Pixel Scroll 3/29/20 Look Around You… Can You Fashion Some Sort Of Rudimentary Lathe Of Heaven?

(1) IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME. Steven James “op-ed from the future” for the New York Times, “Criminals Should Serve Their Sentences Psychologically”, explains how that would work. (It’s part of a series in which sff authors and others write Op-Eds that “they imagine we might read five, 10, 50 or even 200 years from now.”)

…It’s time that we stop allowing our justice system to hand out sentences that we know a person cannot possibly serve. Imagine spending two thousand years in solitary confinement. That’s what we’re currently sentencing people to — we just don’t expect the prisoner to be alive to serve it. It has been argued that we should sentence someone for each crime committed (hence the 50-year sentences for every murder) to ensure that all victims’ families receive justice. I agree. The victims and their families deserve to see justice carried out. But these meaninglessly long sentences aren’t justice — they’re a mockery of it.

Yes, those who commit such abhorrent crimes deserve to be punished. And yes, they deserve to serve the entire sentences that they’re given. Otherwise, our criminal justice system would either be giving perpetrators prison terms that no one intends them to serve or sentences that could only be completed if they lived for thousands of years — neither of which is a rational pursuit of justice. We know that a person cannot live for dozens or hundreds of lifetimes, but what if they could perceive themselves to have lived that long? What if they could have the perception that thousands of years have passed?

(2) DONALDSON REDISCOVERED. What Adam Roberts thinks about “Stephen Donaldson, “The War Within” (2019)”, at Sibilant Fricative (found via Ansible Links.)

…The selling point of Lord Foul’s Bane, back in the day, was the way it elaborated a charming, hippyish Tolkienian fantasy realm (called ‘The Land’) only to flag-up horriblenesses of a kind Tolkien would never countenance—for example, Thomas Covenant, leperous visitor from our world and the series protagonist, starts his sojourn in The Land by raping someone. It was the first intimation of what was to become Grimdark, I suppose, although it would presumably read as thin stuff to today’s more committed and Sadean Grimdarkster.

The other notable thing about Donaldson was his prose, what David Langford somewhere calls his ‘knurred and argute vocabulary’, an attempt to elevate the idiom of Fantasy that crashes precipitously into the ceiling of the Ludicrous: ‘they were featureless and telic, like lambent gangrene. They looked horribly like children’ [White Gold Wielder] and the like.

…Now, though, Donaldson has stepped back from such gaudier excesses of style. Both volumes of his new Fantasy series, The Great God’s War [Seventh Decimate (2017) and The War Within (2019)] are written in a markedly plainer prose, a gambit in which the advantage of not being actively fucking ridiculous must be balanced against the disadvantage of positive dullness. Swings, we might say, and roundabouts, although in this instance there are rather more roundabouts than swings.

(3) TWO TO TWAIN UP. I linked to Lionel’s Star Trek train in January, but courtesy of Andrew Porter here’s a much better set of images to show what makes them entertaining.

This year, Lionel wanted to Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before” and offer an out-of-this-world line of iconic Star Trek offerings! Whether you are a lifetime Star Trek fan, or new to the fandom, our Star Trek LionChief Set and add on cars are sure to be some of the most classic pieces on your layout. Let your true Star Trek heart “Live Long and Prosper,” and don’t miss out on these amazing offerings.

(4) RECAP. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Magicians S5E12: “Fillory’s Extraordinary Playlist” aired March 25 on Syfy.

(Actual title, “The Balls”) Not the final-final episode quite yet – this is the penultimate, with the season and series finale scheduled for April 1, 2020 — but this is the last musical episode. In this episode, as an unintended/unexpected side-effect of a group communications spell to aid in planning a heist, the gang periodically “goes full Glee,” with (unlike in Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist) all the under-the-influencers aware of what’s going on.

I’m only partway (and one musical number) into the episode so far, FWIW.

