Pixel Scroll 9/5/20 Astronauts In The Weightlessness Of Pixelated Space

(1) BSFS MAKES GRANT TO 2020 WORLD FANTASY CON. The membership of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society has granted $1000 to the 2020 World Fantasy Convention, Salt Lake City, Utah, which will be held virtually this year.

The grant may be used to defray any of the considerable fixed expenses that are required to hold the annual event, which awards the prestigious World Fantasy Awards to the best Fantasy or Dark Fantasy works published in the previous year.

The 2020 World Fantasy Convention will be held virtually, October 19 – November 1.

More information about the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) can be found here.

(2) HORROR IN EVERYDAY LIFE. Shiv Ramdas livetweeted a family crisis he was following by phone. Thread starts here. (Since it already had 69K retweets and almost 300K likes by the time I saw it, you’ve probably already read it!)

(3) INCONCEIVABLE. Rolling Stone reports “‘The Princess Bride’ Cast to Reunite for Virtual Table Read” as a political fundraiser.

The cast of the beloved comedy The Princess Bride will reunite for a one-night-only virtual table read to raise money for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

“A Virtual Princess Bride Reunion” will features original cast members Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane, the film’s director Rob Reiner and “special guests.” In addition to the table read, the reunited cast will partake in a virtual Q&A moderated by Patton Oswalt.

The virtual table read will livestream only once, on September 13th at 6 p.m. CST. Fans of the film can RSVP at Act Blue to watch the livestream. “Anything you donate will be used to ensure that Trump loses Wisconsin, and thereby the White House,” organizers promise; both Elwes and Reiner have been vocal in their criticism of Donald Trump on social media.

(4) CANON FIRE. Chris Nuttall, in “Some Thoughts On The SF Canons” at Amazing Stories, offers his own outlook on genre history.

…Second, the average writer in the early era worked under a set of very harsh restrictions. There were lots of issues that were taboo, from sex and mating to race and racism; there were morality clauses in contracts that could and would be enforced if the writer stepped too far out of line. Heinlein, for example, wrote coloured characters … but he had to give himself plausible deniability He did this so well in one book – Tunnel in the Sky – that he managed to raise suspicions of miscegenation instead. By modern standards, this is insane as well as stupid. But we’re talking about an era that was worried about Mr. Spock’s ears!

Third, the average writer did not know where technology was going. They made a lot of guesses and got some things right, but they also got a lot of things wrong. Heinlein’s predictions regarding computer development, for example, were absurd. He assumed a lot of easy things would be very hard, if not impossible, and vice versa. Asimov’s predictions were even worse, to the point he has wood-burning stoves co-existing with atomic power plants and FTL drives.

Fourth, the average writer lived in a far more limited world. There was both relatively little awareness of other cultures and a certain sense that the Anglo-American way was the best. It isn’t until fairly recently, thanks to the internet, that we have really become aware of alternatives. They drew on their awareness of the world to shape their future worlds, hence the number of very traditional societies in fantastic worlds….

However, it seems unclear why 20th Century sff writers would be unaware of alternatives that Wilberforce, Lincoln, and Susan B. Anthony already knew about in the 19th Century. In fact, they probably weren’t unaware of them. It’s hard not to simply enjoy the status quo when it works in your favor.

(5) THE RETURN OF HYPER COMICS. A book-length collection of Steve Stiles’ Hyper Comics, in the works when he died earlier this year, was released in August. One of the places it can be ordered is Barnes and Noble.

The last project of legendary underground cartoonist and Hugo Award-winner Steve Stiles, who passed away in 2020, is a September release from Thintwhistle Books, a company formed by Steve’s widow, Elaine Stiles. 

Packed with more than 150 pages of Steve’s classic work from Hyper Comics, Heavy Metal, Stardate, and a host of other publications, it’s an essential part of any cartoon collector’s library !

Krupp Comic Works founder Denis Kitchen called Steve “one of the funniest and cleverest goddamn cartoonists on the planet.” Mark Schultz said of Steve’s back-up stories in Xenozoic Tales, “It was a joy to collaborate with him – if he made any adjustments to my scripts they were invariably improvements.” Heavy Metal editor Ted White called Steve’s contributions to the magazine “Phil-Dickian in their SF surrealism, wicked in their observations, and Firesign Theatre-like in their mocking details.” 

In The Return of Hyper Comics, you’ll thrill to the adventures of Jim Baxter, Marijuana Detective. You’ll share Steve’s nightmares as he meets Nixon and Trump. You’ll smile along with Mr. Smile when he accidentally kills a girl he is trying to save. “If only I could stop smiling,” he says. You’ll get an advance look at next month’s QAnon conspiracy when Steve reveals, “Joe Stalin Tells Me What to Draw!” And you’ll barf as Steve’s first orgy ends with tainted oysters and a group emergency room visit. 

Steve had a particular genius for chronicling life’s humiliating moments, and fortunately for his fans, Steve had enough humiliating moments in his life to fill volumes. He stands up to fellow students after one of them writes a racist insult on the blackboard, and in revenge they finger him as the culprit. A dealer spikes Steve’s coffee with LSD, leaving him on a bicycle in Queens in rush hour. But through it all, Steve faces life’s traumas with self-mocking humor and a core of optimism that nothing manages to quite extinguish. 

The Return of Hyper Comics is 150 pages of wicked social satire, bizarre sex, science fiction, violence, drugs, and personal humiliation, all with brilliant art by a master cartoonist. Thintwhistle Books disclaims responsibility for damage resulting from excessive laughter.

(6) RADIO REENACTMENT. “Daniel Dae Kim to Lead All-Star Recreation of ‘The Adventures of Superman’ 1940s Radio Serial”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

Daniel Dae Kim will lead an all-star cast in a recreation of the original “The Adventures of Superman” radio serial during the second installment of DC FanDome, Warner Bros. announced Friday.

Kim is one of three actors who will voice Superman in the one-hour production, which is being produced using original scripts recently found in Warner Bros. archives. The event is being held in support of The Creative Coalition, a Hollywood nonprofit that aims to address entertainment industry issues as well as urgent social issues.

Joining Kim as Superman in the production is Wilson Cruz (“Star Trek: Discovery”) and current Creative Coalition president Tim Daly (“Madam Secretary’)….

The performance of “The Adventures of Superman” will be available beginning on demand for 24 hours beginning Sept. 12 at 10:00 AM as part of DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse, the second installment of the successful virtual Comic-Con alternative, which debuted in August. The event can be accessed at DCFanDome.com.

(7) NICHOLS MACIOROWSKI DIES. Influential animation visual development and story artist Sue Nichols Maciorowski died on September 1 at the age of 55 reports Animation Magazine.

The family obituary notes:

Sue graduated from California Institute of Arts with a visual animation degree in 1987. There she was part of a team that won an Emmy for work on The Muppet Babies. After graduation, Sue worked for Jim Henson on The Muppet Babies, Marvel production, and taught classes at CalArts. She then started her long career with Disney Studios working on animation films where she was best known for her expertise in character development. A few of her favorite works that she contributed to were Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, and the Princess and the Frog. More information on her career may be found on her website, Mothernichols.com.

Disney tweeted its own tribute. Thread starts here.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 5, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s “Seeing-Eye Surgeon” –

Does Doctor Xenon really exist? I don’t know. For that matter, do we three standing in this room really exist? Who knows? The real and the unreal. Where does one stop and the other begin. Maybe we’re just a figment or product of someone else’s fevered imagination. Someone from another world perhaps. — Doctor Bob Tyrell

On this day in 1952, Tales of Tomorrow first aired “Seeing-Eye Surgeon” which is the only SF credits for co-writers Michael Blair and Ed Dooley. The cast was  Bruce Cabot as surgeon Bob Tyrell, Constance Towers as Martha Larson,  Edwin Jerome                as Doctor Foyle and Joseph Holland as the possibly mythical Doctor Xenon. Towers would later be in  episodes of The Outer LimitsThe 4400 and Deep Space Nine. You can see it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 5, 1774 – Caspar Friedrich.   Leading Romantic painter; known for great landscapes with human presence small.  Here is a Frankenstein using CF’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Foghere is another using The Sea of Icehere is another using Cromlech in the Snow.  Here is a Dracula using Man and Woman Contemplating the Moon.  (Died 1840) [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1913 – Sheilah Beckett.  Illustrated seventy fairy-tale titles for Little Golden Books.  First woman illustrator at the Charles E. Cooper studio, N.Y.  Commercial work e.g. Necco Wafers, Whitman’s Chocolates, but preferred children’s books and Christmas cards.  Lived to be 100.  Here is a cover for Rapunzel.  Here is an interior for Sleeping Beauty.  Here is Jane Werner’s retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  Here is an interior from John Fowles’ retelling of Cinderella.  Here is a book of Beauty and the Beast stickers.  Here is Lowell Baird’s translation of Candide.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1921 Paul L. Payne. He edited both Jungle Stories (three years in the Forties) and the better known Planet Stories (five years in the same period) but there’s very little on him on the web. ISFDB notes that he wrote one novel for us, The Cructars Are Coming, which is available in an Armchair Fiction print edition along with Frank Belknap Long’s Made to Order novel. (Died 1993.) (CE) 
  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played a series of androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as police women in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. They only acted for three years and every appearance but one was with the other. (Died 2009 and 2005, respectively.) (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1936 —Joseph A. Smith, 84.  Two dozen covers, half a dozen interiors for us; many others.  Here is Hercules in his lion’s skin.  Here is The Adventures of King Midas (look at the rock!).  Here is Stopping for a Spell and here is Year of the Griffin.  Here is Witches.  Here is Gregor Mendel.  Here is Circus Train.  [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 81. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which I’m sure I’ve seen if I’ve completely forgotten it now. His turn as Bond was the shortest among the actors in the film franchise and he is the only Bond actor not to appear beyond a single film. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was also a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. (CE) 
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 80. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though she made One Million Years B.C. thatwith her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy. (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1953  – Paul Stinson, 67.  Seventy covers, a few interiors, for us; more for commercial clients.  Here is Jesus on MarsHere is Gunn’s Road to SF vol. 2.  Here is the first issue of Beyond.  Here is Ice Hunt.  Here is Pillars of Salt.  [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1959 Carolyne Larrington, 61. Norse history and culture academic who’s the author of The Land of the Green Man: A Journey Through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles and Winter is Coming: The Medieval World of Game of Thrones. She also wrote “Norse gods make a comeback thanks to Neil Gaiman – here’s why their appeal endures” for The Conversation. (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 56. Scriptwriter who written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series whichJodie Whittaker and Alex Kingston appeared in. He also wrote the Mind Shadows strip which was featured on the Who website. (CE)
  • Born September 5, 1964 – Olga Dugina, 56.  Teacher, illustrator (sometimes with Andrej Dugin).  Here is an image from The Three Orangeshere is another.  Here is Dragon Feathers.  Here is an interior from The Adventures of Abdi (Brazilian ed’n; text shown is in Portuguese).  Here is one from The Brave Little Tailor.  [JH]
  • Born September 5, 1981 – Dina Djabieva, 39.  Three images in Star*Line vol. 36 no. 2, cover for vol. 36 no. 3.  Here is “Pan”.  Here is “Warrior Monk”.  Here is “Elysium”.  Here is “The Maiden”.  She says, “I find myself living between two worlds, the dreaming and the waking.  Too often I am not able to distinguish between the two.”  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld on the possibilities of sci-fi (in The Guardian).
  • Another Tom Gauld sff cartoon —

(11) INSIDE COMICS. The Numlock News’ Walt Hickey interviews a comics industry expert: “Numlock Sunday: John Jackson Miller on the comic book shutdown”.

You alluded to this a little bit, but one thing that’s so interesting about this particular industry is there are two very large well-capitalized companies and then several other smaller companies producing the core product. Then there’s one middleman. And then there’s zillions of tiny little mom and pops. And as a result, the one middleman was able to functionally shut everything down.

Most responsible retailers in the business saw that this needed to happen because we could not have stuff being shipped that couldn’t be sold. The bills would keep mounting up. The problem simply is that this is a system where it expects that there’s cashflow coming in constantly. Diamond was in a situation where they needed to try to pay off their suppliers for the books that they had already sold, and they knew that there was not going to be any more money coming in at the same time. Diamond did get a credit line with Chase, Steve Geppi has said this is not going to be a problem going forward.

But there are many different kinds of comic shops. There are many that focus on graphic novels, and they’re much more insulated against these problems, because the graphic novels have continued shipping from other other distributors outside the comics industry like Random House. There are stores that have games or toys or something else like that they’re also doing.

Then, of course, let’s say you’re a pure comic shop, that means you probably also have a back issue section and many have a mail order, online stores or eBay stores, and there’s over 10 billion comic books already in existence so not having the new ones for a few weeks, you know, that’s not that big a deal.

But there are some shops, they’re suburban in nature, they tend to be more superhero-centric stores and those are the people that are more concerned about a disruption to the habitual nature of comics reading. My response to that would be, “yeah, but is the comics habit going to break any faster than the professional basketball watching habit will break, or the movie-going habit will break?” I think when you have every alternative also shutting down, you’re less likely to have people respond to this as, “the comics, they’ve left me, they’ve abandoned me.” No, it’s that the comet has struck, and we’re all going to just catch our breath here for a while, and we’re going to try to figure out how to restart this thing.

I’ve used the metaphor of Apollo 13 that they have to bring these systems up one at a time, systems that were never designed to shut down.

(12) NE$$IE. And now that you’ve finished that business survey, InsideHook hopes you want to know “How Much Does the Loch Ness Monster Boost Scotland’s Economy?”

When the effect of tourist attractions on local economies comes to mind, what are some of the first places one can think of? Historical sites, perhaps, or cultural events. But what happens when the thing that helps drive a local economy might not exist at all?

This isn’t a brain-teaser or a deep dive into epistemological thinking; instead, it’s a precursor to the way the Loch Ness Monster hosted the Scottish economy. Which, it turns out, is by a lot. A new article by Michele Debczak at Mental Floss delves into the way one of the world’s most famous cryptids has helped shape the local economy in Scotland. Nessie might not be real, but its impact certainly is.

How much of an impact is there on Scotland’s economy? According to a study commissioned by accountant and Loch Ness Monster fan club founder Gary Campbell, the economic boost of Nessie tourism heads into the 8 figures.

(13) RADIO FREE DRACULA. The University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players will be doing a five-part radio play adaptation of Dracula. Hear a member of the company speak about “Dracula: About the Project” at Soudcloud.

