Pixel Scroll 6/26/22 You Read 16 Scrolls, What Do You Get?

(1) SURVIVAL THROUGH STORIES. John Wiswell’s Locus Award acceptance speech is well worth a moment to read: “’That Story Isn’t The Story’ wins the Locus Award for Best Novelette! Plus, my acceptance speech.” at Patreon.

…“That Story Isn’t The Story” is about growing while our trauma lives on inside of us, and while the sources of our trauma continue to live on around us, and often pursue us and belittle us. It’s about surviving by controlling our own stories, and the breath of life that comes from someone believing in you.

I’m certainly sitting here in part because of such believers….

(2) NOT SOMETHING SHE CONSIDERED A PREDICTION. In “Margaret Atwood: The Court Is Making Gilead Real “ the author comments on the draft decision of the ruling that was released this week.

…In the early years of the 1980s, I was fooling around with a novel that explored a future in which the United States had become disunited. Part of it had turned into a theocratic dictatorship based on 17th-century New England Puritan religious tenets and jurisprudence. I set this novel in and around Harvard University—an institution that in the 1980s was renowned for its liberalism, but that had begun three centuries earlier chiefly as a training college for Puritan clergy.

In the fictional theocracy of Gilead, women had very few rights, as in 17th-century New England. The Bible was cherry-picked, with the cherries being interpreted literally. Based on the reproductive arrangements in Genesis—specifically, those of the family of Jacob—the wives of high-ranking patriarchs could have female slaves, or “handmaids,” and those wives could tell their husbands to have children by the handmaids and then claim the children as theirs.

Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid’s Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?

For instance: It is now the middle of 2022, and we have just been shown a leaked opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States that would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not “deeply rooted” in our “history and tradition.” True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all….

(3) STAKING A CLAIM. Emily Temple offers “A Close Reading of the Best Opening Paragraph of All Time” at Literary Hub. Surprise: it isn’t the first paragraph of Pride and Prejudice.

One hundred and one years ago today, Shirley Jackson was born. During her lifetime, she wrote “The Lottery,” and The Haunting of Hill House, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, the latter of which features what I consider to be the best first paragraph of all time, or at least of any novel that I have ever read. Here it is:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.”

It almost seems like overkill to explain why this paragraph is so wonderful…. 

(4) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. Here’s Rich Horton’s latest look at potential Hugo winners and nominees from the 1950s — this time, stories published in 1952 (first eligibility year of the Hugos): “Hugo Nomination Recommendations, 1953” from Strange at Ectbatan.

Continuing my project of suggesting potential Hugo nominees (and winners) for the early years of the Hugo — basically, pre-1958. Here’s a look at 1952. This is the year covered by the very first Hugos, from the 11th Worldcon, Philcon II, in Philadelphia, in September 1953. The only Fiction Hugo actually awarded went to Alfred Bester’s novel The Demolished Man. Apparently there were plans to name a Short Fiction winner, but there were insufficient votes….

(5) FANZINES ARCHIVED AT HARVARD. The article doesn’t have that much to say, but that it appears in Harvard Magazine might interest you: “The Geeky Underground”.

BEFORE HE WAS the acclaimed author of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury was just another teenage boy with a science-fiction zine. Pronounced “zeen,” these self-published, often-low-budget magazines are staples in subcultures and underground movements—including punk-rock devotees, palindrome-writers, and the riot grrrl feminists of the 1990s—but the medium first got its start in the 1930s, in the bedrooms and basements of devout sci-fi fans. Their zines, which helped launch genre legends like Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein, were handmade, wacky, and delightful. A single issue might house a hand-drawn comic titled “The Return of the Space Boggle,” a poem about a ghost with dry skin, and an epistle from a teenaged sci-fi author on “the various problems connected with space travel that make it difficult to write up sex properly.”…

(6) SFF NONFICTION. Cora Buhlert’s new Non-Fiction Spotlight introduces us to By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga by Erica Friedman: “Non-Fiction Spotlight: By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga by Erica Friedman”.

Some people claim that the reason that SFF-related non-fiction books have increasingly been crowded out of the Best Related Work category at the Hugos is that there are not enough non-fiction books published every year to fill the Hugo ballot. This is wrong, since there is a wide spectrum of non-fiction books covering every SFF-related subject imaginable released every year. Today’s featured non-fiction book proves how wide that spectrum truly is, because it is a book about the history of lesbian relationships as portrayed in manga and anime.

