Pixel Scroll 12/23/20 It Was The Alfred Bester Of Times, It Was The Bertie Wooster Of Times

Note: A bit light today because I’m off helping celebrate my brother’s birthday.

(1) OUT OF COURT. Mike Dunford of Questionable Authority makes some interesting comments on the decision against ComicMix (see “Dr. Seuss Enterprises Wins Appeal to Ninth Circuit; Seuss-Trek Mashup Violates Copyright”) and promises more on his next QuestAuthority at Twitch. Twitter thread starts here.

(2) A SCAM, BUT WHY? At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss warns that a “Spooky Phishing Scam Targets Traditionally-Published Writers”.

…The phisher, or phishers, employ clever tactics like transposing letters in official-looking email addresses (like “penguinrandornhouse.com” instead of “penguinrandomhouse.com“) and masking the addresses so they only show when the recipient hits “Reply”. They know how publishing works and appear to have access to inside information, utilizing not just public sources like acquisition announcements in trade publications, but details that are harder to uncover: writers’ email addresses, their relationships with agents and editors, delivery and deadline dates, even details of the manuscripts themselves. 

And they are ramping up their operations. According to the Times, the scam began appearing “at least” three years ago, but in the past year “the volume of these emails has exploded in the United States.”

So what’s the endgame? Publishing people are stumped. Manuscripts by high-profile authors have been targeted, but also less obviously commercial works: debut novels by unknowns, short story collections, experimental fiction. The manuscripts don’t wind up on the black market, as far as anyone can tell, and don’t seem to be published online. There have been no ransom demands or other attempts at monetization. 

[From a New York Times article:] “One of the leading theories in the publishing world, which is rife with speculation over the thefts, is that they are the work of someone in the literary scouting community. Scouts arrange for the sale of book rights to international publishers as well as to film and television producers, and what their clients pay for is early access to information — so an unedited manuscript, for example, would have value to them.”

(3) A CAT WITH A DESK. Timothy the Talking Cat makes “Tim’s Last Minute Gift Suggestions” at Camestros Felapton.

… You worthless and ungrateful humans have probably left all your shopping to the last minute. Well let me help out. Here are some quick and easy gifts you can get together even on a tight budget.

…Surprises. Everybody loves surprises! Go out into the garden. Find a dead bird. Sniff it and maybe wack it about a bit with your paws. Bring it home and drop it somewhere surprising….

(4) LUKER OBIT. A phantom’s beloved and a garden ghost:“Rebecca Luker, a Broadway Star for Three Decades, Dies at 59” reports the New York Times.

Rebecca Luker, the actress and singer who in a lauded three-decade career on the New York stage embodied the essence of the Broadway musical ingénue in hit revivals of “Show Boat,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Music Man,” died on Wednesday in a hospital in Manhattan. She was 59. … she had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as A.L.S. or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

…Just five years after college, she was on the Broadway stage, assuming the lead female role in “The Phantom of the Opera”— Christine, the chorus girl who is the object of the phantom’s affections.

“Phantom” was her Broadway debut; she began as the understudy to the original star, Sarah Brightman; became an alternate; and took over as Christine in 1989. She remained with the show until 1991.

Ms. Luker moved on immediately to another Broadway show: She played a ghost, the little orphan girl’s dead Aunt Lily, in “The Secret Garden.” 

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 23, 1963 — On this night in 1963, Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas-themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script which was written by Rod Serling would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”, but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 23, 1896 Máiréad Ní Ghráda. She’s the author of Manannán, a 1940 novel which is regarded as the first such science fiction work in Irish. Several years previously, she translated Peter Pan into Irish, Tír na Deo, the first time it had been so done. (Died 1971.) (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1927 – Chuch Harris.  (“Chuch” from ChucHarris.)  Englander who became an adjunct (at least) of Irish Fandom with a letter to Walt Willis of Slant beginning “Dear Mr. Ellis”.  CH submitted a story about a family of werewolves beginning “The family were changing for dinner”.  Persuaded to visit Vin¢ Clarke and Ken Bulmer at their flat the Epicentre (mistaking this for the center, or centre, of an earthquake, has a long history) he helped generate Sixth Fandom, was shot with a water-pistol by James White, wrote for Hyphen, and formed Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell.  Much later Spike published the Chuck Harris Appreciation Magazine, which only a Johnson fan like me would call the Great Cham, hello Spike.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1928 – George Heap.  Long-time secretary of the Philadelphia SF Society, filker, Tolkien fan before the paperback Lord of the Rings arrived, he moved to Rochester, joined The Cult, and died at the horrid age of 41 just before Noreascon I the 29th Worldcon.  You can see four 1960 issues of his SF Viewsletter here.  (Died 1971) [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1929 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature. Somehow it seems appropriate on Christmas for me to share that stamp here. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 75. Best known for the Riftwar series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. His only Award to date is a HOMer Award for Servant of the Empire which he co-wrote with Janny Wurts. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1978 Estella Warren, 42. Deena on the Planet of The Apes. She also shows up in Ghost Whisper, the Beauty and the Beast film as Belle the Beauty, TaphephobiaFeel the Dead and Age of the Living Dead. (CE) 
  • Born December 23, 1954 – Susan Grant, age 66.  U.S. Air Force veteran, then commercial pilot; 18,000 hours flight time.  RITA Award – for Contact, an SF romance; there’s cross-genre action for you.  A score of novels, a few shorter stories, several Booklist and Library Journal Books of the Year.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1960 – Miyabe Miyuki, age 60.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Six novels, ten shorter stories so far available in English.  Yamamoto Shûgorô Prize, Naoki Prize, two Yoshikawa Eiji Prizes, Nihon SF Taishô Award.  Mystery Writers of Japan Award.  Batchelder Award for the English translation of her Brave Story.  Film, television, manga, video games.  All She Was Worth (English title) called a watershed in the history of women’s detective fiction.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1970 – Natalie Damschroder, age 50.  A dozen novels for us, thirty all told, many shorter stories.  Loves the New England Patriots more than anything except her family, writing, reading, and popcorn.  I omit what she thinks her teen fiction kicks.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1984 Alison Sudol, 36. She’s known for her role as Queenie Goldstein on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I do so like those titles. She’s also has a recurring role as Kaya in Transparent, a series which is at least genre adjacent for its genre content and certainly SJW in content. (CE)
  • Born December 23, 1985 – Marta Dahlig, age 35.  Digital artist, mostly.  Here is the Jun 05 Revelation.  Here is The Shifter (German edition, translated as The Healer).  Here is Sloth.  In a different vein, here is Mimi and the Brave Magic.  [JH]
  • Born December 23, 1986 Noël Wells, 34. Voice actor on Star Trek: Below Decks where she voices the green-colored Ensign D’Vana Tendi. I so wanted to love this series but was actually repelled by it. I said a year ago that “It should a rather fun time.” Well I was wrong.  So what do y’all think of it? (CE) 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • “Shoe” might have this same reaction to some of the book lists I run.
  • “Get Fuzzy” doesn’t treat a famous mathematician with the gravity his deserves.

