Marvel Celebrates Black History Month With Variant Covers, Backup Stories

Last month at New York Comic Con, Marvel Comics announced some exciting things coming when it celebrates Black History Month this February with various new series centered about Black heroes and creators and a new edition of Marvel’s Voices anthology series, Marvel’s Voices: Wakanda Forever.

Marvel’s Voices: Wakanda Forever #1 will feature five all-new stories spotlighting the iconic heroes of Wakanda and brought to life by an incredible lineup of both fan-favorite creators and talent fresh to the Marvel Universe. Join them as they grow and expand the inimitable world of Wakanda in these tales of myth, adventure, strife, and more!

  • T’Challa’s grandfather, Azzuri, learns a lesson as a teenager that will have a dramatic impact on Wakanda’s present in a moving story by writer Adam Serwer (Wakanda) and Marvel Studios storyboard artist Todd Harris!
  • It’s the debut of the LAST Black Panther in the far future of Wakanda in a revelatory tale written and drawn by Juni Ba (Black Panther, Image Comics’ Monkey Meat)
  • T’Challa must grapple with a crisis of faith and goes to a surprising ally to help get him through it in a thrilling tale by writer Karama Horne, author of the recent Black Panther: Protectors of Wakanda book, and artist Alitha E. Martinez, known for her work on Black Panther and Miles Morales: Spider-Man
  • Learn what length Shuri will go to in order to protect Wakanda from a devastating attack from a dangerous new foe in an action-packed story by Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akanda, the team behind the recently announced I Am Iron Man limited series
  • A new Dora Milaje trainee must accomplish one last thing to earn her place: defeat Okoye in combat! Witness this breathtaking battle in this story by Eisner Award-winning writer Sheena Howard and artist Marcus Williams (Tuskegee Heirs)
  • Plus all-new essays and interviews about all things Wakanda! 

 In addition, Marvel’s Black History Month Variant Covers are back, giving some of the industry’s most acclaimed artists a chance to spotlight some of the most iconic Black super heroes in fiction. This year, fans can find these covers on four titles and each issue will also have a special backup story starring that very character.

  • THOR #31 will include a teamup story featuring Thor and Black Panther by writer Cheryl Lynn Eaton and artist ChrisCross
  • MOON KNIGHT #20 will see the crescent crusader crosses paths with the Sheriff of the Vampire Nation, Blade in a story by writer Danny Lore and artist Ray-Anthony Height
  • SPIDER-MAN #5 features Spider-Man and Photon in an action-packed adventure by writer Justin A. Reynolds and ChrisCross.
  • SCARLET WITCH #2 will see two of Marvel’s biggest powerhouses, Scarlet Witch and Storm, join forces in a story by writer Stephanie Williams and artist Chris Allen

Check out the covers following the jump. For more information about Marvel Comics’ Black History Month celebration visit Marvel.com.

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Remembering Hugo Friedhofer

By Steve Vertlieb: I’ve read with interest some of the recent discussions concerning the measure of Hugo Friedhofer’s importance as a composer, and it set my memory sailing back to another time in a musical galaxy long ago and far away. I have always considered Maestro Friedhofer among the most important, if underrated, composers of Hollywood’s golden era. His contributions to this lyrical art form have placed him high above most contemporary artists and musicians in my estimation and he will, perhaps, live on as one of the unsung immortals of film scoring.

I recall conversations with Miklos Rozsa regarding Friedhofer’s contribution to motion picture music forty-five years ago. Rozsa found Hugo Friedhofer an enormously gifted composer who had contributed more to the world of music than he would ever know. Indeed, Friedhofer’s assessment of his own accomplishments was, to put it bluntly, derogatory and self-punishing. Whenever the two spoke on the matter, Friedhofer would ridicule his own achievements and describe his career as miniscule and inadequate.

Friedhofer, as Rozsa discovered, lambasted the studio system and ridiculed his own significance within the industry. He had serious issues concerning his own self-worth, and grew increasingly morose and cynical. He turned ever frequently to alcohol as a temporary cure for his depression and, during these bouts with feelings of inadequacy, became sadly impossible to reach. Rozsa told me that he had often tried to bolster Friedhofer’s sense of worth by commiserating with him, and reminding him of his many successes but that Friedhofer simply refused to accept his value and importance as an artist. Finally, it grew too painful to broach the subject. If Friedhofer felt more comfortable in his escalating self-flagellation, there was little that Rozsa could do to lift him out of it. He couldn’t allow his own positive attitude to be pulled down by someone who could only continue to wallow in self-pity and emotional suicide.

A year later, I decided to try to track Friedhofer down and attempt to repay the gift of beauty he had bestowed upon my life. I found his address and wrote him a long, loving letter of genuine admiration for his work and artistry. In late February, 1980, I received a reply written on an old, rickety typewriter. The page appeared stained with tears. The letter remains one of the most treasured pieces of correspondence that I’ve ever received. If I may, I’d like to share it with you.


2/28/1980

My Dear Steve Vertlieb:-

Thanks no end for your generous letter as well as for your review of ‘The Best Years’ album (plus mini-biography, in the #2 issue of Cinemacabre’) and I must beg your forgiveness for my seemingly laggard response. Fact is, I am just now recovering from a series of tiresome ailments which have kept me under wraps and out of circulation for the past two years. Now that I’m feeling somewhat better I find myself confronted by an accumulation of unanswered correspondence which simply must be attended to,-hence the relative brevity of this rejoinder…..

Your words about my being ‘an authentic original in a world of smugly defiant carbon copies’ I find highly reassuring. Something over a half-century of involvement with films and film music tends to breed considerable uncertainty, particularly since that involvement has always been born of economic necessity;not aesthetic conviction. Consequently, the fact that you have singled out a number of my scores as being perhaps something more than merely expensive background noise is, to say the least, heartening; that I’ve perhaps not sold myself down the river. At least not entirely. The fact that the score for ‘The Barbarian and the Geisha’,- a far from box-office stand-out, got across to you as having not inconsiderable merit in its own right did much to dispel my doubt as to whether anyone actually listens to film music. Evidently you do, and for this assurance I am immeasurably grateful.

Yours, with warmest good wishes,-

Hugo Friedhofer


The last time Miklos Rozsa had seen Hugo Friedhofer was in a small restaurant in Hollywood. Friedhofer was seated, alone, at a table in a darkened corner of the room. His head was bowed and resting within his arms. Before him was a drink, half consumed. As Friedhofer weakly lifted his head from the table, he saw Rozsa walking in. Rozsa waved. Friedhofer managed merely a feeble attempt at raising his own arm in response.

