Pixel Scroll 7/15/22 The Pixels Come From The Scrollwork Out

(1) VILLAINS DOING WORK. Max Gladstone on “The Villain, Considered as Safety Tool” in “Guard Rails Around the Bottomless Pit”.

…To ask what makes a good villain, we should first ask what a villain does, so that we can understand what it means to be good at it. To call, say, Darth Vader or Keyser Soze or Sauron a ‘good villain’ is not to make any claims about their absolute moral character. It’s a statement about how good they are at doing the thing they’re in the story to do….

(2) GO PHISH. The Guardian explains why “Alleged book thief Filippo Bernardini may avoid trial in the US”.

Filippo Bernardini, an Italian citizen who worked at UK publisher Simon & Schuster, was arrested in the US in January, with the FBI alleging he had “impersonated, defrauded, and attempted to defraud, hundreds of individuals” to obtain unpublished and draft works. The indictment said Bernardini had registered more than 160 fake internet domains to impersonate others since 2016.

Bernardini, who was charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, was due in court in early July. In June, however, the judge in his case, US district court judge Colleen McMahon, agreed to postpone the appearance so prosecutors could consider a deferred prosecution request, according to Publishers Marketplace.

A deferred prosecution agreement is usually used in fraud or financial crime cases. It consists of a deal where prosecution is conditionally suspended while the defendant fulfils the requirements of the agreement in a set period of time. It is supervised by a judge, and could consist of Bernardini having to pay fines or compensation, or enacting other measures. The judge adjourned the case until 10 September.

Bernardini had previously pleaded not guilty to both charges, reported the Bookseller.

Hundreds of manuscripts were stolen over a period of five years, with authors, agents, editors, scouts and even judges for the Booker prize among the victims of phishing scams. Manuscripts of highly anticipated novels by Margaret Atwood, Sally Rooney and actor Ethan Hawke were among those targeted….

(3) GAILEY HEARD FROM. The Fire the Canon podcast is “Talking to Author Sarah Gailey About Horror, Compulsory Girl Bossing, and Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery”.

Sarah Gailey, author of the upcoming book Just Like Home, joins us to talk about one of the most famous American short stories of all time: Shirley Jackson’s 1948 classic, The Lottery. Jackie reveals her long, sordid history with technology. Rachel reads a book review from an alternate reality. Theo discusses an affordable delicacy. Topics include: old houses, cottagecore, rollerblading accidents, park raters, trusting your editor, killing off Chuck, mom texts, Muppet Treasure Island, cicada pizza, and cricket flour.

(4) FILETING THE MINIONS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, John Gapper explains the success of the Minions franchise.

“There are said to be 48 variations of Minion, depending on their height and build, style of hair, and whether they possess one or two eyes, but they are essentially one big gang.  Although te plots require individuals to emerge from the pack–notably Kevin, Stuart and Bob i 2015’s MINIONS–there is power in their union.

They are also cheerful, Chris Melandri, series producer at Illumination studios, defines its purpose as ‘to make you feel good in a world where so many things don’t. The theme song of Despicable Me 2 was Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’: that’s the Minions’ selling point.”

(5) UNSTUCK LANDINGS. Only 10? I’d say this is a subject where the pickings are easy! “10 Great Sci-Fi Series With Terrible Endings” at CBR.com.

Series finales can either make or break a show. The science fiction genre, in particular, often weaves a tale of intrigue leading up to its finale episode. Because of this, an unsatisfying ending can make audiences feel as though the entire series has been ruined.

First on the list —

10 – Quantum Leap Audiences Wanted A Happier Ending

When the popular series Quantum Leap ended its run in 1993, audiences were accustomed to a more traditional happy ending. So, when the series ended with the main character, Sam, sacrificing his happy ending and leaping back to help a friend, only to never return, it wasn’t well-received.

A more modern audience might have been more accepting of the show’s sad end, but in 1993, it was too dark. It left audiences feeling as if they had followed the series for five seasons, only to be let down.

(6) MEMORY LANE.  

2007 [By Cat Eldridge.] Doctor Who’s “The Shakespeare Code”. My favorite Doctor by far of the modern Doctors was the one played by David Tennant. And I believe that he got some of the best stories as well. Originally titled “Love’s Labour’s Won”, the re-titling apparently is a reference to The Da Vinci Code. Or least the Wiki page for this thinks so. 

