Pixel Scroll 5/17/20 Quit Airing Those Gripping Hands Through The Zoom

(1) TIME TO BOW OUT. Bruce Sterling’s blog at WIRED, which he’s been writing since 2003, is ending: “Farewell to Beyond the Beyond”.

…If there are no big events due to pandemic, and nobody’s shopping much, either, then it’s mighty hard to keep a magazine empire afloat in midair. Instead, you’ve gotta fire staffers, shut down software, hunt new business models, re-organize and remove loose ends. There is probably no looser-end in the entire WIRED domain than this weblog.

…Although I wrote tons of “original content” elsewhere, long text-form essays like this were vanishingly rare on “Beyond the Beyond.” The blog never trolled for any viral hits, or tried to please any patrons. Also, I never got paid anything for my blogging, which was probably the key to the blog’s longevity. This blog persisted with such ease, because there was so much that I didn’t have to do.

…Also, the ideal “Beyond the Beyond” reader was never any fan of mine, or even a steady reader of the blog itself. I envisioned him or her as some nameless, unlikely character who darted in orthogonally, saw a link to some odd phenomenon unheard-of to him or her, and then careened off at a new angle, having made that novelty part of his life. They didn’t have to read the byline, or admire the writer’s literary skill, or pony up any money for enlightenment or entertainment. Maybe they would discover some small yet glimmering birthday-candle to set their life alight.

(2) ANTICLICK BAIT, BUT DON’T BLAME THE PARK SERVICE. Does Gizmodo think putting the President’s name in this headline generates more clicks? If so, they’re wrong . I only looked because Daniel Dern recommended the link. “These Social Distancing Posters Are the Best Thing the Trump Administration Has Done for Parks”. Very clever stuff! Then I went to the National Park Service’s Twitter feed and found the source art.

The posters have an important mission: promote social distancing in parks during the covid-19 pandemic, reduce the spread of disease in parks, and promote virtual opportunities and experiences at parks. To be fair, the posters have been around for a few weeks now, but these gems clearly haven’t received the attention they deserve….

And that’s not the only clever thing with a genre twist that they’ve posted. Another is:

(3) RESOURCES FOR THE SUMMER SCARES PROGRAM. The Summer Scares 2020 reading list has been augmented by an array of videos:

A playlist of videos about the Summer Scares program, including resources for libraries to use to promote horror at their own libraries. Summer Scares is brought to you by the Horror Writers Association, Book Riot, Library Journal/School Library Journal, and United for Libraries.

Here’s the one from Stephen Graham Jones:

(4) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. SF Geeks go where only two men have gone before: “Thirty-six Thousand Feet”, in The New Yorker.

…Most submarines go down several hundred metres, then across; this one was designed to sink like a stone. It was the shape of a bulging briefcase, with a protruding bulb at the bottom. This was the pressure hull—a titanium sphere, five feet in diameter, which was sealed off from the rest of the submersible and housed the pilot and all his controls. Under the passenger seat was a tuna-fish sandwich, the pilot’s lunch. He gazed out of one of the viewports, into the blue. It would take nearly four hours to reach the bottom.

…The submarine touched the silty bottom, and the pilot, a fifty-three-year-old Texan named Victor Vescovo, became the first living creature with blood and bones to reach the deepest point in the Tonga Trench. He was piloting the only submersible that can bring a human to that depth: his own.

For the next hour, he explored the featureless beige sediment, and tried to find and collect a rock sample. Then the lights flickered, and an alarm went off. Vescovo checked his systems—there was a catastrophic failure in battery one. Water had seeped into the electronics, bringing about a less welcome superlative: the deepest-ever artificial explosion was taking place a few feet from his head.

If there were oxygen at that depth, there could have been a raging fire. Instead, a battery junction box melted, burning a hole through its external shell without ever showing a flame. Any instinct to panic was suppressed by the impossibility of rescue. Vescovo would have to come up on his own.

(5) MCWHORTER OBIT. Noted Burroughs collector George McWhorter (1931-2020), whose work in the sff field came after a long and fruitful career in music, died April 25. Legacy has details of both careers, as well as his family history.

…George’s most celebrated collection is the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection, which he developed as a tribute to his mother Nell Dismukes McWhorter, who taught him to read when he was just five years old. “She tried everything,” George recalls, “Dickens, Dumas… but when she got to Burroughs, I was hooked!” The largest institutional collection of Burroughs in the world, this vast and comprehensive collection of rare editions, toys, posters, games, photographs, and film has attracted scholars and fans to the University of Louisville for more than thirty years.