I think of the Oscar winning triumph and majestic beauty of his music for William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). I hear the exquisite strains of his love themes for The Barbarian and the Geisha and Soldier of Fortune. I experience the rapturous joy of listening to his music for Boy On A Dolphin, and I am moved to tears by the gentle expression of a man’s inner depth and creativity. Would that HE might have seen the value and importance of his contribution to this wondrous and magical art form while he lived.

A little more than a year after I received his letter, Hugh Friedhofer suffered complications from a fall and passed away. His incomparable gift to the world of film and film music will, I believe, endure and flourish for many joyous years to come.

Pixel Scroll 12/1/22 We Reserved A Table For Nine In The Pipeweed Smoking Section… The Name Is Gandalf. Gee Ay Enn Dee Ay Ell Eff

(1) NUMBER, PLEASE. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny comes to theaters June 30, 2023. It’s the first fifth in the series!

Harrison Ford returns as the legendary hero archaeologist in the highly anticipated fifth installment of the iconic “Indiana Jones” franchise, which is directed by James Mangold (“Ford v Ferrari,” “Logan”). Starring along with Ford are Phoebe Waller-Bridge (“Fleabag”), Antonio Banderas (“Pain and Glory”), John Rhys-Davies (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Shaunette Renee Wilson (“Black Panther”), Thomas Kretschmann (“Das Boot”), Toby Jones (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”), Boyd Holbrook (“Logan”), Oliver Richters (“Black Widow”), Ethann Isidore (“Mortel”) and Mads Mikkelsen (“Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore”).

(2) BUT FIRST! Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 will get a head start, arriving in theaters on May 5, 2023. Screen Crush took notes on the new trailer: “’Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Trailer Teases the Team’s End”

…Right off the bat, you’ll see the Guardians wearing matching team uniforms for the first time — uniforms that come right out of the Guardians comic books that first inspired this movie franchise.

But just because they’re dressing as a unit doesn’t mean things are going well on the team. This Vol. 3 trailer strongly implies the film will mark the end of the team — and that some of the characters may die along the way. Several of the characters, including Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord and Dave Bautista’s Drax, are shown badly wounded, and there is a lot of ominous talk from Bradley Cooper’s Rocket about them all flying away together “one last time.”

(3) NELSON AT PKD CEREMONY. Here are two photos of Ray Nelson, who died yesterday, taken by Andrew Porter when Nelson received his Philip K. Dick Award citation in 1983.

(4) MISSING ARMAGEDDON. James Davis Nicoll recommends “Five SF Works About Sitting Out World War III” at Tor.com. Three of them were published in 1984 – feel free to propound your own theory about that!

Although recent history suggests that humans as a whole (or at least their leaders) are perfectly comfortable with the ever-present risk of a global nuclear exchange, individual authors appear to be more ambivalent. Perhaps it’s some unnatural “life wish.” One coping mechanism that appeared over and over in SF written during the Cold War was to suppose that nations allied with one superpower or another could arrange to sit out World War III, thus suffering only indirect effects….

(5) ARABIC LITERATURE PRIZE. The three-book shortlist for the 2022 Banipal Prize of Arabic Literature in Translation includes one work of genre interest, Slipping by Mohamed Kheir, translated by Robin Moger. The winner will be announced in February.

Here is the description of Slipping:

A struggling journalist named Seif is introduced to a former exile with an encyclopedic knowledge of Egypt’s obscure, magical places. Together, as explorer and guide, they step into the fragmented, elusive world the Arab Spring left behind. They trek to an affluent neighborhood where giant corpse flowers rain from the sky. They join an anonymous crowd in the dark, hallucinating together before a bare cave wall. They descend a set of stairs to the spot along the Nile River where, it’s been said, you can walk on water. But what begins as a fantastical excursion through a splintered nation quickly winds its way inward as Seif begins to piece together the trauma of his own past, including what happened to Alya, his lover with the remarkable ability to sing any sound: crashing waves, fluttering wings, a roaring inferno.

(6) THE WELL DRESSED FAN. This is a public service announcement for the Glasgow2024 Shop at Redbubble where you can buy your 2024 Worldcon gear.

(7) THE VALUE OF FICTION. Jason Sanford has a good essay in Apex Magazine about why reading and writing fiction is important: “How Can You Be?”

… It’s interesting how our world’s “serious” people always find a way to dismiss things. How there are always people finding ways to insist other people’s activities and loves are not up to the task of dealing with life. How, to them, the time is never right to create art and fiction and anything else they deem frivolous.

I suspect such attitudes have always existed. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the emerging genre of novels such as those of Jane Austen were looked down upon by serious people. Similar attitudes were directed toward the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres for a large part of the 20th century. Most other creative and artistic pursuits have experienced similar tut-tuttings, with the short list of creative fields being dismissed over the decades including movies, TV shows, jazz, comic books, hip hop, video games, rap, manga, anime, and cosplay.

Hell, it’s a safe bet that every type of art and storytelling has been dismissed at one time or another by the world’s serious people….

(8) WOJTOWICZ MOURNED. Hania Wojtowicz of Toronto, who’s been active in Midwestern fandom for decades, died December 1 of cancer. Her brother Steve Klimczuk announced her passing on Facebook.

(9) ALINE KOMINSKY-CRUMB (1948-2022). Underground comix artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb died November 29 reports Forbes.

…Kominsky-Crumb was a founding member of the influential all-female collective that produced the anthology Wimmin’s Comix, a long-running feminist comic published by Last Gasp from 1972-1985. Kominsky-Crumb, along with artist Diane Noomin, broke with the group in the mid-1970s to do their own publication, Twisted Sisters. Both comics were some of the first to deal squarely with the political issues around female empowerment, criticism of the patriarchy, sexual politics, lesbianism and other topics central to feminist ideology….

She is surivived by her husband, comix creator Robert Crumb.  

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1914 [By Cat Eldridge.] Winnie the Pooh Birthplace statue

The only reason for being a bee is to make honey. And the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it. — Pooh

Continuing our look at the statues of great genre characters, we come to the one of commemorating the birthplace as it is of Winnie the Pooh and no, it’s not somewhere in in a quaint corner of Britain. 

On Aug. 24, 1914, Lt. Harry Colebourn, a Canadian veterinarian and soldier with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps, came across an orphaned female bear cub while on a train stop in White River, Ontario. So he bought her for twenty dollars.

