Pixel Scroll 10/24/22 Labyrinth of Chaos

(1) EU TURN. BBC Future explores the meaning of “Eucatastrophe: Tolkien’s word for the ‘anti-doomsday’”.

…In particular, Tolkien wrote about what makes a happy ending so powerful in stories. And to do so, he came up with an intriguing coinage: fairy stories, he suggested, often feature a “eucatastrophe” – this was, he suggested, a “good” catastrophe. So, what exactly did he mean? And could such events happen in real life too?

In the present day, Tolkien’s idea of the “good catastrophe” has attracted the attention of scholars who study existential risk and humanity’s future prospects. It turns out that eucatastrophes may matter beyond fairy stories – and identifying the conditions that lead to them could be necessary if we want to thrive as a species.

According to Tolkien, a eucatastrophe in a story often happens at the darkest moment. When all seems lost – when the enemy seems to have won – a sudden “joyous turn” for the better can emerge. It delivers a deep emotional reaction in readers: “a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart”, he wrote….

(2) CLOSE LOOK AT THE CLARKE FINALISTS. The winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award will be announced on Wednesday. Andrew Butler, chair of judges, discusses the finalists in detail in “The Best Science Fiction of 2022: The Clarke Award Shortlist” at Five Books.

Let’s talk about Deep Wheel Orcadia by the Scottish writer Harry Josephine Giles. It’s a novel-in-verse, which takes a very interesting literary approach. Can you tell us more?

Novels-in-two-verses, you might argue. One in Orcadian, one in English. Orcadian is a dialect of Scots—as opposed to Gaelic—and there’s a history of Scots feeding into science fiction and horror, especially Gothic horror. In 1919, someone came up with the idea of the Caledonian antisyzygy—the Scots think in one language, but feel in another, say. There’s a sort of divided consciousness at the centre of Scottish books, poetry and art—and we can trace this division in authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Iain M. Banks and many others.

I think I can relate to that.

The action of Deep Wheel Orcadia is mostly set on or close to an isolated space station, at a crisis point in the solar system, and focuses on the working and private lives of the characters on board. You could decide to read the Orcadian version and then the English, or vice versa, or just one—but you’d miss so much if you only read half. I think you can pick up the Orcadian, as you might the Riddleyspeak in Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker….

(3) SCORING SFF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I listened to this 2017 podcast Leonard and Jessie Maltin had with composer Michael Giacchino. You knew this would be a great interview because Giacchino begins the interview by saying that when he’s in the car, he listens to old-time radio and his favorite show is the sf show X Minus One. Leonard Maltin wrote a very good book about old time radio and he and Giacchino geek out about radio for many minutes.  Most of the rest of the interview was how Giacchino got his start; he graduated from the School of Visual Arts with postgraduate work at Julliard. He ended up scoring video games and got a big break from Steven Spielberg that led to his scoring “The Lost World” video game. Another big break led to Giacchino writing the score for The Incredibles after John Barry, who originally was offered the job, declined.

I think Giacchino is the best active film composer and he also gets credit for hiring veteran musicians who have all their skills but may need help with technology or disabilities. Between 85-90 percent of Giacchino’s work is for sf or fantasy films, so this should be of interest. Maltin on Movies: “Michael Giacchino”.

(4) KEN BURNS TURNS THE PAGE. In the New York Times: “Ken Burns Wishes More People Would Call Willa Cather a Great American Novelist”, however, he also reads sff.

What books are on your night stand?

I have a pretty big night stand. … and then I have Kim Stanley Robinson’s “New York 2140,” which is a really wonderful book, imagining a less dystopian future. It does have disasters and climate change, but it also has sort of human adaptability, and it’s really spectacular. 

Do you have favorite genres and genres that you avoid?

I don’t like horror. I had a big science fiction thing in high school and college and I haven’t read science fiction in ages and ages. I used to read religiously Roger Zelazny and now I can’t even find his books on a bookshelf at a reputable bookstore. But everything else is kind of open. I like good writing. One writer I love is Willa Cather. People say, Was it Melville or Hemingway or Twain who wrote the great American novel, meaning “Moby-Dick” or “A Farewell to Arms” or obviously “Huckleberry Finn,” where, as Hemingway rightly said, American literature begins. But what about “O Pioneers!” or “My Ántonia”? For that matter, what about Gabriel García Márquez? We do not have a copyright on the word “American.”

