Pixel Scroll 11/30/21 I Can Scroll This All Day!

(1) WISCON CALLS FOR HELP. Kit Stubbs, Treasurer for SF3, WisCon’s parent not-for-profit organization, and WisCon 2022 co-chair, has written a long post – “Let’s Save WisCon!” – explaining that to survive the con needs an infusion of volunteers, and to raise a substantial amount of money (primarily because of commitments in its hotel contract).

…WisCon’s roots are grounded in white feminism, and WisCon continues to struggle with racism and with finding ways to center attendees of color who have been harmed. The Town Hall marks a key point in our antiracist work to bring WisCon, particularly as experienced by our attendees and volunteers of color, into better alignment with our values—even if this means that white attendees will have to sit with discomfort.

Working towards a more antiracist con is just one of the major challenges that we face. Unless we, the WisCon community, also take significant action this year in terms of finances and our volunteer pool, within the next few years we will no longer be able to run WisCon.

Why? What’s going on?

Right now, in addition to pushing harder on antiracism, WisCon is facing big challenges on two other fronts: money and labor.

TL;DR:

  • We don’t have enough funds to pay for what happens if we don’t fill our contracted block of hotel rooms, and we can’t afford to cancel the hotel contract. We need about $76k in additional income to our general fund by the end of WisCon 2022 to put the con back on solid financial footing.  Thanks to a generous donor, the first $5k we raise will be matched. Donate now to double the power of your donation!
  • We are in a volunteer shortage crisis. It takes a LOT of people to make WisCon happen, and we lack dozens of volunteers in key positions.
  • The Board of SF3 (WisCon’s parent nonprofit) and WisCon organizers are already starting to work on these challenges. There are many things, both large and small, that you can do to help!…

(2) OMICRON VS. DISCON. The Worldcon is two weeks away, so it’s of great concern to people planning to travel to the con that Biden administration officials are considering stricter testing requirements for all travelers to the U.S. amid omicron variant concerns: “Stricter coronavirus testing being weighed for all travelers to U.S.” reports the Washington Post.

The Biden administration is preparing stricter testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States, including returning Americans, to curb the spread of the potentially dangerous omicron variant, according to three federal health officials.

As part of an enhanced winter covid strategy Biden is expected to announce Thursday, U.S. officials will require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. Administration officials are also considering a requirement that all travelers get retested within three to five days of arrival.

In addition, they are debating a controversial proposal to require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States.

The two testing measures are detailed in a draft public health order written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is under review by officials at the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the White House. The self quarantine-related measures are not in that draft but could be added later if the proposals win broader sign-off, said the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the order has not been finalized….

(3) DISCON III ATTENDING MEMBERSHIP PURCHASE DEADLINE. Meanwhile, DisCon III advises that people can pre-register for an Attending membership in the 2021 Worldcon up until December 8. After that, Attending memberships must be purchased in person at the Omni Shoreham.

Virtual and Supporting memberships will still be available to buy online after December 8th, right up to and during the convention.

The convention is hybrid with ten tracks of programming available for Virtual members, including concerts and the Hugo Awards ceremony. In-person Day Passes will be available on-site at the Registration Desk for those who cannot attend all five days. Complete membership information can be found here.

(4) 2023 SITE SELECTION DEADLINES. Be aware of the deadline that applies to whichever method you plan to use to vote in 2023 Worldcon Site Selection.

  • Paper ballots sent via mail must be received by December 7.
  • Emailed ballots (in one of the accepted formats, such as PDF) must be received by noon EDT December 14.
  • Voting continues in person at DisCon III until 6 PM EST on Friday, December 17, 2021.

(5) DISCON III GETS GOOGLE GRANT FOR PANEL CAPTIONING. DisCon III chair Mary Robinette Kowal underscored yesterday’s announcement about the availability of ASL and CART captions for the convention’s panel programs and events:  

(6) SFF IN INDIA. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, books columnist Nilanjana Roy, a mainstream novelist who has tried to write fantasy, discusses the rise of sf and fantasy in India.

I recently asked Samit Basu, an old friend and the author of 10 books, including the wildly popular Gameworld trilogy, about the boom in Indian SFF, especially dystopian fiction.  Indian SFF writers have one thing in common with their better-known Chinese peers, Basu explained.  ‘You can’t really talk about present-day society in an analytical or critical manner without some risk,’ he said, ‘but you can use technological and social metaphors to talk about the present in genre fiction.”…

…In this climate, SFF offers writers such as Praywag Akbar, whose 2017 novel Leila —which is set in the 2040s and features cities where communities are segregated by high walls–a little more leeway.  The legal scholar created an equally compelling dystopia in his 2020 novel, The Wall:  his protagonist Mithila steps into a world of failed revolutions where, briefly, ‘none could tell the difference between rebel and citizen.’  The story continues in a second volume called The Horizon, which was published this month.

(7) CRYPTO CRIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from an article by Cristina Criddle behind a paywall in the Financial Times.

Star Wars Stormtrooper helmets by artists including Sir Anish Kapoor and David Bailey have been photographed and turned into non-fungible tokens and sold for millions of pounds without their consent.

Curator Ben Moore took photographs of some of the helmets from a project called Art Wars, created by more than 300 artists since 2013, and sold for them for cryptocurrency as NFTs on the trading platform OpenSea yesterday.

More than 1,000 ethereum (L 5m) had been transferred since the collection of 1,138 images was put on sale yesterday.  One NFT attributed to Kapoor sold for 1,000 ethereum.  Another work attributed to Bailey sold for 120 ethereum.

(8) SCHEDULE YOUR SMOFFING. SMOFcon Europe takes place December 3-5 in Lisboa, Portugal, and the convention’s Programme is now online.

(9) MARRIAGE IS WHAT BRINGS US TOGETHER. “Shatner beams down to Brunswick Trekkies’ wedding” at CentralMaine.com.

Region 10 School Board member Jim Grant and Amy Wells Grant were married in Ticonderoga, New York about two weeks ago, on a replica of the set “Star Trek.” Among those in attendance — the original Capt. Kirk.

…Positioned behind an altar that served as a prop on the original Star Trek set, Shatner delivered some opening remarks, and then recited his original lines from a 55-year-old wedding ceremony scene featured in the episode “Star Trek: The Balance of Terror.”

“Since the days of the first wooden vessels, all shipmasters have had one happy privilege, and that is uniting two people in the bonds of matrimony,” said Shatner, reading from the script. “And so, we are gathered here today with you, James, and you, Amy, in a sight of your fellows, in accordance with our laws and our many beliefs so that you may pledge your love to one another. Please kiss the bride.”…

(10) BIGGEST B.O. In case you’re curious, Yahoo! has a list of “The 10 highest-grossing movies of all time at the worldwide box office” (not adjusted for inflation.)

We turned to Box Office Mojo for its data on worldwide box office grosses to determine the top 10 highest-grossing movies in the world. Aside from Disney movies, the list also includes entries in Universal franchises like “Fast and Furious” and “Jurassic World.”…

(11) MEMORY LANE.

