Pixel Scroll 10/19/20 We Keep Our Cats As Happy As We Can

(1) OOR WOMBAT KNOWS HOW TO WRITE HORROR. Kansas City’s The Pitch has Nick Spacek “Asking author Ursula Vernon to reveal what hides in The Hollow Places.

…Part of what makes Vernon’s books so terrifying is that they’re quite relatable. Told in the first person by rather chummy narrators who immediately become something like your best friends, The Twisted Ones‘ Mouse and The Hollow Places‘ Kara feel like folks you’d love to get to know better, making each page in both books an absolute treat.

“Horror is sufficiently immediate and visceral that you spend a lot of time thinking, ‘What would I do in this situation?’” Vernon explains her style. “It has to be very immediate, so that the reader isn’t yelling, ‘Don’t go in there!’ when they’re about to open the door. You don’t want that. You want people to relate to why they’re making these choices. You need a pressing reason why they will stay in this situation that is obviously bad. Things are going down, so it has to be a believable reason.”

She points to the fact that in The Twisted Ones, Mouse doesn’t want to leave her dog behind, and I concur, pointing to the fact that much of The Hollow Places is due to the fact that Kara’s Uncle Earl is still recovering and Kara doesn’t want to abandon him.

“That’s why people stay in scary situations,” Vernon agrees. “I think that’s a more relatable reason than something I don’t actually believe. People stay in situations either because they’re too poor to leave, they have nowhere to go, or there’s someone they just can’t bear to leave behind. You got to have the personal stakes.”

 (2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Tesmanian listens in as “Elon Musk shares SpaceX Starship plans at the Mars Society Convention”.

SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk was a guest at a the virtual International Mars Society Convention on Friday, October 16 (full video below). During the conference, he held a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. –“I think we want to be on track to become a multiplanet species and a spacefaring civilization, in order to […] ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it,” Musk told Zubrin. “… As far as we know… we could be the only life.”

When Zubrin asked about Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle, Musk said he will manufacture many iterations of the vehicle. Starship will be capable of transporting tons of cargo and one hundred passengers to space destinations. It is actively under development at Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. Musk talked about the challenges SpaceX faced to develop the Falcon rocket, stating that he expects to have Starship failures throughout its development before reaching orbit.

Musk told Zubrin that Starship is being designed to enable a self-sustaining ‘city’ on Mars. “If the ships from Earth stop coming for any reason, does Mars die out?…” he said. So, Starship must be reusable and capable of carrying all the resources needed to aid humans’ survival on the Red Planet. Musk stated SpaceX’s goal is to get enough people and tonnage to the Martian surface ‘as soon as possible’, –“Are we creating a city on Mars … before any possible World War three… […]” — He told Zubrin he hopes to takes humans to Mars before any nuclear war, asteroid strike, any potential disaster threatens humanity’s existence.

(3) ANTE AND DEAL. If you didn’t catch it live, here’s a video of the latest Wild Cards panel.

Join five of the Wild Cards authors as they discuss what it’s like to write in a shared universe series and how exactly the Wild Cards Consortium works. Featuring Melinda Snodgrass, Paul Cornell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and David Levine.

(4) EMPLOYMENT IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC. “‘I worked in horror films. Now I’m an undertaker’: arts workers who had to find new jobs”The Guardian tells how entertainment industry workers are adapting.

For many workers who would ordinarily be earning a living in theatres, live music venues and nightclubs, which largely still remain closed in the UK, however, retraining has been a harsh reality since they lost their jobs in March. Countless creatives have already been forced to find other income to make ends meet, while a recent report found that 34% of musicians alone had thought about hanging up their instruments for good. Here we meet some of the people who’ve added some unusual strings to their bow during the pandemic …

‘In undertaking, you get to drive luxury cars’

Paris Rivers: SFX technician turned undertaker
Paris Rivers is on the phone from a cemetery in London, where he has just done a cremation. Formerly a special effects technician in film and TV, as well as a cabaret performer, he became an undertaker at the start of lockdown. Last week, he had to help dress the body of a man who had died from stab wounds. Even more shocking was seeing a child’s brain. “I’m doing a job that most people wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “But a lot of us didn’t have any alternatives.” Besides, he adds, “when people ask, ‘What did you do during 2020?’ I can say I was there on the frontlines.”

Rivers, 31, was “really scared and desperate for work” when Covid-19 hit and by chance, had a friend who was working in one of the temporary morgues set up at the beginning of the pandemic. After working there for two months, he contacted funeral homes to see whether anyone would take him on as a funeral service operator. He’s been transporting ashes, cadavers and coffins ever since. Compared with being on a film set, he says, the job is relatively “stress-free”.

“It’s strangely relaxing,” Rivers explains. “You get to go to beautiful cemeteries, wear a nice suit, drive luxury cars. Some people are shocked by the ick factor, but I started in horror films, so I find this fascinating. And how many people who work in horror films have actually worked around death? I feel this will be helpful for me in the long run.”

Even when the film industry starts back up properly, Rivers says, he’ll continue as an undertaker part-time. The job has inspired him in other ways, too. “I’m developing an Elvira-esque cryptkeeper,” he says of a character that he plans to bring to the stage. There will, of course, be “lots of black humour”.

(5) WIZARDS SUED. “Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman sue Wizards of the Coast after it abandons new Dragonlance trilogy” reports Boing Boing.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, creators of the Dragonlance fantasy mythos, are suing Wizards of the Coast after the company ditched a licensing deal for the latest books in the long-running series.

Filed in district court in Seattle, the lawsuit [Scribd, PDF] was first reported by Cecilia D’Anastasio. The lawsuit claims that WoTC breached their contract without explanation and in “stunning and brazen bad faith”, despite having been intimately involved in the development of the new work, approving a trilogy’s worth of characters, storylines and scenes and signing with a publisher, Penguin Random House.

The lawsuit claims $10m in damages.

Weis and Hickman created Dragonlance, set within the broad ambit of WoTC’s Dungeons & Dragons role-playing franchise, in the 1980s. Its lively mix of colorful heroes and epic drama was a hit with gamers and readers, growing into a sprawling shared universe fleshed out by many authors, artists and designers. According to the lawsuit, Weis and Hickman agreed with Wizards of the Coast to produce the new novels in 2017, capping off the series and giving fans a final sendoff.

But the company pulled the plug in August 2020—and Weis and Hickman blame controversies at WoTC itself….

(6) TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN TV SHOW. This sff production went more quietly. NPR delivers the eulogy: “‘The Venture Bros.’ Creators On The Show’s Legacy, Its Fans — And Its Cancellation”.

An era of American television ended in September.

Its death came quietly, with news of its passing drowned out from all sides by crumbling institutions, environmental disasters, a historic pandemic and pervasive social unrest. As with all matters of public interest in 2020, its demise was announced via Twitter.

After spanning three presidencies and surviving several cultural sea changes, The Venture Bros. was cancelled after 17 years on the air.

If you’ve never heard of the animated series despite its longevity, you’re far from alone: Neither the half-hour comedy nor its home, Cartoon Network’s late night programming block Adult Swim, are often mentioned in the same breath as HBO and AMC or what’s conventionally viewed as “prestige TV.”

The Venture Bros. began airing its first season in 2004. It followed Dr. Thaddeus S. “Rusty” Venture, his sons Hank and Dean — the titular brothers of the program — and bodyguard Brock Samson on episodic romps in the action-adventure and science fiction vein…

(7) EARLY WARNING. The New York Times tells how Disney unabashedly apologizes and monetizes when it comes to some of its animated classics: “Disney Adds Warnings for Racist Stereotypes to Some Older Films”.

The 1953 film “Peter Pan” portrays Indigenous people “in a stereotypical manner” and refers to them repeatedly with a slur, according to Disney.Disney

They are classic animated films like “Dumbo” (1941) and “Peter Pan” (1953), but on Disney’s streaming service they will now get a little help to stand the test of time.

Before viewers watch some of these films that entertained generations of children, they will be warned about scenes that include “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures.”

The 12-second disclaimer, which cannot be skipped, tells viewers, in part: “These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