(5) BUSCH COMMEMORATED. First Fandom President John L. Coker III announced a tribute to the late Justin E. A. Busch who died October 21.

Last week, after I learned about his grave condition, I had an award plaque made.  It is the seldom-given First Fandom Merit Award, “Presented to Justin E. A. Busch for attaining excellence in his work.”  He didn’t live long enough to see it but I would like for it to be at least a small part of his legacy.

(6) MEMORY LANE.

1984 [By Cat Eldridge.] Ray Bradbury’s A Memory of Murder

Ray Bradbury’s A Memory of Murder is a collection of fifteen of his mystery short stories published thirty-eight years ago by Dell. They first appeared from 1944 to 1948 in pulp magazines owned by Popular Publications, Inc. that specialized in detective and crime fiction.

Bradbury wasn’t that happy with these stories as he thought he hadn’t developed yet as a writer and made that well known more than once later on. As he said in an interview with Crime Time, “When my first detective mystery stories began to appear in Dime DetectiveDime Mystery MagazineDetective Tales, and Black Mask in the early ’40s, there was no immediate trepidation over in the Hammett-Chandler-Cain camp. The fact is, it didn’t develop later either. I was never a threat. I couldn’t, in the immortal words of Marlon Brando, have been a contender.”

The stories themselves numbered fifteen in total with titles such as “A Careful Man Dies” from New Detective Magazine in November 1946). The cover blurb was “For a hemophiliac, no object is innocent, and even a kiss can kill!” It was one of Bradbury’s stories that filmed in 2005, this time by Italian backers and producers. 

Another one, “It Burns Me Up!” from Dime Mystery Magazine in November 1944 carried the wonderfully chilling first line of “I am lying here in the very centre of the room and I am not mad, I am not angry, I am not perturbed” it serves as a great reminder that some of his stories got turned comics, see Ray Bradbury Comics, Number 3, published in 1993.

I’ll let Ed Gorman have the last word as he reviewed this collection over on his blog in his column Forgotten Books. He said of his favorite story, “The most interesting story is ‘The Long Night.’ I remember the editor who bought it writing a piece years later about what a find it was. And it is. A story set in the Hispanic area of Los Angeles during the war, it deals with race and race riots, with the juvenile delinquency that was a major problem for this country in the war years (remember The Amboy Dukes?) and the paternal bonds that teenage boys need and reject at the same time. A haunting, powerful story that hints at the greatness that was only a few years away from Bradbury.” 

