic level, selection for a book club indicates that the book was definitely read, by at least some members. Furthermore, book club members are a distinct class of readers, committing not only to read books in community, but to share their opinions, a behavior that likely spills beyond the group itself. Through their recommendations, it is likely that book club members have an outsize influence on readers generally.

For me, joining a few SF book clubs was a huge part of adjusting to life in Chicago. They led me to massively important books I might not have otherwise discovered, and introduced me to my spouse and many friends. The clubs certainly have a direct influence on many bookstores and libraries. And, at the level of SF as a culture, the importance of book clubs is easily overlooked, and could provide a window into the specifics of how books, authors, and ideas move through the reading community….

(4) FALLEN SNOW. Entertainment Weekly issues an invitation: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: Listen to the first 11 minutes of the Hunger Games prequel’.

Centered on the original trilogy‘s antagonist, the story follows an 18-year-old Snow as he prepares for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games. He’s up against it, though: His family has fallen on hard times, and he’s forced to guide the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Suddenly, their fates are intertwined.

The audio clip is here at Soundcloud.

(5) BEWARE OF FALLING HOUSES. Connie Willis just read a book about the making of The Wizard of Oz movie and is eager to share what she learned about “The Ruby Slippers And The Wizard’s Coat”.

…One of the most fascinating sections was about the ruby slippers, which, in case you’ve forgotten, belonged to the Wicked Witch of the East and which Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy after the house falls on her (the Witch, not Glinda) and kills her. The ruby slippers protect Dorothy from the Wicked Witch of the West (sort of.) At any rate, the only way to take them off her is to kill her, which makes Dorothy quite a target. (You’d think Glinda would have thought about that.)

They also hold the secret to Dorothy’s getting home. All she has to do is click the heels together and say three times, “There’s no place like home” to be magically transported back to Kansas. That means they’re central to the plot and in many ways the heart of the movie. After Toto, of course.

Like everything else involved in the making of the movie, the ruby slippers were more complicated than they looked. In the first place, the book had specified “silver shoes”, but Louis B. Mayer wanted to show off his Technicolor so he decided they should be red–and that they should “sparkle.”…

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

May 12, 1989 The Return Of Swamp Thing premiered.  The follow-up to Swamp Thing, it was directed by Jim Wynorski, with production by Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan. The story was written by Neil Cuthbert and Grant Morris.  It starred Dick Durock and Heather Locklear who replaced Adrienne Barbeau as the female lead which Barbeau was in Swamp Thing.  Louis Jourdan also returns as a spot-on Anton Arcane. Like its predecessor, neither critics nor the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes liked it so it had a poor twenty seven rating. The original Swamp Thing series which also Durock in contrast has an eight three Percent rating among audience reviewers! [CE]

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 12, 1812 – Edward Lear.  With us in fantasyland for his nonsense poems, he was famous in his day as a painter and illustrator.  First major bird artist to draw from live birds; look at this parrot.  Here are some Albanians.  Here’s Masada.  His musical settings for Tennyson’s poems were the only ones Tennyson approved of.  It may be that a grasp of reality makes his nonsense cohere – it holds together.  We may never see an owl dancing with a pussycat, but they do in his creation – in a hundred languages.  (Died 1888) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1828 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Put his third name first in honor of The Divine Comedy.  Founded the Pre-Raphaelite school of art because he thought Raphael (1483-1520) had ruined things; see how this led him to imagine Proserpine.  His poetry too was fantastic.  He is credited with the word yesteryear.  He loved wombats.  (Died 1882) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1902 – Philip Wylie.  His novel Gladiator was an inspiration for Superman.  When Worlds Collide (with Edwin Balmer) inspired Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon.  No doubt he was a prolific pulp writer with quite a few of his novels adapted into films such as When Worlds Collide (co-written with George Balmer) by George Pal. Columnist, editor, screenwriter, adviser to the chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee for Atomic Energy, vice-president of the International Game Fish Association.  Wrote “Anyone Can Raise Orchids” for The Saturday EveningPost.  In The Disappearance a cosmic blink forces all men to get along without women, all women without men.  (Died 1971) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1907 – Leslie Charteris.  Born with the surname Yin; his Chinese father claimed descent from the Shang Dynasty emperors.  Passenger on the maiden voyage of the Hindenburg.  A hundred books, also films, radio, television, about his character Simon Templar, the Saint; also “The Saint” Mystery Magazine; others wrote some too, Vendetta for the Saint is by Henry Harrison.  Detective fiction is our neighbor, and both ISFDB and ESF list the series with the latter noting that “Several short stories featuring Templar are sf or fantasy, typically dealing with odd Inventions or Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster and Caribbean Zombies.” The Last Hero really is SF, with a disintegrator and a scientist who doesn’t care who gets it.  (Died 1993) [JH/CE]
  • Born May 12, 1928 – Buck Coulson.  Applauded by fanziners  – we have costumers and filksingers, don’t we? –  for Yandro, ten times a Best-Fanzine Hugo finalist, winning once, co-edited with his wife Juanita – speaking of filksingers.  Together Fan Guests of Honor at the 30th Worldcon; the Coulsons to Newcastle Fund sent them to the 37th.  With Gene DeWeese, Buck wrote Now You See It/Him/Them loaded with allusions to fans, including Bob Tucker whose doing this himself led to calling the practice “tuckerism”; Juanita is not left out.  Two Man from U.N.C.L.E. books with DeWeese, translated into Dutch, French, Hebrew, Japanese.  Book reviews for Amazing.  Active loccer (letters of comment to fanzines).  Two terms as as SFWA Secretary (first Science Fiction Writers, then Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers, of America).  Mildly described as having an acerbic writing style.(Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born May 12, 1942 Barry Longyear, 80. Best known for the Hugo- and Nebula Award–winning novella Enemy Mine, which became a film by that name as well. Gerrold would later novelize it. An expanded version of the original novella as well as two novels completing the trilogy, The Tomorrow Testament and The Last Enemy make up The Enemy Papers. I’m very fond of his Circus World series, less so of his Infinity Hold series. (CE)
  • Born May 12, 1968 Catherine Tate, 52. Donna Noble, Companion to the Eleventh Doctor. She extended the role by doing the Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor Adventures on Big Finish. She also played Inquisitor Greyfax in Our Martyred Lady, aWarhammer 40,000 audio drama, something I did not know existed. [CE]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SUPERHERO PREVIEW. “DC’s Stargirl: New Images Offer the Best Look Yet at Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman” at ComicBook.com.