2004 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Seventeen years ago at Noreascon 4, Neal Gaiman wins the Short Story Hugo for “A Study in Emerald” which neatly merged the Holmesian and Cthulhu Mythos. It was first published in the Shadows Over Baker Street anthology as edited by John Pelan and Michael Reaves. Other nominated works were “Paying It Forward” by Michael A. Burstein, “Robots Don’t Cry” by Mike Resnick, “Four Short Novels” by Joe Haldeman and “The Tale of the Golden Eagle” by David D. Levine. You can read it at Gaiman’s site in its original wonderfulness here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 30, 1835 Mark Twain. It’s been decades since I read it but I still know I loved A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. His other genre work, The Mysterious Stranger, in which Satan might be visiting us, went unpublished in his lifetime and it’s only relatively recently with the University of California Press editions of all his completed and uncompleted versions in one volume that a reader can see what he intended. Anyone here who’s read it? (Died 1910.)
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as is his vampire mythos backstoried novels, Three Coffins and He Who Whispers. And I really should note his Sir Henry Merrivale character has at one genre outing in Reader is Warned. (Died 1977.)
  • Born November 30, 1945 Billy Drago. Best remembered, I think, as the evil John Bly in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. series. He was certainly booked in a lot of genre roles as he has appearances in Cyborg 2, Sci-Fighters, Supernatural and X-Files. He also played the demon Barbas in the original and definitely best Charmed series. He also was in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, a film I’m sure no one was begging for. He was in the Masters of Horror “Imprint” episode, which Showtime pulled due to “disturbing content” which you can read about here. (Died 2019.)
  • Born November 30, 1950 Chris Claremont, 71. Writer in the comic realm. Best known for his astounding twenty-year run on Uncanny X-Men starting in 1976. During his tenure at Marvel, he co-created at least forty characters. Looking at his bibliography, I see that he did Sovereign Seven as a creator owned series with DC publishing it.  And then there’s the matter of Lucas providing the notes for The Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy to follow the Willow film and then contracting our writer to make them exist.  Anyone ever encountered these?
  • Born November 30, 1955 Kevin Conroy, 66. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series which is my Batman. Justice League Action saw him reprise that role with the other characters often noting his stoic personality.  I’ve not seen it, but on Batwoman, he plays Bruce Wayne in the “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” episode.  Bruce Timm likes his work in the Batman 75th Anniversary Short Batman: Strange Days (here) which is interesting as he only says one word though he grunts nicely.  (CE)
  • Born November 30, 1955 Andy Robertson. A fan and editor who worked as an assistant editor on Interzone and contributed myriad reviews and interviews. He published some fiction and edited two anthologies based on the works of William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume 1: Eternal Love, featuring tales set in Hodgson’s world, and William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands Volume 2: Nightmares of the Fall. Alas, they never made into digital editions. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 30, 1957 Martin Morse Wooster, 64. He discovered fandom in 1974 when he heard about “a big sci-fi con” in downtown Washington where admission was $10 at the door.  He had ten bucks, and so attended Discon II at 16.  A year later, he discovered fanzines through Don Miller, and discovered he liked writing book reviews.  He has been turning them out ever since.  In 1975, he was one of twelve founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, which split from the Washington Science Fiction Association, and regularly attends PRSFS meetings to discuss books.  He has contributed to File 770 since 1978 – the first year it was published.

(13) NEW COMICS SUBSCRIPTION PLATFORM. “A New Publishing Platform for Comic Books Will Give Creators a Greater Stake” – the New York Times tells how.

Many comic book characters anchor global franchises, but their creators — or the writers and artists who helped make them popular — have not always shared in that success. Zestworld, a new subscription-based platform that is set to be introduced in early 2022, is hoping to change that.

Zestworld will allow comic book writers and artists to present new work and reap the benefits — and help monetize their creations if they are made into collectibles or adapted for TV, movies or other media. The creators will be stockholders in the company.

“In setting out to build this, we started with the problem statement that this industry is broken for creators; and it’s broken in publishing and TV and film; it’s also broken in events and collectibles,” Chris Giliberti, the founder and chief executive officer of Zestworld, said during a recent telephone interview. “We wanted to build something that’s useful across all areas of their business — anywhere they generate income.”

One investor in Zestworld is the venture capitalist firm Seven Seven Six, which was founded by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit…. 

(14) WITH EVERY WORD, SHE DROPS KNOWLEDGE. Cat Rambo’s new book You Sexy Thing is out this month! She spent a few minutes with Rapid Transmission’s  Joseph Hurtgen and talked about her writing process, working with an editor, and her love for gaming: “Cat Rambo: You Sexy Thing”.

How has your work as an editor, including your time at Fantasy Magazine, informed your writing?

Certainly editing has made me a better writer, more attentive to the nuances of comma placement and sentence structure. But it’s also made the way I work with editors different, I think, or at least helped me advance more quickly to the point where I understand what a difference a good editor can make, and how awesome an ally they can be in producing something that you’re really proud of. For example, I had a story in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction earlier this year, “Crazy Beautiful,” that I absolutely love, and it was C.C. Finlay’s excellent edits that took it to the next level, in my opinion, including a major change that involved removing the vast majority of the quotes from art critics that I’d included and leaving only the Bob Ross quote that starts it off. Similarly, with You Sexy Thing, my editor, Chris Morgan caught all sorts of little snags and played a major part in making it the smooth read that it is (I think!)…

(15) TOPOLOGIC BOOKSTORES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Hard to believe some of these aren’t (just) CGI. Either way, some are good candidates for my Zoom background library: “The world’s wackiest bookstore? Inside the amazing new Shenzhen Zhongshuge shop in China” – photos at Daily Mail Online.

Designer Li Xiang’s own website tells what it all symbolizes: “Shenzhen Zhongshuge”. (There’s also a large gallery of photos.)

…When I received the design assignment for Zhongshuge in Shenzhen last year, I had led the designs for several completed Zhongshuge across China. In the process of researching the cultural background of this city, I realized that I could design a space which could become a symbol of Shenzhen itself as an inclusive and vibrant city of migrants, paying tribute to all those who have struggled to make history in this city.

Thus, this retail space, which seems to have grown out of a giant art installation, was born. Straddling the earth and sky, it is examined as an otherworldly presence that creates a subtle experience of unease mixed with familiarity, making the space a proposition posing silent questions to the viewers….

(16) ARE THE SCARES THERE? The New York Times ponders the cultural question “When Is a Horror Movie Not a Horror Movie?”

A few days before Halloween, the @NetflixFilm Twitter account put out a call: “What movie isn’t technically a horror movie but feels like a horror movie to you?” Included was a photo of a freaky-eyed Gene Wilder in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”

Twitter being Twitter, some of the responses were flip, like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Cats.” But there were also heavy hitters like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Parasite.” Children’s films, including “Pinocchio” and “Bambi,” made the cut. It just goes to show, horror is what scares you, not me.