In 1986 George was named Curator of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection, a fitting title for a man who has furthered scholarship, preserved unique treasures, and brought worldwide attention to Burroughs. Looking toward the future, George has established an endowment to provide continuous support for the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection. In 2008, he designated a bequest for an endowed chair and curatorship. He also has been working with Burroughs Bibliophiles on their own gifts and bequests.


  • May 17, 1987 The Return Of The Six Million Dollar Man And The Bionic Woman first aired. The series were loosely based off on Cyborg by Martin Caidin and The Bionic Woman by Kenneth Johnson. Michael Sloan wrote the screenplay which was based on the story he and Bruce Lansbury wrote. Lee Majors co-stars here with Lindsay Wagner. Martin Landau, Lee Major II  and Gary Lockwood guest star. It was the fourth highest rate show of genre week, and holds a 82% approval rating among the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 17, 1913 Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and  The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter duties are as he did work on The Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Lost, Battle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, do warrant his being noted here. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson.  Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps).  Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him.  Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation; compiled An Index of the Works of Various Fantasy Authors 1947-1948 and An Index of Various Fantasy Publications 1947-1948.  Member of First Fandom.  Big Heart, Lamont, Phoenix awards.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill.  Lieutenant in U.S. Army; two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Atlantic Monthly “first” prize, O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature; Fulbright, Guggenheim fellowships; Rockefeller grant; Professor of English, Brown University.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1926 – Ludvík Soucek.  Probably still the best-known Czech SF author.  Wrote also about puppet theater, photography, book printing.  A dozen books, as many collections.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1946 – F. Paul Wilson.  Sold to Analog while still in medical school, now an osteopath.  Medical thrillers, interactive scripts e.g. FTL Newsfeed.  Urban mercenary Repairman Jack first appeared in N.Y. Times best-seller The Tomb.  Three Prometheus Awards, including the first (1979), most recently Lifetime Achievement (2015).  Fifty novels in our field, sixty shorter stories, letters & reviews in JanusSF ReviewN.Y. Review of SF.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell.  Professor at Hollins University.  Historical and other fiction for adults, young adults, children, under her own name and pseudonyms.  Among us, novels about deer dancers (Daughter of the Sky, two more), goddesses (Persephone, Aphrodite, Athena), horse catchers (When the Horses Came, two more); six others; What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 66. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work ofFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim.  Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark.  Twenty covers and interiors for Phantasy DigestDark FantasyBorealis.  Harvey Award; Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  [JH]


(9) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR YOUR HVP. Cora Buhlert, 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, has put her Hugo Voter Packet online as well. Here is a link where you can download it in the e-book format of your choice here.

(10) MORE LAUGHS. NPR takes notes as “Greg Daniels Moves His Comedic Spotlight To Absurdity In The Afterlife”.

For more than 30 years, Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer Greg Daniels has spun comedy from the threads of ordinary life, turning its frustrations and awkward moments into such hit shows as The Office, Parks And Recreation, and King of the Hill.

Now he’s reflecting on these notions again in Upload, a futuristic comedy on Amazon Prime — but this time they play out in the afterlife too. He’s also behind the upcoming Netflix satire Space Force, launching May 29, starring Steve Carell.

Greg Daniels’ humor has all the makings of the British comedies he reveres, including Fawlty Towers and the original, British version of The Office.

“There’s something wonderful about the awkwardness of it and their kind of enjoyment of a pathetic situation that always appealed to me,” Daniels says.

…The problems in Daniels’ upcoming Netflix show Space Force include a military leader who doesn’t listen to the scientists around him. His new sci-fi comedy Upload explores the inequalities — and inhumanity — that emerges as advanced, expensive, digital technologies hit the market.

“These technologies are introduced and they all seem great. And then, you know, the law of unintended consequences kicks in and they are kind of flawed or sometimes outright evil when they’re actually executed,” Daniels says.

In Upload, only the wealthy get to experience an idyllic afterlife in the expensive, leafy resort called “Lakeview.” Even the commercial for Lakeview feels eerily familiar.

(11) LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. Disney Parks posted a video flashback to Halloween 2019: “Jack Skellington reigns at Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular!”

Because we are halfway to Halloween, we are traveling back in time to last fall when Magic Kingdom Park was in the skeletal hands of the Pumpkin King. Join him in front of Cinderella Castle for a frightfully mischievous night of fireworks and creeps during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

(12) HER REAL CHILDREN. NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviews author Curtis Sittenfield: “Hillary Without Bill? ‘Rodham’ Imagines What Could Have Been”.