In just under a week, a new generation of justice comes to DC Universe when DC’s Stargirl premieres on the streaming service on Monday, May 18. The series, which follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore as she moves to Blue Valley, Nebraska following her mother’s marriage to Pat Dugan and becomes the hero Stargirl and inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to help her stop the villains of the past. Now, ComicBook.com has an exclusive look at two of those young heroes ready to fight for justice in their super suits: Doctor Mid-Nite and Hourman.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE POD. Hugo-nominated sff fiction podcast Escape Pod has reached a major milestone — “Escape Pod Turns Fifteen!” The celebration includes creation of a book — Escape Pod: The Science Fiction Anthology.

Escape Pod has been bringing the finest short fiction to millions all over the world, at the forefront of a new fiction revolution. Specializing in science fiction, the podcast gives its audience a different story each week that’s fun and engaging, with thought-provoking afterwords from its episode hosts.

The anthology, assembled by editors Mur Lafferty and S.B. Divya, gathers original fiction and audience favorites from:

  • Maurice Broaddus
  • Tobias Buckell
  • Beth Cato
  • Tina Connolly
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Greg Van Eekhout
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Kameron Hurley
  • N. K. Jemisin
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mur Lafferty
  • Ken Liu
  • Tim Pratt
  • John Scalzi
  • Ursula Vernon

Preorder now from Titan Books, Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, and Forbidden Planet.

(11) RETRO BLAST. Cora Buhlert continues to review the best of 1944 in “Retro Review: “City” by Clifford D. Simak”.

“City” is a science fiction novelette by Clifford D. Simak, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo. The magazine version may be found online here. “City” is part of Simak’s eponymous City cycle and has been widely reprinted….

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point! …

(12) FASHION REPORT. Aliette de Bodard understandably likes this style.

(13) NOT HOME ALONE. In “Creativity in the Time of Shutdown”, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green tells how everyday life is squeezing her writing time, and the commenters chime in about their own challenges.

…All this has made me wonder how the writers out there who have been used to having their alone time to write have coped with suddenly having their kids and spouses/partners home. With schools and businesses closed, our isolated work styles have been impacted by having people home all the time. A number of us have had to transform into teachers and tech advisors as our kids try to navigate their school classes through Zoom and similar programs. We’ve had to adjust to our spouses/partners invading our work area as they work from home.

Sooo many people in our spaces again.

And we can’t even escape to the library or the coffee shop because they’re closed too….

(14) STILL INFLUENTIAL. The Detroit News explains why “Octavia Butler’s prescient sci-fi resonates years after her death”.

…A revolutionary voice in her lifetime, Butler has only become more popular and influential since her death 14 years ago, at age 58. Her novels, including “Dawn,” “Kindred” and “Parable of the Sower,” sell more than 100,000 copies each year, according to her former literary and the manager of her estate, Merrillee Heifetz. Toshi Reagon has adapted “Parable of the Sower” into an opera, and Viola Davis and Ava DuVernay are among those working on streaming series based on her work. Grand Central Publishing is reissuing many of her novels this year and the Library of America welcomes her to the canon in 2021 with a volume of her fiction.

(15) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON THINGS. Cheering viewers up while we’re stuck at home.“Lincolnshire make-up artists lifting lockdown spirits” – BBC video.

A group of make-up artists in Lincolnshire are painting themselves as superheroes and cartoon characters to pass the time during the lockdown.

They have been getting together online and setting each other make-up challenges to keep busy.

(16) LEARN FROM THE MASTER. “Studio Ghibli artist teaches anime fans how to draw Totoro” – video.

An anime film producer from Japan’s Studio Ghibli has given fans a quick lesson on how to draw one of its most famous characters: Totoro.

According to Toshio Suzuki – the secret lies in the eyes.

(17) FUN TO BE WITH? BBC introduces us to “The robot that helps before you ask it to” — short video.

A project led by Ocado Technology has developed a robot to work alongside people. Using advanced artificial intelligence, it can follow the motions of its human colleagues, and offer to help them before they even ask for assistance.

(18) STRIKING A PERFECT MATCH. Back in the days of black-and-white TV, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore treated their fans to puppet parody in Superthunderstingcar.

(19) THESE CHAIRS ARE MADE FOR TALKING. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about their favorite sff on the small screen in “TV or not TV?” at their latest Two Chairs Talking podcast. Their favorites include The Expanse, The Outsider, For All Mankind, and Star Trek: Picard.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Sea You” on Vimeo, Ben Brand finds the backstory of the fish a widow has for dinner.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/20 Pixels Strike Curious Poses, They Scroll The Heat, The Heat Between Me And You

(1) MAGICALLY UNEMPLOYABLE. Julien Darmoni claims “I Went To Hogwarts For Seven Years And Did Not Learn Math Or Spelling, And Now I Can’t Get A Job” in The New Yorker.

… It’s hard out here for a poorly rounded wizard. Recently, I went on magical LinkedIn and saw almost none of my Hogwarts class of 2007 represented at top-tier wizarding companies. It’s not difficult to speculate why—without the assistance of Hermione Granger, half of my fellow-Gryffindors couldn’t even conjugating most verbs, and I am not sure that the instruction we received from Hagrid the giant is technically certifiable. Additionally, I cannot sit still for more than four hours a day without embarking on spontaneous adventures, and my vocabulary is poop….

(2) THERE’S A REASON FOR THE HEAT. WIRED’s Kate Knibbs tells why “The Hottest New Literary Genre Is ‘Doomer Lit’”.

…Sure enough, a doomer perspective seems most at home in so-called climate fiction (cli-fi for short). The genre, which imagines stories and worlds shaped by climate change, is sometimes considered a cousin of science fiction. For the most part, cli-fi titles traffic in danger but contain optimistic codas, allowing their characters to triumph or at least survive. But there is a growing offshoot of more downbeat fare. Andrew Milner, a literary critic and the author of the forthcoming Science Fiction and Climate Change, has tracked the trend. Along with his coauthor, J. R. Burgmann, he calls pessimistic fatalism one of the major “paradigmatic responses to climate change in recent fiction.”…

(3) ACH! IT’S A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE JOB, HAULING A HIPPO OUT OF A BOG. The Paris Review calls him “Russia’s Dr. Seuss”.