(8) HIGH CALIBER CANON. Sff gets a fillip of genre recognition in The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story edited by John Freeman, to be released May 4, 2021.

…Beginning in 1970, it culls together a half century of powerful American short stories from all genres, including–for the first time in a literary anthology–science fiction, horror, and fantasy, placing writers such as Usula Le Guin, Ken Liu and Stephen King next to some of the often-taught geniuses of the form–Grace Paley, Toni Cade Bambara, Sandra Cisneros, and Denis Johnson. Culling widely, Freeman, the former editor of Granta and now of his own literary annual, brings forward some astonishing work to be regarded in a new light. Often overlooked tales by Dorothy Allison, Charles Johnson, and Toni Morrison will recast the shape and texture of today’s enlarging atmosphere of literary dialogue.

(9) BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Jason Scott retells a story he says happened in the 1990s. Thread starts here.

(10) REGIME CHANGE. The Washington Posts’s Alexandra Petri finds another leader who has their own reality:“I, the White Witch, am disgusted by anyone who would try to make it always winter and never Christmas” .

Here in Narnia, it is so, so important that we have seasons, as I, the White Witch, have always been the absolute first to say. Lots of seasons, one leading to the next, leading to Christmas. I have always cared the most about seasons, and the second most about being absolutely sure that there will be Christmas. “More Seasons for Narnia!” was actually my slogan, although it was on a bumper sticker covered in ice crystals and hidden on my sledge under a big heap of Turkish delight. But I knew that it was there….

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

Pixel Scroll 11/1/20 You Only Scroll Twice: Once When You Are Born, Once When You Look Your Pixel in the Face

(1) BUTLER QUOTED. Brain Pickings consults “Octavia Butler on Creative Drive, the World-Building Power of Our Desires, and How We Become Who We Are”.

After the glorious accident of having been born at all, there are myriad ways any one life could be lived. The lives we do live are bridges across the immense river of possibility, suspended by two pylons: what we want and what we make. In an ideal life — a life of purpose and deep fulfillment — the gulf of being closes and the pylons converge: We make what we want to see exist.

This interplay is what Octavia Butler (June 22, 1947–February 24, 2006) explores throughout Parable of the Talents (public library) — the second part of her oracular Earthseed allegory, which also gave us Butler’s acutely timely wisdom on how (not) to choose our leaders.

(2) JOIN eAPA AND LEARN QUAINT AND CURIOUS FORGOTTEN LORE. [Item by Garth Spencer.] eAPA, one of the longest-running electronic Amateur Publication Associations, is a great place to find and learn Things Fans Were Not Meant to Know! Words that rhyme with orange, for instance, or the curse that sank Atlantis, or the REAL reason why the British Empire is no more! 

You too can share your Forbidden Knowledge of the Lost Civilization of Sitnalta, why the fabulous city of Temlaham was buried under a landslide, and the Hideous Sign now covered by the Site C Dam! JOIN the international quest to save humanity from the approaching threat to us all!

Or just have fun writing fannish contributions to a monthly APA. 

Write Garth Spencer at garth.van.spencer@gmail.com for the eAPA Guidelines, and check out the password-free October 2020 mailing on eFanzines.com today!

(3) HEARD THAT NAME BEFORE. At Writer Beware, Victoria Strauss is “Disssecting A Scam: The Literary Scout Impersonator”.

I’ve written several posts about a fairly new phenomenon in the world of writing scams: scammers that falsely use the names of reputable publishing professionals, including literary agents and publishers, to lure writers into paying large amounts of money for worthless, substandard, and/or never-delivered services.

This time, I’m breaking down a very similar scam that, capitalizing on the pandemic-fueled popularity of Netflix and other streaming services (as well as the eternal writerly dream of having one’s book translated into film), is appropriating the name of Clare Richardson, Senior Scout for film and TV at the New York office of Maria B. Campbell Associates, to hoodwink writers in an unusually complicated–and expensive–scheme.

(4) REVIEWS OF NEW SFF. Amal El-Mohtar’s latest Otherworldly column for the New York Times Book Review covers Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi among others: “Dealmakers and Wanderers: New Science Fiction and Fantasy” .