In addition to “Peter Pan” and “Dumbo,” the warning plays on films including “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Aladdin” (1992), and directs viewers to a website that explains some of the problematic scenes.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • October 19, 2010 — On this day in 2010 in the United Kingdom, the BBC’s adaption of H.G. Wells’ The First Men In The Moon premiered on BBC Four. This film was written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Damon Thomas, it stars Gatiss as Cavor and Rory Kinnear as Bedford, with Alex Riddell, Peter Forbes, Katherine Jakeways, Lee Ingleby and Julia Deakin. It ends with a tribute to Lionel Jeffries, who played Cavor in the 1964 feature film, and who died earlier that year. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so forty five percent rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 19, 1889 – Miguel Asturias.  A novel and a few shorter stories for us, maybe more; nine novels all told, story collections, poetry.  A Kind of Mulatto (tr. English as Mulatto and Mr. Fly) called “a carnival incarnated….  a collision between Mayan Mardi Gras and Hispanic baroque”.  In Men of Maize (Eng. in UNESCO Collection of Representative Works) a postman turns into a coyote, his people into ants, “written in the form of a myth….  experimental, ambitious, and difficult to follow.”  Nobel Prize in Literature.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1909 Robert Beatty. He’s best known for being in 2001: A Space Odyssey as Dr. Ralph Halvorsen. He played General Cutler in “The Tenth Planet,”  a Third Doctor story, and was General Halstead in The Martian Chronicles. He was in Superman III and Superman IV, respectively playing a tanker captain and the U.S. President. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1940 Michael Gambon, 80. Actor on stage and screen from Ireland who is best known to genre fans as Professor Albus Dumbledore from the Hugo-nominated Harry Potter films (a role he picked up after the passing of Richard Harris, who played the character in the first two films), but also had roles in Toys (for which he received a Saturn nomination), Mary ReillySleepy Hollow, and the Hugo finalist Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He has had guest roles in episodes of The Jim Henson HourDoctor Who, and Tales of the Unexpected, and played an acerbic storyteller and possibly tomb robber in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. He has also done voice roles in animated features including Fantastic Mr. FoxPaddington, and The Wind in the Willows, in which he voiced very nicely The Badger. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1943 – Peter Weston, F.N.  Founded Birmingham SF Group.  Fanzines Zenith, renamed SpeculationProlapse, renamed Relapse.  Reviewed fanzines for Vector as “Malcolm Edwards”, confusing when a real ME appeared later, indeed each chairing Worldcons (PW the 37th).  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  Doc Weir Award (British; for service).  Fan Guest of Honor at Boskone 37, Eastercon 53, Noreascon 4 the 62nd Worldcon.  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service).  Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu 32 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid).  His foundry cast the rockets of the Hugo Awards trophies.  (Died 2017)
  • Born October 19, 1945 John Lithgow, 75. He enters SF fame as Dr. Emilio Lizardo / Lord John Whorfin in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’ll later be in Santa Claus: The MovieHarry and the HendersonsShrekRise of the Planet of the ApesInterstellar and the remake of Pet Sematary. He was on television’s Third Rock from the Sun for six seasons. Oh, and he voiced The White Rabbit on the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland series! (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1943 L.E. Modesitt, Jr., 77. Writer of more than 70 novels and 10 different series, the best known of which is his fantasy series The Saga of Recluce. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1946 Philip Pullman, 74. I’ll confess that I like his Sally Lockhart mysteries, both the original versions and the Billie Piper-led series,  far more than I enjoy the Dark Materials series as there’s a freshness and imagination at work there I don’t see in the latter. Oh, some of the latter is quite good — I quite enjoyed Lyra’s Oxford and Once Upon a Time in The North. (CE) 
  • Born October 19, 1948 – Jerry Kaufman, 72.  New York fan, then Seattle.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Fanzines with Suzanne Tompkins, The Spanish InquisitionMainstreamLittlebrook.  Also Sweetmeats (Sandra Miesel collection); The Best of Susan WoodThe Portable Carl Brandon; final issue of Innuendo (with Robert Lichtman).  Frequent loccer (loc = letter of comment) to fanzines.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 10, Rustycon 1, Minicon 26, Westercon 44, Boskone 34.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1961 – Mike Manley, 59.  Draws The Phantom (daily since 30 May 16; Sundays by Jeff Weige), also Judge Parker (since 23 Feb 10).  Worked at Marvel (Spider-Man; co-created Darkhawk), DC (Batman, did 500th issue; Superman), Warner Bros. (Kids WB BatmanSuperman).  Plein air painter.  Teacher.  See his Weblog Draw!  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1964 – Kathleen Cheney, 56.  A dozen novels, thirty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for her own collection Shared Dreams.  Taught math through calculus, coached the Academics and Robotics teams, sponsored the chess club.  Fences with foil and saber.  Gardener.  Two large hairy dogs.  [JH]
  • Born October 19, 1966 Roger Cross, 54. Actor from Jamaica who moved to Canada. He played a lead role in the series Continuum and has had parts in genre films The Chronicles of RiddickWar for the Planet of the Apes, the remake of The Day the Earth Stood StillX2Doomsday RockVoyage of TerrorThe Void, and the adaptations of Dean Koontz’ Hideaway and Sole Survivor. (CE)
  • Born October 19, 1982 – Jenny Bellington, 38.  One novel so far, about a boy whose gift is making maps.  More in the works.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GOOD NEWS, FEATURING BABY YODA. The Washington Post traces the beginnings of a legend: “A boy gave a Baby Yoda to crews battling Oregon wildfires. They lovingly passed it among firefighters, across state lines.”

Sasha Tinning took her 5-year-old grandson, Carver, grocery shopping earlier this month to buy granola bars and other snacks to contribute to a donation drive for firefighters battling wildfires in Oregon.

But when Tinning ended up in the toy aisle that day, Sept. 12, her eyes — and Carver’s — were drawn to a Baby Yoda doll, the last one on the shelf.“I said, ‘The firefighters could use a friend, couldn’t they?’ ” said Tinning, 54, who lives in Scappoose, Ore., about 20 miles north of Portland.

“He would be a very good friend for them,” she recalled Carver saying.

They agreed that volunteer firefighters needed “The Force” more than anyone. So instead of buying granola bars and nuts, they picked up Baby Yoda — also known as the Child — from the popular Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”

On their way home, they stopped by a donation tent for firefighters with the big-eyed, pointy-eared doll in hand. Tinning helped Carver write a quick note on a piece of scrap paper she found in her car trunk:“Thank you, firefighters,” it read. “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.”

Tyler Eubanks, a 34-year-old horse dental technician who was working in the donation booth that afternoon, showed the note and Baby Yoda to a few other volunteers. They all started crying, she said.

“The fires were close to us, and everyone was really high on emotion,” said Eubanks. “We were all really touched that Carver wanted to give a companion to the men and women who were out there risking their lives to fight the wildfires.”

Eubanks brought Baby Yoda to some firefighters who were helping in the effort to contain the 25-acre Unger Road Fire near Colton, Ore. She snapped a few photos of the fire crew with the doll so that she could send them to Carver, and thought that would be the end of it.

“But then the firefighters said, ‘We want to take him with us,’ ” Eubanks said.

So they did. And when they came upon other fire crews and showed off their Baby Yoda, those firefighters asked if they could have him for a while. The answer was yes.

“Before I knew it, Baby Yoda was out there traveling the universe,” Eubanks said.

Eubanks quickly came up with the idea to start a Facebook page — Baby Yoda Fights Fires — to chronicle the adventures of the Child.

More than 26,000 people now follow the page, which is full of photos of Baby Yoda hanging out with firefighters on the front lines of wildfires in Oregon and Colorado, and relaxing in fire base camps.

(12) HANGING OUT WITH THE DEAD. BBC Radio 4’s series A Natural History of Ghosts kicks off with an episode about “Ancient Ghosts”

‘When was the first time a human felt haunted?’

Kirsty Logan travels back to the world’s earliest civilisations to uncover where tales of ghosts first emerged.

From the earliest evidence of belief in an afterlife, seen in decorated bones in early grave sites, to Ancient Egyptian letters to the dead, and predatory Chindi unleashed to wreak deadly vengeance in the snowy wastes of North America, Kirsty tells the tales of the spirits that haunted our most ancient forebears, and became the common ancestor for ghost stories across all of human history.

(13) HARD CHARGING. “Die Hard’s Bruce Willis reprises John McClane role for unusual commercial”Digital Spy has the story.

…Now Bruce Willis has reprised the role once again, only this time it’s for… a car battery commercial?

The ad, for the DieHard Battery from Advance Auto Parts, sees John McClane crash through a window, escape through an air vent and face off against the villainous Theo, played by a returning Clarence Gilyard Jr.

De’voreaux White also reprises his role as driver Argyle, and steals the “yipee ki yay” line from Willis, who is probably glad that he didn’t have to say it.

(14) THE UNFORSEEN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “MVPs of Horror: How ‘The Simpsons’ creators added COVID-19 masks to this year’s ‘Treehouse of Horror'” says Simpsons writers were already planning an election segment for this year’s Treehouse of Horror, but added jokes about masks (which everyone in Springfield wears except for Homer).  Next year’s Treehouse is already in development, and will include a segment based on the Oscar-winning film Parasite.

When the staff of The Simpsons sat down to write the thirty-first edition of the show’s annual “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween anthology in 2019, they knew that the 2020 Presidential election would be the scariest subject they could tackle. That’s why “Treehouse of Horror XXXI,” which airs Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox, opens with an election parody that’s not for the faint of heart. “We predict what will happen on January 20 if people like Homer don’t smarten up a little,” longtime Simpsons showrunner, Al Jean, teased during the all-star The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror at Paley Front Row 2020. “Amazingly, most of it was written a year ago, and all of it still seems true!” (Watch the panel above.)

Simpsons fans know that the show has a knack for seeing into the future, whether it was predicting President Donald Trump back in 2000 or calling the winners of multiple Super Bowls. But there’s one thing that the writers didn’t predict while writing their own 2020 election parody: that Americans would be casting ballots for either President Trump or Vice President Joe Biden during the midst of a deadly pandemic….

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Food & Wine found a portal story in the candy section of the store: “Reese’s Created a Roving, Remote-Controlled Door to Help Make Trick-or-Treating Safer This Halloween”.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, this year’s Halloween celebrations will look significantly different than they did in 2019. Trick-or-treating, specifically, is problematic as attempting to visit as many neighbors as possible in a single night is pretty much the opposite of staying “bubbled.” But major candy brands are doing what they can to keep the Halloween spirit alive with interesting interpretations on how to make trick-or-treating coronavirus-friendly.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a Halloween favorite, and for 2020, the always inventive brand is introducing an over-the-top new candy delivery system: the Reese’s Trick- or-Treat Door. This robotic door uses voice-recognition technology to deliver candy hands-free. When the remote-controlled, nine-foot-tall front door (lamps and all!) uses its three motors to lumber your way, simply say “trick-or-treat,” and a Bluetooth speaker should know it’s time to spit out a king-size Reese’s candy bar via a retractable shelf in the mail slot.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Bill Wagner, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, N., SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 7/30/20 Can I Scroll There By Pixel-Light? Yes, And Back Again

(1) TAKING NOTES. I’d love to see more panel reports of this kind.

(2) FAN FUNDS AUCTION. Alison Scott announced that today’s CoNZealand Fan Funds auction raised 2190$NZD for GUFF, TAFF, DUFF and FFANZ.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY FICTION! This happened to a CoNZealand panel participant yesterday.

Schluessel also reports getting dinged for having a Black Lives Matter background. Which is pretty bizarre, because there’s a Black Lives Matter banner in CoNZealand’s virtual Exhibit Hall, as seen in the screencap below. However,  Schluessel says “CoNZealand has extended me a full apology, which I have accepted.”

(4) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT. CoNZealand’s virtual exhibit hall includes many things, such as the Rotsler Award exhibit (membership required to access) with artwork from each year’s award winner. Click the link, select “Boldy Go,” select Exhibits, and once there, click on Displays. The Rotsler link is last on the bottom right.

(5) PLEASE UNSIGN THEM. When she saw her sff group’s name listed as a signer of the Open Letter to WSFS about the Saudi Arabia Worldcon bid, Fran Dowd, “Sofa” of the Sheffield Science Fiction and Fantasy society posted a denial on the group’s Facebook page.