Let me tell you something about children’s poetry: people tend to create it for the right reasons. I was taught this concept in connection to medieval lyric poetry. My teacher’s point was that art made in the modern world is under scarcely any obligation to be good. It can be interesting instead, or new. Or it can “bear witness.” Being good—actually good—is even considered a little passé.

The minute you bring a six-year-old into the picture, though, everything changes. She doesn’t care whether what you’re doing “serves as a useful critique.” She wants it to be good. Consequently, if I’m in a used bookstore and I see a book called Thai Children’s Poetry or Setswana Children’s Poetry or Inuit Children’s Poetry, I pretty much buy it on contact. One wants to know: Does Botswana have a Dr. Seuss? Does Thailand? ’Cuz if they do, I need to know about it.

Russia had a Dr. Seuss. Same deal as ours, except his hot decade wasn’t the fifties; it was the twenties. There’s a lot to be said here.

Name: Kornei Chukovsky. Dates: 1882 to 1969. Number of supremo-supremo classic children’s books to his credit: ten or twelve. His stuff is a lot like Green Eggs and Ham: about that long; rhymes bouncing around like popcorn; no real point in sight….

(4) WESTWORLD, HO! The Hollywood Reporter introduces “‘Westworld’ Season 3 Trailer: HBO’s Science Fiction Thriller Heads to a New World”.

“I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain.” So speaks Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the artificial intelligence icon who broke free from the park confines of Westworld at the end of season two, trading her original world for a new one — our world, to be precise, albeit with some pivotal technological upgrades.

That nearish-future version of our world is front and center in the brand-new official trailer for Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s science fiction series, returning for its third season on March 15, with veterans like Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright along for the ride, as well as space for newcomers, including Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul.

(5) MONTGOMERY OBIT. “Julius Montgomery, Who Broke a Space-Age Race Barrier, Dies at 90” – the New York Times pays tribute.

Julius Montgomery had already broken one color barrier when he faced another.

In 1956, he had become the first African-American who was not a janitor to be hired to work at the Cape Canaveral space facility in Florida. He was part of a team of technical professionals, known as “range rats,” who repaired the electronics in malfunctioning ballistic missiles and satellite equipment.

Two years later, his team wanted to start a school to keep the space workers up-to-date. Brevard Engineering College, as it was to be called (Cape Canaveral is in Brevard County), planned to lease classrooms at a public junior high school near the space center.

But public officials in Florida — a state still in the grip of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan — had control over who walked into their classrooms. And they didn’t want black people.

The county’s superintendent of schools said he would not allow Mr. Montgomery to participate, and he threatened to shut down the college before it even got started.

Mr. Montgomery withdrew his application so the college could open. Three years later, in 1961, Brevard secured its own facilities and admitted Mr. Montgomery, who became the first student to integrate the college, known today as the Florida Institute of Technology.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1958 — Day The World Ended premiered in West Germany. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman. It starred Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, and Mike Connors. This was the first SF film by Corman. The film was shot over 10 days on a budget of $96,234.49. Critics at the time considered it silly and fun. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 42% rating. You can watch it here.
  • February 20, 1968 The Power premiered.  It was produced by George Pal as directed by Byron Haskin in what would be in his final film. It stars George Hamilton and Suzanne Pleshette. (Look for Forrest J Ackerman as a Hotel clerk.)  It is based on Frank M. Robinson’s The Power. It had previously been a Studio One episode. The audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is 35%. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 P. Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp stories in he Thirties and Forties in a wide range of zines including Amazing StoriesMagazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Weird Tales to name but a few. He wrote just a single novel, Genus Homo, (with L. Sprague de Camp) but wrote nearly fifty stories. He was also known as a reviewer winning a Special Hugo for that work. His reviews ran in Astounding Science Fiction and its successor, Analog. Most, though interestingly not all, of his stories are available for the usual digital sources. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 85. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The digital publishers stock him deeply at reasonable prices.
  • Born February 21, 1937 Gary Lockwood, 83. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot ,Mission Impossible, Night Gallery, Six Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume beyond that film in our community. Of course, he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 74. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1962 –  David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read Infinite Jest. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 43. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. I’m rather fond of his short story collection, We’re All in This Together, but then I like his father’s short stories better than I like his novels, too. He also got a graphic novel, Intro to Alien Invasion, but I’ve not seen it anywhere yet. 

(8) THIEVES LIKE US. “Crimes, Capers, and Gentleman Thieves: 5 Must-Read SFF Heist Novels” — James Davis Nicoll’s recommendations at Tor.com.

Heist stories always seem so straightforward at the beginning. All that stands between our protagonists and possession of whatever it is they covet or require is a team with the right skills, a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, and a bit of concerted effort. What could possibly go wrong? And yet, something always does.

It doesn’t matter if the heist takes place in a mundane world or a science fiction world or a fantasy world. There are always complications…because otherwise, where’s the fun?

(9) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart is back with “The Full Lid for 21st February 2020”

This week in The Full Lid, we take a look at the changing faces of heroism as embodied by Lost in Space‘s John Robinson, Don West and Ben Adler. I also take a look at upcoming Marvel title The Union and talk about why I desperately want it to work. Then we round off with ‘Breadventures!’ in which Marguerite and I are tutored in the ways of pizza baking by a Siberian baking wizard. 

Women in Horror spotlight this week highlights writers Gemma Amor, Sandra Odell, Cassandra Khaw and C.A. Yates. Signal Boost this week includes The Palimpsest Podcast ,Flying in the Face of Fate and Humble Hauntings as well as writer Michael J. Hollows and editors Ryan Boyd and Jason Arnopp 

(10) FIRST TRACTION. “‘The Host’: Looking Back on ‘Parasite’ Director Bong Joon-ho’s Stinging Social Monster Thriller” at Bloody Disgusting.

But nowhere does Bong mix comedy and direness better than with his international breakout hit, The Host, back in 2006. No, I’m not referring to the Stephanie Meyer adaptation. Instead of futuristic love stories, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is a wildly entertaining monster thriller about a mysterious monster infesting the waters of the Han River in South Korea and soon emerging from the river to attack people on the surface, doubling as a sharp critique of the American and South Korean governments.

Though Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite led to a surge of popularity for Bong Joon-ho in his native country, The Host is what first garnered him international popularity, playing at several prominent film festivals across the world and earning famed auteur Quentin Tarantino’s seal of approval with a placement on his Top 20 favorite films since he became a director (which gives Bong’s shout-out to Quentin at the Oscars more context).

