Pixel Scroll 5/15/21 What Can You Get A Pixel For Christmas When He Already Owns A Scroll?

(1) SUCCESSFUL SURGERY. Amazing Stories’ Kermit Woodall says “Steve Davidson’s Heart Surgery is Successful!”

I got the call a few hours ago (didn’t know what it was and it went to voicemail) and just listened to it. Steve’s doctor said all went well and he’s doing fine in recovery!

(2) OH, THE NEUTRINOS YOU’LL BASH. The New York Times profiles the author in “Andy Weir’s New Space Odyssey”.

“The real world is a far richer and more complex tapestry than any writer could invent,” Andy Weir, the author of “Project Hail Mary,” said.

When Andy Weir was writing his new novel, “Project Hail Mary,” he stumbled into a thorny physics problem.

The book’s plot hinges on a space mold that devours the sun’s energy, threatening all life on Earth, and that propels itself by bashing neutrinos together. He needed to figure out how much energy would be produced by two of those subatomic particles colliding.

“I was having a really difficult time finding information on that, and the reason is because people don’t fully know. I mean, we’re getting to the edge of human knowledge on that one,” Weir said in an interview last month from his home in Saratoga, Calif. “Neutrinos are the smallest and most difficult to deal with subatomic particles that we have ever actually managed to prove exist.”

Most sci-fi writers would err on the side of fiction rather than science. But Weir has never been satisfied with fictional solutions to scientific quandaries. He eventually figured out the number he needed for a single sentence — 25.984 microns — and, in the process, learned a lot about neutrinos.

“You have something like 100 trillion neutrinos passing through you, personally, every second,” he said excitedly. “Just being emitted by the sun.”

(3) WEIR Q&A. Dr. Brian Keating interviews the author in “Andy Weir: Project Hail Mary = Even Better than the Martian!”. Some of the questions are:

  • How do you balance realism and scientific fact with a fictional narrative?
  • Could you really mobilize resources at a planetary scale?
  • Do you think it’s realistic to turn an amateur avocation into a career?
  • Is there too much UFOlogy? What’s your stance on SETI and UFOs?
  • Do you think we’ve been going about SETI the wrong way?

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian , allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(4) EVERYONE’S A CRITIC. Some would call this common beginning and ending point Joycean. Some will get that call and hang up. Thread starts here.

(5) FOUR’S A CHARM. Charles Payseur’s Hugo nomination made the news in Wisconsin: “Beyond Belief: Local Author Named Finalist For Hugo Awards – For the Fourth Time” at Volume One. Payseur blogs at Quick Sip Reviews.

… Payseur said he’s grateful for the recognition he said is largely the result of years of consistent effort and a deep affinity for sci-fi/fantasy writing. His own writing, combined with blogs and reviews, landed him on the Hugo map, he said, noting that during the past six years he has reviewed more than 5,000 short fiction and poetry works. His Hugo recognition “comes on the back of my nonfiction work, my blogging and reviewing, and most of that probably comes down to just keeping at it and trying my best to engage with other people’s work openly, thoroughly, and compassionately,” Payseur said.

… Payseur, a 2008 UW-Eau Claire graduate in English, enjoys a variety of different writing styles, from poetry to romance to mystery. But ultimately science fiction and fantasy “with a dash of horror” is his favorite form to write and read.

Payseur has penned a book, The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories, published by Lethe Press and scheduled for release this summer. The work is a compilation of short stories – some of which he wrote years ago and some more recently. The Burning Day is a reflection of Payseur’s questioning of himself and the world around him, he said, examining “desire, nostalgia, and hope in a time when the past and future don’t exactly seem bright.”…

(6) TWO FOR THE PRICE OF NONE. Bruce Gillespie’s SF Commentary 105 (March 2021) and SF Commentary 106 (May 2021) are available as free downloads here. Bruce comments —

They are really two parts of one issue, 80 pages each. No. 105 includes my natter, plus Colin Steele’s reviews column, and the first half of the Gigantic Letter Column, plus covers by Carol Kewley and Alan White.

No. 106 includes my tribute to Yvonne Rousseau (1945–2021), noted Australian fan, critic, essayist and editor; Perry Middlemiss’s article about the 1960s Hugos; Andrew Darlington’s discussion of early John Brunner; Jennifer Bryce’s Top 10 Books of 2020; and with Tony Thomas, a coverage of the most recent Booker Prizes. Plus the second half of the Gigantic Letter Column.