Horror has always been an elastic and regenerative genre. It lifts from and melds with just about every type of cinema: comedy, sci-fi, action, romance, fantasy, documentary. Its flexibility extends as far back as the monstrous love story in “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) and as current as the blood-drenched melodrama of “Malignant.”

But how do you know if you’re watching a horror movie when there’s no killer or monster, exorcism or blood? It’s a decades-old question that’s being asked about new films that blur the line between a movie with horror and a horror movie….

(17) WHAT’S THAT I SMELL? Aubtu introduces us to “Luxurious Perfumes Inspired By Disney Villains That Are Extremely Breathtaking”. (However, these appear to be designs, not products available for sale.)

…Today, we are honored to introduce to you some amazing artworks of Ruby Spark – a talented young artist who specializes in drawing and illustrating. Obsessed with the beautiful costumes of Disney villains, Ruby came up with a brilliant idea of designing perfume bottles based on these iconic outfits, and they are all not surprisingly extremely gorgeous and fascinating! 

#3 Yzma from “The Emperor’s New Groove”

(18) I NEVER DRINK…WINE. Could there be something you don’t know in this list of “20 Surprising Facts About ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’” from Mental Floss?

8. COPPOLA HIRED EIKO ISHIOKA UNDER THE EDICT THAT “THE COSTUMES ARE THE SETS.”

According to Coppola, the original amount budgeted for sets in Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a massive chunk of the film’s total cost—so much so that he worried he’d go over budget if he actually stuck to the elaborate set designs his original production designer planned. So, he hired different production designers, scaled down the sets, and brought in legendary art director Eiko Ishioka to transform his vision of Dracula into something different.

With Ishioka, who later admitted she’d never seen a Dracula film before working on Coppola’s project, the director crafted a philosophy that “the costumes are the sets,” putting all the focus on his actors and what they were wearing, with the sets themselves acting as mere backdrops for the performances. Inspired by everything from insects to symbolist painters to The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (which is homaged in Dracula’s final costume of the film), Ishioka set about crafting everything from a dress centered on snakes for Lucy Westenra to an insect-like straightjacket for Renfield. For Dracula’s first appearance as a vampire, she also ditched the classic cape in favor of a long, flowing crimson robe, which remains one of the film’s most famous visuals.

Ishioka won the Academy Award for costume design in 1993 for her work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This trailer from How It Should Have Ended about Venom;  Let There Be Carnage (with guest stars Spider-Man, Deadpool, and Baby Shark) dropped today/

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Nicholas Shectman, Olav Rokne, Daniel Dern, Joseph Hurtgen, James Bacon, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson, with dual credit to Daniel Dern for a similar suggestion.]

Journey Planet 60 — A Zine in a Day

By James Bacon: The day was November 27, 2021, and a group of fanzine writers, artists, editors, and… others? Well, they’ve gathered virtually to put together an issue they’re calling One Day on Journey Planet!

Chris originally had the idea but as he says, “’SO, what exactly are we doing here????’  ‘That’s a difficult question. More difficult than you think, honestly. It comes down to this: one afternoon, I got an idea. Everybody is staying home, there’s so much more free time now that no one has to commute. We can make a Journey Planet happen by choosing a day and then making everything in that issue in that day! It’s a call back to our first issue ever and the always fun concept of Fanzine in an Hour! I had this idea in April of 2020.”

The team welcomed co-editor Vanessa Applegate who came on board, to help with art, editorial, and seeking submissions.

Starting with an Autun Purser cover, there a host of brilliant articles including  ‘Artists New to Me from the 2021 Chesley Award Nominees: Suggestions I Love’ by Sara Felix, ‘Army of the Dead: Viva Las Vengeance at Area 15’ by Jacq Monahan, ‘ Five Classic Suicidology Texts’ by Chuck Serface and  ‘Reflections on The Lost Boys’ by Douglas E. Berry to name but four of the many. 

There are a number of interviews, including ones with Marguerite Smith, Alma Alexander and Steven H Silver, and an outstanding article, ‘Flann O’Brien, Marcel Duchamp, and the Problem of the Ready-Mades’ by Pádraig Ó Méaloid that somehow involves Brian Eno! 

With art, photos and crafts by  Alissa McKersie, España Sheriff, Christopher J. Garcia & DeepDreamGenerator, Vanessa Applegate and ArtBreeder.

Chris reviews: Slaughterhouse-Five: The Graphic Novel Reviewed and “Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?” by Harold Schechter and Eric Powell and James contemplates Hawkeye or Hawkguy, in comic and TV form, and writes at length about Kindness during Covid. 

Although Chris was meant to work on layout the whole time, he wanted to read and write, as he will not be at Discon III, it offered him the opportunity to catch up on messenger and zoom with Helena Nash, Chuck Serface, Sarah Gulde and others, so he did. 

Download the issue here: Journey Planet 60: One Day on Journey Planet.

Goodreads Choice Awards 2021 Finalists

The finalists for the Goodreads Choice Awards – Best Books 2021 have been posted. Readers have until December 5 to cast their votes for the winners in the 17 categories.

Here is what made the finals in the primary categories of genre interest – Best Fantasy, Best Science Fiction, Best Horror, Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Best Graphic Novels and Comics.

(Click for larger image.)

2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures by biologist and writer Merlin Sheldrake is winner of the 2021 Royal Society Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment. The prize was announced at a live ceremony on November 29 that also was streamed on YouTube.

The more we learn about fungi, the less makes sense without them. They can change our minds, heal our bodies and even help us avoid environmental disaster; they are metabolic masters, earth-makers and key players in most of nature’s processes. In Entangled Life, Merlin Sheldrake takes us on a mind-altering journey into their spectacular world and reveals how these extraordinary organisms transform our understanding of our planet and life itself. Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and a writer.

Chaired by Professor Luke O’Neill FRS, the 2021 judging panel was comprised of television presenter, Ortis Deley; mathematician and Dorothy Hodgkin Royal Society Fellow, Dr Anastasia Kisil; author and creative writing lecturer, Christy Lefteri, and journalist, writer and film maker, Clive Myrie.

O’Neill, Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, commented: “Entangled Life is a fantastic account of the world of fungi, which to the uninitiated might seem unpromising as a topic, but which Merlin Sheldrake brings alive in the most vivid of ways.  We learn all kinds of interesting things about fungi, from how they helped plants colonise land (which means without them we wouldn’t be here) to how they form huge networks allowing trees to communicate (in the form of the ‘Wood Wide Web’), to stories of fungus-gathering enthusiasts, how fungi might help save the planet by digesting plastic, and even how they can manipulate our minds.  This is science writing at its very best, which yet again emphasises how the scientific method is so important in our effort to understand the world around us. Entangled Life is an important, scientifically rigorous and most of all entertaining read.”