(11) WHERE THE 80S MET THE 90S. Paste’s Holly Green promises “World of Horror Combines H.P. Lovecraft and Junji Ito for a New Kind of Terror”.

World of Horror is one of those games that makes me wish I’d been there—“there” being the specific intersection of time and space that inspired World of Horror. Modeled after the ‘90s era of Japanese PC gaming, it’s a game that, like many of its peers in the genre, taps into our instinctive fear of the archaic and forbidden by evoking the fashions of a period long gone. The result is a blend of styles that melds the visual horror of ‘80s manga artist Junji Ito to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, with compelling results.

The game is set in 1980s Shiokawa, Japan, where the convergence of recent paranormal events and modern technology triggers the awakening of a dark pantheon of Eldritch gods. As a resident in the town, the player sets out to investigate a handful of local mysteries, looking into peculiar tales and disturbances that seem to be strangely interconnected. If they can survive the results of all five cases, they receive the keys to a nearby tower, where a final ritual awaits.

World of Horror is best described as a paranormal investigation game, with five available mysteries to be explored by the player during each individual playthrough.

(12) HITS AND MISSES. The BBC discusses and rates “The best James Bond themes that never made it to the screen”.

The James Bond movie theme tunes have become an indelible part of pop music culture.

Almost from the get-go, with Sean Connery’s industry-creating turn as the suave secret agent in Dr No, the Bond films’ producers hit upon a formula as long-lasting as the secret agent himself.

While each official Eon Productions Bond film has featured the characteristic theme tune by Monty Norman – you’re humming it now – they have also featured a secret weapon, one which makes each film as distinct as the villain the vodka-martini-sipping spy has to despatch: the theme song.

It’s impossible to think of Live And Let Die (1973) without Wings’ apocalyptic slice of rock opera, or A View To A Kill (1985) without Duran Duran’s grandiose theme song. And that’s before we even consider Shirley Bassey’s masterclasses of cinematic unsubtlety with Goldfinger.

So, spare a thought for those well-known artists who penned a Bond theme hoping for immortality, only for it to be rejected on the casting couch. As Billie Eilish prepares to unleash her Bond theme No Time To Die at the Brit Awards, BBC Music looks back at some of the Bond themes that might have been…

Johnny Cash, Thunderball

Film: Thunderball (1965)
Lost to: Tom Jones
Better than the chosen theme? Tied
Most Bond-like lyric: Somewhere, there is a man who could stop the thing in time/ He is known by very few but he’s feared by all in crime

“Thunderball, your fiery breath can burn the coldest man!” intones The Man in Black, in a manner both outrageously camp and as stony faced as an Easter Island statue. Lyrically, Cash’s failed Bond theme follows the film’s plot faithfully – coastal city menaced by a ship containing a giant bomb – in a cinematic country style full of whooping backing vocals and booming brass. Tom Jones, of course, may have recorded the actual theme, but Cash’s effort is a champion among failures.

(13) PAINTER OF OZ. BBC acquaints readers with “The artistic wizard who brought Oz to life”.

Scottish artist George Gibson created the movie scenery which helped define the look of legendary films including The Wizard of Oz during Hollywood’s golden age. Now his family hope he will finally get the wider recognition he did not receive at the time.

In the 1930s and 40s, movie backdrops had to be created on indoor sound stages by crews of scene painters who conjured up everything from cityscapes to rolling hills.

Film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was one of the leading exponents of the art, all produced under the watchful eye of George Gibson.

He was the head of MGM’s scenic design department for 30 years. The backdrops he created appeared in films such as the Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951) and Brigadoon (1954).

His backdrops were as large as 60ft x 150ft (18m by 45m) and so realistic that the audience often did not realise the setting was a soundstage.

…In an effort to find better weather and work in America, a friend convinced Gibson to move out west to California – where he picked up odd jobs such as illustrating storyboard art at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

By 1938 he became head of the scenic design department, where he helped construct the MGM scene painting workshop, which was arguably the finest in the country.

He convinced the studio heads to construct a pioneering new building where all the backdrops could be painted centrally on movable frames rather than the fixed scaffolding of the soundstages.

(14) MICROBERSERKER. AI powers medical breakthrough. “Scientists discover powerful antibiotic using AI”.

In a world first, scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic using artificial intelligence (AI).

It has been heralded by experts as a major breakthrough in the fight against the growing problem of drug resistance.

A powerful algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days.

The newly discovered compound was able to kill 35 types of potentially deadly bacteria, said researchers.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/24/19 And It Glows So You Can Read It In The Dark

(1) SCIENCE THROUGH ANOTHER EYE. Jenny Uglow, in “Beauty in Ingenuity: The Art of Science”, leads readers through “The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter” exhibit on view at London’s Science Museum through January 26, 2020.

… Across the room, the quest for new materials continues, with a wafting terylene dress from 1941, and a screening of the exuberant 1951 Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit, with Alec Guinness as the naïve inventor of an indestructible textile fleeing from angry industrialists and workers, saved only when his magic material disintegrates around him. There’s a lot of fun, as well as science, in this show—and some joyous artistic accidents, like David Hockney’s encounter with a polaroid camera, which he used for the dazzling grid of Sun on the Pool, Los Angeles (1982). “Drawing with a camera,” he called it.

In the next section, “Human Machines,” the note of fear enters fully with the trauma of mechanized carnage in World War I. A case holds pioneering artificial limbs from the 1920s, and in Otto Dix’s Card Players (1920), three disfigured soldiers sit round a table, their torn limbs and missing jaws replaced by fantastical prosthetics. The destructive technology of warfare and the constructive skill of limb-makers have turned Dix’s men into monsters. Have they, perhaps, become machines themselves?…

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from the November 20 Fantastic Fiction at KGB event where David Mack and Max Gladstone read from their novels, entertaining a full house.

Ellen David Mack and Max Gladstone 2

(3) TOOLBOX 2020. Applications for Taos Toolbox will be taken beginning December 1. The two-week Master Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy will be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin and special lecturer E.M. Tippetts. The class runs June 7-20, 2020.

The Terran Award full attending Scholarship is available again this year, sponsored by George R.R. Martin, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox. The award covers all tuition and fees  to the Toolbox (but not meals or travel).  Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language.   WJW and the Toolbox staff will select the winner.

(4) SHELF SHRINKAGE. Brenda Clough tells how she downsized in “Curating the Bookshelves” at Book View Café.

Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!…

(5) ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT. It’s The Joker vs Pennywise in the latest round of Epic Rap Battles Of History.