This was the beginning of the period in the series when Freema Agyeman  played companion Martha Jones. Need I say that she was my favorite of the modern companions?  Actually of all companions. 

SPOILERS HERE!

The story here is he takes Jones to 1599 arriving near the Globe Theatre where they meet Shakespeare. Shakespeare is being bewitched by three Carrionites who look like Witches to rewrite the ending to his play “Love’s Labour’s Won” so that the performance will create a code to free the rest of the Carrionite race from imprisonment. 

Jones will, as she does in her time in the TARDIS very often, save the day. How she does is something that I won’t spoil here as it’s a, ahem, meta moment that proves the universe of Doctor Who is our universe. A fascinating meta moment at that.

Martha even suggests that stepping on a butterfly might change the future of the human race, an idea that originates in Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” story.  

SPOILERS END HERE! 

Jones in her introduction here as a full-time companion is written well and more than holds her own against the Tenth Doctor. They have, and interviews later by both of them, individually and collectively, that they enjoyed working together. Even early on, he said of her that she “inhabited Martha Jones from day one without a hint of trepidation or nervousness. I found myself quite envious of her confidence. She is going to be brilliant.”

Most British critics liked it, but then they liked Tennant’s Doctor more than any other Doctor, and I’ll quote just one here, Scott Matthewman from The Stage: “It’s somehow appropriate that it’s David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor who becomes the first to meet William Shakespeare (at least on screen). More than any other, this incarnation of Doctor Who revels in wordplay, and in Gareth Roberts’ rollocking script he certainly meets his match.”

It’s one of my favorite episodes as it shows Shakespeare in a favorable light and the word play between him and the Doctor is quite delicious. Not to mention the introduction of Jones as a companion here handled quite well. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. The usual suspects have the Colossus  trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author with definite genre leanings. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group, has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war. Warning: do not watch the films based on his novels as they are truly wretched. (Died 2020.)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which consensus here is that I’ve been wise in not seeing. Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Please don’t ask.) As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1947 T. E. D. Klein, 75. Horror writer with two awards to his name, one a British Fantasy Award for The Ceremonies novel, another a World Fantasy Award for his “Nadelman’s God” novella. He was editor of the Twilight Zone Magazine in the mid Eighties and the Night Cry zine for several around that time.
  • Born July 15, 1961 Forest Whitaker, 61. His best known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and to I’ve somehow managed not to see any of it, Host of Twilight Zone.
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 59. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Her next genre roles were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… Oh well… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 55. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. His short stories are most excellent thus it’s most fitting his recent The Twisted Book of Shadows collection won a Shirley Jackson Award. 

(8) SUPERHERO GIRLFRIENDS ANONYMOUS. Ravynn K. Stringfield tells Catapult readers how “Black Women in Fantasy Saved Me Where Academia Failed”.

…I flipped through a few dozen issues of Marvel’s Jungle Action  comics featuring Black Panther, as well as several  Captain America and Fantastic Four titles at the comics archive at Virginia Commonwealth University. I read the issues as I scanned them and took quick notes on storylines and the fan letters readers sent in when I walked back to my table to grab another from the box.

The more I read, the more the lack of Black women and girls present in meaningful ways on the page bothered me. Though I had committed to a project on Black Panther as the focal point, searching for racial diversity in comics, the distinct lack of women characters triggered an alarm in my brain. So when I stumbled across a few issues that featured a new-to-me character, T’Challa’s Black American girlfriend, Monica Lynne, I kept her close to my periphery as I worked. At that moment, I could not commit to a project or a paper on her, but she distracted me.

Even as a side character, Monica demanded attention. Her speech often reflected 1970s Black American vernacular, and she wore her hair in a neat Afro, both of which gave Wakandans pause. Monica did not always like it in Wakanda, feeling ill at ease in the palace, where she was meant to be invisible, a background fixture while everything about her defied that.

There was something about Monica that refused to be relegated to the background, a quality I envied. I saw myself folding into someone smaller in graduate school. I increasingly lacked the energy to continually insist upon the validity of how I, and others like me, experienced, thought about, and wrote about the world. Though often depicted as out of place in Wakanda because of her speech and dress, Monica’s inability to blend was a lesson in stepping confidently into the world and changing for no one.

(9) HOW NOPE GOT A YEP. “Jordan Peele on why ‘Nope’ felt impossible 5 years ago” at SYFY Wire.