I’d like to put it on record that I have no idea how this group appeared as a signatory to the Jeddah letter. Whatever our personal feelings might be, I would not expect anyone to sign such a statement on our behalf without consultation at the least. 

I have spent this morning, when I would actually rather be at the current Worldcon, trying to spread the word. Apologies have been given to the NZ Chairs and to Kevin Standlee. Given the spread of social media, getting a retraction would be meaningless. 

I apologise to any members of the group who have been dragged into this. If it is of any help, please point people to this statement. 

Signed by me in my capacity as Chair When We Need One.

(6) RETRO SPLASHDOWN. Cora Buhlert takes stock of yesterday’s awards. Did they stick the landing? “Some Thoughts on the 1945 Retro Hugo Winners”.

Best Novelette

The 1945 Retro Hugo for Best Novelette goes to “City” by Clifford D. Simak. This isn’t a huge surprise, because the City cycle is well regarded, still in print and Clifford D. Simak was one of the best writers of the Golden Age. “City” is a pretty good story, too, though not the best City story of 1944 or even the best City novelette, because “Census”, which didn’t make the ballot, is better.

That said, this was not the category I wanted to see Simak win. In fact, I was hoping that C.L. Moore, either with or without Henry Kuttner, would win Best Novelette, because both “No Woman Born” (which finished second) and “The Children’s Hour” (which finished unfairly in sixth place) are great stories.

Though I’m glad that “Arena” by Fredric Brown was its “Genocide is good” message didn’t win, because I feared that it might.

(7) MORE OR LESS RETRO-HUGOS? Charles Stross thinks pausing the Retro-Hugos for about a quarter century might address some of the competing values now in conflict. Thread starts here.

Alasdair Stuart laments the Campbell and Lovecraft Retro wins. Thread starts here.

(8) PERSERVERANCE IS ON ITS WAY. “Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance robot launches to detect life on Red Plane” – BBC story includes video.

The US space agency’s Perseverance robot has left Earth on a mission to try to detect life on Mars.

The one-tonne, six-wheeled rover was launched out of Florida by an Atlas rocket on a path to intercept the Red Planet in February next year.

When it lands, the Nasa robot will also gather rock and soil samples to be sent home later this decade.

Perseverance is the third mission despatched to Mars inside 11 days, after launches by the UAE and China.

Lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 07:50 local time (12:50 BST; 11:50 GMT).

Nasa made this mission one of its absolute priorities when the coronavirus crisis struck, establishing special work practices to ensure Perseverance met its launch deadline.

“I’m not going to lie, it’s a challenge, it’s very stressful, but look – the teams made it happen and I’ll tell you, we could not be more proud of what this integrated team was able to pull off here, so it’s very, very exciting,” Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters.

(9) SPEAK UP, MARS. NPR tells how “Microphone Aboard NASA’s Rover Aims To Pick Up Sounds From Mars”.

…BRENDAN BYRNE, BYLINE: When the Perseverance rover lands on Mars in February, it will unpack a suite of scientific experiments to help uncover ancient signs of life on the red planet – high-tech cameras, spectrometers, sensors and…

ROGER WIENS: This is the voice of Roger Wiens speaking to you through the Mars microphone on SuperCam.

BYRNE: Roger Wiens is the principal investigator of the rover SuperCam, a slew of instruments, including a camera, laser and spectrometer, that will examine the rocks and soil of Mars for organic compounds, a hint that there might be further evidence of past life. Tucked away inside the SuperCam is the Mars microphone.

WIENS: And so it is there to listen to anything interesting, first of all, on Mars. And so we should hear wind sounds. We should hear sounds of the rover. We might hear things that we never expected to hear. And so that’s going to be interesting to find out.

BYRNE: The mic will also listen as Perseverance’s onboard laser blasts nearby rocks.

ADDIE DOVE: You might think we’re going to hear, like, pew pew, but we probably won’t.

BYRNE: University of Central Florida planetary scientist Addie Dove says the sounds of Martian rock blasts will help scientists determine if they might contain organic material, evidence of life on Mars. But it will actually sound more like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROCK BLASTS)

(10) JOSE SARAMAGO NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the July 24 Financial Times, Sarah Hemming discusses a new adaptation of Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s sf novel Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse in London (donmarwarehouse.com).  Donmar’s director, Michael Longhurst says the production will be a hybrid of theatre and “sound installation” that will let the theatre hold four shows a day.  I can’t tell from the review how much actual theatre there is in the production.  The only Donmar production I’ve seen was an all-female Julius Caesar on PBS that had an impressive performance by Dame Harriet Walter as Brutus.

Lockdown has emphasised the importance of sound for many of us from that early experience of hearing birdsong in unusually quiet city centres, to a keener awareness, prompted by physical separation, of the way we listen.  And several online drama offerings, such as Simon McBurney’s The Encounter and Sound&Fury’s wartime meditation Charlie Ward At Home, have used sophisticated recording to steep their homebound audiences in other worlds and prompt reflection. 

Blindness, in a sense, builds on that (there will be a digital download for those unable to get to the theatre).  So why attend in person?  Longhurst suggests the very act of being in a space will change the quality of listening–and reflect the way we have all had individual journeys through the collective experience of lockdown.  And while this is a one-off piece about a society in an epidemic, created for an industry in a pandemic, that physical presence marks a move towards full performance.

(11) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1987 — Emma Bull’s War for The Oaks was published by Ace Books. This urban fantasy would get its own trailer courtesy of Will Shetterly who financed it instead of running for Governor. You’ll no doubt recognize many of the performers here.  Decades later, it was scheduled to have a hardcover edition from Tor Books but it got canceled after the books were printed. And the music in War for The Oaks would later be done by Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull and other members of Minneapolis fandom. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 30, 1800 – Aleksandr Veltman.  Order of St. Vladimir (bravery) while in the Russian army, eventually Director of the Museum of Armaments.  Poetry praised by Pushkin, second wife’s novel praised by Gorky.  The Wanderer in an imaginary journey parodies travel notes.  Koshchei the Deathless parodies historical adventures.  The Year 3448 is supposedly by Martin Zadek (who also finds his way into Pushkin and Zamyatin).  The Forebears of Kalimeros has time-travel (by riding a hippogriff; “Kalimeros”, a nudge at Napoleon, is the Greek equivalent of Buonaparte) to meet Alexander and Aristotle.  Tolstoy and Dostoevskyapplauded AV too.  (Died 1870) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1873 – Curtis Senf.  Four dozen covers and hundreds of interiors for Weird Tales, after which what the Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists modestly calls “a more lucrative career as a commercial artist in the Chicago advertising industry”.  Here is the Oct 27 WT; here is the Jan 30; here is the Mar 32.  (Died 1949) [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1911 Reginald Bretnor. Author of many genre short stories involving Ferdinand Feghoot, a comical figure indeed. It looks like all of these are available in digital form on iBooks and Kindle. He was a consummate SJW. He translated Les Chats, the first known book about cats which was written by Augustin Paradis de Moncrif in 1727. He also wrote myriad articles about cats, was of course a companion to cats, and considered himself to have a psychic connection to cats. Of course most of us do. (Did 1992.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1927 Victor Wong. I remember him best as the Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China. He was also The Old Man in The Golden Child, Walter Chang in Tremors, Dr. Wong in the “China Moon” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series and Lee Tzin-Soong in the “Fox Spirit” episode  of Poltergeist: The Legacy. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1947 – John Stith, 73.  Eight novels, a dozen shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian.  Wrote about John Kennedy (i.e. our JK; indeed John R.; 1945-2009) in 1992 (for the limited ed’n of “Nova in a Bottle” bound with “Encore”), interviewed by him in 1993 (SF Chronicle 164).  Did his own cover for a reprinting of Death Tolls.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1948 Carel Struycken, 72. I remember him best as the gong ringing Mr. Holm on Next Gen, companion to Deanna Troi’s mother. He was also Lurch in The Addams FamilyAddams Family Values and the Addams Family Reunion. He’s listed as being Fidel in The Witches of Eastwick but I’ll be damned if I remembered his role in that film. And he’s in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor which I’ve never seen… (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1961 Laurence Fishburne, 59. In The Matrix films. His voice work as Thrax in Osmosis Jones on the other hand is outstanding as is his role as Bill Foster in Ant-Man. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1966 Jess Nevins, 54. Author of the superlative Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victorian and the equally great Heroes & Monsters: The Unofficial Companion to the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which is far better than the film ever could be. I didn’t know he was an author ‘til now but he has two genre novels, The Road to Prester John and The Datong Incident. (CE)
  • Born July 30, 1967 – Ann Brashares, 53. Famous for The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (that’s the U.S. meaning of “pants”, in this case a magical pair of blue jeans), a NY Times Best-Seller, and its sequels, films, companions.  Two more novels for us, one other.  Indies Choice Book Award, Quill Award.  Philosophy major (yay!) at Barnard, 1989.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1971 – Kristie Cook, 49.  Nine novels, a dozen shorter stories (some with co-authors; publishes Havenwood Falls shared-world stories, some wholly by others).  Loves cheese, chocolate, coffee, husband, sons, motorcycle.  “No, I’m not crazy.  I’m just a writer.”  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1974 – Jacek Dukaj, 46.  Ten novels, half a dozen shorter stories, translated into Bulgarian, Czech, English (he’s a Pole), German, Hungarian, Italian, Macedonian, Russian, Slovak.  Six Zajdel Awards.  EU Prize for Literature.  Another writer with a Philosophy degree, from Jagiellonian University even.  His Culture.pl page (in English) is here.  [JH]
  • Born July 30, 1975 Cherie Priest, 45. Her southern gothic Eden Moore series is kickass good and Clockwork Universe series isa refreshing take on steampunk which has been turned into full cast audiobooks by GraphicAudio. I’ve not read Cheshire Red Reports novels so have no idea how they are. Anyone read these? (CE)

(13) NOW WITH MORE MASK. Ray’s playing it safe, I see. Incidentally, the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum is accepting RSVP’s here for entry during RBEM’s Ray Bradbury Centennial Celebration on August 22, 2020.

(14) OOPS. Marc Zicree has issued a video “Apology to the Science Fiction Writers of America,” for using their membership list to publicize Space Command.

(15) A DISSATISFIED CUSTOMER. And not only that, we line up for the opportunity!