The Joker and Pennywise clown around in the eighth battle of ERB Season 6! Who won? Who’s next? You decide!

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 24, 1958 Devil Girl From Mars premiered in Swedish theaters.  It starred Patricia Laffan and Hazel Court, reviewers called this UK film delightfully bad. It however is considered just bad at Rotten Tomatoes with a 23% rating.
  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premieredon ABC. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the critics found it mostly harmless.  It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy.  I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of Awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1916 Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a a Hugo forfor  #1 Fan Personality in 1953 and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy at Philcon II (by Asimov), he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell. he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, He appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non-fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well he did. Just one location of his collection contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 71. His first story, “The Guy with the Eyes,” was published in Analog (February 1973). It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife  Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than can be comfortably listed here. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 62. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s done what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 62. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 62. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works.
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 54. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “ Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s if because of the metanarrative aspect. 

(8) GAHAN WILSON IN HIS PRIME. Andrew Porter shared three photos of cartoonist Gahan Wilson from the Eighties and Nineties.

  • Color photo of Gahan Wilson in 1992. Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.
  • Wilson enjoying his tea in 1989.Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter
  • Gahan Wilson with Ellen Datlow, center, and agent Merilee Heifetz, 1980s – Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.

(9) IDEA TRIPPING. And John Hertz would like to direct you to his favorite cartoon by Gahan Wilson (1930-2019).

If you’re hip to fanziner jokes – maybe I should’ve said hep, many of them started in the 1940s and 1950s – and the Cosmic Joker just now led me to mistype started with a instead of the second – you know we send poctsarcds.  If you don’t, you can look it up here.  Or it’s a good occasion to consult A Wealth of Fable (H. Warner, Jr., rev. 1992; see here).

Once in my fanzine Vanamonde I sleepily let stand the mistyping – or mis-mistyping – “poctsacrd”.  Jack Speer promptly sent a letter of comment “Nothing is sacrd.”

(10) WISHLIST DESTINATIONS. Paul Weimer got a huge response to his tweet – here are two examples.

(11) DOUBLE FEATURE. Abigail Nussbaum starts in the Guardian — “The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson review – stunning conclusion” – and finishes in a post at her blog Asking the Wrong Questions.

Since I have more space (and fewer limitations on things like spoilers) on my own blog, I’d like to elaborate a little on the review, and particularly the sense I got that the Wormwood trilogy changed as it expanded from a standalone to a series.  When I first read Rosewater (and even more so when I reread it last month, in preparation for writing this review) I was struck by how clearly it belonged to the subgenre of “zone” science fiction.  Originating with the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 novel Roadside Picnic (and the 1979 Tarkovsky film, Stalker, inspired by it), “zone” novels imagine that some segment of normal space has erupted into strangeness, a zone where the normal rules of physics, biology, and causality no longer apply, and whose residents–or anyone who wanders in–are irretrievably altered in some fundamental way.  The zone also represents a disruption to existing power structures, and the plots of zone novels often revolve around characters who have been dispatched by the state to infiltrate the zone in an attempt to control or at least understand it–an effort that is doomed to failure.  Recent examples of zone novels include Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy and M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (and particularly the middle volume, Nova Swing).  I’ve even seen a persuasive argument that the HBO miniseries Chernobyl can be read as zone science fiction, because of its unreal, heightened depiction of the region around the exploded reactor, and because the effects that the unseen radiation it spews have on people, animals, and plant life in the surrounding areas track so closely with the subgenre’s central trope of cellular-level change.

(12) CRYSTAL CLEAR. Nussbaum also dives deep beneath the ice in “Make the Next Wrong Choice – Some Spoilery Frozen II Thoughts” on Tumblr.

I saw Frozen II last night.  It’s an OK movie – I didn’t love the first one very much, but I do appreciate the attempt to expand the story into a broader fantasy epic (even if it seems to borrow shamelessly from Avatar: The Last Airbender with barely even a fraction of that show’s skill at constructing plot and themes).  But I’ve been thinking about the film’s handling of the theme of ancestral wrongs and making reparations for them, and the more I do the angrier I get, so here are some spoilery observations.

(13) NO THANKS. I was wrong – better for CNN to run more impeachment coverage than this news: “Pringles unveils turducken-flavored chips for an even crispier Thanksgiving feast”.

Pringles has unveiled a seasonal food-flavored chip feast, and it’s poised to replace the whole Thanksgiving spread.

Two words: Turducken. Pringles.

No, no, it isn’t a chicken chip stuffed inside of a duck chip crammed inside of a turkey chip. There are three individual flavors, so it’s up to the snacker to determine the order.

(14) ORIGIN STORY. “Copy of First Marvel Comic Ever Made Sells for a Record $1.26M: ‘This Is the Granddaddy'”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

An extremely rare and nearly perfect copy of the first comic book to feature the now-iconic “Marvel Comics” name was sold for a record amount at a Texas auction on Thursday.

The issue, Marvel Comics No. 1 — published in October 1939 by Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel in the 1960s — sold for $1.26 million, the highest price ever at public auction for a comic made by the company, according to a Heritage Auctions press release.

The comic was given a 9.4 rating out of 10 by Certified Guaranty Company, and is the highest-rated copy of the issue in existence.

(15) THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY. BBC reports “Bacterial allies make dengue fever cases dive”.

Recruiting a bacterial ally that infects mosquitoes has led to huge reductions in cases of dengue fever, trials around the world show.

Wolbachia bacteria make it harder for the insects to spread the virus, rather than kill them off.

Researchers say the findings are a “big deal” with cases falling by more than 70% in field trials.

New ways of controlling dengue are urgently needed as cases have exploded worldwide in the past 50 years.

See also NPR’s “Infecting Mosquitoes With Bacteria Could Have A Big Payoff”.

(16) RAINBOW CONNECTION. “Cinema Classics: The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday Night Live provides an alternate ending to the 1938 film.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/8/19 To Be Placed On Our “Do Not Teleport” List, Please Press 1

(1) WRITTEN AS A WARNING. Margaret Atwood was featured today on CBS Sunday Morning: “’The Handmaid’s Tale’ author Margaret Atwood: ‘I have never believed it can’t happen here’”.

…When asked her inspiration for the handmaids’ outfits, Atwood replied, “The concealment of the body, number one, and the limitation of the body, number 2, so other people can’t see you, but you also can’t see other people.

“So, that, and the Old Dutch Cleanser package from the 1940s,” she added. “A vision from my childhood.”

