Pixel Scroll 4/7/20 Files In My Pocket Like Pixels Of Scrolls

(1) S.P. SOMTOW RETURNS TO SFF. Somtow Sucharitkul celebrated the appearance of his new novel with these retrospective thoughts —

My first novel was published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It cost $2.50 and I got 20¢ a copy. To earn out my $5,000 advance, I would have had to sell 25,000 books. I don’t know if it sold that many, but it did get reprinted by S&S, and then republished by Del Rey. Later, my advances, and presumably the number of books they sold, increased quite a bit.

Twenty years ago, I kind of vanished from publishing except for the odd (very) Star Trek novel. But anyway the bottom fell out of the market for us mid-list types.

Now forty years have gone by since my first novel came out. I have just put out my first new science fiction novel since 1997 (unless you count that “very” odd Star Trek novel. Today, I’m not even imagining selling 100,000 copies of Vampire Junction or 25,000 copies of a space opera. Today, putting the whole thing on amazon all by myself, I’m thinking boy, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll have made a whole lot of old-time fans, most of whom I know personally, happy. And enjoy a lot of very nice meals.

But here’s the thing … it was REALLY satisfying to finish a science fiction novel. I might have to do some more.

Homeworld of the Heart — the 5th novel in the Inquestor series and my first science fiction book since 1997. Here are the links to the trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

It’s about the childhood of Sajit, who was to become the poet of the entire galactic empire. It’s chock-full of childsoldiers, people bins, tachyon bubbles, utopia hunters, beauty and depravity and the other expected features of the series, but also speaks about the chaos that ensues when the Inquestors’ games misfire, about the subtleties of music in the Inquestral age, and the stone-age taboos of a high-tech civilization.

(2) BAEN SERIES ENDS. I inquired of Baen Books’ Christopher Ruocchio and learned there won’t be a volume of The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF in 2020. He said, “Toni and [editor] David Afsharirad decided that five volumes was going to do it for the military sf anthology series and wrapped it up. Last year’s was the last for the present.” The series will be missed.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Juanita Coulson, 87, was taken to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for tests and treatment. It was suspected she’d had a stroke, however, Bruce Coulson told Facebook readers today in a public post: “Further news on Mom. It turns out she did NOT have a stroke (probably), but does have a UTI and will be off work for a while. On the plus side, she might be going back home in a couple of days.”

Coulson is a sff author, winner of the Big Heart Award (2012), and past DUFF delegate.

(4) CANADA PERFORMS. Margaret Atwood kicks off a streaming series for Canadian writers whose tours have been derailed. “It doesn’t replace the fun of an audience, mass audience response, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I think we’re in the better-than-nothing era.” The New York Times reports: “At Margaret Atwood’s Prompting, Canada Launches Virtual Book Tours”.

Margaret Atwood is launching an online series that she hopes will help Canada’s writers sell books to a nation of shut-ins. But even she has not been immune to the headaches plaguing many people as they attempt to communicate during the global pandemic.

One came half an hour into a conversation about upcoming books with Adrienne Clarkson, a friend and fellow author, hosted by the National Arts Centre on Facebook Live. Atwood’s image froze.

“Come back, come back,” Clarkson said. “Was it anything I said?”

After a few minutes, Atwood did reappear, in a different room of her house with a superior internet connection. The two women continued to go through a list of books they acknowledged that, for the most part, they hadn’t even seen, let alone read, but were written by authors whose earlier works they enjoyed.

Their chat, which veered into social distancing and gardening, among other subjects, was an extension of a program the arts center started two weeks ago, CanadaPerforms, to provide a paid venue for musicians, actors, comedians and other performers at a time when stages are dark around the world….

(5) BARBER OBIT. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Michigan fan Tom Barber (born 1949) passed away on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID 19. Tom was a long time convention worker and occasional t-shirt dealer who, in the past, had chaired both Confusion and Conclave. He was a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and was Fan GOH at Confusion in 2001.


  • April 7, 1933 King Kong was released nationwide I he U.S. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 97% approval rating. You can watch it here.
  • April 7, 1951 The Thing from Another World premiered. It was directed by Christian Nyby, and produced by Edward Lasker. It’s based on John W. Campbell ‘s “Who Goes There?” novella. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness is The Thing, but he is almost impossible to recognize in makeup due to both the extremely low lighting and other steps used to hide his face. Critics at the time weren’t wild about it but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really like it and give it an 87% rating. You can watch it here.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories. His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised that role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of  him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve novels and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m certain there was other novels down the years. He worked on the famed Irish fanzines Slant and Hyphen. He was a guest of honor at the 1996 Worldcon. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 85. He edited with his then wife Robbie Holier Than Thou, nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine — losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 81. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he both an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 69. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single ”Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’sA Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000.


Is coronavirus funny enough to fill the entire Comics Section? You be the judge!

  • xkcd tells why homemade masks are better than some other ideas for avoiding infection.
  • Pearls Before Swine’s creator is suspiciously unavailable — April 6 and April 7
  • Brewster Rockit goes for a pretty obvious punchline on the first day, and another one the next day.
  • Frank and Ernest certainly have their hearts in the right place.
  • Lio is about as funny as usual. (If you’ll pardon my saying so.)
  • Tank McNamara, on the other hand, is almost worth a laugh, which has never happened before. 