He then named her Winnipeg, shorten than to Winnie, after his hometown, and she travelled with him to Britain, where he became the very unofficial regimental mascot for five years before she was donated to the London zoo where she resided the rest of her life — that’s where she caught the attention of a boy named Christopher Robin and his father, A.A. Milne — which is how Milne came to use her as the basis of Winnie the Pooh. 

The town apparently did not know that Milne had named Winnie the Pooh after her until the Eighties. They now have an annual celebration of All Things Pooh, Winnie’s Hometown Festival, thirty-four years old this year and held every year save the Pandemic years, including a street parade in honor of the “tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.” 

Of course, the Mouse decided to be an absolute idiot as they always do without fail. Their lawyers in the Nineties sent a letter to them refusing the town’s request to build a Winnie the Pooh statue. They suggested that the town build a statue of the original black bear instead. They backed down when the publicity got really, really hostile towards them in the States.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 1, 1886 Rex Stout. He did several genre or at least genre adjacent novels, to wit How Like A GodThe President Vanishes and his lost world tale, Under the Incas. Though I’ve read lots of Stout, I’ve not read these. ISFDB also lists Rue Morgue No. 1 as genre but this appears to be mysteries or possibly straightforward pulp tales that he co-edited with Louis Greenfield. Anyone here who read it? (Died 1975.)
  • Born December 1, 1905 Charles G. Finney. Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, won one of the inaugural National Book Awards for the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. A film adaptation, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, was a 1965 Hugo nominee. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included a magazine-published excerpt as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modeled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1942 John Crowley, 80. I’m tempted to say he’s a frelling literary genius and stop there but I won’t. Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and World Fantasy Award winning Little, Big is brilliant but if anything his crow-centric novel of Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr which received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. (Yes Little, Big did a Hugo nomination at Chicon IV.) Did you know he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? 
  • Born December 1, 1956 Bill Willingham, 66. Writer and Artist who is best known, I’d say for his long-running, four-time Hugo finalist Fables comic series – though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player, in which the souls of those lost in a card game become entangled in the politics of Heaven and Hell. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR Games, where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of other games. I must mention his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals, and he later wrote the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always ambivalent about the Jack of Fables series which he spun off of Fables, but his House of Mystery was rather good as well. His work has been recognized with several Eisner Awards, and he was honored as a Special Guest at Renovation.
  • Born December 1, 1962 Gail Z. Martin, 60. Best known for known for The Chronicles of The Necromancer fantasy adventure series. Her single award to date, and it is impressive, is the Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy for her Scourge novel. It was the seventh time that she had been a finalist for it. 
  • Born December 1, 1964 Jo Walton, 58.  She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002 and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in which dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian. Even if they eat each other. Really they do. Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WW II novels I’ve read bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth. Among Others she says is about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that as I imagine many here can too. And let’s not overlook so stellar An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000 nominated at Dublin 2019.
  • Born December 1, 1970 Greg Ruth, 52. Artist and Illustrator who has provided covers and interior art for dozens of genre fiction works and comics, including the Lodestar Award-winning Akata Warrior, and the new hardcover and German editions of Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo-winning Binti series. His art has earned four Chesley nominations, winning once, and has been selected for numerous editions of the industry year’s best art book, Spectrum; he was one of five artists selected for the Spectrum jury in 2015. His covers for the German editions of Okorafor’s Lagoon and Book of the Phoenix were nominated for the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis, and Lagoon took home the trophy. Interestingly, he has created two music videos – for Prince and Rob Thomas (of Matchbox Twenty). (JJ)
  • Born December 1, 1985 Janelle Monáe, 37. Writer, Actor, Composer, Singer and Producer who is known for her science-fictional song lyrics and videos. Her debut EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), is the first in a 7-part conceptual series inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic SF film; the single “Many Moons”, and her subsequent album, The ArchAndroid, garnered Grammy nominations, and her next album, The Electric Lady, was also acclaimed. She released the album Dirty Computer, with a companion 48-minute mini-movie which is very much a science fiction film. She played a lead role in the Hugo- and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, and has also had guest appearances on Stargate Universe and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. (JJ)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) TAFF LIBRARY GROWS. The Lindsay Report by Scots fan Ethel Lindsay reprints the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate’s trip report in ebook form. You can download it at the link, and if you enjoy any of the free ebooks on the site, a donation to TAFF is a fine way to express your appreciation.

Ethel Lindsay (1921-1996), a prolific Scots fan active from the early 1950s as fanzine editor, writer, publisher, reviewer and social organizer, was the first female winner of the TransAtlantic Fan Fund. She travelled under the auspices of TAFF to the USA for the 1962 World SF Convention: Chicon III in Chicago. Before and after Chicon she visited fans in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere, and lost little time in describing her adventures in The Lindsay Report (1963), now digitized for this ebook.

1962 was unusual in that were three UK fan fund delegates at that year’s Worldcon, whose paths also crossed elsewhere in the USA. The other two were Walt and Madeleine Willis, brought from Northern Ireland by the Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund (TAWF). Thus there are three complementary trip reports: Ethel’s The Lindsay Report, Walt’s Twice Upon a Time and Madeleine’s The DisTAWF Side. Both Willis reports have been combined as another TAFF Free Library ebook, TAWF Times Two (2022). Besides her interactions with the Willises (providing a different perspective on shared events), Ethel also references her friend Ella Parker’s The Harpy Stateside (1962; expanded TAFF ebook), reporting on Ella’s 1961 Worldcon visit and US tour.

Released as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 December 2022. The cover artwork by Atom (Arthur Thomson) was the frontispiece of the original The Lindsay Report. 37,000 words.

(14) BUTLER’S GROWING AUDIENCE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Happened to pick up the print edition of the New York Times yesterday, and read a really thoughtful piece about why Octavia Butler’s work continues to resonate. Then noticed the byline; the piece is written by Hugo finalist Lynell George. “The Visions of Octavia Butler”.

As a science fiction writer, Butler forged a new path and envisioned bold possibilities. On the eve of a major revival of her work, this is the story of how she came to see a future that is now our present….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Honest Trailers treatment of “Hancock” comes with the warning, “…Prepare for a third act twist that turns an otherwise okay comedy into a complete train wreck…”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, David Langford, John A Arkansawyer, Olav Rokne, Lloyd Penney, Cora Buhlert, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Socialinjusticeworrier.]