Outside the church, Atwood is recognized by teenagers attending day camp. At 79, she is Canada’s most famous living writer. She’s published 60 books, but “The Handmaid’s Tale” has overshadowed the others. In English, it’s sold more than eight million copies.

She began the book in West Berlin in 1984: “A symbolic year because of Orwell, and how could I be so corny as to have begun ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in that year?  I couldn’t help it!”

(2) NO AWARD. David Pomerico was incensed that Anne Groell finished behind No Award in the Best Professional Editor, Long Form Hugo category. While some of these tweets are a bit overwrought (“Of course, maybe Anne wronged 97 of you somehow, but knowing her like do, I find that hard to believe”), it’s very fair to say most voters have only a very general idea what an editor does, and to wonder how they decided to fill out their ballots. Thread starts here.

I have observed in the fan categories that No Award votes can function as a protest against the existence of a category. If something similar is at work here, it would only be unfortunate collateral damage that a person received fewer votes than No Award on the first ballot. Note that although she wasn’t the first choice of very many voters, the sixth place runoff shows 446 people ranked Groell ahead of No Award.

(3) PKD’S FINAL RESTING PLACE. “Arts and Entertainment: Community celebrates Philip K. Dick” — The Fort Morgan (CO) Times covers a local PKD festival. Why Fort Morgan? For a couple of good reasons:

…PKD died in Santa Ana, California, on March 2, 1982, at the age of 53. After his death, Hollywood would make some of his work popular with films such as “Blade Runner” (based on his short story “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”); “Total Recall” (based on “We can Remember it Wholesale”); “Minority Report” and “The Adjustment Bureau.”

Dick is buried at the Fort Morgan cemetery next to his twin sister, Jane, who died at 6 weeks old. That grave is a popular draw for fans of the prolific science fiction author from all over the world, with cemetery workers often seeing little trinkets related to his tales left on the stone.

Another connection to Fort Morgan with the late author is that his father’s family was from Fort Morgan.

Two years ago, an expert on author Philip K. Dick who goes by Lord Running Clam (aka David Hyde) saw his dream of having a PKD Festival held in Fort Morgan come true.

And this year, the second version of that every-two-years festival was held.

… One of the big events at this year’s PKD Festival was a panel discussion about “The Man In The High Castle.”

“The Man in the High Castle” is what many consider to be Dick’s first masterpiece, but not everyone feels that way. The panel consisted of Ted Hand, Dr. Andrew Butler, Tessa Dick and Frank Hollander.

(4) CLINGERMAN APPRECIATION. The Library of America’s “Story of the Week is “Mr. Sakrison’s Halt” by Mildred Clingerman (1918–1997), originally published in 1956 by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and recently anthologized in The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women.

During the last couple of decades the name Mildred Clingerman has popped up in prominent spots around the science fiction universe. Her works have been included in several significant anthologies and even in textbooks; indeed, her story “Wild Wood” is one of the more memorable entries in the late David G. Hartwell’s landmark collection of Christmas fantasy tales. In 2014 she received a posthumous Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, joining such previous honorees as R. A. Lafferty, Leigh Brackett, and the collaborative team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore. And two years ago her family assembled The Clingerman Files, a book collecting most of the science fiction stories that appeared during her lifetime, along with two dozen unpublished tales found in her papers.

(5) TRUE CONFESSION. Cat Rambo is taking inventory:

(6) Q&A. Odyssey Writing Workshops taps into the experience of a successful grad — “Interview: Graduate Erin Roberts”.

Your story “Thanks for the Memories,” an interactive story about a woman piecing her life together one memory at a time, came out in Sub-Q in December 2018. What were some of the challenges in writing a story structured that way?

I had so much fun writing “Thanks for the Memories,” and it’s based on a story I wrote for my last week of Odyssey. I could never make it quite work in prose, but making it interactive and letting the player/reader experience the feeling of trying to work out the main character’s past from within her shoes, using her memories, was the perfect fit of story and format. The hardest part of doing it, other than learning a new coding language to write the piece, was figuring out how to make the piece non-linear (so you could experience the memories in any order), but also structured (so there was a set beginning, middle, and end to drive the story). My solution was to create a frame narrative with a ticking clock and key moments that always happened when the player got through a certain number of memories. That way their experience of the memories could always be different, but the story would still have a shape and forward plot momentum. I like to think it worked out in the end.

(7) HINTS OFFERED. At Writer’s Digest, Robert Lee Brewer has curated a list of links to other WD articles that will show you “How to Write a Science Fiction Novel”.

Whether you want to write about peace-loving aliens or a heartbreaking dystopian future, there are a number of practical strategies for starting your novel, building your world, and landing a satisfying finish. In this post, learn how to write a science fiction novel using some of the best advice on WritersDigest.com.

(8) A HISTORIC CONNECTION. Actor Robert Picardo celebrates Star Trek’s premiere 53 years ago today by sharing Trek-related things found in storage boxes at The Planetary Society’s headquarters. One is a signed letter from Gene Roddenberry encouraging the Star Trek community to join the Society.