Therefore I’m thrilled to welcome Erica Friedman, author of By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga to my blog today.

Tell us about your book.

My book is By Your Side: The First 100 Years of Yuri Anime and Manga.

Lesbian-themed animation and comics (and related media), known as “Yuri,” is the newest genre of Japanese pop culture. Even though it’s only been acknowledged as a separate genre for a little over a decade, Yuri has a literary and artistic history that can be traced back to the early 20th century. My book is a series of interlocking lectures and essays that trace that history and bring the story of Yuri to the present. I cover key series and creators, as well as the efforts by creators and fans to carve out a space for ourselves in the larger Japanese pop culture fandom.

(7) CROMCAST PODCAST COVERAGE OF HOWARD DAYS. The good folks of The Cromcast have posted yet more recordings of the 2022 Robert E. Howard Days.

This recording from Friday, June 10th includes academic papers delivered by Drs. Dierk Guenther, Gabriel Mamola, and James McGlothlin. The panel is moderated by Dr. Jason Ray Carney.

This recording is from Friday, June 10th, and is from the Robert E. Howard Celebration Banquet. The guest of honor is Fred Malmberg, who shares comments and stories about his years in the gaming industry, as well as the influence of Robert E Howard on the history of gaming. The guest of honor is introduced by Rusty Burke.

For this recording, Josh and Luke are joined by various attendees for afterhours conversations on Friday, June 10th.

(8) BEYOND GAME OF THRONES. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Guardian has a very extensive interview with Emilia Clarke, which is easy to miss, because it was posted in the theatre section rather than the film or TV sections: “Emilia Clarke: ‘The best place in the world is backstage at a theatre’”.

…The actor is no stranger to the divisive power of art – on which more later – but the spare and lean production marks a pronounced change from the jobs she has done since being catapulted into superstardom by Game of Thrones in 2011. Following the phenomenally successful HBO series, in which she portrayed Daenerys Targaryen, Clarke has starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys, played Han Solo’s love interest in Solo: A Star Wars Story and dressed as an elf in Paul Feig’s Emma Thompson-scripted romcom Last Christmas. She has won a Bafta Britannia award and been nominated for numerous Emmy, Screen Actors Guild and Critics’ Choice awards; in 2019, she was one of Time’s 100 most influential people….

(9) WOULD THAT BE A TOTAL OF SIX BODIES? Two adaptations of The Three Body Problem are moving forward.

“The Three-Body Problem: New Chinese Trailer, Key Art Poster Released”. Bleeding Cool covers new publicity for the Chinese adapation – see the poster at the link.

The Three-Body Problem by Chinese author Liu Cixin is the Science Fiction trilogy that’s made the biggest splash in the 21st Century, and a TV series adaptation is highly anticipated by fans. Just this week, Chinese studio Tencent released a poster and the second trailer for the Chinese TV adaptation.

…The first trailer for the Chinese version of The Three-Body Problem was released back in November 2021. So far, no premiere date for the series has been announced. Reports on Chinese social media suggest that the series is currently being re-edited to get approval from government censors before a release date can be determined. That means the whole series has been shot….

In the U.S., The Hollywood Reporter named new members of the cast: “Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’ Casts Another ‘Game of Thrones’ Alum”.

The drama series adapted from Liu Cixin’s Hugo Award-winning trilogy has added four more actors to its sprawling ensemble, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Jonathan Pryce (The Crown), Rosalind Chao (Better Things), Ben Schnetzer (Y: The Last Man) and Eve Ridley (Peppa Pig) have joined the show….

(10) THIS FILM HAS NO DICK. Den of Geek’s Ryan Britt and the headline writer did not have a meeting of the minds about his post “Blade Runner Became a Sci-fi Classic by Being a Terrible Philip K. Dick Adaptation”.

The title of the 1982 film Blade Runner is taken directly from a book. Well, from two books: the 1979 novella Blade Runner (a movieby William S. Burroughs, which, in turn, was based on the 1974 novel The Bladerunner by Alan E. Nourse. Both of those books are science fiction stories set in the near future, but have nothing to do with escaped androids. Instead, the movie’s plot is based on the 1968 novel by Philip K. Dick called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It’s tempting to say that Ridley Scott’s science fiction masterpiece took the name Blade Runner and slapped it on a Philip K. Dick story, but the truth is, Blade Runner succeeds because it’s not really an adaptation of anything…. 