A free audio presentation by the Resident Ensemble Players, in partnership with WVUD 91.3 FM.

Much more than just a gothic horror story, DRACULA is a love story, a mystery, and a globe-trotting adventure tale. The REP partners with radio station WVUD for a free, five-episode audio drama of this classic to be presented every Friday night in October.

Beginning in the forbidding mountains of Transylvania, a mysterious night-stalking beast entraps and seduces his way to England in search of new blood. A group of colleagues and companions unearth the horrible secrets of this life-sucking creature as they launch a heart-pounding chase across Europe, only to find themselves in the fight for their lives to save both themselves and the ones they love.

WVUD will broadcast/stream DRACULA in October on Friday nights at 7:00 PM:

  • Oct. 2, 7:00 PM — Episode 1: Listen, What Sweet Music 
  • Oct. 9, 7:00 PM — Episode 2: The Coming Storm
  • Oct. 16, 7:00 PM — Episode 3: Of Nature and Supernature 
  • Oct. 23, 7:00 PM — Episode 4: Master and Servant 
  • Oct. 30, 7:00 PM — Episode 5: Chasing Nightfall

Listeners can tune into WVUD’s Friday night broadcasts on 91.3 FM on radio or stream from computer or digital devices at http://www.wvud.org/

(14) NO DEPOSIT, NO RETURN OF THE KING. GameSpot recommends you use your Labor Day Weekend free time studying this extra-long list: “Lord Of The Rings Rewind: 49 Things You Didn’t Know About The Return Of The King”. Lots of things I didn’t know here.

11. This elf is an in-joke

The elf who tells Arwen that she “cannot delay” her journey to the Undying Lands was played by Bret McKenzie, who subsequently became famous as half of musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, alongside Jemaine Clement. McKenzie very briefly appeared in Fellowship of the Ring, and his character became known as Figwit among admiring fans–an acronym for “Frodo is great… who is THAT?” Jackson decided to put him in Return of the Ring and give him some dialogue “just for fun for the fans.”

(15) MEDIA TIE-IN. Who knew there was Forbidden Planet merch out there? A buddy of John King Tarpinian’s stopped off at the Walmart in Bakersfield for supplies on his way to the Sequoias found this on the shelves —

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Double King” on YouTube is a 2017 film by Australian animator Felix Colgrave about a murderous monarch that has been viewed 42 million times but has never shown up on File 770! (Although I don’t think there’s a rule that it has to.)

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

Pixel Scroll 8/7/20 I Saw The Thing Comin’ Out Of The Sky, It Had The One Long File, One Big Eye

(1) WISH YOU WERE HERE. NASA unveiled “8 Martian Postcards to Celebrate Curiosity’s Landing Anniversary”.

Two sizes of wind-sculpted ripples are evident in this view of the top surface of a Martian sand dune. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth. The larger ripples — roughly 10 feet (3 meters) apart — are a type not seen on Earth nor previously recognized as a distinct type on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has seen a lot since Aug. 5, 2012, when it first set its wheels inside the 96-mile-wide (154-kilometer-wide) basin of Gale Crater. Its mission: to study whether Mars had the water, chemical building blocks, and energy sources that may have supported microbial life billions of years ago.

Curiosity has since journeyed more than 14 miles (23 kilometers), drilling 26 rock samples and scooping six soil samples along the way as it revealed that ancient Mars was indeed suitable for life. Studying the textures and compositions of ancient rock strata is helping scientists piece together how the Martian climate changed over time, losing its lakes and streams until it became the cold desert it is today.

(2) MEET R.F. KUANG. Andrea Johnson notes she did this Nerds of a Feather  Q&A, “Interview: R.F. Kuang, author of The Burning God”, before Kuang won the 2020 Astounding Award. Still plenty to interest readers here.

NOAF: When you first started outlining and writing The Poppy War, did you know how the trilogy would end?

R.F. Kuang: Yes, I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. I always come up with the ending first. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter, but I can’t get started on a story unless I know where it’s all going; I need to give some direction to the story engine. I’ve been picturing the final scene in my mind for years and years, so it’s a relief to finally get it down on paper. So yes, I actually always conceived of The Poppy War as just the prequel material to the stuff I really wanted to write.

(3) WFC POC. World Fantasy Con, which will take place online October 29-November 1, is taking applications as well as donations for People of Color sponsored memberships.

In early June, WFC 2020 launched an initiative to help ensure that our convention is inclusive and that our program encompasses the diverse cultures and peoples that enrich the literature and art of fantasy and horror. Thanks to donations from many of our members and our sponsors, we have been able to sponsor attending memberships for twenty-eight people of color – so far. This initiative will continue until registration closes in late October. To donate to this fund, or to apply for a sponsored membership, visit this page on our website.
 
WFC 2020 operates under the auspices of Utah Fandom Organization, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Your donation may be tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.

(4) EDITS4BLACKSFF. “Diana M. Pho Announces the #Edits4BlackSFF Project, Which Offers Free Editorial Services to Black Speculative Writers”Tor.com has the story. Application details at the the project link.

Three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor Diana M. Pho has announced a new project dedicated to helping Black speculative fiction novelists get traditionally published. Entitled #Edits4BlackSFF, the project will select nine finalists for a free query letter review and 10-page line edit of their manuscript(s), with the winner receiving both a free developmental edit and consideration for representation from a pool of 8 literary agents.

(5) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM. John Scalzi’s “Oh, Christ, Not the Science Fiction Canon Again” actually has no theological content at all.

Ugh, we’re talking about the “canon” of science fiction literature, again, for reasons (most imminently the recent Hugo award ceremony and its fallout), and whether, basically, newer writers and readers should and must slog through a bunch of books in the genre that are now half a century old at least, from a bunch of mostly male, mostly white, mostly straight writers who are, shall we say, not necessarily speaking to the moment.

I’ve essayed this before, because I’m me, but here’s my newest set of thoughts on the matter, also because I’m me. Ready? Here we go:

As a practical matter, the science fiction “canon” is already dead….

(6) CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Camestros Felapton offered his take on things in “Canon and Campbell”. I looked at this excerpt and asked myself, “What more needs be said?” And yet, Camestros thought of something.

…On the first point I’d cite Chuck Tingle’s Space Raptor Butt Invasion, which has canonical qualities to it but which is also a shining example of something that is not required reading….

(7) STAMPS AFOOT. The Royal Mail will issue new Sherlock stamps on August 16 with secret messages embedded. What those messages are is displayed at the top of this Design Week article: “Royal Mail’s Sherlock Holmes stamps contain ‘secret messages’”.

…So founder Steve Haskin tells Design Week that designing the stamps was a “labour of love”. The stamps are based on fans’ most popular episodes, from the series premiere A Study in Pink to the series two cliff-hanger The Reichenbach Fall. Taking into account the global Sherlock Holmes fanbase, and its attention to detail, the studio pored over episodes to extract the “minutest moments” from Sherlock episodes.

Characters were taken from those episodes and placed in the foreground of the stamps, such as Irene Adler from the second series premiere A Scandal in Belgravia. These portraits had to be “strong” and “poignant” as they are focal point. “Special moments” were then illustrated using screengrabs and composed onto each stamp.

(8) KÜNSKEN STYX WITH IT. At the Hugo Book Club Blog, “Interview with Derek Künsken – Author of The House Of Styx”.

What was the main theme that you wanted to tackle in The House of Styx?

I was flying to the Nebulas conference, I think it was in 2013. I had already created all of the biology in the clouds of Venus, but I didn’t really have a story to tell with this. I had a sort of survival story, but something was missing. This was going on at the same time as some of the ‘reasonable accommodation’ debates were happening in Quebec — and I’m half-Quebecois myself.

So I was following the news and basically it was appalling to see some of the discourse around “how should Arab people integrate into Quebec.” It quite obviously came from a place of intolerance. Then I realized that the caustic intolerance that I was observing in society was a perfect metaphor for the sort of acidic environment of the clouds of Venus. And so I wrote that story, but there was so much more to it that — as soon as I had sold it to Analog — I realized I had another novel or two in me dealing with those kinds of characters, that kind of political setting and that kind of metaphorical environment.

(9) IN COUNTRY. Paste Magazine says Lovecraft Country’s Pulpy Call Is One Even Cthulhu Couldn’t Resist”.

Ranging from Chicago’s South Side (the show was partially shot in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood) to the eerie East Coast where Lovecraft’s tales haunted their hapless sailors and professors, Lovecraft Country tracks the cruel magicks of legacy while pointing out at every turn that its genre’s legacy is steeped in racism. Just because Lovecraft was a racist dickhead on a cosmic scale doesn’t mean Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) doesn’t love his brand of fiction. Tic and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) kick off the series on a Jim Crow-defying quest to find Atticus’ missing father (Michael K. Williams)—who’s off in search of their family’s secretive and spooky “birthright”—accompanied by Tic’s childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollet).

….[It] could be a magical universe that exists just under the surface of his own, but it’s certainly not an exciting call to adventure. It’s trouble. Why? Because he’s Black, and Blackness doesn’t mix well with America’s entrenched systems—even if they’re magical ones.

This simple twist works to deconstruct the more conventional aspects of the series. That doesn’t mean the show lacks convention: there’s always water rising or bridges collapsing or demons seducing or heroes smooching. If a magazine from the ‘50s featured it on the cover, you can bet it’ll be bolder and Blacker in Lovecraft Country.

(10) HOT ON THE TRAIL. Alexis Soloski’s not-uncritical but interesting piece on Lovecraft in today’s New York Times is made timely by the imminent premier of Lovecraft Country. “Gods, Monsters and H.P. Lovecraft’s Uncanny Legacy”.

…Broadly — and with plenty of exceptions — Lovecraft’s stories suggest huge and unfathomable horrors lurking just beneath the surface of the mundane world. Filled with miscegenation, tentacles and unspeakable dread, his works often begin with ordinary or ordinary-seeming men drawn into extraordinary and otherworldly situations. Almost no one gets out alive or sane. His brand of weird is gooey and misanthropic, with an insistence that the universe is at best indifferent to human life and at worst antagonistic.

To adapt a Lovecraft work is to reckon with a troubled and troubling legacy — blatant racism and sexual phobias blight much of his work. Still, he remains influential, with his sinister, squishy qualities still felt across media — television, film, fiction, comics, video games, role-playing games, visual art, plushies — and multiple genres. The stomach monster from “Alien”? Extremely Lovecraft. That giant squid from “Watchmen”? Lovecraft again. The devouring Shoggoths from the “Lovecraft Country” pilot? A squelching tip of the hat.

If you don’t know your Yog-Sothoth from your Shub-Niggarath — good! Run while you can! But if you hold your sanity lightly, here is a brief guide to the man, the monsters and the popular culture slime trail his works have left behind.

(11) SINCE TOLKIEN. “From Tolkien to Hungarian folklore: a brief history of Hungarian fantasy literature” in Daily News Hungary is an English-language article by Barbara Simon.

(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 7, 1940 — The Adventures Of Superman radio program aired “Taos: Pillar Of Fire At Graves End”. It starred Bud Collyer and Joan Alexander but the former was kept a secret from the audience for another six years. Based on the comic created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in 1938, Superman, it was thought that it would be better if the actor was more mysterious, so he was kept anonymous. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 7, 1871 – Abanindranth Tagore.  Writer, painter, bridger of Euro-American and Asian artwork.  Literary fame for Bengali stories as told to children.  Nephew of Rabindranath Tagore, helped clear RT’s road to the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Fantasy elements integral.  Brought Chinese and Japanese elements into his own graphics.  See hereherehereherehere.  On his Khirer Putul Wikipedia says “sugar doll”, the French translation has “cheese doll”, which both miss the metaphor of khir.  (Died 1951) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1903 Rudolf Ising. He was an early staffer to Walt Disney who left to create the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons at Warner.  He produced Hanna and Barbera’s first cartoon, Puss Gets the Boot, a cartoon featuring characters later known as Tom and Jerry. He was the first independent cartoon producer to win an Academy Award. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1928 – Milton Lesser.  For us eight novels, a hundred sixty stories, see hereherehere; letters in AmazingAstonishingFantasticPlanet.  Fictional memoirs of Cervantes, Columbus (won Prix Gutenberg du Livre), Goya, Poe.  Life Achievement Award from Private Eye Writers of America.  (Died 2008) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1933 – Jerry Pournelle, Ph.D.  Thirty novels, a dozen shorter stories, three dozen anthologies, many with co-authors; two hundred essays, letters, in AlgolThe Alien CriticDestiniesGalaxyOmniThe Patchin ReviewSF AgeSF ChronicleSF ReviewStarshipTrumpet; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish.  Lucifer’s Hammer and Footfall (with Larry Niven) on NY Times Best-Sellers list.  Seventh SFWA President (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America).  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Lifetime Achievement Award.  Aerospace.  Computer journalist.  Founding President of Pepperdine Research Institute.  We met for lunch and disagreed.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1936 Richard L. Tierney, 84. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art. Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 63. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated SeriesThe New Batman/Superman AdventuresBatman Beyond, and yes, Duck Dodgers and Tiny Toons as well. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan, Harley Quinn: Mad Love. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1957 – Lis Carey, 63.  Active Boston fan, faithful Filer.  Chair of Boskone 46.  Here she is at BucConeer (56th Worldcon) helping with the Bostando (Boston for Orlando) 2001 Worldcon bid (L to R. Suford Lewis, LC, Tim Roberge).  A few fiction and non-fiction books she’s read, her ranking higher to lower: Omar Bradley (by S. Ossad), Children of Blood & Bone (T. Adeyemi), Queens of Animation (N. Holt), The Last Emperox (J. Scalzi), The Once & Future King (T. White), The History of Bourbon (K. Albala; the drink, not France).  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 60. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 60. Obviously Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now has he done any other genre? Well, he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first-person shooter video game. (CE)
  • Born August 7, 1970 – Yû Godai, 50.  The Story of the Beginning of Bone written while she was still a college student, 4th annual Fujimi Shobo (publisher) Fantasy Novel Prize; five more novels, three shorter stories.  Here is a cover from Avatar Tuner. [JH] 
  • Born August 7, 1980 – Lindsey Leavitt, 40.  A dozen young-adult and children’s novels, some for us (five are fantasies about mice in a series Commander in Cheese).  YALSA (Young Adult Lib’y Services Ass’n) Best Fiction Award, Amazon Book of the Year Award.  [JH]
  • Born August 7, 1975 Charlize Theron, 45. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), PrometheusMad Max: Fury RoadThe Addams Family as Morticia Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in  Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.  (CE)

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics. Where does “Funny once” go in this model?