Star Trek: Voyager’s holographic doctor, Robert Picardo, also serves on The Planetary Society Board of Directors. However, he is not the first connection between Star Trek and The Planetary Society. In 1980, the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, wrote a letter and sent it out to a Star Trek fans mailing list. In the letter, Gene invited his fans to join us on our mission to explore the cosmos. Hear the letter as read by Robert Picardo, listen to his Jean-Luc Picard impression, and see inside Bill Nye’s office for more Star Trek artifacts on hand at The Planetary Society.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 8, 1966 Star Trek’s first aired episode, “The Man Trap,” was written by George Clayton Johnson.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8, 1911 William Morrow. He’s the first original Trek Admiral appearing as an Admiral in two episodes, Admiral Komack, in “Amok Time” and as Admiral Westervliet “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”.  Other genre appearances include Cyborg 2087, Mission ImpossibleColossus: The Forbin ProjectPanic in Year Zero!The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, Rollerball and Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 8, 1925 Peter Sellers. Chief Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films which are surely genre, aren’t they? Of course, he had the tour de force acting experience of being Group Captain Lionel Mandrake and President Merkin Muffley and Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. He also took multiple roles (even the Queen) in The Mouse That Roared. Amusingly he was involved in another of folk tale production over various mediums (film, radio, stage) including Cinderella, Tom Thumb, Mother Goose and Jack and The Beanstalk. (Died 1980.)
  • Born September 8, 1945 Willard Huyck, 74. He’s got a long relationship with Lucas first writing American Graffiti and being the script doctor on Star Wars before writing Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And he was the writer and director on Howard the Duck which, yes, is a Lucasfilm. It’s the lowest rated on Rotten Tomatoes Lucasfilm production ever at 15% followed by Radioland Murders, the last script he’d write for Lucasfilm which would be a not quite so dismal 24%. 
  • Born September 8, 1948 Michael Hague, 71. I’m very fond of East of the Sun and West of the Moon retold by he and his wife Kathleen. Not to be missed are his Wind in The Willows and The Hobbit which are both lovely takes on those tales. 
  • Born September 8, 1954 Mark Lindsay Chapman, 65. Sorry DCU but the best Swamp Thing series was done nearly thirty years ago and starred the late Dick Durock as Swamp Thing and this actor as his chief antagonist, Dr. Anton Arcane. Short on CGI, but the scripts were brilliant. Chapman has also shown up in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The New Adventures of SupermanThe Langoliers and Max Headroom to name a few of his genre appearances.
  • Born September 8, 1965 Matt Ruff, 54. I think that his second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is his best work to date though I do like Fool on The Hill a lot. Any others of his I should think about reading? 
  • Born September 8, 1966 Gordon Van Gelder, 54. From 1997 until 2014, he was editor and later publisher of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, for which he was awarded twice, and quite well deserved they were, the Hugo for Best Editor Short Form. He was also a managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction from 1988 to 1993, for which he was nominated for the Hugo a number of times. 
  • Born September 8, 1971 Martin Freeman, 48. I’m not a fan of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films but I really do think he made a very fine Bilbo Baggins. Now I will say that I never warmed to Sherlock with him and Benedict Cumberbatch. Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu works better for me.  
  • Born September 8, 1975 C. Robert Cargill, 44. He, along with Scott Derrickson and Jon Spaihts, worked on the script for Doctor Strange. More intriguingly they’re writing the script for The Outer Limits, a movie based on the television show. The film, produced by MGM, will be adapted from just the “Demon with a Glass Hand” episode begging the question of what they’re writing for a script given that Ellison did write the Writers Guild of America Awards Outstanding Script for a Television Anthology script. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LOOK OUT BELOW. Speakers’ Corner finds an author who did a literal book launch: “Science Fiction Should Be Re-Named Science Prediction: Q&A With Sarah Cruddas”.

What inspired you to pick up a pen and write a book for children?

The Space Race: The Journey to the Moon and Beyond – which was released this May – is my third children’s book. Although I don’t see it as just a children’s book. Nearly all of us have a child like wonder about space, and I want to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters and how it is shaping our lives. What inspired me to write this book is that I wanted to inspire as many people as possible about why space matters. I even launched the book to the edge of space (using a balloon) to help showcase just how close space really is.

Wait, hang on – you actually launched your book into space?

Haha yes!

I launched my book to space using a special type of balloon filled with hydrogen gas. The science behind it is relatively simple, the gas in the balloon weighs less than the air around it, so that causes it to rise. The balloon continues to rise and expand until the air that surrounds is equal in pressure – at the edge of space at an altitude which in this case was 33.1km. It then pops and falls to the Earth by parachute.

However it’s also complicated in the sense, you have to notify the CAA and also track the balloon and predict rough landing sight using weather patterns. But it shows that space is truly not far away.

(13) GOOD AS GOLD. Somewhat unexpectedly, Joker has taken top prize at the Venice Film festival. Slate has the story: Joker Steals Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival!”.

               The Joker, that caliph of clowns, that prince of pranksters, that malevolent mischief-maker whose cunning capers continually confound the courageous crimefighters of Gotham City, has struck again! This time, the caped crusaders’ archest arch-nemesis has left Gotham for bella Italia—ancestral home of local heiress J. Pauline Spaghetti—to pull off his most daring, dastardly deed to date: Stealing the Golden Lion, the top prize at this year’s Venice Film festival, and awarding it to Joker, screenwriter and director Todd Phillips’ critically-acclaimed meditation on poverty, grief, and the myriad ways the social and economic forces of the Reagan era turned decent people into Clown Princes of Crime.

               The Joker’s fiendish feat of film flimflammery is a festival first: According to the Cinematic Milestone Bat-Disclosure Unit, Joker is the first superhero movie to win the Golden Lion. The festival jury, headed by Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, has not commented on its role in the Joker’s scheme, but Commissioner Gordon believes that an empty box of “Joker Brand Film Festival Jury Hypnotic Gas Pellets (Italian Formulation)” found in the gondola where deliberations were held may hold a clue to the mystery. Authorities acknowledge, however, that their theory that the festival jury was biased in favor of supervillains is not entirely consistent with the fact that they awarded the festival’s next highest award, the Grand Jury Prize, to a small-time sex offender named Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy, a movie about the Dreyfus affair. Holy Ham-Handed Historical Analogy, Batman!

(14) NAVIGATING OZ. Daniel Tures looks back at the books and 1939 movie in “Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, Oh My!” at the Los Angeles Public Library blog.

…As one of the cultural touchstones of the 20th century, almost any look into the history or production of The Wizard of Oz will spin the reader down endless rabbit holes of film criticism and intellectual wandering. From Judy Garland’s ruby slippers, silver shoes in Baum’s original book, illustrated by W.W. Denslow, to E. “Yip” Harburg and Harold Arlen’s iconic songs, and with heirs from The Wiz to the films of David Lynch, it stands at the crux of Hollywood history.

We tend to think of the books as being written in one place, and the movies based on them being made in another—yet strangely enough L. Frank Baum and his wife Maud Gage actually lived in the town of Hollywood from 1910 to 1919, at the end of his life, just as it was being transformed from a little-known agricultural paradise to a world-famous moviemaking one.

(15) KYLO REN IS DONE WITH IT. “Darth Vader’s Screen-Used Helmet From Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Goes up for Auction”: ComicBook.com says you’ll need a wheelbarrow full of cash.

Are you a Star Wars fan with $250,000 to spend? If so, iCollector has an item for you! The online collectibles auction is boasting a Darth Vader helmet worn onscreen by David Prowse in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

(16) HISTORY OF SF FILMS. Mr. Sci-Fi, Marc Scott Zicree, has been doing a History of Science Fiction, and in the third installment covers 1955 to 1959. He hopes viewers will support his efforts at www.patreon.com/marczicree.