(16) BACURAU. The Criterior Channel’s August lineup includes Bacurau on August 20, an exclusive streaming premiere, featuring an interview with directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles.

(17) SHELFISHNESS. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda finds it’s not that easy: “In turbulent times, culling my book collection gave me the illusion of control. Then the dilemmas began multiplying.”

… After all, who doesn’t periodically yearn to flee the nightmarish world we now live in? A persistent feeling of helplessness, frustration, anger and mild despair has emerged as the “New Normal” — which is one reason my recent reviews and essays tend to emphasize escapism, often into books from the past. A similar impulse lies behind the pruning of my basement hoard. Going through my many boxes, I am no longer the plaything of forces beyond my control. I have, to use a vogue term, agency. I alone decide which books to keep, which to let go.

However, making these decisions has turned out to be harder than I expected.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I’m fond of a slightly overwritten travel book called “A Time of Gifts” by English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. It recounts in striking detail a walk across half of Europe undertaken by the young Leigh Fermor in 1933. Somehow, I possess four copies of this minor classic: a Penguin paperback that I read and marked up, an elegant Folio Society edition bought at the Friends of the Montgomery County Library bookstore, a later issue of the original John Murray hardback, and a first American edition in a very good dust jacket acquired for a bargain price at the Second Story Books warehouse. Given the space-saving principle of eliminating duplicates, I should keep just one copy. Which one?

(18) WIZARDS OF THE COST. NPR finds that “In The Pandemic Era, This ‘Gathering’ Has Lost Some Of Its Magic”.

You draw seven cards. You look at your hand. It would be perfect if you had that one card.

Too bad it costs $50. And your local game store is closed anyway.

Depending on where you lie on the nerd spectrum, you may or may not have heard of Magic: The Gathering. It’s a trading card game that’s been in production for almost three decades. Even if you haven’t heard of it or played it, you probably know someone who has. It’s one of the most popular trading card games of all time, and that isn’t an exaggeration; there are millions of Magic: The Gathering players worldwide.

…Before COVID-19 hit the Magic community, players packed into local game stores to sling spells and blow off steam. Now, as players move toward the online versions, there are additional financial hurdles to clear.

There’s a reason it’s called Magic: The Gathering. Most of the fun comes from squaring off against other players, catching the clandestine tells of your opponent as they draw powerful spells. Game stores across the country offer opportunities to play; they host tournaments, stock up on new cards and teach new wizards how to play.

But even if veteran players and shop owners welcome new Planeswalkers with open arms, how accessible is Magic: The Gathering?

Players can craft a variety of decks, and if they’re playing the more common formats of the game, a deck can cost anywhere from about $275 to $834 or more. Not only are full decks expensive, but so are individual cards. The card Thoughtseize, for instance, has a current value of around $25 per copy. If a deck contains four copies of a single card (the maximum), just that one card would bring the price of a deck up by $100. And there are much more expensive cards on the market.

…There is an online version of the game, but Magic Online isn’t cheap either. And while it isn’t as expensive as its cardboard counterpart, a player still has to buy new digital versions of physical cards they already own. On top of that, a Magic Online account costs $10 just to set up. And while a Magic veteran might jump at the opportunity to play online, a new player may feel less inclined to pay the fee when there are other online deck-building games, like Hearthstone, that are free to try.

In 2018, Magic’s publisher Wizards of the Coast released a free, digital version of the game called Magic: The Gathering Arena. It’s a more kid-friendly online option for new Planeswalkers, but it still has the same Magic charm for older players. Arena does include in-game purchases, but players can obtain better cards by grinding out a lot of games instead of spending extra money. And while Arena can be a great way to introduce a new player to the online format, if they don’t want to empty their wallets, they’ll have to get used to losing for a while.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/20 The Pixel Scroll Is Read, Yet There’s Much More To Be Said

(1) DON’T BE THAT AUTHOR. Brenda Clough’s list grows longer: “Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series”.

There are the really obvious ways to torch your career — rudeness to editors, for instance.  And then there are the hidden trap doors.  The one I am going to reveal today is truly obscure.  It could be broadly described as meddling with the publication process. More specifically, you can enrage the publisher’s sales reps.  Kill your book dead in one easy step! …

(2) AND DON’T BE THAT POET. F.J. Bergmann wrote and Melanie Stormm designed “How To Piss Off A Poetry Editor” for readers of SPECPO, the blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Here’s the header —

(3) KGB READINGS ONLINE. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Benjamin Rosenbaum and Mike Allen Wednesday, July 15 in a YouTube livestream event. Starts at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Benjamin Rosenbaum’s short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, BSFA, Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and collected in The Ant King and Other Stories. His first novel, The Unraveling, a far-future comedy of manners and social unrest, comes out this October from Erewhon Books. His tabletop roleplaying game of Jewish historical fantasy in the shtetl, Dream Apart, was nominated for an Ennie Award. He lives near Basel, Switzerland with his family.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. His horror tales are gathered in the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection Unseaming, and in his newest book, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident. His novella The Comforter, sequel to his Nebula Award-nominated story “The Button Bin,” just appeared in the anthology A Sinister Quartet. By day, he writes the arts column for The Roanoke (Va.) Times.

Listen to podcasts of the KGB readings here.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The June 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Last of the Goggled Barskys,” by Joey Siara.

Transmitted herewith are excerpts from statements provided by members of the Barsky family regarding the incident with Hayden Barsky, age 11.

The true origins of KHAOS remain unknown….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Not to Optimize Parenthood” by Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab and author of the book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play When No One Has the Time.

Most parents are well-intentioned. We try to do the right thing, hoping to spare our children at least a measure of the pain or heartache we muddled through, to smooth the rough edges of life and give them every advantage to make it in an uncertain and often cruel world.

That’s at least the hope. In practice, no one really knows how to do that. So, particularly in America, where “winning” and the self-improvement dictate to “beat yesterday” are akin to sacred commandments, we have always turned to the experts for help. What does the science say? What are the neighbors doing? What book or podcast or shiny gadget will instantly make my child’s life easier? More joyful? Miraculous? And, perhaps most importantly, better than your kid’s?…

(5) LOCKDOWN MOVIE. “Quarantine Without Ever Meeting”Vanity Fair profiles the filmmakers. Tagline: “The actors set up lights, did their own makeup, and ran the cameras. The filmmakers advised on Zoom. Somehow…it worked.”

…While Hollywood is struggling to figure out if it’s possible to make a feature-length movie in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, this group of independent filmmakers and actors have already done it. “The whole movie has been written, produced, packaged, shot within quarantine. Now we’re in postproduction, and I had a first cut of the whole film done on Friday,” said director and cowriter Simon. As The Untitled Horror Movie nears completion, its producers are finally announcing the secret project and seeking a distributor. It appears to be the first movie created entirely within the parameters of the lockdown.

The horror comedy is about a group of needy and desperate young stars from a once-popular TV series who learn, via video conference, that their show has just been canceled. Fearing obscurity, they decide to stay in the spotlight by making a quickie horror film—but while shooting it, they perform a ritual that accidentally invokes an actual demonic spirit. Mayhem follows. “We kind of described it going into it as Scream meets For Your Consideration,” Simon said.

(6) OFF THE COAST. In the Washington Post, Rob Wolfe says that Wizards of the Coast has banned seven Magic:  The Gathering cards it says are “racist or culturally offensive” and promises a review of all 20,000 cards to find any other ones it deems questionable. “‘Racist’ and ‘culturally offensive’ images pulled from hugely popular trading card game”

The card had been around since 1994, tagged “Invoke Prejudice” by the world’s most popular trading card game. It showed figures in white robes and pointed hoods — an image that evoked the Ku Klux Klan for many people.This month, the company behind “Magic: The Gathering” permanently banned that card and six others carrying labels like “Jihad” and “Pradesh Gypsies.” Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of toy giant Hasbro, acknowledged the images were “racist or culturally offensive.”

“There’s no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else,” the company said in a statement announcing its action.

With the country roiled by tensions and protests over African Americans’ deaths at the hands of police, the issues entangling Magic and its creators are unlikely to subside soon. The fantasy game of goblins, elves, spells and more boasts some 20 million players, and in pre-pandemic times, thousands flocked to elite international tournaments with hefty prizes. Players of color say they have long felt excluded in the white- and male-dominated community from the game’s top echelons, as well as employment at the company….

(7) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. “A Better World ?” seems to be a kind of text-based game letting players choose among “Uchronies,” a French term that partakes of alternate history but is more fantastic in nature. I racked up a lot of karma in a hurry, sad to say.

The dates you can change are in yellow.

The dates you just changed are in pink.

Click on one of them to change the past!

Your current karma:

0

See the list of Uchronies (cancels the current game)

It didn’t go well, I’d like to start over…

(8) ANOTHER TONGUE. James Davis Nicoll says there are a bundle of “Intriguing SFF Works Awaiting English Translations” at Tor.com.

I am monolingual, which limits me to reading works in English. One of the joys of this modern, interconnected world in which we’re living is that any speculative fiction work written in another language could (in theory) be translated into English. One of my frustrations is that, generally speaking, they haven’t been. Here are five works about which I know enough to know that I’d read them if only they were translated….

(9) I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Olav Rokne says, “Sometimes, you just want to ask the question nobody wants.” He passed along some of the hilarious responses.   

(10) CARL REINER OBIT. The creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” died June 29 at the age of 98. The duo won a Grammy in 1998 for their The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000. (The New York Times eulogy is here.)

He shared the lead in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and appeared in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He directed numerous movies, including several starring Steve Martin. In recent years he voiced characters in several genre animated TV shows — and Carl Reineroceros in Toy Story 4.

John King Tarpinian remembers:

He is not genre but his passing reminds me of the good old days.  Back in the 80s, I was president of the largest Atari club consortium in the US.  One of the members owned the Vine Street Bar & Grill.  It was between Hollywood & Sunset.  The first Wednesday of the month the guest jazz singer was Estelle Reiner.  Ron Berinstein, club member and club owner invited me to come on Estelle’s nights to make sure the club was always full.  The first time I went her husband, Carl, was also there.  I learned that he always came…and that he’d have friends join them.  Over the years everybody from Sid Caesar, Buck Henry, Neil Simon, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks & more.