(11) MEMORY LANE

1963 [By Cat Eldridge.] So fifty-nine years ago on this evening, like peanut butter and chocolate two great monsters united when King Kong Vs. Godzilla premiered. Really would I kid you? (Well I would and you well know it, but that’s why for a different discussion, isn’t it?)

Not at all surprisingly, this Japanese kaiju film was directed by Ishirō Honda, with the special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. Nine years previously, Honda directed and co-wrote Godzilla of which Tsuburaya is considered the co-creator. 

The script was Shinichi Sekizawa, mostly known, again not surprisingly, for his work on the Godzilla films but he did some other genre work such as Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon and Jack and the Witch.  

It started out as a story outline written by King Kong stop motion animator Willis O’Brien in the early Sixties in which Kong battles a giant Frankenstein Monster. The idea was given to the Tojo film company without his permission and they decided Godzilla would be a bigger draw. 

An individual by the name of Merian C. Cooper filed a lawsuit against the film showing here claiming he had exclusive right to the King Kong character in the United States, a claim that the film distributor quickly refuted as it turned out many individuals did.

It had already been the single most popular Godzilla film in Japan before it showed here and remains so to date. It made nearly three million here, not bad considering its tiny budget of four hundred thousand— two men in suits don’t cost much, do they? — so the film made twenty times that in its first run. Monsters rock! 

The Hollywood Reporter liked it: “A funny monster picture? That’s what Universal has in “King Kong Versus Godzilla.” Though the New York Times noted “The one real surprise of this cheap reprise of earlier Hollywood and Japanese horror films is the ineptitude of its fakery. When the pair of prehistoric monsters finally get together for their battle royal, the effect is nothing more than a couple of dressed-up stuntmen throwing cardboard rocks at each other.”

Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a so-so rating of fifty six percent.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 26, 1904 — Peter Lorre. I think his first foray into genre was in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea film as Comm. Lucius Emery though he was in an Americanized version of Casino Royale as Le Chiffre which was an early Fifties episode of the Climax! series. (James Bond was called Jimmy. Ooh the horror!) Other genre roles were in Tales of Terror as Montresor in “The Black Cat” story, The Raven as Dr. Adolphus Bedlo and The Comedy of Terrors as Felix Grille. (Died 1964.)
  • Born June 26, 1910 — Elsie Wollheim. She was one of the original Futurians of New York, and assisted them in their publishing efforts, and even published Highpoints, her own one-off fanzine. She married Donald A. Wollheim in 1943. When he started DAW Books in 1972, she was the co-founder, and inherited the company when he died. Their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) now runs the company along with co-publisher and Sheila E. Gilbert. (Died 1996.)
  • Born June 26, 1950 — Tom DeFalco, 72. Comic book writer and editor, mainly known for his work at Marvel Comics and in particular on the Spider-Man line. He designed the Spider-Girl character which was his last work at Marvel as he thought he was being typecast as just a Spider-Man line writer. He’s since been working at DC and Archie Comics.
  • Born June 26, 1965 — Daryl Gregory, 57. He won a Crawford Award for his Pandemonium novel. And his novella We Are All Completely Fine won the World Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award. It was also a finalist for the Sturgeon Award. I’m also fond of his writing on the Planet of The Apes series that IDW published.
  • Born June 26, 1969 — Lev Grossman, 53. Most noted as the author of The Magicians trilogy — The MagiciansThe Magician King and The Magician’s Land. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. He wrote the screenplay for The Map of Tiny Perfect Things film which was based off his short story of that name. I hear his Magicians trilogy has been made into a series — who’s seen it? 
  • Born June 26, 1969 — Austin Grossman, 53. Twin brother of Lev. And no, he’s not here just because he’s Lev’s twin brother. He’s the author of Soon I Will Be Invincible which is decidedly SF as well as You: A Novel (also called YOU) which was heavily influenced for better or worse by TRON and Crooked, a novel involving the supernatural and Nixon. He’s also a video games designer, some of which such as Clive Barker’s Undying and Tomb Raider: Legend are definitely genre. 
  • Born June 26, 1980 — Jason Schwartzman, 42. He first shows up in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Gag Halfrunt,  Zaphod Beeblebrox’s personal brain care specialist. (Uncredited initially.) He was Ritchie in Bewitched, and voiced Simon Lee in Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation. He co-wrote Isle of Dogs alongwith Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Kunichi Nomura. I think his best work was voicing Ash Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox. 
  • Born June 26, 1984 — Aubrey Plaza, 38. April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation which at least one Filer has insisted is genre. She voiced Eska in recurring role on The Legend of Korra which is a sequel to Avatar: The Last Airbender. She was in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as Julie Powers. And she was Lenny Busker on Legion.  