AudioFile’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks for 2022

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Audiobooks of 2022. They are listed below with links to AudioFile’s review.

AudioFile also will be featuring exclusive interviews with narrators from Best Audiobooks 2022 across all the categories on their podcast, Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

Left: January LaVoy. Photo by Todd Cerveri. Right: Bahni Turpin. Photo Linda Posnick.

AudioFile’s 2022 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy audiobooks are full of out-of-this world listening. Read on to discover a new take on a beloved classic, rich worldbuilding with outstanding full-cast narrations, or a captivating noir fantasy full of otherworldly beings.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY AUDIOBOOKS FOR 2022

THE ATLAS SIX: Atlas, Book 1 by Olivie Blake | Read by Steve West, David Monteith, Damian Lynch, Caitlin Kelly, Andy Ingalls, Munirih Grace, Siho Ellsmore, James Patrick Cronin | AudioFile Earphones Award. Macmillan Audio | 16 hrs.

Six exceptional individuals are recruited to join the mysterious Alexandrian Society. Listeners hear from prospective initiates from alternating points of view as the competition unfolds, all performed by a talented ensemble of narrators.

A COURT OF MIST AND FURY: A Court of Thorns and Roses, Book 2 by Sarah J. Maas | Read by Melody Muze, Anthony Palmini, Henry W. Kramer, Jon Vertullo, Amanda Forstrom, and a Full Cast |AudioFile Earphones Award. GraphicAudio | 8 hrs.

Melody Muze inhabits the role of this story’s narrator, along with Feyre, a mortal in an immortal body who lives in the land of Faerie. Sound effects, background music, and an imaginative cast enhance this magical battle between good and evil.

EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END by C.L. Polk | Read by January LaVoy | AudioFile Earphones Award. Recorded Books | 3.75 hrs.

January LaVoy’s captivating talents are on full display as she narrates a romantic, fantastical noir mystery. Helen Brandt has sold her soul to a demon, but now faces a chance to earn it back, save her city, and have a future with her girl.

MAXINE JUSTICE: Galactic Attorney by Daniel Schwabauer | Read by Aimee Lilly | AudioFile Earphones Award. Oasis Audio | 9 hrs.

There can be no doubt that narrator Aimee Lilly is having fun portraying Maxine Justice, who is feisty, resilient, and a bit down on her luck. Lilly captures all of Max’s dry wit, which makes this whimsical sci-fi story full of humans, robots, and aliens even more effective. 

MOON WITCH, SPIDER KING: Dark Star Trilogy, Book 2 by Marlon James | Read by Bahni Turpin | AudioFile Earphones Award. Penguin Audio | 30.75 hrs.

Bahni Turpin shows extraordinary range in her expert narration of this sprawling fantasy, the second installment of the Dark Star Trilogy. Listeners are treated to the fascinating and tumultuous 177-year life story of the witch Sogolon—from her painful childhood to her rise to power.

WITCHES ABROAD: Discworld, Book 12 by Terry Pratchett | Read by Indira Varma, Peter Serafinowicz, Bill Nighy | AudioFile Earphones Award. Penguin Audio UK | 9.75 hrs.

This highly amusing new recording of a classic in Pratchett’s beloved Discworld series, primarily narrated by Indira Varma with distinct British voices, introduces listeners to a godmother-witch, Magrat. She must stop the servant Emberella from marrying the prince, which (surprisingly) would destroy the kingdom.

Top 10 Stories for November 2022

Greg Bear’s death on November 19 shocked and saddened an ever-widening number of sff readers as the news spread through social media. Our obituary was read by many. And so was our report of the death of Martin Morse Wooster, a daily File 770 contributor who is deeply missed after losing his life to a hit-and-run driver on November 12.

Here are the ten most-read posts of November 2022 according to Jetpack.

  1. Greg Bear (1951-2022)
  2. Review: The Spare Man
  3. Martin Morse Wooster (1957-2022)
  4. How Many People Are Leaving Twitter?
  5. Rolling Toast to Honor Greg Bear
  6. “12 O’clock High” Legendary Soundtrack Release By Composer Dominic Frontiere
  7. Arisia Inc. Bans Person Based on 2009 Incident
  8. Pixel Scroll 11/19/22 Scroll And Deliver, Your Pixels Or Your Life!
  9. Pixel Scroll 11/24/22 On The Avenue, Second-Fifth Avenue, The Filetographers Will Snap Us, And You’ll Find That You’re In The Pixelgravure
  10. Chengdu Worldcon Update

Ray Nelson (1931-2022)

Ray Nelson self-portrait

SF writer and Rotsler Award winning fan artist Ray Nelson died in his sleep overnight November 29/30 his son, Walter, announced today on Facebook. He was 91 years old.

As an author Ray Nelson was best known for his short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning,” which became the basis of John Carpenter’s film They Live. He also had a short story, “Time Travel for Pedestrians,” in Harlan Ellison’s Again Dangerous Visions (1972). Nelson collaborated with Philip K. Dick on The Ganymede Takeover. His 1975 book Blake’s Progress, in which the poet William Blake and his wife are travelers in space and time, has been called his best work by critic John Clute.

As an artist, in the 1940s Nelson appropriated the propeller beanie as a symbol of science fiction fandom. His fannish cartoons were recognized with the Rotsler Award in 2003. He was inducted to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 2019.

The Ray Nelson website, which Walter set up, has more bibliographical information, and samples of his artwork. There you can also read a humorous article about Ray’s collaborator, “The Last Days of Philip K. Dick”.

Nelson was born in Schenectady, NY in 1931. He became an active science fiction fan while attending high school in Michigan. After graduation, he went to the University of Chicago (studying theology). In the Fifties he lived for four years in Paris, and met Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs among others of the Beat Generation, as well as existentialists Jean Paul Sartre, Boris Vian and Simone de Beauvoir. He subsequently co-edited Miscellaneous Man, the first “Beatnik” little literary review. In Paris, he worked with Michael Moorcock smuggling Henry Miller books out of France.

Honors Nelson received as a writer included a special citation from the Philip K. Dick Award in 1983 for The Prometheus Man. As a fan, in addition to the awards already mentioned, he was a Best Fan Artist Retro Hugo finalist in 2001 (commemorating work done in 1950) and received the 2014 FAAn Lifetime Achievement Award.

Pixel Scroll 11/30/22 Mr. Balrog, I Move We Adjourn Combat Sine Die

(1) FUND FOR PETER DAVID. A GoFundMe has been started on behalf of writer Peter David, who has many health problems and faces mounting bills. “Peter David Fund”.