… I have been longing to read Susanna Clarke again for 16 years, ever since I turned the last page in “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.” I was surprised to find PIRANESI (Bloomsbury, $27) anticipating pandemic confinement — the difficulty of dividing time, of maintaining a stable sense of self — through a filter of marble and gold, of rushing ocean, of tenderness and love.

(5) NOT ALL WET. James Davis Nicoll’s post for Tor.com, “Five Books Featuring Alien Oceans”, includes one where humans are the bait.

Oceans may be rare in the inner Solar System—Mars and Mercury are too small for oceans while Mercury and Venus are too hot—but if we consider that water is composed of hydrogen (the most common element in the universe) and oxygen (the third most common element), it seems likely that water would be pretty common too. Indeed, if we look at the worlds out beyond the Solar System’s frost line, we note that there are likely to be oceans within Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede, Ceres, Pluto, and other small worlds.

As for exoplanets (which we have been discovering at a surprising rate, of late) … well, some of them must have oceans, or be covered with oceans, as well. SF authors, even before the exoplanet boom, have long been imagining water worlds. Here are a few books about ocean planets.

(6) THE AGE OF BANGSUND. “Those who lived, loved and are gone: John Bangsund”The Age in Australia published a tribute on November 1. (Which is already yesterday there, mind you.)

In the late 1990s, the offices of Meanjin magazine in Melbourne would receive a package of tobacco-scented and wine-stained proofs four times a year.

They were from their charismatic editorial consultant John Bangsund who, with an unmatched studiousness and attention to detail, had pored over each issue to make sure no errors or inaccuracies had slipped through before it went to print.

It was this unwavering passion for words and writing, matched by a deep knowledge about everything from classical music to science fiction, that saw the Melbourne editor become a beloved figure within literary circles for decades…

(7) DOYLE OBIT. Debra Doyle (1952-2020) died October 31 announced her husband Jim MacDonald:

It is with great sorrow that I report that Debra Doyle, my beloved bride of 42 years, died this evening at 1841 hours. She died of an apparent cardiac event, at home, in my arms.

Doyle authored or co-authored over thirty novels and more than 30 short stories, usually with her husband. Knight’s Wyrd, co-authored by Doyle and MacDonald, was awarded the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature in 1992. Their story “Remailer” was longlisted for the Tiptree Award in 2000. Both of them taught at the Viable Paradise genre writer’s workshop on Martha’s Vineyard.

A GoFundMe has been started for Funeral Costs for Author Debra Doyle.

This GoFundMe is to cover funeral costs, the extent of which is not currently known. Any additional funds raised beyond what is needed for burial will be used to ease the transition for her husband, Jim.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 1, 1897 – Naomi Mitchison.  A dozen novels, fifty shorter stories, for us; a hundred books, a thousand short stories, book reviews, essays, travel, poems, recollections, in all.  Much moved by leftist causes, though she was eventually unhappy with the political Left, her work, never neutral, at best finds its own strength.  She wrote historical, allegorical, fantastic, sometimes scientific fiction.  Feminist, gardener, rancher. (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born November 1, 1910 – Malcolm Smith.  Woodworker, pulp illustrator, staff artist for Marshall Space Flight Center; he drew for us, also detective stories, Westerns, newspapers.  Here is the Apr 43 Fantastic.  Here is the Feb 48 Amazing.  Here is the Mar 50 Other Worlds.  Here is the Feb 58 Imagination.  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • November 1, 1917 Zenna Henderson. Her first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951.  The People series appeared in magazines and anthologies, as well as the stitched together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh. Other volumes include The People Collection and Ingathering: The Complete People Stories. She was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1959 for her novelette “Captivity.” Her story “Pottage” was made into the 1972 ABC-TV Movie, “The People”.  “Hush” became an episode of  George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside which first aired in 1988. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • November 1, 1923 Gordon R. Dickson. Truly one of the best writers in the genre. I’m not going to even begin to detail his stellar career in any detail as that would require a skald to do so. His first published genre fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic Stories which was the first issue of Fantastic Story Magazine as it came to be titled later. Childe Cycle involving the Dorsai is his best known series and the Hoka are certainly his silliest creation. I’m very, very fond of his Dragon Knight series which I think really reflects his interest in that history. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born November 1, 1923 – Dean Grennell.  Pioneer Wisconsin fan, served in the Army Air Corps (“Nothing can stop…”), moved to Los Angeles where I met him.  Fanzine Grue (its name a parody of True).  Here is his cover for Sky Hook 25.  Coined several fannish expressions e.g. croggle, “a verb signifying intense disturbance of a subjective nature” – H. Warner) and the unrelated if like-sounding crottled greeps (“But if you don’t like crottled greeps, what did you order them for?”).  More here. (Died 2004) [JH] 
  • November 1, 1941 Robert Foxworth, 79. He’s been on quite a number of genre shows including The Questor Tapes,seaQuest DSVDeep Space NineOuter LimitsEnterpriseStargate SG-1 and Babylon 5. His first genre role was as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein where Bo Swenson played the monster. (CE) 
  • November 1, 1942 Michael Fleisher. Comics writer best known for his DC Comics work of in the Seventies and Eighties on Spectre and the not very traditional Jonah Hex. (Hopefully they’ll be added to the expanded DC universe comics app next year.) He also has had long runs on Ghost Rider and Spider-Woman early on which shows that he is a rather good writer even then. (Died 2018) (CE) 
  • Born November 1, 1956  – Lynne Jonell, 64.  The Secret of Zoom (a topic many of us wish we understood today) was a School Library Journal Best Book of 2009; President Obama bought one for his daughter (no blame to him that it has an orphan boy named Taft).  Ten more books, some about rats, cats.  “I’m tall.  I like to sail….  I have a patient and loving husband and two wonderful sons who are loving (but not so patient)….  I like to look out my widow at the branches of trees….  This is good for inspiration and also lets me pretend I am thinking hard.”  [JH]
  • November 1, 1959 Susanna Clarke, 61. Author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I think wins my award for the most footnoted work in genre literature. It won the World Fantasy, Nebula, Locus, Mythopoeic and Hugo Awards for Best Novel. It was adapted into a BBC series and optioned for a film. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works and is splendid indeed. Her latest novel, Piranesi, is getting good reviews here. (CE) 
  • Born November 1, 1964 – Karen Marie Moning, 56.  Eight books about highlanders, a dozen in a Fever Universe; Shadowfever and more have been NY Times Best Sellers.  Two RITA Awards.  Her Website quotes Jorge Luis Borges “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library,” hello Evelyn Leeper.  [JH]
  • Born November 1, 1965 – Alberto Varanda, 55.  Portuguese working in French.  A dozen covers; here is The Angel and Deathhere is The Death of Ayeshahere is Enchanterhere is Blood of Amber.  [JH]
  • November 1, 1973 Aishwarya Rai, 46. Actress who’s done two SF films in India, the Tamil language Enthiran (translates as Robot) in which she’s Sana, the protagonist’s medical student girlfriend, and Mala in Action Replayy, a Hindi-language SF romantic comedy. She was also Sonia in The Pink Panther 2. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pooch Cafe has dueling Halloween costumes.
  • Shoe turned back the clock and got extra 2020.
  • Bizarro has advice for an unhappy actor.
  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider has some thoughts about confinement:

(10) TANGLED UP IN BLUE. “Claire Cronin: Blue Light Hauntings”, Q&A with a horror author at Guernica.

Guernica: Encountering your work, it’s almost like you need to get something out of your system— which gets crystallized in Blue Light of the Screen. Did you think of this book as an exorcism of sorts?

Cronin: It became something like that towards the end. It’s definitely confessional, [and] a little bit psychoanalytic, but I was the therapist and the patient.

Exorcism stories are not resolved at the end. Well, some exorcism movies do resolve the demonic possession, but even when that happens, there is still the sense that evil is floating around in the ether, waiting for its next victim. And in true stories of demonic possession, a victim often has to be exorcised many times, over many years. The threat doesn’t really go away.

In the case of my book, I did attempt to find resolution, but of course the problems that I deal with keep going. There’s still evil in the world and plenty of reasons to feel despair. Though I wanted to show that I’d found some self-awareness and faith through my struggles, I didn’t want to write a happy ending. I don’t believe in happy endings; they’re not true to life. At the end of a ghost story, something ominous still lurks.

(11) WISH LUST. It’s great to be a genie, of course, but keep that old horse before the cart: “Indian doctor duped into buying ‘Aladdin’s lamp’ for $41,600”.

Two men have been arrested in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh for allegedly duping a doctor into buying an “Aladdin’s lamp” that they promised would bring him wealth and health.

As part of the con, they even pretended to conjure up spirits from the lamp, in line with the tale from The Arabian Nights, Indian media report.

The men had reportedly wanted more than $200,000 for the lamp but settled for a down payment of $41,600.

(12) EXCITING HOME PRODUCT OF THE DAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] (As if there aren’t already enough cranks reading this.)

Do you long for the upper arm-and-wrist exercise of running that Gestetner or other unenchanted duplicating machine?

Here’s an “unduplicator” — Hand-cranked paper/CD shredders!

Via a TechRepublic article featuring one of them. And here’s the vendor site.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/18/20 They Paved Alpha Ralpha Boulevard And Put Up A Parking Lot

(1) AREN’T THESE LOVELY? “Royal Mail: James Bond stamps released for new movie” – BBC has the story.

Some new stamps have been released by Royal Mail to mark the 25th, and latest, James Bond movie No Time To Die. They’ve all been inspired by the classic opening sequences and feature the six actors who’ve played 007

The Royal Mail is taking orders for the stamps and all kinds of cute Bond collectibles here. For example, the “James Bond Secret Dossier”, “A confidential dossier containing six missions linked to the Special Stamps.”

(2) JOHN SCALZI’S LAST (EMPEROX) TOUR. From coast to coast – and in the middle, too, John Scalzi will be promoting The Last Emperox. Find out when and where: “Tour Dates! Tour Dates! Tour Dates!”.

(3) BANDERSNATCH. Phillip Berry recommends “Surround Yourself With Resonators”. He learned it from a book —

…i recently finished a book called Bandernatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings that struck me with a surprising insight into peak performance. The book is about the creative collaboration among a group of exceptional English writers in the 1930’s and 1940’s and its amazing results. If you are a Tolkien or Lewis geek like me, you’ll love the book for its insights into the story behind the story of their writing. For purposes of today’s post, I want to focus on a particular concept introduced to me by author Diana Glyer: the resonator.

The resonator is “…anyone who acts as a friendly, interested, supportive audience … they show interest, give feedback, express praise, offer encouragement, contribute practical help, and promote the work to others. … they are enthusiastic about the project, they believe it is worth doing, and they are eager to see it brought to completion. But more importantly, they show interest in the writer — they express confidence in the writer’s talents and show faith in his or her ability to succeed. They understand what the writer is attempting. They catch the vision and then do all they can. Resonators help innovators to make the leap from where they are to where they need to be.”