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe today is about a cat, so of course it belongs in the Scroll.
  • Funky Winkerbean is about vows from a sacred text – of sorts.

(14) BELLE REVISIONED. “For the Most Complex Heroines in Animation, Look to Japan” says the New York Times.

At a time of widespread debate over the depiction of women in film, the top Japanese animators have long been creating heroines who are more layered and complex than many of their American counterparts. They have faults and weaknesses and tempers as well as strengths and talents. They’re not properties or franchises; they’re characters the filmmakers believe in.

… Because Japanese animated features are made by smaller crews and on smaller budgets than those of major American films, directors can present more personal visions. American studios employ story crews; Hosoda, Hayao Miyazaki, Makoto Shinkai and other auteurs storyboard entire films themselves. Their work isn’t subjected to a gantlet of test audiences, executive approvals or advisory committees….

(15) BOTTOM OF THE BARREL. Slashfilm curates the worst times to come:  “Dystopian Sci-Fi Movie Worlds Ranked By How Horrible They’d Be To Live In”.

We love dystopias. There’s something shuddery and intriguing about exploring a world that’s a lot like ours, but there’s something wrong with it. We fall to the allure of it. Sure, this brave new world is terrible, but how cool would it be to survive? Maybe even become a hero? And for many of our favorite dystopian stories, survivability feels possible — at least for a while. These scenarios borrow from today and hold warnings about what tomorrow could be unless we act. We feel prepared by watching them. We feel, for a little while, empowered.

… These stories are about people’s extraordinary efforts to thrive, and sometimes they fail. Let’s explore some of our favorite dystopias and imagine what it would be like to try and live in them.

5. Snowpiercer

Stylistically similar to Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” “Snowpiercer,” directed by Bong Joon-ho, is an adaptation of a French comic that foretells a world of few survivors on a frozen Earth. Society is packed into trains that run ceaselessly across the world. Classism allows the elite to feast on the plight of the poor. If you were trapped in a world like this one, imagine the smell. Even in the forward cars, people smell in closed quarters. Water is at a premium. The stink of the train’s oils and electricity will always be in the air.

As in “Elysium,” there’s a chance you might find yourself among the privileged, but it’s far likelier you’ll be in the cattle cars. Sure, there’s a guy that looks like Chris Evans, but your fate could be as simple as winding up an awful-tasting protein bar for your friends to eat. It’s life, of a sort, but it’s not desirable. The end of the film suggests that the world beyond the train is healing, and someone with a gift for survivalism and the right gear to keep warm might make it — but to do what? It’s going to be decades of hard living and starvation before the first villages thrive.

(16) UP AGAINST THE WALL-E. Proving that sf has plenty of painful futures to go around, this Inverse article is about one film that didn’t even make Slashfilm’s list: “The best post-apocalypse movie of the century reveals a dark debate over humanity’s future”.

… Released by Pixar in 2008, Wall-E was ahead of its time on AI sentienceautomation of the workforce, and interstellar travel. But perhaps the movie’s most timely theme is its complicated environmental message.

While the climate crisis isn’t overtly mentioned, it’s probably safe to assume it had a role in turning our planet teeming with life into a barren wasteland devoid of sentient life — save for the garbage-collecting robot known as “Wall-E.” And in the years since, this kind of lifeless apocalyptic setting has become far more common in Hollywood sci-fi movies, reflecting the growing trend of “climate doom” in real life.

But what is “climate doom” and are we really doomed to the future seen in the movie. Or can climate optimism win out and save our planet before we turn it into a gloomy garbage heap a la Wall-E?…

(17) SPLAT. NASA spotted a couple new holes in the Moon, and they know what made them, but not who: “Rocket Impact Site on Moon Seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter”. Photo at the link.

Astronomers discovered a rocket body heading toward a lunar collision late last year. Impact occurred March 4, with NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter later spotting the resulting crater. Surprisingly the crater is actually two craters, an eastern crater (18-meter diameter, about 19.5 yards) superimposed on a western crater (16-meter diameter, about 17.5 yards).

The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end. Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank. Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may indicate its identity.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, Michael J. Walsh, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cora Buhlert.]

15 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/26/22 You Read 16 Scrolls, What Do You Get?