(7) HEAR AUDIO OF A FIFTIES EASTERCON PLAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Last and First Fen” is a play that was performed at the 1956 Eastercon and recently put online by Rob Hansen as part of his invaluable research into British fan history.  If this play was a transcript it would have to be heavily annotated.  I got none of the jokes about British fen and only a few of the references to Americans.  But I nonetheless got the gist of the production and thought it was agreeably silly, especially for people who like British comedy of the era.  I thought it was worth an hour.  The website also has photos of what cosplayers looked like in 1956. The audio recording is here.

(8) WIBBLY WOBBLY WEATHER. James Davis Nicoll is your ambassador to “Five Fictional Planets Plagued by Extreme Climate Shifts” at Tor.com.

…SF authors being what they are, those whose works feature climate forcing due to companion stars tend to prefer dramatic oscillations rather than low, single percent wobbles. One might expect that such works would have first shown up in these times of worry over anthropogenic climate change. Not so! This was already a well-established genre. Consider the following works from times of yore:

Cycle of Fire by Hal Clement (1957)

Precisely how ancient red dwarf Theer came to orbit much younger, far more massive Alcyone is unclear. The consequences, however, are obvious. Theer’s habitable world Abyormen cycles between comfortable temperate conditions and overheated and wet greenhouse conditions. Abyormen’s life has adapted in ways Terrestrials would find astounding.

Providentially for castaway Nils Kruger, inadvertently abandoned on Abyormen by fellow crewpersons, Abyormen is in the temperate part of its cycle. Even better, he encounters native Dar Lang Ahn, in whose company he explores an alien world Nils is unlikely to leave soon. Thus, he gains knowledge of just how Abyormen’s life has adapted to its periodic baking. To his distress, he realizes that these adaptations could make the likeable aliens a threat to humanity….

(9) DO YOU HAVE GOOD TASTE? In the Washington Post, Alexandra Petri meets a creature who’s hungry for people to come back to the office. “Only the least tasty employees work from home!”

Is it good and important to go back to the office? Oh yes! Oh yes! It is so very good and important, and I am so glad that you asked me! I know all that transpires in the office, and how very good and important it is to be there — yes, for everyone to be there! Everyone must be in the office with their assorted smells and their good meaty legs! It is bad that the office is empty of people and filled only with the scent of hand sanitizer and flat sodas that were opened in March 2020. There is no nourishment in this! How the management yearns for a return of the workers! How it is ravenous for them! How it hungers for them!…


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 — L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz franchise, nor have I read anything else by him. What’s the rest of his fiction like?  There is, by the way, an amazing amount of fanfic out here involving Oz and of it is slash. (Died 1919.) (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1891 – Mikhail Bulgakov.  Had he only written The Master and Margarita, that would have sufficed us.  Margarita, not the Master, allies herself with the Devil – maybe; I talk a little about it here; published decades after his death, too dangerous.  Mick Jagger said it inspired “Sympathy for the Devil”.  Try this Website.  See also DiaboliadThe Fatal EggsHeart of a Dog. Two rival museums in Moscow – in the same building; one in Kiev.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1919 – Harry Bennett.  Thirty covers, half a dozen interiors.  Here is The “Lomokome” Papers.  Here is The White Jade Fox.  Here is Floating Worlds.  Here is The Last Enchantment.  Here is the frontispiece for a Short Stories of Oscar Wilde.  (Died 2012) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1926 — Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including the Agatha Christie based  Evil Under the Sun,Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1946 – Michaelene Pendleton.  Eight short stories.  Editor, particularly ESL (work written in English as a second language) “because I learn about your culture through your writing.”  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1955 – Tatsumi Takayuki, age 66.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Professor at Keiô University, chair of its SF Study Group; editor, essayist, interviewer, theoretician; Nihon SF Taishô (Grand Prize) from SFWJ (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan).  President, Amer. Literature Society of Japan 2014-2017, Poe Soc. of Japan 2009-  ; editorial boards of ParadoxaMark Twain StudiesJournal of Transnat’l Amer. Studies.  In English, for NY Review of SFSF ChronicleSF EyeSF Studies, the 65th and 72nd Worldcons’ Souvenir Books; The Liverpool Companion to World SF FilmThe Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature.  [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1955 — Lee Horsley, 66. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls — it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer. (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1960 — Rob Bowman, 61. Producer of such series as Alien NationM.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-FilesReign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  (CE) 
  • Born May 15, 1966 — Greg Wise, 55. I’m including him solely as he’s in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (maybe) but damn fun. (CE)
  • Born May 15, 1974 – Ahmet Zappa, age 47.  Brother of Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva; wrote song “Frogs with Dirty Little Lips” with his father Frank.  Debut novel (and interiors), The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless; debut film, The Odd Life of Timothy Green; television, three-season host of Robotica; co-author with wife Shana Muldoon Zappa, Sage and the Journey to Wishworld and 14 more Star Darlings books. [JH]
  • Born May 15, 1991 – Julie Novakova, age 30.  In English, a score of short stories, two anthologies; recent essay in Clarkesworld 174 (Mar 2021).  Seven novels in Czech.  Website (in Czech and English).  As of 11 May 21 Kickstarter looks good for Life Beyond Us.  [JH]