I’m fundraising for author Peter David and his family. He’s had some compounded health problems, and the bills are piling up! On top of kidney failure, and the steep medical bills incurred from that, he just had another series of strokes AND a mild heart attack.  

As we wish him a swift recovery, and send our love and support to his wife Kathleen and his family, let’s also pitch in and help with their medical bills and living expenses. 

Please give what you can to relieve some of the immense stress that this family is going through right now.  

On behalf of Peter, Kathleen, and the whole family, thank you!

The appeal had brought in $51,725 from 1100+ donors at the time this was written.

(2) ARISIA NAMES NEW CHAIR. Melissa Kaplan is the new acting con chair of Arisia 2023. She has written a statement about her conrunning background and why she volunteers to do this.

The past few months have been among the most tumultuous in Arisia’s long history. After the loss of our conchair Jodie Lawhorne, two people stepped up to complete his work. In late October we learned about a serious incident involving one of our volunteers that was reported but never written down many years ago. The individual was put through our current more robust incident response protocol and was subsequently banned from all future participation in Arisia. We also learned that the acting con chairs had had knowledge of this and despite that, had consulted with this individual about volunteering for Arisia 2023. Between that information, and increasing levels of unrelated personal stress on those acting con chairs, it was determined that it was best for all parties for them to step down. Where that left us was 7 weeks out from a convention with no one in charge. I reached out to the e-board and offered to fill in the gap.

So hi, my name is Melissa Kaplan and I’ll be your acting con chair for the next 6.5 weeks….

(3) WILLIS X 2. Dave Langford and Rob Hansen have assembled TAWF Times Two: The 1962 Trip Reports by Walt and Madeleine Willis into a book and made it available in multiple formats at the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund’s website, where they hope you’ll make a little donation to the fund if you please.

The Tenth Anniversary Willis Fund (TAWF) was organized to bring Walt Willis – this time with his wife Madeleine – to the 1962 Chicago Worldcon, ten years after the fan initiative that brought Walt alone to the 1952 Worldcon also held in Chicago. Both wrote trip reports: Walt’s was serialized in various fanzines and eventually collected as Twice Upon a Time in the monumental Warhoon #28 (1980) edited by Richard Bergeron. Madeleine’s instalments of The DisTAWF Side appeared in The SpeleoBem edited by Bruce Pelz, and have never until now been collected.

For this ebook, Rob Hansen has digitized Madeleine’s chapters, expanded them with comments and corrections from others (plus an unpublished letter from Walt and another from Madeleine) and written a new Foreword covering both reports. David Langford had the easier task of extracting Twice Upon a Time from Warhoon #28, unscrambling dates, correcting typos and restoring a fragment of lost text. Scans of all the original fanzine appearances at Fanac.org were a great help to both of us.

Released as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 December 2022. Cover photo of the Willises in 1957 from the collection of Norman Shorrock, probably taken by Peter West. Over 87,000 words.

(4) ANOTHER OPENING OF ANOTHER SHOW. “The Museum of Broadway Is Open. Here Are 10 Highlights.” The New York Times gives reasons to visit when you’re in town.

When a Broadway show closes, the next stop for the hundreds of costumes, setpieces and props is often … the dumpster.

“The producers often stop paying rent in a storage unit somewhere, which is heartbreaking,” said Julie Boardman, one of the founders of the Museum of Broadway, which opened in Times Square this month.

Boardman, 40, a Broadway producer whose shows include “Funny Girl” and “Company,” and Diane Nicoletti, the founder of a marketing agency, are looking to reroute those items to their museum, a dream five years in the making.

“We see it as an experiential, interactive museum that tells the story of Broadway through costumes, props and artifacts,” Nicoletti, 40, said of the four-floor, 26,000-square-foot space on West 45th Street, next to the Lyceum Theater….

‘Phantom of the Opera’ Chandelier Installation

Each of the 13,917 glistening crystals in this piece, which were fashioned by the German artist Ulli Böhmelmann into hanging strands, is meant to represent one performance the Broadway production of “The Phantom of the Opera” will have played from its opening on Jan. 26, 1988, through its closing night performance. Though the final show was originally set for Feb. 18, 2023, the production announced Tuesday that it had been pushed to April 16 amid strong ticket sales (Böhmelmann plans to add the necessary crystals).

‘Avenue Q’ Puppets

In the early days of the 2003 Broadway production of the puppet-filled musical comedy “Avenue Q,” the show’s low budget meant the puppeteers had to put their charges through quick changes. The show initially had only three Princeton puppets — but he had eight costumes — meaning the puppets took a beating from changing clothes multiple times eight shows a week. “Eventually, they had a puppet for every costume,” McDonald said.

Gershwin Theater Set Model

This scale model, which is just over five feet wide, was designed by Edward Pierce, the associate scenic designer of the original Broadway production of “Wicked,” and took four people seven weeks to build. It includes more than 300 individual characters — and another 300 seated audience members in the auditorium. (See if you can find the Easter egg: a small model of the set model, with the designers — who look like the actual designers — showing the director a future design for “Wicked.”)

Wicked set model

(5) THE BEGINNING. In “Back to Back and Belly to Belly and Other Epiphanies on Speculative Poetry”, Akua Lezli Hope shows where it all comes from.

The world’s first literature is speculative poetry.

We told each other stories and encoded them in the form of verse. The earliest written literature is poetry – The Story of Gilgamesh, The Iliad and Odyssey, The Ramayana and Mahabharata, Beowulf and other npoem myths, verse histories and tellings in cultures across and around the world.

I had an epiphany about speculative poetry.

It was there from the start, in my womb and my heart….

(6) PROBABLY AN ANNIVERSARY. “Hitchhiker’s at 42” and 3 Quarks Daily is celebrating. Because something to do with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy happened forty-two years ago. Didn’t it?

… To document the broader cultural impact of Hitchhiker’s, we’ve asked a number of public figures in science, the arts, the humanities, and government to reflect on how the book changed their own understanding of life, the universe, and everything.

The Hitchhiker series taught me to laugh at the absurd, to mock self-proclaimed genius, to put off searching for the meaning of life in favor of play, and to oppose time travel on the ground that proper tense usage would become too difficult. It also prepared me to understand that some Albany politicians are like Vogons, insofar as neither are above corruption in the same way that the ocean is not above the sky. And it made 42 my favorite number.” –Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and host of Stay Tuned and Doing Justice…

(7) FREE READ. Congratulations to Cora Buhlert, who has a new short story “Legacy of Steel” in the November 2022 issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine. The other stories in the issue are “Sun in Shadow” by Sandra Unerman and “You Stand Before the Black Tower” by Nathaniel Webb.