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

Two Neighbors

By John Hertz: (reprinted in part from No Direction Home 18) Where were you on May 2nd? It was the 500th death-anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Did you take a cup, say a prayer, look up his work? Maybe you will yet this year. He was born near the town of Vinci; the farmhouse which is believed to be where this occurred, built in 1427, is now the Casa Natale di Leonardo, a museum, about 30 miles (50 km) west of Florence, in Tuscany, Italy.

There are celebratory exhibits at Florence, Milan, Rome; Paris; Krakow; in the United Kingdom, touring twelve cities, and at the Queen’s Gallery in London and in Edinburgh; two more were at Hamburg (first week of June) and New York (January-April).

He studied all things in nature with curiosity, patience, and care; science and art, so remarkably united in his mind, had there one origin – detailed observation [p. 199]…. indeed he was interested in everything. All postures and actions of the human body, all expressions of the face in young and old, all the organs and movements of animals and plants from the waving of wheat in the field to the flight of birds in the air, all the cyclical erosion and elevation of mountains, all the currents and eddies of water and wind, the moods of the weather, the shades of the atmosphere, and the inexhaustible kaleidoscope of the sky…. he filled thousands of pages with observation concerning them, and drawings of their myriad forms [pp. 200-01].

The subject [of The Last Supper] was superb, but from a painter’s point of view it was pitted with hazards. It had to confine itself to male figures and a modest table in a simple room … no vivid action could be brought in to set the figures into motion and convey the sense of life…. he portrayed the gathering at the tense moment Christ has prophesied that one of the Apostles will betray Him, and each is asking, in fear or horror or amazement, “Is it I?”… more than violent physical action; a searching and revelation of spirit; never again, so profoundly, has an artist revealed in one picture so many souls…. preliminary sketches … for James the Greater, Philip, Judas – are drawings of such finesse and power as only Rembrandt [1606-1669] and Michelangelo [1475-1564] have matched [p. 205].

There are several alleged portraits of him, but none before fifty [p. 214]…. He was not anxious to be read by the many. “The truth of things,” he wrote, “is a supreme food for fine intelligences, but not for wandering wits” [p. 215].

He wrote equally well on science and art, and divided his time almost evenly between them [p. 217]…. [In the Treatise on Painting] he urges: “Make figures with such action as may suffice to show what the figure has in mind.” Did he forget to do this with Mona Lisa, or did he exaggerate our ability to read the soul in the eyes and the lips? [p. 218]… It is hard for us to realize that to Ludovico [Sforza, 1452-1508], as to Caesar Borgia [1475-1507], Leonardo was primarily an engineer…. He developed a machine for cutting threads in screws … frictionless roller-bearing hand brakes…. three-speed transmission gears; an adjustable monkey wrench; a machine for rolling metal; a movable bed for a printing press; a self-locking worm gear for raising a ladder [p. 219].

Side by side with his drawings, sometimes on the same page, sometimes scrawled across a sketch of a man or a woman, a landscape or a machine, are the notes in which this insatiable mind puzzled over the laws and operations of nature…. Often the artist peered out again in the scientist; the scientific drawing might itself be a thing of beauty [p. 221]…. The anatomy of man he described not only in words but in drawings that excelled anything yet done [p. 224]…. more fertile in conception than in execution. He was not the greatest scientist or engineer or painter or sculptor or thinker of his time; he was merely the man who was all of these together and in each field rivaled the best…. not quite “the universal man”, since the qualities of statesman or administrator found no place in his variety. But, with all his limitations and incompletions, he was the fullest man [author’s emphasis] of the Renaissance, perhaps of all time [p. 217].

W. Durant, The Renaissance (1953; The Story of Civilization vol. 5)

We in the science fiction community cannot claim Leonardo. Some of his designs were not practicable in his day, which he did not know, not having carried them far enough, but he unlike e.g. Jules Verne did not purpose fiction. Conceptually he lived next door to us. The scope and quality of his imagination, and of his conjoining art and science, are inspiring.

From a 2nd to a 22nd, from a 500th to a 50th. June 22nd was the 50th death-anniversary of Judy Garland (1922-1969). Her death at age 47 ended a 45-year career; she had performed since age 2.

On the 29th Jerry Sharell on his Sinatra and Sharell program, Radio Station KKJZ, played her singing “Come Rain or Come Shine” (H. Arlen & J. Mercer, 1946) from her 23 Apr 61 Carnegie Hall concert, followed by Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) from Sinatra and Strings (1962); if you drink wine, like Corton-Charlemagne and Margaux.

That Carnegie Hall concert, to a sold-out house, was called “the greatest night in show-business history”; released as the two-record Judy at Carnegie Hall (1963) it was an RIAA-certified gold album (Recording Industry Ass’n of America; $1 million in retail sales).

Let us note, even without exploring, her spectacular work in Meet Me in St. Louis (V. Minelli dir. 1944), Easter Parade (C. Walters dir. 1948), A Star is Born (G. Cukor dir. 1954), Judgment at Nuremberg (S. Kramer dir. 1961); her last film, as it happened entitled I Could Go On Singing (R. Neame dir. 1963); her studio albums; her other record-breaking concerts in the United States and overseas.

Pertinent here is The Wizard of Oz (V. Fleming dir. 1939). Frank Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) is a fantasy; it imagines its creatures and events to be as real as the reader. The cinema Wizard is a dream sequence – although at the end Dorothy insists it was real. Let us pass over this, however recreant, for the achievement of imagination it disavows.

In its merits it is masterly. It turns on Garland. She is the fulcrum, the linchpin. Her cogency supports the fantasy. In fact she was 16; her believability as a child is the creation of an actress. It is she whom the characters meet, who by receiving them sustains them – even the Wizard. We do not even notice that her supreme song, ”Over the Rainbow” (H. Arlen & Y. Harburg) – which won an Academy Award – as she did; which became her signature – throughout hard times, hard knocks, hard moments of irrejectable applause roaring against residues of woe – is falsified: the dreams do not come true. The song is true. She made it true – by singing it, and creating or co-creating Dorothy, with beauty and truth.

She was three-ninths into her life. She was one-ninth of her life short of age 21. She did many more things and earned much more acclaim. This picture was a great moment: it is next door to us: and it has proved, to the surprise of everyone in it, remarkably universal.

Since Our Gracious Host found this picture, you might like a close look at the letters “Wizard of Oz”. They’re by Hirschfeld.

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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