(9) AS LONG AS YOU HAVE SOME TIME ON YOUR HANDS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Barry Kibrick discuss the Universe from the Big Bang to Newton in a two-part special episode of Between the Lines: “Astrophysics: Part One, From the Big Bang to Newton” and “Astrophysics: Part Two, From Newton to Our Current Time”.

(10) SPIN CONTROL. “Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet” – BBC has the story.

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture.

This time we’re being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away from another black hole at near light-speed.

The scene was actually in the “background” of the original target.

The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

They say their studies of the region of space known as 3C 279 will help them better understand the physics that drives behaviour in the vicinity of black holes.

(11) TIGER, TIGER. Details on the sick tigers: NPR asks “A Tiger Has Coronavirus. Should You Worry About Your Pets?”

Nadia is a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Last week, she started exhibiting one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus: a dry cough.

And it wasn’t just Nadia — her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions were all experiencing the same thing. So the zoo got permission from local and state health departments and animal health authorities, and took a sample from Nadia to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2. The sample was analyzed at the University of Illinois and Cornell University, and the presumptive positive finding confirmed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa.

That positive makes Nadia the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S., the CDC says.

That result raises a number of questions about the virus, and how it could affect the animals we spend time with. We’ll tackle those questions here.

How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?

The test involved an oral swab, a nasal swab, and procedure called a tracheal wash, which allows for sampling of the animal’s airways….

How did the tiger get tested when a lot of people still can’t?

The sample from Nadia was tested at veterinary diagnostic labs that aren’t approved to analyze human tests. The testing of the tiger “did not take a test or resources from human health efforts,” the zoo said.

Nadia and the other tigers and lions are doing well and improving, the zoo says, though some have a decrease in appetite.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “2 Lizards:  Episode 3, 2020” completes a three-part series of short videos on Vimeo in which Oriem Barki and Meriem Bennani show that even lizards get antsy if they stay inside and watch coronavirus coverage on their laptops.

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

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31 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/7/20 Files In My Pocket Like Pixels Of Scrolls

  1. (1) Somtow was big in Asimov’s magazine when I first subscribed to it – he was writing both humorous SF (the Aquila and Mallworld stories) and the more serious Inquestor stories, and I loved them all – good to see him back (Barry Longyear was the other guy who had a lot of stories in the early Asimov’s issues).

  2. (8) The link for April 6 for Pearls Before Swine isn’t working. (Unless it was a joke and you meant for it to go to the Somewhat Embarrassing page.)

  3. (1) Somtow was one of the first authors that I genuinely became a “fan” of. The Inquestor series set my high school heart on fire and even now I am still thrilled to have a copy of the Riverrun omnibus (including the final novel, which I have not seen anywhere else).

  4. Thanks Bonnie. Fixed now. Sometimes I don’t have any idea how I screw these things up. It was only an hour ago I remember looking at the webpage to make sure I had the right URL.

  5. (11) How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?
    Very carefully. (I’ll get my coat)

    Inspired by It’s Immaterial, and because I won’t be driving away from home 30 miles or more, anytime soon, I give you, “Scrolling away from home, 30 Files or more”.

  6. Rob Thornton says Somtow was one of the first authors that I genuinely became a “fan” of. The Inquestor series set my high school heart on fire and even now I am still thrilled to have a copy of the Riverrun omnibus (including the final novel, which I have not seen anywhere else).

    Rob, all of the Riverrun novels are available in Kindle editions.

  7. @Soon Lee
    That’s actually about it – they had to anesthetize the tiger (why they only tested one).

  8. @7: Kuttner was one of two big losses in 1958; he and Kornbluth both still had room to grow as writers, and Kuttner in particular seemed to still be growing.

    @7: Cantor was also half of the DUFF delegation in 1985; I ran into him and Robbie in Canberra just before Aussiecon 2.

    @8: you’ve never found Tank funny? Oh well. (I haven’t followed since it left the local paper, as the online was too loaded with ads for my system; maybe it’s fallen off from earlier years.)

    @Andrew: but Somtow disappeared into classical music; Longyear just … disappeared. (I do remember him at Boskone ~1990, talking ruefully with the other Gary Wolfe about their respective experiences with major-studio adaptations of their work.)

  9. @ Cat Eldridge

    Rob, all of the Riverrun novels are available in Kindle editions.

    Thanks for letting me know, but I own the Kindle ebooks of Somtow’s Inquestor series minus the new one, and they are closer to GIF rips (whole page graphic files) rather than full Kindle editions which contain all of the text. If the Riverrun books are similar, I’ll stick with my paper omnibus in this rather rare case.

  10. Rob says Thanks for letting me know, but I own the Kindle ebooks of Somtow’s Inquestor series minus the new one, and they are closer to GIF rips (whole page graphic files) rather than full Kindle editions which contain all of the text. If the Riverrun books are similar, I’ll stick with my paper omnibus in this rather rare case.