Of course, right? How else would anyone get anything amazing accomplished? We like to talk a big collaboration game but few of us do it and fewer still are good at it. Peak performance in our world is the lone athlete doing the impossible. The brilliant scientist with a break through in the dark, lonely hours of the night. The deft surgeon making all of the right decisions, and incisions, in the OR. The inspired novelist typing away in insolation as she produces a story that touches everyone. We see our best coming in isolation and, like much of the rest of our lives, we approach our best life, best self, and best performance with a lottery ticket mentality: buy the ticket and hope for the best.

(4) A SIMPLE TEST YOU CAN DO AT HOME. Aidan Moher did the math and was stunned by the answer.

(5) WEIRD TALES COLLECTIBLES. Doug Ellis calls attention to the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction scheduled for April:

Weird Tales was Bob Weinberg’s favorite pulp and besides the pulp itself, he loved to collect ephemera related to it. Among the items that will be in the Robert Weinberg Estate Auction being held at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention (April 17-19, 2020 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center) are not only many issues of Weird Tales, but some related items as well. The auction will be held on the evening of Friday, April 17, 2020.

Bob collected many letters from Weird Tales’ editor Farnsworth Wright over the years, including several from the estate of author Greye la Spina. She was one of the pioneering female writers of horror and fantasy for the pulps.

(6) PICARD. Una McCormack is the author of The Last Best Hope, the first novel associated with the Star Trek: Picard television series. It embraces both a big idea and a big ideal: “The Big Idea: Una McCormack”.

…In Star Trek: Picard, we are presented with a future where the powers that be are no longer committed to these great ambitions. Starfleet, it seems, withdrew from the great challenge of its age, the humanitarian project to save the Romulan people from the effects of their sun going supernova, making a distinction between ‘lives’ and ‘Romulan lives’. We see a man whose values are no longer shared by the institutions to which he devoted his whole life, and who is struggling with this misalignment….

(7) DON’T GET RIPPED OFF. Writer Beware poses the question, “Should You Pay To Display Your Book At BookExpo? (Short Answer: No)”.

Solicitations Your May Encounter

1. You may already have received an email from the Combined Book Exhibit’s New Title Showcase. The CBE, an area of standing bookshelves outside the entrance to the BEA display floor, offers display packages for a few hundred dollars. For a few hundred more, you can buy an ad in its catalog; for many hundreds more, you can buy an autographing session.

Your book will be placed on a shelf with hundreds of others, in no particular order: there are no separate areas for genres, for instance. I’ve attended BEA many times, and the CBE is often completely deserted, with not a customer or a staff person in sight. I’ve never seen more than a handful of people browsing it at any one time. There is definitely no handselling involved.

A number of predatory marketing companies re-sell CBE services for enormous markups. The CBE is aware of this, and has posted a warning on its website (it’s no coincidence that all the companies named in the warning appear on the scam list in the sidebar of this blog).

(8) COYNE OBIT. The Rev. George V. Coyne, a Jesuit astrophysicist and the longtime director of the Vatican Observatory, who defended Galileo and Darwin against doctrinaire Roman Catholics, and also challenged atheists by insisting that science and religion could coexist, died on February 18 at the age of 87 The New York Times tribute is here.

…Recognized among astronomers for his research into the birth of stars and his studies of the lunar surface (an asteroid is named after him), Father Coyne was also well known for seeking to reconcile science and religion.

…Brother Guy Consolmagno, the current director of the Vatican Observatory, said in an email that Father Coyne “was notable for publicly engaging with a number of prominent and aggressive opponents of the church who wished to use science as a tool against religion.”

Among those he engaged on the debate stage and in print were Richard Dawkins, the English evolutionary biologist and atheist, and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, who, in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times in 2005, defended the concept that evolution could not have occurred without divine intervention.

During Father Coyne’s tenure, the Vatican publicly acknowledged that Galileo and Darwin might have been correct. Brother Consolmagno said it would be fair to say that Father Coyne had played a role in shifting the Vatican’s position….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in Galaxina, The Incredible Hulk, Jason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The Rings, Adult Fairytales, Clones, Dracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and he had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 91. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series was broadcast several years back.
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 18, 1954 John Travolta, 66. Ahhhh, Battlefield Earth. Travolta, a Scientologist, had sought for years to make a film of the novel by Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Given it is now generally considered one of the worst SF films ever, I do wonder what he thinks of it now. I can almost forgive him for it as he went on to become involved in Chicago which is one of the finest musicals ever filmed. 
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 52. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. 

(10) IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN. In “Love and Loss in the Time of Swamp Monsters” on CrimeReads, Andy Davidson recalls his three favorite Swamp Thing stories, and explains Swamp Thing’s romantic problems because “it can’t be easy falling in love with a vegetable.”

From his first appearance in 1971 in DC’s House of Secrets #92, Len Wein and Berni Wrightson’s Swamp Thing seemed doomed to be the monster lurking beyond the darkened pane.

By the time Swamp Thing #1 hit spinner racks a year later, Wein and Wrightson’s series had revamped and fleshed out the story of Dr. Alec Holland, a research scientist murdered, along with his wife, for his “bio-restorative formula.” Horribly burned in an explosion that destroys his lab, Holland flees into the swamp, where he succumbs to his injuries, only to be miraculously reborn from the bog, “a muck-encrusted, shambling mockery of life.”