…Now, as he prepares to release his third film as director, Nope, Peele has realized that the movie he just made may have been impossible back in the days of Get Out. At least, it felt that way at the time.

“I think this idea of letting a Black director put his vision into a film and commit to it… let’s put it this way, five years ago, I didn’t think they’d ever let me do that,” Peele told TODAY in a new interview. “So much of my career before I became a director was marred with this internalized sense that I could never be allowed to do that, that no one would ever trust me with money — enough money to do my vision the way they’d trust other people. I felt that that was true.”…

(10) WHAT’S SAUCER FOR THE GOOSE. BBC Culture is inspired by the Nope trailer to recall “The UFO sightings that swept the US”.

It’s only there for a moment in the trailer for Jordan Peele’s new horror film, Nope, but it’s definitely there: a flying saucer. Judging by the twists and turns in Peele’s previous films, Get Out and Us, it’s impossible to say whether its real or fake, whether it’s from the Earth or from outer space, but that glimpse of sparkling silver is tantalising. Maybe, just maybe, Nope will be a proper flying-saucer movie – a celebration of one of the most recognisable and spine-tingling shapes in the history of popular culture.

“By the end of the 1950s,” says Andrew Shail, senior lecturer in film at Newcastle University, “that particular shape had become a shorthand for ‘spacecraft piloted by beings from another world’, available to everyone working in the visual arts.” Sure enough, flying saucers have signified mysterious visitors from Mars and beyond in countless films, TV series, novels, comics, and even hit records, from Mulder’s I Want To Believe poster in The X-Files TV series to the popular children’s picture book, Aliens Love Underpants. The flying saucer is a design classic – the archetypal Unidentified Flying Object. And yet it didn’t take off, so to speak, until the 1950s, when the world went flying-saucer crazy….

(11) A DIFFERENT PRINCESS DIARY. BBC Culture calls “Princess Mononoke: The masterpiece that flummoxed the US” – “Twenty-five years old this week, the film is Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s most complex work. But how it was mishandled in the West speaks of fundamental artistic differences, writes Stephen Kelly.”

In 1997, the British fantasy author Neil Gaiman received a call out of the blue from then-head of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein. “This animated film, Princess Mononoke,” Gaiman recalls him saying, “it’s the biggest thing in Japan right now. So I thought I’ve got to get the best to do it. I called Quentin Tarantino and said, ‘Quentin, will you do the English language script?’ And he said, you don’t want me, you want Gaiman. So, I’m calling you.” Miramax, a then-subsidiary of Disney, had acquired the rights to distribute Princess Mononoke, the newest film from Japanese animation studio Studio Ghibli, in the United States, and Weinstein wanted to fly Gaiman to Los Angeles to watch a cut of the movie….

(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Thor: Love And Thunder Pitch Meeting,” Ryan George, in a spoiler-packed episode, has the writer tell the producer, “Thor’s back–and he’s dumber than ever!”  Jane Foster may have Stage 4 cancer, but the writer says, “don’t worry–it will be hilarious all of the time!” adding that “we’re redlining the JPM”–that’s jokes per minute.  For example, in New Asgard  there’s Infinitz Conez, named after Thanos’s infinity gauntlet.  When the producer asks why someone would name an ice cream store after a device Thanos used to kill billions of people, the writer says, “Who doesn’t like ice cream?”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

18 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/15/22 The Pixels Come From The Scrollwork Out

  1. (5) I would add The 100 and The Man in the High Castle to that list. The ending of the former (and indeed its entire final season) was worse than the latter, but they were both stupid.

  2. 10) I absolutely hated the ending of Babylon 5. Detested it with all my soul. On the paw, I thought that Farscape was an example of a series that ended absolutely perfectly. Anyone watch Stargate SG-1to its end? Did it end well?

  3. I absolutely hated the ending of Babylon 5. Detested it with all my soul. On the paw, i thought that Farscape was an example of a series that ended absolutely perfectly.

    You really liked a series conclusion that ended with a “to be continued” message?

    Babylon 5 absolutely stuck the landing. Perfect ending.

  4. Aaron Pound says

    You really liked a series conclusion that ended with a “to be continued” message?

    Babylon 5 absolutely stuck the landing. Perfect ending.

    Errr, The Peacekeeper Wars very, very nicely wrapped things up. You did watch that, didn’t you?

    No, it didn’t. It hated what they did with a certain individual.