(15) UNDER THE DOME. SciFiNow.uk points the way to DC’s virtual event: “DC Fandome: Immense Line-Up Announced”

…DC FanDome is the first-ever global celebration of the DC Multiverse covering the brand’s biggest films, live-action series, animated TV series, games and comics.

Available in nine languages (Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (LAS)), DC FanDome will feature over 100+ hours of programming celebrating the past, present and future DC content through panels, behind the scenes access, user generated experiences, big reveals and exclusives from DC.

DC FanDome is made up of the Hall of Heroes and five islands…

(16) THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. Andrew Liptak surveys how “The U.S. Military Is Turning to Science Fiction to Shape the Future of War” for One Zero at Medium.

…It may sound like it could be the plot of a new Netflix series, but it’s actually one of the U.S. Army’s “science fiction prototypes,” a teaching tool designed to imagine what the near future of warfare might look like and to prompt military personnel to think creatively about conflicts they might end up fighting. This one takes the form of a 71-page graphic novel called Invisible Force: Information Warfare and the Future of Conflict, produced by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point and Arizona State University’s Threatcasting Lab.

As digital technologies and robotics have opened up the kinds of futures once imagined by pulp science fiction writers, a loose network of national security professionals, military officers, and training organizations are working to try to predict the future of war — by generating science fiction stories of their own….

(17) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. Paul Weimer tells what he enjoyed about a new sff novel: “Microreview [book]: In Evil Times by Melinda Snodgrass” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The world that Snodgrass creates continues to fascinate from the first novel, especially since we expand from the pressure cooker of the High Ground space station to see the Empire, on the ground, as it were, as well as in the depths of space. We get slices of society all around, from Mercedes’ center of Imperial power, to the very humble existence that Tracy’s father as a tailor has, to the life of military officers. We get a painted portrait of what this stratified, socially conscious world is like and how people fit into that system, resist that system and find themselves in trouble for opposing that system. We also get a better sense of how aliens, an oppressed stratum of society, fit and struggle in a human dominated Solar League. Aliens are very much third class citizens, and the consequences of that are explored in the book both from Tracy and Mercedes’ perspectives….

(18) HELP WANTED. Writing all those Tor.com five-things posts has burned out James Davis Nicoll’s laptop, and he’d be thrilled if people want to help him buy the replacement: “Alas, Poor Jenkins”.

My faithful laptop has subtly hinted that I need to prioritize replacing it, first by closing every Word File within a few minutes of opening them…

(19) SAVING THROW. Wizards: Tales of Arcadia premiered on Netflix today.

After discovering a secret underworld of trolls and teaming up with aliens to save the planet, the teenagers of Arcadia Oaks are back for one final journey: time traveling to the world of King Arthur’s Camelot to defeat villains and preserve the future. Major characters like Jim (Emile Hirsch), Toby (Charlie Saxton) and Claire (Lexi Medrano) have returned from the previous sagas of “Trollhunters” and “3Below,” joined this time by the legendary Merlin (David Bradley). 

The series is written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, whose 2017 film “The Shape of Water” took home four Oscars, including best picture and director.

(20) GRAND FINALE. Meanwhile, IndieWire reports “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans’ Animated Film to Premiere on Netflix in 2021”.

…Del Toro has billed the film as the conclusion to his “Tales of Arcadia” television trilogy which includes the “Trollhunters,” “3Below,” and “Wizards,” shows. “Wizards” premiered on Netflix today.

Here’s Netflix’s synopsis for the upcoming film: Arcadia may look like an ordinary town, but it lies at the center of magical and mystical lines that makes it a nexus for many battles among otherworldly creatures, including trolls, aliens and wizards. Now, the heroes from the hit series “Trollhunters,” “3Below” and “Wizards,” team-up in their most epic adventure yet where they must fight the Arcane Order for control over the magic that binds them all.

(21) OVER A BARREL. NPR’s Linda Holmes sees that “Seth Rogen Finds Himself (Twice) In ‘An American Pickle'”

When you think about a Seth Rogen movie, he’s almost always got pals around. He’s made comedies with James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Adam Sandler and — if you count Steve Jobs — even Michael Fassbender. It only makes sense he would eventually make a buddy movie with himself.

An American Pickle, streaming on HBO Max on Aug. 6, is adapted from a four-part Simon Rich story that appeared in The New Yorker in 2013. Called “Sell Out,” it’s about a Polish immigrant named Herschel (whose wife is pregnant) who falls into a pickle barrel in 1920 and wakes up, perfectly preserved, 100 years later. This premise, neatly told in the first six short paragraphs, is both absurd and (no pun intended) narratively rich. In the film, which Rich adapted for the screen himself, both the preserved Herschel and his great-grandson Ben — who are the same age — are played by Seth Rogen. What follows is part wacky opposites-attract picture, part family story, part silly caper and, most interestingly, part funny (but also thoughtful) examination of what our ancestors would think of us, especially if they made great sacrifices to give us what we now have.

In the original story, Herschel’s descendant is Simon Rich himself, a script doctor in Hollywood. Here, he’s Ben, an app developer who’s spent five years of his life trying to get an app off the ground that scans bar codes to tell you how ethically made a particular product is. For a whole variety of reasons — from “what’s an app?” to “who cares?” — this confounds Herschel. He quickly discovers, too, that the small cemetery where his wife is buried has been dishonored by the presence of a giant billboard for vanilla vodka (chosen perhaps because Rogen has enormous fun pronouncing “vanilla vodka” in his version of Herschel’s accent). This cannot stand. So Herschel sets out to do what he knows best: make pickles and sell them to Brooklyn, so he can reclaim the cemetery. This does lead to some familiar material about hipsters who love artisanal foods, but it’s executed pretty well, and Rich’s script keeps it moving.

…Let’s focus on this much: It’s a clever idea, it has some good jokes, and it approaches the idea of immigration to the United States in a way I haven’t seen. That’s not to even mention the fact that being preserved in a pickle barrel and waking up in 100 years has never been more appealing.

(22) HOW DID THEY KNOW? Mental Floss dishes up “9 Books That Predicted the Future”. This first one is pretty surprising.

1. FUTILITY

In this book written by Morgan Robertson, a massive ocean liner described as “the largest craft afloat” is steaming at full speed through the North Atlantic when a watchman cries out “Iceberg.” But the ship hits the ice and begins to sink. With too few lifeboats, many of the passengers drown when the ship goes down.

The story sounds familiar, but this ship wasn’t the TitanicFutility‘s ship was the Titan. Robertson penned his novel 14 years before the Titanic took its doomed maiden voyage—and those aren’t the only similarities between Robertson’s Titan and the Titanic, either. Such was the predictive power of the text that just a week after the sinking of the Titanic the story—now called The Wreck of the Titan; or, Futility—was being serialized in newspapers as “an amazing prophecy.”

(23) AND AWAY THEY GO. “Facebook removes QAnon conspiracy group with 200,000 members”.

Facebook has deleted a large group dedicated to sharing and discussing QAnon conspiracy theories.

QAnon is a wide-ranging, unfounded conspiracy theory that a “deep state” network of powerful government, business and media figures are waging a secret war against Donald Trump.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the group was removed for “repeatedly posting content that violated our policies”.

Last month both Twitter and TikTok also cracked down on QAnon content.

Twitter banned thousands of accounts and said it would block QAnon urls, while TikTok deleted hashtags that signposted QAnon videos.

The deleted Facebook group, called Official Q/Qanon, had nearly 200,000 members.

There are, however, many other QAnon groups that are currently still active on the platform.

(24) CORMORANT ALOFT AGAIN. Adri Joy says readers will find a long-awaited payoff in terms of character healing and growth in the third book of this series: “Microreview [Book]: The Tyrant Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Baru Cormorant is back for round three! In The Tyrant Baru Cormorant (which, in-keeping with the rest of this series’ inexplicable name shortenings, is being published as “The Tyrant” in the UK) everyone’s favourite provincial savant returns for another round of high-stakes political drama against the empire of Falcrest: the empire which colonised her island, killed one of her fathers and tried to cut her off from her own culture as a child, and also the empire which now counts her as among its most elite operatives. The first book in the series captured my heart and then broke it into a million pieces, and while I don’t think I’m the same reader as I was five years ago, I still consider new releases in this series to be a significant event, and I’m especially glad we haven’t had to wait too long between the previous book and this one.

(25) SHADES OF MEANING. PEN America’s weekly interview series delivers “The Pen Ten: An Interview With Laura Van Den Berg”.

9. The stories in this collection are haunting, and this also includes the stunning cover art. Whether it’s a woman who works as grief freelancer playing the roles of widowers’ dead wives or a woman pretending to be her missing sister, the stories speak to each other in unearthly ways. Can you speak about the subversive nature of ghosts that permeate the collection—when you realized this was a connective tissue while writing the stories and how it operates in the book, as well as our lives?
The cover was designed by Na Kim, who is a genius. I think it captures the spirit of the collection beautifully. In terms of the thematic through lines, I thought a lot about the supernatural as a means to explore the material that cannot be contained by corporal life: the unsayable secrets, the unexamined truths, the incomprehensible realities. In an NPR interview, Toni Morrison once said that “if you are really alert, then you can see the life that exists beyond the life that exists on top.” What does this “life beyond” have to say about our world that cannot be conveyed through other channels? What does it mean to haunt? What does it mean to be haunted? All these questions were important guides, though it took some time to recognize the supernatural as a thematic link. For a while, I had a lot of stories—maybe 350 pages worth—but I was struggling to find the book. Once I started letting the spectral guide me, a shape began to emerge.

(26) A BACON REFERENCE WITHOUT SCALZI. Lise Andreasen shares a fraught moment from the German quiz show Gefragt Gejagt today. 

Who wrote Nova Atlantis?

Wrong answer: Hemingway. 

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, PhilRM, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Bence Pintér, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

2020 World Fantasy Awards
Final Ballot

The World Fantasy Awards 2020 nominees have been announced.

The awards will be presented by World Fantasy Con 2020, a virtual convention being held October 29-November 1.

The award judges are: Gwenda Bond, Galen Dara, Michael Kelly, Victor LaValle, and Adam Roberts.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

  • Rowena Morrill
  • Karen Joy Fowler

NOVEL

  • Queen of the Conquered, by Kacen Callender (Orbit)
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook Books/Orbit UK)
  • The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com)
  • The Memory Police, by Yoko Ogawa (trans.Stephen Snyder) (Pantheon/Harvill Secker)

NOVELLA

  • “The Butcher’s Table,” by Nathan Ballingrud (Wounds: Six Stories From the Border of Hell)
  • Desdemona and the Deep, by C.S.E. Cooney (Tor.com)
  • In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)
  • The Deep, by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes (Saga Press/Hodder & Stoughton UK)
  • Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh (Tor.com)

SHORT FICTION

  • “For He Can Creep,” by Siobhan Carroll (Tor.com, July 10, 2019)
  • “Read After Burning,” by Maria Dahvana Headley, (A People’s Future of the United States)
  • “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye,” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny Magazine, July-Aug. 2019)
  • “Blood is Another Word For Hunger,” by Rivers Solomon (Tor.com, July 24, 2019)
  • “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” by Jerome Stueart (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Mar./Apr. 2019)
  • “Everyone Knows That They‘re Dead. Do You?,” by Genevieve Valentine (The Outcast Hours)

ANTHOLOGY

  • Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, edited by Ellen Datlow (Saga Press)
  • The Outcast Hours, edited by Mahvesh Murad & Jared Shurin (Solaris)
  • The Mythic Dream, edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe (Saga Press)
  • New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl (Solaris)
  • The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Vintage Books)

COLLECTION

  • Homesick: Stories, by Nino Cipri (Dzanc Books)
  • Song For the Unraveling of the World: Stories, by Brian Evenson (Coffee House Press)
  • Unforeseen, by Molly Gloss (Saga Press)
  • A Lush and Seething Hell: Two Tales of Cosmic Horror, by John Hornor Jacobs (Harper Voyager)
  • Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories by Sarah Pinsker (Small Beer Press)

ARTIST

  • Tommy Arnold
  • Galen Dara
  • Julie Dillon
  • Wendy Froud
  • Kathleen Jennings

SPECIAL AWARD – PROFESSIONAL

  • C. C. Finlay, for F&SF editing
  • Leslie Klinger, for The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft: Beyond Arkham (Liveright)
  • Ellen Oh, for We Need Diverse Books
  • Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, for The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games (New York University Press)
  • Sheree Renée Thomas, for contributions to the genre

SPECIAL AWARD – NON-PROFESSIONAL

  • Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Laura E. Goodin and Esko Suoranta, for Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research
  • Michael Kelly, for Undertow Publications and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction
  • Jonathan Strahan & Gary K. Wolfe, for the Coode Street Podcast
  • Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas, for Uncanny Magazine
  • Terri Windling, for Myth & Moor

Pixel Scroll 7/25/20 There’s A Troublesome Gap In The Middle 11 Billion Years

(1) BRADBURY CENTENARY PODCAST. Phil Nichols’ BRADBURY 100 podcast starts today! His guest on episode 1 is author Steven Paul Leiva.

I first met Steve at Ray Bradbury’s 90th birthday party in 2010, which was held in Glendale’s Mystery & Imagination Bookshop. For many years Ray would gather friends and fans here for book signings and talks. Up the stairs of the bookshop was a wall signed by various authors and celebrities who had visited. Steve and I searched for his previous signing, and we also found the spot where Ray Bradbury had signed several years earlier.

(2) LEGACY FULFILLED. World Fantasy Con co-chair Ginny Smith shares “How Salt Lake City Won the Honor of Hosting WFC 2020 – and How We Lost It”.

… The board room doors opened. Mike Willmoth, our board mentor, walked into the hallway, stuck out his hand to me and said, “Congratulations.” Tears sprang to my eyes. And they were not tears of joy! We’d done it. And now, we had to do it!…

(3) ZOMBIE SOCIAL DISTANCING. “Zombies and Coronavirus:  Planning For The Next Big Outbreak” on YouTube is a panel from Comic-Con featuring Max Brooks, who says Americans born after World War II “don’t have the muscle memory and gut fear of germs” which left them ill-prepared for the pandemic.

(4) PURITY OF ESSENCE. Charles Stross is not prepared to trust Worldcon site selection voters, you see. They might do anything. Like vote for another Worldcon in the U.S.

(5) WORKING. ScreenRant has collected a list of “Star Trek: All Roles (& Voiceovers) Played By Majel Barrett”.