Brian Cox OBE, FRS, The Royal Society Professor for Public Engagement in Science, added: “At a time when science is front and centre of everyone’s lives, making it accessible and understandable through great writing is more important than ever. The best science writing invites people to explore the world around them and view it in a new way, and Entangled Life is a perfect example. Exploring Nature always delivers insights that are surprising and often resonate way beyond the initial research or subject matter, and Merlin’s wonderfully written book is a perfect example. From antibiotics to parasitic ‘zombie infections’, Entangled Life brings the reader face to face with the beauty and terror of Nature.”

Sheldrake receives a cheque for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the other five shortlisted authors.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/21 Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Read Me, When I Pixel Scroll?

(1) GET AN EARFUL. Today File 770 partnered with AudioFile Magazine to unveil “AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks”. Here is the link to the complete AudioFile Magazine – Best Of 2021 list.

We love hearing a good story well told, and we know that you do, too: the comfort and intimacy of a voice in your ear, the pleasure of being completely swept up in a narrative. That’s why, every December, we are so glad to celebrate audio excellence by selecting AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks. Thank you to all of the narrators, directors, producers, and publishers who filled our year with good listening.

(2) A PAY SERVICE NIXES DISCON III. “WeChat Restrictions, We Tried, We Really Tried” says DisCon III:  

“We have had to remove WeChat as a payment option. Due to their restrictions on charitable giving, we are unable to use WeChat services at this time. Our tech team is working to find a workaround to help overseas fans who want to pay using WeChat. That said, all of our other avenues are still available, and there’s still time to join us at DisCon III. Please visit our member services page to purchase your membership.” said Mary Robinette Kowal, Chair of DisCon III. 

(3) ON BROADWAY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The opening of (Marvel) Hawkeye (new TV series) includes Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (and his 3 kids) going to a performance of Rogers The Musical (note that the signage looks very Hamiltonian), and we get to, delightfully, see about half of “I Can Do This All Day” about the NYC invasion, in the first Avengers movie.

Here’s one of many articles on this, including an audio with the full lyrics:  “Hear Hawkeye’s Rogers: The Musical song, and how Marvel pulled it off” at Polygon.

… Written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, who have collaborated on other Broadway musical adaptations like Hairspray and Catch Me If You CanRogers is the MCU’s latest attempt to reminisce over past battles with a wink and nod. A little like the scene in Loki where the God of Mischief finds Infinity stones being used as paperweights, the silliness of Rogers asks the audience if they can remember what all the fuss was about….

(4) HE GAVE IT A SPIN. Camestros Felapton says “The Wheel of Time adaptation is looking good”.

…A strong cast gives the characters more weight and also pushes them closer to how Jordan intended them to be (from context) rather than how they come over in the books. Nynaeve in particular is clearly meant to be a strong-willed character in the books but comes over as just whiny and annoying (your impression may differ) in Jordan’s dialogue. However, the show’s Nynaeve is a really compelling character played by New Zealander Zoë Robins, full of intensity and suspicion of what she (correctly) perceives as a hostile world….

(5) FUTURE TENSE. The November 2021 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Ride,” by Linda Nagata, a story about climate, public transportation, and AI in Hawaii.

 …The boy waved at them, then turned again to Jasmine. “Give it a try,” he exhorted her in a conspiratorial whisper. “Promise you will?”

Those eyes.

Her smile brightened. She didn’t want to disappoint those eyes. So she played along, teasing, “I might.” And maybe she really would. It was just a little game, after all….

It was published along with a response essay by cities and transit journalist Henry Grabar: “What if an All-Knowing Algorithm Ran Traffic and Transit?”

I like to think of myself as deeply skeptical of the many internet algorithms telling me what I want and need. I turn off targeted advertising wherever I can. I use AdBlock to hide what’s left. Most of my YouTube recommendations are for concerts or sports highlights, but I know I’m just a few clicks away from a wild-eyed influencer telling me to gargle turpentine for a sore throat. Twitter trending topics? I regret clicking immediately.

But I make an exception for the sweet, all-knowing embrace of the Spotify algorithm, to whom I surrender my ears several times a day. This software doesn’t just know my taste in music better than my friends; it acts on it, with chains of songs that build off things that I know I like, or forgot I did….

(6) HARLAN IN THE WILDERNESS. Stephen Bowie interviewed Harlan Ellison in 1996 about his early days writing for television: “Harlan Hits Hollywood” at The Classic TV History Blog.

…I was going to ask you if you remembered watching “Memos From Purgatory” when it was first broadcast, but perhaps you don’t, since it wasn’t actually the first one.

It’s a moderately funny story about what happened the night it aired.  I was living in Beverly Glen, in this little treehouse. The television set that I had was a real small TV, with rabbit ears, and the antenna was up the side of the mountain behind the house.  I mean this house, literally and actually, sat half on a rock ledge and the other half sat in the crotch of a gigantic banyan tree. It was raining that night, it was raining terribly. And the antenna, which was up the hill – rabbit ears down in the house and an actual antenna up on the hill; I mean, there was no cable – well, the antenna fell over.  

I had invited all these people to come and see the show, and we couldn’t get any reception.  So a friend of mine volunteered to go up, and he put on my raincoat, and he stood up there in the pounding rain, a really torrential downpour.  He stood up there holding the fuckin’ antenna up. And I was kind of, you know, upset that he was up there, not to mention that there were cougars or mountain cats – really, there were catamounts or cougars or whatever the fuck they are – up there running loose, because it’s all watershed land.  And I was terrified that he was going to get eaten, or washed away, or drowned, or fall off the mountain, or something. So about midway through I went up and I took his place. And I came back drenched, soaking wet, I looked like a drowned rat, and everybody was raving about this thing, and I had only seen about half of it….

(7) DRAGON IT OUT. A new book says “George R.R. Martin flew to New York to ‘beg’ an HBO executive to make ‘Game of Thrones’ 10 seasons long, according to his agent” reports Yahoo!

HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” came to an end in 2019 with two shortened seasons, which brought the total to eight seasons and 73 episodes. But the story’s original creator, the author George R.R. Martin, pushed for up to 10 seasons and 100 total episodes, according to a new book.

New accounts of Martin’s wishes can be found in a book titled “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” by the journalist James Andrew Miller.

Miller, who conducted 757 interviews for the book, spoke with Martin, Martin’s agent, Paul Haas, and Richard Plepler, HBO’s former CEO.

“George would fly to New York to have lunch with Plepler, to beg him to do ten seasons of ten episodes because there was enough material for it and to tell him it would be a more satisfying and more entertaining experience,” Haas told Miller.

(8) IN XANADU. Henry Farrell points to the availability of the video of a panel he was on with Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Noah Smith, and Jo Walton. And he has a few more things he’d like to say in his post “The Future Finds Its Own Uses for Things” at Crooked Timber.

So this event on the relationship between social science and science fiction went live late last week. It has Paul Krugman, Ada Palmer, Jo Walton, Noah Smith and … me. I’ve been wanting to say something a little bit more about this relationship for a while. Here is one take, which surely misses out on a lot, but maybe captures some stuff too.