(11) FANTASTIC FOUR TURNS SIXTY. Marvel Comics is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, and artist John Romita, Jr. has returned to the company just in time to help.

Following the highly anticipated BRIDE OF DOOM storyline, August’s FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will be a special giant-sized spectacular that will see series writer Dan Slott teaming up with legendary artist John Romita Jr.

Recently returned to the House of Ideas, Romita Jr. is back to bringing his incredible artwork to Marvel’s biggest heroes, starting with this celebratory 60th anniversary issue for Marvel’s First Family. FANTASTIC FOUR #35 will launch a brand-new storyline that will see every iteration of the iconic villain Kang teaming up for a devious plot that will unravel across Fantastic Four history!

(12) I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THE RAILROAD. Mr. Muffin’s Trains offers these two irresistible additions to your model railroad’s rolling stock:

(13) SHOCKED, I TELL YOU. Of course there should be a stolen body involved in this story! ScreenRant points a finger as “Resident Evil Village Accused Of Stealing Horror Movie’s Monsters”.

Resident Evil Village has a number of new and rather unique monsters for the franchise, but one of them may have been stolen from a film. One of the most noteworthy bosses in Resident Evil Village is a creature that is half man, half aircraft propeller, and apparently, the director of the 2013 film Frankenstein’s Army believes Capcom knowingly ripped it off along with other characters in that same section of the game.

Resident Evil as a franchise is known for its imaginative, well-realized monsters, such as Lady Dimitrescu in Resident Evil Village. Oftentimes the disgusting and violent villains become incredibly iconic and are held up highly in the survival horror genre. The series has birthed the likes of Mr. X, the Nemesis, the Chainsaw Man, and many more, but some of the franchise’s latest creations may not be wholly original….

(14) IT’S NO TRICK. Julia Alexander’s Musings on Mouse contends “Loki is now a sign of Disney+’s strength”.

… None of this implies that Disney+ is struggling by any means. It’s not. But whereas competitors might give subscribers more reasons to open the app daily, Disney+ is still looking for its constant. Disney+’s catalog makes up 4% of catalog demand in the US, according to Parrot Analytics, behind all of the other big streamers. Internal restrictions (nothing above PG-13 can be on the app, nothing outside of Disney’s core brands) means the catalogue can only grow so large each month. 

We’re getting there, though. Disney moving Loki to Wednesdays is in part because The Bad Batch is running on Fridays through mid-August. In-between that time, Disney is bringing back High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (on Fridays) and see big movie debuts, including Cruella and Black Widow in May and July respectively. Disney+ has appointment viewing spots for Friday and into the weekend. But Disney wants to increase consistency in engagement throughout the week. 

Disney is in a rare position where over the next 10 months the company will have a high profile show or movie every single day, every single week. A new movie, overlapping Marvel shows, a Star Wars series, a Pixar series, and other potentially big live-action projects. These series overlap and create a consistent flow of appointment television that all bleed into one another. For all the conversation about “franchise fatigue,” statistically that’s not present in actual consumer behavior. 

There’s a reason that consistency is key to any business model, but with streaming, if subscribers are consistently opening and using a platform, this leads to less churn and Disney feels better about raising prices incrementally. This helps with overall ARPU in important regions. Or, to put it simply, Wall Street is happy, Disney executives are happy, and consumers are fine with the increase because the value is apparent. …

(15) EVERBODY WATCHES, NOBODY QUITS. If you haven’t already satisfied your daily minimum requirement for deconstructing Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, it’s time to watch the second installment of Kyle Kallgren’s analysis: “STARSHIP TROOPERS, Part 2: VERHOEVEN”. (Part 1 is here.)

(16) YOUR EPISTEMOLOGY DOLLARS AT WORK. Public television is here to help you decide an important question: “PBS Space Time – How To Know If It’s Aliens.”