… From TOS onward, Barrett became a vital part of Star Trek, lending her voice to Star Trek: The Animated Series, appearing in the original Star Trek movies, and guest-starring in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Majel Barrett is a true example of Star Trek royalty, and the following is every live-action role she played in the franchise, as well as how ubiquitous her voice has been to nearly every incarnation of Star Trek.

(6) NIPPON INTO SPACE. The Diamond Bay Radio podcast has a new interview on the history of Japanese Rocketry and space programs with Subo Wijeyeratne (PhD in History of Science, Harvard): “Japanese Rocketry”.

They also discuss Subo’s science fiction anthology, Tales from the the Stone Lotus, and his unpublished novel, Triangulum.

(7) CLEIN OBIT. Hollywood publicist Harry Clein died June 18 at the age of 82The Hollywood Reporter has an extended profile.  

Clein … consulted for Pixar and Steve Jobs on Toy Story (1995); for Tim Burton on Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992) and Ed Wood (1994); and for other filmmakers including … Wes Craven. He also… wrote the press notes for Star Wars (1977)….

(8) GRAHAM OBIT. “Ronald L. Graham, Who Unlocked the Magic of Numbers, Dies at 84” reports the New York Times.

Ronald L. Graham, who gained renown with wide-ranging theorems in a field known as discrete mathematics that have found uses in diverse areas, ranging from making telephone and computer networks more efficient to explaining the dynamics of juggling, died on July 6 at his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He was 84.

The cause was bronchiectasis, a chronic lung condition, according to a statement from the University of California, San Diego, where Dr. Graham was an emeritus professor.

“He created a lot of mathematics and some really pretty cool stuff,” said Peter Winkler, a mathematician at Dartmouth College. “This occurred over many years, and so it’s only now that we get to sort of look back and see all the stuff that he did.”

One thing he did was develop methods for worst-case analysis in scheduling theory — that is, whether the order in which actions are scheduled wastes time. On another front, with his wife and frequent collaborator, Fan Chung, an emeritus mathematician at the University of California, San Diego, he developed the idea of quasi-random graphs, which applied numerical preciseness in describing the random-like structure of networks.

Dr. Graham’s research was detailed in about 400 papers, but he never fit the stereotype of a nerdy mathematician. Soft-spoken but garrulous, he leavened his talks on high-level equations with silly jokes and sight gags. He was also an expert trampoline gymnast and juggler, a side pursuit — he was elected president of the International Jugglers’ Association in 1972 — that in his hands also lent itself to mathematical analysis. At one point Dr. Graham and three other juggling mathematicians proved an equation for the number of possible ball-juggling patterns before a pattern repeats.

(9) ROËVES OBIT. Actor Maurice Roëves, who appeared in two iconic genre TV series (details below) has died aged 83 reports The Guardian.

…Handsome, with piercing eyes and a granite jawline, he played tough guys, steely villains or stalwart military figures with directness, authenticity and spiky energy.

He also had the rare distinction of appearing in both Doctor Who and the Star Trek franchise: in the former he brought genuine grit to his turn as a murderous gun runner in The Caves of Androzani (1984), frequently voted the best story in the show’s long history. His alien Romulan in Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of his many forays into American television, which also included a stint on the soap Days of Our Lives (1985-86) and parts in Baywatch (1992), Cheers (1993) and Murder, She Wrote (1994).

(10) BOOK ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 25, 2009 — Robert Holdstock’s Avilion would be published. Set in his Ryhope Wood series, it was nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. It would be the final work from this author as he died in-hospital at the age of sixty-one  from an E. coli infection on November 29, 2009. He would be honored with The Karl Edward Wagner Award from the British Fantasy Society the following year.  And they would rename their British Fantasy Award for best novel in his honor the next year. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 25, 1870 – Maxfield Parrish.  Two dozen covers for us, as many interiors if you count uses after he died; far more beyond, maybe higher numbers if we reach: I’m willing to leave out Ecstasy (see here); the medium matters for The Lantern Bearers (see here) – you don’t get the fantastic effect without glazing, on canvas it’s just globes – yes, I know it was done for Collier’s; but what about The Pied Piper (see here)? or Humpty Dumpty (see here)? and he illustrated The Arabian Nights (see here).  He was a master of make-believe.  He weighed whimsy; he was not ridden by, but rode, reality.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1907 —  Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian first in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Ribos Opperation”, part one and then twice more in the two-part Fifth Doctor story, “Enlightment”.  He was also Dr. Moe in the Fifties pulp film Stranger from Venus, and also showed up in The Omega FactorA Midsummer Night’s DreamRandall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Tales of The Unexpected. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born July 25, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories about a Buddhist crime fighter  whose powers were activated upon the recitation of the Tibetan chant om mani padme hum. He also wrote Manning Draco series, an intergalactic insurance investigator, four of which are can be found in Once Upon a Star: A Novel of the Future. Kindle has a really deep catalog of his genre work. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science FictionFantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at iBooks and Kindle shows a twelve story Wildside Press collection but none of her novels. (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1932 – Paul Weitz.  Naval aviator, 7,700 hrs flying time, five Air Medals.  Piloted the first crewed Skylab.  Commanded the maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Challenger; its primary payload was the first Tracking & Data Relay Satellite, revolutionizing low-Earth-orbit communications.  NASA Distinguished Service Medal.  Fellow, Amer. Astronautical Society.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 72. I am reasonably sure that I read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1971 Chloë Annett, 49. She played Holly Turner in the Crime Traveller series and Kristine Kochanski in the Red Dwarf series. She was in the “Klingons vs. Vulcans” episode of the Space Cadets sort of game show. (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 47. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed, her second time around. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won a Parsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, It won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast in 2018, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. (CE)
  • Born July 25, 1950 – Cortney Skinner, 70.  A score of covers (some with Tom Kidd) for us, seven dozen interiors; more for others.  Here is the Jul 79 Galileo.  Here is the Mar-Apr 91 Aboriginal.  Here is The Hogben Chronicles.  Here is a bookworm (sculpture, from his Website).  Here, a cover for a Sherlock Holmes book.  [JH]
  • Born July 25 – Dick Smith.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with wife Leah Zeldes Smith).  Active in various apas (amateur press associations) including our first and greatest, FAPA (Fantasy Am. Pr. Ass’n); earned the Vorzimer Award in The Cult.  Fanzine, STET.  Collects copying devices, e.g. letterpresses, hectographs.  To balance this he is a computer consultant; Fred Pohl dedicated All the Lives He Led to him.  [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1967 – Ann Totusek, 53.  Chaired Minicon 51-52, Duckon, DemiCon.  Served on the Super-Con-Duck-Tivity Board, i.e. giving the Golden Duck awards.  Chief of Hospitality and of Volunteers at Demicons.  Chief of Hospitality at Minicon’s Golden Anniversary; at Chicon 7 (70th Worldcon), and thus of the after-Hugos reception at Renovation (71st).  Worked in Operations, one of our most thankless and demanding tasks, at Interaction (63rd Worldcon), Anticipation (67th), Loncon 3 (72nd), some Eastercons (U.K. nat’l convention).  Has been Minn-Stf (from Hugo Gernsback’s word scientifiction) president.  Taught making sugar-cube castles at Minicon 55.  When I asked her “What else should I tell them?” she said “Tell them Ann says Wear a mask.”  She should; she’s an R.N.  Stood for TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) this year, platform “Vote for Mike [“Orange Mike” Lowrey, the other candidate],” which we did.  [JH]
  • Born July 25, 1977 – Shana Muldoon Zappa, 43.  Actress, designer; married Frank Zappa’s son Ahmet; they in the family tradition named their daughter Halo Violetta Zappa, their son Arrow d’Oro Leon Zappa.  SMZ and AZ invented Star Darlings (Disney); 14 novels about them so far, four on the Scholastic 100.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SDCC AT HOME. Comic-Con@Home 2020’s item with the cast of The New Mutants can be viewed on YouTube and comes recommended by John King Tarpinian.

Writer/Director Josh Boone and the cast of Twentieth Century Studios and Marvel Entertainment’s The New Mutants, including Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Blu Hunt, and Henry Zaga discuss the upcoming original horror-thriller moderated by Ira Madison III.

(14) RADIOACTIVE BIOPIC. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] NPR says “Like Her ‘Radioactive’ Elements, Marie Curie Didn’t ‘Behave’ As Expected”. I saw this on a sneak preview courtesy of membership in the local science museum. It’s not perfect but is IMO worth seeing.

Like the elements that she discovered — polonium and radium — Marie Curie was “unruly,” says actor Rosamund Pike. Pike plays the famous scientist in the new biopic Radioactive.

The film, streaming on Amazon Prime, is about the power of science and how it can be harnessed in both positive and destructive ways. Curie’s discoveries led to medical breakthroughs, but they were also weaponized — into bombs and poison.

“[Director] Marjane Satrapi and I both had a vision of her as quite an ‘unruly element’ that does not behave as it should …” Pike explains. She and her fellow filmmakers were “interested in really pushing how challenging we could make her, how much we could make her not conform to traditional standards of femininity.”

Interview Highlights


On starring in a movie about science in the midst of a global pandemic


I’m very excited because I think there’s been a huge rise in people’s interest in science. And I think people are suddenly very, very curious as to who scientists really are. Who are these people who suddenly hold life in their hands?

On what she learned about Marie Curie preparing for the film


She was really little more than a name that I recognized, if I’m perfectly honest. … I started having chemistry lessons … which was exciting as a female in film. Historically, a lot of my preparation has been involved, getting myself physically fit. And it was a really refreshing change to be having to get myself mentally fit.

(15) MASK YOUR PUMPKIN. FastCompany is watching as “COVID-19 claims another victim: Halloween”.

Universal Orlando announced on Friday that it’s canceling its annual Halloween Horror Nights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Horror Nights 30 was supposed to take place from September 10 through November 1. Large gatherings aren’t a good idea at this time, and Halloween enthusiasts are bummed. There was a time—back in the spring—when people imagined that we could be emerging from this nightmare by now. Many people had hope, back then, that popular Halloween gatherings were going to unfold this year as they have in the past, but with people wearing masks for the most ironic but necessary reason ever.

However, it’s time to give in to the notion that Halloween (along with probably all large gatherings for the rest of the year) is canceled….

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

Pixel Scroll 6/17/20 How Many Pixels Will It Take? One For Peter, Two For Paul, Three To Post On My Facebook Wall

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON UPDATE. The chairs of World Fantasy Con 2020 announced the availability of sponsored memberships for People of Color.

We at World Fantasy Convention 2020 support diversity in all aspects of fantasy and horror. It is our hope that our virtual convention will be attended by a diverse membership, many of whom are using their craft to create literature and art that not only entertain but introduce fantasy enthusiasts to a wide range of cultures. Many WFC members feel the same and are taking steps toward encouraging people of color to participate in this year’s virtual convention. As a result, we’ve received several offers to sponsor the memberships for people of color to participate in the Virtual World Fantasy Convention.
 
If you would like to apply for one of these sponsored memberships, please complete the request form.

The form includes this explanation —

Only two criteria are required to request one of these sponsored memberships: (1) you must be actively participating in some aspect of fantasy or horror (examples: author, artist, collector, bookseller, etc.); (2) you must consider yourself a person of color.

(2) F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s July/Aug 2020 cover art by Alan M. Clark is for the story “All Hail the Pizza King and Bless His Reign Eternal” by David Erik Nelson.

(3) IN BLOOM AGAIN. Grady Hendrix offers advice about reading Ulysses. First, that you should do it.  

…Everyone should read Ulysses at some point in their life. It’s a book unlike any other, a book that knocks you out of your comfort zone, a book that makes your brain strain like you’re reaching for something on a high shelf, and it’s really, really funny. I’ve read it a couple of times and here’s my advice:

Step 1) RELAX.
You’re going to miss things. It’s okay. Some things are worth missing, some things are boring, some things are references that don’t make any sense in today’s world, so who cares? Joyce didn’t want people to puzzle out his book like the answers to an exam, he wanted to present a slice of life in all its freaky majesty and stupidity. Keep looking up at the stars, not down at your feet.

Step 2) Like a shark, keep moving forward.
Reading this book is like trying to drink a waterfall. The point is the overall impression, not so much the individual details. Just keep pushing ahead, don’t sit there with a magnifying glass trying to appreciate every single word. Joyce himself said he put in a buttload of puzzles and tricks and things that don’t make sense for literary critics and scholars, just to mess with their heads, so don’t get hung up on them…..

(4) TROOPER STORM. A conflict between the top officer of the Star Wars costuming group the 501st Legion and a local United Kingdom unit led to a suspension of the officer: “Major Costume Club Drama: 501st LCO Ousted in Apparent Coup d’État”, a long post at Costuming, Cosplay & Costume Clubs 101, tries to explain what happened.

We’ve observed different types and degrees of #CostumeClub drama over a period of more than 10 years, but never have we seen something as “grand mal” as this: in a secret hearing held by the world’s largest costume club, the 501st Legion, the club’s president (called the Legion Commanding Officer, or LCO) was found “guilty” of a minor offense and sentencing her to a six-month suspension from the club. This effectively removed her from the position of LCO that she had been elected to in February, 2020….

  • The LCO, under her authority to oversee the club, questioned the leadership of the UKG (the 501st local chapter, or garrison, in the United Kingdom) about their charitable donation practices, which include the possible misuse of collected funds, as well as the possible intimidation of UKG members to donate in order to be permitted to participate at club events. In other words, “pay for play”, which is a violation of the 501st’s charter, as is the possible misuse of the collected funds.
  • Members of the UKG leadership accused the LCO of “humiliating” them on their forum and brought charges against her.
  • Using the club’s bylaws, the Legion leadership then held a hearing (a secretive hearing that the overall membership had no knowledge of until it was too late) in which the LCO was found guilty and sentenced to a six month suspension, effectively removing her from the position of LCO.

(5) BIGFOOT. On Soundcloud, hear an excerpt from Devolution by Max Brooks read by Judy Greer, Max Brooks, Jeff Daniels, Nathan Fillion and full cast.

The #1 bestselling author of World War Z returns with a horror tale that blurs the lines between human and beast, and asks, What are we capable of when we’re cut off from society?

Entertainment Weekly interviewed Brooks about his new novel:

In Devolution, the residents of a remote and tiny Washington town called Greenlop are menaced by creatures following the eruption of Mount Rainier.