During Estelle’s break between sets Carl & whomever was also there would get up and entertain.  Carl & Mel would do their 2000 Year Old Man routine but not the Ed Sullivan version but the version they’d do a parties.  My ribs would be sore the next morning from laughing so hard. 

Sid Caesar would come to Ray Bradbury’s plays.  Imagine somebody being able to upstage Ray…who also would be laughing so hard.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory premiered. Based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory novel, it was directed by Mel Stuart, and produced by Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper. The screenplay was by Roald Dahl and David Seltzer. It featured Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka with a supporting cast of Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone and Denise Nickerson. Some critics truly loved it while others loathed it. It currently holds an 87% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series  for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adamms Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1929 – Anie Linard, 91.  Active from France, herself and with Jean Linard, in the 1950s and 1960s; fanzines Innavigable MouthMeuhVintkatX-trap.  Voted in the 1958 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) campaign.  She was, like many of us, a correspondent of Ned Brooks.  I have not traced her more recently than June 1962.  Anie, if you see this, salut!  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1935 – Jon Stopa, 85.  Active with Advent publishing house, half a dozen covers including In Search of WonderThe Eighth Stage of Fandom, and The Issue at Hand.  Three stories in Astounding.  Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon, and cover for its Proceedings; with wife Joni, Fan Guests of Honor at Chicon V the 49th, where I think they were in some of the Madeira tastings I assembled when I found four or five D’Oliveiras in the hotel bar.  The Stopas were (Joni has left the stage) also great costumers, both as entrants and judges; there’s a YouTube of their work here.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 61. Kingpin in that not terribly good or bad Daredevil film, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 Diane Purkiss, 59. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that  At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 – Nigel Rowe, 59.  Published Timeless Sands history of New Zealand fandom, then moved to Chicago.  Here is a 1994 photo of him with Russell Chauvenet (who coined the word fanzine) at Corflu 11 in Virginia.  A 2019 photo of him is on p. 47 of Random Jottings 20 (PDF), the Proceedings of Corflu 36 in Maryland; he’s also on the cover (back right; you may be able to make out his badge “Nigel”).  Very helpful relaying paper fanzines across the seas.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1961 – carl juarez, 59.  No capital letters in his name.  Co-edited the fanzine Apparatchik with Andy Hooper (from Apak 62), later Chunga with Hooper and Randy Byers.  Here is his cover for Chunga 8.  He’s on the right of the cover for Chunga 17 (PDF).  Chunga credited cj as designer, the results being indeed fine.  He, Byers, and Hooper were such a tripod that with Byers’ death, Chunga tottered; should it fall, may cj find his feet.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1963 Rupert S. Graves, 57. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1966 – Penny Watson, 54.  Degrees in plant taxonomy, horticultural science, biology, and floral design; “there is nothing better than getting up in the morning, heading out to your garden and picking fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and arugula greens for breakfast.”  Obsessed with dachshunds.  Has trained dolphins, coached field hockey and lacrosse.  Nat’l Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.  Eight novels, five of them and a novella for us.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 54. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 48. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1974 – Juli Zeh, 46.  A dozen novels so far, three for us.  Deutscher BücherpreisSolothurner Literaturpreis; doctorate in international law, honorary judge at the Brandenburg constitutional court.  About Schilf (“reed”, name of a character – likewise an English surname), translated into English as Dark Matter (London) and In Free Fall (New York), when a Boston Globe interviewer asked “Are you asking the reader to reconsider the nature of reality?” JZ answered “Yes, I want to take the reader on an intellectual journey”; to “Can a novel of ideas be written today, without irony?” JZ answered “As long as mankind doesn’t lose its curiosity to think about the miracles of being.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows us the first science fiction writer — and true Hard SF, even as to the medium it’s composed on.
  • Today’s Bizarro is not an SF comic, but one with good advice for the privileged rich kid starting a literary career.

(14) DOOMSCROLLING. I learned a useful new word from John Scalzi’s post “Check In, 6/30/20”.

…With that said, there’s another aspect of it, too, which I think I’ve been minimizing: it’s not just time on social media, it’s engagement when I am on it, and how social media is making me feel when I use it. The term “doomscrolling” refers to how people basically suck down fountains of bad news on their social media thanks to friends (and others) posting things they’re outraged about. It’s gotten to the point for me where, particularly on Twitter, it feels like it’s almost all doomscrolling, all the time, whether I want it to be or not.

(15) STANDING UP. David Gerrold’s unlocked Patreon post “I Stand With The Science Fiction Writers of America” may be a reaction to yesterday’s item about the publisher of Cirsova, and certainly gives emphatic support to SFWA’s recent statement about BLM.

…The BLM movement are not terrorists. They are not thugs. They are peaceful protesters, marching against industrial discrimination and system-entrenched bigotry. The demonstrators have actually caught looters and rioters and delivered them to the police.

It doesn’t matter how much the limousine-liberals preach equality if there are no serious efforts to redress the grievances of the disadvantaged. 

If we truly are all in this together, then it behooves all of us to reach out to each other and create partnerships and opportunities. This isn’t preferential treatment. It’s a necessary bit of repair work to a damaged genre. 

If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t take steps, if we don’t address it, then we are guilty of complicity. If the racism of the past was a product of its time, then let our attempts to redress the situation be a product of our time. 

(16) BLOCKED OUT. Missed this in March: “Lego embraces the dark side with three helmet building kits”. And it’s not like I didn’t have time on my hands.

… These sets are up for preorder now from Lego at $59.99 and are set to ship on April 19.

  • Stormtrooper Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • Boba Fett Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • TIE Fighter Pilot Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)

With the Stormtrooper, you’re getting a 647-piece helmet-building set, complete with the blacked-out visor, two nodes on the bottom for speaking and stickers to complete the look. Similarly, the Boba Fett helmet will let you pay homage to the original Mandalorian. This set is 21 centimeters tall (a little over 8 inches) and has 625 pieces. You’ll be constructing each detail of the helmet, including the fold-down viewfinder that lets Boba easily track down his targets. (He is a bounty hunter, after all.)

(17) HAKUNA ERRATA. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In Pixel Scroll 5/27/20 Johnny Mnemonic B. Goode I’d said —

This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.

It turns out that, while I have heard Chris Smither sing this song, he wasn’t the author. That was Paul Geremia, one of Boston/Cambridge’s wonderful acoustic blues musicians.

The song is on his Self Portrait In Blues album. (And on my ~2,800-song Spotify playlist, which is how, when it came around again this morning on the guitar, as it were, I realized my mistake.)

Here’s a so-so performance:

The song (and much of the album) is on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple, and elsewhere. Apple’s got a reasonable sample snippet.

(18) THE STAR VANISHES. The BBC says Alfred Hitchcock isn’t involved in “Mystery over monster star’s vanishing act”.

Astronomers have been baffled by the disappearance of a massive star they had been observing.

They now wonder whether the distant object collapsed to form a black hole without exploding in a supernova.

If correct, it would be the first example of such a huge stellar object coming to the end of its life in this manner.

But there is another possibility, the study in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reports.

The object’s brightness might have dipped because it is partially obscured by dust.

It is located some 75 million light-years away in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, in the constellation of Aquarius.

The giant star belongs – or belonged – to a type known as a luminous blue variable; it is some 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun.

Stars of this kind are unstable, showing occasional dramatic shifts in their spectra – the amount of light emitted at different wavelengths – and brightness.

(19) YOU WILL BELIEVE A…EH, NO YOU WON’T. NPR explains “How Snakes Fly (Hint: It’s Not On A Plane)”

Flying snakes like Chrysopelea paradisi, the paradise tree snake, normally live in the trees of South and Southeast Asia. There, they cruise along tree branches and, sometimes, to get to the ground or another tree, they’ll launch themselves into the air and glide down at an angle.

They undulate their serpentine bodies as they glide through the air, and it turns out that these special movements are what let these limbless creatures make such remarkable flights.

That’s according to some new research in the journal Nature Physics that involved putting motion-capture tags on seven snakes and then filming them with high-speed cameras as the snakes flew across a giant four-story-high theater.

How far they can go really depends on how high up they are when they jump, says Jake Socha at Virginia Tech, who has studied these snakes for almost a quarter-century. He recalls that one time he watched a snake start from about 30 feet up and then land nearly 70 feet away. “It was really a spectacular glide,” Socha recalls.

Part of the way the snakes do this is by flattening out their bodies, he says. But the snakes’ bodies also make wavelike movements. “The snake looks like it’s swimming in the air,” he says. “And when it’s swimming, it’s undulating.”

(20) BLOCKBUSTED. “With Big Summer Films Delayed, AMC Theatres Puts Off U.S. Reopening”.

The nation’s largest movie theater chain is delaying its U.S. reopening until the end of July because film companies have postponed release dates of two anticipated blockbusters.

AMC Theatres announced that a first round of approximately 450 locations will resume operations two weeks later than initially planned, to coincide with the updated August release dates of Warner Brothers’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan.

“Our theatre general managers across the U.S. started working full time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for moviegoers,” CEO Adam Aron said in a June 29 statement. “That happy day, when we can welcome guests back into most of our U.S. theatres, will be Thursday, July 30.”

The company said it expects its more than 600 U.S. theaters to be “essentially to full operation” by early August.

AMC Theatres made headlines earlier this month when it announced patrons will be required to wear masks, reversing course on a controversial reopening plan that had only encouraged them to do so.

(21) ALL THE SMART KIDS ARE DOING IT. “Famous New York Public Library Lions Mask Up To Set An Example”.

For the first time, the familiar marble faces outside the New York Public Library will be obscured by masks.

Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lion sculptures guarding the 42nd Street library, are wearing face coverings to remind New Yorkers to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.

The masks arrived on June 29, and measure three feet wide by two feet tall, according to a library statement.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx emphasized the symbolism of the aptly named lions, and said New Yorkers are similarly strong and resilient.

(22) NEVERENDING SENDUP. The Screen Junkies continue their look at oldies with an “Honest Trailer” for The Neverending Story, where they show that gloomy Germans created “a world of neverending misery.”  They discovered that star Noah Hathaway subsequently played Harry Potter Jr. in Troll (1986) with Michael Moriarty playing Harry Potter Sr.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to wandering minstrel of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 6/19/20 Hey, Mister! You Missed A Pixel!