…The Hume quote captures a particular – and very common – way of thinking about the world. It suggests that beneath the vast procession of history, the extraordinary profusion of ways in which human beings organize their society, their politics and their economies, lies a hidden and coherent unity. He emphasizes “the constant principles of human nature” – other social scientists have other notions about what the underlying unity involves and entails. But from this perspective all the ways in which things are different across time and space are really illustrations of how they are really deeply the same. This is a powerful lens for understanding the world and perhaps changing it.

When Marco Polo counters Kublai Khan, he points towards quite the opposite phenomenon; how an apparent unity -an abstract of plane forces – can be opened up to disclose the quiddity of things. A chessboard is a plane divided into sixty-four squares – yet it is also something physical, made out of joined-together pieces of wood, each with its own history. The apparently all encompassing abstract unity conceals a world of variation. Unless you understand how the squares were formed – a year of drought; a frosty night; a caterpillar’s appetite; you cannot understand how the chessboard came to be as it is.

It is a little too simple to say that social science is on Hume’s side of the dialectic, while science fiction is on Marco Polo’s. What makes more sense, I think is that very good social scientists and very good science fiction writers each work the tensions between the two understandings of the world, more from the one side than the other….

(9) NAME YOUR PRICE. Filer Jane Sand’s novelette “Not Poppy Nor Mandragora” is in the newly released Fusion Fragment issue #9. The publishers invite readers to “download Fusion Fragment #9 for free or pay what you want!”

(10) CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE SPOILERS. I say, this Ars Technica article gives away the entire story, never mind spoilers! “David Tennant makes a dashing Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days preview”. It wasn’t easy to find an excerpt that didn’t blab some important part!

…Verne’s story, in turn, inspired the late 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly to make her own world tour, completing the trip in 72 days. She even met Verne in Amiens and wrote her own bestselling book about her adventures. Monty Python alum Michael Palin made the charming TV travelogue, Around the World in 80 Days with Michael Palin, in 1988, detailing his recreation of Fogg’s journey, without resorting to airplanes….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

2002 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Nineteen years ago on NBC, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie first aired. It was the first film to be made for television by The Muppets franchise. It was directed by Kirk R. Thatcher (in his feature directorial debut though he earlier been hired by Nimoy to associate produce the Conspiracy ’87 Hugo-nominated Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and written by Tom Martin and Jim Lewis.

It starred the usual Muppet puppeteers (Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson) plus a number of human guests: David Arquette, Joan Cusack, Matthew Lillard, William H. Macy and Whoopi Goldberg. Executive producers Juliet Blake and Brian Henson, though the actual producers were Martin G. Baker and Warren Carr. 

This is also the final Muppets production from the Jim Henson Company, as The Muppets were in their final years of ownership by the Henson family before being sold to Disney in 2004.

Critics were generally very impressed by this film with such comments as the Canadian Movie News saying it “is a medley of familiar Christmas classics such as It’s a Wonderful LifeA Christmas Story and The Grinch, amongst others, with a distinct Muppet spin.” Interestingly audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less impressed giving a mediocre fifty-one percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C S Lewis. I first encountered him when reading The Screwtape Letters in University. I later read of course The Chronicles of Narnia which I found most excellent though I’ll admit that I’ve not read his Space Trilogy. (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1910 Kendell Foster Crossen. He was the creator and writer of the Green Lama stories.  The character was 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. The usual suspects has a really deep catalog of his genre work, and the Green Lama stories have been made into audio works as well. (Died 1981.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the DoorA Swiftly Tilting PlanetMany Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her non-genre works that I recommend strongly is the Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. She has a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 71. He played the title character in the late Seveties Dr. Strange film, well before the present MCU film reality existed. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as OrcaHouse of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’d accused it of name laundering, including 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1955 Howie Mandel, 66. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 52. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action ComicsBatwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four-issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseries as someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman. Another death that damn near broke my heart. The Black Panther alias Challa in the Marvel metaverse. The same year that he was first this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt. (If you’ve not heard of this, no one else did either as it bombed quite nicely at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he even appeared on Fringe in the “Subject 9” episode as Mark Little / Cameron James. (Died 2020.)

(13) IT’S NOT SURPRISING. “‘The Simpsons’ Tiananmen Square Episode Missing From Disney+ Hong Kong; Discovery Leads to Censorship Concerns” reports Deadline.

An episode of The Simpsons during which the family visits Tiananmen Square is missing from Disney+’s Hong Kong platform.

Episode 12 of season 16 was found today to be absent from the streamer’s catalogue in the nation, having launched in Hong Kong earlier this month.

The episode features the family going to China to try to adopt a baby. At one point, they visit Tiananmen Square, which was the site of a deadly crackdown in 1989 against democracy protestors. A satirical sign in the cartoon square reads “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”

At time of publication, it is not clear whether Disney+ removed the episode or was ordered to by the authorities and Disney has not responded to requests for comment.

The discovery will lead to further concerns over censorship in Hong Kong….

(14) D&D DIVERSITY. “‘A safe haven’: how Dungeons & Dragons is slaying social anxiety” – the Guardian runs the numbers.

… Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has brought together a far more diverse array of players than its stereotypes suggest. Earlier this year, the game’s publisher, Wizards of the Coast, released a report showing that, of its estimated 50 million players, 54% were younger than 30 and 40% identified as female. What it didn’t reveal was the rise in visibility of queer and neurodiverse players.

…For people such as Shadia Hancock, the founder of advocacy group Autism Actually and Dungeon Master to a group of young neurodiverse players, the therapeutic potential of the game has always been clear.

“It’s about creating a sense of community,” Hancock says. “I work out the players’ expectations at the beginning of a game. Some get really into creating their characters, some are more interested in finding items and exploring the world, others are really interested in how the characters met. We all have a mutual love of gaming, but we all want something different from the session.”

Some characteristics expressed by some of Hancock’s players – social anxiety, increased empathy, difficulty adapting to change, feeling overwhelmed in noisy environments – have become familiar to many Australians in the wake of lockdowns. Studies cited by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found reported levels of social anxiety increased over the past two years among all age groups, with young neurodiverse Australians even more likely to have experienced a decline in wellbeing.

“While other people are excited about going out, I’m filled with dread,” Hancock tells me. “With Covid, we [autistic communities] had all these sudden changes, often with short notice, and there was this need to constantly adapt to new rules. Not knowing what is coming up is really anxiety-inducing. During the pandemic, that became a shared experience.”

(15) NEXT TIME, TAKE THE TRAIN. John Holbo’s “The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas” is adorned with a big Omelas-themed travel poster (which you can see at the link.)

*Confused? This page contains a parody of a famous story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d point you to it, but there are no versions legally free on the web. Buy a book! Read Wikipedia. If you are somehow here about the BTS song – sorry, I don’t know about that. (But with half a billion hits, somebody probably does.)

I’ve written notes on my take on Le Guin. An essay! That’s here

Also, once I made the graphics I tossed ’em on Redbubble. Forgive me. It seemed funny.