(11) WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T PICK YOUR PARENTS? Takayuki Tatsumi, a Keio University English professor and an expert on cyberpunk who has been a frequent panelist at Worldcons, was interviewed by Elif Batuman in a piece that appeared in the April 30, 2018 New Yorker on the Japanese practice of “rental relatives,” where companies rent out actors who pretend to be a client’s spouse, children, or parents. “Japan’s Rent-a-Family Industry”

Rental relatives have inspired a substantial literary corpus.  In Tokyo, I met with the critic Takayuki Tatsumi, who, in the nineties, wrote a survey of the genre.  He explained that postmodern and queer novelists had used rental relatives to represent the ‘virtual family,’ an idea he traced back to the -ie- of the Meiji period, where adoption of family members was common and biological lineage was subordinated to the integrity of the household.  ‘According to Foucault, everything is constructed, not essentially determined,’ Tatsumi said.  ‘What matters is the function.’

(12) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was perched in front of the TV tonight when all the contestants whiffled on this Jeopardy! answer:

Category: Speaking Volumes.

Answer: Here’s a revelation — it’s the seventh and “last” book in the Narnia series.

No one got, “What is ‘The Last Battle’?”

(13) MAN’S BEST FRIEND. Brad Torgersen recently was a convention GoH. Guess which of his good friends praised the choice in these terms:

The very best part of Brad being GoH however was that it caused several of the Shrieking Harpies of Tolerance to throw a temper tantrum and declare that they were going to boycott the event (and they did, yet absolutely nobody missed them). Upon hearing that I asked if they could make Brad emeritus GoH every year forever, because that’s like putting a tick collar on a dog.

To think he used to be the Sad Puppies’ lead dog. Now he’s just the collar.

(14) MISSED MANNERS. The Genre Traveler calls your attention to “10 Things Not to Do at a Science Fiction Convention”. Uh, yeah?

6. Take flirtation too seriously.

Con-goers flirt a lot, it is part of the fun of the event … and is really meant to be light-hearted, not a promise of a serious relationship.

5. Point and stare at people in costume…

…even if you’re one of them. It may look exotic and strange to you, but for a con, costumes are quite common at science fiction conventions. That said, if you like someone’s costume, you can always compliment. Just be sure it is a costume…

(15) PRACTICING? In the Washington Post, Rick Noack and Stefano Petrilli discuss how the spread of the corona virus has increased interest in plague-related video games, with “Plague Inc.” and “Pandemic” racking up sales around the world. “Virus games are going viral as the coronavirus spreads”.

The popularity of games centered on the proliferation of pathogens has surged in recent weeks.

As officials and experts worked to stem the global spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has left more than 1,500 people dead, gamers have turned their attention to parallel, imaginary struggles.Foremost among them: Plague Inc., a strategy game that rose to the top of Apple Store charts in China, the United States, and elsewhere as coronavirus fears mounted. First released by U.K.-based studio Ndemic Creations in 2012, the game, of which there are a handful of variants, asks players to take the part of a pathogen, helping it evolve to wipe out humanity.

The popularity of such games makes sense amid efforts to cope with the coronavirus and the fears it has sown, researchers and game developers said.

(16) EX-TERMINATE! Fabrice Mathieu’s new mashup is Terminators:

Several T-800 are sent back in time by Skynet. But their mission is scrambled. And now they are all targeting each other!

(17) DEM BONES. In Iraq, “Neanderthal ‘skeleton’ is first found in a decade”.

Researchers have described the first “articulated” remains of a Neanderthal to be discovered in a decade.

An articulated skeleton is one where the bones are still arranged in their original positions.

The new specimen was uncovered at Shanidar Cave in Iraq and consists of the upper torso and crushed skull of a middle-aged to older adult.

Excavations at Shanidar in the 1950s and 60s unearthed partial remains of 10 Neanderthal men, women and children.

During these earlier excavations, archaeologists found that some of the burials were clustered together, with clumps of pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The researcher who led those original investigations, Ralph Solecki from Columbia University in New York, claimed it was evidence that Neanderthals had buried their dead with flowers.

This “flower burial” captured the imagination of the public and kicked off a decades-long controversy. The floral interpretation suggested our evolutionary relatives were capable of cultural sophistication, challenging the view – prevalent at the time – that Neanderthals were unintelligent and animalistic.

(18) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dans La Nuit” by Agathe Simoulin on Vimeo is a creepy story about ghosts in a graveyard adapted from a story by Guy de Maupassant.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/23/19 Any Sufficiently Interesting Typo Is Indistinguishable From A Commenting Prompt

(1) WHO’S ON FIRST. The Mirror (UK) reports “No Doctor Who special this Christmas – but new series will start New Year’s Day”.

Doctor Who fans face a Christmas without their favourite show, with no festive special planned – for the second year running.

But there is some good news – the long-awaited 12th series is due to start on New Year’s Day, with one of the biggest episodes in the show’s history.

…The second half of the story is then expected to air on January 4, as the series shifts back to its traditional Saturday evening teatime slot.

(2) OVERHEARD. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware called attention to “Issues at Audible’s ACX: Attempted Rights Fraud, Withdrawn Promotional Codes”.

Two issues involving Audible’s ACX have come across my desk recently….

Rights Fraud

I’ve heard from several self- and small press-pubbed authors who report that they’ve found their books listed on ACX as open to narrator auditions…except that they, or their publishers, didn’t put them there. This appears to be an attempt to steal authors’ audio rights….

Promotional Code Shenanigans

Multiple authors have contacted me to report that they’ve received an email from ACX withdrawing their promotional codes. The cited reason: “unusual activity,” with no explanation of what that means….

(3) AND WHAT DO THOSE KNIGHTS SAY? In “The Knights of Ren Gather in New Footage For Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Io9 breaks down a new TV ad.

In a newly released 30-second TV spot for The Rise of Skywalker, things are coming to a head. We see and hear some familiar things: Rey and Ben gearing up for a climactic confrontation, Luke imploring a listener (probably Rey) to face fear, as confronting fear is “the destiny of a Jedi.”