  5. (7) Eight identical versions of Jan-Michael Vincent show up in an episode of Rick and Morty by the way.

  6. Yep. I get really unhappy with cardboard villains, twirling their mustachios. . And American animation – they can defeat all grownups, but any five yr old can defeat then.

    I want villains who’ve read the Evil Overlord list. I’m writing villains who are competent (except when they’re so focused on their goal that the overlook that, y’know, the people working for you might have other ideas).

  7. (8) I was going to point out “grilfriends” as a typo, but then, for some reason, I thought it might be a joke I missed. Still, I thought I’d mention it just in case, and risk the embarrassment.

    (endings) I thought Peacekeeper Wars was a decent ending, but not great. Which I entirely understand–this isn’t really a complaint–we almost didn’t even get that much. I’m grateful.

    Anyway, while bad endings are common enough that I’ll often overlook one of the rest of the show is good enough, I certainly prefer a good one! With Orphan Black, for example, I was afraid the writers had lost the plot several times, but in the end, I think they managed to stick the landing, which elevated a very good show to a great one!

  8. 7) You were very kind not to mention Whitaker’s role in a certain film whose title rhymes with Rattlefield Dearth – and I am glad he’s lived it down.

  9. Birthday notes:

    Forrest Whitaker plays Colonel Weber, the military man in charge on the scene of the alien encounter, in the movie Arrival — winner of a Best Dramaric Presentation Long Hugo.

  10. 1.) That’s one of the best descriptions I’ve seen of the villain’s role in genre, and marks the difference between a well-written villain and a staged one. It’s not an analysis I’ve encountered before, but villain-as-threat-organizer makes a lot of sense.

    Of course, as a writer, I’m going to be thinking about how does this apply to my own work. My villains tend to be related to the protagonists, and family history/secrets often play a big role. But in some respects, the villains are mirrors of the protagonists, and a means for self-examination.

    Weeelll, at least that’s what I’m trying to do. And now for looking at examples in other work…this is going to be an interesting concept to mull over for a while!

    (And another Substack to subscribe to–yay!)

  11. Every time I see Dennis Feltham Jones my first thought is “never heard of him”, and then I realize he’s D. F. Jones. There’s a Raymond F. Jones who wrote some good stories, but I assume that is someone else.

    And thanks for the title credit!

  12. Stargate SG-1 didn’t really end so much as the story just continued on while they stopped filming and the show carried on offscreen (and occasionally onscreen, as most of the cast showed up on Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate:Universe at some point).

  13. Okay, I just read Max’s essay, and there’s a problem with it: all the villains they talk about are personal, and once they see the hero, they’re going to try to crush them.

    In a lot of what I’m writing, the villains are much larger. Maybe I got that from cyberpunk – in that, who’s the villain? A ton of multinationals, and the hero is just sand in the works.

    What then, is the hero? Are they going to defeat one villain… or try to change the system? How big are they thinking… and how large are you writing?

  14. All the villains are personal in the examples, but I don’t see that as a requirement. Even if the heroes are battling faceless corporations, they still aren’t going to die of cancer or slip and fall down a flight of stairs. Whatever bad thing happens will somehow be related to whatever is acting as the villain in the story. Because anything else would just be random noise getting in the way of the story.

    I’m reminded of a passage from Compton’s The Unsleeping Eye

    I must really write my own book. A book about people as they really are. Neither despicable nor honorable, since neither term applies. Neither abject nor dignified, since these are irrelevant concepts. Each one simply chemistry, simply a bundle of neurones, each bundle equipped witn an internal communication system built up down life’s millenia for reasons mostly long obsolete, and disrupted randomly by imperfections of the reproductive process.

    But that probably isn’t a book anyone here is trying to write.

  15. Count me as another person who liked B5’s ending. (rot13 for spoilers) Furevqna wbvavat gur Svefg Barf bhg orlbaq gur Evz qvqa’g obgure zr. “Gur Qrpbafgehpgvba bs Snyyvat Fgnef” vaqvpngrq gung uhznaf jbhyq bar qnl ribyir vagb Ibeyba-yvxr raretl orvatf. Furevqna naq gung gryrxvargvp thl sebz bar bs gur rneyl rcvfbqrf whfg tbg gurer orsber rirelbar ryfr, gung’f nyy.

  16. 5) I understand it was controversial, but I actually really liked the ending to the BSG reboot.

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