(1) FAN HISTORY PROJECT SPOTLIGHT. File 770 is late to pass on the great news, but last October Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari told everyone on his list “that we have received a request from the Library of Congress to archive our site.”

…From the letter: “The Library of Congress preserves important cultural artifacts and provides enduring access to them…The Library will make this collection available to researchers at Library facilities and by special arrangement.” They may later make it publicly available as well. We’ve all seen the loss of many websites that showcase the hard work and outstanding accomplishments of fans and historians in our field. This archiving request from the Library of Congress will ensure that the work we’ve been doing with your help will be available, even after the current class of fan historians has bit the dust. Color us ecstatic. We’ll let you know when the process has completed.

The Library of Congress gives an overview of its web archiving program here.

The Library of Congress Web Archive manages, preserves, and provides access to archived web content selected by subject experts from across the Library, so that it will be available for researchers today and in the future. Websites are ephemeral and often considered at-risk born-digital content. New websites form constantly, URLs change, content changes, and websites sometimes disappear entirely. Websites document current events, organizations, public reactions, government information, and cultural and scholarly information on a wide variety of topics. Materials that used to appear in print are increasingly published online.

(2) COMPLETING THE SET. The 2020 Kurd Laßwitz Preis  (German SF Award) winners now have all been named following this late selection:

Best German language audio drama first broadcast in 2019

  • Unser Leben in den Wäldern by Marie Darrieussecq and Gerrit Booms, WDR

(3) D&D GETTING ANOTHER LOOK. From io9: “Dungeons & Dragons Team Announces New Plans to Address Race and Inclusivity in the Game”.

….in a new blog post on the official D&D website the development studio detailed what it has been doing to tackle the game’s own history of racist stereotyping, and what will be done going forward to ensure the game tastefully represents its fantasy world.

“Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game—orcs and drow being two of the prime examples—have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,” the new statement reads in part. “That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in. Despite our conscious efforts to the contrary, we have allowed some of those old descriptions to reappear in the game. We recognize that to live our values, we have to do an even better job in handling these issues. If we make mistakes, our priority is to make things right.”

Going forward, D&D will be making those things right with a six-point plan. Outside of the game itself, these include the use of sensitivity readers on upcoming and current Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks as part of the creative process, and a commitment to “proactively seeking new, diverse talent to join our staff and our pool of freelance writers and artists,” a move already made for products set to release in the next year, but a policy being maintained going forward.

…From an editorial standpoint, the D&D team will also go back through material as it is being prepared for reprints, and update them to modify and remove any racially insensitive material. The adventures Tomb of Annihilation and The Curse of Strahd were cited as particular examples, with Curse of Strahd being called out specifically for its use of Romani sterotypes in the background of the Vistani, a nomadic group of travelers that primarily resided in Barovia before the death of Count Strahd von Zarovich. In the editorial process for Strahd’s reprint, as well as two upcoming products, Wizards worked with a Romani consultant to present the Vistani without using reductive tropes.

But some of the points delve into the game itself—for example, the aforementioned ongoing exploration and re-examination of Drow and Orcish cultures in the game’s fiction, beings that were long described as beastly and villainous by nature while also being approximations of non-white cultures….

(4) FATE OF LIBRARIES. Publishers Weekly warns “Changes Loom as Public Libraries Begin to Reopen”.

…But whenever that happens, the public libraries that will emerge from this historic pause will be changed from the ones that closed their doors in March, librarians tell PW, both in the short term, and into the future.

The most pressing issue facing libraries, of course, is how to reopen safely, for both library staff and the public. For most libraries, that means services like curbside pickup or limits on patron visits to start. It means ensuring library workers have appropriate personal protective equipment, and reconfiguring the library space: less furniture, distance between computer stations, more hand sanitizer stations, spit guards, and plexiglass dividers. It means contactless checkout, new cleaning procedures, and 72-hour materials quarantines.

It also means enormous pressure on library staff, including new rules to enforce, such as physical distancing and wearing masks. None of it will be easy. And all of it will be done under the threat of job cuts, a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, immense budget pressure, and worsening political dysfunction….

(5) NO SMOKING. During last autumn’s round of California wildfires, a Washington Post writer accompanied a salesman for treating houses with fire retardant on a visit to Dean Koontz’ estate. “California will never stop burning”.

…Thirty miles southwest of the 46 Fire, Dean Koontz, the mega­selling novelist, was standing outside his enormous new home the morning after Halloween.

“We had friends who wouldn’t move to California because of earthquakes.”

Like other Californians, he has stood on a roof with a garden hose and a stance of defiance.

“They moved to the Gulf Coast and got hit by a hurricane.”

It costs a fortune to insure some homes in California. This is why Koontz invited Moseley and his team for a consultation about a defensive sprinkler system and his SPF3000 spray. Local authorities have challenged the effectiveness and safety of the product, but Moseley has testimonials from grateful clients and documentation of test results.

He also has his on-the-go demonstration. On Koontz’s front stoop, Moseley blowtorches one end of a piece of wood. It ignites, burns, starts to disintegrate. Then he torches the other side, which has been treated with SPF3000. It blackens but does not ignite. Then Moseley scrapes the charred veneer with a car key to reveal intact wood underneath….

“Impressive,” Koontz says. His Tuscan-style villa is in a gated community near Irvine. This is a place of Bentleys and catering trucks, and an air of invincibility. Koontz knows that nothing is invincible. If he were younger, maybe he’d move to a place that wasn’t quaking and conflagrating so much. Arizona, perhaps. But he loves it here.

“None of us live forever,” he says. “And you have to weigh the quality of life with the risk.”

(6) ZAFÓN OBIT. “Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of The Shadow of the Wind, dies aged 55”The Guardian marked the passing of this best-selling Spanish-language author.

….Born in Barcelona, Ruiz Zafón worked in advertising before he made his debut as an author in 1993 with young adult novel The Prince of Mist. In 2001, he published The Shadow of the Wind, which followed a boy called Daniel who is taken to the Cemetery of Lost Books in Barcelona and becomes fascinated by the author Julian Carax and the shadowy figure trying to eradicate every last copy of Carax’s books. The novel was translated into English by Lucia Graves in 2004, and became an international hit. “If you thought the true gothic novel died with the 19th century, this will change your mind,” said Stephen King in a review. “Shadow is the real deal, a novel full of cheesy splendour and creaking trapdoors, a novel where even the subplots have subplots.”

Ruiz Zafón, who moved to Los Angeles in the 1990s, and divided his time between Spain and the US, has said that while he had written “pretty successful” young adult novels for 10 years, with The Shadow of the Wind he “wanted to create something very special”.

“So what I did was take what for me is very important, which is take all the great ambition in all those 19th-century novels, but try to reconstruct those big novels – the Tolstoy, the Dickens, the Wilkie Collins – but try to reconstruct all of that with all the narrative elements that the 20th century has given us, from the grammar of cinema, from multimedia, from general fiction, from everything that is out there, to create a much more intense reading experience for the readers,” he said.

He followed the bestseller up with three more novels in the series, The Angel’s Game, The Prisoner of Heaven and The Labyrinth of Spirits. Completing the tetralogy, he told Spanish press in 2016 that he had “the feeling of the job done”….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

June 19, 1964 The Twilight Zone finale aired. 

“A swimming pool not unlike any other pool, a structure built of tile and cement and money, a backyard toy for the affluent.” — Rod Serling in his opening narration to this episode.

The Twilight Zone series finale: “The Bewitchin’ Pool” was the thirty-sixth episode of the fifth and final season. Earl Hamner, Jr., got the idea for this episode while living in the San Fernando Valley region and witnessing an alarming divorce rate and the effect it had on children. The episode was one of the first shows on television to really address the problem of divorce and bad parenting, and in part it represents wish fulfillment for children in such situations.  It was directed by Joseph M. Newman from the script by Earl Hamner, Jr. 