“As with all my books, for every hour I spent writing, I must have spent maybe between 10 and a hundred hours researching,” says Brooks. “I mean, I researched everything. I researched how Mount Rainier would really erupt. I researched how those houses — these smart eco-homes — would actually work with a friend of mine who worked for Microsoft. I made those weapons, by hand, just to see if they were possible, with the materials the character have. I went to the Pacific Northwest to the space where I put Greenloop to see if my characters could walk out on their own. And, just FYI, they couldn’t. That is some brutal lethal terrain out there. As far as the Bigfoot creatures themselves, I’ve always studied the lore but I really tried to research genuine primate biology and behavior. I tried to go the factual route. If there was a giant species of ape living in North America, how would they live? I went the path of facts and science.”

(6) BARKING ZONE. Marona’s Fantastic Tale on YouTube is a trailer for a new French animated film that was virtually released last Friday.

Marona is a half-breed Labrador whose life leaves deep traces among the humans she encounters. After an accident, she reflects on all the homes and different experiences she’s had. As Marona’s memory journeys into the past, her unfailing empathy and love brings lightness and innocence into each of her owners’ lives

(7) BRYMER OBIT. Well-known puppeteer Pat Brymer died April 12 at the age of 70 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

…Brymer also served as principal puppeteer on Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police (2004), for which he also “portrayed” Baxter, the bartender and limo driver. His credits included such other features as Short Circuit (1986), My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), Extreme Movie (2008).

Star Wars veteran John Dykstra led the team that built the animatronic Bushwood Country Club gopher that bedeviled Murray’s Carl Spackler in Caddyshack (1980), but it was Brymer, as the principal puppeteer, who gave him life.

Brymer created an updated version of the woolly Lamb Chop character for renowned puppeteer and ventriloquist Shari Lewis. In the 1990s, they collaborated on the PBS shows Lamb Chop’s Play-Along and The Charlie Horse Music Pizza and on Lamb Chop on Broadway.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 1940 — In the John W. Campbell, Jr. edited Astounding Science-Fiction, Robert Heinlein’s “The Roads Must Roll” was first published. Heinlein would reprint it in The Man Who Sold The MoonThe Past Through Tomorrow and The Best of Robert Heinlein. Through the Eighties, it was a favorite of genre anthologists. It was adapted for both Dimension X and X Minus One. MidAmeriCon II (2016) would give it a Retro Hugo for Best Novelette over “Blowups Happen” by, errr, the same author. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.] [Note: There was a problem forwarding John’s entries to OGH with the hyperlinks included. They will be added as soon as possible,]

  • Born June 17, 1876 – Norman Grisewood.  His Zarlah the Martian of 1909, with travel between planets, and an advanced civilization on Mars that had antigravity machines, made him a pioneer; Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+ came in 1911.  (Died 1923) [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1898 – Maurits Cornelis Escher.  Called himself a “reality enthusiast”.  Worked mainly in lithographs and woodcuts.  “Mathematicians,” he wrote, “have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain.”  Touched our field with e.g. Relativity and Waterfall.  His work used e.g. for this cover of Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang and this one of The Book of Sand and Shakespeare’s Memory.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1903 William Bogart. Pulp fiction writer. He is best remembered for writing several Doc Savage novels, using the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. Actually, he’s responsible for thirteen of the novels, a goodly share of the number done. It’s suspected that most of his short stories were Doc Savage pastiches. (Died 1977.)(CE)
  • Born June 17, 1931 Dean Ing, 89. I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Soft Targets and I know I read all of his Man-Kzin Wars stories as I went through a phase of reading all that popcorn literature set in Niven’s universe. I also liked his L-5 Community series which he wrote with Mack Reynolds though I won’t re-read it lest the suck fairy visit it. It looks like he stopped writing genre fiction about fifteen years ago. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1941 William Lucking, 79. Here because he played Renny in Doc Savage: Man of Bronze. (I know I’ve seen it, but I’ll be damned if I remember much about it.’)  He’s also had one-offs in Mission: ImpossibleThe Incredible HulkThe American HeroThe QuestVoyagersX-FilesThe Lazarus ManMillenniumDeep Space Nine and Night Stalker. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1948 – Sandy Cohen 72.  A dozen book notes for Delap’s F & SF Review.  Helpful at many conventions; a leading Art Show auctioneer; recently his management of the Dealers’ Room at the 2019 World Fantasy Con was applauded in Locus 707.  [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1953 Phyllis Weinberg, 67. She’s a fan who was married to fellow fan Robert E. Weinberg. She co-edited the first issue of The Weird Tales Collector. She co-chaired World Fantasy Convention 1996. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1955 – Themistokles Kanellakis, 65. Prolific Perry Rhodan artist; eighty covers, three hundred sixty interiors.  Here is a cover for Terra Astra featuring “Wanderer” [Cora Buhlert, is that right for Irrläufer?] and another featuring “The Forbidden Generation”.  [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1977 – Tomasz Jedruszek, 43. A dozen covers, interiors too.  Here is a Kuttner collection headed by “Robots Have No Tails”; here is Sparrow Fallinghere is Holy Sister.  [JH]
  • Born June 17, 1982 Jodie Whittaker, 38. The Thirteenth Doctor, now in her third series. She played Ffion Foxwell in the Black Mirror‘s “The Entire History of You”, and was Samantha Adams in Attack the Block, a horror SF film. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1982 Arthur Darvill, 38. Actor who’s had two great roles. The first was playing Rory Williams, one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions. The second, and to my mind the more interesting of the two, was playing the time-traveller Rip Hunter in the Legends of Tomorrow. He also played Seymour Krelborn in The Little Shop of Horrors at the Midlands Arts Centre, and Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus at Shakespeare’s Globe. (CE)
  • Born June 17, 1997 – Jadna Alana,23. Brazilian writer, singer, “always surrounded by books and with many ideas in her head”; first novel published at age 18, two more, two shorter stories.  This anthology has her “Shadow of Night”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd shows that some resources are more renewable than you think, if you have the right technology.
  • The Wizard of Id has an unexpected notion about throwing a curse.

(11) MY BACK PAGES. Rich Lynch invites readers to download “the newest issue of my personal time capsule,” My Back Pages, at eFanzines.

Issue #24 was assembled in the middle of the ongoing world health crisis and has essays involving large cities and small college towns, a heavenly altarpiece and a demon barber, lost photographs and discovered keepsakes, huge spheres and regular-sized disk jockeys, blue skies and a robot deluge, national elections and regional theatre, famous writers and forgotten outcomes, major tourist attractions and minor league baseball, sharp razors and a pandemic beard, fan friends and an unseen enemy, cancelled conventions and rescheduled meetings, rich pastries and penniless college students, good musicals and bad taste, dumb questions and dumber suggestions.  And also the stuff legends are made of.

(12) THE ANSWER MY FRIENDS. You’ll find it blowing in “The Wind in the Willows: Part One” available for listening online at the Parson’s Nose Theater.

Kenneth Grahame’s charmingly funny 1907 tale of the “Riverbankers” – Moley, Ratty, Badger, Toad – the animals (or are they?) who dwell along the Thames. Culled from bedtime tales he told his blind son, Alistair, Grahame’s stories are full of the universal longing for friendship, home, adventure and courage adults seem to forget about until reminded, and then are so delighted to have found again.

(13) HONEST TRAILER TIME. The Screen Junkies continue their series of “honest trailers” for old movies with a look at Shrek 2.

(14) FROM ANOTHER WORLD. “Scientists Find The Biggest Soft-Shelled Egg Ever, Nicknamed ‘The Thing'”. My first reaction was that they didn’t exactly stretch their creativity trying to name this specimen. Then again, it was found in Antarctica, and maybe they had the Campbell story in mind, which would be clever. The NPR article doesn’t say.

…The object was more than 11 by 7 inches in size and looked like a deflated football. Clarke immediately realized that The Thing was a giant egg — a soft-shelled egg. And it was from 66 million years ago, around the time when an asteroid hit Earth and led to dinosaur extinction.

Many turtles, snakes and lizards lay eggs with soft, flexible shells. The Thing is the largest soft-shelled egg ever, by a long shot, says Clarke.

This fossilized egg is also one of the biggest animal eggs ever discovered, second only to the egg of the extinct elephant bird from Madagascar.

It’s also appropriate that this piece originated on NPR’s All Things Considered. Get it? D’oh.

(15) WHERE IT ALL CAME DOWN. This demonstrates the power of…something. Oregonlive reports “Now you can visit Exploding Whale Memorial Park on the Oregon coast”.

Florence, near where the whale — or as a KATU reporter referred to it at the time “a stinking whale of a problem” — washed up, is finally honoring this beautiful moment in history with a new park.

It was the people of Florence who picked the name Exploding Whale Memorial Park.

“We asked the community for name suggestions, narrowed those 120-plus names down to nine, and had the community vote on them,” said Florence city project manager Megan Messmer.

The park offers views of the Siuslaw River and Bridge and the sand dunes on the south side of the river, according to the City of Florence’s website.

(16) THEY SEEK IT HERE, THEY SEEK IT THERE. “Dark matter hunt yields unexplained signal”

An experiment searching for signs of elusive dark matter has detected an unexplained signal.

Scientists working on the Xenon1T experiment have detected more activity within their detector than they would otherwise expect.

This “excess of events” could point to the existence of a previously undetected dark matter particle called an axion.

Dark matter comprises 85% of matter in the cosmos, but its nature is unknown.

Whatever it is, it does not reflect or emit detectable light, hence the name.

There are three potential explanations for the new signal from the Xenon1T experiment. Two require new physics to explain, while one of them is consistent with a hypothesised dark matter particle called a solar axion.

The findings have been published on the Arxiv pre-print server.

(17) I’M FOREVER… “Blowing bubbles: Soapy spheres pop pollen on fruit trees.” The BBC has the story:

Japanese researchers have succeeded in fertilising pear trees using pollen carried on the thin film of a soap bubble.

They’ve been searching for alternative approaches to pollination, because of the decline in the number of bees worldwide.

When fired from a bubble gun, the delicate soapy spheres achieved a success rate of 95%.

The researchers are now testing drones that fire bubbles for pollination.

(18) BIG SJWCs. “Endangered cheetahs snapped in award-winning photos”. See the few places where cheetahs are prospering… Lots of pictures, including a carnivorous pushmi-pullyu.

Charity picture book series Remembering Wildlife has announced the 10 winners of its cheetah photography competition.

The winners were picked from more than 2,400 entrants, with the winning images showing cheetahs in Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania and South Africa.

The images will be published in the book Remembering Cheetahs in October this year, alongside images donated by world-leading wildlife photographers. Competition entry fees will be distributed to cheetah-protection projects in Namibia and Kenya.

With slightly more than 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild, Remembering Wildlife aims to create awareness of the threats to wildlife.

(19) NOISE REDUCTION. Sounds too good to be true. “Facebook to let users turn off political adverts”.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg says users will be able to turn off political adverts on the social network in the run-up to the 2020 US election.

…Rival social platform Twitter banned political advertising last October.

“For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Neil Gaiman — 3 Books That Have Changed My Life” on YouTube is a video from 2010 where Gaiman talks about his love of C.S. Lewis, Michael Moorcock, and Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore and drawn by Steve Bissette.

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

World Fantasy Convention 2020 Goes Virtual

World Fantasy Convention 2020 has joined the ranks of virtual sff events. The convention had been planned for October 29–November 1 in Salt Lake City, but last week their hotel cancelled all in-person meetings for the rest of 2020, forcing them to move online.

The committee announced today:

The membership fee to participate in this year’s virtual World Fantasy Convention is $125. Plans have already begun to transition many of the traditional physical experiences you’ve come to expect from World Fantasy Convention. We’ll be ironing out the details in the coming months, but we hope to provide a variety of online offerings, including:

  • A full schedule of panel discussions by professionals in the fantasy genre
  • Readings by your favorite fantasy authors
  • Demonstrations by fantasy artists
  • Spotlight interviews with our honored guests: Stephen Gallagher, David Cherry, Anne Groell, CJ Cherryh, Cindy Pon, Stephen Graham Jones, Brandon Sanderson, and Tracy and Laura Hickman
  • The ability to interact in a small group setting with some of the authors, editors, agents, and artists who participate in the World Fantasy Convention program
  • Lots of time to chat with other World Fantasy Convention members online
  • An exhibit hall with links to our dealers
  • An art show, with the opportunity to purchase artwork directly from fantasy artists
  • A collector’s item souvenir book that includes high-quality artwork by our artist Guest of Honor David Cherry, fiction by our honored guest authors, appreciation articles, bios, World Fantasy Convention history, and more
  • The World Fantasy Award ceremony, which recognizes outstanding people, fiction, art, semi-professional and professional contributions in the fantasy and horror genre
  • We’re even working on ways to get autographs for your favorite fantasy books!

Information about how they’re handling reimbursements and cancellations is on their website.

WFC 2020 Chair Ginny Smith concluded:
 
We share the disappointment many of you feel as you read this announcement. We wanted to throw a party – a huge, fabulous, fun party! – with 900 friends who share our love for the literature and artwork of fantasy and horror. We’re going through a period of grieving as we watch our plans crumble. But we are in a unique position to do something inventive, innovative, and really, really fun in a virtual World Fantasy Convention. We hope you’ll join us!

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/20 Hey, Scrollers! Watch Me Pull a Pixel Out of My Hat!

(1) NEXT TREK. CBS All Access dropped a trailer for Star Trek:  Strange New Worlds, a spinoff from Star Trek; Discovery that stars Anson Mount and Rebecca Romijn.

Fans spoke, Star Trek listened, and a new series aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise is on the horizon! Watch stars Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn excitedly break the big news. Stay tuned for more information on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, coming soon to CBS All Access. In the meantime, stream full episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, exclusively in the U.S. on CBS All Access.

(2) NOT ENTIRELY A BAD THING. The Romance Writers of America have cancelled the annual gathering planned for San Francisco in August, another consequence of the pandemic. Attendance levels were already in doubt due to the upheaval and disaffection in the group this year, which led to this reaction from Courtney Milan —

(3) DEALING WITH A FAMILIAR MEDIA WEAPON. On Saturday, May 16, professionals in the field of influence operations (“Fake News”) will join Gadi Evron, Sounil Yu, Malka Older, and special guest David Weber to discuss how disinformation can be countered from an operational standpoint, as well as its effects on society and policy. “Countering ‘Fake News’: Professionals Speak” at Essence of Wonder. Registration required

Panel one will cover the effects of “Fake News” on society, and the shaping of policy around the topic. Panel two will dive deeply into methodologies, operational tools, and techniques, for countering “Fake News” attacks.

(4) THINKING ABOUT ADAPTATIONS. The World Fantasy Con 2020 blog featured one of their GoH’s in an “Interview with Charlaine Harris”.