    One moment while I go download a sample of one of the novels… Oh Queen of Air and Darkness that’s ugly! Yeah they’re GIF rips indeed and not very well-done ones at that. Sigh…

  11. Yay, a new Somtow Sucharitkul Inquestor novel. A missed voice for a long time. I’m glad he’s doing well, and enjoying the process…maybe we’ll get another one.

    Ol’ John Prine. Damn. You were enjoyed.

    Black holes continue to be weird. I recently reread The Doomsday Effect by Thomas T Thomas (writing as Thomas Wren). I loved it as a kid, found it okay this time through (it’s a little rushed and the cold war stuff has not, as you can imagine, held up well). It jammed with sf goodness, though. The story is centered around a black hole, in case you’re wondering what the holy f I’m going on about. I guess my point is that black holes were weird during the cold war, and they are still weird during coronavirus. They’re weird. There.

    Man, that Frankie Goes to Hollywood sleeve is still arresting after all these years.

  12. 7) I had somehow never seen that Frankie Goes to Hollywood sleeve before. Now I have their songs running in my head, and will have to play them for real. Especially the sfnal “Power of Love”:
    I’ll protect you from the hooded claw
    Keep the vampires from your door

    8) I had no idea Tank McNamara was still around. I think my paper dropped it like thirty years ago.

  13. Apart from the “Sector General” books, the only James White on my shelves is The Dream Millennium, about what dreams may come in cryogenic hibernation… I’m sure there’s more out there, though.

    Sympathies to Juanita Coulson – UTIs are no fun at any age, and they can make you go distinctly peculiar.

    And a new Inquestor novel is a Good Thing!

  14. 1) I recently read Aquila for the first time (I think it may have been a scroll item) and found it odd. Maybe Somtow’s work is not for me.

  15. 7) I quite liked James White’s novel “The Watch Below” when I was a kid. I may try to find a copy and reread it.

  16. Speaking of Tank McNamara, Jeff Millar, the original writer for the comic, also wrote SF – his “Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” was in Orbit 17.

    @Chip: Yeah, Longyear’s output dropped off a lot in the mid-1980s (there are some post-1985 works, but he had been very prolific before then)

  17. @Andrew: ISTR that Millar was known for dropping genre references into the strip, and that Tank’s ~friend Bambi Bradbury was one of these.

    I remember Longyear setting the new record for elapsed time between winning the now-Astounding and a Hugo; Robinson set it to IIRC 3 years, Cherryh cut it to 2, then Longyear cut it to ~15 minutes. At least that didn’t turn into a near-crisis backstage — Martin winning both Short Story and Novelette (in between Longyear’s 2 awards) was something we hadn’t adequately planned for.

  18. 8) I had no idea Tank McNamara was still around. I think my paper dropped it like thirty years ago.

    It’s one of the two dozen or so comics that I get emailed to me every morning from Gocomics.com. It’s one of the better comics I read each day and had improved greatly over the years.

  19. I too, was reading Asimov’s during that period when it seemed like every issue had either Somtow or Longyear (or both, sometimes multiple times per issue) stories, and I liked most of them.

    Somtow was the first SF author whose autograph I got, at my first SF convention, the 1984 Worldcon in Anaheim. A few years later, he and I were both on a panel about small-scale film-making at the Phoenix NASFiC, CactusCon. I was at the convention showing off the amateur Doctor Who movie that I’d directed and played the Fifth Doctor in, The Zombie Legions (link is to episode 1 of the three-part story). My goodness, watching it on the 20-foot screen certainly made the technical errors (like the microphone cable protruding from back of my neck in one shot) jump off the screen at me!

  20. (7) Also Jackie Chan’s birthday. Given the outtakes at the end of his movies, it’s amazing he made it this far. Some of his Hong Kong movies are fantasy and some have elements of science fiction. Not sure about his western films. Maybe Kung Fu Panda where he plays Master Monkey.

    John Prine – Lonesome Friends of Science

  21. I still have some of Somtow’s books in first edition. I’ll buy the new hardcover when available.

    For those who can afford to support his Patreon, it looks like a few extra bucks his way each month might help him devote less time to administration of Opera Siam and other classical music initiatives, and more time to writing (and composing).

  22. Meredith Moment: Kristine Kathryn Rusch has made the first novel in her Diving Universe available for free as a way of helping to entertain those who are self-isolating and may not have surplus funds.

    I absolutely love this series and rave about it constantly. It’s about space salvagers who find advanced tech left behind by a long-lost, highly-technological iteration of the human race.

    And for those who enjoy that, the first 3 novels (the free one and two others) are available in this bundle for $4.99 at Amazon US, Nook, and Kobo (£3.99 in the UK).

  23. (1) and (5) are connected for me because I met both Somtow and Tom Barber at Michigan conventions back in the late 80s or early 90s.

  24. 7) @Jack Lint — Jackie Chan’s film Forbidden Kingdom was definitely fantasy. That was also the film where he co-starred with Jet Li. Too bad it, well, wasn’t all that great.

    Also, his American film The Medallion had supernatural elements, and wasn’t all that great.

  25. Jackie Chan’s “The Tuxedo” is most definitely SF, despite the ‘Action-Adventure’ sales rack the studio hung in on.

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