“I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked trams.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”

(16) DS9 ON NFT. Voice actor Joshua Martin put together a parody video where Deep Space Nine’s “Quark and Odo discuss NFTs and Crypto Currency”. There’s also a Twitter thread that starts here.

(17) I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM. SlashFilm reveals “This Is What You’re Really Hearing When R2-D2 Screams In Star Wars”.

…One fateful moment of stress managed to help define a character through more than four decades and nine movies in the Skywalker saga — and counting.

(18) STAND BY TO ENTER HYPE-SPACE. Gizmodo’s Rob Bricken pans Disney World’s effort to sell people on its new theme hotel: “Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Hotel Preview Looks Unimpressive”.

If you’ve been slavering for your chance to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to head to Walt Disney World’s upcoming Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience, might I suggest you towel off your chin for the time being? Disney has released a video preview of some of what awaits families who come aboard the Halcyon, and it doesn’t look particularly enticing.

The first thing you should know about this video is that it stars Disney Parks Imagineer Ann Morrow Johnson and The Goldbergs’ sitcom actor Sean Giambrone. The two take a very short tour of the Starcruiser, but instead of them just talking like normal people about what people who come to the Halcyon can expect, it’s scripted and painfully unfunny. You’ve been warned. But this video also raises an important question, which is: Disney wants $6,000 for this?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Jayn, Bill, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks. They are listed below with links to the AudioFile review.

AudioFile will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators from Best Audiobooks 2021 across all the categories on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks for 2021

Blast off with AudioFile’s 2021 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks by your side. Our Best Listening list includes Ray Porter’s lively narration of Andy Weir’s newest out-of-this-world adventure and a stunning sci-fi novella from Nnedi Okorafor brought to life by the talented Adjoa Andoh. Read on to discover all of our favorites and find some new listening to enjoy. For the full list of 2021 Best Audiobooks visit AudioFile’s website

BLACK WATER SISTER by Zen Cho| Read by Catherine Ho | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Catherine Ho delivers a stellar performance of this layered urban fantasy set in contemporary Malaysia. Jess’s college degree and secret girlfriend are not enough to keep her in the U.S. when her parents return to their homeland. She soon discovers that the gods and spirits are very real there. Ho’s seamless transitions between characters and accents keep listeners rooted in the story’s Southeast Asian setting. 

PROJECT HAIL MARY by Andy Weir| Read by Ray Porter | AudioFile Earphones Award

Through tone and pacing, narrator Ray Porter makes Andy Weir’s fantastical space opera seem plausible. Porter captures the panic and semi-hysterical self-deprecation of an amnesiac who is the sole survivor on a spacecraft cruising through space. As the protagonist’s memories return, Porter is called upon to deliver a United Nations of accents.

REMOTE CONTROL by Nnedi Okorafor| Read by Adjoa Andoh | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Adjoa Andoh captivates listeners with a stunning sci-fi novella set in a near-future Ghana. Andoh is perfectly in tune with Okorafor’s compelling story, smoothly switching between her British accent as the narrator and the intonations of the vibrant characters she brings to life. As a girl, Sankofa gains incredible power and then kills everyone she loves in a tragic accident. Exploring the country on foot, she learns to control her powers. 

RULE OF COOL by Matthew Siege| Read by Felicia Day | AudioFile Earphones Award

Felicia Day narrates a sidesplitting literary RPG (role-playing game) told from the perspective of the story’s monsters. Raze is a gearblin—a mix of goblin and gremlin—in a game in which the players carry out quests. Using a special code, Raze casts aside her chains and gathers other monsters to face down the game’s so-called heroes. Raze’s journey is hilarious, and Day’s performance boosts the story to the level of a must-listen for fans of the genre. 

THE SANDMAN: ACT II by Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs [Adapt.]| Read by James McAvoy, Neil Gaiman, Kat Dennings, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, John Lithgow, and a Full Cast | AudioFile Earphones Award

Anchored by Neil Gaiman’s hypnotic storyteller’s voice, the second act of THE SANDMAN bewitches. As Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, James McAvoy sounds both imperious and weary, otherworldly and very human. The star-filled cast of actors and lush production guide listeners back and forth in time and in and out of fantastic worlds. Sound effects and original music make for a completely immersive experience.

VAGRANT QUEEN 1: The Bezoar of Kings by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith| Read by Nanette Savard and a Full Cast | AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Nanette Savard and an ensemble of voice actors skillfully create a universe in which a queen flees from villains who fear she will try to reclaim her throne. Thanks to the wonderful narration, it’s easy to get lost in the adventure. No-nonsense Queen Elida teams up with Isaac, a cocky rebel from the Han Solo School of Rogues, to steal a mind-control device from a bad guy. 

Emails from Lake Woe-Is-Me — Fit the ???

[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]

IS WRITER X IN JAIL?

Hello All, Melanie here.

I’ve been under the weather all week, and to be honest, I’m still really fuzzy on what reality is or isn’t, and if you told me it was Tuesday and that Obamer is president, I’d believe you.

BUT. I didn’t get an email from X this week.

I slept most of the days she normally sends these (usually Thursday or Friday, sometimes Saturday at the latest.) At first, I thought she would likely be busy during the holiday and wouldn’t get an email out until late Friday night. Then I spent a considerable amount of time wondering who she would be spending her Thanksgiving with. Gladys? Ms. B___ who lives up the road and got a palm-reading? Does X have family in town? She never mentions it. 

My kids helped prepare our Turkey-Day meal. In a feverish fit, I honestly thought about sending her a plate but decided against it as it would mean sending my partner out driving into the night in the direction of a New Hampshire town we haven’t been able to find on a map. We have a lot of goodwill toward each other and don’t mind going the extra mile, but that would be a big ask, even so. At some point, I wrote “how to get across reality?” in the notebook I keep beside my bed for when I remember some doctor’s appointment or birthday in the middle of the night.  

So, we didn’t send a plate of Thanksgiving goodness across realities. 

And I decided that X spent Thanksgiving with Ms. B___ or Gladys, or Marjory, or possibly everyone in the entire town of Cradensburg, and that let me sleep.

But yesterday (that would be Saturday at the time of this writing which is late Sunday), I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. with a strong feeling that—not only had I not received an email, but that I wouldn’t. You know how you just know something, but you don’t know how you know? Nothing generates a generous dose of anxiety as knowing something that certainly.

I got up and immediately tried to prove myself wrong. I went through my inboxes—all of them. I went through spam and trash and…nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Then I began to re-read her older emails. I found one tiny but also kind-of-huge detail that I managed to miss. 

X was planning to break into the Grim Hill House at 7:30 pm on Thanksgiving. This was, of course, to accomplish the uber-important goal of retrieving her right croc that she had flung at the Head of Brian a month or so ago. Given what I’ve gathered about her personality, I think X went through with it. But also, given what I’ve gathered about her personality, I don’t think she’s exactly a ninja…

I may be fever-delusional, and she’ll get me an email tomorrow or maybe even late tonight and that I’m overreacting, but I honest-to-goodness worry that she may have been arrested. 