  1. First!

    That first paragraph by Jackson is interesting but the entire idea of the best first paragraph is like trying to pick the best ice cream flavor — you simply cannot do it as it is absolutely subjective.

  2. @12 — Daryl Gregory has written a ton of wonderful stories, but I’d plump most for his 2017 novel SPOONBENDERS, which was shortlisted for both the World Fantasy and Nebula awards for Best Novel.

  3. Meredith Moment: Nancy Springer’s Sea King Trilogy: Madbond, Mindbond, and Godbond is $2.99 at the usual suspects, and American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1960-1966 is $1.99. The latter contains The High Crusade, Way Station, Flowers for Algernon, and what may or may not be the author’s preferred text for And Call Me Conrad

    (1) I was not much impressed by The Handmaid’s Tale when it came out, mainly because I was annoyed that Atwood thought she wasn’t writing SF, and because I thought Kate Wilhelm did it all much better and at shorter length in “The Funeral”, but also because I thought the premise was too unrealistic and backward-looking to be interesting. Alas.

    (3) The main criterion Ms. Temple outlines, how well does the opening paragraph encapsulate the rest of the book, seems anything but subjective to me.

    (10) I’m sorry to hear that android isn’t a cool name. Too bad nobody told poor Mr. Lucas about that. But Ryan Britt nails the main difference: the androids aren’t anyone you want to feel sorry for. Rachel cuts the legs off a spider because she’s bored, and it’s there, and why not? And the earth is either nearly deserted or else heavily overpopulated, because it’s almost the same thing. In many ways the movie is almost a photographic negative of the book.

  4. 12) Before he was in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Peter Lorre was in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. And before that (in 1935), he was in Mad Love, which IMDB describes thusly:

    In Paris, a demented surgeon’s obsession with a British actress leads him to secretly replace her concert pianist husband’s mangled hands with those of a guillotined murderer with a gift for knife-throwing.

    And the poster proclaims: SUITABLE FOR ADULTS ONLY

    I think that’s his earliest genre credit, although there are also some I believe German films that don’t have any plot summaries or anything, so I’m not sure if they have any genre elements.

  5. (12) Aubrey Plaza’s first movie was Safety Not Guaranteed, which depending on how you view the ending, either is or isn’t genre. If it isn’t, it’s certainly close, as it deals with a man inventing a machine to travel in time.

  6. Given that Humanity gets off of the planet in Wall-E, that might be considered an optimistic scenario…

    I also recall a 80’s Twilight Zone episode where diaspora humans come back to a ruined Earth, and ghosts of their ancestors are involved.

  7. @Todd: You beat me to the reference to Safety Not Guaranteed – a great little film.

  8. In honor of the documentary I saw yesterday about “Company”:

    “Don’t tell Paul that he’s not being Muad’Dib, today!”

  9. 3) Great article. I do disagree with the bit where the author tries to figure out which “Richard Plantagenet” is the one Merricat says she likes, and concludes,

    “She could be referring to a number of people, including Richard the Lionheart, but she probably means the third Duke of York, whose claim to the throne (then-occupied by a weak and mentally ill Henry VI) was a primary cause of the Wars of the Roses. In 1460, the English Parliament compromised and declared that Richard would succeed to the throne after Henry VI’s death, but he was killed in battle by the Lancaster forces, and his son wound up becoming king instead.”

    Myself, I happen to think that the “Richard Plantagenet” Merricat likes best is Richard III, for…reasons.

  10. (3) Cat is right about the subjectivity of “best paragraph” rankings. However . . .

    “The Haunting of Hill House” clearly has a better first paragraph. For one thing, when reading from “We Have Always Lived in the Castle”, you get to the line “I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise”, and you hit a mental speed bump — does Merricat dislike washing dogs? — that the comma does too little to prevent, and that isn’t resolved until you get to “noise”. You cannot wash noise, but you can dislike it; therefore, she dislikes dogs. Parallel structure works best when the structured items are indeed parallel. The paragraph would be better if that sentence had been recast.*

    “The Haunting of Hill House”, though, is as near perfect as prose gets.

    OTOH, Jackson was such an excellent stylist that she must have recognized what I’m calling a fault, and had reasons for doing it anyway. I’d love to ask her what she was up to, there.

  11. @bill
    I think Jackson may have been trying to convey Merricat is both younger mentally than her age, and also is disobliging in her communication to others; you are going to have to work to get clear information out of her, a tendency that continues throughout the novel to its end, when all is revealed.

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