WFC2020: The Sookie Stackhouse books were made into the series True Blood, which ran seven years. In the books Lafayette (the fry cook) doesn’t last long, but the actor, Nelsan Harris, was so popular his role was expanded in the series. What other changes were made to the books’ characters?

CH: I thought the character of Jessica (Deborah Wohl) was a fabulous addition to the storyline. Wished I had thought of her. The fae on screen turned out to be not at all what was in my head, but it worked for the purposes of the show. I loved the sets, which I saw several times: Sookie’s house, Jason’s house, Merlotte’s. And all the actors were amazing. Alan Ball is a genius at casting. Nelsan was wonderful!

(5) HEAR MORE FROM HARRIS. And on May 23, Essence of Wonder will present “Masters of Urban Fantasy: Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Dana Cameron, and Toni L.P. Kelner”. (Registration required.)

Dana Cameron, Toni L.P. Kelner (a.k.a. Leigh Perry), Patricia Briggs, and Charlaine Harris will join us on Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron for geeky shenanigans in a panel discussion about Worldbuilding (and maybe pets). Before the panel, Charlaine will interview Patricia on her new Mercy Thompson book, “Smoke Bitten. Join us for this special show with The Leading Ladies of Urban Fantasy on Saturday (23 May).

(6) DON’T MISS OUT. Another WFC 2020 guest of honor, Steve Rasnic Tem, telling about “My First WFC”, includes this wisdom:

…My late friend Ed Bryant and I would sometimes read the glowing tributes to authors who had passed and Ed would say, “Well, I hope they told them these nice things while they were still alive.” Attending a World Fantasy Convention gives you a great opportunity to practice Ed’s advice. The sad fact is you may not have another chance.

(7) IN SPITE OF EVERYTHING. Tor.com is serializing “Never Say You Can’t Survive: How To Get Through Hard Times By Making Up Stories”:

Charlie Jane Anders is writing a nonfiction book—and Tor.com is publishing it as she does so. Never Say You Can’t Survive is a how-to book about the storytelling craft, but it’s also full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish in the present emergency.

Below is the Introduction, followed by the first chapter, “How To Make Your Own Imaginary Friends”

New installments will appear every Tuesday at noon EST.

Here’s an excerpt –

….So I’m writing a series of essays called Never Say You Can’t Survive, all about how writing and making up stories can help you to survive a terrifying moment in history. (These essays came out of a talk that I gave at the Willamette Writers Conference and elsewhere. And their title is borrowed from the 1977 album of the same name by Curtis Mayfield, which is a piece of music that has given me so much strength and inspiration over the years.)

Stories of Darkness and Escapism

When I wrote “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue,” I was going to the darkest possible place I could go in a story, and putting my protagonist through the most dehumanizing treatment I could imagine. I needed to face up to the absolute worst that could happen, so I felt like I understood it a little better. I also needed to write about someone facing up to the most nightmarish scenario and still emerging in one piece, surviving, even though it’s a dark ending.

Writing a horrifying story on your own terms means that you can show how someone can survive, or even triumph. And meanwhile, you can cast a light on the injustice of oppressive systems. You can also choose the frame and eliminate some of the ambiguity in some situations, to make things more stark and more clear, or to make juxtapositions that illuminate how the problem started, and how it’ll be in the future.

When you’re telling the story, you get to draw all the lines….

(8) 1990’S GAME MAGAZINE. The Digital Antiquarian presents a bit of video game history in “The Shareware Scene, Part 3: The id Boys”.

…Thus he was receptive on the day in early 1990 when one of his most productive if headstrong programmers, a strapping young metalhead named John Romero, suggested that Softdisk start a new MS-DOS disk magazine, dedicated solely to games — the one place where, what with Apogee’s success being still in its early stages, shareware had not yet clearly cut into Softdisk’s business model. After some back-and-forth, the two agreed to a bi-monthly publication known as Gamer’s Edge, featuring at least one — preferably two — original games in each issue. To make it happen, Romero would be allowed to gather together a few others who were willing to work a staggering number of hours cranking out games at an insane pace with no resources beyond themselves for very little money at all. Who could possibly refuse an offer like that?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 15, 1955X Minus One’s “Universe” first aired. It’s based off Heinlein’s Universe which was first published in Astounding Science Fiction’s May 1941 issue, and George Lefferts wrote the script. The cast includes Donald P. Buka, Peter Kapell, Bill Griffis, Abby Lewis, Edgar Stehli, Jason Seymour and Ian Martin. Untold generations of people traveling in a giant’s spaceship have lost track of who they are and what they set out to do. They think that their ship is the Universe. You can listen to it here.                    

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 – L. Frank Baum. His Wizard of Oz has been translated into 50 languages, selling 3 million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956, applauded by the Library of Congress in 2000; 13 more Ozbooks, 28 others, 83 shorter stories, 200 poems, at least 42 scripts, under his own and half a dozen pen names.  While living in the Dakota Territory, he was Secretary of the Aberdeen Woman’s Suffrage Club, and hosted Susan B. Anthony (Aberdeen is now a city in the State of South Dakota).  He knew French, German, Italian. He said at the start that Wizardaspired to fantasy “in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out,” at which he succeeded. Last words, to his wife, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1848 – Viktor Vasnetsov.  Co-founder of Russian folklorist and romantic-nationalist panting, key figure in Russian Revivalist movement.  Designed churches, mosaics, a revenue stamp, the façade of the Tretyakov Gallery.  Worked on stage designs and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden.  V’s fantasy and epics irritated radicals, who said he undermined realist principles.  Here is a flying carpet.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us; an elaborate strange masterpiece; Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; in fact not published until decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog.  Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15. 1906 – Ellen MacGregor.  Librarian, cataloguer, researcher, editrix of the Illinois Women’s Press Ass’n monthly bulletin Pen Points; also worked in Florida and Hawaii.  For children’s fantasy with accurate science she wrote Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and Goes UnderseaGoes to the Arctic published after her death; then 13 more, 16 shorter stories, by Dora Pantell.  Lavinia Pickerell, prim, angular, and devoted to her pet cow, is an inadvertent stowaway on a rocket to Mars in her first adventure, but she is unflappable.  (Died 1954) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1932Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana and is quite horrid. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1948 Brian Eno, 72. Worth noting if only for A Multimedia Album Based on the Complete Text of Robert Sheckley’s In a Land of Clear Colors, though all of his albums have a vague SF feeling  to them such as Music for Civic Recovery CentreJanuary 07003: Bell Studies for the Clock of  The Long Now and Everything That Happens Will Happen Today which could the name of Culture mind ships. Huh. I wonder if his music will show up in the forthcoming Culture series? (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 55. Her book The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Takayuki Tatsumi.  Professor at Keiô University, chair of K.U. SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; 21st Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan.  President, American Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Society of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l American Studies.  In English, for SF ChronicleSF EyeN.Y. Review of SFSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF Film (2014); The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature (2016).  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME. Polygon’s Alan Kistler asserts “Superheroes are scrapping their secret identities, and it’s for the best”. This might sound a little counterintuitive at a time when we’re all supposed to be wearing masks.

In the beginning, nearly every superhero had a secret identity. It protected them from villainous revenge, and created a delicious dramatic tension while interacting with loved ones who had no inkling of their other life. But the strict secret identity is fast becoming an anachronism.

Most heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe operate in the open, while other caped cinema stars, like Supergirl, are perfectly willing to trust close allies with their name. In comics, the X-Men no longer hide who they are or where they live. Even Superman’s identity has been revealed to the entire world twice in the last decade.

And all of this is for the better, delivering not only greater dramatic possibilities, but also a healthier idea of heroism….

(13) FANTASTIC FOUR COMICS. Marvel’s tells fans that Fantastic Four: Antithesis is coming in August, the first full-length Fantastic Four story ever illustrated by industry legend Neal Adams.

Adams is joined by Eisner Award-winning writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, Captain America, Fantastic Four), who jam-packs this tale with a fan-favorite roster of Fantastic Four heroes and villains! Together, this celebrated creative team create a new nemesis for the Fantastic Four guaranteed to send shockwaves throughout all of fandom.  

 …Adams shares [Waid’s] enthusiasm about the project. “I have always had the sense of missing the chance to draw the Fantastic Four. It was a quiet sense, since I’ve had every opportunity to do my favorites. More, I felt Kirby and Buscema had done it all, hadn’t they…?” he begins. “When Marvel’s Tom Brevoort asked if I’d like to do the Fantastic Four, I knew I had to ask for Galactus and the Silver Surfer as well. I am humbled and thankful to Tom for the opportunity.”

Who or what is the Antithesis, and will the combined might of the Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and Galactus himself be enough to defeat it?

(14) DC COMICS ARE BIG HITS TOO. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “DC Universe Readership Jumps 35 Percent During Shutdown”.

Two ‘Batman’ titles were atop the most-read list.

With comic book stores closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was an open question just what fans would do to get their fix. New figures released from digital service DC Universe suggest that the answer was, simply, “go online.”

(15) ON THE WILDSIDE. John Betancourt has launched a Kickstarter appeal to produce “Staying In Place”, an “anthology of stories to pass the time.” Various support levels also bring additional rewards in the form of reading material.

With so many people staying at home right now, we at Wildside Press and the Black Cat Mystery & Science Fiction Ebook Club are putting together a mammoth anthology of amazing stories for you to read and enjoy. The anthology will feature 20 novels and short stories by iconic authors such as John Gregory Betancourt,  Paul di Filippo, John W. Campbell Jr., Robert E. Howard, G.D. Falksen, and many more to be announced.  But we need your help to make this happen. We are coming to Kickstarter to fund the anthology. In return for your support, you get the anthology itself, some of our fantastic ebooks, and even a subscription to the Black Cat which gives subscribers 7+ free ebooks every week, including new releases of all of the great Wildside Press magazines (WeirdbookBlack Cat Mystery MagazineSherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, and even the upcoming revival of Startling Stories, the famous pulp magazine).

(16) BORN TO BE DUMPED. “‘Men of Middle-earth as Bad Ex-Boyfriends’ Thread Is Absolutely Perfect” – so says The Mary Sue.

Every now and then, a Twitter act of creation reminds us that good things can still emerge from our hellish Internet stomping grounds. Such is the case with a viral thread from writer Alex Arrelia, in which Arrelia painstakingly—and hilariously—takes on J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters under the heading of “Men of Middle Earth as bad ex boyfriends who ruined your life.”

Thread starts here. Some examples —

(17) THIS CLOSE! And don’t forget Tolkien’s ultimate Bad Boy — “The Lord Of The Rings: 10 Ways Sauron Could Have Won” at ScreenRant.

10. He Could Have Set A Guard On Mount Doom

Most obviously, Sauron could have prevented the destruction of the One Ring–and thus the unraveling of his power–if he’d only done a little more to make sure that Mount Doom was protected from approach and infiltration. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that it is so unguarded–because Sauron couldn’t imagine that anyone would want to destroy the Ring rather than use it – that allows Frodo and Sam to sneak up on it. Sauron is defeated by his own inability to think outside of himself. 

(18) SHE-RA ARRIVES. NPR’s Victoria Whitley-Berry reviews a reboot: “In She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power, True Strength Is In Being Yourself”.

Showrunner Noelle Stevenson has always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. As a kid, she loved it all: the epic space battles, the magic, the quests that seemed larger than life.

But there was a problem with her favorite childhood stories, like Star Wars and The Lord of The Rings series. “I never quite saw myself reflected in them” Stevenson says, “certainly not at the heart of the story.”

There weren’t a lot of women.

Of course, there’s interstellar rebel Princess Leia and Nazgûl-slaying Éowyn. But Stevenson wanted a female version of Luke Skywalker and a terror-inducing femme Lord Sauron.

So when she started writing stories of her own, she made sure kids like her felt seen, in more ways than one.

…When Netflix and DreamWorks wanted to reboot She-Ra: Princess of Power — an epic showdown between magical princesses and an evil alien invader — Stevenson was all in.

She kept much of the original show’s action and adventure — like the original, the rebooted show takes place on the planet Etheria, and one of the princesses who is trying to stop the evil Horde army from taking over is named Adora.

…Stevenson did make one small but important change to the show: Its name. The Netflix and DreamWorks version is She-Ra and the PRINCESSES of Power. All the princesses are important.

She also gathered an all-female writing staff to update this team of powerful women. In the original show, the princesses are white, skinny and presumably straight. The new rebellion includes women of color. They’re women in all different shapes and sizes. And there are women who love other women.

Princess Weekes is an assistant editor at The Mary Sue, a website that covers the intersection of women and fandom. She’s been writing about the She-Ra reboot since the beginning.

Weekes says that because the team behind She-Ra is made up of LGBTQ people, the stories on the show give genuine representation of queer life for kids.

“You allow queerness for young kids to be just normalized in general,” Weekes says. “What I think Noelle Stevenson and the entire She-Ra team has done is create a society and place where characters can exist, but their biggest problem isn’t that they’re gay.”

(19) THAWED. “Disney Closes ‘Frozen’ on Broadway, Citing Pandemic” – the New York Times has the story.

Even Queen Elsa’s magic is no match for the coronavirus pandemic.

Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.

“Frozen” had been the weakest of the three Disney musicals that had been running on Broadway — the others were “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” — and the company made it clear that it does not believe audiences will return in substantial enough numbers to sustain all of those shows.

“This difficult decision was made for several reasons but primarily because we believe that three Disney productions will be one too many titles to run successfully in Broadway’s new landscape,” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a letter to his staff….

(20) LET THE SUN SHINE IN. WIRED found something the military would let them talk about for “A Secret Space Plane is Carrying a Solar Experiment to Orbit”, and it has a connection to the Golden Age of SF.

On Saturday, the US Air Force is expected to launch its secret space plane, X-37B, for a long-duration mission in low Earth orbit. The robotic orbiter looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle and has spent nearly eight of the past 10 years in space conducting classified experiments for the military. Almost nothing is known about what X-37B does up there, but ahead of its sixth launch the Air Force gave some rare details about its cargo.

…[The] real star of the show is a small solar panel developed by the physicists at the Naval Research Lab that will be used to conduct the first orbital experiment with space-based solar power.

“This is a major step forward,” says Paul Jaffe, an electronics engineer at the Naval Research Lab and lead researcher on the project. “This is the first time that any component geared towards a solar-powered satellite system has ever been tested in orbit.”