It went of print immediately but the paperback is fairly easy to find at the usual sellers.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 24, 1893 Merian Cooper. Aviator, Writer, Director and Producer. After spending WWI in the Air Force, Cooper became a writer and researcher for The New York Times and later the American Geographic Society, traveling the world, and writing stories and giving lectures about his travels. He then turned some of his writing into documentary films. He had helped David Selznick get a job at RKO Pictures, and later Selznick hired him to make movies. He developed one of his story ideas into a movie featuring a giant gorilla which is terrorizing New York City. King Kong was released in 1933, and the story has been sequeled, remade, comicbooked, and rebooted innumerable times in the last 85 years. (Died 1973.) (JJ) 
  • Born October 24, 1915 Bob Kane. Writer and Artist who co-created, along with Bill Finger, the DC character Batman. Multiple sources report that “Kane said his influences for the character included actor Douglas Fairbanks’ movie portrayal of the swashbuckler Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings; and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers, based on Mary Roberts Rinehart’s mystery novel The Circular Staircase.” He was inducted into Jack Kirby Hall of Fame and the Will Eisner Hall of Fame. The character he created has been featured in countless comic books, stories, movies, TV series, animated features, videogames, and action figures in the last eight decades. The 1989 movie based on his creation, featuring Michael Keaton in the title role, was a finalist for both Hugo and British Science Fiction Association Awards. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 24, 1948 Margaret “Peggy” Ranson. Artist, Illustrator, and Fan, who became involved with fandom when she co-edited the program book for the 1988 Worldcon in New Orleans. She went on to provide art for many fanzines and conventions, and was a finalist for the Best Fan Artist Hugo every one of the eight years from 1991 to 1998, winning once. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a DeepSouthCon. Sadly, she died of cancer in 2016; Mike Glyer’s lovely tribute to her can be read here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 24, 1952 Jane Fancher, 70. Writer and Artist. In the early 80s, she was an art assistant on Elfquest, providing inking assistance on the black and white comics and coloring of the original graphic novel reprints. She adapted portions of C.J. Cherryh’s first Morgaine novel into a black and white comic book, which prompted her to begin writing novels herself. Her first novel, Groundties, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and she has been Guest of Honor and Toastmaster at several conventions.
  • Born October 24, 1956 Katie Waitman, 66. Her best known work to date was the Compton Crook Award winning The Merro Tree in which a galaxy-spanning performance artist must defy a ban imposed on him. Her second novel, The Divided, appears to be bog standard military SF but really isn’t. Highly recommended.  
  • Born October 24, 1956 Dr. Jordin Kare. Physicist, Filker, and Fan who was known for his scientific research on laser propulsion. A graduate of MIT and Berkeley, he said that he chose MIT because of the hero in Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. He was a regular attendee and science and filk program participant at conventions, from 1975 until his untimely death. He met his wife, Mary Kay Kare, at the 1981 Worldcon. He should be remembered and honored as being an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, a crucial filksong collection, and later as a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the very first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings. Shortly after the shuttle Columbia tragedy, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, on live TV, attempted to read the lyrics to Jordin’s Pegasus Award-winning song “Fire in the Sky”, which celebrates manned space exploration. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was named to the Filk Hall of Fame. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him can be read here. (Died 2017.) (JJ)
  • Born October 24, 1960 BD Wong, 62.  His first genre role was in Jurassic Park as Dr. Henry Wu (a role reprised in Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Jurassic Park Dominion). He was the voice of Captain Li Shang on Mulan, and Whiterose, head of the hacker collective Dark Army on Mr. Robot.
  • Born October 24, 1974 Liesel Schwarz, 48. She’s been dubbed, by whom I know not I admit, “The High Priestess of British Steampunk”. She has written the Chronicles of Light and Shadow trilogy, a sequence set in a Steampunk version of Europe in which the three novels are Chronicles of Light and ShadowA Clockwork Heart and Sky Pirates.
  • Born October 24, 1971 Sofia Samatar, 51. Teacher, Writer, and Poet who speaks several languages and started out as a language instructor, a job which took her to Egypt for nine years. She won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and is the author of two wonderful novels to date, both of which I highly recommend: Stranger in Olondria (which won World Fantasy and British Fantasy Awards and was nominated for a Nebula) and The Winged Histories. Her short story “Selkie Stories are for Losers” was nominated for Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, and BFA Awards. She has written enough short fiction in just six years that Small Beer Press put out Tender, a collection which is a twenty-six stories strong. And she has a most splendid website. (Standback)

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Six Chix may be a comic but these characters are not overdrawn.
  • Tom Gauld on the perfect book cover. Almost.

(9) BULLPEN MEMORIES. “An iconic Daredevil writer and X-Men editor joins the pod to talk about taking translating stories from The Daily News into the Daily Bugle.” “The Girl From Marvel’s Boy-Club Bullpen Tells All About Old Times Square” in the FAQ NYC podcast.

Ann Nocenti, the writer, journalist and filmmaker who wrote and edited some of the most iconic Marvel comics of the late 1980s and early 1990s joins the podcast to discuss her early years in New York as “the girl who lived behind the fish tank,” quite literally, how her work in asylums influenced her stories about superheroes, creating Marvel’s first openly transgender character, the role of “fake news” in the comics she’s working on now, and much more. 

(10) NOT A ONE NIGHT STAND. Deadline lists the film adaptations of Howard Waldrop stories that George R.R. Martin is producing. “’House of the Dragon’ Creator George R.R. Martin On Short Film Anthology Including One With Felicia Day”.