(4) WRITER ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER. Michael Chabon tells readers of The New Yorker about writing for Star Trek while his father was dying: “The Final Frontier”.

Ensign Spock, a young half-Vulcan science officer fresh out of Starfleet Academy and newly posted to the Enterprise, found himself alone in a turbolift with the ship’s formidable first officer, a human woman known as Number One. They were waiting for me to rescue them from the silence that reigns in all elevators, as universal as the vacuum of space.

I looked up from the screen of my iPad to my father, lying unconscious, amid tubes and wires, in his starship of a bed, in the irresolute darkness of an I.C.U. at 3 A.M. Ordinarily when my father lay on his back his abdomen rose up like the telescope dome of an observatory, but now there seemed to be nothing between the bed rails at all, just a blanket pulled as taut as a drum skin and then, on the pillow, my father’s big, silver-maned head. Scarecrow, after the flying monkeys had finished with him. His head was tilted upward and his jaw hung slack. All the darkness in the room seemed to pool in his open mouth….

(5) THE APPEAL OF SFF. Michael Chabon also shares his youthful discovery of “Le Guin’s Subversive Imagination” in The Paris Review.

…But my first experience with her work was about more than delight, admiration, or love. It was about transformation. The person I was on the way to becoming, in 1972—a particular coalescent configuration of synapses, apperceptions, and neural pathways—did not survive the encounter, at age nine, with A Wizard of Earthsea. The first volume of her Earthsea trilogy, the book was set in a richly realized and detailed imaginary topography of islands and ocean where the craft of language—the proper, precise configuring and utterance of words by a trained adept who knew their histories and understood their capabilities and thus could call things by their true names—had the power to alter reality, to remake the world.

But what really rearranged the contents of my skull was this: the book itself was a fractal demonstration of its own primary conceit. With nothing but language—lines on paper, properly configured—Ursula K. Le Guin conjured an entire planet into vivid existence, detailed and plausible from its flora to its weather to the dialects and ceremonies of its inhabitants. And while that world vanished the moment I closed the book’s covers, the memory of my visit, of young Ged’s searing struggle with his own malign shadow, remained. In Earthsea, the wielders of linguistic power were known as wizards, and they called their craft magic, but it was obvious to me, even at nine, that the true name of magic was writing, and that a writer like Ursula K. Le Guin was a mage.

(6) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. Doctor Who has posted an updated compilation of “All The Doctor’s Regenerations.”

From The Tenth Planet, all the way to Twice Upon A Time – Re-live ALL of the Doctor’s regenerations.

(7) PRO TIP. “Toby Kebbell Has Advice for the Next Dr. Doom in Marvel’s Fantastic Four Reboot” and Movieweb passes it along:

Toby Kebbell, who played Doctor Doom the poorly received 2015 Fantastic Four reboot, was asked by Movie Web if he had any advice for the next actor to essay that role. He did.

“Make sure Marvel are in control.”

 (8) EARLY PROMISE FULFILLED. The New York Times obituary “Gahan Wilson, Vividly Macabre Cartoonist, Dies at 89” includes a selection of cartoons.

… he settled into a spartan 1950s bohemian life in New York, trying to break in but mostly accumulating rejections.

“Editors would take my drawings, laugh like hell, then hand them back and say, ‘Sorry, our readers wouldn’t understand,’” he told The Boston Globe in 1973.

And there are many more great cartoons in Michael Maslin’s farewell at The New Yorker, “The Beautifully Macabre Cartoons of Gahan Wilson”.

 Although he habitually delved into that dark funny corner that we associate with Charles Addams, his style was singular. He liked to depict ordinary folks encountering some kind of anxious terror, or experiencing the unthinkable in mundane places. It’s a man at a pizza counter hovering over an entire pizza—the man’s mouth the same oval shape, the same size, as the whole pie. It’s fishermen on a calm lake, with one about to be murdered by the other, who is removing a human mask to reveal his true monster self.

(9) MCPHEE OBIT. Former bookstore owner and NESFAn Spike McPhee died November 13 in Cambridge, MA. Proprietor of the Science Fantasy bookstore in Harvard Square from 1977 to 1989, McPhee was also an art collector, and avid follower of science and space exploration news.  He was a GoH at the 1990 Arisia.