There’s one rule on Space Time: It’s never Aliens. But every rule has an exception and this rule is no exception because: It’s never aliens, until it is. So is it aliens yet? And on this fortnight’s Space Time they have been examining all the best case scenarios for life beyond Earth.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Bruce Gillespie, James Davis Nicoll, and Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

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41 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/15/21 What Can You Get A Pixel For Christmas When He Already Owns A Scroll?

  1. First!

    (14) IT’S NO TRICK. Speaking of this streaming service. Who here is watching the Star Wars series on Disney +? Are they worth a summer binge?

  2. 5) So a guy who never goes to cons, not even local ones, and never writes for fanzines, is a four-time Hugo “Best Fan Writer” nominee? I really don’t know what to say.

  3. @Michael he IS one of the top tier reviewers of short fiction out there. IMHO

  4. (10) There’s a sequel to “The Sword and the Sorcerer”? By the way, am i the only one who thought the three-pronged sword in the original was a stupid and impractical design? What if you miss when you shoot the projectile blade?

  5. Michael J. Lowrey says So a guy who never goes to cons, not even local ones, and never writes for fanzines, is a four-time Hugo “Best Fan Writer” nominee? I really don’t know what to say.

    Not all of us go to Cons, nor do we write for fanzines (beyond File 770 in my case). That doesn’t mean that we’re not fans. So yes, he can indeed be a fan writer. And he’s a damn fine one as Paul notes.

  6. 11) I quit Fantastic Four after issue #12. I never thought it had a chance of having a future…

  7. 1) Glad to hear that Steve’s surgery was successful. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    @Michael J. Lowrey

    5) So a guy who never goes to cons, not even local ones, and never writes for fanzines, is a four-time Hugo “Best Fan Writer” nominee? I really don’t know what to say.

    I don’t know if Charles Payseur attends cons or not, but he has been reviewing short fiction at Quick Sip Reviews for many years now and absolutely is a fan writer, unless you don’t consider blogs fan writing. But by that metric, Paul and I wouldn’t be fan writers either.

  8. John Lorentz: You quit FF after issue #12??? That’s interesting. I didn’t buy them off the newsstands, I read the paperback collection of early issues when that came out oh-so-many years ago. I thought, no wonder the comic had been a success…!

  9. Cora Buhlert: But by that metric, Paul and I wouldn’t be fan writers either.

    It’s very unusual for somebody who might hold that opinion to comment here. Because this isn’t a fanzine, either!

  10. Michael J. Lowrey: I really don’t know what to say.

    I guess that was as much as you needed to say.

  11. Mike Glyer: this isn’t a fanzine, either!

    Oh, pish and tosh. Any non-professional blog where genre fans natter on about SFF is a fanzine. I’ll have no truck with purists. 😉

  12. (10) It was Frank Hornby’s birthday (b. 1863). Hornby is responsible for Meccano, Dinky Toys, and Hornby Model Railroads. Way ahead on the STEM toys for kid trend. I had two of the three.

    And Joseph Wiseman (b. 1918) who was Dr. No and also Draco in the 1979 Buck Rogers movie/pilot. He also did the Serling double with an appearance on both The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery (with a young Diane Keaton)

    Also Brian Eno (b. 1948). Your yearly reminder that Eno is God.

    Scrolling Pixels Give You So Much More

  13. (12) NASA in red letters but not the worm logo. That seems just wrong.

  14. Famous Golden Age fan Harry Warner Jr. never went to conventions and rarely met other fans in person – he was known as the “Hermit of Hagerstown”, according to Wikipedia. It didn’t stop him being, well, a famous Golden Age fan…. Charles Payseur is a fan, who writes: his nomination as a fan writer seems, to me, to have a certain logic about it.

  15. Steve Wright says Famous Golden Age fan Harry Warner Jr. never went to conventions and rarely met other fans in person – he was known as the “Hermit of Hagerstown”, according to Wikipedia. It didn’t stop him being, well, a famous Golden Age fan…. Charles Payseur is a fan, who writes: his nomination as a fan writer seems, to me, to have a certain logic about it.

    I think it’s very, very cool that he’s been nominated four times for this Hugo as it proves fandom is a wide community indeed.

    Now listening to P. Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn

  16. JJ says Oh, pish and tosh. Any non-professional blog where genre fans natter on about SFF is a fanzine. I’ll have no truck with purists.

    I’d say that File 770 is the epitome of fanzines.

  17. (10) Heinlein himself wrote Baum fanfiction (some of which was published quite recently – in The Pursuit of the Pankera).