(8)  MORE FROM THE MASTERS. Cora Buhlert also has posted a new Masters of the Universe photo story on her blog: “Masters-of-the-Universe-Piece Theatre: ‘Family’”.

…I have had some new arrivals recently, including at long last King Randor, which opens up a lot of possibilities for stories involving the royal family of Eternia.

One thing that is remarkably consistent over all versions of Masters of the Universe from the early mini-comics via the Filmation cartoon of the 1980s, the 2002 cartoon, the various comics, Masters of the Universe: Revelation all the way to the Netflix CGI show is that Prince Adam has a strained relationship with his father King Randor. Cause Randor always finds something to criticise about his son and heir. Adam is too lazy, too irresponsible, not princely enough, not interested enough in affairs of state, not heroic enough, too foolhardy and he also missed dinner or an official reception, because he was off saving Eternia….

(9) NO MERE METAPHOR. Douglas Kearney holds forth “On the Similarities Between Writing and Turning Oneself Into a Werewolf” at Literary Hub.

…While stretching my hands into claws, I hunt my memory. Have I ever felt talons grow from my fingertips? Do I know the twinge of lupine hair breaking my burning, blossoming skin? How does the paradigm of meaning-making shift when I find I can smell more keenly than I can see? In all these years, have I come closer to knowing?

You might suggest I use writing to account for these questions. Documenting my thoughts about them in a field journal—“May 26: I think I smelled a pig at one mile today.” Nope. I’ve no werewolf archive. There are a few poems, sure; yet they skin the lycanthrope to cover and do some other thing. Those poems, they are not telling you what I am telling you: that I have meant to be a werewolf, and that this has been, I’m afraid, a quiet, lifelong ambition, a discipline I’ve maintained longer and to less purpose, it would seem, than nearly all else….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

1998 [By Cat Eldridge.] Hobbit holes (New Zealand)

Stop me before this gets novella length!

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. — The Hobbit

Only one of the movie sets in New Zealand survives and charmingly enough it’s the village where the hobbits resided. It was used for both trilogies and quite unsurprisingly is now a place with guided tours being offered every day. 

Jackson spotted it during a search by air for suitable locations using one of his airplanes, or so the story is now told, and thought it looked like a slice of England. Furthermore Alan Lee commented to him that the location’s terrain “looked as though Hobbits had already begun excavations” there. 

It became Hobbiton and the Shire with the facades of quite a few hobbit holes and associated gardens, a double arch bridge, hedges, and a mill. They erected an immense oak above Bag End that had been growing nearby and which was cut down and recreated in fibreglass on site complete with artificial leaves.

When I mean facades, I really mean just that. It’s not possible to go inside the as there is nothing inside them, just retaining walls and beyond that dirt. I’m guessing that the site is going to need expensive ongoing maintenance if it is going to survive long term. 

Bag End is the exception as they designed it so a little bit of interior has been designed to seen and the door will open so you can peek in. 

About those hobbit holes. No, the interior scenes for Bag End weren’t not shot here. (Of course they’d make lousy film sets, wouldn’t they? You can’t get cameras in there.) The interior of Bag End was shot in a studio in Wellington.  Ok, there are actually two Bag Ends as Ian McKelllen explains on his charming look at these:

Hobbits must appear smaller than the other characters in the film. When I, as Gandalf, meet Bilbo or Frodo at home, I bump my head on the rafters. (Tolkien didn’t think to mention it!) So there is a small Bag End set with small props to match. 

As Ian Holm and Elijah Wood would be too big within it, they have “scale doubles” who are of a matching size with the scenery and its miniature furniture. In the small set Bilbo and Frodo are played by Kiran Shah (Legend) who is in hobbit proportion to my Gandalf.

And of course there has to be a big Bag End, where the scale is human-sized and all the objects of the small set are duplicated but bigger. There the “hero actors” can play the hobbits but the camera expects a gigantic Gandalf and gets him in Paul Webster (a 7’4″ Wellingtonian) who substitutes for me.

So we’ve got a village full of hobbit hole facades that all look very charming as you can see here and you’ve got the rather amazing effect of creating the illusion of a hobbit hole interior that we can all think is real. I certainly did when I watched the first Hobbit film. I may not have cared for the film itself, but oh my the scenery and the depiction of Bag End was stellar! 

(11) 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 is The Mysterious Stranger in which Satan might be visiting us went unpublished in his lifetime and it’s only relatively recently published 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. (Died 1910.)
  • Born November 30, 1893 E. Everett Evans. Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who started out with fan writing, but eventually became a published genre author as well. He helped to found the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) and served as its president and editor of its publication. Food for Demons was a chapbook compilation of his fantasy tales, though he was generally not considered to be a good fiction writer. Fandom’s Big Heart Award, which was founded by Forrest J Ackerman in 1959, was named for him for its first 40 years. In 2018, Bob Tucker’s fanzine Le Zombie, of which he had co-edited two issues, won a Retro Hugo Award. (Died 1958.) (JJ)
  • Born November 30, 1906 John Dickson Carr. Author of the Gideon Fell detective stories, some of which were decidedly genre adjacent and The Lost Gallows is apparently genre. The Burning Court with Fell is on this list as are 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. The usual suspects have a more than decent stock of his offerings. (Died 1977.)
  • Born November 30, 1950 Chris Claremont, 72. Writer in the comic realm. Best known for his astounding twenty year run on the 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 own 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, 1952 Debra Doyle. Writer, Filker, and Fan. Her novel Knight’s Wyrd, co-written with her husband and collaborator James D. Macdonald, won a Mythopoeic Award for Children’s Literature. Most of their co-written works are fantasy, but their Mageworlds series also crosses into space opera territory. As filker Malkin Grey, she and Pergyn Wyndryder won a Pegasus Award for Best Historical Song. She was an instructor at the Viable Paradise Writer’s Workshop, and has been Guest of Honor at several conventions. (Died 2020.) (JJ)
  • Born November 30, 1955 Kevin Conroy. Frell, another great one lost too soon. Without doubt, best known for voicing Batman on Batman: The Animated Series and many other DCU series.  On Justice League Action, 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.  (Died 2022.)
  • Born November 30, 1952 Jill Eastlake, 70. IT Manager, Costumer, Conrunner, and Fan who is known for her elaborate and fantastical costume designs; her costume group won “Best in Show” at the 2004 Worldcon.  A member of fandom for more than 50 years, she belonged to her high school’s SF club, then became an early member of NESFA, the Boston-area fan club, and served as its president for 4 years. She has served on the committees for numerous Worldcons and regional conventions, co-chaired a Costume-Con, and chaired two Boskones. She was the Hugo Award ceremony coordinator for the 1992 Worldcon, and has run the Masquerade for numerous conventions. Her extensive contributions were honored when she was named a Fellow of NESFA in 1976, and in 2011 the International Costumer’s Guild presented her with their Lifetime Achievement Award. She and her fan husband Don (who is irrationally fond of running WSFS Business Meetings) were Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon.
  • Born November 30, 1957 Martin Morse Wooster. 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 started contributing to File 770 in 1978 and continued for the rest of his life. He was one of twelve founders of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, which split from the Washington Science Fiction Association in 1975, and regularly attends PRSFS meetings to discuss books. Lost his life to a hit-and-run driver on November 12. (Died 2022.) (JJ)