It had an unusually large cast: Mary Badham as Sport Sharewood, June Foray as Sport Sharewood (voice, outdoor scenes), Kim Hector as Witt,  Dee Hartford as Gloria Sharewood, Jeffrey Byron as Jeb Sharewood, Georgia Simmons as Aunt T and Tod Andrews as Gil Sharewood. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 19, 1824 – Henri Hildibrand.  Wood engraver for Hetzel, who did so much good and bad for Verne; those editions were lavishly illustrated, anyhow.  This cover for Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is a composite of a Peter Gimbel photo and a de Neuville print Hildibrand engraved.  Here is Aronnax studying the giant squid.  Here is the underwater destroyed town (note de Neuville’s signature at lower left).  (Died 1897) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1872 – Sutton Griggs.  Son of a slave; Baptist minister; active in the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People; published and distributed his own books and pamphlets, thirty of them. Imperium in Imperio has a black nation hidden in Texas, outsold many contemporaries to whom he was invisible.  (Died 1933) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1881 – Maginel Enright.  Younger sister of Frank Lloyd Wright (Maginel a contraction of Margaret Ellen).  Illustrated Frank Baum’s Twinkle TalesPoliceman BluejayJuvenile Speaker; five dozen by others.  See here and here and here.  Memoir, The Valley of the God-Almighty Joneses.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1915 – Julius Schwartz.  Co-published pioneer fanzine The Time Traveller. Helped organize NyCon I the first Worldcon.  Co-founded Solar Sales Service, representing Bester, Bloch, Bradbury.  In reviving or re-creating the Flash, Green Lantern, and like that, instrumental in opening Silver Age of Comics.  Edited BatmanSuperman, fifteen years each; dozens more.  Memoir Man of Two Worlds subtitled “my life in science fiction and comics”; also he was active as fan and pro; also “Man of Two Worlds” was his creation Adam Strange – in whose stories Alanna’s father Sardath looked like him. Inkpot, Jack Kirby Hall of Fame, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1921 Louis Jourdan. Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil, two tv horror films in the late Sixties, appear to be his first venture into our realm. He’d play Count Dracula in, errr, Count Dracula a few years later. And then comes the role you most likely remember him for, Dr. Anton Arcane in Swamp Thing which he reprised in The Return of Swamp Thing. Definitely popcorn films at their very best. Oh and let’s not forget he was Kamal Khan, the villain in Octopussy! (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1926 Josef Nesvadba.A Czech writer, best known in his SF short stories, many of which have appeared in English translation. ISFDB lists a number of stories as appearing in English and two collections of his translated stories were published, In The Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman: Stories of Science and Fantasy and Vampires Ltd.: Stories of Science and Fantasy. Neither’s available in digital format. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1947 Salman Rushdie, 73. Everything he does has some elements of magic realism in it. (Let the arguments begin on that statement.) So which of his novels are really genre? I’d say The Ground Beneath Her FeetGrimus (his first and largely forgotten sf novel), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights and Haroun and the Sea of Stories. If you’ve not read anything by him, I’d start with The Ground Beneath Her Feet which is by far both one of his best works and one of his most understandable ones as well. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1949 – Marilyn Kaye.  Taught twenty years at St. John’s University (New York), now lives in Paris.  A hundred children’s and young-adult books, four dozen ours.  In her Replica series, teenage Amy’s discovering she is a clone, genetically modified for superhuman abilities, is only the beginning.  In her Gifted series, each in a small middle-school class has a superhuman ability; an outside group seeks to manipulate them and their abilities for profit; the students dislike their abilities and one another.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1953 Virginia Hey, 67. Best-remembered  for her role as Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan in the fabulous Farscape series and playing the Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. She’s also Rubavitch, the mistress of the KGB Head, General Pushkin, in The Living Daylights. She also had a brief appearance as a beautician in The Return of Captain Invincible, an Australian musical comedy superhero film. No, I’ve not seen it. (CE)
  • Born June 19, 1957 Jean Rabe, 63. She’s a genre author and editor who has worked on the DragonlanceForgotten RealmsRogue Angel and BattleTech series, as well as many others. Ok I admit to a degree of fascination with such writers as I’m a devotee of the Rogue Angel audiobooks that GraphicAudio does and she’s written according to ISFDB five of the source novels under the house name of Alex Archer. (CE)
  • June 19, 1963 – Aleksandar Žiljak.  A dozen short stories; some covers and interiors, see here (his collection Blind Birds).  Co-edited Ad Astra anthology of Croatian SF 1976-2006; co-edits literary SF journal Ubiq.  Six SFera Awards: three for Best Story, two for Best Illustration, one (shared) for Ad Astra.  The Wayback Machine has this interview.  [JH]
  • Born June 19, 1978 Zoe Saldana, 42, born with the lovely birth name of Zoë Yadira Saldaña Nazario. First genre role was Anamaria in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She’s Nyota Uhura in the new Trek series, and she’s also Neytiri in the Avatar franchise. She portrays Gamora in the MCU, beginning with Guardians of the Galaxy, a truly great film though I’m less impressed with the second film by far. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE GREATEST. “Panel Mania: Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics by Tom Scioli”Publishers Weekly has an 11-page excerpt. The book will be released in July.

There’s a reason why Jack Kirby, co-creator of such iconic comics characters as the Fantastic Four, Black Panther, and Captain America, is called the “King of Comics.” Considered one of the great innovators in the history of American comics, Jack Kirby (1917-1994) is arguably the greatest superhero comic book artist of all time. 

In the new graphic biography, Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics, comics artist and biographer Tom Scioli pays tribute to Kirby in a vividly illustrated and comprehensively researched examination of Kirby’s life and career from his rough and tumble childhood growing up on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 20th century to his military service in WWII to the transformative comics he created for Marvel and later for DC Comics…. 

(11) SACKY HACK. This is real thinking outside the box.

(12) MARCH OF TIME. At the LA Review of Books, Aleida Rodriguez’s autobiographical essay “Time Machine”, in addition to Wells and Borges, even mentions Clyde Crashcup from the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.

WHEN I LANDED in the US as a child of nine, I felt I had not only traveled in space but also in time. Though it was 1962, behind me lay a 19th-century world of oil lamps, muddy rutted roads, and horse-drawn carts, while before me flickered a vision so sleek and modern there were no shadows and bright-green lawns sprouted cones of mist.

Time traveler became my invisible identity. Secretly, I searched for mentors in movies like The Time Machine (1960), envying Rod Taylor his ability to go back and forth, to witness and control the passage of time. Propelled and buoyed by a utopian vision of the future, he set off, watching the rising hemline on a mannequin in a shop window, then the shop itself disintegrating to dust in an instant, the surrounding buildings crumbling and disappearing, replaced by insect-like cranes scampering on skyscrapers. His present had succumbed to shattered shards. But by moving a crystal-topped lever sharpened to a point like a pen, he could also reverse direction and return to his intact and cloistered world of waistcoats.

I yearned for that, a trip back — not to Bountiful but to a prelapsarian time, before the rupture in my family caused by the Cuban revolution….

(13) X FACTOR. BBC has a picture of a “Breathtaking new map of the X-ray Universe”.

Behold the hot, energetic Universe.

A German-Russian space telescope has just acquired a breakthrough map of the sky that traces the heavens in X-rays.

The image records a lot of the violent action in the cosmos – instances where matter is being accelerated, heated and shredded.

Feasting black holes, exploding stars, and searingly hot gas.

The data comes from the eRosita instrument mounted on Spektr-RG.

This orbiting telescope was launched in July last year and despatched to an observing position some 1.5 million km from Earth. Once commissioned and declared fully operational in December, it was left to slowly rotate and scan the depths of space.

eRosita’s first all-sky data-set, represented in the image at the top of this page, was completed only last week. It records over a million sources of X-rays.

“That’s actually pretty much the same number as had been detected in the whole history of X-ray astronomy going back 60 years. We’ve basically doubled the known sources in just six months,” said Kirpal Nandra, who heads the high-energy astrophysics group at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching, Germany.

(14) QUARANTINE CAT FILM FESTIVAL. This looks promising!

The most purr-fect, a-meow-zing, and totally fur-tastic cat videos anyone has ever seen!

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

Pixel Scroll 8/28/17 This Little Pixel Went To Market

(1) PROFESSOR JOSHI HEARD FROM AGAIN. Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, who has repeatedly attacked World Fantasy Award board member Ellen Datlow since the board decided to replace the Lovecraft award statuette, recently climbed aboard his hobby horse to complain about Datlow being named a guest of a Lovecraft-themed convention

August 22, 2017 — NecronomiCon, R.I.P.

Once upon a time there was a convention devoted to H. P. Lovecraft named NecronomiCon Providence. It was run by a well-meaning but somewhat weak-willed individual (rather reminiscent of Edward Derby in “The Thing on the Doorstep”) named Niels Hobbs. The initial conventon of 2013 was a wondrous event that left all participants and attendees feeling good about the state of Lovecraft studies and of Lovecraft’s recognition in the wider literary community. The convention of 2015 was generally successful but had some awkward moments.

By the time the 2017 convention was in the planning stages, trouble was brewing. Specifically, it appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been captured (and, indeed, rather willingly) by the forces of political correctness, so that the focus became less on Lovecraft himself and more on those aspects of weird fiction that those horrible dead white males had evilly suppressed. (It is not entirely clear how this suppression occurred, but let that pass.) And it also appeared that Mr. Hobbs had been swayed by various forces hostile to Lovecraft in the initial stages of programming.

Consider the naming of the redoubtable Ellen Datlow as a special guest. Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence….

…There must be something wrong with a Lovecraft convention that has alienated the two figures—Robert M. Price and myself—who, over the past forty years, have done more to promote Lovecraft scholarship than any individuals on the planet. (I hardly need remark that, with the notable exception of Sam Gafford, no member of the NecronomiCon convention committee has made the slightest contribution to Lovecraft studies.)

And today he posted a roundabout defense of Lovecraft’s racism:

August 28, 2017 — Real and Fake Liberalism

I am a far-left liberal. Especially in the wake of the ongoing nightmare of the Trump administration, I have been speaking out loud and clear about the multifarious derelictions of conservatives and Republicans of all stripes…

What I do not do is launch furious attacks on H. P. Lovecraft for his racism. Of course he was a racist; everyone knows that. But I fail to see what good it does to attack him for this admitted failing at this late date. He has been dead for nearly three-quarters of a century; what is more, his views had no influence on the culture of his own time, or even on his small cadre of friends, colleagues, and correspondents. Indeed, it is telling that Frank Belknap Long, who met Lovecraft on an almost daily basis during his years in New York (1924–26) and frequently in later years, has testified that “during all of those talks on long walks through the streets of New York and Providence, I never once heard him utter a derogatory remark about any member of a minority group who passed him on the street or had occasion to engage him in conversation”—an inexplicable circumstance if one believes that Lovecraft was “obsessed” with the issue of race.

It is easy to condemn Lovecraft as a racist; it gives one a momentary feeling of self-righteous virtue and superiority. But it accomplishes nothing. It does nothing to combat the racism that we increasingly see in our midst today. If this is all you can do, you are indulging in fake liberalism…..

You can see the full text of all these posts by clicking the links. (Note: Joshi’s blog does not assign URLs to separate entries, they’re all under “News.”)

(2) DATLOW RESPONDS. Yesterday, Ellen Datlow went on Facebook and posted a rebuttal against Joshi’s effort to blame her for replacing Lovecraft on the award.

I loathe getting involved in mud-slinging so am posting this with some trepidation.

S.T. Joshi is apparently outraged at my being a GOH at Necronomicon and at my editing anthologies of Lovecraftian fiction. This is why -and I quote this from his blog:

“Now it is well known—and Mr. Hobbs should certainly have known it—that Ms. Datlow was instrumental in removing the Lovecraft bust as the emblem of the World Fantasy Awards, an act that would strike any fair-minded person as one that denotes a certain animus against the dreamer from Providence.”

Facts: I am one of the entire board of the World Fantasy Convention who made the decision to change the physical award from the bust of H.P. Lovecraft to a new physical image. The late David Hartwell brought the issue to the board and we unanimously agreed it was time to retire Gahan Wilson’s amazing (in my opinion) piece of art. I was no more instrumental than any other member of the board…..

(3) NOT EMPLOYEES. The class action lawsuit claiming that Magic: The Gathering judges should be classified as employees and retroactively paid was dismissed. “Judge tosses case brought by Magic: the Gathering judge who wants to be paid”Ars Technica has the story.