    “Is this a fanzine I see before me? The lettercol toward my comment?
    Come, let me egoscan thee.
    I have thee not received and yet see thee.
    Art thou not, Fannish vision, sense-Ish-ble
    To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
    A Pixel of the Scroll?

  18. 2) The quoted phrasing leaves the impression that microns is a measurement of energy, though I presume Weir knows better.

  19. Steve Wright: It always shocks a few people to discover that some science fiction fans are fans of science fiction.

  20. @David Shallcross
    IIRC, an early episode of one SF series on TV (I think the original “Battlestar Galactica) used microns as a large unit of distance.

  21. @P J Evans

    It was used for time in OG BSG, which I mostly only remember because there’s a bit where they’re stuck on an inhabited planet for whatever reason and collaborating with the locals and suggest splitting up to search and meeting back up in x microns – upon which the locals quite reasonably ask what a micron is.

  22. 5) So a guy who never goes to cons, not even local ones, and never writes for fanzines, is a four-time Hugo “Best Fan Writer” nominee? I really don’t know what to say.

    To be certain I understand you, are you saying that unless someone
    1. Has the financial resources to take a few days off to hang out at a convention,
    2. Is not caring for dependent children or providing care for an ill or elderly adult,
    3. Is not managing a health condition that makes attending a convention impossible, difficult, or unwise,
    4. Has the mental/emotional resources to put up being around crowds of strangers,
    5. Writes enough for fanzines to make an impression, regardless of how much fan writing they do in other places,

    They shouldn’t be qualified to get a Hugo Best Fanwriter nomination? Am I getting this correct?

  23. I was looking on IMDB for the credits of a performer on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit that I thought looked familiar. It turned out that it was Joe Morton who played Henry Deacon on Eureka. Except that series now is called A Town Called Eureka. What a clunky, unnecessary name that is.

  24. @Meredith – thanks! What I most remember was thinking that they should have made up a name for it, instead of using a real term. (At the time i was living in Sunnyvale, CA, where about half the industry measured in microns.)

  25. Anybody read Master of the Revels: A Return to Neal Stephenson’s D.O.D.O. which Nicole Galland penned? I really enjoyed that Stephenson novel and would love to return to that universe.

  26. @P J Evans

    At the time I saw the show I had no idea what a micron was so to me it just sounded like the sci fi technobabble of Star Trek or, well, Star Wars’ parsecs – also not a word I knew at the time! It would certainly be less misleading if they just made stuff up. It can sometimes be hard to make the correct meaning stick if you’ve been used to a wrong one since you were a kid. (Easier than getting the correct pronunciation to stick, though. /sighs in precocious reader)

  27. I just translate all those bogus units in my mind to Dalek Rels.

  28. @Meredith: We’ve all been there with the pronunciation thing. I was a bit fantasted, though, by the recent episode of Supergirl in which all the actors pronounced the name of element 66 “DICE-prose-yum”. In fact “dysprosium” is pronounced just as you’d think, as the show’s producers could have found out in 5 seconds with a Google search.

  29. David Goldfarb says We’ve all been there with the pronunciation thing. I was a bit fantasted, though, by the recent episode of Supergirl in which all the actors pronounced the name of element 66 “DICE-prose-yum”. In fact “dysprosium” is pronounced just as you’d think, as the show’s producers could have found out in 5 seconds with a Google search.

    Except if you look it up online, you also get dis-PROH-zee-m which is what I got and there were several other pronunciations of it. I’m guessing the producers did a search that got one of the variants.

  30. Both micron and centon were used on the original BSG–and they were each used to mean multiple incompatible things. For me, it kept kicking me out of the story, and no amount of determination was sufficient to keep my disbelief suspended.

  31. Dysprosium — in all matters concerning the pronunciation of the names of the chemical elements, Tom Lehrer’s recitation shall be definitive. Except for the ones that news of which has not yet come to Harvard, or which have not otherwise yet been discovered.

  32. Charles Payseur has got to be the hardest working reviewer in SF. Just look at the sheer volume of publications he reviews! The reviews themselves may be brief (hence the name of the blog), but the amount of fiction and poetry he reads and reviews is simply phenomenal.

    This year was the first time (that I know of!) that he’s reviewed my own work (here, as part of his review of the Community of Magic Pens anthology, and here, as part of his review of The Future Fire #57), and it’s as much a joy as you could imagine. He’s a thoughtful, insightful, and compassionate reader.

    He used to review for Tangent Online, and he has some things to say about that. And as part of that thread, he encourages new reviewers and makes a standing offer to help them out. He’s just that awesome and generous.

    I guess I’m saying I’m a fan.

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