(12) THERE’S SOMETHING YOU DON’T SEE EVERY DAY, EDGAR. “Passenger Jet Flies Over Launchpad Right as SpaceX Rocket Takes Off” reports Futurism.

Passengers on board a United Airlines commercial jet flying over Florida’s Cape Canaveral were able to spot an amazingly rare sight in the distance: a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, far below….

(13) HITCHCOCKIAN HORROR. “’Lost in Space’ star Bill Mumy shares ‘scary’ moment with Hitchcock, claims ‘he’s the monster of the story’” at Yahoo!  I don’t want to spoil the anecdote with an excerpt, however, you film history buffs will be interested.

Bill Mumy has worked with some of the most celebrated filmmakers in Hollywood history – but not all of his experiences were out of this world.

The former child star, who made his mark in the ‘60s series “Lost in Space,” has recently written a memoir titled “Danger, Will Robinson: The Full Mumy.” In it, he details his rise to stardom and the numerous encounters he had with TV and film icons along the way – including Alfred Hitchcock.

Mumy worked with the filmmaker in the TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” for the episode “Bang! You’re Dead!”. It was filmed in the summer of 1961 when Mumy was 7 years old….

(14) LEADER OF THE PACK. “Toxoplasma-Infected Wolves More Likely to Lead Packs, Study Finds”The Scientist has details.

Wolves infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii are far more likely to become pack leaders than uninfected wolves and are also more likely to disperse from the pack they’re born into, a study published November 24 in Communications Biology reports. The finding points to a possible connection between the infamous parasite and wolf population health.

Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a “mind control” parasite that can infect any warm-blooded animal, the paper states. The protozoan can only reproduce sexually in the guts of cats, and often spreads through contact with infected feline feces. Infection with T. gondii causes hosts to accrue permanent brain cysts and also induces toxoplasmosis, a disease that can embolden some host species, causing infected animals to seek out more situations in which they can transmit the parasite. Mice infected with T. gondii lose their fear of cat urine, for example, making them more likely to be killed and eaten by a cat, enabling the parasite to reproduce once again…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Snopes has a surprising answer to the question “Was a Harrison Ford Cameo Cut from ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’?” Well, you’re not surprised now – it wouldn’t be worth linking to if the answer was “No”, would it?

…The film, which was released in 1982, was written by Melissa Matheson, whom Ford was dating at the time. During a 2012 reunion for the film, actor Henry Thomas, who played the main character, Elliott, told Entertainment Weekly that he was just excited at the prospect of meeting Ford.

“When I met Steven, the first thing out of my mouth was I think, ‘I love Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and my hero was Harrison Ford,” Thomas said. “I basically was just excited to meet Steven in hopes that I would meet Harrison.”

Ford eventually agreed to shoot a cameo scene with Thomas, playing an uptight school principal who would scold Elliott after the famous frog escape scene, in which Elliott would also kiss a girl in his class. Spielberg also spoke about the cameo in an interview with EW: “He did the scene where E.T. is home levitating all of the stuff for his communicator up the stairs. Elliott is in the principal’s office after the frog incident. We don’t ever see Harrison’s face. We just hear his voice, see his body.”…

(16) VIDEO OF A PREVIOUS DAY. A short clip from Futurama illustrates why, “In the end, it was not guns or bombs that defeated the aliens, but that humblest of all God’s creatures, the Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Standback, Rich Lynch, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

European Fan Fund Seeks Nominations for Inaugural Race

By Marcin “Alqua” Klak: The European Fan Fund (EFF) transports European SF fans to Eurocons.

The purpose of the fan fund is to create and strengthen bonds between European fans and fandoms. Currently in almost every country there is a fandom that quite often has little or no connection to the broader European fandom. Most fans do concentrate on the “here and now” and are not looking for friends in other countries.

Nominations in the race to send a fan to Konflikt (Eurocon 2023 in Uppsala, Sweden, 8 – 11 June 2023; https://eurocon2023.se) are open to any European fan living outside Sweden who was active in fandom prior to January 2021.

If you wish to stand, please contact us at europeanfanfund@gmail.com. You will need three European nominators (who will each need to confirm their nominations), a platform of no more than 200 words to appear on the ballot, a bond of €12/£10 and a guarantee to attend the 2023 Eurocon in Sweden if you win.

Among your nominators there must be at least one fan from your country and one fan from another European country.

If you wish to stand and are unsure about how to go about getting any of these things, what the fund pays for or the duties of an EFF delegate and administrator, then feel free to contact us in confidence.

Nominations are open from 1 December 2022 until 25 January 2023 (British/Irish Time: UTC) and candidates will be announced soon after. Voting will then run until 23:59 on 10 April 2023 (British/Irish Time: UTC+1), with the winner announced online as soon as possible after voting has closed.

Nominations should be sent via email to the current administrator, Marcin Kłak, at europeanfanfund@gmail.com. The bond can be sent by PayPal to europeanfanfund@gmail.com, or contact Marcin for bank transfer details. He will also take cash in person.

The idea of the EFF and the rules are available here.

There is a set of Frequently Asked Questions about EFF following the jump.

Continue reading

What’s Not Up, Doc (Savage)?