Days before a Targaryen civil war erupts between Rhaenyra and Alicent on the Season 1 finale of HBO’s House of the Dragon, you’ll find series creator George R.R. Martin staying mum on fire-breathing animals and talking up his latest rotoscope animated short, Night of the Cootersin his Santa Fe, NM stomping ground.

The Vincent D’Onofrio-directed cowboys vs. aliens film based on the Howard Waldrop short story is one of four short movies Martin is producing in what is shaping up to be an anthology either for the big screen (a la Creepshow) or TV (a la Love, Death and Robots)…

In addition to Night of the Cooters, Martin recently finished production on the second title he owns from sci-fi author Waldrop. Currently titled Friends Forever, the short was directed by Justin Duval, a producer and DP on Night of the Cooters, and is currently in post.

Another short currently shooting in Santa Fe under the helm of Steven Paul Judd is Mary Margaret Road-Grader, which Martin billed as a “Native American Mad Max story about tractor pulls and feminism.”

Then there’s Waldrop’s most notable work, The Ugly Chickensabout the extinction of the dodo, which is about to shoot in Toronto with Kodachrome‘s Mark Raso directing….

(11) HOMES OF HORROR. Kelsey Ford lists “Haunted House Books That Will Keep You Up At Night” for readers of the PowellsBooks.Blog.

…In honor of spooky season (the best season), I’ve pulled together a by-no-means-exhaustive list of my favorite haunted house books, books with houses that exemplify the Shirley’s Jackson quote: “It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.”…

(12) MIDDLE EASTERN ANIMATION HIT. “Bidaya Blasts Back to the Future with Sci-Fi Show, ‘The Adventures of Mansour: Age of A.I.’”Animation Magazine has the story.

The Adventures of Mansour, a sci-fi cartoon phenomenon from the Middle East that’s racked up an astounding two billion YouTube hits, is returning with an all-new sequel series, The Adventures of Mansour: Age of A.I.  

Funded by Mubadala Investment Company and Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA), the dynamic adventure show is aimed at kids aged 6-12. This Mansour relaunch from Bidaya Media, recently announced at MIPCOM 2022, will be the first Arab cartoon first created in English and Arabic then realigned for a worldwide audience presenting topical themes of artificial intelligence, technology, climate change, and space exploration.

…Here’s the official description:

Set in the near future, in the technologically advanced Salam City, ‘The Adventures of Mansour: Age of AI’ is a sci-fi action adventure series that revolves around Mansour, a 12-year-old tech whiz, who unintentionally creates a mischievous sentient artificial intelligence known as Blink. With the support of his closest friends, Mansour must deal with all manner of pranks, challenges and dangers posed by Blink, who for his own amusement, is determined to cause as much chaos as possible for Mansour and the people of Salam City.  

(13) LAND(ED)SHARK. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tom Scott explores the controversy over the British house with a shark in its roof (a story I think is fandom-adjacent). “The government approves of this shark now.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, 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 OGH.]

17 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/24/22 Labyrinth of Chaos

  1. 1 – Euchatastrophe. Yet another word spoken about – it’s almost as though my proclaimed movement of Future Perfectable is something people are turning to look for, that they’re tired of depressing futures that do not end well. As I said before I went to the F. Scot Fitzgerald Literary Festival to speak to KSR, I thought I should read some Fitzgerald, and I’m still trying to get through The Great Gatsby… I’m on chapter seven, and I still haven’t found one person I want to know or spend time with… and yet this is classic Real Litrachur. I’ve seen too many reviews of newer novels, and they are all slice of life and depressing, as though we shouldn’t expect (or deserve) some good in our lives.
    That’s why I stay with SF&F – it’s perfectly acceptable, or used to be, and maybe is beginning to again, to have a happy ending.

  2. 13) when Discovery was in Silver Spring they promoted Shark Week vy having the head of the shark in front of the building and the tail in the back. But this was an inflatable shark not like the sculpture in Britain.

  3. Ruch Horton, some of her short fiction is definitely genre such as “The Affair at Grover Station” which has a ghost of a murdered man telling a friend where his body can be found. Certainly that’s fantasy, isn’t it?

  4. Cat Eldridge — thanks! I’m less familiar with Cather’s short fiction than I should be! Certainly a ghost story counts as fantasy.