A federal judge in California has dismissed a proposed class-action labor lawsuit brought in late 2015 by a man who says that he has now worked for more than 20 years as a “judge” in Magic: the Gathering tournaments and demands to be paid.

In the court ruling, which was issued Wednesday, US District Judge Edward Davila sided with the defendant, Wizards of the Coast. The judge noted that, while Paul Yale’s years of experience to master all of the details of the popular card game and to become certified as a tournament arbiter takes time and extensive knowledge, “the complaint makes clear that Defendant’s program is purely voluntary and could be abandoned at any time.”

(4) AMA FOR JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin will guest on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything feature on August 30.

(5) UNEXPECTED FINDS. These science history documents at Harvard had been lost, then found, and now have been found again: “A team of women is unearthing the forgotten legacy of Harvard’s women ‘computers’”.

Between 1885 and 1927, the observatory employed about 80 women who studied glass plate photographs of the stars, many of whom made major discoveries. They found galaxies and nebulas and created methods to measure distance in space. In the late 1800s, they were famous: newspapers wrote about them and they published scientific papers under their own names, only to be virtually forgotten during the next century. But a recent discovery of thousands of pages of their calculations by a modern group of women working in the very same space has spurred new interest in their legacy.

Surrounded by steel cabinets stuffed with hundreds of thousands of plate glass photographs of the sky, curator Lindsay Smith Zrull shows off the best of the collection.

“I have initials but I have not yet identified whose initials these are,” Smith Zrull says, pointing at a paper-sized glass plate crowded with notes taken in four different colors. “One of these days, I’m going to figure out who M.E.M. is.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 28, 1845Scientific American first published.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS & GIRLS

  • Born August 28, 1899 – Cinematographer James Wong Howe. (A long-time friend of Ray Bradbury’s. His wife, Sanora Babb, was an original member of Ray’s writing group.)
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance
  • Born August 28, 1917 – Jack Kirby
  • Born August 28, 1948 – Vonda McIntyre
  • Born August 28, 1951 – Barbara Hambly

(8) PIXAR EXHIBIT. The Science Behind Pixar is now open at the Science Museum of Minnesota and TELUS World of Science – Edmonton.

The Science Behind Pixar is a 13,000 square foot exhibition touring two copies — one nationally, and one internationally. It was created by the Museum of Science, Boston, in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios. This website features some of the activities, videos, and images from the exhibition that describe the math, computer science, and science that go into making computer animated films.

 

(9) ILLUMINATING THOUGHT. Io9 contends The Defenders’ Best Storytelling Trick Doesn’t Use Any Words at All”.

There are a handful of ways that The Defenders openly nods to its comic book roots, like pairing up somewhat random characters like Karen and Trish for no reason other than to have scenes featuring them together or having certain people like Misty make uncharacteristic decisions just to drive the plot forward. Of all the comic book-y narrative and aesthetic conventions that are used, the one that stands out most strikingly is the show’s lighting and use of color.

(10) LEEPER FILM REVIEW. At SFCrowsnest, “Anti-Matter (aka Wormholes) (2017) : a film review by Mark R. Leeper”.

CAPSULE: Quantum teleportation may have side effects. This film is like a Whitman Sampler of cutting edge physics ideas packed into a Science Fiction mystery. ‘Anti-Matter’ is very much auteur Science Fiction. Newcomer Keir Burrows writes and directs based on his own story. This is a film that could well earn a cult following. There is little visual flash to the story but it is an accomplished technical mystery. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

(11) FORBIDDING PLANETS. Nerds of a Feather’s Vance K is a great admirer of the film made to capitalize on people’s love of Robby the Robot. His writeup, “Microreview [film]: The Invisible Boy”, includes a satirical reconstruction of the producer’s dialogue with screenwriter Cyril Hume.

PROD: Right. Listen, baby. This Forbidden Planet, it’s a humdinger. It’s doing gangbusters. We need a sequel, ready to shoot, right away.

CH: I told you a science fiction version of Shakespeare’s Tempest would work.

PROD: Whatever, whatever. This Shakespeare guy, friend of yours? If he’s got other ideas, great. But listen, we need another movie with Robby the Robot, right now. Like, yesterday. Something real…science fiction-y. For the, uh, for the geeks and stuff.

CH: Yeah, that’s great. Making a film on such a huge canvas was fantastic. We could explore other worlds…maybe on their way back to Earth…

PROD: You kidding me? No, they’re on Earth. Jesus, that fake planet cost me a fortune. And black-and-white. Color film was a nightmare. I chewed through three pillows in my sleep just from seeing the lab bills.

CH: So…a black-and-white sequel, on Earth, to a Technicolor space tragedy that takes place 300 years in the future?

PROD: On the nose, baby! And present-day. No space cities, or future science, or none of that. Just put the robot in it.

(12) DRONES ALOFT. Jess Miller goes through all the steps: “How to Fly a Drone – The Ultimate Guide”.

Whether it’s amateur racing or professional photography, drones can now do plenty of stuff. They can even move things from place to place.

If you’ve got one and you don’t know how to fly it yet, don’t despair – flying a drone isn’t rocket science.

It’s not exactly a walk in the park, either.

The thing is, with a little bit of determination and practice, you’ll soon get the hang of flying your drone.

We’re here to help you with that.

(13) AMERISPLAINING. Caroline Mersey feels Worldcon suffers in comparison with Nine Worlds: “A Tale of Two Cons: Nine Worlds 2017 and WorldCon 75”.

The panels themselves felt short – 45 minutes compared to the hour, hour and a quarter of Nine Worlds.  This meant they never really got beyond scratching the surface of a topic.  Panellists rarely got to speak more than twice during a discussion.  And some of them felt either poorly organised or poorly moderated – with panellists unsure why they had been selected for a particular panel, or with moderators taking a wildly different interpretation of the brief than appeared in the programme.

That sounds like I’m being harsh, and I guess I am.  But that didn’t stop it being an amazing event and an opportunity to meet and hear from people I don’t normally get to encounter in the UK.  But what really made the event was the awesome crowd of people I met and hung out with over the five days of the event, swapping ideas for panels and badge ribbons.

In two years’ time WorldCon will be in Dublin.  There’s a huge buzz about it already, and I’ve bought my membership.  I can feel in my water that it will be another big event.  Hopefully there will be a bit more sensitivity when it comes to some of the cultural issues (I can’t say I’m looking forward to having Irish history mansplained at me by Americans – I fear there will be some crashing insensitivity displayed, but it will at least highlight the difference between Irishness and the wholly separate identity of being Irish-American).

(14) ROCKET STACK RANK GOES TO THE WORLDCON. Greg Hullender posted his “WorldCon 75 Takeaways”.

Meeting People

Last year, at MidAmeriCon II, we gave away a lot of ribbons, but almost no one had ever heard of us. This year, almost half the people we spoke to at least had a vague idea who we were. A couple of authors told me that they knew who we were because whenever they searched on Google for the title of their stories, RSR’s review came up first, so our SEO strategy seems to be working. Because I had a bad cold the entire time, we didn’t do the Stroll with the Stars events nor did we attend any parties other than a brief appearance at the Hugo Losers’ Party, opting to go home early and sleep. We did attend the File770 events, and enjoyed meeting people we’d only ever seen online.

Greg has solid, more detailed analysis of several business meeting and program items that interested him.

(15) WITH BOOKMONSTER. Selenay tells “What I did on my vacation: Worldcon edition”.

Worldcons aren’t for everyone, but I’ve loved both the ones I’ve been to. Spending several days talking about nerd stuff, seeing other people get excited about the same things I am, is a fantastic experience. I’ve returned with new ideas, new plot bunnies, and new lists of things to read and watch. I got to meet people I’ve only talked to online before. I got to see old friends. It was everything I wanted it to be and that’s really the best anyone can hope for out of a Worldcon.

(16) FIFTY-FIFTY. Theodore Logan and family attended the con together — “Hugo Awards”

At 12:00 I took Calvin and Julian to a kids’ meet-and-greet with American astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew on a recent ISS mission. He set up a slide show of pictures of Earth from space, talked about being in space, and answered questions from the kids in the audience. (I was surprised that no one asked about managing human waste in low earth orbit. When Calvin raised his hand I gave it a 50/50 chance that he was going to ask, but he asked something else.) Most of the kids in the audience were Finnish (and some required simultaneous translations from their parents). According to the membership statistics, there were only 19 child memberships from the US (and only 10 kid-in-tow memberships for kids under 6 like Julian). Half of the total child members were from Finland, explaining why they were well represented at the childrens’ programming track.

(17) WORLDCON CHAIRS PHOTO. From Kevin Standlee’s Flickr archive:

Worldcon Chairs 2017 (15)

(18) FANTASY MAPS. Paul Weimer joins the fray in: “Not the Territory: In defense of (Good) SFF Maps”

There have been a slate of articles lately about maps in fantasy. Alex Acks has talked about the terrible geology in Tolkien’s Middle Earth Map and then gone on to tell why they aren’t a fan of fantasy maps in general. Adrian Daub has talked about his love of maps, but the problems of Eurocentric maps. There are others, some of whom have been gathered by Camestros Felapton.

We’re at the point in the cycle where a defense of the form, of countering the arguments put forth, and by gum, as an amateur cartographer in my own right, I am the person to do so. It might be facile to hashtag #notallmaps, but, really, not every map is a geologic mess, not every map is a Eurocentric western ocean oriented map, with an eastern blend into problematic oriental racial types. Not every map has borders which strictly follow natural barriers and does not have the messy irregularity that real world maps and borders have.

(19) POSTER GIRL. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna profiles Roz Chast, who designed the poster for this year’s National Book Festival: “Roz Chast writes — and draws — a love letter to New York”.

In April 1978, at age 23, she dropped off her cartoon portfolio at the New Yorker offices on a whim. “I had no hope of selling a cartoon to them because my stuff didn’t look anything like the stuff they ran, but they used cartoons, so why not?” she recounts. “To my shock, I sold a cartoon to the New Yorker. [Comics editor] Lee Lorenz was extremely supportive and encouraging. I remember he told me that [editor William] Shawn really liked my work. I had no idea who he was talking about, but it sounded like a good thing, so I nodded appreciatively.”

[Thanks to John Hertz, Marc Criley, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, and Stuart Gale for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]