(5) ONE FIRST AFTER ANOTHER. Here’s video of Joe Siclari’s conversation with legendary First Fandom Hall of Famer Bob Madle at Philcon in 2013, via Fanac.org.

A science fiction reader and fan since the early 1930s, Bob Madle has been a part of the SF field for almost 90 years. He has done it all – he’s pubbed his ish, worked on conventions, been a TAFF fan fund winner, a worldcon Fan Guest of Honor, and one of the best known book dealers in science fiction. His encyclopedic command of the field is legendary. Bob is the one that named the Hugos (and he talks here about how the awards came to be). In this 2013 interview by fan historian Joe Siclari, Bob talks about it all, from his first entry into fandom to his experiences across the years.

(6) PENDERECKI OBIT. Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, whose original instrumental music was used in such genre films as The Exorcist and The Shining, has died at the age of 86. The Syfy WIRE tribute promises, “Even if his name doesn’t sound all that familiar, you’ve almost certainly heard his work in a famous movie before.”


  • March 29, 1968 Star Trek’s “Assignment: Earth” first aired as part of the second season. Guest starring Robert Lansing as Gary Seven and Terri Garr as Roberta Lincoln, our crew which has time-travelled to 1968 Earth for historical research encounters an interstellar agent and Isis, his cat, who are planning to intervene in Earth history. It was intended as a pilot for an Assignment: Earth series but that never happened. Interesting note: The uncredited human form of Isis was portrayed by actress, dancer, and contortionist April Tatro, not Victoria Vetri, actress (in Rosemary’s Baby under the name of Angela Dorian) and Playboy Playmate of the previous year, as would become part of Trek lore.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 29, 1930 John Astin, 90. He is best-known for playing as Gomez Addams in Addams Family, reprising it on the Halloween with the New Addams Family film and the Addams Family animated series. A memorable later role would be as Professor Wickwire in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., and I’d like to single out his delightfully weird appearance on The Wild Wild West as Count Nikolai Sazanov in “The Night of the Tartar” episode. 
  • Born March 29, 1938 Barry Jackson. I’ve been good, with not a Doctor Who performer in several days, so now you’ll  get one. Or maybe several if I’m feeling generous. He appeared in the series during the time of the First Doctor, in “The Romans” and in “Mission to the Unknown” which served as a prelude to “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. He would also played Drax, a school pal of the Doctor, in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor.“ (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 29, 1943 Eric Idle, 77. Monty Python is genre, isn’t it? If not, I know that The Adventures of Baron MunchausenYellowbeardMonty Python and the Holy GrailQuest for CamelotShrek the Third and Nearly Departed, an updated version of Topper, which he all hand in certainly are. And it turns out he’s written a witty SF novel, The Road to Mars: A Post-Modern Novel, which involves an Android, comedy and interplanetary travel.
  • Born March 29, 1947 Patricia Anthony. Flanders is one damn scary novel. A ghost story set in WW I it spooked me for nights after I read it and I don’t spook easily. Highly recommended.  James Cameron purchased the movie rights to her Brother Termite novel and John Sayles wrote a script, but the movie has not been produced. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 29, 1950 Robbie Coltrane, 70. I first saw him playing Dr. Eddie “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Cracker way back in the Ninties. Not genre, but an amazing role none-the-less. He was Valentin Dmitrovich Zhukovsky in  GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, with a much less prominent role as a man at an airfield in Flash Gordon being his first genre role. Being Rubeus Hagrid in the Potter franchise was his longest running genre gig. He’s also voiced both Mr. Hyde in the Van Helsing film and Gregory, a mouse, in The Tale of Despereaux film.
  • Born March 29, 1955 Marina Sirtis, 65. Counselor Deanna Troi in the Trekverse. Waxwork II: Lost in Time as Gloria is her true genre film role followed shortly by a one-off on the The Return of Sherlock Holmes series as Lucrezia. And then there’s her mid Nineties voice acting as Demona on Gargoyles, possibly her best role to date. Skipping some one-offs on various genre series, her most recent appearance was on Picard where she and Riker are happily married.
  • Born March 29, 1956 Mary Gentle, 64. Her trilogy of Rats and GargoylesThe Architecture of Desire and Left to His Own Devices is a stunning work of alternate history with magic replacing science. I also highly recommend her Grunts! novel. Gamers particularly will love it. She has a cyberpunk novel, Left To His Own Devices, but I’ve not read it. Who here has read it? 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Elizabeth Hand, 63. Not even going to attempt to summarize her brilliant career. I will say that my fav works by her are Wylding HallIllyria and Mortal Love. We did do an entire edition at Green Man on her and I need to update it to the present site. It’s got a neat conversation with her on what her favorite foods are. 
  • Born March 29, 1957 Yolande Palfrey. Yes, another Doctor Who performer. She was Janet in “Terror of the Vervoids”, a Sixth Doctor story. She was also in Dragonslayer as one of its victims, She was Veton in the “Pressure Point” episode of Blake’s 7 and she shows as Ellie on The Ghosts of Motley Hall series. She died far too young of a brain tumor. (Died 2011.)
  • Born March 29, 1968 Lucy Lawless, 52. Xena in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Cylon model Number Three D’Anna Biers on that Battlestar Galactica series. She also played Countess Palatine Ingrid von Marburg, the last of a line of Germanic witches on the Salem series. Her most recent genre role as Ruby Knowby, one of the Dark Ones, on the Ash vs Evil Dead series. Though not genre, she was Lucretia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand, its prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and its sequel Spartacus: Vengeance. Let’s just say that her acting may not have been why folks watched those latter series to see her. 