And, if she was, that means that maybe her “protege” R___ was arrested, too? That poor kid. He’s already run for the hills once. Now that X has messed with the timeline, she has earned a second chance, and he has earned a negative integer chance.

I dunno. Do you think I’m overreacting? 

If I knew the right numbers to call, I’d call the sheriff’s office in Cradensburg, but that’s been a nothing burger of a google search. 

Maybe I’m overreacting. 

It’s Tuesday, right? 

And Obamer is president?

Pixel Scroll 11/28/21 I Have Squandered All My Pixels

(1) CASTAWAY. BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs hosted “Neil Gaiman, writer” who shared the eight tracks, book and luxury item he would take with him if cast away to a desert island. Listen to the program at the link.

Or, let BBC Radio 4 blab it to you in a post: “Nine things we learned from Neil Gaiman’s Desert Island Discs”.

Neil Gaiman is a multi-award winning author whose work includes the novels Stardust, American Gods and The Graveyard Book and the comic book series The Sandman. His first novel, Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett, was published in 1990, and Neil recently adapted it as a TV series starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. He specialises in creating fantastic alternative realities which exist under the nose of the world as we know it. He recently told his 2.8 million Twitter followers that he wore his ‘lucky Batman underpants’ for his Desert Island Discs recording – and here are nine things we learned from the programme…

5. A furious child inspired his first book for younger readers

Neil published The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish in 1997.

“The idea, like most of my children’s books, was stolen from one of my children,” explains Neil. “In this case from my son, Mike, and he would have been four, maybe five years old. I’d said something to him that he didn’t like, like possibly suggesting to him that it was actually his bedtime.”

“And he looked up at me with a fury that only a small boy can generate, a special kind of fury and he just said, ‘I wish I didn’t have a dad’. He said, ‘I wish I had….’ And then he paused because he hadn’t thought that through and, and then he said, ‘I wish I had goldfish!’ And he stomped off while I just thought ‘That is brilliant!’”

(2) HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS, DISCON 1. Andrew Porter received this postcard after reserving his room for Discon, the 1963 Worldcon in Washington DC. “Back when I was still Andy Silverberg…” – his name at the time.

(3) QANTAS PHYSICS. Fanac.org’s next “FanHistory Project Zoom Session” will be “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960” featuring Leigh Edmonds and Perry Middlemiss. According to your time zone, it starts December 4 at 7PM Dec 4 EST, 4PM Dec 4 PST, or December 5 at 11AM in Melbourne AU. RSVP to fanac@fanac.org to get the Zoom link.

From the 1930s to the 1950s sf fandom in Australia was active and buoyant. Centred mainly around the city of Sydney their activities included fanzine production, club meetings and feuding. Yet by the beginning of the 1960s it had nearly all withered away. How did this vibrant community survive the Second World War and yet somehow fail to make it through peacetime? This, and many other questions, will be addressed by Dr Leigh Edmonds, sf fan and professional historian, in his FANAC talk titled “Wrong Turns on the Wallaby Track: Australian Science Fiction Fandom to Aussiecon – Part 1, 1936 to 1960.”

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The Los Angeles Times reports on Comic-Con Special Edition: “Comic-Con returns to San Diego amid COVID-19 pandemic”.

They say not all superheroes wear capes. But they do all now wear masks.

This weekend, thousands of people flocked to San Diego for the city’s first in-person Comic-Con — the beloved geekfest for all things science fiction, superhero and fantasy — in two and a half years.

The cosplayers squeezed into their spandex, strapped on their plastic weapons and secured their brightly colored wigs.

But with great power comes great responsibility. So, in a pandemic twist, they all donned face masks and red wristbands after proving they had either been vaccinated against or had recently tested negative for the greatest villain of all: COVID-19….

(5) COMIC-CON MUSEUM. The Times of San Diego takes its “First Peek Inside Comic-Con Museum, Revealing Exhibits Amid Soft Opening”.

…Local dignitaries, Comic-Con officials and volunteers were the first to see the 250,000 square feet of exhibits as a “special edition” San Diego Comic Convention opened Friday at the San Diego Convention Center.

The former San Diego Hall of Champions sports museum will be a destination for Comic-Con attendees, who can take a free shuttle between to the venue. The shuttle goes every 30 minutes….

This is the link to the Museum website where these six theme exhibits are now on display:

  • Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary as creator of “Star Trek.”
  • Chas Addams…Family and Friends as cartoonist of darkly humorous and macabre characters.
  • Eight Decades of Archie: a new pop-up exhibition that explores the storied history of America’s typical teenagers
  • Cardboard Superheroes: the art of teenage brothers Connor (17) and Bauer (14) Lee, this exhibit features life-size cardboard models of superheroes such as Hulkbuster, Groot, C-3PO, and Baby Yoda.
  • Out of the Darkness: Comics in the Times of COVID featuring artwork by San Diego young people.
  • The PAC-MAN Arcade on the 2020 Museum Character Hall of Fame Inductee.

(6) COMICS EXHIBIT IN WASHINGTON, DC. There’s news about what the Library of Congress is doing with Steve Geppi’s collection of comics. Geppi Gems is on view in the LOC’s Graphic Arts Gallery through March 2022. A second rotation, with a completely different selection, is intended for the Spring of 2022. “Geppi Gems Exhibit: Highlights from the Stephen A. Geppi Collection at the Library of Congress”.

…Stephen A. Geppi opened the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2006, with the intent of showing how artistic creations from the pages of newspaper comic strips and comic books permeated popular culture. Over time, he expanded his collecting interests to reflect such comic book themes as superheroes, westerns, science fiction, horror, sports, music and entertainment. When the Geppi Entertainment Museum closed its doors in 2018, Mr. Geppi generously donated a large portion of its contents to the Library of Congress, with a desire that thousands of people share his excitement for comic books….

There’s also an online version of the exhibit: “Geppi Gems”.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1972 [Item by Cat Eldridge.] Forty-nine years ago this evening, Via Galactica, a SF rock musical, premiered on Broadway. Critics all hated it. Audiences really weren’t fond of it either. It lasted but seven shows before being cancelled. Yes, it was that bad. The story by Christopher Gore and Judith Ross, lyrics by Gore, and music by Galt MacDermot. It marked the Broadway debut of actor Mark Baker who went on to far better things. (Raul Julia was in the cast.) The storyline was so difficult to follow that at the very last moment producers inserted a plot synopsis in Playbill, but audiences still had no idea what they were witnessing unfolding on stage which involved, among other things, a clamshell-shaped garbage ship called the Helen of Troy. No, I’m not kidding. It would be one of the very first Broadway plays to lose a million dollars. That’s over six million dollars today. 