Chip Hitchcock notes, “[Spike told] me some 40 years ago that he was the only fan to gafiate to run a science-fiction bookstore; he’d been active in NESFA before then but the store ate his time; I’ve lost track of whether Boston’s current genre store, Pandemonium, is a literal descendant (from days in two other Harvard Square locations) or just a successor.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first premiered with the airing of “An Unearthly Child”. Written by Anthony Coburn and C E Webber, it starred Carole Ann Ford as Susan Foreman, Jacqueline Hill as Barbara Wright, William Russell as Ian Chesterton, and William Hartnell as The Doctor. Critics were mixed with their reaction but generally favorable.
  • November 23, 2015 The Expanse premiered on Syfy. Based on the novels by James S. A. Corey (collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), it has now run three seasons, the latest on Amazon Prime. With a cast of seemingly hundreds, it has met with near unanimous approval, so much so that at Rotten Tomatoes, the third season had a score of 100%.itwas nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Dublin for “Abaddon’s Gate” but lost To The Good Place for their “Janet(s)” episode.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 23, 1887 Boris Karloff. Where do I start? Well consider the Thirties. He portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein, and Imhotep in The Mummy. And he played a great pulp character in Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu too! Now let’s jump forward to the Sixties and the small screen adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas which featured him as both the voice of The Grinch and the narrator of the story as well. I know I’ve skipped four decades of that means not a word about such as Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where he was the latter. (Died 1969.)
  • Born November 23, 1914 Wilson Tucker. Author and very well-known member of fandom. I’m going to just direct you here to “A Century of Tucker” by Mike as I couldn’t say anything about him that was this good. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 23, 1916 Michael Gough. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Horror Films from the late Fifties and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series. His Hammer Horror Films saw him cast usually as the evil, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, villain in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse and Horror Hospital, not to overlook Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared in Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” (1966) and then again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” (1983). He also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers (1965) returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. Gough worked for Burton in 1999’s Sleepy Hollow and later voice Elder Gutknecht in Corpse Bride. (Died 2011.)
  • Born November 23, 1955 Steven Brust, 64. Of Hungarian descendant, something that figures into his fiction which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. Ala are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille. Freedom & Necessity with Emma Bull is decidedly different but good none the less and his Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to that series. He’s quite the musician too with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics) and others. The band in turn shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album and “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, ‘A Rose For Ecclesiastes,’ which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, ““Songs From The Gypsy” is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • Born November 23, 1961 David Rappaport. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing he’ll be remembered for of a genre nature having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them such as The Bride, a low budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits. (Died 1990.)
  • Born November 23, 1966 Michelle Gomez, 53. Best-known genre role is Missy, a female version of The Master on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for the 2016 BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used but she made a fine one. She is also Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She plays Talia Bauerin in Highlander: The Raven which apparently is a very short-live spinoff from the Highlander series. And she shows up in the Gotham series for two episodes simply as The Lady. 
  • Born November 23, 1967 Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 52. Best known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka which apparently in syndication is now called A Town Called Eureka. H’h? I’m reasonably sure her first genre role was as Fenna / Nidell in the “Second Sight” of Deep Space Nine but charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Shes shows up as character named Dray’auc in “Bloodlines” on Stargate Sg-1 and had a role on a series called Secret Agent Man that may or may have existed. She’s was Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that lasted longer than I expected it would. 
  • Born November 23, 1992 Miley Cyrus, 27. She’s had three genre appearances, each ten years apart. She was in Big Fish as the eight-year-old Ruthie, she was the voice of Penny in Bolt and she voiced Mainframe on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And there’s the matter of A Very Murray Christmas which is at least genre adjacent…

(12) LEIBOWITZ REDUX? “In ‘The Second Sleep,’ The World May End, But Life Goes On” says NPR reviewer Ilana Masad.

…Robert Harris’s new book is concerned with questions of institutional power, hypocrisy and individual moral choices, but in a wholly different era of changed perceptions.

The Second Sleep is a pleasingly genre-bending novel that passes itself off as historical fiction in its early pages. Christopher Fairfax, a young priest, rides to Addicott St. George, a village in Wessex, with a rather simple mission: He is to carry out the funeral service for Addicott’s recently deceased Father Lacey. Quickly, however, reader expectations are wonderfully overturned as Fairfax examines, with some distaste, a display case full of ancient artifacts, including “pens, glassware, a plate commemorating a royal wedding …” (wait, what?) “… a bundle of plastic straws …” (huh?) and “what seemed to be the pride of the collection: one of the devices used by the ancients to communicate,” which has on its back “the ultimate symbol of the ancients’ hubris and blasphemy — an apple with a bite taken out of it.”

The year may be 1468, but it’s not the one in the past — Fairfax is, in fact, living in the future, one in which the Apocalypse is widely believed to have occurred just as it was prophesied in the New Testament, after which Christ rose anew and humankind was once again saved. The Church — a political as well as religious entity in this future England, closely tied to and seemingly far more important than the monarchy — started counting years anew after the Apocalypse, beginning with 666, the number of the beast.

As Fairfax learns more about Addicott’s dead priest, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable. It appears that Father Lacey was a collector of artifacts that have become, in the past couple of decades, illegal to own. Worse even than the plastic doodads and useless electronics in his possession, which Father Lacey found in the vicinity of the village, the priest had a library full of illegal books hypothesizing about the ancients who worshipped science and forgot God, bringing about their own downfall.

(13) THE MASTER LIST. Rex Sorgatz is compiling “Best of 2010’s” lists.  It includes several Best SF/F Books, Best Comics/Graphic Novels, Best Horror Movies, etc. lists (and may pick up more as time goes by) — “LISTS: THE 2010s DECADE”.

We’ve covered some of the ones he’s collected, but I don’t think I’ve run this one yet — from Cultured Vultues: “Books of the Decade: 10 Best Sci-Fi/Horror Books of the 2010s”

(14) THE GHOSTS OF CHRISTMASES PAST. Smithsonian issues “A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories”.

For the last hundred years, Americans have kept ghosts in their place, letting them out only in October, in the run-up to our only real haunted holiday, Halloween. But it wasn’t always this way, and it’s no coincidence that the most famous ghost story is a Christmas story—or, put another way, that the most famous Christmas story is a ghost story. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was first published in 1843, and its story about a man tormented by a series of ghosts the night before Christmas belonged to a once-rich, now mostly forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens’ supernatural yuletide terror was no outlier, since for much of the 19th century, was the holiday indisputably associated with ghosts and the specters.

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

Telling ghost stories during winter is a hallowed tradition, a folk custom stretches back centuries, when families would wile away the winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. “A sad tale’s best for winter,” Mamillius proclaims in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: “I have one. Of sprites and goblins.” And the titular Jew of Malta in Christopher Marlowe’s play at one point muses, “Now I remember those old women’s words, Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Moses Goes Down” on Vimeo is Nina Paley’s take on Moses leaving Egypt, with music by Louis Armstrong.

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