Space-based solar power is all about getting solar power to Earth no matter the weather or the time of day. The basic idea is to convert the sun’s energy into microwaves and beam it down. Unlike terrestrial solar panels, satellites in a sufficiently high orbit might only experience darkness for a few minutes per day. If this energy could be captured, it could provide an inexhaustible source of power no matter where you are on the planet.

It’s an idea that was cooked up by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in the 1940s; since then, beamed power experiments have been successfully tested several times on Earth. But the experiment on X-37B will be the first time the core technologies behind microwave solar power will be tested in orbit.

(21) TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS. Not genre, but one stunning upside to the pandemic: “The Most Beautiful Flower Garden In The World Has No Visitors For The First Time In 71 Years And I Got To Capture It (31 Pics)” at Bored Panda.

Most of you probably know the world-famous Keukenhof, the most beautiful tulip garden in the world. Every year millions of tourists visit this garden. That’s a huge lot considering the garden is only open in spring! Every year, a hard-working crew makes sure the garden looks as good as ever, including this year!

This year is ‘special’. Keukenhof is closed, for the first time in 71 years. But that doesn’t mean there are no flowers. On the contrary; the flowers look incredible and get as much attention and care as always. All the passionate gardeners do their work as they’re used to. Because even without people, nature and the show of the garden goes on….

(22) UPDATE. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer’s separation was reported in a recent Pixel Scroll. Gaiman has now made a blog entry about it, which includes an open letter to the world that the couple collaborated on: “Where I Am, What I’m Doing, How I’m Doing And How I Got Here”. Gaiman’s intro says in part —

…Once the world opens up and travel gets easier Amanda and Ash and I are looking forward to being together again in Woodstock. (Yes, I’ve seen the newsfeed headlines saying I’ve moved to the UK, and even that we’re divorcing. No, I haven’t moved the UK, and yes, Amanda and I are still very much together, even with half a world between us.) 

Thank you to everyone who’s been kind and nice and helpful, while Amanda and my problems got rather more public than either of us is comfortable with. We love each other, and we love Ash, and we will sort ourselves out, in private, which is much the best place for things like this….

And the couple’s joint letter follows.

(23) NOT THAT SUBTLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Kyle Mizokami, in “The Space Force Receives Its ‘Kobayashi Maru’ Space-Tracking System” in Popular Mechanics says it’s no coincidence that Space Force’s warning system is a Star Trek reference; the Space Force also has a Kessel Run, and Mizokami thinks it’s no coincidence that the acronym for the force’s Space Operations Center is SPOC.

The U.S. Space Force announced the development of a brand new software package designed to track and monitor objects in space. Dubbed “Kobayashi Maru,” the cloud-based program was designed to modernize the way the U.S. Air Force—and now the U.S. Space Force—interoperates in space but with its allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing alliance.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cliff Ramshaw, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, David Goldfarb, Paul Di Filippo, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/20 Pixels, Get Ready, There’s A Scroll A’comin’

(1) PRESSING IN. Cat Rambo’s video “Why Small Press Books Don’t Almost Always Suck” challenges negativity about small presses with examples from her own career.

Cat talks about some of the small press books she’s appeared in or worked with, and what she likes about them

So far as I can tell she doesn’t identify any particular person as holding this opinion. But it might be more than a coincidence that a few weeks back Nick Mamatas wrote a column for LitReactor titled “Why Are Small Presses Almost Always So Awful?”

(2) IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. [Item by Dann.] Regarding Archive.org, Brian Keene has gone through the process of figuring out how to get his works removed from the National Emergency Library. To make it easier for other authors, he supplied the process in The Horror Show with Brian Keene – episode 259.

  • Authors need to send an email to info@archive.org.
  • The subject line should read “National Emergency Library Removal Request”
  • Authors need to include the URL(s) from within the National Emergency Library so they will know which work(s) they need to remove.

It’s kind of crappy to force authors to jump through hoops to prevent copyright infringement, but I guess it’s better to have hoops available than to just ignore the infringement and drive on as if nothing is wrong.

(3) IMPROVING SHORT FICTION. The Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews guest lecturer Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s.

…You’ve read quite a number of short stories over the years as an editor. For writers looking to improve their understanding of how short stories work, how would you suggest critically reading stories with an eye to improvement and understanding? Are there particular elements critical readers should look for?

This is a great question. Years ago I heard of an author who retyped a famous story to figure out what the author was doing. I don’t think the writer has to go that far, but critical reading is essential. Pick a favorite story that wowed you and read it a few times. Take notes. Look for the foreshadowing. Look for the metaphors and the similes. Pay attention to the arc. Pay attention to every clue. A professional author rarely wastes a word in a work of short fiction. It takes practice to pick up on most of the details the first time through a tale, but it’s a lot easier to see these details once you know what’s coming.

(4) NOT A DESIRABLE CHAPTER. Publishers Weekly reports on the troubles of a major book printer: “LSC Files Chapter 11”

LSC Communications announced this morning that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The filing has been expected for several months as the country’s largest book printer—and one of its largest printers overall—has struggled under the weight of its failed merger with Quad Graphics and the outbreak of the new coronavirus. LSC’s subsidiaries in Mexico and Canada are not included in the filing, and will continue to operate normally.

LSC said it has received commitments for $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing from certain of its revolving lenders, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions. If approved by the bankruptcy court, LSC said, the new financing, combined with cash on hand and generated through its ongoing operations, “is expected to be sufficient to support the company’s operational and restructuring needs.”

Since LSC’s deal with Quad was called off last summer following objections from the Justice Department, the company has worked to streamline its business, a process that has included closing eight facilities and signing new contracts, noted Thomas Quinlan III, LSC chairman, president, and CEO. Quinlan added that a review of its operations determined that the best way forward was to pursue a restructuring of its financial structure.

And Quad, LSC’s would-be merger partner, hit the wall two weeks ago: “Quad Closes Book Printing Operations”.

Publishers were dealt an unhappy surprise last week when Quad unexpectedly closed its book printing facilities, sending publishers scrambling to find a replacement. Quad did not respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it had plans to re-open the book plants.

The closure comes at a time when the loss of printing capacity is one of the many concerns publishers are facing because of the new coronavirus outbreak. Overall, most printers are printing, although on different schedules as they adjust to state policies, staffing, and types of books.

Quad put its book printing business up for sale last fall following the collapse of its proposed merger with the country’s largest book printer, LSC Communications, after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit. Quad has yet to respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it has found a buyer, but to date, none has been announced.

LSC, meanwhile, is continuing to operate, though it is dealing with its own financial challenges. 

(5) WORLD FANTASY AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The World Fantasy Convention chairs still plan to hold their con in Salt Lake City from October 29-November 1.

WFC 2020 is still six months away. Every day brings new developments and, we sincerely hope, progress toward controlling and conquering the virus. We have every hope that the current crisis will be over long before 29 October. Besides our own continuing discussions and plans, we’re monitoring the efforts of other conferences and similar gatherings, and will adapt all measures that make sense to keep our membership safe. We know this is a difficult time, and everyone’s plans are in a state of flux. Be assured we have no plans to raise membership rates during this worldwide emergency.

Download Progress Report #2 from the website.

Members of the 2018, 2019, or 2020 World Fantasy Conventions may nominate books, stories, and individuals for the 2020 World Fantasy Award between how and May 31. Voting instructions here.

(6) THE LOOK OF DUNE. Vanity Fair posted on Instagram the first photos of Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s production of Dune.

(7) FERRELL OBIT. Former OMNI editor Henry Keith Ferrell (1953-2020) died of an apparent heart attack while fixing his roof, before the storm currently sweeping up the East Coast. He is survived by his wife, Martha, and son, Alec, who made the announcement on Ferrell’s website.

…Graduating from Raleigh’s Sanderson High in 1971, he attended the Residential College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he met Martha Sparrow — a woman of equal beauty and intellect — at a Halloween party in the basement of Guilford dormitory. His face covered in wax, she overheard him mentioning the name “Lawrence Talbot” and she got the reference, having no idea what Keith looked like. On their first date, they ditched a French play to go see King Kong instead. They fell in love, moved off campus, and started their lives together. They were married on July 20, 1974, and would remain together for almost 47 years.

…Now a family man, Keith set out on his career in publishing, first at Walnut Circle Press as a print salesman, then as editor of trade magazine The Professional Upholsterer, onward to feature writer of COMPUTE! Magazine, where he was at the forefront of reporting on the burgeoning home computing industry throughout its emergence as a household staple. All the while, he raised his son and loved his wife, planted many gardens, and wrote and wrote and wrote.

From 1983 through 1987, Keith published four critically-acclaimed biographies of legendary writers for young adults through M. Evans and Company: H.G. Wells: First Citizen of the Future; Ernest Hemingway: The Search for Courage; George Orwell: The Political Pen; and John Steinbeck: The Voice of the Land. These were the first of many printed works to bear his name in the byline.

In 1990, COMPUTE! was acquired by General Media out of New York City, and Keith was recruited and ultimately served as Editor-in-Chief of OMNI Magazine, the preeminent science and technology publication of the day — a career-defining accomplishment. During his tenure at OMNI, Keith worked with (and edited) many of the heroes of his youth and forged friendships across the fields of anthropology, gaming, evolutionary studies, telecommunications, and writers of all stripes. Keith stewarded OMNI as a vehicle for the vanguard of cutting-edge technology and futurism until its final issue…

He wrote until his dying day, which turned out to be April 11, 2020, at 2:32pm. His heart gave out after fixing a hole in his roof, but finished the job before doing so….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 13, 2012 Lockout premiered. Also known as MS One: Maximum Security, It directed by James Mather and Stephen Saint Leger, and written by Mather, Saint Leger, and Luc Besson. It was both Mather’s and Saint Leger’s feature directorial debuts. The film stars Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, and Peter Stormare. It did poorly at the box and critics were not fond of it either; it holds a 46% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. So why write up here? Because John Carpenter successfully sued the film’s makers in the French courts for the film having plagiarized both Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.., a verdict held upon appeal. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1923 Mari Blanchard. Remembered best as B-movie femme fatale, she did a number of genre films including Abbott and Costello Go to Mars where she was Queen Allura, She Devil where she had the lead role of Kyra Zelas and Twice-Told Tales, a Vincent Price horror film where she had a not major role as Sylvia Ward. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverley Cross. English screenwriter responsible for an amazing trio of films, to wit namely Jason And The ArgonautsSinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger and Clash Of The Titans. He also wrote the screenplay for The Long Ships which is at genre adjacent. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1949 Teddy Harvia, 71. Winner of the Hugo for Fan Artist an amazing four times starting in 1991 at Chicon IV, then in 1995 at Intersection, next in 2001 at the Millennium Philcon and last at in 2002 at ConJosé. He was honored with the Rebel Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation in 1997 at that year’s DeepSouthCon
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 69. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 66. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His TV resume includes notable work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written a number of genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. He was an American science fiction editor, author and anthologist. Founding editor of the Questar Science Fiction line for which he was a Nolacon II Hugo finalist in the Best Professional Editor category. I’ve read and will recommend The American Fantasy Tradition which he did, and likewise Masters of Fantasy which was co-edited with Bill Fawcett. I see he helped Julius Schwartz put together his autobiography,  Man of Two Worlds. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 70. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates as Zeno was followed quickly by the role of Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel  De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it.) At the time, I thought it was the the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1960 Michel Faber, 60. Dutch born author of three genre novels, Under the SkinThe Book of Strange New Things and D: A Tale of Two Worlds. He was a finalist for the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Book of Strange New Things.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THERE’S NOTHING HALFWAY ABOUT THE IOWA WAY. Shaenon K. Garrity tweeted, “The Iowa Digital Library has a collection of sci-fi fanzines from the 1930s and 1940s, and my entertainment needs through the rest of the pandemic are taken care of.” Thread starts here.

(12) SECOND THOUGHTS. Cora Buhlert continues her assessment of this year’s finalists in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2020 Hugo Awards”.

…This year, however, I’m largely happy with the Best Related Work finalists. Joanna Russ by Gwyneth Jones, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, by Farah Mendlesohn are exactly the sort of finalists I want to see in this category. All three were also on my longlist, two of them were on my ballot.

Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski was not on my ballot, but is a highly deserving finalist, since autobiographies of people of genre relevance have always been a part of Best Related Work – see also the recent nominations for Carrie Fisher’s and Zoe Quinn’s respective autobiographies….

(13) LOOKING FOR A JOB IN WASHINGTON. If Lou Antonelli doesn’t get voted in as SFWA director-at-large, he’s got a fallback position. Lou has declared himself a Libertarian candidate for Congress in Texas’ 4th District. Ballotpedia shows he’s up against a Republican incumbent.

Brianna Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in a Boston-area district once again. It would be an interesting coincidence if they were both on the floor of the House to start the 2021 term.

(14) SCARED STRAIGHT. “Indonesian village uses ‘ghosts’ for distancing patrols” according to the BBC.

A village in Indonesia has reportedly taken to using volunteers dressed as ghosts to try to scare people into social distancing over the coronavirus.

Kepuh village, on Java Island, started deploying the patrols at night last month.

In Indonesian folklore, ghostly figures known as “pocong” are said to represent the trapped souls of the dead.

Indonesia so far has about 4,500 cases and 400 confirmed virus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But there are fears, according to experts, that the true scale of the infection across the country is much worse.

According to Reuters news agency staff who travelled to see the pocong in action, the unusual tactic initially had the opposite effect to that intended – with people coming out to try to spot the volunteers.

But locals say matters have improved since the team began deploying unexpectedly.

“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo told Reuters. “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”

(15) FLAT NOTES. Today’s thing to worry about — “Coronavirus: What’s happening to the beer left in pubs?”

Pubs, like other public venues, look set to stay shut for the foreseeable future. But what’s going to happen to the contents of their cellars?

Fifty million pints – give or take.

That’s the amount of beer expected to go unused in barrels if pubs remain closed into the summer because of coronavirus. Publicans are currently unable to sell their lagers, ales and ciders – save for takeaways and home deliveries.

“It’s a very sad waste of all the work and talent that goes into producing great beer,” says Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). “People won’t get to drink it and all those resources have been used up for nothing.”

Mr Stainer estimates the UK’s 39,000 pubs have, on average, 15 barrels in their cellar at any given time. Most are kegs containing 11 gallons (88 pints) each – although many real ales come in nine-gallon (72-pint) casks. The best-before dates on pasteurised beer – including most lagers – are usually three to four months after delivery.

Those for real ales and other unpasteurised beer are usually set at six to nine weeks.

So most stock could go to waste if social distancing measures remain in place for several months.