(9) THINKING ABOUT OUR FRIEND, MICHAEL J. WALSH. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] A character in the episode of The Frankie Drake Mysteries I saw yesterday was named “Michael Walsh.”  In the episode, first broadcast in Canada in 2018. Walsh was an authenticator at the Field Museum who was sent to Toronto to verify a rare piece of Incan pottery, except he was killed and someone pretending to be Walsh was going to show up and replace the real piece of pottery with a fake.

Such lines as “Michael Walsh is running the con” reminded me that renowned Baltimore fan Michael Walsh has chaired Worldcons and World Fantasy Cons.  My favorite line was “I want you to know that Michael Walsh is tucked away at the Bethany Funeral Home.”

(10) FROM NANO TO STAYHO. “StayHomeWriMo Rallies Writers”Poets & Writers has the link.

Writers around the globe are gathering—virtually—to raise their spirits and keep creating through an initiative called StayHomeWriMo. Sponsored by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), the organizers of the annual November write-a-thon in which authors pen a novel draft in a month, StayHomeWriMo invites writers to find comfort in their creativity and stay inside while the battle with COVID-19 continues.

The initiative launched on March 23 and will run “as long as it’s relevant,” says National Novel Writing Month’s executive director, Grant Faulkner. Each day writers can participate by visiting the StayHomeWriMo website or its social media channels for a daily checklist of four activities.

(11) STAY IN TOUCH. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron has a mission: “In these times of Covid-19 isolation we create online live sessions to explore interesting topics with interesting people.” Read descriptions and participant lists of planned offerings here.

(12) FREE MONTH-OF-STREAMING ACCESSES UPDATE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] A growing number of channels/streaming sites are offering free shows or months. Here’s key info from The Boston Globe’s TV Critic Corner, “Free trials give you access to TV’s best, updated March 25, 2020)” (March 26, 2020 in the paper edition)

Some of this info and offers may not necessarily be new. (It’s a paywalled site, so I’m conveying the essential info)

Note: Probably they all require you to create and account and provide a credit card number. Based on pre-C experiences, I suggest that if you don’t plan to continue a subscription, do the cancellation by the end of Week 3, to allow the site’s processing time to digest your “thanks but don’t start charging me.”