A young Hillary Rodham, madly in love with the man she met at Yale Law School, abandons her own path and heads to Arkansas. Slowly she starts to uncover Bill Clinton’s many infidelities and makes a choice.

What would have happened if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton?

“So in real life, Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary Rodham twice and she said no. Both times. And then he proposed a third time and she said yes,” says author Curtis Sittenfeld. “And in my version, she says no. The third time, too. And she goes her own way.” Sittenfeld’s new book Rodham follows Hillary as she goes on to become a law professor, and then a politician.

Interview Highlights

On wanting to write speculative fiction about someone who’s been written about so much already

Well, doesn’t everyone? Isn’t it a totally natural impulse? So actually, it’s funny because I agree with you that so much has been written about Hillary. And it was sort of in reaction to that that I think I wrote this book. So in the lead-up to the 2016 election, I was invited to write essays about Hillary, and I would decline because I felt like every possible thing there was to say about Hillary had been said. She had been analyzed from every angle.

And then an editor at Esquire magazine invited me to write a short story from Hillary’s perspective. And I accepted, and writing that story was this kind of strange exercise where I realized that the question was not, what do the American people think of Hillary Clinton, but what does Hillary Clinton think of the American people? And it turned out that that I had 400 pages worth of thoughts to say on that. So it was actually trying to sort of flip the narrative, and instead of making her the one who’s scrutinized, like giving her a voice — which, of course, is a totally fictionalized voice, like she did not write this book. I wrote this book.

(13) HE’S A CRITIC. [Item by Daniel Dern.] And I’ll say it in case nobody else will (although I’m sure they will), “This robot really sucks.” “An R2-D2 Robot Vacuum Is Exactly the Chore Droid I’m Looking For”. Be sure to watch the video!

(14) THEY’RE CRITICS TOO. “Coronavirus: Author Neil Gaiman’s 11,000-mile lockdown trip to Scottish isle” – BBC says a local politician is outraged.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who is the MP for the island, told the Sunday Times the author’s journey was unacceptable.

He said: “What is it about people, when they know we are in the middle of lockdown that they think they can come here from the other side of the planet, in turn endangering local people from exposure to this infection that they could have picked up at any step of the way?”

Mr Gaiman – whose main family home is in Woodstock in the USA – has owned the house on Skye for more than 10 years.

(15) THE MASTER SPACE. The Iron Sky “Dictator’s Cut” is online.

(16) BACK TO THE FUTURE REUNION. Josh Gad’s stay-at-home show Reunited Apart summons Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson and even Huey Lewis to reminisce about the 1985 movie.

Great Scott! Things get heavy during Episode Two of “Reunited Apart” as Josh is joined by the creative geniuses behind the Back to the Future trilogy.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Something sure to please that little bit of pyromania in everyone.

Match Chain Reaction – Space Rocket built with Matches TAKES OFF 1 Million matches is a lot of matches, which means lighting them all together is a lot of fire. The way it burns is crazy to watch. It took me a lot of hard work and time to make this rocket.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Dennis Howard, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, IanP, JeffWarner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day the cryptic Daniel Dern.]

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36 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/17/20 Quit Airing Those Gripping Hands Through The Zoom

  1. Excellent title Daniel (I tried to come up with one based on that story but it wasn’t nearly as good).

    (7) I think I’ve read all of Wilson’s LaNague novels.

  2. @17: I heard about “basement bombers” when I was doing model rocketry, but this seems more like a basement fizzler — it barely rises its own height. I wonder who was willing to supply a million matches — is a shipper willing to carry a third or so of a pallet-load in one lump?

  3. @Chip
    I was surprised it got off the ground at all before it went completely up in flames. It must have been fairly heavy, with all the cardboard, glue, and wood.

  4. 7) My saddest memory of Cerebus isn’t the sudden turn to full-on MRA misogyny (as opposed to the milder regular kind of its better days) so much the discovery that some of my friends were willing to defend it. Still, it was an important learning experience, and Dave Sim’s panel composition was undeniably masterful.

  5. Wouldn’t Karel Capek be the best-known Czech SF author by far?

  6. @Lis —

    I visit the vampires today.

    Don’t forget your garlic and crucifix!

  7. Michael J. Lowrey says (Your page doesn’t seem to recognize my C-with-a-hachek.)

    Its not Mike’s site, it’s WordPress which is so quirky that no one really understands how it works. Or more more frequently doesn’t work.

  8. (4) The article says that Vescovo named his submarine and his support vessel after spaceships in Banks’ Culture novels.

  9. @14: I’m not going to argue that the travel was justified — but ISTM there’s a degree of irony(?) in a politician from one of the worst-hit nations complaining about somebody coming in from a country that seems to have dealt quite effectively with the novel coronavirus.