    (My main point, of course, is to agree with Ken Burns that Willa Cather is a Great American Novelist.)

  5. Another voice agreeing that Cather is a great American novelist. She slips slightly into genre at times in a typical fashion for her era (ghosts, otherworldly visions), but I think everyone should definitely give one of her novels a try.

    Especially if you’re a writer. One sequence that stands out for me comes from Song of the Lark, when the protagonist, Thea, gets her Big Break (Thea is a classical singer, and an understudy to a Big Name Singer at this point). The entire sequence where Thea goes from enjoying a pleasant evening with friends to preparing to fill in for the Big Name Singer is one of the best transitions I’ve ever read. Cather conveys urgency but also shows that Thea is absolutely in control, absolutely poised, and absolutely ready to take advantage of that Big Break.

    I’ve written an analysis of that scene that is out there somewhere in the interwebs. Probably back in 2020. I’m on my iPad right now, awaiting cataract surgery, and figuring out where something is turns out to be a challenge.

  6. I was saddened when I heard about Justin E.A. Busch’s death. I only learned of his existence and work a year or two ago and got on his mailing list. He published a good fanzine, Far Journeys, a serious fanzine available by mail only. With articles about forgotten fans, H.G Wells’s lesser-known novels, music for fan-written songs, interviews, etc., it was both fun and informative. He also published a series of mini-zines examining one forgotten story or another. His fanzine reviews were insightful. In correspondence he was engaging and warm/ Justion, we hardly knew ye.

  7. 1) Corey Olsen (aka The Tolkien Professor) discusses Tolkien’s perspectives, including eucatastrophe, in his Tolkien Professor podcast. The podcast began as recordings of his classroom lectures including student questions. It expanded a bit from there. If the Silmarillion wasn’t enough Tolkien for you, then I heartily recommend this podcast.

    4)

    We do not have a copyright on the word “American.”

    There isn’t anything wrong with identifying an author by their native culture/nation as that identification can help provide useful context. Observing that an author is French or Egyptian (if accurate) may provide a relevant reference for evaluating their work.

    Note the use of “can” and “may” as there are times when an author does the work to render any such identification as unimportant to their work.

    The problem with Burns’ quote is that it renders the word “American” meaningless. Were that approach taken with any other group – particularly a non-Western nation/culture – Mr. Burns would be quickly labeled a racist/imperialist/colonialist/etc.

    Americans are noted (or should be) for being resistant to top-down commands, unwilling to wait for officialdom to solve a problem, and focused on individual liberty. We passionately disagree with how all of that gets defined and expressed, but that is the ideological soil in which we are grown.

    Márquez was Columbian. He identified with a socialist culture that is more broadly present in Central and South America. There may be other useful cultural identifiers. It is entirely appropriate to use those identifiers.

    Separately, Goodreads let me know that Rebecca Roanhorse’s latest book, “Tread of Angels”, is available for pre-order and will be released in November. At this point, she is on my personal “here, take my money” short list of authors. Everything I’ve read has been top-shelf.

    Regards,
    Dann
    The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing. – Isaac Asimov

  8. “American” = someone or something from the American continents, i.e. Marquez would absolutely qualify.

    Of course, “Great American Novel” usually refers to fiction from the US or at North America (Has anybody ever called Margaret Atwood a Great American Novelist?), but technically that’s inaccurate and should be the “Great US-American Novel”, except that it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

  9. @Cora Buhlert

    That is, in my experience, a rather unusual framing of the word “American”. Might I ask the basis/origin for that framing? Is that something common in Europe?

    I can’t imagine using a single word to encompass every nation/culture from Canada to Venezuela. I know several Mexicans that would be offended by that framing. Not because they dislike Americans (as in citizens of the USA) but because they are happy to be known as Mexicans. Heck, using “American” as a descriptor for every citizen of the USA can be as problematic as using “European” to describe every citizen of countries on the European continent.

    Regards,
    Dann
    The essence of America – that which really unites us – is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion – it is an idea – and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. — Condoleezza Rice

  10. My favorite eucatastrophic moment is in Roger Zelazny’s “This Moment of the Storm.” I still can’t even think about the scene without crying.

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