Consider doing the cancel like a day after you sign up (but read the rules first). For example, according to The Verge, “CBS also allows you to cancel the plan immediately and still use the entire month…To do that, head over to the CBS All Access account page, scroll down to the ‘Subscription’ line of the ‘Subscription & Billing’ section, and hit ‘Cancel Subscription.'”

I’m including some of my own what-to-watch suggestions. (My apologies if I mis-remember what’s where.)

  • Netflix: Lost In Space.
  • Amazon: Bosch (from Michael Connolly’s books). The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Glow. The Boys. The Expanse.
  • CBS All Access (Free access through April 23, if I understand correctly, use “GIFT”, see https://t.co/i2IfFQN3I8 for more.) Star Trek: Picard. Star Trek: Discovery. The Good Fight (all 3 seasons) and more.
  • ACORN TV (Code FREE30): Murdoch Mysteries. Miss Fisher Mysteries (including the just-released Miss F movie.)
  • AMC’s Shudder (Code “SHUTIN” — scary and horror stuff, apparently.

(13) BEWARE PICARD SPOILERS. Interesting posts abound analyzing the conclusion of Picard’s first season. It’s possible that even quoting their headlines is too much – so YOU ARE WARNED!

(14) STAR TREK REVIVAL. This video should be safer – surely you’ve seen all these movies by now. (Or if you haven’t, won’t give a hoot.) “The Story of Star Trek’s Miraculous Resurrection – Movies with Mikey.”

Stardate 47634.44- Mikey discusses the resurrection of Star Trek after the cancellation of TOS, and examines all 6 of the original films.

(15) ‘BOY BRADBURY. Those who didn’t read Playboy for the articles may have missed these:


(16) AUCTION BLOCKAGE? Will the epidemic dampen interest in Profiles in History’s “The Alex Raymond Flash Gordon Auction”? The Hollywood Reporter questioned Profiles CEO Joe Maddalena, who says they’re moving into “uncharted territory.” “‘Flash Gordon’ Comic Strip Auction to Test Collectors Interest During Coronavirus Crisis”.

The pencil and ink art by Alex Raymond, the creator of the strip, is expected to sell in the range of $400,000 to $600,000 but its historical significance could push it higher.

Or at least it could have. With America now in the throes of the pandemic, auction houses don’t know how collectors are feeling.

“I could have seen this go for a million but now I don’ t know,” says Profiles CEO Joe Maddalena. “In the last 30 days the world has changed. We’re truly in uncharted territory.”

There is some sign for optimism. Last week, Heritage Auctions saw a rare 1933 poster for Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man sell for $182,000, with spirited bidding that exceeded the initial estimates of $125,000.

(17) A LONG, LONG, TIME AGO RIGHT NOW. If you’re still looking for something to help you fill the idle hours… In the Washington Post, David Betancourt gives a definitive chronology of all the Star Wars movies, animations, comics, and TV shows, including what you should watch between episodes two and three and where the Star Wars comics fit in the grand scheme. “The ultimate guide to your Star Wars binge”.

…Now, when a lot of us are spending more hours indoors than ever, we have the entirety of the Star Wars entertainment catalogue at our fingertips. And with a new season of “The Mandalorian” not coming until this fall, revisiting the finer moments of this far away galaxy with a good stream or two doesn’t seem like the worst idea. Especially if your viewing of “The Rise of Skywalker” felt like a disturbance in The Force….

(18) GOODNIGHT FILE. Tuck yourself in and listen to “’Goodnight Moon’ as read by LeVar Burton to Neil deGrasse Tyson.” Arranged by @Audible,

(19) FUTURE READS. And there are other pleasures in store for followers of LeVar Burton Reads. “Neil Gaiman Gives LeVar Burton ‘Blanket Permission’ to Read His Stories Online”CBR.com has the story.