  10. @Andrew,
    Thanks for the kind words. It took a few mental iterations to get there – the “zooming” burbled up from my audio hindbrain during an NPR segment involving online stuff, the, ahem, legwork was upping the ante by working the Niven/Pournelle reference in.

    I also, although OGH doesn’t require us to show the original reference, re-checked who the author of the story I was thinking of was, because I always start by thinking “Jack Williamson,” after a quick mental discard of Sturgeon for the whicky-whicky-whicky in, IIRC, The Man Who Lost The Sea, only to discover that I do but don’t know Jack, since the answer is, Jack Finney.

  11. Daniel Dern: although OGH doesn’t require us to show the original reference,

    True, it just has to be a phrase that catches my attention for some reason. I was glad you included the reference for this one since I didn’t know it.

  12. Your page doesn’t seem to recognize my C-with-a-hachek

    WordPress doesn’t recognise certain diacritic marks that are common in several East European languages. It’s a well known annoyance and the only way around it is using html character entities.

  13. Cora Buhlert: It’s a well known annoyance and the only way around it is using html character entities.

    If you are able to explain how to make unsupported characters work in WordPress with HTML code I’d be happy to adopt that practice. John Hertz recommends that to me every time the subject comes up. The results of my own experiments with inserting HTML coded characters have been that they look OK in the preview panel, but upon publication WordPress still converts them to question marks.

  14. 21/24 on the Tolkien or antidepressant quiz! Not too shabby. It helps that I have a) read the whole of The Lord of the Rings aloud and b) been prescribed some of the antidepressants.

  15. 19/24 here. The more common error was saying Tolkien for drug, but at least one in the other direction.

    I’ve had success in the past getting character entities to work. Let’s try this: Čapek, αβγδ

  16. I’ve found that there are special html encoded characters which work in main posts here, and other special characters which work in comments. There is an intersection of the two sets, but it’s not identical. Strangely, the comments seem to accept a wider range of special characters than the posts do. But there are some characters which don’t work in either place.

  17. @Chip

    In order to reach Skye he had to drive most of the length of the UK at a time when we’re still being advised not to make unnecessary journeys. And at a time when an outbreak at a care home on the island has killed 10 residents, the whole rich retreating to their holiday homes perception didn’t help either.

    The Police have had a word apparently and he has apologised and admitted he would have been better staying in NZ. https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-52721717

  18. He also posted a blog entry about it: An Extremely Apologetic Post
    To hear him tell it, he basically panicked.

    I do feel that there are things he’s not saying here, most notably why he left his wife and son behind.

  19. Yes, WordPress seems to be a mystery at times, when it comes to displaying characters. It’s not even consistent! Only a couple of years ago, I was able to type in accented and non-latin characters here, with no problem. Now I have to use html entities. (They do seem to work in the comments, at least.) It’s very annoying, and shouldn’t be this much of a struggle, for Mike or for me! This is, or should be, pretty basic stuff. And the fact that they’re regressing–it used to work–makes it all doubly annoying!

    I know WordPress is generally a good system, but sometimes I think it would be nice if they had some decent competition, to maybe prod them into getting their crap together.

  20. @David Goldfarb: so dish! What did you do to make those characters appear?

    And it’s good to see that Gaiman owned up to his mistake, after the number of people who’ve been behaving badly and then doubling down on the bad behavior.

  21. @Chip Hitchcock: by looking up and plugging in HTML-ified Unicode code points: &amp:#2384; -> ॐ

  22. Correcting myself: &#(code point);. I was so pleased I got the om symbol right that I neglected the rest of the preview.

  23. OK, I’m missing something: ‘ampersand’ ‘splat’ “0192” previews OK (leaving off spaces and quote marks, and using actual characters in place of what’s in single-quotes) but as a comment appears just as entered. @Patrick: is that what you did? (There have been indications that this is browser- or platform- dependent.)

  24. Ampersand, hash, code point in decimal, then semicolon. Won’t work without the semicolon. Leading zero probably not needed (this not being hexadecimal, plus Unicode not stopping at 0xFFFF any more), and I can’t swear some weird software won’t Do The Wrong Thing when it sees one.

    (Why can’t I spell ‘zero’ today?)

  25. À
    Ok, that works — dim of me to miss the semicolon in both your posts. Also fascinating that the preview shows the character even when not described properly, when it doesn’t show any other markings (face, block settings, …) except links. Well, enough people have remarked on WordPress’s peculiarities that I shouldn’t be surprised.

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