(16) PLAYING POLITICS. My daughter used to play this game by the hour: “Animal Crossing removed from sale in China amid Hong Kong protests”.

The Nintendo Switch’s current best-selling game has been removed from Chinese online stores after activists used it to criticise the state.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets players customise their own island and invite others to visit.

Some players in Hong Kong have used the platform to stage protests.

Players in mainland China had previously been able to buy foreign editions of the title from online marketplaces.

The country’s censors strictly regulate video games and had yet to approve the title’s formal release in the country.

Now, even local sites which had advertised imported copies have removed the listings.

It is not clear, however, whether this is because there has been an intervention by the authorities or whether the stores are proactively removing the product.

(17) GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray in another Jeep commercial.

Wake up. Wash hands. Miss groundhog. Repeat. Every day is probably starting to seem the same, but the more we all remember to stay inside, the sooner we can get back outside.

(18) HOUSTON, WE USED TO HAVE A PROBLEM. “Apollo 13: Enhanced images reveal life on stricken spacecraft” — many pictures at link.

Image enhancement techniques have been used to reveal life aboard Nasa’s stricken Apollo 13 spacecraft in unprecedented detail.

Fifty years ago, the craft suffered an explosion that jeopardised the lives of the three astronauts aboard.

Unsurprisingly, given they were locked in a fight for survival, relatively few onboard images were taken.

But imaging specialist Andy Saunders created sharp stills from low-quality 16mm film shot by the crew.

One of the techniques used by Mr Saunders is known as “stacking”, in which many frames are assembled on top of each other to improve the image’s detail.

(19) IT’S A GAS. In “‘Pinocchio’ at 80: 5 things you never knew about the Walt Disney classic” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter reports that if Disney followed Carlo Collodi’s story, Jiminy Cricket would have died in the film, and that Mel Blanc was originally cast as Gideon the cat but his lines were cut and replaced by burping.

Eighty years ago, moviegoers discovered exactly what happens when you wish upon a star when Walt Disney’s second animated feature, Pinocchio, premiered in theaters on Feb. 23, 1940. Flush with cash from the enormous success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney gambled his studio’s future on an adaptation of Italian author Corlo Collodi’s 19th century story of a walking, talking marionette who longs to be a real boy. At the time, the gamble didn’t entirely succeed: While Pinocchio received instant critical acclaim, it didn’t attract the same crowds that turned out in droves to see Snow White….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wong Ping’s Fables 2” on Vimeo tells the story of the cow who became rich and the rabbit who wanted to be a judge.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/29/20 That Is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Scroll, And With Strange Pixels Even Death May File

(1) FUTURE TENSE. The January 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Truth Is All There Is,” by Emily Parker, a short story about a world in which everyone is happily chained to the blockchain.

Mila sits at her desk, watching a dancer twirl around on her screen. Then she records an audio prediction.

“Retro, contrarian, but still ballet. How much can you watch?” she tells her audience. “I give her 2.68 more days of hype.”

That’s the entire story. By late afternoon Mila’s words have reached more than 3 million people, which she predicted as well. End-of-hype predictions track well and bring automatic bonuses if they turn out be true. 

It was published along with a response essay, “Trust No One. Not Even a Blockchain.”, by blockchain expert Jill Carlson.

 …Blockchain devotees say the technology can solve our trust issues—that it is trustless, that it requires no trust. This is the phrase that has launched a thousand corporate projects and startup companies. These startups purport that their blockchain technology will enable us to ensure that our vegetables are organically sourced, our diamonds conflict-free, and our data securely our own. The authorities making these promises present the technology in opaque terms and emphasize its complexity. Ironically, this technology that promises transparency and verifiability is presented as completely inscrutable.

(2) SHATNER DIVORCE SETTLED. The Daily Mail reports William Shatner is free again.

William Shatner, 88, has finalized his divorce from his fourth wife, Elizabeth Martin, after nearly 19 years of marriage.

Going into the legal proceedings, the legendary actor, who played Captain Kirk on Star Trek, had a net worth of over $100 million. 

In the end, the actor was able to keep the bulk of his fortune because he had an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement in place before they were married in 2001.

That puts Bill back in play, just like Jeff Goldblum’s Jurassic Park character who says, “I’m always on the lookout for a future ex-Mrs. Malcolm.”

(3) WFC 2020 RATES GOING UP. World Fantasy Con 2020’s registration rate goes up to $250 on February 17. Take advantage of it today by visiting the WFC 2020 website.

(4) READ FAFNIR. The 2/2019 issue of “Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research” is online, a Special Edition on Speculative Climate Fiction. In addition to the topical articles you’ll find Jani Ylönen’s report on the “Worldcon 77 Academic Track” and Janice M. Bogstad’s review of Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid.

(5) HAPPY BIRTHDAY DR. STRANGELOVE. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] On January 29, 1964, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. With a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed by directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. 

It was not the original title, as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranus as well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.

The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.)Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on Kindle. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career. 

It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.

The film was a box office success. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a 94% rating with over 200,000 reviewers casting a vote. 

A sequel was planned by Kubrick with Gilliam directing though he was never told this by Kubrick and only discovered this after Kubrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”

The original theatrical trailer is here.

(6) MUTUALLY ASSURED DESTRUCTION. In “Fail Safe: Very Little Left of the World”, Bilge Ebiri contrasts and compares Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe for readers at The Criterion Collection.

Both movies show men operating within remorseless systems (in fact, both show men operating within the same remorseless system, namely the United States nuclear apparatus), but in Strangelove’s case, there’s a liberating nihilism to Kubrick’s vision, as the system unleashes the characters’ monstrosity—their zeal for war, their twisted notions of civilization, their fantasies of survival. With Fail Safe, while the system defeats the characters, the film allows them to assert their humanity in small yet profound ways, as Lumet puts us in the middle of this drama with an immediacy that evokes the title of one of the CBS television shows on which he cut his teeth in the fifties: You Are There. Kubrick may still make us weep for the world (albeit by first making us laugh at it), but Lumet makes us weep for ourselves and our loved ones.

(7) HEY BOOMER. The Ohio Light Opera will be doing a production of an operetta based on the Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon. How will they fit that cannon on stage?

VOYAGE TO THE MOON

(1875)
Music by Jacques Offenbach
Original French Libretto by Albert Vanloo, Eugène Leterrier, and Arnold Mortier
English Libretto by Steven A. Daigle, Henry S. Leigh, and Eric Beheim

Over 41 seasons, OLO shows have been set in such exotic locales as Peru, Russia, Madrid, Indonesia, China, Greece, and even Hades. So, what’s left, you may ask? How about the moon! Inspired by Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, Jacques Offenbach and his librettists created, in Voyage to the Moon, a wonderfully wacky work, but with some of the composer’s most exalted operettic music. Prince Caprice, bored with life on Earth, has no interest in inheriting the crown from his father, King V’lan—he wants to go to the moon for some excitement. He engages the King’s scholar, Microscope, to find a way of getting him there. The sage returns days later with a 20-mile-long cannon, which propels him, Caprice, and V’lan to the lunar surface. There they meet their equivalents: King Cosmos, his advisor Cactus, and the Princess Fantasia. Among other “adjustments,” the earthlings must deal with the reality that, on the moon, love is considered a disease. Caprice has fallen hard for Fantasia, but, for obvious reasons, she shuns him. But Caprice has brought with him some apples … get it?

(8) CAPLAN OBIT. Freida Caplan, who introduced kiwis to the U.S. market, also had a science fiction connection — she supplied the “alien” fruits for Star Trek episodes, which helped boost sales: “‘Kiwi Queen’ Frieda Caplan, produce-industry pioneer, dies at 96”.

She was Frieda Rapoport Caplan, a tenacious maven credited for introducing kiwis, mangoes, habanero and shishito peppers, passion fruit, bean and alfalfa sprouts, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, starfruit, blood oranges, shiitake mushrooms, turmeric, and hundreds more fruits and vegetables into the supermarket mainstream. Into the bellies of American consumers.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 29, 1989 — Lobster Man from Mars premiered. This comedy was a spoof of Fifties SF films. It was directed by Stanley Sheff, and it starred Tony Curtis and Patrick Macnee. It was shot on a shoestring budget of less than a million dollars. It had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989. When it went into general release is uncertain. No reviews from critics were but it does have a 43% rating by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1913 Victor Mature. He’s best remembered for his first leading role, as a fur-clad caveman in One Million B.C., and until he showed up on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Sparks in the “Deadly Creatures Below!” episode, his only genre role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 29, 1918 Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 29, 1932 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 80. Her first genre work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives, scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife”, and she did an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well. 
  • Born January 29, 1945 Tom Selleck, 75. Setting aside the matter of whether Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF. He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up s himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago.
  • Born January 29, 1958 Jeph Loeb, 62. His first comic writing work was on the Challengers of the Unknown vol. 2 #1 in 1991 with Tim Sale. I’m pleased to say that it was in the DC Universe app so I just read it and it’s superb. He’d go on to win three Eisners for his work for Batman/The Spirit #1, Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. And he’s also a producer/writer on such genre series such as Smallville, Lost, Heroes and Teen Wolf.
  • Born January 29, 1970 Heather Graham, 50. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks.
  • Born January 29, 1988 Catrin Stewart, 32. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was friends with Madame Vastra and Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) OSCAR TIME. “Avengers: Endgame – How we made the visual effects” – the BBC video shows how little of what we saw was actually shot as we saw it.

Avengers: Endgame is one of five movies competing at the 2020 Oscars for best visual effects.

Al Moloney spoke to Framestore’s Stuart Penn about the challenges of creating the effects for the film.

(13) RARA AVIS. The BBC’s Melissa Hogenboom asks “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

In many ways, the last surviving Neanderthals are a mystery. But four caves in Gibraltar have given an unprecedented insight into what their lives might have been like.

Forty thousand years ago in Europe, we were not the only human species alive – there were at least three others. Many of us are familiar with one of these, the Neanderthals. Distinguished by their stocky frames and heavy brows, they were remarkably like us and lived in many pockets of Europe for more than 300,000 years.

For the most part, Neanderthals were a resilient group. They existed for about 200,000 years longer than we modern humans (Homo sapiens) have been alive. Evidence of their existence vanishes around 28,000 years ago – giving us an estimate for when they may, finally, have died off.

Fossil evidence shows that, towards the end, the final few were clinging onto survival in places like Gibraltar. Findings from this British overseas territory, located at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, are helping us to understand more about what these last living Neanderthals were really like. And new insights reveal that they were much more like us than we once believed.

In recognition of this, Gibraltar received Unesco world heritage status in 2016. Of particular interest are four large caves. Three of these caves have barely been explored. But one of them, Gorham’s cave, is a site of yearly excavations. “They weren’t just surviving,” the Gibraltar museum’s director of archaeology Clive Finlayson tells me of its inhabitants.

…The remains of more than 150 different species of bird have also been uncovered in Gorham’s cave, many with tooth and cut marks, which suggests Neanderthals ate them.

There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task. What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewelry.

(14) SPACE CONNECTION. “How worried should we be about ‘Big Brother’ technology?”

Peenemünde is a port in northern Germany, where the River Peene meets the Baltic Sea.

There, in October 1942, German engineers sat in a control room watching a television screen. It showed live, close-up images of a prototype weapon on its launch pad some 2.5km (1.5 miles) away. On another screen, with a wide-angle view, they saw the weapon surge skywards.

The test had succeeded. They were looking at something that would shape the future – but perhaps not in the way they imagined.

…Wernher von Braun, the brilliant young engineer behind the V2, surrendered to the Americans as the Third Reich fell, then helped them win the space race.

If you had told him that his rocket test would be the first step towards putting a man on the Moon, he would not have been surprised. That is exactly what motivated him.

At one point, he was briefly arrested after someone on a train overheard him say that he wished he could build spaceships instead of weapons, and reported this suspiciously non-conforming thought to the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police.

But von Braun might not have anticipated that he was also witnessing the birth of another hugely influential technology – one the Gestapo would have loved in its modern form – closed-circuit television, better known as CCTV.

(15) WHERE IS IT NOW. The BBC tells of “An atomic marker hidden in plain sight”.

In the courtyard of a gift shop decorated with colourful ceramic frogs and dragonflies, it’s easy to overlook the historic marker.

Perhaps that’s fitting for a secret site.

In the early 1940s, the world’s top scientists and their families trudged through this patio, bedraggled from a cross-country train trip. Most didn’t know where they were headed. All they had were classified orders to report to the address “109 East Palace, Santa Fe, New Mexico”. When they opened the wrought iron gate, they entered what the National Historical Landmark plaque calls a “portal to their secret mission”, which was to build the atomic bomb.

“They came in through the courtyard,” said Marianne Kapoun, who with her husband owns The Rainbow Man gift shop, which occupies the formerly classified facility. Visitors now enter the shop through a front door; the historical entrance where scientists like Enrico Fermi and Richard Feynman once passed, is blocked, and the walkway cluttered with dangling ceramic chillies and hand-painted jack-o-lantern gourds.

The newcomers, which included a contingent of British scientists, were issued security passes and loaded from the facility onto a bus or a Jeep for the last leg of their journey. Their destination lay 35 miles away, up tortuous, unpaved mountain roads, in the hidden settlement of Los Alamos. And what they eventually accomplished, the plaque says, was “one of the greatest scientific achievements in human history”.

But few modern visitors to Santa Fe, a Spanish colonial city known for its adobe buildings and art galleries, realise they’re crossing paths with Nobel laureates – and a nest of spies.

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

World Fantasy Convention 2020 Adds Brandon Sanderson to Guest Lineup

Brandon Sanderson

World Fantasy Convention 2020 has named Brandon Sanderson, author of many NYT bestselling books, including the Mistborn® trilogy and the recently released Starsight, as one of the convention’s special guests. WFC 2020 will take place October 29–November 1 in Salt Lake City. Sanderson lives and works in Utah.

“We’re delighted to be able to highlight the accomplishments of one of Utah’s many talented authors,” said Ginny Smith, convention co-chairperson. “Mr. Sanderson has made a significant contribution to the fantasy genre, and we’re pleased to honor him.”

Sanderson’s books are regulars on the New York Times bestseller list, and many are international bestsellers as well. He was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s groundbreaking The Wheel of Time series, which celebrated its thirty-year anniversary earlier this month. Sanderson’s work has been published in more than twenty-five languages and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

He joins previously announced author guests C.J. Cherryh, Stephen Gallagher, Cindy Pon and Stephen Graham Jones, plus editor Anne Groell, artist David Cherry, and toastmasters Tracy and Laura Hickman.