When Star Trek actor LeVar Burton took to Twitter to explain his fruitless efforts in trying to find public domain short stories to read to audiences at home, superstar scribe Neil Gaiman answered the call.

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

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32 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/29/20 Look Around You… Can You Fashion Some Sort Of Rudimentary Lathe Of Heaven?

  1. Thanks for the title credit!

    (1) Reminds me of Barry Longyear’s House of If

    (8) John Astin is the Director of the Theatre Arts program at Johns Hopkins

  2. 13: Pretty much ALL the fanfic ran that way the first time around.

    So some books I read.

    Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. Meh. Headity hoppity Iphinome no likey.

    Terminal Uprising by Jim C Hines. Not as funny as the first one, I still liked it. Recommended if you liked the first one and can stand to read anything with plagues in it right now.

    The Perfect Assassin By K A Doore. Much like A Memory Called Empire, this is a book I should love, it ticks a lot of boxes for me. Don’t really know what the problem is. So do NOT let my feelings turn you away from this one. If the back matter shows it as the type of book you like, read it.

  3. (7) I always thought that this would have made an interesting series. It had a cat! Then again, budget constraints or studio directives might have killed it. I don’t know if I could take that computer every episode. (Computer’s voice by Barbara Babcock who was on six separate episodes doing mainly voices.) Add it to the pile with Earth II and The Questor Tapes.

    I should make up a list of all the things that I thought would make good series or good movie franchises like Buckaroo Banzai, Doc Savage and The Norliss Tapes.

    (8) Also Christopher Lambert’s birthday. Speaking of interesting movies that should have been a franchise. Too bad they just made that ONE Highlander movie.

    Vangelis who did the score of Blade Runner. You had to wait something like 25 years to get a soundtrack recording.

  4. (8) Mary Gentle and Elizabeth Hand are two of my favorite authors, so it’s great to learn that Rats and Architecture are part of a trilogy. Thanks Cat!

  5. Dear Folks,

    On the subject of today…

    Let us not forget John Astin’s role in the wonderfully weird Eerie, Indiana– cause, if that ain’t genre nuttin’ is.

    Also, I got to see part of the filming of Assignment Earth, a reward for being one of the organizers of the Save Star Trek March on NBC Studios (in “beautiful downtown Burbank!”).

    prosper and live long,


  6. Michael J. Walsh: Just one Worldcon, thank you very much.

    Yeah! It’s not like yer an addict or something!

  7. @Jack Lint —

    Too bad they just made that ONE Highlander movie.

    Heh. I will admit to being an avid watcher of the TV series, and I even frequented the board dedicated to the series for a while there.

  8. @8 (Idle): YMMV re his novel.

    @8 (Gentle): OTOH, I loved Grunts; IMO she managed to stick the landing, which is a lot harder than coming up with a funny premise (orc soldiers).

  9. (1) That’s in part the concept behind the 1997 Outer Limits episode ‘The Sentence’, written by Melissa Rosenberg.

  10. Good to see the NZ Government managing expectations about international tourism.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders should get used to border restrictions in New Zealand and overseas, saying they’re likely to be in place “for some time”.
    She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop.
    “We will be having to manage covid-19 for months, until of course there is a vaccine and that will be many months,” she said.
    Ardern told RNZ: “I’m anticipating border restrictions for some time.”

  11. Mary Gentle has done so much good work. As well as the White Crow sequence and Grunts, there is her masterpice, Ash, as well as the blockbuster historical fantasies that followed it, like The Black Opera and Ilario, but she does seem to have stopped writing altogether. Does anyone know if she is still active at all. She has no internet presence that I can find, and, though I have no wish to intrude on her privacy, I do feel quite concerned about her.

  12. Compliments to whoever came up with today’s title, which the revolutionary anarchist in me absolutely loves. Motto and caution all in one sentence.