A Disappointed, Disparaging Not-Really-A-Book Review of Doc Savage 1: The Perfect Assassin, by James Patterson & Brian Sitts

By Daniel Dern: Non-spoiler disclaimer: While I subscribe to the practice that, as a rule, reviews and review-like write-ups, if not intended as a piece of critical/criticism, should stick to books the reviewer feels are worth the readers reading, sometimes (I) want to, like Jerry Pournelle’s “We makes these mistakes and do this stuff so you dont have to” techno-wrangling Chaos Manor columns, give a maybe-not-your-cup-of-paint-remover head’s-up.

This is one of those.

Among the many pulpish sci-fi/fantasy/etc books/series I uncritically consumed growing up during the 1960’s were dozens of the Doc Savage books, by “Kenneth Robeson” (Smith & Street’s house name from when they were originally published in the early 1930’s through the late 1940’s) being reprinted at, IIRC, like forty-five cents a pop, turning up in, IIRC, among other places, the (book) spinner racks at the George Washington Bridge Bus Station (which I recall thinking of as the Port Authority Bus Station at the GW Bridge), at 178th Street, where I’d switch between one of the busses to (or from) New Jersey, and heading southwards in Manhattan. (The terminal was also a block or two from a great thin-crust pizza shop.)

My timing was good (also luck); I recall reading the first book (Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze), as my first. (According to one article I read, while this reprinting started with this book, they quickly shifted to

not-in-sequence… not that, give or take the rare character addition (Doc’s cousin Pat; Monk’s and Ham’s pets Habeas Corpus and Chemistry respectively; etc.)

I was, and remain, a Doc Savage fan. If I had to guess, I’ve probably read around half of the 181 by “Kenneth Robeson.” (While conceding, having read/reread/skimmed a few, courtesy of either HooplaDigital or Kindle Unlimited, that the Suck Fairy has done a few barnstorming runs through many of the pages and plots.)

I’ve also enjoyed the various Doc Savage comics I’ve read over the years, from Marvel and DC (though none ofwith  the pre-Marvel/DC ones) and some indies/team-ups/cross-overs, like Batman, (Marvel Comic’s) The Thing (Ben Grimm, part of the Fantastic Four, in case you’ve lost track), The Spirit (by DC, in DC’s 2010 “First Wave”, plus the homages like in The Authority.

And I’ve read (and reread) Phil Jose Farmer’s trilogy A Feast Unknown, Lord Of The Trees, and The Mad Goblin), showing a much more humanized version of Doc. (Quick shout-out to Rusty, for his comment in the August 10, 2022 Scroll citing/listing the titles , which turned up during my (re)searches.)

(My research for this post also shows the PJF wrote a Doc Savage origin/prequel, “Escape From Loki,” too $$ive to buy, but, in theory (according to WorldCat), (possibly) available at a dozen or so libraries ranging, geographically (from me) from Worcester to Liverpool.)

I don’t remember whether I saw the Doc S movie starring Ron Ely, but I’d ready for the movie (or TV series) starring The Rock, anytime it finally happens…

So I was intrigued, if not ready to look forward to, the book announcement I saw a month or three ago (and submitted an item, not, I think, yet run), “The Perfect Assassin: A Doc Savage Thriller, Written by James Patterson, Brian Sitts,” followed by reserve-requesting it at my library.

I confess that while I’m familiar with Patterson’s name, and know that he’s written a bazillion books, including with a semidemihemibazillion co-authors, including a “reinvention of The Shadow,” I don’t think I’d previous read anything by Patterson.

Now I have.

The book is set in our present. The protagonist’s name is Doctor Brandt Savage. We encounter him, like we do with Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones in Jones’ first movie, as a college professor lecturing to a class.

Steven Thompson’s November 2022 review of the book at ForcesOfGeek.com, “’The Perfect Assassin: A Doc Savage Thriller’ (review)”, clearly feels the same way as I do about this book (and included a few facts that I may not have separately encountered in web researching). I’ll call out the two obvious ones that had occured to me before I found and read his review:

  • Until about halfway through the book — like page 175 — nothing other than the book’s subtitle/cover (“A Doc Savage Thriller”) and the protagonist’s last name, and the (non-medical) Doctor — suggest any connection whatsoever to the original Clarke Savage Jr.
  • Plotwise, ditto up to that point, the book could just as easily be the origin/training story for (Marvel’s) Black (and other shades of) Widow (Natasha Romanov, etc).
  • The writing is (to me) competent, but less sparkling than a glass of seltzer left out in the sun for a week.

At the halfway-point, the connection to the original Doc Savage becomes explicit and relevant. More than that I won’t say, in case you decide you want to read the book.

If you’re looking for a reasonably-competent action/adventure book, this probably qualifies.

If you’re looking for another satisfying dose of Doc Savage, I don’t think you’ll find it here. Whether that was the goal, I dunno. You’re welcome to enjoy it more than I did. If you dent your wall hurtling the book (not a library copy!) at it, don’t look at me to reimburse you for repairs.

I’m not sure I feel better for having written it, but now I won’t be continuing to write and edit this piece in my head.

In the words of Nero Wolfe, “Pfui.”

2022 Royal Society Science Book Prize

A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Chapters by Nature editor and writer Henry Gee is the 35th winner of the annual Royal Society Science Book Prize, sponsored by Insight Investment.

The 2022 winner was announced in an online event on November 29.

Chaired by neuroscientist, Professor Maria Fitzgerald FRS, the judging panel for this year’s prize was comprised of television presenter and author Kate Humble; novelist Mike Gayle; writer, broadcaster and technology consultant Rory Cellan-Jones; and experimental physicist and Royal Society University Research Fellow, Josh McFayden. 

In A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth, published by Pan Macmillan, Gee zips through the last 4.6 billion years with infectious enthusiasm and intellectual rigour. Drawing on the very latest scientific understanding and writing in a clear, accessible style, he tells an enlightening tale of survival and persistence that illuminates the delicate balance within which life has always existed.

The author was born in the UK in 1962 and for more than three decades he has been a writer and editor at the international science journal Nature as well as a palaeontologist and evolutionary biologist. Gee’s previous books include The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution and Across the Bridge: Understanding the Origin of the Vertebrates. In a recent interview with BBC Radio 4’s Inside Science, he said “the history of life on earth is a rattling good story if one cuts out a lot of the digressions and just keeps focus on the narrative of the earth; of life just trying to hang on no matter what the earth is doing to it”.

Gee received a check for £25,000, with £2,500 awarded to each of the shortlistees.

[Based on a press release.]