Jennifer George, daughter of the producer George W. George, has a look at it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 28, 1930 William Sargent, 91. He played Dr. Leighton in “The Conscience of the King”, a first season episode of Star Trek. He also shows up in Night Slaves (really don’t ask), Mission: ImpossibleShazam!Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents and The Invaders. He was in the pilot for The Immortal series but wasn’t in the regular cast.
  • Born November 28, 1939 Walter Velez. His agent and fellow artist Jill Bauman wrote, “Walter created illustrations for most of the major book and gaming companies. He has been long known for his cover art for such popular books such as the Thieves World series and the Myth Adventures series, both edited by Robert Asprin; and the EbenezumWuntor, and Cineverse Cycle series, all by Craig Shaw Gardner. Walter illustrated for TSR games extensively. He applied his multi-faceted talents to trading cards for the Goosebumps series for the Topps Company, and a series of Dune trading cards. In the early 80’s he worked with Random House to create art for several Star Wars books that were licensed from George Lucas.” (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 28, 1944 Rita Mae Brown, 76. Author of the Sister Jane mysteries which features foxes, hounds and cats as characters with voices which in my mind makes them genre novels. Not to mention her creation of Sneaky Pie Brown who “is a New York Times best-selling writer and cat who co-authors the Mrs. Murphy series of mystery novels with her owner, Rita Mae Brown.” And who she has an entire series devoted to. 
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 75. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece even if the second has its moments, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, he’s done a lot but the only one I can say that I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow’s “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As a Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day.  
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 69. Best remembered as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on Law & Order appearing in 395 episodes of the series. Since Dick Wolf also is responsible for Chicago Med, she’s now playing Sharon Goodwin there. Both of her major SF roles involve robots. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse which I believe the consensus here is that it’s genre. 
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 59. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder. 
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 40. Her main SFF film is as the title character of Adèle Blanc-Sec in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec as directed by Luc Besson. Anybody watched the uncensored English version that came out on Blu-ray? It’s on my list To Be Watched list. She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short.
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 34. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and in the later MCU films, Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”, the first at Renovation and the latter at Chicon 7. 

(9) FORTY WHACKS. The New Yorker enumerates “The Lessons of ‘The Lorax’”.

In 1989, the year that Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie, for writing “The Satanic Verses,” American parents in Laytonville, a small town in Northern California, demanded that their children’s elementary school take Dr. Seuss’s 1971 book, “The Lorax,” off its list of required reading for second graders. The book is “Silent Spring” for the under-ten set. “I speak for the trees,” the Lorax says, attempting to defend a soon to be blighted forest, its tufted Truffula trees chopped down and knit into hideous thneeds—“a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need”—until there is nothing left but one single seed.

…“I drew a Lorax and he was obviously a Lorax,” Geisel said. “Doesn’t he look like a Lorax to you?” But, in 1989, to Bill and Judith Bailey, the founders of a logging-equipment business in Laytonville, the Lorax looked like an environmental activist. “Papa, we can’t cut trees down,” their eight-year-old son, Sammy, said after reading the book, in which a “Super-Axe-Hacker” whacks “four Truffula Trees at one smacker.” Townspeople were caught up in the so-called “timber wars,” when environmentalists camped out in trees and loggers wore T-shirts that read “Spotted Owl Tastes Like Chicken.” Logging families took out ads in the local newspaper. One said, “To teach our children that harvesting redwood trees is bad is not the education we need.”…

(10) ONE DAM THING AFTER ANOTHER. “Ian Frazier Wishes Somebody Would Write About the World’s Largest Beaver Dam” in the New York Times. He avoids SF…but we’ll skip that quote.

Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about?

I don’t know — how about the world’s largest beaver dam? It’s in northern Alberta, Canada, and very hard to get to. Supposedly it’s the largest animal-made structure visible from space. I would like to write about it myself, but no editors are interested. (Write about it, that is, without actually going there.)

(11) ELON MUSK NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post.  Isabelle Khurshudyan and Mary Ilyushina discuss the popularity of Elon Musk in Russia.  Among his fans is Pavel Antonov, who wants to be the first bartender in space, with his role model being the android Michael Sheen played in Passengers. “Why Russia’s mania for Elon Musk just keeps on growing”.

…Pavel Antonov’s life goal can be traced back to the 2016 movie “Passengers,” a sci-fi romance that takes place on a luxury spaceship. One character in the movie is Arthur, an android bartender played by Michael Sheen. Arthur provides smiling relief amid the chaos.

“I immediately thought Musk will definitely need such a person who would distract from all problems,” Antonov said. “For at least one hour, you can sit at the bar, forget about everything and talk about neutral topics. From then on, I decided that I want to be the first bartender on Mars.”…

He’s developed “a signature cocktail for Mars” which is bright blue and a red cherry for the Red Planet…

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mr. Sci-Fi” Marc Scott Zicree is roaming the aisles at San Diego Comic-Con — Special Edition.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Alan Baumler, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Revisit “Fighting Forties” LASFS in Rob Hansen’s Bixelstrasse

Did “Shangri-LA” or Ah! Sweet Idiocy! best describe the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society of the 1940s? The answer is – Yes! – as readers of Rob Hansen’s new fannish ebook will discover. Bixelstrasse: The SF Fan Community of 1940s Los Angeles is the latest addition to TAFF’s library of free downloads. 

The story emerges from the participants’ own words – famous and notorious figures like Forrest J Ackerman, Charles Burbee, Claude Degler, Francis Towner Laney, “Tigrina” and “Morojo”, as well as pros of the day including Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Harryhausen, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Fritz Lang, Fritz Leiber and A.E. van Vogt.

It’s another huge compilation — 193,000 words — and available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they also hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund. Find it here.

From Rob Hansen’s Foreword:

The Bixel Street era of LASFS has fascinated me since I first read about it in Harry Warner Jr’s All Our Yesterdays. Yes, there have been other occasions on which fans have shared premises in varying degrees, but to have a community of fans centred around a clubroom and living in nearby rooming houses on the same street gave rise to all-week, around-the-clock fanning of a sort not seen before or since. […]

This set-up, the whole “fannish village” they established, was immensely appealing to me in my twenties (though seeing so much of each other inevitably exacerbated personality clashes, of course). Add in the large numbers of fans from around the country who passed through Los Angeles thanks to the war, many of them processed via the Induction Center at nearby Fort MacArthur before being sent off to fight, and you have something unique in the history of fandom, a saga featuring fans and pros, communists and homosexuals, madmen and mystics, Hollywood stars and spies.

Within the confines of mundane South Bixel Street lay the Bixelstrasse, a name that describes the tight cluster of dwellings on that street that housed its fannish community….

From Bixelstrasse: The SF Fan Community of 1940s Los Angeles.

Fans appearing in the cover photo taken at the 1941 LASFS Xmas Party are as follows. Rear: Helen Finn, Dorothy Finn, Eleanor O’Brien, Morojo, Art Joquel, Ed Chamberlain, Gerald Miller, Henry Hasse. Front: Paul Freehafer, Peggy Finn, Walt Daugherty, Forry Ackerman, Norwin Johnson. Sign over door reads SHOTTLE BOP. See also the 1940s LASFS Gallery at Rob Hansen’s site.

[Thanks to David Langford for the scoop!]