    I have read Left to His Own Devices, but it was a long time ago and I don’t think I found it very memorable. I’ll add my voice to the recommendation for Ash: A Secret History, though. It’s very long and quite harrowing, but the payoff is worth it.

    Grunts, meanwhile, is genuinely funny but also uncomfortable. PTSD humour from her War Studies degree, I think.

  13. Opera and Ilario, but she does seem to have stopped writing altogether. Does anyone know if she is still active at all. She has no internet presence that I can find, and, though I have no wish to intrude on her privacy, I do feel quite concerned about her.

    Ilario: The Lion’s Eye written seven years ago was her last piece of fiction, short or long form. Nor is there anything forthcoming according to Amazon.

  14. Allan Lloyd: Does anyone know if she is still active at all. She has no internet presence that I can find, and, though I have no wish to intrude on her privacy, I do feel quite concerned about her.

    She’s got a Facebook account, on which she seems to have posted fairly recently.

  15. @ JJ – Someone could ask about an author’s status on their Facebook fan group. In this case, perhaps Ash Made Me (The Mary Gentle fan group). Hypothetically. 🙂

  16. Ilario: The Lion’s Eye written seven years ago was her last piece of fiction, short or long form

    Going by the ISFDB here — http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?751 — Black Opera from 2012 was her latest novel, and she had a short story published in 2015. Ilario: The Lion’s Eye was just a different edition of an earlier work. Either way, though, she hasn’t been publishing lately.

  17. (8) You have the title “Left to His Own Devices” as both the third volume in Gentle’s Rats and Gargoyles trilogy, and a cyberpunk novel that Cat hasn’t read. Is that a transcription error, or did Gentle use the same title twice, a la Peter Gabriel issuing multiple self-titled albums, or people who give two or more of their children the same name?

  18. @Vicki Rosenzweig

    It’s one novel considered from two angles.The Rats and Gargoyles/White Crow novels do the Jerry Cornelius thing of presenting the same characters across multiple settings, so two are fantasy and one’s cyberpunk-ish.

  19. Is it multiple reflections, or is the White Crow ~immortal? (My notes on Left to His Own Devices say nothing — I was using a database with a very limited comment field.) Or did she time-travel, like Joanna Russ’s Alyx (the guide in Picnic on Paradise is “The Adventuress”, rescued by a time authority after getting in over her head)? Wikipedia says Gentle credits the Russ stories as an influence, but gives no details.

  20. @Chip Hitchcock

    The settings of the three books seem different enough that I’d go for multiple reflections rather than time travel, personally. But it’s not the kind of writing that encourages the one-true-interpretation approach so I’m not dogmatic about it.

  21. In honor of John Prine, currently battling Covid-19 in a hospital (in stable condition at last report): Make Me a Pixel That Scrolls From Mont Tsundoku.

  22. Oh, and I was pleasantly surprised by Eric Idle’s The Road to Mars. I was expecting something fairly silly–and it had a decent amount of silliness–but it had some pretty interesting ideas too. Thoughts on the nature of humor, and the nature of AI, and how (and if) they might intersect. It’s not the greatest book ever, but it was good enough that I’ve even gotten around to re-reading it at least once.

  23. @Sophie Jane — I’m puzzled in part because Cat praised the trilogy and then said Gentle had also written this cyberpunk book, which he hadn’t read.

  24. @Sophie Jane: But it’s not the kind of writing that encourages the one-true-interpretation approach That’s certainly true.

  25. @nickpheas

    Hang on, Gomez Addams is Sam Gamgee’s dad? I did not know that.

    And Helen Keller is his mom.

  26. Sean Astin visits John Astin (actually his adoptive father) fairly frequently and can be seen touring around the Baltimore area.

  27. @nickpheas

    Sean considers himself to have (4) fathers

    mistaken as biological but still has a relationship
    and step

    Patty Duke is his mom.

    Modestly genre related, John Astin did a turn as the Riddler on the 60s Batman series on two episodes.

    A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. – Thomas Jefferson

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